Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 27: Social Life. What?

I'm sitting here at Dennys with my distinctly nerdy friends. It's great fun. Talk about speaking the same language. Our conversation has so far spanned 3DS mini-games, other 3DS games, new video games, board games, books, graphic novels, movies... And we're all writers, so there's that. 

All this to say that I'm totally out of things to talk about, because I've already talked about it all with them! This is unfortunate, but I feel like it was worth the social time. If I was smart, I would have done this earlier today, but I kinda got distracted playing Skyrim... Minor details.

More tomorrow! (Hopefully)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 26: The Story That Sticks With Me

So, as I mentioned yesterday, my entire Christmas was waking up and eating something and then jumping into a Lord of the Rings marathon. This is not the first time I've done this, though it was the first time my aunt had attempted such a thing. And for a rookie, especially one who tends to fall asleep in movies, she did pretty well. This marathon is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. It helped that every time she woke up I was there to explain what she missed in detail. Maybe too much detail, granted, but that's beside the point.

I was thinking about it after going to bed. Fellowship came out in 2001, and I didn't get a chance to see it until it was in the cheap theaters, so it was probably mid-2002 when I saw it. That would make it over 12 years that I've been obsessed with this story. By the time The Two Towers came out in late 2002, I had already read the whole trilogy at least twice and jumped into the realm of the internet for more information. I was a nerdy kid. I read everything I could find, memorized arcane facts about this world.

12 years later, I remember a lot of that random information. Maybe not everything. But I still geek out when I find Histories of Middle Earth. I have multiple copies of the Trilogy because some are just pretty and some are actually to read. I have other writings of Tolkien, books of poems, some translations that he did of other great works. (Side note: if anyone wants to buy me a truly spectacular gift, Tolkien's estate released his translation of Beowulf just this last year and I've been drooling over it ever since.) 12 years later, I'm still obsessed with this story. I wake up randomly and decide that I need to watch the movies. I listen to the audiobooks on my phone on the way to and from work. Or just pick up the books randomly and decide to read a little bit.

What is is about this story that has held me so enthralled for 12 years? I'm not the only one, and certainly not the biggest mega-fan of these books. Christopher Lee (who played Saruman, for those who don't know) was so excited to be a part of the movies, after reading the trilogy at least once a year for like, 40 years. That's dedication. That's love. I can only hope to equal that level of dedication to anything in my life.

There's just so much to this whole story. Both the books and the movies, in their own special ways. As I was watching Fellowship, especially after just finishing the audiobook, I couldn't help but notice some of the distinct differences. Contrary to a lot of book purists, I think that those differences are a good thing. The movies are, ultimately, based on the books. They are not the books, and they never could be. There is no real way to put all the little details that Tolkien peppered his work with into a movie. I've always been fine with that. Less fine when they add major story-line changes that are completely outside the realm of possibility (in my opinion), but I'll set that aside for now.

I couldn't figure it out last night, just one thing to talk about on here. One aspect of the movies that really struck me this time around. Until I realized that it was exactly that. After 12 years, I still get something out of it every time I watch the movies or read the books. Only the best books can do that. Grow up with you. From 13 years old when I was so enamored of the history of every little landmark and battlefield and sword. To 25, when the reality of watching a father bury their child is no longer a distant thing to me. That scene in Two Towers when Theoden has to bury Theodred, that hit me especially hard after May of 2013. Especially Eowyn's lament, which has always been one of my favorite parts of the movie. This time around, the emotion that she puts into her song was way more real to me.

This is the mark of a good story, that it grows and changes with the one experiencing it. It's one of those things that changes every time you read or watch or listen to it, because you change. And in turn, it changes you. There are things that I didn't understand when I was in high school. I used to find Sam's speech to Frodo in the face of the Nazgul attacking Osgiliath too long and unnecessary. This time around, I connected with it for the first time really.

"But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come! And when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer! Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something."

This story is one of those for me. All the darkness that they face, the impossible odds, the completely unexpected method of destroying a powerful artifact (let's just send the Hobbits, he'll never expect that!), the finding of courage even in the smallest of people. The depth of history of this world, the loyalty of the company to one another, even across the greatest of distances.

And then there are verses like this one, which have stuck with me for years even though it was only mentioned once (and only half of it) in the movies. I'll leave you with this beautiful picture of renewal.

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not with
Deep roots are not touched by the frost

From the ashes a fire shall be woken
A light from the shadows shall spring
Renewed shall be blade that was broken
The crown-less again shall be King

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Day 25: Merry Lord of the Rings-mas!

Merry Christmas everyone! After careful consideration on what to do on this day, given that we really had no family plans after getting back from Reno, I came to a conclusion about the best way to celebrate Christmas: Watch Lord of the Rings, of course!

It had been too long since my last marathon of all three Extended Editions, you see. At least since last year sometime, because I didn't have access to any of my DVDs for almost half of this year, and even then I didn't have a TV or DVD player available until last month. So I was overdue.

So far they're amazing. I will likely blog about that tomorrow, since this current viewing has yielded some inspiration in areas that I had forgotten. Plus, I just love this story.

For now, however I will keep it short. We have only just finished the second movie, which means the last one is going to go very late into the night. It could not be avoided. But it has been worth it, a hundred times over.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day 24: Moving - Two Months Later

It's Christmas Eve! And I'm back home, hanging out in my room, with my happy green walls and red door which are appropriate for any hobbit hole and especially appropriate this time of year. Also, new blinds, courtesy of my father and brother who were able to install them before we left for Reno! I love the fact that I don't have to hear the un-muffled sound of traffic, or see the massive amounts of light pollution outside my window every night now! Also, I don't have to hide in the closet to change! I've dreamed of this day...

With that done, I've come to realize that half of my room is still covered in boxes, I still have a few things that are hanging out in the garage that was my storage while I was in the half-a-room living situation, and my room is entirely undecorated. Other than the things that came with my bookshelves (I like stickers, what can I say?). So I'm thinking since I probably won't have work until a week from Friday, I can knock some of this stuff out and enter the new year with a room that is actually put together. What a concept. 

