Thursday, June 30, 2011

Surprisingly, This Thursday is on time!

Luckily for me, I had a lot of time on my hands a few weeks ago, so I prepared a blog for a JAB week, and now I finally get to use it!

I believe all of us who are writing this blog qualify as childreen of the nineties, and having recently watched Beauty and the Beast (Extended Edition) I was reminded of my childhood and wanted to share my favorite memories/fads from the nineties, or as I think of them, the most important years of my life.

1. Disney Animated Movies. I'm not sure when I saw my first Disney movie, which one it was, or whether or not it was in theaters, but I still feel an onrush of nostalgia whenever I view one of my beloved Disney classics (Especially Aladdin and The Lion King). Even though I now realize how silly Beauty and the Beast is (the story takes place in a week! At the most!), there is always The Lion King, which remains an epic of the grandest proportions. However, Disney declined pretty fast after its Rennaissance, and though The Princess and the Frog was alright, it just wasn't as good as the classics.

2. Gargoyles. Goliath was the coolest thing on TV, and if not him then Elisa Maza, who was definately the best TV cop ever. I'm even partial to Fox, and I even tried to get my parents to name my youngest sister after her. I recently finished watching all the episodes (except the non-canon season three) on Youtube, and enjoyed the familiarity of the episodes.

3. Gac. It was that sticky, oozy stuff that smelled like pizza fart and ruined carpets. Need more be said?

4. Jumanji. Remember the game that came out after the movie? My cousins got it for Christmas and my sister went to play it with them and I spazzed out and nearly went hysterical because I thought they were going to get sucked into the game. Effects are so much more amazing when I was a kid and unspoiled by WETA and the high quality CGI we see today (seriously, who were those monkeys fooling? Pamela Anderson's boob job looks more real than that!).

5. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie. The yellow ranger was my favorite, and the black ranger was the cutest. I hated both the pink ranger and the green/white ranger (I actually dated someone who met him though). I admit that it is a really silly movie, but I don't enjoy it any less for that. Please, I still love 80's music. Also, I still remember the names of the characters (after not watching the movie for at least a year). Aisha (Yellow), Adam (Black), Kimberly (Pink), Tommy (White/Green), Rocky (Red), and Will (Blue). Only one I'm not a hundred percent on is the blue ranger.

6. Boy Bands. I personally am a Backstreet Boys type of girl (loved The Call), and I flat out hated N*SYNC (except for Lance, which ended up being another fruitless crush, but whatever). You might have said that you hated them, but we all know how much we loved boy bands. Also, I want DuJour (from the Josie and the Pussycats movie) to be a real band. "Backdoor Lover" is so evilly full of clever and subtle innuendo that I want more of (plz can I haz moar?).

7. Shirt Bikinis. Back when I had nothing to show off and no modesty, the shirt bikini was the most stylish way to cool off and make curves that weren't there appear out of nowhere. I still do this in the privacy of my own home.

8. Barney. That's right, the big purple dinosaur Barney. Saying that you hate Barney is like saying you hate childhood and good morals. Barney taught acceptance and equality, and that imagination can take you anywhere you'd care to go. Dora, The Wiggles, Elmo, and the Teletubbies can all shove it where the sun don't shine 'cause no one can beat the Purple Dinosaur. Also, I just noticed that Barney's Theme is the to the tune of Yankee Doodle. Your mind = Blown.

I hope I have given you all a good dose of Nostalgia (Ozymandias is a genious, truly) and I ask, what's your favorite thing about the 90's?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday's life is sheer goodness.

Christina: Can’t wait to see what the challenge is going to be!

Casey: I’m sorry to hear your youngest sister likes Justin Bieber! There’s got to be one black sheep of the family, right?

Cassie: Agreed on Pottermore. Beyond family traditions of reading all the books together (Dad read all of them aloud to us, with character voices staying relatively constant), I haven’t really gotten terribly into the HP community. But I have my double-feature HP7.1&2 ticket bought for the midnight of 7.2, and I am quite looking forward to October when Pottermore is open to everybody. It sounds pretty dang unprecedented. Good job, JKR!

Alexandra: Totally read that backwards. Props, comrade. And I think you make some really good points about diversity of houses; Hufflepuffs are not to be taken lightly or tossed aside.

Now, for an update on my life! And I do indeed have an update. It’s a long time in the making, honestly. Without giving too much away, I am thrilled to announce to you all that today finds me only days away from a one-month-iversary celebration ("anniversary" implies "year," after all). After all my griping about relationships (or my lack thereof), I have recently been lucky enough to find someone who matches me really freaking well. I don’t intend to jump the gun or jynx anything, so suffice it to say that things are going quite well, and I expect that they shall continue for a good long while.

Other than that, life has pretty much been what it has been. I’m still reading articles for work, though today I actually got some data to unpuzzle, and that’s been fun. My friends are good friends, my cat is a good cat, and the weather has been gorgeous in this part of the world.

I hope everyone is enjoying life. I certainly am : )

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday is a Tumblr Maniac

I'm getting slow, I usually write these things up on midnight of Tuesday, but today, I was like "ohdamnitstuesday". My fiance changed his work schedule - he works Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday - so I have no sense of time or space. Oh well, it's still Tuesday, so I'm not late. Oh, and on SOMEBODY's *glares* suggestion, I'm writing the rest of this post in reverse, so have fun reading that. It's far more of a burden on you than it is on me, let me tell you. Mostly because I can make Microsoft Word do this for me. *coughs*

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... oh, alright.

Since you talked about Pottermore, Cassie, I suppose I will start there, as I haven't done much at all in the past month. From what I can tell, we're getting sorted, getting a wand, making friends (maybe some forums), and also there are ebooks of the Harry Potter books. No problem, man. I'll join, obviously, because I've been with Harry Potter for nearly 12 years, and to not join would be blasphemy, but I'm not really pumped. The ebooks will be nice, but I don't know what the site will offer that the hp-lexicon or just any old forum couldn't. Though I am obviously excited for the encyclopaedia. Not so much for the useless information about the characters - unless Ollivander is one of the characters we learn more about - but more information on the houses? Freaking exciting.

I've been on tumblr basically all month, obsessively. Following Harry Potter tumblogs. All of them. Every. Single. One. If it has to do with Bertie Gilbert (the kid playing Scorpius), Slytherin, or the silly pre-conceptions about the houses, then I am on that. In fact, I think that last one is what I will make my post about, because I don't really have anywhere to go with this.

Ravenclaw. Their main trait is not intelligence. That is not a personality trait. It is something you are. You are born with your intelligence, and nothing - no amount of studying or hard work - is going to change that. There are probably potions that can change that, honestly, but we won't go there. And at eleven years old, nobody is wise. They might be more mature than the average eleven year old, but not wise by any means. Resourceful, creative, and knowledge-seeking are better things to ascribe to the house than just 'intelligent', because let's be honest, there must be a few dumb Ravenclaws. Hell, we know several years where Ravenclaws aren't the top. Barty Crouch Jr. was presumably a Slytherin, Hermione is a Gryffindor, Percy was a Gryffindor, Tom Riddle was a Slytherin.

Slytherin. Not all stupid (see: Barty Crouch Jr., Tom Riddle), not all lazy, and not all dishonest. Slytherin and Hufflepuff are often seen as polar opposites, and I think that's BS. Loyalty is a trait we see often. How many of the Death Eaters were willing to die for Lord Voldemort? And most of the ones who weren't were loyal to their families, namely the Malfoys there. Lazy? That doesn't make much sense, either. The main trait of Slytherin is ambition, what good does wanting something do you if you don't work for it? Yes, Slytherins are perhaps more underhanded in getting what they want than, say, Gryffindors or Hufflepuffs, but they are still working for it. I think any Slytherin who is willing to just take what is given to him and do nothing to earn or enhance it shouldn't be in that house. You might be willing to inherit the Malfoy (or whatever) fortune, but you have to have something you want, maybe something you gain from that fortune if nothing else, in order to be a Slytherin.

Gryffindor. Not much to say about them - we see their diversity from Harry's eyes. We have Neville, the forgetful, slightly dense, and timid even through his brave heart friend. We have Seamus, who can be a bit of an arse and quick to jump to conclusions. We have Hermione, the smart and resourceful one with a strong heart. I don't need to go on. Harry's our main character, and we see through him the shades of Gryffindor house, the people who blend with the other houses and how some of them aren't all great. See: Peter Pettigrew. Though that last chap does bring up two points. The first: is bravery really the main trait of Gryffindor? Because Pettigrew was many things, but brave didn't seem to be one of them. And two...

