Posts Tagged ‘Personal’

Disney March Madness 7: The Semi-Finals and Finals

August 25, 2018

Bracket

We have come down to the wire so this entry is going to be more about the impressions I got from the final four films both initially and over time. As we get into the nitty-gritty, I am going to drop a spoiler warning here just in case.

Moana vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Moana was a revelation for me when it was released. It continued the evolution of Disney Animation Studios that Frozen had started. It took lessons learned in movies like Frozen and The Frog Princess and took them further. Moana was just such an interesting character. I could feel her frustration at not being able to satisfy her curiosity and her wanderlust. Having dreams but never getting to realize them is a very human experience. She also felt like I did as a teenager. You are tired of listening to your parents but you know they are both right and wrong about everything. Last time I did not talk alot about the grandmother character but she was so important. Most of us have that family member (or more than one) who wink at us and agree that our parents are full of crap. They encourage us by treating us like a human being rather than a child. Their behavior toward us is not as colored by fear for us and the other biases that a parent has. Moana is also about our internal compasses. There is that moment in our development where we stop using the compass that our parents and loved ones provided for us. We start to make decisions on our own. Sure that leads to us making a few mistakes but it is important to make our decisions and plot our own courses.

In direct opposition to the Moana, let us take a look at the love story in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Whereas a lot of previous Disney films had romance as their main plot, it is a subplot in this movie. Jack is not looking for romance like many Disney Princes or Princesses. He is looking for something that is missing from his life but it has to do with lacking a feeling of fulfillment in his life. As expressed, it is mostly focused on something lacking professionally. For Jack, the love story is treated as a bonus. It is something that he did not need but he allows himself to have in the end. Also, Sally is not your usual female in a disney animated film. She is not a damsel in distress and in fact she spends the whole movie trying to save Jack in somewhat of a reversal. As a literal captive, Sally wants a new life just as much as Jack does. On top of that, she repeatedly forgets about her own plight when she sees him hurting. She feels bad for her friend and wants to see him happy again. In turn, Jack sees her as a good friend but he loses sight of that due to depression and then excitement. When they come together at the end it is two friends who realize they fit together. They love each other and they are ready to start again at a new level.

Main Character: Both main characters are relatable to me but Jack edges ahead by being more universally relatable.

Supporting Characters: Nightmare has a lot more supporting characters than Moana. One of Moana’s is The Rock but each character in Nightmare is given a lot to do and a lot more personality.

Villain: The main villain of Moana has no lines while Oogie Boogie is one of the most dynamic villains in animation history.

Music: This is tough. I would actually say that Moana’s Lin-Manuel Miranda just barely beats Danny Elfman’s music.

Story: For me, the story of overcoming depression is more impactful than a journey to fix the world and find your place in it. It just felt more real.

Animation: While Moana’s animation is smooth and beautiful, there is something about the novelty of good stop-motion animation that just feels better to me.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Coco vs. Inside Out

In Coco, Miguel is forbidden to play music and, possibly because of that, he is drawn into it further. He slowly develops a love for music and he seeks to achieve his dream of becoming a musician like his ancestor. I know a little bit about that. When I was in high school, I wanted to study theater in college. I was told that I should minor in theater so that I had a back-up plan. To me, that felt bad (though in hindsight it was spot on). When my folks told me that I could apply to major in theater, it was such a validation of my feelings and my dreams. In Coco, Miguel gets to have that same feeling. His living family tells him that he cannot pursue music. He travels to the underworld and his family there also tells him no and he is given the choice between music and life and he still finds that choice difficult. In the afterlife, he finally gets to perform in front of a crowd for the first time and he loves it. When he plays a second time, he finally gets that validation from a family member and it gives him even more courage. He is eventually able to convince his entire family, living and dead, to let him give music a try. In life, true validation comes from inside. Miguel knew he wanted to be a musician and when it starts to work out, he is sure of it. However, getting the blessing of his family is a welcome confirmation and it makes it easier to be happy and successful.

In Inside Out, Joy and Sadness are separated from mission control and are therefore unable to exert their influence on Riley. While this happens because of an accident (in Riley’s brain) it actually ends up illustrating a key point of emotional and neurological processes. Riley has been forced to move to a new city and she has to leave her comfortable routine and her friends behind. That is difficult enough for anybody but Riley is a young teenager and she has difficulty processing the feelings that come from that change. When Joy and Sadness are misplaced, it is exactly like depression. She does not feel sad but she definitely does not feel happy. She feels very close to nothing. That is what depression is. You just do not feel a lot of feelings and it takes a while for those feelings to return. One of the other key themes of the movie is growing up. While Joy and Sadness are separated from mission control, they are constantly in danger as the worlds inside Riley’s mind are literally ripped apart and new worlds start to be created. These worlds represent Riley’s interests and parts of her personality. As she loses interest in something, that world is destroyed and new interests create new worlds. Again, we see the effect of depression as the un-feeling starts to destroy any interest she has in anything and the worlds inside her mind start to crumble. That is also what depression is when you have no interest in doing anything.

