It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a newborn babe in possession of a pair of chubby cheeks, must be in want of some smooching.
Or, in our household, it's a perfectly-rounded chin and some weird, sort-of-sucking action.

I'm a super-tactile kind of person: I love hugs, I love cuddles, I love just leaning against whichever loved one I'm sitting next to.  And as you might imagine, having a tiny, snugly baby in the house is amazing for getting that physical-contact fix.

But it's also been getting me thinking.

Back when Neeps was in the womb, I used to occasionally get a little weirded out by the fact that I was so aware of so much of his existence (when he moved, when he slept, when he had the hiccups, etc etc) while he was so completely oblivious to mine.  It made me feel a bit like a creepy spy, and led me to wonder if that's how God might feel.  But of course I couldn't help my "spying"- it was my body he was drawing his own from, and in that way he was like an extension of myself.  It was like feeling weird about knowing more about my lungs than they do about "me": ridiculous

Neep is on the outside, now, and while I might logically understand that he is not, in fact, one of my non-essential organs out on rumspringa, there's still a vague-yet-visceral sort of, "But he's mine, blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh," feeling going on.  Combine that with the fact that he is 100% helpless to feed himself, clothe himself, or even wipe his own anus, and you can see how the feeling of possession might persist.

I touch him for much of the day, every day.  Skin to skin, my hands on his arms, legs, torso; my lips all over his face and ears and elbows and toes and belly.  His chest pressed to mine, each warming the other; my arm cradling the straight line of his back; the soft curve of his skull nestled safely beneath the hard edge of my jaw.  There is no part of him I'm not allowed to touch, just exactly as though he was my own body.

But that will change.

At some point, I will no longer have the right to touch him wherever, whenever, however I want.  At some point, as he makes that mysterious journey from infant to adult, nibbling on his shoulder will move from welcome, to unwelcome, to just straight-up weird.

And so I redouble my present smooching and caressing, because I know I will mourn for these days when they're gone, and I don't want to waste a single snuggle-opportunity.  Oh, I'm sure I'll be delighted by the trade-off of being able to discuss his thoughts and dreams, which is a sort of spiritual-cuddling, if you think about it the right way.  But I do hope that sometimes he'll still let me wrap my arms around him as we sit on the couch together, watching Star Wars for the eighty-billionth time.

(although I understand if he draws the line at chin-sucking)


Meet Neeps

(I'm typing this while Neeps, my in-the-flesh-baby, has lunch.  Thank goodness for nursing pillows, that's all I can say.)

So our new addition has been around for about a month now- I think maybe we're starting to get used to the insane-o concept that we're really, truly parents.  Slowly but surely we're settling down out of the shrieking, "RED ALERT!" method of handling a newborn, into a nice, bio-hazard orange, with occasional flashes of hazmat-y yellow.  Which is to say, we haven't killed or seriously maimed him yet, so maybe we don't actually need to spend our days (and nights) in a state of constant, low-grade panic.

Turns out Neeps is a pretty classic example of an easy-temperament baby, and thank the stars for that, because let me tell you, this shit is hard enough as it is without throwing inconsolable crying into the mix. And it doesn't hurt that he's cute as hell.  Might as well call the human race done, ladies and gentlemen, because perfection has been reached.

Kwisatz Haderach, anyone?
I'm hoping to get back to writing more regularly as my life settles into its New Normal.  Ditto for  being active (which is currently restricted to gentle yoga and walking/hiking: but I should be cleared for climbing and cycling by the end of next week).  I'm also trying to remember to be gentle with and forgiving of myself as I go through the growing-pains of this new life, and to not despair when I spend an entire day doing nothing but laundry and trying-not-to-cry.  I know I'll get the hang of it eventually- probably just in time for everything to go tits-up again when I return to work. But then we'll just get the hang of it all over again, because that's how we do.

His secret is out.

Onward to adventure!


Holding Pattern

NaNo kicked off today, and believe it or not, I've decided to throw my literary hat into the ring once more.  No, I don't expect to "win"- but not even trying would have been too depressing for words, given all the other bits of "me" I've had to put on hold the past nine months.  And since I'm dusting off the keyboard to do pants my way through at least part of a novel, I thought hey!  Why not try to re-kick-start the whole blogging thing while you're at it?  Since, you know, it's been three months since my last entry.  I mean, I know I didn't want my blog to devolve into nothing but, "Blah blah, breeding blah," but it seems like not blogging at all is probably worse.

So.  Yeah.  I'm gonna talk more about gestating a human.  But look on the bright side- that part will be over soon (please dear Stars) and then I'll have funny-human-larva stories!  Right?  Right??


I really had no concept of how much of pregnancy is just... waiting around for things.  Things like milestones, doctor's appointments, test results... and, you know, labor.  I'm down to the final week-and-a-half before my due dates hits, and all this waiting?  Is driving me insane.

(Let's not even mention the fact that I could theoretically go as many as two weeks past my due date.  I might just scream.)

I am not a passive person.  I am an active person.  Some might say I am an aggressive person.  So not being able to do anything to make this happen is just excruciating.  Good for my character, I'm sure, but obnoxious nonetheless.  This is definitely one of those "May I please rip the band-aid off now?" scenarios.  The long peel is not for me!



Cultivating Artificial Desire

Let's talk about the Insanity that is creating A Registry.

Wish Lists have never been easy for my adult self.  The question, "What do you want for Christmas?" tends to wipe my brain clean so fast it's a wonder I remember what Christmas is.  This probably springs from the use of the word "want".  My mother was very purposeful about instilling in us the difference between the words "need" and "want", along with the corresponding lesson that wants are at all times secondary to needs, and your resources (including time, money, and brain power) should be allocated accordingly.  And, of course, for a long time during my twenties I only had enough resources for one of those categories.  So why bother thinking about the other?  Basically what I'm saying is that I got out of the habit of thinking in terms of wants.

Thus when it came time to register for our wedding I found myself nearly paralyzed with anxiety.

What should we ask for?  We don't really need anything!  But we have to make this thing, everyone says so... okay, what do people normally ask for?  I can ask for some of that.  No, wait- am I being greedy and asking for too much?  Or am I being difficult and not giving people enough options?  Is there enough variety in price??  Oh gods this is stressful...

