Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Thoughts'

Surviving Cons in the Time of Covid

Two major conventions within three weeks is not something I wanted to do even before the pandemic happened. Imagine trying to navigate travel, talking to people, and handselling books after almost two years of limited contact. That was Gen Con (40,000 attendees) then Origins (8000 attendees).

It was both wonderful and horrifying. It was like slipping on a favorite pair of shoes and discovering too late a tiny rock jabbing your foot. It was way better than it was bad. It was worth doing despite my paranoia.

The Good:

Friends and Peers – It was so, so, so wonderful to see good friends and peers. So good to talk to people face-to-masked face (and occasionally, naked face). There is a connection in person that you cannot get online. It’s different. It’s indescribable. It’s one of the reasons I go to conventions.

People/Gamers taking this seriously – At Gen Con, I’d say that 98% of everyone was properly masked and making an effort to distance as much as you can at a con. We all know that we can roll a “1” on a con check. I’ve heard of only one case of covid from Gen Con. Nothing from Origins yet (early days).

Old convention friends – There are some people you only see at convention. You know them in the convention sense and that’s it. You may or may not recognize them outside of the convention scene, but there, in the right context, you know exactly what to expect. And it’s good. You remember about their pets. You know which of your books they’ve read. You know. There is a beautiful familiarity that is worth everything.

Hungry customers – The convention goers were hungry for product. For new books. For something they hadn’t seen. For something that had a touchstone to the author. As a business woman and an author, it was astounding. I felt like a rockstar half the time. I’ve never seen people come running to my booth at a convention before. To see me, in specific.

Exciting conversations – Though they were few, there were some exciting conversations and great networking for the next year. I got to talk to an excellent editor and plan some stuff. I had a conversation with an author that turned my brain inside out and I’m still thinking about it. This is why I go to conventions. It sets up success for the next year and it engages my brain in new and wonderful ways.

The Bad:

The rules don’t apply to me – There were, of course, people who flat out did not want to mask up, who did not care about any rules, and who got angry when you enforced it. One couple came to my table to look at my books. Another guy walked up in a gater that barely covered his mouth. The woman asked him to raise his mask, told him it made her uncomfortable. He flat out ignored her. My husband backed her up and told the man he needed to raise his mask. Now. It was making people uncomfortable. The man complied with a grump, but only because my husband insisted.

Chin warmers/naked faces/people are hell – Origins shared the convention hall with a dentist convention and those people didn’t give two shekels about the mask mandate. There were a LOT of masks warming chins and people carrying their masks instead of wearing them. They really didn’t care. Added insult to injury? Some of the dentists came by the Origins Library with a bemused and condescending attitude of “Oh, you write things? Isn’t that cute.” Some of them just wanted you to entertain them and had no actual interest in the books or the author. I compared it to being a zoo exhibit.

It’s all a LOT – The travel, the people, the convention, the messed up schedule. It was a lot. A whole lot. I enjoyed what I could, took the zen approach as much as possible, then was grateful when I hid in my room after working the booth. Most of the time, I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. My convention muscle has atrophied.

Paranoia – I was paranoid most of the time. I had a total of two meals with someone that wasn’t my husband. Both were at Origins. The first night there, a bunch of the Origins Library people were together at the Big Bar on 2. We confirmed we were all vaccinated. Big open space, very few customers. That was nice. The second was a meal with my Eberron GM. It was a nice quiet meal talking all things gaming/twitch/writing/etc. They were both good meals, but part of me was very, very aware that we were flirting with danger.

Overall:

Was it worth it? – Yes. Absolutely. There were way more successes than not. Way more good people than bad. I feel like I set myself up for success for next year. I did enjoy the convention. I also missed the interactions. They were worth the pain and paranoia.

Am I glad I’m done for the year? – Yes, Absolutely. Like I said, my convention muscle has atrophied. I don’t have the same kind of hunger/energy that I once did. I appreciate the travel, but I am glad to be home, safe and sound, in my own territory where I know what to expect, where I can go, and who I can see.

