Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This year

Those of you who are pretty close to me and/or have been following this blog awhile know that 2009 has not been the kindest year to me. I got sick, my mom got sick and eventually passed away, we were broke all year, I recently was fired from a job I had just started, and I'm still not on my feet yet. So of course I'm really tempted to join in with the many people saying "Good riddance, 2009, get the fuck out of here."


But I find myself unable to say that sincerely. Because two things - two wonderful, interwoven things - have happened this year that have made it all worth it.

One is that I have made more friends this year than I ever have at any other time in my life. I should explain a little about myself here: I am not good at making friends. During my time in school I "made friends" by kind of awkwardly tagging along with people - most of whom didn't seem to want anything to do with me once school let out for the day. After I left, I sought friendship online. I found real friends there, many of whom have still stuck around some 8 years later. But after that, I never made any new, real friends on my own. The friends I made were either friends of friends, or college classmates who I never saw again once our shared class ended. While all of these people are valuable to me, the problem was that I had no confidence in my ability to actually seek out friendship. I still felt like I did in high school, like I was just tagging along with other people's friends.

This year was different. I can't count the friends I made this year, and I'm not going to try. Friendship isn't something to quantify. But what's amazing is the diversity of my circle now - not just of demographics, but of interests. No matter what I want to talk about, there will always be at least one friend I can bring it up with. I didn't have that before. It's a really enriching, exciting experience.

I also feel like I have a safety net. I am not exaggerating when I say that if everything bad that happened this year had happened a year ago, I would not have gotten through it. There's been an incredible outpouring of love and support (both emotional and financial) from all of my friends, but most incredibly from people who were strangers as recently as eight months ago. I can't wrap my head around that, so I'm not even going to try. But I'm really glad for it.

The second major thing that's happened is probably both a cause and a result of the first: I've become way more open to other people's views. I used to carefully guard myself and try not to let in anyone who didn't agree with me on this or that thing. Now, I try to judge people by how they treat other people, not by their political views. Admittedly a lot of this has come from finally "getting my way" politically and realizing it didn't make that much of a difference. I got tired of hating half the country regardless of whether they'd done anything to me, so I decided to be more patient with other people's views. It has really helped me broaden my understanding of the world, live with a lighter heart, and be able to call a much larger group of people my friends.

So while I'll still probably look back on this year as one of my worst, I'll also remember it as one that ultimately made me a better person. And so I think I have a new favorite blessing for ringing in a new year:

May the new year bring you twice as much learning and half as much heartache as the last.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The longest night of the year is the perfect time...

To light a homemade candle (with a star for each day of Advent...)

Make a batch of sunny cookies to welcome back the light...

Help the critters find a snack for the long night ahead...

Glimpse the first sunset of Winter in your rearview...

Draw in close to the people you love (even if they are a little blurry)...

...and watch a little boy's face light up. (Not sure if I mean Jack or Juzer here!)

Happy Winter, everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dreaming of the Blogosphere?

(Note: I hate catchy buzzwords like "blogosphere", but I couldn't think of what else to call it here, so eh.)

I had a pretty weird dream last night. Now, to understand it, you first need to know that I am a massive lurker. I love to read blogs of people who don't have much in common with me, to see how different people live and how those people are actually similar to me. It's kind of the same effect as watching shows about the Duggars or the Gosselins or what have you, except much more personal and real. (And with less child exploitation.) And of course, once you've been following a favorite blog for some time, you begin to feel like you really know the person writing it. In a sense, you do - but they don't know you from Adam. So it can feel sort of creepy and voyeuristic, too. I have occasionally met people in person, usually unschoolers, whose blogs I'd been following without commenting, and I felt weird about it. I'm not sure why I feel weird, since I'm happy for people to read my blog - otherwise I wouldn't put it out in public! But it does make some people uncomfortable.

Anyway. Onto my dream.

The setting was... weird. It was like a mix between an unschooling conference and one of those big church revivals with a rock band and so forth. Yeah, I can't think of a weirder combination of things, but that's dreaming for you. Anyway, there was this one family there which was like, a combination of a couple different families whose blogs I read. These people aren't unschoolers (they weren't unschoolers in the dream, either - I'm still not clear on the nature of the "conference"), and I'm really not likely to ever meet them in real life. So I was pretty surprised to run into them in the dream. Everyone was in like, a main conference room together, and I was hanging out and chatting with one of the family's kids, just having that awesome kind of interaction you get at unschooling conferences where conversations flow freely without any kind of age gap.

I don't remember exactly what happened next, except that I introduced myself to the mom and she got freaked out by me. I'm not sure if it was over a religious difference (there was, like I mentioned, a sort of religious tone to the event), or if she was just freaked out that some stranger had been reading her blog and was talking to her kid (which does sound weird, phrased like that!) But she started backing away and telling me not to talk to her and to leave her alone, and she grabbed her kids and went back toward her cabin or whatever sort of buildings this place had.

In the dream I felt really hurt by the whole thing, because I genuinely liked this person (from what I'd read) and didn't want to upset or scare her. So I went and found her (she was still outside) and... I don't remember how the dream ended, exactly, but I explained why I liked her blog and I think she calmed down and talked to me. I don't think we ended up being buddy-buddy, but I do think we had a conversation. The end of the dream is pretty hazy.

What stood out about the dream is how real it felt. I woke up feeling like I had honestly met this person and had to convince myself that I hadn't. I also woke up feeling genuinely embarassed, like maybe I shouldn't be reading people's blogs. That's pretty silly though - people blog to share information, and if they were that afraid of strangers reading what they've written, they wouldn't make it public. And most people do not freak out and run away if you say you love their writing, unless they have serious social anxiety.

Still, it does make you think about how weird it is to put your life out to the whole internet - blogging is kind of like being the star of your own reality show. It's on a much smaller scale, true, and most bloggers I know don't have the sort of ego that would make them see themselves that way. But it means that occasionally, you're going to run into what could reasonably be described as fans - people who know all about you, while you know nothing about them. Unsettling as that may sound, I find it exciting too - it means your ideas are reaching people who might never have considered them otherwise.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Watching, Listening, Reading: (Mostly) Holiday Edition

I got this meme from Idzie, and it's called "F.A.B. share" for Film, Audio, and Book share. I guess you're supposed to share what movie or show you're watching, what album you're listening to and what book you're reading, in case someone might like to pick them up on their next trip to B&N. However, in my situation - being a geek and having limited funds for entertainment - all of those pretty much boil down to "what internet are you internetting on the internet?" So this won't entirely conform to the meme's original purpose. But hey, I've never been much of a conformist ;)


Yesterday, someone linked me to BetaMaxMas, a site that simulates watching TV at Christmastime in the early 80s. It features things such as Christmas episodes of Who's the Boss and Perfect Strangers, the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas special, old Christmas commercials, and even Ronald Reagan's Christmas address. (I've never liked Reagan's politics, but the man knew how to give a speech.) It's mostly just for fun 80s-kid nostalgia, but I love the idea of using the internet to simulate living in different time periods. Why aren't more people doing that?

Also, tonight I'm going to make my pathetic goy attempt at making something resembling latkes, which will not end well. While I am eating the inevitably charred results, I'll watch Eight Crazy Nights.

Now, this movie has kind of stupid humor, but I love it for a few reasons. For one, it's full of songs, and they're great. The main storyline is also surprisingly sweet - it even has a few tearjerker moments. But mostly I like it because when I was 18 or so, I went through a phase where I was fascinated by Judaism, and decided to have a little makeshift Chanukah celebration, complete with a "menorah" made from candles I found around the house. It was very peaceful, quietly observing a holiday by myself. And it was then that I watched this movie for the first time, so it brings back a nice memory that I might have forgotten otherwise.


Lately I've been listening to a Pandora station I made out of my favorite Christmas music: slow, melancholic, quiet songs, especially ones with a medieval or Renaissance feel. Currently I have a playlist of these songs on my sidebar, but for archival purposes I'll go ahead and embed it here, too:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

I love all kinds of Christmas music, but I think the reason I love the quieter stuff the most is that in my mind, the holidays and winter in general should be a time to rest and turn inward. If the year was a day, winter would be the night: you've done your work, you've done your playing, and as the sun fades you surround yourself with warmth and family, light and nourishment. As far as I'm concerned that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.


