Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t get days off, but don’t expect some long and poignant post today. Well, maybe you shouldn’t expect that most days. Today is Thanksgiving, a day that people set aside in hopes that it makes them feel grateful for everything that they have for at least one day a year. It’s a day that politics should be left out of. I’m sure Halloween has pretty gruesome history behind it, still going to celebrate that. It’s not about the past; it’s about where we move forward.

I’m thankful for every day. I’m thankful for my beautiful boys. I’m thankful for their successes and their struggles, because both make me a better mother and human. I’m thankful for my supportive family, who’s always there when I need them the most. I’m thankful for my husband, who always lifts me up when it feels like everyone else wants to take me down. I’m thankful that I have a house, food, and loved ones. I have a lot to be thankful of, which I’m very thankful for every day. We don’t need a single day to be grateful. We should be grateful every day.

If you are lucky enough to spend the day with family, remember how lucky you are. If you are working today, putting your life on the line to ensure the safety of others, thank you for your service. We are thinking of you, grateful for your selflessness. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be with family, be with the family you choose. Blood doesn’t mean family. Love does.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember the lessons of today every day of your life. Even in darkness, there is something to be grateful for.

Social Media Help For Esports

Some teams have an awesome team behind their social media accounts. As a Boston Uprising fan, I feel as though they have done an amazing job. The Overwatch/Overwatch League teams (and Blizzard team in general) also have a knack for getting information out and actively engaging with their fans. This is just one of many things that I personally love about Blizzard. The problem is that PR on the social media front tends to be a problem for these teams/stars, especially in the Overwatch League and apparently now their Contenders teams.

You may have heard that there’s a new team in town: the Toronto Defiant. I cried a little on the inside when they had Neko in their video releasing info on 2 of their new players. The reveal was well-produced and the hype around it was perfect. This was social media used in an effective manner to achieve awesome results for the team. Even though this worst kept secret was something some Boston fans were hoping was fake. (Which quickly disappeared when Neko referred to HuK as a lying bastard on the internet, but still some of us clung onto hope that Neko would be our fearless Zen/Ana once again.) The Neko incident of calling HuK out on and it going viral on social media is just one of many ways that the PR team has failed players on the social media front. I could go into real life examples of how social media can give people a negative impression on you without the polish of an experienced professional, but I really don’t like to talk politics on Gaming Day.

Way back when DreamKazper did that terrible thing, I pointed out that this was just one of a few examples back then that you have these kids who are impulsive and inexperienced socially (in most cases) who need help navigating the finer points of engaging fans and social media strategies. As an Uprising fan, I can point to NotE and Gamsu as evidence that when a player uses social media properly can grow a massive following without any drama. Gamsu posts images of the beautiful views when he hikes or hilarious images of him missing his flights. Then there is NotE who goes the puppy route and keeps up this wholesome and goofy image that he has. These are players that have either been coached properly on social media PR or ones who just are personable and relatable people with a talent for social media.

Then you have teams like, I don’t know, the Toronto eSports Club who went full nerd-rage on Twitter. “We were told we couldn’t have our name so we quit Overwatch”. They sounded like petulant children. Does it suck that they had to change their name because of the Toronto Defiant? Absolutely. I don’t think it was right that they had to change their name. Throwing a childish fit on Twitter? Probably not the best way to go about it especially if you want sympathy over the situation. Plus, I mean just flat out quitting the game and bashing how awful it is? That brought up a lot of concerns for Uprising fans (and potentially even their players/staff) of what this meant for them since this seemed like a rash overreaction one the part of their academy team. When HuK comes off as a reasonable party in a situation, then you know you’re wrong. This is another case where someone who shouldn’t have a Twitter account while representing other people makes everyone look bad. (Applies to politics today as well.) In case you’re wondering Toronto eSports doesn’t actually own the academy team, the Uprising do. So, this really means nothing.

These teams and players need better social media coaching. Fissure has an awful reputation due to his social media presence. xQc has a reputation due to his online persona where you either love him or hate him. Social media today can make or break your brand if you let it. In a lot of these cases, they are letting it break them. I’m no expert on social media, but I have done enough where I don’t utterly squash the brand I’m trying to build up. If you don’t have the funds or means to get social media professionals to manage the more difficult people, maybe it’s a good idea to at least train them better in these areas. In most cases, the Overwatch League players are freshly 18 with their own income, living on their own, coming into a massive fan base. It can be easy to get caught up in the fame, not realizing the consequences of your actions in the grand scheme of things.

When Talking to Your Child About Death

The first time I had to discuss a death with my son, it was my aunt who had passed away. He was still young enough where he didn’t exactly comprehend it and it didn’t ultimately have an impact on him. (I want to say he was 3ish at the time?) The second time I had to discuss a death with him, it was my paternal grandfather. This time he was in Kindergarten. Still, he was too young to really understand. I asked him if he wanted to go to school, if he wanted his birth father’s family to take care of him (it was just before his Christmas break started) while I attended the funeral. I missed the wake to take care of my son. I couldn’t miss the funeral.