I hated the whole process- hated it.  Loved getting the gifts, mind you- just hated asking for them.  It was a relief to put the entire process behind me.

And then the time came for me to create The Baby Registry, arguably even more of a Big Deal than the Wedding Registry, since unlike Nathan and myself, Neeps will not enter this union with 28 years of accumulated stuff.  And he actually will have needs.  Like, keeping-him-alive-needs.

So I started researching for the best stuff for my impending dependent, which lead to headache-ing, and anxiety-ing, and then as a way to distract myself from all of that unpleasantness I started to really examine why creating registries is so damn stressful for me.

I came up with a couple of thoughts, but in the end I think what it comes down to is this: making a wish list creates an artificial desire.  See, I'm generally a pretty happy person, content with what I have.  A large part of that contentment springs from not desiring things I don't have (thanks, Mom and the Buddha).  So when you ask me to start thinking about things I want/need, I tend to look around go, "I have my family, my health, a roof over my head and plenty to eat- I'm actually really good, thanks."  But if I have to make a list, due to societal expectations or making it easier of friends/family, or whatever- I will.  I'll do all the eye-crossing research and read the billions of reviews to find the best Thises and Thats for our situation, and I'll compile the Ultimate Wish List, which will include things like a Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket.

Now, let's rewind about a month.  You say, "Jenny O, you do not have a Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket in your life.  Is this in any way having a negative effect on your state of mind?" to which I reply, "What?"  And then when I figure out what we're talking about I say something along the lines of, "Well honestly I've never even considered the existence of waterproof stroller blankets (although now that you mention it, it sounds like a very practical thing to have for a baby born in the pacific northwest at the tail end of autumn) let alone a Very Specific One.  But no- it doesn't bother me that I don't have one, and I don't expect it will bother me if I never receive one.  We'll make due."

Now, however, it's On the List.  I've put time and energy into thinking about a Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket, and now I do want it- which means I am quite likely to be (somewhat understandably) disappointed if I don't get it, because I've managed to convince myself that I need it for my baby.  After all, why would I ask someone to spend resources on something I didn't need?  I wouldn't!

And so you see, I have created in myself an artificial desire, and that way, my friends, lies a lessening of contentment.


Having brought an awareness to the situation- an awareness of why creating a list of "I Want These Things" bothers me so much- has helped to lessen my stress.  Because now I can be very mindful in not thinking about it.  And the less I dwell on my brand new "wants", the less disappointment I will suffer if they don't appear- and the more genuine enjoyment I will have if they do.  Because again- I love getting gifts!  Going to be suuuuuper appreciative of  any-and-everything people give us, whether it's on the registry or not!  Because every single one of those things is an expression of love and a gesture of support for me, for Nathan, and most especially for Neeps.  And that, Gentle Readers, is something I enjoy dwelling on.

(Bonus: if I manage to put the Registry out of my brain it will be like people are miraculous mind-readers who just plucked The Perfect Thing from the aether.  Win-win!)


Counting Down One Hundred Days

or: Yes, I'm Pregnant!

and more than just a little bit, at that.  This was taken at about 25 weeks.
First things first: sorry about the long silence!  But it turns out that I'm really terrible about not mentioning the pregnancy while I blog, and since we wanted to keep it under wraps for a good long while, the easiest thing for me to do was... not blog.  But I'm glad to be back!

Second things second: let's answer the Most Popular Questions!

-My due date is November 12th, one hundred days from now, although I have a hunch it will be sooner.
-Yes, we know the sex: we're having a boy!
-No, we don't have a name picked out yet.  We have a list of names, and we'll choose once we meet our son.  That's going to be irrelevant on here, however, as we've been calling him Neeps and I shall continue to do so in all public forums, just as I do with all my underage associates.
-"Neeps" came about during our trip to Scotland this past May*, where you can order "Tatties and Neeps" aka potatoes and turnips.  Neeps was the size of a turnip at the time, we found the word pretty hilarious, and it just stuck.

Nathan and I have been Nesting-with-a-capital-N, by which I mean we've been making runs to the dump and Goodwill, rearranging furniture, cleaning out and remodeling the garage, installing a new fridge, and getting serious about putting in the built-in-bookshelves we've been talking about for the past three years- amongst other projects.  I've also been Nesting via Art, so expect to see some blog entries on those in the near future.  All in all we're pretty excited: freaked out, but excited.

And now?  Back to Nesting!

*Yes, I will be blogging about that trip now that the fetal cat is out of the bag.


Winter Fireflies

I decided earlier this year that I really, truly need to finish the stacks of Unread Books teetering in my living area before I bring any new ones into the house.  So on Sunday evening I sat down and started sorting, shuffling out "donate" from "give to a specific other" from "keep" from "not yet read".  By the time I finished, the Not Yet Read pile reached almost to my hip.  Which is pretty much what I expected.

But before I could start tackling those, I reasoned that I ought to finish the series I was currently rereading (Outlander).  With that in mind, I went upstairs to draw a bath, and grabbed the e-reader on which I was reading The Fiery Cross.  On a whim, I checked the contents to see how much further I had to go.

Six hundred pages.  Six.  Hundred. Pages.  As in, the length of a lengthy book's worth left of pages in a book that had lately come to feel more and more like a Dreaded Assigned Reading on which I'd already been laboring on for two months.

"Nope," I said aloud, and put it back on my nightstand.  "Fuck that.  Fuck it.  I don't care.  I don't.  I will just go online and read the synopses of the remaining books before I read the new one.  Or maybe I won't even read the new one!  Maybe I'll just read the synopsis on that one, too!"

That liberating decision made, I went downstairs and pulled a young adult novel called Troy of the top of the pile, then came back upstairs and settled into my bath.  I got approximately fifteen pages in before I realized I wasn't going to like it, but in an attempt to get to the full "fair page allotment" (100 minus your current age, which means I theoretically give a book 67 pages to hook me) I kept reading.  Approximately 34 pages in I confirmed that yes, the writing was continuing to be that painful, and I just Noped that paperback right across the bathroom.  Once I was all dried off I placed it at the top of the "donate" stack and happily reconsidered the (one book shorter now!) Not Yet Read pile.

