Tuesday, August 12, 2014

[Through Stunned Tears, I Say Farewell to a Man Who Helped Shape My Childhood]

I have really struggled to articulate the grief I feel in learning about Robin Williams' suicide yesterday. I only managed four hours of fitful sleep last night, as my subconscious struggled to come to terms with losing a friend I never met and with processing how a man whose life brought joy, laughter, and truth to countless millions could carry such despair that he could not bear to face another day.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching Robin bring to life the character of Mork from Ork via Nick at Nite. It was a long time, even, before I knew what his name was besides Mork. It didn't matter, because Mork was real to me. Hook premiered when I was eight, a year and a half before my mom died, and I can remember being confused about why I wasn't allowed to see it yet (it was rated PG-13), since it starred Robin Williams, as Peter Pan of all people. Then came Aladdin, and over time, more grown-up films that demonstrated his amazing breadth as an actor. There was never a time in which Robin Williams was not in my life--at least, my media life. He really was like a friend I'd never met.

Last night and this morning, I've read through dozens of memorial articles on the internet, and one thing that stands out to me is how people remember his generosity and humility. From surprising Christopher Reeves in the hospital after his accident (bringing him the first laughter since), to smaller stories of his genuine hospitality to anyone he came across, famous or not, to his work for charities such as St. Jude's Hospital, one thing is clear: Robin Williams was all heart.

Some time ago (I can't pinpoint the exact moment anymore), I noticed that, more than most, his eyes always held a twinkle of joy and humor that could not hide the sadness he carried. Frenetic humor or serious role, those eyes always showed a man carrying a burden of heartache. I'd hoped he had the upper hand, but as we know today, he could not fight it forever.

I'm reminded of an episode of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor and Amy Pond encounter Vincent Van Gogh. After overcoming the grave danger of the episode, in an effort to show Van Gogh that his work would eventually become some of the best-loved of all time and bring great joy to countless millions, they bring him to the present, to a showing of his works. The scholar/curator, portrayed by Bill Nighy, not knowing in whose presence he was speaking, explained that Van Gogh,
is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
After they return him home, clearly uplifted in learning his impact on the world, Amy believes that they must have surely saved him from his suicide. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and returning the gallery, she finds that the events still played out as they originally did in history. She is devastated, but the Doctor makes an important point:
Amy Pond: We didn't make a difference at all.
The Doctor: I wouldn't say that. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey.
[hugs Amy]
The Doctor: The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.
It's an important point that I hope and pray we learn from this story and from Robin's life. Depression is a real illness--not a sulky state of mind, and not usually related to circumstances. A person who is suicidal is not thinking in terms of what will make them happy. They just want to not be in constant pain. This is why it's so important that we not stigmatize those who battle mental illness, but, rather, help them and do whatever we can to find ways to successfully treat it. No one treatment works for everyone because everyone's body and neurological chemistry is different. It's why chronic depression is such an ongoing struggle. I've struggled with depression, though not anything close to that level, since hitting puberty, and there are times, unrelated to events in my life, when I can't get out of the pain completely. I've never been to that point, but I can understand how one would find oneself there, no matter how grateful one is for the blessings in one's life.

Robin Williams, I thank you for your life and your work, and for the way you lived to lift others up. Your humor has saved many through the gift of laughter, and your dramatic roles, rooted in truth and compassion, have inspired more people than you could ever have known. Your generosity and charity have undoubtedly helped to save the lives of many. I am so sorry that in the end, the bad things in your life got the upper hand. The concept of the sad clown is true to life so very often, and in your case, the funniest clown had some of the deepest grief. I pray that you finally have the peace you so desperately sought, and I hope that now you can find the joy that eradicates the pain.

As Evan Rachel Wood shared on her Twitter feed yesterday:
"Genie, you're free."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Once again, it's been awhile since I've updated here, and it's not because nothing's happened. If anything, it's because too much has happened. Oh, where to begin?

Well, let's start with what I'd been writing about most recently: uteruses and vaginas! (Ha.) No, but seriously, I did get in touch with my gyno, and she finally agreed to do a tubal and endometrial ablation. Everything was going smoothly--I even managed to get an IV with only one stick when I went in for surgery on May 29, which almost never happens--and that's when things went wonky.

Did you know you can have too many surgeries? Apparently so, because my throat and airway have so much scar tissue from my 18 (now 19), that the anesthesiologist was unable to intubate me for a full surgery without the risk of damaging my vocal cords. Yup. Really. So, thanks to the power of Versed (a.k.a. Midazolam), I did get the ablation (good-bye endometrium, at least for now, and good-bye period bleeding!), but no tubal ligation. There was still a recovery period, all amidst the job hunt thanks to my teaching hours being cut back so far that I'm, for all intents and purposes, unemployed, at least on a regular basis. I do have a class this fall, but it doesn't begin until October, and I did get a contract for writing/editing for the company I've been freelancing for since last summer, which keeps my head above the water, but it's still poverty level stuff here (or pretty damn close). Anyway, last week, I got Nexplanon inserted into my arm, so I'm back on BC for hormones and, if I ever actually date and end up in an actual relationship, birth control. I'll most likely go on Mirena in a couple of years, since it lasts longer.

And yes, as you might guess based on my political leanings and the fact that the BCs I can actually use are among the four a certain craft-store-that-wants-to-be-a-church-and-still-for-profit-business won the right to refuse to cover, I've been pretty peeved this summer.

On the plus side, I do get to work from home now, so Sassy's getting to be around me all the time, which she loves. She still doesn't get "enough" attention, since it's not exactly doable to play with her and write/edit simultaneously, so we're dealing with some minor acting-out these days. Oh, well.

And of course, somehow, there still manages to be more on my plate than I have time to do. What's new, right?

Anyway, that's the latest, for those of you who keep up with me here.

Stay cool, kids. The Missouri humidity's thriving this week, so I'm hunkering down near an AC vent. Until next time!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

[Hacked... Fixed?]

Earlier this week, I had the unpleasant surprise of discovering that somehow, my blog had been hacked, and some sort of malware script had gotten embedded into the page. I'd changed my password last week upon being notified that someone in someplace like Ukraine had tried to hack my Google account, but apparently, I hadn't been quick enough. Now, I thought I'd fixed it midweek, but this morning, I said a few choice words when I got on to check the date on one of my posts and found that the problem was either back or had never left.

