September 30, 2002
New Character

Joined a new game recently -- Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained -- in which I'll be playing Florimel. I'm really looking forward to it. I've never actually played in an Elder's game before. And I've set up a Flora I'm really interested in, and to top it off, she's married to Luke. *laughs* I think its going to be interesting.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 10:05 PM
September 29, 2002
Book Review -- The Ferryman

The Ferryman
by Christopher Golden
paperback from Signet Horror 2002

Christopher Golden made a splash when he entered the writing scene with the publication of his Bram Stoker Award winning non-fiction book, "Cut!", and then the first of his amazingly different vampire novel, "Of Saints and Shadows". His fiction created a new vampire mythology that was unusual and a breath of fresh air. The second book came out. And then... it seemed like silence.

Thankfully, I knew better than that. Chris wasn't truly silent, still working hard, still writing (and publishing various work for hire novels). He was our guest of honor at Genericon in 1996, which gave us a chance to get to know him. And we were thrilled a few years later when we heard that the third vampire novel was coming out, to be followed soon by new horror novels.

I was excited as each book came out, and have loved every single one. "The Ferryman" is no exception.

The story centers around Janine, who nearly died when she lost her son due to severe complications from preeclampsia. I had to start the book twice -- the first time the tale of Janine's near death and the situation around it gave me the shivers as I remembered my own scale up the bloodpressure and down in platelets when Ryan was born. But when I came back to the book, starting again from the beginning, I found it to move very quickly.

Janine left David Bairstow when her first love came back -- she needed to know if she had a future with Spencer. But when she discovered she was pregnant, Spencer left her and she nearly died. Afterwards, her true friends, David and Annette, were there to help her.

But something isn't quite right. Janine is having dreams of her dead son suckling at her breast, and of a cold something who desires her. And David is being stalked, and threatened, by people long dead in his past. And when one of his ghosts shows up with a new name and falls in love with Annette, things can only go from bad to worse.

Jannine, Annette, and David must face that there is truth in the myths of the Ferryman, and that they must find the truth and a way to defeat it in order to survive.

The characters are wonderful -- real people, true people. Christopher doesn't make a big deal out of what people are -- they simply are themselves. Annette -- the lesbian who works for St. Matthews, sparring verbally with the priest. David, loving Janine and feeling guilt for the ghosts of his past. And the characters make the story, make it readable and enjoyable -- a real page turner.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 08:44 PM
September 21, 2002
Twin separated at birth?

Yet another time noticing that two people look bizarrely alike...

Go watch Enterprise, and focus on Jolene Blaylock, with the short cropped dark hair as the Vulcan babe.

Go watch Hackers with Angelina Jolie wearing short cropped dark hair.


Posted by Deb Atwood at 09:26 PM
Book Review -- These Dreams

These Dreams
by Barbara Chepaitis
hardcover from Pocket Books 2002

Barbara writes both "mundane" fiction and science fiction. Her first three novels were SF, and I would say that's how I discovered her... but I'd be lying. Barbara is a Capital District local area author, and I had already met her several times long before her first book was published. I picked up her first novel in part because I knew her. I passed it along, recommended it to others, and bought the second because I loved it, and the third because I loved both that came before.

That said, when Feeding Christine, her first non-genre novel, was published, I immediately snapped it up. Loved it. Therefore when my husband was at Flights of Fantasy (which carries Barb's stuff, genre or non-genre) in March, and asked if I wanted anything, my answer was simply, "Barb's new book." Of course then it took me months to actually get to READ it.

It was worth the wait.

As I've already blogged, I cried a lot while reading this book. It begins with Cricket, meeting a strange man in the grocery store and being asked the question, "If you were going to live as if you only had one year to live, what would you do?" This starts Cricket thinking, and she is a dreaming, so it starts her dreaming as well.

We follow Cricket into her life... a middle-aged mother of two daughters (Janis in high school and Grace just 13), with a sister (who's husband might be having an affair), and a husband she loves and is comfortable married to. But she is thinking, and starting to re-evaluate that life. She looks around her, at her husband (would he have an affair? who would want him?), at the man she works with over at the bird sanctuary, at her sister's marriage...

And for the first part of the book, it seems as if it will be a midlife crisis novel. A book about Cricket's learning about her life, and what may change and what may not.

And then, abruptly, it changes. There is a shooting at the mall, where Cricket's daughter Janis has gone for the day while Cricket is at the bird sanctuary. She goes home in a panic to find that Janis is safe, but then she learns that Janis took Grace with her... and that Grace is not safe. She lies in the hospital, undergoing surgery for a bullet which struck her.

Everything changes in that moment. Cricket's life spirals seemingly out of control around her, and she struggles to adapt to the changes. This is much more than a midlife crisis. This is a true crisis of life itself. And no one in Cricket's life is immune from the ramifications.

The book is emotionally heavy. And difficult at times. But it is worth it. Barbara's characters are so believable and true, and you *want* to see Cricket heal from her emotional injuries. You want to see her survive to find her life again by the end of the book. And so I kept reading, with the tears pouring down my cheeks, and sometimes with great gulping sobs of feeling Cricket's heartbreak.

