How Does Journaling Help?

There is, of course, a myriad of choices for support for the anxious person of today. Any Google search will give you a list of things to do, symptoms, prescribed and not-prescribed help. While no academic expert, I can give a story and some personal advice as to what kept me sane.

The journals I kept through High School

High school was far-and-away one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and not for the usual reasons. During the economic crash of 2008, my family lost our job and our house just before I started 9th grade. We lived in the homes of church families for a year.

The first house was with the Anderson family. Their family of six was accommodating and gave us spots within their house to sleep. My parents took the teenage girl’s basement bedroom, while she moved in with her littlest sister. The youngest boy slept with his parents and the middle daughter and I shared a room. My little brother set up a bed in the open basement. There we lived for three tension-filled months.

The four of us then moved in with a foster mom with experience in sharing her space. I shared with two daughters my age, my brother slept in their homeschool bedroom, and my parents took the master. The foster mom slept on the couch where she was already sleeping to keep an ear on the babies in the nursery. We shared that space with several foster kids in our nine months there. One was a small baby who had partially drowned and remained in a coma through her short month stay with us. One a twelve-year-old boy with severe autism and clubbed feet and hands.

Two babies came through that the foster mom adopted: a tiny baby with primordial dwarfism that looked like a doll, and a baby who was left in a hotel room and rolled off the bed, ending up with a severe brain bleed. The baby with dwarfism has since grown into an active girl who speaks using sign language, and the baby who had the brain bleed is now a prodigy elementary school boy.

Our divorced family was also going through some very personal drama, and all the while the undercurrent of stress about money lived in our minds. Meanwhile, I also turned 15 and was learning to cope with a measure of adulthood, feeling lonely beyond belief in my seemingly more mature problems and pretending it didn’t exist to family and friends. We moved out into a house my grandparents bought in 2009.

Luckily for me, just a week before we lost our house I was on a trip to Montana where I bought a composition notebook on an impulse and began to write everything that was going on during my day and my thoughts about it all. During that year of homelessness, I went through four notebooks. I rarely wrote about the real problems: hearing fights, wearing socks with holes in them because I didn’t want to be a burden, feeling like I was no matter what I did. I wrote about church drama. I wrote when I was scared or felt neglected. I learned to channel my energy to things that were easier to grasp. I’d write long soliloquys about the petty stuff and would graze over the big stuff, barely touching it.

I kept the habit up until 11th grade, when my loneliness threatened to overwhelm me and I felt that what used to be petty stuff had become big stuff. I was afraid that writing it all down would make me feel it more. I felt ostracized by my homeschooling and lost in the house we lived in. I had learned to bottle it up to keep from being a burden, so when I acted out, it always took everyone by surprise.

I now wish I had never stopped writing. Writing gave me a voice when I felt like I couldn’t talk. I’d complain about my roommates during homelessness and bemoan that I felt unworthy of friends or crushes, and it made me feel better to get it out to something that wouldn’t immediately say “That’s ridiculous, everything’s fine.” It felt like I could be me on the paper, even if I felt I couldn’t be me anywhere else. It’s a habit I’m trying to find again.

So this is me, 8 years later, trying again to get my feelings and myself down on paper. To stop feeling held back by what I “should” feel and just say how I really feel.

Here are some journaling prompts that I will use and I hope you’ll use them, too. Let me know how they go in the comments.

Journaling Prompts:

  • What happened today that made me feel sad?
  • What happened today that made me feel happy?
  • What parts of today did I have no control over?
  • What parts of the day did I mess up?
  • What do I really feel about what today was like and how would I rate it on a scale of 1-10?
  • Did today affect what I think of my future?
  • If I look back on today, will I feel like it was a good/bad day still?
  • Can I do anything about the situation I am in now?
  • What do I wish had turned out differently about today?
  • If I could make someone see one thing about how I really felt, what would I choose and how would it have changed anything?
  • If I could go back and change something about the day, what would I change?
  • If I was angry today, what do I wish I could have or would have said?

CBD for Anxiety Relief

When I was in college, a ton of people started to pop up around me talking about the magic qualities of natural oils. I sent out a signal once on our school Facebook group that I needed some DayQuil/NyQuil for a sinus infection I had. One girl reached out and had me go to her room, where she told me she didn’t actually have medicine, but she had oregano oil and had me rub it on my chest.

I went back to my room still stuffy, pretty annoyed, and smelling like a pizza.

When I first heard about CBD oil, I had all but made up my mind that it was a bunch of hoopla mixed with placebo effect. When I heard that it had “proven” effects for helping things like anxiety, weight management, joint pain and poor sleep, my ears perked up. I looked into the science behind CBD and spoke with a wellness doctor.

I found that CBD is harvested from hemp. Hemp is cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC (the part that makes you high). CBD & THC both affect the release of neurotransmitters in your brain, which are the agents by which we receive messages of pain, stress, sleep and your immune system. The key difference is that chemically, CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors in your brain and hence doesn’t produce the same psychoactive effects that THC does.healthline.com

So for someone with chronic pain or stress, CBD dulls those parts of the brain that communicate that pain or stress. CBD also works to relax the body by dulling those senses, making it easier to fall asleep. All other effects that CBD is often related to all tie back to that dulling: weight management is easier when your stress and cortisol levels are lower. It can be used to treat seizures because of that same relaxing effect, and so on.

The quality of oil you get matters, however. Knowing where the oil is sourced, how well its effects are researched from a particular brand, and the quality of the plant they pull from all matter. I can’t speak to any other brands, but on my research I found Equilibria, a brand that says it is specifically made for women and offers dosage specialists to help you find the amount and time that works best for you. (This is not a paid promotion, this is just what I found!)

I started with their daily dropper. After a week, the dosage specialist recommended I split my 10mg dose, one 5mg in the afternoon and the other 5mg around dinner.

I made an Instagram post when I first started, so a lot of my friends knew I was trying it out and they asked me how it was going. I showed them my chart I use to track the general calorie range I eat from day to day.

My system quickly shows me my ebb and flow during a week – a green day is under 1800 calories, a yellow day is under 2300 calories and a red day is over those.

My chart in October showed 2-3 red days a week with 1 or 2 green days. Those first three weeks in November I saw an instant change: I had 1 red day and I was stuffed. I still had only 2 or 3 green days, but I was sticking around yellow days mostly and felt really satisfied. If you remember my Emotional Eating post, you’ll know that I can tie most of my over-eating and binge episodes to emotional/stress related things.

That lowered stress (during election week of all things) was having an insane impact on my eating habits. I also stopped taking melatonin to sleep and found it was easier to wake up. I felt over-all calmer – I didn’t feel like I was hovering near an edge, about to fall off.

It’s now been over two months, and I find that missing my evening dose makes me hungrier at night, and missing both doses makes me feel frazzled. I don’t feel that this is a side-effect so much as I believe this is how my normal once was, and returning to it is really jarring.

Overall, I recommend CBD! Which is not what I thought I would be saying. I thought trying it would put the idea out of my head and I’d have to go back to my pell-mell way of coping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not 100% better or have 0 bad days anymore, but I’ve found it easier to get back up and easier to avoid than before.

How did your experience with CBD go? What other brands do you recommend? Let me know here, in my contact form, or on Instagram!

https://www.instagram.com/allroadsleadtoyum

Mech Men Session Four

Day 5, Wednesday (continued)

Tired and sweaty from their trek through the sewers, the party travels back the way they came to return the two creatures they captured to Professor Blendy. The hallways are mostly empty, they pass a few groups of people heading for a bit to eat. There are some food booths still open from the celebration.

Molander says, “Lufus might be expecting us.” The party recalls that they told Lufus they would see him that night at the bar.

They arrive back at the large metal door to the lab, which is now closed. They knock a few times and out steps a small young man in a set of dark robes. His bluish-dark hair shines in the light of the hallway torches and he smiles at them, nodding. “I believe you are the group I am waiting for.”

“Where’s Blendy?” Mildred says.

“I have a message for you from him. As I see you have brought the creatures he has asked for -” He clears his throat. “Thank you very much for the safe return of my creatures. Please leave them with my messenger who will set them inside of my office for me. I have had an urgent call that demands my full attention and I apologize that I wasn’t able to be here in person to thank you. I hope some gold will communicate my thanks.” The messenger pulls out a large bag that clinks happily. “There should be enough to split between the four of you.”

The party pauses, confused and wary. “Are you sure he said that? Where is he?”

The messenger smiles again. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know! He only told me the message exactly and said that you might tip a good messenger like me…” He holds out his hand and winks. They look down at it and spot a small, glowing scroll – a thought strand.

Alfios grunts and pulls out a gold coin to give the man and sets it in his palm, picking up the scroll at the same time. Immediately a voice enters the heads of Alf, Milly, Molander, and Ralf. It’s Blendy; “I will be in touch. If you find anything else, please send me a message by thought strand if possible. If at all within your moral grounds, please withhold this information from anyone else, including the Selesnya. Say nothing out loud.”

The party looks at each other, startled. They follow the messenger, who picks up the two creatures and carries them in through the door.

