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A Wish for Wings that Work
I'm always trying to fly.

I want to write about this, but not publicly; increasingly, this is what I use livejournal for, if anything. Facebook is too public, tumblr is too contentious, and I've never been much good at keeping a journal. I think I process externally a lot, with dear friends, and livejournal isn't a big part of that anymore. It's not just because the population here has thinned down; a lot of it is that my own needs have shifted.

But anyway. The people I might normally talk this through with aren't around, and I want to figure out how I feel, and this is the venue I use for that, right?

I'm visiting my family in Maine right now. It's going beautifully. Yesterday mom drove me through the neighborhood where I grew up, and we pointed out all the houses and talked about the people who had lived there. Now, I grew up in a little corner of a small town in Maine - only, in Maine, it's actually a pretty large town. We had already talked about the violent, overcrowded high school and how much better it is now, and for the first time I talked to my mother about my very real fears about being gay there. That's another post. But that's part of the backdrop for the driving-around-the-neighborhood conversation.

So, right: a small town, large for Maine, small for most of the US, maybe 17k people. A tiny house in a swamp, a small neighborhood of other small houses also in the swamp. It was a great place to be a kid, really; hell, my brother recently bought a bunch of acreage that includes a swamp, because he wants his kids to grow up in one. The role of the swamp in my childhood was one of the few things that was an unalloyed good. Frogs, ducks, mud, salamanders, standing dead trees, pileated woodpeckers, countless hours of running madly about, climbing trees, telling stories, exploring, and learning. Every kid should have something as ecologically rich and imaginatively fertile as a swamp.

In winter we played hockey on the swamp. This is its own kind of difficult. It's not like it froze smooth. There were sticks and submerged logs and rotten ice.

The other kids, though: this wasn't some sort of idyllic neighborhood. I was one of only a few kids my age - there were more of them my brother's age, though not too many. There was one other girl near my age in the neighborhood, and she and I grew apart when we hit school age; she was a grade above me and much more feminine. We didn't share interests. I was friends with a couple of neighborhood boys. My brother had a richer (but more disturbing) local social life...

Mom was driving through the neighborhood, pointing out houses. One house she pointed to got the "they've cleaned that up" comment and I remembered the previous occupants as disordered to a really distressing degree (and this is coming from me). One was "the place that had the mean dogs." Then we got to the place with the people who grew pot in their back yard (I had never known this), and the place with the woman who beat her kids (the oldest kid, my brother's age, flinched when you looked at him and was all over bruises). The place with the kid everyone else beat up but who was also a horrible little jerk when I tried to babysit him. The place with the mean bully who was theoretically my brother's friend, whose mother was disturbingly childlike... and whose father was eventually arrested for dealing heroin. They had a mean rottweiler, chained out all the time; I think they gave it drugs. The place with the super-religious people. The one with the kid I was friends with, whose younger brother was, as my mother put it, "a thug, just a thug." His brother, my friend, is someone I didn't try to stay in touch with; he was sweet and sensitive, and his brother called him gay and beat him up for it. He was always afraid, and I think his stepfather tried to beat the queer out of him too. I asked mom if she knew if he was really gay. She said she thought so... I wonder what happened to him. I just looked for him on facebook and could only find his brother. I wonder if he outgrew the bullying. I hope so. He's got a kid.

I did another quick search and found evidence that the one I hung out with is still alive, at least; apparently he works for a dentist.  Or possibly is a dentist.  Wonder why he's not searchable on facebook.  I don't really wonder that he's not on his brother's friends list on facebook, given what I remember from our childhood.  Although someone on asked after him on his brother's facebook and was told to "call the lab."  So...  alive.  That's good news.  I could probably track him down if I wanted to.

We saw the house where the really really religious people lived, and the strange people with the poodles. And the mean guy all the kids were afraid of. But most of those were just, you know, people...  nothing too awful.  I mean, there was the guy who shot our dog with a BB gun, he's still there...  the guy who may or may not have tried to run my brother and I down with his truck once.  You know, neighbors.

It's the rest of it that blew my mind a bit.  As a kid, I was pretty unaware of how much really screwed-up shit was going on around me.  There were less than two dozen houses anywhere near us - really about a dozen, maybe 20, with people that we even knew.  And now it turns out we had drug dealers and child abusers all over the place. And I thought it was all totally normal. I babysat for some of those families; my brother hung out in their homes.  I ran wild in that neighborhood, and I'd probably have a lot of somewhat harrowing stories if I hadn't been essentially a solitary kid, more inclined to wander around in the woods and make friends with trees than to hang out with the local pack of slightly feral children.

If I remember correctly, my brother used to talk about how everyone beat up this other kid, and he didn't want to, but he didn't know what to do.  He'd get beat up too if he stood up for the kid, and the kid was kind of awful to people and started a lot of the fights.  He just always lost them.  So my brother couldn't figure out what the right thing to do was, and he'd just go hide in the swamp when the fights started.  My brother has not always had an easy life.  I feel like he probably has stories to tell that I don't even know, and a lot of that started when we were kids.

My school was terribly violent and a very scary place to be, let alone to be gay. I thought that was normal too.

