Tuesday, December 31, 2013


It's been over a year since I've posted here. I noticed that just today as I was thinking about the past year and realized I might want to post something.

Facebook and Twitter have taken the place of my blog posts (obviously), but they didn't seem like the right place to do a recap of the year.

As with every year, there were ups and downs, but right now, as I write this, I'd say what stands out is the incredible emotional downturn I suffered this year. Most of it in the last couple of months.

I've had stressful times in my life. The years running Corsair Publishing come to mind. I was proud of the work I did there, but the stresses over money, where it came from, and where it was going were huge issues for me and I honestly think the stress did permanent damage to my memory -- not just my memory of that time, but my memory in general.

This year, however, I've had a very different kind of stress. For the last couple of years my wife and I have been trying to have a baby and we'd had little success. A couple of "late" periods, a chemical pregnancy, lots of visits to an excellent fertility clinic to help us in the process. Months and months (over a year, maybe over two now) of what ifs and hoping and being disappointed and hoping and hoping and hoping. And kind growing to hate hope. Trying not to build things up too much. Trying not to put too much meaning into the next success or failure. And failing, failing, failing.

I won't go into the details, but the process was very long, very difficult, and very draining, especially for my wife, who obviously had to bear most of the pressure and treatments. We had one final chance this Fall. We were pregnant for three weeks, then lost it.

When I say "final chance," I mean it. We decided we wouldn't actively try anymore because we don't have the money to do it. This last round was expensive and we can't do more of that. Plus, like I said, it wasn't easy.

The result of the failed pregnancy and the expense is that I had to confront the reality that I won't be a father. That's an ongoing existential crisis for me. I'd never actually thought I wouldn't have kids, or even a kid. So, it's been hard. I feel stressed constantly. Depressed sometimes. Adrift others. It's unlike any experience I've had in the past and it's made 2013 one of my least favorite years ever.

I have things to be thankful for: a new job, great friends, family near and far who love me, a fun gaming group, and a wife who's far too good for me, but loves me more than anything, just like I love her.

But even so, I'm not going to be a father. We're not going to be parents.

Sure, we could end up being one of those couples "who tried everything, then poof! they got pregnant," but I'm not going to hold out hope for that. That's an anecdote, not cold, hard fact. If it comes, I'll take it, but I'm not going to hope. Hope's dead. And that makes me very sad.

Good-bye 2013.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Part 4 of the Move to Seattle

Part IV, and the last of the trip out to Seattle. Enjoy! 

Eleven years as of today. And this being Sunday, even the days of this year matched up with the days of the trip.

Seth and I arrived in the afternoon to a relatively dark, cloudy city that had just experienced some rain. Quite unlike today which is nice and bright and sunny.

Thanks again to Seth for writing this up and letting me reuse it for all these years!

SEPTEMBER 30 - rest stop, Idaho (mileage unknown) 

I drove all morning, determined to make it all the way across the panhandle of Idaho before I turn the wheel over to Jon. But nature calls, and high in the mountains I pull over into a rest stop to make use of the facilities. 

I say without reservation that western Montana and northern Idaho are some of the most beautiful territory it's ever been my privilege to pass through. But it's also completely isolated. Those snow gates that can be dropped across the interstate ("Road blocked ahead. Go back to Missoula.") are there for a reason, and you'd have to be pretty hardy to live out here. The price of beauty, I suppose. We'll see if I can't afford it. 

Coming out of the bathroom I see that a man walking his dog is wearing a baseball cap with Bucky Badger embroidered on it. We talk for a minute and it turns out he's from Madison, out here visiting relatives. Strange to find a piece of home about as far away from it as you can get. 

SEPTEMBER 30 -- Couer D'Lane, Idaho (1,705 miles) 

A quick stop for lunch in the late afternoon. Jon's cel phone is finally back in range of the system, and he checks his messages while I try to call home and wish my mom a happy birthday on a nearby payphone. Couer D'Lane is the Wisconsin Dells of Idaho, with a population that seems fifty percent tourist and a waterslide on every block. It also increases the number of people we've seen in Idaho by about a bazillion percent, unless you count the other moving trucks. Maybe its just because we're traveling in a U-Haul, but everyone and their brother seems to be moving -- usually in the opposite direction, but that's probably because anyone behind us can't catch up to us and we can't catch anyone ahead. As the days have passed I've found a strange feeling of brotherhood with these other travelers; if our horn worked I would beep it when I saw them, but have to settle for a jaunty wave they probably never see. Oh well. 

