29 December 2017

Real Life Sheldon Cooper...Or Lucy without Ethel

It was nowhere near this cordial.
So, it's Winter Break from Clemson (Christmas, Hannukah, Eid, Kwanza, etc. etc.) and I have literally not left the house since Monday, Christmas Day, when we went to Atlanta. This is a good thing, as I spend a great deal of my time Not Home and Commuting and At Clemson, so in a way, this has been a welcome break. The girls haven't had to stay crated as much and I've gotten some long overdue cleaning done (more on Beetle later).

Yesterday Hubs came home early from work because he had pulled a pretty significant muscle in his back. He did what everyone on earth save me does in that situation - ibuprofen, hot shower, bed in that order. I was out here in the den with the girls (who had just come in from the yard, leaving the basement door open) when I heard him say (not shout) with absolutely no alarm in his voice whatsoever:

"Nancy, there's a bird in the house."

No alarm at all. I thought he was kidding.

"What?" By this point, I paused the episode of The Flash (I'm binge-watching in between housework, hence the HAVE NOT LEFT THE HOUSE IN FOUR DAYS I mentioned earlier) and he said it again, in the same calm tone like he was telling me we might have spag-bol for our tea tonight.

"There's a bird in the house."

Okay, y'all, I love animals. All of them. I do not love all of them being in my house. I also do not love birds in the same I NEED TO SNUGGLE YOU LIKE YESTERDAY way that I love my dogs or cats or cute little critters of many different species. I have a healthy respect for birds that borders on abject fear. Okay, let's be honest, it is fear. The time my ex-husband took my hand while I wasn't looking and led a cockatiel onto my arm I nearly wet my pants in public. I thought I was brave at a pet store in Keighley when I held an owl, but I really wasn't. If you know me well and you have seen the photo of me and that owl, you can see that I was unable, in that moment, to move any part of my body except my eyes.

Also, if you are my friend Anne, aka Lucy to my Ethel or Ethel to my Lucy, you are probably already remembering the time that we tried to get a bird out of the rafters of the garage of your house when I lived with you after moving back from the UK. Why we decided to help a bird out of a garage THAT HAD NO DOOR with only a ladder, a broom, and a beach towel I'm not sure, but the results were pretty much the same as they were yesterday (only without any of those implements).

I came down the hall and asked where the bird was, to find Hubs still comfortably in bed (although sitting up at this point). "Out there," he says, as though he is telling me where Beetle's charging station is or which way to go to find the dog room. I looked into the dog room and there it was, a little bird of the chickadee/wren/finch body type and size, and it was sitting on the top of Willow's crate. So I did what any normal person would in my case.

"What should I do about it?"

After a few wisecracks about not leaving it in the house, Hubs and I decided that I needed to catch it and put it outside. And when I said we decided that I mean he did and I continued to try to avoid screaming.

Did I mention that the girls were in the house at the time? No? Well...I managed to take the baby gate that keeps them out of the dog room and the one that keeps them out of our bedroom and put them at the other end of the hall to keep the dogs in the kitchen...because both of them were now staring down the hall at me. I think the hungry looks in their eyes were all in my imagination, but I certainly did NOT want to get in between them and a nervous bird.

The bird hopped and flew about in mad fashion and, as you (and certainly Anne) can imagine, I did NOT catch it in the t-shirt that I was waving around like an insane matador. Finally the bird had had enough of my shenanigans and flew into the bedroom. By this point, Hubs was out of bed and trying to help - he planned to catch it with his bare hands! It flew under our bed, which is unfortunate for the bird because I can't tell you the last time I cleaned under there, so I pushed on the mattress. Another normal conversation ensued:

Hubs - "What are you doing?"
Me- "Trying to make mattress noises so that it will come back out."
Hubs - "Mattress noises?"

I was about to explain that when you so much as LOOK at our mattress, the entire cheap bedframe (seriously, do NOT buy any furniture from Rooms To Go, it's all cheap) squeaks, but I didn't get a chance to do that because THE BIRD FLEW OUT ON MY SIDE OF THE BED. I hit the deck, Sheldon Cooper Style, and nearly shouted "Bird in the apartment! Bird in the apartment!"

I was not helping at all, and the poor thing went back under the bed for a moment. We had decided that we had to shoo it out an open door rather than catch it, and you should remember that by we I still mean Hubs. In a moment of sheer brilliance, I remembered that we had opened the windows in the bedroom the last time our AC went out and that one of them didn't have a screen.

It was not the one I opened. Of course it wasn't. However, I was able to get the screen pushed out just a bit and left an opening that was just exactly bird-sized but didn't knock the screen out and crashing two stories down to the work site that is Hubs's planned firepit and seating area. Back to shooing. The bird flew back out, I hit the deck again, and Hubs shooed it to the window where it escaped.

As soon as the girls came back in from the yard this morning I shut that basement door. I also locked it, though I know that birds can't generally operate doorknobs. Better safe than sorry.

13 December 2017

For BIMS

Sandy and Margaret McDonald

My friend, I think of you daily
Because I care and it's true
That though we've shared a lot together
It's very rare that I see you

And I want you to know that God loves you
And that I love you too
And that even if we're hardly ever near
I'm talking to Him about you

And I'll be praying for you every morning
As I start off the day with the Lord
And I'll be praying that you're walking with Jesus
And abiding in His Word

I don't know when I'll see you again
A month, a year, or maybe more
But if your heart belongs to the Savior
I'll see you in the sky if not before.

And I want you to know that God loves you
And that I love you too
And that even if we're hardly ever near
I'm talking to Him about you

And I'll be praying for you every morning
As I start off the day with the Lord
And I'll be praying that you're walking with Jesus
And abiding in His Word

Love you so much, my cousin Sandy, my hero. Hug your sisters and your sweet mother for me. I will hug Margaret and the rest of your family for you.

