The Struggle Is Real

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Homework keeps me away from blogging for long stretches of time, and so the traffic dwindles. Looking at that bigger picture, though: My MSW.

Oh, do I long for the days when I was complaining about what I thought was a lack of time. Nary did I realize just how much I could push myself to do in short spans of time. Grad school does not screw around. I’d been out of college for 7 years – there are parts of my brain I’ve had to drown in WD-40.

One of the myriad assignments I’m working on this weekend, is a policy brief for the school’s blog site. Yeah, I’m about to get graded on blogging. And, for better or worse, I’m putting my name on it and planning to link back here. I figure any prospective employer or future client can easily find my blog through a cursory googling of my name, so I may as well just go for the cross traffic.

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Although, I am competing with a doctor in Texas for relevancy.

Afterall, I’ve been watching my stats steadily decrease as this page has fallen to the bottom of the priority list since entering grad school. So, Hello newcomers, those trying to decide whether or not to employ me, and random stalkers! Welcome! 😀

As I was saying, I’m trying to put together something decent for this blog assignment. Of course, it made me think of my own poor neglected blog. And so…

I’ve missed you, Blog. I can just be myself with you. You never care about what I’m wearing or how I look – Video always demands that I look my best and then he makes me feel bad because I’m not as conventionally attractive as other Youtubers. He doesn’t listen to me quite the same way. He never wants to just lay in bed and relax in peaceful contemplation together. But, I have to admit that I’ve been seduced by Video. He’s flashy, charismatic, and is quite popular. Can you blame me?
You see, Blog, as much as I love you, there is no way you can ever meet all of my needs, just as Video can never meet all of my needs… I love you both, I…

Ok, that might be the line on literary personification. I don’t see any way going forward with that wouldn’t get creepy. Anyhoo — If you follow this blog, I do recommend checking out the Youtube channel as well. I don’t always link all my videos here, and there have been quite a few. Here is a bit of what you’ve been missing:

-I recently made one of those sped-up coloring videos. The time it took for all the video to render was ridiculous.

-I also managed to pick up one of the 50th Anniversary Star Trek collector Barbies…

The Smell of Melted Plastic in the Morning…

On a day when my energy is all but drained and my uterus is waging war on me, this is how I manage to maintain some semblance of productivity. Hello again, long abandoned reader! Tell me in the comments how you’ve managed to survive without me over the past month – I promise I’ll read it, but I’ll likely make one of the dolls respond. Let me know who your favorite dolly is and I’ll tape them to the laptop with the hair dryer pointed at them until they write back to you.

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Now… updates. I survived my first semester of grad school – I even aced both of the courses I took. I don’t really feel the least bit celebratory about it, though. I’ve been out of school for some years and I’ve never held a 4.0 before. You’d think I’d be ecstatic. I think I’m too busy looking at the 5 classes I’ll have to juggle starting a week from tomorrow. If I come out of that in December with the same success, then I’ll let myself acknowledge it.

I’ve been doing my best to make the most use of these two weeks between semesters: I took a trip to visit friends and family for a couple of days last week, I spent another couple of days doing a major purge of clothes I’ve been hoarding in my closet for 6 years, and I’ve been working on filming videos for Youtube that I can hold onto for when I inevitably get too bogged down with homework to create during the coming semester.

I recently collaborated with the Volunteer Superviser from the Books to Prisoners program I’m involved with to create a couple of videos. The first of these videos serves to break down how the Books to Prisoners program works overall and how to go about connecting inmates to them. The second of these videos, which I’ve just publicly released today, discusses what volunteers do and how to get involved.

Despite having been working with them for over a year, this was a learning experience for me as well. For the most part, the role I play, important as it is, can sometimes feel disconnected from the everyday workings of the organization.

