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December Journal | Our Prairie Nest
December Journal

Here is my belated look back at December 2023. It was a month of anticipation for a number of reasons – all of our birthdays, anniversary, holidays, the recall election… There was so much going on, that December went by in that fast-slow way a time full of waiting for big events does.

We had our usual Yuletide fun – purchased a fresh tree and decorated the house, wrapped gifts, and ate delicious food. My son turned 21 and I turned 49, and made everyone promise me a big, big, BIG party in 2024. There was some chaos in the month with various meetings, but it was also easy to get everything done since we had practically no snow. Winter break was nice, because I was so done with waking up early four days a week to bring the kiddo to school.

Of course, she was stoked about the holidays and Yule gift opening was pretty much all about her. Not that any of us mind. We love seeing how happy she is when she opens presents and discovers what’s been waiting for her under the tree. Normally, I spoil everyone else, but this year I felt spoiled myself for a change, which was nice.

For our 13th wedding anniversary, my husband gave me the 2024 Modern Folk Embroidery SAL, No Time Like the Present. I was eager to get a New Year’s Eve start on it, so I started it on December 31, 2023. I also received 3 cross-stitch patterns that were on my 123Stitch wishlist: Away We Ride by Blackbird Designs, Mother’s Tree by Lavender & Lace, and Old Nantucket by Little House Needleworks. Of course, I’m already making plans as far as fabric and threads to stitch all of them, but not this year. I’m not a person who likes to have too many projects going on at one time. These are set aside for when I’m ready to start them.

Our partner visited for New Year’s Eve weekend and we had a lot of fun bopping around Omaha, shopping here and eating there. It was a fun way to start 2024 and I’m looking forward to seeing him again soon. <3

Reading

In December, I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. It was okay for me. Nothing phenomenal. By the end of the year, I read a little over 30 books. My goal was to read 2 a month for a total of 24, so that was an unexpected number.

In 2024, I’m going to stick with books in series that I want to keep up with, and maybe the occasional recommendation. I also have a small wishlist on Overdrive for ebooks I would like to read, most of which are Witchcraft-related.

Cross-stitching

December was a slower month for cross-stitch because I was pretty busy. There was some time to work on Summer Quaker by Lila’s Studio, which is coming along quite nicely. My ocean has waves, now! It’s still a super fun stitch for me.

At this time, I have 5 cross-stitch projects in progress: No Time Like the Present by Modern Folk Embroidery, Summer Quaker by Lila’s Studio, Wild Trio by 2x2StitchArt, Ice Snake by KitsbyAStitch, and Mother’s Arms by Mirabilia Designs. I’m considering leaving Mother’s Arms unfinished, because it’s not calling to me the way it once did, but we’ll see.

I’m currently working on a really cute small, as well, called Midnight Juice by BrainSplash, and I should have it done by the end of this month (maybe even the end of this week). I think I’ll go back to Summer Quaker after that. I have a list of about 16 to 20 patterns I’d like to start, but I would rather complete what I have in progress first. The only start I have in mind for this year is Suffrage Act by Little House Needleworks, since it’s a presidential election year.

Gaming

We played our usual campaigns – D&D, Genesys, and Cyberpunk – but with many breaks due to holidays and family time. I expect to wrap up the D&D campaign that I’ve been running. There are probably about 3 or 4 more sessions left to do so. I’d like to take a break from DMing or GMing anything in 2024 and probably beyond.

Anyway, that was my December! January started off busy, busy, busy, and we are just now finding time to relax and wind down from the holidays and visitors. I’ll probably work on a separate post about 2024 plans, because I’m looking to keep things simple in 2024. 

November Journal | Our Prairie Nest
November Journal

Ah, November. The month when the holiday season really ramps up and, for some, causes more stress than usual. Thankfully, that’s not how we roll here. Samhain (October 31) is what I consider the beginning of our winter holiday season, and Thanksgiving is a relaxing break from the daily grind. November was, for me, a damn good month. I finally got some much-needed downtime, and really savored everything about November.

Reading

In November, I read Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, one of the books on the “no-no list” of many Moms For Liberty folks and other similar people on a crusade to ban books from libraries. There is nothing objectionable in this book. The sex isn’t graphic. Yes, it happens. Yes, the characters refer to it. But it’s also such a small part of the story, that clearly the pearl-clutchers are intentionally ignoring the rest of a funny, sweet story to make… well, I’m not sure what point they’re trying to make. These people really need to calm down.

