an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

This is interesting and sad: Portland woman shoots and kills home intruder. I’m seeing it shared on social media sites with comments like, “one for the good guys,” a “good story with a gun” and “finally, good news involving guns!” and “a mom protecting her kids with guns!”
A lot of the headlines say something like, “Oregon Mom Fatally Shoots Intruder Hiding in Child’s Bedroom,” leading the casual reader who doesn’t click through to assume the family and children were at home, perhaps even in their beds, when his presence was discovered and the mom shot him looming over the kids. The prevailing assumption is that he was definitely there to rape the kids.
In actuality, the reports say the mom and her two young kids came home early Sunday morning (around 1:30 a.m.) to discover a stranger in the house, for reasons unknown. He reportedly didn’t live in the neighborhood or know the family, and the family did not know him, so the mom shot him to death. The news articles did not say he assaulted or physically threatened them–as a stranger, his presence was his death sentence, under Oregon law.
Mind you, I do agree that we shouldn’t go around illegally entering each other’s residences, for any reason. It would be freaking terrifying to come home at 1:30 in the morning and find a stranger in my kid’s room. The mind leaps to the worst conclusions.
The mom in question apparently put her children in the other bedroom, and shot the intruder. Then 911 was called. The way it’s reported in another article, it is unclear who called 911–it just sort of passively says police responded to reports that a homeowner had shot an intruder, which at least makes it clear 911 wasn’t called until after she shot the man.
According to reports, “Detectives don’t know why [the intruder], who has no significant criminal history, broke into [her] home. There is no connection between [them], and he is not from the neighborhood. A recent report indicates [the intruder] may have dealt with mental health issues.”
“Detectives don’t know why [the intruder], who has no significant criminal history, broke into [her] home. There is no connection between [them], and he is not from the neighborhood. A recent report indicates [the intruder] may have dealt with mental health issues.”
So it is true that he could have been there for the awful, unimaginable reasons assumed and insinuated by so many. Or he could’ve been there to steal their shit–personally, I don’t think material goods are worth killing over, especially the Walmart/ Target/ Kohls/ Costco replaceable middle-Americana shit we fill our lives with (insurance, people!), but some people disagree with me on that one. Or it could have been something more pathetic, like mental illness, early onset dementia, or homelessness. Maybe he was lost and confused, or looking for food or a place to poo.
It doesn’t matter anymore, because now four lives are changed. He’s dead, the children are traumatized, and the mom has taken an irrevocable step from being an ordinary everyday person to one of the increasingly few number of people in our modern world who has intentionally taken the life of another human being.
I think the saddest part is the 911 call. Because they were right there, the whole time–that alternative. We’re not living in the wild west anymore. I think it is telling and sad that the assumption of her–and so many in response to the news–is that his intentions could only be criminal, and the authorities were incapable of handling it. That murder was the only solution, in a suburban neighborhood in a modern civil society.
I wonder what I would do in that situation, if I came home at 1:30 in the morning and found an intruder in one of the bedrooms. I’d like to think I could go to my neighbor’s house and knock on the door, let them know there’s an intruder in my home and I’m freaked out. I’d like to think I could call 911 from their place and wait in their kitchen until the police arrived.
I guess we don’t really have that kind of culture in America, where we’re concerned about the mental health and welfare of all our citizens to consider the possibility an intruder may not intend harm, but might be looking for food or shelter, or have mental health issues. It’s more of a shoot-first, ask questions later (literally!) culture–despite how many people claim this is a Christian nation, it’s more of First Testament/ eye-for-an-eye/ vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord type nation than a Second Testament/ the Law is fulfilled in me/ follow Christ’s teachings of treating every man as though he is your brother and neighbor, Christ made flesh again-type nation.
It makes sense that we don’t just great everyone with open arms and uncomplicated trust, because realistically, religion is bullshit and even the most sensible person knows it doesn’t matter how idealistically pacifist you are or how willing you are to assume non-violent intentions when faced with a stranger in your home–intention doesn’t always equal outcome, and being startled can easily turn anyone with non-violent intentions to violence. For example, that mom didn’t intend to kill anyone when she was heading home that morning, but look how that turned out. But it just feels like there should be a middle ground between shooting to kill and turning the other cheek, so to speak.
I guess, too, we live in an increasingly mobile society, and it’s not really common to know our neighbors all that well. They’re basically strangers living next door for a few years until one or you sells or finds a new place to rent. Take the lack of community and consider the studies claiming between half and 1-in-3 of American households own guns (the average gun owner has 8 firearms), and 48% of gun owners say they own a gun for “protection”, which is essentially saying they prefer vigilante self-imposed frontier justice over the systems of law and order necessitated by a modern civil society, and it’s no wonder people don’t feel safe knocking on doors at 1:30 in the morning! I mean, how many people have been shot knocking on doors, asking for help?
I guess I’d just call 911 from my car. The mom was legally within her rights, but still. What an awful situation.

