Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Mandalorian (Season 1)

We were supposed to start "The Mandalorian" on December 27th, 2019, the day episode 8 dropped. That was the plan. Wait until it was all out, then binge the whole thing! No nasty cliffhangers.

Then some friends basically said "here you go, have some Disney Plus, and WATCH THE MANDALORIAN."

Well. We couldn't argue with that.

For the most part I'm tremendously grateful. Except for the part where we watched episode 7 right before Christmas even though my husband had been spoiled and knew there was a nasty cliffhanger and I had to go into Christmas wondering WHAT HAPPENED TO--------- [redacted for spoilers]-----????

Anyhow, if you are reading this and haven't watched the show yet, unless you fall asleep or the power goes out or you have some pressing work commitment, nothing should keep you from going from episode 7 into episode 8.

Lucky you!!!!

Although let's be honest, at around 35 minutes an episode (with rather gratuitous end credits), this might be one of the easiest shows to binge watch ever. It's an interesting choice, as live action drama usually stretches 45-52 minutes here in the States. However it works surprising well in "The Mandalorian," perhaps in part because at least some of the creative team has been honing their skills on the animated Star Wars shows and are used to a shorter format. As parents catching the episodes during baby's naps, my husband and I appreciated the the length!

Preamble accomplished, what did I think of the actual show? Well, I thought it was exactly the STAR WARS show that we need. Something largely unconnected to the Skywalker saga (although with plenty of easter eggs), part episodic, part overarching plot, a fun callback to the western-style format (capture all those Firefly fans, y'know), a likeable, laconic hero with the cutest ever sidekick...

...we all know 2019 is going to go down as the year of Baby Yoda.

My largest frustration with the show was the glaring lack of female characters during the first three episodes. STAR WARS has come so far, and done such a better job in recent years with balancing things out (haha), that it just felt plain weird to have a single female speak during the first three episodes. And it would have been SO easy to make almost any one of the other secondary characters be female. I was confused, disappointed, and sad. Honestly, it helped me understand why there is such an outcry in general over representation in storytelling. I don't think I've ever felt so...invisible before. So, personal realization moment there!

Now, of course, the show DID redeem itself in that regard with episode #4 being extremely female-centric, and a couple of other good uses of females coming through later. Still, after episode #3 I was struggling, feeling that the showrunners were banking on keeping the female audience largely through Baby Yoda's existence.

I won't lie. I was watching mostly for Baby Yoda.

That issue aside, I really did enjoy the show. I thought it was engaging, funny, well-written for the most part (with a few mis-steps in the middle), and a good expansion of the cinematic STAR WARS universe.

My hands-down favorite two scenes were a) Mando's seige of the Jawa cruiser, and b) the opening scene of episode 8 which I won't spoil but totally had me in stitches.

I loved seeing some actual live action Twi-lek characters even though they were pretty weird. (I played a twi-lek in one RPG...and she had an older brother! ha...but she wasn't a Harley Quinn wannabe) I had zero interest in Mandalorian culture prior to watching the show, but now I have appreciation for why there are die hard Mandalorian fans (even though I'm also aware that the show portrays just one tribe of Mandalorians).

We were a little thrown by the appearance of Uruk Hai in episode 4 (which appears to have taken place in Minnesota, lol), and we appreciated the exploration of droids, the effect (or non effect) of the Rebellion, and the big reveal at the end which I won't spoil but certainly has interesting connotations for the next season.

I remember hearing, about fifteen years ago, that George Lucas wanted to do a live action STAR WARS show. My mind was blown. How could such a thing be financially possible? What kind of miracle would this be?

But now, honestly, in this day of superhero TV galore, the surprise is not that we have a live action STAR WARS tv show, but rather that it has taken this long to exist. That said, it was worth waiting for the show to be done right, and I personally don't think Disney could have done much better for their initial foray than they have with Season One of "The Mandalorian." Is it perfect? Clearly not. Is it perfect for what we needed right now?

Oh yes.

And I can't wait to see what they do with "Obi-Wan."

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2009 and 2019, dreams and reality

For many of you reading this, the '10's have been the biggest decade of your lives. College, career, travel, marriage, children, vocations, and many amazing personal achievements are some of the things I see my friends celebrating on Facebook.

I also see honest acknowledgement of the hardships that have made us grow. The sorrows of the '10's have also been harsh. Illness, divorce, abuse, addiction, estrangement, poverty, disillusionment, infertility, job loss, disability, and loneliness have been endured by so many that I care about. 

But even just being here is a win. Surviving is a win. Even if you don't feel a list of achievements exists for you, it may be that simply staying alive has been a struggle for you. 

