Saturday, January 31, 2009

Will you marry me?

There are a thousand ways to introduce such a topic, but really, the final sentence is the same:

We're engaged!

Mr. Wonderful popped the question Thursday around noon, a total surprise to me. He slid the ring on my finger, we exchanged lots and lots of kisses, and I whispered "yes" since I could barely speak. So exciting! We called a few people right away, and then most of Thursday evening was spent texting, e-mailing, and calling people to let them know.

The first question everyone asks is if we've set a date. No. We're engaged and trying to enjoy the moment. We're thinking sometime in the fall or early winter, but no dates have been set. We do know where, and we have the bridal party partially informed (my sister will stand next to me). That's it. That's all we're deciding right now.

The ring is beautiful! He let me pick it out, though it was still a surprise as I chose it from a picture online and didn't know what it looked like in 3-D... bigger, shinier, sparkley-er, and prettier than I imagined! Pictures to follow.

So excited! And a little tiny bit scared...

Friday, January 30, 2009

TGIF and the weekend!

The new glasses are working so well!  But my car still smells funky and is still dripping oil and other fluids where it was not fixed... this has been one up and down week for me.  I must admit that I'm terribly glad the week is over and gone.  Next week will be better.  I hope.

What else made the week so long?  I didn't have much to do at work, and it takes a lot out of a person to try to look busy for eight hours each day.  I'm better at it at this end of the season than I was two or three months ago... but still, the days are long when things get so slow.  It's not a recessional slow-down--no worries there--this is simply a slow time of the year in agriculture.  Nothing is growing yet, and we have about another month before we can really get busy again.  Ugh.

I got my personal paperwork (bills, bank statements, credit card statements, etc.) all sorted and organized from the previous two years, so now I feel like I have my finances in a slightly better order.  My budget is still going strong, although I'm not always very good at sticking to it.  Unexpected hits to the wallet don't help things, but I feel like I'll be able to manage as long as nothing else happens.  *knock on wood, metal, vinyl, and chapstick*  You really don't realize just how much cash outflow you have until you sort all the bills you've paid over time.  Paying bills takes money!

Don't say "duh."  I'm still learning to be one of those super-cool adult people that actually understands the value of a dollar.

But no, I didn't really knock on chapstick.

I just thought it was funny.  Anyway, happy Friday, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Check Please

Forget statements like "youth these days," it's the older people I'm worried about.  So many times I hear older people claim that kids now aren't learning anything in school.  They say children aren't being taught how to read or write, but that they're taught video games and movies all day long.  I'd be right there with them if it wasn't for the things I've noticed lately.  Some people (read: older adults) have no idea how to write a simple check!

When I was in grade school, we filled out our very first fake checks.  In middle school and high school classes, we used fake checks and had to practice writing our numbers out in whole words.  In case anyone wondered, it's "forty" and "ninety" not "fourty" and "ninty."  It is not acceptable to write "two-thousand" as "two-000."  And woe to the person who uses incomplete words... ugh.

You see, every day at work I get to look at checks written by computers and adults.  Sometimes the computer has an interesting way of writing things, but humans are by far the most clever.  I love it when people mix letters and numbers when spelling out the total amount.  It cracks me up when they just write the same number in the box and on the line... lazy but effective.  Every once in a great while, I'll get someone who will try to have math or creative symbols on their amount line.  As long as the math is correct (I'll check it!), the check goes through.  If the person tries to be creative but the math is incorrect, I'll call them on it.  They get to pay again next month.

My sister and I had a long discussion about the other things people much older than us have problems doing.  These seemingly simple tasks that don't take time or effort... they were definitely taught way back when, and yet adults are so "above" check writing that they do it incorrectly.  And that causes me problems.  And then I get frustrated.  And then I get to write angry blog rants about how old people can't write a silly check correctly.

Old people these days, sheesh, check please!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Driving Myself

The Sieve came home from the repair shop tonight, so I have my car back. It didn't cost as much as it could have as my parents opted not to fix everything that needs to be fixed at this time. Dad said he'd wait until car batteries came on sale, and he said he could probably take care of a few other things on his own later, so we ended up sparing ourselves (themselves, honestly) about $1,000. I will buy the tires after pricing them and hoping for a sale as well.

I never realized how much I drive until I was unable to do so. Each night this week, I've wanted to zip over to the store and pick up one or two ingredients for my dinner. I wanted to drive home from work, run out to my car just to get change or a CD, or pop over to my boyfriend's after work. Fortunately, between him and my sister, I haven't had to take the bus or walk much...

Oh, yeah, by the way... the Corvallis Transit System has some of the saddest service I've seen for public transportation. In order for me to be to work at 8:00am, I'd have to catch a 6:45 bus and would travel more than ten miles before finally getting to work. And I'd walk almost a mile between the bus stops and home or work. Sheesh! The shortest route would have me change buses three times. The fastest route forces me to walk a mile each way. I am almost better off simply walking the three miles to work!

So I drive. I have no shame. My car is better, and I'm driving to work tomorrow. I'll drive home at night. I might even drive to the store on the way. I'll be driving myself. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Sieve

I think I'd save more money if I just gave it away to people on the street...

My car is fourteen years old, and it's been through a lifetime of duty as a commuter car, a vacation home, a weekend joyride, a packmule, a geocaching SUV, and a wonderful sedan for those other ordinary days. It has about 180,000 miles on it, but you'd never know by looking. The interior is almost as perfect as the day my parents bought it when I was in fifth grade. They traded in their Ford Aerostar van, the vehicle my sister and I honed our childhood fighting skill in, for the Little Car that Can. It was the first car I drove, the first car I called "mine," and the only car I've ever been attached to (except the old van, of course). But I didn't name it... names are for people and pets, not cars.

Today, I took my Little Car into the shop. I'd noticed a funky burning smell a few times, and rather than wait and hope it gets better, I opted to get things fixed early. After nervously waiting four hours for the estimate, I finally called. The total to fix my car and do the 180,000-mile tune-up would be over $2,200. The Little Car that Can became The Sieve in one fell swoop. Ouch.

My parents are going to discuss the repairs with the service shop, and hopefully they'll figure out a way to get the important things taken care of and wait a while on the less important things. Still, it's going to be a huge chunk of change. And I already knew I needed new tires...