Hufflepuff may take them all and teach them just the same, but Hufflepuff is not the sloppy seconds house. Loyalty and hard work are not easy to come by traits. Strong friendships and bonds are not often seen, and Hufflepuff often seems to show a bit of a group mentality. People say Neville should have been there, but honestly, until the fifth book, he seemed a bit of a loner. Not the sort to travel in a pack of close friends, really. It may simply be a fault of our perspective (that is, Harry's), but Gryffindor has always seemed like the most diverse house and, hence, most likely the house you just sort of get tossed into if you don't fit anywhere else quite enough. That probably isn't true; if we say more Huffs, Slyths, and Ravens, we'd see this same diversity. But the fact of the matter is that all the Hufflepuffs we've seen (all... two? three? of them) have had these traits and they stuck to them. The Gryffindors... eh. Not so much.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remember how much Monday hates having nothing to do?

Hello, girls! It's Monday, and yet another JAB week, and I . . . have nothing to talk about. Seriously. Well, okay, to be more accurate, I suppose, I have very little going on in my life right now. Alice in Wonderland has closed, I'm back from Lakeside, and the next big thing is my birthday next week. I'm volunteering at my church's VBS this week, but that's an hour and a half a day, and other than that, I HAVE NOTHING TO DO.

Go back and read my challenge entry if you've forgotten exactly what this means for my state of mind.

I did spend three and a half hours last night doing something I should have been doing periodically over the past two years, though -- I finally uploaded onto Facebook all of the Horizon Youth Theatre production photos that have been in my possession or on my hard drive for the past . . . five shows . . . dating all the way back to my first show with Horizon - Cinderella: the World's Favorite Fairy Tale. That was in October 2009 (So, actually, less than two years; more like eighteen months), and I got very nostalgic looking through all these photos of these kids I started working with not that long ago. Looking through the cast photo for my first show, there are only four kids out of 31 who never did anything else with Horizon, and I'm pretty proud of that number. It's going to be incredibly hard to leave them in the fall.

At the close of Alice, the cast gave me a latch-hook rug that they'd made for me (Winnie the Pooh because they couldn't find an Alice one and Winnie the Pooh was the next best thing), and Winnie's shirt, instead of saying whatever it usually says, said, "4 Cassie." And one of my frequent students gave this big speech about how I take all the little pieces of yarn of a show and tie them all together to make something beautiful, so I'm the latch-hook tie-er, making the rug, and then one of my youngest students goes, "Wait -- so she makes us into Winnie the Pooh??" It was adorable, and I may or may not have been crying. A lot.

But enough about Alice. Let's talk about Pottermore.

I don't have too much to say, actually, other than that I'm super excited for it and exasperatedly amused by everyone complaining that the announcement was anti-climactic or that they don't understand what it's supposed to be or that they're disappointed either because they have to wait til October or that it wasn't what they were expecting it to be.

Personally, I refused to speculate in the week leading up to the announcement, because I knew I'd never guess what it was. Just like I refused to speculate pre-Deathly Hallows -- the woman is far more creative than I am, and more importantly, far more innovative. I knew it had to be something directly connected with the books or else she wouldn't be making the announcement, and I knew I didn't want it to be the most popular theory -- an MMORPG -- but other than that, I refused to get caught up in the speculations, and I refused to get up at 7 in the morning to watch the announcement as soon as it aired.

And I am so excited! A free interactive reading experience that allows you to participate in Harry's world as it unfolds for him and contains at least 18,000 words of brand new, encyclopedia-like material? Um, yes, please! I've wanted a chance to read through JK's notebooks since I found out that they existed -- this is the next best thing. I couldn't be more thrilled, and to all the people who complain that it's not what they wanted, my response is this (which I posted on Facebook the day of):

I am slightly amused by everyone who seems to be underwhelmed by the Pottermore announcement this morning, and here's why:

1. It's JK Rowling. Did you really expect clear-cut information and instant gratification?
2. Of course you have no context for what Pottermore is going to be -- there's never been anything like it before. She can't say, "Pottermore is ________" because there is no word that fits into that blank. This is uncharted digital territory, which, personally, I am far more excited for than any of the rumors that were floating around.
3. It's something for everyone, which is what everyone wanted in the first place. It's part digital access to the books in three different ways, part RPG as you get to experience Hogwarts with Harry, and part promised encyclopedia with not just new information, but new backstory! What more could you possibly want from the woman? And to answer that question,
4. She's not writing more Harry Potter books. Accept it and please stop expecting her to. Also, as this morning's announcement clearly indicates, she shouldn't, because obviously, there is NO WAY they could ever live up to fan expectations!

And so here's my opinion on people wanting more Harry Potter books. They don't actually want more Harry Potter books. They just think they do. But invariably, were JKR to write more, they would be disappointing, and I, for one, don't want any more novels about Harry. His story is done, and I'm glad that JKR recognizes that. I am all for new tidbits of information, things like, "Here's McGonagall's backstory that just never made it into the novels," but I don't want a Book Eight (Sorry, Hank!).

So there's my two cents for this week.

Alexandra: I got your theme ideas -- I like them! I'll have fun narrowing down to three.

Carlyn: Your family sounds awesome, both from what you wrote about them last week and from . . . other accounts that I've gotten recently. :) I'm glad you have such an amazing family!

Casey: You're not a bonehead! You are simply a very busy individual. I envy that at the moment (not, you know, a whole lot, but a little bit!).

Christina: Don't forget that the next challenge is yours! I hope to read about it this week! Also, I know exactly what you mean about the age gap in the family. My mom's side is the same way. On Dad's, all the cousins are within about 16 years of each other, and I'm not more than twelve away from any cousin (and the twelve-year gap cousin is an outlier. Take him out of the equation, and we're all within ten years, and I'm not more than seven years different). But on my Mom's side, there's a fifteen year gap between the youngest 2nd cousin in my generation and my older brother (I think . . .). My 2nd cousins once removed are closer in age to me than my 2nd cousins, and we're still ten or so years older than the oldest of those. Isn't family great?

Happy writing this week! Hope your lives are all going well!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 16: Just Another Blog!

So, I'm calling these weeks JAB weeks from now on. I kinda like the name, personally. :)

And here's a quick rundown of how the next few weeks are going to work. As part of the punishments being dished out (and Casey -- I'm adding three more weeks to your sentence and everyone can debate what else you have to do), theme picking duty is rotating around. Here's what we're looking at:

16 - JAB
17 - Casey's Theme
18 - Casey's Theme
19 - Casey's Theme
20 - JAB
21 - Friday Challenge (Christina -- lay it on us! I can't wait to do another challenge!)
22 - Alexandra's Theme
23 - Alexandra's Theme
24 - JAB
25 - Alexandra's Theme
26 - Casey's Theme
27 - Casey's Theme

28 - JAB
29 - Monday's Challenge
30 - Casey's Theme

 I like looking at almost four months I don't have to figure out . . . :) Looking forward to reading about where your lives are!

Thursday is a bonehead!

I feel so horrible, I really do. I meant to post my blog, but I forgot because I had a test that day, and then also got to go home early, which drove all thoughts of blogging duties out of my head and instead I watched Battlestar Galactica. You guys must have fun figuring out so many punishments (at least I know if there is a prize at the end of this for the most tardy poster, I know that I will win!). Okay, so here is a little talk about my family.

My mom and dad met in Air Force rehab. I think this goes a long way to explain the weird sort of family I come from. My dad always scared me a little bit growing up, mostly because he was the one who wasn't home very often (he worked nights at the railroad and didn't wake up until midnight-ish to go to work until three in the afternoon the next day). However, I also loved my dad a lot and cherished the chance to get to hug him before he headed off to work and smell his greasy overalls. Thinking on it, that's maybe a part of childhood that I miss the most.

However, because my dad was gone most of the time, my mom had the wonderful task of raising me and my three sisters (though for a long time it was just two sisters). It's hard for me to remember certain things about my mom, but I do know that she was the one who took all of us kids to girl scouts and often supervised for school functions. She even took me (and just me) to see Titanic when it came out because of the major crush I had on Leonardo DiCaprio (not to mention buying me a trivia book about him and a Titanic poster puzzle). I really feel bad for not doing the dishes for her like I should have.

As I mentioned, I have three sisters. My oldest sister, Krista, is older than me by about three years, and while we weren't very close growing up, I always depended on her and respected her, mostly because she was the only one who could control my younger sister, Jenna. Jenna likes to play the part of antagonist, which makes her do such horrible things as writing on my older sister's homework and blaming me, and then pasting glue on my favorite stuffed animal all in the same day. We were always very close, because she was only two years younger than me. And then there is Sami, my youngest sister by almost eight years, and whose birth I remember some details of (also, there are pictures). She's almost thirteen now and loves Justin Beiber. It makes me want to cry.

My sisters like to fight a lot, and my dad used to like to yell, but we've definately mellowed out in recent years. I haven't seen them for a while, and it's hard to make oppurtunities mostly because I don't get a lot of time off work and also because they are so spread out. Hopefully once my work in California is over and I'm back in Idaho, I'll do better at getting to go see them and try to rebuild my relationship with them. Then maybe I'll work on the relationships with the rest of my family. Because even if we're not all that close sometimes, I love being part of the Shaffer Clan, and want to get to know the McSweeney Clan better.

