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Category Archives: Adventure

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.

 

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.

 

It’s National Library Week! In fact, today is National Library Workers Day.

That’s right, folks. It’s that time of year again. In celebration, I’m working 40 hours!

Well, I’m doing a few other things, too. It’s not just about being here for the community. As part of that, last week I attended my first ever library conference, PLA 2016. It was an absolutely incredible experience. PLA is held every other year, and by sheer luck, I was given permission to attend for the opening of the exhibits last Wednesday.

It’s a short drive to Denver. I got to the conference about an hour ahead of the exhibit hall opening, and wandered the convention center, marvelling at how weird it was to see the place devoid of cosplayers (since the last time I’d been there was Denver Comic Con in 2013). I watched the bustle of downtown Denver from a balcony, read some Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and waited as patiently as possible for the doors to open.

When 3:30 finally arrived, I entered the exhibit hall and was blown away by the sheer number of vendors on site. Book distributors Baker & Taylor and Ingram; publishers Hachette, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Dorling Kindersley; library service providers Overdrive and Mango… I spent three hours wandering the rows, chatting with representatives of companies like Lulzbot. I got to meet people from libraries around the country. I snagged some ARCs from publishers (stay tuned for some reviews!), got a free mango smoothie from the folks at Mango Languages, and chatted with some library school representatives about my desire to pursue my masters degree. I got to demo some software, play a game of Super Mario Bros. using a system of fruits and circuits as a controller, and drive a BB-8 Sphero toy around. I saw floor models of furniture designed for library use and new construction toys for kids. But the best thing that I saw at the entire conference? People like me. Young people who are just as enthusiastic about libraries as any generation before. People who want to challenge the stereotypes of libraries and librarians alike. People who are eager to spread their knowledge of and passion for libraries around the country and the world.

The future of libraries is bright and varied, folks. Please continue to support yours.

“It’s still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.”
Neil Gaiman

I get to go to my first library conference!

The Public Library Association’s biennial conference is in Denver this year, and my boss acquired passes for some of our staff. While I’m only attending for a day, and only to see the exhibits, I couldn’t be more excited. There will be library people from all over the country coming in for this, and it’s going to be a great chance to do some networking and see what cool developments are in store. I’ll be tweeting from the conference tomorrow, under the #PLA2016 hashtag. If you’ll be there, come say hi.

P.S. Non-library friends in the area, I might be around after!

I remember kneeling on the couch, arms resting on the back, staring out the picture window at the frozen landscape. I remember wishing we had a fireplace like my grandparents, so that I wouldn’t have to bundle up under blankets in the middle of a day like this. I would shiver and go to the room that my little sister and I shared, climb up to the top bunk, and shut off the overhead light. A small bedside lamp was all the illumination I would need to lose myself in one of my books, a favorite pulled from one of my many shelves.

After an hour or so, my little sister would inevitably come in and ask me to play outside. I’d reluctantly agree, because I knew it meant getting cold and spending time with her when I could be reading or drawing, but I would agree nonetheless. No matter how much I might have protested, I really did enjoy spending the time with her. I still do. We would get dressed in layers of clothes, including snow pants if we still had a pair that fit us.

We’d finish getting bundled up and wander out into the snow and ice, hoping that the snow was wet enough that it would be packable, allowing us to make snowballs at the very least. Snow angels would be made, should the snowfall be deep enough. If it were a really legendary Colorado blizzard, we’d have enough snow to make forts up against the base of the pine trees in the park. After a few freezing hours, we’d trudge back to the house. Mom would be there, and she’d help us make a couple of mugs of homemade hot chocolate, with marshmallows if we had them.

After that, it would be time for a movie or a game, depending on how tired we were. We would spend the rest of the evening in the living room until it was time to help get dinner ready. All too soon, our day of freedom would come to an end, and it would be time to eat and get things cleaned up before bed. Finally exhausted by our day, we allow sleep to overtake us and dream of the adventures yet to come.

There’s no sense trying to hide the fact that I really enjoy visiting cemeteries. It’s something that’s been a hobby of mine for years now, probably starting with the fact that there was a small graveyard about a mile from my childhood home. There’s something beautiful and tranquil about wandering from stone to stone, finding names you know, and relishing our mortality. Now personally, I’m all for cremation for myself when I go, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the solemnity of the final resting place of others.

There’s an absolutely gorgeous cemetery about ten minutes away from my apartment, and I decided it was high time I took a trip to see what I could find. I was not disappointed. I roamed the grounds for nearly an hour, listening to the rain-like sounds of the leaves falling in the breeze, snapping photos with my phone whenever something caught my eye. Some of my favorites are here.

The most fitting thing I've ever found on a headstone.

The most fitting thing I’ve ever found on a headstone.

Meanwhile, near the entrance...

Meanwhile, near the entrance…

Beautiful view of Pikes Peak

Beautiful view of Pikes Peak

Sad but beautiful.

Sad but beautiful.

The way out.

The way out.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the second weekend of September, and that means that it’s time for my favorite anime convention. I just returned home from Nan Desu Kan! I went to finally debut the cosplay that I’ve been planning for the last, oh, six months (and scrambling to complete over the last week). A while back, I thought about doing something pretty drastically different for my cosplay for my 5th year at the con. So, back in November of last year, when Monty Oum released a trailer for a series called “RWBY,” I knew what I wanted to do.