06 November 2017

Sideways...and then some

The I Can't Even face.
Y'all. How is it that things can go from zero to one hundred so fast when I'm not anywhere near where I need to be to help?

This weekend started with Saturday at CRF which was good, just long. Bryn has a weird issue with twilight where her bad behavior gets worse the more day fades into night, and she was tired and cranky and nearly broke both my knees by slamming her giant head into them trying to remove her Perfect Pace harness from her nose OVER AND OVER.

God love that dog.

Sunday was a bit slower which was nice because I felt like the inside of a punching bag, but holy moly did the universe turn that one on its ear in no time flat. I was supposed to meet friends for dinner and a show downtown at 4pm. At 3pm I heard about an incident with the Hounds on the Sunday crew at CRF. I got all the information I could, sent a hurried damage control email to festival administration to let them know we had everything under control, and figured that I could then go downtown (only running about 10 minutes late somehow) and enjoy the musical that lives in my heart before coming back to sort out what happened at the faire that morning. I could not have been more wrong.

I feel the need to pause here and tell you that earlier that morning, Simon and I were laughing at this moment from the Big Bang Theory:

Stuart: Oh, Sheldon, I'm afraid you couldn't be more wrong.
Sheldon: More wrong? Wrong is an absolute state and not subject to gradation.
Stuart: Of course it is. It's a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable, it's very wrong to say it's a suspension bridge.

All kinds of hell broke loose while I was in the theatre and, in theory at least, unable to respond. But me being me, I had to at least check in on what was going on and I think my blood pressure was at an all-time high by the end of the show. I also was not able to fully concentrate on the show which makes me VERY angry at myself.  So now, today, I am sorting through different versions of events and navigating the choppy waters of hurt feelings while all the time walking the tightrope that is our continued existence in a building at this particular faire and I just really want to take a nap. Now. Under my desk.

27 October 2017

And then, this happened...

It was just like this...minus the fur and claws, though.
So as you may have surmised from my previous post, yesterday was not one of my better days. I haven't come that close to just handing in my notice and going home in a long time.

I was mad all evening. I had a fabulous night out with the girls, incredibly scrummy Italian food, everything I needed to cheer me up. But it didn't. I was still walking the line between pleasant fun-time Nancy and will bite your face off for looking at me Nancy. I'm sure that my girls were tired of me complaining, and I'm forever grateful to "Whiskey" for hanging around in the parking lot to listen to me rehash my day. Again.

Got home and watched some telly with Hubs. No longer angry but still annoyed. Firestorm on my FB timeline sort of burned itself out. Still annoyed. I just couldn't seem to shake the WHATEVERITWAS that was driving my blood pressure up and making me twitchy and just generally crabby. I went to bed and woke up several times with a stuffy nose and painful ear (which just reminded me of how I "never get sick and never call out of work" and set me off again). But the last time I managed to drift off, I had a fabulous dream that I'm going to chalk up to equal parts my brain looking for something happy in my miserable Thursday and the universe reminding me that I am loved.

As often happens, I don't remember the exact circumstance, but I was in Savannah, Georgia, and I was in a restaurant and somehow, my oldest friend (that I still maintain contact with, met him when I was 13) Robby and his beautiful family were eating there. I haven't spoken to Robby on the phone or in person since I lived in Alabama in '06-'07, but I heard his voice in my dream as clear as day and followed that sound - the sound of his laugh - over to the table where they were sitting.

I approached the table and immediately he was on his feet, looking down at me with concern. "Are you okay, Lil' Britches?" his voice rumbled and I began to cry and shake my head no. With the care of a parent comforting a child (or, a bear picking up an orphaned child in a Disney movie), Robby hugged me tight and whispered to me that whatever it was, he loved me anyway. As the dream began to fade, he was shaking hands with Simon, I was hugging his wife Kim, and I just felt so much better. It carried over into today, and I have felt...not happy, but content.

While I know that it was my mind that created that scene, I think it's important who my mind picked to be my comforter in whatever storm was brewing in the dream. Let the work-related hurricanes blow.


Look for the bare necessities 
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That's why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life


Love you, Baloo, to the moon and back. -LB

26 October 2017

I got nuttin...

Sorry, what?
So I was asked the other day why it is that I never miss work. "How are you never out sick?" Coincidentally, it was asked by someone that is out of work A LOT, but that is sort of not the point. My answer was that I have to do my job, and in my office now there isn't anyone else that can do what I do (caption and especially not interpret) so what choice do I have? I come to work, even when I'm sick. Though I will say that days like today really do test that theory.

A series of events kicked off today that led me almost to run my mouth to the point that I can't take it back, and now I am stuck in a seemingly endless self-assessment loop that is led by my (as of yet undiagnosed) anxiety mind so you can just imagine what a trip to the seaside THAT is turning out to be. Ugh.

 It started off with a rant (from me) about people that work in higher ed that seem to only be in it so that they can host events and attend conferences and present on VERY IMPORTANT TOPICS rather than to focus on the students that we are here to serve. That's a big pet peeve of mine in the field of disability/accessibility services, and it is a struggle with myownself not to call those people out on a daily basis. Listservs and conferences are important, but they are not the real life day to day experience of students with disabilities. Some grounding is needed.

The day progressed until we ran into the second in the series of unfortunate events: a discussion about the exercise of 1st Amendment Rights, the perceived (and often real) persecution of people in specific minority groups both here at my institution and in the United States as a whole, and the use of one's public figure status to speak out against injustice. In case you're keeping score, the answer is that to do that is inappropriate.

