A Book Report on Of Dice & Men

I just finished reading Of Dice & Men by David M. Ewalt. My expectations were that I would read a little history, hear some fun stories about games the author had played and maybe feel a small sense of belonging. And, that I did. But, what I did not expect how strong that sense of belonging would be.

IMG_20170719_114013_256.jpg

To give a little back story, when I left my first marriage, I discovered that I had spent the previous fourteen years stifling my “nerdy” side. Don’t get me wrong, I loved nerdy things. I lost count of the times that I watched the Star Wars trilogy with my children. (One of my happiest nerd mom moments was when my son announced that Empire Strikes Back was the best movie of the three. But, Jedi is still my favorite. Best and favorite do not mean the same thing.) We watched Star Trek. I loved all things Harry Potter. I had read an occasional comic. Somewhere, in storage, is a Death comic that my brother gave me before I got married the first time. I would love to find it. And, comic book movies, how do I let me count the ways. I even love the bad ones. Something about the over the top, melodramatic costuming of the Batman movies made me very happy. I was in love with the idea of Catwoman. But, not to the point of being what would fall under the category of “nerd.”

Towards of end my marriage and “finding myself” I developed a closer relationship with my younger brother. Doug has always let his nerd flag fly proudly, not caring who would see. Knowing y penchant for comic book movies, he told me that he had one for me to watch. But, first, I had to read a book. It was the novelization of V for Vendetta. I plowed through it, ready for the movie. I gave him the book back, anxious for the slick DVD case emblazed with a stark Guy Fawkes mask in profile alongside Natalie Portman with a shaved head. Instead, he placed the graphic novel in my hands. Slightly disgruntled, I took the book home. Shortly after that, I came back wanting more. He handed me the DVD. Then he handed me the Watchmen graphic novel, then the book. I had, OK have, a celebrity crush on Gerard Butler. This of course meant that I fell in love with 300 as well.

I have never been one for girly movies, chick flicks. Give me an action movie or superheroes any day. But, Anne of Green Gables or a Jane Austen flic, I will pass. So, when I watched 300 in the theater with my brother, his treat, I found myself enthralled in the story. The moments where they managed to lift images from the graphic novel onto the screen left me elated. Leaving the theater left me feeling a little different. That was the first movie that I had been to because I alone wanted to go. Transformers and G.I. Joe followed. I was tumbling down the slippery slope to nerdom.

I started to go to one of the local comic book stores on Saturdays with my brother. Larry, the owner is still one of my favorite people. He used to send out a newsletter. When my grandfather passed away, Larry sent Doug a note sending his condolences. We passed him an imaginary crown and proclaimed him the king of the nerds. One of my favorite things about Larry is that he takes interest in his customers. And, not in the annoying follow you around the store way. Doug had been going there for a long time. So, when he introduced me, Larry asked what books I would be interested in. Doug did not give me a chance to answer. He announced, “Catwoman.” The Gotham City Sirens series had just come out. I was immediately sucked in. I also came in just in time for the Stephanie Brown as Batgirl series, as well. One day, I will have a Gotham Girl tattoo. But, that was not when I first really felt the touch of the nerd gods.

The first time I went to Larry’s Comics & Collectables by myself, something magic happened. No one else was there, and it was very quiet. Larry smiled warmly and said, I have something I think you may want. He lifted himself from his spot on the sofa that sits just inside the store and went to a stack of boxes. He pulled out what I thought was simply a comic, bagged and boarded. (That means it was in a protective plastic bag with a thin piece of cardboard for support.) But, it was much more than that. It was all 4 issues of a miniseries that was released in 1989. It was the modern backstory for Catwoman. He gave me a very good deal on them. And, I left the shop, clutching the bag to my chest feeling as though I could take on the world, all on my own.

Around the same time DC started its run of the Darkest Night series. My brother bought every issue and made sure that I read them ALL. It was like a primer for the DC universe. You met EVERY character, even the not so great ones. I felt so immersed.

