I wrote a letter to Pat Rothfuss.

So, if you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of Pat Rothfuss.

For folks who are new here: well, I am a huge fan of the author Patrick Rothfuss.

I don’t think I’d necessarily call myself a rabid fan, like how I used to be with Sailor Moon back when I was a teenager, but I am definitely a huge fan. I have almost every book he’s ever written (aside from the short story anthologies he’s contributed to and Your Annotated, Illustrated College Survival Guide – the former because I am a slacker, the latter because it’s ridiculously rare) – and most of those books are signed. I have prints of artwork based on The Kingkiller Chronicles – again, most signed by Pat. (The one that wasn’t signed by Pat was signed by the artist, Echo Chernik – and I’m ridiculously happy about that too.) I have almost all the jewelry that Badali Jewelry sells that’s based on the books. I’ve backed a bunch of Kingkiller Chronicle-related Kickstarter campaigns. I’ve owned three Eolian t-shirts (the first one I wore it so much it started falling apart, the second one just disappeared one day and I still haven’t found it). My car has talent pipe decals in the back windows. I cosplayed as Denna once. I quoted a line from The Name of the Wind in my wedding vows when Rana and I got married, and quoted The Slow Regard of Silent Things in the eulogy I delivered at her funeral. And I’ve been lucky enough to run into Pat at Gen Con three times – in 2013, 2015, and 2017.

… okay, seeing all of that written out kind of makes me feel a little ridiculous. Hey, when I get into something, though, I get into it.

So, what prompted me to write Pat a letter?

Anyhow. I’ve been reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things to my anxious cat Anya, to help her calm down after moving to the new house. She ended up moving a little later than the rest of us – there’s been a lot of reconfiguring of living situations among me and my chosen family lately, and J wanted to see how she acclimated to new people and new cats at the house after I moved out. Long story short: she had been stressed out due to sharing a house with five other cats, and not eating much due to one of the other cats bullying her away from her food, so we decided to move her here. After all, we’ve only got Peggy and Hannah here – and while they’re remarkably energetic for senior cats (Hannah is almost 13 and Peggy turned 15 in February, and they both still act like kittens at times), they’re also a lot calmer than the other cats Anya was living with.

Anya was not thrilled with having to move and hid in her crate here for a few days. Then it hit me: I saw a suggestion about reading to cats to help them get acclimated to new owners/homes/other stressful situations, so I pulled out my copy of The Slow Regard of Silent Things and read to Anya. It really helped her come out of her shell.

Photograph of me reading the book "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" to Anya, a small black and white cat. Anya and I are sitting in a large walk-in closet.

Yes, I am reading to my cat from the inside of a closet. Closets are Anya’s favorite places to hide.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is one of my favorite books ever, for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, I identify rather strongly with the main character, Auri. We are both anxious and easily overwhelmed. We both feel things a little too strongly at times. We both have trauma in our past that’s shaped who we are today. In addition to identifying with Auri, I also love the book because of Pat’s wonderful way with words. It is an absolute delight to read, and reading it out loud is an experience. The way Pat uses words to describe Auri’s thoughts, her feelings, and her view of the world is lyrically beautiful. I absolutely love this book.

Artwork of Auri from the book "The Slow Regard of Silent Things". Auri is underground, looking up towards a grate overhead.

Artwork of Auri from the author’s foreword in The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

It’s no surprise that I’ve been in rough shape lately. I’ve been healing from a lot of grief and trauma from just the past six months alone. Reading a book that I already had such an emotional connection to nudged me towards the point where I ended up overwhelmed with emotions, and I felt that I had to tell Pat just how much of an impact his books have had on my life.

So I wrote Pat a letter.

Writing to an author: not something I’ve done much of

I’ve only ever written to an author once before. I sent an email to Anne Bishop, another author whose books I’ve enjoyed, at one point back in 2007 (if I remember right). It was just a short thing about how I really enjoyed her books and thanked her for writing them. She actually responded to my email! I was so surprised – and so happy – to see that she’d read my email and made the time to respond.

Writing to Pat, though? That was an entirely different experience.

