Monday, February 27, 2017

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.)



 

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

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.



 

Friday, February 17, 2017

How's your year going?

Last year I was a little late to the party. This year? READY.



Last year I got back on GoodReads.com after a prolonged absence. I started reviewing books again, and tracking my reading progress. It also helps me keep track of books  I want to read, or have read with my brother as part of our two person book club.

In any event, I set myself the lofty goal of reading 79 books by the end of this year. Since I got such a late start last year I only projected 9, but wound up reading 59 since I count graphic novels as well. So far I'm off to a good start. As of right now, I'm at 15/79 books. They range from authors I just discovered to authors that I've been reading for years. There are graphic novels as well as regular novels represented. I'm sure that I'll also be adding in some young adult reads, since Phoebe likes when I read books that she's read. She's super into Superhero Girls and Disney's Descendants, so I know those will be among my titles for this year. (Speaking of which, I need to catch up on Descendants! I think I'm about 2 books and a movie behind.)

Honestly, the young adult books are really good. I read a Descendants book last year (Wicked World Wish Granted). It wasn't bad - there's many lessons to be learned about friendship, identity, and the consequences of your decisions. It was in graphic novel format, but there are several tie-in books that are in the series too.

I'd also like to get back to Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin series. I'm anxious to see what's happened with Benny Imura and his longtime crush Nix Riley. I also want to get back to Alessia Giacomi's Zombie Girl Saga, because the last Eve Brenner book I read left a really interesting cliffhanger. There are other book series that I want to work on, too many to list, in fact! Not to mention, I am woefully under-read in the world of comics. My plan is to change this up this year. I don't want to be a superhero fan only based on movies. I'm ready to go full nerd.

If you're on GoodReads.com too look me up! Let's be friends! (Feel free to send recommendations my way, either books you've liked, or books that you've written.)

 

 

 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Powering Through

Several friends have recommended Christopher Moore's books to me over the years. I picked up a few of his books, A Dirty Job, Bite Me: A Love Story, and Lamb. The Serpent of Venice is on the list of Dipper and my books to read. I wasn't sure where to start, so a friend suggested I begin with A Dirty Job, since I'm a fan of stories that feature the personification of death.

The story centers around Charlie Asher, a goyim who is married to Rachel, the love of his life. Moore immediately establishes a few truths about our main character. He's a beta male. He's got anxiety. He's the proprietor of Asher's Secondhand. And he's a complete nebbish. His wife dies while giving birth, and shortly after, a man in a mint green silk suit comes into the hospital room and steals Rachel's Sarah McLachlan CD. Little does Charlie realize this is only the beginning.

What seemed like a random and senseless robbery turns out to be a definitive moment for Charlie. It's revealed that the man who took the CD is Minty Fresh, and he's a Death Merchant, which is not exactly as it sounds. Death Merchants have a special date book that names and numbers appear inside. The name is the person who will die, and the number is the amount of days the Death Merchant has to retrieve the soul vessel. Soul vessels pulse red, and basically the job of the Death Merchant is to get the soul into the hands of the next person it's supposed to belong to.

If the Death Merchant does not get the soul vessel, sometimes the Morrigan and Orcus lay claim to it. Orcus and The Morrigan dwell in the underworld, and they need to consume the souls so they can travel Above, and eventually claim rule over the world. Eventually the tension between the Morrigan and the Death Merchants will come to a head, when the Luminatus, or Death appears.

While Charlie is trying to get used to his new responsibilities, he is also trying to raise Sophie. However, not even that part of his life is carefree, because strange things keep happening. Not the least of which is when two hellhounds show up and watch over Sophie. Charlie has no idea how they got there, or who they're from, but as the story progresses and the stakes get higher, he's glad the hounds are there.

I hate to admit it, but it took just shy of forever to get into this book. Charlie is such a nebbish that a good deal of the book is hard to get into. The graph on the right shows my reading progress for this book, as logged on GoodReads.com. The saving grace are the supporting characters. Ray, a retired cop who works for Charlie and suspects everyone of being a serial killer, Lily the goth who also works for Charlie but is studying to be a chef, and Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev. The latter two women live in Charlie's appartment complex and take turns sitting Sophie. More often than not they offer comic relief. There's also Charlie's homeless friend, The Emperor, who thinks he's the emperor of San Francisco. His faithful canines Lazarus, a golden retriever, and Bummer, a Boston terrier, constitute his soldiers.

