Suspended

It is ironic that at a time when I might have gained readers by increasing traffic to my site, I fell silent.

Reality has come home: my husband is leaving. He is going without his battle buddy; I can no longer help in any way the soldiers around him, many of whom I know by sight if not by name. Many with whom I have spent months in uncomfortable circumstances, with whom I have argued, brainstormed. Many I treated.

No longer. No longer their provider, or even their comrade. No longer his, with that same assurance that we’re together in the mess, shoulder by shoulder, back to back at need. Not here, not there. I chose to leave the uniform, and this is the result. We shall be separated, and this casual certainty of each other will change.

His photo hangs above my desk, an old one, from when he was a mere sergeant. It places the time firmly after we met, before his return from Iraq. If I am correct, it is his official deployment photo, created in case of his death overseas. My mother has our second set of deployment photos, when we both were newly-minted lieutenants. Soon I will have a third of his, likely with that same hint of a smile.

I know him, down to the shapes of his fingernails, the warped toe on his right foot, the moles on his back, the pattern of the hairs on his head, dark and thick, light and incorrigible on the very top. We have never been separated for longer than 3 months, in over a decade of marriage–rather than allow it, we traveled to each other, through military schools and civilian medical rotations, hours of flight, poor road conditions, lack of sleep, or privacy. Few have been the times when we could not find a way to be together for a night, for a day, for a handful of hours, eked out between weeks of absence. But this distance is too far for that. Our love must live in the lines, on paper, in our heads.

Love, they say, is largely a matter of proximity at its start. But love does not die through separation conversely. It can be poisoned, it can warp, it can become uncoordinated and awkward and out of synch between those it binds, but only love’s tenacity explains the power of heartbreak in our lives. Recovery is less a matter of forgetting than learning to love differently; learning to let go.

I fear the changes coming, as much as I try to be stable, rational, peaceful. I feel the number of days dwindle with each night, and see the signs. I have a smartphone now; every bit as distracting as I expected, but necessary if we are to text or chat while he is gone. (In itself, this is a minor miracle of possibility, but we won’t know if it works for months yet.) My malpractice insurance must be changed, for my employment contract with my primary position will be terminated in 10 days. I am working the last of my call weekends for them in 3 days. I have an address for my husband once he is overseas.

Each of these things has weight, and I am well aware of my distress in bearing them. The usual coping mechanisms of refusing sleep, immersion in fiction, and loss of focus effect everything else, and I’m struggling to maintain routine, or find joy in my schedule. I’m also plagued with headaches, as Spring brings in drastic weather fronts with vicious rapidity, and March will never be an innocuous month regardless, with Zach’s birthday at its center. I am tired, in pain, and overwhelmed with love for the one who will leave, for my children who will mourn, for the brother who left and the brother who avoids.

Joy comes gently. The beauty and hilarity of a well-written show (“Goblin”–watch it) and new music from its soundtrack that both hurts and eases my mind. A scene that haunted me until it emerged, already living, from my fingers. Sunlight and wind, and my littles cuddled with me in the hammock. The warmth of my husband’s back in our bed. Hearing my littles sing “곰새마리” to themselves, or understanding pieces of dialogue even when I haven’t properly studied Korean for days.

These days of waiting creep through the seconds, fly through the hours, and I watch. I am still here, as I will be when the tension adjusts again.

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Two Rs

Yesterday I did not post here, though I wrote all afternoon. Instead, I had the privilege of authoring a guest post on a blog devoted to reading. The blog is called Pages and Margins, and they have reviews of books, for both adults and children, as well as posts about the philosophical and practical aspects of reading.

Inevitably, I wrote about writing to read, and reading to write. You can find it here.

 

Of Mice and Coconuts

I seem to be perpetually in conflict, if only in my head.

I have begun studying Korean in earnest over the past couple weeks, picking up various references and mapping out a loose plan that would take me through beginner level by the end of the year. If anyone is interested, I’m primarily using the KLEAR Integrated Korean textbooks, supplemented by the much less detailed Living Language program. The first gives copious background, clarifies grammar, and the workbook requires an intense amount of practice but in surprisingly enjoyable fashion. The second has better audio files, repeating vocabulary words/phrases three times each, for instance, so that I can listen to it while folding laundry, and the content is immediately useful–greetings, introductions, family members, numbers, etc.–although their brief explanations of grammar frustrated me to no end when I first began. The latter lets me begin to listen, speak, and understand, while the first teaches me why, which is always paramount to my learning anything.

