ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the August 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by the "gathering courage" square in my 8-1-16 card for the Survival Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Fresh Air in Your Brain"


When Ansel came home from work,
he found Turq perched on the railing
of the gazebo, face turned into
the breeze off the lake.

"What are you doing?"
Ansel asked as he approached.

"Reading the wind," Turq said.
"It's like reading a menu, or
listening to a symphony ...
hard to describe, but I can
smell a lot even in human form."

"That's wonderful," Ansel said.
"What can you smell now?"

"Mostly mud and fish," Turq said.

Ansel sniffed, but could only catch
a faint whiff of it himself. "There
are fish-cleaning stations scattered
around the neighborhood, from when
this used to be a resort," he said.

"I didn't know that," Turq said.
"I haven't seen much more than
your place and the forest."

"Why don't we take a drive and
I'll show you around?" Ansel said.
"We can stop at the office and get you
a visitor pass, since you're my guest."

"What does it do?" Turq said warily.
"And what do I have to do to get it?"

"The pass just gives you access to
our neighborhood facilities," Ansel said
"To get one, I tell people that you're
staying with me, so all you have to do
is stand still when I point at you."

"It sounds nice, but ..." Turq hedged.
"I still can't wear a seatbelt."

"Let's test that premise," Ansel said.
"How are you feeling right now?"
He pulled out his smartphone and
brought up the Moodometer app.
"Show me on here if you can."

"How does it work?" Turq asked.

"Put your finger on the scale and slide,"
said Ansel. "It'll give you text hints of
possible feelings. Tap twice to mark
your mood. That brings up a box of
options and you can pick emotions from
that if you want to be more specific, or
type something new into the blank."

Turq slid from the red to the green
to explore the suggested feelings,
then settled on the low end of
yellow and 'defensive.'

"Like that?" he asked.

"Exactly," said Ansel.
"The idea is, we do things
and see how your mood
changes in response."

Turq walked over to the car
but didn't open the door.
"If I try to tie myself down,
I will seriously freak."

"Nah," Ansel said, "we're
not going that far today.
Just sit in the seat and
play with the belt."

Ansel climbed into his seat.
"Come on, I used to do this
all the time when I was little,"
he said, popping the latch in and
out. "It drove my parents nuts."

"I can see why," Turq said.
Every time it clicked, he twitched.

"You don't have to latch it if
you don't want to," Ansel said.
"Just play with pulling the strap,
and leave the car door open."

Turq sat down gingerly and
tugged at the seatbelt, which
spooled smoothly into his hand.
"It doesn't pull all the time?"

"No, it has a sensor," Ansel said.
"The belt just lies there most of
the time. You can pull it out and
it'll stay put. But if there's a yank,
then it reels itself back in. Try it."

Turq pulled the belt out, then
yanked to make it retract. "That's
pretty smooth," he admitted.

Then of course he got himself
tangled in the thing, panicked,
and bailed out of the car.

"Hey, it's okay," Ansel said
as he hurried to the other side.
"Remember, you don't have
to wear it, you're just exploring."

Turq leaned against the garage wall
and panted. "I'm such a fucking mess."

"Well, let's see," Ansel said, and
offered him the smartphone again.

Turq slid the marker just into
the red zone, hesitated over
the text options, and finally
selected 'ashamed.'

"That's still in the 'surviving'
range," Ansel pointed out.

"I guess," Turq said. "I just
feel so ... broken and useless."

"You can't change who you are,
or what has happened to you,"
Ansel said. "You can change
what you have in your head and
how you handle all of those things.
You can refresh your thoughts and
put some fresh air in your brain."

Turq snorted a laugh. "Sure."

"Go ahead and shift for
the ride," Ansel said.
"I want to try something."

"What?" Turq said,
narrowing his eyes.

"I'll roll down the window,
and you can poke your nose
outside," Ansel said. "Dogs
seem to love doing that, and I've
never seen you try it. We'll be
going slow, so it should be safe."

Turq tilted his head. "Okay ..."

"Come on, then," Ansel said,
patting the seat with his hand.

A moment later, the caney
jumped into the car, the white tip
of his tail swishing back and forth.

Ansel drove slowly along the road
that backed the lakeside cabins,
pointing out landmarks and facilities.

"That's the western bathhouse,"
he said. "There's another one in
the center with most of the amenities,
and a third at the eastern edge.
The island has one too."

Turq whuffed at him, but
most of his attention remained
fixated on the flow of air as he
kept his muzzle on the windowsill.

The late-autumn afternoon was cold,
but Ansel had a good jacket and
Turq had his own natural fur.

"We're coming to the amenities lot,"
Ansel warned. "I'm going to pull over in
a lookout loop and park. You can change
there, and we'll walk the rest of the way."

The caney nodded, and Ansel parked
in the next lookout. He checked for
bystanders, then said, "All clear."

Turq shifted back into human form
and climbed out of the car. "That was ...
not so bad," he said. "I liked feeling
the wind in my fur, and all the smells."

"What do you smell here?" Ansel said.

"Smoke. Barbecue, maybe? But not
fresh, like from yesterday," Turq said.

"We have several fire circles, and
the main one is part of the center here,"
Ansel said. "For the weekend gathers, we
make a big kettle of whatever and serve
whomever shows up. Usually it's soup or
stew, sometimes chili, but occasionally
we do beans and rice or pulled pork."

