words about words

An emery board. It’s used synonymously with nail file, though probably not by manicurists or sticklers, and you may have one in your purse or desk drawer right now. The friction and/or sound of it scraping across your claws may make you shudder. I never thought much about these and rarely use them though I do have some peeking out from the half-dozen pen mugs I have around the house.

I was loading up on craft supplies online one day and noticed something about the “strawberry” attached to pincushions made to look like tomatoes. There is a long tradition of tomato-shaped pincushions. Why a tomato? Isn’t that about the messiest shit you’d want near your sewing? Turns out that a tomato was thought to ward off bad spirits and so superstitious olds would keep a tomato on the mantle. You know cause ghosts are like, “Aw hell naw, I’m not going in that tomato house! Come on, Chuck, let’s haunt the hovel next door.”

So what did the average spirit-fearing middle ages housewife do during the winter? She’d sew up a tomato from cloth! And if she was wealthy enough to own a collection of needles and pins (Ooh! Great song!), the faux-tomato made a handy recepticle.

Where does the strawberry come in? Are tomatoes and strawberries BFFs? Look, I don’t know, they’re both red so could be made from the same scrap of cloth? The whole thing is a bit sus. BUT the strawberry is actually the important bit. The strawberry is a needle sharpener. This much I knew. You plunge a dull needle in the pseudoberry and it comes out with a sharper point. Is it wizardry? No. It’s EMERY. I thought it was a nail file, like the whole unit. But! The strawberry of pincushion fame is filled with emery which is actually a rock! If you coat a popsicle stick with this super small-grained compound of aluminum and iron oxides it behaves like sandpaper. In fact, there’s stuff called emery cloth with is sometimes used in lieu of sandpaper.

Turkey is the number one exporter of emery, and the Greek isle of Naxos is the most ancient. There are even emery, um, deposits (?) found in Peekskill, NY. So now I know and you know!

Bonus: 11 Handy Uses for an Emery Board. (The article gives twelve reasons but one is a metal nail file and not an emery board at all! Look at me, peer reviewing her lifestyle hack!)

You don’t need to buy a thing.

Magic. It’s all around us–we just need to recognize it as such. Examples?

Spell for Happiness

You’ve already got everything you need.

You’ve got the ingredients for this. You even know what they are. The magic comes in pausing and recognizing the result. Make a list of what makes you happy–no matter how trivial. Opening a new jar of peanut butter where it’s all smooth and just waiting for you to stick your spoon in? Putting on jammies fresh from the dryer so they’re all warm and you feel loved and cared for? Here are some of the little pops of everyday magic in my life:

  1. Filling up my big cup with ice water. I love my Corkcicle cup, I love my stainless steel straw (save the oceans!) and I love the clink and clatter of ice and the cold sweet water that comes from the fridge. I love knowing that water is so good for me and that I’m taking care of myself. I take the first sip–Ah! Burst of happiness.
  2. Late night on the sofa. Everyone’s upstairs in bed asleep. The dogs and cats are sleeping around me, one by the fire, one on my lap, another up in the cat tree and one more in a kitty bed. It’s silent but for the slosh and hum of the dishwasher. It’s a magic hour of solitude. Sometimes I play games on my phone or do cross stitch. Maybe I’ll cozy up with a blanket and listen to a podcast or audiobook. No one’s asking for anything and I’m not doing anymore to-do items. It’s just my time and I’m fulfilled knowing my family is safe and comfy upstairs and I can do whatever I want.
  3. Lingering in bed. Some families have a strict get your ass out of that bed policy. Staying in bed is only for when you’re sick. Not me, though. Staying in bed and reading, scrolling, napping a bit then waking up, contemplating getting up and dismissing it. When you’re the mom it’s an absolute luxury to be able to take 2 hours to get up and out and every moment makes me happy.

You have a list too. Write down the ones that don’t depend on anyone else or any outside influences. The first snow of the year makes me giddy, but my magic isn’t strong enough to summon a snowstorm if I’m feeling a little blue.

Update: It just started snowing!

