Category Archives: Memories

Camping in New England

Big Agnes Big House 6 Tent

The last few days, I’ve been away. I’ve been camping of all things. There’s a lot I want to unpack about that. Camping is not something I actively enjoy but it is something I will do if it means I get to see the ocean or go places that I love. It is one of the things my husband likes to do on purpose, just for camping. This year it was a bit different than it’s been in the past as there were more things to take into consideration, mostly my rheumatoid arthritis.

I struggle to get up off the floor so sleeping on the ground wasn’t really going to work for me which meant we had to get a cot. Getting a cot meant we needed a bigger tent. Thank goodness for REI’s garage sale! We got a great deal on the Big Agnes Big House 6 which fit the four of us with two cots (and two people over 6 foot tall) very comfortably. I slept in a sleeping bag, on a yoga mat, on a cot and when I had the right temperature bag, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t sleeping in my bed but it was definitely workable for a few nights.

The American side of Niagara Falls was interesting and beautiful and crowded. Our first campground was in New York. Mostly an RV park where people must come pretty regularly for the season. One RV was even getting a newspaper delivered if the post outside was any indication. It was really cute and well maintained though. After that, we headed off to Winter Island Park in Salem, Ma. If you’re reading this, I really need you to buy my books and have your friends do the same. I want to retire in Salem. Maybe open a bookstore or just write more books. I love it there. It feels like I could belong there. It’s marvelous up there. And I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly city in my life! There were bowls of water out on the sidewalks, every fourth person had a dog with them (and my oldest took pictures of ALL OF THEM).

Moray Eel at Boston Aquarium

We hopped down to Boston and did part of the Freedom Trail. I could not manage to do the whole thing. If you have mobility issues – do yourself a favor and get the trolley tour. Walking it is very hard and those cobbles are beautiful but hard on the feet and joints. We did the Aquarium first and then Faneuil Hall (both the market and the museum portion) before heading to the Old North Church. We finished off at the USS Constitution which was super neat. We had some great food – bacon wrapped scallops, fried calamari, crab cake BLTs (seriously!). We had some terrible coffee – instant Starbucks isn’t any better than regular Starbucks, somehow they make everything taste burnt to me! but the Alpine instant stuff from REI really wasn’t bad.

I bought less than I expected and certainly less of the sorts of things I expected. I did find a Funko Ludo and I love him so the marvelous husband bought him for me. And a silver raven skull necklace. I’m having a thing for corvids right now – especially ravens and crows. Perhaps I’m in transition, perhaps they’re being my muse. Whatever, it’s a thing in my life right now so it made it all the more special.

Winter island lighthouse

We also went through the House of Seven Gables. Let me tell you, there has never been a face so full of joy and wonder as my oldest son’s when they opened up that particular staircase. I live for moments like that. Oldest child had some preconceived notions of some things and was mostly using Fallout for his touchstone but it’s pretty interesting watching the kids learn stuff. The youngest child wasn’t really interested in that part but maybe someday he’ll figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to forget any time soon.

We drove through our old stomping grounds in part so the oldest boy could take a look at Wesleyan in Connecticut and in part because it’s quite the walk down memory lane for us. We even made it to our first apartment building. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the boy ended up in New England. It’d be a great excuse to visit.

 

 

 

Young Komodo Dragon at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland

Coming home, we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. It’s a really cute but very small zoo devoted to reptiles. They have two – TWO – young Komodo dragons which just so happen to be my husband’s favorite things ever. Pretty sure he feels about them the way I do about octopus and ravens. We had a good time until the birds (where my husband and oldest son proved that they might just be Disney Princesses). My youngest son is autistic and tends to be quite literal. People kept trying to hand him seed sticks to feed the birds and he’d get mad because he thought they were trying to feed him and he’s not a bird (he also doesn’t really like to touch animals that aren’t his critters so much). I’m used to explaining to him when he misunderstands. I’m used to explaining to other people when he misunderstands. I am not used to strange women grabbing me by the shoulders and explaining, very forcefully, that they understand. My brain completely blanked and all I could say was thank you. I appreciate the sentiment greatly (especially the day after) but really, I’m not a fan of people in my space bubble and I’m especially not happy when people are touching me. I don’t know how she wanted me to respond but I don’t think I did it right, I sort of fled. Ok, not sort of, I did flee. Youngest kid and I went out to the gift shop while the other two were playing with parakeets.

