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[LJ Idol 10: Week16] 13

One of the strange things that can happen when you go from aggressively not-caring-at-all-ever about sports to falling in love with a sport and a team is that, if you're like me, "your team" turns out to involve a lot more people than just whoever happens to be on the main roster this year.  There are trades, and free agency signings, which can mean that your favorite player on your favorite team goes...somewhere else.  Maybe to a team you don't really like that much.  (Alex is still sad about Matt Martin leaving the Islanders for the Maple Leafs.). Or maybe a team you never really thought much about starts picking up a lot of players you kind of like, and you get interested despite yourself.  Or you watch a game that your favorite team is playing, and someone on the other team just really impresses you.  Or someone does something really awesome off the ice.

Or the madness spreads beyond the major league.  Hockey has a draft, and prospects (late teens/early 20s players who are playing in college or minor or junior leagues, or in Europe, and whose rights to play at the NHL level are "owned" by a specific team).  And following prospects means following those teams and those leagues.  Which is how I started cheering for a major junior (semi-professional, too "pro" for NCAA scholarship purposes, 16-20 year olds) team on the other side of the USA from me.

See, back in the 2015 off-season, the New York Islanders (my NHL team of choice) weren't supposed to do much at the draft until a pick somewhere in the 70s as the result of past trade deals, and one of the fan blogs started trying to guess which players might still be available to draft at that point.  One of the posted guesses was Keegan Kolesar, who seemed to be the kind of player I often like to watch (or one of the three kinds - I tend to like small speedy forwards who "play bigger than they are" as well as large physical forwards who don't shy from body-checking and the occasional fight, and then goalies just in general).  Kolesar was the big physical guy to the smaller, faster, higher-skill-level Mathew Barzal, on a team called the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Well, the Islanders didn't draft Kolesar.  Instead, there was trade magic at the draft and suddenly they had Barzal instead.

One of the rules set by the NHL is that 18 and 19 year old players who have been drafted from a major junior team is that they either have to play in the NHL or go back to their junior team - the lower full-pro leagues are not an option (except in very unusual circumstances that don't apply here).  Players of that age can play in up to nine NHL games before their first year professional contract is fully activated - so sometimes people will call this the "nine game trial period."

Barzal didn't get the nine game trial in 2015 - he was sent back to Seattle the day the regular season started.  And I sort of kept an eye on him and on Kolesar and Gropp, his usual linemates and future division rivals.  And as their playoffs went on, the Seattle Thunderbirds Twitter account would post a stylized number on a puck with every win, counting the progress towards the 16 wins for their league championship.

The last number they posted last year was 13, meaning they won three best-of-seven rounds (the first two in a sweep, if I remember right) and then lost the final round 4 games to 1.

This year, Barzal made the opening night roster and I thought he was going to get the nine games.  Unfortunately, he had a really bad night his first game (though he did manage to laugh it off) and ended up going back after two.  But he's continued to keep going, and to lead Seattle back to their playoffs.

The last number I've seen posted on their Twitter is 10.  I hope that their Captain, #13, can lead them past 13 this year, even all the way to 16.
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 15] Patchwork Skin

[Warnings]
Warnings: self-harm mentioned, various accidental injuries, some rather serious


Katie will regret this later, screaming "FUCK!" at the top of her lungs in front of a cabin of eight year old kids she's supposed to be in charge of.  Especially because some of the kids are clearly more shocked that "Miss Katie said the F word!" than they are that...fingers aren't supposed to bend that way.

"Miss Katie needs to go to the hospital," she manages through gritted teeth.  "As soon as someone else can take over to watch you guys."

"You mean us GIRLS!" Olivia, the smallest and yet loudest of the campers, yelled.

"Yes.  I mean you girls."

Somehow, she doesn't actually break down crying.  Somehow, she doesn't swear again, especially not at them.

It's broken.  She couldn't be as careful as she told them to be - she caught her toe on a tree root, was about to fall on her face and used her hand to break her fall, and.  Well.

