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Breaking The No-blog Slump

Posted by MalNourished, Nov 7 2006, 07:35 PM

I don't know if any of you will see this, since it's been so long, but I just wanted to thank everyone who responded to the blog about my Gram. I haven't stepped foot in this blog for months, because, well, it hurts too much. It still makes me sad, but reading your stories and knowing that I have such amazing friends really helps. My condolences to all of you for your losses, and thank you so much for writing.

I'm going home in a few weeks for Thanksgiving, and I'm curious to see how it'll go. The rest of my family has had all of this time to be with each other and get used to Gram's absence. Even so, this is the first big holiday without her, so it will be hard on all of us.

I still burst into tears at inopportune moments. Today, as I waited to perform my civic duty, an elderly woman scooted by with the same walker that Gram had, and I lost it. The guy in front of me, who thought I was completely nuts, gave me a look like "Come on, voting isn't that bad!" A few weeks ago, while watching Grey's Anatomy with my boyfriend, I started crying uncontrollably because one of the patients on the show was wearing Gram's shoes. As if that show doesn't make me cry enough as it is.

So, it's taken me a long time to post another blog, but here I am again, and to keep this from being such a downer I'll post a ridiculous picture of me dressed as a mouse for Halloween.

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A Sad Blog For My Gram

Posted by MalNourished, Jul 12 2006, 10:55 PM

When my grandmother died where did she go? I found myself absently wondering this as I sat staring at my book (without reading it) on an airplane two weeks ago. Yesterday, I could have heard her voice on the phone. Where is her voice today? Where is her laugh?

I heard from my father, and was on a plane 10 hours later. Life on pause. Cats abandoned. Boss ignored. The distance from my family weighed on my chest. I fled home, only to feel time slow down when I arrived. Every time I saw another family member we would each stop and regard one another. So, this is what you look like in a world without Gram.

She asked to be cremated. No fuss. No coffin. I saw her on the last day she was in the world, and it was not real to me until that moment. She lay, tiny, on a table. It was still her, but she was freezing cold. I clasped her hands, pushed back her hair, kissed her cheek. My mother, aunt, and I stayed with her until we were drained of tears.

My family gathered every day that week and the next, occupying ourselves with projects and planning. Sometimes we just sat together. We ate too much food, and watched my niece and nephews play.

I found myself thinking about Buffy a lot. In particular, I thought about the episode "The Body," which I had watched for the first time a couple of weeks earlier. Those are some of the finest 40-odd minutes of television I've ever seen. Joss is truly unsentimental when it comes to death. He says in the commentary that nothing is gained in the loss of a loved one. Death doesn't bring people together or teach us lessons. Rather it leaves a hole in our lives where that person used to be. I heard his response to my question of where my Gram went. She's just gone.

Strangely, this sentiment does not make me feel worse. It's frustrating to look for consolation in abstract life lessons during times like these. During Gram's memorial service, my father's pastor told us to feel happy that she is in heaven now. How comforting it is to have a stranger tell you how to feel in this situation! I immediately channeled my teenage self and thought "What do you know about my feelings?", and mentally threw myself onto my bed in a fit of tears. I'm not happy, and it's not for lack of faith. Why should I be happy that Gram is not with us, even if she is playing canasta with Jesus or whatever? Sure, it's selfish, but I miss her. There is a void in my life now, and if I accept that then I can learn to live with it.

We all lose people, and eventually our families and friends will lose us. So, what's to be done? Nothing, except to love my family and my chosen family of friends as much as possible while we're all still breathing. It's not a lesson. It's a plan.


My Gram, holding out her pinky while drinking a Diet Coke. We thought this was hilarious.

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Here she is again with my niece Simone.

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Here's a song for everyone who has ever lost someone. It was written by Y.M. Barnwell, and recorded by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Wanting Memories
(from CROSSINGS by Y.M. Barnwell ©1992)

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You said you'd rock me in the cradle of your arms.
You said you'd hold me ‘til the storms of life were gone.
You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you.
Now I need you...
And you are -

So, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty,
but I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.
Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place.
Here inside I have few things that will console.
And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,
then i remember all the things that I was told.

