Category Archives: Thoughts

Forgiveness & Acceptance

I was listening to Mike Shinoda’s album, Post Traumatic, an (excellent, powerful) album written in the time following his bandmate’s suicide, and one song really stuck out for me. “Over Again” deals with the idea that saying goodbye isn’t something you do just once, but again and again each time you are confronted with your loss. Definitely true. After contemplating this for a time, it seemed to me that forgiveness works the same way.

When it comes to something big–something that has caused a great deal of strife–I’m not sure “forgive and forget” is really possible. Some things you just don’t forget. Some things might take years to work through. When you make the decision to forgive someone for something they’ve done, it isn’t a one-time, immediate erasure of all that pain. It’s a difficult process that takes time and effort. You may reach a point at which you feel better about the past and take a few steps forward, and the next day you might be reading or cooking or showering and it’ll hit you again.

How could that person have done that? How can you ever get over it? You’re so angry and hurt! And at this point you have to decide to forgive them all over again. You have to remember why you chose forgiveness the first time and evaluate whether that’s still the best option. You have to keep in mind your role in the incident if any of the blame is yours. You have to go through the process until you are calm again and can treat them normally. It wouldn’t be fair to confront someone again and again with their mistake when you’ve already decided to work past it, after all.

People seem to think of forgiveness as the end goal, but I think of forgiveness as the entire process–the decision to move forward and all the hard work that entails. Acceptance is a better term for the end goal, and forgiving (or not) is the path along which you choose to get there. It determines whether whatever relationship can continue after acceptance–whether reconciliation can occur.

Whether or not you can forgive someone for the pain they’ve caused, acceptance of what has happened will stop the cycle of those feelings of anger or sadness returning again and again. Acceptance is when the memory of the hurt comes suddenly back to you and you don’t experience that surge of unpleasant emotion; instead, you acknowledge that it happened, terrible as it was, and move along. And whether it takes weeks or years to finally reach that point, the most important part of acceptance is growing from the experience to make sure, whether together with that person or not, that whatever awful thing never happens again.


By the way, I recommend listening to the Post Traumatic album from start to finish to really experience the whole journey from despair to hope.

Period Space Space

Writing is how I fill much of my time whether with stories or e-mails or the occasional blog essay. I try my best to keep in mind all the various rules for punctuation and format. However, I just typed two spaces after that period. Sigh. One space following a period has always been the proper way, but the monospaced typefaces used by typewriters required two for clarity. Thus, a portion of our population learned to type incorrectly. This included my keyboarding teacher in high school and whoever programmed the software she used for our class. Two spaces after a period was drilled into me. I can’t stop double-tapping that space bar even when I’m thinking about it.

I get irritated every time my phone edits out the extra space from my texts. This blog post will automatically leave out the extra space when I post it. The problem I have with only one space is that it actually makes text slightly harder for to read. I think I may have learned to recognize the spacing rather than the punctuation mark itself. I tend to give the same weight to a period that I would a comma because the spacing is the same. Sentences tend to run together, forcing me to slow down to avoid confusion. I wonder if there’s a measurable difference between people who learn to type with one space following periods and colons versus two (using proportional fonts). I definitely have an easier time editing my own writing when sentences are well separated. Oh, I’ll go ahead and conform to the proper one-space format when I polish up a finished piece, but I don’t have to like it.

Fortunately, the find & replace function in my word processor allows me to instantly replace every two-space with a single space. I never would have thought to use it for non-words until now. It also works for all that tabbing I was taught to do at the beginning of each paragraph (which is also wrong).

No Flowers, Please

I’ve never liked receiving flowers, not that it’s happened too many times. I get that “give pretty object to person I like” is just something lots of people are inclined to do, but why would anyone want to receive authentic plant pieces as a gift? Several years ago I happened upon one of those demotivational posters with the phrase “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like slowly dying reproductive organs” and I said, “Hey, perfect! If anyone ever doubts me when I tell them I don’t like getting flowers, I’ll quote this!”

I kept that phrase handy, but the situation didn’t really come up much. I ran into a nonbeliever or two who thought I was just trying to be difficult I guess, but generally there was no need to explain myself. Then I got married. As it turns out, people will usually believe a lady when she insists she doesn’t want a certain gift, but nobody believes a poor husband when he’s asked what he got his wife for Valentine’s Day and he doesn’t say flowers. “She doesn’t like flowers,” he tries to explain, but his coworkers or acquaintances or dialysis nurses scoff at him. “Every woman likes getting flowers,” they say. “If she says she doesn’t want any, she’s just trying to be polite and save money or something. You should surprise her with flowers anyway! She’ll love them!” Fortunately, my husband is not an idiot and takes me at my word. He’s had to quote me quoting that poster just to get people to stop giving him a hard time.

