Now you've got the chance
You might as well just dance
Go skies and thrones and wings
And poetry and things.
--Neil Halstead

Friday, June 15, 2018

Adventures in Publishing

It has been a while since I've posted. Or written significant poetry. Or written in my journal. Or done much more than work, eat, sleep, chase children around a merry-go-round of end-of-year events, and play silly games on my tablet. Why? On some level, of course, I was kept busy by all of the aforementioned distractors. But, on a much deeper level, I was waiting for this:

I know, right? I actually wrote an entire book. And I've been feeling a little bit held in suspense, waiting for the launch. Of course, some of that was my doing. I had 50+ edits to the final draft, then, after getting the proof copy, found another 50+ edits. In my defense, at least some of those were necessary edits, the sort of thing that constitutes a minor plot hole that a dedicated reader would eventually question. Others, of course, were the kind of wordsmithing that you'd expect from a Virgo with almost 30 years of editing/proofing experience, and I swore that, after that last round of edits, I was DONE. I would not allow myself to read it one more time. This whole re-re-re-re-reading thing was just me sabotaging myself by not allowing the book out into the world.

And then, a few hours after the final files were uploaded into CreateSpace, a nagging feeling came to me. You know, self, I thought, you didn't check that one last sentence you requested a change on in Chapter 3. Maybe you should just take a peek, so you can stop obsessing over imaginary errors and get some sleep and not fall asleep in tomorrow's federal meeting and accidentally get deported. (It's annual federal meeting time! Spoiler alert: these are the nice feds and nobody got deported.)

So I open the file and go to Chapter 3, and discover...a typo. Not just any typo. The sentence was supposed to start, "As they walked through the forest..." It actually started, "Ass they walked through the forest..."

This is a middle-grade novel.

My ensuing email was titled, literally, STOP THE PRESSES! I went into Kindle Direct and pulled the eBook, my editor fixed the typo, and we relaunched, hopefully without traumatizing any middle grade students or parents. Although, as the parent of two middle grade children, the most trauma that would actually have occurred would have been "cramps from laughing" or "snorting a booger" because middle grade children find potty language hilarious. In fact, it might have been a selling point.

Anyway, the error was soon rectified, and I managed to talk myself out of re-re-re-re-re-reading the entire book. The files were re-uploaded last night. Amazon said it could take 3-5 days to appear, so I went back to playing silly tablet games.

And then at 8:15 p.m., I got a text:

Wait, what? Quick search of Amazon, and there it is! Online and available for purchase. Only a true  friend would find your book on Amazon before you even knew it was published!

And now, after a long spring of anticipation and waiting, I'm ready to put aside my silly tablet games and get back into writing...blogs, journals, the August Poetry Postcard Festival, and, yes, even a sequel, to be titled, The Hundred Year Island.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

It All Begins With An Open Door

Meow Wolf (Santa Fe, NM) beautifully
highlights the subversive potential of doors.
Don't just stand there with the fridge door
open--you're letting the interdimensional
creatures out! (Also, Bruce and Eleanor.)
It all begins with an open door.

The primal part of us, the part that huddled around the fire, the part that jumps at small noises in the dark, hates an open door. An open door lets the mosquitoes in, lets the air conditioning out. Unlocked, it invites thieves or monsters. Propped open, it declares to the world you have nothing worth stealing.

Doors enable us to control access to our homes and our lives. Mother and I have wished for a solid front door with a peephole instead of our beautiful lead glass door so that we can identify the extremely persistent Jehovah's Witnesses and pretend not to be home. A door is a point of vulnerability, the gate where our castle can be stormed.

What the door really does, though, is allow us to decline to participate in the unpredictable, wide, wild world, to create a defined space that resists change not of our own making. It's a reactionary thing to shut the door.

To be fair, opening the front door can lead to trolls, dragons, war, orcs, and Mordor.
So it's not like Bilbo Baggins is being totally irrational here. 
Part of the hero's journey--often literally--involves passing through a doorway. The hero can't begin her quest without opening a door or two, surrendering the twin illusions of comfort and control for an adventure whose hidden end could be glory or failure or anything in between.

So, when I was getting ready for bed, I thought, in that sort of drowsy non sequitur you get sometimes around ten o'clock on a Wednesday, "It all begins with an open door."
From the Animal Wisdom deck by
Dawn Brunke.