Winter Island Park

The most annoying part of the trip though is the fact that we did ALL that walking, none of the snacking, and I managed somehow to stay the exact same weight. That’s some real BS right there. Sure some of what we ate, especially on the way home, wasn’t maybe the best for weight loss but still, I really thought there’d be some drop. And I still have to do all the laundry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Autism, Fun, Interesting, kids, Life, marriage, Memories, Parenting, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Busy Girl

Today was IEP day for my youngest kidlet. It went well, as it usually does, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a twist of nerves and flooded with research in the days leading up to it. There’s a lot going on with him and, even though he is getting better at speaking neurotypical, he’s not there just yet. There are still things he needs a little bit of help with. I’m fortunate to be in a district willing to work with me, even when my ideas maybe aren’t the most orthodox ones. I know a lot of other parents have had problems working within the system, even specifically this system, and I am so grateful that I have had such a comparatively easy road for both kids.

I’ve also been helping my stepmom go through my dad’s things. Some things hit me harder than others. I was doing pretty well with the whole thing until I started looking through his slides. He was a phenomenal photographer who had such an amazing artistic eye for framing and focus. I may be looking into what it will take to do something interesting with some of those – maybe pairing his art with mine. I wish I’d seen some of these images before – I’d have suggested this project directly to him. But it’s a long way off and there’s a lot I’ve got to do before I can do a project like what I’m thinking about.

There’s one image in particular that I’m just struck by. We were in Spokane, WA then, I think I might be four in the picture. I’m wearing a bright red winter coat and it is the only real color in the image. I’m feeding the ducks and swans in Riverfront Park with the pavilion and the clocktower in the background. There is no one else in the picture. Not the old lady with the bag of breadcrumbs. Not a single soul on the grass on the other side of the river. No one on the bridge. I cannot remember a time when there weren’t people milling about everywhere there. It was always one of our favorite places to go on his weekends, puttering around with those birds. Oh, how I loved those swans. It’s a striking image and I really want to do something interesting with it. But I suppose I need to get a print first as it is only a slide.

I’m not getting a lot of usable writing done – it’s all a little too maudlin right now – so I’m doing more editing. I’m polishing up a few things to get ready to send out. I think being in this weird zone is actually making the editing easier because I’m not being drawn to five or six other projects I want to write also.

Dad’s Nikon is a lot different than my Pentax but I think I’m going to dust them off, load them up, and teach the kids how to take proper pictures this summer. If I knew how to do developing, I might just do the whole shebang but I’ll settle for lighting, color, and composition matched with shutter speed, exposure lengths, and that sort of thing. I think it’ll be a nice thing to be able to pass that along. Plus, we’ll maybe figure out if the cameras have any appreciable difference in quality.

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Filed under Autism, Books, kids, Life, Memories

Another Hero Lost

I was sixteen when I first heard Leonard Cohen. My mom had just died and I was a bitter, angry, broken girl (I am still those things some days). His words had no sugar coating, no false happy notes. His work was honest and imperfect and beautiful. His work has inspired my own time and time again. When I was in the darkest parts of my life, he, and the poets he led me to, were a solace of sorts. He showed me that poetry wasn’t just the dry imagery and metaphor we were taught in school, that music was poetry and poetry was music.  It is possible that his music was the first to feel like poetry to me but I don’t know if that was Cohen himself, my own maturation, or the low pit I was crawling out of.  I do know this: I am really tired of losing my idols.

Realistically, I do understand that it feels bigger because superstars weren’t really a thing before this great generation of artists.  At least now these people know that they have touched people, brought comfort or inspiration or joy when it was needed. I know it really isn’t anything about this year but after so many losses, it’s hard not to feel like this year is just determined to break hearts.

 

Like Bowie, it feels like he got a chance to say goodbye with his last album. I’m so tired of goodbye right now. Cohen was the poet I wanted, still want, to grow up to be.

