Saying Goodbye

So, the past week has been exhausting. As most of you probably know by now--thanks, social media--my grandmother Joan Yoder passed away on Tuesday April 12 at the age of 95. She'd been in pain for a long time, and with the sadness of her death comes the relief that she will no longer suffer. 

It wasn't a complete surprise. For one thing, she was 95. While her oldest sibling made it to 99, grandma had been failing for a while. For another, my aunt sent a text blast on Monday with staggering vital signs. (After researching hospice care for various projects, I saw this for what it was: the beginning of grandma's death. Kinda like when the water breaks as a woman is about to go into labor.) I went to bed Monday night knowing that at any moment I'd get that phone call. Turns out "Do Not Disturb" is serious shit on my phone. When my alarm went off at 7am Tuesday, I saw a missed call and voicemail from my mom. By 7:02 I had the news. By 8am, I'd talked to Sean and by 8:30 we were cleared for him to take the rest of the week off to travel to Indiana. Sean, our daughter, my mom and I boarded a plane at 5:30pm that evening and landed at 1am at Indianapolis, International. After grabbing some food and a long drive, we arrived at my aunt's house at 4am. 

That in and of itself should be a clue as to why I'm exhausted. We shared my aunt's house with her, her visiting daughter and son-in-law. Seven people and 1 bathroom. And most of the time the house was delightfully full of people. 

We did what our family does: we sat around and told stories. We talked. A LOT. Our family is full of stories. Hell, my grandma was constantly telling them. So we told them. We remembered her. We shared versions of her that people might not know. To give you some semblance of what I'm talking about... my oldest cousins are 20 years older than me. That means that their grandmother was 20 years younger than mine. She was a different person. And my grandmother is not the Grandma Jo her many great-grandchildren or even her great-great grandchildren knew! So many stories. 

The viewing at the funeral home on Thursday was well-attended for someone of her age. There was a slideshow running in the back of the room, many pictures full of people that the younger ones didn't know. So I pointed out, "Oh, that's Grandma and her brothers. That baby? That's your grandma!" 

Friday was the funeral service. I gave a eulogy. I won't share it here, honestly. I wrote that for a specific audience and it contains some very personal, very sacred stories. My cousin Tim read a lovely poem to close out the service, and we released a bunch of balloons in her memory. All in all the trip was a blessing. I saw family that I hadn't seen in 12 years. Sean got to meet people I love dearly. It was a very safe and loving place to grieve. 

But I'm so exhausted. It's not just jet lag now. I remember when Nicki died in 2011, I said I felt numb, like I wasn't feeling what I thought I should. My friend Jasmin remarked, "Rest assured you've been mortally wounded." I think all deaths are like that. A piece of me has been ripped out and the world will never be the same. Feeling all of that at once would be devastating, debilitating even. So I've been in an odd sort of stasis since coming home. I've been numb and tired. I've been focused on work that's already behind schedule. I haven't had the breakdown.

Normally when I lose someone I come to this blog and eulogize them. I can't do that now. Maybe I put it off too long what with the trip and diving in to finish editing UNINVITED the second I got home. Maybe I said all I needed to in the eulogy I gave at the funeral. Maybe I'm too tired. Or maybe I'm avoiding it. Grandma and I shared a very special bond. It's one that I'm very protective of, and frankly, I want to keep to myself as much as I can. 

So what I will say is this...and this is something not a lot of people know. There's been a death in the Cat Sharp family. It's one you won't see on the page, because I can't lose her twice. But if you've read the Cat Sharp books, you've met my grandmother. She is the basis for Cat's adorable landlady Mrs. McIntyre. Her voice, her mannerisms....they come from the very real Joan Yoder. While I may write very non-grandma adventures for her, I will always be able to see my grandmother in the pages of those stories. 


I'm not okay right now. 
But I will be.


So sometimes I say silly shit. (I know, hard to believe.) Well, what's really fun is when I say something and someone runs with it. Doubly fun is when it's my dad. Yesterday I got 3 emails of mi padre riffing on a couple of titles I came up with. You've got to listen. Seriously, if you've ever wondered where I get my particular sense of humor, this should answer everything.

From the Dreidel to the Grave vrp-20140318-180831

50 Shades of Whey vrp-20140318-175840

...and here's my dad just :) vrp-20140318-181712


Yeah. *beams* I heart my dad.

Counting My Blessings Instead of Sheep

So, I had a rant prepped and ready to go where I bitched about the propensity for medical professionals explaining away actual health issues as "the new normal" or "just part of being a woman". Then I thought, "Fuck that." I've got too much to be thankful for to spend time bitching about what's not going my way.

