An Apprenticeship

From the very beginning, technology has played a large role in the relationship I have with Tkout. The picture of us on the left is from Astronomy Club Fall Campout 2009, a few days after we started dating officially in October. We were playing Left 4 Dead with our friend Maverick, part of whom you can see sitting on the top bunk. We put tapestries in front of the windows because we were playing during the day, and we played on the XBOX Tkout had just gotten for his birthday a few weeks prior.

What’s even funnier about all of this is that when Tkout and I met, we were at a LAN gaming party at my college. (LAN is a local area network. Basically a bunch of nerds hooked up to the same network to share files, game, and hang out in the same space. It’s super fun! Go if you have the chance!) I digress. Tkout and I had met originally at the LAN while playing a first person shooter game called F.E.A.R. In the game, you’re on one of two teams, and you’re running around killing the other players. Tkout and I hadn’t met formally until he decided to run a full round with our mutual friend Plastiqmanb with no weapons. Just kicking and punching. I was an easy target because I’m terrible at those kinds of video games, so Tkout kept finding me to raise his kill count. I finally looked up and yelled, “Who the f— keeps kicking me!?” A really handsome face with dark eyes and hair raised up over the computer and Tkout waved. Before anything else could be said, he made a few keystrokes, and my character fell dead. Again. From a terminal kick.

When we were first getting to know each other I used to play World of Warcraft on a beat-up laptop. (For those of you that aren’t familiar, World of Warcraft is an MMORPG, or massive multiplayer online role playing game). Tkout’s first grand gesture was to build me a really nice gaming computer. It’s a gesture he’s repeated several times, always making sure I have a really nice gaming rig and peripherals (mouse, keyboard, etc.). The picture to the right is my current rig, which has purple LED lighting. He knows I’m a sucker for color and light, so he bought me a mouse, keyboard, and mousepad that change colors. The colors are dictated by the software that comes with the peripherals.

I have always appreciated the computers, but I think only superficially. Until last night, I didn’t have a real appreciation for what he was doing for me. I didn’t see the computers for the gestures that they really were.

Most of the movies and TV shows we watch are on digital media on our PLEX server. That allows us to stream our content from our computers, and makes it easier to watch than trying to hunt down a physical copy. Tkout doesn’t like to leave his computer running constantly because of the wear and tear on the parts, but I don’t mind. I don’t play games as often as he does. Well, we decided to make a PLEX server together. Basically, a bare-bones computer setup that would house all of our digital media so that we could stream it. I wanted to build it with him because I have a job as a desktop technician, and it’s handy to know how to build a computer if you’re going to go about fixing one. I also am looking to get the CompTIA A+ certification, which is equivalent to a low-level college degree in computers. Fully one half of the test is geared towards the actual hardware. Building a computer and interacting with the hardware is a great way to learn what the parts are and their functions. Also how they work together.

Before he builds a computer, Tkout spends hours reading through tech articles and comparing components until he has exactly what he needs for his purpose. That’s why he bought the parts by himself. Eventually I hope to be able to pick out parts, but I don’t know enough just yet. Yesterday we sat down and he went over the parts of the motherboard. He explained about the history of the components, which doesn’t sound like much, until you know that he taught himself. From scratch. In a time when you couldn’t just go and YouTube or Google the answer. I’m in awe that he knows so much, but he takes it in stride. He’s been there for the explosion of the popularity of the home computer.

He referenced how computers used to be, in terms of where the chipset could be found, or what its function was. I knew a little because back when Microsoft ME (Millenium Edition) came out (in 2000) I had my first home computer that I could take apart and re-image and generally play with. My parents were worried I’d break it beyond repair, so my meddling stopped. But it gave me a small background from which I’m launching my current career.

Tkout is an absolute wizard. He works with such patience, attention to detail, and skill that I was literally in the presence of an artist. There’s a reason for everything he does, and every piece of equipment that he uses. He’s also patient with me, and answers all my questions without getting annoyed. That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m inquisitive to a fault, and wind up dragging him down a rabbit hole of questions.

We also got a few laughs out of building the computer. The picture to the left is part of the motherboard. If you look closely, you will see EATXPWR written in white letters. I asked him what “eat x power” was. He couldn’t stop laughing. I forgot exactly what it means, but I know it’s excellerated ATX something-something. Good thing he takes things in stride, because that’s just a taste of the questions I was asking.