I think I'm going to be one of those poor people on the street soon!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Meaning of it All

I'm a stubborn person, and it takes a lot to change my mind. Growing up, my friends would thrown down scripture and force-feed me personal dogma until I finally shouted at them to stop. I went to youth group during high school and learned that it was up to me to interpret everything in the Bible for myself. Ugh. On one side, I had friends telling me what everything meant, and on the other side a pastor is telling me to figure it out on my own.

That's a big thing to Protestants from what I can tell. Every church I've gone to (including the Catholic Church!) encourages people to read the Bible on their own. I have one or two around here, and I have access to every version imaginable online for free. I can compare side-by-side an NLT to a NKJV to an NAB to a DRV. Phew! One word different on that line, but a whole book missing in that one, and what were they thinking in that one!? It's confusing. Reading the Bible isn't hard. I love reading and do it every single day, mostly nonfiction but sometimes other stuff like the back of a cereal box or my bills... reading isn't the hard part.

What I can see now that I've been to Mass and listened to the homilies (sermons) is that sometimes there is more to scripture than what the Bible offers. The Church wasn't created to support the Word, the Word was handed down to support the Church. As much as humans can read and interpret scripture, the Church has the final say in what the Word means. Realizing that, seeing it, and finally understanding it was a huge weight off of my shoulders.

Though my friends may read their Bibles every second and breathe scripture like dragons, I'm not obligated to listen to them. I can, just like I can read the Bible for myself and get whatever I want to out of the text. I don't have to rely on them or myself for understanding though. It's the Church's responsibility to educate the laity in dogma, sacred Tradition, and other religious topics (in addition to my own if I choose for me).

Let me put it another way: if some people believe that they can read the Bible and interpret it for themselves, why do they go to church and listen to a minister on Sunday? Why do they go to church at all? Community or the social factor? Wanting to belong to a like-minded group? Needing validation for their way of having faith? Does the minister simply enforce what you already read, or do they add information that isn't there already? I don't understand.

Growing up, I wanted to be the one that would read and interpret everything for myself. I thought, I'm smart enough to put two and two together, I'll figure it out without any help. Now, I realize just how daunting that is when it comes to my faith. There's no way I could have all the answers, nor could any human. The Church, however, is superhuman--it was created by Jesus! And it says I don't have to worry about knowing it all. I don't need to do anything, in fact, beyond listening and loving. Wow.

Reading the Bible is not a bad thing. It's wonderful, and I support reading anything you enjoy (literacy is freedom, people, read on!). If you can read a book and get something out of it, that's fantastic. Sometimes I sit down and read a few passages and feel like I got something out of it that the Church hadn't explained fully but that now makes sense to me. It's grand. The Church can't replace individual reading, but to say that reading on your own instead of listening to the Church isn't how I'd go about things. For me, I'd rather have the Church tell me what passages mean instead of garbling them up on my own. Unfortunately, I'm pretty good at not getting the "right" meaning out of what I'm reading, and messing up God seems like a pretty bad idea. I can and do read the Bible! But the meaning isn't really up to me to decide.

Maybe that's part of having faith: trusting in the Church to inform us of the Word as He intended... oy, the Mysteries of Faith! I have so much to learn...

On Independence

I recently blogged that one way to measure the success of parents is that offspring leave the nest and become independent adults. A reader challenged me, "...I'm wondering why 'independence' is your measure of success? Or am I misunderstanding?" It's a fair question to address.

For me, independence is a primary concern. I grew up having my parents tell me what to do every day, and when I finally moved out for the second half of college, the liberty was incredible. I grew so much as an individual, learned volumes about life, and finally had the option to set my own rules and boundaries. Moving home for a short while after college was miserable, and finally having my own apartment and space is a fulfilling experience. I like having the independence to make my life what I want to make it. Again, it's not that I don't love my parents or family and that I don't go to them daily or weekly for advice, but that living on my own is one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life.

I realize not everyone strives for the same things I do, and I respect that. Not everyone wants to live on their own. Some people can't afford it. Some people don't like being alone as much as I do. That's fine. In this society, though, it's hard for me to see someone who is thirty or forty and still living with Mom and Dad as independent and successful. Sure, some people move home to take care of an ailing parent, or some move back home after a while to work on the family farm. Some people have disabilities and need to live with others. I'm not trying to attack anyone or say that it's wrong to live with parents for valid reasons. Still, if you're over thirty-five (arbitrary?) and relying on your parents for domestic basics (and there's no reason you can't do them yourself in your own house), I can't see you as either independent or successful.

I don't want to force anyone to bend to my idea of independence. However, I don't think it's fair to call a healthy adult living at home for no reason other than to avoid the responsibilities of adulthood anything but a mooch. That's my opinion. Hollywood even made fun of these people with the movie Failure to Launch a few years ago, a funny look at how some guys mooch too long and the frustration that causes parents.

There is no normal age when people should move out, but success is so much harder to come buy until someone is fully independent of their parents. And if anyone wonders why success is important, I implore you to reconsider your values... ;)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

End-of-the-Weekend Blues

Two days is not enough sometimes. Friday night included dinner and some Rock Band with Rachel and Jessie at their house. Lots of loud music, some great songs, and a few hilarious moments. I noticed again that my car has a funky smell if I stop for more than a few seconds--it's leaking either oil or transmission fluid (and yes, I know the difference, but it was dark and hard to see), so I get to take my car in to the shop on Monday morning (oh joy).

Saturday wasn't as fun as I'd hoped... I got up early to help my boyfriend put eyedrops into a friend's cat (adventure!), did my taxes for the first time ever by myself, made dinner and watched a movie with my sister and The Boy, and then went dancing for the first time in ages. The taxes went well... I should get a nice return on my federal taxes, but I owe a staggering $3 on my state taxes. How will I ever manage that (note extreme sarcasm)? The dance was okay. Too many people, not enough fun dancing songs... blah. I'm pretty much over the whole Corvallis dance scene at this point.

Today was lazy. I slept in until noon (needed it after dancing and being up late), cleaned my apartment, and had a great lunch with Mr. Wonderful after I trimmed his hair for him. I am still tired, but I think I can stay awake through Mass tonight... only five hours to go.

