It is the Christmas season and if you live in the States you have probably seen at least one toys for tots donation box and attendant Marine in dress uniform. This is what they do at Christmas. They stand every bit as solid beside the little box as if they were guarding a United States Embassy on foreign soil except they will actually converse with you in this case. Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by Maj. Bill Hendricks United States Marine Corps Retired in Los Angeles California, 5000 toys were collected that year, the first with a handmade doll. In 1948 United States Marine Corps officially adopted the program and made it a community action project.the Marines you see every Christmas are usually Reservists or Retired.
Someone saw this man, a 60-year-old retired Marine standing in the rain outside a Medina, Ohio Walmart this weekend collecting donations. She bought him a cup of coffee and talk to him and discovered that he wasn’t standing in the rain out of showmanship or stoicism, he was standing in the rain because the new manager would not let him inside.
I don’t know what her issue is whether she disagrees with our current use of the military, or whether she has a personal problem with this man. I know that it’s December, it’s cold and he’s a human being who has done more for others in his life than a lot of us have.it’s Chri stmas shelves your paltry petty disagreements and/or opinions and act like a decent human being. I encourage everybody to call or e-mail the Walmart corporate office and complain that this woman’s behavior is unacceptable.
There have been some really good posts on the front page of WordPress that got me considering my motivations for writing. I write Blades of Truth, my current Fiction Friday Harry Potter fan fiction serial for fun because I really enjoy Harry’s world and will use any excuse to visit it. However it and my more serious work in progress (and by serious I mean hopefully one day have its own cover art and be in bookstores and libraries with my name on it) share a commonality. In both works the main character is disabled. The lack of disabled people in all forms of the media has been a soapbox for me for a long time. Whether we realize it or not we look to people similar to ourselves in our own culture to tell us how that culture expects us to behave. For many many years when disabled kids and young people look to their culture to find examples of themselves there weren’t any or at the very least very few.
The message that conveyed to me growing up was go way, disappear, you have no voice, no value, no story worth telling. That’s a really hard thing, to realize that society views you that way for no other reason than an accident of birth or circumstance that you cannot control. I learned that lesson well before I was 12 years old. When I was in high school I read a story a three-page story for my sophomore English class that my teacher, upon returning to me, that I should expand into a book. It wasn’t anywhere close to what she thought of as her preferred type of leisure reading but if it were published she would buy it in a heartbeat she told me.
Originally the female lead wasn’t in a wheelchair at all. I had considered making her disabled but decided against it because I was afraid that by putting the lead character in a chair I would hurt the manuscript’s chances of being picked up by a publisher. This decision nagged at me for years until I asked someone else’s opinion and they said that if I didn’t like the way current media undervalued and ignored the disabled I should force them to take notice and write characters who were. It might mean that the story got twice as many rejections as it would otherwise but when it finally found a publisher those people would want to tell the same story I did and I wouldn’t feel like a sellout to myself.
Today I saw this and this on the WordPress Discover page (apparently Freshly Pressed got a makeover). I realized that in hesitating to make the main character disabled I had been fundamentally altering my story in an effort to make it more palatable to those who would eventually pass judgment on it. I had originally made her able bodied to avoid questions like “is this a book about disability”. No it’s an action adventure urban fantasy romance similar to several books Mercedes Lackey has written. Yes her disability will affect how the action plays out and certain things will happen to her that probably wouldn’t happen if she were not disabled but it is not now and never was meant to be a book “about” disability.
My intention for this book is to prove that everyone can have adventure in their lives. Then it is possible for someone in a wheelchair since birth to do more than sit on the sidelines. She can be the kick ass heroine just as often as her able-bodied next-door neighbor. To the publishers who I will one day get rejections from because you are too afraid that the story won’t be long received because of her, that’s fine. Not everyone can be brave all the time. You’ll kick yourself later though for not taking the risk because it really is an awesome story.
The First to Walk the Blades is well acquainted with them.
Their sharp edges have been a constant companion for most of his life.
