Archive | September, 2012

Taking A Break

24 Sep

I’m taking a break this week and spending some quality time with my grandma.  Tonight, she told a story about playing strip poker in Tucson. This is going to be a good week, guys.

See you all next Monday.

Pushing Reset

20 Sep

Today was not a good day.  I got the kind of news that no one wants to hear.

My grandmother (Nana to us grandkids) has a mass in her colon.

The doctor thinks it’s cancer.  We’ll find out for sure on Monday.  Someone please tell me that the doctors are wrong about this at least 95% of the time.

All we know right now is that it’s ulcerated, and it is what has been causing her anemia over the last week or so.  My aunt is staying with her until Tuesday, and I’ll be going up there Monday to stay until Wednesday or Thursday.  After that, my aunt will come back and we’ll all figure out the next steps.

It all still feels like it’s not real right now.  Like this is something I’ve written in a book, or a dream I just haven’t woken up from yet.  I can’t reconcile my healthier-than-a-horse-for-always Nana with the idea of cancer.  There’s just no place within my petite energizer-bunny of a grandmother for the dark shapeless reaper that is cancer.

It’s just not possible.

Cancer doesn’t belong in this world.  It certainly doesn’t belong in mine.  It’s taken too much- a grandfather, a college friend, parents and grandparents of friends, a beloved childhood pet, and the brightest ray of sunshine to ever walk through my Sunday School classroom door.  It can’t take my Nana- I won’t allow it.

I’ve been consumed with selfish thoughts like these all day.  Thoughts of if it is cancer, how will it affect me?  What it will be like to be that close to cancer yet again, to know the change it means for my family’s medical history, to experience the terror of watching yet another person struggle with a disease that will ultimately do whatever the hell it pleases?  Only rarely have thoughts about my brothers, and my mother and my aunt, or even Nana herself crept into my mind.  It’s not socially acceptable, but it’s the truth of today.

It’s like that airplane safety talk, where the flight attendant instructs you to secure your own mask before assisting others with theirs.  I have to secure my own feelings before I can help my family with theirs.  At some point, we’ll all be able to take comfort in the knowledge that oxygen is flowing even if the bag doesn’t inflate, and that none of us is facing the unknown terror alone.  (That metaphor may have gotten away from me at the end, but  in my defense I’m not thinking entirely rationally right now.  I promise, airplane metaphor over now.)

So I’m pushing the reset button for tomorrow, and hoping it erases today.  Hoping it makes the truth change, the pain never set in, and reality tilt back onto its axis.  If you’re so inclined, I ask for prayers or good thoughts for my Nana.  It’s going to be a long weekend until Monday.

Speaking Of

17 Sep

I’ve been thinking hard about what I wanted to write about today.

I kept hoping inspiration would strike.

It didn’t.

Instead, I ended up with lots of little things that I’m excited about that happened this past week, and no real way to tie them all together except through a series of clever (and not-so-clever) segues.  So, here we go.

Speaking of beginning, I started my new job last Monday.  For a full-time job, it seems like I’m doing a lot less work than I was as a consultant.  This is mostly because I’m going through an orientation program, and last week was full of meetings.  This week is also full of meetings, but more productive meetings and I have more control over the schedule.   I’m looking forward to getting back to compiling reports (which is something I never thought I’d say), if only because it’s something tangible and tangible things make me feel like I’ve actually earned my pay.

Speaking of tangible things, I am now the proud owner of a new website domain.  This is for the secret project that I keep hinting about.  If all goes according to plan, come late October, you will all be in on the secret.

Speaking of secrets, I’ve been tweaking my budget to reflect my new income levels (but I won’t post a new excel screenshot until next month- hence the secret part).  While the total monthly number isn’t much different from previous months, the sources and usages of that money is different.  Less of my income comes from my retail job, and I’m no longer setting aside money each month as estimated tax.  The good news is that I seem to have been overestimating that monthly tax amount.  Come next April, I may have some of that money back in my pocket.

Speaking of pockets, I had some trouble keeping my debit card in my pocket this month.  I got past the major hurdle that was Dragon*Con, but then the Shakerag Arts and Crafts Festival snuck up on me last weekend.  $50 later, I have three new kinds of jelly, and the dog has three new kinds of treats, a new bandana, and a new toy.  The lesson of the day is don’t take the dog to the arts and crafts festival.  People will be selling homemade dog treats and it is impossible to say no to a pair of big brown golden retriever eyes.

Go ahead, try to tell her no and mean it. I dare you. Also, how cute is that bandana??

