Friday, April 17, 2015

Sadly, back to "normal life".

First off, thanks to everyone who is suddenly reading Misdirected. I had more than 120 visits yesterday. I didn't think 120 people even knew this blog existed :-)

Today was a very sad transition for us. Our most recent "guest kid" left our custody this morning, headed for another placement. He was a very brave little boy, heading off into the wild blue yonder without a tear in his eye while Mel and I bawled like babies. He was our youngest long-term placement by far, and though we didn't know what we were doing with a 4 year old he was very gentle and forgiving with us. We will miss him.

And...he will be the last one for a bit. In the 14 months we have been fostering we have had 24 different wonderful kids pass through our home, and we have grown attached to each of them - so much so that seeing them leave was always heartbreaking for us. As followers of this blog know, our original intention was to foster while we pursued adoption. During this same time period we have also had 3 different attempts at adoptions blow up in our faces. It has been hurtful, saddening, maddening, and ultimately exhausting. So we are going to give ourselves a little space to figure out how to proceed from here before sticking our hands back into the fire.

Our many contacts within the Foster/Adoptive Parent community assure us that this is normal, and many can tell us stories about how they had to wait many years, decades in some cases, for their "forever families" to come together. These folks are made of sterner stuff than I am. I am saddened with each new story about hurt and neglect that enters our home, and ultimately crushed when these children leave and we are left alone once more, still without a child or children to call our own. Thank God that there are those who are able to do this for years at a time - the need for Foster Parents is real, but the burdens are huge.

So, now what? We'll spend some time turning on televisions and radios to make up for the missing noise. We'll notice that we no longer have schedules full of places to go and things to do every day. We'll probably do a little more "couple gaming" while smiling sadly at each other. And, eventually, our batteries will recharge and we'll wonder why on Earth we are allowing that spare bedroom to remain empty. But, for right now, we're just going to curl up around our hurts and heal for a while.

Exhausted,

-  Hawkwind

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"...down to a Sunless Sea."

(With apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Back sometime in 2014 I came upon an "early adopters" deal for a game called Sunless Sea, by Failbetter Games. It promised dark atmospherics, a "steampunk meets Cthulhu" kind of vibe, and was to be infinitely re-playable. Intrigued, I bought in and tried it out. I spent an hour or two hauling "tomb-colonists" back and forth between a place called Venderbight and Fallen London - the London of merry olde England, at some point hauled away by bats and deposited deep underground on the shores of the UnterZee. (Yes, I said bats. It's that kind if game.) Atmosphere was nice, music was cool, but...hauling tourists wasn't really my gig. I quit playing and went off in search of other pursuits.

Last week several reviews of the game popped up on my radar. Apparently it had finally been finished and released to the general public. So, still playing with my new and more powerful machine, I decided to go ahead and download it again, to see what I had missed. Within an hour I was now Captain Huffenstuf, master of a battered Ligelia frigate, former veteran of the War of '68 and possessor of a mysterious past. I took my ship out into the Zee to see if Venderbight was still there and somehow got lost, whereupon my crew and I were attacked, and presumably eaten, by a Lifeberg.

This, I decided, had become a serious business in my absence.

So, Sunless Sea has joined my repertoire of games, and I will be adding periodic "trip updates" to give everyone an idea of the game's ebb and flow. (See what I did there? Sea...ebb and flow...like tides??? Oh, never mind) Though the game frequently informs you that your first captain "will probably die", I hope to make a better showing with my next one. We will see you...on the Unterzee.

Dockside,

- Hawkwind

Saturday, April 11, 2015

How old is too old?

Most everyone reading this knows the story - I was a musician and database programmer until 2004, when adult-onset epilepsy arrived to endlessly complicate my life and ruin my future plans. I made a few attempts at "normalcy" even after my diagnosis. But my increasing seizure frequency drove me out of music performance in 2005, and led me to put away my guitars for good a few months later. I made an attempt at going back to school to work on my History degree, but by 2007 my illness had forced me into withdrawing from three different universities. In 2008 the installation of my Vagus Nerve Stimulator forever changed the character of my voice, turning my Johnny Cash baritone into a very thin and reedy tenor, silenced every 5 minutes by the automatic timer on the implant. My days as a vocal performer had ended as well.

I have had a few "relapses". In 2011 I took a half-hearted stab at music production, after a song showed up fully written in my brain one morning, to be recorded about 2 hours later, chronicled here, and then just as quickly abandoned. And last year I was requested to perform at a memorial tribute to my uncle after his passing away, which took me 3 weeks of panicked practice before I could finally feel comfortable with Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going" without dishonoring myself and my entire family. But, by and large, I had decided that I was just never going to manage musicianship again.

