A Candle Held By Steady Hand Goes Dancing in the Dark

I've mentioned before that I've repressed much of 1994, the year my father was diagnosed with- and died from- cancer.  This is just my brain's way of doing its best to protect me from the horror of that time, which just goes to show that Jerk Brain is definitely not part of my Real Brain, which is obviously a much more thoughtful and considerate entity.  Because when you've mostly repressed something, you can't really spend time dwelling on it, and if you don't really spend time dwelling on it, you're far less likely to slit your own wrists in a moment of poor judgement.  Of course, the flip side to that is that I also don't, generally speaking, remember the good times from that year, either- and yes, there were some; moments here and there of brave candlelight in a long dark night of fear and sorrow.

Yesterday I found out that my Great Aunt (sister to my father's mother) died.  I was at work when I heard, and work isn't really the time or place for processing such things, so I shoved it down and went along with my day, until I could get home and write in my journal.  And as I wrote in my journal about how I felt, and the impact Cordelia Ann Richmond Dew had on my life, memories suddenly bubbled up from the repressed darkness.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized that I thought of the summer of 1994 as The Terrible Summer- I mean, I didn't really think of it at all, so how could I have a Title for it?- but apparently I do.  And one of the things that happened during The Terrible Summer was that my brother and I, eight and thirteen, went to live with Aunt Dee and Uncle Gene while my dad was poked and prodded, poisoned and sliced open, and all those other things they do to try and save you when you're very very sick.  In the haze of recently-recovered adolescent-memories it seems as though we stayed with them The Whole Summer, but I know it wasn't- surely it wasn't more than a month, maybe even only three weeks.  Regardless, three or four weeks is a very long time for a child (even a very clever child who has had to do a lot of growing up over the previous few months) to be sent to live with a great-aunt with whom she's never been around except in the company of the rest of her boisterous family.

I was not very gracious about it.  I don't mean that I was a brat, or rebellious, or anything like that- I was too much the Goody-Two-Shoes for any sort of negative acting out- but I was very, very self-centered and selfish, and spent a great deal of time alone.  My memories are of swimming in their pool, discovering MTV on the television in their office (I have very vivid memories of watching the video for Black Hole Sun over and over again), and reading Renegades of Pern in the room that had been designated as mine.  I remember finding Dee's copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and devouring it, and her providing me with reams of printer paper (remember when it was perforated?) to practice on, because she was an artist too and understood.  And I rememer her patiently showing me how to use the type writer so I could labor over my Very Epic SciFi Adventure Romance Story wherein a bunch of teenagers were abducted by aliens and dumped (naked, naturally) on an uncivilized planet to see if they'd survive (and breed, also naturally).  Definitely the main character was based on me (her name was Leia naturally) and the main love interest was 100% based on my three-years-older-than-me-crush.  And the other characters were also based on my best friends at the time and their crushes.  Just... thank goodness the Internet wasn't ubiquitous yet, that's all the commentary I have on that.

But back to the heart of the matter.

What I'm saying here with this long and rambling and typically self-centered bit of prose is that I spent a lot of time alone that month, doing and thinking about the things that suited me- and Dee gave me the space and support that I needed to do and think about those things.  She didn't hover, she wasn't trying to make me talk about shit I didn't want to talk about.  She was just... there for me.  And for my brother, who doesn't feature much in my self-absorbed memories of that time (beyond one moment of him dumping ketchup on his mashed potatoes, and her laughing).  And for my parents, who surely were having a much more hellish time than we were.  And for her sister, who was thereby freed to be with her son during said hellish time (something I now appreciate in a way that never would have occurred to me before I had my own son).  Dee was just... there, doing what needed to be done, and doing it without complaint while finding a way to smile and laugh and encourage you and give you what you actually needed rather than what society said you needed.  She was loving and accepting and smart and funny and loyal and wonderful, and I'm so grateful for what she did for me and for my family.  So grateful to have had her in my life at all.

I just hope she and her big sister picked a really excellent shade of crimson to slather the Hereafter with.


Hooked on Phitness Worked for Me!

I've been surrounded by a lot of good physical-fitness influences, lately, and they've finally rubbed off on me.  As a result, Nathan and I have spent the past five weeks getting up between 0530-0600, six days a week, to do p90 workouts.

I am surprisingly okay with this.

