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I very much enjoyed Captain America: Civil War. But there was one thing that really bothered me, so much so that once it happened it slightly soured the rest of the film for me. For those of you who know me, it shouldn’t surprise you: the kiss between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter. And NO, JERKFACES, it’s NOT because of my massive crush on him. It’s because it just doesn’t WORK.



I am a hardcore Steve and Peggy shipper. I love the two of them so much that any other pairing just doesn’t compare for me. And I loved the way they couched Steve’s feeling for her— he’d been waiting for “the right partner.” Not just anyone, but the right one. The old-fashioned way their relationship developed was so charming. And I admit, I have a weird soft spot for lovers who are never for anyone but each other. I get that most people don’t see things that way, but even if they must insist on the characters moving on with other relationships, Sharon Carter is absolutely the wrong character for this to happen with Steve.

I will give them credit. This was something I’d been dreading since Avengers, so the fact that they held out this long, four years and like three more movies, is something. They probably were probably actively trying not to rush it. But they clearly knew the implications of the whole deal were creepy. There’s a reason they did not draw attention to the fact that her name was Carter, or her relationship to Peggy at all, until CA:CW.

The storyline is a relic from a dated, significantly less mature time in the development of comic book storytelling, and though some would attribute solely to the lack of respect for female characters, I would say it’s mostly due to the resistance to change. Comics have a notorious history toward refusing to ever let things meaningfully or permanently grow and change. So, when Cap’s freezing was made part of his story, bringing him forward in time, they decided to make him latch on to the Sharon Carter character by making her resemble and in fact have a blood relation to an old love interest.

I understand the desire to maintain the spirit of what we loved in these stories in the comics. But for the cinematic universe, they’ve made such a strong effort to realize these stories for the screen that I really don’t think including that in the adaptation made sense. Adaptation between mediums requires translation, and retelling stories demands updating for the current time. And all the myriad ways the idea of that relationship doesn’t work demonstrates that it just doesn’t make sense to have been included.

First off, the two of them have no chemistry. Steve and Sharon have barely spent any time together and nothing of substance ever happened or was said between them. Nobody in the audience developed any emotional investment in their relationship. Plus we have basically no idea who Sharon is. Again, very little time has been spent with her, and the actress is so bland that no real personality has been created within what little character the writing has supplied. There’s no narrative reason for them to have a relationship, and no audience member who has any desire to see it. Added to the fact that it felt like an afterthought crammed into an already jam-packed film, what exactly were they hoping to accomplish? My only real thought is, with the increasing mainstreaming of slash fandom, that they were trying to remind the audience that he’s straight.

The execution of it felt awkward and gross, too. They basically get together OVER PEGGY’S COOLING CORPSE. Who in the world thought that was something they should write for Cap? I actually thought using her death as his propulsion to take his stance was a strong idea. But that awkward, chemistry-free lip lock occurred like TWO DAYS after they put Peggy in the ground, and I can't grasp who didn’t find that to be indecent and out of character.

And there’s just this creepiness to it. If they HAVE to have Cap get together with somebody new… she REALLY should not be any blood relation to Peggy. There’s just too many gross implications tied up in it. There’s the suggestion that he likes her, not for herself, but for who she reminds him of. There’s this very uncomfortable sense of replacement, like she’s an acceptable Peggy substitute. If I want to get all technical, I might say on Nussbaum’s Inventory of Objectification, it smacks of fungibility, when a person is treated as functionally interchangeable with another.

I have BEEN creeped on because of my resemblance to my mother in her youth. THAT NEVER COMES FROM ANYPLACE HEALTHY OR GOOD. Why would they want Steve to be in a relationship that has any hint of that?

And finally, there’s the issue of youth, where a once beloved and vibrant older woman is replaced by someone who’s supposed to be similar to her, except she’s still young and beautiful. Like that lack of youth and beauty makes the relationship impossible, because a man, especially a man as beautiful as that, couldn’t love someone who didn’t have those things.

If I’m being honest, there’s something about the whole situation that’s not just objectively gross, but that tweaks my issues personally. Probably my greatest fear is aging. I’m terrified of the physical ravages of growing older, becoming weak and useless and losing my looks. It’s so hard for a woman to be respected for so many reasons, but it’s particularly hard for women who are older or not good looking. While I do believe in my true inner qualities, I feel like often people don’t notice those qualities in me until after my looks have caught their attention. Not being pretty any more scares me.

Maybe I shouldn’t care what men think of me. But the idea of becoming ignored and tossed aside because I’m old and ugly freaks me out. I’m not sure why I feel that particular terror so acutely. I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of counter examples in my life and growing up, of men who stuck with the women they loved through the declines of time and mortality. It’s not like I worry about that with Bernie. But I am obsessed with it, not just with a romantic partner but with everyone, which drives pretty much all my neuroses.