My mom tends to send me books when she's done with them (a contributing factor to the teetering pile- and don't take that as a complaint, because it's not!), and when I'd organized the pile I'd noticed that one of the books she sent in her most recent package was by the same author (Kristin Hannah) as a book she sent me last year.  "Hmmm," I said to myself.  "Two books by the same woman- that seems promising."

So thinking, I grabbed Firefly Lane, and took it up to bed with me.

Over one hundred pages later (and feeling good about the fact that I hadn't actually forgotten how to read for pleasure), I forced myself to put the book down so I could go to sleep.

I finished it the next day, and started The Winter Garden, which I finished on Tuesday.  I'm glad I read Firefly Lane first, because TWG definitely starts out slower, but I already trusted the author, so I tore through it just as quickly.

The best way I can think to describe Firefly Lane is a book about believable female relationships and finding your own feminism.  I found it to be very, very good, and a very satisfying read, although it does have a bit of a fairy-tale-esque ending, which I honestly didn't mind.  (Some people would probably argue withe me about that last point- most people, in fact.  But I have my reasons for feeling the way I do, and if you've read the book we can Discuss.)

The Winter Garden was, as I mentioned, a slower start, but once it got going- ye gods.  It was... something of a devastating book, but also hopeful.  It probably hit me harder than it might another reader, because it involves historical events that I was not aware of until I read the book, which means I was in no way braced for What Was Coming.  I did literally cry while reading this book.  Good times!

Those two books left me refreshed and with a renewed interest in reading for pleasure (I'm also currently slogging my way through a Search and Rescue textbook, and a book on Rock Climbing Anchors), so I dove back into the pile and came up with To Ride Pegasus, by Anne McCaffrey.  I've read quite a bit of McCaffrey, but for some reason hadn't gotten around to this one, so I did.

It was a fun little romp back into a Very Specific Style of sci-fi (a style which I happen to enjoy very much, being reared on Heinlein and Asimov as I was) and an enjoyable exploration of People With Psychic Powers.  Mostly I kept thinking about how I would adapt it for screen or comic page...

So that's another three books for the year, bringing the 2015 Book Count up to 9.  And now?  Back to the pile!



A small sampling of what my Monkey Mind was trying to bring to my attention whilst I was trying to meditate this morning:

I am feeling extra foxy today.
I wonder if meditation is making me look better.
Is meditation as good for your body as it is for your brain?
Maybe if I give my brain two things to focus on it will stop jumping.
(starts slow, meditative thumb twiddle in addition to slow, meditative breathing)
Nope, looks like I am totally capable of thinking of three things at once.
It's probably defeating the whole mindfulness thing to be twiddling my thumbs, anyway.
Hey, I should make a list of all the random thoughts I have while I'm meditating!
Oh no, now I can't stop thinking back to what I've already thought!
I really miss hoop dancing.
I should google classes in the area.
I wonder how much I could still do?
Maybe I'll give it try this afternoon.
Ugh how much longer.
Oh good, I've started to think how much longer- that usually means the timer will go off soon.

Yeah.  Meditation, man.  It takes practice.


My Savage Valentine

Hey hey hey!  It's my Second Favorite Holiday!  And, as we do every year, Nathan and I exchanged hand-made Valentines.  Of course, Nathan promptly took the one he made for me back, so he could continue to noodle on it, but I really liked what I saw (hopefully I'll get it back sometime today, and then get to share it with you guys, too.)

Anyway, here's some process on the one I made from him, which took it's inspiration from the fact that he tends to call me a Savage for my various uncivilized habits:
Some pencils and the beginning of ink.  I wish I'd taken one of just the rough pencils.  OH WELL!

Inks more-or-less finished, although I did go back after I colored and smoothed a few places out.

Originally I thought I was only going to do the red for the blood.  Sometimes I think silly things.

Ta da!  Final colors and inks....
...and the inside!

All told it probably took me somewhere between two and three hours, from concept sketch to finished product.  It was a really enjoyable indulgence, because I feel like I haven't been drawing nearly enough, lately.  Too many interests, not enough time...

And now?  Now Nathan and I are going to get on with the rest of our holiday, which is going to include some backpacking and photography and maybe even checking out the new whiskey bar in town (all part of warming up for Scotland, naturally).

Happy Valentine's Day, you guys!  I hope it is awesome.


The Return of LittleWing

Look, it's been entirely too much Real Life around here lately, and not nearly enough Fiction.  So I aim to remedy that, by revisiting a story seed from a couple years back.  I've been poking and prodding at it, trying to draw a plot out from the concept, and in the meantime I wrote about the Aftermath to that other scene- and this time around I actually gave out some names!