First of all, let me say that I fought against this for a long time.  Like, years.  Nathan has suggested not once, not twice, but multiple times that we do p90 together, and I have always resisted like a dog being called away from a dead squirrel.  Because I don't like to work out just to work out.  I have to sort of trick myself into it.  Like, "Oh I'm not working out, I'm just going for a fun bike ride!" or "I'm not working out, I'm just having climbing up this amazing rock face!" or "I'm not working out, I'm just taking a seven mile hike!" or even, "I'm not working out, I'm just teaching a group exercise fitness class but obviously it's teaching, not working out so it doesn't count!", etc.  You get the idea.  So the thought of doing some annoying video workout in my living room, where  I don't go anywhere or see anything or boss anybody around was like, "Blech.  No thanks."

But then I got really, really unhappy with my fitness levels, and with how much quality time Nathan and I weren't spending together, and I saw several of my friends getting great results (along with their spouses) from their new exercise regimens, and I said, "Fuck it.  I'll give it a try."

Now, I'm still not, like, "OMG working out in my living room is the best!" and in fact I get downright resentful on some cardio days (on the other hand, I might actually be enjoying the weight training days, sooo...).  But.  I really, sincerely am enjoying having this shared physical activity with Nathan (especially when he makes the recovery shakes afterwards) and I'm definitely enjoying the fact that after a full month, I'm finally seeing results (including the return of my waistline, plus hella fly guns: thanks protein powder!).  And these past two mornings, when Nathan was too sick to join me (mild case of food poisoning: he's fine now) I got up and did it on my own, and came to the realization that this is my lifestyle now.  Getting up stupid early and getting sweaty and gross is just what I do.  And then I feel really energized for the rest of the day, and my husband and I can bitch about how sore we are and it's bonding.  And that makes me really happy.

So yeah; I'm hooked.

(A post like this one sort of cries out for photos, but I don't want to post them just yet.  Rest assured, we took "before" photos [and I made a funny face because I was so uncomfortable with having such an unflattering photo taken] and we will take "after" photos... but that won't be until October.  I'll post them then, promise.)


How Severan Became Starface

My regular gaming group is a little larger than average, and as such it can be (quite) difficult to get us all together on a, well, regular basis.  For the last gathering it was me (and only me) that couldn't make it, so my DM came up with a clever way for me to have a little solo adventure the following weekend (because he's accommodating that way).  It was to involve my character, Severan (a tiefling paladin), learning how better to commune with her deity (Sh'lan), so he suggested I spend some time meditating on how and why she came to serve.

I already knew the quick answer to that question, of course, (I'm nothing if not a thorough background builder) but this gave me a chance to dive into the bare bones I'd established (over a year ago now!  Eep!), and I ended up pounding out nearly 3500 words in one day.  And now I share with (/impose upon) you, with the brief explanation that Severan is nine years old when this goes down.


The day had been stiflingly hot, and although the medics had pulled the tent walls up to let in any breezes that might decide to grace the camp, none had obliged- so Severan had spent her hours there feeling closely akin to a quail egg buried in the fire pit.  A busy quail egg, at that- the medics had kept her hopping, fetching and carrying water for drinking, washing, and sponging.  The sun was setting now, bringing with it some measure of relief, and Severan was looking forward to sponging down her own limbs.  She wondered, briefly, what her naturally bright-crimson skin would look like sunburned.  She thought back on some of the painful patches she’d seen today, on the necks and forearms of young mercs who “Didn’t have the good sense Tyr gave a turnip,” the medics said, and how those young men and women has winced even as the burn cream was applied.  Severan shook her head: she could live without knowing what reddened red looked like.

She was cutting between two of the supply tents when she heard the scuffle; nasty laughter and what sounded like blows.

“Please!  Please stop!”  The voice was small, high-pitched, and terrified.  Severan immediately halted, trying to place a direction.

“Leave me alo-!”  There.  She had it.  Severan ran towards the noise, bursting out from between the supply tents, dodging down another cloth-alleyway, and finally emerging to find a pack of children her own age.  She recognized them: merc kids, like her, but mostly from the Ashen Gnolls, the company her own company, the Sunning Drakes, had joined up with a fortnight ago.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.  A few of them turned and flinched, and she held herself tall: she knew what she looked like.

“None of your business, demon,” the biggest one said.  She knew his name was Darriz.  He had not flinched at her appearance, but she noticed he took a step back.  She took one forward.