The letter I wrote to Anne Bishop was a short, couple-of-paragraph thing that I wrote while I was in a good emotional headspace. The letter to Pat is a four-page single-spaced hot mess of emotional rambling. I was crying by the time I got done writing the damn thing. I was very much not in a good headspace when I was writing it.

But you know what? It felt good to get all those thoughts and feelings down on paper. It’s something I’d been meaning to do for years – tell him what his books mean to me. I guess it took an emotional breakdown brought on by reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things to my anxious cat to finally get me to do it.

Dang, when I phrase it like that, my life sounds like a ridiculous hot mess right now. Having a breakdown brought on by reading a book to my cat is not a thing I thought I’d be experiencing in 2022, not if you’d asked me last year what I thought would happen this year. (I can say that about a lot of things that happened over the past six months, though.)

The letter itself

Anyway, back to the letter. It’s long, and rambling, and it talks about how much of an impact he and his books have had on me. About how him hugging me at Gen Con 2013 made my entire year, and how I was so thrilled that he took a picture of my Denna costume in 2017. How I identify with Auri, how much I love Slow Regard, and how I sat in the closet and read it out loud to little Anya to encourage her to come out of hiding. I wrote it last week, but haven’t mailed it yet – I keep meaning to, but I also keep getting distracted. (It’s also been way too hot to leave the house the past few days.) Besides, even if if it makes its way to him (who knows, it could get lost in the mail), I don’t know if he’ll actually read it. And even if he does read it, I doubt he’ll write back. After all, he’s a busy guy, and I’m just a small-time nerdy blogger who’s had a pretty terrible year that was made better by his books.

Even so, the simple act of writing the letter helped me feel better. I’ll take that as a win.

And who knows, maybe he will read the letter. Maybe he’ll even come check out the blog. (I pointed him to a post I wrote in late 2017 at the end of the letter, one where I rambled about how much I liked him.)

Well, Pat, if by some crazy twist of fate you do end up reading both my letter and this post: thank you for taking the time to read this small-time blogger’s letter, and for caring enough to come look at my blog.

(And I hope I haven’t scared you off. I know I can be a bit…extra. It’s the ADHD.)

The Crafty Nerd gets a new look

You’ve probably noticed it by now – things look slightly different around here. After nine years of the site being magenta and gold, and five years with the yarn and classic gaming console controller, I decided it was time to switch things up a little bit.

… and yes, I made a video showcasing the new logo. I’m ridiculous, I know.

Why change things up?

Well, with everything going on lately, I felt it might be time for a bit of a change. For one thing, the old color scheme is something I heavily associate with Rana, and all the time we spent working on the site together – and while I miss her so much, I feel like changing the colors is going to help give me the jumpstart I need to get working on the blog again. When it comes to the actual logo itself, I’m not that much of a console gamer anymore, so the Super Nintendo-inspired controller isn’t really a good fit anymore. All in all, it’s time for something new.

So, I made a couple of changes to the logo and site colors. Teal has been one of my favorite colors for a while now, so I wanted to find some way to work that into the logo. Additionally, while I may not play many console games now, I have always enjoyed playing tabletop RPGs. Switching out the magenta controller with a teal twenty-sided die sounded like a good change to me, and so I made the switch. Making that d20 was a bit of a process, though. (I learned how to skew objects in Illustrator in order to make the numbers look right, which is something I previously only knew how to do in Photoshop!) I almost changed the logo font as well, but it just felt wrong seeing The Crafty Nerd’s name in any font but Lobster 1.2. I wanted some change, but not that much change.

As it turns out, my office décor is turning out to be mostly teal, which works out nicely with the color scheme changes for the blog. I originally planned on painting the walls in here blue, then briefly entertained the idea of painting a wall or two purple… but now, it’s looking like teal is the dominant color in here. I’m totally fine with having my blog match my office – it kinda makes everything feel a little more professional. And I’ll admit… the new desk chair I bought in a lovely shade of mint green may have influenced my logo color choices, too. (I’ll talk more about the desk chair next week, though.)

Looking back: the original logo

While I’m talking about the logo: for those of you who haven’t been around since I started the blog, did y’all know that my original site logo was very, very different?

