The self-taught student becomes the professor

Last weekend at Potrero War in California was nice. No laptop. No work. No writing. No working up patients. Just spending time in the “current middle ages,” cruising Merchant’s Row, and learning a new embroidery stitch.

I got some new embroidery floss while I was there. Okay, so I didn’t need new thread–as is evidenced by the above photo. About 20-30 are new skeins or partial skeins. The rest? Aside from about a dozen new skeins I bought to match threads I used on a new project I started, those were all ones I previously had. I just mathed it, and I had approximately 180+ skeins or partial skeins of cotton embroidery floss–some gifted, some purchased secondhand, some purchased new. I might have a problem of sorts.

On the plus side, I have plenty of floss to hand out to the people who show up for my class Saturday at Atenveldt’s Kingdom Collegium. It’ll be my first time teaching any kind of class, and my first time teaching embroidery. Am I nervous? Hell yeah, I am.

Let me back it up a bit. I’ve always been one of “those” people who pick things up fairly quickly. Almost doesn’t matter what the subject was in school or in the work field, I just absorbed whatever I saw and went on with life. This brings me to my first, biggest concern about teaching: I don’t know how to teach. I learn differently from most people, so I don’t know how to disseminate the information in an instructive manner. Take the embroidery, for instance: I have learned nearly all I know about embroidery from looking at pictorials or video tutorials on Pinterest. Yeah. Like I said, I’m one of “those” people. The annoying ones who didn’t have to study for tests and just kinda skated through school and stuff.

This learning advantage puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to teaching things. I know how to look at a how-to photo or video and recreate the thing and do it. But I don’t know how to explain what I just did. And I’ll have to explain roughly eight different stitches to up to ten people Saturday. Eight stitches that, for the most part, I learned by looking at pictures.

Now, I do have a handout prepared…with the photos that I, myself, found most useful on Pinterest. Are they going to be useful to the people taking my class? I have no clue. I’m hoping and praying they are, or at least that I can supplement the photos with my own explanations of how to do the things.

I’ll have a few things to my favor: I’ll be in person, able to show each “student” hands-on how to do the stitches. I’ll be able to take my own embroidery hoop with fabric and demonstrate the stitches. (Note to self: Prepare a hoop for my own use during class.) But will I be able to impart knowledge that I kind of assimilated?

Another concern of mine is my cursed stammering when I get nervous. And with as many as ten people sitting in and listening to what I have to say/teach, I’ll be nervous. I’m hoping they’re all nice. Last thing I need is a heckler in class. Finally, add in a generous helping of social anxiety and I’m on edge. I’ve been able to distract myself with preparations so far, but now that I’ve got all that floss organized, I’m back to reality.

This is all for a purpose, though. To advance in the path of the Arts in the SCA, teaching is kind of part of the package. It’s one thing to make art, but it’s quite another to teach it to others. Sharing knowledge is important on the path to becoming a Laurel, which I hope to someday be.

Yeah, I’ve only been embroidering for about a year and a half, and I have almost zero formal training. (I did learn a new stitch in the class I took at Potrero, so it’s not 100% untrained.) Yeah, I only got my first Arts award a month ago. But I have to remind myself that I was good enough to be approached to work on garb for one set of royals in the SCA (and to be allowed to work on garb for another set). I was good enough to help my husband with largesse for another set of royals. I’ve been asked to take part in some rather important embroidery projects for my Barony. I’ve even done the Pelican embroidery for a good friend’s elevation mantle. I may have picked it up quickly, but I have learned quite a lot, and I think–I think–I can impart this knowledge on others.

I got this. It may be intimidating at first, but once I get into the classroom I’ll just have to tell myself that I have things to teach, wisdom to share, and, hopefully, the skill to share that wisdom and help others learn a new skill…and possibly a new favorite art.

Crossing borders

It’s 0520 on a Thursday. I’ve been up since about 0230, and ready for the day since about 0330. Just another day in the surgery department, right?

Nope. I’m headed off to war–SCA war, that is. And it’s not in Atenveldt. No, my husband and I are headed to California for Potrero War.

It’s not my first out-of-Kingdom war, but it’s a new one for me, and as of right now I’ll know all of one person there (well, one person who lives in Caid… There will be some Atenveldt people there as well). For the introvert in me, it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I think I’ll do okay. I’ll have a book with me, I have some embroidery to work on, and I’ve promised my fencing teacher that I’ll at least try some tournament fighting. And if all that fails, I can nap in the tent. Lol

The forecast is looking kinda gloomy, with chilly temps at night and possible rain. I hope it’s not as much rain as Estrella had this year! A quick check online shows that it’ll mostly be before we get there and after we leave, but forecasts are notorious for being a little inaccurate. Either way, I’ve got my trusty wool Viking coat for the day and some thermal pajamas for the nights.

