I’m Tired

I was going to do a real post, but Saturday I had 12 continuous hours in public — readings, panels, signings, the Baen road show — and it turns out I’m tired.

I really, really, really, really TIRED.[/caption]

 

Really tired.

I don’t think you understand how tired I am:

So I’m going to drag self out of bed, put clothes on, because I hear the TSA hates it when you streak and I don’t want them to do this:

Because they’re already annoying enough.
Then I need to get home (tonight) and make sure Schrodinger’s fish is still alive.

Tomorrow is back to my scheduled painting and staining, and hopefully only three days left on that, after which I should have Darkship revenge in a couple of weeks so ya’ll can:

So catch you on the flip side. Going to shower and pack now.
And I’m really, really tired.

 

In Haste

In case you guys wonder why I’ve been so scarce, yesterday I had something back to back for 12 hours.  For those of you who are here whom I didn’t recognize/greeted more than once/haven’t seen yet — that was the reason.

This is the first con in which I’ve not had a drop of alcohol — mostly because I’m not sure how it would interact with medicines — not even at dinner, and in which I’ve been acting like a falling-down-drunk.

Part of it is the post op thing.  By the reading yesterday I’d drunk so much diet coke I sloshed.  But I caught myself sleeping in the second panel of the day and that’s just not right.

There’s this “sleep” thing I hadn’t experienced since I was pregnant with Robert, where it hits and starts to take me down and fighting it off is worse than fighting off some sort of plague.  It’ s almost physically painful, because my will power is insufficient.

Anyway, we set a Huns breakfast for 8 am this morning, because it was the only time I was free and most of you were here.  For those of you at Liberty, particularly if you haven’t seen me yet, meet me at City Diner (Closest to the choo choo) at 8 am.

Also someone gave me a sad (stuffed) puppy who has been named Larry-the-sad-puppy.  He’s been helping me through panels, particularly given how tired I was.

Your daily dose of snark will resume tomorrow when I hope to do my duty for Glenn too (since I’m supposed to be 1/8th of Instapundit, and I’ve been falling down (on face.  From tiredness) on the job.

Meanwhile, go forth and do stuff.  And if you’re in LC come and see me.  I should be able to speak after the second cup of coffee.

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear — a blast from the past 12/21/2014

*I don’t normally run these posts this close, and this is sort of a Christmas story, but I know sort of the feeling out there among you guys from what has been thrown at me/asked this weekend.

I want to emphasize that as a supporter of SSM (And polygamy, and any other contract been free, consenting adults) I never supported judicial activism, much less supreme court activism or turning the constitution into a sort of tea leaf reading show.

I will confess too that the thing that worries me most about this decision is the fact the window I’m typing in has a rainbow flag up top, courtesy of WordPress.  That kind of bizarre triumphalism, of tribal cheering makes me uncomfortable and ALWAYS ends in tears.

UPDATE: to clarify what bothers me about that rainbow flag in the editing window: when corporations do this, it always means they’re afraid of FURTHER lawfare, which means they at least wordpress interprets this law as “no church, caterer or corporation left alone.”

A lot of my gay friends are more uncomfortable than I am — yes, guys, got your emails.  I’ve just been booked back to back on panels and have had no more than a few minutes on the computer here and there — because they’re mostly libertarians and know history.  They know that in every country in which government grew too powerful gays (or any other minority, for that matter) didn’t fare well.

Not knowing the details of the decision all I’ll say about that one is that what I heard makes me uncomfortable because the state having a say in our most intimate associations (for OR against) makes me uncomfortable.  I think it’s high time we took marriage (all marriage) away from government altogether.  (You may say I’m a dreamer… and you’re probably right.)

The OTHER one — which I also haven’t had time to read but I heard a lot more about — this charming idea that the Supreme Court now gets to “correct” laws to “make them work” — THAT if correctly reported to me is an abomination and a blunt sign we have a problem (or perhaps “we got a condition.”)

So I thought I’d run this story again, to remind you of two things:

1- Things could get worse, and probably will.  Human beings have a tendency to not want to rock the boat until it’s inevitable.  Read about the lead up to the revolutionary war if you don’t believe me.

2- America cannot be killed and cannot be destroyed.  It’s time to stop that silly talk.  America is not a location or a tribe.  America is an idea, and a notoriously hard to kill one.  America is an idea that has transformed the world.  It will continue to do so, so long as people believe in it.

Teach your children well.*

itcameuponcover

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

The pounding on the doors, the words, “Open up in the name of the law.”

Juan Johnson who had been lying in the dark, in his little bed at the back of the house, half asleep, retained only a sense of explosions, a smell of something burning, papa up front saying he didn’t know anything of these Usaians and besides, he was a honest carpenter and what could they—

And mama! Mama, who had never left dad alone in any difficulty, Mama who rarely left the house without him and never at night, had gotten Juan and Angelita out of their beds, in the dark, wrapping the baby and putting her in a sling, and dressing Juan, fast, so fast that she’d put a sock of each different color on his feet.

This still bothered him, as they ran down the alley in the night, and then up another alley, all staying away from the police.

Juan could hear other pounding and “Open up—”

And fragments of other sentences, too, “Forbidden,” and “Dangerous elements” and “Seditious ideology.”

Juan knew what “dangerous elements” were. He was only ten, but Mama and Papa had taught him at home and he’d been allowed to read a lot of dad’s old books, the sort of thing they no longer taught in the school. Dangerous elements were things like Uranium and other things that gave off radiation that could kill you. Why the police would be looking for it, he didn’t know.

He did not however have any idea what Seditious ideology meant.

He repeated the words to himself as mama stopped in a dark alley, by a flyer. It wasn’t their flyer, but then Mama rarely drove their flyer, and she certainly never burned its genlock clean off, reaching in before it could do more than emit a bzzzt and burning something else, murmuring to herself as though to remember a list, “Alarm off,” Then went in, leaving Juan alone at the entrance for a moment. She came back and threw something to the floor. Juan didn’t know what it was – pieces of something electronic. “Tracker,” Mama said.

She pulled Juan in with one hand, and closed the door, then sat him in a seat, and – strangely – put the sling with Angelita around him. The baby was only three months old, but Juan was a slim boy and the sling – and the baby – very big and very heavy. He thought of protesting, but Mama looked as though she would start to cry, so he said nothing. He let Mama put the harness over both of them, and saw her consult a paper in Papa’s handwriting as she set the coordinates.

Moments later they were in the air, and Juan might have dozed, but he woke with the flare of explosions, and the shaking as Mama sent the flyer careening side to side.

“Mama!” he said.

“Say it, Juan, say it, my little Juanito.”

“I pledge allegian—”

Mama made a sound. It wasn’t quite laugh and not quite a cry. “Not that one. The other one. The human events one.”

Juan blinked. He’d learned all these from as soon as he could speak. The only time dad was really strict was in making sure he remembered everything, every single word. And the meaning. All the meaning. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God—”

An explosion came very close, making them shake and showing Mama’s face, very pale and marked with trails as if she’d cried a lot. He hadn’t heard her cry. How could she cry so silently.

“Nature’s God?” Mama prompted.

“Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—”

Mama sobbed then, but didn’t say anything but “Go on,” so Juan did, as explosions rocked the small flyer, and Mama, finally, just took them really low, and did something, and pulled Juan out after her, but never took the baby sling of him, and she pushed him against a wall and put her hand over his mouth, while the flyer lifted off again and flew a programmed course.

“It was only a second,” Mama said. “Only a second. Maybe they won’t notice.”

But then she was pulling Juan, and running down an alley, and then another.

Juan heard heavy boots after them, and was surprised when Mama pulled out a burner and shot a man down. Juan didn’t have a very clear idea of what happened then, save the man fell, and mama pulled Juan after her again.

Up, up and up, they were climbing narrow stairs in the dark. Mama was talking to herself in Spanish, something she only did when she was really worried. Juan didn’t know Spanish, but he knew a few of the words. He knew “must do something” because mama used to say it at Papa when she was really mad or worried.

