argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
The family reunion went better than I expected, though not without incident. All my immediate relatives on my mom's side of the family came except for two brothers and their children. Hard to believe I hadn't seen some of these people in a decade.

Saturday 25 July - We initially left home around 9:30 AM. About 15 minutes out, the check engine light came on, so we returned home and read the code, which was for an oxygen sensor. We debated about moving everything to another car (we had mostly packed the car the night before to save time), but decided to reset the engine code and try our luck. (The check engine light never did come on again.) We were off again at 10:40 AM. Traffic was fairly heavy.

Rest behind cut. )

I thought my grandparents were surprisingly energetic, but they've been discussing moving to an assisted living place on the mainland, which was a surprise to me. My grandpa can't do all the house and yard maintenance any more, but also doesn't want to pay someone else to do it. There are other factors as well, and multiple opinions among the relatives. My dad and I both think if they do move to the mainland, they should keep the island house and rent it out.

Since we've gotten back, my mom's gotten better and went back to work, though today was a down day. (Her birthday is tomorrow.) We have several upcoming performances with our ATS class/troupe. I have a job interview next week, though I interviewed there two years ago and it didn't seem like a good match at the time; asking others to be references is still the worst source of anxiety.

I'll try to post some photos in the next entry, but no promises on when it will be posted.
argurotoxos: an elegant half-nude woman standing in green skirts with head facing down and butterflies at her feet (Fée verte)
This is my last day off before we leave for the family reunion on Saturday. Most of the things I pack are ones I use every day, but I think I can get some of my clothes at least packed today. (My mom was smart and took extra days off before to pack. Then again, I used to have at least one weekday off until just the past few weeks. [Somehow, I now have weekends off, which I actually don't like as much; it's nice to be free Saturdays since that's usually a performance day if we're dancing, but I like a weekday off to make appointments, etc., and just break up the week.])

My grandfather was in hospital and briefly in rehab after a fall at home, but he's back at home now with a walker and pain pills. It's still incredible he's lived as long as he has.

Yesterday I danced outdoors with my three fellow ATS dancers. It was quite hot in the sun, but a lot of fun. Since we dance in front of a mirror in class, it's easy to cheat and follow our reflections instead of watching the lead dancer for cues; it went better than I expected, though there are a lot of things I can improve on, especially smoothing out my traveling moves. Also, our teacher was the only one who played with zills -- I can make it through a song on my own with zills, but can't yet play them consistently and follow all the cue changes. I only expected to dance in a few songs, but we did about seven songs as a group. Since I'm the youngest of the group, and by far the newest to belly dance (the other three have danced six-plus years and have taken national workshops, plus have more complex outfits and have known each other a while), sometimes I worry that I'm imposing or being included out of courtesy, but I'd like to think that we all enjoy dancing together with that rush of excitement.

Tribal fusion belly dance class was moved to after ATS on Wednesdays. I hadn't been to tribal fusion in about a month since driving to the studio three times a week is too much. It's nice that I can take tribal fusion again, though it does mean dancing for almost three hours every Wednesday after working all day. My flamenco classes have been canceled the past few weeks due to the teacher being unavailable; I've practised a bit on my own, but am more focused on belly dance. Besides ATS, I've been practising my sword balancing, but I'm not sure if I'm up to performing it yet or not.

(As a sidenote, this week on Tumblr is FenHawke week for the DA2 fandom.)
argurotoxos: Emilie Autumn sitting on the floor (Emilie - floor | by betterthanlegos)
My mom had her gall bladder removed this morning. The doctors hope it will, if not end, at least lessen her inconsistent side pain and nausea problems. She's also had a lot of trouble sleeping recently.

My dad's had more trouble with high blood pressure and low energy. His bike is also broken, which is one of his main sources of exercise and, I think, a sense of fun and accomplishment.