The room is empty as before, except missing Blendy. The tables are mostly untouched, except for the Professor’s which is now much more tidy. The party searches his desk (after a few coins to the messenger), and find only some paper clips, aspirin, normal pens and pencils. They search the underneath and find a key that opens the bottom, locked drawer.

They open it to find that it is recently clean – hair and dust, a stray pen, but no false bottom.

They try the door behind the desk again, but to no avail, it does not unlock.

The party sighs, and heads for the door. The messenger locks the door behind them and runs off into the dark. They head for the stairs at the entrance of the Zonot – the long slope taking them up. As they get higher, they realize it has begun to rain and the stairs are quite slippery. Alfios and Molander catch themselves with little trouble, but both Ralf and Mildred slip and fall a few steps, hurting themselves.

Along the way they discuss how tired they are and find that Ralf and Mildred seem to be disproportionately tired. They wonder if it has to do with the mermaids they encountered in the sewers. As they approach town a small store with a flickering light in the window comes into view. A gnomish woman in purple robes and a beaded headpiece exits quickly and latches onto Milly. “You, girl! I sense much turmoil in your life. Allow me to read your fortune. The Worldsoul may have much yet to tell you.”

She pulls them into the front room of the shop which is lined in rugs and delicate tapestries, covered in knick-knacks and beads. It smells strongly of incense. She takes Alf’s hand in hers. “You, my dear, I will start with you. You seem like one to trust fate. I will read yours at only the cost of a kiss.” She pulls Alfios into the back room, which is decorated much like the first but with what looks like stations around the room.

She leads him to two plush arm chairs. She perches on one and gestures for Alf to sit on the other. “Payment first, dear. Those who don’t hear what they want to hear tend to blame the messenger.” Alfios shyly kisses her and she takes his hands in hers to read his lifelines.

“You’re a musician, a master of your craft. You rely on your tool of choice to express yourself.” She pauses, tracing another line. “Trusting yourself may not come easy. Give yourself the space to learn without pressure.” A long pause. “Your soul may never find rest. Your life line branches in unexpected ways. Your only chance is the one you’ve yet to reject. Lean to your instincts.” She sighs. “I see nothing more – clearly, any way.”

She leads Alfios from the room, calling to Milly to join her. When Milly enters, she leads her over to the crystal ball. “Yes, here, dear. The ball will have something for us.” She sits in front of the ball and instructs Milly, “Now, don’t touch – but focus your energies into the ball. Think of you, your life, your desires, anything at all, but think it towards the ball.”

She places her hands on the crystal and breathes in deeply, closing her eyes. When she opens them, she fixates into the inside of the ball, which begins to swirl with smoke. “I must wait for the smoke to clear, to show me…. I see…. I see a puppet pulled on my silver strings. It acts foolish, dancing, when suddenly – oh! – it attacks the puppet-master! And now… ah… the strings are cut.” She sighs. “The mist swirls back in. Now I see a wooded area, an overturned cart, arrows in trees, a dagger in a chest.”

She adjusts in her seat as the smoke swirls over again. After a long pause, “One more for you, in blue, so it’s a parable. A single wolf, surrounded by enemies – howling far off in the distance. Spears descend on the helpless lone wolf…. and that’s all my dear.” She nods to a confused Mildred and leads her back out the door.

She crooks one finger at Ralf and brings him over to the carpet in the middle of the room. “You and I, I think, we will toss the bones.” She empties a small pouch into the goblin’s hands and tells him, “Acquaint yourself with them. Let them get to know you.” She stands and fetches a small black-furred skin and lays it felt-side up with markings drawn all over. Ralf perceives that they are bird bones.

The fortune-teller returns and asks him to toss the bones on the skin. The bones land in odd ways and the teller stares at them for a moment before speaking.

“This piece here,” she gestures. “These lay end to end to end, meaning your fate has been set and you can do little to stop it. Here, where one piece is set far away; your friends will isolate you. Be wary of their decisions.” She pauses again. “These two, stacked almost on top of each other, one you know shares your fate. Possibly more than one.” She sighs, “You are a depressing bunch. This one here,” she points at a piece that broke when he dropped it, “You will experience loss in a short time. Keep your head.”

She then leads him out of the room and gives them all a small biscuit, each containing a slip of paper with a cheesy fortune on it. She gets her payment, and the group walks out the door.

The party finally arrives at the bar and see that they are not the only ones to feel very tired after a day of activity. Lufus is clearly exhausted, covered in a sheen of sweat, and so is Billius. Rice and beans is the dinner meal and the whole bar is fragrant with rosemary and beer. The place is not quite crowded, and Lufus comes over to their table to sit.

Ralf descends on him. “Your girlfriend tried to kill me.”

Lufus stops short and then a small smile appears on his face. “Ah, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. She’s fiesty.” He laughs. “What did you say?”

“All we said was her name and your name!” Mildred says. “What did you do to her?”

“I did nothing! Nothing -” He holds up his hands a second, defensively, and then puts them down. “That was the problem. I courted her and I left. I knew she’d want for everything I wouldn’t be able to give it to her. I would have done anything to feel differently.”

The party stops, suddenly understanding. “I’m sorry, Lufus,” Alf says.

“Ah, it’s alright -” Lufus says, waving a tentacle. “God, I’m tired. I’m going to hand out some flyers and get everyone out of here. Close down early. Even Billy looks tired.” He goes to the back and pulls out a stack of papers, all with a crudely drawn elf with overly-pointy ears, holding a mandolin. It says “SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY” in big letters. Lufus hands these out to the remaining patrons. “Return these and it’ll get you a free drink Sunday.”

The patrons are understanding, giving Lufus a slap on the back as they leave. “Argh, take care of yerself, old man!” They say.

Ralf is especially tired, ready to fall asleep in his chair. The group leaves and heads to the healer’s hut, where Milly finds a note addressed to Ralf in crude handwriting. She quickly opens it and reads, “Gotta see ya. Something’s happened. Stop by the Izzet as soon as you can. Ask the minotaur to ring for me. -Ron”

She closes the note back up and hands it to Ralf. Alf follows Molander into the sleeping room, where he finds him digging through his pack for sleeping pills again. “If I may…” Alf begins, “Why do you take sleeping pills? Us elves, we don’t have to sleep, so I’m curious.”

Molander stops with his hands in his bag, tense. He eases after a second and says softly, “I just… I don’t like being alone. It’s easier to be asleep.”

Alf nods and returns to the other two, who are discussing why they’ve been especially tired and they begin to wonder if they are going to sprout metal limbs like Isaachi did. Alf promises that he’ll keep an eye on Mildred that night, because she’s particularly worried about it.

Day 6, Thursday

Ralf and Milly wake up suddenly, looking over their bodies for changes. Ralf finds a metal left forearm and a metal right hand. Ralf decides to forgo wearing gloves, but Alfios goes to purchase some for him.

When he goes in to see the merchant, she looks rather tired as well. He purchases a pair of white gloves and asks for them to be dyed pink. She agrees and says they will be ready by the following day.

They head to the Lonely Goblin and see an uncomfortable Billy. They see no metal on him but hear a faint clank on every other step as he leads them to their table.

Kwela is back and working, though she looks pale and worried. Mildred asks her if she’s woken up with anything metal and Kwela turns bright red and leaves. Lufus hears them talking to her and sticks his head out through the kitchen door. “Hey! Get in here!”

They get up from their table and walk into the kitchen where Lufus shows them his right tentacle. It is now metal-plated with fleshy suckers sticking out of it. “What. Is. Going. ON.”

The group begins to wonder aloud if this has to do with the creatures, the mermaids, or Isaachi. They ask Lufus if Isaachi is coming into the bar soon and Lufus tells them that he usually comes in every Thursday at lunch.

They get Lufus to promise to keep Isaachi until they return and decide to go see Ron and respond to his letter. The minotaur at the front desk points them to a nearby conference room and they wait. When Ron enters, he’s wearing a neck brace.

“What the hell did you do to me?” he rounds on Mildred. “Remember my neck? Two days ago, the day after I saw you, I woke up with… this!” He rips off the neck brace to show how his head now swivels on a metal neck.

Mildred quickly cuts him off, “This isn’t my fault, look -” she points out Ralf’s arm, and her own hand which is now pale. “Do you know Isaachi?”

“Isaachi? That construction fellow? Sure, I saw him last Thursday at the Goblin. Stayed late that day… why? What happened to him?”

The party glances at Ralf, who grimaces, and they explain how his pinky and now hand turned metal and they are beginning to wonder if Isaachi is spreading a disease that turns people metal.

Ron visibly pales, “But what else happens? Does it spread? Several guys in my department have gotten rashes like mine! What am I supposed to do?”

The party pauses, unsure. “We…. don’t 100% know what you should do. Stay away from other people, I guess. Stay away from Isaachi!”

“Stay away from people? You want me to go hungry? Are you barking mad, telling me about this when you don’t even have a proper solution!”

The party collectively sighs and tells Ron they’ll keep him in the loop but they’re working on the investigation.

Now around lunchtime, the party heads back to see Lufus and hopefully Isaachi. They sit down with him and see both him and Sarah. Sarah has a metal finger now, she twirls on Isaachi’s arm at the bar. Lufus and Isaachi are chatting at the bar, gesturing to their various metal appendages.