My discomfort with this relationship stems from that. Beautiful men in particular are even scarier in that respect. Men don’t have to be beautiful, so the good-looking ones with their greater drawing power have it even more options with which to replace you when you’re no longer ideal. So there’s something very uncomfortable about watching a gorgeous man move on from his supposed one true love onto a pale replacement who just happens to still be young and beautiful.
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I am back from my visit to Bernie in Baltimore, and it was very lovely. I am reminded every day how lucky I am to have him in my life, but it was great being physically in the same place for a while. He's so good and adoring to me, and when I read that article that's been going around on how much emotional work women tend to get stuck with in their relationships, I realized in ours most of it is readily taken on by him. Not too many men like that, and certainly NOT the way of my previous relationship experience. Bernie's the best.

On other notes, I stuck to my diet, though I didn't exercise nearly enough. I also got very little else done, besides keeping up with Hipster Feminist (which turned four years old on Sunday!) It turned out to be a very nice vacation, though, which I guess I needed. But it's tough to get my brain back into getting-things-done mode now that I'm home again. August is almost here, and I'm trying to figure out what I need to focus on for the new month.

Probably the most externally important is finishing my syallbus for the class I'm teaching at Lesley. I know mostly WHAT to talk about and stuff, but I need to find good texts. I don't want to make my class buy a ton of books, as I remember how I hated breaking the bank on that when I was in school, so I need stuff I can post as PDFs on the class website to save them money. And they need to have examples of protagonists who are possible to discuss in terms of what they mean for the culture and individuals that have embraced them.

I need to finish my article for Game Wrap Magazine, "yearly publication focusing on the art and craft of live action roleplaying games." I'm on the editorial board as well as contributing, because I've always wanted a forum like this to exist where people can really examine larping seriously! My article is on the narrative function of villains in theater-style games, and how they must be designed and managed in order to properly push the conflict.

I want to do 31 Plays in 31 Days again, though probably under different terms than the ones expressly stated. Not sure exactly how I want to tailor it to my purposes, but I have been very happy with what it's done for my writing to participate for the last three years. I just need to decide what my personal parameters will be. As you can probably tell, I find structure very helpful.

Possibly related to that, I want to finish draft 1 of Base Instruments by the end of the summer, which I'm considering to be September 1st. Maybe I can use 31 Plays in 31 Days to faciliate that. But I want a complete draft, so I can schedule a time for friends to come over, read it to me, and give me their feedback to shape the edit.

That's a fair bit! I shall use this week to figure out how I'm going to do it.
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I have talked about my mother’s death here before. But today, on the one-year anniversary of her passing, I want to talk about the night she died. I don’t have much point to make. This is a very disjointed, stream-of-consciousness entry. But I’m ready to talk about it, and I want to have a record of what it was like.

Casey, Sarah, and I drove down together. We came home into a very clean house—partially, I think, for all the people who would be coming in, and partially as way for my dad to feel in control. He’s a strong man— believe me when I say almost impossibly so —but he channels stress into things like that. He had food waiting for us. And he took us upstairs to see Mom.

They had put a hospital bed next to the big bed in their bedroom. That was good, she hadn’t wanted to die in the hospital. She wasn’t conscious; she was on a sort of liquid morphine that basically knocked her out. They put her on oxygen, but it wasn’t doing much good, and she kept gasping, trying to breathe. She couldn’t, really, but her body would try to anyway.

Dad was so in tune with her condition, with everything he’d done to take care of her. He’d called the previous day and said it would happen very soon. And we went home the next day, because he was right.

He asked if we remembered the part in Harry Potter with the thestrals, which are only visible to you after you’ve seen someone die. “I think we’re going to see thestrals soon.” He’s not usually one to talk in literary references, so that one struck me.

A hospice nurse came and spoke to us. We were kind of normal and together, which I think surprised them a little. But we don’t act out in front of strangers. I was proud, though, when the nurse took a moment to tell my dad how impressed they all were with how my dad took care of her. She actually said she’d never seen anything like it. He is strong, and he loves her.

It was very surreal. How normal it was, while Mom was right there dying. Mostly it was waiting. We’d sit with her for a while, holding her hand, talking to her. My dad and my brother had a lot to say. How much they loved her, but how it was okay for her to go, that she didn’t need to hurt anymore. Neither of them have ever been afraid of or uncomfortable with their emotions, but their frankness and their verbosity impressed me. This process made my brother a lot softer. And my dad, well, he’s perceived by some to be a hard, intense man. But he loved my mother utterly. Reordered his whole life to be there for her in her illness. And damn certain he was going to tell her everything as she died.