No wonder cities don't scare me, huh?  I tend to think about my family life when I consider the things I learned in childhood. I tend to remember my neighborhood as basically safe, with a couple of houses you didn't go near; I have a lot of very fond memories of the swamp and the woods.  I remember mostly being alone, but rarely lonely, because trees are good company. I honestly like the way I grew up, for the most part; I'm nostalgic for those woods, that water.  I didn't think of my neighborhood as dangerous, I just knew to avoid the guy who hated kids and the people with the mean dogs.

I'm just processing, really.  Rewriting my childhood a bit, seeing it differently through adult eyes.

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She's looking for the parents of recent college grads to interview. In her words:

" OK folks, I have cleared the bureaucratic hurdles and I am ready to conduct interviews! Here is the new blurb to share. I will also post it on my wall, since it may be easier to involve me in it if it starts at my wall. But I am also sharing it here because if you can think of anyone that would be perfect and most likely willing, if you could message them with this, that would be awesome. I think I might have slightly better luck through messaging than through wall postings (which could be a study all on its own ;) ) because of the level of commitment and investment that comes through messaging. But if you can only post it on your wall, then I am super happy and grateful for that. :)

Here is the blurb:

Would you like to be part of my dissertation project? I am looking to interview the parents of recent college graduates. Are you a parent whose child graduated from college between the years 2008 and 2014?

Or are you a college graduate whose parent might like to talk to me? Please send me a message!

I will be conducting interviews that are approximately 1 hour long, and I can do them by phone, by Skype, or in person if you are within 100 miles of Portland, OR. Interviewees will receive a $5 Amazon gift card as a thank you.

Thanks for your consideration!"

Feel free to signal boost, if you know anyone who might help! Her email is
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It would be an awesome, amazing job for me.  And I'm almost frighteningly well-qualified for it.  I just submitted my application materials.

I'm trying not to hope too hard.  But I need to leave my current job, so I'm looking for other things to apply for as well.  This area is tough.  :(

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Which nom de plume should I use as a writer of genre fiction? You can pick a few favorites! free polls
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Back when I was doing academic writing, the process was more like 1. think stuff 2. make some notes 3. stare at the notes 4. think lots of thoughts for AGES in a half-hearted way 5. begin to panic because the thoughts are not in any way written down 6. put the thoughts in an outline 7. congratulate self 8. stare at outline 9. think lots of thoughts again, then panic 10. drink alcohol until panic recedes 11. drink caffeine until focus sharpens 12. adjust substances as necessary to maintain optimal balance 13. write into the outline 14. hope it's good enough because it's never getting revised dammit 15. panic 16. cry 17. proofread 18. pronounce it done
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At least, it made today worse than it otherwise would have been, I think.

Think I'll just wallow in self-pity for a while
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...that could work.  I might actually update my LJ once in a while.  :)

A song came into my head on the way home and I realized I needed it and I haven't sung it in years. And that I wanted to share it with someone important, because it's part of me. This is one of the songs that saved my life. No hyperbole. During one of the worst times of my life, which was also a February, I found this song, and although some of it doesn't apply, most of it does. I sang it again and again, hoping it would be true for me. Now it is... It was the first part that caught me, all those years ago; it's the end that's who I am now.

This also happens to be a rather lovely live take, heh.  Dar Williams, "After All."

The lyrics that are very much me, now:

Well the sun rose
With so many colors it nearly broke my heart
It worked me over like a work of art
And I was a part of all that
So go ahead push your luck
Say what it is you gotta say to me
We will push on into that mystery
And it will push right back
And there are worse things than that
'cause for every price and every penance that I could think of
It's better to have fallen in love
Than never to have fallen at all
'cause when you live in a world
Well it gets in to who you thought you'd be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me
After all

I think of it at sunrise a lot, and when I'm afraid of love, and in the dark parts of winter.  And I used to sing it to myself in wintertime, to remind myself that the world is part of me.  I need reminding, sometimes.
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I just got off the phone with dad. He's fine. As fine as it's possible to be with a traumatic brain injury anyway.

I'll try to write more later. For more, thank you all for the support. It's been a rough couple of days.
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Early this morning, my mother heard a thud from downstairs. She assumed it was the dogs and tried to go back to sleep, but then one of the dogs came and got her up and brought her downstairs. It was my father. He was unconscious on the floor. One side of his face was badly bruised.

The ambulance couldn't get to the house because ice had made their road impassible. It's a privately owned road, but the town came and sanded it so EMS could get through. Dad ended up in the hospital eventually. He's still there.

They've done a bunch of inconclusive tests so far. The scary part - the really scary part - is that he's having memory problems. Mom says he thought he was still in high school. Before this, he'd had what they thought was the flu for a couple of days: fever, joint-aches, cough. Other than that, he's been robustly healthy.

They're doing an MRI and an EEG now. I'm scared and I'm 3000 miles away. Later I'll ask mom if she wants me there; right now she's got enough to deal with without having to buy me plane tickets and sort out logistics.

My father is an incredibly healthy person, normally. And he's not very old; he turned 59 a few weeks ago. We have a difficult relationship in some ways, but I love him, and he's been a rock-steady presence in my life forever. I'm afraid for him.

I'm at work, keeping busy and trying not to cry. My coworkers today are good people, very understanding. And I have good people outside of work too, to help with the fretting and crying. I'll be all right.

If you believe in such things, I'd love to know that my family and I are in your thoughts and prayers. And even if you don't, sympathy helps.
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