Friday, August 17, 2012

The Grand Vizier: Part I


My husband (Ben Feehan) has been working on this amazing story since before we were married. It's the kind of writing that completely takes over your imagination! There's no way we can keep it hidden in a folder any longer. Hopefully his work will frequent this blog, with the continuation of this story and others. Stay tuned and check out Part 2!

                                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The Grand Vizier was everything an evil grand vizier should be. Tall and narrow with a hatchet face and a fiercely aquiline nose, the whole spoke of a sharp and canny danger. Under oiled raven hair, black eyes rimmed in gold were set like icy agates in pitted sockets. Beneath black silk, his arms were lean and hard and ended in spider-like fingers, each encircled by rings of amethyst, ruby, and emerald set upon gold and iron and silver.   Grasped in these fingers was an axe carved from the shoulder of a dragon, the haft white and winnowed, the blade narrow and cresting to a fierce point.

The Grand Vizier’s hall was long and dark, with black pillars soaring away above into the acrid, smokey reaches where it was said, unspeakable horrors nested among the ancient rafters.  The floor was an icy black marble, glinting and ribboned with quicksilver.

A figure in a leather jerkin was sliding inelegantly away from the Vizier across this floor, whimpering. A vivid crimson streak went in his wake.  The Vizier swung the axe and rested it on his own raven black shoulder. “You’re bleeding on my floor, swineherd.”

“I’m…not a swineherd…”

“Oh?”  The Vizier took a few more steps, keeping pace with the figure as he moved crabwise.  “My ravens said you were a swineherd…”

“I am Prince Bryan…”

The dark eyed man slapped his brow with the back of his free hand, and made mock obeisance. “Oh, your greatness, how could I forget?  You’re here to free your father’s benighted realm.”

“You and your evil hordes can never…stand…in the…way of…good…the laws of the universe…will…never allow it…it’s impossible…”

“Oh.”  The tall man paused and tugged on his pointed goatee. “How is it that nobody tells me when they change the laws of the universe? The postage service is really dreadful up this way.  It’s getting very near impossible to get a reliable periodical up here.”

“You…will…”

The Vizier leaned forward. “Yes?”

“…fall….”

There was a long silence. The Vizier cleared his throat. “Are you dead?”

 He nudged the prostrate figure with a toe.  “Oh da….”

There was a rustle of ancient parchments and suddenly the room blossomed with soft golden light and the smell of old binding.  “You weren’t supposed to kill him!”

The Vizier looked down at his pointy toes where they peeked out from under his cloak and drummed his fingers around the haft axe. “Was he really Prince Bryan?”

The Storyteller adjusted his spectacles and sighed. “Would it matter?  You’re an Archetype. You play a role here, Vizier.  I let you have the spot after Evil Emperor quit because you promised to behave.  Now what is this?”

“You have to admit he wasn’t one of your more stellar creations.” The black robed man let the axe fall from his shoulder to the floor with a thud.  “Isn’t he supposed to take longer on the death traps and riddle doors and secret chambers? I mean, really, my hall of tumbling fire was a work of art.”

“It had a lever.” The bearded man waved his quill at the Vizier. “You’re getting too predictable. If’s he read anything by Prince Charming in that magazine of his, that…that…”

“Maidens and Dragons or Sword and Staff?”

“Which one has the free cologne samples?”

“Maidens.” The Vizier scowled.  He had stopped getting the glossy rag after a feature  article had described him as frog footed and smelling of old fish.
  
The Storyteller blinked for a moment and continued. “Yes…yes…well if you got it, you might have noticed the last issue had a whole section on ‘fiendish ploys’.”

“Da…”

The Storyteller raised a bony finger. “This is a strictly child friendly story here, my friend. No swearing.”

“I just killed the protagonist. I think I can swear now.”

“Nonsense. Now I just have to have him raised by a kindly magical being who will remind him that his work is unfinished.” The ancient figure produced a book and started flipping through it. “I’m thinking something in the glowy, white female department…”

“Which means I’ll get chucked from the top of the tower into the mouth of a volcano.” The Vizier snapped. “I’m rather tired of that, you know.  Getting killed is not nice.”

“Oh, but the audience loves it.  Rebirth and victory are important pay-offs.” The Storyteller looked down his nose at the book as he paused.  “We should probably do this on a trash heap.  Would you mind having his body carted away disdainfully?”

“What if I fed him to the dragon? What would you do then?”

The Storyteller looked aghast. “Smokey?  Smokey is vegetarian.  He has very sensitive digestion.”

“Fine.  What if I dumped Prince Bryan into the volcano for a change?”

“You won’t.”

The Grand Vizier sighed and shuffled back to the Throne of Bones where it sat white and stark on the dais at the end of the hall.  The seat was unbelievably hard and slippery, requiring one to firmly plant their toes in the crack at the foot of the throne and push the entire time to prevent sliding off in a most un-menacing fashion during an audience.  “Carlisle?”

A tiny, grayish, hunchbacked creature emerged from behind a pillar.  With a matching pair of arms and legs it was vaguely humanoid.  “Yesh, mashter…?”

“Be a good little homunculus and put the swineherd on the north tower for the ravens.”

“Ooh.” The Storyteller clapped gleefully. “That’s good. That’s very good. Much better than the midden heap.  More skulls and ominous bony bits. Also chains.  Chains are good.”