The important thing is to take a moment and think “Yes, I feel happy in this moment.” Because happiness is a feeling, not an achievement or a stage of life. You don’t have to BE happy; you can FEEL happy whenever you want. Just like magic.

Spell for Time Travel

When do you want to go?

Been working so hard
I’m punching my card
Eight hours, for what?
Oh, tell me what I got

I hear these four lines of Footloose and where am I? I’m in tenth grade at Sammamish High School in 1984. It’s first period and I’m in geology class staring at the back of Mike Z’s head. He had a mouth full of braces and liked heavy metal (ew), but from the back he was all glossy black hair and broad shoulders. My hair is frizzy and I’m definitely wearing Keds. I was fortunate not to have acne, but I look about 12 years old. Footloose was the hotness and I had the soundtrack (a cassette taped off an album I’d convinced my dad to buy me). My best friend and I regularly liked to rock out to Let’s Hear it For the Boy, and was anything as romantic as Anne Wilson and Mike Reno’s Almost Paradise? I was just starting to figure out that I was never going to be the wild preacher’s daughter in the red cowboy boots, but it might be okay to be the semi-cute best friend (who like me was a very late bloomer and would come into her own in Sex and the City)

I keep a bottle of Royal Copenhagen cologne in my desk drawer. It’s a magic elixir because when I open it and breathe it in I am transported back in time. When I lived with my dad and brother. Dad sang in nightclubs for a living and he’d put on his “work clothes” slacks and an open-neck shirt. He wore short boots that I suspect he’d been wearing since the 1970s when they were in style. He wore his watch with the face on his inner wrist so he could see the time while playing the guitar. It was important to look like you were having fun onstage and visibly checking the time might kill the vibe. My dad wore Royal Copenhagen for so many years that he’d become immune to the smell. So he’d spray it on so that he could smell it–creating a miasma of scent around him. Sometimes after he’d kissed us goodbye (on the tops of our heads as we sat in the giant beanbag watching Dukes of Hazzard or Love Boat) we’d wave the air and say Pew! Nothing brings my father into my immediate presence more than the smell of his cologne. I bring Dad back from the dead with a whiff of scent. That’s powerful magic.

Spell for Teleportation

Books will take you anywhere an author can imagine.

Open a book and BOOM, you’re in Czarist Russia, trying to navigate the social intricacies of the aristocratic class. Another book will take you down the Mississippi with a runaway slave or solving a murder on an English moor. Take another from the shelf and lose yourself in the Seven Kingdoms, ancient Rome, Mars, the jungle, the desert, palaces and shantytowns and a little house on the prairie. What’s even cooler? When you’re there you can read minds. You know why people do what they do and all their secrets. You can inhabit the mind of a seagull or family of rabbits. Even a stuffed rabbit or a wooden boy. You can do anything in books: fight sharks underwater with James Bond, marry a French royal, plow fields, communicate with gorillas or aliens, captain a ship, cure a pandemic, escape from prison, commit murder, exact revenge, sacrifice for your country or save the world. If you can’t find the book that lets you teleport to a place you’re longing to explore? Write it. Create the spell to teleport people to a world YOU imagine.

Take time for everyday magic!

I know this sounds super weird, but this shit is, as Jean-Ralfio said, De-LOY-shus. Peanut. Butter. Miso. Cookies. Boom.

Oh hellz to the yes! Look at that sparkly-ass Demerara.

This recipe is from the New York Times, which typically likes to throw in some whacktastic ingredients that you will need to a: Google, and b: discover that your local Safeway doesn’t carry.

The larval stage. Chill your balls in the fridge overnight for optimal yumminess.

The whackadoo substance in this delight is merely Demerara sugar. What the fuck is that? It’s brown sparkly sugar! Oh New York Times, get over yourself.

A match made in flavor heaven.

Miso, you ask? The stuff in my soup? Yes. The miso cuts the nut butter with a non-nutty flave, and the Jif cuts the, weirdness of the miso. The finished cookie is not too sweet, not too nutty, chewy and crispy in perfect proportion.

I REALLY like them. The kid fed hers to the dog, though. So your mileage may vary. With all the supercalifragisweet treats around this time of year, this is a nice change.

