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A new chapter

I started this blog as a place to write some of my meandering thoughts -- which I don't seem to do much of any more. I've spent some time thinking about that and I've decided I caged my own thoughts and censored myself here. I'm not sure why -- I honestly don't even know if anyone reads this blog any more. Certainly, there've been no comments which weren't spam in a very long time.

So, for any long-time readers, this is your notice that the content on my blog is about to change. Instead of just being about a woman, her ferrets and her knitting, this blog is going to open up and give me space to share about my family. My untraditional family.

I've talked about Randy, my husband. I've talked about Nicholas, our son. But there's someone new in my life -- our lives -- and I haven't talked about Jennifer at all. (She gave me the go-ahead to use her name. It's sad that we have to worry about the repercussions of talking openly about our lives and love, but that is where we are in the world today.)

So, there's no way to start talking about Jennifer without starting at the beginning. This beginning is 15 years old. I'll try to stay on track and not wander. Fortunately some of the early stuff can be summarized pretty easily.

In 1996, while on winter break from college, Randy and I made a startling revelation: I was gay. That freaked me out pretty badly and I didn't know what to do with this information -- I mean, I'd been married (happily!) for almost six years. We had a son together. What now?

My aunt gave me the answer. She said, "Anne, you've never done anything the normal way before. Why start now?" So, I didn't listen to the conservatives who said I needed to bury that information and work hard at being a good wife. I didn't listen to the hard-core lesbians who said I needed to divorce my husband and ditch my son to truly be free of the patriarchy. Instead, I decided to try to find a middle road.

I'm not going to lie. It wasn't easy. There were some really bad bumps along the way. But, life settled down to the occasional date for me -- and to be fair, Randy was given equal option to date, though he chose not to. But no one really clicked for me.

For a while, I helped manage a list for Married Lesbians. I hear the list still exists, but I've also been told it's a shadow of it's former self, which is sad. Through that list, I met a woman and fell pretty hard. But, it wasn't meant to be. It took me a long time to realize that. I think I used her (in my head) as a reason to not move on or to not seek out another woman.

Sometime after this woman didn't work out, I realized I was more flexible in my labeling of myself. I finally decided I really didn't care what others called me: what mattered was my heart. I try not to de-value my feelings in 1996 and on by saying I never was a lesbian. I think I needed to go through that time to reach where I am today.

In either late 2009 or early 2010, I came across some random quiz which interested me but required I sign up on some site called OKCupid.com. *shrugs* I did. And I found that the profile I created didn't try to pigeonhole me into someone else's (conservative) definitions. I could say I was married *and* seeking women. I could openly claim myself to be polyamorous.

When I posted my scores to the original quiz, I caught Randy's attention and he too signed up on OKC. Funny, but cool. What shocked the living hell out of me was when he chatted me in Google chat one day and told me he'd met a woman and they were talking about getting together for a date. I remember feeling like the bottom had fallen out of my world. He'd never shown any interest in dating and often said, "I don't have the energy to date!" My shock deepened as I realized there was a lot of "homework" I hadn't done in all these years: I'd not prepared for him to go out and for me to stay home, wondering and waiting.

It was a rough couple weeks there. Especially when he reached the point where he wanted she and I to meet. It was part of our agreement: a meeting would happen before certain milestones could be crossed. While neither of us has "veto power", we both have a strong desire that each other would like any other partners we might have.

After we met, she and I went on a date or two. But, for various reasons, things just didn't progress for us -- and they soon dwindled for her and Randy. I think we all have remained friends, which is nice.

Soon though, I started hearing a lot about this woman on OKC that Randy was talking to. She was far away (about 2500 miles NE of us) and that made her "safe". But there was a lot of talk about "if she wasn't so far away, I could fall for her". That had my mental antennas wiggling. I didn't want to be a jealous wife, but I was immensely curious about her. I made sure he was okay with me contacting her -- he was -- and I wrote her a message. It turns out, while I was writing that message, there was one from her already in my inbox!

It's a little cliche to say, "The rest is history." I mean -- 2500 miles! But we went from 3 people talking to each other to very quickly planning a meeting. The months, then weeks, then days until that meeting seemed to drag. We were trying to be smart and give everyone "outs" -- there's this belief that "online relationships" aren't real until you actually meet. That could very well be true for most people. But I've said for years, "Brains turn me on." And Jennifer's brain was very attractive to me!

