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Profound

Today, I’m sitting in my recliner with my toddler, listening to his nonstop chatter about the Duplo car in his hands.

Tomorrow, I am hoping that the weather will cooperate enough for me to make a painfully short trip back to my home town.

Wednesday, they will bury my grandmother, my Oma, my father’s mother. Both of his parents are gone now, reunited in the afterlife they believed in. I do not want to miss her funeral. I was a pallbearer when my Opa died, and I will be honored to do the same for his wife.

Thursday, my wife and her parents will celebrate Thanksgiving, a rare occurrence that they get to spend that particular holiday together, though hopefully more frequent in the years to come. I hope to be there, again, if the weather cooperates, and my travel from home is not impeded.

On Friday, I will go back to work, putting in as many hours as I can to prepare things for the inevitable arrival of our second child together. I am hoping that he doesn’t attempt to make an appearance too early. Because right now, that’s my big fear. Not the impending blizzard, not being able to get to my parents’ house in between waves of storms. I’m afraid that if I go, I’ll get stuck, and new baby will decide that’s the time to show up.

So, yeah. I’m going to make the most out of today, because there’s a lot of joy and sorrow to be found in the days ahead.

“Hallowe’en”

 

In distant times, it is said,
People would gather to
Be near to one another on
A cold night, and reflect
On the warmth of those
They had said their final
Farewells to many years
Before.

And on that cold night,
Halfway through the fall,
We remember those no
Longer with us, and we
Bid them to come near,
That we might learn
From them even in
Absentia.

While I’m not sure if it will disprove foolishness, I am, in fact, headed back to school for the first time since 2010. I recently applied to and was accepted at Clarion University for their online Masters of Library Science program.

Registration for classes for the Spring 2020 semester starts on Hallowe’en, so I’m currently in the process of creating my “road map” to my degree. Clarion’s program requires 36 credit hours for graduation, and 9 hours per semester for full-time student status (in the grad school tracks).

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about tackling grad school, especially since V and I are expecting another baby in December. However, this is the best time for me to push a little harder for a better position with my library, and the MLS degree is really the only practical way to do that. Thankfully, Clarion allows me to pursue the degree from the comfort of home, without requiring travel (since the University of Denver is the only in-state option for the program).

I chose the path toward librarianship with my first work study job at UCCS when I was a freshman, and I continue walking it today. Thanks to everyone who has supported my work along the way.

So, over the last few months, I’ve been playing D&D again, and it’s been the best thing. Since 5th edition first released, I’ve only dabbled in it, occasionally running games for some of the local teens (though usually only a couple of days out of the year). I’d only gotten to play in a couple of one-off sessions, never really going beyond the basics.

Then my in-laws mentioned the possibility of a game. Between D&D Beyond and Skype, it’s workable for us to play together, despite being scattered around the world (though timing is a trick).

Now I’m playing a bard for the first time ever (I’ve been playing 3.5/Pathfinder since 2006, but never had the chance to play one), and I’m having an absolute blast. V and I are playing gnome twins, a bard and a warlock. It’s been a great way to connect with my brothers- & sisters-in-law, and get to share our mutual love of D&D.

I don’t usually play spellcasters or support characters unless I’m running the cleric, and that makes Valcryn a pretty new role. It’s fun learning how to best utilize his blend of inspiration and other buffs/debuffs. It has ended up especially hilarious since he’s not the face of the party, with that role somehow falling to my brother-in-law’s human fighter, who has both lower charisma and strength than the gnome bard.

It feels so good to be rolling dice as a player again, y’all. But of course, I’ll be getting back into being a Dungeon Master soon too. We’re going to be working on teaching the children to play 3.5, so that they can appreciate where we came from, and how we got to here.

“Grab your lucky d20, folks, because things are about to get dicey.”