I received my pre-order of Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros, but didn’t get very far because other books – borrowed from friends or the library – kept coming my way. So I prioritized the borrows. I’ll get back to it before the end of the year, I hope!

Cross-stitching

I finished Stay Gothy by Grandma Be Wildin. She’s such a cute goth Morton’s Salt Girl, and I stitched her on Picture this Plus 14 count Aida in Dawn. The are a few things that I changed. I changed “Gothy” to “Salty” and left out the backstitching.

Stay Gothy | Our Prairie Nest

It’s absolutely adorable and I love her. She just needs the perfect frame. Now I’m working on the Ouija Board by the Witchy Stitcher.

Gaming

There was much less gaming throughout November with the holiday weekend and work commitments. I think once January comes around, we’ll get back to regular sessions of all three games.

Watching

In November, I spent a weekend watching the first part of the final season of The Crown. At least, I think it was November. It may have been the first Saturday or Sunday of December, considering how perfectly relaxing and low-key both weekends were!

Exploring

November had the slower pace I wanted so much. I also volunteered at the Scholastic Book Fair for a day, and that was a lot of fun. It was a little daunting, because I got conflicting instructions on how to check out books for teachers. But I would really like to do it again and get better at the whole process. The person who manages everything about the book fair has been doing it for years and told me she’s looking for a replacement. At the most recent PTO meeting, I offered to be that person. That, however, is a task for the new year!

For now, I hope for more of the same in December – quiet and cozy, with delicious holiday food, family time, and finishing various projects. 2024 is a job for future Wendy.

October Journal | Our Prairie Nest
October Journal

October was such an eventful month, that I’m ready for hibernation. 🙂 I spent as much time as I could gathering petition signatures in hopes of initiating a recall election in the Plattsmouth School District, while also balancing fun Halloween events, gaming sessions, and a little bit of time for myself. I have more to say about the ongoing situation with book banning in another post.

Reading

In October, I made the mistake of finishing House of Sky & Breath, which means now I have to wait until January for the next book. ARGH. The ending has a tie-in to the ACOTAR series, so… now I wait. Fortunately, I spent most of October reading Iron Widow by Xiran Jay  Zhao and wow! That book was fantastic. I absolutely loved it. I will definitely read the sequel, Heavenly Tyrant, when it releases next year.

Cross-stitching

During the month of October, I returned my attention to Stay Gothy, a pattern by Grandma Be Wildin. She’s an adorable goth rendition of the Morton’s Salt Girl. Ta da! She’s so cute! I may change one little aspect of the pattern, but other than that, I am stitching as called for.

The fabric is Picture this Plus 14 count Aida in Dawn and, I have to say, the pictures of it online make it look much more green. That was the whole reason I originally purchased it, because I thought it would be fantastic for the Ouija Board stitch. But, no, it’s much more blue in person and it’s pretty, but it just didn’t scream Ouija to me. However, it’s perfect for Stay Gothy. I intend to stitch until it’s complete, since I don’t have any Yule or Christmas patterns. I’m not really a “Christmas stitcher” anyway, as much as I am an autumn, Halloween, goth, pop culture, and witchy stitcher. That said, if the right pattern came along, I would certainly go for it.

Stay Gothy by GrandmaBeWildin | Our Prairie Nest

Gaming

We had a character death in Cyberpunk Red and it was so sad. Our Medtech died. Honestly, I’m surprised the rest of us didn’t die, too, because we were on an extremely difficult mission. It was a hard loss because, besides the character being the one to patch us up after battle, he was just a good dude. Naturally, the player made another character for the next session, but when you have a character death, you don’t just carry on without acknowledging it. The end of the session and the following session are usually a time of mourning, tying up the deceased character’s loose ends, and informing next of kin, if any. A new character is usually introduced at the appropriate time, whether in the next session or another down the road.

Genesys is also going well, though I feel like we aren’t following the story threads all the way to their ends just yet. We got sidetracked by fae and those aren’t easy to deal with. 

My D&D campaign is moving ahead and I’m very excited to play tonight (since I’m finishing this post on a Saturday). Because, speaking of threads, it’s time to pull a few together and see how it all goes down!

Watching

I didn’t see anything new in October. However, I also had very little time to plop on the couch and watch TV or movies. On the last Saturday night in October, I carved pumpkins while my daughter watched the new Haunted Mansion. I only caught bits and pieces of it, but it was a nice balance of a little bit creepy and very sweet. Rowan really enjoyed it.

