Midwestern festivaties commenceth

After a looooong drive, we are now in the Midwest, hanging with the in-laws and preparing for much holiday merrymaking. However, they are on dial-up, which is slower than a turtle with a sprained ankle. Luddites!

Fun things accomplished: 1. Programmed the folks’ home phone speed dial. 2. programmed mother-in-law’s cellular phone and introduced her to the magic and wonder of musical ring tones and voice-recognition dialing. I’m not sure how to make a call on any of their phones, but I know how to program them. Hee!

Hobkin is with his godmother, but he was a very unhappy lil skunkie. We dropped him off at the vet’s office (where his godmother works), and he equates the vet with evil badness. There was much clinging and he exuded “don’t-leave-me-here!” which was absolutely heartrending. I miss him already. I wish skunks weren’t illegal in Illinois so we could take him with us to visit his grandparents.

Conclusion of parental visit

Packed the folks up and sent them to the airport via the MARTA. They’re on their whirlwind way to Syracuse and then to San Diego, and then back to China where they’ll stay for a week, before flying to Finland so my step-dad can teach an intensive 3-day class before they get to sightsee that area for a couple weeks. Goodness, but they’re definitely keeping busy!

Learned a few more fascinating things about my step-dad. He was in China during the Cultural Revolution (!), and with his education, was shunned as an enemy of the state. He was accused of being an intellectual and a capitalist sympathizer. His mother, another scientist, was accused of being a capitalist and exiled to the countryside. Lots of fascinating and jaw-dropping stories from that time. Now I need to read up on that time period. I wasn’t very interested in it before–finding ancient Chinese history and mythology much more to my taste–but some of the happenings from that time are stranger than fantasy.

My folks and fosteronfilm and I had dinner at Fung’s Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant in Roswell [920 Woodstock Road Suite 200, Roswell, GA 30075, (770) 643-1161]. It’s a Buddhist vegan place where they sculpt and create meat simulations out of tofu and wheat gluten. It was delicious! I had their Seafood Delight. The only meat dishes I still have occasional pangs of longing for is seafood. The fish tasted exactly like I remember fish being like. The shrimp was a little less accurate, but it was still very yummy. My mom had a faux chicken dish, and fosteronfilm had their faux roast duck. I had a taste of both their dishes, and the chef got the texture and taste of both chicken and duck down really well. I also picked up some free Buddhism literature as we were leaving–not just skinny pamphlets but full books–to add to my research pile. For local folks, I highly recommend Fung’s if you’re in the area. Their food is exquisite, and the environment is quiet and soothing. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have a website.

I did end up getting a bit melancholy by the conclusion of the evening. I kept thinking about how I really wish I’d grown up with my step-dad as my father figure, rather than my largely absent biological dad and all the conflict and ugliness of his and my mom’s relationship. My step-dad is such a good influence on my mom. He’s an incredibly intelligent man with a kindly disposition and an easy sense of humor. And he and I have so much in common. He has a real interest and passion for the old Chinese folktales and myths, and he’s really supportive of my interest in them. Despite working in a library and being a huge proponent of literacy and education, my mom never shared my interest in fantasy and science fiction. What would my childhood have been like with him as a mitigating influence on the friction between my mother and myself, I wonder?

More parental musings

New information gleaned from folks during visit thus far:
My mother has four stepsisters whom I had never heard of before. Now, for some reason, when I was a child, my mother withheld basically all family history from me on the grounds that I was “too young to understand.” This has left me with a fragmented understanding of my family tree as she also confusingly insisted that I call all of her female friends when I was growing up “auntie.” My dad skipped out on us when I was three, and family information from his side was, consequently, a bit sketchy as well. Hence, when my doctors ask me about my medical family history, I stare blankly and go “ummm.” I actually have a better idea of my step-dad’s family tree. Anyway, two of these newfound step-aunts have passed on, both apparently to breast cancer. It leaves me feeling quite strange, knowing that I had kin I could’ve met who have died before I even knew their name. You’d think, since they were strangers to me, that it would leave me unaffected, but I feel quite sad that I never got a chance to even talk to them. . . . And I still don’t know their names.