Five Fears

Writing prompt: Five fears you have.

1. I am afraid my husband will die before me.

This terrifies me, because his death would logically mean that the only person capable of supporting me through the shattering grief would be gone, and I would have to live out all the long years of my life without him. I want us to die together in our 90s, peacefully in our sleep.

I think I must think about this because my mom died so early in my marriage, and I’ve been watching the repercussions of widowhood and remarriage ripple across my dad’s life ever since. My parents seem old to me, but mom had just turned 60 when she died. Dad’s survived her by 13 years, and he probably has another decade or so left in him.

It breaks my heart to think of outliving him by 20 or 30 years, or leaving him to that fate.

2. I am afraid we will die before our son reaches adulthood. 

It’s a tragedy of the human experience that all children must, at some point, deal with parental death. For most of us, the preference is later rather than sooner. Probably for the same reasons I worry about #1, I have a vague, ever-present fear that my husband and I will somehow both die before our son is 18.

This is exacerbated a bit because of, well, laziness on my part. See, we kinda have two wills. There’s the ones we wrote and notarized together in 2002, where each of us name my sister-in-law (husband’s sister) as the guardian of our son.

She’s fine; a great choice. Kiddo gets along with her and his uncle, he’d get to stay in-state, and he’d get to keep his dog. So, sure, his world would have completely flipped upside down in terms of being orphaned, but at least he’d be in the same state and county, with family he’s familiar with, and with his dogs. They also understand he’s been raised atheist and wouldn’t try to force religion on him– sil is religious, but tolerant, and her husband is irreligious and chill.

Then there’s the will I wrote/ notarized in 2006, when we were getting separated. I’m pretty sure it would take precedence over the 2002 wills in the long-shot event we die simultaneously, or so closely together that there’s no time for me to change my will. It gives guardianship of my minor son to an LDS family member who does homeschooling, lives in a hot desert state, is allergic to dogs (we didn’t have a dog, let alone dogs, in 2006), and is (reportedly) super duper anti-science levels of creationist religious.

I mean, the person named as guardian in the 2006 will is a nice person, and a good parent, don’t get me wrong–I’m not dogging on them on that front. I’m just saying, my kid would not fit in that household. It would be like the tragic beginning of a dramatic coming-to-age YA novel: Kid loses parents, dog, and moves to a completely new state to live in with strangers under strict, foreign rules. Cue rain dripping down the windowpane.

Also, the spouse of the individual named as guardian mocked my son’s speech impediment in an attempt to “encourage” him to speak normally a few years after I wrote the 2006 will, so … not really keen on having them around Kiddo during sensitive emotional times. 

I think I can negate the 2006 will by tearing it up, but really I just need to update my will. The biggest impediment is that it’s a giant pain in the ass, the template is all fuckered up, and I just keep putting it off. It’s a stupid fear, easily resolved by completing some goddamn paperwork.

3. I am afraid of being paralyzed. 

No disrespect to all the paralyzed people out there, but I find this scarier than dying. Probably because of all the effort it takes to find a new normal. A non-paralyzing/ disabling accident is just, recovery or death. One or the other. But something that changes everything? Man. That’s scary.

That’s waking up in the hospital with the sound of machines and the pain of the accident still stinging in your skin, and being relieved to be alive and then realizing it’s not as simple as that. That’s trying to comprehend the news as the medical team explains that yeah, you’ll recover, but you’ll never be able to do this thing that you took for granted again, and all the things associated with it are now going to be so much more difficult.

Being paralyzed would be waking up alive and realizing you there’s no choice. You’re exhausted and battered, but there’s no option to say, “Fuck it, I don’t want to try,” and just going back to sleep, you have to try. You have to try and keep trying, even when all your muscles hurt worse than the accident and you’re frustrated and feeling stupid for not being able to do the thing you used to do without thinking.

