window, plant, snow

Coming Up For Air

It's been a hard couple of weeks.  Darker mornings, earlier evenings, an 11 day migraine, 3 patient deaths in one week (2 expected, but one of those a patient I've known a decade and loved, and 1 totally horribly unexpected), and the elephant in the room:

My Mom is dying.

She's been dying for at least the last 3 years, but slowly.  She'd developed moderate Alzheimer's in her late 70's, but was holding her own for a few years.  Things started to go down hill in 2007, when she went into congestive heart failure.  (Average survival: 18 months.) Then she broke her arm, and a month later her hip.  (50% mortality in 1 year.)  Then the week before she was supposed to get out of Rehab, she fell and broke her leg.  By the time she came home in early 2008 she was talking to dead relatives who kept telling her it was time to come home.  I have NEVER had a patient last a year once that starts, and yet it's been 5 years.

There have been more catastrophes, including two more fractures and rehab stays.  At this point she needs to be lifted from bed to chair with a Hoyer lift, and she sleeps most of the day.  Still, she's comfortable and happy.

My most recent visit home I found that she cannot sit unsupported, cannot move even minimally in bed, and most of the time cannot support her own head but lets it loll back.  From my hospice work, that gives her a few weeks.  Since this is Mom, who has defied all expectation, I'm thinking we have 6-12 weeks, 16 at the outside.

I've been mourning her for years.  She doesn't know me (although is always pleased to see me), and hasn't for four or five years.  And that it is imminent rather than theoretical, it's hard.

I'm doing better.  This is day three without headache so far, I spent Sunday with friends at the CTRF, and I'm starting to feel less Despair and more Me.  I'm going to go up every 3 weeks or so until the end, and work is aware that I may just call out one day if the situation changes.  I have a long weekend coming up.  I'll make it.
window, plant, snow

Philosophy and Dreams

If you had the chance to rewrite the past so that a child did not grow up isolated and alone, a family did not become selfish and bitter and ugly, would you?  What if that dysfunction MIGHT be part of what saved the world?

I dreamed last night that I belonged in Harry Potter's world, that I knew him casually--and that I ended up with him, bizarrely, in the past.  We watched as the Walloping Willow smashed the car with Harry and Ron inside.

"What is THAT?" I asked.

"Um, it's the Willow--"

"I know a walloping willow when I see one.  Why are we HERE?"

There was no answer to that, but after a gallop through Hogwarts I felt another shift, and found myself on a small suburban street where a giant snake was trying in vain to approach a small house.  On the doorstep was a baby, and when the door opened a young Petunia, severely handsome, appeared to scoop up the baby.  I followed inside where it was clear that she was a very stressed young mother with an unkempt house and sleepless nights.  I changed the baby for her, sent her to bed, looked around, and...took over.
The next scene was a decade in the future.  I put a coat away in the closet under the stairs that was clearly only used for storage.  Vernon stopped me on the stairs.  "You know that blue, red and white jam, that's rather like paste?  It's all gone," he accused.

"Would you like me to put it on the shopping list?" I asked serenely.

He harrumphed, nothing to fight against, and wandered off. At the top of the stairs was my little bedroom, and beside it the larger room that Harry and Dudley shared.  Harry was less skinny, with new glasses, and Dudley was a pleasant boy, only moderately stout, and I hugged them both and told them how proud of them I was.

"But will you still be our housekeeper when we come home from school?" Harry asked.

I smiled and pulled out the wand I'd kept hidden for so many years.  "No, I've a new job to take on.  I was supposed to take it some years ago, but this will be for the best.  I'm going to be in charge of Wizard-Muggle relations at Hogwarts."

