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I finished another book for my writing project over break! This one is "Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers" by Shozo Sato. (Like tea ceremony, flower arrangement appears to be seen in Japan as something either sex can do. Shozo Sato is a man.) I'm here to write a review.

One of the things I found interesting about this book is that, unlike the tea ceremony book I wrote about previously, this isn't a guidebook full of philosophy. This is a straight-forward and to-the-point crafts book. If you actually want to get into ikebana and make a simple start, this is definitely the book for you.

It has lists of materials and what each tool does, diagrams, precise geometric calculations, and basic lessons in three different styles of ikebana. There are lots of pictures and countless examples, each one explained in detail. Shozo Sato's abilities are even complimented by a grandmaster of a major Japanese school of ikebana in the foreword.

If, however, you're looking for information - history, philosophy, etc - this may not be best. While there is a brief history section, for the most part this is a craft's book. It's a how-to book.

It was an interesting read and if you want to get into the practice, I'd recommend it. One thing I learned is that ikebana is NOT putting pretty flowers into a bouquet. It's more like a kind of temporary, artificial sculpture using plant-based materials. Like tea ceremony, it has strong connections to the seasons and what each one signifies in nature (especially Japanese nature).

So if you're any kind of model or sculpture based artist, I'd recommend giving this a try. Just remember - the "sculptures" don't last very long! ;)
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I have finished another book - The Tea Ceremony by Sen'o Tanaka, translated into English - and, funny enough, it's about Japanese tea ceremony. I'm here to write a review.

I have two criticisms about the book:

1) It's very... technical. If you're not into technical details of a culture or ceremony, this may not be the book for you.

2) You should already know the process of a tea ceremony before you read the book. He doesn't really ever give you the whole picture. This is more of a book for someone who's already researched tea ceremony, at least online, and wants to know more about it.

With that said, it's a wonderfully detailed book. It goes into so many subjects in such an in-depth way, and is excellent at communicating the beauty and serenity of the ceremony itself through the various details and practices he describes. He even goes into the philosophy of tea ceremony, and its connection to Zen.

I also thought it was interesting that he said tea ceremony has always technically been a co-ed art, because I've always seen it as more of a feminine art. I've now started a new book on ikebana - Japanese flower arrangement - and this author is also male! It seems that Japanese men have much less compunction being what might be called "femininely artistic" than Western men do, which is something I definitely applaud. Yay for no defined gender roles!

Anyway, if you're interested in learning about the above, this is definitely the book for you. I used it as research for a writing project, and it provided all the detail I needed to deeply understand the subject - at least to understand it enough to write about it. This book and my online research together were enough to give me a good idea of Japanese tea ceremony.
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I know it's been a while... I've been so busy with classes, hanging out with my sister's and my mutual friends group, and I do at least an hour of creative writing every day.

But I just wanted to post this. This is so cool! I totally want this to happen to my ashes when I die!

http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/artful-ashes-memorials
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For Valentine's Day yesterday, I bought some Ghirardelli chocolates and went out to the movies with my sister and a friend. We were going to see Dead Pool. Perfect Valentine's Day movie, right?

I must admit, I didn't expect to like it. But I did. There was blood and violence everywhere, sexual jokes up the wazoo, and I still liked it.

The action was great, the romantic dynamic was perfect (they were perfect for each other - relationship goals), the main female character was both likable and interesting. The humor was genuinely funny. I think it was mostly in the delivery. Ryan Reynolds has always been funny, but here he really capitalized on that for the first time and that was fun to see.

I also liked the ending. For lots of reasons, but also because I liked how Dead Pool treated the main bad guy. I'm not going to spoil for anybody, but that was very satisfying.

I can definitely understand why it was rated R, though. Don't take your kids to see this movie. Don't be that douchebag who takes your kid to an R rated film, gets offended, and then ruins a potential sequel for everybody else.

I would watch a sequel. I would even buy this movie on DVD. I really liked it.

A lot of people are complaining that Dead Pool wasn't popular before this movie, but I kind of thought your favorite character becoming more popular was a good thing? Doesn't that lead to more movies, comics, and merchandise? My sister was always a huge Dead Pool fan, but I didn't really know much about him before watching the movie and now I'm a fan. Isn't that... a good thing?

I'm lost???

Anyway, I guess a lot of people are bothered by not having a date on Valentine's Day, but I'm not really one of those people. Relationships take effort, man, and I'm busy. I honestly had more fun with my friends than I probably would have on a date. Dates are nerve wracking and have expectations built into them. My ultimate dream is to find a guy funny and laid-back enough that I don't feel like he's putting expectations on me and like dates are a chore, but so far I have not found that guy yet.

Until then, my Valentine's Days are a friend zone. And I am happy that way.

Crafting

Feb. 1st, 2016 03:27 pm
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I decided over Christmas break that I needed something to occupy my mind that didn't require a lot of effort or forethought.

Bipolar people cannot achieve resting state neural connectivity. Research has proven this. What this is means is that we can't just sit around and do nothing and relax or be comfortable. We can't binge watch on Netflix or sit around watching TV, I even have trouble meditating without a guided audio to listen to -- the audio helps me focus my mind on something. I've talked to other bipolar people who experience the same thing -- an innate feeling of restlessness with doing nothing. You sit around doing nothing and your mind starts spinning and you start worrying.

To combat this, I have taken up crafting. More specifically, latch hooking. I may move on to sewing, knitting, and embroidery once I've mastered latch hooking. I usually have a mug of warm milk and calm myself down with some latch hooking at night before bed, or on a boring weekend afternoon. I find a good feeling fills me after I've done the crafting. So not only is it relaxing, it fills my brain with feel-good chemicals.