I tend to do all my reading online these days, and of course, I'm mostly drawn to blogs. Lately I've been going through the archives over at By Sun and Candlelight. Now, some of you may be curious what is drawing me to a Catholic, school-at-home family's blog. I actually discovered this blog when I first stepped into the world of homeschooling blogs, before I learned the word unschooling and connected it to what I'd been doing. What I love about this blog is that it has so many ideas for how to live in tune with the changes in the seasons. Part of the reason I always get depressed in January is that I no longer feel the sense of ritual and being in touch with nature that I get when I'm celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I've been seeking ways to bring that same feeling to the rest of the seasons, and Dawn's blog has been an immensely helpful resource as I plan ways to do that in the coming year.


Well, when I started this meme I didn't realize what a holiday-themed post it would turn out to be! I may redo this meme occasionally. I think it makes for a nice snapshot in time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas meme

I know, I know, this blog is turning into a black hole of memes. That's not really my intent, but my head hasn't been clear enough for proper blogging lately.

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
Wrapping! I love to wrap presents, I love the way they look wrapped, and I love unwrapping them. Gift bags take some of the ceremony out of it. Plus, they're too easy to peek into.

2. Real or artificial tree?
I've never had a real tree. My family never had money to be buying a new tree every year, so we always just used the fake tree my grandparents bought in Miami. Note that my family left Miami in 1973, so this tree is a serious relic, as trees go. We eventually bought a better one, but I still have the old tree, which I put up in my room. It smells like Christmas to me.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Thanksgiving weekend, usually. When I was a kid we'd put it up when we first got the urge - sometimes as early as mid-October. One year we just never took it down all year. That ended up being a shitty year so maybe it really is bad luck to leave it up past Candlemas :p In my defense, I didn't know what Candlemas was until last month or so.

4. When do you take the tree down?
January. My great-grandma insisted it was bad luck to take it down before New Year's, so it's family tradition to leave it up at least until then. And an Episcopalian friend tipped me off to the whole "Christmas lasts until Epiphany" thing, so now I even keep lighting it till at least the 6th. I pretty much prolong Christmas as long as possible, because I like shiny things.

5. Do you like egg nog?
I like soy nog. Regular eggnog is too thick and weird for me, although I've never thinned it out with liquor like you're supposed to. I assume that would make a difference.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Hmm... in terms of overall enjoyment, my Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. In terms of Christmas morning joy, it'd be this frilly white buggy for my baby dolls, because it was the only gift I got that was "from Santa".

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Nope. My Christian parents and grandparents never even had one. I'm not sure if my mom thought it was "idol worship" or if they just didn't want to deal with the possibility of cats knocking down the baby Jesus and chewing on him. Both are equally likely.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
An Aladdin toothbrush. See, I hated brushing my teeth as a kid, and my grandma was always struggling with me about it. So my family got me this nice electric toothbrush with Aladdin and Jasmine on it. The big mistake was giving me that to open as my special Christmas Eve gift. Needless to say, it didn't go well, and I pretty much refused to ever use the toothbrush because it reminded me of that night. Yuck.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail! Christmas is usually the one time of year I get to exchange real, tangible things with internet friends. It's nice.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
The Christmas Toy, if that can count as a movie. It's a mostly-forgotten Jim Henson special from the 80s about toys that can walk around as long as no humans catch them, but if they get caught they're frozen forever. I used to sneak into my playroom and try to catch my toys moving. Clearly I was not an altruistic child.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
If I have a steady income? Summer.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Christmas tree cakes!

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
I used to do clear on the living room tree and colored on mine, but this year I did color on both. It looks nice.

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
I like the slow, almost melancholic ones - Christmastime is Here, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Coventry Carol, that sort of thing.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Home, or close to home.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Anyone can, with the help of Google, so me listing them here isn't really going to impress anyone.

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?
I have a pretty silver angel on the living room tree and a garish, color-changing star on the other. I like to cover all my bases.

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
I used to always open one on Christmas Eve (usually a small one), and the rest on Christmas morning. See worst present story above.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The endless debating over whether Christmas can be secular, whether to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy holidays", whether cereal boxes with Santa on them will piss off non-Christians, etc. It's pretty silly to have all this fuss considering people have been dragging pine trees inside in midwinter since long before Jesus came along. Can we all just agree that lights are pretty and move on?

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
Err, well the tree in my bedroom gets all the glass ornaments, but that's not so much a theme as a desire not to have my cats shattering glass all over the living room.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
I don't know - cat poop?

22. Least favorite holiday song?
The Christmas Shoes. Kill me.

23. Favorite ornament?
All the handmade stuff I used to think was ugly as hell: little crocheted stockings from my great-aunt Libba, styrofoam bells my mom made in the 70s, spray-painted wreaths I made in elementary school, that kind of thing. Until recently I refused to put any of this stuff on the "nice" tree, but now that I'm by myself it's nice to be reminded of family when I look at the tree.

24. Family tradition?
My favorite WAS going over to my (now late) great-aunt Evelyn's house before Christmas and helping her decorate her tree. She was an extremely finicky woman, especially about how her house looked, so the fact that she respected my decorating ability enough to let me do her tree meant a lot to me. Plus, she always had pound cake and vanilla ice cream.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Even services?
I don't know if any Protestants ever do that, but Southern Baptists don't, and Unitarians definitely don't, at least in my experience. So no.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas in Holland

If you have no idea what the hell is going on, this will help:

Great quote/post

I love this description of people who are "unschoolers at heart", from Lapaz Home Learning:
"We want to work hard because we are driven by our own internal goals, our innate curiosity, our personal obsessions. We like to do things because we we want to, not because we have to. We will work like madmen at tasks of our own choosing, but the minute that an external taskmaster rears it’s head (even if only on paper)– we balk, we fight and we stomp our metaphorical feet like a two-year-old newly asserting his individuality."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Best of 2009, Day 1: Best Trip

There's a great meme/writing prompt/thingy going around, called the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. I love reflecting on the year in December, so I'm all over this. I don't know if I'll make every day, but I'll do it until I get bored or distracted by a bunny or something.

December 1 Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?

This is a tough one. Just last month I took an amazing trip to Roan Mountain, TN for the ARGH unschooling gathering. I stayed with my friends the Bannisters, and it was a wonderful time. Tennessee in the fall is probably the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen (or at least, it's tied with Sedona), and I loved being with a whole ton of people for Halloween.

But I think I'm going to have to give the best trip prize to another trip, just because I did so many different things and met so many people. In late August/early September, I went to the Northeast Unschooling Conference in Boston, and Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I consider this one trip because it was all planned together, and because I barely had time to breathe in between! A few highlights:

-At NEUC, I got to make some great friends, including Idzie and her mom and sister, Eli, Michael, Jean, Hannah, and a whirlwind of other people! It was my first unschooling conference, so I really had a great time.

-Also in Boston, I got to stay (a little bit) with my friend Valerie, who moved up there last year. She also came down with us for Dragon*Con. The first afternoon I was in Boston, we sat at her house for a few hours just playing a stupid old fighting video game where I kept making my dude act stupid and grab people for no reason. It was funnier than it sounds in writing.

-This was my first trip to anything remotely resembling "the north" (farthest north I'd been before was Virginia), and also my first time taking a train, a taxi, and a city bus. People from big cities are laughing at me now, I'm sure, but I was SO excited to be on a train. I did make sure to put on that "I'm not a noob please don't mug me" pokerface, though :p

-At Dragon*Con, I got to see a lot of really awesome famous people in person: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Patrick Stewart; Terry Gilliam of Monty Python; and Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, the creators of The Venture Bros., which is one of my favorite shows.

-Also at Dragon*Con, Valerie and I learned the entire Thriller dance in three hours to participate in an attempt to break the world record for most people doing the dance at once, organized by my friend Kimber (who I didn't know at the time, but we've become friends since). It was one of the most fun things I have ever done, and reminded me how much I love to dance! Unfortunately Guinness didn't accept us for the record (there's been a LOT of controversy about that, long story), but we did get into several other record books.

-Finally, after Dragon*Con I made a bunch of friends on various forums that I never would've gone to if it hadn't been for the con. Some of those forums helped a *lot* in keeping my spirits up when my mom died.