The original Crafty Nerd website header, with the text in a font that looks like scrawled handwriting and a cartoon version of my head and hands. My hands are holding knitting needles, and it looks like I'm knitting a very long scarf.

The original site header for The Crafty Nerd. Pretty sure I sketched that out while I was working on one of the Doctor Who scarves I knit way back in the day.

Much like the newer logos, I made this one from scratch as well – it originally started out as a sketch I doodled on some scrap paper during a meeting at work. Instead of putting together the digital version in Illustrator, though, I did it in Photoshop. And I didn’t really think about how well it would translate to things like business cards or stickers or other things I might use to market the blog. (Then again, back in 2013, I wasn’t really expecting the blog to last more than maybe a year or two, so the possibility of making stickers to pass out at conventions wasn’t anything that had entered my mind yet.) I did use the “me knitting a scarf” logo on some of my very early business cards, but it didn’t really work out well in a small format.

Picture of four mini business cards, half the height of a typical business card, in orange, blue, purple, and pink. Each business card has white line art of the old Crafty Nerd logo, and it's hard to see over the bright colors.

I can’t believe I still have some of these laying around – these were not the best business cards I’d ever made…

I could go on and on about the evolution of my site’s graphics, but I’m probably the only one who’d find that interesting. (If anyone’s curious as to what the site’s looked like over the years, check out The Crafty Nerd on the Wayback Machine starting in 2013 – before then, the domain name wasn’t actually mine) For now, I’ll just say that back in 2017 I realized I should probably have some coherent branding, and finally settled on Lobster 1.2 for the main font and created the yarn and controller logo that everyone’s likely more familiar with.

Of course, now that I’ve changed the logo and the site’s colors, I’ll need to order some new business cards, and maybe some new stickers, and maybe update the designs in the Crafty Nerd Redbubble shop and link to it from here again… I’ve already gone and ordered a new desk mat from Inked Gaming (they make beautiful custom game and mouse mats!) – I can’t wait to see how the new desk mat looks when it gets here.

New branding = more blog excitement

I’m actually excited about the blog again, for the first time since Gen Con 2020. This is a big thing for me, folks. I mean, come on, I wrote two blog posts this week, and wrote outlines for three more posts. I think that’s more than I wrote for the blog in all of 2021. I am so, so excited to finally have some energy for the blog again.

Stay tuned for what I hope will be the start of weekly blog posts, starting with next week’s review of the fancy gaming desk chair I bought!

Still hanging in there

Hey everyone – I’m not sure how many folks are keeping up with the blog anymore, but I’m still here, still trying to dredge up the energy to write new content.

It’s been a rough few months, to say the least.

I figure I may as well update everyone on what’s been going on. Not much of it is really crafty or nerdy, but at least it’s a post, right? I’ll start out with the rough news, then share the good stuff.

The rough stuff

This has been a very rough year for me. I haven’t talked about it all much on the blog, aside from Rana’s death, but depression and grief have been a constant fog over my life since the beginning of the year. And it sucks.

Saying goodbye to Steve

A black and white cat sitting on a set of stairs, looking out a window.

My buddy, Steve, enjoying the view in one of the last pictures I took of him.

I’m sure long-time followers of the blog remember my cat Steve. After Rana’s death, he and his sister Hannah came to live with me, and while everything felt unbearably terrible after Rana died, having Steve and Hannah here helped me cope. Steve especially helped me feel better – he stuck with me just like he always had when I wasn’t doing well, and his presence had the same calming effect as always.

Sadly, Steve passed away from an unexpected illness at the beginning of May, and his passing really hit me hard. Aside from the two years between me moving out of Rana’s and Rana’s passing, Steve had been by my side since early 2014. He was the best cat anyone could have asked for. I miss him fiercely, and the past month has been rough without him.

Farewell to the Fanthropy running clubs

In other sad news, it turns out that the Fanthropy running clubs are shutting down, due to legal nonsense involving Warner Brothers and the Potterhead Running Club. This hits me hard too, because doing the virtual races with the Whovian Running Club have helped me out as I’ve been processing Rana’s passing. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find a virtual running group that’s as wonderful as the folks from Fanthropy Running. At least they’re still planning on releasing all this year’s medals, so I can still finish out the season’s races for the WRC. I’ve earned quite a few medals this year so far, and may sign up for a few more virtual events from the Fandom/Whovian Running Club back catalogs to earn later on before things wrap up there.

