Making a note here: Huge Success

What a wonderful party! (“I’m making a note here: Huge success. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.”)

elephants
That’s Wellington on the right and Alexander the Grape on the left.

Thanks to all the folks who braved the elephants to attend! (Here’s a picture of a couple of the elephants that people had to brave.)

Jackie and I had never thrown a party together (if you don’t count our wedding reception, which was really thrown by Jackie’s mom on our behalf). Our apartment at Country Fair was too small and too cluttered for us to want to show it off. I did have a similar sort of open house party at my house in Philo when I bought it, before I met Jackie, and it was a pretty good party, but not as good as this one (because I didn’t really know anyone to invite except coworkers).

We had a great turn out. There were a bunch of taiji folks, both from the class that I attend and the class I teach, and there were a bunch of former coworkers, and a bunch of Jackie’s spinning and weaving guild members, as well representatives of the local speculative fiction writing and Esperantist communities. We had a lot of spouses and kids as well, so it was a very interesting group.

Everybody commented on how open and light our new place is, and how well it suits us. (It seems that anybody who’s lived in Champaign-Urbana for more than a few years knows somebody who lived in Winfield Village. I was initially surprised by this, but it’s so universally true, I’ve almost come to expect it.)

There was a great deal of interest in Jackie’s loom (something that you don’t see in just every house) and her spinning wheel and the yarn and woven items displayed all over the house. We don’t have much of our art hung yet, but the few pieces we have up all drew favorable comments.

I didn’t get to talk to anybody as much as I’d have liked, and barely managed to talk at all with a few people. I think future parties will be a bit smaller, so there’s more time to spend with each guest. (Sorry if I neglected you! Send me some email! Let’s do lunch!)

Pre-party preparations were a big deal of course, involving as they did unpacking all our worldly possessions and finding places for everything. Happily, post-party cleanup was almost trivial. (Because we just served snacks and deserts and not a real meal, and because we didn’t invite any undergrads.) We were mostly done cleaning up before the first Superbowl ad.

Now we have way too many deserts left over. Too much wine as well, but the wine will keep until we’re ready.

Comfort activity (and a novel update)

A few years after we got married, Jackie and I planned a Key West vacation for February. I figured early-to-mid February would be perfect—we’d get to escape a week of winter weather, and when we got back in mid-to-late February it would be almost March and it would be safe to start looking forward to spring.

Probably most important—to my mind, more important than the vacation itself—was the anticipation of the vacation. My plan was that we’d spend all January looking forward to the vacation. We’d be kept busy with preparations and packing, we’d be researching things we might do in Key West and making plans. Looking forward to our vacation was supposed to make January zip by more quickly.

Unfortunately, that was the year the airline pilots threatened to go on strike, with the planned strike date the day before our flight to Key West. So, instead of spending all January looking forward to my vacation, I spent all January wondering if I’d spend my vacation in the airport, waiting on labor negotiations.

In the event the pilots did go on strike, but Bill Clinton ordered them back to work for a month, so we got to Key West and had our vacation as planned. It was a fine week in Key West, but a real dud of an anticipatory month of January. The experience strongly reinforced my view that the anticipation is worth as much as the vacation itself.

I mention all that because I’ve found our party preparations similarly diverting. We picked the date a couple of months back. (I’d proposed a New Year’s Eve party, a date Jackie rejected as too soon for us to be ready. She counter-proposed Groundhog’s Day, and then we settled on Groundhog’s Day Eve because it was a Sunday and we wanted to do an afternoon party.)

So we’ve had most of two months to anticipate our party. We would have been busy anyway—still unpacking from having moved, family visiting early in the new year, both on top of all our usual activities. With party preparations as well, we’ve been busy every minute.

All of which I figure is worth mentioning, because this was probably the best January I’ve had in about as long as I can remember.

I used to suffer from seasonal depression pretty routinely. It’s been better of late (probably helped by using my HappyLight™, by taking vitamin D, and by not working a regular job), but it’s never gone away. I still suffer from anxiety starting in early fall just from knowing that the days are going to get short. But this year has been great—and I think being busy with the activities of party preparation have been a big part of it.

Clearly it’s worth planning something for early February that I can spend January anticipating. I don’t know if it should be a party every year though. Perhaps a vacation that didn’t come with a month of worry about airline pilot’s strikes would be even better. (With the bonus of getting us someplace warm for a week.)

I did want to mention that progress on the novel proceeds apace. Despite being busy, I’ve managed to work on the novel very nearly every single day since the solstice.

As of just a few days ago, I’d made my way through the middle third—and I’m pretty pleased with it. As I feared, the final third is in rougher shape than I’d like. I’d gone through it once already, reworking it from a short story into the final third of a novel, but now that I’m here, I can see that there’s a lot left to do.

There’s also a good bit of new writing that needs to happen. The short story wrapped up with an explanation of why things were going to be okay. It didn’t quite work as a short story, which is part of what made me want to expand it to a novel. But as I pressed through the first two-thirds, I realized that what needs to happen is that events predicted in that explanation need to actually happen in full-blown scenes. And those scenes haven’t been written yet.