For all the 'friends', we've also found our nemesis. First spotted in South Dakota, a couple times each day we've been passed by what I've named the Luxury RV, a glossy black bus-like RV pulling a high-priced black SUV, like Puff Daddy going on walkabout. Ostentatious, faster than us -- the reasons to be annoyed go on and on. But though I've been watching, the LRV's shiny prow has yet to glide past our port windows. I decide to remain vigilant as Jon takes the wheel. 

SEPTEMBER 30 - MOFN, Washington (1,786 miles) 

I gave this town its name, as it is in the middle of nowhere and didn't even have the dignity to give itself a name for its highway exit. Though we didn't have time to stop in Spokane and see my grandparents (although we did see a giant inflatable gorilla, prompting Jon to properly bemoan the trip's lack of monkeys), we had to stop here for gas -- and that's nearly all this place has to offer. That, an RV park (despite the "Don't park RV signs here" signs that seem to be tacked to every post), a collection of construction equipment working and otherwise, and a concrete pipe capped with a metal plate jutting out of the ground. My theory is that it's the entrance to a secret underground government base, but that woman back in Montana probably didn't shoot anyone, either. 

SEPTEMBER 30 - Roslyn, Washington (1,932 miles) 

We're almost there, but fannish interest (you can take the geeks out of Wisconsin, but...you know the rest) made us get off the interstate and make our way up a county highway to Roslyn, where they filmed the exteriors for the TV series Northern Exposure. All the shops are closed this late on a Sunday evening, so no T-shirts for us. But the KBHR radio station is still there and we get to peek into the now-dusty interior. We also see Roslyn's Café, the building that was supposed to be Dr. Fleischman's office, and the Brick, where we stop to grab dinner. 

While waiting for dinner, I wander back across the street and finally get ahold of my mom. While eating dinner, I watch a gorgeous nearby woman, who eventually notices me and subtly flashes her wedding ring. As of this writing, the jury is still out on whether I'm happy or sad to have been caught being potentially prurient. 

Then it's back to the road, with only Snoqualimie Pass between us and Seattle. 

SEPTEMBER 30 - Bellevue, Washington (2,015 miles) 

It's not Seattle, but it's close enough. We make our way through the dark streets and eventually find the house Jon will be staying at. We have some problems finding the key that supposed to be hidden outside, but luckily one of the other roomers is home-and turns out to also be a WizKids employee named Dave. Dave shows us Jon's (surprisingly tiny!) room, and we unload what we can from the truck. It's almost ten, and too late to find a storage space; Jon will have to do that tomorrow after I leave. Dave does help us move the U-Haul and trailer to the WizKids parking lot (including taking the wheel for the particularly tricky job of turning the truck around in the narrow parking lot), and takes us over to the nearby mall and an all-night grocery store so I can get some cash for the trip back. 

Then bedtime and up in time to run to the airport in the morning. 
There's the whole tale. I hope you've had as much fun reading it as Seth and I did driving it. 

Part 3 of the Move to Seattle

Even though I sat in front of the computer all day yesterday (Saturday), I forgot to post this. So I'm making up for it by posting parts 3 and 4 today.

SEPTEMBER 29 - Sundance, Wyoming (911 miles) 

Another gas stop, this time in the town where the Sundance Kid got his name. A pretty small place, and my stay is marked mainly by the three guys in the gas station buying hunting licenses-and swearing that the rifle on the wall being raffled off is the same one that was there last year. They're putting together the pieces of the conspiracy as I wander back out to the truck. 

SEPTEMBER 29 - Sheridan, Wyoming (1058 miles) 

We've made it over the thousand-mile mark, so we celebrate by stopping for food and gas. Again. Jon also needs to pick up a new address book, so we make our way downtown and find a Wal-Mart Plus-a Wal-Mart with a grocery store. Jon quickly finds the address book and we make our way across the parking lot for a quick lunch at Taco Bell. (For those keeping score at home--number of days on the road: 3; stops at a Taco Bell: 3. Make your investments appropriately.) 

