Nice Job Badges for September 21

No long-winded preambles today! As we discovered on Wednesday, the average word count per post is running a bit on the high side of 1,000. So let’s jump right into Nice Job Badges! These are five blog links from this week that deserve a high-five and a “nice job!”


  • If someone makes an amazing post one week, then makes another the next, I will feature them two weeks in a row.
  • I will not typically feature the same blogger twice on one list, unless I’m really blown away.
  • The posts will all loosely be from the current seven day period.
  • They are in no particular order because they’re all great.
  • Hey, you should totally put the badge on your recognized piece with a pingback to this post!

Continue reading “Nice Job Badges for September 21”

Find Peace in Arriving, Not Arrival

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“I Already See It” | Kye Kye

Nikki and I had the fortune of discovering this phenomenal electropop band when they opened for another of our favorite artists at a concert in Birmingham, Alabama U.S.

You’ve heard the cliché a million times: “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Removed from all overuse, it’s a good quote. It sticks to your hippocampus like bubble gum in your hair, and with the fast-acting potency of a prescription encapsulates everything you need to know about appreciating life in the now. Yet, despite no syllable wasted, seven words necessarily sells short the complexity of life. The nuanced complications of this human experience run as deep and as wide as the ocean.

The ocean. It is the place I miss most about my old life in Alabama, U.S. I’ve lived in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. for 441 days – don’t worry, I used math rather than counting each day — and I must say I’m impressed. Between the epic hiking trails – one going horizontally across the entire state — and myriad of parks, you’re never too far of a drive from becoming one with nature for a while. But what I wouldn’t give for one of those skinny trails overgrown with underbrush to lead to a portal to the ocean. I’d love to push away some stubborn scrub and suddenly feel the soft hot sand below my feet. Immediately being spirited away to somewhere amazing is the dream of a kid, but I guess I was never very good at abandoning my child-like fantasies. You get what you’re given in reality, however, and portals give ways to the combustion of the car engine.

Going to the beach is just what people in Alabama do in the summer. Strike that, it’s what people in half the country do over spring break. That’s why the typically small town of Gulf Shores, Alabama gets overrun by beach dwellers from states as diverse as the country it inhabits. A colorful cornucopia of license plates trail the cars creeping along in constant bumper-to-bumper traffic. Geography is the unsung motivator of human travel, and what’s the closest white, sandy, and most importantly warm beach from half the Midwestern U.S.? It’s Gulf Shores.

Leaving from Kentucky? Ohio? Missouri?
It’s Gulf Shores, along with other even more popular tourist-trap beach towns across the Florida-Alabama coastline.

No matter where you’re starting from, getting there is really all the same. Find the exit to Interstate 65-South closest to your house, set your cruise control, and highway hypnosis your way all the way to the beach. No matter where you start, it will invariably take longer than you expect to get there. Google Maps may say you’ll arrive in three hours or whenever, but this really isn’t about GPS readouts.

As a traveler, there’s always a sense that you’re getting close to your destination but you’re never quite there. And, given enough time to think while driving, you come to the same conclusion in your own life. You’re always arriving, but you’ve never really arrived.

Sure, there are days when you feel so close to who you want to be; to how you envisioned your life being when you were a child — a world with fewer responsibilities and more opportunities for recreation and rest. Unfortunately, in the wrong mindset, life seems to afford precious few opportunities for contentment, and even those moments contain the most sobering reminders that you are, at your core, not completely the person you want to be.

The most deep-rooted feelings of destination syndrome are the ones that nobody cares to talk about with any degree of depth. Therefore society boils them down to trite clichés disguised as words of advice.

“Not all who wander are lost.”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Welcome, then, to the point where human discontentment meets the explosive reality of living. People react to the frustration of never feeling a sense of accomplishment in different ways. Some are cruel, some are deeply antisocial, and some forcefully cling to a certain personality trait or skill which they think defines them. Here is a case of the “human condition,” which is yet another cliché that has long since lost its meaning. For lack of a better term, the human condition all comes down to this: between striving for financial success, dealing with frustrating family and friends, and being slightly too busy to fulfill all we’re capable of, we lose the parts of ourselves we’ve always dreamed of becoming.

This is a problem with no apparent solution. No amount of wealth, advancement of society, or distraction of technology can truly fix this type of broken heart. It may not be possible to hear the voice of your mind’s GPS say “you’ve arrived” in that shrill voice of confident accomplishment. However, it seems humanity favors those who actively try. There’s a romanticized notion for the travelers of the world; those who throw themselves into environments they are unfamiliar with in order to grow. This is a fantastic spirit, and this transcendentalist attitude is one I admire greatly.

