Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Holidays

Battling the holiday onslaught and other miscellaneous thoughts

Now that Thanksgiving is done and in the bank, of course the whole nation turns its attention to Christmas.

*sigh*

Before I get to that, however, I want to rave about how adding twenty minutes of stretching to my taiji routine when I first get up and sprinkling more stretches throughout the day has really helped my back and my leg by extension. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how my back pain has nearly disappeared, and the numbness in my right thigh changed into fiery hot pain in the upper thigh, then fiery hot pain just above the knee, and then back to numbness but to a much less degree. Then, after class yesterday, it was back to fiery hot pain, but only for a few seconds. In addition, we did the whole Solo Form (Medium) yesterday, and for the first time ever, I was able to do the whole form without my back hurting like hell by the third section.

However, my sleep is all over the map, which means I’m probably getting sick again. Which, you know, sucks. I’m so fucking tired from the minute I wake up until the minute I drop off to sleep. I also have this thing where if I miss the window for falling asleep, I’m up for a good long time. I was up for nearly twenty hours yesterday, not for any good reason, but just because I couldn’t fall asleep.

Now, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I said before it started that I was going to set my own goal because writing 50,000 words a month for me is not a problem. I was already writing 2,000 words a day for months before that, so yeah, I wasn’t worried about 50,000 words. I said I wanted to look into marketing and publishing, but that didn’t happen. I’ve decided I will set aside a different month to do it in. In that month, I’ll lift the 2,000 words a day requirement and focus on editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve decided which novels I want to publish (one which is on my other website), but I need to do a little updating.

So, what have I been doing this month? Starting four different novels. I worked on the first one for a few weeks, then decided to shelve it. The second one lasted a few days, I think, and the same with the third. Then, I had a conversation with a Twitter friend, @NotSoSilentMajo, who inspired me to start something completely different. I don’t want to talk about it right now because I prefer to wait until I’m done with a novel before talking about it, but I can say it’s urban fantasy. I’ve never attempted fantasy before (though I love reading it), so I’m excited about it in a way that I haven’t been in quite some time. Thank you, @NotSoSilentMajo for giving me the kick in the (not-so-flat yellow) ass that I needed to get out of my rut!

Now. On to Christmas. Me when thinking about it (apropos because I dressed up as Yoko Ono for Halloween one year):

Continue Reading

Winding down Monster Hunter: World, oh, and yeah, Thanksgiving

femdante is way sexier than mascdante.
FemDante in all her glory! And the Dante Devil Sword–which is actually a Charge Blade.

I am writing this on Thanksgiving, which is a weird day to me. First is the fiction Americans are told as children as to how the Pilgrims came to America, were welcomed with open arms by the natives, and they celebrated together by eating turkey and maize and whatnot. It’s a flagrant whitewashing, and it took me way too long to learn the truth. Christopher Columbus was an asshole who got lost, brought death, slavery, and pestilence to Native Americans, and there was no happy turkey dinner. It’s true the Native Americans at the time helped out the foreigners, which I’m sure thy regretted by the time Columbus was through with them.

In addition to that, I hate holidays in general because they bring out the worst in people. Or rather, they put so much pressure on people to have a certain kind of day, it’s stressful. Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular fetishize families to the point where if you don’t have a good relationship with your family, are estranged from them, or simply prefer not to spend time with them if you had your druthers, you are made to feel like a freak, an unfeeling asshole, or a wide range of other negative things. I feel alienated on a regular basis, and no more so from Thanksgiving to Christmas,

How am I spending my Thanksgiving? Much like any other day. Writing, watching YouTube vids, reading, playing MHW (Lunastra dropped today, which I’ll get to in a bit), snuggling with Shadow, and overthinking things. I don’t think it’s sad, and I don’t have any desire to celebrate–especially as I can’t eat most of the staples of Thanksgiving dinner, anyway.