Part of the issue was that when I went to unpack my books, I discovered that the bookshelves I had weren't quite enough. Thankfully, Aunt Cindy had quite a few in storage, and I commandeered it for my use, which means that I can indeed have to the wall of books that I've always dreamed of. My next step after that is figuring out where to put a dresser system (crates from Wal-Mart, maybe buying a few more to stack more effectively). Then organizing my desk drawers so that I can have the space that my office supplies are currently taking up. And also finding a chunk of my office supplies that have gone AWOL. I didn't realize it until I went to do Christmas cards and looked for my nice markers to make them prettier and couldn't find them. 

It's crazy how much still has to be done, two months after we moved in here. Granted, I've been distracted and/or unmotivated for a good amount of time. But even if I had worked on it consistently, there were still some things that couldn't have gotten taken care of right away. We had to get my brothers up here at various times to help move things, there were a lot of things that needed two people to accomplish and I was here alone for most of November. There are still some things, like how do I store plastic bins that are apparently just a little too big to slide under the bed easily? I'm considering just raising the bed a little bit, now that I don't have the box spring that made my bed tall enough that I had to jump up just to get in it. How do I do that then? All the questions.

Oh yeah, and then there's the other bookshelf... Heh. I may be a little addicted. This one at least goes up on my desk and also has the most useful power strip ever to add to it's value. Whoever came up with that idea get's the genius award, for sure. 

At any rate, my goal for this next week or so (after all the Christmas madness dies down) is to have the other half of my room back, freed from all the boxes and random piles of stuff. Organization is key. Also key, my large collection of music on iTunes to help keep me from going absolutely insane. Wish me luck!

P.S. Update RE: buying new jeans after eating at buffet: BAD IDEA. Grabbed my size and was dismayed to see that nothing fit... bought them anyway, on the theory that I could return them at my home store, pulled them on this morning, PERFECT! Which saves me a trip. Very glad about that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 23: Nerdtastic!

As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm visiting family right now in Reno. Most of the time has been just hanging out with people, eating good food and occasionally watching TV. It's been fun, and it has also brought something to my attention: I am way nerdier than I think I am.

You know how you hang out with people who have the same interests when you have a choice. But when you're hanging out with large groups, or family from different branches and people who married in and stuff, it's different. The same frame of reference is not used. I say things like Firefly, and people look at me with confused glances. Or say 42 and then have to explain it...

It's interesting for me, because I have such a wide range of interests. I'm definitely into the geek side of life, in a nerdy way. I am a book nerd, a denizen of the internet, influenced by meme culture. and I have a wide knowledge of that culture even if I haven't watched all the shows or read all the comic books. But I'm also a music nerd, both by education and by what I like to listen to. I'm into sports, and will get just as over-the-top excited about the Giants as about the newest Hobbit movie. Anyone who was following me on Facebook in 2012 can attest to that. I also played sports, enough that I can hold my own with the kids at my job. Which is really all I need at this point in time. Just enough dexterity to gain the respect of the boys.

All of this to say, I can converse on a lot of different levels. I talk with kids as easily as adults. Older adults as well as the people my own age. I just have to remember to stick within a frame of reference. Like, when talking with older relatives, mentioning something like tumblr or reddit is probably not going to ring all that many bells. Sometimes, not even Facebook rings bells, which is always fun.

But when I do try to have conversations with people I think are reasonably nerdy, and they understand almost none of what I say, I am a little shocked. Apparently, I have moved more into that world than I'd thought. I'm totally okay with that. It's just a revelation to me. Especially since I often hang out with people who are way more nerdy or geeky than me in a lot of different ways. Which is basically my favorite, because then I at least feel normal.

Which is actually funny, because my youngest brother made that comment a couple of days ago. "Yeah, when I'm around other people I'm the weird one, but when I'm around [the family] I look like the normal one." It's just the opposite for me.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Day 22: Reflections on Christmas

I'm being good and getting this post done before going to dinner and shopping and stuff. We're in Reno at my uncle's house, so we're going to the Buffet to End All Buffets, as I call it. Also known as the buffet at the Atlantis, which is so expansive that I didn't even get to all the sections of it (just sampling food, mind you) before filling up entirely last year. It's good quality food too. It's amazing. So much excitement is mine right now.

And then... I'm going shopping for jeans for Christmas. Hmmm. Good thing I know my sizes for the particular store, because sizing denim after a buffet is probably a bad idea. But it will be nice to have more than one pair of pants to wear, particularly since working with kids isn't exactly the best way to make jeans last.

This Christmas has been pretty chill. Other than the two-party weekends, the rest of the season has not been nearly as crazy or stressful as previous years. I'm a fan of the more relaxed approach to the Holiday season. It's so much nicer. I don't feel like I'm so tired by Christmas that I can't actually enjoy Christmas.

I go back and forth between being really into Christmas. I have moments, I guess. Flashes of "yeah, this is great!" I like decorating the tree. I love Christmas trees in general, especially the real ones because you can't beat that smell. One year, I actually had a friend give me an air freshener for my car that smelled like a Christmas tree because I couldn't have a real on that year. It was the best. Except for a real tree. I currently have cuttings sitting on my desk at home that I break whenever I need a whiff. It's great.

Besides the tree thing though. I have mixed feelings about the music. I love the food part. I've never really been into Christmas movies. Most movies, if they're good enough for me to watch it during Christmas, I will watch it the rest of the year anyways. Same with music.

Without my nephews around a lot of the other stuff just isn't as fun. Kids add a level of excitement to anything, but especially holidays. Last year, we at least had my cousins kids around, which was nice. Nice to see my cousins too, which doesn't happen a lot. This year it's entirely too adult, as much as I love the rest of my family.

I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this, if I was going anywhere. I just was reflecting, after recovering from all the craziness yesterday. As with most reflections though, I catch myself just stating things without really having a cohesive picture for them.

Oh well. I'll try to do better next year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 21: I'm a Party Animal?

Today was another two party weekend. I love people. I really do. And I like getting to see people who I rarely see. Like last night. I got to see a bunch of college friends, some who I see every week, and some who I see every few months and some who I haven't seen in like, 3 years. It was great. But then I was super tired after, so I was about done with party-ing... except not.