So that was my favorite trip this year. What was yours?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An open letter to everyone

Dear everyone who has ever lived, specifically long enough to be allowed to vote:

Please stop telling unhappy teenagers that these are the best years of their lives. Telling someone who is miserable that it will only get worse from here is abusive, cruel, and inexcusable.

If you were going through a bad divorce, the death of a loved one, or some other tough time, and someone told you to suck it up because the rest of your life will be even worse than this, you would never speak to them again, and rightfully so.

So please, don't do this to teenagers. Because I have a feeling this is a big factor in the high teenage suicide rate - these kids have been kept separate from real life, and have no idea that it gets better. And people are telling them it only gets worse.

(Pro tip for teens: It gets better.)


A bit about TV, with relevant meme

(Feel free to just scroll down to the meme if you're in a tl;dr kinda mood.)

As a kid, I was allowed to as much TV as I wanted. And I watched hours and hours a day, while still finding time to do other stuff. Often, that "other stuff" included acting out elaborate stories inspired by my favorite shows. Usually once I'd been watching a show for awhile, my little universe it had inspired bore no resemblance to the show itself.

By adulthood, I had my fill of TV - the internet was a lot more interactive - and watched very little. I'm ashamed to say I also got a bit snobby about that, thinking people who watch a lot of TV were just too lazy or uncreative to think of anything else to do. It seemed every time I got invited to friends' houses, the only thing we'd do was watch movies. No playing video games, or board games, or doing crafts, or anything actually interactive. Just sitting and watching. I could do that at home!

At the beginning of this year, my mom and I decided paying $70 a month when nothing was ever on was ridiculous, and we got rid of TV. Ironically, getting rid of it is what made me love it again. See, my mom still loved TV, so we sought out other ways to watch it. We got Netflix and put a computer in the living room for watching shows on Hulu and Youtube. Now, instead of flipping channels, I could watch any show in the world. I rediscovered childhood favorites like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Animaniacs, and discovered new favorites like Star Trek TOS, which I would never have seen on TV.

Being able to control what I watched and when I watched it meant that I could really pay attention to shows, analyze them, learn from them. I discovered favorite actors and voice actors, and began to appreciate acting as an art (I had mostly dismissed it before). I started to understand the nuances of plotlines and archetypes. Recently, I've been doing tons of reading on TV Tropes - which is like taking a course in literary analysis, with a surprising amount of science thrown in.

So I'm really, really thankful for the influence that TV has had on my life, ever since I got rid of it.

And now, a meme.

Rules: Bold all of the following TV shows which you’ve ever seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime. Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it. Add a * for particular favorites.

(For my own posterity/psychoanalytic purposes, I'm putting my mom's favorites in pink and my grandma's favorites in purple. This is partly to demonstrate the "TV culture" in which I grew up, and partly to explain why I've seen things like Northern Exposure. Colored-and-bold means I watched with them at least occasionally.

Also, some of my asterisks are for childhood favorites that I may or may not find appalling if I rewatched them now.)

7th Heaven
American Gothic
America’s Next Top Model
Arrested Development
Babylon 5
Batman: The Animated Series
Battlestar Galactica (the old one)
Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
Beverly Hills 90210
Bosom Buddies
Boston Legal
Boy Meets World
Brothers And Sisters
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chappelle’s Show
Charlie’s Angels
Chicago Hope*
Clarissa Explains it All*
Commander in Chief
Crossing Jordan
CSI: Miami
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dark Angel
Dark Skies
DaVinci’s Inquest
Dawson’s Creek
Dead Like Me
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Dharma & Greg
Different Strokes
Doctor Who (original series)
Doctor Who 2005
Due South
ER* (This show provided "family TV night" for me, my mom, and my grandma for about a year - until George Clooney left, at which point we unanimously stopped watching.)
Even Stevens
Everybody Loves Raymond
Facts of Life
Family Guy
Fantasy Island
Fawlty Towers
Freaks and Geeks
Get Smart*
Gilligan’s Island*
Gilmore Girls
Gossip Girl
Grey’s Anatomy
Grange Hill
Growing Pains
Happy Days
Hercules: the Legendary Journeys
Home Improvement
Homicide: Life on the Street
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy*
Invader Zim
Hell’s Kitchen
Kim Possible
Knight Rider
Knight Rider: 2008
Kung Fu
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
La Femme Nikita
LA Law
Laverne and Shirley
Law and Order: SVU
Life on Mars (UK)
Life on Mars (US)
Little House on the Prairie
Lizzie McGuire
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost in Space
Malcolm in the Middle (Note: I hate this show, but it came on after the Simpsons, so I watched by default, like many other people. I'm positive this is the only reason it was successful. Futurama should've had that timeslot instead.)
Married… With Children
McLeods Daughters
Melrose Place
Miami Vice
Mission: Impossible
Mod Squad
Mork & Mindy*
Murphy Brown
Mystery Science Theater 3000
My Life As A Dog
My So Called Life
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
Ned Bigby’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Northern Exposure
One Tree Hill
Perry Mason
Power Rangers (I have not seen even one episode of this, which is incredible for someone of my generation.)
Press Gang
Prison Break
Private Practice
Project Runway
Pushing Daisies
Quantum Leap
Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (UK)
Remington Steele
Rescue Me
Road Rules
Roseanne* (I am still angry about the series finale.)
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Seaquest DSV
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
So Weird
South of Nowhere
South Park*
Spongebob Squarepants*
Star Trek*
Star Trek: The Next Generation*
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise
Stargate Atlantis
Stargate SG-1
Starsky & Hutch
Teen Titans
That 70’s Show*
That’s So Raven
The 4400
The Addams Family
The Amazing Race
The Andy Griffith Show (The only two silver linings of my mother's death are that I no longer have to eat boiled cabbage, and I never have to listen to this theme song again.)
The A-Team
The Avengers
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Brady Bunch
The Cosby Show*
The Daily Show*
The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
The Dead Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Flintstones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls* (I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode, although occasionally a new one sneaks in. My whackjob conspiracy theory is that they secretly kept making new ones to release Tupac-style after the Girls died.)
The Honeymooners
The Jeffersons
The Jetsons
The L Word
The Love Boat
The Magnificent Seven
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Monkees
The Munsters*
The Office (US)
The Office (UK)
The Powerpuff Girls
The Pretender
The Real World
The Shield
The Simpsons* (I've seen, and nearly memorized, every episode up to about season 10. After that I lost track.)
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Sopranos
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone
The Waltons
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
The X-Files
Third Watch
Three’s Company
Twin Peaks
Twitch City
True Blood
Ugly Betty
Veronica Mars
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)*
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)*
Will and Grace
Xena: Warrior Princess

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Unschooling And...

I haven't had much of a desire to blog lately, and this will likely be short*. But I want to address something I see cropping up here and there in the unschooling community that's been bugging me. A lot of unschoolers - usually unschooling parents - seem to be making the assumption that unschoolers are, or should be, unified in also following some other specific "alternative" lifestyle. I've seen it with green living, Libertarianism, the Law of Attraction, home birth, veganism, you name it. Where I personally stand on these various topics is beyond the scope of this post, and also irrelevant. The point here is that it really pisses me off when anyone - especially people within the community! - assumes unschoolers are a monolithic group, who all have the exact same values and live the exact same way.

No. Despite how much more accepting unschoolers are likely to be of various political affiliations or lifestyle choices** that the mainstream rejects, unschooling itself is not synonymous with any of them. The one and only shared value that is required for unschooling is the idea that children should be respected as whole people who can make their own choices. Period. It has nothing to do with what you worship (or don't), who you vote for, what you eat, or where you shop. There are unschoolers who practice traditional religions, buy meat and eggs at Walmart, vote straight-up George Bush conservative, take antidepressants, hunt deer, thoroughly enjoy mainstream media, love to shop at the mall, love Starbucks, whatever. Some of these are things I do, some aren't. Some I agree with and some I don't. Maybe you think all of these things are wrong and would never do any of them. That's all beside the point.

