Saturday, December 29, 2012


I wrote this post a few months ago but was waiting to post it until I got a video edited. In lieu of learning how to edit videos, and in order to keep 2012 in 2012, here is now. :)


This year, I decided to participate in the Homecoming alumni band for the first time. As a band member in college, the alumni band was so not cool, and homecoming was my least favorite game of the year. I distinctly remember being annoyed at how the old people didn't hold their horns level, and looked ridiculous both attempting and deciding to forego marching traditional step onto the field. They sounded bad, dealing with all the extra people at rehearsal slowed things down and was boring, and they used flip folders for their music. What I didn't understand was how incredibly fun it is for them! You don't have to be in fine physical form, you don't have to memorize the music, you don't have to learn a marching show — you just show up and play! And if you're lucky, some of your old friends are also there to help you remember the silly cheers and relive everyone's most embarrassing moments in band.

Carly's tongue, Julie, and Becky headed to morning rehearsal.

Leading up to the weekend, my friend Julie and I were really worried we wouldn't be able to play because it had been so long. We exchanged emails about how we really should get out our horns and practice, and how we had expected to receive music by now. Walking into rehearsal on Friday, I was sure I'd made a mistake and I should leave. I'm not going to lie, that first rehearsal was a little rough. But a few runs through the traditional songs reminded me that (most of them) weren't so hard for 3rd Trumpet, and I could still play them and remember the horn moves at the same time.

Game day was awesome, and that's saying something because it rained all day! Rehearsal and marching to the stadium were a bit chaotic — not a word I have ever associated with band before — but once we played on the steps of the stadium for the assembled masses, it felt right, and I was delighted to be back.
Julie and I not at all nervous in the tunnel.
In the tunnel leading onto the field before the game, Julie, Becky, and I wondered how we were supposed to line up for the pregame performance on the field, as no instructions had been issued. A fellow alum heard our ponderings and asked if it was our first time in the alumni band. We admitted yes. "It'll be fine," he said.
"But we don't remember what yard line we are supposed to end up on!" we said.
"It'll be fine," he repeated.
It was fine, but we looked awful!

He also said he'd been back for more Homecomings than for games he had marched in college. This thought gave me pause. As fun as it was, maybe return trips should be used sparingly over the years so as not to eclipse the actual event. Or maybe the whole point is to remember and preserve tradition through making new memories during frequent returns, because the memories are going to slip away anyway.

"Why are we soaking wet, Becky?" "Because we've been outside in the rain for hours, Rachel."

But for that next time, I'm going to eschew the idea of practicing my trumpet beforehand. It doesn't matter what you sound like. Instead, I should consider lifting weights to reengage those arm muscles needed to hold my horn up for 5 minutes straight during a song. For extra credit, I could try to rememorize in which order to play those 5 notes for any given traditional song (I heart 3rd part!).
I was surprised that I was not one bit nervous in the tunnel, which was a welcome departure from tradition! Before the physically demanding pregame performances in college, I would feel very nervous, which manifested itself in yawning and irrational, sudden fatigue. This time, I don't know if I forgot that I would be performing in front of a 100,000 people (probably fewer due to the weather, but I'm using science math (work joke)), or if I felt safely anonymous in the disorganized throng of alumni band members. The spectators are pretty far away, most of them don't care, and none of them have a clue what you're supposed to be doing either.

I was also surprised that so many of my non-band friends expressed that they were proud of me for participating. Fact: I have pretty great friends. But I had no idea I could elicit their pride by playing a trumpet poorly and "marching" in a disorganized mass across a football field. However, I am honored to have gratified them by my participation.

Becky, Andrew, and Rachel: a handsome trio of alumni.
I wish you all an opportunity to partake in your own "homecoming" back to an event, place, or experience that meant a lot to you and feels like home because of the wonderful memories that still reside there. It is like watering the garden of memories that brighten the landscape of your soul.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Career Cookie Men

Darth Vader, an astronaut, and a guy in a leisure suit.

A cookie can grow up to be anything! But no matter what they become, their careers all end the same... in my belly.

(Cookies decorated by Matthew, Jessica, and Rachel, respectively.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pen of the Month Club / Pen #2 / Bic Clic Stic

Worst Aspect

Best Aspect

Best and Worst word clouds made with Wordle. Beautiful purple pen in last handwritten picture courtesy of my December Pen Pal, Becky! It's a Stabilo. I looooove the color. You will probably see more of it used in future pen club statistics!

Monday, December 3, 2012

In Which Many Things Are Power Lifted

The Annual Christmas Tree Procurement Excursion took place yesterday. It is a tradition that we go with our friends Becky & Andrew and Jessica & Brett to help them pick out trees, because for allergy reasons we do not get one ourselves.

It is also a tradition, started by Becky, to power lift the fresh cut tree:

Andrew does his Arnold impersonation to the delight of Rose.

Matt did, however, pick out the tree he would have chosen for the three-story foyer we don't have:

I'd like to see him power lift this!

