But I just have to say, totally late to the party, that I finally, finally got to see Wonder Woman today and oh my heart, I did not know I needed this movie but
Saw the preview for Thor: Ragnarok before it, too - which looks very good - and my mom's comment was, "See, I like Thor. He's not just a pretty face." And I about died of giggles. So yeah, looking forward to that.
(Also, wearing a Captain America shirt to a DC movie will get you Comments, but hey. My strong preference for Marvel movies these days has nothing to do with any Marvel vs DC feelings, just being so done with the bleak tone of recent DC movies. I have more than enough love in my heart for
As a few of you know. this last weekend started out rough with our parakeet Volly dying Friday morning. We'd helped hand-raise and tame her since she was a baby and while she wasn't free in the house as much as our previous birds (partly because she had a more naturally nervous temperament and loved interacting with people but got overwhelmed in the Big Wide World, partly because before we didn't have cats roaming loose like we do now) she was cute and cheerful and by far the sweetest-natured of all her siblings. So that was hard and unexpected.
The week since then has been just such a blessing, though. It's been almost comical how perfectly everything worked out.
As I mentioned earlier, I passed the final exam for second-degree black belt on Saturday! :D :D :D
It was a long, crazy, exhausting day. There were about 100 candidates for promotion in all (mostly brown belts testing for their first-degree black belt), which is a medium-ish size, though only three people from my school who made it through to the final exam. This time around, in addition to some fairly recent curriculum changes that were fully incorporated into the exam for the first time, they also were trying some new ways of running various sections of the final exam. So even though the exam itself didn't start until 1:00, we needed to get down to the Cities by 11:00 to run through drills, practice timing, and get other instruction on when and how we were supposed to do what. So we were busy with that until about 12:30, quick break for water and snacks, then lining up to start at 1:00. Exam itself ended at... a little before 3:00, I think? Could've been longer, maybe. The final graduation ceremony, giving out the new belts, lasted a while longer, so we weren't done until a little after 4:00.
Between the exhaustion and stress and the heat (holy cow, it got so hot - just sitting in the audience my mom had to go outside for a while because she got overheated) it seemed to simultaneously fly by in a blur and take forever. It is always fun to do things like that when you have so many not-karate-people relatives in the audience watching, because not only are they really excited by the cool/hard stuff we do, but you get the audible gasps of alarm when black belts do self-defense takedowns and someone hits the mat fast. (Or, in the case of the higher-level black belts, partners are wearing protective gear so that candidates don't have to pull their strikes and most people who don't do karate don't realize that 1. The chest guards are made to absorb exactly those kinds of strikes, and 2. If you hit just right, it can amplify the sound of a kick considerably.)
Also, as usual, in order to pair up for sparring they had everyone line up by height, which put me waaaaay down at the end with the kids who were mostly 10-12. Which meant that, like last time, I had to inform the instructors that I was actually an adult and wasn't supposed to fight the children... XD Fortunately, UNlike last time, this time there was another small woman in the same boat, so that was a lot more fun than ending up paired up with someone twice my size for the exam again, especially since my fight was directly in front of the Grand Masters' table.
So. By the time I finished the exam, I was both thoroughly wiped out and wired beyond belief with adrenaline and relief. I am so, so happy to have made it through. There were quite a few times the last few months when I really thought I might not make it, mentally or physically. But now... I'm a second-degree black belt, and wherever things go from here having come this far and kept going through all of that is something that can't be taken away.
Anyway, after that, vacation started. ^^ I hadn't been able to take much of a break, mentally or physically, for the last four months, and Mom and Nef wanted to take a short girls' trip. I'd also really wanted to do some fossil hunting for my birthday, and the best area to do that tends to be in the southern part of the state, and we were already most of the way there having driven that far for the exam, so our whole family drove a bit further to stay in a hotel near a nature center where I'd discovered fossil hunting is allowed.
We had quite a thunderstorm Saturday night (perfect for washing away dirt and exposing new fossils), but Easter morning was beautiful and clear. After a morning church service, we went to the nature center, talked with one of the staff to get some advice on the better areas, and hiked up to the abandoned quarry. This being the first time I'd tried any organized fossil hunting (though I'd stumbled across a couple on previous trips out west), a lot of the time was just getting a feel for the lay of the land and what the types we were expecting to find looked like in their natural environment, but we did end up finding some quite nice ones. Mostly brachiopods and crinoids, a few others I'm going to need closer looks to identify. Really, really fun and I'm not the only one excited to try it again. (One day I'd love to go on some kind of guided hunt someplace like Montana or Utah...)
