Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm More of an Atari

First and foremost, let me say that I had an overall awesome childhood.  My parents loved me, I had a neighborhood full of kids to play with, etc etc.  So in no way am I whining about having an incomplete experience as a kid, nor am I ranting about how unfair my parents were.  Understood?  Good.

That being said, I grew up in a house without video games.  Well, mostly.  

When I was 5, we got our first household computer.  It was an IBM and probably weighed more than I did at the time.  That computer was my introduction to anything remotely close to a video game.  I played Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Tetris and Prince of Persia like they were all going out of style.  (In all fairness, they probably were already out of style.  Oh well.) 

Around the same time, my dad began busting out his Atari 2600 from time to time.  Dad and I would have weekend long Pong tournaments (to the point where my thumbs would actually lock up from playing so much) and I learned to play almost every game we had (we only had probably 20-25 games), from Superman to Breakout, Berzerk to Phoenix, and everything in between.  Kaboom! was probably among my favorites (I liked the ones that used the paddle controllers).  I was pretty terrible at most of them (Pole Position, for example), but I loved playing anyway.  (The only one I really never got into was Raiders of the Lost Ark; for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to play that one!)
Sadly, the Atari was set up only sparingly, so my video game exposure was still pretty limited.  A few of my friends had Nintendos, and I began a love/hate relationship with Mario Brothers.  Later it was Kirby who stole my heart and, when the neighbors got an N64, it was all about Yoshi.  

Pretty soon, it seemed that video games were all around me.  In the summer, my mom would drop me off at a friend's house so her older sister could babysit for me.  Almost every morning started with Sega.  Sonic sometimes, but usually Aladdin (I still remember trying to time it so Aladdin would jump on the magic carpet right when the music got to, "...all I gotta do is juuuuuuuuuuuuuuump!").

My dad's best friend has two sons who never knew what to do with me when I was visiting with my parents.  They let me play Duck Hunt a few times, but my aim was terrible.  There was one time when I had a friend with me (A, I think) and they left us alone with Mortal Kombat.  20 minutes later and A and I were completely engrossed, beating the crap out of each other (in the game).  I'm sure we were horrible, but we had a lot of fun anyway.   

Then, when I started going to the orthodontist when I was 10, they had video games to play while you were waiting!  They were handheld games and you only had one or two games to pick from, but it was still the coolest thing ever.  When they remodeled the facility, they included two honest to goodness video game machines, just like you'd find at the arcade.  I'd look forward to playing for the 5 or 10 minutes I normally had to wait, and when the wait was longer, I was even happier.  

Sometimes when I went over to A's mom's house, we'd play some winter Olympics game that she had.  At her dad's, it was often Mario Party or something along those lines.  A also had this awesome computer game called The Neverhood that we would play together for hours.    

At one point, I decided I wanted a Game Boy more than anything in this world, so I asked my mom about it.  When she shot me down, I asked, "Well, what if I save up and pay for it myself?  Then can I have one?"  Shot down again.  Cue young Riki crying, "But that's not faaaaaaair!"  And Mom's standard response of, "You mean it's not what you waaaaaaant!"  (She was right.)

As I got older, I finally got some computer games that were more video game-y than KidPix or the one where Mario teaches you to type.  It started with games that included educational stuff (my Greek mythology game was my favorite for a long time, thus my cat being named Zeus).  Then it was card and word games that made me use logic and strategy.  But at one point, my dad bought me Tomb Raider, because he thought it was neat to have a female lead in a video game.  I probably consider that the first "real" video game I owned.

In college, one of my best friends had a GameCube (Super Smash Melee FTW!), and another good friend had a PlayStation.  Even though I rarely actually played anything on it (Tekken bowling was probably about it), the PS provided hours of entertainment as we'd turn off the lights and watch its owner play creepy games like Silent Hill, purposely freaking ourselves out.    

Fast forward to Christmas 2008.  I'd mentioned to my parents that Hubby and I (who were sharing an apartment at the time) really wanted a Wii.  I told them about the exercise games and about how Wii makes you get up and move around in order to play, hoping desperately to convince them.  Lo and behold, at the ripe old age of 24, I finally had my very own video game system.  Woohoo!!

Maybe, though, it's for the best that Mom and Dad didn't let me get a system growing up.  At it is, I keep myself pretty busy with the computer, the Wii and our PS3, but I also spend a lot of time doing other things, like reading or watching movies.  My life isn't consumed by video games, and a system in my childhood might have resulted in just that.  (I'm not saying everyone who had video games as a kid is a video game addict as an adult; I just have an addictive personality and can admit that even now I spend too much time on this damn Dell!)

Actually, I guess I should probably thank my parents for not letting me get what I wanted.  Damn them for being right!  And getting me to admit it in adulthood (after being told some day I would understand)!  Well played, parents.  Well played. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Unlucky 13? Nah.

I have never really gotten into the superstition of Friday the 13th.  Oh, sure, I tried to act like it was some magical day where black cats and bad luck rule all, but I never actually cared.  

Today, in fact, is my mom's birthday!  She was born on a Friday the 13th, so it's hard for me to think it's a bad day.  Strangely enough, my dad was also born on a Friday, so it happens than whatever day of the week Mom's birthday falls on, Dad's will, too (though, not until September).

Similarly, I grew up with a friend who was born on Mother's Day.  In case I haven't mentioned it here, I was born on Father's Day.  This year, since my birthday falls on Father's Day, I know that my friend's birthday will fall on Mother's Day.  Just one of those fun bits of trivia that no one cares about (except me, of course).  