"So, you're saying that a person that is in a minority group should not aspire to higher level public office in order to have that platform to speak out against social injustice?"

"No."

At that point, I was done, or so I thought. I started thinking...well, overthinking if I'm honest, about interpreting the national anthem. Opened up a firestorm on my Facebook wall because in all that overthinking I didn't think it through and got my feelings hurt.

I think I'm done. Or else I just have nothing left. Maybe I just need to go to my room.

19 October 2017

#metoo

#nofilter #goodhairday
Yep, that hashtag in the title means what you think it means. But that's not what I want to talk about today.

I was cruising around on Facebook the other day and was overwhelmed by the number of posts in my timeline that said, simply, "Me too." Blown away. It is the nature of this particular beast that we are certain that we are the only one, especially if we have the opinion that the trauma was of our own making. But that's not what I want to talk about either.

What I want to talk about is the legacy that it leaves, and how I'm looking back at my life now through the #metoo filter. Y'all that know me know what I do for a living. If not, I'm a sign language interpreter. Sign and the Deaf Community have been a part of my life since I was a kid, and it is often my go-to when, as I am want to say, I lose my English. But it is also my go-to when English, specifically auditory English, is too much. My second language has led me through two tours of duty in higher education and a decade of working in mental health, and if I'm honest I have no idea which is scarier, more dangerous, or more triggering.

Enter the self-reflection stage. I posted awhile back about how I feel like I navigate a great deal of my life with my eyes closed. Why do I do that? Fear? Uncertainty? Perhaps because it is just nicer inside my head than out? I think I found out in something that I felt led to respond to another #metoo-er on Facebook. She had posted that there are those creeper moments that you feel you have been violated in some way, nothing has really happened that could be reported, but the icky feeling is still there. My response was this: "In my day job I get this creeper feeling sometimes and I can't put my finger on what is causing it. I try to remind myself that it is not me in the situation, but the two people that I'm interpreting for, and my past creeps in and wrecks my compartmentalizing. That's different...that's me...but when I feel like I'm being addressed directly by a look or inflection then...well, this. Ugh. Throw in the vicarious trauma that just comes with what I do for a living, and I am just never sure but always hyper-aware and it is EXHAUSTING."

I'm not going to detail what happened to me or with/by whom or any of that, it does no real good at this point to rehash all of that. No one has been or will be reported, at least not by me. But I guess I need to talk about the after effects. The hyper-vigilance. The destruction of my ability to trust...not right away, oddly enough, but over the course of the 30+ years since, as I follow the same path over and over and am reinforced in my belief that if someone is kind to me, there is a price tag on that kindness. I'm lucky beyond measure to be married to someone (now, not the first time around for certain) that, if he has a price tag on his love for me, has hidden it so well that I will never find it. I have friends in my life that I adore that I'm fairly certain will have my back, but the little nasty voice is always there telling me that I have to do whatever I can to keep them there.

It's the little stuff too, that this #metoo has made me stop and pay attention to that led me to this post, to share what's in my head in the hopes that it will make a difference. The after effects are real and are at times harder to manage than the actual event. "Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder."

11 October 2017

On nostalgia and panic attacks...

When I was younger, and an elf, apparently.
So I'm sitting here at my desk, minding my own business and thinking it is about time to heat up my lunch when I hear a sound that immediately takes me back to being a kid...a kid during the Cold War.

Clemson is right up the road from the Oconee Nuclear Station. On certain Wednesdays, they test the emergency siren, and that happened again this morning. The emergency siren is an unmistakable sound, and you can hear it for miles and miles. It's also a reminder to me of how my life is different because I was born well before the end of the Cold War.

Hubs and I have been talking more and more about this, possibly spurred on by our viewing of an 18 hour documentary on Vietnam. Our perceptions and remembrances of historical events and people are going to be different because he is British and I am American, but I contend that some of my reactions to things are different because I grew up American during the Cold War. The images we were exposed to of "the enemy," the Communists, were different than those shown to people in other parts of the world.

So I watch as the Clemson students continue their day as though nothing is happening when that siren sounds...and I fight the urge to panic or hide under my desk for a few moments until I remember that the Cold War is over and Duck and Cover drills are no more...for now, at least.

Blogging Face Deployed

Or why I was almost late to the bus on Monday
My "this is getting blogged" face doesn't really work when there's no one around to see it, as happened this morning. I was leaving home and traveling up the big road that connects to our road.

A bit of explanation for those not from the South: a "big road" is one that has fast moving traffic on it and leads to an "even bigger road." For those familiar with Greenville, South Carolina, the "big road" in question is Keith Drive, in the Overbrook area.

So back to me traveling along the big road on my way to the four way stop at Lowndes Hill Road. Y'all, four way stops are the absolute bane of my existence because NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO USE THEM. You get to proceed based on WHO GOT THERE WHEN unless you all, miraculously, arrived at the same time. There was no such miracle this morning.

I got there first, then the car in the oncoming lane and THEN the car to my right rolled to a stop...or so I thought as I proceeded into the intersection. Car To My Right pulled out in front of me and turned right, I suppose, because I was moving too slowly for conditions. That condition seemed to be late arrival at work at the Greenville Humane Society, if the next few minutes were any indication.

I texted hubs to ask if he knew of anyone there with a vehicle matching that description and he didn't, so we moved on...sort of. Y'all...it is not hard to wait your turn. Not hard. The fact that you didn't make it out of the house on time to get to work is not a Go Through Every Intersection First guarantee. Sorry. I'm just glad I was moving slowly or else I would have known for sure who was driving that car because it would have become part of the front end of my car.

So, happy Wednesday, and if you haven't already, review the rules on four way stops. This is why our country can't have nice things like proper roundabouts...there would be carnage.