 

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Mother’s Day

my mom and me

My mom and me

Happy Mothers Day to all the mamas out there!

For me, today is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, motherhood is pretty much my favorite thing ever. Even at the worst of it, I wouldn’t trade it for all the coffee, all the money, and all the Doctors in a row. My boys aren’t my whole world but they make my whole world better. On the other hand, thinking of moms makes me miss my mom. A lot. She never got to meet my boys or impart her motherly wisdom or even just commiserate with me over teething, tantrums, or angsty teenagers. She never got to see me succeed at pretty much anything. She never got to know how awesome these two boys of mine are.

I do have older women in my life who I should probably consider to be maternal influences but I don’t. I can’t. It’s not the same. I haven’t called anyone mom since she died – not even a slip with a favorite teacher as happened in my very young years. My mom and I didn’t have a conventional mother/daughter relationship which was probably to our benefit as we got to be bffs too for a few years before she died. Most daughters don’t get to do that until they’re mothers themselves so, I should count myself lucky to have had that experience at all. I’m honestly glad we didn’t have the stress-filled, argumentative relationship so many teenage girls have with their mothers. We parted on good terms, even if it broke my heart. I was sixteen so, for me, there was no chance at all that someone could step in and try to fill that particular hole in my life. I don’t want it filled. It isn’t empty.

Me and my boys

Me and my boys (several years ago)

As far as my own kids go – they’re a lot of fun. Both of them are bright, funny, and talented. They’re even really well behaved (if occasionally full of teenagery attitude). I really lucked out in that department – I love my kids but even better, I really like them too. I know someday they’ll grow up, find spouses to settle down with, and discover the joy of parenting. I hope I can be around to see it. I always knew I was supposed to be a mom and I think it suits me pretty well.

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Another Day, Another Idol

Over the last year it feels like every time I turn around, another incredible talent has died. Prince was an amazing artist, that cannot be disputed. Purple Rain was the first r-rated movie I ever saw (and boy did I get in trouble for it!) at an older neighborhood girl’s birthday party. The music he wrote spoke to me, like he was talking to me. In a way he was, in the broader scope. The path we all take is pretty similar, we don’t all experience the same path and for some, the way is rockier or cleared or full of venomous snakes, depending, but we all have the same ground beneath our feet, sky above our heads, and some bigger things are universal. His work was eclectic and moody and I’m pretty sure everyone can find at least one Prince song that speaks to them.

I want to wrap up all of my remaining idols (and yes, there are still some left) in bubble wrap and put them in quarantine before this year comes for them too. Now, I’m going to go have a good cry so I can be mostly normal by the time the kids get home. Youngest hates when I cry and Oldest teases me.

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The X Files and All The Feels

I’ve done my less personal reviews of the X Files for the Geek Girl Project – See Part One and Part Two but there are some personal feelings I have about it that don’t really belong there.

I’m not shy about talking about my mother, from whom I inherited the crown to this, my fabulous Geekdom. She introduced me to all the best things. I remember watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Buck Rogers with her when I was very small. One day we had an earthquake during Wonder Woman (we lived in Washington at the time). (I admit, my father – the guy who doesn’t do fantasy or science fiction except for what I write – took me to see Star Wars – that was never Mom’s cuppa.)

Then came the X Files. It was treated differently than all the other shows we’d watched together. From the moment the pilot aired, we were solid hooked. It was an order pizza, turn out the lights, unplug the phone event every week that we could share as a family, me, my mom, and my brother (though I don’t think he remembers it much). Other people joined us or didn’t, depending on schedules.

The revival has stirred a LOT of emotions for me. My mom always identified pretty heavily with Dana Scully – an intelligent woman, a feisty redhead who didn’t need a man to be considered a whole person by everyone around her. I nearly burst into tears when Dana came on the screen. Gillian Anderson has aged well and reminds me a great deal of my mother, especially during her strawberry blonde/ soft red phase (before she discovered the copper penny color she loved so much).