“Doesn't look like nothing to me,” she said, although the truth was she couldn’t actually see what they were doing: it was blocked by their bodies.  She remembered the terrified voice, tho’- and she couldn't hear it now.  Something rose up in her chest, and she took another step forward, fists balled.

Move aside,” she growled.

“Make us, freak!” one of the other children said, this one a girl named Sorga.  There was a subtle emphasis on the word us, and in that moment the others seemed to remember that they outnumbered the young tiefling.  By a lot.  Severan realized it, too- but she didn’t stop.  The children spread out, and she saw what they’d been gathered around: a halfling child, curled up and bleeding in the dirt, a noose around its neck.  Severan’s vision went red, and without thinking, she stooped down and picked up a stick.

Later she would be confused by that- she hadn’t done it consciously- hadn’t seen the stick and thought to pick it up.  But she’d known she needed a weapon- and so she’d reached for one.  And one had been there.

It was a good stick, and it evened the odds considerably, especially in Severan’s hands.  Her father had started training her with a practice sword some months ago, and her body was well-drilled on what to do.  She struck out, again and again, driving the other children away, snarling and cursing at them.  Only three actually tried to fight her- the others fled almost immediately- but those three didn’t last long.

“You’ll be sorry!” Darriz yelled as he limped off, holding one arm his arm to his chest awkwardly, blood trickling from a cut under his eye where Severan had managed to land a punch.  “You- you hellspawn bitch!”

“Better hellspawn than a- an evil bully!” Severan shrieked.  “Don’t come back, or I’ll thrash you again!  All of you!”

But they were gone.  Severan, shaking, and suddenly aware she hadn’t come away entirely unscathed, either, pushed all of that aside and turned to examine the little halfling child.  She couldn’t tell how old it- he, she corrected herself, seeing the cut of his pants- how old he was, but surely not older than Severan herself.  He was fatter than a merc child would be, but so small- he could never have defended himself against even one of the bullies, let alone the pack of them.  The rage flared up again, but she pushed that aside, too, and bent to gently loosen the braided cloth from around his neck.  He flinched as he did so, and she realized he wasn’t unconscious, after all.

“Hey,” she said softly.  “It’s okay.  You’re safe now.  It’s okay.”  The halfling opened his eyes- a luminous shade of hazel-green that put Severan in mind of a warm forest pond- and gasped, scuttling backwards in spite of his injuries.  Severan felt a pang.

“I won’t hurt you,” she said, trying to ignore the stinging of her eyes, trying to make herself look non-threatening, wishing her horns hadn’t finally emerged from her hair this last year.  It wasn’t fair.  “I know- I know what I… what I look like, but-”

The halfling was staring at her, a look of stark terror on his face, chest heaving with too-fast breaths.  Severan felt her own face crumple, in spite of her best efforts to keep it calm.

“I promise I won’t hurt you,” she pleaded.  “But you... you need help.  And… I’m the one who’s here.”

The halfling began crying, and Severan wanted to disappear into the earth.  But then-

“You saved me,” he said.  “You- you chased off those… those…” his words were lost to sobs, and Severan couldn’t help it- she reached out to lay a hand on his shoulder.

“They’re bad people.  And they’ll be punished, I’ll see to it  But right now I want to take you to the medic tent, so I can clean up your cuts and maybe put something on that bruise on your neck.  What’s your name?”  The halfling boy hiccupped, and wiped his nose on his sleeve.

“My name is Brannon.  But,” he gave her a shy smile, “My friends call me Cubby.”

“My name is Perseverance,” Severan said, “But my friends call me Severan.”

“Are we friends?”

“I think so, Cubby.”

“I think so, too.”


As soon as the medics saw Cubby, they gently- but firmly- put Severan to one side and tended to him themselves.  They narrated what they were doing, so that Severan would know how to handle it in the future, but they said she needed to tend to her own wounds- and so she did.

Once the two of them were properly bandaged and salved, they were made to tell the story of what happened.  Severan started to report as her father had taught her: short and simple, leaving out any details that weren’t pertinent, but Cubby, apparently over the worst of his fright, all but fell over himself to interject his much more colorful version.  He had just gotten to Severan “wading in with nothing but a tiny stick, barely more than a twig!” when Eurig arrived, summoned by some eldritch fatherly instincts.  He listened to the rest of Cubby’s story, a troubled look on his face.

“What did you say your name was, young man?”

Cubby squirmed under the older man’s gaze.  “Um, Brannon.  Brannon Thistledown, sir.”  Eurig nodded thoughtfully.