As some of you know, I've been recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). As I've been saying for years, my hormones are fucked up. The diagnosis explains a great many things and, with a doctor on my side, there is direction to kick PCOS square in its pink parts. These next few weeks I'll be starting new meds and removing certain things from my diet. Wheat and dairy are chief among them, followed closely by alcohol and caffeine. I also have to limit my fruits and carbs as my body has essentially become insulin resistant.

Anyway... I told you that to tell you this:  I am surrounded by awesomeness.

I told my friends/family about this change, and so far everyone has been as helpful as I will allow. (I admit I can be stubborn, so sometimes I turn down the offer for help because I want to try something on my own first.) But I have many friends dealing with PCOS, many who are gluten free and/or dairy free. My husband has offered to follow a looser form of my diet rather than sit back and watch me nibble on peppers and sugar snap peas while he enjoys a heaping plate of lasagna and garlic bread. (Amazing one I've got there.)

The best response, though, came from my daughter. My beloved 8 year old saw us taking food off the shelves and boxing them up to give to friends. Can't cook with this kind of oil or eat that kind of cracker any here ya go, right? Anyway, she saw this and asked what was going on, so we explained that my body doesn't process sugars from dairy and wheat in the way it should. Because of that, I have to take those things out of my diet. We explained that she's still growing and usually makes very healthy choices (even if they lack variety), so she doesn't have to follow the same diet I do, but that Sean would do it to support me.

My daughter's face screwed up in consternation. "That's not fair. It's not okay for us to eat normally when you can't. That's torture!"

Oh, my sweet girl. She started crying at the thought that there are things we can't share. (This milk is for Mom, this is for you.) I explained that I'm not sad about it. Sure, I'm going to miss some things (chocolate and chai being at the top of that list), but that this is best for me in the long run. So it's not torture.

She accepted this after a while...but she still wanted a snuggle or two. We cuddled and she drifted to sleep.

I'm blessed that at 8 she still reaches out to twirl her fingers in my hair for comfort. I don't know what I've done to deserve that kind of love but I hope I continue to earn it.

Damn I love that kid.

In other news...have I mentioned how lucky I am to have a network of professionals who will help a sister out when she has questions or needs a new set of eyes? Yeah, I worry that I can't repay that, or that I'm selfish or needy. I try very hard to always play quid-pro-quo. But there are some people who just help regardless. You fucking rock my stripey socks.


Life Has a Funny Way...

tumblr_ml7eh6kpwM1r5s8qlo1_250So last year was the Year of Giving It A Shot. I must admit that I didn't give much of anything new a shot last year other than being a published author. Apparently, Life-The-Universe-And-Everything has seen fit to give me a makeup exam in 2014. Last month, I took a "Dragon Training" class where I refreshed my fire eating skills and also learned how to breathe fire. (DUDE!) I'm taking a second one this weekend. Sure, it will probably be a lot of review, but I'd love to get more practice in. Also, hello? Any chance to hang with my friends and play with fire.

While I was looking at some videos about fire eating last month to psych myself up, I stumbled across Brian Brushwood and Scam School on YouTube. Instalove. Since then I've been teaching myself basic magic tricks and some little scams. What the hell, right? I mean, sure I don't have any "marketable skills" but when the zombie apocalypse is over and you need someone who can breathe fire, write a novel in a month and do lame card tricks...well, you'll be sorry you ate me first, now won't you?

(Also, as a side note, I think it's funny that I said that I would be "open to magic" this year. I didn't quite mean sleight-of-hand and such, but whatever. Just go with it.)

Anyway, it also seems that I'm going to need to add a few other tricks to my growing repertoire of skills. My car died. Again. This time it's personal. Or something. Anyway, the VW Bug I got last year to replace my car of 15 years (long live the Stepchild!) gave up its own ghost about three or four weeks ago. I've bummed rides the past 2 weeks to get the kiddo to school, and stalled as much as I can, but it looks like it's time to get a new ride. And by new, I mean something in a more recent model year than the turn of the century. The car I've found that I dig (if I get it, I'll introduce you) is a 2012...and it's a stick. I can't (as of this post) drive a stick. Just like I can't ride a bike. (Yes, it's true, shut up.) So yeah, it looks like there's something else for me to learn if I want this car. (Which I pretty much do. It's all settled but the test drive, ya know?)

