Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Roll again-- don't be stupid."

This weekend, we hosted my in-laws, as we usually do around this time of year.  I always love spending time with them, and this time was no exception.  We explored the National Building Museum, ate our collective weight in chicken taco soup and banana pudding, and agreed that when someone asks if you're a god, you say yes.

As is our tradition, we also gathered around the dining room table for a rousing game-- this year, we decided to go with Skip-Bo.  Brother-in-law won by leaps and bounds, for which we are equal parts proud and envious.  See, we are a very competitive lot, and while we love one another, we also love to school one another in any way possible.  These games get very intense, and there are often "disagreements" that result in threats of divorce.  Everyone has their own strategy, and no one should ever question it.  In fact, the only thing we agree on comes from Trivial Pursuit: when given a choice between a Roll Again or a Question space, you always "roll again-- don't be stupid."  It can be said in one quick exhale to speed the game along; it can be shouted at your teammate when they try to move your pie in the wrong direction; it is usually declared in unison by all six of us while raising our glasses in the air.  It's not much, but it's all we got.

I bring up games with the in-laws because of an interesting conversation I had with my father-in-law. After dinner, while we were avoiding clean-up, FIL asked me a question that usually sends me into a mental panic.

"So Jess, with all of your reviews and writer friends and such, when are you going to write us a book?"

That is a good question, FIL.

Anyone who's ever told loved ones about their passion for writing has heard this question, and those folks know there were many ways I could have answered.  I could say that writing doesn't interest me.  I could tell him that I don't have any ideas for a good story.  I could change the subject to something, anything, else.  However, I'm going through my own personal things right now, and I don't have room in my head or heart to be anything other than honest.

So, I tell him the truth.  I tell him that writing and completing a novel is ultimately my goal.  I tell him I have story ideas that I need to get out of my head and onto paper.  I talk about my writer friends and how they've been so helpful just by asking me about my progress and keeping me honest.  I even break bad on myself and tell him how much I find myself to be my own worst enemy.  "I'm so full of excuses," I say. "I just need to shut up and write."  He mentions NaNoWriMo (which I tried in 2012), and I tell him the story of how my brain turned to mushy goo when I tried NaNo, how I hid myself away that year while spending Thanksgiving with them to try and write, but it didn't work.  I shrug and say, "It can get a little daunting and scary."

He nods, and with a knowing smile, he says, "Well, roll again-- don't be stupid."

Maybe it's just been so long since I've blogged that I found inspiration in a silly place.  Maybe I need a little more sleep and a little less banana pudding.  Or maybe, just maybe, I should take a breath, believe in my own words, and push past the doubtful demons that live in my psyche.  Roll again, Jess.  Don't be stupid.