That’s okay, though. I’ve really enjoyed the bits here and there during the rewrite when I came upon a scene where, in the first draft, I’d said, “Since they’d remembered to do X . . .” and went back to write the scene where they did X. Now I’m looking forward to writing two or three or four scenes of additional climax and dénouement.

It’ll be great.

No Admittance Except on Party Business

I considered putting a note to that effect on the door, but I was afraid there would be people who wouldn’t get the joke. (The downside of having such a diverse group of friends—no matter how pervasive something is in our culture, Jackie and I will know a few people for whom it is utterly outside their experience.)

Party preparations are nearly complete.

I got the study tidy! (Those of you who have seen it in the past month would be astounded.) I need to do a photo shoot of my writing space, now that it is so wonderfully open and inviting, but I have not yet had the time to get good pictures.

This morning I made candy and baked cookies for the party. (The candy is what I call Platonic Candy, because it is candy reduced to its platonic essence: sugar, fat, a little flavoring. The cookies are Ginger Sparkles.)

This afternoon, while I’m at Esperanto, Jackie will prepare her contributions to the party comestibles.

In the evening we’ll do our final cleaning up.

Sunday we’ll be able to laze about lazily all morning, until people start showing up for the party.

Yesterday’s weather report was kind of alarming, predicting that several inches of snow were possible. Today’s forecast is better, with less snow expected. Hopefully the weather won’t keep too many people home from our party.

Best doormat ever!

We wanted to get a doormat in advance of our Groundhog’s Day Eve party.

Because we had left it so late, I had already resigned myself to getting a merely ordinary doormat. We had good intentions of getting a good doormat later, but I knew we’d almost certainly end up using the ordinary doormat for years. It would be “good enough” and there’s always too much important stuff to do to get to less urgent tasks.

Since we weren’t even going to try to get an excellent doormat, we went to Tuesday Morning, a shop in our old neighborhood that sells mostly surplus and discontinued stuff.

We get our cocktail napkins there, because they have odd, random, cocktail napkins for cheap. Most of the cocktail napkin designs are generic birds or flowers, but we can almost always find one or two packages with something funny or interesting.

We figured they’d have odd, random doormats, and that maybe we’d be able to find one that was funny or interesting.

The first few doormats were generic birds and flowers, but then, near the bottom, was an octopus doormat!

Octopus DoormatIs it not awesome? Is it not the best doormat you’ve ever seen? I mean, yes, a doormat featuring a hedgehog and a sloth might have been even better, and one featuring a groundhog would have been more topical for our party. But honestly, even including one of those, I can’t imagine a better doormat than the one we found.

I should also mention: the party invites have gone out. If you didn’t get one, it was purely an oversight on my part. Let me know (my email address is on my contact page), and I’ll get you the details of the party.

Volcanoes on Vacation

Jackie modeling Volcanoes on Vacation

Somebody came to my site after searching for information about the haiku earring parties at WisCon. That reminded me that I’d never gotten around to putting up a picture of Volcanoes on Vacation, the earrings I exchanged a haiku for at WisCon some years back.

So, here’s the picture.

I’ve lost my notes from that haiku earring party, so I don’t have the exact text of the haiku. I could probably recreate it, but the gist of it was one volcano lamenting the fact that they always vacation somewhere on the Pacific rim. I remember that the last line was, “Next year, Michigan!”

Jackie’s other earrings from haiku earring parties were documented here:

Elisem‘s haiku earring parties are always a highlight of WisCon for me. They’re a big part of the reason that I’m always sad when I have to miss a year.

Haiku, earrings, strokes

Jackie wearing the Elisem earrings "Honor is not Always Loud"
Jackie modeling the Elisem earrings Honor is Not Always Loud

I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere each time I’ve gotten Jackie a pair of earrings at one of Elisem‘s haiku earring parties, but The Sinister Leprechaun seems to be the only pair I’ve gotten since starting this particular iteration of my blog.

(Ah, it turns out that I wrote about Honor is Not Always Loud on my old LiveJournal, but don’t seem to have posted a picture until now. I don’t seem to find any mention of Volcanoes on Vacation. I should get a picture of them up as well.)

The haiku earring party is always one of the highlights of WisCon for me, which is only the smallest reason why this is wonderful news: On the Rewards of CALLING 911 RIGHT AWAY.

Learn the signs of a stroke. If anyone shows those signs—you or someone you’re with—call 911.

The Sinister Leprechaun

The Sinister Leprechaun, originally uploaded by bradipo.

Jackie and I attended the Haiku Earring Party at WisCon this evening.

In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: Elisem creates pairs of earrings. You pick out a pair you like and bring it to her. She gives the pair a title. You then write a haiku or senryu inspired by the title and the earrings, which you trade for the earrings.

At least, I tended to think of it as a swap—haiku for earrings. Jackie, it turns out, had a slightly different take on it. In her mind I was winning the earrings for her via a display of skill, like winning a stuffed animal by tossing rings at the county fair.

“The Sinister Leprechaun”

Find at rainbow’s end
Not expected pot of gold.
Green stones turning black.

Or, in Esperanto:

“La Minaca Irlanda Koboldo”

Ĉielarka fin’
Ne atendita oruj’
Verdŝton’ negirĝas