Flowers can be pretty, but I really like when they’re attached to whole plants. (The plants like that, too.) I don’t want a handful of them to slowly wither and rot on my table. Not to mention the smell is just never that good. The grocery store I frequent has recently moved the flower section to the front entrance, and I get smacked in the face with pungent, musty, sweetness right when I walk in. I have to dodge the displays and zoom through to the milk before my eyes start watering.

A load of chocolate truffles or peanut butter cups; now there’s a fine Valentine’s gift! Not those chalky, chewy assorted boxes of junk in the Valentine’s aisle, mind you. If you’re going to give someone candy, it should be a bag of their favorite kind. Anyway, moral of the story: People like different things. Also, if you’re the type to give perfectly thoughtful husbands flak for not buying this or doing that for their wives, knock it off.

Versions of Holmes

It’s difficult to remember my first introduction to the character of Sherlock Holmes. I recall Daffy Duck sporting a deerstalker hat, solving a mystery with Porky Pig as “Watkins.” Cartoon characters in various shows would, when confronted by a mystery, occasionally blow bubbles from a pipe and remark that their deductions were “elementary.”
In 1988 Data played the role of Holmes for some holodeck high jinks in Star Trek: TNG‘s “Elementary, Dear Data.” Wishbone solved the mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles in “The Slobbery Hound” in 1995. I had a sense of who the great detective was before ever reading the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In recent years there have been hugely popular adaptions of the character played by Robert Downey jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch, but I find that I must enjoy them as totally separate characters from the original Holmes. While the detectives in Sherlock Holmes (2009) and the BBC’s series Sherlock are interesting and compelling, they both have a failing that the canon Holmes didn’t. They can’t seem to interact normally with people. Yes, Holmes is eccentric and can sometimes offend people with Spock-like dismissal of emotions as hindrances, but he’s also very clever and observant. He’s a master of disguise who can anticipate the reactions of others. He has no trouble with acting politely and properly in public. Whether or not he has any respect for someone, he could surely make them think so.
When I see the more recent versions of the character, I’m missing the dignified air I pick up from canon Holmes. I miss the awareness he should have of the social setting around him. I miss the version of Holmes that can be smug and superior but also charming at the same time.

This is why I am thrilled when I discover new Sherlock Holmes adaptions that deliver the same feel as an authentic Doyle mystery.

Mr. Holmes, starring Sir Ian McKellen as an aged version of the detective, is a fascinating take on the character. It’s based on A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin and follows Holmes struggling against a failing memory whilst trying to recall his very last case. The pivotal case itself, though short and simple, could have been one among Doyle’s own short stories, and the character felt like the real deal. I especially appreciated the very believable growth of the character along with its conclusion.

In Sherlock Holmes video games, of which there are many, there is one I’ve found that not only feels authentic but is also an excellent game overall: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments by the developer Frogwares. The player assumes the role of Holmes and is tasked with solving six cases by piecing together the evidence using the player’s own logic. With multiple possible conclusions in each case, and the complete trust of Scotland Yard, it’s possible for the player to pin the crime on either the true criminal or an innocent person. The player can also choose to condemn or absolve the culprits, moral choices that affect the rest of the game. This encourages the player to carefully examine every detail before him/her, much as the real Holmes would. Frogwares has put out several similar Sherlock Holmes games, but none that capture the essence of Doyle’s work quite as well.

Whether or not you enjoy the edgier more bumbling Sherlocks of recent series, if you crave a more classic take, I highly recommend both Mr. Holmes and Crimes & Punishments.

The Value in Cinderella

Melissa Grey’s tweets on the subject have been getting a lot of attention, and they gave me something to think about too.

I probably only watched Disney’s original Cinderella once or twice as a kid. I didn’t much like all the mouse vs. cat stuff that frequently pushed Cinderella’s story to the background. I also had a hard time understanding the distorted voices of the animals, so I had to infer what they were singing about through context.

Anyway, I didn’t know what it was like to grow up in an abusive home. My family was great. My knowledge of people being mean or unfair to other people was limited to teachers telling the class, “Bullying isn’t nice, so don’t be a bully.” I thought bullies were no big deal and that everyone gets over it eventually. I thought some peoples’ parents or siblings weren’t as nice as others, but that everyone got over that eventually too. I never had an understanding of the concept of abuse, the extent of some abuse, or the devastating effects it can have on victims.