Main Character: Miguel is a more rounded main character than Joy and Sadness who are fun but only aspects of personality.

Supporting Characters: Miguel’s family is a lot more varied and fun than

Villain: Inside Out does not really have a villain but Coco’s villain would win anyway.

Music: This is no contest as the Mexican guitar stylings far outweigh the more orchestral Inside Out.

Story: The supernatural journey that ends in a very grounded way beats a teenager’s emotional self-discovery.

Animation: The animation in the two is comparable but the art direction in Coco is so much better.

Winner: Coco

Coco vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I could go on and on about how I love the Day of the Dead but that is not the main reason that I love this movie so much. My grandmother had several strokes during her old age and those strokes and heart problems contributed to dementia. It started slow. She started to forget a few things here and there. Pretty soon after that, she was caught wandering the streets and had to be brought back home. Eventually, you could come into the room and remind her who you were, leave the room, reenter, and she would have already forgotten you. Eventually, she forgot everything. At its roots, Coco is about memory. Miguel does not know who his great, great grandfather is. He does not know because most of his family never met him. His great-grandmother is suffering from memory loss and has been slowly forgetting her father. At the end of the movie, we get to see the scene above. Miguel sings in a house without music for the first time and he sings a song that his great, great grandfather wrote for his daughter. We see that song stir her memories and that allows her to experience the joy of the memory of her father once again. It is a beautiful moment both because it is full of pure emotion and also because it is supported by the supernatural adventure that happens before.

The part of The Nightmare Before Christmas that I love the most is actually about depression. It resonated with me a lot more later in life. Jack has been the King of Halloween for a long time. He has gotten so good at it that he has started to get bored and that has led to him falling into a deep depression. When I worked at a theater up in New Jersey, I eventually reached the same place. A lot of shows felt the same as the last and I got bored and tired. I eventually decided that I did not want to go back and I returned to Baltimore to start again. I got another job and I worked hard for years and then I got bored again and depressed again. Jack happens upon Christmastown and suddenly his life has a new purpose. He is excited by having this new thing in his life even if he does not fully understand it. However, even that does not last for long and once again he finds himself depressed again. In the song above, he pities himself but then he has a revelation and he realizes that he is what he is and he embraces that. Similarly, a year ago I realized something. My job cannot make me happy. My family cannot make me happy. Things cannot make me happy. Only I can decide to be happy and my life has been more positive ever since. Jack and I had that same revelation where he decides to find the happiness in what we do and who we are with instead of letting doubt consume us. It is the only way to live, even if you are an undead skeletion.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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High Anxiety

July 14, 2018

I have started to examine my anxiety more and more. In the past, my anxiety was something that I accepted as gospel and I tried not to think too much about it so I did not trigger anything. Thinking about being in crowds, public speaking, or meeting new people made me almost as scared as actually doing those things. Now that I am on my new medication, I have started to have random thoughts about how I dealt before. More specifically, I have thought about how I did not deal with it. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and also specific social anxiety which was something I kind of knew about growing up but never really got around to dealing with. Like most undiagnosed or unmedicated individuals, I developed coping mechanisms to get me through my life. I got really good at coping mechanisms. The key coping mechanism became my philosophy of “Just Do It” in where I sucked it up and just went into those situations that made me uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this philosophy when I recently discovered a song by Icon for Hire called Theatre. The lyric that has caught in my head over and over is. “I’m gonna burn this theater down and pray to God for the strength to face the crowd.” Sometimes that was what it felt like to walk into a party or step into a mall. I felt like I had left all of my defenses behind and I was out there on my own. Every bad social situation like this was like a ride on a rollercoaster and I hate rollercoasters. Obviously, the more intense rides were things like speaking in public or being at a party. This was the philosophy behind my ill-fated flirtation with being an actor. I auditioned the one time and I shook so hard that the director thankfully did not pick me. However, at the time I also joined the drama club. In it, I joined several other people in reading plays. This was fine. However, then we started to rehearse them in order to perform them in front of little kids. They were really good plays, kind of fascinating. However, I vividly remember stepping out on stage, blacking out, and then stepping off stage and wondering what happened. While I have talked to other actors who have had the same experience, it was not fun to me. It was not something I remotely enjoyed doing.

However, I realized that one of the big triggers of my anger problem was this social anxiety. When I was out in public, it drained me. It made me more prone to being irritable. About two years ago, my mother agreed to have her house used for a big fundraiser for cancer awareness in West Virginia called Identity Crisis. Every year they have a themed party where people show up in costume. At the time, I was staying there while I was taking summer classes at community college. The thought of the upcoming party rattled me. When I stepped into the party, my fear turned to anger. I snapped at people for being overly familiar and using the house as their own. It was wrong. After a confrontation or two, I retreated to my room and hid for the remainder of the party. I just could not handle it. I have had a similar experience in airports and in malls. As I get tired, I am more susceptible to my more primal emotions. Combine that with getting hungry and my hangriness can get downright terrible. It is an issue that I am working on. The medication has helped immensely with that and so has exercise and my more positive outlook.