And again, I'm really (really!) sorry about being so late.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday has a very small family

The roadtrip's going really well so far! On our way down to Texas we stopped in Indianapolis, Memphis, Dallas, and Austin. Corpus Christi is right on the Gulf of Mexico, so we just spent the day at the beach today. I was very good about applying sunscreen, but apparently the sun doesn't care about things like that and my back is still very burned. We're leaving for dinner at the marina very shortly, so I'll have to make this quick!

I have a very small family seeing as I'm an only child. It's just my mom, dad, our cat, and me out here in Michigan. All our extended family is out in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Ever since I was born we've been going out to New England twice a year (summer and Christmas) to visit all our family. Whereas I have no siblings, my mom has three sisters and my dad has a sister and a brother, so I do have cousins. Unfortunately, I'm not as close with my cousins as I'd like to be, due to the fact that we only see each other for about two weeks a year. I have four cousins on my mom's side, we're all within 8 or so years of each other, so when we were younger we didn't really have any problems playing together and we generally have things in common to talk about when we see each other now. On my dad's side of the family, however, all my cousins are about 40 years old with kids. My dad is the youngest of his siblings and was also the latest to have kids, so I'm the young one on that side. As I've gotten older we've had more to talk about, but we still don't have much in common. I don't think we'll really have much to talk about at length until I'm engaged and then when I have kids.

My parents and I really don't have many traditions. I suppose you could say it's a tradition that we go out to New England twice a year. My mom's side of the family has a cottage on a camp ground on the Connecticut river and I've gone there every year since I was born. That's definitely a tradition, now that I think about it. It's my favorite place to be in the world. I'm going to be spending two weeks there this summer instead of the usual two and I can't wait to get there. I'm finally taking some friends out there and they're going to see the places I've been talking about for the past 15 or so years that we've known each other. It's not just my mom and her sisters that go there, it's the whole side of the family: cousins, second cousins, etc. Our family's been going to camp, as everyone calls it, for oh.... five or more generations now? There are a few families on the camp ground who go back about five generations. It's a really nice place and I love that the same families have known each other and spent time together for a week each year for over 125 years.

Anyway, sorry I couldn't write for longer, but it's time to go out to dinner now!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday in familial context

Casey: I hope your tests went well! And I like what you did with your punishment. Sounds like a day well spent!

Christina: The grant that’s funding my job right now is for the same sort of thing that you work on! We haven’t had any kids, but I’m doing my best to learn about kids and their language use. Very cool stuff.

Cassie: The parts of your family that I know are quite awesome. And I’ve had some of your family chocolates—everyone, these chocolates will blow your mind.

Alexandra: Eek, a punishment for you… We still have Casey’s to come up with too, so we may have to get some outside help or something!

My family. Whenever I talk about my family, I always feel like I’m bragging, because they’re so freaking awesome. But they really are!

I have one sibling, a sister named Ellie who is 2.5 years younger than I. We fought insanely as children, mostly because she knew (and knows) just what buttons to push to drive me over the edge of sanity. When we were young, that meant singing in the car and breathing on me and just baaaaarely not touching me, etc. Eventually, it got to the point that I was allowed to hit her if she didn’t stop when I told her to. I used that privilege liberally, but only when she deserved it.

Over the past few years, Ellie and I have gotten along much better. I think it started before I graduated from high school and left for college, but the goodness of our relationship has accelerated since then. She and I are ridiculously different—my friends who meet her are always shocked at just how different we are, right off the bat—but we’re also made out of the same stuff. We’re pretty much what would happen if you added our parents together and divided by two. By this point in our lives, she is one of the people I trust and care about most in my life. She is resilient and admirable and wonderful.

My parents are the best parents. I have always identified better with my mom, but that’s only because I am exactly like her. And I mean, like for real, if my mom had been raised by my parents, we would be the exact same person (if that makes any sense). We think the same, have almost identical idiosyncrasies, react the same in pretty much every situation, process information similarly… it’s crazy. I would have been lost long ago if not for my mom.

And my dad! He is an incredible father. He is loving and caring and strong and encouraging and everything a father ought to be. He is always there to listen and lend solid advice, and he (with my mom) has made my sister and me his priority our whole lives. He takes care of our family in every way, and I have ultimate respect for him.

Not only are the members of my family awesome on their own, we also work crazy well together. We go on adventures together, talk about anything and everything, and meet the world head-on as a cohesive unit.

Looking forward to hearing about everyone else's families!

Tuesday is Late, So I Guess I Get a Punishment

Have fun with that. I'm tired. My sleep schedule is royally bombed right now. I just woke up, for instance, and it is 3:00 AM on Wednesday. So, yeah, hi.

@Carlyn, My favourite culture... depends on the era, I suppose. If it has to be modern, then I guess I would say that of the Netherlands. If it can be historical, then probably Heian Japan. Or Nordic ala Vikings. Or maybe the Victorians.

I should say now that I don't celebrate Father's Day. My family doesn't celebrate Father's Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, or really any holiday except Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and even those we half-arse. Also, I haven't seen my family since Christmas, so I don't really know what they are up to at this time. I'm sure they're doing well, though, or else I'd know about it.

My immediate family consists of my mother, my father, and my younger brother. My mother's family is from Connecticut, and I have several great-aunts, great-uncles, a great-grandmother, and some distant cousins who live there, still. My grandmother and grandfather (my mother's parents) live in Patchogue, about twenty minutes from where I grew up, on Long Island. My grandmother, as I grew up, was over every few days. But only weekdays. Her and my grandfather spent their weekends bird watching. She works as an accountant at a library, and my grandfather is retired, but used to work as a wildlife researcher at the Brookhaven Laboratory. He's Swedish - both of his parents were born in Sweden, though he was born in Oregon. My grandmother is mostly French.

My father was born in England, his parents lived in Surrey the last time I saw them. All of his family lives out there, so I only see a handful of them with any frequency. My nonna and granddad were the most frequent, though my granddad died when I was in high school. Maybe junior high? I can't recall. We never really got on. He was a bit of a curmudgeon. I remember my father was on a business trip in Germany, though, and that he was out of town for a while to help my nonna prepare for the funeral. And how the funeral director switched the records they were going to play for his wake with another dead guy's, leading to a bit of humour. I have one aunt on that side, Auntie Kate. She married my dad's science teacher. The story is that he was such a troublemaker that he had frequent parent-teacher conferences, met his older sister, and they fell in love. They have two kids, James and Tom, who are a few years older than me. I'm seeing Nonna and those two this August, for my wedding, but none of my other great-aunts or second-cousins, because I frankly do not care.

Extensions explained, let's talk about the people I grew up with. My brother and I basically got the exact opposite traits of our parents. He looks a lot like my father, I look a lot like my mother, except we both got the facial structure of our opposite-gender parents. I act way, way more like our father, and he acts more like our mother. My mother is the one who mostly raised us, unless it came to education, which was more my dad's department. She only ever had her GED, whereas he got his M.A. at Oxford University, so that was obviously of greater concern to him. She didn't work, so she was pretty omnipresent while I was growing up. We never really had baby sitters, unless the two of them went on an anniversary vacation, in which case our grandma would watch us. My father worked at Cisco, the computer company. Bit of programming, bit of sales from what I could tell. I never really asked for the details. It paid well, and he travelled a lot, but not so often that we never saw him. In high school, he owned a pub for a bit and mostly did his Cisco work from his laptop at home.

My brother and I had a pretty typical relationship. We'd unite against our parents, but other than that, we were always at each other's throats. He wasn't a great student, though hardly as dumb as some of the kids I knew, and we were just at odds when it came to our personalities. By far the most annoying thing was his incomplete OCD. Everything had to be organized, until he got bored trying. Every few months, he would try to replay every game he owned, but always gave up. DVDs were occasionally organized by such things as release date and director for no adequate reason. He seems to have grown up a bit in my absence. He's in AP Art History, he even has a Dali on his wall, and 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' (a fantastic painting which, if you take the time to observe the detail, shows a man having sexual relations with a large strawberry). We Skype frequently to catch up on things.

Not much else to say about them, honestly. We get on alright. My mum and I probably the least - we didn't have anything but our love of horror movies in common, and even then, if you're raised on The Shining and Nightmare on Elm Street, they sort of become... childish. I mean, I may reminisce on tumblr about my hard love of Rugrats, but I don't honestly want to watch it all again; it wouldn't be half as entertaining. The same thing applies to horror movies for me, because that's what I grew up with. I DO love b-movies and obscenely gory films, though, so we have that much in common. I think the only thing my father and I have in common is our mutual dislike of people. The times we best get along is when we can sit against the wall, watch people, and make fun of them. Best instance of that -- Penn Station a couple of years ago, waiting for the LIRR, and we saw a couple at Starbucks. Married for forty or fifty years, by the conversation. She had him get up to get the bottle of cream, and he came back with whole milk instead of half-and-half. She went on a little tirade, "fifty years and you still haven't" blah, blah, blah. He goes back, gets the half-and-half. When she asks him to get a refill and fill it with cream, he goes and buys her a new coffee, goes over to the milk station again, and fills it with whole milk. Hilarious.

