Tag Archives: Ana Ramsey

A Blessing

We’re almost to the end of 2012 and the end of Black Ink, White Paper, so my final blog is a blessing to you all for the coming year. I’ve had such a wonderful time blogging with all of you over the last year and a half. It truly has been a pleasure and I wish you all nothing but success and happiness in the years ahead.

May blessings rain down upon you from the Old Gods and the New
May good health follow you wherever you may roam
May your friends be plenty and your enemies few
And may your joys always outweigh your sorrows
Even though our paths may part, our hearts are still together.

Ana Ramsey

A House Isn’t a Home Without a Cat (or Three)

Two weeks before my wedding back in 2009, my two-year-old cat, Onyx, passed away very unexpectedly from a lung infection. I was devastated. Not long before her death I’d lost the last of my six ferrets and I just couldn’t imagine getting another animal anytime soon.

Apparently, the Universe didn’t think that was a good plan. The day after my wedding, my husband’s cousin called us asking if we wanted a kitten. Her dad had found a momma cat with two babies hiding in his boat. As soon as she realized her hiding place had been discovered, momma ran off with one of the kittens, but didn’t come back for the second. Knowing that we were feline-free, they called us to take the kitten in.

As heart-broken as I still was, I couldn’t say no. Especially not when they brought the kitten over and I took one look into his bright blue eyes. He was just a tiny ball of dark brown, grey, and white tabby cat that was small enough to fit in the palm of one hand.

And for all of about twenty-four hours we pondered the merits of getting him a playmate. Then my best friend called to tell us that a mutual friend had found a litter of abandoned kittens in her back yard. Because this mutual friend is highly allergic to cats, the kittens had been moved from the mutual friend’s house to my best friend’s house and all six of them were now safely ensconced in her bedroom.

We were only planning on taking one home. Honest! But as soon as we opened that door and saw the pile of fluffballs tumbling and rolling all over the place and mewing like their lives depended on it, we fell in love with all of them. There were three sets of twins – two grey tabbies, two orange tabbies, and two mackerel tabbies who looked almost exactly like the one we already had.

Of course we couldn’t take all six of them home so we ended up narrowing our choices down to a little puff of grey and a giant puff of orange. I was in love with the grey one and my husband would not put the orange one down, so we ended up bringing both of them home with us.

Three little balls of fluff that fast grew into enormous balls of intelligent mischievousness covered in cat fur. As cats are wont to do, they all quickly made themselves right at home both in our house and in our hearts.

Ana

When the Fair Comes to Town

Every year on the second Friday after Labor Day the fair comes to town. More specifically, The Big E comes to town and stays for seventeen days. Seventeen days of greasy food, carnival rides and games, and an astounding array of items to buy from beautiful handcrafted clay and glass tiles to more mundane Made For TV items like the Sham-Wow.

Billed as “New England’s Great State Fair”, the Big E has been a cornerstone of the Western MA tourist industry for generations. And, as somebody who used to live right up the street from the fair grounds, I can attest to the fact that thousands of people pour into the area, clogging up the streets and making daily life quite difficult for nearby residents. And the worst part of the entire thing is that for the entire duration of the fair, the only place to get a White Hut burger is in the fair. Okay, that last part might be a bit of hyperbole, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re craving one of their cheeseburgers with fried onions.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Big E is the Avenue of States where each individual New England state owns a small parcel of land upon which sit replicas of that particular state’s original Capitol Building. State police from their respective states stand as security in the buildings and lottery tickets from each state can be purchased from the state buildings.

The fair began as an agricultural exposition and those roots live on 95 years later in the many livestock competitions, the dog and pony shows, and each year’s unique sculpture made from 600 pounds of butter donated by a local creamery. The sculpture is a work in progress through-out the show and attendees can watch the sculptor at his work in a small, refrigerated Plexiglas booth.

The food is typical fair food – corn dogs, candy apples, deep-fried everything, fried dough, cotton candy, and a myriad of other specialty food stands ranging from Mexican to Greek to Chinese. The one must-eat item seems to be the cream puffs; they’ve been a Big E staple for decades. I’m going to admit something shameful – I’ve never had one. A few years ago, in order to try and jazz things up, the fair concocted a new “it” food they call the Cra-Z Burger. It’s a bacon cheeseburger between two halves of a glazed donut. I’m honestly not quite sure how anyone can bring themselves to eat such a monstrosity, but it seems to be getting rave reviews. I’ll just stick with the éclairs the size of my head, thanks.

