Pros and Cons

So this past weekend was amazing and awesome and scary all at the same time. Why? Because Red, Matt and myself had our very first table at a convention!

Now full disclosure here: this was all pretty much due to Red. He was the one who had the idea and the drive to actually get it done. Matt and I were more or less just along for the ride though we did actually make things to contribute to the booth (more on that below).

The con in question was the Santa Fe Comic Con and it’s fairly small as far as most things go. Not as small as a college con or anything like that but since New Mexico is very spread out and not very population dense our conventions tend to be thought of as much smaller than ones from other parts of the country.

Red really wanted to get his own booth because (as I have mentioned before) he is an animator and an artist and creates all sorts of awesome stuff. So this was like a sort of test run to see how these sorts of things work when you’re a vendor and not just an attendee. So Red had been spending more than a month before the convention getting prints of his art, making magnets, baubles and pins of his stuff and the like.

Matt has recently taken to using Perler beads. For the uninitiated, Perler beads are those little plastic beads you put on a spiky grid to make pictures out of before you melt them with an iron. Matt has been using them to make Pokémon.

That's some GHASTLY shit right there! (That pun will only be funny if you know Pokémon)

That’s some GHASTLY shit right there! (That pun will only be funny if you know Pokémon)

So he had maybe thirty of various Pokémon made up and put on little stands he designed to look like Pokéballs. (I’m a bad wife and friend cause I didn’t think to get any pictures of his or Red’s stuff ahead of time because I dunno, I have no excuse. I’m not photo oriented in my brain.) His original intention was to help Red fill space on the table (at Red’s request so you don’t assume we’re coattail riding Bad Friends) and see if anyone would want to buy them. I guess I don’t have to tell you how well that went since there really isn’t any of Matt’s stuff left to photograph other than the three ghosts up there.

And what was my contribution to the table you may ask? Why, see for yourself! (See, more evidence that I’m horrible; I have no pics of Matt or Red’s stuff but my stuff? ALL THE PICTURES!)

products, full view

bracelet major holds

bracelet minor holds

earrings

Skyrim jewelry! For anyone not familiar with the game I took the shields from each of the 9 different holds that are in the game and put them on some bracelets! The 5 major holds are on one and the four minor holds are on the other with a dragon symbol to make it even. My original idea was to have all 9 on one bracelet but each shield came out bigger than I expected so if I tried to put all 9 on there it would be way too big to be a bracelet. And since I ended up with enough leftover dragon symbols I made some earrings too. I think they came out pretty well.

Overall the con was a lot of fun. We actually stayed at the hotel that it was happening in so if I was feeling tired or overwhelmed I could just retreat to the room and take a nap. We did pretty good with sales too. I didn’t do as well as Red or Matt but I still turned a profit which was pretty exciting!

As draining as it was, it was a fun experience and I can’t wait to do it again. We learned a lot and I think the next con we do will be much more successful and (hopefully!) a lot less crazy!

My Nemesis, Thy Name is Cat Litter

TODAY IS NOT MY DAY.

There. Maybe now that I’ve admitted it, today will give me a little bit of a break but I DOUBT IT because today has been nothing but a BIG FAT MEANY BABY GRUMP-FACE.

I had to buy more cat litter today. This in itself for average people isn’t that big of a deal but since Matt is allergic to almost every cat litter under the sun, I have to run to a specialty store that carries the (fairly expensive) litter in 40lb bags.

Forethought is not my specialty (as will be clear in every aspect of this story) so I figured, “Hey, 40lb isn’t that much! Sure I may have noodle arms that get tired after turning a few too many pages in a book (if the paper is particularly hefty) but I got this!” So I teetered and wobbled my way to the register, trying not to drop my giant bag of litter on the ground.

I get to the front and throw the litter on the counter. As I reach into my wallet the cashier asks me if I have one of their reward cards. I open my wallet and shriek, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Which I’m sure confused the hell out of the clerk. But I was not lamenting a lack of reward cards. I was lamenting the fact that my debit card was still on the damn kitchen counter where I had put it last night for like no reason.

I explained my situation to the clerk and he was super nonchalant about it and said that they would keep the litter at the front for when I got back. So then I had to drive all the way back home, dash inside, and get all the way back. Somewhere along the way Matt asked me to get Fang-A-Lang a new scratching post since she loves to scratch and hasn’t found a constructive outlet for that yet.

