Sunday, June 30, 2013

Influenster Review: Rimmel London Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara

I've just finished reviewing my latest product from Influenster and now is the time that I tell you about it! The product in question was Rimmel London Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara and, just for the record, I received it completely free of charge from Influenster and was asked only to tell others honestly about my experience with it. There's no pressure whatsoever to endorse the product.

I was honestly a little worried about the Rimmel mascara before I received it. I normally use Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, which is very simple and basic, and when I've tried "fancier" mascaras in the past I've had trouble with tiny fibers everywhere, or clumpy stuff trying to give my lashes volume, or some weird shaped brush, or some other problem that my very unsophisticated, sadly non-girly brain couldn't handle. But this time was a pleasant surprise.

The mascara goes on beautifully. It's a tiny bit thicker than what I'm used to, but not enough that it was a problem after the very first time. And the brush! Just a nice, simple, straight, thin brush like a normal person uses! That made me very happy, I must say. My joy was slightly tempered by the fact that it was unnervingly flexible. I got used to it pretty quickly, but after being used to a rigid brush all my life (and not being all that good at it in the best of circumstances) it was very awkward at first.

The point of the Lash Accelerator formula, as I understand it, is twofold: It contains fibers to make the lashes look longer when it's applied, and it contains conditioners to make them grow and be actually longer. Well... I regret to say that I didn't particularly see either of those benefits, at least not any more than I do with my regular mascara. The Rimmel does make my lashes look longer, but any mascara would do that.

The picture above (completely makeup free) was taken after using the product for several weeks and, while it is slightly blurry, I think you can see that my lashes are essentially nonexistent without mascara.

Immediately after I took that picture, I applied mascara: Maybelline on one eye and Rimmel on the other, with no other makeup whatsoever, so as not to distract from the mascara. This is the result. See if you can tell which is which.

I honestly can't see a difference, and if you can I'd love for you to point it out to me. (I'm not being sarcastic at all. I'm admittedly not a terribly girly girl and maybe I don't know what I'm looking for. If you have any insight beyond mine, I truly would like to hear it.)

So what do you think? I'll even give you a clue: The Rimmel mascara is black, while I normally wear brown. Can you tell? Have you made your guess?

Ok, here's the answer: My right eye (on the left side of the picture) is the Rimmel; my left eye is the Maybelline. And I can't tell any appreciable difference at all. Congratulations if you could!

So there you go. In summary, I'd say Rimmel London Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara is a very high quality product and I wouldn't mind using it forever. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I probably won't buy it because I don't see any real difference from Maybelline Great Lash, and the Great Lash is cheaper. Cheaper (for the same quality) is good.

Speaking of which, I have a prize for anyone who's read this far! Along with the mascara, the nice people at Influenster included several coupons for $1 off any Rimmel product. They expire August 9. I have three available to give away and I'll send them to the first three people who ask for them in comments below. Good luck!

If you're interested in reviewing products through Influenster, let me know and I'll send you an invite. It's a lot of fun! In the meantime, remember to leave any questions or comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested in such things you can also find me on Twitter.

Best wishes! <3

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Week the Twenty-Fourth: Thoughts from Places

Today's Introvert Social Hour post is a switch up. If you're a regular reader (and who isn't?!), you'll recall that I did a vintage topic on Saturday because I wasn't able to take the pictures I wanted for this post until Monday. But now I'm ready and it's time for my version of... Thoughts from Places.

Odessa, Texas, where I lived for several years, is kind of a middle class paradise. Right in the middle of West Texas oil country, it's 20 miles from what might be considered its "twin city", Midland. People say that Midland is where the oil money goes and Odessa is where the people live who work on the wells and in the refineries, and that's pretty much true. It's not what you'd call a high class town, generally speaking. It's blue collar through and through.

I still live close enough to Odessa that I go there often for various errands and I think a lot about the town and the people who live there. I think about why they're there and how they feel about it, and about how all of them together make up the character of the city as a whole. And recently I started thinking about some things that they've built over the years, things that have become major landmarks.

In 1972 the proprietors of the popular, family-owned steakhouse called The Barn Door bought the main building from the old Pecos depot of the Panhandle-Santa Fe Railway and moved it to Odessa, right next to the restaurant. They restored it, added a solid mahogany bar that legend says is from an old house of ill repute, and opened it as a bar. (I wasn't able to get interior photos because it wasn't open when I was in town.) It's filled with local historical artifacts and, while it's obviously not entirely restored to its original state, it's about as close to an old railroad depot as a bar can be. But it makes me wonder... why?

