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[cancer|child] Playing Russian roulette with Schrödinger’s tumor

Today I am off to play Russian roulette with Schrödinger’s tumor. Schrödinger’s tumor would, of course, be the previously identified but uncharacterized lesion in my right hepatic lobe which we will carefully observe today via bloodwork and CT scan. Much like the cat in the box, the act of observation will resolve its state.

Mind you, my quanta are not in danger of collapse. The metaphor only stretches so far, after all. This is the nature of metaphors. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my emotional processes.

From a writing perspective, I have been useless since last Thursday. This is as discussed. Unfortunate but not surprising, and not ultimately damaging to my productivity or deadlines. Mostly it wounds my pride.

From a life perspective, I’d resolved after my meltdown of the weekend before last that this past week would be a time where I didn’t make any major life decisions and didn’t engage in any difficult emotional terrain. Unfortunately, not everyone around me got the memo. So there was a fair amount of static from various quarters in a week when my emotional radio was particularly ill-tuned.

From a parenting perspective, everything got very difficult last night. I’d just come back from a long, early dinner with [info]mlerules at Ken’s Artisan Pizza. (Mmm. Not the best gourmet pizza in town, but still pretty darned good.) [info]the_child and her mother had just come back from a party celebrating the life of her friend’s mother who’d passed away of cancer about this time last year. She popped into my half of Nuevo Rancho Lake and began asking me some very direct, mature questions about my cancer status, what I expected from today’s scan and Wednesday’s oncology appointments, when I expected I might die and how the cancer would actually kill me. We then talked about her thoughts about what she would do for herself if I passed away of this in the next few years.

It was a sensible, thoughtful and loving conversation. It broke my heart all over again to have this conversation with my fourteen year old daughter.

Today, the scans. My friend A— is taking me. Wednesday, the oncology follow-ups. [info]lizzyshannon is taking me if she’s sufficiently recovered from her recent surgical adventures. Things being the way they are with my hospital, I’ll likely know both the bloodwork results and the scan results sometime tomorrow.

Then we’ll see if I’m back in hell for another year, or if I get a few more month’s reprieve. And we’ll know a bit more about how to answer [info]the_child‘s question of when I am going to die.

I am so afraid.

[personal|child] Hitting the Oregonian News Network Meetup

Yesterday afternoon, amid a frenzy of drafting Their Currents Turn Awry and packing for Norwescon, [info]the_child and I hied on down to the Lucky Lab on SE Hawthorne for an @ORNewsNetwork meetup.

@ORNewsNetwork is the Oregonian News Network, a blog syndication portal sponsored by Oregon’s major daily newspaper. (Disclaimer: To state the obvious, this blog is part of that syndication portal. Hence me being at the meetup.) I’d worked with editors @georgerede and @corneliusrex online, but never in person. It was fun to meet them. Also met some cool bloggers, including @TheBugChicks, a pair of young, hip, funny entomologists, along with folks covering topics as diverse as urban foraging, consumerist issues and documentary filmmaking.

[info]the_child is a veteran of many conventions, conferences and other large-scale social venues, but this was her first meetup style event. She had a few nerves going in, but that was quickly dispelled. She did a lot of talking and listening, and I hope learned a few things. Amusingly, we also ran into a family from [info]the_child‘s school while at the Lucky Lab.

As I said to the kiddo in the car on the way there, I’m doing my best to bring her as much experience of the world as possible while I still can, just in case I’m not here for too much longer. The meetup was fun for me, educational for her, and a good way to spend an hour or two on a Portland Wednesday afternoon.

[child] The eighth grade project presentations

Last night, Mother of the Child and I went to the eighth grade project presentations. [info]tillyjane was there as well, along with Mom and Dad, [info]mlerules, and [info]maryrobinette, who had been [info]the_child‘s mentor on her project of building a marionette.

