Posts by Madisen Petrosky

My name is Madisen. I am many things—a marketing professional for a nonprofit organization, a nerd, a sorority girl, a daydreamer, married—but the thing that matters most is that I love stories.

EXPeriencing ‘You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)’ by Felicia Day

Cover photo via.

If you’re a gamer or on the internet often, you know who Felicia Day is. If you’re not, here’s an introduction, in her own words:

Hi, I’m Felicia Day. I’m an actor. That quirky chick in that one science fiction show? You know the one I’m talking about. I’m never on the actual poster, but I always have a few good scenes that make people laugh. As a redhead, I’m a sixth-lead specialist, and I practically invented the whole “cute but offbeat hacker girl” trope on television. (Sorry. When I started doing it, it was fresh. I promise.)

Basically, if you Google her or look her up on IMDb, you’ll probably figure out something you know her from.

I first knew her from a couple of the literally hundreds of internet videos she’s made and starred in, the company she started called Geek & Sundry, and as the voice of one of the heroes in my favorite video game, Guild Wars 2. When her memoir came out, I added it to my ever-lengthening Goodreads list.

Last month when I was craving books to read, I grabbed Felicia’s memoir from the biography section of the library. I don’t go to this section of the library or bookstore often. I’ve never read a memoir that wasn’t from the 1900s or earlier and assigned to me in an English class. Ever. I haven’t read Bossypants or The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo or Furiously HappySo, intentionally grabbing a memoir was a new thing for me.

I’m glad I did, because Felicia’s memoir is a delight. From reading about her life as a home-schooled kid to her being a violin prodigy (whaaat?) to moving to LA to become an actress, I was fascinated.

What I didn’t expect (though in retrospect, I’m not surprised) was how much of Felicia’s memoir resonated with me. I dog-eared quite a few of that library book’s pages (sorry!), but there were just too many quotes to let them go without a second read.

My favorites:

On being addicted to World of Warcraft:

The thing about a computer game character is that a part of you BECOMES that character in an alternative world. That little gnome was an emotional projection of myself. A creature/person who was more powerful, more organized and living in a world where there were exact parameters to becoming successful. …
When we graduate from childhood into adulthood, we’re thrown into this confusing, Cthulu-like miasma of life, filled with social and career problems, all with branching choices and no correct answers. Sometimes gaming feels like going back to that simple kid world. Real-life Felicia wasn’t getting more successful, but I could channel my frustration into making my gnome an A-list celebrity warlock, thank you very much! (pg 115)

On writing:

Every second of writing that script felt like walking barefoot over shards of glass. I would write a bit and then I would sob, wanting desperately to erase what I’d just written. … Then I would force my fingers to type more, every word feeling like I was bleeding from every orifice. I was engulfed with fear of making mistakes, of writing something stupid, of encountering story problems I couldn’t think my way out of. I was, in short, terrified of the process. It was not fun. (pg 141-2)
If ideas flow out of you easily like a chocolate fountain, bless you, and skip to the next chapter. But if you’re someone like me, who longs to create but finds the process agonizing, here’s my advice:
  • Find a group to support you, to encourage you, to guilt you into DOING. If you can’t find one, start one yourself. Random people enjoy having pancakes.
  • Make a goal. Then strike down things that are distracting you from that goal, especially video games. (Unless it’s this book; finish reading it and THEN start.)
  • Put the fear of God into yourself. Okay, I’m not religious. Whatever spiritual ideas float your boat. Read some obituaries, watch the first fifteen minutes of Up, I don’t care. Just scare yourself good. You have a finite number of toothpaste tubes you will ever consume while on this planet. Make the most of that clean tooth time. For yourself. (pg 143)

On mental health:

Imagine saying to someone, “I have a kidney problem, and I’m having a lot of bad days lately.” Nothing but sympathy, right?
“What’s wrong?”
“My mom had that!”
“Text me a pic of the ultrasound!”
Then pretend to say, “I have severe depression and anxiety, and I’m having a lot of bad days lately.”
They just look at you like you’re broken, right? Unfixable. Inherently flawed. Maybe not someone they want to hang around as much?
Yeah, society sucks. (pg 228)

And finally, on representation:

[Nora Ephron] had made it possible for me to imagine my own future in the world of film. Her very existence showed me it could be done and allowed me to dream about following the path she laid behind her. Without her work, I doubt it would have ever occurred to me that such a path existed.
Now, I certainly am not saying that I consider myself an icon like Nora Ephron or that I should be [the] ultimate example of “GAMER FEMALE” but the idea of representation is important. And I think the world of gaming needs people from all walks of life to speak up and represent the positive side of what we love. Because, let’s be real: gaming’s reputation is NOT good in that area right now. …
I joined the world of gaming as a little girl. It was where I first discovered my voice and felt accepted. I found a community … During all that time I spent online I was never shamed for my enthusiasms. Never made to feel that I didn’t deserve to be heard because of my gender. And I wouldn’t be who I am without that community. (pg 251)

If you’re a nerd, a gamer female, or just love the internet and want to read a good memoir about an interesting person, I definitely recommend You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

Now, to translate all the hours I spent playing Heroes of the Storm this weekend into writing hours this week….

EXPeriencing “Quarto” by Adrienne Rich

I don’t remember everything from college. I don’t remember the dates when certain novels were published, or what all the different literary criticism terms are, or how to read Middle English anymore. But today I remembered the name of a feminist poet whose writing I enjoyed—Adrienne Rich.

In briefly perusing articles published about her following her death in 2012, I found “Quarto.” It was published on June 8, 2009—exactly eight years ago today.

It came into my life exactly when I needed it, which is how all the best poems find their readers. Now, I share it with you, in case you need it today, too.


Quarto
June 8, 2009

1.
Call me Sebastian, arrows sticking all over
The map of my battlefields. Marathon.
Wounded Knee. Vicksburg. Jericho.
Battle of the Overpass.
Victories turned inside out
But no surrender

Cemeteries of remorse
The beaten champion sobbing
Ghosts move in to shield his tears

2.
No one writes lyric on a battlefield
On a map stuck with arrows
But I think I can do it if I just lurk
In my tent pretending to
Refeather my arrows

I’ll be right there! I yell
When they come with their crossbows and white phosphorus
To recruit me
Crouching over my drafts
lest they find me out
and shoot me

3.
Press your cheek against my medals, listen through them to my heart
Doctor, can you see me if I’m naked?

Spent longer in this place than in the war
No one comes but rarely and I don’t know what for

Went to that desert as many did before
Farewell and believing and hope not to die

Hope not to die and what was the life
Did we think was awaiting after

Lay down your stethoscope back off on your skills
Doctor can you see me when I’m naked?

4.
I’ll tell you about the mermaid
Sheds swimmable tail Gets legs for dancing
Sings like the sea with a choked throat
Knives straight up her spine
Lancing every step
There is a price
There is a price
For every gift
And all advice


Shared from The Nation.

EXPeriencing Wonder Woman

Cover image via.

Caution: There’s a spoiler below.

My husband made me cry because of Wonder Woman.

Don’t worry, they were happy tears.

We saw Wonder Woman this afternoon, and were both blown away. Not only was it a great story with great acting and awesome fight scenes and explosions that make all good superhero movies worthwhile, but it was a woman. leading. the. charge. I didn’t know I’d been waiting my whole life to see Wonder Woman kicking ass and taking names on the big screen, but when I watched her train with the Amazons, fight Germans, and save the world, I was mesmerized. She’s everything the 8-year-old girl in me needed to see 20 years ago: a strong, smart woman warrior who can do anything.

I was particularly choked up during a fight scene in the latter half of the film. Diana had just walked across No Man’s Land and helped the allied forces overcome the entrenched Germans. Then she cleared out the nearby German-occupied town to save the villagers. She was fighting a dozen men at once, and beating them all to pulps. My nose started to tickle as tears were welling in my eyes. I’ve never truly been struck with the sense of seeing myself represented on screen, and it is powerful. It’s one thing to see Captain America and Batman and Thor leading a team, running around, beating up the bad guys. But it’s another to see a woman doing it. Representation matters in all things. It took more than 75 years from Wonder Woman’s creation for women to see her on the big screen in all her deserved glory. It’s ridiculous it took Hollywood this long to catch up. But boy, was it worth the wait.

As I was about to share with Terry how this scene made me tear up, he said, “The movie almost got me. I almost cried during it.” I asked him what part. He replied, “When Steve Trevor was saying goodbye to Diana before flying the plane away from the base.”

Terry said, “Because that’s how I see you. You’re Wonder Woman to me.”

Reader, I burst into tears.

I clutched his hand and said, “Really?”

