Carousel 2019

LJI Second Chance: The Garden Path

This is my entry for Second Chance Idol ( This week we get an open topic, meaning we can write about anything. I'll update later when there is a voting link to share.

The Ardennes region of France, a bright green valley with clear-running stream and tiny white buildings.

The Garden Path
(for my mother's mother's mothers)

I am the daughter of Vivian,
who was the daughter of Ella,
who was the daughter of Senora,
who was the daughter of Hannah,
who was the daughter of Cathrina,
who was the daughter of Susanna,
who was the daughter of Anna Margaretha,
who was the daughter of Anna Catherina,
who was the daughter of Veronica,
who was the daughter of Susanna,
who was the daughter of Susannah,
who was the daughter of Rachel,
who was the daughter of Jeanne,
who was the daughter of Jeanne.

And in this way, I unravel our path:
from my hometown in Central Pennsylvania
back through Pennsylvania Coal Country
to Philadelphia
by way of New York City
through The Netherlands
to the Champagne-Ardenne region of France.

My father believes I have a "French nose,"
perhaps a mitochrondrial trait, if I am,
indeed, descended from these French
Huguenots, whose ancient roots
sprung from fertile earth in Picardy,
north of Paris. That green place
birthed Pierre Cresson, gardener
to the Prince of Orange, known as
Pierre le Gardinier. From Picardy, perhaps,
the seed of my mother's green thumb,
her love of botany: documented in the bright
pastels she left behind.

I trace back my matrilineal names:
from me, a Wilson,
daughter of a Starr,
daughter of a Hinkle,
daughter of a Hampton,
daughter of a Yoder,
daughter of a Trautman,
daughter of a Pfeiffer,
daughter of a Muller,
daughter of a Warner,
daughter of a Cassell,
daughter of a DeLaPlaine,
daughter of a Cresson,
daughter of a Clauss,
daughter of a Famelar,
daughter of a Colle.
If the work of my supposed cousins
holds, I am lucky to connect
these points along a circuitous path, from
my 2019 all the way to 1572. Now,
I unfold this rough map, sketched
by others, and examine all stopping points.
So far, success: two certain links
between Hannah and Cathrina,
my second and third great-grandmothers.
Now to suss out Susannah. With that
established, the pathway will root
in records and documents, thanks to
Pierre Le Gardinier.

As I weed the path from Cathrina
to Susannah, I wonder what we share.
The way we bite our lips in thought?
Our clear-eyed ability
to evaluate those around us? Powers
of perception, elevated or earthly?
My mother's bright blue eyes,
my Nana's hazel laughter,
great-grandmother's stoic stare,
great-great-grandmother's poise.
So different, all of them, but I see
the thread unwinding. I long
to tell our stories, the oft-forgotten
others of history books. From "wife of"
to mother, grandmother, matriarch.

My Matrilineal Line
My matrilineal line: me; my mother, Vivian Starr; my Nana, Ella Hinkle; my great-grandmother, Senora Hampton; and my 2x great-grandmother, Hannah Yoder

Carousel 2019

LJI Second Chance: April Shade

This is my entry for LJ Idol's Second Chance competition ( for eliminated contestants to earn a spot back in the competition. The topic this week is "Shade." I'll update when there is a voting link.

Bare Tree with Shadow Limbs


Spring sun shadows through bare branches
fascinate me. Again and again, I feel
compelled to photograph the way those crooked
lines stretch across the grass, dark mirrors. Blackness
crisscrosses latent green, undulates.
The grass awash in ripples, dappled grays and fading
charcoal. Glimpsed from a distance, these lines mimic
root systems stretching underneath: that two-brushed
flare of living trees, stretching above and below.

At that moment, when the world lies
dormant, I feel more sharply
the life that suffuses.

ETA: As promised, here is the link to the poll: Four people will be eliminated from Second Chance this week!
Otakon 2016

WordPress Question

 For those who also blog on the WordPress platform:

What plug-in would you recommend for backing up a WordPress site? I had to disconnect the last one I was using, because it created usage problems with my server.

(I'm also using this post to test the automatic crosspost option to my LiveJournal.)

