Otakon 2016

Welcome to Wonderland

In one way or another, I have kept a journal since age 12. I've kept an online journal called Musings since late 2002. My topics range from things that happen in my daily life to my thoughts on pop culture to my ponderings about everything from dreams to the secret thoughts of pets. In November 2007, I began mirroring it here, although I often included extras to this version, such as memes and quizzes. In February 2010, I stopped updating the original journal on my home page and instead started a writing journal there.

For some insight into who I am, read Intro to Alyce. For a guide to the many nicknames I use in my online journal, check out Who's Who in Musings.

The beautiful, sweet dog in one of my icons is Una, my best friend and nurse dog for nearly 11 years, who passed away on October 22, 2010. She was my inspiration, and she taught me how to be a better friend and mother; a better person. My son, Kung Fu Panda (KFP for short), benefits from all the caregiving skills I learned in those 11 years. My husband, The Gryphon, probably does, as well!

The goals I established when I first begin an online journal remain the same: this is a way to explore the tangential, the seemingly accidental observations many of us overlook but which may, ultimately, be where all life and all mystery hinges.

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Tips from a Work-at-Home Mom

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Time works in odd ways these days. Like pancake syrup, at times it runs quickly out of the bottle, and at other times, it pools in a waffle square. Has it really been seven days since I posted a blog entry?

I've been thinking about today's entry for a while, even if I haven't placed fingers to the keyboard and solidified its form. Since so many people currently find themselves in an odd situation, being stuck at home perhaps for the first time ever -- and for some of us, with kids -- I wanted to share some insights I picked up as a work-at-home mom.

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Human Networks

Monday, March 23, 2020

I've been thinking a lot about human connection and the way that this current crisis has caused us all to lean into the virtual space in a way we never quite have before. Despite the ever-present phones in our hands, we have always had the option of speaking face to face. Being in the same space. Promising to get together for coffee -- even at times when we knew it would never happen.

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The Birthday Flood

Friday, March 20, 2020

My sister urged me, as a writer, to document these outrageously odd times in which we are living. So today I begin what should become a series -- the Plague Diaries, perhaps? -- of entries, not so much about the mundane details of what's going on in my life, necessarily. I'll be writing about something that stands out. A thought, a significant moment, or other observations.

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LJI 11 Week 16: Puppy Party

This is my entry for Week 16 of LJ Idol (therealljidol). The topic this week is "The Streisand Effect," which refers to the phenomenon where trying to draw attention away from something actually attracts more attention.

Una as a puppy, looking very innocent.

My parenting skills developed before my son had even been conceived, thanks to my late dog, Una. At the time, my silly, affectionate golden-colored pit bull and German Shephard mix with the pinkish nose, my little Boo-Boo, was my furry child. For all I knew at the time, she might have remained my only one, because I adopted her after my first marriage ended and wouldn't upgrade to a second, permanent husband for several years.

Puppy Una, compact ball of fur and energy, loved her brother, Murray, whom my Mom had adopted. Their sister, Emma, went to live with my sister. All of them came from a litter that my brother's dog, Pulsar, birthed while he was still living in Colorado. My sister and I had met the puppies when we went there to celebrate New Year's Eve 2000. We saw the new millennium in while standing around a bonfire in the snow, watching the neighbors' windows in case the Y2K bug crashed all known technology. (It didn't.)

Una's bounciness turned out to be good training for my bouncy boy, who at nearly 10 can get a workout even at the computer. He gets so excited about what he's doing that he'll stand up and bounce up and down on his toes, effectively doing calf raises as he types.

But Una needed an outlet for her exuberance, so I regularly took her to my Mom's house for play dates with her brother, who had inherited his dad's large, square head and Pulsar's dark coloring. Una and Murray had a unique bond, lying on the floor facing each other and talking in puppy language. Their "woo-woos" and playful "grrs" sounded for all the world like a real conversation. You could track them through the house by listening for it.

Now, they were puppies but they weren't fools, and they knew their happy noises drew my attention. At least, that's what I have to believe, because of what happened on the afternoon in question.

I'd been sitting in the front room, working on an article for the local newspaper, where I was a reporter and assistant editor. In those days, I didn't have a laptop, so I was tied to that work space in what used to be our formal living room. Like kids do, the pups were hanging out in the family room, the big room in the back of the house with the comfy couch and the television.

Working on the article, I looked out the window to think. Spring air whooshed through the open sash. Birds tweeted and chirruped. A beautiful, quiet spring afternoon. Too quiet. Knowing immediately that something was wrong, I dashed into the family room to find out what the puppies were doing.

They were eating the couch.

You know in the movies, when the parents go away for the weekend and the kids have a wild party? Then, after the party ends, the camera lingers over the devastation that's been wrought? It was like that. But with couch cushions. Or rather, I should say, with the stuffing that used to be inside the couch cushions.

