Year In Review: 2016

2016-collage

I’ve started writing this blog post four different times, and it keeps trying to become a novel. Twenty-sixteen was an enormous year. It’s hard to summarize my own experience without explaining the hundreds of things that happened all over the world.

Externally, it was widely regarded as a bad year. There was more gun violence than ever in the news. Turmoil in the Middle East, to put it diminutively. A worsening of the racial conflict in America. A tide of political squabbling powerful enough to pummel a person into the sand day after day after day, and a completely unthinkable outcome. And so many voices passed away: Bowie. Prince. My princess, Carrie Fisher. I even had to put my beloved dog to sleep, because he was getting so fearful and aggressive so quickly, I felt I had no choice but to keep my family safe.

But 2016 was one of the happiest years of my life.

Winter

Before 2015 ended, I read a book that changed my life, and saw one of my fondest childhood dreams come true in a huge way when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. A FEMALE was front and center of the highest grossing movie in America, wielding that tremendous power created by life itself—the Force. That movie actually made me weep with gratitude, and I denied how much it meant to me until recently when Rogue One came out and I could no longer contain my enthusiasm. Star Wars is just a movie franchise, but it has always been something far greater than that to me. I admit it, I’m a hopeless Star Wars geek, even at 31.

So I went into 2016 with a huge grin on my face, and a heart full of hope and exuberance.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing in the creative realm, though. I’d read Big Magic and it was somehow inspiring and discouraging at the same time. I nearly gave up on writing fiction because I didn’t enjoy the act of writing it, but I decided not to quit because frankly I’m tired of giving up on everything. I rediscovered that quote in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet: “This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?” And I decided to spend the year asking myself that question, and paying attention to the answers.

Spring

In the spring we traveled to New Zealand to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. It was an absolutely fantastic trip, worth the many pennies we paid for it. We hiked and kayaked and relaxed in a hot spring and rode in a helicopter and ate some wonderful seafood and slices and savory pies. Hobbiton was even more magical than I expected, with the milky way and shooting stars showing so clearly overhead that it was like I’d never truly seen the night sky before. I’d go back to New Zealand in a heartbeat (but there are other places I need to see first).

One of my best friends got married and moved to Minnesota in May, and I was her shivering Maid of Honor. I honestly never thought I would be somebody’s MoH, and it meant the world to me. It was bittersweet to send her into the next chapter of her life. I gave a toast, which I had carefully written and revised and memorized and worried about, and it went over really well. After that, feeling high on adrenaline and a little bit intoxicated on old fashioneds, I couldn’t stop dancing to the phenomenal playlist she had put together for the reception. It took me two or three days to gain my strength back after that party.

I caucused for Hillary Clinton for the second time, and I was unabashedly happy to see her make history as the first female nominee of a major party for President of the United States. I wasn’t the least bit worried when Trump won the Republican nomination, because a person like that couldn’t conceivably win the election. A female Jedi-to-be and a female President-to-be. I was over the moon.

We went to California to surprise my grandmother for her 91st birthday, and I got to see some old family documents and hear my great-aunt’s stories. Apparently my great-grandmother was under five foot tall!

Summer

In the summer we roasted a pig and visited Wisconsin and rode bikes and learned to make sushi rolls and painted our living room a nice teal color. I got new glasses. We went to St. Louis for Nathan’s birthday and saw LCD Soundsystem perform at a very muddy Lou Fest. I went to half a dozen concerts in 2016—seven if you count the two days of Lou Fest. So there was much dancing and singing and driving and being happy.

I gave a pint of blood. I rescued many pounds of food from the garbage and presumably fed some people by donating my company’s leftover catering to the local homeless shelter three times. I donated more money to charity in 2016 than I ever have before. I read a book called Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler that was about a racist, hostile, desolate future America, and I couldn’t fathom a story like that ever coming true.

Fall

In the fall I was still feeling great. Ambitious, even, which is an unusual feeling for me. I finished my first article for Wikipedia. I wrote a dozen blog posts. I wrote and revised a short story, and I started to believe that even though my fiction isn’t good, I can make it better through the process of revision. I started to feel hopeful about writing fiction, and even started to enjoy it a little bit. I participated in NaNoWriMo for the third time, and I managed to keep going even as the unthinkable happened. I was writing away as state after state fell to Trump on Election Day and my husband reported that there was no longer any way Hillary could win the presidency. I wrote every single day in November and I hit the 50k word goal, but unfortunately I failed to keep the momentum going afterward. Maybe I was too stunned by all the bad news rolling in each day like clockwork. Bad news for the environment. Bad news for immigrants and minorities. Bad news for everyone relying on Obamacare. Bad news for women. My first draft has yet to be finished, but I haven’t stopped working on it yet, and I don’t plan to. I must keep writing this story. I found my answer. I must.

We dressed as Morticia and Gomez Addams for Halloween. We saw Arrival, and it made me cry, too. I put my dog to sleep, and that made me cry a fucking river. We hosted Thanksgiving. We got norovirus before Christmas and had to somewhat quarantine ourselves over the holiday. My brother and his girlfriend visited us for New Year’s Eve, and we were there when they became engaged at the close of the year.

At the end of 2016, I still had a smile on my face, in spite of everything. There was a lot of ugliness this year, and I believe there’s a lot more ugliness to come, but there was also a powerful undercurrent of beauty and joy in my heart, and it persists. I’m posting this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day because over the course of the past year I’ve come to believe his words, the same ones President Obama used in his farewell speech last week: “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I’ve become an optimist. I believe that there’s good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for (which is a J.R.R. Tolkien quote, and also belongs in this blog post). I believe it will eventually win, and I’ve realized that I have the power to help.

