A Conversation-Starter in my Back Pocket

I’m not exactly the person who will walk straight up to you and make conversation. I never have been.

I will smile politely at people and even say a quick, quiet “hi” if I pass you on the street. I’m not unfriendly. I’m just unlikely to actually make conversation.

It turns out that can change if you end up carrying a conversation-starter around everywhere you go.

It all started when I decided that I needed a credit card to have as a backup. I had had my debit card number stolen and given the experience of living from cash and realizing how many things you might need a credit card for if things go wrong. I hadn’t had the best luck getting one in the past, so I decided to try on a whim to get the one backed by Blizzard Entertainment. I’d gain rewards that I could use for in-game merchandise. It seemed like a great solution, especially if I got the card.

Sure enough, I did get the card. It had the World of Warcraft logo emblazoned on the front. I had hoped to get rewards to use to pay for my subscription, but most of it was in-game pets and mounts, and I decided to save up points for something else.

Yet, the logo on the card was an excuse to talk to people that I’d never had before.

There’s something about playing World of Warcraft that gets people talking to each other. Most people don’t openly talk about playing to the people around them. Whether it’s “taboo” or not is debatable, as the comments on this post point out, but it is generally not something you bring up right away that it’s one of your hobbies. When you’re handing your credit card to someone so they can swipe it, and the logo is right there between their fingertips – the conversation generally starts.

In the short time I had this card, I was amazed at how many people would do a double-take when looking at it, and say, “Awesome card!” or, “Oh, do you play?” or “Wow, I’ve never seen a card like this before!”. It garnered curiosity, or camaraderie in several instances where I used it.

One day I realized I was basically a walking nerd advertisement when I stood in line at Jamba Juice with my League of Legends lanyard around my neck, handing my World of Warcraft credit card to a cashier named Garen. It was a fun moment, to say the least.

It was a sad day last week when I got the call that my credit card number had been stolen, and I needed to close the account. It was even sadder because as I cut up the card with the Warcraft logo on it, I knew my new one would not be the same. Blizzard pulled their sponsorship of the card a few months ago, so my card was one of the few left that sported the WoW name.

From now on, my card will just be a regular credit card, and it will not garner second glances, smiles, and questions. But that’s okay: it was definitely fun while it lasted.

Listening Woes Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Audiobooks

Five years ago, I had my first real exposure to an audiobook.

I was on a 6.5 hour ride from the main summer camp I worked at the time to the smaller sister camp in northern California/almost Oregon that two of my coworkers and I were going to work at for two weeks. Instead of music, my coworker who was driving decided to put on an audiobook version of The Chronicles of Narnia.

I don’t know whether it was the scenery, my sleepiness from waking up early and packing to leave after sub-counseling eight kids the day before, or the company in the car, but I could not listen to it. Even though we had started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I had read before, I couldn’t focus on it. I decided that probably meant that audiobooks were not for me.

However, here I am five years later, with an Audible account and anxiously waiting for my next credit so I can listen to another audiobook.

It started with being read Harry Potter aloud in the car to me while I was driving. Having something else to do while I listened helped me to focus. I had also begun listening to podcasts from Book Riot, and was intrigued at how much I enjoyed listening to them, considering I’ve never been one to listen to radio shows. Finally, Book Riot offers a free credit through Audible to start an account. It couldn’t hurt to try it out.

I had a hard time deciding what book to listen to first, and decided on Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Within two days of driving to work while giggling at Beth and Jennifer, I was pretty positive I was hooked. When I purchased The Martian by Andy Weir a few weeks later to listen to while driving to my parents’ for the weekend, I knew it was all over.

Here’s the thing about audiobooks. You don’t have to look at it. I know that’s fairly obvious, but I can’t believe how long it took me to actually get that, and there are so many things I can get done while listening to an audiobook. I washed dishes, folded and hung laundry, organized my closet, drove to and from work, set up a day bed in my living room, and even played video games while listening to a book. It was invigorating how freeing it was to not be chained to my chair, bed, or even floor with book in hand instead of up doing other things while still getting the stories I crave into my headspace. It’s so freeing that I’ve actually been having a hard time sitting down with a print book – but that’s an entirely different story.

I’ve also found that listening to a book on audio gives me a little more time to envision what’s going on, the characters and their thoughts, and oddly, wonder how things are spelled(That last one gets me running to research that as soon as I finish the book).

I’m very excited that I started listening to audiobooks, and I can’t believe I deprived myself until now. Do you listen to audiobooks? What made you try them?

