Pulled in a New Direction

Over the past few weeks, I have been so tired. Spiritually, physically, mentally exhausted. I’m adjusting my sleep schedule for working third shift, and I’m about halfway there.

I’ve been very lax about my Japanese studies. However, I have tried out Human Japanese at Dina’s recommendation and can’t say too many good things about it. It gives actual pointers on how to make your characters look good rather than just giving you an outline of how to do them, it explains the material succinctly, and it moves at a good pace. Hubby also surprised me by ordering a couple Crazy Kana Notebooks, which I have yet to use though they look lovely.

I was also briefly inspired to finally start working on a side project I’ve wanted to get up and running for a long time. I started a music blog where I will be analyzing song lyrics and otherwise doing music reviews. So far, I’ve only written a review of Kesha’s new album Rainbow, but it was a lot of fun and I hope to get back into it soon. I’m planning on covering music by Rufus Wainwright, Vienna Teng, Jillette Johnson, and maybe even Pink Floyd (who I adored throughout my teens). So, if you would be interested in that sort of thing, go check it out.

Other things I’ve been up to:

  • Binge watched season 7 of Game of Thrones yesterday and am not so patiently waiting for the finale
  • Finished watching season 1 of The Worst Witch on Netflix and loved it – it is as heartwarming as the books, which I listened to when I couldn’t sleep in college
  • Got bored watching Little Witch Academia on Netflix because it’s so similar to The Worst Witch (but with less character development and more nods to Harry Potter)
  • Cracked up while watching the first episode of One Punch Man
  • Tried reading the otome Locked Heart and ended up deleting it… The protagonist was annoying and disbelief could not be suspended
  • Spent half a day looking up fun things for hubby and I to do (botanical gardens this weekend!) so I would feel more motivated about life
  • Did some research on hikikomori (social recluse) in Japan
  • Learned about crime in Japan (or the lack thereof) and some criticisms of their justice system
  • Started my trial of Apple Music (after being a long time Spotify user) and can say that I will never make the switch
  • Updated my phone to Oreo and have barely noticed a difference

This weekend, I will be watching the new version of Death Note that’s coming out on Netflix and I’m hoping it exceeds my expectations…

If you read my list and thought that I have watched too much television lately, you’re probably right. I banned myself from YouTube for a week and when it was over the binge watching got a little out of control. It didn’t help that I was home alone for 3 days while hubby was out of state for work.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking, and have decided that it’s high time to get back to work on my more creative endeavors. I enjoy blogging about mental health, documenting my progress in Japanese, and writing reviews of things, but that’s not really what I feel called to write. Essentially, it feels like busy work when I should be working on my novels or even returning to poetry (which I wrote daily for a very long time).

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to write less about the things I already write about. Rather, it simply means that I need to write more.

That thought makes me very tired.


How are you all doing? What are you excited about doing in the future?

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Japanese – Week 1

I grossly underestimated how hard it’s going to be to learn Japanese. Every time I thought I knew why people said Japanese was difficult and was ready to persevere regardless, I found yet another reason why Japanese is going to be insane. However, I will stay determined. I really want to learn Japanese. I’m not learning it because it’s a requirement for graduation or to look good on college applications, and it’s not necessarily a skill I will ever put on job applications; learning Japanese is something that I want to do for myself.

So, how did I study this week?

On Friday and Saturday, hubby and I “studied” by listening to as much Japanese as possible. We watched Hellsing Ultimate for a while and called it studyingbut we also listened to a beginning Japanese podcast. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos of people talking about what tools worked best for them. Although we had purchased books to help us learn kanji, looking at them was overwhelming, so those got put to the side. I figured it would be easier to learn hiragana and katakana first, then start tackling kanji once I had some basics down.

