Lighthouse: Everyday Seeds

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I walked a lot in the following days. I had so much to process. Slowly, as I settled into myself, the details of what Xirra and Teko shared with me began to fit into place.

One of my biggest obstacles in comprehending Teko’s explanations of the genetic similarities and differences rested in our varying morphology. Sept had two hearts, for example. How did that work? Teko showed me the genetic marker for it. Cues from the environment switched it on or off. In this environment, it was switched off, so our child would have one heart, one liver, one pancreas, two lungs, like me. That was why they used surrogates from the planets where they wanted their offspring to live, so that the genes would respond in the way best suited for life on that planet.

Our child would have one heart. It made me happy.

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I’d asked about telepathy–was there a genetic marker for that? Xirra explained it was an ability, and while everyone had some capacity for it, talent varied individually.

“Like with math skills,” Teko said. “Plus there’s the cultural aspect. When you belong to a culture that avows something isn’t possible, you’re less likely to develop the ability to do it.”

I hoped our child would have Sept’s proclivity for telepathy.  I sure wasn’t any good at it, though I was beginning to notice synchronicity. For example, one day, as I approached home after a long walk with Mojo, I thought of Morning Joe, whom I hadn’t seen for a few weeks.

When I got back, there he was, in our living room!

“Morning Joe!” I said. “How are you?”

“I am well, Mallory Sevens. Thank you very much.” He spoke formally, with a slight whistle, but he impressed me with how far his language skills had advanced.

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He asked what I’d been doing. Maybe it was a mistake, but I told him about my visit with Xirra and Teko.

He looked sad.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Morning,” I said. “I guess maybe it brings up bad memories to hear about this?”

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“It is OK, Mallory Sevens,” he replied. “I feel like this. I look at it. It looks not-happy. I say, OK. This is how I feel. Then, it becomes me. It is OK. I am all things.”

We talked about the ship. I tried to explain how it felt to be inside the living space craft, and he smiled.

“I remember ship!” he said. “Ship that brought me! This was good ship with feeling of happy!”

While Sept prepared a late lunch, Morning Joe told me about his journey here. They’d traveled through many galaxies, finally reaching the Milky Way. “Stars are friends,” he said. And, after my experience, I knew what he meant.

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We sat down to eat.

“I want to help,” said Morning Joe.

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We weren’t sure what he meant.

“With others, like me. I want to help with Project Home,” he continued.

“Do you mean with the Refugee Project?” Sept asked. “With the program that brought you here?”

“Brought me here,” said Morning Joe. “Bring other peoples here. That is to help.”

“You know, Ritu was mentioning a community gardening program to me the other day,” I told Sept. “It’s not directly with the refugees, but it’s kind of tangentially connected.”

“Like gardens,” Morning Joe said.

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The Peace Garden program involved Ritu’s collective and a few other community organizations, including schools and senior centers, to grow organic produce and provide green-space buffers throughout the region. Native plant landscapes surrounded the gardens, to attract and provide habitat for pollinators. Ritu planned for students, seniors, and extra-T refugees to work together.

“That’s a good plan,” Sept said.

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After the meal, we walked Morning Joe out.

“I am good in garden,” he said. “We feed peoples, OK? We make friends. We have happy-to-be-here. It’s good.”

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“He’s settling in,” Sept said when we walked back inside. “I think Ritu will be happy for his help.”

I agreed. Morning Joe would make a good gardener of peace.

Santi was settling in well, too.

Sebastion, in a burst of new energy, now that we’d been helping out for a few weeks, decided he wanted to open a school for the kids in the community. The public schools had closed down when the regular folks left, after the insurance companies pulled coverage. But there were still a few families with kids: The Delgados, Seb’s family, and now ours, plus a few others. One of our neighbors offered up his big house overlooking the cove for the school to meet in, and Sebastion began to plan how he could put to use his early childhood education degree. He wanted to incorporate the best practices from Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and Reggio Emilia. He was especially excited about Reggio Emilia, since it came about in the aftermath of World War II as a means of seeding peace.