There were a lot of good trees to choose from this year, and Andrew found a tall one he liked fairly quickly. Jessica and Brett were a bit more choosy, but in the end found a great little tree with a good top that wasn't too big around the middle:

Jessica and Brett: proud new tree (and soon-to-be baby) parents

Per tradition, we then encouraged Brett to power lift the chosen tree:

Brett hoists his prize for all to see.

Rose, not to be outdone, found her own tree to hold aloft:

Like father, like daughter, but without the grunting or Austrian accent.

Caught up in the spirit, suddenly everything was fair game for lifting:

Audrey couldn't be more delighted to be free of her baby carrier.
Rose doing her best tree impression.

Once that was accomplished, it was time to haul the trees back for shaking and binding:

Matt needs a printer power cord to drag.

And take them home:

Photo taken before Jessica and Brett's tree nearly slid off.

We had fun! I was hoping to recreate the famous 2010 "Rose and the Rabbit of Terror" picture with Audrey, but she's still too small. Maybe next year. And then maybe the year after that with Jess's little one. It's good to have traditions!

This is one of my favorite pictures ever.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Early Indicators of My Life to Come

I recently found a sheet of paper that I had begun to cover with lists, circa 1997 or 1998. It seems like maybe I was going to make a scrapbook or something because there are notes like “picture” or “draw” after some things. This was during an era when I used lined paper but didn't respect the margins or the lines. I remember thinking I was conserving paper? Let me be clear, though—the lines of writing are still parallel to the lines on the paper. Not diagonal or anything. There was method amidst my madness. Left brain and right brain each asserting themselves.

The following are a selection of the more amusing/notable lists, with my present day thoughts about them in [brackets]. It is amusing to see what is the same and what has changed since nearly half my life ago.


Favorite Food:
  • Cool Whip [heck yeah!]
  • cheesecake [over it]
  • steak [I am my father's daughter]
  • pizza [always and forever]
  • fruit
  • OCPs [Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies]
  • mushrooms [really?]
  • fruit snacks [meh]
  • turkey
  • grease [ew. Did I mean, like, greasy foods? Like french fries?]
  • ice cream
  • baked beans [srsly?]
  • cocktail shrimp
     [notably missing: Bacon, and my childhood favorite mashed potatoes]

Favorite Clothes:
  • yellow sweater
  • bleached jeans [??? perhaps I meant normal jeans that had gotten bleached accidentally?]
  • long sleeve overshirts [by this I totally mean oversized men's button-down shirts, which remained a favorite long into the 00s, and which I'd probably still be wearing now if my husband hadn't intervened]
  • socks [all of them]
  • Nikes [sandals]
  • Dr. Martens [brown boots; still have!]
  • yellow scarf
  • purple hat [fisherman's style, plaid; still my favorite hat to wear on vacation, as seen here]
  • corduroy pants
  • white t-shirts

  • Mike [boyfriend]
  • email [nerd! Also, emailing aforementioned boyfriend]
  • Nintendo [N64: GoldenEye, Mario Kart, Mario 64]
     [These could have been so much worse, amiright?!]

Favorite Subjects:
  • Math
  • Stats
  • French
     [It wasn't until Math 285 (Honors Calc 3) that I realized math is hard, and I should be a Creative Writing major.]

Favorite Movie:

Favorite TV shows:
  • Hogan's Heroes
  • Cartoon Planet [Space Ghost]
  • JAG [only because I watched it every week with my dad when I went to his house for dinner]

Favorite Colors:
  • Yellow
  • Blue
     [destined to be a Michigan Wolverine]

Favorite Stories/Books:

Favorite Songs:

     [Redacted, or rather omitted and saved for a future post. There is just too much to analyze there!]

Favorite People:

     [Redacted to protect the relationships I currently have with the people who didn't make the list!]

Favorite Verses:
  • Joshua 1:9 - “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Ephesians 4:26b-27 - “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”
  • Philippians 1:3 - “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
  • Psalm 23 [punctuation is important! “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” vs. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Silly King James Version. It might have been clearer if I had learned the New Living Translation]
  • Romans 12

Future Plans:
  • get married
  • be happy
     [Check and check! But perhaps this lack of vision explains why my 20s were so directionless.]

Misc. Dislikes:
  • pants with hammer-holders from my childhood [seriously, why did these exist? I owned zero hammers as a child.]
  • yellow and green together [Attributed to my strong dislike of the Oakland Athletics baseball team as a kid.]
  • puzzles of nature [??? Oh, Matt says I probably meant jigsaw puzzles of fields and flowers, which I still dislike! Not like the Fibonacci sequence.]
  • soft chalk [dunno why this was a thing]
  • flirty younger boys [SERIOUSLY! I never went out with anyone younger. Apparently I found them all impertinent.]