I don’t think 2017 is going to be easy, but I’m ready to stand up and be an agent for good in small but important ways. I have big goals I’m working toward personally, and I’m happy to have both the work and the goals. I’m enjoying my own journey. I’m ready for whatever is coming next.

Can’t Stop the Serenity

Yesterday evening Nathan and i attended an event called Can’t Stop the Serenity. (Here’s the page for the Des Moines Chapter.) Basically, it was a showing of the cult movie Serenity down at the Fleur, but it was so much more than that.

Serenity

The first time i saw this movie was about three years ago and I pretty much hated it. I was told that without the context of the Syfy show Firefly on which it’s based, it probably wasn’t as good. So this spring when Nathan started watching episodes of Firefly on Netflix Instant Play, i wasn’t very interested at first. However, unlike Stargate which failed to interest me even after several chances, the show soon drew me in and Nathan and i finished up the one and only season together in no time. Afterward we watched Serenity, which was SO MUCH BETTER the second time.

So then a couple weeks ago i heard via twitter about this event called Can’t Stop the Serenity. There are a lot of Firefly fans out there (called “browncoats”) whose love for the series has only been fueled by the fact that it was canceled so early on and by their hopes that it might be revived again some day. These fans get together once a year in quite a few different cities around the world to watch Serenity on the big screen. I figured the event would probably be a nerdfest and thus a pretty awesome time. I had no idea.

First there was a costume contest which we missed and which we realized once we got there that we probably could have won if we’d dressed up. There were door prizes which included Anime box sets, chopsticks-and-pocky combinations and Firefly fanclub memorabilia. We won some fake Firefly universe currency – w00t! There was a showing of Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which we discovered is a short musical starring Neil Patrick Harris that was directed by Joss Whedon, the same guy who did Firefly (and a lot of other stuff, it turns out). That was pretty enjoyable. And then, of course, there was Serenity. (Which was STILL BETTER the third time around.)

But besides all of the delightful nerdery, there was a really good cause for all of this. I knew that the proceeds were going to be donated to a charity, but i was excited to learn that Equality Now is an organization that essentially fights against the things i hate the most in this world: rape, domestic violence, reproductive rights violations, trafficking, female genital mutilation, and gender discrimination. Unfortunately, i didn’t learn about this until after the silent auction had ended or i probably would have ponied up at least fifty bucks for a graphic novel to benefit this organization right then and there. (I can still donate, of course, but i won’t get a sweet comic book out of it.)

The main aim of Equality Now is to facilitate awareness about the atrocities being committed against women every day all over the world. It upsets me enough that i find it hard to write about, but this is something i think is really important so please check out their website and be sure to like them on facebook!

So nerdy sci-fi love + proceeds going to a great cause = a really awesome event that i’m already planning to attend again next year. And with that, i’ve just destroyed whatever “cool points” i may have gained with my big bro by drinking IPAs with him over the past couple of weeks. 😉

Theories

If i believed all the things that the people i love have been trying to convince me of lately, i would believe that: the government has been secretly spraying us with mysterious toxic chemicals by way of commercial airliners; the president is on the side of terrorists and is slowly turning our country into a communist regime; there is a mystical power in the universe that is real the same way physical objects are real except that it can only be experienced by people of faith; and that because i don’t have that faith my immortal soul is bound for eternal hellfire and dragging my fiance’s soul with it.

How do you people sleep at night?

PETA has gone too far


Photo courtesy of coolz0r

I cannot sit here and not sound off about PETA right now. Which is probably what they want, but whatever.

I was a vegetarian for two years. I started eating meat again because i felt like i was missing out on a lot that the world had to offer. But i still believe in the ethical treatment of animals. I hope i’m never associated with PETA though, because they’re complete idiots for what they’re doing right now.

I dismissed it when they went and freed a bunch of animals that wouldn’t be able to survive on their own. I chuckled a little at the “sea kittens” idea and moved along. But now they’re using sex to get attention, and it just doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve made my peace with porn. I’m okay with porn for porn’s sake. I like the Victoria’s Secret fashion show as much as the next person. Women are smart enough to make their own choices about what they want to do with their bodies. But seeing a naked woman holding a sign that says “i’d rather be naked than wear fur” galls me, because ANIMAL RIGHTS have NOTHING to do with sex. In fact, the correlation of the two is almost as gross to me as snuff films, which correlate sex and murder. I don’t want someone looking at my body and thinking of dead animals. Nor do i want someone looking at a steak and thinking of my body. Neither situation would do a fucking thing for PETA. In fact, the latter might work against them. And the former might drive me to burn them down.

It’s no secret that sex is used to sell pretty much everything – alcohol, chocolate, TIRES – but never so blatantly. Looking at photos like this, i’d think i was looking at an actual advertisement for Penthouse. Not for fucking ETHICS. Isn’t PETA in need of the attention of some pretty conservative people, anyway? Aren’t more conservative people likely to be disgusted by such liberal tactics? The only people likely to approve of these ads are extremely liberal – and probably already vegetarians. You know, maybe those people who carry around giant pictures of aborted babies should try this tactic. And maybe PETA should start carrying around big photos of slaughtered calves.

Come to think of it, maybe if i posted a photo of myself in pasties a lot of people would read my blog…

Dooce!!

I’ve been waiting for just the right opportunity to tell all my readers about MY favorite blog, dooce.com. I think today is the perfect opportunity. She’s gone on a rant about all this political mumbo-jumbo we’ve been subjected to recently, and it nearly brought tears of pride to my eyes. Thank god there are still people in this country who see this whole thing the way i do.

I’d go on my own rant, but i think the bottom line is that i want you, the people i love, to know that i expect you to vote and to choose your vote based on something greater than your own tax burden. Please.