A Short Trip to My Sister

If I could only pick one thing that the pandemic has outrageously stolen from me, I’d say it was time with my sister. Normally, during an average year, I spend months with my sister. Our time spent together during this past year can be counted using days as a metric.

A few days ago, my mother and I planned to go visit my sister. For a single weekend. That’s a ten-hour drive there and back again.

And to make matters more difficult, work was a killer the week before we were set to go. It was a veritable hell week. I was working from 8 in the morning to 7 at night; I was glued to my laptop at practically all hours of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the work.

But oofs, I was burning up.

The Friday before we were set to leave, I woke up especially early to get the final bits of my work completed before the weekend. I was running on about 5 hours of sleep.

As soon as I was done, my mother and I packed ourselves into a rental car and drove over to my sister’s.

When we got there, Alya had creamy tomato soup and bread pieces waiting for us. We ate it outside on her back patio, which is easily one of the best back patios I’ve ever had the privilege to relax in.

I also got to see Ushi again!

I have missed her so much! And not being able to see her as much during the pandemic has gutted me. She’s getting a bit up there in doggie years, and it feels like the pandemic stole my time with her too.

Plus, look at that face!

After eating soup, my sister and I sang some Beatles songs together just for the heck of it, and we stayed up past midnight talking and asking each other questions. It was easily one of the best nights of my life.

I had a bit of a troubled sleep later on though, since not only had I been drinking coffee during my convo with Alya, but the pillows in the guest room are squishier than I’m used to.

I woke up to Ushi and more coffee, which made me feel better.

That morning, my mother, my sister, her husband, and I decided to take Ushi to both PetSmart and Petco. We let her pick out toys she wanted, bought her a water bowl that she actually needed, and selected some choice bones for her monching pleasure.

We went back to Alya’s house, and we gorged on Hot Cheetos Puffs while watching Muppet Treasure Island. It’s a movie we used to watch all the time as kids, and it’s only gotten better over the years.

We ordered in Chinese food for dinner and stuffed ourselves some more. Then we went to bed.

I slept terribly once again, and before the sun was even up, my mom was brightly telling me it was time to go. (At this point, I think I’ve only slept 6 hours in total while at Alya’s house.)

And just like that we were gone.

But it was worth it.

It was an incredibly short visit, so much so that it reminded me and Alya of the long ones I used to make. It sharpened our need to hang out with each other, so we’re currently planning a lengthier trip. Alya already has the vaccine since she is a teacher, and I’m in a damn-the-consequences-I-want-to-be-with-my-sister kind of mood.

She’s the one person who knows me inside and out, and you should always want to spend time with people who get you like that.

I think I passed out for the whole day after I came back. But even with practically no sleep under my belt, I’d do it all again to be with Alya.

It’s My Three-Year Anniversary!

WordPress has once again kindly reminded me that another year has gone by since I started this blog.

It’s kind of shocking to think so much time has gone by.

God, I’m getting old.

Have things changed much here since I started? Don’t know. I mean, I think I’m more comfortable saying “blog” now. That’s…improvement. Right?

All I know for sure is that since it’s my three-year anniversary, I’m going to treat myself today. I’m going to walk to Rite-Aid, get some Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, and listen to tunes while I go back home.

And then I’ll probably outline and schedule my next blog post.

You know how it is.

It’s Officially 2021

Hey, my Above Average readers! We’ve done it! We’ve made it past 2020 and into 2021. I don’t expect this new year to be a sudden cure-all for the nightmare that was 2020, but there is a sense of relief to not see 2020 as the year on the calendar anymore.

To say that I have big things planned for the new year is an overstatement. I’m going to be maintaining business as usual in 2021. You’ll still be getting all that delicious, Below Average content from me.


I do have a few new things in the works.

For one thing, as you can see, I have some new ME art courtesy of my sister. She drew a bunch of cartoons of me and gave me the best, so now you won’t be stuck with the same old black-and-white image you’ve been seeing for so long.

That is, this one.

I also watched both Wonder Woman 1984 and Soul this past week, so you can expect some movie reviews in the near future.

