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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.

[LJ Idol 10: Week 15] Patchwork Skin

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.
...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.


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.


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.

[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.

[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.  

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


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."


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.



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."


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.


"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."

[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.
I have multiple places where I am an online presence, sometimes under different names and for different purposes.

This one rule applies to all of them.  Perhaps it's less relevant on LiveJournal, where "sharing" or "reposting" or "reblogging" or "retweeting" isn't really a thing we do so much.  It's definitely relevant to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, though, and I spend a good bit of time in all of those places.

I do not reblog on demand.


No, not even for you.

No, not even for that cause.

"Can I just ask everyone to do me this one favor...?"

No.  No, you can't.

"I can't believe this doesn't have more notes!"

Believe it, because you're not getting one from me.

"Come on, all you [privileged in a relevant way] people who say you're on the side of [marginalized in a relevant way] people!"


"I never do this, really, but this one time it's just SO important..."

I don't care if you're literally my best friend and you literally believe this is life-saving.  NOPE.  Not even once.

See, here's the thing.  If I break this rule, ever, even once, then any time I happen to scroll by something or just not see something because guess what, I'm actually not on line all the time...?  Then I'm the bad guy who cares more about the thing I happened to see and repost than the thing I didn't happen to see, even if the opposite is actually true.

The other thing is that this is just a shitty, shitty guilt trip to put on people.  "Don't you CARE?!  Well, PROVE IT!"

No.  If you know me, you have some idea of what it is that I care about.

If you want to get to know me, this is not the way to do it.

[LJ Idol 10: Week 7] Fatherland

Come home, daughter.

The city that whispers its claim was never my home.  Or perhaps I should say, it hasn't been my home yet.

I find excuses, make excuses, to come back - if not to the city itself, to something somewhere close by.  I've been doing it for years.

Maybe it started when my husband was devoting his Saturdays to finishing a bachelor's degree, and I needed something to do with two energetic small children who would nonetheless reliably sleep in cars.  And I got tired of heading west, to where I'd been, to the city I'd loved and lost as its job market crumbled and rusted away.

There was life there, but not my life.  And like a pioneer in reverse, instead of heading west, I headed east.  The job was good, my one salary paying twice what both adults in this household had earned before the move.  The schools we found were good, too, though what we planned to do and what we ended up doing were very different.  There's a small single-family house, I can call myself a homeowner with bitter laughter because it feels like the bank owns far more of this run-down fixer-upper than I ever will.  There is a church I belong to, and a good school and a dance team for the kids, and a YMCA where I can swim and do the other exercises that feel more like physical therapy than real exercise.  My job comes with good medical insurance, and we have the full complement of professionals that can attend to our health.

And yet -

It's been ten and a half years, and I still don't feel like I've put roots down here.  For perhaps four of those years, I was looking backwards, assuming that either I'd go back to the city where I started my adult life once I could earn professional wages there, or I'd move further west still, reconnecting with my mother and my grandmother and all that side of the family.

Then the winds shifted.  I drove southeast instead of west, taking advantage of the reciprocal provision of our children's museum membership to do something different.

The kids had fun.  I had fun.  On a day we all had off, I brought my husband along, and he had fun.

We drove a little further and had plates of meatballs at IKEA.

I kept finding reasons to come back.  The museum.  The zoo.  The hockey games.

I remembered being a little girl walking through a complex of brick townhouses, the one my father grew up in, visiting Grandma Agnes, who taught me how to crochet, a skill I am now passing to my own girls.

I have the trappings of a life here, the walls of a house, the security of a job in a field that I enjoy.

But I am growing, stretching toward that sunrise, letting the city tug on the sleeve of the jersey I wear and pull me along.

Come home, my child.

I can't.  Not yet.  But someday I will.
The cliche has it that anyone who is not a liberal at age 20 has no heart, while anyone who is not a conservative at age 40 has no head.

If "liberal" is replaced with "radical" and "conservative" with "moderate" I can say, at the age of 39, that perhaps the saying is on to something.

I respect and dearly love my younger, more radical friends (for it is absolutely true that the two often go hand-in-hand) and yet I often find myself at odds with them.  So perhaps it would be worthwhile to take a few moments to explain some of the reasons why I tend towards supporting the smaller, more moderate, less sweeping changes, and to compromise, and to continuing to seek common ground and work with people who disagree with me:

1) The small change that actually happens can help more people faster than the big change that doesn't.

I first learned this lesson, and took my first real steps away from radical left politics to more moderate, compromise-oriented politics when I was 26, after one of my closest friends died unexpectedly.

Before that, I was full-tilt "GAY MARRIAGE NOW - anything else is separate-and-unequal selling out, how dare you?!"

Then, we lost Cilla, suddenly and without warning.  Cilla lived with her two daughters and with her life partner, Mary, in a northern exurb of Pittsburgh.  Mary had no legally recognized ties to Cilla at all, and thus no right to so much as make funeral arrangements until Cilla's long-estranged mother in California was found and gave consent.  This was the first time I had really witnessed the effects of lacking legal family ties, and it changed my mind immediately.  A civil union or domestic partnership would not have been as good as marriage - but it would have made Mary's nightmare a lot less nightmare-ish.