It occurs to me that I've been standing at that open door for a while now. Not unlike Bob Cat, I find that the wide, wild world can be a little intimidating. The Universe, in its inimitable way, has been sending me some signs that it may be time to leave the safety of the doorway and take a few risks.

Just as a for instance, I've drawn the Crab (four of shells/cups) at least seven times in the last 8 months. It's become a bit of a theme, as the cards will do when you ignore them. The lesson of the crab is, of course, that in order to grow, we (okay, I) need to be vulnerable, to step outside of where I am comfortable. To take my hand off the doorknob and walk through the doorway.

My instinctual response to that invitation can be summarized as, "Don't wanna, not gonna, you can't make me!" (Augmented by profanity and chocolate.)

And the Universe has kept right on providing Exciting Growth Opportunities. Because, of course it has.

I start a new interim position Monday. I am extremely careful to refer to it loudly and frequently as INTERIM, to ensure that everybody knows I have absolutely, positively committed to not committing to deciding whether I want to walk through that particular door or not. This is exactly how Bob Cat approaches the front yard: he makes it to the edge of the front porch, looks around a bit, and then scurries back inside...then repeats the process on pretty much a daily basis.

I also have a novel coming out later this spring. That doorway is particularly terrifying--it is much easier to take myself seriously as a mid-level government manager than as a novelist. I keep waiting for someone to take me aside and go, "No, seriously, Diana, this book sucks--we've just not wanted to hurt your feelings." But that hasn't happened, so eventually (i.e., late May, early June), I may have to confront the fact that I've written a book that doesn't actively suck and walk through that door as well.

Other doors loom further on the horizon: sending Eleanor to New York for Spring Break was a reminder that in just three years, she will be opening the door of her childhood and walking out, leaving me on the doorstep, most likely bawling in a completely mortifying manner.

So, maybe, just maybe, it might be time to accept the changes I cannot change, get comfortable with openness, accept the adventure.
Canyon de Chelley, AZ
No doors here...what a beautiful and terrible freedom.

It all begins with an open door.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Dewey, the Semi-Siamese

WANTED: A mamma. Species irrelevant. Must love me and
protect me. Lactation a plus.
Once upon a time, I was quite pregnant with Eleanor. I walked out into the garage, looked out across the alley, and saw a Siamese kitten. Our eyes locked. He began meowing, sensing that I was, if not exactly his lost mamma cat, somebody's mamma, which was close enough. He had clearly never been inside a building before (the ceiling freaked him out for hours), but without hesitation, he walked in and made himself at home.

Best. Bath. Ever.

Really at home. One night a month or two later, I was on my side, sleeping the uncomfortable sleep of the very pregnant when I felt a cold, wet nose nuzzling me. Awww, how sweet!
Then I felt some cold, sharp teeth biting me in a very sensitive area: Dewey was trying to latch on for a midnight snack. This was probably the first time my obstetrician had ever been asked whether a late-night nipple bite would cause any future problems with breastfeeding.

Although he was unsuccessful at nursing, Dewey still enjoyed some benefits of my pregnancy. For one, Eleanor as a fetus was very insistent about getting regular chocolate milkshakes from Whataburger. I was also getting pretty clumsy, and one night I dropped an entire milkshake on Dewey, who was in my lap. It was probably the highlight of his life.

Things only got better for Dewey when the baby arrived. For one thing, there was all the baby gear to try out.

And try it out he did, every single baby item. You'll notice it didn't take him long to reveal that he was not a pure Siamese. He was very clearly part Siamese and part something very big and very white. There were several white strays around that could've been his daddy. But no matter how big he got, he never gave up on being a baby. We named him Dewey, not as some sort of bibliophile reference to his suave intelligence and sophistication, because he had none of those things. He was the biggest goofball ever. Nope, we named him after the youngest child in the TV series Malcolm in the Middle--the not-so-innocent little brother who somehow manages to skate out of trouble on the strength of pure adorableness. That was Dewey.
It looked like this, only
significantly less healthy
because it spend most of its
time on the kitchen floor.

