Thursday, December 29, 2011

Heart List: Snow

 I love the snow. Granted, I don't always love being cold, but snow always brings a smile to my face. Think of all the fun things you can do in the snow! Make snow angels, get into a snowball fight, build a snowman, go sledding, whitewash a sibling or friend, or just marvel in the sheer beauty of it! I live in a place where it snows every year, and without fail there are people complaining about it every year. Why don't they move someplace warmer if they hate it so much? This year has been interesting because we haven't had a good snowstorm yet, and now everyone is complaining that we don't have any snow. The weather just can't win! I, for one, am glad for every tiny snowflake and I hope that we don't have to wait too much longer for our winter wonderland.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Prepare yourselves for my Christmas rant...

It seems to me that the most common thing that I have been hearing from people concerning the holiday season is that they are practically broke now that their preparations are finished. I find this very dissatisfying. Why are people spending hundreds of dollars on stocking stuffers? Why do people feel the need to buy dozens of gifts for their children? For some, Christmas is a time to take a moment for introspection and to reach out to those in need. For others, Christmas is a time to buy all of those things that you've wanted all year, but couldn't justify getting. Some people try to do both, but it seems to me that the rampant materialism of our culture is growing ever more dominant.

I feel like we are bribing our children to be good for one month out of the year, and then we reward them with more toys than they will ever have time to appreciate. Saint Nicholas, who was a symbol of humility and generosity, has become Santa Claus, who is a symbol of getting what you want regardless of how many times your parents have threatened you with coal. Even the most rotten child still gets their dozens of presents on Christmas morning, because what parent is really going to give out coal? So these children grow up expecting to get what they want, no matter how they act, and each year promises better gifts than the last. Then they have children of their own, and the cycle continues.

Here is what I think: children do not need much for the holidays. If they only ever get a couple of gifts, then that is what they think is normal. If you spent the season focusing on doing good deeds and looking for opportunities to help those around you, then that is what Christmas will mean to them. Now that I'm having a child of my own, people keep telling me that I have to do this or I have to do that. Christmas isn't Christmas if I don't follow the American tradition. Yet when I hear all of the complaining about how much money was spent and how there's still so much left to buy, I think to myself that I don't want that kind of Christmas. I don't want the focus of the holiday to be on the presents and the stockings. I want my children to contemplate on who they can help, rather than what they can get.

Well, I appreciate your willingness to let me vent some of my feelings. I really do love this time of year. I just hope that the attitude of materialism never fully takes over what is really important. Please take the opportunity to reach out to someone in need, and keep the spirit of Christmas as it should be.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Heart List: White Christmas

Oh man, I love Christmas! I am a rigid believer that all things Christmas should wait until after Thanksgiving, but once that day is over...haul out the holly! This is one of my very favorite Christmas movies. I've had a hankering to watch it lately, but for some odd reason I don't own it. I guess I'll have to borrow it from my Mom. Anyway, the musical numbers are awesome, the story is funny and heartwarming, and it's a great reminder of what the Christmas season is really about. I can't imagine anyone who has not seen this movie, but I would encourage everyone to watch it again with someone you love.  :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Featured Word: Xylem

Noun (Botany)
woody tissue

Heart List: Christmas Trees

My favorite Christmas tradition is getting the tree. We always get our tree on the first Saturday of December, although this year I was flying solo (my husband has been working the night shift, and so he needed sleep). To me, getting the tree makes it seem like it's really Christmas time. When I was young we would bring the tree home and decorate it while listening to "John Denver and the Muppets Christmas" or "Jackson Five Christmas" or sometimes "Manheim Steamroller." Then, when it got dark, we would sit with the nothing but the tree lights on and enjoy their cheerful glow. Now I get to share that experience with the man I love! It makes me happy. Love, love, LOVE my Christmas tree!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Heart List: Castle

Now that my husband is working nights, I find I have a lot of time on my hands. I try to keep busy with useful projects, but sometimes I find myself scouring the television for easy entertainment. One of the shows that helps keep the boredom at bay is "Castle." It's a show about a murder mystery author who follows around a homicide detective, and it is hilarious! First of all, I love Nathan Fillion. No one could pull off the character of Richard Castle like he does. Secondly, the dialogue is witty and intelligent. (Huge points for me!) Thirdly, the story is funny, moving, smart, engaging, and unique. Fourthly, the characters are awesome. Shall I keep going? I anxiously await each new episode, but I also find great enjoyment in watching older episodes (which isn't always the case with some tv shows). I'm glad that it survived the rumors of cancellation, and I hope the show continues in all its awesome glory for many seasons to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heart List: Gravy

There are many foods that hold a place in my heart during Thanksgiving. However, I think that gravy is the magic that tops off the deliciousness. It makes food that already tastes good into a masterpiece! I put it on rice (which was always present at our Thanksgiving meals, due to my Asian heritage), mashed potatoes, stuffing (or dressing, as my family calls it), vegetables, I dip my rolls in it... So tasty! My hat is off to you, turkey gravy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Simple Joys

I'm a strong believer in finding joy through the simple things in life. A wise man once said that people are so preoccupied with finding their golden ticket that they've ceased to appreciate the candy bar. (That is a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reference, for those who aren't familiar.) This is part of the reason I have my Heart List. It's a reminder to me of all the wonderful little things in life that make me happy. I would be as thrilled as the next person to find a "golden ticket." However, I also just love a good candy bar. One of the best things about being around children is that they savor every last little bit of the "candy bar" that life gives them. I love how excited they get to step on a crunchy leaf. I love their enthusiasm for french fries. I love their passion for creating art with crayons. When people call me childish, I think, "Good! I'd much rather build a snowman than complain about the state of the roads." 

November is one of my favorite months because people take a break from their hectic lives and remember why they are living. It's the perfect time for reflecting on how we are choosing to live our lives, to remember those who have touched our hearts, and to remind ourselves of what's really important. 