04 October 2017

Coming soon...but not THAT soon.

So you may have noticed that the book I last blogged about was touted as "the first in a trilogy." As my mother-in-law said, that's a lot of work, doing three books instead of just one! It was, and it has consumed a great deal of my life over the last decade. See that picture over there? That's how my books begin their life, as word documents that may never, ever see the light of day. The fact that this one has clip art on the alleged front matter you see there means either that I needed some inspiration or I was trying to hide from the revision process. Or both.

I have a wonderful friend that is serving as my reader and editor. He is not the first to read the manuscripts and give me feedback - the first reader was mostly looking for plot holes big enough to fit a dragon through and story arcs that dived off cliffs, never to be resolved. I'm so grateful to him for his work, too - when you have spent this long looking at a bunch of words on the screen and you know what plugs the holes and ferries the plot back skyward it is often hard to see those issues.

I have an unfortunate tendency to think that everyone knows what is in my brain and therefore does not need to slog through what I think is boring exposition. Not so, advised my second reader/editor. It was his suggestion that some readers like to make organic discoveries about the story universe as they go along that led me to take out a large and unwieldy chunk of Wanderer and rehome it in the novel it was meant to be in all along - Prequel To Be Named Later. These are things that I simply cannot see in my own work, and makes me understand why normal authors that do this for a living have things like agents and editors to help them along.

Second editor (that sounds a bit like second breakfast, doesn't it?) also helped me with the cover design. This led to major revelation number two: I can let go of control of the Novel Process without letting go of the novel. I don't need to go full Elsa on it. I need to admit to what I cannot do, and gratefully accept help from those that can do. When I do, I get stunning book covers like the one on Wanderer, and hopefully on the rest of the Orana books.  The swooshy looking thing up there will be replaced by something much better.

So Tempest is away with Second Editor, and once that process is done I will do the revisions needed and hopefully get this beast into the hands of my readers by the first of the year. Impatient Nancy says THAT IS THREE WHOLE MONTHS FROM NOW AND FOUR WHOLE MONTHS AFTER WANDERER WHAT GIVES MAN? But rational me knows that while I say first of the year it will most likely be February if not later. And that's okay. Mostly. Excuse me while I put Impatient Nancy back in her box.

If you haven't checked out Wanderer and you have a Nook or a Kindle, give it a go and then let me know here or on Facebook what you think. If you have checked it out, see the previous request for feedback. It is a scary thing to send a piece of work out into the wide world and to have no idea how things are going...if it is drinking or doing drugs, or needs bus fare, or has a mountain of laundry. So while you are discovering Gin and Sath, I'm going to go ring my mother.

02 October 2017

Remember all those times I added author to my NYE resolutions?

Granted, I have already published all of those books in the Proud Racer and Clobberpaws series about my dogs, but this little baby here is the product of a decade worth of writing, editing, revising, crying, hair-pulling, and re-writing. This is the thing that has kept me up at night. This is what I simultaneously feared and longed for most.

The Nature Walker Trilogy is the first part of what I hope will become a series of novels set in the world of Orana. Imagine Tolkien turned on his finely pointed ear. Imagine elves and dwarves and gnomes fighting side by side with giant humanoid cats. Imagine shapeshifters and magic and dragons. That only scratches the surface of what Orana has to offer, and what I am so pleased to be able to bring to my readers.

Wanderer is currently available here on Kindle, here on Amazon in paperback, and here on B&N Nook. If you have purchased a copy I would love to hear what you think, both in the comments here and in the reviews on whatever platform you prefer. I also have a Facebook page (as an author, y'all, can you believe it?) here, and you can leave me a review there as well.

And just for you, my faithful Lettuce-Heads (told you I was keeping it...now I'm hyphenating it!), here is an excerpt from Wanderer, the first in the trilogy. We have one wood elf that is basically afraid of her own shadow (Gin), another who hasn't the good sense to have ANY fear (Elysiam), a dwarf who is the warrior everyone needs (Teeand), a gnome who is the warrior no one expects (Hackort, who hopefully has you on his list of people NOT to kill), and one of those humanoid felines I mentioned who has more than enough secrets to keep (Sathlir). What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

[Excerpt from Wanderer: Origin of the Nature Walker]

After what seemed like forever in the dripping, dark cave, the light at the exit that led to the Outlands finally came into view.  Bellesea Keep, where they were headed, was the ruin of an ancient dragon stronghold, said to be inhabited by ghosts.  It teetered on the edge, between the Outlands and the mountain home of the dwarves.  Gin had kept up her silence as they walked; only making a sound when she tripped over one of the giant roots that surrounded the walls and floor of the cave.  She blinked into the near blinding light that reflected off the alabaster snowcaps just past the Outlands.  Suddenly Elysiam’s hand appeared in front of her face and Gin nearly fell over onto her sister-druid.  “A bit of magical camouflage might be in order, don’t you think?” Elysiam said with a grin.  Gin nodded.
“That and maybe some levitation and a bit of speed?” Gin asked.  She began the chant in Elvish and soon each of them felt their feet lighten, ready to zip across the desert plain.  Elysiam joined in just as Gin was finishing and soon the five of them faded from view.  “Well done, my sister,” Gin whispered to Elysiam, who smiled.  The group moved out into the boiling sun of the Outlands and made their way toward the imposing stone building just before the gentle slope of the mountains.
“That’s the entrance, there,” Sath pointed just before he realized that no one could see him.  “The two stone structures with the statues in front of them.  They are guarded by wyverns, but most of them cannot see as well as they can smell.  If our invisibility drops, then…”
“If it drops?  BAH!  My spells don’t drop, Cat,” Elysiam snapped back at him.
“All I was going to say was that if it drops, run toward the entrance and don’t stop.  Tee and I will take care of those minor dragonkind if needed,” Sath whispered back, making Gin jump.  If he was imposing when she could see him, Sath was much scarier when she could not.  She took a deep breath.  “They walk upright though, and are bigger than I am.  Don’t worry.  Those things are nothing new to me and Teeand.”  The dwarf chuckled.
“I can take them too!” Hackort wailed from the back of the pack.  “You always forget me because I’m shorter than you two! Oof!”  A giggle from Elysiam told the rest of the group that she had managed to kick the gnome even though she could not see him.  “I’ll get you for that one, Elys, once I can see you.”