There was also a situation that I just remembered in the past week that kind of scared me. On another occasion while I was visiting my mother, she and my stepfather were having guests over. The thought of having to deal with these unknown quantities got me nervous. In addition,we were eating dinner outside which is something I absolutely hate doing in the summer because I hate the heat. I generally do not drink because I am always either working the next day or driving later that night. That night, neither were true so I said yes to wine. I almost never say yes to wine. I am a total lightweight and two glasses later and I was totally drunk which scared me. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been drunk. I slipped away to do dishes so I could get away from the table while people talked. Except, there I was trying to do dishes while dizzy and lightheaded. It turned out fine but looking back I was absolutely self-medicating. I never attempted that method again, thankfully.

So the point of this is what? Basically, I want to tell everybody who is reading this that help is out there. You can only help yourself for so long. Coping mechanisms only get you so far and these coping mechanisms are also really tiring to deal with. You do not have to do this alone. Tell your friends and family what is going on. Talk to a professional and get to the root of what might be wrong. It is very possible that your brain chemistry may be irregular and there may be a medication that can help you feel more normal. I am only on one part of the road to being normal as I start to unlearn the habits of a semi-hermit. I will keep trying to help myself but also I will continue getting help. Hang in there. You can do this.

Getting the Temple in Order

June 18, 2018

I have never been and probably will never be an athlete. This probably surprises nobody I knew growing up. I was a boy who would rather read a book, doodle on a piece of paper, pretend my lunch box was a sentient being, write, or run around pretending I was a superhero. Now, although I regularly go to the gym, I have no drive to go out and get physical with other people. It is not a lack of team spirit, as I am an avid D&D player and I play trivia when I have time to go out on Wednesday nights. I just never had that athletic drive. As I have previously mentioned, I played little league baseball and soccer at different points in my childhood. I never bought into the hometown obsession with lacrosse even though I did have a stick at one point but that was more about fitting in. I tend to shy away from being athletic in a way that depends on other people. Maybe because I am afraid of somehow hindering their competition or their good time. That was why I briefly enjoyed wrestling in middle school, a sport I was actually good at for a bit.

As soon as I got out of high school, I no longer had an athletic requirement. In college, I walked everywhere and I was constantly hauling equipment to set up some show. However, when I was not in class or working, I was sitting on my bed on my computer. When I moved to Sussex County, I was once again working my butt off hauling equipment and building sets. However, as soon as a show was up, I was sitting on my butt working on a sound or lighting board or surfing around on my computer. I did not have many friends up in Jersey as I lived in a small town and I have never been really great about finding new friends outside of the workplace or school. The friends I did make were online and they helped keep me sane out there in the sticks, mostly alone. However, this is not about my previous hermit lifestyle. This is about a new direction in my life.

When I quit theater and started taking office jobs, I became more sedentary both at work and at home. To combat this, I started to go on long walks. This started when Pokemon Go was released. Off and on, I would go to the gym but my heart was never in it. My social anxiety was always triggered by working out in the gym. It felt performative. I felt like I was inviting people to watch me and that feeling of being watched was troubling me. After a while, some excuse would drive me from the gym and I would once again go on long walks to try and stay healthy but I was mostly driven by a mobile game. It kind of stopped being fun at some point.

This year, I decided to make a change around Christmas. I vowed to be healthier. I went back to the gym with a vengeance and I found that I had less of a problem doing cardio at the gym. Instead of a sedate walk, I was doing the stationary bike and actually jogging on the treadmill. I still felt weird and creeped out in the middle of the gym floor and I dreaded having to sign in at the front desk every visit. So, I made another change. I went to a psychiatric nurse and she listened to my description of my life and told me that I was suffering from generalized anxiety and social anxiety, something I readily agreed with. I have talked about my stage fright on this blog but that also extends to crowds as well. She put me on Zoloft and I nodded and started to take it with new hope. After several weeks on the drug, I feel braver. I feel like the anxiety has ebbed away. It is not completely gone but I feel so much better.

My brother took an interest in my gym visits. He is a bit of a gym rat himself and does races like the Spartan and the Tough Mudder. He is a fight choreographer and a guy who works with his hands. He has been on his own journey towards health. He asked to come to the gym with me and I nervously agreed, not yet on Zoloft. We went together and he spent an hour teaching me how to use various equipment. He also taught me about reps and about how to have confidence in the gym. All those people I thought might be watching me? They felt the same way I did, probably. And if they didn’t? Fuck ’em. They don’t know me.