Well, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Yes, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.
I think on the things that made me laugh , made me dance, made me sing.
I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.
I think on these things, for they are true.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me.
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a "Please", a "Thank you", and a smile will take me far.
I know that I am you and you are me, and we are one.
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand.
I know that I am blessed,
again, and again, and again, and again,
and, again.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

It's My Party...

Posted by MalNourished, Jun 16 2006, 08:09 PM

For the third year in a row I've turned almost 30.

I woke up today in my big bed feeling pathetic and melancholy for no good reason. It's not that I think that 28 is old, or that I wish I were 19 again. I don't miss Kamikazes by the pitcher, or black-lit bars (or more specifically, throwing up on the dance floors of black-lit bars). Maybe I just figured that I would know more by now. Maybe I thought that my boyfriend could stop watching the World Cup long enough to go out to the movies. Damn you, Ronaldinho and your enthralling curly locks!

Here I am, feeling sorry for myself in a way that only the truly comfortable can. You know, never gone hungry, never huddled in a cellar during an air raid (well, not yet)...basically lived a cushy life. My complaints are frivolous, and I accept that.

What's left to do? Crouch in a dark room singing "It's My Party" in a half-moan? Put on something with some slink, go out for drinks, and strut my stuff? (Must remember to get stuff to strut.) Run to Target to find a frame for the black velvet Elvis birthday card that I got from my roommate?

Wait just one minute. I got a freaking velvet Elvis birthday card! My life is fantastic. Off to strut now...

Moonlight Rising 2006 Con Report

Posted by MalNourished, Jun 13 2006, 04:27 AM

I originally wrote this con report for the Appreciatin' Nathan Crew's subforum, Mal's Bunk, so it is very Nathan-centric. Most of you don't know me, so please understand that the fangirly-ness is mostly tongue-in-cheek.

Chapter One: The Photo Shoot and the Saturday Q&A

I volunteered to help out with Saturday's photo ops, and was near the front door when Nathan came in to the back of the room. All of the sudden, I turned around and there he was. He seemed much taller than I expected, and he was very, very broad. Like a god. Seriously.

The volunteers all got their pictures taken last, so I got into the end of the line. Every time someone stepped up, Nathan would turn, stick out his hand, and say "Hi! What's your name?" When it was my turn, I took his hand and said "Vanessa." He smiled and said "Hi Vanessa. I'm Nathan." (*giggle* Yeah, I know. I have 10 gigs worth of pictures of you on my hard drive.)

He immediately put his arm around my shoulder, and I said "Wait! I have a Jonathan [Woodward] picture too!" They were each doing individual photo ops, as well as one together. Let's just say that I got all three...

Jonathan came over, and put his arm around me too. Then I took my pic alone with Jonathan (which I was supposed to take with Kaele, but I COMPLETELY forgot because meeting Nathan melted my brain). When Jonathan stepped back, Nathan came up, put his arm back around me, and said "And now for the big finish." Yes, I giggled like a five year old.

After the pics I walked away in a daze, and realized a few seconds later that my stuff was in the opposite direction. I turned around, and Nathan looked at me. I said "Stuff...this...way" or something. He laughed his husky man-laugh.

Nathan and Jonathan were too funny during their Q&A. Jonathan had some sort of toy megaphone that he was playing around with. I decided to ask a question early on, so I started getting nervous and was having trouble paying attention to the guys. I did take a few videos, though.

Here's one from the beginning of the Q&A (I had the shakes. Sorry.):

Another person told him that she met Michael Rooker at a con the previous day, and then Nathan did a very funny Rooker impersonation. I caught part of it:

Somehow, Nathan brought up “The Stranger” which sent the two of them on a downward-spiraling masturbation rant. Here's a tiny clip:

There was a rather technical question about the pilot episode, and Nathan couldn't answer it. So, he called Joss and left a message. Here's the vid:

Someone asked if the line about the grenade in Slither is an intentional reference to Serenity. Nathan said he doesn’t think so, but that there is something in White Noise 2 that’s just for Browncoats.

