The hardest post I’ve ever had to write

This is the hardest post I’ve ever had to write.

I’m sure all my long-time readers remember Rana (previously Ross), but for those of you who are new to the blog, Rana and I met at Gen Con in 2013, became friends, then fell in love and got married. We went to conventions and planned out cosplays together, played lots of games together, and were parents to two wonderful cats. While Rana and I split up in 2020 and officially got divorced in August of 2021, we still remained friends. We played Animal Crossing together over Zoom at the beginning of the pandemic. We still talked about conventions we might go to once the pandemic was over, and cosplays we might do. We laughed about how baffled people were that we were still so close after getting divorced.

Rana committed suicide on December 31st, after struggling with depression, anxiety, and other health issues. And even though over two weeks have gone by since she passed away, I still can’t believe she’s gone.

She’s been a part of this blog in some way, shape, or form for most of the time I’ve been running it. In 2014, she took over managing the WordPress install and helped me move the site over to her fancy, speedy servers. She even wrote a few posts. Whenever something would break, I’d reach out to her for help with fixing it. With her passing, I had to move the site to a new server, and I kept finding myself about to message her to check and see if I was doing everything right with my WordPress installation – and then I’d remember she’s not here anymore, and my heart broke all over again.

Knowing that we’re never going to get to go to another Gen Con together hurts beyond belief.

I’m trying to find ways to process all this, to remember her and to help others who are in a similar situation get help if they need it. One way I’m doing this is through Fanthropy – they host virtual races with fandom themes, and 100% of the registration fees for their races go to their charity partner, which changes monthly. The charity partner for January 2022 is To Write Love On Her Arms, which is a nonprofit that focuses on helping people who are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide – all of which Rana struggled with at some point in her life. When the post about Fanthropy’s January charity partner came across my Facebook feed this morning, I felt like it was the universe’s way of saying “hey, this might help”. Since Fanthropy is home to the Whovian Running Club, and given how much Rana loved Doctor Who, I decided to sign up for the 2022 season of WRC events – especially since my registration fees were going to TWLOHA. (I also signed up for the Keep Your Feet 5K, a Lord of the Rings-themed virtual race, because Rana loved Tolkien’s works so very much.)

I’ve been struggling a lot since her death, especially with things that remind me of her. The blog is one of those things that I’ve been avoiding because of that – we worked on it together even after we split up, and it’s always going to be a reminder of her. I know she’d be sad if I stopped writing, though, so I’m going to do my best to keep posting. The pandemic has made it hard for me to dredge up the energy to post, but maybe I can use the blog as a way to keep myself distracted, and to honor Rana’s memory, too.

Thank you, Rana, for being a part of my life, and for being such a huge part of The Crafty Nerd. ❤

Rana dressed up as Star from Star vs. The Forces of Evil.

Rana as Star – she was so excited for this cosplay, and it was one of my favorite cosplays of hers.

Coming out of hibernation

It’s been a long time since I last posted, I know. I originally started writing a post about two months ago, focusing on how we’re a year into the pandemic now and how things were going. However, I never actually finished that post. It just sat here in my drafts, gathering dust for two months. I came back to it in May, a little bit before my birthday, and figured maybe I should finish writing it. Halfway through I realized maybe I should start fresh and write something new. And then I let that post sit for two months, and now here we are in July!

So, here I am, working on coming out of hibernation! I have a lot more energy than I did when I started the original draft of this post back in March. I’ve managed to pull together more executive function than I had in May, and am feeling a lot more positive about things in general. Things are finally looking up – which is big for me. Coming out of hibernation feels like a thing I can do now.

Why was I hibernating?

Well, I’m pretty sure if you’ve existed anywhere in the world since March 2020, you probably have a good idea of why I ended up hibernating for most of 2020 and some of 2021.

The pandemic and the resulting effects of lockdown on my mental health just made me want to hide. Additionally, I was going through some personal stuff last year that completely upended my life – which included splitting up with Rana, and moving in with friends. Ending a relationship, no matter how amicably it ends, is never easy. Dealing with that during a pandemic made things that much harder. Even work wasn’t as enjoyable as it was before the pandemic. The tasks and projects I usually enjoyed doing ended up being a struggle to complete. And, as I’m sure you all noticed, The Crafty Nerd just sat here, gathering dust. I couldn’t even pull together the energy to write. The blog turned 8 years old this year, and I didn’t even celebrate that. You know I’m in rough shape when I don’t celebrate the blog’s birthday.

