#192: The Episode

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Spoilers ahead, obviously, if you haven’t watched the most recent Game of Thrones episode.

In continuing the trend of discussing Game of Thrones on this blog, I’ll be talking about how it felt to watch Game of Thrones with another friend with us over the past weekend. Instead of watching on Sunday, we waited to watch on Monday with Hallie as a way of giving us something to do while we were together. We hadn’t watched Game of Thrones together in years, the last time probably being in 2014 during study abroad, but we still managed to talk about it despite not seeing each other very much. It was a wonderful experience to get to vocalize our complaints, criticisms, and thoughts to each other, like an audience that’s right there for us to interact with.

The episode featured a lot of romance, and a lot of interesting interactions and conversations between the characters. Some of the scenes felt especially fanfictiony, but mostly it was a good, quality episode with dialogue that featured conviction from the characters. One thing I will always love about Game of Thrones is the interactions between the different characters, how they respond to each other within difficult situations, their storied histories and thoughts unfurling in front of us as the story moves forward. It really rewards long-term investment and understanding of the different characters.

The episode moved at a quick pace, but also allowed for the characters to really dive into their different feelings about the previous episode, featuring the Long Night and the invasion of the white walker army (and its defeat). The final two episodes are coming, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. It’ll be interesting to follow the last two episodes, considering this has been a show I’ve been into for so long. It’s all coming to an end soon.

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#191: The Friend

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On Monday, I drove up to Middlebury to pick up a friend who was visiting from out of state. Her name is Hallie, and she lives in Seattle but used to live in Boston, so as part of a week-long tour of New England, she traveled from Boston to New York and stopped in Stamford to see us. It was wonderful to get to meet someone again who you haven’t seen in person in years.

Hallie and I have been friends since 2014, when the two of us ended up in London on the same study abroad trip, but from separate colleges. Hers was Brandeis, mine was Quinnipiac. Ever since our trip to London, we’ve kept in touch off and on, making sure to keep each other in the loop on our day to day musings and general things that are going on in our lives. It’s nice to have someone to bounce rants off of, and who I can depend on when it comes time to complain about something annoying. That’s what friends are all about, right?

Hallie also is the original DM of our Dungeons & Dragons group. She took a break because of work and time constraints, and I took over to compensate. Our group has been going steadily since then, with off and on sessions that take place around once every couple months. I have time at work to sometimes plan out what we’re doing during a particular session, which helps me because I’m sure Hallie doesn’t have that kind of time available.

Friends are valuable, helpful people who you can depend on, and who you help when they need someone to depend on, too. I’m grateful for the friends I have in my life. They make a world of difference to me. Thanks to all of them.

#143: The Internet

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When I’m not busy doing other things, I like to browse the Internet pretty aimlessly, as a way of occupying my time and filling my attention a bit. The Internet is a source of inspiration as well as a way of getting people to be interested in new things. Sometimes, I aimlessly scroll through the same websites over and over again, not really realizing what I’m doing until after I’ve looked at the same page three times in a row without anything updating on it. If you’re the kind of person who does the same thing, you probably know what I’m talking about when I say that, when I’m bored, my brain seems to turn off a bit and leave its senses out the window. The rational part of my mind is gone and occupied elsewhere.

It’s said that when you are browsing the Internet instead of doing other, more productive things you are looking and searching for something to occupy your attention, as if everything around you currently is unable to keep you occupied and this is the one option left on the table. I don’t know if I agree with that theory totally, but I do like the idea. Sometimes I feel as if, when I’m mindlessly browsing the Internet, I’m only doing it because I’m bored and have nothing else to do. But is it true that I actually have nothing else to do? Probably not. There’s always something more productive I can be doing to occupy my time.

Most of the time, though, when I’m on the Internet I’m looking on Reddit or Twitter. Those are the two websites I seem to check most frequently. They keep my attention firmly in place, which is saying something, because my attention usually never feels stable.

The Internet is an interesting, perplexing thing.

#65: The Employee

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You read it right. Anthony’s a newly-employed man. After a couple months of job searching, and a previous few months of deliberation and summer vacation, it feels surreal to say that I’ll be returning to work again on Monday. To put things in perspective: I went to a conference and workshop over the summer of 2018 and even attended a few curriculum development meetings, too, but for the most part, my summer was barren of work. Then, a day after school resumed session in August, I took a sick day to see my therapist, spent another few days adjusting to my head and new medications, saw family and updated them on my status, and signed up for an FMLA. That first day rocked me to my core, and put me in complete collapse. A month and a half later, I decided to resign from my job, knowing fully well that I would be saying goodbye to that world I was briefly a part of in Milford. There was sadness attached to my resignation, and I would feel, in the coming weeks, overwhelming guilt, regret, and nostalgia towards that job. It’s impossible to replace the feeling of being a teacher; even through all the negatives, the positives still found ways to be front and center in my head. The more I failed in my job search, the more I returned to happy memories from the very same job that put me in a mental health crisis in the first place. It didn’t make sense, obviously, to beat myself up so much over a decision I made for my health, but when it comes down to it, we do what we have to to survive.

