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!

Dieting isn’t that different from Astrology

Dieting isn’t that different from Astrology

As of this morning, I am on a diet.

Well, no, not really.  It’s more like I’m resetting my eating.  But I’m using the South Beach model to get me going,  because good food decisions just feel so overwhelming these days.  It’s probably appropriate that I’m starting this of all weeks, as it was a year ago this week that I went completely off the rails in a combination of stress and anxiety eating.  But it has to stop.  None of my clothes fit, and I’m back to not liking how I look in pictures.  This weekend I did all my shopping, this morning I got on the scales for my starting weight, and off we go.

As I was looking over all the lists and plans and menus for this system, though, I started to realize something.  Really, the SB diet is just the diet they gave me once I was released back to real food after my surgery.  Lean protein, lots of veggies, low carbs and sugar.  It wasn’t anything I didn’t know, I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  By stepping out of my head, all the mental clutter that was getting in my way, I was able to see that I knew what I needed to do and put away all that extra stuff.

Which of course made me think of astrology.

No, don’t leave.  I’m not one of those people who reads their horoscope every morning (mostly because those are too general to be of any use whatsoever). But I did study astrology, and tarot, and in the end, I realized the value of both those tools isn’t that they tell us truth, but they take use out of the clutter of our minds to look in different ways at whatever the issue is we are trying to address.  A reader will give you all their thoughts on the symbols and patterns they see in the cards, and then you try to make sense of them given your own knowledge of the situation.  And maybe you realize soemthing that you hadn’t been allowing yourself to consider before.  Or maybe it brings you around to an entirely new angle on your problem to give you an a-ha moment.  That didn’t come from the cards.  That came from you narrowing your focus, blocking out the extraneous for those few moments it takes to think “How does that piece of symbolism actually reflect in this situation?”  It comes from you.  You were just in your own way.

I think diets are the same way.  “Diets” don’t work.  Everyone knows that (or I hope they do).  Fad diets especially don’t work.  I get into this with my mother occassionally.  BUT.  The change in thinking that starting a diet brings, the analysis of “what am I doing now and what do I need to change” that comes with a new diet, THAT insight does work.  It resets your brain, as long as you understand that the diet, like the stars or the cards, are not telling you truth, they are changing your perception.

So here I go.  Starting Phase 1 today with some modifications and exceptions.  I have to eat protein first and not the high volume of veggies that this plan requires, and I have one meal coming up that is totally out of my control (plus Thanksgiving.  Oof.), so I’m going to do Phase 1 the whole month of November with those exceptions and see where I’m at from there.

 

Hope

Hope

So, it’s been a long, quiet summer.

Okay, not really quiet.  I’ve had a lot going on.  But like so many people, I’ve been so heartsick, that I’ve felt guilty about

sharing the things that I’ve been enjoying, the life I’ve been living, when so many people are under threat or literally dying.

Which honestly, kind of violates the essence of Strikhedonia.

A couple of months ago, the author Alexandra Rowland, ariaste on Tumbler, wrote a magnificent post that I now have hanging up in my office on the difference between grimdark and hopepunk.  Grimdark is basically the idea that the world is shit and humans are cynical and selfish and there is no good to be found.  Hopepunk looks at that same world and says fuck that, the world may be shit, but we don’t have to accept that. It is the belief that being kind is an act of resistance.  And that does reflect Strikhedonia.

So I’m clinging to hopepunk.  Even as I put my (very fruitful) garden to sleep, as we shift into a season of decay and rest, I will hope.  I will plan for spring.  I will resist.  I will share joy.

I define Strikhedonia as the “art and joy of not giving a damn.” But that not giving a damn doesn’t mean not caring about anything.  It’s about not caring when society tries to tear you down for the things that give you joy, that you are passionate about, that bring light and beauty into the world.  So I urge you to care.  Cry over injustice. Cheer for just desserts. Make something.  Share something. Keep caring about the things you care about.  Find new things, new

people, new places that make you happy.  Don’t stop.

So this summer, my joys were my garden, my chickens, my new car, a trip to New Orleans for the first time, discovering

The Adventure Zone, starting to play D&D both with my kids and with actual grown-ups, and an adventurous camping trip with some of my kids.

Here, have some pictures of my joy.  It was a good summer.

 

 

 

 

Dancing on the Budgetary Edge

Dancing on the Budgetary Edge

I’m buying a new car.

Not the actual car, but pretty darn close!

Okay, not a NEW car.  I’ll never buy a NEW car.  But this is pretty darn close.  It’s a 2013 Kia Soul, it only has 60K miles on it, and it even has some bells and whistles.  And it’s a manual transmission, which actually makes me happy.

