about-iwd

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m actually more fond of what they refer to it elsewhere: International Women’s Rights Day, but regardless of what it’s called, this is a wonderful day to celebrate the amazing women in our lives that have inspired and motivated us. I have a lot of personal female heroes. So many that it was really hard to narrow it down so I limited myself to women who are currently still on Earth making it a better place while they live and breathe.

Mae Jemison

maejemison

How could I not choose Mae Jemison? She (along with Sally Ride) has been such a guiding star in my love of and yearning for space travel. Mae Jemison was the first African American to ever travel to space PLUS she’s been on Star Trek so she has most definitely boldy gone where no man has gone before (it’s extra cool because she was first inspired to join NASA because of Nichelle Nichols’ character Uhura). Not only is she an intelligent scientists, she’s also a talented dancer, and has founded numerous companies and foundations to advance technology in every day human life. Learn more about Mae Jemison.

Michelle Obama

michelleobama

As First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has been pretty much everywhere in the past eight years. Her dedication to improving the health of our nation’s children and passion for community gardens have been inspirational. She is one of the few First Ladies to ever directly address the issue of childhood obesity and her “Let’s Move” movement has been a huge success in schools. The Obamas even built the first garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt AND had beehives installed on the South Lawn. Her motivation is astounding and I am constantly floored by all of the projects this woman has going. I am so sad that her time in the White House is coming to an end, but I know that no matter where she lives, she will continue her good work. Learn more about Michelle Obama.

Jane Goodall

janegoodall

When I was in sixth grade, we had to do an oral book report. Most kids just stood up front and read from a piece of paper. But me? I was already a little ham (and a nerd) – I dressed up as Jane Goodall and did a report on Through A Window, complete with a stuffed Gorilla at my side and lots of crouched over antics impersonating Jane impersonating the gorillas. Jane Goodall isn’t just someone I admire now, she had a very large impact on me growing up. I even ended up going to college to become and outdoor educator like her. Jane Goodall’s books and teachings have opened our eyes to the animals around us and have been instrumental in how we perceive the natural world. Her work is deeply inspiring to me and her words continue to remind that there is still a sense of wonder to be found in our planet Earth. Learn more about Jane Goodall.

Commander Shepard

shepard

Okay so she’s not a real person but I am not limiting this list to just reality. Commander Shepard means a lot to me. Her courage and her commitment to getting things done no matter how hard and long the battle is are an inspiration to me over and over again (no matter how many times I play these games). She’s a reminder to keep going when the going gets tough. She’s a leader and a friend and a hero to not just humanity – but to the whole galaxy. She is fearsome and snarky and always willing to get the job done. She’s there for her friends when they need her and she knows just what to say to piss the right people off. My Shepard might be just who I want her to be, but she’s who I want myself to be too and through her I can model my own action and remind myself of the path that I want to follow through life. She is a survivor and a reminder that I am too. Learn more about my love for Commander Shepard.

Nellie Jeninga

nelliejeninga

Now this is a name that most people probably won’t know. Nellie Jeninga was born and raised in Heerlen, Holland in 1935. Growing up, she and her sister loved to perform and sing and eventually became quite good at it – they were even recorded and had a very promising future. But Nellie was headstrong and in love. In 1958, she threw away her fears and followed her heart to Toronto, Canada to be with the man she loved. She left behind her country, her home, her family and everything she knew for a new continent with people who didn’t speak her language. It wasn’t the last time her stubborn nature would lead her on adventure. In 1961, Nellie, her husband, and their two children moved to the United States, to Wisconsin, in the middle of a severe snowstorm. Settling down in Wisconsin didn’t stop her tenacious thirst for travel though and over the years, they would often pack up the kids and roadtrip around the country. She passed down that wanderlust and bravery to her oldest daughter (another of my personal heroines) who then passed it down to her daughter. Which would be me. Nellie Jeninga is my Oma and my favorite person in the world (that’s us in that picture). She has never let fear stop her from following her heart and she has been the steadfast rock in my life that I can always come home to. I am proud to say I have her bravery to travel and experience the unknown and I most definitely have her stubborness and headstrong nature. Because of this, I have to add her to my list of inspirational women because she has made my life better over and over again. I love her dearly.