What does matter is that there needs to be room for all of those things in the unschooling community. And most unschoolers consider themselves to be open-minded, accepting people. But statements like "I think unschooling goes hand-in-hand with green living" or "Unschooling has merged with LoA" unintentionally cast people who don't practice those things as outsiders. Newcomers who want a mostly-conventional life that just doesn't include being coercive toward their kids will be scared off. Maybe they'll be turned off of unschooling altogether, or maybe they'll just keep to themselves and stay away from the conventions, causing their families to miss out on valuable support and connections.

This isn't a knock at any of the ways of living I've named. I applaud anyone who stands up for their values and tries their best to live according to them (provided they do so without harming other people, of course). But making unfair assumptions about people makes unschooling less inclusive and less friendly, confuses people who are considering unschooling, and ultimately does no one any favors. I want to see the community be as diverse as possible. There's already a stereotype that unschooling is only a white, privileged hippie thing. I don't want to design my life as a response to stereotypes, but it's worth taking a look at what we might be doing, intentionally or not, to make people feel unwelcome.

*Yes, four paragraphs is short for me :p
**Note that I'm using "lifestyle choices" in the correct, literal sense, not the "dismissive euphemism for being gay" sense.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My new favorite holiday

Last year, I realized I had gotten way too perfectionist about the holidays. I vowed that this year I would celebrate them however felt right instead of according to the arbitrary rules in my head about how you're supposed to celebrate.

This is my first holiday season without my mom. I'm lucky enough to have good friends who made sure I wasn't alone on Thanksgiving, which is usually my favorite holiday. But something didn't feel right. I just couldn't get into the mood when I wasn't doing Thanksgiving the usual way. It used to be a quiet holiday for me; just me, my mom and maybe one or at MOST two invited guests. I'd cook, while watching the parade. We'd eat dinner - the same meal my grandma used to make - around 12:30 and then maybe catch some of the dog show (this invariably ended in us getting pissy because some bloodhound beat the smooth dachshund and some Yorkie beat the bull terrier). Then I'd go to my room to become comatose and watch the silly marathons on TV, while my mom watched football in the living room. That night, we'd decorate the Christmas tree.

Yesterday was a big, fun day with lots of people. But I didn't get to cook, we missed the parade because we were driving and the dog show because no one else cared, there was no squash casserole or baked sweet potatoes, and my tree is still bare. And, of course, my mom wasn't there. It just didn't feel like Thanksgiving to me.

So today I'm celebrating a second Thanksgiving, by myself, the way I want to. I'm going to make myself the dinner I want (baked chicken, sweet potatoes, coleslaw and dressing), watch clips of the parade on Youtube, and relax. I don't care about the dog show, but I do think I'm going to make a tradition of having an afternoon marathon of whatever has caught my attention the most during the year. See, last year my big thing was prog rock, and I spent Thanksgiving afternoon watching a marathon of Pink Floyd concerts on VH1. So this year I'll watch a marathon of Star Trek. Then I'll decorate my tree, provided my kitten decides to allow it.

In short, Thanksgiving is for traveling and seeing people and being thankful for everything I have now. This second Thanksgiving, celebrated on Black Friday, is for following my family traditions and being thankful for everything I had before. It's a time to remember the people and experiences in my past that made me the person I am.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Re: Dreams

A friend, who is a few years younger than I am, wrote a blog post about how she was feeling upset that no one was taking her dream of a rural life seriously. This is the comment I left her. I've edited out a few personal details, but otherwise nothing has been changed.


You're at an age right now where everyone is going to try to convince you to be practical, to follow the traditional route, to do things the way they did and the way most people do.

You don't have to do that. Most of those people live the way they do because it's the easiest way, the one they have to think about the least. People give up on dreams because if you don't dream, you don't have to take risks.

Being a person who dreams is EXTREMELY valuable. The world needs more people who are fully alive and doing what they love. Right now it seems like there aren't any happy people because (I'm guessing, from my own experiences at your age) you're surrounded by people who are trying to get you to make your life small because they made theirs small. They need to believe that a big, fulfilled life isn't possible because it's how they justify giving up their own dreams. But it IS possible. I know lots of people who live unusual ways - hell, I have a friend who lives in a bus. She's chronically ill and is still one of the happiest people I have ever met, because she's free.

And living out in the country is not even unrealistic, not at all. I live in the country, always have. My neighbors own a farm. I know lots of people who live even further out in the country than I do, on huge plots of land away from EVERYTHING, and they homestead and homeschool and farm and everything. They all have different reasons for doing it - some want to live more in harmony with the earth, some want to minimize the influence of government and corporations on their lives, some just plain love nature. What they have in common is that they all seem really really happy.

If you have a chance, you should check out the Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn - it's mostly about leaving school to educate yourself, which you may or may not find relevant, but there's also an awful lot in there about following your passions and how being a teen/young adult is a time when it's really important to dream big.

As for god, I personally believe the only true religion is the one you find for yourself. Simply taking on what other people say without doing your own soul-searching has very little value.

Sorry for the tl;dr but I just can't stand it when I see someone hurt because others have laughed at their dreams. Just hang in there and keep believing in yourself. You DO have people supporting you, even if it's just us here online. Tell the haters to step off.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The last four days

I'm retroactively declaring this to have been a four-day weekend. You can do that, when you're unemployed ;)

It was a good one.

I went to the gay club, and sang at the piano bar, and saw drag queens. I learned that bubblegum vodka tastes like that nasty swish stuff they make little kids do at school. Blech.

I had a friend stay the night, and we played Scrabble and watched Queen. I made a 75-point word: vaporize, on a triple word score.

I poked around on TVTropes. I always learn things there: much about literature and psychology, but sometimes science or history too.

I watched all the Three Minute Philosophy videos (warning: gratuitous, and hilarious, use of the word "fuck".)

I played around in Gimp and learned how to make animated .gifs and use the clone tool.

I ran outside in the absolutely gorgeous, 60-degree fall weather that FINALLY came to Florida.

I took part in a forum discussion analyzing an episode of Star Trek.

Fez showed me some Kingdom Hearts music I hadn't heard, and I showed him some classical music he hadn't heard. They're not that different sometimes. I also discovered there are piano tutorials that work like Guitar Hero.

I cleaned the house, and I made homemade Chinese food. Protip: when a recipe says to use rice vinegar and rice wine, they mean it. Don't use white vinegar and no wine.

I hung a tire swing, and in the process learned about knot-tying. (They didn't teach us that in Girl Scouts, you see. Too busy painting our nails.)

I discovered that making a to-do list works better if you also include stuff you want to do.

I watched the season premiere of The Venture Bros., and I tried to watch The Big Bang Theory, but it was interrupted by a special news report.

And finally, I talked to an old friend who has been depressed for years and, until recently, getting worse. Now he's better, and happy.

Even living alone and with no money, this life is not so bad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fill-In

1. So are we going to the gay bar? Yes, yes we are.

2. An unknown future is what's up ahead.

3. I love to oot, oot, oot, ooples and banoonoos.

4. I really need a cordless phone of some sort. Talking on a corded phone in the laundry room is major suck.

5. I walk a thousand miles to fall down at your door. Badunda, badunda.

6. Dr. Pepper is the true elixir of life!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of drag queens, tomorrow my plans include
grocery shopping and making stupid images in Gimp and Sunday, I want to be lazy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Announcement and a survey

For anyone who doesn't know, my mom passed away this past weekend. She had a heart attack, then a stroke, and couldn't recover from the brain damage. I wanted to put something on the blog just to cover all my bases, but I'm not ready to really talk much about what happened.

But I do feel like blogging, so here is a survey I stole from Michael.

1. First thing you wash in the shower?
My hair

2. What colour is your favourite hoodie?
White, with a red and blue logo on it (the flower from this album cover, plus the letters DM in blue)

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?
I don't remember who it was. It's been awhile

4. Do you plan outfits?
Only for special occasions, or if I'm gonna want to get ready fast in the morning and just be able to throw something on before my eyes are even open

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?
Annoyed, because I need to run errands and instead I'm sitting here waiting on a phone call

6. What's the closest thing to you that's red?
A plastic cup and some Dr. Pepper cans. Yeah, I need to clean off my desk :p

7. Tell me about the last dream you remember having.
I don't remember it. All I know is I woke up with the Reading Rainbow song in my head. This was Roni's fault, and there will be payback.

