Coming back to center

Hi All,

So, this post, I’m going to chat quick about a few strides I’ve been making towards better health in my life in a few different areas.

Scheduling

So this one is still a work in progress, but basically it’s recently become clear to me that my schedule is way too busy. On an average week when I’m being healthy, between writing, social life, and family, I try not to do more than two to three extra activities (hanging out with friends, going to events, etc.) a week.

Recently, well, let’s just say I’ve been going way over that, with obligations that affect my life on a weekly basis about as numerous as the days of the week, to say nothing of activities beyond that.

Needless to say, I’ve been starting to get a little burnt out.

Which is why, of course, I’m starting to realize that something needs to change. I’m still working on the “how” of doing this, including going over the different obligations I have to see if there are any to change/remove, setting better boundaries for myself, or, in some cases, just sticking it out until things settle down, but progress is being made. I’ll admit I haven’t been doing great at it yet, but I’m confident that with time, or the inevitable burn out that will happen if I don’t, that things will change/get better.

Forgiveness

Another huge stride I’ve been making is in forgiveness. As you may know, I recently had some really difficult things to work through, and while I’ve been trying to make progress in moving on/through those things, one huge area I was struggling with was forgiveness. Thankfully though, God has been helping me a TON and I am really hopeful/optimistic towards moving forward and continuing to walk in forgiveness, with the eventual hopes of full reconciliation, to His glory.

Boundaries

This has been another big area of growth for me lately, with God firmly, gently, and lovingly pushing me to grow. The problem is that usually when I set boundaries, I feel guilty. Like if I were more loving or better or whatever, I would be able to handle more/be more available emotionally or physically (as in, in person)/etc. But something God has really been working on with me lately has been getting better at setting reasonable, healthy, God-given boundaries, particularly in areas where, if I didn’t set them, I could get unhealthy, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise.

And honestly, it’s been good. I’ve been noticing an uptick in my health in pretty much all areas, and while it hasn’t always been pleasant, God has been reminding me how important those boundaries are.

Relationships

Another big one, I think God’s really been working with me on how to navigate more complex relationships, be that in the complexity of the relationships themselves, difficult situations, or even just calling me to higher and deeper levels of relationship. It’s been hard and painful, but also, really good.

Trust

One of the more recent developments, I think this has also been one of the most helpful, mainly in that it’s basically just been coming back to God, or what I would call center. To be more specific, in areas where I’ve started to realize I’ve been drifting, I’ve been working to get back to healthier, more God-centered places. For example, being more watchful of what and how much media I’ve been taking in, re-examining my thought patterns and where I spend my time, spending more time in worship or prayer, and grounding myself in more spiritual truths. I mentioned last post that in some ways it’s felt like trying to get back to shore. This is a big part of that process.

As to trust and how that fits in, I think the main ways that has been manifesting has been in re-remembering things I already know and re-centering around them. For example, trusting God with my schedule (and that he’ll give me all the time I need to do the things He asks me to do), believing in the love and good plans he has for me, and trusting in spiritual truths I already know.

So that’s where I’ve been growing lately. Thank you for reading.


So, now that you know how I’ve been growing, what about you? What are you learning about/what strategies have you been using to implement it? Any new hobbies, tips, or practices you’ve been using to live a healthier, more centered life? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this about my life, faith, journey, or writing, please feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break) using the links in the sidebar or below. Thanks for reading!

Growth opportunities, 2020

Hi All,

I know that I already did a post on resolutions this year, but I wanted a chance to explore some recent areas for growth that I’ve been discovering/pursuing.

History

So, I have never been good at history. And like most people who were bad at history in school, I assumed that it was just because I didn’t like history.

Man, was I wrong.

The spark for this little gem of growth is actually, in no small part from my mom. We were talking about reading, and she was encouraging me to read some more things outside of my genre, suggesting that by reading more non-fiction or even just books outside my usual reading genres, I might find new and different ways of thinking that might spark inspiration in my writing, primarily in regards to characterization and emotion.

Simultaneously, I was working on some research, trying to pin down some cultural aspects of a certain race of creatures in my current novel (giant dog people, for those of you keeping track). So in a rather perfect storm moment, I started studying history.

Specifically, to start, Roman history, slavery, tribal history, and, most recently WW1.

Man, has it been life changing.

The primary way that I’ve been pursuing this has been through a podcast called Hardcore History, hosted by Dan Carlin. Man, is that guy smart. Basically what it is is hours long shows where he walks through certain historical events. For example, I listened to one that was a six hour history on Julius Caesar’s conquering of the Gauls in ancient France. The WW1 one that I’m listening to now is probably close to twenty hours of much the same kind of content.

And it’s been amazing. What I like about it is: a. learning about things that I really should know more about, b. seeing broad strokes that point to the very human things that lead to such events, and c. seeing them unfold over hours rather than the few pages you might spend in a book on similar topics. Carlin pulls from many sources–many primary when possible, for these, and by getting both high level overviews and first hand accounts, it really makes a difference. I know in some ways it’s already helped my writing, and look forward to the great leaps it might bring forth for me as a person as well.

Gardening

So obviously now is not a good time of year to start in on this one, but this one has actually grown out of working at my job. At said job, I work a lot with people closely tied to agronomy, crops, and soils. I’ve learned a ton as a result of this, but it’s also made it clear to me just how much I still don’t know. Like most people in my same demographic, I really don’t know that much about the food I eat, where it comes from, how it’s made, etc.

This is an area I would like to grow in, pun not necessarily intended, but fine whatever.

Now, since I know that gardening takes a ton of work and that I have neither the time, space, or flexibility to take something that big on, I think what this would look like for me at this point would really be just growing one thing. I haven’t decided what this one thing will be (mini-peppers? cucumbers? herbs?), but I think, come spring, I would like to try it.

Given how well my last attempt at growing any kind of plant went, with my poor African Violet still recovering in the tender care of my mom, I’m a little worried for whichever poor seed gets stuck with me, but I’m optimistic that with help, I might be able to get something to grow and get to reap something from my efforts!

Getting back to shore

So, this one is a little tricky.

Because what it is, is that recently, I was in a bit of a rough patch spiritually and emotionally, and was just really struggling with a lot.

