2018 Year in Review

One year, way back in the heady days of 2007 or so, it was all the rage in the WoW blogiverse to do a yearly review. I forget whose blog I copied these from, but it’s been well over 10 years that I’ve been doing these post mortems. Still, it’s a good process, and while I usually just share them on Facebook, I thought I’d share this year’s here as well, since my blogging got sidelined by my untimely departure from the new D&D group (but that’s a story for another time).

2018 Post Mortem

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Quite a lot of things:

I tried online dating (huge failure)}
I got a tattoo (two actually, and planning two more)
I completed CTP1 and was ordained in my religious tradition as a priest
I ran for and was elected to an office on the Mother Grove
I went to a national pagan conference (Mystic South)
I traveled to two ADF gatherings (Western Clergy Retreat, Mother Grove Retreat)
I dedicated into a polytheist religious group
I went to a yoga class and joined the studio (first time in 15 years)
I started covering my hair, tichel style, with scarves

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did not make resolutions for 2018, but I made several oaths, and I kept all of them, including the one I made in February to be a priest by May. I was ordained on April 28.

I set a word-intention for 2018, and that intention was “initiation” – it would seem that alongside that intention truly being true for me this year, the word “isolation” also went with it.

I am hoping for a more connected 2019, and the word I am intending to set for my intention for the year is “embodiment” (either that or “acceptance”). Maybe both.

I also intend to complete CTP2 this year, in time for consecration in spring of 2020. I’ve already begun the journaling requirements for it, and have a project plan in place to keep track of the requirements. (I probably won’t follow the project plan, will work in huge binges, and will continue to have poor executive function, but hey, at least I attempted a plan, right?)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not this year

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year.

5. What countries did you visit?

None!

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

A sense of feeling assimilated as a person – I’ve done a lot of changing and growing, and I would like to feel more like those changes and growths have become part of who I am. I feel fragmented. I would also like to have more peace in 2019, as 2018 was a year where much of my life was run by my anxiety disorder.

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 28, when I was ordained as an ADF Priest
May 26, for private reasons

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Completing 5 courses in ADF’s 1st Circle Clergy Training Program in just under 4 weeks, to finish CTP1 on March 15 in order to make good on my word. It was a huge endeavor, and I’m so proud of myself for finishing and for being able to be so disciplined as to do so with high marks.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Ye gods and little fishes was dating a giant clusterfuck that I never want to repeat again. I’ll take suggestions from friends, but online dating is like shopping for used boyfriends on eBay and I will just HARD PASS.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Other than a few minor things, not really. Antibiotics are still not my friend. And always always always remember that the dose makes the poison. Actually now that I think about it, this wasn’t a great year for me health-wise, even if nothing was super critically bad.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Toss up between “the rest of the art to decorate my apartment” and “gear to start an active, 5-day-a-week yoga practice”.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent! Also Therapy, which I paid for out of pocket this year – so much so that even with a traditional PPO health plan, because I don’t have out of network benefits, I met the out of pocket maximum in September and have been going to therapy and getting my medications for “free” since then. (I still pay my premiums, obviously.)

Thankfully for 2019, I have a new therapist, and she DOES take my Insurance, but even then it’s $50 a visit.

13. What did you get really excited about?

I was really excited to go to the Western Clergy retreat and to Mystic South, both of which were wonderful, but I don’t think I’d do back to back trips like that with a holiday in between again. It was kind of disastrous for my mental health.

I was really excited to join a new in-person D&D group, but when the DM of that group threw me under the bus for disclosing my mental health struggles, I left (and was honestly really sad about it). I still miss going, even though I was only part of the group for about two months.

Also, I am excited about the possibility of DM’ing a campaign of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist in 2019, but since therapy is kicking into high gear, it may not start right away.

14. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Jacob Hornbeak singing “Raise the Horn High” at my ordination

Either that or the “Song to the Ancient Wise”, which I sang an awful lot this year. Even if I can’t sing it in the same key as Jan (I need to find more high voices to sing clergy songs with).