Then I have to get up early to take my car in to the shop and spend hopefully very little money to fix it. Ugh. No fun.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's my blog, and I'll rant if I want to

I worry that people think I put my entire life on this blog and that they can accurately judge who I am or what I think by the things written here. If you agree with everything I have written, we might still be very different people. If you disagree with everything I say, that doesn't mean we wouldn't get along outside the blogosphere. Please be careful in making assumptions about who I am or what I think based on the things I say on my blog--and keep that in mind when making comments.

It's not that I don't appreciate comments or thoughts, but I worry when I get so many from two or three individuals. If you think your words are so necessary to share, why don't you start your own blog instead of commenting on mine all the time? If you have your own blog, maybe you could turn your comments into your own thoughtful post. We always need ideas for posts.

Comments are great, and I am thankful for them (usually). Don't take it personally when your comments aren't posted, though. This is my little thought bubble, and I get the final say about what gets posted here. If your words aren't posted, let it go, walk away, and rant somewhere else. I don't make you read, and I don't make you comment. My blog, not yours.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

For Richer or Poorer

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have to worry about money.  I wonder what it is like for people who go shopping and buy whatever they want, no matter the color, cost, or size.  I wonder if they have any selection criteria, or are they out to simply make their lives happier by filling it with material possessions.

But then there are times when I look around my 800-square-foot apartment and wonder how on earth I ever managed to amass so much stuff.  Why on earth did I buy those books?  Why did I insist on that silly yoga ball?  Is having a borrowed-coffee-table-that-is-really-an-end-table-that-my-dad-made a luxury, or is it simply a necessary part of my living room furniture?

It's a weird place, the un-poor spot where I am just comfortable enough to not know what need is and have a serious grasp of want.  Sometimes I feel guilty that my life is so good.  I'm healthy and have the option for healthy food (still stuffing myself on rice and pasta though).  I work a steady job and make decent wages.  My only debt is my college loan.  That's not bad for a kid in the "starting out" phase.  But when it comes time to donate money or give away my old clothes, I balk knowing that even $10 will hurt my wallet.  It's that tight.

I'm trying to save some money.  Just $50 or $100 each month since I got my raise in December... though one month not putting anything away doesn't count as a failure, it still feels like it.  I'd like to be able to save up and buy those tires my car is going to need soon.  I'd like to save some and buy a piano of my very own.  I don't need a fancy house or zoomy car or wine with my dinner every night, just to save some money and put it away for tomorrow.

Today, $5.  I'm putting in $5 for tomorrow.  I'm already over my budget this month (glasses, contacts, and a speeding ticket pretty much did me in), but I figure $5 today is worth something later... new shoes?  new sheets?  ten more minutes of vacation?  It's not much, I know.  I'm trying, though, which is probably better than most 20-somethings.

How do you save money?  Where do you cut corners in your budget?  What is something you like to splurge on when you can?  What are you saving up to buy?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The pigs are flying... well, circling actually

Have you been pulled over lately? Did you receive a ticket for going a mere five or six miles an hour over the speed limit? Have you seen more police officers on the side of the road in the last few months, or are you seeing more officers driving through school or construction zones?

In this time of economic hardship, many people are worried about funding. Police officers are no exception. Some of the revenue generated by traffic tickets, parking fines, and other citations help fund good jobs and great benefits. If the government cannot provide long-term support for these jobs and benefits, the judicial system will turn elsewhere. As there is no shortage of speeders, red-light-runners, and all-out reckless drivers, traffic citations are easy game for funds.

I know. You never speed. You've never had a ticket. You're perfect. But all it takes is one mistake! An officer will be there behind you, red and blue lights a'flashing. But now, instead of possibly being able to talk or cry your way out of it, the officer won't even give you a warning. Warnings don't do anything but cost the officer and you precious time. BAM, ticket with your name on it, permanently marring your spotless record. Now you'll have to make a choice: do you plead not guilty and go to court, or do you plead guilty/no contest and write a letter explaining how you weren't really speeding to the judge? I could say that State Troopers rarely show up for traffic trials, but then I'd be giving legal advice (and that's a no-no). If it's a city court and your first-ever traffic ticket having lived in the same city for your whole life, it's probably better to just plead guilty, write a letter asking for a reduction, and send in the money.

One thing I can tell you is that the fine will not be reduced if you don't ask for it. With courts holding on to money as much as possible, they won't reduce your fine automatically.

The best way to save money (or at least not have to spend it quickly) is to not speed. We all know that officers aren't working under quotas (ha!), and that tickets don't increase when they're worried about funding (HAHA!). Do yourself a favor and be a good driver. Your insurance company, your wallet, and I all thank you kindly for that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Did you know that pine trees have pine needles?

...I learned that all over again today when my eye doctor gave me new contacts. I know, I know... that is elementary stuff, but when you go through life not being able to see things quite clearly and then all of a sudden *poof* there is so much more to see, it's all very exciting.

The nice doctor was a bit worried that my contacts are so strong now that Acuvue won't have as many contacts available in my range (fewer incremental options the higher or lower you go). The contact specialist not only had the ones I needed in stock, but she can also keep me in smaller increments for several more whole steps. This is very good news.

After having my eyes dilated for the first time since I was a kid and getting the new contacts, I spent about fifteen minutes surfing the walls of frames for new glasses. My head is small. One doesn't realize just how small until trying to put glasses on me. Oy! The glasses I ended up getting aren't much bigger than kid's frames, but they look great on my face (unlike my last pair). They're made by Kliik, a company in Denmark, product number 245. I'll get them and my year's supply of contacts sometime next week.

Next, I drove back to Corvallis (tricky when I look like a fish and can't see due to the blurry crispness of my world) and visited the nice people at Comcast to get a converter box for my living room TV. They said my computer/TV is fine since the computer reads the cable signal as a digital one anyway, but we'll see. If anyone knows anything about TV tuners in computers and whether I'll need a converter box for that, let me know ASAP!

And then I stopped at Les Schwab to get my tires rotated. They told me I'll need new tires in the next few thousand miles, so there goes another $500. I swear, I'll never be able to save up enough money to get married in anything but jeans in a courthouse. Not that I'm thinking I'll be getting married soon... it's just an expression. Oh, forget it.

At least today's total damage (once I buy gas tonight) comes to just under $200 thanks to wonderful insurance. That went on my credit card as I rarely use it and like to keep it active every once in a while. I'll pay it off as soon as I get it, no worries. Tires, on the other hand... ouch.