Speaking of saying no, I have been thwarted once again in my attempt to locate a deluxe edition of volume 2 of Fables.  This is the one true comic book series that I read, although I read several manga series.  I have tried and failed multiple times to find this book.  You see, Fables has been running for years, and now they are collecting the series into deluxe hardcover volumes.  I have volume one.  The local comic book store has volumes 3-5.  Barnes and Noble have volumes 4 & 5.  Not one dealer at Dragon*Con had the deluxe editions.  They all had individual issues, but since none had the complete set that make up volume 2 and the local comic book store doesn’t carry the individual back issues of Fables, there wasn’t much point in purchasing any.  Last week, I thought I had lucked out and found the elusive volume 2 at Barnes and Noble.com.  I even had a 20% off coupon.  I ordered it, got a confirmation email, and even got a shipping notice.  Then I got an email that the shipment had been delayed.  Saturday, I got an email that it had been delayed again.  This morning, I got an email that basically suggested that I give up hope.  With great sadness, I cancelled the order.  One day, I will find this book.

Speaking of getting new books, someone bought my Sunday School kids a class set of bibles.  These are specialty bibles, which tell major biblical stories in terms that kids can understand, and are designed to fit with our current curriculum.  My church had three copies, one for each classroom.  That’s all we could afford.  Through the generosity of someone who doesn’t even attend my church, we now have 23 copies, more than enough for each kid in the two elementary classes to have their own each week.  It was the single biggest donation to the children’s ministry that I’ve seen in my two years as director, and it blows me away that someone who has never met these kids or seen how I run the program would believe in me enough to send a check of that size.

Speaking of checks, I just have to mention again how wonderful it is to know when my paycheck will arrive each month, how much it will be for, and that I won’t have to calculate an estimated tax amount.  Honestly, that might be the best perk that my full-time job offers- simple peace of mind.

Speaking of peace of mind, I’m going to stop with the terrible segues now.  Mainly because I’ve run out of things to say, but also because I care about all of your peace of minds.  I’m off to read my way through the stack of books on my nightstand.  Another excellent perk of my new job is having my evenings back to myself, which means time to read.

By the way, if you have any book recommendations, leave me a comment here.  And that’s not just another segue.

Seeing The (Yard Sale) Signs

10 Sep

Beware of seniors with disposable income, moms with pinterest sites, and those who watch American Pickers. Especially that last group…

We finally saw the signs on Friday night.  If we read the local paper, we’d have seen them much earlier.  Luckily, we were prepared for this sort of last-minute situation.  We’d been preparing for years, in fact.  Gathering supplies, planning our methods of attack, and sharpening our verbal judo skills.

That’s right.  There was going to be an estate sale in the neighborhood.

For the uninitiated, an estate sale is a massive thing.  It’s bigger than a yard sale, and everything is for sale.  The rules are simple: show up ridiculously early, get in line, scope out the merchandise, and return the next day when the sellers are willing to give it to you for half the ticket price.

I kid.

But not really. One of my neighbors was in line for the estate sale at 9 am.  The doors opened at 10.  She was number 26.

There’s an app for finding yard sales. Of course there’s an app for finding yard sales.

So, when my neighbors and I saw the signs (literally, as it were) on Friday night, we did what any rational person would do in such a situation.  After all, hundreds of strangers would be descending upon our sleepy street in just a few short hours, armed with cash and no intention of paying full price.  It was serious business.  We needed to prepare.

So, we ran to our garages.

We started pulling out boxes and bags, crates and crockery, furniture and… um…more furniture.  Children’s toys.  Bad DVDs.  CDs we were embarrassed to admit we owned.  Clothes we didn’t like.  Electronics that had been replaced.  Anything that worked at all, had most of its pieces, or was more or less intact was grabbed and tossed into hasty piles.  We scrawled prices on post-its and hung garments off the golf cart.  We raided piggy banks for small bills to make change.

Yep, that’s right.  My neighbors and I are opportunistic yard sale-holders.

We can’t help it.  We see those signs go up and we lose our minds.  Suddenly all the junk in the garage or the hall closet that we were too lazy to take to Goodwill is worth a fortune.  We proudly display today all the stuff that we hid away out of shame yesterday.  Those four Nickleback CDs have a place of honor right next to the three Killers CDs and the five Best of the 80s compilations CDs (I offer no excuse other than I was young and armed with a disposable income).  The laptop that “works fine except for the mouse, keyboard, fan, and heat sink” sits open on a folding table.  Well-loved stuffed animals (the ones that still have both eyes and the majority of their fur its original color)  cuddle for emotional support as they wait in a cardboard box with a $1 sign on its front.

It’s a scene of desperation.

Of people drowning in their stuff.

Of shelves and closets stretched beyond capacity.

Of the primal need to be able to walk normally in one’s own bedroom.

Of not wanting to go all the way to City Hall to get city-approved yard signs for $3 a piece.

And you know what? It works.

