Nov 27, 2014

It's Turkey Day!!!

A little story for today:

We have always had 3 traditions for Thanksgiving.  We'd eat a delicious dinner with the same dishes as last year, my father would say the same toast, and we would go around the table and say what we were thankful for.

Sister3 hated it.  Not the dinner or the toast, but having everyone look at her while she struggled to think of what to say.  So we got creative with it a couple times and I persuaded everyone that writing poems would be more fun and a good substitute!  And a few times we actually had relatives nearby enough to share Thanksgiving with, which meant a blending of traditions and that Sister3 was usually off the hook for the public declaration of thanks.

Our last Thanksgiving, however, we were home, just the family, and we decided to let Sister3 off the hook and skip the recitation.  Sister2 wasn't there anyway and our father had ceased to participate in holiday festivities.  So as we sat and prepared to devour that same delicious meal, Sister3 stopped us and said, "I think we should do the thankful thing.  It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving without it."  (And I was smug and cackled evilly, but that's not relevant.)

Some traditions may change.  We've spread further across the country and can't always be together, my father no longer says his famous toast, and it doesn't necessarily make sense to roast a whole turkey for the 3 of us that will gather this year.  But I hope that each of us, wherever we are, is keeping up with the tradition of remembering the things that matter and the things we are thankful for.

Nov 26, 2014

Lessons I Had to Learn Twice

You know how they say, "Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way"?  Well, that saying doesn't apply to me.  Because I like to take a different route.  Not the easy way, not the hard way, but the even harder way.

What is the harder way?  I'm sure you're just dying to know.

It's when you learn it the hard way once, but it doesn't quite sink in.  So you learn it again, the harder way.

Here's some examples (mostly about boys, but the last one involves something I'm super excited about).

Lessons I Learned the Second Time

1. Don't Work With Your Partner

So... plenty of people do this.  But it doesn't work for me.

Scenario 1: My significant other had lost his job.  Repeatedly.  He was struggling to stay employed and I, attributing this to fate, chance, or anything but his actual work performance, happily got him a job at the restaurant I worked for.

Result 1: Nothing traumatic happened.  Not an excess of fighting.  Buuut... he just wasn't very good at the job.  And that reflected poorly on me.  And was painful to watch.

Scenario 2: My significant other had lost his job.  He was having trouble finding another, but who wasn't, in this tough economy?  Surely getting him hired at my workplace would be much smoother since this relationship was sooo much different than the one in the past.

Result 2: He wasn't incompetent, but he didn't respect me enough to let me show him how to do things.  He completely disregarded the whole seniority thing, because in his mind I was his girlfriend, not a coworker who had been there longer and who knew the ropes.  So much clashing, and battling, and nastiness.

Never again will I work with the person I'm dating.  For the same company?  Possibly.  But same department?  Hell no!  Even a healthy relationship needs some room to breathe and grow and have independent experiences to share with each other over the dinner table.  Or at least, it does for me.

2. Go for the Clean Break

I'm not good at letting go.  I suppose I can't honestly say I've put this into practice and I hope I never have to, but at least I understand the concept.

Scenario 1: My first long-term relationship finally decided to call it quits.  After a couple attempts, we've mutually decided to end it.  We wanted different things.  But we would totally stay friends.  After all, he was my best friend and I was his.  Why would that change?

Result 1: Long, lingering pain as we struggled with jealousy, and feelings of abandonment because the other person was dating and moving on.  Then jumping into a new relationship as soon as possible to feel better about the old one, and, to this day, receiving the occasional call or Facebook friend request, from a person that I now know has no place in my life.

Scenario 2: My 2nd long-term relationship (and also the one resulting from the 1st) finally decided to call it quits.  After a year or more (I'm not sure exactly when the fighting started, only that it was a daily occurrence) of misery, we should have given up.  But instead we decided to "go on a break."  Because surely the glaring issues that had caused us to fight over the last year could be solved by dating other people.

Result 2: The "break" kind of naturally progressed into a break up by virtue of the sheer misery we put each other into.  But it took 4 months.  4 months of prolonged unhappiness.  We delayed so long, hoping to salvage something that, in hindsight, really wasn't that great to begin with.  And, for me, the process of "getting over it" really didn't start until we finally stopped speaking.

3. It's OK to Scope Out Your Dating Prospect

Last one about boys, I promise!

Scenario 1: I was starting college and feeling rebellious and open minded, and, intentionally, had no standards whatsoever!  Whoever wanted to date me, I would date.  Freedom and fun for everyone!  No information on the person needed before I plunged happily into love, commitment, and long-term relationships!

Result 1: Relationship 1.  2 years of a terrible influences, reckless mistakes, and financially supporting another human being on my waitress salary.  1 year in I discovered he had a host of mental disorders.  But not until after breaking up did I find out he was gay (I still think bisexual would be more accurate, since he's dated several women, but "gay" was the term he used so...).  Seems to me that's the kind of information you should probably get beforehand.

Scenario 2: Miserable from the end of my last (and more than a little confused), I plunge into another relationship thinking, "This guy seems so much more normal!"  Normal is a relative term and I won't get into that, but basically I was going for mentally stable enough to hold a job.

Result 2: While that was (occasionally) the case, it did in no way prepare me for the fact that this boy (I won't say "man" because neither of us was very grown up at that point) had strong religious beliefs, while I did not.  Say things had worked out and we hadn't made each other completely and utterly miserable... what would we tell our children?  "God exists, but Mommy is going to hell for not believing."???  And it wasn't until afterwards that I found out he was entirely racist.  Again, seeing as that is a deal breaker, would be good information to have up front.

4. You Can't Make Drama Better By Getting Involved

This stems from overconfidence in my own charm and diplomatic ability.

