Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Spring Interlude

This afternoon I lay in the grass next to creek and put words into a journal about anything that popped into my mind. I talked about the crow who was calling in a dead tree close to me. About the six vultures that I caught circling over me. About how I want to spend more time outside. About my upcoming camping trip. About why my hands never seem to get sunburned. I was warm in the sun and comfortable in my sweatshirt from the breeze. It reminded me why I need to spend more time outside.

My creek in summer. It's a little more bare recently. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Top 10 Nonfiction Titles

After my post on All The Tea in China, I started thinking about nonfiction. I read a lot of nonfiction. I think I would say that at this point in my life I prefer nonfiction. Not saying that I don't love to get lost in some imaginary world, but I'm a sucker for a book that will both teach and entertain me. So here are my Top 10 favorite nonfiction titles.

1. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
I read this book of Weiner's study of happiness and the places it can be found, and then immediately passed the book on to my sisters. The NPR correspondent looks at different scales of happiness and then sets out to visit the places that have been listed the happiest on earth (and a few of the least happy). Not only did the book introduce me to the concept of biophilia, but it made me want to travel to places like Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. His study of the different cultures is fascinating and I walked away thinking a lot about happiness and what really makes me happy in the end.

2. The Hive by Bee Wilson
I picked up this book, subtitled The Story of the Honeybee and Us, randomly in a tiny bookstore in Omaha. I read a lot of natural history books and this one was interesting. I had been wanting to eventually set up my own apiary. This book was so beautifully written and provided such an interesting history of bees that I read it over a two day period. Wilson shows how bees have been intertwined with our politics, sex, life, death, and of course food throughout history. A "bee"utiful book.

3. The History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage
The only book on this list that I don't own, but I can't think of a nonfiction title that has more impacted the way I look at the world. Standage looks back through human history through the lens of beverages. Through beer, wine, tea, coffee, spirits, and cola, he traces how humans have been changed as these drinks rose to prominence. His last chapter, about the rising importance of water, changed the way I looked at the environmental movement for the better. One of the best books I've ever read. Period.

4. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
Larson might be my favorite nonfiction writer out there. At the insistence of my mother I've read almost all of his books. He makes history come alive in a way that I've never encountered before. Isaac's Storm, about the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, tells three stories. The first is about the actual hurricane, how it arrived and what it destroyed. The second is about Isaac Cline, the meteorologist in Galveston that year and how his lack of understanding caused some of the larger damage. It's through Cline's letters and journals that we get the most intimate picture of the catastrophe. And the last story is the story of meteorology itself, from a bunch of guesswork to a somewhat scientific study. All three stories wrap together to make for one exciting and informative read.

5. Longitude by Dava Sobel
This is really a story about sea travel, about the difficulties of sea travel, and about the perfect device that managed to make it less difficult. For centuries sea farers could tell with some accuracy where they were latitudinally but they had no idea what longitude they were at. They could tell how close to the equator they were, but not how far east or west. It was a perilous issue. This book chronicles the invention of the chronometer, which finally allowed sailors the chance to know where in the world they really were. A short, elegant read for anyone interested in travel, history, or inventions.

6. The Medici Giraffe by Marina Belozerskaya
Throughout history, animals have been used by man. Some for food, some for work, and some (as this book discusses) for status. This well researched and beautifully written book looks at how people have used exotic animals as symbols of power and status. It chronicles the early animal trade where exotics were brought back to live in private menageries or paraded down the streets for the people's pleasure. I had never really thought about how animals had been used that way until I realized how often animals are still given as gifts to heads of state. An eye-opening book.

7. The Road of Dreams by Bruce Junek
One of the more obscure titles on this list, although I have several friends who had read this travelogue before I had. The book follows Bruce Junek and his wife Tass Thacker as they bicycle around the world. I've read many "around the world" books but this one was the first to really feel like the authors were getting heavily into the cultures surrounding them. Focusing mostly on North America, Europe, and Asia, this book gave me my first glimpse into traveling lightly yet immersing oneself into a place. I was spellbound by the read as has everyone I've ever lent the book to.

8. Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
After I started scuba diving, I started reading a bit about the history of the pursuit and about successful and unsuccessful dives. Of all the books I've read though, none of them kept me on the edge of my seat like this true story of a group of divers, working on a U-Boat they discovered off the coast of the US. Their tales of the dives they take to discover the identity of the sub and to explore it are gripping. While reading the last chapter I literally forgot to breathe and ended up taking gasping breaths as I flipped pages. Incredibly exciting reading.

9. You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen
This is hands down one of the best books I've ever read about human communication. Tannen explores how and why men and women seem to speak differently. Giving clear examples she shows what each sex is trying to convey in their discussions. While I'll admit that not every woman or man fits a stereotype, this book really changed the way I look at why I say the things I say and what I really mean.  It shaped the way I speak and the way I listen.

10. Rowing to Latitude by Jill Fredston
I've read a lot of books about swimmers and rowers lately. I'm not sure what about the water fascinates me so much but I've been smitten. This book follows Jill Fredston and her husband as they row (as in rowboat) around some of the coldest and inhospitable places on Earth. In winter Fredston is an avalanche rescuer in Alaska. In summer, she and her husband row around the edges of Greenland, Norway, Alaska... to name a few. The writing is beautiful (I copied out tons of quotes), the locations are fascinating, and the interactions between the couple and the world around them makes me want to spend more time outdoors. Great read.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2 Questions

There are two questions that I get asked repeatedly and regularly. They both make sense for people who know me and my habits, but I don't think I ever answer them properly. So I'll answer them here, where I don't have to think on my feet. 

1. Are you going to get a Kindle or Nook?
I don't know how many times I've been asked some variation on this question. I get asked about my feelings on e-readers often enough that I've developed something of a pat answer. I don't hate the idea of e-readers. In fact, anything that gets people reading is a wonderful thing. I hope people read regularly and broadly. I hope they fill their e-reader with books and catch up on modern novels, classics, and nonfiction. Seriously, I don't care what form you read as long as you read. As for myself, I would probably love a Kindle or Nook. I like the idea of having hundreds of books handy. But it's not something that I'm going to go out of my way to buy. If I end up with one, great. But even if I do, that doesn't mean that I'll stop buying print books. I prefer to read off paper. I find my concentration isn't quite as deep when I read on a screen. And even if I find that I love the Kindle/Nook and I love reading on it, I'll still buy paper books as well, and not just for that wonderful old book smell. There is something about being surrounded by paper and books that makes me feel at home. I'm never more happy then when I'm in a library or bookstore, surrounded by stories. Browsing those shelves I find books I would never have expected to read, that become favorites. I find new ideas. I can't get that browsing experience electronically. Because I prefer to read serendipitously, I'll never stop book buying. Even if I do purchase a few electronically. 

2. Are you ever going to get a Keurig?
I drink a lot of coffee and tea. I'm the queen of hot beverages. So it's natural to assume that I would want a Keurig. I have friends that love theirs. I've used them in hotels and been happy with them. But I'm never ever going to get one. I have two reasons. The first is purely personal. As I mentioned before, I drink a lot of coffee. I drink a pot of coffee every day at work. Decaf of course, but it's a full pot. I pour cup after cup. I can't imagine if I had to get up to make a new cup of coffee each time I ran out. Currently I just pour some fresh stuff from my 12 cup maker on top of the cooling coffee. I can't imagine drinking less and I can't imagine having to make it in individual sized cups. 

The second reason that I won't get a Keurig is only partly personal. I started to notice that K-cups now make up more and more of my grocery aisle at stores. Box after box of K-cups are available in every possible brand. And each of those little cups is made of plastic. That means that every time I make a cup of coffee I'm contributing a tiny cup of plastic to our landfills. While that may not seem huge, now imagine that everyone in your town does that each day. If every person in Des Moines drank one cup of coffee each day (and used a K-cup) that means that over the course of a year, Des Moines alone (with a population of almost 600,000) would add 219 million little plastic cups to the landfill. 219 MILLION!!. In our relatively small city. Now imagine the number of K-cups coming out of a city like New York City. So far I haven't heard anyone talk about the environmental impact of the Keurig but I bet we will start talking about that soon. I can't think of a more wasteful device out there. They look lovely and make decent coffee, but they also make a ton of trash. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

For All the Tea in China

Most people who know me know that I'm a huge coffee drinker. Even after going decaf a couple years ago I still drink a large amount of coffee. But I really should say that I'm a hot beverage person. I drink not just coffee but tea, cocoa, hot cider, mulled wine, and even just hot water. If it's a warm beverage, it's for me. I love tea. There are so many varieties, and unlike with coffee I can easily tell the difference between flavors. And this week I'm inspired to try even more different types of tea.

