Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back on 2014 - Part Two

This is the continuation of "Looking Back on 2014 - Part One."


I can't write about July without a mention of Independence Day. For the second year in a row, we had an amazing, fun fourth of July picnic party at my good friends John and Sue's house. They have the good fortune of the fact that their house is not officially in the city limits. And they have a huge backyard, so we can blast off as many fireworks as we want. My mom, aunt and uncle, cousin and her boyfriend, father-in-law, two of John and Sue's sons and their wives, their grandson, and of course, me, my husband and two boys were all there. There was a ton of great barbeque and other food. I was in charge of dessert. I made this beautiful red, white , and blue trifle: white cake cubes layered with strawberries, blueberries, and a delectable whipped white chocolate cream. I was pretty proud of it. We had a TON of fireworks, and it was awesome.

After participating in the African drum circle at my church on a pretty regular basis, and making friends with my fellow drummers, it was fun to find out that we had a gig... kind of. Rebecca, the lady who led the drum circles, had been contacted by the public library about performing and teaching some children for the Summer Reading Program. The library's Summer Reading Program included a performance by a magician, a robotics club demonstration from a local college, and a professional storyteller, among other things. It was a really neat opportunity. So we dragged all the drums, some of which are very heavy, up to the second floor along with our "fun basket" which is full of percussion instruments like maracas, rail road spikes to clink together, tambourines, and medicine bottles filled with beans. We had a lot of kids there that day. There had to have been about 50-ish children in that room, in addition to my own two boys. I did a quick spiel about the history of the djembe drum in Africa (with maps!) and Rebecca did a short introduction to the three main drum sounds. It was very noisy, but fun too. I wish I had some pictures of that event because it was a blast.

August to September

August was a slow month for me. It was also not the best of times for me either. I have struggled with depression for a very long time. I've never been to a psychiatrist and been officially diagnosed, but depression runs rampant in the females of my family. So, it's pretty obvious that I'd have to deal with it at some times in my life. I can usually feel it coming on. There aren't really any words to describe what the onset of depression feels like, but for me I can feel something slowly change in my mind. It sort of creeps up on me slowly over the course of a few weeks, and I descend into this dark place where I don't want to do anything or talk to anyone. I'm also pretty good at keeping up appearances in public, so for the most part I can keep it to myself. Kaleb's homeschooling came to a standstill while I dealt with my melancholy. I spent the majority of my time zoned out watching my shows. I let the housecleaning go, and the house fell into chaos. For a long time, I felt incredibly guilty about it, but I now know that it isn't anything to feel guilty about. I spent the better part of two months stuck in this deep rut, but I eventually overcame it on my own, with the help of good friends and family being around me and giving me support. Now this isn't to say that I won't come down with my depression again. I have been told that it would benefit me to see a doctor about it. I may see one in the future if my depression gets severe enough. Now enough about depressing things. ;)


After finally kicking my depression, I involved myself in more activities including volunteering for the annual Downtown Ghost Walk as a tour guide. It is a unique storytelling event with actors telling ghost stories based on actual local events in historical buildings. My job as a tour guide was to bring groups around down town Bartlesville and give a little historical spiel about each building we went to.

A few of my favorite things about the Ghost Walk were the zombie actors, and the final location on the walk: the old hospital. That has to be the creepiest building in town. Personally, I'd love to get in there and do some ghost hunting. A local ghost hunting group actually did a little "mini ghost hunt" with our tour groups... kind of. (It was actually just a short EVP session.) They later told me that they'd been trying to get in there for years. Apparently, the owner of the old hospital building didn't want ghost hunters there, but allowed Downtown Bartlesville, Inc. to use it for the Ghost Walk. Unfortunately, the building is slated for construction projects in the next year or so. I think they intend on making it an apartment building. (Not sure how that'll work out for the future tennants...)

It being a Halloween themed event, of course I dressed up. I splurged a bit and bought this beautiful Victorian style black dress. I did my hair with some spiral curls and put on some dark makeup. I looked good... or at least I hope I did.