Within the last  two months, though, I have been doing something I had not done consistently for years. I have been acting like a musician. I have been learning songs. Singing loudly enough for people to hear me. Playing my guitar on a finger-destroying basis. Going out and seeing other musicians perform. Even listening to varying types of music, instead of sticking with my "comfort food" diet of New Country and Classic Rock. 

But, hey, I don't mean anything by it, right? 'Cause, let's face facts - though I am slowly getting healthier, I am still too damn old to really learn anything, right? For those who may not know - seizures and brain injury wreak havoc on your memory, removing everything from your 4th grade teacher's name to your ability to play a previous catalog of 400+ songs. Meaning I will be basically learning this all from scratch. What chance does a guy in his 40s have to really get a handle on musicianship?

So, as I frequently do, I turned to Internet research to find out - can older people really accomplish anything new to them?

Here's what I found out, in a couple hours worth of looking around:

  • Julia Child published her first book on cooking at the age of 49.
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt started buying railroads at 70.
  • At 41 Rudyard Kipling won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • Bill Painter climbed the summit of Mount Rainier at 81.
  • Nearest and dearest to my heart, JRR Tolkien published "The Fellowship of the Ring" at age 62.
I could keep going on - there were dozens of other worthy accomplishments. But, in short, I guess 3 months short of 45 may not be too old to start learning to be a musician again after all. 

10 years ago I couldn't complete a sentence. 5 years ago I was counting on not reaching 50 years of age. And today I am flirting with the idea of returning to my life's great creative passion. (My life's GREAT passion remains Melissa, of course.) Thanks to all of you who are reading this, since I know that each of you has contributed to my life and my gradual return to a sort of normal life. I will keep trying to write if you will keep trying to read.

Gratefully,

- Hawkwind

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Angst of the Overpowered

As a gamer household living with a fixed retirement income, our gaming is pretty strictly regulated. No brand new games every month, no experiments with pre-buyins and Kickstarter projects, and especially no significant new hardware upgrades. We're forced to live within our means, with what we've already got, which means that we have to search for really, really good return on gaming investments (ROGI?)

This has worked out OK for us for several years now - we're learned to love low-graphics MMOs, XBox 360 gaming, and most recently tablet gaming.  All good ways of blowing significant amounts of gaming time without having to continually put out new funds. But, about 2 months ago, we had 2 disasters occur at the same time - Our 6 year old XBox 360 finally died, and my laptop also gave up the ghost. Lor's PC came through fine, but I was suddenly forced to start trying to game on an ancient Dell minibox with 2 GB of RAM and integrated graphics. So, goodbye Diablo 3, League of Legends, Forza Horizon, Marvel Heroes, Lord of the Rings Online and like that. I've spent a lot of time back in Wizard 101 (excellent game even for grown-ups, btw) and playing Hearthstone on my Kindle.

As he usually does, my brother came to my rescue and bailed me out. I have spent the last few days and blog posts on my huge new gaming machine from iBuyPower, courtesy of my big bro. And I am now struck with a wealth of possibilities. All those games I bought into years ago when still healthy are still out there, see, and a lot of them have gone Free 2 Play. Rift, The Secret World. LotRO, of course. And I now can tackle several of these newer MOBAs that my machine couldn't handle before - Strife, Smite, Infinite Crisis. I will have to immediately get back on the League of Legends horse should I wish to be able to game with Lor, of course, but OMG SO MANY OPTIONS!!!!!

Yeah. So, it is time to start doing some blog research of my own and figure out which titles offer really, really excellent ROGI (I like that term, think I will keep it.) Otherwise I will chase my electronic tail and wind up with a hundred new games installed with about an hour spent in each. My alt-itis is famous from here to around the block, so I gotta be a little more careful in my game selection. Maybe an initial visit to BioBreak would be a good place to start, Syp always seems to demonstrate good game-time management.

Perplexed,

- Hawk


Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Lament of a Gaming Geek

It started out innocently enough. My bro and I were sitting around watching The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. During the scene involving the cleansing of Dol Guldur he tossed off a comment like "An Elf Lord couldn't chase away all nine Nazgul, right? They totally got this wrong from the books."

My reply: "No, an Elf Lord totally could do it. Glorfindel did it with all nine at the Fords of Bruinen in the books."

He gave me a weird look for a few seconds, then the moment passed. But I was left feeling...creepy. Kinda dirty, in a way. Like I was sitting in a puddle of "Geek" that had just erupted from every pore. And it has just left me wondering - how weird am I for being such a geek? Specifically, a gaming geek?

