Preview of Coming Attractions: A New Name

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Thorwald never saw this coming.

You know, if Welcome to Night Vale can take a hiatus in July, I think I can as well. We’ll ignore the fact that they’re a well-known and exquisitely produced show that redefines weird-strange-lovely and I’m some random blog that everyone (including myself) seems to forget exists.

I am beginning to think that I like planning a blog more than actual blogging. I have a notebook filled with page after page of entry ideas, and digital documents of words typed upon words, but I continued to be foiled. Why is it so difficult to put pen to paper? Fingers to keys? I don’t know exactly why, but I will keep on trying. I am determined to make this blog work.

Speaking of the blog, here’s a preview of coming attractions:

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TA DA!

Yup, it’s a name change! Pretty soon* Irrelephants.com will become CwellanS.org!
I know what you’re thinking, and I’m pretty sure I felt your eyes roll. But hold on the nay-saying! This will be the last name change. CwellanSorg, which loosely, in a bastardized way, means “killing sorrow,” is the mission statement my blog has been looking for. All this writer’s block, the scraping around for joy? My desperate means of killing sorrow so I can thrive. If I can’t choose joy, if I can’t escape the black cloud that’s following me, then I’ll have to give up blogging. At least for a little while.

I’m not sure when the change will take place. I’m attempting to make a theme but it’s going pretty badly. I have Irrelephants for another couple of months, so I’m really trying to get something together that looks nice, and isn’t just a modified version of the basic theme.

In unrelated news, here is a gif that I found tacked onto a Tumblr post. I’m not sure what it was doing there, much less who made it. But if you happen to know who this darling gif should belong to, let me know. It’s pretty much my favorite thing about this week.

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If you aren’t hearing the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” you aren’t doing it right.

* And by “pretty soon” I mean at some point between now and when I run off to become a pirate of the high seas.

Small Talk: What Exactly Am I Doing With My Life Anyways


tahoe16_lake02So vacation is a week over, and let me tell you, the vacation hangover stings something fierce. It doesn’t help that this work week was messaged directly from Satan himself.

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A lake shot from INSIDE the lake.

My week in the mountains, hiking around in poison ivy-free trails, swimming in a cold lake, and laughing every day with family I only see every decade or so, was simultaneously amazing and trying. Trying not because family, no matter how much you love them are still family, and sometimes you need a break after so much quality time, but because of my life. Small talk is an act of torture by and of itself when you’re an introvert. I can do it, and I can do it well, but it’s never pleasant, and I always find myself wondering desperately, what is the point?!

Sometimes I wonder if I really hate small talk, or if I simply hate talking about work. Because when it comes to small talk as an unmarried, childfree woman of thirty, after the weather, the only thing people will inquire about is my job.

Let me start with a statement: I hate the company I work for. I don’t really hate my job, like the day to day what I do, but I loathe, with every fiber of my being, the corporation I slave for day after day. I work for the same company I have for ten years. Like so many of my peers, my “get me through school job” became my “desperately trying to pay my loans off” job. To say I’m underemployed is putting it mildly. Despite the increasing number of applications I send off, the hours I spend scouring ads and online job listings, I remain where I have been.

I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to be underemployed. There are a helluva lot of jobs and even more people applying for each one. But I hate wasting my life where I’m at, and I have begun slightly embittered because it feels like I’ll be trapped forever at a place which, at every turn, has proved untrustworthy. So when my great aunt wants to talk about what I’m doing with my life, “rolling change and stocking floors” doesn’t really stimulate much discussion.

Another downside to small talk? It launches me into a downward spiral of existential crisis. What am I doing with my life? Does my life have meaning? What if no one remembers me when I die? What if I die alone? Have I accomplished anything? Will I ever see the sailboat?

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I feel you, Willem.

I don’t know what I’m doing my life. Ten years ago, that didn’t bother me because I was young, and I figured I’d eventually find what set my soul on fire. I still don’t, and even though I believe too old isn’t a thing, I do wish the universe would clue me in to whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing.

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Bring me that horizon.

 

Vacations and other changes

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It’s that time of decade again: time for a vacation! I’m packing up the car and heading to Lake Tahoe for an almost family reunionish thing. Blogging probably won’t happen, since I’m hoping the next ten days will be nothing but fruity drinks, good meals, and people I don’t want to punch in the face. We’ll see at any rate.

Once I’m back, there will be some changes happening around here. Hopefully they will be good changes, but at any rate, they’ll be changes I like, and since I make up approximately 100% of my readership, I think it will be okay.