When I was 11, I met Brian Jacques. I had been a fan of the Redwall books for a couple of years at that point, and a friend invited me to go to the Tattered Cover in Denver for a signing. It was February 21st, 1999, and a three hour car ride with my friend and his grandparents each way seemed like nothing.

The signing was in celebration of the release of Marlfox, the 11th book in the series. While I couldn’t afford to buy a copy of the brand new hardcover release, I took a copy of my favorite book in the series, Salamandastron, to have him sign.

I was ecstatic. I had borrowed my parents’ camera, and sat a couple of rows back taking occasional photos as Mr. Jacques talked about his life and the book series I’d devoured over the previous two years. He quoted the entire second chapter of Redwall from memory, with a young man in the front row reading along at his behest to ensure that he didn’t miss a word (he didn’t).

After listening to him talk for another half hour or so, it was time for the signing. I took my battered paperback to the table, spoke a few words that have long since faded from my memory, and posed for a quick picture.

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Brian Jacques and me, 2/21/1999.

Ah, the days before digital photography when you couldn’t be sure that the author you’d traveled three hours to meet would actually be looking at the camera when the photo was taken. I digress.

So, today, a little over 20 years later, V and I were walking around downtown and stopped in at Poor Richard’s. We got back into the sci-fi/fantasy section, and you know what I saw? A hardcover copy of Marlfox sitting right in my line of sight, faced out and everything. V, herself a die-hard fan of the series, immediately recognized it as one that we didn’t own a hardcover copy of, and was just as excited as I was. Then I picked it up and flipped it over to check the price.

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I legitimately started to cry.

I found one. A signed, hardcover, first edition copy of Marlfox, just like I couldn’t afford to buy as an eleven-year-old. Given that it was still in Colorado, it may very well have been initially sold at the Tattered Cover that day in 1999. I’ll never know. But to whomever sold this book to Poor Richard’s, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. A long-missing part of my journey as a reader is now complete.

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Then.

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And now.

 

Sal the Cacophony has a list of seven names, and a very large gun.

The self-professed “manhunter” (because it sounds more dramatic than “bounty hunter”) brings ruin wherever she goes, and she is hellbent on her revenge.

See, for generations, the Imperium sought to rule the world through magic, and for the most part, they succeeded. The nuls, who lack the Lady Merchant’s gift of magic, began the Revolution, uncovering and crafting mighty weapons to secure their freedom from Imperial forces. Residents of the Scar were frequently caught in the middle.

Then the Empress gave birth to a nul, and declared that her child would still become the next Emperor, despite objections that a mage must lead the Imperium. A conspiracy was hatched. A group of powerful mages led by Vraki the Gate launched a secret plot, hoping so install a magic-wielder to the throne instead. The members of the Crown Conspiracy, as it came to be known, failed in their initial attempt and scattered across the Scar, becoming Vagrants. Despite this setback, it was inevitable that Vraki and his followers would eventually regroup and begin their plan anew. These wandering mages soon became aware that someone, or something, was hunting them down: Sal the Cacophony.

Sal is a wreck of a human being. She bears countless scars, both physical and emotional. She drinks and swears excessively. She’s willing to sink to almost any depth in order to cross every last name off of her list. She may very well be my favorite fantasy protagonist of all time. She is the only one capable of wielding the Cacophony, the fearsome gun from which she takes her name. With the assistance of Liette (Sal’s lover, and the brilliant spellwright who crafts the enchanted shells used by the Cacophony), Congeniality (her carnivorous, Chocobo-inspired mount), and a kidnapped Revolutionary soldier named Cavric, Sal just might be able to track down the members of the Crown Conspiracy before Vraki the Gate can complete his newest plan. They may even save a few lives along the way. Or at least keep the collateral damage to a minimum.