“How do we know if they can see us?” Gin said as they stopped directly opposite from the entrance to the ruin that had once been a magnificent castle.  Wyverns stalked back and forth in front of the entrance, still adorned with carvings depicting the once powerful human empire that had dominated most of Orana.  Giant statues of the conquerors, names long lost to history, stood like sentinels, ready to spring into battle against their enemies.  Gin shuddered as she gazed up at the stone figures, and remembered seeing Dorlagar for the first time in Aynamaede. 
“We don’t, until they do,” Teeand replied in a whisper.  He sounded like he was right in her ear due to her inability to see him, and she backed up a step involuntarily.
“Oof, careful,” Sath whispered.  Gin could feel his fur up against the back of her neck and she shuddered before moving away from him.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.  She studied the guards at the door for a moment.  “No sense in all of us having to waste energy on those wyverns is there?” she asked suddenly.  “I mean there are two of us druids, so…” She broke into a run, straight up to the front door, only stopping when she nearly ran headlong into one of the wyverns, a large bluish-skinned one.  Back at the group, the other four made various gasps and noises of disbelief and irritation at her apparent dash to the front door.  Gin scampered back to where she thought the group was and skidded to a stop.  “They can’t see us, I ran right up to them and nothing happened,” she said, grinning from ear to pointed ear.
“What in the Mother’s name was THAT, Gin?” Elysiam hissed as Gin hung her head.  “Well, clearly they didn’t see you, so let’s head inside.  This air is starting to make my hair frizz.” The five of them headed toward the entrance and slipped past the guards and through the massive stone doors.  Once inside, they took a collective sigh of relief and as if on cue, their invisibility faded.  “See, I told you, Cat, my invisibility spell doesn’t fade until it’s time,” Elysiam sneered.  Chuckling, Sath took a swipe at her, missing her by a mile.
“Right, so where is this Gaelin?” he asked, looking over Teeand’s shoulder as the dwarf rolled out the map.
“Here, in the cells on the top floor,” Teeand answered.  “Or at least that’s where Ailreden believes him to be, from…past experience.”
“Aye,” Sath said, his countenance grim.  “We know right where those cells are, don’t we?”
“You’ve been a prisoner here before?” Gin asked, wide eyed.
“Aye, Gin,” Sath said.  “It was during a darker time, wasn’t it Tee?  That was before Elys here found us and dragged our sorry hides back to the Fabled Ones.”
“Not that long ago,” Elysiam said. “I came to get Tee out and got this fur ball in the deal.”
“You…brought Sath…?” Gin stared at Elysiam.  It was too much to wrap her mind around.  
“Ginny, you are so wonderfully naïve,” Elysiam said, a look of genuine affection on her face.  “When I was exiled from Aynamaede, I broke all my ties to our home and its people…well, save you of course because you were kind to me.  But then some time in another prison made me…shall we say more understanding of the flaws of others?”  She looked each of them in the eye in turn.  “And if you ever dare repeat what I’ve just said I will not only deny it; I will probably kill you.”
“Probably?” Hackort said with a chuckle, and then dodged the business end of the staff that Elysiam was carrying.  “Right, lead on, Tee!  We’ve got wyverns to kill and wizards to save!”  His axe swung up into his tiny hand as a wide grin split his features.  With a nod, Teeand led the way into the dark ruin of a castle.
At the end of the shadowy entryway, they turned a corner and found the entrance to the castle proper, the actual Bellesea Keep, bounded on all sides by a moat.  Two larger wyverns, both red-scaled with golden eyes, stood on either side of the drawbridge.  “Do we sneak past them too?” Gin whispered.
“No,” Sath replied, grinning as he noticed that she did not jump when he spoke. “We could but there are undead past them that pay no mind to our magic.”
“What about the moat?” Gin said.  “Can we just swim around to a better entrance?”
“Well, even if our feline friend here liked the water, that moat doesn’t go all the way around,” Teeand said.  “It is very slight, but we are actually moving downhill the further we move into the castle.  It’s built into the ground and the moat just leads around to a wall.”  He swung his own giant axe into his hand and gripped the handle, cracking his knuckles as he did so. “Unless anyone here speaks Elder Dragon, I think we have to fight our way in, flower.”
Gin found herself shrinking back to the rear of the group.  All of the bravado she had before when she had charged at the wyverns guarding the door was gone now that she knew they could see her.  She glanced over at Elysiam who had already unsheathed her scimitar and was clearly itching for the fight to come.  Why hadn’t she been born like that?  “I guess I’ll hang back and be the healer, then?”
“You’ll have to, Pet,” Teeand said.  “We don’t have a proper cleric with us, but I trust you and your magic to keep us alive.”  He leaned in close to her, indicating Sath with a nod of his head.  “All of us.”
“Of course,” Gin stammered, flustered.  He was part of the team and he was just as responsible for her safety as she was for his. Just then, Sath glanced around at her, the smile that parted his feline features spreading up and into his teal eyes.  Gin looked away, speaking magical words that summoned Beau, her preternatural pony, and was soon sitting in the saddle, her hands fiddling with the horn as she always did when she was nervous.
“Right!  Elys, if you will, use your magic to slow these things down so that Hack and I can have at them at our own pace?” Teeand said, returning his gaze to the target.  “Then once we’ve engaged, Sath, your pet can join us and you can work your own magic to deter their attack.”  Sath nodded and Elysiam moved to the front of the group.  She looked back over her shoulder at her sister-druid, mouthing the words You got this, Gin, in Elvish, and then charged ahead of them.

