The One Where Magpie Turns 30.

So it’s May.

Can we all agree to not know how this happened? Because I really seriously feel like the last two months somehow flew by in the span of a week. I’m not sure how. But I swear it did.

Because it’s May. More than halfway through May, actually.

And I’m super-duper not ready for it.

Because in just a few days, I turn the big 3-0.

Thirty.

big cat
Baby me being dwarfed by my parents’ first cat.

Yeaaaaa I don’t know how this happened so fast… Thirty years have seemingly passed in a fraction of the time… but I guess here we go?

petrushka
Inching closer to my parents’ first dog at age 3 – who I was terrified of.

I mean, realistically I know that the day of my birthday isn’t going to feel any different. It’ll be exactly like every other day. It’s not like I’ll wake up immediately feeling like a different – older – person. I know logically that “age is just a number.”

But idk… I’m having trouble not assigning some sort of significance to this one. To not being a “twenty-something” anymore. It just kind of seems like this looming cloud on the horizon.

30.

cat picnic
Having a plastic chicken picnic with the cat at age 5.

I know where the dread comes from. I know it’s because societally we’ve got these concepts of what it means to be a “twenty-something” vs. what it means to be a “thirty-something.” Societally speaking it’s okay for twenty-somethings to not have it all together, but thirty-somethings are supposed to. And I don’t. It’s okay for twenty-somethings to not have the hang of running their own lives quite yet, but by thirty you’re supposed to be an expert at “adulting.” And… uhhhh… I’m not. I was supposed to be somewhere close to achieving all the things my younger self took for granted that I would. And well, I’m nowhere near it.

Me 9th grade
Killin’ it at 9th grade Homecoming. I thought I was the shit with that MaxFactor lipstick.

And I also know that, well, it doesn’t matter.

There is no set age for having your own place, for being able to afford your own pet, for buying a house, for feeling like a real adult. I know that these are seriously just these stupid expectations that somehow over the course of 30 years I’ve internalized from various places without thinking about it or questioning it, and that ultimately it’s all bullshit. There is no such thing as a “proper path.” There is no pre-perscribed timeline that somehow I’m failing by not keeping up with.

me 21st birthday
Officially a 20-something on my 21st birthday.

The logical part of my brain knows this.

But the irrational side can’t let go of the “holy shit you can’t be serious this is not happening nooooooooooo” feeling. That little voice inside my head that can’t let go of that plan I originally had for myself. The one that keeps screaming, “NO YOU CAN’T BE TURNING THIRTY YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE YOUR OWN HOUSE AND A DOG AND HAVE TRAVELED TO ENGLAND AND JAPAN AND RUN A 10K BY NOW.”

I find myself overwhelmed with a case of the “coulda, shoulda, wouldas.”

And I need to stop.

Because the reality is that I think I’ve done pretty well for myself, all things considered. Given the new financial realities of the world and the field I chose, the path I had planned out for myself growing up in the booming 90s just wasn’t to be. But I’ve been some cool places and done some cool things. I have a family and a significant other who love me and are just downright wonderful. I have a career which I can honestly say I love and working with my students keeps me feeling energized and young at heart. And so I may not make much, and I may not have hit all these supposed “milestones” that my younger self assumed I would have by now – but I’ve generally enjoyed the ride here.

Disney Castle
Almost thirty, and still a kid at heart.

And that’s more than a lot of people can claim.

So it’s time for me to put on my thirty-something pants and make this decade even more fun than the last.

Here goes nothin’.

The One Where Magpie Hates Healthy Eating

caprese pesto chicken

So one of my biggest goals for this month is a total ban on take-out and fast food. Over the last couple years as I’ve added job after job, my eating habits have basically found themselves going right down the toilet. Whatever was quick, easy, and convenient was what was on the menu. I drive past Dunkin’ on this day, the Thai place is right around the corner from where I work this day, etc… etc… My location determined my meal.

Which sucks for a variety of reasons. The biggest being, of course, that my wallet AND my waistline both take issue with the habit. My waistline has continued to expand as my wallet deflates. And the waistline thing wouldn’t even be that big of a deal (I’m still on the “skinnyish” side of national averages) if it wasn’t so interconnected with my wallet.

See, new clothes in a new size cost money.

Money that I don’t have because I’ve been mostly spending it on take-out and fast food because I work too much to cook because I don’t have enough money.

So you see the problem here.

So for May I’ve decided to cut take-out and fast food all together.

