Jul 31, 2014

Semi Charmed Summer Book Challenge Complete!

Book Challenge and Mini Reviews Completed

I finished the challenge!  It has been a blast, and I'm so glad Megan at Semi Charmed Kind of Life ran it, because I had, ready for this?, this is pretty terrible... stopped reading.  (gasp!)

Not entirely, I suppose.  I have a few things at home that I pick up when I get bored, but I was watching a lot more TV than reading, and I don't feel like it does as much for my brain.  So having something to remind how awesome reading is was nice (and it got me a bit more involved on Goodreads, which is fun!  Come friend me to talk books).

So now I've got 5 more mini reviews for you, if you're interested in what I think.  Here's a heads-up, blanket SPOILER ALERT for everything to follow, since I'm so bad at not discussing endings (but not quite as bad as Sister3, who will give you such a sad look when you tell her not to give away the end that you almost always cave and sigh, "Go ahead.").

3 Cups of Tea

The start and the end of this were easy to read and held my attention, but there's a pretty good chunk in the middle where you struggle to maintain interest in the main character.  He's got such a great mission that you almost feel like a bad person for not being interested in it, but he blunders around so much and puts himself in danger.  Like, I said, it gets hard to read.

The premise is that this man becomes inspired to start charity work building schools for children (mostly girls) in order to improve the lives of remote villagers in the middle east.  As he continues his work, he starts to see more fully the value of his work, and that a well balanced education is our best defense against terrorism (treat the disease and not the symptom).  It's a really powerful message, but it feels at times that you're getting sidetracked and distracted by other things.

Daughter of the Forest

Loved it, mostly!  The story is compelling and I love reading adaptations of fairy tales (in this case the 7 Swans story).  The only part that left me unsatisfied was the romance and I can't quite put my finger on why.  Maybe it was just a little forced, or the end was too tidy.  I'm not sure.  But it was close to 5 stars - I had to debate between 4 and 5.


Speaking of tidy endings... this story was fantastic!  Right up until the end.  And after a well-paced beginning, and even slow start, you're getting excited as you reach the climax of the story and then, boom, it's over.  And everyone's beautiful and everyone's problems are solved and they're all wealthy and happy forever.  It doesn't match the rest of the story and it's a bit disappointing.  I still like it, and it was a fun adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, but thinking of the ending makes me a bit sad, and might prevent me from rereading.

Player Piano

I didn't enjoy this as much as other Kurt Vonnegut books I've read.  I felt like I was already 1/3 of the way through and they were still setting the scene, and overall it just kind of dragged on.  I wish I could say better things, because for the most part I love his books (and because this was recommended to me by someone).  But at least this time I got through it!


I liked this better the 2nd time around, but it was still a weird follow up for the first 2 books.  And in each consecutive book, I feel less and less attached to Katniss.  I realize she's a teenager, but I still feel like the author didn't go out of her way to make us like or even sympathize with her.  Normally when a story is from the main character's point of view, it's a great opportunity to explain his/her side of the story, and to make you understand his/her less than stellar behavior.

In this case, Katniss is so out of touch with her own emotions and reasons for doing things that she can't explain the irrational ways she behaves.  And she vacillates back and forth between wanting to be a hero and being a little, whiny girl who doesn't want to do anything helpful for anyone.  So, while I wasn't disappointed the way I was the first time I read the series, I'd be perfectly happy to stop after book 1.

Full list and point system for the challenge:

Link to Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge Post

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
— Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson (1,087 pages - Finished! x a Million)

Book cover for Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
— The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (1,276 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around.
— Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut (341 pages - Finished!)

Book cover for Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore.
— The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Gail Carson Levine (304 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times' Best Sellers List when you begin.
— The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman (208 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.
— Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden (434 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

15 points: Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson (318 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title.
— Daughter of the Forest, Juliet Marillier (560 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

20 points: Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014.
— Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (392 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥) - So sad that the Giver wasn't long enough to be considered for this challenge.  It's such a good book!  Also, a bit scared to see what they do to it...

25 points: Read a book written by a blogger.
— Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh (384 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥) [blog of the same name]

Book cover for Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
— Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson (349 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥)

Book cover for Three Cups of Tea

30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles.
— Beauty, Robin McKinley (256 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥♥) & God Don't Like Ugly, Mary Monroe (432 pages - Finished! ♥♥♥♥)

Book cover for Beauty by Robin McKinley Book cover for God Don't Like Ugly by Mary Monroe

What have you read from the challenge list?  What books do you love (or hate)?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jul 29, 2014

6 Classic Clueless Moments - Guest Post by Momma

6 Classic Clueless Moments - Guest Post by Momma

I like to write.  My mom also likes to write.  Sometimes she writes for me...

My family has long teased me about the fact that I am singularly unaware of my surroundings. I can be driving home from work, and they pass me in the opposite direction, all of them waving and making faces at me, and I never see them. Or if I am watching television at home, and someone speaks to me or about me, I don't hear them. I think it is a partly biological thing; extreme focus, or poor multitasking ability, however you'd like to phrase it.