Just because I can, I snagged a picture of Tkout as he was fitting the solid state drive into the computer. He’s wearing his t-shirt from MassiveLAN, which is a charity computer gaming event we attend twice a year. (If you’re interested in finding out more and attending, check out the website here.) The weird red stripes behind him are the red LED lights shining out the side of his computer.

We aren’t done building the computer, and we also have to get the hard drives ready with all of our digital media. I asked Tkout to wait for me, because I want to be involved in every step of this process. He’s very excited, because for years he’s wanted to share his passion with me. He has lived and breathed computers for over a decade. Truth be told, I am glad he’s taken me under his wing. I don’t think that any course or book could teach as in-depth and hands-on as he does.

Over the years I’ve had friends and family ask why I’m ok with him being a gamer. There are basic positives, like gamers tend to stay close to home. They also tend to introduce their friends to their wives and kids. We have several friends at MassiveLAN, which is a family event and has something to offer for almost every age. Now that I’ve had the time to sit down with him and watch him work, I appreciate Tkout’s skill for what it is. I also understand why he chose a career in computers, and I’m glad that I’ve made that move as well.

If you’re wondering why there’s a picture of Zelda snuggled under covers, it’s because even our family pets enjoy the gaming household. Zelda is comfortable snoozing on the futon in the basement with Chloe, our cat. They know we are near by for kisses and pets, and we are all home together.

I’m not sure if we are going to work on the rig tonight or this weekend, but rest assured, there will be another post detailing the progress of this journey. I can’t wait to see what mischief we get up to in the next round of the build!

 

Family Friday

Dipper and Phoebe came to visit us last Friday. Due to a possible obligation, they weren’t able to stay over, but it was still an amazing evening. Phoebe got things going by showing me her new Superhero Girls toy. It’s Wonder Woman on a motorcycle, and it’s downright badass! She also brought Clue, but we didn’t get a chance to play. The week had been rough on everyone, and we were all dying and ready for the sleep of the dead by about 9:30.

Since it was the last Friday of winter break Phoebe and Dipper had gone out around the town together. Among their stops were Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us. Dipper snagged a few graphic novels and a Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic for Phoebe, which I called dibs on after she finishes. (Phoebe liked Gravity Falls before I came along, but I suspect that she finds it even funnier now, since her dad and I are so much like Dipper and Mabel.)

Phoebe was also excited to give me the fuzzies that she and Dipper had picked out during the day. I’ve been all about the Resident Evil Funko line, and they found me Nemesis. As well as the Alien Queen from the Alien series. Phoebe found a Resident Evil manga at Barnes and Noble, that I didn’t even know existed. It’s called Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, and it takes place prior to video game RE6. I snagged the Power Rangers t-shirt from Dipper’s Loot Crate, and Phoebe had some more Monster High minis for me. (Yesterday I snapped all the little lockers together. I just have to clean candle soot off the one wall and then hang them. I’m really at a loss as to what to do otherwise!) The little green Cthulhu is part of a series of vinyl toys called Dunnys. Dipper got it for me a little bit ago, but I was able to glue the wings on Friday (they snapped off in shipping).

Although I didn’t take pictures of the fuzzies I gave them, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fuzzies waiting. I got Dipper the Hulk Mr. Potato Head, which means he’s only missing one or two more from the series. I also got him a Deadpool mini figure from Walgreens. I couldn’t resist! Phoebe got an Easter egg which turns into a bunny nose, some pens, and I honestly forget what else. I was so happy to see them that the first hour or so is a blur.

I was worn out and didn’t feel like cooking, so Tkout ordered us pizza and wings. He got pineapple on the pizza which is basically my favorite thing. After dinner, I did dishes and we sat down to watch Just Add Magic. Tkout changed the filtering on our router, so I couldn’t use the Amazon streaming app until he did some legwork. While we waited Phoebe and I decided to do some reading. She’s working on the Gravity Falls comic, and I was telling her that not only would Dipper and I be able to read it sooner, but I was sure her dad would count it towards her 20 minutes of reading homework. I sat down with Dreaming in Darkness, which I’m working on so that I can post a review. I chose the couch, because I knew Zelda would come and sit with me and hopefully I could keep her calm. It’s difficult to read with a Boston terrier zooming around the living room! Phoebe was over the moon that Chloe decided to sit on the top of the chair Phoebe had chosen.

