My 2016 in (Unspecific) Review

So.. About that 2016, huh?

Here’s a basic, completely honest guide to what was inside my head during 2013 as categorized by five(ish) values that I chose before the end of 2015.

(Writing an annual review was inspired by James Clear, an author whose works help make me better)

I didn’t go into very much detail about “things” and “stuff” as it’s meant to be more of a general overview. During 2017, I’ve already got it down as a goal to document these things specifically ;)

Note: This post pertains only to myself and not much outside of that.

Wellp, here goes!

Life in General

The things that happened and feelings I had in 2016 were pretty unfortunate towards the first half of the year, yet have seen improvements in just about all areas throughout the second half.

The main events that have had the biggest effect on me, in no particular order, are:

  • Family
  • Relationship
  • Work
  • Creativity and its drive

I’ve only really spoken friends about the hardships my family has gone through this year and my reactions to it, the impact of my relationship on me as a human being, and my own internal hardships. All of which I’m really hesitant to post on the internet, even on my fairly private Facebook, as opposed to a public blog. These will stay in my personal journal for now.

Overall, I’m glad for the upward swing of the last few months of 2016. My desire is to take hold and make flourish these good feelings. It’s refreshing after years of… Not.

Happy 2017!

Learning/growth

What went well?

My mind has started to break down the tight walls I’ve subconsciously built over the few years prior. I’m talking about in the realm of learning new job skills, new For a good while, “no idea” really meant “I don’t have any ideas and I’m so numb that I don’t care to find any.” Now, “no idea” has become “I have so many ideas and don’t know how to narrow them down to just choose and/or focus on one right now”. This an immense improvement!

As the year progressed, the stationary, lack of knowledge flow finally started to get to me and things that I’d been interested in learning before had begun to surface.

I’ve taken a few one-day courses and read up on a few fields. It’s been fun.

What didn’t go well?

For the first third of the year, I had little desire to add anything big to my brain. I’d learn new sewing, knit and crochet techniques when I needed them, but that was the extent of it.

I learned that the community colleges here have a much higher per-unit cost than I had imagined, and I am not in a position to go into debt. Investing in education pays itself off? Maybe. I still haven’t used my Bachelors degree. I also cannot justify the dollars and debt for something I’m not head over heels passionate about.

The one-day courses and reading for knowledge that I mentioned above was really great, but I still haven’t wrapped my heart around anything to further professionally pursue yet.

What are you working towards?

Overall, my learning focal point has been on career skills. I’m really great at my current job, I’m glad that my skills are of a great use and more than anyone had expected, that my work is valuable to the company and most individuals. However, the nature of the work doesn’t lend itself well to fulfilling my need to be creative.

I’m working towards skills I can use in side work, and if I love them enough, maybe make an entire career pivot.

Creativity

What went well?

I’ve made a lot of stuff this year. Learned new techniques, made wearable clothing, sold some stuff, and have ideas for more things I want to make.

I’ve started implementing thumbnail sketching for digital designs. Okay, one design. But it’s worked out well, and I intend to keep doing this!

What didn’t go well?

I usually only make things when I need something, and then figure out what to make to fill that gap. I still don’t really make anything that doesn’t have an immediate purpose. This is something I should do, but, as I’ve always said, I’m not good at making something from nothing, including ideas. I should, though, just to practice and get experience. Knowing myself, making a thing will trigger more ways to manipulate the pattern and give it new meaning and generate more idea for me to play with.

There were a couple of things that I had picked up supplies for but haven’t begun..

What are you working on?

Working on fixing what didn’t go well.. I’d like to start making things that I don’t necessarily need to fill a gap in order to hone in on whichever crafting skill, and then put them up on Etsy so they can get some use (and not clutter up my apartment!) more info on this later :)

Wholeheartedness/Authenticity

What went well?

Looking around the internet these days, we find encouragement to just be our own selves and not conform to whatever standards. There are still limitations I put on myself, but that’s just me.

In a staying true to myself and feelings, I’ve made it a point to express myself more thoroughly. When something makes me happy, when something makes me unhappy. There’s something liberating about it, but…

What didn’t go well?

People are generally happy to hear what good they bring, but less so when they’ve brought something less than that. For the less made me feel like I’m turning into a complainer, I feel like I sound whiny and/or bitchy, and I don’t always feel like I’m being taken seriously.

What are you working on?

Probably just not expecting to be listened to. It’s either that or keep my mouth shut..

This is a tough one.

Optimism/positivity

What went well?

I’m pretty good at looking on the bright side of things :) I feel like I give people the benefit of the doubt and allow myself to trust what they say. Even if I have a little skepticism, it helps to keep this in mind, and face the fears of being let down by either myself or others.

What didn’t go well?

Being let down a few times. But that’s my fault for attaching expectation to optimism.

What are you working on?

Separating that expectation from general optimism. 

Compassion/gratitude

What went well?

I feel like I’ve done well expressing my gratitude for the people in my life and the things they do for me.

