these are the things i will miss the most.

A month ago, you wouldn't have caught me dead at a bar on a Tuesday night unless it was a friend or roommate's birthday. But nowadays, my attitude is shifting. It's not apathy or losing sight of responsibility. Instead, I'm finally figuring out that I have a pretty good handle on this whole school thing. Five years from now, I'm most likely not going to remember how arthropods begin their molting process or how many million years ago the first "fishapod" walked the earth. I'll probably forget the list of exactly which third world countries sided with the US and which sided with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. With less than 25 days left, maybe the most important thing is not staying in and striving for a solid 8 hours of sleep. Maybe the most important thing is savoring the moments destined to transform into beautiful memories that actually will still hold meaning five, ten, or fifty years from now. Moments that make me want to press the pause button and suspend time for just long enough to commit the entire scene to memory.

Moments like roommate dance parties.
BoDo's runs.
Ten cent taco night.
Free Fallin' sing-a-longs.
Overhead crowd surfers at a packed concert.
Charades in a Line.
Midnight Italian ricotta cookies.
Midnight Italian ricotta pancakes.
Adorable lost kittens.
Lady Gaga lyric screaming.
A cappella Mac photo booth sessions.
Sals 317 roommate weekend pictures.
Staying at a bar all Tuesday night until it closes at 2 AM, then simply moving the party across the street for chili cheese nachos outside 7-11.

These are the moments I want to hold onto forever, the moments I want to catch in a jar as they float like lightning bugs through my line of vision. I want to pack them safely away and take them with me to every new destination I arrive at after I leave this one.

(big thanks to maggie g. for the pictures :] )


i can fold a paper crane with my eyes closed.

It's a trick I learned while sitting on the floor of a Brighton funeral home on a cold, snowy mid-April day during my junior year of high school. I don't remember the name of the girl who taught me. I don't remember her face or if she even went to school with me. Five years later, the only thing I can really remember is the sharp contrast of her calm instructions against the heart-wrenching sounds of another girl sobbing in a back room.

"Now unfold that piece and pull it up... then pull these two to puff out the body. That's all."

The room was full of kids looking down, quietly folding. I tossed my crane into the large pile that had begun to form in the middle of the room. One more out of ten thousand folded tributes to a life ended too soon.

In any jumbled, messy story of growing up, there are events that stand alone and apart from the chaos as significant milestones. Often times, these moments are not recognized as being so important and life-changing until long after they've passed. They become life's greatest lessons--and while they may be too far over our heads the first time around, they burrow themselves in our hearts and minds and wait until they are called upon later in life at a time when we can better understand what it is we're being taught.

I met my friend Stephanie for the first time when I joined the girls' swim team as a sophomore in high school. She was a small freshman with a voice almost as high as a three-year-old who just inhaled a balloon full of helium, a tiny-framed ball of energy, a fast swimmer and an even faster talker. Beyond that, she was competitive as all hell. We were never really super close, but for the time I knew her, I came to consider her a pretty good friend. We would go over Chinese homework together on the bus to practice, talk about manga we were reading, and hang out after school before ASIA meetings. Every so often, I got a peek at the pieces of Steph that didn't quite match up with the bubbly manga-reading person I saw in school every day. She was searching for happiness that she seemed to never really find. Her blog entries seemed to be written by an entirely different person than the one I saw in school, a girl too angry at the world around her to be bothered about helping little animals or giving candy to her friends.

"No one would miss me," she once told me. "Nobody would cry or anything. I doubt anyone would even know the difference."
"Not true," I answered, unsure of what else to say. "I would cry."
"That sounds like a huge load of bullshit."

On April 9, 2005, a sunny springtime Saturday, she walked out of a Chinatown restaurant and into the middle of a busy intersection on Washington St.

"She came out of nowhere," they all said.
"There's no way he could have seen her in time to stop the car."

Maybe the worst part about it, for me, was that she was right. I didn't cry when I heard the news the next day. I didn't cry when I got to school that Monday and saw everyone else crying. I didn't cry when I walked past the locker covered in notes and flowers, and I didn't cry when I sat down in Greek Tradition a few desks in front of an empty chair with a teddy bear and bouquet in the place of a student. I didn't cry when I dressed in black and hopped on a bus to Chestnut Hill, didn't cry when my 2-mile walk from the bus stop to the funeral home was interupted by a bearded 20-something-year-old anarchist trying to sell me on the evils of government, didn't cry when I saw her because whoever that poor dead girl was in the casket didn't look anything like anyone I knew. I didn't even cry when my guidance counselor hugged me and said "It's okay to cry." The only thing I could do was sit silently on the floor with a bunch of other kids and fold birds out of scraps of paper. I didn't know what else to do, because it didn't seem real.