To prepare for the start of this new school, I took Santi shopping. She chose whimsical clothes–silly hats and pastel sweaters and skirts with lots of flowers.

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“You look like a rainbow!” I told her.

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We watched a lot of children’s TV together. She liked the singing and dancing, and it seemed to help her pick up words and phrases.

“Lessall gotoozee BunnyVarm!” she sang softly.

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I sang it with her when we danced.

“Let’s all go to the Bunny Farm!”

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“Kumdon toozee BunnyVarm. Zozo FunJump!”

“Bunny Farm! All the free bunnies, welcome home!”

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“Mojo is free, yes no?” Santi asked. “He is not the free bunny, but he is free bosko, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “He’s free. He can come and go as he pleases. It was his choice to stay with us.”

“Same-same,” she said.

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Maybe all my pregnancy hormones planted hope in me. I began to feel that we were creating something wonderful, sustainable, a community based on peace.

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I began to believe that what we were creating might even protect us from the AAC and their campaign to put their members in office. I had the notion that nothing was stronger than our good feelings, not even hate.

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Author’s Note: The Bunny Farm TV show and song come from SummerFalls’ Devine Legacy, which I enjoyed very much! Lots of good memories from that story and those times!

Three-Year Blogaversary: Resilience, Gifts, and Not-Quitting

I just received this notice from WordPress:

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This makes me smile, for just this morning, while strolling through the garden, I began composing my three-year blogaversary post. I thought the blogaversary was a few days away and that I was early–but here it is, today!

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While I was thinking of what I wanted to comment on about this past year, my heart kept turning towards some of the challenging points of my three-year involvement with SimLit blogging. Some of my friends and several acquaintances have been targets of cyber bullying through their blogging and involvement with the SimLit community. I’ve experienced some meanness, too.  When this happens, we often think, “Why stay with this? Why not quit?” And, indeed, sometimes, withdrawing for a while, to heal, rebuild confidence, and regain strength is the best strategy.

Over the past three years, each time I’ve considered whether I wanted to stay or withdraw, I’ve chosen to stay. This creative outlet gives me something that adds to my life, and I love the SimLit community.

During my first six months of blogging and being part of the SimLit community, I felt I’d found a niche. The community was small, friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse, and a little bit quirky. It seemed possible to read and keep up with all the new TS4 stories, and almost possible to get to know all the writers. We had fun, goofy, and inspiring collabs; we celebrated each other’s legacy births and weddings, and mourned the passings of each other’s founders, heirs, spouses, and spares. I was full of joy for nearly all of those six months: I’d found my place online.

During the second six months, I experienced a painful situation common to many bloggers and collaborators. I had a public falling-out with a close friend and collaborator that ended in a personal attack made in the comments on my blog. It was the result of a misunderstanding, and looking back, I wish I’d been able to handle the situation with more grace and skill. I don’t regret the post I made that brought on the attack, for I was clarifying misinformation about me, my beliefs and attitudes, and my approaches to game-play that had been publicly posted. It’s within our rights to clarify misinformation that’s posted about us. I regret my lack of skill in handling the situation: Causing pain to someone I love and admire is deeply regrettable, as is the loss of a friendship–or several.

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My own pain surrounding this event was sharp and raw around the time of the first Blogaversary celebration, during which we acknowledged many of the one-year-old SimLit blogs. I had come close to cancelling the event, and I seriously considered quitting altogether. I’m glad we held the celebration: I look back fondly on our enthusiasm as readers and writers. I’m glad I stuck with blogging. It was during my second year of blogging that I finished Goofy Love and started many other stories which have been gratifying to me.