Throughout the week, I listened to the Japanese podcast more and also started using some of the apps I downloaded, with mixed success. Some of the apps I don’t think I will be able to get anything out of for several weeks or even months. I had been warned against relying on Duolingo by a friend who actually studied Japanese in school, but I felt like that app was one of the few that actually started from the ground up. Memrise has been pretty similar to Duolingo so far, so I’ve been trying to use that one more than Duolingo (though I really have no idea if one is better than the other).

Write It! Japanese has been the most beginner friendly of the writing apps I’ve tried. Someone recommended KanjiSenpai on YouTube, but even I know that the app should be called kanji sensei instead of kanji senpai, so that makes me doubt its credibility a little bit. Kanji Study was a bit over my head, so I’m hoping in a few weeks to give that one another try.

One of the things I don’t understand is why most teaching resources still list sayonara as goodbye and rarely talk about the context of when you would use that particular goodbye. They also teach kon’nichiwa as hello when it means good afternoon. This is why I have been relying fairly heavily on YouTube videos of native Japanese speakers explaining Japanese to English speakers instead of using a textbook or app to learn the words. However, sometimes I wonder about their credibility as well. For instance, I watched a video where a guy really struggled to say “no” in Japanese. I understand that people there are much more polite, but to not have a word for it seems really odd. I’m not sure what the character(s) would be for it, but the apps have told me that iie means no.

Probably the most helpful resource I found about Japanese in general was the introduction to one of the books on kanji. Learning about the roots of Japanese and how kanji are structured was very helpful and made the rest of the book look less overwhelming.

Before I go too crazy with learning kanji, or even practicing the different types of brush strokes at all, I would like to invest in a set of brush pens or even a Buddha board. (Okay, maybe I have just wanted a Buddha board for a long time and could never justify it. I know it really wouldn’t be that helpful for learning Japanese.)

My goal for next week is to make my studies less disjointed. Instead of trying a new thing every day and getting stuck, I just want to find something that works and stick with it. I also want to take more notes than I did this week.

Matane!

Ups and Downs

Picnic Point Park

Where to begin…

Sunday morning, hubby woke me up early to go see his parents. However, since it felt like I had randomly decided to do 5,000 crunches every time I moved, I stayed in bed, not moving an inch until my muscles loosened up at around 4 in the afternoon. I thought I was all better on Monday, aside from a headache. Then at around 3:30 AM I felt nauseous. I asked hubby to clean up the puke bucket while I went in the bathroom and proceeded to puke all over myself. After that, I was actually all better.

Wednesday was a super fun adventure in the land of student loans. I was working on submitting my yearly income driven repayment certification paperwork and had to help hubby figure out his federal loan situation (because now that we are married his income counts toward my ability to repay my loans). He just graduated so he had yet to even figure out who services his federal loans… It was not a fun time. We ended up going to the park to blow off some steam after that.

Yesterday, hubby’s work truck got broken into. But wait, didn’t that just happen to me like three weeks ago? Yes, yes it did. (Total car break-in count: 4.) So, hubby got to entertain the police yesterday morning. Lovely.

While he was on the phone with what seemed like nearly every person that works with him, hubby discovered a hidden benefit and I will be going to a real, in-person therapist next week. I have three free visits, so I’m going to try to make the most of them because I don’t think we will be able to afford additional ones for a while off yet.

In the evening, I finally took my test to be a search engine evaluator and I am pleased to say I passed and will be starting in a couple weeks! Taking the test was fun, though I didn’t expect the test to be as in-depth as it was. I read the first 30 pages of the manual and was like, “I know all this stuff already!” and never got to the other… 120 pages. Most of it was fairly intuitive when you read it, but the questions were still pretty tricky. Anyway, I am very excited to have another work-from-home job that is actually paid at an hourly rate and not per task.

Today, hubby and I took a few things down to the pawn shop and made $200. (We also took a few things to Half Price Books on Wednesday and got $30.) Not bad.

We also had to go to the post office so I could have a notary electronically sign that I am who I say I am for the job. The notary was amazed at how simple it was and didn’t even charge us when the fee is usually at least $10. Thank you, kind stranger.