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? both
– thinner or fatter? Much fatter
– richer or poorer? Richer than last year, certainly, but last year I had…extenuating circumstances

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Starting on CTP2, reading for pleasure, cultivating friendships. I wish I’d gone to yoga sooner too.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Doing nothing, while wishing I wanted to be doing something (especially something I used to enjoy). You can probably fill in “being depressed” here too.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my family and my sister in law’s family at my brother’s home in Waco. It was a short trip, and everything about the holidays is weird still, but I think I’m glad I went. I would very much like to have skipped the entire holiday season this year, and maybe next year I’ll have the courage to go someplace for the holiday instead of trying to make FAMILY CHRISTMAS (with all of its expectations) something that I do. I have very mixed feelings about Christmas as a holiday in general, and I expect how I celebrate will change some in the next year.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Critical Role.
(See also: Talks Machina, Between the Sheets, The Wednesday Club)

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

T. Kingfisher’s THE CLOCKWORK BOYS, THE WONDER ENGINE, and SWORDHEART

It was a year of amazing fluffy but full of heart fantasy for me, and those three books top the list. You should all read them.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I listened to a lot of “Dad Rock” this year, and a lot of video game soundtracks, thanks to a Spotify Premium subscription, but probably my favorite music this year was the All Hallows/October Mood playlist that Katie Mock started and I added to substantially and then listened to obsessively from Sept 21 to November 3.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I did not watch any new films in 2018. Come to think of it, I may have only watched one movie all year, and that was the 1951 Alastair Sim classic SCROOGE that I watched on Christmas Eve.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34 on March 2nd, and I did nothing to celebrate. It didn’t seem worth celebrating. Maybe I’ll be more motivated at 35.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Being able to have more meaningful human connections with people I can see on a regular basis. My life is pretty lonely.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

I got very fat this year. Or possibly am just still very fat from last year? (it is unclear when I put on the weight, but between March 2017 and October 2018 I put on 35 lbs.) I have two pair of jeans that fit, and a few dresses, but largely my personal fashion concept was “does this make me look like a sausage? If no, wear it. If yes, donate it.” There is a huge clothing purge in my future.

26. What kept you sane?

The Ladies of Slack. Amy, Kisa, Protozoa, and Roberta. The Henge. Yoga.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

This is the same lesson I learn every year. But it is the lesson I keep learning, and the most important thing I keep telling myself when things get hard – and this year they got very hard.

The only way out is through.

Caravan of Misfits – Full Party Introductions (so far)

Anais Acantonat – a mostly elven cleric of the goddess Sehanine Moonbow, the elven psychopomp deity. Anais is a Silvaeren Temple Cleric and has served her goddess faithfully for the last 10 years. Now, at 40, she has been sent on an errand to deliver a letter and a package to the High Priestess of the Temple of the Raven Queen in Waterdeep. She has been on the road approximately three weeks when she met up with Velo and Zeek in the twin towns of Ironford and Womford.

Velo de la Mascara – a dark-furred Tabaxi bard, of unknown origin (“far away lands”) who made his way to Waterdeep, only to discover that he found himself regularly roughed up living on the streets and busking there. He took to the Caravan that runs north to Yartar, down the Dessarin River, and then back to Waterdeep via the Long Road mostly out of curiosity and to get out of the city. He is used to being distrusted, and is thus far torn between his desire to perform and his desire to blend in.

Zeek – a black Aarakocra with red markings on his face and chest, the last surviving member of his tribe from the mountains north of the Dessarin Hills. Zeek’s wings are charred and burned, and he cannot fly (though he glides very effectively – It’s not flying, it’s falling with style) – party members suspect, based on his reaction to kobolds and to the Drake egg they found that whatever happened to him, it had to do with dragons. He is on his way to Waterdeep, looking for a magic item to help avenge his family members.

Van Whisperfool – a young, brown-skinned gnomish archer fighter, of unknown origin other than “from the general hills of the area”. Van was found captured in the Kobold Cave, and so far the party knows little about him. He has agreed to come with them to the caravan, presumably for safety.

Cassius Skarpi – a very tall, rail-thin human wizard with curly brown hair, freckles, and spectacles. How such a bookish sort ended up in the Slumber Hills the party has yet to discover. Cass is Waterdavian though, growing up the son of a courtesan there and spending most of his time in libraries. Oddly, for being a wizard, the party has not yet seen him use any magic. He was found alongside Van in the Kobold Cave, though the party does not know how the two ended up traveling together. He too has agreed to come to the Waterdavian caravan, also presumably for safety.

Posted in D&D

Caravan of Misfits – Campaign Diary – 11/05/18

When last we left our intrepid adventurers…

It is the 18th of Eleint, and they had gone away from the Waterdavian caravan to search for Rinn, the shady half elf. Velo, Zeek, Anais, Wevami (and Jardin), and Jac had entered into what they knew to be a Kobold cave, and had thoroughly alerted everything inside to their presence.

The session began with a bit of failed skulking, as Zeek attempted to sneak around to see if he could see any Kobolds, tripped over a rock, and bit it hard in the middle of the cavern. He was quickly fired upon, and battle was upon them. Two blue-skinned kobolds put up a small bit of resistance, but ultimately were quickly vanquished – but not before one of them could blow a horn that made no sound.

