Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nancy, Faces of Death, and Dry Ice Birthday

Cousin Kat came up for Labor Day weekend to say goodbye to her Grandma Nancy. Even though she couldn't be there for the funeral and won't be there for interment, being able to come up and say goodbye in her own way was really necessary for closure. So she came up and Hannah and I pretty much adopted her for while she was in town. It was really nice getting to spend some time with her and I am sad that she's gone already. I'll get to spend some more time with her in October at the end of the honeymoon though and that will be good.

Our goodbye to Nancy was a crazy day. First of all, Washington and Idaho and surrounding areas are absolutely filled with wildfire smoke right now. It's like a permanent haze of filth and yuck and it's making everyone sick. We woke to this smoke on Labor Day and knew already the day was going to be weird. That morning we went to see friends and to go through some of the things they are getting rid of. I found an athame among other things. Also she lent me her stature representation of the god Herne (Cernunnos) so that we could work with him before the wedding. I'm going to spend some time with him over the weekend.

For me he's 'horned god' instead of a name because I always feel like I'm saying or using the names wrong. I want to really meditate on his aspects and find out which aspect I would like to write into the handfasting ceremony script. All aspects are welcome of course, but I would like my words to make sense when I write them and for that I need a little time to get to know him better.

After visiting our friends we headed to my mom's house and debated whether to go all the way over the hill to visit Nancy's 'soon to be' grave or not considering the awful weather. In the end it was just too important not to go. So we headed over east and stopped in Kellogg to look around. Kat was feeling very nostalgic so we drove around some of her old haunts and relived some memories. We also went to where Nancy's spirit burned down a building - at least we're pretty sure it was Nancy's spirit. An old hotel and a bed and breakfast burst into flame on the night of her memorial rosary. The cause of fire is still yet to be determined. Which in my mind means Nancy did it. She was a feisty lady in life, of course she would be just as feisty in spirit form. 

While we drove up in that area we happened up on a video rental store going out of business and we decided on a whim to go and check it out. Turns out it was more than just a rental store. The man running the store was a witch, if not Pagan, and had a ton of really neat witchy stuff as well as super rare and bizarre collectibles. He was also a gore and horror movie aficionado and had movies that most of us will never see a hard copy of in real life.

He had 'Faces of Death' and 'Nekromatik' and many others. I picked up Chaos and Martyrs since I, too, enjoy horror and gore. I also found a small cast iron cauldron with pentacles on either side. And Hannah found some CDs and an old copy of Gothic Beauty magazine which we will most likely be framing some articles from. Kat even found some neat things. It was a really surreal experience going into that shop. He said he works a different job and so he only opens up this store on Mondays. How fortuitous of us to be there on a Monday. 

After this we went to the Day Cemetery in Osburn. Nancy remains are going to be laid to rest with Uncle Frank's remains. So we visited Uncle Frank's grave to visit him and also to say goodbye to Nancy because we were pretty darn sure her spirit was already there even if her ashes weren't. We gathered around the headstone. We lit some sage and a grandma candle for Kat (she can take it home and light it when she needs some grandma Nancy love) and did a small blot, passing around a growler full of Pepsi, to praise Nan and share our memories of her. It was really nice and at the end of it I felt goosebumps. I know that Kat really needed to have that moment and I'm really glad we made it down there for her.

Since that night, the house had felt a little weird. I noticed something funny in the Bowie room the other night and then again after we came back from the Silver Valley (Kellogg area). I know that Narcisa freaked out horribly after we got back from the Silver Valley and we think it might have been something (a smell? a spirit? a emotion?) that we brought back with us from the old DVD rental place or maybe from the cemetery. Anyway, I think we should do a little smudging this weekend and see if we can't reinvigorate the house for a while and keep things positive.

Last thing: my birthday is coming up. My mother had planned to do a murder party for me (yes, it really is as cool as it sounds!) but she just had surgery and so we're going to put that off for another time. Maybe for Hannah's birthday next spring. Instead, I'm going to put together a lab for 'easy to do at home' science experiments and play the mad scientist for the evening. One of the things I'm definitely going to do is use my old, old fire extinguisher (as long as it's a CO2 based one) and make some mutha-fuckin' dry ice! Please observe this video where the process is made simple and fun.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nanny Goat's Legacy

I spent last Saturday morning planning our the framework of the wedding ceremony with our officiant and her husband. It was a wonderful morning and I felt about a million times better about the wedding once we were done. I now have to write the script and make a logistics list and then on to the other million and one things!

Such a great morning and great lunch. I feel so blessed to have these people in my life and I was especially happy to get to spend so much time with them that day.

Saturday afternoon, however, was a little different. I found out via a quick voice message from my mom that my Aunt Nancy was dead. Just like that. I couldn't call mom because she was already on her way down to the silver valley and her cell was out of working range and my dad didn't have much more info than what was in the voicemail. Of my aunts, I have three that I speak with on a semi regular basis and feel are on my side. My two Aunt Bunnies (Lola on my mom's side, Barbara on my dad's side) and then Nan. Mom called her Nanny Goat and, sometimes, Fancy Nancy.

She was quirky and tall and dressed like Dorothy from Golden girls. She didn't like reptiles but she loved my iguana. Her favorite treat was a bottle of ice cold Pepsi and a slice of Tillamook sharp cheddar. She was probably my greatest fan and even after my vocal nodes destroyed my chance of professional singing, she still found ways to force me to perform here and there, talking me up as if I were actually someone to talk about. And, dang, did she love her wild animal prints. Her bedroom motif was Africa. She was particular and there were times she was a downright turd. And for as wild and rebellious as she was, she was also a total prude.