There was one other baby item that Dewey was particularly fond formula. He stalked us as we made up the bottles, licking stray granules of powder from the counter tops. If you left a bottle lying around, he'd start nursing from it. And he wasn't overly picky about whether his formula was fresh or...recycled. See, Eleanor had a bad reflux problem. So he would wait at the foot of the rocking chair for us to burp her. As soon as she spit up, he would run to lick it up off the last getting the milk he had been denied.

Eleanor was not a big fan of the pacifier--but Dewey was. Every time she spat one out, he'd find it and carry it around in his mouth (usually backwards).

When he began teething, Dewey chewed on my cactus. I brought it home from work when I went on maternity leave because I was afraid it would die of neglect while I was gone. As it turns out, it died from slow torture and profound abuse at the jaws of Dewey. Cacti have rather shallow root systems, because who'd want to grab a giant ball of spikes? Dewey would. He would climb up to the kitchen window, wrap his jaws around it, pull it out of its pot, and carry it around the room, usually depositing it in the middle of the kitchen floor. I would pick it up and put it back in the pot. The next morning, I'd find it back on the floor again. Eventually, the cactus, no doubt dreaming of a pleasant death by dehydration at the office, gave up and died.
Dewey, the Headless Cat.
He was quite the cat. He had a loud, very Siamese meow and an easygoing disposition, and he was an affectionate lap cat. However, by the time Bruce and Betty came along, he was an adult, and found babies much less amusing...and toddlers even less so. When we moved back to Austin, he took advantage of an open door and ran away...and never returned. I was devastated. Dewey was truly one of a kind. I'll admit it--eight years later, I still look for him in the streets around the old neighborhood.
Yeah. I'm awesome.Got milk?

Monday, February 19, 2018

On the Dubious Character of Cats

At Windsor Park Elementary in Corpus Christi, we learned
speed reading using one of these gizmos (called a tachistoscope),
although I seem to remember a cheesy wood-grain plastic finish
on ours. You looked through the view finder and they displayed
a story, line by line. If you passed the test at the end, the next
one went faster. My brain fried at about 70 wpm. Or maybe
that was my max high school typing speed. Or both.
Anyway, I can read really fast, thanks to the tachistoscope.
I just don't remember any of it. And I don't seem to be able
to slow my reading down, either. I blame the tachistoscope.
Just look at that thing. It was probably some secret government
research project to reprogram kids' brains. At some point,
they'll send out a signal, and everyone who spent hours
in front of this thing will suddenly start trying to kill
Communists or start disco-ing. It was the 70's, could be either.
I just finished re-reading Susan Rooke's novel, The Space Between. I re-read a lot of good books because I have a notoriously bad short-term memory. I can read a book and tell you if I liked it or not, but the details are pretty fuzzy, fading away into hazy impressions almost as soon as I close the cover. I can tell you the basic plot (probably), and I may even remember the characters' names (major ones), but depth-wise, it's about as shallow as a South Texas rain puddle--and disappears about as fast.

Personally, I think of it as a positive quality. It means that I forget bad books pretty much as soon as I'm done, and when I re-read the good ones, I get to experience them as though it were the first time. Win-win.

Anyway, I really like The Space Between, for several reasons. I really admire a writer who is able to take a subject so common that we think we know everything about it--and then turn those expectations upside down. We've been telling tales of Heaven and Hell for 2,000 years. Over time, our imaginings have tended to converge--a shining city in the clouds, reunions with family and friends who have gone before, beautiful angels with golden harps. Or, its opposite--fire, brimstone, torture for the wicked, and horned demons with forked tails.

Bob likes The Space Between, too.
It elevates him nearly 2 inches--4 if you count
the blanket, and you must count every inch
when you're a wanna-be dictator who only
 stands a foot off the ground.
The Space Between makes you think just a little bit harder about those images. As I said in my Amazon review of the book, if you like your religion straight and narrow, this probably isn't your book. But that doesn't make it an un-religious or even heretical book--just an original one. The passage where Mellis gets a glimpse of Heaven is beautifully--and originally--rendered. You can feel yourself there with her, in the jewel-toned brilliance of a wild, untamed nature, connecting with loved ones and strangers in a powerful, compassionate way. And the passages with Satan and Hell are disgusting and repulsive, in a visceral way--because, you know...Satan is supposed to be actually disgusting and repulsive. Because of the author's powerful descriptions (she is a poet, after all), Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, are settings and characters--not just abstractions.

