Wednesday, June 22, 2016

_News: I took a vacation. See below for details._

This is going to be another journalistic post but at least time it won't be preachy so sit back and enjoy if you wish. About three months ago (give or take) my best friend moved from Chicago to North Carolina with her Aunt and Uncle. And so, two months later, I bought a ticket to fly out and visit her, which doesn't seem like such a big deal but it was for me.

June 11th in the evening, I hop on a discount airplane where I share a row with two lovely women who are as much strangers to each other as they are to me. As such we spend our flight in a respectful silence.  I mentioned it was a discount airplane, there's a reason for that. The tickets were a steal, and it was all to good to be true. So I was convinced it wasn't. During take off I was overcome with the sudden realization that the reason the tickets were so cheap was because the plane skimped out on some important parts. That wing looked awfully wobbly, didn't it? Was it just me? Just...I should keep an eye on that wing. As the plane lifted off all I could think was I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory. Is this where it gets me, in a plane, several feet below my feet. (side note: YEAH MAN HAMILTON CLEANED UP AT THE TONYS!)

Believe it or not, I was wrong. The plane was in working order. As far as I know anyway.

I touch down a half hour before schedule and walk outside and GOODNESS GRACIOUS the sun, it's working overtime like it's trying to put a kid through college or something. And then my friend who I haven't seen in months pulls up in her car and security is about to shoe her away but as soon as he sees us tackle each other he waves it off and smiles at us. It's a good moment for both of us.
It's a bit of a drive back to her place and we spend all of it grins like idiots and laughing. We don't need to catch up because we talk to each other every week anyway. But it's nice that, for once, it's not through a screen. I can't help but notice that North Carolina is saturated with trees and churches, which is something I'm okay with. We get to her place and I realize that I'm actually exhausted, so I pass out.

Next morning we drive into Charlotte to help set up the church she goes too. Set up, because the organization is three years old and they don't have their own building yet. They set up shop in a school. I meet a lot of people and shake a lot of hands in a short couple of hours, and if that didn't do me in energy wise then all the running around did. One of the first people I meet is Tyson, which I later found out is the Head Pastor of the joint. And the best way I can describe the service was part Hillsong concert part loud and boisterous improvised preaching. I loved it. Friend was also running media shout and rocked it, so there's that. I'm really underselling it here, there are so many things I wanna talk about with this service, but that'll have to be saved for another post because this one's already going to be a long one. (See it here, by the way.)

After take down Friend and I are trying to find a place to eat when Tyson comes up and invites us to lunch with the rest of the crew. It's very flattering, especially considering I'm just a visitor and yet I'm already exhausted and can't even think about sitting down for a couple of hours where I'll have to actively make conversation, so we pass. And I feel bad about it. And Friend wacks me upside the head and reminds me this is a vacation, I'm not obligated to do anything. Instead, we grab pizza in a vintage gas station with really great cinnamon knots like we're a couple of hipster punks from a 90s movie. Then we go to Friend's games life group, where no one else could show up so it's just us and the guy who ran the lights. We all face off in #idrab and it's brutal. As Christians we put on a shameful display. Late in the evening Friend and I head out to her Aunt and Uncle's place, which we have agreed to house sit. We are realize upon arrival that they have taken their DVD player with them on their trip, they have neglected to give us the wifi password, there is no phone service, and the fridge is completely empty.
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory. 
We scrape up all the adultness we can muster in ourselves to fix these things.

Next morning we head into town, she's got work and for the first time in a month I have the opportunity to sit down, relax, and write. And I do so in a completely and utterly charming french cafe that makes me wanna plan another trip just to come back to this place. It's so flipping nice it makes me wanna move in. This is the cafe love of my life. In a day I write 2500 words and it pleases me to no end. I also spend a good amount of time talking myself down from eating all the pastries, a thing that was too good to be true. A work day later Friend and I are on our way back to the house, we watch Psych and talk about really intense things of which the nature I cannot disclose in public. I will say though, the chance to talk to her about those things alone was worth the cost of the trip and more.

Day three finds me back at the cafe drinking that. Fun untrue fact, it was because of that drink that #blessed was created to begin with. I try Chick-fli-A for the first time and dive into Nintendo's E3. (Who is else over hyped for video games this year? Yeah? YEAH?) I also clock in some mileage with my novel-in-progress, 1000 words and gearing up for the climax. Friend and I head back up to Charlotte to shop and pick up a cousin from the airport. The ride home is treacherous, the rain coming down on us is unreal.
Day four finds me staying home, watching the full Nintendo E3 livestream to get whatever juicy Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild facts I can. I get 4 hours through the stream before I fall asleep.

