Jul. 12th, 2011 09:36 pm
tafeanorn: (Default)

Monday was our first full day on the ship and it was _so_ easy just to fall back into habits of other cruises.  It’s almost like coming back home.  Everything is in the same place.  The schedule is the same.  The face are different, but the people -- the stewards and the housekeeping staff and the bartenders -- are the same, helpful, friendly folks that have been on every other cruise.

We got up at 7:00 am and were at breakfast a short time later.  Bacon, eggs (too runny), three different kinds of sausage, fried potatoes, and coffee.  And then to the spa by 8:00.  Chris had a massage appointment then, and since we had signed up for the VIP spa membership, I did that while she got hot stoned.

Now the thermal suite of the spa is something new for us.  I had been curious about it on our last cruise, but couldn’t quite justify the price, but the more I thought about the more I had wanted it last time, and so one this cruise I was determined to give it a try.

What is it?  First off it has a bunch of contoured, tiled beds facing a giant picture window looking out over the starboard side of the ship.  The contours of the bed fit the natural reclining shape of your body with your knees slightly elevated.  The tiles are heated from within, to just over body temperature, suffusing your body with an extremely relaxing heat.

Also in the room is a very warm, mineral water jaccuzi.  There is a special misting shower that sprays a cold, refreshing cloud of water to cool you off if you get overheated.  They play soothing new age music and there is ice-cold water to drink.

And it was fabulous.  So relaxing.  Nothing o do but lie there and relax, staring out at the North Sea rolling by, reading one of the Bernard Cornwell ‘Saxon’ novels.  Every so often taking a break to soak in the hot tub.  I spent 90 minutes doing that and then met back up with Chris.  We blogged a little and got our computers hooked up to the internet.

It was a sea day, meaning that there was no stopping in any ports, just continuing to sail from The Netherlands north toward Oslo.  The North Sea was very calm, with just the smallest ripples across its surface.  Hardly the dangerous, deadly, storm-ridden sea I picture.

At noon there was  Texas Hold ‘Em tournament that I went to, but there was still not enough people to play, so I still didn’t get any poker in.  I determined to try again at the 2:00 tournament.

We had lunch in the cafeteria, though we did it at the height of the lunch hour and had trouble finding a place to sit.  I had Swiss steak and potatoes, and a big slab of roast ham.

About this time, we met up with Becca, who was having a bit of a rough time.  While there are a bunch of kids on the cruise, there aren’t any other teens.  She had spent some time hanging out with the teen coordinator, just the two of them.  But she had also been working on  project of her  own.

Before we left, she had taken part in a YouTube music video challenge.  They supplied a song and then challenged people to submit homemade music videos for the song.  She wrangled together seven or eight of her friends and shot a video for it on the two days right before we left, on so she had spent Monday morning editing the video together.   She and her friends did a fabulous job and since the contest ends on the 19th, we’re going to have to figure out how to upload it over the next few days.  Once it’s posted, I supply links.
Much to my surprise, the 2:00 poker tournament did actually happen, though with only four of us.  I was the first one out, an unlucky break of a big hand and then I played a small pair too passively pre-flop.

Chris went to a gemstone and jewelry talk, and I went back to the room for a nap.  After the talk she joined me, and we slept until about 6:00.  We went up tot he Crow’s Nest for the drink of the day -- a Glacial Lemon Drop (a regular Lemon Drop with something blue added to it).

That night was a formal night, so we got dressed up and went to dinner.  Becca was feeling tired and uncomfortable in her formal wear, so she left dinner early.  That left Chris and I alone for much of dinner so we were able to have a really good talk about the what had worked and not worked the two days before and what we could have done differently.  We’re getting much better at having difficult talks like this and we able to have a very pleasant dinner despite the tricky subject of the conversation.

After dinner, Becca was already fast asleep, so Chris and I went to the Best of Broadway show in the big theater, which consisted of five or six Broadway and West End performers doing famous musical numbers.  That took us up to 11:00 pm, and so we back to the room and went to bed, because first thing in the morning we would be arriving in Oslo!


Jul. 12th, 2011 06:54 am
tafeanorn: (Default)

We’ll say then, that Sunday started around 6:00 am.  Chris and I walked around the hotel, The Lodge Heverlee, just south of Leuven.  We walked across the street to Amstel (?) Castle, now part of the Catholic University of Leuven.  We took pictures.

There was some confusion over when breakfast was -- either at 7:00 or 8:00.  Problem, was, we needed to leave by 8:00 to get our car to Rotterdam by 11:00.  So, we were hoping it was at 7:00, but of course, it wasn’t until 8:00.  So we left, with the intention of doing a little sight-seeing in Leuven, getting some food and leaving town by 8:00.

We drove then to the Groot Begijnhof, a walled-off community of religious women in medieval times, now the residences of guest professors to the University and a UNESCO Heritage site.  I had lived in one of the most famous buildings of the Begijnhof in 1981-82 and the reason we had come to Leuven was so that I could show the town and the Begijnhof to Christine and Becca.

Becca was unimpressed.  She grumbled about the cobblestones.  She couldn’t believe that people left there bicycles out in front of their houses unlocked.  We tried to put the place into an historic perspective.  She was having none of it.  But I think, or maybe it is just that I _hope_, she appreciated something of the place.  Chris did, or at least said she did, and I appreciated that a lot.