“Mama,” Juan said. “My legs hurt. And Angelita is heavy.”

“Yes,” Mama said, which seemed not to be an answer at all. From somewhere to their right came an explosion and then someone screamed, and screamed and screamed, the voice getting weaker as it went. Mama, who normally went to help all the neighbors, didn’t even slow down.

“Juan, you know what we’ve taught you? Papa and I?”

They’d taught him so many things. To read and to write, and to brush his teeth, and– “To mind and be a good boy?”

Again, Mama made that sound that wasn’t quite laughter or a sob, and her hand came down and touched his hair briefly. “That too, my love, but not that. About the Usa. About how it existed and was blessed by God as long as it kept to the precepts of liberty and equality before the law. And how it fell and gave its power to supposedly enlightened rulers and then—”

“It was reduced in size,” Juan said, puffing a little as it was hard to keep up with Mama as she ran down one alley, then another. “And punished.”

“Not reduced in size,” she said. “What remains calls itself United States, but it’s not.”

“But you said, if it returned to faithfulness and the…” He struggled for the words Papa had said so many times, “the inspired vision of the founders it would be forgiven and be great again.”

Sob-laugh and mama said, “It’s not the same place. It can’t return. We’ll have to remember and make it true again. Those of us who keep the faith.”

“Daddy said,” and now he was having true trouble catching his breath. “Daddy said that as long as the belief in the principles of the declaration of independence and the constitution-” deep breath. “As long as those remained in one human heart, the Usa wouldn’t be dead.”

“And so it won’t.” Mama stopped abruptly. Juan could hear the noise of people running after them, voices saying “They went this way. The Flyer was a ruse.”

There were flyers above too, with low-pointing floodlights. As one passed overhead, Mama pressed Juan against the wall. She spoke quickly, in a low voice, “That’s why they made us illegal. That’s why they’re trying to exterminate us. As long as liberty remains in one human heart, the bio-lords won’t have full sway. And they want full sway. They want to dictate our every thought. Listen, Juan, my son. Do you know where the Peace Tower is? From here?”

Juan thought. He wasn’t sure where he was, but he knew the neighborhood, and they hadn’t gone very far. Their flight had been too short. The Peace Tower, built to commemorate peace in the Americas, even if Papa said it wasn’t peace at all, just surrender, was big and lit up and right in the center of the city.

He shook his head a little, because if the peace tower were anywhere nearby, he would see its light. They lit it up in white and green every night.

“If you take that alley to the left, and keep going, mind, Juan, as fast as you can, you will come to the plaza where it is. Don’t go to the plaza. I don’t know if your description is out, but it might be. Instead, the alley that leads to the peace tower plaza, just before you leave it, it has a branch that turns left. Take that. It runs behind a lot of restaurants. Keep on that until you come to the back of a restaurant called Silver Palate – remember that. The name is on big red dumpsters in the back. Turn right there. Follow that alley till it ends, and climb over the wall to the right. It will be difficult, but mind, Juanito, keep Angelita from falling as you climb.

“You’ll be in the backyard of an apartment house. It’s what used to be a large house, long ago, but it’s now apartments. Go in through the back door, run up the stairs to the left, all the way to the top. There’s a door there, marked 4 B. Knock on it. Say Paul sent you. Say treason. They’ll know what to do. The man in the house, his name is James Remy. Do what he tells you. Can you remember?”

He nodded. One of the great advantages of the long stretches of memorizing Papa had made him do was that he could remember things much more easily than any other kid his age in school. But a worry remained, “Why Mama?”

“Never mind that. Just remember, you must do that, or thousands of people will die.” The light had passed overhead. It was dark in the alley, but the sounds of steps and the voices drew closer.

She reached in her pocket and pulled out something. It was a burner. Not a burner like they showed on tv, all glossy and pretty, but a short, battered thing, with a rounded butt, that looked as if it had been assembled together from spare parts. “Papa showed you how to fire these, right? You remember?”

Juan remembered. It was hard to forget as it had been only this week. Papa had taken him to the basement, set a burner on lowest, and had him fire at figures painted on the wall.

Mama said, “If someone tries to stop you, shoot them. Don’t stop to see if you hurt them or killed them. Burn center mass, and run on.”

“Papa said never to point it at a person.”

“No, dear,” she spoke very fast. “Never to point it at a person you don’t mean to kill. But everyone is allowed to kill, if the other person would kill them.”

“How do I know—”

“Trust me, Juan. If they try to stop you, if they catch you, they’ll kill you and Angelita. Or worse.” She pushed something into his pocket. He didn’t know what it was, but she said, “There are two scraps of flag there, Papa’s and mine. Papa’s is the one with the stain on the corner. Keep it when you grow up. Give mine to Angelita, when you’re sure she understands. Now go.”

“What about you?”

“Never mind me.” Mama leaned over and kissed him, a brief touch of lips on his hair, and then she pushed him, hard, down the alley.

He ran to keep from falling, and then he kept running, down the alley, at full speed. He was aware of burners firing and of cries. Was Mama shooting people or had she—

He couldn’t imagine Mama hurt, Mama dead, anymore than he could imagine the end of the world. And that’s what it would be if Mama died.

Instead, he held on to the idea that she would escape, she would join him.

He ran as fast as he could, the route she said.

He met no opposition, until, running so fast he almost couldn’t see, and sweat trickling into his eyes, making them sting, he almost ran into the Plaza of Peace. There a uniformed soldier turned around and said “You, Kid!”

Juan didn’t think this counted as trying to stop him, and he didn’t want to shoot the man, who was young and looked a lot like the brother of his friend Klaus, back at school. So instead he ignored him, and turned left, into the alley with the dumpsters. Mama hadn’t said it would be this long.

He ran down it as fast as he could, but it wasn’t very hard, because his legs felt as though they were made of water, and his breath was coming in short puffs. He felt like he would collapse, but he remembered what mama said. Could he live with knowing he’d caused the death of thousands of people? Or failed to save them? He tried to picture thousands of people, but he couldn’t. That would be like everyone he knew.

“Hey, Kid, stop,” came from behind him. And as he ignored it, another voice told the first, “It’s just a kid, why are we chasing him.”

“It’s not just a kid. His description and that he’s carrying a baby is on the bulletins. He’s going to alert the other rebels. Those damned Usaians.”

Juan didn’t want to turn. Juan didn’t want to shoot these young men. But Mama’s words rang in his mind, and he could not doubt these people wanted to stop him. And they’d said damned Usaians. These men wanted to kill them. People like him and Mama. Mama had said–

He pulled the safety on the burner, as dad had taught him to do it, by touch. And he set it on high. Papa said it was just like the games, point and click.

Juan wanted to close his eyes, but he knew that if he did he’d miss, so he turned and fired, center mass, only he kept the beam on and cut straight across. He had the impression of cutting two bodies in half, but he didn’t stop to look.

Angelita had started crying and squirming. Papa used to joke she slept through everything, but judging by the smell, she must be dirt. He murmured soothing words he knew wouldn’t help, as he ran and hoped no one looked out the windows to see where the crying baby was.

He came to the dumpster and turned, in the almost blind dark, and ran. This alley was shorter, and it ended in a brick wall. There was ivy growing along the wall, and, fortunately, Juan was light. Fortunately, too, he’d always liked climbing.

Even so, Mama was right, and it was difficult. It was very difficult to hold on and not to squish Angelita against the wall. Particularly, since she was crying.

At the top of the wall, he hesitated. There was a man with the dog in the enclosure. He was old, about Papa’s age, and he had a pipe, and a little yellow puppy playing at his feet.

He looked up, as Juan sat there, and Juan didn’t want to kill him, because he didn’t think he was the authorities, but he had to go up and give the message… He had to.

The man blinked at him, in confusion. “Hello, there. What is wrong?”

The last was said in a tone of concern, as he looked from Juan to the baby.

