Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Reason # 106 I Love My Yaris

I'm one of the few people in the world who will admit to enjoying owning a Toyota Yaris.  I like how quick it is, how tight the turn radius is (an important feature for someone who learned to drive a Suburban) and how roomy it is inside.

I also like the fact that it's gas efficient.  Lately, I was getting a little peeved that it's sometimes costing me almost forty dollars to fill up.

And then I noticed the bill at the pump next to me today.  The car was an SUV (don't ask me which type because I'm still sketchy on whether it was black or dark blue) and the driver was presumably filling up just like me.

My bill: 34.18

His bill: 135.47

Oh yeah.  A moment of triumph for every time someone has looked down on my in my little Mommy-mobile. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

It Involves My Children and A Tattoo ... And Now You Have To Read It

For those eagerly clicking on the title, now I have to disappoint you.  No needles or ink was involved.

On Saturday, my two boys went on a little roadtrip with their grandparents to Fort Henry to see their annual Tattoo (for those not familiar, a military performance which is heavy on drum and pipe music). 

There were a lot of concerns about this trip.  Fort Henry is almost a two hour drive away and the Tattoo started at 7:30 and didn't finish until 10.  Two boys, one car, arriving at midnight, no matter how you do the math, it's cause for concern.

My mother and husband both disapproved of the idea.  My father and I were both cautiously optimistic and felt the opportunity outweighed the risks.  Luckily for the boys, Dave was willing to trust my judgment.

Planning little trips like these with autistic children can be a bit of a nightmare.  I have to think ahead and try to guess at all the possible disasters and then do my best to avoid them.  In this case, the big potential disaster was the late night.  So I thought about it.  Nathan often falls asleep in the car, so he would likely get some sleep in transit, maybe even a nap in advance.  Alex hasn't slept in the car since his rear-facing carseat days, but he's more comfortable with sleeping in.  Okay, both of them would have an opportunity to catch up on sleep.  Check.

Second level, disaster control.  On Sundays, Dave takes one of the boys to visit with his mom.  So even if they were cranky and tired, they'd be separated.  Low chances of a day filled with fighting and tears.  Check.  And check.

Next point of concern, the Tattoo itself.  Would the boys be disturbed by the loud noises of gun and cannon fire or fireworks?  Alex is noise sensitive but is bothered more by small motor noises.  If they were using vacuums, he'd be upset.  But he's always enjoyed the Canada Day fireworks, so guns and cannons shouldn't be an issue.  And Nathan has actually visited our local gun range with his grandfather and enjoyed it. 

From there, planning mostly went into logistical arrangements of eating beforehand or on the road, when to start, etc.  Both grandparents and parents are good about remembering the main rule about setting up opportunities for children with autism: always be ready to walk away if it's not working.

I can't predict what they'll love and what they won't be able to tolerate.  So I do my best to set up opportunities and then see what happens.  There have been a lot of things we've walked away from but my children have gotten some great memories from things we honestly weren't sure would work.

This turned out to be one of the great memories.  Alex loved the drumwork and pipe music.  Nathan was a little less thrilled with the program but happy to be out somewhere with people he loved.  My parents found a spot where they could move around and dance without disturbing anyone.  Here's a picture from their visit:

The next day, both boys were quiet but civilized and by Monday all was back to normal.

I'll happily call it a success.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

In Defence of Suburbia

When we first moved into our house, as so many people do, we had a housewarming party so we could show off the single largest purchase either of us had ever made.  One of our friends made a comment which has stuck with me over a decade later.  Clearly missing a tact-filter, she announced that only "soul-dead materialists bought homes in the suburbs" and that just looking at the rows upon rows of similar houses gave her the creeps.

I was understandably hurt at the comment and it's come back to haunt me periodically.

Although neither soul-dead, nor overly materialistic, I like living in the suburbs.  I like having a lot of green space around me.  I like having five different small parks less than ten minutes walking away.  I really like not having to hear my neighbours through the walls but still being close enough to chat periodically or wave hello to.

I can't deny the sameness of the houses but to dismiss them as the real-world equivalent of the ultra-conformist Camazotz houses from A Wrinkle In Time misses the point.  Everyone personalizes their home, one way or another.  The lower cost of mass produced houses means that more people can afford them than if each had to be individually designed and built.  This means we get a greater cross-section of people in our neighbourhood.

I'm thrilled that my children will grow up hearing a plethora of languages and being familiar with a wide variety of different cultures.  And we're doing it without being crowded into a tiny apartment.  I think the old complaint of the suburbs being uni-cultural no longer applies and you're more likely to have uniform demographics in the rural areas my friend was upholding as the more morally acceptable choice.

The suburbs were initially sold as the benefits of a small town while still being close to the city.  I prefer to think of it as having the best of both a small town and the city.  We have access to all the greater resources and diversity of an urban environment while still having some breathing space and a friendly immediate community.

I've lost contact with that particular friend over time and sometimes I wonder how she's doing on her rural property, an hour's drive from the nearest movie theatre and Chinese restaurant, with its mice and insect co-habitants and the charming scent of manure from the dairy next door. 

And I'm suddenly cool with being part of the materialistic set.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

We Have No Choice

Have you ever noticed that whenever someone says they had no choice, what they mean is they didn’t want to make the other choices?

I didn’t want to speed, but I was running late so I didn’t have a choice.

I didn’t want to betray a friendship, but I wanted to sleep with this guy, so I had no choice.

I didn’t want to break the law, but I wanted money, so there was no choice.

Sometimes there genuinely isn’t a good choice.  If you’re having to choose between two people and you can only save one of their lives, that’s a bad choice to have to make.  But there is always a choice.

In the movie Dangerous Minds, Michelle Pfeiffer teaches her class that there is always a choice.  If someone has a gun to your head, then you can’t choose not to die, but you can choose to die without screaming.

I don’t like the phrase because it’s a lie people tell themselves to justify their bad choices.  We soothe ourselves with the lie that there weren’t other options.  It closes our minds to the possibilities out there and the longer we insist on it, the more trapped we become in our own illusions.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Waiting for "Superman"

I read the companion book to the documentary Waiting for “Superman” a look at why public schools are failing in the U.S.