She hopes that once the emergency room splints it, they'll let her come back and stay with the kids.  She doesn't want to lose something else important that way.

--

Trailing up that arm, there are other scars.  One that looks like the sort you'd get from having slit your wrists but that no, really, was actually from one of the mostly-feral cats back "home" at her parents' place that Katie thinks of as her cats.  She'd taken her chances a little too soon actually trying to pet Callie, and Callie didn't like it and let her know it.  She was nine when that happened.

People accepted that story when she was nine.  Not so much when she was sixteen.

She doesn't cut.  Never did.  She's done a lot of things but that's never been one of them.

--

There's the weird network of diagonal scars that she doesn't talk about.  That she kept sealed for years like they sealed her "record" as a juvenile delinquent.

She wanted to talk.  Wanted to scream as she asked them why she would have done that to herself if her objective had actually been to cause serious harm to her opponent.  Sure, a few discolored patches of skin were nothing compared to a lasting brain injury and she never would have claimed otherwise.  But the first and only time she had tried to offer the marks on her skin as a defense, that had been the response.  She never tried again.

She can't help seeing them, when she's training in the off-season, when she's getting ready for a game back at U Conn.  She uses them to remind herself to be careful out there, to be mindful.

Maybe if it had been a warmer day at camp, if she hadn't been wearing the windbreaker that covered her arms, she might have seen her own scars and been more careful.

--

She doesn't say anything about that to Melissa, when they talk as one of the camp kitchen staff drives her to the emergency room.  She tries to laugh about adding another scar to the crazy-quilt mess that is her arm, wonders if she should get a tattoo, asks Melissa what it should be.

"Coach doesn't want tattoos on the team, though, not ones you can see in uniform," Melissa reminds her.

She sighs.  "I just - my arm is such a mess.  And now it's going to be worse.  Maybe I should put the patchwork girl from Oz there, that's what I feel like with all this mess."

Melissa says something sweet about how if Katie's arm is patchwork, it's a warm quilt that Melissa would rather be under right now.

Katie misses her so much.  So much.  They're both counting the weeks until school starts again.
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 14 Runoff] Friendship Tastes Like...

...my Ritz crackers traded for your potato chips at lunch, that sugary cereal my parents won't buy when I go to your house after school, my dad's waffles with REAL maple syrup for the morning-after-sleepover breakfast, corner-store lime popsicles melting in the July sun.

...McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries after the game, half of your peanut butter sandwich when bullies took my lunch money, the burn of liquor stolen from parents (just to try out of curiosity) cooled by the soothing sweetness of vanilla ice cream, falafel from a roadside stand the first time we went to the city by ourselves.

...overcooked dining-hall pasta and half-melted soft serve frozen yogurt, sunflower seeds still in the shell so they'll be eaten slower, salad topped with salt instead of dressing, skim milk by the quart because calcium is good for bones so maybe the broken ones will heal faster.

...Killian's Red in a red solo cup, egg drop soup and lo mein and fortune cookies that must be read with "...in bed" added to the end, animal crackers dipped in cheap red wine as a makeshift sacrament, morning-after $1.99 two-egg specials at the diner, 3 A.M. paper-due-tomorrow coffee with a hot chocolate packet added to take the bitterness away.

...fish and roasted potatoes because game night is Friday during both Lent and Passover, Bully Hill Sweet Walter White wine, 39-cent cheeseburgers on Wednesday nights, cinnamon hearts for 90% off two weeks after Valentine's Day, stir-fry that can always be stretched to feed one more.

...cake: wedding cake, baby shower cake, 30th birthday cake, congratulations-on-your-new-job cake.

...casseroles and roasted chickens delivered to your home when things are tough, sushi and Dinosaur BBQ and lamb vindaloo when times are good.