Yet, people also admire the mentors, the teachers, and the public servants, who help individuals grow and become somebody important. Many of these people rarely leave their hometown, and yet they seem to have a more fulfilled heart than any ailing wanderer. I’ve seen Ph.D. professors who are so frazzled and openly discontent with their lives that I feared they may fall apart on the spot at any moment. I’ve also seen custodians in the most humble of occupations seem so content that I’d want to live in their shoes for a day. What makes each of these people uniquely content? I don’t know. Despite being the statistics nerd I am, I have no data to back up my claims, no testimonies to indicate commonality, and no psychological profiles to pull from for comparison. All I have is a sneaking suspicion, and I often trust my gut on issues of the heart.

These people have made peace with their perpetual state of arriving. They know that if they live on this earth a hundred years, a thousand years, or even a million years, that they will always be learning, aging, and maturing. They know that there is something to learn from everybody, and something everyone has to learn from you. They know they are imperfect, and freely admit that vulnerability to those who criticize them. These people are getting through life without ever taking their situations personally.

Let us abandon the notion of a true endgame of accomplishment in this life, accepting and embracing out constant state of arriving. May we start by being humble, understanding that the more we learn, the more we learn about all the things we don’t know. May we replace our arbitrary milestones of quantities and possessions with states of kindness joy, making the most of every moment from here until the unforeseen end our time here in this place. After all, legend has it that it’s not about the destination but about the journey. Perhaps there is life left in that expression after all.

How have you learned to approach this human experience? What travels have you been on that have enriched your appreciation for everyday life? What makes you most content? Meet us down in the comments and we’ll discuss!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful!


300 WordPress Followers!! 🎉🎉

Normal Happenings just hit an important milestone: 300 WordPress followers! I am so happy!

Three-hundred followers, in my mind, was always the point on the map in which I’d allow myself to think I’m on my way. It’s the statistical realization that I am capable of building a community around the concepts in which I adore writing about, and I can through consistency and passion truly get an audience involved in a journey of appreciating everyday life.

I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. The first post, entitled Normal Happenings: A Reintroduction, went live on February 28, 2018. It’s surreal to think that was only just north of six months ago.

Granted this wasn’t my first foray into blogging — I had been doing so with little success since 2012 — but it was definitely the only meaningful one. Shout-outs to those who stuck with me even when I hadn’t quite found my writing voice — Super Jan and lifelessons, among others.

Creating Normal Happenings came with it the discovery that writing my own sincere thoughts is the only way to truly find passion through script. And judging by the fact that you, an actual, wonderful human being, are sitting here reading this, some of that passion must leak through the relentless filter of language. You’re an awesome person, and I’d totally tell you that in real life if I could!

So I wanted to go back and wrangle some stats, briefly taking a look at our six month journey getting from there to here.

Top Five Posts (by views):

  1. Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds!
    Big thanks to all involved in making that possible.
  2. We Need Your Talent! Collaboration #2
    Big thanks to all currently making this possible.
  3. My First Video Game Was a Masterpiece | A Kirby’s Adventure Retrospective
    It was so great replaying this beautiful game.
  4. Facing Yourself: Escaping the Black Hole of Depression
    Nikki did amazing on that post!
  5. Five Cute Moments When You Adopt a Kitten
    Kittens are my secret weapon.

Bottom Five Posts (by views):

  1. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and the Secret Pain Disillusionment
    A dreadful film deserving of its dreadful view count.
  2. Falling for Jars of Clay’s “The Long Fall Back to Earth”
    I knew while writing it would be a post for me alone.
  3. Behind the Scenes: Designing the Opening Sequence for A Geeky Gal’s New YouTube Channel
    Come on, give A Geeky Gal‘s intro more love!
  4. TV Shows, Video Games, and Movies, Oh My! Real Life Follows Culture
  5. Rom-Com Week! “What If” and Bantering Towards a Proper Love Story
    This film deserves more love… from somebody other than me.

Top Commenters:

  1. A Geeky Gal
  2. Pix1001
  3. Super Jan
  5. Hungrygoriya

Total posts:
85 posts

Average word count:
1,093 words per post

Total word count:
92,872 total words

Most popular date and time:
Fridays at 10:00 A.M. — Nice Job Badges, of course!

Total likes:
1,302 likes — whew, getting close to the super-specific milestone of 1,337!