“I must see my uncle,” Juan said. The idea just came to him. Anyway, at the great fall festival, when people gathered in some secret place to eat and trade stories, the kids called every older man uncle and every older woman aunt, so, it must fit. “James Remy.”

The man’s face froze. There was a long silence. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. He looked kindly, with pale hair streaked with white, and grey eyes, and he said, “I see, you must be my nephew, Jimmy.”

“No. Juan,” he said. “Juan Johnson.”

“Of course Juan. Sorry, I got confused with your brother. Here, let me help you down from the wall.”

There was a bad moment, as the man reached up and took Jimmy’s hands, and helped him, till he was holding him and Angelita in his arms, together, and Juan thought he would hold him and not let him go, and then Juan would have to kill him. But the man must have sensed Juan’s discomfort, and put him down. “We can’t talk here,” he said. “We’ll go on up to aunt Mary, shall we.” He whistled for the puppy, “Come on Pie.”

“Pie?” Juan asked, as he noted they were going in through the back door and trotting up the stairs Mama had described.

“Pumpkin pie. My daughter Jane named him. She’s very silly.”

The puppy followed at their heels, as they got to the top of the stairs.

The shock when the door opened was almost too much for Juan. He’d been living a bad dream for the last hour? Eternity? But here was normal life, just like it had been at home before that knock on the door. They had a Winter Holidays tree set up, all decorated and lit with lights, and presents under it, and there was a smell of food, and there were two kids, just older than him, and a baby, and a large blond woman, with a kind face, who looked at the man he’d come in with, and then at Juan, with Angelita, and said, “Now, Jim, what?”

But the man was walking past her, and telling the two children, “I think this is bugout. You know what to do. Go.”

The woman said, “Oh, no. Can’t be. They’ve eased the restrictions on religions. We can even have trees if we don’t call them—”

But the man turned to Juan and said, “Son, what is your message?”

“Paul sent me,” Juan said, feeling like he would cry, and he wasn’t sure why, repeating Mama’s words. “Treason.”

The man said a word. One of those words Papa said when he cut himself with one of his tools. And then took a deep breath. “I’ve been wondering. First the Christians, then us. Anything that might stop the state…” He looked at Juan’s uncomprehending face.

“How do we know?” his wife said. “how do we know it’s not a trap so we reveal ourselves?

The man looked at Juan and said, very softly, “In congress, July four, seventeen seventy six—”

Juan nodded and answered with the remembered words, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires—”

“Enough, son. He’s one of ours. Mary, I’ll pack, you change that baby and give this young man something to drink, and maybe something to eat. I think he’s been through hard times, just now.”

The big blond woman took him by the hand. She felt like Mama, even though she couldn’t be because Mama was small and dark. Presently, she was giving Angelita a bottle while Juan ate a bowl of warm oatmeal with cream and brown sugar and told her what had happened. Her eyes got misty when he talked about Mama being left behind.

Juan had been thinking, he said, “She’s dead now, isn’t she, ma’am?” It seemed impossible, and yet he was sure of it, in a way. “Papa said if you died defending the Usa, you’d be born again in a land of freedom, is it true? Do people live more than once?”

The woman’s eyes misted, blue beneath a veil of tears. “Some people think so. Some of our people. But my husband and I we’re Chri– We believe in another religion, too, an older one. We just think there is a better land, and your mama and papa are already there. You should call me mom now. It will make things easier. Your name is Juan? Maybe we should call you John.”

“Juan is the name on my birth certificate,” he said, “But Papa said my real name was John Adams. And Angelita is Martha Washington. Johnson.”

“Let’s forget the Adams and the Washington. We need to be even quieter than we’ve been,” the father of this family said, as he did things around them. Juan wasn’t sure what the things were, but he was bringing small bags from inside, and checking burners, as though to make sure they were okay, then setting them atop the bags. “Your name now is John Remy, can you remember that? And Mary is your mom and I’m your dad. And Angelita is Martha. Just Martha. I think we’ll call her Marty, shall we?”

Juan was too tired to protest. The oatmeal had hit his stomach and somehow made him feel warm and really sleepy.

“You go with your brother Jimmy and mom,” the man he was to call dad said. “You know where to go,” he told his wife. “Take the baby. I’ll take Jane and go the other way after I pass on the alarm. We’re just a normal family, going to visit relatives. If you run into trouble, send me signal. I’ll try to retrieve you. That message – someone gave away our enclaves and we don’t have very long. I’ll pass on the codes, and then I’ll join you.”

“Where are we going, sir—uh—dad?” Juan said.

“Olympus Seacity. We’re not forbidden there.”

“Yet,” his wife said.

“Yet, but we’ll survive this,” her husband said, and kissed her. “You can’t erase the idea of the USa until you kill every one of us. And they can’t. We’ll move on. We’ll be secret. We’ll keep going. And someday, someday, we’ll be free to be and to believe again. The idea of freedom and equality we hold might be small and frail compared to the will to power of the tyrants, and the idea that our betters should always lead. But once it had been kindled in human breasts, it is unquenchable. We’ll go to Olympus. We’ll start again. They always need skilled people. And if we should fail and if we should fall, someone will go on, someone will believe. Maybe one of these children.” He kissed his wife again. “Go on. Jane and I will join you and take Pie with us.. And you too, Johnny, go on. Your Mama and Papa and you saved a lot of people tonight. And you might have saved the hope for a future in freedom.”

Juan didn’t understand it all, but as he went out into the night again, this time held in the arms of his adopted mom, he felt somehow that he’d accomplished something big, something that would be remembered. The young man, Jimmy, was carrying Angelita, who was asleep again.

They walked down the street, in the muted street lights. Above the moon shone with a bright, clear, silvery light.

And it seemed to Juanito that up there, somewhere, Mama was watching and smiling. Perhaps he’d saved many people, but he’d only done what she wanted.

That was enough for him.

She’d believed that the words he’d been taught, the beliefs she held, would one day make the world better.

He didn’t know if she was right, but she was Mama. Dead or alive, he’d follow her beliefs.

“Life, liberty,” he whispered to himself.

“And the pursuit of happiness,” his new mom said. She kissed his forehead. “And we will pursue all three, little one. We will. However long it takes to attain them,There are dreams so big you must keep chasing them, no matter how long it takes.”

Juan only half heard her.  He was falling asleep, slipping into a dream where the great summer high holiday was held in the open, in a park with green grass, and there were red blue and white streamers floating in the wind, and fireworks, like what dad had told him about in the old days.

Mama and papa were there, holding hands and looking up at the fireworks.  And in their faces was the most radiant happiness he’d ever seen.

It was a terrible and beautiful sight, which he would never forget.

Shaking the Dice Cup

Years ago, when life had been an unremitting shower of cack, we’d take a day off and go to Denver and have dinner at Pete’s kitchen.  This was known as “altering our luck.”

Perhaps it was the psycho-somatic effects, but usually afterwards things improved, stuff we’d long hoped for happened, and we felt better about life in general. Perhaps it was our perspective that had changed.

Now life hasn’t been that bad, but there have been aspects of it we’re been less than happy with.  Mostly the fact that over the last 12 years I keep getting sick to the point that it finally stopped the writing (and the reading!) cold about two years ago.

Part of the decision to renew our vows before our assembled friends (and fandom) was to have that effect of shaking the dice cup and seeing if we could get a better combination.  The other half was that we’d never had a wedding for US with OUR friends.  Our first wedding (civil ceremony) was half a dozen people, at the York County court house.  We spent the rest of the day helping my sister-in-law move.

Our wedding in Portugal, the religious ceremony, was massive.  It was in fact too massive, including relatives who had flown in from across the world and whom I hadn’t seen in my cognizant life.

The end of it is that we never had a ceremony before our friends and the people who are in our life, more or less constantly.

So we decided we wanted one.  We wanted one for our 25th, only, you know, as these things happen, we were so broke we didn’t even come to Liberty Con (where, in the age of the interwebs, we get the largest concentration of our friends.)