Misc. Likes:
  • Dr. Pepper lip balm
  • writing utensils [woo, PotMC!]
  • jewelry
  • quotations
  • containers
  • creative writing

  • loneliness [cliché, but understandable]
  • tape/stickers [this has lots of caveats, but we all get one irrational fear, right?]
  • carrying too much [I got over this one, because it is apparently in my nature to carry a lot of stuff at one time, but I still don't prefer it]
  • criticism [ditto “loneliness”]
  • working hard [I don't recall what I was getting at. Did I fear a life of laboring in the fields?]
  • being tardy to class [not because I would be late and miss something, but because it was “wrong” and I was/am a rule follower]

Thursday, November 29, 2012


At work, I have an extra seat by my desk that hangs out in the corner waiting for guests. It is a small wheeled stool shaped like a bongo drum, and so is affectionately known as a "bongo". There are two other bongos in the office. I keep one by my desk because I have a big open corner without any filing cabinets or tables in it.

The bongos are a little lower to the ground than most desk chairs. They aren't ideal for long chats, or working at one of the built-in desktops. However, they are superb for speedy, dangerous, across office travel (Traveling on a bongo is best done backwards, hence the danger).

When people come to chat with me, they might roll the bongo up to my desktop and sit next to me. It feels very conspiratorial and fun. Other people lean into the corner and sort of slouch down. I think they might be using it as a hiding place, which is also fun. I am glad they are relaxed enough in my cube to make themselves at home and position the bongo for their own personal comfort.

Some people come to chat and eschew the bongo altogether. They either lean on my short wall Charlie-Brown-and-Linus style, or they hover about in the open area behind my chair. These are the people with larger personal space bubbles, the over-caffeinated, or the uninitiated to the goodness that is a bongo.

A catalog of the people that come to chat with me, and their bongo-using habits:

Conspiratorial Bongo Sitters Corner Hiders Wall Leaners Hoverers
shammer, RPAT, Becky, NiBo jpak, HotRod, NK EBAR, DHIL, FFAR, JBON BREA, CGAT, CTAY, NK, Becky (when she mistakenly thinks our conversations will be brief)

When I use a bongo, say, at Becky's desk, I tend to kneel on it, so that I am high enough to use the desk behind her properly. And then when I want to move in closer to her computer, I pull myself around the corner without getting up. Occasionally I fall off the bongo in a slightly embarrassing way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gourd Carnage

Around Thanksgiving, everyone feels sympathy for turkeys, even if we still want to eat them. But let's not forget that it is also a rough time for gourds, a popular herbivorous Thanksgiving meal. Sensitive readers be advised, the carnage can be disturbing:

Eye gouging.
Total evisceration.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

All Good Gourds Must Come to an End

He got the rot.
Rest in peace, little misunderstood mustachioed pumpkin guy!

*plays taps*

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Self Motivation

For your reading pleasure, I have unearthed some poems that I wrote back in high school when I fancied myself a poet. Or maybe my English teacher required a certain number of points be acquired through "Self Motivation", and she scored original written works higher than the worksheets she provided, so I was lazy and used silly poetry to accomplish my Self Motivation requirements quicker. Also, she pretty much ate up whatever I wrote. Thought she was crazy at the time (she barked at my sister once--like, literally looked at her and said "woof"), but since then I've reflected on her encouragement many times and been quite grateful for it. Honest admirers of your work, even when you think they're crazy or your work is unworthy, are a treasure not to be slighted.

Without further ado:

Gus (a limerick)

There was a boy named Gus
Who went out to wait for the bus.
He got sprayed by a skunk
and, oh, how he stunk!
And that's why we didn't want him near us!

(a perfectly sensible thing to write about!)

A Think

As I sit alone and try to think,
I think of you and what you think.
I wonder what it is you think
and why you think the things you think.

Sometimes when wondering of what you think,
"What is thought of me?" I think.
I hope the thoughts of me you think
are like the thoughts of you I think.

Very special are the thoughts you think.
When you tell me your thoughts, you make me think.
Then I go off and have myself "a think".
I can only think of you.

As I sit alone and try to think,
I think of you and what you think.

(see? I was always like this!)


The wind was blowing the leaves.
They flew off the tree.
The leaves landed on the ground.

The sun is shining brightly.
The water sparkles.
Animals enjoying spring.

(lame sauce! but I got 8 points for it!)

Ode to the Stressed Out

Arise you stressed out worriers!
Forget your troubles for now!
The spring has come at least,
To wipe the pressures from your brow!

Behold the shining sun,
And the gentle breeze blowing.
See the flowers growing,
And the sweet blue river flowing.

So forget those things that leave you annoyed
Irritated, confused, and depressed
And head for the sunny fields
To look past the fact you're a mess.

(these last two were clearly written in spring, which indicates to me that the end of the year was fast approaching and I needed to get those Self Motivation points in!)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Emo Rachel Feels Misunderstood

I seem to have developed this intense panic over being misunderstood. The mere possibility of it sends me burbling into clarifications and palpitations, which only serve to further discourage understanding me at all!

Is being misunderstood really the worst possible thing that could be happening to me?