During my second year of blogging, I learned cyber bullying happens in the Simming community. BullyOnline.org offers this definition of cyber bullying:

Cyber bullying is the misuse of communication technology (email, SMS texts, social networks, Internet forums etc) for conducting campaigns of hatred. The impersonality and distance between bully and target makes such technology an effective means to cause conflict and hurt.

Types of Bullying, from BullyOnline.org

One of my good friends has been the target of bullying through a Sims site that promotes these types of  “campaigns of hatred.” I was shocked to discover this site existed and dismayed to see the extent of harm that it causes. Each week, people are torn down by the hateful comments posted there.

What happened to that “friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse” community I fell in love with during my first six months of blogging? Could that still exist alongside a community that systematically tears down other people?

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And should I stay involved with a community that had these corners in it? Once again, I considered quitting.

Of course, even though I was just discovering this subterranean corner, it didn’t mean that it was new. It had been going on for nearly a decade and had been just as violent during the six months I thought the community was bliss.

During my third year of blogging, I learned that derogatory comments had been made toward me in the cyber bullying corner. It explained a lot: the shifts in attitude, the cold-shoulders, the unaccounted for spikes in readership on a few blog posts, as well as the dropping-off of readers. Sensitive people can pick up when feelings towards them change, even when there is no evidence at hand for what’s causing this. As I discovered these posts and comments about me, I noticed that they correlated with the times when I noticed these changes in attitude.

Online gossip and hate cause ripples, even when the targets aren’t aware that the comments have been made.

I didn’t feel safe. When I talk with others who’ve experienced these situations, that’s what they say, too: “I don’t feel safe.”

It makes us question why we stay involved. Even though I was able to think through the comments made about me and regain some confidence and resilience, I still questioned being involved with a community where this type of behavior happened.

I stay because I’m a Kindness Warrior. I fully believe that kindness is stronger than hate. I know that stories about love, mindfulness, strength, resilience, compassion, and bravery make a difference.

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I’m committed to keeping active in the official EA Sims Forums, to welcome newcomers, to encourage discouraged writers, to create and participate in joyful collaborations, and to create corners in the community that are safer, more accepting, more supportive, more welcoming, and that are brave enough to confront our behaviors, attitudes, and practices that aren’t safe, accepting, supportive, or welcoming.

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We don’t have to give in to hate or fear. We do need to take care of ourselves, maintain our boundaries,  and to surround ourselves with supportive, encouraging, loving people.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing about this during my three-year blogaversary: It’s not exactly a celebratory post. It is a resolution. It’s a resolution not to be blind about the hurtful things that happen. It’s a resolution to speak against bullying. It’s a resolution not to believe lies against others. It’s a resolution to have your back.

If you’ve been a target of cyberbullying in the SimLit community, I’m here to offer you support. I’ll believe you, not the lies told against you.  You’re not alone. Take the time you need to heal, regain your confidence and your strength, and when you’re ready to come back, I’m here to welcome you.

I hope other Kindness Warriors will join me. It’s our community: Let’s keep it a safe haven for diverse, lovely, quirky, creative people.

We are so much stronger than hate.

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If you have experienced cyber bullying, please tell someone you trust. You need support. You might also find these tips helpful:

Whisper 1.24

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I’m making pancakes when the phone rings. It’s Serena, asking about Marigold. While I’m talking, I walk away from the stove for an instant, and when I turn back, it’s on fire!

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I grab the fire extinguisher, and finally figure out how to turn it on. Who knows how I manage to put out the fire, but I do.

Then I rush to Marigold’s room to check on her.

She’s talking to Riley, as if everything is all right in the world.

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I bring in a fan even though the air in her room doesn’t smell smokey. Before I head back to clean up the kitchen, I pause for a moment to listen to her sing.

“Little rain, little flower.
Grow, la, la, la,
Grow, la la.”

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Later in the day, even though snow blankets the valley, we head out. I’ve noticed that we both start feeling a little fussy when we spend too much time inside.

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Marigold says, “Pretty snowflake!” She reaches out to touch them.