Chloe likes Phoebe very much, but she’s not always up for the kind of attention Phoebe wants to give her. Since Chloe is at least 7 years old (she’s a rescue cat so we don’t know for sure) she’s not as spry as Vampira. When Phoebe is home, Vampira basically lets her do whatever she wants, within reason. Chloe isn’t like that. She likes to occasionally play with a toy, but more often than not, she wants to just sit and be petted by whatever hooman she chooses. Treats don’t hurt either. Now that Phoebe has learned that trick, she’s definitely used it to her advantage, and Chloe’s delight. Chloe dozed off while Phoebe read, and on occasion Phoebe would reach up and pet Chloe. Zelda did what I hoped, and stayed with me on the couch. As you can tell from the picture, Phoebe is a truly intense reader and really gets into the story!

I had been dreading seeing it for some time because I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Since she’s 9, she’s at this weird age where her shows are either insipid and torture (Bunk’d, I’m looking at you! Bizaardvark gets honorable mention for really annoying supporting characters.) or they’re really fun (Justice League Unlimited for sure!) Just Add Magic was a pleasant surprise for sure. It follows a common recipe – sisters (in this case friends) realize they can do magic, and they use it to try and have a positive impact. In this case, it’s a magic cookbook that the girls find in the attic. I like the strong female leads.

It was a really amazing Friday night. As much as I was sad that Phoebe and Dipper didn’t stay, part of me was glad because I was absolutely dead to the world once I hit my bed. There would have been no late night comic book talk with Dipper or movie marathon with Phoebe. I would have dropped absolutely dead and stayed dead until late the next morning. There’s also zero chance I would have gotten up early to watch TV and build Legos with Phoebe the next morning.

I promised Phoebe the next Family Friday we would play Clue and watch more Just Add Magic. Although I think we will wait for Dipper to go to bed for that last part. I’m not too sure that’s his bag. With any luck I can talk her into more Justice League. Or the classic Batman movies. By classic, I mean my classic. It’s high time she learned that Batman is Michael Keaton, Joker is Jack Nicholson. And as much as nobody seemed to notice, Harley Quinn pre-transformation in Suicide Squad is a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale.

(Just to prove my point, to the right is a snapshot of Miss Vicki Vale, from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

In the shot below, we have Miss Harley Quinn, of the 2016 Suicide Squad. Game over. I win. Right down to the glasses and classy shirt! Oooh..does that make Harley a foil for Vicki? Maybe. That theory will have to be put to the test in another post, another day.)

 

 

The Echoes

Battling an invisible illness day in and day out can make work a struggle. Especially if you find some days it’s harder to be around people than others. Sometimes the type of interaction with these people matters most. Others it’s the degree to which I’m familiar that dictates what I can handle. The worst days are the days that don’t seem to have a pattern. The days where I can’t figure out the magic combination to make it through comfortably. Those are also the days I find hardest to explain to people who don’t fully understand what’s going on with me. That’s because on those days, like today, I can’t answer their questions. “What caused it?” “What if you did x, y, and z?” “Gee, I wonder why that trick didn’t work this time. Do you think it won’t work anymore?” Days like today, I hate to say it, but “I have no fcking idea…” is the best I can do in terms of an answer. And really, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I’m not analyzing the situation, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying, it doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely fighting for every moment of peace.

I work as a computer installation technician in a local hospital system. Tkout works in the same department of the same system as well, though at another hospital. My days range. Some days I stay totally behind the curtain, a high-tech Wizard of Oz. Other days I’m working with staff, and some days I’m even in front of patients while setting up or supporting the equipment. It’s always a rewarding job, and I leave feeling accomplished. The amount of contact I have with people varies, which is also good.

Today has been one of the days where I feel adrift. But it didn’t start out this way. I woke up feeling rested and happy. I wasn’t anxious that I had somehow lost anyone in my circle to the symptoms of my depression. The weekend was exhausting, but fulfilling. I achieved things I didn’t think were possible, given how I struggled the past few days. The thought of going to work made me feel strong and competent. I was ready to meet the challenge with both feet on the floor.

I got to work early, settled in, and when I clocked in I immediately began working on a user’s problem that was a carryover from Friday. I had to head to the children’s dental clinic in a neighboring building. One of the dental patients was afraid, and kept crying and screaming. Generally speaking, I get anxious and sad when the patients are so scared. It’s impossible not to feel for them.

While I waited for the computer I was working on to re-image, I took a brief call from Dipper. All was well. The conversation went well. We talked and nothing was wrong. I mentioned that if he heard wailing in the background, it was the patient. I wasn’t sure if the sound would carry to the phone or not.

