Intentions Not Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! I know a lot of us are definitely ready to put that year in the can and move on. You can read lots of other retrospectives on the year, so I am not going to focus a whole lot on it but I am going to add just a few things that stand out about the year to me, and how it affected me. It makes sense to move from the past to the future in that way. Also, this post will be much longer than most, so sorry about that and good luck making it through.

I am going to start off with the most impactful, at least for me. My mom died at the end of 2019, which made it feel a bit like I had a few extra months of 2020, if I’m honest. She didn’t die of COVID-19, but it was just as unexpected. She went into the hospital for a fairly minor back surgery that was really only supposed to be an overnight stay. One complication after another saw her spend the last two months of her life in the hospital and in a great deal of pain.

I still struggle a bit with guilt – I wish I could have spent more time there. There are all the questions that one asks. If I had been there longer could I have advocated more for her? Would my presence earlier on have aided in her recovery? These things still bother me fairly regularly.

Even amongst the tragedy there are a few things I am very grateful for. We got to visit with her before she went in for the surgery and take her to visit my aunt (her sister) in Ruidoso, which is a very pretty town in southern New Mexico. My kids got to spend some time with her and it was a very happy time.

Shortly after we returned to California I threw my back out. The pain was terrible – I very nearly unable to move for close to a week and the actual recovery was closer to three. At the beginning it took me over an hour to crawl to the bathroom a mere 15 feet away from my bed.

This injury happened shortly after my mom went in for surgery. Since I was just laying there, I ended up calling her and speaking with her much more frequently than normal. The pain I felt in my back helped to give me a greater level of empathy and understanding than I might otherwise have had with her. As crazy as it sounds, I am so grateful for that injury. It sucked, but I was able to connect with her much more than I might otherwise have.

After my back healed up a bit to where I could get around some I returned to work at Ticketmaster. A short while later my mom’s condition really turned bad and she was admitted to the ICU. With both the summer vacation and extended back injury, I was pretty low on paid leave, but my supervisor and the company didn’t hesitate to tell me to go. I offered to work remote, but my boss Jon said not to even worry about it. Another thing I’m grateful and indebted for.

I headed out and spent the nights at my sister’s place, and the days at the hospital (remember, this was just pre-COVID). When I arrived they had just taken her of the ventilator and it was unknown if she would even wake up. She did. She was even a coherent and we all thought that she was maybe on the mend but then things went bad and her body just started shutting down.

I miss her all the time.

This is one of my favorite pictures of her and me.

Anyway, that set the stage for 2020 for me, and I had a renewed vigor to spend more time with friends and family. Then COVID happened. Fifteen days to flatten the curve turned into nine months, and is still going on. There were ebbs and flows throughout the year where I was able to see friends, albeit often in a completely different way (wearing masks at a park six feet away). It definitely took more effort but it helped a bit to really focus on the relationships I was able to.

The kids learning at home was challenging, but their teachers have all been amazing. We were pretty impressed with them before, but seeing the amount of time and effort they have been putting toward keeping things in some semblance of “normal” while also teaching them has been remarkable. I know that not everyone has had this experience with their educators, but ours have been phenomenal.

This extra time with the kids at home was awesome though. Just spending time, watching them learn and work has been an amazing experience. Being able to sit down and eat lunch with them and just eavesdropping on their classes and hangout times was (and continues to be) great. Also have been able to take more walks with them and even focus some more individual time on each kid rather than lumping that quality time with them together.

Speaking of walks, it was pretty clear early on that COVID-19 was especially deadly for those with certain conditions – extra weight and low Vitamin D being a couple of of the big ones that affected me. Working as a writer and a software quality engineer it is easy to just hole up like some kind of hermit in a cave. Seeing the emotional effect that losing my mom had on me, I was very motivated to try my best to stick around for a while. My friend Ryan has been a multiyear success story in weight loss and an inspiration to me – you’ll hear more about him in the future.

I swallowed my pride and started asking him how he did it. He helped guide me, giving me support and tips, but not pushing me too much (which he knows I would just resist because that is my nature). As a result of his guidance, I lost close to fifty pounds over the course of 2020 (and over fifty down from my heaviest).

The first picture I could find of myself of the year (Girl Scouts Daddy Daughter Dance), and the last picture of myself for the year. I haven’t really looked at them side by side before.