I found it quite interesting.  I’ve always thought the U.S. school system was a prime example of why two-tiered public services don’t work.  If the wealthy have the option of opting-out of the public system by paying for private services, the public services get worse and worse because they lose their most effective advocates.

One thing I found interesting was the examination of the three commonly proposed solutions to improving schools: more money per student, smaller class sizes and better teacher training.  They showed that money per student has almost doubled in the last forty years (when adjusted for inflation), although a large part of that is increased teacher salaries due to the requirement that they have a masters (more training).  And class sizes are smaller as well. 

Requiring teachers to have a masters degree puts them in more debt when they begin teaching, probably driving away some of those who would otherwise be eager and proficient.  They also claim that longer training tends to encourage passivity and lack of creative thinking.  The teachers-in-training have to spend so long being told what to do that they lose some of their drive to think for themselves.  I’m not sure I believe the argument but it would certainly bear looking into.

Waiting for “Superman” puts the blame squarely on the unions and government organizations.  In attempting to remove human failings from the system, they’ve created such a tightly dictated environment that there’s no room to be creative and experiment to find better solutions.  This is highly plausible in my opinion.  Unions and governments have good intentions, I have no doubt of it, but regulations can’t fix problems with human behaviour.

It’s impossible to regulate away unfairness, preferential treatment, bullying or any of the other unpleasant sides of having people in charge of other people.  Bullies and predators will always find a way around the rules.  Tying things up in regulations restricts everyone.  An atmosphere of distrust and fear saps morale, inhibits creativity and encourages passivity.  This sounds a lot like the problem with public schools to me.

I think the documentary (and book) are optimistic in their belief that fixing the problem will be simple.  Organizations with power rarely relinquish that power easily and the climate of suspicion is going to make it hard for different departments to work together.  People are invested in the status quo and will resist changes that negatively impact their lives, no matter how beneficial for the children. 

I really do believe that most teachers and even most administrators want children to have an excellent education.  I think our system in Canada is more open to flexibility, although I think there’s still an attitude of suspicion towards change.  Private schools aren’t as common here, which means more parents have a direct reason to improve the public schools.

Maybe it’s that simple.  If people know they’re stuck with the public system, then they make sure it’s a good one.  Which improves everyone’s chances.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

First Post-Rejection Writing Day

Maybe I was initially cushioned by shock but I’m finding it harder to be positive about my rejection from Harlequin.  I feel shakier about my goal of being a published writer and less confident about my work.  I keep reminding myself that these are ordinary, perfectly valid feelings and not insights into a deeper truth.  I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have some doubts after a rejection but I would be betraying myself and my goals if I let them stop me from trying again.

Even so, it’s harder to sit down in front of the keyboard and let ideas flow.  The glowing screen seems more intimidating than it did before. 

I think I have to let these feelings run their course.  It’s much easier to squish unpleasant feelings down and pretend they don’t exist, at least in the short term.  But they build up and can start tainting everything.  Better to feel it and then let it go and feel something else.

I’m still determined to give this my best try.  This is one party I’m not going to slink out of, certain I don’t really belong.  If they want me gone, they’ll have to kick me out and lock the door behind me.

And for all my worries, I’ve gotten a decent amount done today.  Two more chapters completed for the first draft of King of Underhill this week.  I can already see some areas where the plot will need to be tightened up and rewritten but progress is still being made.  I have to have a draft done before I can start revising it.

My local library is turning out to be quite a pleasant place to write.  They have some lovely windows with a nice view and tables to work at.  When I get stuck I can watch the trees moving in the wind.  I’ve always found that to be soothing.  Trees don’t get bothered by much and watching them, my tightness seeps away.

On the down side, I’m right beside the adult fiction section which means my inner reader keeps going “Oh, oh, check out that book!  You could just look at a few pages and then get back to writing.”  Except all the aspects of my personality know I cannot resist reading “just a few pages more”.  It’s a trap I gladly fall into every time.  But so far, my willpower has remained equal to the temptation.

There will always be temptations.  Books.  TV.  Music.  People-watching.  But I’m getting better at ignoring them.  Maybe I am suited to this path after all.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Madonna Replaced

For the last three and a half years, Alex has asked for Madonna's Drowned World/ Substitute for Love as his bedtime song.  It's been sweet having something predictable, although I did start cutting it down to the first verse and the chorus. 

He really likes Madonna's music.  I've been hesitant to play him anything from MDNA but a few tracks have checked out for integration.  He loves the live versions of Hung Up and Give It To Me.  He loves watching the Confessions concert (or as we call it in Alex-speak: Horse Dancing Pencils). 

He's had his flirtations with other bedtime songs.  I'll try something for a few days or he'll request something surprising (like Toot, Toot, Chugga, Chugga, Big Red Car).  But he's always returned to Madonna.

Until now.

For the last month and a half, he has asked for Vanessa Carleton's A Thousand Miles every night.  I'm starting to believe the Material Girl has been replaced. 

He likes to hum the instrumental part while I sing, which makes it a nice interactive duet.  Of course, his new devotion means I'm actually going to have to look up the words to the second verse. 

But it's all worth it to see the grin on his face every night.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

First Official Rejection

I have my official rejection from Harlequin.  They liked my concept and thought my writing had potential but weren't satisfied with how I set up the romantic tension.

It's one step closer in my goal to being a published writer, since there are always rejections.  At least I have enough potential to get feedback and that's a good sign.

I'm disappointed, naturally enough, but I actually feel better with a specific rejection in hand than I did when I was wondering if my writing wasn't even good enough to bother replying.

My next step is to wait for the results from the contest I entered, the Catherine.  I should be getting critiques at the end of August.  I'll look at what they say and if the consensus is still good, I'll start sending out queries to agents.  And if it's not, then I'll start work on another novel rather than continuing with this series at this time. 

I believe in this story but I'm always ready to accept that it might not suit my writing style at this time.  Or it might not suit the current publishing world.  I'll get it out there one way or another but it doesn't have to be my first published book.

Taking a deep breath and moving on.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Lyrical Disappointment

I succumbed to trendiness and picked up a copy of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe from iTunes.  I enjoy the poppy tune and I liked what I thought was a song about a young woman taking charge of her sexual interest.

First off, I thought the chorus was actually “I just met you / And this is crazy / But here’s my number / So call me, baby” which is much more assertive than the actual lyric: “So call me, maybe.”  I liked the mental image of a young woman seeing a young man she liked, giving him her number and telling him to call.  It was straightforward, confident and refreshingly lacking in relationship game-playing.