A woman asked if his tattoo is real, what it is, and if we could see it. (Cringe.) He told her that it's real, that it's a peace symbol with some Egyptian hieroglyphics, and of course he would not show it to us. He said something like "I'm not going to show my ass to a room full of strangers. I'm a real person. You wouldn't ask your plumber to show you his ass, would you?" He was quite stern and made it clear that he did not appreciate that question. I felt like hiding (mad Nathan is scarier than mad Mal).

I finally worked up the nerve to ask something. They had two microphones set up in the audience on either side of the stage, and I got into line at one of them. When it was my turn, Nathan accidentally skipped me, and let a girl at the other mic ask her question. I was a little embarrassed because I had opened my mouth to start speaking, but I think the only person who noticed was Jonathan. He smiled, and tried to communicate something to me using sign language. Funny guy. Then it was my turn. Here’s how it went (Kaele got most of Nathan’s answer on video, so I’ll transcribe it. I’ve edited my question a bit because I said the word “really” about 50 times and was stammering a bit.):

Nathan turned to look at me, leaned forward in his chair, and said “Vanessa, right?” (or something like that. I was truly freaked out, so all of this is a blur). I was completely stunned because I had met him hours earlier and was one of about 150 people in the photo shoot line (he’s amazing!!). I think that I said “Yeah,” or maybe I just nodded. Then I spent a second or two replaying his voice saying my name in my head.

Me: “I want to ask you about your voice. You make these subtle changes that convey emotion really realistically.” (God, why am I talking so slowly? I sound like a robot!!!)

Nathan, leaning forward: “Thank you.” (Will you look at that lean??)

Me: (Embarrassing fangirl giggle) One thing I’ve noticed is that when you are very upset your voice kind of cracks. (Here comes the nervous joking around. Jeez, why can’t I shut up??) It’s not a pre-pubescent cracking. It’s a manly cracking. I’m just wondering if this is something that you rehearse or if it just comes naturally out of the emotion of the scene?”

Nathan (paraphrased a bit, because the audio is not perfectly clear): “When I’m watching TV and movies, what affects me far more than watching someone cry is watching someone try not to cry. When they try to laugh it off, or catch their breath, or try not to blink too hard so as not to let the tears run, it really affects me. However in Saving Private Ryan, they said ‘Cry like a girl. Just cry and let everything go. It’s gotta be huge.’ And I was really tense about having to cry, and they were trying to help me through it. And you know what? Everything just tightens up when you’re that upset.”

Jonathan: “It’s like playing drunk. They say ‘play sober.’”

Nathan: “Yeah, play like you’re trying not to be drunk. Which [turns to Jonathan], you’re doing a great job.”

Jonathan: “Thanks.” [falls off his chair]

Nathan went on a little from there, but my memory card filled up.

I went back to my seat, absolutely trembling. Everyone should ask him a question at a con, even though it’s quite overwhelming to stand in a room full of people, in front of a mic, with Nathan staring you down! He gave me his full attention, listened, and then gave a very heart-felt answer.

Chapter 2: The Autograph Line on Saturday

Preface: The Appreciatin' Nathan Crew made Nathan two cards, which I delivered to him at MR. The first was a (very belated) birthday card. The second was a card that was signed by 20 or so Appreciators from all over the US and a few places in Europe. Both cards featured art by mphillips, who posts his work on

I was very impressed by how Nathan handled the autograph line in general. Each person got his undivided attention as soon as they stepped up to his table, and he made an effort to remember as many people as possible. He joked around, and made everyone’s experience unique and memorable.

I stepped up to Nathan's table and his PA asked my name and took what I wanted him to sign. I said "I'd like to give him something before he signs, if that's OK."

Nathan looked up at me, and said "Hi, Vanessa."

(Oh my God, don't puke. DON'T PUKE!)

I replied at warp speed. "Hi, Nathan (silent fit of fangirly giggling). I have something for you from our group on the Appreciatin' Nathan thread. You used to go to the old thread, but there's a new one now." (Please stop talking, you idiot!)

Nathan looked down at what I was holding in my hands. "OK."