Did we need people continuing to agitate for full marriage equality, as well as for LGBTQ civil rights that had nothing to do with marriage?  HELL YES.

Does that mean that if the "compromise" measure had been available, it should not have been taken because not good enough? NO.  IT DOES NOT.

2) Refusing to support anyone who doesn't pass your ideological purity test, ever, under any circumstances, means there are real people in need who can't get help at all.

...also known as "fine, where are the Neopagan nursing homes?"

When I was in my 20s, it seemed like there was an ever-growing list of charitable causes that good progressives shouldn't support or go anywhere near.  It would start with a handful of obvious targets (Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, the usual suspects) and then extend out to "you shouldn't support any group that's worked with a group that's worked with the Bad Guys."


I can give a more specific example that is close to my heart.  Yes, there's plenty of stuff that Catholic Charities does that I disagree with (hoo boy, is there).  But when I was at SALT, I did a lot of work with Catholic Charities (and my clinical supervisor worked directly for them) because that was the agency that was actually fucking present in the local area helping people who had lost their homes to Hurricane Irene get government help.  SALT itself, in the beginning, was essentially a coalition between the disaster response part of the local Catholic Charities and several mainline-to-conservative Protestant churches with congregations in the area of the disaster, with a spike of Americorps NCCC youth thrown in.

Never mind that part of the conditions of being involved in the disaster relief included that nobody was to proselytize or try to recruit for their church or denomination, and that help was to be made equally available to all in need of any faith or none.  In the eyes of some more radical progressives, my presence there was tantamount to being pro-fundamentalist and anti-LGBT.

(And of course, conveniently, the fact that so much work was being done by "tainted" organizations excused the people who are the target of this rant from doing anything in the way of offering help themselves.  This still makes me angry when I think about it.)

3) The "Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!" scenario - when an activist solution is simple, neat, and wrong.

Fight-for-$15ers, I'm talking about you here:

Simply raising the minimum wage to $15, right away, would help a lot of young, single people.

It would be an economic disaster for many families, especially single-parent families.  I know this from a set of projections I needed to complete to submit to the governor's office as part of my job.  To make a long spreadsheet into a short paragraph:

A $15 minimum wage would cause many single-parent families that currently have subsidized child care to lose it, while not increasing take-home pay significantly enough to make families whole after that loss.  There are other government benefits (low-cost health insurance, housing and utility assistance programs, even food stamps/SNAP) that might similarly be cut without enough of an increase in take-home pay to balance the effect out.  Essentially, from the calculations we did where I work, we found that raising the minimum wage to $12 would cause this type of problem far less often, but once the wage went beyond $12/hour it would take a minimum wage of $21/hour to make up for the loss of subsidized child care and the other assistance that they would lose at the $15/hour point.

4) [for parents] Young children CANNOT give informed consent, or even assent, to radical activism, or to the effects their parents' participation in it will have on them.

Yes, I know to some people the answer to this is "don't have kids, then!"  Fine, whatever, you do you.  I have kids.  A lot of us have kids by the time we're 40.

I have activist friends who make it a goal to get arrested at protest actions.  I can't do that.  I do not believe it is ethical, through my own voluntary actions, to put my kids in a position where I might lose custody of them, or where I might lose my job and thus impair not only my standard of living (by which I mean "ability to pay my bills and do the things I do in every day life") but also theirs.  I do not believe it is ethical to put my kids in a position where my activism, or their (unconsenting becasue of inability to give informed consent) participation, damages their relationships with peers, with the parents of their peers, or with teachers and other significant adults in their lives.  And I have, more than once, had to make some difficult choices between what I would believe is right in an ideal world and what was actually physically safe for my children - and I had to choose their safety, because they were too young to consent to being put in harms' way, and to make the "idealistic" choice would have been to neglect my duties as a parent.  (Yes, I realize my considerable social privilege gave me the options I had when these situations came up.  That doesn't mean it would have been morally acceptable to me to fail to use them to get my children out of harm's way to the best extent I am able.)

I can, and do, continue to take actions that do not carry these risks.  But putting myself in physical or legal danger is no longer an option, for the sake of my kids.

5) A good deal of progressive activism is incredibly ableist, and older people are more likely to have a significant disability than younger people.

There was one person I entirely stopped speaking to over the presidential race, and he is considerably to the left of me politically.  One of the reasons I stopped speaking to him was his dismissal of people with disabilities as a "fringe special interest group."  Never mind that by the usual census definition (substantial limitation of a major life activity) something like one person in five has a disability, and that "the disabled" is the one disprivileged minority group that any person could suddenly end up in at any time.

If your activism consists of telling people that "anyone can do" any single specific activity as a way of shaming them into taking that specific action, your activism is ableist.  Because no, not everyone can.  I don't care what the activity is - there will be someone who is physically, mentally, and/or developmentally unable to do it.

6) All too often, older "radical" progressive activists can be predators, and they can AND DO put the safety of younger progressives at risk.

This is a hard warning to give, and I wish I didn't have to, but it's a thing I've seen over and over again.