More recently, when it became popular to look back on the older Disney princess movies with a critical, feminist eye, I easily dismissed Cinderella as ridiculous. I thought it was silly for this young woman to put up with how her step-family treated her like a slave. I thought it was awful to show audiences a girl who just waits around for a prince to come along and save her. I claimed that if I were in her place, I would have told my step-family to shove it and then gone off to create a happy life for myself, prince or no. But Melissa Grey is right. That’s not how abuse works.

Victims of abuse are often led to believe that things are as good as they’re going to get. They are led to believe they are not worth caring about or loving. Often, defying their abusers isn’t an option, and they don’t realize they can seek help from others outside. Maybe they make excuses for their abusers. They might learn to become distant from others, angry, or depressed. Perhaps they’ve been taught that their abusers’ behavior is their fault. Maybe they’ve been led to believe that feeling helpless is normal.

Cinderella dealt with terrible abuse, but she stayed bright and hopeful. She kept smiling. Despite her situation, she believed that she could still find happiness. From this point of view, the silly love at first sight, fairy magic, glass slipper stuff at the end isn’t really the important part. Having the courage to go on her own to the ball was her success. Confirming that she was worth being loved was her happy ending. And for once, the heroine marrying the prince is a good ending to the story, even if it’s not the goal every princess should have.

In reality, if Cinderella and her prince were just regular people, they’d probably start dating and getting to know each other. Even if it didn’t work out between them, Cindy would at least come away knowing it was true that she could be loved and appreciated by others. She could go forward with that confidence and make sure she lived her life happily ever after.

I don’t know if this theme of surviving abuse and finding love was really the focus of the people who made the animated film, but it is there. I was quick to dismiss the story without thinking about what important lessons could be gained from it, especially by people who share Cinderella’s situation as they’re growing up. It’s easy to criticize something as a whole when you see its flaws, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value there too.

A-P-P-E-A-R

When I was in the sixth grade, all the teachers decided to hold a grade-wide spelling bee. Each individual class would have a bee, and the winners would be put into semifinals. Once it had been narrowed down to six finalists, the last competition would be held in the library. Participation was not optional.

Though I disliked being quizzed in front of my class, I was a great speller. I was too proud to purposefully spell a word wrong in front of others, so I kept advancing until I was one of the finalists. The six of us were taken to the library for the final competition. I was relieved to find our big library was deserted and dark and quiet, and there were only a couple teachers there to judge our performance. No pressure.

Then, the entire sixth grade marched in, class by class. The teachers filled up the room seating them before us. They situated a spotlight on our six chairs and kept the rest of the room dim. My pulse started racing. Why hadn’t I just spelled a word wrong and gotten myself out of this? Nobody was enjoying this game. We weren’t receiving a grade for it. What was the purpose? I had no desire to win at all, but I didn’t want to disobey the teachers or embarrass myself now that everyone I knew was watching.

A teacher sat down in front of us, everyone got quiet, and she announced that I’d be going first. She asked me to spell “appear.” The light was bright, hundreds of eyes were on me, I was tensing up, and my face turned red. I said, “Appear. A-P-P-E-A-R. Appear.”

“Incorrect,” said the teacher. “Please take a seat.”

I was stunned. I shook my head at her. I looked to my friends. I looked to the other teachers. Nobody said anything. They all just stared at me while my face surely reddened even more. I couldn’t understand. Maybe I had been too quiet due to being so nervous. Maybe that was just how I always thought “appear” was spelled even though it was wrong. Maybe “appear” only had one “P.” Didn’t it have two? I thought it had two.

“Please go have a seat,” the teacher repeated.

So I got up, went to sit by a few of my friends in the nearby crowd, and tried my best to hunch down and hide behind one of them so that no one could see me. Those tears that come when something mortifying and infuriating happens kept trying to fight their way out. The next girl in line said, “Appear. A-P-P-E-A-R. Appear.”

“That’s correct,” said the teacher, and she went on to the next word. I don’t remember the rest of that ordeal due to staring directly at the floor and listening to the blood rushing in my ears. I tried to tell myself, “At least you don’t have to keep playing. You’d rather be out here in the dark anyway.”

People seemed to forget about the whole event pretty quickly. Nobody was all that invested in it. But for years afterward the experience was one of those that still came to mind and made me feel awful. For one thing, every time I typed the word “appear” I mentally cringed.

What did I learn from this experience?

1) When somebody treats you unfairly, especially in front of EVERYBODY, stand up for yourself. Tell that teacher that, no, you are absolutely sure it’s spelled A-P-P-E-A-R, and she might want to double check her list or consult the other teachers to make sure.

