Monday, February 29, 2016

I Watched the Skies as the Oceans Churned

We said things like "Bully" and "Cheerio" to add authenticity.
My wife had to fend off praise from her co-workers on my behalf. When they heard that I was to spend the day at a middle school participating in an event that simulated politics in the midst of global crisis, they assumed I was assisting in a program aimed at students. They were wrong. I was spending another all day event at the Fairhaven Middle School because Bellingham MegaGames was hosting another round of Watch the Skies and there was no way I was going to miss it. 

Briefly, Watch the Skies consists of teams of people representing the nations of the earth. The teams are segmented into roles where each role plays a type of game with the other nations version of their role. Check out my last post for a more in depth description. 

Having tired of being left out of the thick of things last game, we traded in our giant robots and left Japan to become the United Kingdom. Ryan was our Prime Minister, Andy was our military leader, Cameron represented us in the UN, Shaun was our deputy head of state (a new role this time around that was capable of visiting any area of the game that they wished) and I took on the role of Chief Scientist.

Our goal going into this game was simple: Make an aircraft carrier into a spaceship. That was a responsibility that fell largely on my shoulders. Andy would need to shoot down them aliens to get me the resources, Cameron was in charge of smoothing over our actions in the UN and Ryan had to give me the money to conduct my research. I had to take what resources I could and figure out just what exactly needed to be done to get this space boat up and running. We started out with a bang, obtaining an intact alien space craft in round one. However, I approached the head scientist of the game and confessed that I would like to build the battleship... but I wanted to first create Iron Man suites for everyone of the scientists in the hopes of creating a peacekeeping task force that would police the world separate from the bureaucracy and politics of the rest of the game. Oh, and I wanted to have a remote self destruct system in place as well. Just in case.

My game long personal goal became all consuming. The turns rolled on by, I was aware that their were giant monsters emerging from the sea, but all that meant to me was the potential to harvest the next piece needed in my suit. I nearly forgot entirely about the battle ship my team insisted I build. They asked how it was going, I told them I needed red mercury. Which I DID need red mercury, just not for the battleship. Turn by turn I allowed my plan to seep out into the scientific community. Russia and Germany seemed concerned at first, but ultimately everyone got on board. I was aware that some were probably just using this new scientific alliance to push their own research to their end goal, but that was fine, I was getting all the resources necessary, and oddly enough most of our governments seemed unaware when we announced our worldwide scientific alliance. We stood for peace and anti-nuclear warfare almost simultaneously with London getting Nuked by America (something I found out after the game, as I assumed it was France. Seriously, this Iron Man thing gave me tunnel vision). Also I gave some phony tech to my government telling them to do something with it as it was useless to us. They sold it to Brazil, who in turn assassinated Ryan. Brazil then came within a hairs-length away from being nuked into oblivion.

I only wish I could have seen the look on our collective faces when control informed us that we were now a new nation, taking over India. We were dumbfounded, this wasn't in the plan, we were supposed to keep peace from the comfort of our own nation. Instead I was instated as the president of this new scientific nation, I had to assign military leaders and UN representatives. The global scientific community had pretty much vanished. There was some heavy fallout. Russia's scientist had her flag ripped right off of her back as she was disavowed, Japan's Prime Minister showed up and demanded money from all the research we had "stolen". Other nations were forced to send their presidents to the labs to try to finish up research, while we had suddenly become the wealthiest and most technologically advanced power on the face of the earth. And once half the nations started surrendering their Nukes to us, we became the most heavily armed force on earth as well. At some point China jumped ship, which was fine and probably for the best. I had informed Control that I wanted to activate the kill switches on the suites and return all the tech to the UK. My plan was to murder the people I had spent the entire game gaining their trust. Luckily for them it didn't work out. I managed to sabotage our giant force field we had placed over India, which allowed a giant monster to attack and kill a few million people, but no real harm was done. The aliens, which had been on my back-burner all game showed up and told us to disarm our Nukes. "Ok" we agreed. After-which I almost immediately went to control and asked if I was able to activate the three we had for a full scale attack. I was not able to, as I was not in control of the military. 

