Friday, December 21, 2012

Proxy Letter to Santa

Baby writing to Santa.
I hope he is fluent in Scribble.


Dear Santa,

This morning I sat my daughter down to write a letter to you. But when I asked her what she wanted to ask you for, all she said was “a present”. Then I tried to explain, a laughable attempt in the face of two-year old distraction, and when I asked again, she said she wanted one present. I asked her what that one present should be, and she changed it to three presents. While I may be an English major, I'm no fool: I know an increasing numerical pattern when I see one, and in order to avoid the next request being six presents, I just figured I'll take over the letter writing for this year and she can try again when she's a little older and not quite so hyper-focused on counting everything.

So... how are you, Santa? How have things been up at the North Pole? I hope all the reindeer are well and Mrs. Claus and the elves are in good spirits. Goodness... this is awkward. I'm sorry, it's just been so long since I wrote you a letter myself. What has it been... fifteen, sixteen years? I know I was only barely on the cusp of preteen-hood when I “figured out” that Santa wasn't real. And it took me until about three Christmases ago to learn what most parents eventually learn around the time their first child is born: that they were mistaken and you are very real and it is my highest Christmas calling to make sure my daughter knows it well. (Though I would appreciate it if all your gifts didn't magically have a way of emptying my bank account, but I guess you can't mess with a good system.)

Anyway, I guess, being how you know when we've been naughty or nice, that you probably have some sort of surveillance capabilities and have been keeping up pretty well with what's happened with me in the meantime, so I won't bore you with details. Suffice to say, I grew up, moved to Maryland, got married, had a kid, etc. Fast forward to present.

Oh, speaking of presents, let me get back on track here. Honestly, I really don't know what to tell you as far as what my daughter might want. Thanks to her grandmother, she has plenty of warm clothes for winter, and she just got a bunch of toys for her birthday in October. Her dad is supposed to be making her a doll-bed, and I was hoping to make a little pillow and blanket to go with it (I know-- four days to go; I am the Queen of Procrastination). But she has been getting very into pretending lately, and as I already mentioned, she LOVES counting right now, so anything that appeals to those would probably be perfect. I'll leave that up to you, Santa, since you're the expert. How many centuries have you been doing this now?

As for me, well, the only thing I really want is a house. Preferably one that cleans itself, and has room for a garden. And has some space between neighbors, since sharing a wall with a series of smoking residents has really taught me to cherish my own space. It would also be nice if the house had teleporter pads or portals so I could easily step out a special door and walk over to visit a friend in Boise or my parents in California. Oh, and while we're at it, could it also have a special shield around it to block out noise pollution? They've been doing construction for about 6 months next door here and it is getting old. And of course, I'd like all the usual: hi-tech security system, big modern kitchen, nice big deck to host parties and get Three Days of Barbeque up and running again (the Mayans were actually right! There was no 3 Days this year! End of the world!). Oh, and if it could also come pre-furnished, that'd be great. And make sure there's a replicator in the kitchen, so I only have to cook if I want to.

So in other words, something like this:



Okay? Awesome. Thanks! You're the best Santa!

Merry Christmas,

The Grove Family

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My New Favorite Psalm

I'm still not 100% sure about sharing this, since it's kind of personal and I'm not a fan of trolls commenting on my faith. But I've had a rocky year spiritually, and I know at least one of my friends who has also been going through similar problems and might need to hear what God taught me, so here goes. 

To be brutally honest, I have spent a large chunk of the past six months whining like a sleep-deprived two-year old to God and envying all the cool "stuff" others had. 

About a year ago, we had to ask some friends to take our Compassion International Sponsored Child off our hands because we couldn't afford to pay the bill. We've had several conflicts with the landlords at our apartment complex which basically resulted in them threatening us with ridiculous consequences if we didn't roll over and take it, but we can't get enough money put away to come up with a down-payment for a house, and we can't afford a more expensive (i.e. better) apartment. Plus, since I've lost all this weight, practically all of my clothes are pretty much falling off, and most of them are very old and ragged, and I haven't really been able to afford more. 