Traditions, Boogers, and Rebellions

I’ve been working on an entry detailing my life this past year. 30 has changed me in a lot of ways, but the more I think about it the more I realize 30 hasn’t done squat to me. Sometimes this comes from close introspection, from lying on a blanket and looking at constellations I learned in the eleventh grade, contemplating my place in this wide, winding universe. Sometimes this comes from silly moments where I realize I am, in fact, still a child.

My family has had a tradition of waving goodbye. Whether the person leaving was on their way to work, school, or driving through the 48 contiguous United States, we lined up and waved to those leaving. We still do that, even when someone leaves from the host’s house. We file up and wave (later there was also dancing, but perhaps the less said about that, the better. Have you ever seen a 60 year old white man try to twerk his nonexistent butt at you?).

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Gif from Tumblr.

Today I waved my mother goodbye on her way to work. I’ve been under the weather lately, and you know how sometimes, while you’re sick, you can feel a booger moving in and out as you try to breathe around it? I removed it discreetly so I could continue, you know, breathing. My mother took time out of her day to lean out the window and say, “Throw that way. Don’t put it on my car.”

Of course I wasn’t going to put in on her car, I was going to throw it away. But being told not to brought out my inner three year old, and so I flicked said booger on her tires as I waved her away.

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So apparently I’m the kind of 30 year old who wipes boogers on her mother’s car. I’m not sure any amount of editing or wordsmithing can make my upcoming “What I’ve Learned from 30” entry meaningful.

Ground Control to Major Liss

Apologies for the radio silence. Does it help that it wasn’t intentional? I haven’t been in a good head place lately, and what’s worse is that I didn’t even realize I wasn’t in a good head space until I started rereading ASOIAF. It wasn’t until I was halfway through AFFC when I realized if Westeros is my escape, there might be something seriously wrong with me.

I haven’t allowed myself to give up on this blog yet. It’s my hope that you won’t, either.

Depressing Milestones

I know a lot of people view birthdays and getting older as this inherently depressing thing. The unasked for sympathy I got last year when I turned 30 was kind of unreal. People were surprised I felt no shame over the big three-oh, or else thought I was vaguely delusional and still hanging to the vestiges of my youth. No, as anonymous once so aptly put it: growing older is a privilege denied to many, and I refuse to feel bad about my age.

No, it is of another milestone I write of today: anniversaries. Specifically, working anniversaries. Today marks the beginning of my 10th year at my current job.

I don’t like my job, and I’ve made no secret of this. Actually, the job in and of itself isn’t bad, but the corporation I work for is terrible, and they corrupt even the most stalwartly kind, good-hearted, hard-working people. Each work day is the emotional equivalent of banging my head into a brick wall, and for the pleasure of taking abuse with a smile (be if from a customer, coworker, or manager), I get paid about a dollar more than someone who’s been with the company for six months. The fact that, as soon as I walk through those doors tomorrow morning, I will be starting my tenth year at my “get me through school” job, is one of the most depressing milestones I can think of.

I’ve been out of university for six years now. For the first five years, I was so busy drowning in student loans and resume rejections, my only thought was to keep my head above the tide. At the five year mark, thanks to some lucky breaks and the help of some very generous family members, the student loan tsunami turned. I’ve still got loads of debt, but there’s been enough cleared away as to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve had a change to breathe in the last year, and to ponder where my life is going, and where I want it to go.

I am unhappy with my current employment, but unfortunately, despite sucking the life out of my last decade, my job hasn’t given me many marketable skills. My job hunt is wide open (literally, the only requirements I look for in a job is that it must be full time, and it must offer health benefits, since I’ll be punished monetarily for not having them), and there is still nothing on the horizon. I’m not even so foolish as to only look and apply for jobs I actually want, but anything that pays better than what I’m doing now.

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Sad Sam Winchester is sad.

Why such low standards, you ask? (And believe me, people ask!) Because the kick of it all is, even once I’ve paid off all my loans (which should be about another five years), I still can’t afford to live the kind of life I want. How extravagantly do I wish to live? My outrageous goals are living in a safe area in a place of my own, making enough money to pay my bills and to be able to save some money for an emergency. That’s…. that’s about it.

My life has to change. I’ve been trying, but it isn’t enough. And today’s anniversary has put my life into harsh perspective.

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Where do we go from here?

 

Fuller House: An Irrelephant Review

Screencap from S2E4, Girl In The FirePlace, showing Ten, his face covered with the Netflix logo, jumping through the mirror on a white horse.