You have no idea how nice it is to look out of my car and see bushes with leaves and color. I can see twigs on trees! I can read license plates going in the other direction. I can even pick out faces on drivers if I want. So beautiful... the world is so incredibly beautiful.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Hokey Pokey

When I signed myself up for a year of deep religious study, I didn't think I'd be getting any physical exercise out of the deal. However, the Catholic Church sees to it that parishioners get into Mass both spiritually and physically. At first, I felt uncomfortable with most of the foreign movements and gestures. After growing up around Protestants and only having previously attended Protestant churches, the movements weren't just greek, they felt like the hokey pokey. Seeing that the majority of my readers aren't Catholic and probably have no idea what I'm talking about specifically, I'll explain.

The first thing I encountered upon entering the church was holy water. Do I reach in and soak my hand, a finger or two, or do I leave it alone? What do I do with my wet hand? How does that work? Holy water is kept at the entrance of a church (or even a home) and serves as a reminder of the centrality of baptism as the primary rite of initiation into the Christian faith. Catholics dip their fingers into the water and bless themselves as a reminder of their baptism. Once I found that out, I realized I ought to stay out of the holy water. The whole lack-of-baptism bit nullifies the need for holy water on this kid.

Next, the genuflection. In addition to not knowing what the holy water deal was about, the idea of genuflecting scared me. What was that all about, and did I have to do it? Are there prerequisites to being able to genuflect? Catholics genuflect (kneel and cross themselves) before entering or leaving their pew or when passing in front of the Blessed Sacrament (the big box or pretty shiny thingy that contain the consecrated communion wafers). It is a sign of respect and an act of reverence toward Christ. One does not have to be Catholic or have been baptized to do this, and a deep bow at the waist is considered an acceptable substitute if one is unable to kneel. Most people genuflect, but not everyone does. I still haven't done any genuflecting. It's not that I'm afraid or don't understand... it's just not something I am used to doing.

Ah, yes, the sign of the cross. It took me a while to figure this one out. I knew the movement, and I knew the words, but finding information about what it means was not easy. I am all for blindly following and doing as others do in a new circumstance, but I really wanted to understand this particular ritual. To cross oneself and invoke the trinity is a blessing. It can be done by anyone of any faith, requires only the belief in the trinity, and is a great outward sign of faith. Catholics do it all the time. I thought it was incredibly weird at first, but now I like it. Having it as the beginning and end of just about every prayer (especially the made-up-on-the-spot ones!) seems to ground me in the idea of what it's all about: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but some Lutherans and Methodists carry on this tradition in the Protestant faith. Pretty cool!

The sitting, standing, sitting, standing, kneeling, and standing bit wasn't hard to figure out. When everyone else stands up, do the same. When everyone else kneels, do likewise. I wanted to know why Catholics kneel, though, when none of the Protestants get down on their knees. It all boils down to what happens in the Mass versus what happens in a non-Catholic church service: the consecration of the bread and wine. Catholics respond to Christ's real presence by kneeling on both knees (thankfully on nice, cushioned kneelers). Since Protestants have stripped away the idea of Christ being physically present, they also tossed out kneeling. Maybe some churches also have kneeling, but I haven't been to any that do. Apologies if I'm wrong here.

As Mass ends, there's more crossing of oneself, genuflecting, and holy water, but it's all reversed. I am no longer befuddled with the various gestures, though I have yet to put some of them into practice. After living so long without them, I guess I have a more difficult time assimilating them into my own life than someone brought up with them. "When in Rome," I hear people say, "do as the Romans." Truly, the idea is sound. I could get away with doing any or all of these physical movements, and no one would notice that I'm not really a Catholic (yet?). Just the same, I can skip all of them and no one will care. That's probably one of the things I love most about the Catholic Church: they're just happy you came and stayed through the whole thing. You'll be forgiven immediately for not knowing what to do or say--and you can always ask the priest or deacons questions if you want to after Mass.

It's not the hokey pokey. It might feel like it, but once you know what it's all about (hint: God), it makes so much more sense.

Parent-Parent Conferences

Last night was momentous: Mr. Wonderful's parents met my parents for the first time. We all had dinner together at the Olive Garden in Salem. Good food, good conversation, and only one or two awkward silences. I couldn't have asked for more. Well, sure, I guess riotous laughter and an insistence on hanging out late into the night might have been more, but that's not really any of our styles. It was great, and I'm glad everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I did mention later that it felt like we went to parent-teacher conferences, and our parents shared how proud they were of us. Not that I minded, but it was still a little weird for me. Maybe I'm just crazy or something. Yeah, maybe that's it.

*sigh*

After quite an adventure, my boyfriend was able to get another video game and some neat equipment for the game this weekend. I think we both had a hard time focusing on what we needed to accomplish (*cough* laundry), but it was fun watching him open the box like a kid on Christmas morning. The smiles, the excitement... :)

I made stew and cookies this weekend. They both turned out well, though I wasn't exactly inventing anything. I have made the cookies several times. The Boy didn't like my stew, but he makes up for it by helping me eat the cookies and drinking the leftover wine from my stew.

I also spent some time with my sister and helped her dye her hair a beautiful shade of dark brown. As she lets her hair grow out a bit, her natural curls frame her face so well. I don't know how she got such amazing curls, but I certainly missed the boat on that one. Mom didn't know about the hair-dying beforehand, but I think she liked it afterward. At least I don't have to go home to Mom and show off my new 'do... it's safer to just not change my hair color in the first place. Not that I would: my hair color is perfect for me right now.

And then there was the church and all the thinking I did this weekend about that. You'll have to go to the other blog to read about it, though, as I'm still not willing to force my loyal readers here into religious topics. I'd love for you to follow me over there, but I respect you just the same for not wanting to listen. While you change channels, I'll go get some cookies and wait.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Regarding what exactly?

I keep thinking that I need to write a blog post about the books I've read lately, but then I realize how much I dislike reading about other people's book recommendations. I can't even accurately describe the books I'm reading, so I shouldn't try. The books are Frank McCourt's autobiographical works, and they're an utterly delicious lilting three-book narrative. Beyond that, I'm sure you can read for yourself at amazon.com or elsewhere.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. No one I know is celebrating. None of the people around me understand what it is to be persecuted, prejudiced against, or remotely in the minority. Of course, I have no first-hand experience either (aside from the annoying judgment I can't seem to avoid), but I recognize the historical impact Dr. King made on my country and the world. I figure if the State of Oregon is nice enough to give me a day off in honor of a man so filled with the notion of human rights and equality, then maybe those are important enough things for me to think about more. Maybe you should too.