My mother also keeps in touch with my aunt’s husband, a man who I didn’t know existed. Obviously my aunt was married, she has two kids–my cousins–and they all lived with us for a while (which, I suspect, is the only reason I know about them) but her husband was never mentioned. I thought he was either dead or some sort of nefarious super sekrit military operative of which One Did Not Speak.

My mom’s taken up belly dancing. She introduced me to dance, had me taking ballet lessons when I was three, and she’s always done Tai Chi, so yeah, a lot of kinesthetic appreciation when I was growing up. But now she’s doing belly dancing. I am inordinately amused. I bet she doesn’t wear midriff-bearing outfits to class, though.

Things that made me go huh:

In the course of their visit, my mom grabbed one of Hobkin’s hind legs (while he was napping, so she didn’t knock him over or yank him off his paws or anything), and commented that it had plenty of muscle, that this would be the tasty part to eat. She also said that his fur would make a nice coat, and upon seeing his teeth, wondered whether his fangs could be filed down so they weren’t so sharp, and as a corollary, whether we had a muzzle for him. Err. She likes animals, really she does. More amazingly, Hobkin continues to like her, even though she wants to muzzle him or file down his teeth, or turn him into a casserole or a coat.

My folks have a very different philosophy on supervisory philosophy. My step-dad’s is much like fosteronfilm‘s and mine, namely: In the end, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. My mom thinks you should whip your subordinates into shape so they can take over from you when you leave. It sounds like she yelled out, threatened to fire, and intimidated her staff when she was working–which, uh, sounds a lot like her parenting style. My folks get into arguments about my step-dad’s work. He’s kept on as a consultant at the university where he was a professor, so they call him in for the really hard stuff they can’t solve themselves. My mom wants him to delegate the most recent project, which is apparently a pretty complex and tricky one, to his students, but he doesn’t think they can handle it so wants to do the key parts of the research himself.

They really want me to visit China. And I’m wanting to more and more, thanks to my step-dad’s influence. The gardens, and palace, and great wall, and the history of the place just makes me go all “oooo.”

Mooncake and books!

My mom and step-dad are here. (fosteronfilm and I engaged in a manic fit of scrubbing and cleaning and vacuuming yesterday, so the house is presentable.) They didn’t sleep well last night, waking up at the ungodly hour of 4AM, so we had an early night today. We ordered some Chinese delivery (don’t ask me why my folks insist on eating Chinese food when they travel to the states) and hung out at the house.

They continue to be both enchanted by and somewhat trepidatious about Hobkin. They stood around watching him eat dinner, which undoubtedly discomfited him a bit. And my mom thumped him on the head when he was napping (she thinks his ears are cute) and pulled on his legs (ditto cute paws), and he put up with it with remarkable forbearance. I think the women in my family have some sort of animal zen. It’s the only thing that explains it. If anyone else had taken such liberties with him, there would’ve been blood.

And my folks brought prezzies! They got me a three-volume set of Journey to the West, the story of the Monkey King and assorted folktales associated thereof.

My step-dad engaged in some traditional storytelling as I was oohing and aahing over the books they’d lugged for me all the way from China, telling how the mythological Journey to the West is based upon some real events, people, and places. We discussed the Lady of the Moon, Chang’er, and the origins of the Monkey King. He’s into Chinese mythology. Is that not totally cool or what?

And mooncakes!

I haven’t had mooncake since I was a little girl. I wrote several Chinese folktales concerning the Spring Festival and the Lady in the Moon, and ever since I’ve been craving them something fierce. fosteronfilm had never had mooncake before, so we split one. (For anyone who hasn’t experienced them, it’s not sensible nor wise to eat a mooncake all by yourself. They’re quite rich.) These ones have a sweet green filling, not as sweet as red bean paste. I think it’s lotus seed paste. Yumf! Now, I am full of mooncake. Happiness.


Writing Stuff

Received a 65-day personal reject from Sheila Williams of Asimov’s. She thought it was “charming,” but not for her. She did invite me to try them again.

