Whoa-oa, we’re halfway there! Whoa-oa, 50% through 2017!
April through June contains both my most and least stressful times of year. End of semester = ton of marking (imagine a Looney-Toons style billion-ton anvil dropping from the sky). May is full of wrap-up-the-term work meetings, half of which I missed this year because both Fiancé and I caught something horrible for a couple of weeks. And then June is freeeeeeeedom…. taking into account the need to re-stock my energy supplies after all-but-burning out.
But! I try to look for things and ideas to make my life better and focus on those instead of challenges. So here are nine artworks, tools, and processes that made my life better this quarter:
1. the Hamilton soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Original Broadway Cast (album)
At risk of losing my Theatre Nerd membership card, I have to admit that I didn’t listen to the Hamilton soundtrack until May. I know, I know, but I’m not much of a music person — it’s not that I thought it wasn’t worth my time, it’s that I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to appreciate it properly. Plus, I need the right set of circumstances to listen to music that’s new to me — I have to do something else at the same time, or else I get bored, but I can’t do something that requires too much of my attention.
The Hamilton soundtrack is amazing because even a musical know-nothing like me can appreciate it, and people I know who are into music love it too. Making art that’s beautiful is an achievement; making art that’s smart is an achievement too. Hamilton is both, beautiful and smart, and that makes it genius.
2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (book)
So excellent. So well written and engaging and everything books ought to be. Read it, PLEASE.
My (soon-to-be) in-laws got me one for the holidays, and I quickly snapped up another, because now that it’s summer, how can I be expected to choose between having caf or decaf on hand when I can have both?
I love it. It can handle boiling water and ice water. I can make anything from sweet tea to iced black coffee with minimal effort. Its spill-proof cap actually works — I can close it, shake it, store it on its side or upside-down, and still no leaks. This is how I’m going to stay hydrated this summer!
4. Persona 5 (game for PlayStation 4)
I love the Persona series’ combo JRPG dungeoncrawler and social sim. The characters are engaging, the plot is interesting enough to make me want to continue, and the gameplay is great. I, S. R., am a Japanese high-schooler who (allegedly) gets in one little fight and
my mom adult society gets scared and says, “You’re moving to finish out the school year in Tokyo.”
At my new school, I build friendships, claw my way up the honour roll, and hold down half a dozen jobs by day; by night, I lead the Phantom Thieves. We sneak into the mind-palaces of corrupt adults, mow down their literal personal demons, and steal their bad qualities from their hearts.
Admittedly, this would be a teeny bit easier if the in-game camera/”hide” hot-button didn’t go whack-a-doodle on me whenever I’m trying to ambush enemies, which is pretty much always when inside a mind-palace. Still, this high school experience is terrific fun, and definitely about a million times more stylish.
5. Writing time!
Finally, the school term is over, and I can dedicate hours to writing. It’s been frustratingly slow getting used to the new pattern of my days, especially after the aforementioned Two-plus Weeks of Illness. But I’m finally getting into the rhythm of mornings at the keyboard.
It’s so nice to be able to finish up a chapter instead of having to cut myself off after fifteen minutes. I miss my characters when I’m not writing and keep thinking of new tweaks to build in. And I’m almost (relatively) done my first rough-polish draft. That’s right: not the rough draft, not as polished as it can be, but as polished as it should be to get feedback with an eye on further major revision.
6. Steven Universe Vol. 1 (Original Soundtrack) by Various Artists (album)
One of the best parts of Steven Universe is its catchy tunes, and they are finally, finally available to buy as of June. I’ve been listening to them online and from other people’s captured audio, poised to throw money at the official soundtrack as soon as I could and vote/thank with my dollars.
My only regret is that I can’t buy it more than once to keep voting/thanking. This music always brightens my day by changing my train-of-thought voices from Sherlock-Holmes-characters-type critique to Steven-and-friends’ support and optimism.
7. Steven Universe: Attack of the Light (game for Android/iOS)
I really loved Super Mario RPG for the SNES, and it turns out, so did the creators of Steven Universe, who worked with game developers Grumpyface to facilitate this JRPG-style mobile game. It’s pretty short — I finished it in less than a week playing during breaks from work. It has silly/positive Steven-Universe goodness, incorporates nods to the show mythology, and keeps things interesting with its combat.
The battles are turn-based, and you’ve got a certain number of points you can allot toward performing particular moves, or you can save up for next turn. Plus, like Super Mario RPG, you can improve attacks or mitigate damage by tapping the input device (your screen, in this case) with the right timing.
My only problem with this short, fun game was that it hurt for me to hold my phone the right way for more than ten minutes. But I’m definitely excited to pick up the PS4 sequel. Neato burrito!
8. the no-man’s-land scene in Wonder Woman (movie, dir. Patty Jenkins)
You don’t want to listen to me blab about this again.
9. Eating better for my body
Apparently, it’s easier for me to eat better for my body in the summer. More fresh food is in season, the Farmer’s Market shows up and makes me excited to buy fruits and vegetables, and my schedule is much more flexible. I don’t have to cram sustenance in my mouth hole before racing off to teach or hit the gym.
That also means I usually get to eat lunch at home. So I can make, say, lentil stew or re-fried beans and eat them every day with fresh fixings. Or I can pan-fry scallops if I feel like it, or assemble salsa, or remake last night’s leftovers into something new and delicious. Cooking for myself buffs both my sense of accomplishment for the day and my tastebuds’ happiness. +1!
Plus, I’m getting better at thinking about food in a healthy way. I remind myself to labelling foods as “bad” or “good,” and I’ve stopped making my bullet journal records prescriptive (“did I eat well today?”) vs. descriptive (“how much of X did I eat today?”) way, which encourages me to ignore avoiding “bad” foods and concentrate instead on making sure I get enough of the things that make me feel good (for me, protein, fibre, fruit & veg). It’s awesome.
My body tells me it likes this better — I just plain feel more energetic and settled (at the same time… I know).