My brother was not my only teacher. He was just my first. My now husband, Jerry, grew to be my devout teacher. He took me to my first comic book conventions. Shoot, it was his copy of the Judge Dredd Omnibus that was the reason for my glee when I found out that Karl Urban would be taking on the Helmet of our favorite Judge. (Even more so when he said that the helmet would not be coming off.) The omnibus is four novelizations of the comics. It is far grittier than the feel of the comics, which is much more in line with the movie.

He had an impressive collection of traditionally nerdy paraphernalia that I dug through, gleefully. I was starting to feel like I was finally finding my place in the world. Then one day, while going through some things, he stumbled upon his collection of role playing books. I knew nothing of role playing. What little bit of what I knew of Dungeons and Dragons were faint bits of memories of the animated series. He did not just have Dungeons and Dragons. He had several different systems, including DC, Marvel and even Bubble Gum Crisis, an anime series. While he poured out his bag of dice, which I was sure was a move to impress me, I told him that he should really teach me to play some time. While putting everything away, he explained that it is all very complicated. But, maybe one day, we would try.

Fast forward to fall of 2010. My boyfriend starts having a huge nerdgasm. (Not as big as the one when he opened the wedding gift that included an issue of Dr. Doom autographed by Stan Lee. Thank you, again, Tony.) He started to babble, somewhat incoherently. At first, the only words I made out were box, red and dragons. He finally managed to explain that in the 80s (1983 to be exact), D&D had released a basic box set that every little nerd boy, and men, just had to have. He had always wanted one. Well, it was being rereleased. At the time, he was not unaware that it was they current edition (4th edition to be exact) rather than Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that he had cut is teeth on in high school. Shoot, he had not played since high school. For a moment, I am pretty sure that I got a glimpse of that same teenage boy, all giddy with the excitement of fighting dragons, beholders and the like. (I did not know what a beholder was at the time. If you want to know what it is, google it. Eye dare you too.)

Not long after that, he happened to stumble across the box. I think we were at our local Hastings. We have always toyed with the idea of writing stories together. Maybe even a graphic novel. And, creating characters was my favorite part. So, one night, he pulls the box out and tells me that we are going to build my first character. Together we built a fighter named Ophelia. And, I went on my very first adventure. The box comes with an existing campaign. It is intended to introduce people to D&D. So, it is a more simplified set of rules and directions. It was very entertaining. But, we did not play from the box, again.

Fast forward again, this time to almost two years ago. Jerry and I were married. He introduced me to some of his old friends from work Jed and Sherry Martin. We had grown to be quite good friends. The subject of D&D came up, I believe at my birthday party when Jerry was showing off his collection of RPG books to the Martins. It was decided that we should play a game. Sherry graciously, and gleefully agreed to DM. About a month later, we found ourselves gathered around the Martin’s dining room table creating our characters. We had invited Christine, a rather new friend at the time, to join us. Jed’s little brother was going to join us, as well as my then 15-year-old son. At the last minute, it occurred to us that we should invite Stacey, my non-biological little sister. She had recently been introduced to the Martins. This would be a great way to get to know each other. Well, we did not really ask her. We told her to be there the next evening at 8. Jed built her a cleric based on her favorite movie, Ghostbusters. E’gon the Dwarven Cleric was born. Jerry created Bill Killuzall, an Orc Barbarian. He was not the sharpest arrow in the quiver. But, he was strong and likable.

We only got to play a couple of sessions in Sherry’s game. We were playing 3.5, her favorite edition of the game. One thing that I have learned about D&D is that just like in Doctor Who, where everyone has a favorite Doctor, players have a favorite edition. Dungeon Masters, the player that runs the game, have even stronger feelings. (I will gladly play any edition. But, if I am DMing, you can bet your Quaggoth that it will be 5th edition). Life got in the way, making getting games together more difficult. In time, Jed came in and ran us through some games in fourth edition, and added more players. I switched it up from a Human Fighter to a Half-Elf Druid.