Oh, and it just so happened that my line of research worked out to also build the UK the spaceship I was supposed to be working on all game. They got it just in time to do battle with some giant Kaijus and then took off into the stars... leaving a power vacuum in the UK that I gladly filled. I left India in the capable hands of my peers and was crowned the King of England. My people were happy, I had a massive amount of tech and a Nuclear wasteland to rule over.

This game was like a complete separatist mission for me. I didn't intend it to be that way originally, but ias things started moving in that direction my efforts became largely diplomatic. I didn't have the research I needed for my plan to come to fruition, so the more I bribed and buddied up with people the easier my goals were to accomplish. As a team, I think we did quite well. The UK managed to build their end game spaceship, I didn't accompany them to the stars, but they left my country in good shape, the Queen lived on (in the battleship) and aside from that little tiff with Brazil, I think our future was secured...as long as China's shady business stops.

This is just my side of what happened that day. For Ryan's take as the Prime Minister (and then as the deputy head of state after his assassination) click here. For Andy's take on being the military leader click here. And if you ever have a chance to play one of these MegaGames...Don't hesitate. They're an absolute blast. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Robison Christmas Card 2015



Alright, Christmas letter. It’s like after 4 ½ years of marriage we’re
finally, officially a family. We have a condo, steady jobs and even produced offspring. However all of that is superfluous nonsense to a family that has an annual Christmas letter. So here we are, The Robison clan (Washington chapter) is finally throwing our collective hats into the holly-decked ring.
I (Daniel) started a new job at Lynden Door. I am now now the primary customer service representative for the mid-west. This is a truly interesting development as I frequently forget that Nebraska is a state. Shannon and I also dealt with the coming reality that our worlds were going to change due to the fact that Shannon’s weight gain was attributed not to her unusual craving for broccoli and red meat, but because she had a bun in the oven. While she diligently fought off morning sickness she continued to nail her job at the bank. When she got back from maternity leave they offered her a promotion. I’m half tempted to quit my job and let her support me while I pursue my rap career.
We knew that the child would most likely be born via C-section, what we didn’t bank on was it happening 6 weeks early. So our little guy, Bruce Wayne Robison, was born May 20th 2015. Everything after that date has been a soft focused blend of time and events. We have decided it’s just easier to be recluses. So if you feel like we’ve been ignoring you please understand that isn’t the case, we simply dedicated our entire being to our new infantile dictator. He’s very particular about his soy and dairy free preferences.
In all seriousness we are beyond blessed at the bountiful, undeserved blessings that the God has given us. For the first time in a few years I was able to see my entire side of the family at the wedding of my sister. Then a second time, a month later at the wedding of my brother. The Dutch Visser side of our family continues to be an enormous source of blessings and encouragement. Little Bruce has lit up our world (in a good way, not like an arsonist). He is determined to walk, which is difficult because he has yet to master sitting.
It’s at this time we remember what Christmas is about. The God of the universe loved humanity to the point of sending his only son to offer a message of hope to the world. That baby went on to be the only one that was capable of paying the cost of our sin so that we have the opportunity to spend eternity with him. Shannon and I separately made the decision to follow the one whose birth we celebrate this time of year. Since then we have never been short on hope. Our prayer is that you, if you have not already, would be able to experience that same hope.

Merry Christmas!


The Robison Family


Monday, October 26, 2015

I Burned While I Watched The Skies

Left to Right
Foreign Minister, Head Scientist, Military Commander, Prime Minister

