Today I’m Excited About: DMing Curse of Strahd

I’ve been playing D&D for over two years now, and let me just say, playing D&D is excellent! Someone else does all the hard work of creating and describing a setting and a story, and you can march your character into the middle of everything and make whatever kind of mess you want! You have total freedom, and it’s up to the DM to be quick on their feet and weave a story out of the chaos.

I never really wanted to be a DM for that very reason. But Rachel led our group for over a year and inevitably got tired. I agreed to run a one-shot (aka a mini-story that lasts only one session) and it was meh. It was fine. I never felt particularly talented at it, and when I stepped away from pre-made material into my own (“Okay, so in this Christmas adventure you can’t cast spells without singing Christmas carols!” “But we don’t want to.” “Well THAT’S HOW IT’S WORKING, ENJOY YOUR CHRISTMAS CHEER!”) it didn’t go well.

For my birthday last year, Rachel bought me The Curse of Strahd, a classic D&D campaign that was subtitled ” horror classic or cheesy B-movie?” in a not-very-favorable review. It is both, and that is why I love it! It took me several months before I actually started DMing Strahd (back in those precious few months when we were allowed to hang out with up to six people!). I found an incredibly well thought out Reddit thread that fleshed out the characters, deepened the plot, and made me anxious to get started!

My friends and I have now been wandering the foggy, sunless lands of Barovia for four months (we’ve transitioned to playing online, which technically works because it’s all theatre of the mind, but is far less enjoyable), and I am having SO MUCH FUN! I’m not necessarily good at running a gothic campaign, because I got jokes and earnestness running through my mind 24/7. But I did manage to haunt a couple characters (texting “you are haunted by a 7-year-old boy who is scared of everything” and then watching a grown man live for it was extremely delightful) and I ended one session by crushing their little souls. “Wow, we made things worse for Vallaki. We…I feel really bad.” “Heh heh heh,” I cackled. “Tell me more of your misery!!” “You made me feel real emotions, and they’re bad.” I continued to cackle, thrusting my arms into the air with the power of a person who can control inner worlds!! Anyway, it was great, and I’m super normal when it comes to stuff like this.

It’s not all darkness and hopelessness, though it probably should be. After a couple sessions, Rachel told me that she wants her character to start a small business. I was stubborn and cold toward this idea, because it did not fit into the story I wanted to tell. However, all the D&D podcasts that I listen to say that the DM is only one storyteller amongst many, so I lightened up, and WOW am I glad I did.

In the midst of this story of ultimate good and evil where a vampire overlord sees all, my group has…written a business contract and made an accord with the city leader, rented a building, spent an entire session running around town buying knick knacks for the gift shop and making deals with local businesspeople, passing out flyers for a grand opening, commissioning a sign for “Mist People Adventure Corp: Museum of Oddities” and then decorating the place for first day supporters. I was a good “yes and” DM by this point, so I made up a roll chart for how many people came each hour, and how they felt about the exhibits based upon how much the characters hammed up their tour. We spent four hours doing this. D&D!!

It’s been four months, and we have barely gotten started. There is so much more to this world, and I am going to TRY to wrestle everyone back into a gothic mood whenever I can (we are here to FIGHT EVIL, people, not run successful businesses, oh wait that was pretty great!) but I find that there is something really fun about being on the other side of the chaos, watching people stomp all over the plans I made and then together creating something that’s even better than I came up with on my own.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Meet My Fanfiction Joe Biden

In honor of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the United States’ 46th president, I thought it was only appropriate to reblog these pictures of Joe with ice cream from a simpler and more amusing time. May they come again!

Hint: He’s really into ice cream.

My friend Elizabeth has a wonderful habit of sending me pictures of Joe Biden with “made-up” scenarios and conversations attached.  I say “made-up” because no one really knows the reality, and I choose to believe that life is exactly as she has described it.  They’re too good to keep to myself, so with Elizabeth’s permission, they can live on this blog forever.  Enjoy!