And yes, in the end, it was worth it.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 05:13 PM
September 20, 2002
Firefly -- First Impressions

Well, we just finished watching the first episode of Joss Whedon's new show -- Firefly (FoxTV, Fridays, 8pm).

First impressions? I liked it. Its space cowboy -- yes, Joss couldn't decide between wild west and the wild beyond. But its likeable. The characters seem to be typical Joss to me -- mostly what you'd expect but a little off-beat. The mech's a girl, and while she's damned good at what she does (think cross between Willow and Fred) she's still a girl... thinking about the cute doctor and what he might think of her. Seems like it'll still have the soap opera tendencies Joss has shown a talent for. But they aren't soaps... its more that he shows people and relationships because those relationships are a part of what life is. A part of what drives us and how we work.

I'm going to keep watching it. There were enough hints about what the overarching plot might be (like the dr's sister, spacy and confused and stolen away from the law) to make me curious. I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 09:53 PM
September 16, 2002
Almost Walking

Yes, our son is almost walking. He walks while holding on with one hand, and he's been cruising holding onto things for months now. But at about the same age as his sister was (9 months, 3 weeks) he took his first little steps. He was standing by the chair and he saw me and he just let go and took the three steps to get to me. Then he did it again and again...

It is so wonderful to realize that I am actually his impetus. He wouldn't walk to Daddy, but he would walk from Kevin to me. I think Kev is disappointed though, because Ryan wouldn't come to him.

I'm certain Ryan will get more and more sure of himself with this walking now, and I suspect by Albacon he'll be working on running. *laughs* Its going to be an interesting con!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 10:58 PM
A Strange Complement

The reading of "These Dreams" continues... and I can't stop crying. I was getting ready for bed, and I stopped to read a few pages and its two crying jags and 45 minutes later now. As a mother, this book is intensely emotional... intensely painful to read. But it is so well done. I have to know how it ends, have to know how Cricket heals from this pain. How she heals her family.

But right now, I just keep crying. Because I just keep thinking how I would feel if these things happened to my family... because they are SO vivid. And oh gods...

The book is fantastic. It wouldn't hurt like this if it weren't.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 10:55 PM
September 15, 2002
What Would You Do?

"If you were going to live as if you only had one year to live, what would you do?"

I am reading "These Dreams" by Barbara Chepaitis, and this question is posed... not you only *have* a year to live, but if you were going to live *as if* you only had a year to live...

And I'm wondering to myself, what would I do? And so, as I wonder, I thought to wonder aloud to all of you... what would you do?

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:05 PM
September 14, 2002
Book Review -- The Wizard of Seattle

The Wizard of Seattle
by Kay Hooper
paperback from Bantam Books 1993

I was looking for something light and fluffy... something I wouldn't have to think much about as I read it. It had been a long week, and I was looking forward to a busy weekend. So I went to my little pile of romance novels and picked out this one -- "The Wizard of Seattle". I figured it combined romance and genre, and would probably be an enjoyably campy little trip into a silly genre romance, and should be exactly what I was looking for.

What I *got* was a pleasant surprise.

Many romance authors who crossover into genre fiction (sf or fantasy) tend to get pretty campy. The fantasty names no one can pronounce. The really hyped up strange plotlines.

This one didn't. Yeah, its still a romance novel. I wouldn't go saying its great high fantasy. But it was good, and it wasn't campy.

Serena shows up on Richard Merlin's doorstep in Seattle when she is 16 years old. She's running and terrified and something has drawn her to him -- his power as a Master Wizard calling to her own innate power that she doesn't understand. And Richard... despite that he knows that the laws say that women should not be trained as wizards... accepts her as his Apprentice, and keeps her secret for the next 25 years.

When her presence is discovered by the Council of Wizards, Richard chooses to take the two of them back in time rather than strip Serena of her powers. He knows that she would never survive being normal -- her powers are too much of a part of who she is. So instead they go back to Atlantia, before the city was destroyed, in order to find out why females were banned as wizards.

As always, it does precede as a romance novel, and for that, it is fairly predictable, including the antagonist (the overly libidinous Varian) and the heroine's near misses with being caught by him. But the thing that makes it different is that throughout it all, the fantastic parts are taken as a matter of course. Serena doesn't make a big deal out of being a wizard, nor does it suddenly seem somehow strange and mysterious. Serena simply *is* a wizard. And the matter of face attitude is what makes it a good book.

The ending is happy, of course. Aren't all romance novels supposed to end happily? But more importantly, I didn't want to put it down... I wanted to keep reading, and in fact, kept sneaking in a page or two until I was done today, despite having company. And *that* means I liked it.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 10:54 PM
Book Review -- Bunnicula

by Deborah and James Howe
paperback from Aladdin Paperbacks 1999

I had never read Bunnicula, the classic children's tale of a vampiric bunny. But then my mom picked up a copy, and I spent an enjoyable little while reading this wonderful story.