In the 1960s*, a nonprofit group raised money to build a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It's not a perfect replica, the interior furnishings are a Texan's fantasy of Ye Olde Englande, and the ancillary buildings (ticket office, etc) are mediocre, but it's pretty cool just the same. Like the Pecos Depot, it wasn't open when I was there so I couldn't get any interior shots, but this website provides a pretty good idea of what it's like. Still, though, I can't get past the question: Why did they do it?

In 2004, the art department at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (in Odessa) built a near-exact replica of Stonehenge. It's about 85% vertical scale of the real thing but it is equal in size horizontally and, like the original, it is astronomically aligned and does mark the solstices. I understand that it's an educational tool for disciplines including art, math, astronomy, literature (for instance, I never think of Stonehenge without also thinking about Tess of the d'Urbervilles), and more, but beyond that... why here? What is it about historical structures that make people want to re-create them in the most unlikely of times and places?

As I was researching dates for this post, I noticed statements about each of these sites claiming that it was done just to draw in business or tourists. That's probably at least partly true, but if that's your only motive, why make a historical replica? Why not create something new and interesting, something that people can't find anywhere else? Is it laziness? A lack of creativity? Ignorance of the possibilities?

I don't think it's any of those things. I think people recreate the past in order to re-connect to it, and they do that because it just plain feels good. I mean, think about it.

The present is hard. There's work to do and headaches to have and bills to pay and people to interact with and a bologna sandwich for dinner and it just doesn't feel like any fun at all. Of course we'll look back on it later and think it was great, but that's only because we'll remember more of the fun, exciting times than we will of the boring, day to day routine. The present is a sleight of hand artist.

The future is scary. It's unknown and unknowable, and it's rushing toward us at breakneck speed. Will my investments make money or lose it? Will I stay healthy as I age? Will my kids be ok? Will I ever get the job I deserve? Will my marriage fail? Will people laugh at my new haircut? All questions and no answers, and every tiny thing can be fuel for worry if we let it be. Stress kills, and the future has basketfuls of it, just waiting to be picked up. The future is a bully.

But the past... oh man, the past is great, isn't it? Remember when we were young and strong and free and had nothing to do all day but laugh and play, and adults took care of us? And even when we got older and started school, most of us spent way more time with friends than we do now, and we stayed up all night listening to great music (wasn't the music GREAT back then?!), eating utter crap that wouldn't affect our bodies even a tiny bit, and talking about our crushes.

And as an adult, you can think back even further. Remember The Brady Bunch? Family Ties? Maybe Full House or Seventh Heaven? Don't their lives seem simple and happy compared with the complications of today? What about when our grandparents were young? When they went home from work in the evenings, they didn't have to worry about their bosses texting them with questions about the current project. They didn't have to juggle a schedule that requires a spreadsheet to organize or take every kid to practice for a different sport or clear dozens of emails out of their inboxes every day. It was an easier time, right?

How about the 18th century? Surely Jane Austen's life was quiet and simple. Or the ancient Greeks? All they did was sit around and feast while philosophers talked and entertainers performed, then it was off to an orgy, right? The further we go back in time, the less the average person knows about the everyday lives of the people who lived then. And since we forget the drudgery, the parts that remain sound exciting and stress free.

It wasn't, of course. Everyday life has always been everyday life, and it always will be. But the replicas and re-creations that we build transport our minds to that concept of a better time. When people in Odessa go to the Globe, their minds are filled with their own ideas of what it would have been like to attend the original Globe in Shakespeare's day, and it seems wonderfully exotic and scintillating. But they forget the stink and the mud and the fleas and the noise and the chaos. And that's ok! That's how it should be, I think.

If the past can't be a refuge, what hope do we have for the present and the future? After all, they both will someday be past, and I'd rather the trickster and the bully grow up to be a nurturer. Wouldn't you?

So that's my thoughts from my place. Remember to leave your questions and comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested, you can also find me on Twitter.

Thanks again for reading! If you haven't seen the videos that go along with this post, they are:

Jill, Frieda & Amy

And that's it from me on this Wednesday. Best wishes! <3

*(I'm not being vague; it literally took nearly the whole decade because they built it little by little as they raised the money.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Week the Eighth: Childhood Memories

I'm doing a bit of a cheat on my Introvert Social Hour post today. I'm supposed to do the current topic on Saturdays and old topics on Wednesdays, but this week's topic is Thoughts from Places, and that didn't work out. The place I was planning to go today to take pictures got re-scheduled to Monday, so I'll do that post on Wednesday. I'm also posting a day late due to another writing deadline on Saturday. In any case, today's topic will be a vintage one: childhood memories.