She also weaves a variety of inventively drawn faerie species into the tale, a dragon, and a talking vulture.

My favorite character, though is Kindle the Cat. One thing I missed in my first reading was Kindle's story of his origins. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that Kindle (like his feline descendants in our world) has a little bit of Heaven and a little bit of Hell in his character.

At their best, cats are affectionate and loyal (at least to a person or two, most of the time, when it suits their interests), considerately pet-able when you're down, amusingly clownish when you need a laugh, and ridiculously adorable.
And elegant. Just look at Daisy.

And at their worst...well...let's just say Kindle's origin story explains a lot. That part might not have been fiction.
Yeah, I'm plotting something. Something awful. Something terrible. Something that will shake your world to its very foundations. It probably involves the sparkly snake-like feather toy that used to be on a stick, but I'll leave my options open, in case you're walking around in socks. Feet + socks = prey. Heh, heh, heh.
If you're looking for a great fantasy tale with an original premise and vivid descriptions, I recommend Susan Rooke's The Space Between. I can't wait to see where she takes the series is one series where you definitely don't feel like you know where the story is going to end up.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Thankfully, We Aren't What We Eat

Thursday I got one of those "you might be interested in" marketing emails from Amazon. I knew what it was before opening it, because the subject line of the email was "Lion Noisy 8-flavor Soda."
If you're wondering how 8-flavor soda hard candy can be noisy, I'll let you know. At $4.28 plus free shipping, this bad boy went straight into my cart. I'm looking particularly forward to learning what lamune flavor tastes like. I'm assuming Lion is the name of the company, but if there's cat hair in my package, I wouldn't be just totally shocked.

Why does Amazon think I might be interested in noisy soda candy? Because Bruce, who loves everything Japanese, got a box of Japanese vending machine food for Christmas. It turns out that Bruce mainly likes the idea of everything Japanese, and he was more than willing to share each individually wrapped item with the rest of us. It made for a highly entertaining Christmas. All of the packaging (except for the Macha Green Tea flavored Kit-Kat) was in Japanese, which none of us could read. So we had no idea what we were eating just by looking at it.

This led to some amazing facial expressions and taxed their creative powers of description:

"It's like fruit styrofoam."

"It's like a weird spicy pizza cheeto."

"It's like brown gooey something in cardboard."
All in all, it was everyone's favorite Christmas present, and they can't wait to try food boxes from other countries. If you're wondering, yes, that is a thing. I'm thinking maybe we'll go Eastern Europe next year, but there's also a Turkish box that sounds promising. It was fun to expand our horizons and realize that everyone everywhere has their own idea of taste, and think that somewhere in the wide, wide world a kid might be trying Ranch Doritos, scrunching up his nose and telling his brother, "It's like a garlicky green fried milk carton...weird!"

This reminded me of one of our favorite family stories. Pets and babies make an interesting combination. For one thing, they both operate at ground level, where us grown-ups don't spend much time. For another, they will put almost anything into their mouths.

Back in the day, we had this awesome cat named Dewey. He was a semi-Siamese...half seal-point Siamese and half something big and white. He had a lot of personalty, but that's a story for another blog. Most relevant here is that he had spent his first six months of life on the alleys of Quail Creek (with approximately 80 other feral cats it seemed) and was a huntin' cat. You can take the outdoor cat indoors, but you can't take the outdoors out of the formerly outdoor indoor cat. Or something like that.

Dewey had a fondness for baby gear. We also have pictures of him in the bouncy seat, the swing, the car seat, and the crib. Dewey weighed more than a large baby, but it never stopped him from trying to be one. 2003.

Bruce was a year old. He is our most fastiduous child, and is not overly adventurous in eating, which is why he hates this story. But that came later. As a one-year-old, he was a normal one-year-old, which is to say, when he was teething, he'd gum just about anything. In fact, at one point, I caught him gumming our old cat Pericles' tail.
Bruce and Pericles, 2006. Pericles was the most chill of cats; however, as you can see, he is keeping his tail firmly tucked underneath him and well outside of grabbing range.