So, I just… existed for a while. I didn’t feel like myself at all. Nothing came easily to me. I came out of hibernation briefly for Gen Con Online, but even that was hard to do. I had no energy or drive to do much of the things I could still do while staying at home. My days typically consisted of waking up, working, crocheting, watching some sci-fi TV shows, occasionally going for a run, and sleeping. There was also a fair amount of beating myself up about not doing more with my day. I felt like a failure some days, and struggled with life in general. Even with reminding myself of the fact that I was living through a pandemic, I still felt bad about all the things I just couldn’t get done.

There was light at the end of the tunnel, though. I got vaccinated in April, and slowly started to re-enter the world.

Rejoining the world

While the pandemic isn’t over yet, there are some signs of things getting better. Things are slowly returning to something resembling normal again. I’m working in the office regularly again. I can see my friends more regularly again. I’m still nervous about going to incredibly busy or crowded places. I still wear a mask when going shopping. However, I’m not nearly as anxious about being in public as I used to be, which is good

The biggest thing that helped me feel like things are normal again happened last month. It’s something I’d been looking forward to it for a year and a half, and I’m sure everyone can guess what it was.

All the players present at the first Kishar game of the 2021 season.

Cast photo for game 60!

After a year and a half of bi-weekly Zoom hangouts and random photoshoots in the woods, I finally got to play in an actual Kishar game. Not only was it the first game in a year and a half, it was also the largest game we’ve ever had, with 50 players! I got to see some good friends that I hadn’t seen in ages, which made me so darn happy. Plus, everyone was vaccinated, which helped me feel less anxious about being in a big group. We’ve got another game coming up this weekend, and I am so excited about it.

I think what this rambling post is trying to say is that I’m finally coming out of hibernation, and am going to try to post somewhat regularly again. The posts may not necessarily be the most amazing things I’ve written, and they may not be every week to start with. I missed writing, though, and I finally feel like I’m in a good enough place to start writing regularly again.

Plus, I have this ridiculous desk mat that I’d love to be able to look at without feeling guilty about not posting much over the past year or so. 😛

My desk at home, with my laptop and microphone set up to one side and my monitor displaying this post in the WordPress editor. My desk is covered by a custom The Crafty Nerd mouse mat.

I am still alive, I swear.

Yeah, my usual “post-Gen Con posting slump” that typically only lasts a month or so? This year, it apparently stretched into a four-month posting hiatus. That’s 2020 for you, I guess.

I thought it might not be a bad idea to at least post something to say I’m alive, and I’m hanging in there. I’ve got a couple of ideas for posts lurking in the back of my head. Who knows, maybe I’ll even actually get them posted sometime in the next month.

To give this post at least a little more substance, here’s what I’ve been up to during the past four months or so:

First off, I’ve been playing Blue Rose and Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition online via Roll20 pretty regularly. It’s been fun having the chance to play in multiple “tabletop” RPGs regularly – in the Blue Rose game, I play a Vata’an healer named Lin, and in the D&D game I play Reda the aasimar rogue. They’re both lots of fun to play. (I made the following avatars using this fantasy avatar creator – however, it uses Flash, so I’m not sure how much longer it’ll be around for.)

I’ve also been sitting around, moping about not getting to play in Kishar this year at all. At least I’ve been able to funnel that Kishar-focused energy into a couple of projects focusing on everyone’s favorite sun elf. One of those projects was my attempt at National Novel Writing Month this year – while I didn’t win, I did manage to write 40,000 words about Ëlinyr’s life outside of Kishar games. It was a lot of fun to work on, and I got the opportunity to flesh out some of Alair’s character too. I also found out Alair was originally just supposed to be a one-off character J was going to play in one game, but then Ëlinyr was all “oooh he’s pretty”, and therefore our favorite elf poet ended up sticking around.

