Monday, April 20, 2015

An Explanation

This past week has been a little ridiculous.

Nine days ago, on the 11th, I woke up to find that my left hearing aid was not functional. This incited a major freak-out on my part and pretty much destroyed any chance of a normal work week.  This is how I shared it with my inner circles on Facebook:

I ask for prayers a lot (it seems) but this one is an unusual one - one of my hearing aids just died and this is an extremely FREAKY thing for me to deal with, being not only Deaf but also an Aspie. There are pretty much NO resources to help over the weekend, so I'm stuck until Monday at the very earliest.
I can't even begin to explain how tremendously nasty this situation is. It's not just physical, it's intensely emotional and disorienting and scary. And Nathan has never dealt with me in this situation before and it is HIS BIRTHDAY this weekend.
This is one of those situations where everything converges into a perfect storm of awfulness and one of the only times you will ever hear me say that I hate being deaf.

Later I added:

It's hard because there is only so much you can do when your whole world is off-kilter. It's not just emotion, it's a physical disturbance, like an itch you can't scratch. I can't quite explain how it affects everything, but it really does. Like we rely on our hearing for balance and orientation and taking away half of that totally messes with your brain. It's not just the normal "breath in, breath out" coping, because any time you move everything seems wrong. Which makes it that much harder to deal with the emotional side, of course, because all of my patience is going into just not freaking out every second, much less coping with anything else that comes into the picture. 

Two brighter spots... it is my left (non-dominent) ear, which has a sore in it so it will appreciate a chance to heal up a bit. And a friend with similar health issues totally understood the situation and send me a new kindle book to read right away, since reading is something I prefer to do without hearing aids anyhow.

The good news is that we DO have another pair of hearing aids, but they are not programmed yet, and even when that happens (no idea how long it will take to get an appointment) I'll have to adjust to a totally new way of hearing, which is my least favorite thing to do and I've been putting it off as long as possible because I hate it so much. And now I don't have a choice, I just have to face an unexpectedly bad couple of weeks now (and just when I was feeling healthier too.)


And then:

 I hate talking about all of this, but I feel like if I don't talk about it, I'm just perpetuating the bubble of ignorance about handicaps and deafness in particular. A hearing aid isn't like a car - you can't function without it - but it's also not like pacemaker, you /can/ live without it. So it's not something you can get fixed at an emergency room, but it ought to be because it is so critical. You can't borrow someone else's aid if yours breaks. Basically I can't drive or really go out in public or see people until this is resolved. And even things like sewing are hard because of the spacial stuff I mentioned in my last post. It's just frustration all the same, and not for an easily quantifyable reason, so you feel like you're going insane.


The weekend was the hardest. Both the adjustment and the not knowing what was going to happen. I did freak out a lot, and Nathan had to cope with that. A couple of friends sent me Kindle books because reading is one thing I prefer to do without my aids in anyhow.

By Monday my brain had settled into the new information intake pattern so I was less stressed, and we found that my old aid could be repaired, and thanks to an awesome tax refund, we could afford it! It'd be less than two weeks to repair. (It ended up just being one!)

THEN the allergies hit. And other health stuff. It was confusing and painful and my health care provider was out of town so we just kind of had to cope and do our best. I basically couldn't do anything except read and (sometimes) knit. I had a bit of a respite on Friday, which was good because my friend and mentor Regina Doman was in town and we had her, her husband and their newest little baby over for dinner and to see our apartment. I hadn't seen them for two years, which is the longest we've gone since we first met (and this is the family I lived with for 3 months back in 2011!). So that was great.

But Saturday and Sunday were REALLY rough. I was hardly on Facebook at all and pretty much didn't get out of bed. Just read and slept and felt miserable and frustrated.

Today my hearing aid came in and we were able to get in to see my health care professional so we got some answers and solutions there. I still feel miserable, but at least I have a plan now.

Anyhow, that's all a very long way of explaining why I haven't blogged this week, despite more OUAT revelations and Daredevil getting released and a new Star Wars trailer and all that.

Monday, April 13, 2015

OUAT explodes hearts(and minds)

There are spoilers for 4.18  "Heart of Gold" coming, so if you haven't watched it yet, steer away!!!

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"Once Upon a Time" has come under a lot of criticism over the past two seasons. Some of it I have agreed with, although for the past four episodes I've been clearing noting and stating a definite trend upwards in quality. Episode 18, "Heart of Gold" not only continues the rise in quality, but also pays off something set up at the end of Season 3 and fixes a continuity issue that we weren't even expecting to get explained.