Anywhoozles, I'm sure some of you are superstitious about this day, even if I'm not.  I'm not saying I'm never superstitious.  I am.  It's just certain things I'm superstitious about and I've gotten less superstitious as time has gone by; or maybe my medication works better and I'm just less obsessive...  I don't really see anything wrong about having superstitions as long as they don't interfere with your day to day life.  

There is a fine line between being superstitious and having OCD.  Superstitious is not wanting to step on cracks in the sidewalk and cringing when you do.  You later attribute some bit of "bad luck" to having stepped on said crack, but life goes on.  OCD is feeling like stepping on a crack might mean the end of the world as you know it, and if you should happen to step on one, you may feel the need to start from the beginning or even to go home and crawl back into bed because today clearly is just not happening.

Growing up, I thought some of my quirks were just superstitions.  And some of them probably were.  But some of them were definitely bordering on obsession, and even though they didn't necessarily interfere with daily activities, they sometimes came close.  Or, at minimum, they made me think I was pretty effing weird.

Whenever we drove somewhere, I would stare out the window from the back seat.  Any time there was a driveway or a cross street, I had to keep my teeth apart.  So, picture me riding along in a residential neighborhood.  It probably looked like I was chewing gum, since I was opening my jaw (but not my mouth) for each "interruption" in the road we were on.  Not life-changing, but odd.

For the longest time, I wouldn't set my alarm clock for anything that ended in a 0 or 5.  I woke up at strange times like 7:12 or 6:48.  I did the same thing on the microwave.  If something called for 30 seconds, I put the timer on for 29 or 31 seconds.  

There were others, but those are the two that stick out most in my mind.  I used to do the typical little kid superstitious things (holding my breath past a cemetery, for example), but beyond that, none of my superstitions were as... common.  A touch of OCD will do that, though.

I hope you all have a lovely Friday the 13th today!  I'm done working in about an hour and will be spending most of my day doing homework, but here's hoping y'all have better plans than I do!  And remember, superstition ain't the way.  ;-) 

EDIT: So, it turns out my mom wasn't actually born on Friday the 13th, she just happens to have a lot of birthdays on Fridays.  Oh well.  Still not an unlucky number for me!


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Gift Whisperer

I have a knack for getting people pretty good (if sometimes quite random) gifts.  I pick up on what people like and do my best to find something that I think they'll enjoy.  

My hubby's probably the easiest person to shop for (in my world, anyway).  I'm pretty good at getting stuff for my bestie and my sister (at least I think so; let me know if I'm way off, ladies!).  At minimum, I put a lot of thought and effort into giving presents because it's one of my favorite things to do.  Honestly!  I have more fun buying gifts for other people than I do shopping for myself.  

Unfortunately, there are two people in his world that I always have problems buying things for: my parents.  

Let's get some background, shall we?  Mom is a part-time physical therapist who works with small kids (infants to about 3 years old) in their homes.  She loves playing puzzle games on the computer (last year I got her hooked on Pogo) and is probably the nicest, most patient person on the face of the planet.  She loves spring (gardening is one of her hobbies) and on nice weekend afternoons, you're likely to find her on the front porch with a drink in hand.

Dad is a traveling sales representative (he pretty much covers the good ol' Midwest) who isn't happy unless he has a project to work on or something to fix.  Since he travels so much during the week, he spends most of his weekends at home with Mom.  He has a dry and somewhat twisted sense of humor (he loves Family Guy), is a history buff, and the first thing he'll probably do when he retires is get a dog.  He's right next to Mom on the porch on those nice evenings, drink in one hand and cigarette in the other.

So, you'd think with even that much to go on, that gifts wouldn't be too difficult, right?  Wrong.  So very wrong.  

Mom already has everything she needs for gardening, and has access to all the computer puzzle games she can ever want.  Dad can be hard to read sometimes, but for the most part, it's a good bet that if he really wants something, he either already has it or Mom will be getting it for him.

My mom's birthday is coming up next week, but we're going to see her this weekend, so we decided to celebrate early.  For the past two weeks, I've been scouring the internet for something that says, "Hey!  Your mom would love this!"  No such luck.  Spent a long time at Target the other night; got a bunch of stuff, but the only thing for Mom was a card.  Crap.

With time running out, I turned to Pinterest.  I figured either I could find a gift idea or there would be a craft I could work with, so I searched.  And searched.  And searched some more.  And eventually, I found something that looked fun and easy.

So, in all its nerdiness/goofiness, I present to you, the Bucket-O-Sun!

Inside this bright yellow bucket are a bunch of sunny gifts.
  • A yellow sun visor.
  • A yellow candle (scent is called: Eternal Sunshine).
  • Sunflower clips (on the outside of the bucket).
  • Sunglasses.
  • Some yellow candy (suckers and Lifesavers).
  • A sun stamp and orange stamp pad.
  • "Sunny Songs" - a CD I made that's full of sun-themed songs (starting, of course, with the Sesame Street theme song).
There are also some coasters with suns on them that will go in the bucket, but they're still in transit (c'mon, UPS!!).  

OK, so it's sorta lame, but I spent HOURS trying to figure out what the hell to get her, and this is way better than nothing, right?  Let's hope...

Anywhoozles, to my mom, happy early birthday!!  To everyone else, happy early Easter!  May the bunny be kind to you all. :) 

Edit: For those curious, this is the box of sunshine idea I saw.  Yeah, I butchered it pretty bad, but it's my present, dammit!