Let me tell you about what Thanksgiving is to me. I remember a packed house at my grandparents'--everyone talking at once, and laughter sounding on every side. I remember playing card games with my cousins and playing checkers with my grandpa. I remember my uncle letting me sneak bits of the turkey, and my aunt explaining to me why we called our stuffing "dressing" instead. I remember the sound of my grandma's voice (a sound I've not heard for ten years) bringing order to the chaos of the kitchen. I love these memories. 

And yet, I don't know what I was wearing or what car my parents drove. I don't remember what was on television or if I was in possession of the latest version of the most popular toys. Honestly, I don't even remember who my friends were at that age. I'm so glad that I wasn't too busy texting to play checkers with my grandpa. I'm even more grateful that I took the time to talk to my grandma, because now she's gone. My younger cousins don't remember her laugh, her sense of humor, her down-to-earth advice--but I do. She might have argued that she didn't make a difference during her life, but everyone who knew her would strongly disagree. She was the epitome of simple joys, and I'm so grateful for what I learned from her.

I seem to be rambling a bit. Well, I just wish to express my love for all the simple joys in life and I hope that all of you will take the time to experience your own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Heart List: Sweaters

It's sweater season, and I heart sweaters! Pulling them out is one of my favorite things about fall and winter. I like how they look on me, and they're super comfy! What's not to love? The only problem is that spring rolls around and I don't have any other clothes to wear. Hmmmm...I may have to rethink my closet. In the meantime, sweaters = happy. (Also, a well-chosen sweater on a guy is very good looking. But remember: choose wisely.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vampires are DEAD!

So, I just had a random thought (shocking, I know). I think that all of this vampire obsession is just a way for necrophiliacs to feel like they fit in. Seriously, think about it. Vampires are dead. You can used the word "immortal," but it doesn't change the fact that they were once living human beings who are now no longer living human beings. The only differences between vampires and zombies are that vampires have a slightly higher brain function and they aren't decomposing. However, if I were to say that I thought zombies were totally sexy and I wanted to have a steamy midnight liaison with one, people would look at me like I was a freak. So, why are vampires exempt from this reaction? The principle is the same, but for some odd reason, nobody sees it that way. It confuses my brain.

Anyway. Happy Halloween! :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Heart List: Red Vines

Ah, the age-old question of Red Vines vs. Twizzlers. My husband is definitely on Team Twizzler, and I am a staunch supporter of Red Vines. And yet, we still love each other. :) Not only does Halloween bring to mind all of the junk food that I love, but I've been craving Red Vines for a while now (I blame the pregnancy). Hence, you lovely readers get to see me ramble on about food...again. Actually, there isn't a whole lot to say. I love Red Vines--simple as that. I am a bit of a licorice purist, though. I will eat red licorice only. And not the red licorice that's some funky flavor, just so the licorice people can feel like they're innovators. Give me simple, original red licorice, and I'm a happy girl. As my little brother would say: 'nuff said.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Bit of Poetry: Part 2

Again, I have never claimed to be a poet. I mostly write it because it's cathartic. The more I read of true poetry, the more I realize how little talent I have for that form of art. Unfortunately for all of you, that is not going to stop me from posting another sample of my efforts. You can critique it if you want to, but it won't do any good. I already know that it's flawed, and I have no intention of going over it again to make it more than what it is. It's just a manifestation of how I deal with strong emotion. Enjoy. :)

Dreams intangible
Brushing the tips of my fingers
So close, yet never close enough
So vivid, yet never quite clear

Courage undaunted
Filling my soul to the brim
Growing, even when seeming to flee
Reviving, even when appearing empty

Joy undiminished
Taking my hand firmly
Everlasting, although sometimes hidden
Fulfilling, although sometimes unexplained

Destinations fixed
Giving the journey of life greater meaning
Determined, but taking the meandering path
Focused, but with all-encompassing vision

Heart List: Costumes

One of my good friends suggested that I do something to do with the season, so this week I want to express my love for costumes. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for the sole purpose of the opportunity wear whatever pops into my brain. My husband and I have finally decided on our costumes, and I'm very excited. October aside, I'll take any excuse to dress up, which is why I love to throw parties. Most kids grow out of the 'dress-up' stage, but I never did. There's something magical about putting on a costume that feels like a totally new personality. It's freeing and fun and opens a world of possibility. You may think I'm exaggerating or being melodramatic, but I'm not. I simply love to dress-up! Mock if you must, but I will continue to love it for many years to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adventures of Brain: Wake Up Time

Brain: Time to wake up!

Me: No, it's not.

Brain: Yes, it is! I heard the alarm.

Me: That was my husband's alarm, not mine. Remember how he wakes up earlier now?

Brain: So much to do today! Let's make a list.

Me: No, Brain! No lists! I want to go back to sleep.

Brain: First of all, we need breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day!

Me: So sleepy...

Brain: Cereal! Gimme cereal! Yum, yum, yum!

Me: Please, Brain? Can't we sleep for another hour or so?

Brain: Nope! If you don't get up, I'm going to start singing an annoying song.

Me: Grumble, grumble, grumble...


Me: OKAY, OKAY!!! I'm getting up! Stop singing that.

Brain: Hurray!

*Later that day*

Brain: I'm so tired! Why did you get up so early today?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Featured Word: Weft

Threads woven across a warp to make fabric.

(And for good measure...)