I brought them to the train station, where the passage through was a roller coaster and there was a brief musical number--"You're in their world now", and a happy and secure Harry and Dudley went off together.  Dudley was sorted to Hufflepuff, Harry to Gryffindor, and the future was changed, perhaps disastrously, perhaps wondrously.  I was convinced, though, that whatever was worth it.
window, plant, snow

Loving vs The State of VA, 45 years later

When I was little, my Dad told my little sister and me that someday there would be no white people and no black people, but that everybody would be shades of brown, and no one would care.  Laurie and I thought this was going to happen in our lifetime.  When Laurie brought home a friend who was both black and male when she was about ten, Dad had to accept that what he had taught us…we had learned.  He was OK with that.  This was about a decade after Loving vs the State of VA had made interracial marriage legal across the nation.  Laurie and I had no idea it had ever been illegal.

I found out today how very atypical my Dad and my childhood were.  In 1968, a year after Loving, only 20% of Americans believed that people of different races should be allowed to marry each other.  It was not until 1991 that more people supported interracial marriage than opposed it, 48% to 43% with 9% unsure or undecided.  1991, two years after I graduated from college.

Today approximately half of voters support same sex marriage.  Given that it took 24 years AFTER the legal change to get to the same number in support of interracial marriage, it seems inevitable to me that this next step in the journey towards equality for all of humanity will happen.  I hope it will be soon, but I have faith that it will happen.

My Dad would be 92 if he were still alive, and I think that this would likely have been a step too far for him.  I do not in any way mean to belittle him in saying this.  He grew up in backwoods Maine before and during the Great Depression, and the only word he knew for African Americans before he went off to college was the one that we DON’T use today.  He still made his first black friend in college, welcomed children of multiple races as grandchildren, and instructed my little sister that she had better go ahead and marry her Pakistani college sweetheart before her moping drove the entire family crazy.  I am proud to be his daughter.

My step Dad is only six years younger, but in some ways seems a different generation.  I was pleasantly shocked when he “liked” a pro same-sex marriage link I had posted on Facebook.  I’m not sure exactly how comfortable he is with legalizing same sex marriage, but I suspect he’s further along than Daddy would have been.  For many reasons, of which this is only one, I am also proud to be his step-daughter.

I am frustrated, sometimes, when others don’t see the same wonder in equality that I do.  There is still a vocal minority in this country that opposes interracial marriage, let alone same-sex marriage.  But I try to remember that few people have had the advantages that I have had.

If I seem to see further, it is that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

window, plant, snow

Belle versus Bella

Belle (Beauty and the Beast) versus Bella (Twilight)


Mother is dead.

Mother is a ditz.

Moved with father to small, provincial town.

Moved in with father in small provincial town.

Doesn’t fit in because she reads.

Doesn’t fit in because she’s self-absorbed and a klutz.

Immediately catches the eye of a good looking man who wants her only for her looks.

Immediately catches the nostrils of a good looking man who wants her only for her blood.

When approached by the sexist, stalker-esque Adonis, throws him out on his butt.

When approached by the sexist, stalker-esque Adonis, throws herself at his feet.

Meets a Beast who turns out to be a handsome young man.

Meets a handsome young man who turns out to be a beast.

When verbally abused, leaves. When the Beast essentially apologizes by nearly getting killed saving her life, she saves his life in repayment, but lays down clear rules of behavior.

When physically abused, cries, and forgives, because he didn’t mean it.

In adversity, despairs for about ten minutes then makes the best of things.

In adversity, wallows in angst for an entire book.

makes friends with people around her, creating a community that helps each other.

gets close to people only when using them.

sacrifices herself to save a parent (her father) openly and without deceit

sacrifices herself to save a parent (her mother) unnecessarily, lying to everyone around herself.

rescues herself, her father, her horse, and the Beast (twice)

gets rescued by Edward. Often.

LARP, Tlena


When I was in Medical school, the local planned parenthood went under seige from a group of bussed in flatlander anti-abortion protesters.  (They couldn't find enough Vermonters willing to picket.)

Planned Parenthood started a fund raiser: Pledge a Protester.  People pledged anywhere from a penny to $20 per protester, and when the radio interviewed the center, they were always extremely nice about thanking the protesters for raising this money to keep them going.

This made Vermonters happy, made the flatlanders look like fools, and must have been awful for protester morale.  From Google, I see that groups from Texas to New York are still doing it.