Jumping dramatically to another subject–Monster Hunter: World. Still working on the Tempered Monsters, and it’s still bullshit that you have to track them to get the investigations. Have yet to get a Radobaan quest, so I still haven’t fought him solo. I did the Kulve Taroth quest two more times so I could get the Golden Shell to complete the Palico armor set. It’s ridiculously gilded and pompous, but I love it. My favorite Palico armor set is from Xeno’jiiva, the ‘final’ boss (storyline boss). It’s ethereal and makes Shadow look like he’s late for the wedding. I really wish I could have done the Kulve Taroth Siege properly, but there was never anyone doing it when I went to dive in. Probably because it’s better with a coordinated team of four, which I don’t have.

I did the Code: Red quest multi as I predicted, and I had a blast! It’s a special arena quest in which you fight one monster after the other. First Anjy, then Odo, then Rathalos, and finally, Teo. I went with pure power rather than any element, and I was the team healer per yooz. It’s amusing to me that I’m a Switch Axe user (Swag Axe in the parlance of ‘the community’) and a healer because they’re not that compatible. I don’t care, though, because I’m a healer first and foremost.

Anyway, with a good team of four or even three (had to do it with only two other people once), we can get the deed done in roughly twenty minutes or less. I know each monster has less health than their solo counterparts, but it’s still a thrill to take ’em down. It’s the best when the team works as one, such as the time one of my teammates set a trap for Teo, set down two Mega Barrel Bombs, and the rest of us set down our Mega Barrel Bombs as well. That did HUGE damage to Teo, and he was easy peasy to kill. I did the quest six or seven times, and I even got a Teo gem from one of the fights! I have unlocked the ability for the Elder Melder to make Teo gems now, so I never have to fight Teo again if I don’t want to.

Continue Reading

I Have a Dream (and Not a Good One)

Still fighting off a new round of crud. It’s cold and snowy (yay), which makes driving…interesting. I heard a good speech on MLK Jr. on NPR, but I had to get over the preachification cadence that I find off-putting. He brought up something I didn’t know–by the time MLK Jr. was assassinated, he had a 70% disapproval rating from white people and a 55% disapproval rating from black people because he was anti-war and focusing on eradicating poverty.

I hate how he’s been defanged and become some kind of teddy bear. On his day, people trot out his I Have a Dream speech in justification of wanting to be ‘color-blind’. It’s a good speech, don’t get me wrong, and has some strong aspirations. However, it’s used by white people to gloss over the racial strife that exists as well as the social injustices.

I much prefer Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which is sadly apropos today. MLK Jr. had no problem speaking his mind when he thought it was called for. He wasn’t just a wise old Uncle Remus telling a good yarn about peace and getting along.

I’m feeling pretty grotty, so it’s more fighting off the crud on this bank holiday.

Resolution in the Face of Indecision

I don’t have much use for New Year resolutions, but I’ve been finding myself at odds in  the last month or so, and I’m not sure why. It could be because of the anniversary of the lost of my beloved Raven, or it might just be that time of year. At any rate, I’ve been more morose than I have been in some time. Maybe because I’m closer to fifty than to forty, but I’m contemplating the end of my life and what I’ll have to show for it. I will say that on the familial front, my relationship with my parents has never been better, and as I’ve said, I attribute it to taiji. My teacher was recently talking about how tension makes you numb so you can’t physically feel things. Then, when you first start to relax, all you can feel is tension. You had gotten so used to it, you never even noticed how tense you were. When my relationship with my parents was at its lowest, I had my shoulders hunched up around my ears metaphorically all the time. I was so tense all the time. Then, with the help of taiji, I learned to release the tension. It was great, but I started noticing how great my tension was. My shoulders were like rock, and the small of my back was constantly aching. Talking to my parents made me tenser, which I also noticed.

Quite frankly, this was the worst of both worlds. When I was tense all the time, it was just a way of life. I didn’t know any differently, so I just accepted it as normal. Then, I learned it wasn’t normal or even sustainable, but I didn’t feel I could do anything about it. Rather, I could keep doing taiji, which I have, but I didn’t feel I could do anything more tangible. So, I felt more physically horrible than I did when I was tense all the time, even though I was ostensibly doing better. I felt the same emotionally. For years, I had defenses a mile high, and I was bunkered down behind them. Once they started falling, but I yet didn’t have anything to take their place, I felt as if my emotions were pinging all over the place. It was a really uncomfortable place in which to be, and I felt powerless to do anything about it.