And so it was that one day I happened to look up, and Bruce was sitting on the rug with a (non-cat) tail hanging out of his mouth, happily gumming a dead lizard. A long-dead lizard, one that Dewey had played with and then thoughtfully deposited under a piece of furniture, out of sight to us, but not to Bruce.
Bruce, on the floor, where all kinds of fun things can be found, some of them crunchy. (2007)

We got it out of his mouth intact, which annoyed him at the time, but present-day Bruce is quite grateful that we didn't let him eat a lizard. Although, it probably just tasted like weird sour popcorn.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Yeah, It's Pretty Wonderful, Actually

Renaissance Festival, 2017. Only Eleanor and Bruce had
actual costumes. Betty and I just sort of randomly
over-accessorized and called it a day.
It's actually been a pretty wonderful year, all things considered. Not, of course, from a macro view--I'm sure the angels above are weeping with the war, famine, and general meanness of the world today. But in my little corner of it, most days, I'm content.

Granted, life has its share of irritations. There is a rhythmic noise coming from the living room that suggests Bob Cat is destroying something. I can still smell the acrid smell from when I got a little too close to our overly assertive fireplace the other night and my hairspray-encrusted hair got singed. I don't get to see the kids until Tuesday, which isn't too far away, but still just far enough to remind me that the day is coming in a few years when they will grow up and leave home (or--heaven forbid--move away).

And, WOW, the busy-ness! I knew it would be a busy year, with the reorg at work, working on the novel, and kids in every school level...but this fall has left me gasping for breath and wondering where all the time (and sleep) has gone. I can hyperventilate just thinking about my to-do list.

February, 2008. Probably the last time either Bruce or
Eleanor still thought Betty was adorable. And even then,
given her expression, it's likely Eleanor was whispering
some sort of threat in Betty's ears, probably beginning with,
"And, once you learn to walk, if I ever catch you in my room..."

And, yet--I'm appreciative. I remember where I was--physically, emotionally, mentally--not too many years ago. It's kind of hard to forget, actually. I have a super supportive friend who has metaphorically wagged a finger at me and said, "Remember how far you've come!!!!" every time I've gotten frustrated or discouraged to the point where my inner cheerleader now has that friend's voice.

So it probably shouldn't be too surprising that my favorite Christmas movie is "It's a Wonderful Life."

Conces Christmas Party, 2011. Eleanor's really getting into
the whole staged fratricide gag picture thing. 

I mean, okay, it does bother me that, at the end, all these poor people are giving George Bailey their money and they didn't actually need to because Sam Wainwright authorized a loan that would have covered Uncle Billy's deficit three times over. I hope he made them take it all back after they got through with Auld Lang Syne, although they were just dumping it on the table and singing, and it's pretty clear nobody knows who gave what. And, even if they knew when they started out, Mary was yelling at Martini to bring on the wine (even though Uncle Billy has a problem and George has been drinking heavily in two realities), so after the next few carols, I'm pretty sure Zuzu was gonna be fertilizing her flower with twenties. Which, if you think about it, shows some pretty irresponsible business skills, George. I'd like my $242 back, please.

But, aside from the ethically questionable Money Blizzard, I love that movie. I watch it every few years, and I cry every time at George Bailey's joy at appreciating the simple beauty of home and family. It is all too easy to get overwhelmed by all that doesn't go right. And some of those things (like George's looming threat of jail and bankruptcy) are real and big and serious. Big enough to get lost in.

And that's why we have each other--to find our way out of the dark places. The same friend who has cheered me on for so long is having a rough Christmas, and it's my turn to say, HEY, YOU! REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE AND HOW FAR YOU'VE COME! In other words, to do what I can to shine a light into the dark places and hope it illumines a path, as so many friends and family have done for me over the years.
Canada, 2016. There is a special place in heaven for tour guides who volunteer to take pictures of a single mom and her kids so that she can actually be in the picture with the most important people in the world.

So, Merry Christmas, or however you celebrate the season, and remember, in the immortal words of Clarence Oddbody, "no man is a failure who has friends."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bounty: The Other Kleenex

Even Hermione cries on a regular
basis, and she's the queen
of logical reasoning.
I do not like to cry in front of people. I suppose very few people do, really, other than professional mourners and the heroines of YA Romance novels. And maybe that's my problem--when I was supposed to be learning how to be comfortable expressing myself through tears as a teenager, I was awkwardly trying to shut off all brain activity to avoid crying in front of people.