He said, “Yeah, are you kidding? You are Wonder Woman, and any other strong female video game or movie character. That’s why I want you to go everywhere with me. I’m Steve Trevor, I can’t do anything on my own. I need Wonder Woman there to help me.”

I’ve never felt more loved or special in all my life. I told Terry it was the sweetest thing he’s ever said to me. He replied, “What about ‘Will you marry me?'” That ranks second.

The moral of this story is two-fold:

1.) Go see Wonder Woman. Immediately. Take your daughters and sons.

2.) Find a lady or gentleman who sees you as Wonder Woman, and marry them.

EXPeriencing ‘Uprooted’ by Naomi Novik

Cover image via.

Who doesn’t love a good, mindless Buzzfeed quiz? At worst it’ll eat up a few minutes as you’re waiting for your Starbucks order. At best, you’ll get a killer book suggestion.

It was through a Buzzfeed quiz that I discovered Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It was something like, “Pretend to Write a Book and We’ll Tell You What Book You Should Read Next.” (I can’t find the exact quiz, but here’s one based on a book you’ve liked, and here’s one based on your favorite emoji.) The quiz suggested Uprooted and the blurb looked interesting enough for me to look it up on Goodreads. The Goodreads rating was pretty incredible: 4.1/5 stars and more than 69,000 ratings. Anything over 3.5 is usually worth checking out, and with that many ratings, I immediately added Uprooted to my To Read list.

A quick visit to the library resulted in a stack of books, including Uprooted. After reading Maus I and Maus II, I was definitely in need of a fantasy/fairy tale to lighten things up.

I dove into Uprooted, and didn’t want to climb out until I was done with the last page. I couldn’t put this book down. It was almost to Harry Potter levels of immersion. But, not from the first page.

It actually starts out pretty generic: clumsy girl lives in small village surrounded by enchanted wood. Wizard is expected to claim perfect girl (not main character) for 10-year servitude. Doesn’t. Chooses main character. Hijinks ensue.

The important part of this generic description is the “starts” part. The above description constitutes just the first two chapters, 38 pages total. It’s worth the payoff to get through. You soon discover, if you haven’t guessed by the end of Chapter One, that the main character, Agnieszka, is a witch herself, which is why the wizard chooses her. Cue another chapter of Agnieszka not realizing she’s a witch, and you’ve gotten past all the truly “generic” content of the book.

~400 pages of the true story follow: the conflict with the Wood. This evil Wood steals people from the valley to expand its territory and corrupt the humans. And Agnieszka wants to stop it from devouring her family, her village, and everyone she’s ever known.

Cue adventure, which include a desperate prince, some court intrigue, and magic magic and more magic. The base magic is familiar if you’re the role-playing sort, but Agnieszka’s breed throws everyone for a loop. She makes magic her own, not how any of the other wizards want it to be.

The depth of the story sucks you in until you finish the last page. It spans a kingdom and 10,000 years. Novik’s writing is beautiful, particularly her simile descriptions. She describes unrelatable situations in a relatable way, while keeping Agnieszka’s personality in tact.

If you like fantasy novels and fairy tales and want to dive into a new story that treads just off the familiar track, I highly suggest Uprooted.

A Buzzfeed suggestion is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in years. A+, Buzzfeed. A+.

OOC: Avocados are not pudding.

OOC stands for “out of character.” This blog isn’t a fitness or food blog, but I need to write about this experience, and by god I’m going to use my blog to do it.

I’ve been feeling pretty down about my weight and body image recently. I completed my fourth half marathon a week and a half ago, but that still doesn’t make me feel any better about my no-longer-flat stomach or the number on the scale.

So in an attempt to feel better about my body, I’ve been looking into clean eating diets, food prep ideas, and substitutions for sugary snacks that don’t help with weight loss. Between a friend who just had a great experience on Whole30 and another who has had a good experience with a detox, surely I could find something that works for me, right?

I found a two-week clean eating challenge from Buzzfeed one day while looking for recipes, and the tab sat open on my phone’s browser for weeks. As soon as I finish this half marathon, I thought, I’m going to try this clean eating diet.

But the longer I looked at the diet, the more nervous I got. It was a pretty big commitment. So, I googled the plan. And found some reviews of it.

That’s right, reviews of a clean eating challenge posted by Buzzfeed in 2015.