I just finished the book "For All the Tea in China" by Sarah Rose and was blown away by how much I learned in a scant 250 pages. The book follows Robert Fortune, a botanist in the 1800s who was sent by the East India Company to China to steal tea. Up until that point tea was only grown in China and Britain was becoming dependent on the drink. So the East India Company wanted a source that they could control. So it was decided that tea should be planted in India, a country already under the company's control.

Over three years Fortune was able to gather and smuggle out of China enough tea plants that India was able to produce a crop and in a short period of time nearly end Britain's reliance on Chinese tea. Rose describes it as one of the greatest industrial thefts of all time. It was one of the first instances of industrial espionage which nearly destroyed the Chinese economy. Especially since India was still shipping thousands of pounds of opium to China (If you haven't read about the Opium Wars, they are a fascinating topic.).

Reading the book made me even more curious about the East India Company, a company I knew something about but never really realized the full horror of what it did. Can you imagine having a for-profit corporation in control of your government? All your basic services at its whim? While we talk about corporate control here in the US I still don't have to rely on Wall Street for my fire protection or schools. Rose spends some time talking about the Honourable Company (as it was sometimes called) but left me wanting more, the mark of a great nonfiction book.

But the book also made me more curious about tea. I read a section about the Assam teas from India and was excited to realize that I had just picked up a Golden Assam from our local tea merchant, Gong Fu. The book talked about the Darjeeling teas, which I realize I've never had a great example of. There was a small discussion of monkey-picked teas, something that I had always been curious about (and now won't be trying). Suddenly I want to run down to Gong Fu and try all their teas. I want to sample them and write tasting notes the way people do with whiskey and scotch. A fascinating book. But be warned, it will make you crave tea. I don't want to think about all the cups I drank over the last two days of reading it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

We Aren't Really Party People

My father is retiring in January. He's worked for the same medical group since he finished his residency in 1975. My father has never missed a day of work due to weather. He's been a valued part of the hospital and I'm constantly told how wonderful he is.

To celebrate his retirement my sister started planning a party for him. A gathering where we would invite all of his coworkers, and all of our family, and my parent's friends to celebrate his long and productive career. She started planning the party..., until she talked to my dad about it. And he thanked her for the idea but said, "we're not really party people."

When my sister told me what he'd said I was a little surprised. My dad is outgoing, often the one telling jokes at any gathering. But at the same time this is true. We aren't party people. As a family it is rare for us to have a party. I know my parents had their friends over when we were younger but it was never what I would call a party. Birthday parties normally took place at a location outside the house (think Chuck E. Cheese). And tonight we'll be going out to dinner to celebrate my birthday.

It's strange but I don't feel like I missed out on anything by not having parties when we were younger. I'm more than happy to celebrate life events with a good dinner and some time with family. I'm introverted enough that parties are stressful and I often want to flee shortly after arriving. It's not that I don't like people, I just get overwhelmed. I think my childhood would have been stressful had we been party people. But we aren't. So we'll celebrate my dad's retirement with a family gathering, getting all the kids together for a weekend. And tonight, I'll celebrate my birthday with a glass of wine and a great dinner. And that sounds perfect.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'll see you in court!

It's pretty rare when the words in the title are followed up by anything pleasant. But today was a bit of an exception. As I headed out to work this morning I told Jess that I'd see her in court. And we both had smiles on our faces. 

Today Jess' name change became legal. We filed the paperwork in September and had been waiting for the courts to set a date. I'd already sent back my notarized form saying that I was aware of the name change and didn't object. But Jess' lawyer thought it would be best if I was present just in case there were any questions. I'm glad I was there to support Jess. We were both questioned lightly but by the lawyer. The judge was all smiles. It's not often that a judge gets to make someone's day. 