“Ah.  Well, Severan,” he squeezed his daughter’s shoulder.  “You’ve done quite well.  But I think perhaps I’d best return young master Thistledown to his family’s wagon, while you get yourself to the mess tent, and then bed.”

“But father-”

“But nothing.  You can see Master Thistledown in the morning, if he’s feeling up to it.”

“Yes!”  Cubby’s face brightened considerably.  “Oh Severan, do come by for first breakfast!  My mother makes the most wonderful apple fritters- you’ll love them!”

“We’ll see what your parents say,” Eurig interjected gently.  “And I’ll report back to Severan any invitations they issue.”

“Oh, of course they’ll want her to come,” Cubby said blithely.  “They love company for meals.”

“We’ll see,” said Eurig again, and that was that.

The Thistledowns did invite Severan for breakfast, and if there was a bit of a tightness around their eyes, they treated Severan with such affection and courtesy that she felt certain it had nothing to do with her.  They didn’t even glance at her tail- not once!- and they fed her more than she thought possible to eat.  Cubby chattered the whole time, pointing out gleefully how much his bruises had faded, and how the cuts weren’t even going to leave scars.

“Which is too bad,” he whispered to Severan around a mouthful of bacon, “Because scars are so terribly impressive and exciting.”  Severan grinned at him.

“Don’t worry, you’re bound to get some sooner or later, traveling with merc companies.”

Ellan Thistledown dropped another fritter on Severan’s plate with such force that Severan jumped.  Ellan smiled apologetically.

“Actually, my dear, our caravan is going to be parting ways with your company until- well, for a while.”

“Oh,” Severan said, a sinking feeling in her stomach.  The merc companies loved it when merchants traveled with them: it was extremely profitable for both groups, and usually lasted for several weeks, at least.  But who would want to travel with a merc company that came close to killing their child?

“Don’t worry, Severan!” Cubby piped up.  “I’ll send you letters, and Mom promised that we’ll travel again with you one of these days!”

“Oh,” Severan said again, trying to hide her confusion.  “I’ll- I’ll like getting letters from you.  How will I send letters back to you?”

“Just send them along with any merchant or peddler you come across,” Ellan said with a smile.  “Our family is... not unknown, to those who travel the roads of this world.”


The Thistledowns- and the rest of the caravan- pulled out later that day, and Severan was desperately sorry to see them go.  She’d known Cubby less than a full day, but she already felt like he was the best friend she’d ever had, and she felt it was terribly unfair that she was being separated from him because other people had to be so hateful.

Then again, she thought as she picked her way carefully through a nearby boulder field,  if those other children hadn’t done what they’d done, would she even have met Cubby?  Severan wasn’t sure.  But if that was the case, better that she’d never met him at all than for him to have gone through what he went through.

Severan was lost in these thoughts, arms full of moss scrapings for the medics, when something rammed into her back, sending her sprawling forward in the dirt.  She scraped her chin on a rock, and felt strangely betrayed by its presence.

“Hello hellspawn bitch,” giggled a voice.  “Not so tough without your stick, are you?”  Severan looked up to see Darriz, arm strapped tightly to his chest, standing next to an even bigger boy- nearly a man- who bore an unmistakable resemblance to him.

“You broke my brother’s arm, little bitch,” said the larger boy as she struggled to her feet.  “And then you ran your mouth and got our family cut out of the company.  So I think I’ll break your jaw, to make us even.”

Severan felt sick to her stomach- the boy was twice her size, and wearing gloves she recognized as having metal sewn into the knuckles.  He could easily kill her.  And there were no sticks here.

“I’m not scared of you,” she said, and wished her voice hadn’t broken as she said it.  The boys just laughed.

“You should be,” said the older one, and lunged for her.

Severan dodged him, trying to get her back to a boulder so that Darriz couldn’t sneak up behind her.  She dodged his second swing, and his third- but the fourth one managed to connect with left side of her face, exploding the world into white hot pain, robbing her of her vision.  She fell to her knees, crying, knowing she was going to die-

And then there was a strange thk noise, and someone was screaming, and something heavy fell on top of Severan, but she couldn’t fight it off, couldn’t do anything but drown in the pain of her face, her face, her broken face...  A second thk followed, and Severan’s world went from white to black.