Supposedly the cell coverage will be decent, so hopefully I’ll be able to share some photos of the apron dress I made. I’m pretty proud of it (even though it still needs trim and embroidery), and I’m so glad my Laurel showed me how to math out the pattern so I can make more if I want to.

Well, by now the sun is starting to come up, so I’m going to get the book I brought out and read until it’s my turn to drive.

Spark-ling conversation

I’ve had an epiphany about my WIP, and it’s all thanks to a podcast I was on the other day.

I was feeling like the third book in my sci-fi series was falling flat, but I couldn’t put a finger on how to vamp it up. Then, the conversation turned to a subject that sparked an idea. Yeah, it means rewriting much of what I’ve already gotten down, but I’m not too far in yet. That means I don’t have to rewrite the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle, just the bits that don’t jive with the new direction.

Once I’ve revised/rewritten up to the point I had stopped before, it’s all new material from there. I’m glad I have a new focus, though, because I think this will add depth and interest to what was looking rather lackluster.

I’m going to get as much done before my trip this weekend as I can, but I don’t think I’ll write on this trip. Usually, if I have a WIP to work on, I bring my laptop and hotspot my phone to save changes to Dropbox. That way, I can work while I camp. This time, though, I have a book that a friend traded me (he’s got a copy of Abnormal) that I can read, and it’s been entirely too long since I’ve read for pleasure. My TBR (to be read) list is a long one, and I need to get to it. I know how important reviews are to an author *cough cough* so I want to be sure to read as much as time will allow.

This weekend is more SCA stuff, but I’m excited to be going this time. We’re going to a different “kingdom” (aka leaving the state), and I’m hoping to have some time to embroider and read while I’m on vacation.

Speaking of embroidery, I’ve now started squirreling and I’m getting my embroidery stuff out before I have this post finished! The project is long overdue, though, and the person I’m making it for has had the patience of a saint when it comes to waiting on my slow ass. Best get cracking so I can have it all done in a reasonable time.

Something old, something new, someone wicked, someone blue

I love when I get unstuck in a WIP that I’ve been stalled on for months.

Here’s what happened: I was doing a streaming podcast called “Writer Imperfect” (, and the discussion turned to a subject that kind of jump-started the ol’ brain into motion. Now, I haven’t written anything new yet, but soon I’ll be opening that file and getting down to business.

I knew that Book 3 was falling flat, big-time, and I knew I needed to shake things up somehow while still fitting with the story. Then that conversation got my gears moving, and I know now how to change the story to fit what now is going to happen.

First off, I have to go back and find where to make the shift. Then, I have to rewrite the parts that need it. Then I have to weave those rewritten parts into the existing parts to make it all fit. It’s doable, and I think it’ll make the story richer when it’s done. I just have to, y’know, do the work. Lol

Having a new direction for the story is a great feeling, especially when I was stagnant for so long. I had a major depressive episode that affected pretty much all aspects of my life, and I’m only just now crawling up out of the muck to get situated and reorient myself to being on an even keel. I’m posting on Instagram more, interacting more on Twitter, and trying to get myself balanced before I dive into anything more involved.

I know my publisher is probably ready to strangle me for not marketing/branding like she wants me to. I just…can’t right now. Every time I even look at their marketing plan posts I get anxiety, and that’s no way to live. I’m trying to get myself out of the ditch, not dig myself deeper.

For now, though, I need to rest. Spent the morning cleaning house for a guest who ended up not coming over, so I am a little tired. Also, I can’t remember if I took my pills this morning and don’t want to take too many, so I guess I won’t fight the nap. Lol When I wake up, though–it’s on!


I have few true idols in life. There are some that I look up to because of sage advice, some that I look up to because of their calibre in their field (whether it’s a field that interests me or not), and some that I look up to because of sheer badassery.

Carrie Fisher and Betty White are in the third category. Stan Lee is in the second. But today, I want to talk about a couple of idols of mine who always have words of wisdom when I am working on any art project. I can call on either or both of these men to tell me how to get through any artistic flub, block, or mishap.

I’m talking, of course, about Bob Ross and Tim Gunn.