Generally, thankfully, to-date, my life has not hung in the balance due to an "understanding" of my thoughts, motivations, or intentions. If a friend doesn't understand me when I show him a pumpkin and say "I carved a new pumpkin today" and instead hears "I carved you a pumpkin today" and takes it, will he threaten my life when I try to explain what I actually said and take the pumpkin back? No! If I choose to let him keep the pumpkin without clarifying my original intent, will my husband murder me because I gave a gourd to another man? No! Okay, I get that, and I'm thankful that those are not the kinds of relationships in which I am involved.

But what about the longer term effects of that misunderstanding? Will my friend wonder why I carved him a pumpkin? Will he think I am nicer than I really am? Do I deserve to be thought of as nice if I didn't actually intend to be? Was I nice in the end anyway because I didn't make him give it back? And what of my other friends, will they be jealous that I did not carve pumpkins for them, and wonder if I like them less? If so, should I quick go carve a bunch of pumpkins and distribute them?

Or what if I write a blog post and I don't edit it enough--I don't do a good enough job explaining my thoughts, somebody reads it and thinks I'm a jerk? I mean, I might be a jerk sometimes, but I don't believe my heart is a jerk. My intentions are not jerky. Will my readers give me the benefit of the doubt? Have I given them enough reason to?

And put those two together: what if my friend reads this blog and thinks I'm a jerk because I didn't tell him about the pumpkin thing, didn't try to clarify enough?

I make light of my crippling panic by explaining it in a story about gourds, but the panic is real, as are the incoherent burblings and downward spiral of self-doubt that occur when the stakes are higher than autumnal decor. Being understood, itself, is a basic human desire, right? But why do I fear being misunderstood so much? It happens all the time! Communication is hard! Everyone has been guilty of failing to understand another, and everyone has been misunderstood. Consequences range from things getting overlooked, to relationships getting screwed up, to healthy limbs getting amputated. No amount of worry or panic or words heaped on a subject can prevent misunderstanding from inevitably happening.

Hmm, that seems like reason enough to panic, no? Or at least to practice vigilance against misunderstandings--by explaining the heck out of everything!


(because I don't want you to think I'm over being misunderstood just because I figured out it's a problem and blogged about it)

For the record*, I want you all to know that I am very happy that my friend has that pumpkin. After my cold heart became confused and worried about what just happened, I realized that it rather warmed my heart back up again that he liked it so much. He even gave it a mustache for Movember. I will post a picture of it on here soon, provided we are still friends after this latest communication fiasco in the long string of communication fiascoes that seemingly make up all of my relationships, and I don't find its remains smashed on my doorstep.

*I say that phrase a lot--I bet it's because I want to make sure you have a nice concise summary of what I'm thinking ;)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Peafowl Update

I have a little sad news to report on the Peafowl Watch. My sister writes:
The brother/son peacock that wandered off through the neighborhood wasn't seen again, and the poor guy who had his feathers ripped out was killed on the road. We've still got Mom, Dad, and one son, and they come around for bread and crackers together in the evenings. The Mom had some eggs a couple of times over the summer, but they didn't make it. The males lost all their pretty feathers (naturally) over the summer and are now growing all new ones, so that should be pretty. I call the one who comes to the step and peers in for snacks "Buddy" and the other two Mom and Dad.  The three of them are running around together now, and Buddy is always the one who comes to the step and gets me to throw food for everyone.
Previously, I had reported that it was the Dad who had his tail feathers ripped out by a dog, but now I'm not sure if it was one of the sons instead? My sister says her neighbor, their owner, might not be able to tell one from the other, either. Regardless, we're two peafowl down! I have high hopes for Buddy, though, as he sounds a little smarter than the others. Here's hoping the rest can all stay away from the road, dogs, and other mysterious disappearances!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Delightfully Dated Bulidings and Signs of Myrtle Beach

[I hope, dear reader, you appreciate how much I edit out the crap I consider putting on this blog (despite that crap that makes it through). Sometimes it's exhausting quality checking all my ideas, but I value carefully curated collections and data. That's the burden I bear. #EeyoreMoment]

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Suck at My Religion

Not so long ago, The Oatmeal guy wrote a comic called “How to suck at your religion.” I think he has some really great points about hypocrisy, but it was his closing point about keeping your religion to yourself which convicted me that I do, indeed, suck at my religion.

Here's why: If I believe what I say I do, why don't I act like it's the best thing in the world? Why don't I go around saying “Hey everyone, there's hope for us all! Hope for a life full of meaning and worth in the midst of this imperfect and struggling existence”? Because wouldn't that be a message worth spreading? Is a religion even worth believing in if it isn't worth sharing? If it were an inconsequential belief, it might as well just be an opinion, like “I think Andrew Garfield made a better Spider-Man than Tobey McGuire.”

It's so much easier to assert things that are inconsequential. If you agree or disagree with my above statement regarding actors, it doesn't matter, because as long as we all stay sane and sober, it won't come to fisticuffs. The worst thing that will happen to our friendship is that you'll shake your head and vow never to invite me to the movies with you.