Once the story gets going, however, it really takes off! Once the darkness starts rising and the Morrigan and squirrel people get more prominent, the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. As a matter of personal bias, it definitely helped that little Bummer, the 7 pound Boston terrier, sees action against the Morrigan and winds up having a huge impact on the story's outcome.

I would recommend reading this book, and sticking with it. There is a follow-up called Secondhand Souls, which focuses on Sophie and the coming battle for the soul of humanity. This book certainly has my buy-in because many of the characters I came to really love appear in the second book. (I'm not going to spoil it, except for to say that Bummer is back in action...and a book with a Boston terrier certainly has my vote!)

Since I haven't read anything else by Christopher Moore yet, I can't really say if this is a better introductory novel or not. I think it really depends on what kind of story the reader is looking for, and what degree of patience the reader has in terms of waiting. Overall, I'm really glad that I took the time to finish A Dirty Job. It turned out to be the book I was looking for, even though I didn't realize it.

 

 

The end is nigh...or is it?

When I finished All Souls Day, I literally couldn't wait for the sequel. Well, as it turns out, we all have to wait because it's not ready. In the meantime, author Martin Berman-Gorvine asked  if I wanted to read another book in the meantime. I chose 36 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm interested in mysticism.

36 takes place in the future, after a third war has rocked the world. Eric Lonnrot, a detective heavily interestd in Jewish mysticism, has been researching people for years. He believes they are the tzadikim, or 36 righteous whose actions justify the continued existence of the world. Through his research, he notices an alarming trend - they're dying off. What's even more troubling is that they're dying off faster than they can be replaced. Lonnrot talks his friend Nahum Applefeld, who himself is a survivor of horrific genocide, to accompany him. Nahum doesn't share the same views as Lonnrot, but feels responsible since he's Jewish, and the idea of the tzadikim is a Jewish myth.

Lonnrot and Nahum's journey turns out to be more than they were expecting. There are glimpses of good, and terrifying abysses of true evil. Through accident and sheer coincidence, Lonnrot and Nahum also learn each other's deepest held secrets. Their friendship is tested, as are their ideals and worldview.

Nahum eventually splinters off from the quest and goes in search of his own answers. He has seen too much sadness, to much evil, too much horror. Even before he joined Lonnrot. He also begins to suspect that Lonnrot's motivations are not quite what he's letting on. Nahum begins to suspect that the journey has more to do with Lonnrot's own needs than that of keeping the tzadikim alive.

For his part, Lonnrot does experience growth during his journey. The more of good and evil that he sees, the more he searches his own heart. He begins to examine the choices he's made, and the life he's lived. There is a particularly dark period of his life that he begins to question. Was he just going with the motions of society, or is it really a reflection of who he is at his core?

I can't rave about 36 enough. It's two main strengths are the characters and Martin's ability to successfully world build. To the point where I found myself checking the web here and there to verify the reality of people and events in the book. He creates a world that is so different yet so similar to our own that it almost feels like a history book, even though it's obviously an alternate history.

Lonnrot, Nahum, and the other supporting characters all have depth. They are believable in terms of they could actually be people that you know. When they speak, there's a whole unwritten history below the surface that informs their choices and actions. This also leads into my point about world building. Not only are the characters three-dimensional, but so is the world in which they live. There are no lengthy explanations of events or political alliances between countries, yet somehow Martin manages to get all of his points across. The end result is a book that you can't help but fact check on the Internet because it feels so real.

Lastly, 36 will leave the reader looking into themselves. It's easy to sit back and say that if you were in someone's shoes you would be able to make better choices. When it comes right down to it, is that really the case? There's always more to the story than what we see in the beginning.

I recommend 36 anyone who is looking for a book that makes the reader challenge themselves and the accepted normalcy of society.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

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.

 

 

Friday, February 10, 2017

CONFIRMATION!

The other day, I finished and reviewed Death by Diploma, by Kelley Kaye. When I reached out to her and gave her the link to my review, she told me that she had just signed on for Book 2 with Red Adept Publishing! Book 2's working title is Poison by Punctuation.

I tried to see what she'd tell me about the book, and what I got in terms of insider info is that it's going to be much more intense in terms of the theme. I can't imagine it being more intense than the first book! Loyalty and friendship are strained and tested between Emma and Leslie. Will this newest caper separate the dynamic duo? Or will they overcome the odds, keep their bond intact, and solve the murder?!