After that, the guys had to head back to pick up the dog from the kennel and be home in time for work Monday, but Mom, Nef, and I spent the next few days in the Cities. We went to Como Zoo Monday, which we haven't done in probably 15 years, and had mind-bogglingly perfect weather for it. I got tons of photos with my new camera (will probably put up a few this weekend), both of the animals and of flowers in their conservatory, where they had a gorgeous Easter display.
Tuesday was rainy, so we spent the morning shopping and decided to go to the History Museum in the afternoon - at which point we found out that not only was admission free at the specific time we planned to go, and they had a big new WW1 exhibit (which Nef was especially excited about, since it's much less common than WW2 and she needs more background research for her book) but that evening we were in time to sign up for a special WW1-themed event they had on, where they played a Charlie Chaplain movie with a live band providing music, highlighted some of the history of the era, and let people screen print their own copies of WW1-era posters.
Wednesday morning we went to the Science Museum, where they had a special exhibit on the history of fraudulent/misconceived medical inventions (with a lot from the early 1900s/20s, again fun and useful research for Nef), we got to visit parts of the museum we loved as children, and also alllll the lovely fossils. <3 I wasn't surprised to find that the gift shop had fossils for sale, but I was surprised that the prices were very reasonable. So... I may have gotten a little overexcited and ended up buying half a dozen (plus a beautifully detailed, realistic replica of a velociraptor claw and toe bones, since the chances of my affording a genuine one are zilch XD) for the price I'd normally be able to get maybe two or three, buying them online and paying shipping - with the added bonus of being able to see them in person and select exactly what I wanted.
While we were at the Science Museum, we also ran into my godparents' youngest daughter. My parents knew their family long before I was born, but we haven't seen them in a while - the daughter lives in Kansas City now and was just up here for Easter, so getting to talk to her was a really fun surprise.
Also, the lavender-peppermint lotion/shower gel/shampoo/conditioner at the hotel we were staying at was amazing, and I think I may have to buy all my stuff in that scent from now on.
So yes - very nice to have a much-needed and refreshing break! ^^
Anyhow, she thinks the problem with my hip's a labral tear - basically damaged the damaged the cartilage around my hip socket. Having a tear like that, the cartilage can basically curl in and get caught in the joint. Whiiiich would explain what's been making it hurt worse and the catching/popping issues I've been having.
Ankles are a bit more unclear. There are a couple things that might be torn, but it was hard for her to tell much. She's referring me to a specialist to try to figure out what's happening there and to have a look at the hip. Short term plan, I've got some braces to get me through the next week with the black belt exam when I'm doing more strenuous stuff, wraps and orthotics to wear around the house, then gonna see how things are functioning once I can rest everything rather than constantly straining and reinjuring myself. Long term, may wind up needing one or more surgeries to get things straightened out, but we'll see.
I think my body suddenly realized I'll be 30 in a few days and decided, "Hmm, 30 years... Yeah, that'd be a good, long career most places. Think it's about time I retire now. You're not, like, going to need me around here or anything, are you?" Honestly, though, at this point it's a relief just to have something more concrete to say than "I have injured myself and now everything hurts." (LOL, now I'm getting visions of myself in one of those commercials: Help, I've fallen and I can't get up...)
Speaking of - I'm turning 30 on Wednesday. Which is... weird. Mostly I don't care enough to have any kind of crisis about it. XD I don't know, in a way it feels like a Big Deal, but while I wouldn't say my teens/early twenties were awful by any means, there was just so much really hard mental and emotional stuff, growing pains, all that. For all I'm a nostalgic person and have trouble with change, I wouldn't actually want to turn back time, and there are so many ways that I feel like things have steadied out and I've improved as a person in recent years. More than anything, I'm happy with the direction my life seems to be headed and excited to be heading into a new phase of it. Getting another year older in the process isn't traumatic.
Still weird, though, the thought of not being in my twenties anymore.
Still got some tough classes to push through this week and next to finish perfecting details before the final black belt exam on the 15th, but basically at this point I'd have to really, really mess up at the exam to fail it.
Very relieved. And very tired. I've got a doctor's appointment on Thursday to try to figure out
Now if I can just stop injuring myself further for a while... I took some pretty nasty kicks at sparring Saturday, one to my wrist and one to my chin, which have left some rather interesting bruising, even despite safety gear. Also burned my finger today and managed to get another bruise on my foot tonight, getting stepped on during class and basically at this point the degree to which my body is falling apart is pretty much just hilarious except kind of not. >.<
Annnd I'm way too tired now to have anything coherent to say so I'm going to bed. But yes. I'm happy. A break is finally in sight...