...apples we picked together, home-canned spaghetti sauce from your garden, cupcakes I make carefully to avoid the list of foods your son is allergic to, a single hard cider where once there might have been refill after refill of beer from the keg.
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 14] Fire Safety Tips from the First Aid Tent

Years ago, so many years ago that it seems half a lifetime (and indeed, is approaching that point), I was a regular attendee of the Pennsic War, a two-week camping event sponsored by the Society for Creative Anachronism (a living history organiation focused on the European Middle Ages and Renaissance) and attended by members of the SCA, friends of members of the SCA, and some quasi-related groups that were more into re-creating fantasy worlds than anything plausibly from "pre-1600 Europe and contact cultures."

I spent a lot of time at a lot of campfires.  Big, pretty, campfires.  And I heard some amazing stories.

I also spent a lot of time working in the first aid tent, and on security patrol, because when you have ten thousand people on a campground with every kind of camping experience and none, with varying degrees of self-preservation instinct (and varying degrees of sobriety!) well...stuff happens.

The stories I have are of things that happened, or almost happened, when I was volunteering as part of the event staff.  Kids (of whatever age), do NOT try these at home, or at your own camp sites, wherever they may be.

There are people who play with fire at these events - most of them take it seriously and do it safely.  There are also people who...are not so cautious.

First and foremost, there is the matter of throwing things into the fire.  Unless you're certain of how the thing you're throwing in is going to react to being thrown into a fire, DON'T.  I had a friend show up to the first aid tent with singed eyebrows (and he's damned lucky it wasn't worse) because someone in his camp decided it would be a good idea to throw spent cans of propane from camp stoves into a campfire.  NO.  BAD IDEA.

Also a bad idea: using Bacardi 151 or Everclear as lighter fluid to start your campfire, then giving some to your buddy and telling him that he drank "lighter fluid", so that he panics and the EMTs almost have to get involved.  This is not a funny prank.  DO NOT DO THE THING.

Being careful with garb, especially long skirts or flowing pants, or big flowing sleeves, is also super-important.  This is also, in addition to authenticity, one of the reasons that a lot of people encourage avoiding synthetic fabric when possible - apparently some people hae had issues with it melting on people too close to campfires?  YIKES.

Also, this isn't a campfire thing per se but it's from the same desire to create atmosphere as campfires.  Tiki torches.  Watch where you place them.  In particular, if there are outhouses nearby, make sure the Tiki torch is not capable of tipping over ONTO the outhouse.  I was doing a security patrol and caught a scary near-miss with that.  Candles and other fire-based providers of atmosphere, too.  Make sure you know where they are and what they are near.  Winds can change quickly, there are a lot of trees and there's a lot of dry grass and a lot of tent fabric that is varying degress of fire-resistant (or not).  All scary things to think about, though fortunately I caught candles placed unsafely before they could do damage.

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[LJ Idol 10: Week 13] Instant Dance Mom, just add...bling?

I never meant to become one of THOSE mothers.  I feel like I've entered a world for which I was never very well-prepared.

In my own childhood, I took dance lessons when I was three and quickly abandoned them a year later.  John and I did a lot of SCA dance, but that's different.  Very different from the ballet-tap-jazz-hiphop-contemporary-etc. sort of thing.

Alex took dance classes at a similar age, at a place that made a point of being non-competitive and non-recital-oriented.  She had fun.  The adults involved had a falling-out for reasons that had nothing to do with her.  Dance wasn't our thing for a long time until Tori decided she wanted to be a ballerina when she was about five.

Alex wasn't interested in ballet but hip-hop seemed appealing, so they were both dancing again.

And then one thing led to another, to another...

Now they both have dance classes four days a week, and private lessons every other week on top of that.  And they are on a competitive team, which means that right now my living room looks more like a green room despite its very red walls.

They are doing their first solos this year.  Alex just covered a "vintage" (from her grandparents) suitcase with reproduction stickers from far away.

I have to make glittery lollipop props for Tori, and "rhinestone" a costume.  My dining room table looks like a combination kindergarten art class and craft store.

I'm a fat lady with a bad leg.  How the hell am I a dance mom?  This is so weird.  This is so not like anything I ever expected to do.  And sometimes I am self conscious and sure I am hopelessly bad at this, but there are some other fat ladies with bad legs doing this, too, with me.