Happy International Women’s Day!

These are only five of a very long list of women who are important to me. Others include Sally Ride, Madeleine L’Engle, Amelia Earhart, Annie Oakley, J.K. Rowling, Laverne Cox, Grace Murray Hopper, George Sand, Audrey Hepburn, Ada Lovelace, and so many many more. Thank you for paving the way and making it known that women can do anything they absolutely want! We are strong and empowered and we have a voice. You can find out more about Internation Women’s Day here.

Who are you celebrating today?

Rest In Peace Harper Lee

Harper Lee

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

It is a very sad today. Harper Lee has passed away.

I, like many many people, cherished my first reading of To Kill A Mockingbird. It was a turning point in how I saw other people and empathized with them – you’re told these things as a kid but you can’t really know what it means until you experience it. This is a book that I’m happy to see on many required reading lists and it’s a book that I feel many people in seats of authority should read (and re-read). Despite being written in the 60s, this book resonates hard with today’s society. It is still (sadly) relevant with morals that are often forgotten now.

I am sad that Harper Lee has left this world, but she lived a full and good life surrounded by books and a powerful legacy that we should never let fade. In celebration of her life, read your kids her book. Teach them that kindness and fairness are important and that’s it the character of a man that is essential, not what he owns or how much money and status he has or what the color of his skin is. “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

I truly hope you rest in peace, Harper Lee, knowing that your positive impact on the world will last for a very long time. Your name and your work will never be forgotten.

Best Present: Custom fem!Shepard Funko Pop!

So for the past few months, my fiance Jake and my sister Madi have been hinting that I would be getting the greatest Christmas present ever, but that it would just be late. I had absolutely no idea what it was. Well I finally got my present today and it was 100% worth the wait because it is the best present in the entire world. In the entire galaxy.

femshep01

I’ve always been very sad that there is no femShep funko so imagine my surprise when I opened my present and discovered MY VERY OWN CUSTOM COMMANDER SHEPARD FUNKO!! Isn’t she amazing? And they MADE her for me. They discovered that the head of the Rachel from Friends funko pop looked just like my Shepard so they took that head and put it on the maleShep’s funko body. And then painted on my renegade scars. She’s so perfect I could cry. I have such an amazing family.

femshep02

If you missed it, Commander Shepard is my personal hero so this is pretty much the best thing anyone could ever make me (the bar is now set really high). I still can’t get over how similar she looks to my personal Shepard. I don’t think they could have gotten her any better. My perfect Commander Audrey Shepard. ❤

My personal Shepard as drawn by the talented Cheyenne next to my in-game Shep.

My personal Shepard as drawn by the talented Cheyenne next to my in-game Shep.

I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite present on the Citadel. ❤

Reflections of a Snailbird as We Head into 2016

Well this was a year of unforeseen life changes for yours truly. It was an incredible year and also one of the most heartbreaking. A lot happened, good and bad, but I think, overall, 2015 and I are on good terms. There was a lot more good than bad at least. Some highlights of my 2015:

  • Introducing Jake to snow (and my family)
  • Running Catan demos at SXGaming for Mayfair Games
  • Getting engaged to the love of my life
  • Attending SDCC and being nerds with a bunch of old & new friends
  • Seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time
  • Having my sister move in with us
  • Introducing my sister to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time
  • Seeing Star Wars and having it be GOOD
  • Getting to be home for Christmas for the first time in 6 years

And so many more. Overall, it was filled with amazing experiences. And as a person, I am vastly different from who I was in 2014. I am healthier, at least mentally (my physical health is always touch and go), and have managed to get my life together and organized and that in itself is a pretty big deal. I have a good family, a good job, and a good idea of where my life is going. I’m happy and decided to do a little reflecting on what I’ve learned this past year.