Worse, I was having a really hard time getting back to and talking to God about it. Now, this isn’t to say that I was doing nothing. And even since the first draft of this post, I’ve actually taken some big strides. But as I was telling my mom, sometimes when you get off course, it just takes you a little bit of time to get back to shore. Or, depending on your metaphor, out of the boat onto the sea towards Jesus or back on track or, well, you get the picture.

Anyway, point is, I was struggling, but now I’m doing better, with great enthusiasm towards getting farther still soon.

Special thanks to my email friend and loyal reader who has been encouraging me through all of this. Your emails and prayers have meant a lot. You know who you are (I hope).

Anyway, sorry for the short post, but that’s what I’ve got this time around. I’ll talk to you all soon.


So, how about you? Any areas of growth you’re looking at lately? Advice for me on any of the above? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break from that) using the links below or in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!

Horses, carts, and the love gap

Hi everyone! Happy New Year!

Now, I don’t typically think of myself as much of a resolutions person despite my last post, but I do find that the new year, and the holidays in general, make for a good time to reflect, partly because holidays are full of traditions and expectations, which often lead to reflection by comparison, and partly because all the extra time with friends and family usually makes you think about what matters most.

I’ve got to admit, this year was a bit of a bumpy ride. Don’t get me wrong, it was the first Christmas that my brother has been able to be here in five years, having moved across the country about that same number of years ago, and I got the extremely generous surprise of additional days off from work from an extremely generous boss, so I was nothing short of blessed this season, but I was also extremely challenged sometimes by my own heart, both in the face of my own difficulties earlier in the year, days of extremely poor sleeping habits, and my surprising ingratitude in the face of some of those blessings.

In the face of this strange emotional roller coaster, I’ve been rediscovering a few things, lessons that, as I’ve long since realized, I need to be reminded of again and again and again and again (and probably so on and so forth until I die).

Mainly:

  1. To stop putting the cart before the horse.
  2. To learn to lean and rely on those around me.
  3. To remember the love gap.

So, in order.

Stop putting the cart before the horse

So, true confessions here, a little while ago, I got myself into a rough little funk. My sleep schedule had been really bad, I’d had several things building, I wasn’t feeling super well, and I finally just reached, well, a tipping point. It was not fun.

But, in the midst of it, it did remind me of the importance of lesson one, which is: Don’t put the cart in front of the horse.

The crux of this lesson is this. I’m a Christ follower. I want to love people like He did. But if I don’t spend the one on one time with Him, if I don’t understand how truly loved I am first, let Him love me first, I’m never going to get there.

So, so, so, so, so so so so so so so many times, I get mad at myself for not being better at loving people, but then when God tries to love me, I don’t let him.

What the actual frick.

Like, seriously. If I won’t even let God, who is love, do what He does best (and, as a reminder, is) for me, how on earth do I expect lil’ ole dust to dust human me over here to do any better? If I don’t let Him show me what love is, who He is, and how to do it myself, how can I ever expect to learn?

Bottom line? I can’t.

More importantly, I don’t want to. If I don’t have Him, what’s the point?

On to lesson two.

Learning to rely on those around me

As someone who seems determined to take the universal crown of Miss Perfectionism, it can be really, really hard for me to admit when things are going hard for me (not that you’d know from everything I throw up on this blog, haha, but hey, perk of being a reader? Maybe? Hm. Anyway.). There are a few reasons for this, about which I’m sure I could write several more blogs, but the point is, when I’m struggling with things, I tend not to let too many other people know.

Because of this, I often don’t realize the support networks that I actually have in place.

And as anyone who has ever spent an extended period alone or in their head knows, that can put you in a bad space.

But when I actually break down and ask for help, what do you know, it’s there. Always.

A goal for this year that I didn’t mention in my last post (mostly because I hadn’t thought of it yet) is to deepen my relationships. I think because I’m afraid of the risk that relationships entail, the vulnerability, time, effort, conflict, or even heartbreak that can be involved, I tend to keep people a little farther away than I should.

This is not a good thing. Not only does it leave me vulnerable when I’m going through things, it also just means I’m not being a good friend.

And I want to be a good friend.

Lesson three.

The love gap

The more global lesson of all this, I guess you could say, is a lovely little thing I like to call the love gap.

It’s a term I’ve started using when dealing with difficult people or situations.

“Well, they’ve got a big love gap.”

What it means, is this: Most of the crappy things humans do is because they don’t know how loved they are.

I’ll use myself as an example.

Because I don’t fully realize just how much God loves me and that I don’t have to earn it, I can be a perfectionist.

Because of that, I sometimes carry burdens God doesn’t have for me, and rag on someone he dearly loves (myself) when I fail to reach those standards.

It’s also why I so harshly judge others, why I often care more about myself and how I’m feeling than others and how they feel, why I can lack compassion, act selfishly, or be greedy, prideful, and resentful.

Now, of course I’m not all of those things all of the time, but I can be all of them at least some of the time.

I’ve got a love gap.

And so do you, and your neighbor, and coworker, local policeman, and everyone else.

It’s a useful thing to know about.

Not only because it’s helpful in dealing with others (how can you help close their love gap, how can you be more compassionate or understanding because you know it’s just their gap, etc.), but also because it’s extremely useful in self-reflection.

I get so down on myself sometimes for not being a better or more loving person.

But the problem isn’t that I’m some terrible, irredeemable person or some unsalvageable soul. It’s that I’ve got a love gap.

And I’ll never fill it if I keep putting the cart before the horse.

Or if I don’t rely on the people around me–the ones that love me and see what I can’t–to hold me up, help me, love me, and fill that gap.

What do you know. Three days into the new year and I’m (re-)learning already.

Thanks for reading.


So, how about you? Have you learned anything new this year already? Had anything you’ve been ruminating on as we head into it? Goals or resolutions? What about times when you’ve struggled to put the cart in its proper place, had grace for yourself and your gap, or had grace for others and theirs? Tell me in the comments below, and if you want more content about me, my faith, writing, or all the nerdy things I love, feel free to follow me here or on social media (on a break from those) using the links in the sidebar or below.

