Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Confessions of a New Zumba Teacher

My Zumba career has been a bit of a weird one. To sum up briefly, back in 2015 I started taking a Zumba class through my work. After several months of consistently taking the class, my teacher asked if I would be interested in getting my certification so I could cover classes for her when she went on vacation. So I did.

Going through my blog, I now realize I have failed to tell you about how this all has gone off the rails. I covered my first class in April of last year and managed to survive. Between April and June, I covered a few more times, but it wasn't anything I didn't expect.

In mid-June, my teacher got a blood clot in her leg and was bed-ridden for 6-8 weeks. Two months. The class was mine for two months. I went from being the occasional sub to being the long-term sub. Although it was definitely more than I ever thought I would have to do, there was an end in sight so I managed.

Cut to the end of those two months. There was a bunch of drama behind the scenes that I was unaware of and suddenly the teacher had quit. The people who organize the class knew I wasn't ready to take over the class so I continued to cover while they found a new teacher.

It wasn't long until they did, but she was not a good fit. She screamed and shouted and pressured us into participating in ways we didn't want to and attendance dwindled. I started taking a different class on the weekends just reducing the number I took through work. Fortunately, I don't think she liked us either so she quit in October.

The coordinators tried to find us a replacement, but they didn't expect anyone before the New Year so the class was mine for almost three months. In that time, I started to improve as a teacher, but attendance never really rebounded from all the teacher-switching.

In the New Year, they did find a new teacher, but she also wasn't a good fit. She didn't really teach Zumba. It was more aerobics to pop songs, and attendance dropped even further. In April, she quit, too.

So for the last month or so, the class is officially mine. Not mine while they try to find someone else. Mine. It's been an uphill battle. Attendance has never really recovered and I have to cancel class too often due to lack of bodies. I've got ideas to increase it, but most of that stuff is out of my hands. All I can do is focus on getting people to come back once they've shown up for the first time.

I've spent a lot of time and energy working to become a better teacher and have a better class and here's what I've learned.

- Be the first person in and the last person out of the room. It comforts new people that they have the right place, it lets you get to know the people in your class, and it makes people believe that the class is a priority to you. You aren't running over late from something more important or rushing out the door to something else at the end.
- Don't choreograph to a song you enjoy. This one is really hard not to do, but don't incorporate songs into your routines because you like to listen to the song. Between choreographing, memorizing the steps, and teaching it in class, you will probably hear the song over a hundred times. According to my Itunes, I've listened to 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia 34 times and "Never Be Like You" by Flume 26 times. By that point, you can't enjoy the song anymore. So how do you find songs if you can't use songs you would listen to?
- However, Spanish covers of pop songs bring a familiarity that people enjoy without being overplayed. We dance to a cover of "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 called "Quedate Mas" and it's one of my classes favorites. They already know the tune so they are familiar with the transitions and they feel less lost.
- Over time, you'll develop a fondness for particular artists you never knew existed before. Between the songs Zumba provides, songs you hear in other people's classes, and random earwigs that you Shazam, you'll find artists you like. You may never understand a word they say, but they release songs that fit a certain style of dance and end up a staple of your routines. For me, those are Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam.
- There are two types of students: 1) the newbies who need fun, simple songs to pick up quickly and 2) the returners who will get bored of the doing the same simple songs repeatedly, and you need to be able to cater to both. For a while, my solution for this was a mixture of simple and complicated songs. This would work in theory if you are a really good teacher. Once you start to lose the new people in a complicated song with poor cuing, it's very hard to earn their trust back. No one wants to feel lost. My favorite Zumba teacher has found a way around this. He has a library of simple, fun songs and constantly rotates between them. He'll either change their place in the song list or alternate between two salsa songs week to week. It means that the newbies get the simple songs they need while the returners are kept on their toes. I'm working to develop my own library so I can better use this strategy.