My son, who even still is a lot older mentally than he should be, decided he wanted to come with because it was the right thing to do. I reluctantly agreed that he could go, thinking that he was too young to be at a place like this. But I figured if he was mature enough to ask and understand what was happening, that he was able to attend. He wanted to come up to the body with me. I held his hand and we prayed together while kneeling in front of my grandfather. We attended the Catholic mass afterwards, where people were crying and remembering my grandfather. I stayed stoic, as I tend to do. Probably why I have the reputation for being “cold”. I stayed stoic until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my son was trying to be like everyone else. He asked for a tissue, and started dabbing his dry eyes because everyone else was crying. He started forcing sniffling noises while doing it. I didn’t want to laugh during a somber mass, but I chuckled. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he knew the motions that he needed to go through and he just wanted to make sure he was doing it right.

It was a long time later when I had to tell my now older son about a death in the family. This time, it was his biological paternal grandfather, a man he maybe met twice? I remember failing at this opportunity, making a joke because that’s who I am. “Dylan, you know what sucks more than your computer dying?” Yeah, you can finish the joke. I said it. I should be ashamed of myself, I know. But you have to be me and my son to understand. He didn’t react. He didn’t even really know the guy. He was confused as to whether he should go to pay his respects, be alone among a room of people who he didn’t even really know. Ultimately, he decided that it was better for him not to go. He was 15; that was entirely his choice.

My youngest son’s school was doing a project about Veteran’s Day. We decided that it would be cute to write about my maternal grandfather, who served in the Navy and passed away when my oldest son was about 2 or 3 months old. We named our youngest after my grandfather, so we thought it would be cute for our son to learn about him. It was cute until he asked why he didn’t meet my “Grampa”. I calmly explained to him that my grandfather passed away a long time ago. “He’s dead?” I nodded. “Did he die in the war?” I explained that he died of cancer and that cancer sucks. “What happens when you die?”

I stopped. What was my approach here? What do I say to him? Do I say what I believe? That he’s just dead and there’s a body in the ground and that’s really it? I couldn’t do that. I found myself saying the words I’ve learned through all my years of Catechism. “Well, he’s in Heaven watching over us to make sure that we’re okay. He’s protecting us.” My son went on. “What’s Heaven?” I found myself getting wrapped up in a lie that I didn’t believe, as parents often do in so many situations. “Well, it’s where good people go. And your great grandfather was a very good man.” He nodded, asked a few more questions, and that was the end of the conversation. Until he kept bringing it up. “How can he protect us if he’s up in Heaven?”

I wanted to say to  him “Mommy doesn’t believe in God or Heaven or angels, I just lied to you because the truth sucks”. There was no right answer here. I had to keep going with this lie to protect him. Just because I didn’t believe, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to believe if he wants to. It’s a loaded topic dealing with death, especially when discussing it with your kids. I worry about the day when I have to tell them that someone they were close to died because I’m the last person I’d want to tell me if someone passed away. The last. I’ve done it before. I’m not very good at it. I blurt it out without softening the blow. I answer questions honestly. I’m brutal and cold. I admit my faults. I have no idea how I would tell my child that someone they loved died. I could barely make it through a conversation about telling them how someone they didn’t even know died. Did my child need to know that my grandfather died of cancer? Was that too much to put on him? Did I screw up my oldest by telling  him the news through a joke?

I’m a mom trying to figure out this hard stuff just like everyone else. My way probably sucks and I don’t know how to fix it but it surprisingly has worked up until this point. I’m numb to the death thing and admittedly that has hardened me. My first thought it never “oh that sucks”, it’s always “okay, what needs to be done next.” I hope that I figure this out because as you can see, my gut instincts are not great here.

The Joys of Only Trying to Impress Yourself

As I’m currently slowly losing weight, it’s been a different journey from the last time that I went through this process. Last time, I just looked at the baby weight and felt not really disgust with it, but just general unhappiness with it. I didn’t necessarily lose the weight for any other reason than I just didn’t want to have it anymore. That inspired shortcuts that took the weight off and kept the baby weight off until a series of medication changes and stressful situations caused it to slowly come back. This time, it’s not about not wanting to listen to people comment on my weight. It isn’t because I’m trying to impress my partner; my husband loves me no matter what.

No. I’m trying to impress me. Not really in the sense of that I tie in my self-worth with anything like how I look or whether or not people are impressed with me. I don’t need a fancy ring or big house or perfect body to show off because I don’t care about being impressive. In all honestly, I barely care if the people within my household are impressed with me. Is it healthy to not have this need to be impressive? Does that mean that I don’t have any goals to be better? I do have goals and strive to be the best me that I can be. But I just don’t have the need for praise. I don’t need to show off that I’m losing weight to get the masses to support me. Some people need that for motivation. They need to do what helps them on their journey and they shouldn’t be ashamed of that. However I’m very self-motivated, which is probably why working independently at home works for me. I know what I need to do. I focus on what I need to do. And I get it done. Because I will always do what needs to get done.

