Ratquiescat in Pace

We knew last night that she was going to die.

She was curled up in the corner of the cage, acting sleepy and lethargic.  We took her out and stroked her fur, held her, let her know there was love and warmth for her.  A kind touch.  Sometimes I think that's the only comfort you can give a dying creature- just a touch, so they know they're not alone.

Eventually we put her back in the cage, thinking she'd like to have the familiar smell around her.  I continued to stroke her fur, until she let it be known that she just didn't want to be touched any more.

I can understand that, too.

We left her alone with her sister, and we went to bed, and in the morning when we got up she was dead.  Dead, not "passed", because I hate that term.  I stitched up a shroud, with the idea that I didn't really want to keep her from the elements- but I did want to show respect.  And love.

Pale pink was the color I chose-  gentle, like her.

We took her across the river to bury her.  Katie and Marc came, and wove little wreaths and bouquets for the grave.  I dug the grave with our newly-bought trowel, but we all contributed handfuls of dirt to the actual burial.

It's good to have friends who will indulge you.

Back into the earth from whence she sprang.

The view from the gravesite

Katie picked the spot, and it's a good one- as fine a final resting place as any one could hope for.  And yes, I know that for all I buried her a full foot deep she'll probably be dug up by a scavenger before sunrise.  But I'm okay with that, too.  There's an importance to ritual that has nothing to do with the reality of life.  Or death.

Camilla Ratkins, 2009-2011

Requiem aeternam dona eis,
et lux perpetua luceat eis


Being Productive With My Procrastination

So I've been working on the novel for the past... meh, however many hours, and I need a break.  So I'm getting on here to tell you about the little project I churned out yesterday, but first I need to say that if your name is either Alana or Curt you need to stop reading right here.  I mean, unless your name is Alana or Curt and you're not actually any relation to me, in which case carry on.  Or your name is Alana or Curt and you've already received the package I'll be taking to the post office on Tuesday, in which case you need fear no spoilers.  But if your name is Alana or Curt, and you are related to me, and you have not received said package, well then you should have stopped reading several sentences ago, and I cannot be held responsible for what you're about to see.


Curt and Alana had a busy day the other day, what with providing Eel with a brand new little sister (whom I shall call Bee).  Now, you may recall that when my nephew Grasshopper was born I embroidered a bib for him.  What's that?  You don't recall?  Well how fortunate for you I'm such an obsessive life-chronicler.  Go ahead- refresh your memory (you'll have to scroll down to the very bottom of that entry to see the picture).  I'll wait.  And take up some more screen space while I'm doing so.



Are you back?  Excellent.

Where was I?  Oh yes, embroidering bibs.  I did a hedge pig for Grasshopper, and for little Bee I've done... well, I've done this:

AKA "White Sage" AKA "Bee Sage" AKA "Sacred Sage"

The picture doesn't really do a good job of showing the details, but a)Nathan just switched over his entire system from Pentax to Nikon so he hasn't managed to replace all his lenses yet and b) I think I've pestered him enough for photos for one day.  He also provided these for me, because the moment was really too hilarious not to document:

Ooo, under-chin love!

My handsome boy is very secure in his cathood.

Anyway, what I wanted to mention about my process on this one is that I used an incredibly slick floss on the white portion of the flowers.  It's shiny and gorgeous, but unfortunately the afore-mentioned slickness makes it something of a bitch to work with, especially on such a tiny scale.  I'd originally planned on adding little... well I'm not sure what they're called, but they look kind of like antennae:

They're an fairly prominent part of the white sage flower, but they simply were not going to happen, so rather than drive myself insane with trying to force it to work, I decided my newest niece will probably not be scarred for life just because one bib is not entirely accurate in a botanically anatomic sense.


Anyway as I sat there stitching this up (and watching Numb3rs on Netflix and may I just say that while I loved the first season, so far the second season has mostly been pissing me off and I hope it gets better soon) I started to think about how much I would actually charge for one of these little things- and I suddenly realized that the answer is "a lot".  That is to say,  the price I'd slap on one of my hand-embroidered bibs is one that I would certainly never pay for a bib for any child of mine.  But I simply could not justify charging less, you know?  It takes me anywhere from five to eight hours of pure stitching to do one of these- and that's after I've come up with the design and done the custom drawing.  Of course, there's always the thought that if I was doing this on a regular basis I'd get a lot faster, which means fewer hours spent on each one, which at least cuts down part of the hourly rate (I always calculate my hours in terms of wage- and quite frankly you should, too).  But even if I could do one in, say, three hours- I'd still be looking to charge about fifty bucks.  For a bib.