There's another problem going on concerning my bipolar disorder. I have a generalized, vague anxiety that follows me pretty much everywhere I go. My psychiatrist and I agreed meds aren't the answer, and the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques I've learned can only do so much.

Multiple people have talked about the option of an emotional support animal. I like the idea, I just don't know if I have the time and money to take care of an animal. If the animal were an officially trained service animal for psychiatric disorders, then it might be different -- I could take the animal with me to public places, etc -- but those apparently don't exist.

So I'm just going to have to go through my options and decide what I want to do here.

But for the most part, I've been feeling great lately. I've fallen into regular sleep and eat schedules, and aside from the occasional cold or bad experience I've been feeling calm and at peace. Christmas break was good to me and helped me gain some perspective.
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I just finished reading "Nappy: Growing Up Black and Female in America" by Aliona Gibson. I needed a book on female experiences of prejudice for my fem Naruto story I'm writing, and I figured that since I'm American and have taken classes in African American culture and become involved in African American civil rights, this was the kind of prejudice I knew the most about. I'm here to write a review of the book.

First, I would like to say that this book is surprisingly unique. I say "surprisingly" because it's the only book I could find that just straight-out talks specifically about black female experiences of prejudice. There are no other autobiographical details, it's not a fiction book or a book of poetry. It's a book specifically about one black woman's memories on what it's like to be a black woman. And in this area, it excels.

She goes through everything: the pain of prejudices based on appearance, experiences with men, and experiences of various places and cultures. She talks about how she's noticed black communities differ from area to area: East Coast, West Coast, and even Africa. There was a lot of invaluable information in there, if you were looking for it, about female experiences of prejudice in general. Fears of sexual assault, for example, or ridicule based on appearances that do not fit the "ideal."

It was not a very professionally done book and was obviously self published. That would be my only major criticism. There were a lot of weird spaces where there shouldn't be spaces, spelling and grammatical errors, etc. The book was also rather short, but I think it covered everything it needed to cover.

Overall, a good read, and I would recommend it. The book should be more famous than it is.
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I signed this petition and thought I'd give you a chance to as well. Here is the description:

The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies. More than 17 million people, including over 7 million innocent children, have been affected and rely on international aid to survive.

When I met my brave friend Muzoon, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee, she was living in a refugee camp in Jordan going from tent to tent encouraging girls to stay in school. While there, I saw firsthand how difficult it is to study or even attend school when there are few supplies, teachers, and little electricity.

This is why we are traveling together to the Syria Conference, where world leaders will come together to agree how much funding the world will give to education for Syrian children impacted by the conflict.

We will challenge governments to provide the money needed to guarantee an education for every Syrian child – so that they can continue to learn and build towards their hopes for the future.

The conference will take place on February 4th, so the time to act is now.

Join Muzoon and me in asking President Barack Obama and other world leaders to ensure that at least $1.4 billion dollars per year are dedicated to education for Syrian children.

$1.4 billion dollars may sound like a lot. But we did the math – it’s actually less than the cost of one World Cup stadium. In fact, it will only cost $1 per day, per child, to give every Syrian child a quality education and help ensure peace and a hopeful future. So this isn’t a question of money, it’s a question of will.

We all know how important and precious an education is to a child. As Muzoon says, “people fear that we will become a ‘lost generation’ but we are #notlost. We are the greatest hope for Syria's future and we must make sure the world invests in that hope through education.”

Please lend your voice to our call to fully fund education for Syrian children affected by conflict.

Thank you,

Malala Yousafzai & Muzoon Almellehan

Here is the link:

https://www.change.org/p/support-syrian-children-s-right-to-education-notlost?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=500574&alert_id=huSZawvCqA_DzP4olPUlEymSlCqX5ILXIuvZF6BjfkR8ujWA0Sb2FVim3rI9hCMyk9fpMG0RYcw
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I signed this petition and thought I'd give you a chance to. Here's the description:

My grandmother, Elaine Danforth Harmon, was a trailblazer. During World War II, Gammy, as we called her, enlisted in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was one of 1,102 women who risked their lives stateside ferrying planes, towing targets for gunnery training, and instructing male pilots. Sadly, thirty-eight of these women were killed during their service.

The WASP have been recognized as veterans by the Veterans’ Administration and were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Obama. Yet, despite their service, and ultimate sacrifice, the Department of the Army refuses to allow their ashes to be placed in Arlington National Cemetery like it does to their male equivalents.

Gammy was the most giving, selfless woman I have ever known. She hardly ever asked for anything, so when she did, my sisters and I paid attention. Her dying wish was to be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with the WASP and she lobbied for decades to make this happen. In fact, when testifying before Congress in 1981, she said, “it is our understanding that we are eligible for military funerals. If there is any question about it, we would like to have this clarified.” She wouldn’t give up on this fight and so, neither will we. This is why your signature means so much to us.

Join me in asking Congress to provide the clarification our Gammy asked for all the way back in 1981 which would guarantee the WASP full military burial rights in Arlington National Cemetery.

Gammy saw Arlington as a museum for U.S. military history and we believe the WASP have earned their place among their fellow servicemen and women. And it’s not just us who think so. Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ), sponsored a bipartisan bill that would restore burial rights for the WASP at Arlington National Cemetery, stating, “These women fought, and died, in service to their country. They trained in the military style: sleeping on metal cots, marching, and living under military discipline. They deserve the full honors we give our war heroes …”

Being part of the WASP and her service to her country was Gammy’s lifelong passion. It was very near and dear to her heart because she would do anything for her country, including risk her life, as she did while in service. By signing my petition, you’re not just helping us fulfill our promise to our Gammy, you’re also bringing justice and honor to service women who deserve full burial rights at our nation’s place of honor.