She had eight children. One died shortly after birth. Born and died decades before my parents had even met. I visited his grave in Colorado. Another child died in a car accident. A grown man with two children of his own - that was the first horrific tragedy our family had known. We'd been lucky thus far. A third child of Nancy's died while hitchhiking between towns in the silver valley. The third child was a grown man who was so sick by the time he died that he looked older than his own mother. Of all her loses, though, the one that nearly killed her was losing her husband. She said losing a child is the worst thing you can imagine. But losing a mate is like losing your soul.

Nancy leaves behind five children and plethora of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Also her dog, Taffy, who came to her shortly after Nan lost her husband. This little doe-faced dog saved her life I think. For many, many years it's been Nanny and Taffy, the inseparable duo. They are separated now, though, and my mom told me that she held Taffy on Sunday and cuddled her and the dog cried. It was like she finally understood that mommy wasn't coming back.

Mom told me how Nancy went. She woke up Saturday to get ready to go to dialysis. Her neighbor had checked in on her. When the bus arrived to take her to the hospital, they waited and waited and no one came out. Finally they went in and she was asleep in her chair. Asleep forever. I thank the gods for her peaceful passing. This woman had spinal meningitis twice. She suffered from a myriad of medical problems and was a chain smoker for most of her life. She'd been on dialysis for years and years. She was no stranger to pain and had been in such pain once that she'd prayed for her god to take her. So for her to have passed as if she were sleeping is something I am eternally thankful for. Until we meet in another life: farewell, Nanny Goat.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Pagan Princesses Passionately Paired - Handfasting 101

I've read a good deal about handfasting and I've had the pleasure of witness our Officiant marry/perform the handfasting for a couple of our good friends. Also I have a good brain! I think. But despite reading about it and witnessing one ceremony, I realize two things:

1) I have no fucking clue what I'm doing! I have never written or drafted anything like this before. I love writing rituals (possibly one of my favorite things to do) but trying to compose words to the feelings of my quickly arriving hand-fasting is proving nearly impossible. I've found some fun sites that provide scripts so that I can get a feel of the rhythm and flow of the ceremony, but I'm still worried. I think it's the Virgo in me wanting this to be perfect. Eventually the Libra cusp side will slow the Virgo's roll. But until then I'm emotionally back in high school broaching a weird life altering deadline - and speaking of life altering...

2) I never thought in a million years I would actually get married. By the time I was in college I had consigned myself, quite readily, over to being a spinster. Even after Hannah made cute, coy love confessions and decided she wanted to be my person, I didn't think we would ever get married. Or I guess I figured it was enough to just say 'ah, we're together forever and that's the same as marriage, so on and so forth,' but then Washington began recognizing same-sex marriage and then marriage equality really became a thing. And then Hannah and I fell in love with the Pagan community and felt like part of a larger family. And of course there was the Facebook incident (wherein Hannah hijacked my social media account and changed my status to 'engaged' in the most passive-aggressive proposal of all time). It worked though. Because here I am, less than two months out from Friday the 13th, frantically trying to create the best damn ritual/ceremony I've ever conceived of!

So now I have to pause and remind myself of two more things. 1) I'm not doing this alone. Hannah and our Officiant are right there with me. And, 2) it doesn't need to be perfect. Just as my quote says above: not perfect, but passionate and full of wonder. That's a relationship. That's a life. That's art. That's love.

Here's a quick list of some of the fun sites I found as well as some of the books I have at home for reference - the last four books are borrowed copies:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Animal Totem Talk

In recent conversation with a friend, the topic of Animal Totems came up. I was reminded a long time ago of a side conversation with someone in the past when I mentioned that I don't eat Octopuses or Squid anymore because I've recognized them as deities/totems for me. The person was shocked that I wouldn't "eat my totem" and I suppose, given the act of transubstantiation in Catholicism whereby they eat the body and blood of Christ every Sunday, that the eating of a totem might make sense. Well, I don't have to worry about eating any animal totems now since I'm no longer eating meat but I am actually very down with a little transubstantiation of my own. 

I believe in the power of symbolism (more so than the protestants who claim the break and wine to be just symbols). If I wanted to partake of my totems, whatever animals they may be, I would symbolically ingest and, therefore, truly ingest the archetypal essence of the creature into my being. For Hannah, who has a fox totem, we could eat fox shaped cookies or make an alcoholic beverage to honor the Arctic Fox or the Bat-Eared Fox. You get the gist. I don't need to put the actual matter of the totems flesh into my body to incorporate it's nutritional (spiritual) value. 

Moving on. I don't know for sure that the Octopus is my official totem as I am sometimes more in awe of it than I am relating to it on a spiritual and characteristic level (or I could be wrong - who knows!) but I know that in light of the conversation with had with our friend the other day a few fun things have happened reinforcing Hannah's totem and opening me up to, if not a totem, an animal spirit guide who has some valuable lessons to teach me. 

Animal Speak
Here's what happened: Hannah and I were telling Rachel about the Animal Speak book that had been the basis of the initial conversation and the Magical Menagerie deck fell from its shelf to the floor. We all turned to look when it dropped all we could made out was something falling - we didn't know what had caused the plunk. Later that night I discovered that it was the Animal oracle and I went, "Hmmmm," and told Hannah we needed to draw a card that night! Well we completely forgot. We are quit often  enormous dinguses (dingii?). We drew a card each the next night. These puppies had been shuffled too. So shuffled. Hannah had shuffled them the first night when they fell and then I shuffled them again. Well I drew first and got Griffin/Gryphon. Hannah drew second and *boom* she drew fox. We are going to make a small Inari shrine in the house at some point as fox has been a huge animal in Hannah's life (and, through being with Hannah, in my life as well).