However, I am now accumulating more books again–about 6 inches of dictionary, another inch of verb conjugations, flashcards, more flashcards, and I have no place arranged for these things. Worse, these are books I expect to use frequently, probably more often than the books on writing or strategy on my shelves right now, and I keep finding more resources to consider, such as Talk To Me in Korean or How to study Korean , both of which have been useful. The first prompted me to start a Korean journal and thus start exploring the language beyond my lessons, and the second explained the conjugation of Korean verbs when I tried to use the new book and realized that my previous language studies would do me no good whatsoever–verb forms for Asian languages change for reasons that don’t exist in English grammar. Both websites promise to teach me well if I follow their courses instead, but I am overwhelmed. So many options exist, and I only understand a fraction of my ignorance.

Considering our expectations regarding my husband’s doctorate program, continuing the KLEAR course faithfully would lead to completion of five full years of study prior to actually traveling to Korea, which is daunting enough. But after working this out on paper, I sat back and pondered. After two or three years overseas, what good will this knowledge do me when we return to the States? Or if we moved to Korea following the completion of my service time, what then? I am a mid-level healthcare provider, and my husband will become one also; these positions do not exist in any other country, and I’ve already experienced the limbo of practice accorded to a foreigner with a useful but unrecognized degree. Or the fear I truly do not like to name, what if I cannot live in their culture, once immersed? What if I will forever be the outsider, wishing I could fit in?

I feel like a mouse eyeing a coconut. So much effort will be required to get through the outer flesh, and then the hard shell within. Will I feast, once the meat is broached? Could the unusual richness turn my stomach, or worse, could my nibbling pace take so long to reach the heart that it will rot before I find it? Or can I fill myself to bursting, clean every morsel from the walls, and build myself a new home in the depths?

Yet I am drawn. As if the puzzle of meaning within the word changes and sentence structure could rip my mind open to possibilities I cannot imagine in my native tongue, as if the sheer differences between Anglo-Saxon expectation and Asian reality prove there are worlds I cannot see.

I’ve always loved words because they make concrete what is imaginary–the thoughts in my head can become yours, the intangible be transmitted without a touch, but it all depends on the words used, the precision of their meaning not only individually but in the pattern I choose. I have spent years understanding how to hone my choices, to bring my reader into my world, my head. I have enjoyed the idiosyncrasies of français and español in formal studypicked up a smattering of other languages on my own–Welsh, Icelandic, Russian, Slovak, German, Arabic, Hebrew–and stolen their words for my imaginary worlds without the urge to know them beyond the enjoyable or the practical.

Well. Here are purely contrary patterns, disparate thoughts. An entirely unknown world of potential meanings. Every time I am frightened by my incomprehension, I am also intrigued, because I have begun to understand this: It will not be enough to translate my thoughts into Korean, just as the sounds of 한국어 cannot be reproduced into our alphabet. Almost no equivalency exists, in meaning or in pronunciation, and the effect of trying is to render both weaker. Romanization is a crutch, a distraction from accurate speech, and it veils a greater truth–I must change how I think at the most basic level to understand.

I’ll give one example, given without much explanation in every first lesson: 안녕하세요. We translate it as “Hello,” “Good morning/afternoon/evening,” even “How are you?” but that isn’t what it means. It means “Are you [honored] at peace?” while indicating highest courtesy to the one addressed. And if you think that some part of this word (yes, it is one word) is the verb “to be,” think again: “to be” is not really a verb in Korean. It is a copula, indicating equation with a predicate (if you are confused, a predicate can be either a verb or an adjective–and yes, I had to look that up.)

안녕하다 is an adjective, conjugated into the simple greeting above. The closest translation we have is “to be at peace/well” but I hope it is obvious just how short of the mark this falls. Perhaps “subject=peace.” Do we have such a concept in English? Being is implied for all Korean adjectives in relation to the named state, but wait–if they conjugate this like their verbs, it can be stated as fact: I am peaceful. Proposed: Let’s be at peace. Questioned: Are you at peace? Commanded: Be at peace. Made passive or active, as peacefulness comes upon someone unexpectedly, or a person forces peacefulness into existence. Peace is active. Peace is. Peace =. All within one word.

