I Was Supposed to Be Camping, but Instead I Played Sims4

We went camping for one of what was supposed to be three nights, and it poured. It was nice and sunny all day, and then at night, it felt like buckets were being tossed over the tent I was sharing with my son (daughter was in my parents’ trailer with them, husband was in a hammock). Despite the heat and humidity, I had to cover myself with a sleeping bag to prevent drops from landing on me as I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to sleep.

In the morning, my child accidentally put his plushie cheetah into a tent puddle. The day’s forecast was cloudy with the Lake Michigan undertow too strong for swimming, with rain that night and the next day. And the next night. The next morning we decided to go back home.

After returning and setting all our camping supplies on the lawn to dry out, I quickly jumped into where I left off in The Sims 4: the Country Living expansion pack. Llama’s, y’all lamas.

Fluffy, the llama (along with my human sim)

I created a new sim, Sutton, with the new Country Caretaker aspiration. Whenever I make sims I always create their life story in my mind. Sutton is starting out with not much cash but an interest in rural living. But eventually she’s going to turn into an obnoxious lifestyle blogger.

Inspired by Aywren’s haunted house story, I decided to actually take some screenshots of my game. After moving in and getting her llama, Fluffy, settled in and her garden started, Aywren set out to get to know the people of Henford-on-Bagley, which is like cottage core on steroids. She meets one of the pub owners, Sara Scott, and some other sims. She takes them fishing, where they bond over not catching anything.

She also meets the mayor.

Love your hat, Ms. Mayor!

After selling much produce and llama fiber, Sutton is able to update her house with a bedroom and get rid of the tent she was sleeping in. After my ill-fated tent adventures, I was relieved for her. The next thing she needed to kickstart her homestead lifestyle empire was a husband.

Sutton kept going to town and meeting women. Women love the rural life, apparently. Sutton was making some great friends, but not meeting the ruggedly handsome photo prop of her dreams.

But then she met Michael Bell, the creature handler. Sutton was smitten.

Beard needs to be a bit longer, but he’ll do.

Michael must’ve seen something in her too, because he invited her to the Romance Festival. But soon after their arrival to the festival, Michael takes off for the bathroom leaving Sutton to herself. With the flirty vibe of the festival, it isn’t long before Sutton is approached.

Sutton and Dominic seem to be hitting it off, don’t they? We could have a love triangle on our hands.

Cover Image: screenshot of the current state of Sutton’s little farm.

8 Excuses for Not Blogging

You started a blog. Maybe you started it for Blaugust or another blogging initiative, or maybe you did it all on your own. Either way, it exists, and now you have to write in it. Except–you don’t. Days, weeks, maybe even months go by without a word. What’s a writer to do?

Make up excuses of course!

1. You forgot about it

A 100% legit reason to not post during Blaugust. Summer goes by quickly: one day the snow is melting and the next the leaves are starting to change. One might forget the entire month of August exists. It’s completely understandable.

2. You got sick

You got a cold/food poisoning/covid/plague/poison ivy/you name it. How can you be expected to blog when you’re projectile vomiting or scratching yourself silly? And unlike work, you don’t even need to make sure you sound appropriately sick on the phone!

3. You went on vacation

August is in the summer. In the summer, people like to go on vacation. But honestly this excuse could work year round: color tours, ski trips, getaways to coastal beaches. Just make sure you take a few pictures to put in your blog when you get back.

(I’m going to need this excuse next week because I’m going camping!)

4. Your dog ate it

I’m not sure how a dog would eat a blog, but I’m 100% down with this excuse.

My dog, Maebel, will eat your blog.

5. You had a family emergency

This sounds dire, but it could be that little Johnny spilled his milk two weeks ago and you just haven’t had the drive to write in your blog since then. No one really wants the details, anyway.

6. You were too busy with work

You’ve got deadlines to meet. This quarter will be done before you know it!

7. You’re having technical difficulties

Your PC is in the shop. Your internet’s been down. You dropped your phone down a sewer grate. What are you supposed to do, write blog posts on pen and paper like people wrote in journals in the olden days? Ridiculous.

8. You’re no longer interested in the topic your blog is about

Your blog was supposed to be about simulation games from the 90s, but now you’re only into adventure games based on popular IPs. You don’t think your audience can make the shift, so you stop blogging for a while until the urge to play Sim Isle comes back.