See, there's this annual party at my uncle's house in Reno, and it's something we usually try to make it to. This year it was smaller, because they just moved. Which was nice, because it wasn't then an Introvert's Worst Nightmare. Hundreds of unfamiliar people who leave very few empty, quiet spaces to chill out and get a hold on my thoughts. This was slightly more low-key, and even then I was a little bit not up for it. Something about the party season. I apparently have a one party limit. At least this year.

Which is a long explanation for why I don't have a really great post today. I still have to unload my luggage and bedding, and set everything up. Then collapse. That's a very important part of the day.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 20: Christmas Madness Is Here!

As the title indicates, today is a crazy sort of day. Family coming in, a party to go to, packing to be done. So this is my super awesome post for the day. It's going to be about this long, because this is about the amount of time I have to dedicate to the endeavor. Tomorrow's might be equally short. It will depend on how long the party I'm going to ends up being. But hopefully Monday will yield enough time to do a real post of real length.

And because I feel bad about abandoning you, here is a video of Billy Boyd being awesome, singing the song that he wrote for the end credits of the Hobbit (which I will be seeing next week, hopefully!).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 19: British Happiness

Those who know me know that I have a definite thing for British history and culture in general. It started as a deep love of accents, escalated into me watching history documentaries for fun (because I'm that kind of nerd) and culminated in me discovering that British literature is altogether less rage-inducing for me than American literature. Also, their TV and movies are just spectacular.

So, since today is a Long Day for a number of reasons, this is my super short blog post about various aspects of British culture. With the help of Siobhan Thompson, of BBC America's Anglophenia. Because she's hilariously awesome.

I mentioned accents, right? She's great.

Because "Thick As..." is my new favorite insult.

Barbs from the Bard!

Flaming desserts. I know, right?

And finally, TV really is better in Britain and America knows it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 18: Books, Books, Books!

I have always been a reader. Whatever I could get my hands on, really, though some things I tried once and set down most time after because I didn't like it that much. I'm not a huge fan of mysteries, for instance. I will read them, but I think I OD'd on Nancy Drew as a kid and I still bear the scars. 

I have a ton of books. For years, when I was moving back and forth from college, I only had a portion of them available to me at any given time, and the books that moved to and from college with me rotated, though I (mostly) kept it down to just what would fill my little bookshelf that was easiest to move. The problem with books is that you always acquire more, especially when you are in a new area with lots of library book sales and new used book stores to explore. Or when other bookish friends tip you off on a big sale ($20 and three paper bags later...). 

In this new place, I actually have space for all the bookshelves I already had and a couple more to boot. It's like heaven. I might actually have room for all my books, though I haven't unpacked them all yet to make sure. My goal is to make my room always smell like a library. Actually, my goal is to someday have a house large enough for a real library as a separate room. Then I might actually get to have a real dresser. But cohabiting with my all my books is a pretty good second fiddle to that.

The only problem is, there are always more books to buy. For instance, I've finally caved to the nerd/geek pressure and started reading graphic novels. I haven't gotten big into the major franchises, which is odd because part of my motivation was to get to first-hand book canon about the Avengers (because I sympathize with the people who see their favorite stories being overtaken). I think my main issue is, it's such a huge expanse of stuff, and I have no idea where to even start. If anyone has suggestions, I'll take them. But for now, I've been looking into other stuff. Companion novels to shows I like, for instance. I have some prequel stuff for The Guild (which is one of those shows that constantly has me doubled over laughing). I have the Firefly/Serenity novels, or at least a couple of them. Still waiting for Leaves on The Wind to come out in the trade, because that's cheaper. But that's the perfect recipe to get me into it. Tell me there's more canon for a show like Firefly and I'm all over that. 

I will say that I haven't really wrapped my mind around manga yet, but that's not surprising as I have never connected with anime either. I just got the first installment of a manga that I've heard of before from the library, just so I could say that I've tried it. So far, I'm not enamored of it. I have however, found another series at the library called Sons of Liberty, about two escaped slaves at the start of the American Revolution who are given superpowers by Benjamin Franklin's son. Given my love of that period of American history, it was almost a sure thing that I would love it. And I do. It's dark and gritty and it is wondrous. I love historical fiction, and this fits right in. In that same vein, I really like the 1602 series, with the Marvel universe tucked neatly into the end of Queen Elizabeth the First's reign and the turmoil of that age. And written by Neil Gaiman. So you really can't get any better than that.

So, for those who read graphic novels, or comics or whatever you want to call them (I'm not settled on that area of the terminology yet), given that list, what are some suggestions? I would love to get more into this, even if it means scouring libraries and hiding out in dark corners of comic book shops reading stuff that I can't afford to buy. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 17: Writerly Things

I was thinking about writing today. I mean, not just writing this blog. Which I feel like I've been falling down on a bit this week. But writing in general, why I do it, and what place it really gets to have in my everyday life. Because, let's be honest, it takes a challenge like this or NaNoWriMo to actually get my onto the computer and writing every day.

So I know why I love writing. When I do actually put words on a paper, or a screen more often, it's wonderful. The release of creating is better than just about any other. It just seems like it takes me longer than it used to, to get my brain around concepts and figure out things about writing. Particularly editing. I think this last year in between Novembers, was the first time I really tried to commit to editing, and except for a couple of shining moments in April or somewhere thereabouts, I failed epically.

I realize that getting stuff polished is sort of a necessary skill for an author. Yet every time I think about it, my brain just slides away. Like one of those perception filters that doesn't make a person invisible but makes them really hard to focus on for any amount of time. I think about it, and puzzle it out and feel like I got somewhere in my head. And then I sit down and it all just flies away and I'm left staring at the screen for hours thinking, "gah, why is this so hard?"

I will probably get past it. I just have to actually focus on getting to that point often enough that I break through whatever is blocking me and have a clear path. I'm hoping having some more organizational tools at my disposal, like Scrivener (NaNo Winner's Code FTW!) will help me break it into small enough chunks for me to focus on. I know that's one of my problems. I look at the forest and get scared. When I focus on a tree, it makes it easier, but right now I have some freaking sequoias to look at, which aren't that much smaller than the forest itself. I need some saplings to work on first.