I was enthralled by the game. In December of 2015, we made our first road trip as The Tribe. We went all the way to Plano, Texas, 200 miles away, to go to Madness Games & Comics. Stacey had stopped there while on a trip, and could not quit singing its praises. Jerry, Ty and I decided a road trip was in order and went to see the place for ourselves. We could easily see what she had meant. It was our Nerdvana. Within five feet of the door, we had our first purchase in hand. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw refrigerator magnets. (Ty and I are Hufflepuffs. Jerry is a Ravenclaw. What? You have not been sorted into your Hogwarts houses? Go to Pottermore.com and fix that.)

On the trip with The Tribe, we stumbled upon their Christmas sale. So, we spent more than we intended. But, the most important purchase at my husband’s urging was a copy of the current Dungeon Master’s Guide. I even picked up a matching set of dice. It was decided that since we had people comfortable in third and 4th editions, that I would try to learn enough about the current (fifth) edition to run games.

I found myself pouring over the fifth edition books. They took bits and pieces of lore and myths that I had been exposed to in the world of science fiction, fantasy and history and created the basis to create your own worlds. Or, if you want to adhere strictly to the history of the game, you could use the D&D world that already existed. It reminded me of a live action “Choose Your Own Adventure” style book. There are even modules for stories for a DM to pick up, review and play. (It is not that easy. But, the creation is done for you.) I spent hours watching videos of people playing D&D online. I am lucky that I am the only person at my office. And, since I really listen to the videos rather than watching them, I managed to watch somewhere around 80 episodes of Critical Role at work. I am now caught up and watch them live streamed once a week. (Critical Role is an ongoing weekly tabletop gaming-based web series. As the name suggests, it’s a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, albeit with a slight twist: the dungeon master and players are all well-known voiceover artists. tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/webvideo/) Jerry introduced me to Acquisitions Incorporated, which lead to “The C-Team” and Dice, Camera, Action. I was fully immersed.

I had created the beginning of a fairy tale based game that I will one day complete the building of. Also, I am running The Tribe through a Haunted House game that I put together. It is room after room of D&D creatures, movie references and a few rooms specific to player frustrations in the real world. (We still have not finished or I would tell you more. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprises.) But, we have not played it in a while. A member of the group wanted to run a Shadowrun game, so, we jumped on it. What is Shadowrun, you ask. Well, to paraphrase Of Dice & Men, Conan the Barbarian meets Blade Runner. It is fantastic.

Currently, I am running a weekly game with six other women. We are traversing The Underdark in Out of the Abyss, a prebuilt D&D adventure. One day, we will do a podcast of a game. These ladies are a lot of fun. I think the best part is that they put so much emphasis on character development. I mean currently they are wondering around miserable in character. But, as players, they are having a blast.

Our local game store had a Free PGD Day celebration, recently. I was daring and played in a Vampire the Masquerade game. I am so hooked. The regular game starts in a few weeks. Excited does not cover it.

Anyway, the point of me writing this is to say that playing Dungeons and Dragons makes me feel at home. It is my happy place. My brain makes sense of the dice and all the numbers. The idea that the game can represent real life in ways that allow a player to work through emotions a character where their actions have unpleasant results. But, they stay at the table at the end of the game.

“I want to try to charm the elf out of his pants.”
“Wait, are you trying to get him to give you his pants or have sex with you?”
“Which ever works.”
(That is from the Shadowrun game. But, you get the point.) If a player has had a bad day, I may throw an extra Kobold or two their way. It is up to them if they want to slay or charm them. But, it creates a small distraction for just a few hours a week.

As a Dungeon Master, it gives me a few hours where I get to ignore the stress of life, as well. More so than the players. I ask my players that except for posting about the game and texts or calls from family, they stay off their phones. It helps with the game and life.

It also creates friendships. Remember the people from the first game I played? They are some of my very best friends, now.

Back to the book…

Because of conversations with my husband, I knew names in the book. I understood references. Now, I know that David Arneson is to D&D as Bill Finger is to Batman. (OK, that might be a little generalized. But, still.) Much like Magic the Gathering, it draws together groups of people that you would never expect to see in the same place. Even Magic the Gathering is in the book. It is a lot of history. If you love the game and want to know it’s origins, READ THIS BOOK.