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I watch her greet the world with wonder and acceptance. Everything is new for her, and everything is as it is, as it should be.

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My little bunny, growing up in this misted valley, with precipitation 335 days a year, and glimpses of the sun few and far between, with werewolves, vampires, witches, and fairies as her neighbors, friends, and teachers, all of this will be normal to her. This will be home.

I spend the early part of the winter grieving my abandoned dream of my “normal” life–a warm-blooded husband, a houseful of kids, neighbors and friends that are like me, not supernaturals. It helps that Marigold embraces this strange world of mystery with love and awe. Once the old crumpled dream blows free, maybe I can join her in claiming this magical world as normal.

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I invite Frank over to meet Marigold. He goes to her instantly, his eyes twinkling.

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He’s a natural with kids, and they become fast friends.

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I’ve never seen Frank with a bigger smile.

“I’m the uncle, right?” he asks me. “Uncle Frank.”

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While they rock together in the rocking chair, I reflect on what a simple thing it is, holding a child, and what warmth it brings to the heart.

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Marigold, too, learns that she can trust those who come to our home.

A few days later I throw a party so more friends can meet the little bunny. Arkvoodle gives her the traditional blessing from his home planet.

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She flashes him one of her crazy grins.

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Mara persuaded me to pick up a stereo, and with indie music blaring, she and Beatrice perform a dance routine.

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They’re having so much fun. I remember how, with every party I’ve thrown, we’ve had young people and old people, witches, werewolves, fairies, vampires, humans–and the differences are no big deal. It’s who we are, not something that gets in the way.

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Watching Mara and Beatrice dancing with joy, it dawns on me: this is the essence of my dream. This is what I’ve always wanted. The externals don’t matter: it’s the experience that matters.

I’ve always wanted one Big Love that would transcend time. That’s what I’ve got. I wanted to give a mother’s love to a child. That’s what I’m doing. I wanted to garden in a beautiful valley, surrounded with mountains, rivers, and lakes. I wanted friends that appreciate and celebrate each other and a community that’s vibrant and diverse. I have what I’ve always wanted. It’s simply more miraculous than I, in my humdrum imaginings, could have ever conceived.

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It’s cold and snowing, but in my heart it’s spring.

Marigold spends the party taking her toys out of the toy box and setting them down, one by one, in the kitchen, the living room, the TV area. I guess she figures they want to party, too.

As the guests begin to leave, I find her with her little sheep toy sitting out on the porch.

“Was it too noisy in there for you?” I ask.

“Lamber wants hay,” she says.

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Felicity finds me on her way out. “I’ve been talking with trees,” she says.

I’ve known Felicity for a while now. We’ve become good friends.

“Have you learned Plant?” I ask her.

“I’m trying,” she says. “All those vowels!”

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As I walk Frank out to the porch, we pause to watch a deer go by. We don’t exchange a word, but I feel chills running up my arms, and when I look at Frank, his eyes are moist with tears.

“So beautiful,” he whispers.

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Marigold and I read until it’s late. I haven’t been doing a good job keeping a regular schedule with her. We eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired. Once we get into a book, we’re usually so engrossed that we keep reading until we finish, no matter how late it is or how sleepy we are. I know I might regret this lack of setting a schedule for her later, but for right now, it works.

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For one thing, sleeping in the day lets me be awake at night, when Dante comes out.

The night of the party, I find him in the back garden with a Reaper snowman he made.

“Dante!” I cry. “It freaks me out to see you with the Snowman of Death!”

He laughs. “You know Grim and I go way back. Besides, I’m not afraid of the hereafter, especially when I get to spend it with you.”

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We talk all night. I can talk with him forever, and when I tell him that, he says it’s a good thing. “We probably will be talking forever,” he says.

In the morning, while Marigold takes a nap, I rock in the chair and let my eyes close. I am too tired for dreams, but not too tired settle into peace.

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