Already I have run out of words to explain, but I am fascinated. Wrapped in these beautifully precise sounds and symbols lie such ideas. How can I look away? Even if the knowledge will profit me nothing, I want to know.

한국어를 배우고 있어요. 조금 할 수 있어요.

Identification

In the process of (re)watching “Healer” with my sister, I’ve been thinking about facades, and how often we use them with each other. Most times it seems we present ourselves in specific ways, not with the conscious intent to deceive, but through the unthinking urge to meld with our surroundings and avoid conflict.

I am thinking of Young Shin’s tailored account of her conversation with the woman on the rooftop, when talking to her father after the fact. It would be impossible for her to forget the deeply personal emotions she shared, the crux of why the woman listened, yet she skims over that most important detail. Why? Because relating her experience still caused her pain? Or because she did not want her father to see it?

Part of what has fascinated me about the characterization of “Healer” are the facets of personality presented by each person to others–Bong Soo is not Healer but both are present in Jung Hoo; the roles he takes on are never purely fiction, only exaggeration of specific traits, for instance–because I have noticed this truth in reality. I suspect everyone has pieces they present as a whole, depending on the circumstances.

I am not the woman I present to my patients, although she is a part of me: she is professional, confident, articulate, and kind–but she is not often personal, beyond the casual information needed to engage. She has small children, to encourage camaraderie in worried parents. She uses nasal steroids at need, for the sinus ailments the bipolar weather of this region promotes. She is human enough to be humane, but heaven forbid she have outside interests or enthusiasms, deeply-held views, strong emotions. These aspects are not needed in a small exam room, and divergence into them causes discomfort, uncertainty, even embarrassment.

LE Orison is purely literary, existing in words alone, whether stories or poetry or these blog posts. I don’t share LE Orison with many people, lest my position as a health practitioner, (formerly and in the future) as a soldier, or even as a friend or relative influence the reception of those words–or vis-versa, lest the words affect the position. Thought is edited into clarity, randomness made coherent, before the words ever reach another set of eyes. Philosophical, intelligent, admitting to background and circumstances but not limited to them, this is LE: me, with all the boring bits removed. This too, is a presentation, not the whole.

There is the mother my children know, and the me of Facebook. I am the church-going acquaintance and the probably-annoying coworker. Tonight I will go to a final party for my clinic, together with my husband, and the reality of the coming loss of that position will force me into less of the professional and coworker, more of the supportive wife, just as I will be for every activity of his unit from now until the end. In all of these roles there is truth, but not complete truth.

I wonder, when I see others’ facades. When meeting old friends, or family members long absent, there is that juxtaposition of familiarity and ignorance which often leads to a projection of personality until the edges are worn down and the irregularity of reality creeps through. Often, I can perceive the projection for what it is, but the fact of it unsettles me. Instinctively, I know that only abandoning my own pretense can lead to the understanding I remember, but honesty requires time, safety, and cooperation.

In this newest cohabitation, I have seen my sister’s Polite Stranger mode periodically, both aimed toward myself and past acquaintances, and while recognizing it is useful as a warning sign for me, that some level of discomfort exists between us in that moment, I question what mode I am using on her, and if she recognizes it in turn. What mode did I use this morning on friends I have not spoken to in weeks? What mode might I use on my husband, when his return will render him physically a stranger, even an outsider to our lives? What mode, even, have he and I adopted toward each other in the presence of others? For sharing a mode also exists–who we are before bedtime is not who we are when the children sleep, let alone around company. We were fellow soldiers, lovers, classmates, coworkers, long before we were parents.

Who shall I be tonight?

Perhaps I will be bold. Perhaps, having nothing left to lose, I will be myself. After all, it is also a date with my love.

 

 

Today

Today is one of those days–days when nothing seems to go right, when I find I am gritting my teeth over and over, despite solving a series of small issues, several of which have plagued me for weeks. An appointment which needed to be rescheduled. A work application to fill out (for the third time), in hopes of a future ER position. A prescription put in an envelope with the required paperwork for a mail-in pharmacy. Stray items put away, laundry folded, a photo framed. A request for my paid time-off submitted, to cover the lack of income from my job over the next month and a half.