Let's talk about that first. Several seasons ago, when Robin Hood was first introduced as a one-off character, he was portrayed by an actor that made us all go "meh." When the character came back as a series regular, he was recast as Sean McGuire, who was so superior that all the fans breathed a sigh of relief and decided not to nitpick the change of face. Recasting just happens sometimes, and outside of Doctor Who, we mostly just accept it without being given any explanations.

"Heart of Gold," however, not only explains that face change, but uses the masking device to explode our minds with the revelation that Zelena switched places with Marian before Emma took her out of the Enchanted Forest.

WOW.

We knew Zelena and Oz would be making a return to the screen from the most recent TV teaser, but there was no indication why or how. Season 3's finale had certainly left the possibility that Zelena didn't actually die, but with neither hide nor hair of her showing up in the first half of Season 4, I pretty much figured that was just another lost thread in the entertaining but messy tapestry that is "Once Upon a Time."

And here we thought the Queens of Darkness were a red herring for the Author... while both the queens and certainly the Author are still relevant to the plot, they both pale in comparison to revelation that the real threat isn't even Gold, it's Zelena, the grand puppet-mistress.

I had no idea how they were going to deal with the Regina/Robin/Marian triangle without being cheesy or a cop-out, but this is brilliant. I love it.

(Also, any time Will Scarlet gets to do anything on screen is a time for cheering, so multiple flashback scenes were a real treat!)

BUT now we have to wait a week to find out what answer Regina is going to give Gold. And man, but Lana Parrilla is just superb at bringing Regina to life. My heart just breaks for her!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"As You Wish" says Cary Elwes

Honestly, I don't know what I could say to sell this book any better than the cover does. Perhaps, however, all that is needed is the affirmation, "Yes, it lives up to its cover."

Anyone who has ever loved "The Princess Bride" will enjoy this book. Whether you're keen on cinematic history or just enjoy fun stories, this is a lovely look into the making of a treasured classic. Written almost tenderly by Cary Elwes (The Man in Black) with inset recollections from the other participants, it tells the tale with sweetness, humor and humility. It gives you just the right amount of detail without overstaying its welcome, and stays clear of the crudity and ego you can sometimes find in these sorts of autobiographies.

I vastly enjoyed the visit behind the scenes, as well as a look into Elwes' own personality. It was informative and so entertaining that several times I was afraid I would wake my husband up when my silent laughter shook the bed! (Oh, and yes, I stayed up late two nights reading it!). Perhaps the most intriguing bits were learning about the work that went behind the stunts (especially the epic swordfight!) and hearing how sweet of a person Andre the Giant (Fezzik) was.

A must-own for any serious "The Princess Bride" aficionado, and a must-read for the more casual fan.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why You Should Check Out "The Flash"


A great TV show is usually not great right out of the gate. It takes a while to find its stride, to show its heart, and to leave us staring at the screen going "that was amazing!"

CW's "The Flash" is no exception. While fun from the beginning, it certainly didn't measure up to "Arrow"... until episode nine, "The Man in the Yellow Suit" really raised the stakes, and they keep climbing every week.

(and yes, I'm keeping this as spoiler free as I possibly can. Read on safely.)

Okay, so "The Fastest Man Alive" is a catchy tagline, but it doesn't really tell you much about the story. Why should we care? What makes this guy interesting? For a non-DC fan, I didn't know anything about the Flash other than that he was a favorite of Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory). I know you can make a speedster interesting, Marvel proved that with Quicksilver, but he's got a fascinating story being the son of Magneto. So what does the Flash (or at least, the Barry Allen version, as covered in this show) have going for him?

One night a little boy woke up to his mother's screams. He ran downstairs to find her surrounded by streaks of red and yellow lighting. "Barry, run!" she shouts at him, and suddenly he is out of the house and the next thing he knows, his father is being arrested for his mother's murder, and no one believes Barry's protestations that his mom was killed by the strange lighting.

Barry is raised by family friend Joe West, a cop, and grows up to be a forensic investigator with an unrequited crush on Joe's pretty daughter Iris. In his off time he works to build a case for his father's innocence, which seems like it is going no where, until the explosion of a super collider at the local S.T.A.R. Labs sends Barry into a coma for a year... from which he wakes up with the power to run super fast, vibrate through walls and even travel through time.

But he's not the only one who has been given super powers by the explosion, and he quickly finds himself teaming up with Joe (who is quite possibly the best father-figure on television right now), the mysterious Dr. Harrison Wells (also a victim of the explosion, though he lost his ability to walk instead of gaining powers), and super smart scientists Caitlin (you'll remember her from "Sky High") and Cisco (adorable wise-cracking sidekick) to fight evil and save lives.

Then another speedster arrives in town, one with ties to Barry's past... and his future?