The tale is told from the point of view of Harold, the family dog. The story begins when his family goes to a movie and returns home with a quivering bundle carried in the arms of the children -- a tiny bunny. The bunny -- nammed Bunnicula because he was found during a Dracula movie -- quickly overtakes the affections of the family from both Harold, and Chester the family cat.

And shenannigans ensue. The cat is determined to find out what Bunnicula's secret is, and once he realizes that the bunny is behind the strange white vegetables, drained of all their juice, he is then determined to destroy the little furry one. What he does, and how the dog participates, is hysterical to read.

Of course, it is a children's story, so it has a happy ending. But it remains a cute read, and was an enjoyable little respite from the adult world.

There are many books in the Bunnicula series (and I have been told that the entire series is equally good) and hopefully someday I will own these myself. And will be able to read them to my children!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 07:40 AM
September 11, 2002
The Saga of Tivo

It has been over two weeks and it is still not fixed. Figures, huh? Kevin spent part of the day trying to chase it down and determine where it is -- we want it back before the season begins again next week!! At this rate, they may end up replacing it with a brand new unit because they are unable to properly fix it. We'll see what happens. I just hope it happens soon!!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 08:54 PM
I Never Expected... feel this way. I never expected to be in this headspace today. I thought it would be a day like any other, with some sad memories... but not that it would plunge me into the memories of a year ago quite so vividly as it has.

It began yesterday, when I was in our Change Control meeting. Our standard day to roll things out is Wednesday, so I was writing 9/11 on several documents as notes to myself to set the dates for rollout. I just stopped what I was doing because it seemed weird... the date had taken on such meaning outside of just being *Wednesday* of this week that I felt wrong writing it on something. Felt wrong using it as a planning point.

This morning in the car I tuned to WEQX, my usual radio station out of Vermont. Even Pete Powers, who always has a snappy comment, was being serious about the subject. His attitude, so different than usual, really struck home. He called the day "surreal", and that is the best term I have heard for it so far. It is, indeed, surreal.

As I listened, people called in to talk about the day. One guy said that it was business as usual, but he works near Albany Airport and there were no planes today. No noise in the air. The silence is unusual, and reminds one of the days of the aftermath, when no planes flew for so long.

The more I listened to the radio, the more I wanted to remain connected. I had this strange desire to continue listening, all day. And that gave me a flashback of all of us huddled around the radios that barely get signal in our downtown Albany office, desperate for more news. How we just sat there, staring and waiting and wondering.

I continued my drive into the office and passed by a older gentleman standing on the streetcorner of Route 4, wearing his t-shirt and shorts, and waving the American flag at everyone who drove by.

As I drove down into Albany I could see the skyline, with the Empire State Plaza rising above everything else. There is one tall building there -- I think around 40 or 50 floors. Compared to everything else in Albany its huge (the building I work in is only 14 floors). It stood beneath thick grey stormclouds, and the wind whipped dried leaves past me as I drove. It seemed as if everything were ready to open up in violent storms... as if even the gods were angry this morning.

Memories struck at the oddest times throughout the day... little spotlights on pieces of scenes from that day, one year ago.

  • Miranda, on the phone with an end user, saying in a startled voice, "A plan just struck the World Trade Center!"
  • Standing there, bewildered, and wondering, and then the shock as it happened again... and the realization that this was no accident... this was WRONG.
  • The horrible terror of knowing I could not reach either of my best friends, because one was supposed to be flying to San Francisco and the other was on a train... to New York City.
  • Emailing Chris's cell phone in Japan to tell him what happened... and his response.
  • Hearing that Josh's plane had never gotten off the tarmac at the airport... and then seeing him walk into the office.
  • Janice saying, "Its okay, you can give him a hug." and me just smiling and saying that it was okay, I knew he was safe now.
  • Trying, desperately, to get in touch with Jenn. And failing.
  • The incredible sense of relief when my cell phone beeped to tell me I had voice mail, and I heard Jenn's voice saying that she was safe, the train was stopped.
  • The wonderful feeling of finally *talking* to her later in the day.
  • Sitting on my desk... the office deserted with only Josh and I left in IT, holding down the fort because despite everything, somehow, we went on.
  • Distracting ourselves by figuring out what to do... how to get data out of the NYC in case things got worse... it gave us a focus, and allowed us to think.
  • The frantic emails back and forth with friends in NYC to make sure everyone was safe.
  • The strange stories of why people were safe and weren't there when it happened... forgotten badges, timing of the train...
  • Picking up my daughter early from daycare and giving her the most fervent hug.
  • Wondering if anything would ever be the same.

And now that today is over... the one year anniversary... I can say that it was a really strange day. In some ways, I was unaffected. Life went on, and I actually had an awesome day at work. I even feel oddly relaxed. But then there was the striking *knowledge* this morning that this day was wrong... this day was forever something other than merely September 11th. And then... it was over. The day had ended and I was walking out of work, having worked late, and realizing that we had survived. The one year anniversary had passed and for all of it, we were stronger. More united, I hope. More open. Perhaps, in some way, it made an inroads into healing a nation which was on its way to being broken and in many ways still is... we need to become human again, and not the scary people we have become, with crime and other horrors.

