Personal Highlights of 2015

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of December. That does seem to happen faster, each year. (Although strangely, I think I’m finding it easier to remember what year it is when I’m journaling. Keeping track of what day it is, though: that’s an entirely different story, that may or may not have something to do with how much caffeine I’ve had.)

So today, anyway, I wanted to look back at some of the highlights of 2015. Here goes:

  • On the inner life side, there’s been some good stuff. Figuring things out, meeting new people (which I’m counting as inner life because it’s tough for me)–it hasn’t all been good, of course, and it hasn’t all been easy, but I feel like I’m learning some things, and in general climbing out of the pit of depression that I fell into around 2013, and that’s nice. [ETA: I didn’t mention the pit on the blog before this year, I think, but retrospectively, 2013 was probably when it started. So in other words: pretty glad to be climbing out.]
  • Kuk sool won. I think I may have gone to a lesson or two last year, but this seems to be the year when it’s gotten to be a bigger part of my life. And even though I’m still not incredibly consistent about going to lessons, it’s been a huge highlight–I never would have thought I’d enjoy it so much. I even managed to level up from a white belt to a yellow belt, which is quite a triumph for someone who let’s just say doesn’t always have the best hand-eye coordination.
  • Family–seeing family this year has been really good. Definitely one of the highlights.
  • Getting out of town once in a while. I think I’m still a restless girl at heart; every now and then I get terrible wanderlust. This year, I was blessed to be able to get out of town a couple times, which isn’t always easy with travel prices and travel time being what they are.
  • Food! Jade noodles at Sapp Coffee Shop come to mind (thank you, Buzzfeed). And a really good birthday lunch with some friends. But I also enjoyed some local eats, and revisited one of my old cookie recipes, so food-wise, this year hasn’t been bad.

So, to Future Me: hopefully this will help you remember that even when a year isn’t perfect (or even when it’s tough), there are good things. Even some great ones. And some deliciously edible ones, which is always fantastic.

The earliest of the procrastinators… sort of.

Earliest of Procrastinators

The dark Galadriel of procrastination, as it were. One Ring to bind all the presents that I want to buy? Anyway.

This hastily-drawn picture is brought to you by a different kind of procrastination: blogging procrastination.

Seriously, though, I need to get some shopping done. Just not today, because it’s raining and I’m coughing a little, so you know.

Good luck to anyone who has to go outside today! Stay warm and dry and safe. Also, as cheesy as it feels to say this: thank you to everyone who liked last week’s post. And that’s pretty much all I can say about that, without starting to babble. That, and this: in case you’re curious, The Chapter persists. So does the anxiety–not always in the same degree, or attached to The Chapter, but in a general sense, it hasn’t evaporated. I’m working on it. And I’m still having fun (even having fun with The Chapter!), and still getting excited about things. I hope everyone reading this is managing that, too, in this sometimes stressful season. Strength and courage and joy to you all! In the parking lots, in the crowded store aisles…

Ok, I’m going to go now, before this post turns into some kind of epic about last-minute shopping.

Imaginary Pressure

There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to write about today, but I kept running into the same problem: basically, I kept freaking out.

It’s the same thing that’s been happening to me with writing fiction lately. I’ve sort of talked about it before. I’ll sit down to work on this one interminable chapter, and immediately start attacking the words I already have, attacking any new words I try to put down–it’s not good. It’s not fun. It leads to a kind of dread, where I don’t want to work on this chapter anymore because every time I try, it’s awful.

I actually did make what I hope is some progress on that chapter yesterday, so you might think I have a solution. But no, not really. All I can say is that I think sometimes we put imaginary pressure on ourselves. In the case of this chapter, I was pressuring myself to make it perfect–it’s a rewrite, not a first draft, so I should be allowed to expect instant perfection, right? (No.) And with this post, I was pressuring myself to come up with something coherent about books and reading, and that pressure was making it impossible for me to come up with anything coherent at all.

The thing is, the only person holding me to either of these expectations was myself. (Well, maybe some of you are expecting books/reading stuff on Mondays. I don’t know. Sorry about that, if that’s the case.) And I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect things of ourselves. Setting standards and goals is a good thing. It can be a good thing. All I’m saying is that there’s a difference between the kind of pressure that brings out the best in people, and the kind of pressure that’s so intense that it completely immobilizes you.

I’m still working on how to handle that line. Right now, it involves lots of deep breaths, drinking water, journaling, and some prayer. (I know faith may not be part of everyone’s life, but it’s part of mine, so it’s part of my process.) And reminding myself to do things like find the fun in the project, the thing that made me love it in the first place; and also to focus on the small steps in front of me, instead of the giant ones that often freak me out.