[info]the_child went first by her own request. She wanted to be done to get past her nerves. She did brilliantly. All eighteen kids in the class presented, projects ranging from training pack goats to working in recreational therapy for medically fragile children. It was a pretty amazing list of accomplishments. Though I’m pretty sure any of the kids would have said giving their presentation was the hardest part.

I’m terribly proud of [info]the_child, and of all her classmates. Today is my third and last round of guest teaching with the eighth grade, and I will be sure to tell them that.


Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[travel|child] Heading west again

Today I’m bound from Austin back to Portland. I cut my trip short by a day in order be home to see [info]the_child give her formal presentation of her eighth grade project. This has been the design and construction of a marionette, under the mentorship of the delightful and generous Mary Robinette Kowal.

This speech has been a very big deal to her. She’s worked diligently, and practiced it until she’s bored with it. (I consider this a good sign.) I’m very proud of her work on this, and that she brought the project to a successful conclusion.

I can’t wait to see her live and in person tonight.


Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[child] Basketball, in which a parent on the sidelines sustains a game-related injury

Yesterday afternoon, [info]the_child‘s basketball team won their game 38-22.


The teams were pretty evenly matched, and the game was a lot better than that somewhat lopsided score implies. And she slammed in two three point shots, for a 100% completion rate in this game. So good on my kiddo!


However, I sustained a game-related injury during the course of play. Go figure.

The gym at her school has regulation sized basketball court, but not much sideline. The bleachers are against the north wall, and if you’re sitting on the bottom row, your feet are about twelve inches from the north boundary of the court. Our little group — me, Mother of the Child, Dad, (step)Mom and [info]tillyjane a/k/a my Mom — were seated almost perpendicular to the basketball goal at the east end of the court, in effect to the left of the backboard and just a few feet toward the center.

For whatever reason, play of game kept running right up into our faces. Dad caught several balls that had gone out of bounds. We all flinched back more than once when charged by a player from one team or the other. But the coup de grace came when a knot of defense and offense careened right toward me and I had to lean back avoid feet and elbows, and slid right off the bleacher bench and into the footwell of the row behind me.

I got stuck there and had to be pulled out. My back hurts, I’m pretty sure I bruised it right on one of my lower spinal knobs, and my left hip aches.

It’s all part of the business of being a dad, and a price I’ll cheerfully pay. But really, when did watching middle school girls play sports become so dangerous?

Photos © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[personal|child] Watching the Child hit the boards

Yesterday afternoon I pushed my personal envelope quite a bit and drove across town to watch [info]the_child‘s first basketball game of the season. Actually it was the second, but the opponents for game one forfeited over a paperwork issue, so they didn’t play this past Monday.

Though the final score was a 45-30 victory for her team, the game was a lot more contested than that, with the lead passing back and forth through the first three quarters. The Waldorf Wolf Pack ran away with it in the fourth quarter, which [info]the_child later said to me was how it was supposed to work. She made a number of shots, including a terrific 3-pointer, and had a great game.

The envelope-pushing part for me was driving home afterwards. It’s the first time in months I’ve driven in the dark, and I really hadn’t planned to do that this week. (I’m going to miss next week’s games due to being in Omaha, and one of the two games the following week due to going to ConFusion, so I really didn’t want to miss this one.) I got home a little before six, exhausted and strung out, and went straight to bed, there to read for a while. I managed to stay up until [info]the_child came home a bit after seven, as she’d stayed for the boys’ game. We talked a little and I congratulated her on her game.

This is that real life stuff that I’m getting back, honestly a bit more rapidly than I’d expected to. My path back to feeling good about myself and life is being able to live it like I used to. Including middle school girls’ basketball games, dinner dates, trips to the grocery store. Even doing my own laundry. Of such milestones is recovery made.

[child|movies] Who watches Watchmen?

Last night [info]the_child and I viewed the director’s cut of Watchmenimdb ] together. For a bunch of reasons, this is one of my favorite movies of recent years, especially in the extended director’s cut which incorporates the Black Freighter sequences along with other useful material.