But when I make assertions about my life-course-altering belief in a God who knows us personally and loves us fully and wants us to know him personally and love him fully, there's a lot more to take issue with. Again, probably not to the point of fisticuffs (because do fisticuffs ever actually convince someone to change their mind?), but now the worst thing that can happen to our friendship feels a little worse, which is that you invalidate my life's purpose and meaning, because you reject my God. (Some may not equate rejecting another person's god with rejecting the validity of the person's faith in that god, thinking everybody should believe what's right for them. For me, though, I don't see the point in believing in my god if I also think yours might be okay, too. Acceptance of multiple conflicting ideas precludes the notion of truth.)

I allow my reluctance to be rejected coupled with my unwillingness to force my beliefs on anyone to render me silent on the subject of religion, even amongst my closest friends. While I don't think I should foist my beliefs on you, I do think I should get over my fear of rejection, because that is how I'm sucking at my religion! Because I really do believe there's a God and creator who wishes to bestow grace and blessings on us if we're willing to accept our need for them, and I really do believe faith in such a God makes a worthwhile difference in my everyday life. If I truly believe that humbling ourselves to these facts is the only way to find true peace and perspective in this world, then it is very selfish of me to not share that hope of peace with you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Love, Honor, Cherish, Always

Who can tell me the color of love?
Who can paint me its portrait?
Who will teach me how it bends and curves?
When it breaks, who will help me mend it?
Who will share the quotidian as well as the struggle and recovery?
And when we are weak and our love needs revival who will remember its ancestry?

For me, it is Matthew. He has painted me a portrait of love in a rich burgundy that flourishes all over the canvas in elegant scripts. He is my buddy, my baby, and the other half of my brain. I love him very much!

happy anniversary, baby!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue

My kind of football: beautiful weather, great seats, a ridiculously comfortable winning margin for my team, and free tickets. #goblue

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Pen of the Month Club Pen Preference Profile Results

The Pen of the Month Club is a real thing that's really happening! All because of you, my 22 lovely pen-loving friends! Thanks again for coming on this adventure with me. I am loving the PotMC emails and discussions, and it has been a lot of fun to purchase, package, and deliver the first pen.

As promised, here are the results of the PotMC Pen Preference Profile survey that I sent out to members to discover what kinds of pens they like. Drawn largely with my collection of Sharpie pens, I took this opportunity to experiment with different visualizations of the same kind of data ("check all that apply" for a given category). I tried to channel my inner Tufte, but admittedly, it's been a while since I read his book, and I dropped out of the Data Visualizations course in grad school after 1 class.

For those of you feeling like you are maybe missing out on a little something special, you can still enroll for October, and begin enjoying the emails now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, displays an intriguing juxtaposition of old and new, industrial and historic. On my recent visit to and from the Lehigh Valley, I tried to capture the cute, the quaint, the inspiring, and the unusual things we saw and experienced. We technically stayed in Hellertown, but we spent a lot of time visiting the sites and driving around Bethlehem. As I endeavor to do on every vacation, I shopped and ate as much as my budget, stomach, and companions would allow. It was a good trip.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Foregone Conclusions

I eat therefore I spill.

I dream therefore I write.

I lose therefore I gain.

I gain therefore I lose.

I care therefore I stress.

I love therefore I cry.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pas Mon Jardin

les fleurs dans le jardin de ma mère
Factual Statements:
  • This is not my garden.
  • This is my mother and stepdad's garden.
  • I lack the patience to learn any real photography skills.
  • I lack the patience to learn any real photo editing skills.
  • Sometimes nature is so pretty, it demands you take its picture even if you don't have photography skills to do its beauty justice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Introducing the Pen of the Month Club

[EDIT: The Pen of the Month Club is no longer seeking members under this structure.] 

The Idea

You like pens. Maybe one day you'll even find the perfect pen. But there are still so many left to try! You like having a lot of pens to choose from, but you wish you didn't have to buy a 5-pack just to try one out. You wish you were a member of a pen of the month club or something so you could try new pens and discuss their merits with other pen enthusiasts.

You do? That's perfect! I'm starting a Pen of the Month Club and I'm looking for friends to join! I want to send you pens, for fun, to gather your opinions, and to bond over a mutual interest. Doesn't that sound like so much fun???

Wait, you're telling me that you aren't really into pens that much? As long as it writes, you're happy? And you don't care what color it writes as long as it isn't orange? First of all, that's probably because you use a computer too much. Stop reading this blog right now and go pick up an honest-to-goodness book. Second of all, come back and let us make a pen lover out of you! You probably just haven't found the right pen yet. The Pen Of The Month Club is exactly what you need!

You're ready to sign up? Great! Get on the email list, and then get super excited for your first pen. I can't wait to get started!!