Ugh. You guys. This show has just become so good. The first episodes were "oh that's nice" but then they really started throwing in gamechangers halfway through the season. Last week, Mark Hamill guest starred and not only was he fantastic, but there were great homages to his stints as both the voice of the Joker and then a brilliant Star Wars bit. And as awesome as that was, it was only the icing on the cake of everything that happened in that episode.

When the show started, it wasn't my primary priority for watching every week. Now it's clamoring for a top position, because it just keeps getting better and better... and better!

One thing to note - if you don't have a way to watch all the episodes from the beginning, I recommend holding off and bingewatching on Season 1 when it arrives on Netflix, then jumping into Season 2. Although the first half of the season is not as mindblowingly awesome as the second half, it still has a ton of crucial groundwork and you need to watch it together, in order.

Friday, April 3, 2015

So My Husband Has Dreadlocks

 

So, this is my handsome husband, Nathan. He has lovely thick dark hair that I adore. And he has wanted dreadlocks since high school.


Look at that gorgeous hair! I hope some of our future kids get it...
 Despite being a fan of Regina Doman's "The Shadow of the Bear" and its iconic dreadlocked hero (who, ironically, is similar in temperament to my husband!), I'm not actually a fan of dreads on white guys. I did not want my husbands silky locks to go away.

But.

But every time we saw dreadlocks, or someone mentioned them, Nathan would sigh wistfully and say "Man, dreadlocks are SO COOL." And he'd list all the reasons why he'd take excellent care of them (and I know he would).

And then my mother said "If he really wants them so much, why don't you let him have them and get it out of his system?"

And then Nathan would mention that dreads would be totally accepted at his work, and it'd help him have something distinguishing and not so 'boy scout.' (Hey, maybe Scott Summers needs dreadlocks!)

And then... and then... I started thinking of how much Nathan has sacrificed to take care of me and my health issues, and we were coming up on our one year anniversary and I wanted to give him something really really meaningful...




So I researched dreadlock kits and got what looked like the best (and it turned out later that it was the same company Nathan had always intended to get dreadlock supplies from if he actually did them) and gave them to him on his anniversary and he was SO EXCITED.


So. We let his hair grow out to the minimum necessary length and set up a dread party with some of our friends.


And then Nathan sat patiently for 7 hours while we put them in.


Even with short hair, dreads are a LOT of work!


My sister and our friends Janny and Anthony all gave up valuable time and took on sore fingers and shoulders to help make Nathan's dream possible.


We sectioned his hair into about 45 little ponytails, and then backcombed for hours to knot the hair.



We switched on and off so that everyone's hands could get rested.

 

We had pizza and alcohol and watched "The Emperor's New Groove."

 

Then we pulled out the special wax and palmrolled it into each of the dreads. (We probably didn't spend quite enough time on this, but oh well. Everything seems to be progressing nicely.)


The wax made his hair stick out stiffly. It was funny.


After the wax was in, everyone went home (it was LATE) and I stayed up another hour with the hair dryer to melt the wax into the center of the dreads and sponge off the excess.


This is what it looked like at the end of all that - baby dreads! When I say baby, I mean that they're brand new and looking the grossest they'll ever look. Nathan has a regime of twisting and waxing and washing that he has to follow and in a few months the dreads will look a LOT better (or so I've been promised).


This photo was taken a week later, and that was 5 days ago. As of last night, they were locking up really nicely. There are some stray bits that need to get fixed, but overall I am pretty impressed with how we've managed. When we were at my doctor's office everyone was asking where he got them done and he'd say "we did them ourselves!" which is cool.

The deal is that he gets to keep them for a year, and at the end of that time, if I still don't like them, they go. Or if I'm okay with them, then he gets to keep them longer. Not forever, but for awhile.

I may not be a huge fan, but he LOVES them, and I love seeing him so happy. That's what makes it worth it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

OUAT gets back on track with "Best Laid Plans"

Part two of "Once Upon a Time"s season 4 started off shaky, coming after the controversial Frozen storyline, but it truly is getting better every episode... as we can clearly see with 4.17 "Best Laid Plans." 

Cue Spoilers.



Who else wanted to see Emma as a spoiled royal teenager in a gorgeous dress? Okay, well I am never really asking for spoiled teenagers on any show, but it was a fun glimpse at both an alternate version of Emma and her wardrobe.

Big things were happening in last night's episode, with Snow and Charming going way past the line of "acceptable hero parenting"... and totally suffering the guilt of it. Man, who knew that Snow abducted a baby, filled her with her own baby's potential for evil and shipped her off to another universe?

Well, the author did. And here we're running deeper into this season's theme. Everyone is supposed to be born with the potential for both good and evil and the free will to choose their own path. The author, however, is tampering with that, which resulted in banishment into a book... (more on that in a moment).