I don’t have a coherent ending to this, so, here are some photos of dolls:

A Transition and A Shameless Plug

     A couple of fairly significant changes have taken place over the last few weeks. 10 days ago I officially started Graduate School. I knew this was coming, I’ve done my best to ready myself for entering into full time school again after getting my BA 7 years ago, but I am admittedly still scrambling a bit. My first paper was due yesterday morning and I only managed to finish it 8 minutes before class started. (I may recycle some of my homework here if I ever find myself in need of subject matter >:)  )
I also handed in my resignation letter and left the full time job I’d had for 3 years on the same day. I had intended on continuing to work full time, but, about a week and a half before my (former) co-workers and I were all handed letters saying that the shelter would be closing and we were to be reassigned within the agency. I chose to leave rather than chance jeopardizing school with an uncertain but likely fluctuating schedule.  I am a day-walker once more.

     Fortunately I was eligible for student loans, so as long as I stick to a budget, I will be able to survive. However, being loans, I will have to pay them back eventually. I don’t even want to do the math on what my student loan debt is going to be when I’ve finished this program. Why is higher education in the United States so damn expensive?
Thankfully, I’m still generating some kind of income from my gig with Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners. The downside however, is that I can’t budget it as there is no way of knowing how many books I will sell from one month to the next. So, if you’re reading this, whether you’re a regular reader or someone that happened across this one post, consider buying a book from my Amazon store, AikiFox Books, and helping to support both myself and this pretty cool non-profit. Especially now since this is now my primary income source. I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything (totally a guilt trip)  😉

And for all of you that haven’t followed me on Youtube yet (what are you even waiting for? Go subscribe to me, damnit!) here is a video from earlier in the month (perhaps a week before finding out about the shelter closing) that shows you what is pretty much a typical night at B2P:

Photographer Lammily is Here!!!

After roughly a year of waiting from the time she was available for pre-order, my new photographer Lammily finally came home this weekend! It was very hard for me to not immediately take her out of the box to introduce her to the rest of the dolly family. But I was good and I waited until I had the time to film her unboxing:

Here are some close-up shots of her. I really like how her feet and hands are a lighter shade:

I’ve still not decided upon a name for her, but I like the idea that she grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the pleasure of going to New Orleans in October of 2015. I really enjoyed myself there and would like to go back someday.

After filming her unboxing and taking close-ups yesterday, I introduced her to some of my other dolls. A group of them – Aideen, Mitsuko, TJ, and Morrígan (with her bağlama in hand) – took a ride out to a local park in my backpack with our newest friend. Morrígan played and sang for us while the photographer and I took a bunch of photos.

It would also seem that our new lady and TJ are pretty cozy together…

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Youtubing with My Mother

A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip out to visit family. I spent the early part of the day hanging out with my grandmother, and then took my mother out for some shenanigans later that evening.

My mother works overnight shifts also, and we both had the night off. There are very few options of things to do at 2 AM in the morning. So, we went out to a local Meijer store to entertain ourselves. I had my camera with me and she agreed to let me film her and put her on the internet. How much love can I get for my mom? 🙂

Introducing the Misty Copeland Barbie

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     If you haven’t heard yet, Mattel’s newest collector doll and part of their “Shero” initiative, is the Misty Copeland doll. I was fortunate enough to get one of these dolls and she’s absolutely beautiful. I actually felt bad about unboxing her because her display was so pretty. I did manage to film her unboxing, and I’ve put up a Youtube video for you all that I’ll embed at the bottom of this post.

Before I get into the doll, I want to take a minute to talk about how awe-inspiring this woman is. If you’re aware of who Misty Copeland is at all, you likely know that she’s a ballerina with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. You’re also likely aware that she’s the first African-American woman to be the principal dancer at ABT or that she used to collaborate with Prince some years ago. But, did you know that she grew up poor? Like, spent-her-childhood-moving-around-with-her-single-mother-and-6-siblings-including-time-spent-living-in-a-motel poor. Misty didn’t start dancing until age 13 – which is generally considered too old – and she took her first lessons through her local Boys and Girls Club. She’s also tougher than I could be, dancing through her first major performance as the Firebird with a stress fracture in her tibia so severe the bone had nearly broken all the way through. I’ve broken some bones in my day – I can’t even imagine working through that kind of pain. If you’re interested in learning more about her, here is a link to an interview CBS did with her in May of 2015. Her entire story gives me hope.

