Monday, May 23, 2016

A knock at the door...

This came off a Facebook post back on Friday. The prompt was:

A knock at the door, someone comes in to the female character's office. Who is it?


"Package for you, Ma'am," says the bike courier. "Your friends must have a sense of humor, though. It says it's vitally important that you not open it until you get back to last Wednesday."

"My friends?" She checks the name on brown paper wrapper, but it's definitely addressed to her. "My friends aren't that weird."

"Well, maybe the Doctor needs your help."

She looks at him blankly.

"Doctor Who? TV show?"

"Oh. I've never watched it."

"Hm," says the courier. "Well, maybe you need better friends, then. 'Cause... that's pretty funny."

"Can I just sign your thing so you can go?" she asks, exasperated not so much at the criticism of her friends and her lifestyle, as at the sneaking suspicion that he might be right about her.

"Sure," he says. "Sorry." He hands her the pad, watches her sign it, and then hands her a card. "Hey, do me a favor? If you do find out what it was, text me?"

"...Maybe," she says, but she takes the card and slips it into her purse.

Feel free to add your own answers in the comments.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Music: The Circus At The End Of The World

Abney Park:

I suspect it'll be kind of a theme for this weekend.

No posts tomorrow. Probably not Monday or Tuesday, either.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dinner Invitation

We got invited to dinner with some friends this past weekend...
...And apparently they're vegetarian. Who knew?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

No Fate Except The Descent

The manhole cover was halfway along a stretch of dark and dirty alley, overlooked by high walls that turned the place into a deep canyon. It was empty, but then he'd expected that. Now, while it was night, he could feel the dark energies ebbing and flowing along the alley. A sensitive human might have dreams or visions in a place like this -- and might wake up screaming -- but even the least sensitive would avoid the place instinctively. During the day, there would be nothing here; it would just be another place.

That thought made Vilisant glance up at the sky. How much longer did he have? It hadn't been that late when he'd approached the woman, but time could do funny things when one was traveling the dark river, as he'd done in trying to escape. He bent down, hooked a finger into the metal hole, and lifted the cover. Looking down into the darkness, he could see metal rungs descending to a large concrete pipe with a trickle of water flowing down the center: an ordinary storm drain. Nodding to himself, he lowered the lid and stood.

He circled the manhole three times, extending his awareness into the darkness he could feel flowing out from it. The world around him grew darker with each circuit, even to his eyes. He was moving below the surface of the world again, this time by minuscule degrees, looking for the point where... There.

He laid a hand on the manhole cover, and this time the steel disk lifted of its own accord, floating eight feet into the air. When he looked down, the smooth concrete walls of the pipe were gone, replaced by rough stone.

Vilisant took one last look around, then stepped off the edge and let himself drop.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Secondborn makes requests

"I need a pistol, a shotgun, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle." ~Secondborn, who may have been playing a bit too much Borderlands.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Firstborn, and the Quest for the Lost Essay

So, Firstborn created a situation in his after-school program... and then proceeded to make a bad choice that exacerbated (I'll have to teach him that word) the situation. On the way to pick up Secondborn, I asked him to explain the situation...

Yeah, it went down almost exactly as the counselor described it. So, Firstborn was set to have no videos and no video games this weekend.

After a certain amount of sobbing (read: a good thirty minutes) and two slices of pizza for dinner, I offered him an alternative: he could write me a ten-sentence essay about what went wrong, what he did wrong, and why it was a problem. If he did that, he could watch videos or play video games this weekend. If you're thinking that I really just wanted him to consider the situation and his own behavior, you'd be entirely right.

He wrote the essay. I specified a minimum of ten lines; he wrote eleven. I required that he explain why his behavior had been a problem (up to and including "now I have to write an essay if I want to play video games") and he did. So he's cleared for video games. But I'm still going to print out his brief essay, and hand it off to the counselor at his after-school program when I pick him up tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Mother and Polio

There's a reason why I don't get into arguments with anti-vaxxers.

My mother had polio when she was a young child, maybe a year older than Secondborn is now. Prior to that, she'd been a very active little girl -- the fastest runner on her block, she once told me.

Then she came down with polio.

It was during one of the big outbreaks, and for my mother it was a very convincing approximation of the end of the world. She was sent off to Warm Springs, while her sisters were sent to live with other family members and her parents were... otherwise engaged. (I realize I'm being vague here, but I'm trying to give you a feel for just how completely horrible and terrifying this was, without providing specific names and dates.) She stayed there not just for the course of the disease, but for the recovery and rehabilitation period that followed.