Months, maybe years, of doctors and hospitals and physical therapy and chemical-y smells and maybe surgeries. Ugh. I mean, I’d accept it, because what else are you gonna do? Find a new normal, become a disability advocate, talk about what a life-changing event it was and all that sort of thing.

But I hate the idea of the journey in between. All that emotional work, all that trauma, all that growth. I’d rather not.

I think about this a lot because I ride motorcycle.

4. I am afraid I won’t get published and can’t get employed.

Sums it up.

5. I am afraid my son’s SO and I will not get along.

It must be difficult, being the in-laws. You’re older now, presumably more financially established, and your kids are striking out on their own, establishing their own households and doing things by their rules, and you just have to be like, “Okay, I hope I raised my kid well and they can do this. Fly free, don’t be a dick.”

But what if my son goes and finds a nice SO, and I just have literally nothing in common with them? Like … nothing?

I mean, I have this amazing friend that I adore, right? And we have so many interests in common, and every time we hang out we have a blast. So it seems reasonable that we would love all of each others friends, right? Wrong. Instead, every time she’s met my friends, she’s been a little kinda underwhelmed, and every time I’ve met her friends, I’ve been a little kinda underwhelmed. It’s like our friendship is the two overlapping parts of a Venn Diagram of friendship, and everyone else befriended by either of us falls outside those overlapping areas.

So … what if that happens with my son’s SO? It’s a valid fear. It’s kinda happened so far with his friends, but I figure that is because:

  • I don’t really like kids in general (excepting, obviously, Kiddo, my niblings, and a few select children of my close friends)
  • It’s been an upsetting and common trend for the boys in his various social circles to use a lot of sexist and homophobic language, like, “Girls can’t drive,” or “That’s gay,” or, “Guys can’t wear pink.” It’s not any one set of boys; it’s an ongoing issue. It happened in Centralia, it happened with the neighborhood boys, it happened with the soccer team boys, it happens with the boys he plays online with. Obviously, all I can do is keep talking to my son about the problems inherent in that sort of gendered thinking, but I dislike hearing that shit spouted off, regardless of age.

But what if my son ends up dating/ engaged/ married to someone with drastically different values/ interests/worldview from us? It seems unlikely, but I’m sure my husband’s parents never thought he’d marry someone who didn’t like animals, either. ‘Course, I eventually came around … but still. Initially, I was all, ew! dogs!

What if Kiddo falls in love with a super religious conservative mormon who wants tons of babies and thinks we’re going to hell for being atheists, and keeps trying to convert us? Unlikely, yeah, but … not impossible. Lust and love are strange things.

What if Kiddo marries someone who expects us to be the type of grandparents who are super involved with visiting and babysitting and shit, and when we don’t they get offended and say we don’t care?

What if he falls in love with a vegan polyamorous pansexual hippie who gets offended by our meat-eating ways and thinks we’re close-minded by our preference for and recommendation of monogamy?

The thing is, we get along with our son pretty well–he’s neat. We all actually have a lot of interests in common, the three of us. We all like riding motorcycle, we’re all fond of animals, we like similar video games and films and tv shows. He likes to read the same genre books that I do, and frequently borrows from my library. He’s a good artist, and likes to show me his work and is willing to take drawing tips from me. He likes dirt-riding with his dad, enjoys crabbing with us, and gets passionate when he discusses political issues with us. He’s smart and funny and witty.

We spend time with him not just because he’s our son and we legally have to with that whole “food and shelter” thing, but because he’s a really cool person and we genuinely enjoy his company.  When we’re adults, I’d like to continue having a good relationship with him, and be able to seamlessly incorporate his future SO into our family.

I think about this because, I mean, it’s not like you choose your family of origin. There are plenty of parents who’ve longed for athlete sons and ended up with theater stars, or daydreamed of little girls who love princess dresses and makeup, only to be baffled by the scientific, dress-resisting tomboy on their hands. There are plenty of nerdy parents who have tried to get their children interested in geekery, only to be dragged in shocked protest to sports game after sports game.

What really makes “family” more likely to get along than anyone else? Shared DNA? Ha. Why should that matter? Humans genetically differ an average of something like one in 1300 DNA base pairs … so any two humans, anywhere on earth, are about 99.9% identical, in terms of DNA sequences.

