Friday, 22 February 2008

An Amateur's Guide to Grief

My personal experiences with grief and loss are limited to the following:

  • My rat Chippy who died of a cancerous tumor when I was 9

  • My kitten Oliver who was bitten by a snake when I was 11

  • Some mice I owned when I was 7ish who were neglected and ate each other. Being that I was the one who neglected them, I wasn't overly upset. (Yes, I feel badly now. Poor little sods.)

  • My paternal grandfather who died when I was 8 or 9. He was estranged from my father, I had never met him, I was only allowed to refer to him by his first name, and I wasn't told of his death until I was a teenager.

  • A few clients who disappeared down the path of long hospital stays, nursing home, and finally palliative care. I would stop having visits with them as they declined and then would find out many months later that they had passed away.

That's all.

I have not lost any other family, friends or pets. I have never attended a funeral or a wake or placed a memorial in the newspaper. It's safe to say that my maternal grandfather and my dog Chloe will probably pass away within the next few years, with my grandfather currently clocking in at 95 human years and Chloe at 86 dog years.

Being that many of my clients are elderly they having to deal with loss, be it spouses, siblings, or friends. Today I visited a longterm client who had just lost a daughter on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. Just a few years ago she was a mother of four and now she has only one surviving child. My mantra during my visit was "don't make it worse don't make it worse don't make it worse don't make it worse don't make it worse don't make it worse don't make it worse". I knew that was the best I could hope for. She has suffered a profound loss that I will not be able to understand until I am a parent. The best I could hope for was not putting my foot in my mouth. I've found there are some basic guidelines that can guide you through someone else's loss:

Follow their lead. If they are talking about it, listen. If they don't want to talk about it, leave them be. There is no right way to grieve.

Don't offer platitudes. "At least they are not in pain anymore." "Time heals all wounds." "What doesn't kill you can only make you stronger." "It was God's will." These kinds of statements have never helped anyone. Ever.

Less is more. If you don't know what to say just tell them you are so sorry for their loss. You don't need to be profound or poetic. You are not going to be able to find magical words that make them forget their troubles. Just let them know you care and that you are thinking of them.

Embrace silence. As a general rule, gaps in conversation make me feel quite awkward and I usually rush to fill them. Don't do that in this kind of situation. Try to limit your input into the conversation to speaking only about 20% of the time. If the conversation lulls, just being there and holding their hand may be all they want at that moment.

Offer support as appropriate. The terms of my employment limit how much support I can be outside of my visits. I happen to live just around the corner from this client and we bump into each other as we walk our dogs (we both have Harrys). I can probably offer her more support as I am her neighbour therefore I can drop in. If it were a different client it would not be appropriate for me to visit with them outside of work. In other circumstances, giving your phone number and making yourself available to listen is probably appreciated even if they don't take you up on the offer.

If concerned, refer to a profressional. Social support is a significant part of my job but I have no formal training in social work or counselling. If I suspected a client was having a difficult time dealing with their loss I have a legal and ethical obligation to suggest the client see a doctor or counsellor and inform my team leader of my concerns. This can be done sensitively and without coming across as an armchair psychologist. In one case I tentatively suggested a client speak to their doctor to deal with the symptoms of their intense grief: sleep difficulty and complete loss of appetite. They did so and this opened the door to the GP himself suggesting grief counselling and a short course of anti-anxiety meds.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Yesterday I was channel surfing and discovered I suddenly had access to all the movie channels on my satellite TV. I watched Hot Fuzz before it dropped out shortly after midnight.
This might have been just a glitch in the computers that track subscriptions, or a teaser to try to entice me into upgrading my package, but I have chosen to believe that it was a Valentine's Day gift from an anonymous admirer who knows what I really value.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Quiverfull Sims: The Montgomery Family Part 2

Mercifully, Isadora Montgomery (nee Griffin) has reached the end of her fertile years. Her quiver has been emptied. Her uterus has prolapsed. She is an unwoman.
She achieved a brood of twelve children, thanks in large part to three sets of twins. I probably have pictures of all of them but I doubt I could tell them apart, so here is a handy list:

  1. Ezekiel. He's the firstborn child. He's got a natural leadership quality because he has so many siblings beneath him.

  2. Jude, twin to Mary. He's mellow.

  3. Mary. She's the firstborn daughter. She is very capable, and has had a lot of practice parenting raising helping to raise buddying young children.