At last LittleWing was sated.  She let out a final triumphant shriek as she wheeled above the smoking ruins of the village, then came at last to settle on the charred remains of the temple.  Ketsia could not help but notice that her heartbeast's orange-edged scales blended perfectly with the glowing embers.  The dragon gave one satisfied glance around at the wreckage, then curled herself into a ball and closed her golden eyes.
There was no one left to scream.
Grandmother Ona worked silently on Eolyn’s wounds, face white and strained, but jaw set in a way that Ketsia recognized.  If the old woman had been born with a heartbeast, Ketsia thought numbly, it would have been a creature made of stone.  Eolyn herself had long since fainted, from pain or shock or both, and part of Ketsia envied her sister the escape.
Ketsia looked down at her hands, streaked with soot and covered in burn marks from the tiny sparks that continued to dance in the air like sadistic fairies.  Her hands were so... small, compared to LittleWing’s talons.  So powerless.  She looked back up at her dragon, who had draped her spiked tail across her long snout in her sleep, much as Grandmother Ona’s cats did.
Does she do that because I watched the cats all those years, or does she just… do that?  Ketsia was no longer sure how much LittleWing was an extension of her Self, and how much LittleWing was simply her own creature.  Would she return now, if Ketsia tried to call her?  She was afraid to try.
Instead Ketsia  turned her eyes to the devastation that spread out from her dragon, trying to feel remorse- but she couldn’t.  She was glad they were dead.  She only wished she could bring them back to life so they could die again.
The corner of her lip began to twitch up into a smile, and LittleWing let out a noise like a purr.
Ketsia’s head snapped back as Grandmother Ona grabbed her by the arm and jerked her around to face her.
“You,” the old woman hissed, and slapped her across the face with more force than Ketsia had ever had applied to her person.  “Don’t you dare take joy in this.  Don’t you dare!  Don’t you give that dragon any more evil to feed on!”
“Evil?” Ketsia cried, too stunned to do more than hold her burning face in shock.  LittleWing’s head came up in confusion.  “They were the evil ones!  They-”
“They?  Which they?”  Spat Grandmother Ona.  “Them men that did this to Eolyn, I won’t deny that maybe they had evil in ‘em.  But the others?”
Ketsia’s anger flared, and LittleWing snarled from her smoldering nest.  “Well they should have protected her!  Da always said evil flourishes when men stand aside and do nothing-”
“Even the children?  The babies?”  Grandmother Ona grabbed Ketsia by the arms and shook her.  “Them that couldn’t even roll over to run away?  And what about the animals, eh?  All those cats and geese and horses.  What did they do to Eolyn?”
This brought Ketsia to a halt, the seething lump of rage in her chest turning suddenly to ice.  “I… the… the babies…” she felt sick as she remembered little Aylin’s bright blue eyes and laughing, gummy grin.  “I… I…”
Grandmother Ona’s gray eyes were cold as the winter sky.  “Is this the part where you tell me that they’d have grown up to be just as evil, that you had to destroy them before they had the chance?  Is that what you believe, child?”
For a moment- one dark, horrible moment, something deep inside Ketsia nodded, whispering, It’s only logical... and LittleWing began to unfurl, hissing.  But then-
“No!” she said, tearing herself away from her grandmother.  “No, I… I never meant to hurt the babies!  Or the animals!  Or, or...  I didn’t…  I didn’t mean...”  Ketsia’s chest felt ripped open with grief, and the pain of it caused her to stumble.  “I am evil, I am,” she started sobbing, clutching helplessly at her own arms.  More than anything she wanted to turn to her grandmother for comfort, as she always had before.  But she knew she didn’t deserve comfort, didn’t deserve anything but to die like Aylin had died: helpless, suffering.  LittleWing let out a long, heart-rending shriek of anguish, and in that moment Ketsia thought the only answer was for her to let the dragon consume her, and end both of their agony...
But then Grandmother Ona was kneeling next to Ketsia, strong hands gathering her close and pressing Ketsia tightly to her breast.  “No, child.  No,” she  murmured, stroking Ketsia’s hair and rocking back and forth.  “You’re not evil.  You… you’ve helped an evil thing to happen, it’s true, but maybe that’s as much my fault as yours.  When I knew what you were… when I knew how powerful your heartbeast was… I should have sent you away, long ago.  It was selfishness that made me keep you close, and we’re all paying for that selfishness now.  All of us."  Ketsia felt her grandmother glance at Eolyn.


Dark Joy and Other Ways We Mourn

First things first, for those of you not interested in my tendency to dwell on The Depressing Things In Life, I present the two books I've most recently finished:

10% Happier by Dan Harris-  The subtitle on this one was, "How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduce Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works- A True Story", which is quite a mouthful, but also satisfyingly specific in its description.  I came across it on NPR (dangerous, dangerous site), and liked the author's writing style enough to give it a try.  One of my nascent sort of New Year's Resolution-y Thoughts was to maybe pick my meditation practice back up, and this seemed a good way to kick-start it.  For that purpose the book really only needs it's Appendix, which is what contains the "instructions".  Not that I don't remember how to meditate- I do- but I was looking to try a new (to me) method.  Or maybe just reassure myself that I was remembering correctly- who knows the inner workings of Anal Retentive Mind?  Anyway, that means that only about 1/30th of the book was what I was specifically looking for, but the truth is that the rest of the book- a newscaster's memoir of looking for a way to chill the fuck out- was a really enjoyable read, especially in the way that his Inner Skeptic sounded a hell of a lot like my own.  So yeah- I'd recommend it, especially if you're looking to get into (/back into) meditation.  I even tried my hand at metta today, the thought of which has always filled me with a sort of scoffing horror, but let's face it- I could stand to be a more compassionate person, so why not give it a shot?

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss- Rothfuss is one of my all-time favorite authors, primarily because his word craft is so exquisite.  As such, I was fully expecting to love this novella, and my expectations were right on: it was an absolute lovely gem of a thing, perfectly cut and polished, full of bright flash and deep glimmer. If you haven't read the first two novels in the Kingkiller Chronicles, you'll want to start there (specifically with The Name of the Wind), because Slow Regard was merely the beautiful fleshing out of a side character, and probably confusing as hell if you're not already familiar with the world.  The story is, as Rothfuss mentions in his afterwords, a story for broken people.  Needless to say, I was immensely fond of it, and I felt that, odd and fey-like as it was, it actually revealed a great deal about a character who cannot help but play her cards close to the chest.  Three thumbs up!

Speaking of broken people (/things) here is where we turn to the more macabre.  Feel free to exit now, if you're not feeling up to it.

I had an excellent moment the other morning, when I finally, finally paid off the first miscarriage.  Hooray!  No, that's not sarcasm.  I was genuinely pretty fucking stoked about it.  And only about six more months to pay off the second miscarriage, so really I was feeling quite jolly all around.  Normally I post about my happy moments on the FaceSpace, but for some reason I felt like me cheering for paying of a depressing medical debt would be... well, more depressing than cheerful.  For other people.  But I am happy about it, so again- hooray!

In less cheerful (but perhaps darker) news, a friend of mine committed suicide last week.  Which, you know, more or less sucks.  I'm pretty pissed at him, actually.  Anger-as-default, and all that.  But it's got me thinking a lot about suicide, lately, and what it takes to actually push someone over the edge. (as it were)

(Nothing is better than black humor!  Nothing!)

Now, I hesitate to say that I was ever suicidal- but I did have my suicide planned out.  In retrospect, however, I feel the details of the plan itself were a pretty good indicator that I wasn't going to do it, because I was still taking other people's feelings into account.  I wanted to make my death as convenient and easy to clean up as possible for those who were left behind.