DNA isn’t exactly a predictor of personality type–and that’s just considering intergenerational, which is already fraught with issues. What about siblings!? Hell, you don’t even get a say in whether you want siblings or not. It’s the parents who always say, “Oh, I want them to have siblings so they have someone to play with!”

Although, if people were honest, they’d say, “Oh, I want them to have siblings so they have someone besides me to entertain them!” because young children are very exhausting and energetic and have high demands of energy and time.

Assuming siblings will be friends because they share some DNA and the same house is super optimistic. It’s kind of akin to getting pregnant at the same time as your closest childhood friend and assuming that your kids will be best friends–or even better, fall in love and get married and join your families!

It’s crazy. Because even within families, people are so unique and different in personality, and once they hit those teen years and get that hormone-dump that kick-starts along with the cerebral development, it’s just damn. A bunch of angry, moody, depressed, competitive teenagers trapped in the same space and hating each other.

I’m not talking about high school.

As adults, it seems like the average sibling relationship falls into one of three categories:

  • Friends! (rare) They actually like each other, they get along, and they talk and hang out frequently, voluntarily and completely on purpose. They seek out each other’s company.
  • Tolerating/ co-workerish! (most common) They talk a few times a year, mostly out of guilt/ sense of obligation. Privately, they find their sibling tedious or offensive. They probably wouldn’t socialize with them if they weren’t family.
  • Disowned! (rare) Maybe there was sexual or physical abuse from a sibling during childhood. Maybe a sibling is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Maybe as an adult, a sibling joined/ left a cult or found other extremist political/religious views. Maybe a sibling married a jerk. A lot of people just cut ties instead of dealing with relationships where every interaction is toxic and upsetting.

And that’s just family of origin, right? I mean, we can’t even guarantee we get along with the family we’re born into, that we grow up with. Like, we know their personalities, we know their quirks and attitudes and preferences and ways of handling them, and the majority of these relationships are still fraught with tensions and communications issues and personality/ value differences and weird power dynamics.

Now add spouses.

In-law relationships are so difficult. I never realized that as a kid. I used to daydream about the second family I would get when I got married; these magical people who would welcome me with open arms and accept me wholly as I am, out of choice–not because they were forced to, because I happened to be born into the situation without anyone’s say-so.

I mean, it was pretty idealistic and I recognize that, but I think I’m getting along all right with my sil and her husband these days, so that’s all good.

When I was a kid, I thought my parents had a good relationship with my grandparents, because we visited every summer. It wasn’t until I was an adult and my mom and grandparents were dead that I put together a lifetime of little hints and phrases–birthday cards and checks, admonishments not to spend this gift on the kids’ school clothes; puzzle pieces of class and economic differences that pointed to a long-running subtle rift of financial tensions over what I suspect was my grandpa’s belief that dad was an inadequate provider.

I haven’t gotten to the in-law stage myself, yet, obviously. I mean, I have in terms of being a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law, and I don’t think I have an exactly stellar record in those departments. I could have been more compassionate, more patient. Maybe more clear about my health issues, or set better boundaries, I dunno. Luckily, life is a journey and the path is still going.

There’s maybe another year or so until Kiddo starts dating? I hope? He’s 14 now, and I’m hoping he doesn’t feel inclined to date until he’s 16 or 17, hahaha. Anyway, I’m thinking there’s maybe another 5-10 years before he brings home his first “serious” SO, which is so weird to think about.

At some point, any relationship he has with us will be completely voluntary and entirely on his terms. It will no longer be based on needing our financial support or advice, but on whatever relationship bonds we are forging together right now, as a family–and someday, how I manage things with his SO will be another factor what kind of adult family relationship we have.

saffron? noir? vermillion?

Prompt: Your favorite color and why

I dunno. I mean, sometimes I answer yellow.

Yellow is bright and happy. It reminds me of sunshine and smiles, of the vibrant splash of Scotch Broom on the hillside in spring (my sister once called it French Sweep when we were children, and I think of that every time I see it, ever since).

Yellow is butterflies on the wind, and dandelions under my chin. It’s sunshine on my face, and a bouquet of yellow roses from my sweetheart. It’s the daffodils nodding in spring, and a golden lace dress that made me feel like Belle. Yellow was my first motorcycle.