Goals for 2020

Hi All,

Well, it’s that time of year again, and while I’m typically not much of a resolution’s gal, as we are moving into a new decade, it does seem particularly appropriate to reflect and look forward. So, without further ado, here are my goals for 2020.

Have a book ready to pitch to agents

So, technically, this one is already done. I have a couple of books that are ready to pitch already if I just put in the time to make said pitches (for those foreign to the book publishing world, you pitch books to agents, who then pitch your books to publishers if you try to publish the traditional, non-indie route). But there’s actually a bit more to it than that. What I’m actually hoping to do is to have something that is not only ready to pitch, but is in a form that would be ready to send if said agents heard the pitches and wanted to read it.

My deadline for this is by the time I turn thirty, which for those keeping score, is more or less by the start of November this coming year, or, for those paying super close attention, about ten months from now.

While I seem to be doing well on this so far, with my current draft doing pretty well up until the part I’m struggling through now nearly half-way through the book, the third quarter or so of a book is also the hardest for me to write, so we’ll see.

Develop a plan for achieving goal one

This might seem a little obvious or at the very least necessary for goal one, but I think it’s important for me to set it apart because honestly, it’s a really key component that is difficult in a different way than just sitting down and putting in the work. Mainly because planning long term projects is difficult for me in general, and because it’s even worse when it’s for something that seems to have such an up and down flow of progress like writing does, where getting caught on a single plot snag could set me back by weeks if not months.

But, that’s also why step one of creating this plan is just de-mystifying the entire process. Because if I tell myself I could get set back by weeks over something small, if I tell myself that muse is a fickle creature who could up and fly away for months at a time, I’m more likely to make excuses for her to fly the coop, to say nothing of not just getting my butt in the chair and doing the work (re-developing healthy habits being an additional sub-goal of this process).

The main trick with this goal is that I’m not really sure how to go about it, both in making the plan itself or what the plan should look like. Because yes, I can set goals and deadlines for myself, but I’m not really sure what’s reasonable for those goals yet, or how long each will take.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, please let me know.

Get back into dancing

As regular followers of this blog will know, I recently started doing Zumba, and I love it. I love the sheer joy of movement, I love how good it feels to exercise (especially right after class), I love how empowered and strong I feel while I do it, and I like the accountability that paying for a health program brings.

But it’s also not my favorite kind of dance, because in my dancing heart of hearts, I love ballroom.

Now, I’m not sure how I can get back into ballroom to the degree I would like, either financially or with my schedule, but it is something I hope to do eventually. I think even if I stick with Zumba for now to accomplish this goal, that will be an improvement (a more general fitness goal to be to sustain the weight loss I had last year and to continue improving my health), but the stretch goal would be and probably always will be ballroom.

Read more books

So, this one is another sort of weird one, because this year I actually read 40 books (by Goodreads standards, which is what I always use to measure since it’s easy to track ), but at the same time six of those were single issues of comics, and twenty-two of them were single volumes of manga, which I can typically read in about an hour.

And that’s certainly not to say that there’s anything wrong with any of those. Murder Falcon, which accounted for the comics, was a phenomenal short run comic with so much more heart, epicness, and feeling than one might imagine from the name (okay, maybe you’d pick up the epicness from the name), and Promised Neverland and The Girl from the Other Side, two of the manga/graphic novel series I binged on throughout the year are both extremely well written, thoughtful, gorgeous, and lean. The plotting in both is so tight and smooth, it’s a high standard for me to model my own writing on.

Except, I don’t write either comics (I wish) or manga. So while I love reading all kinds of things like that for fun, it’s not necessarily helpful to me as a writer to only be reading that. And, nothing against them, but since they are so short, it does feel a bit like I’m inflating my numbers sometimes.

So I guess the goal isn’t really to read more books from a count standpoint, so much as reading more that might better help me to grow more as an author or person than I might if I were strictly reading the things I primarily read now, e.g. in my genre, in a broader scope than I usually read, about writing or faith, non-fiction, etc.


So those are my main goals this year. What about you? What goals do you have heading into the next year/decade? How did you do on this year’s goals? Any advice or tips as I head into my 2020? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more posts like this about my life, faith, writing, or recommendations (warning, nerdiness abounds), feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break from those) using the links below or in the side bar. Thanks for reading and happy new year! I’ll see you in 2020!

Saving Atlan

Hi everyone,

I know I’m cutting it close again on posts this year, but I promise that at least this time, it’s going to be a little more in depth post.

So, I recently had a fairly big breakthrough on writing, which was, more or less, fixing a problem I had caused for myself over a year ago.

What happened was this:

In the book I’m working on now, there’s a character named Atlan. I’ve talked about him here before, and the main problem I was having is that, well, I was pretty scared about what people would think of him. He’s basically the heir to an empire that has enslaved another species, and while he doesn’t know that at the start of the book, he’s also not tremendously caring about it when it’s first brought to his attention. Albeit, there are reasons he starts off in denial, but still, he’s not the easiest sell as a character, and he’s the second major lead behind Mira, one of the people enslaved by his species. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about it.

Then, it happened. I got feedback about him that was pretty harsh. And because I was already worried about it, and the feedback came from someone I would consider a pretty reliable sounding board for this kind of thing, well, I basically panicked. Going back, I made him a lot more sympathetic and easily influenced from the start, took out a lot of his denial, and basically made him side with Mira right away.

Except, the problem with that is that once I started making changes, he just didn’t work anymore. All of the actions that he took that drove the plot no longer made sense, the times when he would challenge Mira and fight with her seemed wrong, and well, ultimately he didn’t have anywhere to go as a character. As soon as he was confronted, he realized he was wrong, and that was that.

That, my friends, is not a story.

Now, after more than a year of putzing around trying to make it work, I think I’ve finally managed to undo the damage, returning him, mostly, to his initial state.

Which brings me to the point of this post, which is to share the two lessons I’ve learned as a writer from this experience.

Trust your instincts

I’ve done a lot of editing on this book in the last year or so, both in having committed to using it for my first book to get published and in using it as a test/case study for my deep dive into story structure that I did this year. And the funny thing is, the more I’ve worked on it, the more that I’ve realized that what I had to start isn’t as bad as I thought. Sure, I’ve had to tweak the structure, yes, I’ve made improvements and cut a lot, but the bones of the story, the spine of the characters and the changes they go through, isn’t bad.