Shortly after that call, I think the mix of the amount of people in the clinic, the issue I was working on, and exhaustion from the previous weekend got to me. I started sliding. Worrying that I had annoyed Dipper by asking what time he was planning on sleeping (he works the night shift). I knew it wasn’t a valid worry since I KNEW everything was fine. I tried to stop the slide. I reached out to Dipper and Tkout, both of whom were more than willing to help me get vertical. It worked, for the most part.

Which leads me to the topic of this post. After an anxiety attack or a depressive swing, often there are Echoes. That’s my collective term for the shame and embarrassment that follows. I don’t struggle long term so much with the attacks or the swings as I do with the echoes. More than not, they hurt worse than the attack or swing. I had my attack around 11 am. In a minute it will be 1 pm. I’ve been dealing with the echoes for literally 2 hours. I’ve been biting back tears because there is no safe, quiet, and secluded place where I can go to fully break down and cry. I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m a flake, so I don’t want them to see it either.

I know in my mind that there shouldn’t be shame or embarrassment. But there is. The shame is that I fell apart on a good day, when I’ve been doing so well up until. When I got out of bed with no problems going to work. The embarrassment is part of what I call the domino slide. The domino slide is where I start thinking I’ve done something wrong, reach out to apologize, get reinforcement that everything is ok, and then start worrying that I’ve done something wrong by reaching out (even when I KNOW that it is what my circle wants me to do), and more worries pile on. They become stifling. Until I start to believe them just for the sheer fact that there’s so many. Hence the name domino slide.

Once the domino slide starts, my self-image plunges. I start to wonder how people can deal with my shit, when I can barely deal with it myself. My thoughts turn dark. I start imagining that my circle is getting tired of this, just as I am. I hear my husband and brother in my head, telling me that it’s alright. That they still love me and there’s nothing to be ashamed or sorry about. That everyone slides. That they’d rather me reach out over and over than suffer quietly. That they want the chance to reassure me. To make everything right.

Then I start thinking that I don’t deserve this love and devotion. That I haven’t done enough to balance out the shit they put up with when I flounder. Both of them have told me countless times that it’s not a matter of balancing out. The good always outweighs the bad. That I need to stop thinking about it like that. I believe them. I really do. I know I’m loved and needed. Not just by my humans, but by my fuzzies too. Even the snakes and bearded dragon.

But the anxiety and the depression lie. And because it’s my own mind, they know just what to tell me to make me feel worthless. To make me feel afraid. To make me want to keep asking if everything is alright, and then fearing that just by asking, I’ve shattered everything. They make me feel like everything is fragile. Even though I know it’s not.

I’m writing this post while biting back the tears. I know I’m loved. I know that there’s nothing to ask forgiveness for. I know that I don’t need to ask them to hang in there, because they will. I’m Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. That doesn’t change, no matter how hard the anxiety and depression are whaling at me.

Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe always tell me that they think I’m a superhero because I still fight. Even when I don’t feel like it. I still fight to go to work. To stay the whole shift. And even if I’m not feeling well, I still come and see Phoebe and Dipper. Still hang with Tkout. I try to make sure they don’t suffer when I’m struggling. And if they need me, I’ll come running. Even if it’s a day where I struggle to get out of bed.

I’ve had trouble reconciling the way they see me, because most of the time I certainly don’t see this myself. When I’m struggling, I tend to only see the bad. But I have always appreciated that they see me in this way. A little while ago, Dipper sent me a YouTube video about the newest Green Lanter, Jessica Cruz. In her, I’ve found my superhero. Take a look at this series of panels, where she fights anxiety. I almost fell over when I first read them. They’re so true to life in terms of showing the anxiety. But they also show her in the moment where she pushes through it. Not surprisingly, it’s because she knows people are counting on her. I almost cried when Dipper sent this to me. For the first time ever, I saw myself as Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe have seen me the whole time. All those times I was too busy hitting myself over the head to see what they saw. The whole time they saw my will to persevere. The fact that just reaching out and asking for the love and reinforcement was an act of defiance against the mental illness.

For the first time in the last year, since all hell broke loose, I finally saw in myself what they’ve seen the whole time. I understand why they say the good outweighs the bad. Why they say they love me, no matter what. Why they’ve chosen me to be Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. Why they have faith in me, and say that it’s never misplaced. Why they’re always willing to catch me when I fall. What they mean when they say they won’t leave me, because it’s not an option.

For the first time, I see myself as the fighter and superhero that they see. I may get knocked down. But it’s not for always. And every time I come back up, I’m stronger than I was before.

 

Self Care Saturday – Success!

From time to time, I detail my battles with anxiety and depression here. Maybe that’s your bag. Then again, maybe it isn’t. If it’s not, I’ll totally understand if you want to go and scope out a different post. It’s not for everyone.