Instead, the song falls more into the traditional mold of a young woman trying to find a happy medium between society’s two expectations.  She’s expected to be sexy, confident and appear available but not advertise being available.  I call it the “look him in the eye and wait for him to ask you out” approach.  And frankly, it’s not a surprise girls have so much emotional turmoil.  No matter which way they turn, they’re bumping up against society’s expectations.

Further listening to the song takes it even further from self-confidence.  From the verses, it sounds like the boy she’s interested isn’t interested in her.  She likes him and is obsessing about being with him.  We’ve all had unrequited crushes and they’ve been the subject of many songs, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Personally, I think this is one area where feminism has failed young women.  They fought long and hard to get society and the courts to recognize that we had the right to say no.  But we haven’t been taught how to say yes.  And until that happens, there are going to be a lot of misunderstandings and lack of potential realized.

According to most reports, young women in university who want to hook up almost invariably get drunk first.  Logically, it makes no sense.  Alcohol makes it harder to have an orgasm and if sex is your goal, then why risk making it lousy sex?  But it removes the vulnerability of having made a choice.  The next day they can blame the alcohol and retain their “good girl” privileges.  The fact that alcohol makes it harder to protect yourself from unwanted advances and make smart decisions should tell us how important it is to remove responsibility from the equation.

Further problem, it makes things more confusing for guys who know the girl was enthusiastic the night before but the next day, they hear her saying she wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t been drunk.  It makes the issue of consent even murkier and can play into the not-quite-dead stereotype that she says she doesn’t want to but she actually does.

It’s a mess, no question about it.  And I can’t blame young entertainers for not taking a stand.  They’re not political and social agents for change.  They’re entertainers whose job is to sell records.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Thoughts and Prayers

I'm not always great at catching up on the news so this is a few days late.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims in Aurora, Colorado.  Nothing can ever make this better so I hope they can glean whatever comfort friends, family and community can give.

As for the gunman, I'm greatly disturbed to realize he did his best to maximize casualties, both in the theatre and his apartment.  The Behavioural Analysis unit of the FBI is going to have their hands full with this one.

But what bothers me the most are those who are busily screaming to use this tragedy for political purposes.  These people should realize they are never going to convince one another.  Those for gun control have yet another example of gun violence but if all the previous examples have failed to win hearts, yet another body count isn't going to do it.  Those who claim to support the Second Amendment should not be yipping about how more guns would solve the problem.

There's a ridiculous moment in their claims.  "Honey, do we have everything for the movies, our points card, some gum and our semi-automatic pistols?"  No society should ever let itself get sucked into such a culture of fear that we need to be prepared for deadly violence every moment of the day.

As a Canadian, I probably don't have the right to an opinion on American gun laws but that's never stopped me in the past.  I fail to see how having the right to bear arms as part of a militia group translated into the right to keep loaded weapons on your person at all time.  When it comes down to it, people have a tendency to be judgmental and crabby.  Adding lethal weapons to the mix just escalates the damage from hurt feelings and egos to actual wounds.

I'm not anti-gun.  They have a time and a place.  But it isn't at the grocery store or the park or any of a dozen other public places I could name. 

Gun violence rarely starts with bullets.  There's a host of social, economic and health problems which usually precede pulling the trigger.  As much as we long for a simple, direct solution, there isn't one.  It would be wonderful if we could band together as a culture and society and work on the underlying problems so that people didn't want to pull the trigger any more, at least, not outside the gun range.  But given how much effort is being wasted in assigning blame, I doubt we're going to see it.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

SYTYCD - First Elimination

I was able to catch up with my PVR a little better this week and I have seen the first elimination show of So You Think You Can Dance.  The new format strikes me as being harder on the dancers.  They have to go all week and do their performances not knowing if the axe has already fallen.  But they now get an extra day of rehearsal time and in some ways, it is more fair to judge based on a full performance than a twenty second solo.

My favourite routines for this week were:

Eliana and Cyrus' jive.  It was fun and upbeat and animated.  Eliana is definitely working a lot harder than the other dancers to compensate for Cyrus' lack of training but she's not making it seem like an effort.  She's very interesting and reminds me physically of Bette Midler from the neck up.  Her personality really shines through and transforms her.

I liked the robot battle between Audrey and Matthew.  It was very powerful and strong.  It would have been easy for this one to come off as stilted but the dancers committed to it.

I also liked the sheer exuberance of Witney and Chehon's Bollywood routine.  It was fun, precise and animated, everything a Bollywood routine should be. 

Overall, I found the routines weren't as good as last week.  I don't know if we're starting to see some dancer fatigue or complacency, but they didn't seem to be putting themselves into the routines as much.  Maybe it was the result of fear and wondering if they were going to be cut.  It'll be interesting to see if the trend continues.

And now for the ones I didn't like:

Both Amber's tango and Janelle and Dareian's My Girl routine felt empty and contrived.  The tango felt very plastic and artificial.  Neither couple had real chemistry.

But the one which annoyed me the most was the dentist one with Lindsay and Cole.  It felt like a Dear Penthouse letter.  Maybe I'd be more forgiving in different circumstances but right then, it struck me as a trite and stupid concept.  However, I thought Cole's character commitment almost made up for it.  Almost.

Despite Adam Shankman's constant plugs for his movie, the film actually looks like fun.  I've enjoyed the other Step Up movies.  You can't take them too seriously.  For me, it's a flashback to the dance movies I grew up on (Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Footloose, Flashdance, etc.) with slightly more plausible reasons why everyone apparently all knows the same choreography. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Tyranny of Silence

Somehow in today’s society, we ceased to be responsible for what happens to other people on our watch.  We turn away in disapproval rather than intervening, a choice which does little to help immediate victims.

Whenever my son Alex has a meltdown in public, I find myself waiting for the public outcry.  I’m physically picking up a screaming and kicking child to forcibly remove him from the situation.  Shouldn’t there be people stopping me at the door to make sure I’m not kidnapping him?  Instead, the most I’ve ever gotten were dirty looks and those were of the “bad parent bringing her bad child out in public to bother me” sort.  No one has ever asked me if I needed help and no one has ever challenged my right to take an obviously non-consenting child away.

