Cancer Log – Earthdate 19.09.17

On Monday, September 9, I went in for a CT scan with contrast. It went as well as any test where you have to drink 3 glasses of barium can go. At least it was the watery barium, not the thick stuff. Good thing I don’t mind the taste of bitter things. (I have been known to eat unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate, when I really need a chocolate fix!) I also got a shot of iodine right into a vein. It felt kind of weird, but didn’t harm me in any way.

On Wednesday the 11th, I woke up feeling kind of bad. By afternoon my fever was up to 101.3° and I had a knot in the middle of my chest, right under my sternum, that was making it hard to breathe.

By 5:30 am on Thursday the 12th, I could barely breathe at all, and my fever was up to 101.6°. One of the things they tell you when you start chemo is that if your fever goes over 101.5° you have to go to the Emergency Room. So off we went.

They were extremely nice, accessed my port, took a bunch of blood, and gave me Tylenol, fluids, and an IV antibiotic. They also took a chest x-ray and (on the orders of my oncologist) another CT scan, without contrast this time. They told me it all looked clear, made sure my temperature was back to normal, and sent me home. Where my fever went right back up to 102.1°.

On Friday the 13th we had a long-scheduled appointment with my oncologist.

First, as usual, we saw the resident. He looked at the CT Scan from the day before, and told us it showed enlarged lymph nodes in the center of my chest, and a small pocket of fluid in the pleural cavity of my right lung, both almost undoubtedly from the infection. He said the fluid wasn’t enough to do anything about. But, he said, the nodule in my lung had increased in size from 0.5 cm to 0.8 cm.

Then my oncologist came in, said that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and my pleural cavity, (which isn’t something phyllodes tumors do,) and that the nodule had more than doubled in size to 1.1 cm. All of which showed that chemo wasn’t working, so she was going to stop treating me for two weeks. She admitted she didn’t know what to do next, since my cancer was so rare, so she sent me home with a script for antibiotics (without even listening to my chest, or examining me in any way) and scheduled a test to sample the fluid.

She also said she’d be sending samples of the tumor off for Next Gen Sequencing, to see if there was a treatment for any genetic mutations in the tumor. That was so expensive that I had to fill out paperwork for financial aid (which I’m sure we aren’t eligible for.) There also should have been blood samples in a special kit for genetic comparison, but my doctor failed to let the office staff know about that. (They called after we got home to say they needed the blood, could we come back Monday.)

Michael got the script filled. But when I read the package insert, I found that that particular antibiotic could permanently damage tendons and nerves, and that the tendon damage was more likely in patients over the age of 60. (Me.) It also said not to take it if you have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, because it can cause an aneurism. (Also me.)

The thing is, Michael and I promised each other, after the last time, that we’re not going to wait until a doctor half kills one of use before we switch doctors ever again.

So, on Saturday we went to an urgent care, and got an antibiotic that wasn’t likely to cause more harm than good. (Note: when a drug says to take it with a snack or small meal, they really mean it. Ignore that at your peril!)

Then yesterday, we cancelled the blood kit, called the specialist in Ann Arbor, and asked if he’d take me as a patient. We’ll be seeing him on Oct. 3.

Today the pain and knot in what I’m assuming is my bronchial tubes is gone, although I’m still coughing quite a bit (not as much as yesterday, though!) My fever as I write this is 99.7°. Oh, and the catch on the right side when I breathe, which I’m guessing was the fluid, is gone. So, still not well, but much, much better. 

And that’s where we stand now. More news as I have it, and am able to write a blog post. 

Love you all!

What’s Going On

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written a new blog post in more than a year. There are reasons for this, and it all boils down to I haven’t been at all well. But I’m getting better! (I hope.)

For a long time – years – my energy level has been steadily dropping. Last November, just before Thanksgiving, we found out that the reason was that I had developed diabetes, and it was Really Bad. It had gotten so out of hand because I had a Very Bad Doctor who, although I’d informed him I had diabetes on both sides of the family, and needed regular blood tests, hadn’t been doing them. (Kids! Ask for the results of all your blood work! Don’t let the doctor tell you, “If you don’t hear from me, it’s all normal.”)

The diabetes is completely under control now. I’ve even been able to go off the insulin, and am managing the disease with just diet and exercise. I was feeling better than i have in years!

But.

Because we (needless to say) fired that doctor, and because we also switched our insurance (I am finally old enough for Medicare,) we wound up without a doctor until early April.

By then, a lump that I’d had in my right breast since November 2005, and which had twice been diagnosed as benign, had started to get weird.

Cut to the chase; it turns out that I have stage four cancer. Not a common type, because why would I do that? I have phyllodes tumors. In my case, it grew very slowly for 14 years, and then went nuts, growing from the size of my fist to 15 pounds between April 3 and June 15. I had a double mastectomy on June 15, and surgery went very well. So that part is gone, and there was much rejoicing.

However, because of the years and years of neglect, mine has metastasized to my lungs, where I have two very small tumors. So my oncologist has me on chemo. There’s no need to go into details but chemo isn’t any fun, and it doesn’t leave me with a lot of strength to do other things.

I’ll try to keep anyone who is interested updated via this blog, because people have been asking. I’m (obviously) not keeping any of this secret, so if you want to talk about it with others, send energy, pray, light candles, and so on please feel free.

Just don’t expect a whole lot from me for a while. My energy is kind of wrapped up in getting well.

Thanks for reading. I love you all!

Robin

Time to Fight

As the attack on our institutions intensifies, I’m finding it necessary to write an essay about Things. The last time our Republic was in danger, I posted essays in a special section on my site. Right now, my site is split between the pages you can see, and the new pages on my server. Because of that, I’m posting essays here until I get my new site up. I’ll move them then; but in the meantime, I can’t be silent.

I originally wrote this on June 28. I normally leave a day between writing and posting, as a kind of “cooling off” period, to get some distance from the words and look at them a bit more objectively. In this case, router problems, and then other obligations, kept me from posting until today.


June 28, 2018

After the last few days, it’s become apparent that we are in the fight of our lives.

We didn’t choose this. We don’t want to be. But we have been for some time, whether we admitted it or not, and it’s high time we admitted it, and started to fight back.

The good news is that we vastly outnumber our opponents.

There are way more people of good heart, who believe that everyone is, indeed, created equal. That we are entitled, by the social contract that binds us together, to things like a working wage, support in illness and old age, freedom, education, the right to marry the person we love, and so much more.

That we are entitled to these things regardless of our skin color, country of origin, circumstances of birth, ableness, health, weight, gender, religion or lack thereof, or anything else that can be named.

That infants and children should never, ever, be separated from their families and incarcerated simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That seeking asylum is not a crime, and immigrants help our economy and make us stronger.

That the only way to lose the things we are entitled to is to break the social contract by intentionally harming another living, breathing human being.

That owning these entitlements does not deprive anyone else of them.

That it is not, in fact, a zero-sum game.

The bad news is that there is a sizable number of people who seem to be laboring under the belief that it is zero-sum. That anyone else claiming the things they are entitled to is somehow depriving them. They fear and hate the “other,” and want nothing more than for the “other” to be forever subservient, at their beck and call. And if they will not, then the “other” must cease to exist.

These people have, at this point, taken over all three branches of government. They are imposing their twisted view on all of the rest of us.