When I say yellow, people tend to look surprised. “You? Yellow?”

In high school, a teacher asked me what my favorite flower was, and without hesitation, I said, “Yellow roses.”

She yelped out a startled laugh, too surprised to keep it back, and snarked, “I’d’ve thought you would like black roses!”

Black.

Sometimes I do think my favorite color is black. I wear a lot of black and charcoal, a trend started by my teen admiration of Audrey Hepburn. Oddly, it was her occasional black pantsuits and ridiculously over-the-top elaborate skulking outfits that influenced my tastes, rather than her flaring Givenchy dresses of the 50s or brilliantly mod wardrobe of the 60s.

Black is the velvet night sky in which the diamond stars shimmer. Black is the soothing silence at the back of the lawn, away from the dizzy lights and noise of the party, where I lie down on the grass in the shadow of the tree at midnight to smoke a cigarette and hope nobody misses me, or comes to look. Black is the absence of chatter and crowds, where the embrace of solitude  restores me.

Black was the color of my mom’s hair, and darkness her brown eyes seemed to approach in the shadows of depression. It is the color of my first dog, and my second motorcycle.

But “black” doesn’t feel like an answer to the question. Black feels like a non-answer; the color that wasn’t. I mean, I know it isn’t–it’s more like every color all at once, rather than the absence of color.

Also, answering, “black,” sounds hopelessly angsty and depressed, as though the ghost of 90s-me is still clinging to my back, muttering Soul Asylum lyrics in my ear (she kind of is). I might as well sigh and add that the tears of unicorns are my favorite beverage … I would say energy drink, but nothing gives me energy (see what I did there?).

Usually I answer “red.” This is also a true answer, though like the others on this list, it is not the only true answer.

Red is the swing of my mom’s coat as we leave the house, late once more, for church. Red is the boxy red 1993 Nissan Sentra I learned to drive in. Red is the roses in my parents’ front yard, the cherries that dripped from the tree in the backyard of my childhood home, and the spreading leaves of the Japanese maple out front. Red is the sweet taste of her homemade strawberry jam. Red is the explosion of sun-warmed raspberries against my tongue in the summertime.

Red was my moms’ professed favorite color, and the color of the dress I wore to her funeral. Red is the color of love and loss, of fond memories every time I see the eye-catching brightness of it.

 

 

Brexit

Today the UK–or at least Britain– seceded from the European Union. Apparently Scotland and North Ireland are rather more on the fence about the decision, which means the United Kingdom itself may be fractured as the other two countries within the UK try to decide what they’re going to do regarding their relationship with Britain and the EU, respectively. It’s an unprecedented historical moment.

Suddenly all those states with secession movements are a lot less funny.

The value of the British pound has plummeted across the globe. The question of British nationals studying, working, and living abroad on EU visas, and EU nationals living, working, and studying in the UK on EU visas is now of serious concern. Apparently, there are quite a few EU-related scholarship, civil service, and research fund grants to consider, as well.

In the coming months top economic experts predict Britain will suffer a sucking whirlpool of loss in economics, trade, and labor. I suspect there will be a substantial brain-drain, too, as UK-educated EU nationals living and working in Britain return to their home countries and families.

David Cameron warned, to general mockery, that Brexit would increase the risk of war. I dunno. I’m somewhat comforted by all the policy articles pointing out that NATO is more instrumental in keeping international peace, but still … the last time in history a major unified coalition of state powers disagreed so much on internal trade and human rights issues that an internal faction attempted to assert independence and leave the coalition while citing racist dogma, it did in fact lead to war. So it’s not like war is exactly unprecedented in this situation, and a lot of lives have been upended in entirely unexpected ways– plus, the situation in Ireland, as I understand it, wasn’t exactly stable before Brexit.

I feel a bit sick, watching it play out. I’ve been on and off messaging with my friend in the UK, discussing the repercussions. The old joke of, “Oh, I’ll move to X country if the vote goes this or that way,” has suddenly become a real consideration. As a doctor, it’s actually a possibility for her: She would pass the immigration requirements for necessary work.

The worst part is that in the hours after the referendum passed, a certain google search spiked in Britain: What is the EU?