"Yeah, pork," Turq said, licking his lips.
"Why do you keep asking me that?
Nobody else cares what I smell."

"Justin does it too, although his nose
isn't as keen as yours," Ansel said.
"I've just gotten used to talking about
scents the way I'd ask what he's seen.
If it bothers you, though, I can stop."

"No, it's ... I like it," Turq said. "It's just
different. You don't have to stop."

"Check your mood again," Ansel said,
passing his smartphone to Turq.

This time Turq tapped the middle
of the yellow range, and 'worried.'

"Want to tell me what you're
worrying about?" Ansel asked.
"Maybe it's something I can fix."

"There will be people," Turq said.

"Well yeah, part of the point is
to show you around a bit so that
folks recognize you as my guest,"
Ansel said. "You don't have to if
it's too much, but this would let
you mosey around here without
anyone bothering you much."

"And if I don't?" Turq whispered.

"You might get asked to show
your pass more often," Ansel said.
"It's not a gated neighborhood, and
we're pretty casual about it, but we do
chip in for the shared amenities and
we have a lot of kids running around.
So we don't necessarily want a lot of
random strangers who aren't guests."

"What happens to the ones they catch?"
Turq said, looking back at the car.

"Not much unless they're making trouble,"
Ansel said. "Friendly strangers might get
hinted toward a work team. Sometimes
people keep coming back because they'd
like to live here. If they're good workers, we
get more neighborly. Troublemakers -- well,
I'm the one who usually gets called to handle
that, but it doesn't happen very often."

"What are the other buildings?"
Turq asked. "There's so much here."

"That's the lodge," Ansel said, pointing.
"It has a big outdoor brick oven where we
cook a lot of the communal meals. Inside,
there's a lounge with a kitchen, a game room,
an exercise room, and a laundry."

Turq sniffed the air again. "Yeah,
I can smell the oven, I think."

"Over here is the central bathhouse,"
Ansel said. "The cubicles each have
a toilet, a urinal, a sink, and a shower -- but
don't use the ones on this side unless the rest
are full, because these have nursing rooms.
There's another laundry there, too."

"Oh! It has outdoor showers," Turq said.

"Yes, but they only work in summer,"
Ansel said. "Those will be turned off
by now, so the pipes don't freeze."

"Figures," Turq said glumly.

"Here's the office," Ansel said,
tugging Turq toward the next building.
"Most of this has been converted to
community space or rented out as
private offices, but the reception area
still has our neighborhood office."

They went to the main door of
the upper level, which let into
the reception area of the office.

As Ansel opened the door,
Turq said, "Do I have to go in?"

"No, you can stay on the porch if
you prefer. Just make sure that you're
visible through a window," Ansel said,
and slipped inside the building.

Behind the desk sat Mabel Ayers,
her hot pink blouse topped with
a navy blue jacket. "Hello, Ansel,
what can I do for you today?"
she said with a bright smile.

"My friend Turq has been staying
with me off and on," Ansel said,
pointing over his shoulder. "We'd
like a visitor pass for him, please."

"Yes, of course," Mabel said.
She printed up a card, which
had Ansel's contact information
on it, and then held it out.

To Ansel's surprise,
Turq reached past him
to snatch the card and dart
back out to the porch.

"Thank you," Ansel said to Mabel.
"Turq doesn't mean to be abrupt, he's
just had a really rough time and it's
hard for him to come indoors."

"I understand," Mabel said.
"Please tell him I said welcome
to the neighborhood, and do
explore the outdoor facilities like
the fire circles and playgrounds."

"I will," Ansel said, and then
he went in search of Turq.

The lanky boy was leaning
against the wall for support,
breathing hard and clutching
the rounded logs behind him.

"Sorry I was so rude," he said.

"It's okay, I explained," Ansel said.
"Mabel asked me to welcome you
and suggested outdoor activities."

Turq looked around. "I guess ..."
he said, gathering his courage.
"As long as we're here, we might
as well do the buildings too."

"Okay," Ansel said. "Promise me
that you'll say when you've had
enough, though. Overloading
yourself is not helping."

"I'll try," Turq said.

"Mark your mood,"
Ansel suggested as he
passed Turq his smartphone.

Turq did so, still in the yellow,
a bit more toward the stressed end.

They almost bumped into
someone on the way off of
the porch, and Ansel pulled
Turq gently to the side.

"Be careful not to run into
Richard," said Ansel. "He's
our ombudsman, and he's got
a low startle reflex. Richard,
this is my friend Turq."

"Pleased to meet you,"
Richard said, extending
his hand at a languid pace.
"Let me know if there's
anything I can do for you."

Tentatively Turq reached out
to clasp the older man's fingers
for a fleeting moment and then
skittered back. "Hi," he said.

Richard nodded pleasantly,
then went indoors without
pressuring Turq to chat.

"What do you want to see next?"
Ansel asked. "The playground,
the fire circle, or the lodge?"

"Lodge," said Turq. "Let's do
the worst one first and get it
over with, then the fun stuff."

"Okay," Ansel said as they
walked. "I think that you might
actually like the front of the lounge
here -- it's all glass, so you can
go in and out as you need."

"It looks pretty," Turq said,
admiring the log cabin with
its expansive windows.

Ansel stopped just inside,
letting Turq press against him
while observing the lounge.

Tables and chairs clustered
around the large room, along with
a few couches and easy chairs.