So, I upped my security, reset my template to barebones and recustomized it (unfortunately, it's not going to look the same--I can't remember what all the settings were). So far, so good, since that should've overwritten any weird customizations. I'm also going to get rid of any gadgets with customized HTML or CSS, at least for now, so some of the cool share tools are gone for the time being.

But please, if you stop by the page and it tells you that you need to update your Java, please LET ME KNOW! You shouldn't need Java to read my page. That's sign #1 that something's wrong. If you know me in person, please email me or call me. If not, if you're able, leave me a comment here, or go to my Brushstrokes page and leave me a comment there, and I'll try to fix it A.S.A.P.  Really, if anything seems suspicious, please let me know.

(As if it weren't bad enough to wake up to find out that I'm on my period for the second time in three weeks, which means I have to try to find a gynecologist, and they're notoriously difficult to get in to see if they're good. Sigh. Migraine, anyone?)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

[NgggAAAAAArgh!!!]

Disclaimer: blunt discussion/rant about PMS/PMDD ahead. Do not read if you consider it TMI.

I have PMDD. I've had it for years. Sometimes, I get a break, with minor cramping at most, and in the past year, I've actually completely skipped at least three months (if not more), which, except for the concern that there might be something causing the skips, has been a bit of a relief.

Well, this week is trying to make up for that. Worst. Cramps. In. Years. I've been fighting to keep my food down since yesterday, and urgh!!!!! And mood swings? I've been in a heightened state of supreme irritation all day with NO TRIGGERS WHATSOEVER. Just a constant state of "pissed." I've kept it to myself for the most part, but it's not helping me to be very productive today.

So, for the next few days, you might want to steer clear. Fair warning. There may be fall-out.

Monday, February 03, 2014

[Stop. Please, Just Stop. Your Words Can Be Poison and Have the Power to Kill]

So often in the comments sections of articles and blog posts, I read comments from people who claim that "talking about [LGBTQI* rights and homophobia] is annoying/pointless/etc." As a straight ally, there is only so much I can say--the story is not mine to tell, as the struggles I feel are sympathetic, not empathetic. But this is not a topic we can afford to leave alone. People die every day because of their sexual orientations or identifications. Then on top of that, our society creates these false dichotomies of feminism/masculinity, equating men and boys who show compassion, a love for music and/or art, and gentleness with being weak, as if gentleness or being a woman is shameful. Here's something to think about: I never chose to be straight. I just am. And think about this: when being LGBTQI* means potentially being isolated, oppressed, beaten, or even killed, who the hell would actually choose that? It's not something most people choose, and I'd dare say that those who do are probably (I know, assumption, but hear me out), by nature, bisexual, somewhere along the spectrum, and it's not as much choice as they claim.

Look. I get it. After awhile, it seems like it's one discussion after another. It becomes a cacophony of voices and debates. But here's the thing: the reason it matters... the reason we can't stop talking about it is because that which changes people's understanding of the "other" is getting to know the "other." By dialoging more openly as we have been in the past two or three decades, the amount of homophobia that pervades our culture has declined. But it's still there, and it still harmful and even deadly. It's got to stop. Bullying, homophobia, false definitions of gender, stereotyping, etc.

I broke down in tears this morning as I read Michael's story:

11-yr-old Boy Bullied for Being A Brony Fighting for Life After Suicide Attempt; How You Can Help
“But now,” Suttle said quietly, “I wonder about why he wanted to come home instead of being with the other kids.  He said to us that the other kids were telling him he was gay for loving Pinkie Pie and they were trying to make him feel ashamed for being gay.  We said that we didn’t care if he was gay or straight; he was our son and we would love him.”
On Thursday, January 23, Michael had another rough day at school.  That night, he attempted suicide by hanging himself.
Michael is in the pediatric intensive care unit in a North Carolina hospital.   He has damage to his brain, his heart, and his lungs and has not yet fully awakened.  There is healing potential, but the extent of that potential is unknown.  His family is holding vigil, praying that the swelling in his brain will go down and the child will become coherent.  A tracheotomy is scheduled for this week.

So let me say this: I don't give a fuck (there, I said the word in writing, in public, for probably the first time in my life) if it's supposed to be a sin or not, even as a Christian. It. Does. Not. Matter. People are hurt and killed, and they did not choose this path for themselves. Even those who are straight but deviate from the feminine/masculine "standards" face this hate. If you think it's more important to declare loving someone of one's same gender a sin than it is to love them as they are, you are wrong, and you are perpetuating hate whether you feel hate in your heart or not. Period. As any writer or writing teacher can tell you--your intention when writing (or speaking) does not matter--what matters is what your words say and the connotations they carry. So please, if you feel the urge to tell people they're sinning for loving someone, for once in your life, shut the hell up and just listen. Be a friend, show grace and compassion.

Look, it's not that clear, anyway, what the Bible says on the topic, due to translation issues and context, so it's not your place to declare something that does not harm anyone else a sin. Your walk with God is yours alone. Mine is mine alone. As long as what we do harms no one else nor robs them of their rights to life and peace, it's not either of our places to place limits on them. No, homosexual relationships are not a slippery slope to bestiality or pedophilia. There is a hell of a world of difference between consensual sex between two adults and forced sex (by physical or psychological force) of one person in a position of power with one who cannot fully give or deny consent. So don't give me the slippery slope as an argument--it's complete and utter bullshit. In another phrase, it's comparing apples and oranges. They're not alike.

Love. Just love. It's not your place to condemn or convict. Michael's story is not alone. Enough is enough.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

[Sweet As Whole - Language Warning: Don't read this if you can't stand swearing]

There are days I'm grateful for Sara Bareilles' song, "Sweet As Whole."

[Major language disclaimer on the video.]


The first verse just says it all. ;)

Sometimes I can be perfectly sweet 
Got this sugary me all stuffed up in my sleeve 
And I'll talk of ponies and rainbows and things 
And I'm just who you want me to be 
Like most creatures down here on the ground 
I'm composed of the elements moving around 
But I grow and change and I shift and I switch 
And it turns out I'm actually kind of a bitch 
But that only happens when I get provoked 
By some piece of shit asshole we all sadly know 
And I sit and I write while reminding you all 
That mean songs are still better than going postal

Thank you, Sara, for a song that is shocking and therapeutic, laden with unreserved snark. Because of you and this song, I can now go to bed without obsessing about "some piece of s**t a**hole" who delights in ad hominem attacks on my personhood, artwork (that he/she has never seen--I just mentioned that I am an artist, which was why I thought a particular prank was a bit too much), or yada-yada-yada... rather than an actual fruitful discussion or respectfully disagreeing. I probably should add this song back to my Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! playlist ASAP.