I think we all have come to terms with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and its inherent troubles. If you’re late to the party, let me summarize: Rudolph’s own parents are ashamed of him, Santa is a grouchy dick, Hermy is a fucking creep. Also, do you actually think the other reindeer kids LIKED the reviled and bullied Rudy when Santa singled him out and let him lead the team? Do you like the no-talent fucksticks that get promoted right into the executive suite?

Santa Claus enjoys his day off at the movie theater.

Rudy aside, I’ve got some questions about other beloved holiday classics. Let’s start with Frosty.

Frosty the Snowman

Keep dancing, snowboy. You’ve got less than a day to live.
  • Why are kids in school on Christmas Eve?
  • Don’t Karen’s parents start to worry when she doesn’t come home after school? Didn’t they teach her not to go off with strangers?
  • Why did only Karen get to participate in this hat-heist? What about the little kid that wanted to name the snowman “Oatmeal”?
  • Why is a bunny the moral center of this tale?
  • How is it okay that a little girl has to WATCH FROSTY DIE? The first time I saw that puddle in the greenhouse I nearly made my own puddle.
  • Why does Santa drop Karen off on her roof? How the fuck is she supposed to get down to her panicked parents and a cadre of the local cops?
  • Why a broom? Like, what does that have to do with anything? I could see maybe a snow shovel…? Considering he’s being pursued by a murderous magician, perhaps Frosty would have been better off with a shotgun.

Miracle on 34th Street

Was he miraculously healed? Or is he….
  • Doris the mom doesn’t want to lie to her daughter, but she’s okay with letting the weird single childless man next door babysit her?
  • Why does Fred have twin beds in his apartment?
  • While the kindly Kris is locked up, who’s running shit at the North Pole?
  • Why is alcoholism so hilarious? First the parade Santa is schnockered, then the lawyer gets his wife shitfaced to agree to something.
  • The cane at the end. I get that it’s so that we know Kris was there. But, doesn’t he need it? Was he pretending to need it? Or is it leaning there because he’s DEAD, like with Tiny Tim’s crutch in A Christmas Carol?

The Santa Clause

Why am I such a misfit?
  • Why do small boys in movies have that wretched bowl cut? Do you know grown men with a bowl cut? No! You don’t, because they become mass shooters/serial killers. It’s like they all go to the same incel alt-right barber.
  • Why does Scott have such a big house for a single guy? I get he has the kid on weekends or whatever, but that’s a lot of house.
  • Why is Bernard? Why the hair? Why is he the only adult at the North Pole? Why is he such a snarky ass?
  • Do none of these elves give a shit about the Santa that fell off the roof? Like, a moment of silence perhaps? Nope, it’s business as usual. Not one elven tear was shed for that poor sucker.
  • Why is fat shaming sooooooo hilarious? It’s not.
  • Why do they make Neil such a shit? He’s not a villain, he obviously cares about the kid, and he raises some legitimate concerns. It seems like this falls under our great American tradition of equating intelligence with weakness.
  • As a child I had Christmas dinner at Denny’s once and that depiction was spot-on. Some other 1970s child of divorce must have been responsible for this scene.
  • Do we really have to keep depicting fathers as hilariously inept at cooking? Would a man who couldn’t cook even attempt to cook a turkey? And who was going to eat that huge-ass turkey?
  • Do you think the kid will grow up to throw Scott off a roof so he can become Santa? He should watch his back.

Confession: I think I may be getting a little TOO acclimated to not leaving the house.

I mean, sure, nature is out there, and I am grateful for it. But out there is where the people are. And unlike Ariel, I do not want to be where they are or see them dance. Unfortunately, I have learned from our recent election that there are MILLIONS of complete racist, sexist, selfish, bigoted assholes in our country. And if you’re white and were born here, they may seem perfectly nice. But they aren’t. If you are okay with racists, you are a racist. Period.

It’s just creepy to be in a store (the grocery store and the craft joint are the only places I’ve visited in FOREVER) and know that behind half of the masks are people who think having your children ripped from your arms is a reasonable price to pay for crossing the border illegally. That think black people should be held to an entirely different standard in dealing with police. That people marching for civil rights are a fair target for teargas.