So I come in and the cashier is like, “Oh. You’re back.” And I say, “Yup! Just gotta grab one more thing!” I run to the cat scratchers, grab one, rush up to the front and then ask the cashier, “Wait, where’s my litter?” He turned very red and tried to stammer out something about how the other people put it back but I knew the truth. He didn’t think I was coming back. “No problem.” I say through gritted teeth, “I’ll just grab another one. Be right back!” As I tore off to the back of the store I said every horrible swear word I could think of like some kind of filthy, mantra. And of course in my haste I didn’t bring a cart so I had to haul a 40lb sack of dirt for my cats to crap in, again.

I paid and began pushing my things out to my car. I got my trunk open and put the scratcher in before grabbing the litter. I noticed a corner of the plastic looked kind of weak, like maybe it was gonna rip. I glared at it briefly and said to myself, “I will flip my shit if this thing rips.” Then I plopped the bag into my trunk and stared in horror as a completely different part of the bag suddenly started spewing litter all over my trunk.

I stared at the bag in horror for a few seconds as my brain tried to comprehend the overwhelming irony. Once I realized that I was soon gonna have 40lb of litter all over my trunk I finally sprung into action.

“SHITFUCKNONONONONONOOOOOO! SHIT SHIT SHIT!” I scrambled to get the bag on its side so it would stop spewing litter like some sort of awful drunk person. That’s when I found the problem; you know those ice scrapers that you keep in your car for when it’s cold? Well it turns out those scraping ends are SHARP.

I had originally planned to also go grocery shopping but considering my crap luck so far it seemed like a good time to give up and go home for the day.

When I reached home I had to figure out how to get the litter inside without recreating Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumb trail but with cat litter. (Which come to think of it would have been a far more brilliant solution since what animal is gonna eat a trail made of cat litter? NONE. This needs to be a new version of the fairy tale with the evil step mom having to follow them into the woods to vacuum up their litter trail but gets mauled by a bear because nature abhors a vacuum.)

We didn’t have tape so I had to just find a way to carry the bag so it wouldn’t leak. The best way, I found out, was to cradle it in my arms like some sort of very heavy baby and scuttle as smoothly as possible. “I got you man,” I found myself saying to the litter bag, “I’m not gonna give up on you so you just hold on for me! STAY WITH ME!”

Cleaning up the loose litter in my trunk was another kerfluffle. See, I wasn’t just about to leave it in there because that litter ain’t cheap and I wasn’t going to let it linger in my back till the end of time. I decided that if my ice scraper had gotten me into this mess, it would get me out of it! So I tried to use the bristles that they put on the brush off snow to sort of sweep up the litter but that just succeeded in sending the litter popping upwards like some sort of dusty popcorn from Hell. Turns out the scrapey part of the thing was way better at gathering the litter into one little pile that I could pick up and put into a plastic bag. Now I have most of the litter out of my trunk. I’ve given up on the rest.

Now that that is all over with I’m going to make some tea, relax in bed, and try not to end today on a totally disastrous note.

P.S. I thought that pouring litter from the torn bag into the cat boxes was gonna be super easy but I held the bag over the boxes like some fucked up cow with a litter-udder and pretty much no litter came out at all. It was surprising to me ’cause that litter had been pouring out of that same hole like water when it was in my car and now it was like a constipated watering can or something. I ended up having to like squeeze on the bag in an action reminiscent of milking a cow which is where one of those analogies came from. I dunno about the rest; my brain is weird.

I need an order of Skyrim, hold the adventure!

Most people, I think, play video games for the power and escape they afford you, myself included. Real life can be excruciatingly boring and you can often find yourself at odds with obstacles that, despite your best efforts, you are unable to overcome. But in video games, you tend to be the Most Powerful Person in the World. Enemies fall in droves to your might and no matter what problem you face in the game, you are capable of overcoming it with the use of your many Awesome Abilities.

In many genres of games, your character exists in a sea of Regular Joes, (often referred to as NPCs or Non-Playable Characters) as the Chosen One. With everything in the game designed to be less awesome than you, it’s easy to see why they can be a fun and cathartic way to unwind.

