Intellect and Romance

Intellect and Romance

When I was 12 years old, I discovered Doctor Who.

We were visiting my aunt, and I was bored, so I snuck into the living room to see what was on TV.  I found this weird show and watched an episode.  When it ended on a cliffhanger, I went looking for more and found it, albeit a different story.  Not only did I get to meet the Doctor, I saw two women characters who were strong, independent, and brave.  I wanted more.

I watched the show religiously into my college years. But it became harder to find and eventually went off the air, and my interest turned to other things (Star Trek: The Next Generation was entering its third season).  But those characters, not only the Doctor, but usually more importantly the companions, had become indelible role models for me.

And then the Doctor came back.

I was an adult now, with kids and responsibilities, when this wonderful show came back.  I didn’t watch it at first, as I didn’t want to risk tarnishing the memory of the show I had loved as a child.  But Deb was so excited about it, and I trusted her judgement, so I watched.  And watched, and watched.  It was still the show I loved, and the women in it were just as strong and capable as they had ever been, if not more so, as they lived up to modern ideals instead of the now-dated images of earlier eras.  And one of those early companions came back as well, older, wiser, much like me, and still serving as a role model. (Heck, she even got her own series!)

Tonight, I watched the first appearance of the newest Doctor. And instead of being the companion, the heroic female I was invested in was the Doctor herself.

After the past few weeks, I needed this.  I reminder that we go on.  We persevere. We try to help and do what’s right.  She did what the Doctor always does, tries to help.  But for the first time, she looked like me.

In this dark, depressing and dangerous age, it’s good to have the Doctor.  Craig Ferguson summed up the ethos of the show perfectly when he described it as “Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force and Cynicism.”  Watching the show tonight felt, not like escapism, but instead a reminder, a steeling of the backbone and a promise of hope.  I needed that tonight.

Thank you, Doctor. From two versions of me thirty years apart.

What I Didn’t Plant

What I Didn’t Plant

So, my garden didn’t do great this year.  I’m not sure if it’s because it basically drowned in all the rain we got or me not paying it enough attention to it or other factors that, well honestly that are pretty obvious in the picture above.  Because the one thing that I had a LOT of was sunflowers.  I didn’t plant a one of them.  They all self-seeded from the monstrosity I had last year, in every bed and even in parts of the lawn.  They were everywhere, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull most of them, so I let them go.

Turns out, sunflowers try to kill off all the plants around it.


But hey, at least they’re pretty.  And I needed some of that brightness this summer.  It was about the only sun we saw for months!


Rinse and spit

Rinse and spit

I’ve spent the past 6 weeks in dental hell.  And it’s not ending anytime soon.

Labor Day weekend we were getting ready to go to the beach when I noticed Xander’s right cheek was all swollen.  “Do you have a toothache?”  After a moment, he said sheepishly, “Kinda.”  I sighed.  “Okay, we can’t do anything about it right now.  I’ll call and make you a dentist appointment on Tuesday.”  A little while later, I said, “Here, let me see it.”  He pulls open his cheek, and I look in to see half his molar is gone.  “Why didn’t you SAY anything?”  He shrugs.  Kids!  What is worse is a few days later, after I scheduled the appointment but before the appointment itself, I asked the question I should have asked in the first place.  “When did this happen?”  “I don’t know.  Around graduation?”  Kid, that was THREE MONTHS AGO.  I don’t know if he just didn’t realize that pain wasn’t normal or if he was scared to tell me.  Either way, he and all the kids got the lecture that if they’re hurting, they tell me and I worry about things like how we’re going to pay for it.