Yesterday Was a Great Day

I'm going to apologize right away, because I have no idea what this post is about. I'd say it's slice of life, but it's more like random and happy babbling. If that's not your thing, I recommend that you check out the other posts, that revolve around more concrete ideas and reviews.

Lately I've been spending more and more time in the company of my Kindle Paperwhite. I'm not even kidding when I say that I take it absolutely everywhere with me. I thought I left it at home the other day when I went to work, and let me tell you, that was NOT going to fly!

I have mentioned in other posts that I have anxiety, and am trying to learn to control it better. It was suggested to me recently to have a cup of Tension Tamer tea every night before bed. My first night trying that particular trick was Wednesday night. Tension Tamer isn't a new tea to me, I used to love it when I was in high school. Although I have what feels like every tea ever produced sitting in my kitchen, that's one that I had run out of and never restocked, so I will be going to pick that up later tonight. Anyway, I decided to go with the next best thing - pineapple chamomile. I made a large cup of it, went to my bedroom, and proceeded to read while drinking the tea. I remember talking to my best friend on the phone, and I remember messaging with him. I remember my husband coming up to bed. And I remember saying goodnight to my brother, that I would catch him in the morning.

I woke up a few hours later, the bedroom light still on, face-down, my body hanging half off the bed (thanks to Zelda, she's an aggressive snuggler),  and my Kindle open a few inches from my face. My memory doesn't include the moment when I took off my glasses and put them on the side table, but they were there.

Yesterday was a really really good day all around. Work went smoothly, and then I got to go and visit Dipper and Phoebe. McDonalds is selling LEGO Batman themed cups with their Happy Meals. Luckily, you don't have to buy a meal to get a cup, you can purchase them separately. I snagged a red and orange for dad, a red and orange for me, and Phoebe got the orange cup with her meal. All we are missing now are the green and yellow cups. I bought what I thought was a Batman mask for Dipper, but it turned out to be a Viewmaster type toy. Explaining that to Phoebe was a riot! It was hard explaining what a kick-ass toy it was back then, especially when you're talking to a kid who plays games on a tablet in her hands, and can talk to anyone in the world with the touch of a button.

After we had dinner and checked out our cups, I pulled out my crochet. I'm working on a blanket for one of mom's friends. It's a wild colored monstrosity that I almost frogged and started over a few times. Phoebe was the one who encouraged me to see it to the end. It's definitely going to win the title of Most Colorful Afghan to Date. It's always dicey crocheting at their house, because Vampira has a way of playing tug of war with me. Usually she'll pounce on the yarn, tug on it, and then follow it right to my hook. When I was in Dollar General the other night, I picked up a pink plastic basket with a trellis design. It fits 4-5 skeins of yarn easily, and if I start out right, I can spool the yarn from the top without having to turn the whole skein. I put the yarn in the basket, sat it close to me, and began. I think I have momentarily outfoxed Vampira, but I don't expect that to last. She's really clever and energetic. I expect this method to hold up maybe one more visit before she finds her way around it. You can see her giving me what Phoebe calls "a look" in the picture on the right. After that she stayed close, thumping her tail and throwing shade at me whenever I glanced her way. Phoebe tries to help me distract Vampira, and I appreciate her efforts, but that kitty has laser focus when string is concerned! While I crocheted, we watched tv, and Phoebe showed me her new Monster High doll. Originally it was a Target exclusive, but Dipper snagged it off ebay for a reasonable price. It's the version of Clawdeen Wolf where she's dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. (Believe me, it's on the list of things I need for my horror-themed library downstairs!)

Dipper and I had a big brother talk, which I was very much in need of having. My anxieties have been getting the better of me recently, and when that happens, it sometimes is necessary to ground me in reality. After our talk, I feel much better. More secure, and in a better spot in general in regards to the anxiety.

As it turned out, Phoebe hadn't finished all of her homework yet. She still had to do her 20 minutes of reading. I'm so happy that her school has the students reading every night. Not only is it an important life skill, but it's fun. Phoebe was already sitting on the couch under her Wonder Woman fleece blanket, so she just needed me to grab my Kindle and join her.