I am the ambassador to the cosmos. Or at least, I would have been had everything gone according to plan. Then again, one can never fully rely on plans when dealing with the political intrigue of the competing nations of earth, add to that three factions of Buddhist-like hivemind aliens working against you and really, everything is left to the roll of a dice, figuratively and literally.
This weekend I had the privilege of playing Bellingham MegaGame’s inaugural run with “Watch the Skies”. Essentially what this game boiled down to whas a simulation in which various nations were faced not only with the international tension of world politics, but with the impending threat of an alien presence descending from the skies. Practically what this meant is that teams of four (ideally) acted as The Prime Minister (or President), Military Commander, Head Scientist and Foreign Minister. Each team was assigned a nation to represent, and it was my pleasure to act as the Foreign Minister of Japan.
The turns consisted of two phases. In the first phase, teams would be separated into a series of mini-game sessions. The second phase had all the team members rush back to their countries (a table on the edge if a large room) to share information and ideas with the rest if the team. Scientists researched technology. Military Commanders allocated troops and resources to a large map where they duked it out with aliens or spied on other nations. The Prime Ministers divided up resources and directed the other members of their team. Finally, the Foreign Ministers dealt with a variety of world crises and tried to sway the actions of other nations to their cause within the security  council of the UN. My narrative takes place through this lens. For a glimpse into some of the other roles read the write ups from our Scientist and our Prime Minister.
As a team, Japan had gone into the game with the goal of creating giant mech robots. To what end we weren’t sure, and, granted, it was a little short sighted, but it was something. It’s absolutely vital to go into this type of game with an idea, and by, golly we had one. Accomplishing this goal was a matter of discussing our plan with one of the many, talented game controllers. This was really a story based game, and they did a fantastic job of facilitating every aspect of every hair-brained idea that was thrown at them.
So, some discussion began with almost no idea what to expect, and then I was off and running to my first UN session. Out of the six nations present I was one of two that did not have Veto power, Brazil being the other. From the get-go the other teams were coming in hot. We were presented with a famine in Uganda to deal with and the two pre-eminent ideas were from Russia and the UK. Russia said let them starve, and the UK said sell them food for alien tech. Ultimately we decided to set up a refugee camp, while Brazil and Japan opted to take refugees back to our respective countries. As we were about to head out the UK Representative also asked us each for a sample of blood… this was disconcerting to everyone, except for Brazil who was kind of freaked out by it, but didn’t want to cause any waves. The idea was that the UK was developing a test to find out who were aliens hidden amongst us. Still I thought it was coming on pretty strong, and I wasn't about to agree to something this bizarre this early on. So, heading back to our respective tables, we discussed. Our Prime Minister was delighted that we had received refugees, as we were wanting to find the best and brightest high school students in the world to pilot our “Project Gundam” (which was almost called “Project Pacific Rim II).
He can't come in here, He'll see the big board!

Over the course of the next few rounds, we almost lost the entire continent of Africa. The famine spread, the warlords took over refugee camps and then Angola and South Africa pointed nukes at each other for good measure. Japan and Brazil swiftly disarmed the two countries while Russia, secured the oil fields in Uganda.
The greatest part about these sessions in the scope of the game was the nuggets of information that were dropped. Russia let loose that there were at least four factions of aliens, which, upon learning that tid-bit of information, took all the composure I had not to start hyperventilating. Sure we were dealing with things the “didn’t matter” (which actually really did, very much so) but it was like on big espionage room. Everyone’s phones were constantly buzzing with information being sent to them from teammates in other areas of the game. A particular highlight was when I learned of the assassination of the American President. I offered my condolences to the representative and he brushed it off, not knowing what I was talking about. As the turn progressed, other nations glanced at their phones and quickly turned their heads toward the American in the room. He was probably the last to find out.
Eventually after throwing enough resources at the problem, the famine and blight that plagued Africa subsided just in time for us to start dealing with the aliens directly. We invited a representative from each faction to visit us, three of the four accepted. The story went that the three factions that had shown up were peaceful while the fourth faction that did not show up was violent. Seemed pretty straightforward, except that Russia, our closest ally in the game was adamant about it being the other way around.
It wasn’t long until the UK Representative announced that he had stealthily stolen everyone's DNA and was going to test it to see who was an alien. No one was pleased with this development, so we leaked to the newspaper that they were working on a cloning program to thicken the distrust in the brits. This was unnecessary, no one trusted them. I still don’t know who actually nuked China, but the UK was certainly blamed, despite it most likely not actually being them. It was particularly delightful to watch the collective faces in the room as the UK announced in front of everyone a list of people the assumed were aliens. They were like mad geniuses at getting everyone to loathe their country. They even convinced one of the three “good” alien factions to call themselves the Elizabethans. It didn’t take much longer for me to convince some of the other nations to boot the UK from a permanent seat on the commity and replace the seat with Japan. Veto power at last!
What eventually became clear was this: there were,  two warring aliens (one consisted of three groups, but that’s confusing). One group was trying to eradicate the other from earth. They had come to earth with the sole purpose of destroying this other group that had landed and interbred thousands of years ago. Imagine my shock in turn 11 when I express my concern over which faction to back and our Scientists drops this: “Cards on the table, I’m an alien” Our military leader and myself stared at him. “I am...also an alien.” Our Prime Minister chimed in. We stood for a second, our Scientist wondering if we would attempt to kill him. “ok, we know which faction to back then.” That was that, we were going to try to help these other aliens escape earth before the Elizabethans and their motley bunch of human friends gunned them down.
They walk among us

