What I Did (Planned to Do) On My Winter Vacation

With some thoughts, you know when you think them that it means you’re a grownup. When you would love to just go take a bath. When you wish you could take a nap–but you acknowledge that you can’t. When you look around your bedroom at the beginning of a week off for staycation and think, “I need to clean.”

It’s bad in here, y’all. I mean, of course there’s the Christmas clutter. My room is the only safe place for wrapping, and also to get that big ol’ tree in the living room, other stuff needed to be stuck out of the way. So there’s that. Boxes that need breaking down but the dumpster is already full. Wrapping paper odds and ends that I should just stick in the recycling, but I always think one day I’ll need that tiny odd-shaped piece. Need to put the rolls of wrapping paper away, get the bows and the boxes for lights stashed under the bed, make sure the ribbons are out of reach of the cat…

There’s also the new things. I got candles and movies and a book and yay! But all that stuff has to find a home now, and that’s not going to be easy. There was a lot of STUFF in here already.

Which brings me to the old things. Yesterday I spent a pleasant hour getting rid of things I haven’t touched all year (well, since unpacking after the move, and probably for the year or two …

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Tis the Season to Be Jolly

…Or something like that.

This year for my family, it’s a bit different. My mom is recovering from surgery, so we decided to make this a very low-key holiday. None of us felt up to the task of hauling our huge tree up from the basement, decorating it, and then taking it down at the end of the year. So we have a very small tree that my husband bought. We decorated it and put it in the kitchen, where the cat can’t get at it (that’s one thing I won’t miss this year — keeping the cat away from the tree). And while I will sort of miss Mom’s  beautiful tree, I will not miss the stress in getting it up and decorated.

Because technically, Christmas is not about the tree. The tree is important, yes, but it’s not everything. The most important thing to me is family. That’s right. We have traditions — Christmas Eve at my in-laws, unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, etc. — and those are the things that comfort me and make me feel good. I may not be employed full time yet, but that doesn’t even hit my radar (well, we did scale back on gifts a bit to compensate) because Christmas is not about grandiose gift giving gestures or fancy things. It’s about being with the people you love most in the world, the people that are, in essence, your world.

 

My mother-in-law (and now, mother) has a thing on her wall from …

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The Princess, the Pie, and the Sorceress

The Princess, the Pie, and the Sorceress

by Kit Campbell

 

“Uh, my dark queen? There’s a princess at the door.”

Morgwyn, sorceress, looked up from where she was spreading models of her minions across a map of the countryside to find one of her dwarves standing in the entrance of the hall, hat clutched in his hands. “What?”

The dwarf swallowed. “There’s a princess at the door.”

There was, indeed, a princess at the door. She was beautiful, of course, dark hair curled and twisted into an elegant updo, and she wore a thick cloak of the finest wool over what was, no doubt, a ridiculous gown. Behind her was a large traveling trunk that she could have in no way carried herself. Morgwyn could just make out the backs of a couple of attendants as they fled down the mountain pass.

Morgwyn almost asked if she could help her, but caught herself in time. “Yes?”

The princess sighed and rubbed one temple. “I’m dreadfully sorry about all this.”

‘All this’ seemed to be the princess and the trunk, though that didn’t clear anything up. “And?”

“None of this was my idea. You may rightly tell me to go away, and I shall do so.”

With what non-existent attendants, Morgwyn wanted to ask. “I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” Should she have cursed her by now? Probably, but it had been a long day of plotting, and she could use …

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What Are Your Holiday Reading Traditions?

The end-of-year holidays are almost upon us! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, or something else entirely, chances are pretty good that you’re looking forward to some days off work or school at the end of this month. (And if not, you’re probably doing a very important job, like working in a hospital, so my hat goes off to you.) If you’re in a part of the world where it’s cold, you’re probably looking forward to some cozy hibernating time. And that means…reading!

(Okay, who are we kidding? My fellow Turtleduckers and I were readers before we became writers. Everything leads back to reading.)

Last year, the word of the year seemed to be hygge, the Danish term for a feeling of cozy togetherness. This year, what I’m seeing everywhere is jólabókaflóðan Icelandic word meaning “Christmas book flood”. (Jola-boka-flod is how it breaks down.) It’s an Icelandic tradition where everyone gives each other books on Christmas Eve and then stays up all night reading them. (Note: All gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, not just books, so there’s no danger of wakeful children spotting Santa overnight.) Which means most books are published in the months leading up to Christmas, but I digress. Like Neil Gaiman’s All Hallows Read, this is a tradition I can wholeheartedly endorse.

For me as a child, it was always exciting to spot a book-shaped package under the tree. And I look back with fondness at the Christmas books that only appeared …

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Remakes and Reboots and Flops, Oh My!

Like many, I have bemoaned the fact that Hollywood seems stuck in the past, refusing to look to the future. We need new ideas! We need new stories! I mean, who needs a Mad Max reboot?

…actually, no. Forget that. I do. I need Furiosa in my soul. She gives me such fierce joy. But seriously. Ghostbusters? That movie was practically perfect! Why would you–

Scratch that. Holtzmann is my happy place. Don’t touch.

Mine.

This is why Hollywood keeps doing it. Because we (or me, at least) keep buying! I loved Pacific Rim so much. But with that ending–I mean, come on. How are you going to make a sequel?

Spoiler alert–they made a sequel. And it looks bada##. You can bet my butt will be in a theater seat the first week it comes out, grinning at John Boyega as Stacker Pentecost’s son and squealing delight when my adored Mako Mori comes onscreen.