“HEY!” Elysiam cried out as she ran toward the drawbridge.  The guards sniffed the air and then looked down at her, snarling.  “Come and get me if you’re not all talk!”  She spoke ancient Elvish words as the two pounded across the drawbridge with heavy feet, turning to run only when her spell was complete.  Though slowed down by magical tangling roots, one of the guards was quicker than she had expected and it managed to get a good swipe in on her before she could get clear.  The hit sent her sprawling into the dirt in front of the advancing wyverns and sent Hackort surging out ahead of Teeand, his axe swinging madly over his head.




26 September 2017

Well, it was good while it lasted...

Annoyed face, Louvre, Summer 2012
I was really trying to avoid being political on the Lettuce, but some things are just more important, it seems. Or more obvious. Or...well, I just have to talk about some things, and not into the confirmation bias that is my Facebook feed (for the most part) or my family or close friends.

This is also not an attempt to distract from anything that the Cheeto-In-Chief is doing or not doing to wreck our world via Twitter or his "speeches" or any of that. I was asked a question this morning at work, and I'm going to answer it here because I think it is important enough to answer twice.

I was asked the following question:

"What do you think about the kneeling thing?"

Been under a rock or so laser-focused on 45's latest tweet-storm implosion that you don't know what I mean? I was asked about the latest wave of non-violent protests happening mostly in the world of pro-sports: athletes taking a knee during the national anthem at sporting events rather than standing and singing or covering their heart with their hand as is customary in this country.

Quick disclaimer: it is CUSTOMARY but not a legal requirement of any kind. Therefore it is up to the individual. Clear? Good, now we can continue.

My answer, as I was hurrying to class, was two pronged: While I completely understand the reasoning behind the decision to kneel and share in the belief that our country does not represent or protect all of its citizens equally, I also think that the hype over a person's choice is overblown and probably meant to distract us from what is actually going on in the White House.

You may now don your tin foil caps if you like.

Let's address "the kneeling thing" in parts, shall we? Firstly, it is because the Department of Defense gives LOADS of money to sporting groups that we have the national anthem performed at the beginning of American football games, basketball games, baseball games, etc. It is not, as some would have you believe, something that the NFL and others do out of a profound and genuine sense of patriotism or national pride. That may be a factor as well, but I'm sure that the money doesn't hurt.

Secondly, for all those that are touting the mandate to stand and the requirement by law to honor the flag...well...one of the few things that are NOT legally required is to stand or salute/hand on heart if you are not active duty military (or maybe any category of military service). Interesting.

Third, for those loud voices in the back calling this an affront to the sacrifices of our military veterans and those currently serving...they did not do what they have done and continue to do so that you are forced to behave a certain way in a certain situation. Freedom does not have subtext here. They fought so that the people who call themselves Americans can think for themselves and make their own decisions so that they can follow their own beliefs and support or not support things based on those beliefs. So to say that anyone that chooses to protest in this manner is insulting those that fought for our freedom is just plain wrong. Sorry. My father served in the Army, my uncles served in the Army and Air Force, and one of them was a POW and I can almost promise you that none of them thought they were serving in order to make sure we would all be told when to stand, kneel, or salute. I am proud of all of them and thankful for their service, but I'm not going to use their service as an excuse here. Not. Happening.

Finally, my thoughts on the actual thing that they are protesting? I wholeheartedly agree with their message. 110%. Y'all, why would you honor and support and defend a country that doesn't do the same for you? Why would a Deaf person be bound to stand for the national anthem when no one cares enough to make sure the interpreter is visible during that song? Why would you stand up for a country when you see faces that look like yours being shot by those in authority everyday with little to no repercussion?

This is not a protest directly against 45, but it is certainly fueled by him being in office. His campaign rhetoric and continued pandering to a certain ugly side of our country have emboldened those to come out of their shadows, unfurl their flags, and put on their hoods. They don't have to worry about immigrants because there will be a wall. They don't need to sort out interpreters because if you speak English, you don't need one. Healthcare is a privilege just like a quality education, and if the majority of his base would just work harder then they can afford both. No job you say? No problem... Once we get all the foreigners out of here and look after America First, everyone will have a job and be prosperous.

Also, welcome back to the 1950's.

It will be very difficult for me to interpret the national anthem when I am required to do so at events on campus, and I feel lucky to have a team interpreter that may be willing to do that for me because I'm not sure I can anymore. I think back to when I was living in the UK and got teary eyed every time I heard the Star Spangled Banner...I still do now, but the sentiment is very different.





31 August 2017

Once again, into the breach...err, semester...

Willow-Pickle's head on the dog bed giving me side eye
Trying the blog thing again are you? Pardon me if I don't stay
awake until you leave it hanging...again... -Willow-Pickle
Here we find ourselves again, dear friends, my handful or so of Lettuce readers, my Lettuce Heads... Oh, I like that, I think I'm keeping it. You are my Lettuce Heads. Yes.

Sorry, moving on...

Here we are again at the beginning of another semester at Clemson. It is fall, so there is the influx of TOO MANY FRESHMEN that makes class scheduling a nightmare at best and my spreadsheet for captioning a never ending work in process.