Our quick lunch turns out to be anything but. It takes ten minutes to even order, and when we sit down to wait we realize that the dining room is full not of people eating but of people waiting. Oh yeah, and they're out of chicken. The situation is so absurd that Jon and I begin making fun of the restaurant and its employees -- apparently in an increasingly vocal manner, as Jon later reports that a cute girl ten feet away was laughing. (Sadly, she was probably of high-school age, so no missed opportunity there, faithful reader. But thank you for thinking of Jon and I.) 

SEPTEMBER 29 - Big Timber, Montana (1,273 miles) 

After a morning of climbing the foothills of the Rockies and blasting through Billings (a competitor with Toledo for Ugliest City in America), the Little U-Haul That Could has to pull off in western Montana for gas. As we come out from paying, there's a woman hanging around near the corner of the building smoking and leaving one hand suspiciously inside her purse. Our schedule demands that we get back on the road, but let's pretend that she was waiting to shoot someone, okay? 

SEPTEMBER 29 - Missoula, Montana (1,541 miles) 

Jon handles late night driving up into the mountains and across the Continental Divide, and around 11:30 we pull into Missoula. Less prepared than previous days, we haven't picked out a specific hotel from the AAA guidebook. But I see a billboard for one I remember. Unfortunately, I direct Jon off the highway an exit too early and we wander through town a bit before getting to the right area. 

Of further surprise is that the hotel we stop at is full. Not just that, but so are the next two. Luckily, we find a Best Western with a room and crash. Our wake-up call comes right on time, and we make our way downstairs just in time to enjoy the continental breakfast -- which actually _is_ pretty continental, reminding me of the breakfast buffet at the hotel I stayed at in London (which itself is _not_ Continental, but you get my Ugly American point, right?) 

Then it's time to gas up, and get back on the road. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 2 of the Trek... 11 Years Later

Here's Part II of the cross-country trip from eleven years ago. Again, as you're reading, remember that this is written from Seth's perspective, not mine. 

SEPTEMBER 28 - Blue Earth, Minnesota (333 miles) 

I'd like to say that it was the fifty-foot tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant that made us get off the highway, but we just decided to stop for gas and snacks. 

The gas station used to have a Taco Bell Express, but it has gone out of business-recently, apparently. As I stand waiting to get into the restroom, two couples who are part of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation enter. The woman in the lead walks up to the darkened corner and says, "What? No tacos?" For some reason it strikes me as odd; I guess I'm just accustomed to the preteens overrunning the Taco Bells in Madison. 

SEPTEMBER 28 - Mitchell, South Dakota (521 miles) 

Stopping for gas again, we also stop for lunch, grabbing sandwiches at Subway and then making our way through a maze of surface-street construction to the world famous Mitchell Corn Palace. The last time I was here was a quarter-century ago, and while the Palace is pretty neat, my picture-augmented memory held it up as much neater. I don't remember it being in the middle of downtown, for one thing; I guess I always thought it was a building out in the middle of the fields. And the colors are much more subdued-the pictures I've seen were taken in 1976, and I guess they fancied it up for the Bicentennial. This year's themes are pretty straight-forward nature themes done in straight-forward corn colors. Jon and I do find a display across the street showing how the decoration is done, and I do have to respect the process. It seems like an awful lot of work, beginning with laying out the design on the building and cutting a whole hell of a lot of corn cobs in half in preparation for mounting them. 

Though downtown Mitchell seems to get a lot of its income from tourists, most of the other tourist shops are closed down for the season and there's not much else to see. So after a quick picture of Jon in front of the Corn Palace, and a seemingly interminable wait at a train crossing, we're back on I-90 and headed west. 

SEPTEMBER 28 - Kadoka, South Dakota (705 miles) 

Only two things are amusing about our stop in Kadoka. One: Jon makes a series of funny jokes about people who were too dumb to spell the name of their own state right, and end up naming their town Kadoka. Two: At the gas station, I wait in line to buy my Diet Coke behind a group of guys loudly planning that evening's visit to a strip club. I'm not quite certain they ever caught on that I was laughing at them and not with them. (Okay, now that time has passed, I'm not certain that either of those items are amusing in retrospect. But then, we were back on the road within fifteen minutes-it didn't leave much time to be amused, and I have to take my amusement where I can get it.) 