Which is why I was surprised and intrigued when I learned about a man named Christopher, who set out to act and live as an NPC in two different Elder Scrolls games: Oblivion and Skyrim. His objective was simple: using mods to prevent the actual story of the games from kicking in, he tried his best to live as an NPC like the ones in the game. He would have to eat and drink regularly, had to walk everywhere unless he was in combat, NO adventures, and the biggest rule: if he died, he was dead. NPCs can’t reload if things don’t go their way and neither could he.

(Both of his series are amazingly entertaining. I definitely recommend giving them a read here and here.)

Needless to say I was wooed by both the premise and the hilarity of the posts that Christopher wrote. I wanted to try it. I wanted to be an NPC. Unfortunately I play Skyrim on a console, not a computer. Mods allowing me to avoid being the legendary Dragonborn are not available to anyone who plays on a console.

Fortunately, help came to me from Red. He has a computer and Skyrim so he let me look up a mod that would let me play as an NPC and set me up to try it. I’ve only played a few times but it is so fascinating! There’s something remarkably unique and entertaining in going into a game packed to the gills with excitement and adventure and going, “No thank you. I’ll just be over here, trying to live my life as an average shmuck.”

I don’t know if I want to try to write out my non-adventures yet (Chris is so good at what he does that it is more than a little intimidating to try and follow in his footsteps). It definitely falls into line with the kind of stories that I like to make up in my head about my characters as I play; hell if anything it gives me more of an incentive to come up with a story.

So I’m not sure if the life and dealings of Marianne the Breton Alchemist are going to be gracing these pages anytime soon. A lot of what I go through is kind of funny but only because the mod results in some strange and hilarious glitches.

All things considered, I still find it funny that my favorite form of escapism right now is to pretend to be an average person in a world of fantasy and danger. While it’s not quite as bad as something like Farmville or Harvest Moon (escapism through farming simulators!) it still is more than a little odd.

Can somebody stop my brain, please? I’d like to get off.

I have a love/hate relationship with horror. On the one hand, I hate it with a fiery passion because of how it invades my brain. I’ve heard tell that there are people who can watch a scary movie and then stop thinking about it once the movie ends. I can’t do that.

My brain holds onto the most horrible parts that I saw and brings them up again for me to think about whenever there is a quiet moment to be had. Just hopping in the shower? Suddenly have to turn on every light in existence (even if it’s daytime) and even have the shower curtain slightly open so I can see if anything scary is out there. Getting ready to fall asleep? My brain pulls up all the most horrifying jump scares and Matt wakes up as I cuddle him senselessly, simultaneously hoping that his presence is enough to keep the scary things away and if it’s not, hoping they get him before they get me.

And yet, for all my inability to keep scary things from dominating my brain, I sure do have a weird habit of reading and watching lots of scary stuff right before bed. Like, have you ever heard of Ruby Quest? Sort of a Cthulu meets Animal Crossing sort of Choose Your Own Adventure that a guy drew for a forum of people. The majority vote determined the protagonist’s actions and it is simple, understated and it scared the ever loving shit out of me.

Matt actually had to make me stop reading it before bed because apparently (I have no memory of this) I fell asleep while reading it at some point and he came into our room to check on me. I bolted upright, looked right at him and asked who was in the room with us.

“Uh, no one. It’s just me.” He said.

“No! There’s someone else in here! Who is it? I don’t want them here!”

After reassuring me that there really wasn’t anyone else in the room I just laid back down and was instantly asleep again. It didn’t help that when he asked me about it the next day I had no memory of what he was talking about. Sleep talking! Adding fun and creepiness to life for centuries!

My biggest kick lately has been reading about the Five Nights at Freddy’s games. They sound terrifying as all get out and I can’t bring myself to watch any of the copious videos the internet has for them. It’s kind of funny that I read about these things instead of playing them or watching the videos because I operate on the misinformation that just reading about it will be less scary than actually experiencing it. And maybe I’m right that those games would destroy my fragile psyche, but reading about them still leaves me up half the night, clutching at an old stuffed animal like it is the only thing preventing me from being grabbed and murdered by a haunted animatronic.

What always lures me in is story. Despite the fact that those games are famous for their jump scares, there actually is a story to them that is very subtle and poignant and horrifying. Well done stories get me every time and even if something seems hand crafted to making me personally weep with terror, I will obsessively read everything there is to know about it if there is any indication that there is a cool or fun story there.