Virtual running event medals from left to right: Fandom Running Club Keep Your Feet 5k, a Lord of the Rings themed race; Roar Your Light 5k, a Doctor Who themed race; Nearly Full 9k, another Doctor Who themed race; and the K9 9K, yet another Doctor Who themed race.

The Fandom/Whovian Running Club medals I’ve earned so far this year!

I’ve got the Kissing Book 10K and the Everything is 5K virtual events lined up, as well as the last three Whovian Running Club events. If you want to sign up for any of the Fanthropy Running Club virtual races, you can check out the back catalog of all available medals, or view the following collections of 2022 events:

The good stuff

While there’s been a lot of rough things happening last year, there’s also been a fair amount of good. And the good things have definitely helped keep me going recently.

The new house

Close-up photograph of a blue house with tan trim in the Folk Victorian style.

The new house!

First off, I just bought a new house with my dear friends Peter and Heather! It’s a lovely, giant, old Victorian house built in 1908 with enough rooms for me to have a proper office again – which you might have seen a little peek of if you follow the blog on Facebook. I’ve been working on turning the closet in my office into a small recording booth for work, which has been a good and much needed distraction. I’m trying not to immediately throw myself back into podcasting once the studio gets set up, even though I will someday have a podcast that lasts for more than two episodes. (I need to start writing blog posts more regularly first before I decide to throw myself into something else that requires sticking to a schedule…)

Anya moving in

I haven’t really talked much about Anya, the tiny cat J and Kasi and I adopted in August of 2020. (Mostly because I haven’t really done much talking in general on the blog over the past two years, but that’s my fault.) To make a long story very short, a stray kitten found her way under my co-worker’s house nearly two years ago, and when I asked my co-worker to send me a picture of the kitten so I could see it (I’m a sucker for cats, and was curious to see the wee kitty), I instantly fell in love.

A tiny kitten with black and white markings coming out of a box.

How could you not fall in love with that tiny kitten?

J and Kasi and I decided to take the little kitten in, and I came up with the name Anya (after the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character of the same name) as a bit of an homage to Rana’s old cat Buffy, who had run away earlier in 2020 and was also a black and white kitty.

Anya’s an anxious girl, and with all the changes going on in everyone’s lives over the past few months, poor Anya was not doing well at J and Kasi’s. So, we all came to the decision that Anya should come live here, since it’s much quieter here and would hopefully be a calmer place. The only other cats here are my moderately-cranky Hannah and Peggy, Peter and Heather’s 15-year-old sassy orange tabby lady, and so far things are going well with the three kitties. (Granted, that’s mostly because Hannah’s limited to exploring my room and the attic so she doesn’t start fights with the other cats. She’s a territorial old lady.) So far Anya’s been doing pretty well, given her anxiety.

A young cat with black and white markings, laying on her side on the floor and looking at the camera.

She’s not quite as tiny as she used to be, but she’s still small for an almost 2-year-old kitty.

I’ve been reading to her a little bit each night to help her calm down and get used to everyone. She especially seemed to like it when I read The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Pat Rothfuss to her – which worked out well, because that’s an extremely soothing book to read, whether it’s to myself or out loud. I’m glad little Anya is here – and I think she’s glad to be here, too.

Gen Con Online

Gen Con Online logo over a purple background depicting stylized dice and meeples.

The best four days in gaming – and I don’t even have to leave the house!

Another good thing coming up is Gen Con Online. My pandemic-induced anxiety is still bonkers, so I don’t think going to Gen Con in person this year is doable for a number of reasons, but there’s still Gen Con Online – and I am looking forward to that. It’ll be something for me to focus on for the blog that I can do from the relative comfort of home. (I say relative comfort because the attic – where my home office is – gets insanely hot during the summer. Then again, it’s not really Gen Con unless you’re stuck dealing with the heat at some point, right?)

