Luminaria

There has always been a slowly simmering, low-and-slow kettle of hope and optimism at the base of me. It has nurtured almost all of my creative efforts, my love of holidays, my desire to play, and my comradery with others. 2016 dealt it a heavy blow, and the flame keeping it all going guttered. The last two years, and the last especially, saw it go out completely. I stopped writing, eventually gave up on reading, stopped reaching out to people, withdrew from a world that exhausted, depressed, and disappointed me.

I’m not going to lie. This is the direct opposite of how I always imagined I’d respond to a world altering threat. I always thought I’d be the one rallying people together, urging them to persevere and grow together. In retrospect, however, this is totally in keeping with how I respond to stress and trauma. My father’s death, the death of friends and other loved ones, the death of Owein, the collapse of Laughing Pan Productions, the fading of friendships…every single time something terrible happens I button up whatever horror I should be processing and get to work soldiering on. Ideally, and perfectly, by carrying others burdens. I push through my grief, my trauma, by helping others do it healthily. By letting it all out, by ritual and empathy and support.

I do not. I move on, in a way I suppose, but there’s no real catharsis. There’s no coming to terms. The emotions are just buried deep and life goes on. Now, obviously that isn’t healthy, for me or anyone…but it’s how I’ve managed to cope with loss up to this point. The pandemic changed all that, of course. Every day is a new micro-aggression, micro-trauma, micro-everything. And over the last year it’s become something…well, macro. Big. Unable to be suppressed. I know I’m not alone in this, there are lots of people going through very similar things, but this is my lived experience and I’m so dreadfully tired of putting on my humdrum, contented face and telling the world that I’m fine, it’s all fine, we’ll all be fine.

I have, at heart, a deep and burning anger at those who’ve kept this Pandemic raging and the society-taxing behaviors that have fed off the culture of this dire individualism. Every person I see maskless, wearing a mask but incorrectly, lying to me at work about why they are doing so…enrages me. Every person who works from home and complains about anything enfuriates me. The people who protest, who ignore medical guidance, and who encourage others to do so under the shroud of patriotism makes me want to scream. Forever, really. I’ve never stopped working. Not for one week. You all had weeks, months to process this new world. Every day, I just have enough emotional werewithal to respond to your reactions to it. That’s all. Nothing else.

Some of my emotional responses are entirely rational to feel, based on the real world we live in. Others are unfair to the victims of my silent vitriol. But I’m just so tired. I’ve worked, exposed to a public that clearly does not only devalue me and my coworkers, but does not treat me like a person. I am, instead, merely an extension of their complacent, entitled culture that views people who provide goods and services to them as nothing but conveyor belts in meat suits. Normally, I’d defend the public if someone came at them with claims like those I’ve just espoused. Like I said, I’m tired. Tired, but maybe not ready to sleep.

Tomorrow, I start my first day in my new position at my actual store for the first time–this, despite being promoted to that position back in August. I’m not back there full time, just partial weeks until everyone at the other store is fully trained. I’m quite nervous, actually. Lots of responsibilities and a mostly-new-to-me staff await me, as do a pandemic-reacting public to whom I have yet to really be exposed. I’m also thrilled. I’ve worked hard for this promotion, not just this past year through all the tribulations I (and we, I know all of us have so much!) endured.

I just set a reading challenge goal for 2021. I’ve picked up a new hobby, possibly, though times will tell. I grew my TBR pile by a factor of dozens since Christmas, just in books I’m waiting to be released. I cleaned today, and it didn’t feel like a burden, like one more thing designed to break me. This past week, I have had the tiniest of sprouts of story I occasionally think about. I spent this morning making spaghetti sauce from scratch, the first time in a year, and I love to do it. I’d forgotten that. I’d forgotten what life was like without the constant pressure of the public, my job, the holidays, my friends and family. What it was like to lose myself, even if just for a few hours, in activities I genuinely enjoy. To be honest, I forgot what enjoying anything felt like for a while now. I’m certain I wasn’t nearly as jolly as I thought I was being towards everyone this holiday season.