Showing compassion and gratitude towards the people around me is something that never fails to fill my heart, so I make it a point to let them know how much they mean to me.

What didn’t go well?

I’ve been having trouble balancing the gratitude I have for something, even when it’s not exactly what I want it to be.

For instance, work. I’m really happy knowing that I’m great at my job and that my work is important, and I’m definitely grateful for having my job and the people I’m lucky enough to work with. At the same time, the work isn’t as fulfilling as I want it to be, I don’t feel like I’m contributing to the greater good and my position certainly doesn’t lend itself well to the creativity I want to bring to my working life.

What are you working towards?

I’m working on being happy and grateful for what I have, as well as telling myself IT’S OKAY to want more, without feeling guilty, greedy or ungrateful.

I’m still continuing to come up with more and more ways to remind people that I am grateful for them <3

My LASIK Experience – The Healing Process (At 2 weeks)

I only widely (okay, via social media) announced that I’d be undergoing LASIK the day it happened..

Since it’s been done, the most questions I’ve received from friends and family aren’t about the procedure itself, but the healing and how they are now.

Please remember that everyone will react differently, and this is solely MY experience. For instance, I met a colleague last week saying that he had no light halos, but wasn’t able to really see at all for nearly 10 hours post-surgery. Very different from my healing, but his vision came out just great!

There are a number of known side effects that can occur, and they’re perfectly normal to have, and will likely go away over time. This is a huge thing I’ve made sure to keep in mind. Things will NOT be perfect out the gate, or even for a little bit after. But it’s NORMAL! If I take care of them properly, I know I’ll be just fine :)

My post-surgery regimen consisted of the following:

  • Wear sunglasses while outdoors for 3 months
  • Wear the provided lightweight goggles for showering and sleeping for 3 days
  • One set of drops 3x/day for 3 days
  • Two other sets of drops 3x/day for 7 days
  • Preservative-free artificial tears for dryness as needed
  • No swimming or sports for 3 weeks; Use eye protection after the 3 weeks.
  • No running/biking/strength training for 2 weeks (Wahhhhh)
  • No rubbing eyes or squeezing them closed

Since I’m 2 weeks into healing, my drops regimen is complete and I just use the artificial tears as needed. I still have light halos and need to wear sunglasses. Other than being careful driving at night, being mindful in general and making sure I don’t forget my sunglasses, it’s pretty low maintenance!

Sunglasses

Sunglasses in little drawstring bag
It’s harder to forget when it’s cute!

It was explained to me that protection from the sun’s UV rays is extremely important for healing! UV rays, as we know, are quite damaging. This is why we wear sunscreen.. To protect our skin cells from sunburn!

For the eyes, sunglasses do the trick. UV rays can harm your cells and increase the chance of scarring. I’m pretty sure that one DOES NOT WANT SCARRING ON THE EYEBALLS. So, I’m playing it super duper safe here and wearing them anytime the sun’s out and I’m out, even if it’s cloudy. Of course, not when it’s dangerously dark with em on.

I picked out a cute, cheap pair to start with, and Justin made sure they looked fine on me. They’re comfortable on me, have really good coverage, are polarized and offer 100% UV protection. Perhaps later, I’ll find a nice, quality pair instead of cute, cheap ones. Or not. Cuz these really do the job well, and I’m cheap frugal.

I’ve never needed sunglasses simply because I never been able to wear them with my regular glasses. Sunglasses are such a new concept to me! Regular glasses never left my face, so I’ve got a higher chance of losing these since I take them off.

To make sure I keep them with me at all times, I made a little sunglasses bag with some scrap fabric I had. I kept my drops (when I still needed them) and an extra tissue in the bottom, and I even put in a small pocket to store the artificial tears since they’re good to keep around.

Dryness

One of the first things I noticed was the increased dryness. I felt like I had to use the artificial tears multiple times per day to have them feel normal. The dryness decreased dramatically after the 4th day. I went from lots of times per day to just a few times per day. After about a week and a half, it was closer to once per day.

Yesterday and today, I haven’t needed them at all! I keep them with me in case I do need them. Plus, I have that little pocket in my sunglasses bag. It’s cute, okay?!

Light Halos and Light Sensitivity

I’ve read that light halos can last up to a few months, and I look forward to the night/morning that I look at my FitBit screen and DON’T see the cloudy halo. I can’t find a good photo on the internet of how it is for me, but I compare seeing light halos to seeing the moon on a slightly foggy night. You see the moon clearly, but it has a little cloud of light around it. I do not see a distinct circle at the outside of the cloud like some of the internet photos do. I can also pretty much see the shape of the light itself.

They can be kind of annoying and interfere with more than I realized.

The halos are more prevalent when it’s something light against something dark. It also happens, however, when you have something dark surrounded by something much lighter. Not necessarily brighter. This is the more annoying kind because the halo part kinda starts interfering with the dark stuff I’m trying to focus on.

For a while, I was thinking the vision clarity hadn’t settled in (which it probably hasn’t), but I realized that it’s the halos making darer things appear more blurry. The lighter things seem, the more halos there are.