Also, to be completely honest, I think it’ll be a little easier to go to Gen Con Online than it would be to go to Gen Con in person – I haven’t been to a convention without Rana since 2014, and I’m not sure I’m ready to go to Gen Con without her yet.

I’ll post more about Gen Con Online when the online event catalog is released on July 10th.

Doing better in general

I’m also finally starting to come out of the grief fog that’s blanketed my life since the beginning of the year. I don’t want to jinx things, but I’m feeling a bit more energetic lately, and have actually started crafting again. Granted, my first project was hemming curtains while watching Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy, but even though it wasn’t exciting, it was something. And that’s what counts.

I’m hoping to get back to posting more regularly. I have a list of topics to write about, and now I just need to figure out a posting schedule for myself that I can stick to for a little bit. I might even change up the site’s branding a little, to freshen things up a bit. I’m certainly not letting The Crafty Nerd drift off into retirement, though. This blog has been a huge part of my life for the past nine years, and while it’s been quiet since the beginning of the pandemic, I finally feel like I’m at a point where I can start writing again.

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone – not just through this long post, but through the long quiet spell. I appreciate it beyond words. 🧡

What’s been going on in Crafty Nerd land

I said I was going to start posting more regularly, so here I am! (Even though it’s been almost a month since my last post. At least it hasn’t been half a year, right?)

I’m currently in the process of coming up with some more exciting topics for blog posts, which has been a slow process. In the meantime, I wanted to share a little bit of what’s been going on in my corner of the world.

Rediscovering cross-stitch

I recently got back into the hobby of cross-stitching. I’ve completed two projects since last November, and I’m currently working on a third. Apparently I have a thing for hobbit-themed cross-stitch projects, since two out of the three projects I’ve worked on so far have little hobbit-houses as the focus:

Long-time blog readers might remember the one I’m currently working on. Back in June 2019, I posted about starting that cross-stitch for Rana. After she passed, I dug it back out and started working on it again as a way to process some of my grief, and to give myself something to focus on. I’m going to give it to her mom when it’s done.

If you’re interested in the patterns, here are links to them:

Final Fantasy XIV: my first MMO in forever

I got back into MMOs again recently! I started playing Final Fantasy XIV back in… September, I think, and while I haven’t played in a few months, I’m going to pick it up again soon.

My Final Fantasy 14 character, Ëlinyr.

I fight using books! Because knowledge is power! 😀

Yeah, I’m playing Ëlinyr as an MMO character. Did you honestly expect anything different from me?

Ëlinyr is a summoner, which is the closest I could get to her Kishar class – in name, at least, since summoners are also referred to as evokers in FF14. The black mage class aligns more with her actual Kishar powers, but I like playing a summoner more – summoners get to use books as weapons! And if you’ve followed the blog for a while, or if you’ve played Kishar in the past few years, you know Ëlinyr loves her books. I play on Crystal/Zalera, in case anyone is curious, and I would be happy to play with other folks who play if anyone’s interested.

Preparing for season 10 of Kishar

Speaking of Ëlinyr: the new season of Kishar is coming up at the end of the month! Some big things happened at the end of last season for Ëlinyr – she lost one of her closest friends, Flint, during one of the final battles. Flint was previously the longest-running member of the Adventurer’s Guild, but with him gone, Ëlinyr is the next-longest-running Guild member, and may end up having to become the “responsible adult” for the Guild. Will she take on more of a leadership role in the Adventurer’s Guild? Is she just going to hide in the library forever and only come out when she needs to rain meteors down on the enemy to save the Guild? And will the event I’ve been referring to as the “elf wedding” actually finally happen this season? We’ll find out as the season progresses, and I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated on what’s going on in Ëlinyr’s corner of the world as it happens!

Virtual races and Running for Rana

One of the things I decided to do just after Rana passed away was to participate in the 2022 season of Whovian Running Club virtual races, since Rana loved Doctor Who and she used to run with her mom when she was younger. Not only have I done the first Whovian Running Club virtual race, the Roar Your Light 5k, but I also completed the Keep Your Feet 5k, a Lord of the Rings-themed Fandom Running Club race.