Speaking of Ëlinyr and Alair, and Kishar-related projects…

I started drawing again, after a long time (and I mean a long time) of not doing any drawing at all. And apparently I’m somehow still good at it.

Photograph of two digitalframed sketches of Elinyr and Alair.

aaaagh I have artwork that I’ve made PRINTS of and had FRAMED

Yep, I actually drew multiple drawings that I’m actually really pleased with. So pleased with, in fact, that I ordered prints of them. And even had them framed. If you want to see full versions of these, you can view them on DeviantArt – the drawing on the left is Reading in the library, and the one on the right is The Poet and The Scholar. (If you dig through my old drawings on DeviantArt, don’t laugh too hard at my older artwork. I know some of it’s terrible.) I even did some in-progress snapshots of The Poet and The Scholar while I was working on it, so I might share those with a ramble about my drawing process in another post. I especially love how that one came together, and how it turned out when it was printed.

Well, that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to recently – aside from work, anyway. I would say “I promise I’ll write more”, but I know me. Maybe I’ll be able to get at least another post or two up before 2020 ends – I’ll try, at least.

The social distancing nerd: two months later

Oh, how optimistic I was two months ago when I wrote that post about what I’ve been doing, and how I was weathering the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. I thought, “surely I can write more blog posts. I’m home all the time and have no excuses!”

I was wrong.

Peridot from the show Steven Universe, flumped over the side of a bathtub in a depressed funk.

This picture does a darn good job of summing up how I’ve felt lately.

I underestimated just how much energy I spent on dealing with what’s going on in the world, though. How hard it would be to switch gears from work-mode to relax-mode at 4 pm each day. Since I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, I have one space for both work and recreational computer time — which makes everything I do at the computer here feel like work even if it’s not. Whether it’s video games or blog posts or coloring in drawings, if it’s in front of my computer, it feels like work.

I’ve also been struggling with a lot of life issues at the moment. I don’t quite want to talk about them right now but suffice it to say; things are rough in my little corner of the world.

Plus, this is me. Even in a good year, I can never keep up posting regularly for long. I think 2019 was a record-setting year in that I posted almost weekly from the end of January to Gen Con in August. Long-time blog followers know I struggle with posting regularly. I ended up giving up on the Crafty Nerd Podcast because I recorded two episodes and then paid for an unused Libsyn subscription for six months. We know I have issues with following through on things, heh.

So, what have I been doing during the two months since my last post? To be honest, it doesn’t feel like I’ve done much — at least, not much that’s worth writing about.

I have been reading — a lot. I read through the entirety of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels. Well, re-read almost all of them is more accurate — I hadn’t read the last book until this most recent re-read of the series. I started watching True Blood back in March (since I never did finish it) and wanted to see just how wildly different the TV show was from the books in the later seasons of the show. I also tore through Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series, because I needed more easy-to-read urban fantasy in my life. Between those two series, I read 25 books over two months. (I’m a speedy reader, it’s kind of ridiculous.) Now I’m reading The Kingdom of Copper, which is book two of The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty — and I’m enjoying it.

Another thing I’ve been doing is crocheting a lot. I finished the Trio blanket I started in May, and then immediately started two more projects. My startitis is flaring up again, it seems. I’m going to try to finish all the projects I’ve currently got going before I start something new, though. (I know, I know, easier said than done.)

A whiteboard with a list of all the craft projects I'm working on - some date all the way back to 2017.

Not entirely sure if this is a complete list, but there’s definitely a lot on there…

You might have noticed that I mentioned coloring in drawings earlier — that’s because I’ve actually picked up drawing as a hobby again. I used to draw a lot when I was in high school and college, but ended up drifting away from it years ago. With some encouragement from my friend Kasi, I figured I may as well start drawing again.

Photo of a sketchbook, open to a pencil sketch of Ëlinyr.

This one’s still a work in progress, and I love how it’s turned out so far.

So far everything I’ve drawn has been Kishar-related, since I really, really miss playing in Kishar. I’ll branch out to other stuff eventually, heh.

One exciting thing I’m working on is planning out what I’m doing at Gen Con Online this year! With everything being online, I can schedule events back-to-back and not have to worry about finding out I’ve scheduled myself to be in LucasOil Stadium immediately after something held in one of the connected hotels. I’ve got a whole post in the works about my Gen Con online plans, so stay tuned for that.

