Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holding Hands

When you have little kids, you hold their hands for everything. For comfort, for direction, for control, for safety. As they get older and more independent it becomes less of a constant thing. There's less of the automatic seeking by parent or child for the other's hand and it becomes more of a choice, more of a desire for contact and reassurance.

I knew when my guys got older that holding hands would be one of the things I would miss about their being little. I've had a recurring, vivid dream which has stuck with me. Riley is holding my hand as I lay, very old, in bed. His hand is large and angular, warm, muscular yet bony in that man-hand sort of way that many men have. My hand is old and the skin is wrinkled and worn, and I know I am near my end. He's just sitting with me, holding my hand, and I don't know if he even realizes that I know what he's doing. One of the first times I had this dream, I woke up with that odd sense of time wrapping in a loop around me and I got up and went and held his little hand while he was in the upper bunk bed in their room, and he squeezed my hand back, reflexively, and I savored the feel of his angular little bony hand in mine. I tried to imprint that sensation in my brain for later, because even then we were reaching a stage where hand-holding wasn't as everyday a thing as it had been.
So now they are thirteen, fast approaching fourteen, and any physical contact has become a much rarer thing, since they need their space to become more independent. They still hug me, which I'm incredibly grateful for, but hand-holding is right out, too babyish, too weird now to even contemplate.
Little kids hold hands with other kids without thinking; they hold hands with a buddy to cross the street, to line up, just because they're friends and they feel close. But at some point when we mature holding hands turns to different meanings; you hold hands when you're early in the dating process, maybe, you hold hands with your partner sometimes when you're walking together. Hand-holding is considered a public display of affection and can be fraught with meaning and consequences if you're holding hands with someone of the same gender in an unfriendly place. You don't ever just hold hands with good friends, at least in this American culture; it would be really weird. 

We shake hands, a brief hand-holding gesture, to greet formally, or seal a deal, to demonstrate a public acknowledgement of contact and willingness to be friends. Shaking hands seems to be disappearing as a social gesture, at least out here in more casual California, and in some ways it's a shame, since it's hard not to look someone in the eyes when you shake hands and acknowledge that they are a real person with feelings.
In services of various sorts, church, funerals, weddings maybe, we might join hands for a final prayer or special words, and everyone forms a link in a chain or a circle of hands being held. You end up holding hands with people you might not even know, or know only slightly, and in that context it's all right. You can learn a lot about a person just by holding their hand; hands tell so many things about us that we aren't even aware of on a conscious level; age, warmth, strength, profession, friendliness, a willingness to squeeze your hand back in an acknowledgement that you've just shared a small connection. Forming that larger bond of community is one of the few places and times we're allowed to just hold hands with anybody and have it be an uncomplicated good thing. It's a powerful feeling when done as a group after a shared experience, and it helps form bonds and sprout seeds of potential friendships. It's a good thing that seems to happen too rarely. I occasionally get to hold my boys' hands when we're at church or in a group now, and I can feel how much their hands have grown and how strong they've become in a way that I don't realize during day-to-day life. It makes me wistful for when holding their hands was a regular thing, and aware of how much they've grown.

We hold a friend's hand, briefly, probably, when trying to comfort them in times of extremity. I've held hands with Dave, walking, to help be his guide since he can't see, and it's always been a pleasure to just hold hands and walk and talk with him, though it does require a bit of attention to not get distracted by the talking so much that I run him into light poles or off curbs and such. Holding hands and walking with Dave is a pleasure shared by his many friends, rather like being a part of a secret club; we get the pleasure of walking and holding hands again with a friend like when we were little kids, and more than a few of us have missed that simple bonding in our adult lives.
I remember when our friend Caroline was in the hospital in her last few days, it was just kind of tacitly agreed upon by the varied people visiting and staying with her that we would take turns holding her hand so that she would know there was always someone there with her, even though we didn't know if she really felt it or realized; at that point she was in a coma. We did it more for ourselves, really, holding her hand. I sat there holding her hand then and wondered why I'd never actually held her hand while she was conscious, awake, aware, and still her own witty, observant self, why I'd never held her hand even after she was diagnosed when we visited, while she was still joking around even though she knew how serious it all was. 

