A blog for all things personal, informational, educational, and fun.
Here at my personal blog Thoughts & Things, I share a wide variety of, you guessed it, thoughts and things. Anything that sparks my interest is up for discussion. For those who are uncertain of what that might cover, I'll generally talk about reading, writing, books, movies, music, games, history, current events, and feminism. I talk about my personal emotional and health struggles from time to time. I'm also a big fan of lists.|
This is the place here at WDC where you can get to know me best, as I talk about the things that interest me, impact me, and amuse me.
|Hello, and welcome to the grand one hundredth blog post of Thoughts & Things! Well, it isn't particularly grand, but welcome anyway. After eleven months of working on this blog, I have finally hit one hundred posts. I feel like that isn't half bad. It got off to a shaky start, picked up a little bit as time went on, and really got going once I started Give It 100.
In the past year, I feel like I have really grown as a writer. The progress I have made is finally the kind of progress that I can measure. Rather than my progress being an increase in my quality of writing (although while difficult to measure, I like to think I have made a little of this progress as well), my progress has been an increase in output.
I have made a hundred blog posts. I participated in a thirty-one day challenge that allowed me to put out thirty-one pieces of work I might otherwise never have written or shared (Promptly Potter: "Potterly Prompts" ). I participated in an entire month of NaNoWriMo prep ( "NaNoWriMo Prep 2016" ), the most NaNo prep work I have ever done. I wrote nearly thirty thousand words during November, and continue to dabble at the novel since then. I have participated in more contests, including a win in The Writer's Cramp ( "The Journals of Mary Brownstone" ). I got some great joy out of WDC's Sweet Sixteen celebrations. All of the merit badges and awardicons I have received have been in the last year. I feel like my reviews have gotten better, although I am still trying to work on writing more of them.
This past year has given me the best mileage out of my WDC account that I have ever gotten, and I've been here nearly nine years now. I finally feel like this place is my home. I've started several blogs elsewhere over the past many years, and this is the most success I have ever had at one. Surely that can't be a coincidence.
As a writer, I think actually completing and sharing my various projects is the hardest thing. At least it used to be. I feel like I've gained a lot more practice in simply finishing what I start, and letting other people see it. Even if I have stayed the same in my quality of writing, the extra practice can only help me get better, and it is still a huge improvement for me.
It's honestly a pure fluke that I noticed this was my one hundredth blog post. I actually wasn't even sure what I was going to write about. I was feeling a bit down on myself, as if maybe I was out of ideas to write about. Realising that this was my hundredth post gave me a lot to think about, and it gave me a lot to feel good about. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have made tangible achievements in my writing.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Eight. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|I like to cook. I'm often too tired or sore to cook, but it is something I enjoy. I especially like the part where I actually get to feed people, and see how they feel about my cooking. I'm generally a pretty decent cook though, so I think that makes sense. I like to do some light baking as well, but I enjoy it less. I think it's mainly because I prefer savoury foods over sweet foods.
After my grandmother passed away, I actually got her recipe books. I asked for them. One of my biggest regrets after my great-grandmother passed away when I was about twelve was that I didn't have a way to learn all of her recipes. Now I have my grandma's recipes, and there are probably thousands of them, in all different varieties.
My grandma's family has a family reunion every year, and it's in August. Going to the first one since she has passed is going to be absolutely brutal, and it occurred to me that not having her food among the dozens of dishes served would feel horribly strange. I've already decided that I am going to pick out a couple of recipes to bring with me so we would have her food there, even if she can't be there with us.
I think that cooking is often a family thing. You share meals and desserts with your family. You cook with your family. You pass down recipes to those you love. Cooking together and eating together are things that bring family closer. They can also be the setting for some pretty outlandish fights, but I think it's mainly a good thing rather than a disaster.
I already miss my grandma's cooking. It has been a part of my life for as long as I have been able to eat. Without even fully realising yet how interconnected I feel family and food are, I asked for her recipes. I am so glad that I did. I don't know how I would feel about living in a world where her pie crust recipe was lost to me.
I hope that I can share her recipes with my other family. I hope I can pass them down when I'm gone. And I eagerly await the next time I can show my family I care about them by making them a delicious meal.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Seven. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|I think we all have our own reasons for writing. They are as varied as we are as individuals, but also connected by the themes of writing and being human. I have been pondering exactly why I write. I thought it might be worthwhile to share my own personal reasons for writing, some of which may be familiar to other writers.