Even before we met, Jennifer was already planning to move to Arizona. She'd originally been looking at several schools -- one of them being ASU -- for her continued education. Now, she put that plan into high gear, with an expected move date of March 2011.

Anyway, we made it to our meet-up and it was as though we'd all known each other for years. The weekend was too short. We immediately made plans for me to fly to her for a couple weeks. During that visit, we discovered that her plan to move to Arizona could be upped by several months. Jennifer had originally planned to visit us in January, then move in March. So, I asked, "Does it make sense to spend the money on a round-trip ticket in January, if you don't have to wait until March to move?" That started an entire conversation. The result? Her move date was the end of the semester, December 2010.

Meanwhile, as I have been able to share in other posts, we were trying to buy a house. Randy was set to leave town on December 15th to go to her and help her finish packing. They would load a Penske truck and drive home. The question was: would "home" be the cramped apartment we'd fled to in June when our landlord died and the house went into foreclosure? Or would it be the house we toured just before I left to spend a couple weeks with her, in early October?

The answer came on the 7th of December, when we were given keys to the house. We planned our apartment move for the 9th and hired movers to empty our two storage bays on the 10th. We were buried in boxes. But we had the house!

Now, we just needed to get all three of us in the same house finally. Randy left town as scheduled. Jennifer had contracted bronchitis, was cramming for finals and still working full-time.

I was left to hold down the home front and try to find space for her belongings to be unloaded. That meant unpacking as many books as possible and getting them onto shelves. I organized, I unpacked, I re-organized and unpacked some more.

I had no idea it would be so hard to be the one alone. Jennifer did. She'd done it for many months. Randy did it for almost three weeks -- with the possibility I'd stay for even longer, to help her out. I'm sure it didn't help that I was buried in boxes and already hurting. It didn't feel like home at all.

When they hit the road, I was "Mission Control" -- if they needed something, one of them could chat me and I could find them answers. They were not always in 3G areas for their cellphones. Even then, at the best of times, one of them was balancing a laptop on their lap, in a very shaky truck. I could pull up weather for the next city they would reach and gas prices along their route. I could plot routes, estimate mileage, give them alternate routes in case of weather. During this time, I also barked out a lot of orders to the two still here, Nicholas and our housemate. It was up to them to keep the unpacking moving and finalize all that needed doing before Randy and Jennifer arrived.

It was a long journey. But they finally arrived, on Christmas Eve. While that meant more work, it was good work: bringing Jennifer into this house and making a home together, the three of us. Four of us, really -- she adores Nick and he seems to really like her right back.

I couldn't wait any longer and one morning, while we three were still in bed, I popped the question for the two of us. She said yes. I know it can't be legal. I know we'll have to make all kinds of legal arrangements to get even remotely close to a real marriage. But in my heart, I will wed her and she will be my wife. She will be his wife. He will be her husband. And we three will be together.

We tossed around ideas for varying degrees of a wedding -- from a big shindig with gowns and tuxedos and a dinner being served with music and photography, to a small ceremony in our backyard (which needs a lot of work before it could be the site of a ceremony). Jennifer and I looked at a lot of gowns online and went back and forth on the kind of wedding we wanted.

We also struggled with the fact the wedding wouldn't be real -- no license by a government entity to say we three were married to each other. She can't be added to Randy's insurance. We have to create a lot of legal documents in order to make sure she's treated the same as either Randy or I would be treated at the death of one of us. Jennifer needs -- and I need to give her -- the security of knowing one of the "established married couple" can't suddenly change their mind and kick her out with nothing.

We've had some challenges in these last 4 months together. Through those challenges, I realized I needed to make a commitment to her. I needed to say the words, she needed to hear them. So we started talking about a handfasting.

Handfastings (as I've known them) started as a Celtic tradition, being "a year and a day" arrangement which allowed couples to be united properly, until a priest could come and make it legitimate. It also served (going farther back in time) as the only ceremony which marked a couple's move towards making their own family.

This last Monday, we held our handfasting in our home, with some of our local friends. The request was to keep it small, so we didn't even invite all our local friends. No family for any of us was there -- my Mom knew, but I'd told her I didn't expect her to try to fly out here for it because money is tight for all of us.