They'd had a puppy party, all right. There was so much shredded foam lying on the floor, I wondered at first if they'd gotten into a bag of cotton balls. The cushions, spread across the carpet, looked like someone had been playing a game of "the floor is lava" and using them for stepping stones.

When they saw me, the two pups sat up and grinned, satisfied with their work.

Just then -- I am not making this up -- I heard my Mom's car pulling into the driveway. Frantically, I stuffed as much of the foam as I could into the mangled corner of the closest cushion, tossed the more intact pillows on the couch, and tried to think how I would explain this.

Of course, I forgot one important thing. Mom had raised three kids. When she came inside and I confessed that I'd let my attention wonder and allowed the puppies to have a wild couch-eating party, she simply nodded with a bemused smile. "Welcome to parenthood," she said.

In that instant, I realized that all those times that we kids had done something bad and tried to hide it, she must have known. The sheets stuffed in the laundry basket after a nighttime accident; the change I slipped into my pocket after buying her bread at the local corner store; the many Saturday mornings I snuck downstairs to watch cartoons at 6 a.m. She knew. Whether or not she ever confronted me about it, she knew about it all.

You can't hide anything from a Mom.
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Vote - Week 15 - Sudden Death Write Off

A few words from Gary:

I’m not going to lie. There was a part of me that was hoping that someone would fall down during this process, just turn in something that wasn’t all that great and make it an easier decision.

Fortunately for you - they didn’t.

This is going to be a rough one.

8 contestants enter. 4 contestants go back into the main competition. The other 4 go to whatever it is that exists outside of Idol. (I assume it’s Oblivion)

Because this is such a big decision, I’m giving you more time to make it. So read, comment and vote for your favorites! Then make sure to tell your friends to do the same! Spread the word!

The poll is open to everyone and closes Monday, March 9th at 8pm EDT

Good luck to everyone!

Poll #2099628 Sudden Death Write Off - Week 15
This poll is closed.

The Ballot: The Ballot

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SCI Write-Off - Recovery

This is my entry for the Sudden Death round of Second Chance Idol. If I succeed, I'll reenter the main competition. This was an Open Topic. You can vote in the Second Chance round by following this link: https://therealljidol.livejournal.com/1115395.html


One morning, less limp. Another, I tackle
stairs with no pain. Then, I forget
my ibuprofen, yet miss my heel twinge.

Ice and elevation, careful
muscle mending. Six months
since my knee popped sideways
on uneven cement. Tears
sprung to my eyes, I'd hobbled
home. More than

a year since I fell, splayed on carpet,
momentum bursting bicep. Purple
and green arm flares. My movement
curtailed. So many
ordinary things -- opening cabinets, typing --
a struggle. (For me, that rubbed raw.)

I nursed my weakness. Reusable ice packs
tempered the burn. Slow. Slow.

Today, I bounce
in the shallow end, dozens
of eyes focus on me, match
my movements. I call out
commands, correct form. Touch
your shoulders,
lift your knees.

Gradually, I've knit myself
together. Recovered
what I'd lost. This is me.
This has always been me.

Me in my swimsuit this morning
in front of my book shelf

As some of you know, I suffered a bicep tear injury back in November 2018. Luckily, while it hurt a lot, it wasn't severe enough to require surgery, just a lot of TLC. Ironically, when my arm had reached close to 100 percent of its strength and flexibility, in August 2019, I stepped on some uneven pavement and suffered a ACL injury to my right knee. Again, I was lucky that I didn't require surgery, just plenty of slow going and care. My left heel developed plantar fascitis from favoring it due to the knee pain. Now, I'm happy to say I'm almost completely recovered from that injury, too.

Late last year, the regular aqua fitness instructor at my YMCA quit. Since she had often asked me to substitute for her on a volunteer basis, I eventually got up the nerve to apply for the permanent position. I got it and have been teaching since the first week of January. In that time, perhaps from learning and teaching movements to others to increase flexibility, strength and balance, I've not only seen improvements in my own balance but also have lost a little weight and gained muscle tone.
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SCI - Week 3: A Mother's Work

This is my entry for Week 3 of Second Chance Idol therealljidol. The topic this week is "Busman's Holiday."

Me and KFP when he was a baby

He drools on me, mouth sticky from milk, and I cuddle his compact body. At moments like this, I do not mind the fact that I'm stuck at home, on bed rest, after birthing him and his ginormous head (housing a big brain, I'll tell him when he's older). Trees wave green fronds at me outside my second-floor bedroom, where I'm marooned with my baby. My husband must bring me food, but our son has everything he needs, because at this point, most of what he needs is me.