So far, my white knight Netflix has given the world some pretty solid programming: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, OITNB. The whole reason I even have Netflix at all is because they picked up Arrested Development for a fourth season. As a kid who grew up back when TGIF was a thing, Full House was 7 year old me’s favorite TV show (which would be eclipsed three years later by Matlock, but hey, that’s life). So when Fuller House was announced, I was pretty darn excited. So excited, in fact, I broke my internet fast a week early because I was too anxious to watch when it dropped on February 26.

 

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Full(er) disclosure: I was a big fan of the original series, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and lately I’ve been craving fluff that requires no brain power to suss out. Fuller House falls under all three of these categories.

Everyone seems to be upset by the premise of the show, which is the same as Full House but with women instead of men. I am confused, simply because from any of the promotional materials, I had thought that was fairly obvious. A lot of people on the internet also seem to be angry about how cheesy and fluffy the show is, which also confuses me, because hello, did you not see the original series? I love Full House, don’t get me wrong, but if that ain’t cheese, I don’t know what is.

Also, spoilers? Maybe? Game of Thrones and Walking Dead this isn’t, but still. You’ve been warned.

Pros:

  1. Stephanie becomes a world-travelling, semi-famous DJ. As a fellow middle child, I revel vicariously in her success.
  2. Kimmy freaking Gibbler. When I originally learned Kimmy would be one of the leads, I was a little nervous. I had Kimmy filed firmly under “Better In Small Doses.” Never in a million years would I have guessed she’d be one of my favorite parts of the show, but, hey, there it is.
  3. All the dancing! I enjoyed the random dancing, from the NKOTB homage to the nightclub dance off. Perhaps because there was more of it in Full House than some people seem to remember, maybe because I just like dancing. But it was fun.

Cons:

  1. As Ramona points out, the Fuller-Tanner clan is as white bread as white bread watching Frozen can possibly get. Even including a Latina child isn’t enough to dilute the glaring whiteness. As if to make it a point to be all the things people hate about white people, in episode 11 includes an Indian themed party, complete with a Bollywood music number. Now, I won’t deny I dig Bollywood dance numbers, but I just, I dunno, prefer it when my mindless entertainment isn’t mixed so heavily with cultural appropriation. Because really, what was the payoff? Kimmy’s business looks good, and she and Stephanie had a bonding moment? Not worth it, guys.
  2. The love triangle between DJ, Steve, and newcomer Matt. Not only do I hate love triangles in general, but also, this one was super forced and, perhaps most sinfully, not entertaining. Steve was never a brain trust, but now he’s just creepy and insecure. Maybe it’s because DJ and Steve were never my OTP, but I was pretty meh about the whole arc.

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    DJ’s inner dialogue during the “Ghost” date. Ick.
  3. Holy Chalupas. I get the appeal of cheesy taglines (“How rude” escaped my lips many a time as a youngster), but this one feels forced and never once made me so much as grin. Max is my favorite kid, and it’s downright disappointing he gets such a lame catch phrase.

Bottom line: if you’re a former TGIF kid who enjoyed Full House, and you’re not expecting art with a capital A, watch Fuller House. Laugh at the corny jokes. Take in all the cheese. Get a cavity from all the saccharine family sweetness. Enjoy! If you didn’t like Full House, Fuller House won’t be your cup of tea.

I do hope that, should it get a second season, Fuller House will rely less on the fond memories of my childhood. While the tributes, homages, and references to Full House make it feel like we’re all in on the joke, season two needs to be crutch-free. If the show is going to stand on its own two feet, it’s going to have to get used to its own weight.

 

A03 Here I Come: Breaking A Cycle

I am a writer with a dirty secret: I don’t actually write.

I mean, I do write. I nano every year. I write this blog, I journal a couple times a month, and I have tubs full of notebooks that are brimming over with ideas scribbled in the margins. So yes, I physically write. And I think about writing constantly, but in terms of sitting down and writing something just to write it, to get it out of my head, to tell a story… it hasn’t happened for a long time.

I used to write a lot of fanfiction, across several genres. It’s nice playing in someone else’s sandbox sometimes. Sometimes, as a storyteller, you want to explore moments that don’t get the attention you think it deserves. Or any attention, depending on the moment. I was never internetfamous for any of my fanworks, but I got feedback and was able to improve. I was happy, telling the stories I thought needed telling, and I had an audience. It was basically what I wanted for my real life, except that I’d be getting paid. Then when I was in college to get a degree in just that, I stopped writing fanfiction, and nearly stopped writing altogether.

It started with a snippet of Jasper Fforde’s FAQ:

“My thoughts on Fan Fiction are pretty much this: That it seems strange to want to copy or ‘augment’ someone else’s work when you could expend just as much energy and have a lot more fun making up your own.”