One thing I do feel is that we have been inundated today. There are some things which are tasteful... yet... finding that over half the shows on my TV schedule are all about 9/11, or the towers, or some aspect of the tragedy... it bothers me. I need some space, some way to escape again. Some way to retreat and feel the sorrow and fear on my own. This is to "in your face" for me. I need a break.

Yet I know that there are those who feel the need for connection.

It has been one year. We have gone on and we will continue to go on and be strong.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 08:08 PM
September 09, 2002
Book Review -- The Dalemark Quartet

The Dalemark Quartet
by Diana Wynne Jones
paperback from HarperTrophy 2001

Book 1: Cart and Cwidder
Book 2: Drowned Ammet
Book 3: The Spellcoats
Book 4: The Crown of Dalemark

Don't let the date above fool you -- that's just the date of the HarperTrophy edition. The first copyright date of Cart and Cwidder is 1975 -- the first book has been around for nearly 30 years. Can you tell? No. And there's the most telling part of the review.

These books are supposedly children's books, or at least Young Adult novels. But they are not written to talk down to a child. Nor are they light and fluffy, with simple morals and an easy lesson to learn. What they *are* are gritty books about the North and South Dales, who are sort of at war, and about extraordinary children and what they do in these trying times.

The main character of Cart and Cwidder is Moril, an eleven year old boy, along with his thirteen year old sister Brid, and 14 year old Kialan, a passanger in their cart. Moril sees his father murdered, and discovers the magic of his father's Cwidder. This makes him face truths about himself and about his parents... things that are not easy for a boy of 11 to understand. And Moril has to make difficult choices as his life continues on down the rocky path it has been set upon, and in the end he isn't sure that he made the right choice at all. Or if it is the right choice, that he made it for the right *reason*. The ending is an ending, but I would not consider it necessarily happy. But it is the right ending for Moril's story at that place.

The next book, Drowned Ammet, focuses on Mitt, who has the full name Alhammit Alhammitson, because so many in the South are named Alhammit, which is a bastardization of Old Ammet. In this book, the Undying become more of a focus, as Mitt makes his way North with the help of two young noble children -- Hildy and Ynen -- and finds his way to the Holy Isles. Again, Mitt is still young, only 14, yet he has seen his father disappear and others killed in the freedom fighting. He himself tried to kill an earl, only to fail and find himself on the run. He experiences things far beyond his ken, even talking to the Undying, and discovers that he has power with their names. Again, there are difficult choices made, and Mitt has difficulty coming to terms with his role in this world. In the end, he still isn't sure of himself, but he knows he is in a better place than he began his travels.

The Spellcoats takes place in the past -- I believe a couple of hundred years, if not more, before the other books. Tanaqui is weaving two Spellcoats during the course of the story, and the entire writing style has changed to reflect this. Suddenly instead of third person the reader is plunged into a very choppy, succinct, yet still expressive first person style... which you quickly realize is because this is the way the legend has been woven into the coat. Not written, woven. Much more of the legends of the Undying becomes obvious, and the beginnings of the endings are laid, pulling together the threads that were shown in the first books by writing their history here.

And then finally, in The Crown of Dalemark, it all comes together. Moril is back, now 14, as is Mitt at almost 15. Everyone from the earlier books (including those in the third book who are of The Undying, and therefore still survive into the present time) is present and accounted for, and the plot all falls together neatly. A new main character of Maewen, a girl from the future, is introduced, and become a central piece of the puzzle of how the Dales will be reunited under a single crown again, as they were in the past.

The story ends tying up the threads neatly, yet still leaving room for the reader to make their own ending images within their mind. The final lines are beautiful, yet I admit, left me craving more.

The setting is wonderful, the prose easy to read. These are books for adults or children, and I hope my children will read them someday and love them as much as I did. Hells, I hope my husband will love them as well! (They are now in his to-read pile!) I am planning to search to see if someone has already distilled the world into a gaming sourcebook, as it has such a rich feel to it that I know it could be used for a great fantasy RPG. With the focus between the Undying and the children, it would make a great game for both kids and adults mixed. And being not all sweetness and light, and with the focus on children making decisions and learning from their mistakes, and learning to *THINK* and not just follow, it also is the sort of thing I could happily run as a game. Its a complement I would love to pay someday.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:05 PM
A Driving Tour of Natick

Last night, Ryan wouldn't go to sleep. He'd had a weird day, and hadn't really napped much or at the right times. These things happen. I mean, its impossible, really, to keep to life and a schedule at the same time. So last night, after my parents got home with the kids, and met us, Ryan refused to go to sleep.

We tried the bottles. We tried rocking. We tried letting him scream it out.

Nothing worked.

So finally I grabbed my mom's keys, moved the car seat from her car to mine, grabbed my husband, and we went for a drive.

I offered to drive, since well, it *was* my home town and I could navigate it best and didn't have to say "turn here" or anything then. I figured I'd go down to Route 9, head down to Main Street, use that to turn around, and come home.