My brother and I are probably the closest, but that's a very, very recent development. After I've moved out, if I'm honest. I think the best memory I have with him is playing the awful, awful abomination that is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on the Wii. It just didn't work, it would read 'Accio!' as 'Incendio!' and was just a disaster. We've really only got on since I left, though. I've just always been way, way closer to my friends, or a loner. I kind of have a new family now, if I'm honest. I live with my fiance and his mother, Barbara - she works as a bank manager of sorts - and I see Ian (his brother) and Bruce (his father) far more often than I ever see mine. And I feel about as strongly about Barb as I do my own mother; and that really isn't much, honestly.

I guess I just don't value blood, much. Makes me a terrible Slytherin, eh? Maybe I'll view that differently if I ever have kids of my own, but really, I've always held the relationships I've made from nothing more than the ones I was born with.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday's family makes chocolate. You want to be my friend now, don't you?

Hello, girls! I hope you all had a good Father’s Day, or a good Sunday, whichever is more applicable to you. :)

Alexandra: Hooray for Disney World honeymoons! My boyfriend and I have abstractly discussed going to the Harry Potter theme park for our hypothetical honeymoon if we both haven’t been by the time it becomes non-hypothetical.

Carlyn: Favorite culture? Hmmm . . . probably British. I like exploring the differences.

Casey: I feel as if every bit of creativity got sucked out of me with Alice, and it’s going to take time to regenerate, so I’m going to leave punishment ideas in the hands of others. I think what I would come up with would be more odd and nonsensical than punishing.

Christina: Road trips are fun. I’m supposedly going on one this summer (maybe. We’ll see.). Have fun in Texas!

And now for the topic of the week. Family.

I’ve touched on family in the past, in my introduction and in talking about Kate and my cousin’s wedding this summer, but family has always been a big part of my life, and so I certainly don’t mind expanding on what you already know.

I’m very lucky, as I come from a close and friendly family. We have our minor inner disputes, of course, but on the whole, we all get along with each other pretty well. My dad has one brother and three sisters, and even though we’re spread out across the country, we’ve always made a point of keeping in regular communication. Three times a year, at least four branches of the family gather together, either in the summer (say, for a wedding) or at Christmas or at Thanksgiving, and we have a lot of time-honored traditions. We sing, a lot, first of all. There are 22 of us when we all get together, and we’re almost all pretty musical. My uncle plays the guitar and my older brother plays the piano, and my cousins will occasionally accompany on flute or trumpet or drum or ukelele. And we sing. We sing Christmas carols at Christmas, and Golden Age showtunes during the summer. The only holiday we don’t get much singing in is Thanksgiving, because we’re all busy doing something else during Thanksgiving.

See, three generations ago, my great-grandmother decided she want to learn how to hand-dip chocolates. So she experimented on her own, but she couldn’t figure out why her chocolate ended up grey or streaked. So she went to a local chocolate shop and got a job and learned the secret of dipping chocolate. She learned how to make fudges and creams and caramels, and that’s how she and her family got through the Depression. They made and sold candy. Then, once the Depression had ended, my great-grandmother decided she would pass on what she had learned to her family, but that she would never again sell the chocolates. Instead, she gave them away as gifts.

And to this day, that’s what we do. Every Thanksgiving, three branches of the family gather at my grandparents’ in Bowling Green and make upwards of 200 pounds of homemade, hand-dipped chocolates. We’re up to 23 flavors, including nine kinds of fudge, six kinds of creams, four kinds of caramels, plus toffee, truffles, and nougat. It’s a week-long process, but it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I’m a fourth-generation dipper, and I help dip just about everything. If you’re interested, here is a YouTube video on the process that my brother put together a couple years ago:

So that’s my extended family, but my immediate family is pretty awesome, too. Leaving Kate out of the picture for now, My immediate family consists of my mom (a Methodist minister), my dad (a theatre PhD/college adjunct/children’s theatre instructor and director), my older brother Matthew (a Music Ed grad student), and my younger brother Jeffrey (a junior theatre major at BGSU). I am almost four years younger than Matthew and almost three years older than Jeffrey.

When my brothers and I were little, we were constantly at each others’ throat, particularly Matthew and I. Everything was a competition, everything was a battle for dominance, and the times when we could coexist peacefully were few and far between. Then he graduated high school, moved out to college, and became one of my best friends. We’re incredibly close now, which is kinda mind-boggling, especially when you consider that he once hit me in the head with a golf club (I can already hear the protesting, so I’ll add the caveat: accidently. He accidently hit me in the head with a golf club. But still).

Similarly, Jeffrey and I have gotten closer since I graduated high school, and he followed me to my school and major, so I’ve plenty of sisterly wisdom to depart, which he is super grateful for, I know.

And my mom and dad are great, as I’ve said before. They’ve always been very accepting, very supportive, and very understanding of whatever we’ve chosen to do. I like that I can talk to my parents, because I know not everyone can. I’m very lucky in my family, and believe me, I’m well aware of it!  So even though trying to get us together to do anything is like trying to get a herd of cats to walk in a parade, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Well, except maybe Jeffrey, if I got a good enough offer . . .

I look forward to hearing about your families!

Also, please let me know what you'd like to talk about in the future! It's likely just Alice aftermath, but my creative well is running dry -- so let's throw some topics out there for consideration!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week 15: Family time!

So, it's Father's Day today, and I've spent the past week with my family, so let's let our minds dwell on that this week. Let's talk about family. Take it any direction you want, really. And feel free to suggest some themes you'd like to write on -- my creativity is starting to run out!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's hitting the road on Monday

Good Friday everyone! First off, orders of business- I'm glad to hear that everything's okay Casey! I hope your exams are going well and good luck with the rest of your work. :)

How do I feel about kids? I really like them! The Psychology lab I work in studies early language learning in young children, so if I didn't like them I'd be a bit miserable at my job. We usually have at least one infant come in every day, so we get to see lots of cute little kids at my job. I had some regular babysitting jobs back in high school and, if I may say so, the kids I babysat were pretty fond of me as I was of them. One girl I used to babysit was in first grade when I started and now she's in eighth... I still can't wrap my head around that. And the boy who I used to help get ready for bed and read to is now in high school.... what? For the past 9 years or so I've also helped out at vacation bible school in the summer, so lots of working with kids for me. So yes, I like kids! That doesn't mean I want my own anytime soon though. I don't want my own for ten years or so, thank you very much. That is just too much responsibility. I'll happily play with others' kids, but also happily hand them back over to their parents at the end of the day. All in due time.

As for my favorite culture aside from my own, I feel like this is a bit of a cop out as I'm moving there in 3 (wow... only three now?) months, but I have to say French culture. I really enjoyed living there for 1.5 months back when I did study abroad two summers ago and I'm excited to live there in a more longterm situation. One of the best, but also most annoying parts of French culture is, I think, that practically everything is closed on Sundays. Businesses (not all, if I remember correctly, but most) are actually fined if they are open on Sunday. Large businesses like big chain supermarkets can afford to be open on Sundays because their profits outweigh the fines, but smaller businesses can't and are therefore closed. This is annoying when you need to buy something or want to go out to eat, but very nice because it also gives you forced time off. The French are big fans of having time to relax, simply being at home and just sitting, doing nothing, relaxing. Another thing I love about French culture is the acceptance of, like I mentioned, being able to enjoy doing nothing. Parks are a big part of culture in France. A difference between parks here and in France, though, is that French parks are full of people sitting on benches and doing nothing except enjoying their surroundings. They don't feel the need to always be doing something, be it reading a book, talking on the phone, listening to music. Sometimes it's nice to just sit and watch.

And now onto this week's topic! This topic actually comes during a very opportune week- I'm leaving on a roadtrip down to Texas with my friend Kyle on Monday and I'm very excited. So what am I looking forward to this summer? In a word, travel. From June 20-30 I'll be on this upcoming roadtrip and July 23- August 9 I'll be out in Connecticut spending time at my favorite place in the world, camp (with a day spent in New York seeing How to Succeed and the Discovery store Harry Potter exhibit!). On the upcoming roadtrip, Kyle and I will be stopping in Indianapolis, Memphis, Little Rock, Dallas, Austin on the way down to Corpus Christi, Texas to visit our friend Alex who now goes to grad school there. And on the way back up we're spending a day in New Orleans (so excited to finally visit) and then stopping in Nashville. We're also going to stop and visit any interesting places we see on the way or any city names we see on exit signs that catch our eye. This will be my first real roadtrip, so I can't wait. We're calling it "Time and Relative Dimension in America." We are huge Doctor Who geeks, so we are of course going to be turning his car into our own personal TARDIS for the trip (putting the "pull to open" sign in one of the windows, putting the police box sign in the back window, etc.). I've also asked some friends to make roadtrip playlists for me, which they have done, so I'm looking forward to discovering some new music during our six 9-hours-of-driving days (3 there and 3 back).