It took me a while to realize that my eyes are more light sensitive now. I don’t know if this is is permanent or not, but it’s tolerable. Not at all like getting my pupils dilated that one time! Sometimes I have trouble transitioning from primarily light environments to darker ones. Like going from outside to inside. When I do this, the halos around the highlights seem bigger and my vision seems “worse” until I get used to it.

Again, I didn’t realize how much the halos were the culprit of the unclarity until I put my sunglasses on while in front of my computer at work. The dark text on the light screen was getting eaten by the cloudies! It really helped with the eye strain I was starting to feel. My coworkers know what’s going on, but I still felt the need to explain why I was wearing sunglasses at my desk. (Why am I so self-conscious??)

My first day back at work (4 days after surgery), my eyes felt so strained and it wasn’t terribly pleasant. I’ve had a couple days good and a couple days sub-par. But I realized that when I put my sunglasses on, everything turned much sharper, and I realized what was happening.

I now keep a pair of swag sunglasses, the kind that end up being given away for free as promo items, at my desk. They’re not polarized so they don’t mess with the LCD screens. I love rainbows and all, but not those ones! I still have a little bit of halo-ing, with sunglasses, but they’re drastically reduced.

Weird Effects I Wasn’t Expecting

These aren’t medically wrong things or anything. Just some life adjustments and differences I either didn’t expect or appreciate more than someone who might be used to having normal vision or contacts.

With all the drops I needed to use, plus not being allowed to rub my eyes, I found that I really annoyed that I couldn’t effectively clean my eyelashes! The drops would stick there and just dry because I didn’t want to risk rubbing or poking my eyes, even through my eyelid.

Things within up to about 3 ft of my face appear larger than they did when I wore glasses. Coins on the table look bigger. No, that’s a nickel, not a quarter (darn!). Food portions look huge!! I keep having to ask Justin if [this] is bigger than normal or if it’s just my vision. Insert kind of dirty joke here.

I wonder if people think it’s weird I’m wearing sunglasses when it’s cloudy and not particularly bright out. I don’t want to be judged as one of *those* people who can’t handle the day because they made less-than-good decisions the night before ;)

Seeing in the shower is AWESOME!! I can tell the shampoo bottle from the conditioner bottle without bringing them up to 4″ from my face. Objects in the shower have real SHAPES! The shower curtain, shower head, soap, bottles, drain, the tub faucet, etc.. They’re not just oddly shaped blobs!

I can read in bed, on my side, without threatening to smash my glasses and/or face into my glasses!

When things aren’t super clear, I’ll still try to move or adjust my now non-existent glasses.. And shamefully shake my head at myself for doing so. After reading in bed, sometimes I’ll even attempt to take them off. Only to find that they’re not there.

On particularly less good days (I don’t want to call them ‘bad’ because they’re not bad. They’re really just less good), my brain just feels like I can’t see because I’m not wearing glasses. Except I CAN see.. AND I’m not wearing glasses. This one is hard to explain. Maybe my brain is just tricked into not seeing well when I’m not wearing glasses? 23 years of association there, I suppose.

This probably goes with the objects by face are smaller than they appear thing, but I feel like things end up being a lot closer to my face than before. Especially during the first week, I developed a heightened fear or jabbing myself in the eye. I never came that close before with glasses, so it shouldn’t be different without. I think I’m just extra paranoid of ruining all the work I just had done.

Stuff I Look Forward to Doing Without Glasses

  • Seeing in the shower
  • Amusement park rides! I’ll be able to see where I’m going when rolling on a coaster around at 30-60mph!
  • Seeing at water parks
  • Use sunglasses
  • Using my DSLR’s viewfinder
  • Not stabbing people or my own eyes when hugging them
  • Swimming and being able to see and/or not risk losing my glasses

Well, that’s all I can think of for now! I’m sure I’ll add more as I think of them :)

My LASIK Experience – Appointment by Appointment

I got glasses at age 7. Young enough to not realize that my vision was terrible, old enough to know what that change meant for me as a 2nd grader developing her own identity.

My mom said I could only identify the big letter at the top and the two underneath. Thank goodness for those tests in school who notified my parents. I don’t ever remember thinking at all, “I can’t actually read this,” and probably just went for it with my best guess. *Shrug.*

Fast forward somewhere between 22 and 23 years.

Happy face at the beach
Pre-surgery beach adventure on a most beautiful day!

But now, here I am. I don’t wear prescription glasses anymore, and traded them for sunglasses and lightweight goggles (for a bit).

I had LASIK 13 days ago.

By chance, family and social media, I was given a very trusted referral to Orange Coast Eye Center in Fountain Valley, CA for LASIK. It’s something I’d more fantasized about doing, but never really took the idea seriously, for a number of reasons, until the beginning of this year. Once I realized it was actually feasible (bless my late grandmother for her gifts that led to this) I decided to fully jump in and go for it!

I live in Seattle, so I knew the traveling was going to make things a wee bit more complicated. I am so very lucky to have the support of my friends, family and the staff at Orange Coast for working with my very strategically planned schedule.