Phoebe is reading a graphic novel called Smile, by Raina Telgemeier. She's really into it. She's in fourth grade right now, so the character in the story is close to her age. The story follows the author from grades six to high school. On top of everything else she has to deal with, she trips and falls, injuring her two front teeth. After that it's braces, trips to the dentist, and all sorts of coming-of-age obstacles. Phoebe would stop here and there to read me a few frames, or show me a picture. She's a very involved reader, often laughing out loud, or rolling her eyes when the characters do something silly. A few times, she pointed out to me how some of the characters weren't very nice to each other. Thus the difference between kids and adults. She thought it was mean. I thought the comments were pretty funny, as I read them as sarcasm. Phoebe's innocence and loving personality is like a little space heater. You can feel it radiating off her.

I'm currently reading 36 by Martin Berman-Gorvine, which is about the tzadikim. The tzadikim are, according to Jewish tradition, the 36 righteous who justify the continued existence of the world. In the story, Martin posits what would happen if something were to happen to the 36. It's a very dark, involved, and intense novel. I'm enjoying every page of it. Phoebe asked what it was about, so I shortened it. I told her it was two friends on a road trip. Which is not untrue. The difference is that Lonnrot is chasing the tzadikim to warn them that something is happening to the others, and Nahum is more or less along for the ride because he decided since he's Jewish, he feels responsible for Lonnrot following this "myth". It's a little too involved to explain to Phoebe, not to mention she doesn't have the educational background in fourth grade to understand the Holocaust or many of the motivating factors of the characters. That's alright. When she's older, that book will be waiting for her. She was satisfied with that answer, and we started reading.

As we sat and read, Vampira came over and demanded that I scratch behind her ears. She purred loudly, and for the first time ever, I caught her drooling copious amounts. Phoebe was overjoyed when Vampira hopped onto the back of the couch and settled down with us. It was fantastic! To the point where we actually read a little over the 20 minutes.

When I went home, I made some more pineapple chamomile tea, walked Zelda, got my Kindle, and hopped in bed to read. Zelda grabbed a chew toy and hopped up on the bed with me. The only thing missing was that it was a Thursday. That would have been perfect as a Friday so I wouldn't have left early!

 

Eric Pigors Swag!

I was not familiar with Eric Pigors until I met Dipper. One night at work he gave me an Eric Pigors book that he had doubles of and that was all it took. I was hooked on the creepy artwork and morbid subject matter. Last Spring, Dipper and I ordered some shirts off the website. I got a Lucky 13 Frankenstein baseball shirt, and he got a Ghastly Ones t-shirt.

For my birthday this year, Tkout spoiled me with an Eric Pigors hoodie, the new Rotting Caskets Funeral Home design. I am absolutely in love with it! The design is fantastic, and is printed on the back, hood, and one sleeve. It fits really well too. It features Frankenstein and his bride, as well as a ghost, and the usual noose imagery that I've come to expect in a Frankenstein design. As with any order, Eric also included some signed prints, business cards, and this time he sent along a die-cast sticker too. I intend to frame the artwork and hang it in the library. Everything was well packaged, and worth the wait!

Apparently going to his website is a dangerous thing, because I saw several patches that I am planning to purchase. I couldn't walk away empty-handed, so I purchased a makeup bag with a metric ton of characters on it, as well as the fact that the orange strap and outside are sparkly orange. It's technically a Halloween-themed bag, but I think I will be finding a use for it with my crafting items. If only so that I have an excuse to gaze lovingly at it year round!

With shipping, my bag came to $28. Normally I'm not the kind of girl that will spend that kind of money on a makeup bag. However, I know the quality of Eric's merchandise, and I can tell you that this item is going to be well worth the money. Not to mention, look how cool the design is! And it's lined with purple satin, my favorite color! The more I look at this, the more I think this would make an excellent case for the really nice crochet hooks Tkout purchased for me awhile ago.

 

 

 

 

 

It Was a "Horrible" Christmas

I know this post is wicked late, but that's ok. Last night, I collected my Christmas/birthday gifts from Phoebe and Dipper so that I could take a picture of them. The weekend of the 13th, we celebrated my birthday, Dipper's birthday, and Christmas. It was a wonderful night! We ate pizza and wings, watched Suicide Squad, Phoebe put together LEGOS, I crocheted, and we had a blast. Present opening was funny, because we had Zelda running around the living room the whole time, and she kept trying to see what everyone was doing, without coming in range of someone being able to pick her up.