What is it with these social conventions,these strictures, that hold us back from just reaching out and holding someone's hand? It's such a simple, easy gesture, it's comforting, it demonstrates an uncomplicated love. We use it without even pausing to think at the beginnings and endings of life. Why do we have to limit it so much in the middle of our lives? 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Living Music

I'm listening to music by a couple of my friends, Kristoph and Margaret. They've come up on my custom Pandora internet station along with the likes of some very famous musicians. Their music has got me thinking about friends and music, so bear with me if I ramble on out loud here. Kristoph and Margaret are part of Avalon Rising as well as Broceliande, and they also play at times as just themselves
Margaret at Avalon Rising's 20th anniversary show
Margaret plays her harp at weddings and other events. She creates beautiful calligraphy for weddings, certificates and other documents that are heirloom pieces. Kristoph, in addition to being a multi-talented musician, is a hard working and talented recording engineer who has helped a lot of indie musicians create stellar albums of their music. They're both real working musicians who make their living by living their music.
It's never an easy thing, making your living by music. It requires exceptional musical ability, training and hard work to stay in it long term. It takes an enormous, long-lasting supply of commitment, stubbornness and bravery to do it as a long-term career, as they do. Any of us who know Margaret and Kristoph are well aware that they are both not only amazingly good musicians but they're also exceptional people. Good people, intelligent, wise people who value kindness and friendships and love. They celebrate those quickly fleeting things we value in life with their music and their art. They aren't the sort of people to climb over others on a ladder to fame and transitory success.

This is the San Francisco Bay Area, though, and it has one of the highest costs of living in the country. The Bay Area may be a haven for artists and musicians, but we're not a culture that values artists or musicians these days. Just looking at the schools and the way that arts and music has been completely cut from curriculum, except for a few dedicated volunteers, is a pretty good indicator of how little music and art are valued in this country. 
 Even here in the Bay Area, it's a really rare thing to find people who live their music as an essential part of their lives. Those few are people to be held closely, gently, with an appreciation for the gifts they let shine.
When Puzzlebox went to England to play music there, I was amazed at how many of the people we met there have serious musical training and really use their musical abilities in their everyday lives to sing, to perform, to create. 
They sing in big and small choral groups, they play multiple instruments, they perform lots of styles of music. They live in close, comfortable contact with their music, without embarrassment or apology. It is an integral part of their lives there, as it's so rarely done here. 
The way that everyone in a crowded room would just join in, singing in spontaneous harmony, just about made my heart burst. They had a closeness and sense of family that we struggle to find here with our large distances and busy lives. Here, finding like-minded people who play music and live with music as a part of their daily lives is a rare and precious thing.
Most of us are far-flung, and even those of us who live within reasonable distances are usually much too busy keeping our lives together to get together as often as we would like. We're lucky enough to have friends in our area like Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff, and Kristoph and Margaret, who all have exceptional musical ability. 
It's a lot of fun to listen to all of them geek out about music, and if you get Kristoph and Jeff going on about music and sound engineering they may never stop, since they're friends and a couple of the best recording engineers in the area. They're both top people to go to if you're ready to record an album. If you haven't heard Jeff's masterpiece Midichlorian Rhapsody, give it a listen. He wrote the parody, he recorded multiple tracks of himself, Maya, and a bunch of friends playing the many, many tracks of instrumentals and vocals and he made it all happen. He and Maya listened to Queen's original and figured out how to recreate the sound, but it's all new, all Jeff's doing. It's an amazing piece of work and really showcases his musical and recording engineering abilities. 
It's fun to be in the recording studio with each of them; they each have their own style and mannerisms, but they both put so much more into the process of recording albums than you might expect if you haven't recorded before. There's a whole lot of work that they each put into not just successfully engineering recording the sound so it is as good as it can be, but also the arrangements, additional instruments, the balancing and the sound qualities. One of the things that has always blown me away is how both Jeff and Kristoph end up adding in huge numbers of additional flavor music tracks like guitar, bass, additional vocals and more, to make the songs really stand out.
When Kristoph was engineering for Seanan McGuire on her Wicked Girls album, the musical arrangements and many of the instrumental and vocal tracks were his. Seanan had a vision for what the album wanted to be; she's such a talented writer and musician. She writes the lyrics and tunes for the vast majority of songs on her albums. There were a lot of great musicians adding tracks to that album, but it came into being and the album had a particular feel and sound because of Kristoph conducting, shaping and molding each song, and the whole album into a cohesive entity with a distinctive personality.
When I worked with him to record harmonica tracks for accompaniment on songs for a couple of albums, he made it all so much less stressful, and so much more fun than I expected, because he was relaxed, clear and easy to work with. The albums he puts out are exceptional because of Kristoph's abilities and all of the extra work he put into it. He really cares about producing a great album. Jeff is the same way, and the commitment to quality work on both of their parts is always impressive to watch in action. 

