Friday, April 17, 2020

Fade, Take Me Away! (Ma Serannas for the Hiatus)

Hello, all you beautiful kadans!

Just a quick wave to send out my apologies, albeit into an unexpectedly crazy world, after my unforgivably long blog hiatus. It's the first one I've ever taken of anywhere near this length, and I hugely apologize.

Basically, I've been battling some hurdles and life suckage. I'm totally rallying, but it's a work in progress. So I appreciate your patience—and wanted to at least give an accounting of sorts.

Also, apologies in advance, but there are cats ahead. Lots of cats. I mean, like, pet stuff. Love and loss. Proceed at your peril.

Highs and Lows

On the non-sucky side, thanks to some truly generous support from BioWare talents and fans, Dragon Age Day 2019 was incredible, and our best celebration ever of BioWare and the Dragon Age world we love so much. It even let me interview by e-mail and phone/videochat some of my favorite people on the planet, people I respect so much not just for their creativity and genius, but for their palpable kindness: warrior and advocate Steve Spohn of Able Gamers, the always witty and brilliant John Epler (Narrative Director for the Dragon Age series), the equally witty, talented and charming writers Mary Kirby and Brianne Battye (another dream Internet conversation for me), and of course, superhero editor/writer couple Karin and Patrick Weekes

I mean, seriously, people, those interviews were so glorious and lovely they probably cured my flu for the next decade (hopefully they transfer a few powers against coronavirus, aghghgh). Regardless, those conversations will stay with me forever, and will continue to inspire me as an artist. I'm so blessed.

After the Celebration...

But the event and its interviews and transcriptions was also pretty taxing, and I was still recovering from two bouts of the flu in six weeks. So while I was thrilled beyond belief to once again be a part of helping to stage this year's successful event, I also kind of collapsed and spent 2-4 weeks with very few coherent thoughts afterward (I think "Fire bad, tree pretty" pretty much sums it up).

On the plus side, already, I can't wait for next year. The Dragon Age Day team—led by the immortal Imasithduh and so many other equally talented, brilliant and hardworking members—as well as its players, supporters, and fans, are the best people anywhere.

But it capped off a pretty unrelenting Fall, so basically, I just kind of collapsed through the holidays. And you know how it is. Somehow December becomes January. And January lasts a decade and yet somehow also seems to transition instantly into February. And then I'm still not sure where March came from. It just happened, and meanwhile I was still mentally somewhere back in the first week of January...? 

And now somehow suddenly we're all fighting a virus and also halfway waiting to turn into zombies. The world is nuts.

Tough Goodbyes

It didn't help that I was also still processing the unexpected loss of a beloved pet, my cat Frodo (look at that face) not long before, and I'd kind of put off dealing with it at the time, so it hit me extra hard over the holidays. If you've ever lost a beloved pet, you know what it's like, and while I've been a pet owner for my entire adult life, and loved and grieved every single furkid that I've ever had to lose (RIP Samwise, Pippin, Sagan, Hermione)—always far too soon—losing Frodo honestly knocked the wind out of me. 

I'd had Frodo since his first day on earth (I rescued him and sweet littermate Batty (and two adorable others my family adopted, complete with bottle-feeding), and he was scruffy but cute in a brindled-stray kind of way. His sibling Batty, for instance, was a silver slip of a kitty, elegant and sleek, with a long-nosed face and almond eyes that still transfix anyone she meets (as they should! She's gorgeous and utterly precious). But Fro really wasn't visually distinctive. He was goofy and plump. He had a big pink nose with a long white bridge. And one funny, long white sock on his right paw. That was it. He was a basic tomcat. 

Until you got to know him. When he became this weird, wonderful, individual, goofy, ridiculously affectionate cat—a real individual, and an incredibly hilarious, vocal and loving feline who spent his life lying on my lap, shoulder, keyboard, or bed (with inseparable Batty), as close to me as possible, 20 out of every 24 hours, for 13 years (when he wasn't chewing laptop cords, knocking over water glasses, or chewing on toilet paper rolls as his go-to's for amusement). I used to joke to friends that with Frodo's demand for closeness, the only thing that would make him truly happy was for me to swallow him whole, at which point, he'd go, "FINALLY!" He was just always connected to me by that invisible umbilical. And vice versa. There's nothing like rescuing an animal as a baby to increase your vulnerability to them, and even then, Frodo was unique.

For instance, even his mild seizure disorder just seemed like part of his quirk and difference, and he handled it lifelong with a curious patience and dignity. After his diagnosis, I kept a big, dog-sized, hard-shelled kennel to shelter Frodo for those rare moments involving a larger seizure, and he never fought against being locked away, but was instead so inured to his 'special area' (one I kept cozy and inviting, with warm blankets sprinkled with catnip) that he would often go into the kennel the moment he felt a seizure approaching. It was peculiarly sweet, and humbling, to watch.

Frodo Doodle courtesy of my talented friend Sheha
Then Frodo was unexpectedly diagnosed with an inoperable bladder tumor in late October, so it was one of those rare situations where all is fine with your beloved pet, then suddenly five days later, you're $5k further in debt and (worse) having to schedule to have your furry friend euthanized. Which I did at home, and which, in hindsight, I felt was harder on me as his owner in some ways (it takes a lot longer than it does at the vet), but which was also incredibly comforting and stress-free for my sweet little guy, so it was the right thing to do. 

Thanks to a caring vet house call, and to my sister Laura's constant support at every step (she called the vet every 8 hours while Frodo was there), I was able to do the right thing. The vet even fell for my ridiculous sweet Fro, looking at me with an openly stricken face as Frodo, mildly buzzed and pain-free on meds, rolled over under her fingers for more snuggles and belly-rubs on introduction; her face was an open depiction of Oh shit, I have to put him to sleep. But she was a terrific help, and my poor Frodo died in my arms, purring to the end—and the very last thing he did was to raise his head to rub his cheek against mine. And then he just kept on sleeping.

