Friday, June 23, 2017

Project House Update: I'm Finally An Expert in Something

One thing is for sure: Dan and I are getting much better at building houses for Desert Tortoises. The first time we built Turtle a house (at our new house), it had only survived two years before needing to be renovated. However, once we rebuilt it, we got almost four years out of it. However, between a pack rat, a bunch of lizards, a tortoise, and the elements, his house was definitely looking more shabby than chic.


The pack rat really made a mess of things again. It dug tunnels under the back of the house under the cinder block and compromised the integrity of the structure. We tried to patch things with additional bricks and rocks, but it wasn't enough and it continued to collapse on itself. With monsoon season less than a month away, I didn't believe the house would survive the daily thunderstorms.


This time, we made a plan, a very detailed one. That's what happens when you have two mechanical engineers who really don't want to have to keep rebuilding a reptile house. The plan was multi-layered.

  1. Add more cinder blocks so it would be harder for the pack rat to dig tunnels out from under it.
  2. Stake the cinder blocks with rebar so they would be less inclined to shift if tunnels did form.
  3. Fill the centers of the cinder blocks with cement to help keep them in place.
  4. Once the roof was placed back on, add another protective layer on top of the wood with tar paper or sheet metal roofing material. 
  5. Cover the top and sides of the structure with chicken wire and stake it into place. This would help keep the dirt in place on top of it and also hinder the pack rat from digging through it.
  6. Add a layer of non-smooth river rocks.
  7. Fill in all the gaps with dirt.
  8. Eventually, add some desert plants around the structure to prevent erosion. 


The huge fly in the ointment was the weather. With monsoon season only a couple of weeks away, we needed to rebuild his house ASAP. However, did you know it gets hot in Arizona? Not only hot, but we had a record-breaking heat wave. The temperatures were supposed to hit 115F and stay there.

It. was. miserable.

We were prepared and woke up bright and early on Sunday morning to beat the heat. It was still 90F by 8AM, but it could have been worse. We drank plenty of water and had sunscreen and protective clothing, but it was still brutal. We tried to work as fast as possible to get out of the sun.


Let me be real here: Dan did almost all the work. He was all the muscle. My contribution was planning and keeping this cheeky, little bastard out of the way. Turtle was incredibly interested in hat we were doing and kept trying to crawl into the middle of it. My job was to, about every 30 seconds, pick him up a couple of inches from the ground, move him five feet, and watch as he turned around and crawled back over. He is a very determined little reptile.


Most of the build went according to plan. Dan thought he had tar paper hoarded in his shop, but he didn't, so we used an insulating automobile fabric instead. I couldn't get the chicken wire to stake down as cleanly as I wanted so it will probably poke out through the dirt eventually. And lastly, the layer of river rocks under the dirt was maybe a half-dozen rocks. It was just too damn hot to try to collect and carry rocks. Turtle was itching to get back in his house so we shoveled dirt back on top and let him in.


His little pack rat buddy will probably move back in soon and try to cause trouble but it should at least be harder for him this time. I'm hoping that planting some creosote bushes along the base of the dirt mount will help keep things neater, too.

We'll see. If this one last five years, it's an improvement over the last design.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Space Turtle!

Have you ever done one of those 'Drink and Paint' classes? It's the new trend to go to a studio, have a couple of glasses of wine, and have an instructor walk you through a step by step canvas painting. I've always wanted to try one, but I either didn't like the painting subject or couldn't herd my friends into an organized group to try it.

I mean, it wasn't something I was losing sleep over, but it seemed like a fun thing to try. It probably would have never happened until the opportunity was thrust upon me. My sister found a 'Paint Your Patronus' paint party and strong-armed my mom and I into signing up with her. As much as I wanted to try one of these classes, I had some concerns. First, I'm not a big 'Harry Potter' fan. I couldn't care less about my patronus. Secondly, I don't drink so I was conscious of wasting money if drinks were included. And lastly, my mom is an artist. A professional, awesome artist. You can see her work here. My sister inherited the artistic gene from our mother and I got the engineering gene from our father. I didn't want my sister and my mom's paintings to be amazing and awesome and mine just be crap.

But I was signed up, so I picked a patronus, clearly Turtle, and sent a picture of him in to be sketched out in advance.