A family gathered around one table,
father and mother playing some kind of
matching game with two preschool girls.
The younger girl sat in her mother's lap
while the older rode a rocking horse
instead of sitting in a regular chair.

"That's the Cassady family," Ansel said.
"Parker is the father, Rosewood is the mother,
the girls are Savannah and Meadow.
Want to go meet them?"

Rosewood looked up and waved,
a pumpkin card still in her hand.
Other cards on the table showed
more autumn words and images.

"Maybe later," Turq said,
clinging to Ansel.

"Okay," said Ansel. "Here is
the hearth. It's a good place
to warm up, and you can see
the windows and doors."

Tall wooden bookcases flanked
the large stone fireplace where
an older man in a tidy vest added
several logs to a bed of coals.

"Hello, Ansel," he said. "Do I
get to meet your friend? I've
seen him around recently."

Turq was pressed so close
that Ansel could feel him
quivering, but he nodded.

"Arthur, this is Turq, who has
been staying with me," said Ansel.
"Turq, this is Arthur, our lodge host
who takes care of this building."

"Ask me if you need anything here,"
said Arthur. "It's part of my job
to help folks feel welcome."

"Okay," Turq squeaked,
looking back at the doors.

"Take some handwarmers
if you're going back outside,"
Arthur said, pointing out a set
of clay discs and hearts that
lay around the fireplace. "Just
bring them back next time."

"Yes, please," Ansel said.
He picked up a pair for himself,
then passed some to Turq.

"Thanks," Turq said.
"These are really warm."

Ansel led him back outside
before Turq's courage wore out.

"Here," Ansel said, handing
Turq the phone to mark his mood.

It was in the yellow, but starting
to edge up toward the green.

"Let's check out the fire circle,
Ansel suggested, watching
Turq's hands moving inside
his pockets as they fondled
the ceramic warmers.

"Okay," Turq said. "Where?"

"Right there," Ansel said as he
pointed to the path. "The trees hide it,
but it's bigger than you might think."

Sure enough, the path opened up
to reveal a deep bowl lined with rows
of stone seats surrounding a central pit
large enough to hold a bonfire.

A black woman stood at the firepit,
stacking split logs that a black man
carried from the back of a truck.

"You dropped some," Turq said
as he darted forward to pick up
a couple of logs that had fallen.

"Why thank you," the woodsman said.
"We can always use a helping hand
around here. I'm Eli, manager of
natural resources, and downhill is
Anise who runs our nature club.
Who might you be?"

"Turq," the boy said, looking
over his shoulder for support.
"I'm with Ansel. He wanted
to show me around here."

"Yes, Turq's been staying with
me sometimes," Ansel added.

"It's been really nice," Turq said.

"Turq, go ahead and explore if
you like," Ansel said. "The fire circles
are favorite outdoor attractions.
We have entertainment too."

He tipped his head at
the young Latino who sat on
the edge of the circle, finger-picking
a 12-string guitar whose body flashed
with inlays of blue-green shell.

"Maybe," Turq said, shifting
from one foot to the other.

"If that seems like a bit much
for you, then you can always come
to our introvert fire circle," Eli said as
he unloaded another armful of firewood.

"What introvert circle?" Ansel asked.
"I didn't know we had one of those."

"The one at the firewood depot,"
Eli said. "It's smaller and doesn't have
a performance space like the others do.
We rarely have singing or storytelling.
We just like to watch the logs burn
and share some tasty food."

"It sounds nice," Turq said wistfully.

"We should put that part on
the schedule," Ansel said. "If I'd
known about it, I would have been
recommending that to folks all along.
I like the introvert parties, because they
get in less trouble. As a party monitor,
I remember that part very fondly."

Eli chuckled. "Well, they are
less prone to get drunk and
disorderly, but introverts have
their own hassles," he said.

"Such as?" Ansel asked, wondering
what he might have missed before.

"They'll sit around and ruminate
themselves into trouble if you don't
keep an eye on them," Eli said.

"You and I should talk about that
some time," Ansel said. "It sounds
like I could learn something from you."

"Any time," Eli said as he handed
more wood down to Anise for
her sturdy pyramid structure.

"I like the bowl shape," Turq said,
scampering down and back up.
"The wind blows down over the rim.
It feels like standing under a waterfall,
only you can't see it and you don't get wet."

"You can hang out here whenever you
want to," Ansel said. "Plenty of folks
use this as exercise or meditation space,
not just for gathering around a bonfire."

"Maybe," Turq said again. "I like
the sound of the quiet circle, though.
I may try that one some time."

"See that dirt road?" Eli said,
pointing to a gap in the trees.
"That goes to the firewood depot.
Look for the red campfire sign with
the red arrows underneath it -- like
this one for the firepit locations."
He shifted his hand to indicate
the big brown sign on the fence.

"Thanks," Turq said, half smiling.
As they walked away, he turned
to Ansel and asked, "Do you want
me to do the mood thing again?"

"If you like," Ansel said, handing it over.

Turq slid his finger across the screen,
hesitated, and tapped just over the edge
into the green. Then he chose 'grateful.'

"What does this thing do, besides
make marks on a scale?" he asked
as he returned the smartphone.

"Let me show you the menu,"
Ansel said, opening the tab.
"See, you can average entries
to estimate your overall mood,
or track them on a line over time."
He brought up the day's entries.
"Today has a lot of ups and downs,
but you're feeling better now than
you did before we started."

"Wow," Turq said softly, tracing
over the ragged, climbing line.