My confidence shows in other ways. I don’t call myself pretty, because I don’t view myself as anything other than “adequately good-looking”. It’s not because I don’t have confidence in my appearance. It’s because I don’t care about that. I don’t care if other people find me attractive because my husband does, and that’s the extent that I care about my looks. My current weight loss journey has more to do with my mental health than trying to look hot. I’m not down on myself because of my weight. I just need to be in a better mental state and working out and focusing on losing weight makes me feel better mentally. Didn’t lose any weight or gained this week? I don’t get upset. I just look towards doing better next week. I take the same approach to my weight loss as I do in everything else. I’m going to have bad days. I’m going to have good days. Every day gives me that fresh opportunity to be better somehow. I work out because it eases the stress and just gives me a mental boost when I need it. I eat healthier because I mentally feel better. The goal is to feel better, not look better. I think this distinction not only makes it different than last time, but it also makes it easier to accomplish and stick to. A strong foundation in mental health means that I can be better for my family.

I wrote a post before about how I’d rather be honest than impressive. That’s a motto that I honestly live by now because otherwise, it’s stressful. It’s stressful trying to be the perfect mom that has their kid in a billion activities, has a perfectly clean house, and has genius Ivy League bound kids. That’s never going to be who I am. I’m never going to be someone that is impressive and I’m not going to place that on myself. What I will do is always try to be the best version of myself that I can be because that’s what I want for myself, not because other people expect it of me. When you stop trying to impress others and focus on trying to impress yourself, that’s when you can make the changes that you want to. That’s when you can achieve peak happiness, or at least whatever semblance of it that we can have today.

Women in the Workplace

Prior to going to college and working from home as a writer, I worked in the hospitality industry. It was, honestly, soul crushing work to the highest levels. I did learn some very useful skills while working at the hotel/restaurant. For one thing, I have mastered how to listen without actually listening. This is an essential skill for anyone who works in a customer service-related industry. This is where you can smile and nod convincingly, while catching enough of the Karen’s complaints in front of you to appear that you care and are going to do everything in your power to make things right. You won’t, because you’re a minimum-waged employee that has no real say in anything and just has to bow down to the whims of management and customers. But, at least you’ve convinced the Karen that you’re useful. Interestingly, this is also a skill that is very useful as a mother.

When you’re a teenaged single mother, keeping your job is essential. This puts you at a disadvantage of being young and desperate. You take it when you get your butt slapped while waiting tables, having someone give you their number as a condition for getting tips, or just having people hang around in a sleazy way for you to finish your shift, despite the fact that you’re not finishing your shift because they are lingering around like lecherous predators trying to make a play for a barely legal teenager when you just want to get home so you can try to make it to school on time the next day. I was fortunate enough early on in my hospitality career that my chefs treated their waitresses like daughters. The waitresses were sisters who would watch out for each other. When the chefs happened to be around, you would just tell them what was going on and they’d come out with their dad face and those lecherous customers would disappear fast. Even Grampa Bobby, the MC/Banquet Manager could straighten out anyone who got out of line in protection of his waitstaff.

After I was promoted to the front desk at the hotel, I foolishly thought it would be a different experience. I still had to wait tables/do banquets in addition to full-time front desk work, because single mom and it seemed like less protection at the front than it was in the kitchen. You’re the face of the hotel. The first person that guests come across. Which would lead to frequent conversations such as when I would ask “Is it just you in the room, sir?” and they would respond “Depends, are you joining me?” They would creepily wink as if they were trying to pass off that comment as a harmless joke… unlesssss… I would always raise my eyebrow at them and then program the key, hand them the key, and then say “One key, it is then.” It never stopped getting uncomfortable when that happened. But that was just something we’re told to suck up because it’s going to happen. Women are told to change our reactions, while the men aren’t being told they shouldn’t be lecherous predatorial creeps.

Eventually our banquet manager left and a new one was hired. The kind of manager that if you didn’t want to sleep with him, he wanted to make sure your life was miserable at the workplace. The kind where if you didn’t flirt back, he would figure out ways to replace you with someone that would. You don’t develop a thick skin or a higher tolerance for these things. You just end up accepting things because what’s the alternative? Back then, even 18 years ago, you didn’t really have any options. They instantly fired a male housekeeper that made me feel uncomfortable with his advances on me. But a manager? The manager’s indiscretions were just ignored because he was him? Maybe he was good at his job when he wasn’t drunk, high, or hitting on the barely and not legal staff? Even then, I just accepted my fate of being the target of unwanted advances and the ire that the unrequited nature of them caused.