That was a lot of tree metaphors... I guess I just felt the need to branch out.

Anyways, that's all I have for tonight. An examination, in writing, about why it's so hard for me to write. Write-ception. Or something like that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 16: Pictures!

Late post today, and despite bopping around the internet for a bit to try and grab some inspiration, none was forthcoming. Today at work felt about three times longer than 4 hours (which is 12... as I explain to kids daily how to do multiplication). Sometimes, I think that God must giggle every time I get a job that requires me to tutor math on a regular basis. At least this job I have backup for the older kids when they hand me a page of problems that either look totally foreign or look like something I recognize, but can't figure out how to do again.

I feel like this at least once a day.

So yeah, it's been that kind of day. At least they got to play outside today, since the rain showed up a couple of hours later than forecast. So pictures! Mostly from my phone that I haven't had a chance to post anywhere yet. A picture is worth a thousand words right? So I should definitely get some word credit for this post, heh.

Don't know how well you can see it, but these are my LOLCatz word magnets. They are my favorite kitchen decoration ever.
A Rare Selfie - Modeling my super sophisticated method of plunging a toilet without gagging.
 Sassy Hiddles.

My awesome Handbag of Holding. Complete with geeky flair.

This is a thing. Totally a thing.

And also Tom Hiddleston again. Because Tom Hiddleston.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 15: Hump Day?

I know, I know, Hump Day is technically Wednesday of any given week. But for some reason, today feels like the Hump Day of the month. Especially this month. It's the last week of normal life, more or less, before the two weeks of Holiday. For people in school, it's the end of the semester. For me, it's the last week of regular work for the month. Turns out I got hired just after they made the work schedule for the holiday hours, so I'm not on it. On the one hand, I'm sad because hours and having something to do with my life. On the other, sleeping for one whole day sounds like a spectacular idea right now after having to be a productive adult in spite of being sick.

That's what they never tell you about being sick, when you're a kid. As a kid, you get to take a break from life. Yeah, it sucks to feel bad, but you get taken care of to a degree that it almost doesn't matter anymore. When you're an adult, you still have to function as a person and feed yourself and stuff. This weekend was fun, getting to go and get the tree and decorate and stuff. But I didn't really get to do the stuff I was planning on, because I was too tired.

I don't know. My brain is all over the place tonight. I was also thinking about looking back. Not just back to when I was a kid, like my post on Saturday and my musings on sick days. Also back to just a couple of years ago, or even last year. I haven't gone back and read my posts from last year's Holidailies, but I know a lot of it was about finding a job and a place to live. How much has changed in that year, and how much has stayed the same?

Today, I was putting up the Christmas decorations that my roommates bought for me last year. We were all in the process of transition at that point, them with moving and me with not wanting to move but careening towards the inevitability of it. It was the longest I'd stayed in one place since I moved to college the first semester. But I knew things had to change, and my utter lack of employment was a bit of a hindrance to me staying there.

So I moved. I didn't want to, and Lord knows I didn't want to stay in the place I moved to for as long as I did. That was a bit more of a transition time than I was planning for. But since I also went through two jobs and a period of searching while I was there... it was a bit of a necessity. It's hard to move out when you have hardly any income, or none. I am so incredibly thankful that I ended up in this condo with Aunt Cindy, because it provides a solid place for me to get my feet under me. Hopefully for good this time. I would really love to jump and not fall for once. That would be great.

The job with kids is a start. It's not everything, because of the hours restrictions. But it's something that gets me past zero. My goal for the beginning of the year is to find a second job that has a flexible schedule that can compensate for the income and also not conflict too terribly much.

And in the meantime, it's only a week until I have a chance to take a breath. Blogging is going to get fun during some of these days. If I get on for long enough to write a "hey, I blogged!" post, don't be surprised, lol. Long car trips with spotty data en route to long parties are not the best recipe for deep thought.

Anyways, I'm going to finish this now before I ramble more. But first, pictures of my Christmas Tree! I'll let you guess who furnished the TARDIS ornament and lights... And then the last picture is of the decorations from my roommates last year. I call it Tree-ception.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 14: Music Of My Heart

So today was supposed to be busy because I was going to go to a caroling party with a music geeky friend and meet his other music geeky friends. Sadly, I couldn't make it because still slightly sick and cough-y and also tired. So instead, we ran a few errands, I got a haircut and new work shoes (Hallelujah, thank you JESUS!), and then I came home to rest and ended up in the YouTube vortex.

This actually ended up being a good thing, because it assuaged my yearning for music geekiness in a slightly less participatory way. You know, one that allowed me to keep breathing normally because I didn't have to sing along to enjoy it's music geeky qualities. So I decided that, instead of writing long and verbose prose about why I love this music (and music in general), I would just make a compilation of all the songs I've come across in recent days that have knocked me flat on my butt with awesome. You know, the ones that I run out of adjectives for, after I use "spectacular," "brilliant," and "phenomenal," too often.

First off, a mix tape of Peter Hollens. Mostly because Peter Hollens. But also because he chooses really good artists to collaborate with the effect is near to perfection.

Dat Bass Tho.

Pure vocals are pure.

This is just fun.

This is just sweet. Also, his son has his eyes.

I've mentioned that I love this song? He does a great version too.

Okay, so that's Peter Hollens. I only went on a little bit of a kick today... Next up is this group, Home Free. They won The Sing-Off after Pentatonix, and while I haven't been as quick to adopt because I'm not usually a country fan (and by that I mean, I hate the twang. Hate it will all my being), I have come across a number of their songs, particularly their Christmas ones, and been suitably impressed.

A little too much twang for me at first, but the end totally makes up for it. 

Just a solid arrangement.

This one is just ridiculous. Ridiculously hilarious, that is. I cannot express how funny I find it.

Again, a little too much twang, but definitely a good arrangement of a good song.