"There are other functions too,
which you can explore later,"
Ansel said as he reclaimed
his phone. "I suggest that you
try one thing at a time, to avoid
feeling overwhelmed by it."

"Yeah, that's ... probably
a good idea," Turq said, putting
his hands into his pockets.

"Just remember that science
can help all kinds of things, and
it works better if you use it regularly,"
Ansel said. "There's a reminder that
you can set to prompt yourself to fill in
how you feel every so often."

Turq flinched so hard that
he almost lost his balance.
"That's not science!"

"It's not mad science,"
Ansel said gently.

Turq rubbed his hands
briskly over his arms.
"What do you mean?"

"This isn't something that
anyone else does to you, which
could hurt you," Ansel said. "It's
something that you do for yourself,
to learn more about what's happening
in your life and how to improve it."

"But you said it was science,"
Turq said, frowning. "I don't get it."

"Didn't you have science classes,
before ... things went south?" Ansel said.

"I guess." Turq shrugged. "It wasn't
anything like that, though. I think
we planted tomato seeds once."

"Botany is a kind of science, and
gardening is basic botany," Ansel said.
"This app is a psychology tool. It shows
how you feel over time, and any kind of
methodical measurement can be science.
This way you can change things and see
how that affects you." He opened a tab.
"Look, here's mine before and after
my soup training. What changed?"

Turq peered at the screen, following
a definite rise with his fingertip.
"Your confidence went up."

"Exactly," said Ansel. "I had been
worried that I was getting in over my head,
which I was, and you sure proved that."
He tapped a point to open its comment.
"The workshop taught me new skills and
information so that I felt better equipped
to handle soup incidents, which improved
my confidence and overall mood a lot."

"Huh," Turq said thoughtfully.

"It really won't hurt you," Ansel promised.
"Whether you find it useful enough to keep
using it is up to you, though. I just wanted
to show you how it works and see if it helps."

"Maybe?" Turq said. "I guess I could
try it for a while ... but it's on your phone."

"Ask me any time I'm with you, and I'll
share. You can even password-lock it,"
Ansel said. "Or you could see about
getting a phone of your own, which is
probably a good idea anyhow."

"If I can afford it," Turq said. "I'll think
about it. Thanks for sharing. What you
said about fresh air in my brain, that's
maybe helping a little bit too."

"You're welcome. Are you up for
one more stop before we head home?"
Ansel asked. "We could visit the playground.
You seem to like the one across from my work."

"Yeah, okay," Turq said, and tagged along
close to Ansel as they continued walking.

Ansel led the way to a large structure
of three double towers and one single,
linked by assorted types of bridge, with
various ways to climb up and slide down.

"The towers make a good place to get
out of the rain, if you don't feel like coming
indoors," Ansel said. "All of their roofs
are solid wood, not just cheap tarps."

"Good to know," Turq said, eyeing them.

A large and obviously blended family
rambled over the playground equipment.
"We're in luck," Ansel said. "I was hoping
to find these folks; I think you'll like them."

Turq had such a look of heartache and
naked longing that Ansel frowned in concern.

"Are you all right?" he asked. "We could go
home now if you're getting overloaded."

"I just feel ... really homesick," Turq said.

"Okay," Ansel said. "Do you want
to go make some new friends?"

"Who are they?" Turq said asked him,
watching as the family scrambled over,
under, and around the complex structure.

"Gifford Mersinger teaches multicultural studies
at Bouchet College," said Ansel. "His wife Eileen
is a full-time mother. Their oldest daughter Jerica
is homemade -- their description -- and the other
children are either adopted or fostered."

"Yeah, it's nice to see another blended family,"
Turq said. "It's been a long time, for me."

"Kemi came from Nigeria, and Yulia
came from Colombia," said Ansel.
"Both of them are adopted. The boys
are foster children -- Bray is the blond,
and Corbin is the brunet."

"They look good together,"
Turq said quietly. "Happy."

"Every family has its ups and
downs, but yes, the Mersingers
are good people," Ansel said.

Just then, Jerica spotted them
and bounded toward the newcomers.

"Uh oh, we've just been made,"
Ansel said in a light, teasing tone.
"Do we run, or stand our ground?"

Turq sidled behind Ansel
"I, I, um ..." he stammered.

Jerica noticed the motion, and
abruptly slowed her approach.
"Hi, Mr. Nicholson," she said.
"Would you and your friend
like to come and join us?"

"I would, but it's not really up
to me," Ansel said, looking at Turq.

The young man gathered his courage
enough to step out of Ansel's shadow.
"Hi. I'm Turq," he said. "I'm new here,
and it's been ... pretty rough for me.
Your family reminds me of mine, but
it's hard to deal with people right now."

"I'm Jerica," the girl said, nodding
to him instead of trying to shake hands.
"Would first-day rules help some?"

"Yeah," Turq said, his voice sounding higher
and somehow younger. A lot of the tension
had uncoiled, leaving him more relaxed.
"Familiar things help sometimes."

"There's plenty of room if you prefer
parallel play or just want to watch for
a while," Jerica said. "It sounds like
you know not to push yourself too hard.
If you need to borrow my parents, feel free,
they're experienced and very friendly."

"Thanks," Turq said, and when Jerica
headed back to the playground, he
drifted along in her wake.

Ansel followed them, far enough
behind to watch what happened next.