In addition to that, I’m planning a collaborative post with one of my friends, ranking our favorite songs from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I actually would have posted this sooner, but she can’t make up her mind to pick just one, so it’s taking a while.

I have Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, so you can bet your buttons I’m going to play more games and talk about them here in the new year.

I have a stack of books waiting for me to read, with every one being reviewed as well.

All in all, knock on wood, I think 2021 is shaping up to be a good year.

I know 2020 hasn’t given us a lot of proof that a year can be good or lucky when it starts, but I’m feeling hopeful. The sky is a delightful grey color, the cold bites me when I go outside, and my coffee has never tasted sweeter.

Let’s see how it goes!

Happy Healthy Holidays

Froley is the star of our Christmas tree

It looks like I won’t be having the Christmas or New Year’s Eve that I normally have.

Usually, I get together with my sister for the holidays. I spend oodles and caboodles of time at her house, lazing around and goofing off with holiday cheer. If 2020 wasn’t being, well 2020, my sister and I would be watching The Muppet Christmas Carol right about now.

But because COVID-19 numbers are rising, and it’s far safer to remain in our respective bubbles, I’m staying at home, watching my old VHS copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol at night by myself.

That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to Christmas. I like the feeling of it just as much as the trappings, if you know what I mean.

Funnily enough, I’m appreciating the ability to give gifts to people (even if I’m mailing them or dropping them off like a sneaky reverse-thief in the night) more than ever. I’ve always enjoyed picking something out that I know a friend will like and watching them open it in front of me. This simple interaction is made even more precious by current events.

Anywaysies, I thought I’d pop in here real quick to offer happy holiday greetings to anyone who reads this! You guys have all been superb.

Merry Christmas!

(And if you do not celebrate Christmas, have a happy December! It’s a generally awesome month, and I hope it has been a phenomenal time for you.)

(And if you do not recognize December as a viable month on the calendar, just know that I’m still wishing the best for you. I just don’t know how to verbalize it.)

I’ve Never Put on Makeup

Okay, so that title is a bit of a lie. It makes it sound like I’ve never had makeup on my face, and to some extent, I have.

I use lip balm fairly regularly, and if I’m going someplace fancy, I’m not averse to using lip gloss or even lipstick to make myself feel like I’m sprucing up.

In addition to that, for my high school prom, my sister insisted she do my makeup. So I stood stock still, i.e. cringing away from her every time I got uncomfortable, for a whole half hour, as she generously applied various products to my face.

However, that’s it for my makeup experience.

To this day, I’ve never sat in front of a mirror and “made up my face.”

It’s not that I have anything against people who put on makeup. As a matter of fact, it’s not always apparent to me when people are wearing it, especially if it’s a stranger. When I’m scrolling through pictures on Instagram, I can’t point out people who wear makeup (though I’m fairly certain it’s a large majority). I can spot a filter a mile away, but makeup is shrouded in mystery.

However, I do know that one of the positive aspects of makeup is that it highlights and accentuates good features on your face. (Errr, subjectively good features, I guess.) It can cover blemishes, even out your skin tone, make your lips appear fuller, your eyes brighter. It can sharpen the angles of your cheekbones and soften the lines on your face.

So don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate makeup. If anything, I’d like the opportunity to look better than I do, highlighting what I consider my best features and obscuring my worst.

Plus, the ritual of it appeals to me. I’m rather fond of daily habits.

But there are things about makeup that hold me back from just biting the bullet and trying it out.

For one thing, I’m incredibly sensitive about things around my eyes. To illustrate my point, that is why I wear glasses. For those of you who don’t know, I wear glasses. Here’s a picture:

I have terrible vision, and my prescription has only increased over time. When I first got glasses, contacts weren’t really a thing, and when it was mentioned that I should try them out during high school, I said “Hell no.”

Contacts are little slices of plastic that you shove onto your eyeball. Does that sound pleasant?

No, it does not.

I have a very reasonable fear of sticking things near my eye, so right off the bat, mascara, eye shadow and eye liner are no-gos for me.