Breathing fire, magic tricks, dead car.. . what else? OH! I met my mother-in-law for the first time. That was... fun. Awkward. My husband and I have been together for more than 9 years at this point and I've never met his mom. Part of that is because for the longest time, she lived in Baltimore and we lived in Phoenix. She doesn't travel well due to some medical issues. And we haven't exactly been in a position to do a lot of traveling. However, his mom is moving out here to Phoenix, so she and a few relatives made the road trip from Illinois (where she's been for about a year now) and did some apartment scouting. This also resulted in a bit of a family reunion. My husband and his brother Zach saw their mom for the first time in more than a decade and my daughter met her grandmother for the first time.

visual approximation of that week

Things got rather stressful for a week there because I was selling my car on Craigslist (never again without an answering service, a WWE wrestler and a cattle prod), and trying to juggle communications between husband and in-laws. All while getting over some wicked cough (not related to fire breathing, I might add). I was pretty much a bundle of raw nerves and had zero brain space to devote to fantasy or whimsy in any way.

However, once all that cleared away, I dove headfirst into a new story.  It's still pretty nebulous in my mind, so I don't want to post too much here. But it's outside the C# universe...a stand-alone sci-fi that is--so far--best described as "Ready Player One" meets Tom Clancy...with Geisha. I've posted a series of images that are speaking to me lately on my Facebook page.

So yeah, meeting WiP... shopping for a new car. Plotting and rearranging my con schedule/plans. Looks like I'll be doing CONvergence in Minnesota this summer. That's been my life of late.

How the hell are you?

Welcome To Earth

So I was writing a rant earlier today when I got word that a beloved friend of mine went to the hospital with high blood pressure and possible complications with her pregnancy. Then I found out that her baby was coming via C-section 6 weeks earlier than anticipated. This is what I wrote when I was going crazy wondering what was happening during surgery. An Open Letter to the Tiny Human Known as Stormageddon, Lemmers, Lemmy and otherwise You,

tumblr_lttd3fMKg41qbxqbpHi there. I'm Jamie, I'm a friend of your mom and dad's. I adore you as much as I love them. You are already family even though we've never met. You might remember me from a few rubs on the outside of your tummy-home and such coos as, "I can't wait to meet you, Lemmy." And right now, that is all I can think of. You see, right at this moment you're coming into the world. We weren't expecting you for another few weeks, but, hey...this is your first lesson: Nothing goes to plan. Ever. (Even when you think it does, it's not really. You're just stumbling along luckily for a while. But I digress.)

You, my dear, have decided to join us early. I get that. I did the same thing. I insisted that I get this party started  6 weeks earlier than expected (just like you) and it was among the better decisions I've made. Who can blame you?

There is so much to experience in this crazy world of ours. So much to do and see and touch and smell and eat and be.... This place, this ride we call life. It's amazing. At first, it might seem overwhelming, but if you're anything like your parents you'll catch on quickly.

The first of many joys you'll experience is snuggling. Oh, dear one, snuggles are awesome. That blanket and warm skin, the gentle rhythm of breathing and all the bliss it brings: this is one of the most important experiences in life. To be held and loved. And you are. Your folks are crazy about you already. A lot of us are. (And you've got a cat friend waiting for you, too.)

CATS! That's something else to enjoy. They're hilarious creatures. Very cute and soft and cuddly. Word of warning, though: They have six ends and five are pointy. Just sayin'.

1000440_10151642203859812_63186385_nThere's music! Oh there's such a wealth of music here! Lullabyes and love songs, tunes that make you sway with the wind or others that get you off your bum and make you dance dance dance.

As you grow older you'll find all sorts of things about this world that make it special. Friends, colors, stars, animals, clay, bubbles, smells, food, campfires, s'mores, laughter (your dad's is especially weird, just so you know)'s all so awesome, kid. No matter what anyone else tries to tell you, this world is full of magic and wonder. There is love and laughter here. There are stories and dreams and silly hats. This place, this thing called LIFE is where it's at.

You've got so much to do and see. So many things are going to happen to you during your stay here. Not all of it will be pretty or nice, it's true. But you get up and keep going because there is beauty here in the world. Because you've got a family that loves you and will never let you down.

And I want you to know that I will be here for all of it. (Well, I mean, not ALL of it. Your diapers are between you and your folks. Most of 'em. I'll catch a couple if I'm babysitting. We'll talk.) You are family to me, little Lemmy, and I can't wait to meet you. You and I are going to have some fun with this life. When you're old enough, if you want to learn, I'll teach you about rhythm. I'll show you how to play your soul into drums and how to spin light with poi. I'll dance and be silly with you. I'll sneak candy or presents to you. We'll go to movies and read books. are just starting on the greatest of adventures. I'm thrilled for you. I'm excited to meet you.

I know that it's going to take some time for you to get settled and such, so I'll be on my way and leave you to that important snuggle time with your mom and dad. Go easy on them. And your sister, too.  I'll see you soon.

Welcome to the world, Bridgette Claire.