That lesson didn’t sink in so good, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

So we went to Xander’s appointment, which to my shame was many years past due.  The first appointment was just a cleaning and x-rays, but he was pretty nervous as he couldn’t remember having been to the dentist before.  Everything went well, but there was no saving the molar, so that would have to come out, and he had 5 cavities that needed filling.  So I scheduled weekly appointments and got the name of an oral surgeon, which I also scheduled.  Every week for the past month I have been at the dentist with that kid.  He did great.  Didn’t have any problems at the oral surgeon, which surprised me, especially since I couldn’t stay in the room with him.  But then that kid always surprises me.  All his cavities have been filled, and his wisdom teeth come out on Monday.  After that he’ll heal for a month before we go back to the dentist to get a spacer in where his broken tooth was.  Unfortunately we have to wait a couple of years before getting an implant or bridge until his jaw finishes growing.

In the meantime, though, I’ve become very aware of my kids’ teeth.  I’ve been nagging them all about improving their dental hygiene (my parents were pretty lax about it when I was a kid, and that’s carried over into my parenting), and we got the water pik the dentist insisted on, and both Crow and Xander have taken to that pretty well.  So when I glanced at Crow the other day and noticed a black spot on her front tooth, I went uh-oh.  Sure enough, they have a big cavity right on the side of their incisor.  So, back to the dentist we went.

Their cleaning and x-rays were today.  The dentist said she could tell Crow was starting to use the water pik, so yay for that investment.  But they still have 8-9 full blown cavities, and half a dozen more “baby” ones.  Those we’re treating with prescription toothpaste, but the others need a whole lot of appointments, especially that front one.  It is millimeters away from needing a root canal, which none of us want.  So I have all THOSE appointments made, and will be at the dentist most of October and November as well.

I am so grateful I have what passes for decent dental insurance in this country and a health savings account to pay for all of this.  I know it’s largely my own damn fault, but when you live on the financial edge, going to the dentist is terrifying.  Crow needs braces, and has for a while, which I’ve known and just had no way of even considering before now.  But the fear of being told it had to be done and figuring out how I was going to pay for it kept me from getting even the basic care done for them.  That kind of financial insecurity is so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and the shame spiral that goes with it is impossible to escape.

Morgan goes to the dentist on Monday, the same day Xander gets his wisdom teeth out.  Fortunately Morgan’s teeth are rocks like mine are, so I’m not too worried for him.


Playing Chicken

Playing Chicken

The girls

The great chicken experiment came to an end in August.

The girls had a rough summer.  They were attacked by a fox in June and we lost two of them.  The other two I brought back to my place to recover.  Dora, the Buff Orpington, had a sprained hip and couldn’t walk, while Minnie, the Arucana, had a bunch of pulled feathers on her back.  Minnie was so protective of Dora.  Every time any of us would go near Dora, Minnie would run in between to stand guard.  It took about 2 weeks for Dora to get back on her feet.

We were getting ready to take them back to the farm when another disaster struck.  Minnie developed a prolapse.  I do not recommend Googling this, because it’s pretty disgusting looking.  Prolapse isn’t an uncommon condition in chickens.  Their egg plumbing shares real estate with their excretion plumbing, and sometimes pushing all that stuff out pushes some of the plumbing out, too.  The only thing to do for it is to keep pushing it in and set up conditions so they don’t lay as often.  This is why most large scale chicken farmers just cull them when that happens.  It’s a lot of intensive manual work.  Literally manual, as you have to shove your finger up the chicken’s butt.  But after almost a week of pushing it back in, it wasn’t staying and I, a new chicken keeper, panicked.  I took her to the local chicken vet, who said I’d been doing good, shoved everything back in, put in 2 stitches and charged me $250.  Ouch.  (Thanks, Mom!)

We kept them home another week to finish the recovery.  Minnie ripped her stitches out 3 days later laying another egg, but everything stayed where it should be, so we started making plans to relocate.

When Dora prolapsed.

There was no way I could spend another $250 on this, so I committed myself to more chicken fingering and started researching the best ways to put down a chicken.  This time I just kept on, and after 10 days, when I was just about to give up, she started getting better.  It stayed in longer every day, until finally it didn’t come out anymore.  So the key to prolapse is, apparently, endless patience.