Naturally I am also COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY EXCITED for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2!!!! Nothing can express how much excitement I am feeling about this, excitement and many other emotions. I was going to watch the final trailer last night, but I just couldn't bring myself to. I kept thinking that this was the last time I would ever be seeing an HP trailer for the first time and I couldn't do it. It's the last time too, and I want to be as surprised as possible when I see the movie. With the past movies I've often already known most of the scenes due to the trailers and prereleased clips. I'm trying something new with this one and going in mostly naive to the movie (well, except for basically the whole plot of the book, but you know).

This is pushing it when talking about what I'm looking forward to this summer, but I'm also, of course, looking forward to moving to France in September! I'm planning on leaving around September 20, so that's technically still summer (technically!). It's scary and exciting and just crazy and I still can't really believe I'm doing it. I think it won't feel completely real until I receive my school assignment and know what town I will actually be in (I know I'll be in the Lille area, but the actual town is still a mystery). Once I receive that information I can start looking into housing and I'll have to start the charming process of obtaining my visa.

Basically, what this summer boils down to is: Travel and HARRY POTTER!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Everybody calm down! Thursday is right here!

First of all, I'm really sorry for being M.I.A. last week. I'm having a truly wonderful month, what with two tests per week until July. And I did do the challenge, I was just to busy/lazy to post it up (how's that for a contradiction?). However, I will happily tell you about my four hours of doing something I normally never do, which was spend four hours in a Target. Here is how it went:

Hour One (4:13 PM): Sooo hungry. Eat pizza and rice krispie treat from the small food court inside, and am about to feel fat, but I see some of the other people shopping nearby and feel very happy about my body. Still, glad my vitaminwater was 0 calorie. (4:34 PM) Finish eating, and begin to look around. I think I'll look at clothes.

Hour Two (5:13 PM): A little bit bored, but still trying on clothes and can keep doing this for a bit so I have something to do. Might find some cute clothes.

Hour Three (6:13 PM): Was finally done trying clothes, so I went to look at the DVDs after briefly scoffing at the book selection (seriously, really annoyed that Justin Beiber has a book about himself, at that my little sister wants it). I think I will buy Bye Bye Birdie (I'm a sucker for Dick Van Dyke), and Becoming Jane (because I love James McAvoy's eyes and I would probably go gay for Anne Hatheway). After this, I think I will head to the toys.

Hour Four (7:13 PM): Actually slept through the mark because on the way to toys I found a comfy chair in a place without prying eyes and stopped to sleep (very tired lately). After that, looked at toys and sports stuff, and I want to buy a bike but it won't fit in the back of my car, so I'll hold off for now. Instead, I decide to buy a puzzle (2000 piece cuz I'm that hardcore) of the Sistine Chapel ceiling to do with my boyfriend. However, I'm quickly getting bored, and with 20 minutes left, I head to the makeup section to see if there actually is a foundation that matches my pale vampire skin.

(8:13 PM): Time's up and I can go home!

Those are partially from my notes and from remembered feelings. Sorry if it's very disjointed in style.

And...what I look forward to this summer is, of course, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, because this time I'm going to dress up. I bought a Gryfindoor tie (cuz Hufflepuff wasn't being sold) and learned how to tie a full Windsor knot, and I even have a robe and everything :). I never got to participate in any of the book parties or movie parties, and this is me making up a little bit for the past. I was a Harry Potter nerd for a good 6 years of my life (that's complete hero worship mode I'm talking; think Bella's devotion to Edward only Harry's much more lifelike) to full on obsession with the series, and only the last 3 years of my life have been what could be considered normal.

Also, I mentioned already that June is ruined with tests, right? The army doesn't believe in summer vacation, so except for the 4th of July weekend, I don't get any big length of vacation time. But, I really do enjoy what I'm doing, so I'll keep doing it!

My opinion on children: They are very underestimated by adults (including myself) who forget how strong and determined and full of potential they were as children. J.K. Rowling is right by showing how great accomplishments can be acheived by kids, and we ignore their opinions and acheivements to our detriment. I don't want to have kids right now, but I am working on creating a better relationship with the youth of today, if anything so I can convince them that there is more to life than Justin Beiber, Hannah Montana, and Spongebob. And for the kids who know that those things are crap and are busy creating something, like performance art, or scientific research, or just reading a crapload of books trying to figure out the world, I say rock on and power to you!

Hopefully I'll be back in sync with you all soon. And looking forward to my punishment!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday is short-winded today

Warning: This is a relatively short post!

Casey: Hope things are going well! We’re all looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Christina: I like your interpretation of the challenge! Well done : )

Cassie: Alice was wonderful. You and everyone else involved have great cause to be proud. ‘Twas an honor to be involved!

Alexandra: Your summer is certainly worth looking forward to! In lots of awesome ways. Tell Carina hi from all of BG!

In terms of Cassie’s question about children… I like them well enough. There are some (a great many) I adore, and a few I would rather do without. The thing about other people’s kids is you get to pick which ones you’re around; when it’s your own kids, you have to deal with those against your will. I hope my future children will be awesome! I’m sure I’ll love them anyway (assuming they ever exist). I think I’m at a place in my life right now where never having kids sounds okay, but I’ll most likely want them in the future.

What I’m looking forward to about the summer: learning about lots of things, like psycholinguistics and veggie straws; spending time with incredibly high-quality people, some of whom are becoming inextricably part of my present and future; continuing this adventure of life and discovering new ways of living it.

This is already a summer without equal, and it just keeps getting better!

My question for all of you: What is your favorite culture, other than the one you currently live in?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Feels As Though This is Kind of a Given...

My wedding. That's the answer. ;p

I will instead talk about things I care about other than the wedding that happen this summer.

Harry Potter 7.2; end of an era. I'm doing the whole midnight showing thing, obviously, and dragging Al with me to see it and then likely complaining about the portrayal of this and that online. I'm still annoyed at 7.1 for leaving Pettigrew's death kind of ambiguous. I get leaving out the strangling, but you could have just had Bellatrix kill him or something.

My 20th Birthday; September 2nd. Which is a Friday, JSYK. 20 is sort of a boring year, because 21st is when I can drink in America, and 19 is when I could drink in Canada, but 20? Middle year. I don't know why I even use drinking age as a measure of worth, as I barely drink, and haven't been carded -- in America -- since I was 15. But, hell, 20. Wow. Kind of cool, eh? Another decade down. Also, I'm getting the greatest gift of all. A bad 3D ripoff of Jaws/Piranha.

PAX; This is kind of my miniature honeymoon. :) We're going to Disney World for Christmas as our honeymoon proper, but this is right after the wedding, so it seemed like a good hold over. Can't go wrong with this sort of thing, eh? And we get a weekend in Seattle away from the room in his mum's house, so no complaints.

Seeing Carina; My BGSU friend, for the Ohio...nites? IDK. Probably the only time I'll see her this year, since I'm not going to New York for Christmas. Technically related to the wedding, as she is coming out here to be my maid of honor, but there you go. Good friend. I guess, also, "seeing Cameron [my brother], my parents, my Nonna [who I quite dislike], and James and Tom [my cousin]", but eh, Carina's still a bit more important to me. Maybe in a few years.

Getting my new laptop! My Macbook is currently missing the tilde (~), fn, and ctrl keys, and technically 'C', however I use that too often and have put backslash (\) in sideways so that I could still type. It's headphone jack doesn't work, nor does the internal fan. The battery drains fast because of the latter. Basically the only thing working competently is the guts of it - the hard drive and the OS - and given that the latest Firefox has forced me onto Chrome, it isn't liking me much there, either. So I got a fancy new laptop, Lenovo W series, I may have mentioned it. It's arriving at some point today. I might talk about it next week. Get to spend all of this week loading on my music files, complaining about iTunes not transferring my playlists correctly, obsessively reorganizing all 5,000+ files, deleting no doubt hundreds in the process, and then -- of course -- installing all the programs: Steam, Chrome, Skype, Photoshop, Word, etc., etc., etc. Tedious, but by the end, worth it. Though I don't know how much I care for switching back to Windows...

edit; Oh, and kids. They're fine. I don't mind them in the abstract sense, and I consider them to be an important part of our society, but... I don't much care for being alone with them. Particularly if they are in that 5 to 12 area. Teenagers are fine, if a bit underdeveloped in their ideas. Little kids are cute, if a bit of a pain. Kids? They just annoy me. Wouldn't want one of my own, either.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday is melancholy . . .

Hello, girls!

So, I picked an anticipatory theme for this week because I need to focus on something I’m looking forward to, as I’m kinda immersed in melancholy just now. My show just closed, my last show with Horizon and the students I’ve been working with for two years now. They did such an amazing job, and I’m incredibly proud of them, but I won’t deny that I sobbed at the final curtain call, especially when they all gave me a hand-tied yarn rug they’d all made together, and then enclosed me in a group hug and told me I couldn’t leave.