Isn’t that heartbreaking? Voting for something without even realizing what it is? According to Brexit vote demographics of the Brexit vote, if it was up to the 18-49 age range, they would have stayed. The 18-24 cohort voted by an overwhelming 75% to remain, and the 25-49 was a more lukewarm but still solid 56% remain vote. It was the elderly generation– those 50 and older– who decisively swung the vote to leave, and the really sick irony of it is that they’re not going to have to live quite as long with the consequences of their fucked-up decision.

We’re approaching our own election in November. I sincerely hope my fellow countrymen learn from this, and do their research before they go to ballot boxes. I especially hope the millennials learn, and turn out in fucking droves. 

I hope those doing research do not rely on fearmongering ads from the corporate-financed politicians trying to sell them another term in office (during which they collect a paycheck, insurance, and lobbyist checks), but actually look into the issues that matter to them. If you know someone who seems a little lost on the USA candidates, or confused about the issues, point them to one of these non-partisan sites to kick-start their political education. Better late than never.

  • www.ontheissues.org — A non-profit and non-partisan organization run by volunteers which provides information on candidates backgrounds and issues stances.
  • www.votesmart.org — A non-profit and non-partisan website for collecting and dissementating factual information regarding the biographies, funding, donations, and resume experience of political candidates in the USA.
  • www.isidewith.com — An in depth and nuanced political quiz on social and economic issues. It even allows you to expand the questions for more answers and write-in responses where none really match, and finishes by saying where on the political spectrum you fall and which political candidates are more closely aligned with your values and why.

Words to live by

Prompt: A quote you try to live by.

I think there are three, actually.

This too shall pass  ~ Mom

&

Moderation in all things ~ Aristotle

&

If you must be indiscrete, be discrete in your indiscretion. ~ Mark Twain

Pretty self-explanatory, really. Not much of a “prompt” there. These three pieces of wisdom apply to pretty much all situations one can end up in. Useful guide to life in general.

reading challenge update

In this post back in January, I talked about a reading challenge I rec’d in an email. I was going to update it intermittently through the year. So, the ones in blue are the ones I answered back in January. The ones in bold are the ones I’ve completed since, , and the remainder are to-be-answered.

I haven’t gotten very far because, honestly, I thought just working my way through my usual booklist would hit most of these. I’ve read an average of 5 books a month this year, but … yeah. These are actually weirdly specific criteria, haha.

  1. A book published this year– Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  2. A book you can finish in a day (done — Married with Zombies)
  3. A book you’ve been meaning to read (done — Outlander)
  4. A book recommended by your local librarian/ book seller — The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (recommended at a Scholastic Book Fair a few years ago and on my list ever since. Finally read it.)
  5. A book you should have read in school.
  6. A book chosen for you by a spouse/ sibling/ child/ parent — kind of cheating, but we jokingly call DJ my sister-wife, so yeah. She recommended it, I finally read it. The Gunslinger, first Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series.
  7. A book published before you were born.
  8. A book that was banned at some point.
  9. A book you previously abandoned. 
  10. A book you own but have never read.
  11. A book that intimidates you.
  12. A book you’ve already read at least once.

Three Pet Peeves

Writing prompt: Three pet peeves

  1. I dislike it when people use weary (adj.–feeling or showing tiredness, especially as a result of excessive exertion or lack of sleep.) when they mean wary (adj.–feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems). It’s kind of poetic, in a way, but it wearies me.
  2. I dislike it when people spell cue (n.–a thing said or done that serves as a signal to an actor or other performer to enter or to begin their speech or performance.; v.– to give a cue to or for) as queue (n.–a line or sequence of people or vehicles awaiting their turn to be attended to or to proceed.; v.–to take one’s place in a queue).

    3. People who complain about “p.c. culture” or the “inability of others to take a joke (when its offensive)”. For the first, it’s literally complaining about not being able to be rude and being called on shit, that’s all. Just, Waaaah, I said something impolite/ mean/ bigoted, and instead of putting their head down and taking it, someone objected! Waaaah, waaaaah. On the second, I’ve noticed comedians and self-styled jokesters complaining about the inability of others to “take a joke,” generally speaking, when the material is “punching down,” so to speak. Attempting to use “edgy” jokes that draw on sexist/ racist stereotypes, or go for the “ooooooh,” factor with a rape or murder or suicide joke or insult. Jabs at poverty, mental health, disability, sexuality, trans* issues, that sort of thing–and not in a, “haha, weird subculture anecdote jokes” way, which totally exists, or in the self-deprecating but relating to larger audience way, which is fine, but in the mocking, mean, sort of, “Haha, you suck,” way that’s always accompanied with the sort of sneering undertone of, “What, can’t you take a joke?” The jokes are the equivalent of airplane food jokes. They’re weak and predictable and stupid. They aren’t edgy. They’re insulting for the sake of being insulting, literally picking on disadvantaged or minority populations for a cheap laugh, and they aren’t even imaginative. They aren’t funny or clever, and it always baffles me when someone cracks one of these and then is surprised by the response of offense and follows it by, “What can’t you take a joke?” Yeah, sure. Can’t you tell one?