Dad told us stories of how they met, when they were young. How they were friends for years before they ever dated. How after graduation they traveled cross country to Yellowstone National Park in a van with three other friends and a German Shepherd. How they were camping in the park, smoked some weed, and went swimming at the same time there happened to be an earthquake, but because they were high, they weren’t sure if they imagined it or not. How my mom said to my dad, “If you grow up a bit, you might be worth keeping.” It made me smile to hear all that. Funny to think of my straight laced parents being cooler and more adventurous than me.

I just cried a little, quietly. Weirdly, I found I didn’t know what to say, and felt too embarrassed to try. Words are supposed to be my thing, and I didn’t have any for my dying mother.

It’s okay. She knew how I felt, and she couldn’t hear anything anyway. But it was weird.

So we sat with her, listening to her try to breathe. Then we’d get hungry, or have something to do, so we’d wander off and do it. Dad had a little camera set up in the room, so we could watch her from the kitchen. In case it happened, we could rush up and be there.

She looked like a scary troll. I feel awful about thinking that, but she did. Not like my mother at all. Her hair was gone, her face and body were bloated and stressed. She had tubes coming out of her all over. Horrifying. The picture of death.

We took a picture of her. Not sure why. I guess because it was real, it happened, and there’s no pretending that it didn’t. I have it and Casey has it, but my dad asked us not to show it to anyone. It’s private. It’s the last picture of my mother on this earth.

Casey’s girlfriend Sarah was with us. My family is private, intensely so, so it was a question as to whether or not she would come for this part of things. Bernie was working, so in deference to both of those things I had chosen not to bug him until there was actually a funeral. Dad probably would have been okay if Bernie came. Though in fairness he hasn’t known Bernie as long. Casey and Sarah had been together for like six years then, and he wanted her there, and Dad was fine with that.

Sarah was so good. The whole time I couldn’t imagine how awkward everything had to be for her. Being in the middle of other people’s uncomfortable, private, tragic moment. But she was perfect, being present and quietly, lovingly supporting my brother. I have so much respect for how she conducted herself in what had to be a deeply difficult situation. I already liked Sarah, but that was when she became family.

It was late when it happened. When the life finally slipped out of her. Her breath, already choppy, became more and more infrequent. She twitched for a while. Then she was still.

I posted on Livejournal when it happened. And Twitter, I think. That’s probably kind of sick that I even thought of it. But I wanted to mark the moment.

Dad called the hospice. They would send the right people. So we waited, there in the bedroom with the remains of Mom. I had been laying on my parents’ bed, right beside her hospital bed. I stayed there, staring at her as she went cold. Her skin became so gray, that weird troll that replaced my mother.

Nobody came for a long time. Everyone curled up someplace and slept. I don’t know where everyone ended up. I think Casey was on the floor. I slept there beside her. It didn’t seem strange. She was either a sack of dead disease, or she was my mother. I’m not afraid of either.

The hospice nurse came. I dragged myself up, sat in a chair and was polite. Same as I was with the nurse the previous day, be nice to the stranger, have good manners, even if you just lost the most important person. She asked for all mom’s medications and destroyed them. She was decent and said nice things, but I don't really remember what they were.

Two men in suits came from the funeral home. My dad remarked how weird it seemed to come ready to move a body dressed in a suit, but I guess it was supposed to be gesture of respect. They were very careful gathering her up, zipping her into the body bag. I watched them do it, which likely made them take extra pains, but honestly I didn’t care. In that gray shell there was more remaining of the cancer that killed her than there was of my mother. What did I care what happened to a dead sack of tumors, when the person who bore me, raised me, loved me, made me who I am, was already gone forever?

I went to my own room and slept. The next day, I stripped the hospital bed, washed the clothes, made up the guest bed. They were the only sheets we had that fit it. Bernie and I slept that night on the sheets my mother died on.

I mention all this because it feels like it should have been weird or creepy. But none of it was. At least not to me. I just love her, and miss her, and I still don’t quite believe she’s gone.
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I am continually reminded how lucky I am to have Bernie.

He makes everything better just by being part of it. He helps me with everything, from dealing with my struggles to putting together my creative projects. He gives me perspective when my brain spins out of control. He makes me feel stronger and better about myself.

If this week, when we spent days out in the cold helping me build a set, didn't show me, just the fact that I can spend the morning in a tizzy and a half-hour phone call with him can totally change my outlook should.

I love Bernie.
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Bernie is back in town this week, visiting me and meeting with his professors. Just having him here is so nice. I am very good at being alone for long periods, so I settled into a fairly comfortable routine with him out of town, but now that he's with me again it's almost shocking how much happier I am.