I’m beginning to teach Nathan about stranger-danger and my experience is leaving me with major questions for the standard “teach them to kick and holler” approach.  It may have some validity in frightening away an inexperienced predator but since it’s been the main approach for generations, I expect most of them are prepared.  It’s frightening to realize how easy it would be for someone to just take your child and how little help the public would be.

There is an overwhelming belief that what happens to other people isn’t our business (although how that coincides with the drastic rise of reality TV and paparazzi, I have no idea) and that if it was really bad, someone with authority will take care of it.

Oprah did an experiment where there were a number of seats marked “Reserved” in her audience and she had actors go in and remove the papers and sit down.  No one challenged their right to do so and when questioned, they admitted they had seen it, were bothered by it but assumed the studio security would take care of it if it was a problem.  On a more serious example, we’ve all seen the cop shows where someone is being killed or assaulted and while dozens of people hear or see the attack, few even bother to alert the authorities and none go to intervene.  The shows are based on the reality of the situation.

Now, there is a legitimate fear of becoming the target if we intervene.  And a lone Good Samaritan is easily overwhelmed.  But maybe we need to take a lesson from the anti-bullying campaigns.  No bully is stronger than two or more observers who decide to intervene.  There is strength in numbers and it is strength we could use to fight against those who prey on the weak.

Together we’re stronger than any predator.  If society refuses to turn and look the other way, we’ll find ourselves turning a light on things that make us uncomfortable.  But we can’t fix what we won’t face.  And predators would find it much harder to hide.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

To Complain Or Not

Alex has regular therapy at our community center.  The programs are great and the people really care about the kids they work with.

So what am I complaining about?

In the community center, there is an elevator.  Alex loves elevators.  He would watch it and ride it all day if I let him.  I'll often reward him with a ride for good effort in the therapy session. 

In the last few weeks, there have been signs inside the elevator saying "Please DO NOT let children push the elevator buttons".  The first sign was small but now it's grown to the size of a small poster.  To me, the all caps and underlining, as well as the increasing size of the notice, all translate into printed shouting.

It's really bothering me.  It makes me feel as if my son and I are unwelcome.

Now, I do think it's important to not treat the elevator as a toy.  If allowed, Alex would stay on the ground floor, push the button for the top floor, watch the elevator go up and then summon it back down to start again.  That's not appropriate and I don't allow him to do it.

However, there is no harm in letting him enjoy one of his life's great pleasures as a regular part of our visit.  I don't care how many signs they post, I'm not cutting him off.

The community center has a lot of prominent displays proclaiming it is a non-judgmental center for the whole community.  Everyone is welcome.  This sign in the elevator suggests that my child and the children like him are an exception.

I've been trying to decide whether or not I should mention anything to the staff at the center.  I don't know who is posting the notice and it could be any one of dozens of people and groups who use the facility.

But I do believe that a little tolerance and acceptance is not too much to ask.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Kids Come First

For the last three years, Dave and I have been very lucky to get support from a local group called Kids Come 1st.  Here's a link to their website:


This group is dedicated to helping families dealing with the financial burden of autism.  Since OHIP doesn't cover the therapy costs, a lot of families go bankrupt trying to help their kids.  And counting up therapy alone doesn't account for the dozens of other little things these families end up needing.  Kids Come 1st helps families with those other things.

Thanks to them, we've been able to get:
-  a special waterproof mattress for Alex to sleep on
-  a high quality blender to puree his food
-  cameras so that I could watch his therapy without disrupting him and so we could keep an eye on him when he needed alone time
- an iPod so he could listen to his favourite music in the car, making driving much more pleasant
- a tutor to help him with his academic work

None of these things were critical needs.  None of them were covered by insurance.  But they've all contributed to our quality of life.  This year, we're hoping to get him an iPad for his schoolwork.

The tournament began as a way to raise money for one family to cover their son's therapy costs.  Work colleagues got together and decided they would organize it to help their friend and fellow worker.  The family could have accepted the money and gone about their business but instead they insisted on sharing the proceeds among other families in the same situation.  Their spirit of generous determination has been paid back many times over and they still reach out to offer more.

Whenever I start to become terminally cynical and believe there is nothing but selfishness and greed out there, Pat and Nat and Kids Come 1st stand as an irrefutable argument otherwise.

Well done and thank you.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

SYTYCD - First Performance Show

This has been a very hectic week so I am woefully behind on catching up with my PVR but I finally saw last week's episode of So You Think You Can Dance, the first performance show.

As a Canadian, I can't vote so I'm using this blog to record my favourites and dislikes.

Favourite routines:

Number one favourite is the Titanic-inspired contemporary to Unchained Melody, as danced by Audrey and Matthew.  When I saw the intro, I rolled my eyes and expected something cheesy and predictable.  Instead it was breathtaking despite not being terribly original.  It didn't matter that I'd seen most of the elements before.  It was like reading a book and knowing it's a classic quest story and not caring because the characters and plot pull you along.

Number two by a very close margin was the paso doble danced by Cole and Lindsay.  The paso is my favourite ballroom dance but I'm usually disappointed in the performances.  It should look like a competition between the two dancers for dominance.  Most of the time it comes off as posturing rather than a real competition.  Not so for this one.  It was incredible and really felt as if they were vying for control.

My third favourite was split between Janelle and Dareian's primal African jazz number and the hip hop alcoholism one by Janaya and Brandon.

And now for what I didn't like:

First on the list: Kenny Ortega's commentary.  It sounded like he was writing movie posters.  Throw out a few adjectives and then something superlatively vague.  I much prefer when they refer to specific points in the dance.  It gives the dancers something to look at and reassures the audience that the judges are actually paying attention.

I didn't like Alexa and Daniel's jazz piece.  It was technically good but felt empty.  Alexa had a hard time connecting and performing during Vegas week and I think she's still facing the same problem. 

I also didn't like Amber and Nick's waltz and for mostly the same reason.  It didn't really speak to me.

Ah well, only twenty-four hours until the next episode airs.

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Great Line

I recently found a copy of the most recent Green Lantern movie in the bargain bin for less than four dollars.  I hadn't seen it but as an avowed comic book geek, I felt I should and the price was less than renting the movie.  Easy decision.