Here is the link:

https://www.change.org/p/patrick-k-hallinan-department-of-army-grant-military-burial-honors-to-women-wwii-pilots?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=497618&alert_id=hxDrnXxLRh_%2FqB9RnZuVD3Kqci9TZZKguM3KYtg7gzniTea6U%2BhhwM%3D
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I read this book in particular for a writing project I'm doing. I've read one book on astrology, one on personality psychology, and this one. I still have -- wait for it -- NINE more books to read for research before I even start the writing project I have in mind. It's a fanfic, which I contend can be just as cool and meaningful as regular fiction books. I will keep you updated on which books I read for the fanfic I'm researching. See the "fem Naruto story" tag at the bottom.

Anyway, I'm reviewing this book on yokai. It's called "The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore" by Michael Dylan Foster. I read all 244 pages in less than two weeks. It's a really great read. I recommend it.

What is a yokai?

It's a Japanese demon of sorts -- more broadly, a Japanese mythical creature that can perform dark acts. I began my fascination with Japan through watching manga and anime as a kid. From there, I branched off into learning more about the culture behind these fictions I loved so much -- I read up on Japan and took on several Japanese pen pals at one point or another, read and watched blogs and vlogs on Japanese travel, tried cooking Japanese meals, researched various aspects of ancient Japanese culture, read interviews of famous Japanese artists, watched Japanese films and sampled Japanese music. I know at least something of typical Japanese religions and philosophies. I plan on starting Japanese language classes this summer. The more I learn about Japan, the more I love.

Especially given my love of fantasy in Japanese anime, it only made sense for me to buy a book on yokai.

It was a fascinating read. A lot of elements from modern Japanese stories that I had always thought were random or made up -- it turns out? They were actually deliberately referencing ancient Japanese folklore! And I've probably only just scratched the surface. Isn't that great?

Even for people who are skeptical of why ancient Japanese folklore is important should read this book, however. Foster really gets at the importance behind yokai -- their various meanings, their cultural relevance (both ancient and modern, national and international), and how they help us see the world differently. He talks about yokai history and philosophical categorization, and only then does he actually go on to discuss the yokai themselves. He gives you good background reading before diving into the various yokai there are. I really liked that part of the book.

I think this would be a good textbook for a class on Japanese culture. That was one thing that really struck me as I was reading. And it was written in 2012, so it's pretty recent. He references a lot of Japanese scholars and has a native Japanese artist render his yokai drawings, has lived and studied in Japan for a time, yet is Western himself and so can explain Japanese culture to us in a way we would understand it.

That ends the "personality research" section of my writing project. I know how this female Naruto is going to be and how being (spoiler alert) part kitsune fox demon would affect her. Now comes the "experiences research" section. More fun times ahead!
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The first day of classes was rainy, but it was a light rain, little wind, and I had an umbrella, so that was no problem.

My first class was British Literature. We’ll be reading Mrs Dalloway, Hard Times, Frankenstein, and several others (the teacher actually forgot to tell us about one, which means I’ll have to buy an additional ten-to-fifteen dollar book off Amazon), and we’ll get to be creative in addition to being analytical. My idea of a perfect class! I’d had the teacher before, a peppy blonde woman who’s very enthusiastic about literature, and I like her, and I also was surrounded by several English major friends of mine that I’d had in previous classes. We sat around and had a lively conversation, talking and joking, before class started. The great thing about English majors is that they’re always up for discussion -- you never feel stiff, intimidated, or bored in their presence.

My business class, Promotional Strategy, was a little different. No one spoke or raised their hand at all -- I was the only one who raised my hand with a question for the entire class period -- and there was this intimidating kind of silence that no one wanted to break. The teacher, an older woman, talked really fast and then suddenly shot questions at us -- I could barely keep up with her. But I did raise my hand, and I talked with her after class about what assignments I should do, and she asked for my name and recognized it from an email about textbooks I’d sent her over the summer. So I think I made a good first impression.

I had very little homework that night, and then came a Thursday and Friday (no-homework days), and on Friday I had no second Promotional Strategy class, and then came a three-day weekend! So I was feeling pretty optimistic after my first day.

My second day of classes was also good. Sunnier, and I had a longer amount of time to sit and eat breakfast before heading out for the day.

I had been a little nervous about my Shakespeare studies professor -- besides the fact that he was an expert in Shakespeare, he had also seemed intimidatingly strict and old-fashioned in his beginning emails. But what actually happened is kind of funny. He’d mistaken the classroom number so we had to go find him because he’d been wandering the halls, lost. Once he got in there he turned out to be a nice, sharply dressed little old man. There was one moment of nervousness -- we’d filled out information cards for him, and he kept reading excerpts from the cards for the class, which we hadn’t known he’d do. But he just asked me about where I was from. Called the place name “exotic.” He seems to like the word “exotic.” Everything that’s not an English major from the school’s general region is “exotic” to him.

I took the bus back home for lunch and an hour and a half relaxation at my place. Then I went back out for my Advanced Poetry class, which was with the same professor I’d taken Intermediate Poetry with last semester.

Still the same guy -- had an existentially fraught hip flask (it doesn’t know whether it contains vodka or water, and neither does anyone else), liked the building where no one ever went, lots of interesting stories, hated assigning grades. It was soothing being back in an intriguing, familiar environment again analyzing poetry, so I really enjoyed that class.