Another reason why I don’t wear makeup is because it makes my face feel heavy and caked. The one time I did wear full-on makeup during my prom, I felt like a clown. I could feel the various layers of powders, creams, and gels weighing my face down. It was not pleasant.

Which also leads to another issue I have with makeup: cleaning up afterwards takes time. Good makeup is the kind that stays on your face for a long while. But a consequence of that is that it takes time to remove it. If I’m hanging out with friends late at night, I don’t want to have to stay up even later to take up painted grime from my skin afterwards. I want to be able to hit the sack immediately after an outing without worrying about leaving a skin-colored smear on my pillow case.

My last big issue with makeup is the cost. Makeup costs money. Maybe not too much if you’re buying cheap brands, but if you keep using it, makeup becomes something akin to groceries. You have to consistently purchase it in order to maintain your favorite appearance. I already have a hard time buying my favorite soap bar (these fantastic-smelling blue ones from Lush) on a regular basis. Do I want to add mascara, eye liner, eye shadow, eyebrow pencils, concealer, foundation, bronzer, primer, powder, blush, setting spray, etc. to the list of things I need to buy every week?

In the future, I may decide to give makeup a try, though definitely not during a pandemic that a) keeps me indoors most of the time, b) has limited my social interactions, and c) reduced my income. My first efforts by myself will be laughable, so if I do give this the old college try, expect a few posts absolutely steeped in self-deprecation.

For now, I’m good to just leave my face the way it is, by which I mean positively Below Average.

Death and the End of All Things

Yeah, I know, that’s a rather heavy title I’ve chosen.

Believe it or not, the inspiration for this post comes from the end of a YouTube channel I’ve been watching.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very fond of Let’s Plays and video game walkthroughs. One of my favorite Let’s Players is this dude named Markiplier. (If you haven’t heard of him, that’s totally fine. All you need to know is that he’s a bombastic personality that usually makes an utter goof of himself as he plays games.) This past year, Markiplier and one of his fellow YouTubers created a channel called “Unus Annus.”

Though the name made me guffaw once or twice, it is actually supposed to denote the Latin for the phrase “One Year.”

The concept behind the channel is that Markiplier and his friend would keep it going, uploading a video a day (which is quite a feat) for one whole year. At the conclusion of that year, they would delete the channel, and all its content would be gone.

The majority of their videos were crazy antics and hilarious hijinks (like making breakfast using nothing but sex toys as utensils, getting pepper sprayed in the face, or bobbing for foods other than apples in a tub of water). But despite the juvenile nature of the videos, they made for the most enjoyable entertainment to watch during the quick twenty minutes I’d take to eat my lunch while working.

I grew to be quite fond of watching their videos, and I’d tune in regularly whenever a new one got uploaded. However, they made good on their promise, and when their one year was up, they held a livestream so fans could count down the final hours of their channel before deleting it permanently.

And then it was just gone.

I watched the livestream good-naturedly, more than willing to observe the end of something that had become part of my daily ritual. And when it was over, I went to bed that night with no qualms or bouts of sadness.

But on waking up, after working a bit in the morning, right when lunch rolled around, it finally hit me. It was just gone. No rewatching it for me. No new content for my lunch break. Nothing.

And it was that, a silly YouTube channel ending, that got me seriously thinking about dying.

Stupid, I know.

Books and games have frequently given me my most poignant thoughts about death. When a character I’ve gone on a journey with for however many hours of gameplay or pages I’ve turned just ceases to be, there’s always a moment of pause.

But whenever I actually stop and think about dying myself, I typically fixate on the little things. I think about movies I’ll never get to see. Sweaters I’ll never get to wear again. Conversations I might never have.

My “big” thoughts on death occur at night, when I’m trying to fall asleep and my mind is all, nah, you can stay up a few more hours. That’s when I get my what-happens-after-I-die thinking time in. There are practically an infinite number of things that could happen after you die. You could just cease to be, with your mind/soul/whatever just not existing anymore. You could become a ghost that haunts people. There could be a heaven. There could be an alternate dimension where you get to live life as a bunny creature until you die in that dimension and have to move to another dimension where you life as a cricket. You could be reincarnated. You could join in with a hivemind collective of other people who have died that just roams the universe.