Most people recognize Bob Ross the moment they see a picture of him. And yes, I realize he’s been dead for quite some time. In today’s media age, though, death less permanent than it may once have been. You see, Bob Ross doesn’t have to be alive to give me words of wisdom. He’s already given them to me–to millions, really.

Happy accidents. That’s right, fuck those mistakes. Make that errant brush stroke, that missed stitch, that “oopsie” into an intentional part of the work. Own it.

I’ve forgotten this advice at times. I get frustrated or upset at my mistakes, but at least in terms of art I can still hold my head high and be proud of whatever my happy accidents have wrought.

Tim Gunn is another art idol of mine–and while this one is living, he’s also someone I’ve neither met nor interacted with. So how does he give me advice?

He tells me to make it work.

How is that not inspiring? And for anyone who’s seen him on Project Runway, he doesn’t say it in a pushing, bossy, or degrading tone. Ever the gentleman, he says it in the classiest way possible.

Even when he’s not too sure about the work in progress that he sees, he’s still encouraging.

“Carry on.” He will tell you to carry on because he’s giving you the chance to prove him wrong.

“Happy accidents,” “Make it work,” and “Carry on.” Sage words from top men in the realms of art and fashion.

How can I use these words to get me through my daily life? Well, in healthcare, you can’t really make accidents happy. You can’t always make it work. But carrying on? Hmm… that one may require reinterpretation. Perhaps not interpreted as “carry on with the mistake that you’re making”–more like “carry on despite any mistakes”? I don’t know. They’re not my work idols, after all.

I think I might try to find (or design) some kind of embroidery that harnesses these three phrases, something I can hang in my house with pride.

Speaking of pride, my Laurel gave me the best compliment today after I told her about my latest “make it work moment”–She said Tim Gunn would be proud of me.

That was the boost I needed today.

So get out there. Make art. Make accidents. Make it work.

And carry on.

On the Agenda…

Okay. I normally don’t get political, or get on a soapbox about current events–but this shit has got to stop.

I’m talking about using a young man’s death to further one’s own political agenda. Yeah, it’s happening, and it makes me sick.

You have probably heard by now (unless you live in a cave somwhere–in which case, how do you get a good wifi signal??), but let me refresh your memory: a young student, just 18 years old, died in the process of trying to stop a gunman from shooting up his school. You may think well yeah, but what does that have to do with agendas? Let me tell you.

This student, as I said, was 18. He was, by law in most states, an adult…but because he was a student, people are calling him a “child” and using his tragic story to push their anti-gun rhetoric. This, in my book, is not okay.

Think about it: He knew that rushing the gunman would be risky. Dangerous. Deadly. He knew it. But you know what? This “child” made a very adult decision: risking his own life to save his classmates. And, when I look back at it, I can totally see how it might have played out in his head. He probably thought of himself as an adult, not a child. Yeah, to me–at almost 40–18 seems like forever ago. It seems so young. But for this “child”? Probably not so much. What fresh 18-year-old isn’t constantly thinking about how old they are, how they’re finally an adult? Able to vote, to serve, etc. To die, if need be. And I bet that’s what he was thinking. He was thinking about how he was an adult and his friends and classmates were mostly “children,” and he probably made a choice to sacrifice himself for them–because that’s the adult thing to do, right?

Okay, so it’s probably not the best decision. It’s never wise to rush an armed person unless you’ve had training in how to properly subdue and disarm them. I didn’t say it was a wise decision; I said it was an adult decision.

But I’ve seen many people who are focusing more on this young man’s student status, thus giving them the ability to dramatize the tragedy by calling him a “child” and demanding stricter gun control legislation. People are using this man’s death to put heat on the government and demonize the NRA…by saying he was a child.

Now, I’m not saying he wasn’t someone’s child. Everyone’s a child in their parents’ eyes, even after they’ve reached that magic age of maturity. That doesn’t give others the right to use his death to push their ideals.

To that young man, I say “Well done.” I’m not going to say that we should ban guns. I’m not going to say that the government is at fault. The government didn’t send that shooter into a school. The NRA didn’t endorse the shooter. Stop. Using. Someone’s. Death. To. Push. Your. Own. Agenda. Do I need to say it louder for the people in the back?

I know who the hero is in this story. I also know who the villains are.

They’re not the government. They’re not the NRA. They’re not the gun-rights lobbyists.

They’re the gun-control lobbyists. They’re the ignorant masses who want to diminish one man’s sacrifice to get their way. They’re the people who can’t get past their own self-righteous causes to see a man’s true worth.