Scenario 1: Having experienced very little drama with my high school friends, I was totally unprepared for the cattiness and gossip that permeated my new college friends.  When X and Y were feuding, I thought, "Oh, I'll just step in and share my wisdom with them and it will all be better."

Result 1: I became the enemy and the group was split into people who hated me and those who would still hang out with me.  Also everyone dropped out of school, but that was probably coincidence.

Scenario 2: My significant other was fighting with his friend over how much time that friend was spending with his new girlfriend.  He said some unpleasant things about her, the friend told her, and she sent my partner angry messages on Facebook.  All very mature.  I thought, "I'm so very diplomatic, surely I can smooth this over and get her to be less angry."

Result 2: More angry messages, now directed at me, and lambasting my past behaviors that were in no way related to this situation.  Anger on all sides, and a huge rift created between friends.  (Though, to be fair, that probably would have happened anyway.)

5. Nothing Replaces Passion for Your Work

I tend to try to make logical decisions, which often means ignoring the path I really want to take.  I'm always surprised when this ends up making me unhappy.

Scenario 1: I was graduating high school.  Art was not a feasible career option (according to everyone), so I picked something that seemed like a good financial move.  Engineering.

Result 1: I dropped out before the end of the first semester and struggled with a vague sense of unhappiness and dread of the future until I finally decided to try graphic design, where I made a dramatic shift from a student who rarely completed a class to someone averaging A's and B's with a full course load.  Magic.

Scenario 2: After jumping around a bit in the somewhat tumultuous graphic design field, I was offered a steady job!  My current job.  I gladly took it, and not so gladly was persuaded that the grad school web design classes I was signed up for were an unnecessary expense and would take my focus away from my job.  I really should drop them.

Result 2: Regret for the last year and a half about the missed opportunity.  Happily, I can say, as of 2 weeks ago, my application has been reactivated and I will be a student in the spring semester!  It's a compromise.  Practical job, with the creative stuff I need on the side.  I am so excited!

What lessons were hard for you to learn?  Have you made the same mistakes over and over again?

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Nov 25, 2014

Vocabulary Words - A Guest Post by Momma

Here she is again: my beauteous mother, this time talking books and phraseology.

Do you look up words that you don't know as you are reading? I generally don't. I've become lazy over the years, and I figure I can get the general gist from context, the details don't matter. But recently I read a book that inspired me to look things up.

Alexander McCall Smith is one of my favorite authors. I love his "Ladies #1 Detective Agency" series, set in Botswana, Africa. But I was at first disappointed when I ventured into his Isabel Dalhousie series, set in Edinburgh, Scotland. Isabel is a philosopher, who drifts into internal debates and side topics in the middle of conversations, so the books are a little slow-going. McCall Smith is a beautiful writer. I love his word choice, and the philosophical musings, but there is only a very mild story line in these books to hold the reader's interest.

However, the third book in the series was a little better for me than the first two. It features a love affair between an older woman and younger man (which of course appeals to an older woman like me). Also there is a surprise ending to spice things up.

I liked it well enough to read it a second time. And I found that these books take a second reading remarkably well… far better than books whose main appeal lies in plot development. On my second reading, I jotted down all the things I didn't understand fully and want to research more. My list is 75 items long! Some are vocabulary words… I rarely find this many words I've never seen before in a book. But some are historical items, or cultural, or even medical in nature. If I find the results interesting enough, some of them could be the subject of a future post.

But in the meantime, I wanted to share three absolutely wonderful passages with you. I imagine that McCall Smith might keep a notebook somewhere, in which he writes random paragraphs or phrases when an inspiration occurs, and then he works them into his books as the opportunity arises.

p.134 "As she made her way down the stone staircase to the front door, Isabel encountered the cat she had seen on her first visit to Florence's flat. He was sitting on a chair on a landing, his tail hanging down beneath the seat. He watched her warily as she walked past, looking up at her, holding her gaze for a moment, before he turned his head away to stare at the banisters with affected interest in something invisible to a human being. Then he closed his eyes, as if to dismiss her, and she walked quietly on. Many people in pursuit of the cool, thought Isabel, would give anything to appear as indifferent, as insouciant, as this indolent cat, but they would never make it. Wrong species: we are too engaged, too susceptible to emotion, too far from the consummate psychopathy of cats."

p.152 "How many people in the United States believed that they had been abducted by aliens? It was a depressingly large number. And the aliens always gave them back! Perhaps they were abducting the wrong sort."

p.177 "Isabel smiled; there was a certain point in the teen years, for boys, when the sheer embarrassment of being alive was too much. And this came out in the form of hostility, of grunts, of silent glowers. The world was just wrong to the teenage boy, quite wrong, and all because it failed to understand just how important that particular teenage boy was."

As a bonus, I'm including some of the words Momma had to look up.  I know I always get really smug when I know something my parents don't because until 2 or 3 years ago, I was convinced they were infallible and had all the answers.  So now you can feel smug too!

Vocabulary Words Even Momma Doesn't Know

  • Crabbit (Scottish) - ill-tempered, grouchy
  • Immutable - Unchanging over time or unable to be changed
  • Fey - Giving an impression of vague unworldliness (Jenn's Note: like supernatural, or fairyfolk)
  • Comity - Courtesy and considerate behavior towards others
  • Specious - Superficially plausible, but actually wrong
  • Insouciant - Showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent
  • Psephologists - One who studies political elections (Jenn's Note: from Psephology, an obscure branch of political science, which probably doesn't need a specific name)

Do you look up words you don't know?  Do you like "fancy" words or would you rather eliminate synonyms in favor of the simplest words (a topic Momma has much to say about)?

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Nov 24, 2014

Applied Arrogance - A Lesson in Self Love

I feel like I've written about this before, but I couldn't find a post about it, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

Arrogance is bad, right?  We all despise the arrogant jerks who parade their accomplishments and/or good luck in front of us.  But what if they didn't parade it?