Jerica went straight to her mother and
whispered something, then moved on
to her sister Kemi while Eileen updated
her husband. The other children greeted
Turq but did not crowd him, clearly part
of a practiced welcoming routine.

Turq sat down just at the edge of
where they were currently playing,
and watched the family's antics with
brief glances and shy, fleeting smiles.

The boys soon engaged Ansel
in a game of tic-tac-toe on
the spinner board, but he
still kept an eye on Turq.

After a few minutes, Eileen
wandered over to Turq. "Do you
mind if I sit down?" she asked.

"Go ahead," Turq said.

"Settling into a new place
can be hard," Eileen said.
"Ansel is really good at
showing people around,
but if you'd like more help,
we're always willing."

"Thanks," Turq said.
He looked up, then
quickly back down.

"Hungry?" Eileen asked,
offering Turq a bag of
Berry Blitz. "My kids
usually are, so we pack
extra snacks all the time."

Turq's smile twitched on.
"Yeah," he said, reaching
into the bag with one hand.
"I like this flavor a lot, and
the Peacock Fan. Ansel
goes for Think Pink."

"If I had to name a favorite,
then I would probably pick
the Fruity Health Foodie,"
said Eileen, "but really, I like
most flavors of Jumble Munch."

"Yeah, I eat whatever I can get,"
Turq said. Then he shuddered.
"Except for Rainbowrama, I'd
have to be pretty hungry before
I'd eat that. It's too sweet."

Eileen gave a musical laugh.
"Our family rule is that we save
the bad-for-you treats for birthdays
and other special occasions," she said.
"That one is definitely on the list. Do you
like the savory flavors better, then?"

"Fruit's fine, as long as it's not
too sweet," Turq said. "I do like
the cheese one that Janie gets.
China Garden is good too."

Ansel hadn't known about
the latter, and made a mental note
to pick up a few bags of that.

Yulia skipped past, twittering
a half-familiar pastoral tune on
her ocarina. The tiny instrument
flashed like a fire opal in the sun
as its glaze caught the autumn light.

"That's pretty," Turq said.

"Thanks," said Yulia. She stopped
to show him, slipping the thong off
of her neck. "This is an ocarina.
You blow in this end, and then
put your fingers over the holes
to change the notes it plays.
You can try it if you want to."

Turq gave a few tentative tweets
and then handed it back. "I'm not
really much of a musician."

"It takes practice," Yulia said,
then scampered away.

"Piggyback," Corbin demanded,
tugging on Ansel's pants.

"I like to be asked nicely,"
Ansel reminded him.

"Pleeeeease," Corbin said
as he held up his arms.

"Okay, up you go," Ansel said.
He boosted Corbin onto his back
and circled the playground
with long, easy strides.

"Whee!" said Corbin.

Ansel paused to check on
Turq, who was fishing around
the bottom of the bag for
the last few crumbs.

"Having fun, or ready
to head home?" he asked.

"I'm okay," Turq said. "We're
outside and I'm not getting mobbed.
I can stay a few more minutes."

"That's good," Ansel said.
"Let me know when you're done."

"Trot, please?" Corbin said.

"Sure," Ansel agreed, and
broke into a soft, bouncy jog as
they looped the playground again.

A breeze blew past them, and Ansel
could see that Turq had turned his face
into it to follow the flow of scents.

Turq was still sitting with Eileen,
not hugging, just leaning against her,
close enough for his fluffy blue hair
to mingle with her streaky blonde
as the wind riffled them together.

It was more than Ansel had
hoped for, and it gave him
even more hope for the future.

* * *

Notes:

Mabel Ayers -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and short light brown hair. She is thin with a heart-shaped face. Mabel lives in Bluehill and runs the office for the Island Resort neighborhood. She likes fashionable women's clothes, even though she works in a place that used to be a campground. She loves nature, but doesn't want to get it on her. Mabel collects prints from local artists, and also organizes the decoration of the amenity buildings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Office Manager, Good (+2) Art Collector, Good (+2) Extrovert, Good (+2) Organized
Poor (-2) Dislikes Getting Messy

Richard Washburn -- He has fair skin, bright blue eyes, and short light brown hair balding on top. His mustache is white. He has a round face and a little softness around the middle. Richard lives in Bluehill and works as an ombudsman for the Island Resort neighborhood. He solves problems, settles conflicts, links people with needed resources, and generally makes things run smoothly. He is easily startled, and prefers an environment that is usually calm and quiet. The lakeside community is ideal for him.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Ombudsman, Good (+2) Making Connections, Good (+2) Strategic Thinking, Good (+2) Woodworking
Poor (-2) Low Startle Reflex


Parker Cassady -- He has ruddy skin, hazel eyes, and short brown hair. He is the husband of Rosewood, father of Savannah and Meadow. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Parker builds things and excels at working with his hands. He can easily think in visual terms. However, he does poorly with imagining things he cannot hold in his hands.
Qualities: Good (+2) Construction Worker, Good (+2) Dependable, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Abstract Thought

Rosewood Cassady -- She has fair skin with freckles, brown eyes, and long straight hair of dark auburn. She is the wife of Parker, mother of Savannah and Meadow. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Rosewood organizes jobs for her husband and other people. She grew up in a crummy trailer park, which limited her educational opportunities. So she learned things more through practical experiences than in school. She's still sensitive about her background.
Qualities: Good (+2) Business Manager, Good (+2) Handywoman, Good (+2) Homemaker, Good (+2) Methodical, Good (+2) Step-by-Step Teaching
Poor (-2) Trailer Court Trash

