Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Mixed Up and Missing Out, But Still Finding The Good

Content Note: Discussion of real world stuff ahead. If you don't want to hear about Covid or masks today, best to skip this one.


Welp. Last weekend did not go as planned.

John and I had his new cosplay all ready for MegaCon, packed our bags, checked our hotel reservations, and were about to walk out the door Friday morning when we sat down, had a chat, and decided to cancel everything. We unpacked the suitcases, put the cosplay stuff away, and sat down again to absorb our suddenly empty schedule.

I know that sounds kinda sad - and it was - but it also felt right. Without going into too many details, things here in Florida are rough. We keep breaking all the worst kinds of records, and our hospitals are so overrun that Thursday night Brevard county sent out text alerts saying not to call 911 or go to the ER unless it's life-threatening.

John and I are vaxxed and masked, but wading into a crowd of 100,000 felt like an unnecessary risk with all the new numbers, especially to our high-risk friends.

So we stayed home, and let me tell ya: one advantage of being an introvert is no matter HOW amazing your plans are, you're still at least a little excited when they get cancelled. :D (Some of you are nodding along right now. Hello, my people.) Plus it was a relief to skip a week of worry that we'd caught or transmitted anything.

Nearly everyone we know in central Florida DID go to the con, so I got to see plenty of video and photos, which was nice. MegaCon did an excellent job keeping everyone in masks and shielding the celebrities with plexiglass walls, and I'm glad many of my friends felt safe there - though still glad I wasn't in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. (And to be fair, at least 2 or 3 friends who went said we made the right call, and left early due to the crowds.)

John and I did our best to keep the weekend fun and not wallow in the FOMO: we ate donuts, drove around to see if any Spirit: Halloween stores were open yet (they weren't, boo), played Borderlands 3 together, and even - this is how you know John's trying to cheer me up - did some crafts:

This is a Dollar Tree mirror, and as soon as I saw it I knew it needed this Firefly quote. John designed the wording, cut a stencil on our Cricut, and I etched it. This blew up in my Stories, so we went back the next day to get the matching T-Rex mirror. I think we'll make a couple dino sets to add to the Squeegineer board. :)

Last month at MetroCon I bought some adorable face masks from NoFlutter to modify to fit our foam frames. I had to take the seams apart completely and start over, but I did it! And now I have this fabulous blorpy unicorn mask:

I made another adjustment to our masks: the fabric cover attaches with velcro instead of lacing through metal eyelets. This makes them so much easier to change out, I think I'll be converting all our covers to velcro.

The other side is a pastel rainbow with candy:

Here's the second mask I bought, just before I finished the final seam:

Chubby grumpy dragon FOR THE WIN. Hee!

I'd promised a few friends that John and I would take photos of their new cosplays on Saturday, so to make up for not being at the con, I invited them over to our house for individual photo shoots. We all stayed masked or distanced and laughed 'til it hurt while I attempted to pose everyone. None of us had any idea what we were doing, and at one point we had 5 people standing around trying to figure out how to make legs look "natural." Bahaha.

So yes, in this post about how we DIDN'T go to a con, I still have a few cosplay photos for you:

First here's Tracey as Keyleth from Critical Role. Her staff lights up!

Her cape is SO SPARKLY, I had to drape it around to show off the embroidery.

Next here's Karen as Persephone from Lore Olympus:

We also tromped outside in the dark after a rainstorm to take pics with our backyard tree:

And finally here's Arielle as Lady Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas:

How brilliant is that mask?? She made all this herself!

I'm only sharing my favorite 2 shots for each, so these were hard to narrow down. I think we got 6-8 really excellent final shots for each person.

You'd never know how hard Arielle and I worked to get these angles right - everything feels so awkward and uncomfortable and WRONG when you're trying to pose -  so I'm super proud of us. 

Also local friends, take note: I want to do more photo shoots now. This was fun!

Ahh, but wait, I haven't gotten to the best part of our weekend yet.

We had no plans for Sunday other than work, so I was facing an empty, nothing sort of day when Arielle invited John and I along on a job. Now, Arielle is a theme park designer, so if she ever invites you anywhere, you go. This was no exception: the job was painting part of a new attraction at Give Kids The World, the charity resort near Disney for kids with critical illnesses. GKTW is almost a mini theme park in itself, with rides, theaters, restaurants, and more, and everything is built and maintained by volunteers - often industry professionals, like Arielle.

Anyhoo, GKTW is opening a new ride this month, and Arielle brought us along to do some painting in this rocky cave tunnel:

I can't show you what we did just yet since there's a big media preview in a few weeks, but suffice to say it's very cool, very fun, and I can't BELIEVE John and I got to be a part of it. As a life-long theme park nerd, I've always dreamed of helping create something like this!