How would you define arrogance?  I'd probably say something like, "to think highly of oneself."  But, wait.  That's pretty much the same as the definition of confidence.

I know there's a difference, but it can be a fine line.  Confidence - to be appreciate your own good qualities and be comfortable with your own capabilities.  Arrogance - to cross over some imaginary line where you enjoy those same things more than other people want you to.

What if arrogance could be a good thing?  My primary complaints with arrogant people is the way they let me know they're better than me.  But what if they didn't?  What if I thought I was the most amazing product of humanity ever and I just didn't tell anyone about it?

Here's where the word "applied" becomes important.  I think it's ok to be arrogant in some situations.  I think confidence is limiting because you have to worry about being over-confident, or crossing the line into arrogance.

What if you just stopped worrying about what level to which you enjoyed your own attributes?  What if you never asked yourself, "Am I really as good as I think I am?"  What if you checked yourself out in the mirror every day, gave yourself a wink and said to yourself, "Hey, good-looking."  And most importantly, what if you never shared it with anyone else?  Wouldn't it be kind of awesome?  And how could anyone accuse you of arrogance when it's only going inside your own mind?

Now, the danger here is losing sight of what you're actually capable of.  You don't want to promise to complete a project you have no idea how to do.  But I think most of us are far more likely to turn down a project because we don't know how to do it when we are perfectly capable of learning how and figuring it out, than overestimating our potential.

I've read stories about successful people who said yes instead of no, relying on their own capabilities to pick up the skills they needed and were not already in possession of.  So are they confident or arrogant?

So I guess when I say "applied arrogance" it could also be termed "unfettered confidence."  Certain things - like how attractive you find yourself - are never going to be a detriment, no matter how highly you rate yourself.  Other things are more important to maintain some balance - you can't start saying you possess a technical skill that you don't, but I'll bet that even in the arena of work tasks, if you were to start estimating your abilities higher, you'd find a way to meet that expectation.  You might even surprise yourself.

I'd like to take a moment to address women, specifically.  In Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk, she mentions studying with her (female) roommate and brother for a test.  She and her roommate studied hard, and they guessed that they would get B's or lower.  Her brother hardly touched his textbooks but when asked what grade he thought he'd score, he said "A."

Obviously that's an extreme case, and one where the overconfidence was probably unmerited, but Sandberg goes on to explain that women typically underestimate what they're capable of, while men typically overestimate.  This also means men are more likely to reach for opportunities than women, because they feel more confident and, in some cases, overconfident or arrogant in their abilities to achieve it.

I don't want to turn this into a gender discussion (although it is interesting and I've talked about it before), but I guess the point I'm making is there is a good chance (especially for my primarily female readership) that you're underestimating your abilities and even with some applied arrogance aren't likely to exceed them to the point of incompetence.  And in your other aspects of life: self image, social situations, taking pride in your accomplishments, it would be very difficult to take that arrogance to a level that would actually be damaging to you in any way.

As long as you don't tell everyone how awesome you are, they'll just perceive you as "confident" and you can think whatever you like inside your own mind.  It'll be our little secret.

Do you enjoy your own awesomeness?  What's your definition of arrogance?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Nov 20, 2014

Bumps in the Road - Life is Full of Problems and Maybe That's OK

Here's a concept I'm trying to work through.

A friend was upset that she was having car issues and the full recommended maintenance was out of her budget.  Car troubles are a pain, that's for sure.  I remember those days when the cost of routine maintenance would catch me by surprise, empty out my bank account, and drive me to stressed out tears.

And selfishly, I was glad that I no longer have to agonize over what is an inevitable problem.  Cars have issues.  They break down.  Especially if you buy an older car.  Even if it's newer, the cost of 15,000 mile maintenance or new tires can be surprising.  Unless you budget for it.

I'm very fortunate.  I live and split the bills with 2 other adults, and I have a job that allows me to live comfortably, without watching every dollar.  But I've also learned that there are always going to be unexpected expenses, and I have an emergency fund with extra money, just in case.  So when I need maintenance, or get a flat tire, I have money waiting and ready for it.  I don't need to put it on a credit card and then scramble to catch up.  And that eliminates most of the stress involved.

This is financial advice I've learned over time and it applies to a lot more than just cars.  You can't possibly predict all the things that could possibly go wrong in the future.  So you give yourself a little padding.  And when things happen, you say, "Oh, it's just one of those things.  I better build the account back up to prepare for the next one."

But what if it's not just finances?

Life is full of bumps in the road.  Sometimes they're financial - unexpected car trouble, medical bills, having your house broken into.  Sometimes they're purely emotional - illness, an argument, losing a friend.  Or a hassle - the kids making a huge mess, coworkers dropping a huge project on you, having your personal information stolen.

The point is - bad shit happens.  And it's going to keep happening.  Some of it's minor and some of it is fairly devastating.  And it's easy to get into a really negative place where we feel powerless, or like we're being targeted and these terrible things are only happening to us.

But maybe we should accept that we're powerless to prevent it.  We can prevent, or minimize the impact of, a few things.  But, unlike finances, we really can't do anything about a lot of life's issues.

And this sounds terrible, but at the same time, it almost makes me feel better.

Yes, I'm upset that x, y, or z happened.  But, you know... it's just one of the many bad things that's going to happen.  I can't stop it, but I can make the best of it.  I can remember that I'm not being singled out - bad things happen to everyone.  I can remember that life is full of good things that balance out the bad.  I can remember that I've gotten through all the past bad things, and I'll get through this one, and the future ones.

