A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

Cover photo art by Hayley Gilmore and is available for download along with her other designs! Thank you, Hayley!

Well it’s been a bit of a week, I’d say.

outside-hamilton

Me at Hamilton in Chicago.

On Wednesday, January 18, I saw Hamilton in Chicago with my best friend. It’s hard to put the experience into words (without a lot of superlatives). After listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack for nearly a year and the Hamilton Mixtape since it was released in December, I thought I knew the show pretty well. And it’s true, 90% of what’s on the soundtrack is in the show.

But there’s a reason why musicals are more than just concerts. Everything that’s happening on stage is incredible. From the minimal, rotating set, to the company dancing, to the inflections and movements of the actors, each bit of visual candy creates a richer experience than just blasting the soundtrack in your car every day.

Even though we saw the Wednesday matinee, we saw all the main cast: Miguel Cervantes as Alexander Hamilton, Ari Afsar as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Karen Olivo as Angelica Schuyler, Chris De’Sean Lee (a junior in college) as Lafayette/Jefferson, and the new Aaron Burr, in his second day of shows, Wayne Brady. I had my doubts about Brady as Burr, but rest assured, he was incredible. So many goosebumps in “Wait For It.”

The best thing about Hamilton, though, is what makes it so amazing no matter what form you watch or listen to it in: the history of our country’s founding is told through performances by diverse men and women who more accurately reflect today’s America. It was comforting and empowering to see people of color performing roles previously occupied by white men and women telling a story about a country—our country—that fought for its freedom.

But that fight continues today.

It was a unique experience to see Hamilton just two days before America’s first black president left office, only for that office be taken over by the man we must now call President. I couldn’t bear to watch the inauguration and see our country slide backwards.

So when the inauguration ceremony kicked off, I was at the movies watching Hidden Figures, a story of the black women who helped get America’s astronauts into space. What an incredible film! I had never heard the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and all the black “human computers” who worked at NASA in the early 1960s. Not once. To paraphrase a black woman’s post on Facebook about the movie: “I was moved to tears by the movie and so proud of these women. But I’m also angry that I was never taught about these women and others like them. What would have been the trajectory of my life if I’d known of them?”

I, too, am angry and feel a sense of betrayal that I never once learned about these women. I didn’t know they existed. To not teach little girls that women—specifically black women—helped get astronauts into space seems such an egregious oversight. All women and all minorities should have been looking up to Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary for the past 50 years, but we’re just now getting a movie? It’s not fair, especially not to black girls and women.

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A couple great Hamilton signs at the Women’s March in Indy.

And that is just one reason why on Saturday, January 21, I marched. I marched (or rallied, as it were, in Indianapolis) in my pink hat with a Planned Parenthood button on my Hamilton-Chicago t-shirt because of the inequalities we still face in this country. I marched because women don’t make equal pay for equal work. I marched because I’m afraid my access to affordable birth control is in jeopardy. I marched because I am afraid for the lives of the thousands of Americans who will lose their insurance without the Affordable Care Act. I marched because immigrants deserve the same rights as natural born American citizens. I marched because LGBTQ individuals face discrimination every day, particularly in Indiana. I marched because people of color face discrimination every day, no matter where they are. I marched because I believe in the power of women, not just the power of 3 million women and their friends yesterday who marched across the world, but the power of all of us moving forward to fight for what we believe in.

We will not go back. Let’s get to it, ladies.

womens-march

Love trumps hate, indeed.

EXPeriencing ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker

Cover image via.

Banned books, particularly those by women of color, always seem to be the most beautiful.

I have a long list of books to read on my Goodreads account, and when I was making my 2017 reading challenge, I decided it was high time I made a dent on that list. As I was scrolling through, I saw The Color Purple and I knew I had to make that one of my first reads of the year.

I’m so glad I did.

My previous knowledge about The Color Purple came from watching the 1985 movie version with Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover. Watching it as a kid in the ’90s meant I didn’t quite understand what was happening other than Whoopi Goldberg’s character had a rough life and Danny Glover’s character wasn’t very nice.

Fast-forward 20+ years, and I’ve discovered there’s so much more to The Color Purple than I ever imagined.