I don't mean to brag, but I'm so happy with what Phoebe and Dipper got for me that I can't help but brag about it! The only words I can use to describe it are "spoiled rotten"! I couldn't have asked for better gifts.

  • Graveyard Print - Dipper got this awesome little print offline. I intend to frame it and then hang it on the side of the basement where my library is, as well as my writing desk.

  • The Casebook of Carnacki: The Ghost Finder - I haven't read anything of William Hope Hodgson, so Dipper decided I needed an introduction. This is also one of our Book Club books, which he has read first.

  • Bram Stoker's Dracula coloring book - Dipper and I were out and about one day and we saw this on a shelf. My eyes just about bugged out of my head. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to know that it was finally mine.

  • Joe R. Lansdale's Christmas with the Dead - I haven't unwrapped this movie yet, I'm waiting for Dipper and I to have a twin day so that we can watch it together. We both love Lansdale, I can still remember the day that I first found that out. I nearly fell over when I found out.

  • Dead Rising Watchtower - I haven't played the Dead Rising franchise much, but Dipper knows I can't resist a zombie movie. Bonus points in that I haven't seen this one yet. I think that might be on the docket for this weekend.

  • Kira and Fizzgig - When it was announced that Funko Pop would feature The Dark Crystal characters, I was hoping they'd have Fizzgig. He is, hands down, my favorite character in the entire film. He comes packaged with Kira, and the detail is fantastic. When Dipper showed me the article, I was freaking out. These were the ones I HAD to have. The others in the set are cool, don't get me wrong. But this is my favorite for sure.

  • LEGO Batman figures - Phoebe came into the house like a mini tornado. She handed me pink fairy Batman and Eraserhead, explaining that she wanted to make sure that I had Christmas gifts that I would always remember were from her. And nobody else. Pink fairy Batman is spectacular! Eraserhead is just kinda funny looking. Both make me laugh every time I see them.

  • Not pictured are the two comforters Dipper gifted us. I am so in love with the desert camouflage/fleece lined comforter that I have barely changed it out since I got it. The other one is a beautiful green-blue color, and I have yet to take it out of the package yet,


I will be posting another post later with pictures from our Christmas hangout, but I don't have them where I currently am. Phoebe and Dipper were delighted with their gifts, and the tree looked awesome (because Phoebe helped me decorate it!).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The 'Burbs Just Got Stranger...

Facebook has been buzzing about a new show called Santa Clarita Diet. Truth be told, up until last night, I didn't know anything about it except that it starred Drew Barrymore. In many ways, I'm tapped out on horror-themed shows. They're starting to run together for me, which is why I've detoured into Rick and Morty recently, which is satirical and funny and dark enough to get me through watching it. (Which, by the way, I will definitely recommend watching, though not with your kids. Unless you like answering questions about subjects not for polite company. If you do, well, your funeral. You know?)

Anyway, my friend Suzanne recommended I start watching it sooner rather than later. I've been working on an afghan for one of mom's friends, and since it's just a granny square pattern, it's not very complicated. That means I can start new shows or movies while working, otherwise I'd have to pay too much attention to the pattern. In any event, I figured last night was the right time to start something new. I went to Netflix, found Santa Clarita Diet, and immediately squealed with delight when I realized Timothy Olyphant played Drew Barrymore's husband! I absolutely love his movies, and am always up for anything that has him as part of the cast.

In any event, the show started normal enough. Barrymore and Olyphant live in suburbia with their daughter (played to perfection by Liv Hewson). They live in between two cops, pardon me, a cop and a sheriff's office employee, as the characters make a point of saying. Again, pretty normal suburban comedy set-up. Barrymore and Olyphant are a husband-wife realty team, and they're pretty bad at it. While showing a house, Barrymore suddenly gets violently ill, throwing up what can only be considered the modern equivalent of the pea soup scene in the Exorcist. On steroids. In a color I guarantee you've never seen before.

From there, the show goes flying off the rails immediately. The audience has an inkling that Barrymore is a zombie, but it's not until the neighbor boy (played by Skyler Gisondo) confirms it without a doubt. However, this isn't the usual zombie show by any means. Barrymore doesn't look dead. Aside from her penchant for screaming-rare meat, she doesn't look or act like the regular zombie. Again, our nerdy-but-lovable neighbor explains that in becoming a zombie, Barrymore's id has more or less just taken control over her. Which doesn't seem bad at first. She's more sexually free, and becomes a realty badass. But Olyphant quickly learns that there are some dark sides to her less uptight attitude.