Total WordPress followers:
310 amazing people!

You all are seriously the best, and I can’t wait for what’s in store for the future of normal Happenings!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful!


How to Love Selflessly

– By Nikki –

Love is important in all forms, but today I want to talk about friendship (or as C.S. Lewis calls it “philia”) and how to accomplish loving a person selflessly. For those of you who want to learn more about his views on that type of love specifically, here is a helpful link, and I would suggest reading his essays in The Four Loves.

For as long as I can remember friendship has always made my life more enjoyable. My childhood best friends still make my life great because when we see each other we reminisce about growing up together. When I think of my high school best friends I still enjoy their company on occasion and we always remember the pains of puberty. And my college friends are also still very meaningful to me. I can remember running with a friend of mine and then getting to class a second before it was about to start. I remember the parties and the pains of becoming an adult because I spent them with people that took care of me, and I thought that maybe I took care of them as well. My husband and I even started out as best friends. I told him everything, and honestly friendship is an essential ingredient in our love story.

However, I want to think about loving someone selflessly as opposed to loving someone selfishly. I’ll give you two scenarios where one of these ways to love are exercised.

Scenario 1:
Let’s say that I throw a dinner party and invite everyone over that I can. I cook them dinner and my family makes time to spend with this group that we want to get to know better. Throughout that party I am visibly stressed and putting every ounce of my self-worth into what they think. Once the party ends they leave me with a mess to clean up and I feel completely empty.

Now let’s flip this on its head.

Scenario 2:
Instead of worrying about what everyone thinks I genuinely see how people are doing. I enjoy them for who they are instead of what they think about my dinner, or if they noticed how clean my home was. Instead of worrying about the things that fade away I focus on their inner-self. I find things that we are both interested in and we enjoy each other’s company. When everyone leaves I feel socially fulfilled and connected instead of emptied out by shallow things.

Did you catch the difference in the two instances? Yes, it’s fine to enjoy cooking and getting your place nice to hang out at, but once I started putting my self-worth into it things started to crumble. How selfish of me would it be to demand recognition? Truthfully I have been guilty of feeling like this, and my advice would be to start wondering how you can serve others without that service becoming about yourself. Being selfless and showing love go hand-in-hand, otherwise the friendship would get messy and eventually burn out.

Stop worrying about what type of candles to light, or if your friends thinks that you look nice in your new dress. Instead be confident in who you are so you can be that loving selfless person.

So let’s talk! Are you good at loving selflessly, and if so, how do accomplish such a difficult thing. Or tell us about a situation where it was difficult for you to love in such a way. We’d love to strike up a conversation in the comments!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful! become_a_patron_button


Nice Job Badges for September 14; and, A Guide to Making the Most Boring Game Show Ever

It’s been about three weeks since the last set of Nice Job Badges, but all the same I’ve missed giving them out tremendously. I am veritably “stoked” to continue this optimistic tradition.

But first, let me take a…
You thought I was going to say selfie didn’t you?

But first, let me take a moment to give you a guide to creating the most boring game show ever, inspired by my very own super specific question of yore.

I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and the trick is to torment your audience with boredom. It’s easy to make an entertaining game show with all the suspense, hype, and flashiness thereunto pertaining. It’s also easy to venture into the realm of fascinating, where watching a show is a cathartic experience worthy of throwing one’s focus into.

So on the compass of interesting, you have entertaining to the north and fascinating to the south. To the west you have frustrating, where a show is so hard to watch due to incompetence it becomes painful. To the east you have inaccessible, where a show is so outlandish people are not going to want to tune in. To make a truly boring game show, you must have everything in prefect balance. Continue reading “Nice Job Badges for September 14; and, A Guide to Making the Most Boring Game Show Ever”

What I Didn’t Know I Knew

Long before Normal Happenings was even a concept, I was gifted this guest blog post from the amazing Judy Dykstra-Brown of lifelessons fame. I was a different person back in those days, and I didn’t fully understand the nuances of blogging or supporting an audience through creative endeavors. So, after staring at this phenomenal post in the recesses of my publications, I began searching for the right time to properly restore this gem. There could not be a post more dedicated to appreciating everyday life, so I hope you enjoy. Please don’t forget to follow this fantastic blogger when you’re done reading!