Savannah Cassady -- She has pale skin, brown eyes, and chin-length straight hair streaked in shades of lighter and darker blonde. She is the daughter of Parker and Rosewood, older sister of Meadow. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Savannah is restless and insists on moving all the time. Her parents accommodate this as best they can, but suspect it will keep her out of public school. At home they can find ways for her to learn that allow her to keep moving, such as letting her sit on a rocking horse instead of a chair. All that exploring also means that Savannah quickly learns about her surroundings and rarely gets lost.
Qualities: Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Finding Her Way, Good (+2) Playful
Poor (-2) Can't Sit Still

Meadow Cassady -- She has pale skin, brown eyes, and only a few wisps of blonde hair. She is the daughter of Parker and Rosewood, younger sister of Savannah. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Meadow is a tough little girl, difficult to injure or upset. But she's not a self-starter, and requires a lot of prompting to get anywhere. Almost two, she's just starting to walk. There's nothing wrong with her. She simply doesn't feel like moving unless someone puts a very enticing goal in front of her.
Qualities: Good (+2) Phlegmatic, Good (+2) Sturdy
Poor (-2) Can't Get Started


Arthur Hollowood -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short dark blond hair that sticks up on top. He has just a bit of mustache and beard which are starting to go gray. He has a fit build and good muscles. Arthur lives in Bluehill and manages the lodge for the Island Resort neighborhood. He has a knack for looking neat and well put-together, even though he works in a place that used to be a campground. He can change a tire, wash his hands, and look like he just walked out of his office. Unfortunately he has little sense of navigation, and easily gets lost even close to home. So he tends to stay in places he knows very well, and prefers to travel with someone else.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Host, Good (+2) Peacekeeping Skills, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Always Looks Tidy
Poor (-2) Always Getting Lost

Eli Banyan -- He has medium brown skin and brown eyes. His body hair is black; he wears a short beard and shaves his head. He has a master's degree in Environmental Studies. He lives in Bluehill and manages the natural resources for the Island Resort neighborhood. He's good at talking people into following his advice. He cuts and hauls the firewood. He excels at cooking outdoors, and often makes the meals for campfire circles. Because of his appearance, outsiders often underestimate both his intelligence and the sophistication of his job. His neighbors understand his value, though, and are fairly protective of him.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Campfire Cook, Expert (+4) Natural Resources Manager, Good (+2) Convincing People, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Looks Like Unskilled Labor

Anise Eaker -- She has mahogany skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and woolly black hair. Her heritage includes African, American, and a little Chinese. Anise lives in Bluehill and does landscaping maintenance for the Island Resort neighborhood. She runs a nature club and networks with Activity Scouts and Sankofa clubs to encourage youth of color to enjoy the great outdoors. Her family background is neither well-to-do nor functional, but she's working hard to overcome that.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Black Culture, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Nature Guide
Poor (-2) Poor Family Background

Iago Perez -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and black hair. He wears a small beard just under his chin. Iago lives in Bluehill at the Island Resort neighborhood, where he often sings at the fire circles. He also plays 12-string Mexican guitar. He likes girls, but keeps cycling through troublesome girlfriends because it's hard for him to say no to anyone.
Qualities: Good (+2) College Student, Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Hard Worker, Good (+2) Spanish Folk Singer, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Girl Trouble


Eileen Mersinger -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and long straight hair streaked in shades of lighter and darker blonde. She is the wife of Gifford Mersinger. Their blended family began with the birth of their oldest daughter, Jerica (9), but complications from that pregnancy made it impossible for them to have any more children the usual way, a fact that Eileen still mourns. So they looked into other options. So far they have adopted two girls, Kemi Negedu Mersinger from Nigeria (8) and Yulia Cano Mersinger from Colombia (7). They also have two foster boys, Bray Elsenrath who is American with German heritage (6) and Corbin Richardson who is mixed race (5). They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Eileen is an excellent full-time mother. She uses her love of the great outdoors to connect with her children and help them overcome rough spots in their past.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Mother, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Patience, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Infertile

Gifford Mersinger -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He is the husband of Eileen Mersinger. Their blended family began with the birth of their oldest daughter, Jerica (9), but complications from that pregnancy made it impossible for them to have any more children the usual way. So they looked into other options. So far they have adopted two girls, Kemi Negedu Mersinger from Nigeria (8) and Yulia Cano Mersinger from Colombia (7). They also have two foster boys, Bray Elsenrath who is American with German heritage (6) and Corbin Richardson who is mixed race (5). They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Gifford teaches a variety of multicultural studies at Bouchet College, and he also runs a Sankofa club.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Multicultural Studies Teacher, Good (+2) Father, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Woodslore
Poor (-2) Mechanical Intelligence

Kemi Negedu Mersinger -- She has dark chocolate skin, brown eyes, and long black hair usually worn in many small braids. She is Nigerian, adopted as a toddler by Gifford and Eileen Mersinger. Kemi is the younger sister of Jerica and older sister of Yulia; she also has two younger foster brothers, Bray and Corbin. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Kemi is shy, but very fond of her family. She enjoys picking up interesting rocks, shells, and other objects while exploring nature.
Qualities: Good (+2) Collecting Natural Souvenirs, Good (+2) Heat Tolerance, Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence
Poor (-2) Shy