I should probably stop being surprised at how nice things are with him. We've been together for a year and a half now. But I never stop marveling at what a contribution he makes to my life. We spent today just running errands and fulfilling responsibilities, and just because he was here it made it fun. We've been talking about various things for the creative projects we're working on together, and I don't think anything makes me happier than working on that stuff with him and making wonderful things.

I haven't really been sweating it that he's been gone. We talk so much, and he makes clear his love and devotion in so many ways, that I don't feel one bit less close to him even when he's physically removed. But I think that comfort and security made me forget just how much nicer it is when we can be together. This has been a pleasant reminder.
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I’ve been meaning to write up a status report on how I’m doing lately, partly to get myself to assess it, and partly in case any of you might be interested.

Mental:

I have been very busy with creative projects lately, which is good for my mental state. Vivat Regina is in rehearsal for a staged reading, which is going well so far and I’m very excited about, as I’m hoping it will spark interest in the property. Currently my biggest writing focuses are working on Puzzle House Blues, the musical I’m co-writing, and editing Adonis in response to the feedback I got from the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. I feel energized and excited about those two things. PHB has a real chance, I believe, of going somewhere in production, and Adonis was both one of the most challenging and creatively satisfying projects I’ve written in a while. I also made great starts on some other things in 31 Plays in 31 Days, including Base Instruments, which will be the third installment of the ongoing Mrs. Hawking story.

I’m a little hungry for a little more payoff for my work, though. I want to start reaching a larger audience, getting my work out there. My efforts are geared toward that—the staged reading, the musical, the contest submissions, and the fact that I put in a bid to get permission to put on a full production of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia. Nothing had quite come together yet, but these things take constant effort, and I’m doing my best. Still, I’m hungry for more.

Emotional:

It’s been three and a half months since my mother died, and the loss of her has gaped. I think about her almost constantly; I still go to call her most days, and her lack of presence is felt in dozens of ways. I talk about her a lot too. But my family has been handling everything so well that while it’s painful, it’s manageable, and I think we’re all going to be okay.

Bernie also is out of town for a while, I’m not sure for how long. Our relationship is very strong and I feel confident enough in it that I’m not worried it will suffer for the distance, but I sure do miss him being around. He just brings so much joy into my life, and while most of that is maintained just by talking to him, his presence meant a lot to me.

To deal with it, and to prevent myself from hermitting as is my wont, I’m making an effort to plan at least one social event a week. Lately I’ve been averaging at least two, which makes me proud of myself. And I’ve been seeing lots my lovely friends.

Overall I still feel pretty good, which is a nice change. My ability to stay even and positive is better than it has been in years. What a difference it makes to deal with difficult things when the depression is well and truly gone.

Physical:

I’m in great shape right now, possibly the best of my life. Not only do I look pretty good, I’ve been up to physical challenges I wouldn’t have expected myself to be, such as when I’ve helped friends to move this month. I have been exercising very frequently, including fairly intense circuit workouts. Now that it’s September again, my ballet class, which I love, has started back up, and my work schedule will allow me to attend all three offered in the week if I want. It also gives me more time to walk places, and I can get in a nice brisk three miles at least if I go to do errands in town.

The only thing physically that’s not so great is that my acne is extremely bad lately. I know I have a predisposition to have it chronically, my mother had it pretty severely too, but I really wish there was something I could do and I’m not sure what. Admittedly I’ve never stuck with a skincare regimen for very long, and I should try that and see if it helps, but I’m afraid it’s just my genes and nothing’s going to help.

Responsibilities:

I like my day job, which is tutoring writing at Bunker Hill Community College, which is easily the best and best-paying day job I’ve ever had. There’s even a chance it might develop into more serious work. But, and here’s where I’m struggling a bit, my finances have gotten away from me in the last few months and I’m trying to get back on top of them. I’m trying to cut back where I can, so I’ve been turning down most events that require spending money or driving long distances. My expenses aren’t huge, but the workouts that I do most reliably and get the most benefit and enjoyment from all cost money, and they’re the pricey thing I’m most unwilling to dispense with.

I've been very on top of other chores recently, helped in part by starting HabitRPG. The house is clean, stuff is happening on time, and I don't feel overwhelmed. More regiment, woo! I do however need to nail down one more roommate. Basically I’m looking for a young professional/college/grad student (preferably female if I don’t know them already) preferably as quickly as possible. Let me know if you know anybody!