But by this point, I’d had two chickens living in my kitchen for 6 weeks (remember, chickens are illegal in my town), and I was pretty done.  So I reached out to my friend Deb up north.  Deb has an actual farmette where she raises alpaca and has in the past had quite a flock of chickens.  She had gotten out of the egg business, but apparently had gotten into chicken rescue.  She had just taken in 4 from a friend whose landlord had decided chickens were a no-no, and so was willing to take on my two girls as well.  So with a heavy but hopeful heart we packed up the girls, their food and their goodies and drove them up to their new home where I hope they are still living a happy chicken life.

Do I regret having done this?  No, not at all.  I loved those girls, and I learned so much about chickens and about myself while raising them.  I can’t wait to have my own farm where I can see them every day and really be part of their lives instead of a once a week chicken farmer.  They have so much personality and are so engaging (even though yes, they are pretty smelly!) that I really need to have them as part of my life.

I saved a dozen of their eggs and blew them out.  Now I’m trying to decide on a good way to decorate them for ornaments so I can always have a reminder of them.

Made for walking

Made for walking

When I was a kid, my mom had this pair of boots. They were calf high, brown suede with two inch heels and brass rings up the front that laced them up. I loved those boots. I couldn’t wait until I was big enough to wear them myself. Of course, I was 7 so had a long way to go.

But before I could grow into them, my parents donated them to the dress up box at church. And then some little kid spoiled juice all over them and ruined them. I was distraught.

I’m still not over those boots.



First day of Blogtober leads to absolute mental vapor lock. I either have to much to talk about or not enough. I’m still not sure which!

I think sometimes about what I want this blog to be. Of course I’d love it if it went viral, generated a ton of hits and a bunch of followers, but I’m just not interesting enough for that. And this isn’t a traditional journal. I’m not sure what a journal entry should be but it doesn’t feel like what I do somehow.

In a lot of ways, it feels more like a correspondence, me writing one sided letters to the universe. I always wanted to live that kind of literary life, sharing letters back and forth, documenting the lives of two people separately and together. I email a thousand times a day with Nikki and Deb. This is how we stay connected and in each other’s lives. But they’re more like snatches of conversation without the gravitas of the written word.

This blog is more like all those letters I imagined sharing with some unknown someone. If you’re reading this, you are who I want to share with. You don’t have to write back. It’s enough for me to tell the story, share the thoughts, put it out there.

So we’re off with Blogtober. Don’t know what I’ll talk about, because that would require more planning than I’m capable of at the moment. But I hope it’s entertaining anyway!



My garden this year is reflecting a lot of how I’m feeling about my life at the moment. Nothing went the way I planned it.  Last year was lush and bountiful, but this year, not so much.  A lot of things are inexplicably dead.  The tomatoes are all rangy and bedraggled.  The zucchini were destroyed from the inside before they could produce more than a singular overgrown fruit.  Some of the seeds I planted turned out not to be the ones I thought I was growing.  A couple of the beds have become woefully overgrown with weeds.

But there are a few bright spots here and there.  The cherry tomatoes that I didn’t think I planted are starting to turn, ready to be cooked down into lovely sweet tomato jam.  And here and there the dozens of sunflowers that self seeded are putting on brilliant displays. (Now that I do a little research, they may be part of the problem, but I’m going to linger in the joy of them for this season at least.)  I have one lone fig on the fig tree I forgot to bundle up last year, and the apple trees are bearing their first fruit.  The overgrown beds can be recovered, and one of them I plan to turn into a winter bed for lettuces and other greens.  The tiny pepper plants are covered with snackable goodies just waiting to turn color.

So I cling to the metaphor.  Things are hard right now, I’m not going to lie.  It’s been hard to think about what to write here, as so much of it feels like it would just be me whining.  But I like writing, and not doing it contributes to me feeling poorly about myself.  My goal at the moment is to start picking up the posting here again, building up my stamina again until I can do Blogtober.  Can’t believe that’s only 6 weeks away!