It’s just this massive unknown.

And as of this writing, it does not terrify me.

I can see why it terrifies some people. Not existing is a pretty freaky idea. But I’m filled with unadulterated curiosity. And seeing death as inevitable just kind of heightens that.

I still feel embarrassed that a simple YouTube channel got me thinking about what it’s going to be like when I die, but you don’t get to pick and choose when you question your own mortality.

That said, that YouTube channel did perfectly illustrate that age-old, over-used saying about living life to its fullest. Those two YouTubers wasted no time and spared no expense to create the craziest content for their one year.

Eventually, life as I know it is going to be changed irrevocably, perhaps just erased off the face of the earth, so I want to spend every day I’m alive being happy. Or at least trying to be happy.

No, I’m not going to take up skydiving or other thrilling hobbies.

But I am going to try enjoying the best moments of my life, no matter how small.

The Weather Finally Got Good

Good morning, my fellow person-people!

This is going to be a short post. I’ve gotten a tad swamped with work, and it’s impacting my schedule. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining or anything, and it’s not like my situation is dire. It’s just that in between proofreading, editing, and writing, I want to find some time to sit back and read a book, go for a walk, or play a video game.

And occasionally, planning out a blog post can cut into that time.

I pinky swear that this is not going to become a habit. I’ll stop half-assing these posts.

Or, well, when I do, I’ll have a very good reason for it.

Anyways, just wanted to pop in and let you Above Average readers know that the weather has finally gotten pleasant where I live. It used to be that there was a noticeable increase in temperature when I stepped outside. The last vestiges of summer were really overstaying their welcome.

But today, when I went to go take a walk around 5pm, it was actually a bit…chill.

It’s very slight, and I’m sure it’s still hovering around room temperature, but the summer has finally decided to hightail it out of here, making way for a probably very brief autumn. Where I live, autumn doesn’t really exist. At least not in an observable sense.

There are no trees that change colors pleasantly into reds and yellows. There is no extended period of time where it is only slightly chilly. I’m telling you, in a few days, it’ll just be cold, and the leaves will have died and fallen in brown clusters on the ground.

The only real way to tell it’s autumn is when the local Starbuckses (we have several) start selling that Pumpkin Spice.

So I have to enjoy this tiny grace period when the weather is just nice without being too cold, before it nosedives into winter.

Which means more sweaters.

And more coffee. That too.

The Abandoned Mall

Two weeks ago, I went to the mall to get a gift for my boyfriend’s mother. While I was there, I decided to take a look around the building. I was curious. I had not been to the mall since March, back when the stay-at-home order was enacted where I live. And prior to these COVID-19 restrictions, I had visited the local mall fairly regularly. It was a go-to place for me and my friends. (In my defense, it had the nicest movie theater attached to it.)

I live in a teeny tiny town, okay? The mall is the only place to go.

So I took it upon myself to walk through the whole thing once, just to see how things have changed.

It was depressing.

I should have expected it to be a distressing sight. I should have known that changes would have occurred over the seven months I had been sheltering in my home.

But staying at home with my video games, books, puzzles, and pillows blinded me to everything that was going on outside my front door. And given the state of my town, state, country, continent, and world at large, can you blame me for hunkering down and taking enjoyment from stories and distractions?

Walking around that shell of a mall was a rude alarm clock of an awakening.

There were very few people wandering around, and they could be categorized into two types: those who rushed around trying to do their business as quickly as possible and those who lingered at stores trying to act as if nothing had changed.

A quarter of the stores were closed. Others were just gone. The Disney Store, with its Mickey Mouse-shaped entrance, had disappeared entirely. My pretzel place was closed. Ramshackle antibacterial gel stations were placed in front of stores like Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, and Bath & Body Works. Store employees manned these plastic tables, looking desperate to entice scared customers to step inside.