All and all the process took 20 minutes, not counting the waiting to have a court date set. Everyone (at least in Iowa) is allowed one legal name change without cost. Jess has just used hers. And I don't think I've ever seen a smile so radiant. How often can you say you spent part of the day in court and ended up happy?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum

I get on kicks every once in a while (and by that I mean all the time). Jess calls them my obsessions. My current one is Alan Cumming. Ever since I saw my first Alan Cumming movie (Circle of Friends) back in the early 90s, I've paid attention when I find movies with him in it. As I sit down to watch I always say, "Oooh this has Alan Cumming. I love him." But he's never been one of my kicks. Until now. Suddenly I'm watching movies with him in them, listening to interviews, getting excited to read his new book, and watching YouTube video after YouTube video. It's a fun kick. Alan's a really fantastic actor but he also has a lot of traits that I admire: intelligence, honesty, energy, passion. Plus he's vegan. What's not to love?

Joel Grey as Emcee, singing Money with Liza Minnelli

One of the best things though about this kick is that it has introduced me the fantastic musical Cabaret. After all Alan won the Tony for his performance as the Master of Ceremonies in the 1990s revival of the musical, playing the part that Joel Grey played in the film. Alan's version is a tad...raunchier. And a bit darker, than the Joel Grey/Liza Minnelli one. It's not a show for children, either for the rather erotic dancing or for the dark Nazi undertones. Before this kick though, I'd never seen the whole musical. I'd seen bits of the costuming and heard a couple of songs (who hasn't heard "Money"?). But I had no idea how deep and potentially dark the musical could be. I thought it was about a nightclub after all.

Alan Cumming's Emcee in Willkommen

I should have known it would be dark. After all, it's about Germany during the rise of the Nazis. In the late 1920s Germany was a country of decadence, as expressed by the club. Like our 1920s, dancing and drinking and sex were all the rage. The play focuses on an American writer who comes to Berlin, the nightclub singer who moves herself in with him, the landlady at his boarding house, and her admirer, a grocery man who happens to be Jewish. The Nazis rise to power takes the form of a man who befriends the writer and then wrecks havoc in the life of the boarding house. And overseeing all of this is the Master of Ceremonies.

The music is so catchy. I've been singing Willkommen, Mein Herr, Money, Two Ladies, and Life is a Cabaret since I started watching the musical. I've seen several versions now (not just Alan's) and I like all of them. I just love the mix of energies, one upbeat and a bit sexy, and the other dark and grim. I have favorite versions for each song and I'll listen to them over and over. The dancing and acting is just spectacular. And the story makes me laugh and make me sad. A well told tale. Now I just need to see it on stage.

Over the weekend my sister and I were planning to get together on Saturday. That morning she started her text with "Guten Morgen Fraulein". When I texted her back she apologized for the German but said that she'd just seen a stage production of Cabaret and had German on the brain. I couldn't believe the coincidence. We've been trading our impressions of each of the different versions since then. It's fun that we both found this musical at the exact same time. And it's even more fun to have someone to share the excitement with.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Floor

As I'm sitting upstairs I can hear pounding, grinding, and sawing coming from below me. Honestly it's gotten so that I don't even notice the noise. I'm sitting upstairs writing, emailing, and more often checking Twitter. But below me are two men installing our new floor.

We've lived in our townhouse for over 9 years now. And during that time I've been talking about replacing the living room floor for about 6 of them. I think the carpet is original which would make it nearly 20 years old. And being off-white means that it looked bad from the beginning. So when we had to redo the floor in the kitchen a couple years ago, I knew it was time to start thinking about the living room.
The floor in the kitchen which will now be in the rest of the downstairs. 

We're getting the same laminate as we have in the kitchen and I really think it's going to open up the room. Even just moving the furniture and all the other stuff out has made the room seem huge. I never realized we had that much space. It just means that I'll need to get rid of things rather than bring them back down.

I haven't been down there to peek yet. I'm trying to give the guys as much as privacy as possible. After all they're the ones doing the work. But I'm pretty excited. Goodbye hideous carpet. Goodbye vacuuming downstairs. Yay new floor!

{Edit: 10 minutes after I posted this they called me to tell me that they had finished with the main work. Here's what the floor looks like. The room is huge. It echos. I love it!}

Friday, October 3, 2014

Insomnia, Again

My mother tells me that I was one of her best sleepers when I was a child. I slept heavily through the night for years, barely waking for anything. All the way through college, very little disturbed my slumber. Even the dorms weren't loud enough to wake me up. I would drop into bed around midnight and sleep straight through until morning.

