Space.

There’s a Canadian on the International Space Station right now. His name is Bob. He’s circling the world, at every trajectory, like a ball of yarn. He goes around every 90 minutes. I don’t know why.

Up on the Sunshine Coast, where you can see the stars clearly, we have been tracking Bob. We shout Hi, Bob! up at the sky when we see the light of the space station pass. We wish him safe passage. It kind of feels like he is our friend, this fellow Canadian, 160 miles up.

Saturday night, we knew Bob would appear at 9:22. He was late. Two minutes later, Fran spied him coming up through the trees to the west. We shouted our usual goodwill messages, but Clarence and I moved beyond the campfire, out into a purer dark.

Clarence and I watched Bob’s progress on the International Space Station as it went eastward. We talked about the space station and how cool it was to see it all so clearly. But then Clarence got bored and went back to the fire.

I watched til Bob went past the trees on the horizon. He was traveling east, but out there in the solitary dark, I wanted to send him a message of solidarity. A message that he was not alone. That I was thinking about him, increasingly westward as he orbited the earth, out there in cold and lonely space.

I Lay the Smackdown.

We have a problem child at work. I hate saying that, I hate labeling him as a problem, because he shouldn’t be.

But he is.

He is quite developmentally delayed, and he is simply not up to the work at hand. English is his second language, and he’s not even up to linguistic speed in Korean. I can tell because the other kids can’t interpret what he says for me.

The thing is, he wants to be good. He wants to do the work and be like the other kids. He tries to make flash cards, but they read ‘flimbar’ (family) or musteahbuul (mushroom). But he’s not up to it. And then he gets frustrated.

When he gets frustrated, he gets violent, writes on walls, and shrieks incoherently. None of this is useful for the other kids working in the room.

He also cannot bear not to have a teacher’s attention. If I even turn to another student, he shrieks for me. Other teachers report the same.

I spoke to the boss about him today. I learned: The kid has full one-on-one support at school. He reads above his expected level (he can if he repeats a book ten times or so). And – here’s the kicker – his mom doesn’t think there’s a problem!

If we could schedule one-on-one time for this little guy, things would go easier. He will always be special, but we could quash some of the acting out. But the mom doesn’t want that. She’s got him scheduled for two hours of class every day. He can’t handle that. I think she thinks if he spends enough time reviewing, he is somehow going to be at a normal developmental level.

Well, I feel angry at her, and sorry for the kid, but this is the kind of thing that can sink a business like the place I work.

I looked the boss in the eye and told him we don’t have the training for this. People go to school especially to help kids like him, and I did not take those courses.

He made some excuses about the mother and her wants.

I nodded wisely. “You know other kids can’t work, can’t even get help when he is in the class, right?”

He nodded.

“Yeah. Do we really want to get a reputation as the school where no student can have a quiet or safe place to work? Where students can’t get any help in class?”

He had no reply, but I hope to Hell that he’s thinking about what I said.

August 8

It’s my mother’s birthday today. She would have been 67.

In the seven and a half years since her death, I have missed her sometimes, but not as much as I think I ought to miss her. I think of friends with fresher grief than mine, and I wish there was something I could do to ease their pain.

I was one of the first people out of all my friends to have a parent die, and so not a lot of people knew what to do with me. No one who hasn’t been there can imagine how your life changes when a parent dies. Everything is different. In hindsight, I hope I have been a comfort to friends whose parents have died since, and helped them with the transition and the strangeness of it all.

Because she and I had a difficult relationship, I can now look at it with a lot more clarity and objectivity than I could when she was here in the world deciding who I was on my behalf.

Bo and I talk about her sometimes, and that’s really useful since he is maybe the most self-aware male I know. Also, as my sibling, he grew up in the same family culture and has insights on events and attitudes that I sometimes don’t get.

She wanted complete control of my body and his finances. I think a lot of that was because she spent the last eighteen years of her life as a semi-invalid. She wanted to live her life and she had to spend most of her time lying down. Now that I have friends with chronic illnesses that cause them pain, I can have sympathy for her. But when I was growing up, it was just a massive obstacle for my brother and me: No parties, constant monitoring, and, at least for me, a tendency to tell me what a disappointment I was when I was really vulnerable (IE, sit down on my bed when I couldn’t find my glasses so I was blind and couldn’t move, and tell me how I had too much fun in Port Hardy and was a massive whore). It was untrue, and it hurt.

These days, Bo and I mostly just live our lives, but our dad, because of our mom’s need to make every decision, still lives a curious half-life. He sails, he visits us, he has a girlfriend. But it’s like part of him is still waiting for instructions from our mom. Part of him is wherever she is, and that is the happiest part of him. That makes me sad.