To paraphrase a friend of mine (Gwen Smith) the monsters are no longer afraid of showing themselves for exactly what they are.

The bad news is that, if we don’t want to be part of their world, forever subservient and happy to take any abuse they want to dish out, we will have to fight.

Fight as if our lives depended on it, because they do.

In order to fight, we will all have to make sacrifices; especially people with privilege. Yes, I mean white cis straight people, men in particular. We have to give up the comfortable view of our own future, if we had one, and realize that we aren’t in it for ourselves any more. If we cannot unite, put aside our petty squabbles, our talk of purity, our own prejudices, and work as a cohesive whole, we will not win this.

We have to give our time, to make phone calls we don’t really want to make, and write letters we’d rather not write. We have to take time to march, and protest, and get in people’s faces. We have to risk arrest to do this.

We might have to give up space in our homes, for housing those who are most at risk, sheltering those who are traveling to march, or who need medical care not available where they live. (Yes, I am talking about women who need abortions.) We have to be willing to be a meeting place, even if that entails some risk.

We have to give some of the money we wanted for extras to make life more pleasant, to organizations or people that will make continued life possible for others.

We might have to give up time and space we would ordinarily use for business or pleasure to write political essays. Even if we feel that no one is really interested in what we have to say.

But the good news is that if we do, if we watch out for each other, and have each other’s backs. If we stop worrying about what terms should be used, and whether someone is pure enough, and if someone is fighting the way we would fight, then we can.

Because united we outnumber them more than 2 to 1.

Don’t let them divide us.

Don’t let us divide us.

United we stand, and we will fight, and we will win justice and equality for all.

 

New Short Story

I’m still working on my website, and trying to catch up on everything else. As part of that, I put a new short story up on my Patreon page. Which means it’s been long enough that I can release a short story here, too!

Let me know what you think!

(Sorry there’s no picture, but I don’t have time today. Sigh.)

Your Money or Your Life

A Short Story by Robin Wood

Gilbert Clarence Barnette the third peered around the pile of rocks. He could see the coach now, far down the road. Well, what he actually saw was a cloud of golden dust, but it was moving far too swiftly to be anything but the coach.

He rolled back behind his chosen cover, enjoying the thrill bubbling inside him. His father would be livid if he knew! Of course, with any luck, he never would know. But still, knowing he was doing something that would infuriate the old man was its own special flavor of wonderful. It didn’t hurt that he was risking his life, at least in theory. He might even get a haul of gold and precious gems! Not that he needed them; he had plenty of money. At least the old bastard was good for that. Ever since he learned the value of a coin, Gil had only to put out his hand, and his dad would fill it with cash.

It was the thrill he was after! He’d dreamed of being a highwayman all his life; dashing, handsome, devilish, without a care in the world. Not that he had many cares. Anything he wanted always fell into his lap. Which was why he was so bored with it all.

But this! Ah! This was exciting! He felt more alive than he had… well … ever, really.

He peeked again. The coach was clearly visible now, the horses’ legs flashing, the windows glinting as they caught the lowering sun. Perfect. In about three minutes they’d come to the bend in the road, see the deadfall he’d put out, and have to stop. It was time for him to get into place.

Grinning to himself, he adjusted the fine silk scarf over his nose and mouth, pulled his hat brim down as far as it would go, loosened his pearl handled six-shooter, and slipped into the small copse that had supplied his deadfall. Just one branch, really. Anyone could move it aside easily, but there wasn’t room to drive around it, and with no other traffic, and the road known to be safe (thanks to Dear Old Dad) he was gambling that the coach driver wouldn’t want to risk injury to the horses.

His heart pounding, he waited.

“Woah! Woah there!”

Yes! Right on schedule, the coach drew to a halt.

With a flourish, Gil drew his gun, stepped into the road, and said, “That’s enough! Everyone out of the coach! Line up!”

He had the drop on them. The driver made an abortive move toward his rifle, thought better of it, and climbed down, as the passengers debarked.

If he’d really been a robber, dependent on their pockets for his living, it would have been a disappointing catch. An old graybeard, slightly threadbare. Probably a professor of some kind. A haughty woman, who lifted her chin and glared at him with her nostrils flaring. Some fairly good jewelry on that one, but nothing really fine. A slender girl, maybe 13 or 14, who looked underfed and overworked, with her head bowed. And of course the driver.

But the looks on their faces were extremely gratifying! Pale, trembling, just the way people should look at Gil! Even the woman looked worried. He’d make her sweat just to see it.

“Your money or your life!”

This was such fun! He finally got to say it in a real robbery!

The girl looked up, straight into his eyes, with a smile that looked almost like feral triumph. “Done!” she whispered, stamping her right heel.

The world dissolved in bright white light, Gil’s stomach dropped to his toes, and then he was looking at himself, as if he was stooping among his victims. Looking right into the barrel of his gun, but just for a moment.

In stunned disbelief, he saw himself shout “Yes!” and fling both arms up, then holster the gun.

How could he be outside himself, watching? It made no sense!

Gil looked up into the face he was used to seeing in the mirror, or at least the part that showed between his scarf and his hat. His own bright blue eye winked at him. “You asked for it, you got it. Enjoy it!”

Confused, he watched the hand that had always been his go into what he thought of as his pocket, and come out with a gold coin.

“Hey!” he said. But his voice was high and thin; nothing like his voice at all. And it didn’t come from the figure in front of him.

Instead, that figure said, “Just joking, folks. Here, for your trouble.” And he tossed the gold piece to the driver. A $50 gold piece!

The driver caught the coin, as the highwayman turned on his heel with a little spring, and vanished among the trees.

“Spoiled brat.” The driver spat to the side, then examined the coin and grinned as he pocketed it. “Go ahead and get back in, folks. It’ll only take a moment to clear this.”

Gil felt someone grab his arm, and a harsh voice said, “Get in the coach, Livy, you lazy layabout.” He looked up, shocked, to see the nasty woman glaring down at him.

“But…”

“No backtalk. Do as I say.” And she shook him viciously.

He would have protested, but at that moment he felt a horrible pain in his lower abdomen, as if all the muscles there had clenched at once. With a gasp, he folded over, as much as he could with the woman’s hand still holding his arm tightly enough to bruise.

She shoved him towards the door, and he found himself climbing in, and scooting over on the slick horse hair seat. His legs no longer reached the floor, and he was wearing some kind of dress made of cheap cloth. He felt sick, weak, and cold. Unfamiliar memories crowded his head.

He plastered his face to the window, and was just in time to see his body, mounted on his fine chestnut horse, riding away to his lovely, wealthy, luxurious life.

 

 

Catch Up

So, it’s been ages since I posted, because I’ve been running before the wind, as the saying goes. I have a few minutes right now, though, so I thought I’d try to catch up, and let people know what’s in the works.

The main project is an update to my website. It’s been years since it was updated, and it’s long past time that it was done. But it’s a huge job, because it’s a huge site.

The last time I worked on it, too long ago to remember, I only did half the site before I got busy with other things. The half I didn’t do, of course, was the Grove. Yes, sadly, those pages have been there, untouched, for longer than some adults who might read this have been alive. Whew!

When I got to the Altar page, I realized the main picture there is way, way, way too small for current standards. When I first posted those pages the web was a whole different, and much slower, place.