Author Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

And that’s true. As a writer, I’m always surprised by first drafts, especially as a pantser. For me, though I always need a beginning and to know where I’m ending, the middle is always a surprise. You’d think that would end with a hot mess. But it doesn’t, and when I edit, even if the line by line writing isn’t the smoothest or there are big loops of story that need to be trimmed or added or better woven in, I’m almost always surprised by the intuition I seem to have put into the story, specifically for the characters and where they need to go. This isn’t to brag by any means. Any writer is capable of this, and many will tell you stories of readers enforcing the same. I think it’s just to say that when you’re a writer and you tell that first draft story to yourself, I think there’s something inside you that really does know what the story is. Like Stephen King’s analogy of unearthing a dinosaur or Michaelangelo’s story about chiseling out some already pre-formed David hidden in a hunk of stone, a lot of writing or editing is, in a way, just unearthing what you already know is there, the story you’re already going to tell.

So, when you start questioning that story, whether or not it’s the right one to tell or why you wrote something that you just can’t seem to get away from, just be wary and remember that while some characters or plots may need to change, while you should be mindful of structure and story rules, and you should be open to critique, those first seeds you planted should not be ignored. Sometimes you just need to dig deeper and trust your gut.

Be sympathetic to your characters

Of the two lessons, I think this one is more important.

In sum, it’s that characters can and sometimes should be unlikable, even heroes can be unheroic, and that’s okay.

Now, I’m not talking about just your average chain-smoking, foul-mouthed anti-hero (not that I don’t love me a good anti-hero, because I do). Because, usually, anti-heroes are at least likable.

What I mean is that if you’re going to have a story about humans (or humanoids or sentient beings or whatever you have), they’re not going to be perfect. That means, like Atlan, they’re going to start off with flaws that aren’t pleasant. And, depending on the story you’re telling, that might not even change.

But that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that they’re bad.

Because that, my friends, is life.

Every person you meet is only partway through their story. And since art and story attempts to capture, in some way, life, your characters should be too.

For me, well, that means that Atlan is prejudiced. Honestly, Mira is too.

And that, to a certain non-moral degree, is okay. We’re all shaped by the histories, cultures, experiences, and God-given talents and personalities we have/have had, and this world isn’t perfect. That means the people in it aren’t going to be perfect. So if I need to face criticism or flack to give these characters the time and space they need to grow and change and get better, well, that’s fine by me. That’s a risk all writers have to take.

To be honest, I think this is a flaw in Western writing (I’m not as experienced with other culture’s writing, so don’t want to speak to that one way or another), that we always have to have the hero, that their way is always the right way, their moral the right way to live.

But life is more complicated than that, and I want to make space for that in my writing.

To quote Into the Woods, “Witches can be right, giants can be good.”

Life is more complicated than we can imagine. And learning to love people, to give them grace, in the midst of it, is one of life’s greatest journeys, goals, and callings (Mark 12:29-31).

The irony in this whole situation is that this story, as I’ve been discovering, is ultimately about grace. And I nearly destroyed the whole novel because I was afraid of writing characters who need it.

So yeah, maybe Atlan won’t hit the mark with everyone. Maybe it will even spark uncomfortable conversations, for my readers or myself.

But I’m only a human, puzzling this out like everyone else, and if that means I get it wrong or it takes time or patience or grace for me as well as the characters, well, that’s why I’m writing the book.

Thanks for reading.


So, what about you? Have you ever had times when you’ve struggled with people or characters being both bad and a little good? Read any good books that handle this well? What about struggling to forgive? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, about my writing, faith, or nerdy recommendations, please feel free to follow me here or on social (please note I’m currently on a break from these) using the links below or in the sidebar.

Recommendation Roundup, November 2019, pt. 2

So, we’re going to pick right back up from where we left off last time, with a bunch of anime I’ve been watching lately cause it has been a good year for me for anime.

So, without any further ado, in no particular order, let’s go!

No Guns Life

So, as a giant nerd, I regularly receive emails from both Crunchyroll and Funimation, two streaming services for anime, highlighting upcoming shows. And a lot of the time, because anime is so ridiculous, I’ll send my brother (not an anime guy) screenshots of the emails, talking about how ridiculous a show’s name or premise is. A prime example would be Fire Force, the email for which seemed to feature a weird guy without shoes and a ridiculous smile, a mostly-naked-for-no-reason cat girl, a witch, a nun, a guy with a light saber, and a couple of other weird looking people all in firefighter clothes.

But the funny thing is that a lot of the time, if I actually give those same shows a shot, they’re actually REALLY good. Fire Force being one main example.

No Guns Life is another example, mainly because the main character, Juzo Inui, has a gun for a face. That’s right. A gun. For a face.

But also, the show is AMAZING. For one thing, the art style is absolutely gorgeous. For another, the premise hits that semi-pulpy, bachelor detective fighting the evil corporation sci-fi vibe that just drives me wild (think Bladerunner or Ghost in the Shell adjacent). The premise is that Juzo Inui, an “extended” (someone with cybernetic parts that extend their capacity beyond normal human abilities), takes on cases to solve problems with other extended. He has a tenuous alliance with the powers that be to ensure that if his cases don’t go according to plan, he doesn’t get into too much trouble, and is happy eking out his existence in such a manner. Then one day, a boy with mysterious powers to control extended reaches out to him for help, claiming to have been illegally experimented on, and the show goes on from there. It’s got a neat premise, is absolutely gorgeous, and the characters are fun and engaging. I’ve got to say it’s easily one of my favorite shows I’ve seen all year.

Also the main theme, though it runs a little long in the show itself, is amazing.