No more. And no more super duper processed food either – at least when I can manage it. Lots of fresh, lots of fruits and veggies, and lots of water.

And guys? Can I be honest here?

This seriously sucks.

soup starter

Like, I know that it’s better for me? I know it’s saving me mega money? I know that eating salads, and chicken, and fresh food is way healthier than the way I’ve been operating lately? I know that the internet gives me access to all sorts of fun, exciting, healthy recipes so that it doesn’t have to be boring? But like, all I want is a damned bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Topped with more cheese. And salty nutrition-free ramen. Maybe a big plate of take-out Pad Thai. And a dessert of a whole sleeve of shortbread cookies.

Ugh.

And the kicker is? Eating better isn’t even as hard as I’ve been telling myself all these years. Some careful planning and a couple of good fridge storage containers and I can have enough meals for the week in under two hours. So I can’t even use “It’s too hard and takes too much time” as an excuse anymore. And that almost makes me MORE miserable about this whole thing.

And I know this is a SUPER privileged first world problem kind of thing to be bitching about. I know it is. I also know that these kind of habit changes are a process. Results aren’t immediate and a habit – particularly one that can have addictive aspects to it like this – doesn’t change overnight.

But I also feel like it’s important to be honest. Because I have to admit, when I first started this quest to eat better, I felt like a massive failure for not liking it. For not feeling better. For not loving my meals. For not being able to enjoy eating a salad in the same way that I loooovvvveeee eating mac and cheese. I still feel like that 80% of the time, actually.

Because there’s so much noise coming in from the social media world telling me that this shouldn’t be the case. That I shouldn’t hate this. That I’m wrong if I don’t feel better and happier when I clean up my eating habits. That a healthy diet and exercise are the key to a contented life. And it may not be directly or intentionally, but social media – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook – they’re filled with health and fitness gurus and inspo that tout how much happier being healthy will make you. You’ll feel so much better! And it’s sooooo easy too! Look, these healthy meals taste so good, you won’t even miss your old diet anymore!

But I do. Oh my goodness, I do.

And I guess that’s the crux of it. I guess I just want to throw that out there into the universe. That this isn’t easy for everyone. And it’s okay for it not to be easy. Everyone keeps telling me that it’ll get easier as the habit change becomes permanent. That my palate will change along with my diet. That I’ll stop craving super processed and fatty foods, and grow to prefer these healthier options. Social media puts this glossy sheen over everything, promising ease and health and pep. That the struggle – when it’s actually acknowledged in a direct way – is super totally worth it, and that in retrospect this’ll seem super easy.

But it’s not.

So far it’s just been hard.

And that’s okay.

And I think admitting that this is hard, and enduring anyway? I think that’s the first step to making real change.

So let’s see how this goes.

salad

April Misses and May Goals

epcot

So it’s time for my monthly wrap-up! Who knew it was going to be May so soon? It completely snuck up on me, and unfortunately I didn’t really meet all my goals for April as a result.

To recap what I wanted to do, you can find the full post here.

I was able to control my spending on take-out even better this month, but pretty much all the other goals were either misses, or near-misses. I wasn’t able to get anything done in terms of knitting, and while I read more this month, I stalled out about 75% of the way through my second book. And keeping up with my PT exercises was kind of hit or miss. Better, but still not great.

So overall I really kind of missed the mark for April. But, with May now here I’m reinvigorated and motivated to really get some self-improvement done.

So here are the goals for this month:

1) Finish posting all the Disney photos on instagram.

The trip was more than three months ago now. Time to get them all up. If you want to follow along, go on and follow me @magpiemakingdo!

2) Be more active on the blog twitter.

I finally remembered my password for this, so I’m back in the tweeting game – and this time I want to be a little more proactive at networking and fostering bloggy relationships. So if you want to follow me there, head on over!

3) Spend no money on take out or fast food until my birthday week.

This means I have to make/bring every meal from home until the last week of May. Hopefully it’ll help me not only spend less money, but also eat healthier.

4) Post on the blog consistently every Tuesday and Thursday starting week 2.

I’ve had to put the “starting week two” caveat on this, mainly because, well, week one is already come and gone. Whoops.

5) Work on my blog photography.

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’ve had a DSLR for years at this point, and honestly? I still have no idea how to use it. Additionally, the blogging photography game has changed drastically since I first started a blog ohhhh eight thousand years ago in college. Flatlays? Backdrops? Props? All of these things weren’t really standard when I started my first blog. And while my photography has improved from that very beginning in my cramped, dark dorm room, stylistically I haven’t really changed adequately with the times. So I want to spend some time in May specifically devoted to that.