- Keep taking Zumba classes as a student. It's important to keep learning and exposing yourself to new songs, moves, and teaching styles.
- Avoid teaching a song that you dance to in another class, if possible. The common practice in Zumba is to direction students to start movements on their right side. Step with their right foot first, move to the right first, etc. This means as a teacher, facing your students, you start with your left. And while a good, experienced teacher can switch between a right-hand and left-hand routine easily, it's a veeeeeeery hard skill to develop. Muscle memory will screw you over if you are trying to teach a song you like to dance to. If you really want to teach a song you've done in another class, try to wait until the other teacher has phased it out of their routine so you can override your own muscle memory.
- Do your own math on ZIN. I've now taught both ways: before and after ZIN. My first year of teaching, I didn't have ZIN and I was fine. I was only covering other people's classes so getting paid for teaching was very inconsistent. Also, because of this, I didn't need to churn my routine very often because it was fairly fresh to people in the classes. I had time to find and learn new songs at my leisure. However, now that I'm teaching the same class twice a week, it's much harder to find or develop choreography on my own. ZIN has been very helpful in finding good songs and choreography and learning it faster.
- Develop good and consistent cueing. This is the make or break skill of a good teacher. Good cueing makes the transitions smooth, keeps people engaged and on beat, and earns you a level of trust and respect with your students. They need to trust you to feel comfortable and the easiest way to drive students away is for them to feel lost and uncomfortable.
- And lastly, make it an all-around fun experience. Make it social, not exercise.

I'm still learning. I feel like I will be learning for a long time to come, but it's getting easier and more fun and I can only hope that my students feel the same way. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fan of Friday: Week of 4/28/2017

The thing I'm a fan of this week is my little, hanging herb garden!

It was a gift from my in-laws several Christmases ago. I haven't had good luck with plants in the past, so it sat in our closet for a bit while I worked up the courage to try to not kill plants.

This batch of plants is actually my second attempt. Over a year ago, I tried for the first. I killed cilantro and oregano and basil and rosemary. The rosemary was the most impressive one because of how long it took me to realize that it had died. Oops...

I'm having much better luck with this crop of plants, though!

The top plant is a habanero pepper plant. When I brought it home, Dan said, "You know pepper plants get huge, right?" No, I didn't know that. It's quickly out-growing it's small container and I'll probably move it to another pot this weekend. I'm scared to move it, though, because it's got flowers so I might get some peppers out of it soon!

The middle plant is basil. The first time I stocked this little hanging herb garden, basil was the longest surviving. I don't think I watered the first attempt enough, but it still held out for several months. This second one has been living happily for about six weeks, getting plenty of water. I love having a basil plant because we eat a lot of pasta and adding fresh basil makes it instantly classier. Dried pasta from a box and sauce from a jar? Chiffonade some basil and throw it on top for an upgrade on a lazy Monday evening.

The bottom plant is a strawberry plant. Trust me when I say it's doing better than this picture makes it look. I need to trim back some of the dead leaves and the old strawberries. You know what's hard? Determining when teeny, tiny strawberries are ready to be picked. I still haven't figured it out yet, but I will. I'll keep it alive and I'll figure it out.

So when I swap out the pepper plant, what should I put in its place? I'd like some cilantro, but I've tried to grow it several times now without any luck. Is there something easy and useful I could try? I cook a lot of tofu and rice. Is there something from the Asian palate family I should try? Or maybe something Mexican?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Project House Update: Period Cart

This is a weird little project I've been working on for a while, but I think it's quite unique and I'm pretty proud of it.

Back almost three years ago, I did a mini re-do on the 'toilet room' in our master bathroom. I removed the old, built-in toilet paper holder, patched it, and painted the room. Because this was meant to be a hold-over project until we did a full bathroom re-do, some details were put off. No new toilet paper holder was installed and I was tired of just setting the toilet paper on the back of the toilet, so I assembled the Ikea cart we had purchased.

Over time, I realized it was a great place to store all my period stuff. With a toilet room, any time I needed something meant the forethought to grab it from under my sink before heading into the toilet. Now, I had all this space to store stuff and it was great.

Then along came Dan. In his traditional masculinity, having all of my period stuff out made him uncomfortable. He wanted it hidden away.

So what did I do, as a good wife?

I ignored him completely and put everything on display instead.

I took a bunch of empty candle containers and small cheap vases and organized my tampons by size.

The part of this project that took the most time was finding and gathering the right size containers. Bath and Body Works three-wick candle jars work really well for this.