So we're left asking "how much of Snow and Charming's actions in this season's flashbacks are their own? Were they being controlled by the author when they abducted Lily? We knew the Sorcerer was being controlled, but were our favorite royals?

How does one get chosen for the post of author anyhow? We know it started with a man named Walt (cue the 'D'awws'), but did he choose his successor or is there some tribunal of author choosing? How did such an unscrupulous person as the current author (played by another LOST alumni, Patrick Fischler) get selected for such an important post?

It seems my desire for a "true" villain has been granted, with the Author being set up to be the actual 'big bad' of the season. This explains why the queens of darkness have been treated so sympathetically so far... it was all a great big red herring to cover up what was really coming!

It was great to see Henry contributing something substantial this week, very awesome to see Snow making choices for Regina's good, excellent to see Snow and Charming come clean to Emma, and great to have the fan theory about the identity of Maleficent's daughter be confirmed! (Yep, Maleficent and Snow's daughter were BFFs in high school. Didn't see THAT one coming, did you? Okay, all of tumblr did, but you know what I mean. Fun canon changes.)

I also really appreciated getting a very simple but solid explanation of how Cruella and Ursula got into our world... but outside of Storybrooke.

Still no Robin Hood return, (last week was too cruel of a tease), but we're due to get some Cruella backstory next episode!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Rebel Queen" by Michelle Moran (My review at last!)


So instead of the shiny Amazon thumbnail, you're getting a photo of my own copy of "Rebel Queen" (proof in my spinning wheel pedal on the side there), because I am still just so excited that I was given a review copy.

*Tiny squealing*

(Don't worry, I'm still going to give you a completely honest review. Just needed to be clear about the review status up front.)

I devoured about half the book in one night, because I was up with a nasty earache and needed a distraction. It worked excellently.

Let me tell you what this book is about. There's this girl named Sita, who lives in India during the mid 1800's when it was still under control of the East India Trading Company. Her mother dies and her grandmother wants to sell her as a temple prostitute to raise dowry money for her baby sister because girls are basically worthless in that time and place. Sita's dad, however, says 'HECK NO, I'm gonna raise my girl to be one of the queen's badass bodyguard ladies!' Everyone thinks he's crazy because there are only 10 of these bodyguards and hundreds of girls compete to get the place, but Sita's dad is an educated soldier and he's got his other talented soldier buddy helping them out and they train Sita how to fight with every weapon and how to read English and appreciate Shakespeare.

Of course when the time finally comes, Sita totally blows the competition out of the water and is whisked off to become one of the elite female bodyguards of Rani Lakshmi of Jhansi.

Now Rani Lakshmi is known as India's Joan of Arc, or the "Rebel Queen" of the book title, so it's no spoiler to say that Sita gets caught up in the rani's rebellion, including being part of the rani's delegation to Queen Victoria to plead for aid. (It was pretty funny to compare British and Indian ideas of modesty - the Indian's are horrified by how much bosom the English display, and the English are scandalized by the bare tummies of the Indian women).

The book is extremely tightly written - I have never seen such an engaging story manage to explain so many culture differences per page without once growing boring or confusing. I was so absorbed in Sita's story that the words and customs just soaked in without me feeling like I was 'learning'. It was great. The characters are also very awesome and well constructed, from Sita's family to the rani, her husband the raj, and the 10 women of the bodyguard.

I was, however, a little disappointed in two things. #1, the cover blurb is misleading. The rani does not raise two armies, "one male, one female." I was expecting the book to be about her recruiting hundreds of Indian women to fight the British. This doesn't happen. The rani does know combat, and she does train with her 10 bodyguards, but personally I wouldn't consider them an 'army.' This is pretty sad, since it is totally a publicity gimmick by the publisher and isn't fair to the excellent story Moran has written. So when you go in, discount the blurb entirely and you'll enjoy the book much better!

#2, the only actual problem with the story is in the climax, which strangely enough separates Sita from the rani and sends her back to her family at just the point when you are most invested in sticking with the rani. I'm not entirely sure why this choice was made. Sita did have ends to tie up there, but it felt like a letdown as a reader. As far as I can tell, Sita is a fictional character, so there isn't any historical reason why this happened.

Despite that, the rest of the book is so strong, that I'd recommend it heartily anyhow. I will point out that it is set against a rebellion with a lot of atrocities, which the book describes in (appropriate, not gratuitous) detail. If reading about innocent women and children coming to pretty horrific ends is a trigger for you, you might want to skip this one, or at least read the last quarter of the book warily. Personally, it was hard to read, but since I knew little about this part of Indian history, I appreciated understanding the full scope of what happened.

Final verdict? I will certainly read this book again and - apart from the climax - it might even be Moran's strongest book yet.