#338: The Crossword

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Back in the day, when Alex and I first started dating, one of our best routines was hanging out on a Wednesday night and completing the Hamden newspaper’s weekly crossword puzzle together. I remember buying her a book of crossword puzzles back then, probably for a special occasion as one of our series of gifts, and we still have that book and plan on using it again tonight, hopefully. Being in touch with our former selves is a good way of rekindling past memories, and it brings character and nostalgia to our lives. I strongly support doing as many joint activities like that as you can with your partner as a way of building your relationship and making sure it has special attachments to certain things. Our mug collection, for example, has a lot attached to it and each individual mug could be its own blog post on this. Maybe one day I’ll do something like that… As a way of preserving their origins before we inevitably forget them.

Regardless, completing crosswords is romantic to us. I know that sounds super nerdy, and it is, but it’s the kind of activity we can do together that keeps our attention and uses our brains. It’s perfect for the two of us, and it allows us to collaborate and cooperate on an end goal: that is, completing the objective that is the crossword puzzle in front of us. Some puzzles are notoriously difficult and come down to the wire, where we end up having to look up a clue because we simply wouldn’t be able to figure it out with all the available hints and letters. In those moments, we don’t feel too much shame in completing the puzzle; it’s a matter of our knowledge being limited for the time being. That’s all.

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#333: The Listener

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Here’s a picture of dog ears, because this post is going to be about the act of listening to other people with purpose.

Listening is an underrated, undervalued action. Listening proves that you’re paying attention, it proves that you care and are attentive to other people’s worries and concerns. Listening is underrated because people too often speak without thinking first, without taking into account what the other person is feeling. They speak and speak and nothing really makes sense because they’re not following the conversation intently or actually caring about the other person.

I learned to listen more than speak recently, thanks to a conversation I had with my girlfriend, and I feel incredibly grateful for that lesson. It’s not the same just talking over someone else and being condescending and rude about it; you have to actually demonstrate that you’re paying attention before the other person can engage in the conversation with you.

As an introvert, I sometimes listen too much without taking the turn to speak. I have the problem on both ends of the spectrum: talking too much and listening too much. Being capable of both ends does allow for me to see things from both sides. I get to realize what it’s like to be the recipient of them all. Being introverted means having limits to your talkativeness, depending on who you’re around or speaking with.

Being a listener is underrated, yes, but not every one is one. We’ve established that much already. How can we change that so that more people are willing to listen rather than speak? First of all, it involves emulating that practice in all things we do, even in small conversations between partners. It involves working tirelessly from top to bottom, making sure people are more patient and understanding with each other.

#327: The Kudos

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On Pocket Camp, a game I haven’t touched in awhile for whatever reason, I used to get kudos from people who visited my campsite and enjoyed my creations. Kudos was their way of expressing appreciation. Then again, there were also other ways of receiving kudos: sometimes Nintendo would host events where you’re asked to give kudos a certain amount of times to people on your friends list, so lots of people spam kudos and don’t really care what happens with it. They just do it to unlock the next set of rewards on their list of quests. I do it too when it’s available, just because I’d rather not sit down and waste my time.

Kudos is also an option on Archie of Our Own, an independently-run, non-profit organization that provides fans with an easy way to upload their stories on the internet. It’s a wonderful place full of people who have tons of great stories to share, and I love being able to share and give kudos to other people. Kudos is how you are validated on that site, and kudos is what allows you to see how many people liked what you wrote. It’s the currency of happiness on that website. Sometimes, when I feel especially down, I remember that people actually enjoyed some things that I wrote recently and are into them enough that they are willing to leave kudos for me. The fact that they’ve even read my work in the first place gives me joy, and I don’t know what to do with that feeling. It makes me happy to know that others appreciated what I did. Appreciation doesn’t come easily, but when working in a fandom, kudos and appreciation aren’t as scarce as they might appear to be. There are many options for giving and receiving love.