A calm voice gradually floated up into Severan’s consciousness.  “...one blames you, of course.  Any of us would have done the same- maybe not even have been so merciful with the younger one.  The family is crying for blood-”
“I’ll give them blood,” a second voice snarled, and Severan realized, in a detached sort of way, it was her father.
“-but the company had already terminated their contract over the Thistledown incident, so they have no one to back them, and none of them is good enough to challenge you to combat.  Still, they may attempt an assassination, so we’ll stay on the alert for that.”
“I hope they try to employ Nix, I surely do.” Eurig’s laugh was bitter, and Severan realized she must be dreaming.  Her father hadn’t spoken her mother’s name since she’d left them, more than a year ago.
“I doubt they have the funds for that,” the first voice said dryly, and Severan suddenly recognized it as the Commander.
“Eurig, Lady, can you perhaps have this conversation elsewhere?” a third voice floated in, one that reminded Severan of the smell of rubbing alcohol and sun-bleached cotton.  “I promise I’ll…”

Black again.


“My face hurts,” Severan said.  Or, rather, tried to say.  It came out as a mumble, the side of her mouth having been packed full of something soft.  She opened her eyes to see one of the medics leaning over her, face illuminated by a pink magelight.

“I’d be willing to bet my last silver piece that you’re complaining about your face,” the young man said with a sympathetic smile.  “Let’s get that moss out of your mouth so you can properly express yourself, and maybe drink some water, and then I’ll go fetch your father, eh?  He only just stepped away to get something to eat.”

Slowly, gently, the medic plucked the moss out, and gave her a little cup of cool water.  Severan swallowed carefully, trying not to gag on the blood taste.

“Tk ooo,” she whispered, then grimaced at the pain- then grimaced again at the pain the grimace caused.

“Sorry about that, dearheart,” said the medic.  “It’s going to hurt for a long while, I think.  He managed to split you open pretty good.  Now sit tight, and I’ll get your father and some more willow bark.”

After he’d left, Severan reached up to touch the left side of her face as delicately as possible, trying to assess the damage.  It was terrifically swollen, and she could feel row after row of neat stitches, radiating across her cheekbone from her ear to her nose, up to her temple, back across her jaw, and down almost to the corner of her mouth.

“Hello my love,” her father’s hand covered hers, gently, and she turned her eyes up to him.  He smiled down at her.  “You’re going to have one hell of a scar there, my Perseverance.  That little shit hurt you pretty badly.”

“Dn’t... brk... m’jw…. tho,” she muttered.

His brow furrowed.  “Didn’t… didn’t what?”

“Jw.  Nuh brkun.”

“Your… jaw?   He… didn’t break your jaw?”

Severan nodded, and Eurig threw his head back and laughed.

“I’m sure you’ll explain the relevance later, my love, but no- he didn’t break your jaw!  He broke your face open, but he didn’t break your jaw, or your spirit.”

“Hpn’d… tim?”

“What happened to him?  Well I killed him, of course,” Eurig’s voice was casual.  “Put an arrow through the base of his skull from a hundred yards.  Perhaps the finest shot I’ve ever taken in my life.”

Severan’s eyes filled.  So that had been the thk, the weight.

“I’m just sorry I didn’t get there sooner,” Eurig said, and moved his hand up to the uninjured side of her face.  “Please forgive me for not protecting you.”

Severan turned her face into her father’s hand to cry.


The medics wouldn’t let Severan look at her face until they took the stitches out, several weeks later.  And even then it wasn’t that they let her look at her face, it was that Severan got up out of bed in the middle of the night and went hunting for a shaving mirror.  Her father, who kept his beard full as a nod to his human heritage, didn’t have one.  But she knew there would be one somewhere in the camp, left hanging and forgotten on a tree limb.

Sure enough, she found one near the showers, and she used the eerie brightness of the full moon to examine her new visage.  Her scar spread across most of the left side of her face, a paler, almost silvery pink against the crimson.  It was… huge.  But it also wasn’t quite as ugly as she’d been afraid it would be.  Her features didn’t appear to have been twisted by it, at least.

“Look familiar?”  Severan almost dropped the mirror when her father appeared out of the darkness between tents.

“Of course it looks familiar,” she said tartly, trying to cover her racing heart.  “It’s still my face.”  Eurig chuckled.

“That it is- but that’s not what I meant.  Look closely at the shape of your scar.”

Severan turned back to the mirror.  “It’s a star!” she said suddenly.  Eurig smiled.