Now, I begin work at a new school, in a new role, fulfilling the duty of a Literacy Interventionist. It is a responsibility I feel ready for, and I hope that I have the same success here that I did in North Haven.

#62: The Phone

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Let’s talk about talking. Specifically, the act of talking on the phone. Today, as I write this, I am scheduled for a phone interview sometime within the next hour or so; it is unusual for a place to not give me a definite time, but this is the hand I’ve been dealt. When I think about talking on the phone, I think of walking around, aimlessly, waiting for the conversation to be over, speaking platitudes and sharing gratitudes. I think of the many phone conversations I’ve had since leaving my teaching job, and I think of all the lost voicemail messages, translated automatically into text and sent to my phone because I do not feel comfortable picking up the phone on its own. I think of the faces I’ve never seen, the voices I’ve heard, the connections between the two.

I remember, before getting my first teaching job, being in the shower. I was washing my hair when, upon hearing my phone ring from outside of the chamber, I immediately lurched for it and looked at the number. I recognized the line in an instant, but I was stuck taking a shower, and had no way of picking up the phone in time for what seemed to be a phone call about the fate of my employment. Instead, I let it go to voicemail, and I read my fate via the translated text message I received a minute later. My heart dashed, but then the news came: the man on the other line wanted to speak to me about my interview, and wanted to offer employment. I was stunned, shocked, and immediately ended my shower, rushed into the living room, and called the number back. A part of me was afraid that I had jeopardized my opportunity by not picking up, but I knew that was an unnecessary anxiety.

 

#60: The Dog Walk

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Having a dog has been so good, I decided to write another blog post about the experience, this time centered around everyone’s favorite group exercise: dog walks. Angus has proven to be a wonderful walking companion, from time to time, and I feel the need to share some thoughts and details about these experiences.

Walking the dog is like taking out the trash, except with an excitable partner by your side whose safety you need to constantly be attentive of, especially when cars, dogs, or other people wander by. Dogs command a lot of attention, but they also have a very limited attention span (so do I!) and thus, they get distracted by fast-moving objects or potential friends across the street. Alex and I have gotten better at handling the leash so that Angus knows how and how not to behave around these things. His improvements have made the regular dog walk more bearable and less of an obedience-building exercise, though at times he does slip back into his older ways.

I always feel bad yanking too hard on the leash, if Angus is really going out of his way, but I know that it’s worth it for the obedience training and negative reinforcement conditioning. Otherwise, he’d command the leash and we’d have no authority over his whereabouts, left helpless to his spontaneous whims. And boy are they spontaneous. As we walked to the park on Sunday, Angus sniffed every trash can and parked car on the way, but he didn’t stop to sniff the gross old banana in front of us; in fact, he didn’t react at all. It shocked us that he would deny sniffing food, even if it technically is no longer food. On the second half of our trip, on the way back from the park, Angus showed much more patience, and again ignored the banana on the road. His tremendous snout eluded him this time.

 

#59: Dog City

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The evolution of dog town: the urban dog environment is here. Adaptation from one stage to the next. This can only mean one thing… We have officially adopted a dog.

If you read the last entry on dogs and pets, you knew that Alex and I are (or were) applying to adopt rescue dogs from local animal shelters. All in the course of a few days, this was made possible through a series of fortunate events and outcomes. Yes, it feels wild to even be writing these words today, considering it has always been our dream to own a pet together, to bear an incredible responsibility as adults would. Whenever we saw dogs wandering outside in Commons park, we were reminded of the dog-shaped hole in our hearts, the gap growing wider as time passed. To have it filled so suddenly and perfectly is a miracle and I am incredibly thankful to have been able to experience it.

His name is Angus, named after Angus McDonald, boy detective and prominent character from The Adventure Zone podcast. Angus is a sweet, kind, brilliant young lad with a heart of gold and a naive innocence to everything he does. He matches the demeanor of a soft, playful, but harmless dog.

To say we are thrilled to have Angus in our lives is an understatement. His presence has already made days and nights spent inside feel more homely. Listening to his loud sighs, yawns, and groans throughout the day fills me with a weird, unexplainable joy. I said to Alex, on the first night with Angus, that I’m excited to write “from Anthony, Alex, and Angus” on our Christmas cards next year. We didn’t send cards this past year, partially because we forgot but mostly because it’s just us in here. Now with another addition to the DiMartino/Costa family, it feels more appropriate.

#47: Good Friends

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Friends help make the world go round, and in the darkest times, they can even keep the world going all on their own. They have no peers but themselves. No comparisons are appropriately made when it comes to the value of a good friend, because a good friend is invaluable. They light up the sun when it’s dusk outside, and they bring food to your doorstep when you are hungry. Metaphorically, of course. They give you attention and validation when you need it, and they fill you up with positive vibes when you are feeling down. Good friends don’t need to be omnipresent helpers in your life, fixing your lightbulbs whenever they dim out, because a good friend helps simply by existing. The fact that they care for you sometimes is an added bonus, amplifying the already great benefits of having friends.