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit is one I found via Hulu’s recommendations after watching No Guns Life (good job Hulu, who is actually responsible for a couple on this list). The premise is that rookie copy Nanatsuki Seiji gets co-opted into the Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit (Special 7 from here on out) after getting tangled in one of their cases. The unit itself is dedicated to hunting a terrorist group known as Nine, who worship dragons. Though mostly a police procedural show, it has the added twist that this is an urban fantasy setting, with elves, dwarves, vampires, homunculi, magic, and more. What’s nice about it though, is that it doesn’t go too hard on the fantasy part. Magic is under tight government control, and though members of other species/races show up and are included in the unit, they aren’t super goofy or ridiculous–or even all that obvious. Though they might have cultural differences or some powers, they aren’t super over the top. The show has a nice animation style, is self-assured about what it is and sticks to it, and also has some nice humor to it, primarily through the interactions of Nanatsuki and Ichinose, his somewhat reluctant partner/mentor.

Cells at Work

So this one kind of feels like an honorable mention, but for the sake of honesty, I’ll include it. Cells at Work is a show about the lives of the various cells in your body, from the main two characters, Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell (the best cell, in case you were wondering), to platelets (the main one looks exactly like me from when I was little, FYI), Killer T cells, dendrites, macrophages, and more. Each episode features them battling some new condition, from the common cold, to allergies, to heat stress, and more. The show has a weird Magic School Bus meets Dragon Ball Z meets Battle Royale vibe, but is also really educational, often pausing to explain who different cells are, what we know about them, and what they do. It’s a little hard to place or recommend because I’m not always sure how to describe it (seems like it could be an educational show for kids a la a more grown up Magic School Bus, but then White Blood Cell will just go to town knifing up a bacteria or they’ll start screaming mild obscenities at the germs, which could just be a translational thing, and then I’m not sure what to say), but if you want to learn a little more about your body with some good humor and a mostly likable cast, this could be a good fit for you. It’s also fun because once you start watching, you start thinking about what these characters might be experiencing inside you every time you sneeze or get sick or whatnot. I will say one flaw about it is that because each episode is based on a specific malady and the main characters are all cells, it’s a little hard to get much traction as far as a plot or character development through line. They do have a few flashback episodes to explain what happens to cells as they grow up, and there is an epic two-parter for a really serious injury, but it’s not like the cells are ever going to fall in love (despite White Blood Cell being an absolute bae) or go on some grand adventure to fight an evil wizard or something. It ends up giving the show a sort of stilted feel sometimes, because the characters by nature can’t grow as much as you might hope they could were they not, you know, human body cells, but it’s still educational and fun to watch. And, as an allergy sufferer, I have to say, that episode is brilliant.

07 Ghost

So, this is a weird one. Because in a lot of ways, it’s not that different from your usual anime in this genre. The premise is that Teito, an angry young military student with a terrible past, discovers that he’s actually a prince from a destroyed kingdom, has access to a super-powered artifact, and must now choose between choosing light and the power/love/trust of his friends or darkness and revenge for his destroyed loved ones. As with many anime, it has a really convoluted religious system, gets super abstract and nonsensical by the end, and has a bunch of random stuff thrown in for apparently no reason (for example, the organ-player at the church where most of the show takes place is a mermaid).

However, what I like about it is as follows:

  1. The majority of the show takes place in a church, and the picture of that church is actually sort of accurate. The nuns live quiet lives cleaning and helping the poor that come to them, the bishops help with those activities and services, when the church is attacked they turn to prayer, and they welcome Teito in and give him asylum when he has nowhere else to go. Now, I will say that that’s about where the similarities end, what with the mermaid organ player, the shape-shifting of several of the bishops into sort of angel/demi-god/servants of God, their understanding and completion of what are essentially exorcisms, and the weird Judeo-Christian-Greek-Roman-Buddhist-etc. religious mix they’ve got going on for the actual theology, but to have most of the show take place in a church and to see similarities and differences was fascinating. And, since a lot of animes feature churches in a sort of religious fanatic/snake oil salesman/corruptive light, seeing one that was actually good and trying to do good in ways that sort of line up with what Christianity really should line up with was neat, differences aside.
  2. Three dreams. So, this was a cool thing where in their theology, God basically has each soul tell him three dreams they’d like to accomplish before they die, but then when they’re actually born, they forget what their dreams were, so life is all about discovering the three things you were sent to do, and when they’re done, you can die peacefully and return to God. Those who turn to evil to get their dreams faster lose their souls to said darkness. Does it hold any theological water? No. But it is fun to think about, was a unique twist, and actually held some sway in the actual plot, so that was nice.
  3. Emotional depth. The characters in this show actually felt things quite strongly, and while I was watching, so did I. While some of it was fairly cheesy or cliche, it was still Very well done.
  4. Frau. Frau is one of the three bishops featured in the show, and while he’s definitely the bad boy of the three, with some issues that really should be addressed for a bishop (naughty magazines, for example), he’s also complex, intriguing, and an all around the cool guy. The story of how he got to be a bishop was particularly interesting–including his current, somewhat antagonistic relationship with God, and he also brought out some of the best bits of humor and fighting in the show. Of all the characters, he was definitely my favorite.

So yeah, ultimately not necessarily an objectively good show, but definitely one I really enjoyed, if for unconventional reasons. Also, please go look up pictures of Frau, because he’s amazing and I basically either want to be him or be his friend at the very least. I couldn’t find a good video of the opener that I felt good about posting here copyright wise, so that’s why I didn’t bother to include that here. It’s worth watching if only for Frau and the ridiculous notion that the top of a giant spire would be a comfortable place to sit (spoiler: it’s not).


Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you enjoy these if you look them up, and if you have any thoughts on them or other recommendations for shows for me to check out, please let me know in the comments below. If you want more recommendations, or updates on my life, faith, or writing, please feel free to follow me using the links in the sidebar or below. Thanks for reading!

Recommendation Roundup: November, 2019, pt. 1

Hey all,

I’m still in processing mode from a lot of things, and as we’re heading into the busy season of the year, it may be a while yet, but I did want to get at least one post up soon (how are we so far into November already??), and since I’ve been sick the last few days and binging a lot of shows, I figured I’d just go ahead and share what I’ve been watching. Warning, this is definitely going to be a special, anime edition of recommendation roundup. But also, this year has been a great year for anime for me, so there’s some great stuff in here. Oh, and P.S. no, I didn’t watch all of these just in the last couple of days. These are actually from several months, haha.