So there's that. And of course, my post about happy music would not be complete if I didn't post any Pentatonix, with all that they've done to blow my mind. Only one video, even though there are more off their Christmas album. Suffice to say you should just buy it and be glad. But this live recording shows off their vocal chops so well. I love it.

 I still get chills.

That gives you an idea of what I love about music, I think. Basically, people with amazing voices doing amazing things with those voices. I tend towards the vocal, but I also love instrumental stuff. I just geek out over it less because I've always been a vocalist, so with those performances I know exactly what work goes into it. Less so with instruments.

What are some of your favorite songs and artists? I'm always open to suggestions. Let me know!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 13: History

So today I was clearing out out living room of all the moving stuff that got stuck there and hadn't made it upstairs yet. Some of it was boxes that came up from my parent's house inexplicably, because apparently they had just seen a bunch of stuff with my handwriting and thought I must want it. Instead of carrying the whole box upstairs for it to sit there untouched for months, I decided to actually go through it and see what was in there.

Most of it was stuff that I didn't need to keep. Old notes from high school classes, homework that was useful for that week and the test, and that's it. Even some old stuff from elementary school Latin and Greek class and 6th grade science. Fun to go through one last time, but definitely not necessary in my currently storage-impaired living space.

There were, however, some things that I found pretty funny, and definitely worth saving. A lot of old essays from my first real English class that I took in 8th grade, which I decided to keep to prove to any future writing students that I too once sucked at writing essays. Like, seriously stunk. One of the early ones was just one whole long paragraph, with long drawn out trains of thought, no discernible thesis sentence, etc. I was reading through it and cringing at the writing, and at the comments from my teacher, all of which were totally things I've written on student's papers.

Some of the things I found were pretty funny. I found an essay attached to a diagnostic sheet (sorta like a rubric, but more checklist-like), and on it one of the listed questions was, "Do you only have one topic per paragraph?" My 13 year old cheeky answer was "Hopefully?"

There was also the paper that I wrote for the assignment to write my own obituary. Which is seriously a really morbid assignment to give a Jr. High class, can I just say? Apparently I was very ambitious, because I decided that by the time I was 25 I would totally have a husband, three kids, and a successful Christian music recording career. Also, I was murdered in my hotel room. Because reasons. I have no idea why. Other than an odd obsession with the story of Selena, but that was a couple of years earlier. It was a pretty interesting to read what I thought I'd be doing in 12 years. Looking back now at 25, I can see how crazy that was. But then? I thought anything was possible.

I also found a good bit of artwork, and those cards that you could print out yourself. You know, when the internet was new and it was so novel that you could design your own greeting cards! It is so funny going through old stuff like that and seeing what I thought was a good essay topic. Some of them made me laugh. Some made my cringe. I could see my voice starting to pop out in some things, and in some I was still wandering through a void of form and no real content.

During the day, I was going through old history. Then at night, after the living room was mostly cleared out and we could actually move around, we made some new history. First Christmas in the new place, so today we got and set up our first Christmas tree! I am super excited, because I didn't get to have a real tree the last two years. It was for a good reason, because the cat would eat it. But it was still sad. And I'm very happy that we get a real one this year. There's no substitute for the smell of a real tree, and I missed it. I got a bunch of sap on my hands while I was carrying it in. I walked around the house smelling my hands for awhile after that. It was great.

It was fun going through all the Christmas ornaments that I had, half of which were my aunt's that I grabbed last year when she didn't think that she'd have a real house to put a tree in any time soon. Funny ol' world, innit? I did find some of my own though, including my TARDIS lights and my glass-blown hand-painted TARDIS. Plus the awesome Bilbo Baggins ornament that one of my friends gave me last year. I'm only a little bit of a geek.

So yeah. It was a fun day. I'm at Denny's right now with the After Dark group that formed during NaNo. It's great fun. Tea and pie FTW! And I'm getting wildly distracted, obviously. But hey, some sort of social life! After a week of having to ditch stuff because I was so tired after work, I only made this one because it wasn't preceded by 4 hours of running after children.

But now, it is late and I should go to sleep. So goodnight! Sleep tight! Don't let the Vashta Nerada bite! Hey, who turned out the lights?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 12: Blah

This is both a topic-less day, and a "explain why" sort of day. For one thing, I am very decidedly not getting sick. At least, that's my stance. My chest is in rebellion of that stance, and decided that waking/keeping me up a few times last night was a great plan. I was not a fan. It was looking grim, until I remembered the wondrous existence of Ricola in my drawers that I can actually get to now that I have a real room. That was basically my favorite discovery ever, as it afforded me an extra hour and a half of sleep this morning.

Other than sucking down Airborne (also a true gift of God) and sleeping a lot, in my quest to be not sick, it's been a chill week. The massive Stormageddon (Dark Lord of All) that the news outlets were promising took a pass over most of the Sacramento area, so we got wet but not ravaged. I'm hearing news that the Bay Area and now SoCal did not get so lucky. But on the working with kids side, it's very helpful because it means there's a distinct chance that we won't have to keep the kids inside today. Which would make it just yesterday, and there weren't even that many there, due to the widespread freak-out, courtesy of the news outlets. So that's nice.

And then that's mostly it. I had the weekend of all weekends, so between that and being energy drained due to Not Getting Sick, I was not very inclined to do much this week. Hopefully I'll be able to scrape together some energy to get some stuff done tomorrow, but it's equally likely that I will just want to sleep. We shall see.

Have a good start of your weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day 11: Friendship Is Magic

Depending on how familiar you are with children, or more specifically Children's TV, you may have already guessed what this post is about. Here it is, the moment when I put it out to public knowledge... I absolutely love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Yes, this is a children's show. Yes, I am a mature adult. Yes, this is actually a phenomenon that I was aware of before getting into the show. I figured, if there was such a huge contingency of Bronies, as they are called, on the internet, there might just be something to it! Actually, what really happened was that I lived with 7 year old girls and they introduced me to the show so I could play with their Pony action figures and actually know who was who. But then I fell in love with it, to the point where I was just as excited as the girls when Season 4 hit Netflix.