  4. Joshua, twin to Sarah. Enjoys pickles.

  5. Sarah. Does not enjoy pickles.

  6. Luke. He has 4 sisters right below him, so he's already a little patriarch in the making.

  7. Claudia. ??? Cleans the toilets and bathtub.

  8. Ruth, identical twin to Naomi. Wears frills and lace and feminine things to show others that she is a girl.

  9. Naomi. Likes to use words to express herself. (Although the words are in Simlish so I can't tell what she's saying.)

  10. Rachel. Enjoys pickles.

  11. Elijah. He's a toddler so he's busy!

  12. Thaddeus. Mellow, but does not like pickles.

Rotting food on counter? Check.

Screaming baby left on floor with dirty diaper? Check.

Unqualified youth dangerously attempting to fix electrical equipment? Check.

When I'm grown up, I want a quiver this big!

Jude, what are you doing?! That's not your jurisdiction! Have you forgotten our little family meeting about gender roles? And Isadora, why are you working? You are clearly pregnant and have several daughters over the age of 7 and capable of cooking for the family. Besides, that fish looks far too fresh. It should be processed and crumbed and served as fish finger casserole.

Look out, it's a Democrat!

It's never too early to give your son a Financial Freedom Seminar. Jude (left) is complaining about a bed. It could just be that he is tired, but I choose to believe he is pissed at having to share a dorm-style room with 4 brothers. Mary doesn't seem to be thinking about anything. The process is complete and she should now be married off.

"Now that you know that abortion and debt are naughty, have you considered running for political office, my son?"

Neglect! Somehow I forgot to make sure Luke was enrolled in the homeschool, and he spent the day at the secular public school!

Jude and Ezekiel team up to open a car lot, selling to impressionable alien children.

I assume what is happening here is some kind of lesson in sex education for Joshua and Mary. The baby(Rachel? Elijah? Who knows?) is there as a '...and here's one God prepared earlier'.

Yes, I would be depressed if I were you too, Zeke.

A typical family scene. Isadora and Xavier are about to ask God to open the womb and guide the Jesus jizz straight to the sacred ovum, while the older girls raise the chilluns, the boys get in the way, and a neglected and smelly toddler screams.

With another birthing completed, Isadora hands off the little buddy to the big buddy. You'll notice that the Montgomery family uniform is green polo shirt/khaki slacks.

Luke rebells by kicking over the garbage can, while having angry thoughts about family and toilets. I can only assume this means the title of his tell all book will be "12 Children and only 2 toilets: My Childhood Spent Waiting in Line".

I guess there is only so much neglect you can allow before someone calls the social worker. The five youngest children of the time (Thaddeus was in utero) were whisked off to the adoption pool. Xavier used his local connections to have them brought back. (Translation: I cheated to get them back. Because, damn it, if I'm going to go through all that fuss to have a dozen children in the first place and then half of them are taken away I may as well just have a fundie bonfire with the remaining kids).
Even so, I think they may have to take this as a sign that the government is trying to infringe upon their rights to raise enough children to fill a clowncar. Time to move out to the back hills. So long Quiverfull Sims, hello Waco sims!

I'm beginning to think it is just not possible to have a Jimbob Duggar family 14 15 16 17 children. Maybe it was because of the homeschooling (which barely happened, to be honest. The girls were too busy cleaning and chillun-wrangling and the boys sold cars and played games. Lucky they are not college-bound) and the fact that the girls were not married out, but I found this family much more annoying to play than any of my other large families. I kept on sending the least skilled sims to mend electrical equipment in the hopes of a fatal accident, but alas it never happened. Maybe God loves them?

Monday, 11 February 2008

Quiverfull Sims: The Montgomery Family

Isadora Griffin is all grown up and ready for marriage.
Time for the boys to come a courtin'...