But watching them onstage is worth it.  Alex, who wasn't interested in ballet, has re-adopted it.  Tori likes tap - "it's noisy and fun!" - and they both like jazz and acro-tumbling.

The whole team - 45 or so girls ranging in age from seven to seventeen - are going to Hartford this weekend.  It should be fun.

Meanwhile, my dining room table needs fewer rhinestones and more food on it.
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 12] Last Summer

Melissa's gotten used to the ocean.  That might be the best way to say it.  The shore of Lake Michigan just isn't the same.

She's "home" for the summer, back in Dearborn, running a soccer camp for four and five year olds in the morning, then putting in in long cashier shifts in the evening.  It should feel comfortable, and familiar, but it doesn't.  Not now.

She goes to work at Kroger with her Price Chopper savings tag on her key ring.  She's not sure if the older cashiers, the ones who come to work after their husbands get home to watch the kids, are really thinking the things she worries they think about her, if they're looking at that tag and at her U Conn tote bag and laughing to themselves about how that college girl doesn't belong here anymore.  Or, worse, if they're thinking something like, "Sure, she's gone off to the east coast for now, but she's not one of them.  She's one of us, and she'll be back here soon enough, she only thinks she's better than us."

Melissa doesn't think she's better than them.  Not really.  Better at soccer, which is how she ended up with a full scholarship several states away instead of staying home with her parents and juggling Kroger and community college until she either got married or didn't.

Even when she left, she didn't think that she'd stay gone.  That's part of why she'd agreed to come back home every summer and run soccer camp for the little kids.  It's been a universal language through the demographic shift - whether your family's from Ireland or Iran, you still know about running and kicking the ball.  And she thought, those first two summers, that in the end she'd have her teaching degree and she'd come back to Dearborn or somewhere else near Detroit and have an elementary school class to call her own.  That she'd fit in where she came from.

But then there was Katie.  Katie, working by her side, playing by her side, living by her side, and falling in love with her.  Katie, who would take the blame from Melissa's family for "making her different" if they knew.  Not that there was anything different.  Just - when you're working and practicing and studying and your parents are keeping a close eye on you to make sure you don't get in trouble, not-dating girls doesn't look that different from not-dating boys.  And when you do get around to getting a boyfriend but then break up because there's just no time and besides you're going to college halfway across the country from each other, it's not about not liking boys. Melissa likes boys just fine, but now she loves Katie and she wants to stay with Katie and she misses Katie all the time.

This is going to be the last summer.  Next year is her senior year.  Next summer is the summer that Melissa's going to have to make it obvious that she isn't coming "home" again.

Next summer, she'll have Katie, and the ocean, not just a sweatshirt hidden under her pillows that still smells a little like both.

Next summer, saltwater that isn't sweat and tears.
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 11] If you can play...

It didn't take much longer for people to figure out what the blue stood for.  The reaction ranged from panic to hysterical denial to dancing in the streets. -Bruce Coville, "Am I Blue?"

The evening of Blueday was an interesting time to be a sports reporter.  It wasn't just in the newsrooms themselves, where most people looked the way they usually did, but some people had a decidedly odd tint to their skin, others looked like they'd broken out in blue poison ivy, and still others appeared to be extras from the set of Avatar.  That wasn't too big of a deal at the Washington Post, but who could say for sure what other papers were like?

There were the usual suspects - Brian Boitano, Greg Louganis, Michael Sam, Charline Labonte - all interested in being a good example, in trying to keep the story from being about them any more than it had to be, in offering their unconditional support to LGBTQ athletes, wherever they might be and whatever sport they might be playing.

There were lists of injured players and rumors of "injured" players being blue instead of bruised.  There were wild stories about players in bars, about people looking through the window at this quarterback or that second baseman and seeing...something different about them.  There were whispers about athletes from other countries, how less-accepting places might handle it, because the blue vision may have only affected the United States (and maybe Canada) but it didn't discriminate based on where people were from.  This wasn't for the sports newsrooms exactly, but rumor had it that certain members of the Moscow Ballet, for example, were now afraid to return home.  And yet, the show must go on.