Obviously things never got that far.

I used to have so much rage- so much towering, fiery, fuck-you rage- for people who committed suicide (aaaaand in general, but that's beside the point).  Because I knew how much it hurt when my dad died (against his will) and the idea that someone would knowingly inflict that pain on someone they cared about, on children... well, it just took my breath away with the sheer ass-holeryness of it all.  I could not imagine anything more selfish, more hateful, more horrible and weak and stupid, than killing yourself*.  To the point where I got a bit, "Well good riddance then, you fucking jerk," about it.

My rage has been tempered a bit in recent years by me coming to terms with the fact that, generally speaking, people who actually kill themselves aren't making a choice at all.  They're ill.  They're fucked up in the brain just like you can be fucked up in your joints or stomach or lungs.  And it makes them do stupid, horrible things, but it's not actually their fault.  So yeah- I'm still pissed at my friend.  But I don't hate him.  And I don't think less of him.  I'll get over it, eventually.  The anger, I mean.  Mostly.

In the meantime, this is the point where I say, if you find yourself planning out the best, least-inconvenient ways to kill yourself, maybe bring it up to someone you trust.  Because chances are, they're probably thinking more clearly than you are.

*(I'm not talking about terminally ill people choosing a death with dignity- that's something else entirely, something that I am 100% on board with)


Pictures, Words, and Both

I've managed to tuck three more books under my belt since the last time I wrote about what I've been reading.  One for class, one for pleasure, and one on the recommendation of my Regional Leader.

The one for class was Wilderness Medicine, by Tod Schimelpfenig, and while it's not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, for me it was near 300 pages of sheer fascination.  I was skeptical about my abilities to absorb all those words and diagrams in just 10 days, but I absorbed enough to pass my test, so there you go.  I'm pleased to have it in my library for reference, and refreshers.

The one I read for pleasure (and here is where I decided that I would count the graphic novels I read this year) was called Here, by Richard McGuire.  I came across a review on NPR, and the concept intrigued me, so on to the list it went!  It was a beautiful little book, even if the art wasn't my exact aesthetic.  I liked the way it made me contemplate the passage of time and they cyclical nature of life, and how stirred up both joy and sadness.  It probably deserved a closer read than I gave it, but I was in the middle of trying to Learn Things.

The recommendation was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  My RL recommended it to me after a conversation in which I told him, "I'm an introvert who expresses as an extrovert."

"Huh," he replied.  "That's complex.  There's a book you should read."  And since I admire and respect him, I decided to give it a shot.  The funny thing is, not one but two different people in my WFR class saw me toting it around on the last day (to keep me occupied between the written and practical exams) and said, "Oh I'm reading that, too!" which led me to think that probably most of us were, in fact, introverts.  Makes sense, when you think about it- there's a whole lot of solitude to be found in the wild, and a whole lot of soul-restoration.

I liked the book a great deal, although it wasn't really me learning a bunch of new stuff so much as it was me nodding my head going, "Yup, knew that.  Nice to have it validated by studies."  But then again, I tend to read up on things that interest me, and as soon as I discovered the actual meanings of extrovert/introvert (and that I was not, in fact, an extrovert, no matter how well I socialize) I started paying more attention to articles that touched on it.  Still, I would definitely recommend the books to others, especially if you a) are interested in how our inherent personality-type shapes us (or not), b) suspect you might actually be an introvert in spite of not having a shy bone in your body, or c) are an extrovert who deals with introverts in your personal and/or professional life, and need some tips on how to make the most of those interactions.

Next up on the reading list?  Well, I have one more library book to get through (another non-fiction), plus I need to finish up Fiery Cross (which was put entirely aside during WFR).  Then there are several short stories and a novella, plus the rest of the Outlander series, and a sci-fi book recommended by a friend.  Plus the still-teetering stack of magazines by my bed.  So that ought to keep me good and occupied through March or even April!  Not to mention, I think I'm going to start a little self-study on  anatomy and search and rescue basics.  Because why the hell not?

2015 Book Count: 4


In Summation...

...I find that I am not yet sated.

But then, that's to be expected, me being me.  (and, as you may recall, I did expect it)

Let's see, when did I last check in?  Oh yes, Monday.  And I didn't write anything on Tuesday night because I didn't get home until after 2300, because we were in the middle of "nowhere", doing our Night Rescue Scenario, which was pretty damn great, actually.  The idea is that once the Scenario started, we were to stay In Character until one or the other of the Instructors came and retrieved us.
On my way to some Nighttime Wilderness Shenanigans

My little team of three ("Team Awesome" aka "Team More Awesome" aka "The Jokers") started our hike into darkness, all the while griping about being "lost", and less than three minutes in heard cries for help- so unexpected!  So we hustled our butts over and discovered one of our classmates- er, I mean a total stranger- with a nasty looking open fracture of the right tibia.  Into action mode we went!

What made the Scenario especially exciting to me is that we were limited to what we normally carry on a day hike- which in my case is not much at all.  Fortunately for us, one of my team-mates is ex-Marine Corps (and an EMT to boot) and thus hauls around quite a bit more.  And our patient, stars love her, actually carries a camping chair with her when she hikes, so you bet your sweet ass that came in handy when we had to splint her leg.

It was a pretty intense experience, playing pretend or no.  I'm actually glad I'm writing this now and not that night, because I was in a pretty dark place afterwards, for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I'd already been slipping down the emotional slope (my dreams were awful), and a conversation had got me thinking a lot about death, specifically my loved ones who are dead.  And of course Jerk Brain was flaring up and telling me how useless I'd been, since all I'd done was keep the patient calm and distracted from what my team mates were doing to her leg, and occasionally taken some vitals.  Intellectually, of course, I know that keeping a patient calm and distracted is actually a pretty important part of the puzzle, but Jerk Brain don't care about logic.  Effin' Jerk Brain.  Jerk Brain also went on to tell me how no one in the class actually likes me, that they were only tolerating me because they're nice people and it's rude to be mean to the nerdy girl, and that even if they thought they did like me, it was just because I was a big phony and they didn't know the real me.