This Christmas, the hubby and I decided we weren't even going to exchange gifts with each other, and I've had to hand-make all the gifts for everyone else on our list. Our finances have even been so bad that I have actually had to ask my parents for money at least once this year (something that just shamed me and my self-image of self-sufficiency to no end), because I couldn't afford to buy winter clothes for my daughter when it got cold out and I couldn't find any hand-me-downs in her size. 

So, needless to say, I've spent much of the year rather bitter over what "everyone else" has while we scrimp and save and go without, all in vain it seems. But then, in the past couple months, we started keeping a very detailed budget (my OCD said this would be a better way to keep track of our money). At first, all my l33t math skillz (can you hear the sarcam?) could come up with was a paltry $200 a month that we could maybe save if the price of gas and groceries remained static, and we didn't go out to eat or spend any money on anything except absolute essentials. But then, without any sort of explanation I can come up with, we have ended each the last two months with more than a thousand dollars left over to put into savings. In fact, we had so much extra this month that we were able to adopt a new Compassion Child (as a gift for my daughter for Christmas).


Popy, our new Compassion Child.
Look at those cheeks! We looked for a girl with the same
birth month and age as my daughter, and those cheeks sold us!
At the very least she and my daughter will have cuteness in common!

Not only that, but we were also able to pay for two nights at a hotel for a family facing the possibility of spending this Christmas on the street because they can't get a place at a family shelter, and we even bought Hubby a new wedding band (he lost his about a year ago and has been bare-fingered ever since). And there will even be enough leftover next month to fill the gap while I'm unexpectedly out of work for two weeks. Maybe all that doesn't seem like a lot to everyone, but to us, having been living paycheck to paycheck and counting every grudgingly-spent penny, it really is a Christmas miracle.

Then, this afternoon, as I was listening to my devotions while unloading the dishwasher (thank you, YouVersion Bible App and the Chronological reading plan), Psalm 73 came on. This Psalm just struck such a cord in my heart that I had to personalize it. So after the dishes were all put away, I sat down at my computer and wrote the following. This is Psalm 73 if I had written it instead of that Asaph guy.


Psalm 73 (Paraphrased)
A Psalm of CaptainConundrum

  1. Truly God is good to His people, to those who love and obey Him.
  2. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
  3. For I was envious of those who have more, when I saw the prosperity of those who don't care about right and wrong.

  1. For they have it easy until they die; their bodies are toned from private gym memberships and tan from vacations in the tropics.
  2. They don't have daily worries like I do; they don't wonder how they will pay next month's rent or have to wear clothes that are too big and full of holes.
  3. Therefore, pride is their sandwich-board; they think nothing of taking from others or ignoring the needy.
  4. Their wallet swells with crisp twenties; their minds are occupied with manicures, cruises, vacation homes, parties, booze, and one-night flings.
  5. They scoff and make fun of my faith; loftily, they accuse me of being a blind fool or a bigot and sue people like me because we worship the only true God.
  6. They claim God doesn't even exist, and they talk themselves up as the only god worth worshiping.
  7. They buy expensive cars, houses and electronics, they eat out every night, and still they want more, and their friends cheer them on!
  8. And they say, “How can God let bad things happen? Is there any proof to that God of yours?”
  9. Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
  10. Apparently for no reason, I have tried to live a clean life and clothed myself in Christ's innocence.
  11. Morning, noon and night, I read articles and Facebook posts that shun me and call me any number of derogatory names because I believe in You and Your Word.
  12. If I had decided “I will give them some of their own medicine” and stooped to their level, calling names and kicking up lawsuits right and left, I would have betrayed Christ's higher calling on my life.

  1. But when I tried to understand why things are the way they are, it wore me out and frustrated me,
  2. until I went to God in prayer; then I understood what that lifestyle results in.

  1. Of course! You put them in a difficult position; you make everything they work for worth nothing.
  2. How the point of their lives are made pointless in a single moment, swept away like garbage in the face of what really matters.
  3. Like waking up from a wonderful dream, O Lord, when you show yourself, you prove all their glory to be nothing but their own imagination.
  4. When I was bitter, when my heart envied everything they had,
  5. I was just like them, selfish, ignorant, and shallow; I acted like a wild animal toward you, suspicious and ungrateful.