There were two consistent aspects of the reviews that gave me further pause: the cost of buying all the food, and the time it takes to prep all of it. Healthy food costs more, we all know this. But almost every meal is different, meaning that even if you’re making the meals for one like the recipes call for, you have to buy different ingredients for every one. That adds up, especially when you’re buying dates, pistachios, avocados, and portobello mushrooms. The time commitment was also alarming. With an estimate of over 20 hours to prep all these meals, the reviewers had zero social lives. One barely even had time to work out, let alone hang out with anyone.

With these two red flags flapping in my face, I ultimately didn’t decide to take on the whole challenge.

Thank god.

Because I did go ahead and try a couple recipes from the challenge. I kept the browser tab open and looked forward to blackberry chia seed pudding for breakfast and trying the delicious-looking chocolate avocado pudding.

Maybe I’m just not into healthy puddings. Because those two recipes sucked.

First, the chia seed pudding. I hate putting blackberries into any recipes, not because I don’t like them, but because I love them so much I want to eat them unaltered in their beautiful full-berry state. So having to crush up a handful of blackberries was hard, but I did it. It looked like jam, and I like blackberry jam, so I was okay with it. I added the chia seeds, the almond milk, the coconut, stirred it all up and set it in the fridge to be enjoyed in the morning. The next morning, I grabbed a spoon, stirred up the pudding (it looked a little thin), and dove in.

Blech.

It tasted like milky blackberry jam. And nothing else. It wasn’t thick enough to be satisfying, and it wasn’t sweet enough to make up for the lightness. It was just bland. I ate the whole thing and was starving for the rest of the morning.

So chia seed puddings aren’t my thing, fine. What about this chocolate avocado pudding? Avocados probably make for a great consistency, and who doesn’t love healthy chocolate?

No one. No one loves healthy chocolate. Because it’s disgusting.

I whipped up this “dessert” tonight. What a waste of an avocado. I froze half of the avocado earlier this week so it was ready to go. I dumped it into the blender. In went the almond milk, the cocoa powder, the vanilla, the date. Then I hit “blend.” Yikes. Frozen avocados are hardcore–and I have a hardcore blender. So I blended and blended, then scraped down the sides, then blended some more. Finally, it looked like pudding, so I scraped it out into a bowl… and noticed it was studded through with chunks of avocado and date. Okay, I thought, I’ll just eat around the chunks. Most of it got blended together, so I’m sure the flavors are right. Dear god, I hope those flavors weren’t right, because it smelled like chocolate, but it tasted like avocado. I take that back, it tasted like bad avocado. It was bitter and cold, and it smelled wonderful, which just made it worse.

What’s sad, is that this pudding recipe made with a frozen banana instead of an avocado is probably delicious. Banana ice cream is good because bananas are sweet. Avocados are not sweet. They go on toast and tacos. Not dessert. Not with chocolate.

I read another Buzzfeed article recently about a woman who cut added sugar out of her diet for 30 days, like a less strict Whole30. The tagline of the article is, “No added sugars, no artificial sweeteners, no fake sugars, no honey, no agave, no syrup, no joy.” That’s what this clean eating challenge sounded like. And, from what I experienced, it’s what it tasted like, too.

Eating healthy is hard. Cutting out sugar is hard. Cutting out carbs is hard. But you shouldn’t be miserable while trying to eat healthy. Try healthy foods, and stick with the recipes you like. I love the Thug Kitchen Cookbook, which is nothing but vegan recipes. I discovered this morning that I like blended oat smoothies. I like salads with homemade dressing and home baked sweet potato fries. All of these things are good for me, and they taste great. There’s no reason to cut joy out of your diet for the sake of a flat stomach. That saying “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? That’s bullshit. Cake tastes better than zipping yourself into skinny jeans.

Eat a piece of cake, run a couple miles, and be happy.

And don’t make pudding out of avocados.

EXPeriencing ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood [The Novel]

Cover image via.

I had always heard Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was a disconcerting dystopian novel. Nothing encouraged me to pick it up, though. It was simply a book written before I was born about some hypothetical “What if.”

And then Donald Trump was elected president, a man who multiple women have accused of sexual assault, and yet he gets to sit in the Oval Office and enact laws (or attempt to). If anything is illustrative of white male privilege and the need for feminism, it’s this, our new reality.

“I’m ravenous for news, any kind of news; even if it’s false news, it must mean something.”