So here I am, pulling weeds, uncovering treasures, and sharing them with others.  I missed you guys!

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

My middlest child graduates high school this year.  My youngest graduates next year and then goes on to the local community college.  When they graduate from there, my time here in this house is over, for good or for ill.  So in three years, I’ll be starting my next great adventure.

I’ve started doing exercises to try to get into the headspace of what that will be like.  The plan is to move to a farm, or at least a farm-in-the-making.  I’ve been imagining this place since I was a kid.  We had friends who were farmers when I was growing up, and their places were always magical to me.  Especially the hay barns.  Hay barns are cathedrals to me, with the same power of scent and the same transfusion of light.  So I want to move to a place I can live in until they carry me feet first out the window.  I’ve drawn pictures and maps of what my farm is going to look like, created business plans, collected infrastructure ideas.  If visioning is creating, this place already exists in the world, just waiting for me to be ready.

I was in the grocery store the other day, buying 3 gallons of milk that will last 4 days and cost more than gas, and it hit me.  In a couple of years, a half gallon will probably go bad in my fridge, as I won’t have a bunch of teenagers drinking it all.  That was followed by the realization that my food budget will plummet when my kids move out.  That’s kind of overwhelming to think about.  I’ll be spending more to feed my animals than to feed people.  Weird.

The latest thought experiment has been, “What will I take with me when I move?”  The answer is, surprisingly, not much.  Considering the fact that I live in a 3 bedroom, 3 story house, I think I can fit everything I want to take into one large Uhaul.  I’m taking the freezer, the china cabinet, and one arm chair, but that’s pretty much it for the furniture and large appliances.  I’ll take all my small appliances and cooking tools, but none of my dishes.  Some special glassware pieces that I inherited from my parents, but none of my wedding china.  The TV and games, but none of the Ikea shelving or the leather couch.  I salvaged that in the first place, I’m sure I can salvage a replacement.  None of the beds, except my old spindle bed which has been in storage for years.  One dresser I inherited from my father.  Probably not my fiber wardrobe, as the new house will have a whole room dedicated to my crafting.  The camping gear.  Maybe the books?  I’ve purged my collection pretty hard, but most of those books I haven’t touched in years.  My garden tools and bike.  The pie safe that has been stored in the shed for 20 years.

Really, for the course of a life, the longest I’ve ever lived in one place, it’s not much stuff.  But somehow, thinking about letting all that go, starting clean with only what I identify as MINE, is incredibly liberating.

I’m really ready for a new beginning.

Adventure at the Table

Adventure at the Table

Photo by Diacritica

After a 20 year break, I’ve gotten back to role playing games.  I hadn’t realized how important these games were to me until I started playing again.  I started gaming back in the early 80’s when you didn’t have to differentiate between tabletop and video games because, well, I grew up in the Stone Age.  I can remember getting suspicious looks as my friends and I mapped out the tiny town we grew up in so that we could use it for a session involving a Soviet invasion of the town and my mother in a helicopter with a rocket launcher.  It was pretty awesome.

Once I got to college, gaming became my life.  I was fortunate to get involved with a group of friends who gamed almost constantly.  We literally gamed 4 nights out of 7.  When other people were staggering back into the dorms at 2 am drunk from the bars, my roommate and I were coming back from late night play sessions.  We played every genre, from the ubiquitous D&D to superhero, sci-fi and horror games.  We tried everything.  I even got us connected with a major game designer as playtesters, so our names are in the fronts of 4 GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System) supplements.  When I moved to Philadelphia for grad school, my first stop was the gaming and comic store, and my new friends came from the university gaming club.

Then I started having children.

The group I was in stopped calling us with game session invites.  And I wasn’t able to find anyone else to play with.  So the games went on the shelf, the character sheets tucked away in their folders in a memory chest, and I became a former gamer.