The story is told in letters, mostly by Celie. The letters begin when she’s 14 and span her whole life. First they’re written to God, then to her sister Nettie. They depict an arduous life on sharecropper farms in the south. And Celie suffers. She is abused—physically, verbally, and emotionally—by her father, her husband, and the woman her husband loves. Through her letters, Celie recounts her relationships with her family and her friends in their small community, and how those relationships bloom and change throughout her life. Celie begins the novel as a down-trodden individual, but grows into a strong, confident woman. The transformation is slow over the decades, but every new letter reveals a new facet to Celie that we didn’t previously know.

I love how The Color Purple is written: in letters in Celie’s dialect. I’m sure reading dialect isn’t everyone’s favorite, but when it’s done well, as Alice Walker has done in The Color Purple, it tells a story like no one else could. It has to be Celie’s voice in her letters, and no proper grammar is going to get that job done.

The Color Purple is the second book by a black woman I have read in the past three months. In 2016, I read a whopping one book written by a black author. As an addendum to my 24-book reading challenge for 2017, I’m going to ensure that at least half of those books are written by women and men of color. Good books shouldn’t be dependent on the author’s ethnicity, but when all the books you read are by white people, it’s probably time to broaden your horizons. #WeNeedDiverseBooks isn’t just for children and young adults. Particularly as we head into this new US administration, it’s time to broaden our horizons and read books we normally wouldn’t by people with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions than us.

You may learn a thing or two.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” —Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Ringing in the New Year

Why yes, I did ring in the new year with tabletop RPG-ing. And yes, I know the photo is blurry.

2016 was a dumpster fire for most of the world. Mass shootings, Brexit, President Elect Trump, the loss of so many icons… For me personally, 2016 was a pretty good year despite these outside stressors. I read a lot of good books, played a lot of good games, helped raise a lot of money at work, and spent time with family and friends.

I didn’t read quite as many books as I challenged myself to (came in four short of my 24-book goal—much better than 2015!), and I almost completely stopped running. For 2017, I’ve made another Reading Challenge goal of 24 books, and I signed up for the Carmel Half Marathon on April 22.

The weight of creating resolutions has almost always ensured I will fail them. I can resolve to “read more” and “start running again,” but those resolutions are intangible. Making goals with deadlines that require consistent steps, however, is another story. I have deadlines: two books a month for 12 months, and training every week with at least three runs per week to prepare for a race in 111 days. If I don’t do those things, I don’t reach my goals. Simple. Actionable. Perfect. (Gotta love those SMART goals.)

Less measurable are the things I’m not doing for myself, but because of who I am. I will continue to support organizations that fight for women’s health and equality for all Americans. I will support the Democratic Party of Indiana to ensure the 2018 and 2020 elections aren’t a slap in the face like 2016 was. I will continue to speak (or write) openly about my opinions on politics, mental health issues, and other topics that I feel strongly about.

I won’t do everything right, and I’ll probably fail at something at least once this year. But it’s a new year, and with the ashes of 2016 behind us and the days inching closer to spring, we can say that today is a little brighter than yesterday, and tomorrow will be a little brighter still.

Happy New Year.

EXPeriencing the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Cover image via Read, Write, and Read Some More.

The moral of this blog post is to always listen to book recommendations from your friends who work in publishing. When publishing people personally recommend books, you know they’re good. And my friends were absolutely right about Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

In my last blog post, I had just started Siege and Storm, the second book of the trilogy. The trilogy got better with every book. Siege and Storm introduced new characters and the conflict grew more dire. In Ruin and Rising, the finale of the trilogy, the stakes were painfully high, the characters were defeated left and right, and through it all, star-crossed lovers fought their fate.

I recognize that’s a hopelessly vague summary, but when you’re talking about the third book in a trilogy, everything is spoilers. I don’t want to give anything away if you’re going to check out the trilogy—and you should. I read all three books in 15 days total, and the only reason I didn’t read them in one straight sitting is because I had to work.

My favorite thing about this trilogy is that the characters feel so very real. Alina, the main character, grapples with her sun summoning powers, and the weight of saving Ravka is on her shoulders. But she’s also weighed down by love for her best friend Mal, the roguish prince who would marry her for a strong alliance, and the relentless pull to the Darkling whose tyranny is driving Ravka into darkness. No one in the series is perfect, everyone has external and internal battles to fight, and there is loss. So much loss. Of lives, loves, home, alliances, everything. Alina is not perfect, and her side is not winning. All of this makes for such a compelling read that you can’t put the books down. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. You hope it will be a victory… but so often it’s not.