Lengthwise threads in a loom.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Heart List: Portal

I have spent a fair amount of time watching my husband play various video games, and I was greatly amused as I watched him play through Portal. The basic idea of the game is that you are a test subject in a technology lab, and you must use your "portal weapon" (a gun that creates portals between two places) to navigate your way through various puzzles. The genius of the game, however, is the quirky narration of GLaDOs, the computer guiding you through your tests. So funny! It's hard to describe just how hilarious it is to listen to the computerized voice telling you that if you do something correctly you will get cake. :) Recently, we have been playing through Portal 2 together, and that has been interesting to say the least. There is a co-op mode, where it takes two people to solve each puzzle. I am pretty good at figuring out what needs to be done, but I do not have the coordination to actually do it. I also think I need to work on my instruction-giving skills. Me: "You need to go that way." Husband: "Which way?" Me: "That way!" Husband: "You can't just point. Your screen is different than mine." Good times. For all of you who enjoy puzzles or video games, I would highly recommend Portal.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: The Book Thief

This is actually a book that I read on my own (the other books I've reviewed were ones that I read with my husband). One of my coworkers suggested it, and I was intrigued by her description of the story. First of all, the story takes place during World War II. The book follows the life of a young girl who lives just outside of Munich. She steals her first book at the age of ten, and is taught to read and write from that book. The subsequent books that she steals over the next several years open her up to ideas and situations that shape her as a person and help her to take a stand for what she believes. The story is told from the viewpoint of Death. This had some pro's and some con's. It gave the storytelling a very unique feel, and the way that Death describes scenes and situations was beautifully crafted. You wouldn't think that a "chocolate colored sky" made perfect sense, but it does. However, Death is not hindered by the chronology of time, and I found that distracting. The stories are not always told in order, which made for some very confusing moments. At one point the reader is told that a character dies, but then you learn that it doesn't happen for a couple more years after the story you are currently being told. I didn't like that. Also, the reader is told the ending before it happens. I didn't like that either. The only other issue I had with the book was that there is a lot of profanity. That may not bother some people, but it bothered me. Granted, about half of the swearing is in German, but it's all the same when you know exactly what's being said. Other than that, it is a beautifully written book. Very moving, and it brings the humanity to a complicated situation like Nazi Germany. It shows that not all Nazi party members were bad people. Some were just trying to survive. Over all, The Book Thief was well worth reading.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Heart List: Steinfeld's Pickles

To some people, pickles are a condiment. Not to my family! We consider them a snack food. For as long as I can remember, a pickle has been something that I grab when I'm feeling a bit peckish. Not just any pickle, though. I'm very particular about my pickle brands. I may be willing to eat most pickles, but I only love Steinfeld's. Probably because they remind me of the pickles that my grandma used to make. Yum! For a long time there were only a few stores that carried this brand, but it's becoming more common. My greatest fear was that they would stop selling them all together. Then what would I do? Anyway, I love these pickles, and I wanted you all to know. I think I'm going to go grab one now...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Halloween Planning

Halloween is a very important holiday in my family. We take our costumes and festivities very seriously. I had been counting on a costume idea that didn't quite pan out last year, in the hopes that this would finally be the year that it was realized. My mom (the resident seamstress of our family) gave me the sad news today that it would not be happening. Now that leaves me with the task of finding an awesome costume idea fast! Costume planning should be done by now, and production should be starting. I only have two months! I don't want to use the old fall-back again this year (my costume last year was a repeat, much to my chagrin). In fact, I feel I need an extra awesome costume to make up for my lack of creativity last year! I need something as awesome as when my best friend dressed up as Madame Heap from Fraggle Rock. (Truly awesome. You have no idea.) Any suggestions would be welcome! Let the costume dash begin...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Adventures of Brain: Hunger

Brain: You are so hungry!

Me: Really?

Brain: Yes! You are DYING of hunger!

Me: Oh, okay. I will make a big dinner, then. What do you feel like eating, Brain?

Brain: Something big and filling. And make sure it takes a lot of effort to make!

Me: Okay! Good plan.

*Later, after much effort*

Me: Look, Stomach, I made you a yummy dinner!

Stomach: Well, I didn't really want that...but I guess I can take it.

Me: But Brain said you wanted it!

Brain: Teeheehee!

Stomach: I'll eat a little of this, but I'm not very hungry.

Me: Brain! What the deuce?!

Brain: Oh, by the way, you aren't that hungry after all. You can just have a bowl of cereal or something. *snicker*

Heart List: Scrabble

Scrabble is one of my very favorite games! There was always a high amount of competition when I played as a youth, because all of my family members are very well-read. I have many fond memories of playing with my older sister (who was my college roommate for a year), and making up words to fit the letters on our trays. Words such as: cabutvj (which is a shout of victory, obviously) and fasmorg (which is hard to's a bit...ethereal). Ah, good times. It was actually a game of Scrabble that set my husband apart from all the other boys I had dated. I had prided myself on my Scrabble skills, and he totally creamed me! He claims that's the only reason I continued dating him. (Not true, by the way!) Anyway, I love this game, and I look forward to many more years of good memories playing it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: The Lure of the Mask

This is yet another book that I read with my husband, and I had never read it before. He said that he picked it up at a bookstore because he found the title intriguing, and ended up rather liking it. He called it a "chick-flick from a guy's perspective." I found that to be an apt description. It's the story of John Hillard, and the lengths he goes to in order to win the woman of his dreams. That would be the book in a nutshell. More to the point, I found the plot strangely refreshing from typical love stories. Again, that might be because it was told from a man's perspective. It is very well-written, and the story is quite unique. It is an interesting commentary on all types of love, and what we do for those we love. It also had those elements of the mistakes we make when we think we are in love, but are too young to understand the consequences. I would assume that most of us can relate to that experience, as well as many others that are presented throughout the story. I think that this book would appeal to a wide variety of readers, and I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I'm sure you have all been desolate without a recent post from me. The reason for my lengthy silence is that I've been on vacation! My husband and I went on an anniversary trip, and we just got back last night. We had so much fun, and I'm sad that I have to return to normal life now. I will not delay posting much longer, so do not fear, dear readers! I just need to finish unpacking and start some laundry. Then I will catch up on my blog obligations.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Heart List: Mary McDonnell

There are a number of reasons why I love Mary McDonnell. First of all, I love the women in Hollywood that allow themselves to grow older with grace, instead of fighting it tooth and nail. That's not to say that I harbor any illusions that she hasn't had any touch-up work done (I don't know about that either way), but at least her face still looks like the one she was born with, and she still looks her age. Both good things, in my mind. Secondly, I love the air of dignity and elegance that she exudes, even in her personal life. I don't like the celebrities that will do anything for attention and live their lives like they're out to set a record for most degenerate. And third, I just think she's a great actress. Every role I've seen her in is beautiful and real. I have rarely seen an actor portray such a wide variety of characters that all connect so powerfully to me. Many call themselves "actors," but only a handful of them can truly act. Mary McDonnell is one of those few.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Featured Word: Vagary

I love learning new words, so I only feature words I don't already know. Hurray for expanding my vocabulary!