At the beginning of November I went on a hiking trip with my friend, John and my son, Kaleb at Woolaroc. Woolaroc is an amazing place to visit, if you ever get the chance. It has a cultural center and museum, a collection of animals like bison, deer, ostriches, etc. and beautiful, well maintained hiking trails.
It was the first time I really got a good chance to use my telescopic lens on my camera. I've been trying to teach myself photography with my Canon Rebel T3i camera that I received as a gift for Christmas last year. I know I have the eye for it, but getting the camera to do what I want is another thing entirely. Here are some of my favorite photos from that hiking trip. There are a lot more photos at my photography blog:



December was another exciting month for me. Between parades, gift exchanges, Christmas and birthday parties, drum circles, church, etc. I was kept pretty busy. I took the boys to go see Santa Claus on the 6th. Cameron hid in the corner, and Kaleb kept a foot and a half distance from him and would only whisper what he wanted for Christmas to him. It is a bit sad, but I have never been to our local Christmas parade, and I'd never taken the boys either, so I checked that off the to do list. We went the same day right after we saw Santa. The boys didn't know quite what to expect and weren't that excited about sitting in the cold, but they loved it. Especially the part where they got to take home the wads of candy thrown from the floats.

My husband, Greg's company Christmas party is always a big deal and is something I always look forward to each year. It is one of the few times a year that I get to dress up and look fabulous. If you know anything about me, and you've probably noticed from reading my blog, but I love to dress up (even if it's not in costume, and it's just a fancy dress). Every year, Greg's company Christmas party caters in fantastic high quality food and gives out nice (and expensive) prizes. One of the employees also dressed up in this amazing Jack Frost costume. This year Greg actually won $500 from the prize giveaways! We ended up using it on Christmas gifts and bills, but it sure was nice to have that extra money.

My birthday was also this month. I turned 28 on Sunday the 14th. My sister-in-law, Kaitlyn's birthday is the day before mine, and every year it has become sort of a tradition to celebrate our birthdays together. We went on a double date to the Melting Pot on the Friday before our birthdays and completely splurged. I am still in shock about how expensive that place was, but man, was it tasty. I still have fantasies about how tasty that duck was. The fancy mixed drink wasn't too bad either. Kaitlyn gifted me a beautiful hardcover edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and I gifted her a pair of nice knitted fingerless gloves from a cute local shop and two giant bags of Twizlers and Hershey's Pot of Gold candies.
I also signed up for the reddit Secret Santa gift exchange which was tons of fun. We had a gift exchange with my mom, aunt, and my friends John and Sue the Friday before Christmas. It was even better than Christmas. I got an amazing sweater jacket, a book with create your own Shakespearean insults (which is awesome), a couple necklaces, and a warm and fuzzy blanket. Oh yeah, and dark chocolate. We can't forget that. ;)

Christmas itself was anticlimactic, but nice too. We rushed around like headless chickens and finally Christmas arrived and then it was over. I freaked out and worried so much about the state of our house being in the midst of renovations, but in the end it didn't even matter. We had Greg's brothers and their families over along with his dad for a gift exchange and board games for a couple hours. Greg's sister, Kaitlyn, stayed and joined us for dinner along with my mom, my sister and her boyfriend. I made orange glazed roast duck, loaded mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, and some other sides for dinner. Afterwards, we strapped ourselves in for a marathon board game session. We played Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples, and 7 Wonders. It was a lot of fun, especially to spend time with my sister who I don't really see that often.

And now as December and the year of 2014 comes to a close, I'll be soon leaving with the boys in tow to a party at my friend's house. It is the first time we'll be doing New Year's Eve with John and Sue. Usually, we do something here at my house with board games and wine. ;) I'm looking forward to it quite a bit. My mom, sister Kathryn, aunt Brenda, and friend Michael, in addition to John and Sue's kids, were all invited as well. I'm really glad to have all these interesting people in my life.

I hope to continue to spend time with these people and meet and make new friends as well. You never know what's ahead, and I hope that I have a lot of new and exciting adventures in the year to come.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Looking Back on 2014 - Part One

So this year has had its ups and downs, but that pretty much sums up everyone's year. I have had a few life changes, and dealt with a few issues here and there, large and small. Here are a few things that happened to me in 2014. So here are a few random memories.


January 2014 was about a year ago, so it is a bit hard to remember what kinds of things happened that long ago. I should really start keeping a journal. Now that I think of it, I think I actually started one, but never kept up with it. Maybe that is something to try to work on this upcoming year. It was also at this time in my life that I was discontented with the church that I was going to and eventually went for the last time in December or January. There were many reasons for doing so, but I'll talk about that another time.