I’d gotten pre-approved for the car loan from my credit union, but after some finagling and confusion, the dealership was able to finance me at a much better rate, so I’m going with that.  The only downside is that I have to pay the tax and title out of pocket.

Cue the financial panic.

I get paid on Friday, and wouldn’t be able to pick the car up before that anyway (punishment for losing the photo card on my license renewal).  But of course this week is mortgage week.  So between the two payments, that takes my ENTIRE paycheck, plus the last of my (admittedly small) emergency savings.

I went ahead with the commitment on the car.  Between the quality of the car and the improved financing, I can’t lose the opportunity.  And I’ve been in tighter financial situations before with less signs of light at the end.  I just have to make it to April 15 when I get paid again.  But I still am panicking and feeling out of control.

I have a couple of different coping strategies in these situations.  My favorite:  I bake.  And then I eat everything I baked.  I’d like to avoid that.  I already can’t fit into my size 12 jeans (thanks, Trump) and I’m committed to doing better on the diet front.  So now I’m cleaning.  Starting with the kitchen.  I’ve spent the morning scrubbing and sweeping, and it’s looking pretty good.

I also made planning and distraction lists in my bullet journal.  First I made an austerity menu.  This coming week is already covered (the joys of 2 week at a time menu planning), so it’s just the next two I have to sweat.  I did pretty well and ended up with only an 8 item shopping list, not counting milk and cereal.  We even only resort to pancakes once!  And that’s more because the kids like it than because I had to do it.  My well stocked freezer is paying off.

Then I made a list of jobs that need to get done.  What I had PLANNED to do for the next few weeks was work on the new garden beds, but the money for lumber and dirt all just went into the car, so that’s a no go.  Instead I’ve just made a list of all the other yard chores we need to get done in advance: Cleaning up the yard, finishing off the bike shed, turning the existing beds, that sort of thing.  Some indoor stuff, too.  All things that need to get done but don’t cost any money.  There’s probably enough there to keep me busy until next pay day.

I had hoped for that weekend to be an orgy of gardening, but RL continues to hold me back.  We’re going to Hershey Park with Rachel, Matt and Uly on the 15th, which will be fun since we’ve never been.  Then the 16th is Easter Sunday, and I’m worship associate at church that day, so there’s half that day, and I’m not sure what will be open anyway.  So I’m going to take Monday and Tuesday off as well.  By that point, I will have earned a couple of personal days, and the kids are still off on Monday for their spring break, so I can impress them into labor.

I can do this.  It will be worth it in the end.  The new car will make up half its monthly payment just in the gas I’m going to save.  And I’m hanging onto the van until I get all the dirt and lumber home that I need (I’m going to miss being able to haul anything I need or find curbside whenever I want!), but hopeful after that I can sell it and restock my emergency funds.

Life on the edge, baby.  Gotta know how to do that dance.

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The Week(end)  That Was 

The Week(end)  That Was 

I don’t wanna go home… 


Alas, today’s the day. We’re all delaying packing up, and to be fair we do have a couple of hours before we have to get serious about leaving. But the drive to accomplish has faded, and we’re all staying to think about the responsibilities waiting for us back out in the Real World. 
We all made good progress on our various projects. Nikki finished the formatting and uploading for her first self-published book. (Go buy it.)  Deb did her research  and her taxes and got the logo for her new podcast (which is awesome!) How did I do? Hrm, let me look at that list. 

1. Scripts accomplished! I got the intro and exit scripts written, picked a session topic for the demo, and even came up with a name. No Small Questions. Just need to round up some people to do a recording session with. 

2. Draft ritual is done. I still need to write quarter calls and gaming text for the working, but I’ve ordered the supplies and have the major details all nailed down. 

3. Finished a clue and a half on the test knit. One small hiccup, but I’m not the only one having it, so I’m taking that as a good sign. 

4. Nada. Sorry, Mom. 

5. Does two blog posts count? Nothing in the bank, though. Maybe I’ll brainstorm ideas on the drive home. 

6. Garden plan is complete! Well, as complete as any garden plan can be. And I have my seed list generated, although I haven’t priced it out yet. It’s gonna hurt though. Worth it. 

So all in all I’m counting it as time will spent. I don’t feel as rested as I would like, but who knows if I ever will. It was good just to step off the treadmill for a few days, though. Hopefully when I get back, things won’t feel quite so overwhelming. 

Of course, none of us have looked at Twitter for four days, so… 

Writers Weekend 2017

Writers Weekend 2017

We’re back in the woods for another Writers Weekend (check out the tag for our previous WW adventures. Including turkeys).  We missed last year due to other commitments on everyone’s part, and all three of us really felt the loss of it.  So this year we all knew we had to do this, come hell or high water.  We did get a slightly later start than we like because Deb had a commitment Thursday night (darn that real life, anyway), so Friday morning we got all our kids out to school and then hit the road to the Poconos.  See below for how much stuff 3 writers need for 4 days away.  And that doesn’t include groceries.