I'm out! Good night!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

[One for the Books]

And thus, with the click of a mouse, I join the thousands (millions?) of people making lists and reflecting over the past year on New Year's Eve. I meant to last year, and I still have the post in draft form, but for whatever reason, the thoughts would not form coherently enough for me to click that orange "Publish" button. But if I thought 2012 was a doozy of a year, I had no idea what 2013 had in store for me.

The Year of the Roller Coaster

Nah, not the real thing--I haven't been able to ride them anyway since my migraines became what they are today. More along the lines of the ups and downs. Oh, my, yes, every year is a roller coaster year. I can't get away from the fact that my even saying it's a been one is the ultimate cliché. Though, if truth be told, I'm pretty sure this particular RC was an underground RC, because there were a lot more downs than ups. Yup, this was the year of disillusionment.

In fact, the main reason I haven't been posting on here (now that my brain is working clearly enough to identify my motivations) was because I didn't want to be a downer. Yes, I know--you didn't know I had such a filter, did you? Oh, but I do, and there's a lot that goes through my mind and my emotions that comes nowhere near the internet. But, for tonight, the filters are set to low, so here goes:

On the job front, my hours grew smaller, and despite sending out dozens and dozens (no exaggeration, I promise) of résumés, all of which were quite respectable (unfortunately, so are my competitions' as well...), the only hiring that happened was on a freelance or per-project basis. Most companies didn't bother to respond at all, but the ones who did, well, they were kind in their rejection, but consistent:
Dear Nicole:

Thank you for your expression of interest in the [position] and for taking the time to apply. After careful consideration we have decided to pursue other candidates for this particular role. However, your background and experience may be a fit for a future opening. We invite you to view and apply to other career opportunities, update your resume and profile, and view the status of your application for any other open positions for which you may have already applied via the appropriate link below.
 Meanwhile, in the comments sections of every job-related or ACA-related article I read, I saw red as I read people say in the most casual of ways, "Well, if you don't like your job or it doesn't pay you enough, find a new one!" Yeah, like it's that easy. Instead, I watch people who happen to have connections getting the jobs I've worked to be eligible to earn after more or less deciding, "Oh, hey, I like books," and with little other preparation, step right into the dream job. Don't get me wrong--I don't begrudge them getting to do the job. I just find myself frustrated that I don't get a chance, even when I'm technically a stronger candidate, simply because I don't have friends (or relatives) in high places.

As recent as this month, I've realized that, barring something drastic occurring in my favor, my art dream is no longer going to happen... again. Without enough income (and frankly, I'm not sure if I'll have enough income to even pay my mortgage this upcoming semester), I can't take the classes, and it was a degree that was already going to take me at least eight years to finish. So it's been the year of realizing that, in a world of where a few people get to go for it, I'm not one of them. At least, not as far as I can see.

The year was even more disheartening on a personal level. In 2012, my dad was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and this year, I've been watching his decline. He and my mom have been working to make sure she'll be okay when he passes on and the monthly income drops by 60%. This also means a lot of their reminding me that they "won't be able to help [me] anymore pretty soon," so guilt trips (and financial reality fears) galore. Y'know, as if it weren't killing me enough just on the personal "my daddy is sick" level.

Oh, and social life? Barring one birthday trip to visit my best friend in KC in October, and being the photographer for another close friend's wedding earlier this month, there has been no social life whatsoever. It's been a year of working, sleeping (not enough), and getting over being sick (as I spent at least a third or more of the year sick or battling some of my worst migraines). I mean, really--nothing. Besides most of my friends now being parents of small children or living too far away, I don't have any disposable income, so going out was, well, out.

So, maybe it wasn't the year of the roller coaster. I mean, I did have some good moments, for sure, but not enough to keep my sense of optimism or idealism intact. I've become pretty jaded, especially in the last few months. I'd say it was the year of the hermit, being annoyed by excessive clickbait (I mean, seriously! It's driving me nuts!), wasted effort, clashes between wanting what's best for myself and having to compromise or give up entirely...

Okay, short version: 2013 sucked balls. There, I said it. 2014 sure as hell better be better, or 2015 may see me checked in at a mental institution (if there are any left), though I'm not sure if I'll be catatonic or frantic. I know this: I can't keep going this way. Something has to change, and soon. I'm at my wits' end, and I hate feeling trapped and like I have no say in my own life, both of which I feel at the moment (and have for awhile). If I didn't get to snuggle with Sassy every night, I'd have lost it a long time ago.

See why I haven't written in so long? Yeah. Here's hoping for a change soon.

Peace to you and yours.

-Niki

Friday, October 25, 2013

[Pretty]



Language-sensitive warning: the "f" word is used, but it's perfectly chosen--not gratuitous.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

[That Proverbial Straw]

Fair warning: due to PMS symptoms starting to pop up, the stress of still having not found a full-time job, it being wedding season, me having more physical pain that I can cheerfully ignore at the moment, taking my Zoloft later in the evening than normal, and too much isolation lately, this blog post will be a whiner. Don't like it when I whine? Then don't read. I need to vent before that proverbial straw breaks my back.

Job hunting sucks. That's all I'll say on that subject for now. It just sucks. And it makes everything else that sucks occasionally, suck perpetually.

Y'know, I turn 30 in less than three months. I started writing on this blog when I was seventeen. If you'd told me then that at this point I would still have never dated anyone, never been kissed, etc., it probably would've devastated me. Most days, though, I'm okay with it. I don't love it, because I do feel like I've missed out on some pretty standard maturation milestones, and it doesn't help that some of my friends my age now have kids who are dating already and are teenagers. (Cue a major WTF?!?!?!) Seriously, a kid whose diaper I changed when she was an infant when I freakin' babysat her is a year away from graduating high school. And somehow, in the area of romance, I'm behind her.

So yeah, there are days (like today) when it all gets to me. When I log on Facebook and see someone else posting engagement photos. When I just want to give up trying to date because nothing ever, ever changes. It doesn't help, either, that pretty much the only socialization I've had all summer is with my parents (and, I might add, it's been hard to see them not in great health, especially my dad). Really. And the fact that, while my Zoloft does help with the mood swings and constant mild depression, I'm still emotional little Niki whose logical brain and rampant emotions appear unable to communicate with one another. I just would like to not feel perpetually stuck in a rut that seems to be a combination of ages 14 and 22 as far as life progression.

I want things to change, yet I don't have the means to make any change happen.