A little while back, I started what I call “Self Care Saturday”, and I usually declare it after a particularly difficult week. This past week definitely qualified. Tuesday night, I thought I was straight up losing my shit. It was one of the worst anxiety nights I’ve had in awhile. Back to back crying jags, needy button-mashing, all kinds of things. I’m still trying to learn how to forgive myself when that happens, but as I’ve been told by a few people, it’s a process. A war. Not a single battle.

Today I needed to hunker down and take care of myself. Recharge after a rough week. It started out with a trip to Tops for groceries. I needed to restock the meat in the house, and also grab some things for Valentine’s Day. I have a plan of what I want to make us for dinner. Not to mention, I had to snag some Tension Tamer tea by Celestial Seasonings. Suzanne said it’s an absolute miracle tea for anxiety. I plan on drinking that tonight. That went surprisingly well, but probably because there were only a few bluehairs roving the aisles. On the way home, I talked to my parents. They wanted to stop by, but I asked if they would hold off. It’s hard explaining to someone what it’s like when you need to preserve the sanctity of your bubble.

While I put groceries away I got breakfast ready. I made scrambled eggs, bacon, and sliced up potatoes. My dad used to put butter in a skillet and cook them, but I am more inclined to improvisation. I looked up a recipe on homemade homefries, and then did my own thing. Which was vegetable oil, paprika, chopped onions, salt, and pepper, and thickly sliced potatoes. I also served the orange juice that my parents brought us last weekend. Tkout was overjoyed. I was pissed about burning the bacon. I can do many things, but apparently making bacon without burning the shit out of it is not one. Oh well. Tkout took down the smoke alarm, since it was enthusiastically cheering me on.

My parents had also brought us carrots, onions, and potatoes last week because they were on sale. Buy one, get x amount free, to be exact. Which means that we’ve been living with 4 full bags of carrots, a whole bag of celery, two bags of potatoes, and two bags of onions with no idea what to do with them. I wound up cutting them up so that I could freeze them. I hate wasting food. It seems that I never have the veggies when I need them, so this seemed the perfect middle ground. Waste not, want not. Hassle not.

I was tired and debating a nap, but Tkout and I have wanted to see John Wick: Chapter 2 ever since we heard it was confirmed. We aren’t big on going out for Valentine’s Day, so we will probably stay home and have dinner. Something nice and quiet. I consider the movie our pre-Valentine’s Day date. It was a really great movie, and I was pleased to see returning characters from the first. There were laughs, scares, tons of action, and even some really sad moments. The downside was that I wound up having an anxiety attack during the movie. I’m not really dsure what set it off, except the fact that there were people sitting in our row, maybe. I don’t know. I don’t always have a noticeable trigger. That’s something that baffles many people, including my parents. Tkout and Dipper get it. So does Phoebe. Shit just happens sometimes, you know? Anyway, I got out of my seat, headed to the bathroom, and spent a few minutes crying it out and messaging Dipper. I was able to finish the movie.

When we got home, Tkout and I were both tired. I changed the sheets on our bed and put on the new green leaf comforter Dipper gave us for Christmas. We snagged Zelda, I read for a bit, and then we took a nap. It was great. I woke up and messaged a bit with Dipper while getting dinner ready.

Earlier in the day I marinated chicken in balsamic dressing. I also took the potatoes and made mashed potatoes from scratch. I not only didn’t use a recipe, but I totally judged the amount wrong. Which means we will have enough mashed potatoes to have with Polish kielbasa tomorrow for dinner. Score! Tkout was pretty excited. I boiled the carrots down to nothing so that was a waste. But otherwise everything worked out well.

After dinner, I decided it was time to rest. I curled up with the fuzzies on the futon and Tkout put on The Mist. Dipper and I talked for a bit on the phone and then I put on Suicide Squad. It’s still on, and I’m sitting here on my computer typing this up. Before I began, I took my daily journal and made sure to finish the list of things I accomplished today. It may seem superfluous, but it helps me get by. It helps me take stock of the day I had and look at it with honest eyes. It keeps the anxiety down. Reminds me of the good times. Shows me that I can do what I need to, and that the anxiety and depression haven’t taken me down. I also use it to log information about what kind of day it was in terms of mental health. I’m hoping to track any patterns, or even more simply, see that the days aren’t as bad as I sometimes think they are. That I’m winning. Battle by battle. Yes, I cried today when I was out in public. But you know what? I have groceries in the house. And I saw an amazing movie all the way to the end, minus the time when I stepped out to get my shit together. Today, the battle was won. Tomorrow is another battle, and I’m ready.