The further I read in the Grisha Trilogy, the more I couldn’t help but compare it to the Hunger Games Trilogy—and the Grisha Trilogy wins. Hands down. Everything that annoyed me about the Hunger Games seemed to be done “right” in the Grisha Trilogy. Katniss wasn’t perfect, of course, but her flaws all seemed to be tied to men. Alina struggles with love, too, but it comes second to her duties as the Sun Summoner. She’s willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to do what’s right for Ravka.

I was annoyed when reading the Hunger Games that there was so much violence, but no cussing, and no sex. Characters were getting ripped apart—literally—but Peeta and Katniss never did more than kiss, and there wasn’t a single cuss word to be found in the books. The Grisha Trilogy feels more real. There is quite a bit of violence, but Ravka is in full-out war. There is some cussing—not as much, perhaps, and real soldiers and young adults, but enough in the right places that it feels natural. And, it’s very clear that some of the characters have and/or have had sex. They’re young adults. That’s what happens when they love each other and they might die. I felt at times that the Hunger Games tries to shield readers from sex and bad words, which is a bizarre juxtaposition to the violence that fills its pages. The Grisha Trilogy builds a real world and shows readers a truthfulness not just of war, but of being a young adult and what it means to love.

I look forward to starting Leigh Bardugo’s new series built in the same world as Ravka, Six of Crows. And if you’ve read any of the Grisha Trilogy, hit me up. I need to talk through my feels with someone.

EXPeriencing Escapism & Inspiration through YA

Cover images via Kirkus and Leigh Bardugo’s website.

The 2016 presidential election concluded nearly a month ago, but I don’t think it’ll ever be behind us. Not when our president elect is tweeting his frustrations at a satire comedy show and upsetting international relations.

That’s why I needed some escapism as we head into the end of the year.

Earlier this fall, in an attempt to save money and stop cluttering my bookshelf (a.k.a, my guest room floor), I got a library card for my local library. The first book I picked up was Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I’d never read it, and it was a beautiful, heartrending book. And as you can imagine, it was not a light read. So as Election Day neared, I wanted to read something light. Something that wouldn’t make me look at the wrongs of our past and fill me with dismay.

I picked up the sequel to the newest series by my favorite young adult author, Libba Bray: Lair of Dreams. As far as not looking at America’s past and feeling shame, fear, and distress, I definitely failed in my choice.

Lair of Dreams, part of the Diviners series, is set in 1920s New York City. The racism and misogyny of the day is enough to make you want to throw things, but Bray’s strong diverse cast of characters helps show the wrongness of those ways–and that there’s hope to overcome it.

Despite the fact that we live 90 years later, those reminders are apparently as relevant as ever.

“America had invented itself. It continued to invent itself as it went along. Sometimes its virtues made it the envy of the world. Sometimes it betrayed the very heart of its ideals. Sometimes the people dispensed with what was difficult or inconvenient to acknowledge. So the good people maintained the illusion of democracy and wrote another hymn to America. They sang loud enough to drown out dissent. They sang loud enough to overpower their own doubts. There were no plaques to commemorate mistakes. But the past didn’t forget. History was haunted by the ghosts of buried crimes, which required periodic exorcisms of truth. Actions had consequences.” —Libba Bray, Lair of Dreams

Thankfully, the mystical elements of Lair of Dreams provided enough escapism that I didn’t feel I was delving into a history lesson for 1927. That’s exactly what I was looking for. The racism and misogyny is certainly present in the novel, but mostly for historical reference. The real conflict comes from ghosts and magic and secret government programs. The conflict and the strong characters drew me in and wrapped me in their magic, and I was happy.

To keep the escapism train going, I finally decided to check out a YA series my publishing friends have been gushing about for years: the Grisha trilogy from Leigh Bardugo. I picked up the first novel, Shadow and Bone, just before Thanksgiving and devoured it in four days. I started the sequel this afternoon and the third book is ready and waiting on my kitchen table.

While Leigh Bardugo’s world is filled with war, it’s also filled with gender equality. That’s Refreshing Element #1. Refreshing Element #2 is that it’s set in a fantasy realm she invented, and it’s not based on Western Europe, but rather Russia. Despite how much Russia has been in the news, Bardugo’s Ravka is completely new and I can process its history without having to think forward to current U.S.-Russia relations.