(Click the picture to see the in-context Twitter page from which they came.)


cqftaroviaemwyd

*phone rings*
Joe: It’s Barack! Everyone say, “Hi, Barack!!”
Costco people: Hi, Barack!!
Joe: Hey Barry, what’s up? Oh, not much, just here at the NEW COSTCO, YEAH BABY!! [pause] mm-hm. Yes, I can pick up some chocolate babka for Michelle’s dinner party, no problem. This is literally the best thing; they gave me my own card and everything.
*hangs up*
Okay, Barack says I need to get…

View original post 330 more words

Today I’m Excited About: Treat People with Kindness Music Video

This music video delights and enthralls me with its modernization of classic black-and-white dance moves. I want to live in its world, and you should join me!

My sometime love of One Direction was self-reported (here and here), but I always tried to resist jumping on the Harry Styles bandwagon. No longer! I’m fully aboard his gender-bending rock star train. Did you see his Vogue cover? Perfection.

But the true star of this video is not Harry Styles. It is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, star of the PHENOMENAL Fleabag and creator of the equally phenomenal Killing Eve. In the “Treat People with Kindness” music video, she struts down the stairs, commands the room with her presence, and lets herself be wooed onstage for a dance performance that is so fun that I die inside.

But let’s be real. I wouldn’t put a music video on my blog just because it was fun and starred people that I love. The thing that truly makes my heart go wild is all the effortless gender bending. It is a happy manifesto on the joys of letting people be whoever they want to be, so long as they wear sparkles. Both Harry and Phoebe flirt with femininity and masculinity, from their clothing to their mutual desire to be spun/flipped/dipped. Everyone gets to be powerful, everyone gets to be silly, everyone gets to trust each other, everyone gets to look good.

What a fantastic way to start 2021. Let’s treat people with kindness and get our dance on!

If you want more, I highly recommend you check out The Cut’s review of Styles’ “Treat People with Kindness” music video.

Today I’m Excited About: Disco Elysium

The winner of a ton of awards, Disco Elysium is a new computer game (available for consoles in 2021) that completely absorbed my evenings for a week. Thank goodness it is only a 30-hour(ish) game, or I would still be rushing home from work to dive into Revachol and spend some time with Nameless Protagonist and Kim Kitsuragi.

Disco Elysium is a point and click adventure of discovery: both of the identity of the murderer of a mysterious hanged man behind a hostel, and more importantly, of your own identity. The game begins with your Nameless Protagonist waking up from a massive hangover and implied suicide attempt. Throughout the game, you construct your personality with an ingenious character points tree that is more D&D than RPG. I of course leaned heavily on Empathy, which created a double edged sword: I was able to relate better to people around me, but I also felt the pain of my past more acutely without the ability to shove it down. I promise this is a game and not a therapy session.

Although the plot of Disco Elysium is excellent and will be discussed, developing your character is truly a unique highlight of the game. As you talk with people at the hostel and beyond, you get a sense for what you’ve been like the previous few days. You can also find personal effects in likely and unlikely locations (how embarrassing, having to be a detective to find your lost detective items) which will trigger memories of who you are and what emotional minefields you are fleeing from. It is honestly SO satisfying to watch your character grow….in any number of directions, as you can double down on paranoia and preach the end of days, get straight-laced and sober and sorry, or any number of unique paths.

In addition to the personality points system, another element of the game that is extremely D&D are all of the ability checks that you make throughout the game. In fact, that’s how every interaction between people and objects is judged. Want to figure out if someone is telling you the truth? Roll the dice with your drama modifier (this is calculated automatically) to determine your success. Want to use a crowbar to break into a freezer? Roll the dice with your physical instrument modifier. If you fail, you must either interact with the world in such a way as to increase your odds (talk to the person further, find a bigger crowbar) or level up so that you have a new point to assign to the necessary personality aspect.

This conceit applies to combat as well. In the rare (but so emotionally powerful!) scenes where violence occurs, time slows and every interaction is a dice roll – gauging people’s anger, dodging attacks, trying to talk people down, warning people of danger. It is super stressful and realistic as you attempt to make a shot, but roll poorly and face the consequences.