Anais, convinced that there was more to this cave (as they’d all seen the drag marks left by Rinn’s unconscious body) set the whole group to looking for a secret passageway or door, which Jac (the guard) stumbled through. Another tunnel – this one much larger (much to Zeek’s relief) – led further into the hill and ultimately led into a large room, where several things happened all at once.

Rinn and two other prisoners managed to free themselves while the Kobolds were distracted by the incoming skirmish. Several Kobolds set up defensive positions only to be overwhelmed by ranged attacks from the party. The Kobold Leader – a sorcerer of some kind – charmed Jac and he turned and attacked the party as well.

The two other prisoners (soon to be introduced as Van Whisperfool and Cassius Skarpi) pulled a fast one-two punch against a Kobold, marking the first, and probably last, time the Wizard would get a killing blow with an unarmed strike in this campaign (on an attack of opportunity, no less).

After mopping up the last of the kobolds, the party is fully introduced. Van is a gnomish archer fighter, just over 3 feet tall – fairly young, with brown skin, blonde hair, and green eyes. Cass is a human wizard, a lanky, very tall (6’5″) man with curly, shaggy brown hair, pale skin and freckles, and spectacles. He too looks very young, and after some discussion is revealed to be Waterdavian.

After healing Velo, Anais uses her bells and the power of soothing voice and touch to calm Rinn, who had begun to panic while the rest of the group rolls the bodies for loot.

They find:
A Black arrow with a silver arrowhead and fletching (An Unbreakable Arrow – which went to Van)
A Bronze Tankard of Sobriety (to Cass)
A small wooden buckler (to Zeek)
and a Horn of Silent Alarm (4 charges, recharges on a long rest) which alerts one listener – and one listener only – when it is sounded. This was given to Anais, as she most often takes first watch.

In exploring the rest of the cavern, the party upended the cauldron of goop that the head Kobold had been watching, and it dumped out (among other things) a huge blue leathery egg. Between the group, they were able to piece together that this was a Drake egg, fashioned from the scales of a blue dragon and the dessicated bodies of human sacrifices in a terrible ritual that takes days to complete.

Drakes – large draconic dogs – are huge and powerful and hard to control, and also very deadly.

Zeek, upon hearing that this was a dragon thing, slashes up the egg with his shortsword and the rest of the party dump the dead, partially-formed body into the fire.

Van and Cass inform the group that they had heard large booming voices speaking in Draconic in the night they’d spent trapped in the cave, and the party decides to get the fuck out of Dodge before whatever that voice belonged to came to check on the egg. Anais’ curiosity of whether the Dragons were using the Kobolds to raise drakes for a purpose, or whether the kobolds were smart enough to be doing so on their own, remained unanswered.

After a quick march, accompanied by Velo’s melodic harmonica playing, the party safely makes it back to the Waterdavian caravan, just in time to arrive at Red Larch, the trading post halfway between Ironford and Amphail.

And thus we leave them until next week – whether they will become fast friends or simply traveling companions is yet to be determined, but the Caravan of Misfits gains two members and all seem determined to make it to Waterdeep – though to what ends not everyone has revealed, and some may only have revealed part of their tales.

Posted in D&D

Caravan of Misfits – Campaign Diary – 10/30/2018

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, it is the 17th of Elient, DR 1744, and they are in the Kryptgarden Forest…

Zeek, Velo, Anais, and Wevami (and Jardin) head back to the Waterdavian Caravan. Wevami seems a little spooked by the encounter with the wolves, which Anais attempts to soothe. The two quickly bond over the shenanigans of the bard and the rogue, who are still tree-hopping. Returning to the caravan easily, thanks to Anais’ marking of the trees (and a couple of great survival rolls from Velo), the party divvies up the fire beetle meat.

Velo and Zeek consume theirs raw. Wevami and Anais both cook theirs thoroughly. Everyone agrees they’ve eaten worse things. Anais is starting to get tired of so much meat – she’s lived on the diet of a temple cleric and would really just like oatmeal for breakfast just for once.

It’s approximately 3 days to Amphail, another day to get to the trading post at Red Larch.

Rinn, the stoner half-elf from the porch on the Bargewright Inn, approaches Velo and Zeek (and decidedly NOT Anais), attempting to sell them drugs. He says it will make them smarter. Velo haggles, and then purchases some weird black fungusy stuff for 5 gold pieces. He eats it, in the process of allowing Zeek to pick Rinn’s pockets back for the 5 gold he just paid.

Velo gets very high. This drug – Sves – makes him smarter for 1 minute, gives him bonuses to perception for 1 hour… and then gives him a point of exhaustion for the rest of the day.

Rinn also sells poisons – Stone Joint poison (a slowing poison) and something called Fungal Bile, which makes you very ill. Zeek and Velo haggle with him, and split a vial of Stone Joint poison for 30 gp (3 uses).