I bought a leather folder for the birthday card, world-travelin' card, translation sheet, little note cards from people, and maps I made showing where we live. There was also a little window on the inside of the folder where I put another matching card that said:

June 2006
For Nathan Fillion
From the Appreciatin' Nathan Crew

The folder only had one pocket, so I put all of the world-travelin' stuff in there, and laid the birthday card inside so that he would see it first.

Nathan took the folder from me and opened it. He saw the birthday card, and said "Oh my God!"

I told him that we tried to get it to him before his birthday, and that the art was by Mike Phillips.

He looked up at me, and said "I feel like I should know which scene this drawing is from. It looks so familiar."

More light-speed talking from me: "It's from the pilot when you tell Kaylee that you're a mean old man."

"Oh yes!" He smiled. "Of course, that's right."

Then, he picked it up so that he could see it better, and proceeded to read EVERY MESSAGE that we wrote!! (He's so sweet, and lovely, and perfect in every way.) He laughed out loud several times. When he finished reading he said, "Aww, thanks you guys!"

I said " There's more!" and pointed at the folder pocket, and Nathan pulled everything out. "This is a card that I made with another piece of Mike's art, and our group mailed it all over the country and Europe to have people sign it and write notes to you." I pointed to the maps, and said "These are the places the card went, or where these smaller cards came from."

He smiled and leaned over the map of Europe. "Ooooh, there's England, and Ireland." Then he looked at the US map with all the little dots on it. "And WOW! I mean WOW you guys!!! And these maps are really cool."

Then he picked up the card itself and looked closely at the front. He read it aloud. "How to Draw Mal. Draw an oval. Draw a line through the oval." Then he laughed. "Draw Mal holding the oval." More laughing. "That's great!"

I showed him the back where everyone signed, and he kept saying "thanks you guys" again and again. I told him that there was a translation sheet for the Chinese on the card, and he said "Cool."

He saw the smaller cards, and asked "Now, what are these?" He was really paying attention!! I can't believe how freaking nice this guy is!!!!

I explained that we ran out of room on the card, so several people mailed in their contributions separately.

He started taking the cards out of the folder, and then paused to look at it. He looked up at me, held up the folder and said, "Is this for me too?"

I nodded, I think.

"Wow! Thanks so much! This is so nice, and it's very well put-together!" He ran his hand down the inside of the folder, looking at it.

I said, "I'd love to catch you later and take your picture with the card so that everyone can see that you got it."

Nathan: "Well, do you have your camera now? We can take it right now!"

"They told us that we aren't allowed to take pictures in the autograph line."

Nathan smiled a tiny smile, and said "I'll make sure that they know it's OK."

I thanked him and fumbled around trying to get the camera out of its case. When I got it out he said, "Hey! Cool camera! I have the same one!" I think that I mumbled "Cool."

He picked up the cards and the folder, and posed with them for the picture. Then he gathered up every piece of the world-travelin' card stuff and put it back in the pocket. He picked up the birthday card, and said "I'm going to put this in with the rest so it doesn't fall out." He was very careful with all of it.

He looked up again and said, "Thank you. Please tell everyone how much I appreciate it, and thank them for me."

He looked everything over very carefully, and NEVER ONCE made me feel like I was taking too much of his time. Mind you, he had already been signing autographs for almost an hour, and there were at least one hundred people behind me in line (Sorry, folks!). But, he did not seem rushed at all. He smiled and laughed reading the birthday messages and genuinely thanked everyone who contributed.

After giving him the card, I had him sign my new favorite mphillips drawing:

Nathan picked up the print before signing it to look at it more closely. He said “Wow, this is really good.” When he signs an autograph, he takes a few seconds to think of what to write. He waves his pen back and forth a little, like he’s practicing. It’s so cute! (I need help!) After he was finished, I gave him a copy of the drawing. He said, “Thank you!” and just when I was about to leave, he said "I'll tell you a funny secret about this shirt [points to the shirt in Mike's drawing]. It was really hard to get on, and IMPOSSIBLE to get off."