With another rustle, the Storyteller was gone and The Vizier was left alone to watch the ugly little figure drag the boy down the hall and up the stairs.  It was with only momentary pleasure that he heard the swineherds head meet the first tower stair with meaty clunk.

Copyright 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Advice for New Moms: Before, During, and After Baby Comes

These first three months of motherhood have felt like a lifetime unto themselves. Looking back and learning so much, there are a lot of things I wish I had known before I had my first baby. If I could go back in time and talk to my little pregnant self, these are a few of the things I would have told me.

Books

I really enjoyed Babywise and The Baby Whisperer. Each of the books highlight different and important aspects of bonding, and child training, feeding, naps, and various other subjects relevant to parenthood. A thorough perusal of them both should give you a pretty balanced perspective. Discuss the concepts with your spouse and pray for wisdom. (There are many other wonderful books out there, but I found these to be particularly helpful.)

After Erin was born, my husband and I had to work twice as hard at our relationship! The Five Love Languages has been very beneficial to us, even just as a conversation starter.

Asking for help

Ask a loved one to stay with you and your spouse for a few days after your baby is born. My sister in law took the initiative to spend at least three days with Ben and I while we were recovering and adjusting. She cleaned our home and cooked our meals, doing wonderfully unexpected things like washing our laundry, and cleaning up the less pleasant nooks and crannies of our bathroom. She also took it upon herself to make sure I drank lots of postpartum smoothies, and various other helpful things.

During my pregnancy I was very forgetful. Since I've had Erin, I'm not so much forgetful, as I haven't had the energy or time I need to plan and think ahead. I have found it very helpful to keep running lists of the household inventory that needs restocking. If someone offers, or if Ben happens to be going out, I can send a list!

Health and Recovery

Please, please take everyone's advice and SLEEP whenever you have the opportunity. Even after it's been several weeks, or even months, and people stop asking how you're feeling, try to at least fit in a nap.

Make (or have someone else do this!) a bottle of diluted grapefruit seed extract hand spray. Erin is three and a half months old and I still like to have people sanitize when they visit (or wash up after a trip to the grocery store). I'm not a big fan of commercial hand sanitizer. Grapefruit seed extract is an excellent substitute.

Making a soothing peppermint oil for your baby is very simple. While visiting my parents, Erin was suffering from painful tummy gas. My mom simply put a few drops of peppermint essential oil into a tiny vial of olive oil and shook it up. Erin was wrapped up tightly so we just rubbed some of the concoction on her little foot and within a few minutes her gas was gone! I usually rub some into her tummy now, and it works even better. Spearmint essential oil is another option, as I've heard that it is gentler on your baby's system. Just make sure to dilute!

Communicate how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Sometimes women assume the exhaustion or discouragement they feel is normal, or just a temporary no-biggie. Trust me, it's not worth the trouble! The right supplement, or a small diet change can help significantly. Communication with your loved ones and physician or midwife is very important.

Activities/Things to fill your time

After your baby is born, it might be difficult to find the motivation to do anything extra. I would suggest however that you get started on your baby scrapbooks as soon as you can! It's really easy to put this off, and I can tell you it's very likely that you will regret doing so.

Try to be intentional about which activities you choose to fill your down time. Realize that whatever you end up doing on a regular basis will probably become a habit, or at least something that happens way more than it used to. Be warned, and also take advantage of this! Some suggestions:


  • Research interesting topics. I love books on interior decorating, container gardening, household organization, personal finance, travel...basically anything that catches my eye in the moment. Ben and I used to frequent Barnes and Noble, and I started to keep record of all the cool things I learned in a tiny moleskin he gave me. 
  • Start a new hobby. What have you always wanted to do, but never thought you actually would? Immediately after you have a baby, most people are extremely helpful! When someone asks if they can do something for you, this might be the perfect time to get the supplies you need for a new hobby. You might not even get to it right away, but at least you are prepared to begin whenever you want to.
  • Revive old favorite past times. The guitar you haven't touched in ages. The paintbrushes you've almost forgotten how to use. Remember your old journal? This is a great time to pick up hobbies that have fallen to the wayside.

A couple of things I would have like to have put more thought into before labor began:

  • How I did my hair! Looking back, a sturdy up-do would have been perfect. I should have asked one of the ladies present to do a nice braid for me. :) (I'm terrible at braiding my own hair!)
  • My birthing outfit. I chose a flowy, stretchy purple dress that hit about mid thigh. This would have been perfect had I not decided to jump in the bath! Unfortunately it became very uncomfortable and difficult to manage once I was partially wet. I think next time (Since I plan to labor in a birthing tub next time!) I will wear something made of swimsuit material that reaches mid-calf.
  • Set up a birthing tub! Even if you don't think you want to use one, I strongly suggest you have one ready to go just in case you change your mind mid labor. I did change my mind, and I did not have a birthing tub. And let me tell you, a bathtub just doesn't cut it. :)
  • Make sure the birthing room has the option to let in/shut out day light, or a small lamp to replace the overhead light if you are laboring during the night. It's nice to have options...I found it more comfortable when the room was dim.
I'm sure there will be much more to come! My baby hasn't even started crawling yet. In the meantime, hopefully some of this advice goes to good use. :)