So, here’s to a new year, full of crisis already of both political and pandemic proportions. Here’s to roads covered in ice but new cars to traverse them. To new phones after waiting 6 years but needing to wait two extra weeks to get them. To the holidays, though I dread undecorating after them. To a year of trauma, but bravery in recognition of it. To carving out alone time, but having family (and cats!) waiting for you. To mental health, and asking for the help you need to get there for the first time. Here’s to a year that gives as well as takes, that gives me a chance–even a feeble one–to reignite the burner below that pot that’s grown cool but not cold. I’m tired, and the past few years have broken me a bit, but I look forward to learning how to mend.

Sometimes, the smallest of lights is enough when what surrounds you is dark enough.

May you find your light.

Crimmas Time is Here.

I’m smelling the wafting scent that will encase my home for the next week as the Andy-Shaped-Entity is busy making Latkes to honor my Jewish side of the family.  Ysabel is keeping me company by cleaning my face as I type–she thinks I’m a goofball of a hairless cat that needs perpetual cleaning.  I suppose she’s not  wrong in most of the ways that matter.

Last night we decorated the fifth and final Crimmas tree of the season until just shy of 3am, and thus the decoration of the outside and inside of the house is complete!  I came home tonight and there was a warm glow inside of me as I thought of how festive each room looked, and the thought I put into each decoration, bauble, and piece of art.

Now, though, the heart of the holiday season is upon me.  Not gift buying–Im easily 70% done with that.  No, I’m talking about Cookie Week.  that 1 week a year where I channel the Great British Baking Show and make an assortment of holiday treats that i then bundle up and ship as gifts to friends and family.  I rarely bake cookies the rest of the year–this is a special event for all involved.  So tonight, I’ll queue up Delilah on the radio and bust out some Almond-Lime Zesties (snowballs made with powdered almonds, lime zest, and a not insignificant amount of powdered sugar)…and then the blitzkrieg will start!  I’ll be baking 1-3 different cookies a day until Monday, when I’ll give myself a day of rest (or catch-up, as I usually fall behind) and mail them out midweek next week.

So, in no particular order, these are the cookies on the agenda:

Almond Lime Zesties, Larfleeze Christmas Cookies, Anise Pizzelles, Butterscotch Pizzelles, Cream Cheese Spritz, Spritz Cherry Wreaths, Gingerbread Spritz, Rosemary Shortbreads, Ciambilline Al Vino, Madeleines dipped in Dark Chocolate, & Italian Ricotta Cookies.

Baking can be stressful, sure, but it also is an entire world where you control most of the variables.  Given the last year, I anticipate this year’s bake to be more therapeutic than traumatic.  Stay tuned.

Also…welcome to the return of this blog!

Status Update: Fall 2017

This summer and fall have been a bit of a whirlwind, both at work and in life in general.  The boyfriend and I took a once in a lifetime trip to New York City and tried our best to cram in the city’s highlights in just shy of 4 days–and managed to see Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen before he left the show.  We’ve dodged health issues, the relative failure of both our mini Apple Orchard and our summer garden, but also an amazing visit with my Mom, too.

The result is that things for the website, and the actual writing of fiction took a backseat for a while.  The sage words of a dear friend have been ringing in my ears recently, who warned me before I launched WelcometoSanKeros.com  that eventually I would probably run out of immediately accessible content and that lags like what has happened were the kiss of death for fiction projects like this.  Well, he was right that it was bound to happen–but I refuse to let that be the end of things.

I’ve got a handful of pieces–some in the universe of San Keros, others just short forays into other projects that’ve been placed on even further back burners–that are in various editing stages.  I’m going to try to get those out as quickly as my process and life allow.  But I also am getting back to writing in general–and I plan on making it a bit more of a priority.

There’s more of a story here, really.  I was really struggling this summer to feel like I had anything really meaningful to contribute creatively.  I felt like the world didn’t need another middle-aged white dude spewing out more middle-aged white dude fantasy.  I was worried I was trying to force myself onto a stage that was already filled with the trampled voices of people of color and across the spectrum of faith and gender.  I felt like I didn’t want to be part of any sort of system which made those voices less likely to be heard.  I still feel that way.  It’s the same reason I’m slowly finding myself slowly peeling away from the world of comics, too.  It’s so much of the same, not enough of the new, of the unheard and underheard.

But then I met a rat in New York City, and got a surprise call at work.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve lost friends to time and distance, lost hobbies due to lack of funds, lost my sense of self-value in the wake of this profound feeling of helplessness that came unbidden and crashed through my life like a tsunami.