Thoughts on Going to Gen Con

As DragonCon winds down and I hear both good and bad things about the convention (mostly good), I am working hard not to be utterly useless the week before I go to Gen Con. It’s a hard battle, but I have so much to do. I am a conflicted person. I am excited. I am wary. I am hopeful. I am paranoid.

Why am I going? I’ve been asked this a couple of times. The main reason is to set myself up for success in 2022. It’s been two years since I’ve been to an in-person convention. I’m so out of practice preparing for it physically and mentally. Don’t get me started on the idea of pitching my novels. My steel trap is rusted shut and I don’t remember how to people. Plus I’m going to have the added complication of a mask.

But then there’s the small fact that I had multiple books come out in 2020 and 2021. Two BattleTech books in my Rogue Academy series. Multiple anthologies plus A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods was nominated for two major awards in 2020. I have a small, but dedicated group of fans who want to say hello and get their books signed. I want to sign books for people.

Mostly, I’m going to Gen Con because Author’s Avenue has a new manager and I want to make a good impression on them. Plus, those who are in Author’s Avenue get grandfathered into the next Gen Con. I don’t want to have to apply/compete for a spot in 2022. (Yes, I would like the world to be less virus-ridden by then. I have hope.)

 

I know there is a chance me or the Husband will catch Covid. But I also know we will do absolutely everything we can to remain as safe as possible while traveling and while there at the convention. The Husband is also of two minds about things, and he will be safe about stuff, but he’s the less high-strung one of us. Me? I’ve got masks, hand sanitizer, healthy paranoia, and a decent Gen Con Covid policy to fall back on. The Husband and I will not be eating in any restaurants. All meals will be take out or store bought. All socializing will be masked and as socially distanced as possible.

My plan for the convention is to work the dealers room during the day (doing all my social stuff there) then go back to the hotel room at night. To be fair, I also have a Shadowrun novel due soonish and I’m on “deadline mode”, so I would be doing a lot of that whether or not there was a dangerous virus running around. Right now, I only have one meeting scheduled and, to be perfectly honest, it could be done over Zoom, but I’d really like to have a masked face-to-face meeting with this person for the discussion. It’s just better for creative types in order to feed off each other’s excitement.

That’s the thing I miss most: that excitement and renewed love of the business. To spend time talking with other like-minded people who really get it. To be inspired. To feel refreshed mentally. (Physically is always another story when it comes to conventions.)

So, yes, I will be at Gen Con in Author’s Avenue, Booth A, on the corner, across from the entertainers (Downloadable PDF). I will have Shadowrun, new BattleTech, Karen Wilson, Melissa Allen, several new anthologies, and some very special enameled cat pins. If you are going to be there, please come by and say hello and get a book signed or pick up a pin. I don’t know if I will be signing at the Cat Labs booth or not. I’ll be somewhat active on Twitter as my schedule updates itself. Follow me there @JenniferBrozek.

Grief Two Years Later

Dad died two years ago today. I said good-bye to him over Memorial Day 2019. I grieved him for those 112 days before he died. We said what we wanted to say to each other. The rest was a series of declining medical reports. It was so hard on my sister. To this day, I still marvel at her fortitude.

Grief comes for us in subtle and unsubtle ways. I didn’t write for the six months around my father’s death. My editor and publisher understood. I tried. It just didn’t happen. This was one of the unsubtle ways grief affected me.

Subtle was the way it affected my reading. I don’t know exactly when I stopped reading fiction novels for fun, but I know when I realized that is what had happened. It was April 2020. I picked up Stephen Blackmoore’s GHOST MONEY. This was a book I had been looking forward to for a while. I opened the book and this greeted me:

Dying is easy. Grieving is hard.