Welcome to life in Student Accessibility Services, I suppose.

Those lights in tunnels that I spoke about back in May are still burning. GARF was an amazing experience for this seasoned rennie performer that brought loads of new friends and happy memories and bits to try at other faires. The lack of coffee meetings (and overall lack of Daisy) was hard to manage but we moved onward and upward. I'm now on the cusp of the Enchanted Chalice and CRF, and while I am looking forward to again being in my element I'm finding it difficult to bring up the same amount of joy and anticipation that I am already feeling when I think of next year at GARF. I suppose everyone has their niche, and mine is Newcastle.

That makes me laugh everytime I say it, since my parents-in-law live in a village near Newcastle. The real Newcastle. The one filled with Geordies that doesn't pull a Brigadoon in the mist every summer in June.

Nothing new to report, really, other than general personal growth over the summer. Coffee meetings with Daisy morphed into snuggly telly time with Willow (and Bryn, when she isn't being ENTIRELY TOO GROWN UP TO MANAGE A SNUGGLE ANYMORE). Work was steady over the summer, so I was out of the house a lot. I missed dance and poi, but that will start back in a few weeks now that I have a steady paycheck. 

Steady. That's the word for the summer. 

Coming up though? Watch this space, there's news on the Nature Walker front. That's all I can say at the moment, but I'm about to burst here. WATCH.THIS.SPACE

10 May 2017

Dia duit ó GARF.

Almost TOO Irish, that.

Go raibh míle maith agat to Chris Heffron (of the Southern Travel Guide) for this great shot from last Sunday afternoon. While hopping from shade spot to shade spot, Bryn and Anne and Bo and I ran into one of our dear friends from the GARF cast, Andy (aka Irish or Jordan Hale) as he was waiting to be able to spend a bit of time with his lady-love (who also works at GARF). Andy is just one of many cast members who have made us feel at home and part of the family at GARF this year (and in years past), and we can't thank him (and them) enough.

It's funny, it's like we are almost too Irish here and Bryn is trying to make a break for it. My sweet girl...she didn't have the best weekend this time around, adding stealing a sandwich off a table and trying to abscond with a turkey leg to her list of accomplishments this season. I hope that my renewed enthusiasm for this faire will bleed over to her, but I know that I am causing some of her frustration when I expect her to do bad things before she does them. She is still roaring at the horses during the joust and wagging her tail when her favourite princess says her name, so I think she is still my Rennie Hound. Dia linn, for the rest of the run, I say. Dia linn.

09 May 2017

Lights at the Ends of Various Tunnels

Me and my girl at GARF,
photo courtesy of the Southern Travel Guide
Yeah, the last post was pretty grim, and if I'm honest, the work situation (that I still can't talk about) hasn't gotten any better, but there have been bright spots and that's what we are going to focus on in THIS post.

One of them is featured in the photo: The Georgia Renaissance Festival. Now, this is not a new thing, not by a longshot, but apparently, the fourteenth year is the charm, hoopskirt issue notwithstanding. I have made friends at GARF in the past, cast members and vendors and directors and the like, but this year just feels different. I feel at home in "Newcastle" in a way I have yet to feel at home in "Fairhaven" after fifteen years in what we refer to as the Northern Kingdom.

What has changed? Me? Having Bryn? I don't know. But this past weekend, I was able to play, really play, with both the cast and with my partner in crime, Lucy to my Ethel, and the only other member of HOEF that does more than one or two weekends at GARF, Anne. Perhaps it is the beautiful friendship that has formed between her Bo and my Bryn. Perhaps it is Anne's extrovert that brings my introvert along, often kicking and screaming, to get to know the cast.

Whatever it is, I am profoundly sad on days that I have to miss attending GARF, even though it means a 5 am start every Saturday and a late afternoon arrival back home, dirty and sweaty and hot every Sunday between the middle of April and the first weekend in June. I long to be in the lanes, even though that means pulling turkey tendons out of Bryn's mouth and replacing steak sandwiches that she snatches in the blink of an eye. I dream of the joust, and of watching with pride as Bryn thumps her tail when her favorite princess rides by, upside down in her saddle, even though I'm fighting the reflection of the sun off the light colored sand which is swirling about in my eyes and nose.

I'm hoping that this feeling of Rennie family will continue into the fall when I am again with my HOEF family in the dog barn on the eastern side of Fairhaven, and that we can project the kind of skilled performance that we are learning at GARF into our wonderfully laid back home at the Enchanted Chalice in Greenville, SC. Vikings ahoy!

I did say tunnels in the title, didn't I? While GARF is the light at the end of one tunnel, the fact that I only have four days left until my summer break is certainly another. But that tunnel is not quite as bright because I will have several months of empty coffee meetings to look forward to without Daisy. While it hasn't been easy without her, it has been easier because I've had work to distract me. Without my daily commute to Clemson, I am going to have to face what our reality looks like now; no queen on the end of my bed, huffing because I've rearranged my legs and accidentally knocked her about. No beautiful blonde/red fawn fur glimmering in the green grass of the back yard as she sunbathes. No teeth chattering in my ear.

But you see that muppet in the picture with me? She is a light of her own, and she and Willow are there to distract me when they can and snuggle with me when they can't. Their light comes to find me in my tunnel and shines into the darkness to remind me to keep moving forward.

Finally, there is light at the end of the Superginormous Manuscript tunnel...book one in the three book series that it has become is almost ready to go to Amazon, and that is both exciting and horrifying. I took the first Camp Nanowrimo to edit the second book, and am not working on editing/fleshing out the third in between expense reports and mad garb sewing/laundering. So all in all, my life has far more light than dark. I just need to be able to remember that and hang on to it...and keep moving.