Lastly, I should warn people that I've turned off all of my RSS feeds for this blog. If you want to read what I say, you'll have to come here. Fed up with people who turn off RSS feeds, sorry. I have shorter posts in the works that will post entirely on the feed, and I would appreciate my readers actually coming here for the full experience. Selfish, perhaps, but you have the choice to read or not. I leave that in your hands. (No, Grandma, this won't affect you at all!)

Sometimes I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I remember that my grandma is one of my most frequent readers. She's always on her computer following the world, writing about her world, or otherwise staying engaged. That's pretty awesome. Sorry my last paragraph wasn't actually my last, but I have to send a "HI!" to Grandma. Hi to you as well, I guess, whoever you are.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just a Sprinkle

During the holidays, I had the opportunity to make cookies several times. On one of these grand occasions, I found myself a witness to what I now refer to as "The Sprinkle Incident." My boyfriend decided to put a few sprinkles on top of his angel cookie. If it is possible to smother an angel with sprinkles, I'm positive he succeeded. What you can barely make out in this picture is the half-bottle mound of sugar crystals. The angel glistened when it emerged from the oven, and after a quick flip, break, and inhalation, it disappeared forever. *poof!*

Friday, January 16, 2009

Parental Success

How can one measure the success of a parent? Is it by their child's education level or income? Is it by how much the child-turned-adult still loves their parent? Or can you say that a parent is successful simply by bringing another life into the world? A little bit of all of these, I think. We all put different values on what we call success, and I'm no different.

When telling people lately that my parents don't keep a room for me at their house, that they don't store my mass of belongings, or that they don't have dozens of pictures of me all over the house, the people responded with horror! "That's sad," they said. How sad, indeed, that my parents' house is not a shrine to my existence.

One of the many ways to measure my parents' success is to say that I'm out of their house. I'm an adult, finally a big person completely on my own. I don't depend on them financially, for food, for shelter, or for clothing. Of course, they do buy me food when we go out to eat, and sure, they might buy the odd sweater or something, but those are rare and not at all a significant part of my wardrobe. My parents gave me everything they could for more than twenty years, and now I am out of their house. They've succeeded in giving me all I need to go out and live my life independently--and that's wonderful!

Having me out of the house completely doesn't mean they don't love me or that I don't love them. It doesn't mean we never talk or see each other. It doesn't mean I can't go sleep on their couch or hang out at their house. It doesn't mean they don't remember me when I'm gone or that I never think about them. Having an independent daughter, though, means that my parents have fulfilled their primary responsibility. They've given birth to, raised, loved, nurtured, educated, provided for, disciplined, and guided a child all the way to an adult. Could a parent (or a child) ask for more?!

My parents' job isn't completely over--and never will be--as I'll continue to go to them for advice, to share love, joy, and sorrow, and to pester them into taking me out to dinner every once in a while. It's not like they don't have anything to do either: my sister still lives at home. The job is definitely not finished. But to say that it's "sad" that my parents don't keep their house full of my stuff, my picture on every wall, or an empty bed just for me is disrespectful to both them and me. In one way, my parents have succeeded. We should celebrate!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

E-vitations Redux

I tried to make it clear the first time, but apparently some people didn't take the hint. I will not RSVP to Facebook events. If your event is important enough to truly need an RSVP, you can mail them to me. I will respond by returning the pre-stamped note, or I will call you to confirm my attendance.

The events that get frustrating are dances. I'm part of the dancing community, and as a dancer, I keep up-to-date on events through e-mail, paper hand-outs, bulletin boards, and general conversation. Yeah, talking to people. These events are public events, and I have the option to show up if I want. Since nobody has to figure how many people to feed or how many chairs to set out, my RSVP is completely optional. It's just a dance. But for every single dance, one of my friends decides to send me an e-vitation. It feels like I'm being pressured into coming at this point, and I'm tired of it. "Look, we're having a dance and you have to come, and you have to RSVP on Facebook or you won't be able to get in the door." I think not.

I've taken to not only not replying to these events but going so far as to remove the events from my list entirely. I'm uninviting myself. I don't care about Facebook enough to regard it as my social life. Dear friends, if you really want me to come to an event, call me, e-mail me, or even talk to me. If you can't go to those little lengths, I am obviously not important enough for you to want me at your shindig.

It's not that I think I'm too good for Facebook. I simply believe that my time and efforts deserve more respect than a casual "check yes or no." If you can't respect me enough and want my company enough to talk to me personally, then I think we need to reevaluate why you're inviting me in the first place. Otherwise, I'm not going to RSVP to your stupid public events on Facebook so stop sending me invitations!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Inventing Food

My weekend included a new recipe! I invented a new food in my crock pot. Try at your own risk.

2 chicken breasts cut into five or six pieces each (big chunks, they'll fall apart later)
5 russet potatoes (yukons would be good, as would fingerlings)
1/2 bag frozen broccoli
1 can cream of chicken
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese blend (I used the "mexican blend" but any cheddary blend will work)
seasonings to taste

Place chicken, potatoes, cream of chicken, whatever seasoning you like, and most of the cheese in the crock pot and let it go on high for about four hours. At least, that's when I checked it and the potatoes seemed done. Put in the broccoli and the last bit of cheese on top of that about twenty minutes before serving. My invention was pretty thin as far as sauce goes. I'd suggest adding more cheese if you like it, substituting rice for the potatoes, and doubling the chicken (because it was so delicious).

The Boy said my invention was pretty good, and I ate until I was full, but I'll tweak it a bit next time. Cheese is kind of a pain to clean out of a crock pot: next time no cheese for me. I think I'm working on a stew next, Mom's not-so-secret recipe. It's really nice to toss dinner in the pot and have it mysteriously done to perfection without having to touch it, stir it, poke it, or test it. I wish I had gnomes at home that would put everything into the crock pot for me while I'm at work!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Apologeez!