Until this past spring.

It started innocently enough with a podcast and a couple of teenagers in my dining room. Crow, my youngest, got introduced to a podcast called The Adventure Zone by their significant other, and began insisting on listening to it in the car whenever we drove anywhere. For those who aren’t familiar and who haven’t been subjected to my endless TAZ tweets, The Adventure Zone is a live play podcast of three brothers and their dad playing D&D for the lolz. I wasn’t all that interested to begin with.  Honestly, I live in a culture of the supremacy of the white male nerd and the label of the fake geek girl, so I didn’t really need to listen to 4 more dudes playing out teenage fantasies. But as I started hearing more and more bits and pieces and trying to stitch the story together, I got intrigued enough to go back to listen to the whole thing from the beginning.  And it was so much more than I’d ever expected a live play podcast could be.  Yeah, the first few story arcs were kind of ridiculous, but in an almost gentle, self-deprecating way.  And then it took a turn, and started becoming complex, layered story telling, until eventually, even before the absolutely ground-shaking finale, I was in tears almost every episode, not from laughter but from much deeper emotions of sorrow, loss, joy and love.  It changed for me the idea of what a podcast could be.

In the midst of listening to this, though, came the teenagers.  Crow started hanging out with a couple of their friends in the dining room, trying to play D&D from the basic set one of them had gotten.  Which was fine, except I was sitting in my chair working and listening to them getting the rules WRONG even though I had no idea how the new rules system worked.  It became kind of like listening to little kids trying to play Monopoly without a grownup helping them learn the rules.  Finally I offered to run a session or two for them so they could get a handle on the rules.  The next thing I knew, I was running a monthly game for 6 teenagers and Nikki (because I needed adult support, dammit!)  That games been going for 6 months now, and we’re down to 5 players, but we’re having a good time and even I’m starting to get more comfortable as the Gamemaster, a role I’ve never particularly excelled at.

But GMing isn’t the same as playing, and I wanted to PLAY.  So I started exploring a website called Roll20, which lets people play online, something that wasn’t easily available back in the early days of my parenting.  I found a group of older gamers, where everyone is over 35 (we had a couple of younger folks, but they decided they weren’t a good fit and left us), and one weekly game has evolved into the Friday night game, a rotating Sunday game, and a lot of text based role playing the rest of the week.  It’s a good group, and I’m happy to have found them.

I also found another podcast, though.  This one is called Friends at the Table, and it continues to open my eyes to how gaming has evolved in the last 30 years, and again expands the possibilities of podcasting for me.  Griffin, the GM from The Adventure Zone, recommended it, so when the TAZ story ended (they have since gone on to experiment in other genres and systems), I decided to check this out as well.  FatT uses multiple different systems, sometimes all at the same time, to play several different genres of game.  The unifying feature of all of them, though is that everyone works cooperatively to tell the story of whatever game they are playing.  It’s not the GM against the players.  Instead it’s almost a call and response style of play that reminds me so much of how Nikki and I used to write together that I can almost taste it.  This is so different from the type of gaming I know, but so much more interesting and engaging to me now.  I’m trying to get my online group to try some of this, but only a couple of them are interested.  Which won’t stop me from finding a way!

This weekend, I’m taking the real world gaming group to Pax Unplugged, a new gaming convention focusing strictly on board and roleplaying games.  We’re all planning to get dice and maybe some miniatures for the monthly game, but I’m also going to be on the lookout for some of these new style of games, as well as ways to learn more about them and to make connections with other gamers, especially women, in the area.

And in the back of my head, there is the thought that I could do a podcast, too.  When I was younger, I loved radio theater and always thought that would be something I would enjoy doing.  This is a way I had never considered of doing that.  The Adventure Zone and Friends at the table are some of the best radio theater I’ve ever listened to.  I’d love to give that a try myself.  If I can learn sound editing!