If you love someone that loves the game, and you are trying to “get it,” it is a great source. Not only does it tell how the game is played, without being overwhelming, it explains why we love the game.

The author intertwines the history of the game, his own history in real life and stories from games he has played. It is quite lovely and an easy read. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. I am tempted to buy a copy to pass around.

(If you are in Abilene, Texas, our public library owns a copy. But, I am about to return it and a friend already has it on her hold list.)

 

Some Pain Never Leaves Us

“It has been said that time heals all wounds. I don’t agree. The wounds remain. Time – the mind, protecting its sanity – covers them with some scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone.” Rose Kennedy

 

I try not to complain. Trust me, I grumble and moan far more in my mind that what I say and write. Part of the reason for this is because I refuse to be bitter and jaded. The other is that I hate confrontation. Most of my best friends do, to. It is hard to make a comment that is meant as just a different thought on a subject without feeling like I am trying to start a fight. I hate fights. A lot. I am working really hard on not instinctively jumping into self-defense mode all the time. I still do it. But, I am doing better.

 

Anyways, every summer, parents start reach the point that their children start to drive them absolutely insane. I blame the heat. I really do. In the neck of the woods, the temperatures have reached over 100 and it is too hot to tell your children to just go play outside. Parents are taking their children to Vacation Bible School each day of the week and then having to sit through their children’s Sunday evening of singing songs and little skits. Followed by cookies in the Fellowship Hall where everyone is wound up and loud. There are children coming in dripping with water from swimming and playing in sprinklers. This leads to three changes of clothes and an ever-growing stack of laundry which means more running the dryer and heating up the house.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the complaining. I really do.

 

But, I would give anything to have to sit through an hour of children screeching their way through “Jesus Loves Me” and sopping wet floors. The idea of waking up at two in the morning to change a crying babies diaper sounds like heaven. I dream of wrestling toddlers through eating a meal. What I wouldn’t give to have a teenage daughter through her hands in the air and stomp off because I told her that she was NOT wearing that in public.

 

I thought that I was past the baby bug. And, for a while I was. But, it is back. But, now it is remorse rather than being stuck in a dreamy phase of what could have been. The idea that Jerry will never get to put his hands on my full, round belly feeling tiny digits wriggle and squirm breaks my heart. Remembering the face of my child that I will never see again and wishing that she would come up behind me and throw herself around me nearly knocking me over takes my breath away.

 

My anxiety is through the roof. What I would give for a Xanax right now. I will get better before too long. It happens on occasion that I go through times when it is too much. I have developed coping mechanisms. I have friends that I can talk to. I have distractions. I have a husband who understands. But, I am have been sick for days. And, it has left me exhausted and worn out.

 

So, if you see me, and I am not myself, that is why. Or, maybe it is me being more myself than normal. Regardless, I am not telling you to not complain about your children or the daily routines that wear you out. Just remember to take a moment and be glad that you get to kiss your child’s face every day. One day that child will be 16, taller than you and stink. That or your child will be gone.

 

kids

Changes, They Have Arrived

Well, we have finally moved into the new house. We have put things on walls, arranged furniture and put flowers in the yard. We have finally had company to the house. Ty has driven to the house in his own vehicle to see me.

 

The only thing missing is her.

 

I knew that it would not be easy to move to a home she never stepped foot in. The vacancy has ebbed and flowed through the house. But, this week was harder.  We had some of our friends over that are the same age as Sarah. It occurred to me that she would be coming home from school right about now. She would be working and hanging out with friends. Her friends would be coming to our house.

 

But somehow, the house feels like home. And, things have settled down enough that the creative juices seem to be flowing, again. Looks like a trip to the studio tonight. Also looks like I may be back around to writing , again.  What will I write about? Who knows. I guess we will all have to wait and see.

Is this thing on?