Okay, but what about the actual plot? It’s also great! You play a detective sent to Revachol to investigate the murder of a hanged man behind a hostel. You are assigned a partner in Kim Kitsuragi, who feels like an incredibly real character with meaningful depth. Together, you follow leads that twist in on each other – is it a political dispute gone wrong between the union and Wild Pines, or is it something more personal? Along the way, you uncover the (exhaustingly detailed) history of Revachol, the quirks of its inhabitants, and complete a side quest or two. These can cover ground from the mundane (convince a shopkeep to let her cold daughter inside) to the fantastical (set bug traps for a cryptozoologist) to something in the middle (set up a rave club inside a church while a scientist measures a hole in the world with their music equipment). The pace unfurls at the perfect pace to keep your attention focused on solving the murder while allowing detours to explore everything around you.

At times dark but with an enormous amount of heart, Disco Elysium has a lot to say about the human condition, about what is possible, and how we can rebuild ourselves after trauma. 10/10 recommend.

Curiously Strong Podcast

For the last several months,
my friends April and Jess have been working on a new project:

Curiously Strong Logo

All ten episodes of season one are available now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  Check out episode descriptions below if you want to pick and choose your way through our conversations about identity in our new and confusing phase of life after leaving a lifetime of evangelicalism.

  1. Introductions (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    Meet your hosts: Jess, April, and Trish as we introduce ourselves in this pilot episode of the podcast. Learn about how we met each other and how we got to the point of starting this project as we talk about growing up evangelical and ultimately what led to severing ourselves from that identity. How do people identify themselves nowadays and what does it say about them? Get ready for lots of questions, lots of (loud) laughs, and lots of fun stories about how we cope with the aftermath of a religious upbringing.

  2. Enneagram (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    In this episode, your hosts discuss everything Enneagram related: how we typed and mis-typed ourselves, how we got into it in the first place, how this relates to our evangelical and post-evangelical selves, and what we like most about our own types. April realizes that there is a type pattern in her friends/family circle, Trish has an ability to move from her type to her wing with ease when the situation necessitates it, and Jess is still working on not apologizing so much. Rather than having this be an explanatory episode about what the Enneagram is, we assume that the listener already has a basic knowledge of this typing system and discuss how it impacts us personally. Find out whether there can be a future for this podcast if two out of the three don’t like engaging in conflict (spoiler: there can) and what Trish said that made April respond with: “I’m going to get that tattooed on me.”

  3. Religious Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    Let’s talk about religion, the reason we are all here. You’ll find out what religious climate/culture everyone grew up in and what we would consider ourselves now. A major discussion point revolves around reasons and catalysts for leaving the faith or making pretty big adjustments if not leaving entirely.  While religion certainly has its positive parts, we have also felt the awkward, isolating, and even hurtful aspects of it that influence our thoughts and behaviours to this day. We have all felt the in-between of not belonging to the Christian group anymore but also not really belonging to the secular community, and that can be a lonely place. We raise a lot of serious (and not so serious) questions such as “What the hell is flag-waving?”, “What is the age of accountability and should it be lower?”, and “What does it mean to have an identity as a changing human?” Prepare to either relate to a lot of the facets of Christian upbringing or be pretty weirded out by the stuff we used to do.

  4. Work Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    On today’s episode your hosts talk about our day jobs, what we love most about them, how they relate to our identity, and whether we find them fulfilling. Work is a big part of everyone’s lives because we spend so much of our time doing it, so it is bound to influence us in a major way. But how much of our life is work, really? Does it consume us entirely or do we find a balance to enjoy it when we do show up?  We should be seeking alignment, not have one thing take over everything. But we also recognize that having these choices is a privilege, an opportunity that we are going to take and run with.  Listen to us answer the daunting question: “If you had to step away from work for a period of time, how would you feel/how would it affect you?” As structure and productivity prove to be essential for a fulfilling life, the idea of not having a work identity would be difficult for us.

  5. Sexual Identity Pt 1 (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    Today April, Trish, and Jess spill the tea about all things sexuality. The episode starts off with us explaining how we currently identify sexually and the complicated journey from childhood until now where we are finally comfortable with who we are. Sexuality is hugely influenced by a religious upbringing and can sometimes be incredibly damaging. They bring up the struggles of sexuality, the harmful purity culture, the idea of casual sex, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and why Jess read Every Young Man’s Battle. We realized that much of our sexual “sin” was pure thought crime (i.e. lusting) and how this ultimately led to dissociation from our bodies. Surprisingly there are also some good things about growing up in a conservative sexual culture that come up. But then the conversation shifts back to the weird, heteronormative concept of virginity and how in actuality sex is nuanced, individual, and personal.