Another thing that happened today was nearly all of the images broke on the site. That was just grand. Apparently Photobucket does not do third party image hosting anymore (I used Photobucket for years when I was still blogging on LiveJournal), so I got this email saying parts of my account were disabled and it was all around not good. So, after a wonderful morning, I got to come home and upload all of my images on Flickr and fix all the broken parts of the site. Yay.

Once all that excitement was over, I started working on my Japanese studies, but you will hear about how that is going tomorrow. For now, I need a break!

Death Note

A name and a face – imagine if that were all you needed to kill someone.

When I watched Death Note for the first time, I didn’t think I would be like Light if I found a death note. I didn’t think I would ever be able to bring myself to kill someone, even if I could control exactly how it happened. No, I would never bring death upon an enemy (not that I have one), even if I could specify that they would die peacefully in their sleep after having a fulfilling evening with loved ones and a chance for all of them to have closure.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Justice is meant to be impartial – you do the crime, you do the time. And how does having more than one person decide your fate make the process more impartial? And even if the law is carried out as directed, that doesn’t mean the punishment is necessarily just. If a father murders a man that abused and killed his daughter, most juries would let him off easy, but the father would still go to prison and would still be a felon for the rest of his life. The reasoning is that it wasn’t for the father to decide that man’s fate. Instead of the father killing him, the court should have decided to either sentence the man to life in prison, rehabilitate the man so he can become a productive member of society upon release, or assign the death penalty. How is that more fair than the father getting revenge on his own?

Let’s change the example. Let’s say the man was a serial rapist and killer. Is it more just for a victim’s father to kill the man then?

Or let’s say the man was a terrorist and would kill many, many people if no one stopped him.

At what point do you switch from “playing God” to being a hero for taking out a public enemy? At what point does it become morally reprehensible to not kill the murderer when you can do it easily and painlessly?

Maybe your answer is different from mine. But I think Light may have had the right idea from the start.

 

 

The Struggle

Sports, seasons, semesters – everything we experience as children is finite. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end to everything we do, and it is usually strictly scheduled.

Adulthood throws that notion on its head. Setting goals like being married at 25, getting a house within 2 years, and being debt-free by 35, are overly simplistic and laughable. They are goals that are achievable for some people, but once you are out of school (be it high school or college, with or without a degree) you can’t simply advance to the next stage of life by doing everything on the syllabus.

Thus, after you strike out on your own, it is harder to set benchmarks. There is no grading system, no end of the season, and no real criteria for success. You enter the struggle of “adulting,” and when things work out, it’s just one sigh of relief that a part of the puzzle came together. After you finish your education, you are expected to work and actually live the life you’ve prepared for until you retire, and it can feel like you’ll be bushwhacking all the way to retirement, never knowing if you’re on the right path or if there is any path at all.

I always thought that I would feel this great sense of accomplishment when I got my first job that was writing-related in any form. But it was underwhelming – I knew it wouldn’t pay much and I would need an additional full-time job to survive, and then when I started, I had no sense of spiritual fulfillment of finally being somewhere I wanted to be. It was just a way to get my foot in the door to something better somewhere down the road.

I was taken aback when my brother asked me how it felt now that I had “made it.” I didn’t feel like I had achieved much of anything because it was such a small step. That’s partially why I started blogging again. I realized that I’m not going to feel any lasting sense of accomplishment from a regular 9-5 job, and I wanted to do something more while I am waiting for that opportunity to come along. Sharing my thoughts every day, connecting with others, and reminding myself of why I love to write is a new triumph that I celebrate every day.

via Daily Prompt: Triumph

Tokens of Affection

I have always loved shiny/bright things. I think that’s the main reason why I asked my mom if I could take baton lessons. When I was little, it didn’t matter if the shiny things were obviously fake. Glitter, rhinestones, sequins, shiny nail polish, the Lite-Brite, those weird disco-esque shirts… I loved it all.

