Tag Archive | friends

The day about hearts and stuff

“It’s not that I can’t fall in love. It’s really that I can’t help falling in love with too many things all at once. So, you must understand why I can’t distinguish between what’s platonic and what isn’t, because it’s all too much and not enough at the same time.” - Jack Kerouac

“It’s not that I can’t fall in love. It’s really that I can’t help falling in love with too many things all at once. So, you must understand why I can’t distinguish between what’s platonic and what isn’t, because it’s all too much and not enough at the same time.” – Jack Kerouac

I tried to put together some new thoughts on Valentine’s Day, the way people react to it, including how some people are hurt by it, but found that I’ve already said it before, and not sure anything is gained by rehashing it. Besides, a friend said most of it much more concisely:

“For those alone today, I didn’t find my one until I was 30. She was 50. There’s no ticking clock on finding the right partner.”
—Deep Triviality

I’ll just add that there are many kinds of love. That you can love and be loved without being in a relationship. That you can find love and be loved by more than one person. That a lot of love is discarded or missed by some people because they assume that the relationship escalator is true and that all relationships have to ride that thing to the exact same destination.

And don’t believe the myth that you can’t love others until you learn to love yourself. Sometimes, it works the other way around. Sometimes, letting someone you love into your life is what helps you find the lovable in yourself. Love isn’t always symmetrical and mutual. And it doesn’t have to be.

We’re celebrating a friend’s birthday with a group of mutual friends today. Because love is love.

Past Christmas or Christmas Past?

Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge from the 1999 TNT adaptation of "A Christmas Carol."

Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge from the 1999 TNT adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”

Once again we hosted a Holiday Party on the third Saturday in December. And for the third year Michael and I reserved a suite at a hotel about four miles from our place for the purpose. We had a smaller crowd than last year, but it was still a lot of fun.

This year’s party was a milestone in a couple of ways. For me, it’s now been 30 years celebrating Christmas in Seattle with a group of friends that includes Keith and Mark. It has also been 20 years since the first time that I wrote an original Christmas Ghost Story to read at the party. Since the first one was written and read 20 years ago, that means this year’s story was the 21st such tale. I’ve mentioned before (Conjuring the proper ghosts) about the the variations I’ve explored under the notion of a Christmas Ghost story. Several of the tales have been set in a hard science fiction universe and tended to use more metaphorical ghosts, for instance. I’ve written comedic ghosts, dramatic ghosts, grim ghosts, and hopeful ghosts.

This year’s story had a fairy tale approach. It was the fifth or sixth Christmas Ghost Story that I’ve written set in the same universe as my fantasy novels. I’ve described this particular universe as a light fantasy world using anthropomorphic tropes with an epic fantasy wrapper. So the novels have sorcerers and dragons and knights and epic battles. The Ghost Stories have tended to be a lot more intimate. The most recent one before this year’s was a comedic murder mystery in which one of the constables in the City Watch is confronted by a headless ghost on Solstice Eve to kick of the action. This year’s was a more serious tale, and I think for the first time since I started doing this, directly related to one of the others. It’s actually a prequel to a funny Christmas Ghost Story which, it happens, was mostly written originally long-hand while I was staffing a table in the Dealer’s Den of Midwest Furfest.

Me trying the costume before the Halloween Party. For Christmas I had a black belt and wore my round gold-rimmed glasses.

Me trying the costume before the Halloween Party. For Christmas I had a black belt and wore my round gold-rimmed glasses.

I had a costume this year. Michael talked me into getting a Father Christmas costume for our friends’ Halloween party (to go along with a devil costume he got to do a silly pun). He’s been talking about getting me some sort of Santa suit or similar to wear to the Christmas party for a few years. This was wasn’t bad. It needs some more work, if I’m going to use it again.

Anyway, one of the Ghost Story ideas that’s been sitting in my queue for a while involved my fantasy world’s version of Santa, who is “one of the oldest of the dark fae” and goes by the name Grandfather Frost. If you know your cross-cultural history, Grandfather Frost is the usual English translation of the Russian character Ded Moroz, which means literally Old Man Frost. In the original Slavic myths he was a snow demon or a winter wizard—generally a creature to be feared. As the Orthodox Church took hold in those regions, some aspects of Saint Nicholas were grafted onto the character he became more like our Santa.

So, since I had the costume, and since some other aspects of the fantasy novel I’m working on were related to Grandfather Frost, I wound up in late October starting a Ghost Story about the character. I had a good start before NaNoWriMo, so I figured this year the story would be done early for a change. No such luck. I had been hung up at about 1200 words for a few weeks into December before I finally figured out where I was going wrong and got the tale straightened out.

People seemed to enjoy the story. Yay! I need to get a couple of short story collections together and either self-publish them or something.