Two virtual race medals I earned recently - on the left is the one from the Keep Your Feet 5k, which looks like the door to a hobbit house, and the second is for the Roar Your Light 5k, which looks like Van Gogh's Starry Night painting with the TARDIS from Doctor Who flying through the sky.

I walked the Keep Your Feet 5k in January, and two days ago I did the Roar Your Light 5k as a combo of walking and jogging and managed to do a 5k in under an hour! I know it’s not exactly fast compared to a lot of runners, but I’m still kind of new at this, and hadn’t gone for a run in AGES. Managing to complete a 5k in under an hour was a big accomplishment for me. (You can keep track of my Fanthropy Running Club races in the sidebar on the right side each page on the blog.)

Aside from everything I’ve already written about: I’ve been rewatching the heck out of Avatar and Legend of Korra to distract my brain from being depressed, reading a lot of books, migrating back to working in the office more regularly, and I’m slowly beginning to feel more like a human being and less like a depressed blob. Which is a good thing, right?

Nine years of crafting and nerdiness

Facebook kindly reminded me yesterday that it was the blog’s birthday. It’s been nine years since I started The Crafty Nerd — a project I originally thought I would tire of in a few months, sparked by my desire to have a blog like EPBOT where I could ramble about life and nerdy craft projects.

I realized I haven’t celebrated the blog’s birthday since 2019. In 2020, I think I posted about it on Facebook, but that was all. In 2021, I was still recovering from the dumpster fire that was 2020, and hadn’t posted much in general in a while, so I didn’t feel much like celebrating. To be honest, I don’t feel much like celebrating this year either, but the fact that I’ve kept The Crafty Nerd going for almost ten years deserves celebrating.

What’s next for The Crafty Nerd

A screen capture from Star Trek: Lower Decks showing Rutherford, Tendi, Mariner, and Boimler looking excited.

The Lower Decks crew is excited about what’s in store next year for The Crafty Nerd!

In past birthday posts, I’ve shared some stats about the blog, or rambled about things that have happened in general during the year since the last birthday. I’m not sure how interesting everyone finds that information, though — so instead I’m going to talk about what I want to do during the blog’s 9th year.

This year, I want to…

  • …post more regularly. I fell out of the habit of writing regularly due to the pandemic and the ensuing depression/anxiety mess I found myself in. I don’t want to feel guilty anymore about the blog just sitting here gathering dust. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll write about, but I’m sure I’ll find something. I’m going to try to get something posted every other week for the foreseeable future, and if it turns out later on that I have more energy to write, I’ll go back to the weekly posting schedule I stuck to before the pandemic.
  • …actually finish some craft projects. I think I can count on one hand the amount of craft projects I’ve finished in the past two years — I’ve made two blankets and finished two cross-stitch projects (one of which was a bookmark, so of course I finished it quickly).
  • …play more games. I haven’t actually done much gaming — tabletop, video, LARP, or otherwise — in the past few months, and I kind of miss it. The next season of Kishar is due to start next month, although omicron may have an impact on that, sadly. I’d also been playing Final Fantasy 14 pretty regularly, and I really enjoy it, but after everything happened with Rana I haven’t had the energy to play. I’m starting to feel a little better, though, so I might start playing more.

I’m thinking I can meet these goals for the blog’s 9th year. Hopefully this year turns out to be a good year for The Crafty Nerd, and I’m actually pretty excited about the blog’s tenth birthday next year. So, here’s to nine years of The Crafty Nerd — thanks for sticking with me this long, folks. I’m hoping to have more fun and interesting content for everyone over the next year.

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, Steve and Hannah. 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.

The social distancing nerd (or, how I’m surviving staying at home)

Yes, folks, I’m still here! I didn’t give up on the blog — although I’ll be honest, the past two months have been rough. I’ve been a hot mess half the time, between anxiety and depression and stress. It’s kind of hard to try to come up with topics to write about when you’re struggling emotionally, and it’s been a rough time in general for pretty much everyone I know. However, it hit me yesterday: I do have something to write about! I can talk about what I’ve been doing to help keep myself occupied while staying at home. Surprise, surprise – it’s been a lot of crafting and gaming.