The party approaches and begins to quiz Isaachi, accusingly. “Lots of people are turning metal and you’re the start of all of it!”

After some explaining and defensive statements, Isaachi becomes scared. “You mean… you mean I’ve infected a bunch of people with some unknown disease? People are turning metal because of me?” His fear now turns to hopeless panic. “This is all my fault. Can we do anything? I’d do anything.”

Mildred shrugs. “We… we don’t know what you can do.”

Isaachi pulls away from Sarah and races to the front door, careful not to touch anyone, and leaves.

The party begins to talk, discussing the sewers and realizing that it’s likely that while Isaachi is “Patient Zero,” that the creatures are also infecting people. They debate returning to the sewers, returning to Selesnya, quarantining people – when Molander steps in.

“We are not quarantining anyone. Solitude will do nothing but drive everyone mad.” His tone is low and threatening. “Besides, we have no clues that this is life-threatening in any way yet.”

After an hour or so of debating, Mildred sees a tall, dark-furred and skinned centaur step out of the shadows and beckon to her. Mildred follows him to a corner. Though he wears the clothes of the Azorious, he shows her his Dimir insignia, the sign of a spy. Mildred reveals her own and he responds in thieves cant1, in a low voice, “I heard you need a message shared.”

Mildred nods. “It must be a thought strand.”

The centaur pulls out a shining tiny scroll and holds it out to her. Mildred puts her hand on the scroll and thinks, “It’s spreading like wildfire and we’re trying our best to contain it. It has been moving faster than we can handle it. We need to meet up to tackle this pandemic immediately.”

The words appear on the scroll only a moment before disappearing.

“A secret shared is a secret kept,” the centaur says, holding a finger to his lips and disappearing into mist as he steps back into the shadows.

Kwela takes off of her shift after a strict warning from Mildred not to continue working at the parlor next door. Billy’s clomping metal foot is getting quieter as he gets used to the sensation and the party discusses how cutting off an appendage before the metal takes place might be helpful. They turn to Mildred and look at her hand.

“Are you joking? I’m not cutting off my hand.”

The party retires to bed after a long day of debate. As Molander pulls out his sleeping pills again, Alfios approaches him.

“How come you don’t like to be alone? Why don’t you meditate at night anymore?”

Molander pauses. “I used to.”

Alfios presses, “Then why not now?”

Molander sighs, holding the pills in his hand. “I was quarantined once. When I was very small, 200 years ago, I was believed to have a plague that they were in the process of ridding from Ravnica. My symptoms persisted for six years before anyone decided to see if it could be anything else. Turns out, I was allergic to the foliage that surrounded my abode at the time.

“I spent nine years in solitude, pushed food through a hole. It messes with you. I can’t be alone like that anymore. Meditating is too close to being alone.” Molander brings the pills to his lips and swallows them. “Good night, Alfios,”

“Good night, Molander.”

Day 7, Friday

Mildred awakes with a metal hand as expected. Alfios described the transformation as glimmering, shimmering skin that morphed slowly like legs moving under a blanket.

A message is sitting outside of Mildred’s door when they wake – a small, shiny scroll. When she picks it up, she hears “The Rakdos perform outside the 6th precinct.”

Isaachi meets them early at the Lonely Goblin. He sits at their table, looking tired as if he had hardly slept. “You ok?” They ask him.

Isaachi shakes his head and reveals his forearm past his hand. The metal has now spread to cover the entire area of his arm below his elbow. “I don’t know what to do. I feel like I have to decide whether to live normally or to hide and beat myself up over this.”

They talk to him for a bit, encouraging him to just do his best to not touch anyone.

Isaachi’s head straightens as they talk. “I’m going to work now, I’m running late.”

“What made you decide so quickly?” They ask him.

“Because,” his head faces them robotically for a second, “It is the logical thing to do.” He marches out the door.

1Thieves cant is a language spoken by rogues and spies to keep information hidden.

Click Here to Go Back to Session Three

New Year’s Resolutions 2021

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last 20 or so years of your life making “New Year’s Resolutions” that are supposed to make you into a “NEW YOU.” The thought of a new number on the calendar and Januaries bring in this chaotic idea that this is the Monday-est of Monday’s – this is the perfect time to create a whole bunch of new habits! I’m going to:

  • Go to the gym four times a week! (When I’ve been going once or maybe twice)
  • Eat nothing but whole foods! (When I know I have no time to really prepare meals)
  • Learn to speak a new language! (Duolingo will remind me to do it)
  • Stop playing video games so much! (Disregard that it’s the way you bond with your husband)
  • Read 2 new books a month! (When I haven’t read a book since 2018)

And somehow starting all of this AT THE SAME TIME is definitely not going to make me into the Grinchiest, meanest, and most-lacking of any self-love, care or space person ever….. right?

You might see where I’m going with this. However, I don’t think the process needs to be thrown out entirely.

How to “Keep” Your New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Before writing your New Year’s Resolutions, take some time to deeply reflect on the things you want. What did you want to do last year that you didn’t do and why didn’t it happen? Why do you want what you say you want? Do the same resolutions reappear every year? What goes wrong?
    • Taking the time to reflect will hopefully open up room for you to find some more unique resolutions better suited to you. Do you really want to lose X amount of pounds or do you want to feel comfortable in your body? Maybe your reading goal last year didn’t work because you thought an audio book wouldn’t count.
  2. While you write your New Year’s Resolutions, come up with achievable mini-goals to help you get there. Ask yourself questions like, “What actionable steps will lead me to this goal? What is a milestone I would like to cross? What sort of thing would I like to see happen before I’ve even finished? What ways can I reward myself along the way?”
    • Questions like this will help you create a tier-system to your goals. If you want to feel healthier, you could add walking the dog a little farther as a step to reaching it. If you’re looking to stop biting your nails, maybe schedule a nail appointment for a month out that will require your nails to be long enough.
  3. During January and February understand that you are likely to slip up. Give yourself the grace to do so. Remind yourself of things like, “You’ve come this far. This doesn’t ruin your progress, it’s just an encouragement to pick up where I left off.” Remind yourself of the achievements you’ve made!
    • “I’ve seen a change in the way my pants fit.” “I already finished a book!” “If I went two weeks without biting my nails once, let’s make it three!”
No Matter What

Whatever happens, understand that January is not some magical cure for your motivation (just as it’s not the magical cure for 2020!). It gives that motivation and inspiration because we all chose to look at it that way. There is no special sauce, no secret ingredient.

So set goals every day, week, month, year, 5 years, decade, and so on, because motivation is where you find it.

2020 brought me:

  • My blog and brand
  • My D&D group
  • A passion for crocheting
  • New friends
  • Time with my brother
  • A new job
  • Uninterrupted time with my husband

Below are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2021

My New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Stop biting my nails
    • Plan a nail appointment for February 1
    • Paint my nails often
    • I’d love to get a compliment on my nail polish, so I’m going to buy something special.
  2. Read 12 Books This Year
    • Last year I read 6 books, all audio and in the car while traveling. That seemed to work well.
    • I’ll get an audible subscription and leave a sign out in the living room to remind me of something else I can do.
  3. Make More Food At Home
    • When I’m not wanting to eat food at home, it’s usually because I don’t have the food I want in the house, or I don’t have the time/energy that day.
      • Purchase more “quick” meals for home
      • Buy food to make at home that is similar to what I would eat out.
        • This means I’ll have to try my hand at pretzels, flatbread, breadsticks, burrito bowls, cocktails, and more!
  4. Save Money for a House
    • In order to do this, we’ll have to knuckle down on a budget.
    • Sit down with husband for monthly strategy sessions.
    • Have 75% saved by the end of the year, so having 40% saved by July should be reasonable.

Mech Men Session Three

Day 3, Monday (continued)

The party excitedly spend the day making Creatives for the Upwelling Ceremony. Alfios spends most of the day on his guitar, practicing a song he wrote. Molander at first looks lost on an idea, but when he sees Alfios and his guitar, he has an idea. Ralf, the goblin, creates an electrical box that he can power to show images with his electro-cuff. Mildred finds some canvas in a shop and paints it blue.

They return to the bar, finding Kwela, still looking uncomfortable, and Billius, the Loxodon they met on their first day, training to become a server at the tavern. “I already know my way around, mind as well make some money doing it.” Lufus seems pleased to have someone helping. Lufus tells the party that he has a Creative ready to go, but refuses to show it to them.

They get the news that Isaachi left the Healer’s Hut to go home. He arrives at the bar later in the day, wearing gloves, but nothing else of significance happens. The party beds down for the night.

Day 4, Tuesday :

The party rises and packs their bags for the journey. They head over to the Lonely Goblin and meet up with Lufus who is in the middle of sending Kwela home. She is sweaty and has clearly just dropped a tray of food. Lufus swings by and tells the party, “I have to finish training Billy before we can head out. Biscuits and gravy are on the counter, just help yourselves. I’ll be out soon.”