The hundreds of people who tromped through the neighbor’s estate sale all crossed the street to peruse our wares.  Most of them bought things.  I sold that laptop for $25 with the express warning that it was “as-is” and an extreme fixer-upper.  I sold two of the Nickleback CDs for a buck each.  I sold a bunch of other CDs, DVDs, and even a few Blu-Rays too.  All in all, I made $54.50 over the two days.

I spent $52.50 on video games.  I spent the other $2 on a juicer from the estate sale.  It was originally $5.  I’m an excellent negotiator (and by that I mean that the woman said “I’ll give it to you for $2” and I said “sold.”).

Now my neighbors and I have less cluttered bookcases, closet, bedrooms, and garages.  I have two new video games, or I will have them when they release at the end of October, and space for the three new books that will arrive this week (I babysat on Friday night. I had online coupons for books.  It was a bad combination).  I also have a juicer.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend in Georgia.  Y’all should try it sometime.

I’m off to try to juice an apple.  And then maybe a carrot.

On Dragon*Con

5 Sep

I have returned (and more importantly recovered) from Dragon*Con.  As usual, I came back with a much heavier suitcase and a much lighter wallet.  The good news is, I not only stayed within budget, I even made it home with some money to spare.

But enough about finance stuff.  I want to talk about Dragon*Con.

First off, I met Jaime Paglia.  For the ungeeky among us, he wrote Eureka, the best science fiction show that SyFy ever cancelled in order to show more wrestling.  The show was smart, had strong relatable characters, truly funny moments, and struck the perfect balance between science and fiction for seven years.  The man is truly talented, and I want to be just like him.

Naturally, I was a nervous wreck while I stood in line to meet him.  When it got to be my turn, I took a deep breath and calmly asked him to sign my jacket.

(No, that’s not a typo.  I was dressed as an autograph book, and I was collecting signatures on my jacket.  I’ve been doing this for three years now, and it’s still just as amusing to see the odd looks as it was the first time.)

Mr. Paglia didn’t bat an eye at my strange request.  Apparently when you write a show about worm holes and strong force amplifiers, someone asking you to sign a white scrub jacket seems quite normal.  As he signed, I somehow convinced myself to speak. (This is a problem with me. I plan out what to say, and then freeze in the moment.  I do this with non-celebrities too).  I told him that I wanted to be a writer like him.  He smiled and asked me the best question I think I’ve ever heard:

“That’s good. What are you doing about that?”

All the writers reading this probably get the magnanimity of that question.  For those that don’t, here’s the thing. People talk about wanting to be a writer all the time.  They talk about what would make a good book, or how they wish they had the time to write a book, or even how they once tried to write a book but never finished it.  Comparatively few people actually sit down and write.  For those of us who do, it’s not because we have more time than others or more creativity, it’s because the words will literally turn us insane if we don’t get them out of our heads and onto the page.

So, Jaime Paglia’s question was essentially, “I see you have a dream. Do you have a plan to make it come true?”

Why yes, Mr. Paglia, yes I do.

I told him that a friend and I have been developing two web series (serieses? seriesi?).  He nodded his approval while his handler talked about her friends who are getting their SAG accreditation from web series work.   To make a short story shorter, I ended up walking away from the table with a signature on my jacket and a verbal encouragement from Jaime Paglia to pursue my writing.

Oh, and this.

ERMAGADH JAIME PAGLIA TOLD ME TO KEEP WRITING!

After I collected myself a bit (and posted that picture as the cover photo on my facebook), I dressed two children up as Borg.

Assimilation never looked cuter.

Then, I met Felicia Day.

Hang on, I gotta take a moment… IT’S A PICTURE OF ME AND FELICIA DAY! AAAAHHHHHH!

Ok, I’m good now. Back to the point.

Felicia Day is a pioneer of web series, and totally and completely one of my heroes.  She proved that you can make anything happen if you are inventive and passionate enough, and turned a tiny idea that no television company wanted to hear into an internet revolution.  I managed to tell her about my web series company and how she inspired its creation, and she wished me luck and said that she’d be excited to see what we come up with.

I tweeted that to my business partner, who I believe promptly had a panic attack somewhere in England.  Sorry, James.

Overall it was an excellent Dragon*Con.  I came home with 1 new t-shirt, 2 new card games, 5 new books, 11 new autographs, and 17 new buttons (yes, I collect buttons. They’re cheap, easy to store, and last forever).  Not once did I get looked down upon for being a girl, or asked to prove my “geek credentials.”  I was just another fan in a costume heading to the same panels and trying to remember to eat.

Now it’s back to real life for me.  The new full-time job starts Monday.  I’ve cut my hours at retail job to weekends and then only as needed (because those free video games are hard to give up), and I’m looking forward to having weekday evenings to do some more writing.

This is good, because it is definitely time to start saving for next Dragon*Con.

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