The state of Oklahoma had some really, really cold days, in fact they were some of the coldest days on record, including some days in the negatives.

Kaleb's 7th birthday was at the end of the month. We were going to have a small party at the house and I'd even invited a few kids over, but the dreaded flu knocked the whole family out and the party was cancelled. I was pretty sure that what we had was the dreaded H1N1 that was circling the nation and freaking out the media. High fevers, headaches and other pains, fatigue, and the worst congestion I've ever had. I was sicker than I'd ever felt. Greg had to take two entire weeks off from work. Even though I was just as sick as the rest of them, I ended up being the caretaker, feeding and medicating everyone. Go super mom aka me.


Not much happened in February. It was a pretty boring month. There was a big Valentine's Day party for a local homeschoolers group the Friday before V-Day, but Kaleb threw up in the back seat on the way there. So, we didn't even go. I don't remember going anywhere with Greg to celebrate Valentine's Day, and even if we did go, obviously it wasn't very memorable.


With the warming of the weather, I took the boys out to a beautiful state park about twenty minutes away for a decent day of hiking. I got some fantastic photos and we had a really great time just being outside after being cooped up all winter.

March was also the month that I began to go to the Unitarian Universalist Church. After floundering around spiritually for years, I had finally found a place that really clicked. I also began to participate in the bi-weekly African drum circle that is held at the church.


Another uneventful month. I guess I lead a pretty uneventful life.  We decided to take Kaleb out of his karate class because it was becoming a fight to bring him each time. He held absolutely no interest for it. I started work on our giant backyard garden as the weather continued to warm up.


Cameron's 4th birthday was at the end of the month on Memorial Day weekend. We made up for Kaleb's cancelled party earlier in the year and had a great time with a few of the boys' friends. I had originally made super hero capes and masks and still had them on hand, and the children loved the heck out of them.

By this time, I had gotten to know many of the interesting people that went to the UU church including someone who was the volunteer coordinator for the amazing OK Mozart festival held each year in Bartlesville.


June was the month of the OK Mozart festival. I had signed up to be a costume greeter. Along with about six other ladies and gents, I dressed up in 1700s period costume a la Marie Antoinette and Mozart, of course, with big hair and lots of lace. We greeted concert attendees on their way to the big symphony concerts in the community center. Being a volunteer I received a few perks, one of which was that I was able to sit in on three of the concerts. If I had paid for tickets, I would have had to drop quite a bit of money. After the final concert there was an after party for the musicians and OK Mozart employees and board members. Most of the volunteers weren't invited, but the costume greeters were. I got to mingle with New York Symphony Orchestra musicians, drink champagne, and eat fancy hors d'oeurves. It was a high society-type evening. Am I volunteering next year? Heck yes I am.

Stay tuned for Looking Back on 2014 - Part Two!

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Participated in the World's Largest Secret Santa Gift Exchange

On this little place called the internet, there is a strange and mysterious place called reddit. It's a website that is really hard to explain. It is kind of like an anonymous Facebook meets Pinterest meets news site meets discussion forum. It's a website for everything. Because it is so hard to explain, I'll let CGP Grey from YouTube explain for me in this very informative video:

So, now that you know what the heck reddit is, I can explain reddit's amazing Secret Santa gift exchange. I believe that the Secret Santa event started on reddit around 5-8ish years ago, and over time it has exploded into this massive, crazy thing. Here's a TED talk about how the world's largest Secret Santa was created by the creator himself. The video is about 16 minutes long (just warning you), but I found it really interesting.

The main concept is you sign up with the site, fill out a likes/dislikes section, and answer a few questions about yourself like "What's your favorite color?" or "What is your favorite author or book?" or "What's your favorite movie?" for example. Then you wait until matching day. This year matching day was on December 1st. Some random person will get matched with you, read your info, and "friendly stalk you" online. Meanwhile, you have your own match. (Which is not the same person matched with you.)

The suggested amount to spend on your giftee is around $25 not including shipping, but there are people that go way above and beyond (you'll know if you watched the TED talk above). So if you're lucky you'll get matched with a rich person or celebrity. This year's Secret Santa had Bill Gates, Snoop Dogg, and Alyssa Milano among others participating, which is beyond cool.