So Hannah's draw made ridiculously perfect sense. Mine was a little weirder. I didn't think the Griffin was very fitting. At first. I took an online, for fun, Spirit Animal test and got Eagle. I didn't put much stock in the test, but I kept it in the back of my mind because why not? And then I started to hunker down and really think about what the Griffin meant. I am fond of Griffins and since that day I've been seeing them, or reminders of them, everywhere. In fact, that other day I saw a large pink heraldic griffin splayed across the bottom of an extra large license plate. How random? Or not. I found many pictures of griffins with the heads of Bald Eagles and felt that was a neat tie in to the previous test I'd taken. Also I found numerous sites offering pretty similar information: the Griffin is a cross between the King of Land (lion) and the King of Sky (eagle) and is known to symbolize a spiritual quest. That the Griffin is a guardian and a guide, usually as you journey a new spiritual path, or go through a particularly challenging trial. 

So I've been paying attention. I do feel that I need some guidance right now. There have been a lot of changes in my life, and new challenges. My sibling (whom I've been somewhat estranged with) is sick and dying; I'm less than two months out from getting married; my computer is broken and is going to the manufacturer for repairs; we lost a full time employee at work and are going to lose another on the 28th of this month; the house is in a perpetual state of mess; my car may or may not be road worthy enough to go to Seattle; I don't want to keep living at Valley 206 now that they are becoming a tax credit community and will have A) the authority to get rid of us at any time due to how much money I make and B) full access to my bank account information and C) they will be making us sign a year long lease in the next few months after we've been on month-to-month for almost a full year already. And it's getting darker sooner now. I can already feel my brain and body reacting to the waning summer. I'm bracing for the shit emotional time ahead but it's hard to see how everything is going to turn out at this point. And maybe that's why a Griffin jumped off the shelf for me the other night.

A while back I did a written role-play with a friend wherein our two protagonists, a married gay couple, were dealing with ghost possession as well as ancestral bloodline awakenings. It was pretty cool role-play concept and, who knows, we might revisit in the future. We both want to write novels and short stories and it could be fun to turn some of our RPs into novellas or novels. Anyway, my character in the RP (the one dealing with an awakening of his bloodline) was a Chamrosh (which is essentially what you see in the above pic). A chamrosh is a griffin with a wolf's body instead of a lion's. It is the lesser known Persian winged guardian and I spent a lot of time for that RP delving into what a griffin/chamrosh meant and what function one might serve in a story. So when griffin showed up the other night I felt a fun pang of familiarity.

Speaking of RPs, Hannah and I are finally writing one again. Just for fun and also to whet our writing chops again. I've already shared some of the beginning story that spurred her to say 'hey, let's write this out together!' It's been kind of fun to delve into these characters. Neither of them comes from what I would call a horribly tragic past or abusive situation. Both have had shitty moments as well as comfort. It's been fun throwing challenges their way, but mostly they are just a cutesy-nervous couple full of unnecessary, self-depreciating worries and woes. Kind of like most people.

In other news, I recently discovered Leo Moracchioli on Youtube. I will be purchasing a few of these fantastic covers. So far my favorites are Adele's Hello and Frozen's Let it Go. I leave you with a song for now. This started as such a focused blog post (started it a few days ago) and then more and more and more just kept happening. so here we are. Please enjoy Leo's cover.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

General Update - A Weird Tuesday and Other Things

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.
Robert Frost
I hope everyone had a blessed and wonderful Lughnasadh. For me, the Harvest day of August 1 brought some rather interesting things into my life. I was sick in the morning and stayed home to try to sleep off my discomfort. I had wanted to go to work around 1pm so that I didn't have to use a full sick day but I called in a little later and let work know that I couldn't make it in. I now only have two sick days left but we're already in August so I'm not too worried. Also I'm going to be off for most of October so if I can't hack it with two sick days then there's something seriously wrong. 

It turns out that being sick on Tuesday was a necessity because that meant I was home to comfort Hannah upon her return from a very rough doctor's appointment. She really needed me that day and I'm glad I was there for her. She's been dealing with so much, and a lot of it she's trying to tackle by herself with little help from anyone. While that's very admirable she is still healing from surgery and I want her to feel like she can ask me for help. And ask any of our friends. She still has such a hard time doing that though.

The other reason I'm glad I was home on Tuesday was because my mother and father needed to come over and share good news and bad news. The good news was fun but the bad news was pretty dark and life changing. I'm not going to talk about that too much for now. I want to know more about what's going on before I try to come to terms with things. I just know that there will be some very hard times coming and I'm not sure how to feel about it. 

Even the day after this news I was pretty out of it at work. Today I'm doing better. Tonight I'm going to a Stargazing event at the Spokane Valley Library. Should be neat. And on Friday I'm going to ride the Hillyard bus up to meet Hannah at our friend's house for a tea and coffee date. Maybe I'll bring the Nutpods creamer to try. 

On the vegetarian front Hannah and I are doing well however we're getting trapped, or feeling trapped, in what we eat. We need to research more recipes and be more adventurous. I recently saw a cool way to cook eggplant that I want to try (I can't believe I'm eating eggplant and actually enjoying it) and also I want us to invest in more salad toppings like fruit, nuts, and seeds. I'm still eating cheese and I've decided that for now I'm not going to stress about going dairy free until we are past the wedding and the honeymoon. I would like to limit animal products to just about nil but that will take some time and adjusting.

Recently, Hannah and I spent some time with the twins in Moscow. They are going to take care of bachelorette party planning and also they are going to be my smudgers! I'm really excited about this. But thinking about parties and about the wedding makes me realize how much there still needs to be done. I am worried about money (always, always, always... story of my life is a worry over money) but I'm not as worried as I thought I would be. Hopefully that's a good sign. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Storytime! So gay... so very, very gay...

From the start of our relationship, storytelling has always been an important element of bonding for Hannah and me. At night we often read out loud to each other or I will make up a bedtime story for her to listen to until she falls asleep. More often than not I'm the one who gets put to sleep but that's beside the point.