Vagary [vaygeree]
Caprice; eccentric idea or act. (i.e. the vagaries of Fortune)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heart List: Second-hand Bookstores

I absolutely LOVE second-hand bookstores! I mean, all bookstores bring joy to my heart, but there something special about the books that have been passed from person to person. It almost feels like they take on a life of their own. I walk into one of these stores and I have to be very firm with myself, otherwise I'd spend hundreds of dollars. It's always been a dream of mine to own a little second-hand bookstore, but I'm not sure if that will ever happen. I'm not very business savvy. So, I guess I'll just have to search out the stores that other people own and live vicariously through them. :)

Adventures of Brain: Cheetos

If you are wondering where Part 1 is located, it is titled "Sleepless." This is a new category of entries that I've decided to include, since that entry seemed to be a hit. This will include all the the strange adventures of my brain, and my continual confusion with its reasoning. Enjoy.

Brain: I want Cheetos!

Me: We don't have any.

Brain: But we could buy some! Buy me Cheetos!

Me: No, Brain. We're saving up money for our vacation, remember? Every little bit matters. Besides, Cheetos really aren't good for you. You can only have them every once in a while.

Brain: CHEETOS! Cheetos, Cheetos, Cheetos!

Me: I'm just going to ignore you if you keep that up.


Me: GAH! Fine! I will buy Cheetos!


Me: Here are the Cheetos, Brain.

Brain: I don't want 'em.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heart List: Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips

I know, I know. This is my second food-centric entry this month. What can I say? I love food! Anyway. From time to time my brain latches onto a certain food and won't leave me alone until I have it in my possession. (Do you begin to understand how unruly my brain is? I really can't do a thing with it! Example) This week it was Hint of Lime chips. Don't get me wrong, my brain never chooses a food that isn't worthy of praise, but these chips are kind of difficult to find where I live. It's kind of like searching for a needle in a jumble of pins--not impossible, just a pain. :) My husband was kind enough to join me in the search, and we ended victorious. I really like these chips because they have such a unique flavor, and they stand on their own. Sometimes I just can't be bothered with salsa or dip. (Yes, I'm really that lazy.) I also appreciate that my brain tells me when to stop eating them. Some kinds of chips I can eat indefinitely (much to my chagrin), but there is a limit to how much lime flavoring I acknowledge as delicious. That may not sound like a good thing, but believe me, it is. Yummy chips with a built-in stopping point! Where can you go wrong?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I couldn't sleep last night, and I'm all sorts of grumpy about that. I blame my brain. It occasionally decides that I don't need to sleep, and gives me as much trouble as possible. Here's a rough playback of how it went:

Brain: He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way! He had a boogie style that no one else could play!

Me: Quiet, Brain. I'm trying to sleep.

Brain: He was the top man at his craft, but then his number came up and he was gone with the draft! He's in the army now, a-blowin' reveille! He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B!

Me: Brain! Shut up! I want to sleep!

Brain: You know what I thought was interesting about the new Harry Potter movie?

Me: I don't care, Brain.

Brain: You just finished the book you were reading, so you should pick another one. Let's do it right now!

Me: Brain, I'm tired and I don't care about books right now.

Brain: Remember how much fun you had playing Zelda for the first time? It's funny that the fairy's name is Navi, because that's short for "navigator" and she is your navigator!

Me: So help me, Brain, if you don't shut up, I will make you shut up!

Brain: He was SOME boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B!

Needless to say, I didn't win the fight. That went on for hours, and now I'm pretty much a zombie from lack of sleep. I hate my brain.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Threshold Child: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Lives of the Fortress