Now, I find I am much more able to control my emotions and not be as controlled by them. I’m in a better place emotionally, even if I’ve been more morose in the past few weeks. I’m also healthier overall, my recent illness not withstanding. I am no longer defensive when I talk to my parents, and we’re actually able to have meaningful conversations without shouting on either side. I’m astonished, actually, at how far we’ve come.


Continue Reading

Hoping the New Year is Better Than the Old

It’s the end of 2017, and I, for one, am not sorry to see the back end of it. It’s been a lousy year politically, and there hasn’t been much for me to crow about, personally, either. I lost my beloved Raven at the end of 2016, and I still think about him almost every day. It’s not as painful as it was when it first happened–and it was such an unexpected shock–but it’s a dull, aching throb that doesn’t go  away. Shadow (his brother) and I have slowly adapted, but it’s been a long, hard road, and we are nowhere near normal. Or, to be more accurate, we have created a new normal. One in which it’s only the two of us. In the first six months after Raven’s death, Shadow was a changed cat. He was clingy whereas he used to be sweet, but more aloof. He would spend hours on his own downstairs, sauntering back upstairs whenever he felt like it. Right after his brother’s death, Shadow clung to me like glue. He followed me everywhere, and he meowed mournfully whenever I had to leave. When I went to the back porch to smoke, Shadow would stretch out his front paws up on the sliding glass door and cry until I went back in.

He was never much of a talker when his brother was alive, but he truly found his voice after. We have a wake-up ritual now that includes him meowing at me until I get out of bed and feed him. He’ll meow at random times during the day, and he’ll mournfully cry when I go to bed. I have theorized that the meowing in the morning and when I’m headed for the kitchen is because he used to rely on Raven to inform me when it’s time to eat, and now that Raven is gone, he has catted up and is taking over the duty of letting me know it’s time to eat.

Another change is that he snuggles with me much more than he used to. He used to like perching on top of the couch by my feet (he still won’t sit in his brother’s spot more than a few times), but now he prefers either sitting in his hidey hole (favorite bed) or nestling on my legs. After six months, he started doing his own thing again. In fact, he’s downstairs as I’m writing this. But, he will come up eventually, and he will stiff-walk down my body as I go to sleep tonight because that is part of our new normal as well.

I’m tired. I’m doing better overall, but I’m still in recovery. I will continue this post tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a video of Shironeko (white cat) snuggling with a buddy. Happy New Year, and may 2018 kick 2017’s ass.

Too Tired to Think–and Dark Souls III

I’m writing this on Christmas, and I’m feeling out of sorts. Not as bad as in past years, but there’s still a vague ‘I should be celebrating, but I’m not, and that makes me a bad person.” As I said, it’s much more subdued than it has been in past years, but it’s still there. I like to say I’m immune to advertising*, but there is still enough societal pressure that makes me low-key feel bad for not celebrating.

I still feel like shit with congestion and cotton in my brain. My ears are scabby and gross, and if I pick the scabs (I know, I know), pus oozes out. My lymph node is almost not-swollen any more, which is good, and it’s barely tender. I’m still going to go to the doc after the holidays, though, because I need to get a grip on this. I also need to get my thyroid meds checked, which may help with the sinus crap.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve cut out gluten and dairy, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it–except for cheese. God, I love cheese, but it doesn’t love me back. As Tim Minchin says, “I cannot Camembert any more.”

Why does cheese have to be so goddamn delicious???? And why is it so hard to duplicate? “I love cheese, but it’s plain to see, that cheese doesn’t love me. I am such a fool in love; I just cannot get enough, but it’s an unrequited love!” Sing it, Tim! The rest of it, though? Not. I’ve gone back to my Taiwanese roots and reacquainted myself with rice. Which, by the way, smells so delicious while cooking. And, PSA: rice cooker all the way for a perfect cook every time. Anyway, rice is way tastier than bread, and it’s way more versatile. I’ve also discovered non-gluten tortillas, bread, and bagels which are all nearly as good as the originals.