Sometimes my bedtime stories are innocent and about animals and mythical beasts. Sometimes they are epic Dungeons and Dragons type adventures. Most of the time though, regardless of setting, they are romantic (a.k.a. smutty) in nature. And because I'm a big old pervert I usually make the 'mating couples' same sex, related, or involved in some heavy BDSM. Because that's just how I roll. 

Last night's story was cutesy. Before bed Hannah and I had just finished watching Junjo Romantica Season 3 and were feeling particularly fond of jealous semes, embarrassed ukes, and light-hearted angst. So the setting for my story was of course college life and my protagonist and love interest were the nerdy virgin and the rebellious older boy. I do enjoy a good archetypal pairing of The Fool with The Devil. 

I'm going to chronicle it here for fun. This is going to be quick writing (don't expect amazing prose) and will involve male/male romance. I figure if you've followed this blog for very long the latter will not surprise you in the least. With that said, here's some word vomit:

Donovan Sharpe was the kind of boy who didn't go to bars. So how he ended up at Balboa the night before fall semester started was a bit of a mystery. Maybe he just wanted to feel normal for once, like he wasn't a complete antisocial loser who preferred books to people, or maybe he thought this qualified as an act of defiance against "the man." His brother was always telling him that he needed a little defiance in his life. But Donovan was more about compliance than defiance. Perhaps he was at the bar trying to comply with the expectations of every other college kid he'd ever met. Drink. Fuck. Party. Have fun. Well, he supposed he could at least drink. But not too much. There was class in the morning after all.

So he went out to the bar best known for regrettable hookups, mob-like brawls, and a stunning consistency for health code violations, looking for trouble. Maybe trouble. Mostly looking to eat something and have a beer. He ordered the Rocky Burger and Bud-Lite. 

Weirdly enough, on this night, right before classes at Hamilton Bay Community College were about to start up again, the bar was practically deserted. He guessed the fighting, fucking, fun crowd must have stayed home in preparation for classes tomorrow. That suited him just fine. On the few other times he'd been out to the bar -- dragged by those who pitied him enough to be seen with him in public -- the atmosphere had been chaos. This was better. He preferred the quiet.

When he finished his burger he brought the plate to the bar and took a seat there. The bar tender asked if he was ready for another Bud-Lite but he shook his head. 

Someone entered the bar. The air in the room changed. Barometric pressure or maybe cologne.

Donovan turned to see who had just come in and for a split second everything seemed to move in slow motion, like some bad guy intro from an 80's flick. There was a man there, walking - more like strutting - into the bar. He wore black leather pants and a black leather jacket. His shirt looked like this:

Donovan didn't know what Eisbrecher was but he figured it was music that could only give him a headache. However, it wasn't the man's shirt that really struck him; it was the man's eyes. The man had entered wearing a motorcycle helmet, but he'd just taken it off. Donovan found himself staring at at pitch black tousled hair, matted to the forehead, framing along the cheeks. All tufts pointing toward ice-blue eyes. And the man stared right back. He raised and eyebrow and looked around the bar then approached.

"This place always like this?"

Donovan swallowed hard and cleared his throat. "You mean, is it always this blessedly empty? I wish. It's usually a madhouse."

"Well, that's a relief," the man said and chuckled. "No offense, but I hate dead bars." He took the seat right next to Donovan. "I'll have a Guinness, please."

Donovan looked away then. This many was totally not his type. Which, he supposed implied that he had a type. Which was utter nonsense because the only chemistry he'd ever had between himself and another person was during science lab last year when the beaker exploded all over his partner. Donovan was a rock. He was island. He was all the lyrics to that song.

"So what you do for fun around here?" the man asked.

Donovan looked up. "What?"

"I just moved to town. So I don't really know the scene yet. What do you suggest for kicks?"

"Oh, I'm not the one ask about kicks. Or scenes. Or fun. Or anything you'd probably enjoy." He shook his head and lifted Bud-Lite to his lips.

"Wow." The man grinned. "Okay, forget about me for a second. What do you like?  What's a fun night for Mr. Lite-Beer?"

"You'll laugh."

"No, I won't." The man said.

Donovan narrowed his eyes. "I like reading."

"Really?" The man said and nodded with consideration. "Where do you like to read?"

"In bed."

"In bed. I see." The man was quiet a minute. His lips curled into a sly grin. "Naked?"

"What?! No!"

"That's too bad." He took a gulp of Guinness. "So what do you like to read?"

Donovan stared into the man's blue eyes for a moment and then looked at his beer. It was almost empty.

"Books. I don't know. Stuff. Look, I just came here for a burger. I don't even know you..."

"Name's Peter." The man hailed over the bartender. "Another round of whatever piss beer he's drinking please. It's on me."

And five beers later Donovan had told him pretty much every book he had in his personal library. They'd talked about music and poetry and science. Nothing too heady, just fun facts and popular ideas. They talked about Peter's shirt and the man even played an Eisbrecher tune on his phone and held it up to Donovan's ear. He was right, it was music that would give him a headache. And yet he didn't pull away, he leaned into the phone and picked out the a few German words he knew. All in all it wasn't too bad. And the music smelled like musk. Or maybe it was the man's wrist, dabbed with some earthy cologne, that smelled so good.


I was going to write out a lot more of the story thus far but this is all I'm in the mood to spit out. Also Hannah and I have decided to RP these goofballs a little bit. A lot has changed since I wrote this blurb last Friday (yeah, I know I'm a late poster!): Donovan's name has been changed to Declan and his major is now English and Writing. Peter is much the same, though we've learned now that he's much more insecure than he lets on. Yay for storytime! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Meatless in Seattle

Well not really in Seattle yet. That's the plan for the Honeymoon. But first let's talk about the meatless part. For health reasons as well as ethical reasons Hannah and I have decided to adopt a meatless lifestyle. I am pushing toward full vegan in the future but that's for myself. As of right now we do still eat some cheese and butter. But that's really it. We no longer use eggs or milk. Also we're avoiding things like rennet and lard and other sneaky animal products that people like to put in seemingly innocuous things. It's going to be an adventure for us, that's for sure. 