The party sets camp at the foot of the slumber hills. Zeek sleeps in the caravan with the leathers that belong to Elsa Roe. Velo volunteers for an early morning watch and proceeds to pass out in a nearby tree, exhausted. Anais offers to take first watch, since the moon will be up. They are set to their posts by Argyra, the paladin of Bahamut (the platinum dragon) – but Anais notices she’s wearing bracers with another emblem – two crossed swords, with a cloud and a descending lightning bolt above them.

Anais asks her fellow watchman – a guard named Jac – about the bracers, as he’s also wearing them. They are the symbol of the “Blades of Change” a Waterdavian fighter/mercenary guild. If you’re skilled with a blade (not so much magic) you can try for a spot there. Anais and the guard swap stories, and she thoroughly freaks him out with her talk of the Moon watching him, and the fact that she’s died and been resurrected. After her watch, the second watch again goes without fail, and then Jac wakes Velo up (unceremoniously) for the final watch.

Velo notices a small dark shape – which turns out to be Wingding, Elsa Roe’s assistant, who is a small red-scaled Kobold. He has a giant wasp in a cage. It is unclear if this is for alchemical research, dinner, or both. (Both. It’s definitely both.)

Jac and Anais meet up again for breakfast, where he proceeds to ask her for a test of her magic. She obliges, making the fire leap up with blue and purple sparks, and scaring the everloving shit out of Geordi, the halfling cook, as well as another of the guards. Velo is very distrustful of this entire operation and attempts to spy on them. Jac admits to Anais that he’s not sure what to make of Velo and Zeek, who are… unusual. That’s a nice way of putting it. Anais reassures Jac that the two are just as much people as anyone else in the caravan.

18th Elient, DR 1744

Rinn is missing from the caravan, and so the party (plus Wevami and Jac) are sent to go find him. They track him to the southeast, to the foothills of the Slumber Hills, following drag marks and Kobold footprints. After squeezing (loudly, and without any stealth whatsoever) through a 40 foot entry tunnel, we leave our adventurers standing in the open foyer of the Kobold’s tunnel, just on this side of a warning batch of bones (which Velo has already crunched through, that was the trap, yes). It’s rocky, soggy, earthy, and gross, and there are bones everywhere. Also Zeek is claustrophobic, sorry for not mentioning that earlier? Surely it’ll not be a problem right.

Until next time…

Posted in D&D

A Study in Contrasts

I had the distinct privilege this weekend of going to Scottsdale, AZ to officiate the wedding between two of my oldest internet friends, Pix and Quin. Pix is the DM for my Dar na Theria game, where Ancelyn Blackstone, dwarven cleric of the goddess of song and secrets, is discovering that she can’t be strong for everyone. We haven’t played that game much recently (something something planning a wedding), but it was still delightful.

All of the members of that campaign were there except the two most remote (Rades and Llanion are both Canadian, and could not travel to be with us).

We laughed, we played a ridiculous monster heist D&D one-shot. It was amazing and beautiful and I felt so very very loved. They are my people, even if I was meeting some of them for the first time.

I flew home this morning and discovered that the friend that I was paying to care for my cats… hadn’t come to care for my cats. He “wasn’t feeling well so he guesses he forgot.” The cats had no food and water when I got home. This person has a key to my apartment, and I’m pretty sure that I don’t want them to anymore.

Add to that the fact that the other local person who has a key to my apartment for emergencies hasn’t responded to my texts to even acknowledge them the last three times I tried to reach her. So I’m trying to get that key back as well.

So here I am, having just spent three days surrounded by amazing friends, only to come home and be completely failed by the friends I thought I had locally. It’s an odd sort of feeling, and one that I’m not sure I know what to do with. I need a few people to be able to get into my apartment in case of emergencies, but clearly the people I have chosen can’t be trusted to do that anymore.

I’m hoping some of my grove mates will be able to step in and fill those roles. But until then, I remain distant from my friends. There’s a funny meme that went around awhile ago about where your friends live, and about how most of them live in “Fucking Narnia or Some Shit”.

It feels especially true tonight. My friends all live in a box on my desk, and that’s pretty lonely.

Thankfully tomorrow night I’m going to go play D&D with Josh, and Josh, and Ken, and the Caravan of Misfits will continue for as long as we can keep our squishy butts alive. The guys are becoming friends, and I appreciate them, even if I roll my eyes at them a lot. They’re real though, and so is the Grove. I just have to learn how to make friends out of the people around me.

(Also I’m totally hiring a professional pet-sitter for my next trip. I’m tired of having this happen, and I’d rather pay more to have someone with ratings and reviews and who if they don’t do their job I can fire and get someone else without being mad at a friend that I like.)