Because of all this, I've had lots of worries and negative thoughts recently. I don't have any siblings, or a significant other, or children, or pets, so after my parents, it's just me, alone. Of the three local friends I have, one has been super busy, the second has always been more of a talker than a listener, and things have been uncomfortable and awkward with the third (also he's been super busy), so I don't feel I have as much support as I did, say, a year ago. How can people and situations change so much? That thought has been on my mind a lot. Even to take a more mundane example: I used to read pretty much just Loki/Thor fanfic for years. Now that I've found Male!Hawke/Fenris, it's really hard to go back to Loki/Thor. (The Thor fandom was one of the largest I've ever been in, so now I'm trying to adjust to the pace of a more moderate fandom.) How does something that piqued my enthusiasm and brought me joy a year ago not do that anymore?

On one hand, I enjoy having leisure time and being alone -- it's when I'm often at my more creative or introspective. On the other, I also have a tendency to become paranoid or raise my shields.

At some point, I really need to find a different job. Something with more likelihood of actually being able to support myself with. The biggest things keeping me at my current job are the health benefits, short distance, and it's easier and less scary to stay where you are than to make a big change. I haven't heard back from any of the state civil service positions I've applied to lately.

I attended the end-of-year performance for the belly dance group I studied with last fall. The performance was two hours long; most of the classes in the recital were various ballet levels, though there were also some hip-hop and Irish dance groups, and one group that performed a song from Newsies. The belly dance group was the second to last to perform, and I was surprised (and disappointed) how short their piece was. I told my teacher in email after that I didn't plan to come back soon (it's farther away and later in the evening than my current studio, and I want to focus on tribal style) and she took it much better than I expected.

We had another woman join our Wednesday American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance class, so now there's four of us coming fairly consistently. I have a lot of feelings about ATS, how connected we are to our other dancers, and it's definitely where my focus lies. Our teacher said we might be able to extend classes to 2 hours during the summer. I tried flamenco for the first time last week at the same studio. I've never danced in high heels before - they have flamenco shoes for beginning students to borrow - but the first class at least wasn't as difficult as I expected. If I can, I'd like to continue with it, but I'm not as dedicated to it as ATS.

Our family reunion is the last week of July. I'm hoping it won't be too much of a logistical nightmare or stressful, because I can see it being both. One of my aunts is unofficially in charge of it and wants to rotate dinner cooking -- for 25 people. I've never cooked for more than four people in my life. In theory, we're having a talent show Monday night, which is the only evening my aunt who lives in the area is free. Because my grandparents' house isn't that large, all of us except one family are renting separate houses. Our rental house is only one road over from my grandparents', but we have to bring our own sheets, towels, food, etc., plus all our other packing. (My dad is an extremely light packer, while my mom is a very heavy one and I'm somewhere in the middle, although I'll have one bag just for belly dance.)
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
My mom's side of the family is planning a reunion the last week of July to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. Normally we stay at my grandparents' house, but with so many people coming (my mom has six siblings, most of them have at least three kids, some of them have kids . . .) we rented a cottage that's just a road over. I haven't seen most of these relatives for 10 years; I hope to make up for last reunion where I was at a much different, and less mature, place in my life.

I've felt off the past week; I came down with a cold Friday, but have felt restless on top of that. It put a halt in my plans, especially when I'm so close to finishing the cleaning.

I just finished watching the developer playthrough of System Shock (which was never finished?). One of the things that was brought up was the shorter length of many modern games, and one of the responses was that the people who were playing and developing computer games in their 20s during the 1990s simply don't have the time now that they're in their 40s. My own approach is that I could use my free time to play a fan mission, or I could read a fanfic; both are of unknown quality, but I feel the fan mission (or a computer game) requires more investment and I'm more keenly aware of my time limitations compared to reading. If not for the time limitation, though, I think the fan mission would be the more immersive of the two if they were of the same quality. (I think it's also often quicker to judge a piece of fiction than a fan mission.)

Instead, I started replaying Jazz Jackrabbit 2, a platformer with fairly short levels and easy to do in short bursts.

