50 by 50 #6 – Learn How to Play Bagpipes

21 May

I have no idea where my fascination with bagpipes started. I’m going to attribute some of it to my family heritage. While I do have a mix of stuff, I really embrace my Scotch-Irish heritage the most. I probably have as much German as I do Scot/Irish, but I tend to play up that side a bit more. I think because it has the best story. Now, how much of it is actually true, I have no idea. And frankly, I’m not sure I want to know because like most stories it’s probably been heightened a bit and bears very little resemblance to the real thing. Ignorance is bliss. But the legend of the McInnes/McInstrys is fun.

Supposedly we started out in Scotland as part of the McInnes clan. We even have a family tartan, which mom bought as a tie many, many moons ago.

I wear it from time to time, but I always drag it out and wear it on St. Paddy's Day. Which is funny because it's Scotch, not Irish. But whatevs.

I wear it from time to time, but I always drag it out and wear it on St. Paddy’s Day. Which is funny because it’s Scotch, not Irish. But whatevs.

The story goes that we were in Scotland until our clan fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie, and when that side lost the McInneses became outlaws and escaped to Ireland and changed our name to McInstry. It later evolved to McKinstry, and we stayed in Ireland until the potato famine and then we emigrated over here. Again, I have no idea how much is true, but it’s a fun story to tell. And who doesn’t love a tartan?

Someday, I really want to get a kilt in the tartan. But damn those things are expensive!

Someday, I really want to get a kilt in the tartan. But damn those things are expensive!

In addition to the heritage thing, I genuinely love the sound of bagpipes. I know a lot of people think they sound like an 18-wheeler running over a cat, but I think they sound beautiful. So elegant, so mysterious. Seriously, has Amazing Grace ever sounded as majestic as when it’s played on a bagpipe?

The roller derby league I volunteer for has bagpipers who introduce one of our teams, and I love how they look and sound.

bagpipes2

Mega classy.

I really want to learn how to be cool like this.

I really want to learn how to be cool like this.

The problem is that, much like the kilt, bagpipes are hella expensive. I mean, we’re talking upwards of $1,000. That’s a bit much for an instrument I’m not sure I can actually learn how to play.

I have seen that you can get what’s called a bagpipe chanter that can teach you how to play the reed part. Those only run about $40, so I keep meaning to give one of those a try to see if I could play it at all before I attempted the real thing. As with all things (you know, that whole Laziest Person Alive® thing), I just haven’t gotten around to it, and I know that I suck at committing time to something on a regular basis. Why do you think I was last chair French horn every year in high school? I can fake it, but practice isn’t something I do well. At least I’m honest about it.

I figured maybe if I put it on my 50×50 list, I’ll at least get around to getting the chanter to see if I can pick that up. I don’t know that I would ever be good enough to join a pipe and drum corp, but I think I’d be doing my great great grandmother Sarah McKinstry proud if I at least took a stab at it.

 

Dollar Daze – MMMmmmmm…BBQ hair!

19 May

dollar daze logo

Spoiler alert (in case the title didn’t already give it away): this one does not end well.

We’re lucky in my family that we have awesome hair. Not gonna even try to be modest about it. Hair is one of my best assets.

My hair when it's straight. Typically when I blow dry it in the winter, I end up looking like first year Hermione Granger. On this particular occasion, it actually worked. So, of course, selfie.

My hair when it’s straight. Typically when I blow dry it in the winter, I end up looking like first year Hermione Granger. On this particular occasion, it actually worked. So, of course, selfie.

Now that it's summer, thick and wavy.

Now that it’s summer, thick and wavy.

This is one of those genetic lottery things. I get my thick, wavy hair from Pa.

Check out those locks.

Check out those locks.

Thankfully, Andrea also inherited good hair.

Andrea by Lisa

Even though she likes to wear wigs, she has great hair. Dyed at times, but always thick and beautiful.