Anyway, this lack of awareness has unfortunate side effects. For a supposedly intelligent woman, I often come across as quite ditzy. Here then, for your enjoyment, are some of my classic clueless moments over the years...

1. Bubbly Conversation

On my wedding day, at Lake Tahoe, I am gesticulating, talking with my hands as I tend to do, and I knock my new mother-in-law's champagne glass right into her cleavage. There she sits, to the left of me, bodice soaked from bosom to waist. Oops.

2. Interview Day

On a job interview, in Miami, I lock my keys in my car. Here it is, the one day of all days when I want to make a good impression, and there they are, splayed on the drivers seat in plain view but totally unreachable. Luckily, the company is large enough that the IT Department, on the 7th floor, has no idea that building maintenance is busy down below rescuing their new job candidate from her own stupidity. And I actually end up getting the job.

3. Flat Tire

Driving to work, still in Miami, the folks in the car next to me roll down their window and point down at my left rear wheel. "You have a flat tire!"

Oh. "Can I drive on it?"

"Lady, it's totally flat!"

Oh. Once again, luck comes to my rescue, because I am eight months pregnant at the time, and a good Samaritan stops to put on my spare for me mere moments after I pull over to the side of the road and hoist my big belly out of the car to stare despairingly at the problem.

4. Teaching Moment

Pulling out of the KinderCare parking lot in Kennewick, Washington, I run over the curb. Two blocks later, the right rear tire goes flat. Convinced that this is the perfect time for a lesson in self ­sufficiency, I pull out my spare tire and my jack and gather my youngsters and toddlers around me to witness the tire ­change operation. Another horrified good Samaritan stops my teaching moment in its tracks, saying "Lady, I'll change the tire. Please put the children back in the car." Oh.

(I've just noticed that most of these stories involve motor vehicles. Hmmm...)

5. Good Samaritans

After driving my children and my visiting mom to Gettysburg, PA through an hour­long downpour of rain, my van sputters and drifts to a halt on the corner of a road outside of town, completely dead. As we sit there wondering what to do, a local man stops to help. After he he and his three brawny sons push my Windstar several hundred yards up an incline to a safer place, he offers advice. Do you have roadside assistance? Triple A?

Oh. Yes! Maybe I should call them, huh. What happens when you turn the key? And the engine starts right up. (I swear, it wouldn't before, honest! I guess it had dried out enough in the meantime to start working again.) The expression on those poor young men's faces was priceless.

6. My Lane

Two weeks ago, in Kennett Square, PA, my friend and I spot the restaurant we are looking for just a bit too late, as we are driving past it. No problem, I say, I'll just pull up a few blocks, make a U­-turn, and come on back. On the way back, I notice the other cars driving very strangely. Two separate ones pull into my lane, coming head on toward me long before they make their left hand turn. Then a third car comes into my lane. And this one flashes his brights and waves his arms at me. And I finally realize I'm going the wrong way down a one­-way street.

I don't feel so bad about the U-­turn and being in the wrong lane. This could happen to anyone in an unfamiliar town, particularly if they have been watching the roadside businesses more closely than the road while trying to find their destination. But I am mortified that it took so long for me to realize my mistake.

Sigh. Another clueless mom story destined to become family legend.

Have you ever driven the wrong way on a one-way?  What clueless moments have you had?

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Jul 26, 2014

Injured Ankle - The Saga

I had a great post for today!  (And by great, I mean I liked it.)  But then something happened that made it very difficult for me to acquire some needed photos for the post and even to get down the stairs to the basement to use my computer.  So I'll talk about that instead.

It all started Thursday evening, on a not-so-special afternoon.  Significant and I were planning on jogging the 3 mile loop at a local park.  As we typically do before a run, we stopped by the dog park to let Luke run and sniff and have some non-stuck-on-a-leash time.

This is where it went wrong.

The dog park was mostly deserted, and Luke is too lazy to chase a ball these days.  So I tried to get him amped up by playing with him the way we normally do, hopping around, and trying to tag him when he runs by.

We've played this game I don't even know how many times, but this time I lost my balance.  I was side stepping, and suddenly I was going down, not on my butt, but over to my left side.  I heard a pop.

Laying there in the bark and dirt of the dog park, I was not sure whether I was more concerned with my embarrassment for taking a spill in front of the other 2 occupants, or the cracking/popping noise I had heard.

As Significant rushed over to help me to my feet, and I realized I couldn't put weight on my left foot, I felt a moment or 2 of panic.  One of the other people asked if I was ok, and was concerned with the blood and dirt on my knee, but a quick perusal showed that it was no big deal.

We waited a few minutes to see if this was a "shake it off" kind of injury, but the pain increased, so I took Significants arm and hopped my way out of the dog park and to the car.  It was too late to go to the walk in clinic, and we figured it was probably a sprain anyway, so we decided to wait until morning to see if there was improvement.