In fact, when I can feel the tears welling up, it's like somebody just powered up the shields on the USS Enterprise...I stop listening, lose track of conversation, basically divert all systems into ensuring that no tears fall--or, as a fallback position, that no one sees them fall.
Sort of like cat logic: So long as we can both pretend you can't see me, it's like I'm perfectly camouflaged.
So today I cried in my boss's office. I honestly can't explain why. He's not a mean person, and nothing especially bad happened. I wasn't in trouble, I'm still employed, I actually like my job, and we both agree I do it reasonably well. I think it was a combination of sleep deprivation, hormones, and general change fatigue: in my three years on the job, I've had five bosses, four offices, three mail codes, two phone numbers, and I'm still looking for the partridge in the pear tree (it probably got accidentally surplused in an office move).  Probably, in fact, the afternoon's unexpected indoor rain shower was precipitated (har, har) by the exercise of trying to get packets ready for my new employees who are starting on Monday and wanting to give them a current, accurate business card:
An optimist would point out that at least the building hasn't moved, but that would not account for the fact that I've moved to a different building and then moved back to this one. A particularly snarky optimist would then mention that I haven't changed names, which is true. My last name change was a whole five years ago. It is still true that this is Texas and I am still a manager, so FINE, Mr. Snarky Optimist, you WIN. Happy?
So, yeah. Change fatigue was definitely a factor. I think the boss's exact words were, "So, do you think that maybe we could try..."

I wish I could remember what it was I am supposed to be trying, but at that point, the USS Enterprise went on full alert and I spent the next few minutes behind my shields, doodling frantically in my notebook (which probably did not achieve the impression of attentive listening I was going for), trying to keep the tears in check. This awkward silence triggers the boss to talk, offering more new ideas, which triggers more silence, which triggers more new ideas. Must. Keep. Shields. Powered. Lights are flickering on the bridge, and even Captain Kirk is getting concerned.

Like this one.
Now, the boss knows his limitations, and has been trying conscientiously to overcome them. In particular, he fully admits to not being comfortable with emotions, but, being basically a good guy, he actually used the f-word (feelings) twice and made a point of emphasizing that my feelings are valid.

So Scotty's diverting all power to the shields, and then the Klingons try to beam in some chocolates and a funny cat meme.

You know what happens next. Yeap. The shields come down.

Now, the boss is, and I say this with love, a policy wonk. There's less crying in policy than there is in baseball, probably because there are twice as many rules. This whole supervising trainers thing is new to him, and he is not prepared. I've been in training three years now, and I've learned two things: (1) as a group, trainers are comfortable expressing emotions, and (2) never, ever run out of Kleenex. The boss has only been over our area for three months, and after frantically scanning his office, he reaches into a drawer and pulls out a giant roll of paper towels. Not the pick-a-size sheets, either...the ginormous, heavy duty, clean up after hairballs and/or violent crime kind.


I think machete skills in an author are
extremely underrated. Yes, she honed those
skills chopping coconuts for tourists, but
think of the practical applications in
dealing with agents, editors, and people at
book signings who want her opinion on Putin.
Because one square of Bounty means that neither of us can pretend I'm not crying anymore. I think about covering my face like Bob Cat, but there's not a point really. So I do my best attempt at professionally dabbing my eyes with a paper towel and work diligently to bring the conversation to a dignified end. I probably would've done just as well with Bob's approach.

In an ideal world, we would avoid each other for another few weeks until I could safely pretend this never happened, but somehow that seems unlikely to succeed. So, I took myself out to a nice margarita and went to Katherine Arden's book signing (The Girl in the Tower--sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale) at Book People. Spending half an hour listening to her adventures in Russia and Hawaii and her experiences as a new writer was funny, inspiring, and just what I needed to reset.

And not all of the changes of the last few years have been bad, not by a long shot. In addition to whatever change the boss was proposing while I was hiding behind my anti-crying shields, I've had some poetry success, lots of love from family and friends, and, yes, written a novel of my own. Sometime in 2018, that could be me behind that podium, telling the story of how The Golden Feather came to be. Just this week, I sent my novel to the copy editor for proofing and received some draft illustrations from my friend, Steve.

So, I'll get some rest, regroup, and set the USS Enterprise out on a scouting expedition to navigate all these new places and new people, shields down, ready to explore. But I'll also bring the boss a box of Kleenex for his office. Just in case.