I'm the only one who didn't write my own vows, sadly. I committed to making two beautiful gowns in less than three weeks and just never had the time to take the words I'd found and personalize them any. My vows are found online as "Irish Wedding Vows":

You cannot possess me for I belong to myself.

But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give.

You cannot command me, for I am a free person, but I shall serve you in those ways you require, and the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand.

I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night
and the eyes into which I smile in the morning.

I pledge to you the first bite of my meat and the first drink from my cup.

I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care.

I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine.

I shall not slander you, nor you me.

I shall honor you above all others, and if we quarrel we shall do so in private and tell no strangers our grievances.

This is my wedding vow to you.

This is the marriage of equals.

So this new chapter begins. We're going to make mistakes (I make at least one every day -- sometimes really big ones). The "little green monster" is going to creep in. That's okay. Jealousy or envy is just a flag to say, "Hey, I'm feeling [insecure / lonely / left out]." Recognizing that feeling and learning how and when to voice it is the challenge.

I'll be brutally honest here: If you support us, that's great and I'm glad to have your friendship or kinship in my life. If you don't, please don't waste your time quoting from the book your faith is based on -- it's not the book of my faith and possibly not the faith of either of my partners. I moderate all comments (thanks to spammers) and I won't allow negative garbage on my site. If you have questions, I'll post them, if they are respectful. I'll even try to answer them, if the answers aren't too private. There's not a whole lot of visible support for families like ours. We're bucking the system big time -- and I get that it won't be easy.

There's a lot of thoughts jumbled up in my head. Things I'd like to blog about and get out there, instead of keeping them locked in my grey matter, driving me bonkers by repetition. But that's all going to have to wait for another blog entry. Now that I've opened the doors to this new chapter of my life and a new chapter of this blog, I can make those entries.

Let the floodgates be opened.

Dire Giraffe releases a second title!

On a whim the other day, I asked another RPG industry designer to take a look at my Dire Giraffe sheets and maybe link to them in a status update on Facebook, if he felt he could recommend my sheets. He accepted the complimentary copy and responded positively in email, saying:

Hey Anne, very cool! I like the half page approach and it looks like a good reorganization of the sheet.

Then he went one further for me:

Just a heads up, there are 3,500 emails going out right now for my new tile set that have a link to your publisher page on RPGNow :)

I got so excited about his support, I put both titles on sale 25% off! If you know someone who wanted to grab these titles, now's a good time to do it. I'm about to go in and make a bundle of the two, for a small discount.

Dire Giraffe Publishing

I finally did it.

I finally managed to get all my ducks in a row and I've published the first of my character sheet designs.

I'm pleased to announce the publication of SAWS+ Character Sheets by Dire Giraffe Publishing. The webpage isn't much -- the logo is still in design right now for one -- but it should link people to where they can buy my sheets. If you have seen these sheets and you like them, please consider clicking on the "like" button for Facebook. This will help me spread the word!

A House is Where the Heart is

We bought a house.

Whew.

That single sentence (either of them) really cannot convey the craziness which is buying a house in these United States in 2010. The market is just awful. Most of the houses we walked through were vacant, either a short sale or in foreclosure. Both times we've owned a house, we've managed to be at the right ends of the US housing bubble.

Not only is the market full of these challenging types of home sales, the homes themselves are in varying degrees of vacancy or disuse. One home we put an offer on turned out to have been vandalized -- both A/C units needed replacing (an absolute must have in Arizona!). After that contract didn't go through, I really began to wonder if there was a house out there for us. Would we have to go through a year, or more, in an apartment?

Our requirements were many -- and our list of characteristics varied between "need" and "want". We needed at least 2000 square feet. I looked at a lot of homes in the 1750-2000 square foot range and it would have just been a stop-gap measure for us. Since we want to spend about 10 years in this place, working towards building a dome, that just wasn't an option.

We needed at least four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It had to be a ranch-style -- all on one level -- for me. I even considered some houses where the master and all necessary areas were on the main level, with the additional bedrooms either up or downstairs (finished basement). Most of the time, the fact we had ferrets made such options less than acceptable because of the way it was executed.

We like an open floor plan -- big great rooms, with the kitchen being the "hang-out place" for everyone. We wanted a "cook's kitchen" since three of the five people here are cooks -- plus I bake on occasion (but if they were happy, so was I).