Basically I'm doing pretty well. Yay! Given some of the rougher stuff, such as my mom and Bernie moving away, I'm really grateful to be feeling as good as I do.
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Bernie is now on his way back to Maryland. Hopefully it will only be for a few months while he edits his thesis for his final defense, but I am sad to see him go in the meantime. This week was full of helping him to pack up all his stuff, and this weekend to move it all to the storage unit where it will live until his return. We had lots of wonderful friends come to help us with that part-- thanks so much to all those of you who lent your backs and hands --and I impressed myself with the sheer volume of boxes and furniture I was able to carry. It took all weekend, and I'm very proud of the work we did, but now I can do other things.

I tried to think of what to get done that might be easier without another person around. Maybe getting my finances in order, something that's gotten away from me in the last few months. But other than that, I can't think of anything. Bernie doesn't get in my way at all when he's around, and I'm not used to a relationship like that. That's a very good thing, of course, but it means there's no upside to him going away for a while.

Today I am going to rest, but also catch up on the stuff that didn't happen because of the move this week. I am now three days behind on 31 Plays in 31 Days, and today is the last day to finish that, so I'd better make sure I crack those out. Also the house needs cleaning. It'll be good to stay busy. I think I'll be okay even with Bernie far away, but I'd prefer to stave off mopiness if possible. 
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Bernie and I celebrated our first anniversary of dating this week. Our real anniversary is in May, but my mom died like the day before and I forgot all about it. So we finally remembered and decided to celebrate. We went out to Forum, the restaurant where my brother Casey works, and had a wonderful dinner. We don't go out very often, especially not to fancy places, so it was fun to get dressed up and have such a special meal. Casey took good care of us, and it was really nice of him to make sure we had such a nice time.

Bernie's gift to me was a Sherlock Holmes-themed game where you explore London to solve a murder mystery. We played it for the first time last night, with [livejournal.com profile] lightgamer [livejournal.com profile] morethings5 and Sam, and it was a blast. Your objective is to find the solution in fewer steps than Sherlock himself did, which encourages choosing your information sources strategically, but also to learn enough to get the full picture of what was going on with the victim and the crime. I loved the conceit of figuring out where to go and who to talk to in the city to gather information, plus examining newspapers for possibly relevant stories. It made me want to write my own mystery using the rules of this game-- I'd set it in the Hawking universe, and maybe change the conceit to the players all being members of the Hawks and learning their craft from the master. Mrs. Hawking is more of a spy than a pure detective, but she definitely uses the techniques of deduction, so I think it would be easy to adapt her sort of capers into the form. I'm very grateful to Bernie for finding this game and I think we're going to have a lot of fun with it.

I still can't get over how happy I am to be with Bernie. I feel like I can share all the aspects of a relationship with him, from the fun exciting parts that you enjoy together, to the mundane everyday parts that are improved by the other person's presence, to the difficult unpleasant parts where you need strength and support. There is honesty and genuineness, and even when things aren't perfect, I always feel respected and valued, and like we have methods to deal with the problems. There are no red flags I have to ignore or get past. Maybe it's silly how that still seems so miraculous to me, but even though things finally feel like I'm in the right place, I still can hardly believe it. 
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Nerds have embraced the concept of “drift compatibility” from Pacific Rim. It reflects a sort of total mind-meld one can achieve with a person with whom you are in perfect sync with. It’s become a convenient expression to describe levels of particular kinship and closeness that isn’t limited to a particular type of relationship—could be romance, could be familiar, could be friendship. A kind of closeness where you could share the totality of your being with them.

It strikes me that I don’t believe I am drift compatible with anyone. It’s not for lack of bond. I have wonderful friends that I love and trust and know I can count on. I have wonderful family that I am close to and have been so good to me. I have Bernie, who I love, and who loves me more and judges me less than anyone else. But the idea of anyone in my head, in my thoughts? Could never do it. Could never stand it. Never with anyone. I think I’d rather be dead.

I just can’t bear the idea of anyone seeing all my thoughts. Before I even was familiar with the concept, I would imagine what if someone around me was psychic, and it made me want to puke. Is that unusual? Are there people for whom the idea of being able to share ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in your head with another person is desirable? I have issues with shame, and perhaps as a result, a nature that is naturally inclined to a certain level of artifice. But I’m also private; not sure how much that’s related. I couldn’t even share everything about myself with Bernie. I don’t think I could ever do it with anyone.
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Don't know why this is on my mind today. But I'm writing it here for the record.

My dad never gave up on my mom. He was the one who was chiefly responsible for taking care of her as she got sicker and sicker, and he was utterly devoted to it. Mom's healthcare people said they'd never seen anything like it. They must have been doing something right, as Mom got five and a half years with a cancer that basically has a zero percent six-year survival rate, and I think that had a lot to do with it. He saw what was happening to her more clearly than anyone, especially as she declined, but I admired the fact that he never gave her up for lost.