The supporting cast is fantastic. Fan favorite Nathan Fillion is a rival realtor, and Patricia Belcher (of Bones fame) shows up as a bitchy ER nurse. From what I've seen, Belcher is only in on episode, and only for a little bit, but rest assured that she steals the scene. Character actor Patton Oswalt makes an appearance as a skeptical doctor at a local college. Fantastic!

Beware, the first episode is rocky. It feels overacted, and until you get used to the style of humor, expect some surprises. By surprises, I mean I watched the whole thing with my jaw dangling. By the second episode, I was irrevocably attached. Friday, there will be a marathon. Srsly. My only recommendation is to eat dinner BEFORE you sit down to watch this show. The first episode was killer, in terms of both vomit, and Barrymore trying to come to terms with her new lifestyle.

Even if I were to prattle on for hours, I couldn't begin to scratch the surface of how awesome this show is. The acting. The writing. The actors. The gags. What's possibly strangest of all, is how a show with such a wildly improbably premise can radiate such feel-good energy. The cast looks like they're having a blast, and as the audience, you just can't help but be hooked.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Not Your Average Mystery

I was approached by Kelley Kaye with a request to review her novel Death by Diploma. I have to admit, I didn't read the book description that she linked. She found me through our mutual friend, Stephen Kozeniewski. I decided to give it a go based on his recommendation.

I am extremely glad I went with the recommendation! Death by Diploma is not my usual type of book. It's a straight up mystery with no paranormal aspects. Whatsoever. However, what it does have is a rock-solid murder plot, two plucky and lovable heroines, and a whopper of a mystery. When it all fell into place, I was completely gobsmacked. I had no idea that's the direction in which the story was moving. The clues were easy enough to keep track of, but there were so many possibilities, I actually wasn't even able to begin guessing.

When the book first began, I thought it was a little rocky. When I perused the beginning of the book after I finished, I realized what I thought was rocky. The two main characters were friends, even though they were both females. Kaye didn't rely on cheap catty fighting to define her characters. They work together and form a very loyal friendship. Their personalities compliment each other, and even though Leslie is a fashionista, she's not a stereotypical stuck up girl. She's down to earth, fiercely loyal to her friends, and determined to find out who killed Melvin because she knows he deserved more than a gruesome murder.

The supporting characters are all really interesting as well. My favorite is Edward, the high-strung librarian. It's pretty clear he deals with anxiety, but he does his best to be a contributing member of the investigation into Melvin's murder. All the while trying to keep kids from lifting books from his library.

A special mention goes to the fuzzy cast too. Trinculo and Sir Toby. A calico cat and a sheltie, both females. They add a welcome touch of warmth and a smile. It doesn't hurt that they remind me of my own fuzzies, Chloe and Zelda, who are also a female cat and dog.

I have a little confession to make. I cringed when I realized this book was written about school teachers. I went to school to be a Spanish teacher, and did so for several years. As such, I'm always a little hinky about how teachers are portrayed. When it goes well, it goes very well. When it goes poorly, it's apocalyptic. Kaye shocked me by showing Emma, Leslie, and the rest of the teachers balancing their teaching duties with their concerns regarding the murder. It was only later that I realized Kelley was a teacher, that's why she writes them so realistically. I appreciated the little touches that she included regarding class schedules, and how treacherous it can be to navigate teacher politics. Especially when parents are involved.

I am so happy to say that Death by Diploma is listed as Chalkboard Outlines Book One. That means the readers will get to see more of Emma and Leslie's zany adventures. Even though I'm not sure I'll be diving into the mystery genre more than some Sherlock Holmes and the odd book, I will certainly be on the lookout for the next in the series. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a really good mystery tale with a little bit of love, a ton of friendship, and a whopper of a surprise ending!

 

 

Monday, February 6, 2017

More Bite than Sparkle

Before I start this review, there's a little bit of a disclaimer I need to go into first. Part one is that when Stephen was writing Hunter of the Dead, he crowd-sourced names off Facebook through a random draw on a post. I figured what the hell, and did it. I was one of the people picked. Therefore, should you take my sage advice and read this book, I'm one of the characters. When I was chosen, he contacted me, and asked if I had any requests. As I recall, I told him not to make the character suck (as if that were ever a remote possibility!)