I thought a lot about what memory I wanted to write about. I've written a fair bit about my childhood recently and I don't want to bore anyone with repetition. So I tried to find something that I haven't told many people, and I think I found just the thing. I want to tell you about how I started reading and writing. The bonus is that most of my childhood was spent doing those two things, so I think it tells a lot about who I am and how I got this way.

I said in the Draw My Life post that both of my parents were constant readers and that our house was full of books. I was always fascinated by them. I remember sitting on my mother's lap when I was little more than a baby, looking at the words on the page of the book she was reading. My older brother is ten years older than I am, so he had a lot of books too when I was little, and I constantly pulled his books out to look at them. He hated it, as I'm sure you can imagine.

My parents read to me all the time too, not just to themselves. Sometimes they would read my books to me and sometimes they would just read their own books aloud, but either way I heard things being read every single day. I began loving books too. I don't remember this part, but my mother says that, from the time I was old enough to express it, I wanted a new book every single time we went to the store. (Some things never change.) And because my parents loved books themselves, they bought them for me as often as they could. I still have two of those grocery store books, the two that I loved the most. They were read to me so many times that I've literally been able to quote them, in their entirety, all my life. I still can. Crazy, huh?

I got those books when I was about two, and around the same time I also got a new toy box that had the alphabet across the front of it. (I couldn't find a photo of it, but this is an ad for it that was in the Nashua (NH) Telegraph on Monday, October 18, 1976.) I was, predictably, obsessed with those letters. I talked about them constantly and ran my fingers over them and asked my parents to name them for me over and over. My mom taught me the ABC song so I could do it myself, but I didn't make the connection between those shapes and the ones that I'd seen in books until, when I was three, I asked my mother what the letters were for. She told me that you put them together to make words and then she showed them to me in a book. This was very exciting news for tiny me! It began the next phase of driving my parents crazy by asking them constantly to tell me the sounds that each letter made.

Finally my father bought some phonics workbooks and some flashcards and began to work with me in a more organized way in the evenings. I remember how the books looked and playing games with the flashcards, but I have no independent memory of how old I was or how long it took. According to my parents, it was when I was about 3 1/2, and within a couple weeks I was reading simple words on my own. From that point on, there was no stopping me.

I'd seen my parents write the letters as they taught me about them, and I wanted to do it too. It took me a little while to get the hang of writing, I imagine because my fine motor skills weren't quite ready for it, but my mom helped me with it off and on, at my own insistence. By the time I was four, maybe 4 1/2, I could write pretty much anything I could spell. And I was always a pretty good speller, so that didn't give me a huge challenge either.

My cousins had some Dick and Jane books, the standard of the period, but I had little patience for those because there was no story. I mean, there was, sort of, but because I'd been exposed to actual stories all my life, it was too simplistic for me even at that age. A whole "story" might consist of Dick and Jane leaving the house to go to school. Not waking up and getting ready, not the walk to school, not talking to friends or even each other. Just... leaving the house. "Dick must go. Jane must go. See? Dick and Jane go to school. Dick and Jane will run. Run, Dick! Run, Jane! Yes, we will run. Goodbye, Mother! Goodbye, Spot! Oh, see Dick and Jane run!" Mind. Numbing.

Sadly, I'm not even exaggerating.

Fortunately, my parents had the good sense to get me better books than that. I started with picture books, of course. Lots of Little Golden Books but, alas, I don't have those anymore. I progressed through increasingly complex books, and by the time I was in first grade I was reading simple chapter books like The Bobbsey Twins.

This particular one is what I was reading the day my father nearly choked on his tongue when I asked him what a word meant. I couldn't understand for many years what was so funny about a word that just meant "exclaimed".

I still loved looking at my brother's books, but now I could actually read the words so they were even better. I especially liked looking through his nonfiction books because I was fascinated by the information in them. I guess I've always liked learning new things. These are just a couple of the ones I read during those years. I can't begin to guess how many others there were...

... or what I might have learned from them that we now know isn't quite correct. It's amazing how much our understanding of things has changed just in my lifetime.

lol, "brontosaurus"
When I started school, the teachers just assumed none of us could read so they started us with letters and phonics. I've never forgotten the very beginning of the first "reading" book I had. On the left page was a huge green circle and under it was the word "Go". On the right side was a huge red circle and the word "Stop". I read those two words in about a nanosecond and turned the page to see what story this was leading up to, only to see a huge light bulb with the word "Off" and on the facing page a brighter version with the word "On". I quickly flipped through the entire book (I'd guess maybe 20 pages?) and the whole thing was like that. I was horrified! They'd told me it was reading time! What were we to read?! But of course I was too shy to say anything, so I suffered in silence through the lesson.