The movie itself wasn't great, although it had some good moments.  There were a few too many obvious nods to other science fiction, fantasy and comic classics.  (Though I was grateful they minimized the obvious Lord of the Rings references.)  However, as my husband likes to put it, we've enjoyed far worse movies.

However, there was one moment which made the movie for me.  It is when Ryan Reynolds is trying to maintain his secret identity with a little mask and a husky voice.  He can't resist going back to his love interest in his superhero persona and she sees through him, hitting him in the arm as she realizes who he is:

Girl: "Hal? ... Hal?"
Hal: "How'd you know it was me?"
Girl: "We grew up together!  I've seen you naked!  You really think I wouldn't recognize you because I can't see your cheekbones!"

It's a triumphant strike for every geek who found it utterly implausible that otherwise intelligent women (cough-Lois Lane-cough) can be fooled with a little bit of latex and hair gel.

Speaking of ragging on the unbelievable gullibility of Ms. Lane, I must also honour the two great lines from the only Superman franchise I ever enjoyed, TV's Lois and Clark.

The first is from the pilot where Superman's mom, Mrs. Kent, is making his superhero costume.  He tries on all sorts of ridiculous combinations before settling on the classic blue and red.  His mom, frazzled from marathon sewing, glances at the red briefs and comments:

Mom: One things for sure, no one's going to be looking at your face.
Clark: (trying to cover up) Moo-oom!
Mom: Well, honey, they don't call them tights for nothing.

The second is from a bizarre episode where someone comes back from the future and asks to meet Lois Lane, "the stupidest woman in the universe ... (pretends to take glasses off and on) I'm Clark Kent .... I'm Superman .... I'm Clark Kent ... I'm Superman."

It was nice to know the writers thought it was stupid, too.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Clearly Everyone Is Having More Fun Than Me

One of the things which surprised me about Michael Kimmel's book, Guyland, was his presentation of evidence that guys, especially young guys in their late teens through early thirties, believe there are a lot of women interested in casual sex.  He points out how this undermines a guy's confidence when it comes to his relationships with women.  After all, if there's a lot of easily available nookie out there, why isn't any of it happening to you?

I always assumed guys were smart enough to see through the crap propagated by men's magazines and locker room talk.  I thought they recognized it as part of a game they all play in which they try to make up something plausible yet raunchy. 

I may have been wrong in giving them so much credit.

And yet, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.  Girls have always had long, detailed talks about sex and their relationships.  If we couldn't talk about men and relationships, most of our conversations would be around 70% shorter.  And while there is some distortion, the sheer volume of material allows us to discern the truth about what is acceptable, what is normal and what isn't.

Guys don't have those kinds of talks.  If all they hear is the locker room banter and fictitious exploits, then they may not have the understanding to realize the fantasy is just that: a fantasy.

It may explain why some guys are so sexually aggressive yet surprisingly unskilled.  If they believe sex is an entitlement (because, after all, everyone else is getting it) then they may not realize they need to develop their skills in order to make them an attractive potential partner.  (For the record: yes, women do talk about that kind of thing and you'd be surprised at how far the girlfriend network can go.)

A simple reality check might go further in taming some of the frightening aggression than we realize.  Eventually guys get enough personal experience to see through the lie of the fantasy, allowing them to develop as potential partners.  If they could understand earlier, they might not have to spend so much time miserably certain that everyone else is happier than they are.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

An Idea for Solving the Doctor Shortage

I keep hearing about the difficulties in the medical system in Canada, the lack of doctors in rural and Northern areas, the lack of doctors in general practice.  Years ago, my grandfather had an idea about how to fix that and I think it would still be a valid option.

Take a lesson from the military.  It provides an education and in return, recruits serve for a set number of years.  One of the big factors which keeps doctors from staying in Canada, taking on general practice or serving in low population communities is the high levels of student debt from undergrad and medical school.  They have a lot of debt to repay and so they take on high-paying specialties in urban centers or go south to for-profit medical service.

If the government paid medical tuition for qualified students, they could then ask that those graduates serve as doctors in places of the government’s choosing.  Seven years of medical school for seven years of government doctor service.  There’s benefit to areas which aren’t attracting doctors now.  First of all, they would start getting doctors.  Second, those doctors would be up to date on the latest techniques.  New doctors would get a chance to build up their resumes.  The government would have a dedicated pool of medical practitioners.  It’s a win across the board.

There would probably be some initial costs to the system.  It would not be practical to expect these new doctors to pay for office space and equipment, especially if they’re kept in transient mode.  So the government would have to set up clinics for these doctors to practice out of.

I’m sure lots of people will tell me this wouldn’t work and I’ll admit I don’t have hard numbers to back up my opinion on the matter.  But I think it’s clear our health-care system needs some major overhauling.  The old models no longer keep things running smoothly.  If it were up to me, I would have my mandatory service doctors but I would also allow nurse practitioners to start doing routine diagnosis and prescription.  Most visits to the doctor are not House-worthy with bizarre symptoms and inexplicable illnesses.  The patient can predict the result: I have an infection, I need antibiotics.  It might be boring for the nurses but it’s equally boring for the doctor.

I believe in publicly-funded health care.  I think for-profit health care is too contradictory.  Treating patients and making maximum money are mutually exclusive goals.  I believe a two-tier system inevitably allows the lower tier to drop in quality.  I don’t believe the current system of public health care is sacred.  Canadians are an efficient people and we deserve better than to be caught by a nostalgic view of times past.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Scan Update

This is going to be short because today has been a really crappy day when it came down to details with two exceptions:

First: the radiation scan showed no obvious anomalies.  We have to wait for a technician specialist to read it to be absolutely certain but so far the news is good.

Second: I started chapter six in King of Underhill and outlined up to chapter ten.  After a few months of crawling progress, things are really starting to move.

Now I go to spend some time talking to my husband on the phone and hopefully find time for some downtime in front of the TV.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Superpower Jokes Wearing Thin

Dave is in his second day of radiation isolation and there's good news and bad news.  The good news is that the radiation isn't hitting him as hard as last time so he's not as worn out.  the bad news is that he's awake enough to be bored with being completely isolated.