(What is it with director’s cuts and theatrical releases, anyway? I’ve rarely seen a director’s cut that wasn’t a significant improvement on the edited-down full release. Immediately leaping to mind are Bladerunner, Dune and Lord of the Rings.)

Every time I watch it, and last night was perhaps my tenth viewing, I see new details in that film. At a minimum, the sheer density and crunchiness of the production design is well worth studying. The way that the background details in almost every shot foreshadow and feed the story can be breathtaking, if one watches with that critical eye.

[info]the_child has a pretty good critical eye. We’ve always watched movies with a fair amount of discussion where warranted, and she is a long-time aficionado of the bonus discs that come in DVD packages. But Watchmen was a funny case because of all the political and cultural loading circa the movie’s alternate 1985 setting.

In 1985 I was in my junior and senior years of college. My direct political and cultural memory stretches roughly back to Watergate and very end of the Vietnam War, while the entire post-WWII/Cold War era counts as recent history to me. This is the dialectic of the movie. Everything from the music of this movie to the Woodward and Bernstein reference midway through pushes my buttons bigtime. But that dialectic is absolutely opaque to a fourteen year old who was born in 1997 and is only now beginning to develop meaningful wider political and cultural awareness. Her buttons don’t exist to be pushed.

So we spent a lot of time pausing or talking over the movie to discuss who the historical figures were. Why was it so unnerving to have a world where Richard Nixon was still in office in 1985. What Woodward and Bernstein had done in real life and what the Comedian meant with his throwaway line about them. Why I love the song “99 Luftballons” so much. Not to mention all the story-specific issues such as tying Rorschach to the little man with the end times sign, discussing why the heroes had gone underground, parsing the rape scene between the Comedian and Sally Jupiter and how that in turn fed the complexity of Laurie Jupiter’s life, what the possible significance is of the Gunga Diner blimp and why a pokey little restaurant could afford such a thing, how Dan Dreiberg managed to both locate and afford to keep such a huge underground complex beneath a normal townhouse. And so on and so on and so on.

It was a weird kind of double vision, walking through the politics and culture of my childhood and the first years of my young adulthood with my daughter while simultaneously breaking down the film’s plot, setting and design elements. She asked a lot of smart questions, and had some good insights.

Times like this, I really love being a parent.

[child] Parenting in a time of plenty

I was reading this article on Play, Supervision, and Pressured Parenting this morning, and reflecting on my experiences of being parent to [info]the_child over the years.

Not to put too fine a point on it, she has always been a challenging kid. Very bright, very spirited, and stubborn as a Borax twenty-mule team all rolled into one. Parenting her has always required considerable mental judo and a good sense of when to let go, because she has never, ever, sat down and done what she was told. All the more so these days when she is a wilful teen exploring her independence while coming to terms with an ethnic identity that diverges from her parents’, as well as living in her own head with my cancer and mortality issues.

Reading that article reminded me of something that happened on the playground years ago, when she was three or four, that I think says it all about both my daughter and my own parenting philosophy. [info]the_child has always been very physically gifted — her balance is so good that she can do handstands on a skateboard, and her speed and coordination are almost frighteningly deft — so her mother and I have always figured that it was up to her to set her activity limits, within the bounds of basics like traffic safety and behavioral appropriateness. As I must have said a hundred times during her early childhood, if she falls hard, I know where the Emergency Room is.

The playground near Viejo Rancho Lake was one much like those described in the article referenced above. Modern, soft-edged play equipment over a deep layer of bark mulch in an ovoid space surrounded by benches on which parents could sit and carefully observe the entire play space and all the activities within it. Working at home, and having slightly odd hours (my normal workday was and is 6 am to 3 pm Pacific, to conform with my employer’s Central time zone office hours), that meant in the afternoons I was often at the playground with [info]the_child, usually with my laptop so I could wrap some Day Jobbery or work on some fiction.