The Plan

I have no idea if or how this is all going to work, so if it does, I'll refine the process as we go. But, here's what I do know:

The first pen will be the Sharpie pen, of course! Towards the end of the month (September, in this case), I'll send out a web survey to PotMC members to gather some stats so I can report back the findings. And then we'll do it all again the next month with a new pen. Yay!

While I gauge interest and figure things out, the club is my gift to you. I want to share what makes me excited! If you already have a sampling of Sharpie pens and don't want another, sign up to let me know that you're going to participate in the club/survey, but write in the comments of the form that you don't need me to send you another one.

The PofMC email list will deliver updates and reminders, and possibly animated discussions about the ink flow of a Pilot G2 versus a Uni-ball Signo. Sign up for the email list now to find out!

[EDIT: The Pen of the Month Club is no longer seeking members under this structure.]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Afterwork Paintball

I ran through the field with my hands up, surrendered. I just made it to the sidelines before I realized I was exhausted, I couldn't see through my steamed up visor, and my ankle hurt like the dickens. I dropped my gun, and then myself, to the ground. As the adrenalin's magic wore off, I assessed the ankle with several tentative rolls of my foot. Pain. Definite pain. “Just shake it off,” I told myself. “That's what you're supposed to do. Stretch it, tape it, and be ready to get back out there for the next round.” Wait, what? I must have been thinking I was an athlete in the Olympics. But I'm just a normal person and I'm probably really injured! Oh crap.

Fortunately, when I stopped irritating my ankle by trying to stretch it out, it worked fine. I came home and iced it with my trusty Spiderman ice pack and now it's mostly better, provided I don't twist it up and in, or do any sudden pivoting. The real, lingering pain is not the ankle, or the paintball collision sites, but my quads! Holy out-of-shape-muscles, do those hurt!
Spidey to the rescue.
At the time, I was blissfully unaware of all the crouching and ducking I was doing, or how my actions were targeting only one sadly unprepared muscle-group. But hobbling around the office these past two days, I quickly discovered I'm not alone in grunting down the stairs or sighing loudly every time I stand up. I may not have really enjoyed the experience while I was out there, or in the middle of the night while I rehashed what I wished I could have done differently, but I have honestly enjoyed the shared experience of pain that followed. My friend asserted that the real “team building” part of the adventure did not come from merely going out after work and playing paintball together, but the experience of discussing it and trading war stories afterward. When he said it yesterday, I was too caught up in how tired and miserable I was to realize the sagacity of such a statement, but after today's continued unified commiseration, I think he's absolutely right.

Already crouching. Little did we suspect the outcome of our actions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012 Olympics: Victory and Defeat

The Thrill

Oh Olympics, you were so much fun! It's amazing that nothing makes me more of a couch potato than two weeks of intense competition by the world's best athletes. You'd think for spending two weeks doing nothing but couching it I'd be restless to get out there and do something, but the truth of the matter is, I'm exhausted! I'll miss the abs, seeing the adorable Duchess of Cambridge in cute normal clothes, and the emotional highs of victory with none of the work, but I need a break. I won't really miss the disparaging commentators, the insensitive interviewers, or the social media updates by Ryan Seacrest that I always fast-fowarded through, but I'll be glad to take a break from seeing Olympic rings tattoos, hearing Michael Phelps's name, or rolling my eyes at Bob Costas's snarky transitions.
This was real grass. And they rolled it up and carted it off mid-ceremony.

Great Britain proved itself to be as quirky and adorable as I expected. Their opening and closing ceremonies were whacked out and strange, but there are so many British celebrities to call upon and salute that it was easy to overlook some of the crazier artistic decisions because moments later the delightful David Beckham would show up on screen.

I'd say the real winners of these Olympics were the makers of that Physio or Kinesio tape or whatever, amiright? That stuff was everywhere, and sometimes so awkwardly positioned poking out above and below the shorts. I remember Keri Walsh Jennings sporting it in Beijing (time out: Keri, seriously, no hyphen? If you gotta be like Misty May-Treanor and take two names, couldn't you guys at least agree to the same convention?), but this time it was everywhere.

The Agony

But let's discuss a few monumental failures of the Olympics experience for a moment, shall we? Not of the games themselves, but of the shockingly dissatisfying experience of watching them on NBC. I get the delay, okay? I'm not gonna rant about the delay, because I do work during the day and am fortunate to be in the group of people to which "prime time" television caters. (Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the NBC Delayed twitter feed, though.) I'm cool with avoiding spoilers on the internets during the day so that I can come home and experience how the events unfolded in all their suspenseful drama. But that means NBC had at least 5 hours to edit together a coherent and interesting story of how the events unfolded in all their suspenseful drama!

The worst offenders of this choppy and incoherent story-telling were the gymnastics broadcasts. Gymnastics, like Track and Field, is one of those sports where multiple things are happening at once. This can pose a challenge, but on many occasions while watching I was uncertain if I was watching something that happened while I'd been watching something else, or something that happened the day before. And I didn't know if I was being shown it because it was interesting due to the eventual outcome, or what. I really needed a "Meanwhile, on the parallel bars..." or else just pretend it's happening in one linear timeline and leave out the past tense language! I wouldn't know, and I wouldn't have to try and figure out if you are trying to give me dramatic irony with your commentating or if I can just tune you out like usual. Because seriously, it's best just to tune you out. Or mute it and provide my own commentary of "That was a HUGE mistake" whenever anyone takes a step of any size.