8. Did you meet anybody new today?
In person, no. I've talked to a lot of people on LJ, but I don't know if any of them were new. I'm in some large comms (one has more people than my town) so it's hard to keep track of who I've talked to before.

9. What are you craving right now?
Is it possible to crave a cordless phone? If so, then I'm craving that. I'm hoping I can find a cheap one at the dollar store. I'm not going to eat it, though.

10. Do you floss?
Only if something is WAY stuck in my teeth

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?
Patch Kids? (You can take the kid out of the 80s, but...)

12. Are you emotional?
Outwardly, I can be pretty stoic (unless I'm giddy over something). Internally I'm a big gooey sap.

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?
I think I tried when I was a kid, but always got bored by like 200.

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?
There's a lot of variables that factor into this - is it hard or soft-serve? Is it plain vanilla or are there chunks of stuff in it? Single or double scoop?

15. Do you like your hair?
hahahahahahaahhahahaa no.

16. Do you like yourself?
Generally, although I start doubting myself pretty fast when criticized. I'm working on that.

17. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush?
Oh absolutely, that would be hilarious. Especially once he knocked back a couple of beers. I'd get more amusing quotes out of that one meal than an entire season of the Simpsons.

18. What are you listening to right now?
The sound of cars going by on the highway. I was listening to "Gates of Dawn" by Secret Garden on Pandora, but I've got it paused so I can hear if the phone rings. This is why I need a cordless phone so bad.

19. Are your parents strict?
Well, I don't have any parents left now (my dad is a deadbeat). But no, my mom was never strict with me at all. My grandma had a temper but I wouldn't call her strict either. I pretty much got to do what I wanted so long as I didn't destroy anything.

20. Would you go sky diving?
Definitely not.

21. Do you like cottage cheese?
Only with fruit

22. Have you ever met a celebrity?
I've met Trans-Siberian Orchestra, do they count? I *saw* a lot of celebrities at Dragon*Con, but I didn't get any autographs.

23. Do you rent movies often?
I have Netflix, so the answer is either "constantly" or "never", depending.

24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?
This is me we're talking about. It would take less time to name the things that AREN'T sparkly, and most of those are rainbow-colored or glow in the dark. I'm a six-year-old girl at heart.

25. How many countries have you visited?
Zero, since I haven't been outside the US, and being in the country I live in doesn't really count as "visiting".

26. Have you made a prank phone call?
I hit the prime age for making prank phone calls around the same time everyone got caller ID, so no.

27. Ever been on a train?
I went on trains for the first time in Boston in August! It was awesome! I want to take trains everywhere!

28. Brown or white eggs?
I always buy the white ones, but really that's just because they're what my mom always bought, which is because they're what my grandma always bought. Maybe I'll try some brown ones next time. You know, live on the edge a little.

29. Do you have a cell phone?
Yeah, but I haven't bothered with keeping minutes on it since I don't get a signal at home.

30. Do you use chapstick?
Yes, especially those flavored Lipsmackers. Like I said, six-year-old girl at heart.

31. Do you own a gun?
I own a pit bull. She's a lot cuddlier than a gun, much less dangerous (despite what the media would have you believe), and more likely to scare off an intruder BEFORE they get in my house.

32. Can you use chopsticks?
Sort of. I can get the food into my mouth but I will look ridiculous in the process.

33. Who are you going to be with tonight?
In person, it's just me and the dogs and cats. But I'll have people to talk to online.

34. Are you too forgiving?
Sometimes, yes. But I can also hold a grudge like whoa. It really depends on what the offense was.

35. Ever been in love?

36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow?
Hanging out with me! We don't have plans yet though, so I'm not sure what we'll wind up doing.

37. Ever have cream puffs?
No, but I used to have a cat named Creampuff!

38. Last time you cried?
I've cried a lot this week and last. I don't remember when the last time was.

39. What was the last question you asked?
"Sup dawg?"

40. Favourite time of the year?
Generally October-December. Nice cool weather, lots of holidays, a general cozy feeling. All those holidays are going to be really tough this year, though. But I can still enjoy the weather.

41. Do you have any tattoos?

42. Are you sarcastic?

43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect?

44. Ever walked into a wall?
Ha, yeah, lots of times. I'm especially good with bumping my shoulder into doorjambs.

45. Favourite colour?
Purple! I like red and silver a lot, too.

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
Once, when I was a teenager, and there was some boy-related drama. Long story, light years in the past.

47. Is your hair curly?
It gets all wavy and stuff. It'd be perfect hair to have in the 1940s, but alas, everyone nowadays is supposed to have ~sleek, shiny~ hair. Feh.

48. What was the last CD you bought?
It's been way too long since I bought a CD :( I did get a Yanni CD and an Enya CD from the media exchange funshop at NEUC, though.

49. Do looks matter?
I guess to some people they do? To me it's kind of like, I decide you're awesome first, THEN I might think you're hot. I rarely find someone attractive on looks alone.

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?

51. Is your phone bill sky high?
It will be this month, from calling Arizona and Colorado. But usually not.

52. Do you like your life right now?
Obviously I don't like things right now, but in spite of that I can't say I don't have a good life. I have a house to live in, food to eat, and more friends than I can count. And even though she's gone now, I had an awesome mom. Not everyone can say that.

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
I've been known to fall asleep with a movie on, but I don't do it as a matter of habit. I do need music to sleep, though.

54. Can you handle the truth?
Are you deriding my truth-handling abilities??

55. Do you have good vision?
Eh... decent enough. My depth perception sucks and I can't read tiny fonts well, but I make up for it by seeing unusually well in the dark.

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
Dislike yes, hate no.

57. How often do you talk on the phone?
Lately, a lot. Usually I avoid it.

58. The last person you held hands with?
My mom, when she was in the ICU. It was the last time I saw her awake.

59. What are you wearing?
A t-shirt and shorts. People up north are hating me right now, but I'd gladly trade with you! I want sweater weather!

60. What is your favourite animal?

61. Where was your default picture taken?
This isn't Myspace so this question isn't really relevant? The pic at the top of this blog (as of this writing) is from my yard.

62. Can you hula hoop?
With a good hoop, yeah. I can't do it with the cheap ones.

63. Do you have a job?
No. I need to get one, fast.

64. What was the most recent thing you bought?
Groceries and cat food and whatnot.

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?
My bedroom window leads out onto a porch I used to play on as a kid. So yes, lots of times.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Best Meme Ever

Stole this from Ronnie Maier, who is awesome forever because hers included Agador Spartacus.

First, select ten fictional characters (from any medium) by whichever method you like best.

1. Willy Wonka
2. Spock
3. Hermione Granger
4. Captain Planet
5. James (from Team Rocket, on Pokemon)
6. Rose Nylund (from the Golden Girls)
7. Beetlejuice
8. Milhouse
9. Dr. Orpheus (from the Venture Bros.)
10. Kermit the Frog

Divide the list up by even and odd.

Odds: Wonka, Hermione, James, Beetlejuice, Orpheus
Even: Spock, Captain Planet, Rose, Milhouse, Kermit

Which group of five would make a better Five-Man Band (like a Power Rangers team)?
They'd both be horrible. I think the second team has a slight edge, in that Spock balances the stupid people a little, whereas in the first team everyone is just crazy.

Who would you slot in each position: Leader, Lancer (second-in-command), Big Guy, Smart Guy, The Chick?

Clearly whoever made this reads TV Tropes a lot. I approve.

Leader: Wonka, because he's not going to let anyone else do it.
Lancer: Orpheus, because he's a ham and has to have a main role.
Big Guy: Beetlejuice. He's the only one of these I could see acting remotely tough.
Smart Guy: Hermione. Too easy.
The Chick: James. He's only good for looking pretty in a dress and being amusing.

Leader: Kermit. He's small and meek, but he's likeable and he's got chutzpah.
Lancer: Fallout Boy Milhouse. He doesn't fit anywhere else, plus it's his usual role anyway.
Big Guy: Captain Planet. Because all he does is swoop down, fuck your shit up, and then leave.
Smart Guy: Spock. Too easy again.
The Chick: Rose. The only person who could be more useless in a fight than Milhouse.

If you think the teams would be improved by swapping one character between the even and odd groups, which ones would you switch?
Hmm... maybe Kermit and Orpheus. The odd team has too many loudmouths and the even team has too many quiet people. Orpheus would fix that in a jiff.