Sometimes, it's the same old sexually predatory garbage that exists everywhere, but with more willingness than usual to ignore it because the perp is such a good person, is on our side and are you sure this isn't a misunderstanding, sweetie?  Sometimes this enabling of sexual predators to operate in radical-left circles takes the form of telling victims of sexual assault and domestic violence that they are [insert your term of choice for Bad, Unworthy People here] if they call the police to report the rape or to enforce the restraining order.

Sometimes, what's being asked for is labor, physical or emotional or both, unpaid or underpaid.  It's the nonprofit job that expects you to put in "volunteer" hours outside of your paid working hours, or that enforces out-of-work social gatherings via peer and supervisory pressure, or that contacts you at all hours when you're supposed to be off the clock to "just answer this one quick question", or that says you shouldn't care about the low pay because it's all for SUCH A GOOD CAUSE, or that hires unpaid interns to do all of the clerical work because that way their overhead numbers look better.

None of this is okay.  I thought that part of the progressive platform was supposed to be about fair wages, but apparently that goes out the window an awful lot when the job itself is "for a good cause."
I wasn’t much of a sports fan during or just after college.  In fact, I had cultivated the geeky bookworm's well-practiced disdain for any and all team sports, though I would watch figure skating in the winter and follow swimming and track and field events (and sometimes gymnastics) during Summer Olympics years.  The most I could muster was token enthusiasm for Syracuse college basketball and “watching the Super Bowl for the ads.”

I think that started to change when, for the first time, I brought a significant other to a family Christmas celebration. ravenshrinkery, after meeting my Grandma Josie, quickly discovered she was a Buffalo Sabres fan – and they sat down in the living room and talked hockey.  The simple fact that this young man I had brought home was willing to sit down with a little old lady and extensively talk about sports with her, and listen to what she had to say about them, led to her immediate and enthusiastic approval of our engagement.

At the time, we lived in Rochester, within slightly long walking distance or an easy bus ride of the Blue Cross Arena, home to the Sabres’ primary minor league affiliate, the AHL Rochester Americans.  And the hockey season after we got married, there was a contract dispute between the NHL and its players, leading to a season-long lockout.  This meant that a lot of good players who normally would be in the NHL were back in the AHL, and tickets were cheap and it was something fun to do.  The rivalry games with the Syracuse Crunch were particularly fun to watch – always intense and physical, sometimes erupting into fights or into memorable moments of poor sportsmanship.  (We mocked that guy who got ejected for smashing his stick against the penalty box for years after!)

Then, the lockout ended, and the next year was the year of the Scary Good Sabres.  If you lived anywhere near Buffalo in the spring of 2006, you could not entirely escape Rick Jeanneret’s “NOW DO YOU BELIEVE?!” call or the many parodies it inspired.  As we moved from Rochester to Albany, keeping up with the Sabres was one of the things that helped keep the homesickness at bay, and I think that’s when “pizza and hockey night” became a regular thing in our family.

Hockey was one of the things that just didn’t feel right in our new city.  Eventually, we went to Albany Devils games, looking for that connection, that tie to the community.  And it just – wasn’t there for us, somehow.  Meanwhile, the Rochester Americans experimented with a different NHL alliance (I think it was the Florida Panthers).  And the NHL had another lockout, which led me to start paying more attention to the AHL.

This was the year I was doing a social work internship with a disaster recovery organization.    While I was helping pull together community resources to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy approached.  We were fortunate enough that Sandy did not quite extend to the area I was working in, but I followed the related news, as you do when you work in the field.  And one of the things that caught my eye was an AHL hockey team in the Sandy-affected area – the Bridgeport Sound Tigers – announcing that their arena was functioning normally, even though some of the players had lost their housing, and they would like to offer free admission to the next two games so people in the area could have a place to go and maybe take their mind off things for a little while.

For some reason, maybe because of the internship I was doing, that gesture moved me enough that I started following the team online.  And then the Sound Tigers did two more things that made me love them more.  After the Sandy Hook shooting, they played a game where they wore the child victims’ names rather than their own on their jerseys, in tribute – and also gave the jerseys to family members of the children.  They also made a team You Can Play video to speak out against homophobia in professional sports – and followed that up by being the first professional team to host an official “You Can Play night” game.

The lockout ended midway through what would have been the regular season, which meant the Sabres were back, but they were calling for a “rebuild” and had started trading away pretty much all of the players I had come to love over the years.  I tried to keep up the family loyalty, but it just wasn’t the same.  I didn’t know much yet about the Sound Tigers’ parent club, the New York Islanders, but I started keeping track, a little bit.  Even though it felt a little like cheating, a little like disappointing my family and turning my back on my western New York roots.

The next season, sometime after the Olympics, I started more regularly following Islanders games on Ice Tracker, which is how I finally went from a very basic “skaters try to score against the other team, while the goalie tries to stop them” understanding of how hockey worked to learning positions and strategies and game mechanics.  Forward lines, defense pairings, special teams.  The differences, other than time on the clock, between minor, double-minor, and major penalties.  Small details that came together and started making sense.