Which is why we decided to do it this year, even though with rent and mortgage we are ALSO broke.  But it’s also because we’re taking the opportunity to fix the health issues we know about, and because the tenor of our life and family life is changing.  We only have Robert with us another month or so, and his brother wants to move out when the house sells, which means we’re somewhere between a month and a year (we don’t know when the house will sell) away from being empty nesters and completely rearranging the pattern of our lives.

And we wanted a promise to help us with it.  One of the reasons I’ve always said marriage is different than living together is because a promise taken before the people who matter to you has weight and heft, and you’ll hesitate to break it.  (Not that I wouldn’t, anyway, since oaths matter.)

Which brings us to–

Yesterday we renewed our vows before the assembled attendees of Liberty con who were here early and wanted to watch.

As usual, we had planned everything and had attendants… and then we forgot them.  We shared a joint ceremony with Cedar Sanderson and Sanford Begley, who were not in fact renewing but doing this for the first time.  And the whole thing took about 5 minutes.

In retrospect, the ceremony we came up with was very Libertarian, self-administered each of the couples speaking to each other.  And then we leaped two by two over a replica of Lady Vivamus, from Glory Road.

At the last minute Cedar changed her dress to green, which means that together we were Christmas, not patriotic, but we had red and white and blue bouquets (thank you Toni Weisskopf) so it still counts as the first ever Usaian wedding.  I think.

I’m assured the dress of provocation was all that.  I might put it back on for the reception today at 8 pm.  If you’re around Liberty con walk down the party room hallway (room 10 something) and you’ll find us.

And let’s hope that the shake of the dice cup works, and the next few years everything comes up right, or at least better.  Let’s hope this is a good omen as we enter a new phase in our lives.  Let’s hope it is, at least, no worse.

Dum Vivimus Vivamus.

The Politeness Trap

A few weeks ago I was reading Ace of Spades, which most of the time does not raise my blood pressure, when I came across this dismissive, gloaty type of post about how we’re done as a free people, because look at how people go through airport security: they eagerly, quickly, get all their trays and lay out their everything, etc.

The implication is that people like or approve of the security Kabuki, and are doing it out of how much they approve and want to have their stuff pawed through, etc.

It felt wrong when I read it. But I couldn’t put my finger on it.

So, yesterday, while having my 4th amendment rights violated I realized how wrong this was, and why it’s wrong.

Going through the TSA’s tender ministrations ALWAYS makes me forget I’m an OWL (older, wiser, libertarian).  I want to put on my best innocent voice (the one I used to rile college authorities) and say “When was the fourth amendment repealed?” or “Excuse me, you have perhaps failed to realize I’m an American and we have certain rights?” or even “Can you direct me to the place where the constitution is still respected?”

However, I went through the line as “eagerly” as everyone else.  More possibly, as I take my shoes off before I even get in line.  A mother behind me was having near-silent kittens about her kid walking on the airport floor in socks, but heck, I used to eat sand on the beach and walk barefoot on village streets when horses and oxen were the main transportation.

I did not do it because I thought the authorities had the right, or because I approved of what they were doing.  Even if I thought the security kabuki (shoes, really?  I mean the shoe bomber should have been spotted just walking through) was doing anything (I traveled with a can of mace disguised as a lighter for ten years after 9/11.  Not on purpose.  I’d forgotten I had it in my purse.  The point is it was never found, even though what it was disguised as —  a lighter — is also forbidden) I couldn’t approve of what they were doing yesterday which was apparently training new personnel during one of the busiest hours I’ve seen DIA.  This meant every bag scan called supervisors over to discuss it for ten minutes.  I was happy we’d built in an extra hour, but we let people ahead of us who were already boarding.

So why was I “such a good sheep”?

Not for the authorities.  The mechanism made itself clear when obeying just as crazy an authority a few minutes later.

Unless you have flown more than one airline recently, you probably don’t know what I mean.  If you have, though, you know each airline has come up with a more “efficient” way to fill the plane.  They’ve done it all.  Zones based on your lateral position (Window, isle, middle); zones based on where you sit on the plane (front, back, middle), zones based on your first name, your last name and how well you dance the Macarena.

All of these have “studies” that show how efficient they are.  And none of them — save the one airline that lets you board at will because their experts have proven its faster — actually makes any sense when you throw real people in.  There is always someone battling a too-large-by-a-tenth-of-an-inch carry on.  There is always someone who boards wrong.  And even when it all goes “right”, even obeying all the rules, there is almost always a long wait in the boarding sleeve, something that never happened before all these systems.

Maybe there are people who believe these systems.  I don’t know.  Most people seem to be rolling their eyes so hard the concourse becomes littered with them.

But we do it.  “eagerly” and quietly.

We do it for the same reason, I realized, we facilitate the TSA madness. We do it not out of fear, not out of submission, but out of politeness to our fellow sufferers.

Imagine I had given in to my inner bastage and started asking them by what right they were bullying me.  Who would it have affected?  The TSA?  Oh, h*ll no.  They like cracking down.  They do their job in the hope they get to clobber one of us.  You can feel that.

But the people behind me would miss planes/have their day destroyed by my going into a kabuki theater of my own (It wouldn’t change anything, except I wouldn’t now be in Chattanooga, TN at the start of liberty con.)

Essentially we obey these irrational schemes, the government’s and the airlines’ both because we are being polite to those people with us both strangers and family/friends.  The being polite to/respecting strangers IS what makes a civil society work as a free society.  And it was the trap we’re caught in.

The search, in Portugal, is far less rigorous because there is much less feel that you owe anything to strangers.  If they tried to make them jump through the hoops we jump through, everyone would rebel.

Paradoxically that is what makes the country function less like a free society, because you also need tall, strong walls to prevent people stealing plants from your garden; you’d never put Christmas decorations outside; and you really can’t trust anyone you’re not tribally (blood or tradition) connected to.

So, while I agree that the TSA and the way we put up with it is a foot in the door for tyranny, it must be realized what they are exploiting is one of the very characteristics that makes the US work: consideration for strangers.

It’s sort of like the flu pandemic killed more strong, young people, because how violently your immune system reacted was the biggest risk factor.

It is possible for the TSA to go so far that the same “politeness” demands we stop obeying them.  I think they are aware of these limits, though possibly not consciously.  I’ll note the noodie scans are not being used as much/often are completely ignored while people go through the old metal detectors.  Also, the craziness a few years back, in which they were testing drinks sold and bought inside the security area, has been dropped.  That last one a) really p*ssed people off.  b) was not caught in the politeness trap.  If I’d been accosted, I’d have accidentally/on purpose poured my coffee on the tsa agent’s crotch, and what would it have affected, other than his wedding tackle?

BUT until they do or they step outside the trap, yeah, Americans will behave like sheep.  Not because they are, but because they respect their fellow citizens too much to want to hurt them.

Which is why these excesses must be fought outside the tsa line, legislatively and through incremental change in the people we elect.  It is also why government must be kept small, so it can never use our own best traits against us.

It can’t be trusted and it subverts everything.  As we keep trying to explain to the left side of the isle, it’s not that we don’t want to help the poor; it’s not that we don’t believe in equality under the law; it’s not that we don’t think some people who are in invidious conditions SHOULDN’T be given a way to access what others get by existing — it’s that we can’t trust government and work-a-day bureaucrats to do it.

It’s because when you give power to bureaucrats, we all end up, metaphorically, having to take our shoes off for strangers, while the underwear bomber and three guys with box cutters can walk right through.

It’s because ultimately government only has power over those willing to obey laws and considerate of their fellow men, hostages to the prepotent insanity of the people who are attracted to TSA like jobs.

Terrorist, criminal and those really determined to hurt others because of race, creed or sex, can do so anyway.  They’re not caught in the politeness trap.

Government when it tries to become everyone’s mother is like a gun aimed ONLY at the wrong people.

And it’s time we change it.  Long before we get on a TSA line.