When I turned 29, I struggled. I'd wanted to travel more, write more, and have at least one child by that point. I felt like I'd failed. My mentor told me that most people didn't really start achieving their 'big' things until they hit their 50's. (Hey, Bilbo and Frodo could attest to that!) I didn't find it terribly comforting at the time, but seeing how much I've grown in the past two years, and how much I've accomplished and survived, all gives me a lot of hope and anticipation for the next two decades. Because it's still 20 years until I hit my 50's and that's quite a lot of time, really, to gear up for doing my really big things!

Of course, I'm sure a big part of that number has to do with the fact that many, many, people are busy raising children between the ages of 20 and 50. Whether a homemaker or a breadwinner, a huge amount of focus and planning is around the children. This year has taught me so much about learning how to prioritize and work in tiny spurts. (The blog has been the sufferer in this, I'll freely admit!) I can only imagine how efficient my life is going to be once I have had 20 years of practice and suddenly I'm not homeschooling anymore! 

Ten years ago I was wrapping up a feature length film (the Shadow of the Bear). I was also packing my bags to head off to Virginia to be a nanny and tutor for six children for three months! I was in the midst of a big rewrite of my first book, and I'd already tried and left college twice due to health issues. I'd come off a big health programme that was to give me the energy I needed to get through the next two years.

I had so many dreams.

Reality has been harder, bigger, and more rewarding than my dreams. The past ten years have been battle after battle--but also full of love and joy that I could not have imagined. While of course I do not want to climb the mountains again, I would not change them, because standing here with my husband and daughter is a reality more beautiful and cherished than any I dreamed. 

Next stop: Getting that fifth draft of "The Professor and the Siren" finished up... 
#procrastinatingonthenovel #Ishouldbewriting #backtoparis 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Brightly Burning (or Jane Eyre in Space)

I recently ordered a bunch of books from the library that were supposed to appeal to the same crowd as Marissa Meyer's "Cinder." The first three or so I read were...okay. A couple were depressing. One ("Stitching Snow") was actually pretty good but I'd recommend only with caveats for those who have abuse trauma. And at last, "Brightly Burning" by Alexa Donne was FANTASTIC.

Honestly? I put off reading "Brightly Burning" toward the end because the premise, "Jane Eyre in Outer Space as YA" sounded like a recipe for a terrible mash-up. I've read so many Jane Austen redos that were so disappointing. And YA? I'm so tired of YA cliches...



"Brightly Burning" is really good. Not just as a retelling, but as a stand alone book. I would have enjoyed Stella Ainsley, her world, her friends, and her adventure on their own. Stella is a refreshing change from the typical YA heroine, and the cast of characters are an engaging bunch.

However, as a retelling of a beloved classic, "Brightly Burning" is stellar (pun intended!). It took all the best parts of Charlotte Bronte's classic, mixed them up, added a few twists and turns, and presented them as a brand new story. Stella is a pitch perfect Jane, and Hugo Fairfax is a surprisingly well done Rochester. And I really, really did not think that a 19-year-old guy in a YA novel could possibly compare to the original Rochester...but he actually does. And yes, the book is appropriate for a YA audience. The changes that Donne made to transition her characters work well, staying true to the spirit of the original while adjusting to accommodate a younger hero.

Perhaps most delightful of all is that this book holds plenty of surprises even for old fans of Jane Eyre. Even though I was able to quickly guess the biggest change, I could not anticipate how everything was going to roll out and was genuinely on the edge of my seat and unable to put the book down!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

How's Mom? A four-month update

My daughter was four months old yesterday, which means this blog is WAY overdue for an update! Since we want to respect our daughter's privacy, this post will focus largely on myself and how I've made the transition to motherhood. However I can share that Katie is very healthy, VERY strong, meeting all her milestones, and charming us every day with her easy temperament and infectious laughter.
As for Mama? I'm doing really good. Not perfect--the headaches I've struggled with for years are back, but right now they seem easier to tame than previously. I can't remember the last time I was in the ER with a migraine. Yet despite having about two difficult headaches a month, my post-pregnancy life has been an improvement in life.

My pregnancy was difficult. Crippling morning sickness for the first half, then extreme fatigue and a VERY low baby made for reduced mobility and high discomfort for the second half, not to mention the month of prodromal labor (while my baby's position was +1! That's VERY low, most babies don't get that low until active labor!)

Postpartum recovery, on the other hand, has been really good. My body is really enjoying the hormones of breastfeeding, and that coupled with a great new chiropractor has resulted in a reduction in my shoulder and head pain. Good nutrition care from my naturopath, good support from my family, enough sleep, and I've been blessed to be able to fully enjoy my baby.

Make no mistake, this would not be the case without my support team. My health issues mean I do not sleep efficiently, and my deafness means that I can't hear Katie when I'm asleep, so my body has so far refused to relax enough to let me sleep when I'm home alone (and yes, we've looked into/tried/eliminated many helpful ideas). My family has arranged for a superb level of accommodation and assistance , and I'm forever indebted to them. They allow me to feel like a super mom!