Like the Boston Herald wrote the next day, "at 16, death is supposed to be an abstraction."

I didn't cry until I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mother's car a month later on the way home from the wake of my Chinese teacher, the fifth and final death that my high school's community had suffered in that year. I guess that was the moment that my 16-year-old self began to realize that death is not an abstraction, it's a reality. It's a very, very real part of life.

Today is April 9, 2010. It has been five years to the day since Stephanie passed away. Today, I am twenty one years old, thirty seven days away from my college graduation ceremony. Over the past five years, I've been to many more wakes, funerals, and memorials. The pages of my Kare Kano manga books are yellowing and gathering dust in a box somewhere in the attic. It's been so long since I've swum competively that I doubt I'd be able to finish a 50 free anywhere close to my best time. My last Chinese homework assignment was passed in four years ago. This past summer, Carmen DiNunzio began serving a 6-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of extortion, bribery, and illegal gambling; no charges were ever filed against him after a 16-year-old high school student was hit and killed by his SUV. Ten thousand paper cranes are flying in peace parks all around the world in memory of a girl whose hands were not there to fold any of them.

There's not a lot I remember from my junior year of high school. It's one of those awkward teenage years I try not to think about too much. But five years later, I do still find myself subconsciously folding scraps of paper into cranes of different sizes, colors, textures and patterns. Every time I finish one, I'm forced for just a split second to remember the day I learned how to make an origami crane, to see how much has changed since then, to reflect on another lesson that I'm finally really beginning to grasp: that a life is a book with a beginning and an end.

Just because the pages stop doesn't mean the protagonist must cease to exist. She can continue on beyond the binding, living happily ever after in the epilogues created for her by the people lucky enough to have had the chance to read her novel.

"She was there with us, and everyone knew it. Snow was falling in the middle of April. I mean, even in Massachusetts, how often does that actually happen?"
in memory of stephanie lam


the best ricotta cookie recipe you will ever try. ever.

1/2 tub Smart Balance butter spread
2 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese you need to get rid of ASAP
1 3/4 cups white sugar
approx 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 container Activia vanilla yogurt
4 c flour
chocolate jimmies
some alcoholic beverages

Preheat oven to 350. Take a sip of beverage.

Beat eggs and butter using a large serving spoon and a small teaspoon. Add ricotta and white sugar. After realizing you do not have all 2 cups of white sugar needed, throw brown sugar into mix until you think you've made up for the missing 1/4 cup. Take another sip and repeatedly ignore your roommate's suggestion to scrape the pink sugar off a package of Peeps.

With your drink in hand, do a Google search for effective baking powder substitutes. Assume one container of Activia = 1/2 cup of yogurt. Add yogurt & baking soda; eyeball salt.

Slowly add in about 3 2/3 cups of flour. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup onto the table, the floor, the open container of ricotta, etc. Throw in vanilla and do a quick taste test to make sure everything checks out.

Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls, about the size of a tennis ball, onto a lightly greased baking sheet. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour by the fistful until it has at least somewhat of a shape-able consistency. Drop as much dough as possible onto the burners of the stovetop. Laugh so hard that you become genuinely concerned about the possibility of peeing in the kitchen trash can.

Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Continue to work on your drink and watch in awe as the giant globs of dough flatten out to resemble small cakes. If you choose not to ignore the lightbulb that is about to go off in your head, continue to the next paragraph.

Heat a small skillet on high; spray with cooking spray. Take the cookie dough and spoon it onto the skillet in the shape of a pancake. Flip as needed. If you flip the cookie pancake too early, simply pile all the dough back together in an attempt to repair it. Add chocolate jimmies to batter if desired.

Forget about tomorrow's BIO320 exam. Forget about student teaching observations. Forget about work, forget about internships, forget about the real world. Eat. Drink. Laugh. Repeat.

Makes about 24 large cookies and 4 pancakes.