Here's the thing about this show: It's really well written, and it's clearly (to me at least) written by pretty nerdy adults who wanted to create a show that they would like as much as the kids they were writing for. That's really the mark of all great Children's Lit, in my opinion. It's just as enjoyable when you're an adult as it is when you're a kid. You get different things out of it, that's for sure. I mean, I seriously doubt that the two girls really understood the significance of Doctor Whooves popping up (which I fangirl over every time, seriously), or the fact that there's a mystery episode where direct ties to Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Or the fact that there are so many subtle puns threaded through the dialogue.

Plus, there's the whole point of the show. It really is about how having deep friendships with those around you creates a sort of magic, the magic of a tight community full of people who would do anything for their friends. The fact that anyone is talking about that concept in any way is always great. The fact that they're doing it in a way that so many people love is even better. They have the characters facing really tough situations, areas in which many adults fail to make the right choices. They show how difficult it is to make the right choice, and the consequences when you do both the right thing and the wrong thing. I'm constantly surprised by the depth of the episodes.

And then there are the just plain fun things. I already mentioned Doctor Whooves, who is occasionally seen with a pony who has a rose on her flank. There's Discord who is the most lovable villain this side of Loki. There's the superhero episode, featuring the wonderful FlutterHulk. There's the episode where Rainbow Dash becomes obsessed with reading, something she swore she'd never do. And then of course, there's Spike, the awesome dragon who so does not get enough credit for everything he does. Even Hank Green thinks so. I dare you to listen to this song and not smile.

Honestly, this show and it's persistent happiness kept me upbeat even when I was dealing with overnight shifts and all the personal upheaval those bring. It reminded me why I do many things that I've gotten in the habit of doing, and it challenges me even now when I re-watch episodes in areas that I know I need to get better in.

So that's mostly it. I also found this post explaining 10 Reasons You Should Watch My Little Pony, just in case anyone is thinking of taking the plunge. I promise you won't regret it if you do.

(Also, I just found out from this article that I'm officially a Pegasister. Kudos to them for finally giving me a name for that, since apparently all anyone else knows about are Bronies.)

P.S. I do have a favorite pony. His name is Big Mac. He's the funniest non-verbal character ever. Also, oddly handsome.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Day 10: Royals

No, I promise I won't quote the song. I didn't even really like the song until Pentatonix covered it, and then I warmed up to the original too. Just in case you haven't looked that up, you should. But that's not the basis for this post.

The basis for this post is the idea that I've been wrestling with about Identity, particularly as a Christian. [Quick disclaimer: Because I'm a Christian, this is by necessity a very Jesus-y post. Read on if you want my view on such things. Or if you're just curious about how I think about my life.]

There are a number of Bible verses that speak to Identity. I was reading in 1 Peter over the last week, where Peter encourages the recipients of the letter to embrace their identity as a Royal priesthood (chapter 2, if you're interested). The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to establish connections between Jesus and Melchizedek, the first royal priest (who predated the Levite priesthood by at least 500 years). Melchizedek was considered the first priest who ministered to Abraham in the days after a major battle. Melchizedek was also a King. The writer of Hebrews draws that into the discussion of Jesus's identity, saying that Jesus is of the Order of Melchizedek. Jesus has both royal authority and the authority of the most righteous man in history.

This is important, because the Bible also draws direct lines between Christ's identity and the identity of those who believe in him. For one thing, the whole reason we're called Christians in the modern world is because we are supposed to be Christ-like. To do that effectively requires us to take part of His identity onto us. For another, Paul points out in Romans 8 that we are heirs and co-heirs with Christ, based on our acceptance of the Spirit that ties our spirits to Him. Paul echoes this in Ephesians 1 and 2, which totally worth a full read. The point of this is that as heirs, we are given the same inheritance from God that Jesus got, and we also receive the status and privilege as heirs.

Which brings us back to the idea of royalty. When you're an heir to a title of authority, it changes everything about your life. I'm thinking of Downton Abbey, when in the first episode the heir is killed and a distant relative who is leading the life of a barrister in London is brought out of his comfortable existence into the life of an heir. He has to adjust to all sorts of things, from being assigned a valet that he's not convinced he needs to the prospect of his marriage determining the fate of a whole estate. Things that the former heir had presumably grew up with. For him, coming into it as an adult, it's a big adjustment and it takes him a long time to adjust to it. And this isn't even a family that's close to the crown, in the scheme of nobility. They're a couple of rungs down the ladder.

In a way it makes sense that it takes any of us in the modern age a bit of time to adjust to this idea of power and authority in our lives. Particularly in America, where nobility and rank aren't typically part of our sensibilities. Having very loudly not had a king for over 200 years, Americans rebel a little against the idea of royalty in any area of our lives. Which is probably why it took me a long time to get over the fact that I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea to see myself through that lens.

In my own experience, this is one of those things that not very many Christians get. The idea of us being a part of God's family, His beloved children, His heirs, is the most life changing thing about Christianity in my opinion. The whole eternal life thing is great, don't get me wrong. But that doesn't help me out a ton until I die, and I don't plan on doing that for a long time yet. So at one point I went searching for what I could do until then. I found Jesus saying, "I have come so that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10b, NKJV) That set me off on a whole search for what "life more abundantly" could actually look like in the midst of the every day grind.

The main way that this affected me was that I had to come to terms with my identity as a beloved Child of God. I have touched on this before in my old blog. I have not had the best track record with self-confidence and loving myself, or just simply not hating myself. So I have been dealing with a lot of overhauls in those areas, and one of the things that has really impacted me is the idea of royalty.

Just last night I was presented with this:

We had a present night at the School of Leadership, where we chose a mystery gift and then had to open in front of the group. Sorta like White Elephant, but without the stealing. Which is good, because I would have fought someone over this. For one thing, it's a crown. For another, it's a sort of greenish crown, and I love all forms of green, even this one. The purple thing inside is a paper crown from the Christmas crackers we got first. I got a purple one from mine, but it had just ripped when I went to open my gift and someone gave me theirs as a replacement. It was a pretty great set of things that were spoken over me, and a lot of it echoed themes of stuff I've been thinking about and working to implement in my life.