1. I love writing. This is the simplest reason of all. I think many of us here write for the love of it, and I think that makes it incredibly pure. I also think sometimes we hate it a little, but we do it because we have something that needs to be said, also a pure motive.
2. It is something I can do with some level of skill, and it feels good to do things I'm good at. I can write, know I didn't fail miserably at it, and know that I get better every time I do it.
3. It's a wonderful creative outlet. Storytelling and idea sharing, all through the written word, gives me that necessary place to put my ideas.
4. It's a wonderful emotional outlet. When everything feels overwhelming, I know I can write it out and get some relief.
5. It gives me something to feel proud of. Knowing I have accomplished something in writing is a magical feeling.
6. It makes my family proud. My mum is so proud of me when I make big steps in my writing. She actually helped me cover the cost to renew my paid account here as an Easter gift. When my grandma was dying, she told me that she wanted me to write more.
7. It gives me a way to sort out confusing thoughts. Everything makes more sense on paper.
8. It gives me something to show off. When people ask me what I've been doing with my time, I can tell them I've been writing. I have the work to prove it. I feel like I've done my homework for life for the day.
9. It gives me something to hide. I can put something on paper, just for me. It can be my own secret, and no one ever needs to know.
10. I can share my thoughts and ideas with other people. How else would you guys ever know the reasons I write if I didn't write them down?
11. I write because I can. This sounds like a "just because" kind of point, but it's not. With all of my health problems, there are a lot of things I can no longer do as effectively. Writing is something I can do.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Six. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|Like many other people, I grew up watching the Wonder Woman television show. I enjoyed its cheesy fun, and I loved getting to see a female superhero on TV. I didn't read the comics, and I'm only just looking at getting into them now--a few of them are incredible. As I'm sure most of you suspected upon seeing the title, I'm here to talk about the movie.
It blew me away. I can't remember the last time I was so in love with an action flick. It's a great superhero movie, and a great war movie. It did everything I really wanted it to do. I'm thrilled that a sequel is coming, and I hope they keep Patty Jenkins on as the director.
I think Patty Jenkins as the director is a big part of what made the film great. Having a female superhero film, our first real female superhero film, directed by a woman made all the difference. Wonder Woman is played by an actual former Israeli combat instructor. There are Amazons who were played by real life boxers and martial artists.
You get to see women who have athletic builds while all having very different builds from one another. In one of the opening scenes, you see the classic strong warrior in training having something broken over their back and remaining unaffected by it—and this time, it's a woman. There are naturally aged women who look the way you know real women age. Women with muscles and a bit of fat. Wonder Woman's thigh jiggles when she does the classic superhero walk, and again when she does the superhero land.
None of the scenes feel oversexualised, even when they take a flirtatious tone. The battle scenes are designed to show impressive warriors, and these warriors happened to be women. I have seen this film twice now, and both times I have actually cried in seeing such strong women depicted the way strong men would be depicted.
Wonder Woman is everything I wanted from a female superhero movie. It absolutely has lived up to the generations that led to it. I hope it paves the way for further fantastic females to kick ass on screen without having to be from a male point of view.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Five. Six days of leave taken total.)
|A good piece of historical fiction combines reality with the magic of fiction, and gives us so many opportunities to learn. The genre for adults is quite broad, with options available for you regardless of the time or location setting you prefer. For children and young adults, the genre tends to get a bit narrower. I think many people are under the impression that children wouldn't be interested in history, but I think that's not true at all. Despite their flaws, series like Magic Treehouse and Horrible Histories have gained huge followings, and I personally first became interested in history through historical fiction as a child.
With that in mind, I would like to share some examples of historical fiction designated for children and young adults that I personally thought were enjoyable, and generally as factual as fiction is likely to be (particularly given that some of them include time travel as the connection to history).
Tunnels of Time
by Mary Harelkin Bishop
Set in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Tunnels of Time focuses around a young girl visiting the city, and feeling not particularly happy about it. She visits the tunnels of Moose Jaw, a local historical site where prohibition era criminals smuggled alcohol into the US, although she has her doubts that the tunnels were ever that exciting. She is transported back in time, to prohibition era Moose Jaw, where she has run ins with criminals she had denied the existence of, and even ends up working with them. Tunnels of Time manages to be realistic and sensational all at once, making it an enjoyable read for younger readers.