So, in no particular order:

Fire Force

I know I mentioned this one in my last recommendation roundup post, but since it continues to be great and is still ongoing since my last post, I figured I would recommend it again. The premise is that as people have started to spontaneously combust, special fire soldiers must track down the cause, with different fire companies being controlled by varying religious, military, and commercial funders. The show centers around Company 8, whose purpose–besides finding the source of the combustions–is to investigate the other companies and make sure they’re on the up and up. The show is absolutely beautifully animated, funny, and has a great plot. As I mentioned before, do watch out for some pervy humor, but that’s actually lessened a lot since the show’s start, so that’s great news. Since the opener is so gorgeous and the song is so fun (great band overall, FYI) I’m gonna go ahead and re-add that here.

Bem

So, this one surprised me a little. I found it because it came up as a suggested show related to one of the ones above (Special 7, I think?) on Hulu, and since the main character looks SO COOL, I figured I’d give it a try. Turns out, not only is this a reboot (one of many, this being a 50th anniversary from the original series from 1968), it’s actually a rapid departure from the old style of the show, which up until this one had a much more 60s almost Hanna Barbara vibe, so far as I could tell at least from pictures. I haven’t actually seen any, so I can’t speak to the tone (let me know if you have!). Anyway, this time they went a completely different direction, with something closer to a jazzy, noir-y, night club feel, and even had what appeared to be a nod to the famous painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper in one of their episodes.

“You know, the diner one.”

Combine this with the fact that the premise of the show is that three humanoid monsters protect a city that despises them in hopes of one day becoming human themselves, and you can see why this is naturally VERY MUCH my vibe.

That being said, I will say the show does have some pretty serious flaws, mainly having some trouble getting a strong plot through line (especially in the beginning), lacking some emotional depth some times, a few elements that go unresolved, and an ending that in classic anime style goes a little abstract/off the rails. It is still fun to watch though, especially any time the main character Bem is on screen (such intrigue. Swoon, haha), and I’m hoping that if they get a second season (which I hope they do), they’ll be able to dive deeper into some of the elements that didn’t seem to get quite enough time in this one (mainly some inter-character relationships, the main character himself, their histories, and the mysterious Dr. Recycle, who does illegal human modifications). To give a taste of it, here’s the intro, with the three monsters being Bem (the hat guy, also the coolest, also the one with the prettiest, most attractive eyes ever), Belo (headphones kid), and Bela (side pony-tail schoolgirl). Oh, and fun side note, because some of the villains in the show are actually pretty silly, especially given the otherwise more serious vibe of the show, it also kind of has this weird like, 90’s kids show vibe to it a la Gargoyles (yeeeessssss) and Batman the Animated Series, which is both kind of weird but also great.

Black Bullet

So, turns out this one actually came out in 2014, but was so popular, they’re actually going to come back for another season hopefully next year. It, like Bem, also has some flaws, but I also just really liked it. The premise of the show is that some weird virus thing turns people into monsters, and the only ones who can fight them well are super-powered little girls born of women infected by said virus. The girls pair up with people who basically take care of/control them and together they protect humanity. As to flaws, there are some bits of humor that toe the line, some plot holes, and some times when the characters/tone felt really inconsistent, but because it hit that sweet spot of techno-magic and thriller for me, I still really enjoyed it. And, Enju, the little girl who partners up with the show’s main protagonist Rentaro is also super adorable, so that helps too.

Do I understand why Enju uses such large and weird hairclips? No. Do I still adore her? Yes.

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts is a show about Hank, a super soldier who can turn into a monster and hunts down his fellow super-soldier friends as they start to lose themselves to their monster forms, and Schaal, the daughter of one of said monsters who is determined to discover the truth about Hank and his mission. Pros about it are a cool premise, some really pretty fight scenes, and a cool twist on mythology, in which many of the creatures are based off of traditional mythic creatures or monsters (the way they handle the minotaur and vampire in particular were pretty great). Flaws include a certain lack of emotional breadth in some of the characters to start (cough cough, Hank, cough cough), some fairly trope-y character types, and the fact that ultimately, some of the monsters are doomed to be a little silly. There are also some structural gaps in the plot that were a little disorienting, but overall, it was enjoyable to watch and as the characters developed more, I did start to care more. Schaal in particular is great and more complex than the others from the start.

So, there are still four more shows, I wanted to share, but since this post is already getting pretty long. We’ll be saving those for next time. In the meantime, please enjoy these! Thanks for reading!


So, how about you? Any good shows you’ve been watching lately? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more content like this, or updates on my life, faith, or writing, feel free to follow me here using the links in the sidebar or below!

Drawtober 2019

Hi All,

It’s been a long time since I’ve cut it so close on a blog post (less than two hours left in the month, haha), but it’s going to be a quick one.

So, October is always Drawtober/Inktober, a time when artists of all kinds can draw something every day, often based on daily prompts. While I don’t usually follow the prompts, my schedule and interest in this as a hobby not stretching far enough to match that level of dedication, but I have drawn something every day, or close to, for the last couple years.

Well, as I alluded to in my last post, this was a pretty hectic year for me, so I didn’t really get to do that, but I did want to share what I do have because, hey, the point is to draw, so even if I didn’t get to do very much, I did still get to draw, and that’s great. So, with about as much fanfare as these are due, let’s check them out.

October 2

This day, I was super tired when I worked on them, so I mostly did pictures of sleepy things, haha. I tried doing a lot of freehand pictures this year without references, so I started with Thor, and then moved on to a sleepy picture of Cog (I also did two this day because I was trying to catch up, in a way. I tried doing that on other days too of course, haha, but obviously those didn’t all add up to thirty-one. Oh well!). For Cog’s, I tried some ambitious posing. It didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, but it was still fun to try.

October 4

This day, I started off with more sleepy folks, this time Rick and Cog (in human form). Cog is on the left. It’s been a little while since I’ve drawn these two, and I didn’t try anything super fancy with them, so I’m not thrilled with the result, but given that I was trying to do this in a small corner and was probably tired that day too, I don’t hate it.