And one night I went to bed after the second period of a game being played in Vancouver.  The score was 3-0 Vancouver and I didn’t see any sense in staying up for it – but then I woke up the next morning and the final score was 7-4 Islanders.  I think that may have been the game that truly cemented my loyalty to my new favorite NHL team.

ravenshrinkery followed me to them the next season, when he just couldn’t deal with the Sabres not only rebuilding but outright tanking – making their position as bad as possible to have the best chance for the first-overall draft pick in the next NHL draft.  We went to our first NHL game the last year of the Nassau Coliseum as an early Christmas present to me.  And that game is the reason that the Tampa Bay Lightning became my second-favorite team.  I watched as the team I came to see put more than 40 shots on a young and incredibly talented Russian goaltender who had just recently been called up from the AHL.  It took 42, I think, before he slipped up and let one in, followed shortly by a second, making the score 2-1.  The game ended 3-1 after an empty net goal, and Andrei Vasilevskiy was the third star.

We went back to the Coliseum twice more before it closed.  And I started making friends with a lot of hockey fans online, one of whom was awesome enough to snag me a ticket for opening night at Barclay’s the next year.  I’ve been to the new home a few times, including for the game that ended twenty-three YEARS of the Islanders not winning a playoff round.  (I WAS THERE! GAME SIX! SECTION 20 ROW 17! I WAS THERE!)

Mostly, though, when we go to live games these days we go to Connecticut to watch the Sound Tigers – I’m an Islanders fan because I’m a Sound Tigers fan, and they do such a good job at Webster Bank Arena with making it a fun experience for kids.  There’s popcorn and ice cream served in souvenir helmets, Storm the mascot is always around interacting with the crowd (I have a picture somewhere of Storm pretending to eat happinydancer’s head), and most of the time they’ll have a couple of players around to sign autographs after.  We try to get there early for warmups, and the players will sometimes throw pucks to kids who are watching.  We’ve also figured out where to sit so the girls can join the high-five line. happinydancer makes a point of also high-fiving the linesmen and referees, and one of them gave her a puck from the game.

Both my girls are pretty enthusiastic fans now, though in different ways. qween394's favorite player is Matt Martin, and after she researched his path to the NHL for a class project on favorite athletes, I watched her go from a bright kid who didn’t always focus or apply herself to her work to a serious student and dancer whose motto is now also “I will not be outworked out there.”  (Present day me kind of wants to go back and yell at 15-20 years ago me who would have sworn that athletes are, every last one of ‘em, TERRIBLE role models and kids shouldn’t look up to them, ever.  It’s hard to put into words the difference that admiration of, not just a pro athlete, but an NHL enforcer has made for my own kid.) happinydancer, on the other hand, isn’t into the fighting and other shenanigans so much, and she loves goalies.  One of the friends I’ve made online helped me out when the NHL.com store messed up and made sure that happinydancer got a Thomas Greiss jersey for Christmas.

We’ve also started going to NWHL games.  It’s a different experience – body checking is not allowed in women’s hockey, which changes the strategy a little bit – but one that is really fun to watch (especially for happinydancer, who prefers her hockey to be a little more speedy and less physical).  I’ve been to two NWHL games now, one with a group of friends and one with my family, and I am planning to go to more.  My mom hasn’t followed hockey as much since Grandma Josie’s death, but I’ve encouraged her to check out the Buffalo Beauts and she seems to like that idea.

I really wish Grandma Josie had lived to see the NWHL.  She would have cheered for the Beauts, as she does for all Buffalo sports teams.  And even though my own geographic loyalties have changed, I’m glad for the influence the “Sports Grandma” (as she was sometimes called by my dad) and the man I married had on getting me to love this sport – it’s brought a lot of fun and friendship into my life.

[LJ Idol 10: Week 3] Too Close for Comfort

Thing you may not know about me: I startle easily. Ridiculously easily.

My kids know not to pop balloons around me on purpose, and if it happens anyway, there will be an immediate, "Oh no, I am SO SORRY, Mom!" to comfort me as my heart rate decreases and stops pounding so loud in my ears.

I've worried and semi-insulted co-workers by literally jumping out of my seat when they come by to ask me a question. And I still feel kind of bad about that, but it's not like this is a thing I plan to do on purpose. I have to reassure them that no, they don't scare me, I don't think they're scary people or anything, that's just a thing I do sometimes. Instinct. Not a thing I seem to get a choice about.

I also seem to feel like cars are getting "too close" to me at points where they really aren't, and what seems like a safe following distance to me seems like too much to the other cars, so I get cut off and other fun things that make me really nervous.

And sports? Especially if they involve balls moving around near my head? Those...I'm not so good at.

I don't think I was ever great with any of this - my depth perception has always felt like a thing I can't quite trust for whatever reason. But I know what made it worse.

I was ten years old, and had only recently started wearing glasses, when I was at a picnic with my parents and some of their old friends. Someone talked me into playing volleyball. A ball went over the net, hit me in the nose pretty hard (OW!), and just missed my glasses. For some reason my mind kept wanting to give me a picture of what if it had been my glasses, what if it had broken my glasses, what if I'd ended up with pieces of my glasses somehow in my eyes and losing my sight that way.

I still can't stand it when things fly close to my face, I still don't play volleyball in any situation where I don't have to, and it seems like my tendency to be easily startled in general got worse after that. This seems so trivial but for me? It wasn't. It really wasn't.