Underground to Canada
by Barbara Smucker
Underground to Canada is something of a classic in Canada, although my understanding is that it isn't overly well known in other parts of the world. It focuses on the story of Julilly, a young slave in 19th century US, sold away from her mother. Ultimately Julilly escapes to Canada via the underground railroad. Underground to Canada manages to realistically portray the abuse that slaves in America endured for far too long, while also still being appropriate for young readers. Rather than being dumbed down or watered down, it is presented in a child-friendly way.
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson is best known for writing YA fiction that shows teens their own lives and problems. Fever 1793 presents the lives and problems of a teenage girl in Philadelphia in 1793, when an outbreak of yellow fever devastated the city. Fever 1793 presents a realistic view of how an outbreak of illness might have effected a teenage girl personally, and it how it might have effected family owned businesses at the time. It deals with epidemic, loss, grief, and commerce, all within an historical context, and all from the view of a teenager.
The Shakespeare Stealer
by Gary L. Blackwood
The Shakespeare Stealer is set in the midst of the Shakespearean period, with a young literate orphan being hired to steal Hamlet by copying it in shorthand. The story presents a realistic view of sixteenth century England, as the story winds through the more dramatic and cultured parts of London, along with the grittier alleyways that orphans and actors might find themselves wandering down. It presents the streets of London with all the action, adventure, intrigue, and mystery required to delight young readers, while still allowing them to ponder about the past.
Out of the Dust
by Karen Hesse
Set during the Great Depression, in the midst of the Oklahoma dust storms, Out of the Dust focuses on Billie Jo and her family as they struggle physically, environmentally, and financially. Every page is a fresh poem, with the beautiful verse detailing Billie Jo's life from nearly a century ago, as she struggles with problems of the time. The narrative poetry makes it a much easier read than it would otherwise be, but the topic does require some level of emotional maturity due to its heavy nature and dark subject matter. The poems make it easier to read and swallow, but the story is still capable of leaving you in tears for a fictional girl from the 1930s.
by Eric Walters
Eric Walters is a Canadian author known for his historical fiction targeted towards younger readers, and this was my personal favourite of his when I was younger. Elixir focuses on young Ruth, whose mother is working as a cleaner at the University of Toronto. Ruth befriends the real life Dr. Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best as they work on important diabetes research, while protests about animal test subjects take place outside the university. Ruth is torn, as she understand the importance of a cure for diabetes, but fears for the safety of the animals as well. Elixir shares vital information about diabetes and the race to cure it, as well as ethics in animal testing, and is set in the early 1920s when the research on diabetes and insulin took place.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Four. Six days of leave taken total.)
|Brain fog can be one of the hardest parts of chronic illness. Not only is your body failing you, but you can't keep your mind straight. Your focus is shot, your memory is spotty at best, and it can feel like you're wading your way through a thick, occasionally painful, fog. I've always struggled with this aspect the most, as my mind was always the best thing about me. Even my hobbies tend to be based around thinking more than doing, so I struggle with not being able to do what I love the way I used to be able to.
The more practice I get at reading with brain fog clouding my thoughts, the more I seem to feel comfortable with it. The best thing I can do with this practice is share it in case anyone else with brain fog finds it useful.
Read out loud.
There are times where you can read a sentence or paragraph over and over, but your brain just doesn't seem to absorb the information. I have personally found that switching to reading out loud can help the information stick a little better. It doesn't matter if you're reading to someone (although I like to read to my dogs), or if you're reading to yourself. Verbalising it can help you remember where you are on the page, and allows you to say and hear the exact words you are reading.
Skimming is a particularly useful skill to develop for studying, but it can also be applied to reading of articles, blogs, or even novels. For example, were I the one reading this blog, I would read the bolded portions first, and double back to read the whole thing at once as soon as I knew exactly what I was trying to absorb. I find that skimming ahead in the page I am reading can also help me determine what is going on, and allow me to keep focused when I read through it properly.
Read with the intent to review.