October 8

This is where the freehand work really started to kick in. I really enjoyed drawing Thor without looking, so I wanted to try it again. This time, I did a hummingbird, dragonfly, cat, and mallard. I obviously didn’t get terrible fancy with any of them, but it was still a good test of my anatomical knowledge of them (especially the two birds) and fun to draw/erase/draw again as I remembered the proper shapes.

So, sadly, that’s about as far as I got this year, but like I said, the point really is just to draw, so I don’t feel terrible about it, especially with how chaotic the month was. I’m hoping that next year will be more consistent/better, and now that I’m not on Facebook anymore, I’ll be able to post them here instead.


So, how about you? Did you participate in Drawtober/Inktober this year? Have any favorite artists who did? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to check them out! Want more updates like this, with my art, life, or extremely nerdy recommendations? Follow me here on the blog or on social media (currently on a break with the latter, may return later) using the links below or in the sidebar. Thank you for reading! Happy art-making!

Birthday questions, 2019

Hi everyone! I promise I haven’t forgotten the blog!

“Cake? I’ve never had cake before….” *Hungry snarf noises*

Honestly, the last two months have just been insanity, and between an extremely busy schedule and a lot of processing, I just haven’t had much head space to write/much that I felt I could write about with any confidence.

But that’s when I remembered: My birthday is coming up (29, yeesh), which means that it’s the perfect time to reflect on a larger scale with birthday questions! Specifically, the questions that some of my friends use every birthday to share reflections on their years with the people they love.

So without further ado, birthday questions:

What are three highlights/lowlights for your year?

So, in the interest of keeping this blog post light and hopefully a little bit shorter, I’m actually not going to share any lowlights here, but I did have some really great highlights. In no particular order:

  • I got to go to Florida with my dad for a podcasting conference/vacation at Universal. The weather was beautiful, the memories were even better, and man, do we have some good stories. It was a great, great time.
#sunburn #memories
  • I got to go to a writers’ retreat that I have wanted to go to for years. It was Write by the Lake, an annual five day writers’ retreat in downtown Madison where you take classes in the morning and write/hang out with other writers in the afternoons/evenings. I learned a ton and made some great memories there too.
  • I became a paid writer. This year, as I know I’ve mentioned, I finally became a paid writer with my regular gig blogging for a tea company. They are so kind to me, generous, and great to work with and I am so, so happy that I get to work with a company that works with one of my personal sub-passions: tea!
  • I attended some great weddings. I know there should only be three of these, but I did also want to say that I got to go to some great weddings, including my sister’s, my cousin’s, and one of my best friend’s. And hey, if I have extra nice things to share, that’s not too bad, right? 😉

Subcategories

This is my favorite part of birthday questions, where each person lists whatever -ly words they want, and then the birthday person rates their year on a scale from 1-10 in that category. For example, spiritually, athletically, socially, etc. For these purposes, I’m just going to share a few that are either fairly common or that I specifically wanted to highlight.

Spiritually

So, this one is actually kind of tough because in a lot of ways it’s been a bit of an up and down year for me. On the one hand, I’ve learned a ton about things like grace, forgiveness, and mercy, but on the other, I’ve often felt distant or even put distance between myself and God. On the third hand though, I’ve also gotten a lot better about being honest with God, with trusting Him, or believing some of the things that I’ve always found hard (mainly in trusting His love for me). I’ve gotten better at silencing anxiety to hear Him when I’m stressed out or actively seeking His will in certain situations (whether or not I’m good at carrying it out), and even in the midst of wrestling with Him, have had some really sweet, tender moments. I’ve been challenged in my default views about God or how I approach our relationship/interactions, and though I still have a ways to go with that, I am hoping to keep on that track!

Overall rating: 7/8

Physically

This year was actually a really good one for me from a health perspective. Not only did I lose about ten pounds, but I also started going on long walks, did fairly well in the Fit Club program at my work until just recently, and started doing Zumba. I was able to go to several great dances, and am hoping to get back into it more whenever my schedule/finances start to allow.

Overall rating: 8

Educationally

This year was great for me educationally. Besides going to the podcasting conference for my job, I also did a lot of research on writing (specifically plotting, which was my goal for the year), got to take that whole week off to study plot structure at Write by the Lake, and attended a smaller writing retreat as well. I’ve done some research for the tea blog, and have also learned a lot of life lessons too, not least of which being how to live on my own with having moved out of my parents for nearly a year.

Overall rating: 8

Socially

This year was both really great and really tough for me socially. I developed some really, really close friendships, and also suffered some heavy social blows. I learned a lot of hard but important lessons, including how to advocate for myself, how and when to stick up for myself, when to let things go, and how to be more firm when needed. I’ve pushed myself to get to know some new people, gotten better at trusting (mostly), and pushed myself to take more risks, even when I’m not sure they’ll pan out (you know, like what a risk is, haha). I’ve seen beautiful examples of grace and friendship and support just when I needed it, offered some of the same to others in need, and have taken strides towards opening up and leaning into the friendships I have, even when other ones I have have been painful. I am learning not to take single examples as proxies for how everyone else around me feels, am learning not to discount myself from experiences or friendships I have previously felt were out of reach, and also grown more comfortable in who I am, both as a person in general (including healthy boundaries for myself and comfort/peace in the kind of stay at home introverted lifestyle I enjoy), and as an adult with time management needs and requirements and the like.

Overall rating: 7

Emotionally

This one is another tough one to choose, as there have been some major highs and some major, major lows for me. In general, I think I’ve done fairly well at taking certain things in stride or reacting better than I know I would have in the past, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. One huge area of growth has been allowing myself to feel more negative emotions than I would have in the past, or rather, learning to give myself grace and space to do so. For a long time, I’ve felt like feeling negative emotions like sadness, anger or grief were a sort of emotional or even spiritual failing. But, as I’ve learned to be more honest with God, He’s been faithful in showing me that it’s okay to feel the things that I feel, and that, go figure, that’s not only a part of, but an important part of being human and, even more importantly, that He can handle it/isn’t upset or disappointed if I feel them. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can sit in them forever/let them take over, which is ultimately why this one probably isn’t going to rank that high. A lot of times this year, my negative emotions really got out of control, both in my ability to control them, and in–especially when I shouldn’t have–my feeding them.