It also wasn't cool with me how in the men's gymnastics team final you got me all invested in the American dudes, but after showing a few bad routines on pommel horse, you ditched them completely to show me some other countries' teams, who I hadn't seen compete at all, sitting around for 15 minutes waiting for the results of an enquiry (And yes, I looked it up, it was an Enquiry with an E). You couldn't even montage together a few of the other 9 routines the US team did even though we all knew they were out of the medals?

And while we're talking about things you didn't show, what about the still rings? Did you forget about that apparatus until you couldn't avoid it any longer in the individual event finals? There may not be as much flying through the air as the high bar or the vault or floor, but the still rings are some seriously cool strength work.

And while we're talking about talking about things NBC didn't show, did you know that the London 2012 Olympics had an official song? It did! And did you know it was performed at the closing ceremony by a popular British rocker in a seriously sparkly suit with a fierce backup choir? No? Oh, that's because you live in the US. No worries, me and Perez Hilton got you covered.

I could go on and on, but as previously stated, I'm tired, and I need a break from all this. Can I pass the torch to you now, and will you add your beefs with the Olympic television coverage to the comments? NBC needs to know (and I'm sure Bob Costas reads my blog)!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Checking In On My 2012 Resolutions

Read More
Status: Pretty good, actually.
So far this year I have read 9 books. This will be 9 more than some of you, and a lot less than others, but the point was to consciously read. I have read 6 paper books* and listened to 2 audiobooks**. The first 4 were in January during which I was aiming for a book a week and just made it! Ideally, I would be reading these books critically—for style, pacing, and storytelling techniques—but usually I get lost in the story and forget to pay attention to that explicitly. I did write 2 reviews and posted them on Goodreads, though. There are a bunch of books that came out recently or will come out in 2012 that I want to read, so maybe I need a new mini goal. Seven more by the end of the year? With reviews written for at least 3?

Write More
Status: You're reading this, aren't you?
This is going well! Sometimes I even get up an hour early to write. Thank you for being a motivator, my dear reader. Your comments to me here or in person fill my heart with glee and make me want to write more specifically for you, my preciouses!

Revise a Novel
Status: There's still time!
I picked a drafted novel, and I've pondered the series of events in the plot and how to make it better. I think I even figured out some compelling motivations for my characters. I just need to block out some time to really get momentum on this. It takes several days to load the story all back into my head, and I think it will take a least a month to do a round of edits with all the rewrites that need to happen. I think, but have no real idea, that maybe after a third tidying round, I should be ready to show it to some readers. That sounds fun in a way that never did before. I think this blog changed that. Which is flipping awesome.

Do Something With Wedding Photos
Status: Any time now...
I'm supposed to be the project manager for this, but I'm not doing so well. I have a project plan, I just need to give myself deadlines and get my husband and photographer on board with them, too.

Say 'No' More
Status: The bar was low, so, success!
I had to make this a resolution because I didn't know how I was going to prioritize any of my other resolutions without deprioritizing something else. A lot of these deprioritized things only affect me, but I have to practice letting other people down, too. I think I've said 'no' twice this year. Sorry if you were one of my successes, but thanks for helping to make me successful in this and other goals.

Take More Videos
Status: Success!
I've remembered to use my phone to film my cat, concerts, and nature. I have even shared these videos on youtube and my blog. I haven't learned how to edit videos yet, but maybe next year. I have enjoyed trying out a new art medium.

But at what cost has adherence to these resolutions come? Well, I kinda stopped exercising this year. And I'm pretty bad about calling my parents or far-away friends. I have also cut back on helping with house and yard projects, though a few major ones have still managed to get done. The laundry and the dishes get done somehow, but I'm doing a lot fewer craft and sewing projects.

Overall, I'd say not too shabby on making progress on these resolutions! I mean, other than the biggest one which is still totally hanging over my head because I'm procrastinating...

The Obituary Writer, by Porter Shreve
Obedience, by Will Lavender
Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde
One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde
The Host, by Stephanie Meyer
Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman
Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer (re-read)

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, by Wendy Mass
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mon jardin, il est vivant!

Well, my garden may not actually be alive again, but at least this clematis revived enough with the paltry rain to produce a few more blooms!

Friday, July 20, 2012

I should let myself fail more.


I have twiddled around these six words and others for a long while now, trying to find the perfect combination thereof. But today I decided to take their message to heart, however imperfectly presented, and just post it.

It's not that I want to fall on my face more, or look stupid more. It's that I need to toughen up my face a bit, and stop needlessly feeling stupid. Perhaps everything that isn't a resounding success isn't a what-were-you-thinking-that's-the-worst-idea-ever failure, either.