It wasn't surprising to hear about the Caps being supportive.  But they weren't alone, and how they did it was interesting.  All of the NHL teams in the Metropolitan Division, every team in the WNBA, and a handful of men's basketball teams decided to get ahead of the story: they held normal practices with normal media availability, but every player was covered in blue makeup on every bit of exposed skin.  Their coaches and team captains made it clear that some of their guys might be blue, some might not, but it was none of anyone's business who was who unless the individuals in question chose to make it everyone's business.

The sports beat might have been a strange one that day, but none of them envied the reporters covering Capitol Hill.  
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 10] The Goal

Many years ago in Rochester, the pastor of the UU church I belonged to gave a series of sermons on "Lessons Learned from Mountain Climbing."

I'll be honest - I don't remember most of that series.  But there is one that I've never forgotten, one statement that changed my outlook in the long term:

The goal is not the peak - it is the parking lot.

That one spoke to me, especially as I've coped with limitations on my physical mobility.  If I'm going somewhere, especially somewhere that involves a lot of walking or climbing stairs or both, I have to remember that I don't need to just get to the place and do the thing, I need to be able to get myself safely home afterwards.  I need to plan when and where I will be able to sit and rest before I hurt something with overuse, and I need to be able to distinguish "just a little sore, need a little rest" from "this is going to hurt even worse later on if I don't stop."

It's better than it used to be, but it got worse before it got better.  A little bit over a year ago, I fell down my porch steps, and walking and sitting both hurt a lot.  I called my doctor and told her that I had hurt my hip, and after a medical exam she said that the injury was actually to my spine, not my hip.  She sent me to physical therapy, and twice a week for the next six weeks I had a heat/electric treatment on my lower back, followed by working my way through a series of exercises meant to help me regain function.  Then there was the final test of each session, a stint on the treadmill.  She told me to go as slow as I needed to and to stop when it started hurting.

I think the first time I lasted about six minutes at something like 1.5 miles per hour.  By the last week, I was actually capable of walking the treadmill on the easiest setting for 20 minutes at 3.0 miles per hour - something I hadn't been able to do in years.  After discharge from physical therapy, I discovered an ultra-slowed-down version of a Couch to 5K that was really a Couch to Mini-Triathlon, incorporating bicycling and swimming.

Swimming has always been my exercise of choice, and I can do even the more-advanced versions of the swim workouts without too much difficulty.  The bicycling part is mostly okay.  And I've gotten to the point where I can walk 30 minutes on a treadmill at about a 3.3 MPH pace, although I'm still struggling with adding running into the mix - I got to a 6 minutes running/24 minutes walking point and then had to put it aside for a while because of a nasty "everyone in the house is sick" episode that has taken longer to shake off than I'd like.  And yet, I think that with time and effort, I'll figure it out.  I wouldn't have thought this was possible before the fall and before physical therapy - I'd adjusted to the realitiy of a leg that just doesn't work right - but I've managed to get it closer to right than it's been in the last 15 years or so, and that's something I can build on.

There may yet be a 5K or even a sprint triathlon in my future.  And even if there isn't, I'm glad that my parking garage assignment being about three tenths of a mile from my office doesn't seem as overwhelming as it used to at this time last year, that an evening at a hockey game doesn't leave me in fear of the stairs, that I can stand for a whole hour with my kids at a fundraiser for their dance team without being a useless sobbing wreck afterwards.  I'm grateful that I can climb higher peaks in my life and still make it to the parking lot.
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 9 Runoff] And the Damage Done

[Content Warning]
Content Warning: Car accident, life-threatening injuries to non-major characters, sports-related concussions, police mentioned


I.

Melissa was fine.  Physically.

Mentally?  Well, it was going to be hard to get past the part where she wrecked her new car on the way home from a seminar on Work-Life Balance for New Teachers.