I did tell my parents about it, though, and they lobbied with the teachers to let me read independently and take comprehension tests to find my correct level. Because I was attending an open classroom school, that wasn't a big problem. I eventually tested almost two years ahead of my expected level, and I was much happier with school when I was allowed to do my own thing. That attitude, incidentally, has persisted throughout my life. The schools I attended in 7th through 12th grades were self-paced and I thrived in them, and in college I've always been more comfortable in self-paced or independent study classes than in traditional ones.

When I was in second grade, I read Planes for Bob and Andy -- 340 pages! -- which had belonged to my brother and was passed down to me. It's cool because it's a story but it also teaches a lot of stuff about how airplanes work. I still love it, and it also contains a nice example of the fact that I've always written in my books. (Actually several of the books I've featured contain the same sort of thing, but this one was the clearest when photographed.) From the time I learned how to write decently, I always put my name and address in my books. I certainly didn't want to lose them!

My aunt gave me a copy of Heidi for my eighth birthday, and it became the first book to make me cry. I took it on vacation and one morning in a hotel I woke up before anyone else in my family so I took it and sat below the window so I could read in the sunlight that came in at the bottom of the blackout curtain. I clearly remember sitting there, under the little table that hotel rooms often have, with tears running down my face as I read about poor Heidi's homesickness. I was shocked that a book could do that, but it only made me crave them more.

The year I was in fourth grade, my father bought me a set of biographies, twelve of them. I devoured them and loved every bit. I still have all of them; I just grabbed a random few for the picture.

My next obsession was the Trixie Belden series. I had a lot of the books but, sadly, the copies I had were poorly bound and only one has survived. It's in pretty bad shape too. I loved Trixie Belden because I could relate to her, because I thought the mysteries were great and, perhaps more important to me at that time, because I would have married the tragic young hero, Jim Frayne, in an instant!

This is just a tiny sampling of the books I read as a kid. In addition to the ones I owned -- which was a lot, even as a child -- my father worked at a library for about five years and I spent many hours of many days there. I read literally every book in the children's section (admittedly, it was small, since it was a university library, not a public one, but still) and then moved on to bigger and better things. I was rarely seen without a book in front of me, but the ones I've mentioned have had a lot of impact on my life and on my current reading habits. I still like nice, long, complex stories. I still like stories that teach me things, whether it's fiction or nonfiction. I still like to be challenged, both intellectually and emotionally, by my books. I still like being able to make notes in my books. And most of all, I still just love books of almost every kind.

So that's my childhood reading story. Remember to leave your questions and comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested, you can also find me on Twitter.

Thanks again for reading! If you haven't seen the videos that go along with this post, they are: 

Jill, Kristina, Frieda & Amy

And that's it from me on this Sunday. Best wishes! <3

Friday, June 21, 2013

My LifeScouts Badges, Part 2

A few months ago I wrote a post about Alex Day's LifeScouts badges and displayed the ones I'd earned in January. My original intent was to make a post each month showing new ones I'd earned but I got busy and fell behind. I plan to remedy that today, and in later posts. (Note: The numbering will be continuous throughout all posts, so this one starts at #9.)

Here are my badges from February, animal month:

#9 Zoo

I've visited many zoos in my life. The earliest one I can remember is the San Antonio Zoo. My father grew up in San Antonio and we spent a lot of time there when I was growing up. We also went to the Fort Worth Zoo (still one of my favorites) a lot because my parents had connections in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well. (We even lived in Denton for a year an a half when I was a toddler.)

I don't remember ever going to an actual zoo in West Virginia, but we did go regularly to the French Creek Game Farm (now evidently called the West Virginia State Wildlife Center), and it was great! They have all sorts of different animals, both exotic and familiar. I mainly remember the otters (because otters are awesome!) and the rabbits (because one once bit me on the finger while I was petting it and to this day my mother is convinced that I cut my finger on the chain link fence) but I remember spending whole days there so I know there was much more to see.

Several years ago I took my Australian friend to the San Diego Zoo as part of a cross country trip that also included the Grand Canyon, Tijuana, and Las Vegas, among other things. The zoo definitely lived up to its fantastic reputation and I highly recommend it.

Where I live now is roughly equidistant from the San Antonio Zoo, the El Paso Zoo, and the Abilene Zoo, but I rarely visit any of them because they're all several hours away by car. The only zoo I visit semi-regularly now is the Fort Worth Zoo, where I often take my students as part of an end-of-year field trip, but I'll always be a big zoo fan.

#10 Horse Riding

Horse riding hasn't been a major component of my life, but I've done it a few times. When I was little we spent a lot of time on the farm of some family friends and they had a horse. Their kids and I would sometimes ride it around the area bareback. It was a lot of fun, except for the day it stepped on my foot. I remember it with fondness nevertheless.