We were only there for fifteen or twenty minutes.  Just enough time to walk five or six blocks, take a few pictures, tell a few stories.  My headache throbbed but even through it, it felt really good to show them that place.  That place that had been so scary and terrible and frustrating, and yet so wondrous and inspiring.  And then we were back in the car, listening to Becca’s iPod, trying and failing to find a place were we could get a bite to eat, and finally just giving up and programming Rotterdam into the GPS.

Margaret let us back on the freeway, and before long we came to rest stop that also had a restaurant.  That should be “restaurant.”  It had lees food than a small 7-11. We got some bread, a Belgian waffle, a cold, hard, salty sausage and coffee and it felt like a feast.  And between the food and the caffeine, my headache finally went away. 

The rest of the drive was fun, with us deciphering signs and graffiti, looking a beautiful scenery and getting passed like we were standing still while we were going 130.  Margaret led us to the cruise terminal in Rotterdam.  I dropped off Chris, Becca and our luggage, and then had her take me to the train station to return the rental car. 

I had one problem, and that was with re-fueling the car.  The gas cap cover had no finger hole to open it manually, so I looked for a release inside the car.  Looked all over couldn’t find one.  Went back outside and tried to pry open the cover.  No luck.  Pulled the owner’s manual out of the glove compartment and tried to make sense of it.  It was in Dutch, of course, but eventually found the page that talked about refueling, but there was no picture referencing a switch or a trick.  I went back out and tried to pry it open and in the process, pushed it and on its rebound, it opened.  Problem solved.  It just took ten minutes.

I walked a few blocks to the train station and hailed a cab back to the cruise terminal.  He took the scenic route, leading me down the river one bridge more than he needed to, so I only gave him a 50 cent tip.  I quickly met back up with Chris and Becca, and we were on board the ship in less than an hour.

We gave ourselves the tour of the ship, figuring out where everything was.  We got the tour of the spa, and bought a VIP membership.  We had lunch.  Our room was clean by 2:00 pm, so they let us in at that point.  All three of us zonked out on the beds, still in our clothes.  It was the best sleep I’d had in three days and it felt fabulous.  The only reason we woke up was for the safety drill at 4:00 pm.

After that we went up to the Crow’s Nest, the bar up on the highest level of the ship in the front.  We sat up there, drank mojitos and daquiris, and watched us pull out of Rotterdam through the oil refineries and industrial district.  It was the first time I’d had a mojito (it was the discounted drink of the day) and it was very good.  So good, that I wound up having three...

We stayed up there for quite a while until it was time to change for dinner at 8:00.  Chris & I both had prime rib, I had prosciuto as an appetizer, a very thin minestrone soup and then a brownie layer cake and cheese platter for desert.  Becca had a teen event at 9:00, so she left dinner early.  Chris went straight back to the room to go to bed after dinner, while I went to the casino in the hopes of playing poker.

A full table of poker players never turned up, so I didn’t play, but while I was waiting they had a raffle that I wound up winning for a bottle of champagne, a casino polo shirt and a baseball cap.  I was in bed around 11:15 and slept wonderfully.


Jul. 12th, 2011 06:50 am
tafeanorn: (Default)
Saturday, we’ll call it Saturday although the word doesn’t really have any meaning to us at the moment, was a disaster.  Not a major disaster -- no one hurt or left behind or stolen from or anything -- but a disaster in sanity and planning.

But, as I write this, maybe I’m exaggerating.  It wasn’t so bad (or at least it probably won’t seem so in hindsight a few days from now).  The bad things that happened were planned for (though a magnitude greater than I had planned for) and that plan was activated.  But I do feel very bad that my plan got us all is such a rotten situation.  But enough of beating around the bush, let’s get on to what actually happened.

We got on the plane shortly after my last post on Friday Seattle time about 1:00 pm.  There was a slight communication error or misunderstanding between the airline staff and many of the flyers, including us.  So we had to wait in a line and have our passports inspected again.  Not a problem, just a different line to stand in.

We got our seats and they were fine, right over the wing.  Cute toddler sitting behind us.  Geeky, tossled, unkempt-haired guy sitting next to me.  French woman a few seats back demanding to see the pilot because she had been pulled out of line and made to show her passport.  She eventually got the head steward and went on to bitch up a storm, her story changing every few minutes -- first she was flying on important business, then for pleasure, that she traveled to the US dozens of time each year, then once or twice a year. 

We got into the air on time and all three of us went promptly to sleep, Chris and I getting some help from a muscle relaxant.  Now, this had been our plan.  We’d been up early that morning -- at 2:30 am -- with just this in mind.  Our 1:40 pm takeoff landed at 8:00 am with a 10 hour flight time.  Don’t question the math, it’s the wonder of time zones.  So the plan was a good one -- be tired, sleep for ten hours (or eight or five or six depending on how well we were able to sleep).  Wake up at 7:00 in the morning ready to be on Europe time and sightsee away.

I put on my noise-dampening headphones and iPod with some nice relaxing music to drown out the noise of the teenaged girls soccer team that was flying to Denmark for a big game and went to sleep. 

The stewards bringing around the main meal were pretty loud and woke me up about an hour into my sleep, but I just kept my eyes closed and tried to tune it and get back to sleep -- until they shook my shoulder to wake me up!  They did the same to Chris and Becca.