No Sex Please, We’re Bored — A Blast From The Past October 2011

As many of you know – because I’ve told you – I don’t have anything against sex. (Well, not at the moment. It would make writing awkward, and besides it would shock the cats.) I have been happily married for twenty six years and I have two sons, neither of which, despite their belief, is a virgin birth.

I am, however, getting sick and tired of sex in books. Oh, not sex as sex. I mean, most of you know I’m not a prude. I can read sex without much worries (except sometimes I wonder if people bend that way – in other planets, I know they don’t on Earth.) I’ll even admit there was a time when I was about 13 or 14 when I would read an entire book for the three paragraphs of sex. I suppose that was part of the age. You see, I’d never had sex, I assumed it would be an eon, give or take, before I had sex, and I wanted to know everything about it.

So, why am I getting sick of it? Because most of it doesn’t mean anything. Worse, it’s dreary to read.

It’s like there is some directive from above on “there must be sex here.” In fact, I know there is a directive out in Romance about x sex scenes at x places in the book. The number of xxx in which book depends on the line, but it’s carefully dictated. I can also say that in one of my series, I was told I MUST have sex scenes, even though I felt that sex didn’t belong in it.

So some sex in books is the result of pressure from what used to be the only means of getting books on the shelves. And on the part of the publishers, themselves, I think it was an effort to cater to what they perceived to be a universal taste.

Is it a universal taste? I don’t know. I can only tell you what I know and what I think.

I think a lot of the sex in books is boring. It makes no sense, it accomplishes nothing. If it doesn’t outright violate the character – really? A regency girl giving it up after one kiss? – it is at best oh um. They kiss they throb they flutter, they grind, they penetrate, there’s things that get hard and things that get moist, there’s how he’s never had it that good and she’s never felt this way before and zzzzzzzzzzz. What? Sorry. It’s just I’ve read so many of these.

Possibly there is some demographic out there whom this satisfies, who feels thrilled at the mere mention of sex. They’re probably thirteen. Or perhaps fourteen. But there are indications that it’s not the ticket to money and success (except insofar as marketing distorts things) that publishers believe it is. There is a certain hysteria of falling numbers and increasing sex under the belief that doing more of what’s failed is a sane business approach. (Do they teach this in the ivy leagues, or something?)

In my opinion, what sells is not explicit sex, but sexual tension (Something I doubt most publishers – jaded by books crossing their desk every day – might not be able to tell with two hands and a seeing eye dog) does sell. Sexual tension – as opposed to sex – makes the reader continue reading, makes us interested, makes us crave the moment when the two would-be-lovers, yearning for each other bur holding back, finally kiss or even touch.

For instance, Georgette Heyer’s Venetia or Silvester have enough sexual tension in it that at the end of the second, the phrase “Sparrow, Sparrow,” has more excitement in it than any of the multi-page anatomically correct sex scenes I ever read. And, FYI, Heyer is still selling very well indeed.

Not that sex is forbidden in this – I’ve read a few urban fantasies in which the sex builds the sexual tension, due to something the character can’t (or shouldn’t) overcome. Or must overcome. The point being the sex becomes part of the plot and entwines the plot and heightens everything else.

On the other hand, in a lot of urban fantasies and in 3/4 of the romances, you could take the sex scene out completely and no one would notice. Well, maybe the publishers looking for the x that marks the spot. And in many books it gets either clinical and dry, or silly and dreary. If you must describe a part of the female anatomy in such exaggeration that it sounds like a cabbage unfolding and unfolding and unfolding yet again, you’ve probably gone too far. Suggestion and indication – note not prudishness and playing keep away – are more… interesting than tons of ink spilled in the service of anatomic descriptions.

The best way to write sex is the best way to write anything else in a plot: irresistible force meets immovable object (again, and again, and again, harder, faster… er… get your mind out of the gutter. And then come back and toss a life preserver to my mind, would you?) Have your character want, crave, need and yet not be able to get for good and sufficient reason (and there must be a real reason, just as the need must be palpable not just “I want it bad.”) And then have all this serve the greater plot. And then, maybe, just maybe you’ll have something worth reading. (And if you’re writing erotica as such, I highly recommend How To Write Erotica by Valerie Kelly. Actually I highly recommend this book for the writing technique of “immediate writing.” She gives very useful hints on what to give in detail and what to shade in. Caution, it has graphic passages. Not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.) On the other hand, if you don’t want to write explicit sex, be brave and original and keep the graphic sex out.

I believe in the indie market place we’ll see more sex and more sexless books too. I can also easily predict that if the sex counts the book will do well, if the sex doesn’t count…. Yawn, who needs it?

Time Zones

This post is the result of very weird mind-mulch.

You know mind mulch, right?  It’s when you’re reading/looking at three different things at one time, and it all composts in your minds and comes up with a rich ah organic mixture you couldn’t have anticipated.

We’ve been working hell for leather at the other house trying to get it read (I think I have three more days of work, but I’m taking today off so I’m not unreasonably tired at LC.  I mean “I have” three days of work (with Robert doing the walls) and then we hire someone to do the “other stuff” that I can’t/don’t have time to do.  But anyway, the point is, I’ve been putting in a full day of work at the other house and it’s rather brutal physical labor.  Worse than that, it’s boring work.  No, seriously.  Refinished a baseboard, refinished them all.

As usual, like with house work, I deal with this by listening to recorded books and since — we’ve been stumbling tired and forgetting everything — I keep forgetting to buy new audio books (I have a subscription plan that allows me three a month.  It’s cheaper than a cleaning service.  Also, I also listen to them while exercising.)  So I have been listening to whatever was in the MP3 from three months ago.  In the last few days this has included Agatha Christie, Heinlein and Simak.

To be precise I listened to Citizen of the Galaxy and City, back to back.

At the same time I’ve been reading (while cooking, doing laundry, etc) P. F. Chisholm’s Elizabethan Scottish Frontier mysteries at the rate of about one a day.

And my bathroom book (bathroom books are essays or short stories, because if you have never gotten trapped by a novel someone had forgotten in the bathroom and lost the entire morning as well as all circulation in your legs, I can’t explain it to you) is a Daily Life In Medieval England thing. And most of the time I read something that I’m sure the authors thought was new and exotic and think “Well, heck, it was like that in the village.”

So, when I woke up this morning I woke up thinking of how time is different in different parts of the world, which is what the people (Heinlein and Simak included) who pushed for the UN and thought it was the way of the future didn’t seem to get (to be fair, in Tramp Royale it becomes obvious Heinlein got it when he traveled there, and realized it was impossible to bring such a disparate world under one government.)

A minor side note, while listening to City, there is a point at which Simak describes what he might or might not have realized was Marx’s concept of “perfect communism” where the state withers away because there’s no need for it.

Simak thought this would be brought about by perfect abundance.  There are no crimes of property when everyone has too much.  There are no crimes of violence either, because he seems to think those come from property.  (Hits head gently on desk.)

This must have seemed profound to me when I first read the book at 12, but right now I just stared at the mp3 player thinking “what about people who capture other people as sex slaves?”  “What about people who covet something someone else made, including the life someone made for themselves?  Just because everyone has too much, it doesn’t mean that they don’t covet what someone else made of their too much.”

Which is why I’m not a believer in either Communism or for that matter big L Libertarianism.  I don’t believe that humans are only a sum of their material needs and crime the result of the unequal distribution of property.  (There is also the unequal distribution of talent, or simply the unequal distribution of happiness, all of which can lead to crime — after all Cain didn’t off Abel because he was starving.)  And I don’t believe humans are ever going to become so perfect we can get away with no government, because humans will always (being at heart social apes) lust for power, recognition and heck simply control over others (which is subtly different from power.) So we’re stuck with our good servant but bad master.