So, I started to really work out for the first time in my life. I currently average four visits a week to the gym. I gladly hop on the elliptical and I run for up to thirty minutes although it is usually about 25 minutes (the length of an anime episode). I do watch anime or movies while on the elliptical but not while I am in the weight room. I do exercises with hand weights and I do plenty of crunches. The most shocking thing to me is that every visit, I head directly to the weight room and I benchpress weights. I am currently benching with 50 pounds on the bar. I never thought I would be benching. Guys who benched back in high school were the actual athletes. Guys who benched in college were the assholes in the frats. Now, I bench and I run and I work out and I feel like a superhero when I am doing it. I feel healthier each day and I am losing weight and slowly (very slowly) gaining muscle. I will continue to work my butt off in the gym so that I can feel accomplished when I relax on my couch later.

Rhymes with Cabinets

May 14, 2018

In 2010, I had arrived back in Baltimore after living in New Jersey for 9 years. I was a little at a loss for what to do with my life and I felt like I was adrift. I had worked professionally in theater for five straight years but I had lost my passion for it. I also wanted my nights and weekends back. At the time, my mother had started dating a man who is now my stepfather and, through him, I was introduced to a good friend of mine who I quickly began to call my cousin. It was suggested that I join him in working on a political campaign, something I had never really done before. In fact, I was 27 years old and I had never really voted with any regularity. However, I needed something to do and I was told that working on the campaign might lead to a job. And so I spent the entire summer of 2010 putting up 4X8 political signs and I spent the fall knocking on doors and cold calling people. It was probably one of the hardest jobs I have ever had but it taught me a lot.

As I am writing this, it is Friday, May 11, 2018. Yesterday, the candidate I worked for, Kevin Kamenetz, suddenly died of a heart attack. It was quite a shock. I know for a fact that Kevin was quite wealthy and took care of himself physically so I was surprised to hear he had been taken so suddenly. While I have not talked to him in eight years, his name has never escaped my mind and it never will. I used to put up gigantic 4X8 signs with his name emblazoned on them, I wore a shirt with his name on it, and I said his name so often that it became second nature. I will also remember his name because of the friendships that formed in the trenches of that campaign that I value to this day. Finally, I will remember his name because Kevin made sure that people remembered him by being an impressive politician.

More than impressive, I saw Kevin as a force of nature. I was rarely at campaign headquarters because I was often out on the road but when I know that Kevin was also rarely there. He was the leader of the Baltimore County Council but he was also always out campaigning. He was shaking hands, making appearances, and attending meetings all while sincerely working for the people of Baltimore County. I had very few run-ins with him while all of this was happening (at least not until late in the campaign) but every single one was memorable. I attended a meeting as his assistant once and I got to witness him talk. He must have been a great attorney before politics because he spoke with conviction and passion and he was impossible to ignore. As we drove to and from the event, we talked one on one and he made me feel like he was listening to what I had to say.

Obviously, I was not the only person impressed with Kevin. He gained a huge following and, in the last few days, plenty of people have had kind words for him. Even people I thought of as his enemies, like Larry Hogan, had great things to say about him. The thing that I always pointed to when asked during the campaign was the thing that I continued to be impressed by in his career. He was a champion of schools and education which was why he was originally endorsed by the teacher’s union. He was involved in trying to make sure that all Baltimore County schools had air conditioning so that we did not have to choose between baking our children or sending them home early in the early and late parts of the school year. As somebody who spent a lot of time sweating in 100-degree weather for his benefit, I appreciated the focus on good air conditioning.

It took me a while to sort through and figure out what Kevin had given me. At the end of the campaign, he did give me a chance for a job. In the end, it was not something I was passionate about and I should have used it as a stepping stone instead of a missed opportunity. Beyond that educational experience, working for Kevin taught me a bit about the inner workings of politics as I talked shop with the people around me. I started to read the news more and pay attention to the world around me. I really started to decide what kind of person I was going to be when it came to my politics. In the end, the person I became did not agree all the time with Kevin’s policies. However, it was clear that he and the people who worked for him were dedicated to serving the community as best they could. If he had lived, I definitely would have considered voting for him for governor (especially against Hogan).

I am proud to say that I worked for Kevin Kamenetz. He was not always the easiest person to work for because whatever you accomplished he always demanded more. While this was frustrating at the time, maybe it was way more positive than it first appeared. Always striving to do better is how you succeed in life and in my last few jobs, it has been a personal goal of mine. In the end, Maryland has suffered a loss and it will take a while for the political system to recover. My heart goes out to his family and friends who must be way more devastated than I am.