I kind of did, I'm ashamed to say. Not, fortunately, in any way that really affected how I treated her. But I remember things that suddenly seemed pointless because we knew she would be gone soon. Like, when her last birthday came around in March. I thought, should I even bother getting her a birthday gift? It's not like she cares about stuff at this point. She basically can't enjoy it. Is it worth it to bother?

But my dad never did that. I remember when she was diagnosed with her brain tumors and it was fairly certain that she had months, if not weeks, to live. He ordered the same cord of firewood he always ordered for the winter, because Mom always liked to have a fire in wintertime. Even though she probably wasn't going to live long enough to enjoy it, even though it was pretty much solely for her benefit, and he would have to be entirely responsible for the considerable amount of labor and trouble it involved. Because she liked it, and he never gave her up for lost.

She stopped eating in the last several weeks before she died. It didn't really matter at that point whether she ate or not, it was clear she was on her way out. But he never stopped trying to get her to eat. The hospice nurses said to give her cookies or ice cream. He said, "But she's not getting any nutrition." They asked him if he understood that she was dying. Of course he did. He just never stopped trying to take care of her.

Same thing with her pain meds. We're a somewhat pill-averse family, and they avoided her strong pain medications as much as they could. Again, the nurses questioned whether they understood how dire the circumstances were. But the pills made her sleepy and spacey, and they wanted to be able to still talk to each other. She only had a few days before the end when she could no longer communicate, and dad said one of the hardest parts was "when she stopped talking to me."

He never treated her like a dying person. They had all the same conversations, arguments, and jokes they always had. And he made sure she stayed as strong as she could under the circumstances. I love that he loved her like that.

Hopeful

Jul. 7th, 2014 01:57 pm
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I think about my mother all the time. Not the her of the last several years, but the active, talented, capable, beautiful woman she was before she got sick. I’m glad that’s the her that’s stuck with me. There’s still a sense of unreality about it. I mean, how could she really be gone? How can you not have a mother? Everybody has a mother. How could I not have a mother?

Grief has made me tired, mostly. I’ve been sleeping more, having a harder time getting out of bed in the morning, and I have less energy for activity and social. But it feels like clean sadness rather than the heavy, sinking depression that I was afraid was starting to creep up as she declined. It was so awful seeing her suffer. I feel bad that it seems lighter now that I don’t have to see her that way anymore— it kind of feels like making my comfort more important than her life —but I knew that she was ready for her pain to be over. She understood what that was from when her own dad was dying of Parkinson’s. (Previously my grandfather was our family touchstone for “relative who died too young.” It hit me hard when my dad pointed out that Grandpap lived seven years longer than Mom did.) I’m not out of grief yet, but I know it will in time be okay.

I actually feel more hopeful and positive about life lately than I have in a while. I currently have the best job I’ve ever had, tutoring writing at Bunker Hill Community College, and while it’s not exactly what I want nor does it really enable me not to worry about money, I am comfortable with it and making more than I have in the past. My real work, my writing, has been coming very well, and a number of opportunities have arisen that I’m hopeful about. None of them are sure things, of course, but they’re giving me direction and feel like real chances to advance my writing career. I don’t want to talk about them too much now, but with my musical Puzzle House Blues in particular I’m starting to feel like it could really go somewhere. I’m trying to finish the fourth draft, which I think is the penultimate one. The first act needs one small idea changed, and the second act needs only one more scene reworked before I think I will call version four complete and we can go to the final round of editing.

And of course a big chunk of that is Bernie. He just brings so much joy and positivity into my life. I enjoy him in my good moments and feel supported by him in my bad, and daily life is improved in every respect just by his presence. I love him, and don’t know how I got so lucky that he loves me the way he does.

So things are improving. And for once I’m feeling hopeful.
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Was wandering around in a Michael’s killing time yesterday, and it reminded me powerfully of my mother. She was much more of a fine artist than a crafts person, but I remember many trips there to find things for her various projects— and my projects, which she always helped me on.

She was one of those people who was basically good at everything. She was a classically trained artist who had at least dabbled in most things— painting, drawing, set design, graphic design, sculpture, metalworking, printmaking, you name it. So whenever she needed to make something, she often had a grounding in the necessary skills, or at least something vaguely related. And she also had the natural advantages that help with that sort of thing, like steady hands, fine motor control, the ability to extrapolate how something might work based on something else she knew. So even if she had no familiarity with whatever artistic endeavor she needed to undertake, she could figure it out and somehow always manage to produce something that looked like she knew what she was doing. Like, when she made these fabulous masks for a production of Alice in Wonderland my brother was in, she did a little research, applied what she knew about stagecraft and sculpture, and did an amazing job.