Crafting

I’ve been doing a lot of crafting lately. For a little while, it was the only thing keeping me sane. I only had to focus on where to put the next stitch, or how to piece fabric together.  I’ve made quite a few things since I went into staying-at-home mode in March.

Hand sewing: more relaxing than using a machine

I did a lot of hand sewing because, for some reason, I find it less stressful than sewing with a machine. I made a lot of face masks! Everyone’s making them, everyone should be wearing them, and I made a couple of really nice ones for myself and friends. I hand-sewed them, too,

A couple of hand-sewn masks - one is made out of rabbit fabric, the next is Star Trek themed, and the last is made out of sewing machine print fabric.

A couple of masks in progress.

I also picked up quilting again! With some of the leftover fabric from the masks, I started a simple small quilt that’ll likely end up becoming a wall hanging.

Quilt top featuring fabric with cats, dragons, and rabbits on it.

My tiny little quilt top!

Yarn crafts: because I can’t just sit and watch TV

You know I’ve just about always got some sort of yarn craft in progress, too – and stay-at-home time is no different. With all the TV I’ve been watching, I need something to keep my hands busy with. I’m currently working on three yarn craft projects, all crochet:

  • a large Rozeta in worsted weight yarn (affectionately called Rozetazilla)
  • a corner-to-corner wrap using a couple of Caron Cakes
  • a Trio blanket, using three Scheepjes Whirls, which is probably the most expensive blanket I’ve ever made (Whirls are lovely, but also pricey!)

Gaming at home

Of course, I wouldn’t be The Crafty Nerd if I didn’t play any games! They’ve all been online for the most part – playing games online has been my primary mode of socialization over the past two months, and have been a good way to socialize while staying at home.

Depths of the Weald: playing Blue Rose online using Roll20

While my usual Blue Rose game is on hiatus, Kasi (who plays Paroum in the game J runs) decided to start her own Blue Rose campaign!

Screenshot of Roll20 interface, in the middle of a game.

A screenshot from the middle of an epic battle we had yesterday.

J and I and a few friends from Kishar have been playing in that game, and Kasi runs it on Roll20. I hadn’t had much experience with Roll20 before the Depths of the Weald game, but I’m enjoying it as an online alternative to tabletop games. We can use maps, I can keep track of my character sheet inside the app, and if we wanted to, we could even do video/audio chat over Roll20! (Our group tends to use Facebook Messenger’s video chat options, though.)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons — the next best thing to having an actual social life

The new Animal Crossing game came out at the PERFECT time. Everyone’s stuck at home for an indeterminate amount of time, and we needed some way to cope with it. Enter Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Screenshot of a celebration in Animal Crossing.

Not only do you get to make friends with cute animals, but you can also hang out with your real-life friends! For example, Kasi, Rana, and I took a field trip to one of our museums. We wandered around explored all the bugs and fish and fossils in the museum and took lots of pictures too.

Screenshot of people in Animal Crossing looking at an aquarium full of fish. Visiting the museum in Animal Crossing is something fun to do while staying at home!

From left to right: Rana, me, and Kasi checking out some fish.

Plus, when it’s your birthday, your animal friends throw you a party! (Yep, I celebrated my birthday almost two weeks ago, and partied with my Animal Crossing buddies Katt, Melba, and Hamlet.)

Screenshot of a birthday party in Animal Crossing.

They even made me cake!

It’s silly, how attached I’ve gotten to my Animal Crossing villagers – I won’t lie, when I came back to the game after a week of not playing, and they all said some variation of  “where’ve you been the past week? we missed you!” I just about started to cry. (I won’t leave you alone again for that long, animal friends, I promise!)

Blog posts

Now that I’m starting to work myself out of the worst of my anxiety and depression, I’m going to try to write more. Work doesn’t drain my energy as much as it used to (seriously, while I love driving, dealing with traffic in Bloomington is stressful!), so hopefully, I’ll have it in me to write once a week again. I’m going to get the What I’m Watching series back up and running again, and while I won’t have any posts about Kishar or my other Blue Rose game for a while, I’ll try to write about the games I am playing.

Thanks for sticking with me, folks — I hope everyone’s hanging in there during these downright scary times.