So here we go. Wish me luck, and we’ll check back in with these goals come June!

What are your goals for May?

March: The Good, The Bad, And the Goals.

As part of my plan for getting more consistent around here, I’ve decided to make it my goal to post a wrap-up of each month – this way I can sort of look at each month in review, identify what I accomplished and what needs improvement. I feel like it’s also going to be nice to have a handy list of what I’ve accomplished for myself (in addition to everything I know I’ve gotten done for work) over the last month. Hopefully it’ll be a handy guard against my anxiety creeping in and telling me I’m unproductive and lazy.

Now the shape this post takes may change as the year goes on, and as – hopefully – I get back in the habit of consistently posting on here. But for now, here we go!

THE GOOD

Sketchbook

1) Started drawing more frequently.

This has been on my goal list for years. I used to love drawing, and it’s nice to get back into the habit of doodling when I have some down time. On the flip side, it also means I want an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to play with SO BADLY now. And uhhh financially that’s just not going to happen.

Totoro mittens in progress

2) Finished one of my Totoro Mittens.

1 down, 1 to go. All I’ve got left is the thumb. Let’s DO this.

3) Read 1 Book for funsies (Review coming soon).

I finally finished Lirael, after sort of letting it linger half-finshed for a couple weeks. Review pending.

Undertow-Shawlette

4) Made progress on my Undertow Shawlette.

This too has been on the needles for years and I need to be done with it.

5) Spring Cleaned the Living Room.

The amount of cat hair I pulled up when I vacuumed the cat tree was truly horrifying.

one pot pasta

6) Cooked 60% of my meals at home over the last month.

I’m hoping this has saved me some moolah over the course of the month – because I’m going to need it.

CSI_Crime_Scene_Investigation_-_The_Complete_1st_Season_On_DVD

7) Finally finished watching the rest of CSI.

I had been a devoted fan of CSI since it first started airing in 2000. I have VHSs full of episodes that I begged my dad to tape off the air when I was in high school and had to miss for rehearsal sitting in my parents basement (ah, the days before on-demand). I watched almost religiously for 10 years – until grad school and teaching got so overwhelming that I just sort of lost track of it? It happened for basically all the TV shows that my dad didn’t also watch with me – I would just forget to tune in if I wasn’t reminded. Bones went the same way, and then NCIS did too once I moved out of my parent’s place and didn’t have my Dad to come tell me it was on anymore.

But anyway, I finally finished. I have kind of mixed feelings about it, to be honest, because this show was such a big part of my life for so long. It’s sad knowing there’s nothing new left for me to watch. On the other hand, it was admittedly was ready to end. It was getting pretty ridiculous in that last season with seemingly every other episode putting another member of the team in mortal danger. I also really didn’t care for Elizabeth Shue’s character at all (although I did quite like Ted Danson’s – which I didn’t expect, honestly). But it had just been with me for so long… it’s just kind of sad to have it done.

THE NOT SO GOOD

1) Fell on ice and screwed up my knee for two weeks.

Yea, that sucked. Honestly, the bruise is still in the process of fading.

2) The fall also triggered a regression of my shoulder issues since I haven’t been 100% the greatest at keeping up with my physical therapy exercises.

I hadn’t really said anything on here but the last year or so I had been struggling with a trapezius spasm that would not go away, and which then caused a chain reaction of mess with my shoulder. I know a muscle spasm doesn’t sound super serious, but good gracious did it interfere with being able to function – particularly since two of my jobs center around being able to play instruments and conduct, both of which are pretty shoulder intensive. I finished physical therapy and had the issues mostly tackled in early February, but I was supposed to keep up the routine of PT myself at home, and I’ve been sort of hit-and-miss with it the past few weeks because of work stuff. Well, my fall made it evident WHY I was supposed to keep those things up, because BAM, the spasm came back, and with it all my shoulder issues.

So yea, that sucks pretty hard.

3) Return of physical problems triggered a slight slip in staying on top of anxiety issues.

My anxiety very much revolves around health stuff – my mind immediately goes to the worst-case scenario when I don’t feel right. And so the return of physical pain (coupled with the fact that my body is responding differently to basically everything because of age and weight gain) has me on edge pretty much constantly.

4) Taxes, Car repairs, and general financial stress… oh my!

Yeaaaa, pretty self-explanatory.