Road rash

Immediately upon making this decision and installing me upon the couch, there was silence as we both googled "sprain diagnosis" and "sprain treatment" and "what is a 'sprain' actually?"  It probably sounds silly, but I'd never had a sprain, or a break for that matter, and had no idea what to expect or what to do.  We learned about RICE.

R - Rest
I - Ice
C - Compress
E - Elevate

And we did that.  In the morning we decided to follow up with an x-ray, "just in case."  The walk in clinic, while slow, was very kind and professional and they explained everything to me throughout.  About 1.5 hours in, I was wheeled into the x-ray lab by a cheerful, chatty technician.

After some unpleasant contorting, she took me to another room while she took a look at my bones.  The first thing she said was, "Puppy - 1.  You - 0."

A bit cryptic, but, as she soon showed me, this meant there was a thin, dark line in the bone that was not supposed to be there and she could say no more (Thanks, lawsuit-happy America and your resulting malpractice rules).  Throughout the day, and a 2nd appointment with a specialist, it became clear that it was indeed a fracture in the fibula, but it was a clean break, and well aligned, so no complicated treatment would be needed.

I received my new leg wear (for the next 6 weeks), as well as detailed instructions for care, and have been hopping around on crutches since yesterday afternoon.  My thoughts on broken legs so far:
  • Broken legs really don't hurt as much as you would think (Sister3 agrees with me)
  • Crutches are hard!
  • I'm tired of hopping already
  • Armpit soreness - it's inevitable
  • Going to the bathroom seemed really difficult until I took a shower
  • My arms are going to be awesomely buff by the end of this
  • But my legs are going to get very unbalanced
  • They give out Vicodin prescriptions really easily.  I even told him I haven't had that much pain.
  • I really need a backpack
My friends and family have been really awesome and supportive.  Poor Significant is hovering around me like a mother hen, worried that I'll topple over (and I can see his point - did I not just do that 1 day ago with 2 good legs to use?).  And when he's not doing that, he's babying me and fetching things for me and doing all the chores on his own (I feel bad already and the 6 weeks has just begun).  Roommate bought me chocolate.

All in all, if you're going to break your leg, I think the manner in which I did it and the circumstances are about the best they can be (other than not breaking your leg).  I'm not looking forward to crutching in to work on Monday (and how far away the bathroom is!), but I'm sure after a week or 2, I'll get used to it and it won't even feel that tiring.

Have you ever broken a bone?  What was the most frustrating thing about wearing a cast?

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Jul 25, 2014

Save the Date! - Design Day Friday

Design-Day Friday: Save the Date | Business, Life & Design

I avoid themed post days.  Because when I had strict rules about blogging, I didn't actually blog.  But I think this one will be good.  Because for a blog about "business, life & design" there's not nearly enough design.  And everyone likes to look at pretty pictures!  Also, when I actually do design something (not nearly often enough), I am filled with the glow of creativity and smug self-satisfaction and that is something I need more of in my life.

I toyed with the idea of making this a link up, but there's lot of other awesome link ups on Fridays, and I don't know how many graphic designers/artists are out there that actually want to spend time creating something each week.  (If there's any interest, please let me know!)

I also don't want to get your hopes up too much.  I am a graphic designer, and quite capable of designing pretty things each week.  But I am also lazy, as proven by my failure to finish my "TIL" project.  Also, I believe that hand drawn art suffers a lot in the realm of graphic design, when it's so much quicker and easier to slap some text on an image.  (And artists are so drastically under-compensated, but that's another post)  So I'm qualifying artwork, even the crummy kind, as "designs" because they're being created for a purpose, and will probably involve text.

Now for the first Design Day Friday, I'd like to start with something spectacular!  Or, at the very least, a real design and not just one of the goofy doodles you will probably see later on.

The Project

Sister2 is getting married!  And who did she come to, but her big sister for help putting together a Save the Date.  To make things easy on me, she had a vision in mind already.  To make things less easy, it involved a photoshoot with her, Soon-to-be Brother, and their crazy dog, Maverick.

The Process


I'll be honest, this went a lot smoother than I expected.  I could go on and exaggerate the difficulty of photographing animals, thus raising your respect for my awesome photography skills, but Sister2 and Almost-Brother took most (all really) of the difficulty out of it by exercising him heavily earlier in the day, and by the years of training they've invested in this beast.

So they let him wander around in the field a bit, and then when he had gotten used to his surroundings, we posed, managed to get him to hold still for about 5 minutes, and got some shots.

Setting up for save the date photoshoot with dog
Getting set up

Like I said, my photography skills aren't stellar, by any means.  A "photoshoot" pretty much means using one of the automatic settings (sports setting for this), and trying to set up in a well-lighted area.  Sometimes it turns out all right anyway!


The fonts needed to be a combination of fancy, "Hey, it's a wedding!" and casual, "Look, the dog made this."  Is wedding casual a thing?  It probably should be.