Knowing things could somehow still be worse, and having seen previews for the Hulu adaptation, I asked my sister to buy The Handmaid’s Tale for me for my birthday.

I read the book on my deck in the warm sun. I read it snuggled on my couch under cozy blankets. And yet, I couldn’t quite shake the chill that crept up my spine with every page.

Atwood thrusts you into the life in the new United States–Gilead–a nation that has been taken over by a religious right that strips women of their rights. They are no longer able to own property, make their own decisions about money, or even read. Women (the lucky ones? It’s hard to say.) are classified into three categories: Wives, Marthas (housekeepers), and Handmaids (breeders). Human reproduction has plummeted, and now Handmaids, those women with the most viable reproductive systems, are tasked with conceiving children. Not for themselves, but for the families they are tied to.

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, is what he says. We thought we could do better.

“Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better?

“Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.”

You almost want to read the novel at arm’s length. The main character, Offred, describes things with almost detached interest that makes you similarly want to detach yourself. But you can’t. Especially when Offred tells the reader, “I don’t want to tell this story.”

Those parts, the parts Offred doesn’t want to tell you, are where the novel gets too real. The flashes of life before Gilead are an America that looks remarkably similar to our own. There are subtle, slow changes that are easy to overlook, that everyday citizens think they’ll work through. But then it’s too late and too much is different and resistance isn’t just a hashtag or a march but a death sentence.

Offred’s tale isn’t one of information and facts, but of humanity and emotions that can’t be undone by a religious regime. It shows the dangers of a few at the top holding all the power, and how the erasure of science and reason in favor of piety can have devastating consequences for society.

The world of The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t as far away as it should be. But living Offred’s story through her eyes ensures I will fight tooth and nail to keep that reality far, far away.

“But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”

EXPeriencing ‘Power Rangers’

Cover image via.

I was born in 1989, which means I grew up watching Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and was a die hard fan. I don’t know anyone I grew up with who wasn’t a Power Rangers fan, because all kids are Power Rangers fans. Not all kids may be Might Morphin’ fans, but since some iteration of Power Rangers has been on air for 24 seasons, if you’ve watched TV as a child at some point starting in 1993, you are a Power Rangers fan.

So of course when the 2017 live action Power Rangers came out, I was going to go see it with my husband, who also grew up a Mighty Morphin’ fan (although we do differ in our opinion of best/favorite Ranger. I’m for Pink/Kimberly, obviously, and he’s a Green/Tommy fan.). We didn’t have high expectations. I mean, have you actually watched a Power Rangers show as an adult? It’s terrible. Which is why kids love it.

But let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. A better word would actually be thrilled. Or delighted.

Because Power Rangers was fucking awesome.

I said this on Facebook, but it bears repeating: You know when movie reviewers say “It’s the most fun you’ll have at the movies all [season]”? Yeah, that’s Power Rangers. If you were born between 1985 and 1993 and watched Power Rangers on TV, this is one of the most fun movies you will ever see.

One of the things that surprised me the most was that the story line is well done. (I know, I set the bar pretty low.) The plot made sense, and the characters’ small town teenage problems were both believable and current. They’re dealing with stuff teenagers nowadays deal with, particularly as it applies to the internet and social media.

The characters were also believable, and thankfully diverse. When Alpha 5 (the Rangers’ robot trainer buddy) first meets the Rangers when they’ve gotten their power coins, he says, “Different colors, different kids, different colored kids!” he’s not kidding. They could have taken it a little farther by not making Jason, the Red Ranger, white and blond, but you know. Hollywood.

The best part about Power Rangers is the very deliberate but judicious camp. As I said, the original Might Morphin’ Power Rangers series is terrible. It’s so campy it’s hard to watch if you’re older than 8. But the camp is what makes it undeniably Power Rangers, and the 2017 movie pays respectful tribute to that without hurting the overall quality of the movie. It ramps up the nostalgia factor, and there’s one part in particular that had the entire back row of the theater I was in—all couples in our mid-to-late 20s—laughing so hard in delight we were almost cheering.

This iteration of Power Rangers was made for two audiences: kids who are currently fans of Power Rangers, and millennials who are paying big for nostalgia and reliving our childhood. Power Rangers delivered some serious nostalgia, and it was a fun and well-made action movie. If you’re looking to relive your childhood, I highly recommend going to see Power Rangers.

power-rangers-2017

I like their new suits. Don’t @ me. (Image via.)