When we played at BayCon this past May, Kathy Mar invited us to play a 'braided concert' with Kristoph, Margaret, Jeff and Maya, and as many of the Puzzlebox crew as we could pull together. We couldn't really get everyone together much ahead of time to rehearse, but we managed a room rehearsal and we had a blast.
Taunya mugs at rehearsal with Socrates' fox, and Penny's cat that I made for them. :)
I'm certainly the least of the musicians among the crew we had for that concert, and listening to them working together was like sitting in on a master class in performing and arranging music. I can't really express how much I like all of them, and how wonderful it is to create music that is greater than the sum of the parts. :)
I wish for a lot more music in all of our lives, and for the joys it brings and not the heartaches of not being able to do as much of it as we would like. Thanks, guys, for making my little life richer by being in it.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The world for women

Anybody who has ever been to UC Santa Barbara would tell you that it's a laid-back, idyllic place that's a great place to go to college. It's a beautiful place, and Isla Vista, which is the little town in the midst of campus where all the students end up living and hanging out, is filled with beautiful kids getting pizza and going to the beach and surfing when they aren't stressed about finals. The weather is classic California beach weather. It's not a place one associates with gunshots and killings, that's for sure. But neither are any of the other places where kids have been shot and killed by disgruntled gunmen, either. Which just drives it home further that these killings could happen anywhere, to any of us. I'm not even going to get into the whole gun debate this time; but I do want to talk about women and men. I'll totally understand if you are sick of all of the talk and just want to leave it; I feel much the same way. I've been thinking on this post and re-writing and editing again for awhile now, and I'm having real trouble with it because the whole subject of men being mad at women for not giving them what they want is just painful. There's no easy way to approach it.
People talk about white male privilege, and how being a white straight male is the easiest road. Yet the gunmen who go on rampages and kill innocent people, students, little kids, are overwhelmingly white males. I can't claim to understand it. Writer Michelle Sagara thinks things through in a rational and cogent way; her thoughts are always well worth a read. Vixy also has an excellent set of thoughts about pervasive attitudes and what people can actually do, since most of us end up feeling powerless and helpless in the face of all of this.
Various people have mentioned the #YesAllWomen comments going on in Twitter; I haven't delved into it in any depth, for several reasons. It's all very familiar, for one thing. There are so many women with painful stories. There are so many hateful comments from men, or maybe trolls. There are too many ugly comments there to be bearable. And none of it surprises me much, though the amount of virulent hatred expressed by some is really frightening and disturbing.  The people who post these angry, hateful things either don't see them as being dangerously hateful or deliberately want to stir the pot and anger and upset others; whatever their reasons, their words are despicable and hurtful. It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to be around people like that, much less date them.