What I Didn’t Know I Knew
by Judy Dykstra-Brown

When Matt Estes asked me to write a guest blog about finding happiness in life, I wondered what I could say that wouldn’t appear to be trite. Then I decided that all truths of life are in their essence trite—because at heart they are what everyone eventually discovers if they choose to examine life as it occurs. They are also at the heart of most writing. It is only the words chosen to convey them that change from teller to teller. Here are some truths I have discovered as I get older. Continue reading “What I Didn’t Know I Knew”

I Am a Pollyanna: Personal Positivity in the Face of Societal Negativity

A personality defined by irrepressible optimism, even in the face of the most adverse or discouraging of circumstances. That, in a nutshell, is what the word “pollyanna” means.

Normal Happenings is a blog of unbridled optimism. Although I recognize and have deeply experienced the darkness of the world, I choose to encounter the world through an unbreakable positivity. I have no qualms about saying that’s a form of Pollyannaism, and a very healthy manifestation of it at that. I am not naive, nor unrealistic, but it my worldview of optimism that keeps me from sinking.

Flashback to May of 2015: I had just finished my first year of graduate school, proposed to Nikki winter prior, and extremely recently lost my assistantship due to misunderstanding and bad luck. This was an obvious section of my life that mixed strong positivity with negativity, making it apropos that this is when the word came into my life. It always came as a surprise to me that the word took this long to show up. By this point I was already making end roads of manifesting my overly positive personality, but more so my communications background should have given me knowledge of the existence of the iconic 1913 children’s book by Eleanor Porter. After all, the book inspired a great many movie adaptations and firmly cemented its way into modern vernacular. Continue reading “I Am a Pollyanna: Personal Positivity in the Face of Societal Negativity”

Let’s Call It a Learning Experience

As a blogger, some things just work. Nice Job Badges just work. Super Specific Award responses just work. Some things just do not work, and Pixel For Your Thoughts just does not work for me.

Oh Pixel for Your Thoughts, let’s call you a great experiment. We shall look upon you as an incredibly good idea, critically wounded only by ways in which Matt’s brain works. I am big enough to understand that not everything functions the way I’d like.

Allow me to explain. Let’s take a look at some of the questions coming down the line:

  • What game series will you never play?
  • What game destroyed you emotionally?
  • What game made you feel like you were playing a genre for the first time?
  • What game do you love to play with friends?
  • What game can you tell have had a LOT of passion put into it?

These are the types of questions that, for Normal Happenings, require well-thought-out responses beginning development days, even weeks in advance. They each deserve at least a thousand words of expressive, well-formulated wordsmithing devoted to them. For me, the need for a long-form personal exploration of a topic is what drives me. Continue reading “Let’s Call It a Learning Experience”

Tetris Haunts My Dreams

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Music No. 10 | Poyo Poyo Tetris

This is my favorite version of the Tetris theme, and it’s the one that gets stuck as the blocks keep falling from the top of my brain. It just keeps repeating… forever.

Q. Woah woah woah, what happened to my Sleeping at Last music?
I’m sorry, but it just wasn’t working quite as well as I’d hoped. This challenge drifted away from the reflective ruminations I had initially planned, so I’ll be going back and retrofitting the previous posts with different tracks. Except for the Animal Crossing one — that was great!

There’s something you should know about me: I’m probably way better than you at Tetris. I think of all the competitive video games in all the land, from the fighters of Super Smash Bros. to the survivalism of Fortnite, I consider myself best at the humble puzzle games. Maybe it was all the years of playing Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine as a kid. And of all the puzzle games, I’m best at Tetris. Don’t believe me? Ask for my Switch friend code in the comments, and we shall duel in:

Poyo Poyo Tetris | Switch

Continue reading “Tetris Haunts My Dreams”

How is Fi NOT the Most Annoying Character in Games?

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“Pacific” | Atlas: Year One · Sleeping at Last

Each post this month is set to a different track from this amazing album. “Pacific” is purely here to keep us all calm while we have flashbacks about these annoying characters.

Who’s the most annoying character in all of video games?

I initially was exploring alternative options to the obvious, including Mr. Resetti from Animal Crossing, Issun from Okami, and, of all things, the Advisor from Sim Theme Park (US) / Theme Park World (EU). Other contenders included Amy Rose from Sonic the Hedgehog, who is awesome, as well as Big the Cat, who is awesome in his own way.

None of them, however, captured the spirit of “annoying” as much as “amusing.” However, there is one character in all of video games who is so notoriously annoying, so frustratingly irritating, she even overcame my instinct to be slightly-but-not-too-different than everyone else.

Fi | The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Continue reading “How is Fi NOT the Most Annoying Character in Games?”