Cover Photo by Roxanne De La Peña on Unsplash. Would you be blogging if you were here? I don’t think so!

Blaugust 2021 Introduction Post

Hi, my name is Alli, and it’s been about five months since my last blog post. I decided to participate in Blaugust, a month long blogging festival. I wanted to briefly introduce myself and give a little update on what’s been going on in my life since my last blog post.

I am not a llama. We’ll get to the llama thing at the end.

Except here’s the thing: not really much has been going on. My daughter is now one and my son is 5 (I used to call him “Indy” here because he was a very independent toddler, but now it’s a very inaccurate name–hopefully he’s just being 5.)

We bought a Switch.

We decided to move to Atlanta, and then we decided to stay in Michigan.

I’m hoping Blaugust can jumpstart a return to blogging for me. It doesn’t hurt that my WordPress subscription renews in July.

Cover Photo by Hugo Kruip on Unsplash because while I’ve pretty much abandoned PC gaming in favor of the Switch, The Sims 4 has llamas now. Llamas!

Taking Care of Myself

In January 2021 I didn’t want to make any big New Years resolutions or set any big goals. We’d just made it through the toughest year of many of our lives, and I was feeling content to just live. I’d also had a baby less than six months ago and started a job within the previous two weeks. It seemed like enough. It was probably more than enough.

I had one thought, though: “I’d like to write in my blog a bit more.”

It’s now mid-February, and I have one published post in 2021. This year had a rough start–remember the new job and baby? Those are big, huge life-changing things. I’m still figuring them out. And in early Feb, I went through a rough point. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of where my head and emotions were at, but I’ll just say it was a bad place. And I knew I needed to make some changes. Here’s what I did what I’m doing to try and take better care of myself:

I take a break after work.

For a half hour or so after work, I take a break. I used to have this thing called a “commute” after work, where I’d spend 20-30 minutes in the car, driving listening to an audiobook or podcast as I drove home. It allowed me to have something that separated work from the family care I’d be doing when I walked in the house.

I’ve been working remotely for over three years now, and I miss the commute. My husband finally told me to take some time for myself in the office when I’m done working. I initially balked. He’s with the kids all day long, and now he should wait even longer for me to emerge from the office so he can do something other than care for them? How is that fair to him?

He told me he could take a break after my break, or later on, and he’d rather have me feel refreshed and actually ready to spend time with the kids, instead of just mentally drained.

It works. After a 20-30 minute break, I’m ready to play with my kids until it’s time to make dinner.

I started therapy.

I’ve known for a while that I’d probably benefit from therapy, but I hesitated. I went through quite a bit of it as a kid and never found it that helpful. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that it wasn’t my idea, and I didn’t have anything I wanted to get out of it. I started thinking that maybe if I did it on my own terms now that I’m an adult, and have some goals in mind, I might get more out of it.

What finally made me pull the trigger was that I realized that as a tiny benefit to this horrible pandemic, it’s all being done virtually. No need to go to a physical office. I can’t tell you now if it’s successful or not, but it is nice to have someone who is being paid to listen to you without judgement.

I started ADHD medication.

I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD twice (this is fairly normal for adults with ADHD who were initially diagnosed as children) but haven’t been on much medication. I was managing it myself.

The self-management worked for a long time, until it didn’t. Remember the new baby and the new job? My responsibilities were increasing. I hit a “I can’t do this like this anymore” wall. I’m now working with my doctor to find the right medicine and dose to help me be my best self.

Rethinking “Self Care”

The term “self care” is popular, but I usually hear it paired with one time things like taking a bubble bath or watching a feel-good movie. These aren’t bad things. But what I’m trying to do, and what I think self care should be more about, is beyond that. I think self care should be about making changes to make your life better. I’m hoping the changes I’m making will help me lead a more contented life.

Cover Photo by Sean O.on Unsplash. I miss summer.

Hello, Baby Girl

In the wee hours of the morning on July 13, 2020 I gave birth to my baby girl. I’d gone through a difficult pregnancy: gestational diabetes on top of the normal discomfort of being pregnant and, of course, a global pandemic. I wasn’t certain I wanted a second child, but the moment I saw her face I was completely besotted.