Poetry

April 18, 2018

I used to write a lot of poetry. Part of that was that I thought I was really deep and literary and poetry sounded like somebody smart would do. For the record it actually is but I was a teenager who was definitely trying too hard. The other reason I wrote poetry was because of my school’s literary publication called the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle was, of course, named after the character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was also a class where our English teacher (Helen  Underwood, I think) taught us how to write poetry. We also read a lot of some of the best poems in history. For the record, my poems were never celebrated (except the bad poetry slam I once won).

However, a lot of the friends I hang out with most are scientists. They either studied science or work in the field in some way. I was never a scientist. While I respect science immensely, my two careers have been mostly dealing with the power of words. The word that my friends use is ‘poet’ and so I sometimes refer to myself as a poet. It actually reminds me of Patton Oswalt describing a college course he once took called Physics for Poets which was an easy Physics 101 course designed for humanities and art students. That is what I am. I study the law and I write, those are the two main things that I do. I am a poet, I guess.

None of this is to denigrate scientists. I love science and my scientist friends even when they are overthinking water filtration or child development in a tabletop gaming session. Science is how we track and examine our world on a physical level. “Poetry” is how we examine and govern the world based on its meaning to us. Both are important for different reasons and neither make life worth living alone. This is why it is so important to not only push STEM when it comes to education. We also have to push the humanities. Art and the various other ‘poet’ pursuits are so important to how we run our daily lives. Of course, communication between the two is integral to running a fair and beneficial society. But I digress.

Here are a few types of poems:

Haiku:

I hate the summer
The heat is too oppressive
I love the fall best

Cold wind like a sword
Driving deep into my chest
I huddle for warmth

This month is crazy
I am writing many words
Please enjoy it all

Pastoral:

I listen as the train’s wheels clack on the track below
I feel every bump as the train travels downtown
Every turn threatens to toss me to and fro
I try to keep my head up, try not to let myself frown
I am used to this kind of treatment every day
The other choice is enduring traffic on city streets
So I shake it off and just let my music play
I listen closely and nod my head to the beats
I know it is what I must do to get to work
So I just smile and try not to be a jerk

Limerick:

There once was a young writer
A “poet” since he was an ankle biter
He scribbled some rhyme
Most of the time
But he was nothing more than a blighter

There once was a woman in B More
As a mayor she thought she could be more
In the end she was wrong
She just sang the same song
And as a politician she was mostly a bore

Freeverse:

I am writing this after going to the gym for over an hour
Why do I punish myself by pushing my body so hard?
Because the future is a place I want to live
What use is fighting for the future if I keel over?
I also feel so invincible afterward
A little sore but I feel like I just killed a dragon
It is so rewarding and my shirts fit a little better lately
That is so great
As I lay on the couch and write
I feel like I am conquering the world
Just don’t ask me to move

The Very Bad Audition

March 5, 2018

When we are young, a lot of experiences can both open our eyes and open paths to our future.  In the end, nothing we do is really all that inconsequential.  When I entered high school at Friends School of Baltimore, I was a total geek.  Now, if you have read this blog you know that geek is a word I use with pride when I refer to myself.  I was really into comics, video games, and letting my imagination run wild.  I was getting good grades and, for the most part, I was pretty much enjoying school.  However, I was still a shy and solitary kid.  I had my friends, two of whom I had spent eighty percent of my social time with for years.  When it came to public speaking, I shriveled up in what was probably a close cousin of a panic attack.  My mother told me point blank that she was worried about whether I would be able to speak in public in the future.  However, thanks to my younger brother, she had a solution.

And so, it was that I was sitting in the auditorium, waiting for my turn to audition for Tartuffe.  On a side note, Tartuffe is an excellent satire by Moliere which is also called The Hypocrite and The Imposter.  I definitely felt like an imposter while I was sitting in the old red-cushioned steel chairs.  I had no desire to perform, I was just there to get over a fear.  I took my turn up on stage, auditioning for the part of Damis, an angry young man.  The monologue I delivered that day was intended to be angry, but I could feel my knees shaking and it must have been clear how scared I was.  Director and English teacher Tom Buck thankfully saw that I was not cut out to be an actor and passed the role onto one of my classmates.  Walking away, I realized that I did not want to act but I realized that I did not need to audition to be on the Stage Crew.

The Stage Crew met after school and on Saturdays.  They welcomed me with open arms and it was cool to hang out with sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  For the first time, I felt like I was actually in high school instead of in the fourth year of middle school.  I started to form friendships outside of my little friend group or the youth group at church.  I started to grow as a person and I realized that I had a passion for the building part of show business. When they asked who would run the lighting board for Tartuffe, I volunteered when nobody else stepped up.  I ran that lighting board for the next four years.  You got up to the board through a Spanish classroom in the rear of the auditorium, so they eventually gave me a key to that classroom.  There were definitely some awkward collections where I had to walk through Spanish or Russian classes.