Gender-swap 2 (Spock), 8 (Milhouse) and 10 (Kermit). Which character would have the most change in their story arc? Which the least? Would any of these characters have to have a complete personality change to be believable as the opposite sex?
Milhouse would be pretty believable as a girl. He'd just turn into Velma. As for Spock, female Vulcans annoy the hell out of me, but I don't think his personality would change at all. Kermit would be the worst, I think - his nervous-guy schtick wouldn't work so well.

Compare the matchups of 1 (Wonka) and 8 (Milhouse), and 5 (James) and 9 (Orpheus). (Ignore canon sexual preferences for the moment.) Which couple would be more compatible?
Oh my lord, James and Orpheus would be a fantastic couple. Seriously, I can imagine nothing greater. They're both so camp.
Wonka and Milhouse I don't even want to think about. Especially because it seems plausible.

7 (Beetlejuice) becomes 1's (Wonka's) boss for a week in some plausible fashion. How's their working relationship?
Hilariously awful. I want this to be a movie. Right now.

2 (Spock) finds himself inserted into 6's (Rose's) continuity. As far as anyone other than 2 or 6 is concerned, they've always been there. What role would 2 be presumed to have had in 6's story, and could they fit in without going wonky?

brb, lolling forever

No seriously, I'm trying to imagine how that would happen. The only way there are men on the Golden Girls is if they're sleeping with one of the main characters, and in this case Dorothy would be the only person Spock could tolerate being around for more than a few minutes, so I guess he's Dorothy's... alien boyfriend? This is rapidly descending into the darkest realms of bad crossover fic. Let's move on.

3 (Hermione) and 5 (James) get three wishes. The catch is that they have to agree on all three wishes before they get the benefits of any of them. What three wishes would they make?
I'm not sure that would ever happen. We're dealing with opposite characters here: one is a know-it-all member of Team Hero who wants to free creatures that don't even actually want to be set free, the other is a moronic thief who steals enslaved animals from children so that they can do his bidding instead. Yeah.

Your team is 3 (Hermione), 4 (Captain Planet), and 9 (Dr. Orpheus). The mission consists of a social challenge, a mental challenge, and a physical challenge. Which team member do you assign to each challenge?
Social - Hermione. She's annoying, but she can be clever at tricking people and talking them into things.
Physical - Captain Planet, because he's the show-offy superhero guy.
Mental - Orpheus. He gets this over Hermione because he can astral project and mindread and such.

1 (Wonka) and 2 (Spock) are brainwashed by a one-time artifact that works even on people immune to mind control to attack and kill 4 (Captain Planet). They keep their normal personalities, skills, and competence levels, except any code against killing has been turned off. Can 4 survive?
Captain Planet has a lot of powers, so he's probably safe as long as he doesn't let Spock near his neck (which shouldn't be a problem since Captain Planet can fly) or, I dunno, take exploding candy from Wonka.

6 (Rose), 7 (Beetlejuice), 9 (Orpheus), and 10 (Kermit) must help an orphanage full of small and depressed children have a merry Christmas. Who does what, knowing that at the very least the kids will be expecting a visit from Santa?
Rose and Kermit would both bend over backwards making sure they had presents, entertainment, decorations, snacks, the whole works. Orpheus would try to help but end up scaring everyone by talking about the undead or something.

And that would be Beetlejuice's cue to come fuck everything up and make all the kids cry. And Rose.

3 (Hermione) and 8 (Milhouse) are challenged to circumnavigate the Earth in eighty days or less, using only forms of transportation invented before 1900. Can they do it, or will they be fatally distracted by side quests or their own personality conflicts?
Since Hermione is a witch they could just take a broom, but Milhouse would be annoying and need a barf bag and would probably fall off. I can't imagine anyone circumnavigating anything with Milhouse around.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In which I whine about good things

This seems like kind of a strange thing to complain about, but like, suddenly I seem to have too many friends. And I have good prospects for making even more friends soon. And it's freaking me out a little.

Wait! Come back! I don't mean I don't want all the friends I have, and certainly I don't see having a lot of friends as a problem, per se. It's just something I'm not really sure how to deal with.

See, I used to be a complete social idiot. Like, really bad. As I've gotten older, and with the help of the internet, I've gotten better at socializing. But I've only ever had a pretty small group of friends at a time. I'm used to having maybe 10 friends I actually talk to, and believe me, I built up to having that many friends *very slowly*.

Now that I've been traveling, and gotten more confident, and started posting on more forums, I have more friends. A good deal more. But since I've always had just a few, I don't have much practice balancing more than that. I have trouble knowing where the line is between just an acquaintance and a friend, gauging how much/how little people want to see/talk to me, etc. I also have a bad "out of sight, out of mind" habit where if someone doesn't contact me for awhile I get distracted by a bunny or something and forget to contact them.

Basically I'm like a poor person who just won the lottery and has no idea how to manage money because I've never had any.

I know it's good to be challenged and grow and all, but it's also intimidating, especially when you're still not totally past seeing yourself as an awkward weirdo. I'm not used to thinking of myself as any kind of social butterfly. In my mind, I'm still the icky kid nobody wants on their kickball team. So when someone I've known for a short time enthusiastically invites me to come hang out, my head explodes just a little. When someone suggests I lead a gathering, I automatically think of childhood birthday parties where I invited the whole class and no one showed up. I always assumed I was doomed to be that kid forever. It feels weird that I'm not.

Good, but weird.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cracked article mentions unschooling

I love - it's a humor website, but many of the articles are genuinely informative as well. I was reading this article, called "What if Kanye West is Retarded?", and was enjoying it, but cringed when I got to the part about Kanye "railing against education". Knowing the mainstream tendency to confuse being anti-school with being anti-intellectual, I had a feeling I knew what was coming. But when I actually read it, I was pleasantly surprised:

"For two whole albums, Kanye rails against college and education in general. At first glance, it seems likely that he detects some discrimination in Chicago’s public school system. It’s possible, based on his own success that occurred independent of formal schooling, that he thinks the whole system is inefficient, or that the wrong set of skills are being encouraged. That’s admirable. Plenty of intelligent people embrace unschooling, a practice that seeks effective alternatives to conventional education.

If Kanye West is retarded, it means that he wrote two albums attacking college because he gets frustrated with complex numbers and words that are a) longer than three syllables and b) not written in all caps."

THANK YOU, DANIEL O'BRIEN. This is the first time I have ever EVER seen a mainstream source (inasmuch as popular comedy websites are considered 'mainstream') clearly delineate between being opposed to school and being opposed to learning. That the article mentioned unschooling directly and favorably seems almost too good to be true. So awesome.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Living at home is starting to make me feel like a caged animal. But I have no other choice.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So... much... writing!

I feel like I've been writing nonstop since I got home! Mostly I've been concentrating on my pop culture blog: I wrote up my Dragon*Con experience for anyone who was wanting to hear about that, and I'm working on some stuff for Halloween.

I'm also gearing up for NaNoWriMo in November. At this stage, that just means I'm getting addicted to the forums and starting to panic at how little I've thought about my story. I have the basic premise but no characters or plot so far, eek! I don't want to give away much, but I'm planning a weird mix of sci-fi and mythology.

Being split between those two mistresses, I may not find a lot of time to blog here for awhile. I know, posting just to say you might not post much is lame, especially since people who post such messages invariably end up writing a bunch anyway. Buuut I seem to have gained a bunch of new readers since NEUC so I wanted to give a little heads up, lest everyone think I panicked and ran away from blogland or something. *g*

Aside from that, the only other thing I've really been doing since I got home is dancing. I am not the type of person who is into gyms and working out for the sake of working out, so sometimes I forget how good it can feel to exercise for fun. But I caught the dance bug at Dragon*Con and now I can't stop! I'm considering maybe getting back into bellydance when I have the money for classes, or possibly looking into something like jazz or swing. That's if I have any free time where I'm not writing, of course :p

Friday, September 11, 2009


When I was about seven or eight, I saw something on TV that made me mad. I don't remember what it was, but it had something to do with adults' attitudes toward kids, and I vowed right then that when I grew up I would never ever forget what it's like to be a kid. So far I've kept that vow, and it's served me well.