It was hard to watch the show and not have someone to throw around speculation and theories after it was done. My family puts up with me doing so anyway but it isn’t the same. I could put them here and air them out but that is also not the same. I guess it’s the one social interaction that I do want to be face to face.

Watching now feels a lot like watching then and that’s awesome. It’s hard to recapture that kind of magic but, for me, I think it’s been quite good at managing. I know that, if my mom were still around, we’d at the very least be on the phone the moment it was over if not making the effort to watch together. That’s the part that makes watching hard. It’s a little like watching Babylon 5 without her or ST:TNG or Sea Quest or VR 5 or Earth 2 (we really watched them ALL). It feels the same watching Doctor Who.

I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that watching the new episodes feels like coming home to visit with old friends. It really does. I’ll watch them all and love them but they’ll all make me a little sad too, make me miss my mom a little bit more. She would love what they are doing as she would not have enjoyed how they left the line they are tugging. I’ll be watching. Just as I always have. When it’s done, I will miss it all over again.

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Filed under Geek, Life, Memories, Reviews, TV

Grabbing the Brass Ring

For a large chunk of my childhood, that phrase was quite literal. I wanted the brass ring more than I wanted anything else. If I was tall enough and clever enough to get the brass ring, then I was big enough. Big enough to what, I’m not entirely sure. What the hell am I talking about? A carousel. Specifically the Looff Carousel in Spokane, Washington. It’s one of the few carousels left where you can still reach for the brass ring, quite literally.

My Brass Ring

My Brass Ring

Every time I went to the park, I’d ride the carousel, mostly on the same horse, and try and stand as tall as I could, reach as far as I could to grab the rings that came down the metal arm. I didn’t want the plastic rings, but I would have been happy with those (sort of). I tried loosening the belt and sitting on my feet (and got yelled at). I stood on my tippy toes and stretched as far as I could but I came up short (ha!) for a long time. Years. I finally managed when I was about ten, give or take a year.  You are supposed to give up your brass ring in exchange for a free trip on the Carousel but I absolutely refused to let it go. Cost my poor dad $10 too.

He tells the story much better than I do but we lived that day through very different eyes. For me, the ring was all that mattered and the rest was not important. For him, the ring was a small part of the big picture.

I haven’t been in Spokane in YEARS but I miss that carousel and think of it often. That and the trash eating goat sculpture. It was such a fun city to be little in.

When I think about grabbing the brass ring now, it’s a lot less literal. For me, the brass ring is getting my stories in the hands of readers who might find them fun, interesting, inspiring, infuriating – I’m not picky about the emotion so long as there is one. A figurative brass ring is a lot harder to catch but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

I’m older and wiser now and the ring has become one part of my big picture but it is one part I’ve not reached yet. I’m a lot closer than I was – I have books published and available to be read, other books still in the process of finding the right publisher, other books still in the writing and editing process. I have a lot of short stories in a lot of anthologies too. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I can see that brass ring now. I think my fingers have brushed it a time or two. I’m not sure how to define when I’ve caught it but I think I’ll know when I do. Of course, when I do, a new brass ring will drop into the arm and I’ll have to chase that one too.

My brass ring is very real but it is a symbol for me. I’ve kept it within easy reach for all these years because it matters to me. It is my reminder that if I am dedicated, if I keep reaching and don’t give up, I’ll snag it eventually.

 

 

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It’s Coming Back!

Years ago, I remember sitting on the couch next to my mother every week and watching Twin Peaks. Maybe more than half of it went over my head then but I was pretty young. A few months before it premiered, we moved across the country from Washington State to Pennsylvania. I missed Seattle a great deal and it was, to me, like having a little bit of home every week.

A few years later, I started making her morning coffee and she always told me it was a damn fine cup of coffee. I’m certain that it wasn’t, at least initially, but it was something just between us, a shared memory, a connection. A few years after that, I drove several hours to visit my best friend at his college for their Lynch marathon weekend. What Lynch weekend would be complete without Twin Peaks? At the time, for me, it was bittersweet, hard enough that I struggled not to be a little puddle of useless. It was very near the time of the first anniversary of my mother’s death.