THE GOALS

1) Spend even less money on take-out.

2) Read 2 books at least.

3) Finish the other Totoro Mitten by my self-imposed deadline.

4) Finish the Undertow Shawlette.

5) Keep up with my Physical Therapy exercises better.

So let’s see how I do.

What are your goals for April?

So… Horizon Zero Dawn Feels Really Important.

So buckle up, birdies, because this post is going to be a little… all over the place. I don’t quite have my thoughts fully sorted on this matter, nor have I finished the game yet… but the bottom line is that Horizon Zero Dawn feels really important to me and I feel like I need to tell someone.

Horizon_Zero_Dawn

As far as video games go, it’s pretty impressive for all the typical reasons games can be impressive. The visuals are beyond beautiful, the soundtrack is great, the battle mechanics are interesting and unique, the enemies are legitimately terror inducing, and even on the easiest difficultly level (because while I love video games, I’m super bad at them) still pose enough of a challenge to keep the fighting exciting… The game is critically acclaimed for all the usual stuff.

And yet it still just feels so much more important than that to me.

The main character Aloy has a lot to do with it. The fact that she is THE scripted main character matters. She’s a fixed element in the story, as opposed to a player character that is chosen and sculpted by the player… and she’s a she.

horizon-zero-dawn-two-column-aloy-03-ps4-eu-22jun16

As a female who has been into video games for a long time, this still seems pretty revolutionary to me. It shouldn’t, but it does. While I can think of a handful of other games where this has been the case (Tomb Raider, for example), the fact that even now, in 2017, this still feels important is indicative of a much broader issue within the gaming world. Having a female protagonist is still seen as a risk, and as a result, it’s not often done.

This shouldn’t still be a risk. Women make up at least half (according to some numbers, more than half even) of the gaming demographic, and we’ve been playing as and relating to set male characters for years, so I really don’t see why having male players play as and relate to a set female main character should be a risk for the industry. And that’s a problem that goes well beyond gaming and into plenty of other media – starting with children’s books even… But that’s a matter for another post. That I’ll probably never get to.

So anyway…

It’s not just the fact that Aloy is a girl that makes it feel important. It’s the fact that Aloy is female, and yet in the context of the story that doesn’t matter. Her gender is completely irrelevant, and is left as such. Her character design is practical, as are her outfits, and we are not constantly reminded of the fact that “oh shit, Aloy has ladyparts,” whether that be through a sexualized character design (*coughLaraCroftupuntilRiseoftheTombRaidercough*) or constant reminders that she’s filling a role that’s not typically female (e.g. comments from NPCs in surprise over her gender, or deriding her gender). As a gamer who also has lady parts and identifies as female, it’s kind of an awesome experience, to be honest. It’s revolutionary because of the simple fact that it doesn’t present the decision to have a female player character as different or revolutionary. It just simply is. And that fact alone is striking me as unique, and – if I haven’t said it enough yet – important.

Because it’s something even the best, most inclusive games sometimes miss the mark on when writing strong female characters. Even my beloved Bioware occasionally misses the mark in their super-progressive Dragon Age series. Despite culturally existing in a world that has seemingly eliminated most gender norms (and in the places they’ve been kept, they’ve often been flipped – for example the “church” of the world is matriarchal instead of patriarchal) while playing as a female Warden, Hawke, or Inquisitor there are still these moments that crop up where your character’s competence and fitness to lead are questioned on nothing but the basis of being female – bits of dialogue and implications in the way things are voiced that play out very differently when playing as the male counterpart. They’re moments that can feel very out of place in a world as egalitarian with regards to gender as Dragon Age seems to set itself up to be – moments that sometimes feel to me like reality is bleeding in and upsetting the world-building a little.

horizon-zero-dawn-screen-31-ps4-eu-20oct16

In Horizon Zero Dawn, I haven’t yet had one of those moments. Not one. There were a couple moments where an NPC would flirt with Aloy a bit, but everything is written in such a way, and the world is set up in such a way that I’m confident that those moments still would have happened regardless of her gender – because that’s just normal human interaction. And somehow that makes the lack of super set gender roles even cooler?

And all of this is to say nothing about the seemingly effortless diversity of the NPC cast. Which also feels super-duper important to me. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever before encountered a game that is this nonchalantly racially diverse, and I freaking love it. And it really is the nonchalantness of it that gets me. It’s not mentioned, questioned, commented on, or fussed about… it just simply is. And oh my goodness, it’s so amazing.