Flash forward 15 years and I'm dealing with insomnia, again. Ever since I left college I've become a light sleeper. I wake at the tiniest noise. And often can't get back to sleep. Several years ago I went through a seven month period where I couldn't fall asleep. I was lucky if I got 4 to 5 hours a night. Now I can fall asleep, but I can't stay asleep. I'm waking up four or five times a night and struggle to get back to sleep each time. I stare at the ceiling or lay there listening to Jess sleep. I've started sleeping with earplugs in again but I think they're more of a problem right now than a solution.

The problem seems to be my anxiety. I've had social anxiety for most of my life but in the last decade it has started amplifying, leading to anxiety attacks and insomnia. It's confrontation that's the issue. My previous bout of insomnia stemmed from a neighbor who would have wild parties. The few times I went to tell him to keep it down didn't go well. Nothing physical or really all that mean, but it set me back. So I would lie awake on perfectly quiet nights waiting for the noise. This current bout is about a new neighbor. We share a wall and he's a true night owl. One night I woke at 4 a.m. to find him blasting music. Jess went over to ask him to turn it down and he did. He's been quiet and respectful every since. We've hardly heard a peep from him. But I can't seem to shake the anxiety. I lie awake listening for the music. And I can't sleep.

I'm writing this because I find that talking about my anxiety seems to make it less intense. I often journal about my anxiety attacks but I never really talk about them here. I know that I'm not alone with anxiety issues and certainly not alone in my fear of confrontation. It's right up there with fear of death and public speaking. Currently I avoid it at all costs. But I'm beginning to wonder if that is hurting me more than anything. Would I be less anxious if I felt that I was more in control? Would I still not be sleeping if I felt I could tell this kid what I thought? I know that it's all a matter of facing my fears, but that's hard to remember at 3 a.m., a time that's never been comfortable for this early bird. So I'll ask. Have you ever faced insomnia? What worked? What didn't?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Comics Issue

I got home from the library at 2 this afternoon with a stack of nine books. Two were easy reader children's book, one was an overview of a filmmaker's career, one was a creativity guide, and the rest were graphic novels. I read a lot of graphic novels. I love the blending of words and images. I love the creative stories that seem to only flow out of the blending of art and text. And I love the art. But a lot of people will tell me that graphic novels, comics, or even comic strips aren't real reading. There continues to be a stigma attached to this kind of reading. I couldn't disagree more.

I grew up on a rich diet of books which included picture books, chapter books, comics, and comic strips. Some of the earliest adventure stories that I fell in love with were Uncle Scrooge comics. Each thin paper comic contained an adventure that often spanned the globe. I would get sucked into the stories. I can still picture Uncle Scrooge in his adventure for the golden fleece or making his way into the valley of Tralla La (the Carl Banks version of Shangri-La). I had no idea at the time that I was learning bits of greek myth or about mythical utopias. I just knew that I loved the stories.

As I got older I fell in love with comic strips. I read Calvin and Hobbes, Wizard of Id, The Far Side, and Bloom County to name a few. There were other comics, ones that weren't in our local paper, that found their way into the house in the form of collections. My mother supported us kids as readers, in whatever form that reading took. So we had hundreds of these comic collections mixed with our paper comics that included Archie's, Mickey Mouse, and Casper. We were allowed to read anything we wanted as long as it was kid friendly. And we did read. I can't remember a moment of my childhood where I wasn't reading or thinking about books to read. We were blessed.

I worry about kids now whose parents keep them from comics. Parent who say that graphic novels and comics aren't real reading. As if reading a chapter book was the only form of book for kids once they can read on their own. Like the mistaken idea of taking picture books away from kids after they can read on their own, I think that this does more to keep children from becoming readers. Much like picture books, I think graphic novels are essential reading for kids who are learning to love words and stories. A story can be told in many ways. Like a great film, a graphic novel uses both dialogue and image to tell a more complete story. A child who is encouraged to read whatever they would like (within reason) will become a reader. They will read for pleasure. They will read to learn.