And when I needed help with something, she would take my ramblings and incoherent descriptions and always make something that was exactly what I needed. When I needed big abstract castle banners that conveyed certain meanings for my production of Hamlet, she knocked them out. When I needed a gridded-off map of a cowboy town and the surrounding land with widows with secret information for my larp The Stand, she knocked that out too. She picked things up so easily, and always made such wonderful things. I’ve always envied her that. And admired her for it.
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A text conversation between me and my love:

Me: "You're my love."

Bernie: "Who? Me?"

Me: "Yes! That's why I get at you all the time. Love!"

Bernie: "That's why? Ohhhhhhh."

Bernie: "I thought you were looking for a warm nutrient rich environment to deposit your eggs."

Me: "..."

Me: "Oh, no need to worry your warm and nutrient rich little head about it."

Bernie: "Oh, good."

Me: "All my talk of how I'd prefer you to have to gestate our children is of no consequence."

Bernie: "Roger."

Bernie: "Hey, wait a sec..."

Me: "Don't worry. Just relax and you won't even feel the ovipositor."

Me: "..."

Me: "Good boy. All done!"

Bernie: "Ewwwwwww."

Me: "Nothing to worry about. And if you feel anything squirming around in your insides, you're just imagining it."

Me: "Be sure to have lots of iron in your diet over the coming nine months. No reason."

Bernie: "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"

Me: "Yes, it is a very funny joke. Nothing to seek medication intervention over."

Me: "<3"

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I am back in Waltham now. The funeral is done, and now it's time to return to life and learn how to get along without my mother.

The funeral was small but nice, in a nice Catholic church like she would have wanted. Good people came and were kind. We even received a lovely arrangement of white flowers with a card with my name on it with the epigram from Cymbeline, "Fear no more the heat o' the sun, / Nor the furious winter's rages. / Thou thy worldly task has done, / Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages." The combination of those two things make me think that it must have been friends of mine who sent it, and if you happen to know who it was, I'd love to be able to thank them.

On that note, I want to thank everyone who has sent kind words, sympathy, and support for us in this time. You don't know how much it means to me, and to my family. I am inexpressibly grateful.

I'm mostly okay, I think, though I think I might be kind of withdrawn for a little while on. It hasn't totally hit me, I think, that she's gone forever. We talked every day, and probably the first time I go to call her without thinking before I remember will be tough. But she made us strong, and so I know we'll be able to handle it and be okay. Still, I imagine I'll want to spend a good bit of time to myself before I can really get on with things.
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I could talk for ages about the woman who was my mother. Things you probably already know. Her kindness, her grace, her intelligence, her talents. I could go on forever. But standing up here now at her memorial, you know what I can’t get out of my head?

This isn’t fair.

We shouldn’t have to be here. We shouldn’t have to be mourning her loss so soon, from a sickness that made her suffer so much. When talking of cancer, there’s no such thing as deserts, but God, there was no one who deserved to go through that less than she did.

Because she was so good. Every thing I try to be, I try as an unformed imitation of my mother. From the way she threw a party or baked a pie, to the way she picked up a new skill seemingly without effort, to the ceaseless kindness and forgiveness she had for the world. Anytime someone notices that I’ve managed some small effort in what she taught me, I can only think, that’s nothing. You should see how my mom does it.

We were blessed in many ways, and one way that we were a close family. There were no old wounds between us, nor any important words left unsaid. But there was so much more life for us to have together.

For my part, I haven’t yet done all the things I’m going to do, things I wanted her to see, and be proud of me. I wanted her to see me get married, and help me raise my children. I wanted to learn how to be the kind of mother she was, because who else in the world could teach me that?

I know that her passing came as the end of her suffering, and she’s with God as she was always meant to be. But she should have had it all—she should have had that, and the rest of her life. And I am so angry that she didn’t get it.

But such is life. Such is the world God made for us. And we are not children, who may hurl ourselves in rage against the things we do not like.

So what then? What do we do? In times like this, people often encourage us to find the good that can be taken. As if, no matter how dark circumstances have become, there’s just some good that’s just there, and all we have to do is see it.

But I believe that in times like this, there is no grace or blessing that’s handed us to. If there’s any good to be taken at all from being eaten alive by cancer before your time, it’s up to you to make it. Because you don’t find it— you make it. And my mother did.

The burden laid on her was enormous. It would have been an easy thing for her to lapse into self-pity and despair, or to just give up. But she never did. She still took my calls ever day and listened to me go on about the silly details of my life. She still used her many creative talents to help me with my projects whenever I asked. She stayed the person that she was always was, as selfless, as giving, and as strong. She stayed my mother.