I'm tired of this stuff always being what it has been for so long.

I'm not an idiot. I know that finding a boyfriend won't magically fix loneliness. There are no magic fixes for this stuff. But I want to feel like I'm moving forward in life somehow, instead of idling at the same traffic light day in and day out.

I do feel an urge to reread Ecclesiastes right now... "There's nothing new under the sun..." You're preaching to the choir, Teacher, you're preaching to the choir.

Apologies if you've read this far for any lack of coherence or overall bitchiness. I'm just tired and needed to put these thoughts out there instead of letting them fester in my head all the time.........

Sunday, March 24, 2013

[Wait--What?!]

Lately, I've been making myself a delish banana-[dark-chocolate]-peanut-butter-oatmeal-and-almond-milk smoothie every day. I kept wondering why I was gaining weight, since this was in place of a standard meal, not added on. Then, of course, I looked up the nutritional facts. Everything was healthy, but also significant in calories and fructose sugars (healthier than processed, but still sugar).

So, today, I thought I'd make it a little leaner and use regular peanut butter and carob powder instead of my dark chocolate peanut butter. Surely that would save me at least 20 calories, right?

Wrong.

It's a classic example of why reading labels, despite what you think you "know" about foods is important. Check it out (click for a larger image):


Holy peanut butter, Batman! Not only is the dark chocolate peanut butter lower in calories and sugars, it's also made with more natural ingredients! Compare:

Dark Chocolate PB:

Peanuts
Evaporated cane juice
Cocoa
Cocoa butter
Palm fruit oil
Vanilla
Lecithin (from sunflowers)
Salt
Plus--no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup, and it's gluten free

Standard Creamy PB:
Roasted peanuts
Sugar
Molasses
Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed, cottonseed, soybean)
Salt

Granted, I did get the DCPB from the natural foods section of the grocery store, and the standard is generic peanut butter, but still!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

[What a Couple of Boobs!]

I know... I'm writing again, already! But... I've been provoked. Someone has pushed the feminist button. Actually, two someones. And big-time. And personally. And I'm pissed.

See these?


They're boobs. Breasts. Ta-tas. The girls. Bazookas. And a bunch of other positive and negatively connotated names. And yes, they're mine, and yes, they're rather large. 34F, to be exact, and my small frame does not particularly appreciate it, either.

Here are some more facts:

I did not choose to have them. They are there because large breasts run in my family and because I developed at an early age. Whether I wear "modest" clothing or not, they are noticeable. Unless I wear a turtleneck or a t-shirt, I will show cleavage. It's unavoidable.

I have large breasts. I did not choose to have them. I can, however, take pride in my appearance. I'm allowed to be comfortable in my own skin, just as a woman who is tall, slender, and who wears a more average-sized cup bra is encouraged to feel. This self-confidence in my sexuality does not make me a sex object. It does not remove my humanness.

The fact that I have F-cup breasts does not make me a sex object. Do I make myself clear? I am not now, nor will I ever be, someone in whom anyone may only be interested in "only for sex."

Twice now, in the past month, have I experienced men assuming this about me. Men, whom, I might add, claimed to be Christians. One of whom, I disgustedly add, plans to be a pastor. (And believe me, if I hear he becomes a candidate in my town and is still not grown up beyond where he is now, I will not remain silent, though I'm normally not the sort to interfere, because no man who desires to be in the role of a pastor should be a man who sees sex as "only sex".)

Fact: I have a libido. I am a virgin, and I have yet to kiss or be kissed, but I do know that I have a libido. But the presence of a libido, large breasts, a vagina, a uterus, ovaries, estrogen, etc., etc., etc., does not now nor will never make me nothing more than a sex object. 

Under no circumstances should you ever look at another human being as "just" a source of anything--sex, love, education, food, etc. To do so is to remove their humanity. To ignore their trials, their griefs, their triumphs, their laughter, etc., is to reduce them to mere objects, and that, my friends, is a grave sin. That's the danger of misogyny, misandry, racism, casual sex, human trafficking, homophobism, etc.,: we are each human. We are none of us summed up by parts of our bodies or physical desires. So to treat each other or even ourselves like we are is WRONG.

Period.

And my boobs will tell you the same thing. Right, Girls?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

[Knowing Me Better Than Before]

Somehow, I get the feeling that 2013 is going to be a red-letter year. In what way, good, neutral, or bad, and in what category or categories, I have no idea. But I get that vibe. Something just feels... different.

The gamblers and betters among my audience are welcome to make your wagers in the comments section. We'll declare winners come December 31st. ;) I've got a few theories, but I've been badly wrong before, so... no wagers from my corner. 

I do have much I could write about. I'm not hypocritical about what I tell my students ("There's never nothing to write about--use your tools!")--I promise. The main reason I haven't been writing lately is because a lot of what I have to say or report on personally news-wise isn't really suited for a completely public audience. If I had a limited audience, like my students do with their class blog, I might be a little more open, but despite what my friends and family seem to think based on what I share on Facebook, I don't actually share all that much of what's actually, truly personal. There's a lot more going on than what I share with, well, almost anyone. 

Part of this is due to the fact that it seems as though as soon as I open my mouth about something, something will immediately happen to either make me look like a liar or to completely dash my hopes, so I prefer not to jinx myself anymore until my hopes of any sort are fully realized. Another part is just because I don't have as much of a handle on words as I did before my wreck. Yes, still. And since I'm now on an antidepressant to control my migraines (it kind of helps, though not totally), by the time I find the words to express why I'm feeling what I'm feeling, the Zoloft's pretty much gotten my emotions back under control. Heh. No, really. 

And, really, a lot of what I have to say is potentially controversial (politically, etc.), and I'm just tired of all the debates and snarling back and forth that seems to keep getting nastier and nastier all the time. I prefer to pick my battles. I don't have the energy to fight all the fights that I care about. 

What can I say? I'm truly an INFP. If I don't get a chance to shut down and recharge, I suffer, and because I spend so much time doing extroverted work (school, work, communication, artwork), by the time it comes to the internet these days, especially blogging, I'm in need of satisfying my introverted core.

Anyway, that's why I've kind of disappeared off the radar. It's not permanent, I'm sure, so hang tight. I'll be back. I don't know when, but when it happens, look out. I'll be unstoppable. :)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

[The End of an Era?]

I'd like to say I waited this long to write about the new year so my post wouldn't get lost in the crowd, but that wouldn't be honest--I'm just a hopeless procrastinator. But hey--at least I'm honest about it. ;)

2013 does promise to be an interesting year, though, to be sure. For one thing, it's the year I turn 30.