The trip ends with dinner at a fancy Chinese place in Charlotte where I pour all my E3 geeking onto Friend, who is all to willing to let me. We talk a lot about Zelda, I talk a lot about other games, we eat food that's decent but nowhere near as good as our favorite place in Chicago. And, sadly, their fortune cookies are not magic. We somehow find a way to press on. She drops me off at the airport and that's that. Trip's over. Back to talking through a screen.
My flight gets delayed for an hour which I'm okay with because there was a very social one in a half year old who kept coming up to people and speaking in babble. It's hilarious. When I grow up I wanna be that kid. When the plane's boarded I sit next to a literature professor from North Carolina who is heading to Chicago so he can use the Newberry Library for a Dante's Inferno course that he's going to teach not only using the text BUT a video game that recently came out that was based on it. We spend half the flight talking the teaching potential in video games and what a multi-faceted medium it is and kinds of other good stuff. I point him in the direction of the pop-culture academic community on Youtube (Idea Channel, Stachbag's Goods, Extra Credits, Game Theory, so on.), he gives me a couple of great authors to read on digital literacy (Kurt Squire, James Gee). We part as unlikely friends. Brother picks me up from the airport and tells me that my cat is a monster. I tell him this is not news to me. And so, I'm home.

'Til next time nerds.

Other things for your viewing pleasure.
Friend at a desk

That is not plastic that is real,
you can eat that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

_News: Yes I've been gone a month. No I wasn't kidnapped by space pirates. Where did you even hear that?_

Okay, listen, this post will be a little more journalistic and preachy then my other ones but I figured I'd put it out there for the better of mankind. God's been nudging me to talk about it. Like, poking my shoulder my shoulder while I'm sleeping saying "hey, hey Nikki, I've got this idea for your blog" and me being like "it is 2 in the morning" and Him being like "I created time".

okay not quite like that, but sometimes that's how it felt.

So, I've begun to notice how I look on the outside recently, and as such have been paying special attention to how I eat and working out. Sometimes to a healthy extent, sometimes not. How did it start?
Ever since I started making videos for YouTube I've wanted to look like Haley Williams in front of the camera. 
Ever since I started living on my own and have had control over what I eat, I haven't been able to give myself credible excuses not to eat healthy. 
Ever since I was in high school, I've hated my 12 minute mile time. 
Ever since I was a kid I didn't want people to keep saying that I that paint dried faster then I ran. 
I've never liked how I looked. And it's always felt like whether or not I was pretty and fit was up to me. That's the simple truth.
Another simple truth for all the self-loathing, nothing was going to happen with body until I realized a couple of things. And those things I wanna share with you too. This isn't a simple cure, it's not going to change your life. You've probably heard what I'm going to say a thousand times in a thousand ways. None the less, I hope it brings some clarity. Because like it or not, it's something that man and woman alike will probably going to struggle with their whole lives.

Over the years, I've been trapped in an identity that was just as much my own doing as it was any societal or social pressure. (Takes a moment to step away from the keyboard and passionately shakes fist at society, that ever present scapegoat.) I was Nikki the reader, Nikki the gamer, Nikki who doesn't like sports or physical work. And somehow along the way that was translated to Nikki the Lazy and the Out-Of-Shape. And while the former be true, the rest be lies. So, here and now, let me dispel some illusions.

Not liking sports does not make you un-athletic. 
I grew up with people who love sports. I also grew up a tall somewhat slender kid. Dad put me in whatever he could, softball, basketball, volleyball, other things that have a ball somehow involved. And there I'd stand in the middle of whatever court or field I was, staring out into space, thinking about being an astronaut or superhero or whatever had come on more recently on TV. (Meanwhile my dad was in the stands shaking his head wearily as a whatever ball happened to be involved at the time passed me by). When the kids played after church, it was dodgeball or volleyball. Football season you better bet even the pastor is shortening his sermons to get people out the door for kickoff.
I didn't get the hype. I still don't. It's just...boring to me.
But the way that this translated to the people around me was that I just didn't like moving at all. And, since there wasn't much evidence to the contrary, I went with it. But here's the thing, playing sports is not the only to be active. Things that you can like other then sports: rockclimbing. hiking. biking. jump rope. swimming. kayaking. other things that I'm not thinking of right now.
See? So many things.