Mildred stops Lufus to tell him that Kwela is working nights next door at the “massage parlor.” Lufus looks frustrated as he explains that she isn’t supposed to have a second job. Milly at first is indignant, “Well, why not?”

“Because of this! She could claim she was injured at my job, and it’s hindering her performance here. It’s all liability. Do you think I can afford to have more of that?” He sighs. “I’ll talk to her after the Upwelling. I don’t want anything to dampen my mood.”

Lufus emerges after they’ve finished eating to head out. He has a small knapsack on his back. He tells them, “I couldn’t rent a cart – with the horses acting all strange like they are, I can’t afford one to run off on me. We’ll set off on foot, but it shouldn’t be too long a journey – only three or four hours at most.”

The party walks awhile, and Lufus tells them about his Guardian days and again, mentions Ursula, the merfolk who he was enchanted with. He tells them, “She needed someone to protect her, and after I was injured, I realized I wouldn’t be the right person for it. I started my bar. I make do.”

The party questions him on the Simic Combine. Lufus jumps into a very scripted response: “Where other cultures are divided by species, caste or role, within the Simic Combine, members are divided by Clade. A Clade is a group that’s focused on a specific aspect or project. There is the Hull Clade, focusing on protection, defense and durability. The Fin Clade focuses on the movement of creatures, flying creatures mostly, and the movement of resources. The Crypsis Clade is camouflage and magic, meant to hide knowledge and operations, but not as sneaky as the Dimir, of course. Then, the Gyre Clade, who focus on redirecting or nullifying magic as well as advancing nature.”

A loud clap of thunder and some rain forms not far from them and two wild boars come out of the bushes to attack the party. After a short battle, one pig runs away and the second is speared. They prepare the meat, making it easier for transport and head back on their way.

Lufus mentions how strange animals have been acting again, and the party asks him why he thinks it is. He says some superstitious nonsense, like always, and the party tells him about the metal-encased creatures they found. (Now being dubbed “the metal meatballs.”)

Lufus is horrified and enthralled at the idea. The blobs of flesh disgust him, but the armor encasing excites him. He asks about what they found and ponders for awhile.

The group arrives at the entrance to Zonot 3. A lavish entrance and archway are surrounding. Everything they can see is covered in ribbons and festive – people are giggling and laughing, like they’re in line for a carnival. Visible in the line are loxodon, vedalken, humans – some hybrids, some not. A couple of odd extras seem to be the guests of others. A sulky Orzhov with an umbrella to block out the sun, a pensive centaur from Selesnya, a Rakdos entertainer who seems to be refraining herself from doing a cartwheel.

The large archway covered in blue and green ribbons sits in front of a stone staircase, built into the ground and leading down into what looks like the largest well ever built – easily ½ mile across. It would be ominous if it weren’t for the shouts of laughter and the bright colors of the crowd. Any unease they feel about the chasm is gone before it really forms.

The stone staircase has a wall on the outside portion, and when leaning over it to see the bottom, the party can make out an oasis pool with a field of green laying next to it, covered in genetically enhanced bright blue flowers. Inside the pools, through the crystal clear water, they see merfolk of every kind – some who look like sirens, beautiful and fierce, and some who look like true fish-people – the merfolk. Lufus looks longingly into their faces.

The Ceremony of Creatives

The party mills about while the crowd grows larger. Suddenly, a trumpet sounds, and rising from the water is a beautiful fish-like mermaid: the Guildmaster, Zegana. She rises from the pool, suspended and surrounded by a crowd of armored merfolk who protect her with their spears. She speaks in a quiet voice, but the crowd silences to hear her and she is audible from every corner of the huge area.

“The Upwelling is the partner of the Holdfast. While our Holdfast celebration in Winter celebrates the anchored beliefs we have to protect all of Ravnica and planes beyond and our isolationist ways, the Upwelling celebrates the expansive, upwards motion of the tides. We celebrate our influence and the growth of the world here and beyond. For each guest and member of the Simic, we all present a work of the mind or the hands to represent this ongoing change, this evolution, and continuation of our world through the ages. As these celebrations grow numerous, our library becomes larger, and the amount of knowledge we must gain grows greater. The Library of Innovation is a treasure to all who live here and behold it. If anything is sacred, it is such. We now ask each of you to present your Creative to the rest, bearing in mind that we grow on each other’s failures and successes.”

A few of the creatives they witness include:

  • One hybrid man – a stoic Guardian –  presents a large wooden table, covered in tiny buildings and trees, meant to represent the area he knows and loves. He communicates that he traveled as far as he ever had by the time he was 18 and carved each section to as much detail as possible. The buildings outside of his radius he drew fuzzier and fuzzier. He communicates that a lesson can be learned: We know less the less we travel.
  • One mermaid sings the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard, though you can understand absolutely no word of it. You all feel a tug in your heart as if you’ve lost someone you love dearly, even though none of you can pinpoint who you could be thinking of.
  • A human child stands up at one point and delivers an absolutely scathing monologue about betrayal and emotions that you’re not sure he should be able to comprehend at his age. He sits back down, looking happy at his performance.
  • One large woman attempts an interpretive dance that makes everyone uncomfortable.
  • A loxodon presents a wooden puzzle, full of complexity, made by his own hands. He explains the premise of the puzzle – to create a structure – and hands off the puzzle to a child, who fumbles with it awkwardly for a few minutes and hands it off, frustrated. Everyone from a grandmother to a mermaid attempt it and none succeed. One scientist is handed the puzzle and while he drops it, twice. He manages to make the pieces into a uniform pyramid. The loxodon laughs, snatches it back and reverts it back to its original form. A crowd gathers around the scientist to ask how he did it and the goblin only laughs nervously, escaping the crowd to head towards a food booth.

Lufus excitedly stands at this point, pulling out a kaleidoscope which he passes around to the crowd. He announces that it will look different to every person. Each person in turn using the kaleidoscope gasps and yells the colors and patterns they see, each different from the last.

Alfios is the first in the party brave enough to perform. He enters the center of the Zonot and pulls out his mandolin. He announces that he is glad to be there as a guest and has a carefully-worded song for them to all listen to. He plays a chipper tune and sings,

“Where is the sun? Doo-doo-doo-doo. Where is the sun? I don’t know – not alright…”

Molander stands eventually and gives a haunting melody with no words, letting it echo around the cavern. Ralf stands and presents his electrical box and makes it work for the crowd. Some scribes approach him, asking for a prototype to keep in the library, and Ralf gives him the box he made. Mildred presents her blue canvas, bullshitting that it can be interpreted differently for each person and that’s what makes it unique.

A loud band finishes the Ceremony of the Creatives, and the food lines grow immediately.

Lufus tells them of an inn they can stay at for the night. It is owned by his cousin Rupert. They’re being charged only half price. He reluctantly asks the party if they can afford their parts of the price. He’d gladly pay for it but he’s strapped for cash. He informs them that it is in the eastern wing of Zonot 3, built into a cave face and called the Siren’s Inn.

The party notices the loxodon that created the wooden puzzle and ask with curiosity after the scientist who fixed it so quickly. The loxodon says, “You mean the guy that ruined my puzzle?”

“What do you mean?” Alfios asks.

“It was meant to be unsolvable! I worked so hard on it.” He hands it to each of the party in turn and none of them can make it work. He looks pleased then, and tells them that the goblin’s name is Blendy and he works for the Hull Clade. He points them in the direction of Blendy’s lab and leaves.

They walk over to Blendy’s lab and push open the large doors. They open easily and find a great, empty room. Beakers, tables, cages, anvils, and all kinds of tools are scattered across tables all over. In the back of the room, they can see the goblin scribbling at a small desk, pushed against the wall.

The goblin is fidgety and high-pitched. They tell him about their adventures so far, all except for what they know about the Izzet. The goblin takes all of this in, asking questions here and there for clarification. He looks shocked by the news that the creatures were attacking and while at first unenthused by the finger they show him from Isaachi, begins to scribble furiously, taking notes after a closer look. He becomes angry and frustrated at the intrusion when he finds out that they killed several of them.

When they finish, Mildred goes to threaten him for information.

“Oh pish posh,” Professor Blendy says. “No need for all that.” He goes to close the door. “We made the creatures. I assure you, however, that they have no more a brain than moss.”

The party is perplexed by this information.

“We wanted to test LectoSteel some more, since the Izzet scrapped the project. The recent electrical storms have made it quite easy for us to gather and work with it. We’ve created these small armor cages -” he kicks one that was laying by his desk, a prototype. “and we wanted to see how effective they were. While we could test them with the normal ooze’s, we decided we wanted something a little more realistic.”1

He clears his throat and explains, “We injected an ooze with some organic material which caused it to grow regular skin, muscle, tissue, nerves – just like you or I – again, lacking the brain. It worked as a great creature for the cages. No moral quandries about testing on animals, and their nervous systems are “complex” enough to operate the cages, which function on the electrical impulses.”

“But why were they in the sewers? Why are they attacking people?”

“Now that… that I don’t know. Well, I do know why they were in the sewers. We sent them there. There’s an entrance in Zonot 3 that we let them loose in. We got the first set mostly back. about 80% – lost 4 of them out there some where. We sent out the second set awhile ago. They’re all a week late.”