Which meant that I needed to re-render the altar scene. But I couldn’t just dust off the old scene and render at a higher resolution, because the software I used, Infini-D, has been gone for many years. (It was sold, resold, smushed together with Ray Dream Designer to make Cararra, and sold again some time last century. Literally. Cararra is owned by DAZ now, but it can’t open the ancient Infini-D files as far as I know.)

Anyway, I use Modo these days, so I rebuilt the scene from old .obj files I saved when I realized that Infini-D was going, going, gone.

Which meant that I was essentially making all new models based loosely on the old models.

Which meant, as long as I was redoing them all, it wasn’t all that much more work to bring them into Second Life. Where the altar set that I still had in my in-world store dated from 2004. (That’s the thing about getting old. You have to keep redoing and updating work that you finished long ago, because the world has changed.)

So. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been eyebrow-deep in modo, making altar ware for Second Life. I have enough of them finished now  that I put them together into an Altar Set.

Altar Set in Second Life
Altar Set for Second Life

You can get it now at the Second Life Marketplace, or from The Broom Closet on my sim, Livingtree, in SL.

I still have plenty of pieces that are finished in modo, but need to have the SL textures and LODs made. Things like the Athame, wand, chime, incense that uses self-igniting charcoal, and so on. You can see them in the raw test render that’s the Featured Image for this post.

Well, mostly raw. I just noticed that I have one lens flare there, because I was experimenting to see if the idea I had for lens flares would work. But I need to render it with the lighting I intend to use, and the proper gamma, and all the rest of that stuff. It’s not going to look like that when it’s done!

I’ll be bringing everything into SL except the hyacinths. I didn’t remake those, and the mesh is way too dense for SL. I substituted the rosebuds, instead.

Anyway, now that the basic set is in there, I’m going to be concentrating more on the website. No idea when it’s going to be finished, but hopefully sometime before the end of summer. I might need to change it in chunks to make it, but people do that, sometimes. Right?

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Now that the pressure has eased a bit, I hope to be able to post more often, and show you where I am, and how far I’m getting.

Because I can’t keep working at the pace I’ve been trying to maintain. I’m too old for that!

So, let me know what you think about all of this!

Until next time!

The Day Robin Did Not Turn Green

This is a story that actually happened to me, exactly as written. I didn’t add or change anything at all, because I didn’t need to. I mean, it was funny enough as it was!

I used to tell it at conventions, and it was a great favorite, so I decided to tell it here, too.

Note: When trying things happen to you, start to write the funny story then. You know you’ll laugh when you look back on it. Why wait? 😀

This story happened in the Long Ago, many years before computers were common.

In those days, the only way to get words onto paper (besides hand writing) was a mechanical typewriter.

If you’ve never seen one, all the letters were cast on the ends of hammers, sort of like the hammers that hit the strings in a piano. Except, as you pressed the keys, the hammers leapt up and struck a ribbon that was impregnated with ink. (Don’t touch the ribbon; that stuff is hard to scrub off.) This left an impression of the letter on the page, which was very cool. But if you typed too quickly, several hammers would try to hit the paper at once, and they would jam. Then you had to reach up, and untangle them with your hands, wipe the ink off, and keep going. So you had to learn to type fairly slowly.

Electric typewriters were an improvement, although the only real difference was that hitting the keys closed a circuit, instead of using a mechanical linkage. At least the keys didn’t jam as easily; but you were stuck with the font the typewriter maker had chosen.

But when this story happened, there had been a breakthrough. Electric typewriters had been invented that had little balls, about the size of golf balls, that bounced along as you hit the keys, and could never jam. Better yet, there was a little lever on top that let you remove the type ball, and replace it with a different one, so you could have regular and script fonts on the same typewriter!

I had my heart set on replacing my old mechanical typewriter with one that had a type ball; but there was a small problem. The typewriters came in two different pitches.

I wanted an elite typewriter, which typed 12 characters to the inch. (Everything was monospaced, in those days.) My then-husband (not the wonderful man I’m married to now,) wanted pica, which typed 10 characters to the inch.

Back then, as now, I hated to argue. So after some attempts to persuade him, I agreed to get a pica typewriter, and we picked out the make and model we wanted. Using paper catalogs and flyers. There was no such thing as shopping online in those days.

He was in the Army, so he went off TDY (Temporary Duty, or Temporary Duty Yonder, as it was affectionately known) to Boston, leaving me in Maryland, with no car, but with instructions to buy the typewriter.

So I called my friend, Rosa, explained my dilemma, and asked if she could possibly take me out shopping. She was agreeable, so the next day she picked me up, in her little yellow car.

It was one of those gray, drizzly, hazy days. We went to the first store, and found that they had the make and model I wanted, but none that were pica. All they had were elites.

So we set off for another store.

On the way, as the car splashed through the misty rain, a golden-retriever-looking dog darted out into the street about a foot in front of us.

Rosa slammed on her brakes and jerked the wheel, but there was no time, and she clipped the dog. I spun in my seat, tracking the pup, and was just in time to see it slide on its side across the wet pavement, and straight down a storm drain in the curb, with a look of wild amazement on its face.

Rosa stopped the car, and craned around. “Where’s the dog?”

“It went down the storm sewer.”

“It couldn’t! It was a great big dog.”

“It did. Flat on its side, slid along, right through the slot, with a look of wild amazement on its face.”

“That’s not possible,” said Rosa.

“Let’s go look,” said I.

So we got out of the car, walked over, and sure enough, there was the dog, walking back and forth in the storm sewer, looking around, clearly wondering, “Where am I? How did I get here?”

“Rosa,” I said, “His people will never ever, in a hundred million years, look for him down there. We need to get him out.”

“How?”

“I dunno! Do you have a tire iron in your car?”

“Yes.”

“Well, go get it!”

So she got it, handed it to me, and I levered up the cast iron manhole cover that was conveniently located in the sidewalk right over the drain.

I put it carefully to one side, and then reached down, and lifted the dog out.

Now, being young and in good shape at the time, I had no problem bending at the waist, reaching considerably lower than my feet, and lifting out a dog the size of a golden retriever. Sadly, however, my white painter’s jeans were not up to the task, and the right leg tore, riiiippp, right below the buttock.

I put the dog on the ground, where Rosa checked him over, and finding that he seemed to be perfectly okay let him go. At which point he took off without looking, which is how he got in trouble in the first place.

I reached down, picked up the cast iron manhole cover, and lifted it over the opening so I could put it back in place.

At which point it broke in half in my hands, just like a cookie. Snap.

My right hand was strong enough to hold up its half of a cast iron man hole cover, but my left was not, and that half fell down into the water at the bottom of the sewer. Plop.

So I balanced the right half very carefully over the opening, stood up, and said, “Rosa, I want to go home.”

“Why?”

“Why?! You just hit a dog, my pants are torn and no longer white, and I just broke a cast iron man hole cover in half with my bare hands!”

“The dog didn’t leave that much muddy water on you, you can’t see the rip unless you sit down, and then you’ll be sitting on it, and we’ll write down the street address and call in the man hole cover when we get back to your home.

“Besides, this is the only day this week I can take you out, and your husband told you to get the typewriter. We have to keep going.”

“Okay.”

So I sat down on my ripped, wet, filthy pants in her car, and off we went.

To get through the rest of the day quickly; Rosa did not hit the couple stepping off the curb; she missed them by a good inch. She did hit the dumpster, but not very hard. She did not hit the guardrail, there was at least a quarter inch of clearance. She did hit the wall, but just barely.