Alt:ernative Chat’s 10 Years, 10 Questions

Alt:ernative chat is looking for World of Warcraft players to answer the same ten questions to compile into a podcast in honor of WoW’s 10th Anniversary. As you might have gathered from this post, I definitely play World of Warcraft, and thought it’d be fun to answer the questions. Check out my answers below, and if you’d like to submit your own, visit here to get a link to the questions or a form you can fill out if you’d rather not blog it. :)

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

It’s all my boyfriend’s fault. :P

It was my senior year in college, and we had just started dating pretty recently. He started me on playing League of Legends as a way for us to keep in touch over Thanksgiving break, and by Christmas he had convinced me to try WoW. The rest is kind of history from there. I still have not played any of the Warcraft RTS games, although considering how much of a lore nut I’ve become, it’s a wonder I haven’t yet.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

The first real character that I rolled on my own account was a worgen warlock named Buttercup, who was accompanied by my boyfriend’s worgen warrior, Westley. I didn’t know much about the game at the time, and mostly spent my time attempting to keep up, falling off cliffs, getting lost, getting new cloth gear that had armor on it, doing terrible DPS in dungeons, and later, riding everywhere on the rocket that came with Refer-A-Friend at the time. She is still sitting at level 67, where we stopped right before we were high enough to go to the magical land of Northrend (or that’s how it felt at the time) and went to play Horde on another server.
3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

My faction choice was more of an accident than anything else. My first characters were Alliance, and then my boyfriend and I played Horde for awhile because he had a guild of friends that did and it’s his favorite faction. After that guild fell apart, we rolled gnomes on Wyrmrest Accord on a whim, and ended up finding our current (amazing) guild, which has prompted us to stay Alliance. I have no problem with the Horde, and we have a sister guild on another server that I regularly feed my alt addiction with. :P It also doesn’t help that there are two races, one Horde and one Alliance, that I would have all my characters be if I had the opportunity. (Gnome and blood elf, if you were wondering.)
4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

There have certainly been a few. One of my favorites to this day is zoning into one of the Auchindoun dungeons on my gnome priest, and promptly being hit by one of the mobs’ knockback abilities and being punted straight back out of the instance. That’s definitely one of the funniest ones, but the most memorable ones have been great times with my guild, whether playing hide and seek, having Hallow’s End parties in Gilneas, taking out Horde in front of Stormwind, eating shrink feasts during dungeon runs (or putting down hundreds of feasts), and downing difficult bosses that took us awhile to get there. Essentially, doing things with my guild is the best part, hands down.
5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

Group content is my favorite part of the game. I like running dungeons, scenarios and raids with my friends. I have so many screenshots from past raids and dungeons that make me laugh because of the camaraderie we all shared. I’d say this has generally been the case for the whole time I’ve played, as soon as I finally learned to do group content in a meaningful way, and raiding has really solidified it.

A close second is solo questing, since I am interested in lore, like to read quests, and in general tend to quest slower than a lot of people I play with.
6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

If I’m leveling Alliance, I almost always quest through Westfall once I hit level 9, no matter what race I play. On the Horde side, I always play through the undead quest line around level 10 on. On either faction, I play through Dragonblight in Northrend all the way through to the Wrathgate. It’s still one of the best cinematics I’ve seen in the game, and it nearly made me cry the first time.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

Here are the characters I’ve raided with, excepting Bhrea, who was my first 85 in Cataclysm and arguably my oldest character:

Minnieheals: 51 days, 17 hours

Bhrea: 12 days, 14 hours

Daisysmash: 8 days, 8 hours

Mystique: 12 days, 9 hours

Quirina: 13 days, 17 hours

My subscription hasn’t lapsed since I started playing at the end of 2010. I’ve had less time to play at times where I usually only logged on for raid or between expansions would stay logged off for longer periods of time, but I always had my sub so I could log on whenever I wanted.

When I actually look at the time /played, it doesn’t surprise me that Minnie is the highest, but I’m still surprised by how much higher it is. Shouldn’t be – she is my main and my guild namesake, so….
8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I definitely read quest text if I’m interested in the zone and its storyline, but if I’ve done the storyline several times, or have gotten bored with it, I start to skip quest text. This rule doesn’t apply to the questlines I mentioned above – no matter how many times I’ve played through them, I still reread the quests. It’s like a favorite book.
9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Not any that I can recall. I was a little disappointed that I was unable to get one of the achievements for my main before patch 5.4 because it would no longer be available. Otherwise, I don’t get too bent out of shape about missing achievements or not being a total completionist. I think I might regret it if I don’t get my legendary cloak for my tank before 6.0, but not enough to seriously regret it.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

It’s helped me make friends with a lot of people that I wouldn’t have without it, from people that are across the country to people that I knew in high school or college but didn’t become close to until after we started playing games together. It’s also supplemented my life in random ways, like giving me more reading material, more music to listen to, and oddly helping my sense of direction.