The students in that class are always funny, too. We were in the geology building, and there was a picture of the Mt St Helens eruption in the classroom, and someone said that was like putting a picture of Hiroshima in a classroom in Japan.

"The circumstances were a little different," another person pointed out in amusement. "More people were killed in Hiroshima. There's also the problem of Big Intention versus Natural Disaster."

I love English majors.

I always reward myself after making it to that class, though, because it’s always in the late afternoon after I’ve already gone home from school -- I always have to go back to campus just for that one class. So as my reward afterward, I go to Starbucks and get myself a delicious little coffee. I sat at Starbucks for a while, just letting my mind unwind.

Now I’m back at home, and guess what? No homework, a short day tomorrow, and then a three-day weekend! And tomorrow I might be getting some new pajamas!

It’s been a great start to the semester!
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I signed this petition and thought I'd give you the chance to as well. Here is the petition description:

More than a year after police shot and killed my 12-year-old cousin Tamir Rice as he played in a park with a toy gun, a grand jury declined to charge the officers who opened fire on Tamir in less than 2 seconds of arriving to the scene.

My family is saddened and disappointed– but we are not surprised.

Since Tamir was killed, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has been on the side of the police -- manipulating the grand-jury process so that they would vote against indicting the officers. We need the U.S. Department of Justice to step in to conduct a real investigation into the killing of a 12-year-old child.

Even though video shows police shooting Tamir immediately, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire "experts" to try to exonerate the targets of a grand-jury investigation. These are the sort of "experts" we would expect the officer's criminal-defense attorney to hire — not the prosecutor.

He gave the officers special treatment which would never be given to non-police suspects.

The Department of Justice has launched independent investigations into police killings of civilians before. Last year, they launched one in response to the killing of John Crawford, who, like Tamir, had a toy gun in his hand while shopping at a Walmart when police rushed in and shot him to death. A Change.org petition helped make that investigation happen and that’s why I need your signature.

Please sign my petition asking the Department of Justice to launch a federal investigation into prosecutor McGinty's handling of the grand jury process; and for the killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice.

Here is the link:

https://www.change.org/p/department-of-justice-investigate-the-killing-of-tamir-rice?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=489170&alert_id=iPkkElmDnR_f%2BPqkJhfIwLBeC31t2SUk8vdYMlDQ%2B5Ues1Nyp3z1hmSZrIroGLv0T5OT9TVb9h2
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So I rented my first apartment and now I have my first landlord problems.

My actual landlord can't be reached. That's the first thing. It's only her assistant that can be reached, and her assistant has an attitude problem.

From the beginning of our time in the apartment, all the way back in August, our living room window screen has been broken. We put in an order for it to be replaced. It's January, and guess what? Still no window screen.

And now our sink and bathtub drains are plugged, our kitchen window won't lock, and our burners fill the air with the smell of smoke. We've actually had to disable the living room fire alarm because it won't stop fucking going off every time we make tea or turn on the oven. They've told us to put the fire alarm back in, but have offered no solution to our problem. We've put in a work order for the kitchen window to be fixed and that, too, has gotten no results.

So my Dad, who's paying for this shit, called the landlord's assistant today and started talking threateningly about safety hazards. He knows exactly what to say to make people scared he's going to sue them -- he is a businessman, after all.

Today, without warning, we heard someone rip the living room window screen off and storm away with it. We waited... the screen was never replaced. We had duct taped the screen shut, and we can see that the duct tape was ripped away so hard some of it stuck to the wall. Talk about an attitude problem.

Really? You have to understand, this is a nice place. Unusually expensive for the area. We're paying extra money... and it's for this kind of service?

UPDATE: Well, a plumber came by the next morning to fix the tub and sink, and he seemed perfectly friendly. So maybe it was just that one service worker who was an asshole, to be fair.
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So something bad happened last night. The thing itself is insignificant, just a small thing that wouldn't have bothered a mentally healthy person, one of those slight daily disappointments. Anyway, it's not worth mentioning. That's not the point.

The point is it was late at night and I was tired from rushing around over the past few days, and that plunged me briefly into horrible, horrible depression. I went from happy to depressed in less than 2.5 seconds. It was impressive.

It starts with exhaustion -- moodiness. I took a relaxing hot shower, trying to make the moodiness go away, and I felt a little better. Then me and my sister Skyped our parents and they all started laying plans for tomorrow, and I suddenly got so exhausted I retreated into my bedroom and shut the door.

There, with the lights off, I curled up on my bed in a little ball of misery and cried. I don't know why I was crying. There was nothing, except for how I felt, to cry about.

Here's the thing about depressed people: they don't want comfort. What they want is understanding. I literally Googled search images of depression, and the depressing messages in the pictures cycled me lower and lower into depression. It's cyclical. I started having suicidal thoughts.

I knew in the part of my mind that was rational and logical that I needed to reach out to someone -- that this was the only way to make things better. So, taking a deep breath, I went out into the living room and told my sister how I was feeling. It was hard. Very hard. And very scary.

By the way? Never reject a depressed person who has reached out to you. They may never reach out to anyone again.

My sister didn't reject me. She talked me through it, gave me a hug, and told me everything was going to be okay. I hugged her back and let a few tears leak into her shirt.

Then we had dessert -- birthday cake, pie, and wine -- and went to bed. I slept in unusually late this morning, and I woke up today and I feel perfectly fine. Maybe a little tired and irritable, but basically fine.