We've been eating differently for two going on three weeks and while I haven't felt the miraculous surge of energy that our friend (who is going veggie as well) has felt, I do feel better. I am happier when I eat and I don't crave for the sweets. That alone is an amazing improvement. I am a giant sweet tooth and used to demand dessert after every dinner or I just didn't feel right. In fact I would opt for dessert over dinner if I could. I do still enjoy a sweet dish (such as vegan pancakes with fruit topping, or an apple cinnamon oatmeal breakfast cup) but I'm not longing for candy and pastries. That being said there are a few vegan treats I definitely want to try when I get the chance, but there's no intense rush.

In other news, Hannah and I are not only cutting meat from our diet, we are beginning Yoga classes. I really enjoyed the first one that we went to a little over a week ago. It was damn challenging and the next morning my hips felt like I'd been fucked by a steam roller. We are going to dip into Yoga the same way we are dipping into vegetarianism: gently and slowly. These are long term changes we are making and don't want to do jump ahead of ourselves and get overwhelmed. But I am very excited about both of these changes. We are beginning to resemble the quintessential stereotype of 'American white girl:' pumpkin spice is our creed, we're vegetarians, we like home brewed and craft beers, we do yoga, and we're into earth bound spirituality. On the surface we're new-age yoga yuppies. And I'm kind of okay with that. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sensitive Schmucks: or how I learned to stop worrying and just be offensive

I recently saw an article about Sensitivity Readers and what they mean for the publishing ecosystem. According to Writing in the Margins, "A sensitivity reader reads through a manuscript for issues of representation and for instances of bias on the page. The goal of a sensitivity reader isn’t to edit a manuscript clarity and logic, although that may be an additional service offered. A sensitivity reader reviews a manuscript for internalized bias and negatively charged language." Essentially they are word aggression police. They will help your characters be less offensive to a broad readership. They will also help uncover stereotypes and marginalizations that may exist in your narrative. They are here to help us poor writers who just don't know any better. 

Fuck them.

I know we live in an eggshell world comprised of social justice zealots and trigger warnings but isn't writing supposed to be an escape from that world? My characters use harmful slurs, my characters think in stereotypes. They're flawed and ugly. Bitter and broken. My bad guys rape and murder and whisper things that make me extremely uncomfortable to write. Even my YA writing is squick-worthy. 

But wouldn't I reach a larger crowd if I kept the overall voice of the narrative just a little less offensive? 

Do I care? If my book has any merit, it'll reach the people who need to read it. So what if someone's offended. In fact, wouldn't it be worse if no one was offended? I write about theocracies that degrade and humiliate women. Please be offended! This is horrible. I write about people who molest and harm children. I write characters who are assassins who value money above human life. I write people who struggle to be decent and fail, fail, fail. So they're going to think, say, and feel horrible things. So go on. Feel something. Be angry. Be angry at the story, at the writing, at the writer, at the barbed-wire world all around us hidden under everyone's niceties and social gloss. Be angry because somewhere in the world there's a woman who has to wear an anti-rape tube inside her vagina for when, not if, she gets violated. Be angry because the best we could do for presidential candidates was Tweedle-dee or Tweedle-dum. 

I'm not saying don't wince at the N word. I'm not saying go out and be rude. I'm not saying use "faggot" when you want to call something "stupid." I hate that. It's very offensive to me. Which is why I continue to use it in my writing. It's why some of my characters marginalize women. It's why some of my characters think foreigners are evil. It's why some of my foreigners really are. 

If we tame our narrative to the standards of social justice, then we're cheating ourselves. And, worse than that, we're cheating our characters. In the example from the article a character thought to himself that it would be easier for girls to come out as lesbian than for boys to come out as gay because everyone seems to like lesbians. This apparently was very offensive. Sure, in the real world, it is offensive because it's bullshit that one should be more accepted than the other. But in the book, why should the author have to change her fucking character's personal thoughts just to downplay an incorrect social assumption?

Perhaps a character says something offensive that you the writer hadn't intended to be offensive. Well, unless it's a legitimate typo on the author's part, I'd say your character just told you something about himself, and you should listen and expand on that. The straight choir director calls the Altos the "Flaming Lips" as a joke. You as the writer are innocently trying to reference the musical group, but your reader understands some form of latent homophobia. Play. That. Shit. Up. Your straight little choir director just became a lot more flawed, a lot more interesting, and a much better character. Not a better person, mind you, but definitely a better character.  

During my MFA, Sterling Watson shared one of his many mantras, "Make it worse. Make it hot." If you've got a racist character, then let him be racist. Make it as horrible for your character as it is for your reader. Make your reader feel something. The sensitivity reader would have us objectively portraying difficulties between characters without allowing the inner voice to dip into the crude sludge that shapes the human condition. I would use the sensitivity reader for one thing: seek thee out all of my offensive bullshit so that I may pour gasoline on it and watch people lose their fucking minds. 

"I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I'm afraid it will not be controversial." ~ Flannery O'Conner

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Flower Power: A Divine Pair

This past full moon (Wednesday, May, 10th) I led a small ritual with a few friends. We were trying out a new space and just sort of getting a feel for the land spirits as well as trying to tame a bit of the magical chaos we had all been feeling lately. We celebrated the full flower moon with candles, sage, flowers, and a water centered magical activity. I had planned to write out a meditation to lead but as I began writing it felt off somehow. So, instead, I selected a Plant Ally Meditation from Youtube that I believed would encompass what I wanted to achieve with the meditative portion of the celebration. It probably would have. But it was recorded too softly for us to be able to utilize it during the ritual. I was faced with either improvising a meditation or scrapping it. 