 Do any of you have answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments! 

Devout to Doubtful

By the time I was old enough to know a little about what religion meant, we were attending church regularly.

I remember being there when my dad and sister were baptized, in the little pool at our church. I knelt on the shaggy orange carpet in front of the pool’s glass in my nice church dress, seeing their smiles as they had the cloth placed over their faces and dipped in the water, one at a time. Not long after, my mom was baptized at a seminar, in a larger one. And not long after that, due to my urging and a lot of convincing, I went through Bible studies and was baptized myself, at six years old, younger than most people in our church had been (or had been allowed to).

In my nearly fifteen years afterward, I remember watching the baptismal vows become more strict and more detailed, including things that I never thought were wrong, such as playing board games (of all things). I remember being berated by one of the visiting pastors during his sermon because me and one of my fellow ushers were going in and out of the church (which we were supposed to, because we were ushers). I remember this same pastor being rude to my mother because she asked why we were not allowed to wear jewelry when people in the Bible did.

As I got older, I began to question the beliefs our church held that I had never found any reason to understand from a Biblical perspective. I caught up on secular music, all of the music I’d missed that I hadn’t listened to when I was younger. I wrote a paper in high school (with Biblical references) about why wearing jewelry wasn’t wrong (or even something God cares about), despite what the church taught us. I struggled with issues that should never have had a place in my home church. In college, I pierced my ears for the first time, and watched as my dad at first asked me “you did what?!” in horror but later said, “You know, those look really nice.” I wore the largest earrings I could find and what I wanted to church when I was forced to go, defiantly daring anyone to tell me not to.

Church had been something that was part of my routine, every Saturday, for fifteen years of my life, but I eventually stopped going in college. I refused to go when I was home, not wanting to visit with people who either had views that angered me to listen to, or didn’t quite accept me because of my light skin. For awhile, I only would go willingly when our pastor was speaking, the one we had who inspired me that organized religion could get better, that actually read the Bible open face on the pulpit, not picking and choosing what verses suited his own agenda.

Over my junior year of college, my parents experienced their own realization, where my dad was home all day recovering from surgery and opened the new “archaeological” Bible that my mom had given him, and read it entire chapters, entire books, and became confused and angry at the church’s teachings. Here was the book we were supposedly living from, and it disagreed with everything we’d been taught. He and my mom read through, and by the time I’d finished my junior year and I was riding home with my mom with all of my belongings in the back, she told me that they, along with my cousins, were going to leave the church for good. They had been involved more than anyone else, had given whole parts of themselves to it, and despite my own trepidations and anger, I knew I needed to be there for them on their last Sabbath there.

Over the past four years since then, I’ve felt a complete disconnect from my religious roots. I have no desire to attend church at all. I haven’t lost my faith in God – I’ve always believed in His existence and that He loves us…and that a lot of Christians don’t reflect His character at all. I find the church’s fear of doubt and questioning to be deterrent. I think all of us need to question and search and doubt to find our way to what the truth is, not by listening blindly to how others interpret teachings, the Bible, and other religious books that are sometimes given more credit than they’re due.

Could my relationship with God be better now? Of course it could. None of us are perfect. I’ve found that I find it important to love those around me despite their faults, and to fight for the people that religion tends to knock down while using the Bible as their reasoning. Loving others isn’t about judging them, or loving the sin, not the sinner. It’s about caring for and doing what’s best for them, which does not include trying to change them. If God could love us through all of the stuff we do, surely we could do even a quarter of that for those around us.

I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to honestly dive into what I believe about the church and about faith throughout the last few years of my life, to be able to freely question and doubt the details while still holding the most important belief, and to discuss with others what those things mean.

I’d like to hear what you think: Did you grow up religious or not? What did you believe when you were younger that ended up being challenged? Do you prefer where you are now or where you were at past times in your life? Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear it. 

Review: Let’s Avoid Uncle Dale by DosBadDads

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Book: Let’s Avoid Uncle Dale

Authors: DosBadDads (Patrick and Steve)

Published: June 12, 2014 on Amazon.com Kindle Store. I received an advance review copy of the book.

Genre: Baby’s literature. (But it’s so that the parents won’t get bored. Or want to throw things.)