30.

Whaaaaa--?!?!?! That used to sound old, and not that long ago!!!

It's also the year I intend to take hold of and continue what I began in 2012--taking control of my own life. Or at least, taking more proactive steps in achieving the things I want in life. I guess when you get close to 30 and realize that life isn't just going to fall in your lap (y'know... you don't look like a model and you're an introvert, so you don't encounter many people in day-to-day life in order to make connections...), you realize it's time to ignore the little embarrassment personality and start taking some chances. So, I've got some goals (not resolutions--resolutions are vows or promises... whereas goals are things I'm moving toward doing, but won't beat myself up if they don't come to fruition when I want them to) this year. Some social, some professional, some personal.

I'm not writing them down here, though. If I put them down in words, they sound too much like the resolutions I've made pretty much every year of my life so far (at least since adolescence). But I'm not the same person. I've changed, my motivations have changed, my sense of introspection has changed, my resolve has solidified.... so I don't want to create an echo of something that's truly something new.

This time next year, it's my hope and goal that certain things will be different. What those things are, though, are between me and God (and Sassy, who hears everything). Some, you may guess. Others, you may not. And no, I won't tell you if you're right. ;)

Happy new year, kids. Let it be filled with creativity, growth, and a greater understanding of ourselves.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

[Of Being Too Busy to Blog, and Losing Weight at Last]

Whew... Pets and Pumpkins is behind me. For the first time, I did not dress in costume--mostly because I ran out of time that morning and couldn't remember where I'd stashed my Dorothy costume. Sassy was a baseball player. Go Cards! Oh, did you know that Sassy has her own Facebook fan page now? Check it out at: http://www.facebook.com/SassyCox

Worrying about the kids playing on the inflatable slide/bounce house next to our booth








Guess who's jumping on someone?


It was a tiring week up through Saturday (P&P day). Besides classes, I did three hours of errand-running Monday and Tuesday, had an appointment Wednesday with the headache center (where they put me on Zoloft to see if it's stress that's why I'm having daily migraines again--so far, my mood is better, my energy is higher (despite being drowsier), and my headaches are less intense--except for Saturday night and Sunday, but that's normal after 7 hours outside at a festival having to be constantly "on" (oh, what fun to be an introvert!)--and I'm starting to lose weight, as the Pamelor made me gain, but Zoloft decreases my appetite), more errands on Thursday, and Friday was insane.

I woke up, cleaned house until class time, taught, came home, grabbed some chili, painted my new MDF display boards, set up my "Guess the Number" M&Ms game, packed more decorations for today, graded, finished a homework project (but I started off doing two, since I can't make up my mind), started on the other option for my design project, dealt with the presence of my parents (welcome, of course, though somewhat distracting with a big to-do list), and pretty much ran from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Then Saturday, I got up at 7, grabbed a bagel, brought two newly-painted-black display boards from the basement, set my prints up on them with masking tape, made two signs, grabbed Sassy's costume, loaded up the two cars, drove to Commercial Street at 10:00, set up, did the festival from 12-5, tore down the tent, came home, put things away (not all things, but some), then pretty much parked it on the couch the rest of the evening, since my migraine had hit about halfway through the afternoon, so it'd reached about a full level 9 (so glad I had a few pain killers left). Sassy did the same nap thing--she's not used to being awake for quite that long.

Oh, I did make a sale Saturday, finally. :) I sold a print! Progress...

And then, this week. I finally got over to the Rec Center this morning (a little after 6:00 a.m.) to work on weight loss and strength rebuilding. It's been a long road to get there this morning--it was my third attempt, the first being last Monday, when I discovered I no longer possess the ability to read a map. The second was yesterday, when I discovered my MSU zip card is no longer valid. Cue an afternoon of shuttle-riding and errand-doing.

So, today, I got up an hour earlier than I needed to, and went over. I did some weights (geez, I've become even wimpier!) and tried to do the elliptical and bike, but my body's still adjusting to my new medication, so I ended up with the shakes. Which is fine with me--I prefer weights, anyway. That's why I took weight training at Truman as my phys ed choice, after all.

I felt energetic-ish all day, though my Zoloft helps with that too (despite some drowsiness, weirdly enough). Of course, with all good choices, one must pay a price. Mine? Besides being gone from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., I've been battling foot and leg cramps since I got home. Bah!

Weight loss progress:

From 142 on Wednesday, 10-17, in the afternoon, to 134.8 yesterday morning before breakfast. Five pounds down (adjusting my weight for clothes and having eaten, etc. on Wednesday), 20 must-lose pounds to go, or 30 I-hope-to-lose pounds to go. The rest will likely come off much slower, knowing my body.

Have I ever mentioned just how much I love carrying all my weight in my torso and hips?

Monday, August 27, 2012

[Dog Shaming - Canine Confessions]

Have you come across this one yet? It's a new site--started this month, in fact--but it's already popular and hysterical. Go on over to http://dog-shaming.com and laugh your guts out.

Seriously.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

[After an Afternoon [Snooze] Delight]

Oh, the first week of classes! I came home today after a long time on campus, sent a friend a text (because I know school tends to make me a little anti-social, so I'm trying to keep that at bay this semester), started rubbing Sassy's belly, and promptly zonked out for the next two-and-a-half hours while lying flat on my back (I was lucky--no sleep paralysis this time... it usually hits if I'm sleeping on my back).

Of course, I do have a good reason to be tired. I'm taking six hours of classes and teaching nine hours. Heck, as a student the first time I was an undergrad, I never took more than 14 hours--usually 12--so 15 hours of teaching and taking is probably going to wipe me out until I get used to it. And even when I woke up, it was only the knowledge that Sassy needed to be let out and the knowledge that I still had homework to do that got me up instead of my rolling back over and snoozing until morning.

I know I can do this, but I'm not gonna lie--it's going to take a bit of an adjustment period. And I still have that homework to do, so I better stop rambling and get to it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

[My Personality, My Past, and Understanding Why I Do What I Do (or Don't)]

...or Dating and Romance in My Late 20s, Take Two.

According to the free, online version of the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am a INFP: moderately introverted, moderately intuitive, STRONG (80%) feeling, and slightly perceiving (it switches over to judging during certain times of the semester--big surprise there). I still remember reading the descriptions of someone with that particular type and wondering who had been spying on me. 