I still hate Wednesday mornings, ever since. Wednesday mornings are still, to me, that time when I had to bring someone in to send Frodo away.

Frodo (left) and his sweet tiny Batty (littermate and
protector, right). My two buddies, now one shy...
Anyway. I wasn't okay for awhile after that, and worst of all, a lot of the world just doesn't understand how much those losses can hurt, so it's something a lot of pet owners have to go through alone (I am lucky to have friends and family who do understand, but it still hasn't been easy). 

My reaction really humbled me... it reminded me again of how much we take for granted, and I was reminded yet again of the revelation I'd had after nursing my stepdad and Mom through terminal illnesss... of how lucky we are every single day simply when nothing goes wrong. When everyone we love is safe, and present. It's a gift, and it's finite. Something will always go wrong. That's life. Our job is to enjoy everyone and everything while we can.

Portrait of Frodo and Batty (Frodo top,
Batty below) Thanks Mithmeoi!
But I'm lucky, still, in many ways... lucky to have my little silver Batty, Fro's equally adored littermate with me, who also had to grieve her loss and confusion in her own way. Hearing my little surviving cat walk around making eerie little sorrowful awooo howls, or talking to her reflection in the mirror (in brand-new behavior, as if searching for her brother), was brutal, so I took care of her and she gave me a ton of cuddles, and we got through that incredibly sucky period together. 

It's life. We assimilate and move on. There will always be a breach, a rift, a demon... a death. We manage it, right? That's the world. But we are so, so lucky for everything in between.

A Moment for Thanks...

Anyway. I just wanted to let you know that this blog means a lot to me, and so do all of you who read it and share your reactions with me. The Dragon Age community has made me feel so accepted and welcomed, while also celebrating with me when I was up, and cheering me when I was down. You are all magic.

I do have several additional posts in progress that I can't wait to share with you (including the fabulous third and fourth parts of my transcribed interview with the wonderful Weekeses, criminally past-due!). I'm also planning on a progression to my Solas romance analysis series, as well as some individual posts examining stories in the exciting new Tevinter Nights short story compilation just out this past month!

So—I just wanted to send out a brief apology, with my heartfelt thanks for your patience, and I'll look forward to your reactions to my upcoming posts, which I hope will help to make up for the silence.

Meanwhile, the world seems to just get crazier every day. In spite of that, please know you're not alone. Stay safe out there, rest up, stay healthy, and take care of yourselves.

Ma serannas, and ar lath ma... (but not in a creepy way)...



  1. Here's hoping you found the writing of this message cathartic. I teared up reading about your grief and truly hope you can remember how wonderful your furry friend was more than you remember those last days of his very, very soon. Many hugs, and many prayers!

    1. Thanks so much for this. I kept waffling on sharing (and worrying about oversharing), but I also wanted to share, "Hey, this really affected me, and maybe I should talk about it in case it helps anyone else." Pet loss is so often shrugged aside, even now, so thank you for the sympathy and thoughts.

  2. I'm so so sorry about your loss. Losing a pet is so hard.

    1. Thank you, Suzanne! It really means a lot. I'm doing okay, I was just really floored by how hard this loss hit me, and I appreciated the chance to share. Hope you're staying safe out there!

  3. Angela, as always, you express so beautifully something that is deeply painful but also something anyone with a heart can relate you. You are right. Every day when nothing goes wrong is an absolute gift. And how lucky Frodo was to have you in his life. You and Batty will never stop missing him but as the pain of the end start to fade, hopefully the good memories return stronger to keep you company forever. Sending you lots of love. Stay well and be safe, my friend.

    1. Thanks so much, Louise! That means a lot. As a pet owner, this post was an indulgence... I just really wanted to open up and say, "Okay, this was really, really tough, even if it's not something that's talked about that much..."

      Please do take care YOURSELF, woman, and stay safe out there. And thank you for reading. It really meant so much to me that you did.

  4. Thanks for keeping up your blog. It's pleasure to read, and I'm glad you're back!

    1. Thank you so much, and thanks for bearing with me. I'm so glad you enjoy it -- it means a lot. It's why I do this.

  5. I cried for your kitty and the kitties I've lost. I think in some ways (SOME) it's harder than losing a person because pets are this constant presence. It's still traumatic for us humoons, I think, but worth it to give our fur babies peace.

    1. I'm sorry I made you cry, Caryn! But thank you so much for the sympathy, it truly does help.

      I agree with you on the impact when we lose them and as someone who lives alone, I just wasn't prepared for Frodo's loss to hit me quite so hard. But he was attached to me pretty much every second of every day. I was "Mom" to him and he was super-affectionate.

      So suddenly there was this huge missing space in my life. I had been prepared to lose Frodo (although I was devastated). I hadn't been prepared to lose my attachment to a loved pet who had filled so much of my life. (I hope that makes sense...)

      Also, obviously, your pets are lucky to have you.

  6. With some time on my hands, Im returning to Thedas (the whole 3 games) afer a few years. At the same time Ive discovered your fascinating blog (Ive felt many times like commenting on your older entries. They really got to me). Then at the same time youre coming back to it. Wow! Now I got a chance to thank you personally for your writing and sharing. Youre really helping me get in the headspace to get too deep into it again (as its the best way to experience DA games). Thank you

    1. Thank you, Thaalia! I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog -- I would love for you to comment wherever you want, even on the oldest posts! I always love seeing people's feedback.

      Meanwhile, I love Thedas and its world, and I am so grateful for what the game creators have made for us -- this world to get lost in, especially now more than ever. Stay safe out there!


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