ETA: Yay! It worked!
Otakon 2016

Life Is Recovery


Me after my morning workout today

For those who don't know -- and how would most of you know? -- I'm recovering from a bicep tear I inflicted on myself seven weeks ago. To make a long story short, I fell, at top speed, in full face-plant position, with my arms up at my shoulders. Theoretically, this is the proper way to fall, spreading out the impact and all. However, a couple days later, with my arm still tender, I tried to shovel wet snow. Believe it or not, it wasn't the shoveling that did it so much as a sudden grab for the shovel, when I dropped it. That's when I felt a sharp rush of pain. The next day, I had a giant bruise and a diagnosis, confirmed by my osteopath father, of a torn bicep.

Each day, the pain ebbs away a little further. Each day, however, I face reminders of where I used to be. I was regularly lifting 20-pound dumbbells as part of my workout routine. While I am still, admittedly, carrying far too much body fat, I had acquired a decent amount of upper body muscle. For the first time in my life, I didn't watch my arms wobble in the mirror when doing arm movements in my aerobics classes.

Now, seven weeks in, the workouts that came easily just a couple months ago are simply impossible for the moment. I've paused my home weightlifting workouts until at least February, and when weights are called for in my aerobics classes, I go with weights I previously considered "baby weights." However, I'm making slow strides, getting better every day. A couple weeks ago, I returned to my regular classes at the YMCA -- Cardio Kickboxing, Water Aerobics and Zumba -- and while I had to modify some movements, I felt great about being back. With the holidays, scheduling exercise became more difficult, so I simply focused on the same thing I'd focused on for my first three weeks of rest and recovery: my diet. That was the one thing I could control, so I resolved to drink lots of liquid, track my intake, and avoid alcohol.

You see, in the past, I've often resorted to self-sabotage when I got hurt: over-indulgence, whether alcohol or food, intended to mute the pain. Eventually, I would come back to my senses, usually about 15 pounds heavier, and regret it. That's how I've managed to pack on 45 pounds since my mother died three years ago. First one thing and then another, and I'd fall off the wagon of healthy eating and plunge into despair, trying to fill the void with comfort food that ultimately provided no comfort.

This time, I'm happy to say that I've stayed at about the same weight as I'd been when I first got hurt. It's a little difficult to tell, because my previous scale was very inconsistent. Step on it 30 seconds later and you could get a different reading altogether. I recently bought a more precise digital scale, so regardless of where I was before my injury, I am starting anew now. This scale also tracks body composition, such as muscle mass, fat and water, so I'll be focusing on body composition, not so much on my actual weight. My muscle mass is currently good, but my goal for this year will be to get my fat ratio down into the normal range.

I'm trying to remember to make note of the small milestones. Like today, for example, when I was able to do burpees, the first time since my injury I felt good enough to even attempt them. Slow and steady, with no jumps, but I was able to do it. Right now, when one of my most difficult challenges is to get up and down again, that was a true victory.

The thing is, I'm pretty good at hiding pain, so I usually don't reveal it unless it's impossible to fake it. The arm? There was no hiding that: first of all, the giant bruise and extremely limited strength. Now, when I look normal, I still have to draw attention to it by bowing out of activities that might put too much strain on my arm, like helping to put up tables at the weekly Cub Scout meeting. Before, I was one of the people leading that effort.

With that in mind, I'm going to woman up and admit something that very few people know, except perhaps my sister and my husband. I didn't just hurt my arm in that fall; I also did something to my right shin, on the same side of my body as the bicep tear. That pain, however, has not been as debilitating, so it's easy to hide. Primarily, I notice it when I'm getting down on the floor and getting back up again, or when I start walking after being seated for a while. It's never risen to the level of concern I had about my bicep, and therefore, I simply haven't mentioned it. I can walk and move almost as well as I could before; and unless you knew exactly what I was doing before the injury, you probably wouldn't notice. The ibuprofen I take for my arm helps that, too, but reading up on it, I probably should have been icing it this entire time, as well. I'm going to start doing that now.