The only downside is that she does get itchy scalp. To keep the itching to a minimum, she uses T-Gel on a regular basis. I don’t know if you’ve ever used T-Gel, but that shit ain’t cheap. I love you, Neutrogena, I really do, but damn! I’m not a salon prices kinda gal, and a bottle of T-Gel will set you back $10-15. So when I saw this…

tgel

*Cue angels singing*

…I thought maybe I was in luck. The ingredients were essentially the same, so here’s hoping.

Sadly, I will not be saving $10 per bottle on the T-Gel knockoff. I don’t know how well the shampoo did in preventing itchiness, because we never made it past one washing. I was willing to let this experiment go a couple of weeks to get the full effect of switching, but Andrea had some concerns right off the bat. The primary one being that it made her hair smell “like barbeque.”

Now, if you’ve ever used T-Gel, you know it doesn’t have the greatest smell in the world in and of itself. It’s main ingredient is pine tar, so it has an odd aroma. But this stuff? Compared to this stuff, T-Gel is like a bouquet of roses. It seriously smelled like Andrea had stuck her head in a smoker and dipped it in honey barbeque sauce. It was very strange. There was definitely the smokey smell from the pine tar, but there was an odd sweet scent over top that made it smell like barbeque. Very disturbing. I imagined her being followed by dogs on her way to school because it smelled like a barbeque flavored dog treat. Not the scent she was going for. And that was AFTER several rinses and attempts to cover it with conditioner.

So we’ve been striking out on the Dollar Tree items here as of late. I’m going to have to find something good to make up for the failures. I can’t testify to the power of the shampoo to control flaking or itchiness, but with a smell like that, I think people would be less concerned about your dandruff than they were distracted by your delicious odor. Nice try, Dollar Tree. But this one gets an F.

 

 

In Memory of a Friend and Family Member

14 May

I debated whether to write this post, but I noticed that I mention her in my About section, and before I crossed her out or deleted her, I wanted to give an update. And for those who have been reading a while, you already know our crazy, spazzy, rock-herding, loving dog Ru. I’ve featured her before in posts, and most recently talked about her cancer diagnosis back in December.

The last picture we took of Ru. Saying goodbye was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do.

The last picture we took of Ru. Saying goodbye was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

Sadly, Ms. Thing did not last much longer after that post. She had been doing pretty well and we were hopeful she’d make it to spring, but by Christmas she was struggling to walk. Christmas Day I took her out for a walk and she fell and just laid there for half an hour before she could get back up to go in the house. If you’ve ever had a pet, particularly one that is sick, have you ever had that exchange where their eyes tell you everything? There was such a sadness in her eyes that day, I knew she was ready. That was the point when I realized we were holding on for us, not for her.

Ru's foot

A close-up of the joint with the tumor. You can see compared to the other foot how much it had spread and how big it had gotten.

 

Uluru crossed the Rainbow Bridge on December 30, 2014.

 

We did make an effort to make her last day the Best Day Ever, or at least as well as we could. Both Jason and I (independently and uncoordinated) brought her two cheeseburger meals from McDonalds.

Which she ate with abandon

Which she ate with abandon

Then we tried to play a little fetch in the house as best we could. She used to be able to spend hours (literally, hours…not hyperbole or figuratively) playing fetch in the various fields, lakes, and parks where we took her to play. She’d had trouble playing fetch over the summer because it would make her hurt so much she was immobile the next day, but we tried to do light tosses to her for her to catch.

Ru's last day Andrea

I didn’t even gripe at her for popping the ball, which was her tennis ball MO.

We still miss her horribly. Andrea struggles the most, because Ru was like a sister to her. There’s not a single memory that Andrea has that does not include Ru.

puppy and kid

Two pups.

ru campfire

Pups all grown up.