Ryan says something to me when I'm upset, "Just remember that everything's ok."  I used to think he was saying I shouldn't be upset because "everything is ok."  Eventually we talked about it, and he explained that he meant it was ok to be upset.  And I shouldn't worry about being upset, or feel guilty about it.  That way, when I got over whatever I was sad about, I could be totally done with it, because I had allowed myself to be sad, instead of bottling or repressing it.

After all, the worst feeling is being upset about being upset.  It's circular and much, much harder to shake off.  If you invalidate your feelings, you can't work through them.

So while it sounds depressing, "Lots of bad shit is going to happen to you throughout your life."  I find it to be somewhat freeing.  This bad thing is just one of many bad things and it's not worth any extra stress or anxiety.

Be upset if you need to be upset.  But also think about whether or not this issue is worth all the negativity you're allowing it to inject into your life.  You can't always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.

Some people look at the night sky, or the ocean, and they feel all their problems become insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  In a way, this is my method for doing that.  Except instead of looking at the unemotional grandeur and beauty of nature, I look at the problem, and all the other problems.

I guess this is the ultimate silver lining: I might have a problem, but at least it's only one of the problems I'll have to face in my lifetime.

What do you think?  Helpful or depressing?

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Nov 19, 2014

Fessin' Up and Laying Down Some Truff!

I typically try to write about one topic.  Even when I do "confessions" it's on a theme.  But today's more of a scatter-brained day, and spewing random things at you sounds quite delightful.  Also, I was inspired by Nadine's confessions.

I Confess...

1. Class Today Ain't Happening

It should.  I haven't been there in a couple weeks.  But... I'll be honest here.  There's not a lot of value in the class.  I'm not learning anything new.  At this point I'm just hanging on for the sake of finishing and because I've got another opportunity in the works and wouldn't want to mess up my transcript just now.

Reasons for (repeatedly) skipping class:
  • Wednesday is the day I remember that a new episode of Once Upon a Time came out (on Monday) and I still haven't watched it!
  • Hour long drive (each way)
  • Attendance not part of grade
  • The better part of class is spent working on our homework or watching YouTube videos
  • I can be disciplined and keep up with the work at home... probably
  • Going to class means getting home after 10 and being sleep-deprived the next day
  • General apathy

2. I'm OK with Christmas Swallowing Up Thanksgiving

My family hasn't really "done" Thanksgiving in years anyway.  We have tasty food and spend some time together and I really enjoy it, but it's never been something that we spend weeks, or even days, in anticipation of.  And this year there will only be 3 of us.  So what if people's Christmas lights are up already?  It's festive, fun, and I guarantee it will not detract from my green bean casserole one bit.

Reasons Christmas and Thanksgiving are more compatible than people think:
  • 2 months of constant holiday spirit!
  • The food!  Eggnog and peppermint bark can never come too early.
  • Thanksgiving doesn't really have it's own specific music or decorations anyway
  • If we push Christmas just a little bit further forward, we won't have to worry about Thanksgiving being ruined for retail workers, because Christmas shopping will start on Wednesday, or even Tuesday, and they can still have off on Thursday.
  • Good source of small talk ("Hooray Christmas music!" or "Gah! I hate Christmas music!")
  • Christmas décor reminds me to get my shopping done - preferably before Black Friday and all the deals and all the crazies.

3. I'm Obsessed with My Goal Posts

I finally got on the bandwagon and started participating in the Create Your Own Adventure goal-setting linkup and I have been looking at my update post every day for the last week, wishing I had things to add or that I could start my December goals.  Still 10 days left!!!  I also started doing seasonal goals and I can't wait to update that, either.  Basically you let me set some goals that involve organization in any way, and I get all hyped up and demolish them ASAP.

Goal update posts to be on the lookout for:
  • Create your own adventure - November was organize and December is simplify, which is harder because I want to keep organizing!
  • Seasonal/Quarterly - I started doing these because I thought monthly would be too frequently, but obviously the create your own was too fun not to do.  But they do have different things, some more long-term than the monthly goals, and some seasonal ones just for fun.
  • Yearly resolutions and bucket list update - Mostly to track how I did on my bucket list, but also the ongoing goals that I know will take a long time to accomplish.

4. I'm Often Blatant in My Self Admiration

I spend the usual amount of time in self-criticism, just like everyone else.  And I know I'm not perfect.  But some days I just get super impressed with myself, to the point where it's probably obnoxious to say anything about it out loud.  (Though I occasionally do that, anyway.  I feel like it's funny, because it's inappropriate and immodest, but I'm probably just coming across as a jerk.)

Things I've openly admired about myself recently:
  • How super creative and professional my outfit is
  • My body - I check myself out in the mirror at least once a week
  • That makeup, yeah, that is spot on, girl!
  • My Halloween costume.  To quote myself, "Do I look good or what?  I'd let me bite myself... Or something like that."
  • Oh, and while I'm quoting myself, "I did barbell squats!  I am a beast!!!"

I really want there to be a number 5, because I like odd numbers, but there's not.  So anyway...

How do you feel about early Christmas?  Do you know how awesome you are? (and forgot not to share that with other people)

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Nov 18, 2014

Who Did It Better? Books vs Movies Round 2

Round 2 of the movies vs books showdown!  This time I'm talking Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings.  If you missed it, last week was Game of Thrones and Ender's Game.  Diving right in...


Hunger Games

First exposed to: Movie
Version I liked better: Movie

Characters: When I read the book, I hated Katniss.  She's very unheroic and unpersonable.  I was actually really surprised, because it is rare that a book is less effective than a movie at making me sympathize with the main character.  This is the first, and maybe only, case where I like a character better on screen.  It's almost like not knowing her motivations is better than knowing.

Plot: In the book, it felt like a pretty dramatic shift from Katniss' personal struggles, to all of a sudden - Revolution!  The movies have definitely done more transitioning with dropping some clues for us, and showing a little more of the political side with Snow and the gamemakers.