Now I'm not saying to never pay attention to what your children are reading. I've read graphic novels that were disturbing for me as an adult. I've also read word only novels that have done the same thing. My mother was careful to screen what we read for adult content. Things we read that were more advanced were discussed. But we were never told that we couldn't read some type of format. When I went back to reading picture books my mother gave me a stack of books from our old library. I have dibs on some of our comic book collections. I read constantly as a child, in all formats. And I don't know if I would have been as large a reader if I hadn't been granted so much freedom in deciding what I wanted to read. I know that I would not be the reader I am today without that combination of art and words.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gen Con: Hobbies and Crafts

I've been meaning to write this post for two weeks now. Of course it would help if I ever had a night at home before 9 o'clock. I'm in the middle of a busy stretch. But now I have a couple minutes. And I'm going to get this out so I can move on to other things. After all, it's been almost a month since Gen Con.

Every time we go to Gen Con, I come back inspired from all the creativity and energy I see around me. Artist's Alley is filled with incredibly talented artists and I always seem to pick up a print or two. I have more art than I have walls now. I am always in awe of how creative people are. I'll post later about the paper sculpture I purchased which hangs in my car. It's my favorite thing from the whole con.

But this year I was drawn to some of the great sewing pieces I saw and the incredibly detailed miniatures that were on display. I took more pictures of the miniatures than I should have. But I was just struck each time by how amazing they were. Miniature painting is something that I've been thinking of getting into. I picked up a starter kit last year, only to find that all the paint was too dry to work with. I would like to start painting, although looking at the ones on display is both inspiring, and a bit daunting.

Seriously, look at that detail

I loved the personality on this piece. Love this little guy. 

And of course, the dragon. Fantastic!

The sewing I took pictures of was also a bit of wishful thinking. I'm still terrified of the sewing machine. I know it will try to eat my fingers. Jess tells me that there's nothing to it, but I think she's lying. Still clearly there are plenty of talented people out there.

I think this was all hand-stitched, so there is hope. But isn't it incredible? Love me some Cthulhu.

I stopped this woman as she was eating lunch. I felt bad but I loved the skirt so much. The back was also covered with emblems. Such a simple design but such fun. I had to stop her and compliment her on the skirt. She was very gracious about it.

What I love about Gen Con is that it's not just one type of art. There are the professional artists certainly. And the creative cosplayers which continue to stun me. And the hobby enthusiasts who make and create. But there's also the creative art that just appears at the show.

The robots above were built out of Legos for a giant game of RoboRally. Some very familiar faces to make the game even more interesting.

And this octopus was created on site, out of cards, by someone who just happened to like building card structures. By the end of the weekend he was destroyed for charity. Temporary art. No wonder I come home inspired.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gen Con...The Costume Edition

Mystery Men!

I've been back for almost a week and this is the first chance I've had to download photos and decompress from this year's Gen Con. For those of you who aren't familiar, each year Jess and I travel with my family to a gaming convention in Indianapolis. We play games, we play-test games, we talk about games, we eat lots of fantastic dinners while talking about games, and we look at costumes. Sometimes gaming costumes, most times not.

Don't know the character (anyone know?) but love the costume

We had a blast as usual. I always eat too much and don't play enough and this year was no exception. But we did end up coming home with three new games to try, some books from our favorite webcomics, and some cool steampunk accessories. I also found a writing quill which I think will get a lot of use for drawing. I came home with a lot of energy for creating.

These guys were huge hits of the convention. Love the Lego hands on Batman

We didn't spend quite as much time with family this trip and I feel a little sad about that. While looking through my pictures from the trip there are only two with family members in them. The evenings we spent with everyone but most of the mornings and early afternoons were just Jess and I. Not that I didn't have fun, but I would have loved to play more with everyone. I've really missed gaming lately. Jess and I have decided that we'll pick one day per weekend to play one of the games we have. Otherwise they just sit and gather dust and we only play games when we're with other people.

With Starfleet Airship Division. After I took his picture he gave me some Starfleet cash

As you can see, the costumes were just as good as usual this year. Each time I go I am blown away by people's creativity. And I come back wanting to make a costume for the next time we get to a convention. I had tossed around the idea of a simple Portal costume but never ended up making it. Perhaps next year. My next post will look at some of the crafts and hobbies that I was blown away by. I need to do more creating.

My mother, finds Waldo (my father). His costume was a huge hit. People even chased him down the street for photos. 