The final straw came right before I decided to go back to college. Back when we were in high school, there were these gel bracelets that we had. If someone had a cool color, we’d trade one of our cool colors. It was fun. It turns out, in some areas those bracelets were offered in exchange for sexual favors or were used as a coupon for future ones. Not our school. It was just friendship bracelets being exchange for other colors. There was this one that I was particularly fond of that was blue and glittery, given to me by someone who was going off to college while I was going to spend forever working at this hotel. I wore these bracelets to work, because it was the only joy I had some days. I could look at them and remember who gave me which ones. How did I learn that these bracelets weren’t so innocent? A customer came in to check in and saw the bracelets. He goes “which one does this one get me?”, or something along those lines, as he grabbed my wrist and broke my beloved one baby blue glittery one and put it in his pocket. He laughed at me as he let my wrist fall down to the desk and smash because my body went limp in terror. He continued to lurk around the desk for the rest of my shift. But since it was a Sunday, it was just me on site. No manager. No owner. It was a slow day so housekeeping was already gone. It was just a twenty-something year old sitting alone hoping that she was going to be safe for the rest of her shift. I don’t remember if I tried calling the manager about it. I remember just being terrified.

I did end up leaving right after that incident, after serving a few shifts and being completely terrified while doing so. I had to wear a wrist splint for a couple of weeks because my wrist had been sprained. The last thing I signed as an employee there was the incident report that was filled out 2 or 3 days later when I realized that I had to go through worker’s comp rather than my own insurance. My manager, who was the nicest person and who tried really hard to do the right thing, told me that she was going to send the customer (I remembered his room number) the medical bill and a request for the bracelet back.

Why did I tell this incredibly personal story? Because it’s relevant. Not just because of what’s happening to Activision/Blizzard. But because this incident was 18 years ago and still haunts me today, probably to the point that I’m too terrified to work outside of the home because of it. Because these are stories that women today are still telling about their experience working and getting nowhere with it. Because we’re expected to change our reactions instead of having them being told that they need to change their behaviors. Because we’re afraid to speak up because we can’t afford to lose our jobs. We’re victims of having people take advantage of us and our uniquely vulnerable situations. That’s why women not only need to speak and men need to listen, but men also need to speak out. Speak up when they see something. Listen to the stories and offer support so that they have the strength to do something about it. Everyone needs to do their part to make the change.

The Struggle Between Morality and Capitalism

Some people call this “cancel culture”, but in reality, there are more than just the products or services offered by a company that make consumers choose to give them their money. I’m no different than any other consumer. I choose to buy my groceries at Big Y (only the one in my city) and sometimes the local grocery Fruit Fair because I have a positive view of them as a company. The owners of these companies are active in our local community and I’ve never had an unpleasant experience with any employee at either place, which is more than I can say about the misery I feel when I go grocery shopping at the other options in the area. Consumers make decisions based on factors like a positive impression of the brand, positive experiences when working with the people at a company, and whether or not that company’s morals align with theirs.

A company’s morals and how they align with mine is a factor I consider when purchasing items. For example, I refuse to step foot in Hobby Lobby due to their belief system and those are beliefs that I absolutely cannot support. And it’s easy for me because I’ve never had to be concerned with them because there are other craft stores in the area that I can spend my money at. Chick-fil-A is another company that I just can’t support. However, I did eat there a couple of times and then spent an equal amount of money on charities to make myself feel better about betraying my beliefs. Plus, full disclosure, Chick-fila-A is overpriced and nowhere near as good as Wendy’s or Popeye’s chicken sandwiches.

For the most part, directing my moral outrage at a company hasn’t really impacted me because those were typically products or services that I wasn’t buying to begin with. But when the news broke out about Activision Blizzard, I was immediately conflicted. Blizzard games have been a huge part of my life for nearly 2 decades. I’ve met great people and friends through these games. I play Overwatch and World of Warcraft (Classic and Retail) practically daily especially to break up my work and reset my brain. I religiously follow Overwatch League. To hear this news saddens me. No. It destroys me. The fact that companies like that get away with being disgusting for so long is disturbing to me. The wholesome image we get of Blizzcon is shattered. This brand betrayed its fans, especially the female gaming community that love their games.

Blizzard fans that give a crap should feel betrayed right now. The moral conflict is whether or not this is a company that we should give money to, despite the profound impact that their games have had on the community. Are these bad actions something that predates the Activision Blizzard merger? If so, does the ire we should feel reflect on Activision’s games, not Blizzard’s? Do we stop giving money to a company, which causes harm to the innocent developers that make these games that we love? Do we wait to see if they own up to their actions and hand down consequences for these vile actions? At what point do we give up on something that we’ve already dedicated so much to? These are all questions we should be asking ourselves.

We should stand up and fight, but my conflict is rooted in not just my outrage but also my need for routine and comfort. It’s seems like an easy choice: stop supporting a company that causes so much pain. But there’s another side. Especially at a time when people need comfort and stability, these video games offer them what they need. I need the comfort that I’m going to log on and get “Hey Ginger” or “Sup Leigh”. I need the comfort of mindlessly doing things while interacting with others. It’s the break from reality that some people need on a regular basis more than others. But at what cost? What would I like to see? I would like to see them be held accountable for their actions. I would like to see massive chunks of money being donated to RAINN, top suicide prevention organizations, and women’s rights/sexual harassment prevention causes. I’m talking like massive amounts of money. They need to make this right.

