Thursday, March 9, 2017

Grandma

Right after Valentine's Day, my grandmother passed away. I've had a lot of emotions swirling under the surface about her death that I haven't done a good job processing.

Let me be very honest from the beginning: I always felt like my grandma and I didn't get along. I always loved her and I knew she always loved me, but most of the time, our relationship just stressed me out.

My grandparents were a very ying-yan pair: my grandpa was happy and silly while my grandma was serious and responsible. And because of that, I had a special bond with him. With her, I constantly felt defensive. Her critical nature meant that I was perpetually tense for her next back-handed compliment. The person I was and the person she wanted me to be never aligned and she didn't know how to accept that.

Part of the reason I didn't feel as close to grandma was because we were similar in a lot of aspects, but most of them negative. My dad, who never seemed to get along with my grandma, would sometimes call me 'Grandma' if I was planning my day out too much or if I was worrying about something he thought I shouldn't.

Most of her stories had an undercurrent of regret, of longing for a different time, and nostalgia for the past rather than enjoying what was in front of her.

We were very similar in a lot of ways and that scared me, so I pushed her away. Being around her was a mirror for the parts of myself that I didn't like. My tendency to be mean and negative. My need to plan and schedule and the anxiety I experience when there isn't one or when no one will follow it. My depression. She was much more than that, but being around her reflected my own insecurities back at me.

As I got older, it became easier to see that her criticisms and negativity were more about her than me, but the easiest way to deal with it was to avoid her. And I did. I should have tried to have a conversation with her about it, but instead I chose to avoid the issue, and potentially hurting her, like a coward. There was no winning in the game we played so I chose not to play.

One of my favorite memories of her was when she was happy and silly. I'm not sure of the timing, I could have been anywhere between ten and sixteen years old, but she was watching my sister and I on a lazy summer day and she decided we were going to play a board game. She went to the game closet and found a game no one had ever played (I think it was one of those generic ones that everyone has because someone gave it to them) and we spent the afternoon screwing around and making up rules. There was music and dancing and I have no idea if there was a winner or loser, but I can remember her dancing around in the living room.

My grandma went pretty quickly. I found out on a Tuesday that she had fallen and was in the hospital for observations and Wednesday she was suddenly gone. I think the suddenness and lack of closer is one of the things my family is having the hardest time dealing with. We didn't expect our trip to visit her in July to be the last time we would see her. We thought it was just the first time we were going to see her in her new home in Washington.


I'm still working on processing my feelings, but the one I'm having the hardest time with is the guilt. I feel guilty because a small part of me is relieved. Relieved that I don't have to do this dance of avoidance anymore. I love her and I will miss her, but the fact that I am slightly relieved is the emotion that hurts me more than the sadness. 

I'm sorry, G-ma. We should have dealt with our differences sooner and I'm sorry we won't get that chance now. I hope you thought I was lazy and inconsiderate, not that I was actively avoiding you. And I know this offers virtually no comfort, but I will try not to make that mistake again. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fan of Friday: Week of 3/3/2017

I've mentioned in a previous 'Fan of Friday' post how I've fallen in love with the web series 'Critical Role', but what I didn't mention at that time was how that love has now manifested itself. My friends and I started a campaign and we're playing Dungeons and Dragons in real life!


Let me explain a bit. There seems to be this weird phenomenon of secrecy to people who play DnD. It's not something they usually talk about openly so you may have friends that play and you would never know. And that turned out to be the case with two of my friends.

When I started to get really into 'Critical Role', my obsession came up at our weekly trivia nights. That's when I not only found out that two of my friends actively play, but a whole bunch more wanted to try it.

Over the course of a couple of parties (Dan's birthday, Christmas), the DnD virgins convinced one of the experienced players to run a game for us, found another friend to join as our party mentor, and began setting up a game.

Dan wasn't that into the idea at first and actively tried to make things difficult. He stubbornly said that his character was a male prostitute and would only play as such. It back-fired on him, though, because once I bought the player's handbook, I found a way to make that character work. In taking his craziness seriously, he started to as well and his character, Glor Ekemon Holl, was born. He's a Tiefling Bard who team up with the elven rogue of our group to charm people out of their secrets.

My character is probably the polar opposite of Dan's. She's a Goliath Fighter. She's almost eight feet tall, young and naive but well-trained in fighting and strategy, and on the run. She's got this elaborate backstory that I haven't revealed to the other players yet. I've had so much fun coming up with her. Even her name, Brenna Sverdavbolge, was fun to come with. 'Brenna' is a Norwegian name meaning 'sword', which is what she fights with, her last name is a lose amalgamation of the Norwegian translation of 'Surge of Swords', her herd name,


I'll say the one downside of my character is that finding a figurine of a female Goliath is a pain in the ass. For those who don't know, most of Dungeons and Dragons takes place on paper, but for fights and battles, it's easier to understand what's happening by laying everything out. This is done with a gridded mat like a white board and figurines. However, almost every female Goliath figurine looks like it's from a bad 1980's hair metal music video. Sexist much?


Yeah, that's definitely not my character. In my hunt, though, I found this amazing website call Hero Forge. It lets you design a character and they 3D print it and send it to you. You have to paint it yourself, but you can make just about anyone.

See? This is much better. She wears her hair in two braids rather than one, but close enough.


And a few weeks later, here's the real deal (in terrible picture form)!


And now with Rusty Cat nose for true scale. Immediately after this picture, he bit her and tried to run off with her. The mini now lives on a high shelf away from cats.


The one flaw in this mini is that she's normal mini heights. She's as tall as I could make her, but she would still be about the same height as an elf or a human, which in actuality she should be about two feet taller. I plan on remedying this by 3D printing her a taller base that I can snap the mini into. God I love my nerd tools.

I'm loving everything about our monthly games where it's just friends and snacks and make-believe. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering trying it out.

And as a wrap up: here are some ideas and links for things I found helpful as a new player.

  • Learn about the game! There are some great youtube videos, particularly 'one-shots' where the game wraps up in one play-through, that will help you understand the mechanisms of the game. I am fond of this one
  • Visualize your character. I found it so much easier to play once I could see my character in my mind. Find a mini, sketch it out, whatever it takes. There are some great artists out there that may have already created something similar to yours. 
  • Start out with everything hand-written in pencil. It will take a while to figure out how you best want to run your character, but don't commit to any strategy too quickly. I've ended up with pencil on paper, within plastic protective sleeves, that I write on in game in wet-erase marker. Between games, I update the penciled information if necessary. Dan created a template to print his spells in business card form and he's got a sleeve of them. 
  • Find online resources. The work sheet in the back of the book are great for covering all your bases, but there may be ones out there that are more helpful for your specific character. I found these ones and I'm so excited about them. 
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to admit that you're learning. I will admit that the first game we played, I was a hot-mess. There are a lot of unspoken rules of DnD and I broke a lot of them. I'm trying to get better, but we are all still novices.