The man in the suit and tie is supposed to be Tony Stark. He had the arc reactor in his chest (although the blue glow didn't come out in this photo) and would toss out cheesy lines as each person took a picture. He was hilarious. 

Monday, August 4, 2014


In a couple weeks, Jess and I are heading to a big time geek convention. I'll be donning my Star Trek uniform, wearing my cool RPG t-shirts, and carrying all my necessities in this adorable bag.

We found this at Target two weeks ago and we both instantly fell in love. And we weren't the only ones. Before we even got the bag out of the store we had a woman stop us to see where we'd found it. The woman at the checkout smiled and chuckled when she rang it up. We've had a couple of friends over in the last two weeks and all of them have mentioned it. It's the perfect bag for a geek convention.

For one moment I debated buying it. And then Jess pressed the button. I instantly put it in the cart. Love!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


In a way this post is four and a half years in the making. Four and a half years ago my life changed in an unforeseeable way and I've been keeping it a secret. That's a long time to keep a secret, but it wasn't my secret to tell. I've kept quiet from family, friends, and the world. But now, finally I'm able to talk about what has been going on in my life these last couple years.

Right about the time that I broke my ankle, Jeff and I had a discussion where he came out to me as transgender. At the time I didn't know the word and neither did he. What he told me is that his outside gender didn't match his inside gender. He didn't feel comfortable in his own skin. It was through the research we've done in these last three years that we heard the term transgender. The formal definition is, "a term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth".

That first discussion led to others. Many others. We talked for years about what this meant. In the beginning Jeff hoped that he would be okay just using feminine expressions to make himself feel better. But we both quickly realized that it wasn't enough. We started talking about what would happen IF he transitioned. Then it became WHEN.

In January we decided that there was no reason for him to be miserable any longer. We decided that Jeff would become Jess in August. Three weeks from now I'll be married to a woman. Not legally a woman but a woman in appearance and hopefully as perceived by the rest of the world. I'm starting to change my "he" to "she". I'm trying to get used to the new name. People who spend time with us regularly have been told. The support has been tremendous, both for her and me. Her office is making adjustments and will handle everything there. Everyone has told me that it will take time for their impressions to change, but that they will continue to spend time with us. It's been an eye opening couple of months.

And an eye opening couple of years. I've started reading books on gender expression and the very big difference between sex and gender. I've had more discussion with Jess then we've ever had. There have been tears and there have been laughs. Jess seems happier than she's been in many years. And I'm happy about that. For 15 years I've loved him. And now I think I'm going to love her just as much. It will be a transition. For both of us. But we're prepared to see this through together, as friends and companions. And still married.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


When I was young my mother did much of our clothing shopping at a tiny chain store called Richman Gordman. The store was only located in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas and had very few locations. But one of those locations was about a mile away from my parents. And like a Kohl's or a Gordman's (the current iteration of Richman Gordman), the store carried a variety of everything. There was clothes and shoes and housewares. But it was even better than Kohl or Gordman's because, Richman Gordman had Zooland.

We kids loved to go shopping because of four fiberglass animals that were set up in one of the back corners of the store. There was a big blue and red elephant that was a slide, a green hippo that was a tunnel, a yellow kangaroo that had both a balance beam and a climbing area, and an orange camel that was a fort. My favorite was always the elephant. In between his front feet was a set of stairs that spiraled up to his head. And the slide was his trunk. I loved going down the slide but I really loved the red twisting stairs inside. The play area was a dream play area. These four animals seemed huge and magical (at least to my tiny self). I can still remember the feeling of the painted fiberglass of the elephant's trunk. To say that I loved this playland was an understatement.

Of course as I got older, I got embarrassed by the play area and stopped going there to play. And then I got too big to climb on them. I think I was 13 or 14 when the store near us closed, but I'd stopped playing in Zooland a long time before. In my youth I didn't even think of where the animals would be shipped to. I know now that many of them went to private buyers. Just recently I started to get nostalgic for some of the things of my childhood and I went looking for pictures of the animals. But I found even more than that. I found out that Omaha Children's Museum not only managed to find some of them, but have refurbished them as playground equipment in the museum. They have all four animals and a whole new generation of children are playing on them. I think I need to take a road trip. If you're in Omaha and stumble into the Children's Museum to find a woman weeping next to a blue and red elephant, don't be alarmed. It's just me, reliving my childhood.