God is my favorite, because He knows that I have to hear about it from multiple different people, and also in what I read and listen to, before I finally get it. So when He's trying to tell me something I see it and hear it EVERYWHERE. Even in a casual conversation where one sentence the other person says is enough for me to tick my eyes upward with an internal, "okay Jesus I get it."

That's what has happened with this subject. In my own chats with God and in words that have been spoken over me, there is a consistent theme of royalty or nobility. Swords that represent different areas of my life, names that He has told me He calls me, this whole thing with the crowns, a word about me needing to learn a lesson from Elsa who was a queen who was afraid of her own power. I could go on. The whole point I've been taking from this is I need to kick my ideas about not being good enough to the curb. Because God says, in the Bible and through His other servants who I trust to hear Him, that I am awesome and should act accordingly. Not in a super arrogant way. In the way of knowing who I am and what my gifts are, and how I am called to use them, and not swaying from that. Also, utilizing the power and authority granted to me in the Spirit. Which is a pretty spectacular thing, and I'm starting to build that muscle a bit. That's my larger goal.

I have to start small. My goal for right now is to be more bold, and also to be able to accept a compliment gracefully, which is something I majorly struggle with. I'm working on it though, and continuing to take in the times in which God comes around me and reminds me, reassures me that I'm on the right path and I'm moving down it. Even if it feels like I've been stuck in the same place. I'm not. I've changed and grown and I'm continuing to do so.

And that's really all we can ask for in life, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 9: I Have A Tired

I don't really have a topic in mind today, which is probably why I've procrastinated on this so long. Talk about a literal Eleventh Hour sort of post. Mostly today, I have had a tired. I've been fighting (and largely winning against) a cold, but despite my victory of not getting sick, it's still left me on the sluggish side of energy.

Today I got to spend a good two hours sorting out a whole slew of issues with many calls to customer service numbers. One of them was to this Disney Movie Club thing, and the customer service rep answered the phone with, "hello you're speaking to the fabulous [name], how can I make your day magical?" I had it on speaker at the time, and I just looked at my aunt while I tried to not bust up laughing. It was just so out of the blue. I don't know. It just struck me as funny.

Work was also interesting. I pulled a bit of an authority card on a kid who stepped way out of line, and the whole incident struck me as a defining moment in my job and my life. In my job, because I'm already comfortable enough to take that kind of authority with the kids. Part of that is positional, but part of it was my own personal confidence being much stronger than it ever has been. In my life, I have not really ever thought of myself as that take charge sort of person. I used to get really frustrated because I felt like no one ever listened to me and I knew that I had a lot to say. It took me awhile to sort out that people would listen to me when I acted like I had something worth saying, and when I had the confidence to actually say it. I was a fairly quiet kid. I often forgot that when I wanted to be heard, I actually had to speak out.

I obviously struggle with that so much now...

Also, there was this girl who was in 3rd or 4th grade probably, reading a Judy Blume Fudge book out loud to me for her homework. She got to this one place and stopped, looked at me really panicked and said, "I can't read this word. It's the 's' word." I had a moment of, "what? In a Judy Blume book?" Then she showed it to me and the word was, "stupid," and I had to stop myself from laughing. I just very seriously said, "it's okay you don't have to read it," and then laughed to myself because that was definitely not what I thought of when she said the "s" word.

I'll probably write more about what happened at school tonight when I blog tomorrow morning. It all ties in to a larger thought that I've been compiling in my head, and I decided tonight that I should sleep on it (and also be awake) before I tried to express it in words.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Day 8: Decreasing World Suck

I don't know how many of you have watched vlogbrothers on YouTube, or even heard of them. It's basically two brothers, John Green (of "The Fault in Our Stars" fame, now) and Hank Green who in 2007 decided to start communicating only through video for a year. It became so popular that they just kept going, and to this day they still make videos. I've been watching through the first year recently, and one of the first things they started talking about was a pretty simple concept: Decreasing world suck.

This basically means just making the world a better place, even in little ways. It could be recycling, or giving money to charities, or giving volunteer time to organizations you want to support. It could just be about being a nice person, instead of one of those people. Really, even if it's the littlest thing you could do, as long as it's positive, you too could be part of the fight to decrease world suck!

I was listening to NPR today on my way to work, and I just caught the end of this segment as they looked at different studies on spending. The question was asked, Can Money Buy You Happiness? How does this tie in with decreasing world suck? Well, the answer was surprisingly, yes but only if you spend it on someone else. You can listen to the whole segment here.

I found it very interesting. The more you give of yourself, the better you feel, or so they think. And this is proven by sociology. Like, real science.

It's funny to me, because this is totally how my church preaches about tithing. They're not strict on the 10% bit, though they do acknowledge the Biblical precedent for it. They just point out that giving is a way to not only bless God, but bless yourself. For me, tithing is not something I do so I can feel good about myself. It's something I do because I like what my church is doing, and I want to support them both with their bills and with the extra stuff that makes us so great. And it's something I do out of obedience, yes. It's also because literally every month when I'm down to the wire and have hundreds of dollars of payments that I can't make (though Lord willing with a job, that will cease to be the case) the money comes through.

Sometimes it's with my family having enough extra to help me out, with the understanding that I will be taking care of them in their old age. Sometimes it's people handing me hundred dollar bills at church, out of the blue. Last December when I couldn't buy food, I ended up on the same night with $50 cash and a car full of groceries that someone gave me. It was literally more than I could use or store, so I was able to call a friend who was also low on food money over and give them some. This summer, I lost a job and got an offer for one the same day, which was only for a month, but the money got me through two months.

That's just my experience with tithing, in particular. It's a way that I personally decrease world suck, because my church as a whole is dedicated to that sort of thing.

My point is that there are lots of ways. I mean, I think that even the littlest things count. Today, I sat with a kid who was struggling with his math homework and told him over and over that he wasn't dumb and he could do it. I think that counts. I think just giving someone a compliment on their clothing or how their hair looks totally counts.