#318: The Sausage, Part 3

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I also realized recently that I haven’t written about Ango much on this blog since my last post, which was over a couple weeks ago. Since then, it’s been mostly video games and work and things like that, without much of a focus on what’s really important: the dogs and other pets in our lives.

We took Ango to the vet a few times recently, once to get him checked up and the other time so that he could get tested for heartworm again. He’s still showing light signs of heartworm in him, but that could just be from the test, and it likely is because he’s not showing any of the symptoms of having heartworm. He’s not lethargic or anything like that, not even close. This dog is a bundle of wild energy whenever anyone starts moving around.

For example, yesterday morning I woke up and walked out of the bedroom to find Ango panting at me from the couch. It had no discernible purpose to it, just that he felt like panting and needed to get something out of his system. He’s so funny and lovable that it’s impossible to stay angry at him for long, especially because he doesn’t hold grudges. He’s just a dog, after all, and he wants love more than anything else.

Being a dog owner has been a wonderful privilege and experience, though a bit on the expensive side, while we talk about going to the vet. The good thing is that we shouldn’t have to take him back in awhile; he’s good to go and doesn’t need anything else for at least a few months, I think. I always feel a bit worried before we go to the vet because of that. Who knows what they’ll say about him this time? Hopefully just good things.

#287: The Next Birthday

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Happy birthday, Alex! This is my message to you in celebration of you reaching the wonderful age of 25. You are officially a quarter of a century old, which means you are halfway to 50. Remember what it was like when you were born? Well imagine all that but again. That’s what it’ll be like to reach 50. There are so many wonderful years ahead of you, and I’m so lucky to be able to spend them with you. I hope you continue to have fantastic birthdays from here on out, and I will make sure to give you as many presents as are necessary in order to fulfill my side of the deal.

Even though you are a dingus from time to time, and sometimes lurch into dimbus territory when you feel so inclined, you are the smartest, most capable person I know, and I would trust no one else with so much of my life. There’s a reason I believe in you so whole-heartedly when you call about police reports, car maintenance, dentist appointments, and more. It’s because you’re not just my partner in crime, you’re my amazing professional and personal support system, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. That’s for a fact.

Now, this also happens to be the day that I go back to work, which is a bit of a bummer. It kind of puts a damper on the excitement going into this day, but on a positive note, at least it’s the weekend officially. I’ll be back to cherishing the weekends with you fairly soon, and I look forward to waking up and driving you to the train station whenever the next time arises.

Thank you for being a marvelous person both inside and out, and thank you for being so consistently patient and nice through hard times and simple times.

#241: The Second Sleep

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I get up in the morning when Alex works 10-6, so that I can drive her to the train station on time. It’s a lot easier than having her walk the whole way there, and plus I get to see her rather than not. It’s a positive no matter how you look at it. This tradition began around February or March, give or take, after I started my new job but before I realized it was convenient for me to drive her, too. Now that it’s summer vacation, I have no excuse not to drive her, and I agree. It just works out well, as a way to get me up earlier without inducing too much grogginess. Nothing wrong with waking up at 8am, right? Right?

I still get some anxiety driving, especially after the most recent incident, but it’s worth it so I can drive her to her destination on time. I sometimes miss these days, especially when Alex returns to working 9-5 or 8-4 instead. Those shifts are much too early for me to drive her, so I sleep instead.

But when I get home from driving Alex, I sometimes go back to sleep. It’s my second sleep, you could say. I like waking up early, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back to bed after having a long, long evening playing video games on the couch. Being a teacher during summer vacation means that, after all. There’s nothing better than the feeling of going to bed a second time, waking up a second time, and feeling totally, completely refreshed all over again. Who doesn’t want that?

My second sleeps are reserved for the days when Alex works 10-6, but I revel in them. It’s another great bonus of her working those days, and even though it might seem the same as just sleeping the extra hours, it’s not.