I'm trying to raise two boys to be intelligent, kind, respectful people. I have been fighting against stereotypes laid out for boys and girls from the beginning of their journey, but everywhere we turn there are assumptions surrounding all of us. My guys aren't under pressure to be thin, to be pretty, to appear sexy, to be as nice and malleable as they would if they were female. Bad behavior is more tolerated, even expected, from boys, and I've often been grateful for the tolerance and forgiveness we've been shown for the boys' occasional miss-steps; parents with energetic and mischievous girls aren't often given the same level of forgiveness. My guys are also given the benefit of the doubt as far as having parents who work and contribute to society and care about them and try to do their best. I believe that people are more willing to work with me on any issues that come up with the boys, perhaps partly due to an initial, visually-based assumption that I'm a safe, upstanding citizen, as a friendly-looking white mom who is at least trying to do a good job of parenting. It's certainly an advantage for me, as long as I can resolve any conflicts with honey rather than vinegar. I may not get taken as seriously as Paul would, since he's male, but I can generally resolve things without having to work uphill against open prejudice on that front.
The boys haven't had to face open prejudice. Because they are white and male, they'll have an easier time of it than if they had darker skin or were female or both. Hard things happen in life to just about everyone, but it's easier to get a good, better-paying job, easier to get respect, easier to not get attacked if you're male, if you're white. It would be all too easy for them to grow up without even having a clue about just how easy they have it. And I'm frustrated with how to combat that easy sense of entitlement that can result. To be honest, I'm not sure how to avoid it in raising young men in this society, except by sharing stories, giving them examples of how to behave, how to respect others. And we constantly try to reinforce the good qualities we're hoping to instill.To give them some credit, they are appalled when they see examples of racism in the media, or of obviously sexist behavior, which is heartening.
We watched an old courtroom drama from 1959 recently with Jimmy Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder, where the rape of a pretty woman becomes a central feature of the case. The underlying cultural assumptions in the way that the movie was written, the attitudes towards the woman, the dated way they all spoke about women in general, all had our boys' mouths hanging open in shock, and they kept looking over and seeing me seething with rage at the misogynistic attitudes and way that she was treated. It did at least lead to some discussion about attitudes towards women, rape and basic human rights, aside from the actual courtroom procedure that Riley was researching. At least in some ways there's been obvious progress since that time, but it really didn't feel like enough, at least to me. The way she was treated by all the men hasn't progressed enough, since it's still common. That assumption that she was asking for it, or that she instigated it with they way she was dressed, that she brought it on herself, are all too familiar to just about any woman. Women deal with the world differently than men because of things like that.
I see that easy sort of lack of gut-level understanding of how women have to deal with the world even in Paul, for example, though he's a very good person, and would never even joke about sexual harassment or anything like it. It's hard to admit it and say it, but even he doesn't really understand that underlying fear aspect of being vulnerable the way I and my women friends do. And while he's certainly supportive and understanding, he's never had to deal with sexual harassment or attacks, like I have, or like most of my female friends have. Of the friends I have who are close enough where we can talk of such things (which is a hard thing to speak of for most of us, due to shame), I'm really hard-pressed to think of even a few who haven't had something frightening and horrible happen to them simply because they are female. There must be a few who haven't lived through a serious incident, but I believe almost all of us have had to deal with discrimination and harassment, though the incidents might not be labelled as such.
We women live with it on a daily basis, at least during some phases of our lives, so it becomes just the way things are, and we adapt and go on as best we can. Nobody likes to listen to complaints. It's only when some women start speaking up, bringing it all out into the open, that we start realizing just how widespread the harassment, the subtle and not so subtle attitudes are, and how much we simply endured and then put quietly, deeply aside into an inner place we tend to wall off from everyday thought. Or at least that's what I've tended to do. The last few weeks got me all roiled up, and a lot of those old incidents came roaring out of the closet, insistent on being seen and recognized. I've been an angry person lately, and hard to get along with, especially for the males in my household. I'm the only female in my household, even including the animals, so you can imagine...
I know it's possible to raise good, sensitive, thoughtful men, since some of my dear friends are managing to do that. I want my boys to have long, happy lives; it's one of the things I regularly wish for. And I just can't bring myself to wish suffering on them in order for them to better understand what others go through, so they can really understand, so they don't just turn into arrogant jerks with a sense of natural entitlement.