  1. Nevertheless, You never left me; you hold me in Your arms.
  2. You guide me with that still, small voice and the signs of Your work in my life, and when this life ends, You will bring me to be with you, where my every need and desire will be overwhelmingly fulfilled forever.
  3. Who do I have in all Creation if not You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.
  4. My clothes may be holey, my bank account may be in the red, I may have bills I cannot pay and live in a crappy apartment, but God is the strength of my heart and all the riches I could ever hope for.

  1. Listen up, everyone. Those who keep putting distance between themselves and God aren't going to end well; God gives a sad ending to every life that chooses not to honor its Maker.
  2. As for me, I will stay as close to God as I can; I have hidden my hopes and dreams and desires in Him, and I will declare His awesomeness to the world.

    Is there a Psalm or Bible verse that pretty well summarizes a lesson God has been teaching you this year? 
    Please share it in the comments!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Firefly Depression


Good morning... if you can call it good.



I'm having a full on Firefly-depression day. It's all Facebook's (and of course FOX's) fault. First I watched this, linked on the “Help Nathan Buy Firefly” page:



Then I watched this:



Now I'm a mess. Yeah, pathetic as it is, the mere thought of FOX's monumental stupidity in canceling the best show ever made when it was not even a full season in still gets me weepy sometimes. Don't judge me! 

I love Star Trek, and Star Wars is obviously a family staple in our household. Just learned to love Doctor Who this year, and while I haven't seen it yet, I hear nothing but good things about Battlestar Galactica. Nevertheless... Firefly will always be my true and first sci-fi love!

You hear that FOX? You can't take the sky from me!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, My Captain Gave to Me Five Months Worth of Updates in One Entry!


August!? Geez! [Insert the usual apology here for neglecting to update for so long.]

Hmm, updates, okay, well, I'll make it quick so I can get to more interesting stuff:

Little Bird's Treasures

My store has been doing fairly well, for being a pretty new side project. I've sold maybe six items at this point, mostly to friends and family, though I did sell two items at a vendor site during a Darkon function. Meanwhile I've been busily coming up with new items all the time and stocking my store on Etsy as much as possible. The business hasn't taken off quite as much as I was hoping, but as I explained to a friend, I think this is just going to be one of those stages in life where I have other, more important things to juggle (i.e. work, family, young children, church, etc.), and the store will have to remain a lower priority until I can afford the time and attention to really market it like it needs to be a successful business and primary income. But that doesn't mean I haven't been hard at work. I'm looking forward to what will hopefully be a busy month between making Christmas gifts and custom projects. Below is a custom ornament I just finished. It turned out even more adorable than I hoped!

As requested by my friend's five year old Brony son: "A dragon and a pony."


Bone Throwers Theater

You may have noticed me mention that I am a big fan of podcasts. Some of my favorites are listed in the links. But I never gave a thought to actually being ON a podcast, that is until my friend Jordan, a longtime veteran of radio and broadcasting media, approached me and the hubby about starting an RPG actual-play podcast with a small group of gamers we play with fairly often. We've just finished up designing the world using a book called Microscope, and we'll be basing the mechanics on the Mini Six system. We've spent a few months now ironing out details and designing an epic, dark, sci-fi/fantasy dystopia and the history to go with it, and we are officially ready to begin recording. The podcast will be available on iTunes, a soundcloud website, and at the website posted above in March. We have an awesome mix of players, and I feel so honored and excited to be a female collaborator of a podcast in a genre that is so typically male-dominated. All of the people participating are not only amazing and creative gamers, but very talented people, and I'm really looking forward to this being a huge success in the nerd world!