Exploring

We went to Bloom Where You’re Planted in Avoca with our Spiral Scouts circle. That is our family’s favorite pumpkin patch and, honestly, the only one I’ll visit. There is another one nearby, but it’s overpriced, crowded, and far too kitschy. Bloom Where You’re Planted has a more relaxed vibe to it, and I love the vintage aesthetic they cultivate, along with the pumpkins. It was a cool day, but the timing was perfect for some fall fun and picking pumpkins fresh from the patch!

I also have gotten involved in volunteering as a part of the PTO at my daughter’s school, which meant decorating for their Halloween event the last Friday of the month. In addition to the candy from that event, Rowan really enjoyed going trick or treat not once, but twice with friends. All in all, October went by too fast for me and I’m looking forward to a slower pace in November.

Book Banning & Definitions

With everything going on not only in the town of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, but all over the United States, I thought it would be good to dig into some facts and definitions.

First of all, the women driving these book bans will tell you “We aren’t banning anything. You can still go out and buy these books.” This is a disingenuous and incorrect statement. A ban is defined as the removal of material and/or a prohibition on said material. Removing books from libraries is banning books. Period.

Second, these women (because that is who is primarily behind this, self-proclaimed “mama bears” who often are members or admirers of the hate group, Moms For Liberty AKA Klanned Karenhood) are all following the same playbook. They are pulling from the exact same list of titles, going into school and public libraries, searching for these books, and then kicking up a fuss.

Third, many of the books being attacked are young adult. This term is fluid in definition, and can range from teens through twenties, and even into one’s thirties. In the publishing industry, young adult is specifically the 13-18 audience, while new adult is 18 and older. Young adult and new adult books often center on themes of self-actualization (aka finding yourself), coming of age, family, friendship, loyalty, and love.

Finally, the women fighting for book bans use inflammatory language to frighten and incite others. They love words like pornography, obscene, erotic, and sexually explicit, and refer to librarians, public school teachers, and parents who disagree as groomers and pedophiles. Once again, these are incorrect and inapplicable words.

So what are their definitions and why might there be scenes of sexual intimacy in young adult books? Good question. Here goes.

Disclosure

I had an extremely successful career writing LGBTQIA romance. I wrote erotica for fun (and still do). Then I moved to writing paranormal and urban fantasy, because that’s my first love as both a reader and writer. So this explanation comes from years of experience and involvement in various writing communities. Now, on with the definitions:

Pornography – The literal definition is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotica rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” When I think porn, I think of the classics, like Debbie Does Dallas. If you read through the books challenged in libraries, you will find that this word does not apply to any of them.

Erotica – Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire. In a story, the characters are DTF (down to f***). The end. There might be a plot or story, but you won’t find these books in the vast majority of libraries, and absolutely not in school libraries. 

Literary Erotica – Plenty of sex happens here, but often to propel a story/journey of self-actualization or growth. Usually a plot or reason for the sex beyond “ooh la la, loin tingles.” Think The Story of O. Absolutely not in school libraries.

Romance – Falling in love is the main plot. Often includes a secondary plot point of self-actualization, solving a mystery, or some other theme or trope that brings the characters together. Romance ranges from “clean” to “spicy.” Sex, whether on page or fade to black, is an important part of the narrative because it serves to solidify the relationship. Is not erotica. Sometimes found in school libraries.

Everything else YA to adult – All other fiction genres (except for juvenile and younger) revolve around one or two plots or themes, usually with additional supporting themes. Romance can be a secondary or tertiary theme, as in “romantasy” novels. If there is a romance subplot, including sex, that’s intertwined with a much larger story and character growth.

Sexual intimacy, whether described on page or not, does not mean the book is erotica.

Consensual sex in fiction exists to connect characters through the greater challenges they face together. It is part of advancing character growth.

The inclusion of non-consensual sex or other non-consensual events (such as Feyre’s sisters being forced to become fae in the A Court of Thorns and Roses [ACOTAR] series) often serves the purpose of creating conflict or adversity for a character that also propels their growth.

A final note on this: we authors don’t sit down, cackle, and go, “I’ll add sex here and here and here and here.” In fiction (not including the erotica tier), sex is included for a reason that makes sense to the narrative and the characters.

So, even with some explicit sex scenes, books marketed toward YA readers are generally appropriate for teens and older.

What does this mean? It means that you, as the parent or guardian, are the one who needs to be aware of what your kiddos are reading and decide if you’re cool with it. No one else should make that decision for you. However, you do not have the right to make that decision for others because every family is different. 

These books are not porngraphy, but guess what? If you don’t like them, you don’t have to read them or allow your teenagers to read them. It’s as simple as that.