This isn’t “cancel culture”. This is deciding if you want your money to support something that you don’t believe in. Sometimes, that decision is much easier than others. But isn’t that what capitalism is all about? The consumers making decisions about where to spend their money? I don’t call it “cancel culture”, I call it “moral consumerism”. And I’m really struggling with it right now.

But I’m Not Really a People Person

During the lockdown/quarantine of 2020, people started sharing memes like “Avoiding people? I’ve been preparing this moment my whole life!” Most people who I saw that shared it, I rolled my eyes. Fake introverts, I joked. Those are people who are always going out and engaging with people. Me? I really have been preparing for this my whole life. Why don’t I really go out on date nights? Because I’d much rather just stay at home with my family and dogs. I don’t mind just being alone with my dogs because I like my dogs more than I like most people. I have friends and family that I cherish, but I’m not someone who really enjoys being out where there are too many people. Maybe it’s the sensory overload that my youngest suffers from. Maybe it’s just extreme social anxiety. Who knows?

I have crafted my life around not being a people person. I work from home and only take jobs where I can just get emails to get my work and then just do my work and give it back to them. I don’t particularly enjoy engaging on the phone. The only engagement I really enjoy “work-wise” was streaming, which hopefully can start again after the kids ship off back to school. But that’s one-sided engagement. That’s engagement I initiate on my own terms. I’m not really a type-A personality. I float somewhere in the middle of the spectrum where I know when to take control and when to concede. Going out to the grocery store? Nightmare for me. People do stupid things and I roll my eyes or make snide commentary that my husband glares at me for. Not because he disagrees with what I said; but because some things are better left in the brain. Hilariously, my knack for just saying what people are thinking but don’t want to say is one of my biggest selling points in the relationship. He even shared with me a hilarious meme: “Quiet boys, why do you like the loud mouth women? Quiet boys: Because someone needs to tell the waitress I ordered mash potatoes and it’s not going to be me.” Him and my oldest son just looked at me like “Sound familiar?”

I do know restraint and can practice it like an art. I know how to put on a show of being a people person, being a charming and witty presence when I need to. It’s exhausting work pretending to tolerate people while you envision something happening to them, like punching them in the face. I even managed to not make fun of this person who was talking on his speaker phone at the grocery store so loudly that you could hear him across the store. That doesn’t mean I always care to do this. I cannot control my facial expressions, such as my eye roll of disdain or my eyebrows shooting up when I think someone is being ridiculous. At least when it comes to cold and flu season and I start sporting the masks again, I can help hide some of these tells.

Is my preference for isolation healthy? Probably not. I’m sure the couch therapists are reading this and have a thorough diagnosis of my mental health issues. But solitude gives me strength. Not having obligations outside of the house helped me to lose nearly 60 lbs. I was happier because I didn’t have to worry about my period problems affecting my schedule because I couldn’t go and do anything anyways. I socialized with my friends through texts, short meetings when one of my besties would drop off the school meals for me, and even a Zoom girls night. I enjoyed being selective in my activities. But I got to stay home with my boys and dogs and that was perfect for me. And I think that’s OK. I think pretending to be something that you’re not isn’t OK, especially when you do it just because of societal expectations. But I’m just going to be me, the person who thinks places are just “too people-y”. The selective recluse.

Toxicity of the Overwatch City

Normally Monday’s blogs are dedicated to gaming. Typically during the Overwatch League season, it sticks to that. But the Summer Showdown ended up with a great battle that ended in a whimper between the two APAC teams: Chengdu Hunters and Shanghai Dragons. It would have been cool to see the Hunters win, but Shanghai has gone through so much that it was nice to see the back-to-back tournament wins. Plus, Fleta is just a monster and I image they might win it all in the countdown cup and Grand Finals with him getting another MVP trophy, this time for the Grand Finals MVP. As for my favorite team? I’ll just be happy to see them in the final tournaments. I’d be ecstatic for a win. But I’m a realist. Maybe if they actually keep a full roster for once, next year could be our year. If they actually keep their full roster for once.

There’s something about games that end up bringing out the worst in people. Take, for instance, when the San Francisco Shock once again failed to meet the high bar of excellence that they have set as the first back-to-back Grand Finals champions. Their “fans” turned so fast and so hard. The hate the community of gamers seems to just easily spew is a little bananas. I’m not sure that they forget that they are targeting real people with real feelings; rather, I’m a cynic that just thinks people don’t care. Maybe it’s because my oldest is about the same age as some of these kids (and they are just kids when you think about it), but I just can’t. I want to punch all of them because my protective mom instinct kicks in. Or in another instance, when a fan had a poster with a mascot sexually assaulting another mascot. Eek. Toxic.