The fair doesn’t change all that much from year to year except for the concert line-up. Years past have seen big name stars like Reba Macintyre, Blake Shelton, Cheap Trick, Darius Rucker, and Miranda Lambert. This year’s guests include Alan Jackson, Jeff Dunham, and Rodney Atkins. On quiet weekend nights when the wind was still I could sit out on my front porch and very faintly hear the music.

And oh the people! That just may be the best part of the whole fair. This year’s winner for the most interesting outfit was a gentleman dressed in a female naval uniform complete with heels. We have no idea whether he was there as an attendee or as a performer, but he was hands down the best part of our trip this year. There was also an older couple we saw on our way to the Avenue of States. He was dressed in a beautiful brown suit in an early 1900’s style with a top hat and beard. His lovely companion was dressed in a stunning brown and gold flapper-style dress with matching headpiece.

Okay, I think I’m done sounding like an advertisement for the fair…

If you’re ever in the area around this time of year, I highly recommend spending a day at the Big E even if it’s only to go watch the baby chicks hatch from their shells.

Ana

Stupid rain, stupid shoes, stupid snake

A number of years ago, a group of friends and I headed out to a Harvest ritual put on by the same coven which hosts the Victorian Tea. It had been pouring rain all day and with the fallen leaves clogging the sewer drains some of the streets had deep puddles in places. Our daring (and not very bright) driver decided that, instead of finding an alternate route, he was going to plow through a road-spanning puddle of unknown depth at full speed.

As I’m sure you’ve all already guessed, we got halfway through the puddle when the minivan stalled. Thankfully, we had just left our meeting place, so it was decided we’d simply walk back there and take somebody else’s vehicle. Now picture this – half a dozen people all dressed up in their ritual finery trying to clamber out of a minivan that’s sitting in the middle of a puddle that is so deep the water is almost coming into the seating area. It wasn’t fun, let me tell you.

We change vehicles (and drivers) and head back on our merry (if fairly damp and kind of cranky) way. The entire way up we were forced to listen to our previous driver whine and complain about how wet his shoes were. By the time we reached The Farm we were all dryer, but quite a bit more cranky.

The Farm was muddy and wet, but the company was excellent and the food was, as always, excellent so we didn’t mind so much. Then, the ritual started and we were faced with this giant snake made from hay bales. A snake we were meant to lift above our heads and undulate as if it were a real snake. A hay bale snake that had gotten rained on and was sopping wet. So, here we are waving this giant, wet snake around in the air and getting dripped on by it and having bits of wet, itchy hay fall into our hair and faces. It was… not fun.

At the end of the night, our erstwhile driver summed everything up perfectly by uttering these words: “Stupid rain, stupid shoes, stupid snake.”

Ana

Anti Social Networking

Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs seem to be all the rage in the literary world. From what I’ve seen and heard from other writers, most agents and editors would prefer their authors have an online presence in order to interact with their fans and promote their books.

As a reader, I love this. I love being able to interact with authors and see into their minds as they’re creating their works. I love being able to chat with them about books or the writing process or even just our shared love of movies or TV shows or gardening.

However, as a writer, this trend is troublesome for me. I’m not a naturally gregarious person and I never know what to say. Especially to a group of random strangers. Who really cares that I spent all day several weeks ago excavating a beautiful brick pathway in my yard? Or that I had a disturbing dream the other night which left me completely shaken the next day? Or that I’m a complete Project Runway fanatic and am in platonic love with Tim Gunn? It’s incredibly difficult for me to come up with things to say that I think people will be interested in. Especially with the 140 character limit on Twitter.

And yet, on the flip side, keeping up with my blog is even worse. What do you mean I have to come up with a substantial, informative yet still entertaining post? Who am I to be sounding off about anything? Surely there are other more intelligent/verbose/better informed people out there who’ve already said what I want to say with more class and wit. Why would anyone want to read my disjointed ramblings? Even coming up with the previously bi-weekly and now monthly posts for here is occasionally a chore because the other posters seem to have lived and are living such amazing and inspiring lives and mine seems tame and boring by comparison.

I guess the answer to my dilemma is to pretend like I think I’m interesting and insightful until I start to believe it and become more comfortable putting myself out there. Even when I don’t think anyone is listening or caring. As my best friend is fond of saying – Wear the Mask until the Mask becomes Truth.

Ana

Superstitions!

Today is Friday the 13th and, to the superstitious, a very inauspicious day.