If you’re wondering what kinds of things go in the list, I will do that as a separate post. While writing this, I’ve decided that I’m going to make part of this blog about my journey with mental health. There for those who need it, but not necessarily in the way for those that don’t.

I wish you all well.

 

 

Continuing Traditions

I’ve been working with Dipper and Tkout to show Phoebe iconic movies since this summer. I’m starting to run out of titles that are largely free of major objectionable material, so I’m branching to classics in general. Before venturing further, I should probably clarify, since Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Alien, and JAWS have all been shown. (If you’re curious as to the criteria that selects these movies for a 9 year old, check out this post.)

When I was a kid, I loved Indiana Jones films. They had action, scares, excitement, and my first Asian crush, Short Round. When I found
out that Phoebe had never seen any, I almost fell off the couch. I decided to start with Raiders of the Lost Ark, in no small part because Marion is kick-ass. She holds her own in fight scenes, outsmarts the bad guys, smarts off to Indy, and is nobody’s damsel in distress. I (correctly) guessed that Phoebe would find her a kindred spirit.

When I started the movie, Phoebe decided to lay down on the cot that I had in front of the tv. On sleepover nights, Phoebe gets the couch, and I sleep on the cot. (I am WAY too old to sleep on the floor for extended periods of time!) She was laying under her new Wonder Woman blanket that I made her for Christmas. She was ecstatic that Chloe, our Bengal cat, had decided to come and snuzzle with her for the movie. Chloe, for her part, is an older cat and likes it best when people just laze around with her and watch tv. (As I’m writing this post, Chloe is behind me on the futon watching a horror movie, and I’m sitting at my computer, which is on a table to the right of the tv. We are both in the basement.)

I was surprised that Phoebe wasn’t as into the whole sequence with the golden idol and the huge rolling boulder. Until I realized that she’d always been alive for bitchin’ CGI effects. As opposed to Dipper, Tkout, and I, who have had a range of effects to experience throughout our lives.

She was ok with the story, but really perked up when Marion (Karen Allen) appeared. She liked that Marian held her own in the bar fight, and that she didn’t just hand over the medallion to Indy because he smiled at her the right way.

Phoebe likes behind-the-scenes movie trivia, so she perked up when I told her that during an iconic market fight, Harrison Ford had a bad case of food poisoning. Rather than the elaborate sword battle that was scripted, he pulls out his gun and shoots the enemy instead. If you look closely, you can tell he’s not feeling well on that day of the shoot. Phoebe was fascinated by the improv aspect, and the fact that everyone on set just went with it as though it was supposed to happen all along.

My one regret with this choice, is that it comes perilously close to my self-imposed restriction on overly religious movies. I also forgot that she had no frame of reference for Nazis either, besides a brief explanation I had given her some months ago. I settle for explaining it like this:

“The ark is a big chest that some people believes holds the agreement the Jews made with God. The bad people, Nazis, who don’t like the Jews to begin with, want the ark because they believe whoever has it will get incredible power and will be able to hurt lots of people very easily. Indy and Marian want to make sure that nobody gets it, because they don’t think people can be trusted. Oh, and the things that look like ghosts that come out of it towards the end of the movie are angels. But people aren’t supposed to see angels like that, so a bunch of people who look die.”

What seemed like a totally reasonable explanation at the time somehow seems less cut and dry now. Phoebe bailed me out of a potentially precarious situation by asking me if it was like in the superhero shows she watches. I told her yes, think of the creepy guy with the glasses as the big baddie, and Indy and Marian are the good guys. And every bad guy needs someone to hate, so the bad guy hated the Jews, even though they hadn’t ever done anything to him. That proved to be a sufficient explanation, and she kept watching.

She thought the market chase scene was pretty funny, especially when Marion tried to hide in the basket, and the monkey blew her in. Phoebe wasn’t a fan of the monkey when she realized that he wasn’t on the side of the good guys, but she later decided that was the fault of the owners, not the monkey itself. She had no such lenience or compassion for the bad guys. When the monkey was poisoned, she sagely decided that was what happened when you threw your lot in with the wrong people. Talk about a teachable moment!