(Yeah, Jerk Brain is called Jerk Brain for a reason.)

Anyway, not a good place, so I'm pretty glad to be out of it and able to look back at the night with nothing but pleasure.  Eventually we got "rescued" and that was pretty great, because our patient's leg was in a lot of pain from having her "bone" splinted so tightly against her skin (I had the same problem with my wrists on Saturday, so I was feeling some serious empathy).
But not so much that I didn't make her pose for a photo before releasing her!

Wednesday we went over Mental Health Issues, which was supremely fitting for the levels that Jerk Brain was rampaging at, but also did a good job of helping me remember how far I've really come in terms of healthier behavior.  I didn't write anything that night because I was too busy failing-at-studying for yesterday's tests.

I was the second to finish the test, which had the bizarre result of causing my inner Competitive Academic to flare up while simultaneously freaking me out that I only finished so quickly because I knew nothing. But I passed (with a grade that said Nerd part of my brain keeps insisting was an A even tho' it's only a P/F scenario), so obviously I knew more than nothing.

And then it was time for the Practical!  Which I also passed!  No thanks to my tendency to second-guess myself!  Long story short, I need to get the hell over my desire not to make the other person think that I think they're stupid (which I don't), and just ask those redundancy questions.

After class we all (well, mostly we all) went out to Base Camp and socialized like whoa.  And I was lead to believe that people probably liked me just as much as I liked them (suck it, Jerk Brain) and was just the happiest (/wistful) little O you could imagine.  I was sad to have to take my leave (but that was tempered by getting to hang out with a friend from out of town) and I really do hope I get to see them again.

It was weird to get up this morning and put on a dress and doc martens instead of mud stained jeans and hiking shoes.  I put on perfume for the first time in two weeks, and all my rings, and I went to work and did the job I do so well, and deepened relationships with my clients, which sounds so hokey, but is true.  And through it all I did a lot of thinking.  I'm still thinking.  Trying to figure out What Next.  But the truth is, I can't figure out What Next until I figure out what the end-goal is.  Because like I said- I'm not sated.  I want to learn more.  I feel like I barely even scratched the surface!  But it gets pretty difficult to justify spending the time and money on school for something I'm not going to make money on- especially when I'm not even sure what it is I want more of.  Is it medicine in general?  Emergency medicine in specific?  Improvised wilderness medicine in specific-specific?  And is it just that I want the knowledge, or that I also crave the application?  Because it would be a hell of a lot cheaper just to read text books and watch YouTube videos, if it's only the learning I want...
Kink approves of New Smells

But there's nothing that says I have to figure anything out in the next few hours, or even the next few days, weeks, months, or years.  Realistically it's time to turn my energies toward the next Grand Adventure, which is heading back to Scotland.  Maybe just let all this simmer for a while.

In the meantime, if you're feeling accident-prone and in need of some wilderness, maybe bring me along just in case, eh?  I'm certified.


A Day of Rest, and Mistakes Never to Be Repeated

Yesterday was a glorious day of sleeping in and doing laundry and watching Agent Carter and studying and reading a hand-written letter and reading a magazine and two hours of climbing and still more studying and a few episodes of Friends over dinner.  So, basically everything I set out to accomplish on my rest day.  (especially reading that magazine- I have a growing stack by my bed that clearly requires more free time...)

But today was back in the WFR saddle!  I felt amazingly refreshed, which was wasted in a way, as we spent most of today going over CPR.  It was all very casual, because 28/29ths of us were all previously certified, and this was just sort of a refresher.  My screaming skills were not needed in any way, shape, or form, and in fact I played the Rescuer three times today, and royally effed it up twice!  Share in my shame!

The first screw up I realized literally as I was putting the pill under the tongue, but by then it was too late- my "patient" keeled over.  Which is why I will never, ever forget to make certain that my patient is not on ED drugs before I give them their nitroglycerin.  Fortunately the instructors were basically expecting us to screw that up, so we got to "reset" and continue the Scenario.

The next Scenario I did pretty damn well in- but then, I live with someone who used to go into respiratory distress on a regular basis, so I've got plenty of practice with it.  And then I got to feel particularly useful to the class (and instructors) when I told them that, in the absence of an inhaler, they can use eucalyptus oil in steam to help open the airways.

But then- oh then- I just made a plain bone headed mistake.  I had an unresponsive "patient" and could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong with her, until I happened to overhear one of the instructors coaching someone else to look for medical alert jewelry.  Well, I'd already done that- but I did it again, and discovered to my absolute mortification that the nylon "watch band" I had handled not once but twice was actually a diabetes alert when I flipped it around.  I was so pissed at myself.  But I was also incredibly grateful that they ran that scenario, because it taught me not to assume.  I was looking for metal, because I've only ever seen metal alerts- but that was a potentially deadly mistake, and I'm bloody well glad I made it during practice.  I get cold when I think what would have happened if she'd had a metal bracelet, or a necklace, like I was looking for- sure, I'd have passed the Scenario in record time, but I wouldn't have learned.

Yay mistakes!


The Distraction

My throat hurts.

My throat hurts because I spent probably a full half hour screaming my damn fool head off.

I screamed and screamed and screamed because I am committed to the art of acting (especially after being told I was part of a group "tapped specifically for [our] acting skills"), and I was playing the role of "Double Open Fracture".

You can't really tell from these angles but yes, my "bones" were popped up and out of my "skin".
Let's have a closer look, shall we?

The setting was a multiple casualty incident, and my goal was to be The Distraction.  My wounds were gory and horrifying and I was screaming and crying, but the reality is that others had far more life-threatening "wounds" that needed to be dealt with.  But I did not make it easy for those rescuers to leave me, no sir I did not.  After class I was talking to the guy whose role had been "Commander" (commanders are supposed to oversee everything and not get involved with any one patient), and complimenting him on the way he stayed removed (I was working him hard: crying and sobbing, "Why won't you help me?" over and over).  He admitted that it was actually quite difficult, emotionally, not to go to me, and complimented me on my acting skills.  So I'm feeling pretty gratified about that, in spite of my somewhat raw throat.