Seven Blades in Black is an absolute blast of  a book. The creativity and care that Sam Sykes has put into his worldbuilding this time around is undeniable, not that his previous work had been lacking. This book gave me all of the best Trigun feels, y’all. It’s high-action fantasy with a gunslinger as a protagonist. Sykes combines gunfire with one of the most clever magic systems I’ve ever seen. Mages make a Barter for their powers. In a very Fullmetal-Alchemist-equivalent-exchange manner by way of The Monkey’s Paw, they must pay a cost. Maskmages, for example, gain the ability to shapeshift, but the more they do so, the more their own physical features will fade away. Skymages can control winds, soaring above a battle, but will slowly lose the power to draw breath, and eventually suffocate. The world itself is just as scarred as Sal, as it turns out that putting these spellcasters into combat situations tends to screw up, well, everything. Cities crumble, burn, or freeze at the whims of the Imperium. Then there’s the Revolution, whose massive suits of powered armor wield Gatling-style cannons that pulverize anything they aim at. They counter Vagrants and Imperium mages alike with gunpikes, tanks, and Relics, pieces of ancient technology that may or may not be alive.

Sykes skillfully blends military might and magic, thieves and merchants, cultists, and eldritch abominations ripped from their homes and deposited into Sal’s world. The journey is a long one, but well worth it, and I can’t wait for the second book in this series.

Eres va atali.” 

“I used to fly.”

I’m going to talk about something very personal for a few minutes.

My son, Wodan, is two years old, and he has the best laugh I’ve ever heard.

One week ago, I sincerely believed I might never hear it again.

On Tuesday morning, I got up and got my step-daughters ready for school. I made them breakfast, packed their lunches, combed their hair. Standard morning. My wife was attempting to go to sleep, having worked her usual night shift. Wodan was asleep in bed, and I made every effort to avoid waking him before I took his sisters to school.

After dropping the girls off and returning home, I settled in for breakfast and a movie (since my Tuesday work shifts start at noon), and was mildly surprised that Wodan wasn’t awake to join me yet. That said, it’s not out of character for him to occasionally sleep in, and since it was allowing V to sleep more, I let him snooze. I checked his breathing periodically (because yay, parental paranoia!) and went about having some time to myself.

Now by the time I was making dinner to take with me to work, he had been asleep for almost three hours longer than usual.

That was when he screamed.

Now, he’s normally pretty fussy when he wakes up. Little dude loves to have breakfast pretty much immediately in the mornings, and gets hangry when he doesn’t. This was different, though. I didn’t get an inquisitive “Daddy?” I didn’t hear him toddling out into the hallway, shouting for Pop Tarts. I set my food down and went to check on him, and he was still in bed. He looked listless and vacant, and wobbled when I tried to stand him up on his bedroom floor. He acted like he was having trouble hearing or seeing me, and barely tried to drink any of the water I offered him from his favorite cup. I held him, talked to him, told him I was right there. He didn’t respond.

I woke V. Something didn’t feel right. I carried him in to see her, and he didn’t react to her presence at all. His eyes were dilated, and weren’t tracking movement. I mused that he seemed like he was still asleep, but with his eyes open. He couldn’t hold himself up, even in a sitting position. V told me to get him dressed while she called the doctor. The next few minutes were a scramble of us racing to get ready to take him to the nearest Urgent Care, at the behest of his pediatrician. I called work to say I wasn’t coming in. We loaded Wodan into the car.

At Urgent Care, it started to become clear that he was having some sort of seizure. His entire upper body started to curl inward. The folks at Urgent Care quickly realized that we needed more than they could provide, and we headed directly to the Emergency Room at the Children’s Hospital on the other side of town. By the time we arrived there, he was still seizing, and I was certain that his scream for help that morning was going to be the last sound I ever heard him make. I was fucking terrified.

The staff at Urgent Care had called ahead, so Children’s knew we were coming. The team there swarmed to our aid, and I cannot express how grateful I am to every nurse, doctor, tech, etc. who was there that morning. Wodan was given meds to bring him out of the seizure. He came back to consciousness after an IV injection to bring his blood sugar levels back up, but he was utterly exhausted.