According to Merriam-Webster, a superstition is “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation”. Humans seem to love superstitions as they abound across the world. Practically every culture has a set of superstitious whether they be jumping over a bonfire to ensure fertility or wearing an amulet to ward off evil spirits or knocking on wood to avoid tempting fate.

Most superstitions seem to revolve around luck, either averting bad luck or enhancing good luck. A European tradition of saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” immediately upon awakening on the morning of the first day of the month is said to ensure good luck for the entire month while breaking a mirror is said to confer seven years worth of bad luck on the breaker.

Some superstitions seem to have a partial basis in reality – at one time, glass was expensive so breaking a mirror meant a loss of money. The same with spilling salt. As for walking under ladders, anyone who walks underneath a ladder is susceptible to having things dropped on their head from a clumsy person at the top of the ladder.

Depending on location and culture, some things have different superstitious significance. Take the black cat for instance. In Irish and Scottish folklore, black cats are symbols of good luck, but it’s believed that Christianity twisted that belief into the reverse meaning – a black cat crossing a person’s path is an omen of misfortune. That belief came about largely because cats, especially black ones, were thought to be witches’ familiars.

Over the centuries, we’ve taken away the mystique of some superstitions and turned them into simple traditions or even just children’s rhymes. Look at wedding veils, at one time, Roman women believed that hiding their faces would protect them from evil spirits.

There’s also the children’s rhyme:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told,
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird
You must not miss.

which is derived from a superstition relating to the consequences of seeing certain numbers of magpies. And the infamous game of jumping over cracks because if you step on one you’ll break your mother’s back.

So, tell me, what are your favorite superstitions? And do you have any superstitions of your own?

Ana

Victorian Tea

On Saturday, a dear friend’s coven hosted their annual Victorian Tea. The coven members all dressed up in traditional Victorian garb (handmade by one of the members) and served food reminiscent of, but not strictly Victorian fare. (homemade by the members as well).

My best friend, Lisa, and I made the trip out to their covenstead which is situated on an enormous tract of land in what’s pretty much the middle of nowhere on the side of a mountain. Upon arrival, guests were encouraged to mingle and chat with one another under a giant tent set up on one of the only clear areas large enough to hold the tent. The rest of the space is taken up by gardens and flower beds. A large pitcher of citrus rose water stood by to refresh any parched throats.

This year’s victuals included a simple yet stunning summer salad concocted by the High Priestess’s daughter, a choice of several cold summery soups – I chose the gazpacho picante which was OhMyGodYummy! – and several different sandwich choices (with the crusts cut off). To top off the meal, guests were invited to choose between lemon parfait or a vanilla cake with a rum cherry icing. Everyone at my table chose the lemon parfait except for Lisa who chose the cake.

Once people had finished eating it was time for the real fun of the day to start – the psychic readings. Guests could choose between either having their Tarot cards read or a tea leaf reading. I chose the tea leaf reading just to be a bit different since I usually choose the Tarot. Lisa, as she always does chose Tarot because she doesn’t know how to read tea leaves and she “likes to read over the reader’s shoulder”.

I told her that reading tea leaves is easy, you just point to a large blob and shout “It’s the Grimm!” Everybody there broke out laughing at that.

Unfortunately, just as the readings were about to start, a massive thunderstorm broke out with thunder, lightning, and torrential rains. We all tried to tough it out as long as we could, but as the storm moved closer, it was decided that it was just too dangerous to remain outside under metal structures with lightning striking so close.

For those of us who left that day without a reading, there will be a make-up sitting at some point in the next few weeks. A real hardship, I know, having to go through that genteel civility and delicious food once again.

The Fine Art of Saying No

This past weekend I got bonked over the head with a lesson I, apparently, needed to learn. I didn’t just get hit with it once, oh no, the Universe decided it was something I needed to hear repeatedly. And then I got to put the lesson into practice.

The first instance of this lesson was quite innocuous. It was simply a Facebook discussion started by a writer talking about how people responded to him saying no thank you to sweets (he’s diabetic) by continuing to push said sweets on him or demanding to know why. That discussion got me thinking about how seldom people are allowed to simply say no to something. More often than not it turns into a giant production of the other person trying to wheedle or guilt the person saying no into saying yes. The second instance was less subtle. It was a blog post talking about how it’s okay to say no to things and not feel guilty about it. At the time I read this post, I was struggling with whether or not I should attend a start of summer party some friends were hosting on Sunday.

My husband and I had spent the last few weekends running all over Creation doing things with or for other people and we were starting to get burned out. We have several more busy weekends ahead of us and something had to give. We just wanted a weekend to ourselves where we didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything.