The colors were pulled from items in the picture - the pink string in the sign Sister2 made for Maverick, and browns from her skirt.  I'm rooting for these to be the wedding colors, but Sister2 doesn't see eye to eye with me on color schemes and design being THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to decide.  We'll see.  And whatever she decides is fine with me.

The Final Product

Sister2's vision was so simple and easy, it only took a couple versions and she knew immediately which she wanted.  So we got the correct information on there, and then she emailed her guests! (I know, what a progressive bride)

I'm more proud of this simple project than I am of many other, more complex ones, and I'm glad it turned out so well.  Maverick was just glad when it was over and he didn't have to hold still anymore.

Have you ever tried to do a photoshoot with animals?  What ideas do you like for save the dates?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jul 24, 2014

Stuff and Things - 4 More Posts I Almost Made

So I did this topic once before and I really like it.  Because I liked all of these ideas enough for them to sit in my "drafts" folder for weeks.  But, in the end, there wasn't enough to say about them to write a full post.  But now I get to share them anyway!

5 Posts I'd Like to Post (but Ran Out of Words for)

1. Mixed Metaphors - Shaken Not Slurred

"We've got a heads up."  Wait... what?  I didn't notice this butchered metaphor in one of my comments until after I'd left it.  I'm pretty sure what I was going for was "head start" or "leg up" (you know, like on the competition, except that didn't apply in this case).  But sure, heads up isn't too terribly confusing, is it?

2. Some Things Just Aren't the Same

You know what I mean.  You grow up and then suddenly the magic is lost.  That activity that you loved and spent countless hours enjoying as a child?  You can't quite remember why you like it anymore.  Here are some things that have lost their charm as an adult:
  1. Pools
  2. Spongebob
  3. Playing in the snow
  4. Dolls (and tea parties)
  5. Riding bikes aimlessly around the cul-de-sac (we used to imagine we were knights, or cowboys, or the 3 Musketeers)

3. Rage Post

I had a fair number of things I was annoyed about and I was going to let off some steam.  After about 3 weeks of sitting in my drafts folder, though, I felt better mostly and decided to just let them go.  Here's the abbreviated version:
  1. Laziness - Specifically coworkers who don't fill up the Keurig when they use up the last of the water, leave their food bits in the sink, and complain about having to call in or pick up the lunch that we get provided to us FOR FREE by the company.  Ugh.
  2. Unnecessary Negativity - Just random criticism.  Eating a frozen meal, "Would you like some food with your chemicals?"  Sharing excitement about starting a new class, "And how many online classes have you successfully passed?"
  3. Lack of Consideration - Anything and everything.  Cigarette butt tossers, general litterers, people who hog the sidewalk, people who don't control their dogs when you jog by with your dog, and so on.
  4. Deception - Specifically being used by someone to absolve their bad behaviors.  They'll give you an abbreviated, slanted version of the story, and you'll provide all kinds of sympathy, and then later you find out that it was only a tiny kernel of the story and there was no way you'd ever sympathize with what was really going on.  Maybe it shouldn't be a big deal, but I still feel used.
  5. Pet Peeves - I have a lot, and I can tell when I'm starting to get into a negative mindset because the list grows.  For the most part they're things I don't like about myself, or that I try really hard to fix (you know, the whole dark shadow theory).  So when I start getting angry at other people, I also get angry at myself for not being able to be nicer.
I made this just to document the lazy.
(If you were wondering, I did fill it up, and not just because I wanted a cup of coffee)

4. Movie Mashups I Wish Existed

Pirates of the Caribbean and Moulin Rouge.  Just imagine it.  Captain Jack swaggers in and steals Satine's heart away from the douche-y Duke.  Then, instead of all that sad, death stuff, they run off together and live happily ever after, plundering and pillaging on the high seas!

Note: I was going to mention how I saw the Moulin Rouge when we went to Europe and it was a bit underwhelming.  I even have a picture to show you all, but evidently my picture-organizing-and-putting-in-posts-er is broken or on strike.  Later.  (Edit: except the Keurig gif.  That obviously needed to be created immediately.)

Do you have posts that didn't work out?  What movie mashups would you like to see?

Linking up with Kristin for Stuff and Things.
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Jul 23, 2014

I'm Currently...

Blogging semi-almost-not-really everyday with Allie, Juliette, and Faith.  There have been some really fun prompts and today's is one of them!



Reading: Just finished 3 Cups of Tea!  I'm proud of myself for this one - it was starting to get a little dull.  Very inspirational near the end though.  Now I'm powering through the Hunger Games trilogy as one of my book challenge options.  I'm actually enjoying it more the 2nd time around.

Writing: This post but also a bunch of others.  I have 8 scheduled!  Girl on fiyah!!!  (Hunger Games humor)

Listening: My electronica/dub Pandora station.  Specifically "Feel So Close" by Calvin Harris.  I normally save this for getting into productive mode, but today I'm using it to combat irrational irritation with my coworkers.

Thinking: That I need to start bringing my lunch to work.  We get awesome free lunch, but it's a source of huge irritation because everyone spends 30 minutes debating about what to get and then no one wants to have to call it in or pick it up.