“Not just a star, my love- a tailed star.”

“Like your pendant,” she said turning to face him again, and he nodded.  He stepped closer, and reached into his shirt to pull it out.  The silver pendant hung against his brown shirt, one point stretched out further than the others, shimmering mysteriously in the moonlight. The same point that stretched out and down Severan’s face to her mouth.  Eurig tapped the pendant softly.

“You’ve been marked, Perseverance.”

“I can see that, father,” she said, trying to keep the bitterness from her voice.  Like she wasn’t monstrous enough to begin with.  But Eurig shook his head.

“Not by the boy.  By Sh’lan.  I’ve given it a lot of thought, and it’s the only thing I can think of.”

“What do you mean- the only thing you can think of?”

“The only reason I didn’t get there soon enough to… prevent it.  Because Sh’lan had already chosen you, and wanted to mark you as her own.  So she brought me soon enough to save your life, but not so soon that you wouldn’t bear her mark for life.”

Severan reached out a hand and touched the pendant.

“Sh’lan… chose me?”

“For your valour in protecting the halfling child.  In facing off against those who were persecuting someone who couldn’t protect themselves, you proved that you have the heart and spirit of a paladin, the willingness to act as both sword and shield for those who cannot bear arms.  Sh’lan honors you as her true follower.”

Severan shook her head at this.  “But… but… I thought the gods rewarded those who pleased them?  This…  I’m sorry, father, but this doesn’t feel like a reward.”

Eurig touched her new scar gently.  “I know, my love.  And that’s fair.  Because when you serve Sh’lan, if you choose to do so, it will not be for rewards.  There will be no rewards, or if there are they will be rare, and usually only so that you can better serve her purpose.  If you choose not just to worship Sh’lan, as I do, but to truly serve her, as a paladin, it will be be because you choose to serve as a force of light in a world of darkness.  Because you choose to be the gift, rather than the recipient.”

Severan dropped the pendant and looked at her hands.  “That sounds… hard.  And lonely.”

“It will be hard, yes” Eurig grabbed her hands in his own, and squeezed.  “But not necessarily lonely.  And Sh’lan believes you have the strength to do it, or she would not have marked you.”

Severan mulled this over.  She wanted to be strong.  Not so she could hurt people, but so that people would not be hurt when she was around.  She wanted to make a world where people like Cubby never had to feel afraid walking alone.  If Sh’lan would help her do that, she would serve Sh’lan for the rest of her life, and gladly.

“What do I have to do?” she asked in a tiny voice.  “To serve Sh’lan?  Do I have to go to a temple and be trained?”

Eurig gathered her to his chest and kissed her between her horns.  “No, my love.  You don’t have to go anywhere.  We can continue to train you as a warrior, and in the meantime you can serve Sh’lan anywhere, at any time.  All you must do is listen carefully- she’ll speak to your heart, through signs and portents, and you’ll know what she wants you to do.  Fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.  Protect the innocent.  Be the light in the darkness, a ray of hope for the oppressed.  Stand ready to act as her sword and shield on earth, and soon enough she’ll put you to work.”


103 Words (Of Little Interest to Others)

The other night Nathan and I were talking about how many words the Little Gentleman now has in his (rapidly expanding) vocabulary, and we thought it might be neat to write them all down to get a rough count.  And so here I go, indulging in a supremely self-indulgent entry (I promise to make up for it with something made up in the near future...)

daddy mama oma opa papa asha hello bye no yes help up down off on in out hug more food apple banana cracker cheese hot cold water bath potty poop pee diaper coat shoe sock boot hat shirt bed chair ball block book phone bike car truck red orange yellow blue black pink brown white one two baby cat dog duck bear raff(giraffe) pig sheep cow goat horse owl fox frog toad mouse fufu* fly(butterfly) bird crow tree flower rock dirt outside inside door wall walk run ready go nap shh ow eye nose mouth ear hair button foot hand butt leg elbow

He can also do the plural of most of those words, as well as various sound effects ("Beep beep!" "Rawr!") that I'm not counting.

Not bad, baby O.  Not bad at all.  More than I was thinking when I sat down to start writing it all out.  And it's funny how the more I wrote, the more other words popped into my mind: "Oh yeah, he says ___ all the time now..." and then I asked Nathan to look it over and he immediately added like fifteen more to the list.