I like to collect horror movies too. While there are many I still haven’t seen, I’m slowly working on buying all the classics and roping someone into watching them with me (so I can have someone narrate what’s happening when I close my eyes). Sometimes my movie runs can have awkward little moments like the last one I went on. I hand the stack of movies to the young, girly looking cashier. She looks at my purchases as she rings them up:

John Carpenter’s The Thing

American Psycho

Carrie

Friday the 13th

The Princess and the Frog

The last one is definitely not a horror movie but I had been wanting it for a while and it was on sale. She just stopped and looked at me for a second, as if trying to figure out what kind of person I was. I smiled awkwardly and she bagged the DVDs without comment.

So I’m looking forward to this Halloween. Not sure what sort of scary stuff might be happening yet but I’m confident that whatever ends up happening I’ll still be able to hide behind my human meat shield husband once night falls.

How to Spoil a Cat in 10 Days

So I make a motion that we officially change Fang-A-Lang’s name to PRINCESS Fang-A-Lang. That cat is so spoiled she’s starting to attract flies.

The vet’s visit went well. I mean, as well as it could considering the pathetic mewling of betrayal that Fang did the whole time. Which stressed Matt so much that he was essentially as scared and stressed out as she was. At any given point in time we played out this scene ad nauseum:

Matt: *fret*fret*fret*fret*

Me: “Stop stressing so much. It’ll just make her more afraid. Animals can sense your mood. If you are calm and okay she’ll calm down a little bit more.”

Matt: “But… But… I can’t!”

Me: “Just try.”

Matt: “Okay. I’ll try.” *fret*fret*fret*fret*

Our vet could not have been nicer. When they were getting ready to open the cat carrier we warned her that this was only the second time she had been in one so we had no idea how she would react. Of course Fang-A-Lang took off like a shot the second she could and went to hide under Matt’s chair. The vet and vet tech let her chill there so she could kind of calm down.

Through use of scruffing (grabbing Fang-A-Lang by the scruff of her neck; there was no other way to pick her up) they managed to get Fang on the exam table for a look over. She cried in a pathetic sort of way and Matt tried to calm her down to no avail. But thanks to her crying we were able to make an important discovery: Fang-A-Lang has like, zero teeth.

She has her adorable orc under bite fangs and the very back molars on both the top and the bottom but that is it. Otherwise her mouth is bare. And since her gums look pretty pink but the rest of her teeth look like hell the vet figures someone pulled her other teeth out at some point. So either she was owned by someone else once upon a time or when she got caught and spayed (her left ear has the very tip cut flat to indicate this has happened) the people decided to give her a little improve oral care.

Supposedly the vet said she can still chew so she can eat dry food but Matt still bought her a case of soft, wet food just because. (You can tell he loves her way more than my cats because he has already bought her several presents including toys and treats but he has never bought anything for my kitties. Not that I’m jealous of course. Nuh uh. No way. *seeeeeethe*)

When they took Fang-A-Lang in the back to test her for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) they had to sedate her because she was so freaked out and resilient that five vet techs couldn’t get to a point where they could draw blood. The vet asked us of course if we were okay with the sedation and she hadn’t even finished asking yet when I started nodding. I’d rather her kind of sleep through the whole thing instead of getting scarred for life.

Matt didn’t really know what FIV or FeLV was until this visit. In case you’re also curious, they’re both auto immune deficiency diseases. Kind of like Kitty AIDS. Except that they are spread through either licking and rubbing on each other (FeLV; the Friendly Kitty Disease) or by biting on each other (FIV; the Mean Kitty Disease). It’s not curable and it basically makes it easier/more serious if your cat gets sick. There’s a lot more (and better) information on it here.

This test was stressful for us because both Monty and Shy are FIV and FeLV negative. If Fang-A-Lang came up positive, we had no idea what to do. Sitting in that exam room, waiting for the results was probably the worst part. Matt all but collapsed into a stressed out pudding man and I did my best to assure him it’d all be fine. And it WAS all fine (if you forgot the spoiler at the beginning of this article where I talked about currently having Fang-A-Lang I’m sure this comes as a big relief for you).