I could easily go on for several more pages about the things in this game that feel important to me, but I think at this point I’ve gone on long enough for one post that’s basically just a rambling brain-dump. Additionally, I have not finished the game yet – I’m taking my sweet time and being a bit completionist, so I’m only about half way through. It might very well be that the impressions I’ve gotten so far don’t maintain themselves through the rest of the story, but I guess we’ll see. I just needed to gush a little over how awesome this game is.

Have you played Horizon Zero Dawn? Did you notice any of these things? Or do you see them differently than I did? Are there actually plenty of games out there like this already, but I’ve just managed to miss them because I’m picky about gameplay mechanics? Is there something big and glaring that I’m missing in my enthusiasm? (*Since originally writing this post, I’ve read several interesting commentaries by Native American authors on both sides of the “is it cultural appropriation?” debate, which I must admit is not something that would have even occurred to me had I not happened across it on Tumblr.) I still haven’t finished the game (so try to avoid spoilers), and am still formulating my thoughts. I feel like I’ve sort of danced around points here… like they’re on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t find the words to properly convey them – so I would love to hear how other people see it. Maybe it will help clarify this overwhelming bubble of nebulous “this is important” that’s bubbling up in my chest as I play (but please keep it respectful)!

(Clicking on the photos will bring you to their source)

Reassessing for 2017

So any of you who have been around for a while know that my blogging over the last two years has been… sporadic at best. I’ll have a month or two where I’m really consistent, and then go on radio silence for three. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to figure out why I can’t seem to break this cycle, and honestly there are like, a thousand reasons.

I originally had a massively long post typed out listing them all, but I scrapped that because it all just sounded like I was making excuses. And that makes this feel like less of a hobby and more of a job, and goodness knows the last thing I need right now is another job (I currently have four).

So no reasons, no excuses. I’m done looking for them and focusing on them. Instead, I think the time has come for some retooling.

Part of this is to make it work better for me, for my life and schedule, and in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling guilty for not having posted in a while. Part of it is to try to provide more consistent content here.

I do, of course, want to start focusing a little more back on my hobbies – expect more book reviews, hopefully some more project posts… that goes along with some lifestyle changes that I’m trying to make on a more personal level. But I also want to figure out some semi-regular features that can stick around even when I don’t have time to create anything physical.

What form those are going to take, I don’t know. Any suggestions, or well established blog events (things like Blogmus or Throwback Thursday or Friday Favorites) would be welcomed.

So I guess, my question in all this is, beyond project posts, what kind of content do you like? What would you like to see more of from Magpie Making Do? Are there any older posts in particular that you’d like to see more like?

Additionally, I’ve been intending for a long time to switch from wordpress.com to a self-hosted wordpress.org site. I even bought the domain name, and have hosting all set up – but I’ve been holding off until I can be more consistent about content… mainly as an excuse, because switching over seems a little intimidating and scary, and I really don’t want to lose the readers I already have here. Has anyone taken this plunge already, and are there any tips or recommendations you might want to share?

Any and all input (as long as it’s polite!) is welcome in the comments, and I’ll keep mulling over things too!

For the Last Week…

My Lady Jane

If you follow my instagram you may have noticed that my last two photos have been a little… unseasonal looking? Considering I hail from Northeastern Pennsylvania and the place has been cold and grey and snowy for the last month or so, my photos definitely may have seemed a little out of place.

Well, that’s because I spent the last week in Florida at Disney World!

Disney Castle

I’ve always had a soft spot for Disney, and had never gotten a chance to visit as a kid, as when we were saving as a family for a trip, in the end we decided that putting in a pool would be a better use of that money, since it would last oh, 20 years as opposed to one week.

No regrets there. In fact, I feel like I was able to appreciate the overall Disney experience far more as an adult than I would have as a kid (and god, did I love that pool). It’s SUCH a great vacation experience, and they have all sorts of little details covered that make the whole thing super easy and super relaxing – even at the budget resorts. We went for the first time three years ago, and decided pretty much as soon as we returned that we’d go back as soon as we could afford to.

Well it took three years, but we managed to get back. And the second trip was even better since, having already been there once, we didn’t feel pressured to cram every sight, ride, and experience into 5 days.

I’m not going to write a full post on the trip because we just did too much, but while I was there I read three books, and took a ton of pictures. If you’re interested in the visual side of my trip you can follow along on my instagram @magpiemakingdo over the next few weeks as I get photos up, and reviews of the books are forthcoming as well!

Sabriel