In theory, I'm also watching a Let's Play of last year's Thief reboot, but I got so bored that I'm just flipping through the videos and watching the parts that tickle my fancy. Yahtzee named Thief last year's worst game, which surprised me a bit even knowing he's a big fan of the original Thiefs. (In contrast, I've watched about seven Let's Plays of System Shock 2, plus played the game myself, and I haven't gotten bored yet . . . though I do like some parts more than others.) Of course, the newest game I've played is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and I'm pretty sure I'll never finish it, which means the newest game I've played to completion is . . . Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines from 2004.

I didn't have anything set in mind when I sat down to write, so it was interesting to see what came out.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
Christmas didn't feel as much like Christmas this year. We didn't put our tree, lights, or any ornaments up. My grandparents sent us a lovely wreath and centrepiece from L. L. Bean, so we moved the outdoor wreath indoors and put all the presents under that. We had no snow Christmas Day, and the weather was warm but windy -- nice enough to sit outside without a coat. I also worked both the day before and the day after Christmas.

Wednesday night we each opened one present, as per our Christmas Eve tradition. We also watched the first hour of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. (More on the movie later.)

We had a late lunch Christmas Day, picked up from a restaurant the day before: prime rib, asparagus, rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, Caesar salad, and Italian cookies (including my favourite, cannoli). Opening presents took up the next hour or two; it was fun and quiet, with most gifts from each other or relatives, plus Kun and Sarah. (I had gotten together with my three local friends earlier in the month.) We saw the rest of The Hobbit (Part 2), and ended the evening playing Apples to Apples (which I bought on Black Friday) and Star Fluxx (one of my gift requests). It's been quite a while since we had new games to play, or played board/card games together in general.

My mom, the only one of us who has read The Hobbit, did not like The Desolation of Smaug at all. She felt it altered too much from the book and the only thing she did like was Smaug himself, both aurally and visually. I felt that, in the efforts to tie The Hobbit back into The Lord of the Rings and make it more action-oriented, Bilbo was left with hardly anything to do. Even though I thought the first Hobbit film was too long and repetitious, the scene with Gollum was excellent at showing Bilbo's skill with words and wits (which seems to be his main talent in the book) rather than fighting. The Necromancer/Sauron storyline overshadows that of the dwarves' (one city or a whole world?) and pushes the film into a darker tone. The Orcs are simply fodder for the heroes, Legolas is pure fanservice, and most of the fighting technique is totally ridiculous.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas and a happy 2015.


This year flew by, especially the last two months. One of my biggest struggles continues to be how to balance things in my life: work, family, my somewhat new and still surprising social life with friends, belly dancing, chores around the house, alone/relaxation time, and other desires (like looking for a new job, answering emails, and dealing with paperwork with deadlines). For most of December I worked overtime with only one day off a week. There's just so many things I want to get done and I don't have the time or energy to do them, which often leads to me stressing myself out, feeling guilty, and/or criticizing myself.

On the other hand, I think I like myself more as a person now than I have for several (many?) years. I'm more active and have been developing and enjoying many diverse interests that I don't think are that common, especially combined: belly dancing, corseting, reading (especially non-fiction), reptiles (especially lizards). I'm still interested in comics, Thief, science fiction, and other, older mainstays, but not to the extent I used to be. In short, I've noticed these changes more acutely this year and think I look forward to seeing the person I become, hopefully possessed of both more knowledge and more kindness. (I don't believe in fate, destiny, karma, or the like, but I do believe in being influenced by your experiences, environment, acquaintances, and memories.)

Below is a short look back at 2014, or at least the multimedia side, with a bias toward the latter part of the year.

Favourite book: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Best show of 2014: Would I Lie To You?, a BBC panel-based game show [My dad and I watched this all in a few months.]