Consultation

Avantasia, a band I really really really reeeeeally wanted to see and only had three North American tour dates was playing in Anaheim, on a Monday night. I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and schedule my consultation. Three birds if you count getting to hang out at Disneyland with two fantastic friends I don’t see often enough. I don’t count this trip in my expenses since I was going to the show anyway.

The LASIK consultation was my first time discussing the concept and the procedure itself with a doctor. I had read a bunch so there wasn’t too much new information. I still have never watched a video of it (as I was warned by a number of parties not to do so before having it done myself. I still haven’t.)

There was a bunch of painless tests to check for a handful of different things to determine my eligibility. These included questions about past prescription and when it had last changed, the size and shape of my cornea, current prescription (of myopia, I’m nearsighted), amount of astigmatism, eyeball pressure, etc. I don’t remember all of them or what they did, but I guarantee they included fun lights shining in my eyes, the letters tests and temporarily numb eyeballs. I giggle at how funny numb eyeballs feel!

I was told right then and there that I was a perfect candidate for iLASIK, the most advanced kind!

I didn’t have a date yet in mind, but was told this was okay. I was also instructed that I’d need both pre- and post-op visits. The scheduling would definitely have to be strategic.

Pre-Op – The day before surgery

Unhappy with disposable sunglasses
What is this nonsense

These were both short, straightforward visits. We did most, if not all, of the same tests in pre-op as we did in consultation. This was to make sure that nothing had changed.

This time, however, they did opt to dilate my eyes. Despite being nearsighted for 23+ years, this was the first time I’ve ever had that done. The plastic/paper disposable sunglasses they gave me me for afterwards were oh so stylish. And extremely necessary.

But all was well and surgery was set for the next day.

The Big Day – Surgery Day!

No more real tests today. Just a more detailed briefing by the assistant, including my post-surgery care.

I felt I had read enough about the procedure itself and wanted to turn down the .5% Xanex they offered for relaxation. However, the assistant had explained more of what I would be actually experiencing as the procedure went on.

I changed my mind about the Xanex, was given that and some eyeball numbing drops before heading into the surgery room.

There are two steps for the patient.. Creating the flap, like a little door in your cornea, and the laser correction itself that happens through the little cornea door.

Creating The Flap

From the patient’s point of view!

This was the weirdest part of it and its description is what changed my mind about the Xanex. It all happened as it was explained to me.

I was lying on my back, given a blanket and a teddy bear to hold. That was pretty adorable :)

I was given some more numbing drops, I didn’t feel any pain at all. There was, however, pressure for this part, A tube-like thing was placed around my eyeball, and I could feel a little bit of pressure going straight down. Supposedly, it was like a little vacuum, holding my eyeball in place while the laser-cut flap was being made, and pressure was confirmed.

There were little lights, and my vision slowly went gray…. This is due to the seal created from the suction and the temporary loss of blood right there. ZERO PAIN, but a really, REALLY odd psychological feeling that oh wow, my eye doesn’t do seeing anymore. As soon as the assistant’s countdown finished, the apparatus was removed and I could see light and blurry everything again.

Each eye took like 20 seconds max.

I then had to sit up and move to the other bed for the correcting laser, and lie back down.

Laser Correction

The eye not undergoing correction at the time had a piece of gauze taped over it to keep me from opening it.

For my operating eye, my eyelashes were gently taped back and an apparatus was placed onto my eye and slightly under my eyelids to keep them from opening.

For this part, I was told that I’d see a couple of red dots forming a circle with a green one in the center. I was to stare at the green one.. Just keep looking at it!

I was a little worried that I’d stray my sight from the green light and it would get messed up, so I felt like I tried really hard to look at it. But at the same time, was just kinda letting my eye zone out on it.

I could feel myself try to instinctively blink a few times throughout, but the thingy they used worked, and no one said I was doing anything wrong. So yay!

When that one was done, I closed the finished eye, and the gauze+tape switched to make sure I kept that one closed. Repeat process for my left eye.

I don’t think each eye took more than a minute or two. It’s hard to say, and I wasn’t really counting or anything. It seemed so fast!

When both were finished, I stood up, slowly, as directed. It was only now that actually realized I felt the Xanex. I had never used any sort of heavy medications before, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was a little dizzying for the first 3 seconds.. Whooooaaa. But then I was good to go.

I went back to the regular room and we tested each of my eyes on the letter chart.

It was blurry, but I could make out almost all the letters at the 20/30 row. WOW. Kind of a huge improvement, no?!

Post-Surgery (not an appointment, except an appointment with the hotel bed and In n Out Burger)

After heading back to the hotel, I put on the eye shield goggle things and went to sleep.

I remember waking up a few times and my eyes finally hurt since the numbing wore off. It was really dry and scratchy feeling, and I could tell they were tearing and watering like crazy! It wasn’t like OMG I’m dying, but it was really uncomfortable, so I just rolled over and went back to closing them and sleeping.