WTF!?! Who ever heard of a flight attendant waking someone up for some bad food?  I admit that I don’t fly that much, but I often sleep on the plane and have never had this happen before.  I started getting mad and dwelling on that minor outrage and that was the end of sleep for me.  I tried to sleep for the next three hours, only to spend twenty or thirty minutes relaxing and trying to sleep and eventually drifting off, but then having some bit of noise wake me up ten or fifteen minutes later.  Or the guy next to me elbowing me in the ribs.  He did that a lot, as he fumbled around for manga in his bag.

And then the toddler woke up, and wanted to play with his Leapfrog. “T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T” it said loudly in its slightly computerized voice as the kid pounded on the toy.  “Y Y Y Y Y  Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y  Y Y Y”
And then his mom would get mad at him and, in a whispered yell, tell him to shut up or stop that.  But that was the end of sleeping.  I woke up first (or more likely, gave up trying first) and watched an episode of _ Big Bang Theory_ on the personal video screen.  Then once the others admitted to being awake, we all watched the movie _Paul_.  So total sleep, 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours.

We landed in Amsterdam on time in the rain and we were all dead tired.  Becca was grumpy but Chris and I were coping pretty well.  We got through customs surprisingly fast and easy and got cash and a bite to eat at Burger King (yeah, I know, but the kid was grumpy and hungry).  That was at about 9:00 am.

We got our rental car, though as the younger guy looked up my reservation he turned to the other older fellow working there and said, “Did you see this reservation?” in a tone that I well recognized from U-Haul.  It was one of those, “Can you believe that the internet let someone make a stupid rental like this?” looks.

The care was an Opel Astra Wagon and was VERY nice.  Just enough room for our bags, built-in GPS and iPod support, cruise control, manual transmission.  Very fun and easy to drive.  If I was in the market for a new car, I think that is one that could stand a chance at replacing my beloved Saturn SW2.

We drove south into Belgium with the town of Leuven being our eventual destination, but with plans to stop in the Dutch town of den Bosch for lunch.  Driving was easy, especially with the help of Margaret, the name we gave to the female-voiced GPS in the car.  Even going through the tiny, poorly-labeled streets of medieval den Bosch, was relatively easy. 

Relatively being a great weasel-word.  It took extreme concentration and I really should have found a chart of European road signs and studied it a bit.  One Way signs were a lot harder to recognize than you’d think they should be, and I would not be surprised to find out we had gone the wrong way down a few.

Den Bosch was great to look at, but the excitement was starting to wear off and Becca had already crashed in the back seat of the car, so we decided to skip lunch.  The local museum was under construction and looked closed, and the open-air market, which was one of the highlights of the town in my mind, was not to be found.  We found a beautiful church in the neighboring town of Drust (?), that we happened upon by accident.

But the stress of the difficult driving was getting to both of us (though I wouldn’t admit it t the time) and we were coming down from the excitement high and so we decided to continue toward Leuven.

After some really gorgeous driving down some rural roads we got onto the freeway.  Despite Margaret and Google Maps both agreeing with each other, but seeming to disagree with the paper road map we’d bought, we made it to our hotel in Leuven right at 2:00 pm.  It was a stunning building but we were in no condition to appreciate it.  Luckily our room was ready, so we parked, unloaded and trucked our heavy bags up two flights of stairs to our room.

And collapsed.  That’s not a euphemism or an exaggeration.  We closed the shutters, turned off the lights, used the bathroom, and fell into the bed and slept.  At this point we were 27 hours with 2 hours of sleep or 51 hours with something like 6 or 7 hours of sleep.  I can’t remember the last time I was so tired.  Maybe never.

So we slept.  The girls slept better than I did.  One problem, at least in this situation, was that the room didn’t have a clock.  My watch’s battery had died while we were on the plane (bad luck that!).  The only other clocks we had were on our computers.

The first time I woke up I’m going to guess was around 6:00 pm.  I then passed in and out of consciousness, maybe waking every hour, until there was no more light coming through the window shutters, when I guessed it was about 10:00 pm.  I kept drifting in and out, but as the night went on, a headache of massive proportions was building.  I got feeling pretty down as the pain worsened and had a harder and harder time getting back to sleep.

I finally gave up and stumbled around in the dark and fished out my laptop.  3:30 am local time.  We’d been asleep for over 13 hours, although it had been a pretty restless one for me.  My headache was horrible, and I theorized it was because I hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours.  I tried to find a 24-hour grocery store online but had no luck. 

The girls woke up about then, and Christine had a stash of pretzels and ibuprophin and that helped a little. We turned on the TV and watched some American and British shows with subtitles.  I wrote the first four paragraphs of this entry before the sun rose and we started packing up and getting showers.

We talked.  We laughed.  We got online and saw pictures of our kitties that Kelsey had posted to Facebook.  Becca played City of Heroes on her laptop and we both helped her do a big trial.  That felt really good, and despite the headache that would not go away, it moved us forward from the misery of Saturday onto what would turn out to be a good Sunday.
tafeanorn: (Default)
So we’re here sitting at our gate ready to board.  Becca has her laptop open playing City of Heroes, and Chris just volunteered to help her with a mission.

I just got an e-mail from work, which is funny not annoying, and I’m hoping to be able to buy a collection of Avalon Hill games even while I’m on vacation.  The wheeling and dealing never ceases!