But even though Andrea has been hit the hardest, we all miss our girl terribly. It’s gotten better, but there are still days when a place, or a food, or a memory sparks tears in our eyes and aches in our hearts. We will never forget Ms. Ru and everything she brought to our family.

cousins

Even the cousins loved her. Both of the girls were initially scared of this big, excitable dog, but eventually they loved her as much as we did.

 

Rest in peace, sweet girl. You will always have a special place in our hearts.

puppy Ru

 

 

Dollar Daze – Earbuds

12 May

dollar daze logo

 

 

Having a teenage daughter means having a lot (a LOT) of devices. She has an iPod we gave her for Christmas four years ago,

christmas 2010

Nope, she wasn’t excited AT ALL. Note the classy Yule log on the tv in the background. Cuz we are all about the class.

an iPad she saved up six months worth of babysitting and face painting money to purchase (because god knows we couldn’t afford to buy her one),

ipad

She was so proud of this, and has taken unbelievable care of it. With the exception of the time six months in when we had to have it replaced because of a defective microphone, she’s had the same tablet for three and a half years.

a school issued iPad (not as cool as it sounds, sadly), and a phone. All of these devices mean noise, whether she’s playing games, watching videos, or listening to music. Sometimes, having things at full volume doesn’t work. Whether it’s because we’re trying to work or concentrate or watch something ourselves, or because she’s watching PewDiePie or one of her other favorite YouTubers and she can’t have swearing heard in mixed company, sometimes having a way to hear your device without inflicting said audio upon others is a necessity. It’s too bad they haven’t invented something– oh wait, yes they have!

Andrea has had several sets of headphones and earbuds over the years.

 

headphones

One of my personal favorites.

She likes headphones okay, but with some of her sensory issues, it doesn’t take long before the pressure of the headphone either annoys her or gives her a headache. She prefers earbuds, which I get. I worry about her ears, because that’s always a concern with something that sends sound directly into the eardrum, but I understand the comfort issue.

The thing with earbuds is that they tend to be crazy expensive, and they have a pretty short shelf life. We’ve spent upwards of $20 per pair before, and when they crap out three to six months in, it doesn’t make her (or me!) happy. So when I saw these:

earbuds

$1 earbuds? Yes, please.

 

…I thought maybe we had a solution to the problem. I mean, the $1 stylus was an epic win, so we could hope this was fare as well, right?

Eh, not so much.

earbuds

I took this picture as she was ripping the buds out of her ears after trying them out.

The experiment did not last long with these. Like, she said she was going to try them out in preparation for her choir trip to Chicago. Perfect time to try out a cheap pair to have some privacy on a bus chock full o’ peers and chaperones. I was getting my phone ready to take pictures when she was already taking them out.

Earbuds2

We posed this one.

She said that the sound was too tinny and there was a bit of an echo. And not terribly comfortable either, because she could forgive a little quality if they were comfortable, but if they are uncomfortable AND bad sound quality? No dice.

Earbuds 3

I tried to get her to do a disappointed face, but as you can see she’s trying not to laugh rather than look fierce. It’s only $1; how serious do I expect her to take this?

Sadly, another failure on the part of Dollar Tree. Which is sad, because I had such high hopes. If they had worked, I’d have bought ten of them and just kept them in a drawer until the current pair failed. Guess we’ll have to keep hitting up Target and Walgreens. *sigh*

Better luck next time, Dollar Tree. The earbuds get an F.

 

 

 

 

50 by 50 #5 – Finish Writing My Book

7 May

Now, I don’t know if I should specify which one. I’ve had several stories that have been floating around for a while. There’s two in particular that drive me crazy on a regular basis, so those are the ones I’m primarily concerned about.

I always get a little nervous talking about my book(s) because I’ve had people who are legit authors and editors (think actually published) warn that telling too many people runs the risk of having your idea stolen. I’d like to think with both of the stories I have in mind, once I explain how I got the idea for them (a la Melanie Griffith in Working Girl), it will be clear that I was the original creator. Of course on the other hand, if someone else takes it and actually does something with it (instead of sitting here floundering and hemming and hawing for seven to ten years), good on them and the blame is on me. You snooze, you lose, amirite?