The last little bit of my display is my new art. These images are both from my work calendar last year. I think the fog one was May and the starry night was December. Something about these images, especially when paired together, is incredibly peaceful to me. The fog image seems to be of a doe in the morning fog, unsure of the day that lies ahead. The starry night is the same doe, surviving her day, and relaxing at the end of it. And, because we're being honest here, I use this bathroom in the morning or at night so the beauty of it isn't lost on me.

I need to come up with a catchy term for whatever the hell this set-up is, so suggestions are appreciated.  I can't come up with anything punny involving periods or carts.

I am quite proud of it, though. It's nothing special, but too many people treat periods like some sort of curse. Something we don't talk about or acknowledge. But as a woman who annoyingly bleeds from her vagina for a week each month, this set-up has proven to be incredibly handy.

Monday, March 27, 2017


I've just gotten over a cold. This marks the fourth time I've been sick in four months. Each time, for a week or more.

It started in December when I had laryngitis over Christmas.

In January, I was trying to work-out 30 days in a row in lead up to my 30th birthday. On Day 21, my streak ended as I succumbed to a cold.

At the end of February, over Dan and my 6th wedding anniversary, I got a viral infection in my throat and lungs and went to Urgent Care. That was a fun Saturday, spending a crap ton of money to be told there were no medications to help and it may last as long as a month.

And now, in March. I spent last weekend waiting on Dan hand and foot so he wouldn't spread his germs everywhere and I could be spared his cold. I'm pretty sure he thought I was going to kill him when I started sniffling.

It's amazing how much your schedule gets thrown off when you're sick. Your diet goes out the window because if it isn't warm and made of carbs, it isn't going in you. Exercise is nearly impossible when you can't breathe properly. All the little chores like laundry and dishes aren't as important as sitting on the sofa and focusing on 'getting better'. The events that you were considering, like farmer's markets and flash sales, are a pipe dream because unless it's absolutely necessary, you aren't doing it.

After this last batch of germs, I stocked up on everything preventative. Hand sanitizer, Vitamin C, Emergen-C, cough drops, all of it.

If this streak doesn't end at four, I'm going to seriously look into building a bubble for myself.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Right after Valentine's Day, my grandmother passed away. I've had a lot of emotions swirling under the surface about her death that I haven't done a good job processing.

Let me be very honest from the beginning: I always felt like my grandma and I didn't get along. I always loved her and I knew she always loved me, but most of the time, our relationship just stressed me out.

My grandparents were a very ying-yan pair: my grandpa was happy and silly while my grandma was serious and responsible. And because of that, I had a special bond with him. With her, I constantly felt defensive. Her critical nature meant that I was perpetually tense for her next back-handed compliment. The person I was and the person she wanted me to be never aligned and she didn't know how to accept that.

Part of the reason I didn't feel as close to grandma was because we were similar in a lot of aspects, but most of them negative. My dad, who never seemed to get along with my grandma, would sometimes call me 'Grandma' if I was planning my day out too much or if I was worrying about something he thought I shouldn't.

Most of her stories had an undercurrent of regret, of longing for a different time, and nostalgia for the past rather than enjoying what was in front of her.

We were very similar in a lot of ways and that scared me, so I pushed her away. Being around her was a mirror for the parts of myself that I didn't like. My tendency to be mean and negative. My need to plan and schedule and the anxiety I experience when there isn't one or when no one will follow it. My depression. She was much more than that, but being around her reflected my own insecurities back at me.

As I got older, it became easier to see that her criticisms and negativity were more about her than me, but the easiest way to deal with it was to avoid her. And I did. I should have tried to have a conversation with her about it, but instead I chose to avoid the issue, and potentially hurting her, like a coward. There was no winning in the game we played so I chose not to play.

One of my favorite memories of her was when she was happy and silly. I'm not sure of the timing, I could have been anywhere between ten and sixteen years old, but she was watching my sister and I on a lazy summer day and she decided we were going to play a board game. She went to the game closet and found a game no one had ever played (I think it was one of those generic ones that everyone has because someone gave it to them) and we spent the afternoon screwing around and making up rules. There was music and dancing and I have no idea if there was a winner or loser, but I can remember her dancing around in the living room.