Memories can be like that.
I have this one friend, just one, that I always have active on Messenger. We aren't always awake or available at the same time, but we always know we'll talk more about anything and everything. So with this one person, conversations don't start with "Hi, how are you?" or anything like that - the subject is jumped right into.

What does that look like? Well, have a sampling of recent conversation starters between us:

Me, with a link to a picture of a long dark green cotton dress meant for cosplay or re-enactors: But really I wish I could live in things like this all the time?


Her: Oh my God, I just saw the news about the shooting at Rocks [local to me LGBTQ bar]. I'm guessing you weren't there, but if you were fifteen years younger...? Oh my God.


Me: So, in [fic she was beta-reading for me] I really think I have to cut that scene between [characters], because [black character] sounds too much like the stereotypical Magically Wise Black Sidekick? I'm kind of mad at myself that I even wrote that.


Her, linking to picture of the Naked Warwick Rowers: I am a bad, bad woman. There was a photograph at the following link where I just shrieked "WEENIE ROAST!"




Her: That feeling when you realize you are a walking wallet to a "friend" and her family. *mumbles about MLMs and Pink Truth*


Me: So I really want to get on a plane to [location] and kick [friend's] husband in the nuts? Repeatedly? I won't, but I want to?


Her: Conversation elsewhere makes me think, "Ooh, I know who needs some blue and orange garb with tigers on it!"


Me: LOL. Husband has found obnoxious video of soccer fans chanting "WEEEE'RE FUCKING SHIT! WEEEE'RE FUCKING SHIT!" and my youngest is now running around yelling, literally, "WE'RE BLEEPING BLEEP!"


Her: If I see ONE MORE ARTICLE about standing up against tyranny, I may curse. You broke it, you bought it.


Me: Hey, my complaint [about a "do not use" sign on the accessible machine at my polling place] went semi-viral on Twitter! And might actually get fixed!


Her: Ye gods, I've just had a reminder why I don't date younger men. This one that I met up with needs mothering, not girlfriend-ing.


I love having a friend like this. :)


[LJ Idol 10: Week One] Fighter's Life

[Content Warning]
[Content warning: Domestic violence, bullying, pro sports-related violence, post-concussion syndrome that is likely to be eventually fatal, suicide mention.]

Lori's firstborn has been a fighter since he fought his way out of her body.

She knows Mike doesn't get it from her.  Maybe he gets it from his own father, who has a violent temper, who had left Lori with a network of bruises on her body, skin-deep, only hinting at the deeper damage to body and spirit beneath.

But he's not his father.  She knows that.  She's never seen him pick a fight that wasn't, in some way, about protecting someone.

In third, fourth, fifth grade, he was the big brother that defends his little brother with his fists.

And she wondered, was she wrong to leave her husband, did Mike need a father to teach him how to channel his aggression properly?

(The fists and feet turned on her with violence say otherwise.  How is that a proper channel of aggression?)

There was a new gym teacher with a suggestion.  They were in Minnesota - hockey rinks everywhere - why not put a pair of skates on Mike, channel the aggression into sports?

She didn't want to admit she couldn't afford the skates.  But somehow, the child support order got enforced - just in time - and she scraped together a set of used gear for her oldest.

She watched him get faster, stronger, more aggressive.  All of the protective instincts he used on his little brother transferred to his teammates, he became known as the one who would "stand up" for them.

He left the temper on the ice, mostly.  At least, she never heard of him mistreating girlfriends.  He'd growl at them and argue with them about all kinds of things, but most of them looked like they would give back whatever he dished out, like they might be anywhere from annoyed to outright disgusted with him but they were never afraid of him.

When he grew up and - literally - fought his way into the NHL, she tried to argue him out of sending his first paycheck to her.  It didn't work - he said it could either be to her or it could be to Tom, care of her, because Tom's still a minor.  She wanted to tell him to at least keep the first one, and if he had to, send the second one to her, because he could lose his spot in the line-up and there might not be a second one.  But what kind of unsupportive mom would she be, telling him that?

So she accepted it but she put it aside and didn't touch it until she knew Mike had his second paycheck.  That seemed like the least she could do.

She didn't always watch his games, didn't always watch his fights.  Tom did, and sometimes he'd drag her into watching with him, as he went from team to team over the years.

Tom had moved out on his own by the time Mike signed with Edmonton, and Lori actually started watching a little more often without Tom's prompting.

She saw the Fitzgerald kid, younger, smaller, looking up at Mike like he looked up to Mike, something like hero worship in his eyes.

And when the cameras were mostly on another player, she saw Mike looking back at the kid, like he was fighting with himself about whether to kiss him till he couldn't breathe or punch him in the face.

She wasn't surprised when the kiss won out.  She wanted to disapprove - Liam's too young, too sheltered, what the hell was Mike thinking?  But she knows Mike, and there would be no way she could make any argument against Liam that Mike hasn't already had with himself a thousand times over.