When I think about it, my life for the past 20-some years can be seen as a series of injuries. If I start back in grad school, I've experienced the following (in roughly chronological order), almost none of them from organized physical activity:
  • An injury to my left shin that resulted in a huge, hard nodule that took ages to reabsorb, from tripping over a bicycle chained to a bike rack in downtown State College.
  • An injury to my left trapezius, which took years to heal and still bothers me sometimes, from a bad side roll in Jung Sim Do class, when I heard something go "pop." The campus health center gave me muscle relaxants for that one.
  • Sprained my right wrist when I fell while kicking a giant piece of ice that turned out to be frozen to the pavement. This happened while I was waiting with other English grad students for a van to take us to a writing conference. I wore a brace for weeks and wrote -- badly -- with my left hand. I had to do exercises to regain my wrist strength.
  • Hurt my tail bone by falling in an upright position on the stairs while carrying a fouton. Had to sit on a donut for months and had to stop doing Pilates for longer than that.
  • Broke my toe getting changed before Water Aerobics class about five years ago, because I accidentally kicked a surprisingly sturdy bench. I broke my toe again last year by accidentally kicking a box of books in the dark.
  • My back seized up on me while I was trying to sit down about three years ago. With care, eventually, I got back to normal.
  • Hurt my right knee after twisting it, shortly before Otakon 2018. I had to wear a brace for several days and avoid stairs.
Looking at this list, you might conclude I'm accident-prone. I'll admit that I am. But I remind myself of the most important thing: I'm resilient. I heal. I did it before, and I can do it again.

Otakon 2016

My 2018 Philcon Schedule

Here is my Philcon schedule for 2018. Hope to see you there!

Fri 7:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Brandon Budda (mod), Alyce Wilson, Nicholas
MacDonald-Martell, Eric Hardenbrook, Glenn McDorman]

People differ in how they read (or listen) to a story. They may read
fast or linger over the text. They may search back for “clues”
or just go for the ride. How can the different modes impact your

Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Hildy Silverman (mod), Alyce Wilson, Joseph Haughey,
Lawrence Kramer, Phil Giunta]

Tips on how to answer moderator questions, audience questions, not
monopolize the panel, get a word in edgewise, combat imposter
syndrome, and other aspects of handling your appearance as a Panel
Presenter at cons

Sat 4:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Jeff Warner (mod), Steve Vertlieb, Alyce Wilson, Brandon
Budda, Daniel Kimmel, Samuel Delany]

"Fifty years ago, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke set out to
make a new kind of sci-fi. How does their future look now that
it’s the past?" This question was asked in a recent article in The
New Yorker, and now we're asking you

Sat 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)

[Panelists: Tony Finan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alyce Wilson,
Hildy Silverman]

Whether it was because of a surprise cancellation that left us with
a massive cliffhanger, or the intentional plotting of a
Machiavellian team of writers, some series ended in ways that- even
years later- make us want to shriek. What finale left you agape

Sun 11:00 AM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

[Panelists: D.L. Carter (mod), Gregory Frost, Alyce Wilson, Joshua
Palmatier, Sally Wiener Grotta, Marilyn 'Mattie' Brahen]

Even established long-term professional writers still work to
improve their skills. Authors discuss things they have learned along
the way, and how they have gained new levels of expertise
ballet dancer

Our Presidential Goodnight (Gutknecht) Ancestry

Through the Goodnight line, my family is distantly related to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama Jr. We share the common ancestor of Christian Gutknecht (1722-1795), who was the original immigrant from that line to arrive in America. While we were descended from Christian's son John Christopher (1769-1842), the president was descended from another son, Samuel. This makes him the fifth cousin, twice removed, of my father and the fifth cousin, one time removed, for myself and my siblings. My son and my nieces and nephew would be seventh cousins. Confusing as this may be, it simply has to do with the number of generations between each individual and the common ancestor. I used the online Cousin Calculator to figure these results out (Cousin Calculator).

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Farewell, Furry Knight

Our Knight in Furry Armor has ridden out on his last quest. He has protected us from ninjas (disguised as mice and squirrels). He has decorated all our plastic bags with artistic teeth holes. He has served as my fitness trainer, making sure I held my position -- be it plank or downward dog -- by walking underneath me. On Friday, while I did full rest in yoga, he sat atop my chest to make sure I was breathing deeply.

For days he has stared out the window, answering the call of far-off voices. On Saturday, for the first time ever, he tried to run out our apartment door to follow them. He tried to let us know this weekend that he would be leaving us, staring in our faces and mewing significantly; demanding lots of petting. This morning at 3:30 a.m., with me petting him gently, his spirit finally rode off. He was still purring after he took his final breath.

I like to think that his dog mama, Una, met him on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. She is licking his face, and he is rubbing against her, as he recounts his amazing adventures of life as our fiercely sweet feline protector.

Luke at Christmastime

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