Smelling: Pineapple juice/salad dressing.

Wishing: I was a more patient person.  And that I had not just sprayed said pineapple whatever on my shirt.

Hoping: That the afternoon disappears as a motivated rampage takes over and destroys my work load.

Wearing: Old, baggy jeans that are about to rip in the thigh, a teal t-shirt (now pineapple speckled), and my emergency "cold" blazer that I keep at work.

Wanting: Hot cocoa.  And a hug.

Loving: My lunch from Potstickers.  Super awesome sushi roll with tempura shrimp on top and a "house salad" that is half fruit.

Needing: To get back to work.  Lunch is ovah!

What are your answers?  Come link up!


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Jul 22, 2014

Memory - an Unreliable Tool at Best

Memory, an Unreliably Tool at Best | Business, Life & Design

I don't honestly think that anyone's memory is as good as they think it is.  Everyone trusts their own brain, because how can you not trust the thing that's creating all your thoughts and perceptions?

Reading a book once, the characters were involved in using magic to tamper with memories, and they explained that this is really easy to do, because any one individual's memories are mostly made up anyway.  I laughed and continued reading, but as time goes on, and I hear a bizarre story that someone invented but now is totally convinced is real, or a fact that several people agree upon but turns out to be false, I start to wonder.

I did this myself.  At least once that I know of.  When I was writing the Twilight post, about movies/shows that make things too obvious.  I could have sworn there was an example in Game of Thrones, where they're discussing battle tactics with Danaerys.  In my brain, someone (probably Jorah) said, "You have something they don't... [long, dramatic pause]  Dragons."  And that would have been my second example of "Hey, it was pretty darn obvious and you really didn't need that last bit."

So I looked it up to get the wording right for my post and lo and behold!  It didn't exist.  I couldn't find it on any of the quote websites (and they seriously seem to think every line from every episode is a "quote").  So I rewatched the episode I thought it was in.  And the one before, and the one after.  Nope.  Totally invented.

If I could invent something so easily in order to try and prove a point about something silly that I don't care that much about, how many other people are doing this all the time?  To justify bad behavior?  To win an argument?  To make things turn out the way they want it to?

Another Game of Thrones example: I was arguing with Significant about how Joffrey's death went down in the books vs the show.  He was convinced that the book outright said that Sansa was the killer.  I knew he was wrong.  We roped in Roommate for this.  "Oh yeah, the book says it was Sansa."  They remembered the same scene in the book.

So I looked it up.  The internet was vague, so I found the book, and read all the chapters that involved the feast or conversations that occurred about the incident.  That scene never happened!  But 2 people had been convinced that it had.

Last example: My father has a habit of wildly exaggerating his stories.  I used to think he knew it was an exaggeration or sometimes, he'd manage to rope someone into corroborating the story and I'd think somehow, against all odds, it might even be true.

I know better, now.  We were on a trip to Disney and we were walking past the "swim with sharks" tank.  We've even done this in the past, so we know the sharks are small, and it's really just a cute, mini version of snorkeling.

As we walked by we heard a boy ask a nearby vendor what the people in the tank were doing.  I didn't hear his answer but one of my sisters said, "I think he just told that boy that they were looking for a shark that bit someone."  My dad laughed, and that seemed to be the end of it.

Years later, he starts telling this story, but instead of someone joking to a kid, it actually happened.  Someone had been bitten and they were looking for the shark.  I doubted my memory.  Maybe it was true.

Flash forward even further.  We watched it happen.  Some stupid kid ran to the tank, jumped in, collided with a shark, who in turn chomped his leg.  Blood went everywhere.

What.  The.  F***?!

And, foolishly, he called upon my sisters and me to back him up.  "You were there, you remember?"  But we didn't help him out, because it was too far.  Too ridiculous.  And it stuck with me.  Because he was so totally convinced it was real, and he was so frustrated that none of us "remembered" it.

I think I understand a little better now why my father (and his whole family) exaggerates so much.  Sometimes it's to make themselves look better, or to garner sympathy, but more often than not, it's just to make life more exciting.  Ever notice how a past party is usually more exciting than the current one?  Or the bad moments of a trip just fade away and the good gets better?

I know there were quite a few bad moments on our Europe trip last summer, but when I find myself reminiscing, it all seems surrounded in a golden glow of excitement and adventure.  And I think that's not the worst thing in the world.  As long as you don't allow yourself to totally forget, "Uh, hey we were robbed, and there are dangers to look out for next time" then you might forge happier memories. 

But this magic power we have over our memories doesn't always get used for good.  I know at least one person who, in later life, is so focused on dwelling how life has treated him/her unfairly that most stories and memories are slanted to prove that point.  And I've read about psychiatrists using hypnosis to recover repressed memories, but instead creating new ones!  (See False Memory Syndrome and False Memory Syndrome Foundation)

So say we actually had full control over what memories to leave in our brains, and what shades to tint them.  I believe in being as truthful with yourself as possible, but if I'm going to shift things around, I'd like to remember how kind and caring everyone has been to me, how the world is a fantastic place, and how deserving it and everyone are of my best attitude and effort.