Favourite new podcast: Infants on Thrones

Best new YouTube channel: Lindybeige

Best fanfiction: Wild Ambition Fortune's Ice Prefers by amberfox17

Number of dance classes taken: 20, with three different teachers/locations

Songs/Lyrics of the year: "Sin Skinner" by Diary of Dreams
("Keep my integrity intact,
I want to base my life on facts.
Whatever comes, I never know,
but life will ultimately show."
)

and "Former Me" by Neuroticfish
("You are possessed,
By what the people say or do,
With every step,
You know it never suits you.
You think you're dirt,
And everybody hates it,
Rewind, don't tell me that you're wasted."
)
argurotoxos: fanart of Lady Loki amused (Lady Loki - snerk | by etrangere)
Today I:

-Got up around 9 AM and drove over to have breakfast, go on a morning walk, and talk with one of my closest friends. (A few days ago, we went on an 11-mile bike ride together.)

-Stopped at the doctor's office to pick up a script for my mom and make my annual physical appointment. One of the receptionists actually gave me a printed copy of my immunization record at no cost. (The last time I'd tried to get it, I was told they would have to print my whole medical record and charge me almost $40. It's still crazy to me that I can't get my whole medical record without paying for it, or even read it myself at the office, but having the immunization list is a start.)

-Went to my bank's ATM for more cash.

-Bought a second watering can (for the back porch plants), another bottle of sunscreen, and some cheap, scented bubble bath at Walmart.

-Returned some of my and my mom's books at the library. I normally never eat while reading physical books, especially library books, but did one day at work when no one else was on to have lunch with and, sure enough, I spilled some food on it. It doesn't look that bad, but it's an interlibrary loan book, so it's up to the original library to decide if they just want to note the condition or if they want me to pay for a new copy. I also checked out a number of audio CDs and a few new books for Maine and the car drive. (CDs -- The Music Rough Guides to the Himalayas, Japan, Turkish Cafe, and Scandinavia; The Art of Seduction: Gypsy Nights - Belly Dance Music of the Balkans; books -- Belly Dancing Basics by Laura A. Cooper, Funny Misshapen Body by Jeffrey Brown, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation by Nyanaponika Thera, The Zen Path through Depression by Philip Martin. I'm still reading The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo.)

-Picked up my mom's prescriptions at CVS.

-Had a quick lunch (thai curry TV dinner) while reading the newest chapter of one of my current favourite fanfics (A Week is a Long Time in Vanaheim by Hermaline75, Loki/Thor, pre-MCU, explicit, WIP).

-Put on some sunscreen and worked outside. Watered the flowers. Planted some creeping thyme in my small front garden. Moved one of my marigolds that was started to wilt from a clay pot into the soil near the thyme. Swept off the front steps. My plants: two marigolds in clay pots and one amaryllis in my bedroom; cactus and regular zinnia, thyme, and one marigold up front; one marigold, one amaryllis, and two pots of three morning glories each on the back porch.

-Helped my dad check the fluid levels and air conditioning system in my car. He checked the other two cars while I had a short dinner and changed.

-Went to the first class of a new belly dance session half an hour away. The drive wasn't as bad as I'd expected, and the place was easy to find. There were almost 30 people there, some who had taken prior classes with the instructor and some who were completely new, ranging from late teens to 60s! Most people did have their own hip scarfs, though. The studio was an actual dance studio with wooden floors, a barre, and full-length mirrors across one wall. Oh, what a beautiful sight! The mirrors really do help, and I found myself automatically going into ballet warm-ups. It was quite a difference from my experience with the nearby belly dance class, where I was the only one there and the studio was designed primarily as a yoga studio, with no mirrors or barre and just painted concrete. Even though I enjoyed having more people in the class, I also found myself feeling very self-conscious and had a hard time relaxing. The instructor seemed much more knowledgeable, gregarious, and willing to give constructive criticism than the local one, although also a bit absent-minded. I'll be in Maine next week, but signed up for the rest of the session, which will be every Thursday night at 6 PM through 17 July. To my surprise, the instructor said she might even cover veil and zill (finger cymbal) use even though it's a beginner class.

-Came home and ate some fried rice with my parents.

-I might burn some music CDs for Maine after finishing this.

I work tomorrow 7:30 AM - 4:15 PM, Saturday 8 AM - noon (in theory; it might change). If we don't leave for Maine on Sunday, I might go to my close friend's house; he's off that day and their pool might be open.

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argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
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