The one that’s been floundering the longest is a basic fantasy about a girl with special abilities who’s recruited to become a guardian with a group that exploits wormholes to change events and fates. It originally started as an EU (Extended Universe, for you non-Star Wars fans) fanfic type of thing, but after talking to an actual published Star Wars author about their tightly controlled story lines, I figured it would be better to reframe it as an original piece. Hey, if “50 Shades” can do it…

That may not be the best analogy. Moving on.

The one that I really need to finish (and that I have done the most work on) is the one that I keep getting shamed into finishing. It’s the one I have a full synopsis for, the one for which I’ve honed my elevator speech, the one that I actually utilized NaNoWriMo not one but two years to try and get done. Still not finished, but serious headway was made, so there’s that. One of my coworkers even bought me a shirt as a Christmas present a couple of years ago to help in the shaming.

A gift from my friend Jeanne. As a shaming device, it’s super effective.

I’ve found that when I wear the shirt, people genuinely ask me about the book. And when I give my elevator speech, the next question is generally, “Where can I get this book, it sounds awesome!” And then I have to admit that it’s not finished, and then the total stranger with whom I’ve been conversing says, “Well get it done!”

It’s to the point where I don’t wear the shirt very often because I know it will make me feel guilty. Which should tell me something, and yet I am the Laziest Person Alive®, so in keeping with my title I spend more time playing games on my phone than actually writing the book that a few dozen people have told me they really want to read.

The nice thing is that when I do actually get it done, I have no less than twenty people who’ve said they would be happy to read my first draft and give me feedback. Which is cool, but still intimidating. In the meantime, I’ve spent more time focusing on the blog (and I’m sure you’re saying “really, you’re focusing on your blog?”) because it’s a quicker ROI. I hate to admit it, but I’ve come to the realization that yes, I am motivated by immediate rewards. I get validation from writing the blog and feedback is almost instantaneous. The problem with writing the book is that right now, it’s all just me. It’s rough and dirty and not fit for public consumption and not even finished. The blog helps me make writing a (more or less) regular habit, and gives me validation, which helps me continue to write. I know it shouldn’t matter, and I know that I should just write for me and not worry about what other people think, but such is the nature of people who struggle with self-esteem and perfectionism.Y’all have been instrumental in keeping things going for me, and I appreciate that.

So my plan is that this summer I’ll work on keeping up with at least two blog posts a week and spend some quality time finishing the object of my shame, Satan’s Got a Cheesy Porno ‘Stache. Want to read the synopsis?

Satan is having an identity crisis. Seems no one really appreciates his handiwork any more, and he’s tired of God taking all the credit for the good stuff that happens while he gets no respect for his role in cataclysmic events. Under the advice of some of his minions, Lucy (as he’s known to his friends) goes topside to hire a big time Hollywood image consultant to help him get a little more credibility.

Unfortunately, after striking out with two agencies who don’t believe he’s the real deal, he settles on a small upstart firm that is willing to work with him. Despite a great rapport with Lily, the agency’s chief partner, things go awry during the focus groups when they try to test market his new strategy. When research shows that he can’t be taken seriously, he decides to quit the biz all together and work on developing his new relationship with Lily.

Quitting the dark side isn’t as easy as he had hoped. Without his hand involved in daily events, the balance of the universe is tipped and things are coming unraveled. He receives visits from angels Gabriel and Michael, trying to urge him to take back his old job, but Lucy isn’t interested. Even his demons try to convince him that he needs to go back to Hell due to the threat of a war between Beelzebub and Mammon for his empty throne. When all else fails, Lucy receives a visit from God herself, who is pretty pissed at him for abandoning his duties. Can She talk him back into the business of evil before the universe falls completely apart? And what will happen to his burgeoning romance with Lily?