SEPTEMBER 28 - Wall, South Dakota (758 miles) 

Sadly, we arrive in Wall too late to partake of the joys of Wall Drug. But we settle for eating dinner across the street in the Cactus Café, the very restaurant where I had dinner with folks from work on the way back from E3 in May. If you had told me then that I would be eating in that restaurant again just four months later, I don't think I would have believed you. But there we are. The menu isn't quite as cosmopolitan as Burlington's famous White Fox Den, but it goes a little bit beyond bar food, so I enjoy a good French Dip sandwich and a bowl of clam chowder. 

On the way out of town, we stop at a gas station-not for gas, but so that I can prove after much frustration at lunch that Sobe Wisdom is unavailable in the state of South Dakota. Like many things in life, I am quickly proven utterly incorrect and come out with a Sobe and a box of Whoppers. Jon is laughing when I come back and points out a truck-driving future redneck who has hung up his truck on the concrete and steel base of an enormous sign, hooking his bumper over the five-inch lug nuts that hold the whole thing upright. We're tempted to stay and watch, but we're behind schedule... so we press on. 

SEPTEMBER 28 - Spearfish, South Dakota (856 miles) 

With 700 miles under our belt for the day, we stop just short of the Wyoming border. Happily, the hotel we stay at has a pool, so while Jon deals with some unfinished paperwork I go for a swim and read in the hot tub for a while. I have some weird flashes back to a family trip 25 years ago (the same one that took me to Mitchell) and wonder if we stayed here. 

Our 8:30 AM wakeup call never comes, and we wake up just past 9:00. Still, even with a trip to a nearby grocery store for water, fruit and road snacks we manage to get back on I-90 by ten, and I pop yet another CD into the Rio as we turn west. 


End Part II. 

11th Annual Trek Cross Country

In three more years, I'll have spent as much time in Seattle as I did in Madison. That's what I find most... unsettling about this anniversary. 

I missed last year's posting of this re-treading of the trip Seth and I took from Madison to Seattle, but I promised myself not to miss it this year. Why? Because the trip was significant to me. It changed many, many things about my life. The best of which was finding Julia and marrying her.

So, I figured reliving this little chapter of my life might be kind of nice.

I hope you enjoy it!


SEPTEMBER 27 - Madison, Wisconsin (0 miles) 

We haven't left town yet, and we're already running late. It's nobody's fault, really: packing up the truck took a bit longer than planned, but we still could have made it out of town with time for plenty of progress...until it came time to go back to U-Haul to hook up a trailer for Jon's car. 

"Looks kinda heavy," says the guy at the shop, and suggests we go across the street to the recycling center and use the truck scale. Driving the 17-foot truck directly across four busy lanes of traffic is a bit daunting, but I brave the task while Jon starts to deal with the trailer. 

Pulling up onto the truck scale just as the recycling center just as they prepare to close the gates, I jump out and read the label on the side of truck: 'LIMIT 11,000 LBS. GROSS'. Then I look over at the digital readout on the side of the building: 14568. 

I take the truck back across the street and deliver the bad news. The garage is closing, so there's no time to come back for the trailer. Instead we hook up the car and trailer, then return to Jon's house and spend a couple hours unloading two tons of books and comics that will have to go down to Jon's parents in Burlington for storage. 

SEPTEMBER 27 - La Crosse, Wisconsin (161 miles) 

We made a quick stop at a gas station and a Taco Bell in Tomah, but it's here that we decide to stop for the night. It's 11:30, and there's no point in burning ourselves out on the first leg of the trip. The AAA guidebook lists a Hampton Inn that offers a discount, so that's where we crash. Uh, sleep. 

We're up by 8:30, pack up, partake of the free breakfast, stop by a nearby Woodman's grocery store so I can mail off a birthday card to my mom, and then we hit the road. 


See you tomorrow!