  6. Sexual Identity Pt 2 (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    We now talk about what our sexuality means for our day to day mental space and relationships. Hear why Trish thinks it’s different coming out in Canada versus the US. We also discuss the question: “Is it necessarily our sexuality changing or is our relationship to it changing? What situations am I putting myself in that are going to draw out these sides out of it?” Sexuality is very fluid and weird and nuanced and that is okay, because for every human that exists there is a new way of being. And as language changes, so can labels. We also really get into how sexuality relates to feminism, body positivity, and power.

  7. Relational Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    How has the experience of leaving evangelicalism affected the relationships we have with the people around us? We need to be shifting away from an “us” versus “them” mentality because so much of conervsative Christianity is defining yourself by whether you are in the in group or out group. Whether you are bad or good, right or wrong, saved or lost. Christianity had taught us that everyone is our responsibility because we put them on a path to either heaven or hell purely based on our interactions, which creates an impossible burden. But now we can say: “I can remember someone’s humanity but I don’t have to interact with it. Not everyone is my responsibility.” We also tackle topics like forced vulnerability in small/community groups causing psychological harm and how much we dislike it when people tell us they are going to pray for us. Some questions we consider are: How do we balance real vulnerability and sharing experiences while not having to justify and defend our life choices? How do we say no without having to explain ourselves and how are our boundaries with other people now that god is out of the picture?

  8. Privilege Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    A Canadian, an American, and a German talk about what privilege means to us and where we source it from. Whether it’s the colour of our skin, our respective home countries, or the religion we grew up with, we all had immense privilege in our lives despite our individual seasons of pain. We try to be as honest as we can be with ourselves in this episode and acknowledge the things that have paved the way for us to succeed in this life. We also talk about the rarely discussed idea that growing up Christian gives you the unique privilege of being trusted within your community. There is an assumption of good character as a Christian that influences someone else’s decision to hire you since you share the same values, as we all have experienced.

  9. Online Identity (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    From AOL chatrooms to Myspace to Instagram, we have evolved in how we communicate with and to the world. Embarrassing posts and status updates were a part of all our online lives, but we were lucky that it all happened when no one was really paying attention. We discuss how, because of the compulsive need to share, it makes it hard to “be in the moment” without thinking of the different lenses for this situation. Are we just living for the end product? Or is it possible to actually achieve a balance of being present in a moment as well as capturing it for future memories? Context matters, so we also talk about how we recognize that we may not be entirely the same person online as we are in “real life”. We answer the question: Since becoming an exvangelical, how has your online presence changed? It turns out we all have very different answers.

  10. Religious Identity (the Good Stuff) (Apple Podcasts / Spotify)

    We have talked a lot about the ways that our religious upbringing has hurt us, but we wanted to dedicate an entire episode to the good things we are taking away from evangelicalism. 
    What did we learn from church? What opportunities were presented to us? Community always has been an important one and one we hear from lots of other exvangelicals and ex-religious people as well. Another facet is the charitable spirit of Christianity (when done right) and how it often changes lives for the better. Trish loves the Bible as wisdom literature and likes thinking about the good things we can get out of it. Jess has been taught that everyone has inherent value and no one is beyond redemption. April values the importance of not seeing people as objects but rather as full human beings. Listen to find out all the other positive things we’re taking for evangelicalism as this season of identity comes to a close. 

Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 10.25.09 AM

Join the conversation!
Reach out to us on Instagram, Twitter, or email us at curiouslystrongpod@gmail.com.

How to Survive Being Unemployed

When I was laid off, I thought it would be a month before my application to be a permanent resident of Canada would be approved.  It was easier, in that context, to think of the time away from work as a vacation.  I later found out that the time had been extended to an additional five months, with the expectation that my application will finish processing by the end of June.  Suddenly, the first half of the new year found me unemployed and purposeless.