What would you do with your memory?  Have you ever remembered something completely differently from a friend and who was right?

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Jul 21, 2014

An Unstructured Weekend and #PicturePractice

I don't normally do weekend recaps, but this one was so awesome that I can't help it.

I'd been feeling pretty burned out with all the self improvement projects and, with some timely advice from Kelli at Just Beachy, decided to forgo all to do list items, chores, and social obligations this weekend.  What ends up happening when you don't have everything planned out in advance?  Stay tuned...

Why Friday was AWESOME

  • Shopping!  Mostly to knock some items off the list of 27 things you're not supposed to do at age 27 but that I'm doing anyway (update on that later in the week).
  • Remembered my love of H&M when I bought 2 pieces of clothing for only $30.  And the skirt is even long enough to wear to work and not be indecent!
  • Books.  Physical, paper books.  Much happiness.  (Also, all set to finish Megan's book challenge - apparently all my shopping is for the blog.)
  • Wine, pizza, and video games with Significant all evening.  We moved Luke's bean bag in front of the couch, settled in, and took turns choosing the game.  His game of choice: Zelda (I forget which one - there's so many!).  My game of choice: Lego Lord of the Rings).

Why Saturday was AWESOME

  • Chipotle.
  • Wandered around Newark and since it was summer, no massive crowds of college students.
  • Days of Knights (nerd store) and bought a Hobbit puzzle (image from the movie - got a laugh out of how they strategically placed the attractive dwarves in front and the others were tiny or not included at all).

Why Sunday was AWESOME

  • Yoga with my mom (for the record - I hate yoga, but I'm doing it as my cross training with my couch to half marathon plan, and if I'm going to do it at all, I might as well do it with someone I like.  Plus my mom's yoga tape is super old, and they talk funny - "Noiiice, Susan.  Very noiiice." and sit in the Rafiki pose at the end - with thumb and first finger touching.)
  • Getting so wrapped up in my new book (Daughter of the Forest) that I did nothing but read all day.  Finished it!  4 stars, I think.

Why Right Now is AWESOME

  • These clothing items, which are my favorite colors (teal and blue), and I wore specifically to take pictures of (although fashion photographer - I am not).

They've seen some wear and tear, but are still my favorite shoes.  Genie feet!

So you can probably guess why I don't do too many posts on fashion.  Asking someone to take photos for me?  Pah!

In Summary: I finally took a break and chilled out and much fun was had by all (if by "all" you mean me).  And as for those uncompleted chores... they're not going anywhere.

What's your favorite color?  What was great (or not so great) about your weekend?

Linking up with Kelli for Picture Practice.  Go show off your photo skills!

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Jul 20, 2014

Would You Rather - A Game of Choices

Would You Rather - A Game of Choices | Business, Life & Design

Have you ever played Zobmondo?  That game with all the "would you rather" questions.  It's pretty awesome, right?

My all time favorite question was, "Would you rather suck all the spit off a cow's tongue or be licked head to toe by rats?"  BECAUSE despite the absolute grossness of that question, or maybe because of it, it inspires absolutely hilarious discussion.  Things like, "Well, does the spit on the cow's tongue keep continually forming, and how would you know you were done?"  And, "How long do you have to be licked by rats?"  Quality stuff.

So a (mostly) less gross version of that is the "would you rather" game that Allie, Faith, and Juliette are playing for their Blog Every Day in July linkup today.  Here's my answers.

Would You Rather...

1. Be deaf or blind?

Deaf.  I use my eyes for EVERYTHING.  Colors and visuals mean so much to me.  And it would be less devastating career-wise (as a graphic designer).

2. Be taller than you are or shorter than you are?

Since it doesn't specify by how much, I guess taller.  I'm 5'9" but I like being tall and I'm still the shortest one in my family, so going even shorter is less appealing.

3. Be a teenager or a senior citizen for the rest of your life?

Teenager.  I kind of hate how self-centered teens tend to be (and that I was, especially), but I'd rather be obnoxious than deal with all the physical ailments that come along with being old.  I suppose that is also rather self-centered of me.

4. Have no hands or no legs?

No legs.  My hands, like my eyes, are incredibly important for my hobbies, my job, everything really.  And while voice activation technology is definitely improving, it could in no way make up for the loss of drawing, painting, and doodling when I'm in the mood.

5. Lose your front teeth or both eyebrows?

I'm gonna have to go practical here and say eyebrows.  You look really weird without 'em (and I know, because I shaved them off once in high school - I refer to it as my Sméagol look) but teeth are far more useful in the long run.  So I'd rather eat normally than keep the sweat out of my eyes.

6. Eat a worm or a cockroach?

Both are gross!  But I hate beetle-y crawly legs (last week I had a beetle burrow into my ponytail and freaked out), and cockroaches make me think of filth and grime.  Plus, I feel like you could ingest a worm without having to chew too much.  So worm.