Darkon

I've been really working to entrench myself into the community of foam fighters and LARPers I've become a part of. My character is apparently at least semi-well known, and very much so in my immediate country, Elidor, because she is a baker (i.e. I bring free cookies and pastries and bribe people to like me!). Apparently my food-as-friendship ploy has caught the notice of a few game officials, because a friend of mine in the game senate told me I was nominated for an in-game award (“The Golden Spud”-- how ironic is that for a girl originally from the Potato State?) that recognizes new players who have “gone above and beyond”. Ha! Boy do I have them fooled! I'm just making a bid for the other players to not disown me despite my total lack of coordination and couth! LOL.

But in any case, the real honor and delight has been forming friendships with other players, most especially several other women who have become close friends both in- and out-of-game. I met Dorie at a Darkon function when she randomly showed up to try it out (much the same way I did). Laura was actually already an acquaintance from church who started volunteering with me in GAs this year (and therefore saved my life and sanity), and when I happened to mention I spend two Sundays per month smacking full-grown men with foam sticks, she was immediately intrigued. We three now carpool to Darkon functions as often as possible, and often hang out outside of Darkon as well. We had a sleepover the other week which resulted in several episodes of hilarity, including “T-Rexy” dance breaks, old-man crushes (Elidorian males over 40 would LOVE to know those secrets!), and the coinage of our characters' shared last name (Some relation, but we're not clear yet how. Sisters or cousins, perhaps?): DuCield'or. Dorie came up with it, since she's a cool Canadian chick with a handle on funky French (see the alliteration I did there?). It means “Of the golden skies” in French. Epic, am I right?

The Warrior Women: Couth have we none, but chicken wings and T-rexy-ness aplenty!

A Slice of Simericana

Okay, here's where I give you free license to point and laugh at me for a period of up to but not exceeding 5 minutes.


You done? Okay.
Confession time: I am a total dork. You may say, “Well, we all know that,” but I beg to differ. A nerd and/or geek are significantly different from a dork. They imply interest in nerdy things like gaming, role-playing, sci-fi/fantasy genres, etc. A dork, on the other hand, just says that the person is basically so far gone it's pathetic. Well, a dork I am. And proud of it, since I am apparently quite successful at it!
Long story short, I like to play Sims 3 (which is a very understated way of saying I am a hopeless addict and belong in rehab). Well, one evening my dearest hubby decided my game and the expansion packs were taking up too much room on the laptop's hard drive so he took all my data and moved it to the D drive. TOTALLY screwed up my game.

My husband, the Sim-world wrecker.

Anyway, it took a full day to get my game back to working order (i.e. uninstall and reinstall the whole thing), during which I needed to get my fix and wandered into the online community forums. Several hours later, I had discovered challenges and a whole new, dorky world of... wait for it...

SIMS BLOGGING!

“Seriously?” you say, raising an eyebrow. Seriously. People play their game, use their screenshot feature to capture photos of their Sims mid-shenanigan, then post them up and write stories about them. Well, not only do I fly my dorky colors proudly by declaring that I fell in love with the concept as well as several blogs (see links!), but I started my own Sims blog! I started off with a legacy challenge because it was among the simplest and least rule-complicated challenge, and my family is currently on Generation One of the Hemlock Chronicles, with a gypsy wizard and prophetess named Moriah Hemlock as the founder. My first few entries were rather blasé as I worked up to a decent plot, but the last couple entries have been-- if I do say so myself-- rather scintillating. I welcome the blog traffic if you'd like to go read it and/or make fun of me in the comments! (The really sad/intriguing thing is that after only a month, I'm already up to 3 followers and quite a few comments, which blows this blog's progress out of the water. I guess people would rather read made up stories about my Sims than real stories and thoughts about my life. Wow... let me tell you, that makes a girl feel great!)

Weight Loss and Tai Chaun Do

In case you haven't checked the Lilypie widget in the sidebar, I'll just declare to the world here that I have officially lost
45 pounds!!!
[Pauses for applause. Takes a bow.]

I've been keeping very dedicated to my diet viaEverydayHealth's Calorie Counter, and going to Tai Chuan Do twice a week as often as I can. I am now an Orange Belt. Oh... and I did this:

Pine boards everywhere: FEAR ME!

Anyway... that's about the extent of my updating for the moment.

[Insert usual promise to update more often here.]

Toodles!