Blendy looks around at the party as if surprised, again. “Could – do you think you four could help? I need them back.”

The party confers for a minute and decides to help.

Blendy nods, thankful. “I will do some research while you’re gone. You’ll want to wait ’til morning – it’s rather late now. I have a few things you can use. I have a whistle here, we used it to corral them in the lab. I can only give you the prototype. I also have some collapsible cages to hold them.” He hands Mildred the two cages, a crude map of the sewers, and the whistle. He warns them about the sewer merfolk and their disgusting habits down there, but says no more. He then becomes engrossed in his notes and ignores them for the rest of the time, only nodding distractedly when they talk to him.

The four head to the inn that Lufus told them about. They are offered dinner at half-price from Lufus’ cousin Rupert. Rupert is also superstitious and has crab claws instead of tentacles. He carefully picks the lint off Mildred’s shoulder before offering them all seconds. They refuse and head upstairs to the room Lufus is already in.

Lufus is sitting quietly on the bed. They ask him if he saw Ursula and he shakes his head. “I didn’t see many sewer merfolk today, but she wasn’t one of them.”

The party looks at each other meaningfully and ask him, “What – what does she look like, Lufus?”

“Beautiful. Green. Dreads and beads. Mystical… I’m ready to turn in,” he says quietly, and gets under the covers of his cot.

Day 5, Wednesday

The party wakens, heads down and grabs a spot to eat from Rupert, and heads for the sewers as soon as possible. Lufus refuses to come with them and tells them he’ll see them back in town that night.

They journey through, picking between forks in the road and examining the flow of water. They find a pile of boxes. Upon searching, they find various trinkets – all moldy or wet and all sorted into piles. They find a vase of marbles, a bowl of buttons, a pile of glasses… things of the like.

The water swells occasionally from the pool next to the path and when it does, the smell grows stronger. They eventually find the central system, with the drainage pipe in the middle of a concrete island. They approach the center and begin to discuss what it does. Their voices bring out a few sewer merfolk.

One is bright iridescent blue with tangled hair. Her hair is filled with slime and goop and she avoids eye contact, shyly. Her tail splashes out of the water and the party sees that the end is made of metal. The second is dark purple, with hair pulled back, tied into what looks like a piece of rope with trash and metal sticking out in strange positions. Her neck and chest are made of metal. The third is swampy green with wild eyes. Her hair is in dreads with beads tangled within. She makes intense eye contact with each and every one of them. They notice her hands are metal.

Mildred immediately blurts, “Ursula?!”

Ursula’s face grows dark and she jumps out of the water at Mildred, hands extended. Mildred dodges the attack, and Ursula lands back in the water. The purple one attempts to grab Ralf’s ankles and gets shocked by his electro-cuff, she screams, gills pulling forward, and swims away.

Ursula comes back out of the water, glaring at them from a greater distance. Mildred asks, “What happened? Why are you so mad? We know Lufus!”

Ursula’s face only darkens further. “I hate him, you make no case for yourself.” She goes to attack again.

Alfios casts “Heat Metal” on the metal of the purple’s chest, but there is no effect. This confirms what they suspected: the metal is the same LectoSteel. Ursula is hit with a shock again from Ralf, and the trio swims away through a drainage pipe.

The party continues to search the sewer, finding creatures behind more piles of boxes. They attempt to cast spells that would effect them had they had a brain, but they are no effect. Eventually, they manage to capture two of them, and kill the rest they encounter.

They turn around to head back to Zonot 3, carrying their bounty.

1An ooze is the normal experimental substance that Simic use. They use them to tamper and evolve before performing on themselves.

Click Here to Go Back to Session Two
Click Here to Go to Session Four

All Foods Fit

Have you heard of “Diet Culture?” The professional definition is “a belief system that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over well-being.”1 My own personal definition is “the reason why this whole thing is so freaking hard.”

Diet Culture: Yeah, you need to lose weight.
Me: Well, first of all, why?
Diet Culture: Because you look terrible so that must mean you are unhealthy. In other words, you need to try these diets to fix yourself.
Me: But when I’ve used those I feel sad, angry, and then the weight comes back right after.
Diet Culture: Well, that’s because you’re a fat sack of s*** that has no motivation. Look at this skinny girl, she’s intermittent fasting.
Me: I call that “skipping breakfast,” which has been proven to slow your metabolism.
Diet Culture: Okay, but these keto girls really look like they know what they’re doing.
Me: Shouldn’t you have carbs if you lift weights? I’ve been getting into lifting lately.
Diet Culture: Well that just sounds like quitter-talk. You’re supposed to run on a treadmill for hours to lose weight. Look at that skinny girl on the Stair-Master!
Me: She looks legitimately bony. That doesn’t look healthy.
Diet Culture: But skinny = healthy. What are you missing here? Do you think being fat is healthy?
Me: Of course not, I –
Diet Culture: Then we agree! Now next time your husband says he’d like to go out tell him that you can’t because you need to lose weight…

You get the picture.

Diet culture assumes that a skinny person is a healthy person and then encourages different eating/living patterns to support that. It is assumed that if a larger person is doing “healthy” things, they are doing it to lose weight. With diet culture, you can encourage any kind of disordered behavior in order to encourage weight loss.

“I started wrapping myself in sea weed and plastic wrap!” “I count every morsel of food that passes my lips.” “I only eat between 10-2 now.” “I have pills that make me not hungry at all, I practically have to force food down my throat.”

Seriously, can anyone see how crazy this is?

I don’t think I have to reiterate the health benefits that come with being a smaller size, but I think we should be encouraging healthy behaviors to get there. If we crash diet all the way to the smallest size, what’s going to happen when we try to “go back to normal?” Well, I can tell you. We do what 98% of dieters do: gain all the weight back and then some.2

Just like the beauty industry gains by making you feel ugly, diet culture gains by making you feel fat.

The whole philosophy of my brand is “ALL ROADS.” Freedom is the key. Living in freedom keeps you from these stupid habits that Diet Culture has taught us. But Freedom for me is not just “do whatever I want,” but it is “freedom from and in all things.”

If I go to binge and give myself the “freedom” to eat what I want, I’m not free at all. I’ve been captured by my binge and feel out of control. We have to be free to make the right choice in order for it to be real freedom.

All Foods? Are you sure?

Why not? It’s proven that restricting a thing brings it to the forefront of your mind more than if you were to indulge. How many times have you denied yourself a cookie at the office only to eat an extra helping of dessert at home? You would have saved yourself the guilt and pain of an over-full stomach and sugar crash if you had just had the darn cookie.

Maybe avoid food you’re allergic to, or food that hurts you. I have learned that soda makes my face break out, but sparkling water doesn’t… and I like sparkling water.

Whatever you decide, make the decision for yourself!

So in an effort to increase my knowledge of “ALL FOODS,” I’ll be expanding and adding updates more often about recipes I’m trying! Don’t forget to check out my recipe page to see all the goodies or try them out yourself.

1From “Eating Disorder Registered Dietitians & Professionals” website.
2Just as I have! I wrote about this in Weight Loss History.

Mech Men Session Two

Day 2 (continued)

We return to the party now, sitting in the Lonely Goblin and listening in on the conversation Lufus is having with an Azorious Guard as he tries to file the damage on his bar so he can get an insurance claim. Kwela takes their order, wincing occasionally. “Heya guys, anything else we can get for ya? I think Lufus said to give y’all enough drinks to get ya away from this mess, so I’m taking that to mean as much as you want.” 

Mildred goes to Kwela to ask why she is wincing and if she is doing okay. Kwela responds that she just had a “rough night” at her other job and that the massage parlor isn’t exactly gentle. She reassures Mildred that it has nothing to do with abuse, and that she has a big burly guard outside her door at night.

The party chats about Lufus and his trouble and overhears them deductibles and charges. They can see Lufus fiddling with his rings distractedly. 

Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder is heard outside and rain starts to pour down, beating on the windows and revealing holes in the side of the bar. The water gathers on the pane of the window and rolls down its crooked pane, pouring into the bar. Lufus swears and runs for a bucket and a mop. The Azorious man leaves. Lufus begins to mop up the water and catches the stream in the bucket.

Ralf approaches and freezes the water on the window so that the stream stops. Lufus empties the bucket and mops up the remaining water. Lufus confides in the party about the insurance he has through the Orzhov and how terrible they are about his policy. He says he’ll be doing paperwork for a lot of the day and tells them to ask Kwela if they need anything.

Milly goes to speak to Lufus about Kwela and almost reveals that she works a night job, which Lufus tells her is outside of her contract. She leaves the Kwela thing alone and decides to go visit Isaachi who is still unconscious. Sarah is tending to his bedside and confides in Milly that she shouldn’t be there. Her “friends” were part of the problem and so the Head Nurse had told her to stay out of it. Milly leaves a note with the Head Nurse and heads back to the bar.

The party debates for a while on whether or not to go to the Izzet, but Ralf reminds him that that is where he has the most connections, and that they can check in the Laboratory of Metallurgy. They head to Prism University, where Ralf works.