I'm fighting some of that sense of entitlement already, as the boys enter the difficult teenage years. They expect to be given rides to their various activities, to get to do things like baseball and gymnastics and other sports that take money and time. They get to do these things, they're in the honors classes as smart kids and they take almost everything for granted; it's what they know and have been raised with. They haven't run into very many 'no's' in their lives yet. I think partly because I was raised fairly poor, I've always wanted to give my kids the chance to do the fun things, to do sports and have friends over and get to do things. They live in a household with a little more money and privilege than I did, and I wonder now if it's not coming back to bite me in the ass. I wanted them to have a happy childhood and not a painful one, and now I'm wondering if that may have been an idealistic and shortsighted attitude. I'm not saying they're bad kids, mind you; they're not. But the news lately has got me thinking about it all and how we can give our kids a good childhood without turning them into spoiled brats.
I've gotten into some ugly fights with them lately because they've acted arrogantly, blaming me for their own tardiness or demanding things I regard as an earned privilege. Some of the incidents I've been (what I at least) thought was tough but fair, but there's been a build-up of incidents and I've reacted out of proportion to some of them, losing my temper and yelling my head off like a crazy person. My patience and ability to deal rationally, reasonably, responsibly, seems to be shot. Last week Riley gave me a hard time while I was driving him to a game; he was late and stressed about it and he foolishly criticized my driving (never do that to me, just fyi). He blamed me for the lateness when it was his own procrastination that caused us to be late. I yanked the car off the road and made him get out of the car. Nearly drove off, too, except it wasn't in a place where he could walk home, so I pulled off a further distance and  let him panic for a while about what to do. Eventually, when I felt I could talk to him without physically ripping off his head, I got out and yelled at him about respect and how it was a privilege to get a ride and to even get to play baseball at all. Much later when Paul asked him what he'd learned from the incident he told Paul "uhhh, respect the driver?"

And just today, Casey ignored me and argued and gave me attitude when I was trying to give him a ride over to his friend's house to work on a school project. So after giving him several chances to pull himself together, waiting on him and then enduring some attitude, I pulled the plug and grounded him. Boy was I the evil mom then. I lost it, cut loose and yelled at that boy. A lot. So after an ugly scene of arguing and discussing and trying to get to the bottom of it all, I just left, removed myself and my computer from the scene, leaving Paul there to deal.
So here I sit, writing it here. I used to think of myself as a person with some amount of patience and that it took a lot to make me mad, but I don't think I can claim that anymore. Any signs of arrogance and unfair assumptions, especially from males, maybe especially from the closest males in my life, just really sets me off these days. I think as I get older I'm less willing to put up with the crap, the sexism, the unfairness of things that I felt I had to let slide when I was younger. Maybe this impatience goes along with getting older, where a woman goes from being an object for catcalls to complete invisibility. I get so angry about the way women are treated at all the various stages of their lives, at all the crap that happened and is still happening. It's happening to the daughters of my friends, now, the same shit that we endured, the sexism, the harassment. It makes me so angry. I'll be damned if I want to raise boys who treat women like second class citizens or worse.