There was no traffic on the drive to the airport and all of the lines here have been fairly short.  I got pulled out the security line for extra examination and they have those dance-step foot decals on the ground to mark where they want you to stand.  I’d removed my shoes to go through the x-ray machine, so it was when I looked down to stand in the right spot that I noticed my sock had a huge hole in the toe.  Embarrassing, but it gave me something to joke about with the security guards.
tafeanorn: (Default)
Here we are, all set and ready to go.  Bags are packed.  House is clean.  Cats played with.  Chris just made us a delicious breakfast.  Our car will be here in about 3 hours and then we’re off the airport.

Yesterday was a pretty rough day.  I crammed in a full day’s worth of work into four hours.  My belt broke and I had to run by the store and get a new one.  Chris had an emotional crisis, partly about our ongoing problems, partly about worries related to the trip.  We talked for four or five hours that was good, but emotionally draining.  My attempts at comforting were weak and at times I may have made things worse.  But we got through it and I’m pretty sure she’s doing a little better.

Becca was out with some friends during the time, which was convenient.  She’s been working on a project making a music video, and for the last week has been getting lots of experience herding cats -- I mean her friends.  But she finished and then wanted to hang out late with her friends, her mean old parents made her come home.  We watched some TV and went to bed early.

None of slept well.  Becca hasn’t slept at all.  Chris and I got four or five hours.  We were up at 2:30 am and have been puttering around trying to keep busy and stay awake, but not really having anything to do.  We watched our recorded episodes of Expedition Impossible.  Becca’s been watching episode after episode of Buffy.  I’ve been backing up computers and defraging and the like.

My netbook’s battery wasn’t working, so I ordered a new one that arrived last night.  I charged it last night and it’s looking pretty sweet.  It a triple capacity battery, and looks like it will power the computer for about 9 hours.  That’ll come in handy!  Plus, after I ordered the new battery, I fixed the old one.  I feel stupid for that mistake, but it does give me a lot of battery life.
tafeanorn: (Default)
Friday, July 8th
9:45 am Car picks us up from home and takes us to airport.
1:40 pm. Plane leaves on 10 hour direct flight to Amsterdam.

Saturday, July 9th.
8:30 am Arrive Amsterdam. Get through customs and pick up a rental car.
day Drive to Leuven, Belgium. Depending on our mood and level of awakedness, this could be a long drive south past Namur to the Chateau de Veves ( ) or it could be a direct shot. Either way, we’ll probably have lunch in den Bosch ( ). We’ll end up that night in Leuven, Belgium staying at The Lodge Heverlee ( ). There will be sightseeing in Leuven as well as the eating of frites.

Sunday, July 10th
7:00 am Up early to drive north to Rotterdam. It’s a two hour drive and we only have a 24 hour reservation on the car, so we have to be back there by the same time we picked the car up, probably between 10-11. Drop luggage and people off at the cruise ship terminal and then I run back to return the car and taxi back to the ship. Get onboard and relax.
5:00 pm The ms Ryndam departs Rotterdam.

Monday, July 11th
At sea.

Tuesday, July 12th
All day in Oslo, Norway.

Wednesday, July 13th
All day in Kristiansand, Norway.

Thursday, July 14th
All day in Bergen, Norway.

Friday, July 15th
At sea.

Saturday, July 16th
Afternoon in Tromso, Norway.

Sunday, July 17th
All day in Honningsvag, Norway.

Monday, July 18th
All day in Hammerfest, Norway.

Tuesday, July 19th
At sea.

Wednesday, July 20th
All day in Alesund, Norway.

Thursday, July 21st
All day in Flam, Norway.

Friday, July 22nd
All day in Stavanger, Norway.

Saturday, July 23rd
At sea.

Sunday, July 24th
7:30 am Cruise ship arrives in Dover, England. We get on a tour bus that takes us from there to London, does a drive-by on the important sights in London, and drops us off at Heathrow, sometime around 1:00 or 2:00.
3:00 pm Arrive at our hotel near the airport
4:00 pm Take Express train into London. Travel to Whitechapel for dinner and Jack the Ripper walking tour. Return to hotel.

Monday, July 25th
9:15 am Flight leaves Heathrow for Detroit.
12:45 pm Start of 7 1/2 hour layover in Detroit. Ugh!
8:05 pm Flight leaves Detroit.
10:05 pm Flight arrives Seattle. Home by Midnight.
tafeanorn: (Default)
And here we are with just over 24 hours before we leave for Europe. Chris is off of work. I have a four hour shift (which may be a little longer than planned because I have some plumbing to do down there) left. Becca is off school, though she’s desperately trying to finish a video project with some of her friends before she leaves. And her foot seems to be mostly healed.

Laundry is mostly done. Chris is going to run to the store and grab a few last-minute things. We have a cheesy Viking movie from Netflix that ought to be awful to watch tonight as we pack.

The car to airport picks us up tomorrow (Friday) at 9:45 am. The plane leaves at 1:40 pm. It is a 10 hour direct flight to Amsterdam.

I’m still very excited, but some of the worrying has started to crop up. Will everyone have fun doing that things I’ve planned? Will I push us too hard? Are the expectations I have for the trip realistic? Will we get grumpy at each other while trying to settle out our jetlag?