This week I’m in that weird headspace I often find myself in after the party. Spending time with this group of friends, exchanging gifts, and continuing the Ghost Story Challenge tradition (this year Mark and Edd each had a story ready to read to answer the challenge) feels like my “real” Christmas. So I end up feeling a little weird during the days between the party and actual Christmas day. I keep having to stop myself from asking people how their Christmas went, past tense. Or from wishing strangers a Happy New Year.

Today I need to finish packing up the car to head down to Mom’s where I’m going to deliver presents. If all goes well, I’ll be stopping off at Mom’s, one of my sisters’, my older niece, my aunt, and a friend I haven’t seen in person in many years. It’ll be a bit of a whirl, but should be fun. And I hope I wind up saying “Merry Christmas” enough that I remember that Christmas isn’t quite here, yet.

Happy Solstice! Merry Christmas! And have a great day!

Birthday not very quizzacious

One side of the table during my birthday get-together at AFK Tavern.

One side of the table during my birthday get-together at AFK Tavern.

This year my age is equally divisible by 5, so it feels like a milestone birthday—even if only a middling one. I took the day itself off rather than do my usual work-from-home day, and I was mildly lazy. I drove my hubby in to work as I usually do on a work from home day, but when I got home instead of going inside to log into the work network, I just sat down on the porch steps with my travel mug full of coffee and let the drizzle come down on me.

I love overcast days with light rain. It’s my very favorite weather, so it was like nature was giving me a birthday present. I posted to twitter and got caught up on personal email until I was out of coffee. But the weather was so nice that after I unlocked the door and refilled my coffee, I grabbed one of our cloth folding/picnic chairs and my iPad and went back onto the porch. I sat there, reading, visiting with a neighbor, watching three bluebirds have a fight, and so forth for for a few hours… Read More…

The War on Valentine’s Day

6280665297_ebed2a645aParticularly in the online world, February 14th is a terrible mine field. You can’t go online without running into angry rants and bitter commentary about those of us who are happy on this day. If you make the mistake of actually admitting that you are happy and wish other people a happy day, someone’s feelings will be hurt. If you try to avoid the topic altogether, someone will ask you why you’re not waxing eloquent about your husband/boyfriend (or wife/girlfriend or whatever significant others you normally talk about). When I avoided saying anything anywhere online at all one year on February 14, I got an angry message accusing me of being too busy celebrating with my boyfriend to even spare a moment to help some of my single friends feel less unloved.

How can you possibly answer that?

Not that I don’t understand where all these mixed feelings come from. I do. I haven’t always been in a relationship. I got so used to being in the emotional space of being single and not terribly happy about it, that it’s still something of a shock to me every morning to wake up and discover I’m not alone. Even after seventeen wonderful years with Michael. So, yes, I understand what it’s like to be single.

I know what it felt like seeing people happily paired off when I wasn’t. I knew the pain of being completely smitten with someone who was in love with one of my best friends. I knew the double-pain of having a crush on a guy and not being able to share my misery with anyone else or seek sympathy from anyone because not even my closest friends knew I wasn’t straight. So I understand, really, I do, why just seeing Michael and I together being happy can cause someone else heartache.

There were times I felt that heartache. There were times I said something to one of my friends that might have made them feel guilty for being in a relationship. There were times I lashed out, making a snide remark to make them hurt as much as I did. So I understand where the negative comments come from.

I’ve had the incredible luck (and luck does have more than a little bit to do with it) of falling madly and deeply in love with someone who loved me back. When you find that kind of relationship it’s impossible to keep it to yourself. You want people to know what a great person your significant other is. You want to share the joy with your family and friends. Even when you’re a gay man living in a very homophobic society, it’s very difficult to be in love and keep it a secret. So I understand why people want to talk about their relationship with other people they care about.

I don’t need the calendar to remind me to tell Michael I love him. I don’t need a holiday to give me an excuse to buy him presents. More than once we’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day by just taking an exhausted nap together. I don’t think we have ever remembered to make reservations for a dinner at a restaurant on the big day. Michael scolds me for buying flowers on the day because prices are always jacked up. Just a few days ago I asked him if he wanted his Valentine’s gift then (since it had arrived that day), or wanted me to wait until the actual day.

I don’t believe in the so-called coupled ideal. I don’t believe that there is one and only one soulmate out there for everyone. I don’t believe that no one is capable of loving more than one person at a time. And I don’t believe that everyone would be happiest if they were in a relationship with their “one true love.”

But I refuse to feel guilty for being in love. When I was single and made other people feel guilty, their guilt didn’t alleviate my loneliness by one iota. When I lashed out and hurt their feelings, it didn’t get me one step closer to happiness. All that happened was they were hurt, and I wallowed in self-pity.