I kind of thought some of this bewildered rage would dissipate after the election. But, those hateful selfish people aren’t going away. They live among us! And even if they weren’t cool with elderly and immune-compromised folks being sacrificed on the altar of robust stock market, they honestly scare me.

In many ways, this first year of the Pandemic has been a blessing for me personally.

  • My family unit did not self-destruct. I believe we are closer and stronger than we were in February.
  • I wrote. A little bit.
  • I’ve finally learned to be completely present. (what else can you do when the future is a big blank?)
  • Since we couldn’t travel, we spent our money on shit that needed doing around the house: trees trimmed, gutters cleaned, windows washed, closet and pantry made over.

Meanwhile, instead of chomping at the bit to get out and see people and do things, I’m pretty okay in here. I’ve learned to live without needing to leave the house, and so I no longer want to leave the house. It’s to the point where, if I have an appointment which requires my physical presence, I feel particularly put out. How DARE you ask me to leave my safe, warm, cocoon.

Is this how agoraphobia begins? You don’t have any need to leave your house and then eventually you don’t want to leave and finally you’re too terrified to leave?

Like you, I’m losing all sense of time. Each day is like the one before. Some days are exciting: we get a delivery! Good times.

I feel as though the anxiety is ramping down a bit. It seems like we’ve seen the worst, and, as long as the people in charge don’t jump the gun and let us out before we have testing/tracking available for EVERYONE, things will improve a little bit as time goes by.

Here are some things that suck:

  • School is cancelled for the rest of the school year.
  • Girl Scout camp is canceled.
  • CrimeCon (May) is rescheduled for October.
  • Our 14 year old cat died one night, in my arms, as I attempted to give her mouth-to-snout.

On the bright side:

  • I had all three kids at home for Easter!
  • I’m still afraid of my sewing machine, but am able to make masks–albeit slowly–sewing by hand.
  • The onions, broccoli, and green peppers I planted are not yet deceased!
  • I FINALLY read Diary of Anne Frank. (Not that it’s *bright*, but it was high time to read it)
  • We’re having a Quarantine Christmas on April 25! There will be some minimal decorating, cooking baking, and presents! Mama Claus is not coming down the chimney,  nor in through the skylight, thank you.

Also, I hereby renounce wearing bras! This is only possible due to my reconstruction/reduction surgery in November. The rest of me may be old and saggy but I’ve got the tits of a sixteen year old!

My therapist taught me a cool thing called “Beauty Meditation” which I nearly always call Beauty Bathing. When you get stressed or overwhelmed or just superblah about the situation, she says to stay still and focus on something beautiful and just appreciate it for its loveliness. Maybe it’s a painting or sculpture, maybe it’s a pattern of light on the wall, or perhaps the nature outside your window.

I like to sit in my zero-gravity lawn chair in the backyard, and bathe in the warmth of the sun. Beauty isn’t just visual, after all! I close my eyes and just focus all my attention on the warmth on my skin and the dappled light behind my eyelids. Breathe in the smell of new spring life. Listen to the birds, see if you can hear the sap rising in the trees.

This may be the only time in our lives that we can be still long enough to really BE.



Little House on the Prairie
Alexa and Katie (my 10 year old is watching it, but I get sucked it. It’s really good!)


Diary of Anne Frank
The Last Hours (It’s about the Black Plague and it’s by a great mystery writer, Minette Walters)
The Body: A Guide for Occupants


This Podcast Will Kill You (multi-part eps on Covid-19)
100 Years of Solitude read by John Lee
Dubliners read by Andrew Scott
Bruce Springsteen Live: 75-85

I’m feeling more in control–even if that control is an illusion.

I actually got a call from my doctor’s office in response to my message about upping the dose of my anxiety meds, and I have a phone call scheduled tomorrow.