Our first party as a family, held at a rambling modern home by some friends in the Philly geek community, and I'm sitting alone in a bedroom, nursing my son. Through a quirk of fate, I actually have video from this party, recorded to submit to the global film project "Life in a Day" (though ironically never submitted due to the pressing duties of Momdom). It was someone's birthday -- no longer remember whose -- and grainy video shows friends singing a birthday dirge for our newly 40-year-old friend. Other clips show a dear friend holding our bundle like the child she perhaps might have had, if her life had worked out differently.

But in this particular moment, I'm feeling lonely. Abandoned, even. My husband gets to socialize, and I'm stuck in a quiet room, out of consideration for our non-reproducing friends. A gentle knock on the door. A male friend pokes his head in and asks if I'd like company. I tell him sure, because even in this room I've covered my wiggly baby with a nursing cover for modesty's sake. The friend, big and bearded, perches on a little chair and talks to me as if everything is like it's always has been, and I don't have a tiny human latched to my chest.


My family gather together for a group vacation in a cabin by Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania, our home state. Everyone is there -- my brother, his wife and two kids; my sister, pregnant with her first child, and her husband; and our parents, even though they're divorced. The cabin needed extra babyproofing, due to wide-open central steps from the first floor to the living room, but between my brother's quick thinking, some moved furniture, and a couple baby gates we've brought, we soon have it toddler-ready.

My brother's children seem so independent, able to push their own food around their plates, articulate their wishes using language, and even read books to my little boy. He wants to follow them everywhere, and gets frustrated when they bounce down steps where he's not allowed to follow. When they leave the table early, he pushes away the spoon I proffer, wanting to play instead.

At bedtime, he resists going to bed, wanting to stay up with the adults and older kids in the living room. He bounces his head forcefully against the couch, trying to make himself wake up. I carry him off, crying, into the bedroom, where I know I'll end up falling asleep right next to him.

"I know how you feel," I whisper.


We sit in a darkened theater at the annual Japanese animation convention that I help run. My son is with me to watch the live performance of a very special event. For the 25th anniversary of the convention, some old friends have renewed a now-retired practice of writing and performing a live stage production consisting of making snarky remarks about a truly atrocious anime film.

Since I'd been a writer for some of their previous productions, they'd invited me back, and I'd subjected myself to the film enough times to be considered a card-carrying masochist. As the opening skit ends and the film begins to roll, I experience the delight of hearing audience members laughing at my lines. My jokes are landing!

But then, as I would tell my friends later, my son has a completely understandable reaction to this wretched movie. He starts screaming and demanding to leave.

Nothing encapsulates the experience of a parent better than what follows: Me, kneeling in a carpeted hallway in front of a cranky preschooler in a stroller, begging him to go back inside.

"Mommy helped write the jokes, honey," I tell him. "Can we just go stand inside the door and watch a little more?"

For the only time in his entire life, he reacts by saying, "No, Mommy. It's bedtime."


In bitter spring, I'm suffering from a never-ending cold. One moment, my head's stuffy, nose running. The next, I'm coughing so hard I get lightheaded. I'm sucking down cough drops by the bag, so that the inside of my cheeks pucker and my jaw hurts.

When my son comes home from school, I'm still the only parent present to get him a snack, insist he do his homework, cook dinner. I loll around, miserable, asking him to do a few things for himself. He really does try, but he still needs help that only a Mommy can give.

At piano practice time, I tell him that the plush animal friends -- Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear -- who like to make silly commentary about his lesson are sick, as well. He understands, knowing I'm the one who voices them.

"Poor Mozart and Beethoven. I hope they're better soon," he says, and pats me on the arm.


My son and I fill out his weekly dry-erase list of appointments and things to do. I refer to the calendar on my phone, reading off to him the items for each day, as he writes it in his fourth-grade handwriting, growing more confident and neater than even last year's.

When the little board is filled with blue writing, I look at it and declare, "You know, that's my schedule, too."


I'm sitting on the couch this evening, writing a piece about my son. He's on his dad's computer, playing a logic game where you play a mouse trying to capture cheese and avoid a cat in a maze. Stuck on one of the mazes, he asks me for advice. I look up, assess the situation, and suggest a move. It fails. I suggest another one. It fails, as well.

When he was younger, he would have gotten so frustrated he would have quit in tears. But this time, I suggest to him that he problem-solve it himself. "Just keep trying options, and eventually something will work," I tell him.

A few minutes later, he calls out again, triumphantly. He shows me his solution, brilliant in its simplicity.

"Good job," I say, realizing once more, today, what I've occasionally realized before.

The endless hours of support and nurturing, the times I feel more martyr than mother, the thankless days of pushing down misery so that I can protect and care for him, are paying off in a confident, kind, brilliant, funny boy. Good job, indeed. Good job.

Me and KFP at Philcon 2019