Lots of blood draws and various exams and a viewing of Coco later, we were taken for a CT scan to try to get a better idea of what had happened. Did his low blood sugar levels cause the seizure, or did his sugar levels drop because he had been seizing for so long? No one was really certain, but we knew we were in for at least one night at the hospital.

After the results of the CT scan showed a small anomaly, Wodan was scheduled for an overnight EEG and an MRI the next morning. Glucose checks every three hours. V talked to the girls’ father and arranged for him to watch them, even though it was our week. I made plans to be away from work for the next day or two, since V doesn’t have paid leave, and geared up to stay overnight.

I barely slept. I kept thinking about how close a call we’d had, nervous about hearing the EEG results, wondering how long the MRI would take. In the morning, V got back from work, and bringing all of the things we’d need to get through the next couple of days in the PICU. Since the EEG was done, he got to take off his “space hat” and get a little break where V and I could take turns holding him and sitting in the chair with him. He was still fasting, as they needed to sedate him for the MRI. After his MRI and waking up from sedation, he finally got to eat again. Then it was back to our room to await results of the EEG and the MRI. V’s parents came to visit, bringing a couple of books and a new toy to occupy Wodan, and I took a brief break from hospital duty to have an hour back at our house before coming back for another overnight.

Wednesday night was decidedly easier. The neurologist came by that evening to let us know that the EEG and MRI both came back clear, and that the anomaly spotted by the CT scan was an artifact, an imaging error. Cue the literal sighs of relief. That said, the neurologist does want us to follow up in a month just to verify that things are still good. But it was an evening filled with cake shows on Netflix and snuggling with Wodan to help him get through the blood draws. They put him back on IV and had him fast overnight again so that they could run some additional blood work the next morning, and they would need to keep him a third night for more tests after taking him off of the IV and ensuring that he could regulate his glucose without it.

Thursday was mostly uneventful. We had breakfast, watched Despicable Me 3, and generally had a hang-out day while they ran blood work. That evening, after V had gone home to rest before work, my parents came by to check in on us. It was a relaxing day. They took Wodan off of the IV again, and so he had a little more freedom. He was able to sit on the floor to play with his grandfather, and was overall much happier than he had been since Tuesday. He was still upset that he couldn’t go sit on the couch on the other side of the room, due to his heart rate monitor.

Friday was the day of truth. His glucose levels had remained stable after a 12-hour fast. All of his tests had come back clean. We still had no real answer for what had caused the seizure on Tuesday, but we’d eliminated several possibilities. We were given training with a glucometer so that we could continue to check his blood sugar levels at home. After a lunchtime visit from my parents and several visits from doctors, nurses, and other staff, we were cleared to head home, with a stop at the pharmacy for an emergency recovery medicine just in case it happens again.

So, yeah. That was my week last week. It was stressful, to say the least. Honestly, it was my single most harrowing experience as a parent (so far). That said, it’s been a week since the initial event, and Wodan’s doing just fine. He’s happy, and acting like none of it ever happened (with the exception of a few more days of morning glucose checks). He’s content to be back at home with his sisters and cats and the rest of his toys, and his bed where he doesn’t have to be plugged in to a heart monitor while he sleeps.

Thank you to all of you who expressed your concerns for him, for all the kind words, and all of the love. Thanks to the truly incredible staff at the Urgent Care and Children’s Hospital for helping one very scared dad (and his equally scared toddler) through the whole process.

And thank you, Wodan, for laughing this morning. I love you, little bear.

 

Every so often, I look at my shadow in wonder. How does it manage to keep up with me when it exists in such a bizarre world? Then I stop and think. If my shadow could comprehend me, would my shadow think it strange that I exist only in two dimensions?

My truth is my own,
And if you cannot
Open your mind to a
Reality that is vastly
Different than the one that
You have always known,
Then perhaps, dearest reader, you
May find that these
Tales are not for you.