The one he must prepare feels himself invincible, untouchable in the fortress of solitude and self-pity he has built.
Before the test is over he will realize just how wrong he is.
Standing inside the foyer of Number 12 Grimauld Place, Remus felt the perpetual gloom and sadness of the house envelope him. It really was an awful place even if the enchantments upon the house made it the perfect headquarters for the current incarnation of the Order of the Phoenix. No wonder Sirius had left as quickly as he could. The place was terrible enough nearly empty with cobwebs and more than little mad house elf, Remus didn’t want to imagine what it must have been like to grow up here with absolutely fanatical pureblood parents. As quietly as he could he stole down to the kitchen without bothering to look anywhere else first. Sure enough, Sirius set at the scrubbed wooden table drinking, the shadowy outlines of at least three empty bottles on the floor at his feet.Suddenly angry, Remus strode into the room, picked up the Firewhiskey bottle and dumped its contents unceremoniously into the sink. He was pleased to find the bottle more than half full.
Always able to hold his liquor rather well Sirius did not sound like he had finished three bottles of whiskey in as many hours, “What did you do that for?”Remus sat down on the bench next to his friend before answering, “you’re no use to the Order drunk.” The laugh Sirius gave was a harsh self-deprecating bark. “Apart from giving Dumbledore the loan of this place I’m apparently no use to the Order sober either.” Dumbledore himself chose that moment to appear in the kitchen holding in one hand an ordinary looking dog collar with a brass nameplate. Both men startled and Sirius lookes abashed at having Dumbledore see him well on his way to a good hangover. “Sober you must be from now on if you are going to perform the task I need you to take up. There is a disabled Muggle born student starting this term at Hogwarts. As you know the Ministry has forced me to appoint Dolores Umbridge the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year .This is quite possibly the worst time to admit a Muggle born student with her difficulties but the Book has spoken and I will not be the first Headmaster in the history of Hogwarts to gainsay it.” Remus saw Sirius’s lip curl at the mention of Umbridge and felt a rush of gratitude knowing that his reaction was largely due to the anti-werewolf legislation she had recently pushed through at the Ministry which among other things had made it nearly impossible for him to get a job before Dumbledore had approached him about returning to Hogwarts to teach a second time.
Sirius picked up the collar as Dumbledore continued speaking. “The girl is in a wheelchair and will need help navigating the castle,” he smiled as he watched Sirius examine the collar dubiously out of the corner of his eye. “Muggles train dogs to help people with disabilities all the time, I ask you to return to the school as her four-legged companion. I predict Delores will be particularly harsh with her because of her difficulties. She will need staunch allies and defenders. I hope she will find some on her own but I think if we provide her with one from the outset she may find others more easily.” Sirius had just noticed the inscription on the nameplate, “Midas? Why Midas?”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkle merrily for the first time since he had appeared in the kitchen. “Shift form so Remus can put the collar on you and find out.” Dumbledore conjured up a full-length mirror when Padfoot appeared and Remus buckled the collar around his neck, hiding a smile. Sirius actually jumped back in surprise. Staring back at him from the mirror was not the bearlike black dog whose form he usually took. A burly Golden Retriever looked back at him instead. Even if the Death Eaters were aware of his other form no one would suspect him to look like this. For the first time in a long time the kitchen was filled with happy laughter.
Author’s Note: The picture above is my Golden Gideon in his wheelchair pulling harness which is more or less what Sirius will wear as Midas while helping Pheya with an added Hogwarts flourish to be revealed soon.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In my house growing up Thanksgiving was always a time to be grateful and pause to consider the good things no matter how difficult the year leading up to it had been. This year that’s really really hard for me. This year I have basically had my life, turned upside down and shaken and now I have to rearrange the pieces back into some semblance of the order they were in before. To be honest I resent that, for the first time in a long time I was truly happy, I truly felt like I had a home.I’ve spent the last several months feeling cheated and bullied by life in general. Yesterday I saw this.