Ryan is also my main gaming nemesis for both Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 also called Warhammer 40k or simply 40k. These tabletop miniature games that have been a hobby of mine for years. In fact, when I first moved to LA way back in 2002, Ryan and I met via a 40k Yahoo Group (remember those things?). We became fast friends and he remains one of my best friends in the world. As we have both matured in our careers and families our gaming and hobby time has scaled back quite a bit, but we make the effort to get in a game a month along with regular weekly zoom paint nights. I am grateful to have him in my life, he has been a friend, a confidante, and a mentor.

As I was working on my physical fitness I decided to work in a more focused way on my mental health as well. There was a lot of stressful stuff going on and so I decided to start trying to meditate. I have ADHD so the idea of sitting perfectly still and not thinking was laughable. Despite that, I spent some time looking around for different very short meditations and found a few that I liked. I started out at two minutes a couple of times a week but that practice has grown to become a regular and valuable part of my day.

In addition to meditation, or perhaps because of it, I also turned more to my faith. It has been easier to spend time in prayer and I have had more of an interest in learning more about some of the saints and deciding to go deeper into it. It has also been a source of strength and comfort.

As the year passed, it became more and more obvious that the live entertainment industry was in serious trouble. Ticketmaster, and its parent company, Live Nation has had it rough. I give credit to the management for trying their best to do right by all the employees. The president, Michael Rapino, decided early on to forego his salary and many of the other executives took reduced salaries in hopes that the virus would pass quickly and things would be back to normal by the end of the year. Obviously that didn’t happen. There were several rounds of furloughs and layoffs and my number eventually came up and I found myself on furlough. For those that don’t know, basically that means that the benefits stay in effect, but the pay goes down to zero. I wasn’t (and am not) bitter toward the company. They have always been a very good place to work, and their support during my mom’s final weeks will never be forgotten. I was very grateful that over the last couple of years my wife and I had taken a much more serious view on our finances, which enabled us to get through a few months without really changing too much. Family has also been very supportive during this time.

As I started reflecting on the year I realized that despite common wisdom that 2020 was a dumpster fire, my own life was marked with blessings and gratitude. Yeah, losing my job sucked, but the closeness with my wife and kids is an an all time high. I am getting to watch them grow much closer. I have grown in my faith. My mental and physical health are better than they have been in years. I am happier. Yes, I know it has been a rough year for many people, but there have been so many blessings too. I have always felt that we see what we look for, and this year has really reinforced that belief. Finding the good doesn’t discount the bad. Okay that is my reflection on 2020. Now on to 2021. I promise it won’t be as long.

I have spent the last few weeks thinking about my life and what I want out of the new year. I decided not to do a resolution. To me, resolutions are hard but brittle. In the past I have found that once the resolution has been broken, I tend to just shrug and move on. “At least I tried”. Bringing in what I learned last year, I have decided to live more intentionally. So rather than resolutions, I am going to list my intentions for the new year. You might call it semantics, but as someone who works with words, I know that they have meaning. Also, beyond just the intentions, I also am working on being more intentional with time, the currency of life. It is so easy in this world of distraction to squander it.

I sat down and wrote all of the things I wanted to focus on this year and tried to schedule a sample day. Turned out I needed about 56 hours a day (64 if I wanted to sleep). I’ll write more about this process and the original things in the future, but for the time being, here is a picture of the first pages.

I love my Bullet Journal. Life changing for me. Also, page 1 of 6 of “great” ideas and ways to spend my time in the new year.

I really like all those things and want to devote all of my time to them and more. As a side note here, there is a moment to reclassify ADHD from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder to ARD for Attention Regulation Disorder. We aren’t always distracted. Sometimes we hyperfocus on a thing. I think the combination of medication and meditation have really helped me to get a better ability to regulate my own focus.

Looking at the various things I was able to kind of narrow it down into some broad categories. Those categories will be what I focus my blogging on. My goal, as mentioned in a previous post, is to do one post from each category every week. The following paragraphs will break them down just a little bit more. Since 2021 is starting on a Friday, the new schedule will go into effect next week. I am still trying to decide the exact day for each category, but want to make it consistent so people interested in gaming can only check it one day a week, those interested in writing a different, etc. Also the list is just in alphabetical order below, not necessarily the order I am thinking for publication.

Hobby. This is where I will put all of my miniature gaming stuff. My painting guides and updates, whatever battle reports from games I play, as well as any narrative fiction that I write up in order to go along with it. I have posted some of those things in a different blog in the past, and given the current COVID situation, I will likely repost them here with some additional comments or pictures.