Almost five months later and we have the world’s smiliest baby. She’s so happy and growing like a weed: 93rd percentile for height! It’s been hard having a baby during a pandemic: we haven’t been able to introduce her properly to family and friends. We’ve had to keep her to ourselves.

She’s mostly content and sleeps great. She loves having her belly “eaten” and when her brother makes silly faces. She laughs and laughs.

I don’t normally share photos of my kids publicly, but just look at this smiling face. I can’t not. I just can’t.

More changes are coming. I’m starting a new job next week. I’m still in software engineering, but switching industries from e-commerce to cyber security.

I am closing down my kitting blog, but I do have a mailing list for my yarn dyeing adventures if anyone is interested.

We’re approaching the deep, dark parts of winter I usually shudder away from, but this year I’m trying to think about it differently. I have a new job and two beautiful children. COVID vaccines are imminent. Sometimes things need to freeze and thaw to begin anew.

Cover Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Hiatus

I’m going on a blogging hiatus. Both this and my knitting blog will be taking a break, probably for the next few months. I’m having a baby in the next couple weeks, and want to focus on family and other things for the foreseeable future. I also want to take some time to step back and decide what I want to do with my blogs and my internet presence.

Love to all of you. I will still be on twitter (gaming content will most likely be there, if I have any time to play with a new little one) and Instagram.

Cover Photo by C.J. Brown on Unsplash.

Eh, Forget It

I was going to stop posting here, and I wrote this terribly brief goodbye post, but I’ve decided to stay. I change my mind a lot, alright? You can still find me on twitter @allirense. I recently had a tweet about single-spacing after periods go almost-viral, so there’s that.

See you soon!

Life Update: Mid April, 2020

Hello and welcome to the blog where I, a busy working parent, discuss the multitude of reasons as to why I’m not playing video games right now.

Recently I started a knitting blog, and it was part of the same WordPress instance as this one. I realized I could comment with a link to the knitting blog, or this blog, but not both. This bothered me, so I created a new WordPress account, made it an admin, and transferred all the posts to this author. It was fun to revisit all my previous posts.

Like everyone else, we’re quarantined in our home. With me already working from home, my husband a stay-at-home-dad, and Indy not in school yet, it’s not a major change. The biggest one is that the two other humans never leave the house, which for me as an introvert who’s primary love language is being left alone, has been difficult. It’s hard for the kid because everything fun is closed: the library, playgrounds*, museums, the zoo, the dog park. Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s is definitely off-limits: we want to keep them healthy.

On the bright side, the weather is warming up. This means we can take Meabel outside to play. I’ve been teaching her how to play fetch with the Frisbee. She is not the brightest dog, but she makes up for it in enthusiasm!

I’d mostly been playing The Sims 4 during the first part of social isolation, then yesterday I decided what I really wanted to do was take my aggression out on pixelated monsters. I played Diablo III. My Crusader is so OP. The usual plot-heavy games that normally appeal haven’t. I want something more mindless. I’m thinking of picking up WoW Classic again, but this time I want to find a super casual (but still socially active) Alliance-side guild to chat with while leveling. If one even exists.

My husband and kid are currently watching old bike races because my husband is bummed some big bike race is canceled. We have resorted to more screen time since we can’t go anywhere–mostly tablet games, because the kid flips his lid when it’s time to be done watching TV. We’re going to give TV a try later this afternoon and see how it goes.

Cover image via pxfuel. I’ve missed the tree leaves so much, and I’m happy to see them budding again!

*Not really but we tell him they are.

Life Update: Early December, 2019

I thought it was past time for a blog post, so here’s what’s been going on with me and my family lately. Since the last update I did was back in September 2018, I have a few things to catch up on.

The biggest change for our family is that my husband Will became a stay at home dad! This is an old update; we’ve been doing this for about a year now. I don’t remember the exact date. Like all things, there’s positives and negatives. We have to make less money go further, but we also have more flexibility. Since I work from home, it means we’re all home most of the time. That’s been a challenge for me working, so I’m on a waiting list for a local coworking space. I hope one opens soon!

In other big news, we got a puppy! Maebel came to live with us last May. She is a lab mix rescue and while I love her, she’s been a lot for this Cat Person to handle. I realize a puppy pic is required here.