Continue Reading

Merry Happy Jolly–Or Not

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. If you’re someone who loves eggnog, elves, tinsel, Christmas trees, and all that fun stuff, I hope you enjoy yourself, but this post is probably not for you.  This post is for those of us who are not into Christmas for one reason or another. Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you were raised in a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe you’ve had a shitty year and don’t feel like celebrating this year. Maybe you’ve had something tragic happen in the last month–lost a job, a family member/friend, an animal companion, a relationship–and being holly and jolly is the last thing on your mind. Maybe you struggle with chronic depression, and you don’t want to pretend that you’re feeling the Christmas cheer. Maybe you have a toxic family situation and you’ve cut them off for the first time, so everything is weird and strange. I’ve been several of those before, and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

Or, maybe you’re like me in that you don’t understand the need for forced bonhomie during a very specific time of the year. Maybe the hypocrisy of ‘good will towards all humankind’ for two weeks gets to you, and you want to point out that we need to be a better country all year round, rather than do feel-good things in the last two weeks before the end of the year.

I’ve said this year, the holiday season hasn’t been as annoying for me personally as it has been in the past. I used to feel as if people were having their holiday cheer AT me instead of just doing their own thing. It’s hard not to feel suffocated by it, however, as it’s everywhere this time of the year. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t bothered me as much this year, which I’ll take as a boon. I don’t think it’s because there’s less hawking going on because there’s not, but because I’ve reached a better place in my life, emotionally, I mean. I’m able to deal with things better than I used to, and that apparently includes holidays.

I’m still not rah rah about Christmas, however. I’m at best indifferent, and I would like to ignore it completely. I still have the crud, which is really sapping my energy. I went to the store today (Christmas Eve day), and I was dizzy while I was there, and I was exhausted by the time I got home.  I’m going to the doctor/TCM/acupuncture in the new year because this shit has been staying for far too long.

For anyone who’s not feeling the holiday spirit, I wish you peace during this difficult time. I’ll probably binge-watch Poirot while munching on sweet kettle popcorn, sipping my ginger lemon honey tea. Hopefully, Shadow will be snuggling on my legs, and I’ll be feeling better physically. I’m not going to lie. I’m a bit glum. Partly because of the time of year, and partly because I’m ill, but also because I’m contemplating my life, and I have some difficult choices to make. If you’re struggling this Christmas, vow to do one thing just for you. Read a book. Take a walk. Soak in a bubble bath. One thing just for you. It may not make things all better, but it will certainly not hurt.

Here are two atheist Christmas songs that I quite enjoy. First up, Tim Minchin with White Wine in the Sun. This version is from a week ago on James Corden (and the first time I’ve heard it. There are a few updates!)

Next up is Vienna Teng with The Atheist Christmas Carol.

Both of these songs make me cry because they’re so lovely.

And, of course, I’m going to wrap it up with ‘O Holy Night’, the only Christmas carol I like. This version is done by Angelica Hale, a finalist from America’s Got Talent.

Inching My Way Towards Normal

I went to taiji and overdid it, but it felt good to get moving again. I’m exhausted now, so I think it might be nap time soon. I’m currently eating gluten and dairy-free mac and cheeze. It’s not bad at all (Amy’s), but it’s oddly gummy. I added spinach, vegan sour cream, and chicken to it. Quite tasty. The trick to eating substitutes is not to think of it as the real thing and to judge it on its own merits. Also, all the dairy substitutes are things I’d eat with other things, but never on their own. Fake cheeze is not munchable by itself, at least not to me. For milk, my favorite is cashew milk, but again, it’s not something I would chug a big glass of.

I decided to do something a bit different this year for the few people I actually buy gifts for. Normally, I buy a soap basket for my BFF, Kat, and a game on Ian’s Steam wishlist, and call it a day. This year, I went for different things that I think (and hope!) each of them will get a kick out of. I’m not a big fan of Christmas (massive understatement), but I find the cheer and hoopla to be far less irritating this year than in past years for whatever reason. Maybe I’m just mellowing with age, but I’ve found the holiday season (starting with Thanksgiving) to be eminently ignorable this year.