Of course, you'll notice that "please" isn't on there.  For some reason the boy insists on signing "please", even tho' he has stopped using any trace of signing, otherwise.  Not sure why that should be the case, or whether we should make a more concentrated effort to get him to verbalize instead of doing his hilarious chicken-wing-version of "please".  Eh.  I'm sure it's fine.  Especially since "thank you" is also missing... and, uh, that's entirely on us.  We say it all the time to him, but haven't put an emphasis on him saying it... whoops...  Oh well!  Therapy forever, I guess...

*fufu = bunny.  He actually did say "bunny" for a while, and then one day decided "fufu" was better, and while I made a half-hearted attempt to correct him in the beginning, eventually I let it go because it's so damn cute.


Jenny O and Date Night Tears

Well, we finally did it.  We finally paid an actual, non-family babysitter to watch over the Little Gentleman while we went out on a date.

I was worried that I might be anxious about leaving him with a near-stranger (someone I know in passing from the climbing gym, and who babysits a friend's kids) but as it turns out all my anxiety was reserved for updating my "So You're Watching Our Kid" info sheet, and making sure we had plenty of food available.  Once she was here (and it was established that the Little Gentleman considered us totally interchangeable) I yelled, "Later!" and Nathan and I sped out of there so fast I'm amazed there were no spinning heads.  Maybe there would have been, if they hadn't been so absorbed in getting ready for a walk.

For the first stop on our ultra-romantic date, we hit WalMart (as you do) to pick up a couple of packets of candy.  But then we headed over to the movie theater proper, where I cursed myself for being paranoid and pre-buying movie tickets (including their stupid "convenience fee") because there were, like, ten people there, and three of them were employees.  But whatever, it's fine, I'll know better next time.  Anyway, Nathan bought his popcorn, we found our seats (in the middle of a very non-crowded theater, yay matinee) and snuggled in for some child-free entertainment.

We sat through trailers that seemed extremely not geared towards us (lots of horror- why so much horror?) and then?  Then it began.

And by "it", of course I mean Wonder Woman.

I'm going to be a lady, and not discuss any spoilers, but I will say this: when the camera panned over a bunch of the Amazons in training, I started to get a feeling of pressure in my chest, especially when one glorious, ripped specimen got hit across the back and didn't even flinch.  And then later, when the Amazons go into battle, that pressure in my chest crept up and into my eyes, and then suddenly I was silent-crying in the movie theater, as I watched beautiful, feminine women kicking absolute ass with their bodies, with swords, with arrows, with all manner of elegant weaponry.  And I realized that I was crying because it was everything I'd ever wanted in a movie, when I was a little girl, and that it had taken until I was 36 to get it.  I won't say it was worth the wait, because frankly it's bullshit that I had to wait so long to see an entire screen full of women doing that, but it was glorious.  So glorious, so gorgeous, that I'm willing to forgive the movie its faults (which mainly have to do with a-questionable-grasp-on-Greek-mythology, and the clunky writing that often accompanies a combo origin/adventure story that doesn't know when to call it's ending).  Definitely the good outweighed the questionable, that's all I'm saying.

I came away from the movie totally energized (and inspired to work out again because damn) but also totally ready to get back home to my baby boy, who will hopefully never, ever understand what made his mother cry during Wonder Woman.


Becoming My Mother: The Early Morning Edition

As I sit down to compose this entry, it is 0532.  I've been up for just a touch over thirty minutes, and I've already done my yoga, and started a cup of tea to brew.  Now I'm about to enjoy it (and the sound of my own typing) in an otherwise silent house.

I am becoming my mother.

Every morning, my mother enjoys an early morning cup of tea (or two) out on the quiet of her deck.  It's not that I've ever considered it an odd habit, it's just that I guess I never really understood it, on a visceral level, until very recently when I happened to get up at 0500 and just... stayed up.  The yoga was obvious- that's what I do when I get up, so that's what I did.  But then I had all this time stretching out before me- over a full hour of time to do... whatever I wanted, without interruption.  And when you've been honed in the time-management fires of parenthood, a full hour is an enormous stretch of time.

So why not use it in quiet contemplation of my tea, and my stories?



I recently realized that, even tho my True Vision for my Winterhaven story is in graphic novel form, it's going to be a long, long time before I have the, er, time, to make that vision a reality.  And thus I made the decision to go ahead and write it out as a (short) novel first, so that at least I'm working on something.  I also figured that this way I can work out all the bugs in the medium I'm most comfortable with (ie the written word) so that by the time I do have time to do the art, I can focus 100% on that.  As such, I've spent the past couple of weeks writing, writing, writing on Winterhaven.