I don’t have any experience with children just entering puberty, other than having been a teacher. But in that regard, in many ways, the parents have already done the majority of the legwork. I was totally unprepared for what transpired when Marion and Indy share a few kisses aboard the train. I will be the first to admit I didn’t even remember this scene in the movie. It’s short, corny, and didn’t make an impression. Basically, Indy is hurt, Marion kisses his boo-boos, he points out a few more (chest, neck, forehead, etc.) and then he falls asleep literally before anything can get moving in any sort of serious direction. By this time, Phoebe was sitting on the couch, instead of laying down on the cot with Chloe. I was crocheting, Zelda was chewing on a toy between us, and Phoebe was working on her Lego set. When suddenly –

“Ok. No more kissy-kissy.”

“Why?” She sat there, saying nothing. But the face, if only I could have taken a picture! “It’s ok, Phoe, he fell asleep.”

“Are you sure he’s not dead?” I paused the movie.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“How? He looks dead.” There’s no way this wasn’t going to go all the way down the rabbit hole.

“There’s three more movies.”

“Then does he die?”

“No.” I wasn’t sure where we were going at this point.

“What happens?”

“I don’t know, Phoebe. He just gets old. It happens.” I was really hoping this would be sufficient.

“Oh. Then he dies?”

“Don’t know.”

“Why?”

“Because there’s no more movies.”

“Why?” Oh shit. She never does the circular why routine…

“Because he’s old.”

“Oh.” She sits there and thinks this over. I had to strike fast, before she thought of another question that I couldn’t answer satisfactorily.

“Yup. But hey, no more kissy-kissy.”

“Good. I don’t like it.” Just to make sure, she puts her head down and starts working on the Legos.

“Mhm.” I got the death-stare for that one. Haha!

The funniest part of all was that she seemed to hold it against Marion and Indy that they had kissed. Especially when Marion finds herself a prisoner of a Nazi sympathizer. She tries to use her wiles to get out of it. Phoebe was pissed. She thought that Marion was cheating on Indy. I explained that she was pretending, so she could gain the sympathizer’s trust, and somehow escape. Phoebe decided that it was a good plan, but she still didn’t like the dishonesty. I told her that was a good way to look at it, but to give Marion some slack, considering her life was literally on the line. She agreed.

When the movie wrapped up, I honestly wasn’t sure what she would think of it. I was wondering how much the kissy-kissy had weighed into her opinion. As it turns out, even with more kissy-kissy on the horizon, she still wanted to see the rest of the movies. I’m tempted not to show her the 4th movie, because it was so awful. But I think I’ll let her make that decision for herself. (I did forewarn her that it’s nowhere near as good as the other three.)

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating the Kindle Paperwhite

I was thrilled to receive my Kindle Paperwhite in the mail yesterday. I took it out, synced it with GoodReads.com, and started trying to figure it out. I can say right off the bat that I love it’s sleek new design and touch screen. I’m also in love with the cover that I picked out for it, even though I’m not usually a fan of pastels.

When I bought the Paperwhite, it was supposed to be intuitive. For the most part that’s been true, except for a few features that were harder to figure out than I had hoped (or expected). I consider myself a capable technology user, as I work as a computer professional. However, there were a few instances I went online for answers to questions I couldn’t figure out. I as also dismayed that there wasn’t really a catch-all webpage or help link that answered everything. I searched by several criteria, just to make sure that the problem with the search results wasn’t me. (This also surprised Tkout, because normally I prefer to ask him for technology help, rather than head into the vastness of the Internet.) As you can see from the picture on the left, it’s a very hot item in this house! Both Zelda and Chloe want to get their paws on my Kindle Paperwhite!

Below are some of the features I struggled with, and how to overcome them. If you haven’t purchased the Kindle Paperwhite yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great investment, even if it takes you a little bit to get used to it.

  • Collections. Managing my collections had my absolutely shouting obscenities, but I’m going to own up to it and say that it’s totally my fault. There are a couple of ways to manage your collections, but so far, I’ve only dealt with books I’ve purchased via Amazon. (There are ways to include books purchased elsewhere, but I haven’t tinkered with that yet.)
    • The Hard Way: You can manually add books to collections by holding your finger down on the title and waiting for the dialog box. However, this can add to mistakes such as opening the book, removing it from the device, and other missteps.
    • The Easy Way: Let Amazon.com do the work for you! Follow these steps:
      • Open amazon.com (or smile.amazon.com, if you’re donating to a charity)
      • On the right, hover over Accounts & Lists, which will open up another menu
      • Under Your Account, go to Manage Your Content and Devices

In this menu, you’ll see all of the books that you’ve purchased, or are shared with you if you share an Amazon account within a household. From there, you can add books to collections in batches of 10, you can delete books, or send them to other registered devices. You can also register and deregister devices on the account. That’s where I deregistered my old Kindle, registered my new Kindle, and changed the device’s name. If you have your kindle open while you’re making the changes, you can see it happen with only a few second delay. (However, to show the new device name, I had to reboot my Kindle. Not a big deal, but just mentioning it.)

