Perfect Moments

I just went back and read my post from the beginning of the summer. It was called “Grief Interrupted.” I talked about how marrying my ex and being in crazy town for a few years, short-cutted (I doubt that is a word) my grief process and I felt like I was back near the starting line.  I was quite the special MESS in June and the raining weather DID NOT HELP one tiny bit!  I was missing Dave . . . BIG TIME.  I was missing all that he would have added to our lives, if he were still here.  It was worthy of missing, no doubt about that!

At the beginning of the summer, when I would think of Dave, it was like I was right back near the beginning of my grief walk. It was like my whole body and mind departicalized and was transported back in time to feel the intensity of grief all over again. (Do I sound dramatic?)  One could say it was sweet that I still missed and loved Dave so much, but I DID NOT like it.  I felt like I had a long road ahead of me AGAIN!  With all sorts of grief feelings bearing down on me, I decided to ramp up my counseling schedule.  It paid off!  I don’t know if you have ever tried EMDR as a form of therapy, but it sure does wonders for me!!!  The most basic way I describe it, is that is pulls the emotion out of the memory of something really painful.  You still remember the person or the incident, of course, but your body and brain and emotions, don’t react to it, as if you were right back in the middle of it again.  Trauma is tricky biz, peeps! 

The first trip in the summer, was to the Sand Dunes.  I was hurting for Dave so hard, and couldn’t pull myself together.  By the time I was driving to Oklahoma in July, I realized that I wasn’t experiencing the same sense of loss and “I’m missing the magic of Dave,” that I had on my first vacation of the summer.  The potential for the grief to pop back up was there, but I went on to more camping trips and a trip to Connecticut and my thoughts and emotions were in a much lighter place.  I’m not going to lie . . . it is no easy task logistically to prepare to camp with three kids and get on planes and get cars packed and get camping meals prepped, and all that other stuff, but that is simply an inconvenience, it’s not some kind of deep heart issue.

So, starting at the beginning of July, I had so many “perfect moments.”  I try so hard to taste and savor and capture the memory of those moments.  One place I experience many perfect moments is at my pool. Even though, sometimes, I miss Dave when I’m there, I had multiple “perfect moments,” playing volleyball with the sun setting and my kids running around aimlessly, this summer.  One time, I even played for someone else’s team and I didn’t even know it.  I jumped on the court and announced, “I’m here.”  I played the entire MATCH, thinking that we sure had a lot of subs that night and no one even bothered to tell me that I was playing on the wrong team, at the wrong time.  That is how gracious Valley volleyball players are!

So many beautiful sunsets from the pool.
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Valleyball – Where the most important rule is to laugh a lot, while playing!
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I love watching my kids swim.  Diving off the blocks is my favorite to watch.
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I, also, love watching my kids form fun friendships!

I had perfect moments with friends, backpacking and camping. I had perfect moments just sitting on my deck.  I had perfect moments traveling to see my sister and her family. And last, but not least, it was a perfect moment when school started back up again.  I have a lot of fun with my kids, but I was ready to get back into a schedule.  I’m thankful for their love of school and for their teachers that love them so well!

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Backpacking with friends!
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I mean, this was beautiful!

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Summer, camping, campfires, friends.  I love it!

I feel so thankful that I was able to experience these “perfect moments” without the shadow of grief on them. Had you asked me if that was possible at the beginning of the summer, I would have said, “NO WAY!”  I’m guessing that grief will circle back around, because that is just kinda what it does, but I always have to keep remembering that it will pass.  It’s hard to remember that in the midst of it, but I’m learning.

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Laughing is my favorite!
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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