But I’m doing my best to keep busy (by blogging, among other things) and not dwell on those kinds of thoughts. There are, however, a few things that I need to remember:
Don’t get so caught up in my own excitement that I fail to see and recognize the needs of the others.
Stay flexible and don’t get locked into itineraries or ideal situations.
Don’t overthink things. It’s related to the point above, but in more of an ‘efficiency has its place, but not on vacation’ sort of way.


Jun. 28th, 2011 06:55 pm
tafeanorn: (Gil-Galad)
And Monday was more Ellis and more chores.

I took care of a bunch of financial stuff that had been piling up -- a problem with a bank account that I needed to go in and sit down with them and figure out. Pay bills. Figure out how to make sure everything gets paid while we’re gone for three weeks on vacation.

Which is now just 11 days away.

Most of the hard work is done. We have plane tickets and cruise tickets. We have rental cars and hotels. We have shuttles to and from the airport. We have housesitters and cat-watchers. We have passports and time off.

I’m so excited. Although I think everyone else is sick of me being so excited about it. But I can’t help it. I love the planning. Just the idea of taking that block of time and filling it with your dreams and desires and then working out a way to make those dreams a reality is inspiring and fulfilling.

It’s like worrying, but the opposite. When you worry you think about all the bad stuff stuff and how things can go wrong and it makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious and jittery and afraid. But this anticipation. This is thinking of all the things that are going to go right. And if they don’t work out perfectly, you’re still going to make them be fun and exciting. Those things are going to work out because you have a plan to make them happen. And you can think of the things you’re going to do and see and feel excited and happy and look forward to them. You can enjoy them before it happens as much as you will when it does happen. And that’s how I feel right now -- almost giddy with anticipation (or maybe that’s the coffee talking).
tafeanorn: (Ellis)
Today I started in on seriously catching up on work. I cleaned the kitchen. I weeded (partially) out gravel parking lot. I worked on Ellis. All things that I just haven’t had the time or energy to tackle. It felt really good.

Then Becca and I went out thrift storing and garage saleing. We found some games -- nothing spectacular, but a new copy of Word on the Street, a Scrabble, a Rumikub, a Castle Risk, a Battleship and a few others that I don’t recall at the moment. And we just had some together time, which has been hard to come by. That felt really good as well.

And then worked more on Ellis. It is coming along well. The real work is done -- it’s all written, all playtested to my satisfaction, and laid out. It just needs four things: a major proofreading, artwork, a cover and maps. I have a map artist and a cover artist working right now. Their works in progress look very good, and though it’s coming along slower than I’d like, they’re going to look great. That leaves me with proofreading and art.

Christine got the first go-over of the manuscript and made a bunch of great comments in record time. And then Layla and I are going over it as well. It’s slow going and that’s disappointing on a let’s-get-this-thing-done-and-move-on perspective. But at the same all three of us have noticed and commented on how well it intrigues the reader and draws them in. It’s not a stuffy, academic-style world book. It’s actually fun to read. The fiction quickly demands that keep reading to kind out what happens next, so you tell yourself that you’ll skim through the next section, but that section grabs you and makes you savor it, forgetting for a moment the fiction.

We’re all probably biased for having spent so much time in this world working on this project, but even still, it’s extremely good. Better than I imagined it could be when I first started working on it.

And then artwork. The interior artwork is going to be nearly all public domain images. Not Dover Books line art that you see in all of the indie RPGs, but scans of actual medieval and classic artwork. I did that for one main reason -- I really wanted that style of artwork but found few reliable and affordable artists willing and able to do it. It just also happens to be free and thus very affordable.

So I’ve been searching for art. Online, searching through galleries of medieval manuscripts. The Maciejowski Bible. The Manese Codex. The University of Heidelberg has a stunning collection of manuscripts available on their website and you can just download the entire book as a .pdf. I’ve been to our local library and gone through all of their art books. I’ve been through my personal library . . . So it’s coming along. I probably won’t start actually inserting images until we get back from vacation.
tafeanorn: (Default)
I spent Saturday taking it easy and goofing off.

Becca tripped on her second-to-last day of school (last Thursday) and messed up her left foot. After 2 1/2 hours at urgent care the verdict came back that it’s not broken, but it’s swollen and purple. It seems to be healing up pretty fast but she talked us into getting her an end-of-school/stuck-on-the-couch-unable-to-walk present, so I ran out and got her a copy of Sims 3: Generations and she’s spent the last 24 obsessing over that.

Over the past few weeks, I have been getting pulled back into City of Heroes and spent much of Saturday playing that. I had planned to work on Ellis in the afternoon, but the siren call of CoH kept me from it.

I made Juicy Lucies for dinner ... What? What’s a Juicy Lucy? We heard about them watching Man vs. Food. It’s two hamburger patties with a huge pile of cheese between them. You mold the patties together so that they complete encase the cheese -- that way none of it escapes and with that first bite the cheese just explodes into your mouth. They are a little tricky to make, but delicious!

We watched the new Mark Burnett reality show, Expedition Impossible. It was fun and I’ve set the DVR to record the rest of the episodes, but I could not help thinking throughout the show that they tried to copy Amazing Race as closely as they could without breaking any laws. Very similar format, even the host has the same voice quality of Phil Keoghan (though not as comfortable in his role).