Refreshing Element #3: Like Bray, Bardugo’s world features a strong female lead, reminding me why I’ve loved YA since I was 12. In today’s world where the most qualified woman in the country can run for president but lose to the least qualified man on Earth, seeing strong young women in action fighting government cover-ups and tyrannical mages gives me hope for women and girls today. If these are the writers and their heroines we have to look up to, I am reassured that our fight over the next four years won’t be in vain.

“The story of America is one that is still being written. Many of the ideological battles we like to think we’ve tucked neatly into a folder called ‘the past’—issues of race, class, gender, sexual identity, civil rights, justice, and just what makes us ‘American’—are very much alive today. For what we do not study and reflect upon, we are in danger of dismissing or forgetting. What we forget, we are often doomed to repeat. Our ghosts, it seems, are always with us, whispering that attention must be paid.” —Libba Bray, Lair of Dreams

EXPeriencing Trump’s America

Note: This overall blog is not intended to be political, but while I have a venue to share my personal thoughts, I’m going to take advantage of it with this post. I welcome civil and respectful discourse below, but trolls will not be tolerated.

On Sunday I drove to Elwood, Indiana, a small town about 40 minutes north of Indianapolis. The downtown is crumbling—empty shells of once-thriving mom-and-pop shops were covered in unlit Christmas lights that will give the town a semblance of life during the upcoming holidays. More houses than not had chipping facades. The busiest places at 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday were the Dairy Queen and Richard’s Restaurant on the east side of town as you drive away at increasingly higher speeds. On my way there and back again, I saw three Trump signs. I saw more churches than I can count. I drove through corn and soybean fields lying fallow for the winter.

This is Trump’s America.

I suppose I was naïve, in my white privileged liberalism, to think that Hilary Clinton could win both the popular vote and the electoral college vote to become the first woman president of the United States. To uphold Barack Obama’s legacy. To beat a misogynistic, racist demagogue with the fire of rural white America behind him.

If you haven’t watched the Dave Chappelle/Chris Rock SNL skit yet, you should. I was one of those white women on election night, clinging to hope, looking for patterns, praying and denying and hiding from the fact that Trump could actually win the presidency.

I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8 hoping I’d wake up in the morning to a bright new day with a woman president and knowing that love trumped hate.

How wrong I was.

I woke up at 1:30 a.m. as more and more states bled red. I watched Twitter and CNN alerts as the AP declared Trump the winner. At 3:30 a.m., I began to sob in bed. My sister told me she called the national suicide prevention hotline because she was afraid for herself and her friends and their rights. I cried for her. I cried for myself. I cried for half the country. For every woman, every LGBTQ+ individual, every African American, every Muslim, every immigrant who has been victim—directly or indirectly—to the hateful rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump, his surrogates, and his supporters.

I am so privileged. I am white. I am married to an individual of the same race and opposite sex. I am middle class. I have a college degree. I can go to the movies and expect to see people with my same skin color. I can drive, go to the store, and travel without judgment. I’ve never felt less lucky to be so lucky that I was born the way I am.

But I’m also descendant from Jewish immigrants. I lived without health insurance for much of my childhood. I’ve been directly exposed to others’ substance abuse. I am a woman in Trump’s America.

And I’m afraid.

The number of hate crimes that have arisen in the US since the election are worse than those after 9/11. Muslims are no longer the sole target. It’s anyone who is not a cis white male. And President-Elect Trump has made sure that is true by attacking everyone who is not a cis white male at some point in his campaign. Five days post-election, and he has not denounced a single hate crime. He has denounced protests against him, but not a planned KKK rally in honor of him. He has criticized the NY Times’ reporting, but appointed Breitbart’s executive chairman to be his chief White House strategist (a man who is responsible for a “news” outlet with headlines such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy”).

Donald Trump called for unity in his acceptance speech. But his actions before November 8 and every day since have shown nothing but division. Hillary Clinton’s message was “Stronger Together.” As much as Trump wants that from all of America, there will be no way that happens until and unless he is actually a president for all the people of the United States. I have precious little hope that will happen.

If you voted for Trump, I don’t hate you. As someone I respect very much said to me the day after the election, “I remain hopeful by reminding myself no group is one-dimensional, nor are the issues that they prioritize when going to the polls. We shouldn’t make assumptions about their motives. I still believe Americans are largely kind and compassionate.” I want to believe this is true so badly.