Bizarre and unnecessary changes: We all know movie adaptations do this.  Some changes make sense, some don't work out but you can see what they were going for, and some are probably a result of needing to put their own spin on it, but really don't make any sense.  I can't think of any for Hunger Games, but I had an earful for GoT last week and quite a few things to say about LotR.


Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit)

First exposed to: Book
Version I liked better: Book

Characters: I don't have a lot to say about the LotR characters.  They were pretty true to the books, even if I was overly critical at the time.  The Hobbit is adding all kinds of stuff.  Most of it annoys me, but I'll talk about one character addition I like: Tauriel.  This dwarf/elf romance thing - I approve.  That is pretty much the only thing I'm excited about with the last movie.

Plot: As stated, I now believe LotR did an excellent job sticking pretty closely to the book storyline.  At the time I was nitpicky and there were probably 20 things I was unhappy with, and now I don't even remember what those were.  The one thing that I do remember that bugs me - all the drama with Arwen.  "Oh, she's dying."  "Oh, you have to break up."  "Now she's crossing the sea."  The only purpose it served was for us to not forget that she existed while all the interesting stuff was going on.  Needless to say, was not a fan.

The Hobbit, on the other hand, has not just deviated from the book, but added 2 additional plot lines to what was originally the simplest of Tolkein's stories.  Ryan likes that we get to see them laying the background for what happens next in the other movies, but I feel like even with the additional plots, stretching one smallish book into 3 movies resulted in a story that barely strings together each massive, unnecessarily long action sequence.  And the stuff with the white Orc.  Hate it.  Fluff.

Bizarre and unnecessary changes: LotR - Arwen drama.  The Hobbit... where to start.  Everything?  Here's the things I hate the most: 1) Legolas, who was not even in The Hobbit, now has a huge role just for marketing purposes.  2) The 10 minutes before the story even starts where Bilbo is writing.  It's just long and kind of dull.  3) Thorin's fakeout yelling at and then complimenting Bilbo.  I mean, just cheesy.  4) Elrond being all like, "You can't leave my valley" and Gandalf sneaking them out.  Unnecessary drama with main characters.  5) Orcs attacking the river town.  I mean, seriously, how many frigging fight scenes do we need?

Do you enjoy comparing books to movies?  Which media do you typically like better?  Did you make it through the Lord of the Rings books?

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Nov 13, 2014

Catcalling - Why Are We Still Talking About This?

I know, I know.  The breakup didn't last long.  Society, you are a poison!

Let's start with the good.  More people are talking about casual harassment since the Yes All Women movement, and I think that's awesome!  It's good that it's being discussed, and it's good that men are being exposed to the idea that this is not acceptable behavior.

But it's also revealing the full depth of ignorance between the genders and our lack of empathy for each other.  There are certain things we don't see eye to eye on, because we don't (typically) have the same experiences.

So I watched this video documenting the amount of attention a woman received while walking through New York, in regular clothing, without doing anything particularly special.

If you watched and didn't see the point of this, read this explanation from Reddit.  The poster does a great job of explaining it in a way that everyone can relate to.  I read it, and was glad that someone was summing it up for the people who couldn't, or chose not to, see the point of the video.

But then I made a mistake and read through the comments.  And people still didn't get it, or wanted to argue about semantics instead of the overall message.

100 men attempted to interact with her in 600 minutes.  Some of them seemed pretty innocuous.  "Hello."  "Good morning."  She ignored them, and that was that.  Is this harassment?  A lot of people were outraged that it was even being shown in this video, but I'd argue that while I wouldn't call it harassment, it still makes the point.

In a crowded city, you don't talk to every single person that passes by.  These men weren't.  But they specifically targeted this woman to greet.  If they're only greeting attractive women, doesn't that hint at what the intentions behind the comment are?  It's not harassment, but it's still an undesired interaction.

Having to repel unwanted attention every 6 minutes is a lot!  Can anyone honestly tell me that they wouldn't mind fending off undesired advances every 6 minutes of every day, just because it's a validation of their attractiveness?

But say we treat each instance on a case by case basis.  "Hello."  Ok, no problem.  You either return the greeting or you keep walking.  Either way, the interaction ends pretty quickly.  But what about those men that followed her?  Or kept after her, "What, I'm too ugly for you?"  "Someone's telling you, you're beautiful.  You should say thank you."

These men think she owes them something.  They act as if they have some sort of claim on her.  This is rude and disrespectful, if not frightening.  One of the comments (in the Reddit post) stood out to me.  The commenter didn't understand how this could be scary, because, "Does she think they're just going to attack her out in the street where everyone can see?"  And I guess that's the whole point.  You don't know.

When you meet a stranger, especially in a city with a huge population, there is no guarantee that they're sane, that they're not violent, that they're not a rapist.  Obviously most people aren't.  But most people aren't following you through the street either.  Yelling at you or criticizing your (lack of) response is an aggressive act.  Someone following you with no provocation is downright terrifying.

This is another point where men, specifically, might have some trouble understanding the female viewpoint.  Because men are, on average, larger and stronger than women, they are less likely to feel concerned about the actions of other random people, and it would be harder to be overpowered.  Honestly, I know I feel more comfortable, as a taller, heavier woman, than many more petite women I know if I'm walking alone at night or in an unfamiliar place.  I feel both more equipped to fend someone off, and less likely to be targeted in the first place.

There is also the question of being the pursuer, rather than the pursued.  I'm not going to say we're biologically wired this way, because I haven't done the research to back this up, but if not biologically, we are certainly socially programmed to have the man be the aggressor in a relationship.  So in addition to feeling more confident in his abilities to fend off an attacker, a man is less likely to feel that someone will be coming after him to forcibly make sexual advances, or worse.