Right then and there I “noped” out of the book. I closed it and didn’t look back. A week or two later I realized I’d been doing something similar to fiction novels for months; picking them up and putting them back down. There was something about fiction novels I couldn’t deal with.

I still read. I shifted to nonfiction. Autobiographies and health books. If I read fiction, it was for work. Short fiction for the anthologies I was editing or the novels I was proofing. I have a very different mindset when I read for work than I do for pleasure.

Fifteen months after Ghost Money, I realized that I missed my fiction novels. Mom had died in February of 2021. She was the main reason I was a reader. I took some of her novels home after her memorial. Two things happened to make me realize I missed reading fiction novels: LATER, a short novel by Stephen King had come out and I received an ARC of Seanan McGuire’s 15th October Daye novel, WHEN SORROWS COME. At that point, I realized I hadn’t read the 14th novel, THE KILLING FROST.

So, I sat down with one of my favorite authors and read Later. My mind was hungry for it. Then The Killing Frost. This one was a little harder. I’m still not completely sure what it is/was about fiction novels that my grieving mind wanted to avoid, but I still enjoyed it. Then came a road trip to Utah. We fell back on an old favorite, listening to the Dark Tower series by King. We started WOLVES OF THE CALLA. Once we got home, I was able to move to When Sorrows Come.

(As an aside, I have to say that When Sorrows Come is one of those books that October Daye fans have been waiting for. In essence, despite its name, it’s a happy book—one of the happiests that a character like October can have. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Toby finally gets married. I also very much enjoyed the added novella. This isn’t a book to start the series with, but it is one to look forward to.)

I shifted back to listening to Wolves of the Calla after that because I don’t like leaving favorite books half-finished. But I’ve also gone back to Ghost Money. I needed to. This time, when I read the opening two lines, I didn’t wince. I empathized and understood. I’m halfway through and enjoying it. Eric Carter is one of those characters that can get under your skin. I’ve already bought DEMON BOTTLE (Eric Carter #6) in anticipation of wanting to dive in head first as soon as Ghost Money is done.

I suspect I will continue with the Dark Tower series until it is done after that. Then, I think I will go to the Sandman Slim novels by Richard Kadrey and start them over from scratch. I’m 4-5 novels behind on the series and I’ve just read that the final Sandman Slim novel has come out. Kadrey is one of those authors that can turn off my writer brain. I think that’s what I need these days: reading for the joy of reading.

Grief at the loss of my parents in less than two years is still strong, but I think, little by little, I am healing.

"Benign"

Life has been interesting in the most complex sense of the word. The medical stuff I’ve been dealing with for the last six weeks has cumulated in the word: benign. It means, in a medical sense, “Not harmful in effect.”


Once you turn fifty, a whole lot of extra medical checks happen. This meant my body was looked at with more rigor…and will continue to be looked at for various and sundry things. (After this first set, I had to take a break. Did you know, after 50, all people should get a colonoscopy? Yeah.) The worst thing a doctor can say is, “Uh, that’s odd.”


That’s what happened to me in two places. Both required biopsies and needles. Breast and neck. Neither fun. But as I said, benign. Except there was still a suspect mass in my breast. That required surgery to remove—more in a preventative measure than not because abnormal and malignant cells have a higher tendency to grow in the type of mass I had. It was also benign.


The worst (then best) thing that happened was the thought that I would lose my thyroid. That was the initial recommendation. However, after the biopsies (needles in the neck) and “benign,” the doctor walked back her initial assessment and decided on a wait-and-see approach. Ultrasound in a year. No meds. No surgery. No nothing.


I’m really happy about this. Believe me, I am. However, I feel a bit like someone who has studied hard for a final only to discover that the professor cancelled it at the last minute. No one wants to do a final, but darn it, I did the work! I studied. (I mourned the potential loss of a part of me and worried about the future.) I did all the emotional investment.


Benign.