It seemed to Adesina that she had only just closed her eyes when she heard the bell toll, signaling the time to rise. The clear resonating tones reached every corner of the fortress, keeping every Shi punctual.
With a heavy sigh, Adesina rolled out of her cot and straightened it to its normal tidy state. She walked over to the washstand, splashed some cold water on her tired eyes, and began preparing for the day. She put on her loose, dark grey training clothes and tied back her long straight hair.
Like her eyes, Adesina’s hair was unusual in color. It was a silver so lustrous that it could not be mistaken for grey in any light. The locks that framed her face, however, were black.
A quick glance in the mirror showed Adesina that all was in proper order. She made a small adjustment in the tie of her belt, but nothing else seemed amiss. She allowed her eyes to stray from the details of her clothing and take in the rest of her appearance.
She was a bit undersized due to the extreme physical toll of her training, but she was not disproportional. She was slender but strong, pale but healthy. A light sprinkling of freckles dusted the bridge of her nose, and her almond-shaped eyes were narrowed in a speculative gaze. She tried to decide if she was beautiful, but had no frame of reference with which to judge.
Her gaze lingered on her hair and her eyes, the two features that seemed to isolate her from the rest of humankind. She had never been given a satisfactory explanation as to why she looked so different from everyone else. It set her apart--made her feel like an outsider.
Such social and emotional isolation had hurt her as a child. As she had trained, she had hoped that her growing skills would create some sort of bond between herself and her classmates. Her unique acceleration merely added jealousy to the list of things that alienated her from her peers.
With a heavy sigh, Adesina turned and walked briskly out of the room. She joined the throngs of students walking from their sleeping quarters to breakfast. Most of them had businesslike expressions on their faces, but a few of the younger Shi looked anxious. Adesina could relate, for she remembered all too well what it felt like to be a new student in the Shimat fortress.
She was greeted in the mess hall by a petite girl her own age whose name was Lanil. Her diminutive stature, in combination with her large blue eyes and benign expression, often led others to underestimate her as a warrior. Adesina envied her this advantage. No one who looked at Adesina took her for granted. Her abnormal coloring alone was enough to make people think twice before approaching her.
Lanil glanced at Adesina’s undamaged cheeks and smiled confidently. “Whom did you mark?”
Lanil giggled in delight and clasped her hands together. “Good! She deserves it.”
Although they were the same age, Adesina had five years of seniority over Lanil because of her early start in training. Lanil and Adesina were both “Shar Children,” meaning that they had been raised in the fortress as opposed to being brought to the Shimat by their parents when they were old enough to train. They had been the best of friends until Adesina was taken away from the nursery--the only friend that Adesina had ever had. They remained closer than most students, but the years had changed them.
Lanil remained caring and sympathetic, in spite of her rigorous training. It was generally assumed that she would take a job in the fortress after she finished her schooling, rather than being given an assignment as a warrior. Adesina, on the other hand, had become more hardened with every year. She was treated harshly by her peers due to her youth, and the level of expectation of her teachers drove her to extremes she would not have known otherwise.
Now this unlikely pair stood in line together to receive their rations, one of the few times they saw each other anymore. It was a nutritious but boring meal that was calculated to give them enough energy until their midday meal. Adesina received her wooden tray with a sort of weary resignation.
Lanil smiled at Adesina and hummed to herself. Most of the other students resented Adesina’s youth, but Lanil was genuinely happy for her.
“So? Does this mean you advance?”
Adesina shook her head and held out her bowl for her portion of porridge. “I still have to meet with the Sharifal.”
Lanil’s expression of excitement turned to fear and dismay. There were many Shar, or instructors, at the school, but there was only one Sharifal. She was the leader of the Shimat, and rarely involved in student affairs. When she was, it was usually for disciplinary action. Severe disciplinary action.
“The Sharifal? Why?”
Adesina shrugged uncomfortably. “All students are interviewed by the Sharifal at the end of my year of training, whether they are marked or not.”
Lanil shuddered. “I do not envy you.”
Adesina and Lanil parted ways. Each student was required to eat with the others of their year of training. As Adesina ate her simple rations, she looked down the table to see who had been marked and who had passed. For the most part she wasn’t surprised at what she saw, but there were a few marked who she had thought would pass.
Basha was seated at the far end of the table, a dozen or so stitches in her cheek. She and some of the other marked students were muttering darkly amongst themselves. Basha threw Adesina a look of utter detestation and malice. Her thin mouth was pressed into an almost invisible line, and her eyes flashed with undisguised fury. Adesina could only imagine the tale of treachery and woe that Basha was spinning about Adesina to soften the disgrace of being marked.
There were twelve Shi in her year of training. When they had first begun as children, there had been twice as many students. Nevertheless, yearly advancement was never a guarantee, and proving oneself quickly became a daily requirement.
Adesina felt an all-too-familiar twinge as she reflected on her life as a student in the fortress. Her childhood ideas of what it would be like to train as a Shimat had been far from the reality. Her initial reaction to her early training had been one of excitement. She had been anxious to prove herself worthy of such an honor. That excitement had rapidly been replaced by a form of desperation. Nothing she did ever seemed like enough, even if it was more than what her classmates could do. Her Shar pushed her more and more each year, expecting her to go beyond her best.
Half of her knew that it was merely part of the process of becoming all that she could be, but the other half of her continued to feel that desperation--that secret fear that she would fail. She hid this fear with bravado, but it was ever present in the back of her mind.
Shaking away these dark thoughts, Adesina turned her attention back to her meal.
After breakfast the Shi proceeded with their daily schedule. It was a review day, so most of their morning was spent in a classroom. Over the years, Adesina had been taught a variety of subjects from botany to psychology, tactics to languages and cultures of the world. Adesina retained information very well, and usually found these review days to be tedious.
Today was different, for there was a palpable tension in the air. They were being taught by a substitute Shar, which meant that their Shar were most likely meeting with the Sharifal. Adesina, along with all of her classmates, had a hard time concentrating on their anatomy review.
To get her mind off of her anxiety, Adesina began studying the Shar teaching them that day.
She was a young woman in her mid to late twenties with striking auburn hair and sharp grey eyes. Adesina assumed that she was still training to be a Shar, based on how she reacted to teaching a class of near graduates. Her emotions were kept in very tight check, but Adesina could sense a bit of underlying nervousness.