Chapter 3: The Sunday Q&A and Autograph Lines

The Jossverse Q&A on Sunday featured all of the guests. I missed the first 15 minutes, unfortunately, but here are a few tidbits:

Jonathan discussed the episode of Firefly in which he appeared (The Message, as you all know), and was more specifically talking about having to be naked on set. He said that they had shaved his whole body for that role, and that the makeup lady had to brush makeup onto his ass. He also explained how embarrassing it was to lie naked for hours with Gina staring at him, and that throughout the day he was experiencing “shrinkage” in his genital cup. Nathan said that he knew exactly how that felt, and that it was “like a frightened turtle.” Then they went on to talk about the scene in the Message where Jonathan is naked and Nathan is sitting on top of him. Nathan said, “It was like sitting on a pin. Or maybe a cigarette. Or one of those pencils you get when you play mini golf.”

When talking about dealing with criticism, Ken Feinberg said that you can't take it too personally because many times people say negative things about others when they really believe those things to be true about themselves. To which Nathan replied, "So anything I say about someone else is a reflection of what I believe to be true about myself?" Ken nodded, and Nathan went on, "Well then, Ken, I think you have great hair."

The panel was asked which questions they would like to ban from Q&As. Nathan's answer was "Can I have a kiss?" With a pained expression, he went on to say "I just say, 'No, because I don't know you...sir.'"

There were fewer people in line for autographs on the second day, which turned out GREAT. Nathan was kind enough to sign multiple autographs for anyone who asked.

I got to Nathan’s table, and he looked up and said “Vanessa!”

“Hi Nathan.” (stupid grin) I handed him the photo op that he and I took.

He smiled and said, “This turned out very nicely!”

He signed it, and I asked him if he would also sign an mphillips drawing (Mean Old Man, BTW). “This is for the artist,” I said. He said he’d be happy to, and took it from me. He wrote “Wonderful work. Thank you, and don’t stop.” If you know Mike, please don’t tell him. I’m mailing it to him as a surprise.

One good thing about attending a con that is somewhat organizationally-challenged is that there are no handlers directing you out of the room after you get your autograph. There were a few of us who just lingered near the autograph table after we got our signatures. The line dwindled early, so some of us went up for additional autographs. When the session was nearly over, I noticed a woman go over and ask for a picture with Nathan, so I decided to do the same.

When I got there, another woman was already in front of me with her camera out. She asked Nathan’s PA if she could take a picture with him, and she said, “Sure!” Then I asked, and the PA said “No.” I couldn’t believe it, even though her reasons were perfectly valid and in Nathan's own best-interest. I didn’t argue, instead I just backed up a few paces and kept my camera out. Nathan put on his jacket, came around to the front of the table to the woman who had permission to get a pic, and he took one with her. When he finished with her, he looked right at me and said “Would you like one too?” (He’s unbelievably nice!) I said, “Yeah, that would be great!” He came over, took the camera out of my hand, put his arm around me, and snapped the pic. Then he checked to make sure that it came out okay, and said “I think this will turn out great!” I looked at it, and was immediately entranced by his handsome ruggedness. He took a few more pics with people and then was ushered off.

I was overwhelmed by how accommodating, sweet, and good-natured Nathan is. I will say that he was more formal with the fans than the rest of the guests were, but I'm sure that it's not his preference to be that way. We've all heard stories that explain why Nathan has to be careful. He had security with him during autographs, and did not chat much in the lobby, go to eat with fans, or attend room parties like the other guests did. It is clear that he is not comfortable with people making sexual comments in Q&As (not surprisingly), and I really believe him when he says that he is inherently shy. He is generous with his time, attentive, exceedingly nice, and has the best manners of just about anyone I’ve ever met. So, while he is somewhat reserved, it is very clear that he enjoys meeting his fans.

That's my monster blog about Moonlight Rising, which was my first convention. It was a lot of fun, and now I'm hooked on cons. I hope to see you at Flan!

EDIT: It's not obvious how to enter the photo gallery. Click any picture to view the filmstrip, and then there will be a bunch of links above the title of the picture. Like this:

-> The Serenity Browncoats > Gallery > Moonlight Rising 2006 > Viewing image

Click on "Moonlight Rising 2006" to go to the index.