It's fair to say that my mother's entire life was shaped by what polio did to her, and by what she refused to let it do to her.

She wound up paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors told her she would never walk again, that she would spend her life in bed or in a wheelchair. She didn't. She got braces to hold her legs straight, and learned to walk with crutches. Have you ever sat down and watched a turtle walk? They don't move quickly, but they're determined and they just keep moving... and as a result they cover a surprising amount of ground. My mother moved like that.

When my father first proposed to her, she told him that he didn't want to marry her. The doctors had told her that polio had strained her heart. She wouldn't live past thirty-five. The doctors had also told her she would never have children. My father, to his credit, said: "I'll take it." If you've ever met him, you'll understand just how him that sort of reply was. If you've ever met my mother, you'll understand why he would think it was worth it.

I was born when she was just into her thirties, and my brother a few years later, and the doctors be damned, I'm sure she thought. Quite frankly, I'm pretty sure that's what she thought for a great deal of her life. She distrusted doctors, aside from the few she knew personally (and with good reason, especially in later years).

What she lacked in mobility she made up in cleverness and planning -- and in some cases, sheer determination. She became a psychologist and family/marriage/personal counselor, using an uncanny ability to see patterns[1] to address not only what people told her, but what they weren't telling her. She plotted strategies and fall-back plans, in the kind of detail that would make most people shake their heads, baffled and unable to follow. All through my youth, right up to the time I left for college, she kept the entire family fed on a grocery budget that never went much above $100 per week.

I've said before, though probably not on the Blog o' Doom here, that my perception of gender roles was a bit unusual. My dad held jobs and made money, but he wasn't always aware enough to realize when things were going bad. (He was, however, always talented enough to move on to something else -- often something completely different.) So my mother was the reliable breadwinner. She was also the organizer, the rule-maker, the consequence-giver. Dad was the nurturer, the encourager, the supporter. (It was only later that I realized just how much strength he carried in his own right.)

Where Mom had character flaws, they were... well, they were her strengths and coping mechanisms when they got carried or pushed too far. She could get set on a plan and be unable to set it aside -- even when it involved other people who wanted to do things another way. She could hit things that triggered those childhood memories -- anything involving hospital visits, to pick an obvious example -- and just sort of panic... and freeze up. She didn't want to go to them; she didn't want to admit that she might need them; she didn't want to talk about them. She could get too clever for her own good.

She was terrified of being trapped in a wheelchair. It sounds very pop-psychology to blame that on her childhood, but the connection is bleakly clear. She didn't want to be reliant on other people, with my father as a general exception. She was especially scared of being reliant on people who didn't know what she was going through. Self-determination was massively important to her, and if you think that didn't shape my life and her role in it then you're delusional. (Though if you knew my mom, you know that.) I think that's why, despite her Catholic upbringing, she never much pushed me about my atheism, or about baptizing the boys, or even about keeping them in church. Yes, she saw patterns, and she knew how that sort of conflict would end; but that wasn't why she relented. She felt, bone-deep, that it had to be my choice.

I wish I could quote you the eulogies given for my mother. One was from one of her oldest and closest friends, the one whose firstborn child came along at almost exactly the same time I did. The other was from her husband, my father. Despite everything I've written here, I feel like both of them captured a general sense of her life better than I've even come close to.

But I know that one of her deepest fears was being weak, being helpless. Posit the wheelchair as the symbol of that, and I won't argue. I know that fear myself. And when I say that this was exactly the way she would have wanted to go, I'm not lying, I'm not telling tales, I'm not obfuscating, I'm not even exaggerating. This was what she wanted: a quick, clean death, before my father, before she deteriorated[2], before she was helpless.

It's a comfort, even if it doesn't sound like one.

The priest offered the image of my mother in Heaven, her body and mobility restored, cavorting and cartwheeling and racing and dancing. It was a comforting image, I suppose, but it's not one that makes me feel better. I take my comfort in knowing that my mother refused to be restricted by her disabilities, and died before polio could finally rob her of her dignity and grace.


[1] I'm not sure how much was innate and how much practice, but I suspect it a talent that she pushed for everything it would give her.

[2] And if you know anything about Post-Polio Syndrome, you know that was coming. It had already started.[3]

[3] That's why I don't argue with anti-vaxxers. I have rational arguments, but I can't be rational about it. I go straight to homicidal.