My own giftee was actually not one person but an entire family of eight people. Six kids! Not exactly a follower of the rules. I much rather would've preferred someone that I could have "friendly stalked" with some interesting interests, but you get what you get. My giftee didn't really fill out their likes/dislikes section either, which left me irritated and annoyed. But, by God, once my brain starts going, the creativity comes out. I opted for a pieced together "family night in" kit. I got all the stuff needed for s'mores, a box of popcorn, a tin of Swiss Miss hot cocoa, a Pictionary card game, a giant Mad-Libs book, and after a quick message to my giftee for information, I got everyone's favorite candy. I was also able to pick up some of these cool Christmas party cracker things for the kids at TJMaxx. To make it more fun I wrapped everything. Even the bag of marshmallows, because be honest... who doesn't like ripping open gifts? I spent around $45. Not bad for gifting to an entire family of eight people.

On your match page on, you are provided with your giftee's address. You must also ship your gift out by a specific date. This year's ship by date was December 19th. I, of course, procrastinated until the very last day. I really hope that my giftee and his family are happy with the gifts.

Anyway, I actually received my gift from my Secret Santa today. They sent me a color changing constellations mug, of which I used almost immediately for a nice cup of chamomile mint tea. Mmmmm. In case you were wondering, I absolutely love me a cup of hot tea. (I apologize for the terrible image quality. These were taken with my phone. Horrible from a self proclaimed photographer, I know.)

 Also included in my Secret Santa box was an envelope with a card. Inside was a note and an Amazon gift card for $10. Remember earlier where I said something about "friendly stalking?" This is where that came into play. My Secret Santa mentioned in their note about using the gift card to buy books for my new Kindle, which I'm sure they found out by searching my reddit history. I had recently posted in the /r/Kindle subreddit about my new Kindle and how excited I was about it. It is really nice to see such a thoughtful/quirky gift.

Overall, I'd say that the whole reddit Secret Santa has been a positive experience. I really enjoyed getting creative and shopping for a complete stranger (or in my case a family of strangers). Plus, I get the advantage of possibly being a Guinness World Record holder. Once they get the final numbers and counts in, it will be the world's official largest Secret Santa gift exchange. And that is cool. I will for sure be participating again.

Just in case you were curious and wanted to learn more, check out the /r/SecretSanta subreddit on reddit. In addition to Secret Santa, they also have various other gift exchanges throughout the year including smaller themed exchanges and another big one called Arbitrary Day. So you don't even have to wait all the way until next year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review - Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson

So last night I finished the first book in the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I was lucky enough to get a good deal on all three books for only $5.75 for the Kindle which is a fantastic deal. This was the first book I have read all the way through in a very, very long time. So take my words with a grain of salt. Also, these are my own personal opinions. If you don't agree, let's have some friendly debate in the comments section, otherwise, write your own review. I've noticed that sometimes people on the internet can get kind of testy especially since they don't have to worry about the normal social conventions that usually apply when speaking to someone face to face... but I digress.

“Tresting nodded as he watched the crow of lazy skaa, some working with their hoes, others on hands and knees, pushing the ash away from the fledgling crops. They didn't complain. They didn't hope. They barely dared think. That was the way it should be, for they were skaa. They were—
Tresting froze as one of the skaa looked up. The man met Tresting's eyes, a spark—no, a fire—of defiance showing in his expression. Tresting had never seen anything like it, not in the face of a skaa. Tresting stepped backward reflexively, a chill running through him as the strange, straight-backed skaa held his eyes.
And smiled.” 

The story begins in the prologue with our mysterious hero, Kelsier. He's a very likeable character with both a serious side and an eccentric sense of humor, in spite of a tragic past. Later on we are introduced to the secondary protagonist, a sixteen year old girl named Vin, who is working for a thieving crew. She lives in a brutal world, but she survives through her smarts and a strange ability that she refers to as her "Luck."

The world in which the story takes place is ruled by an immortal tyrant/god called (what else?) the Lord Ruler. A bit of an unoriginal title, in my opinion. The heroes are members of the lower caste, or slaves, called the skaa. Kelsier is the leader of a special thieving crew of an interesting cast of characters. Through coincidence Vin and Kelsier meet, and Kelsier takes her under his wing.

Without giving too much of the story away, I can tell you that this book has the most unique magic system I've seen in a while. Both Kelsier and Vin are called Mistborn, a select group of Allomancers (magic users), or people who can draw power from different metals by "burning" them. Normally Allomancers can only burn one type of metal, but Mistborn can burn all types. Burning different metals creates different effects. For example, when burning brass, the Allomancer is able to sooth the emotions of others, hence they are called Soothers. Pewter makes the body stronger and so on. I've never seen a magic system quite like it in any other story, but who knows, maybe I need to read more.