Sometimes when I'm hot on a project, I'll get time to write without having access to a computer.  When that happens I'll write it out longhand, but then of course I'll need to transcribe it.  And when that happens, there's a certain amount of editing that occurs (normally I try not to go back and edit too much, because that way lies never-moving-forward).  I transcribed the very start of Chapter 2 tonight ("From the Flames"), and I actually did a huge amount of re-writing.  It went from 196 words to 551 words, and in my opinion it's a lot stronger (although I'd still place it firmly in "rough draft" status).  Here are the two versions for comparision, if you're curious about that sort of process-y-thing:


All of Winterhaven was in mourning.

It had been four days since the giant earth-shaking that killed three of the four pfeni.  Avalyn, the sole survivor of the pfenix house’s destruction, lay in bed, too weak and traumatized to move.  She knew that she was now the spiritual leader of the Haveners, that she must say or do something, anything, to comfort her people, but she did not know what to say, or what to do.  She was only eleven years old.  She was nowhere near to completing her training.  And now there was no one left to train her, just as the world itself was turning against her people.

A tear made its way down her cheek, and she didn’t bother to wipe it away.  Why did Hukka have to go back in after rescuing her?  Now she had no one.

As if sensing her thoughts, Violet let out a wheedling whine and nudged her soft, blue-white head under Avalyn’s arm.

“You don’t know anything about leading, either,” Avalyn said softly, and stroked the fox’s fluffy back.  “But at least you won’t leave me.”  Violet snrked an affirmatibe, then turned to burrow beneath the covers.


Avalyn woke to the sound of muffled voices, and a weight on her chest.

For a moment she panicked, thinking she was still in the burning building, and tried to leap to her feet- but a wave of nausea stopped her before she was even halfway up, and she realized that she was laying in her own bed, safe in her own room.  The weight was Violet, who let out an indignant squeal at the sudden shift in her nest, but quickly resettled when it became apparent that there would be no further movement.  Avalyn squeezed her eyes against the light coming in through her window, and tried to slow her racing heart.

One of the voices grew loud enough to make out words.  It sounded like... her mother yelling at someone?

“...only eleven years old, and she’s my daughter!  It can wait!”

Another voice, which sounded masculine, wasn’t loud enough for Avalyn to understand everything, but a few phrases made it through.

“...two days, Elota…  only surviving pfenix… people need…”

Damn her past lives!”  Elota’s voice, if anything, was now louder.  “I’m worried about this one-”

A third voice interjected sharply- Avalyn suspected her father- and then the voices retreated.  Avalyn felt numb.

Two days.  She’d been asleep two days.  And all of the others had died?  Avalyn probed her fragmented memories- the body broken beneath the beam, she realized now it had been Argen.  The weight of the wood must have killed him immediately, and would have killed Avalyn if she hadn’t been thrown clear of the table by the first large tremor.  The long braid soaking in tea- that was Karsivahl.  She had been next to Argen- close enough to be pinned by the beam, without immediate death.  She had been the one yelling for someone- for Hukka, Avalyn now realized- to “protect her”.  “Her,” being Avalyn.

But Hukka had left her- he must have gone back, tried to rescue Karsivahl, too.  And instead they both died.

The knowledge suddenly blossomed in Avalyn’s mind that she was now the spiritual leader of the Haveners.  It was up to her to say or do something- anything- to comfort her people during this terrible time- that must be what the other voice was demanding, for her to fulfill her role as the pfenix of Winterhaven.  But Avalyn did not know what to say, or what to do.  Her mother was right: she was only eleven years old.  And with three other living pfeni, no one had ever seriously considered that she might one day have to lead alone- and even if she had, she was nowhere near to completing her training.  And now… now there was no one left to train her,  The world itself was turning against her people, and all they had for guidance was an untrained little girl.

A tear made its way down her cheek, and she didn’t bother to wipe it away.  Why had Hukka abandoned her?  Now she had no one.

As if sensing her thoughts, Violet let out a wheedling whine and nudged her pointed nose beneath Avalyn’s arm.

“You don’t know anything about leading, either,” Avalyn said softly, and stroked the fox’s fluffy back.  “But at least you won’t leave me.”  Violet snrked an affirmative, then turned to burrow beneath the covers.