Unforeseen Attack by Darth Raccoon

As I’ve mentioned before as an adult I’ve developed a wariness of raccoons. Last night the little bandits struck again, this time in my dreams.

Let's call him "Roger"

Let’s call him “Roger”

By the end of the story it's name is Emily

By the end of the story it’s name is Emily

Imagine, if you will, a raccoon. He’s a jovial fellow, clearly not the normal creature that roams the night knocking over garbage cans and looking for shiny objects. Instead this guy can talk to you and you two are even friends – crazy right? Then imagine that, for whatever reason, he has a stuffed animal that he always lugs around with him Calvin & Hobbs style. The two go on all kinds of adventures and cause all manner of hijinks and shenanigans. Easy enough? Now we’ll enter our story:

You’re walking around your room, picking up books and clothes that are scattered about the room. After a little while you hear a knock at the door and head to the hallway. From there you go down the stairs to let in your friend Roger. Per usual Roger is dragging his stuffed animal behind him, despite the fact he is an adult. It doesn’t phase you though, you almost admire the fact he still has such a vivid imagination. The three of you head upstairs to chill. Roger places the animal in it’s tiny chair that he brought over years ago. Once situated he takes off his bag and hands you his new album. After you two have listen to it a few times through the lights oddly flicker. Shrugging it off you head downstairs to grab a snack. You gently walk up the stairs balancing two cups in one hand and a box of crackers with a plate of cheese in the other. Approaching your door you hear a small voice you’ve never heard before. Toeing the door open you walk in to see the stuffed animal moving. Shocked, you drop all the snacks. The animal turns to look at you and as soon as your eyes meet its glass ones your head is filled with a name…Emily. Creeped out beyond belief, you break the stare and drop down to clean up the mess.  Placing the ruined snack on your desk *you carefully approach the two raccoons who have started to fight. You watch as Emily folds herself up out of the chair and escalate the battle to a physical one. She slaps Roger and they seem oblivious to you watching. After awhile Roger notices and pushes Emily away from him. Slowly he backs away and raises his hands, that’s when Emily switches targets and lunges towards you. As she reaches your face you feel furry pressure on your cheek and bolt awake. That’s when you find Vader (your cat) picking the worst possible time to start snuggling.

Doesn’t that sounds like a brilliant way to wake up? I didn’t need more convincing to get out of bed at four this morning to let him out. I sometimes wonder if animals have secret powers, how else would Vader now to hit me in the face at that exact time?

Until next time
~Q

*Full disclosure part of this story is made up. I can’t remember how the two raccoons came to be in the room, but the bits after the asterisks are an honest account of the what I remember from the dream. I figured I could create a bit of context for the last half. I also do remember that the stuffed animal was somehow possessed by the spirit of a little girl named Emily. How do I know this? Why would I dream these things? Not sure, but that’s what happened.

I am not bilingual

Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by language. You would think this might translate to me having an excellent grasp on my own, but no cigar. I remember walking through the J section of the library straight back to the language section. I would pull book after book off the shelf and the wander to the checkout. Once home I would sit and pour over the pictures. Occasionally trying to pronounce unfathomable words with characters I had never seen before. When I grew out of the J section I started checking out audiotapes (yes, actual tapes, although eventually CDs) of various languages: Arabic, Russian, Italian, Hebrew, Japaneses, etc. The world was my oyster and I wanted to hear it all.

In primary & secondary school I began my more formal study of a second language in the form of Spanish. During my first years of study we mainly learned the basics ie vocab: colors, numbers, animals and themed units (travel, rainforest etc). Why so basic? Well for the first two years we only met once every 6 school days and the following two years we only had it for about seven weeks of the school  year (exploratory class). To this day I’ll still say ‘caballo caballo caballo‘ in the same manner our Argentinian teacher would. She had this toy horse that would ‘gallop’ as she repeated the phrase. Once translated it seems mad that I do this. Who walks around saying ‘horse horse horse’. Oh well, c’est la vie.

I survived my first years of training and eventually hit high school. Spanish was no longer required but languages still were a fascination so I signed up. I also had some vague notion that colleges wanted you to have some sort of experience and if you didn’t have it going in then you’d have it by the time you left. College language courses would be about 1000x harder. Prepping in high school was an obvious choice. Then there was the fact that in our third year we take a week long field trip to Spain. I wasn’t going to miss that.