Other than that, all of my horse riding has consisted of guided trail rides at a touristy (but fun) place called Prude Ranch. It's kind of frustrating because all the horses will do -- all they're allowed to do -- is follow the trail strictly at no more than a walk, but it's pretty cool for people who have no other exposure to such things.

#11 Snake Holding

Not only have I held a snake, but I've owned a snake. I had a ball python named Chuck Norris for about 4 years. I had to let him go due to situations beyond my control, but he was great and I loved him.

That's him when he was maybe six months old. I got him when he was only a couple months old (about a foot long and as big around as a quarter) and watched him grow to full size (about 3 feet or so in length and as big around as an average woman's wrist). I guess it seems dumb to miss a snake, but I miss him anyway.

#12 Pet Owning

I haven't owned a lot of pets but there is the aforementioned Chuck Norris, as well as a random assortment of cats and dogs while I was growing up. They include:
  • my paternal grandparents' mutt named Candy*
  • my aunt's basset hounds named Clarence and Bridget*
  • a German shepherd named Sam
  • a cocker spaniel named Taffy
  • a Siamese cat named D.C.
  • a chow named Mei Ling
  • a Doberman pinscher named Tequila (but pronounced like Tequilla, or "teh-key-yah" because her previous owners weren't very bright)
  • and another Doberman named Caretaker
* It may not seem like these would be "my" pets, but we spent so much time at their houses that they felt like mine.

I know there were other pets along the way, including not only other cats and dogs but also the occasional hamster, bird, fish, turtle, frog, etc, but I've forgotten the specifics. It's been a long, loooooong time since I lived with my parents.

I don't own a pet at the moment but I'm trying to get a kitten. I want a baby so I can have it as long as possible and I hope to get one from a shelter, but none of the shelters ever seem to have babies. I am working on it though and I hope I'll be able to get one soon.

And that's about it for February. Coming up soon (I hope): March, which was nerd month, and April, music month, from which I get exactly one badge. And that only barely. Oh, the shame!

Seriously, though, it's a lot of fun going through these, and even more fun telling you about them. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Until next time~ <3

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Week the Seventh: Survey Time

Hello, people. It's Wednesday, time for another vintage topic from the Introvert Social Hour. Today's topic is another survey, just a general one this time, but I think there might be some interesting stuff buried in it. Here we go!

1. Name a favorite of each: food, drink, & color.

Pizza is my all time favorite food, but pretty much everyone knows that, so I'll go with something a little more interesting: Carrots, horchata, and blue.

Polynesia, the sky by Henri Matisse, 1946. So pretty.

2. If you married a rich person and he gave you $100,000 a week, what would you spend it on?

Obviously a large portion of it would be donated to various organizations and used to help some family and friends do things like get out of debt, improve their education, and get health care that they need.

But that's not the real question, is it? The portion I'd keep would first go toward buying a nice house. Nothing fancy, but bigger and in better repair than my current one. I'd buy some reasonably nice stuff to put in it -- my furniture is mostly old and needs to be replaced anyway, and the same goes for some of my appliances. That's the practical stuff.

Then come the luxuries. First, I'd buy all the books and music I want. (Spoiler: It's a lot!) Then I'd buy a boat and hire someone to maintain it and teach me to sail. I love boats! I'd go to racing school and then buy an amazing car and build a place on private property where I could drive it as fast as I want any time I want. I'd buy a nice, large jet and hire someone to fly it just so I could travel quickly across oceans without having to rely on the stupid airlines. And then I'd travel. Everywhere, all the time. I wouldn't need a regular job (though I'd certainly use my wealth of free time to write!) so my schedule would be completely flexible. I'd go all over the world and when I wanted to visit a place where I didn't speak the language, I'd just find someone who did and drag them along. And that, my friends, would be the very best life.

3. Name a favorite of each: book, movie, tv show.

Ahhh, this is always so hard. At this moment I'll say... The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), and... Mad Men, I guess. The movie rarely changes but I say a different book almost every time I answer this question, and I'm sure the tv show will change when Breaking Bad comes back on and reminds me how amazing it is. I've never been able to choose a favorite between those two.
Me as a character on Mad Men
4. If you were given the opportunity to spend 48 hours with absolutely anyone, living or dead, who would you spend it with and what would you do?

Hmm. The smart thing here is to name a person that you would never, ever be able to do that with in real life, so that rules out a lot of what would otherwise be top answers. And there's a similar question below about musicians, so I'll shift those options down there. So who does that leave? Hmm.