I eventually became co-Head of Stage Crew and then Head of Stage Crew.  I also started to dabble in the design part of things as I eventually designed the lighting for each show.  Although I was a little distant, I felt a fellowship with the cast of the all of the shows I worked on.  Things really kicked into gear when we all put on Fiddler on the Roof and I teamed with Michael McVey as well.  By the end of my time at Friends, I had kind of become friends with Tom Buck, sadly a teacher I never had in high school.  My only regret was that I realize now that I never trained anybody to take over for me because I wanted to be the go-to guy until the end.

My experiences in Friends School Stage Crew inspired me to seek out more experiences with show business.  I got into community theater down at Fells Point Corner Theater.  I volunteered a lot of my time running sound for all sorts of shows.  Eventually, I started working for Mobtown Theater and, at the age of 16, I joined their board of directors.  Suddenly, I had all these new experiences outside of Friends School and new friends most of whom had graduated from college years earlier.  Those experiences were magical, and I felt like part of the greater theater community of Baltimore City.  It drew me away from Friends, as I spent a lot of my time in Fell’s Point rather than on campus.  I felt a little more disconnected from my classmates which I feel like I eventually remedied but I feel good that this was a positive path that Friends helped put me on.  In fact, that connection to community theater later sparked a connection to the school paper and helped reignite the love of writing that I still have today.

Of course, I then went on to major in Stage Management and minor in Sound Design in college.  I took that degree and I got a job for years and years in a regional theater in New Jersey.  All of that grew from one afternoon I spent trembling on the stage of the auditorium.  I am a little sad that that auditorium does not exist anymore as it has been completely remodeled but I am happy that the Friends students of today and tomorrow will have an excellent facility to experience what I did.  Not because they should all go off and major in theater but because going to that audition ended up accomplishing my goal.  By connecting with the people in Stage Crew, eventually being in charge, and then finding my voice in community theater, I became better at talking to people.  I felt more comfortable speaking in public and communicating my ideas.  I do not hold back like I did as a young kid.  For that, I feel very thankful.

Valentine’s Day 2018

February 12, 2018

Heart

Why yes, I did learn how to make Animated GIFs. (Hard G 4 Life)

Well, dear readers, once again Valentine’s Day approaches. This holiday usually comes and goes rather quickly through my life, here and gone in a flash. After all, I have never had a girlfriend. I have had relationships but no actual girlfriend. As I posted before, this is not something that really troubles me when I think about it. For some reason, the holiday has gotten stuck in my head this year. It might be that all of the advertising for flowers, pajamagrams, chocolate diamonds, and chocolate covered berries. Maybe it’s all of the magical girl stuff I have been watching lately. Maybe it’s the sum of all of pop culture around this time pointing us toward showing affection to our significant others.

I remember hating Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. We had to bring Valentine’s Day cards into class and we had little mailboxes on our desks. I hated having to come up with a cheap valentine for each member of my class. I hated receiving all of them because I knew that everybody had to bring a card for everybody in the class. I was shy and unpopular and I was stuck between a desire for validation and wanting to hide in plain sight. I do remember liking seeing my favorite superheroes on the Valentine’s Day cards which I had my mother buy even though I’m sure not everybody in the class liked the X-Men. Of course, I had yet to find girls who liked the geeky stuff that I liked. I also thought the whole thing was kind of pointless as we were little kids and it really was not going anywhere. Thankfully, a lot of that disappeared in later years of school.

In later years, I saw boyfriends and girlfriends in school giving each other gifts. It was cute but it kind of ratcheted up a sort of pressure in me. At times, that made me want a girlfriend but not because I actually wanted to spend a lot of time with a girl, but because I felt I was supposed to. Of course, that is the dark side of Valentine’s Day. Those who have somebody feel content and those without somebody feel like something is missing. When I grew up a little more, I realized that the pressure came from within and not from society as I had originally thought. Once I let go of that pressure and embraced just being friends with people, I felt way better. Later, I found out that “aromantic” is an actual thing and it may be where I am at. So now, I am way more at ease with Valentine’s Day.

This year, whether you are with somebody, somebodies, or alone, I urge you to first learn to love yourself. That is something that I have struggled with in the past. I have struggled with anxiety and depression where I just knew that I was not good enough. Lately, I have been doing my best to turn that around. It is part of my larger goal to accentuate the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. It is something that Commander Holly (of YouTube and Dungeons Dragons fame) taught me. She yelled it out “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anybody else?” at the end of a Game Grumps Valentine’s video and I loved it. Ever since I heard that, I have tried to incorporate it a little more into my life each year.

Please don’t view this post as an indictment of regular Valentine’s behavior. Go out and buy jewelry or don’t. Go on a date or don’t. This year, I am naming you guys as my Valentine. I love waking up to notifications that somebody has subscribed to this blog or liked a particular post. I love you guys so that’s why I am giving you a little piece of my heart not just for Valentimes but also three days a week year-round (and more during April and October). Whatever you intend this Wednesday, I hope you have a good one.