That’s the thing, isn’t it?  I associate my purpose with my work.  This setback wasn’t primarily financial, though this was a huge concern; it was personal.  Who am I without a job?  How do I create meaning when the socially acceptable route isn’t available to me?  I’m still wading through this emotional and practical quagmire, but here are some things that I have found helpful so far:

  • Feel the feelings.  This is my rule for everything, and this situation is no exception.  Over the past month, I have felt shocked, angry, frustrated, hopeless, hopeful, energized, depressed, disappointed, and overwhelmed.  When I repress those emotions and pretend they aren’t there, they become more powerful.  They last longer and pop up in other areas of my life where they don’t belong.  To avoid this, I try to feel the feelings.  For me, that means naming them as they arrive.  Simply saying, “I’m sad today,” goes a long way toward accepting and moving through the emotion.  Have a good cry or a good rant, and let that feeling go.
  • Set boundaries on feeling the feelings.  There comes a time when feeling the feelings turns into saturating yourself in the feelings.  Instead of letting your emotions be signposts to show you what you need, they become quicksand, eager to pull you under completely.  I have a rule for this as well:

    Have your pity party, but only for one day, and only if you invite someone else.

    I have found that this validates my emotions without empowering them.  It also has the fortunate side effect of infusing humor into the darkest emotions.  When I’m in an especially bad mood, my conversation with my girlfriend looks something like this:

    “What kind of balloons are at your pity party?”
    “Black ones.  No, black is too good for my party.  They’re like, watery grey.  And only half inflated.”
    “Where are they?  Hanging on the walls?”
    “No, they’re just…on the floor.  And I’m on the floor.  Laying face down, making the world’s saddest balloon angel.”
    “I’m going to try to sit on some to pop them.  But they’re so uninflated that they won’t pop.”
    By now, I’m trying not to smile at absurd mental images.  “You look ridiculous,” I insist, before bursting into laughter.

  • Be careful who you share your story with.  There are all kinds of people who are not going to help you.  Some unsuccessfully hide the fact that they are happy about your misfortune, because it makes them feel more secure in their not-that-bad situation.  Others seem helpful, but their commitment to being with you in your experience can actually keep you mired in the worst emotions without allowing you to move on.  If you find that you’ve opened up to someone who is making things worse, you can always back away from the information updates and give less intimate reports when they ask how you’re doing.
  • Balance productivity with laziness.  This has been my biggest struggle.  When I was first confronted with so much time off, I had a list of projects I wanted to complete, from decluttering my closet to designing podcast logos.  As I checked off the projects that excited me most, I started to falter.  I watched more Netflix, played more video games, and wasted more of my time.  The shame increased, which made escaping into tv shows even more appealing.

    It’s the shame that is the problem here.  Once I told myself that I was allowed to be a lump on the couch as much as I wanted, it didn’t feel quite so appealing for quite so long.  Am I playing video games more often than usual?  Yes.  Once I chose to see that as a perk of being unemployed, I could enjoy it without getting sucked into it forever and always.  I could work on projects when necessary, and be lazy when necessary.  Always keeping my eyes open for new shame attacks, of course.  Those things aren’t a one-and-done deal.

Being unemployed is a struggle, and following the four pieces of advice laid out here will not make it a magical experience.  But this time doesn’t have to be seen as a waste.  It can be a period of self-growth as you explore and strengthen your emotional intelligence.  You can discover new hobbies, or pick up old ones that fell by the wayside when you were too busy with work.  It is going to be uncomfortable, but it is survivable.

The Terrible Thing is Coming, So Be Here Now

One of the reasons I was happy being single was that I did not have to worry about future heartbreak.  Someone once told me that the best case scenario for romantic relationships is staying together until one of you dies, and my risk-avoidant brain immediately decided it would be preferable to just stay by myself, thanks.  How annoying to find myself dating someone five years older than me, so that even if we hit upon the best case scenario, odds are I’ll be the one burying her.

Yes, I am aware of my morbidity!  I regularly kiss my cat’s head and tell him how sad I will be when he dies.  I once sat outside and enjoyed the brisk autumn breeze by wondering how it would feel if I were a corpse and it could get to my bones.