Jerome gathers the local godly young men. They seem to bond over their dislike for Maddox.

Isadora spots the one who can bring her closest to God.

Isadora gets to know Xavier Montgomery in a safe group setting under the watchful eye of her parents.

Xavier purchases a home in which to raise a family.
According to my trusty name book Xavier means 'owner of the new house' in Basque.

With her Daddy's approval, Xavier proposes marriage. Isadora accepts, and suggests they hyphenate their surnames, prompting an emergency visit from the pastor.

Careful now, Isadora. Don't go making eye babies.

And why is Xavier in a jogging suit? It's his wedding! Don't tell me the thrift store didn't have any second-hand tuxedos.

Despite being a mother of a full quiver, Sabrina shows up to her daughter's wedding looking like Jessica Rabbit. Xavier's sister Anika isn't much better baring her collar bone and shoulders in her aubergine dress, but his mother Adele puts them both to shame in her sensible and dowdy off-white frock.

An off the shoulder wedding dress that doesn't even reach below the knees? Someone call Lydia of Purple, that is just not Christian modest apparel custom sewing. Even though they are ankle-deep in snow it is actually the middle of Summer. I could have postphoned the wedding until the unseasonal weather had passed, but there was babymaking to be done. Time is of the essense.

Do the smustle! I missed taking a picture of the best part of the smustle, which is the part which mimics Thriller with the claw hands from side to side.

They head off on their honeymoon in a hired limo. Don't they look thrilled?

Xavier and Isadora work on being open to God's blessings.


'Bout time to birth that there baby...

It's a boy! I decide to go with a biblical naming theme (mostly because going with an X for Xavier theme would limit me to 9 boys names in my book and they are mostly crap:Xenon, Xylon, Xenophon and Xarles). This is Ezekiel, the golden child.

Pregnancy number 2 (and excuse to revisit the Britney-like maternity shirt)


A boy and a girl. I kicked myself for not naming Spawn #1 Joshua, because this could have been my chance to make some legitimate Duggar sims. That idea down the drain, I named the boy Jude and the girl Mary (because I completely blanked on biblical names for girls).

Even with newborn twins, pregnancy number 3 is soon upon us.

We're gonna need a bigger boat (RIP Roy Scheider).

Another set of boy/girl twins. Sarah and Joshua. It was at this point that I realised I don't know many female biblical names. Ruth, Deborah, Rebecca, Naomi. After that I would pretty much be screwed. I did a little internet searching and was reminded that Rachel, Abigail, Phoebe, Shiloh, Tabitha and Lydia are all biblical. Better yet, I could whip out a Bathsheba, Beulah, Dorcas, Zipporah or Drusilla (who I would later have to vamp out, natch). These kids are gonna be homeschooled anyway, so I don't have to feel bad for dorky Dorcas. (Sad fact for the day: dork does not mean whale penis. That takes out so much of the fun of calling someone a dork. This might make up for that disappointment: Church of the Whale Penis)

Zeke. In the real Duggar family, he would now be old enough for a buddy (if he was a girl, that is). However, Sims allows them a little more childhood. Children cannot feed babies or toddlers, change diapers, place them in their cribs, or swat them with a wooden spoon when they attempt to crawl off a blanket. Those abilities (minus the swatting) only come with teenagehood.

Homeschooling Ezekiel while Isadora tends to Jude and Mary. With two sets of twins below him, poor Zeke doesn't get much attention.

Will Isadore produce a full quiver? Will Xavier set up a successful car lot in his front yard? Will Zeke master 'Amazing Grace' on piano and violin? Stay tuned.

Quiverfull Sims: The Griffin Family

Jerome Griffin married Sabrina as soon as she became a teenager. He had a newborn son, Joseph, from a dalliance with Ruby Montgomery while I wasn't paying attention. I hadn't even seen them meet much less romance. I arrived back at my desk from fixing a sandwich and found Ruby well into her second trimester. It was only after the birth that I could consult the family tree and find Jerome to be the sire. Being that Ruby was a sinful unwed mother, I gave Joseph to his father to be raised the godly Quiverfull fashion surrounded by many legitimate siblings.