2023

Writing prompt: Your life in seven years.

***Maybe we’ll travel the country by motorcycle***

The road curls out endless and tempting ahead of us beneath the slowly setting sun, but we’ve been riding for hours and John is standing on his pegs more and more frequently. I am, too. Besides, I’d like to set up camp before it gets dark. I flash my lights at him, and he pulls over onto a dusty offshoot of road and waits for me to pull up beside him.

“Ready to set up camp?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

We park our motorcycles and fall into the familiar rhythm of unpacking our equipment. I love this part of the day, with the smell of dust and sun-dried grass lying heavy in the air at the day’s end. I can taste a hint of water in the air, and John points out a small trickle of a creek. “Didn’t expect that,” he said.

“Oh, good. Fill up a can, I’ll filter it and make some rice.”

He shook his head in amusement. “Finally gonna use it, huh?”

I’d picked up a half-pound bag of brown rice at a farmer’s market two weeks ago, and carried it in my pack since. John was starting to tease me about being one of the Vuvalini.

I shrugged, grinning a little, and busied myself gathering kindling for the fire. The sun slipped full behind the horizon, leaving faint wisps of pink and yellow clouds that quickly dissipated in the darkling sky. I hurried to light the fire before the purple dusk went black with shadows, and was soon rewarded with a bright crackle.

After dinner, we sat by the dying fire and looked up at the sky. “See the Pleiades,” said John. I followed his pointing finger to the seven sisters in the sky, and nestled against his shoulder. He smelled like the days riding; like sweat and fresh air and dust, with a hint of campfire smoke to finish it off. My muscles felt warm and loose, sore from the day’s riding but in the best way. I blinked sleepily as the stars wheeled dizzyingly overhead.

“There’s Betelgeuse. Saturn.” He squinted. “Didja see the shooting star?”

I did, and sleepily made an affirmative noise against his shoulder. He shrugged, nudging me upright. “You’ll get eaten alive if we sleep outside,” he said gently, and steered me toward our small tent.

***Maybe I’ll become an author, and John will promote up to management.***

“Did you remember the forms?”

John looked at me from the driver’s seat of our Tesla Model-3, his fingers tapping impatiently against the steering wheel. I slid into the passenger’s seat and tossed him an offended look. Twenty-two years of marriage, and he couldn’t trust me to remember some god-damned forms?

“Yes, I remembered the forms,” I said, snapping the buckle of my seatbelt with a little more force than necessary. I flashed the sheaf of papers at him. “See? Papers. All of them. The release form, and the contract, and the …”

I trailed off, and shuffled through the papers again as John started backing out of the driveway. Seeing my hesitation, he braked and asked, “What?”

I flipped once more, futilely, through the pile. “Okay, so I actually do have to go into the house again, real quick.”

He rolled his eyes and laughed. “What’d I say? I know you, Laura!”

“Okay, okay!” I slid out and jogged back to the house, cursing under my breath. We didn’t have time for this today–I had a flight to catch, and Austin would be waiting at the airport to drive me to his apartment, and then dinner with my agent tonight. Poorly scheduled, I thought irritably. If they’d left the booking to me, I would have handled it much better. 

Still, no room to bitch. They were paying my travel costs.

With all papers in hand, I slid back into the passenger seat. John looked at me, eyebrows slightly raised.

“What?”

“Just making sure you didn’t forget anything else.”

“I have everything,” I assured him.

“Contract? Wallet? Your Nook? Luggage?”

“Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Now let’s go, I’m going to be late!”

“Calm down,” he said easily, and backed the rest of the way out of our square little driveway, leaving the many-windowed house on the bay in our rearview window. I put my temple against the passenger window, feeling the slight hum of vibration through the glass of the tires on the pavement, and sighed. “I wish you could come.”