The more I think about it, the happier I get. Even if I feel like I got contracted to write a story, started it, then had the contract pulled for no fault of my own. The story’s not done. I still got the kill fee. Mildly incomplete but getting over it fast. That story may not be done but there are many other stories to write.


So, that’s been my last few weeks or so. There’s other stuff going on. Sad and scary and happy all at the same time. 2021 is not a year I will forget, but at least, for now, it is benign.

It's Not Ideal But It's Not Terrible

Generally, if I’m silent on my blog, it’s because something major is going on in my life and I am distracted by it. This is so true. Whoever is writing my life right now needs an editor, because if I wrote what I’m experiencing (many things, all bunching up—kinda like deadlines), my own editor would tell me to dial it back and spread the excitement out.

Some of it has been personal, some of it legal, some of it professional, some of it medical. I’m not going to go into detail on any of it. At least, not yet. The excitement that’s good is wonderful. Seriously. The excitement that is not good is…well, my sister and I have a saying these days: “It’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible.” This has been our mantra for 2021.

Aside: You know, I used to think 2020 was a bad year. It wasn’t. It was the equivalent of being grounded on date night—seems like the end of the world when you are experiencing it but in retrospect, it wasn’t. 2021 is a bad year. It’s been the equivalent of having your shins kicked while you’re already down. I don’t like it.

Much of the personal excitement is already done and over with or was a false start to begin with. Some of it I am now going through. Especially the medical. Nothing mortal, but nothing fun. I may end up with scars—emotional and physical. When it is all said and done, I’ll talk about it. What it does mean now is that my attention span is short and my thoughts are distracted.

In the meantime, I’m working on my newest Shadowrun novel: Elfin Black, starring Elfin John (from “Dark Side Matters”) and a previous protagonist, Imre Dahl (From Makeda Red). A couple of characters from my YA novellas will also be making an appearance. All of this is making me very happy. It’s nice to be distracted by a handsome pair of fictional characters who will get along like a house on fire once they meet up. Of course, I’ve had an inkling of what my next Shadowrun YA novella will be about. Thus, it is threatening to eat my brain while I work on Elfin Black. Isn’t it always the way?

Well Laid Plans and Empty Frames

I’ve been home from NC for a couple of days and I can feel a screaming hissy fit of grief just waiting in the wings for its time to come. Grief is hard. Grief is malleable. This grief is different from the grief I felt with my father. I got to say good-bye to Dad over Memorial Day weekend 2019 and though he didn’t die until Aug 19, 2019, I mourned my loss that whole time.

Mom’s death was different. Yes, there were signs that she’d been slowing down since the beginning of the year—too tired to talk for long and arthritis preventing her from typing. But she had fifteen days from the time she told my sister she was in pain to the time of her death. In that fifteen days, she spent seven of them in the hospital, six of them at home, and then a final two days (really more like one-and-a-half) in the hospital. Hospice got mentioned, but before the morning came, Mom was gone.

As much as I miss my Mom, I am thankful she spent much less time in pain than my father did and she passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Now, we are left with Mom’s estate and all the responsibilities therein. All I can say is that I’m so grateful that my parents sat all the kids (no spouses) down at a reunion about ten years ago and told us what their end of life plans were. What they wanted, who the executor was, what they didn’t want, which funeral home they’d already bought a plan with for a cremation and ashes scattered. They had everything set up and laid out. Neither of them was sick or even hurting at the time, but both were in their mid-60s and had the lay of the land. And I am so thankful. There was no fighting amongst the siblings. All of us knew what was what because of this past conversation. It made one thing (in an ocean of things) easier.

But I’ve got to tell you, going through Mom’s house and trying to decide what to take and what to auction off was an emotional roller-coaster. How could saying “No” to something feel like a betrayal while at the same time, saying “Yes” to something else felt like stealing from my mother? And yet, both were true.