I read something once that hypothesized that so many straight men are so extremely uncomfortable being around or hit on by gay men because, unlike most women, a gay man is someone who is physically capable of forcing his attentions upon another man.  (I wish I could source this for you, but try searching it - it is one of the uglier internet searches I've ever made.)

These straight men are uncomfortable (remember, hypothetically) not because it's something they perceive as wrong, or are morally opposed to, but because it is one of the rare occasions they don't have the assurance that comes along with being physically dominant.  Straight men know what they are capable of doing to a woman, and the idea of someone else having that power over them is extremely uncomfortable.

So take that discomfort, and that fear, and apply it to how a woman feels every time a man randomly catcalls, insults, or follows her.  Is it really so difficult to see why it's wrong to make others feel this way and why this is a problem?

What frustrates you too much to ignore?  Have you been catcalled at and how did you feel about it?

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Nov 11, 2014

Who Did It Better? Books vs Movies

I love comparing books to movies.  Usually, it's best to do it right after watching/reading, but since these are all sort of fresh, and none are I-just-watched-this-and-have-soooo-much-to-say-about-it, I'm going to touch on a couple at a time, starting with Game of Thrones and Ender's Game.  Look for Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games next week!


Game of Thrones vs A Song of Fire and Ice

First exposed to: Book
Version I liked better: Movie/show

This was a rarity for me.  I almost never like a movie better if I read the book first.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure I just prefer the version I was exposed to first.  But A Song of Fire and Ice was the first series I've read that had so many characters to flip between, and I didn't even like all of them.  I persevered, because I'd just begun dating Ryan and he wanted to share his favorite books with me, but truthfully, it was rough going.

Characters: This has been interesting because some characters I like better in the books and some I like better in the show.  Jon Snow = awesome in book; not so much in the show.  Brienne = kind of boring and idealistic in the books; awesome (and idealistic) in the show!  And a lot of the minor characters play a much bigger role in the show than they did in the book.  For example: poor, poor Oberyn Tyrell, Shae, and Grey Worm & Missandei.

Plot: Both are gorier than what I typically like, but the story is so compelling, and the show does a better job (for me) of imposing that "epic" feel and I think that's what drawing me in.  Also, I think reading the book first helped, because I was already a little toughened up to the gore, I know when to hide my eyes (Ick, all the Theon torture stuff), and I can keep the characters straight.

One thing that's been absolutely fascinating is seeing how the show will deviate pretty extremely from the books and then tie it all back in.  Being less attached to these books than LotR, it hasn't bothered me too much.  Here's some examples of when I thought the book plot was done for:
  • Deviation: The Red Woman kidnapping Gendry
  • Resolution: Davos helps him escape, but not until The Red Woman uses Gendry to take credit for events that were going to happen anyway in the book story
  • Deviation: Rob Stark's lady wife travels with the army and gets pregnant
  • Resolution: The Red Wedding.  Death, death, and more death
  • Deviation: Danaerys handmaid betrays her in Qarth and reaps the reward (death)
  • Resolution: Apparently the handmaid wasn't going to do anything important anyway...  There's a lesbian scene that I guess won't be happening now.
  • Deviation: OMG!  The Hound and Brienne met!  And fought!  I'm still shocked from this one.
  • Resolution: The Hound's fate is the same as the book, but he got to go down in a much more epic way than an infected bite wound.
Bizarre and unnecessary changes: All the rape!  I mean, the world was violent and misogynistic enough without making it even more so.  The one that bothers me the most is Khal Drogo and Danaerys, because it makes less sense with how close they became later.  Oh, and I guess how Joffrey kills prostitutes instead of animals.  Both are bad; why the switch?  Was it to reinforce how evil he was?  Or are we really that much more comfortable killing women than animals?  Also the unexplained actor changes.  The Mountain has been played by what, 2 or 3 different people at this point?  And Daario's switch, the actors could not have looked less alike.


Ender's Game

First exposed to: Book
Version I liked better: Book, but barely

I thought the movie did a good job.  The only reason I liked the book better was for more detail and being more immersed in the world.

Characters: I know everyone was worried that the story would focus too much on the adults, and less on Ender.  I didn't feel as if I knew Ender as well as in the book, but the movie was very definitely about him.  Also, I didn't notice at the time, but Roommate was very upset that Valentine and Peter's exploits weren't mentioned at all.

Plot: On that note, I didn't feel like the brother and sister's activities were very important to what was happening with Ender in the first book.  I feel like they set the stage for some of the events in the later books.  So if they don't intend to make more movies, it doesn't matter too much.  Don't tell Roommate I said that, though!  One thing Ryan and I really liked was the way violent things happened, but it wasn't action for the sake of action.  All action was there to further the plot.  How often do you see this in movies, anymore?

Bizarre and unnecessary changes: None that I can think of off the top of my head.

Do you enjoy comparing books to movies?  Which media do you typically like better?  How sad were you when Ned Stark died?

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Nov 10, 2014

Fitness Successes - Small Steps Toward a Healthy Lifestyle

I've written about how I feel about diets (hint: they're BS), and how I prefer to focus on changing my overall lifestyle.  You can quit a diet, but you can't quit your life.  You may slip up from time to time, but since you have your whole life to keep working on it, one mistake isn't a big deal.

In general, fitness seems to be very focused on challenges, and specific goals.  I understand why; it's a great motivational tool!  But we quite frequently set the bar high, and then when we don't quite reach it, it's a "failure."  Challenge NOT completed.

Even with my own philosophy of lifelong changes, I focus pretty heavily on the failures.  "Oh, this past week I messed up."  "I need to get back on track."  And on, and on.

Now, you need to do this occasionally, to recalibrate if your goals are ones that work for you, and to remind yourself why you're trying to make these changes.  But I realized I don't celebrate the goals I have achieved.  Eventually they just get removed from the list because I don't need a reminder anymore, but it's never accompanied by that feeling of success that it deserves.