Bray Elsenrath -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and short blond hair. He is American, with German heritage. He wound up in foster care due to his birth parents going through a vicious divorce and trying to use him against each other. Bray is currently staying with Gifford and Eileen Mersinger. He is the younger foster brother of Jerica, Kemi, and Yulia; and the older foster brother of Corbin. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Bray enjoys swimming and other outdoor activities. He hates conflict and goes to great lengths in order to avoid it, sometimes causing worse problems in the process.
Qualities: Good (+2) Easygoing, Good (+2) Swimming
Poor (-2) Conflict-Avoidant

Yulia Cano Mersinger -- She has cinnamon skin, brown eyes, and long wavy brown hair. She is Colombian, adopted as an infant by Gifford and Eileen Mersinger. She is the younger sister of Jerica and Kemi; and older foster sister of Bray and Corbin. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Cheerful and athletic, Yulia enjoys climbing, skipping, and tumbling around the wilderness. She is learning several musical instruments from Columbia, including the caña de millo and the ocarina; she has a pendant ocarina that she often wears. Although an avid student, Yulia does poorly when trying to learn indoors at a static desk.
Qualities: Good (+2) Acrobatic, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Musical Intelligence
Poor (-2) Desk Learning

Jerica Mersinger -- She has fair skin, short brown hair, and green eyes. She is the daughter of Gifford and Eileen Mersinger, older sister of Kemi Negedu Mersinger and Yulia Cano Mersinger; she also has two younger foster brothers, Bray and Corbin. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Jerica loves having a blended family and is a leader in her Sankofa club. She really dislikes bigots and bullies, especially when they bother her family.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Sankofa Member, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Outdoor Skills, Good (+2) Smoothie Family
Poor (-2) Tolerating Intolerance
Motivation: "We don't have a blended family. We have a smoothie family -- it tastes great, and it's good for you!"

Corbin Richards -- He has tinted skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and short nappy brown hair that sticks up in tufts. He is American of mixed race, abandoned by his drug-addicted mother. He is the foster son of Gifford and Eileen Mersinger. They live in Bluehill in the Island Resort neighborhood. Corbin doesn't have much physical energy, but enjoys being carried, so it's not too much of a problem. He favors board games, puzzles, and other quiet activities.
Qualities: Good (+2) Inquisitive, Good (+2) Quiet Games
Poor (-2) Tires Easily

* * *

"You can't change who you are, but you can change what you have in your head, you can refresh what you're thinking about, you can put some fresh air in your brain."
-- Ernesto Bertarelli

Here is one of the fish-cleaning stations on the main dock. In the wood is a cleaning station for fish and small game.

The Moodometer helps gauge mood over time. The T-American version is somewhat more sophisticated.

There are many mood apps. Emooter offers a simple mood scale. Niko Niko has question prompts and a scale. Moody Me includes emoticons and photos of causes. T2 Mood Tracker has sliders for multiple conditions, data collation, and customizable features. Emotion Sense offers complex surveys and coordinated smartphone data.

Feeling broken is a common result of childhood trauma. Often it is not possible to "get over it" but that can be a key to feeling whole. Understand how to cope when you feel broken or care about a broken person.

Feeling useless often comes along with unemployment, traumatic stress, and other challenges. It's important to understand the difference between feeling used and feeling useful. Then you can work on how to stop feeling useless and make yourself useful. That includes making people feel important and feel good.

The bathhouse stands near the lodge and the main dock. Featuring six similar rooms with space for toilet, washbasin and shower, this cabin bathhouse includes a separate ADA bathroom as well as a laundry room, all complimented with a 6’ x 42’ covered porch on both sides of the building. Three of the bathrooms have an attached nursing/changing room. The ADA bathroom has an adult changing table. The building also has outdoor showerheads and hose spigots for rinsing mud off. The cubicles look something like this. Each one has a toilet, urinal (to the left of the toilet, not visible here), sink, and shower. Each nursing/changing room has a rocking chair and a fold-down changing table.

Scent/taste dominance is rare in humans, but has been mentioned in regard to learning styles and recommendations for teaching. Canines naturally place more emphasis on scent.

Cohousing is one type of intentional community. They have their ups and downs. Although often built from scratch, cohousing can also be done by retrofitting a conventional neighborhood. In this case, when a resort went bankrupt and sold all its property at bargain rates, people took advantage of the opportunity to create a new neighborhood. On the upside, it came complete with abundant common facilities and fantastic scenery. The main drawback is that none of the original housing was intended for permanent residence, so it's comparatively small and has fewer bathrooms and storage space in relation to most houses. Intentional neighboring builds richer communities. Here are some tips on starting a community.

This was the resort's office building, now with offices rented individually to neighborhood residents. See the upper floor plan. This is the reception desk.

Turq displays shy body language. There is nothing wrong with being shy, introverted, and/or a trauma survivor. Sometimes it helps to tell people that you're shy or your friend is shy, although this is controversial. One reason for concealing the information is simply that such traits are often condemned in local-America; they are more accepted in Terramagne-America. Do what works for you. Since Turq is frequently to stressed to speak with others, it helps a lot to have Ansel make general explanations. There are tips on how to talk to a shy person and interact with them.

Clinginess is normal, and indeed, a sign of secure attachment. Know how to calm a clingy child. Turq clinging to Ansel shows awareness of a secure base and a revival of healthy attachment patterns. The amount of clinginess will naturally fade as Turq feels more secure on his own.