Pre-COVID I would never have even considered a game at the park.

Personal. This is where I am going to write about the things I am doing to improve myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, I will also write about my experiences with ADHD and the challenges and benefits it brings. This is also the likely category where I will talk a bit about my family, but I am ferociously protective of them, so they won’t pop up too much.

Professional. I will be writing here about my professional life. From software quality and product integrity, to thoughts on writing, as well as things like time management and even professional development like programming and other learning will be in this category. Also, art will either be here or in personal. I am still deciding.

Spiritually. While I considered adding this to the Personal category, I decided it was deserving of its own. I am catholic, and many of my friends only really know catholicism from movies and tv. I will be posting my own personal reflections here as well as some common prayers that we say and what they mean to me as well as exploring misconceptions that people have about us. Also, if anyone has any questions, I will do my best to research and answer. I am obviously not a priest, nor a theologian, but simply a practicing lay catholic, but I will do my best.

St. Finbar’s Parish in Burbank has truly become a spiritual home for me.

Thanks for making it to the end of the colossal post. In the future, they won’t be as long, but probably some will because I like the sound of my own typing.

I hope your 2021 is blessed and happy, and I look forward to sharing it with you all.

-Patrick

Death in Life (Free Fiction Friday)

Hello all, as I have mentioned in the past, it is my goal to be a much more regular poster on this blog (and a much less poster on social media). I am going to start a regular Friday posting of short stories and flash fiction. It will vary widely in content some will be reposts, some will be new original pieces and I am shooting around a thousand words or so as a target. I am following up yesterday’s post on the narrative Age of Sigmar campaign Shep and I are doing by sharing the narrative for my Ossiarch Bonereapers army, the Harvesters of Sorrow. Enjoy!

Lord Kyrush slid from his mount and walked toward the massive library hall. The psychopomp summons from his master bore an unusual call for haste and that alone had piqued his interest. He didn’t bother the tie the reigns of the skeletal beast to the ornate hitching rail. Some of the other Liege-Kavaloi preferred their steeds to retain some wild spirit thinking that it made the beast more ferocious on the battlefield, but not Kyrush. He preferred loyalty and obedience in all who served him. He had selected the souls bound to his warbeast by hand – two from loyal soldiers that he’d fought alongside millennia ago, when flesh still covered him, and the remainder belonged to those foes who had earned his begrudging respect on the battlefield. Some might see this as a move designed to degrade those who’d opposed him but in truth it was an honor. Of course, their individual personalities had been stripped out and refined but their ferocity and prowess remained. More than once he’d considered letting his mount lead a campaign. If he still possessed lips, they would have curled in a wry smile at the thought.

            The library hall was the largest building in the Dry City of Dur-Surrakan and contained the records of a ten-thousand conquests and hundred times that number of tribes and kingdoms fallen and forgotten over the millennia in the Mortal Realms. The scrolls and tablets were neatly stacked and arrayed on towering shelves, every single one in their proper place.  Kyrush had never bothered to learn the method of organization – it was said that a scribe would spend their first century committing the method to mind and Kyrush lacked the patience. This didn’t mean he found no use for the information stored there, quite the opposite. His study and perfection of war meant that he spent nearly as much time reading as anything else, but his own tupsars were efficient and reliable so there was no need.

            The summons didn’t say where to report, but Kyrush knew his master would be found in one of two places and since the Chartis Kosmoi was on a lower level he made for the map room. Entering the chamber he quickly saw his estimation had been correct.

            Elu-Erashim leaned over roughly hewn tablet as large as a table and dragged his fingers along the symbols etched in the top. Not adorned in his battle gear, the Master of the Bone Tithe was lank and tall – he would have towered over nearly all the intelligent mortal races save the ogor and their intellect was a point of constant debate. His eyes blazed with power, even when he was at rest. Kyrush knelt and awaited his master’s audience. In the past Kyrush had been made to wait days before his lord addressed him, but time has no meaning for the dead, so he waited.

            After a time, the Tithe Master Elu-Erashim took notice of him and turned eyes of balefire on the Liege-Kavalos. When he spoke, the voice echoed in Kyrush’s head alone, for the ossia of the Tithe Lord’s mouth was sealed around a scroll. That papyrus was cause of great mystery in the land of the dead. All of those who bore any sense of curiosity wondered at the words etched and hidden for him alone. Some claimed the papyrus contained a list of the deeds of the greatest dead, others that it was a list of those who’d escaped the tithe. Some swore it contained Elu-Erashim’s life name and was the magic by which Nagash bound him. Some even whispered it bore the darkest secrets of the Great Necromancer himself. Whatever the truth was, most were knew the realms would be cold and dark long before Elu-Erashim himself revealed the glyphs.