I try to take the good parts and leave the bad. I know I can thank her for my aesthetic sense, and my ability to cook, and my love of reading and knowledge. Other things, I get because I learned how NOT to do it. I try not to be controlling, manipulative or judgmental (that last one is hard.) I try to let things go. I let the people I love speak for themselves. I don’t assume.

I’m glad she was my mom. But I’m even gladder that I have the intellect to realize that she did some things wrong.

Self-Checkouts

I hate them. E loves them. In his words, “You don’t have to talk to the moron at the till.” Oh, that darling misanthrope o’ mine.

But, really? I can do a lot of things. I am terribly competent at a lot of things. But scanning and bagging my own groceries is not in my skill set. The machines always fritz, and where do you put the money? In fact, I do not want a bag. I brought a bag. What’s that, machine? You won’t scan the item unless I put it in the bag? The bag is not optional? So not only have I wasted five minutes’ time for the poor schmuck who walks me through the tag and bag process, now I have to take a bag? No. Just no.

I go to a cashier. They are faster than I am. I smile. I am friendly and polite, because, frankly, if I had to do their job, I would be catatonic within a couple of hours. More importantly, I am showing, through my choice, that I choose to interact with people who are getting paid, not machines that are not.

So. Imagine my dismay in the Main Library branch when I saw that I only had the choice of automatic book checkouts. I was appalled. They won’t do that to all the branches, will they? I need my library staff. I need someone who knows how to find scary books for an eight-year-old. I need my checkout lady who says, “Oh, the kids are liking the Henry and Mudge? I saw a couple back here. Hold on.” I need my co-conspirator in loving the populist fiction, who whispers, “Put a hold on the new Jayne Anne Krentz. It’s HOT!”

Some days, these are the only people I speak to who are old enough to buy a beer. I value these conversations. I value these people in my community, and I do not want to replace them with machines.

Peace.

Last night I went to work at 10PM, collecting trip logs for the Co-Op. The money’s as sucky as it is car jockeying, but I get to choose the radio station. And I do find it oddly peaceful. The streets empty out and as I grab logs from cars, I can sometimes see and hear snippets of people’s lives from outside in the darkness.

Because I have the kind of brain I have, I get into this romantic, loner-in-the-darkness shtick, and I start feeling like some kind of misunderstood antihero. I like that, too. I am following my own rugged path. Those blind, ignorant members of the public, they don’t know that I am out in the lonely dark, working for the greater good. The Mantle of Righteousness sits comfortably on my shoulders.

Of course, in the light of day, this is patently ridiculous. But I like the peacefulness in the middle of the night.

Stuff That Bugs Me.

Is it me, or are there just a lot of annoyances around right now? SO many things are just bugging me. It could just be PMS or the phase of the moon, but I want to look up at the sky and ask, “Really? Really?” about once an hour.

OK, those bump-it hair things designed to give you more volume in your hair. I think they make women look like aliens. Or newborns whose heads haven’t normalized yet. Are those women going to look at pictures of themselves later in their lives and think that was a good look? Deformity is the new hott?

Also, on the subject of heads. Mine is itchy. This may be TMI, but something is going on where I am producing way too much oil on my head. Like, puberty levels. I have to wash it every day or I look like an exceptionally haggard 12-year-old. E blames inferior hair products, and because he spent a decade of his life as a professional touring guitar player with hair down to his ass, he generally knows a lot about hair. So I splashed out on some Aveda stuff and it might be getting better, but maybe not. Some days are greasier than others. Perimenopause? Fuck off, perimenopause.

My boss. Work. Money. I have a lifesaver of a paycheck due on Tuesday, but the boss hasn’t paid our vacation pay yet, due to ‘financial difficulties’. If he tells me he can’t afford to pay me this whopper of a check, I am In The Cacky. Although since learning that the Old Boss still has controlling interest in the company, I feel more secure. I trust him. New Boss is proving himself to be greedy, superficial, and untrustworthy. I love my job, I love teaching the kids. I love the kids. But the uncertainty? I can certainly do without it.

E’s goddamned company. The union is pressuring them to join and they are offering the most mediocre of packages, plus some utterly ridiculous ‘health and safety’ riders. Meaning, the union will send a guy to every single gig whose sole job it is to make sure that all H&S requirements are being met. And pay him union wages. And let him shut down gigs if someone shows up with the wrong kind of hammer or something.

My stupid garden. Or, rather, the eaves guys. Please get the eaves up on the roof and let me have my garden back. I have not weed-whacked since September. There are blackberry vines out there as big around as my wrist. I need to weed and re-seed grass and get things going.

Next Door’s water consumption. Hey, I know you’re the Head of Cardiology at some hospital, but that doesn’t give you the right to power-wash your sidewalk for four hours every weekend! OCD, or control issues? C’mon, Doc. Which is it?

That was satisfying. So, friends, what’s bugging you?

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