Sunday, July 01, 2012


We decided to take a Friday off and get away for the weekend. She's recently made a trip to the Eastern side of the state to help move her grandma into a new house and loved the countryside, so she suggested we go over there somewhere.

For those of you who don't know. Seattle is right along the coast (actually Puget Sound) and a few miles inland are the Cascade Mountains. The mountains block most of the moisture in the air from making it over them, so the Eastern side of the state is a desert. It doesn't get much rain, but because of the lack of clouds, the sun is unrelenting and the difference in temperature (and climate) between Seattle and Leavenworth (where we stayed) is pretty amazing.

Anyway, as I said, we decided to spend the weekend in a little tourist trap called Leavenworth. It's a town that decided to dress itself up as a little piece of Bavaria, likely because it's up in the mountains and (maybe?) has a similar climate. There's a single main drag on which all of the buildings have been built to look like chateaus and all the signs in town (even McDonald's) are painted in a "Bavarian" script. Mostly it's all about shopping, drinking, and maybe some kind of outdoor activity like golfing, hiking, biking, or whitewater rafting. There are a number of German-style restaurants. The place is pretty popular and has been going strong for decades.

We spent two nights there, walked around town, drove to a couple of nearby attractions and basically relaxed for the weekend. It was a lot of fun and the timing couldn't have been better because I just finished working on a big project for Green Ronin, so my schedule was clear!

Here are a few photos from the weekend.

Above: The view from the balcony of our hotel room.

 Below: Shots of Ohme Gardens. Built by a family from the 1940s up until the '70s. They built it on a scrubby outcropping of rock and kept it watered so the plants would grow. Now with mature trees on the land (where normally there would be none), the place is cool and green in stark contrast to the nearby barren hills and land. Now it's a county park.
Above: Thyme covers the ground everywhere.

Above: See the path in the distance? That's part of the gardens. All the paths are stone and all of the stone was brought in and laid by hand over the decades.

Above Two: The two photos above give you a sense of the scale. She's at the far end of the pond, then her again at the top of a path next to one of the stony outcroppings.

Above: Me reading the history of the place next to the "Hidden Pond" they built.

Above: One of the many, many, hand-built stairways and paths that wind throughout the garden.

Above: Me on one of the awesome benches they built of stone.

Above: My favorite bench, built under a huge stone.

Above: A picnic table built of stone. Of course. You can't tell in the photo, but there's a nice, little waterfall running down the rocks next to the fern behind the table.

Above: We stopped in Roslyn, where they filmed Northern Exposure in the early '90s, on our way back on I-90. I haven't been here since Seth and I drove through when we moved me to Seattle in 2001!

Above: My girl out in front of the mural for the Roslyn Cafe -- which is now actually the Roslyn Cafe as you can see by the sign on the left and the people eating breakfast outside.

Above: The office of Dr. Joel Fleischman, now a gift shop.

More soonish, I hope!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Quick Spring Hello

My mother is awesome and despite the fact that I have been very lax in updating here, I wanted to show her the great gifts she's sent us in the last couple of months.

The plants she sent for Easter weren't all tall and green when they arrived, but they are now! I finally remembered to take some pictures and just downloaded them tonight to show them off. We're not sure what they are yet, but we're looking forward to finding out!

The giant mass of fruit on sticks was a Valentine's gift. At least I'm pretty sure that was the holiday. Anyway, this was very popular at a family gathering and we all loved it!

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Lastly, I can't believe it's been almost four months since my last update. Reading the last couple made me remember the pain of my kidney stone, though. No fun.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Recovery Phase

It's been just a little over a week since I went to the ER for my kidney stone adventure and while I'm feeling so, so, so much better than I was a few days ago (let alone last week!), but I still get tired very quickly. I'm sure it's because my body's putting quite a bit of energy toward healing up whatever damage was done by the kidney stone and the surgery, but wow, am I sleepy.

If I had the time, I'd probably take a day or two off and just relax, do some work at a leisurely pace, read, and rest, but I'm sure I've used up any sympathy time I have at work. Actually my co-workers have been great and really helped to keep my work moving along with very few hiccups. I'm grateful for that. It's a small team and everyone is busy enough on their own.