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I had 3 shirts like this. 3. Why did my mother ever let me leave the house?

When I visited my grandmother’s house, you could see where I got it from, except she had much more tasteful shiny things. She had all kinds of beautiful rocks and crystals. She also had (and still has) the most gorgeous lamp I have ever seen of a Victorian woman holding a parasol. The parasol is made of crystals and the light shines through them.

One time when I was visiting my grandma, she had a very special key chain that I was obsessing over. It was a giant, plastic pink diamond that was catching the sunlight beautifully.

 photo of large pink plastic diamond

It looked almost exactly like this. And, as you can see, this diamond is for sale on Etsy for a grand total of 85 cents.

My cousin arrived and walked in on me ogling it and she joined right in. At some point, we asked my grandma for baby wipes to clean it to make it even more spectacular. When I went home that night, my grandma gave me the key chain.

A few years later, I had an entire shoe box full of key chains, but this was always my favorite one. When we moved, I lost them all. It took me several months to realize they were gone. This is the one I was looking for.


Shortly before moving out of state, my best friend in third grade asked me and one other girl to spend the night. I had known that she was going to be moving for a while, but I had a false sense of security. She was going to move someday. But the last sleepover had come, and I was not ready for it.

The other girl she had invited I knew of, but she was more popular than I was and I kind of thought she disliked me. That didn’t matter, though. I was a good enough friend to not resent that the last time I would see my best friend I would have to share her with some other girl I barely knew.

At the end of the night, my friend gave us something to remember her by: friendship necklaces.

 photo of ladybug necklace

They looked a bit like this except they were more glittery. They came in blue, green, and purple and had little plates at the bottom that spelled out “Best Friends Forever.” Even at the time, I thought it was a little odd that I now had this necklace that not only tied me to the best friend I ever had, but also to another girl that was just a mutual acquaintance. I think maybe my friend knew that I was going to take it hard and wanted to sort of set me up with another friend before she left, but it didn’t work out. The only time I saw her outside of school was my birthday party two years later, in which she picked up my birthday cake and ran around with it – I barely remember that but my mother sure does – and that was that.

As much as I loved my best friend, after she moved away I only spoke to her one or two times on the phone. I thought about calling all the time and even had the number memorized, but I never knew what I would say if I called. We sent Christmas cards for a couple years. I mourned her like she had died because, at the time, I didn’t know how to be a friend to someone I couldn’t see in person.


Last night, hubby and I went out to eat. As we were waiting, a little girl and her mother sat down beside us. The daughter was asking her mom about her wedding ring.

It was the first diamond I ever had… See, when your dad and I got engaged, it only had this part. Then, when we got married, we fused them together.

Can I have it when you die?

You can have it, but it’s a wedding ring. You only wear it if you’re married. You wouldn’t wear it like a regular ring.

Everyday Stonehenge

Everyday StonehengeThere are a few things in life I have come to accept I will never understand:

  • why trees are planted beside sidewalks or right up against houses when they are just going to be uprooted as soon as they are big enough to provide a satisfactory amount of shade
  • advanced mathematics
  • how most electronics work
  • the expansion of the universe – what exists before that part of space becomes part of the universe

However, I know that there is method to the madness. Even the strangest things can have simple explanations if we are willing to look for the answers.

When I saw this on the beach, I could not come up with a single explanation for the existence of this tree formation. I’m sure there is a perfectly logical reason why the trees were planted this way, but I got nothing.

ETA: Showed this post to hubby. He explained the trees and has explained electronics to me before. I get the trees…

Photo Challenge: Order

Engagement

Today is my one year WordPress anniversary. Go me for getting back on the ball and being able to say I have made… 12 posts this year. Woo!