I guess it's pretty predictable of me but, after much consideration (seriously), I'm gonna have to go with Maureen Johnson. Not only do I love her, but how could I pass up the opportunity to experience her crazy life for a little while?! Yep. It's two days of MJ for me. Here's hoping I'd survive it.

Seriously, how could this person NOT be fun?!
5. What do you spend most of your money on?
I'm sure the answer for most middle-class adults in the industrialized world is "bills", and I'm no exception. So I'll push it a step further and say that AFTER bills (and that includes groceries, gasoline, taxes, and other necessary but boring stuff) I easily spend most of my money on books. Or maybe music. It's very nearly a tie and I'm not actually sure which one is more, but the one sure thing is that, between Amazon and DFTBA, I'm gonna need that $100k/month allowance if I'm not careful!

A is for "addiction".

6. If you were sat on a plane beside your favorite celebrity, what would you do?
I'm always shy with strangers, celebrity or not. But given a once in a lifetime opportunity like that, I'd do my best to buck up my courage and say something like "Hi, how's it going?" and hope for the best. If I got a negative response, I'd hide back in my shell for the rest of the flight and beat myself up for it the rest of my life. Fun times. On the other hand, if I got a positive response, I'd probably say something lame like "I really admire your work" and then try desperately to find stuff to keep the conversation moving in a non-creepy direction for the duration of the flight. If I succeeded, I'd be a happy, happy girl.
7. What is the strangest thing you have in your room? (You are not allowed to explain why you own it.)

Well... ignoring for a moment that one room in my house contains over 300 snowmen, I suppose I'll have to go with this:

Yes, there's a tape in it. Yes, it's the soundtrack from Moonlighting. Stop judging me.

(Yes, you heard me right. Over 300.)
8. What is a weird habit you have, or people have told you have? (Weird, not bad. No nail biting or any of that nonsense.)

I do lots of weird stuff. The thing that comes to mind at the moment is that, if I don't control the urge, I tend to deconstruct my food. Like, if I have a burger, I'll eat the pickles, then the lettuce, then the tomato, then probably eat the meat with the bread, but only because I don't like plain meat. Or if I have a casserole, I'll eat, say, the broccoli, then the chicken, then the carrots, then the pasta, and then whatever bits are left. Etc etc. Use your imagination (if you dare).

9. What are five things you absolutely have to have in your dream house?
This is the house that I got with my $100,000/week allowance, right? Ok, cool. At the top of the list is lots of big windows. Tons of 'em. And BIG. I hate a house where you feel all closed in. Next is definitely a big library with lots of comfy seating and good lights (for night reading, obviously, since I'll have plenty of sunlight during the day). Third is a great big indoor swimming pool surrounded on three sides by glass and then a great view. And I'll have none of that fancy curvy nonsense. It should be rectangular so I can swim laps, which is what I love to do. My next demand is a really good sound system that can broadcast music to every room and outside from a central control point, but that also has controls in each room to allow individualization. (I used to babysit in a house that had this and it was just about the best thing I've ever seen in my life.) And finally I'd want a good sized dressing room and bathroom associated with each bedroom, plus a guest bathroom in a convenient location. (I know that sounds like multiple things, but it boils down to "plenty of bathrooms".) It's amazing how much more smoothly homes run when there are plenty of bathrooms to go around.

Oh yeah. THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!

10. If you could be reincarnated as any animal, which would you chose and why?
That's easy. A cat. They're generally lithe and agile and have quick reflexes, yet behave in a quiet and reserved manner. Sounds just about perfect to me. Plus, bonus, they're soft and pretty but quite capable of defending themselves when it's necessary. Rawr!

11.    Which band (current or past) would you want to go on tour* with? (*Travel with, not perform with.)
Ooh, a toughie. It's tempting to say Watsky, Incubus, or Maroon 5 because: HAWT. (Of course I like the music too; I'd never choose someone whose music I didn't like. And in the case of Watsky, I love the music.) But on the other hand, how cool would it be to spend a whole tour hanging out with my actual favorite musicians, like Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Gary Jules, or John Darnielle?! So... the person that comes the closest in my mind to covering both of those bases is Jack White. Love the music, love the sexy. Wouldn't mind at all to spend a few months on the road with him.

12.    How many concerts have you attended? Which was your favorite? Least favorite? If none, who do you want to see live the most?
I've attended sadly few concerts. I've mostly lived in out of the way places where no one ever goes. (The ENTIRE WESTERN HALF of Texas seems not to exist to most performers, except maybe El Paso.) I've only seen two of any importance, and I loved both of them.