From PersonalityPage.com, a few descriptors in particular stand out (speak up if you think any of this describes me):
[Bold sections emphasized by me, not the original article]
Portrait of an INFP - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving
(Introverted Feeling with Extraverted Intuition) 
The Idealist

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. 
Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.
INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves 
INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP's value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same - the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. 
Generally thoughtful and considerate, INFPs are good listeners and put people at ease. Although they may be reserved in expressing emotion, they have a very deep well of caring and are genuinely interested in understanding people. This sincerity is sensed by others, making the INFP a valued friend and confidante. An INFP can be quite warm with people he or she knows well. 
INFPs do not like conflict, and go to great lengths to avoid it. If they must face it, they will always approach it from the perspective of their feelings. In conflict situations, INFPs place little importance on who is right and who is wrong. They focus on the way that the conflict makes them feel, and indeed don't really care whether or not they're right. They don't want to feel badly. This trait sometimes makes them appear irrational and illogical in conflict situations. On the other hand, INFPs make very good mediators, and are typically good at solving other people's conflicts, because they intuitively understand people's perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them. 
INFPs are flexible and laid-back, until one of their values is violated. In the face of their value system being threatened, INFPs can become aggressive defenders, fighting passionately for their cause. When an INFP has adopted a project or job which they're interested in, it usually becomes a "cause" for them. Although they are not detail-oriented individuals, they will cover every possible detail with determination and vigor when working for their "cause". 
When it comes to the mundane details of life maintenance, INFPs are typically completely unaware of such things. They might go for long periods without noticing a stain on the carpet, but carefully and meticulously brush a speck of dust off of their project booklet. [Niki's addition: If my mother ever reads this, she'll probably laugh hysterically at how true this statement is about me!]
INFPs do not like to deal with hard facts and logic. Their focus on their feelings and the Human Condition makes it difficult for them to deal with impersonal judgment. They don't understand or believe in the validity of impersonal judgment, which makes them naturally rather ineffective at using it. Most INFPs will avoid impersonal analysis, although some have developed this ability and are able to be quite logical. Under stress, it's not uncommon for INFPs to mis-use hard logic in the heat of anger, throwing out fact after (often inaccurate) fact in an emotional outburst. 
INFPs have very high standards and are perfectionists. Consequently, they are usually hard on themselves, and don't give themselves enough credit. INFPs may have problems working on a project in a group, because their standards are likely to be higher than other members' of the group. In group situations, they may have a "control" problem. The INFP needs to work on balancing their high ideals with the requirements of every day living. Without resolving this conflict, they will never be happy with themselves, and they may become confused and paralyzed about what to do with their lives. 
INFPs are usually talented writers. They may be awkward and uncomfortable with expressing themselves verbally, but have a wonderful ability to define and express what they're feeling on paper. INFPs also appear frequently in social service professions, such as counselling or teaching. They are at their best in situations where they're working towards the public good, and in which they don't need to use hard logic. 
INFPs who function in their well-developed sides can accomplish great and wonderful things, which they will rarely give themselves credit for. Some of the great, humanistic catalysts in the world have been INFPs.

Jungian functional preference ordering:
Dominant: Introverted Feeling
Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition
Tertiary: Introverted Sensing
Inferior: Extraverted Thinking
And when it comes to relationships:

INFP Relationships

INFPs present a calm, pleasant face to the world. They appear to be tranquil and peaceful to others, with simple desires. In fact, the INFP internally feels his or her life intensely. In the relationship arena, this causes them to have a very deep capacity for love and caring which is not frequently found with such intensity in the other types. The INFP does not devote their intense feelings towards just anyone, and are relatively reserved about expressing their inner-most feelings. They reserve their deepest love and caring for a select few who are closest to them. INFPs are generally laid-back, supportive and nurturing in their close relationships. With Introverted Feeling dominating their personality, they're very sensitive and in-tune with people's feelings, and feel genuine concern and caring for others. Slow to trust others and cautious in the beginning of a relationship, an INFP will be fiercely loyal once they are committed. With their strong inner core of values, they are intense individuals who value depth and authenticity in their relationships, and hold those who understand and accept the INFP's perspectives in especially high regard. INFPs are usually adaptable and congenial, unless one of their ruling principles has been violated, in which case they stop adapting and become staunch defenders of their values. They will be uncharacteristically harsh and rigid in such a situation.

INFP Strengths
Most INFPs will exhibit the following strengths with regards to relationship issues:
  • Warmly concerned and caring towards others
  • Sensitive and perceptive about what others are feeling
  • Loyal and committed - they want lifelong relationships
  • Deep capacity for love and caring
  • Driven to meet others' needs
  • Strive for "win-win" situations
  • Nurturing, supportive and encouraging
  • Likely to recognize and appreciate other's need for space
  • Able to express themselves well
  • Flexible and diverse

INFP Weaknesses
Most INFPs will exhibit the following weaknesses with regards to relationship issues:
  • May tend to be shy and reserved
  • Don't like to have their "space" invaded
  • Extreme dislike of conflict
  • Extreme dislike of criticism
  • Strong need to receive praise and positive affirmation
  • May react very emotionally to stressful situations
  • Have difficulty leaving a bad relationship [Niki's note: this one, not so much. I've seen so many bad relationships that I pay hyper attention to red flags, and as such, I look for an out, even in the early stages, if I see those flags.]
  • Have difficulty scolding or punishing others
  • Tend to be reserved about expressing their feelings [Niki's note: instinctively, yes, but I've honed my skills, at least in writing, in being more outward about my feelings lest others unintentionally end up walking over me.]
  • Perfectionistic tendancies may cause them to not give themselves enough credit
  • Tendency to blame themselves for problems, and hold everything on their own shoulders

INFPs as Lovers
"To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before." -- Rollo May