We did not find a pica typewriter, but we did find the pica script ball I wanted, and at the last store, they called another store that had one, and would hold it for us for a couple of days.

As each thing happened, I said, “Rosa, I want to go home.” and she would tell me no.

But after the wall, when I said, “Rosa. Take me home. Now.” she agreed to do so. Because it was starting to get late.

So we got back to my place, I let us in, and the first thing Rosa did was pick up the rawhide mallet that was lying on my table, (I’d been doing some leather tooling,) and fling it at the windows.

I took it away from her, handed her the phone, and said, “Sit down, and call about that man hole cover. I’m getting clean and changing into something that’s not torn.”

So she did. The call, as she told me after she hung up, went like this.

“Hi! I’m calling to report a broken manhole cover.”

“Thank you. What’s the address?”

She told them.

“How did you discover it was broken.”

“My friend broke it.”

“How?!”

“She just snapped it in half.”

“What does your friend look like?” (increasing incredulity.)

“She’s a white woman in her twenties, tall, medium build.”

“What did she use?!”

“Her bare hands.”

“WHO IS THIS?”

“I don’t have to tell you THAT!” said Rosa, and slammed down the phone.

I hope they did go and look, because it really was broken, and dangerous.

So I kept Rosa for a while, until everything seemed calm and normal, and then sent her on her way.

Where, she told me later, she stopped at the drive-through to the bank, someone pulled up right behind her, and she had to just watch as the driver ahead of her took his foot off the brake, drifted gracefully and slowly backwards, and crunched her right headlight. Amazingly enough, that was the only damage the car took for the whole day.

But it left me with a typewriter that was being held for me, but no way to go and get it.

So I called my friend Bill, and told him the whole story. To which he responded, “Did you turn green?”

“What?”

“Well, you burst out of your clothing, and snapped a cast iron manhole cover in half with your bare hands. I just wondered if you turned green?”

“No, Bill, I’m not the Hulk! Now, can you take me, or not?”

“Sure.”

So Bill came and got me, and off we went. I had good, written instructions from the last store the day before, and thought it would be fairly simple. But I wasn’t counting on the vagaries of the Beltway around Washington DC.

You see, at that time (and probably until this day) there are some exits that you can only get to if you’re going clockwise, and the one I needed was one of those. The trouble was, we had left from my house, not the store, and were going counter clockwise. So we watched the exits, looking for number 17. (I’m making up the numbers; this was nearly forty years ago, after all.) And there they went, 20, 19, 18, 16… wait! What happened to 17?

Arrrgh!

So we turned around, and now we were going the right direction, we found the exit, took it, and almost at once found ourselves at an unexpected T intersection. The name of the street matched the directions, but the guy at the store had neglected to note which direction to turn.

“Which way do you think we should go?” asked Bill.

“Right.”

So, since Bill knew me well, he turned left. I didn’t argue. My reverse sense of direction is generally pretty good.

But in this case, it swiftly became apparent that the street was becoming increasingly residential. When we could read a couple of house numbers, we knew we were going the wrong way. So we turned around.

And found, to our surprise, that in the five or so minutes it had taken us to drive a bit, turn, and drive back, a cherry picker had stopped at that T intersection, put out bright orange safety cones, and covered the road with coils of wire from a four foot spool.

There was a man in the cherry picker, hanging onto one end of the wire. As we watched, he was lifted to the height of the telephone poles, at which point he tried to pull the wire taunt.

Oddly, he couldn’t move several hundred pounds of wire as thick as his thumb, and the coils in the street barely stirred as he strained.

The other guy, down on the ground, waved and shouted for a few minutes, but it didn’t help. So that guy had them lower the cherry picker, and changed places with the first man.

I thought, oh good, they’re going to use the cherry picker to lift the wire. But not a bit of it. He had himself lifted to the top of the pole, and then found that he, too, couldn’t pull that massive wire taunt.

So he had the cherry picker lowered again, kicked the coils out of the way in disgust, threw the cones to the side of the road, and motioned us to go on through the intersection.

I hope he used the cherry picker next, but I’m guessing that before that, he and the other guy both got in, and tried to pull the wire taunt.

Anyway, however they managed (and they did manage, the wire was in place, and all the machinery gone when we passed going home,) we got to the store, where, indeed, the typewriter was waiting for me, a beautiful pica machine, exactly the make and model that I was looking for.

I paid for it, and Bill drove me back to my apartment with no further adventures.

But that night, when I called my then-husband to tell him mission accomplished, and just what it had taken to accomplish that mission, I told him, “But I still think we should have gotten the elite.”

“No,” he said. “I like the smaller letters.”

Which… is the elite.

Which I could have gotten at the first store, before we even hit the dog.

But if I had, I wouldn’t have had this story to tell you.

The Arcade in SL, September 2017

It’s the first of September, and once again, the Arcade is open in Second Life. It’s been five years now, and it’s still going strong!

I was in the first Arcade, and I’ve been in lots of them (but not all) since. I’m there again this time, with a bunch of Corn Dollies.

 

Corn Dollies Key image
The Corn Dollies Key

It’s all Marianne McCann’s fault. She was the one who begged for them. I was going to do this set a long time ago, and then got distracted, and only did one. I put that one in an Arcade set called Grandma’s Attic, which was really a whole lot of things that I had sitting around in my workroom, but had never really finished, or finished and never put up for sale. I have a lot of things like that, at any time.

But Mari never forgets, especially when it’s something she really wants, and so she kept nudging until I got this set done. If you like them, thank her!

There are 12 in the set, plus the reward.

Many of them are scripted; for instance, there’s one with a quilt, which lets you swap between 3 different quilt patterns. There’s one with a parasol, that lets you choose from 12 different parasol designs. There’s one holding a bird, that plays birdsong when you touch her, until you touch her again. There’s one with a working lantern that has all kinds of different options. There’s one with a bubble wand, that lets you toggle the bubbles on and off. There’s one on a swing that can really swing.

All of them let you change the colors of their skin, hair, apron, dress, and kerchief (or hair bows) separately, so you can have them look just the way you want.

You can also use your own pictures for the one with the quilt, or the one who is painting, just by dragging them over the quilt or picture that’s there.

The Reward is only available during the Arcade, and is copy/mod, no transfer, so you won’t be able to pick her up at any of the sales or trades. This is your only chance to get her, and only by playing the machine 25 times. She’s holding a jack-o-lantern that’s really a light, with all the options (including changing the light color and brightness.) It’s a bit early for Halloween, but it won’t be by the time the Arcade closes on September 31.

Corn Dollie Jackie, 25 play reward
The Reward you get for 25 plays!

So go ahead, and try your luck at my machine at The Arcade! All the dolls (except the Reward) are mod/transfer, and all of them are 1 LI at the size given. You can shrink them small enough to put in my dollhouse, or make them huge, although LI goes up as they get big (of course.)

While you are there, don’t forget to pick up the Birthday Presents! You’ll find them on the huge cake in the middle of the venue. Happy Birthday, Arcade!

Thoughts

I wrote this in January, and just found it. I didn’t post it then, and I don’t know, now, why I didn’t. I suspect it’s because I was sick, and none of it seemed worth posting. It was a rough winter, and spring; I was sick most of the time, until we realized that the constant coughing and exhaustion from all the coughing had more to do with ducts that were not cleaned before we moved in here than with my lousy immune system. (Check your ducts!)