 

We made the family decision that family pictures not chosen by any of the family members were going to be destroyed. We did not want our personal memories turned into stock photos and idle curiosities for the future. That meant we had to take all the photos out of the frames in anticipation of the estate auctioneers who would be coming by the next week. What we were left with was the perfect metaphor for the holes in our lives now that both parents were gone. Yes, someday those holes will become windows to our memories but for now…they hurt.

There is so much left to do and most of it falls on my sister’s shoulders. She’s the executor and she lives in the area. The estate lawyer is good and kind (and was very surprised at my parents’ foresight and forethought, taking care of their own funeral plans), but it is all still very complicated. Even though my sister and I spent a concentrated 2.5 weeks back in November 2019 decluttering the house and then she spent much of 2020 continuing to help improve/paint/redecorate the house.

The most poignant for me was the guest room the Husband and I stayed in, She created that for me and my brother and our spouses. It was beautiful. I’m still so sad I wasn’t able to stay there while she was still alive.

I’m going to end this now because I’ve lost the thread of my thoughts just looking at that picture. That happens so often these days. Grief overwhelms and I lose myself to it. 

One Year Gone

A year ago today, I arrived home from the 2020 Rainforest Writers Retreat to discover that I had missed most of the texts the Husband had sent me about the sudden change in our immediate world. One of the benefits to the Rainforest Writers Retreat is it’s almost total lack of internet connection. It’s a wonderful writing retreat on the shores of Lake Quinault. Last year, there was even less internet than normal and my only warning that my world was about to change was a confusing message from the Husband that he needed to clean out his office frig.

Little did I know that that was the last writing related thing I was going to be able to do in the flesh until…well, who knows. By the time I got home, the Husband had been sent to “work from home until March 25th.” (They were so optimistic back then.) It’s been a year and every convention I am scheduled to be part of this year is already virtual (again) or is in the process of making that decision.

In the last year, I have not left the house except to grocery shop (ave of 2x/month), to see the two friends in my bubble (again, average of 2x/month), and once, in October, a socially distanced, quarantined trip to Lake Quinault for the Husband’s birthday where we brought all our food and stayed in a cabin in the woods. No eating out—then or this year. We have done our best to help local restaurants stay in business by ordering takeout and 90% of those, the Husband picked up. If I was there, I didn’t leave the car.

Sometimes we drive around just to see something new. We never leave the car. It’s not safe.

I own so many masks and so much sanitizer. I’ve been good about social distancing and masks. I’ve done everything we (all) were supposed to do. And even I wasn’t as strict as some of my immunocompromised friends. Some of them haven’t left their house at all, have had all their stuff delivered. And when people grumble about going “back” into lockdown quarantine, I realize that my version of lockdown quarantine has been VERY different than that of other people.

Birthday parties. Holiday parties. Football parties. Vacations to busy beaches or crowded attractions.

All the things I didn’t do because I complied. I would be irritated if it weren’t for the death of my Mom. Now, I’m angry. So very angry. It’s something I will never forget or forgive. I have lost faith in a lot of people.

One year gone and I have so much to mourn. Just like so many other people who lost friends, family, and co-workers to the pandemic. There are so many things I miss. Conventions, coffee shops, browsing at stores, walking by the lake without being concerned how close people are and whether or not they are wearing their masks properly (over your damn nose!).

Soon, I’m going to take a flight to bury my Mom and help my sister with as much as I can while I am there. She needs me and I need to be there. The Husband mentioned today that we both needed to be prepared to have to rush to a strange hospital, in another state, to get covid tests and if they come up positive for either of us, to remain in quarantine in my Mom’s house.

The thought upsets me. I was prepared to do a very hard lockdown for 14 days once we got home. We even packed the freezer full of food. I wasn’t prepared for that while traveling. Now I have to be. It’ll make packing a little more difficult. I was going to pack very light. Now, I have to consider what I will need to pack if I’m gone longer than expected. I’m still a freelancer and I have a job (or three) to do.