Which brings us back, through back roads to the main point of this post.  I was (being evil) reading some of the entries in the medieval life book to older son (having brought the book out of the bathroom to pontificate) and I said “bah, it was like that for us, too.  It wasn’t that bad.”  And son said “mom, it sounds horrific.”  And I said “that’s because you grew up in a superabundant society, overflowing at both property and entertainment, which is why the problems we suffer from are problems that only affected the very rich in the past” (Crisis of identity, extreme sensitivity to suffering, etc.)

Which is also true.  And note kindly, that though we’re overflowing at the seams with material goods, property crimes we still have with us, not counting on anything else.

But for my child this is the normal world and it doesn’t occur to him to think of it as superabundant.  He just thinks of the conditions I grew up under (I think it was the “most people only had one change of clothes, including underwear” that got him) as barbaric and horrible.

I’ve long since realized that I grew up somewhere between medieval England and Victorian England.  Tudor England feels about as familiar to me as the present day which is why I like visiting now and then.

But even in Elizabethan England, there were different time zones, by which I don’t mean the artificial time declarations (though they went by the sun, so it was different too) but more that different parts of Britain at that time were in different “places” historically.

The Chisholm mysteries (highly recommended if you like mysteries that are solved through duels, kidnappings and pitched battles)  bring a London Courtier and presumed double cousin/nephew of the Queen, Robert Carey (his grandmother was Mary Boleyn and it was rumored his grandfather was Henry VIII.  There are reasons not to believe this, and the fact that the author believes it because of his “adventurous nature” …. pfui.  It’s a minor annoyance, but I don’t join in the cult of the Tudors.  They had Shakespeare.  It should be enough.  Anyway, I can ignore it to enjoy the books.) to the Scotland Borders to become deputy warden which, if you think of it as sheriff in the old west is about right.

(There are delightful things about the book, including character names you’d expect of the Feegle, and the wonderful understatement of naming areas of pitched battle “the debatable land.”  Charles, if you read this, I’m getting you those books as soon as I have money.)

I’m now at the beginning of the fourth book, delayed because yesterday house work was followed up by ironing, neither of which are suited to reading, and the main character has brought his Scottish (not really, but an Englishman fromt he border) helper to London.  And the two cultures are pitched against each other.

The Scottishish man cannot understand how Carey could be arrested for debts “if you have kin in town” because justice in Scotland is tribal.  It doesn’t matter if you killed someone, it matters if your family will fight to keep you out of the pokey.  Oh, and the ownership of horses and cows is very Masai, since every “surname” is convinced G-d gave them all the cattle.  If someone else owns any, it’s an injustice and should be rectified.

The borders of Scotland are “centuries behind” Tudor England on the road from tribalism to a modern state. This in turn means a lot of other things about it are “primitive” as the poor character keeps suffering through.

And then you get to things like City or some of the Heinlein juveniles, where you’re assured that the UN brought rationality to the world, one world government is wonderful and, as superabundance set in, humans shed religion as unneeded, and went forward to be perfect angels.

I’m not sure what caused this blindness that affected smart men in the fifties and sixties, and still affects academics, idiots and Marxists today, but I read that and I think “Okay, I can see how you thought this was plausible if what you looked at was the intellectual portions  of middle America where religion was a social thing, and where the whole “brotherhood of man” was a believed fable.  But can you imagine making Islam just “wither away” without major persecution, war and executions?  Oh, heck, even Catholicism in the more traditional regions.

There is probably no religious minority as thoroughly gentrified and intellectualized as the Jewish people, and I know that even if you’re a secular Jew you’ll balk and fight if they try to make you give it up.  And even those of us whose ancestors gave it up, haven’t really and there are weird survivals and bits that we cling to.

And then there’s tribalism.  Perhaps the EU has made the Portuguese and the Spanish live in peace with each other (I think they’re biding their time, but that’s something else) what about the myriad little tribes in Africa, or even racial/tribal minorities in Asia.

How could they think the nature of man would pass away so completely?

I attribute it to lack of contact with other lands.  I mean, the US is a huge country, and back then the industrial-news complex had absolute primacy.  You really only got the other countries filtered through the lens of your colleagues in the media.  And you only got even other segments of your own country filtered that way.

This was not malice, either.  I’m here to tell you that understanding another culture — or even understanding that another culture really exists, and they’re not just sort of playing at it — is REALLY hard.  Humans are very good at absorbing the conditions they’re born into and internalizing them as THE conditions, i.e. the only true ones, and then thinking of everything else as a bizarre variation.

At the simplest linguistic level this is manifested in my mom’s tendency to try to talk to my husband and kids by SHOUTING Portuguese words very slowly.  She’s fairly sure if they just stop pretending, they’ll understand her.  It’s not an intellectual belief, of course, she’s not stupid, but at some subconscious level, she’s sure of it.  Same when I used to teach languages.  I remember a student telling me in frustration that he got “cat” because “gato” is not that difference but “What possessed the English to call a cao a dog?”

In the same way, I spent a lot of time after I moved to the US (and remember that I had been primed by growing up IN Heinlein books) trying to make people’s actions fit into the motives I’d learned in Portugal (yeah, they sort of do, but you have to strip away the cultural matrix first, and that’s harder than you think.)

So it is a case of people who lived in a rather provincial group, and thought the rest of the world was like them.  IOW they thought all human beings were the same, they were just sort of “pretending” not to be (this is obvious in City where Simak says something like people stopped caring what their neighbors think.)

For me, who grew up in one culture, entered another when I went to school (think of it as being raised in Apalachia then joining mainstream culture.  I had to learn almost completely different language.)  and then came here for a year, went back for four while dating someone neither Portuguese nor American, then came here to live.  It gives you a very clear vision of both cultures.  And it makes it very obvious it’s not all just “pretending” to be different.

It still stuns me that in that time and in that place, intelligent well read men could believe this clap trap of “one world” and government and religion both withering away leaving behind this human being that if he ever existed would be truly alien.

It stuns me more than in our day and age, with blogs and news that show us clearly the differences around the world, there are people who still believe it.

I want to say it’s living in “different time zones” and provincialism that makes them believe theirs is the only “real” one, but I think it comes down to wishful thinking, and “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

To which I would add grandma’s saying “I’ve seen them blind, but never without a place for the eyes.”

The funny thing of course, is that these people, nowadays, are in the end just as tribal as the most backwardly tribal of humans.  Their beliefs are simply mock sophisticate.

But their time zone is medieval.

Marriage is a State of Mind – Cedar Sanderson

Marriage is a State of Mind – Cedar Sanderson

I have long been a fan of Dorothy Sayers. I don’t recall when I first read one of her books, but I know that I just recently read one of her essays on feminism and it sparked a thought – several thoughts, really – in my head. I wrote some of it down in Are Women Human? which is a composite of her essay of that title and my own thoughts.

As I was reacquainting myself with not only the fictional romance between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but the true life of Dorothy Sayers, I was forced to reflect on my own life and relationships. There are some parallels to where I am now, and looking back, I can see clearly in hindsight where my path has taken me. You don’t see it, while you’re walking it. It’s only later that you can piece it together fully, no matter how well planned you think you have your life.

I was married relatively young. I met the man I would shortly marry when I had just turned 19, and he was 32. I was, as I joking say now, insane. Not literally, just a very sheltered young woman who fell for the oldest trick in the wolf’s book: I don’t have time to waste on dating. Will you marry me?

Do I regret it, looking back with clarity? No. I have four beautiful and smart children I love that would not exist as they are had I not decided that I would be a dutiful daughter and become the housewife I was supposed to be. I’d been discouraged rather firmly from following my chosen career paths – from science, by the brute force of being told that I would not be allowed to graduate highschool until I did what was expected of me – and from the military by being told that enlistment was the last thing I should do (and this coming from two people I trusted implicitly). So I did what everyone wanted. I thought.

I went to work, he went back to college. He’d finish his degree, and then I would finish mine, turn and turn about. I’ll skip the long tortuous story, because anyone who has half a brain knows how this story ends. I’m going to finish my degree in a little over a year, 21 years after graduating high school. He never finished his, dropping out of school again six months into the marriage.