jikki

Reflection One: The Universe is Full of Surprises

2014 saw me entering into a relationship that completely changed my life for the better with a man of all people (first real relationship I’ve ever been in with a man (I thought I was a lesbian for years (I’m still not entirely convinced I’m not but I love him so))). 2015 saw the two of us getting engaged, driving across the country to meet tons of family, flying to California together for our first San Diego Comic Con, and becoming temporary parental figures to my fifteen year old sister. We’ve packed a lot of life into just a year and I am more in love with him now than ever before and I can’t wait to marry him. May 4, 2016 is going to be an amazing day. Not only is it Star Wars Day, but it’s our wedding day as well, and it’s going to be the geekiest wedding the Universe has ever seen.

I never saw myself getting into a relationship with a man. I NEVER saw myself marrying one. But the Universe brought Jake into my life when I needed him most and what I’ve learned from this is that I need to always keep my mind open to whatever the Universe brings into my life because It usually (always) knows better than I do. And the Universe likes surprises.

opa

Reflection Two: You’re Never Ready to Say Good-bye

June 1st I had to say good-bye to one of my favorite people in the entire world, and one of the most important: my Opa. It was hard and I wasn’t ready. The silver-lining is that it wasn’t a surprise and he told everyone he was ready to go. But it doesn’t make it easier. He had been a constant presence my entire life – he and my Oma were there for everything for me and I grew up with them. Ted Jeninga was always there with a smile and a joke and a plate of cookies and my heart still hurts so badly to know he is gone. This Christmas was the first time I was able to go home and it was a shock to my system for him not to be there when I walked through the door. It’s still hard to handle. I wasn’t able to go home for the funeral in June because I was still very sick (I was on short term disability from May till July and couldn’t leave the house except for doctors appointments) but my uncle read the memorial I wrote for him and I know it was a beautiful send-off.

But it still hurts. And even when you know it’s coming, you’re never ready to say good-bye to those you love. I still haven’t really accepted it yet that he’s gone and I’m not sure if I ever will.

jikki-madi

Reflection Three: You are Stronger Than You Know

I’ve gone through a lot in my life. I try to use what I’ve learned to help others. Sometimes, this comes back in very surprising ways. This year, it came back in the form of my fifteen year old sister. I won’t go into details because that is her story and only she can tell it, but back in October she came to live with Jake and I and her strength and dedication and willpower to get through all the things she’s been through has been inspiring. And I know she’s been surprising herself with her own strength. It’s been extremely hard for her, but she has pushed through and every day she is stronger and I am so proud of her.

Because of her, I’ve discovered a strength in myself. I go through moments where I’m scared I’m not enough to help her, but through her I am gaining control of my own fears and doubts and just like her, I’m surprised by how strong I am. A lot of it, for both of us, has to do with Jake, our rock, who has been there for both of us and has kept me sane through this whole thing. We don’t ever know how strong we can be until we are faced with difficult choices.

yote

Good-bye 2015, Hello 2016!

You guys, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited for an upcoming year. Yes, most of it has to do with the fact I’m getting MARRIED next year (almost four months now), but it also has to do with the fact that my life is on track now. Things are going well. For the first time, I’m not entirely in the dark about my own life. Stability is an amazingly underrated thing, and I feel very adult saying that. I love change, but I’m also a fan of having a solid foundation and I have that now. I’ve worked very hard to bring myself back up from a very very low period of time in 2014. So many things have happened this year and I am so grateful for where life has brought me. I don’t regret anything and I would never take anything back, but I feel I am lucky to have come back as well as I have. Things were good this year, despite the sickness and death and rough patches I had to deal with. I know 2016 will have rough patches too but I’m looking forward to it and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us all.

2016 is going to be a year of creativity, of building, of community and of stretching the limits of our imagination – it is going to be MY year and I can’t wait to get to work.