Obviously I need some work on patience and working conflicts out, but I can't even pretend to be some perfect angelic mom who never loses her shit and never gets hurt and never yells. Let them learn to deal with a real person, a real woman, a real mom who hurts and bleeds and gets mad and calls them on their arrogance.
So how do you teach humility and awareness? How do you teach men to understand the world women live in? Can someone who hasn't lived with fear or harassment or just a lack of respect on a regular basis really get it on a gut level? Can a person really understand something like rape, if you haven't been through it yourself? How could anyone who actually understood what it's really like joke about it, or dismiss it as no big deal?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It's true, I've been absent, dormant, fallow, in a slump. Or maybe in a chrysalis, waiting for the right time to re-emerge in a new guise. Or just really busy, depending on who I'm talking to. The constant, nagging need to make money seems to end up outweighing most other things, and yet I haven't gone and put on my big girl pants and seriously looked for regular, salaried, decent paying employment.This isn't a new struggle; it's been going on for years. I remain stubbornly freelance, as I've been for lo these many years. From a financial standpoint, as a mom with a family, a still-unemployed spouse at this point, and two boys hurtling quickly towards college, it seems like a ludicrous, willfully destructive position to take, and yet I can't bring myself to just go do it. All of the common sense, merciless voices in my mind tell me that I'm being unforgivably selfish, that I'm a slacker, and much worse. They are such pitiless voices. And yet there is a tiny voice that rings clear through all of the negative voices. Life is short, that little voice whispers, I want to create things. It's surprisingly persistent against all of the angry, shouting voices that ridicule it and try to drown it out. I'll die inside if I can't create something, it whispers. I don't want to waste this...
My personality is much better suited for being a freelancer, I think, though there are aspects (like a regular paycheck) and people I miss from my days as an employee. But my life now is wound around with the boys' needs, my own reluctance to give up my time with them, and the inescapable knowledge that time is flying by. They're 13 already, and they may not need me in the same ways that they used to, but I remain convinced that they still really need a parent at home, maybe more now in different ways than when they were tiny. So I nose around for projects that allow me to work within my self-imposed constraints.
Paul and I have been taking a workshop on career transitions being given by my dear friend Terri, and it's been helpful for both of us. I don't really fit into the traditional mode of employee seeking employer, unless I decide to go the Big Girl Panties route and look for a regular job. I do have my regular gig with Boldly Me, but it can't pay enough, at least for now, to be my sole paying gig, so I need to seek more money from other avenues. Terri's workshop has helped me clarify my thoughts on the confusing morass of small money-making gigs that I have been pursuing, and her workshop content and feedback from the others in it has allowed me to look at my own situation with a much less critical eye. Most of my own internal voices have been merciless, and there's no doubt that they damage me and hold me back. I know, I'm working on that too. It's a real gift to find that other people see my abilities with a fresh, and surprisingly positive perspective.
When I went through and made a list of the various career/money-making gigs I have been doing or have wanted to pursue further and actually really enjoy, I surprised myself with about 10 different professions, though they're all art related in one way or another. I've known for a long time that I have serious hangups about money, and asking for money is actively painful. I've been working on it for years, but that's peeling layers of an onion. It goes right along with the hangups about asking for help, accepting compliments, all that self-esteem stuff.
At least I found that I do have a deep-seated sense of confidence in my art abilities, though even that has taken a beating in the last few years of being mainly a mom, with my art always taking a lower priority. The endless cycle of care-taking chores can really wear a person's self esteem down. It turns out that my little voice is really right; if I don't get to create something of my own regularly I get depressed and my self esteem takes a dangerous nose dive, and it was never robust to begin with.
What if my time is short? I was given a gift to be used...
Life is slipping through my fingers...

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Briefcase

Seems there's a bit more controversy than usual this year about Veteran's Day and how and whether to celebrate it. However you choose to mark it or not seems a very personal decision to me, but I can't get behind the idea of telling others how they should treat the day. It's only a day, after all, and everyone has their own family history. But I find I do have a problem with other people telling me that marking the day ends up celebrating war. Not in my family.
I've mentioned before that my dad was a WWII vet; he served in the Navy on the USS Kitkun Bay. The Kitkun Bay was in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Battle of Samar and other battles in the South Pacific that aren't talked about now, but at the time were big news. The Kitkun Bay took at least one kamikaze attack and suffered a lot of damage, though fortunately not as much as her sister baby flattop the Gambier Bay, which was sunk, like many other ships during those battles.
My dad joined up when he was 17, though he lied about his age. He was young and cocky and a lot of guys were doing it; it seemed like the right thing to do at that time, under those circumstances. He went from this young man:
To this, taken shortly after he was discharged:

I've talked before about the kind of father he was: silent, moody, unwilling to put up with noise and frequently yelling. I had always thought he was unnecessarily harsh (at least until I had my own kids and found myself bellowing much like he had when provoked). He had a dark side which was always, unrelentingly there with him, wreathed around him. I couldn't understand it, as a kid, but I was aware of that darkness and learned very early when to quietly dodge around him and wisp away like a ghost.
He didn't talk about his time during the war, not until much later when he was closer to his own end. Veteran's Day wasn't something we celebrated, but I know he marked it in some way on his own. It wasn't a happy day, certainly.

Earlier this year, during the summer, I got a call from a lady I didn't know, claiming to have my dad's old briefcase. She had come into possession of it through a convoluted and very unlikely set of circumstances, and had looked into it after being asked to throw it out. Inside the briefcase was a treasure trove of old papers and photos that my dad had carried around with him for decades. I had grown up with that briefcase, but we were never allowed to look inside it and it was strictly off limits. He carried it with him all of his life through many moves; even when he lost all of his other possessions, he managed to hang onto that old case. I had thought it was lost for good after his death, since his second wife had kept it and we'd lost track of her. I arranged to go pick up the briefcase from Judy, the sweet lady who had found it and kept it for me, and we went to visit and there it was, sitting on her kitchen counter, the heavy black leather case that immediately brought back the scent of my dad and the memory of his hands opening that case with his permanently bent and broken little finger.

There were a lot of the usual things you might expect in it, though there was almost no record of his life with us as a family, but there was a surprising amount of things from his time in the Navy, including his discharge papers and photos he'd taken, like this one:
as well as magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and then old yellowed newsletters from the Kitkun Bay, printed and distributed while he was on board.
If you click on the pictures you may be able to enlarge them enough to read them a bit. There were a lot more of these in his briefcase. And in one manila envelope in the bottom of the case, were some letters from me to my dad, with my address and others to contact if he needed to in case of emergency, during a late period in his life when he was homeless for awhile. He did end up coming and living with us for awhile to get back on his feet, and he had his case with him. I thought at the time he used it for job hunting, but he also must have been carrying around these older documents and photos.
When my sis Leslie saw this last photo, of the hospital ship, she gave a little gasp and said 'he's just a baby!', which was my reaction as well. That injured soldier is just a kid. Look at how young he is. He served in a war and was injured and who knows what he saw and endured. He was lucky to be alive, of course, but even ones who lived were never the same again. My dad carried that darkness around with him until he died. He would have been a very different person, and a different dad, had he not been on that flattop and gone through those battles.

So when I hear or read about people saying that Veteran's Day or Remembrance Day glorifies war, I say they and all of the merchants who have sales may be missing the point. It isn't about that stuff at all, of course. It's not a comfortable holiday, actually. For me, it means to pause and contemplate war and how damaging it is to all of us. Pause and remember these kids, then and now, who serve their country. We may associate Veteran's Day with old men now in their uniforms, hanging out and maybe having a parade, but they were this young when they went through hell.Whether they volunteered or were forced or are pushed into it by economic necessity, at the very least they deserve our respect, not just for today but all the time.

Monday, November 04, 2013

changes in attitude, changes in gratitude

Yeah, so it's been very busy around here. That's not new, of course, I have just felt out of cope for much of the time. It's so wearing at times to be a responsible adult and try to Do Everything You're Supposed to Do on time, in a good way. Sometimes I just want to run away and play, and it's not happening very often, it seems like. The state of the house and yard tell me I'm not keeping up with all of the 'supposed to's' as it is. I'm constantly wondering how other people manage to keep up with everything.
Latest news:
Not so good news: Paul is losing the company he's been working for and was very happy with, but the company is closing, so he's on the job search again. Here's hoping he lands something good sooner, since being us, we have no big financial cushion to land on. Being an artist and a games programmer/designer doesn't tend to lead to long term job stability and comfortable money cushions; at least it hasn't for us. I keep having to adjust my attitude to stay positive on that front.