The ducts are clean now, and have been for weeks. I’m no longer coughing. And, slowly, I’m trying to get back to writing. I haven’t been writing for a very long time. Like most of the other creatives I know, creating under these circumstances is surprisingly hard. So much for hard times yielding great art.

Anyway, here’s the piece I wrote so long ago. And my hope that I’ll be writing more regularly in the future.


It’s been a long, hard time since the last time I posted on this blog, and I have a horrible feeling that it’s just going to get harder for a while.

Like many other creatives, I’ve been unable to write. The one time I tried, the post before this, someone found it necessary to write a very long comment explaining to me that I didn’t actually mean what I said in that post.

They were wrong, of course. I did mean it. I don’t write things lightly, and I think carefully before I say anything, and even more carefully, including running it past at least one other person, before I actually post.

It’s taken me months to decide what to do about the comment. I’ve never just declined to post any real comment before. (I delete spam all the time, but that’s spam. You get plenty of that already, I’m sure.) But this time, although I thought about countering his points one by one, I’ve decided not to. It’s a waste of time and energy that I frankly can’t spare at the moment. So I’m just going to ignore it.

Instead, I’m going to post something I’ve been thinking about all day, as I sit here with the snow falling all around my house.

I have a friend in California. Okay, I have a bunch of friends there, but I have one I frequently exchange weather info with.

She is forever telling me that the sky is blue. That’s what she sees, when she looks out her window. She’s even sent me pictures to prove it.

I tell her that the sky is white, or sometimes light gray. That’s what I see when I look out my window. Featureless, unbroken light gray or white, from horizon to horizon.

Neither of us is wrong about what we are seeing. We’re both reporting it accurately.

Except I’m not really seeing the sky. I’m seeing clouds. All I’ve seen for days and weeks is clouds. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this thing called “sun,” although I’m pretty sure I saw a picture of it once.

But the truth is, the sky beyond those clouds is blue. If I could see through the clouds, I would be able to see that it is.

Privilege is like that. I’m a cis white woman. I don’t have as much privilege as a white cishet man does, but I have quite a bit. From here, behind my privilege, we have always had equal rights, here in the US. That’s what it says in the constitution, in the laws, in the stories we tell ourselves about our country. Once, long ago, we had Jim Crow, but that was all swept away in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s gone now. Heck, we had a black president!

People on the margins of society knew that was just an illusion. That was the clouds in front of the sky. In reality, a reality I never experienced from behind my bank of privilege, there has always been massive racism in this country. The laws changed, but the attitudes of the people didn’t magically change along with them.

Ask anyone who isn’t white.

People have been trying to tell us this, ever since the sixties. From where they are, where they are being systematically imprisoned, beaten, and killed, even by law enforcement, it’s obvious that it’s not anything close to over. From where they stand, it’s clear that they have to work many times harder to get a scrap of what we assume we have by right. They are refused housing, refused education, refused simple courtesy, their very humanity and right to exist is constantly questioned. Doctors assume that they have higher pain tolerance than a white person, even though there is no evidence of such a thing, so they aren’t given the same pain meds, if they are given any at all.

They are considered to be “over sexed” through no fault of their own, and so are treated as sexual predators when they are simply minding their own business. Their sexualization a part of white fantasy, not due to anything they have done. The law treats them as if they are adults the moment they reach puberty, if not before, while treating white men as if they are children, not responsible for their actions, when they are 27, or 35, or in their 40s.

At the same time, they are treated as if they can never become adults intellectually, no matter how much experience or education they have. Totally ignorant white people talk down to people of color, because of course they know more; they’re white!

They tried to tell us. They kept pointing it out. They showed us videos, they showed us evidence, they held marches and demonstrations, where they were met with policemen in riot gear.

And then the Election came, and the clouds of our privilege rolled back, and we glimpsed the reality behind them, just for a moment. We saw that yes, indeed, racism is still alive and well, and the evidence is really all around it.

We are stunned. They tried to tell us, but we wouldn’t listen.

So now, please, for our very lives, it’s crucial that we listen.

We might not have any idea how to navigate this world, but they do. It’s the world they’ve been living in for their whole lives. In their place, we might be so angry and spiteful that we wouldn’t lift a finger to help the white people who are now tasting the bitter draught they’ve been forced to drink.

They are better than that. They aren’t really interested in changing places with us; they know too well what it feels like to be in this position.

But they can’t help us if we won’t listen.

So please, please listen.

Show up to all the marches and rallies that you can. Our white bodies offer a level of protection for those with more melanin in their skin. Did you see the difference between the police at the Women’s March and those at any Black Lives Matter demonstration? There was no riot gear, no mace, pepper spray, or nightsticks. There were pink hats, smiles, high fives. That is one of the reasons we have to be there.

But don’t talk. It’s not about us. Besides, everyone has heard our white stories too many times to count. They all know what we have to say.

Instead, let them speak. Hand them the megaphone. They are the leaders here. They are the ones who know this territory. They have lived here forever, and know how to navigate in it.

Respect the sacred spaces of those who have other religions than you. If they kneel to pray, or draw up a sacred circle, or do anything that they are doing as a group, sacred or not, don’t barge in or through. You are not more important than they are.

We are all humans, together, trying to fight through the mire and work our way to a place of freedom where we can, finally, really, be equal.

Yes, when the Founding Fathers wrote “all men are created equal” they didn’t really mean “all human beings, no matter their gender, skin color, religion, or ethnic background.” We know that. But that’s exactly what we mean. We can fulfill their dream, and make it a reality.

It will be a struggle, and it won’t come without cost.

But if we can get there, it will be oh so worth it.

It’s worth fighting for. So let’s fight. As one, with respect for all and malice towards none.

I’ll see you at the demonstration. I’ll be the one listening, not talking.

Join me.

No Reconciliation

It’s happened. Trump is the president-elect, and Republicans hold both houses of congress and probably will soon have a majority on the Supreme Court, as well. The checks and balances are gone. Our worst nightmare is now our reality.

Not because they are Republicans and I usually vote for Democrats.

But because Republicans have tried for many years to strip away all protections for the most vulnerable among us. In fact, there is little doubt that they would love to strip away everything for everyone who isn’t a wealthy, white, straight, Evangelical Christian male.

Even now, Ryan is finalizing his plans to privatize Medicaid and Social Security, and totally repeal the Affordable Care Act. To gut food stamps, and to remove safety nets and protections for the poorest among us.

But it’s worse than that.

That is what we would have faced if some other Republican had won the nomination of his party, and had become president.

But it’s Trump, who boasts of his xenophobia and racism. Who glories in sexual assault and sees manhandling women whenever he wishes as his due. Who has deep ties to white supremacist groups, who are crowing that they are in power now.

Yes, he also lies pretty much constantly. He campaigned on a platform to “drain the swamp” in DC. He said he was an outsider, who wasn’t beholden to lobbies and special interest groups. He said he would end their influence. And he’s filling his cabinet with them. There is little doubt that he’ll renege on any promises he doesn’t find convenient, as he always has.

But he has proven through his actions, for more than 50 years, that he is, in fact, a racist. That he does, in fact, despise pretty much everyone. That he hasn’t a shred of empathy or human decency. That he has no intention of helping anyone but himself. Ever.