7. Spend a day in the Sahara or North Pole?

I would be interested in visiting both.  However, assuming you're improperly equipped for the atmosphere at either of these places, I'll take the Sahara, because I've already been to the hottest place on earth (Death Valley), so I know my body doesn't totally shut down in heat.  Also, if you were exposed to the elements for too long, I think the worst in the Sahara would be dehydration and some nasty sunburns, whereas the North Pole I'd imagine you could lose body parts to frostbite.  And I'd rather stay intact.

8. Have a personal chef or a personal driver?

Both!  Really, though, this is the first one that I'm having trouble with.  I don't hate driving, and I do like cooking, but I rarely do it, and my meals aren't super tasty.  But I'll go with driver, because that means all the time I now spend driving I can instead by reading or napping, which would be awesome.

9. Always have to whisper or always have to shout?

Whisper.  I have friends who barely speak above a whisper and they get by.  Plus I'd rather be viewed by others as shy rather than obnoxious.

10. Can't taste or can't smell?

Can't smell.  (Going on the assumption that the studies are wrong and these are totally independent faculties)  I like my food and losing enjoyment in my meals would sadden me far more than losing smells.

11. Wipe with sandpaper or saran wrap?

Wipe what?!  If this is what it sounds like, definitely saran wrap.  Neither will be terribly effective, but at least I won't be scraping my delicate areas raw.

12. Have Twitter shut down for a day or your blog disappear for a day?

Twitter.  I don't use either every day, but Twitter I care less about.  It would be more "c'est la vie" whereas the blog would be more, "I will go through hell and high water until I figure out what is going on and fix it!!!!!!!"

13. Text of your blog is screwed up or all the pictures you post on your blog are blurry?

I guess pictures.  I'm much more text oriented anyway, both reading other blogs, and when I write.

14. Never be able to post another GIF or never be able to receive comments on your posts?

Goodbye GIFs!  I almost never use them - too paranoid about copyright law, and I like them less than using my own pictures anyway.  And that mostly text thing from the last question.

15. Have a permanent wedgie or have the tag on your shirt constantly scratch your neck?

I don't know which discomfort would be worse.  Wedgies aren't always painful, but they're really hard to ignore.  I guess I'd go with the tag, because in general I care less about my neck than those other areas.

What are your "rathers"?


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Jul 19, 2014

Cancer Scares and Other Things

Cancer Scares and Other Things

About a year ago, something mildly terrifying happened.  But it started innocuously enough.

I had moved and it was about time for another visit to the lady doctor (my sisters HATE it when I use the word "lady" as a descriptor for something, so I intend to start doing it all the time), so I had to find someone new.  I didn't know the best way to go about finding a doctor (still don't), so I picked one somewhat at random.

The visit was unpleasant from the get go.  They weighed me with my shoes and winter jacket on, so that was high, they rushed me into the room and out of my clothes, and told me my blood pressure was up, but just in case they'd check it again at the end of the visit.  I settled into "survival mode" which is my way of tuning out when things are unpleasant (like long hikes, or dentist visits).

After finishing the breast exam, my doctor said, "You have a lump."

Everything froze.  For just a few moments.  Then, I snapped back from survival mode into rapt attention as I waited for her to explain to me what that meant and what I should do about it.  Instead she asked me a few questions about my period and said they'd check it again at my next visit.  No information.  Nothing.

The visit proceeded with some uncomfortable, internal scraping, and another blood pressure check.  Surprise, surprise, it had gone up.  The woman at the desk on my way out was unable to tell me how much I'd need to pay (I was uninsured at the time), but a bill would be on the way, and thus frightened, uninformed, and potentially impoverished, I went home.

And freaked out.  After a good amount of research, I found that there are a billion different kind of breast lumps, 80% of them are benign, and that my age group was not at particular risk.  Since I'd felt no real changes or discomfort, and the lump was smooth and mobile, it was unlikely to be cancer.  Still, I'd had a trip planned, and I have to admit I spent a fair amount of time sitting by the pool on the cruise ship, wondering what I would do if I had breast cancer.

When I got back, I made an appointment with a different doctor, one back home that my family recommended.  Completely different experience!  They did the exam, felt nothing of concern.  I told them the concerns of the other doctor and they felt again, stated that they wouldn't have sent me for further testing for that lump, but since someone else had recommended, I might as well.  An ultrasound, later, showed nothing.

My second gynecologist also explained about the different types of lumps, and risk factors, which reinforced what I'd learned on my own.  And I learned how to properly do the self exam, which apparently I'd been doing wrong my whole life.  You have to really get in there - lumps aren't always just sitting near the surface or under the skin.  For me, I have to press down all the way until I can feel ribs before any lumps or unevenness is even noticeable, and it is all kinds of lumpy down there.  (Note: if you do this frequently, it will get sore, and it's just because you bruised the tissue, not an imminent sign of cancer and death.)