16 March 2017

When too much is too much...

My Allen Face...or annoyed face.
We all have breaking points. Some of us have higher pain (emotional and physical) thresholds than others of us. Some people thrive on deadlines and last minute pressure, other people fold in the face of increased intensity.

I'm not sure which one of those categories best suits me. In reality, I think that it fluctuates, as I'm sure it does for most people. But right now I am feeling close to the edge of my patience, my sanity, and my ability to interact with others in any way other than with anger, and y'all, that just isn't me.

2017 has been rough so far. It started out way back in 2016 with losing Daisy. I have joked since she came into my life that when I lost her I'd have to be hospitalized because I would lose such a big part of my own soul there wouldn't be much left.

And then it happened and it was terrible and awful and my heart hurt then and hurts now every time I think of her or see her face come up in my FB timeline. I want to simultaneously carry a copy An American Greyhound in Yorkshire around with me all the time, and rip the book to shreds because I can't stand to see her eyes staring out from the front of it. My rational mind reminds me that all dog lovers and pet parents go through this when their animals depart this life, but my heart screams into its own vacuum that it was too soon or not fair or my fault, and that I will never ever let myself be hurt like that again.

I said that after Clowny, and Mills, and Jeany, and Hunky, and Profile, and Franny, and Zooey, and Lizzard, and Bo...and Buffy...and Midgit...and I always do, over and over.

So  I started my new semester on the back foot due to that familiar upturned beehive that is my brain and things were not any better at work. I am not able nor willing to go into details here (or anywhere, really), but vicarious trauma is real, y'all.  It leads to weird things like physical pain, memory loss, insomnia and at the very least, irritability. Next week is our spring break and I will only be down here once for a meeting...and it's like a reward, dessert at the end of a meal of nothing but olives and asparagus. I'm hoping to get my head on straight again during those 5 very short days of doing almost nothing.

But then again, those are five days that start with coffee meetings without Daisy, so I'm not holding my breath.

You're my back bone.
You're my cornerstone.
You're my crutch when my legs stop moving.
You're my head start.
You're my rugged heart.
You're the pulse that I've always needed.
Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.
Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.
Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.
Like a drum, my heart never stops beating...
For you, for you.


(from Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips)

07 February 2017

FTH Oopsie Daisy, 14 August 2004 - 2 December 2016

She truly was transcontinental.
You know, I'm sitting here staring at the blank screen and can't even bring myself to type the words that she's gone...and she's been gone for two months now.  I still expect to come home and hear her whistling from the bedroom, demanding that I hurry up and let her out. But the whistle has fallen silent.

I listen for her toenails on the hardwood floors and remember how, when we lived in the UK, she made no sound at all on the carpet and could sneak up on me, suddenly jamming that needle nose into my ear and exhaling. There's nothing in my ear now, no cold nose or loud exhalation of warm doggie breath. It's just silent.

I call the other two dogs by her name and they look at me, with a mixture (I think) of confusion and sadness, wondering simultaneously who I am talking to and where Daisy is. I wonder that too.  Is she with the Fab Five Plus Clowny? Are they now the Magnificent Seven? I don't get answers, though. As always, my Bridge Pack is silent.

We see things that she would have loved, go to places that made her happy, and the memories are sometimes so strong that I can smell her Frito Feet and feel her nose pressed up against my neck, as she would do to make sure of me. I think for a moment that I can hear her Snappy Jaw that should have struck fear, but didn't, not in me...but there is no snappy jaw, not anymore. Everything is silent.

She was a larger sized female for her breed, but she was Bryn's Little Big sister.  She was a good foot taller than Willow, and lorded that size over her Little Little Sister. They still run and play and I can hear their tags jangling as they bound up and down the stairs. But Daisy's tags, still on her purple dragonfly collar, remain silent.

I want a do-over.  I want more time. I want for her to not have suffered through the heart murmur and the heart disease and the Lasix. I want to take her to Ireland and to Canada. I want her to have the jacket with all the little patches from everywhere she was able to visit. All these things I want...and all she wanted was to be able to rest.  Rest well, my world traveler, my Psycho Puppy Girl, my Angel...my Mei Mei.  You earned it.  I just wish it wasn't so silent around here.

19 January 2017

Second verse, same as the...I've lost count

And yet, my lesson I have not learned.
Well, it has happened again. I have become utterly broken and tired and overwhelmed and...and...and I have decided to apply to grad school. But this time, rather than just stopping after the cursory search of programs here at Clemson and online programs at other institutions, I have actually begun filling out the application.

Okay, yeah, I've done that before too, fair enough. You have a long memory, my Lettuce readers.  But this time, there seems to be intent and follow through happening, and I've announced my intentions to the world so I have accountability when I feel ready to give up.

What? Yes, okay, FINE, I have done all of this before as Hubs so helpfully reminded me last night when I announced my intention, and by the end of that conversation I had almost talked myself out of even waiting for a response to the inquiry email I sent the department yesterday. Almost.

Just now I have saved the application because my few minutes of calm have broken out in nasty cases of barely controlled chaos as they so often do on this job. I am spinning plates and rapidly applying imaginary bursts of extinguisher to my smoldering hair.

The truth of the matter here is that I am not as confident in my interpreting skills as I was when I entered the field TOO MANY YEARS AGO TO ADMIT, so I am starting to look both at what I feel is my calling (scary prospect) and what I can do that will be a transferable skill when we move back abroad.

Oh, yes, we will be moving back abroad...where? I'm not sure (thank you Brexit), but somewhere that is decidedly NOT HERE. And that, my precious Lettuce readers, is as much of a political statement as you will see in the Lettuce these days. New Year's Resolution, that.

Camp Mail Call