Of course, this didn't go as planned.

We had just about made it to Main Street and there was this squeaking noise from the broken styrofoam cooler driving me NUTS. So I figured I'd find a place to pull over and get the lid off so it'd stop squeaking. Then I heard this noise from the back seat.

This giggle. Then a chortle. Then a chorus of "ba ba ba ba".

Yes, my son was still awake. Five minutes into the drive, he was still very much conscious, and while he was now calm and no longer screaming his lungs out... it was also obvious he was enjoying himself.

So, time for a change of plans. I pulled off Route 9 onto Route 27 (the would be Main Street) and headed south. I pulled into the White Hen Pantry at the corner of Bacon street and we fixed the problem with the cooler. Ahhh... much less styrofoam squeaky noises. And Ryan, well, he was still awake, and looking at us when we looked back at him, but a little quieter. But still very much awake.

So I smiled at Kevin and said I was taking him on a driving tour of Natick. We've been together for 11 years, married for six, and I've never actually taken him on a tour of my home town. Normally, one would do this in the *light* but well, we were out, and we were a couple of blocks from one of my houses and my old elementary school. It just seemed like the right time to do it.

We drove up and turned onto Franconia Ave. I pointed to the right, showing him the old elementary school (it was two buildings) set down the hill slightly. It isn't a school any longer, but the deed or something said that it had to remain in use by the town and the kids, so it is now a town hall, and a recreation center for the parks & recreation department. Which is a good use for it. It also happens to be, as I mentioned on the tour, the setting for one story I wrote a long time ago ("Choices" -- a vampire story).

A little further down the street and I pointed to the left, then frowned, realizing that in the dark, I actually wasn't sure which of two houses was the one I lived in for a couple of years. But it was one of those. Then we turned left and I pointed out the house my best friend (at the time we moved to Franconia) lived in. As we turned right, I pointed out the Victorian on the corner, mentioning that my mom had always wanted that house.

"The one with the For Sale sign?" my husband asked.

"What?" I tried to look in the dark, but failed miserably. Kevin craned around as well, saying that he *thought* it was a For Sale sign but maybe it was an election sign. Well, I had to know, so I did a U-turn and we went back again. Yup, For Sale. I resolved to look it up on the web later to find out how much it was going for ($689,000 if you're curious -- don't think I'm buying THAT house any time soon!).

We continued our tour then, back to Franconia and then back to Main Street, showing Kevin the entrance to the Natick Labs, where my mom used to work before she retired. When we lived on Franconia it was an easy walk down to work. I said something about walking by The Circle, and Kevin looked at me funny. I said, "Well, its Heritage Lane, but its shaped like a circle so we all just called it that. Its where the family housing was for the people only there a few years."

"On base housing," my husband translated. I explained that yeah, but it was the only HOUSE housing. There were also apartments for those in the service, but the houses were for families. I knew a lot of people who lived there, over the years, and lost a lot of friends when their fathers moved on. In a way, it was sort of sad.

We drove by the old apartment building we lived in when we first came to Natick, and then I drove down the dead end street so he could see it again -- this big yellow building right across the end of the street. I told him how when the blizzard of '78 came, they plowed the snow right down to the end of the street and dumped it in our front yard. Made a huge hill we went sledding on (I still have pics of it I think).

When we headed back to Main Street again, Kevin noticed the Pizza Plus on the corner. I laughed, and he was amused because there is a Pizza Plus on our corner here. I said yeah, I grew up with a non-chain pizza place named that so it was kind of interesting to find one here, too.

Then I took him down into South Natick. I love South Natick. Its like its own little world. I drove past the falls, although he couldn't see them, and pointed to the church where I used to take baton lessons. We turned around on the street where Glen lived, and I told him how Glen's mom was the only adult when I was in high school who actually really realized I was a bad influence on people and not the little angel I acted like. Okay, so not like I was BAD like some people are bad, but I certainly wasn't an angel either. *grins*

I tried to take him up Cottage St to see the corner where my friend drove off the ledge of someone's driveway but I couldn't find the street in the dark. Ah well... I still managed to not get us lost and we wound our way back to Main Street again (do you sense a theme? *laughs*).

We went down Pond St instead of 135 like we usually do, and I showed him "that place Ted gets lottery tickets" because he remembered that my dad went downtown for that and then I pointed to my high school way back on the left. I would've taken him to drive by that, but Ryan was asleep and we wanted to get back by then.

And then we were back to 135 and Speen, where Roche Brothers is, and into familiar space for him. We drove home, extracted Ryan gently from the car, and put the baby to bed, a half hour after we left.

It wasn't an expected tour, but it was kind of fun, talking about all the little things in my life growing up after we moved to Natick. I'd like to do it again in the light, actually, and maybe show him the high school, and the right house on Franconia... again, little things. Either way, it was nice to do it. And in a way, I'm sort of glad Ryan gave us the chance.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 10:44 PM
September 06, 2002
Vacation, Day 7

I'm being a horrific crank today. I'm not entirely sure why. Technically, I should have had enough sleep. 8 hours straight, no wakeups in the middle, for the second night in a row. And I couldn't go back to sleep when I woke up, but now, a few hours later, I'm both starving and exhausted.