So today I'm taking a few moments to remember and celebrate the goals I have achieved.

Health Successes!

1. Hydration

I pee clear.  Almost all the time.  I always felt like I drank more water than the people around me, but there were several occasions, when I was overheated, or exerted myself physically, that I came very close to (and actually did a couple times) passing out.  I think being dehydrated was a big part of that.  Now, I don't even have to think about staying hydrated - it's just part of my routine and my body lets me know when I haven't filled the water bottle up enough times.

2. Nutrition Education

Now some of this will be ongoing, but in general I understand nutrition so much better than I did when I was "dieting" in high school.  I still make bad choices far more frequently than I should, but at least I understand the full consequences of my actions, and I know what foods to choose when I'm eating healthy.

3. A More Balanced Diet

This is relative, I know, and some of you may well scoff at this.  But there used to be days, or even weeks, that I went without consuming vegetables or fruits at all.  Now it's rare that I go a full day without consuming some type of produce, and on a good day I have one or the other (or both!) with every meal.  That meal might be pizza, but if I've chomped a salad before starting on the pizza, it's that much less of the unhealthy option and that much more actual nutrition for my body.

4. More Consistent Exercise

My exercise regimen is not great.  Heck, it's not even good.  But, you know... it's better than it was.  I pay more attention to it, I'm better about stretching and getting a good mix of exercises to prevent injuries.  I ran my first 5-mile race ever back in March, and while I've lost a lot of my conditioning, I know I'm capable of training and I'm currently at a better starting base than I ever was before.  I'm capable of working towards a goal for more than 1 week at a time.  Most importantly, I'm learning how to keep myself accountable (signing up for races is a pretty good one).

Small steps.  Just keep taking small steps.

How are you at focusing on the positives?  What are your fitness successes?

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Nov 7, 2014

Leadership Textbook Cover - Design Day Friday

I made a thing!

The Project

My talented and prolific grandmother has written another book!  This one is a leadership textbook utilizing some of the concepts that she taught in her leadership course way back when.  The title of the book is "Leadership Topics Outlined: A Pantry of Leadership Concepts" which has a lot, conceptually, to work with.

The Process

I started this one with Google.  I haven't done a textbook before, so I wanted to get a general feel for textbooks vs general books and see what works and what doesn't.

Initial Concepts

I'm going to be lazy and do this one a little differently.  I did the conceptual work in Illustrator, and then moved over to InDesign for the actual designs.  So here's a screenshot of all the art boards and "inspiration" pieces I copied from the internet.

The elements I liked in these book covers were the simple color palettes: black, white, and a bright green or blue to liven it up.  Another book had those rougher, sketched looking lines that I liked, and yet another had an interesting triangular sectioning design.

From there, I started putting together fonts.  As you can see, I had a huge list of potentials, but only a couple potential combinations, before I jumped over to InDesign

Design Drafts

Those somewhat messy artboards turned into these 3 drafts.

A simple cover, with primarily text decoration

Pulling strongly on the "leader" and "outline" concepts

The Final Product

I'm sure there will be some revisions, but Grandma chose this draft (which is, incidentally, my favorite).  Looking forward to adding this one to my portfolio!

Playing around with some pretty colors (some of my favorites, incidentally), screened images, and very abstract concepts

Do you work methodically, or is it a different process for every project?  What are your favorite colors?

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Nov 6, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure Goal Setting - Organization

So I've been a little out of sync with the Make Your Own Adventure link up.  While everyone else was exercising, I was uncluttering my house.  Then I was exercising while they'd moved on to food themed goals.  I'd really like to participate, so I'm going to jump on board for this month's theme of Organization.

Organizing is one of my favorite things to do.  I'd happily write a goals post every month just about organizing.  But I think everyone else would be bored to tears, so I won't.  I had a few things on my Quarterly Goals list for organization, specifically uncluttering, organizing our storage area, and rehanging all the wall art that'd fallen down.  And I'm happy to report that it is all done!  My non-organization goals are another story... but that's not what today's post is about.

So, since I've gotten my fall organization goals accomplished already, here's a few more that I'd like to tackle this month.

November Organization Themed Goals

  1. Kitchen Junk Drawer - Eliminate and find a place for everything in it (I hate that I let this happen.  Just because a junk drawer is a thing does NOT mean every household needs one.)
  2. Resolve Hall Closet Shoe Situation - We all toss our shoes in there and I think rather than fight it, I'll just get a shoe rack to put them on.  And something for hats and gloves.
  3. Make a Place for Holiday/Seasonal Items - Probably just a storage bin, but ideally I'd like to get everything in one place rather than scattered amongst the other stored items and boxes.
  4. Plan and Purchase ALL Christmas Gifts! - It's late enough in the year that it's starting to really bother me that I haven't done it.  We're doing Christmas in CA this year, so gifts will have to be small and I'd like to have something thoughtful since I can't make up for quality with quantity this year.
  5. Solidify Travel Plans - There are a few things percolating: Christmas, sister's bachelorette party, my own potential elopement, and I know my brain will feel quieter and less "cluttered" if we know where we're staying and how we're getting there.
  6. Backup Computer - I'm frighteningly behind on this and my computer keeps giving me "blue screen of death" scares.

Do you have monthly goals?  Do you enjoy organizing things?

Linking up with Steph.

Life According to Steph

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Nov 4, 2014

The Significance of Significant - A Reveal

Ok, before you get too excited, it's not a real reveal.  At least not one you'll care much about.

I wanted to explain why I chose to call my significant other "Significant."  Obviously it came from the term "significant other."  And I tend to use that term or "partner" as often as I do "boyfriend."