Just to check how insane I am, I went onto Etsy to see what hand embroidered bibs are going for.  The price point is about $7-13, which just sort of boggles my mind (although less so, perhaps, when one considers the quality of some of the work).  I absolutely 100% would not be okay with charging so little.  Which I guess means I'll be sticking to embroidering things for presents rather than profit...

EDIT: I just looked up "hand embroidered original design" and the price point there is pretty much what I'd come up with for mine.  So there may be hope for making money off my hobbies yet...


In Which I Go Into Entirely Too Much Detail About Being Ill (You've Been Warned)

I woke up this morning with my jaw clenched, possessed of a certainty that if I moved I would vomit.

Do you know what it's like to have a hangover?  If so, then you know how I felt (although I had nothing more intoxicating than a glass of ginger ale the night before).  If not, let me see if I can break it down for you- your ability to keep from vomiting is like a pair of pins balanced point to point.  This improbable arrangement has only one hope of maintaining itself- complete immobility.  Even breathing too hard in its vicinity is liable to bring the whole thing down.  As such, I spent about half an hour in bed maintaining my iron-jaw survival response, too afraid to get vertical even long enough to make it to the bathroom.

"Hon?  You'd better get up," this from a helpful husband, trying to ensure I'm not Late for Work.

"If I move," (this from between my gritted teeth) "I will vomit."

Eventually a moment came where I thought I might be able to make it to the bathroom- and I did.  And never mind the details, but it involves a shower and desperate gratitude for hot water beating down on my weakened frame.

I probably spent an hour in that shower, having decided that work could get along just fine without me for the time being.  Unfortunately I knew I had to go in for at least half an hour, to take care of some time-sensitive issues (stupid stock market), which I did, but on my way home I got saltines and herbal tea.  Once there I crawled back into bed, drank my potion, and tried to ignore my ravaged obliques and throat long enough to slip back into sleep.

It wasn't actually that hard (thanks valerian-infused tisane!) although I had some weird dreams.

I'm awake again (obviously) and able to move about without clenching my jaw, but I have a certain delicacy about my innards that's keeping me on a cracker diet for the nonce.  And I'm trying to face up to the fact that what I've long suspected- that I have a bit of a dairy intolerance- is probably pretty seriously true.  (Damn you, delicious cream-based sauce).  As I lamented to Nathan, I'm turning into a hipster against my own will ("No refined sugars!  No dairy!  No peanuts!" "They don't eat peanuts?  Yeah, I guess that's right- they eat organic cashews...")

(...also I am currently waiting to get my single-gear bike back from the shop...  ::sigh:: at least it's not a fixie...)


Iris Eyes are Smiling

Further adventures in PS

Now that the weather is so very lovely on such a regular basis, I've taken to walking home from work more often than not.  It's about a mile and a half, which is just long enough to be a really pleasant sort of meander, during which time I can get a lot of good thinking done.  Most often the thinking has to do with whatever creative project I'm working on (when I was in college my fellow art majors and I would gripe about how people thought we spent so much of our time sitting around doing "nothing", but the reality was that we were churning through ideas before committing them to the tangible world) or perhaps the dreaded Feelings.  Today, however, I was putting a lot of thought into What Sort of House I Want.

WSoHIW has been on the brain quite a bit lately, and as such I've been using my walks home to explore the neighborhood that I've been thinking of settling into.  Today I was doing more than just enjoying the area, however- today I was actively looking at houses (and their gardens- hence the title of this post) with an eye to what appeals to me on an aesthetic basis.  Which is how I can now tell you with assurance that a house without a porch is an ugly thing to me: I fact I was not aware of until this afternoon.  It doesn't even have to be a big porch- a little tiny one will do- but it can't just be a door set in the flat face of a building.  No depth makes it seem... ominous, somehow.  Furthermore, if the windows are small it's a definite no-go- again, something I didn't realize until I started to analyze my reactions to the various houses on my route home.

Funny, isn't it, the things that do or don't appeal to us?

It's karaoke night, but I don't know that I have it in me to sing: I'm feeling queasy (I over-indulged in the lemony squash-and-cream ravioli I made).  But I do have it in me to enjoy time spent with friends, and that's really what this little tradition is about, anyway...

PS: I've been watching The Dresden Files on Netflix and man- it's like they went out of their way to hire awful actors and actresses for that show.  The episode I just got done watching features a woman that I'm pretty sure was a failed clone of Moreena Baccarin.