She loved to say to me, “You don’t know what you can do until you have to.” But every day, she had a choice. And every day, she chose to carry on rather than give up and let it make her less than she was. She didn’t allow her suffering to be the end of all joy and hope and goodness in our lives. Because she loved us. She held on to that for us.

That is the good she made of this. She allowed us, her family and friends, to see what that kind of strength and grace and love looked like. What a gift that was! I cannot doubt it, can never believe that it’s not possible, because I saw it with my own eyes.

It isn’t often that we get the chance to really show our quality. There aren't many chances given to be a hero. To show just how deeply you love. But in times like these… it reveals you.

So I will look to that in the years to come, in the darkest moments when I won’t have her here to turn to. I will think of my mother, and how much she endured to show me what real love was. I will think of my father, who took better care of her than anyone had ever seen, all because he loved her. There is Christ in those things. And that will be what carries me through the sadness and unfairness of having lost her. It has put iron inside me, which I hope one day will be forged into my mother's steel. That’s the good I’ll make of this.
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I wrote my mom's obituary today. It's hard to sum up the most influential person in your life in a few words fit for public consumption in a newspaper.

"Mrs. JoAnne Leone Roberts, 61, died on May 20th, 2014 in her home in Allentown, PA of complications from lung cancer.

JoAnne was born in Monessan, PA on March 22nd, 1953 to Joseph Leone, a steelworker, and Julia Gush, a homemaker, and grew up there. She attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania for her undergraduate studies in Fine Arts, before earning her Masters of Art Education from Penn State University. She married Edward Roberts, an electrical engineer whom she met at IUP, on December 27th, 1975. Her daughter Phoebe was born in 1987, and her son Casey in 1989. She taught art across the grade levels in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and California. She was an active member of her school communities, organizing festivals and arts events, as well as a Sunday school teacher in her church. She was a talented artist in many media, interested in creative pursuits of all kinds, and had a great passion for animals, particularly dogs and horses. She is remembered by those who knew her as intelligent, creative, multi-talented, gracious, and kind.

She is survived by her husband Edward and her children Phoebe and Casey. A memorial service will be held for her with a mass at 10AM on Saturday, May 24th, 2014 at St. Ursula’s Catholic Church at 1300 Broadway, in Fountain Hill, PA 18105."
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I have been the recipient of a number of thoughtful anonymous gifts recently. They've been my favorite snacks, and I'm actually most touched by the fact that the giver remembered well enough the sort of things I like. I've been in a rough time lately, so it's been very cheering that somebody's thinking of me and willing to make efforts to make me feel a little better.

To whoever has been sending these, I am incredibly grateful. It means a great deal to me that you care, and I'm touched every time I receive one. But you know, you needn't keep spending money on me. You've been more than kind enough, you don't have to keep putting yourself out. The message is what counts, and it's been more than received. Thank you so much.
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image

In working on my larp Brockhurst, I've been rewatching Downton Abbey. While not a perfect show, I love it very dearly, particularly because I find the relationship between Mary and Matthew so intensely romantic. In large part, probably, because their love reminds me a great deal of Bernie and myself.

When I first watched it, I disliked Mary immediately, with the instinctive, visceral dislike you have when encountering someone flawed in exactly the same ways you are. She is arrogant, stuck up, superior. So used to commanding attention due to gifts that she basically lucked into a birth. Craving adoration at will and getting upset when its not automatically delivered. Cold, imperious, aristocratic. I see the worst of myself in her.

And then came Matthew. Intelligent and sweet, and with a stubborn, borderline awkward refusal to be anything but himself-- he is rough around the edges, but also honest, straightforward. Devotedly principled. No lies or secrets about his nature or his feelings. So like Bernie I can't stand it. Matthew loves Mary the way Bernie loves me. Looking past all the sharp spiky flaws of the exterior to what's actually decent inside, to love her adoringly, unreservedly. She'll try to play off a difficult situation with a cold barbed joke, and his response disarmingly brings it back to the raw, real heart of the truth.

Sometimes I don't think I know what "romance" is. I know what love is, surely, but I don't really see romance in the images that it conjures to me. Talking about a common interest. Packing a lunch for someone in the morning. Supporting a loved one through cancer. Those are love, but they're not romantic.

But that scene where they're dancing at the bottom of the stairs? I think that might be what romance looks like.
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Valentine's Day doesn't mean that much to me, one way or the other. I like it well enough, I think it's a nice idea, especially if you don't have the time or money to do special things more than occasionally. And I certainly don't hate it. But it's never been important to me. I wouldn't mind not doing anything for it.

But there's somebody who's been waiting seven years to take me out for Valentine's Day. I'm happy to make sure that this year he has the shot. :-)

<3

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