As they walk to the University, they see some people on the street who are continuing in the rain like they are used to it, and some still look frustrated and some even scared, looking up at the rain and back down at their feet while they huddle under stalls and building awnings. Vendors are pulling their items in from the rain and looking miserable as the streets empty.

The rain turns to snow as they walk, slowly filtering down like fairy drops, and the people they see all seem to be prepared. They pull out coats and scarves from their bags and don for the cold weather as quickly as possible. Some even have boots and gloves. Before the party can reach the Izzet, the weather is returning back to sunshine and the snow that had begun to accumulate quickly melts as if on someone’s tongue.

A female minotaur is behind the desk who asks how she can help. She tries to point Ralf in the direction of his own laboratory, but Ralf is obstinate. Before a fight can start, Mildred steps forward and convinces the minotaur that they are on a very important mission from the Selesnyan Conclave and they needed to get to Metallurgy right away.

The minotaur reads a list of the departments for them:

  • The Laboratory of Arcane Geometry (counter-magic and redirection)
  • The Laboratory of Pyrology
  • The Laboratory of Storms and Electricity
  • The Laboratory of Metallurgy
  • The Laboratory of Alchemy
  • The Laboratory of Orientation
  • The Laboratory of Mimeography 
  • The Laboratory of Continuism 
  • The Laboratory of Gravitational Inversion 
  • The Laboratory of Plasma-Dermatology

The party makes a note of Storms and Electricity and heads to Metallurgy, where the minotaur has called ahead.

When they arrive, Ralf buzzes the buzzer for a long time. A human opens the door for them and they wait for a while in the waiting room. Ralf asks for Ron, his uncle, and Ron approaches. Ron is a grizzled old man, past retirement age. He has an itch on his neck that he continues to scratch as they talk. Mildred notices that it is pale around where the irritation from his scratching is. She offers some antihistamine cream and Ron gratefully accepts.

Ralf banters with Ron for awhile, both jabbing at each other, before Alfios manages to get the party back on track. He offers up the finger. Ron is thoroughly fascinated. He tells them that the metal is called LectoSteel. They worked on it about 15 years ago. It is an easily moldable metal – but it doesn’t heat or freeze. The only way to mold it is with electrical rods. They scrapped the project when their electrical capacity wasn’t enough to justify the work needed, and also when they found that the material seemed to warp when put into electrical parts.

Ron is disgusted however, that anyone would dare work on a person and give them this mechanical body part.

Ralf asks Ron if he knows anything about the Laboratory of Storms and Electricity. Ron is shifty, saying that he gets memos about the department every five fucking seconds. Ralf persuades, with 10 pieces of gold, and Ron to give them directions down the hall.

The party heads to Storms and Electricity, atop Nivix, the Lightning Rod. After a couple of failed attempts to persuade the guard, some smoke begins to filter under the door. The goblin lets them in and tells them to stay put. The party notices smoke all through the workshop and can see a few goblins waving fans and an Ogre cranking the crank on the wall, opening the spire to release the smoke faster.

When the dust settles, a frustrated human scientist, Bruno (who is missing his ring finger and wearing a disheveled wig) arrives and asks them what their business is. Their attempts at disguising their reason for being there fail, as Bruno recognizes the Selesnyans.

“Really, of all things. Why the hell do the Selesnyan care? They just want to lay in their sleepy bungalows and make us join them and their worldsoul.”

Alfios begins to be offended and tries to threaten Bruno, who scoffs at him that he missed his nap. Milly begins to seduce Bruno, who gets flustered and tells her that they’re working on what they always work on: electricity, but that the rest is supposed to be a secret. “Why is it a secret? Because the Orzhov always want insurance money, the Azorious want to regulate the shit out of it, the Boros want to turn it into a war machine somehow… on and on. When we don’t even know if it works yet.”

“It’s not like a new idea to harness the elements for electricity. We’ve used dams, wind, and so much more. But now we’re trying to capture the very atmosphere itself. Mother Nature doesn’t like it when you grab her by the tail, but she’s always been a bitch.”

The party is satisfied with the information and starts to leave when they fire up the machine again. They turn around to see the spire of the room opening slightly to create a large bubble-like net that starts to suck in the nearby clouds. Before much more can happen, the bubble pops and the clouds spill back out.

By the time the party is back outside, it has started to hail.

Molander points out that while they’ve finished the task they were supposed to, they have a million more questions. “There’s no way the Worldsoul is happy with what is going on.”

Mildred goes back to visit Isaachi, who tells her that he’s considering getting a prosthetic made. He points out that while the Izzet have better tech, the Simic are the only ones who will work the biology. The Fin Clade is the one that makes prosthetics.

Meanwhile, Alf helps Lufus, who is hammering boards over the side of his bar. Lufus and Alf plan a show for a week from now (Day 9), and Lufus says he’ll make flyers for it.

Milly comes back into the bar and tells them the information that she’s gleaned and goes back to Isaachi with a question: “did you have all 10 fingers before?” The answer is yes. His pinky turned to metal. The party decides to exit the bar and examine the sewer, but find that the pipes inside are far too small for any of them to fit into. However, while they’re examining the area, Molander and Mildred hear a scratching noise and jump back. Alf & Ralf both are surprised, and Ralf gets scratched on the shin by one of the creatures, who have just appeared from the drain.

The battle ensues, with Alf taking a small hit from the other creature before both are quickly dispatched by the other three.

Ralf immediately goes to shock one of the creatures, and smells burning flesh. Alf, meanwhile, examines the other creature, realizing it is the same metal as the finger and notices the fleshy inside poking through the seams and holes of the metal. 

Milly picks up the creature and carries it to the Healer’s Hut. She cracks open the exoskeleton and pulls out the slimy mass of flesh, which now droops. The flesh is greenish-pale, and blue veins can be seen from the outside. Once cut into, the fat, muscle, and veins can be seen. Inside, there is a clear nervous system, but no obvious brain that controls the creature.

Alf is thoroughly bothered that they killed living creatures, but less so because of the threat of the fight. They return the bar after a short rest and order chili for dinner from a cheerful Lufus. Lufus has already drafted a flyer for their show. The party can clearly see now that he has frayed string where some of his rings used to be.

Lufus then tells them that not everyone in Simic is enhanced and explains the difference between a normal hybrid and a Guardian. He is wistful about the mermaid, Ursula, who caught his eye, but he got injured on his second mission and moved to owning a bar instead. He tells them about the Upwelling celebration coming up in two days and says that he’ll take them. 

The entire guild congregates at Zonot 3, the deepest of the 9 Zonots. They eat seafood, enjoy the company of the elusive merfolk, share bread, dance, and each and every guest must present a creative. These must be works of their own hands and minds to show the evolution, grace and continuation of the world through the ages. Each creative or account of a creative is placed into their deep underground Library of Innovation.

If they intend to go, they should spend the following day making something so they can participate. 

Day 3:

After resting overnight, the party goes about a couple of random tasks. A haughty courier comes by who is unimpressed by their work. He says he will return with information as to whether their intel on the creatures is a problem at all for “the Worldsoul and Trostani.” Alf points out that strong electricity seems to be needed for the molding of the metal on both the finger and the metal creatures, so the weather (lightning) might be related to the creation of the creatures.

They pop in on Isaachi who is beside himself: his hand is back, and it is now all metal. The nurse, Sarah, clearly slept with him the night before and hadn’t noticed anything then. She is shocked by the news as well.

Isaachi tells them that three days before yesterday he was working in the Sewers, assigned by the Simic and needed papers signed by the Golgari. He encountered some sewer merfolk, fish, cats… but doesn’t remember any injuries to his hand of any kind. He tells them that it burned and itched for a bit, but that’s all he remembers. 

Click Here to Go Back to Session One
Click Here to Go to Session Three

Mech Men Prologue & Session One

Our Background

Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing tabletop game, first created in 1974. Our group consists of two couples. We’ve been in one previous campaign together, set in the world of Ravnica, created by Wizards of the Coast. Our previous campaign was a homebrew1 created by my husband, Matthew. It involved four people going from guild to guild doing quests and ended in a TPK (a total party kill) by a Dragon God that did not like our warmongering.

My campaign is also a homebrew set in the world of Ravnica. Ravnica is a plane (a universe, essentially) that is one large city. The city consists of 10 guilds which populate the plane and have general jobs that support one another. These guilds have lots of potential for intrigue and conflict, as they all have their own philosophies and goals that drive them. I’ll do my best to explain what kind of guild drama is going on in the footnotes as our story progresses. If you’re interested in more information about the plane of Ravnica, you can check out their wiki!

Our players are:

  • A Selesnyan healer and closet Rogue, named Mildred, who works downtown in the 3rd District. She is actually a Dimir spy, though no one knows this. She’s naturally inquisitive and attractive.
  • A Selesnyan bard named Alfios. Alf works in the taverns in the 3rd district often and is known for being lazy around his guild. He however feels that he is not as close to the “Worldsoul”2 as others and hides behind his laziness as a front.
  • An Izzet3 goblin wizard named Ralf. He was raised by humans and so is defensive about his height. He is impulsive but generally helpful.
  • An NPC4 named Molander – a Selesnyan guard who does not talk very much but was sent to offer protection to the small group.