The first was Mandy Patinkin in the early '90s. Third row center for an amazing performance. My husband (who wasn't yet my husband at the time) swears I didn't take a single breath throughout the entire show. The second was Billy Joel, in 2008, after 30 years of loving his music. I had very good seats for that one, too, and it was mind-numbingly good. It pretty much made my life. Oh, and Elton John was there, too. I mean, I love Elton John! But comparing my love for him to my love for Billy Joel is like comparing my enjoyment of ice cream to my enjoyment of pizza. Ice cream is high on the overall list, but decidedly below pizza.

[Edit: Wait, wait, wait! *sound of needle screeching on a record* I completely forgot that I went to one day of the Beale Street Music Festival in 2010! I saw Five Finger Death Punch, Chevelle, Rock Sugar (twice!), Vince Neil, and a few lesser known artists. So I'm not quite as much of a noob as I first thought! Wooo!]

There are many artists that I'd love to see live but currently the number one spot is probably held by Jack White. I don't suppose that comes as a surprise.

13.    What is one of your favorite song lyrics? Who is it by?

This changes constantly, depending on what I've been listening to, but for some time now it's been Watsky: "If the world breaks your legs, you go and beat it with your crutch." I love that resilient spirit, the idea of coming back strong no matter what life throws at you.

14.    Who do you ship?
Captain Jack Harkness and Clara Oswald. After all, they're both weirdly immortal... ish.
15.    What band merch do you own? If any, whose is it and when did you get it? If none, whose do you wish you owned?

I don't really have much, mostly because I've been to so few concerts. Really all I have is a few things from DFTBA artists. I wish I'd gotten something at the Billy Joel concert but I was with people and they had a little tantrum about the lines so I gave in and left.

Aaaaaand that's that! Remember to leave your questions and comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested, you can also find me on Twitter.

Thanks again for reading! If you haven't seen the videos that go along with this post, they are:
Jill, Kristina, Frieda & Amy

And that's it from me on this Wednesday. Best wishes! <3

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Week the Twenty-Second: Draw My Life

Well this should be interesting. This weeks topic on the Introvert Social Hour is the YouTube fun-stravaganza known as Draw My Life. Let's see how it goes in text form, shall we?

I was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia*, but I never lived there. I grew up in Philippi, which is about 25 miles from Clarksburg. My grandparents and other relatives did live in Clarksburg though and I was there just about as much as I was in Philippi. I think of both of them as one big home town and I don't think I could ever choose between the two. Just to provide a little perspective (and explain why I'm such a big Pittsburgh fan!), I grew up only about 100 miles south of Pittsburgh. We spent a fair amount of time there for various reasons and it's almost like a third home town to me.

*(The Nutters & Cottrills that are mentioned in the linked article are my ancestors, for the record.)

My family consists of my parents, a brother who's 10 years older than I am, a brother who died when he was a baby, me, and two brothers who are 5 and 6 years younger than I am. I consider myself extremely fortunate in terms of family. My parents were great. They loved us and took good care of us despite having very little money to do it. My brothers and I have always been very close. Of course we've had little spats here and there like all siblings do, but we've never had a serious disagreement or bad feelings between us. I love my family and I feel confident that they love me too.

Because I think it explains some things about who I am and how I became this person, I'll tell you a little bit about each of my parents. (I'd love to tell about my brothers too but we'd be here all day if I did so I'll limit myself to this.)

My father had cerebral palsy from a birth injury, but he never let it slow him down. He had difficulty with fine motor skills and, while he was perfectly mobile in his adult life, he didn't learn to walk until he was about five years old and all his life his gait was noticeably awkward. His speech was also a little wavery, for lack of a better (nontechnical) word, and it always made me mad when people didn't even bother to try to understand him. He was super smart -- he had two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree, and two doctorates... despite the fact that when he was little his parents were told he would never be anything but a vegetable and they were encouraged to institutionalize him. Thank goodness they were too stubborn for that.
My daddy loved books more than almost anything. Not only did he work in a library and as a university lecturer, but our house was always full of books, too. He also loved antiques and airplanes of all kinds. The biggest part of his life, though, was his ministry. He was a Southern Baptist minister and he devoted his life to that work, second only to his devotion to his family. He died in 2006, but I loved him very much and I miss him all the time.

My mother worked outside the home occasionally, but her biggest passion was taking care of her family. She and my father were very devoted to each other, and the vast majority of her energy went into keeping him and us healthy and happy. She made the house nice, she cooked great meals, she did her best to make sure we had everything we needed one way or another. She helped my father a lot in his ministry as well as in other businesses and jobs that he had along the way.