The big kicker was location and size. How close could we get to Randy's job at ASU? How big of a lot could we get? The bigger the better -- but that meant a bigger price.

One of the houses which gave us the most hope (before we saw it) was in a two-block neighborhood in East Mesa, where the lots are all acre-plus and have horse privileges. Considering how "in town" that still is, that's unheard of! The house we were considering there was at the end of the cul-de-sac, backing onto one of the canals. It already had a diving pool, too. Unfortunately, the reality was awful. Even looking past the half-moved state of the home (the previous owners abandoned a lot of belongings on the property), there were layout and condition issues right away. At least two bedrooms were involved in a problem with the foundation which was causing the ceramic tile to crack. The so-called fourth bedroom was a joke. There was a staircase surrounded by a wrought-iron railing/gate which led down to a dark secondary room space. The stairwell was in the center of this "fourth bedroom". The kitchen was outdated and small, the living room was separated from the kitchen, as was the "family room". Clearly this potential dream property needed a better house. So we moved on.

In many of the homes we looked at, it was painfully obvious that the previous owners had added on -- closing in a back patio with less than stellar results. In one such home, I twisted my ankle and fell, slamming my left knee straight down on the tile. It's been over three months since that fall and I'm still having trouble with the knee, though my right hand and right ankle are better, for the most part.

The house we bought was added on to, but it's the best add-on we've seen. No matter where I've lived, I've always seen things I could fix in a layout to maximize the space for our use. The same is true here. While I love my master suite, my bathroom isn't big enough for a single person, let alone the three of us.

I do love that there is no carpet in this house. The great room and the areas off of it -- what will be Randy and Jenne's music room and our dining room, plus part of my master suite -- are all 16" tile. The rest of the house is laminate flooring. Whoever laid it down did an excellent job -- there's only one threshold which crosses two laminate floor areas. The other thresholds are laminate-to-tile. I haven't had a lot of time to let the ferrets run free yet, but they've had the run of my office a couple times. The sound of their little claws scampering on the laminate is just amazing.

We have so many plans for this place. I can't wait to get started on them! We intend to remove two large palms from the front yard and remove all the grass, too. We plan to xeriscape, using gravel between planter boxes for edible landscaping. I really want to try using ollas for watering our garden. Hopefully, eventually, we can put together a greywater system and save more water that way.

In the meantime, Obstacle Number One has already popped up: we're having problems with the plumbing. As this part of the story is still on-going, it will have to wait for later posts for more information.


Meanwhile, very shortly all my loves will be under one roof. I'm looking forward to this very much. I feel too scattered -- and the boxes all around me aren't helping, so maybe I should get back to it?

To Nook Or Not?

We were out celebrating Nick's 18th (!) birthday last night and stopped in at the Barns and Noble store we like. While we were there, I was showing Nick the Nook and mentioned, "But there's no back-light, so no reading in the dark." The gentleman overseeing our perusal mentioned they now have the NookColor, which I had totally forgotten about.

He took us to the full Nook display where we could handle both the NookWiFi and the NookColor. There's no real physical difference between the NookWifi and the Nook3G. But the NookColor is a full touch screen, maybe slightly heavier (I've had heavier trade paperback books!) and because of the touch screen, the battery life is a little shorter. But oh, the NookColor is sexy.

Randy has asked me if this is something I might want....maybe not for Christmas, but for my birthday in February. He really wants me to give him an answer early so he could surprise me with it, instead of it being so close to the actual day that it's obvious I *am* getting it.

So, my kind readers, what are the pros and cons to getting an e-book reader? Please keep in mind that the Kindle has never been an option for me. Especially when I was on the Nook page online and there are 2 million books available for the Nook. The NookColor takes a very large set of e-book formats, including epub, which is what my existing Baen Free Library collection is in. It's also the format I use to read on my Droid.

I've got a very challenging decision to make.

Deleting accounts

I've been inundated with accounts which have registered here -- and set themselves to be notified when I post. The problem? A lot of the accounts are spammers (how???) and they are giving fake/false emails, which are bringing my mail server to its knees.

I'm going through and deleting accounts. If I don't recognize it or don't see *any* post activity (i.e. a comment), the account is getting deleted. If this hits you and you really weren't a spammer, I'm truly sorry. Right now, I can't finesse this.

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