I started the eye drops regimen that the doctor had given me, and carefully went about my night, including some celebratory In n Out Burger feasting!

Justin and I at In n Out Burger
First post-LASIK photo!

I admit that we went to Downtown Disney in the evening to wander around. I even got to see a few of the fireworks.. First ones without glasses! (As an adult.. I’d, of course, seen them as a kid, but I don’t even know if they were blurry or not!)

Next Day Follow-Up

I was told that everything looked great, and that I would heal quickly. LOVED the sound of that! Only the next day, and I missed just one on the 20/20 line!

It’s been just about two weeks now, and I still have some of the normal side effects, which I will post my experiences with later. But here I am, 13 days later, and my eyes work!!

Also… I STILL haven’t watched a video of the procedure yet!

PSA for People who Play Pokemon GO and Those who Don’t

As a 90’s kid, the news of Pokemon GO was one of the greater things I’d heard last year! And now it’s finally out, and everyone’s playing! Not everyone, but this is what I’m going to address here.

This mobile, augmented reality game has people of all ages out and about looking for and capturing cute little creatures in the real world, on their mobile devices. Pokemon GO allows people to finally get a chance to find and catch ’em all. Both the 90’s version of the game have evolved, and so have we.

I, too, am engulfed in the nostalgia and the new take on the game. Our dreams have come true. There are POKEMON AND POKEMON TRAINERS IN OUR WORLD!! WE are them, WE are catching and training and researching and battling and leading the gyms. On Day 1, I met six other grown adults playing. I chatted with strangers which nearly unheard of these days. They didn’t feel like strangers at all. We had something in common.

People know what Pokemon are, and they know that people are out there catching them. It’s affected so many more people than I would have imagined. Whether they choose to partake or not, they know it exists. This concept hit me the other day when I saw the following sign posted.

Note to trainers

Now, onto some important notes for everyone:

PSA for Pokemon GO players

BE SAFE. It sounds cheesy to say “Safety first!” But seriously.

SAFETY EFFING FIRST, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE

Don’t ruin it for the rest of us and get it banned in miscellaneous places. It really is just a game. Sure, it makes some of us really happy, and that’s an understatement in some cases, but it is absolutely not the essence of your existence. For the safety of yourself AND OTHERS, and all of our abilities to continue playing, please use common sense. Do not put yourself or anyone else in harm’s way to capture a Pokemon.

DO respect those who do not want to play, nor understand why you’re so excited. Just keep being excited, and let them be excited about whatever it is that excites them. I like to believe that our generation is better than that. Please don’t prove me wrong.

PSA for those who don’t

TL;DR: It’s okay to not want to play, or not even like the game. If you’re concerned about safety, say so, and make your words a positive impact. It helps people so let them have their fun.

Upon release, I’d seen a huge influx of posts about the game, as I’m sure all of you have as well. To me, it was refreshing. However, to some, people found the need to loathe “it”. It’s okay to not play. It’s okay to be annoyed at all the Facebook posts you see. It hasn’t even been two weeks. The hype WILL fade, just like everything else.

But please think twice before simply bashing on those who do play.

My guess is that 98% of those who say these things haven’t even given the game a shot. In essence, what you’re really putting down are the people who play, and that’s just not right. If you’re concerned about someone’s actions while playing Pokemon Go in a dangerous manner, address them directly and voice your concerns appropriately. A positive way of alerting players to danger is a great use of the care you have for your community.

Calling people [expletive] on social media is not ever going to get your point across. So don’t.

It does not make it appropriate to cast a negative judgement upon them just because you don’t empathize with them.

This game is getting children in hospitals up and out of their beds. Do not judge them.

This game is positively impacting players’ mental health by giving them a fun reason to get up and go outside. Do not judge them.

Is there a TV show that you enjoy? A movie? A favorite food? Watching a favorite sports team? Playing a sport or game? ANYTHING you’re passionate about? That’s great! But chances are, there are people who don’t feel the same way as you. And that’s okay, too! Instead of making a big deal about it, they’re happy you’ve found something in it that you really like.

Pokemon GO is their smile-maker. Their reason to go out of their rooms, a factor in the road to better mental health, something that makes them just happy.

Let them play. They don’t need your blanket negativity, and neither do you.

Go watch your TV show/movie/sport, eat your favorite food, bond with your kids the way you already do.. Enjoy YOUR Pokemon GO :)

Re-Creating Ultimate Dance Party ’97 on Spotify

Today, I was prompted to create a playlist based on Ultimate Dance Party 1997. It’s the album my mom would have on in the car. Then, my sister and I would put on while traveling for whatever reason. Little brother and I just laugh and reminisce about what we call “Mom’s Car Songs”. It’s just silly stuff that reminds me of good times with my family :)

https://open.spotify.com/user/mewmonster/playlist/3T3Ir4saXF5LGmNgKN17AB

Most of the songs are remixes of the originals, but luckily, Spotify had most of them. Some may not be the right remix so if you find a version closer to what was on ye olde Ultimate Dance Party 97 album, please let me know!