Yeah. So, happy thoughts are needed.
It helps that I’m currently writing this from one of my favorite places – Lakeside, Ohio. Every summer, I teach bible school for the East Ohio Annual Conference, and that’s where I am right now. I have eighteen kindergartners in my class this year, mostly good kids, but a couple of real hellions! Anyway, once we’re done at noon, the rest of the day is my own, and I love this tiny little town. I’m at my most peaceful and relaxed during my afternoons here. This is probably the only time you’ll see me on the Internet this whole week, to be honest. I like to escape for a while in Lakeside, get reading done and writing done and just spend whole afternoons sitting by the lake. It is lovely.

But onto other business.

Alexandra: I feel your pain in terms of makeup shopping. I hardly ever wear it, and it is so expensive!

Carlyn: Thank you, thank you, thank you for jumping in to assist my theatrical endeavors! Glad you slipped your post in under the wire!

Casey: You around? Still haven’t heard from you, and I hope everything’s okay.

Christina: I enjoyed reading your challenge, especially your breaking of the unwritten rule that strangers in movie theaters must sit an acceptable distance away from one another! Thanks for the recommendation – the movie sounds fascinating.

Now onto this week’s theme.

So, the biggest thing I’m looking forward to this summer would have to be my cousin’s wedding. She’s getting married in July, and my immediate family is taking two and a half weeks to do something we haven’t done on our vacations in years – a road trip tour of a new part of the country. We used to do this every year – New England, the east coast, the southern midwest – but with family reunions and weddings and lack of time, it’s been a while since we last set out. But we decided to drive out to Washington state rather than fly, and so we’re going to be making time to stop and see places like Yellowstone and the Badlands and the Wisconsin Dells, and other places I’ve never been before.

I’m excited about that, naturally (not quite as excited as driving cross-country with five people in a four-door sedan), but I’m also really looking forward to the week of the wedding itself, which is when we’ll be in Seattle, and I’ll reiterate: I LOVE the Pacific Northwest. Love it. And I get to spend a whole week there. I can’t wait! I’ve been to Seattle once, and it was just a drive-through visit, so I’m really looking forward to actually getting to know the city. I’d love to visit the Seattle Children’s Theatre, and there’s so much else I want to do.

And we’ll be seeing Harry Potter 7.2 out there, and then there’s the wedding. Carrie’s getting married to a great guy, and I know they’re going to be very happy together. They’re both world travelers, and they’re going to Thailand on their honeymoon, and I can’t wait to see pictures. I also love every opportunity to see my whole extended family – which I haven’t done since my cousin Erin’s wedding three years ago!

So that’s the event of my summer. The only downside of the trip is that it comes right in the middle of Horizon’s summer camps, so I have to miss most of those, which is unfortunate but inescapable.

It’s been a while since we had a question, so I’ll ask you all the following: How do you feel about kids? I mean in general, in your life specifically, whether you want your own in the future, etc. Personally, in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I love kids and I’m a huge advocate for them. I love working with them, more than with adults in many ways, and I definitely want my own someday – though not for a while!

Alexandra, I’ll see you tomorrow!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week 14: The Summer is Coming!

Hey girls!

This week's theme: What are you looking forward to most about the summer?

Also, Casey? Just checking in, since we didn't hear from you this week. I hope everything's all right!

Friday, June 10, 2011

In which Friday has herself a mini film festival

While I completed Carlyn's challenge I kept a little journal going, so I'm just going to transcribe that right here. I will say before I start that I really enjoyed completing this challenge and I'm curious to see what the next one will be! And here we go:

Carlyn challenged us all to spend 4 hours in public doing something we wouldn't usually do. I am spending my 4 hours seeing 2 movies back-to-back. I've never seen a movie by myself, so I'm excited to see how this goes. First movie: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at 7 pm.

6:40 pm: I arrived and bought my ticket. Had a little conversation with the guy in the box office about the weather.

6:45 pm: I'm the only person in the theater, this is quite nice.

6:55 pm: A young couple just arrived, how I feel more aware that I'm here alone.

6:56 pm: an older couple is here now too. We're all sitting in different areas of the theater, giving each other a wide berth.

6:57 pm: I'm anticipating what it will be like when I buy my ticket for the second movie if the same guy is at the box office. I think I'll have to explain that I'm completing a challenge in order to not feel that he thinks I'm completely bizarre.

6:58 pm: Another woman arrived, but I think she works here. I'm still the only one here alone. Yep, she works here.

7:01 pm: Two guys just arrived. they're carrying a Scrabble box. That's odd. I wonder if it looks like I'm writing about everyone around me.

7:02 pm: The movie is late. :(

8:42 pm: I really liked the movie and I highly recommend it! (Author's Note: Apparently the rating isn't very high on imdb, but opinions and all that....) It was very informative and interesting to see just how deep advertising goes in our culture. Right now I'm sitting in a café drinking a hot chocolate as I can't buy tickets for the next movie (Everything Must Go) until 9.

8:45 pm: I was about to pull out a book to read (Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson), but, even though it's not explicitly against the rules, I feel like that would go against the point of the challenge. I'm also not going to contact anyone while I'm completing the challenge. I did go against this and tweet when I first got to the theater, but that was before I thought of the rule, so I just won't do it from here on out. If I get a text, I won't respond until I get out of the second movie unless it's really important/urgent. When I got to the café, I actually ran into a friend of a friend and we talked for a little bit, but he talked to me first, so it's okay! I explained to him what I was doing and he said he never sees movies alone either.

Thinking back over the movie, some things I'd like to share:

  • There were interviews with people from all different aspects of product placement sprinkled throughout the film which was very enjoyable (including Ralph Nader, J.J. Abrams, and Ben Silverman).
  • One person he interviewed talked about the commercialization of childhood and used the example of Harry Potter, saying something to the effect of, "Just picking up a stick to use as a wand is no longer enough, kids want the actual wand." Now, my friends and I, when we first became HP-obsessed in middle school, would find wand-like sticks, fashion them into "real" wands (I remember even stuffing a feather into the end of one to act as a phoenix feather), and they were the best things ever. This memory and the comparison with overly-commercialized childhood made me very affectionate towards my friends' and my younger selves and our ability to turn a stick taken from the ground into a magic wand.
8:54 pm: I just got my first text. Cannot respond, Christina, cannot respond.

Another benefit, but also potential drawback, of the movie: if I wasn't already distracted by ubiquitous advertising, I definitely am now. Upon stepping out of the theater and onto the sidewalk, the world seemed automatically brighter and more colorful due simply to the large amount of advertisements now int he target of my radar. I also feel that this is a benefit, however, because being more aware that one's being advertised to, does, I think, take some power away from that advertising. 

9:15 pm: Just got to the theater and bought my ticket for Everything Must Go. Another guy just bought a ticket too! Maybe I won't be the only solitary movie goer this time around. A different person sold me the ticket this time, by the way, so no need for explanation and no confused looks thrown my way.

9:20 pm: So far I'm enjoying this whole seeing-a-movie-by-yourself thing. Being alone really gives one time to think about the movie afterwards, cementing one's own opinion before talking with others.

Just got a seat in the theater. Other lone-watcher wasn't in the theater when I sat down and upon his return we discovered that I'd accidentally sat a few seats down from him. In a nearly completely empty theater (I hadn't seen his popcorn.) He more than awkwardly moved to a different row. Ouch. I understand, but still, ouch. 

9:25 pm: It's nice to get some time to just look around and observe the theater. There are some charming cracks on the ceiling where it meets the wall. A thermostat not-so-subtly peeks out from between those classic red movie theater curtains lining the walls.

9:29 pm: And the movie's about to start!

11:04 pm: And I'm done! Everything Must Go was pretty good, but I enjoyed The Greatest Movie Ever Sold more. EMG was in the category of "not much really happens" movies. TGMES, a documentary, actually had more of a plot. Now, I usually like "nothing happens" movies, but I wasn't feeling this one as much. I really liked TGMES though, and would like to see it again. I saw these movies at the local theater just a few doors down from my apartment. It's the type of theater that leaves out small movie posters for people to take, so I ended up with some nice posters for my friends and myself! All in all, a good experience and I'll definitely be seeing more movies on my own.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday still needs to do her laundry...

In the vein of Christina’s post, I simply must recommend to you a book about positive psychology: “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It’s about maximizing your life, and it will blow your mind.

Okay! My challenge!

I’ve known about this for a long time—longer than any of you, because I came up with it—and yet I still decided to wait until today to complete my challenge. I had a work meeting in the early afternoon, so I was planning on spending my four hours at the laundromat doing laundry (which hasn’t happened in about a month, hence qualifying it for the “don’t usually do” stipulation) and reading articles for work (which I will be doing more often, but don’t yet).

But instead, I did the following!

Hour 1:

After my work meeting, I headed to my lab to work on some really exciting things: new signs for the doors in the lab. “Psycholinguistics Laboratory” and “Don’t knock if the red light is on”, that kind of thing. But there is actually some funniness to this!