Yet I want to punch the walls, shriek, sob, sleep for days. Perhaps it is hormones, perhaps a virus gleaned from a recent patient, lack of time by myself, inadequate nutrition or hydration, or some combination of the above. Perhaps it is the outcry of my abused muscles from doing CrossFit with my sister yesterday. Perhaps it is the news that a friend’s son died in an accident mere days ago, and the memory of sudden, crushing grief that I cannot spare her, or her family.

I am caught between opposites.

I am reminding myself of Hangul and figuring out the first workbook lessons, since my new edition came this morning. Strangely, the audio files correspond to the text, when both are the second edition. Perhaps now I can progress beyond those basics. The possibilities please me, but I doubt my tenacity, my willingness to get up before my littles and persevere daily. My throat hurts, and my ears cannot pick up the difference between ㅖand ㅒ. I am frustrated I have forgotten–or never learned at all–so much. Frustrated that I cannot sign up for a formal language course, and frustrated that even if we had the money, I would fail to meet the deadlines.

I love my littles, and I’m glad they are alive, but they have had so many urinary accidents today I have lost track of the number, and they have shrieked and ran through the house all morning. The older makes demands and uses baby talk in painful decibels; the younger is practicing defiance and forgets my requests before the end of the sentence. Someday this strength of personality will be essential to their goals. Someday their intelligence will not be used to destroy. Someday I will not mourn the end of naptime each day.

I want to finish Leading Gambit, to continue on with Rising Guard, but I’m afraid to read my reader’s comments as I start my edits. I want my characters to wrestle with death and grief, political exigency versus moral rights, but I fear I cannot do them justice.

I want to switch from my prescription medication to supplements beyond military objections. I want to be able to walk into a recruiter’s office with a packet of letters and forms next year, and pass without question. And yet I fear that I have become irreparably broken, that I will not meet the standard by some measure I’ve never considered, that the loss of my job in two months will damage my worth, and decrease any recruiter’s willingness to help me through the process.

Today, only my fears and frustration have weight. I don’t know why, and this too annoys me.

 

 

 

 

Flow

It’s two days before Christmas and I wanted to write a quick post, even if it isn’t poetic. There are a lot of things on my mind, and I am striving to maintain a positive regard of each.

1.) My husband is not going to the five-week course in January-February, so the amount of time he will be absent is greatly reduced. This is wonderful in that I get to keep him for longer before he goes overseas, but as my sister is still coming and my clinic is not willing to schedule me for those months, our income will be decreased at the same time as our expenditure will increase. I’ve thought of a partial solution: I’m going to request all my paid time off during that period, because:

2.) My clinic has decided that rather than put me on leave for a year, they will simply retain me through March and then my contract with them will end. Initially, this made me very sad because I have fought hard and long for this job, despite the difficulties, because I enjoy my coworkers. But the facts are that the position is underpaid and stressful, and I am probably better off elsewhere. So come March, I am free to seek out another position, which indeed I will need to do. I don’t know of any now, but I am hopeful. In the meantime:

3.) I have now had two readers go through Leading Gambit, and while the feedback isn’t detailed or professional, the response is uniformly positive. I just finished rereading it myself, and although there are certainly areas that need editing, the manuscript itself flows very well for the majority of the book. It’s a good sign when readers report they didn’t want to put it down. Heck, it’s a good sign when I don’t want to put it down! So I’ve finished my initial assessment, and I’ll begin my first edits before sending it out to my second-line critics. Thus, one of my goals while I am working less, this coming year, is to write more. Send out this work in earnest.

I have mourned this month as a time of endings, but the coming year is also a time for beginnings. My sister living in my house. Perhaps my first real attempt to publish a novel. An ER job with a reasonable shift length. There are many possibilities, to continue what I have begun, and to start anew. Time flows on.

 

 

Leveling the Scale

My husband left today for the first long(ish) absence: he’ll be gone a week this time, and I’m trying my hardest to find joy in the coming days instead of spending them moping about what I cannot have or do. It isn’t easily done, and I’ll have to work to maintain this attitude, hour by hour.