The second part of the disclaimer is that I was approached to write a review, and gifted a copy. The price, was that I had to write an honest review. That's always a piece of cake with Stephen, because his books are fantastic.

All of that being said, I had no idea where the story was going when I started. I was pretty sure it was about vampires, and an elite vampire killer. But the story started off with what I thought were zombies. As it turns out, zombies are what people become if they can't stand the change to a vampire, or if their sire screws up the process. You see, vampires in Stephen's world don't need to drink blood after they get to a certain level of badass. They are able to draw the life source directly out of their victims. The zombies are the cleanup crew. As in, they come in and devour the remains of the meals. It's a mess, but there's always a bottom feeder, isn't there?

The reader follows several main characters throughout the story. Cicatrice is the most powerful vampire, he rules House Cicatrice, one of the 13 vampire houses. Otto Signari is his rival, the leader of House Signari. Topan is Cicatrice's get, but he is dishonored in favor of Idi Han. Idi Han was sired by Topan, and he to gain acclaim and respect by siring such a powerful get. Idi Han, for her part, doesn't want to be a pawn in anyone's game.

Just as there are vampires, there are also Inquistors, or vampire hunters. Bonaparte believes that the Inquisitors should centralize and put their strength together. Carter Price believes that it's better to go rogue, because then nobody can rat anyone else out if they're caught. When a vicious vampire attack at the convenience store where he works blows his cover, he's forced to take his shift manager, Nico, on as an apprentice. Disillusioned with the direction the Inquisitors are heading, Price bears this burden with no small amount of sass.

Amidst all of this turmoil, vampires start dying in rather large numbers. Too large for the Inquisitors to be involved, according to Cicatrice. He believes the legendary Hunter of the Dead has come back, but he's not sure why.

I really wish that I could say more about the book's plot, but I fear that I've given away too much already! There is intrigue, romance, mystery, and outright horror awaiting any reader brave enough to open Hunter of the Dead. When you're done, I highly suggest checking out his other novels. They're always fun, fast-paced, and well worth the read.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Choosing Appropriate Movie Content

When I sat down to blog, I wanted to finish recording Phoebe and my recent movie-spree. However, as I continued, I found myself defending my choices, which took away from the post too much. I also realized that I subconsciously had a rubric I ran the movies through before suggesting them to Dipper. I decided that instead of bogging down the other post, I would make this one separate.

There have been people who have questioned my choices, even though Dipper has approved them all. It may not seem like there is a system at work, but truly, there is. You see, I love Phoebe very much. I don't think I could love her more if she were truly my flesh and blood. For all intents and purposes, her and Dipper are Family. And I would die for either of them, just as quickly as I would die for Tkout, my husband. I realize that since Dipper and I are so close, and she and I are so close, I'm one of the people she looks to as a role model. When I struggle with my depression and anxiety, she's told me that I'm a superhero, because she sees me push through and do my best, even if that varies based on how sick I am that day. To that end, I believe the movies and images she's exposed to now will help shape the woman she's going to become. My hope for her is that she never forgets her own power and strength, and that she has the courage to push forward and meet her challenges head-on, and take her defeats with grace and no small amount of learning. She's an amazing girl, and I think the world of her. To me, she's already a superhero. The challenge is going to be to get her to see it herself.

The movies I show her are meant to entertain her, and sometimes teach her a lesson. Other times to give her positive role models. Every movie that we watch has gone through a checklist, provided below.

Content to Avoid: This obviously will vary a little in terms of what you find acceptable, this is just what I look for.

  • Sexual: I don't know how much she's heard from her schoolmates, if anything. I'm also not sure what her mom screens for. Kissing and other PDA is fine. The most sexual scene she's seen with me was when Alice and Spence are rolling around on their bed in Resident Evil. It's in a flashback, so it's choppy, and even though you get the idea of what's going on, there's nothing graphic. It's enough to suggest the nature of their relationship, and easy enough to pass over.

  • Sexuality: I consider myself open-minded. But I don't want to get into a discussion about sexual identity with a 9 year old who hasn't hit puberty yet. She's smart enough to handle it, and her parents are open-minded as well. But unless I'm asked, I'm not going to be the one to enlighten her.