My grandma went pretty quickly. I found out on a Tuesday that she had fallen and was in the hospital for observations and Wednesday she was suddenly gone. I think the suddenness and lack of closer is one of the things my family is having the hardest time dealing with. We didn't expect our trip to visit her in July to be the last time we would see her. We thought it was just the first time we were going to see her in her new home in Washington.

I'm still working on processing my feelings, but the one I'm having the hardest time with is the guilt. I feel guilty because a small part of me is relieved. Relieved that I don't have to do this dance of avoidance anymore. I love her and I will miss her, but the fact that I am slightly relieved is the emotion that hurts me more than the sadness. 

I'm sorry, G-ma. We should have dealt with our differences sooner and I'm sorry we won't get that chance now. I hope you thought I was lazy and inconsiderate, not that I was actively avoiding you. And I know this offers virtually no comfort, but I will try not to make that mistake again. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fan of Friday: Week of 3/3/2017

I've mentioned in a previous 'Fan of Friday' post how I've fallen in love with the web series 'Critical Role', but what I didn't mention at that time was how that love has now manifested itself. My friends and I started a campaign and we're playing Dungeons and Dragons in real life!

Let me explain a bit. There seems to be this weird phenomenon of secrecy to people who play DnD. It's not something they usually talk about openly so you may have friends that play and you would never know. And that turned out to be the case with two of my friends.

When I started to get really into 'Critical Role', my obsession came up at our weekly trivia nights. That's when I not only found out that two of my friends actively play, but a whole bunch more wanted to try it.

Over the course of a couple of parties (Dan's birthday, Christmas), the DnD virgins convinced one of the experienced players to run a game for us, found another friend to join as our party mentor, and began setting up a game.

Dan wasn't that into the idea at first and actively tried to make things difficult. He stubbornly said that his character was a male prostitute and would only play as such. It back-fired on him, though, because once I bought the player's handbook, I found a way to make that character work. In taking his craziness seriously, he started to as well and his character, Glor Ekemon Holl, was born. He's a Tiefling Bard who team up with the elven rogue of our group to charm people out of their secrets.

My character is probably the polar opposite of Dan's. She's a Goliath Fighter. She's almost eight feet tall, young and naive but well-trained in fighting and strategy, and on the run. She's got this elaborate backstory that I haven't revealed to the other players yet. I've had so much fun coming up with her. Even her name, Brenna Sverdavbolge, was fun to come with. 'Brenna' is a Norwegian name meaning 'sword', which is what she fights with, her last name is a lose amalgamation of the Norwegian translation of 'Surge of Swords', her herd name,

I'll say the one downside of my character is that finding a figurine of a female Goliath is a pain in the ass. For those who don't know, most of Dungeons and Dragons takes place on paper, but for fights and battles, it's easier to understand what's happening by laying everything out. This is done with a gridded mat like a white board and figurines. However, almost every female Goliath figurine looks like it's from a bad 1980's hair metal music video. Sexist much?

Yeah, that's definitely not my character. In my hunt, though, I found this amazing website call Hero Forge. It lets you design a character and they 3D print it and send it to you. You have to paint it yourself, but you can make just about anyone.

See? This is much better. She wears her hair in two braids rather than one, but close enough.

And a few weeks later, here's the real deal (in terrible picture form)!

And now with Rusty Cat nose for true scale. Immediately after this picture, he bit her and tried to run off with her. The mini now lives on a high shelf away from cats.

The one flaw in this mini is that she's normal mini heights. She's as tall as I could make her, but she would still be about the same height as an elf or a human, which in actuality she should be about two feet taller. I plan on remedying this by 3D printing her a taller base that I can snap the mini into. God I love my nerd tools.

I'm loving everything about our monthly games where it's just friends and snacks and make-believe. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering trying it out.

And as a wrap up: here are some ideas and links for things I found helpful as a new player.