However, I’ve realized I need to know considerably more about computer programming and hacking to write Through the Spaces of the Dark, and in particular Teo and Tora’s sibling vernacular, which should be a compound of terms or commands, gestures, messaging shorthand, and possibly Italian, their birth language.

I know practically nothing so that makes it easy. (NOT.) I do wish sometimes I could get ideas for books that did not require so much research–this one will be stunningly difficult, but somehow that doesn’t deter me from it. Only concern that I write it well. But I finished the first draft of Leading Gambit last month, and put a solid 25k into Rising Guard, and I’m taking a break from that series for a bit, to clear my mind. It’s obviously the perfect time to study computer science, before the editing and plotting of The Queens’ Defense begins again.

So, I’ll be perusing basics of C++ and SQL, and cleaning out the basement in preparation for my sister’s occupation. Firmly refusing to let myself stay up too late to be rational the next day. And pondering relationships, as I do.

 

I’ve been thinking about bodyguards. When I first got the idea for TQD series, I looked up standards, trying to find out if there is an accepted taboo of relationships between client and guard. In most cases, there is that expectation, with the understanding that being reliant on someone for protection creates a power imbalance that would be easy to abuse. Just as the relationship between a nurse and a patient can produce intimacy, so can guarding a person–the private moments of a life are shared, each other’s habits learned, and trust offered. But in reality, the bond is constrained by situation and the exchange of money received for a job done, and in the professional discussion of such relationships, the consensus is that emotional attachment results in poor protection.

Yet such relationships do happen. In Hollywood, I’ve heard of celebrities dating former bodyguards, and worldwide there are other accounts. The majority of the romantic don’t seem to last, possibly because of the situational changes, but there are a few that resulted in decades of marriage and stability. Stories about such relationships are written and filmed all the time; the latest I watched was “The K2,” which came out this year.  In most cases, the relationship is represented as taboo, and therefore more exciting. (Although in some respects you might say that Je Ha’s mission was never single-minded protection in K2 and thus his relationship with Anna is never forbidden by anyone–but I digress.)

So is it feasible to pin the responsibility of protection on a romantic partner? Will emotional entanglement cause an inexorable decrease in objectivity regardless? Does love of a person make you less aware of the dangers surrounding them, more prone to foolish decisions? Or would it make you more certain of what is at stake?

I have heard similar arguments used to refuse women places in combat units: “Under fire, the guys will try to protect the woman instead of doing their job.” In this instance, the camaraderie is expected to be unequal simply because of sexual awareness, yet I think there are enough women cops who function well in their positions to counter this hypothesis with fact. If the woman is capable of doing the job, if she has earned her position with her own abilities, then her gender will not matter to the team when everything goes to crap. If someone attacks a building where I am with my husband, I hope he will trust me to cover him while we counter. That love for each other will not stop us from protecting others instead–from doing the job we swore to do.

If someone attacks my sister-in-law when she is with my CopBrother, I know he will not hesitate to protect her with his life. After all, he does it for others much less beloved daily. For my own part, I spend my days watching over my littles, to keep them from every deadly danger I know. Every parent does the same. In this respect, I think it is very possible to love, and to protect with one caveat–it is impossible to be on guard constantly. One guard will never be enough for good security around the clock. Assuming back up for your final bodyguard, is there another reason for the rule?

The true difficulty with this notion of the romantic bodyguard may be the power imbalance: physical strength and strategic authority on the one side, physical need and civil authority on the other. Unequal relationships cannot last if a balance isn’t found. But the same is true for every ruler’s consort–how do they find that equilibrium between what is personal, and what is professional?

There is a good reason spouses are not placed in the same chain of command, one in authority over the other. I have experienced the breakdown of trust from not being able to separate the two aspects as a young soldier and wife; I have also felt the result of working with my husband when our personal and professional roles were understood and honored, both as a civilian and in the military. It can work, with mutual respect, but learning that balance takes time and effort.

What then, if it is the woman who protects and serves as bodyguard? If the man she loves is also the holder of her oath, her ruler? I find this dynamic fascinating because each has inherent power over the other but in entirely different ways. The shared intimacy and trust of their relationship then becomes another protection professionally, but finding and maintaining equality in their personal life is a delicate business because neither job ever fully ends. He must acknowledge his need for her strength and abilities; she must not confuse the orders of sovereign with the requests of a lover. It has both the potential for an amazing partnership, or a horribly skewed marriage.