Thank the Goddess I chose to wing it. I did a Plant Ally Guided Meditation that took us into a dark and thriving forest to a small plant hidden within a rotting log. We each drew our respective plant-life from the decay and formed a bond with the spirit inhabiting the flower. After the meditation I asked everyone what their flower was and what the spirit looked like. It was really neat to hear everyone's experience. Magically I was able to relax enough, even while speaking, to find my own flower. At first I wasn't sure what it was but it was a red full bloom, thin, tissue-like petals. I realized it was a poppy. This surprised me as my favorite flowers are Bleeding Hearts, Tulips, and Fuchsia. So I tucked this away, planning to look into the symbolism and the 'why' later. Hannah's flower was a blue daisy. Again a bit of a surprise since she's an Orchid and Rose girl all the way. 

Hannah learned later that the Daisy is Freyja's flower. It was sweet, like the goddess was waving to Hannah saying, "I'm still here with you!" 

The fact that flower was blue in Hannah's meditation is also interesting. It's one of the most calming colors in chromotherapy. It is also healing and it is the leading favorite color of the human race. It is above us and below us and universal. When I think Daisy I automatically think white so the blue was very deliberate. To be honest I didn't think blue daisies actually existed outside Hannah's meditation. I was wrong. They are quite real and quite lovely.

Inspired by Hannah's flower Ally and symbolism, I did a little research into the meaning behind the Poppy flower. The Poppy, of course, produces the poppy seed which leads to opium and all sorts of sleep inducing highly addictive substances. But the archetypal correspondence for the flower is actually Morpheus, the Greek god of Dreams. Which is rather appropriate as my last name literally translates into: the dreamer. 

I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and of dream analysis/divination and mythology in general. One of my stories deals with a Baku which is benevolent creature from Japanese folklore that survives by eating dreams, specifically nightmares. 

When I was younger I had vivid reoccurring dreams about an old robed woman who came down every night to make sure my family was asleep and if were caught awake, she would kill us presumably. It was a terrible dream, one which I had every night for months and months. Looking back on it now I wonder if it was my fear of mortality already creeping in at the tender young age of 6. Many of my dreams live on in story form or help me to create characters. So, long story short, the Poppy seems a very apropos Ally. 

Here's where it gets really interesting though:
For about two weeks I've been working as a freelance transcriber through It's not a huge amount of pay but I figure I can bring in an extra $25 or so a week and get a few side bills paid down (or, more than likely, put it all toward wedding expenses). Well, the other night I had a job that gave me some pause. As a transcriber we are supposed to type what we hear and not correct things that are misspoken by the speakers. Well I had a speaker say an author's name but she said it way off. I discovered the correct name and was debating on whether or not to put the correct spelling in or try to phonetically tackle the speakers gross mispronunciation. So I went to the forums on the site to see if anyone else had asked a similar question.

I didn't find my question but I fell down an immediate rabbit hole. There were so many interesting topics and threads. After perusing for a few minutes I stumbled upon a thread of a transcriber asking for help listening to a 3 second sound bit to see if anyone could pick out a certain word. The content dealt the energy and balance and the goddess. So of course I was curious! I clicked on the link to the audio and found that it was actually a video recording. I saw a woman speaking to a camera and thought nothing much of it until I noticed what was behind her: poppies and blue daisies.

Until that moment I would never have thought that red poppies and blue daisies could be a thing. Hell, I didn't even know blue daisies were a thing until researching them after Hannah's meditation. Shocked and inspired by this, I went on a google search to see if I couldn't find a picture of the painting behind the woman (you know, on the off chance that it was a classic or well known painting). I didn't find the painting but what I did find was further evidence of the marriage between red poppies and blue daisies.

Apparently these two flowers pair up nicely on many fabrics and prints. Perhaps a more popular pairing is poppy with cornflower or poppy with white daisy, but there was enough red poppy and blue daisy to convince me that not only is this combination a thing, it must somehow stem from some kind of archetypal knowledge. How random for Hannah to see a blue daisy and how utterly strange for me to pick a poppy. And yet, maybe it wasn't random or strange at all. Maybe it was just what we needed. I'm not entirely certain yet what the synchronicities mean for me or Hannah, but I know there is meaning and I find deep comfort in that.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pendulum of Self Doubt and Malaise and my OTPs

Fanart of Craig and Tweek from South Park.
I'm very much in rollercoaster mode these last few weeks. While I'm doing better with longer days and more sun, I'm still riding a pendulum that moves from "I can do this, I can accomplish all the things," to "who am I kidding?" at a rate that makes my head spin. Worse is that I think my body is reacting to my mental state in a very real way. For instance, I had huge and glorious plans for Beltane yet I ended up sleeping about 17 hours off and on from the time I got home from work on Sunday until Monday evening. I whimpered and fussed and cried a little. I couldn't keep my eyes open. I had a similar experience last night. 

One and Shell from Blood Bank.
I got home and unveiled all these plans to Hannah--plans to finally make the Bowie room into something useful for guests and for us, plans to get some writing done, plans to wage war with the squirrels in the back yard who have decided to attack my plants this year--and in the end all I could do was weep and whine and curl up in bed. I slept my 8+ hours last night and then crawled out into the living room for two more rounds of sleep. It's late in the afternoon now and I fear if I closed my eyes for even a second I would pass out all over again. I can't seem to wake up. I can't seem to make things happen. I did manage to write a small 5 page scene the other day for a friend. That is the first finished piece of writing I've accomplished since graduating from Solstice. It was a triumph and yet it reminds me of how far I've fallen in this respect. 
Craig and Tweek again.
Full time employment makes it very difficult for me. I know that's just a huge excuse. I know that there are lots of creative people who still make time to hone and perfect their craft while holding down a 9-5. I admire those people and wish I could be one of them but the truth is... there isn't enough of me right now. I give so much at work. I try not to over exert myself, I try not to let out all of my good energy while there, but more often than not that's what I seem to be doing. Leaving only my negative side for home. Leaving only my doubts and darkness. 