Bipolar disorder is weird.
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I am here today to wish my wonderful sister a Happy Birthday. I'm going to take her out to lunch and shopping later today, on her special day. She is my best friend and I love her dearly. So I'm here today to write a love letter about my sister.

Like me, my sister has a disability. I won't go into the details, because that's her business and she's very private about her personal life, but let's just say it made school very difficult for her. I say this to express my admiration of her determination not to let her disability define her or overcome her. She is the hardest-working person I know, with incredible perseverance and a lot of native intelligence. I wish I was as hard-working as my sister is. And it paid off -- she was a straight A student, has grown to love reading, and is now in college. She is a huge success story.

She is very responsible. She is always the first to take the initiative and do any chores that need to be done, she's conscientiously clean, and she carefully keeps all important paperwork and receipts in an organized place.

She's uncomplaining. My sister is very good at adapting to her surroundings and has a very "tough it out and make it through" attitude that I can really respect. Even though I'm the older one, because of my anxiety she's often the one helping and leading me. She's much calmer than I am.

She's caring and nurturing. Hungry animals and hurt people always find a home with her. Her friends command her undying loyalty, and she is very protective -- the kind of person who will punch you in the face if you try to harm one of her friends or family members.

She's a funny tomboy. She has a great sense of humor, loves goofing off, and can always make me laugh. She's great at clowning around. And she's definitely comfortable in herself -- she wears jeans and sweatshirts and baseball caps, loves Transformers and Pokemon, is mostly friends with guys, and is perfectly fine with that. Even when people have judged her for it, my sister has never been afraid to be herself.

She's great at video games. I say that because I'm horrible at them. She's good at strategizing and figuring out puzzles and can spend hours playing around with different video games, trying to get them just right.

She is a bit of a perfectionist, and that shows in her art. My sister is an incredible artist, both virtually and on paper. She may not be the fastest to get the art technique down, but her unflagging determination always ensures that she is usually one of the best artists around. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who admires her artwork. She has a great imagination and lots of artistic talent.

She loves horror, ghosts, and all manner of other eerie things. She wears lots of black and loves rock music. People have judged her over these things as well, but again she has never let that faze her. She is proud of her likes and interests, and is also proud of being a Christian and believing in God.

She's an interesting combination of introvert and extrovert. She can be very chatty, but she's not a big partier. She's more comfortable at home surrounded by people she knows well, and is not really into drinking or drugs.

She's a very reasonable roommate and house mate. She rarely gets angry, always says just what's on her mind, tries to accommodate, and is helpful and non-judgmental. My sister rarely judges anyone and is a friendly and accepting sort.

I have tons of fond memories of the two of us as kids. We would play dinosaurs, cheat while playing Yu-Gi-Oh, and pull the heads off our Barbies and switch them with each other's. (We were interesting little children.) We fought horribly sometimes, but always made up and supported each other even when no one else did.

She is an amazing person and I love and admire her. She is my closest friend, my greatest supporter, and my best defender. I can always come to her for advice. We spent our childhood together and have become adults together. We may fight, but at the end of the day we're very close.

Happy Birthday, sister of mine.
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Me, my sister, and my closest friend all had lunch together yesterday. We went to an Italian place and ate too much spaghetti and pizza and chatted. Then we went shopping around the nearby mall -- my friend bought some stuff from Old Navy.

We took our friend back to our place, where we sat around and watched movies (The Fault in Our Stars, Kill Your Darlings on Netflix). We were originally only supposed to finish Kill Your Darlings, which is about Allen Ginsberg as a young man, but then we got to the part where the two boys pretend to hang themselves, then fall off the chairs they're standing on and almost really hang themselves, then free themselves... and then laugh about it.

My friend and I, who both suffer from mental illness and have both been suicidal, felt so sick that we turned the TV off. We turned on The Fault in Our Stars instead and talked about how Augustus Waters doesn't use words like "metaphor" or "soliloquy" correctly. English major problems.

Anyway, there was lots of laughter and Googling hot celebrity guys, lots of movie analysis. It was fun!

Then we went with my friend's husband to a nighttime showing of Concussion with Will Smith, which was playing in the next town over. I don't have much to criticize. The movie was superb. Will Smith did the performance of a lifetime, and the movie was REALLY intense. Unlike with Kill Your Darlings, there was suicide in this one, but it definitely wasn't joked about.

I did like the message to Omalu's speech at the end, that people just need to know this is a risk in playing football. I enjoy football as much as the next small-town country gal, but I agree. People have to know the risks of what they're doing -- you can't just shut that up.

We had an interesting talk on the drive home later that night in the car, me and my friends. It all started with someone commenting in amazement that Omalu spent over 20,000 dollars on this personal research project into CTE. Then my friend's husband pointed out that with the houses Omalu owned and the cars he drove, as a doctor with several degrees, that might not have been such a big deal for him. He made the example of someone he knew: both he and his wife made about a hundred thousand a year, and this man decided independently to spend ten thousand a year to pay for the childcare of the daughter of a friend who was struggling. When he finally told his wife about it at the end of the year, she shrugged it off. Said she'd spent that much on a horse earlier this year. When you get wealthy enough, ten or twenty thousand doesn't really mean anything, the way it would to most ordinary people. We're not even talking about the top one percent here. Maybe, like, the top ten or twenty percent.