  • Learn about the game! There are some great youtube videos, particularly 'one-shots' where the game wraps up in one play-through, that will help you understand the mechanisms of the game. I am fond of this one
  • Visualize your character. I found it so much easier to play once I could see my character in my mind. Find a mini, sketch it out, whatever it takes. There are some great artists out there that may have already created something similar to yours. 
  • Start out with everything hand-written in pencil. It will take a while to figure out how you best want to run your character, but don't commit to any strategy too quickly. I've ended up with pencil on paper, within plastic protective sleeves, that I write on in game in wet-erase marker. Between games, I update the penciled information if necessary. Dan created a template to print his spells in business card form and he's got a sleeve of them. 
  • Find online resources. The work sheet in the back of the book are great for covering all your bases, but there may be ones out there that are more helpful for your specific character. I found these ones and I'm so excited about them. 
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to admit that you're learning. I will admit that the first game we played, I was a hot-mess. There are a lot of unspoken rules of DnD and I broke a lot of them. I'm trying to get better, but we are all still novices. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Big Three Oh

In my new strategy of posting nothing in a relevant time period, let's talk about my birthday. My 30th birthday. The big 3-0.

As crazy as this sounds, I had kind of been planning my 30th birthday party for over a year. Before my 29th birthday last year, Dan knew I wanted a Roarin' 20's party and he wanted to throw it together for me at the last minute. As a perfectionist and planner, that clearly wasn't acceptable in my eyes. So I decided to not have a 29th birthday party and got to thinking about the big one the following year.

While I tried too not go too crazy, I've always wanted to throw a real party. A theme that didn't seem thrown together with random things from around the house. I bought a set of 50 disposable champagne glasses to build a pyramid, a big metal tub for cans and bottles, and balloons. I love balloons so much and there really aren't enough excuses to have them. I finally painted my strings of lights that I bought from Target summer clearance years ago. They got a good coat of gold spray paint and hung in the dining room and kitchen. I found printable signs and a banner and made a drinks menu. I made a playlist of 1920's music.

The main reason I wanted to have an "End of the 20's" party was to have an excuse to buy a flapper dress. I love the Art Deco aesthetic so much. I spent weeks going through almost every dress on Unique Vintage until I finally settled on this one. I wanted something not backless, something sparkly and flashy, and something not so costume-y that I could wear it again. While the dress is reusable, the rhinestone headband probably isn't. Originally, I ordered a more subtle, timeless headband, it was on back-order so I got this one at the last minute from Amazon instead.

While most of Dan's outfit he already owned, like a button-down, trousers, and shoes, some new suspenders really made it look vintage. At least three of our friends also wore suspenders and there was a whole side conversation of just how functional they are. I was actually really amazed at how many of my friends dressed up. When you have a group of nerds who never get to dress fancy an opportunity, they go all out.

My friends gave me some great gifts, most of them dinosaur related. Two of my friends made me a dinosaur terrarium. They used an insanely strong epoxy so it's still sitting outside letting the fumes dissipate, but I'm excited to find a place for it inside soon. Also, two different friends found a new home, with me, for three lawn dinosaurs that used to belong to his parents.

My dad gave me some really cool presents. For the most part, my dad is a fairly stoic guy. He's a fairly traditional dad and usually pretty predictable, but every once and a while, he gets ridiculously sentimental. For my 30th birthday, he gave me presents that corresponded with his 30th birthday. He went quail hunting that morning and had his biggest haul ever so he gave me a little ceramic quail. It was little dark for his vegetarian daughter, but it's the thought that counts, right?  He watched his favorite team, the Denver Broncos, take a last minute victory over Oakland, so I got a Denver jersey. Unfortunately not a 1984 style jersey, but a 1997 Elway is still pretty good. Lastly, he and my mom went and saw 'The Terminator' so I now have it on DVD (don't tell him I already had the 'Terminator' box set).

It was a really cute idea. He was amazed that I already knew the 'Terminator' story. He likes to talk about it more than he realizes since he uses seeing it as validation for picking good movies.

It was a very cute idea, one that I will probably mimic someday with my own children. So, for my future children, some day long from now, here's what your presents will be based on:

1) Going to brunch with my mom and my sister.
2) Exchanging the jacket my mom had given me as a gift because it was too small.
3) Watching the terrible Vin Diesel movie 'XXX: Return of Xander Cage' at the Roadhouse theater, stuffing my face with cheddar popcorn.
4) And ending the evening by watching Mostly Walking.

I don't how those will translate to gifts yet, but I'm sure it will be clever and annoying, as is family tradition.