In my experience, it's something people find easy to say but difficult to mean. There are a few souls who have mastered contrition, and they find ways of expressing remorse without using the evil words, "I'm sorry." I have stopped listening when someone says these words, however, as most of the time they mean nothing. "I'm sorry" is too easy to say, too quick and short to contain a real apology. It's not that I won't accept an apology--I will--but I'd rather wait for an apology and hope that the person is sincere about it two years later than rash and not sorry now.

If I'm apologizing to you for something, rest assured that my words will be measured carefully. "I'm sorry" will probably not be something I spit out. Likewise, I'd appreciate the same, but as I know that not everyone is just like me (and I respect that), I'll hope for the best apology you can muster if the need arises.

Monday, January 12, 2009

On a Mission

A faithful reader prompted this post with the question, "What do you think of churches who make their members become missionaries, and would you want to be one?" I think I can dissect a few more questions out of that and address additional issues.

What do you think of churches who make their members become missionaries?
If the church and Christ commissioned Christians to go out and convert the world to Christianity, I suppose the idea of missionaries is biblical and proper. However, seeing how many times I've had nice missionaries knocking down my door at dinnertime and how un-Christian they seemed to be, I quite dislike the whole idea. To me, the point of going on a missionary trip is that it's voluntary. Mandating that members are initiated by going or that they pass a test by converting people seems more like a cult than a faith. I'm not opposed to the idea of missionaries, but I do not approve of churches that require members to go on missions.

What do you think about missionaries in general?
Great on paper, bad in practice. I don't have a problem with people going into another person's home, city, or country to help rebuild after a disaster. I don't have a problem with offering money or clothes to people who need them more than others. I am, however, adamantly opposed to the idea of forcing religion on another person. If a church wants to spread the gospel by serving and setting a good example, that's great. But when missionaries cause a riot or otherwise disrupt another person's life for the sake of winning converts, I think the trip is over. In my opinion, missionaries should act passively and with great respect for local culture and customs. Christianity will adapt--that's one of its greatest strengths.

Would you want to belong to a church that requires missions?
No. I can't imagine Jesus approving of a church that says, "you must convert a hundred people or you'll never get into Heaven." Jesus urged, "love your neighbor as yourself," not "beat your neighbor over the head with a Bible daily." And even though I know plenty of people who insist on Bible-thumping as often as possible, that's not the most effective way of spreading the gospel. No, I can't see myself belonging to a church that requires missions.

Would you want to be a missionary?
An interesting idea. I think I need to work on being a good example in my own life before I can go to a foreign place and convince others that which I have not yet figured out. As above, I'm not opposed to going places to help others, to share my knowledge or my gifts, but I'm completely against forcing my beliefs on someone else. If someone wants to hear what I know when it comes to my faith, Christianity or Catholicism in general, or simply wants an ear, I'm up for the challenge.

The take-away message about missions and missionaries is this: we can't force someone to have faith. Setting a good example, answering questions, and trying to help wherever I may be is how I'll go about things. Can anyone tell me how to make the boys in black suits stop coming to my door at dinnertime though?

The Hopeless Organizer

I'll admit, I'm a bit of an organization freak. I love bins, boxes, shelves, and closets. I am a nightmare when I get my hands on a label maker... oh dear! This can be good and bad as I'll explain.

The good side seems pretty obvious: organization helps me find things I need quickly. It helps me remember what I have, what I want, what goes where, and so on. I don't sort everything, just like I don't fold every piece of clothing, but I like to have a kitchen that is neat. My shelves are organized by baking or cooking, by cans or boxes, by dinner or dessert. It's not hard to keep up with the organizing once you get in the habit. Another big upside to organizing is that I rarely have clutter. My floors stay picked up, my stuff in neat rows, and my beads (hopefully) corralled into bins. Organization in my apartment has even been taken to a work of art in itself!

The downside: people think I'm nuts. They think I'm obsessive or too concerned about having things in their place. To prove them wrong, I actually have items in my apartment that have a designated "no designated space." These items roam around my apartment as they please, first lighting upon the coffee table, then hiding in my desk... My big rubber yoga ball used to be one of these roamers, but it would actually move on its own and that scared me too much so I tied it up to the back door. It doesn't move now.

I enjoy organizing. I like taking things and putting them in order or by kind. I'm not against clumps of oddities or tiny bits of chaos (I have one of those in every room). Perhaps I'm good at organizing and staying neat--some people are. It's not the end-all to my life, and yes, I could live if my life weren't as orderly. At this point, though, I think I'd call myself a hopeless organizer. You should see my bathroom!

What are your organization habits?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On Humility

Growing up, one of the first lessons I needed to learn (and learn the hard way) was humility. Now I'm not saying I have it all figured out--that would be unfair, dishonest, and obviously untrue. Sheesh, I have a whole blog about me: could I be any less humble? HA!

Humility is a painful lesson as life is often a cruel teacher. As a child, I stumbled, I hated it, and I selfishly rued anyone who needed anything from me. Just a kid, what could I offer another? Everything about me was so important that I couldn't drop anything to help, not even setting aside my games to fold my own laundry or put away my own dishes. But Mom insisted, persisted, and then demanded. With grumblings and groans, I eventually did as I was told. Still, they were my dishes and my clothes, not another's. My life was all about me.

When we'd go to my grandparents' house, if an adult left their comfortable chair to get water or stir dinner, I'd sneak into their spot "just to keep it warm." Truthfully, I was tired of sitting on the floor like a child and wished to sit on real chairs like the big people. Eventually the adult would return and Mom would hush to me, "get up, give the older people the chair." Psh, no fair. Fifteen years later, I found myself working in a retirement facility with old people. I began to learn how life's cruelties result in real physical pain. I was forced to serve these people through my job, forced to see them and chose to learn from them and the experience. Now, I can't imagine not giving up my chair for an elderly person. It's an honor to say, "no, you sit, I can stand or take the floor."

This weekend was yet another lesson in humility. My boyfriend was around for part of the weekend, and I was able to serve him by doing some things for him. It's not about taking the credit or announcing to the world that I'm an amazing girlfriend (that's another post, ha!). Better is that I'm still learning what it means to be humble. I'm learning what it means to set aside my things, my wants, my needs in order to do something for someone else.

Even more, humility is a great act of love. It says, "I love you more than I love myself." My hope is that I can continue to grow in love and find new ways of being humble to others. Humility is a hard lesson to learn, a never-ending process of trials and mistakes as we seek to put others before ourselves. I'm still learning.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Youngs River Falls

Taken near Astoria approximately two years ago when I went to meet TH. Even though it wasn't even summer yet, we managed to get a sunny day and enjoyed our time on the rocks below the falls.