Ripping Out Stitches

I'm at the point in rewrites now where it's mostly come down to a bunch of "expand here" or "fix this".  And my absolute most major "fix this" got fixed today, which is really just brilliant.  It was a point in the novel where I literally had written a line of dialogue as, "[I don't] know- ask the Author!" because I did not know how I was going to resolve it, and yet I had to just hurry up and get past that part in order to move on with the story.  I guess it's sort of a more matter-of-fact version of me using ______ in place of names I've yet to make up.  As such, I've been going back through and "ripping out stitches" (ie passages) to work them back in in such a manner that will support the newly discovered solution.

The other point I've gotten to is the "doing actual research" point.  There is glassblowing in my story, and although I have a passing familiarity with the craft from my time working at The Museum of Glass (and International Art!), I don't really know enough to write a detailed scene that wouldn't get laughed out of a hot shop.  I'll actually probably send my second draft out without said researched details, because I don't think my betas want to wait that long (and really those details won't be necesarry to the story- just to the authenticity of it).  What's nice is that I don't have to rely solely on Senor Google, because I've managed to find a place around here where I can go and watch artisans work (and theoretically ask questions), and thereby build up enough lingo to make a respectable showing of myself.  Plus, you know, maybe finally scratch my own personal glass-blowing itch via lessons.

In other exciting news, we finally took the inherited bikes down to a local shop to get them up to speed (as it were).  We figured even if we don't end up using them for ourselves, we'll have an easier time selling them if they're in tip-top condition.  And from the research Nathan's been doing, it seems pretty likely that it actually would cost more to build "my bike" into what I want it to be than it would cost to just buy a new one (it's because I have internal-gear love). Ah well.


Real Conversations in My Marriage

Click to be able to actually read said conversation.

I've been playing around with Sketchbook Pro, to see how I like it, and to tell the truth I'm not really sure yet.  I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with me being too lazy to really look into what it can actually do outside my half-hearted doodling, but still... I'm just starting to get a feel for PhotoShop, and I'm not sure how much I want to muddy those intellectual waters.

Also, I've heard from several sources (some of whom have been saying so for years) that I ought to get back into doing the little slice-o-life comics I used to do back in college.  As such, I've also been playing around with reworking my old style, and the above sketch is the result of doing so whilst making the afore-mentioned forays into Sketchbook.  (I apologize if you already read the exchange over on FB...)


Best Friends and Brush Pens

So my best beloved Katie girl gave me a "just because" present a few weeks ago: a copic pen.  It is a lovely and excellent instrument, and I've been a'doodlin' with it:

(Check out the variety of line I can get with just one tool!)

That explosion of stars on the right is me prepping for my "next project".  Yup, once I finish the rewrites of "the novel" (and submit them to the ol' Betas) (also, will I ever be able to not want to put quotation marks around that phrase?) I will busy myself with something that's been percolating for about four or five years...  just a very short comic, between three to six pages.  Anyway it requires a crap ton of stylized stars, so... brush pen to the rescue!

The truth of the matter is that I actually find it very satisfying to fill a page with... how would you put it... design?  Pattern?  I'm not sure.  But there are pages in my sketch book that are nothing but waves and weaving pattern.  So soothing... and I think the finished effect can look pretty good, too.  Like phone doodles gone wild!  I just find it an amusing, almost "secret-shame"-esque trait of mine, since I'm so friggin' adamant about being a figuragtive artist damn it!  Speaking of which....

(Nathan liked this doodle, so I thought I'd put it up, too)

Headed out to the coast tomorrow- because surfing soothes what ails ya'.


Responsible Writing

I may have mentioned this a time or forty, but lately I've been working on rewrites/expansions (with the goal of having my second draft done by July).  In fact that's what I'm about to settle in and work on after I finish this blog entry (I've been informed by more than one person that they miss my daily updates- I've made a promise to try and be more consistent).  Anyway, as part of the whole "rewrite" process, I'm working from feedback given to me by my beloved Alpha readers, and one of them mentioned that I'd failed to mention any sort of birth control, even tho' I imply that Sexy Times are occurring.  Seeing as how I am a Big Fan of representing responsible intercourse (I could have kissed Pat Rothfuss for his portrayal of a male taking responsibility in The Wise Man's Fear), I gave it some thought and figured out how to work in a bit of contraception.  I did actually wrestle with whether to go for the tried-and-true-fantasy-trope of hebs, or be bold and go for a barrier method, but since my story is set in a time that more or less equates (technologically) to 18th century western Europe (yes yes, I know- chemical-soaked linens and the like... and yet), I decided to stick with herbs.  And made the executive decision that there are no STDs (or are they STIs these days?) in this universe- or, if there are, that the herbs protect against them, too.  Not that I mention that aspect in the book... but just so you know for yourselves.  (There are certain perks to inventing world whole-cloth, and I intend to take advantage of them.)