“I know,” he said regretfully, “I do, too. I wanted to see Austin.”

The miles slipped away beneath us, a gray ribbon shot with yellow as we wound from town to city. Mt. Rainer loomed ahead of us and the Puget Sound flirted with hills and valleys to the left of us. The yellow blossoms of Scotch Broom crowded along the highway, and John looked at me with a teasing smile. “At least you got to see the French Sweep before you left.”

I manage to summon a smile at the old joke, because I know that’s what he wants, but I’m miserable inside at the prospect of three weeks away. At least, I think its misery. It’s hard to tell when it’s twisted into a tight knot of anticipation beneath my breastbone like that. “Are you sure you can’t join me halfway?”

“The store’s opening, Laura. You know the answer.”

I did. A store manager could hardly abandon their location in the first month of opening. It just sucked that it coincided with Austin’s research presentation and the first leg of my book tour. My leg jittered against the floor, and John reached over to gently squeeze my knee. “I’ll facetime every night, I promise.”

I turned to smile at him. “I know you will. I’m sorry; I don’t mean to be all sadface. I’m excited, honestly. For all of us. I just get nervous. You know.”

“I know,” he said, and I smiled to be known so well.

***Fin*** 

There are other futures. Futures where tragedy strikes, and we have to deal with the death of a child or spouse. I don’t like thinking of those paths. Futures where I give up on my book and end up working some 9-5 in an office, maybe as a paralegal or a receptionist. That’s also depressing. Futures where we live in a houseboat, or on a tiny farm, or we backpack across Europe. Those are all interesting. Of all our futures, I think the two above are the most likely, or some combination of them.

Our son will be 18 when we are 38 and 40. Then it’s off to college or vocational school or whatever path he finds to walk as an adult, and John and I will be left with the rest of our lives to do with as we see fit–to travel and roam, to climb and camp, to risk and fail.

n/a

Writing prompt: Your commute to and from school/ work/ etc.

I put “n/a” in the title because, at the moment, I am not attending school or engaging in traditional work. I am a stay-at-home parent who is working on a book.

My commute involves walking from the bedroom to the living room.

Some days I ride my motorcycle to a coffee shop, and set up shop with a sandwich, drip coffee (room for cream and sugar), and my laptop.

Once every two weeks, I drive to Costco for grocery shopping. This involves leaving my cul de sac, turning right, driving about a half mile through my neighborhood, and pulling into the Costco parking lot. I could walk the shopping trip if I had a giant wagon and no concerns about cold/ frozen goods.

This is my commute.

 

Vent

This article popped up on my feed today. Some mom venting about how mean people are bc she has a large family. Six kids.

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Having been raised in a family of five kids, I have conflicting reactions to a six-kid family. As someone with four siblings, I find the idea of six children to be perfectly normal–a regular-sized family. Paradoxically, as a parent to an only child who rather thinks we’re facing serious overpopulation issues, I also find such family to be appallingly and irresponsibly large.

To my mind, there’s no need for it. Our global population is straining. People live decades longer. We haven’t even figured out adequate global resource allocation. Humanity is killing the earth–our living environment–and ourselves along with it. We need to stop having so many kids. It’s selfish and irresponsible on a community level.

The mom in the article seems to think it’s about judging her for finances or weird lifestyle choices. Doesn’t seem to realize that many people who look askance at large families are, in part, disgusted by the needless and selfish excess; the greedy consumption of resources exemplified by this one family.

Consider: One individual eats 7,000 animals over a lifetime. An acre of farmland supplies nonmeat sustinence needs, although the acreage needs to be moved/ crops varied so the land doesn’t get exhausted and create another dust bowl situation. Average human is said to consume some 14,600 gallons of water. A human life is measurable in quantified resources.

It is selfish for a person in a first world country with the capability of limiting their family size to opt for a larger family and deprive those in need of valuable resources that have been globally diverted to the prioritized first world countries.

Was frustrated by the article, but it was liked by an acquaintance on her friends page, and didn’t wanna start a pointless argument. Made the mistake of reading the comments.

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Never read the comments.

Fuckers.

How dare I dedicate all our family resources to the care and upbringing of one child, instead of splitting limited resources between four to six kids? Right? Fuck me for wanting to provide the best possible life for my kid.