The Shar walked with a slight limp, perhaps from a broken leg that had been poorly set. She was also quite tall for a woman. Adesina wondered if such height was an advantage or a disadvantage as a Shimat warrior.
Adesina also began to speculate on what kinds of missions this woman would have been sent. Potential Shar were required to give at least five years of service before training as teachers, so this woman must have had some experience.
Perhaps she had been a bodyguard to an important Shimat. Perhaps she had been a messenger. But it was most likely that she had been a spy. Most Shimat were trained to appear as normal citizens and then placed in cities and towns in every nation. The Shimat always knew exactly what was going on in every part of the continent.
Such thoughts carried Adesina over into the midday meal at noon. All the students then massed back into the mess hall where they received rations only slightly more ample than their breakfast. Lanil gave Adesina another friendly smile, which Adesina had trouble returning. Her nerves were starting to wear thin.
After the meal the Shi were sent out to the courtyard for time to practice their skills in weaponry and horsemanship. The courtyard was a large open area, divided into sections that each served a different purpose. There were obstacle courses for those on horseback as well as those on foot, target ranges, circles drawn on the ground for sparring and hand-to-hand combat, etc. The stones on the ground were worn smooth from many years of use, as were the blocks in the surrounding walls. Shimat guards patrolled along the top of the wall like caged panthers pacing back and forth, watching those within the fortress as well as any that might be without.
As usual, Adesina kept a close eye on Basha and her cohorts, who had the unfortunate tendency to “miss” their mark and send some sort of weapon hurtling in her direction. The first few clumsy attempts had been in their youth, so Adesina’s injuries had been minor. As they grew older and more skilled, so did Adesina’s capacity for sensing danger before it arrived. In a way, Adesina was grateful for the unintentional training she had received from those who meant her harm.
Adesina began sparring with one of her classmates. They both held long wooden staffs, and wielded them with precision and force. In spite of this, it was clear that both of them were merely going through the motions, for they each had their minds on what lay ahead. Adesina’s thoughts kept turning to the tallest tower, where the Sharifal lived.
While there were plentiful rumors among the Shi about their revered leader, little was actually known. Those students who were taken to see her never returned, regardless of the reason for their summons. Adesina wondered what the Sharifal looked like and if she had seen her before; for it was said that the Sharifal disguised herself as a Shar and walked among the students.
Adesina’s sparring partner seemed to be thinking along the same lines. “What do you think she is like?”
Adesina blocked his blow and returned with one of her own. “Who?”
“The Sharifal.”
Adesina frowned. “What makes you think I would know?”
He flashed his teeth in an expression that was half smile and half grimace as Adesina brought her staff down on his shoulder. “I did not say I thought you knew. I was asking for your opinion.”
Adesina stepped out of the way of his staff as he jabbed it forward and shrugged. “Why bother speculating? There is no benefit in it.”
He let his weapon drop ever so slightly, as if letting his guard down. Adesina knew he was just trying to draw her in, and ignored the gesture. She continued to circle cautiously and said in a voice of forced indifference, “I suppose we will know soon enough.”
There was a noticeable jump in anxiety as their Shar filed into the courtyard. Every Shi fell silent and their bodies became tense. The students stopped what they were doing and bowed to their instructors.
Per pulled out a list and read the order they were to go see the Sharifal. It alternated between a marked student and the one who had marked them. Adesina was glad to hear her name near the beginning. She didn’t think she could bear the agitation of waiting for hours.
The Shar left with the first student on the list, and the eleven remaining Shi tried to go back to what they were doing. Some gave up entirely and began pacing along the edge of the courtyard next to the stone walls. Adesina bowed to her classmate, indicating that she was finished sparring, and walked over to the range.
She was particularly good at throwing knives and the activity took her mind off the stress at hand. Adesina walked to the end of the range and closed her eyes, imagining her goal. There were four targets on the opposite side of the range: one on each side, one in front, and one behind. The object was to run into the center of this circle of targets and throw the knives without breaking stride.
Adesina took a deep breath and began running at full speed. The calculations of each shot flashed through her mind and translated to action almost automatically. She threw knives at the front and left targets first, then spun and threw knives at the remaining two. She slowed to a stop and inspected each target to see where her knife had struck.
Most of them stood dead center, but one was slightly left of where she had aimed. Her nerves were proving to be more of a problem than she wanted to admit, and she shook her head in frustration. She gathered her knives and started again, this time with more concentration than before.
No students returned from their meeting with the Sharifal, but Shar Per reappeared at regular intervals to call the next name on his list. Adesina felt a twinge of satisfaction seeing Basha leave with Per pale and shaking.
Basha’s interview was longer than the students’ before her, which made Adesina even more nervous. Her mind flew over all of the things that could possibly prevent her advancement, in spite of the victory she won the night before. When Per returned and called her name, Adesina hoped she didn’t look as scared as Basha had.
As Per led her through the fortress to the Sharifal’s tower, the details of her surroundings stood out in Adesina’s mind.
The fortress was devoid of any sort of decoration. The walls were a dull grey stone, lined with torches that were rarely lit. Every so often there would be a brazier that lent a little heat, but not enough to overcome the chill of the season. It was a drab and gloomy place, but Adesina didn’t have much with which she could compare it. The only time she ever left the fortress was to train in the surrounding area, which consisted of the woods and the small strip of grassland along the coast.
They arrived at the base of the Sharifal’s tower, where Jareb was waiting. Jareb dismissed Per and led Adesina up the long winding staircase. At first Adesina silently counted the stairs as they climbed, but the numbers got higher and higher until she finally gave up. She sighed softly and stared at the back of Jareb’s head, wishing he would say something.
They finally reached the top of the tower, where Breyen stood waiting for them. He was standing next to two stern-looking Shimat who were guarding a simple wooden door. Breyen dismissed Jareb and waited until he left to speak.
“Shi Adesina, you have come before the Sharifal as victor of your trial. Enter and be recognized.”
He opened the door and stood back. Adesina walked through the door with as much confidence as she could muster. She found herself in a large circular room that was both meticulously tidy and minimalistic. A good portion of the walls were covered with bookshelves, some of which were bolted shut. There were two windows: one facing toward the courtyard and the other facing towards the ocean. There was a large desk placed next to the ocean-viewing window, which was covered with neat stacks of papers and books.
As Adesina’s eyes turned on the Sharifal, she stopped in her tracks and stared in shock, unable to believe what she saw.