Well, it has been a while since I hopped up on my little soap box over here. A lot seems to have changed. But, I have not been in the mood to write. One of the things that has changed is that I have a new job. The new job will entail a lot of down time during the day where I am encouraged to “bring a book” to work. Instead, I think I shall use the time to write.

Another big change is that  we are in the process of buying a house. I am trying to remain cautiously optimistic. Things can happen that cause deals to fall through. For now, I am going to write about plans for the house and the yards. I will write more about the house later. It is a very special house for many reasons. Hence why I am trying my hardest to be patient.

Mr. J and I have discovered that our tastes have a little overlap. Just enough that we might not kill each other when it comes to choosing paint colors and the like. Well, for now, I am going to go play Settlers of Catan. I hope you are all having a wonderful “nearly Spring.”

2015… well, meh

I have no resolutions for the next year. I don’t generally. It is just not my thing. I have the will power of a gnat and I know it. The closest thing I have to one is the desire to get over this cold that has plagued me for the last several weeks.

And, 2015, what can I say about the last year. It was, well, meh. You know how most series of books r movies has the one movie where there is the one installment that is there strictly to finish things off and tell back stories. It is the most boring part of the story. But, the rest of the story would completely unravel with out it.  That was this year.

It feels like the last five or six years are finally over and that we can actually move forward. We did get a new car this year. But, it was more of a relief than a celebration.

We did develop of “tribe” over the year. It consists of some of our VERY closest friends, old and new. What started out as a Dungeons and Dragons group has turned into more of a lifeline.  I have discovered that being part of this group was as important with being OK with not being in other people’s tribes.

I made Spaetzle this year! My husband’s family is of German descent. He is third generation. So, we agreed that we need to start making German food. Rocking the Spaetzle! (to the tune of Rocking the Casbah) It was yummy and fairly easy. I want to make jagerschnitzel, next.

Ty turned 15 and grew several inches this year. I am not OK with this. Yes, I know I have no say in it. It still doesn’t mean that I have to be happy about it. His voice also dropped over the summer and he got his driver’s permit. He is a really good driver.

Other stuff happened this year. And, if I were not well medicated (see previous comment about the cold from heck) I would probably reflect more. But, I am not.

I do have a few hopes for the year. I hope we get to move and that it goes smoothly. I hope that said house allows for Nerdtopia so that we have somewhere to display our nerdy stuff with pride. I hope that I support my husband and son to the best of my ability. Other than that, I think I shall keep my hopes and dreams to myself, for now.

Wait! One more thing. I hope the Gambit movie does my favorite male superhero justice. I think that is all. Good luck to you and yours in 2016!

She’s Gone and It Sucks

This Thanksgiving week has been hard. Don’t get me wrong. None of them have been easy. But, for some reason, this one has really hurt. It finally occurred to me this morning that if Sarah was still here, I would be waiting for her to come home from college for the Thanksgiving  vacation. She would be responsible for bringing something. Mostly the supplies for deviled eggs. She always made them. She was very good at it.

 

It is funny how my thinking has changed. I have not spent so much time remembering her as wondering what kind of adult she would be. I know pretty well causes she would support. What new friends would she have? Who would she be dating? What would her major be? What color would her hair be? How would she feel about her friends getting married? Having children?

 

I miss her daily. It is easier. But, there are still moments when I lose my breath and the gravity of her death sits on my chest. The tears rise up and they brim over slowly. I am lucky to have a job where I sit at my desk with some privacy and let it come out. My employers knew Sarah, too. That helps. I can talk about her. They talk about her. I am truly blessed for that.
Well, time to go put more cookies in the oven. There is one thing that I am sure off. She would live her mother’s purple hair.

In Celebration

I have completed 40 years of life. (Wow, that sounds way better than saying I will be 41.)

In that time I have learned a lot. But, I have realized a lot of it in the last five years. Hind site and drastic upheavals in your life can change your way of thinking. So, I thought I might as well make a list of 41 of these things.