That's how we got to talking about how people spend their money. We talked about an experiment Howard Stern did -- he and his show gave a homeless man forty thousand dollars. The only stipulation was that they got to see over the course of one year how the man spent the forty thousand dollars. It turned out? The man bought a really nice coat and a hotel stay through the winter. But a year later, he was back in the same position he'd always been. It did not seem to have occurred to him that for forty thousand dollars, he could pay for a year of college and dorm living while looking for a job. For forty thousand, he could have bought a house -- not a great house, but a house. It's all about how you spend your money.

My friend's husband put it best with a quote from a book he'd once read. There's an old homeless man talking, and he says: "There are two kinds of poor. God's poor and the Devil's poor. God's poor are people like orphans and widows and those who would benefit from Christian charity. But then you have the Devil's poor, vagrants like me, who you can't help no matter what you try."

Unfortunately, there's a grain of truth in that.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I finished a 500-and-some-odd page book in two and a half weeks of winter break, and I'm here to write a review. The book is "The Paying Guests" by Sarah Waters.

Ahoy, matie. There be spoilers below.

"The Paying Guests" is really about the evolution of a relationship -- a lesbian relationship set in London in the 1920's. Frances Wray and her aging mother used to be very wealthy, but have fallen on hard times and have to take in boarders. Their boarders turn out to be a handsome young couple who on the outside seem to have the perfect life.

But looks can be deceiving. Both sides are hiding things. Frances's father squandered the family fortune, her brothers died in World War I, and she's had brushes with the law in the past at pacifist and feminist protest rallies and has had to turn away from a previous lesbian relationship to take care of her mother. Meanwhile, the young couple, the Barbers, have a crumbling marriage based on lies, adultery, and lost babies. (After miscarrying the first time, Mrs Barber actually gets an illegal abortion at two different points because she doesn't want her husband's baby, and one of the abortions is described in rather brutal terms.) Neither Miss Frances Wray nor Mrs Lilian Barber seem to have a happy life.

But they find happiness in each other. They begin a secret relationship, which is evolved slowly, and rather than this being idealized and romanticized, it's quickly shown that this falls apart. First, it's made quite explicit that carrying on any sort of homosexual relationship is insanely hard in this time period. But there's more. Mr Leonard Barber finds out about his wife's adultery, and -- quite hypocritically, since he's committed adultery himself -- he tries to strangle Frances. Lilian responds by killing him from behind. The ensuing scandal as they try to cover up the truth of the death from the police nearly tears the two apart as they begin criticizing and second-guessing each other's motives, the strain and stress of their crime weighing on each of them. (One interesting point: Lilian claims the death was accidental and she just wanted to hurt her husband, but she also got a great deal of money and newfound freedom out of his death, so Frances isn't sure whether or not to believe her. Since it's all from Frances's point of view, we never really know what to think of Lilian either. This is never quite resolved. Lilian's motives remain mysterious, perhaps even to herself.)

A few thoughts on the book:

You can't help but dislike Frances and Lilian for the last third of the book. You don't feel like you're on their side anymore. A young boy is about to be convicted for their covered-up crime, but they're going to wait until he's committed to the gallows before admitting their guilt. When he's set free by the court, they never admit what they did at all. It's a triumph for the characters -- they get to be together and at least somewhat patch up their relationship at the end -- but it's also a moral failure, and the characters seem very aware of that. Basically, they get away with at least involuntary manslaughter in order to be together. That the death was in self-defense is only part of the puzzle.

I didn't really like Lilian and Frances's relationship -- until the very end. When after it all, they have that quiet moment together when they sit in alcove on the bridge and watch the passersby, close together, and a completely silent understanding passes between them. Paradoxically, even though you've stopped liking the characters, you like the relationship. It carries a heaviness and subtext that the previous, somewhat childish relationship lacked. I liked the relationship better that way -- I'm not sure what that says about me.

The pacing was a bit odd. It was slow, of course, I've said that, but for most of the book it worked. For that last third, though... it just dragged on and on and on. I'm not sure if that was intentional, to get us into the characters' trapped mindset, or if it's just a failure on the part of the author. But either way, that last section involving the murder trial and investigation centered on the young boy was torturous and agonizing in its slowness.

Also, shoutout to the deliciously complex relationship Frances has with her mother. I really liked that part. Mrs Wray in herself is a bit boring, your typical friendly and gullible little old lady used to being wealthy and Churchgoing and doing charities, but put her together with her newfound lack of money and her rebellious yet responsible and duty-bound daughter Frances... oh, and interesting things happen.

Overall, it was a good book, as you can see by the fact that I read it in less than three weeks. I would recommend it to others.

Breakup

Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:38 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I broke up with Cowboy Bebop Dude today. It was really for a multitude of reasons:

- I didn't really trust him. I never felt like I could trust him with any personal details of my life. I don't know why, it's not like that with all guys, but I just never felt like I could trust this guy in particular.

- I never felt supported by him. I would tell him about bad things that were going on in my life, and he never really supported me, or even said anything against me -- he never really said anything.

- He was pushy. In a nice, subtle way, but still pushy. I told him I was not comfortable being physically intimate with him yet, but he would do things like move closer to me on dates, ask me for a time-frame for when we could be physically intimate, and invite me over to his place for the night after dinner dates.

- He wasn't big on family. This was a down side for me, because I'm HUGE on family, and unless your family mistreats you (which his didn't) I'm not impressed if you don't seem to enjoy spending time with them.

- He sometimes struck me as a bit whiny and dramatic. I canceled plans with him once during finals week, and he gave me a phone call -- right after he knew I'd had a huge, stressful final -- complaining in kind of a whiny voice that I never had any time for him. Sorry, dude, school comes first.