Anxiety-wise, Kid 3 is having a rough time and is super needy. It doesn’t help that she’s now been running a low fever for two full weeks. Yesterday she had three sobbing meltdowns. She wants me to stand in the doorway while she brushes her teeth because she’s scared. She had a Zoom session with her therapist and she seemed more relaxed afterward. Still, at bedtime I stayed in her room, petting her hair and listening to a Sleep Story on Calm until she fell asleep. Her favorite is The Secret Lagoon.

By a stroke of luck, the Quarantine Present showed up and that distracted her from her troubles for a while.

Indy and Joss

American Girl Joss, and Kid 3.

Yes, I realize that’s not a thing and is in fact pretty ridiculous, and my online shopping will need to be curtailed. Because I also bought a Wonder Woman onesie. And a panini press.

Oh, and a bubble machine for the dogs.

Beyond the Kid 3 drama, we did have some bright spots.

I made gumbo in the crock pot and it was delicious and super easy. The most time-consuming bit is chopping veggies and of course making the roux, stirring forever and ever until you get that brick red color.


Not even close to dark enough!

Speaking of cooking, believe it or not I’ve had some people complain about the food. To the person that is providing 3 meals a day and doing all the fucking dishes. Let’s just say I was not happy, so I am going to publicly shame them here and now.

Kid 3: “We’re having gumbo AGAIN?”

My grumpier half: “You’re not making the HelloFresh? I had mac and cheese for lunch and was hoping for something more substantial.”

Grumpass, similarly: “It’s not going to be ready until 7:30?!” *walks away with a bitchy face*

So. Instead of murderizing anyone, or letting the completely unfair comments stew in my gut, increasing my anxiety, I made a new rule:

Anyone who complains about the food doesn’t get to eat for two days.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Today is the first day of remote learning for my fifth grader, aka “Kid 3.” But, Kid 3 (and her older sister, Kid 2 (24) have run low fevers since the 4th of March, so I have been effectively quarantined for a long time. Kid 2 is on medication for psoriatic arthritis, and is immune-suppressed. Side note: She called the nurse hotline because she had all the symptoms of Covid-19 and they told her to come in to the office and get tested. When she arrived they had no tests and their only advice was her was to rest and go to the ER if she got “worse.” I insisted that she and her 4 month old Sheltypoo come stay with us so I could keep an eye on her health and Ripley (the pup) could run with her pack (my two dogs, Juno (mini doodle) and Gunny (Pit/Boxer/Shepard/Collie/Beagle).

Did Kid 2 have Covid-19? Probably. We all probably did. I kept Kid 3 home from school, but my husband kept going to work and stayed away from our sick girls as much as possible.

So now we’re here.Kid 3 doing her remote private schooling, Kid 2 returned to her own apartment with her puppy, and Kid 1, who is 28, is working from his home in Brooklyn, NY. My husband keeps going to work, and I, well I am going crazy.


At first it was sort of exciting/fun/dramatic, like getting snowed in. But we’re not just talking about inconvenience and messy roads now, are we? Now it’s death, and recession, and who knows when or if the world will get back to normal.

So my anxiety is high. SO HIGH. My dreams are back-to-back high stress epics in which things are lost, and I don’t know where I am, and where’s the dog, and why am I wearing this, and who forgot to lock the door to keep the bad guys out, and oh, there’s my dad, come back to life and disappointed in me. I’m exhausted when I wake up, and I stay up too late trying to avoid the cavalcade of anxiety dramas.

My therapist gave me an exercise to do before bed and I share it now with you:Visualize, one by one, the locked doors and windows of your home, each person and pet sleeping soundly and peacefully. Then zoom out and observe the quiet neighborhood. Imagine a light surrounding your home and everyone in it. Cast this protection spell, tell yourself “You’re safe. It’s okay to sleep.”

I sent my doctor a message about upping my dose of anxiety meds. I really wanted to ask for Xanax, but was too afraid she’d think I was a drug addict or something. She’ll probably see the message in June or so.

We have plenty of supplies, and are comfortable financially. I’m doing what I can to support local businesses and charities. I know I should be getting outside more, but the anxiety has wreaked havoc with my tummy.

Maybe things will calm down when the news stops coming. Every day it’s wham, wham, WHAM with the bad news. I’ve suggested that my son come home before they close the airports.