It’s gotten easier with time – or else I’d never be able to watch any of the things I love so much. It still makes me think of her but not in a weepy way but a warm and fuzzy way.

Hearing that there will be new episodes, not a remake or re-release, but new episodes from the bizarrely brilliant minds that started it is a total geekgasm for me. I may actually have to get showtime just so I don’t miss a minute. I can’t wait to see where all those characters are twenty five years later. I know my mom would be thrilled. I am. I can’t wait to see where they’re going to go with it.

Now, I’m going to go make myself a damn fine cup of coffee and maybe watch a little Fire Walk With Me while the boys are in school.

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Halloween things!

This is one of my favorite times of year, when I get to pull out all my boxes of spooky, creepy, and cute Halloween things and make new ones! When I was younger, my mom and I used to make a lot of Halloween decorations and gifts for people. It’s a very fond memory of mine. It’s a little harder to do that with my kids as neither has the patience and neither likes to get messy and it seems I am incapable of making things without making a mess.

This week, I made something for the Geek Girl Project blog. I think, if my mom was here, it probably would have come out a bit differently but mostly because she was the one with all the artistic ability. She’d have made the Witch King’s flail out of clay or paper mache. And she probably would have been able to make the glorious face mask piece which I did not even attempt.

I have a couple of other crafty things coming up (after I finish them anyway) but this one is pretty neat. And easy. If I can do it, anyone can. Click on him to get directions.DIY Nazgul

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Doctor Who

Only a few more days before the new  Doctor comes… It’s getting harder to wait. The oldest boy and I are waiting anxiously for different reasons. He’s only really known Nu Who. I grew up with the rest of them. I’m hoping we get taken back to a place where the Doctor is less flirty and less touchy feely. From what I’m reading in articles, that should be the case. My oldest boy loves Smith’s Doctor and he was quite sad when the Raggedy man regenerated. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. 

Baker’s Doctor is my favorite with Eccleston’s coming in a close second. I like my Doctor a little darker with a wild, unpredictable edge. Where Baker was childish, Eccleston was reckless. They both were fantastic. I’m hoping very much that Capaldi will be much more like them. It helps to know that Capaldi is a huge Who fan. To me it means that he’ll take care in his representation. You can’t ask for better than that.

I know I’ll likely post again on this after watching his first episode but there’s so much I want to say about the matter. Doctor Who holds a very special place in my heart, much the way that Star Trek does, and Twin Peaks and X Files, and all for the same reason. I am queen of this geekdom, as was my mother before me. She is the reason that fantasy and science fiction hold such large roles in the things that I like. When I was very little, she didn’t want me watching Doctor Who as she felt it would scare me. I would sneak into the living room and watch it from behind the couch anyway. Baker’s Doctor enthralled me and, by the time my mom realized what I was doing, it was too late. After that, I got to watch sitting next to her. Until she remarried and I wasn’t allowed to watch TV anymore anyway. 

When Eccleston’s Doctor hit the air, I was thrilled and nervous, wondering if there was any way it could be as awesome as it had been when I was tiny. I was so relieved when it was and then so heartbroken when the regeneration came so very soon – too soon. I had a hard time transitioning to Tennant’s Doctor but, in rewatching, I can admit to thoroughly enjoying his time as Doctor as well. When Smith came along, he was, to me, too young and too human. The oldest boy took interest about half way through Smith’s tenure and I think he’s hoping for a different kind of Doctor than I am. It will be interesting to see what happens. Oldest child is wearing his TARDIS socks today in honor of the show (and the fact that one of his teachers appears to be a Whovian too). The youngest boy likes everything the oldest boy likes so, he watches too.

It’s become a thing I can share with my kids the way my mom did with me (though I never made them hide behind the furniture to see it). She can’t be here to see them, to know them, but, with the Doctor, and all those other wonderful shows and movies, I can share a piece of her with them. She encouraged science fiction and fantasy in all things and I’ve done the same with my own children. In these wide and beautiful and sometimes scary worlds where anything can happen and nothing is exactly what it seems, you find wonder and amazement and hope. Those things matter. 

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Filed under Fun, Geek, kids, Memories, Parenting, TV