I thought Star Wars should have stopped at Return of the Jedi. As each prequel came out, I wished harder that they had just stopped at the original trilogy. But I had to see The Force Awakens, and now I love Rey, Finn, Poe–and you better believe there was some serious screaming at a certain point in the trailer for The Last Jedi, zomg…

Thor Ragnarok…well, everyone probably knew I was going to see that. It has Loki in it! I probably would have skipped The Dark World but for Loki, but I’m hearing such …

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I Write

Continuing with my theme of things I am thankful for, I want to talk about writing.

I realized today, as I was contemplating what I am thankful for this year, that I am thankful for the gift of words.

It’s not something I consciously think about much, because I have literally been writing my entire life. But it is a true gift, and I am thankful for it.

I’ve always said that I wanted to touch people with my words, be it poetry or novels. And I have, because people have told me.

When I was a member of Job’s Daughters, the youth group I was involved in from the time I was fifteen until I was twenty, I was promoted to the state chapter, which was a great honor. My job was to be a pen pal to the girls in Missouri (this was before the Internet. Wow, I am really showing my age!). So we wrote back and forth and sent each other stuff. For the big State convention, there was a contest to see who had the best depiction of their assigned state (and an essay). I made a cool map of Missouri and made it into a collage with all the stuff I got over the course of the year. And I wrote an awesome essay.

Well, I won. And was asked to stand up in front of hundreds of people and read it.

Apparently, I made some people cry. I had touched them that much.

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Adventures in Pencil

Hello! So, last month I talked about the drawing class I was taking. It’s over now, and I enjoyed it, though it wasn’t quite what I wanted, if such a thing even exists.

But I thought I’d share the end results with you.

Here’s our main project, the Escher hand:

You can see the remains of the grid. And my “interesting” shading. I was much faster than everyone else (probably because I couldn’t be bothered to be accurate with my shading) so I finished this after three classes.

The last class, one of the other people had also finished his drawing (he was working on it at home! lucky bastard has grown children who do not live at home) so he brought along a picture of some aspens he’d taken. We used the grid method on it again.

This took me about 3/4 of the class. Notice, again, my lack of patience with a gazillion little details and the switch to being more stylistic than realistic. (Though I do like the end product.)

And then, because I figured I should probably draw in drawing class, I found a photo of a grumpy owl on …

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Lessons in Letting Go

Last month, due to a file transfer glitch, I lost all my cell phone photos from the past year.

I had taken a lot of pictures–maybe three or four hundred. I tried troubleshooting, but as far as I could tell, they were just gone, vanished into the ether between the phone and the computer.

At first I was shaky and stunned. A whole year, gone.

I don’t usually take pictures of people, so I didn’t lose precious baby photos or anything like that, but I love shooting day-to-day photos around my city, my garden, architecture, and far-flung locations when we travel. (We’d gone on one international vacation in that year. It was the only time we brought our full-scale digital camera. So I didn’t lose all evidence of our trip.)

But by a few days later, I felt much calmer.

It’s true that not all the photos were exactly gone. I’m on Instagram and post often, so many of the photos survived there, though only in a low-res, square format.

It may also be true, as my spouse pointed out, that I took so many photos that no single one was particularly special to me.

But I think something else is going on.

Theory the first: I use photography as a form of mindfulness, to remind myself to look for moments of beauty in my not-particularly-beautiful urban life. It’s why I enjoy Instagram challenges, taking a photo roughly every day for a month. It’s a form of self-care. The …

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Caffeine Connoisseur

I’m not a coffee snob. Just because I know good coffee doesn’t mean I turn my nose up at bad coffee. Unless I have a choice. I mean, I’m not going to take the bad coffee if the good coffee is right there.

I guess I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I can’t help it. Good coffee is just so good.

I’ve always preferred good coffee to bad, but lately I’ve gotten more picky about it. A few months ago I acquired a French press. I don’t remember why, I think I thought it was pretty and it would be just as easy as using my little one-cup drip brew since we have a water cooler that heats the water. And it was just as easy, and more of an experience. I even got an hourglass to time my brewing.

The thing with a French press, though, is you have to get the grind right. Coffee ground for drip coffeemakers is finer than what you’re supposed to put in a French press. And while it is possible to find coffee specifically ground for the French press, it’s not easy. Not in grocery stores, anyway.

So I decided to try grounding my own. I had a little handheld blade grinder for when I was feeling fancy. Surely that would work!

Good lork, those things are loud! And I had to really pay attention, or the grind would still be too fine, and I’d be drinking solid coffee at the bottom …

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So how’s the job search going?

…Yeah.

It kind of isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I am applying for as many jobs as I can. But I don’t drive due to medical reasons (basically? Screwed up eye muscles) and I have to take the bus, which only serves my hometown. (This is a special program, doorstep to doorstep, that costs a dollar a ride. And the drivers are so cool). So that brings down the list of possible places considerably. Then there’s the fact that I literally learned nothing new at my former job — as far as technology goes, anyway — so I’m finding job postings with stuff like, “Must be an expert in Excel” or “Must be a Mac user” or “Must be able to do PowerPoint presentations.” All of this except for the Mac I can do theoretically. But I don’t feel very confident about it, so I tend to skip those postings.

So I’m left with stuff that isn’t even remotely in my field. I have no problem with that, if I can’t find anything else. But I would really like to stay within my field.

Then there’s the freelance stuff, which is going okay. It’s still not steady enough, but I have every confidence that I can make it happen. And if not…well, I tried. I can continue to try even if I do get a day job. It might be hairy, and busy, but it’s not like I haven’t done that before.

It’s scary. I mean, we’re used to a certain amount of …

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