That was, by far, the highlight of today's class (the low point was going over scorpions: I have an irrational hatred of those arachnids, and just want to crush them whenever I see one.  Bleh.)  Other interesting points included a discussion over how much Hollywood skews our concept of treating injuries (it's almost never as dramatic as you might subconsciously believe), and also the moment that a girl turned around to see my seatmate making a sort of lascivious double-handed squeezing/thumping motion at me, in response to me saying, "My head is not so meaty, nor my haunches."  It's hard to tell whose face was more horrified- hers or his.  We quickly explained we'd been talking about why we give affection to our dogs when they want it, but they don't return the favor, and that his motion had been demonstrating giving good dog-affection.

My class is fantastic.

That being said, I'm looking forward to my day off tomorrow.  Going to get caught up on sleep and laundry and maybe even some climbing.  Woo!  (And, of course, some studying...)

All better!


Bloody Good Fun

So you may have noticed the lack of post yesterday- this was due to the fact that I was in class from 0800-2100, got home at 2130, spent an hour doing my homework, and then collapsed into an exhausted stupor.

Mental exertion, my friends: it burns a crap-ton of calories.

Plus also actual physical exertion!  One of the best parts of yesterday was getting to use some of my climbing gear in a Scenario:
Slings, cord, and a daisy chain!

...and the coup d'etat, my stick-clip! (everyone was fascinated by my stick-clip)
I think yesterday's Revelation of the Day was just how lucky I am that I'm at a point in my life where I can be doing this.  I have a job I can take time off from, the money to pay for the class (and to afford me taking that unpaid leave), no kids, a supportive spouse, and supportive friends who aren't bitching at me for not socializing.  I am way more focused and dedicated to Doing What Needs to Be Done than I was in college (which is not to paint this picture of me as an irresponsible student- I was definitely a goody-two-shoes-nerd, but I also simply didn't know myself as well as I do now.  And I often felt a lot more conflicted over my priorities, even if I did keep them straight.) (I think having a lifemate already in place takes a lot of the pressure off...)


I woke up this morning with a good 7.5 hours of sleep under my belt and it was not. enough.  Who got on I5 North this morning instead of I5 South?  Yeah, this girl.  ::sigh::  But I made it on time to class, so no harm, no foul.

I got to be a "patient" not once but twice today, and I got to wear makeup for one of the Scenarios:
Contusion Buddies*
I was to show signs and symptoms of a mild head injury, which included "vomiting" (and "choking" on it) when my rescuers reached me.  Our instructor had a cup of watery oatmeal we could use "if anyone wants to", and every single last one of us was like, "GIMME!", which she was not expecting.  I friggin' love my group.

The other Point of Interest today was the final Scenario, in which we were "rescuing" a patient with moderate-to-severe hypothermia.  There was incredible room for improvement within my group (yes yes, most decidedly including me), but the main thing it got me thinking about was how important it is to designate a leader and then bloody well stick to it.  I have a tendency to step into leadership positions, but age and experience has tempered me to the point where I can bite my tongue when someone else is in charge, and not try to take over- because that just makes it confusing and bad for the others who might trend more naturally towards following.  Unfortunately, there was a younger person in my group who has not reached that point in their personal development.  And I totally get the desire to step up and be The One In Charge, especially in a high-stakes situation (it's basically embedded in my DNA)- I empathize and sympathize and all that jazz- but for real, you have to let others lead sometimes, or people will get hurt.

::steps off soapbox::

Good thing we're going over Leadership and Teamwork tomorrow!

*I texted a very similar photo to Nathan because I thought he'd find it interesting, totally forgetting that he has no clue our Scenarios are so realistic.  His response was understandably panicked, until I reassured him it was just makeup (and laughed hysterically through my guilt)


Recognizing (and Improving) My Strengths

Day Two of WFR, and I honestly feel like it's not too soon to say that this may well have been one of the best decisions of my life.  In the Top Ten, minimum.  I'm just so excited and energized by all of it! (here's hoping that enthusiasm stays peaked for the next eight days)
What's especially interesting is just how comfortable and right I feel with everything I'm learning, in spite of the areas where I'm still ignorant or awkward (I sound like something of a stuttering idiot trying to give my formatted reports- a new and unpleasant experience for me).  By which I mean, yeah I'm stumbling over my new vocabulary, but I have a bone-deep conviction that it's merely lack of practice, and that the floundering will pass swiftly.  And to balance out the verbal flailing, there's the fact that my strengths are really, really highlighted by this class: I understand and learn the ideas quickly; I stay calm and take command; and people listen and do what I say.  It's a heady mix.

It's really got me wondering- what else can I do with this?  Where else can I go?  Because I'm starting to suspect that I may not be content with just a ten day course.  I am probably going to want more.  But can I really justify more schooling for something I'm not going to do professionally?  Because the reality of the situation is that maybe what I love really is just the learning, just the having-of-knowledge.   (That and the smooth running and completion of a capital-S Scenario.)  It may be that, faced with the day-after-day emotional impact of injured, ill, and un-saveable people, I might not love it so much.  It might be the theory and not the practice that holds me enthralled.

It's something to ponder.

In the meantime, I've also been re-inspired about my own physical fitness.  Watching the EMTs in class, and seeing how fit they are, has reminded me that if I'm serious about being able to help people who need it, I need to be physically up to the task- especially since, in the grand scheme of things, I'm not that large a person (compared to most outdoorsy people*): I need to make the most of what I've got.

*(today we lined up by height... I was near the tallest of the shortest 1/4, anyway...)  (::sigh::)


My Kind of People

So remember all that talk I was talking back in September about my interest in Emergency Medicine?  Well today was the day I started walking some walk, my friends, because today was the first day of my Wilderness First Responder course (aka WFR, affectionately pronounced "Woofer").
That is not my apple.  But I did eat some of it.

Said course required me to be down in Portland by 0745, which meant tackling rush hour traffic, which is always fun (she said, sarcastically).  But me being me, I left plenty early, and thus got there in plenty of time to sit in the car and freak out about various ridiculous things, including-but-not-limited-to a) being the only non-EMT in the class b) being the only one without a "greater purpose" to getting my WFR c) being the only girl (because all the other people I saw sitting in cars were dudes).