INFPs feels tremendous loyalty and commitment to their relationships. With the Feeling preference dominating their personality, harmony and warm feelings are central to the INFP's being. They feel a need to be in a committed, loving relationship. If they are not involved in such a relationship, the INFP will be either actively searching for one, or creating one in their own minds. [Niki's note: Suddenly, my entire adolescence and early 20s makes perfect sense. It's also why I've become guarded of late, something I'm going to expand on later on in this entry.]
INFPs tendency to be idealistic and romantically-minded may cause them to fantasize frequently about a "more perfect" relationship or situation. They may also romanticize their mates into having qualities which they do not actually possess. Most INFPs have a problem with reconciling their highly idealistic and romantic views of life with the reality of their own lives, and so they are constantly somewhat unsettled with themselves and with their close personal relationships. However, the INFP's deeply-felt, sincere love for their mates and their intense dislike of conflict keeps the INFP loyal to their relationships, in spite of their troubles achieving peace of mind. 
Unlike other types who tend to hold their mates up on a pedastal, the INFP's tendency to do so does not really turn into a negative thing in the relationship. INFPs hold tightly to their ideals, and work hard at constantly seeing their mates up on that pedastal. The frequent INFP result is a strongly affirming, proud and affectionate attitude towards their mates which stands the test of time. 
INFPs are not naturally interested in administrative matters such as bill-paying and house-cleaning, but they can be very good at performing these tasks when they must. They can be really good money managers when they apply themselves. 
Sexually, the INFP is likely to be initially slow to open up to their mates. Once their trust has been earned, the INFP will view sexual intimacy as an opportunity for expressing their deep-seated love and affection. More than the actual sexual act, they will value giving and receiving love and sweet words. With their tendency to enjoy serving others, they may value their mate's satisfaction above their own. 
One real problem area for the INFP is their intensive dislike of conflict and criticism. The INFP is quick to find a personal angle in any critical comment, whether or not anything personal was intended. They will tend to take any sort of criticism as a personal attack on their character, and will usually become irrational and emotional in such situations. This can be a real problem for INFPs who are involved with persons who have Thinking and Judging preferences. "TJ"s relate to others with a objective, decisive attitude that frequently shows an opinion on the topic of conversation. If the opinion is negative, the TJ's attitude may be threatening to the INFP, who will tend to respond emotionally to the negativity and be vaguely but emphatically convinced that the negativity is somehow the INFP's fault. 
For INFPs with extremely dominant Feeling preferences who have not developed their Intuitive sides sufficiently to gather good data for their decision making processes, their dislike of conflict and criticism can foretell doom and gloom for intimate relationships. These INFPs will react with extreme emotional distress to conflict situations, and will not know what to do about it. Since they will have no basis for determining what action to take, they will do whatever they can to get rid of the conflict - which frequently means lashing out irrationally at others, or using guilt manipulation to get their mates to give them the positive support that they crave. This kind of behavior does not bode well for healthy, long-term relationships. Individuals who recognize this tendency in themselves should work on their ability to take criticism objectively rather than personally. They should also try to remember that conflict situations are not always their fault, and they're definitely not the end of the world. Conflict is a fact of life, and facing it and addressing it immediately avoids having to deal with it in the future, after it has become a much larger problem. 
INFPs are very aware of their own space, and the space of others. They value their personal space, and the freedom to do their own thing. They will cherish the mate who sees the INFP for who they are, and respects their unique style and perspectives. The INFP is not likely to be overly jealous or possessive, and is likely to respect their mate's privacy and independence. In fact, the INFP is likely to not only respect their mate's perspectives and goals, but to support them with loyal firmness. 
In general, INFPs are warmly affirming and loving partners who make the health of their relationships central in their lives. Although cautious in the beginning, they become firmly loyal to their committed relationships, which are likely to last a lifetime. They take their relationships very seriously, and will put forth a great deal of effort into making them work.
Sorry... I know that was a lot to read. But I think this information about my personality (which, as I said, is pretty much spot-on) helps to understand why my dating history (or largely, lack thereof) explains why I sometimes create personal roadblocks and will probably never be the one who makes the first "official" move in moving a friendship in the direction of "more than friends," no matter how hard I've fallen.

I do tend to feel things very keenly and make things mean more of a negative reflection on me than I should. And if you've known me for awhile, or at least have followed this blog for awhile, you know that, outside of a handful of first dates (one didn't work out because of awkwardness and his not understanding my sense of humor AT ALL, another because of the distance (I can't afford to travel, so...), and another because, though we had things in common, we did not share anything like a common faith, and, well, that faith thing matters (in my eyes) in an intimate relationship in a way that it doesn't matter with friendship and being pals), I have not dated. I'm nearly 29, and I have not had a boyfriend or even a first kiss *cue shocked gasp from people who can't imagine this outside of a monastery*.

My history with boys, guys, and men has been a constant series of unrequited crushes. To be fair, a few of these guys eventually came out of the closet, and others ended up marrying women who really suit them better than I ever would've done. It's been a long time of frustration, and this whole lack of mutual romantic interest has burned me. I've developed a defense mechanism to try to avoid falling for any guy unless he specifically asks me out (though I do sometimes end up falling after a few good, easy conversations--y'know, a real connection), so you can imagine why, for the past few years, I have not let myself develop any major crushes.

If I do suspect a guy likes me and I think I might like him back, I do actually approach that friendship with "cautio[n] in the beginning..." For this reason, I'm not the woman who will be the first to confess my feelings (at least not anymore). I don't press the guy's space, even if we're friends, because I know how I can get a little panicky when someone presses me too hard about an interest in dating. Herein lies my hypocrisy: I won't be the one to speak up, but because I do tend to fall for those with at least a few similar personality factors, I often am waiting for someone who might be just introverted as I am to make the first clearly-stated move (because, as I implied, I've had crushes that I thought had potential due to our real friendship, but they never saw us as anything more than good friends or pals). I need a potential boyfriend/partner/etc. to be direct but not too pushy about it. "Hanging out" has so often been just that--hanging out--that I will second-guess what seems to be a genuine interest from someone else unless the "d" word is explicitly stated. Double standard alert, anyone?

Oh, and behold, I just proved how true the needing-to-figure-out-the-larger-meaning-of-everything part of being an INFP. I'm telling you... they're spying on me! It's true! *Looks around the house for the hidden cameras*

Until next time, kids! Sorry for the novella--I've been saving this up for quite awhile, and I finally had figured out a way to illustrate why I can be so awkward and clueless about myself and who might be interested despite being able to immediately identify in my friends' relationships. :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

[Personal Blog Makeover Reveal]

What do ya think? Does the background make me look narcissistic or no? I just liked that shot with this filter, so it gave me an idea on how I could work it into the blog design. I'm working on a different banner, but it'll be a couple weeks before I get around to it. Hopefully, soon, I'll have something significant to write on here. For now, I'm swamped with classes and final grades (last week of summer classes!), so most of my brainpower is claimed for now. :)

As always, if you'd like to keep up with my freelance art, follow my art blog:

http://www.brushstrokes-by-niki.com

And (this is new), if you'd like to follow all my art with a focus ONLY on the artwork, follow my art portfolio blog:

http://www.designedbyniki.com 

Since I'm taking art classes and working toward my BFA in graphic design and painting, there are updates at both sites several times per week if not every day. It's already been a fun, challenging journey, and I appreciate positive feedback.