I miss my dad so much. I’m grateful that he’s not here to get Covid-19, but he was my go-to when I got scared, and right now I’m very scared.

I’m also very very starved for space and solitude. Maybe that’s why I stay up so late? I think I’m going to start a family project: Do Not Disturb signs for each family member. Everyone is entitled to some privacy, yes?

  • Why is every activity for adults [fun thing] and wine? I’d love to paint and cook and craft, but I don’t like wine. I don’t want to pay for the wine and not drink it. I don’t want to get the “WTF is wrong with her” looks when I’m the only one not chugging wine.
  • Why do schools/offices/whatever hammer home the stay home if you’re sick message and then get pissy when you do?
  • Why is clearly looking at the climate disruptions–they’re here! they aren’t going away any time soon!–seen as “giving up”? We absolutely can do something about it, but we can’t stem the tide at this point. We have to deal with the mess we’ve made. It’s gonna suck, and people, animals, and plants are going to die. But to turn your face away from the facts and say “We just need to recycle a little harder and call your congresspeople” is tantamount to clapping your hands if you believe in fairies.
  •  3/5th of an octopus’ neurons are not in its brain, but in its tentacles.


  • How is the stock market not just gambling? Who made up this horseshit?
  • As a species, we made the wrong choice when we decided to stay in one place to farm and keep livestock.
  • I understand why moms carry the emotional burden of the entire family, but I don’t understand how to push some of that shit off my plate and back on the plate it came from. Yeah yeah, “boundaries”, but how? Who nurtures the nurturer?
  • Sometimes the world is so beautiful that it physically hurts.
  • Who invented health insurance and how the fuck is it legal to take people’s money and then fail to provide the service that was promised?


  • Here’s my idea to get money out of politics: First, taxes pay for political campaigns. Each candidate who wishes to run would first have to check some boxes that include tax returns, background check (if you wouldn’t be allowed on a school field trip, you have no business governing), blind trust agreements activated the moment they take office, psychological testing (like cops have to go through, but y’know better). And then once there is a vetted pool, each candidate is provide with x # of ads, x # of printing resources for stickers, yard signs, etc. It wouldn’t be about who has MORE money it would be about using your resources wisely. Campaign contributions would be forbidden, and campaign finances would be overseen by a government agency. Id’ rather get money out of politics than put up a fucking useless wall of bigotry.
  • Insidious mindfucks: the graphic novel Beverly and the film Melancholia.


  • Some dinosaurs had dual oviducts and lay two eggs at a time.
  • If you happen to be arctic soil, you will need to remain frozen for two years to be considered “permafrost”
  • I think only violent criminals should be incarcerated. Those who commit financial crimes should be sentenced with YEARS of community service. Like that’s their only job: elder care, cleaning graffiti, trail-keeping in public lands. If they fuck up, they get another six months. Then they’ll be doing needed work and they’ll be learning what it’s like to do physical work.
  • Is anything a casserole if you bake it in a casserole dish?
  • When society collapses I think combustion engines will be more useful than electric–at least until the gas goes stale.
  • I want to visit places that we will soon lose to climate disruption (the glaciers, the Everglades, etc) but getting there contributes to the problem.
  • How to balance self-care with weltschmerz?

Elf earsMy son is pissed.

“MOM. I tried for YEARS to get you to play D&D, and you wait until I move to New York to start playing?!”

“Well,” I explained. “I thought it was math. All those dice and hit points and stuff just didn’t sound like fun.” (Look, I’m a super lib flaming feminist, but I do not like math. Not in a game, not in a frame, not even aflame.) “But then my brother explained that it’s collaborative storytelling. And so I gave it a shot, and I LOOOOOOVE it.”

No one is more surprised than I am to be playing a weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. I like comics, video games, science, tech gadgets, Star Wars and Legos. My nerd cred is solid, I was just missing one of the final slices of the Nerd Pie: role playing games. (I still hate Lord of the Rings. Deal with it.)

nerd pie

After my dad died, I guess I just became more open to trying new things. Life was never going to be the same without him in it, so why not, right? I had to create a new normal.

d n d table

My husband brought home the D&D Starter Pack, and we gave it a whirl one Thursday night in March. The pack comes with pre-made characters and I chose a Human Fighter that I named Appleseed. Like Cher, she had but one name, though after our first big battle I gave her the surname Goblinkiller.