In somewhat less happy news, I managed to do... something to my hip in the process of doing the tornado kick portion of the test. It felt like it might be really bad, especially when I could barely raise my knee this morning. Didn't seem like any pulled or strained muscle I've had before, more like something was wrong with the joint itself. But then in the process of stretching and testing my range of motion today I apparently managed to pop whatever-it-was back into place. At any rate, I felt something click in my hip and now I seem to have pretty much normal range of motion back with just general achy soreness instead of sharp, Something Is Wrong pain, so... Not sure exactly what happened, but crisis seems to be averted in that regard. Pretty sure it's gonna be okay with a couple days of taking it easy.
So. Nothing definite, but I'm no longer in I May Die mode for the time being. ^^
On the one hand, I did better than I expected. On the other, now I can't be sure if I'm sore and headachy because I'm sick or because I got repeatedly punched in the head and knocked down by a guy twice my size. (Still won the fight, though. And the instructor said I was turning into a superstar on them. So there's that. ^^)
As a more interesting diversion from being sick, though - a flying squirrel has moved into our attached garage/the walls of our house. I knew we had some living nearby, but we don't see much of them because they're usually really shy, besides being nocturnal.
This one, though, is the most brazen, attitude-filled little thing I've ever seen. Doesn't seem to much care who knows he's around. And Ella, our mighty, fierce huntress cat who will take down anything that moves, including rabbits nearly as big as she is, seems to have just shrugged and decided this is okay. Last night I went to give her dinner and he was right there and just... didn't leave. Scooted over a bit, and then just sat there a couple feet away. She just looked at him, then looked at me like, "Yeah, so? He's my roommate now. You gonna give me dinner, or what?"
He stayed there while I went to get her dinner and came back, like he was waiting to see if he'd get dinner too. Didn't head off to the other side of the garage until Ella practically stepped on him. She acted like he was invisible.
I mean, he's adorable. And I don't actually want him to get killed, because I love flying squirrels. But having one living in our house is probably not a good thing? Even if he hasn't done any noticeable harm yet. And. Uh. This cat is apparently going to be no help at all in figuring out what to do about it. (She killed a mouse last night and left it by the door, just to prove that she hasn't actually forgotten how to do her job.)
So... for now, we've got a kind-of-pet flying squirrel? And yet one more illustration of why our friends call us the home for confused animals.
I think I'll call him Sam.
Nef: Yeah, we were just running around like crazy, trying to get everyone where they needed to be, and I had to drive the guys somewhere, but I never had the van when I needed it... It was so stressful. It was basically real life.
Me: Huh. I, uh, dreamed about Bucky trying to escape from Hydra, racing around in a building hiding in different rooms, trying to find a way out without getting caught.
Nef: ... Well. Apparently one of us is worried about something.
But yes. I got a ton written, sorted out some really key stuff, and I am feeling so much better about where this book is headed. So happy about it right now.
And of course, when we were shopping for snacks for the week, Nef and I decided to get some gummie fruit snacks. Because we are adults and can do that instead of just vaguely pretending we don't envy kids who're eating them. And of course, because I am a very serious adult, I told her that if we were going to get them, it had to be these ones.
I mean, since I've been describing the book I'm working on as "Jurassic Park with Faeries," it's actually like... serious inspiration food, right? And it clearly worked. Plus, the tiny gummy raptors are adorable. So yeah.
And today I decided to celebrate all that productivity with an impulse buy. This:
Best double-sided cutting board ever. And, I mean, cooking is a serious, adult thing, right? So it was a totally practical and grownup thing to do.
Yep. I am adulting so hard over here.
( Cut for pics! )
Also - happy Independence Day to all my American friends!
And happy birthday to Steve Rogers! \o/
The big event this week, though, was the trip Nef and I took in to the Cities to spend a couple days at the zoo. Officially, this was because our zoo membership was expiring and we wanted to get some more photos before it did (me for art/anatomy reference, her for graphic design), and they also had a new exhibit for the summer with anamatronic dinosaurs. Unofficially... we really wanted a getaway with just the two of us, and it was a good excuse.
It was an awesome trip, too! Couldn't have asked for nicer weather, the dinosaur exibit was very fun, and we ended up going to the bird show twice because it was so good. We basically hardly sat down for two days straight, and I don't even know how many miles we ended up walking - so pretty wiped out by the time we got home, but happy.