Heart List: Stephen Fry

I heart Stephen Fry! I will admit that my knowledge of his work is limited, but I've loved everything that I've seen him in. That would include: "V for Vendetta," "I.Q." "Bones: Season 2," "Alice in Wonderland," (the new one with Johnny Depp--he does the voice of the Cheshire Cat) "MirrorMask," and he is often called upon to narrate for various projects. Stephen Fry has a delightful way of adding humor to any role, and also shows great depth in each of his various performances. Apparently he is going to be in the new Sherlock Holmes movie, as well as "The Hobbit," so I'm looking forward to that. If you are not familiar with this amazing actor, I would advice you to seek him out. He's awesome!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Heart List: Sushi

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm...sushi! It's definitely one of my favorite foods. I bet I could eat it every single day and not get tired of it! There's so much variety available, and I love trying new combinations of flavors. Unfortunately, I don't get to eat it very often, but I suppose that's a good thing. All things in moderation, right? My husband and I are having a couple of people over tonight, though, and we are going to be making sushi. Yum! I'm very excited! I don't know if it's the Japanese in me, or if it's just the fact that the Japanese are brilliant chefs. Either way, this is my favorite thing of the week.

Pet Names

I have nothing against pet names. A number of important people in my life call me by various pet names, and it's an endearing way to refer to each other. However, I hate it when strangers call me "sweetie," or "honey," or "darling," or any such term. What gives them the right to takes such liberties? I'm not joking, either. It's a serious affront to my sense of propriety. I don't know you! What makes you think you can treat me in such a familiar fashion? I only let the people I love refer to me in such a way. The only exception I make is for old people. They can get away with it, but that's just because they're cute and old (creepy old men are excluded from this rule). If a high school student calls me "love" (which actually happened once), I get the urge to give my coldest glare and tell them to only call me by my given name. I will admit that I'm rather old-fashioned, but it's not like I'm requiring people to call me Ms. Kanno. All I'm asking is that there be some respect in how people treat those around them. That includes not calling complete strangers by pet names.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Heart List: Fireworks

 Did you know that the ancient Chinese invented fireworks in order to scare away evil spirits? I love learning about stuff like that. I read an article recently about how fireworks are made, which was also fascinating. It's amazing to me that they can take a bunch chemicals/elements and put them together to create a dazzling display of lights and sound. This is the month of fireworks where I live. One can hear them going off almost every night. They aren't my favorite thing about this month, but I do enjoy driving down the freeway at night and seeing the burst of color appear at random. There's something about seeing fireworks that fills my imagination with all sorts of flights of fancy, and I love anything that has that effect on my mind. Hurray for legal explosions!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


My husband and I just moved into a new apartment. It seemed like a good idea at the time (cheaper rent, lots of perks, etc), but now I'm questioning the wisdom of it. So many boxes! How in the world did we acquire so much stuff? I thought that as newlyweds we didn't have very many belongings, and our apartment didn't seem all that big. Yet on moving day (yesterday) the boxes just kept appearing. They came from closets, from the shed, from under the stairs... There seemed to be no end! And we had to carry them all out to the moving van (this isn't even taking into consideration all of the furniture, which I left to my brothers and husband). Once the van filled up, then we moved them out to our car...and then to my mother's car...and then to my sister's car...and then to my brother-in-law's car. Yep. So much stuff. My Mom suggested doing a great purge, like my brother does. He rarely takes anything with him when he moves. He just gets rid of it. After moving twenty boxes of books, I started seeing the advantage to such a practice. All of our stuff is in our new apartment now, but the ordeal is far from over. Now we have to UNpack, and I'm not looking forward to it. Hence I'm writing on my blog instead of unpacking. Hurray for procrastination! Now that I've written that, though, I'm starting to feel guilty. Sigh. I suppose I should go put my house in order...

Heart List: Claude Monet

I love the paintings of Claude Monet. It’s like dreaming on canvas, if that makes sense. I’ll be the first to admit that I know precious little about art, but there’s something about the Impressionists that have always caught my attention. I like that the lines are not quite defined and that the colors are a sort of organized chaos. I’d much rather look at something with a touch of whimsy than something too realistic. Even the name is appealing to me: impressionism. It’s not what the thing is, it’s our impression of it. Well, like I said, I know nothing about art. What I do know is that I heart Monet.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heart List: Culver's

Hey! I have a blog! I should write an entry someday...
Okay, here we go again. I have recently discovered a delightful burger and custard place called Culver's. I had driven past it before, but I had never taken the time to actually try the food. Then, with a little encouragement from my husband, I finally agreed to go. Oh my goodness! What took me so long?! The hamburgers are not exactly pieces of art, but the taste more than makes up for any lack in aesthetics. The meat itself is full of juicy flavor, and the buns are warm and yummy. I decided to try the cheese curds, and I had a hard time sharing with my husband. However, the thing that really got my attention was the frozen custard. YUM! So creamy and delicious! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I love fast food that actually tastes good. No offense to other certain fast food restaurants who shall remain nameless, but bleh! I would highly recommend Culver's to all people who love a good burger and creamy frozen custard.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Threshold Child: Chapter One