1. You should never fear your spouse, in any way. Even if it just having to tell them you backed into a pole or that something broke. (I know, some of you are thinking, “Uhm, yeah.” But, for some of us, it takes a while to figure out, if we ever do.)

2. The same people that are scared of people of any kind of sexuality but their own and judge people by their race, many times also fear independent women and men with soft skin and good hair cuts.

3. Your friends will often show up out of the blue, just when one of you needs to see each other. And, by show up, I mean seeing each other at the grocery store unexpectedly. Sometimes a friendly, knowing smile is just what you need.

4. I do not adult well with at least some nagging.

5. If you are in a situation where your employer has no problem with you having a bright funky hair color, and you have a stylist you trust, GO FOR IT.

6. Do not confuse what you don’t like with what other people don’t like.

7. Also, do not confuse what you like with what other people like. (It’s OK to say, I don’t like that. It really is, as long as you are polite. And, then in some cases, kicking and screaming.)

8. There will always be people that will speak over you, ignore you or tell that you are wrong.

9. You can still find your voice.

10. That thing that you love to do, do it.

11. I am terribly codependent.

12. You should be compassionate and forgiving to everyone. But, especially your spouse.

13. Always trust a dog’s instincts. (Cats are just assholes. So, don’t really worry about their opinion.)

14. A song can take you back into a memory in very vivid way. This can be both a good thing.

15. Friends are vital.

16. Never assume that a person that “has it all together” is not in pain, emotional or physical.

17. Never be afraid to wear a corset.

18. Hug your children a lot. Even if it embarrasses them.

19. Let people take pictures with you. After Sarah died, there were a lot of people that realized that there are no pictures of them with her because they did not want their picture taken.

20. Kiss your spouse often.

21. Always return your spouses kisses.

22. Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

23. To quote Will Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”

24. Play new games.

25. Remember that if you pick on something that you know someone loves, you are picking on them. In other words, see #23.

26. When your significant other looks good. Tell them.

27. It is important to surround yourself with people that listen and value your opinion.

28. When someone has lost a family member and they need to talk , be patient, refer to the person that died by name and ask questions about them. Show interest.

29. Bake from scratch. But, don’t judge a boxed cake mix.

30. It is OK to ask your parents for help. Even when you are an adult.

31. You are never too old to “find yourself.”

32. Make sure everyone you know has seen Star Wars.

33. Let people know when you are not OK.

34. Go to the theater. Both movies and plays.

35. Doctor Who is FANTASTIC!

36. Don’t assume that when you see people at a restaurant on their phones, that they are being rude. We often go right after work and I am on the phone talking most of the day. And, we are in contact most of the day. So, a lot of times, I am playing a game on my phone because it helps my brain settle down.

37. A sundae can never have too many toppings.

38. I do get star struck. I used to think I wouldn’t. I was wrong.

39. Monty Python never gets old.

40. A blog is great therapy.

41. When I was younger, I never would have guessed that the internet would be such a great way to make friends. But, I have made and maintained some great relationships because of it.

And one to grow on, peach wine is quite divine.

sinking

I am sooooo sleepy. I guess it’s the price to pay to ease the anxiety and depression. It still feels like sinking. It just doesn’t hurt as much.

Difficult Conversations

The last six years of so have been full of difficult conversations. The ones where we told the kids that I was moving out. The ones where lines were crossed and accusations were made. The ones where friends were hurting themselves. The ones when friends were going off to dangerous situations. And, the ones where you tell the father of your child, your parents and your dear friend, that is celebrating her birthday that day, that your daughter is dead.

These are the things that hit me out of the blue and take my breathe away.

They are memories that hurt.

The memory today is when my father had to ask, because his heart had to know, if Sarah was aware that she was dying. The idea of her being scared like that weighed very heavily on him. I told him that she had a seizure. She was never coherent when she had them. So, I was certain that she didn’t. I think we both felt a little better.

Now, if you excuse me, I need to get some Kleenex.

I don’t share these things to jerk on people’s heart strings. I  write them to let people know that they are not alone.200210_1710107952681_172846_n

Dad and Sarah at the fair.