Going into motherhood, I set my expectations for breastfeeding very low. I knew that this could be the hardest part for sufferers of fibromyalgia pain, and I was prepared to be okay if my body gave out after a month. It definitely was difficult on my body to get through the first month when baby and I were learning everything. However I am super thrilled (and feel tremendously blessed) to mark four months of exclusive breastfeeding as of today! After a lifetime of feeling like my body just was not up to the mark, I am astounded and grateful to have had excellent supply, neither over nor under. Lots of thanks to Mother's Milk tea, lots of oatmeal, and a husband who learned quicker than I did how to execute a perfect latch and became my personal lactation coach those first few weeks. (An involved and educated dad can be SUCH a help!)

We also discovered pretty quickly that doing some pumping was a great stress-buster, as it allows me to sleep through a feeding and lets other family members have a turn bonding during feedings. This isn't a good option for babies who won't take a bottle or suffer from nipple confusion, but somehow we introduced it well enough at the right time and had the right baby and it all worked out.

There have been hiccups, of course, mainly sleeping, colic and allergen issues, but after some trial and error and seeking expert advice we have ironed those out and it makes a huge difference for baby. I cannot recommend highly enough being aware of the effects of food allergies, trying elimination diets, and learning what acid reflux in babies looks like (and how to manage it). Now we're entering the world of nap schedules and teething and a baby who is starting to get mobile...wheeeeee!

Now past the first three months, I'm in the next phase, which is integrating regular life with baby life. I'm learning to balance that desire to do nothing but play with my baby all day with things I need to do for my home, my work, and myself. I'm working on finishing the home organization that a March flood and a month of crippling prodromal labor interrupted. Cooking is happening (I even made a beet and potato pie with a phenomenal new gluten free pastry crust recipe I found), and I'm managing a very low maintenance garden this year. I'm finding times to do some sewing and, yes, even some editing on "The Professor and the Siren." Writing is the most difficult part of all this, because Baby Brain/Mom Brain is real and I'm struggling to hold all the threads of the story in my head at once.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Other Part of Katie's Name Story

I can't believe I forgot the best part of Katie's name story!!!

So when I was a little girl, my dad gave me a baby doll when my baby brother was born. I loooooved that doll. And her name was Katie.

Where the name Katie came from, I have no clue. There was a neighbor girl named Catherine, but we moved next door right about when I got the doll and as far as I know, Catherine was never called Katie and I never associated the two names until I got a lot older.

I do know that I was obsessed with the name for awhile. In fact, when my best friend got a little sister, I really wanted the sister to be named Katie, and I cried when she was named Abby instead. (Sorry, all bearers of the name Abby. I was 3. I also cried when I was given a doll wearing purple instead of pink. Nowadays, my current novel stars heroines named Kate AND Abbey...Obviously things have changed.)

About three years later we DID get neighbors that named their baby Katie, and this time around I was upset because that was MY special name. Oh, Elizabeth...

Anyhow, a few months ago I was digging through my keep-forever box and I found my Katie doll!!! I brought her up to the nursery, knowing that there was a really good chance I was about to finally get a real live baby Katie... and I DID!

My Katies

So, yes, I've loved the name Katie for a long time, even though I actually forgot about the doll for awhile!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Presenting Miss Katherine Hosanna

Katherine Hosanna
Born 4/28/19
8 lbs 6 oz
21 inches long

15 hour labor (after 4 weeks of prodromal labor)
Natural labor and delivery at birth center
Labor was rough, but there were no complications and I'm recovering well. I had excellent support from my husband, mother, doula, and team of midwives.

Katie had some trouble getting enough oxygen after she was born, so she was taken by ambulance (to receive continuous oxygen) to the NICU for observation and continued oxygen. It was nervewracking and stressful, but within two days everything was stabilized, and after four days we were cleared to take her home. 

Despite the disruptions of NICU living, we utilized the lactation help available there and established solid breastfeeding. We also jumped right into cloth diapering and elimination communication as soon as we got home. 

Although very tired, we are very thankful for our miracle. 

"They call me Katherine that do speak of me..." 
Very early on in our relationship, Nathan and I discussed how many kids we each wanted and shared some names we liked. Although we vetoed a LOT of each other's names, we discovered that "Katherine" was a top girl's name for us both. We liked the many nicknames available (Katie is what we are using right now, also Katie Anna, and maybe someday Kate. But not Kathy.) and I also liked the connections to English history, Jane Austen, X-Men, and just generally the awesomeness of heroines named "Kate." 