The only thing that I really am grateful for in this last year is my new appreciation of this house. The house is big enough that both the Husband and I have our own offices away from each other. Nothing is broken. Nothing is leaking. I have a lovely backyard. I have room. It’s more than many people have and I’m aware how lucky I am. We will never look at buying another house without considering what it would be like to live in lockdown within it.

One year gone. I hope to heaven that it’s not going to be two. If all goes well in my State, I will be eligible for the first round of vaccines in mid-April. I can’t wait.

Update to Fantasy Jenn

This year, I decided I wanted to work on Fantasy Jenn. IE: the Jennifer I think I want to be or think I should be. I’ve been doing one-month sections at a time. And yes, CoVid did interrupt this little exploration of shifting fantasy to reality, but I’m still keeping on as best I can.

First up, Fantasy Jenn and pretty polished nails. You might remember in the past of 2-3 years ago, I spent a significant amount of time with hard gel on my nails. I got my nails done every 3 weeks or so. It was expensive, but I was doing between 10 and 14 events a year. I considered it image upkeep. Then my fabulous nail artist moved. Her apprentice did pretty well, but she was much farther away and the gel nails popped off. This was something that didn’t happen with my first nail tech.

Thus began an 18 month attempt at not doing gel nails and only getting shellac done the day before a long convention. Otherwise I did my nails at home. Badly. Thus, this month, I’m officially giving up on polished nails. Regular nail polish doesn’t last. One chip and I start picking at it. And during The Great Pause, I’m working at home anyway. It is sad, but I’m saying good-bye to Fantasy Jenn nails for now.

Next up, Fantasy Jenn and stretching. I’m happy to say that I’ve kept up on this “should have” habit. I can’t touch my toes yet, but I’m getting closer and steadily better. I spend time, on average, stretching five days a week. So, not all is lost when it comes to Fantasy Jenn. That’s a nice feeling.

Finally, Fantasy Jenn and cutting the cable cord. This is the newest decision for Chez Brozek. Now, me and the Husband have talked about it for years. The last time we decided we were going to cut cable (keeping internet), we got talked into lowering our bill and getting even more channels. It felt like a loss then and I decided to keep an eye on what I actually watched. What I recorded on DVR. What would I miss?

This time when the Husband brought up the idea, I jumped all over it. I told him to cut it because the only thing I would really miss was PBS and we could get that over streaming. So, he did. And, wonder of wonders, they didn’t try to hard sell him an upgrade. Possibly because we were keeping internet. In the end, after adding PBS Passport to our streaming line up, we are saving $90/month on the cable bill. That’s over $1000 a year saved.

I wondered if I would miss it. I don’t but I have noticed that I really need to be much more deliberate about my TV watching. I can’t just turn it on and flip through channels until something catches my eye. I like this. It means I have the shows I want to watch and I have time to do more reading/listening to audiobooks (another Fantasy Jenn thing that I’m not specifically working on but I want to).

Next up for Fantasy Jenn…Declutter Round 3. As of the end of August, I will have not decluttered for a full year. As I’ve decided The Great Pause is the new normal, it’s time for me to get my declutter on. I suspect it’s going to be harder this time around. More emotions. More to think about. More difficult to get rid of things.

Though, it may have to wait until October. I need to get BattleTech: Crimson Night written, edited, and turned in first. It’s what is taking most of my cycles right now.

12 Weeks in Self-Isolation

Twelve weeks ago, I drove home from the Rainforest Writers Retreat to discover the world had changed more than expected in the five days I had almost no internet and even less motivation to look to the outside world. That’s what writing retreats are for.

When I left for RWR, there was worry about the growing pandemic, but it was still more of a threat than an actual thing. When I came home, well, that was another thing.

  • …The Husband was now required to work at home.
  • …Voluntary self-isolation had begun but wasn’t yet government mandated. Since the Husband’s work had decided to cancel all his business trips and send him home, that was enough of a sign for me.
  • …Masks were becoming common.