Until grades are submitted and I get back from my 10-year high school reunion, at which point I'll hopefully be able to take the time to write again, try to stay out of the heat and PRAY FOR RAIN!!!! Seriously. This drought is insane.

Monday, July 09, 2012

[It's Normal--Quote by Ira Glass]

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through.”




Ira Glass

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

[On Singleness and Being a Progressive Christian Egalitarian in Conservative Complementarian Territory]

If you keep up with the right bloggers online (or, if you haven't blocked my updates on Facebook and Twitter yet), you're probably aware of Rachel Held Evans prompting a week of discussing mutuality and egalitarian marriage (as opposed to complementarian marriages that place the man in position of being the head of the family, regardless of the two individuals' gifts and personalities). At least in evangelical circles, the complementarian philosophy is extremely popular and often abused.

It probably comes as no surprise, considering my viewpoints on politics, scripture interpretations, and education, that I'm a lifelong egalitarian.

I've read dozens of articles and blog posts (not to mention hundreds of comments) over the past week and a half, and my emotions have yo-yo'ed all over the place. I've also encountered several discussions that deal with those of us who haven't found our future spouses (and who may or may not ever do so). As such, I've been doing a lot of thinking, meditating, and mental wrestling about any number of related topics, and it's difficult to know where to start when it comes to articulating my response. The more I read the wide range of responses from the men in this whole discussion, however, the more I realized how this whole debate (not just in the past week and a half, but all my life) has affected my life. It comes down to two major areas: careers I've considered and decided against, and potential romantic relationships (and, by extension, potential for marriage).

I'm not going to spend much time discussing the career aspect. I'm comfortable and at peace about the direction in which I'm heading, and while certain expectations of women from patriarchal perspectives may have [directly or not] prevented my going into ministry, I don't regret my decision to take this path (only my not doing so a few years ago instead of now). I'm also not going to spend time in this entry debating the subject--just read through some of the incredibly intelligent blogs posted on the Synchroblog to find out why I lean the way I do.

No, what I've thought about the most over the past couple of days is how this dichotomy of different approaches to gender relations has almost certainly been a major catalyst in my having not dated anyone beyond a first date in all of my twenty-eight years.

For one thing, I know for a fact that if Mr. Future Boyfriend or Husband and I do not have a common ground in some key areas, we're probably going to butt heads more than is healthy in a long-term relationship, and since I tend to get my feelings all wound up in a debate, there are definitely some areas where we'd have to have quite a bit in common, but most importantly, these areas:

Faith. I'm not too caught up in finding someone with my exact same theological leanings, but we do need to have that foundation. Too much of what I do and think and say and live stems from my faith and my wrestling with ideas that challenge my understanding of it. I probably wouldn't be a good fit, though, for someone who is a Biblical literalist or who sees the world as only black and white, good and bad, etc.

Politics. Yes, politics. Now, I'm sure I'd get along pretty well with someone a little more moderately leaning than I lean toward the left, but because my convictions for viewing the government's role in our lives are so deeply ingrained in my emotional gravitation toward compassion and not letting people fall through the cracks when life gets the better of them, I would almost certainly would get into some pretty emotionally nasty debates with a partner who leans to the far right and who claims, "They should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps!" Yup. I'd definitely see red there. Note this though: I'm not talking about friends and platonic friendship--I have this rule only for those with whom I'd have a more intimate relationship than even my best girl-friends and guy-pals.

Creativity. No, I don't mean he has to be just as creative as I am. But I do have a creative person's temperament and stereotypical sensitivity. So for me, it's necessary that any partner of mine at least know how to (A) appreciate and respect my creative drive, and  (B) know how to read the signs of my emotions or how to not hit the hot buttons (I'm not good at hiding my emotions, anyway, so the trick is just to know how to tread carefully when I'm in a particular zone).

Willingness to Not Have Biological Children. It ain't happenin' here. It's part personal choice, and part genetic reason for not wanting to pass on certain conditions that make life very difficult, and part the physical risk that I would be taking with my body due to several deformities. I'm open to adoption, but as for my body, I've already decided to schedule tubal ligation before my marriage begins. If a man cannot deal with not passing along his own genes via my body, he's not right for me, and I'm not right for him.

Feminism. I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities regardless of gender, and (pertaining to egalitarianism) roles in a marriage based on individual skills and personalities, not predetermined cultural gender "requirements." Any man who disagrees with this concept (in other words, if he is not a feminist) is not going to get very far in a relationship with me. I am a strong woman who both does and does not fit into the cultural "norms" of "femininity." Putting me in a box will just end up creating a ticking time bomb--something's gonna have to give, and since I'm quite hard-headed, well...

Multiple Interests. I've spent some time on some dating sites, and one of the biggest red flags for me is someone who talks about one thing all the time, whether it be God, sports, or any other topic, even ones with which I agree or share an interest. Look, I'm a Christian. I love Jesus. But I'm also human with secular interests. While my faith can and does influence how I react in many, many facets of my life, I don't talk about the Lord every waking moment of the day. Heck, I don't think about the Lord all the time, either. In fact, because I've witnessed spiritual abuse in many forms, I don't trust someone who does talk about Jesus all the time. Who is that holy besides the Lord? It strikes me as being either false piety or, at the very least, a personality that would make me feel like a dirty soul no matter what I did or said. In other words... be real. There's more to life than _______. Seriously.

Now, this is not a huge list. There are a couple other items (for example, no smoking, someone not quite my biological parents' age (46, 47) or older, and I'd prefer being with someone who hasn't been married before, at least for my first ever relationship), but even if I included those items, it's still a short list. But...

There is a but.

I live in the Ozarks, in Missouri. The conservative Bible belt. There are people around here like me, but we don't always encounter one another. So, to find someone who is Christian (but not overly pious), not hell-bent on passing on his own genes, moderate/independent/democratic, egalitarian, feminist, and supportive of my passions with whom I have chemistry in this area of the country, well...

...it does suddenly make sense why I've never had a boyfriend. I may not have unreasonable expectations, but that combination isn't exactly everywhere around here. Besides, there's this one internet meme that rings particularly true with me:






And incidentally, my dad's the one who exemplifies pretty much most of that list. A man's got a pretty tough example to which he has to live up to win my heart. :)

Besides... as much as I'd love to have a relationship, I've finally arrived to that place in my life where, if it never happens, it's no biggie (most days, anyway). It's a good place to be.