Review:

 Like its predecessor, Let’s Avoid Uncle Dale is probably not the book you want to read to your little kids that have learned to talk. It could be awkward.

However, you or your friends who have kids that are still months away from talking, but still want to read something you’ll both enjoy, will like this “no B.S. baby lit” from DosBadDads.

Every family has an uncle Dale. Every family has the member that everyone loves but don’t quite trust with their kid. They have some pretty outrageous stories or make some pretty bad decisions.

This Uncle Dale has both, plus more. I enjoyed laughing my way through Uncle Dale’s proclamations and the truth behind them. I loved the illustrations, and page 19 brought a heartwarming smile to my face before the end of the book again surprised me, and made me laugh out loud. What was the image on page 19? I guess you’ll have to read it to find out.

If you have a straightforward, blunt outlook on life, and want to be entertained while reading to your littlest ones, check out DosBadDads’ books.

Let’s Avoid Uncle Dale is available on Amazon, along with DosBadDads’ first book, FYI: Great Grandma is Racist (I reviewed that one, too!).

For more information, you can find DosBadDads on Facebook Twitter, and at their website.

A Tale of Bed Beginnings, Stubborness, and Pain

Until recently, my 25-year old twin mattress had served me quite well. It wasn’t until I moved out of the house and into my apartment(s), that I began to notice that I didn’t sleep well anymore. I was always tired, always groggy, never wanted to drag myself out of bed in the morning, and probably drank too much coffee.

I finally concluded that it was probably the age of my mattress. It was finally beginning to break down, and that must be the main culprit. I asked if I could have a new mattress for my early birthday present. Fairly quickly, we were able to purchase the mattress and frame.

I was (kind of still am, three weeks later) very excited about getting a new mattress. The Boyfriend was out-of-town at a wedding, and I could not wait to set everything up.

The day the mattress arrived at my office, I had already bought sheets to match the duvet cover I was eyeing on the IKEA website, as well as a bed skirt and a new cover for my body pillow. It was rolled up tight, air compressed, and in a cylindrical bag. The UPS guy was kind enough to lift the mattress into the back of my Beetle. With the back seats laid down and the front seat pushed forward, it fit perfectly. I admired how easily it fit into my little car.

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I finished my work day determined to get it set up as soon as I got home.

As soon as I arrived home, I got my sweater, purse and water bottle upstairs and unlocked the door, trying to leave it propped open enough that I could simply push it open once I got to the top of the stairs with my prize. I was excited to find that the mattress had a strap, and used it to pull it out of my trunk.

“This is heavier than I thought,” I thought to myself.

The mattress could not be lifted, it had to be dragged. And when dragging didn’t work, I had to set it upright and scoot it on its end through the door to the garage, through the door to my stairwell, and then figure out how to drag this mattress up the stairs without dropping it, or its sheer weight taking me tumbling down the stairs with it. After trying to lift it up the stairs one at a time while upright, I decided maybe dragging wasn’t so bad of an idea after all, and dug my fingers (and nails) into the fabric and string holding the bag shut, and dragged it up the stairs, one at a time, not being able to rest for a second because the mattress would just go hurtling down the stairs again and crash into the door. The worst step was right before the door, and hoping I had enough room to pull the mattress all the way through the doorway without letting it go, and then slowly standing it up against my washer and dryer without falling out the door myself.

Once I had it in the door and in no danger of falling over, I had to lay down for a few minutes and catch my breath. I couldn’t believe I’d actually gotten the stupid thing up the stairs by myself. I had a sort of mad pride about it, and I’m pretty sure I was grinning like crazy.

Success!

Success!

Next came the process of getting my twin mattress out of the room and into my living room, followed by its frame. This was the easy part. I had been wrangling this same mattress around and around my tiny childhood bedroom since I was nine. The frame presented a slight problem that was easily fixed by taking the footboard off so that the bed could make the corner out of my room and into the hallway. I set everything in the living room, and it admittedly stayed in there dismantled until this past Saturday.

With the area where my bed had been empty, I vacuumed the entire carpet area and wrestled the mattress package into the bedroom and laid it on the floor as carefully as its weight would allow. I cut the outer bag open, made sure I had the mattress facing the right way up, and cut the plastic that would allow it to decompress. Within minutes, it was 11 inches high and only needed to expand another inch to reach its full size and shape. The instructions online had said to let it air out for a couple of days, but how could I resist the look of this comfortable bed? I was giving my mom a play-by-play of the setup process via text message, and she agreed I should go ahead and just sleep on it. Especially since I could already feel the ache and tension in my forearms from its trip up the stairs. I put my sheets and mattress pad on before settling in for raid that night.