- And that brings me to my last reason: I might just be too damn busy with school to successfully carry on a relationship. At the very least, I need someone who understands that school comes first, like me. Maybe I'm just not ready for a serious relationship yet? Because this one very quickly began to feel like a burden on my time and energies.

Basically, he was attractive -- in an aesthetic sort of way, at least -- but problematic. Whereas my last boyfriend was blissful but physically unattractive.

My best friend and my sister didn't like him, either. My friend (the married one) gave the assessment that he seemed "clingy and immature, and only cares about being physically intimate." Not the first time I've attracted a clingy guy, funny enough.

My sister also never liked him, and she has good instincts. She thinks that might be why he was a boy in the feminist club in the first place -- and why he talks about how important women’s studies classes are to him so much -- to get sex. Well he won’t be getting any from me!

I waited until the holidays were over -- breaking up with someone over the holidays is a shitty thing to do -- and then I called him over the phone (he gets this really sad, pathetic face on when he gets upset, and I thought if I had to look at it I might not be able to go through with the breakup) and said this:

"I’ve realized something. I’ve been telling you that I’m not comfortable being physically intimate with someone I don’t know well, and I’ve also been too busy to have much time to get to know you better, and I’ve realized that’s not fair. That’s not fair to you. Or to me. We both deserve a better relationship than that. But I don’t have anything better I can offer at this time. I think the time is just not right for me to be in a relationship right now. I also think we seem to be looking for somewhat different things in a relationship. I’ve tried to tell you what I need, but I think our pacing in a relationship just seems too different for it to really work out. It’s not that I don’t like you, or aren’t attracted to you, or anything like that. It’s just that I feel this relationship isn’t healthy for either of us. So I’m breaking up with you.

"And I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but there’s really no negotiating on this. I’ve made up my mind."

I’ll give him this one, he took it better than I anticipated. He said, “I don’t agree that we should break up, but it sounds like you’ve made up your mind, so.” And then it got really awkward. We hung up soon after.

Honestly, I just feel so relieved. This huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's a good start to the year, not a bad one. Breakups have never really bothered me. I'm not a big cryer. I have a pretty huge "life goes on" attitude when it comes to losing people -- through death or through separation. It takes a really close person being torn from my life for me to get really emotional about it. I guess it helps that I'm usually the dumper -- not the dumpee. I've been called a heartbreaker -- jokingly, but still. I guess you could say I don't handle bullshit well and I have pretty high standards.

My Mom put it the best: "You, more than anyone else I have ever met, need to find an intellectual equal. Like Jane and Mr Rochester. And finding Mr Rochester is going to be hard."

In any case, what's done is done. We all have to just keep going and not look back, don't we? I'll quote Reba McEntire: "I'm pretty sure it's not the end of the world tonight."
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Tonight for New Year's Eve, we'll have shepherd's pie for dinner, then red wine and a tray of cheese and salami with crackers. We'll watch the Dick Clark show, hosted by Ryan Seacrest, and see the ball drop in Times Square at midnight from the safety and comfort of the TV in our living room. The countdown is always so exciting!

No wild celebrations, just a quiet evening at home curled up with a glass of wine and my family, and that's the way I prefer it.

Here are 5 things I learned in 2015:

- You can't save people who don't want to be saved. I had a friend who got caught up in over drinking and partying. Over and over again, she continued to gravitate toward people who treated her like shit. She eventually dropped out of school and I never heard from her again. I think she was ashamed. I tried over and over again to help her associate with kinder people, and do fun activities that didn't involve getting drunk, but she wouldn't have any of it. Some people you just can't save.

- You can seem really close to someone, but the two of you can go down completely different paths in life and you may never see them again. That happens a lot at college age. But it shouldn’t keep you from making new friends.

- It’s never too late to change your life around and make it healthier. Health often leads to happiness.

- Not every date leads to instant romance -- even if it seems like the first date went really well.

- It is absolutely possible for a guy to be reasonable and treat you well, and you should expect that, and even demand it. EVEN and ESPECIALLY when it comes to sex.

(For more on my relationship goals and what I've learned to expect from a relationship this year, I refer you to this magnificent article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natasha-craig/6-phrases-more-important-_b_6679492.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women§ion=women&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000046

Enjoy.)

And now here is my New Years resolution: to find my strong inner voice and to use it without guilt. I was inspired by this article. So much of it resonated with me:

www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-lindberg/why-my-new-years-resolution-is-to-gain_b_8881892.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women%3Futm_hp_ref%3Dwomen&ir=Women&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000046

I remember the first time I was ever called bossy. I was in elementary school and it was cooking day, so me and my friends were making pancakes. Kids kept crowding around the cooking table and impeding our work, so I began shooing them back and getting them all in a straight line. I will never forget the way my friends treated me with complete disgust. "We're done," they said, emphasizing the 'done', and I remember this crippling feeling of shame sweeping through me. The way they looked at me was very cold. The sad thing is, it was other girls who made me feel that way.

I always see that as a kind of beginning, because ever since I have always felt guilt, hesitancy, and uncertainty whenever I get too opinionated, or say something that might upset someone -- even if it's the way I really think. All too often in my life, I have stayed silent, not wanting to create waves. In high school, I was so careful about ordering people around that in the photography class I took, a girl accused me of having "no vision" because I was terrified of ordering my models to do what I wanted them to do.

Well I'm done with all that! This year, I will try the perhaps long process of finding my inner voice and using it to voice my opinions and instructions without guilt. Now, keep in mind, speaking your mind doesn't necessarily mean you have to be rude. I'm not talking about deliberately hurting anyone's feelings. I'm simply saying that I'm tired of staying silent -- tired of being embarrassed -- and tired of caring what other people think about me!