            “Lord Kyrush, Conqueror of the Oblate Eternal, I have cause for thy arms, and thy puissance in war. Would that we had a century that I might recall thy deeds, I would recall unto thee a thousand honors thy arm and thy blade have won, worthy Liege.”

            “I exist but to serve the Tithe, my lord. It is neither recognition nor ambition which drive my blade, but service and honor of the Legion.” Kyrush responded as tradition dictated but was surprised at the formality of address. He then noticed the Library’s own Liege-Tupsar was recording the moment on a scroll of vellum.

            Elu-Erashim crossed his arms and bowed. “I address thee thus, Liege-Kavalos Kyrush to commemorate this great day. Lord Nagash’s necroquake has revealed unto us a cache of heroic souls, long hidden by treacherous magics, deep within the heart of the Jade Kingdoms. As thou art aware, long have we sought a foothold eternal within Ghyran from whence to collect the tithes from the living. Within the Vast Wood of Whitkarnelles a great boon has fate decreed be ours. Not a dozen leagues from the soul-vault a Gate long dormant has awoken. The stars of Shyish have revealed unto our Chaldeans an omen of greatness. Within that dark wood shall our glories be written. Thou, oh Master of the Field, shall be the architect of our victory. Lord Katakros himself hath decreed it thus and chosen thee by name to be Emissary of the Tithe.”

            “For the honor of the Legion!” Kyrush cried and slammed his fist into his chest. Although there was no heart beating within his breast he felt a rush of excitement. He had been chosen by the greatest of them all. He would establish this foothold, grow it into a stronghold, and then a necropolis. He would raise statues to honor Nagash and strike fear and awe into the denizens the realm of Life, and harvest a tithe unmatched throughout all of the Mortal Realms.

Crusade to Glory!

As regular readers of this blog will know my friemesis, Shep and I have been really changing our mindset from a tourney-oriented hyper competitive point of view to a more narrative driven. While this has been happening for the last couple of years, it takes time to change and we haven’t been rushing it. There are a few different reasons for this, and I will be getting into that in a future post, but for right now, let’s just accept that we are competitive players who are really enjoying narrative. With the release of the Indomitus set for 40k, there were a few interesting things, but one of the most was the new narrative play called Crusade. The Goonhammer blog has a pretty comprehensive write up and review of the rules for it for Warhammer 40k.

Trust me, this is an Age of Sigmar post, but before we get there I needed to talk a little bit of 9th Edition Warhammer 40,000 and give you a frame of reference. Now, Shep and I started up our new factions for the year, me with Ossiarch Bonereapers – The Harvesters of Sorrow – and he is growing his Stormcast Eternals collection – The Knights Invictus – with a slight focus on the Warrior and Vanguard chambers.

This is our third themed year of doing this sort of thing. First was my Nighthaunts vs. the proto version of his Knights Invictus, and that was a very fun year which started with a very basic small first game that saw the soul of one of his leaders captured within the magical lock of a Spirit Torment and then had to get it back. It culminated with the Knights charging through a Realmgate to recover him and establishing a foothold within Shyish.

Boo!

Last year it was a 40k year and after an abortive start trying out Nurgle it eventually ended with the birth of my Harlequins, The Masque of the Sanguine Dawn. Overall, the year ended up being a bit less narrative and kind of fell apart at the end of the year due to a personal tragedy and some overall disappointing outcomes in trying to set up games beyond just the two of us. That being said, I am pretty happy with how they ended up looking.

Joke’s on you!

This year, we decided to do AoS again and had really big plans for 2020 like the rest of the planet and then COVID happened. Despite that, Shep and I have been working away at our armies and the narrative and even managed to get in a couple of games. We started out using the Path to Glory rules as we developed the narrative. Quick aside, we like to not plan too far ahead, or be too restrictive and let the results of the game kind of influence the flow of where we go.

Unfortunately, the Path to Glory wasn’t really working for us. It didn’t even really give you much of an idea of how to play your army, which is something we were really hoping for in order to help us determine how to grow our forces into something that was interesting visually, story wise, and didn’t absolutely suck on the table. We’d already begun talking about maybe just scrapping the Path to Glory and kind of home-brewing something, which isn’t our go-to because we are still evolving as gamers from competitive tourney players and that just seemed a bridge too far.