I have the framework done and about seven chapters in rough draft. I just need to get back into it and GIT ‘ER DONE. At least I have another five years, based on the 50×50 goal, right? If it took me seven years to get seven chapters finished, I should be able to pound out the rest in five years, right?

Happy Star Wars and A to Z Recap Day!

4 May

So you get another two-fer because YAY! It’s my favorite day of the year, the high holy day in my religion. It is Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You!

image

Why, yes. I DID wear my Yoda t-shirt and Leia buns to work today. Why do you ask?

 

The good Lutheran girl in me always wants to respond to that by saying, “And also with you.”

I originally was going to do my A to Z recap on the first, but then I saw something that said recap day was supposed to be the fourth, so I waited. Because of that, this post will be a hot mess of random. You’re welcome!

So, what have I learned this year?

Not a damn thing.

No, that’s not true. I learned lots of fascinating things about New Zealand, cross-stitch, ways to die in medieval Hungary, liberal politics, Japan, and lots of other random stuff. And that’s just what I learned visiting other people’s posts! I also learned a lot about this continual adventure we call blogging.

I learned that an AC rating is death– or at least it is on the A to Z sign up list. Because of my propensity for cussing, I threw on the AC category so I wouldn’t get booted. It was like a warning sign for folks not to come visit. My stats alone showed this to be true. In the past Challenges, it wasn’t unusual for me to get 5-10 clicks from the A to Z site per day. This year? I was lucky if I got one or two. There were several days when I received no traffic from the list. Disappointing, but I think maybe they need to rethink how they categorize. When I looked at other AC blogs, there was a lot of sex and/or violence. I don’t think my love for using the F-bomb from time to time qualifies me to fit in that category. I would suggest that maybe in the future, they add a PG-13 category that fits those of us who swear. I’m not going to change how I write, but I’m frustrated that because of two little letters, a large group of people avoided my blog without even giving me a look.

I learned I need to set aside daily time for visits– Because of the AC thing, my ability to visit other blogs was critical. My biggest days were driven by the amount of time I spent visiting and commenting on others’ posts. Which, if you think about it, kind of negates the whole AC rating anyway. If I’m doing the blog hop as I’m supposed to and being social (and they, in return, are hopping back based on my comments) then they aren’t going to know I have an AC rating anyway. I’d be kind of curious to know if I even needed to sign up for it to participate, or if I just use the list and socialize and have the same results. Might be worth experimenting. But it does tell me that building an audience is ongoing work. Not something I can just do once or twice a year. I need to carve out regular networking time to read and connect with others if I want this thing to grow.

I learned that blog hopping on my smart phone was a pain in the ass– Visiting WordPress sites? Super easy. I could like, I could comment, it was a piece of cake. Visiting sites that were not WordPress? Ugh. Maybe I need to install a Blogger app or something else, but that was one of the greatest challenges (for me at least) in doing the hop part of the challenge. When I had the time to visit, I usually didn’t have ready access to a regular computer. And if I didn’t have a regular computer, visiting non-Wordpress sites was an exercise in frustration. I can’t tell you the number of times I had a comment all filled out, and then my phone prevented me from doing anything other than looking. Grrrrr. I’ll have to see what I can do between now and next year to make this go easier.

I learned a theme is way more fun to work with– I’ve done the random thing before, but there’s something super fun and challenging about making things fit into a certain defined workspace. I also found that the blogs I tended to go to as a repeat customer were ones that stuck to a theme, because I wanted to see what they did next. Also, making my own creative header was fun and allowed me to utilize my mad doodling skillz.

nerdgasm logo

I drew this myself. Isn’t she adorable?

And now I’m going to do something I haven’t done before. In the past, I highlighted key blogs that I enjoyed, but this year I’m giving out an award. Yes, my Zillas and fellow A to Zers, I present my

First Annual Nagzilla’s Star of Excellence Awards

Nagzilla's star of excellence

You know you want one.