I'm finished!

So this year that is my goal. And while I'm at it, here is a toast -- a toast to a strong new year, and a new beginning!

With Love,

Grimrose Eilwynn

PS: Enter this door, but be warned: you will not come out in the same condition as you were when you entered it.

grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I have dedicated myself to writing one poem each day, on everything from political opinions to things going on in my life to media I enjoy. So far, my typical volume is two or three per day. Most of them are free-form, though I do have the occasional rhyme-and-meter poems and haikus.

Writing poetry every day is so much easier than I expected it to be. I always go back and edit later, and this, also, is going amazingly smoothly. It's so relaxing and it makes me feel so accomplished.

Once I have a big enough collection of poems, I may try to send them off to different magazines and see how they are received. They're very vulnerable poems, so the idea makes me a little nervous -- poetry for me is a lesson in vulnerability.

Me and my sister are also thinking about writing songs together once we get better at singing and the guitar. (I'm teaching her music based off my own years of experience taking lessons -- and I'm practicing basic technique in the process.) We already have eight or nine song ideas written down. Every time we come up with a mutual idea or experience, I jot it down for future reference. One thing being a writer teaches you is to learn when to recognize an idea when it comes to you.

Our future songs will have a particular slant, because I know that's important in marketing and selling your work. You've got to have a sound. If there's anything I've learned from studying other musicians, it's that. Our sound so far is encapsulated by what I call the three Fs: Fearless, Feminist, and Funny.

So much creativity going on. Fun times!

Star Wars

Dec. 29th, 2015 05:36 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters with my sister today.

And ohmyGod, guys. All the Star Wars. I'm full of Star Wars thoughts. Look what that movie did to me.

I wore my favorite cosplay/Halloween shirt. It says, "This is My Costume or Whatever." Me and my sister took the bus all the way across town to the nearest movie theater. It was cold. Like, really cold. And this skinny little old man on the bus kept shoving this mentally disabled girl, and she kept shoving him back. Then he moved to the front of the bus. Then she started shouting at him.

It was weird. I'm not really sure who started it, but finally the mentally disabled girl's handler finished it by telling them both, in so many words, to shut the hell up.

Me and my sister just Looked at each other. You know, like, "Holy shit. This is crazy." That kind of Look.

Then we got to the mall the theater was in, and there was a bunch of screaming kids in the lobby. Like, as in, they were actually screaming. Like they were in pain. And running around. I half expected it to go Jurassic Park and for a dinosaur to come around the corner chasing them at any second.

Why can't people control their fucking kids? Like, is that something I'm only thinking because I don't have kids? My Mom and Dad would never have let me get away with that shit. I think it's just a sign of a crappy parent.

But anyway, we finally got to the theater. We got concession snacks -- cookie dough bites and an ice cream sandwich. And we sat back, and enjoyed.

Now excuse me while I explode.

OHMYGOD GUYS REY IS SO COOL. SHE IS AWESOME. AND LEIA. AS A GENERAL. AND THE HUG.

AND THE HUG.

Also, what the fuck how is Kylo Ren THAT EMO? It must be hard. Being THAT EMO ALL THE TIME must be so hard. (Side note: Where are all his fellow students of Luke's? Did he do a Darth Vader and kill them all?) I really hope we're going to get more on why he turned to THE DARK SIDE or else I'm dismissing him as a SHITTY CHARACTER.

Fin was cool, too, but he threw his weapon away at the end to kneel dramatically at the injured Rey's feet. And I was like, "Really?" If a guy ever threw his weapon away to come to me, I'd be pissed. I'd be all like, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING GO KILL THAT SONUVABITCH, FUCKNUT."

Another thing that confused me: how did Fighter Pilot Dude survive? I mean, it's cool that he did and everything. It's just. How. If the Resistance saved him... why didn't they go get Robot Dude Whose Code I Can't Remember?

One thing: I was wondering why Harrison Ford got paid so much more than everybody else. And then there was that scene with Kylo Ren at the end. And I was like, "Oh. That's what they're going to do." I had winced. I was waiting for it when it happened.

I won't spoil for anybody, but afterward I was like, "Oh. That's why he was paid so much more than everybody else."

I'm not sure I liked Han Solo being that gullible, though. I guess we can forgive it, for... personal reasons.

Another thing that really struck me was how many different kinds of people were there to see Star Wars. I saw little kids. Teenagers. Parents. There was this cute, tiny little old couple sitting next to us, and in the dark on the way out I stumbled over someone's feet.

"Sorry!" I said immediately. "Can't see in the dark."

"Oh, don't worry about it!" said the little old lady. "I'm short, my feet hang!" She stood and so did he and they let us pass. "May the force be with you!" she added brightly on our way out.

We grinned. "May the force be with you!" we returned.

The bus driver on the way home was funny. "Does it always have to be aliens?" he asked incredulously. "Isn't anyone interested in reality?"

"Of course it always has to be aliens!" I returned, faux indignant.

There was a physically disabled man on the bus, and he had a walker, and the bus driver didn't want him slipping on the way to his doorway, so he just went off road. He drove off the road and straight over the side of a snowy hill and got the guy right up to his front door. It was so badass.

The bus driver got back into the bus after helping the disabled man out. It was dark and late and we were two of the only ones left. "You didn't see that, did you?" he asked gruffly.

"We didn't see anything!" my sister and I returned earnestly as one.

It was a great day. Weird, but great.

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Hopeless Dreamer

March 2016

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