Nef got some really beautiful photos. I don't have a whole lot to share on that front, because though I took a fair amount I am a terrible photographer and was only using my phone, so I got quite a few that're useful for my reference purposes but not much that's particularly interesting or artistic in its own right. :P I think I'm getting a little better hang of photography generaly, though, so I've resolved to actually bring a proper camera that I know how to use next time.
I do have a few fun photos, though!
( Cut for pics! )
So without further ado, here are the books! My feelings on them this year were a bit more of a mixed bag than has been the case in recent years, I think, but there were plenty that I really loved.
( Cut for many words )
Total pages read on the trip: Approximately 5880. (Some estimation necessary, based on other version lengths, to account for the fact that the library only had the large print version of one, which obviously has... a lot more pages. XD)
So yeah. Not a record-breaking trip, but definitely a good one.
It was such a lovely trip, though. So relaxing, and having gone there at least once a year for the last twenty-five years now, more full of nostalgia and good memories than anywhere else I can think of. A couple of days this year got pretty sticky to get through without air conditioning, to say the least, but even those we managed to get through with ice cream and swimming and a minimum of whining. *g* (Did you know that Minnesotans actually start to melt when it gets too hot? It's a fact. Science.)
Book tally for me wasn't a record, but not bad for having less than 8 days: 20 books finished, and... two halves. XD (Gave up on one halfway through, but then got about halfway through another.)
As usual, I'll get the list of books and my thoughts up when I can.
*hugs all around*
This year's going to be a little different from most, since it may need to be a semi-working vacation. I've got one new client who's in kind of a tricky place, so I probably won't be able to set everything aside while I'm gone. So... sadly, I probably will not beat my current standing record of 23 books in just over a week. I've got about 30 books to bring anyway, though, so we'll see how far I get. *g*
Anyhow - after tomorrow I'll be pretty well disappearing from the internet for about a week, but I shall catch up with you all when I get back!
GUESS WHO GOT TO SEE CW AGAIN TODAY!
I keep thinking I'm going to write up a long happy post, but then it keeps winding up as incoherent flailing instead.
But seriously, I loved it so much. And on second viewing I was happier than before as far as plot cohesion, order of events, just how satisfying it was in general. And the characters... I am so, so impressed at the way it did have such intense disagreements between the characters, and yet left me feeling like I really understood and could sympathise with the motivation on both sides and still loved all the characters, despite good, bad, and emotionally misguided choices on all sides.
Team Cap all the way, though. As much as - if not more than - ever. :D
Also, I am very curious as to what the future has to hold for both Rosses. And also for Zemo... As my dad pointed out after seeing it today, Zemo's final remark, questioning whether he'd really failed, is interpreted on the surface as his having succeeded because he drove the Avengers apart. Buuut... Have we really seen the last of the other winter soldiers? Or is it just possible that he's not done and he's still got some kind of plan in the works? Hmm.
(I tell you, though, I will be SO MAD if they conveniently leave Bucky in stasis for the next Avengers movie instead of actually moving ahead with his plotline so we can see some more resolution there.)
(Okay, not the end. 1: How can a movie be that heartbreaking and that hilarious? 2: I LOVE EVERYONE. 3: I how can a movie be so satisfying, and so completely unsatisfying? Really, really liked it, though. I'm gonna have to see it again to process everything. More coherent thoughts to follow later.)
As it turns out, this is the one store in which I have Absolutely No Impulse Control. They were also, in celebration of their grand opening, having a bunch of cool sales. Including 50% off such things as... this.
Apologies for the largish picture, but IS IT NOT BEAUTIFUL?
Okay, I'll cut for the other pics now, which were the actual reason I went to Hobby Lobby in the first place.
( Pretty fossils! Also: Does Cami actually have any impulse control? The answer may surprise you! )
Yes, I am a total dork, I am aware. But hey, at least I'm a happy one?
But yes, I had a really, really nice birthday! Mostly just a relaxing, low-key day - though the surpise snowstorm in the afternoon was an interesting bit of excitement. And yes, the salted caramel truffle ice cream cake was every bit as good as it sounded.
And, you guys, my family got me actual fossils. I HAVE DINOSAUR TEETH. And they are gorgeous.
Ahem. I am juuuuust a little bit excited, can you tell?
( Cut for largish photos of dinosaur teeth! )
On a related note - I am verrrry much looking forward to watching The Force Awakens again, now that I have the DVD. :D