You change the world by changing people. Changing one person's life can have an effect on everyone else that person comes in contact with. And really, changing just one person's life for the better can be as simple as buying them coffee one day.

So I challenge you to make it a point this holiday season to decrease world suck! Buy someone a warm beverage! Be nice to that stressed out retail worker! Pay for someone's groceries if you have the means! And then, because you're awesome, do it after the holidays too!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 7: Weekend Fun

This weekend has been one of those times when I've been going constantly for most of the last three days. When I finally sat down at my computer, it took me about an hour of staring at the screen zoning and thinking "there was a reason I opened up my computer..." Then I remembered, oh yeah! Holidailies!

So if this post is short and/or unintelligible, that's my excuse. Since I left for work on Friday there has been about 3 hours total in which I was at home and not sleeping or getting ready to go somewhere else. Which has, in fairness, led to a fun weekend. Just not one in which I think about going to work (or anywhere) tomorrow and cheer. I'll leave the cheering for tomorrow after I've had a full night's sleep.

It was actually a fun weekend though. Friday night was the reunion of the core members of my writing group, after taking most of November off because of a combination of NaNo and lives exploding with busyness. After almost a month there was a lot of, "guys, I don't think you know how much I missed you!" going around. It was great. And because we talk a lot when we don't have a month of life to catch up on, we were there pretty late.

Which of course made my 7 AM alarm so that I could get stuff accomplished on Saturday especially welcome. My face looked something like this:

But I did get up, eventually, stumbling out of the door to do laundry and ignoring the "why are you wearing shorts" look from my neighbors. The answer obviously being, "what else do you wear when you need to wash all forms of pants, pajama and otherwise, that you own?"

Part of the reason that I had to wake up so early was because I had agreed to head down to where I used to live and hang out with the two 7 year old twin girls who made up the only bright spot in my life for about 9 months. We went to a park. There were squirrels, wetlands, and some pretty cool fitness equipment around. This was a brand new park that just opened up a month or so ago. I was impressed. It's always great to hang out with these girls. The conversations alone make it worth it. For instance, the boardwalk that ran through some of the wetlands inspired a wetlands dance made up by one of the girls, which mostly consisted of her jumping around singing, "wetlands wetlands wetlands... WETLANDS!" Like you do.

After I got home I went into party prep mode, for a Christmas party I was invited to Saturday night. It was a Gatsby themed party, which was a little interesting to prepare for since I'm not the best at pulling theme outfits out of my proverbial hat. Thankfully, I owned a dress from one of the Jessup formals that was close to perfect, so I went with that. Also, I became very thankful that the people hosting had just replaced the carpet and didn't want people wearing shoes. Why, you ask? Well, because I accidentally left my two pairs of nice dress shoes (the ones that I can stand wearing for more than 5 minutes) in my car in Newark, and I couldn't find my backup nice shoes (not that I'd want to wear them anyways). So I was in my super classy Sanuk sandals which are on the edge of "not suitable for polite company" from daily use. Yeah, very glad that I had an excuse to go barefoot.

The party was really fun though. Lots of champagne. I got to taste a lot of different types. It was nice. I've decided that champagne is definitely on my list of really tasty drinks that I should buy every once in awhile. Maybe next year for NaNo I'll buy celebratory champagne for winning, instead of Martinelli's. Also, there were some friends I hadn't seen for awhile at the party, so that was nice. However, it was a "real adult party" or something like that, so I didn't get home until midnight.

Which made waking up for church this morning really special. I was in with the kids because the Children's pastor is out of town, and she needed people to cover. I usually do the much smaller Saturday night services, so it was very interesting to wrangle the bigger class and also not have the backup of "she's the boss, so you have to listen to her" on my side. But it was a good group of kids. And I found that when I have the microphone and I put on my teacher "you better listen if you know what's good for you" voice, it helps. And also, Jesus loves you.

Just in case that wasn't enough, I came home from church and my aunt and I made cookies and ran off to the Sac NaNo Thank God It's Over! Party!!! For an introvert, I went to a lot of parties this weekend. It was really fun though. I love my NaNo community. Every year I pick up a couple more that I keep in contact with throughout the year, which is always nice. Also, desserts, a spattering of haiku and limericks that were our plot summaries, and lots of cat jokes. What else could you ask for, really?

Now I'm planning on turning on Netflix or possibly a video game and checking out for the rest of the night. Myself needs some time to get over being around people all weekend. I'm pretty sure there will be ice cream involved.

To end, some pictures from our walk yesterday.

 Part of the wetland dance.
 I was tasked with taking pictures of the nature. This is the top of an acorn.
 Mud apparently also counts as "nature."
 And oak leaves too.
 The creek that runs through the park. Actually running, courtesy of this week's rain.
Me: "Smile!" Her: "Like this?"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 6: A Miscellany

Today is going to be a short post, because I have ALL of the things to do. My laundry, for instance, will be done in a few minutes (I prioritized that because clean clothes are generally preferable at work). But I wanted to get this done first off so that I wouldn't be freaking out about it for the rest of the day.

First off, I found this in my reading today:
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." 1 Peter 3:13-16, NIV

I was always taught to "always be prepared to give an answer" as a kid. I just came across that and had a thought about how many Christians miss the bit where Peter (not known as the most tactful human being ever) straight up says, "But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience..." Why Peter? Why would we want to speak respectfully to those who challenge us? "So that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." Instead of, you know, making everyone else around you who shares your beliefs ashamed of your representation of God.


In other news, I've been running across more and more BuzzFeed videos in my news feed... Mostly because I started liking a few of them on Facebook and Facebook, seeing my activity flooded my newsfeed with them. But I don't mind, yet. They're mostly entertaining, and some of them are even educational, and they're short enough to fit my "internet attention span" which is different from my say, "addictive video game attention span" or, "super good book, oh wait it's 1 am? attention span." So here are a couple that I watched this week that were amusing to me:

Americans Taste Test Japanese Kit Kats Part 1 and Part 2

An opera singer recanting one celebrity's tweets.

I think that's all for me today. Now I need to go do all the things. Hope everyone is having a good weekend! I shall leave you with this picture of a duck in a cup.