But you know what I haven’t lost? San Keros.  It’s beats inside me, like a second heart.  It’s winding streets and moonlit parks are where I wander when I can’t sleep at 3am.  I ache for Seth to find the love he needs, for Hrothgar to be whole and for Beth to believe in something more than herself.  I want Jessye Corman to continue building her neighborhood in the image of what she’d imagined it always could be.  And I want to share all of that with the world.  All of them, every street and every smile and every heartbreak.

I might not be worthy to tell these stories.  But they sing in me, and the longer I ignore them the louder they beg to be set free.  So that’s what I’ve decided to do.  I’ll do my best to do justice to their stories, and to those of you out there who’ve connected to this wild, fey city that lurks beneath my ribcage.  Like the worlds outside our doors, San Keros isn’t perfect.  It can be an ugly, unfair place, but it’s filled with more hope than our own, I think.  That city that straddles the uncanny and the uncaring shimmers with more possibility than most can see.  Magic gives us that chance.

Hell, maybe that’s what magic is in the first place.

 

 

 

 

The State of Things (I)

So welcome again to another status update.  Things are more or less on track to launch the new content upgrades and design by September 1st.  This means that The Miracle Season will finally begin in earnest over on Welcome to San Keros, as well as a few other fun updates here and on AO3.  I’ll have more info as to which pieces get released and when as we get a tad closer.

I’ve had a bit of a rough spring/summer, emotionally, but I’m feeling ready to really commit to this project in a way I haven’t previously.  My goal is for at least one update a week.  That update will be a piece of fiction.  Other updates will be more frequent.  As we meet new people and places in San Keros we’ll add them to the growing City Directory for easy reference.  By the time the first sequence of Miracle Season is concluded late this fall, you’ll be able to buy it as a complete story!  More on that as it develops.

Meanwhile, enjoy the last few days of Summer before the magic of fall begins, and I’ll see you in 14 days.

Happy Birthday Update

Another year, another random blog post, right?  Well, in the spirit of the summer relaunch of latenightstirfry and the debut of new content from WelcometoSanKeros, I figured it was time to give a general life update so that anyone who’s curious can see the state of things.

On the home front, Andy and I celebrated our 18th anniversary and were allowed to serve two new feline overlords, Bailey and Keely.  I commissioned some gorgeous art at C2E2 this year, which I’ll do a separate post about.  It’s been a cocooning sort of year, really, as we’ve really dialed back our activity outside the house.  Some of our dear friends came to their senses and fled their S.A.D. and our presence by the space of a whole continent.  I’ve been slowly stripping down my comic pull list to just the characters and stories I’m genuinely passionate about.  I keep trying to organize my comics to determine what I’m ready to let go of, but I never complete the process.  I’ve been undergoing a small spiritual awakening too, which is welcome since its been too long.  We’ll see where that takes me.

As for writing, obviously there are things afoot.  My short story “Nothing Important Happened Today” got published in the Truth Beyond Paradox anthology.  This site is undergoing a major redesign this spring and early summer.  Later this summer I’ll be launching my major writing project in truth , but the web portal is already up at WelcometoSanKeros.com.  I have a few other smaller projects queued as well, and those will post here on latenightstirfry.  Some of those projects may end up referencing the World-a-Week Challenges I did a few years back and are still available here on the site.I also am going to be going pretty heavily into research mode, as a lot of the pieces are still missing certain crucial elements.

I’m hoping to go to HeroesCon this year, but also paint the garage.  I’d like to pay off credit cards, but redesign the front gardens. I plan on finally mastering the art of weeding without being scared off by arachnids.  I desperately need a new phone, and am hopeful for the opportunity to visit family and friends.  Which is to say, life goes on as it ever does.

I’m writing this as Owein sits purring on my chest, thinner than he’s ever been.  There’s not much that it seems we can do about it.  I’m deliberately not writing much more about that because I don’t think my heart can take it.  I need to hit the gym and lose some pounds, myself.  I wish we could share them somehow.

So that’s the sort of state of things.  If you feel like giving me an awesome birthday present, snag a copy of Truth Beyond Paradox (Only $3.99 digital!) and give my story a glorious review on Goodreads!  Word of mouth is everything.

And be Excellent to each other–and to yourselves.