So, it’s Valentine’s Day. The eve of the Ides of February, which was the beginning of an ancient Roman celebration of fertility and purity (hard for some people to believe those go together). Some parts of the Roman festival were rather shocking to the prudish sensibilities of the early Catholic church, which is probably the reason that a pope declared Feb. 14 the Feast of St. Valentine in 498 AD. The oldest surviving Valentine Greeting (a love letter which specifically mentions St. Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate one’s love) is a letter written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415, while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London (take that, everyone who claims the holiday was invented by greeting card companies; in fact it was the other way around).

For the last several years, the biggest celebration we’ve done on Valentine’s Day is meeting up with a bunch of friends to celebrate our friend Jared’s birthday. It’s an evening of laughter and love with a diverse group—some single, some not. The important thing is that we’re together and not mired in bitterness nor guilt.

A holly, jolly time

We did a bit of decorating before people arrived at the hotel room for the party.

We did a bit of decorating before people arrived at the hotel room for the party.

On a Saturday in December, 1985, a group including myself, Mark, Keith, Alan, Joe, Julie (and possibly a few others), got together for a small Christmas celebration before those of us who were college students took our various paths toward home for the holidays. And just about every December since then, I’ve attended a holiday celebratory gathering of friends which included several of the people from that one get-together 29 years ago. The party size has varied a bit over the years, a few times being as small as the first gathering, and several times consisting of several dozen people. Usually the party has been hosted at someone’s home, with the two variables of house size and attendance always making it a bit of a gamble as to how crowded it would be… Read More…

…and a sonic screwdriver!

A whole bunch of people joined us for a birthday dinner.

A whole bunch of people joined us for a birthday dinner. I’m the weirdo in the stocking cap waving at the camera. (Click to embiggen)

So I had a good birthday.

On the day itself, Michael left two presents for me to find while I was getting ready to go to work: a polo shirt with the Tardis embroidered on it, and the War Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. There was also a very sweet card that made me a bit teary-eyeed. He knows me so well! When I got home from work there was a much sillier card, and two more presents: a string of Tardis lights (we might end up doing another science fiction themed Christmas tree, at this rate), and in a plot twist I didn’t see coming, a pair of Princess Bride pint beer glasses.

It's a sonic screwdriver? Need a lot of shelves put up?

It’s a sonic screwdriver! Need a lot of shelves put up?

Then we walked up to my favorite restaurant for dinner. As often happens there, they gave me extra full glasses of wine. Both of my favorite waitresses were there. I had learned last year when we had my birthday dinner there that one of the waitresses has her birthday the day before mine, so I got to wish her a happy birthday. Even though I didn’t have room for dessert, they insisted I take home a slice of chocolate cake.

I had invited a bunch of our friends to meet us at AFK Tavern (where so many of our group outings happen) on Saturday afternoon. Since I needed to make reservations before everyone had time to let me know whether they would be there, I had to guess. We wound up with three more people than my upper-end guesstimate, so you will notice in the first picture we’re a bit squeezed in.

IMG_3167I had a lot of fun. This was the first time at AFK for Julie, Julie’s Mike, Jon, Sheryl, Chuck, and Mark, I believe. I only had three Fluttershy Mai Tais, plus a pint of Swill (which is actually a really delicious ale).

We were there about four hours.

IMG_0825I got a bunch of presents. A cool plant (which is going into the office, I think; I’ve had a window for over a year and keep saying I need a plant or two, so here goes!), a set of Tardis & Dalek salt & pepper shakers, the Firefly edition of Clue (which I didn’t even know existed!), a Seahawks stocking cap, two pairs of dark maroon/purple fuzzy socks (in men’s size!), iTunes gift card, not to mention some really cool cards.

IMG_3165My big present from Michael is still on its way. After years of me being unsuccessful at finding a Smith-Corona Silent-Super model manual typewriter in pink with white keys (sometimes called the “Easter Edition”) that was in at a price I could afford or had not already sold to someone else, he found one. It’s not in pristine condition, but the place that sells it does a lot of manual typewriter restorations and has a good reputation, so when they say it is in working order, that they’ve cleaned and serviced it, et cetera, I believe them.

I had a great time. I was so glad that so many folks could join us.

It was a fantastic birthday!

Feeling lucky

Some mornings I wake up, it’s dark, the clock radio may have started playing NPR’s Morning Edition, which means the alarm will be going off soon. Which does not fill me with joy, because I’m never quite ready to wake up and get out of bed.

But about then my husband comes back into the bedroom. He goes into work earlier than I do, needing to leave before my alarm even goes off. Anyway, he walks into the room, he may turn on the lights because he’s looking for something, or he may just need to grab one thing. The important thing is he walks into the room, and a fun thing happens.

I remember that I’m married to that man.