But then I read what Kumail Nanjiani wrote on Twitter: “Many ppl are like ‘just cuz I voted for Trump doesn’t mean I’m racist/sexist.’ Ok, but at best, you ignored it, you overlooked it.” I don’t believe most people who voted for Trump voted for him because they hate black people or women or Muslims. I want to believe they care about those individuals as much as anyone who voted for Clinton. But… they ignored “grab ‘em by the pussy.” They ignored the violence against minorities at Trump rallies. They ignored him making fun of disabled individuals.

At worst? They condoned those remarks. They agreed with them. And that scares me more than anything, that there are thousands of people in our country who are racist, sexist, homophobic, and are bolstered by their new president.

I am lucky to be white in Trump’s America. I am not lucky to be a woman. I am lucky to be married to a white man in Trump’s America. I am not lucky to be of Jewish descent. I have so much privilege. So many others do not.

That’s why I am going to try to use my privilege for good in Trump’s America.

I’m wearing a safety pin on my jacket whenever I leave the house. It may seem like a shallow, self-aggrandizing gesture to some. Honestly, I hope the only thing that comes out of me wearing it is that people think I’m some liberal elitist. Because if it’s more than a symbol, it means someone may need my help. Regardless of others’ opinions, the safety pin is my pledge to not be a bystander. It’s to try to be better.

This month, I’m going to make my first monthly recurring donation to Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky—aptly, my regional Planned Parenthood belongs to the two states that reported their electoral college votes for Donald Trump first. I visited Planned Parenthood as a teenager when I didn’t have health insurance and needed birth control. I will never forget their discretion, their lack of judgment, and their help. I am privileged enough to have employer-provided health insurance that not only covers my annual feminine exams, but pays for my birth control, too. So many women aren’t that privileged. More importantly? Planned Parenthood provides so much more than birth control—such as STD testing. Scott County, Indiana is still recovering from an HIV outbreak. Its cause was intravenous drug use and needle sharing. VP-Elect Mike Pence’s budget cuts forced five rural clinics to close. One of those clinics was Planned Parenthood. That Planned Parenthood provided STD testing and could have caught some of those HIV cases. This situation could have been mitigated or avoided altogether. I hope to help ensure it never happens in my state again.

I may be middle class with disposable income, but I’m not that established in my career. I am a Millennial, after all. So while I cannot make monthly substantial donations to all the causes that are important to me, I can give freely of my time. This month, I am going to look for organizations that need volunteers. Ideally LGBTQ+ or ACLU-affiliated organizations. I’ll file paperwork, I’ll tweet, I’ll sweep the floors. I’ll even make phone calls, my least favorite activity in the world, if it means I can help someone live better in Trump’s America.

I’m still afraid of what’s to come in the next four years. There’s too much unknown to be too confident. But I have friends who stand with me. I personally see more love than hate. I know that love is the correct direction of the country. Inclusivity and diversity are the future. Trump’s America may not like it, but that’s the truth. And I will spend every day of the next four years, of the rest of my life, proving that’s true.

Black lives matter. Immigrants get the job done. Who run the world? Girls. We are stronger together.


Additional thoughts, videos, and reading:

There are multiple opinion articles and Twitter threads that talk about how Trump could and did win over half of America to win this race. They do it far more eloquently and/or succinctly with far more truth than I could put into a similar piece. I’ll let you read those opinions for yourself, just know that I agree with them.

Dave Chappelle’s opening SNL monologue was also brilliant and poignant. Worth the 11-minute watch.

I also took great comfort in Seth Godin’s blog post from today, “Empathy Is a Bridge.”

The last Last Week Tonight of the year is definitely worth a watch, particularly when John Oliver shared organizations to donate to. And then giving a giant F U to 2016.

EXPeriencing The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

Cover image via.

The Legend of Zelda is my childhood, but not for the same reason as most of my peers. In 1992 when I was three years old, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was released in the United States. Like many families, mine had a Super Nintendo. My dad liked video games (my interests are genetic), and he picked up A Link to the Past in the early ’90s.

My mom and I would spend hours watching my dad play A Link to the Past in our basement. We’d pull up chairs between his desk and the tv stand and watch him run around as Link swinging his pixelated sword at long grass, shooting little arrows at knights, and catching fairies in bottles. A Link to the Past has always been one of my favorite video games, but not because of my memories playing it.

In fact, I didn’t try playing it myself until sometime in early high school when I found a copy of the game at a resale game shop. Now, I had fully adopted the PS2 at this point. Going back to a Super Nintendo, which doesn’t have analog sticks, was abnormally difficult for me. I didn’t get past the first dungeon before I abandoned my first attempt at nostalgia.