I think that "significant other" and especially "partner" have begun to be thought of as meaning that the person using them is gay.  The speaker doesn't want to unveil that fact by openly being a girl with a "girlfriend" or a boy with a "boyfriend" so they use the more vague terms.

I think that when people hear the term "partner" they pause for a second while they factor that you might not be talking about someone of the opposite gender.  And then they decide if they're ok with that and (most of them) realize it doesn't really matter and it doesn't change what they previously thought about you.

I think it's good for them to have gone through that thought process.

But there are other reasons.  I guess at some point "boyfriend" just felt too generic, and maybe not quite grown up enough, even though I use the phrase fairly often.

And "significant" is a good way to sum up what he means to me.  It hints at the vast amount of impact Significant has in my life.  It's a polite nod to the overwhelming amount of emotion that ties us together.  And it's an indicator of the future, where (hopefully) our significance to each other will only grow.

The last reason is something of an inside joke.  With myself.  Bear with me, my humor is often quite convoluted.  So I guess by calling him "Significant" it could be construed that Significant is arrogant and feels that way about himself.  It's funny (to me) because it's not true, but would be an entirely inappropriate thing to suggest to the entire world if it were.  The joke loops in on itself because anyone in the world can see this, and most of the world doesn't get my humor, so they might take it at face value.

Fortunately most of the world doesn't read my blog.  Probably even less of it after that explanation.

Anyway, despite still enjoying the joke, and all the subtle implications of the term I chose for my partner, I've decided to move on.  I'm tired of typing it, and it sounds a little stilted and strange in some of my emails with the bloggers I talk to more often.

So here it is.  The real name!  Meet Ryan (aka Significant).

Also, I have to tell you about this picture.  So it's later on in the evening, and Ryan and I were no longer being very cautious about our costume makeup.  I've lost most of my vampire blood drips, and the eye liner from his nose is on my nose.  But that was just the beginning!  Later on, it was also on my cheeks, by my eye, even on my chin.  I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but hey!  By then all the sober people had gone home, so it was probably ok.

But that's not the most important part.  Did you notice the photo-bombing Cheshire cat?  Right in between my hat (originally part of someone's piñata costume) and Ryan's head?  That's Roommate (still no real names for him) and we had no idea he made it into our pictures until the next morning.  Perfect for his character!

We have 2 pictures frames in the living room of our townhouse.  I set them up when Roommate moved in, because I didn't want him to feel overwhelmed and excluded by all our decorations, so I found some of the only pictures the 3 of us had together and put them up.  Seeing as those pictures were from last Halloween, and we have this beautiful thing from this year, I think we just started a new tradition.

Anyway, back to the point.  Significant = Ryan.  Roommate = Roommate.  And Sister1 and Sister2 will remain nameless, because that way I don't have to explain who they are whenever I use their names.  (Perhaps laziness was the ultimate deciding factor after all...)

Do you use real names on your blog?  How did you decide what names to use?

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Nov 3, 2014

Paying it Back - Motivational Monday

Sometimes, not nearly often enough, I think about how fortunate I am and all the positive things I have in my life. Usually that means people; my family, friends, and even strangers that enter my life briefly for one positive interaction. On very rare occasions, I also think about the resources that have been provided to me at low or no cost.

I know that, as a designer, if I gave everything away for free, I wouldn't be able to survive. And yet, some developer just threw together the Lightbox interface (for image galleries) and said, "Here you go! Hope it works for you."

I love Game of Thrones. It's the only show I've ever made a point of watching on the days the episodes come out. But you have to pay for cable, just to get an HBO Go account, in order to watch. Yeah... that's a little steep. So we find other ways to watch it.

The problem here is this: how long are these resources going to be provided to me, and others, if none of us are willing to pay for them? If we appreciate them so much, why are we unwilling to invest a little in our future enjoyment?

Here's my new goal: to find all the things that have made a difference in my life, and pay it back a little.

Now, budget-wise, this could be a little tough. There's a reason we seek out free resources after all. But there's nothing saying I need to pay them back all at once. So I think I'll make a budget for this, like my charity budget, that allows me to spend some money each month on something that I've benefitted from.

And it's not all about money! There are a lot of free services that I can pay back in other ways. For example, apps and books. Getting a good review is more likely to bring in other consumers, and it really doesn't take that much time.

So here's my list of the first 6 things I'd like to return the favor to and how I plan to do it.

6 Things I'd Like to Stick Around a Bit Longer

1. HabitRPG

I've talked about this website before and how awesome gamification is.  I still love it, they make it fun to be productive, and the value of the paid upgrade is totally worth it.

2. Lightbox

It's a fantastic interface that I have used on every site I've made that needed an image gallery. The tool might be provided for free, but I can certainly donate a little to the creator to show my gratitude.

3. Game of Thrones

I might not be willing to pay for cable, but I can certainly pay for GoT blu-rays as they come out.

4. Facebook

I hate the ads in my newsfeed. As I'm sure you all do, too. But here FB is, providing this service to all of us, and we don't give them a dime for it. So maybe, just maybe, it's not that big a deal that we have a few ads to deal with.

5. Your Blogs

Same thing here. I might not start throwing money at bloggers, but I can certainly click a few ads every now and again. Especially if it's clothes; I'm always tempted by those anyway.

6. Musicians

I'm not sure how they're still around when none of us buy music anymore. Or maybe everyone else does and it's just me. But it'd be nice if my favorite bands were able to keep cranking out the music. Honestly, I'm not even sure what new stuff they have, because all my music is 10 year old CDs.

What are you willing to pay for even though you can get it for free?  Do you believe in paying it back?

Oh, and I finally have something for Kelli's photography linkup, Picture Practice!  This week's theme: Halloween.
Cupcakes courtesy of Roommate

Carved by moi!
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