So here I am.

And the big reveal...

And the big reveal…

That’s right, folks. I’m in a dress. I’m in dress that I made. More specifically, I made the dress (with a good amount of help from the girlfriend), the petticoat (I now officially loathe tulle, by the way), and the corset, and modded the boots out of a pair I found on amazon.

I’m taking part in an activity that’s commonly referred to as crossplay. This means (hopefully obviously) that I’m cosplaying a character of the opposite gender. Why? Because fuck gender stereotypes. Cosplay is about having fun. Age, race, gender—none of that matters in cosplay. It’s one of the most inclusive hobbies on the planet, and I love it.

Some pictures of the process were taken by the incredible Ejen Chuang. Be sure to look for him on facebook, twitter, and/or instagram, should you be so inclined. Ejen and I met earlier this week, during a cosplay prep night. So here’s a few pictures of the painting of my boots, the dyeing of my hair, a hair cut followup, and a quick visit with another Ruby cosplayer.

It was an amazing weekend, and I had a blast. Check out RWBY, and happy cosplaying!

On Friday night I got to see my first ever live RUSH concert. My mind is blown. From the opening notes of Subdivisions to the ominous closing words of 2112 Part VII: The Grand Finale, the concert rocked. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart may be aging, but they certainly don’t act any older. Alex can still play guitar like no one else, with beautifully melodic solos and an intense energy that is only matched and amplified by Neil’s focused drumming (I swear he doesn’t actually look at the drum kit and just KNOWS where each piece is) and Geddy’s bass, vocals, and skipping around the stage. There really is nothing else like it.

A complete setlist from their Denver show can be found here. Note that the string ensemble they had backing them during the Clockwork Angels tracks also played during YYZ. That’s right. YYZ. Live. WITH A STRING ENSEMBLE. I need to go lie down now.

Last week I wrote that I had made a trip to Denver to purchase a copy of Neil Gaiman’s new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. On Tuesday, I returned to Denver with my new book (which I had just finished) and my copy of The Annotated Sandman Volume One tucked safely away in my messenger bag. Along with two of our other friends, V and I trekked down the 16th Street Mall to the Lodo Tattered Cover and joined the queue.

While we arrived too late to be seated in the room where Neil was speaking, we were able to find space on the carpet of the second floor, where the audio was being broadcast over the sound system. We got to listen to him read an excerpt from his new book (he also reads the audio version, and given the autobiographical tones, no one else could have) and answer a handful of questions from the audience. After describing his life as “realism splashed with the supernatural,” it was time for the signature line to form.

First up, the new book.

First up, the new book.

The remarkable Neil Gaiman in mid-signature.

The remarkable Neil Gaiman in mid-signature.

And finally, a close-up of the personalized signature.

And finally, a close-up of the personalized signature.

There is no way to accurately state how awesome this entire experience was. Mr. Gaiman was polite, professional, and incredibly enthusiastic to see all of us, despite the exhausting touring schedule. I, for one, cannot express my gratitude.

I woke up at five AM on Tuesday. This is something I would not normally do, as many of you know. As a general rule, the only time I see five AM is when I have stayed up all night. This was a happy exception, however. You see, Tuesday was Book Day.

Way back when I worked for Borders, I learned that new releases came out on Tuesdays. For whatever reason, your favorite author’s new book, that awesome band’s new CD, and that DVD you’ve been waiting for since you saw the film on opening night at the theatre all come out on Tuesdays. I would show up to my Tuesday morning shift to help with the unboxing and shelving of all of the latest titles that people had been asking for the for month prior. Despite the early hour, it was one of my most enjoyable shifts at that job. There was something wonderful about opening a box full of new books, knowing that in a few hours they would be in the hands of elated readers. Ever since then, there’s been a bit of a thrill surrounding Tuesdays for me, even though I’m not as connected to the retail world as I once was. Like I said, this was a special occasion. This Tuesday was the street date for Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 

I’m not entirely certain about how I first encountered Neil’s writing for the first time. At some point within the last seven years, though, I was introduced to the Sandman comics. I devoured them. Neil’s scripts and the absolutely gorgeous artwork drew me in, and within a month I’d read the entirety of his Sandman run. I wanted more, and I found it. Works like Coraline, American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and Neverwhere would be completed in days, if not hours after I started reading them. I told all of my friends that they needed to read his work. Any of it. All of it. To this day, I have not been disappointed by Neil Gaiman’s writing, whether it comes in graphic novels, children’s books, brilliant pieces of literature, or Doctor Who episodes. 

All of which brings me back to why I was awake at five AM on Tuesday. New Book Tuesday. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. There are lots of bookstores in Colorado Springs, but I didn’t want to buy my copy here in town, even though under any other circumstances I will shop locally first. I decided almost two months ago that I was going to be driving to Denver on June 18th so that I could buy a copy of Neil’s latest book from the Tattered Cover. This is because his upcoming book signing is going to be held at the Tattered Cover’s LoDo location, and purchase of the book from any one of their locations included a numbered ticket for the autograph line on the 25th. I’m number 53. I’d say that certainly merits being awake at five on my day off. There’s nothing quite like meeting other people who are willing to get up at a ridiculous hour in order to wait in line for a book. Many thanks to V for going on an adventure with me.