So I was thinking...why couldn't this be done for the Westboro Church idiots?  Isn't there a good charity--for LGBT teens, or supporting same sex military partners, or for AIDS education--that would like to do this?  Or perhaps several?

Tons of people hate the Phelps group.  Why not harness the anger and disdain into something good?

So, here's where you, my brilliant friends, come in.  Anybody know a charity that would like to do this?  Get me a good one, and I'll pledge a dollar a protester for the rest of 2011.

window, plant, snow

My Conflicted Relationship with Stuff

I like stuff.  Who doesn't?  And I am the product of two survivors of the Great Depression.  My Mom, whose parents aspired to be lower middle class, was caught between a need for stuff and an intuition that elegance demanded open space.  She got things and gave them away in an endless cycle.  My Dad didn't much care, beyond books--the one thing never gotten rid of!--but he couldn't refuse my Mom anything.  Not antiques, clothing, chicken, ducks, goats, pigs, beefalo, a barn, a pond, a new car...his only request was that she not take up raising elephants, and she probably could have talked him around that if she'd wanted to.

Last week I had a dream that my house was empty.  Bare walls, carpeted floors, no furniture, no stuff.  And I felt overwhelming RELIEF.  The space was breathtaking.  The possibilities felt endless.

What, in such a miraculous eventuality, would I miss?  A few childhood toys.  A few of my girls' toys that are precious to them.  Pictures.  Manuscripts of old writing projects,  Everything else could be replaced.  Even my wonderful, wonderful books could be replaced.

So...I have my next major project.  No time, of course, and a dull terror at the very idea, but I know what I need to do.
window, plant, snow

Book Reviews

Last week I read _Ender's Shadow_. Yeah, I know, it came out over a decade ago. It was worth the wait.

While I enjoy OSC, I like his books that center around kids the best. They're not juveniles; generally there is a lot of death and some horror and tons of moral ambiguity, and no dating. Ender's Game is a harsh book. Ender's Shadow is harsher.

How good is this book? It took me two evenings to read it, because at 3AM the first night I realized that working 10 hours the next day on fewer than three hours sleep was a REALLY bad idea. It took all my will power to put it down even so.

I know from the general geek gestalt that there is a sequel...but I don't want to read it. The ending of this was so good, that I don't want to move past it. Has anyone read the sequel? Any thoughts?

_The Humming of Numbers_ is a beautiful YA book set in the 11th century. It involves monks, viking invaders, celtic magic and feudalism with very little romanticism, and has great main characters. Secondary characters are sketched in rather than developed, but this fits the story somehow.

_Charmed and Dangerous_, by Candace Havens, is so good that I ordered the two sequels and the spin off book "Like a Charm", the same day I finished it. It's a hint more explicit than I generally prefer my paranormal romance, but has good action, believable magic, a snarky heroine, and a charmingly eccentric "home town".
LARP, Tlena

Twenty NEW Questions

Twenty New Questions
A meme is going around (and I’ve been tagged) asking 20 questions. But…they don’t actually reveal much about who we are. So I’m…revising…it. If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged. Or not!

1) What historical figure would you most like to be able to chat with for an hour or two?
2) Which fictional character would you most like to meet?
3) Who would you die for?
4) What would you live for, no matter how unpleasant or difficult that was?
5) What childhood dream do you no longer desire?
6) Under what circumstances would you/ could you kill?
7) What teacher or similar adult most influenced who you grew up to be?
8) What book taught you the most?
9) What book scarred you the most?
10) What book do you remember most fondly?
11) If you could live in any place or time, real or fictional, what would it be?
12) Who do you most envy?
13) What do you consider your greatest vice?
14) What do you consider your greatest strength?
15) If you could bestow 3 fairy gifts on anyone, who would you gift, and with what?
16) What one thing about yourself would you most like to change?
17) Do you want to live to be a hundred or more? Why or why not?
18) If you won a ridiculous amount of money—say, $100,000,000.00—what would you do with it?
19) What do you most doubt?
20) What do you believe most strongly?