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And here she is now (about 9 months old)!

EFFECTS
And I got an iPhone 11, which means a significant phone picture quality upgrade from my old 8.

This summer, Will and I took a trip with my dad, uncle, and some cousins to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We camped, canoed, and picked tons of wild blueberries. It was beautiful.

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In September I went to San Francisco for a conference called Calibrate for software engineering leaders. It was amazing, and I’m sad it’s the last one but happy I was able to make it to attend this one. I stayed an extra day and met up with a friend. Her fiance happened to be joining some clients on their belated holiday party on a boat in the bay. We were invited to join. It was a once in a lifetime experience for someone like me, a Michigander who doesn’t get out to the West Coast very often!

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I haven’t spent a ton of time gaming. I briefly dabbled with WoW Classic, but got bored and gave up. I’ve played some Civ 6 (the Gathering Storm expansion is a lot of fun), Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition (for the third time), and I have gotten further in The Witcher 3. I was thinking about how last year I did a game of the year, but I don’t think I have the heart to do that this year. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and buy RimWorld even though it never goes on sale on Steam [rage emoji]. I know I’d love that game. But I did have my question answered in this episode of the Massively OP podcast, so that’s cool (if only I could pick an MMO to actually try and find a guild in). I showed my kid Indy* Fruit Ninja on my phone and we play that together sometimes!

I’m still doing a lot of knitting and yarn dying, but since I can’t knit yarn as fast as I can dye it, I’ve slowed down on the dyeing front. Here’s a recent skein dyed based on early fall colors and I love how it turned out!

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My husband and dad have been working together to build a deck for our house in the backyard. It’s almost done and they just need to add stairs. We live in Michigan, which means they’ve had to do a considerable amount of deck building in cold and even snowy weather. (I don’t have a photo of the deck. Don’t tell my husband.)

I barely won NaNoWriMo! This is my second win. My first was way back in 2012. (If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in November to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month.) I finished at 50,010 words. The novel is incomplete, and if I’m being honest, I’ll probably rewrite most of it if I decide to continue the project.

NaNo-2019-Winner-Twitter-Header

Speaking of challenges, I finished my 50th book for 2019, completing my Goodreads challenge. Book number 50 was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I highly recommend it if you like real world magic and secret societies.

And that’s it, sort of an early 2019 recap! Bring on 2020!

Cover image taken by me at LSPP in Canada.

Confession: I’m Still Not Playing Anything

It’s time to get honest with all of you. I was going to do Blaugust this year, and try some new MMOs, and try to get back into it. But I’ve been too busy. It’s August 7 and I’ve already gone to Atlanta for work and went camping once. I’m camping again–this time in the Canadian wilderness–later this month.

When I’m free I don’t want to play video games. I want to watch TV with my husband or play with my son. I want to curl up in bed and read until my eyelids get heavy. I want to work on personal projects. I was in my hotel in Atlanta and decided to try out Albion Online and I played it for about 30 minutes before I was bored out of my mind and decided to read some Python blog posts instead. I basically decided to do more work instead of gaming.

Now I don’t know what to do with this blog. It was supposed to be “parenting for nerds” with a gaming/MMO bent, but if I’m barely playing games how does that work? I’ve also been thinking a lot about my nerdiness. Yes, I’m a nerd: I write code and help other people write better code for a living. I love Sci-fi, fantasy, and Marvel movies. But am I nerdy enough to write a nerd parenting blog? I don’t take my kid to nerd conventions, I don’t even go to them myself. I don’t like the idea of dressing up. Costumes are uncomfortable. I don’t even like Halloween.

I don’t think I’m having nerd imposter syndrome. No neckbeards have told me I’m “not a real nerd” for some reason or another. I’m definitely a nerd. But I can’t write blog posts about if you should let your kid play Fortnite because I couldn’t get past the starting screen because I couldn’t figure out how to customize my character. I’ll have an idea for something I want to write and it doesn’t fit here. I’ve posted on Medium, but the platform is terrible for writers unless you want to opt-in to their paywall (I don’t). I wanted to write about my long strange career path so I did that on dev.to. I always have this problem, this I don’t know what to do with my online presence existential crisis.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Cover photo by Christopher Flowers on Unsplash. I searched for “existential crisis” on Unsplash and this was the first result.