Better News: I have been hired on a long term contract basis with the non-profit Boldly Me, for which I've been doing art and photography for awhile. Boldly Me has the stated purpose of building self esteem and public awareness for those who feel different. They hold classes and events and provide support and counseling and suchlike for anyone, really.
Though it originally started as a support structure for people with physical differences who needed support and a place where they could just be themselves and fit in, lots of people kept asking if they could join even if they didn't have any obvious differences, if they just felt different on the inside and felt like they didn't fit in. So Boldly Me became more broadly inclusive. It's been growing by leaps and bounds since it started about a year and a half ago.
I first got pulled in because I've known Alanna, the founder and leader, for years; our boys are good friends and we've known each other at least 10 years. When she first started talking about her dream a fair number of years ago now, I tried to encourage her. Alanna has always been a Person Who Gets Shit Done, and once she decided to go for it with Boldly Me, of course it took off.
I'll be their Program Manager for Print Media and Publications, along with being their pet photographer and general artist. Someone called it being their 'Media Goddess' which I rather like. :) I've been doing this sort of work for them already and enjoying it a lot, so that's a very good fit. And it's a great group of folks and a good organization, so I feel like I've landed in a really fortunate situation work-wise. I've never really worked for a non-profit group before, in a situation where I believed in the work and the cause, so it's a new experience to me, and a positive one. I always figured I had a good work ethic before, doing my best to do good work because I felt like it was the right thing to do and I wanted to be proud of the work that I produced, but this work, being for a cause and a purpose I find worthy of respect, adds a different kind of satisfaction to the actual work. I still strive to do the best job I can, but it's been very rare in a job situation to be valued for my opinions and viewpoints as a contributing member to the core values of the group, not just as a hired graphics wrist. My duties are more diverse and involved in helping shape what the organization does and how it accomplishes that, though I am hesitant to say that because it feels so strange to realize that I will be having an impact from within the group. So that's a very good thing.
This new development has had the odd effect of making me realize how much I've been holding myself back in work I've been doing; being hired to design logos or do graphics work is fine, but it's very easy to just do the job and not get invested in who or what it's for. Most of the paying work I've done in the last few years has been for things I didn't really care about, honestly.
It made it easier to focus on family, for one thing; most companies now demand your life be at work and I had already decided that wasn't where my priorities were, so screw that. So it's been a lot of small one-off jobs, really.

But increasingly in the last couple of years, I've been doing pro-bono work for Boldly Me as well as Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation. I've kind of realized how reserved I was being with it all; I hesitated to tell people even though I really believe in what both organizations do. I've been keeping all of my various worlds separate and silent, and now I'm questioning why that was, like I have had to hide the different aspects of myself from different sets of people in my life. And yet I love all of the varied sets of people I'm lucky enough to have in my life, even if they haven't intersected much.
I kind of feel like, what the hell, why shouldn't I just talk openly about it all? If you believe in something you should be able to speak openly about it, right? What have I been afraid of? Being judged? Being laughed at for helping out causes and people I believe in? I have been realizing that I've still been carrying around some of those old fears from pain I carried when I was younger, and falling into them without even realizing it. My own self-identified, comfortable identity as an 'artist' has increasingly not been enough to define who I am now, as an older person trying to raise boys in a challenging world. It's not enough anymore to define myself as an artist or graphics person, or as any one thing; adaptability is the key for me and the boys and Paul, I think.
Anyone who knows me will be nodding when I say that I have always been prone to self denigration (shut up, Jeff) and a strong and healthy self esteem has never been one of my firmer qualities. But you know, I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to being more fine with who I feel like I really am and who I want to be and merging the two into a stronger, whole person. It feels weird but right. And it feels weird but right to now join up with a non-profit that helps hurt people get stronger in their self esteem.