Friday, July 12, 2013

In Which I Drop Some Honesty, With Gifs

This is going to be one of those "honest" posts.  I'll inter-cut it with gifs to keep you reading.
it's feelings singing time.
I'm sure this comes as absolutely no surprise to the scores of people who read this blog (Hi Amber!), but I've been feeling very uninspired lately.  Call it a rut, though it's been lasting a long, long time.  I've even started a few posts-- one about the amazing Postal Service concert I went to last month that I accidentally referred to as a Rilo Kiley concert because I was so into seeing Jenny Lewis, one about books I've read that I was excited about, one about Book Expo America 2013 where there were no star penises but there were tons of laughs and excellent books-- but I've finished exactly none of them.  With the Postal Service one, I was mentally writing it the entire way back home from Merriwether Post Pavilion, thinking about how excited I was to get it all down and how it would be fun to blog again, and then I came home, opened the laptop, and... nothing.  The excitement, the words, the fire-- they all drained out of me in an instant.
much like Dean's coffee
This rutful feeling doesn't just cover my personal blog life.  I haven't written a review for WPP in about a month, despite the fact that I have read some books worth reviewing (in case you're curious, Winger by Andrew Smith and the upcoming Fire With Fire by Richmond native and general awesome lady Jenny Han and her bestie and general awesome lady Siobhan Vivian).  I didn't notice it until I went to update my spreadsheet of Books Read in 2013 yesterday (yes I have a spreadsheet you shut your mouth), and this is the first time I've finished a book since June 19 (thank you, audiobook for Outlander).  I've started a bunch, but they're all in limbo.  That's very rare for me, especially the me of the past few years.
this is how i usually feel about books
Part of it, I know, is burnout.  Writing reviews is hard, y'all.  Especially now, because I know what I like, and I'm growing increasingly tired of reading books that don't compel me.  Being a reviewer means that sometimes you have to slog through a story that you do not care about in the slightest.  I could mark it as DNF (that's Did Not Finish for you folks playing at home), but I really, really hate doing that.  I don't judge someone for it, but I want to finish what I start.  So, when I start a new YA book, and I'm immediately smacked in the face by 14 of the same tropes I've seen in the last 50 books I've read, I just can't imagine going on any further.  I don't want to.
presented w/o comment
There are exceptions to the above.  I've been "reading" this one book since I took the train home from BEA.  It's a short book, and I could've easily finished it on the train, but I reached a certain point where I knew the story was going to break me up inside, so I put it down to finish at a later date.  Now, it sits on my dresser, staring at me, willing me to finish, and I'm too scared and/or sad to find out what happens.  What even is that about?
what IS up, j.law?
I've also been trying to write more since I got back from BEA.  Hanging with the authorly types (especially the talented, passionate, creative authorly types who happen to be my friends) showed me that this is what I want to do.  I want to tell the stories I've carried around for so, so long.  I want to get them out of me and on paper and into the world.  But it's the same as the blog thing.  In fact, just yesterday as I walked home from the metro, I started hearing snippets of conversation in my head, and I knew which characters were speaking.  I couldn't wait to get home and get this out, let these two characters share this nonsensical conversation and reconnect.  However, I get home, complete my Getting Home routine, and when I finally sit down, I actually fall asleep.  I could have picked the story up at any point in the evening, with more than enough happy wishes from Hubs (and begrudging shrugs from the Mutt Who Really Just Wants Belly-Rubs), but instead?  I watch super mindless TV and then catch up on other less mindless TV.  Granted, I was spending time with Hubs and Mutt, which is always a blessing and happy-making time for me, but then I start thinking... How badly do I actually want this?  Not bad enough to look away from Exes Wipeout, apparently.

Okay, so this is a lot more honest than I intended, but it's already out so it's staying.
ugh, the accuracy.
My point is, I'm in a rut.  I'm doing my best to break out of it, but it's like my brain is floating in molasses.  It's like I'm caught in suspension, but not in the good way that it sounds like in the Mae song.  I'm just here.  And I don't know how to do anything more than exist right now.  It's got to be me that breaks out of this cycle, but I don't know how to do it.
I'm not asking for your sympathy, and, unless the advice is something magical, I'm not asking for that either. I'm simply stating my facts right now as I see them.  Frankly, it feels kinda good to get them out of me.  Maybe this is what I needed all along, to get these negative nellie vibes out of my brain so that space can be taken up by, like, more song lyrics or, you know, PLOT FOR A BOOK I SHOULD BE WRITING.  I know what I need to do to break free of this, but (and this will be the dumbest thing I've ever said) it's hard to do the hard thing.  But that's what I need to do.  Here's hoping I stop being scared and just freaking DO IT already.
asking life's important question
Anyway, thanks for reading, if you're all the way here.  You right there?  You're my favorite.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 30 – Saddest Character Death

Warning: Spoilers for The Wire and Downton Abbey are below.  They are detailed and super-duper-extremely sad-making.  If you haven't watched those series and you plan to and you don't like spoilers, then quit readin' already and get busy watchin'.

I think this post is the reason I didn't update the challenge for a month.

I'm a crier, and I have cried at many a TV death in my day.  I won't tell you the specific ones here, in case that will spoil you, but let's just say that my sofa has seen its fair share of my tears and then some.  The two listed below are the ones that hit me the very, very hardest-- even though I already knew both of them were coming.

First, Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil Cora Crawley Branson
Look how cute they are! And now she's dead.
I had heard all of the rumors about Dan Stevens wanting to leave the show, but I hadn't heard the Jessica Brown Findlay ones at all.  I watched this latest season on a slight delay (as in hours and days after the UK airings), but I knew a big, big death was coming, and I couldn't help myself.  I took to the tumblr, and there it was.  So I watched the episode.  Even with the warning, I wasn't prepared for how entirely heart-breaking it would be.  Stupid Robert Crawley and his stupid pompous fancy doctor!  And Sybil's death scene... that was one of the more harrowing things I've ever seen on TV!  They are all utterly helpless as she seizes and dies while her mother and her husband wail separately and simultaneously.  Tore. Me. UP.  Now, our dear Tom is left all by his lonesome... with Baby Sybil, of course.
Sorry, Tommy.
And second, The Wire's Wallace.
Just looking at this picture makes me want to sob.
The Wire is a hardcode show, and it is not for the faint of heart.  The following paragraphs aren't for the faint of heart either-- this is your warning.  It is also not recommended for people who live in Baltimore but don't know a lot about it.  Basically, you'll start thinking that everyone sells drugs.  Everyone's got them WMDs.  Here's a little backstory to set the cry-making mood.  There are a couple of interweaving plotlines in the first season, and one of them revolves around a gang of teenage drug dealers, including Wallace (played to bittersweet perfection by a baby-faced Michael B. Jordan).  His crew gets robbed by Omar (one of the best characters in the history of television).  Wallace spots Omar's accomplice and calls it in, which leads to said accomplice being tortured and brutally murdered by Stringer Bell (another brilliant character).  Wallace gets a cut of the bounty due to the information, but he also sees what his information wrought, so he wants out.  Unfortunately, that's not how things work for these kids, and so his very best friends are ordered to kill him.

So Wallace shows back up because he wants to get his life back together.  He sees his friends, and at first he's all happy.  Then they point a gun at him with shaking hands, so naturally Wallace wets himself and cries.  And then, his best friends pull the trigger and kill him.  It's awful.  I will never forget it.

Hubs had watched this episode before me, and (again, because I am a spoiler reader) I already knew what was coming, so I asked him, "How sad is it?"  He replied, "It's not too bad."  YEAH, "not too bad" = tears pouring down my cheeks faster than I could wipe them away and pressing my hand to my mouth to keep from sobbing breakdown-style.  "Not too bad," my aunt Fanny.  Just remembering it makes my chest ache.

This is a depressing post.  To make up for that, here's a gif of my favorite part of While You Were Sleeping.
omg best

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 29 – Current TV Show Obsession

I have two.  Duh.  Because I listen to Keith Mars and always take back-up.

New Girl
This has essentially been My Jam since the very first episode-- I mean, Zooey's character's name is Jessica, she sings as she speaks a lot, and when she lists her DVDs, it's like she just looked at my own shelf and started naming titles.
Also, I do this often. Gif from here
I didn't think it could live up to its first season of actual-LOL hilarity, but somehow, this season has been even LOL-ier.  We cackle through just about every episode, from soup to nuts.  Who's that girl?  Who's that girl? (it's me)
gif from here
Game of Thrones

This is the newest new obsession.  I held off on watching for a long time because I knew I'd love it, but I really didn't think I'd love it this much.  Hubs and I blew through the first two seasons in about a week and a half, so now we have to wait each week for new episodes.  We have to do what common people do.  Common people like you.

I'm getting off track.

So yeah, when you first start watching, the violence and graphic nature are kind of... difficult to watch.  Now, I'm like, "STAB THROUGH HIS ARMOR!  CHOP OFF HIS HEAD!  GO GO GO!"  One of the most recent episodes ended with an amazingly bad-ass attack that caught me off guard (as I haven't read the books), and it made me want to stand and applaud.  Heck yeah, you are Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryan, of the blood of old Valyria!! Yeah, it's violent and yeah it's not always as good to women as it should be, but... man, do I love it.  I hear that the blood and gore and terribleness will only get worse from here, and I'm way too excited about it.  I've even stopped reading spoilers!  I KNOW.

And Tyrion Lannister aka Peter Dinklage.  I love me some Dinklage.  Man is too talented and too hilarious.  It shouldn't be allowed.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 28 – First TV Show Obsession

As a lifelong fan of TV, it's hard to gauge what my first TV show "obsession" was.  Should I go with something from childhood like My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake?  What about a show I watched mostly in reruns, like Saved By The Bell (which most kids of the 90s know aired every day 4 times a day, and you betta believe I watched all 4 episodes daily, which means I have seen every episode of the OG SBTB at least a billion times) or Boy Meets World?  For this, I decided to go with the show I chose for me as Must See TV, even though the ads told me that's exactly what it was.

Friends
This was another show I watched with my family, but it was one of the first shows I really chose to watch that made me feel like a grown-up.  It wasn't a sitcom with kids my age in it, and occasionally there would be jokes that went over my head, but it was my appointment show.  Seeing as I was a busy kid in high school, it was hard to have appointment shows (what with the band practices or play practices or chorus practices or clarinet lessons getting in the way) (yes, I was that artsy kid), but this was the first.  It also helped carry me through my freshman year of college, which is always a weird, weird year.  My roommate and I would watch the late night syndicated reruns, and it was one of the first things we bonded over.  I still think of her every time I see The One After The Super Bowl.  It also also helped carry me through another tough time in life.  I was there for them, and they were there for me too.