Typically, these sorts of events happen in a proper painting studio, but this one-off happened in a bar downtown. The other difference between this patronus event and normal events is that everyone had a different painting, a different patronus. Typically at these paint parties, everyone is painting the same sunset or the same tree with little heart leaves. But you really couldn't expect everyone to have the same patronus, right? There were a lot of deer, rabbits, and owls, but I had the only tortoise and one woman had a glass of wine.

It was a fun event, but it was definitely chaotic. Fortunately, each canvas had their patronus pre-sketched onto it so we had some guidelines. Without that, mine would have been a complete mess.



The bar wasn't set up well for the event and I couldn't see any of the sample painting as we went through the steps. It became a weird sort of telephone game of interpreting what I was supposed to do by words only. 'Paint wavy lines starting at your patronus' became 'a background of wavy lines', not what it was supposed to be, smoke coming off the patronus. I didn't have a clue what I was doing most of the time, but that didn't stop me. In hindsight, a tortoise shell had way too many details on it to fit into the painting techniques we were being walked through. My Turtle painting is definitely more 'Space Turtle' than 'Patronus', but I think I like it better that way. Like something from Terry Pratchett, he drifts slowly through space, watching over the galaxy.


And speaking of watching over, I hung him in front of the toilet in the guest room, so he can watch over and judge anyone using the bathroom.



In the future, I'd still like to try a class where we all paint the same thing. My next masterpiece won't be as close to my heart as my Space Turtle, but maybe it will be more along my skill set.

If you are in the Tucson area and would like to try one of these classes, check out Tipsy Picasso.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Fan of Friday: Week of 6/2/2017

This week I am a fan of the website, Shapeways. It's a 3D printing website that lets you upload your own designs and have them created in a variety of mediums. While I haven't uploaded any of my own designs yet, I have fallen in love with many things, especially DnD dice.

When we started playing DnD back at the beginning of the year, most of my group went out immediately and bought cute sets of matching dice. I couldn't find any that really spoke to me until I started looking at the custom ones on etsy. They were expensive, but oh so pretty.

I went without dice for several months, borrowing them from people. Over time, I realized two things: 1) I don't like matching sets of dice because I can't tell them apart. They all look too similar and I don't want to worry that I've picked up the wrong one, and 2) I don't really like the plastic, molded conventional dice.

I was ready to break down and buy a bunch on etsy when I stumbled across the website that produces the fancy ones, Shapeways. I probably spent more on dice than any reasonable human should (except for maybe Dan who for some reason bought thirteen sets of dice, no exaggeration), but they are so pretty that I carry them everywhere with me in my purse. Because they are 3D printed, they are great to show off to just about everyone I know, one of the perks of being a mechanical engineer.


The majority of my dice are gold colored steel. This is my six sided die, or as us nerds call it, a 'd6'.


This is my eight sided die, also in gold colored steel.


I meant to just buy one of everything, but I couldn't choose between these two ten sided die so I just bought both. My house may be a fixer upper and my car may be sixteen years old, but I make it rain when it comes to dice. This 'd10' is gold colored steel.


This 'd10' is my only die that's not gold colored steel; it's polished brass. It meant that it cost more, but it was just too pretty to pass up.


This is my gold colored 'd12'. As a Goliath fighter, I haven't had much reason to use it yet, but when I get more powerful, it'll do some damage.


This is the die that started the love affair. My beautiful 'd20' that I lusted for on etsy. I expected it to be a beast, but it's hollow so it shouldn't destroy as many tables.


And again, it was a one percenter's 'Sophie's Choice' and I couldn't choose between these two insane 'd20's. While the other one was my first love, this one wouldn't leave my heart either.


My only die that isn't from Shapeways is my 'd4'. I really wanted a rectangular 'd4', rather than the traditional triangular design. This one is hand-forged by a partner of 'Critical Role'. Again, I don't have much reason to use it, but that doesn't hinder my love for it.


I will say, for as much as I love Shapeways, I have had a miss with it. I ordered these 'd20' earrings as a gift for a friend and both arrived damaged. I have had great luck with the printed metal pieces, but these 'Black Strong and Flexible' ones did not live up to their material name.


Lastly (I've rambled a lot about my little trinkets), Shapeways is the 3D printing company that produces all the Hero Forge minis, like my beautiful Goliath.


As an engineer and designer, I'm excited to design and upload some of my own pieces in the future!

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

Sick

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

Grandma

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.