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Suddenly, I was thrust into uncertainty and doubt. It wasn’t hard, since I have a voice in the back of my head that constantly tells me everything I do is crap anyway. But here was a published author I respected totally destroying my writing foundation. Why was I wasting all this time writing about other people’s superior characters and worlds when I could be putting work into my own? Why should I ever waste one moment on it ever again, obviously fanfiction would get me nowhere. Between Fforde’s FAQpunch and my increasingly dissatisfying college experience, my writing trickled to a halt. The only writing I did was for school.

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Real life video of the five novels I wrote after college.

This went on for years. My relationship to writing had become so dysfunctional that I plunged into a seriously unhealthy cycle of feeling guilty for not writing, attempting to write only to be convinced everything was bad, to wait for inspiration, to find inspiration, attempt to write, fail to write, then feel guilty for not writing. Lately, I’ve been trying to break the cycle by telling myself over and over that I don’t have to be perfect. Yes, I still have a desire to write and to make a living from writing. My skills have atrophied during my estrangement, and they must be built up again. But I must allow myself to make stupid mistakes and write Anne Lamott’s shitty first drafts.

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Couldn’t resist.

I’m proud to announce I’ve been writing again. In attempt to break the toxic cycle that’s squeeze the joy from my writing, I’ve gone back to my fanfiction roots. After deliberating for two days, I actually published it on AO3 and, less than 24 hours later, I have over 20 kudos and three comments. I don’t say that to brag (because that would be a pretty pathetic brag), I say that to remind myself that recovery is a long process. Is what I wrote my best work? Probably not. But it’s something I put myself into, and something I talked myself into being brave enough to put out for possible ridicule. The fact that people are responding positively to it isn’t a reflection on me or my worth, but it’s certainly helping me progress.

Of course, this course of action could also be very dangerous for me. I’ve never edited my fanfiction extensively, and I’m a pretty firm believer in editing where some of the best writing takes place. The fact I can write something today and post it immediately to a built-in audience could cause me to get lazy in my writing. But right now, I’m simply focusing on not being perfect. Irrelephants isn’t perfect. As a blog, it’s not even good yet. But after years of plotting for perfection that wasn’t going to come, imperfect practice is what I’ll take.

Two quick notes! I do have to say unlike some other authors I could mention, Fforde has expanded his view of fanfiction, acknowledging it to be a celebration rather than infringement. I don’t want anyone hating one of my favorite authors.

And two? Thanks to everyone who read my story and gave me feedback. It’s what I needed right now. I’ve practically been juggling scorpions!

Finding the Right Word: The Color Thesaurus, by Ingrid Sundberg

I have to admit, I’ve been a word nerd since the fourth grade. People tease me about being a grammar nazi, but I prefer to say that I’m simply very passionate about spelling, punctuation, and using the right word. The English language is a beautiful thing: the OED has over 600,000 words in it. There are so many deliciously specific words. For example: defenestrate. It means to throw something or someone out a window. There is a word for throwing someone out of a window! It’s little things just like that that will make you fall in love with language (and then when you have to use that that in a sentence and you kind of hate it, but hey, love is hard). The point here is two-fold: 1) never start a discussion with me about words unless you’re ready for it, and 2) the English language is a grand and wondrous thing.

I have to be honest and say I’ve never heard of Ingrid Sundberg, and obviously unfamiliar with her work. After a quick perusal of her website (and the mini gallery of her colorful hair, oh YES), I get the sense that she is also particular about using the right word. She’s so particular, in fact, she’s given the rest of the world a nice, visual guide by creating The Color Thesaurus.

If you write, please go and look at her beautiful breakdown of the rainbow. I get tired of elves with purple eyes when they clearly could have heather. Why have a sable coat of darkness when you could have a crow-colored cloak of midnight? These words conjure up specific images, and can enrich even the teeniest bit of story.

Ingrid’s word-color wheel is by no means complete, but it’s a great place to start, especially for writers still trying to find their voice or put a little variety in their descriptions. Or maybe that’s just the word nerd in me speaking. For those of you who are interested, Ingrid will be selling poster versions soon.

Now, go forth and colorfy!

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5 Things I’m Tired of Hearing From Physicians

Until this past year, I never saw a physician on a regular basis. By regular basis, I mean that sometimes entire years went by before I sought medical attention. I’ve never had great insurance, so I never went unless I was ill and obviously not getting better. Sometimes this has the potential to backfire magnificently (like the time in college I struggled through four months of terrible, heaving coughing and ended up scarring my lungs), but to me, it was just a way of life. If I knew I didn’t have the money to see my physician, I couldn’t go. Urgent care was definitely out, and I never, ever thought about going to the ER.