Another fun fact: I'm somewhat of a Friends trivia genius.  I have retained a ton of information about these 6 characters, which is sad considering they aren't real people.  Oh boy, I may quote Scrubs a lot, but this show... this is my home base.  Brother once tried to challenge me to a duel.  He lost, though not by a landslide.  He was a worthy opponent.  I still kicked his ass, though.  So, take that.
credit to fyeahfriendsgifs.tumblr.com
Rumors circulated recently about a  Friends reunion.  Personally, I wouldn't want that.  I loved this series, even in its not-as-funny years (though, that 9th season finale!! SO funny!), but I think it ended on a perfect note for itself.  Everything doesn't need a reunion just because.  It would be fun to find out what the characters are up to now, but it wouldn't be the same, and it shouldn't be forced.

In closing, one thing I do when I'm feeling down or blue is watch blooper reels on YouTube.  I definitely frequent the Friends ones, because Matthew Perry is legit hilarious and Lisa Kudrow has a GREAT laugh.  I've watched them so many times, but I always laugh.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Guess who's back? Back again!

Jeskuh's back.  Tell a friend.

Honestly, whoever reads this should know by now that I only blog when I have something to say, or when I'm doing a challenge or a list.  Yes, I'm aware I was in the middle of a list that I didn't finish.  Well, here I am  to tell you that I will be finishing my 30 day challenge one month late.  Hoo-dee-hooooo.  Be on the lookout for those posts coming to a blog near you (aka this blog.  This blog is where they will be.).

Since you came by here to see some new content, here's a video from Mental Floss where John Green teaches you 50 Weird Laws.  Have a good day!  Learn something!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Margaret Thatcher Story

I have a Margaret Thatcher story.  Because I have a story about everything.  And so, on the day of the Iron Lady's passing, I share my story with you.

In March of 2007, Hubs (who was simply Boyfriend back then) and I went to visit some awesomely awesome friends in London.  It was a super fun trip full of adventures and pubs and crazy weather and crumpets with Nutella.  Essentially, I've wanted to go back since the moment I left.  Also, going to London with someone who studied British history makes for a busy, busy trip full of atypical destinations.  You don't always know what you're getting into, but it usually turns out great in the end.  One of those destinations was the Imperial War Museum.  I had no idea what to expect, but it was actually one of my favorite stops on our trip.  The museum is comprehensive with a capital C, and so I wouldn't recommend trying to see all of it at once.  Your brain will not be able to take it.

Anyway, so we're there on a lovely gray afternoon in March, and there were all sorts of vehicles in the atrium, and Boyfriend's running from place to place telling me what they all were ("This was the smallest boat to participate in the Dunkirk evacuation!  Take my picture!").  We notice that the atrium is starting to get kind of full, which we think is strange for the middle of the week, but being DC people like we are, we understand the randomness of tourists.  Then, we notice that it's filling up with older gentlemen in bright red jackets holding musical instruments.  This is admittedly a bit weirder.  Then, we get pushed back into the sidelines-- not like we're being cordoned off, but just being kept to the side.  The band starts to play, and I peek around the shoulder of a older woman dressed in a smart green suit standing a few feet ahead of me to see what all the fuss is about.  I see another older woman next to the band, smiling and carrying on.  They play "Happy Birthday," and we all sing along.  During the weird commotion, I take a moment to look at the smartly dressed woman nearby.

And I swear it's Margaret Thatcher.

I turn back to Boyfriend, who's snapping some pictures of the Birthday Girl but mostly taking a moment to admire the total randomness of the moment.  I want to tell him that I think I'm standing, like, an arm's length away from Margaret Thatcher, but then another thought pops into my mind: is it really Margaret Thatcher?  Or is it just an older woman in fancy clothes and you simply think it's her because she's of a certain age and British and wearing fancy clothes and you're an American tourist?  So, I don't say anything.  I look at her once more, take a peek at the Birthday Girl who is simply beaming and loving the attention (we ask and find out she's a famous war-time singer who's celebrating her 90th birthday), and then move on out.

That night, we go back to our friend's place in Brixton, and I take a minute to do a quick search.  A news article pops up for the celebration of the 90th birthday of Dame Vera Lynn, the Forces' Sweetheart, which occurred earlier that day at the Imperial War Museum.  And who was in attendance?


Sometimes you're that American tourist.  Sometimes you're right.