How can a Queen protect the King? These are the things I think about; this is what I write.

Heroes

Between pounding away at Leading Gambit, and hopefully starting Rising Guard next week, I want to say something about this series as a whole. Perhaps it is unnecessary to say outright, or gives away too much of my book, but I want to explain something of my passion behind the narrative, the motivations and deliberations of the choices I made for these stories, and the characters in them.

I am writing strong female characters because I believe the physical and emotional capabilities of women are underestimated, and that we are taught that not being equivalent to men in these respects makes us less powerful. Yet I have seen incredible strength in women, and I am learning aspects of our different physical attributes that prove that the distinctive feminine response to danger is in fact complimentary to the masculine, that in combat the two can achieve a synergy of response more potent than either separately.

I am writing black characters, because I think people of color are amazing in their differences from the standard European mold commonly expected in fantasy, and because I am bothered by the lack of diversity in the genre. Even among works that have a character’s skin color darker than the norm, I find that they treat hair and skin and other details as if nothing apart from extra melanin has altered; that the understanding of racial distinction is superficial. The Hana are not a nation who could be any race, but I have made sure that physiological aspects are integral to their culture and their customs, though in a world that has none of our current continents or history.

Another crucial element of the story is that the kings have a genetic disorder passed from father to son which causes various degrees of physical disability, yet they are not regarded as inferior or cursed. The royal line is not destroyed as weaklings or cripples. Instead, they rely others for the things they cannot do, and are revered and lauded for the unique abilities they have as a result of, and in spite of, their physical differences.

I’m aware that allowing my prince to seek a cure may draw criticism, as all too often disabilities in fiction are conveniently “fixed” to allow the characters to become normal, yet I also see people professionally as a healthcare provider. Treatment of a chronic condition neither negates the condition, nor diminishes the worth of others who cannot be treated. But it can give a person hope. It can allow them to live more fully. I cannot fault my patients who pursue a definitive end to their pain, any more than I disrespect others who live with it daily. Exploring the implications of both the condition, and the worth of the individual concerned, treated or not, is also a question that needs to be raised.

In all these respects, I am writing for the children I have, and the children I hope to have. I want my daughters to believe they can be strong and brave, that they are capable of defending others, regardless of their gender. If we ever adopt as we hope, in all likelihood my new child will be of a different race, potentially with health issues–I want my biological children to read my work and understand that diversity is beautiful, and I want my adoptive children to understand that I loved them before I ever met them. That every part of them is wonderful. That each of them have physical, mental, and emotional potential that is not the lesser for being dissimilar.

And that brings me to the last point–Haneul and her sister are both adopted, raised by a single mother who knows that she will have to give them up. This is essential to the workings of the palace as a means to avoid corruption, (and an attempt to avoid in-breeding of the royal line) but it is also a powerful testament of her love for them, and their love for each other, despite conventional bonds. It is a love I have seen in foster parents and adoptive siblings, love that I hope will grow our own family at the right time. I am tired of the trope of the adoptive child never feeling fully accepted, the distrust between siblings, the belief that biological ties are worth more, that “blood will tell.” I am tired of the message that grafts are not a part of the whole, that we cannot accept lifelong familial agape bonds with those who are not like us, only eros, romantic between individuals.

Yes, biology is important. Yes, there are bonds between infant and mother that should not be broken, and yes, every person longs to know their origins. But brokenness exists. Past does not dictate the future. And love goes far, far beyond biological necessity.

For these reasons, I wrote a family whose bonds are love alone, beyond blood ties or legality. A family who understands that love is a choice. A family who will test that choice, certainly, but who will never allow circumstances to tear them apart. Not political necessity, differing opinions, or even war. So the first three books, and likely the fourth, hinge upon that integral love; the building of trust, forgiveness for failures, and willingness to act with and for someone regardless of the cost.

I want my children, and my readers, to believe in a love that never fails. Love that can survive the separation of years and distance, or arguments and mistakes. Love that sees the worth of our differences and acts upon it. Love that turns us into heroes for each other, because we choose it.