In 2015, I saw more physicians than I had in the previous four years. Perhaps it’s because of this concentrated dose that I was forcefully reminded why I avoid going unless I really have to.

This list is not an indictment of my physicians. My PCP and the specialist I’m currently seeing, while not perfect, are actually the best medical professionals I’ve experienced in a long time. Rather, this list is a personal expression of decades of frustration at the medical community at large, a frustration that has only deepened over time.

  1. Your BMI is awfully high / You’re overweight / You’re fat.

Firstly, [BMI is a terrible way to pretend to gauge someone’s health]. Secondly, over what weight, exactly? People mock the idea of big bones, but I’ve always been a solid person, even when I was a “regular” weight baby/child. I remember my first foray into Weight Watchers when they told me my goal weight was 115, a number the scale had literally not seen since I was ten years old.

Thirdly, I don’t need someone with a medical degree to tell me what I can see with my own eyes. I know I’m fat. Until recently, I was fat and healthy. My current medical issues don’t have any bearing with my fatness, and even if they did, it wouldn’t make me less worthy of treatment.

These statements are obvious, unhelpful, and waste the precious time I’ve paid for.

  1. It’s because you’re fat.

My fatness has been used to doctorsplain why I’ve gotten poison ivy, had allergies, ear infections, flus, headaches, carpal tunnel, blood in my eye, breathing issues, irregular periods, and neck trauma. Not only is this not true, it’s again unhelpful and a waste of the time I’m paying through the nose for.

  1. Don’t you have insurance?

Speaking of paying through the nose… I understand that everybody’s body is literally different, and that in the medical field, you have to do different kinds of tests to diagnose someone properly. But when a physician says I should do a certain barrage of tests (which are statistically likely to give a false answer 50% of the time, requiring at least another round), and I ask if there’s a more conclusive and direct route to getting the answer needed, and the attitude I get back is that I’m some uneducated peasant, a lot of the time I get the same question: don’t you have insurance?

Yes, I have insurance, because otherwise, my government would fine me for not having it. Does that mean I have good insurance? That I can go to my PCP every time I have a cough that won’t go away? Hell no. My deductible is a third of my yearly income. I’ve never once, in the ten years of paying for my own insurance, met half of my deductible. So that means on top of paying for my insurance, I pay for my medical stuff out of pocket.

  1. You’ll need to lose weight.

This is a particularly baffling response that often comes after I’ve explicitly stated that I have no interest in losing weight.  Whether I’m getting a procedure done, or coming in because I have an ear infection, I don’t need the weight lecture. I, like most fat people, know every iteration of this lecture.

Also, just because I’ve stopped buying into the 60 billion dollar a year notion that magically shrinking myself would make all my dreams come true, doesn’t mean I’m not willing and able to whatever I can for my own health. Losing weight has proven itself very bad indeed for my health, so I’ve chosen to focus on behaviors I can actually change to make a difference in my health, such as eating more fruit and veg every day, moving my body in ways I enjoy, and so forth.

Physicians seen my refusal to lose weight as stubbornness and unwilling to comply with treatment, despite the fact I’ve said over and over that just because I refuse to purposely lose weight doesn’t mean I won’t follow instructions. For example, one of my specialists just told me to limit my protein to help my kidneys, so guess what? I’ve been limiting my protein. Easy peasy.

  1. All you have to do is…

Despite the fact I mostly like my current troupe of physicians, this doesn’t mean I don’t still get frustrated. Recently, when I shared my new diagnosis to one of my physicians, he launched enthusiastically into what I can do to lose weight. Before he could build up serious steam, I told him I have no interest in losing weight.

“Oh, you don’t have to try, it will probably just happen. All you have to do is…”

Cut out carbs! (Cholesterol went down 200 points!) Cut out soda! (A patient dropped thirty pounds and didn’t change anything else!) Cut out sugar (so much energy!) The list goes on.

There are three things wrong with this exchange. One: I expressly said I didn’t want to lose weight. I don’t see my weight as a problem to overcome. Two: news flash, I already don’t eat tons of bread or pasta, and I don’t drink soda. When I point out I don’t partake in these “fat” behaviors, people assume I’m lying, or that I must be mainlining cookie dough every night.

Third, and most distressingly of all, this sort of talk makes me sad because it’s how all our medical professionals are indoctrinated in medical school.  These assumptions about health and fatness can and has killed people. Not just fat people, either.

Here’s to 2016, since it will be full of medical visits and physicians and professionals who may or may not want to treat me.