But anyway, today is the beginning of our camping trip. After lunch Gay Ellen will be arriving to sit for our kids for a few hours while my mom's at work, so we can get on the road. I love my children, but I'm really looking forward to a weekend of peace and quiet. Right now, all I want to do is curl up and enjoy a short break. So we're going to get there a little early (okay, a LOT early probably) and then just curl up and read and spend some quiet time together before the rest of the group arrives.

I'm just seriously looking forward to getting away.

Back on the home front, the week of deconstruction went fairly well. The wall went up without me, after all. There actually wasn't much I could do to help, and the cat needed to be dropped off at the vet, so I took care of that while Kevin worked. When I was back, he was just finishing nailing the last side (kitchen) of the wallboard into place. Then he started the spackling on the room side of it.

Then he cleaned up. He's curious to read the blog because he's wondering how mad I am at him for the mess he made. *smiles* It actually wasn't all that bad. I was frustrated because we forgot to buy tarps to throw over the island in the kitchen, so now I have to do some dishes that sit on the bottom shelf. But the floor cleaned up pretty easily. Aside from damaging the slide of the door to the pantry slightly, we're in pretty good shape.

Admittedly, it all looks like hell at the moment. In my kitchen, there were three doors, well, actually four in a row. You walk in the original back door of the house from the mudroom, and immediately to the right is a fanfold door to the pantry. Just next, sharing the same piece of molding between them, is the door to the cellar. And then there is a place where there was molding just past that, which is now simply bare plaster putty, then wallboard, then more bare plaster. Above all three is an empty sore of either bare board or the top of a door frame, with all the holes involved.

Yeah, its ugly. But we'll put up new trim above the whole thing, and spackle to smooth out the new wall and then paint it. I'm actually thinking of rimming the new wall in trim and then painting it a different color. We're putting up hooks anyway, to make it a pot rack, so why not make it look like we *meant* it to be different. Right?

On the other side everything'll work out just fine. The wall is in and mostly spackled already. Its not perfectly straight, but then again, neither is the house! The door we replaced was in a frame that was a half inch taller on one side than the other.

Overall, I'm really pleased with our progress this week. We got a lot done. And since Dani might be staying with Grammy for the week, with only one child in the house, we might be able to get a bit done during the week, after work, too. *fingers crossed* Which would be really good, since we do still have a LONG way to go before its done.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:30 AM
September 05, 2002
Vacation, Day 6

Today the door becomes a wall.

Its been being used as such practically since we moved in anyway, so it isn't exactly a loss. In fact, today is one of the first times I can remember seeing into that room from the kitchen for more than the briefest of moments.

Yes, there is a gaping hole in my kitchen wall right now. The door is out, and so is the frame. In fact, the frame is off half the other doors because three doors shared a single top frame. Kevin is trimming the studs that will be put in for the wallboard to be attached to. Then I get to hold things in place while he gets them nailed down.

And what am I doing while he was deconstructing (violently) the door and now trimming things? Packing. And making a nice baked chicken for lunch (I'm serious -- we never made it for dinner last night and we didn't want it to go to waste!). And making nice marinades for tomorrow night's dinner at the campsite (steak and chicken, one spicy oriental, the other a more normal oriental). So there he is being all manly and major GUY and I'm being domestic and womanly and filling the house with the scent of chicken baked with fresh sage and rosemary.

Its seriously weird.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 12:40 PM
September 04, 2002
Vacation, Day 5

There is no more wallpaper on the walls!!!

The trick I found yesterday of peeling the first layer of paper off in strips really helped, and we just zipped through the rest of the paper. The walls are now bare of paper, have been washed with DIF, and Kevin has applied the first layer of spackle. Tomorrow there will be some sanding and the second layer of spackle applied. Kev thinks that some of the wall damage (there was water damage long ago, but not really bad stuff) will take three layers of spackle before all is said and done.

Tomorrow we get the wallboard and replace the second door (to the kitchen) with a wall. I'm excited.

The wallpaper stripping was therapeutic again today. I got into a groove, zip-zip-zipping the scraper down the wall and peeling it away. The sound had a feeling to it, and I felt jazzed as more came off of the wall. And it was aerobic, with me throwing my back into it and really pushing it to do it quickly. The only troubles were when I had to tell Kevin to stop doing the part over me. He didn't get it until I yelled that what he was flaking off (plaster bits and wallpaper bits) were falling into my eyes. Which was a sort of bad thing. So we swapped and he did wall-finishing in a different area while I continued stripping paint there. That worked far better, and I didn't end up taking quite as much of a plasterboard shower!!

My fingers, on the other hand, are ruined. The tips of my fingers are rough and messy, needing days and days of conditioning to make them better. This is partly because of the glue, or the DIF, or the work... or perhaps even the showering twice daily and all the hand-washing in between. Either way, my hands feel icky.