Part of me is really bothered that I'm going to hit "publish" after I finish adding caveats and explanations. There's no poetry there, and the general flow of words regardless of meaning doesn't sing. And there's no indication of where emphasis should be placed, no helpful additional punctuation. Is it even proper English?? I could save myself this embarrassment and these lame excuses if I hit delete instead.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dans Mon Jardin en Juin, Vous Auriez Trouvé...

[In my garden in June, you would have found*...]

une belle pivoine
[A beautiful peony]

les petites fleurs roses
[Little pink flowers]
beaucoup de fleurs violettes
[A plethora of purple clematis]
les roses rouges
[Red, red roses]
Mais maintenant, en juillet, vous trouverez...
[But now, in July, you will find...]
les pivoines morts
[Dead peonies]
les petites fleurs brunes 
[Little brown flowers]
pas de fleurs violettes**
[No purple flowers]

les roses séchées 
[Dried roses]
un chat avec les yeux fous 
[A crazy-eyed cat***]
*I'm not gonna lie, I had to look up the past conditional conjugation, among other things...
**I really thought this should be "rien de fleurs violettes" but Google Translate insisted that I was wrong
***In truth, the crazy-eyed cat was always there. I thought maybe he would scare off people coming to the door asking me to sign petitions or buy magazines, but alas, no.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Anyone Who Converses With Others

Do me a favor and try not to unnecessarily over-analyze passing comments that somebody makes. Or short exchanges. Or a thing someone said but the conversation wandered off before the thing was elaborated on. For one, because I'm already doing that about my own words for you, wondering what you heard and if I misrepresented myself, and secondly, because I tell myself you won't, to quiet the self-criticism looping in my head (as if repeatedly replaying the conversation will be penance enough for expressing those carelessly constructed notions).

I generally start over-analyzing my words shortly after our social interaction, and imagine that you are doing the same: "Why did she say that?" you wonder, or "Did you hear what Rachel said to me?" you ask your spouse. And then you sum it up: "She's weird" or "She's not very nice." I don't allow you to give me the benefit of the doubt by saying "Maybe she didn't mean it that way" or "Maybe she didn't hear me correctly," so I begin thinking through a whole list of things I could have said differently, to be less awkward and more gracious, and to express what I really mean and feel.

In these imaginary followup conversations with you, you're really nice and just let me talk it out. In fact, you don't say a word. You just listen. Unfortunately, if I'm particularly troubled over what I said, I have a tendency to take your silence as confusion, or worse, contempt. My heart races as I explain to you as clearly as possible in as many ways as possible what I'm thinking. My adjectives get stronger as I'm desperate for you to understand. By the time I'm just flat out swearing and my blood pressure is doubled, I realize you are not actually hearing any of this, and furthermore I probably won't ever say any of these things to you in real life.

It is then that I do myself a favor and convince myself you are not the over-analyzing type.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Not exhaustive, in no particular order, to oppose the stressors list:
  • my cat's soft fur
  • a warm breeze
  • the sound of waves meeting the shore
  • Jet's pepperoni pizza
  • the 2nd glass of a good wine
  • a midday nap
  • dangly earrings
  • my sparkly ring
  • jumping face first into waves
  • a crisp, flavorful bacon specimen
  • a really good cup of coffee
  • the darkness and quiet of night (outside of the city)
  • Lake Michigan
  • the shape of Michigan
  • feeling pretty
  • bridges (of songs)
  • well-crafted story plots
  • the smell of books (like the smell that wafts out of the Grad library before you even get in the door)
  • office supplies, specifically writing implements and paper
  • making something instead of buying it
  • experiencing a good book for the first time
  • giving handmade gifts
  • connecting with God
  • logic
  • playing Boggle
  • the physical act of writing

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Sundowner

Welcome to The Sundowner, Northern Lake Michigan's Premier Invitation-Only All-Inclusive Resort! Owned, operated, and custom-designed by the Shirkey family, this beach-front property has stunning views of Lake Michigan with gorgeous sunsets over the water, more activities than you could possibly fit into a weekend, and amazing dining experiences that will make you forget all about that last great restaurant meal you thought you had.

Highlights of your stay will include:

Hammock time

Frisbee on the beach (merged photo taken with the ActionShot app on my phone)
Hand-cranking your own ice cream
and delicious meals! (vegetarians, gluten-intolerants, and bacon-lovers all welcomed and accommodated!)
BFF not included, unless you retrieve her from the airport on your way up. Her flight gets in at 9pm. Hope you don't mind driving 5 more hours! (She's worth it!)
In short, a super fun way to spend a weekend, and I didn't even get to mention the board games, the hot tub, the welcoming accommodations, the blueberry banana pancakes, searching for beach glass and Petoskey stones, or the trip into town to Tom's! And that was just in this 36-hour stay! Stay longer to enjoy the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, Manitou islands, wine tours, etc. But really, why would you leave the Sundowner when you can spend the afternoon doing this?