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: 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: an elegant half-nude woman standing in green skirts with head facing down and butterflies at her feet (Fée verte)
In 2013, I . . .:

. . . attended the funeral of my paternal grandmother.

. . . worked full-time at the same place all year and made two good friends.

. . . drove round-trip to Maine, New Hampshire, and Ohio (part way).

. . . took time off to visit with relatives and my best friend.

. . . experimented more in gardening.

. . . read a number of books, including two good, and very long, biographies (No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie [on Joseph Smith] and A prince of our disorder: the life of T. E. Lawrence by John Mack).

. . . started learning belly dance and expanded on my yoga.

. . . had both my laptop and my car upgraded. (I think the laptop was technically the end of last year, but I didn't have it fully customised or used as my default laptop until this year.)

. . . learned various corset lacing techniques.

. . . gained dental and limited health insurance. The former gave me access to the best dentist I've ever had, while the latter has caused me a three-month long, and still ongoing, billing dispute.



I've never been a radio listener, but we have it on most of the time at work to help the day move faster. We usually alternate between two stations, both of which tend to play rock from the 60's to the 90's.

There was this one song that came on ever few days, and I absolutely loved the instrumental section. I couldn't get enough of it and thrilled whenever it was on. However, I couldn't quite make out the lyrics or guess the name of the song. Fortunately, one of my co-workers/friends knew it and it became my song of the year: "Peace of Mind" by Boston.

"Now if you're feelin' kinda low 'bout the dues you've been paying
Future's coming much too slow
And you wanna run but somehow you just keep on stayin'
Can't decide on which way to go

[...]

Now everybody's got advice they just keep on givin'
Doesn't mean too much to me
Lots of people out to make-believe they're livin'
Can't decide who they should be.

I understand about indecision
But I don't care if I get behind
People livin' in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind."
argurotoxos: an elegant half-nude woman standing in green skirts with head facing down and butterflies at her feet (Fée verte)
This post began as a desire to talk about trying menstrual cups. Once I started down that path, I thought about my experiences with pads and tampons. I stopped using pads in high school, which was also the time I stopped doing what younger-me felt girls (and I was a girl, wasn't I?) had to do - shave their legs, wear panties, etc. - and started finding what was comfortable for myself. I've tried to be personal and direct, though not without some conflict. I haven't much talked about intimate things in the past -- they're often not discussed culturally, there's a measure of vulnerability and risk involved, and it erases genital ambiguity, which is something I quite like about the internet. Nevertheless, I found once I started that I had many things to say, including some which I wish my younger self could have known.

On menstruation, pads, tampons, cups, and gender; likely TMI. )
argurotoxos: Emilie Autumn sitting on the floor (Emilie - floor | by betterthanlegos)
While finally finishing my closet cleaning, I found four old journals.

The first, a diary with a unicorn on the cover, dated from 1994-95 (I was around 8). All the entries were very short and direct; 'Today I did x.' And, sometimes, 'I liked X.'

The second journal covered from 1995 up to 1999. The early updates were very sporadic, but the mid-1998 entries became more regular. Reading it now, it's fairly boring; most of the entries are about what I did at school (especially tests and the scores I got) or church. It's strange looking at how much chuch influenced my life and somewhat awkward reading about it. My primary reaction is: 'Oh, younger self, you have no idea what the coming years are going to be like.'

I've often thought that if I could somehow travel back in time and meet my younger self (which I wouldn't want to do in the first place, but hypothetical), we wouldn't get along. Or at least there would be a large divide in our understanding and world view. The three commonalities I wrote about and still have are computer games, facepainting, and my love of reptiles. Those and chores, many of which I still do today.

(There is more I have in common with my past self, such as a love of reading and science-fiction, but I didn't write about it. It's also surprising to see some of the series I still enjoy mentioned. Star Trek, of course, but also Camelot and Jazz Jackrabbit 2.)

Rest behind cut. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
My mum wrote a summary of our time in Europe while I was in New Hampshire, which I've stolen borrowed and slightly altered for this post. So thank her and her insistence on writing down details for every single day. My own thoughts are at the end and scattered throughout the notes.


London, 20 December - 24 December
  • Thursday, 20 December -- Walked to Whiteley's Mall from the hotel and ate Italian.

  • Friday, 21 December -- Walked through Kensington Gardens to the Royal Albert Memorial; spent five hours at the National History Museum, which also had an ice rink and booths set up outside for Christmas; briefly visited the Science Museum; spent two hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum; walked to Harrod's and went up its 'Egyptian' escalator; ate fish and chips in Piccadilly Circus; walked through Chinatown.

  • Saturday, 22 December -- Spent a couple of hours at the British Museum; attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey; walked along the Thames River to Tower Bridge; ate at Wagamama's (a Japanese chain).

  • Sunday, 23 December -- Only in downtown London very briefly due to switching hotels to one closer to Heathrow for our early flight to Prague the next morning; my first London fog.


Prague, 24 December - 28 December
  • Monday, 24 December -- Left London at 7:35 AM; got lost trying to find the hotel; walked around Wenceslas Square; ate Italian for dinner.