Here is where it really started getting tricky. In case you didn’t know, the English language makes little to no sense. Especially when compared to other languages. It’s a hodge-podge of several languages all shoved together to make a whole. Apparently no one took a leaf from Doctor Frankenstein’s book. If they had, they’d remember grabbing bits and pieces and throwing them together does not a man make. Now I know this is taking the argument towards the ridiculous, but I’m a creative, I’m using my license. Also, hyperbole.

The more I look at other languages the more I see that comparatively English can be quite tricky. For starters the word order is different. Please note, this isn’t applied to every language in the world – just the ones that I’ve perused on a deeper level than passive listening. In Latin based languages (italian, french, spanish etc) the word order is Verb – Subject – Object. Adjectives follow the noun, verbs are conjugated as a whole to agree with the subject. So many differences! However, they all follow a set or marginally followed rules. You can claim that English does too, but the ‘i before e except after c’ rule is broken more than it’s followed. Weird right?

Once I graduated high school I didn’t have much reason to keep up my limited Spanish. Although I kept the theories and general rules in my head (there are 6 verb forms, adjectives swap their ending to be gender specific, start sentences with verbs and go from there, etc) I forgot the many of the specifics (leer ‘to read’ or libro ‘book’). This partial reset both helped and hurt when it came time to learn Italian for my semester abroad. I was at an advantage because the theory still existed, all I had to do was load new verb endings and learn different vocab. However, as I said, it was a partial reset. Every now and then a Spanish word would creep in and I wouldn’t catch that it was wrong. Fun times. Italian eventually became dominate of the two. I remember I even had a dream in Italian while I was away, that was a magical experience.

Now, years later, if I’m called to recall either it’s a hot mess. At work last summer there was a Hispanic couple who were trying to find the right words for what they wanted. Eventually my mind came up with an option but by that time we had figured it out through gestures etc. Good thing too. After the fact I was talking to one of my sisters and as I recounted the tale I used my words. She is a certified Spanish teacher although she teaches social studies. As I was talking she just started shaking her head. Oh I’d come up with the correct word alright. Only it was in Italian and I couldn’t tell the difference.

Since then I’ve put aside any thoughts of having casual conversations without a refresher in vocab. I still have my fascination with languages though. However I keep it to myself a bit more. As I fall asleep at night I now have added two books into my rotation of options. Now, along side of Merlin and the Dragons and The Legend of Sleep Hollow, is The House of Usher (in Italian) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (in Russian). Truly my world is an odd one.

Funnily enough last week I was listening to a Spanish radio station. It was in the middle of the news section. The announcer was talking fast. At first I tried translating words individually. Then I remembered that was stupid. For starters in any translation its not a straight word-for-word swap. Secondly I don’t actually understand much Spanish. However, pushing that defeatist attitude aside I started listening to sentences as a whole. Not as individual pieces. A narrative began to unfold. She kept mentioning ’90’, ‘not permitted’ and ‘California’ (those last two more than once). In the end I decided she was talking about the measles uprising. Like I said, I am not bilingual…but its fun to pretend.

Enough rambling for now. Until next time
~ Q

Apparently the word of the day is….

I’ve come to expect a certain amount of randomness in my life. Too much data with no discernible outlet. Today ‘random’ hit bylodging a word in my brain for no apparent reason. What was the word? Dickensian. I didn’t even know the definition of the word. That didn’t matter. It would not move to the side and be ignored until I looked it up.

Dick·en·si·an (diˈkenzēən) adjective
adjective: Dickensian
  1. of or reminiscent of the novels of Charles Dickens, especially in suggesting the poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters that they portray.

Now I’ve never actually read Dickens. I know. Shocking. Especially considering how much I like to read. Although my family did watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol over Christmas. I hardly think that is the same thing. Why, or more importantly how, this word was jammed in my brain I cannot say, but today I learned something. So that alone makes it a good day.

Until next time
~ Q

Importance of the random: keep brushing up against people, books, experiences we don’t yet know what to do with.”
― Alain de Botton

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – The Graphic Novel

 

PeregrinesHomeLong ago I saw this book on the shelves. Something about the title struck me and it stayed in the back of my mind. Roll around to Christmas time and I notice that they have converted the original text into a graphic novel. A book I was interested in, now in picture form? Sign me up. Come Christmas morning (well not really, it was boxing day) I geek out as I find a handful of books in graphic novel form.

I will say this now, there are spoilers in the rambling below. I’ll avoid letting the ending away, but you have been warned. There is also lots of talk about the design/art side of this book. A bit of a unique addition since most of the books I have don’t lead themselves to that possibility.

style

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the drawn artwork in contrast to the old black and white photos. It was nice to see the picture of the little girl that had grabbed me when I was walking around the bookstore was still present.