Parental visit stressing and quotation memes

My mom and step-dad are visiting this weekend from China. The house is a mess, and I’m all freaked out again. Yes, their last couple visits have actually been enjoyable, and yes I quite adore my step-dad, but I’m still stressing myself loopy about their impending arrival. I waffle between abject denial, “don’t clean, don’t prep for their arrival, don’t think about it,” to absolute panic, “AGHHHH!!!” *twitch*

Here’s a couple nice, safe, non-parental memes. *twitch*
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Parental Visit and Skunk Annoying

Got an email from my mother. She and my step-dad are coming to visit in October from China. They’re doing a tour of the U.S.–part business and part pleasure. He’s got a conference in Chicago to attend, and they’re visiting family and friends en route between California and New York. My step-dad has gotten me a three-volume set of Journey to the West, the mythological fantasy of the Monkey King! Isn’t that the coolest? It’s amazing how fond I’ve become of my stepfather in such a short amount of time. We’ve hit it off quite nicely, and I’m not unaware of the irony that he knows my proclivities and tastes better than my mother does. Gimme books over pink dresses any day.

Hobkin is slowly metamorphosing from a bratty summer skunk into a couch potato autumn one. I followed him around with the camera as he contemplated getting into mischief. He was less-than-pleased by my attention. Or perhaps it was the flash.

Digging at the hardwood floor. I’m not exactly sure what he thought he was going to accomplish doing that.

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Hobkin ate a candle!

Had a very pleasant evening with fosteronfilm‘s brother. We had homemade pizza, beer bread, and birthday cake for dinner (yum!) and spent the rest of the time chatting. I adore Matthew’s family. I also get a kick out of watching the Foster family traits and seeing how genetics carry over–my repressed psychology researcher coming out. Matthew and his brother are very much alike in some key ways, moreso than I’d realized before. Not having siblings, I find such parallels downright fascinating. They both have interests that they’re fervently passionate about, being able to talk endlessly about their respective subjects if allowed. For a while, it was Matthew talking about movies, then his brother switching the subject to historical medals and related stuff, then Matthew volleying the subject back to movies–later, rinse, repeat. Eventually, I turned the conversation to family reminiscing, and it stayed there for the remainder of the night. Hee! My in-laws are adorable, every one of them.

However, as I was putting away the cake, I tossed away the blown-out candles, but unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d dropped one of them on the floor. Hobkin discovered it, and since the base was still covered in yummy chocolate frosting, immediately snarfed it down. I looked down to see him eating something, and puzzled, I tried to see what he’d gotten a hold of. The only thing left was a few slivers of wax. In the past, if it had been one of the ferrets, I would have panicked and rushed him to an emergency vet clinic. However, after our Styrofoam peanut experience, I wasn’t freaked. I was a bit concerned about the chocolate in the frosting, but overall, I’m counting on him being fine. Skunk digestion tracts are pretty hardy, especially compared to ferrets. There’s really no chance of the candle causing an obstruction. I suspect the tiny bit of chocolate has given him a slight upset tummy, but there wasn’t very much. We’re watching the litter boxes to make sure that all *ahem* comes out fine in the end. So far he’s already shown that he’s not obstructed, and I think I saw the wick, but Matthew was less certain. . . that’s probably TMI, isn’t it?

Helping dire_epiphany with a huge pile of edits for the Dragon*Con program book. I shall be scarce this weekend . . .

Home again home again.

Back home in Atlanta. The house is still standing and all is well. I’m too wired to sleep, which is why I’m awake at . . . 5AM. Five in the morning?? *facepalm* I’ve got much to do, mail–both e and snail–to catch up on, and Dragon*Con and Tangent work that needs my attention. But generally, I’m just glad to be home. My domicile is my sanctuary and my retreat; it’s where I recharge my soul. No matter how much I enjoy going out and doing things with people I love, I’m always relieved to get back and sleep in my own bed, surrounded by familiar things. Assuming I can get to sleep . . .