My favorite smoothie place in the whole world was open, but I didn’t buy my usual strawberry-banana smoothie. I was barreling though the place in dismay.

The haircut place was gone. As of this writing, I know of only one local place open where I could potentially get my hair cut.

The GameStop was also gone, windowed walls plastered over. That hurt a bit more than the haircut place.

But what hurt the most was walking into the food court. All the tables and chairs were piled in a mass by the inactive merry-go-round. Only two of the food stalls were open. And unfortunately, the one that sells my all-time favorite noodles was closed. I mean, I know that stir fry on an open stove is not a hot commodity right now. But that was my favorite thing to eat in the whole world. And there is a very real possibility, if that business doesn’t stay afloat, I will never eat them again.

I rushed out of the mall after that with a pit in my stomach.

Social distancing and wearing a mask need to happen. I know and understand that.

But I still feel sad at how much has changed.

I’ve Got Mask Mania

Okay, I’ve gone on poetic diatribes about why people should be wearing masks and social distancing during a pandemic, but can I just take a moment to talk about how much I actually love masks? It sucks if you don’t enjoy wearing one, but holy hell, I’m having so much fun with my masks. There are just so many reasons for me to wear a mask, that I thought I’d spend today sharing with you, my Above Average readers, why I, your Below Average Blogger, think they’re awesome.

It Makes Me Feel Like a Costumed Vigilante

Granted, a lot of super heroes don’t actually wear face coverings, such as Superman with his perfectly chiseled features and piercing blue eyes.

But a lot of stellar heroes do wear masks, like Spider-Man, The Question, and Sister Night. And even though I’m nowhere near them in terms of coolness, wearing a mask makes me feel like I could (in theory) be a hero.

Is this childish?

Heck yes.

Do I care?

Not in the slightest.

Masks Hide My Least Favorite Features

I’m honestly not too fond of my face.

You know how sometimes hearing your voice recorded and played back to you is thoroughly off-putting?

That’s what it feels like to see my face sometimes.

Just as my voice sounds like it doesn’t belong in my throat, I occasionally don’t really connect with the face I see in the mirror. It’s me, but it doesn’t look like me.

Side note: This is incredibly strange to actually type out. It makes me sound a tad psychotic. Don’t worry. I’m perfectly fine. These are just errant thoughts I occasionally get. (Oh geez, that sounds exactly like what a psychotic person would say to explain this away.)

A mask covers the majority of my face, leaving only my eyes to stare out. (Which is fine by me. My eyes are below average and good-humored, which totally jives with how I perceive myself.)

It’s a Gracious Gesture Toward Others

Lately, I’ve been working on my bows, so that I can perfect a pandemic-era salutation. It’s actually harder than it sounds. You want to come across as gracious, while not looking like you’re being abysmally subservient.

And a mask is the perfect thing to complement my courtesy in bowing.

See, what a lot of people don’t seem to get is that masks aren’t intended to protect you from getting sick. Masks are intended to protect others. When I wear a mask, I’m wearing it on the off chance I’m an asymptomatic carrier. It is a symbol of my respect and regard for others around me.

And that kind of civility really appeals to me.

I Get To Look Like Richard Nixon

Okay, Nixon is definitely not my favorite US president. In fact, he’s somewhere near the bottom in a ranking of every president that ever took the Presidential Oath of Office.

But I do enjoy coming back inside after a summer walk with my mask (I live in a place with temperatures consistently 100 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter), taking off my mask in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at the slick sheen of sweat on my upper lip, and then caustically muttering, “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal” like Frank Langella from Frost/Nixon.

It’s funny.

They Come in Different Colors

Personally, I did not go on a mask spending-spree when social distancing was put into effect in March.

However, both my mother and her sisters went absolutely nuts buying a bunch of masks, of all colors and types.

My mother got me some homemade ones from a friend of hers, and those come in navy blue, light blue with rainbow flowers, light grey with white spirals, and black. She also got a few from some stores, including a plain white and a bright red.

My tias (aunts), always looking at the heights of fashion, got me silk and cotton masks made by designer Johnny Was.