But it just isn’t towards the pro players and anyone associated with those teams; it’s when you play the games. Normally when playing Overwatch, I stick to mystery heroes. I’ve discussed before my aversion to the other game modes, since I typically play tank or support and this will require me to talk on chat. Girls being on chat is a hit or miss. You get some people who don’t care, or the majority who decides that they are already going to lose because they have a girl on their team. Mystery heroes doesn’t necessarily require chat. It’s generally far less toxic, though my games yesterday (and lately) really test that theory. Like when this girl came on chat and kept repeating “You guys are lucky I don’t want to get angry. So lucky.” Being annoyingly passive aggressive is just as toxic as the guy screaming on chat about everyone being trash. Or this other girl who went off on this guy for seemingly no reason, trying to pull the “I’m not the a-hole, you’re the a-hole”, then making a show of throwing while smoking a bong on voice. It was a super fun match. Or the one guy that was actually so bad I blocked him. I have a very high tolerance for things, so if I block or report someone, it was something extreme.

The point is that there’s toxicity all around in the gaming world. Overwatch I feel is no more or no less toxic than any other game. At least the team behind the game tries their best to curb this behavior. They do what little they can, and I think that makes them stand out from other games that just sorta go “mad cuz bad” rather than figure out ways to address the problem. I think that’s an important distinction to make. Will it get better? Probably not. Because before the equation was exactly as the team at Penny Arcade said with their Anonymity Equation: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Jerk (paraphrasing. I like to keep things at least PG, if not PG-13). The problem is that now people are emboldened to be the jerk even without anonymity, meaning that they get even worse with it. Maybe solve the “stop raising jerks” issue, then we can go back to normal levels of turds on the internet.

I Love My City… But…

Okay, that’s probably a lie. My entire life I fantasized about getting the hell out of this town. I imagined myself in a loft, childless, writing and getting paid just enough to make ends meet. My goals were to be anywhere but this city. Then I became a pregnant teen and leaving this city wasn’t going to be in the plans anymore. As a parent and an adult, I see the appeal now. Relatively low crime, depending on where in the city you live. You live close enough to everything. Decent enough schools, especially when it comes to their special needs programs. You didn’t have to pay for trash and still technically don’t if you can manage to fit a week’s worth of trash in those obscenely small bins. (I can barely get away with not having extra in my recycling. Wonder when we’ll get charged for that too.) You get municipal electricity and now fiber, if you’re lucky to live in one of the areas that got it during the ridiculously slow roll out of the program. There were plenty of things to love about this place as an adult.

But I mean, there are plenty of things especially now that annoy me. I’m annoyed that half the time we can’t get out of our driveway because of illegally parked cars that cops just drive by and ignore, despite saying “we know there’s an issue, we just never see it.” I can’t have parking in front of my house because the apartment people hate their parking lot. Our city spends money and we end up facing tax increases because they are incompetent in how they spend their money. I mean, how much money was spent on an auditorium that they aren’t going to use anymore, but yeah let’s give them a raise during a pandemic when people are struggling, but don’t worry the raise won’t take into effect yet. Our teachers are working hard, to get insulted at every turn for how they did things during a pandemic. Who is standing up for them? I certainly don’t see a lot of public officials doing that.

It’s a city that sometimes I wonder if I even want to live in, though I know I’ll stay because it’s familiar and there are/were some benefits to it. But it doesn’t make me happy. Maybe it’s the neighborhood I picked, an affordable part of the Fairview-ish section so my oldest could stay in his current school district and because at the time my youngest would potentially need speech and autism services. So, I picked the same exact school district that my oldest went through because that elementary school is stellar. Many of my neighbors are great and aside from illegally parked cars as the bane of my existence and worrying about people coming over because they have to park halfway down the street to visit me, I like where I am. But I fantasize of something better. I only stay because the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. That shouldn’t be the only reason I stay here.

I wish that they cared more about the taxpayer and not the rich people that fund their campaigns. But, that’s politicians. They don’t care about the people who voted them there, only the money that got them there. I wish that when a cop car drives by a car parked on a yellow curb that they would stop and do something about it. I wish that I had more encounters with the cops that would make me feel safe/not fly into an anxiety attack about calling them when we can’t leave our driveway because cars are parked on both ends. I wish the teachers got praise for everything that they did this year. I would love the lunch staff to get so much praise for how they’ve stepped up/continue to step up in serving food to the community. Do something to honor them. Not do victory laps because you put up a pride flag during Pride Month or an autism flag for Autism Awareness Day. I’ve always thought mayors were nothing but people who loved photo ops, and I don’t think I’ve been proven wrong yet. Well, at least photo ops at private schools or events for people who support him. I don’t recall seeing our mayor pose for pictures in one of the public schools with students, though I would love to be wrong here. And I’m not counting graduations or one photo op outside of the preschool.

Most importantly, I think I wish that one day I could be proud of this city. Not want to laugh because we make the news for ridiculous things like being the worst Walmart on the planet or because our government officials spend a fortune on something that they won’t even use. Then, they will likely spend even more money for something else to replace it once we forget about our outrage. I don’t want to roll my eyes because we make the news for having an outdated charter that makes it impossible to remove city officials that have no place being in office still. I just want a city that I could be proud of.