It was time for bed after that, but Becca talked me into playing Rock Band with her (and watching Cats 101, though not at the same time). She regretted that though, when the keytuiar started acting up and I switched to the microphone. The last straw for her was when she chose Lady Gaga’s Poker Face for me to sing. Luckily, only one person beside me heard that, and she is too scarred to speak of it.

In other words, a good, relaxing day.

Moving on

Jun. 25th, 2011 07:11 am
tafeanorn: (Gil-Galad)
I wrote a while ago about taking on a second job to pay off the huge bill caused by our roof emergency.  Well, that job ended as of Wednesday. 

It was a good job, and some bits of it I enjoyed quite a lot, while others I did not.  The best part of it was my co-workers, and they made the job enjoyable.  The worst times there were when I worked alone.  We all went out for dinner and drinks Wednesday night (along with Christine and Becca) and had a very good time.  They are good people and I will do my best to continue to see them socially. 

But I am _so_ happy to be done with it!  To have some time back.  To feel the burden of all that work lifted off of my shoulders.  To feel the stress level lighten.  To know that I will be able to put the energy that U-Haul required into people and things that deserve it more. 

So right now I’m at the beginning of a 4 1/2 day weekend -- the first one of those in God-knows how long.  I don’t have a whole lot planned.  My first priority is to rest and catch up on sleep.  But I do have some chores I need to do and I want to spend a lot of time on Ellis (which deserves its own post).

And I’ll blog.  I’ve posted here several times that I want to get back in the habit of blogging, and I figure that if I do it regularly for the next two weeks, and then for the two weeks while we’re on vacation, it will have become a strong habit.
tafeanorn: (Gil-Galad)
There is a cat nose in my ear as I type this.

Nommers. one of the two kittens who adopted us about 15 months ago, is a shoulder cat.  She loves to lay with her elbows on my shoulder, looking behind me, with her body draped across my chest.  When you want to move, or she’ll get this pitiful mew going and dig in with all of her claws.  So I started boosting her up so that she was draped across the back of my neck.

She loves this position, and purrs like a maniac as we go walking around the house.  She loves it so much, that occasionally, she’ll demand it by jumping straight from the arm of the couch up my back to the shoulder.  This is extremely painful unless I’m wearing a thick shirt, but at the same time, it’s pretty cute.

I’m wondering now if I should get her a leash and harness and start training her to go outside on my shoulder.

Changing the subject . . . getting back into a regular blog mode is being a little bit more difficult than I expected, but just because I haven’t posted in a while doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it or wanting to do it.

It’s just that if I’m going to be there for my family, if I’m going to to be able to support them and to share with them, then I need to have the energy and self-confidence to do that.  Which means that I can’t be working myself to death.  That’s my big realization of the last few weeks.  To be the person I want to be, I need to give myself more time to relax and enjoy life.

So I’ve been swapping around a bunch of priorities.

This weekend for instance.  Saturday I wrote some fiction.  It went slowly and somewhat laboriously, but it was fun and I felt really good about it.  I went to Free Comic Book Day for Becca and read comics with her.  I worked out a couple of vacation details.  I tested a new adventure Chris wrote for CoH.  I napped.  We watched TV together, including staying up way too late watching a show about baby kittens.

Sunday I cooked.  We went grocery shopping.  We celebrated Mother’s Day.  I played some Lord of the Rings Online and hit on an actually really good story line.  I cleaned the kitchen.  We all watched the season finale of The Amazing Race.

So I didn’t get very much work done.  I did more important things.
tafeanorn: (Gil-Galad)
Well, here it is, April of 2011.

I haven’t done much blogging in the last year and half, have I?

There’s some good reasons for that, and I’ll go into them here in a bit, but first let me say that I’m going to try to do more writing here.  I think I ought to be able to get in three posts a week.  Maybe not long ones or insightful ones, but I should be able to write something three times a week.  So that’s the goal.  And if I’m not successful at that pace right at first, it should become easier in a couple of months.

So what’s been going on?  What’s kept me from writing?  What’s kept me from wanting to share?


It’s kind of a long story, but one I’ve been wanting to talk about.  It’s also somewhat difficult.  There are parts that I’m very proud of, and parts that I’m not happy about at all.

It started back in October of 2009 (oddly enough, that’s where my semi-regular blog posts stop).  Our rental house needed an entire new roof and part of a side wall rebuilt.  To the tune of $26,000.  We had some savings, but nothing like that (and we had been planning a European cruise with that savings).  It had to get fixed, so we paid for it on credit.

That debt really started getting to me.  I was basically a wreck November through January.  I couldn’t sleep, which, for those who know me, is _very_ out of character.  It made Thanksgiving tense, which led to additional stress between me and my parents.  I made an emergency flight down to Southern California to smooth things over with them (which went very well, but amped up the stress another notch).

By February, I was sick of feeling bad and sorry for myself and was actually able to _do_ something.  I put together a plan that would get that debt paid off in a year.  It was hard work.  Damned hard work.  I took on a second job.  I sold off much of my game collection.  We made sacrifices to cut down our expenditures. 

It worked.  In eleven months, on January 5th, I made the last payment on that credit card.  It was a very proud moment.  Despite numerous obstacles (such as: a leaking water heater, a leaking shed, a 16 year-old needing to learn to drive, two computer disasters) we did it.