Best case scenarios are not the only option, however.  Opening myself up to loving someone and being loved in return means also opening myself up to the possibility of that love disappearing.  Here I find it very unhelpful to have a counseling background.  I don’t have the luxury of blind belief in our relationship being special.  I know we will lose the honeymoon desperation and affection.  I know that if we replace that with a deeper, committed love, we are likely to fall into the ten year pit that sinks a huge proportion of relationships.  And I know that if we choose to stay together through that, there’s still a chance we will be physically together but emotionally separate.

Is now a good time to mention that we have been together for less than six months?  In addition to my morbidity, I am also aware of my anxious overthinking.  My tendency to plan and sub-plan will always be with me, and honestly, I’m grateful for it.  My knowledge of potential future outcomes makes me eager to set up our relationship for success by having hard conversations early and establishing habits of communication and affection that will see us through rough patches.  But sometimes I get stuck anticipating and preparing for the terrible thing, and it becomes all I can see.

“The terrible thing is coming, so be here now.”  I heard that in a podcast referring to job failure, and it illuminated my problem.  The terrible thing is coming, whether that terrible thing is breakup now or later, death now or later, dissatisfaction now or later.  But the solution to the terrible thing coming is not to look over my shoulder and around every corner so that I can catch a glimpse of it.  The solution is to be here now.

Something terrible will happen in my relationship with Rachel.  That’s the inevitability of life.  So because of that, I want to be with her, fully and in deep appreciation for what we now have.  I want to laugh with her, dream with her, hold her and listen to her affirm me.  What we have is good.  It’s so good.  When I spend my time anticipating the terrible thing, I miss what’s happening right now.

And that’s a terrible thing in itself.

A Truly Terrible Day of Traveling

When I say I had a terrible day of traveling, I mean it on the level of absolutely rotten, throw it away forever, because this hell had multiple levels.

For starters, I was leaving a reunion in Greece that caused me to realize that I had quite a lot of unresolved grief surrounding the abrupt end of my time living there. This left me randomly weeping as I walked through the Athens airport remembering all the times I’d been through the place and sat there with that person on that trip. Emotionally raw was a set up for added physical agony.

I was also only one day clear of a bout of flu that had knocked me unconscious for two days straight. I wasn’t feverish anymore, but I still had the sort of head cold that made my eyes randomly weep from sinus pressure when not already producing fluid due to aforementioned sadness. That’s not so bad, but liquid also leaked from my nose quite often, and I spent most of my time trying to cover all this up so that the people around me would not worry that I was most definitely spreading the plague.

Added to all this was a total lack of sleep. My flight left Athens at 6:00 am, which meant I was supposed to wake up at 3:00. I went to bed at 10:00 the night previous, then promptly did not sleep as my brain was terrified that I wouldn’t make it to the airport. You see, the flu I had so recently come out of was now happily residing in the people who controlled my transit. They had already downgraded from driving to the airport to driving me to the bus stop out of a fear of not being able to stay awake, and I laid in bed for five hours doing nothing helpful to the situation. I was very tired going into 19 hours of travel.

On the first flight I had the dreaded sinus head implosion that drags all the mucus in your body to the surface of your face, as though gravity wants to pull it from you through each individual pore. It also feels as though your teeth are slowly being peeled from their gums, and I had to keep running my tongue around to ensure they remained in place. As I privately groaned and snotted and contemplated face-removal, the young couple next to me laughed together and kissed noisily in Greek, the monsters.

Knowing how much food is given on transatlantic flights, I had not considered my four hour layover and how hungry it would make me. I spent each hour debating whether it was worth using an ATM to get a few euro for a snack, always choosing no and then regretting it. It was at this point that I realized one final thing: I had started my period early, and in an incredibly uncharacteristic move, I was unprepared. I haven’t been without a spare tampon or pad in my purse in over a decade, and I paced the Amsterdam airport in an anxious fugue, still wheezing and dripping from the nose, but also begging feminine supplies off strangers. One woman looked at me in pity, saying, “Oh honey, I haven’t had to worry about that in years.” Several simply said no or avoided my sick-addled English question, made unhelpfully more awkward when I added gestures to the question. Finally, one heroic soul, after saying she didn’t have a tampon, watched me sadly mouth-breathe at the bathroom door, waiting for a new victim to enter my lair. She paused, then clarified, “I might have a pad.” She properly dug into her carry-on suitcase, opening it fully and rifling through her life possessions in pursuit of the Spare Pad that no responsible adult woman goes without. When she gave it to me, I nearly cried, from relief or from sinuses, or both.