The Role We Play Today

Originally I had this blog scheduled for today that I ultimately pulled last minute (which is why I’m late today). As a writer with an audience, I have to be selective about the hills that I want to die on. The original topic was a conversation inspired by an interesting discussion on the local forums about a hypothetical on a school committee member and if it would be acceptable for them to work at a dispensary in the city. This inspired me to discuss my own thoughts on legalizing drugs, which I’m aware is a very controversial stance. But was I passionate enough about the topic to eventually post it? Not passionate enough to potentially argue about it. I believe in my stance, but there are more interesting and important hills to die on, and I didn’t think that was the one.

But in pulling that post, it made me realize that people who have voices play a major role in the world today. An even bigger role in what I would argue has been the slow downfall of humanity. Fear mongering, misinformation, hate, partisanship. Fighting against those things are hills that I would die on over and over again because voices against these things should be enhanced.

There’s a reason why even though there are plenty of political memes that impact me, I don’t share them. Whether I laugh about it or it invokes thought, I leave it. It’s not because I wasn’t entertained. It wasn’t because it inspired me to research the topic and learn more about it, including whether or not it’s a full truth, a half-truth, or a not truth. That’s probably the most important part. Doing your own research rather than getting your news and outrage from memes. I don’t post them because I don’t want to feed into this culture of hate, fear mongering, partisanship, and misinformation. I want people to think for themselves rather than to go off in a world of false outrage. I don’t want to be a part of what’s destroying our culture.

People like Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow have made millions upon millions doing that. They make their voices the loudest to get people to blindly follow them without any regard for facts. And the worst part is: People do. People find it easier to just follow than question. They find it easier to just react rather than think. It’s just easier to blindly believe and follow every word of those people that we trust for information. That’s why journalism is nowhere near the prestigious path anymore. Because news organizations don’t care about facts. They know that we trust them for information and they take advantage of that. Whether it’s for profit or to spread their own belief systems like wildfire, we let them take advantage of us with their biased viewpoints. We eat that up with a dessert of cheeky memes that we agree with, sharing it with others to spread whatever propaganda we’re buying into. That’s the role that we play.

It’s time to change the role that we play in this cluster that we’re dealing with right now. Instead of accepting it, fight it. Instead of following blindly, question it. It’s easy to sit back and complain that the world is gone to crap, but it’s another thing to realize the role that we’re playing in this downfall.

It’s Time to Celebrate

In a few short days, we will be coming together to celebrate the hard work of my oldest son. Graduating high school is a major milestone. It’s a massive achievement, especially with his courses to graduate with honors and considering the cluster that the past 2 years were. Graduating high school isn’t easy, especially when the world is stopped in the middle of a pandemic. It does make you pause and reflect on how far he’s come, from being the smallest kid in class to being at least sorta the same size as everyone else. Sorta.

That means it’s time to bring all of the family together to celebrate with him. To share your pride with them in that moment, while also praying that maybe this is the day the apartment people aren’t taking over your entire front of the house so that your guests at least have someplace to park. Not holding out hope though. Apparently they prefer walking halfway down the street rather than in their actual parking lot, choosing to take up every spot in front of our house and on some occasions, even our driveway. (Rant over.)

It’s stressful looking around the house and thinking “There’s no way to get everything done by the weekend while also working”, especially since my husband has been working overtime since last week and my youngest has decided this is the week for sporadic anxiety attacks to take up my time. That’s what you do as a a parent though. You suck it up and just drink more coffee as needed. You plan the menu, get to cleaning and cooking. I’m fortunate enough that I can easily bribe my nephews, one with just pizza and the other with pizza and the promise of sharing his aunt’s precious recipes. I like the company and I like that at least someone has an interest in learning the family recipes. My oldest son does sometimes, but his will to learn recipes is overcome by his love of gaming and streaming.

The most important piece of this puzzle isn’t the food that will be eaten or even the worries of parking or not having the house clean enough for guests. The most important piece is the people coming together to celebrate in this moment. A celebration we wouldn’t have been able to have a year ago. It’s the conversations that people are going to have while they are eating or just sharing their pride in my son’s accomplishments as well. It’s about family, both the ones of blood and the ones that you choose. These are those special moments that you’re going to remember more. I’ll occupy myself with cooking and serving guests, hoping that I don’t just start crying both of pride and of sadness that my oldest will be going away in a few short months.

He deserves this. He deserves the world and the world is now his to take on. He’s going to do great. He’s going to do great things. And I’m thankful for the tribe that helped along the way, ensuring that he was setup for success. He grew up knowing he was loved and supported every step of the way and that matters. That helped create the compassionate, narcissistic monster that we know today. (Kidding about the narcissism, mostly. Kid has an ego, for sure.)

The Shadowlands Patch: Chains of Domination

I was looking for great story and in comes Tyrande, flying in and seeking vengeance for her people. Only to.. fail? Ysera appears alongside her friend to help her through this moment of failure. It was a decent story. I gasped as Ysera appeared again, even though I knew she was reborn in the Shadowlands. The story wasn’t disappointing. It was decent. I did want more. I hope I do get more. But then the questing started and I was hoping to get much more excitement back into retail than I did.