I think he's taking consolation from the fact that we're nearly all done.  Tomorrow is the scan and while we'll likely have a few weeks before we hear the results, the hard work will be done.  As of Saturday, he can go back to eating regular food and start taking his synthetic thyroid hormone again.  On Sunday, he can come home without causing our children to grow third heads.  By next Friday, he can drive again and he is officially done with this round of treatment.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Walmart Mom of the Year

Walmart is having a contest for Mom of the Year and I've been nominated.  Since my profile was posted, I've been getting a lot of great comments from various people.  Here's the link:


It's humbling to see yourself as others see you.  I couldn't be more grateful for the support we've gotten over the years.  And as much as I blush, it's still nice to hear that my efforts have been noticed.

Sometimes when people get praised, they see themselves as frauds.  They tell themselves that anyone could have done what they did.  At the risk of sounding arrogant, I don't feel that way.  I've worked very hard at being a good parent.  It's something I was passionate about from an early age, actually, from before I was even sure I wanted children.  I was probably the only teenager who read parenting articles and books who wasn't already a teen mom.    I believed those who told me that being a parent was the most important job ever.

I still believe them.  The responsibility frightens me sometimes.  If I lash out because I'm irritated and having a bad day, the moment vanishes quickly for me but can have a lasting effect on my children.  The one-sidedness of it bothers me.  Trauma should affect both sides equally but life doesn't work that way.

I thought I'd take the chance to note down my basic rules of parenting that I do my best to follow:

Tell my children I love them.  I think parents sometimes expect their kids to just know how much they're loved.  Dr. Phil says it takes a thousand atta-boys to make up for one exasperated expression, so I like to build up my credit as much as I can.

Remember how much they have to learn.  The world is a bewildering place full of all sorts of strange, arbitrary rules.  Lewis Carroll used a child's perspective for his Alice books.  I try and remind myself to actively teach my children what I think they should know rather than expecting them to absorb it.

Little people make mistakes even with the best of intentions.  I try to praise the intention even when the results leave a lot to be desired.  But I also try and make them responsible for the consequences of those results and encourage them to help clean up or fix the situation.

I'm the grown-up.  It's my job to keep my temper and set the boundaries no matter the provocation.  My children aren't my equals and I have to keep the parent-child distinction clear.

Plan ahead.  Whether it's a bird-and-bees question or deciding how to discipline aggression, I don't think parenting works well on the spot without a plan.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Critical Fail: Walking and Texting

To begin, I want to say that I'm generally a fan of letting adults make their own decisions.  Trying to prevent people from making stupid decisions is just too big a job for anyone to handle.  But sometimes, those stupid decisions have to be pointed out.

As I was driving today, I was waiting at a stoplight when I saw a young lady walking along the sidewalk, earbuds tucked into her ears and iPhone (or equivalent) held up as her thumbs busily twittered across the screen.

I thought to myself: She's not going to notice when she leaves the sidewalk to step into the road.

And I was right. 

She kept on meandering at the same leisurely pace, her attention clearly focused on three glowing inches.  Halfway across, the light changed.

I kept still, since being distracted shouldn't be a capital crime.  Certainly not one that deserves execution by car.  The person behind me was clearly in more of a hurry and blasted the horn.  That woke Sleepwalking-Texter up and she scurried across, allowing traffic to move once more.

As I drove home, I had to wonder: what on earth could have been so critical as to demand so much attention?  But I know the truth, just like everyone else does.  It wasn't anything critical.  It might have been job related, but even so, it likely could have waited until she got to her destination.  Most likely it was an exchange between friends.  Something inane which would have seemed utterly pointless if anyone had gotten hurt.

I'm not a fan of 24/7 connectedness.  There are legitimate emergencies, which is why I carry a cell phone.  But only a few people have the number.  I don't conduct my life with it.  I carve out set time periods to be online each day, but I wouldn't like carrying the Internet on my hip.

It makes me a techno-Luddite freak and I accept that.  And if there are people out there who really want to be in the thick of things constantly, they may do so with my blessing.  But I can't help but think they miss out on a lot.  In the words of a wise puppet:  "Long have I watched this one.  Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing."

Technology can come between a person and the world.  I've watched people scurrying through museums, taking pictures of the exihibits as if they only had thirty seconds left to live.  Now I don't even take a camera with me unless I'm doing research.  I stand (or sit) and actually look at the pieces and displays.  I take the time to see the nuances because otherwise all I have is a bulky file full of pictures that I somehow never find time to look at.

Call me crazy.  But I prefer the slow life.

Monday, 9 July 2012

So You Aren't Happy To See Me, It's A Gun

ORWA (the Ottawa Romance Writers' Association) had a fantastic workshop.  One of our authors' husband is a gun enthusiast and he agreed to come in and show us some of his collection, explain how guns work and help us to avoid some common misconceptions.  He also allowed us an opportunity to handle the weapons (safely!) to get some ideas about weight and feel.

It was a really useful workshop for me.  I haven't had much experience around guns but given my love of action-adventure movies and stories, they tend to creep into my writing.  Mythbusters has debunked a lot of the movie myths for me but it didn't let me get a feel for how it actually felt to sight down a sniper rifle or try to whip a Glock from a pretend holster.

Here are a few of our guest lecturer's pet peeves:

1) Pumping a shotgun without hearing or seeing a round eject.  If you pump and nothing comes out, the gun wasn't loaded which really diminishes a hero's coolness factor.

2) Running with a finger on the trigger.  Guaranteed to make the gun go off if you trip or lose your balance.

3) Stuffing pistols down the back of your pants.  Lots of seams in pants.  Unless the gun has a lot of safety features, you'll shoot yourself in the butt.  And if it does, you can't just whip it out and fire.

4) Novices with Annie Oakley accuracy.  He takes people to the gun range and has them try to hit a bristolboard sized target from seven feet away.  Most people can't do it.

Some of my own misconceptions corrected: Having now held a rifle, I understand why you can't fire it one handed and have any hope of hitting anything.  His explanations also made it clear how many factors are involved in movie-level accuracy.

My current novel isn't particularly suited to gunplay but I think I'll be visiting our local gun range in the future for research purposes. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Listening to the Crickets

It's been three months now and I still haven't heard anything from Harlequin about my novel.  Apparently, this isn't unusual.  I've heard of responses taking up to a year. 

I've been trying to decide whether or not to start approaching agents to see if one would be interested in representing me.  I don't want to step on any toes or breach any taboos but three months seems like a reasonable length of time to allow for an exclusive submission.