1A homebrew is a campaign that is made up by the Dungeon Master, the DM, as opposed to a campaign that you could purchase and follow along with.
2The Worldsoul is the pantheistic belief that the Selesnya hold to. They are a people of peace and harmony and believe that the Worldsoul permeates all living things and it’s will is played out through the dryad Trostani who runs their guild.
3The Izzet are the experiment inventors who have learned to create electricity for the guild. They are the reason that this world is more advanced than other worlds.
4An NPC is a non-player-character. Essentially a character that the DM controls rather than a player.

Day 1

Fonn Lightleaf, breathy-voiced Dryad Vona, calls the meeting. While typically only heads of households are invited, the bard Alfios was asked to join. An Izzet Goblin, Ralf, comes into the glade clearing and approaches the Vona with a letter that summoned him here. Ralf settles onto a stump in the glade, looking annoyed amongst the group of Selesnyan centaurs and humans who look so peaceful.

The meeting begins with a clap of the dryad’s hands. Fonn begins, “The Worldsoul and Trostani have conducted several meetings where we’ve been attempting to find out what is going on with the strange weather patterns in the downtown district, not far from here.”

The group nods, as the general worry about the weather has been constant. Nature is very important to the Selesnya. Fonn continues, “There have been snowstorms, windstorms, and all in between in a season where there should be mild or hot weather. Not only are we worried about the damage to nature and our vernadi clans, but also the people are being whipped into a frenzy as they stress about the ‘bad omens’ associated with bad weather.

“We have decided to form a small party of travelers who will travel out to explore the strange weather and see what they can find. We have asked the Izzet to send a representative, which is our friend and brother, Ralf.” She gestures to Ralf, who waves halfheartedly and seems confused by being called ‘brother.’ “Joining them will be Molander, our trusted guard, and Alfios, who I believe will truly rise to the occasion. We’re excited to see how he progresses.”

Some of the crowd look skeptically in Alfios’ direction, who smiles sheepishly. The dryad purses her lips before continuing. “We have a healer, Mildred, in the tenth district waiting to greet them. She will house them and work with the team to find the problem. A letter has been sent her way. A messenger will arrive bi-weekly to collect information and carry requests back to the Vona, me, and to the rest of us.”

Fonn gestures to the three she has called out. “May your group be as harmonious as the Worldsoul. Protect the Worldsoul as it protects us.”

Molander quietly introduces himself after the meeting and both Ralf and Alfios chuckle at his large nose and forehead. Ralf quickly establishes his sensitivity about his height and Alfios pulls out a mandolin for their journey. They take the three-hour trek to town and arrive at the Selesnyan healer hut. Mildred greets them at the door and shows them to their room. They decide to get some lunch and get to know the area, asking the first questions about the weather.

They travel to the nearby tavern, the Lonely Goblin, and are seated in the rush. Behind the bar is a Vedalken Simic Hybrid5 who has tentacles for arms. As he rushes past the party with several drinks suctioned to his arms, they notice that he wears a cloak with hundreds of rings sewn into it, made of all kinds of materials. Their waitress is a sultry goblin with a nametag that reads “Kwela,” who wears a human wig and takes their orders and leaves. When she returns she flirts with both Molander and Alfios.

The party asks both the bartender, who introduces himself as Lufus, and Kwela about the recent weather. Lufus quickly outs himself as very superstitious. He says that the weather is a bad omen of plague and that before they know it the town will be overrun by werewolves or something. Ralf attempts to ask him about the rings in his clothes but Lufus quickly leaves. Kwela is mostly unbothered but also voices concern about the weather, mostly because of the damage it could cause crops.

Other bar patrons are very worried about the crops, and worried about hail, snow, wind and the damages to their dwellings. One person points out that they have greenhouses, but another reminds him that its not enough to feed all of Ravnica. Some patrons seem hardly worried; they say that it really doesn’t mean one thing or another to them.

Mildred has a short conversation with some gossipy girls at the bar: Molly & friend, who talk about a co-worker of hers, Sarah (a human), sneaking out of the healer hut to see Derek, a wide shouldered minotaur who works at the Inn.

When the food is finished, a scuttle near the front door causes a stir. A loxodon6, Billy, has been tripped by some running creature who was running from the bar. Billy comes to their party, invited by Alfios. He is clearly somewhat an alcoholic because he seems bothered until he has a drink. Billy has much the same to say: though he adds that the animals have been very skittish lately as well, starting maybe a week after the weather changes.

As they’re leaving the bar, Lufus runs up and frantically asks for help finding his wallet. Ralf quickly finds it under a chair and they return it to him. Lufus, in return, promises them free breakfast and drinks in the morning. They meet a farmer outside, and the horses break part of their yoke as they are startled by the group exiting the bar. The farmer talks to them about the weather, but no new information is exchanged.

The party shops for awhile, and Alfios plays his mandolin outside the Inn for awhile, but turns in to bed soon. Ralf & Al notice that Molander takes a sleeping pill and sleeps, unlike most elves.

5A Simic Hybrid is any person/creature who has been tampered on by the Simic, the biological evolution guild. A Vedalken is a blue-skinned tall humanoid creature, typically knowledgable and secretive.
6A loxodon is a humanoid with an elephant head and elephant legs, but can speak with common tongue. Generally peaceful.

Day 2

The next morning, Alfios and Ralf wake to find Molander is soaking in the morning sun, meditating. Mildred fetches them not long later and they head to the Lonely Goblin for their promised breakfast. As they enter, however, they are greeted by a strange sight for a Sunday morning. A man all dressed in black clothes and rubber boots is standing on a table with a large crowd around him, oohing and ahhing. The man is lifting a chair over his head with only his one shiny pinky finger.

The party can’t tell what the finger is made of from their distance and they move around the crowd to Lufus, who is behind the bar looking annoyed at the disturbance in his bar. Lufus tells them that the man’s name is Isaachi. Normally a regular, this morning he came in excited to show the patrons that his finger had turned to metal and was now the most efficient it has ever been. He says it doesn’t get hot or cold and has given him super strength.

They hear Isaachi; “Imagine how great my fingers would be if I had all of them like this!” He winks to the ladies and stacks a second chair on his pinky. The ladies in the crowd sigh.

The goblin waitress, Kwela, takes their order again. She looks tired and also irritated by Isaachi’s loud boasting. Before they can order, Ralf gets up from the table and decides to push through the crowd to Isaachi. Ralf asks Isaachi if he could see his finger and Isaachi laughs derisively, calling him “little guy.” Ralf insults his shoes and Isaachi drops the chair onto his head. He apologies, but does so while laughing.

Ralf is embarrassed and pulls out from the crowd. They notice Bilius, the Loxodon from yesterday, in the corner. “Men should be men and that’s all, it’s unnatural,” Billy says, and so do some of the other men who feel slighted by the crowd around him. The party starts to hatch plots on how they might stop this arrogant bastard and also examine his pinky.

Alfios pulls out his mandolin and speak-sings a song loudly. The crowd hushes to turn to him.

“Isaachi sure likes to talk-y;
All about his new finger.
Has it been grown or bought to own?
He might just be a swinger.

“Isaachi is strong
And very flamboyant.
He talks and lifts and looks all swift –
But sure is not clairvoyant.”

The crowd laughs and Isaachi gets down, mollified. The crowd tips Alfios for his song, and Ralf transforms himself with magic to appear like a short woman. Mildred swoops in first, however, and begins to pull him outside, asking to see his finger in private.

Outside, however, a horse careens against the side of the bar and down the street, ripping through a vendor while the other horse, still attached to the cart, is stomping and whinnying in the direction of a metal creature.

The being resembles a globe with its body – metallic with rings encircling it. The rings rotate every which way, seemingly detached from the body as the body spins around from the inside. Attached to the rings are spider-like metallic legs. The rings’ spinning causes the legs to move very quickly and without much effort. The creature zooms by and gets trapped between the wall, a box, the horse, and the crowd. The creature is spinning in place, and moving in and out as if looking for an escape.

Alfios exits the bar and attempts to calm the horse but it is restless. Ralf, still disguised as a woman, grabs onto Isaachi’s arm as if in fright. Meanwhile, Mildred is approaching the creature, and it gets more agitated as she comes close.

Ralf suddenly, swiftly, slices off Isaachi’s right hand. He screams, which startles the crowd more. Isaachi, holding his stump and whimpering, heads for the healer hut, crying. Ralf catches the hand midair, spattering himself with blood. He chops off the pinky, which cuts cleanly and does not bleed. He wipes it off and sticks it in his pocket, leaving the rest of the hand in the gutter.

Alfios is disgusted by this turn of events, but Ralf quickly switches his attention, reaching out with his electro-cuffed arm toward the creature. One of the creature’s spindly legs breaks into two pieces and claws through his shirt sleeve. Mildred backs up, and the crowd parts to allow the creature to scuttle away, legs rolling over themselves to get away. It turns down the alley past the bar.

Molander later notices the claw marks on the stones in the alley and they see that they end at the sewer grate, which is small.