Not as much as when we go camping, but it’s only for 3!

Day 1 is usually a wash.  We need to decompress from our day to day lives and get settled into the house.  Yesterday was no exception.  We got up here around 11, unloaded the car, made the beds, started warming up the house, and then went out for lunch and grocery shopping.  Lunch was at this run down looking diner that I’ve been past a million times going camping (our campground is about an hour past Deb’s mountain house).  The food was surprisingly good, although I think their meatloaf was actually their gyro meat.  And we bought a pie.  Because diner pie.  Then we went grocery shopping.  The nice thing about three grown women in a house together is we all take turns cooking, and we are mostly reasonable when we go shopping.  Yes, we always end up with too much snack food, but hey, at least it’s 75% healthy snack food! 7 bags and 4 dozen bottles of water later, we were off to Lowe’s and Walmart (shudder) to get new lamps for the house.  Deb always walks a fine line on these trips between being on vacation and being a rental owner.  We try to keep her on the more relaxing side of that line, but sometimes needs must.  This was at least easier than the year the gas fire wouldn’t turn on.  That wasn’t fun!

We got back home around 3:30, got unloaded and Nikki got the traditional WW Tikka Masala in the crockpot, then we all lounged around until dinner.  I got some software installed on my computer and played too much Minecraft while Deb did hockey research and Nikki actually did writing work (making the rest of us look bad.) But again, first day is a wash, so no stress.  I did spend some time that evening going through one of my seed catalogs, so that’s something off my list.

All my favorite places have fireplaces

I do have a goal list for the week

  1. Scripts for the podcast I’m planning – I need to write introduction and closing scripts, as well as actually coming up with a name.  I want to record the demo by the end of the month, so I need to get cracking
  2. Oestara ritual – I’m leading the Oestara ritual for Gaia’s Rainbow this month and need to actually get it written
  3. Sherlock shawl test knit – this is due back to the designer by the end of the month.  I’m on clue 3 of 9…
  4. Finish my mom’s shawl.  Before she hunts me down with knives.
  5. Write and bank a few blog posts – Theoretically March is a blog every day month.  Yeah, no.  Maybe April
  6. Garden plan – Spring’s coming almost faster than I’d like.  I need to get seeds started, so I need to get, you know, seeds.

I think I’m off to a good start.  Last night I got the recording software installed on my laptop so I can use it as my onsite podcasting studio. I also got my volunteer application in to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in New Orleans in June.  If I can get that, it pays my attendance fee ($350.  Oof.) and I just have to figure out travel and accommodations. (Also oof.)  And I got through one of my seed catalogs, the one I’ll primarily be ordering from this year.  (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, for anyone who’s curious.)

Slept kind of rocky last night, either really hard or wide awake.  But I woke up with the basic ideas for the ritual, so this morning I worked on developing that.  The theme is eggs and seeds.  For our working, we’re going to make seed eggs (basically seed bombs shaped like eggs).  So I researched seed bomb how-to’s, ordered the matrix for it and the seeds, and got the rough outline written.  I still have to write the cast and calls and a quick charging meditation, but that’s pretty easy once the how to’s and why for’s are figured out.  I think there will then be a nap.  Then I want to finish Clue 3 on the shawl, and then I can go through another seed catalog.  And poke at my garden plot maps to make sure I have room for everything, or that I’ve filled everything.  I’m never sure which I’m going to end up at!

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So… 

So… 

My excuse is I’ve been busy.


Since the Women’s March, I’ve been to at least one political/social action meeting a week. This past week I went to three. It’s exhausting, but other people don’t have the privilege I do of being able to step away from it, so I don’t feel right complaining.

The progressive group that meets at my church is turning into an Indivisible group, which I’m glad of. I’m looking forward to seeing what it develops into.

I’ve also started attending the local Democratic party meetings. I consider myself pretty well informed civically, but I’m learning a lot at these meetings. And yes, I am changing my party affiliation. I’ve been a registered Independent my whole adult life, but to remain so at this point in my life and in our history feels like the worst sort of entitlement. I don’t forsee being ethically able to vote anything besides Democratic for many years, and I live in a closed primary state, effectively shutting me out of that process as an independent. I hope to one day be able to change back, but for now this is the right thing to do.

One thing I am noticing is the party groups seem to be unaware of uninformed about the Indivisible groups, which is definitely not in their best interests. Not all the Indivisible groups are politically focused, but they’re too important a grassroots movement not to connect with as a resource.