I realized recently that it would serve me equally well to make the same promise about every stage of life. I need to remember, too, what it was like to be a teenager: to have a mature mind and body yet be seen as a child, to have to depend on others to take you places and buy you stuff, to be changing so fast you barely recognize yourself from year to year, to be treated as someone who is likely to start trouble at any moment even if your reputation is spotless. (That last one is particularly handy for white folks to remember; while we usually don't have to deal with that prejudice past age 20, many others are not so lucky.)

I'm also realizing now that it's going to be vital, as I get older, to remember how it is to be a young adult. I'm sure when I have kids and a mortgage it will be easy to romanticize these years as a free, halcyon time with no responsibilities. It'll be easy to forget all the anxiety over an uncertain future, the struggle to scrape up any money at all, the pressures from every angle to get a job NOW and get married NOW and have kids NOW. Once I'm settled into whatever career I choose, it'll be easy to be nostalgic for "no responsibilities", and forget the stress of having no health insurance and the fear that maybe I'm not good at anything after all. When it feels like nothing I like is popular anymore, it'll be easy to talk down to people 20 years my junior and assume they're too ignorant and self-centered to have heard of anything that happened before they were born. When I start to get wrinkles, it'll be easy to dismiss the concerns of young, smooth-skinned women who fear that they're not pretty enough to find love. When I turn 50, it'll be easy to roll my eyes at people who are panicking because they've just turned 25 or 30 and are suddenly expected to Grow Up and Take Things Seriously. And when my kids are young adults, it'll be easy to see everyone their age as "just kids", instead of as people who have waited 20 years to be seen as adults and deserve to be treated as such.

Right now I'm vowing - with all of you as witnesses - not to forget any of this. Other people should consider promising not to forget how it feels to be in the stage of life they're in now, and the ones before if you haven't forgotten those already.

And those of you who are older and have well-established lives, particularly those with children: Please try to take off the rose-colored nostalgia glasses, at least this once, and look at your youth from all sides. Sure being young is fun, and all that fun is worth remembering. But look past the fast cars and freedom for a minute. Remember the uncertainty and the pressure and the prejudices you faced. Remember the frustrations of living in a society that was run by your parents' generation, not your peers. Realize that much of the onus is on you to be mature and understand people who are younger than you, because you've been their age before and they haven't been yours. You have the advantage of experience and wisdom, a gift that younger people will happily accept if and only if we feel that you're trying to understand us and see our side of things. The rewards are mutually great if you do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Life is good! Really!

Recently I made a post in which I revealed a lot of ghosts from my past, and it apparently struck a chord with many people because it brought me an enormous amount of traffic and comments. Had I known so many people would read it I probably never would have had the courage to write it. But I'm glad I did, because the feedback I've received has been 100% positive.

However, since the post dealt with a lot of the negativity in my life I've been worried that I might have created a skewed picture of what it was like for me growing up. Yes, I went through some tough stuff, including some things that would be difficult for an adult to handle, let alone a young child. And it was healing to write about that, to be up front and honest about it and have it read by strangers and new friends. But now I want to balance that a little and post about how GOOD my childhood was. Because mostly when I look back on being a kid, I don't think of all the bad stuff. I think of how free I felt at home and how loved I was.

I think of my grandfather taking time to play with me even when he was bedridden. He didn't need to get out of bed to pull a quarter out of my ear, or to play "astronaut" and help me count down to liftoff, or to teach me to play chess.

I think of my dad, for reasons I have never found out, dragging home a full-sized Centipede arcade game and plunking it in the yard. We only had it for a night or two, but my four-year-old self was amazed.

I think of my mom busting out the fingerpaints and helping me paint a beach scene on the wall behind the bathtub in our old trailer. We called it Hawaii, and it was still there when we moved out.

I think of my grandmother telling me ghost stories - I insisted they be ghost stories - before I went to sleep, every Friday when I stayed at her house. Most times I told her what the story should be about and she just repeated it. She wasn't a patient woman in general, but she was always patient about this.

I think of having cats running around our wide open yard, and of checking every cat-sized hidey hole for new kittens every spring. I always got to name them, and we always kept them all.

I think of being able to watch all the Nickelodeon I wanted, and watching hours every day, yet still finding time to play outside, make up stories in my room, read encyclopedias, and draw. I had all the time I wanted to do all this stuff, except when school interfered.

I think of my family being dirt poor, yet finding ways to get me into Girl Scouts, ballet, softball and marching band, and still getting me new Barbies too. My mom told me recently she used to roll pennies to buy me toys. We ate a lot of hot dogs and cheap noodles, but no one minded much.

I think of handing my mom a tape recorder and insisting she say something funny, and labeling the tapes COMEDIENS with a big marker.

I think of Elvis movies and Beatles records and Partridge Family reruns. My mother's childhood was part of my own, always, and I feel like I've lived in more decades than the two and a half that have passed since I was born.

I think of being allowed to "plunder", as Nannie called it, in dresser drawers and jewelry boxes, and then hearing the stories about the treasures they held: buckeyes from my great-grandfather, Confederate money, beaded necklaces from the 70s, my late uncle's wolf ring, my mom's bright red Willie Nelson bandana. I was just looking for fun stuff on a boring day, but I found my whole family history.

I think of my grandmother easing one of my bad years in school by taking me to either McDonalds, the park, or the library after she picked me up. Every single day.

I think of being picked up from school early one day to go get a Nintendo 64, because they'd been sold out everywhere and Walmart only had two in stock and by God my mother was going to get me one if it killed her. I'm sure she rolled pennies to get that too, though I haven't asked.

Of my teen years, I think of my grandmother driving me all the way into the city (she hated to drive in the city) to see my best friend. I think of sleeping when I wanted, spending hours on the internet chatting with close friends from all over the world, meditating, playing the piano, dancing, and exploring religions I'd never heard of. I think of getting all the privacy and time I wanted (I was extraordinarily private and introverted as a teen), and my parents agreeing to always, always knock before coming in my room.

I could go on like this forever, listing the little details that made my childhood more happy than sad, that gave my life an unschoolish feel years before I ever left school. Because that's another key to unschooling: you build a foundation of trust and joy with the little things, and that foundation cannot be destroyed by whatever big, scary, bad thing that comes along. No matter what pain I've gone through in my life, I've always known deep down that I was loved. Whenever life has sucked, I knew on some level that there are things to live for. I had good memories to hold onto during bad times, and people to spend time with when there was no money to go anywhere. Those are the things that get you through when shit happens.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


One last blog about NEUC before I head off to Dragoncon.

I've been trying to capture something of the essence of NEUC, the feeling that made it so special for me, and so far I feel like I've missed the mark. But now I think I know what it is. It's not just that I had a blast - even though I did. It's not just that I listened to some great discussions - even though I did. It's not just that I made awesome friends - even though I did.

It's that all the stuff I did, the talks I went to, and the friends I made were so profoundly inspiring.

I'm inspired to blog more, and not fret so much if I don't get any comments.

To start my own business instead of getting a job working for someone else.

To stop hiding my various differences, because when I do that I'm hiding myself.

To stop hiding myself in the more literal, not leaving the house sense.

To travel the world. To believe that I can travel the world.

To look at obstacles to my goals not as impassable roadblocks, but as walls that can be climbed.

To say hi to people, ask questions, start conversations.

To be more loving and less judgemental.

To care more about the environment, even if I see serious problems with the trendy, oversimplified, superficial green movement that has emerged in the past year.

To realize that I can recognize and address the problems in the world without carrying them on my shoulders.

To study physics, because it makes me feel more religious than religion ever did.

To watch more anime, because I stopped paying attention around the time Cowboy Bebop and NGE were popular (and I never even finished watching those).

To try and speak at some conferences. At least to consider it.

To bust out my guitar once in awhile, because it's so much fun to be able to just entertain your friends while they sit in a circle, and that kind of thing is the original reason I got interested in the guitar.

To be myself, be confident, and be open.

And to go to more conferences, to see these cool people again!

Boston/NEUC 2009 Highlights!

I leave for Sabrina's house in about three hours and I really, really should be packing for Dragon*con instead of doing this... but I gotta write down everything I can about the conference before it all gets pushed out of my head by my next trip! This will be long, because honestly, almost everything that happened at the conference was a highlight for me.