Also, you’re welcome ;)

A California Girl On A Short Drive In The Midwest

The first leg of this trip began with a 12:50a redeye flight from SeaTac to Chicago O’Hare.

The airport at 10:30pm was the emptiest I’ve seen an airport. The security line was short, the terminals were peacefully quiet and empty and even Starbucks was closed.

I think the weirdest thing was brushing my teeth in the airport bathroom and having strangers coming in and out. It’s one of those things I’ve never really thought of. I have zero problem doing so around people I know, but strangers seeing me brush my teeth? Weird. Not uncomfortable, really, just weird.

Everything seems slower at night when it’s quiet. Boarding felt slower, the waiting to taxi and take off felt much longer, but it really wasn’t.

Us on the plane
Plane faces

I had taken a 2hr nap after work and before making final preparations, and the sleepy was starting to kick back in. Perfect!
I was a tad worried when a little one was very clearly upset on the plane, but she had calmed down before takeoff. I don’t have children (yet..?) but I’m pretty sympathetic.. I felt bad for the parents who were probably getting all kinds of angry looks from travelers hoping to get some sleep on a 1am flight in which passengers lose two hours.
Foregoing the neck pillow purchasing, getting into a comfortable position that wasn’t going to destroy me was quite difficult. Luckily, this plane’s seats had those head wing thingies that you can position outward to lean on. They were very helpful, and I didn’t need any additional cushion. It was still uncomfortable, and sleep was difficult, but I got a bit. So yay :)
Landing at almost 7am on a weekday at O’Hare did not lend well to my hopes of seeing the actual city of Chicago. Our destination today is in Indiana so heading towards Chicago was not the best of ideas. That’s okay though; I was so sleepy anyway!
We grabbed something quick to eat and began the drive. A car nap stop was necessary, because safety. After seeing signs for a candy factory, a candy shop stop was also necessary.

Albanese Candy Factory sign
Albanese Candy Factory

Definitely necessary. From Albanese Confectionery, I picked up only a tiny bag of dark chocolate almonds, pretzel balls and amaretto pecans. And a bag of gummi bears. That tiny bag really should have been a medium. It’s taken so much willpower to not devour it’s delicious contents over the course of like five miles. A stop there on the way back out miiiiight just be a trip requirement.

So Indiana is flat. At least the part that I’ve just ridden through. It’s very green, which I love! I have this thing, however, likely due to growing up with the Santa Cruz Mountains or other tree-covered hills as a constant background nearly everywhere I looked.

I never noticed it until I traveled across the country. If I can’t see big level changes, the landscape automatically feels boring to me. No matter how gorgeous the immediate area is. It’s a silly thing, and I have to tell myself that it doesn’t make a place any less beautiful. Maybe it’s too much sky and not enough everything else? I dunno; It’s just a quirk of mine, I suppose.
Overall landscape aside, I’m awed by how much open space and land there is between each of the cute little houses!! It’s so cozy, adorable and refreshing to see after living in and around larger cities. AND I WANT ONE! OR ALL OF THEM!
I’ve always wanted a house that’s cute and mine. It doesn’t need to be huge at all. I figure I’ll be able to fill it with everything that makes it into a true home, regardless of size :) A girl can dream… And hopefully not be disappointed later in life, hah.

We’ve almost reached our first real destination now :)

Being a Cookie Brigadier at PAX Prime

[This post is so late. PAX Prime happened like two months ago, I wrote this piece over one month ago. Better late than never, right? I’ll post all of the recipes I used some day, too!]

After my first PAX Prime, I was hooked. My second PAX Prime, I had the surprising opportunity to compete as an Omeganaut. This third PAX of mine, I volunteered as a Brigadier for the Cookie Brigade.

The Cookie Brigade is a volunteer-run organization that distributes cookies to fellow convention and event attendees, for free. Any donations collected are donated to the Child’s Play Charity to help bring toys and games to a network of children’s hospitals.

Convention + cookies + charity. Not even a question, I SUPPORT ALL OF THIS!

My baking extravaganza consisted of the following:

  • Classic chewy chocolate chip
  • Star Wars gingerbread
  • Vegan peanut butter
  • Peanut butter chocolate chip
  • Brownie bites (non-cookie)

It took about two days to get everything done.

The first day, I made the dough only for the gingerbread cookies, and managed to get through the entire double batch of chocolate chip!

I also made the brownie bites, start to finish, except bagging. For these, I kind of cheated. I used a Duncan-Heinz brownie mix and a well-greased mini muffin tin.

I’m super grateful that @rabbd came by to help and make me real food to eat for dinner. Thank yoooou!!

On the second day, most of my time was spent rolling and cutting the Star Wars gingerbread cookie dough! Last Christmas, I picked up the Star Wars gingerbread cookie cutters from ThinkGeek for @rabbd. They hadn’t gotten any use yet, and I figured this was as good a time as any! Luckily, he let me borrow them :)

Second-to-lastly, I made a double batch of the vegan peanut butter cookies. Un-veganizing half of it, I split the dough in half and added chocolate chips to one of the batches. These batches were much smaller and it was nice to have them over quickly.