One and Shell again.
It doesn't always feel like that but lately I can't seem to shake it. I'm going to try to mess with the Bowie room today. But even just now, while writing this, I closed my eyes and ended up nodding off in a trance and typing a hundred or so w's.  I just want to wake up. Even when I'm at work I fight to keep alert. I think if I could open my eyes I could do amazing things. Why am I so tired? 

One of my absolute favorite fanarts of Craig and Tweek. If you know anything about the show,
you'll notice that they've switched idiosyncrasies in this picture. Love it. 
On a different note, I wanted to share and promote the Blood Bank Webcomic by Silb. It is absolutely amazing and it is a constant source of happy place for me. I don't know when or if a printed edition will be coming out but I'll put aside money and buy the shit out of it. Such a great fresh look at vampires and BDSM. 

Shell and One from Blood Bank. I can't stress enough how excellent the art and writing are.
The other source of silly happiness for me has, of course, been Craig and Tweek from South Park. I've recently binged on more South Park than you can shake a stick at (even a large stick!) and I am rather in love with Creek (the fandom name for shipping Craig and Tweek.) It's silly. But I don't care. It makes me happy. Also as fill this blog with pics of my two OTP couples, I notice that I do sort of favor the black-haired-blue-eyed seme with the blond-haired-green-eyed uke. Interesting.
Another great fanart of Tweek and Craig.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Welcome Spring!

The snow is almost gone. Things are thawing, melting, flooding, growing. Mud is the medium for Earth's expression. Mud and vines and the waking green. This past Monday I celebrated Ostara with a few friends. I started my period too, which, is kind of right on the money for Ostara. During the evening we talked about things here and there and in the end we drew Rune eggs from a cauldron. The Rune suggested things we have to look forward to/work on/focus on for the following year. My rune was Ansuz. This rune means Odin or god. It is the 'A' in our modern alphabet and how fitting because I have no less than eight letter A's in my full name. Three in my first name alone. 

A friend interpreted and divined for me that maybe this is the year to really form a connection with a god or goddess. While I'm very drawn to many deities, I have yet to feel one really claim me and become my patron. Maybe that's just not in the cards for me, but at the same time, I feel I really do want that relationship. I've thought about Thor, Freya, Skadi, Elen of the Ways, Herne, Innana, and several others as potential patrons but I don't know that I've really made myself available to them. I know that I am too in my head most of the time for even the smallest of meditations so really listening to the gods and to the wights and to the fairies and to everything around me is never easy. 

I am always looking to the fallen angel and watcher: Penemue. Enochian lore is very interesting to me from a spiritual and literary standpoint. About ten years ago I played around with a novel about a little fallen angel named Dobiel but didn't get very far. I wouldn't mind revisiting the idea but I would like to learn a lot more about the fallen angles before I do. 

Lately I've felt a huge pull toward 'darker' entities and deities. Sometime in summer I'm going to, with the help of a few friends, perform a ritual to honor the scary, misunderstood, dark, and commonly considered 'evil' of our spiritual brethren. Some of those I want to include are: Lilith, Lucifer, Loki, and Princess Luna. Yes, L was a very intense theme here. But there are more gods and goddesses and creatures that fit this category and I'm open to expanding it or even adding a second part. I know I want to keep the feeling of this ritual light and inquisitive and educational. This is a ritual to explore the necessary and positive aspects these beings represent, not to emulate their less admirable acts. 

In other news, the Hannah is doing amazing. She still has really bad days but more often than not she is finding solace and healing in her writing and I'm very proud of her. Right now we're working on building up strength in both of us. I'm walking to the bus stop again (and bitching about it because damn am I out of shape!); and she's going to start going to the mail box and walking me to the property line of the apartment complex when I leave in the morning, We're hoping that we'll both feel able enough to go and see the big cats at Cattails, which is a big cat rescue reserve in northern Spokane.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Surgery (not as glorious as 'Repo: The Genetic Opera' would lead you to believe)

So I haven't posted in a long time. About three months actually. Things have been difficult for me emotionally. Hannah and I have been fighting to get her a hysterectomy for a long time and the beginning of this year things finally started happening. She's written about much of the experience over on her blog and she's done a great job chronicling the stress and pain she's gone through. And now I want to express a little of what I've gone through as well. 

It is not easy to see your loved one suffer or be jerked around and treated poorly by those in the medical field. Hannah's suffered extreme vaginal bleeding for 8 out of the 9 years we've been together and as a result has been anemic as fuck. For those out there suffering from anemia, I'm so sorry, because it is shitty. It's more than just feeling fatigued. It is a condition that can permanently harm the sufferer if not controlled. In some cases, anemia (low hemoglobin) can lead to heart attacks and death. It's no joke. But for many, many years doctors looked at Hannah and said, "take iron," and sent her on her way. Well iron helps a little but no amount of iron is going to help when you're bleeding through 10 plus feminine pads every fucking day. This became the norm. I started to just accept that this was how it would be forever. But then at the very end of 2016 we learned that it didn't have to be this way. We got in to see a gynecologist and hysterectomy was suddenly on the table. 

For all those years we the frogs sitting in a pot of slowly warming water. But starting in January we finally saw the bubbles of boiling water and panic set in.