It’s not like I have amnesia or something, but there’s a part of me that is always pleasantly surprised to remember that I’m not alone. Not only am I not alone, but I have the best husband in the world. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s sweet. He’s cute. He’s sexy. He’s very practical. One of my friends once described Michael as the most capable person he’s ever known. He can fix things—all kinds of things!—and he likes doing it. He can take a pile of fresh vegetables and turn it into several very neat piles of very nicely sliced vegetables in the amount of time a normal person would spend deciding which knife to use. He cooks. He cleans. He puts up with me (not exactly the easiest person to get along with). He puts up with all my weird hobbies and projects. He’s cheerful, even after living with me for over 16 years. His response to any disaster is not, “how can I fix this,” but rather, “I have a plan to deal with this.”

And did I mention that he’s sexy?

As if having this wonderful man in my life wasn’t already more good fortune than I deserve, my life has also been graced with a large assortment of wonderful friends. It’s hard to know where to begin, but here goes: Read More…

Somepony Else’s Friends

I wore this t-shirt, featuring camping unicorns (Campy-corns!) to this year's Pride Parade and Festival.

I love this t-shirt, featuring camping unicorns (Campy-corns!)!

As the song says, sometimes you just want to go where everyone knows your name. Sometimes, you just want to hang out with friends in an environment where you can kick back, be yourself, and not worry that people are judging what you say and do. That’s one of the reasons that those of us who are really into things such as Doctor Who or Stargate SG-1, or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, or Magic User’s Club attend conferences dedicated to our favorite movie/book/series and hang out with other fans.

It’s a lot of fun.

It’s especially fun when our involvement in a particular enthusiasm is new. One of the reasons why is that when we first discover a new book or series or band that we really like, often most of our existing friends have never heard of it. And we may try to get them interested, and it doesn’t grab them quite the way it does us. And we may think that maybe this new thing isn’t as cool as we think it is, or maybe worry that we’re boring our friends. So if we then find some people who are as enthusiastic as we are about the new thing, we suddenly feel validated. “Yes! I’m not alone!”

But the sweet spot is where we have found a new thing, found new people who seem nice and like this new thing as much as we do, and where at least some of our closest friends also like this new thing as much as us. That’s a win-win-win!

Sometimes that triple-win can be misleading. Let me explain… Read More…

“Some of my favorite books have maps…”

TinyPics.Com

Just resting my eyes…

This month we actually managed to make it to our friend’s monthly “Drink ‘n’ Draw” meet up. I had meant to take at least a few pictures, but between visiting, trying to draw, and some editorial pow-wowing, I never got around to it. It was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Our friend, Jared, had agreed to give the manuscript of the first novel in the Trickster series a copy edit pass. He handed back the pile of pages, and we discussed topics other than mechanical copy edits. One of the questions he had for me was whether I planned to create a map of the fictitious world to include in the book.

One reason was that there are some places where it is a bit confusing where some of the groups of traveling people are in the story.

I have a very rough map sketched out in my notes, along with description that would just be long exposition in the book. There is description of the setting, but generally I keep it short and focused on the immediate vicinity of the characters. I really don’t want to write a scene where one character says to another, “As you know, Philippe, the empire is bordered on the south by four independent lands: the Duchy of Molalla, the Duchy of Falatin, the Tlatskan Marches, and the Duchy of Matilla. The river Klitwatchee defines the border, and it’s many tributaries define the major trade routes between the larger cities of each…”

When one of the characters is actually at the river, I mention that the opposite bank is another country, but no one really wants a detailed geography lesson plopped into the middle of the adventure tale, right?

I feel a little reluctance to put in a map because of a number of reviews I recall reading some years ago (as in, when I was in my teens) disparaging such maps in fantasy novels. I don’t really recall all of the reasons that were given for treating the maps with such derision. I remember a suggestion it denoted either laziness or a case of copying all the more successful epic fantasy novels. Or something.

Which I realized is weird. I have somehow internalized these opinions that I only vaguely recall reading, and it’s made me ambivalent about the idea of including a map.

While I was talking about this, a couple of our other friends scoffed at the derisive commentaries. One said, “Some of my favorite books have maps!”

The consensus seemed to be that a map wouldn’t hurt. Since the plot of the novel does involve several characters traveling, not to mention a battle with multiple armies, a map would probably be quite useful for at least some readers.

So I guess I need to draw a better map.

Ponies are forever (at Zorkfox’s party)

The birthday boy gabbing before opening a present.

The birthday boy gabbing before opening a present. Scotty on the left.

We celebrated Jared’s birthday last night at AFK Tavern. Friday is my usual work from home day, and my husband came home from his work early because he’s sick (he handed me a beautiful bouquet and said, “I got you some plant sex organs.” I love him so!). I had taken a sick day earlier in the week, and come home early myself on Thursday (though I took a short nap, logged in and worked from home for a couple more hours, took a longer nap, then worked some more, then went to bed). So I hadn’t been certain I would go to the party until just before leaving. Michael stayed home, sleeping.

But, a fun time was had by those of us there… Read More…

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