Anybody know what happened to TH? Never leaves me comments, never says hello... he doesn't even comment on Mr. Guy's blog anymore! 's okay, I guess... I won't take it personally. :)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Poked and Prodded, Indeed!

Okay, guys, this post is not for you. It's ladies only from here on out. Come back tomorrow for more great blogging, but stop reading unless you really want to know too much about women.

Hi fellow ladies of the world. I had my first-ever woman-bits exam this morning. I got a shot. I hurt, I feel a tiny bit violated, and I want to stay home for the rest of the day but need to go make money to pay off the silly co-pay that my insurance won't cover.

Without telling you all of the wonderful details about the exam, let me say that it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. The doctor was kind and gentle. She explained every single thing (even to the point of "this is my hand on your leg" or "next, I'm going to do..." It wasn't painful at all. In fact, I was quite relaxed for just about the whole thing.

Well, until it came to the shot. It hurt so much! My arm is going to hurt for days. Between my doctor and myself, we decided that there were no downsides to getting the Gardasil vaccination to prevent HPV (the leading cause of cervical cancer). My insurance will only cover the shots until I'm 26, so if we were going to do it, now was the time. The vaccination does not mean I won't get cervical cancer, but it dramatically reduces the risk. Even though I've never been at risk for contracting HPV and have no intentions of putting myself at risk for it, there are still no downsides to protecting myself from it or cervical cancer. It's kind of like keeping a fire extinguisher in the kitchen: you hope you'll never have to use it, and you have no intention of needing to use it, but something might happen when you do need it. At least I'm good and protected now, both from HPV and, hopefully, at least one kind of cancer (and a flaming pan on the stove).

Here is your reminder to go get an exam if you haven't done so already. Yes, it's not fun, but they're so important. And feel up those boobies every month! That doesn't hurt, doesn't cost anything, and will probably save your life. Seriously, do it. DO IT.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Coupon Racket

I think Michael's has a coupon racket going. Several months ago, I signed up for their e-mail notifications to receive coupons in my e-mail. They started sending me a 20%-off-one-item coupon every two weeks or so. The coupons were generally valid for one week. I'd usually only buy one item and use the coupon every couple weeks and call it good. Kinda nice, actually!

Then the receipt coupons started. When I'd go into the store, I'd get a coupon for 50%-off along with my receipt when I checked out. Those coupons were only good for the week following my purchase. I've also noticed that if I use one of the 50%-off receipt coupons, they give me another one when I leave, but the next one is a step down. A 50%-off coupon yields a 40%-off coupon, and if I use a 20%-off coupon, I'll get a 10%-off coupon.

If I use an e-mail coupon, however, I'll usually get the same or better on a receipt coupon. And the store staggers their coupons: if the e-mail reward is small, the receipt coupons are pretty big. Then you have a better coupon for next time, but you probably won't get an e-mail one the next week.

It's a racket! They're just plying customers with seemingly good rewards. The 50%-off ones are great, especially when buying something that's rarely on sale (OTT-lights for example, which I can't afford even with a coupon), but when they don't work for sale items and half the crap in the store is "on sale," it's not going to do anything.

I've learned to wait on beads: they go on sale at least once per month. The Wilton baking stuff is never on sale, though. I can sometimes get paint or other crafting items on sale, but often the coupon is the best way to save a few cents. A great coupon will be a 50%-off-total-purchase, but most of them are 15-30%-off-one-item. I am learning to ignore those.

Two things I've learned: first, the coupons can be printed more than once. If you have a 50%-off e-mail coupon, you can print it more than once and use copies every day until it expires. The store allows this! Second, just because you have a coupon doesn't mean you have to use it. If you don't need something, don't buy it. The store will get your money, and you'll have crap you don't need. So beware of the coupon racket. Use them wisely to save money.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Work Nights are the new School Nights

When I was little, Mom and Dad would have to come into my room well past my bedtime and tell me to stop reading. "Turn out your light and go to sleep. You have to get up for school tomorrow and don't want to be tired." I'd insist on finishing my chapter, page, paragraph, and line before finally giving in and turning off the light. Sometimes they'd go to bed, and then I'd snuggle up to my alarm clock and finish my chapter by the light of my alarm clock numbers. Yeah. Take that, parents.

Last night, sometime after midnight, I heard my parents' voices echoing in my head. My book is too good to put down (a blog coming about it soon), and I just wanted to finish the chapter. The good-sized book only has about ten chapters, so it takes a long time to get through one. I try to finish half a chapter each night right now, but I was determined last night. I'm an adult, I told myself, I can stay up as late as I want now. So I did.

I'm tired today. I don't regret staying up late, but I sure am tired. It was worth it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Interruptus

When I was younger, my sister made a point to shout, "Stop interrupting me!" each time Mom, Dad, or I happened to even sneeze while she was trying to talk. Every time we'd interrupt, she'd start her story over again to make the point that we'd be ignorant while she spoke. Sometimes her stories were so stuttered and repeated that we'd eventually burst into giggles. She'd get mad, fold her arms, and storm off down the hall to her room to pout. Though I look back with fond memories of her getting frustrated (hehe), she had a point. I'm rather tired of being on the receiving end of such interrupting lately, and I'm going to start making a point about it.

Don't get me wrong, I interrupt, too. I might interject to ask a question or clarify a point. I sometimes get so excited that the words just spill out in the middle of someone's thought (usually my sister anyway). But I recognize that I'm interrupting and apologize immediately. My sister drove it into me so long ago that I can't help but be sensitive to it now.

If you hear me repeatedly starting a story with the same words, maybe you should stop talking and listen. If I'm opening my mouth, I'm predicting that the table is clear and I can speak about whatever is on my mind. Sometimes two people will start talking at the same exact moment, and I realize that happens, so those aren't the few situations I'm worrying over. But when I end up starting, "I went to the store... I went to the store last night... I went to the store last night and bought..." then be warned that I'm displeased with the constant interrupting. If it continues to happen, I just won't share my story. You'll be left wondering what great things I had to say, but the wisdom will never be yours. And it'll be your fault.