Happy New Year, Universe! I’m ready!

n701

I’ve been a fan of Bioware for years. I played KotOR in college and when I discovered Dragon Age: Origins around 2010 I was hooked. It quickly became my favorite game – I hadn’t had a game obsession like that since Kingdom Hearts in high school. It was everything I wanted in a video game – fighting, pretty outfits, making out with hot female assassins and men soon to be king, lots of blood, and some really cool concept art. I was convinced there’d never be another game like it.

In 2014, I went through some major life changes. I was still reeling from the end of a six year relationship, I was living alone for the first time ever (and for a short while, living out of my car), I had just lost my job of two years, and my life was in shambles. I started making bad choices and things were spiraling towards a not very good place for me. I had no idea how to pick up the pieces. It’s times like that when escapism comes in handy and my escape was into video games. My friends Lee and Meg were in the throes of a game called Mass Effect and since it was by the same people as Dragon Age, I figured I’d give it a shot. It took while to get into the first game, but with their constant support and reassurance that it was going to get better, I pushed through. By the end of the first game, I was a fan. I thought it was a good game. Not the best. But good enough that I was curious about the sequel.

n703

Mass Effect 2 changed everything. From the death of the Normandy SR-1 to the retrieval of one handsome Garrus Vakarian to defending and adopting Tali to making every renegade and paragon decision and making sure that every single member of the team made it through the suicide mission, the whole game was non-stop action and fun and I texted Meg and Lee throughout the entire thing. Their response? Wait till you play ME3.

I thought they had prepared me for how Mass Effect 3 would impact my life, but I was completely and utterly unprepared for the influx of feelings. The hard decisions. The devastation that followed even the best of them. The night I finished, Meg coaxed me through my tears and helped me accept that it was all over. I was a mess. It wasn’t until that very last day that I finally admitted that Mass Effect was better and more important to me than Dragon Age. But it was. Because of Shepard.

n702

Commander Shepard. Through everything that happened, she remained as steadfast and certain of her beliefs and her morals and her duty to humanity and every living life form. She refused to break. When she was shot, she got back up and kept fighting. She made the hard calls when she knew she’d get shit for it later. She backed up her friends through thick and thin and despite all the darkness she went through, her heart was still good. She was still herself. Still just as fiercely imperfect as anyone, but stronger for all that she’d seen and done. In the end, she always selflessly did the right thing. She was, and is, everything I strive to be. She became a beacon for me when I was lost, alone, and struggling to find my place in a world I had never really navigated on my own. She was a survivor in every sense of the word. And she was me. I was making those decisions. Everything she did was because it was what I would do. And in being Commander Shepard, I learned a lot about who I was. And who I had the potential to become. I saw myself for the first time as someone who was worth it. Worth living a better life for. And up until that point, I wasn’t making the best choices for myself. Commander Shepard was a turning point for me.

I know people will laugh. They’ll shrug it off. It’s just a game. It is. It’s just a game. But it’s also more than that. I became a better person because of this game. Because of Commander Shepard. Because of the writers at Bioware who understand human nature and the choices we are forced to make. The hard ones. Bioware changed my life for the better. I was a fan for a long time. But now I will always be a champion for them and the games they make.

To me, N7 Day is the perfect reminder of how far I’ve come in life. It’s reminder of who I want to be. Today is a day to celebrate the Commander Shepard in me. In all of us. I am a survivor and it reminds me to fight for the things I love. N7 Day means a better life, it means becoming closer to my friends, it means knowing that there’s more out there and that I should never stop reaching for my dreams. N7 means strength. It’s why I have it tattooed on my right wrist. So I can always see it and remember that I am strong. That I can get through anything life throws at me.

So thank you Bioware. For Mass Effect. For KotOR & SWTOR. For all the Dragon Age games. For characters like Liara and Iron Bull, Garrus and Sera, and so many more. Thank you for turning my life completely around when no one else could get through to me. Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for making N7 Day a thing so that I have a day to celebrate that strength every year. But most of all, thank you for giving me Commander Shepard. You have no idea how much I needed her. Thank you.

Happy N7 Day everyone!