And I ache. This is to be expected, I suppose. I woke up tired this morning. There was a horrible thunderstorm last night... it began around 1am and continued on until about 3:30. We didn't sleep much in between. I kept dozing off, as the thunder faded, and then awakening again abruptly as it was suddenly shaking the house around me. Yeah, it was one of those storms. Ryan didn't wake at all, only fussing momentarily as I walked by him to the bathroom. Dani did awaken, but both Kevin and I were downstairs (I had come down to turn off my laptop and check the window in the new room, and he came down for the latter as well). So we comforted her and cuddled her, and she went right back to sleep.

Still, it meant our sleep was disturbed, and 6am came way too early. And then I tried to move. Oh gods, did I ache. I had advil for breakfast, which isn't entirely unusual. But I was depending on it, so I could move enough to take a shower. My legs ached from yesterday, and I couldn't figure out why at first. I didn't think my workout had worked my legs that strongly. My shoulders... I could understand those. I'd done a bit with my arms during the Fitlinxx stuff.

We went to the workout and I felt every bloody muscle. Some of it started to make sense, too. Like remembering moving something like 20 reps of bricks (4 bricks per load, walked to the back of the driveway and then set down). And then finally, after the workout, when we started in on the room again, I realized why my calves hurt so badly. I had done all the low work, so I'd spent most of yesterday (and now today) crouched. Ohhhh... my calves regret this. Mightily.

We stopped in the office so Kevin could see my new digs (did I say we'd moved everyone on the floor? My new cube is smaller, and claustrophobic and doesn't have enough space to do manager meetings, but I LOVE it because of the whole claustrophobia thing... its weird) and so we could use the fax machine. Then we picked up the kids and headed home. We were early enough that we could have an early dinner, and then Dani helped me water the garden.

I hope my garden survives the weekend. I'm going to water it before I leave, but I'll be gone several days. I hope it makes it.

We've made the list for the packing tomorrow. Yes, in and among everything else, we need to pack for the camping trip. And see if we can fit all of it, including luggage for the kids, into Kevin's car. He has air conditioning that works. I don't. I used to, but it ran out and needs recharging. And that's just not in the budget these days. *groans*

I'm looking forward to the camping trip. Its a good weekend with friends, and a lot of relaxing, and the kids are staying with grammie and grampie. So Dani's looking forward to it as well. But most of all, I'm just looking forward to kicking back and relaxing.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 08:50 PM
September 03, 2002
Vacation, Day 4

The day began much as they usually do during the week, except that this time there were two of us. Neither of us wanted to get out of bed, but we finally convinced ourselves to do so, and readied ourselves, and the kids, for the morning. Once all was set, we dropped off Ryan at daycare, and then Dani at preschool. And then for ourselves, it was off to the gym.

It felt good to begin my day with a brief workout on the treadmill, then a circuit around the toning machines, and then shooting hoops with Kevin. And I didn't even do so badly for a five foot tall woman who hasn't handled a basketball in YEARS. I had always thought, when I was younger, that if I actually were something of a decent height I'd like to play basketball. But now, of course, with no practice I have no strength to throw the ball with. I want to get a net here, at home, because I enjoy it and it would be good exercise. But we keep putting it off.

Once we were done with the exercise it was home again, to begin the work on Danielle's room in earnest.

We had to begin with clearing it out. We separated out the things to go to the Salvation Army, and the things to be tossed, and the things to be stored for later. The desk I am amazingly fond of we decided will be painted for Danielle. I figured out later it might be nice if we paint it white and then get some stencils and let her stencil it with the pink and fuscia. It'll be cool.

Kevin pulled the trim off from around the door we are taking out while I got rid of the bricks. The bricks? Well, they used to be our bookshelves. We layered bricks and plywood to make the shelves in our library. But now our books are all packed and the room will become a room for our daughter, while her room becomes one for our son. We have two children and no place for our books. *sighs*

I realized about halfway through carrying piles of four bricks across our parking lot of a driveway to the place where I piled them next to the shed that I didn't need the fitlinxx workout this morning -- I was certainly working my arms hard enough with the bricks!

And then that was done. I made lunches, while Kevin continued onwards, starting the process of stripping the wallpaper. When I joined him, after we ate, he had already sprayed DIF over one wall, and had the first layer (there were three) off of about half of it, and was working his way down through it. Together we made it about 80% of the way through that wall. But then things started to go wrong. First, he overfilled the sprayer, and we wasted a good bit of DIF (which, if you don't know, is a compound you spray on wallpaper to dissolve the glue beneath so it peels off easily). Then the sprayer itself stopped spraying -- something inside of it broke somehow.

In the meantime, while he fought with the stuff breaking, I started peeling the first layer of paper off of another wall. Without the DIF, the first layer actually came off a bit easier. It was sized properly, and I was able to peel off huge sheets of it at one time. There was something therapeutic about it. Like when you see this tiny edge of a piece of wallpaper peeled up and you have to resist the urge to yank on it, picking at it until it simply peels away, coming apart in your fingers and revealing whatever is beneath. But this time, I was not only allowed to peel the paper away, I was supposed to. It was absolutely lovely, as I peeled it in long strips and the let it fall away onto the floor.