When you read with the intent to review, you are more likely to focus on smaller details, especially within the plot and characters. Whether you actually intend to write the review (and I do recommend it, as it is excellent writing practice, and is great for memory recall when the book is done), or you only intend to read it and set it aside, reading a book as if you were going to provide a review of it allows you to pick up on details that your fogged brain might otherwise miss.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Three. Six days of leave taken total.)
|I have a lot of really strong beliefs. I am a feminist, and I'm not ashamed to apply the label to myself. I think intersectionality is the key to making feminism work. Gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, and so on, are all things that intersect to give people different experiences in privilege or lack thereof. Many feminists in our current society have embraced the concept of intersectional feminism, which I believe makes feminism a far more welcoming environment, and far more effective in its goals of eliminating all varieties of sexism in society. That said, I still feel left behind.
I have chronic health issues. These issues can make it incredibly difficult to allow me to feel welcome in activist spaces. Events with seating often have chairs that aggravate my pain, with no alternative seating provided except for wheelchair access. There are also a number of outdoor speeches and gatherings that don't really provide any seating at all, meaning I have to sit in the grass--which also means I often have to choose a spot far away so I don't get stepped on.
Many activists like to espouse that if you aren't at marches and protests, you aren't really an activist. I am not always physically capable of joining protests or marches, as much as I like to when I can. Walking too far can simply be too difficult for my body to handle. There are some days where walking at all can feel like a burden, and attending anything is out of the question. Speeches leading up to a march can be long, and you're generally expected to stand for them, which is an added burden when I am expected to walk afterwards.
There have been feminist introductory books that I have read by well respected feminists, feminists I personally respect, that fail to mention the way ability can intersect at all. I recall another book I read that referred to disabled people as being "crippled." When even the academics fail to mention you in terms of intersectionality, it can be really easy to feel left behind.
As a feminist with serious health concerns, I try to make my activism work as best I can. I attend marches and protests when I am physically up to it. I have attended community meetings, speeches, film screenings, etc, when I have known what the space will be like due to a familiarity with the location. I read all of the activist material I can manage. I share information on facebook and twitter to keep my friends and acquaintances in the know. I sign petitions for causes that matter to me. I donate to causes that matter to me when I have the little bit of money to spare. I volunteer with the library to help promote literacy and keep free services running with wide availability, because I know that I can pace myself and work in volunteer positions that won't harm me further.
I think it's important to remember minorities of all types, including the disabled and chronically ill, so that we can move forward as a better society. I think it's important to share this kind of information to remind other activists that not everyone is at the same level of ability, but there are different ways we can help. I think it's important to remind people like me, people who are disabled and/or sick, that our activism counts too, and it's okay to stick with the work we're capable of.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Two. Six days of leave taken total.)
|When getting fully involved in a piece of your own writing, you want to truly delve into the words you are putting on that page. One of the best ways to get comfortable with your story, particularly a lengthier one, is to find out exactly what sort of person your character is going to be. The more you know about your character, he more you truly know them, even if the information you gather won't necessarily be useful.
I have compiled a list of twenty-five questions to ask your character in an attempt to get to know them as best you can. Consider this a sequel to "25 Ways To Procrastinate" for when you're having too much trouble moving your story along to really focus on the plot.
1. What's your favourite book?
2. What's your favourite inspirational quote?
3. What's the dirtiest joke you've ever laughed at?
4. Which way do you prefer to tie your shoelaces?
5. Can you sew?
6. What's the most you've ever eaten at once?
7. Is there a food you avoid like the plague, and if so, what is it?
8. Do you prefer watching movies at the cinema or at home?
9. What is your favourite historical period?
10. If you could interview anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
11. What famous person annoys you most?
12. What is the MPAA rating of your favourite movie?
13. If you live before film exists (and no, I don't have time to explain what film is to you), what are your favourite things to watch?
14. Have you ever had food poisoning?
15. Have you ever lost anyone close to you?
16. Have you ever had any dental work done?
17. Do you believe in fate?
18. What political candidate did you last vote for?
19. Where have you traveled to?
20. Where would you like to travel?
21. What is your ideal job?
22. What is your most embarrassing moment?
23. How do you prefer to obtain your daily or weekly news?
24. What technology are you capable of using, including machinery if you live in the past?
25. What were your parents like?
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-One. Six days of leave taken total.)
|It's only been in the last year or so that I've taken any interest in ancestry, and it wasn't a direct route for me to get to that interest. This is honestly something that surprises even me, as I really enjoy history. It's like fantasy that truly happened, and nothing blows me away more than that. It seems only natural that I would take an interest in ancestry, which brings not only the magic of history, but also the knowledge that I am connected to it.