My boss is a rather [read: quite] elderly lady with mysterious motivations for the things she finds important. When she was showing me around the lab (that I had already been working in the whole semester for course credit), she pointed out that the signs on the front of the door were crinkly and suggested I make new ones. Sure! So I made some. Then, at the next week’s lab meeting, I suggested that, since I was already making signs for one door, I might also make a new sign for the eyetracking lab we have. For some completely unknown reason, my boss refused to allow it. “Her door is fine,” she crowed, referring to the grad student who uses that particular lab. Now, if my signs are janky, this girl’s sign is in terrible condition. So I promised her I’d make her a new sign. And that’s what I did.

Hours 2 and 3:

Instead of doing laundry, I have spent a very smiley day helping out with a production of “Alice in Wonderland: The Musical” that is being put on by a local youth theater program. The show, which goes up this weekend!, is directed by our own Miss Monday and involves some other folks I like alot. : ) I have done very little work with theater, so sewing costumes and making prop spears were new and exciting experiences.

Hour 4:

As part of my help with the show, I got to go on a supply run. The stage manager (I think that is her title? Forgive me if I’m wrong! [edit: I have been informed that her title is, in fact, Technical Director]), who is wonderful, needed some brown spray paint and sticky tack. Now, you may be asking, “Carlyn, that should not have taken an hour! What in the world did you do for an hour?” I will tell you, reader. I searched high and low for that damned sticky tack! And it turns out Meijer does not even carry it when it’s not back-to-school season. Go figure. Luckily Staples was readier to meet my need. The kind sales clerk walked me right over to the sticky tack aisle, and there were several varieties—mine for the perusing.

So, that’s what I did on my challenge. It was a really truly good day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Goes to the Mall

I hate shopping. Well, correction. I love grocery shopping; I like to look at the products, give them a smell, maybe a taste, and pick up things to make. I like book, movie, game, etc. shopping because, though the 'shopping' part blows, I get something nice out of it. Shopping for clothes, shoes, purses, beauty products, etc.? My mother or mother-in-law tend to do that for me. I've probably bought more clothes for my best friends than I ever have for myself.

But I needed a couple of things, and I figured, hell, why send Barb to do it when I can get this challenge out of the way? So I went to the mall and began my hunt, with the following guidelines.

- I couldn't text my fiance, brother, father, or best friend.
- I couldn't stop at a book, electronics, or food store.
- I couldn't stop to eat at the food court or restaurants in the mall.
- I couldn't go on the internet unless it was for price comparison.

Hour One

I begin my search with shoes. I have large feet - about a size 10 - so it can be difficult to find shoes, but not nearly as difficult as the next two tasks at hand. I need white flats with a decent design, sub $100, to wear at my wedding. I stop in three stores, each charging upwards of $80 for what I would accurately describe as sandals. In the lack of alternatives, however, I pick up an unbacked pair with a butterfly design. They are simple, comfortable, and prevent skidding. I will probably never wear them after my wedding, but who knows, I might find an occasion. I then proceed to look for a small white purse to go with them; I quickly find a clutch that is suitable and cheap, and I buy it.

Hour Two
My feet are already tired, admittedly more from trying on shoes than from walking around, but I persevere. My next stop is lingerie. I needed a few pairs of panties and a couple of bras. This was where my size began to rear its ugly head. You see, I am what some might refer to as a big, beautiful woman or - for the more internet-inclined - a "hambeast". Certainly not obese, but unless it is Old Navy, it can be very, very hard to find something that will fit me in a mainstream clothing store. I find some stretchy XL panties rather quickly, but 44DDD? That takes a couple of stores to find anything comfortable. The first store had nothing but strapless bras in my size, and ladies, well-endowed girls should not wear strapless bras. They do not work, no matter how much elastic and rubber they line the thing with. The second store had nothing over a DD. The third store had two bras in my size, plain black and skin toned, which I settled for.

Hour Three
Hour three was the hour of beautification, a term I use most loosely. I headed to Shoppers, a (Canadian?) pharmacy not unlike CVS, and started simply with finding a pair of tights. I settled for a pair that will no doubt snag and tear after a night's wear, but a night was all I needed them for. I picked up a bottle of Head & Shoulders, and then went to my least favorite aisle of them all: the makeup aisle.

I don't wear makeup. I own some of the basic stuff, all no doubt dreadfully mismatched for my face's shade. But with a picture of my dress in hand, I asked a woman working in the beauty aisle to help me find something suitable for the wedding. She picked out all of the most expensive things, as you may imagine, which I took down towards the more familiar, cheap brands and simply found things in matching colours.

I cheated slightly at the end of this hour by buying a mini Toblerone bar. But I ate it on the go and bought it from a shop I was at for other reasons, so I don't really care. I capped off the hour by using a gift card from a friend at Sephora, where I was deeply insulted by the woman at the register, who immediately pointed me towards the "FatGirl" section of the store, which had soaps that would help reduce appetite. I bought some nail polish and some moisturizer.

Hour Four
At last, I was forced to address the final issue: my hair. I didn't want to do my hair near the wedding, since it is always cut far shorter than I appreciate it, and I like having the bangs a bit long. So I got my hair cut, in a pixie cut if you cared, so that it was a few inches shorter - enough that it would be just right for my wedding. My hair grows mad fast, as an aside. It is beastly, insanely thick, and can grow down to my bum in less than two years from a pixie cut.

I wandered aimlessly for the rest of the 20 minutes I had of my four hours, then stopped in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy a new cheese grater, because damn if I didn't specify that I couldn't buy kitchen supplies during all this. It had a rubber lining to keep it from sliding, four well defined and beautifully sharp sides, and a strong handle that is easy to grip. I am very fond of this. I used it the next day to grate mozzarella for a pizza.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Was Idle . . . and hated it.

Hello, girls! It’s Monday, and not just any Monday – it’s Challenge Monday.

So, Carlyn’s challenge was to spend four hours in a public place doing something we wouldn’t normally do. I went back and forth on what to do and how to fulfill it, but eventually, I hit on a plan.

But rather than me blather on about it, I’m going to let Cassie from a week ago do the talking. Cassie from a week ago?

The Challenge of Nothing

1:22pm - It has begun. My challenge. I begin at 1:22pm, and I will conclude at 5:22pm. My public location? BG City Park. My four-hour objective? To do nothing.
    Now, before you raise a fuss and call me a cop-out, let me explain. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. As close to inactivity as I can come without falling asleep. Four hours of forced idleness. I am not an idle person. I am never not doing something, and I’m usually doing multiple things. So I’m actually pretty anxious about this. Here are my rules:

    1. I may not read.
    2. I may not write, except to take notes on the experience.
    3. I may not spend my four hours taking notes.
    4. I may not listen to music.
    5. I may not play games on my phone or iPod.
    6. I may not seek out company. If it comes to me, that’s something else, but I cannot seek it out.
    7. I may respond to text messages, emails, and phone calls, but I may not be the originator.
    8. I may violate the above rule if an Alice crisis arises.
    9. I may stretch my legs once every hour or if my shade disappears (because I didn’t wear sunscreen, dummy that I am).
    10. I must tell anyone who asks exactly what I am doing.

I can already hear my inner voice going “But – but – but – what am I supposed to do??” And I answer: “Nothing. You are going to sit quietly for four hours and enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air. You are going to exist for four hours without a plan and let life happen to you.”
     My inner voice is not silenced, nor is it convinced. Twelve minutes down, it says. Enjoy the bugs, it says. But I have made my choice. So let’s see what happens now.

1:51pm - I’ve already broken a rule, but with good reason, and really, I think it falls under the parameters of Rule Nine. I’ve moved – away from the stagnant water that is the sand pit after all the rain we’ve had. Hopefully that will help with the bugs, which are far worse than I was anticiapting. Thirty minutes in and I already have a handful of bug bites. But yes, Mom. I know. Without bug spray, I have no right to complain.

2:21pm - Coming up on the end of hour one. It’s not going quite as badly as I feared it might be. The park is busy – both because it’s Memorial Day and because it’s the first really nice day we’ve had in a whole. But the amount of people around means I haven’t had a lack of things to watch.
   Deep thought of the hour: I miss being a kid. I miss seeing a pool of muddy water as an adventure instead of a mosquito breeding ground. I miss thinking nothing of sitting on a sun-warmed swing or running barefoot across dry mulch. I’ve spent my first hour by the playground, and it’s filled me with nostalgia, like in no small part because this is the playground I came to as a kid spending my summers in BG.
   I was going to be more poetic, but that’s the crux of it, really. I miss the untroubled innocence of childhood summers, and I wish I could tell these kids how precious what they have is. But I know they’d look at me like I was crazy before running barefoot off across the grass to wrestle with a sibling or scrape up their knees on the playground.

Hour Two

2:33 - Oh, and in case you were wondering, the bugs are far less ubiquitous over here.