Aside from a mild respiratory infection (which they gave her an antibiotic shot for) and some stick tight fleas on her face (we bought very expensive flea and tick killer stuff that absorbs through the skin, into Fang’s blood making her blood poisonous (!!!) she is as healthy as a kitty can be. We all went home and passed out from stress and exhaustion.

Now Fang-A-Lang is currently in pseudo-isolation in my and Matt’s room. We have to lock her up in the bathroom at night because we had her out once and she spent the whole night hopping on us, knocking things over and being the Mighty Toe Hunter attacking our feet under the blankets.

The Princess part of her comes from her extreme love of food and her assumption that any and all food brought into our room was brought explicitly for her. She has tried to eat all of the following:

Kimchi

Dumplings

Burrito from Taco Bell

Fried eggs

Green chile chicken enchiladas (she LOVED them)

Potato chips

Pretzels

Ice cream

….We…. We eat a lot in our room, okay?

But yes, she is very insistent that these things are for her and will chirp at you angrily if you try to kindly push her away. Fortunately she hasn’t had to resort to violence yet.

We haven’t done full integration with the other cats yet. Initially because of her respiratory infection but now mostly because Shy is so territorial and NOT okay with the fact that we’ve brought another cat into the house. Every time Shy sees Fang-A-Lang she poofs and hisses and folds her ears back and looks like a truly terrifying Halloween kitty (Shy is all black so it’s fitting for this time of year). Fang just looks at her and is like, “Oh. Hey. Another cat.” And then goes on her business like nothing is going on at all.

So for now, we keep them separated so I don’t have to deal with a little kitty Fight Club in my home but this impasse can’t last forever. Wish us luck when we get to that. I’ll be under the bed, whimpering.

Don't be fooled by her adorableness! She just wants your food!

Don’t be fooled by her adorableness! She just wants your food!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is my favorite time of the year. I love the colder weather, I love the color that trees turn, I love the food, I love the holidays, I LOVE IT ALL!

So it really sucks that in the southwest autumn has a bad habit of being maybe two weeks long. Summer run longs here and by the time it actually backs off for good and it feels like the season we all know and love, winter kind of just ooches in and takes over what little was left. I know there are parts of the southwest that don’t really have winter but here in New Mexico we do. It’s never as bad as in other places (we get snow very infrequently here and our lowest temperatures are very rarely below 30° F) but it still happens. All the leaves fall off the trees really fast and it is too cold and blustery to be anything but winter.

But I still try to savor it as best I can. I love knitting when the weather turns because then I’m not sweating my nonexistent balls off while knitting some huge and cumbersome thing. I swear, once it starts getting cold at night I start dreaming in wool. Plus every summer I start to despair that my cats will never ever cuddle me again but once the temperature drops just a little bit, they turn into cuddle bugs that I can’t escape.

Monty is the worst of the two. He is like a big baby but he can never just lay in your lap like a normal cat. No, for him nothing will do except laying full length on your torso, with his butt on your tummy and his head tucked under your chin (well to be fair, he only tucks his head under MY chin. Everyone else just looks and goes, “Awww, he’s so cute!” While I try to read my book over his big fluffy head). There have been times where I don’t let him put his head under my chin because I’m trying to read so he just pushes his little noggin against my cheek.

If I don’t let Monty into my lap, he turns into a cuddle ninja. First he sits next to me and if I seem okay with that then he ever so slowly stretches a single, solitary paw onto my tummy. He then waits. If I don’t move the paw or seem to notice he adds a second paw. Now his arms are stretched across my tummy while the rest of him hangs back, like he’s testing to see if ice on a river will hold his weight. Then, if I show no signs of putting a stop to it, he just sort of oozes into my lap, slowly ooching one bit at a time until he is entirely in my lap and then I’m confused because I have no memory of how he got there.

I am super excited for Halloween too. Normally I’m not a huge fan since I’m not big on parties or drinking and even though I love the thought of dressing up, I always procrastinate and end up with a costume that looks like a human personification of bad decisions. And since this year Halloween is on a Saturday, that makes me even more sure that neighbors will have loud obnoxious parties and people will be drunk and stupid everywhere.