#231: The Real Draft

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No, not using playing cards this time. Still playing Magic: the Gathering, just like normal. Playing Magic is a blast, but being able to draft in person is completely different from drafting elsewhere. It’s like night and day; on the one hand, drafting online is fast, easy, and you can pick up and stop whenever you want, but on the other hand, drafting in person allows you to counter each other’s strategies in a way that’s not possible online, while drafting against computers. There’s competition in drafting against each other, and although I don’t exactly have a set plan in drafting to make matters easy, I love being able to think through my picks in that way. Plus, you never know what cards people are going to play against you when you finally get to play against them. You might have a vague idea, but there’s no way to completely predict a person’s deck, given the randomness and complexity of drafting a limited set with 254 possible cards inside. It makes drafting so much more of a mental exercise.

Earlier today, while talking about something completely different, I referred to Magic: the Gathering as “mental exercise” to Alex (as a way to persuade her to let us play magic before going to the gym, which she wasn’t a fan of, unfortunately). I definitely think it’s like that; apparently, it’s one of the most complicated games ever created, and I can understand why. The sheer number of cards and mechanics and keywords and interlocking plays is maddening and frankly impossible to keep track of entirely. You have to memorize so much in order to truly call yourself a master of magic, or a judge, in other people’s cases. Being a judge would be an interesting job for someone to have, as a volunteer exercise of course.

#198: The Dog Weekend

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We had an eventful weekend involving Angus, that’s all I’m going to say. It was full of ups and downs, high ups and low downs. On the one hand, Angus and I had a bit of a confrontation on the bed that lead to some drama and difficult conversations afterwards. That’s all I’ll say about that, to ensure I don’t stress the topic more than I need to. It’s done and over with, and we’ve moved on, the two of us (Angus and I).

But on the other hand, Angus was taken on a long, nice walk around the park outside on Saturday that filled out hearts with joy. He always makes us happy when we get to see his tongue flying around and his head swaying from side to side. He’s like a little child sometimes, and we tend to say that a lot about him. His behavior resembles that of a little kid with an old man’s body. He walks around with the swagger of a young child, his head bobbing up and down as he pants recklessly. That’s my favorite part about taking him on walks; we get to see him absolutely lose it whenever he gets to go outside. It’s clearly one of his favorite things about living with us. If there weren’t two parks near us, I’m not sure what we would be able to do to have fun with our boy.

Speaking of fun, the weather outside was perfect these past few days, and now as I’m writing this blog post, the weather is back to its terrible, chilly, rainy messiness. Typical May showers, right? I wish it were warm again, but on the other hand, I’m glad to be able to wear sweaters from my wardrobe again. It’s like I get to dig into this whole other array of work clothes I don’t normally get to wear. They’re finally unlocked and open.

#194: The Free Weekend

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Today, I’ll be talking about plans Alex and I have set for our free weekend
coming up. I usually go to my friends’ places over the weekend for a night, as a way of relaxing and getting away from stressful environments. But this weekend, I have no such plans with my friends and I am completely free to do whatever I want. That means that Alex and I are going to have to figure out something to do together this weekend, and there’s a list of options.

Usually, we get one free day together to do whatever we want, but with the added bonus of having an extra day to do things together, it’ll be interesting to see what we come up with. Maybe I’ll even go back to this post in the next few days and update it with our plans, after we’ve made and completed them.

I’ll start things off with one idea: How about we drive down to New Haven to see my grandma, who just got out of the hospital after her big hip surgery? We can definitely do that. It would be nice to see family after being away for awhile.

Here’s another idea to think about: What if we drove and got smoothies again, considering we weren’t able to get them on Monday when we originally planned on going? Robek’s is life, and unfortunately, after driving specifically for smoothies together, the place was closed and we weren’t able to go in.

I’m not sure what this blog post really is about, so I’m sorry to those of you who spent time reading it. I think this might be my most rambling and ridiculous one yet. Hopefully, by the time this goes up, it won’t really matter. We will have to see!

Empathy

Can you smell
if your eyes are blurred?

Can you eat
if your nose is stuffed?

Can you hear
if your hands are cold?

Can you feel
if your mouth is closed?

Can you see
if your ears are clogged?

Empathy, for a moment, please

It’s all we need