(A side effect of these afternoon hours was that I was the only male playground mom. The neighborhood moms knew me and knew which kid I was connected to, but the park got a lot of drop-in play, as it is a pleasant space near three bus lines and two major through streets. Drop-in moms were often very suspicious of the bearded guy with the long hair sitting on the bench watching the children play. As [info]the_child and I are not of the same ethnic group, it was not automatically obvious that I was connected with a particular kid. I’m frankly surprised no one ever called the cops on me.)

The playground has these tall swings, the kind where the top crossbar is about nine or ten feet up to provide a long chain drop and therefore a higher peak for the swinging experience. The frame of the swings is 2″ pipe, bent and fitted to make the structure. One of [info]the_child‘s favorite activities was to shimmy up one of the legs of the frame, then make her way across the fifteen or twenty feet of crossbar, then down another leg. Using it, in effect, as a jungle gym.

One day one of the drop-in moms approached me as [info]the_child was clinging ten feet in the air and hectored me about letting her do something so dangerous. I replied that she was over a soft surface and I knew where the ER was, and what was so bad about letting a kid push their physical limits. This answer croggled her briefly, before she retorted that it set a bad example for the other children. “Is it a bad example,” I asked, “to be fit and active and pushing yourself?”

Apparently it was. This woman was so protective of her offspring that she didn’t want them seeing someone else’s child doing something interesting, fun and challenging.

We have so much to give our kids. Maybe we should put away some of the protective instincts and let them be children. Loud, dirty, rambunctious little creatures who jump off the garage roof and run around with sticks. And climb tall things. That her mother and I let [info]the_child do these things almost certainly will help her be a stronger, more confident adult. I’m glad I wasn’t so afraid of the world that I stopped her from exploring its limits.

[personal|child] Deaths and births

Yesterday I attended the funeral of [info]kenscholes‘s father-in-law. The event wasn’t about me in any way, I was there to support Ken and his wife Jen and their family with my presence, but as one might imagine, it instilled considerable reflection in me at a time when I’m very conscious of my own mortality. The service was very appropriate and I’m glad I went. For my own part, I did confirm two conclusions I’d previously reached. One, funerals are bad for me personally and emotionally in my current frame of mind. Two, if this cancer goes terminal, I’m having my funeral before I die so I can damned well enjoy it.

Another event yesterday that was only tangentially more about me was [info]the_child‘s thirteenth birthday party. Today is her actual birthday, but one of the kids in her class is having a blowout Halloween party tonight, so we scheduled her kid-friends party for last night. Her extended family birthday dinner is tomorrow. I had six teenagers in my house eating pizza, cake and candy for an hour and a half, then Mother of the Child and [info]lillypond (a/k/a my sister and therefore Aunt of the Child) hauled them off to Fright Town, where a spookily wonderful time was had by all. Best as I can determine, she had a terrific birthday blast of her own: we had a brief conversation last night after the final guests had departed in which [info]the_child quite elated and pleased with herself.

All that made a nice end cap on the day for me, even if my enjoyment of the birthday celebration was almost entirely by osmosis. Today I am mostly sitting still, though a friend will be coming by this afternoon for some visiting. Me, a book and a glass of water. The brain isn’t up to writing, and I don’t have much if any householding to do. Just waiting to see when the Neulasta pain comes back, and how dreadful it will be when it does.

[child] Holiday wreath sale

It’s that time of the year again. [info]the_child‘s school is offering a holiday fund raiser of fresh-cut wreaths from the Cascade Mountains here in the Pacific Northwest. These can be delivered locally on 12/1, or be shipped nationwide (lower 48 only) by UPS, with delivery in early December. The options include:

Shipped via UPS:

  • 18″ wreath — $35 each (shipped)
  • 22″ wreath — $40 each (shipped)
  • 24″ swag — $40 each (shipped)

Local pickup for Portland area:

  • 18″ wreath — $20 each
  • 22″ wreath — $25 each
  • 24″ swag — $25 each
  • 30″ wreath — $35 each
  • Garland — $2.50 per foot

If you’re interested in wreaths for yourself or a friend or relative, please let me know in comments or via direct email by Wednesday, November 9th.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.