-Thursday I missed most of the conference because we were waiting on a car, so Val and I hung around her house playing old Sega games and laughing our asses off at stupid shit. It has been WAY TOO LONG since I've just hung out at somebody's house playing old video games. Guitar Hero has nothing on ridiculous pixelated fighting games from the early 90's.

-We also had a failed Walmart adventure in Quincy (pro tip: not every Walmart has a grocery store), but that meant I got to kind of see the area a little. I was pretty amused that Quincy had signs up featuring John and Abigail Adams, but not John Quincy. Also, we saw a sign for "Joseph McCarthy Air Conditioning." Opening a window is for communists.

-On Friday, once we FINALLY got to the hotel after walking 2 miles in the heat (ugh), there was lots of fun stuff to do. I met Chelsea and Emilie in the ATC funshop, and Chelsea told us about Nerd Fighters. The only ATC I made sucked and I didn't trade it, but it was still fun. Then I went to a duct tape funshop and made a duct tape flower thing that looks more like a pinecone, but is still nifty.

-At home I often complain that nobody likes to just sit around and play games anymore. Unschoolers LOVE to sit around and play games. There were constant games of Bananagrams (in which the parent table was about 10 times as loud as the teen/young adult table), several games of BS, and an awesome game of Yahtzee, aka The Game That Makes People Flee in Terror. I think perhaps I'll start carrying dice and a Yahtzee score card in my purse in case I am ever accosted in a dark alley. My attacker will either want to play, or they will run screaming in the other direction.

-I also had fun playing with Heather's son Milo. We were playing Battleship, kind of, except we were using an intricate set of rules that he made up, involving lava, lasers, and "jetpack guys". I have no idea how he kept up with all the rules. They were obviously made up on the fly (and designed, naturally, so that I couldn't win), but they were really clever. He was also way better than me at remembering whose turn it was.

-There were lots and lots of great talks and presentations. My favorites were Michael's GLBT discussion (I'm pretty sure I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that on the schedule - I've felt inexplicably funny about being out in the unschooling community); Kathryn and Erika's "Even More Different" talk, which I've already mentioned here; Eli and Idzie's "Untraditional Adult Paths" discussion, which left me feeling way more confident about my desire not to work for someone else; and Dayna Martin's "Renegade Parenting" speech, which included a great message about looking for the needs that are causing people's behavior - not just in kids, but in all the people you deal with.

-The media trade was fun; I got Yanni and Enya CDs because I am a damned hippie, plus an Elvis CD for my mom (who thanked me at least six times when I gave it to her), and a DVD of "children's fantasy movies" including The Secret Garden, which is... uh... not fantasy at all, but it is one of my favorite movies. Also, Emilie gave me a Star Trek comic she got, because she could see that I was far more of a pathetic trekkie than she is. I also noticed she picked up the Matchbox 20 CD I traded in - it's pretty cool to see one of your friends benefit from something you might have just thrown away.

-I only saw part of the talent show, but it was fun seeing Brenna sing and play the guitar, and Broc and Ben's Blues Brothers routine was awesome. It was also great seeing how confident some of the kids are: one little girl sang "Going to Kansas City" with all the gusto of an adult, and many kids made up their own skits, told stories, or danced.

-There was also a great Irish band, Fishing with Finnegan, and for one song we all got up and danced and it was awesome. They also sang "Rainbow Connection" and almost made me cry, because that song always almost makes me cry, and I'm not really sure why that is. I get emotional over Muppets, I guess.

-I had some great one-on-one conversations with adults ("real" adults, because I refuse to consider myself an adult until I'm like 30) and got some great advice. Debbie gave me a good strategy for exploring careers, Kathryn talked to me about adoption and unschooling, and I got to have a really cool conversation with a woman named Vanessa about physics.

-Going out for sushi Sunday night! Sushi is delicious all the time, but it's even better when it involves awesome people, hangman, and sillyness.

-As supremely awesome as all that stuff was, it wasn't the best part. The best part was just making so many friends! You know, usually if you hang out with some people who live far away for three days, you might have fun but you probably won't ever see them again. But because there are so few of us, unschoolers tend to keep in touch. I feel like the people I hung out with this weekend aren't just some people I hung out with for a weekend. They're my friends. That might not be as big a deal to everyone, but it usually takes me a really long time to make friends. It takes me forever to open up and trust people, but at NEUC I met people I could be myself with right away. That is absolutely invaluable, and I came away feeling so much more confident than I've ever been before.

And you know, it was partly about making friends with unschoolers, but in a more general sense it was about making friends with people my age who think. People who see stuff wrong in the world and want to fix it, people who haven't been beaten down by the system. I already have some friends like that, but they're internet friends who I never get to hang out with as a group, in person. Spending time with a whole group of young adults who think talking politics and playing games are equally fun was refreshing. I'm at the age where most people have just become free and just want to party and not do or think about anything serious. It's just so cool seeing how unschoolers skip that rebellion and are really useful, interesting, awake people their whole lives.

Also great was seeing how eager unschoolers are to learn! I grew up eager to learn, so I know how that happens, but being an adult watching kids excited to learn is a whole other matter. The thing I hated most in school was that the other kids always seemed to be deliberately avoiding learning. They got defensive if you told them something they didn't know or would make fun of you for knowing too much about stuff. Unschoolers are excited to share what they know and excited to hear from others. It's awesome.

Now, while I'd like to emphasize what a supremely epicly fantastic fun weekend this was, there were a few downsides I also feel the need to say something about:

-While I wasn't with the little kids most of the time, I did keep hearing a lot of conversations about "unparenting". Some of the parents seemed to be just allowing their very small kids to run around fully unsupervised. Now I'm not advocating helicoptering or anything - I do think kids should have the freedom to do things independently, especially at an unschooling conference! But when things are getting broken, other hotel guests are being disturbed, and some parents have no idea where their kids are, something is wrong. Unschooling doesn't mean that there aren't other people in the world who also have feelings and rights. Not having arbitrary rules in your family doesn't mean kids don't have to follow the rules of a public space.

-In some of the talks, there were a few incidents of... um... oversharing. Part of respecting your kids is respecting their privacy, but some people were sharing some very personal things about their kids. One child even covered his mom's mouth because she was sharing too much. Some things are private. If it would be inappropriate to share a certain kind of story about one of your friends, you shouldn't share it about your child. It is extremely unfair to the child, and quite frankly, there are things that other people don't want to know.

-There were also a few talks which seemed to be totally dominated by one or two people. It's great to ask questions of the person giving the talk! That's what they're there for! But if a session is only an hour long, and you ask questions for 30 minutes, then the talk doesn't get to even really happen. The person giving the talk is there because they have something to say. Others are there because they would like to hear it. Every single person who spoke made it clear that they'd be available to answer more questions at any time after the talk was over. Is it so hard to wait and meet someone in the hall? Even worse, there were incidents where people refused to leave the room when it was time for the next panel to start. I think this problem is in the same vein as the unparenting thing: some parents get the idea in their heads that unschooling means do whatever the hell you want. No. Unschooling doesn't excuse you from basic courtesy.

-I also heard several conversations about cliqueishness. I didn't really feel this myself - I'm pretty content to hang around just a few people and don't care about being included in the big groups - but I could kind of see it happening. A group would go by and you'd always see the same couple of people trailing behind, being mostly ignored. Or a person would come sit with a group and get that icy "you don't belong here" look, or that "why are you talking?" look. I realize not everyone is going to be friends with everyone else, and that people are there to hang out with their friends. I get that. But everyone at a conference should feel welcome. If someone seems to be hanging around your group, clearly wanting to be included, invite them to join! If you see someone walking alone, say hi! If someone makes a joke that isn't funny, just let it go. The "what the fuck are you talking about, crazy person from space" stare isn't necessary.

Don't let the volume of what I've written about the negative stuff make you think it was a bigger deal than it was, though. Most of these things were fairly minor annoyances. The conference was soooo much fun, and I was so happy, and I didn't want to leave. I can't believe it will be a whole year before I get to see some of these people again. I've spent like the last 24 hours friending people on Facebook, making sure I can at least talk to everyone. I can't wait for the next conference!