Jerome and Sabrina enjoying God's marital gifts. They do this a lot.

They have a home business selling cooked fish. If only the game allowed bread making, then they could have a loaves and fish shop. (This is Kyle doing restocking. He is Spawn #5)

The five oldest Griffin boys replenishing the fish stores. From left: Lennon (#6), Kyle(#5), Maddox(#3), Stanley(#4), and Joseph(#1).
The Griffins have three other children. Youngest son Nigel was a newborn at the time of this picture. Isadora (#7) was a toddler taking a nap at this point. Sabrina and Jerome first child together, Hannah, was married off as soon as she became a teenager, before the youngest three children were even born. She married Jonathan DeLeuth and has three children of her own so far.

There are only two bathrooms in the house, but that doesn't stop the boys from clogging up the queue by playing pirate. The red polo shirt/khaki slack uniform that the boys wear is a tip I garnered from the Duggars. Group conformity in bold primary colours. It helps keep down the urges.

Isadora being lectured by golden son Joseph. This outfit was the closest I could get to the fug of the Duggar style prarie dress. Similarly, the hair proved to be a challenge. None of the sim hairstyles combine the long hair with the crazy poofiness of Michelle Duggar's do.

Of course when you see an outfit like this you can't held but concede they have a point with a strict dress code. This is just a monstrosity. (And look at her lack of nose! This is what happens when aliens and sims breed).

Jerome and Sabrina try in vain for a ninth child. I almost felt bad for them until I remember how whiny their existing children are.

Maddox becomes an adult and begins taking college courses online while remaining living at home and sharing a room with his teenage and primary school-aged brothers.

Isadora becomes a teen and is dressed in the most modest teenager dress I can find even though that still has a bow on the chest to draw attention to her evil, evil boobies. She is allowed some subtle pink lipstick to draw attention to her countenance (not red, everyone knows only whores wear red). She has childbearing hips and functional milk ducts. She is over the age of thirteen and she is ready for marriage!

Sadly just as Isadora begins her breeding years, Sabrina's have drawn to a close. her fertility is at 1% and it would take a fundamental miracle at this point. Their marriage acheived seven children (and Joseph). They provided for themselves care of their fishing pond, but did not manage to homeschool (mainly because I hadn't yet installed the hack that would allow it). Not a bad effort, but we'll see if any of their children manage to have homeschooling families in the double digits. Maybe I should focus on some wacky naming habits. The Griffin family were named based on which page I opened my name book onto. When I named Isadora I realised I had a straight run from H,I,J,K,L,M, so Nigel was given an N name. I wouldn't have minded 4 more children to bridge the gap from N to S, but it wasn't to be.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

A quiver full of sims

God help me, I'm letting my sims be Quiverfull.

I don't know how it started. First I installed Autonomous Casual Romance (ACR) which allows the sims to make romantic decisions without my guidance, and can choose to try to conceive without my directives. But it wasn't realistic enough. The female's fertility declined so rapidly that even with their best efforts to have a large family they were lucky to get 4 or 5 children before the sim equivalent to menopause. This just didn't mesh with the real world in which a woman devoted to childbearing could have 4 or 5 children in as many years. So I installed the Inteenimater so that my teen sims could marry and extend their breeding years.

Then I got sick of all the prosperity in my sim neighbourhood. Every other sim was mayor or chief of police and it made no sense. How can a town of 100 people have 10 mayors? So I decided to phase out the standard careers and employ the sims in home businesses. Households would set up a shop in their front rooms selling chairs or beds or cheesecakes while also being employed at someone else's store so that they had a guaranteed income.

So how did this lead to a quiverfull neighbourhood? I had several maternal deaths due to overworking pregnant sims in the home businesses, so I decided the mothers would not work. I had some very sweet sims that doted on their sim babies so much that I didn't want to restrict their efforts. Gradually this became a neighbourhood-wide movement and now the average number of children per family is 8. The neighbourhood is exploding and I might have to go on a rampage to thin out their ranks.