And then I drove around the block because I thought there was a parking lot I was missing, but no- I'd just driven around the block like a spaz for no reason whatsoever.  The upside to that, however, was that by the time I parked right back where I'd started from, the doors to the building were open and I could just go in.

I was not, of course, the only girl- in fact a good 40% of the class turned out to be female, which was just so incredibly heartening.  And I was not the only non-EMT: out of 30-odd participants, there were only three EMTs- although I did somehow managed to sit right in the middle of them, which was excellent because they were all really great about soothing my nervousness.  And, of course, I was not the only one there "just because".  We were a minority, but we were there!

The instructors warmed us up with one of the better "Getting to Know You" exercises I've ever participated in, the sort that leave you feeling comfortable rather than awkward, and furthermore resulted in the class compiling a list of book recommendations (and me discovering that my seat mate and I have almost identical tastes in books).  In that first hour I realized that there is a certain personality-type drawn to this sort of thing, and that it just so happens to be a personality-type that I get along exceptionally well with.  Which makes sense, I suppose, since it's my personality type.  So it was a room full of wisecracking outdoorsy people who were nevertheless quite serious about Getting Shit Done, and I was quite delighted by the experience.

All in all by the end of the day I was even more excited about being there than I had been at the beginning: I'm just so glad that I decided to take the plunge to do this, and I can't wait to go back tomorrow and learn more.

(In the meantime, my spouse, friends, friends' babies, and my dog have all been subjected to me poking and prodding them for homework.  That's true love, folks.)


About Some Books

I noticed that a lot of my friends, at the end of last year, had a count of how many books they'd read- apparently as a result of a resolution to read more that year.  Well, none of my resolutions include reading more (writing more, yes), but I thought it still might be interesting to keep track of all the books I finish in 2015.

I started re-reading the Outlander series last October, because a) the tv show came out and I wanted to be able to properly bitch about inaccuracies, and also b) the new book came out and I needed to refresh myself on What Came Before (hey, it's been five years).  I figured the series would keep me occupied until at least March, even if I only stick to the "main" books- although I may also re-read the John Grey books just for the hell of it.  I finished up the fourth book, Drums of Autumn, last week, and it pretty much confirmed what I remembered about the series- that while the first three books are worth re-reading again and again, the series takes a definite turn with Drums.  I'm about two-hundred pages into The Fiery Cross now, and I know that page number because, just like the first time I read it, I am having a hard time dealing with the fact that Gabaldon spent over two-hundred pages on one. single. day.

And that more or less sums up why I enjoy the first part of the series so much more than the latter part.  The first three books are very much adventure-oriented, and very fast-paced.  But this one?  Some people write an entire book in two-hundred pages.  It is perhaps literally the slowest-paced novel in the universe.  Like to the point where I found myself wondering if she'd made a bet with someone about whether or not she could do it, just to fuck with her readers.

Which is not to say it's not a good book- it is good- but to be honest I almost feel like it's a chore for me to finish re-reading this particular entry into the series (a sprightly 1400 pages!), rather than the can't-wait-to-get-back-to-it-pleasure that the first three were.  ::sigh::  Hopefully the next three (clocking in at over 3400 pages total!) will be more engaging than I remember.

Stay tuned!


Isis and the Very Quick Walks

Nathan is out of town this week (he comes home tomorrow- hooray!) which means that Isis, rather than being snuggled up next to him all day, is having to spend the days alone.  Which means that there is no one to let her out whenever she feels like it, and so in an attempt to prevent Unfortunate Accidents, I've been taking her for walks in the mornings and evenings, as well as dashing home on my lunch break to let her outside for a Pee Break.

I can probably guess what you're thinking- shouldn't we be taking our dog for walks every day, anyway?  Well,  yeah, if we were better human beings, we would 100% be taking her for walks three times a day, but as it is we have a back yard and can lazy.

And as it turns out, that's all for the best since, as evidenced by this past week, my little Princess Pig isn't all that interested in even twice-daily walks when it's cold outside.  Which it is: not freezing (or even close to it) but cold enough that she doesn't particularly want to get off the porch in the first place, and after the 1.5 blocks it takes to get her bowels moving (and voided) she is immediately All About Turning For Home.  Which, ironically, means that I'm not getting anywhere near the Health Benefits out of these walks that I thought I was.

Ah well- she's back on the couch now, curled up and satisfied with life.  As for me, I'm about to hop into the shower, since I went ahead and got my Health Benefits on the climbing wall this afternoon.  My shoulder is at about 99% now, and I'm pretty excited about that.  Satisfaction all around!


A Pretty Piece of Work in Progress

The title of this entry refers to both my upstairs bathroom, and my ongoing attempts to be More Adult-Like.  And the two are inexorably intertwined, because in my attempt to be MAL, I've decided that it's high time for me to start decorating things.  Our home decor is somewhat haphazard at the moment, since it's never really been a priority for either of us, but this is the year that we've committed to making things a little more purposeful.  And to keep from overwhelming myself, I'm working on one room at a time, with a fixed budget per month.  Which means it will take a while, but I also won't freak out and abandon it.  (hopefully)

So today I got crazy and ordered several things for the upstairs bathroom, whose theme will hopefully soon be actually recognizable as "birds in trees".  Yeah yeah, I know, I know- birds and Portland and Now It's Art blah blah blah.  But I have an actual reason behind my bird-bathroom-theme (a reason beyond aesthetics, which is admittedly reason enough).

Back when I was living in Birmingham, before Nathan and I got married, I had a tiny little studio apartment on the corner of the third floor of a 1920s building, and it was absolutely lovely.  And one of the very best things about it was that there was a window in the shower, and that window opened up into a tree, where flocks of birds would sit and twitter and chitter and sing to me, making my bathing rituals even more delightful than they ordinarily are.  So, in an attempt to recapture some of that feeling, my upstairs bath (which has a window that looks out not into a tree but rather onto a neighbor's roof ::sigh::) is being Coherently Decorated.  It is currently just a shower curtain (bought when we initially moved in), but soon there will also be hooks and shower caddies, and other hooks.  And eventually a new shower curtain rod, even.  Look out world- here comes an adult bathroom!