Consciously, I know that the road to publishing is difficult, particularly if you want traditional publishing.  (With self-publishing, sales and quality control are the biggest challenges, as far as I know.)  However, my little eternal optimist inside had visions of book covers and advance cheques dancing in her head.  So it's a little sad to have to give her a reality check.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Ultimate Insult

I was reading the chapter on pornography in Michael Kimmel’s Guyland when I came across what I think may be the most casually insulting expression I’ve ever heard of in a relationship.  The man had been celebrating how awesome porn is and taking pride in the fact that he doesn’t enjoy offensive material but prefers videos where the sex is clearly consensual and the woman is enjoying herself.  He commented that the expression on the actress’s face was the ultimate turn on for him. 

The interviewer then asked how that translated into sex with his wife.  And this self-proclaimed equalist said he didn’t bother with having sex with his wife because it was too hard.  He would have to talk to her, pretend to take an interest in what she was saying, listen to her boring concerns (his words) and then slowly lead the conversation around to sex.  Then he’d have to waste more time (his words again) with foreplay and her orgasm.  It was easier to stick with words on a page or images on a screen.

My jaw dropped when I read that.  I’ve heard about the epidemic of sexless marriages these days and I’ve wondered what causes two people who love each other to give up sex.  The finger is often pointed at stress, job demands, child demands and the modern lifestyle in general.  I’m wondering if we ought to be looking at the effect of porn.

Because as awful as it is, the man is right.  Having a mutually satisfying sex relationship with a real women is a lot harder than simply passively enjoying porn. 

What bothered me more was the obvious resentment towards his wife.  He wasn’t interested in sex as an expression of his love and passion for his spouse.  He wanted sex but thought the emotional commitment required was too much work.  Implication: his wife is too demanding.  How dare she require him to connect to her as a person and ask for a shot at equal pleasure in sex?  I would be willing to bet that man’s marriage is far from secure.

I don’t generally have a problem with porn, so long as everyone is over 18 and everything is consensual.  I think it’s more than time for sex to come out of the sniggering basement of life.  Sexuality is a vital and vibrant part of our existence and pretending otherwise is the height of silliness.

I have a problem with a pervasive attitude that women’s pleasure is too much work.  I don’t like when women have to choose between crappy sex and no sex.  I have a problem when there is a culture of entitlement which encourages men to take their pleasure and ignore their partner’s.  It completely contradicts any spirit of equality within a relationship.  To be true partners, people have to see their partner’s needs as equally important as their own.  It shouldn’t even be questioned, just taken as one of the basic facts of life.

A lot of the material in Guyland bothered me.  I haven’t decided yet how much of it I should take seriously and how much might be exaggeration and propaganda for the purpose of igniting a conversation.  But some of it seems to fit and make sense of otherwise inexplicable phenomena like the hook-up culture and the personality transformation which many men undergo when in the company of other men.  I’ll probably write more posts about it as I sort out my thoughts.

Friday, 6 July 2012

One Week To Go

Dave has entered the final preparation phase for his cancer treatment.  He's now on his iodine-free diet.  He'll be given radioactive iodine for the scan next week, so it's important to make sure his body is completely clear of it.  Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

The problem is that iodine is good for us but doesn't occur naturally except in things like eggs and seafood.  So the FDA ordered it added to commercial salt to make sure everyone gets enough iodine in their diet.  And commercial salt is in everything.

Dave has been limited to fruits, vegetables and whatever I can make from scratch.  We have some iodine-free salt, which we've been using judiciously to add flavour and do some limited baking.  Not being able to use eggs makes things trickier.  Aside from being deprived of some of his favourite foods, he's also reaching complete exhaustion mixed with joint pain and insomnia, all common side effects of low-thyroid hormone.

He's described it as feeling like having done two all-nighters in a row.  It's beyond normal exhaustion.  Instead he feels tired but wired at the same time, the classic too-tired-to-sleep phenomena.  However, he's still doing better than some.  The websites are full of dire warnings from people who were literally bedridden for the entire three to six weeks.

His concentration and memory are definitely affected.  I came down the other night and found him watching Treehouse TV, well after both kids were in bed.  He'd sat down, turned on the TV (which automatically goes to Treehouse) and then couldn't quite muster the energy to actually pick something to watch.

But the end is in sight.  One week from today is the scan which will tell us whether or not the previous treatments have successfully destroyed the cancerous nodes they found before.  I expect it'll be a few more weeks before we actually get the results (particularly if they're negative) but the hard part will be over.

Dave will have to go through this every three to five years to make sure everything stays okay.  It won't be pleasant but it's certainly do-able.  Maybe we'll get lucky and someone will come up with a breakthrough alternative to the scan.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Shawshank Redemption

I watched Shawshank Redemption again the other night and was reminded of why I loved that movie.  It’s a band of brothers story, but with prison life substituting for war.  The prisoners bond together against the harshness of the guards and their fellow inmates and against the boredom of incarceration. 

Whenever I watch a film or read a book multiple times, I always see different aspects.  Depending on where I am in my life, I see different things in them.  It’s one reason I resist getting rid of books and DVDs because I rarely believe I’ve completely exhausted the potential of a story.

With Shawshank, this time I noticed the foil of the two approaches to coping with prison.  Andy fights to hold on to his hope and his outside identity, even though it makes him a target for both the guards and the other prisoners.  Red and Brooks both surrender their hope, becoming institutionalized.  They accept the walls and restrictions of the prison life, making it their home and their world.  Brooks is unable to adapt to life on the outside and commits suicide.  While acceptance and surrendering makes life inside easier, it doesn’t let them move on afterwards.

Any long term hardship demands one of those strategies.  You can fight and struggle against it, risking wearing yourself out before the hardship ends.  Or you can accept and surrender to the inevitable, saving your energy for survival but risking being unable to survive outside the hardship.

Raising a special needs child isn’t exactly the same as prison, but it is a hardship.  I spend an inordinate amount of money, time and effort on helping my children with their challenges.  I also put a lot of effort into carving out time for myself and my own goals and interests, such as writing and craftwork.  I’m fighting on two fronts, risking burning myself out even faster.  But at the same time, the cost of surrender is too high.  I have to pace myself but I can’t stop fighting.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

SYTYCD - Top Twenty

I watched the So You Think You Can Dance top twenty reveal show and the dancers are all incredible.  It’s not surprising, they’ve got hundreds of high caliber dancers to choose from.  They have enough that they can choose dancers who are all technically brilliant and exceptional performers.  The wider the pool, the higher quality you can choose from.