Marriage, if it’s done right, is a beautiful friendship. It is two souls in support of one another. Friends first, then lovers. I still believe that, with all my heart, because it is a truth that transcends all the bad marriages in the world.

I can’t say why all marriages fail. I know what I have seen, and experienced.

You can’t do it alone.

If only one person is carrying all the weight, the precious bonds of matrimony are going to attenuate, and in time, fail. The marriage might not dissolve, but there is a gulf between the partners that deepens and widens.

You are alone if the other person in your life tells you that you are worthless, that you are crazy, that you aren’t pulling your weight. You are alone if they demand constantly, but refuse to meet your needs. Even worse than flat refusal, if they constantly promise, but never fulfill those promises. “You can do that in five years.” Becomes never, and you stagger on under the load until one day you collapse, pressed flat, and under your feverish cheek the floor is so cool and you close your eyes and pray for the end to come quickly as you try to breathe.

Personal Honor comes with a reset button.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s stories about Ekaterin and Miles may have saved my life. I’ll probably never talk to her in person, and I wouldn’t tell her this, because it’s very personal and sounds overdramatic. But it was in the story of a woman married to a man who left her wondering ‘am I crazy, or am I crazy?’ that I began to find the clarity to see where I was and who I had become. Then, in a scene set in a dusty attic, when Miles gestures toward his belly button and asks ‘doesn’t your honor come with a reset button?’ I finally understood. It was not the end of me, of my honor, if I broke my vows under duress. To continue would be the end of me, and I had already come to grips with that. To die to self in the service of others is necessary and even good. I’d held that as a mantra for years at that point. To risk my children? To know that even if the other person in my life ended his as soon as I walked away, it was not my fault?

I pressed the reset button.

Having reset my honor, I needed time to grieve, to heal, to come to grips with my brokenness. Not that you ever are restored to what you were. That you can, in time, aspire to kintusukori. During that grieving time I tried to tackle another relationship, and made the same mistake. I was too loyal. I overlooked the little lies, until I was confronted by big lies. I walked away again.

I swore I’d never do that again.

I’d intended to live out the rest of my life alone. My children, my father who shared a house with me (my parents were divorced for years at this point), so not physically alone. But there was still a hole in my life.

I leaned on the support of my friends as I struggled to support my family. My once-partner had survived our breakup and seemed to be turning his life around but had no interest in supporting his family. I worked and worked some more, and at night when I was too tired to sleep I talked with my fingers to friends all over the world. One of them, an acquaintance for years, was going through a similar process, escaping a toxic relationship that had all but killed him in spirit if not in body.

We talked, a lot, but it was friendship, a meeting of the minds. He encouraged me to write, something I had been stunted in for years. It was like watering a wilted plant. I encouraged him to get away from the situation he was in, reminding him as I had learned – honor is important, yes, but when the other side of the equation has no honor? – and he did make a break.

Time passed. I managed to get a week to myself, with the plan of writing. I knew that if I stayed at home I would have a million distractions and the kids would come home early… I went to stay with my friend. A writing retreat, and it was. But it was also the beginning of an Odd courtship. Because we are both Odds. We fit well together, mentally (minds out of the gutter!).

Never From Gratitude

You’re wondering where I was going with Dorothy Sayers, now that I have wandered through most of my adult life. As I was reading her this last month, I realized that the reason Harriet Vane would not marry Peter, despite him being desperately in love with her, was that she thought she was only grateful to him, and gratitude is not enough for a marriage.

I found myself living with my dear friend rather suddenly. The plan had been for a summer spent working, making money with my business nearer cities – and serendipitously, we would find out if we were suited to one another. We knew that we were in love – I never doubted that – but I was afraid that he wasn’t ready, and I was being pushy, or clingy, or… Or that I was making a mistake again. But there I was, with no place else to go, and he took me in.

It could have been a bad scene. Up above I sketched out a few lines, and I could practically see my audience on the other side of the screen wincing as they read the set-up. He could easily have come to resent me being pushed on him with little warning (two weeks!) and nowhere else to go, and because I had started school and given up one of my jobs, no money to go anywhere else. I spent months asking him if it was ok. Did he mind my having come to him like this?

Sarah told me once that she had known the moment she saw us together, that we were meant to be together. I’d laughed. It had taken me nearly a year to even admit I was in love with him, and longer before he told me he’d loved me for…

It worked. Marriage, you see, is a state of mind. The legalities aside, which are picayune in the scope of things, knowing that you have a true partner, one that will pick you up when you trip and fall, who will love you unconditionally no matter how you make his sandwich… that’s the important part.

And yet…

I’d never thought we would get married-married. We were already husband and wife in our hearts and souls. Honor, after all, is what you know about yourself, and reputation is what others know about you. Another truth from Lois McMaster Bujold (wise woman, and one whose writing I study). He’d reached a certain age without ever giving his hand in marriage. I had, and after thirteen years had forsworn myself. Simply having gained a partner was enough, and a sufficiency to the end of our lives together. Not that I wanted to be able to walk away. I am not capable of that sort of lightness.

When he asked me to marry him, in an oblique way with a casual tone, you could have knocked me over with a feather. As I was driving at the time, I settled for being grateful there was no traffic and a clear sky. I realized something in that split second. It does matter.

Oaths

We speak oaths in front of witnesses for a reason. This is a tradition since before men made words on paper, or even stone. Speaking only one to another, we can use the same words, and mean the same things. We can hold ourselves to the words, and the one we spoke to, we are accountable to.

In the presence of witnesses, the words gain a gravity, a force, that causes them to bind tighter. We can chafe against those bonds, or recognize that they give us a certain freedom.

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” –Robert A Heinlein

Marriage is not a prison. It is a home, with two hearts in it. Later this week, my First Reader and I will sign the deed, so to speak, of that home. As we stand up in front of witnesses and repeat oaths that bind us, so also are we joined not only that we know, but all others do, as well. It’s not gratitude, nor is it coercion. It is friendship, and mutual admiration, and a thing so lightly called love.

Love is ever elusive to define. I was taught, years ago, that love was wanting only the best for the one that is loved with no expectation of anything in return. I was also taught that there are three loves, as defined in Ancient Greece. Philos, brotherly love, was the love between friends, siblings, comrades in arms. Agape is a holy love, the love of God for all mankind, a pure love that transcends any worldly concerns. And Eros is the love of sensuality, the attraction that sparks and leads to passionate embraces.

A marriage, I was taught, should combine all three of those into a cohesive whole. It’s not, I know now, easy. You must work at it, and you cannot do it alone. There will be days when the oaths you swore – before witnesses or simply in the dark of night to one another – are all that keep you together under one roof. If both of you aren’t holding tight to that, if all of this is based on gratitude for a home, for friendship, for sex; if that all there is, then it will fall apart.

In the end, it’s all come down to this. I am his, and he is mine. We are two, yet one. We live, and in living, love. Scars knit, baggage balanced, we take our chances that life holds more joy than sorrow, if only we can be in it together.

“Dum vivamus, vivamus!”

Fathers Day

I’ve realized sometime ago my books tend to have great fathers in them.

That is, of course, because I had/have a great father.  Dad was the sort of dad any kid would want.  For one he knew everything, from the nesting habits of local birds to how to translate the Latin inscriptions we came across on our rambles through the nearby woods.  And he has this thing where cats, dogs, even wild animals, come to him.  As they should, because he’s a good man.  (Though not a Good Man.)

My concepts of honor and duty come from dad, and though sometimes they’re onerous enough, they serve their purpose of making me part of something more important than myself: of making me part of civilization and family and humanity.  Without dad, left to my own devices, I’d probably long ago have been kicked out of the human race for shoving.

He taught me stuff like “don’t hurt those weaker than you” and “protect the helpless” and ALWAYS stick up for the truth.