Our flight in was delayed by a couple hours due to a rogue t-storm, but at least it wasn’t canceled like our flight out. There’s a certain irony to being delayed by a thunderstorm during a drought. Their first rainfall in weeks and we brought it with us from Atlanta. Probably about as much rain as we could have fit into our suitcase too.

fosteronfilm‘s folks hired a limousine to pick us up and take us to the airport. The first limo was a white stretch. It sported champagne glasses (that we didn’t drink anything out of), soda and beer in little refrigerated compartments (that we didn’t partake of), and a set of televisions with attached VCRs (that we didn’t watch anything on.) It also had a moon roof–which I did peer out of–and sun roof, which I didn’t. Pretty swank. Apparently the cost of hiring a limo to get to the airport from Matthew’s folk’s house is pretty comparable to hiring a taxi, so my in-folks think, what the hey, why not travel in style? The second limo was much less ostentatious. It was just a regular Grand Marquis, no stretch. But the second limo driver took us through the winding back ways to avoid traffic congestion due to a couple accidents, and also through secret “service vehicle only” entry roads to O’Hare. He got us to our gate in plenty of time, but then we had to wait around anyway because of the delays. There were a lot of cross-looking people at the airport all harried and anxious. Airports really aren’t conducive to soothing.

Once the flight back to Atlanta got underway, it was absolutely lovely. There were some gorgeous clouds we flew through and over. Our flight timing was such that we took off just as the sun was setting and were treated to the sight of fluffy monolith clouds shading gold and silver by turns. I just knew there was a fairy city in them if I only looked hard enough, where fey creatures with huge feathered wings soared. After I spent some time peering out my window in delight, I grabbed my camera and started clicking. Didn’t see any of the cloud city denizens, though.

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A Day at the Races

Having a lovely time with fosteronfilm‘s family. There’s quite a drought going on up here. The grass is brown and dying, and apparently the corn crops are a loss this year. Weird. On Friday we had flash flood conditions in Atlanta.

The in-folks treated us to a day at Arlington Park yesterday. I’ve never been to a horseracing track before. It was huge. And very white. We were inside–thank God, it’s hotter in Illinois than it is in Georgia, which is just wrong–sat in shaded air conditioned splendor overlooking the track for the whole afternoon, nibbling on brie and chocolate cake. Very decadent. Nine races in all. fosteronfilm and I bet on six of them, and promptly lost our twelve dollars. We’re so not gamblers. But our philosophy on it was that the money was paying for the enjoyment of having a horsie to root for, so it was all good.

The horses were beautiful. There was some excitement in the final race. In the jostling to the finish line, a horse went down, throwing his jockey and knocking another one off his mount. The second rider got to his feet, very shaken, but walked off the track without needing assistance. But the first jockey went down in a throng of horses, and while I know that they’ll do their best not to trample a person, there was really no way for them to not step on him. He went rolling under their hooves and when the horses were past, he wasn’t moving. I wonder if he got kicked in the head. The ambulance guys came running and immediately went to work on him. The track didn’t give any details about his status. I still have no idea if he’s okay, or even alive. I plan to do some Googling to see if I can find a news article about it. A sobering finish to the day.

[Edit: Just found this article on the accident. Jockey and horse are still being evaluated and their injuries treated, but at least I know the jockey isn’t dead.]

I also wonder about how the horses are treated. They looked incredibly well cared for–they were sleek and spirited. But there’s also a listing on the program to indicate whether the horse is on Lasix, which is apparently some sort of drug. And, of course, it was very hot. I do tend to think the horses probably have a decent time of it. At the very least because they’re worth so much money. If people are going to make the financial investment into racing, they really can’t afford to abuse, neglect, or starve their horses. I hope.

Writing Stuff

34-day reprint SALE of audio rights to “The Life and Time of Penguin” to Escape Pod. “Penguin” is going to be made into a podcast! I’m so jazzed. I’m a total Escape Pod junkie. Ever since I discovered these folks, I’ve been jonsing to have one of my stories turned into an mp3 reading. And even better, Stephen Eley, the editor, is going to try to get a little girl to read the part of the, err, little girl. *happy dancing*

Safe at the in-laws

After some frustrating travel fits and starts, fosteronfilm and I are safely at the in-laws. Details of the ordeal to be posted later. In brief, aside from our flight being cancelled, my hubby is apparently considered a security risk by the airline. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him wear his Resident Evil: Apocalypse t-shirt to the airport. The words “evil” and “apocalypse” might be too much for the transportation security officials . . .

The folks are on dial-up, so LJ updates by necessity will be brief.

Writing Stuff

35-day reprint SALE of “Second Daughter” to The Sword Review. Thanks keesa_renee for encouraging me to submit to this new market. Woohoo!