And it's a good thing, too, as the years go by and Mike's manner of making a living takes its toll.  There was that final hit to the head that took Mike out of the game for good.  There was Liam, trying so hard to take care of Mike, to endure as Mike fought against the idea that Liam should take care of him, that anyone should, but especially Liam, who had all his best years ahead of him.  Mike would be damned if those years got wasted on him.

It took two years for Liam to fight his way back into Mike's life, two more years for Mike to admit defeat and let Liam live at his house more days than not, though he always insisted that Liam keep up his own place, for appearances and so Liam could leave any time he got tired of playing nurse to a has-been tough guy who isn't aging gracefully.

Mike stopped fighting Liam, started realizing he wasn't going to win, especially not when Lori would throw in on Liam's side.

Instead, he fought the migraines, the tremors in his hands, the side effects of the drugs the doctors gave him to fix the side effects of the other drugs the doctors gave him.

He fought for the good days, for the times he could read and cook and play Scrabble.

He lost more of those fights than he won, eventually.  Started listening to recorded books.  Started telling Liam how to make dinner, making fun of him when he messed up, mumbling about how "kid can't cook for shit."

And then he stopped fighting with Liam about his cooking, about his living there, about - anything.  And Liam knew enough to be worried, not relieved.  Started asking Lori if he needed to retire to take care of Mike.

"Of course not, honey," she told him, because she knew the day Liam gave up hockey for Mike would be the day Mike found a way to remove himself from the equation.

And she knew that was why Liam called and asked her, instead of discussing it with Mike.

[Author's note: this takes place in the universe of Taylor Fitzpatrick's You Could Make a Life, which is a new favorite thing of mine, because there is no character more perfect for this prompt than Mike Brouwer and I couldn't get it off my mind.]

Hello hello I'm back!

I am doing LJ Idol Season 10, and so can you!


Sep. 4th, 2015


Been bad about posting.

Life is pretty good right now - ravenshrinkery and I are both settling into our new jobs, and we're adjusting to the facts that his is on the night shift and mine is salaried and non-overtime-eligible, though that hasn't been much of an issue YET.

On Tuesday, I will have a ten year old. Wow. That happened fast.

Both girls are dancing now and they like it a lot. Alex wants to be a teacher's assistant next year (which ages 11 and up can do) so she's working extra hard to prepare for it this year. I am really proud of her drive.

Idol Minor

FYI - the girls will be playing.

Alex = qween394
Tori = happinydancer

The usual rules for their accounts apply - feel free to friend them but they do not friend anyone back, all comments are screened, etc.

Alex will be writing/typing completely on her own, with minor edits/technical assistance if she requests.
Tori will, at least at first, either be typing with a lot of help from one of her parents or telling me what to type.


It's hard to get things through the brain fog lately, and work has been really taxing it in ways I'm not used to. And so has life, so has getting older.

I really want to write something for walkertxkitty's tribute but I don't know where to start yet. There's just been...too much of that.

And grief is a big blob of a mess of I don't even know...this is complex, it's too much. It's Steve's birthday and...it's been rough, rough today and honestly rough since his death. Because I still don't know how to even begin to grieve all of this. I just don't.


oh look it's a love meme

Yoo-hoo! Over HERE!

And if you want to send me love in particular, that's here.

One thing that is happy

My Grandma Josie turned 99 this weekend. And she loved the flowers we sent her!

Such an awesome lady. I love her so much. Looking forward to being able to send 100 rose bouquet next year!!


[LJI Home Game: Week 30] Ice

The hotel room was quiet. Too quiet. Unsettling. Marty barely heard himself breathing, counted in his head to make sure this wasn't some weird-ass nightmare.

Breathe in-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight, breathe out-two-three-four.

Another pattern echoed his, then faltered into a broken sigh.

Oh. Of course.

"I got this," he said into the darkness of the room, as he grabbed for the key card and the ice bucket and stumbled out into the hall. The sound of the ice machine echoed louder than whatever-it-was the guys a couple rooms down from his were laughing about.

Marty headed back to his own room, throwing his key card onto the nightstand, continuing past his bed through the suite until he reached the other bed, where the pattern of breathe in-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight, breathe out-two-three-four faltered and steadied and faltered again.

"CZ? Case? I got ice."

A barely audible whisper. "Ice." Pause. "Yeah."

Ice was for injuries, after all. Perfectly explainable to anyone who asked. Even if the injury wasn't the kind you could see, except sometimes, usually in the middle of the night, in glassy pink-rimmed blue eyes that stared out at nothing in the room, in the tremble of the hand that reached to pull a cube from the ice bucket, as though it were so cold the ice would actually warm it.

It didn't take long for CZ's hand to steady around the ice cube. It never did. It took a little longer for everything that wasn't his right arm to relax from the sitting-at-attention pose, for his eyes to refocus, for the almost-smile and mumbled "thanks, man" that always followed.


The ice would always bring him back to himself. No matter what.

He knew what
they had said about him, after...well, after - that he was too hot-headed, that he was too cold-blooded - and somehow being in the rink was the way to resolve them both.

Putting the gear on for practice each day made him feel a little bit like a knight putting on armor...then he dropped that thought,
too dangerous. Besides, the knights were the shining ones, the first line, the real attention-getters. He knew his job, knew it was more rogue than knight - play rough, play dirty, get in the way of the guys from the other team, hit and be hit. His job was to be the bad guy who protected the good guys, who kept the good guys looking good, kept their faces pretty and their plays clean for them.