To sum up:

Things I Learned About Breast Cancer

  • 80% of lumps are benign
  • Risk factors: age (55+), family history, alcohol use, oral contraceptives (but only while you're taking them), being overweight and/or having larger, denser breasts
  • Things that help!: exercise, breast feeding (also having kids, but not the best reason to have children)
  • There are tons of types of lumps and only one of them indicates cancer.  Things to look for: irregularly shaped, hard, and dents/dimples/redness of the skin near it.  This is the best article about lumps that I've found and this one is just the signs of breast cancer.
  • Your doctor makes a huge difference!  The first one left me panicked simply by not providing any information.  The second one was friendly, reassuring, and definitely the person I want by my side if it was to be something serious. (if you're in the DE Newark/Bear area, it's All About Women, and I absolutely recommend them.  They're hard to get on the phone but their bedside manner is the best!)
So despite the scare it all turned out well, I learned a lot of valuable things, and I found a new doctor that I like quite well.  I don't have breast cancer, or even high blood pressure, and a recent visit with the dermatologist that I don't have skin cancer either.  So I'm all set!

Real quick, since I'm doing cancer information:

Skin Things to Keep an Eye On

  1. Irregular edges on moles or freckles
  2. Multiple colors or really dark spots
  3. Changes in color or size
  4. Abnormally large moles
  5. Roughness, flakiness, patchiness - if it's doing anything gross at all, let a doctor know
I actually had a few things I wanted to ask the dermatologist about and she pretty much blew off all my concerns.  Although she was pretty insistent that I wear sunscreen more often, and I learned that the more spotty you are, the more at risk you are for various types of skin cancer.  Good to know!

Have you ever had a cancer scare?  Do you like your doctor?

Jul 17, 2014

All My Favorites (Urban Dictionary Style) #FavTotalSocial

Favorites Actors, Authors, Bloggers, Quotes, Person | Business, Life & Design

Favorite is a word that gets overused these days.  Along with "love."  We get so enthusiastic that everything that's good or that we like is a "favorite" or we "love" it.  I'm absolutely guilty of this.  It's part of my peppy online persona, which isn't fake, per se, but it leaves all the pragmatism and negativity at home in the real world.  So it's free to like and love everything.

But that means there's too much entailed in the world "favorite" to share here.  Favorite what?  What's the favorite of all the favorites that I most want to share with everyone?  So I thought about what favorite really means, and even went to Urban Dictionary for a laugh.

Favorite - "awesomely great person who is waaayyyy better than others. first to hear all stories especially those that have to do with ones mental well-being. they are lurved greatly."  (original format)

So I'll tell you about my favorite people.

Favorite People Countdown: 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

5 Favorite Bloggers

Who I'm currently reading the most and why (and I know I cheated, but there were too many, so I combined a couple and I wish I hadn't come up with this stupid number scheme so I could include even more).
  1. Helene in Between and Venus Trapped in Mars - Obviously.  This link up is my favorite so far, and they both go out of their way to set things up and provide helpful tutorials and useful information.
  2. Life According to Steph - Because she's so matter of fact and non-sentimental and has great tips for more efficient hausfrau-ing.  My kind of lady!
  3. Just Beachy Blog - Fun picture link ups and actually chatting back in comments, rather than just responding to fulfill the obligation.
  4. The Florkins - Super adorable as a couple (who blogs together, whaaat?!) and we totally see eye-to-eye on the last name thing.
  5. The Daily Tay and Kristin's [k]Nook - Who, despite having much bigger blogs, were both kind enough to help me out with that whole no-reply thing and are both just awesome people.

4 Favorite Quotes from Famous People

Huh.  Somehow these all ended up being authors.  Totally unintentional.
  1. "Any day in which you learn something is not a total loss." -David Eddings
  2. "A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." -Douglas Adams
  3. "Writing is easy; you just sit staring at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." -Gene Fowler
  4. "Always do what you are afraid to do." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

3 Favorite Authors

This was hard because I have so many, but I'll give you my current favorites.
  1. Brandon Sanderson - solely based on The Way of Kings and The Stormlight Archive
  2. David Eddings - The Belgariad, The Mallorean, and Polgara the Sorceress (which is the one that got me started)
  3. Ilona Andrews (who is actually 2 people) - the Kate Daniels Series

2 Favorite Actors

Now when I say "favorite" here, I mean completely infatuated I see a movie just-because-(s)he's-in-it kind of way.
  1. Angelina Jolie - Smoking hot, ass-kicking, plus she's breaking in to Disney movies now!  And she's involved in all kinds of charitable causes in real life.  What's not to love?
  2. Johnny Depp - Because he is the master of getting into character, he's a team with Tim Burton, whose movies are always interesting, to say the least, and because Captain Jack Sparrow.  That is all.

1 Favorite "Person" in the Whole World

Luke in safari hat
He's a people.

Who are your favorite people?

Linking up with Helene in Between and Venus Trapped in Mars for this month's Favorite-themed Total Social.

Helene in Between

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