It was a tough decision to make because the friends throwing the party live on the other side of the state and we don’t get to see them very often. It was made even harder when my soul sister (soul sister in the sense that we must have been real sisters in past lives because there’s no other way to describe our relationship) messaged me asking if we were going to make it to the party. We haven’t seen each other since her birthday in March and we’ve both been missing each other like crazy. Despite the overwhelming guilt her message stirred up (completely not her intention), I stuck to my guns and told her that, as much as we missed her, we had to take this weekend for ourselves.

On Monday, I was recharged, re-energized, and ready to tackle the million and one little things that needed doing. I also got one last reminder of my lesson – the author who started it all posted a follow-up discussion on his blog about saying no, setting boundaries, and having them respected.

Have you ever had an experience where it was obvious that the Universe had a lesson for you to learn and it was going to make sure you learned it?

Ana

Wild and Wacky Weather

Despite the fact that it’s only the beginning of June, the weather lately is more akin to what it should be during July or August. Very hot, very humid days that just sap all strength and thought out of you.

I’m one of those people who loves the warm – I’m not happy if the temperature dips below seventy – but this spate of above average temperatures and mugginess has even me wilting. And I’m somebody who didn’t mind visiting Las Vegas in the middle of August. The couple of days where it was 100+ degrees and humid were horrendous, but those are apparently quite rare in Vegas. Which is a very, very good thing because if it were 100+ and humid all the time I think people would start drowning on the air. Okay, that last might be a bit of hyperbole, but I will say that it made breathing extremely difficult.

The one good thing about the hot, humid weather is the thunderstorms that follow when the temperature finally drops. On Tuesday, we had a *massive* storm. Some of the bursts of thunder were so loud they were literally deafening if you were outside. And the lightning strikes were so huge they lit up the sky like it was daylight. There’s nothing quite like sitting out on the porch with a cold glass of iced tea and watching the raw power of Mother Nature whip through the yard.

Of course, with the increased chances of thunderstorms comes the increased chance for tornadoes. Today is the one year anniversary of a tornado which tore through several local towns and killed four people, one of them a good friend of my sister. Massachusetts isn’t known for its tornado activity – the entire state gets less than a handful of them each year – so last year’s tornado was a very rude awakening for all of us. We get tornado warnings several times a year, but everybody disregards them because nothing ever materializes from them. At least until last year.*

It’s actually amazing that more people didn’t die considering how woefully unprepared we all were. I think that’s all changed going by how people reacted to the tornado warning which was posted the other night. People were talking about it on Facebook and Twitter and making sure that friends and relatives in the area were prepared. The meteorologists are saying that the way the climate is changing, we should expect more tornadoes in this area, so I hope this level of awareness only increases.

Ana Ramsey

*Interesting point of fact: Before last year, the last time a tornado hit the Springfield area was in 1972. Also, before last year, the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup was 1972. *Cue Twilight Zone music*

Villains and antagonists

We finally saw The Avengers on Monday and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Most of my enjoyment was because of the villain, Loki. I’m a complete sucker for complex villains and anti-heroes. Heroes are too heroic, too good for me. Unless done very well, they’re usually bland and blah in my eyes. They do good because it’s the right thing to do and that’s about it.

Villains, now villains make me swoon. And the writers of The Avengers did a wonderful job carrying Loki’s complexity over from Thor. They made me empathize with him. They hit my protective/comforting buttons and made me want to say “Somebody just needs to give him a cookie and a hug. And I’ll be the one to volunteer.” He’s not the villain simply because he’s evil; Thor gave him layers and complexity and reason.

Yesterday on Twitter, Del Rey Spectra asked: “Best sff protagonist and villain?” and CE Murphy replied with Gerald Tarrant from CS Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy and my heart went pitter-patter because he’s one of my top five favorite antagonists. His backstory is so powerfully complex and compelling. He knowingly chose his life and everything he does is deliberate and you shouldn’t be able to feel for a person who does the things he does, but you do. Or at least I do. If it weren’t for the end of the last book, he would rank as my #1 antagonist.

One of the absolute worst sins a writer can commit is redeeming their formerly unrepentant villain at the end of the story. This happens more often with female villains I think which I find doubly egregious. Let them be bad! And let them be so very, very good at being bad. If you feel you absolutely *must* redeem them in the end then you’re going to have to go above and beyond everything else to make me believe that it was the appropriate course of action.

Ana Ramsey