On the ice, he could still be that guy. The ice was his safety. The blades of his skates cutting their patterns into the rink kept him from seeking sharpness to cut into flesh, kept him from giving up,
a life for a life...


Marty knew the story, of course, when CZ joined the team. If he had to guess, he'd say they all did, at least the guys who had come up through Canadian juniors.

It was impossible not to. Oh, it should have been impossible to know. Reports of adjudicated juvenile delinquency were never supposed to come out with a name and a face attached to the delinquent. But people talk, and rumors carry, and whispers of sentencing and the possibility of probation and maybe-the-USA-won't-let-him-cross-the-border got around. As they do.

We should bring him here, give him a chance, Marty thought. If we can. If they'll let him come.

And when it worked out, when the sentence was given and served and sealed, when everyone was sure customs wouldn't be a problem, CZ showed up, that mix of tough and terrified that the little-but-fierce sort of fourth-line types so often were. Just with that extra edge, from what he'd been through.

Marty was a fourth-line type, too - your basic big, burly enforcer. The one who knew his job was to get into fights and keep his team's real stars out of them. And in a way that made it easier. He always knew he was big. He always had to be mindful of his strength, and how he used it, and just how far he pushed. He had to stay on that side of the line, mess the other guy up without, you know, hurting him.

And he knew that it was the smaller guys who hit harder, because they didn't know their strength, because bigger is stronger until the smaller guy is an obvious future pro athlete and the bigger guy...maybe isn't.


CZ was dreaming of the courtroom again. Sitting down and shutting up and letting the lawyers work it out. Hoping the lawyers would work it out.

And even in the dream, there was another dream, the instant replay of that forever-accursed rugby game when he brought his buddy down a little too rough, and his buddy didn't get back up.

It was a freak accident, one of those things - his buddy had gotten himself a concussion a couple weeks before, had no business playing a contact sport in a few months let alone a few weeks. And really, it was up to Manny not to push himself that way, up to his parents to stop him, up to his doctor to tell him just how serious this really was.

That's what the doctors said. That's what Manny's family said, again and again, not just to him but to the hospital and the cops and the court. And the FUCKING newspapers.

Still, if CZ hadn't brought him down like that, Manny would be alive. It was an accident, but CZ was still officially the one who killed him, and he'd have to do his time. Since he was a teenage boy instead of a grown man, he was lucky - "his time" was probation and his record would be "delinquent" rather than "criminal". His life would go on, even though Manny's couldn't.

But the sentence never really ends, CZ thought as he startled awake, sitting bolt upright like he was back in that courtroom listening to that judge. And then Marty came with the ice. He didn't know what gave Marty the idea to do that, the first time they'd shared a suite on the road, but it worked, and now they always went together just in case.

As always, once he had a piece of ice to hold on to, CZ was...himself. Not the anonymous killer teenage jock.


And Marty was his teammate, his linemate. Marty had his back. And after the next game, CZ and Marty had a guys' night out planned, win or lose, where they could load up on nachos and pointedly not-talk about anything having to do with hockey - or ice.

[Author's notes: this is extremely loosely based on a real situation. Considerable liberties were taken for the sake of storytelling, and some inadvertent inaccuracies may have crept in as well. No disrespect is intended to those portrayed.]

Spontaneous Idol rec

Hey, everyone -

Go check out suesniffsglue's amazing story of the Gauntlet and the Grown Gaunt.

This is the kind of stuff that makes me love LJ Idol so much.


all silk, all colors
watch her run between the gossamer ribbons
of the gossiping schoolgirl gauntlet
and turn it around and twist it
into something new

velvet too
the velvet laughter of their iron scorn
becomes no ordinary punch
but the blow to the head
that makes someone see stars
(and new perspectives)

all lined up in my closet
scrap paper and crayons fill the space
where she imagines warm coats
comfortable shoes
a rainbow of clothes to choose from
for every occasion

now we move away to big city
she will take her one real dress
the color of the morning sky
carefully washed and imperfectly ironed
to a place where there are people more like her
and more people less like her
so it won't matter so much anymore

tell the girls they can keep those hundred dresses
does she know you were laughing at her?
does she know you are sorry now?
does it matter what she thinks of you?
it matters what you think of her now

and it matters later, should you walk by a breadline
of those people just that little bit less fortunate
than you and your family
yeah...a hundred of them...all lined up

[Author's note: Inspired by, of course, little Wanda Petronski and her Hundred Dresses - as well as the family stories that didn't make it into last week's entry.]


[LJ Idol 9: Week 28] Mother Poland

My grandparents would not let my mother learn Polish,
That stigmatized tongue of immigrants and ignorance.
So she studied French and Latin, history and science,
Worked hard, brought home the best grades in her class.
The high school valedictorian who was the dropouts’ daughter -
America, Land of Opportunity, had served her well.

And when she married, she thought ‘twas just as well
To leave behind a last name that was just so...Polish
And marked her as a Dunkirk steelworker’s daughter,
The man taunted as “Polack! Dumb Polack!” in all ignorance
By professional engineers who scorned the working-class,
And could not see my grandfather’s gift for science.