All of these things had a learning curve to them. At the same time, I started watching the news and the numbers of the United States versus the World in Infected, Dead, and Recovered rates.

According to my journal, my first recorded notations were on March 18. All numbers are from the COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

As of Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
US: 10,775 infected. World: 235,701 infected; 9,786 dead.

As of Sunday morning, May 31, 2020.
US
Infected: 1,773,106
Dead: 103,906
Recovered: 416,461

Worldwide
Infected: 6,104,980
Dead: 370,078
Recovered: 2,593,237

These are not good numbers and I’m pretty sure things are only going to get worse as the summer continues on.

I’ve had my moments of pain over the last twelve weeks. Mostly grieving for my father who I last saw alive over Memorial Day weekend 2019. I do miss sitting in coffee shops, gaming in person with my friends, and having my weekly writing group at my house. Overall, I’m fine. I’m an author and an editor. I spend most of my time at home anyway. My biggest sadness is the necessary cancellation of my convention season. It’s the best thing the world can do right now, but I really do miss going to conventions. More than missing the revenue I got from them (ko-fi anyone?), I miss meeting up with my editors, publishers, and peers.

The Husband and I have worked out the new daytime working routine. We take walks. Cook a lot more at home. Occasionally order out to help support our local mom-and-pop restaurants. We are incredibly privileged and we know it. It’s why we do what we can to help out.

Twelve weeks in and we’re doing fine. I don’t see this pandemic burning itself out anytime soon. I have no idea how long this is going to last. So, we make the best of it as we can. It’s all we can do.

The Great Pause and the Three Bears of Childhood

It’s about six weeks into quarantine for me. I’ve heard a bunch of names for this period of time: “Covidcation,” “The Year without a Convention,” “The Virus Troubles,” “The Year of Self Quarantine,” “The Plague Year,” and my favorite “The Great Pause.”

It truth, while I’m doing well most of the time, I have had my moments. I am grateful that I am in quarantine with the Husband and the kitties. I am grateful that I am an introvert 90% of the time. I am grateful for my job of novel writing and anthology editing. Most of all, I am grateful for my latchkey kid upbringing. It taught me independence, self-sufficiency, and self-entertainment.

I was a latchkey kid from the time I was nine years old. In fact, from 9-11, I pretty much lived in a quarantine situation. We lived in Belgium, off-base. That meant I knew no one around my house. We rode the bus home, let ourselves in, did homework, and prepared dinner on our own until our parents came home around 6-7pm. We entertained ourselves. We played in the backyard, read, played card games, and made up stories.

 
That brings me to the wall hanging I’ve dubbed, “The Three Bears of Childhood.” We had this wall hanging in our house for as long as I can remember. My sister found it again while she was helping mom declutter. She pinged me and my brother to see if either of us wanted it. We both did. I acquiesced. A couple weeks later, I was still thinking about the wall hanging. On a whim, I searched for, and found it, on eBay.

Of course I bought it. (Though, I ordered the 37” x 54” one and got the 54” x 78” one. Luckily, the spot I wanted to hang it in—the library nook—was big enough.)

This wall hanging is one of the reasons I’m dealing so well with self-isolation. I have memories of me, my sister, and my brother staring up at it while we created stories about what the three baby bears where doing and how the mom bear was reacting to “our” antics. Because, of course, we were the three baby bears. There were three of us and three of them. (Dad worked a lot in those days. So, we always said that dad bear was out hunting for food.)

Like rereading a favorite book, I am comforted by the sense of familiarity, of “home.” The wall hanging reminds me of my childhood and more innocent times. It is a balm during this time of self-isolation. For me, it’s soothing to hold such childhood memories out for examination and remembrance.

(12 days left in the kickstarter for limited editons of my Bram Stoker nominated anthology, A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods. It’s funded. Now we’re trying for interior artwork. Please help if you can.)