Occasionally someone would have a Super Nintendo and A Link to the Past and I would attempt to play it. I would fail miserably ever time. I eventually gave up in my quest to defeat the game.

You may be wondering if I played any other Zelda games growing up. The answer is actually no. After Super Nintendo, I moved on to PlayStation, PS2, then Xbox 360 and Xbox One. I never even owned an N64 until I bought one second-hand in high school. My sister got a Wii for Christmas one year, but the only games we ever played were Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit. It wasn’t until I bought a Wii U for myself and Terry for Christmas last year that I had actually owned a new Nintendo tv console.

And you know what Wii U has? A Virtual Console. Do you know what’s in the Virtual Console? Just about every Nintendo game ever created to buy and download and play right away. Finally, finally I would play  A Link to the Past and beat it!

I was so naive.

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The eternal frustrations are real. Image via.

A Link to the Past is a hard. freaking. video game. Top-down, 8-bit, retro games are hard to adjust to in the age of hyper-realistic first-person shooters, 3D movement, and analog sticks. I think I made it through two or three dungeons this time around. I abandoned it this spring.

But, the  Wii U Virtual Console has other Zelda games, too! Like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time–the Mecca of Zelda, Link’s Holy Grail, everyone’s favorite Zelda game. $10 and a download later, I started my quest.

There was just one problem. The games on the Virtual Console aren’t optimized for the Wii U. They’re straight copies of the original games. So nothing has been updated or reconfigured or adjusted for the Wii U.

Which can be problematic. Remember those analog sticks I love so much? Yeah… Enter the Fire Temple.

In the Fire Temple, you have to carefully make your way around a narrow ledge to get the hammer you need to complete the rest of the dungeon. The kicker? It’s timed. So you have to gently maneuver Link around the narrow ledge so you don’t jump down two floors and have to make your way all the way back up to the hammer room.

Because Ocarina of Time wasn’t optimized for the system or controllers (yes, I tried two different types of controllers–the Wii U GamePad and the Wii U compatible GameCube controller), there is no “gently” with the analog stick. Link is either standing still or running full tilt. You cannot gently maneuver him to do anything, meaning I cannot proceed with the Fire Temple. Ocarina was abandoned. I was annoyed.

With the upcoming election (deep breaths two days we can do it), I was looking for a story-packed new video game to play for distraction and escape. Knowing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess had been remastered for Wii U, Terry suggested we run to Target and get it so I could finally try my hand at a Zelda game on its intended console. When we got to Target, I saw The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD was also remastered for Wii U. I remember my best friend playing through the original Wind Waker on GameCube, and even though most people I know give it grief because “it’s not really Link,” it was also only $20 to Twilight Princess’s $60. So I got that instead.

Two weeks later, that is some of the best $20 I’ve ever spent. After 27 years of my life, I am proud to report I have finally beaten–and loved–a Zelda game. Of course there were frustrations, a couple deaths, and more than one “How do you ____” Google searches, but I did it! Link and Zelda beat Ganondorf and I was able to tune out reality for a few hours every night.

Wind Waker HD‘s cell-shaded animation may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it made all the stakes feel just a little lighter. It was still very much a Zelda game with all the same puzzles, a dozen different special weapons and items, and a big open world to explore with plenty of dungeons, fairies, and magic. There’s even a dragon.

While my childhood memories of Zelda are likely very different than most people’s, I finally have one to share with everyone else: the satisfaction of beating all the dungeons, beating Ganondorf, and having more than three hearts.

link-selfie

You know a game’s updated for modern times when you get to take selfies in it. Image via.

EXPeriencing ‘Life of Pi’

I’m not one to belabor seasons. As much as I love the warmth and long days of summer, I look forward to crisp leaves and the nip in the air that comes with fall. But as much as I’ve been looking forward to fall this year, it’s felt like a long time coming. September was more like August Part Two, and just this week it was still in the 80’s. But today, finally, it was cold and raining, and leaves were hitting the ground almost as frequently as the raindrops.

Which made me think back to the books I read during summer’s end, and I realized that I haven’t talked about them at all. They’ve been hanging out in my head for more than a month at this point, and if I don’t write about them, I might go crazy. Or maybe I’m just itching to write and this is my excuse.