Recently, a good friend who I only see three days a year arrived for his annual sleepover hang-out spectacular. The extraordinary weekend. It’s a winter tradition, and every year I look forward to the next one. Sometimes it lasts a little longer than three days, but this year we were limited a bit. Fortunately for us, we managed to get lots of gaming in during our three days of hanging out, and spent quality time with each other, enjoying rare company. It’s not every day I get to see friends like this. That’s not to cheapen or demean my other friends, who I enjoy seeing on a more regular basis; it’s just that, when I have a friend who I rarely see, the moments we do share are made more special because of the long absence between them.

I was able to take this friend with me to all the great Stamford spots: Robek’s for smoothies, Corbo’s for lunch, Dino BBQ (and eventually, Cafe Jose) on Grubhub. We embraced what the city has to offer all over again, and I was uplifted by the experience. Something about his enjoyment validated all of my experiences here, and made them more valuable and worthwhile. It’s the beauty of having friends whose opinions and feelings you deeply respect and care about; eventually, you’ll grow to expect and rely upon their wisdom. Every decision is made better by their input, and every experience made more memorable with their presence. Nothing at all like a good friend.

#44: The Incense

Since a couple years ago, I’ve been interested in the therapeutic power of aromas. I started lighting incense sticks in my room, and soon after I started seeing Alex I got her hooked as well. It’s easy to see why incense can be enticing to people; the scents from a lit incense stick are more immediate, more pungent, and more visible than a candle, while also coming in cheaper bundles usually. We recently bought 350 candles on Amazon for less than $16, which to us is a massive collection to hold onto. We make good use of them, lighting at least one scent a day and taking time to just enjoy what’s around us. We also tend to buy incense (or at least window shop for incense) whenever we visit a store that we know sells them. For example, the Rite Aid in Northford used to sell large packs of air-scented incense, and I remember buying a few of those one night during a late trip.

There’s also a kind of magic to the incense holders we have; while I use the ornate, wooden box holder in the bathroom most of the time (it tends to fill the room after a long toilet session…), Alex uses the box in the bedroom most of all. I’ve made it a bit of a tradition to light some incense in the bedroom before she drifts off to sleep, and although the smoke can make my eyes water from time to time, it’s worth it to enjoy before bedtime. The aroma helps us drift off to sleep and puts our minds at ease when we need it most.

In terms of favorites, I asked Alex which scents stood out to her the most. The pomegranate fig candle that my mom gave me was her choice, while the soy candles I bought from school (midnight romance and lavender) or the midnight sky Yankee Candle by our bed were mine. Something about those candles brings us back, and I think about them whenever the topic comes to mine. I think we still have plans to visit the Yankee Candle gift store in Massachusetts sometime before the end of the year, though I can’t be sure. They often have the best holiday deals on candles.

In terms of incense, the sandalwood incense from Ten Thousand Villages or the abundance incense from Fairway’s aromatic section were Alex’s favorites. I’d have to agree with her!

#42: The Blog

Having a blog is a wonderful, positive thing in my life, and it is something I truly cherish during tumultuous times. I haven’t had to give this up, basically, and I know I always find ways to return back to it after years of absence. It’s stayed with me throughout all the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced over these past two years and plenty more. And consistency and stability are two things I’ve learned to deeply respect thanks to my experiences. I am thankful beyond words for the ability to write about my life and reach a limited audience through it. It’s impossible to quantify exactly what this means to me, but I hope it might also mean something to you, too, wherever you are right now, reading these sentences. (I know I have some dedicated readers who regularly check this out via email or browser… Hi!)

I want to also, temporarily, discuss the state of my blog. It’s turned into a bit of a “Wonderful!” like experience, where I share what matters to me while sharing about my personal and professional lives. It’s a hodgepodge of writings, and I hope that this style works for those reading my blog, whether or not you are frequent readers, because it’s a style I quite enjoy. It’s also easy to write about, and as someone who needs motivation to write for a long period of time, this style has provided me with a great deal of inspiration. It’s also helped me find out exactly what I’m looking for in a creative sense: personal blogging, at least for now. I try to intersperse some more creative writings when I can, and when it feels most appropriate also. Hopefully those will be returning soon, as I think it’s been awhile since I’ve tested my creative capacities in that way. It can be exhausting (and somewhat repetitive) to come up with topics to write about for this blog, but poetry has to come naturally. It can’t be forced into being.

Speaking of, I’m of the belief that creativity is like a fine-tuned skill; you need to hone it from time to time, to make sure the skills don’t disappear. You have to tend to it, or else it will not be the same when you return. But it is also like riding a bike, in that you don’t need to worry about ever totally “losing” the skill. It is always a part of you, somewhere on you, craving attention after a long absence. You just need to unleash it through whatever medium appeals to you most: filmmaking, photography, painting, music, theatre, dance, creative writing. There are more mediums that exist than what I just wrote down, but I hope it serves as a good jumping-off point for other ideas. Creativity is the source of many people’s happiness and joy, and it deserves to be appreciated from time to time, in whatever form it chooses to appear in.