You can't see much in the photo - I took it before we started - but the rock walls have embedded fiber optics that twinkle, so the final effect is super magical. I can't wait to see the whole space finished, and of course I'll share my own photos and video once I'm allowed after the big debut.

It was hot and muggy work, but getting to work at GKTW made missing MegaCon worth it several times over. It would have been so easy to spend all weekend focusing on what we were missing, but instead John and I got to spend time with each other and with friends making cool stuff. Can't ask for a better weekend than that.

I'll be honest, I'm still finding my footing mentally, getting used to the fact that we're missing the two biggest convention trips of our year again. (We've regretfully decided to skip Dragon Con in Atlanta as well.) This all feels so much harder in year 2, right? Like we got so close to resuming "normal" life, only to have it snatched away again. I know I'll readjust, and that we're better off than we were last year, but it's still hard. So just know if you're struggling, you're not alone. I get it, I see you.

On the bright side, cancelling both cons has opened up more of our time for volunteer work, and even as I type this John is out framing up an interior wall for a friend. I'm excited to find more ways to help folks and build things, so I'm hanging on to that excitment whenever I'm tempted to be sad. The other day on Instagram Sharon Says So wrote "Action is the antidote to despair." I love that. No matter how small, just doing something always puts me in a better headspace. Give it a try next time you're feeling stuck: anything from taking a shower to donating $5 to a good cause can be a needed burst of seratonin.

Thanks for sticking through my rambly hodgepodge of a post today. I hope my dino mirror and pretty pictures gave you a smile, and I really hope you're finding your own reasons to stay excited about life in 2021. Because, P.S., you're one of mine.



Oh hey, did you know we're still hosting Movie Nights over on the Epbot Discord? 'Cuz we are, every other Friday and Sunday! This week we're watching
The Parent Trap, so come join your fellow bots in the Movie Night text chat if you could use some low-pressure socializing.

The Epbot server also has about 20 different chat channels for everything from funny memes to job advice to discussing your favorite shows, so click over anytime to browse, chat, or share with your fellow geeks. It's a good crowd over there, be sure to tell 'em I said hi.


  1. I really needed to see this today. I've been feeling a lot of sadness as I watch other people go to Disney, on cruises, etc. while I'm sequestered at home with my high-risk kiddo. It's 100% the right choice but I'm grieving being able to take him to state parks (we did Silver Springs & Paynes Prairie for Mother's Day) because there's too many spots where people cluster. And we were planning his first Disney trip when the state started to shut down. But watching you go and make some magic for Give Children the World is a reminder that we can find new things to bring us joy. I have saved in my inbox some coloring sheets to print out & turn into cards for people and damnit, we can send love out even if we can't go out.

  2. Thank you for spreading such joy and goodness and doing your part not to spread viruses! I always get so excited when I see a new post from you. This blog is one of my very few happy places on the internet. Thanks for all you do!

  3. @anonymous I am putting together Harry Potter kits for our tween book club regulars who missed out on the original giveaway. I can add one more. Epbot has my real world contacts so she's got my permission to send them to you if you want to get one for your best beloved.

    1. My small person is only 4 so he's a little young. That being said, you just made my whole day for offering. I've never actually commented before, even though I've been reading forever, and could not believe that someone would be responding *to me* with an outpouring of love.

    2. Jenm Yates isca good example for us. Virtual hugs to your little.

  4. I feel so guilty about the things I've gained and accomplished because of the way covid has changed lives. I have been able to do a podcast telling a long form story through D&D (that is also a kind of fanfic for The Adventure Zone Balance) and in June celebrated my one year anniversary with someone I thought for sure I'd get to be in the same room with by now.

    In fact, recently the McElroys announced they'd be doing shows again and the first ones were in my home state. As scary as it was, we were going to finally be together and do it while seeing a show for the thing that brought us together. But it all felt scary and too risky (we both have someone underage for vaccinations in our lives) so when the McElroys cancelled it was a relief to not have to make that choice ourselves.

    I'm with you. It's so much harder to be doing this in year two than it was last year. We *should* have been able to do things by now, we should have, should have, should have.

    But it's pointless to focus on that stuff.

    So I'm gonna keep making things and moving forward. Thank you for being a voice that also understands this.