The last step, individual bagging, was probably the most daunting, even though I completed it in about 40 minutes.

Phew!!

I did get to help distribute cookies at the convention as well, but my time this PAX ended up being way more booked up than I had originally thought. Though I didn’t end up distributing as much as I would have liked, it was still a blast! The Cookie Brigade raised over $20k over all 4 days!

Thank you to all who supported the Child’s Play Charity and I hope you all enjoyed your sweet treats!

I Helped Make A Game!! (Seattle Game Jam)

For the past few years, I’ve toyed with the idea of making games. I love games and I love making things.

Not only are there a zillion avenues to begin learning how to make games, which is intimidating in itself, it’s a huge undertaking when you do pick one.

In addition… Although it’s not uncommon, I have this bad habit of not starting things out of fear that I won’t finish or keep up with them. Game development is one of them.

I’ve always wanted to do a game jam, but somehow always found out about them too late and am unable to attend.

This year was different, and I found out about PlayFab‘s Seattle Game Jam with weeks to spare! I didn’t have a full time job yet, and it was on a weekend anyway. The reservations were free, too. I nervously contacted the event coordinator, asking if it was newbie-friendly. The response I received was very positive and encouraging, and that made me feel better. I made sure to thank Tom for that when I figured out who he was :) 

Over the weekend, our team made this game, called Gravefighters. A 2D, top-down pseudo-tower defense with 3D animations and all custom music and sounds!

Here’s my general conclusion about participating in my first game jam, and below is the day-by-day breakdown of my experience.

Overall Thoughts

I know I was with a really talented and accepting team. Even though I know next to nothing about how the building of a game actually works, am not an artist, I felt welcome. THANK YOU TEAM!!

I wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted to be able to.. The other teammates were definitely more busy than me, most of the time. For this, I felt so helpless.

At the same time, I do know that my contributions were valued and that it’s a great feeling to be a part of something bigger, even if it was a much smaller contribution than others. It’s also in the nature of the roles and timing.

Simply being around every aspect of the development was totally worth coming for! I’ve learned a lot about the project management of a game, how the teams and timing work together. It was a completely invaluable experience!

It’s re-sparked interest and furthered motivation in the field, even as a hobby. I’m excited to pursue more development aspects and do this again some time!

THANK YOU TEAM!!!

I was so impressed with our game and all of the other teams during presentations. The results of hard work, creativity and each team’s take on the theme was great to see. So many possibilities had come to life!

Though we didn’t win, the two teams that did were more than deserving!! Read about them here on PlayFab’s blog post.

Day-by-Day

Day 1: Pitches, team formation and planning

The theme was “It’s Alive”. I was only able to come up with a small, open-ended concept, but with no idea how to do anything behind it. I did choose to pitch it, and it was received well, but not enough to make the main cutoff. Which was TOTALLY OKAY!! because there was no way I could lead a team when I had never done anything like this before. 

I chose to check out one of the other pitches that I found really funny and that sounded like it could actually be done in two days: Grave keeper by day, necromancer by night.

At night, you resurrect your buried bodies to defend your graveyard from rival graveyards’ undead to keep your graveyard the nicest. Silly, right?! 

Though I have no experience, I was accepted to the team. It had grown quickly to 10 of us. I offered to help with sounds, organization and UI design. 

Narrowing down the concept to a two-day project was difficult. We all had really awesome ideas! But we needed to make sure that the scope wasn’t so farfetched and the gameplay concepts were sound.

With a fairly solid lead, we parted for the night, preparing for the grind the next day.

Day 2: Get a move on!

Everyone knew their role and they quickly got to work. Since we had another person on UI/project management, I took the lead on sound effects and made a mini studio out of a conference room table, USB mic and beanbag. 

For never doing them for reals before, I think they came out pretty well! I’ve cut and done basic mixing/editing for fun before.

Using Adobe Audition, I was able to record various noises, add audio effects, mix and edit. The engineers were able to initially implement most of them by mid-day. 

I had help and inspiration from our youngest teammate, the son of another teammate, to use a tablet to work with music. Using MAGIX Music Maker Jam on my Android tablet, I was able to put together some loops to use as one of the background music loops.

I must say that that app is way too much fun. Especially the pack called “Bro Step Vol. 2.” That generated a lot of laughs! 

The artists were working hard to make things really pretty, and the engineers got things to actually work. 

It was so awesome to see the progress throughout the day!

Day 3: Crunch time and Judgement Day

All of the sounds, music and UI screens were completed, so I didn’t have too much to do since I don’t know Unity. 

A couple of us collaborated on story, introduction and instructional copy, and I was able to help edit one of the 2D art pieces! I added a highlight..YAY I’M USEFUL!! #IAmAnArtist (HAH. No I’m not.)

We all got a chance to playtest and point out major bugs and the occasional spelling error. Seeing everything in action was fantastic! 

Every little bit by each person made it silly, fun and actually functional. Priceless!