I can't say that I feel 30 yet. It still hasn't hit me. I'm trying to embrace it but there's part of my brain that's fighting back. 30 year-olds don't have dinosaurs in their backyard. Thirty somethings have five or ten year plans. They are adults and make good decisions. I definitely feel like I have my life together now more than I did at 20 or 24, but over the last few years, I really started to figure myself out and I'm probably 95% there. I'm comfortable in who I am, even if that person isn't really an adult yet.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Project House Update: Starry Starry Night

One of the things that's taken me the longest to learn and has been the hardest when it comes to house projects is that the ideal solution is very rarely the first solution. As expensive and as long as it takes, sometimes it takes several tries to get it right.

Oh, but when it's finally right, it's so worth it. Let me tell you a story of how we now have this beautiful entryway chandelier.

When we first moved into our house, one of the first things you saw when you walked into the house was this light. Calling it outdated was an understatement. It was one of the first things we tackled when we started our house overhaul.

We replaced the original fixture with this bell pendant from World Market. I like the shape of it with the archway window of our front door. I like the antique brass finish with the Southwestern nature of our house. I like the secret touch of turquoise hidden inside.

However, Dan wasn't as happy with it, his main complaint being the lack of light. Due to its design, our entryway was being lit by a single light bulb and it wasn't nearly enough light. But the pro's outweighed the con's so we lived with it for over three years.

We lived with the brass bell until we repainted the entryway, getting rid of the hideous yellow that was also a 'learning experience'. The light needed to be removed to paint and Dan hated putting it back up. He wanted something better.

For months, I scoured the internet, trying to find the perfect light for us. And since Dan and I have such drastically different tastes, it was an uphill battle. That is until I stumbled across this arrangement of star pendants. The first image was going to be too small for our entryway, but once I got digging, I found some closer to what I wanted.

Image Source
Image Source
Star pendants like this are huge in Tucson. They're very Southwestern/Mexican. My mom has one in her entryway. My sister (after we found ours) went and got one for her bathroom. They are beautiful, timeless, and fit our house. It was an easy sell for both of us.

Dan and I both did some digging into where to buy these star pendants. After I failed to come up with anything substantial, Dan had an amazing stroke of luck. He found this website with a wide variety of styles. Once he gave it to me and I began poking around, I found that the store behind the website is in Tucson. It was less than a fifteen minute drive and we'd both driven past it hundreds of times, every time we would go to trivia.

This next part will really show how lazy we are. On Black Friday, 2015, Dan's parents were still in town for Thanksgiving and his mom loves Southwestern knick-knacks so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and pull the trigger on some lights. We knew we wanted three, for them to be similar but not matching, and of different sizes. We chose a 10 inch star with frosted glass, a 15 inch star with clear glass, and a 19 inch star with Mercury glass.

The plan was to hang all three together, but we didn't know the best way to do it. In the interim, Dan hung the largest one and we went on with our lives.

So the other two lights sat on a shelf in our laundry room, waiting for a good solution. Again, we lived with just one light bulb lighting our entryway for nearly a year. Around Christmas time, 2016, Dan was fed up yet again with have a dimly lit room. And since he is most productive when he has vacation time, I knew it was time to really move forward and not let his energy go to waste.

The solution I had always liked best was a three-light pendant canopy. They are hard to find, but they would allow all three lights to be mounted together and be part of one, singular chandelier. We modeled what we wanted with cardboard and balloons and it helped us determine the size of the canopy we would need. And like most of this story, once I pointed Dan in the right direction, he came through and found the perfect one.

Dan had an electrician wire it all together and then it was just up to us to hang it. He wrapped each star in packing foam and paper so that they couldn't break each other when I lifted it. I don't think I've ever been so nervous during a house project, but at one point, I was standing next to the ladder, on a dining room chair, holding the light bundle up so Dan could secure it. There was over a year's worth of work (kind of) in my weak little hands and the delicacy of it was not lost on me.

But miraculously it survived! And I did, too!

It's so beautiful. I love it. I absolutely love it. The bulbs are hidden in the smallest and the largest stars, but Dan went the extra mile and put an Edison bulb in the middle one, the clear one.