Photo of my Gen Con 2020 commemorative badge. A label with my name, the blog's name, and my Gen Con ID number printed on it has been applied to the back.

You know I just had to customize my Gen Con 2020 badge.

Even though I’m not officially attending as press for Gen Con Online, I was granted a press badge for Gen Con 2020 — and covering Gen Con is a blog tradition. (I need to see if the folks over at Five(ish) Fangirls are attending any of Gen Con Online — if not, I’m definitely going to miss doing the post-con report with Rachel like we’ve done the past few years.)

In addition to all this, the Blue Rose game Kasi’s running on Roll20 is still going, and I also got the chance to do some Kishar dress-up recently too! (although honestly, do I really need a reason to throw on Ëlinyr’s gear?)

Photo of J dressed as his Kishar non-player character Alair, and myself dressed as Ëlinyr

Ëlinyr and her elf-sweetie Alair. 🙂 And the cloak I spent so much time making that I love so very much.

… huh. Writing this blog post has helped perk up my mood. I went into WordPress this morning with the goal of at least writing something. This post started kind of cranky and self-deprecating, but after writing a bit I’m feeling better — despite the Grammarly tone detector indicating my tone is gloomy. (I will say, the sad-looking emoji hits me in the feels.)

Screenshot of the tone detector in Grammarly - the top listed tone is Gloomy, with a rather sad-looking emoji.

Don’t cry, little gloomy emoji! I’ll try to cheer up, I promise.

Maybe I should try to blog more often, even when I don’t quite feel up to it. It’s definitely helped my mood today, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been doing the past two months. It might not be all that thrilling, but it got me to weite a post, and that’s something.

Nerdy tidbits: June 2019

Well, we’re almost at the end of June, which means it’s time for another edition of Nerdy Tidbits! Read on to learn more about the fun nerdy tidbits of June 2019 that didn’t quite fit into their own posts!

A crafty and nerdy tidbit: Picking up cross stitching again

Oh, cross stitch. Back when I was younger, it was one of the first crafts I picked up, along with sewing and knitting. I really enjoyed making cross stitch projects, but was never very good at finishing them. (For example, I’ve got a Sherlock wallpaper cross-stitch project I’ve been working on for my friend Josie’s birthday for… four years now?) Eventually, I told myself that after I finished the two projects I had in progress, I was done with cross stitching for a while. Since I hardly ever finish cross-stitch projects, it seemed like the best idea.

Then I found this pattern, which I thought would be perfect to make for Ross.

A June 2019 nerdy tidbit: Picture of the cross stitch pattern "Evening in the Shire".

So, I bought it and supplies to make it, and I’ve made some pretty good progress on it! I’m almost to the point where I can start all that backstitching. For those of you who are interested to see how it’s coming along, I’ll be posting occasional updates to The Crafty Nerd’s Facebook page – so if you’re not already following it, you should! If you want to make the pattern for yourself, you can buy it here on Etsy.

An awesome tidbit: Captain Janeway monument in Bloomington!

A June 2019 nerdy tidbit: Photo of a Captain Janeway Christmas ornament next to an Indiana vanity license plate that says JANEWAY.

Here’s a Star Trek tidbit for you all! My fellow Star Trek fans might remember that Captain Janeway’s birthday was last month – May 20th, to be exact. In fact, according to the show, she was born right here in Bloomington! To celebrate the occasion, I posted the picture above on Facebook – and it was shared to a group of Bloomington Janeway fans! The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective is in the process of getting a monument to Janeway built in town. How awesome is that? Fundraising is starting soon, and if you’re curious to learn more about the monument, check out the group’s Facebook page.

An old nerdy tidbit: Echo Chernik’s Auri sketch, and where it ended up

This is an older tidbit, but one that still makes me happy. When I was digging through my Gen Con archives recently, I was reminded of something that happened at last year’s Gen Con: Ross and I getting to look at Echo Chernik’s sketchbook. Specifically, we were excited about the Auri sketch for the Name of the Wind playing card Kickstarter.