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There was a bit of a kerfluffle just after the Misty doll was released, as the photos for the ad on Amazon showed the doll with extremely light skin tone. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how she would look when she arrived, but I’m happy to say that in-person, her skin tone is much more true to life to match the real Misty. Although, I still wish this were reflected in the ad photo rather than showing a whitewashed doll.

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You can see very clearly that Misty’s calf muscles are much larger that those of a standard Barbie. Misty herself has very muscular legs and strong calves to do all of those jumps and dancing on her toes.

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You can also see how her bust is larger than that of a more recent Barbie (this is the Asian Made-to-Move doll). Of course, so many of the older dolls already had enormous busts, but Misty herself actually is fairly busty.

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Not surprisingly, because she is a collector doll which Mattel seems to  assume will be for display only, her outfit is sewn shut. However, all it takes are a few snips to these strings. You could easily add your own hook and eye closures, snaps, or a small zipper. I don’t think velcro would work well with the way the outfit is made.

I did remove her dance outfit, though I did not want to mess with her hairstyle, as you can see. She has more articulation than the typical articulated dolls, but not nearly as much as a Made-to-Move. However, I can deal with this because those calves are pretty sweet.

To see her being unboxed and for a more in-depth look at how she moves, check out the Unboxing Misty video I’ve posted over on Youtube. While I’m posting the video here, please be sure to go to Youtube to like and subscribe there and maybe even send me a WordPress shoutout in the comments 🙂

Making Nightshift Survival Guide

I had this idea a couple of weeks ago to make a video on the topic of working graveyard shifts. As you may or may not be aware, I switched over to regular overnight shifts at my full-time job a few months ago. There are certain benefits and certain challenges that come with existing on a schedule out of sync with the majority of the population – Your body has to get adjusted to it, you spend significant chunks of time alone, and even when co-habitating you may only see your significant other awake for a few hours during the week.  (I’m not complaining, though. I chose this shift in order to better accommodate the demands of grad school, which starts in just over a month.)

I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take this project at first. I just wanted to tap into some of these experiences. The items of the basic survival kit are what I frequently make use of myself to get through the work week – and even with melatonin and caffeine, my body will still want to fall back into the natural circadian rhythm. Sometimes on my nights off, I get really sleepy around 3 or 4 AM and it is hard not to just allow myself to sleep. But, I know if I do, I will wake too early and throw myself off track.

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Falling asleep at work can be hazardous to your health!

Everything in the video is done by me. I don’t have anyone else willing to hold a camera, or act, or help to edit. I’d actually had a few ideas that would have been nice to try if I’d had some other actors, but I have to work with what I’ve got.
Also, I had no idea how time-consuming this project would be.I had originally intended the video to be up either yesterday or the day before, but I actually spent the majority of the day/night editing. Then filming more footage to tie pieces together. Then more editing. Then making a run to the store and spending nearly $8 on supplies to make fake blood – and having to make way more than I needed in order to get a decent color and consistency (I’d found a recipe online, but straying from that in an attempt to make a smaller batch failed miserably so I just made the whole thing). I wonder how long fake blood will keep in the freezer? I’d hate to waste the better part of $8.
As it is, I still need to finish editing the final pieces – and debating whether I do that this morning or after I get some sleep, as I would like to get it posted today but also would like to spend some time with my boyfriend while he is awake. Choices will have to be made and something will need to be sacrificed.

One of the nice things about this project, is that it has allowed me to play around with and learn more aspects of this editing software. I can clone now!!  I’d like to learn how to clean up the audio – delete background static and have an even volume from one clip to the next. Maybe for the next video. Right now, I’m trying to avoid getting so caught up in wanting everything to be perfect that I spend hours learning how to do things while never actually getting around to making anything. So, I hope you can forgive my less than perfect videography – I’m teaching myself and learning as I go.

If you’ve enjoyed this video or this blog, please like it, comment, and share it.