Our party consisted of my brother, my husband, a friend, my daughter (then 9) and me. We had an AMAZING time. We decided then and there that we weren’t going to finish the starter pack module–we were going all in. And oh lawdy did we go all in: there’s so much cool shit you can buy: dice of every color, spell cards, dice towers (My kid got a pink one), players manuals, modules, mini figures, terrain maps, and on an on.

3d printer characters

We turned our dining room into a D&D palace. We’re even considering pooling our money and investing in one of those kickass custom game tables. My husband bought a 3D printer on Prime Day and has been turning out figurines, cave tiles, a dragon, and is currently working on custom mugs.


My first character was Ara Moonwhisper, a high elf warlock with the Morrigan as her Elder Fey patron. She was lethal with her Eldritch Blast cantrip, and though I intended to play her sort of academic and detached, she turned out to try to help every time it was an option. I think the rest of the party got annoyed with me talking our way out of battle. But hey, if you can get the cloud giant and his army of ogres on your side when you’re about to battle two red wizards and a white dragon….

We finished our Horde of the Dragon Queen module and decided to take a break from our powerful level-8 characters and start a new campaign with a party we call The Uglies. The rule was we couldn’t create a character as human, elf, half-elf, halfling or gnome. Basically, nothing too human. We ended up with the following in our new party:

  • Desdemona the Tiefling Bard
  • Nala Dragoncloak the Dragonborn Wizard
  • Dench the Half-Orc Ranger
  • Jittik the Winged Kobold Monk
  • Zek the Kobold Paladin

On our first outing we were also joined by Scrawk of the Highlands, an Aracokra Barbarian played by my visiting son who was finally getting his chance to nerd it up with the fam.


dice tower

My brother is the DM and is having a magnificent time creating the story and it’s especially fun because he can change the story based on the weird things we do in-game; not just based on pre-set outcomes. For instance, our party killed a bunch of zombies that were locked in a turnip and pig farmer’s barn. He didn’t have any money, so we took payment in turnips and I, being a bard, charmed him into giving me a piglet, which I carried in my pack with her head out so she (I named her Petunia) could see. Scrawk and Zek were constantly trying to eat her.

The next week, Petunia caught the eye of an Ogre Druid in a small town. She said she could talk to animals and reported that Petunia missed her mommy. I gave her to the Ogre to return. My brother laughed and said “I didn’t think you were going to give up the piglet–you were going to have to fight the ogre!”

Now while Ara Moonwhisper was quiet and diplomatic, Desdemona is decidedly not. She is loud and brash and, well, kind of a bitch. I’m having a great time playing her, and I can’t wait to see where the story will take us.

Here are my top five benefits of D&D

  1. Spending time with my brother. Before our dad died we probably saw each other a dozen times a year and now we’re as close as we were as kids (though I’ve stopped beating him up and he no longer follows me and my friends around).
  2. Sparring with my husband. We’re engaged with one another without phones or TV or anything to distract us. Plus when his character teases mine or vice-versa it kind of vents any pent-up annoyance in a good way.
  3. My daughter is getting smarter. Adding modifiers to attack rolls is exercising her brain, as is making strategic decisions about which weapon or spell to use. hairflipper
  4. Her confidence is growing. Inspired by my Appleseed Goblinkiller character, she named her Human Fighter in our first campaign Apricot Hairflipper. And every time she kicked ass (which was often–that girl was TOUGH) she’d grin and flip her hair. Or when a party member asked, “Do you think you can take out that giant spider?” She’d reply, “OF COURSE I CAN, I’m Apricot Hairflipper *flip*”
  5. Family time. Imaginative play. Creativity. It’s all good.

This is the most fun I’ve had in years. And Scrawk of the Highlands will be back at Christmas.

roll for initiative


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