I Hate Running But Ran My First 10K

The Decision

Five months ago, I moved to a new city without a job lined up after my temporary contract with my old position ends. The first thing I did was cut down every monthly expense that I could, which included my gym membership. I knew I needed to stay moving.

Hey! I’m living right where The Oatmeal hosts his race, Beat The Blerch! I love The Oatmeal he’s awesome and inspiring!

I also needed a goal..

So I registered for the 10K. I got a friend to commit to running also, though he signed up for the half marathon. I’ve only run 5Ks before. Slowly, but I’ve done it.

I’ve pretty much always said that I hate running. This summer, I’ve learned a little more about myself and that it’s not running that I hate. It’s the exhausting, out of breath, feels-like-dying feeling that running brings. Just thinking about going for a run, my chest tightens up, and I get into my own head.. I can’t do this, it’s going to feel awful, I don’t want to go. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!

Wrong.

The Training

The two-month journey after my investment in a spot in the race was actually exciting. It wasn’t without minor injuries or getting caught in the rain, of course, but the small achievements, my accountabilibuddy, and the fact that I paid to be there kept me going.

I needed to find what worked for me. I knew that pushing myself too hard would lead to potential injury and failing myself would be mentally painful.

I decided to meet myself in the middle and try run-walk intervals. I read a little about it, and even though it may inhibit a super awesome pace, it’s good for keeping up momentum late in the game. The less feeling like death, the better!

As much as I despise it, I’m not new to running. I started out with 1.5 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking. Repeat. Hey.. This isn’t so bad.. I’m doing it!

Once that was comfortable, I upped the run time but left the walking at a single minute. Then repeated that. 5-second increases were hardly noticeable when I made them, but over time, I found myself wondering if my audio cues were even working! I use Seconds Pro for custom interval timing, and I LOVE it!

Eventually, I settled with a 3:25 run and 1:00 walk. I’m confident I can totally do 3:30 now!

I tracked each of my runs with a series of apps (MotionX GPS and the eventually FitBit app) so I knew what my timing and pace was, give or take a few seconds to start and stop the app each time.

I did a few at the 10K distance, even! I knew I could do it.

I was ready.

Race Day

I was pretty excited. It was finally happening! There were some nerves, but I think those kept my energy up.

It was also raining. Mainly sprinkling, a little rain-rain, but I was definitely pretty soaked by the time I finished.

I checked my apps after I finished and got my medal… And my pace was a good :45/mi under what I had expected.. WHOA!!

My guess is that this is due to to the extra excitement of finally doing that thing I set out and trained for, plus being distracted by all of the other runners, trying to pass others appropriately and making sure not to get in their way, especially when I slowed to the walking interval.

Official Results

Time: 1:10:06
Distance: 10K / 6.2mi

Overall
: 386/947
*All female: 222/666 (667)
*Age division f20-29: 67/176 (177)

*Somehow, I was registered as a male.. The number in parentheses is with me added to the female total. Sorry, ladies after me, you’re now ranked one less!

The Future

Would I do it again?

Yes. Now that I know I can, and it doesn’t feel like horribleness!

Would I run longer distances, like a half-marathon?

I am undecided. I would still like to increase my maximum distance, but at the moment, I don’t really feel like making that commitment. Perhaps if I increased at my own pace instead of with a race date in mind.

Don’t you need to do different things to keep your body from just “getting used” to a routine??

You betcha! I really want to get back into weight training :)

Any advice?

START. Start small and go from there. It will suck at first, but I promise it gets better! Give yourself time to improve.. Just do a teeny bit better each time. Don’t forget to rest. Do happy dances :)

I need a good brain distraction so I’m always listening to music. I’d like to try audiobooks or podcasts to see if I can pay attention.

An Open Letter to Rite-Aid Regarding Thrifty Brand Ice Cream

Hello there!

I would like to express my saddening disappointment in your store locator function. I have recently relocated to Seattle from California (you probably know where this is going) and was elated to find that I could filter my store search to include only those with hand-dipped ice cream.

In doing so, I was excited to find that one store (105 Washington Ave, Kent, WA) was not as far as I thought it may be! I had heard rumors that ice cream was not sold there by the scoop… so I made sure to call. And alas! The woman on the phone had told me that, no, they do not have Thrifty’s ice cream by the scoop.

Widening my search, a second store was found on the radar (691 Sleater Kinney Rd. SE, Lacey, WA). Upon calling this store as well, the response was the same.. No scoop’d ice cream here either!

My hopes had been so high when finding that I could still indulge in the delightful, hand-dipped deliciousness that is Thrifty’s chocolate malted crunch ice cream on a sugar cone… Only to be confronted with the truth that the internet does, indeed, lie. :(

With that, I would like to request that the stores’ Specialty features be properly updated to reflect those features that do truly exist. I would not wish this tummy grumbling experience upon anyone else.

Many thanks,
Melissa Estuesta

PS, Any idea where I -can- find Thrifty ice cream, even by the container, in the Seattle/Washington area? :)