Not liking physically taxing work does not make you lazy. 
The person who works construction and the person who works behind the desk each work equally as hard. One pushes the extent of their bodies while the other pushes the extent of their mind. And if you swapped them, they'd each be equally out of their depth. If the paint brush doesn't belong in your hand, give it to the person that it does and move on. No shame.

No one has the magic cure for inactivity. 
You will never find a book that will tell you why you don't
-eat well
-run more
-work out
-anything else.
Not to say that diets don't work or that self help books are a hoax, but if they're the place you're looking for "the answer" then you're knocking on the wrong door. Pay attention to your interests. In the earlier section I said I didn't like sports. Competition lies on an uncomfortable balance between frustration and tedium for me. Cool, then sports aren't the way I get into shape. I am not fond of celery. It is not something I enjoy eating. And so, celery centric diets will not be for me. Pay attention to your body, it was placed in your care for a reason.  Don't try to make it into a shape it isn't. Respect it. Know the difference between skin and fat. So much of healthiness and fitness is subjective, it's hard to give hard and fast advice in this instance.
One thing to watch out for though, don't buy fun house mirrors.


You're not vain for wanting to look good and be fit.
Your body is the most precious gift that you've been given. It's been with you since your first breath and will be until your last. Treat it as such. Take care of it. Clean it. Make it presentable. But don't make it your number one priority. Think of it as your long standing no-nonsense cop partner. You two work together for the better of mankind, your first priority is the job, the second is each other. Making it better is good, making it your God is not.

You are not a snob for being fit. 
In "treat-yo-self" culture, it's all to easy to forget that your body should be a priority at all. People tend to forget that the cost of doing what you want to do might not be worth it in the end. As such, they can have a tendency to look down on people who do want to take care of themselves, people who skip dessert or don't go to McDonalds because they worry about with their health. Wanting to take care of yourself is an act of faith, you want to show God that food and comfort does not come before Him and that you cherish the body that He gave you. Because, in the end, He's the one who made you the way that you are. He's the one who decided how short your legs would be, how wide your hips are, how round your face, how vibrant your hair is. And He didn't just pick a bunch of things at random and mush them up into you. He crafted every cell in your body with love and care. Luke 12:7 says "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are more valuable then many sparrows." God did not make any mistake in you and taking care of it is showing God you believe that and are satisfied with the decision He's made.

If you don't fit into the pants sizes available at a certain store, that's not the store personally telling you that you are fat. 
Okay, yes, this is transparently something that has bothered me in the past. Hear me out and see if this seems familiar. For all the nit picking I can do about my appearance, I have never considered myself to be fat. I am tall, yes, and at the same time I am not made out of toothpicks. I have curves. Because of this, I cannot shop at Forever 21. Great store, great stuff, great prices, not for me. (#notsponsored) (#notevenpopularenoughtogetsponsored) That store designs for people who have the kind of figure that looks good in formless clothing, most things there make my shape look fat. I remember when I was a junior in high school my grandma took me shopping there and no matter what I tried on it always directed attention to my tummy pouch or to my bust. By time I got out of the dressing room I felt so embarrassed I was nauseated. And then I got mad. How dare they discriminate against me with their small waist lines and their flow-y shirts. DO THEY THINK THEY'RE BETTER THEN ME? HAVE THEY PUBLISHED A SURREALIST GOTHIC ABOUT A MENTALLY SLOW LITTLE GIRL WHO SEES GHOSTS AND WORKS AT A FUNERAL PARLOR? NO I DID NOT THINK SO.
But here's the thing I realized. It only seems to be discrimination when it's for small or skinny types. You pass by a store in the mall for plus sized woman and give them a round of applause because good for them, they know what's up. They get it. Sure, you still can't wear the clothes because it's still not your body type but thank goodness that SOMEONE'S fighting against the man. Yet when it comes to the Forever 21's, the Pac Sun's, the Guess's, they're just being elitist. Disgusting.
Guys, not all stores are for you. It's no different if your too thick or too thin. The entire corporate structure of the store is not looking down on you from atop their ivory towers and slowly shaking their heads.

A couple more notes.
-Don't work out because you have to, that never works.
-Don't be healthy because you want a different body, be healthy so that you can protect the one you have.
-Being active is not as big a deal as everyone makes it out to be.
-Eating right is not as big a deal as everyone makes it out to be.

That's all I got. Thanks for bearing with me. 'Til next time nerds.