2) Don’t worry. Nobody is going to remember much less care about who was the best speller in their sixth grade class, nor any of the other silly embarrassing things that happened to you in middle school. You’re the only one who’s going to agonize over it, so you might as well pull some lessons from the experience to use in the future and stop letting it get you down. It’s like a battle scar. It makes you tougher.

Oh, To Be a Ninja

People really catch me off guard sometimes. I’m not exactly the most outgoing person in the world, you see. When I walk into a room, I don’t expect to be the center of attention or for anyone in particular to stop what they’re doing and pay any mind to me at all. In fact, I would prefer to enter whatever public place stealthily, complete my tasks, and leave without anyone noticing me. Every now and then, though, whilst in the middle of doing whatever I’m doing, someone I’ve never met before will say to me, “You’re so quiet!” or “You don’t talk much, do you?”

Why, yes, complete stranger, that’s true. However, I don’t see why you suddenly felt the need to mention it. Nobody else here is talking either. Did you expect me to speak to you for some reason? Care to introduce yourself or anything? We don’t know each other, and I was busy, and you were busy, and now you’ve startled me and all you’re going to get is my perplexed deer-in-the-headlights stare and then an uncomfortable chuckle. What did I come in here for?

What’s the response? Maybe “How good of you to notice!” or “Thanks, you’re quite loud.” How about “Why, yes. I only use speech when my telepathy’s not working.”

A variation on this situation is when I’m the one in the room first. I’ve been in the room for hours. It’s where I work, or it’s a waiting room, or it’s somewhere else completely normal for a person to be. Someone moseys in, looking around or finding a place to sit, and doesn’t notice me. I notice the person, but she seems preoccupied so I focus on what I’m working on or reading. At this point, the person may or may not begin singing to herself or something equally embarrassing. She wanders closer to me. I’m right there in plain sight. I’ve been there the whole time. How can she not have seen me? Have I gone invisible?

I contemplate remaining silent in hopes that I won’t surprise or embarrass this person at all. I decide I will have to move eventually, and therefore I’ll be noticed at some point. It’s better to alert this person to my presence soon rather than let her continue with further embarrassing by-herself habits. Probably better to pretend I never noticed her either. I sniffle or make like I’m looking in my bag for something and rattle it a little. She whirls around. “Oh! I didn’t see you there! You were being so quiet!” she exclaims and follows up with nervous laughter. What’s that, Ms. Unobservant? Oh, I didn’t notice you there either despite your lovely rendition of that Ke$ha song. Hi. I shall now refocus on my book and let you continue with your business completely unmonitored.

This has happened so many times, even when the sound of my computer or throwing wheel or 3DS is making constant background sound, and even when I’m straight opposite the entryway with nothing obstructing a view of me. The solution is obviously that I should study ninjutsu so that I will be able to disappear silently in a puff of smoke at a moment’s notice.

Wood Elf Drama

There are a lot of problems with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, as with the entirety of Peter Jackson’s latest trilogy, and I could go on and on picking it apart, but there’s one big issue I want to explore.

(Spoilers)

When Thranduil decides to withdraw his remaining elf troops from the battle, Tauriel stands in his way because she doesn’t want him to abandon her dwarf friends who are going to meet terrible fates at the hands of the orcs. She’s in love with Kili (because they’ve shared a little witty banter here and there and they’re both pretty so of course she is) and he and his buddies are doomed if the elves leave. Thranduil tells her that her love for the pretty dwarf isn’t real and asks her if she would be willing to die for that love. She tells him that there’s no love left in him.

Legolas implied that his dad is all cold-hearted because when Legolas’ mother died it devastated him. So Thranduil once believed in real love, but now he doesn’t feel it and presumably resents and even denies its existence because he believes it only causes great pain. Okay then.

So when Kili meets his inevitable demise, and Tauriel throws herself off the ledge along with Bolg in an act of heroic self sacrifice, she should have died. But she didn’t. At the end when Thranduil finds her crying over Kili’s body, this somehow convinces him that that love must have been real after all, and reminds him of the love he used to feel. Why? Why would seeing her crying about it again suddenly change his mind on the whole thing? He didn’t care about Kili or Tauriel’s happiness.

What should have happened is Thranduil should have found Tauriel dead afterward, having nobly died and all, and then realized that she was indeed willing to die for her love thus proving that it had been real. That might have been enough to give him his change of heart, and it would have been an appropriate end to that little story arc. Were they just afraid to kill off their made-up lady character?