But this year, my friends and I are planning a get together of our own. It’s not really a party, (if all parties were like our ‘parties’ paper plates would come in packs of five) but we are gonna hang out, read fortunes and play a one-shot game of Bunnies and Burrows that I’m making.

I want it to be a Halloween worthy game so I’m trying to make something that’s a little bit like a slasher movie but also has some good ghost story stuff in it. But, y’know, with bunnies. This is gonna be great! Still don’t know if I want to try dressing up for the occasion or what I would go as if I did (kind of leaning towards Rick from the show Rick and Morty) but it’s nice to know that I have something to look forward to on Halloween other than holing up in my room with Matt and avoiding the noises of more loud, boisterous people having fun their way. (God, writing the endings to these things is always the hardest part for me; I couldn’t suck at this any more unless I was Stephen King HEY-OOOO)

No Good Deed

Soooo unless something goes horribly wrong, it looks like we’re going to have a third kitty running around. It’s all Matt’s fault really. After we moved into this apartment complex he noticed that there are some stray cats that hang around the dumpsters. We don’t have a definite number but it looks like anywhere from 3-5 cats that come and go as they please. The only one that sticks around with any regularity is the one we’ve named Fang-A-Lang.

Fang-A-Lang (so named because she has a severe under bite and her bottom fangs poke out of her mouth, making her look like a cute little orc-kitty) is a small black and white kitty who, according to neighbors, got abandoned when her owners moved out of the complex. Matt spent an hour sitting outside, getting her to accept food that he had and now they’re totally in love. She waits for him to get home from work and when he approaches her usual haunts and calls to her she comes running happily, ready for affection and food.

When he first started spending time with Fang-A-Lang I didn’t want to get to know her. My family has a long history of falling in love with animals that we want to help and then breaking our hearts when they turn out to be so sick they need to be put down, or too feral to adopt, or get poisoned with antifreeze by a very cruel and horrible neighbor (seriously, I hope that guy falls down a well). And since we are already at the max number of pets that we are allowed to own under our lease, I didn’t want to fall in love with her only to have it lead to an eviction notice.

But Matt started spending more and more time with her. Any time the trash needs to be taken out he volunteers and then spends anywhere from half an hour to two hours out there, petting her and playing in the grass. It’s even gotten to where she follows him to our apartment and looks inside expectedly but since my current cats are NOT friendly to strangers (we even had a small case of misdirected aggression when Shy so desperately wanted to swat Fang-A-Lang through the window and when she couldn’t she turned on Monty and whalloped the crap out of him, leading to a small case of Feline Fight Club) and you can visibly see the ear mites on Fang-A-Lang, she is not allowed inside.

Originally Matt wanted to find a no-kill shelter to take her in. Ha! Easier said than done it turns out. I don’t know if where we live is just special or something, but there are like no actual no-kill shelters here. All the ones that do exist only hold the pets on the weekends and require someone to foster the animal during the week until it gets adopted. And if we fostered this kitty, she would just end up becoming ours. Heck, I kept trying to dissuade Matt from naming her but it ended up happening and now it looks like she’s going to be joining our household, lease be damned.

She is just such a sweet kitty and she loves affection. Even when we bring her food she seems more happy and excited to have someone petting her and giving her love than she is at the food. I know we’re not the only people who feed the strays but the woman who feeds all the dumpster cats is moving in a week and seems to have thrust the mantle of responsibility onto us. I guess this is why even though these animals are being helped it still breaks my heart. Unless someone stays here forever to feed them they will eventually lose what little help they have now become accustomed to receiving. I almost think that that is worse than not helping at all.

But I finally broke down and told Matt we could take in Fang-A-Lang. He normally doesn’t connect with animals quite like he has with her and I think it would make him really happy to have her live with us. And hey, we’d be giving a home to a wonderful kitty before winter hits. I’ll do my best to ignore the guilt gnawing at my heart that we can’t do more for the rest of them.

As it currently stands, I have instructions saved on how to make winter hidey holes for stray cats so they can be warm and out of the cold and snow and I am trying to look up vet clinics that can give Fang-A-Lang a once over and help her get updated on her shots and test her for feline leukemia and the like. Matt has been getting her used to the cat carrier by having it out when he goes to pet her and putting food inside. She crawls into it on her own and seems pretty comfortable with it. I just hope this works out and nothing bad pops up.