Spring is coming, and with it thoughts of seeds and dirt and growth. I’ll start writing about those things again. I need to. It’s just hard when it feels like other people’s lives are at stake.

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A Banked Fire

A Banked Fire

christmas-hearth

As you might have been able to tell by the radio silence around here, the end of the year was not an easy time for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving, and Christmas at the cabin was the best ever, with no drama or disasters. I attended church and small group ministry as usual. I got involved with the local progressive group. I bought a mandolin for my birthday.

And yet things didn’t feel quite right.  Like I was holding my breath.  Waiting.

Apparently I was waiting on hope.  Hope can be debilitating when there’s nothing for it but to wait.  Hope when you can act is a different thing, empowering, energizing, but hope you can’t act on?  That’s hard.

After December 19, things started to break free.  There was no hope to wait on anymore.  It would be four years of struggle, of fighting and defending and supporting.  Four years of action.  I could do action.  And just as suddenly, things started to break free in my own life.  I started setting up my bullet journal for 2017, looking ahead at what was to come.  I recommitted to my weight loss (albeit AFTER all the goodies at work had done their damage.)  I used the money Mom gave me for my birthday to sign up for mandolin lessons.  I’m going to the Women’s March in Philly. (I can’t do the DC one because I have to serve at church the next day.)

Probably the most metaphoric thing of the whole period was that I learned how to bank a fire overnight.  This is probably one of those generational things that we’ve lost out on.  My mom never could explain to me how to do it, although she seemed to know how instinctively.  But as a society we don’t need to tend fires anymore, so we’ve put aside that knowledge.  I was reading a book on cabin building from the 1940’s, though, and there was the nugget of knowledge I’d been looking for since I was a kid.  Bury a log in the ashes and coals of a dying fire and close all the dampers.  In the morning, you will still have coals to start the new day’s fire with.  I only used 1 match our whole 5 days in the cabin.  My fire died, but the coals lingered to flare again the next day.

I’m ready to relight my fire for 2017.  And I have coals to share.

Putting Hitler in the Cupboard

Putting Hitler in the Cupboard

rory

Needless to say, the election did not go the way that I had hoped.

Tuesday night I tried to calm my hysterical trans-identified child and worried again that people might come to do violence on my Bangladeshi neighbors.

Wednesday I worked from home, numb and unable to cope with the presence of other people.

Now I’m taking small steps towards action.

I am doubling my pledge to my church.  I am fortunate to belong to a denomination with a long history and experience in social justice issues.  While I might not be able to squeeze out more time to work towards these issue, I can at least offer financial support to back up those who can invest the time.

I am matching that pledge with monthly donations to the ACLU, ADL, Planned Parenthood and several other organiztions.  I can’t do much, but a little bit every month still helps.

I am pledging to my local NPR station.  While they fell far short of perfect, they were still one of the more reliable sources of news through this whole thing.  I wish I could justify a newspaper subscription as well.  If you can, please subscribe, especially to the Washington Post.  They did amazing work and deserve our support.

I think I’m going to join the League of Women Voters.  I was appalled at the low turnout this election when it was so critically important.  We have to do better.

I’m looking into the idea of developing a digital passive resistance program at church.  More on this if it develops.

This election was our chance to stop Hitler.  Hitler has stopped being a person and has become instead an idea, the demagogue who lures people into working against their own best interest and better angels to serve his own ends.  We failed that challenge.  Now we must do everything we can to contain the damage, to prevent the full flowering of everything Hitler represents.

Be like Rory.  Help put Hitler in the cupboard.

hitler

Election 2016

Election 2016

20161108_073502I went to work dressed all in white in honor of the suffragists who made this day possible.  I was surprised by how powerful it made me feel.

Took Morgan to vote after work.  In 20 years of voting at the same polling place, this was the first time I’ve ever stood in a line of more than 2 people (there were about 10 people ahead of us.)  Nothing like people are seeing in some places, but enough to make it feel important.  It was Morgan’s first time voting, so we got the sample ballot so I could talk him through what to expect.  He wasn’t the only new voter.  There were at least two other people in line who were getting coached, both of them in their late 30s or early 40s.  We only waited 20 minutes or so to vote.  I got a little uncomfortable that the poll workers were recording everyone’s party affiliation out loud, but otherwise there weren’t any problems.  And for the first time ever, there were stickers when we finished!

20161108_163154

The line had gotten longer by the time we came out, almost down the block.

I made tacos for dinner (I want a taco truck on every corner, darn it!) and a bunch of snack food, and now we’re waiting while the results dribble in.

I’m going to have such an election hangover in the morning…