And then Indomitus happened. There was that initial rush of new game excitement and we even talked about maybe switching the year to a 40k year (dibs on Necrons!). Games Workshop is really leaning into the multiple ways to play angle (narrative, matched, open), and there was a little bit about Crusade. It seemed much more inline with the kind of gamine we wanted to do and we ended up taking the dive into some home-brew work. Having the structure of Crusade really made it feel more proper to us, and seemed to provide the necessary framework we were looking for. Shep is “running” the narrative campaign this year (I did the last AoS one) and he dove into making the necessary tweaks with a bit of feedback and input from me.

Kyrush the Unyielding, Troika of the Crown Transcendant, Lord Beyond Time, Conquerer of the Oblate Eternal, Bringer of the Ruin of Nations, Master of the Field.

I am pleased to say that it is working out really well for us so far. Giving all of your units names, and watching them “level up” is a nice little bit of helping us own the game and our choices in game. Occasionally the question will arise, “What would Kyrush the Unyielding do?” and that has led to some very memorable moments which will be forthcoming posts in this series.

The Harvesters of Sorrow

If you are interested in taking a look at the ruleset we are using, go for it! Feel free to adapt it to your own liking or run it straight as is.

We also are just using a simple excel spreadsheet to keep track of our units and their glory, experience, and happenings. Here is a look at mine, again feel free to use as you see fit. (this is after the first game – so you can see some experience, etc).

Next time I will share with you the narrative bit that I started writing at the beginning of our campaign and then following that a narrative writeup of the games we have played so far. Thanks for making it this far and let me know what you think!

A New New Army for the New Year

As those of you who followed me before the upgrade explosion and glorious rebirth of this blog know, I decided this year to take part in #NewYearNewArmy for my Warhammer hobby, after almost quitting entirely due to time restrictions and just generally being in an unbalanced and bad place. Part of the reason for focusing on this is to bring balance and good completely non-work related hobby. As an aside, my core group of game friends here had decided to start new 40k armies and have quarterly meetups and games to keep us all on target to finish up a 2000 point fully painted army by the end of the year. Then my local GW store started their own #NewYearNewArmy set up, so doubly motivated I was ready to go!

I chose Nurgle originally as I kind of like their wicked cruelty mixed with humor in the background – I don’t usually mind playing the villain in games because I either win (yay!) or the bad guys the story lose (also yay!). I wrote up a fun background for them for the Vigilus Campaign at my local Games Workshop store in Glendale (which I may repost here later) but after playing a couple of games with them (and some other more personal reasons) I decided they weren’t for me.

I did a lot of soul-searching and and discussion with my good friend Shep about what army I should do. The army he pitched to me after doing some deep thinking was Harlequins. Not gonna lie, my first reaction was, “uh… maybe?” Don’t get me wrong, I have loved these guys since I first got the metal box way back in the late 80s – in fact, they were my first “big” Warhammer 40k army. They are an elite, tricky, speedy army which kind of ticks all of my boxes, so why wasn’t I more excited?

After unpacking some of my feeling and thoughts, I came to realize that the hang up was entirely because I used to have a full and awesome Biel Tan army that was stolen from me by a friend who left LA never to be seen again. After that happened, any time I thought about playing the Space Elves I ended up feeling a bit of that resentment. We are strange creatures, because I wasn’t even consciously aware that I was still holding a resentment and bitterness toward Mike and it was manifesting in my dislike for an army whose aesthetic and play style are totally me. Once I realized this and was able to process and forgive both him and myself, I found myself getting SUPER EXCITED about the idea. I built out my first models which are a Troupe, a Troupemaster, a Shadowseer, and a Death Jester. These models are ridiculously gorgeous and not a little bit intimidating to get going, but I’m looking forward to the challenge!

I have some catchup to play in order to get back on track for the New Year, New Army train, but I am confident I can do it – thanks in large part to the elite nature of this army. Beyond just the model and army, I am also really getting into the background and setting up a whole alien terrain set for my table. Here is what I have built and primed so far, with a bit more in boxes and ready to be built! A big thanks to Shep for his help and more importantly, his friendship and in knowing me so well.

IMG_6382.jpg

As an aside, I should have posted this yesterday, but it was a crazy day (can’t wait until Girl Scout cookie season is over!), so will likely make two posts today.