Hosanna came along much later in the game. We discussed a few geeky options, but we pretty overwhelmingly felt that we wanted her middle name to have a meaning relevant to our faith. God's plan for our lives and the existence of this little girl has been so clear to us, and we wanted her name to reflect our joy and thankfulness. Anna is also a family name, so we liked the nod to that within the larger context of Hosanna. How I actually hit upon the name Hosanna I can't quite remember, but Nathan and I both liked it quite a lot once it was in our minds. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Due Dates, Prodromal Labor, and Expectations

Where is baby? Her due date is tomorrow!

Still hiding out!

(I swear, I start mentally composing blog posts about non-baby topics, but never have the energy to actually type them up. So here's a baby update for the curious, and for the non-baby-interested crowd...thanks for your patience. Go check out the new Padme Amidala book "Queen's Shadow" by E.K. Johnston. Slow start, but awesome read for anyone who wants a story about Leia's mom without any Anakin in it. It's the novel I waited 20 years for, and worth the wait.)

We've been going through something called Prodromal labor, which seems to have a few different definitions depending on whom you talk to. Basically I've been having real contractions for the past three weeks, but they never get close enough together for long enough to turn into active labor. I'll have the daytime hours where I'm achey and crampy and sore with plenty of braxton hicks, but not really contracting , and then at night it'll get painful and intense and close to the real thing and I'll wonder "should I wake up Nathan and start timing them..."

...aaaaaand then they stop.

Yes, things like "spinning babies" and "red raspberry leaf tea" and "chiropractic adjustment" and "acupuncture/acupressure" have all been part of our common vocabulary and toolkit...but baby's not ready yet.

Every day things change a little bit and I can tell that we are getting a little closer to the real thing...but not there yet. (Midwife told me that baby was so low that most women have already gone into labor at this point. HAHA.)

Everyone keeps saying that maybe all this progress will make for a quicker labor, which is very possible, but I'm trying not to dwell too much on that because then I have visions of not making it to the birth center on time!!! (Not really a realistic fear, since this is my first baby, but I have a vivid imagination. That's part of being an author!)

The psychological drain is the most difficult. It's been a real lesson in patience (again!) and trust as I try to remain at peace with God's timing and accept that my body is going to keep doing this and I just have to work through it and believe that at some point this child WILL actually emerge.

(I mean, everyone is promising me that. They'd better be right.)

On the plus side, I FINALLY gained some decent weight. The first half of pregnancy was so difficult with the nausea that I only lost weight, and it was really hard to gain anything even after the nausea went away. Everyone would say "you look so cute!" and I'd just think "if I wasn't pregnant, I'd look like a starving woman, SERIOUSLY." Thankfully my nutritionist was very confident that baby was getting what she needed, and everything medically backed that up, so I was never too stressed about it, but honestly I was at a point where I almost cried from happiness when someone actually said "you are so BIG" because I needed that validation at that point!!!

Also, huzzah, Minnesota finally embraced spring. About four days ago we actually got green grass. I can go outside and not freeze!!! And on the days it rains I try to go shopping or something so I can keep moving. Baby's movements hurt me these days, but she doesn't move when I'm moving, so that's something!!!

Mateo has been on high alert since the prodromal labor started. Seriously, the days I'm the worst off he is the sweetest, and will just lay around watching me anxiously.

Nathan manages to maintain an extraordinary level of energy and cheerfulness, which is extra laudatory considering that he just saw the release of his first game as lead designer (FFG's "The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth") and is also seeing a period of high activity on the next project.

Tomorrow is my due date. I can't believe it. It seems like it's taken a lifetime to get here. Which I suppose it HAS...my baby's lifetime! ;) I was SO SURE that this child was coming early that I don't know quite how to wrap my mind around her being late. She certainly could still come sometime before midnight tomorrow (pleasepleaseplease), but at this point I'm not predicting anything. I was sure she was going to be skinny too and now I feel her solid little limbs moving and realize I could have quite a chunky little lass and WOW. Now I should explain, all of my other predictions/suspicions about this baby have been correct during this pregnancy. So while it may sound so silly to be thrown by these two things not manifesting the way I imagined, I have had a perfect track record until now so I feel like I did have good evidence to back myself up! Although the coming early thing really COULD have just been wishful thinking. Most moms are more than ready to be done being pregnant by the time they hit their due date.

(I'm giving birth at a freestanding birth center with midwives, and can deliver there until 42 weeks. There won't be any induction at the center unless the increased monitoring indicates a medical need to move things along.)

Readers, I would apologize for the high number of ALL CAPS in this post, but, really, this is about capturing an emotional picture, not writing a scholarly article. Those of you who have had children may comiserate, and those who haven't may find it useful for future reference (either in life or art!).

PROBABLY, HOPEFULLY, my next post will be introducing baby. But alas, it could totally be another two weeks of waiting and maybe I'll get some energy/inspiration to write about something else...