And then I was lucky enough to marry a man who became a great dad.  It’s hard to be sure when you get married, and you’re both striplings (really, 22?  WHO THE HECK LET KIDS MARRY????) but Dan is a great dad.  He talks to the boys when I can’t (as in “you talk to them or I’ll just start screaming” and he solves math problems with the youngest and composes math with the older and along the way teaches them those things you never learn directly: hard work and dedication, and care of others.

So, right now?  I’m going to wander off and make my husband’s father’s day happy.  Ya’ll carry on with your planned chaos.

There will be promo post later.

Milestones

As some of you know Dan and I will be renewing our vows of 30 years at Liberty con.  Part of this is because we wanted to do it for the 25th, but we couldn’t being broker than broke and not even going to LC (if I remember.)

Of course, this is the way of the world, so we’re broke this year too.  It’s temporary and more than usually self-inflicted because we chose to move this year to a rental and get the house ready to sell.  OTOH it’s not entirely self-inflicted.  Our other house is near a high traffic road, and our porch furniture gets covered in black sludge within 3 months.  Given my particular respiratory issues, I think that is if not what has played havoc with my health for the last 10 years (there were other things, including a worsening condition now hopefully fixed) at least a strong contributing factor.  Given that, we needed to move.  But there’s more to it than that.

It’s starting to look like when the house sells we’ll be empty nesters.  I have a bit of trepidation about younger son on his own, but it has been pointed out to me by his father that at three years younger than him I crossed half the world to live with strangers (and meet my future husband) and that sooner or later, even engineer-birds must fly.

I don’t know about other people’s lives, but our lives move in segments, from well established routine/setting to another with a brief, often terrifying trasition, where we often attempt to go bankrupt.  One such transition was from childless couple in Charlotte, NC to couple with kids in Colorado Springs.  There was some lag and leading indicators (Robert was born in Charlotte and was one when we moved here) but our life didn’t establish a new pattern/rhythm until we’d moved, a process that almost broke us.  Same with our last move, between couple with little kids and couple with more or less autonomous and certainly self-explaining teens.

This is feeling like another one of those, and these transitions are needed in a way.  They “reorient” you.

To explain, you get caught in habits that existed for a good reason, long after the reason is gone.

In cleaning this house and fixing it for sale, I’m coming across this a lot.  For instance, when we moved to this house, I made a lot of my own clothes, a substantial amount of the kids’ clothes, as well as almost all of the household stuff (It’s been years since I took a sofa apart to re-upholster.  I just realized that.)

This habit had been got into for good and sufficient reason, the reason being that we were keeping up with dual-income families on one income.  This meant the person who rarely made more than 5k a year had to make up for a lot of the money she didn’t bring in.  Refinishing, reupholstering, making most of our stuff, including things like slippers for the kids, were part of how I compensated.

Only this last move, to the house we’re now cleaning was also when my career started moving (sideways and upside down, as usual) so I not only had a lot of work, but I also, suddenly, inexplicably, found myself making about the same I would if I’d done what mom tried to talk me into 20 years ago, and finished my doctorate (depending on the college and the field I chose, between one and two years) and became a college lecturer.

The problem is, there were habits.  Habits from the times mommy didn’t make enough to justify not interrupting her.  Habits from the time when Sarah was, of course, the logical choice to spend all day looking for a missing paper.

Those habits proved almost impossible to break in that house.  Here things have started shifting somewhat.

BUT more importantly, my mental habits hadn’t changed, so I continued picking up bolt-ends and other ridiculously low priced fabric, in the vague idea I’d use it for this and that.  I haven’t because I don’t have the time to sew I used to.  When moving I made the decision that other than some vintage patterns/fabric which I’ll eventually use to make myself clothes, I’m going to narrow my sewing focus to “making stuffed animals.”  Mostly because so many of you and so many of my friends have littles, and adopted grandson ALSO totally needs a dragon a year to grow on.  I still have a room full of fabric, which depending on arrangements at the next house might or might not need culling down. It also depends on where the next phase takes us.

It’s always hard to figure out what shape the future will have till you’re there.  These transitions tend to have that “earth-shaking” feel and the boundaries of your quotidian life change in ways you couldn’t anticipate.

For instance, when we moved to Colorado Springs, I expected (and we looked earnestly at) a suburb like the one we’d lived in in Charlotte.  Perhaps more rural, since we’d been looking that way before the move.

I couldn’t have anticipated a housing shortage, due to MCI moving to town, which shuttled us into a student apartment downtown, which in turn reminded me how much I liked walking neighborhoods and consigned us for the next 21 years to living in Victorians, in walking neighborhoods, mountain village and urban neighborhood. Which in turn shaped not just the texture of my everyday life, but also the boys’ upbringing.  (For one since the age of six, they’ve been free to go off and buy their own lunch.  At six, corndogs from an arcade stand in a little mountain village.)

In the same way I don’t know where we’ll end.  I think we’re done with walking neighborhoods, or rather our definition of walking neighborhood has changed.  You see, it used to be I liked to have enough stores within walking distance to force me to walk.  Thing is, I’m now buying most such things (books, okay, mostly) from Amazon, and what entices me out is more likely to be a walk around the park with my husband.  (Mind you, I wouldn’t mind being close enough to the museums in Denver to walk to them, but I REALLY don’t think we can afford that.)  That texture has already changed, only we’re sort of caught betwix and between.  But it has changed what we look for in another house.

Other things that weren’t a consideration when we moved last, are a consideration now.  We’re in our fifties and the “winter” of life is still a little off, but if we live in the next house twenty years or so, it won’t be.  So proximity to medical services and ease of ambulance reach are a plus.  As is accessibility to an airport, because I’m getting right tired of having to get up at six am for a nine am flight.  Not to mention the four am for a seven am flight. Kevin Anderson tells me I need to make more public appearances.  I don’t like it, but I’ll assume he’s right, and in that case, ease of transport becomes a big thing.

We’ll of course be looking for something with a decent office space for me, and possibly husband together (we’re that odd thing, a writing couple who likes sharing an office.)

In my dream world, we buy something near friends, and we settle down to take a walk morning or evening, work the rest of the time, and share housekeeping duties. I take Sundays off, and read or sew.  Oh, and evenings, I get to do stuff while Dan watches TV.  I’m not “always on” and always late with books (though that is likely to be true, once health settles.) I know, it’s a pedestrian dream, but it’s mine.

I’m hoping to keep at least those outlines.  The rest… who knows. The new pattern whenever it comes (It’s dependent on house selling, so who knows?) will have some surprises.  And some of them will be pleasant or most will, once I change my mental parameters.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know we’re at an inflection point and from here on “things will be different.”

You can fight those, or you can embrace them.  We’re choosing to embrace this one.  The renewal of vows is our way of saying “this we’ll take with us.  This we’ll keep.”  And it is therefore important.

The rest… we’ll see.

If I don’t thank all of you who’ve donated — you made the room awfully dusty, and there’s a lot of you — I am grateful.  I’m hoping the amount is enough to get someone else to redo the fence, and maybe, if we’re lucky, to fix the balcony.  I’m now in the “cleaning and staging” phase in the second floor and older son is finishing painting bottom floor (he’s very good at it.)

If it all goes well, by Monday all the hard work will be done on the inside, we can pay someone to do the outside after we come back from Liberty con.  And I can settle into at least a “trial” pattern of having time to write and spend time with my husband (even if the house will still take a thorough cleaning, and probably won’t go for sale for two weeks, because of contractors doing other stuff.)  I’d like that.  For one I want to finish Witch’s Daughter (Michael’s sequel to Witchfinder) and also Darkship Revenge and Bowl of Red (Shifters.)  And then I want to do the dragon trilogy.

I want to write.  I want to have time with my husband.  I want to stop being carpenter and painter and jack of all trades.

And once the house sells, I want to visit my dad, because he’s 84 and time is running away from us.

It will come.  Transitions are sticky and scary, but they pass.  Just.A.Few.More.Days.

This too will get done.  This too shall pass.  And the future will be good.