Either way, I need to write about LIfe of Pi, which I read at the end of August. What an unexpected story. I recognize I’m over a decade late to this book, and at this point most people have probably seen the movie, too, but wow. This story surprised me from page one, and the ending has kept me living with this story for months.

If you haven’t read this book yet, you may be like me and think it’s about a boy on a lifeboat with a tiger. But there is so much more to it than that.

The book doesn’t start on the lifeboat with a boy and a tiger. (Actually, once we get to the lifeboat it doesn’t even start with a boy and a tiger, but a boy, a tiger, a hyena, an orangutan, and a zebra.) Well before we ever reach the Pacific Ocean, the book details Pi’s backstory–which makes sense why the book is called Life of Pi and not Pi Trapped on a Lifeboat with a Tiger.

Pi’s story in itself is fascinating, but what I enjoyed most at the beginning (surprising even myself) were the long, nuanced religious musings about Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Pi considers himself Christian, Muslim, and Hindu, and it was interesting to read about how Pi came to participate and appreciate all three of those religions.

While the beginning of the book isn’t about Pi drifting lost on the ocean, a majority of the book is just that. It, too, was fascinating. It actually surprised me how much of a page-turner this was. I often set the book down at night wondering what was going to happen next. Towards the end of Pi and the tiger’s journey, things got a bit magical realism for my taste. The story eases into it, but I still raised my eyebrows a few times. I’m not big on magical realism, but it didn’t deter my enjoyment.

Which is a good thing because omg the ending. The ending of this book is… it left me speechless. I don’t know how to write about it because I can’t give it away but I want to gush about it so badly. You have to experience the whole journey to appreciate the ending. The payoff is just perfect.

If you haven’t checked out Life of Pi yet, definitely go pick it up from the library and give it a read. It’s well worth it.

EXPeriencing ‘Stranger Things’

Cover image via.

I didn’t mean to be late to the Stranger Things party, but that’s just how things happened.

Terry and I were binge-watching Wayward Pines on Hulu when Stranger Things was released on Netflix. The first thing I noticed is both shows are tied to the Duffer Brothers. Terry and I were really enjoying Wayward Pines, so when we finished Season 2, we knew we’d move on to Stranger Things.

About that…

In Episode 2 of Season 2 of Wayward Pines, we just… weren’t really feeling it anymore. The plot took a turn, a character committed suicide, and we were just pretty sad and dissatisfied with the direction of Season 2. So, we stopped watching TV shows on streaming services for a solid month.

Not for lack of trying on my part.

I’d seen talk of Stranger Things on Twitter, and none of it was bad. Every single tweet about Stranger Things I saw was that it was amazing. I learned that the show opens with the four main boys playing D&D. “D&D, Terry! How could you not want to watch this?” He just raised his eyebrows at me.

Last week, I sat in my garage with the car running listening to Ari Shapiro’s NPR interview with the Duffer Brothers. The moment they said their concept for the show wasn’t storyboards or test footage, but ’70s and ’80s films cut together, including scenes from E.T. cut together with the score of John Carpenter’s The Thing (one of Terry’s favorite movies), I knew we had. to. watch. this. show.

Finally, last Monday, we started watching. On Friday night, we finished. As soon as the credits rolled on the last episode, my first thought was, Why is this only eight episodes???

The reason it’s only eight episodes is because it didn’t need any more in the first season. It told a perfectly arced story in less than eight hours: There’s something fishy going on in a government facility, a boy goes missing, a girl shows up, and everything goes upside down. The best part about Stranger Things is the strange alliance between adults, teenagers, and kids that works better than I’ve ever seen it work before, even better than Harry Potter. Set everything in 1983 in a small Indiana town with a synth-y soundtrack and Star Wars references, and you have me hooked.

Stranger Things is on Netflix and you should watch it right now.

Just keep the lights on.

And try not to have your heart stolen by Gaten Matarazzo.

Stranger-Things-Gaten

Because he is the absolute cutest. Via.

EXPeriencing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Spoiler-Filled Review Pt. 2)

Cover image via.

This review/stream-of-consciousness digestion of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is going to be full of spoilers. You have been warned. You can read my non-spoiler review here.

There is a lot to unpack in J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne’s play. So much, in fact, that this is less a review and more of a list of reactions I had while reading. I’ll expand on some of my thoughts, but since this is full of spoilers, really I’m just here to share my thoughts. And there were a lot of them.

Seriously, if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet, turn back now. Spoilers are coming.