While I didn’t get to visit as many blogs as I had hoped, there were some specific ones that I found myself going back to time and again because they were entertaining, fascinating, and really well-written. Please give some love to the following blogs (in no particular order) on their distinguished honor of being the first recipients of the Nagzilla Star of Excellence Award:
Joeyfully Stated
Not a Punk Rocker
Nerd in the Brain
Things Matter
Alex Hurst
No Page Left Blank
MopDog
Pensuation
Blog-A-Rhythm
Deblog
Keeblesworld
WTF Am I On About Now?
Plucking of My Heartstrings
A Daft Scots Lass
Albom Adventures

If you’re on this list and do the award thing, feel free to copy and save Nagzilla up there and post her in your awards section. If you’re not on the list and think you should be (or you want this major award), tell me in the comments and go ahead and grab it. I’m an inclusive kind of gal. I saw a lot of awesome blogs, but these are the ones I bookmarked, or followed, or kept going back to. Congratulations on completing the challenge!

That’s it for this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m going into hibernation. I still have to finish writing about the rest of my 50×50 list, and there’s always new Dollar Daze entries to complete. Plus writing about weird random shit that happens to me on a regular basis. Plus there’s a con coming up this weekend, so you KNOW that’s going to need to be reported and shared. It’s going to be an interesting summer, so you won’t want to miss out on future posts. Stay tuned, y’all. This is just the beginning.

Thanks for hanging out with me during April. It was a grand adventure. Here’s to many, many more!

 

 

Z is for Zombies

30 Apr

nerdgasm logo

Well, my Zillas, this is the final A to Z entry. Ok, technically I have a “what I learned” recap tomorrow, but I don’t count that. This is the final nerdgasm post. We survived! This theme was super fun for me, even if I got a little behind here and there.

Z is obviously going to be for zombies. I mean, duh. What’s nerdier than zombies? 

Here’s where I share a confession: I haven’t seen The Walking Dead. Yet. That will be corrected, I’m just more into Supernatural and Doctor Who right now. Don’t judge. 

I’ve seen parts of it, don’t get me wrong. I’ve come in on bits and pieces of it while Andrea was watching. My love for zombies is more classic Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead variety. I love Shaun of the Dead. I think it’s one of my favorite modern horror movies. Injecting humor into a horror flick is brilliant. It worked for Nightmare on Elm Street, and not enough movies utilize this tool. 

 

my love for the movie makes me want this t-shirt in the worst way.

 
I also loved reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I don’t know what it is about mashups I find so entertaining, but done well, I think they’re amazing. And Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a fun romp.

While Andrea and I love zombies, not everyone in the family is enamored. Jason is not a fan. I was watching Shaun of the Dead with him, and we were about halfway through when he said, “I can’t watch this. It’s going to give me nightmares.”

Now mind you, this is the guy that loves reading and watching books and movies by Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy. So I said, “Wait, you’re telling me that you have no problem watching movies about war and terrorism, things that could ACTUALLY HAPPEN, but you’re freaked out by zombies? Which are fictional and in no way, shape, or form real and are never going to happen?”

“Yeah.” And then he left me to finish watching by myself. 

 

A great Shaun cosplay from Metacon two years ago

 

I’m actually fine watching (or reading, let’s be honest) horror stuff in controlled environments. But I have learned to be selective about when I consume horror. An incident reading Lasher alone at night in my mid-twenties showed me that. So, for example, when Jason’s gone I can watch Supernatural during the day. But if it’s dark out and close to bedtime? Nope. All the nopes.

If you’ve never been much into zombies, I highly recommend Shaun of the Dead as a starter course. It has just enough jump scares and gore to keep you on the edge of your seat, but just enough humor to make you not completely freak out. And then you can move on to others as your palate allows. 

*and let’s be clear; even though I said above that zombies aren’t real and will never happen DOES NOT MEAN I don’t have a zombie apocalypse plan. Because I totally do. As should you all. Just in case.

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