One man. One brave man.

Kendrick Castillo, I salute the man you were. You didn’t get a chance to grow up into the man you could be, but you were grown-up enough to know right from wrong, and to put others’ lives before your own.

Patience is a virtue…. and forgive me, but I’ve sinned

They say it’s good to be patient. Patience builds character or something. All good things are worth the wait. Except…

Except I am highly disappointed that I can’t move forward on Escape the Light yet. I know my publisher is busy, I know they’ve got it on the docket, and I know that, once done, I’ll appreciate the time that is spent on it. Unfortunately, knowing something intellectually and accepting that thing are two different animals.

I’m getting bored in the mornings, which is my best writing time. I’m dying to see what changes they want made and to move forward with those changes. I’m restless.

I’d work more on Book 3, but I have come to a wall of sorts. On the one hand, the more I get written the less I’ll have to write later. On the other hand, if I get too far in and they want me to make sweeping changes to Escape the Light, I will have royally screwed myself.

To proceed or not to proceed? That’s my question lately. I don’t want to do the work only to have to undo it… but if I don’t do the work, it won’t get done.

Decisions, decisions….

Maybe I’ll ask my publisher what they think. To boldly go or to wait my turn?

Missed opportunities.. but not really

Today marked a big day in my SCA life, and it made me think about my personal life as well.

Today marked the day when I knew I’d never be a Defender of the White Scarf. Not that I was thinking I would be one, but I thought I might eventually have a chance. If I practiced hard enough, if I worked hard enough, y’know?

Then I got to thinking about why I stopped practicing. Why I stopped trying. Why I don’t really try to do much of anything physical anymore. And then it hit me: I’ve gotten too big. Really big. Uncomfortably big. Like, sometimes I wonder if it’s going to kill me big.

I need to do something about it.

I need to stop when I get hungry and decide if I’m really all that hungry. I need to try to get more active. And, much as I hate the idea, I might need to talk seriously with a doctor about gastric surgery. Like, dead serious.

At five feet ten inches, I am almost three hundred pounds. I might be that by now–I’m afraid to get on a scale right now. I don’t want to know. I think I’ll break down in tears if I find out.

Something has to change, though. This can’t keep getting worse.

I’m tired of being the fattest person in the room. I’m tired of not being able to breathe when I try to put on my shoes or something. I’m tired of being hungry all the time. I’m tired of seeing myself in the mirror and wanting to puke. I’m tired of seeing myself tagged in photos online and trying not to cry at how I look.

I don’t know if today’s the day that things will change. I don’t know if I’ll ever crawl out of the hole I’ve gotten myself into. It’s gotta change sometime, though, if I’m going to survive. If I’m going to accomplish the things I want to do. I need to do an about-face, and I need to do it fast.

If I’m going to get things done.

If I want to survive.


They say to count your blessings, right? I think I kinda forgot that for a bit.

Here’s what the deal is: my publisher is on this marketing/branding/selling kick lately, and with me already working a full-time job plus having other “non-writing life” obligations, it’s stressful how much they’re pushing it. Like, I already try to spend any waking non-work/non-SCA/non-sleeping hours writing, being active on Twitter, making Instagram posts, sharing links, etc., and for them to pushpushpush like they are, it’s getting to me. Can’t get blood from a turnip or something, right?

But I forgot. Sorry.

I mean, yeah, it’s stressful, but I guess in their own way they’re trying to help. My brain just isn’t wired to accept the pushing for the nudging and encouragement it’s meant to be. My whole life, whenever I’ve been pushed I’ve “pushed back” in the form of passive resistance. Basically, you push me, I dig in and shut down. My personality doesn’t dig it.

I know I should be grateful. I should be thanking the Gods that my publisher came to me and said they wanted to publish Abnormal. They saw potential, and I shouldn’t take that for granted.

But damn, I just keep forgetting.

Now, I’m not saying that for them to push in the way they are is okay by my book, but I do need to slow my roll on the bitching and get over the initial knee-jerk reaction that I have to it. They’re trying to teach strategies; my learning style just doesn’t jive with their teaching style, and I think I need to have a (level-headed) talk with one or more of them about how I would best benefit from what they have to teach. I’m sure that we can put our heads together and figure out the method of encouragement that would work best for me.

Yeah. That’s what I need to do. Talk. Not bitch. Count my blessings. Show gratitude, not attitude. (Cheesy, I know, but it is what it is.)

Epiphanies are strange.