Leaving Tauriel alive at the end of the Hobbit trilogy leaves a big ole loose end dangling when setting up for the Lord of the Rings. One would assume that after the battle, since Legolas couldn’t return home with the wood elves and now had a new mission to go out on his own to find Aragorn, Tauriel would accompany him on his way just as he accompanied her throughout the entire story. They’ve gone everywhere and done everything together, and now they’re both outcasts. One would assume that she’d follow him at least to repay him for giving up so much to assist her as she defied Thranduil. One would assume that she’d be standing with him during the forming of the fellowship of the ring later on.

Are we to believe that instead she went and cried over Kili for ever and ever, and that even when the world needed the help of a brave, heroic, worldly, elf warrior like her who would be willing to sacrifice her elfy immortality to do what’s right, she’s nowhere to be found? Better she had a heroic end than a pathetic one.

Rudolph is Overrated

Okay. I did a lot of critical thinking as a kid. Often, when adults asked me simple questions I would gaze silently back at them. They were probably thinking I was too shy to answer or too confused by the question, when really I was having a conversation in my head. I was asking myself what the real purpose of the question was, deciding which answer they expected from me and why, and considering that they probably thought I was too shy or too confused by the question when really I was having a conversation in my head. I overthought everything.

The earliest example I can recall is one from when I was 3 years old. My preschool was having a Christmas play, and I was one of a throng of little kids involved. I don’t remember what building it was or how we got there, but I remember very clearly waiting in a long line backstage. To my dismay, my peers in front of me were one by one getting fitted for antlers and bells made of poster board, and getting red paint put on their noses.

At first it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t like doing silly kidsy stuff, but then I started thinking about it. If everyone was getting red paint, then we were all red-nosed reindeer. However, Rudolph was the only reindeer with a bright red nose. That’s what made him unique and useful. Therefore, we weren’t just going to be Santa’s regular reindeer; we were all going to be Rudolphs! The horror!

I supposed some people thought Rudolph’s song was sweet and happy and fun, but I certainly didn’t think so. Rudolph was the worst reindeer of all Santa’s commonly known reindeer. He wasn’t good enough to be a regular member of the sleigh team or he would have been flying with them every time. Instead, he was just a backup. And he wasn’t even utilized as part of the team because of some skill or achievement of his. It was just due to a condition he was born with. The regular eight reindeer all worked hard to get where they were. They probably put in many more hours than the rest, and they were strong and smart and did their jobs well. It wasn’t nice of the other reindeer to make fun of Rudolph’s nose, but that didn’t change the facts. In my opinion, Rudolph was completely undeserving of his fame, and it would have been disgraceful for me to have that red paint on my nose and sing about how he got to unfairly outshine the others. I did consider the antlers. Perhaps I could be a regular reindeer instead. Blitzen was way cooler than Rudolph. But then I decided they weren’t proper antlers. They were just cheap paper things and they’d look silly.

So by the time I got to the front of the line, I was in tears. I couldn’t think of how to explain my reasoning to the teachers. They seemed to think Rudolph was super great. On top of that, I absolutely always did as I was told by teachers, and I didn’t want to get in trouble for the first time. Luckily, they noticed how upset I was and allowed me to go out on stage without the getup. I stood still, mouthed a few of the words, and waited for the traumatic ordeal to be over. I stared straight out at my mom hoping she would get me out of there. I remember, too, having a huge smile of relief on my face once I was allowed to go to her at the end.

Afterward, every time I heard that song about that red-nosed reindeer I’d think of that evening at the play and wonder why everyone seemed to like that overrated creature so much. He just went around feeling bad about himself until Santa gave him a break. The story would have been better if Rudolph had decided one day not to let a bunch of bullies get him down, and instead he had gone to Santa and made a case for why he could handle the challenge of leading the sleigh in rough weather despite what the other reindeer said about him. He could have decided to show the other reindeer that people who are different are just as good if they work hard too. Then he would have been worth singing about.

Illogical Bangs

I used to think this was absolutely stupid:

Characters designed with bangs that split around their eyes so that there’s one narrow clump right in the middle. Yes, splitting them lets you see their eyebrows add expression to their faces, but who would do their bangs that way? Wouldn’t it be awfully annoying? Limit field of vision? It made no sense. If you didn’t want them in your eyes, wouldn’t you cut them above your eyes or keep them longer and to the sides? Pin them back, headbands, clips, shove them under a hat, something? Why would a character go a whole series or game looking like that? Totally unrealistic. Who would be too lazy to do something about one clump of bangs hanging between his/her eyes?

Then I glanced in the mirror this week. . . Bah.