This is the lodge. See the exterior and the upper floor plan. There is a general store in the basement. The windows fill the end of the building. The front doors are on the side with the fireplace, just beyond the bookcases. The lounge opens into the game room.

3-Part Cards are used in Montessori school for various lessons, but they also work for learning at home. If you simply give a basket of these things to kids, they will make up their own activities -- young children love sorting and matching things. This poem shows a family working with some cards for autumn themes. They're not being fancy about it, so they call this "Monte-sort-of." You can use a blank template to make your own cards. There are plenty of ways to use classified cards and nomenclature.

This classic rocking horse is made with red oak, leather tack, glass eyes, yarn mane and tail. Wooden toys like this are more common in T-America partly due to greater awareness of sustainable practices, but also because far more people have hobbies such as woodworking. Many of the fun things in communal space were made and contributed by residents. A rocking horse serves the same function as a rocking chair or other wiggle seat, which helps children focus through rhythmic motion. The real reason children fidget is simply that they need to move in order for their bodies to develop properly; if they don't move enough, they develop vestibular, neurological, and other problems. Restraining children from movement is the modern equivalent of foot-binding and about that damaging.

Ceramic handwarmers may be reheated and used many times. Simple projects like these are easily made by children, although some crafters make them too.

The main fire circle has stone seats and is located near the center of the neighborhood along with most of the other amenities. The wheelchair ramp lets out at that patch of stone above the hollow, giving disabled people a good view. The seating can hold between 400 and 500 folks, but a typical audience is only 100 to 200. It does fill for special occasions, like holidays or community meetings.

Residents can request delivery of firewood from a communal depot. This location has a small campfire circle for gatherings at the far side of the neighborhood from the auxiliary fire circle. In essence, this is the introvert fire circle because it only has about two dozen seats. In practice, it rarely fills up and people leave spaces, so a typical event here has 10-15 people. Unlike the other fire circles, it has no "performance space" and rarely involves singing or storytelling. People just like to watch the firewood burn and eat tasty things.

Under stress, the tendency is that extroverts explode and introverts implode. The former is easy to recognize, the latter much less so. Rumination is a problem-solving routine stuck in a loop. Here are some tips to stop ruminating. This problem often appears with anxiety or depression. Learn how to help someone with anxiety or support a depressed person.

This is the marker for the campfire depot and its connecting trails/roads. It also stores the neighborhood's firefighting equipment. Emergency services and danger areas are marked in red.

Color-coded arrows mark the trails/roads that lead to specific amenities or follow a specific route on the map. The arrows, like the small trail marker signs, are about palm size.

This is the marker for campfire locations, and the location signs are bigger than the trail marker signs. The amenities are usually in brown.

The large playground is located by the lake in the cluster of amenities at the center of the neighborhood. Take a closer look at its components and layout plan.

Transracial adoption can make marvelous families, although it remains controversial. T-America is generally more tolerant of diversity than L-America, but not entirely tolerant. There are tips for parenting diverse children and dealing with hostility.

Welcoming foster children requires that parents know how to make the first day easier. For children like Jerica, who has had an assortment of foster siblings; and like Turq, who has gone through multiple foster homes; the pattern becomes familiar and thus offers a way to connect. Foster care can have serious impacts on children, especially attachment problems due to repeated disruptions of family ties. There are ways to encourage bonding with foster or adopted children.

Parallel play refers to children amusing themselves alongside each other without much if any interaction. This is a natural stage in early childhood. Parallel work or play can also be part of healthy introversion, at all ages. It shows up in coffeehouses too.

Jumble Munch comes in many flavors. Berry Blitz features freeze-dried raspberries, freeze-dried blackberries, dried white mulberries, dried gojiberries, yogurt-covered cranberries, dark chocolate-covered açai berries, oat cereal rings, rice cereal chex, cashews, dark chocolate bark with dried blueberries and almonds, strawberries and cream white chocolate bark, and strawberry granola clusters.

China Garden includes dried lychees, dried passion fruit, dried white mulberries, Chinese chestnuts, ginkgo nuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, puffed rice cereal, chow mein noodles, and Chinese five-spice granola clusters.

(This recipe is among the most popular with high-burn soups like speedsters.)
Rainbowrama contains dried strawberries, dried mango, crystallized ginger, dried kiwi, chocolate-covered blueberries, dried dragon fruit, pink pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chunks, honey-roasted cashews, macadamia nuts, oat cereal rings, multicolored marshmallow bits, and lucky rainbow bark.

Ocarinas come in different types. This one is a charm ocarina, light enough for a child to wear comfortably. While charm ocarinas aren't the most sophisticated, wearing your instrument makes it possible to practice at any opportune moment. Yulia is playing "The Shire Song," which looks like this in ocarina sheet music. Learn how to play the ocarina.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-27 04:11 am (UTC)
technoshaman: (warm_puppy)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
awwwww. Turq made a friend. But then, Mama Eileen would be good at that....

<3
Edited (icon) Date: 2016-09-27 04:12 am (UTC)

Patience

Date: 2016-09-27 04:18 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wow, Ansel is so patient. *wistful sigh* I love how he interacts with Turq. Seems like he always knows the right thing to say or do.

I also had to smile when Jerica said, "If you need to borrow my parents, feel free. They're experienced." :-)


Zelofheda

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-27 04:54 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Reading, reflecting, enjoying, gathering focus anew. Thank you.

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