It’s not exactly new advice. Maybe because it works? But the good news, anyway: I did have some fun working on that chapter last night. So it is possible to find your way back to that. And if you’re reading this, I managed to finish a post, so there’s that, too.

With that in mind: on to today’s adventures with The Chapter. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.

Homemade Bookmark

Bookmark FrontBookmark BackThis is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I love bookmarks, but like a cat with expensive toys, I tend to ignore the store-bought ones and instead use things like receipts. They’re just so convenient. I don’t have to feel guilty about taking notes on them, and if they happen to be from the library, they usually have the due date of the book I’m reading printed right there.

But in my heart, I still want to have proper bookmarks. So with that in mind, I tried to come up with a bookmark that wouldn’t be too bad to look at, but that I also wouldn’t feel guilty about writing on.

This is what I ended up with. The banner-type thing on the front seems like a good place to keep track of books read using this bookmark. The blank books and postcards on the back are probably better for recording things like due dates and daily progress (if I feel like it).

I don’t know if it’ll actually work. But if it doesn’t, Barnes & Noble has some similar bookmarks available–I stumbled across them a while back, I think sometime after my first unsuccessful foray into designing my own bookmark. They don’t do exactly what I want, but I’m still dying to try them out, because it looks like they do some other things far better. And besides: bookmarks. Always room for more bookmarks. So either way, I get to have some fun.

In the meantime, though, here are the materials I used for this bookmark:

  • Strathmore mixed media paper (300 series)
  • Cutting mat and knife (some kind of paper slicer would probably be better, but I don’t have one of those)
  • Rulers (metal one for cutting the paper–again, not necessary if you have the paper slicer–and regular plastic one for most of the other stuff)
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Pens–I used Tombows, a Pigma Micron, and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. None of them bled through; the only problem was with the very edges of the bookmark. Some stuff leaked around the rim a tiny bit, but that was mostly because of my sloppy coloring. (I verified that later by coloring more carefully.) With these markers, I also didn’t notice any pilling (I hope that’s the right word)–the paper still feels smooth.

It’s a really easy project–you can decide for yourself how much or how little time you want to put into it, how intricate you want the designs to be, etc. Now all that’s left is to road test it. And maybe someday, when all those blank spaces are filled up, to put this bookmark in my treasury, with all my other “favorites” that I don’t want to risk losing.

At least there are always library receipts.

So I finally saw the Hunger Games movies.

At least the first three. Mostly. (I’ll explain this in a second.) Needless to say: spoilers. Even for the last one, because spoilers for the last movie were what got me to watch the other three. I’m keeping it as vague as possible, but some people are incredibly good at deducing spoilers from really vague language, so fair warning.

All right, let’s go. Up until this past week/weekend, I’ve stayed away from the Hunger Games movies, because as much as I liked the books, I didn’t want to see a lot of this stuff on the big screen. (Still don’t. Fast-forwarded through some of the first movie, and half-closed my eyes during part of the third, hence the “mostly” in that first paragraph.) But then I read something about Effie and Haymitch–a deviation from the books that made me really curious. So I checked the movies out from the library, and watched them with the express purpose of seeing whether this change was justified, and also checking out the portrayal of some of the other characters. In particular, Peeta, because the responses I’ve seen have been underwhelmed by his character.

And having seen (most of) the movies now, I’m just… kind of neutral. Not about the big conflict at the heart of the series, but about the characters. I believe in the shock and horror of what’s happening–it’s easy to see why that would impact Katniss the way it does. So the situations are compelling. The characters, though… I suspect that with just the movies to watch, the most I would be able to say about the characters is that I like them, in a general acquaintance way that’s completely forgettable the moment the screen goes dark. (Or don’t like them, in an almost equally forgettable way.) Any deeper investment comes from the books.

I’m not saying that’s the movies’ fault–and definitely not saying that they’re bad movies. They have some good moments, and some pretty big challenges. For instance, most of why I liked Peeta, especially, came from things that maybe aren’t that epic/dramatic. That’s not exactly easy to put on film. Since I’m a character-driven person, though, I wasn’t going to love the films unless I loved at least one of the characters, and I didn’t. Not, at least, in their movie incarnations.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe my distance from the films is a product of having read the books–maybe something that made me connect to the characters in the books just didn’t translate on screen. Maybe the problem is that I’ve been kind of exhausted this past week, so the movies had a harder time roping me in. I don’t know. I would be interested in hearing, though, how other people felt about the characters, and what made them feel that way.

So, the short form: not rushing out to buy a ticket to Mockingjay, Part 2. Probably will check it out when it comes out on DVD, though.

Now off to do some writing, and not worry at all about whether my characters are likable. Sigh.