More significantly, hubby and I will have been married for one year in about two weeks. As we were watching Golden Girls last night, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do for it. He said no. I said… I want to go to the beach. (This is me, after all.)

I have also been reflecting on our time together, partially to figure out what would be a good anniversary gift, but mostly because I am overly sentimental. Like I told hubby last night, I want to record some of our stories before I get old and senile.

“You’re 25. You’ve got plenty of time.”

“I know, but I forget things already. I want to do it now.”

“Whatever.”

So today, let me tell you a story.

It was my 23rd birthday. Hubby and I had been dating for about 5 months. We started talking when we were playing The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth on our phones and I was visiting his family for the first time. (He lived 700 miles away.)

I didn’t have a whole day of celebrations mapped out, but I knew I wanted to go to the mall. Hubby’s mom, hubby, and I set off. I got my nails done (navy blue) and we wandered around for a bit. Hubby got me some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles socks from Hot Topic while his mom looked at a few things for hubby’s sister. We went down to meet up with his mom at the food court when we saw a woman in a long black coat drop her purse. Hubby got it, handed it to me, and said he was going to run after her.

I followed after him but when I got around the corner, the lady had already run out the door. Hubby said to look in the bag for some identification so we could get it back to her. I opened up the little black bag and there was nothing in there except a little scrap of paper. I was fumbling with it and got it unfolded when hubby tapped me and said, “here.” I turned around and he was down on one knee. He took my hand and asked me to marry him.

I was confused but so happy. I looked back at the paper and it said, “Turn around.” I looked at him again and said yes. We kissed and suddenly hubby’s mom was popping out of the little photo booth in a long, black trench coat asking “Did she say yes?”

I had had a hunch that he was going to ask me to marry him while I was visiting, but he still found a way to surprise me. He always does.

Self-Discipline and Self-Hatred

If you ask my husband, last night I tried to kill him.

I was feeling a little down, and decided it would be better to go out and do something to make myself happy than to try to power through the emotions and force myself to work and slowly feel worse and worse. It was a bit late when we finally got out the door and we ended up going to a beach we had never been to before. (Beach count: 3.)

When we got there, I was racing through the woods, eager to get down to the beach before sunset. The hike was about 1.5 miles, and it was mostly downhill. I didn’t think at all about getting back up. The woods were beautiful and I knew the beach would be absolutely breathtaking.

As we were walking, I felt like I was back in Scotland, making my rounds by the loch. Then, I remembered playing Dinosaur Safari at my grandparents’ when I was little and how much I would love an updated version of that game. I was babbling about it to my husband. You get in a time machine and travel to different dinosaur habitats and wait for them to emerge from the scenery around you so you can photograph them. Then, you come back to the present day and sell your photographs. Some carnivores would also attack your time machine so you had to leave sooner. Obviously, I loved it to pieces. If I could code and had the assets to do so, I would make a game just like that with better graphics. It was both exciting and very relaxing. For some dinosaurs, you had to wait several minutes and you could hear them approaching. It was like being Nigel Thornberry or Steve Irwin, except I was sitting on my grandpa’s lap.

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I felt kind of bad racing through the woods, sometimes letting my hubby get pretty far behind me, but we didn’t get there until about an hour before the park/beach was to close. I would be so disappointed if we didn’t get there in time to actually see the beach or enjoy it once we got there.

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This is how close it was to sunset when we got to the end of the path. To get to the beach, you had to walk under the railroad tracks behind the fence on the left.

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Sure enough, it was stunning.

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Lately, nature has been a drug for me. Going out and seeing how beautiful the world is makes me happy, grateful, excited, and reinvigorates me in a way that nothing else does. Sometimes, it’s a good thing. It is not a sin to take the time to be happy.