My brother is a Jeeper. He spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours customizing and driving his Jeep all over creation, and no one seems to think this is odd. I have a brother in law who participates in and consistently wins Fantasy Football leagues. Again, society finds nothing weird about that. Another relative craft brews beers for a hobby. He is one of the most popular men I know, especially when a new batch matures. But I start talking about my latest triumphs and defeats (mainly defeats) in League of Legends, and those around me start to back away slowly and begin unobtrusively pulling out cell phones to call the crazy police. I have to ask, is it just me?

'Cause I remember how to position and transfer your raid members for the final fight in Karazhan. I know that I need an extra number of AoE cards to tackle Zoo decks in Hearthstone. I can anticipate that when fighting a Storm Wizard in Wizard 101 that about 1/3 of their spells will not go off. I know the definitions of words like tri-bush, gank, noob, F2P and P2W. And I frequently feel like a marginal member of society because of it. 

I mean, its not like I am sitting in a cave and never emerging to see the light of day. I walk around a mile a day with my dog. I am a devoted football and baseball fan. I am a foster parent, for goodness sake!  But, at the end of the day, I somehow feel like my pointy ears are always showing.

So, I have to wonder - is it just my perception? Or is there something truly, fundamentally wrong with being in my mid-40s and spending my personal time casting spells and resolving quests? And, if there is some flaw here, can I change it? Would I even want to?

Oozing Geek Fluid,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Goodbye, Sir Terry

It has been a few days now, and I am coming to the realization that I am never going to feel any clearer about this loss than I do right now. If I don't get these thoughts written down, then, they will only fall into the well of forgetfulness alongside my feelings for all the others I wished to honor but could never bring myself to articulate.

Sir Terry Pratchett is gone. He has taught me his final lesson, shown me the world through his lenses for the last time. Every shrewd observation, every satirical insight, every last burst of laughter drawn from my lips by his writing is now of infinite value, because there are no more ever to be created.

In the last several days I have read several tributes to the man, referring to him only as a gifted "children's author." If all you have ever experienced of Terry Pratchett is his children's literature, I envy you - you have a full library of mature wit, satire and social observation waiting for you to go out and discover it.

As for me, I have thus far been unable to open one of his books since his death. Every time I walk into our library and look at the "Pratchett shelf", I am still filled with sadness and inarticulate longing for the future books that I now know will never be written. Someday soon, I know, I will open "The Colour of Magic" and read the entire catalog of works in order, maybe filled with wistful joy.

But that day won't be today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A look behind the curtain

So, for all those who have been wondering - yes, there have been some pretty major developments going on in our lives for the past several months. I know there have been cryptic Facebook posts referring to mysterious classes; sleepless nights; and fear, doubt, and anxiety. We are finally in a position to let the world know what it is we are up to.

We are getting ready to adopt a child.

I know, it seems crazy. We are in our forties, and just now getting ready to move forward with first-time parenting. When most of our friends and classmates are dealing with graduations and weddings, we are dealing with the jitters and nervous exhaustion of trying to prepare ourselves for the first-time introduction of a new life into our marriage. It feels a lot like jumping out of a plane without checking to see if our parachute is working first: breathtaking, exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

A wise friend of ours suggested that we treat the months before the adoption as our "pregnancy" - several months of preparation and emotional adjustment leading up to expanding our lives. We have been doing exactly that, and are now entering our 4th month of "Adoption Pregnancy". We have jumped through most of the hoops required by the State to certify that we are even qualified to become parents, and are now getting ready to start evaluating the children currently in the system waiting for families. It is heartbreaking, in a way - we spend time out on the Heart Gallery looking at all the children in the system and want to be parents to them all. And the Gallery is only one potential site to identify kids waiting to be adopted!  We know we want an older child, not an infant or toddler. Other than that, our home and hearts are still open, waiting for that perfect child.

Most of the questions facing us right now are focused around our own adequacy. We are poor. We are kinda weird. We are not cool at all.We are older than normal. For heaven's sake, my brain is broken!! What if the kid doesn't even like us? Are we going to bring a child into our home and have them wishing to move back into foster care inside a month due to our incompetence? 

And then, after hyperventilation and nausea have passed, we remind ourselves - mainly what we have to offer a child is love and acceptance. And from our early days with X-Zalt and Chosen through our relationships with our nephews and nieces we have always had overwhelming amounts of both to share with the kids in our lives. We will never be Perfect Stan and Suzie Homemaker, I am afraid. But we can and will provide a child with love and understanding, and a safe and stable place to launch themselves into the world from; and to return to when they need some safety or a hug.   And, in the end, that is what these kids in the foster system desperately need.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and we will try to keep you all posted.

Wish us luck,

- TJ