One of the things that I love about retail over Classic is the fact that I don’t have to nearly kill myself using Shadow Word: Death to tag mobs since the patch that occurred in late Burning Crusade hasn’t happened yet. The one where I can tag mobs just by putting my dot up instead of having to wait for that first tick. The one where people can’t ninja my mobs because I didn’t realize anyone was around and didn’t open with a Shadow Word: Death. I also love that mobs can be tagged by anyone, as long as it isn’t tagged by a group or the opposite faction first. I can just dot everything people are killing, get credit for the kills/get to look the bodies for quest items, and call it a day. I don’t like in retail that they make these quests where only one person can grab and item and the rest of the realm is trying to do the same quest only they can’t because only one person can grab it and the respawn timer is apparently 20 minutes. (Needless to say, as soon as I see these types of Maw/Korthia quests, I just don’t. I don’t need the rep that badly.) If I wanted to get annoyed by questing, I’d play Classic.

And I do play Classic a lot more now that I’m not struggling as a holy priest in Vanilla. Turns out, being a healer is more fun with friends you make along the way. Shadow has practically no downtime when questing, which I like. I’m only 63/64ish, which isn’t bad considering the limited play I’ve been able to get.

I just want flying. I’m sure if I had flying, I’d play retail more. Mostly because Revendreth is the worst zone and I refuse to do dailies there until I get flying. Also, it’d make leveling up my alts a lot easier. I have a lot of those. I know. I’m spoiled by the ease of retail, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thriving in Classic either. The fact that I have leveled so many alts means that I’ve done the quests enough that I know how to cheese things a little to make life easier. Like farming up glowcaps and fertile spores before you get to the Sporeggar rep in Zangarmarsh. Free XP tip, courtesy of BluishOblivion.

This patch is a bit lackluster from the patch that they hyped it to be. The zone is okayish looking. But it’s nothing spectacular. So far my favorite thing about it is that I don’t have to stop doing Maw stuff because of the Jailer debuffs. I think I like that even more than being able to mount there finally. I’ll still play because I find the game to be mindless fun that allows me to just play games without taking things too seriously. But, the next expansion better be a stellar one because eventually people are going to stop throwing money at this game. Looking at you, Activision.

Chicken Mandu

My plate of mandu

I don’t make the traditional mandu. This was a recipe that I made on the fly, not really knowing what goes into traditional mandu. Mandu is a Korean dumpling, which is generally made with pork or beef and sweet potato noodles. My boys aren’t the biggest fans of pork, so I came up with this recipe when my husband randomly had a craving for mandu and we only had ground chicken on hand. You can deep fry them, which is what I usually do. Though sometimes I steam them, then pan fry them to get a nice texture on them. These made a ton of mandu. Like a ridiculous amount. If you do use this recipe, get help wrapping the mandu or freeze the leftover filling for another time. Just a warning, I’m not the best wrapper. I mainly just do what I can to make sure the filling stays in and that’s all the patience I have, especially after 10 mandu in.

My ingredients.

What You Need

  • 4 big gloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 bulbs of green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 lbs. ground chicken
  • About 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • About 1/2 cup of soy sauce, or to taste
  • Gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes)
  • Homemade mandu wraps, store-bought mandu wraps, or simple wonton wrappers (If making from scratch, I like Maangchi’s recipe.)

Making the Filling

My filling.
  1. Start by preheating your skillet a few minutes before putting the oil in. Then add the sesame oil.
  2. Add ground chicken to pan with the hot oil. Take the time to really make small bites of the chicken, as small as you can. I like to add some salt and pepper while the chicken cooks, about a pinch or two of each.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, add the minced garlic, soy sauce, and then add about 3 generous pinches of gochugaru. Sometimes I add a bit more of each, depending on taste. Cook all of this together.
  4. Take the chicken mixture off the heat and add the green onions. Mix together.
  5. While the mixture is cooling a bit, you can start rolling out your mandu wrappers as in the instructions if you use the recipe above for homemade wrappers.
  6. If using store-bought wrappers, they usually come with great picture instructions on the back to show you how to properly roll them.
  7. Once you roll them out, you can cook them as you wish. We typically fry them in 350°F vegetable oil. If you want to steam them, put a little layer of water in the bottom of the skillet (I usually just rinse out my filling skillet to use), then add the mandu and cover for about 5 minutes. Then after steaming them, I put them back in a pan with olive oil and get a nice crust on them.

What I like about mandu is that they are really a family affair. Usually my oldest son will help me roll them out. This is a great moment to talk and connect with people. My husband, since I’m a bit of an accident-prone person, tends to fry the mandu for me. We talk about our days while he fries them. Then they get served in our house family style with jasmine rice in our house, dipped in either plain soy sauce or a soy sauce/gochujang mixture. We sit around casually eating these until our stomach hurts. Sometimes longer.