The frame came a couple of days later. I’d spent a few blissful days with the mattress on the floor, nursing my sore muscles. The frame also fit easily into my car with the help of the delivery guy, and although Boyfriend was back, I was too excited to wait for him to help me set it up. I put on an episode of Azeroth Choppers and began setting it up with the help of the instructions. Everything was going fine, until I rather stupidly opened one half of the frame while sitting directly by the hinge. The middle legs popped up when I dropped the sides and hit me squarely in the mouth.

It happened so fast and the pain was so sharp that I immediately burst into tears, without even consciously realizing what had happened. It took me a few minutes of hanging over the sink bawling, hot tears streaming down my face before I finally realized what had happened. I looked at my quickly swelling lip, applied a bag of frozen corn to it, and sat tearfully watching Azeroth Choppers until I felt like I could continue. I managed to set up the rest of the bed frame and get the mattress on it without further injuries, although putting a bed skirt on a queen-sized mattress by yourself with no tie downs doesn’t turn out great in the long run:

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It was time to raid. So the bedskirt stayed messed up for a day. Plus I didn’t have my new comforter or duvet cover yet.

The next week I received my duvet cover and comforter. That process was relatively painless, except that the comforter is far too large for my washer, and far too large to actually dry in my dryer. I ended up having to lay it out as flat and not crumpled as possible on my drying rack. Thankfully I won’t have to wash the comforter itself too often.

It’s finally done, and has been done for about two weeks. I’m very happy with it, despite my healed bruises and sore muscles. I’m honestly a bit proud of myself for the whole ordeal. Here’s the finished product:

It's so cozy, and blue.

It’s so cozy, and blue.

My view at night before bed. AKA, perfection.

My view at night before bed. AKA, perfection.

Tell me about a home project you had that you ended up injuring yourself or others around you, but it ended up worth it in the end. If you’ve replaced a very old mattress after years, how did you feel about it? Let me know in the comments! 

Remember the Time…In First Grade, I Kissed a Boy (Ew)

Generally, I would have considered myself the weird kid in school. I was the one who was convinced I had a pet butterfly that flew with me to school and back and played with me at recess. I was the one collecting rocks and sometimes “interesting” trash to make sculptures while out on the playground. I was the one who sat in the grass and made necklaces and bracelets and headbands from weedy flowers. I was the girl who was alone at recess most of the time. At that age, I had no interest in boys and would rather compete with them than think about liking them or shunning them entirely. Some of the boys in my class picked on me a bit, but I mostly just ignored them and figured they thought I was weird or didn’t like me, and I didn’t really care much.

However, there was one boy who picked on me and bothered me the most, L.

He was the boy in class that would get in trouble all the time. We had a wall with different colored cards for behavior, and every time he’d get in trouble he’d be nearly bawling to go change his card from green to yellow, or sometimes straight to red. He was the one sticking his eyelids up until they stuck and farting on purpose, just generally being gross. I didn’t like being around him at all. Considering the way he treated me, I figured he just didn’t like me, and that was fine with me. The feeling was mutual, and he was generally receiving a large helping of side-eye from me every time he got into trouble.

One day, I was walking on the playground, heading back toward the cafeteria. At my elementary school, the playground has a square building near the cafeteria with a boys’ bathroom and a girls’ bathroom on opposite sides, and that’s all it holds. There are classrooms on either side of the entrance to the cafeteria and the playground beyond.

I was walking by the big entrance to the boys’ bathroom, minding my own business, when suddenly a dark shape came out of the doorway, grabbed my arm hard, and yanked me into the bathroom.

I remember being very confused, as the process of walking had been interrupted so quickly, and suddenly all I saw was the orange ceiling, dirty tiles, and few stalls in the boys’ restroom. Within the next few seconds, I had a wet kiss planted on my lips.

My thoughts went from shock, to panic, to anger. Especially when I figured out it was L from my class.

The details are pretty fuzzy from there. I do remember pushing him away and kicking him squarely in the huevos before hightailing it out of there, calling for a playground supervisor. I know he got in trouble, probably mostly for the pulling-a-girl-into-the-bathroom by force stunt.

I also find it ironic that I wasn’t kissed again (for real this time) until I was 20 years old.

This post was written for the Remember The Time Blog Hop hosted by Emily from The Waiting (and her new intern, Rob!) If you’d like to join the linkup, please click here