  • Backing out of a book. I was able to open books to read them, but I didn’t know how to get back to the home screen. Since I was a dedicated Apple user for years, I automatically looked for the home button. As it turns out, when you’re reading, the menu containing the home button and other options is hidden. If you lightly tap the top of the screen, the menu drops down. You can go to the store, bookmark your place, go home, back out of the book and go to the collection, etc. Neither hard, nor an inconvenience. Once you know what you’re doing. If you decide you don’t want to do anything in the menu, gently tap once anywhere on the book and the menu will close.

I realize that struggling with two features isn’t the end of the world, but they are, in my humble opinion, two of the most important features of the Kindle. Most people like to organize their books, and certainly it’s important to be able to get out of a book and go back to the home screen.

While trying to overcome my obstacles, I stumbled on some features that I really enjoy. Such as the ability to change the font of the book. At first, I thought that was just kitschy and neat. I didn’t realize how much easier it would make the books to read. You can also choose whether or not your progress will be measured in page numbers or as a %. You can also choose to have your GoodReads.com lists display on your home screen.

I can’t say enough about how much I love my Kindle Paperwhite. I can’t believe that it took me so long to catch on to the electronic book craze, but here I am. What format do you prefer? Do you have a Kindle or other e-reader? Let me know in the comments!

Soothing the Beasties with Screams

The first pet we adopted when we moved into our new house was Chloe, our Bengal cat. We got her right after we moved in. We tried to add another cat, but she wouldn’t put up with it. A year ago, we decided to adopt a Boston Terrier, that we named Zelda. They were alright with each other, but not friends yet. Zelda enjoyed (and still does) pulling Chloe around by her ears, and Chloe for the most part took it in stride. As time goes by, they’ve gotten closer. The last few weeks, after I was stuck in bed for a week solid with a strep throat infection, they started to make peace with each other. Even though I’m better and have since gone back to work, they are getting closer still. Zelda cries if Chloe isn’t in the bedroom with us when we go to bed, and when we wake up, if Chloe has spent the night in the basement, she makes sure we let her out so she can see her friend.

A new development that Tkout and I are really pleased with has been their penchant for snuggling. Although they aren’tpuddle quite a cuddlepuddle, they are still inching closer. We joke that they’re trying hard to keep up appearances like they aren’t friends. I think the real issue is that Zelda still has puppy tendencies, and sometimes gets a little too ardent, which results in her dragging Chloe around by the ear. If you’re Zelda was hanging out, and Chloe decided to get up on the futon and snuggle with her. (Our futon is always down like a bed, and yes, I am a compulsive sheet-straightener.)

The entire week that I was sick, I layed on the futon in our finished basement and watched horror movies. More accurately, I layed there like a sack of potatoes while the fuzzies watched the movies. Now that I am no longer sick, they still hang out on the futon, and when they are restless, Tkout and I can rely on a few movies to keep their attention. (I’m not making this up – they really do sit and watch movies!) Some they prefer more than others, but the list of Comfort Movies that they seem to enjoy best are…

FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) – I’m honestly not sure why the fuzzies love this movie so much. It could have something to do with the nonstop action and killer soundtrack. All I know is that once it goes on the TV, they both lay down and watch.

ALIEN (1979) – Chloe seems interested in what Jonesy, the space-cat, is up to. As for Zelda, this is one of her sleeper movies. I can count on her grabbing a chew toy, settling in on the futon, and falling asleep in about 20 minutes.

dreamcatcherDREAMCATCHER (2003) – This fast-paced Stephen King sci-fi flick is always a good one for getting the fuzzies settled down. Clocking in at an impressive 2 hours and 16 minutes, I think the reason they prefer this movie is they know they are guaranteed a long snuggle session.

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) – This is another guaranteed snuggle session whenever it goes on the TV. Other than that, I think they enjoy the werewolf noises, and the people panicking. (Chloe, especially, seems enamored of people in a state of panic.)

JAWS (1975) – This movie takes place on land, on the sea, and in a boat. There’s lots of action, and colorful characters. Not to mention an awesome orchestral soundtrack. Chloe and Zelda make it about halfway, before they both fall asleep. But putting the movie on almost always brings them to the futon.

What movies do your fuzzies enjoy watching?