My point being, here is the scene I added in an attempt to be a (slightly more) responsible author...


“Hold up a moment, will you?  I need to dash into the apothecary’s real quick.”

Sera halted Gert and gave Layclin a puzzled look.  “Why?  Are you sick?”

“Not if I can help it,” snorted the other girl, and dashed into the shop.  Sera scowled and hunched up closer to Gert’s warm flank.  The rain was bordering on snow, and even a short delay from getting back to the studio was irritating- never mind the trouble they’d be in if Himself heard about them using shop time for personal errands.  A few moments later Layclin returned, tucking a small packet into her pocket.

“What’s that?” Sera asked as they started walking again.

“Just some maiden’s root.  I was getting low.”

Maiden’s root?”

“Good grief, girl- I can’t tell if you’re more scandalized or fascinated.  Don’t tell me you don’t have your own supply, little miss man-crazy.”

“Of course not!  We’re not allowed to be… doing things… like that.”

“Doing things like preventing babes?”

“Doing things that lead to the need to prevent babes!” Sera snapped.

Layclin rolled her eyes.  “Oh please.   Technically the rule that we’re not to fraternize with our fellow apprentices- which I’m not, thank you very much.  Nobody ever said anything about what we should or shouldn’t be doing with journeymen fishers.”  She winked at Sera, but then grew sober.  “You really ought to have your own supply, Sera.  I’ve seen the way Riamac looks at you when he thinks no one else is looking.”

“I think that maiden’s root is making you hallucinate,” Sera muttered, but her face was burning.


...aaaaand then later I make mention of Sera making a trip to the apothecary and ta da!  No babies.

And now?  Back to work.  I have to rework bit of scenery, now.  Wheee!

PS Thought I might mention that three separate people have walked into my living room and commented on the "red wall", so possibly I'm not as bad a wife as I'd feared.


Promise Breaker

We've been feathering the ol' nest over the past month (and will continue to do so in the coming months, I'm sure) and this past week I finally got around to painting the "accent wall" in the living room (which needed to be done before we could hang my surfboard, to free up the hallway so I can hang more photos, etc etc).  Now, Nathan has pretty much given me free reign regarding decorating the apartment (he insists he has no eye for that sort of thing, which I think is a lie but if it's a lie that comforts his Manliness then I'll go along with it), and when I selected a red couch-cover I was exceptionally jazzed to paint one wall a complimentary red.  Red wall!  The rapture!  When Nathan expressed concern that it might be too dark (for some reason apartments in the PNW simply do not believe in overhead lighting for living areas), I assured him that I'd go with a lighter shade of red.

"You mean pink," he said, sounding appalled.

"No no, not pink.  Lighter red!"

"Light red is pink.  Do not paint the wall pink.  I do not want a pink wall."

"I'm not going to paint the wall pink!" I insisted.  "You'll see- it will be great!"

We went to the store and picked up paint samples, and I got a variety, and lay them out across the afore-mentioned red couch for Nathan to veto.  "I really don't care," he said after giving them a glance.  "You pick."

So pick I did, and I picked Strawberry Daquiri, a nice, vivid shade that I was positive would be more red than pink once it was up on the wall.  I spent a few hours slathering it over the hideous khaki, then stepped back to admire the effect.  Which was, as intended, quite vivid.

I'll give Nathan this- he kept a straight face as I kept repeating, in a hopeful voice, "See how red it looks in this light?  Definitely red."

"Uh huh," he said, still with the manfully straight face.

But gentle readers, that wall is magenta.  It is a straight-up magenta wall, and I have it on pretty good authority that magenta, although technically defined as "purplish red" is, in fact, somewhat pink.


Oh well.  It still looks awesome, and the comics nerd in me can't help but be pleased at punch by it's addition to my cyan bathroom and yellow hallway...

In other productive news, I added about two-thousand words to the novel today, after culling about 600.  I'm meeting up with one of my alpha-readers this weekend to discuss his thoughts (although first he'll need to be caught up on all the changes I've made since I originally sent him the barely fleshed bones).  I've sort of be alternating days between art and writing... here's hoping I will eventually find the balance.  It would help, I'm sure, if I didn't work 40 hours a week elsewhere... but hey, mouths and feeding and all that, right?  Right.

And now to bed- well, to read, anyway.