That, and the other driver was not fine.  Physically.  Melissa didn't know the particulars, but she knew it was bad.

The police had been reassuring.  It wasn't her fault, they told her, just one of those freak things - a truck lost its cargo in front of her, she swerved to avoid what was in the road and didn't see the car coming the other way because it was dark and that car had a burnt-out headlight.

She couldn't help blaming herself, though.  Doubting herself.  She'd put herself through school on a fucking athletic scholarship, shouldn't that mean better reflexes than this?

When Katie finally made it out to Hartford, to get Melissa and bring her home, she was all sympathy at first.  "Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, how awful for you."  She held onto Melissa, let Melissa cry and shake and breathe her way through it.

Until Melissa said something about what she was thinking, about how her reflexes should have been better, how she should have been able to avoid wrecking the car.

Katie pulled back from her.  "No.  You don't get to do this, Melissa.  You don't."

II.

It wasn't very often that UConn took community college transfer students on NCAA scholarships.  But they took Katie, and the first practice Katie joined the team for, Melissa felt like a better soccer player right away.

When they ended up in the same biology class, Melissa felt like a better student.

Katie was the kind of friend that Melissa's parents had always said she'd make playing sports, but that she never had until this year.  Melissa always liked her teammates - middle school, high school, soccer, softball, whatever - but somehow, Katie's arrival had made them a capital-T Team.

Katie was usually the happiest person in the locker room, and on the bus, except for one day when she'd scored the game-winner and someone on the bus had yelled "Way to go, Killer Katie!"  Her face darkened, and her voice was quiet and cold when she said, "Please don't ever call me that again."

Their winning streak was interrupted when Angela had a bad collision with one of Albany's players, and Katie insisted that Angela not try to shake it off, and even told the coach that if Angela went back in, she wouldn't, because that looked like a concussion and the game wasn't worth that.

Coach looked ready to argue back, then - something she saw in Katie's face stopped her.

Angela missed the next three weeks.  Katie was right, it was a concussion, and Melissa was even more grateful that Katie had come to their team, because if Katie hadn't realized what was going on...well, you hear things, and that would've been horrible for Angela.

III.

"QUARTERFINALS! WE DID IT!"

And it was Katie's pass to Melissa that got them the game-winning goal, that got them in.

Through the bus ride back, and the after-party at Angela's, Katie barely left Melissa's side.

It was three in the morning when the party broke up, when they headed back to their dorm.

Three-fifteen when Katie kissed Melissa the first time, just outside Melissa's room.

Melissa had never done this before, not with girls.  She'd thought about it, she'd read about it, but...

The stories about how incredibly impossibly soft a girl's kiss is when you're used to kissing boys?  Lies, all lies.

Kissing Katie was like staring right into the sun - blinding brilliance, overwhelming heat leaving Melissa's legs feeling like they were about to melt underneath her, drag her to the floor.

Melissa moved back, just enough.  "Katie?  I'm not trying to rush things but if we do that again I don't think I can stand up...."

Katie smiled shyly.  "It's...it's been a night, and we should probably talk about this before...whatever.  Try to sleep, Lissie?"

Melissa did, somehow, until the next morning a knock on her door turned out to be Katie wanting to get breakfast.

And talk.  About last night, but not just about last night.

"You should know, if we're going to do this.  You should know I'm damaged goods."

IV.

The Litchfield County newspapers used to love her.

Katie Kowalski, local talent, possible future Olympic soccer star.  (Really?)

She was thirteen, and elite private high schools wanted her on their varsity team her freshman year, but her parents said no.

She was fourteen, and NCAA scouts were coming to her small-town public school to check her out, and her teammates and even her opponents hoped the scouts might notice them too.

She was fifteen, and holding an old-fashioned fountain pen, smiling as she signed her commitment letter to Yale.

Then she was sixteen, and she wasn't Katie Kowalski anymore.  She was "a player on the Salisbury High lacrosse team."