As for her personal interests, she loves books even more than my father did, if such a thing is possible. I don't think it's any surprise that I read as much as I do, coming from a home where everyone always had their noses in books. She still reads constantly, several books per week, but now she does it on her Kindle and it's a lot easier. She's always loved holidays and it's important to her that the family is together on those days, even now. Sadly, she has a terrible degenerative disease in her spine that leaves her in constant, horrible pain, even with strong medication. That leaves her unable to do much these days, so we all try hard to make the holidays as special as she made them when we were growing up. I love my mom a lot.

We moved to Odessa, Texas, when my father got a job there. I went to high school and college there and stayed until I went to medical school. That was at Texas Tech in Lubbock, where I also plan to get my doctorate. I also have a master's degree from Texas A&M (in College Station), and I consider San Antonio as a fourth "home town" because my father grew up there and I've spent a ton of time there. Unfortunately I forgot to put either of those cities on the map. Sorry! I don't like saying on the open internet where I live now, but it's somewhere in the dotted circle. (However -- spoiler -- it's not in Mexico!)

I had a roommate when I lived in Lubbock, my friend Peggy. She is one of the best singers I've ever heard, and she loves working with little kids, and we laughed more during those years than I've ever laughed in my life. We had so much fun. She was the maid of honor at my wedding, and then shortly after that she moved to China to teach English and to be a missionary. We stayed in contact for a long time, even after she came back to the U.S., but then in late 2005 I lost track of her. I haven't heard from her since and it makes me super sad, but I keep hoping that one day I'll hear from her again because I love her.

I never dated a lot, but I did have a few boyfriends, and a few friends who were boys, and I had some fun times with them. My first date was on my 17th birthday. We went to see Tron (in the theatre! First run!) and then to McDonalds where my big spender got me a McRib and a drink. Wooo! I stayed with him for a few years, then made my way through a few others while I was in college, but no one particularly swept me off my feet.

My last year in college I was teaching a sign language class and the person who would become my husband was one of the students. We became good friends first and things progressed rather slowly from there. We got married six long years after we met. At that time I moved to the house where I live now and that's when I became a teacher.

The year I started teaching, my school got an internet connection and that was my first online experience. At first I used it only for work, and even that changed my life. It made research and writing a thousand times easier! Eventually I talked myself into trying a chat room and the first one I found was called Alamak, which doesn't even exist anymore in the US. It's an almost purely Malaysian chat service. There I met a few people with whom I still talk today, most notably a family in Australia who I've come to know extremely well. They send me things from Australia all the time and the mother has even visited me a few times. I've never been there but I do plan to go some day.

Through some people that I met on Alamak, I next got involved with a group of people who were friends with Mike Rowe, who was just starting out as the host of Dirty Jobs. We had a private forum where we interacted and that was a lot of fun. It was a small group, maybe 12-15 people, so I felt comfortable and was able to enjoy it. That lasted a few years then everyone sort of drifted apart. I'm still friends with some of the people from that forum, but I never talk to Mike anymore. (I really should give him a shout some time, but I've been shy about it. Imagine that. #sadface) After that, my next step was YouTube and I've already written about where that took me, but I'll have a bit more to say about it shortly.

A few years later, my father got very sick so my middle brother and I moved my parents to live near us. We helped my mother take care of him for several years and it was one of the hardest periods of our lives, but we're all thankful that we got to spend that time with him. After he died, my mother lived alone for a while, but finally the back pain grew so terrible that she wasn't able to take care of herself anymore and she moved in with my brother and his family. They later moved to Lubbock and that's where they live now. I miss my mom and her pain makes me sad, but I visit her as often as I can and that helps.

The past 6 or 7 years have been the most friend-filled of my life. You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned many friends in my earlier life, and that's because I haven't had many. It wasn't their fault, though. Lots of people have tried to be my friends over the years but I wasn't open to it. Now I am. It's still hard for me to interact with people but I'm getting better at it (finally!) and letting myself enjoy life for a change. Through YouTube/Nerdfighteria, I started interacting on BlogTV, then Twitter, and finally Skype, and those interactions have provided me with a wealth of friends, far more than I ever could have imagined before.

My family has grown large over the years, too, lots of nieces and even more nephews, and I'm not even counting the ones on my husband's side of the family (though I certainly do in real life). We're all reasonably successful and happy, my mother is well-cared for, and there's a lot of love among us. I'm a very lucky girl.

So, no matter how frustrating other parts of my life get, or how stupidly sad my own brain makes me at times, overall I can't complain. Life is good.

There's much more to tell, but that's for other blog posts. Remember to leave your questions and comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested, you can also find me on Twitter.

Thanks again for reading! If you haven't seen the videos that go along with this post, they are:

Jill, Kristina, Frieda & Amy

And that's it from me on this Saturday. Best wishes! <3