I am off social media Wednesday and Saturday, and I’m thinking of adding Monday as well. I notice that I’m more agitated when I’m heavily involved with social media, especially Twitter. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when the shit is constantly flashing before your eyes. Most of the people I follow are political junkies, so, yeah, it’s not a happy place to be in general.

Anyway. Here’s on of my favorite versions of O Holy Night. Enjoy.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time–Shut the Fuck Up

I hate Christmas. Longtime readers will know this about me because I won’t shut up about it. To be fair, I hate all holidays, but it’s Christmas that really rubs me the wrong way. I wrote an editorial in my high school paper about the crass commercialism of Christmas, and that was thirty years ago. My feelings for Christmas have only grown in disgust since then. Many moons ago, I started posting yearly about the one Christmas song I like (‘O Holy Night’), including several versions of the song. I also posted about depression as many people get depressed at this time of year, whether it’s because of Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) or dysfunctional family issues coming to a head or whatnot. I know there are other people who feel the same way I do, but we’re drowned out by all the aggressively good cheer. And Christmas commercials. Oh, lord, the Christmas commercials. I saw my first one this year a few days after Halloween, and I’ve been grumpy ever since. The first Christmas commercial denotes my season of personal hell in which I grit my teeth and bah humbug my way through the month.

Speaking of Christmas commercials, that Kay is a ho, ain’t she? Every kiss begins with Kay my ass. I love how Christmas commercials have become a way to guilt your love ones into buying you expensive presents to show you they love you. And by love, I mean I want to burn it in a fire.

Burn it ALL in a fire, Angela!
Continue Reading

Thanksgiving: What I’m Thankful For

First of all, I am not a big fan of holidays. At all. I used to hate them with a passion for many reasons, but my hatred has mitigated over the years. Side note (and, yes, I know I just started the post. Deal): Many of my negative emotions have lightened over the years, and I give credit to taiji and therapy, but mostly taiji. I’ve written tons about that before, however, so moving on. Holidays. I see them as society-dictated enforced family time. That’s fine for people with good families. For those of us with dysfunctional families, holidays can be fraught with drama and hard feelings. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my hatred for holidays has subsided as my relationship with my family has improved. However, I still LOATHE Christmas and how commercialized it is. I also hate how it starts so early. I saw my first Christmas commercial in early November, and there’s a local radio station that plays Christmas music all through December. It seems they’ve already started. It’s also annoying how rabid fundies (read, FOX) bleat about how us dastardly heathens are ruining Christmas by forcing people to say Happy Holidays in stores, and they don’t see the irony in their complaints. They want a secular place that is doing secular business that supports the secular reason for Christmas to say Merry Christmas. Irony is not their strong point, nor is rational thinking.

Anyway, I have problems with Thanksgiving for other reasons, obviously. We can all agree that killing off the native population and giving them small pox is a bad thing, right? RIGHT! In addition, I’m an introvert and don’t like to be around groups of people for an extended period of time. Partly because I’m a weirdo who has very few traditional/mainstream ideas, but mostly because I tend to attract all the sad sacks who want to tell me their sob stories. I’m working on not asking follow-up questions, but it’s like second nature to me. In addition, I don’t always have to ask questions for people to want to pour their guts out to me. I guess there’s something about my demeanor that invites other people to tell me their woes.

Side note: I used to not talk about my opinion ever because I was taught what I thought didn’t matter. Then, in true overcompensation fashion, I started to espouse my opinions all the time. I’m the ‘well, actually’ guy in my brain a lot of the time, and I can get caught up in the nitpicky details when they don’t actually matter. Sometimes they do, but they often don’t. It’s because I’ve lived with unreliable narrators my whole life, so I tend to hold on to ‘facts’ as if they’re talismans against the shifting sands I often find myself on. I’m learning now how to differentiate between opinions and information that should be shared, and ones that I can just keep to myself. I have a few trigger topics like psychology. I hate how people throw terms around that they’ve heard or read but don’t really know what they mean. Ahem.


Continue Reading