Not even soccer, lacrosse, her secondary sport.  That was where it all went wrong.  Where she made a play that was a little too aggressive, and a girl whose name she didn't even know fell down a little too hard, and left the field with lasting brain damage.

The papers wanted to make something up about the game providing cover for a vicious fight over a boy.  Sells more papers and scares fewer people than admitting that the other girl was playing hurt, had a concussion from earlier in the season, shouldn't have been playing in the first place.

...Katie never even liked boys, that way.

She went to juvie, got sent away.  "Private school" except it was for "troubled" kids, and neither the soccer nor the academics were good enough for Yale to keep its offer open.  But she was good enough for Housatonic Community College, and after two years, she was good enough for UConn.

V.

"You don't get to do this, Melissa.  You don't get to blame yourself."

Katie brushes Melissa's tears away.

"You never let me blame myself.  Not once."
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[LJ Idol 10: Week 9] Do I support this?

One of the most frustrating things for me to watch as our most recent major political campaigns unfolded, and something that has frustrated me before, is the continual accusation that being unable to stop a particular bad thing from happening means that the candidate somehow etiher wanted that thing to happen, or at the very least didn't care too much whether it happened or not.

I think about this, in particular, when looking at the upset a lot of people feel (and I do understand - it's upsetting) that President Obama had failed at his stated objective of closing Guantanamo Bay, but it's been relevant in other contexts as well.

In one of my previous jobs, as I've talked about here before, I was involved in setting per diem rates for foster care placements, group homes, and school-based institutions.  I also had some related responsibilities involving adoption agencies and domestic violence shelters.

In a perfect world, none of these things would need to exist. That's just the start.  The fact that anyone at all ends up using any of these services means that something has gone wrong somewhere.  So, in some ways, I was spending my entire workday wishing that my job didn't need to exist, that the programs I supported didn't need to exist - even as I was trying to help agencies develop new programs.

Now, one of the reasons that agencies were developing new programs was in response to a law that aimed to reduce the number of children with disabilities considered "severe" being placed in residential schools out of state.  And a lot of the reason behind the law was That Place.  (I will not mention That Place by name because of search engines, but if you have any involvement in any kind of disability activism, you most likely know exactly what That Place is and why this is a problem.  If you don't know, I'll sum up by saying that it is so notorious for the abuse of the youth in its care that Amnesty International has been involved in trying to shut it the hell down.)

So I was working on new program development, in part to get kids out of That Place.  But meanwhile, we still had kids from New York in residence at That Place, and That Place was still entitled to collect its per diem for those kids, and it was my department that was setting and authorizing that per diem.

Does that mean I supported sending kids to That Place?

Technically, yes, I suppose it does.  It was my department (where I was a member of the professional staff, although not one with a supervisory role) that continued to make possible the mechanism for the state and local governments to pay That Place to take kids from our state.  I could have been so adamant in my refusal to support That Place that I could have quit my job over it.

Mind you, that would not have gotten the kids out of there, me quitting.  I couldn't just drive there and take them home, and their parents may have been unwilling or even legally unable to accept their return, and part of the reason that kids were ending up at That Place is that other service providers were refusing to accept them for one reason or another.  Besides, given that I was actively working on programming meant to prevent kids getting sent to That Place in the future, it would've probably been worse in terms of kids going there if I had left.

But leaving would have meant that I could say "I never supported this and as soon as I found out it was happening I left!"

I didn't leave.  And were I to run for political office, I'm sure that could be used against me.

So could my "trying to shut down" a domestic violence shelter and a historically black family services agency.

By "trying to shut down" I mean "refusing to sign off on a fiscal viability determination because their audited financial statements express significant doubt as to their ability to continue operations."  And in both of those cases, extra meetings with the agencies in question to work out a plan that would mean we gave them conditional permission to continue operating contingent on their fixing their financial problems.  So actually not shutting down, going above and beyond in order to try to keep them functioning.

But, you know.  Sound bites, am I right?  Nuance and understanding of policy doesn't make good media.