I did a fair amount of Green Ronin work yesterday and today, so I'm feeling good about that, but I have so much more to do that I feel a little lame for taking a break here at 5:00 on Sunday to go read some comics.

What's wrong with me? Relax, man!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Absolutely Miserable... But Better Now

I arrived back from a nice Christmas vacation to see my family in Wisconsin, worked for a single day, then woke up Friday with a sore back. I thought perhaps I'd thrown it out on the plane and was just going to deal with it and go to work, but when a bout of neasea hit me in the car and the pain was steadily increasing, I turned around, woke Julia, and had her take me to the emergency room thinking I had appendicitis.

As soon as the ER doctor saw me standing at the counter in the exam room he said, "Kidney stones. I'd gurantee it." And he was right. They gave me some IV pain medication so I'd stop groaning and sent me off for a CT scan (I think) and it confirmed a 7mm kidney stone on my right side. He said it's not possible to pass anything 6mm or larger so I'd have to have a procedure to get rid of it. But, since it was Friday -- and the Friday before a holiday weekend, I'd have to deal with it using pain meds for a few days.

We picked up the perscriptions and headed home. The afternoon was mostly fine, but in the evening the pain came back with a vengeance and -- even through the oxycodone -- at about 11:30 when I knew there was no way I'd get any sleep, we went back to the ER.

Honestly, it felt like I didn't even have any pain medication in me. It was worse, way worse, than the pain from earlier in the day and by the time I was in the exam room for a few minutes I was pretty much unable to speak, moaning from pain punctuated with a scream every now and again when the pain really ramped up, and literally vibrating because it hurt so much. I can't actually tell you what any of the people looked like who were talking to me, taking my blood pressure, and trying to get another IV in me becasue I had me eyes closed the whole time. All I know is that when you make as much noise as I was the ER staff moves fast and even other patients take note. Or at least that's what Julia tells me. She said at the worst of it we had a couple people in the room and a few more hovering at the doorway to see if they could help.

Anyway, once the IV was in and they'd pumped me full of "the most powerful painkillers they had" I calmed down and then we waited and waited. I was on a stretcher and loopy from drugs, but Julia had to spend a good four hours sitting in a very uncomfortable chair, doing nothing, during prime sleeping hours (midnight to 4am), plus, she had to watch me be in pain, so I'm sure it was no fun for her at all.

End result? They sent me home with more/different painkillers for a few days.

"A few days" turned out to be five, then six days. We had the pain under control, but the drugs made me miserable. I slept or stared into space most of the time because I couldn't concentrate enough to read or even really watch TV. It was... difficult. Again, I'm sure Julia was having a blast, too.

The other big problems with the pain meds was that they pretty much stop your gut from moving things along. So even though food wasn't particularly appealing to me, after a few days I couldn't actually take anything new in because nothing was going out. Ugh, what a miserable feeling... to have for daaaaaaays!

Monday was a holiday, so we scheduled an appointment with a urologist for Tuesday. We thought it was going to be when the stone was removed, but it turned out to be a consultation and the earliest I could get the stone removed was Wednesday. That was difficult. I'd really thought Tuesday was as long as I was going to need to wait and to have the doctor say, "We can probably squeeze you in tomorrow," was really, really, deflating. Miserable.

So finally, Wednesday morning, still drugged up, unable to eat, unable to go to the bathroom, exhausted, and ready for all of this to be done, I go in the procedure. I thought it was a fairly simple, outpatient operation, but no one had really prepared us for what it actually was. I hadn't thought I'd be under a general anesthetic, but I was, I hadn't thought there'd be much of an aftereffect, but there was, I hadn't thought there'd be so much peeing blood, but there was. BUT! the stone is now out and I'm off the pain meds (even though I could use a little bit to take the edge off, but no way!). My back and side is a bit sore, it hurts to go to the bathroom, but I have something for that, and really the most distrubing thing is looking in the toilet after I pee. Not a good thing to see. Sorry if that's all a bit gross for you, but it's really not a pleasant experience and I really hope none of you have to go through it. And I certainly hope I never have to go through it again.

I remember at one point asking the emercency room doctors to "just cut it out of me." I was serious.

Okay, so, happy new year!