I could tell you how the nine hour flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver slowly turned the experience around, how a very kind stewardess searched both the back and the front storage areas to surreptitiously hand me three more pads that could have been made of gold for how much I valued them. I could tell you how I made eye contact with the man standing beside me as I accepted them and stuck them up my shirt, daring him to comment on my personal hell. I could then mention that the food was truly excellent and the seating comfortable enough that I quadruple checked my ticket and seat out of a fear I’d accidentally upgraded myself to business class. And I could tell you that my sinuses dried up and I spent the majority of the flight sleeping whilst breathing through my nose, deeply satisfied with the simple pleasures of my body finally working properly.

But mostly I will just tell you: I have never wanted so deeply and so desperately to fall through my apartment door, to hug my newly reunited cat, and to be as gross as I needed to be without anyone else around to notice.

A Canadian Update (4 Months in)

I’ve been living in Vancouver for about four months now, and I’ve been experiencing all of the usual Moving to a New Place things: excitement, loneliness, expansiveness, depression, and at weird times, normalcy.  But the last couple weeks have been pretty good, and I thought I’d share a few things that made it so!

  1.  I moved into my own apartment!  I have my own place, and I LOVE IT.  I moved into my coworkers’ old place, so I had three months to visit and mentally map out what I needed to buy and how I wanted to arrange things.  That helped me space out some big purchases (the couch that Luciana and Giorgos own, the chair that all my Greek cat friends own, all of my possessions are sentimental, etc) before finding out that my awesome coworker/family gave me several of the pricey-but-not-personal things like a TV, refrigerator, kitchen supplies, bed, and dining room table.

    IMG_0806IMG_0807

    GUYS.  This is the first time in 30 years that I have furnished my own place with actual furniture that did not come from a second-hand store.  When I was in Peoria in the summer of 2017, I started to feel a creeping Old Person desire for security and possessions and a HOME.  And I have one now!  I LOVE IT.  It’s decorated with just the right balance of “I bought those pillow covers in Cappadocia” and “Why yes, there IS a color scheme.”

  2. I’m once more very into the World Cup!  Now that I’ve got my own place with my own television, I’ve been watching every game since the quarter finals.  This built to a very fun moment when I invited Abi, my English coworker, and her husband over to mine to watch the England/Croatia game.  This was especially monumental because, as I am no longer living in a safe house, I could invite a man into my home!  England lost, but I have FRIENDS, so it was a win for me.
  3. My one true goal for living in Vancouver was accomplished:  I joined a Dungeons and Dragons group!  I politely yelled my desire into a Meetup online, found some other women who were interested in a beginner’s group, and after waiting MONTHS with only one meeting over drinks to establish we aren’t creeps, we FINALLY PLAYED.  I’m over the moon about this.  It was everything I wanted.  I played as a criminal halfling who is loyal to no one but her friends (“Sounds like you were playing by our street life” said one participant when I told her.  “Oh my God, I WAS,” I said). The DM had a similar sense of humor as me, so she let me pick up snake eggs and put them in potions while my quest-mates were rolling their eyes because we had a poisoned victim to save.  However, I won them over with Rory and wine, so everyone left four hours later very happy and willing to play again.  I hope very much this becomes a regular occurrence!!
  4. I started doing Story Times at program.  We’ve realized that our women, while very good at caring for their children, don’t really know how to play with them (since they mostly did not have a childhood that included play themselves).  Somehow it took me weeks of conversations about finding a volunteer to teach them how to sing with their kids before I remembered, “I was a children’s librarian for two years.”  So now on Friday afternoons I bring a bunch of books from the library, print out sheets with songs and rhymes, and we all sit in a circle and I read stories (that put one participant to sleep because “Your voice is just so peaceful”) and we sing songs, and one baby in particular leans forward and looks at me with wondering eyes.  I REALLY enjoyed it, and I’m delighted to find one more way in which I can use my past experiences to strengthen my present.

Those are some of the highlights from my life right now!  It’s still overwhelming, and I still get lonely for a bunch of people, but this week at least, I felt really happy.