New Year’s Day 2018

January 1, 2018

First, I would like to apologize for this post being later than it usually is. I know that might not matter much to whoever is reading this but it matters to me. Usually, I have things together and I have a post or two scheduled so I don’t have to scramble to get something up when I might be busy. Do I have a good excuse on why I did not do this for today? Not really. Basically, I got through one of the most positive Christmas holidays I have had in a while. I felt like I really had a good time and things went smoother. I was also super pleased with the Christmas gift that I picked out for people now that I can afford real gifts again. I got great gifts as well, mostly reference books to help with the D&D campaign I am working on. I could honestly go without gifts but my mom and stepfather love giving them and I understand because I love giving gifts too. Once again, I stressed over Secret Santa for no reason because I love to put pressure on myself but I felt like I relaxed a lot more this time around.

I had five days off from work that I mostly spent out in West Virginia and there is a lot of joy for me just in walking down the super friendly main street of Shepherdstown. I was proud to live there for nearly two years and visiting is nostalgic for me. It reminds me of the good parts of living in Sussex, New Jersey, and the family vacations to Woodstock, Vermont. When I got back, I got to have a drink and a great conversation with my brothers. Longtime readers (or archive delvers) of this blog will know how much I love and respect my brothers. I had a day off to myself in Baltimore which I used to watch The Last Jedi which I loved. Then it was back to work for three days, one of those limbo-like weeks where part of the staff are out and the other half are a little bit checked out.

On Friday, I spent my birthday at work which is fine by me. People who know me know that I do not like people to make a huge deal of my birthday. I have not had an official party in a long time. If anything, I have a calm dinner with my folks and see a movie but sometime that happens weeks or months after the day itself. Many people left great messages on my Facebook which reminds me that I have to do better with wishing other people a happy birthday. I spent Saturday as I wished, and I went and saw I, Tonya to treat myself. I had a great time decompressing, watching stuff, and playing video games. I also have had some great winter walks lately.

Last night I moseyed over to Joe and Jill’s house, a place that I often go for gaming. I also go there for craft night on Tuesday which is where I get some of the writing for this blog done. I also hang out with that group of friends on Trivia Night on Wednesday. By the way, if you are in the neighborhood in Columbia, Maryland on a Wednesday night, stop by the Second Chance Saloon for Atomic Trivia. A great time is had by all. This group of friends is something that I am really grateful for as we enter into 2018. I may not make it to every gathering but I have fun every time I am with them and I look forward to the times when I can make the drive out there.

There is a lot more that I want to do with this blog. I had a lot of fun doing DnDcember this year and I might make that a thing next year because I really love creating in that world. I will be continuing the new story When It All Ended which takes place about five years ago in my Elorian campaign setting. I will be writing more about and in that campaign but I cannot post what would be spoilers for my players. I have other ongoing stories that I want to continue/finish. I especially have great plans currently for Redcross and The Symbol (which may get a new title now that I am thinking about it). I want to write more weird stuff too, like the short bit based on a deck of playing cards and a deck of tarot cards and the court reporter script. I want to continue to stretch and grow in my writing and continue to have fun writing.

I continue to have faith in humanity this year even though that faith is constantly shaken and tested. I believe in the goodness of my family and my friends. I believe that when push comes to shove, the people I surround myself will do the right thing. I believe that I will do the right thing when the opportunity presents itself. The United States feels like it is on the edge of something bad like one good shove could ruin everything. Maybe that shove already happened with an unpaid-for tax cut that will probably put us trillions of dollars into debt. Still, I have to keep having hope or I will spiral into depression and I will never get out. I have to believe that good things can and will happen. I sincerely hope that things get better for you, dear reader, even if last year was a good year. Things can always be better.

Interview Questions 8

June 5, 2017


What is your favorite movie quote?

“I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies; I don’t care where they’re from.”
Steve Rogers, Captain America: The First Avenger

This was the most powerful line of the movie for me. It also made me fall in love with the character of Captain America and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. The line is in response to Steve being asked whether he wants to kill Nazis. A lot of soldiers probably entered World War II hoping to destroy evil. This line sets up Captain America not as a weapon but as a shield. He cares more about protecting the innocent than destroying evil. As a child of the eighties, I grew up hearing epic stories of World War II. I was one generation removed so there was definitely a more romantic sheen on every story I heard. While war is not ideal, evil prevails when good men do nothing. The Nazis were the ultimate bullies and the world rose up to stop them. It was the last time we had a clear conscience in a fight like that. I still get chills when Chris Evans delivers that line with such passion.


Would you rather spend five days exploring Disney or New York City?