Interrupter beware!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to the Grind

After having ten of the last twelve days off from work, today's eight hours just about did me in. I have relished the time off, though, and took every advantage of staying up late and sleeping in. I was able to spend many of those days off with Mr. Wonderful. He promised to cook for me over his winter break, so I rarely had to do any kitchen work. That was a blessing and a huge vacation for me. I did miss cooking a little bit though. Still don't miss doing dishes, ugh. When I wasn't eating delicious pasta and soup, I was busy playing video games or learning more and more about the man I'm so crazy for. We keep growing closer to each other and to the other's family and friends.

I learned a couple lessons over the last two weeks that I'd like to share:
-The phrase "silence is golden" is oh SO very true.
-Facebook is not the end-all to my life, and not looking at it every day was quite nice.
-Though wearing a big, stiff dress can be fun, I love my blue jeans.
-10am is the perfect sleeping-way-late time to get up.
-I'm not a good driver (that one's for The Boy).
-I do not enjoy driving on ice.
-I do, in fact, have emotions and am fully capable of utilizing them if I wish. I just doesn't share them very often.
-I miss being on vacation already!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cookie Dough

Mr. Wonderful had the option of writing a guest post tonight as I am completely lacking inspiration right now. He informed me that he was eating cookie dough and that I should write a blog post about that. I'm not sure if that meant I should tell you the story about what he said or write the entire post just about his giant tub o' cookie dough, so I chose the story. It's a big tub, though, and hopefully he won't get the urge to eat it all at once. That would make me sick. He ate it with a fork. Chocolate chip cookie dough. Yeah. Sorry I'm lacking motivation to write something better than this, but seriously, the dough is looking awfully tempting.

I can't believe I just blogged about cookie dough.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Trash TV and a Car Wash

My evening of solitude and peace last night included cracking a new book, watching Wife Swap, and blogging.  Not a bad way to spend quality alone time!  I went to bed late, got up early, and had a fantastic breakfast of... Eggo waffles.  Okay, so that part wasn't exciting, but they're my standby favorite.  Only because it's bad to eat maple bars every single morning.  Bah.

Today was pretty busy.  I drove to Albany and spent some time with my parents and sister.  We washed a few cars, went out to lunch, and I was able to see my parents property where they are building a new house.  This is their first custom-built home, and they're super excited to finally be building.  Not sure how Dad feels about having someone else do the work: he's so exacting and wonderful at woodwork, but framing a house doesn't need to be perfect down to the 1/16th inch.  It'll be exciting to see them in the house in a few months!

The Boy is offering me chocolate.  I think this post is done now. :)

Friday, January 02, 2009

My Year is Over

I promised myself that I wouldn't make any judgments or form any opinions about organized religion until I'd walked a full year in church. I didn't say I wouldn't grow or learn, nor did I set any requirements about what I had to or could not do. My goal was simply to experience and attempt to understand what it was all about. My year is over.

How can one summarize a year of spiritual growth? I have no idea. I can't hope to relate all that I've learned. Between weekends spent pouring over ecclesiastical law (boring!), asking everyone from my boyfriend to the local priests and deacon countless questions, and getting into religious discussions that would have made Christ Himself shout "enough already!" with my friends, I think I've covered quite a bit. I have seen a full liturgical year within the Catholic Church, a full year of celebrations, mourning, and discovery. I've read most of the catechism, dozens upon dozens of websites full of both pro- and anti-Catholic information, and surfed through the Bible like I was studying for exams. That's a lot of information, by the way, and I took my studying seriously. I knew I wouldn't get anything out of this experience if I didn't throw myself into it body and soul.

What have I learned and taken away from this experience? A year is hardly enough time to realize what I've truly taken away, but I know I still have a lot to learn. I have a huge respect for the Catholic faith, and I feel more at home there than anywhere else now. I also realize, more than ever, how much I dislike people who force religion or try to make others believe just as they do. My conviction to support basic human rights and dignity is even stronger now, and I hope that others will see how important it is to respect every human (especially those we dislike).

What now? Well, I'm not sure. I think I have the basics under my belt. I know the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. I know when to sit, stand, and kneel. I know I won't burst into flames if a little holy water falls on me (hehe). I also know God in ways I never would have imagined, and I enjoy sitting in prayer whether at home or in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel. I will continue to grow and live my life both inside and outside the church. Hopefully I'll find more support than the four people who actively encouraged me over the last year... but I'll go at this on my own if I have to. This journey has always been about finding a new piece of me, and I've done exactly what I set out to do.

My year is over. A new one is just beginning... we'll see how it goes.

Alone and Loving It

Sometimes I just need to be alone. One of the reasons I have my apartment with no roommate is the wonderful solitude that arrangement allows. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and friends. I'm not saying I don't want to spend time with them ever. I'll be seeing family tomorrow, and I have spent so much wonderful time with The Boy over his winter break. I survived Emily's wedding event, several Christmas celebrations, some crazy shopping, and more people than I can handle. Tonight, it's Jaggy, party of one.

Big plans? Some TV, some reading, definitely some blogging, a little crafting, and maybe some cooking. I don't have to do any cleaning, thankfully, so my time is completely dedicated to me for the next twenty-four hours. *huge sigh*

Today is a day for contemplation, reflection, and remembering. I'm alone and truly loving it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lego Batman

I never thought I'd actually love playing video games, but my boyfriend found a game that I'm totally into. It's a cooperative game where he and I can have our own characters and play the game at the same time working together. He plays Batman, and I play Robin. We run through Gotham City catching criminals (like Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler), collecting coins which allow us to buy new costumes and weapons, and hunting for Lego pieces that we use to build vehicles or other items.

I was a bit skeptical when I heard about the game. Won't a Lego game be too childish and easy for we adults? HA! I actually like the fact that the bad guys only take two or three hits to kill, and when they do die, they don't have guts: they burst into Lego pieces! A complete lack of blood and guts is refreshing. The simple controls mean I'm on a more even playing field with my boyfriend (he's crazy-good compared to me). My only problem with the game is that the depth-of-field is difficult to figure out sometimes. I'm really good at jumping off cliffs and killing myself because I don't realize I'm too far back to make the jump to the next object.

It's a game about Batman's adventures, set in Lego pieces, and absolutely awesome to play. Oh, and he got the game pretty much free legally. Can't argue with any of that! (So if you don't hear from me for a few days, please rescue me from the TV...)