2:37 - The breeze has stopped and the number of kids has drastically decreased. The ones left are fast getting on my nerves. How have only four minutes gone by?

2:43 - Alice, Alice, Alice. When I have nothing to think about, my mind defaults to worrying about Alice. I’m surprised it took me an hour and twenty minutes, actually. How does an hour pass so quickly and the last ten minutes so slowly?

2:46 - Okay, I need to move. I didn’t at the hour, so I’m doing it now.

3:00 - Okay, I’m better now. I was by the playground for too long, I think. All of a sudden, the kids were grating and the atmosphere was cloying. I’m in a quieter part of the park now, one that feels more secluded even though it isn’t really. I’m lying on a stone bench in a little copse of trees, and it’s amazing how much the overlapping tree branches look like the veining on the leaves from below. I almost fell asleep, which I’d like to avoid, as I don’t think it accomplishes the goal of deliberate inactivity. Although falling asleep on a park bench would certainly qualify as something I don’t normally do in public!

Hour Three

3:27 - Missed the hour two mark because I didn’t feel like reaching down for my paper. Even now I don’t have much to add. It’s very calming on my stone bench. I’ve taken off my shoes, and barefoot in the park seems like a pretty good place to be right now. Deep thought for hour two.

3:33 - Since pulling myself out of my trance to write the previous, my hands have been itching to do something – pick up a book, write an Alice to-do list, talk about paint with my TD, anything. It’s like as long as I’m not thinking about the fact that I’m doing nothing, I’m fine, but as soon as I remember, I get fidgety. I think it’s because that is when I start thinking about all the things I could be doing, even if it’s just reading a book.

3:49 - I am fast losing shade. Time to move. There’s a second stone bench a little ways away that I’ve been avoiding because it’s in full view of a picnic pavilion with quite a large group of people, but that’s the whole point, right?

4:09 - Sun’s chasing me from my second stone bench, too. Back to the playground. I think I’ll see if there are any open shady swings.

Hour Four

4:23 - Taking a break from my swinging to herald in hour four, my last hour of inactivity. I love swinging. I’ve already had three encounters of note on the swingset, the most interaction I’ve had today. I’ll tell you about them in a little. Right now, I’m going to keep swinging.

4:51 - So, I was going to keep swinging until my thighs started complaining about being put into a seat designed for people much smaller, but then the kid swinging next to me fell off and broke his arm, and I decided I was done swinging. And now I really need to get the image out of my head, so I’m not going to write down my musings about swinging.
    This last half hour is going to be the hardest and most tempting because right in the middle of City Park is Needle Hall, and Needle Hall is where Shakespeare in the Park rehearses, and all my friends are in Shakespeare in the Park and are currently arriving for rehearsal. I was originally supposed to be in the show, too, which doesn’t help. Also, I can’t move out of view. It’s the biggest thing in the park.

4:59 - My boyfriend saw me and came over. I didn’t tell him I was doing this today, and because he came to me, I could talk to him. But he’s being stubbornly helpful now, and refusing to stick around to talk to me now that he knows what I’m doing. Grrr . . . 

5:02 - And now all my friends are standing there, watching me. Chase told them all why I’m here, and so they won’t come talk to me. My resolve is being sorely tested . . . 20 more minutes.

5:15 - Well, their rehearsal has started, and I have at least been able to move out of line of sight of the actors. With seven minutes left to my time, the afternoon seems surreal. It is hard to account for the passage of time. It seems simultaneously to have flown by impossibly fast and dragged on interminably. I was able to do nothing all afternoon easier than I thought I’d be. For four hours, I just existed, which is both a blessing and a curse. When I was able to give in to it, it was very peaceful, very relaxing. But the rest of the time, it was maddening, and I hate that I lost four hours. All and all, an interesting experience, and an interesting challenge. I’m glad I did it, but I think I’m ready to go accomplish something.

5:23 - My four hours are done! I’m turning on my music, washing my hands, and going shopping! I’ve never been so excited to do such mundane things before. Happy challenge week to you all! I hope yours will be as insightful as mine has been.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week 13: Challenge Time!

All right, girls! Time for Carlyn's challenge! I hope you spent your four hours in an interesting fashion -- I can't wait to hear about it!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Squirrels like ice cream too

Hello everyone!

I've had a good past week, which I suppose isn't that hard when it starts with having Monday off thanks to Memorial Day. I've been making an effort, especially this week, to do meaningful things with my free time, not just laze around on the internet and watch tv when I'm not at work, and it's really made a difference in how I feel about my day as I'm going to bed. We learned in one of my psychology classes a couple semesters back about Positive Psychology, a new field pioneered by Martin Seligman. Without going into it too deeply, Seligman covers three different important fields in order to lead a happy, positive life: the Pleasant Life, the Engaged Life, and the Meaningful Life. The Pleasant Life is about taking pleasure in the small things you do everyday, like eating a great sandwich, walking by a nice garden, or smelling cut grass. The Engaged Life is about really focusing on your work or what you're doing at any given moment. You don't necessarily have to enjoy the work, but if you're focused and "in the zone" it's a more rewarding experience. The Meaningful Life is about connecting to others, doing charity work, passing on skills to the next generation, things like that. This week I started really thinking about the Engaged life and the Pleasant life and I've definitely noticed that my general positivity level has upped. At work, especially, I've noticed a difference as I've made myself focus more on what I'm doing and not get sidetracked online or fall into a pattern of procrastination (definitely my biggest weakness, as usual). So, that's what I've been doing this week! Work has been challenging, but good this week. We finally started running our new study (which we've been working on for a year now) and we've run three participants so far. They've all gone really well and the data has been completely usable! Not to mention that the kids have been adorable and none of them have gotten fussy or given us any problems, which is the ideal when working with young children in Psych studies. I think that one of the reasons this week has been so rewarding is that I've been working so long in the lab preparing for this study (over a year!) and it's great to finally be running it and have it go so well. Yesss

Something else that has made this week awesome- perhaps THE thing that's made it awesome actually- is what I saw today while walking to the bank. Here's a picture I took, please excuse the bad quality, I took it on my phone:

It's a squirrel! Eating an ice cream cone! Like a person!

That is awesome.

I'll see you guys next week and I'm eagerly nervously awaiting my punishment!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I need to think of a title for this Thursday...I guess this works

Hey there everybody! I enjoyed reading all of your lies, and I apologize for mine not being nearly as elaborate or subtle. But I was tired, and that's what happens when I'm tired.

So far, my life has been pretty good. I finally cleaned my room last night, and I feel so much happier and at peace. Now, if only I could get my Arabic homework done and study it some more. I would, but I'm too busy watching Battlestar Galactica. I've been calling myself a nerd all these years, and I had absolutely no idea what BSG was until about a month ago when I finally started watching it on Netflix. It's very slow going, and I'm only a few episodes into the second season, but I love it. A lot of the directing style reminds me of Firefly, and the first episodes (the "miniseries") pretty much took everything about filming outerspace from Firefly and made it it's own. But I'm not upset about that; I like it when my favorite movies/shows pay homage to each other. It reminds me that there are other people out there who enjoy the same things I do and it creates a bond with those people, even if I don't know who they are.

I'm going to be very busy this weekend, what with this Ball I have to go to (I'd feel like Cinderella except I already have my prince and I don't get to wear a pretty gown), and my boyfriend coming down on Sunday, and this skit rehearsal I'll most likely have Saturday morning. I'll be very pressed to do my challenge, but no need to fear, it will get done. Just not sure when :).

That's really all the new bits I have to add to this week's blog. I'll try to make next weeks better.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday says hello!

Casey: Zzzzz… Oh! Sorry! I mean... I admire your creativity :)

Christina: More agreement with the punishment thing.

Cassie: I love the idea of Kate’s biography. I will definitely buy/read it. I had several imaginary brothers when I was growing up (since I have just one sister, and always felt deprived of male sibling rivalry). Their names all began with S, but the only one’s name I can remember is Severus. He was several years older than my sister and me.

Alexandra: I love the true story of Takeshi. It’s fascinating to me how people come into our lives and change things all around. He sounds very important to who you are!

The past couple of weeks have been pretty awesome. I visited my near-future grad school, registered for classes, planned out the rest of my degree, and signed a lease for an AWESOME apartment (!!!!). Soon after I got back, I got an email from one of my psych professors asking if I wanted to work in her lab. I met with her for what I thought was an interview and turned into, “Okay, you’ll get paid this much, work this many hours a week, and be titled ‘lab manager of the psycholinguistics department. Let’s go fill out paperwork.” So, I have an unexpected part-time summer job in my field!

In terms of other things, I am quite delighted with my friendships this summer. At the end of the school year, I was looking forward to the people who would be sticking around in our little college town. I was right to be excited! But I didn’t even know then how awesome these people are. I have had such a wonderful time better getting to know the people in my life.

I don’t know about y’all, but I am having a hard time deciding what to do with my four hours of public alone time. I hope you’re having fun with it!

Have a good Wednesday!