In this corrupt society, what else does the roguish Kelsier want to do? Why take down the government of the Final Empire and the Lord Ruler with the help of his crew, of course.

With that bit of information, I think I'll stop there. Wouldn't want to give anything away... What is even better is that there are a couple more books to go in the trilogy, and I can't wait to get started. But even if you didn't want to go on to the next book, the story wraps up quite nicely. There are a few unanswered questions at the end, but you aren't left with a staggering cliffhanger like some obnoxious books will do to you. So, would I recommend this book? Absolutely positively.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why Reading Feels Good Again and Some Random Memories from a Childhood Bookworm

It has been quite a while since picking up the written word. I've been spending a lot of time in front of a screen lately, either computer or television. I watch my shows or obsess a bit too much over Facebook, reddit, or Pinterest. I am a complete and utter nerd or geek or whatever the heck you want to call it. I watch anime even though I am a 28 year old mother of two. (I don't exactly fit the profile of the overweight neckbeard-type that you'd expect to watch that kind of thing. But I'll speak more on that another time.) I think it is a way to avoid reality sometimes. Those screens allow you to completely zone out.

Either way, let's rewind to Black Friday, that consumer driven day after Thanksgiving that companies will do anything to get you to spend your hard earned dollar. I fell into Amazon's Black Friday trap of "Kindles only $49 this weekend only!" or something along those lines. I bought a Kindle Paperwhite for about $20 or $30 off the original price. Around $99ish I believe. I am a complete cheapskate, so this was a bit of an abnormal purchase for me. I filled the thing up with some classic novels that are free because they don't fall under current copyright laws or something along those lines. I attempted to start reading "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens, but my brain almost imploded after just a few pages. I will set that one aside for another time, or at least until I've gotten used to reading again.

There was a time in the past when I wasn't afraid to pick up a book way over my reading level. I remember the first time I did just that. I think I was in second or third grade. The books at my elementary school library were color coded for each grade level or reading level. I was poking around in the bookcase with the fifth grade books, and found a pretty book with a girl riding a dolphin on the cover. It was "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle. It was way over my current level, and there were A LOT of pages. I checked it out anyway. I remember trying to read the book that night, and only understanding some of it. The words were long and confusing, but I got the general gist of the story. I loved it. I was able to brag to my teachers and friends that I had read a hard book all the way through. It made me feel smart and a bit better than my peers, and to my third grade ego this felt good.

Thus began my love affair with books. I had an almost insatiable craving to read as I got older. I remember a particular instance during Summer vacation after I was in seventh grade. We had gone to the library the day before, and I had checked out a large stack of YA books of different genres and sizes. I mostly had an affinity to fantasy and adventure. I can't remember how many I checked out, but it had to have been about 8-10 different books. I charged through all of them in one day. When my mom got home that night, she was partly annoyed and impressed that I wanted to go to the library again for a new stack of reading material. I had gotten to the point to where I had achieved quite an impressive speed in my ability to read.

I was the one in my high school classes that got into trouble by my teachers because instead of paying attention to the lessons my face was obscured by some random novel. I kind of miss those days and those stories that I read. I got married right after high school. Then I had children about a year after that. Nowadays, I have two children, the average stay at home wife. Well, maybe not that average. I homeschool my oldest, a little seven year old computer gamer named Kaleb. He isn't even remotely interested in reading. It breaks my heart a bit. But it is honestly probably my fault that he's not interested. I hardly read anymore, and children learn what they observe. And that is where the guilt comes in. So, I bought a Kindle and two days ago, bought a trilogy of books for super cheap on the Kindle store. I began to read a fantasy novel called "The Mistborn Trilogy" by Brian Sanderson. It is bringing back all that nostalgia from when I was younger, and read books like normal people drink water.

I haven't finished it yet, and I'm nowhere near as fast a reader as I was back in my high school days, but damn it feels good to read a book again. Even if I have changed from reading a traditional ink and paper novel to the new technology of an e-reader. So here's to new stories, new books, and new adventures.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sleeping Fox Drawing

A drawing I spent about 2-ish hours working on. Sketched in pencil, then inked over with art pens.