That day (boxing day) I read the first chapter of the book. One night this week I finished the other seven. Its odd, with pictures everyone can interpret them a little different so the ‘story’ will read differently. But seeing as how when you read, you definitely pick up different subtext based on your own experiences, it’s not so different.

Style wise it was almost nice that I had had the few week divide between the two reading sessions. The book starts when the protagonist (Jacob) is a kid. He’s listening to his grandfather tell stories of when he was a kid and lived at a group home. The styling shows that time in Jacob’s life all in color. The book then skips to Jacob’s “present day” when he is roughly a teenager. Now the world / book is in black and white.

I like about graphic novels is how the pictures exceed their frames. For instance in this one the monster's tongue leaves the first pane to drape over the second in one spot and free fall to the third in another. It gives the lingering feeling that the character is still feeling after seeing the monster. Hence he still has nightmares.

I like about graphic novels is how the pictures exceed their frames. For instance in this one the monster’s tongue leaves the first pane to drape over the second in one spot and free fall to the third in another. It gives the lingering feeling that the character is still feeling after seeing the monster. Hence he still has nightmares.

Jacob has grown to realize the stories his grandfather Abe told him as a kid were lies. He has grown somewhat apart from his grandfather in the interim years, but as we enter the story anew he is dropping in on his grandfather. Only he isn’t there, he has left the place in shambles and Jacob follows the path to find Abe dying. With his time winding down he leaves Jacob a peculiar riddle that he is unable to make sense of. Then he sees a monster and his world is turned upside down. He is forced to see a psychologist and through a series of events goes to the town where his grandfather was a kid.

Color_01While he is there he eventually hunts down the house where Abe lived before becoming a soldier in WWII. He is looking at the wreckage that is the house when all of a sudden, as readers, we see a hint of color again. This was all after chapter one so I had even forgotten that the beginning had any color at all. A small sign that perhaps the magic that Jacob believed in as a kid actually exists. Color_02The kids, realizing it’s Jacob and not Abe, run away. Jacob does his best to follow them but loses them. However, he continues to roam. After another series of events he finds them and finds himself in front of the house his grandfather had always described. The world is now, solidly, in color.

Contrast_02Jacob immerses himself in the world of his grandfather and (spoiler) realizes he is peculiar too. That’s why he could see the monster in the forest the day his grandfather died. As soon as he makes that connection he is shown blue like the other characters were when he first saw them. Fun little call back by the artist. It soon transpires that the peculiars are under attack, but if you want to know from what you’ll just have to read the book (or graphic novel) yourself.

Overlapping_01Juxtaposition_01Style-wise I enjoyed this spread. The artist took liberties, allowing the characters to interact even though in the story they are all ‘performing’ separately. In the flow of the left page, each girl being about the same perspective, works with the overlapping dynamic. Emma’s arms and fire lead you to the boulder Bronwyn is holding. Then Claire’s frame ‘overlaps’ the two to make sure you go left to see her before moving along to the next page. On the right page of the spread is a different composition. I will say it again: I love the juxtaposition in this book. With the contrast of size each character is treated in an equivalent manner even though they aren’t equal perspectives. If Hugh would have truly been back to back with Fiona his bees would have lost some of their impact. Likewise if Fiona would have been enlarged to the same size it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Then we have Jacob small at the bottom, perhaps speaking to how he is feeling when thrown into the world of the peculiar. This ‘show’ the peculiars are performing to show him what they can do happens before he puts the pieces together about himself.

Then we have this panel set. The dad goes from 0-10 on the anger scale in that matter of seconds:

Peregrins_01Peregrins_02Peregrins_03Peregrins_04

I think my favorite is the last panel. You can see that he is just so done. And then girl’s just chilling in the air all ‘hi’ and polite. Dad is not ready to handle your shenanigans kiddos.

That’s it. That’s my review. I liked the story and it was fun reading a picture book again. It’s been ages.

Until next time
~ Q

2015 Reading Challenge

  1. A book with more than 500 pages
  2. A classic romance
  3. A book that became a movie
  4. A book published this year
  5. A book with a number in the title
  6. A book written by someone under 30
  7. A book with nonhuman characters
  8. A funny book
  9. A book by a female author
  10. A mystery or a thriller
  11. A book with a one-word title
  12. A book of short stories
  13. A book set in a different country
  14. A nonfiction book
  15. A popular author’s first book
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
  17. A book a friend recommended
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
  19. A book based on a true story
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  21. A book your mom loves
  22. A book that scares you
  23. A book more than 100 years old
  24. A book based entirely on it’s cover
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
  26. A memoir
  27. A book you can finish in a day
  28. A book with antonyms in the title
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
  30. A book that came out the year you were born
  31. A book with bad reviews
  32. A trilogy
  33. A book from your chlidhood
  34. A book with a love triangle
  35. A book set in the future
  36. A book set in high school
  37. A book with a color in the title
  38. A book that made you cry
  39. A book with magic
  40. A graphic novel: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before
  42. A book that you own but have never read
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language
  45. A book set during Christmas
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials
  47. A play
  48. A banned book
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV show
  50. A book you started but never finished

Perception is Everything?