  • Explicit Violence: Here's the thing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is vicious and bloody, but much of it happens off-screen. For instance, when Franklin is sawed in half, it's in the dark. You don't see it in bright light and CGI effects. I try to keep away from overtly gory content.

  • Rape: Sexual content and violence. This one I stay away from, even if it's hinted at, because I honestly wouldn't know what to say. There is never an excuse for rape, it is never justified. NEVER. Also, I don't want to be the one to tell her that the world is that ugly.

  • Religion: Some of the movies have religious themes, or plot points, but they aren't overly religious. I will answer any questions she has about my faith, but that being said, I don't show her movies that are heavily steeped in religion. Dipper has expressed his intent to help guide her in that path as he sees fit, and I willingly agreed to leave it to him.

  • Race: Children aren't born racists. I'm trying to find content that includes different nationalities, rather than highlights their differences. I in no way deny that racism exists, but I think that going out of my way to point it out is a form of racism. She's going to see it in action at some point in her life, and that will be a teachable moment.


Priority Content

  • Badass women: When I was growing up, you had to kind of pick and choose to find your strong women. Phoebe needs to grow up seeing Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) kick xenomorph ass in Alien, Alice battle hordes of zombies, Marian refused to be Indiana Jones' damsel in distress (in Raiders of the Lost Ark), and so many others. The occasional damsel in distress is fine. But, she needs to grow up knowing she can be her own superhero, and that being a girl doesn't mean you are a plot device in someone else's story. (Not to mention, the behind-the-scenes, such as Milla Jovovich designing most of her Resident Evil gear, which is probably why she gets progressively more badass as the movies go forward. Oh, and her stunts? Most of the time they're really her.) Not to mention, the Resident Evil franchise is loaded with strong women. There are main characters Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Even female characters who have supporting roles in one or two films are just as strong. There's Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), Nurse Betty (Ashanti), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Crystal Waters (Kacey Clarke), Becky (Aryana Engineer), and Angie (Sophie Vavasseur). Not to mention, there's representation in the franchise. There are strong women of Asian, Hispanic, and African heritage. Not just Caucasian.

  • Healthy male/female interaction: Look, I know this post sounds a little man-hatery. Rest assured, I don't have anything against men. My best friend is a guy. But that being said, Phoebe will have to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in terms of earning respect, working together, and living in general. She has plenty of time to learn those things, but I want to combat the idea that she isn't complete without a man. Or that she always needs a helping hand to get things done. I want her to strap on her own shitkicker boots and march confidently into situations. That's another reason I love Ghostbusters and Alien so well. In both, the women work alongside men, but don't rely on them. They work as a team, relying on their own smarts and teamwork. Suicide Squad comes to mind for this criteria too. When you look at the movie, it's primarily female-driven. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together the Suicide Squad. She gets Harley Quinn and Enchantress/Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). All of whom are really capable and diverse women. The supporting cast is pretty kickass too. Diablo's wife, Grace (Corina Calderon), casts her shadow from the grave, as the only person who could curb her husband's gangbanger side. Similarly, little Shailyn Pierre-Dixon shines as Zoe, Deadshot's daughter.

  • Healthy friendships: Finding a good friend is really difficult. It's important for her to grow up seeing people take care of each other. Especially women. Most women are raised to fight each other, to compete, to constantly view other females as enemies rather than allies. Again, I look to Resident Evil. Alice and Claire Redfield come to trust each other, and rely on each other as allies throughout the rest of the series. The Ghostbusters reboot, while heavily panned by critics and "fans", was based on the premise of four women combining their smarts and talents to stop the destruction of the world. They're not focused on their looks, or having sex with their stupid (and stupidly handsome) secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth.




  • Healthy body image/self-worth: There are a few movies I could site for this, but Ghostbusters is my favorite. The main women are varied in size and shape. Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, are all powerhouses. They share the screen and the gags well. Not to mention, the gags aren't about who's fat or sexy or stupid. All women are shown with talent, capability, and once Abby and Erin settle their initial differences, they proceed with a healthy and loyal friendship.

  • Life lessons: Yes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is terrifying. But you know what else it is? A life lesson. Don't pick up people on the side of the road, and in a larger sense, don't get too friendly with strangers. "Stranger danger" as it was called in my day, is a real thing. Possibly moreso now with the advent of technology that allows us to remain connected 24/7 to people around the globe. Phoebe needs to know basic truths to protect herself.