But there was a price.  Several, actually, that took a while to see and realize.

By the Fall of 2010 it was becoming obvious that there were serious relationship problems between my wife, Christine, and I.  Not obvious enough that I couldn’t ignore them, and so I did until she thankfully brought them to a head in January.

I was not the same person I used to be, she said.  I was distant and cold.  I took love and encouragement and gave little in return.  My life, my emotional life, no longer seemed to be linked to the rest of the family.

She asked me to see a therapist.  Now to be honest, I wasn’t too keen on that idea, but once I figured out that our health insurance would cover nearly all of it there didn’t seem to be any good reason not to go.  It would show my commitment to fixing things with Christine, plus it might actually help.  I started seeing Bob back in February.

And wow!  Has it made a difference!  I’ve always been a worrier and anxious in general, but Bob has really shown me how to put that all behind me and relax.  I can talk more about what he has taught me and what things really work for me if anyone is really interested, but for now I think it’s enough to say that all of that stress that had been going on back at the end of 2009 never really went away, and only just now am I getting rid of it.  We’re working now on feeling more comfortable expressing myself, and writing this down is a step in that direction.

Christine and I have had a lot of very good, very hard, very emotional and very draining talks over the last few months.  We missed one of our favorite trips -- a road trip to Eastern Washington for RadCon -- to have a long talk that at varying points seemed to be going either poorly or terribly, only to have it turn out very good.  We got away last weekend, just the two of us for the whole weekend, and had a very good time.  We talked a lot, a just did a bunch of touristy stuff together -- some we enjoyed, some we didn’t -- but we did it together and have those experiences to share.

We’ve also decided that nobody hates the other and that we’re in this for the long haul.  We’re working this out together and even if things are difficult in the short run, we’re looking past that to the future.  Together.

I am so lucky to have her in my life.  I am so thankful for all that she does and all that she is.  It took a lot of strength to begin this process and I admire her determination to pull me through it -- kicking and screaming at first.  I love her deeply and I am devoted to addressing her problems and getting us to a place where they are no longer an issue.

And so I’m still working the second job and I’m still selling off the remainders of my collection.  But not to pay off a debt or to fix something that’s broken.  This time it’s for fun.  We’re putting that European cruise back on the agenda, in July of this year, and are going to have a great time.  It’s part reward and present to ourselves for putting up with the last year, but mostly just doing it for the fun of it.  We’re all very excited about it and looking forward to it -- 14 days sailing around the coast of Norway.

And I’ll blog from there too.


Feb. 22nd, 2011 10:37 am
tafeanorn: (Default)
I am just about to head out to my second meeting with a local psychological therapist.  After my first meeting with him two weeks, I really looking forward to it.

Why am I seeing a therapist?

Anxiety, to get right to the point.  I’ve been a worrier and a stresspuppy for all of my life, but in the past few years I’ve noticed it really getting worse.  Actually, it was at RadCon that I first started thinking that some sort of external intervention might be nice.  But, of course, I didn’t do anything about it until last Spring when I went and saw my regular doctor about anxiety and memory loss.  He didn’t think I needed pills, but offered to give me a therapy referral.

But I didn’t really want to talk to a therapist, so I dropped it.  But now that Chris and I are having problems, and that a lot of our problems center around me seeming cold, distant and uncaring, I thought I’d give it a go.  Oh, and she dared me to do it.

I was really nervous that first visit.  Hands shaking uncontrollably nervous.  But it went really well and I really like Bob.

So here I am, off to visit #2.

A good day

Feb. 20th, 2011 01:00 am
tafeanorn: (Gil-Galad)
Today has been a really good day.

Despite a really awful day on Friday that kept us from going to RadCon like we do every year, today was much better. A nice talk with Christine in the morning that was good at recapping, but at the same time wrapping up a lot of the emotions from the day before.

Then all three of us went out to one of our favorite Chinese restaurants (we were all in the mood for Chinese since that would have been the traditional Friday night at RadCon meal).

After that we hit three thrift stores. Chris got some great looking clothes and I made a haul of boardgames:
  • Tsuro
  • Lionheart
  • Scrabble
  • Risk
  • Lord of the Rings Risk
  • a classic edition of Battleship
  • an 80s Simon still in the box
  • a 3M Twixt
  •  The Order of the Stick Boardgame
  •  221B Baker Street 
and Livejournal ate about an hour's worth of additional post.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

I'll try to re-write it again tomorrow.


Dec. 25th, 2010 10:46 pm
tafeanorn: (Rudolph)
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope everyone else has had as good a day as I have.

I am surrounded by family that I truly love and enjoy being with. Becca and I have been playing Rock Band 3 for much of the day and it is surprisingly addictive. Christine and I have just finished watching one of the many episode of A Christmas Story playing today. Fabulous dinner, cranberry wine and Graham Norton are still yet to come.

In the materialistic vein of the holiday, I did score some awesome loot:
A series of classes at the Washington State Univ. Country Living Expo
A new digital camera (sample pictures here: )
A wonderful, illustrated copy of the Canterbury Tales
A set of measuring cups
The new Good Eats book by Alton Brown
Some yummy food we ate for lunch
A Spice Weasel
The Encyclopedia of Superstitions
A Clipart book of images from The Faerie Queen
The Indiana Jones journal
A heated travel coffee mug
A bunch of candy

Thanks so much for the gifts everyone!