‘They’ say perception is everything. I’m not sure if it’s actually everything or not but it certainly plays a major role in how we each individually work within the world. If your perceptions on something change then your whole world can change instantly.

Perception: noun

  1. the act or faculty of perceiving, or apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding.
  2. immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: an artist of rare perception.

The other day I went to work out and had my perceptions completely altered. Let me preface this by sharing a thought I have never understood. That is the thought of why people carry notebooks with them in the gym. I have never been much into fitness so keeping stats seemed weird to me. The designer in me would think maybe they wanted to do some type of info graphic like I had to do while studying abroad but I don’t truly think that was why. Not that it bothered me at all, I just have never seen the need. This, as it turns out, has been proven false as I try to recall what fitness I have done when. Perhaps a notebook is the way to go. I find a side note added in my planner works just as well. But I digress (shocker).

A couple of nights ago I was heading into the center to workout. Right before slamming the door of my car shut I decided to grab my notepad. This is the notepad I’ve taken to keeping in my purse because I never know when I’ll want to jot down some notes on a random prompt or do some other writing. I went in and cahnged; grabbed my headphones, notepad and pen; and then made my way to the treadmills. I was all situated, started my workout, and then flipped open my notepad. As of late I have found that my mind starts to wander as my legs start to move. I was hoping to harness some of that wandering time to get some writing done.

Writing

Yes, this is how one prompt began. Quite messy, but ended up just fine. (Image links to entry)

Have you ever tried writing while moving? It is not the easiest task (as you can see to the left, it’s quite sloppy). I dropped the note pad once and was lucky not to biff. Anyway I didn’t get a lot written but I did get a lot thought out so I guess it works out. I started feeling high maintenance about half way through and decided to focus on the faux hills I was traversing. As I jogged a tangent popped into my head. What if other people are doing what I do? What if they aren’t recording their stats of how much they benched or how far they ran? What if they are taking down the random little details that pop into your head when your body is otherwise engaged? Perhaps I’ve been wrong my entire life. No, that certainly can’t be it. I’m sure most of them were keeping notes, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to think about people carrying notepads around the center the same. My perceptions have been permanently altered.

A different example that starts with the fact that I’ve taken to I forget that I have been out of school for nearly five years. In that time I have become more efficient and able to take on a work load bigger than those who have only been out for one year. This makes sense when you think it through, but it was made apparent last week. I was talking to my coworker and commented how I had gotten my tasks down to nine more things to work on. I had intended this to be a happy thing, I had started the day with a lot more and had worked to cut it down to an easy rest of the day. She however thought something else. This was obvious in her, “Oh, I’m sorry” response. Perception. If I was still in my first or second year out and had that many tasks I would feel swamped. Now I’ve learned a bit more how to handle the ‘stress’ and work in general. Funny thing time. It works without you realizing it. It’s good to be reminded that people operate on different levels and to play on those. Divide and conqueror so to speak. Which we do, quite often.

As I write about these things I’m reminded of some lyrics in the Musical Wicked:

“A man’s called a traitor – or liberator
A rich man’s a thief – or philanthropist
Is one a crusader – or ruthless invader?
It’s all in which label is able to persist

I hope I am able to remember these type of things in the future. Especially if I happen to be at odds with someone. The above examples it didn’t matter that my perceptions were different then other people, but if I can just remember that everyone else is coming from a different place then i can do my best to see it from that place too. True, I might not succeed, but maybe my footing will change to somewhere that is at least even with the other.

Until next time
~ Q

New Year, new beginnings, that’s how it works, right?

See? Just chilling at home

See? Just chilling at home

As I sit at home, drinking coffee and relaxing on my day off, I can’t help but wonder what the year will hold. I know, earth shattering, right? No matter, as I muse over what resolutions to make this year, if any, I recall my last year. What things did I enjoy about the past year? Both special and everyday.