You can’t change the past. All you can do is use the present to hopefully shape the future. So thank you to everybody close to home and far away who has stuck with me through all of this crazy. If the level of difficulty is proportional to the level of awesome that’s coming it’s going to be off the damn charts.
You are four years old when your grandmother gives you a name for this thing that makes you different. Cerebral Palsy. As you get older you remember certain things from that day, the white coral wind chimes she brought back from the mission trip to the Philippines, the bookshelf sized carvings of the heads on Easter Island. These are the things you remember from that conversation, and as you get older you try to remember if you had any inkling that that phrase would have so much impact on your life. 25 years later you’re still not sure.
You are 21 exactly when you realize that your aunt and uncle have spent your entire life not knowing exactly why you’re in a wheelchair. You find this out because their daughters, the eldest who almost shares your birthday except that she is exactly one year younger than you today and her sisters have gone out with your sister and left you at the house, just like you knew they would. Your aunt and uncle didn’t see them leave and so when they realize they are gone they ask you why you didn’t go too, I mean, it’s just as much your birthday after all. You tell you tried and the girls didn’t listen They are mad, angrier then you’ve ever seen either of them and that is the best birthday present ever. The conversation that ensues reveals that somehow they missed the memo that your condition had a name. For 20 years the reason why you can’t walk, can’t dress yourself, have difficulty feeding yourself… Was a complete mystery to them, and they loved you anyway, without need of explanation or label. For your 21st birthday your aunt and uncle gave you the gift of true unconditional love.
You are nine years old when you meet the boy who will break your heart for the first time. The two of you are as inseparable as it is possible to be when he is a year older than you and not in the same class. Which is actually quite a lot of the time since you both have physical and speech therapy during the school day. You overhear a fragment of conversation between your parents and his when they come to dinner and he stops eating to feed you the peas you have been chasing on your plate. Something about being glad the two of you are not high school age yet.
You are ten , two weeks shy of eleven when you move away. He cry every day for two weeks. Then once a month for the next six then at least twice a year for the next four years. When you’re 18 you find his name on one of those reconnect with your old classmate websites. You beg your mom to pay the subscription fee so you can message him . He remembers you, sort of. It isn’t until several weeks later reading his LiveJournal that you realize he is gay. There is still an indent in bathroom wall from where you punched it.
You are 16 when a boy who might be in love with you tells you you’re beautiful. You are 22 when a man who probably shouldn’t tells you the same thing. You believe the man but not the boy who said it when you were 16. Why?
You are 27 when your best friend dies. You both knew it was coming . You said all the hard stuff. When you find out he’s dead you are still violently sick . You don’t sing at all for almost 3 years.
You are nine when you decide that you believe in capital punishment. A family friend has been murdered along with 15 other people by a fellow soldier who has a tendency to drink to the point of blackouts. When you find out the details from reading them in the paper you scream and cry until your throat is raw. You plot the murder of this man. Your mother take you serious enough that she insists you see the school guidance counselor, who doesn’t take you seriously at all. She calls your mom when you tell her that you consider your death acceptable collateral damage as long as you took the guy with you . Your mom tells her that this is the first and only time she’s been glad to disabled because he might actually do it. Later when she tells you that the counselor called you decide that it’s time to play along before the guidance counselor had you put in straitjacket.
You are 30 when you realize that love is a lot harder than it looks from the outside. Love is picking your battles and being willing to fight every single last one of theirs with them whether or not they ask you. Love is patient, but a patience that is at times not at all saint like. Patience can be a struggle but it is the willingness to undertake that struggle that is one of the hallmarks of love
I’ll be totally honest I started writing Walking the Blades pf Truth to rewrite Harry’s fifth yeat because I couldn’t stand the fact that Sirius died. I think that if Sirius had been able to do something besides stay in that awful place he would not have done half of the reckless things that led to his death. So what job that I give him? The Ministry of Magic still believed him a murderer so it obviously couldn’t be something walking around in human form. At first glance it couldn’t be anything that made use of Padfoot either because the Death Eaters were most likely aware of him. So I thought, and I thought some more. I was already toying with the idea of sending a Muggle born disabled child to Hogwarts and then it clicked. A collar could be enchanted to make Padfoot look like a golden retriever and he could be at school in the guise of a service dog.