The party decides to check on Isaachi, who is passed out from blood loss in the healer hut. They go back to the tavern for lunch, hoping their free meal extends to lunchtime even with the commotion of the morning. Lufus is frustrated by the damage to his bar and examining it keenly.

Click Here to Go to Session Two

Agreeable

Is it better to be agreeable? Truly?

I’ve heard it all my life: how easy I make everyone’s lives, how well I listen, how I fill the gap and take initiative. These are all good traits, I’m sure. I’m sure there are people who don’t have these that wish they did, but maybe… this is counter-intuitive for me.

The Enneagram

There are millions of tests on the internet: “Which cheese are you?” “Which Disney prince should you marry?” “How weird are you?” There’s no shortage of them. However, most of the tests don’t reveal so much as they do just confirm biases you already have about yourself.

The Enneagram is unique in that it is not only over 100 years in the making, but that it is used to find your motivations, your drives, your failings, and so much more. It is recommended that you don’t have someone who is an expert examine you and decide what you are, but rather that self-discovery leads you to the place where you find who you are in an honest way.

However, honesty is not always easy… especially with ourselves. Take it from me: I was certain I was a 3: The Effective Person. The person who is an achiever and seeks nothing but achievement in all things to feel effective in the world. Every person I spoke to agreed with me.

When I started working at my current job, they sent me the test from WEPSS.com. They paid the $10 fee for me, and I took the 200 impression-question quiz. It took about 20-30 minutes. What came out on the other side has made me re-evaluate so much about the way I present myself to the world. Let me show you my results:

Out came the realization that I was, in fact, a 2: The Loving Person, with a WING of 3. The nickname of a 2-3 is “The Host.” This person shows the characteristics of a 3 (drive to succeed), but does them with a 2’s motivation: receiving love.

The 8 line indicates that under stressful conditions, I resort to an 8 manifestation: I become a little more assertive and willing to set limits. The 4 line shows that when I am relaxed, I become more like a 4: I can become more aware of my unique qualities as well as my needs and wants.

Used with permission from WEPSS.com.

This didn’t quite convince me I wasn’t a 3. Until I read this:

“During your early development, you were very aware of your interdependence with others. This awareness became distorted when important people in your life gave you approval for giving to them, helping them, and not asking much from them in return. When you directly expressed your own needs, you were probably met with indifference, disapproval, or abandonment. Thus you came to believe that your own needs would not be met until you first met the needs of others. When you were a child, you may have even acted like a parent to your own parents in order to get their affection.”

This paragraph made me cry as it hit me, and I re-read the email results over and over again.

I’m a two: a person who does all they do to receive love. They feel motivated by love and acceptance and making a difference. They become more stressed when they feel unloved or neglected, or when they fail to accomplish their goals.

Being Easy

Early on, I learned that being easy was the best way to receive love and acceptance. The easier I was to be around – the more quiet I was about my own needs – the better. I learned to just run with every task given to me and find little goals to make myself feel better it. This tactic works well. Bosses, other parents, teachers – they’ve all loved me and my “drive to succeed.” What they don’t know is that it’s actually a “drive to be appreciated.”

So what happens when I do this all of the time?

  • I don’t tell my husband when I’m really wanting something in an effort to be easy.
  • Finances become a source of stress because I don’t want to limit others’ spending, but limit myself to make up for it.
  • Bosses give me task after task and I’m unwilling to share that I’m unhappy doing something.
  • I stretch myself thin for friends and family when they’re visiting and become unhappy when it seems unappreciated (though I’d never show it).

The key is communication, obviously. But communication seems impossible when it feels like telling someone how you feel will inconvenience them, upset them, bother them, or do anything else, really, but make them love you. My brain connects that holding my needs in will make them love and accept me.

Not communicating, however, is likely going to do much worse to me. Again, the answer is obvious: when stating your needs you always sandwich requests: good-bad-good. You give appreciation, you say what you need/want/desire, you offer a way for that to happen, and boom – both parties can walk away still feeling good… but, Lord, do I overthink.

It’s time. It won’t happen all at once, but I have to learn that people won’t hate me for saying what I want or how I feel, and if they do… I need to be okay with that.

Comment your strategies or let me know if you’ve ever felt this way!

I Tried the Green Week

I have been attempting to come up with a system of “dieting” that allows me to feel freedom and avoid binge-ing and anxiety. I came up with and tested the idea of a “Green Week” – a week where I spend 7 days eating between 1400-1750 calories a day.

I posted along the way on my Instagram story, but here below is a journal record of each day:

Saturday, September 12 – Day One

First day completed – not too shabby. The only draw back I experienced was going out to eat that night. We had some friends over and went to eat at my favorite local Mexican BBQ place. Normally, I would order a beautiful large Kansas BBQ Nachos, but today I ordered the small and a margarita. Surprisingly, I felt very satisfied when I finished.

When we stopped by a frozen yogurt shop, I ordered a latte instead and capped my calories at 1750. I would have felt a little left out if not for the latte – but I rank lattes and ice cream at the same pleasure level, so I was very happy.

Sancho’s Kansas BBQ Nachos are heaven – if you haven’t tried them, you haven’t lived.

Sunday, September 13 – Day Two

My husband and I walked around a local park and played Pokemon Go and bought ourselves some coffees. We ate at home, and I had mostly starches and proteins that kept me pleasantly full: even after our long walk that morning. 1600 calories

Monday, September 14 – Day Three

First day back to work for the week, and I’m always motivated on Mondays. I was already hungry when I got to work, so I had a granola bar. I made a protein shake at work (y’all should be jealous – we get a free smoothie every day for either breakfast or lunch). The husband had thawed some salmon for us to have for dinner. We polished off a filet each and some rice and I had a baked potato.

We finished the day feeling like we needed something sweet, but we luckily had some Ghost Chips Ahoy protein laying around. We each had a Chips Ahoy shake and I finished the day at 1550.

Tuesday, September 15 – Day Four

This was an EASY day. I was sore from a workout, which was reminding me to make good choices for the rest of the day. I had a coffee, a granola bar, a shake, and made some homemade fried rice ready at home.

I also walked 11,000 steps and finished the day at 1500 cal.

Homemade Fried Rice – click for recipe
Wednesday, September 16 – Day Five

This day was a hard day – I had only a coffee for breakfast, and some left over fried rice for lunch. I ordered some DoorDash for a friend and I to get some Sonic (frozen lemonades for the win) and the husband made some Beef Stroganoff that I horked down really quickly. By the end of the day I was still hungry and only had about 200 calories left.

I finished it off with a baked potato (I have been LOVING baked potatoes lately) and finished the day at barely 1750.

Thursday, September 17 – Day Six

Hard by design – I woke up hungry and took no lunch to work. I had a coffee, couldn’t stomach another shake and ordered a breakfast wrap from ProteinHouse. This would normally be okay, as I’d be at 900 calories for the day and could have something filling for dinner – but we had plans.

Our friends came over so we could finish the big finale for my husband’s D&D campaign. We had homemade pizzas (by my estimation, about 700 calories), and I couldn’t resist dipping in the candy bowl several times. Between the drinks I had and the candy I ate, I easily went over a yellow day, and probably into a red day.

Friday, September 18 – Day Seven

I’ve been trying to figure out why yesterday went so poorly, but as I look back on these entries I can see why – when I went to bed on Day Four, I was easily very far below my calories burned for the day. I woke up hungry on Day Five and had nutrient-poor things to eat. Day Six I ordered something that had sounded healthy – a protein-dense lunch, but when I looked up the calories afterward, the avocado and other items inside had racked up the calorie count to close to 900.

So when dinner came, I ate the pizza and wanted sweets. I didn’t restrain myself to just the carrots and by the time I’d had my second drink in hand I knew I was at yellow. I gave myself in to “Oh well, I’ve blown it,” and dove in headfirst. I have to find a way that lets me feel like even if one meal throws me off balance, it’s not too hard to correct.

Today I woke up not very hungry, but could feel it setting in by the time I got to work. I had a granola bar, my coffee, and a friend bought me my first Acai bowl (which was freaking delicious, wow!). By the end of lunch, I had about 700 calories in my system.

Banana Berry Acai Bowl from Nektar

Hubby and I did a Datebox with Happily.co on Friday – we made some scones together (that turned out terrible!) I finished the day barely green!

Aftermath

It is now Monday as I write this, and I’ve already noticed a couple of things:

  • With eating protein and starches still, I’ve found it difficult to even reach high numbers without being morbidly full.
  • I accidentally had a Green Day on Saturday (we spent so much of our evening at IKEA and then building a table, I had forgotten to eat! By the time it was 7:00 I was starting to feel hungry, so I had a baked potato and was pretty quickly satiated.
  • Yellow – 2000 calories seems doable to me now. I think that small period of slight restriction might have been enough for me to… recalibrate? I’m satisfied at 2000, I’m eating foods that don’t take up 1700 calories in one meal, my hunger isn’t as strong as it was…

Overall, it definitely produced some interesting results and I’m excited to try it again next month, and do some research in the interim.

Do you have any questions about how it went? Comment, message, save – I’d love to answer and talk about it.