Since he was elected, just 3 days ago, the most racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and violent of his followers have taken his election as a license to do whatever they want to do to whoever they want. There are endless reports of attacks on women wearing a hijab, on Mexicans, on Asians, on blacks. There are thousands of stories of school children chanting horrible things, making walls of their bodies to keep out fellow-students who aren’t white, writing hateful messages on doors to safe spaces, on classroom whiteboards, on signs, on restroom walls.

These aren’t random acts. This is not a coincidence. They are doing these things in Trump’s name; writing it on cars and walls besides their hate filled slogans, screaming it into the faces of women as they rip their hijab, saying “If Trump can do it, so can I,” as they grab the genitals of their 10 year old classmates.

And while all this is going on, we are being told that we must reconcile our differences, and work together with those who would oppress us to unify and heal the country.

No! No we do not! No we should not!

We should never, ever, become complicit in oppression.

Compromise is a fine thing in many times and places. It’s great when a group of friends is trying to pick a restaurant, when a club is formulating bylaws, when workers and management are hammering out a contract.

But some things are simply not open to negotiation, and the basic humanity of all people is one of them.

On this, there can be no compromise. Black lives do matter, as do trans lives, Muslim lives, the lives of the mentally ill and physically unable, the lives of refugees and immigrants, the lives of the poor, the lives of deaf people, retarded people, fat people, gay people, and people of uncertain gender. All these lives, the lives of all marginalized people, no matter why they are marginalized, are every bit as important as the life of the whitest, wealthiest, straightest, most handsome, well-educated, Evangelical Christian man walking down Wall Street in an immaculate $3000 suit with a genuine leather briefcase in his hand.

This is a truth that I will not budge from. There can be no compromise, no unity, when the price of unity is to agree with white people that non-white people are simply, by their nature, inferior. That they are genetically biased towards violence, crime, deceit, and ignorance.

No.

Not just no, but hell no!

Only when the people currently in power agree that those they have relegated to the margins are actually as worthy and important as they, themselves, will I be happy to compromise and work for unity. When the humanity of every single person on the planet is fully acknowledged, and those currently in power agree that the vulnerable must be protected, I’ll be more then delighted to work together with them to protect the weakest and heal the nation.

When they acknowledge that American isn’t (and never has been) a white, Christian nation, but is instead a richly diverse land inhabited by people of many colors, backgrounds, religions, philosophies, and cultures, and that all of them are equally valid and equally deserving of respect, as long as they’re not seeking to oppress anyone, then I’ll gladly extend my hand in friendship, and settle down to work out ways to best help all of us.

But until then?

I’ll fight them tooth, nail, wallet and keyboard. I’ll stand against their tyranny and oppression, for that’s what it is. I’ll not give an inch, a millimeter, or a single micron.

I will not, and I cannot.

Because they are just flat wrong.

All people are created equal, and there should be liberty and justice for all.

Princess Irene – Short Story

Another Short Story, this time from a collection about princesses. Hope you like it!


Princess Irene

by Robin Wood

Princess Irene loved flowers.

Her mother and father, the Queen and King, had huge flower gardens at the palace. There were beautifully kept beds of gorgeous blooms from all over the world. There were hidden nooks sheltered by sprays of sweet-smelling shrubs, and holding worn wooden benches where you could sit and rest. There were fountains of purest marble, white and cool as snow, where bright water splashed down to amuse brilliantly colored fish. There were towering trees with spreading canopies that sheltered choirs of hidden songbirds. There were arbors and pergolas cloaked with flowering vines, with delightful swings where you could feel as if you were about to touch the crystal blue sky.  There were winding paths, and open walks, and even a formal maze of strong-smelling boxwood with tall golden gates so no one could enter alone and unwatched, and be lost for hours or days.

You would have loved those gardens as much as Irene did, I’m sure.

She was about your age, and she liked nothing more than playing in those gardens. When it rained, and she was forced to sit inside, with nothing to amuse her (except, of course, all her books and toys and magical trinkets,) I’m afraid she would get quite cranky.

“For you see, Nettie,” she would explain to her nurse, “none of them are alive a bit. It means nothing to any of them whether I care for them or not. Not like the flowers. When I love them, they love me back.”

“I love you, little Princess.” Nettie would say, “come, cheer up. The rain won’t last much longer.”

“I know, Nettie.”

And Irene would smile bravely, give Nettie a hug, and try to be cheerful, as a princess should; but her heart was not in it.

(You should not imagine, by the way, that Irene was one of those unfortunate princesses who was given over to her nurse to raise. Her mother and father loved her dearly and spent as much time with her as they could. But it takes a lot of work to run a whole kingdom, and someone had to watch Irene when her parents couldn’t.)

The day this story starts wasn’t rainy, though. It was one of those glorious days you get sometimes is the spring. There had been rain, just the day before, and it had washed all the dust and clouds out of the sky, so it was such a brilliant blue it made you ache to look at it. All the leaves were shining from the rain, with that vibrant, tender green that you only get in the spring. The birds were busy impressing each other with their very best songs, and the air was full of brightly colored butterflies, dipping and soaring over the banks of cheery daffodils and heavenly pink and purple hyacinth.

On a day like this, no one could resist going out, least of all Princess Irene.

Truth to be told, Nettie longed to be in the gardens almost as much as Irene herself, so as soon as breakfast was over, they were out the door.

Now, Irene loved all the flowers, of course. But as much as she loved them all, she had her particular favorite. Can you guess what they were?

Not the roses, although she did love them for their bright colors, soft petals, and beautiful scents. But roses also have thorns that are liable to stick your fingers when you pull a spray close to sniff. And that, as Irene explained, is not as friendly as one could hope.

Not the prize dahlias, although they were gorgeous, with their hundreds of petals on blossoms nearly as large as Irene’s head. Because, she would explain, there was something about them that made you suspect they were a bit too proud and full of themselves.

Not even the violets, although she loved them dearly.

Her very, very favorite flowers were lily-of-the-valley. Do you know them? With their white bells on slender stalks, just waiting to chime for dancing fairies? With their sweet scent, like dreams of angels? With their glossy green leaves that almost hide the shy flowers?

There was a great bank of lily-of-the-valley in a hidden corner of the garden, where things were allowed to run a bit wild. Someone had planted some there long ago, perhaps as long as a hundred years before, and they had propagated and spread and planted themselves among all the tree roots in that shady spot, filling it with heavenly scent and bright white bells, like a million bits of glory shining under the trees.

That morning, Irene ran to the spot as fast as her little feet could take her, skipping and laughing for pure joy.

She ran so fast that I’m afraid she left poor Nettie quite behind, for Nettie wasn’t exactly young any more, not was she as slender as she had been, and preferred a slower pace.

So Irene was quite alone when she came to her flowers, and plunked to her knees, crying, “Good morning, my lovely ones!”

Except, it turned out that she was not quite alone after all! Because someone answered her!

“Good morning yourself!”

The voice sounded very kind, and there was a laugh in it, so Irene wasn’t really scared. But she was startled.

She jumped to her feet, and whirled around to face the speaker.

And who do you think she saw?

There was a woman in a green apron kneeling among the lilies, with a trowel in her hand, and dirt on her fingers. Her red-brown hair was streaked with white, and her skin was brown and freckled from the sun. She had wide greeny-brown eyes, a wide nose with a wart, and a wide smile. She looked kind, but she was also the least pretty person the princess had ever seen in all her whole life.