I would take five days to explore Disney World or Disney Land. I am lucky to have been to both New York City and Disney World. I have not been to Disney World for a long time but I have been to NYC off and on for decades. I have enjoyed both places a lot at different times. However, New York City is a real place. It has real dangers and real downsides. Disney World and Disney Land are fascinating as they are wholly manufactured worlds. Every inch of the parks are built for my pleasure and there are a million surprises waiting for me. I would never run out of things to examine and re-examine if I lived there forever but definitely not in five days. New York City is interesting but there is just more of a chance of me searching for treasure and getting disappointment instead. If I am dedicating five whole days, I pick a Disney park hands down. Of course, if we are talking about the fictional Disney multiverse, then I also chose that because that would be amazing (and probably dangerous but whatever).


Would you rather be the most popular kid in school or the smartest kid in school?

I have never been the popular kid. To a certain extent, I have always been part of the nerd and geek subculture which was never at the top of the food chain while I was a kid. I was also never the smartest kid but I was always on the smarter end of the student body spectrum. School just came easily to me. I worked hard but I usually understood things pretty quickly. I enjoyed being smart. Being smart makes homework easier, which left me more time for video games and other extracurriculars. Being smart also makes lectures a little more fascinating and learning a lot more fun. Schoolwork is almost never too frustrating when you are smart enough. However, being the smartest brings the pressure to excel to higher heights but I would be secure that I was qualified to do whatever I wanted. While I pursued being popular as a kid, I was kind of glad that I never really succeeded. Socially, I am more comfortable in smaller crowds. I would hate to have too many people clambering to hang out with me. I like having my solitude when I want it. I would prefer the life of the mind while I maintain my small circle of trusted friends.

The Cure for What Ailed Me: Epilog

May 29, 2017


I empathize with you so much, little horse.

They wheeled me to the front door and then I was on my own. My family was there but nobody could really do anything for me anymore. Somehow, my body had forgotten how to walk properly. Everything was sore and my strength and coordination were still way off. It was embarrassing. I felt like a newborn foal. My bedroom at home was on the third floor and it was my sanctuary. Until I healed, stairs were too difficult and we worried that something would cause me to have to go back to the hospital. So, I slept on the couch for weeks as I got my sea legs back. My grandmother, Maw Maw, came up to keep me company.


My scar was exponential.

I am left with a fairly wicked scar. When it was fresh, it curved from between my shoulder blades down to my left side above my hip. It was pretty brutal-looking. However, my body grew and the scar did not so it is a lot smaller these days. It looks less like I wrestled with bears. That is an actual rumor that my wrestling coach joked about starting in seventh grade. Experiences like that made me self-conscious about the scar but also let me laugh about it. Body image is especially tough when you are young, even if you are a guy.


I have never had street cred.

Next to the moon-shaped scar is the scar from the place where they inserted the drainage tube for all my various fluids. It was gross to think about and even now I can feel my skin crawl. Sorry if I made the same happen to you. My family affectionately called that scar ‘the bullet wound scar’ because of how clean and precise it looked. Also, when the time came for them to remove the tube so that I could heal, it certainly felt like I had been shot. They grabbed and yanked the tube out of me and I felt a sudden, hollow pain. It was one of the worst pains I had felt at the time.

Slowly, I started to find my footing again. It did not take too long for me to start gobbling food down faster than I anyone else at the table. I was overcompensating for all of my past issues. I started to breathe clearer soon after that. The danger had passed.

Extra Stories and Fun Facts:


No No No No No No

Now some readers may remember my great fear of needless. When I went in for the MRI test to map my circulatory system in advance of the surgery, the nurse was very kind but very utilitarian with a brusque bedside manner. They were going to give me something to put me out for the MRI and they also had to inject the fluid that would make the MRI actually work. When I started to get nervous she told me ‘Don’t worry, it won’t hurt any more than a bee sting’. The problem for me was that not only was I afraid of needles, I was also terrified of bees. I was swarmed by a whole nest when I was younger. My mom leveled a hard look at this nurse and informed her that she was not really helping.


What do I have in common with him? Not much, thankfully.

They told me a lot of interesting things to try to calm me down in the days before the surgery. One of the more interesting things was my surgeon’s past history. They told me that my surgeon had been one of the surgeons who operated on Ronald Reagan after he was shot over a year before I was born. Of course, this impressed me when I was a kid. Now, I am just glad that he was successful with me. Regardless, he was a world-renown expert on the surgery and I was lucky that he worked at a hospital less than half an hour away from home.


I owe a lot to the most powerful institution in Baltimore past, present, and future.

Now, medical science is much more advanced than it was over twenty years ago. Doctors are able to detect Cystic Fibrosis much earlier. They are also able to detect Double Aortic Arch through many different tests (some of which I eventually got). Often, the problem is detected in the womb or shortly after birth and is corrected through surgery before the damage is done. In fact, most babies born with Double Aortic Arch usually turn blue from oxygen deprivation not long after birth. I went through what I had to go through and nobody really screwed up. It is one of the reasons that I support science-based medicine so much. It saved my life.


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