Our people, our culture, we long have cherished science -
Mikolaj Kopernik (called Copernicus), Maria Sklodowska Curie as well -
I learned the common, Westernized names in my science class,
But my mother made sure that I knew they were Polish,
Refusing to perpetuate this piece of cultural ignorance,
Refuting the lie of “dumb Polack!” for her daughter

And she was there, ready to comfort her freshman daughter
Who was upset with a biology classmate who proselytized Creation Science
And with girls in the dorm who loved their jokes about “Polack ignorance”,
Though they’d never tell a “racist” joke and banned “dumb blonde” jokes as well.
"They care that my roommate is half-black but not that I'm half-Polish!"
I cried on the phone to Matka, then dried my tears and went to class

We've come far from our roots, no longer peasants or working-class.
My mother and my grandmother are always happy to see my daughter.
My daughter is happy to learn from them a few words in Polish,
And tell them all about how much she loves school, and science,
And at the visit's end, we say "pozegnanie" - farewell -
She asks about other Polish words, and I admit my ignorance

And I remain grateful for the innocent ignorance of my daughter,
Unexposed to that arrogant class of people who are stunned that science
Can be done well by someone who is both a girl and Polish!

[LJ Idol 9: Week 27] All are punish'd

There's something I've started saying a lot lately, where a lot of political arguments are concerned:

You can punish the undeserving or you can fix the problem. You cannot do both.

Some examples:

You want to fix the problem of homeless folks with serious mental illnesses (and possibly co-existing substance abuse) on the streets, in the shelters, cycling in and out of the emergency rooms at hospitals, maybe getting arrested and going to jail? Housing First works. And here's HOW it works, usually: The homeless person is given a choice of apartments, usually scattered throughout the community but sometimes in a building with other people in the program. Existing benefits that the person is or would be entitled to - Social Security Disability, veteran's benefits, various subsidized housing programs, whatever else might be available - are used to pay the cost of the apartment directly to the landlord or management company. There are few or no requirements for the person receiving housing - perhaps consent to a weekly visit from a case manager, often the signing of an ordinary mainstream lease, and that's about it. No obligations to participate in drug screenings or treatment programs or "work activities" or anything. Just a safe and stable place to live independently, with as few conditions as possible on it and as few worries as possible about how to pay for it.

You'd rather punish the undeserving homeless, leaving them on the streets, offering "supervised shelter" settings and kicking them back onto the streets as soon as they have a minor relapse, or perhaps as soon as they come in a minute past curfew or break rule #57 that was written so confusingly that they didn't ever understand it in the first place? Of course you would. Even though it means paying more in court and jail costs, in written-off emergency room expenses, and so forth. At least they don't get a free ride, except in a police car or ambulance!

You want to fix the problem of young kids coming to school in a condition other than "ready to learn"? Then, I'm sorry, I know it's unpalatable to a lot of folks, but you're going to have to improve conditions for the adults in the families and communities that the children live in - even if you think they're a bunch of good-for-nothing bums. That means food security for the family, not just for the child. That probably means providing subsidized child care so that child's parents can work or look for a job or pursue further education for longer hours than the ones the child is at school. That probably means looking to the safety and stability of the physical housing the child is living in - a lot of older buildings still require lead removal or stabilization, changing school districts due to frequent moves is really bad for kids' educational progress, and other problems with housing (such as unremediated mold) can cause other problems with education (such as an increase in absence due to illness).

You're not on board? You want to help the kids, maybe, but punish the undeserving parents? This won't improve your educational or other social outcomes, but it will cost a lot more. Putting child protective cases through the court system is expensive, foster care is expensive, mental health interventions from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to daily doses of Abilify to try to mitigate the resulting trauma are expensive, and the overall outcomes are poor enough that these kids get to age into adults that you now likewise consider "undeserving", and if they're girls there are even odds that they'll have given birth to the next generation of this cycle before their 21st birthdays. Was it worth it, just to "prove" that you don't want to "give anything" to "bad parents"?

Even when there is clear wrongdoing such as fraud and abuse of government funds, do you want to fix the problem by closing loopholes and taking a look at providers who are engaging in egregious fraud - the almost-retired doctor who is completely out of fucks to give and thus totally OK with writing patient-unseen prescriptions for controlled substances, the "parent organization" charging exorbitant "management fees" to give immediate family members high-paying fancy-titled jobs that take an absolute minimum of work, the deliberate misappropriation of funds by executive leadership to donate to something that is not exactly a re-election campaign of a friendly politician? Yeah, I want to fix that too. So how about we stop with the punishing the "undeserving" consumer by making every application for government benefits as adversarial as possible because after all, the poor must be trying to scam us, punishing the "undeserving" line staff by turning every unaccounted-for minute into a possible case of Time Theft, or pushing the "undeserving" young students and people with disabilities via unpaid internships and below-minimum-wage sheltered workshops? The real scandal is not what's illegal, but what's legal.

When we focus on punishment, then as a taxpaying society, all are indeed punish'd. All of us pay more money for fewer solutions.



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