Irene realized she was staring, and caught herself, giving her best court curtesy, for a princess is always unfailing polite to everyone, no matter who they are. Unless, of course, she forgets.

“Pardon me,” she said, “but you rather startled me. Ummmm… Who are you?”

The woman smiled wider, and little laugh crinkles appeared around her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Princess Irene. I didn’t mean to startle you. As you can see,” gesturing at her apron with her trowel, “I’m one if the gardeners here.”

Now, this startled Irene even more, because she knew all the gardeners; from Mr. Morrison, the head gardener, through all his staff to little Tommy Seaburg, who was just a beginning apprentice, and was only allowed to weed the paths in the less-frequented corners.

She was a great favorite with them, and often stopped to chat with them, and ask questions. She was even allowed to deadhead some of the flowers, if she was very careful. (That means to cut off the old, faded blossoms so the plant will replace them with new, bright flowers.)

But she had never seen this woman before in her life.

“Are you new, then?” she asked.

The woman chuckled, a low sweet sound like water chuckling in a brook.

“Oh no, Princess,” she said. “I don’t think anyone could say that.”

“I’ve never seen you before! What is your name, please?”

“Ah, but I’ve seen you, many a time. And you may call me Mag.”

“Please, Mag, why have I never met you before now? I thought I knew all the gardeners.”

“You never needed me before.” said Mag. “And I’m sure you do know all the regular gardeners. The garden I tend is a bit… different.”

“Different how?” asked Irene, very puzzled. She would have been quite alarmed by now if Mag hadn’t looked so very kind and friendly, the conversation was so strange.

Mag cocked her head to one side, and looked up at Irene. “Let’s just say that you are one of the most beautiful flowers in my garden.”

Irene felt her mouth drop open. “Me? But… I’m not a flower!”

“Irene! There you are!” Nettie called as she came up the path behind the princess. “Talking with the flowers again, my love?”

“No,” said Irene, “I was talking with … ” but her voice died as she turned to introduce her nurse, for even as she gestured to the gardener she realized there was no one there. They were quite alone with the lilies.

***

Irene was very quiet that night. She had a lot to think about.

She asked her mother, the Queen, if they had a gardener named Mag, but her mother was quite sure they did not.  She asked her father, the King, and he called Mr. Morrison, who assured them there was no such person employed in the gardens.

That worried her mother enough that she called in Mr. Braithwaite, the Butler, who was in charge of all the people who worked in the palace; but there was no Mag, or anyone who fit her description, anywhere on staff, in any capacity.

Nettie insisted that there had been no one there, so eventually they decided that Irene had been imagining it.

Her mother was troubled, because Irene was generally a truthful child. But there was nothing much she could do except post a few extra guards to watch Irene’s room as she slept. So she did that, and then went to her own bed.

But Irene did not sleep. She lay awake, watching the stars outside her window, and thought and wondered.

The next morning, she was a bit cranky and out of sorts, which is not to be wondered at, since she had had so little sleep. (That is one of the reasons it’s so important to get enough sleep every night.)

She didn’t much want her breakfast. The toast, she said, was burned, and the eggs were runny, and the jam tasted “weird.”

She didn’t want to wear the dress that Nettie laid on the bed for her, and she didn’t know which dress she did want.

When it was time for her lessons, she told Sir James, her tutor, that doing sums was stupid, and that General Barton had deserved his famous defeat for being so dumb.

In short, she was as short tempered and unlike her normal, sunny self as she could be.

After lunch, everyone finally gave up, and sent her out to the garden to play, and see if the fresh air could improve her temper.

So out she went, and wandered sullenly along the paths, resenting the extra guards and the lack of Nettie, who had a headache, and had declined to accompany her.

She wandered here and there for a while, too tired and unhappy to care where she was walking, until she found herself back among the lilies-of-the-valley.

And can you guess who was waiting for her there? Yes, that’s right. Mag!

Mag was kneeling among the flowers, exactly as she had been the day before, busily digging up clumps of lilies, carefully separating them, and then replanting them with room to breathe between them. As she planted each one, she poured water on it from a blue earthenware pitcher, humming the while.

Irene stared at her with eyes as round as two teacups, and then looked back down the path at the guards. They were a respectful distance away, watching her and chatting to each other. It was plain they saw nothing alarming.

Irene turned back to Mag, but she just continued with her working and humming.

“Can they even see you?” she blurted out

“I shouldn’t think so, and good afternoon to you, too, your highness.”

Irene blushed. She knew she had been rude all day, and she didn’t like it, but she didn’t seem able to stop.

“Good afternoon, Mag” she said as politely as she could. “Who are you?”

Mag looked up at last, and clicked her tongue. “Oh, my poor princess. What a state you have worried yourself into. I told you who I am yesterday.”

“Yes,” Irene said impatiently, “except you don’t work here. No one has ever heard of you!”

Mag raised one eyebrow. “And that means I don’t work here? There are thousands who work in these gardens that Mr. Morrison doesn’t know. All the bees and earthworms, the butterflies and squirrels, the toads and birds. All working to make the gardens beautiful, and Mr. Morrison doesn’t know a one of them.”

Irene sat on the ground, too tired to stand, but determined to get a straight answer. “You aren’t a bee or butterfly. Now who are you?”

Mag smiled. “I might be. Not everything looks the way you expect it to. But you are right, and I can see you are too tired to tease. I am a gardener, as I told you, and you were given into my care by your great-great grandmother, who was a good friend of mine.”

Irene just stared at her. “But that would make you more than a hundred years old!”

Mag just smiled.

“And why did I never see you until yesterday?”

“I told you yesterday. You didn’t need me until now.”

“How do I need you?”

Mag smiled fondly at her. “You need me to tell you something important, so you’ll know it when the time comes.”

“Is something going to happen to the kingdom?”

“Oh my, no, although it speaks well of you that your people are your first concern.”

Mag put down her trowel and wiped her hands on her apron.  “Our personalities are formed from the little decisions we make, day after day.”

Irene blushed. “Mine haven’t been good today,” she said.

“No. But anyone can have a bad day.  It’s your usual decisions, and your decisions about what to do about your bad decisions, that form your personality.

“But sometimes we have an unusual decision to make. And that can set us down one path or another. Paths can always change, but the farther you travel, the harder it becomes.”

“When you are faced with the decision, you will know which path is right, if you listen to your heart and your internal compass. But sometimes it’s difficult to do what’s right; it can seem very risky. Wrong often seems easier in the short term.”

She picked up her trowel again, dug a hole in an empty corner, then carefully uprooted a clump of lilies.

“Tell me, little princess, how do you feel when you are here, with the lilies of the valley blooming all around you?”

By now, Mag’s quiet voice and the birdsong had soothed Irene enough that she felt relaxed and sleepy. The world seemed unreal and dreamlike to her.

“I feel safe,” she said, “Happy and calm and quiet. It’s so peaceful, like nothing bad can happen here, and all my problems are far away.”

Mag nodded. “Lilies of the valley are one of your Centers of Strength.”

“Centers of Strength? What are those?”

“Things and places where you are the most like yourself. The world can be a very confusing place. Most people cope with it by changing who they are a little, from place to place and time to time. For instance, you’re kind of afraid of Mr. Braithwaite, right?”