A nerdy tidbit from last year: Auri sketch from Echo Chernik's sketchbook.

Here’s the Auri sketch, still in Echo’s sketchbook!

I figured that would be the end of things with that sketch, but I was wrong!

It turns out my good friend J went and visited Echo Chernik after I sent him a picture of the sketch, and he went and bought it. And it was actually in my house at one point. I may have flailed a bit when he brought the sketch over, because honestly, I never thought I’d see it again.

The same Auri sketch from earlier, being held by my friend J.

And here’s the sketch, inside my house! *flail*

Tiny tidbit: I love Bloomington Stitchery

And last, a final little tidbit about Bloomington Stitchery -I mentioned recently that I brought my Starfleet science officer uniform over to them to get it altered. Well, this morning I had the brilliant shower thought about adding pockets to the uniform. Then I realized I should have asked to add pockets to it while I was there. (Cue me facepalming.) Of course, I rambled about it on Facebook, and they said “hey, we might still be able to do that, just email us to remind us!”

I seriously love these folks, and I can’t wait to see how my Starfleet uniform turns out! If you’re in the Bloomington area and need alterations done, you should check them out.

Well, that’s the Nerdy Tidbits for June 2019! Stay tuned for next month’s collection of tiny nerdy stories, which will probably include a lot of Gen Con prep.

Little things that make me happy

Work has been crazy lately, hence the lack of a post last week.  Until I’ve got some bandwidth to come up with a more interesting post, here’s a little bit of something to tide you over: some little things that have made me happy over the past few weeks.

First off: I found Star vs. the Forces of Evil socks at Hot Topic! Of course I had to buy them.

Yaaay for Star socks!

Also, it might be silly, but seeing Toothless in his costume for Kishar makes me giggle.  Since the sand dragon hat I made him looks more like a baseball cap, I dressed him up with a headband and tunic, much like humans playing NPCs and monsters might dress in Kishar.  I think he’s adorable.

Toothless is the cutest sand dragon.

And I can’t forget about Mia, the best little scooter in the world!  It’s riding season, and through the help of my friend Jake at work, I got some new vinyl decals made for her.  I doodled up the designs in Illustrator, and Jake turned them into decals!

I love how the decals turned out – Mia looks a lot more like I’m used to again.

I also got to nerd out about playing Magic with one of the interns at work recently, haha.  I need to play more, but my brain’s been consumed with work.  Poor Saheeli needs more attention!  (She’s the Planeswalker for the Commander deck I’ve got.)

I love raining down thopters on my opponents, haha.

Oh, the fact that Detective Pikachu comes out three days after my birthday (on May 10th – which is also a bunch of my friends’ birthdays too!) makes me pretty darn happy.  I can’t wait to see it!

I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to see Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu?

And finally, on May 11th, we’ve got the first official Kishar game of the season!

The “Fan Club” will be reunited, yay!

That’s a little bit of what’s keeping me going lately while work’s been crazy!  I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll be able to put together a very brief “What I’ve Been Watching” post (long story short: a lot of Battlestar Galactica) for April, before April’s officially over!

It’s a cat picture kind of week.

I totally had all these grand plans to finally put together the Toothless shawl I’ve been working on for… well, I can’t remember how long now, and write up a post about it.  But then I ended up having to present at a conference, and I’m still trying to kick this stupid cold I’ve been fighting for three weeks now, and every night this week I’ve come home with absolutely no energy.

So, instead of an actual post with substance, I bring you Steve, helping me make an English paper piecing quilt out of tiny hexagons.

“oh hey, this is a new craft, how can I involve myself in it?” -Steve

Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve been dealing with a complete lack of energy – it’s much appreciated.  I promise I’ll have something more substantial for next week.

State of the Nerd - Winter 2019

The State of the Nerd, winter 2019

I’ll be honest, I hit a bit of writer’s block with the original post I was writing for this week – and between that and the cold I’ve been battling, it’s been a bit of a rough week.  I’ve managed to get something posted every week so far this year, though, and I really don’t want to end that streak, so I figured I might as well do a State of the Nerd post.  It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and I’m pretty sure some of you folks are curious about what I’ve been up to!  So, without further ado… the State of the Nerd!