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But, at what point do you stop and say to yourself, “yes, this makes you happy and it helps you get back on your feet, but you really need to ‘escape’ from your responsibilities less and put in the hard work required to succeed?” Finding that balance is something I have been struggling with since I quit my last job at the end of March. There have been so many days I have spent in a trance, staring at my phone, unable to muster the energy to get out of bed. Yes, there are days that I feel I need to take care of myself and put my mental health first. Then there are other days when I feel down but more or less okay – that is what I would call my typical day right now.

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As these are my typical days, I feel like I have to push myself really hard to make up for all the bad days. I have to do a lot of editing, clean the entire house, apply for jobs, talk to the friends I have neglected, catch up with my family. If I fail to meet my own standards, which are always set impossibly high, I get down again. The weight of failure makes the next day worse and worse until I crash. It is too easy for my self-discipline to turn into self-hatred.

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Escaping into nature helps me fend off the bad days. Getting that high keeps me from sinking so low. But when I’m having a good day, sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s okay to celebrate the good days. The reward for having a good day shouldn’t be more work and more pressure to keep having good days. Yet, I do it to myself over and over again. Last night, I felt compelled to do something, anything, that would make me feel less trapped, less hopeless, less incapable. So we went to the beach. I flung myself into my desire to feel better, and it worked. Then we had to start the walk back.

What Light Remains

To say that the walk back was difficult would be the understatement of the century. It took us about 35 minutes to walk down to the beach. We stayed there for maybe 15 minutes. The walk back took a full hour and it was pitch black by the time we got to the car. I felt so guilty. My husband hurt his ankle a while back and this definitely set back his healing. When we got to the car, my trunk was open. (Making this the third time since we moved out here that we have had an incident with someone breaking into one of our vehicles.) Luckily, nothing was damaged and nothing valuable was taken. In addition to all that, the park ranger showed up as we were getting ready to leave and had to give us a talking to about making sure we are back by the time the park closes.

This is partly why I say that nature is like a drug to me. I was feeling bad and I put my needs in front of everything else. My husband was in pain for me, I put us both at risk, and we were lucky we didn’t get a ticket.

In college, it was so much easier to be self-disciplined. If I was feeling bad, I could play Candy Crush Saga until I was out of my five moves, and then I had to do whatever it was I was putting off. Sometimes it got a little out of control and one distraction led to another, but everything then had a hard deadline. Things had to be done. The consequences for not doing what I was supposed to were clear, and classes had a set schedule.

Now, things are much different. The stakes are a lot higher.

I want to end this post with some enlightening sentiment, but I can’t. I don’t have it figured out. But I’m trying to move forward, to hold myself to my ideals without loathing myself if I fall short, to set goals that are reachable.

And, I’m trying to be happier.

Assigning Meaning

Sunny afternoon

I love the ocean. Being close to it has been one of my favorite things about moving so far from home. It reminds me of how far I have come, both literally and figuratively, since I first left my mom’s house and went to college. Since then, I’ve studied abroad, moved across the US twice, gotten married, gotten my first apartment, and had rather a lot of different jobs. Yesterday, we went, and it was both revitalizing and also a little devastating. For the first time in my life, I saw a starfish outside of captivity. It wasn’t part of an exhibit, it was just living its life. I was elated.

Starfish

It was in a little tide pool and I really wanted to get a closer look, but I was worried I was going to hurt it. I walked over very slowly without splashing the water much, took a couple pics, and let him be.

My husband walked the length of the beach with me and, as always, I marveled at the seashells that had come ashore and was just happy to be alive, happy that the circumstances of my life had allowed me to live in a place where these little miracles can happen all the time.

On our way back to the car, I wanted to say goodbye to my little friend, so we headed back over to the tide pool. There were 3 kids playing around it, one splashing through it. I saw him pick up a rock and hurl it into the pool. I froze, angry and frightened. Luckily, the kids’ parents called them away and I dragged myself over to the pool. The starfish was gone. No trace of him anywhere.

We spent a good half an hour combing the area around the tide pool trying to find him, trying to find any piece of evidence that someone had simply moved him out of harm’s way. We found nothing.