Overall rating: 5

One thing I’m looking forward to

For this one, I think I’m looking forward to a couple related things. First, healing, especially from recent wounds. Second, growth, specifically in first getting back to God and then growing stronger as he heals me. Third, just getting back to a good place again, whether that’s in getting a new flow/routine, getting back to writing, starting to plan and hope for the future again, or anything else. So, mostly just getting back to an even keel enough to refocus and find a new path.

One thing I’m not looking foward to

Fear of failure. I’ve got a fairly big goal this year, so honestly, I’m really just not looking forward to having to fight through dragging my feet because I’m afraid of failing. Part of this will mean developing a routine, part of it will mean finding people to hold me accountable, part of it will be, well, I’m not even sure what else. But it’s going to take a lot.

One goal for myself

My big goal is to have a book that I feel is in good enough shape for me to pitch to literary agents (as in would have a draft that’s good enough to send, not just concept) by the time I am thirty. Since I’m turning twenty-nine this year, the clock is about to start in earnest. But that’s my goal. If you want to encourage me throughout the year, please feel free.

So that’s it! Those are my birthday questions! Feel free to use them on your (or a friend’s) next birthday and I hope you enjoyed mine. I’ll have another post up in the next couple days!


So, any other subcategories you’d like to ask? Any goals you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below and if you want to get more content like this, feel free to follow me here on the blog. Thank you for reading!

Recommendation roundup: September 2019

Hi All,

Wow, I am cutting it really close to the wire on this one. But hey, I’ve been busy with my life getting a little thrown up in the air lately (yay, blog fuel), so I’m fine with a bit of a closer shave this time around.

Anyway, to keep things light this time, I figured I’d just share a little about what I’ve been into lately in the hopes that you can find something you like too.

Fire Force

So beautiful!

So, because I’m a giant nerd, I’m subscribed to emails from a few different anime streaming services. And because anime is ridiculous, when they tell me about insane new shows, sometimes I’ll text my brother screenshots of how crazy they are.

This one, which featured a nun, a girl with not enough clothes on for no reason, a firefighter with a wizard hat, a guy with super pointy monster teeth for no reason, a guy with what basically looked like a light saber, and the premise that a group of firefighters have to stop people who spontaneously combust/turn into monsters as its premise, definitely got that treatment.

Except then my anime guru friend told me to watch it, and since I trust her, I gave it a shot.

Man, has this show taken me by surprise.

Besides being beautiful (see above video, and yes, most of the rest of the show is that gorgeous), the plot is actually really good, with mystery, drama, and some nice twists. And while the girl with not enough clothes on for no reason (and a few others, actually) does continue to frequently get into stupid locker room humor situations (come on, anime, seriously) pretty much every episode to the point that it feels almost like satire, honestly, I think it’s probably my favorite show right now. So, if you can get past some almost nudity and stupid humor on occasion, you’re gonna be fine.

Demon Slayer

What is with these gorgeous openers? Seriously.

So, this show has come as another surprise to me. I heard about it from a different friend, and it is absolutely beautiful.

The premise is essentially that when Tanjiro’s sister Nezuko is turned into a demon, he goes on a quest to become a demon slayer, both to save other humans and to find out how to turn her back.

I’ll be honest, it’s pretty violent, so if that’s not your jam, stay away.

But if that doesn’t bother you, this is another great one to check out. The animation is insanely beautiful, the characters are a lot of fun (not going to lie, Tanjiro himself is pretty flat, but I’m hoping for some growth for him in future), and, to my great surprise, it’s actually pretty funny. You know, when they aren’t in super gory demon battles.

Karneval

Okay, so I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned this one before, but as long as I’m on an anime kick, I’d like to recommend this one.

It only lasted a season, and didn’t get through all of the manga, but it’s cute and fun (though also with some violence, mostly up front), and the characters are supremely likable, all in all, particularly in the manga.

I’ll also admit I’m only up to about where the show ended in the manga, but we’ll go from there.

Zumba

So, my sister and I will sometimes take fitness classes through local programs, and this year we finally decided to try Zumba. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a workout based primarily on dancing/cardio mashups. I’ve been kind of curious about it for a long time, but we finally decided to give it a go.

Man, is it fun.

Super sweaty and a good/hard workout? Yes. But also, so, so fun.

It’s also come at a really ideal time for me, because as I’m realizing, when I’m in a rough patch, or even when I’m not, moving and dancing really just makes me feel good. When I’m not dancing regularly, I forget that, so having something that I’m paying for (to make sure I go) that is regularly scheduled has really done a lot for my mental health. The first time I went, not having done much dancing for a while, I swear it was a healing experience.

And now that I’ve got the movement bug again, hopefully I’ll be able to get back in gear and pick up dancing again.

Church

Okay, so this last one is probably the most important, and basically what it is is not the actual practice of going to church (though that is super valuable and important too!), but the people themselves, Christ’s body and bride, the church.

As I’ve alluded to above, I’m in a little bit of a chaotic season, and besides that have been realizing some things in my life that need to get addressed (more on that later). And being able to go to a church where I am welcomed, loved, and encouraged whether or not I’ve even given back anything has meant more than I’m sure any of those people have realized.

Going to church or church events has not always been easy for me. Because I like weird stuff (or violent stuff, or just not typical “Christian” stuff, see above), I’ve often felt a little squeamish or afraid of being “found out,” rejected, or scolded about my weird interests (and to be fair, some people shouldn’t watch the things I do, just like there are certain things others are fine watching that I don’t/shouldn’t). But at the church I’ve started going to, even despite my flaws, even despite coming to church angry or weepy or anything else, I’ve felt so loved and accepted and welcomed in such a non-pressuring way, it’s been amazing.

So even if you’re weird, even if you don’t think you do or can belong, even if you’re angry or hurt or upset, find yourself a good, Jesus-modeling church. Their love, Christ’s love, will set you free.


Anyway, that’s what I’m up to lately. How about you? What are some good hobbies, media, or otherwise that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below. Want more content like this, about my life, faith, or writing journey? Subscribe now and feel free to follow me on social media (though social media and I are on a break, so I may not respond there right away) to stay in touch. Thank you!