This winter’s been a particularly rough one, mostly due to the weird weather we’ve been having. I’ve been trying to keep my spirits up with as many nerdy and crafty pursuits as I can, though.

  • I’m still working on learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and I think I’m just about at the point where I might be able to play a game without “training wheels”, so to speak. I’ve still only played against J so far, and since he knows I’m still learning the game, he doesn’t mind when I stop and ask him about how a specific card works or how many creatures I should attack with. I’m definitely still enjoying the game, and I’ve got a post in the works in the “keeping organized” series about how I keep myself organized when it comes to Magic.
  • I’m itching to get Ëlinyr’s stuff out of the garage and play in Kishar this season. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve worn the bright red dress that’s been dubbed “Ëlinyr’s stealth dress” and put the sand dragon mask on my Toothless plush, and gotten ready to play.  I’m especially excited about this season, as Ëlinyr bought a house in-game with a couple of her friends, and also bought a business! Plus, there’s a whole bunch of new plot lines to explore, and new people for Ëlinyr to meet. Before all that, though, I’ve got some new costume pieces to make for her.  I really need to get on that, since I think we might start playing again next month…
  • I’m actually going to try to play more board games, especially the ones Ross and I have bought at past Gen Cons or through Kickstarter and then let sit on the shelves in the living room, gathering dust. Board games are fun, and I think it might be a good way to add some variety to our weeknight evenings. (Currently, our evening routine involves watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica or two and then going off to do our own things – I’ll go read a book while Ross goes off to play with the flight simulator he bought recently.  Which isn’t bad, but it’d still be fun to do something different now and then.) I’ve pre-ordered a game from Amazon that I’m really looking forward to – Scram by TeeTurtle! It’s about collecting cats – how could I say no to that? Plus, the artwork looks adorable, and I do have a soft spot for cute things.
  • I think I finally settled on at least one cosplay for Gen Con – I think I’m going to dress as Lapis from Steven Universe.  I still haven’t decided on whether I’m going to wear her old outfit or her new one, but I think it’ll be a fun costume to put together either way.
  • I actually finished a craft project recently!  I finished the Russell Street shawl that I started late last year – I struggled with it a bit in the second half of the pattern, and as a result I’m not entirely too thrilled with how it came out, but hey, it’s finished! Of course, I finish one project and then start two more – I’m working on another shawl, and also picked up English paper piecing and am making a quilt out of tiny hexagons. It’s a good break from knitting, that’s for sure.

And, well, that’s about all the interesting stuff that’s been going on with me lately.  Here’s hoping writer’s block doesn’t last a second week on that one post I’m trying to write, as I think it’s another one people will really enjoy.

Happy 6th birthday, The Crafty Nerd!

Wow, has it really been six whole years since I started the blog? Wow, time sure does fly when you’re blogging.

Screenshot of what The Crafty Nerd looked like shortly after the blog was first started, back in 2013.

Things have sure changed since 2013…

That’s right, six years ago I posted my first post here, and started what would ultimately end up being a pretty big chunk of my life.  Heck, if it weren’t for the blog, I probably wouldn’t have met Ross!  (And that would be a huge bummer, having a life without Ross.)  I’ve gone to many conventions, played lots of games, and made a bunch of craft projects, all for my wonderful little blog.

Now, typically I write about the stuff I’ve done during the past year on the blog’s birthday, but I recently rambled about all that in my new year’s post – so for this year, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to indulge my inner data nerd this year and share some stats about The Crafty Nerd!

Over the past six years…

I could share more random bits of data about the blog, but I think they might be more interesting for me than for everyone else, heh. Thank you all for reading and commenting on the blog over the years – it makes me a very happy nerd!

Projects I’m working on – the winter edition

I recently had the idea to write about the craft projects I’m working on – not just to show them off, but for other reasons as well.  I’m thinking sharing what I’m working on might help keep me accountable, and remind me “hey, I should probably finish these things at some point”.  Plus, it’ll be good to see the progress I’ve made on some projects – like the Hue Shift blanket, which is slowly but surely getting bigger.  I don’t think I’ll make this a monthly series, but I do want to make a post like this semi-regularly – so we’ll see how well this works out.

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