  • Tuesday, 25 December -- Christmas, but everything was open; walked to Old
    Town to see the Astrological Clock and climb up the Clock Tower; had lunch at an amazing crêperie; took a guided walking tour of the Josefov (Jewish quarter); ate dinner at the U Golemu/The Golem restaurant (I had deer leg -- Thief reference).

  • Wednesday, 26 December -- Went up Petřín Hill to the Strahov Monastery; visited Prague
    Castle and Charles Bridge; went to a string concert at a church; dinner at a pub.

  • Thursday, 27 December -- Walked by myself past the Giant Metronome and Dancing House to Vyšehrad Castle; dinner at Pizzeria Venezia.


Athens, 28 December - 2 January
  • Friday, 28 December -- Left Prague at 11:25 AM; wandered around the hotel area and ate at a Greek restaurant.

  • Saturday, 29 December -- Went to the Acropolis, the Temple of Dionysus, the Areopagus (Mars Hill), the Agora, and the Athens Flea Market; had dinner at another Greek restaurant.

  • Sunday, 30 December -- Spent nearly four hours on the hills around the Pnyx; had lunch at a very pricey restaurant near the Acropolis called 'Dionysus'; stumbled upon a Greek rap concert and festival in the National Gardens; had baklava for the first time.

  • Monday, 31 December -- Visited the Keramikos (ancient burial ground), the Temple of Zeus, Hadrian's Library, Plato's Academy, and the National Archaeological Museum; walked past City Hall and saw the New Year's set-up; watched the midnight fireworks from the hotel windows.

  • Tuesday, 1 January -- Took the metro to Piraeus (Athens' main seaport); saw the 2004 Olympic Stadium; at lunch at the huge, 4-story Mall.


Paris, 2 January (sort of) - 6 January
  • Wednesday, 2 January -- Left Athens over an hour behind schedule; missed connecting flight in Prague; put up by Czech Airlines in local four-star hotel for the night.

  • Thursday, 3 January -- Left Prague at 10 AM; ate dinner at a Pizza Hut in Charles de Gualle Airport; walked around the Place des Vosges and Place de la Bastille to the Seine River, though failed to find Victor Hugo's exact house; had Chinese for dinner.

  • Friday, 4 January -- Took a one-hour boat tour on the Seine; ate crêpes for lunch; spent over five hours at the Louvre (which has a better Greek vase collection than all of Athens); ate Italian for dinner.

  • Saturday, 5 January -- Took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower and walked up to the first floor; ate lunch at an overpriced French restaurant near Notre Dame Cathedral with bad 1990's American pop music playing in the background; visited Notre Dame, thus walking into a wedding by accident (yes, they kept letting tourists in during the wedding).

  • Sunday, 6 Janaury -- Left Paris around 10:30 AM; Boston and on to New Hampshire!


My favourite place was London, though I'm not quite sure I'd want to live there. I adored wandering through the ancient and green areas of Athens, which also had barely any security, but the modern city was too much of a contrast for me. Prague was interesting, but not as old as I had imagined (the Jewish Quarter, for example, was completely rebuilt in the 1800s) and rather cold. Paris was my least favourite, though I suspect part of that reaction was from feeling like I had seen all the architecture before after having already visited London and Prague and having just come from Athens' completely different atmosphere; another part was from feeling homesick and longing for New Hampshire. Still, the Louvre was very impressive.

Prague, despite having the least favourable winter climate, easily had the best food; Paris and London had the worst, at least from what we tasted. Athens had the nicest public transportations, followed by London; Paris had the worst and was insanely crowded and complicated, though we didn't go on Prague's because we couldn't figure it out (everything was in Czech). Athens was also the easiest place to get around in general because almost everything was bilingual. (Most things in Prague were bilingual [or trilingual -- Czech, English, and German], too, except for the transportation systems and the non-tourist areas. I also omit London since I don't known how easy it is for foreigners to get around there seeing as English is my native language.)

Both London and Athens had wide areas of green space, whether they were hills, ancient areas, or parks. On the other hand, the modern side of Athens was somewhat cramped and appeared the most unpleasant of the four cities on the outside.

Our nicest hotel was in Athens, though the neighbourhood was the most seedy and the bathroom in our London hotel was probably better. Airport-wise, London had the worst, while Prague had the nicest. Prague also had the best airline -- Czech Air.

Interestingly, both Prague and Paris dub almost everything on the television except for opera and a few other music-related programmes. Athens is the exact opposite; everything foreign is shown with Greek subtitles except for children's cartoons and nature documentaries.

Overall, the only place I probably wouldn't go back to is Paris. Prague I'd only go to again if it wasn't in the winter. Even Athens is a question mark; I'd like to see more of Greece and Macedon. For the UK, too, I never really visited the country areas aside from our short trip to Avebury. That, and I never got up to Scotland.

Still, I'm about done with international flights and airport security for at least a few years, I think . . .

And Kim and Kun's mum were right; almost as soon as I arrived in the States, it was like waking up from a dream to a place I'd never left.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
"Teach me passion, for I fear it's gone
Show me love, hold the lorn
So much more I wanted to give to the ones who love me."
–"Dead Boy's Poem"; Nightwish



Lovelorn )

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