For instance some special things:

  • traveling to San Francisco with my buddy Allie
  • the backyard camping experiment with my family
  • the boarder line fiasco that was camping with my friends (there were broken bones – shockingly none of which were mine – and an ER visit)

and everyday things

  • playing volleyball
  • randomly joining a bowling league
  • literary adventures (aka reading)
  • creative writing
  • crafting

So what to resolve? The blatantly obvious like lose 15 pounds or travel more (both great goals but I’m already working on one and the other is too vague). Again, where does that leave me? Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to, once again, make some resolutions. All of which will be quantifiable, because otherwise its too easy to argue the point one way or another.

  1. read 3 non-fiction books in all likelihood these will be autobiographies by comedians (Have you read Bossy Pants because you really should) because they are amusing
  2. write 150 blog entries this comes down to, roughly, 3 posts a week between this or my free writing blog
  3. get healthy I know, vague, but as I wrote back in October I’m waiting until the end to reveal my goal – I allowed myself to be set back for the last couple of months with the holidays, but that just means i need to hit it hard for the next couple of months to get back on track
  4. spend 5 weekends out of state that’s one way to define ‘travel more’ – right?
  5. learn a new skill okay this is the least quantifiable one on the list but I haven’t settled on what that skill should be, but I am anxious to try some things out. Will it be archery, I did always like the unit in PE, long bow of course, not compound? Knots? Knife throwing? Wow – those all seem awfully Hunger Games-esq which isn’t necessarily bad but stepping outside of that mind set I’ll add ‘sight reading music’ or ‘learn to play an instrument’ to other things in the mix for my new skill

So that’s it, five resolutions for 2015 that come to mind as I sit here. Not sure what my future holds, but rather than obsessively trying to dictate it by making too many bound-to-fail promises to myself, we’ll try staring with these.

So how about you? Are you the type to make resolutions? If so, what are yours for this year? I hope you have a wonderful New Year and I look forward to sharing mine with you over the coming weeks.

Until next time
~ Q

On the journey…the traveler is hit by a cold front and decides to see how others weather the storm.

So the ‘problem’ with starting a diet in the fall is that it gets colder in the fall. As the temperature drops so does my desire to do anything. Who wants to go for a jog outside with toes so cold they feel like they’ll fall off? Waking up early to go to the gym gets harder and harder as the temperature difference between my bed and my room gets higher and higher. The dreaded sensation of bare toes hitting cold floor is enough to make me snuggle down and hit snooze ad nauseam. What does that mean for me? I need to hurry up and embrace my winter lifestyle.

This year has been an odd one, each time I start to acclimate to the cooling temperatures there have been a stretch of ‘hot’ days. Now, at the end of October, I think that juxtaposition has come to an end. After this crazy week of adjusting to that fact I think I’ll be ready to embrace Winter Jamie with open arms. It’s good for me to get use to waking up at 5:30 to workout (which I have managed to do a handful of times since I initiated it last week). Especially since once the white stuff starts to fly that’s what time I’ll need to wake up to shovel my driveway.

To remind myself to not be lazy, I decided to give myself a little jolt of reality. While searching the web I stumbled upon this little nugget:

Hint, you want to be closer to the left on this spectrum. (I'm 'rocking' a C-)

Hint, you want to be closer to the left on this spectrum (below 25 is considered a healthy weight). (I’m ‘rocking’ a C-)

These are scans of what people look like the more weight they carry. There are several others you can check out that also shows the effects it has on your organs and overall health. The long and the short of it is that it’s not good to have so much yellow (fat). So any (healthy) way you can whittle that off you is good. For instance, a good weight range for my 5’7″ (or 8″ on a good day) frame would be between 121 and 153. My goal of 135 is a nice midpoint I think. Not to small but not too close to overweight either. Also, that way if I fall short of my goal I’ll still be in a healthy range. See? Always thinking ahead.

October 31Now, I am a visual person, however I also like relating to what I see. The above, being all clinical and precise, is hard to relate to. After all, that’s not what people actually look like. I’m finding that one tactic my brain likes to use as motivation is ‘If they can do it, I certainly can.’ In that vein in addition to looking at the medical motivators (see above) I’ll also searched out more human sources. I wanted to read about specific people’s weight loss experiences. As part of my binder I had a couple that were in a magazine article, but I wanted a more in-depth look. Using the Google machine it didn’t take long to find a list of “the most inspirational weight loss bloggers of last year” according to one site (too early for this year’s list).  I decided to break up the list and look at a few each week (That way I always a fresh supply of motivation). I’ll be sure to share the ones I enjoy the most (or are the most helpful).

Until next time
~ Q

Daily Reminders – Week 3

Daily Reminders – Week 3