Chapter One: The Bird of Prey

No one ever looked up.
For this reason, a black clothed figure was crouched in the gnarled arms of an ancient tree. In the sparse moonlight she was invisible against the background, waiting patiently for her prey. Her metallic purple eyes, the only visible feature, scanned the ground searching the darkness for every possible detail.
The minutes ticked by slowly.
The whisper of the breeze was chilled by the promise of winter, but she ignored the dropping temperature. Her intense focus even overshadowed the slight ache in her muscles from maintaining her position for an extended period of time.
Every rustle in the underbrush, every stirring of the leaves, brought her sharp eyes around in search for some sign of her quarry.
Finally, a similarly garbed figure passed beneath her tree, slinking from shadow to shadow. She felt a surge of satisfaction as she shifted her weight to the balls of her feet in preparation for the attack.
She dropped down from the branches and brought her prey to its knees before there was any time for her victim to react. She removed the hood and scarf of her opponent, revealing the pale narrow face of a young woman with short sandy hair. Her features were harsh but blunt, giving her the brutish appearance of one who delights in violence.
The young woman looked up at the strange metallic eyes that were flecked with gold. She clenched her fists, immediately prepared to lash out, and her face contorted in an expression of pure loathing. “Adesina,” she spat.
Adesina didn’t need to ask how she had been recognized. She knew her eyes made her easily identifiable. “I hoped I would be the one to mark you, Basha.”
“I had hoped to kill you.”
Adesina didn’t doubt it. The two young women were part of a class of students training for an elite and selective military group, commonly known as the Shimat. The competition was fierce, and “accidents” happened.
Basha was an unremarkable student, but she was vindictive and unrelenting, which some teachers mistook for determination and strength of character. From the moment she had laid eyes on Adesina, some ten years ago, Basha had hated her. That hate only grew as Adesina excelled among her peers.
Adesina was unusually gifted, even for a Shimat. She had the uncanny ability to sense her surroundings and knew how to use that to her advantage. She was exceptionally agile and her endurance levels were far above normal. These traits, among others, were the reason why she had begun her training five years earlier than any other student.
Adesina reciprocated Basha’s intense dislike. Not only that, but she was aware of her own gifts and Basha’s shortcomings. It rankled Adesina’s pride to see Basha gain distinction through the misconceptions of certain instructors.
A number of sarcastic retorts rose in Adesina’s fifteen-year-old mind, but she ignored them. Basha saw the scorn that flashed across Adesina’s face, and her own expression blackened with the desire for violent revenge. Instead of voicing her thoughts, Adesina shifted Basha’s hood and scarf from her right hand to her left, and drew her dagger from the belt around her waist. “I have unveiled you, Shi Basha. Yield or be disgraced.”
Basha’s face twisted in disdain as she debated whether it was worth the disgrace to defy one she despised more than anything in the world. When she spoke, it was between clenched teeth.
“I yield.”
Adesina stepped forward so she was facing Basha’s kneeling figure and placed the edge of her blade against her enemy’s cheek.
“I mark you, so that all may know of your first failure.”
Her stroke was perhaps harder than it needed to be. Basha swore, but let it bleed freely. Adesina took a small square of white cloth from a pouch on her belt and stained it with some of Basha’s blood. She held it carefully in her hand and returned Basha’s hood and scarf to her.
Basha took them and got to her feet. “A day will come when I will make you pay for this mark. And on that day, you will wish you had never been born.”
Adesina rolled her eyes. Basha had always tended to be melodramatic. “Come on. We have to return to the school.”
Adesina began to turn, but her eyes caught the movement of a sleek shadow several yards away. It was hard to imagine that there was anything more black than the woods at night, but something darker crouched just out of sight. Two golden orbs gleamed momentarily but then seemed to disappear altogether. When she looked closer she could see only trees.
It must have been some sort of animal, for Adesina seemed to be the only human with odd colored eyes. Given the size of the spheres, it must have been an enormous creature. There had never been any beast so large this close to the fortress.
She considered investigating further, but an impatient movement from Basha brought her head around sharply. Adesina’s learned suspicion of Basha overrode her present curiosity. Frowning to herself, Adesina continued on her way.
The autumn leaves lay thick on the ground, but the footsteps of the two young women were muted by the damp soil. They were merely two silhouettes slipping through the darkness, hidden among the crooked trees that surrounded them.
As they walked, Adesina’s mind turned back over the events of the night. It had been a surprise to be shaken from sleep and told that tonight would be the final test for their year of training. If they passed they would be eligible to advance to the next year. If not, they would be put through a remedial course of training.
They had been individually led to different parts of the forest southeast of the school and told that their one objective was to find and unveil one of their classmates. Those unveiled were to be marked by the victor.
Now Adesina and Basha emerged from the forest and approached a small camp. It consisted of two small tents set up on the hill overlooking the forest. The three instructors of Adesina’s group of students stood waiting, robed in black. In the darkness they took on the spectral appearance of the harbingers of death, and the young student felt a chill run down her spine at the sight. Beside the instructors stood a spidery device similar to a brazier, but with flames instead of coals.
Adesina looked at the faces that had taught and trained her since she was five years old. They regarded her gravely as the two young women approached. She greeted them respectfully in order of seniority, bowing to each. “Shar Breyen. Shar Jareb. Shar Per.”
They bowed back. “Shi Adesina.”
Basha went through the same ceremony, but did not receive any acknowledgment in return.
Her pale blue eyes smoldered with rage even though she kept them lowered. Breyen indicated toward the brazier. Adesina took the stained square of cloth she was holding in her hand and gently laid it on the fire. The flames licked at the corners of the cloth, blackening them and curling them as if it were contorting in agony. Adesina watched it dispassionately and wafted the smoke onto her face before stepping back again.
This was a symbolic ritual of the Shimat. The stained cloth represented the victory won, and all that the victory had cost. The sacrifice, the skill, the lessons learned. By breathing in the smoke, it all became part of you. The ritual was also a way to honor those who made you stronger.
Per nodded approvingly. “Shi Adesina, take your prisoner to the medical wing and then you may retire.”
Both students bowed again before walking past their instructors. The hill leveled out to become flat ground after a few steps. The grass was greyish-green in color and coarse in texture. In the meager moonlight it took on a sickly appearance. This, in addition to the thin mist swirling over the ground, gave a ghostly feeling to the fortress that served as the school and training facility.
The fortress was set on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the ocean. The great outer wall looked harsh and forbidding at night, but during the day it gave a strange sort of comfort in its solitary strength. There were no other cities or villages near the fortress; no other buildings that might call themselves neighbors. The fortress stood alone for many miles, and it seemed to take power in that seclusion.
The massive gates stood open, which was quite unusual, but this lapse of security was compensated by several Shimat guards standing watch. Three stood along the wall directly above the gates, and two more stood on the ground on either side. The others were positioned at even intervals along the wall like dark columns, upright and unmoving.
All of them wore the black uniform that Adesina and her peers had been privileged to wear for the night’s activities. Black clothing, knee-high boots, gloves, a high-collared black leather vest, and a hood and scarf that only left the eyes visible. These glittering spheres watched the two young women closely, but the guards remained otherwise still and silent.
Basha fumed inaudibly as they walked. Her burning glare was fixed on the ground and her fists were clenched at her side. When they passed through the gates, she turned to Adesina and said venomously, “I can go to the medical wing by myself.”
Adesina shrugged indifferently and walked away. Less time spent in Basha’s presence was always a good thing, and she wanted to get what rest she could before dawn. Basha took the corridor to the left and Adesina turned right, back to their sleeping quarters.
Each of the rooms that served as sleeping quarters held ten to fifteen students. There were two or three metal washstands per room, and one large mirror on the wall in which they could thoroughly inspect the neatness of their personal appearance.
Every Shi, or student, was instilled with a strict sense of order, which carried over into every aspect of their lives. The uniform had to be meticulous, the hair combed back from the face, proper hygiene attended to, and so forth. All such rules for personal care and general cleanliness were set down in what was called “the code.”
Keeping this in mind, Adesina resisted the urge to simply plop into bed fully dressed in spite of her fatigue. She took off the Shimat uniform she had been given for her assignment, folded it carefully, and placed it on the small chest located at the foot of her cot.
Under normal circumstances, a student wasn’t allowed to touch such a uniform. They were only worn by full Shimat, and had to be earned. For certain tests, however, that rule was waived.
Adesina put on her sleeping uniform, unpinned her hair from its tightly braided knot, and climbed carefully into bed. With a weary expression on her face, she settled down for some much needed sleep.