  5. 2020 and 2021 put us through the wringer, but for slightly different reasons to most people... We're nearing completion on a house I've been designing since I was 16... and I'm turning 36 in a few days. I started dating my (now) husband nearly the same time, so he's been with me through the whole thing... we added our kid 16 years ago, and they've been helping along the way too... It is inspired by Redwall and Hogwarts and Disney... using green building techniques, and able to withstand anything nature may throw at it... and it is designed to accommodate my medical issues now and future... It's been a long haul, with many setbacks, and crying in the mud... but we're so close to home

  6. -Hugs- Something similar happened with me and my husband a couple months ago. We had time off together around 4th of July, which just so happened to be the same time as one of our favorite local conventions. We were all set to go on Friday, but ended up canceling our plans on Thursday morning...we'd been so used to life with all the restrictions (stay home, stay masked and separate when you're out) that the idea of jumping into a big crowd of people was too anxiety-inducing. It didn't help that we'd gone to a mall for the first time since The Before Times and saw lots of people without masks (the con was requiring masks for everyone, but I don't know how well they ended up being able to enforce that). Instead, we found some new outdoor areas for taking walks and also made our first trip back to the local Asian grocery store/food court, so it ended up being a nice weekend.

  7. I treat weekends like this as the treat it should be. Missed Falcon Ridge Folk Fest for a 2nd yr, breaking a 21yr run. Instead I pulled out all my old cds to play again while sorting buttons. Yes, i am a button slut. Getting a large dirty jar of buttons makes my heart go into over drive.

    1. LOL, this post just made my day, for some reason. I love buttons too!

  8. Thank you for posting this. I had heard that Give Kids the World had to close, and wasn't expected to reopen. I'm so glad I was misinformed.

    1. Yeah! They closed for a bit due to COVID but they're back and making magic at reduced capacity for now :) Still going strong!

  9. Love you guys <3 so glad to have you along on Sunday and to have that experience with you!!

  10. I'm such an introvert that COVID hasn't impacted me too much. But I look at my nephew the actor who had his National Tour interrupted and spent over a year at home. He was able to get back to acting this summer and he's about to go back to New York to an off-broadway job and I just keep watching the news and praying that his plans don't all dissolve and he has to start over once again.

    On a happier note - does anyone need CareBear tights??? Care Bear Tights

  11. I worked MegaCon over the weekend, and the crowds were down from 2019 but EVERYONE was masked and announcements were made every hour to mask up or go home. it was very nice to be able to not worry about getting con crud for once. I don't think I'll ever go to a con without a mask anymore. I did see two of your friends there (Tracey and Karen) it was a very chill crowd. but you made the right choice. we had celebrity guests cancelling out Saturday morning. perhaps next year we'll all be back to the old normal. (fingers crossed!)

  12. You are doing the right thing for you. We canceled going to Origins. Just did not feel like the right thing to do.

  13. I appreciate your sharing, and understand the issues. My California family and I have been planning a January 2022 Disney World trip for nearly 3 years, and we're starting to have some serious talks about canceling it - even though we'll take a pretty big financial hit due to non-refundable costs already spent...

  14. *hug* Thank you for this, especially the "we were SO close" comment. I'm the mask-claustrophobe, so when the mask restrictions were lifted it was like being let out of jail...only to be told "ha ha ha, only kidding" at the exit door. It just helps to know I'm not alone.

  15. Epbot is one of my life line happy places. Couldn't have gotten thru last year or held on until now without a dose of nerdy wonderment from Jen, John, & the Robot crew. I can't thank you enough for what you do!

  16. Glad you found your happy, and had to smile at "drove around to see if any Spirit: Halloween stores were open yet" MY PEOPLE!!

  17. Will we get a post with your final cosplay photos? I would love to see those.

  18. Jen,

    I live in PA but would love you and John to do something for me. I want a Harry Potter chess set like you two made. I'll buy the materials and pay for the postage if you put in the labor. I don't have the time right now and the way things are going at work, I don't see it in the near future either. I know how you stressed over your set so if you two really don't want to do this that's ok.


    P.S. It was great to see you in Pittsburgh!

  19. Long distance hugs!! My kids started school this week and masks are optional in certain distanced areas but... I told them to keep them on (glad we have the option of masking in schools here). Love the cosplay photos!! Also... I've been opening Spirit Halloween email for weeks and keep checking the 'Store Locator' button - they all say 'Coming soon!' but not what day that is, boo! My middle daughter has been promised she gets to go as soon as one opens near us because she thinks she didn't go in one last year (she did, but she's my most dramatic one, and insists she didn't because we tried in November for after Halloween sales but it was already closed, that's what she remembers most). There's some fun Halloween stuff out in At Home and Joann already! I even got some of the same rainbow spiderweb fabric as your friend has in her corset for Oogie Boogie ^_^

  20. I live in a relatively vaccinated state, and our cases are surging here, too. So much that, even though I'm vaxxed, I'm seriously considering skipping the one event all year that I really want to go to - but not enough to risk getting sick for.

    No way would I got to a big, indoor event in Florida or Texas. I'm glad you're responsible!


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