Things got worse. Suddenly and terrifyingly. Hormones, hemorrhaging, a trip to the ER, blood draw after blood draw, biopsies, pre-cancerous cells, an irregular EKG, so many doctors, so many ups and downs, a trip the Cancer Center and finally a date for the surgery, February 22nd. But then that date got pushed back. So then March 1st was to be the day. And February 22nd to March 1st was the longest week of my life. I cried every day, had panic attacks, felt a sort of premature loneliness creep over me as if I was preparing for Hannah to die. This was supposed to be just a run of the mill hysterectomy but all of the things around it (the alarmist verbage, the 5 wishes of a dying patient document which I had to sign, the mention that Hannah's weight made this a 'risky' operation) made me feel like Hannah was going to go to sleep and never wake up again.

But she did wake up again.

We arrived at the hospital at about 5:30am. During her pre-op I was allowed to sit with her. She was so nervous. So was I. We chitchatted a little and I told her everything was going to be alright. She wore a bind rune and a drawing of the four elements on her back and I no for a fact that these things worked their magic on both of us. I did cry a little with her in pre-op but mostly I was a silly, fun, strong fiance. The doctor came in and told us that she was going to make five incisions and sent in her robots to do the deed. Well, after she left, I told Hannah that essentially she was going to have Voltron inside of her, which meant that her uterus was Zarkon, which suddenly made surgery kind of epic and perhaps a smidgen less terrifying. She was prepped and taken in for surgery around 7:30 and by 9:30 the doctor herself came out to tell me that Hannah had done well and was in the recovery room. She said that they'd let me go and see her after a little while and that Hannah would be coming home that day. It was surreal. Just like that the surgery was over. It was as surreal as when you wake up in a different country for the first time and really realize where you are. 

There was a moment in post-op recovery that I broke down a little. I was leaning over Hannah, holding up her cup of water so she could drink from the straw. I saw a little crust at the corner of her eye like the salt left from an involuntary tear. I remembered the line in the '5 wishes' thing about "I wish for a warm wash cloth for my face" as a comfort requested by someone near death. Even writing about right now makes me cry a little. Such a small request with such a huge implication. And I just looked at her and imagined how this all could have ended up differently and how thankful I was to the gods that she was just groggy and thirsty and not fading away forever. She saw my crying and playfully, sleepily said, "you really are a wimp." Guilty a mother-fucking charged. I own it. I'm a wimp and I'm really, really happy that the surgery is over and we can start looking toward a future free from the daily worry, emotional and physical pain, and intense fatigue.

She's lying on the couch right now, struggling between medicinally induced sleep and the desire to stay awake and cuddle with me. In about four hours I'll wake her so she can take another pill. So far, aside from some pretty bad aching and a touch of nausea, she's actually doing amazing. I am still afraid to leave her alone. I've seen her shift from doing perfectly fine to sobbing in the bathroom within seconds, so I still want to have someone at home with her while I'm away during this next week for work. But on the whole she's just fantastic. 

And on the subject of fantastic, our friends and support network have been absolutely stunning in their kindness and consideration. I can't even begin to write or verbalize my thankfulness. I am touched beyond words and I know that had it not been for our friends and family, I would be completely lost right now. Thank you to the many who have made Hannah and I feel so very special and loved. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Here's to the Death of 2016

Happy New Year everyone. And I'm so glad it is a new one. 2016 was made of suck. In true Hannah and Amanda form we have yet to send out cards and letters. These are coming, I promise. They may arrive in July but, much like the ukes in Sensitive Pornograph, they are definitely coming. 

2016 took so many people and pets from us all. And it didn't leave without a fight. In the last week I managed to cut myself nice and deep on my thumb (new knife for Christmas doesn't leave one wanting!) and break all my nails. They are my natural nails and I'm used to the longer ones occasionally meeting with a jagged death but not all fucking ten nails at once. I look like... like... someone who cuts their nails. It's horrendous I tell you! 

But not all of the end was bad. There was a spontaneous Hobbit extended editions marathon one day. And Yule was made of ash, mead, reindeer fur, and three lone souls bearing witness to the birth of the new sun after the longest night. And what a sun it is! We've had some beautifully sun shiny days. Cold as fuck but sunny at least. 

Looking forward to the future: Hannah and I are going to start writing 6 hours a week. That's the minimum that Brander Sanderson, the author of the Mistborn series) prescribes his students in his college writing class. I think 6 is fair and more than doable. I think I shall start with a short story and then return to Death Man. I need to finish that so that I can do two things: send it out and get on my life! Haha. I feel trapped by my desire to make it perfect, but I keep forgetting what my first MFA mentor told me and that is - it will never be perfect. There will always be a sentence you wish you could tweak or a phrase that you want to go back and hash over again and again. In short, you will never be finished writing. You're never finished composing. But there comes a point when the book itself is finished with you. And that's where I need to be. And soon. 

There's a wolf moon coming up and I would like to greet the full moon in her splendor with wolf howls in the night. I remember last year's Wolf Moon and want to relive the energy though in a much more contained way. The aspect of wolf I want to explore this year is the cunning and sly aspect, the clever watcher from the shadows. I want to embrace those shadows for all the secrets and knowledge that may lie within. 

In other news: the two kitties are getting along remarkably well. They tolerated/cuddled on the same cat bed last night for four hours. However, Narcisa it seems is feeling very under the weather. She's thrown up (very tiny amounts) twice this week and this cat never throws up. I mean she's a rock solid warrior princess, she ain't got time for that shit! Yet she's thrown up twice that we know about and her voice is ragged and scratchy. That may be a result of all the hissing she threw at Thorin when he first came to live here but I think she's caught a cold or something. We're taking her to the vet on Thursday because we're paranoid mommies and don't want to just say "Oh, she'll get over it on her own" because what if she doesn't? What if she suffers for our negligence? So to the vet she goes.