Rather like the feeling of popping bubblewrap.

Still, we reached a point where we couldn't continue. We couldn't spray the DIF onto the walls, and we were running out of it anyway. So a trip to Home Depot, at the least, was in order.

So I took it as a hint and cleaned out my car. We packed the stuff for the Salvation Army into it and dropped it off. It was sad, in a way -- we dropped off a dark blue oriental style rug that I rather liked, but we have no place for it and it has been in storage for a while. If we put it in the basement, it would've gotten musty. So hopefully it will go to a better home from there.

Then, since we were there, we went inside to do a bit of clothes shopping for Danielle.

Now, you may think we're a little strange -- shopping at the Salvation Army. After all, we aren't poor. But we aren't exactly rich, either. We have to watch what we do and save where we can. And we've determined that when it comes to clothing small children who grow so rapidly we will never blink twice at where clothing comes from. Hand-me-downs, yard sales, and thrift stores -- all are fair game. And later, when I showed Danielle the new pants, shirts, and best of all, her new winter jacket, she was just so thrilled. It was well worth the time spent hunting through the racks of clothing, searching for the few size 5 items we could find.

After that we fought our way through traffic to collect Ryan from daycare. They have torn up the road around HVCC and it was an absolute nightmare, as classes let out from the community college at the same time as we tried to drive past it. Between that, and general traffic, we figured we should get Ryan first, then go to Home Depot.

At which, as usual, we spent more than we'd intended to. But we collected a new sprayer, and more DIF, and the things we needed to continue the job. We still have at least one more trip because we need to get the wallboard to put up on Thursday. But we'll do that on the way home from the gym on that day.

After picking up Dani, we had to stop off at Walmart to get stickers. Dani has received a letter for a sticker club, which is cute, so she needed stickers to send to the first little girl on the list. Dani is so excited, and picked out the stickers herself. Tomorrow night we'll have her write a note to go with it when we mail it.

Kevin bought the Gosford Park DVD as a treat and we've managed to watch not quite half of it so far. Its pretty good, although it takes a lot more watching than I'm used to indulging in. I like to be able to both watch a movie and play online, and its not that sort of a movie. I need to pay attention to it.

And now its later... I'm tired, and he's tired, and we've got a long way to go tomorrow too. He's got an orientation appt for Fitlinxx in the morning, and I'm going to do the run through the circuit again tomorrow. And then, of course, we need to finish stripping the paper off of Dani's room. We can't paint until we've got the wall done, and we need to do that all in one day. So we won't start that tomorrow. But there are other things we can do as well -- work upstairs, and in the back room (like shampooing carpets and stuff). Its going to be a busy week.

I'm really looking forward to having a vacation at the end of the whole thing!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 08:54 PM
September 02, 2002
Vacation, Day 3

So here it is, three days into my vacation and its the first time I've managed to blog. *smiles* I suppose that's a good thing, but I think its more just a sign of how bloody busy we've been this weekend.

Saturday was spent gaming. Started the new roleplaying game I'm running -- details available between The Voices and the game website. It went really well, and was a great start to my vacation.

Sunday we knew was going to be blown shopping, especially since the more we thought about it, the more stores we decided we needed to go to. It mostly started because we needed to go to Home Depot to get things to work on Dani's room. She needed to pick out the final colors for her walls and trim (the walls will be pale pink, the trim a sort of fuscia, and we told her the ceiling would be white -- she wanted to paint it purple). She picked two colors that look really nice together, and I think it'll look good, even though it isn't a room I could ever live in without choking on all the pink!

If that was all we were doing on Sunday, it would've been easy. But we also needed to stop at Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods (we're going camping on Friday after all), and Sam's Club, then go food shopping at the end of it all. By the time the day was over we'd spent a ton of money (eep!!) but we have what we need to get things done. She even picked out her ceiling fan so we can pull down the old flourescent light and put up the new one once the ceiling is painted.

We've got a lot of work to do tomorrow. We'll drop the kids off at daycare and school, stop off at the gym for a quick workout, and then home to work on the room. We have to clean it out first, then strip three layers of wallpaper. Not to mention ripping out a door and putting up wallboard in its place. We have to do a lot of cleanup on the other side of that no-longer-door, too, since its in the kitchen. Some tile to put up and some paint, and replacing a piece of trim. Eek! Its just a lot of work. But it has to be done, because otherwise Ryan will be sleeping in the baby nook for an awfully long time.

Today was a relatively simple day. Laundry, cleaning, relaxing. Bubble-blowing with Danielle outside (which was fun *smiles*). Had a good dinner, and tried a new recipe (which I'll get around to reviewing on the diet site eventually) for zucchini crisp -- Dani thought it was apples and picked out and ate all the zucchini pieces only and left the sugar behind. What a way to get a kid to eat veggies!! And it worked!!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:03 PM