I’m pleased to hear there won’t be separate performance and result shows this year.  One of the big challenges for me to watch the show was the amount of time it demanded.  Luckily, it’s one I can watch with the boys (even if they would prefer to watch the Wiggles).  But since I’ve been trying to cut down on how much TV I watch, a three hour weekly commitment is a lot.

The only thing I’m not pleased about is bringing in guest judges whose sole purpose seems to be to plug other shows for Fox.  Zooey Deschanel is a beautiful and brilliant actress but she’s not a dancer, nor does she work with dancers.  Her comments were as general and inane as anyone picked at random off the street.  Perhaps more so since she has to think about protecting her image.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the season unfolds.  Part of the reason I didn’t watch last season was because the winner was predictable.  This year, there are a lot of strong contenders.  But I have noticed a pattern.  The winner is not usually one of the early strong dancers.  I don’t know if it’s because those dancers don’t visibly improve as much as the others and thus their performances become boringly brilliant.  Or perhaps the audience gets exhausted with them since they’re featured so much early on.

My early favourites are Janelle, the belly dancer; Amelia, with her silent film inspired performance and appearance; Cyrus, with his amazing isolations; and the guy whose name I can’t remember with his martial arts inspired style.  I feel sorry that Janelle wasn’t able to perform and wonder if it will end up costing her competitively.  Martial Arts Guy might have a problem with the sheer speed of his maneuvers.  His kicks are nearly invisible, they’re so fast and in dance, you have to be able to see the moves.  Both Cyrus and Amelia have had trouble with the choreography but their individual styles are incredible.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Summer Update

We have begun our summer schedule and so far, I think it's going fairly well.  We've added some new activities this year.

Nathan is starting at the beginner level of a local martial arts school.  Here's a picture of him in his new gi, trying out his new moves.  I would like to take credit and say he's a natural but the truth is, this neatly balanced pose is actually the split second before he fell off the stool.

The school is very good.  There are four instructors, all very high energy (Seriously high energy, it's like watching children's television performers).  Things are kept on a very fun, casual level.  At the end of every class there's a dodgeball game of kids vs. parents. 

Alex has begun horseback riding through a special program for children with disabilities.  He spent a great deal of his first lesson seeing whether or not the staff would back down on demands if he misbehaved but the staff were quite used to it.  Despite his attempts to convince us all he was miserable, there were a few moments when he forgot the performance and actually began to relax and smile and enjoy himself.

The staff was very nonchalant.  There was one assistant on either side and another leading the horse.  I'm hoping he'll settle down and relax once he accepts that he'll have to do the work.  The horse impressed me with his patience.  Alex tried banging his head while in the saddle but the horse simply stood there before glancing back at him with an exhaled hrummph.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Conflicting Love Interests

Dario Maestripieri’s Games Primates Play, An undercover investigation of the evolution and economics of human relationships has some interesting theories.  One which has been lingering in my mind is his theory that romantic love evolved from maternal love.

There have been a number of studies noting the parallels between courting couples and mother and baby.  They both touch much more frequently than necessary, they look at each other to the exclusion of the world around them, etc.  There’s a self-absorption between the two of them, ignoring everything else. 

I’m drawing together ideas from a lot of different sources so if this gets disjointed, I apologize.

A lot of new fathers complain about feeling supplanted by the new baby in the family.  I can see that.  It’s like watching your wife fall in love with someone else.  A short, somewhat irritating someone else who moved into your house and took over your wife.  If Maestripieri is right, then they might have a reason to complain.  Maternal affection has likely been around for a long time since the majority of primates are cared for exclusively by their mother until independence.  Involved fathers only appear in species with highly dependent young, where a mother can’t care for them independently.  And no babies on the planet are more dependent than humans.

Now to bring in the next thread: Natalie Angier’s theory that intelligence and sentience evolved as an adaptive trait to allow a child to convince a wide variety of individuals to take care of it, increasing it’s chance of survival.  She noted that in hunter-gatherer societies, older women help to provide food for their daughter’s, niece’s and cousin’s older children, particularly after the birth of a new baby.  She believes human evolution went like this: we started to survive beyond our reproductive years and the older women of the group started bringing in a significant number of calories; the children started having to compete for this extra food, encouraging social awareness and early intelligence.  This set the stage for true sentient intelligence to develop.  It was okay for children to go through an extended development because they had the food from the extended kin group and smarter, more social children got more food.

So where did this leave fathers?  As children took longer and longer to be independent, they would have become increasingly vulnerable to irritated males looking to mate with the mother.  It would be evolutionarily adaptive to start drawing men into the extended family.  They can protect the children from other men and would provide access to a whole other kinship group.  Those families who had an attentive, caring male parent as well as the female kingroup would have done the best, allowing their genetic legacy to be dominant.

But this model doesn’t explain why couples break up (which they do with surprising regularity).  If two caring parents give the best shot to a child, why wouldn’t humans be better suited to being in a relationship?  Maybe it’s still a work in progress.

Maestripieri suggests that human pairbonds are designed to last around seven years, enough time to have a child (or two) and see them past the most vulnerable first few years.  After that, the needs of the individual change and being in a couple might no longer suit both of them.

Or maybe it’s long enough for the father to give up hope of regaining being number one in his wife’s affections.  It’s a long held truth.  In crisis situations, men save their wives and mothers save their children.  Perhaps its why men are so vulnerable to affairs, because the mistress puts them at number one.

Babies tend to be cared for by the mother and the extended female kin group in most societies.  Fathers get bumped out of significant roles.  Interestingly, in cultures where fathers are directly encouraged to bond with their child, the rates of divorce tend to stay the same but lack of child support becomes a much less common phenomenon.  If the only tie to the family is through the mother, it’s easy for a father to walk away from the entire family.  But if he gets tied to his children, he’ll be there for them even if he and the mother split apart.

It’s all interesting fodder to explore.  I like looking at different cultures and seeing what could be.  I think it’s neat to figure out how we became what we are, since it gives opportunities to guess how we might have been different.