This does not mean that Harry will not have to deal with Dolores Umbridge. As you might imagine she is going to be just as awful to Pheya as she is to Harry though for different reasons. If you read up to the current installment which is only chapter 2 you know Pheya makes a big deal about actually being special. Growing up disabled you hear that word so many times you get sick of it. I was in high school when the Harry Potter books started but I will tell you that I ate them up because there was a series of books that did not treat the disabled or chronically ill (Mad Eye Moody and Remus Lupin) as unmentionable or nonexistent, that in fact showed them as strong, capable even cool adults.Hephaeta is supposed to be a feminine form of the name Hephaestus Greek God of the forge who was also lame. Her dad would have named her that even if she had been able bodied but wondered many times when she was small if his choice of name doomed her to the fate of her disability. Totally irrational but guilt and grief often are. Pheya is not a transfer student she will start as a first-year and will not be in Gryffindor, meaning that Sirius’ interactions with Harry will be limited but at least he will be able to keep aneye on him.
Disclaimer: Harry and his world aren’t mine, Pheya and I just visit.
Professor Lupin visits Pheya and her parents to explain about Magic and Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Chapter 2: The Musings of an Unlikely Goddess
She who lays the Blades for those who Walk is often she who is least
expected. She too must walk the Blades before the test is through.
Pheya Stuart looked at the visitor speculatively. The representative the school had sent was polite and friendly, if a little careworn and frayed feeling. He had introduced himself as Remus Lupin, she had thought that was an odd name, but then Hephaeta wasn’t exactly a normal name either. Chalk that one up to her father’s obsession with Greek mythology and artifacts. This is the kind of name you get stuck with if your dad was an archeologist. At least if she’d been a boy her name could’ve been Ansel, her mother’s name of choice because she was a photographer.
Her attention and her vision snapped into focus at the word epilepsy… “The school thought it might help if they sent someone who had similar difficulties. I have epilepsy, you see.” That explained a lot, like why the school would send its History of Magic Professor, (somewhere in the conversation it had been mentioned that the previous Professor had retired to enjoy his, did he actually say after life?) instead of the Deputy Head or somebody like that. She still wasn’t convinced, though. How a girl who is so obviously Muggle born, (she was shocked at how easily those words sprang to mind) could ever fit in, I don’t know. Her parents were smiling broadly, though, so she did her best to mask her misgivings.
The momentary flash of indecision and uncertainty was, however, very apparent to Remus, who’d spent a great deal of his life reading between the lines of body language and expressions for signs of fear or mistrust, and worst of all, any hint that they knew the reason for his monthly illnesses. After tea, while her parents were putting away the dishes, Remus asked, “Pheya, do you like chocolate?” Pheya blinked. Exactly how had that topic come up? At her slightly hesitant nod he said, “So do I. If your parents agree, I could come back tomorrow and take you to a wonderful place I know for ice cream.” Her smile widened a little a little as Remus left to consult with her parents. When he returned and told her to be ready at two o’clock the next afternoon, the smile she gave him could have eclipsed the sun. As Remus left the house that day, he knew how a father must feel. He would give anything to see her smile like that at him.
Pheya stared at the closed door for a long time. Magic was real. There was a school that taught you how to use things like wands and crystal balls. She had always known that these things really existed, but until now, had no proof. As if that wasn’t enough she’d been accepted into this wonderful place. She really was special, and not just in the way people would say when they were lamely trying to be friendly or make her feel better. She clutched at this single ray of truth. But, the little voice inside her whispered, what if they don’t like you? She quickly squashed the thought. The residue of unease it left in its wake wasn’t as easily ignored.