I read a local history book after picking it up at our local museum, and found my city fascinating. The odd facts and grainy historical photographs caught and kept my attention, although I had been nervous that might local history might not be particularly interesting. Reading the history of where I live felt much like reading the ancestry of a place, rather than a person, which is what made me interested in my own ancestry.
There are a few branches of my family tree that I unfortunately don't have access to documentation for, partially due to language barriers, partially due to having lost the relatives that might have known the most. Even with that in mind, I was able to bring up the topic with my grandmother before she passed away, and she had some information that surprised me. I was given a family made book on one branch of relatives, a book on my hometown with pictures of some of my relatives, and I was advised that their was a book on her direct family ancestors that my father had borrowed.
I actually found out about famous ancestors I have had throughout history, including a woman who was burned at the stake for witchcraft, a subject I was fascinated by growing up. I'm actually doing further research on her, enough that I can hopefully write my own piece on her, backed by the knowledge that she is a far back part of my family tree. It's one thing to be fascinated by a topic, but it's a whole new thing to be fascinated by a topic you have a blood connection to.
The more I read about my local history and my own personal ancestry, the more I realise that it serves as an inspiration in its own right. As a writer who enjoys writing in fantasy and historical fiction, I feel like every fact uncovered is a potential tool to write with, a story that could be brought to life. While I do enjoy completely making up my stories, it's different to have access to a new set of facts that I feel connected to that could be used in a story.
I often take inspiration from my personal life, and the educational things I've studied, but using my ancestry as part of my thought process and writing has added a different dynamic. It makes me wonder what parts of my writing might have been true for people that are my relatives from as much as hundreds of years ago.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty. Six days of leave taken total.)
|I grew up firmly within those few years where the young adult novel market was over-saturated with vampire love stories. Twilight was brand new, and books that were similar to Twilight covered the shelves. I was in the prime age group to read many of these books when they were new, so I did read more than my share of them. A lot of them had a goth-y vibe that I was into at that age, and I've always been (and still am) a fan of a love story with a twist. I even read some more adult romance novels with vampire characters, some of which I am still fond of.
Although I read dozens of vampire books in my early to mid teens, most of the ones that I liked at the time have been long since forgotten. Books that I enjoyed in the moment didn't always have staying power. These three books are some of the few YA vampire love stories that have stayed with my brain despite the decade that has passed. It isn't necessarily a statement of the quality of these books, just how I felt about them at the time.
Braced 2 Bite
Braced 2 Bite by Serena Robar was the first of a trilogy that I quite loved back in the day. This one took an often comedic tone with the vampire myths it went with. The character was a cheerleader who was attacked on her way home, and subsequently turned into a vampire. Unfortunately, her incisors had been removed when she had braces put in years before, so she had no fangs. Her father, an orthodontist, had to make her a specialty set of vampire fang falsies that caused her to talk with a lisp when she went out sucking blood. Of course, other vampires begin to come after her, and their government is threatening her life. Of course she falls for one of the cute vampire government guys. I still have a lot of fondness for this trilogy due to its fabulous sense of humour.
Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber went on as a series probably longer than entirely necessary (nine books over as many years), and I admit I grew out of it before finishing the series. That said, it's still a fun little read. The protagonist lives in a boring town as the local goth outcast, and then a vampire moves into the neighbourhood. I enjoy how much it plays off of traditional vampire tropes while also possessing a message of non-conformity and staying true to yourself. It flips between teen drama, sweet romance, and spooky atmosphere with an ease that makes it a comfortable read.
Boys That Bite
Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi was the first in what I thought was a trilogy and I am just now seeing actually is a series of eight. The last time I read this one it was a trilogy! I can only speak for the early books, but the story kicks off with a focus on twins Sunny and Rayne. Their names absolutely reflect their personalities, and Rayne wants to become a vampire. Unfortunately, the wrong twin gets turned. Sunny, the sunnier twin, struggles to adjust to vampiric life, and falls for a vampire along the way. As the series progresses, it turns out that Rayne is destined to be a slayer instead. The series plays on tropes without becoming too typical, and presents an enjoyable ride along the way.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Forty-Nine. Six days of leave taken total.)