Fucking silk.

I didn’t know who the heck Johnny Was was, but he makes some damn fine masks. I feel uber cool wearing his pleated and floral wares.

If you find yourself traveling during this time, be sure to do yourself and others a favor by wearing a mask when out in public. It is not only the decent thing to do, but it is the fun thing to do, too.

I think I’m going to keep on wearing masks in the future. I’ve grown rather fond of it.

I mean, clearly, since I just wrote an entire blog post about it.

Finally, Some Sister Time

I’ve missed my sister immensely.

People don’t always understand how close I am to my sister. Alya and I have been each other’s best friends for my entire life, and there is no shaking that kind of connection.

We’re so close, we’ve laughed at the demonstrations of sisterly affection in Frozen. Elsa and Anna are nowhere near our levels of closeness, and both Alya and I know this for a fact. “I mean,” Alya has said, “I think I love you so much, I would not be able to stop hanging out with you even if I found out I had ice powers and it might get you hurt.”

This particular analogy got tested during the pandemic.

Suddenly, both Alya and I were faced with the very real possibility that hanging out with each other could hurt us.

We held out for a good solid five months. Then, after assessing the risk and deciding we wanted to see each other more than we worried about getting sick and potentially dying, we arranged for me to stay with her for a week.

Side note: Yeah, we were hysterically morbid, about the whole thing.

I’ve been quarantining far more than Alya, so she got tested right before I arrived. That didn’t stop us from being nervous on the car drive over to her house. We asked each other about how comfortable we were wearing masks, what we should expect in the next few days, and a few other precautions.

That’s when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio.

I mean…were we just supposed to not sing it?

We belted out the lyrics with gusto, spraying who knows how much spit into the car, and we finally relaxed.

When we got back to her house, we were just engrossed with each other. I swear, it was like Christmas. I woke up in my specially made-up guest room every day excited to hang out with Alya. I spent every waking moment of my visit with her.

We exercised on her elliptical together, listening to the ultimate bop-master, TheFatRat the entire time. We drank coffee in the mornings and hung out in her backyard while her adorable pupsters, Ushi, lay down on the sidewalk next to us. We watched The Lord of The Rings, the extended editions, through to completion, quoting it at every turn and, if it was evening, taking a drink every time Sam said “Mister Frodo.” We tried reenacting the dance number from the “Genghis Khan” music video, only to find to our dismay that they actually used professional dancers in it and we couldn’t faithfully replicate their moves. We ate inadvisable amounts of Hot Cheetos Puffs with white wine in the evening. We drank Sauvignon Blanc and spent a few minutes trying to say it in exaggerated French accents. We cuddled with Ushi and gave her a bath in the middle of the day. And (suckily) we attended to our respective work schedules, too.

Ushi and I are best buds. Clearly.

That single week was seriously one of the best of my life. The threat of potentially getting sick hung over my head for the first few days, but the opportunity of just spending time with my sister (in the house, never out and about, mind you) was obliteratingly positive. Unbeknownst to me, a knot of anxiety had slowly been building up inside of me while Alya and I were apart. But when we were together, it’s like she just pulled and poked the knot away.

Upon arriving back home, it felt like I was missing something.

We have made plans for the future, a joint birthday party to which no one is invited except us and Halloween dress-up plans to look like Merry and Pippin. I look forward to seeing her again.

At the time of this writing, I just got tested for COVID-19. It felt like the smart thing to do after returning home, and I’m currently waiting for my results. I feel fine. And honestly, the test wasn’t that bad. I think my unnaturally large nasal cavities (thanks to my grotesque schnozz) have given me the capacity to have giant Q-Tips stuck in them and twirled around for samples without much discomfort.

I think people should be careful when planning visits to their family and friends at this point, as the pandemic still looms over all our heads, but I have no leg to stand on when it comes to restricting travel. I had to see Alya. However, communication is key. Be open and honest with comfort levels and risk assessments.

And I sincerely hope that everyone gets the chance to feel as happy as I did that week.