You remember that Mr. Braithwaite was the butler, and was in charge of all the servants in the palace. He was very tall, and very narrow, and very strict. Unlike most of the servants, he didn’t much like the little princess. But then, he didn’t much like anyone, really; not even himself. He was inclined to look down his very long nose at Irene, and he “tolerated no nonsense.” To be honest, Irene wasn’t ‘kind of afraid’ of him. He scared her silly, and she tried to avoid him as much as she could.

So, faced with this question, she blushed, and said, “Yes. More than a little, really.”

“When you come across him in the palace, how do you act?”

Irene thought about the last time she’d seen Mr. Braithwaite. She had been walking back to her rooms after a lesson with Sir James. He had just given her the list of principal exports of the kingdom to memorize, in order, and she’d been making up a song to help fix them in her head, and singing it quietly to herself. And then suddenly the butler was in front of her, with that expression on his face that said he utterly despised her.

The song had died on her lips, and she’d blushed and looked down. She knew he didn’t approve of princesses acting less than courtly.

“Umm… I get quiet. I try not to move, and not to draw attention to myself. I hope if I’m stiff and proper enough, he won’t say anything, and I’ll be able to just sneak away.”

Mag looked at her kindly, as she poured water from the pitcher into the hole she had made. “Yes,” she said, “You become quite a different princess from the one you are with me, or with your parents, or with the cook.”

Irene squirmed uncomfortably. “I guess I do. I just never thought of it like that before. Is it terribly wrong?”

“Oh, sweetness, it’s not wrong at all. It’s perfectly natural, and most people do it. Most of the time, it doesn’t hurt anything for you to pretend you are invisible when you see Mr. Braithwaite. But sometimes, it’s important to remain who you are, even when you are frightened or unsure.”

She put the lily tenderly into the hole, and brought the earth up around it, pressing it firmly down against the clump of roots, so it would be securely grounded in its new home.

“In times like that, you need to know that you can carry your Center of Strength with you.”

“Carry it with me? How?”

“Why, you just imagine that you are here. You have a connection to this place. In a very real way, it’s part of you. The secret is that you can move your mind and heart to places where you have connections, even when your body is far away. Just picture in your mind the lilies blooming, and the feelings of warmth, and strength, and peace, and love, that you have when you are here, and you’ll find that you can face the things you need to face.”

“It’s that easy?”

Mag laughed, as she patted the earth around the transplanted clump, which looked now as if it had always grown in that spot.

“Not easy, no. Not the first time, anyway, although it becomes easier the more you do it, like anything else. Say ‘possible’. It is possible to face things when your heart and mind are holding to your Center of Strength that might seem impossible if you didn’t know that secret. Can you remember that?”

Irene nodded.

Mag smiled kindly at her. “Then, for now, why don’t you go back inside, apologize to Nettie and Sir James, and take a nap. You’ll feel much better for it.”

Irene smiled, and got to her feet. “Thank you, Mag, and I hope I wasn’t rude when I first saw you here.”

“Well, you were, a little. But I understand.”

“Then I’m very sorry, and I’ll try to do better in the future.” and Irene curtsied very prettily.

“Beautifully done, and I accept your apology. Have a good nap, my little flower, and remember that I love you.”

And Irene grinned all over her face, yawned hugely, (remembering to cover her mouth) and went back inside.

The very next day, after her lessons with Sir James, Irene was in her room alone. Nettie’s headache had turned into a cold, and she had to stay in bed. The extra guards had been sent back to their regular duties when Irene had been her normal, cheerful self at dinner the night before. So she was completely by herself, and trying to figure out how to hold the ribbon just so and hold the picture of the flowers in the right position and glue them both down on the get-well card she was making for Nettie with only two hands, when she heard a noise in the hall.

She ran and opened her door, and saw that it was Flossie, industriously dusting one of the little tables that held cut flowers, just down the hall from Irene’s rooms.

Flossie was one of the servants, but she was just Irene’s age, and very friendly and fun to play with. Except, most of the time, she was working and couldn’t play. Mr. Braithwaite had told Irene more than once, quite firmly, not to bother the servants when they were working. Still, she only needed her help for a minute, just long enough to apply the glue. So she whispered, “Flossie!”

Flossie looked up, and winked at her, not stopping her dusting for a moment.

“Please, Flossie, I need your help for a minute,” whispered Irene.

At the exact same moment, Mr. Braithwaite spoke from down the hall. “Flossie, you are needed in the kitchen.”

“Not now,” said Flossie, who hadn’t heard him and was replying to the princess. “I’m dusting!”

“How dare you!” thundered Mr. Braithwaite, and in a flash he swept past Irene’s door, and grabbed the hapless Flossie by the elbow.

She went pale, and dropped the duster. “Mr. Braithwaite!” she squeaked! “Sir, I… I… I… ”

Mr. Braithwaite shook her, as she grew paler still, and her eyes got big and round. “I will not tolerate this kind of impudence and disrespect! Who do you think you are, saying ‘no’ to me?”

“Sir! I didn’t! I would never! I was… ”

“Do you think I’m deaf, girl? You distinctly told me ‘no’.”

Irene felt sick. For a moment, she was strongly tempted to quietly close the door, and pretend she had never heard Flossie in the hall. But Flossie would be in bad trouble, and might even lose her place in the palace. It would be wrong to sneak away. But Mr. Braithwaite was so scary, especially when he was like this.

She remembered Mag, and remembered her Center of Strength. She pictured the sheltered corner so hard she could almost smell the lilies of the valley.

And she stepped into the hall.

“Pardon me, Mr. Braithwaite.”

He whirled, still holding the drooping Flossie by the elbow. “What do you want.”

Irene leaned back into the feeling of the lilies, and remembered that she was, after all, a princess. “I’m sorry, Mr. Braithwaite. But Flossie was telling me ‘no’, not you.” she swallowed hard, as he glared at her.

“I’m sorry. I know it was wrong of me, but I had just asked her to come into my room and help me with something. She knew her duty, and was refusing to leave the dusting. I don’t think she heard you.”

Mr. Braithwaite stared at her, unmoving for a moment. Then looked back at Flossie as if she was something he’d scraped off his boot. “Is that true?”

“Ye… yes sir. I would never think of refusing anything you told me to do, sir.”

“Then go to the kitchen, you’re needed there.” He gave her a final shake and released her.

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” and Flossie bobbed her head and was gone, without even retrieving the duster, which lay, forgotten, beside the table.

“As for you,” Mr. Braithwaite looked at Irene with much the same look he’d given Flossie, “If I have to tell you one more time not to interfere with the servants, I will be forced to speak to your parents.”

“Yes, sir.” said Irene.

Mr. Braithwaite gave her a final glare, turned on his heel, and stalked away.

That was when Irene got the shakes. She closed the door, crept back to her table, grabbed her favorite doll, Lily, who had been “helping” and curled up around her.

“Not easy” she whispered to her doll. “Not easy at all. But possible. I did it.” She felt a small grin beginning to grow, deep inside her. “I did it, Lily. I really did. I did the right thing, when the wrong would have been so much easier. But I know I did, and Flossie knows, even if Mr. Braithwaite never forgives me. But he didn’t like me anyway, and I did it!”

Then from deep in her Center of Strength, she heard Mag’s voice saying, “Yes, you did. I’m so very proud.” For a moment she thought she felt a warm, loving hand, patting her shoulder.

And then it was just the sun, streaming through the window.

The End