Part One, Act One

  • That the play started exactly where we left off on Platform 9 3/4 in the Epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows makes my heart so happy. An effortless marriage of old and new.
  • As we follow Albus and Rose on the Hogwarts Express, it is clear Rose takes after her mother.
  • And we meet Scorpius. And he is my favorite. He’s funny, and we later learn he’s smart and loyal. All the things Harry found in his friends on the Hogwarts Express.
  • OMG, Albus Potter is sorted into Slytherin?? Did we know this before? Did this play reveal this information? Omg. I’m uncomfortable. But then… I’m thrilled. I’m a Slytherin myself, and as Harry said, the bravest man he ever knew was a Slytherin. Let’s see where this goes.
  • Why are there rumors that Voldemort had a child? That’s weird.
  • It’s also weird to picture Harry and Hermione with jobs. I have a job. They’re supposed to epitomize my childhood. And they have jobs.
  • Wait. Is Hermione… Minister of Magic? Duh. Of course she is.
  • “Huh, another new character. I wonder who this Delphi character turns out to be?” she thought, not knowing her own foreshadowing.
  • Oh boy, time turners.
  • The confrontation between Albus and Harry before Albus leaves for his third year is… rough. I still remember hating everything and everyone as a 13 year old. But now, while I don’t have kids, I see where Harry’s frustration is coming from. I’m at a very odd spot in adulthood where I still feel so connected to my childhood, but all my friends are having babies. I feel for you, Albus. I feel for you, Harry.
  • Can we talk about the Trolley Witch?? WTF is happening?? And how the hell do they pull that off on stage?
  • Can a Potter not break into the Ministry of Magic? And can someone please put some stricter regulations on polyjuice potion ingredients? Hello.
  • Also, again, how are they accomplishing these effects on stage?

Part One, Act Two

  • Ugh, time travel. This is not going to result in anything resembling good. At all.
  • There’s no way sabotaging Cedric Diggory will go well for you, kids.
  • Oh. I don’t think I needed Dumbledore and Harry emotions today.
  • “What’s that, Albus? You’re in the wrong Hogwarts house now and you ruined at least one family? However could that have happened?” she thought sarcastically.
  • Oh good, we get Harry/Dumbledore and Harry/Malfoy drama! Just what we need. Although, that was pretty classic and entertaining.
  • We also get some classic, heart-wrenching Hogwarts student bestie fights. Ahh, wouldn’t be a Harry Potter book without them!
  • I just love the Scorpius/Albus BFFs.
  • WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, SCORPIUS? You brought Umbridge back! Your best friend disappeared! FIX IT.

Part Two, Act One

  • Wow, Draco, the absence of Voldemort and the addition of your wife really made you a better person. In the correct timeline, anyway.
  • DID HE SAY SNAPE?
  • Honestly, I can’t process the horrors that come about from humiliating Cedric out of the Triwizard Tournament. It hurts my heart. Just fix it, Scorpius.
  • Oh thank god. Thank you, Snape. Thank you, Scorpius. Thank you.
  • How is there still an Act and a half to go??
  • Seriously, Albus/Scorpius may top Harry/Ron/Hermione. They’re my favorite.
  • Ah. Delphi. You’re back. That means you’re not good.
  • Friendship will never be a weakness, Delphi. Only evil people think that. You take after your father so well.

Part Two, Act Two

  • It’s truly incredible how far Voldemort’s tendrils spread. It will take so many generations to erase all that he did. You know, if Delphi doesn’t do it right now and elimiate everyone we know and love.
  • Albus and Scorpius are a pretty unstoppable team. I love the message in a blanket. Not only is it really damn important to inform Harry where and when they are, it repairs the most painful scene in the whole play.
  • This is going to be an uncomfortable series of scenes, isn’t it?
  • Yup. Harry was just transfigured into Voldemort. I’m uncomfortable.
  • Oh. John. Jack. J.K…. No. Don’t do this to Harry. Don’t do this to his family, his friends. Don’t do this to me. Why.
  • BRB, sobbing.
  • Harry Potter continues to break my heart. But then, thankfully, it mends it, too:

SCORPIUS: Are you heading to Quidditch? Slytherin are playing Hufflepuff—it’s a big one—

ALBUS: I thought we hated Quidditch?

SCORPIUS: People can change.

And:

HARRY: I think it’s going to be a nice day.

ALBUS (smiles): So do I.

I melt.