They hang a little low for our tallest friends, but they will heal if they hurt themselves. As long as they don't break my lights, we won't have any issues.

And it's even prettier at night. Through the arched entryway window, you can see them from the street. So it's even classed up the curb appeal of our house.

The Mercury glass and the Edison bulb have a yellower light than the small star, but one day that will bother me enough to swap it out.

I'm so glad, after all our previous incorrect decisions, we finally ended up with the right one.

If you don't happen to live in an area where you can get these cheap and quick like we managed to do, there are a lot of other options out there. Most are fancier and more expensive than ours, like this one from West Elm.

Like most of our projects, it took much longer than it should have. However, the slow crawl of our work doesn't annoy me as much as it used to. It's just what we need to do to end up with the right solution. When we rush, we make poor decisions. I'd rather do something right, and slowly, the first time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tucson Women's March

Saturday morning, I had the pleasure in taking part of the Tucson leg of the Women's March on Washington. It was a last-minute decision between my sister and I. We were both getting over illnesses and the weather was supposed to be terrible, but we rallied anyway. We both agreed that our conscious' would haunt us if we didn't try.

It was raining, actually hailing at one point, and remarkably cold for Tucson, but that didn't seem to hinder turn-out. My sister lives relatively close to the route, so we parked at her place and walked over. It was amazing getting closer and closer to the beginning of the march path and realizing everyone around us was heading to the same place. At the starting point, we slowly gathered the rest of our party of six. It ended up being me, my sister, my sister's friend, my sister's friend's male coworker, my sister's friend's mom, and one of my sister's high school teachers. We were a motley crew but it turned out to be a great, little bunch.

In the grand scheme of things, we were unprepared. We were cold and wet, but more importantly, we weren't wearing any pink or had any knit hats.

I don't know what the projected attendance number was, but the estimation of final count was above 15,000. It must have been much larger than expected because everything happened much slower than scheduled. And that was ok. The march was a slow crawl through downtown, but fortunately the route was fairly short. It gave us plenty of time to chant with strangers and read punny signs.

Going in, I really didn't know what to expect. Honestly, I had no clue. And in hindsight, that was the right way to go. It ended up being thousands of people who were tired and fed up, but positive and proactive. I saw old classmates from high school. I saw a coworker. I saw young children and their parents and their parents' parents. I saw a troop of girl scouts who sang their little song as they walked. We followed behind a woman probably in her sixties wearing a sandwich board of protest signs, a Viking helmet, banging on a tambourine. There was such a sense of comradery. After the walk, three of us grabbed lunch in a cafe downtown filled with other marchers. Even though we were done at that point, many people were still checking in on the other marches across the country. Update after update of how almost every march in the country was underestimated. That they couldn't even march in Washington D.C. because there were too many people.  

I don't know what I expected to get out of attending the march, but I feel like I got so much out of it. A purely peaceful protest demonstrating that there was still a large section of the population who wasn't just going to sit back and let the bullies win. In spite of being called 'sore losers' or being told to 'be hopeful' that things might still be ok, we were still ready for action. We would be vigilant. We would be watching.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fan of Friday: Week of 1/20/2017

Just like nonograms before, I've become obsessed with another little internet puzzle game. Whether you call it 'Slither Link' or 'Puzzle Loop', it's an addicting brain exercise.

The point of the game is pretty simple: you are trying to create one continuous line throughout the space that doesn't violate any of the constraints given to you. The space contains a grid of dots and some blank and numbered squares. The numbered squares tell you how many line segments surround the numbered space. With reason and deduction (and usually a crap-ton of time), you can determine the path of the loop.

It does take a while to get the feel of it, so if it's something you are interested in, start by reading the tutorial page, slowly increasing the size and difficulty, and making notes of tricks and patterns.

Now that I've gotten the trick of them, I race myself. My goal this week was to complete one of the 20 by 20s in under 15 minutes. This was my first success.

On the gargantuan weekly puzzle, like the one below, sometimes the easiest way to solve it is to step back and do something else for a while. Fresh eyes can really help when you are stuck. And I get stuck a lot.

I mean, these puzzles aren't anything special, but they are fun, they are free, and they make me feel like my brain isn't turning into complete mush.