I gave some presents that were pretty well received, which is really more fun than getting stuff, when it comes right down to it. We’re throwing a big party for New Years next week, and we’ll do a gift exchange then for many of my local friends.
tafeanorn: (Default)
Remember last year when the stove/oven just stopped working, and then a few days later just started back up again? Well it happened again on Saturday, in the middle of the Christmas baking. Becca and I were at Epic Game Day (having no one show to play Ellis, so instead we fell in with a Steve Jackson Demo-person and Revolutioned our way through the day), and got the phone call just as things were wrapping up.

After a hour of tinkering to no avail, we gave up and made plans to shop for a new one in the morning. Sunday, I fiddled a bit with it and got it to work, while also making another discovery -- what got it to work was not fiddling with the range, but fiddling with the circuit breaker box. So after another hour of tinkering, we figured it out and got it working, temporarily at least.

Turns out that one of the circuit breakers is dying and if you apply pressure to the switch (not left or right, but inward pressure) it works. Certainly not the way these things are supposed to operate. Thing is, we've already dealt with this breaker box and it turns out that it's so old that they don't make replacement breakers anymore. Last time we fussed with it we had to go to a recycled electrical supply outlet to get one (and, of course, they're not open of Sunday).

I'll wrap this up because I've got to run, but we did get the cookies finished!

We also made our reservations for our cruise next summer, but more on that some other time.
tafeanorn: (Rudolph)
and we've started putting up our decorations. We didn't finish, because the tree lights we've had for the last few years finally gave up the ghost, so today's mission is to find new lights we can agree on.

Some people have asked what I want for the holiday, and I have actually managed to come up with a few things. The list is available here, on my Amazon Wishlist:

I know that it has been a while since I last posted, but this is not going to be one of those "catch up" posts that I do so often. I'll just say that things are going well here in the Morgan household and that I'll make a big "Year in Review" post in the first week or two of January.

We did have a computer disaster this week, which forced the purchase of a new 'business' laptop for Christine. That should arrive Tuesday, and it will be fun getting that all set up.

I have a new favorite website, which is Think Project Gutenberg for audio books. There is some great stuff there. The quality of the reader isn't always there (a few sound like high school students forced into doing the recording) but all the ones I have tried are discernable and better than you would expect, especially for free.
tafeanorn: (Ellis - King)
Tonight, about an hour ago, I finished the Ellis manuscript (my fantasy roleplaying game). Final, no more than fixing a typo here or there, done, no more editing or fixing or changing. Full stop. No more. Done.

284,500 words. Three years. Much playtesting. Uncountable hours. I’m very happy with what I have here, but also very happy that it’s complete.

And on my birthday, too. I’m 41 years old today, and writing and publishing a roleplaying game has been my dream for at least the last 25 of them.

I am very pleased, though the work is not quite done. Layout and art are the next steps, but I’m going to give myself a few days off before I tackle that monster fully. A few days to catch up on a few delayed projects around the house, spend time with my family . . . that sort of thing. Between work and Ellis I have been neglecting my friends and other social festivities. Sorry everyone!

Thanks to everyone who has been so helpful and supportive. It has really helped. We should see the fruition of all of our efforts within the next month or two. I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, we’ve got a combat playtest scheduled for Thursday night. Bring characters or I’ll have some.

Christi: I’m going to bed now, but I’ll send you a long e-mail first thing in the morning.
tafeanorn: (Gil-Galad)
So we have a shed.

Actually, I'm going to call them two sheds. One is at least 40 years old (maybe twice that), that measures about 30' x 10'. About the size (athough a little narrow) of a good longhouse. I've always thought of it as dilapidated, mostly because the roof is open to the sky in many places, but it's one of those things that see every day, have an idea in your head about, but never actually look at it carefully enough to see that facts that would alter those conceptions.

The other shed is a little 10' x 10' thing that was added onto the end of the older shed probably a few years before we bought the house, so maybe 12-15 years old. It started out water tight, but every year gets a little less so. This winter, it took a hard hit and now has a large hole in the roof, right over where I like to park the lawn mower. Not helpful.

So it's one of those things. I could keep ignoring it for another year or two and probably be ok, but it's not really a good idea.

But something else has come up. Becca and her friends have decided that the Longhouse would make a perfect clubhouse.

Let's forget for the moment that roof is swiss cheese. Forget that it is filled with mildewing baby furniture. Forget that there are stacks of worthless books (MS-DOS 7 owner's manual anyone?) that are wet and bulging and putrid. It's a dilapidated shed that a good hard wind could blow over.

Well, actually, it's not. We went out and took a look at it. It is solid, old-fashioned construction. All of it is sturdy, thick wood. The only real problem, besides the trash inside of it, is that many of the wooden shingles on the rook have rotted away. So all it would really take to get it "working" again (and keep it in good condition for years to come) is a good roof. Or probably even a cheap roof.

So, we've got teen labor to clean it out. They've already bagged up most of the junk and it's now littering our backyard. They want to paint and put down free carpet remnants. All I need to do is throw up some corrugated fiberglass roofing sheets. So I think I've been talked into it. Now I just have to find time to do it . . .

The other shed may take more work. I still need to get a good look at it. But that was interrupted yesterday by being called into work.
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