Upended

As usual, my mind is a blur of things I want to express. For short periods, my life feels as though it has stabilized and I can find a routine, and then another tremor shakes the ground beneath me and I’m flailing again.

Small things: losing my husband to drill makes me jealous and grateful at the same time–it is a physical reminder that separation is coming, that this is how it will feel, yet on his return I am given more information, reassurance in the form of facts. This last absence produced the happy knowledge that where he is going I have been; that he will have better communication possibilities to us here than I feared, that he will be relatively safe. I know what he will be doing, how their mission cannot change in coming months. But I also now know that he will miss my birthday, in addition to both littles’ birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. At the first estimation, he thought he would return two months earlier. That minor hope is now gone.

This last week, they informed him of their intent to send him to his specialty school–not the shorter, two-week course that would cut time out of the unit’s mobilization training, but the longer, five-week course that will take him away from us sooner, longer. In some ways this is a blessing, as the lengthened course will allow him the freedom to continue his nurse practitioner studies as well, and increase his usefulness to his unit during mobilization later on. But it is another period of lost time–between his usual training and the mobilization date, he will spend less than a month and a half of 2017 with us.

Yesterday, acknowledging that it must be done, we went to the local base and I finally turned in my old military ID in exchange for a new dependent ID. In his absence, I may be required to seek all medical care on that base; care that will begin coverage at the end of next month. I will want to shop there, as he typically does once or twice monthly. I may need other services as a military spouse. But the necessity required our whole family to go, and the trip took up more than 4 hours of our day–the littles were exhausted by it, our youngest shrieking in toddler angst for more than half the drive home. I imagine doing this again, without him there.

My sister plans to come live with us as backup, as support, since I have no local family. The change in training has resulted in changes in her plans; she now intends to come soon after the new year. Also a blessing, but I have less time to organize and clean in preparation, even as all these new changes throw me and the house deteriorates around my flailing. I hope we can live together in peace. I hope that her presence is a relief, and not another stress.

I have also been negotiating with my job, yet again. It seems my warnings about scheduling me through the end of 2017 were not understood; that the limitations inherent for my employment, as I lose my spouse and my children their father for over a year, are not obvious to others. I requested options be discussed at a meeting, more than a month in advance; the meeting happened but that topic was removed, so I brought it up myself, with much fumbling. In the wake of that meeting, I was asked again for clarity so I wrote a proposal. The proposal is not understood, so I wrote further clarification.

In the end, it all comes down to a lack of flexibility for my clinic, as the providers insist on a schedule that now is set more than a year in advance, and which maintains the expectation that weekend call will not be broken up. (This is partly due to the primary expectation that no other provider but myself will work more than one weekend a month–a frustrating premise, but one which I fight poorly as every other provider has been granted clinic hours. If you have read my blog, you know this is why I now have a second job.) Thus far, everything I have said has been interpreted as an intent to continue my assigned schedule as closely as possible–an assumption that floor me by its absurdity.

Rather than commit to more than my family can handle, I countered with a minimalist proposal: no more than 24 hours a week, 12 hours at night, or 4 during the day. I may be able to increase it, as my sister and my littles grow used to each other, but I will not promise to more this far in advance. My future is upended as it is. Their future is upended. Prediction of a point 8 months from now is a stretch, 14 months even more so.

I have yet to receive an answer; I may well end up losing my position over this. In essence, I’m finally standing up against the prodding to give in to their desired outcome, and maintain status quo. I’m finally standing up, because I can’t do it anymore. It isn’t a question of my family being most important–that’s a given, a standard. Rather, it is the job I’m fighting to keep, instead of simply letting it go. In the meantime, I work every other weekend until my husband’s first long training in December, and then I have volunteered for Christmas weekend. It may be the last gift of mine for the clinic, perhaps. (Do I get paid more for holidays, you ask? No. I do not.)

I wanted to write all this out, before the next month takes me. Again, I am ML for this region during NaNoWriMo, again I am working throughout. Again and again, the delight I take in the action of The Queens’ Defense series is pummeled by reality, and my phase outline is terribly short. But it does exist. Haneul is living in my head, and I’m excited to write her. I only hope I can do her justice, and let her adventures bring me through my own stresses in the meantime.

But hey. If I do lose my job, I’ll have more time to write.