This became hopeful when we successfully completed our Gundam program. We announced to the world that, although Japan was not a nuclear power, we had giant robots now that we had handed over to emotionally damaged teenagers to pilot. The idea was to use these bad boys to protect the mothership if it ran into any trouble as it left earth. Easy peasy. I went into the final UN meeting with the idea that we had our plan in the bag and I would use my newly acquired veto power to shoot everything down, just for fun. Then I got distracted by ideas of grandeur and things kind of went haywire. To hedge our bets, China suggested we send a man a woman and a DNA bank of all living things on earth with the ship that was attempting to escape. Should earth be destroyed by the Elizabethans for having not stopped “faction 4” from escaping, we would at least have a way for the human race to live on in the cosmos. If the ship was shot down, we lost two people. I was going to Veto the whole thing unless my condition was met “I want to be the man on the ship.” No one seemed to care all that much, so I climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies. Unfortunately we didn’t get very far off the ground. We quickly voted on the plan, and one of the controllers ran in telling us that there was a large battle going on and we had better come witness it. I walked out to a large group of people surrounding the battle map. Our Prime Minister, who along with our Scientist had decided to stay on earth, stood there solemnly. Our Gundams had been sabotaged and were useless, almost every nation and alien faction was attacking the spaceship. “It doesn’t look good” he said. “I’m on that ship!” I exclaimed much to his surprise. Those of us aboard the ship were asked to step forward. It was myself, the American President (who had been cloned or something, I’m not really sure how she was back) and the Russian President, who was the only alien player that had opted to leave earth. We watched as our hope went up in flames. I was the ambassador of ash and fire, not the cosmos.
In the end, Japan did just fine. We had a strong economy, and were the most technologically advanced country in the world. But the real surprise was Brazil, who had been on everyone’s good side. They were playing the long con and spent their time stealing resources and uniting all of South America.

The game was an absolute blast, it was exhausting, fast paced and all day long. The enjoyment of the game really stems from the creativity of the players, and there was just so much going on that it never felt dull. Having constant contact with your team was incredible. I was receiving real time information about insane things that were happening all while arguing about sending troops into Uganda. While the scale of the game and the open-endedness might sound like a problem, the way everything was handled made for a smooth and thrilling ride that I would play again anytime, and hopefully will soon.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Humiliation at the Hands of Musical Theater

Picture Unrelated

Musical theater is dead, continuing only to exists in order to haunt and mock the living art form that is musical cinema. Like the The Shining, Poltergeist and Beetlejuice, this shell of a an entertainment avenue serves to delude the minds of those that encounter it. While at first glance the theater is enticing, like a Jamaican lottery scam, it’s only after you offer yourself to it that you are rejected, mocked and given over to abject humiliation. Oh, certainly there are those that serve the cult of live drama. They feed off of the naivety of the general public, proclaiming that local theater is “good for the community” and a “perpetrator for the arts”. Their lies are sweet and their thieving ways steal not earthly valuables but dignity and precious time.
I’ll be the first to admit that my above hypothesis is ironic. For someone that claims to loathe the dramatic art of musical theater, I am over acting more than Brendan Fraser in *insert anything he’s ever been in here*. I, as the above may suggest, have been humiliated by false visions of grandeur stemming from a local musical production. There are exactly two musicals that are capable of causing me to forget myself. I love them so much, that if an opportunity were to present itself, I would consider the unfathomable: auditioning. And so it was, when I heard that Little Shop of Horrors was being produced at the small theater in town, the wheels began to turn. That evil voice began to whisper sweet lies into my ear “maybe you’re not tone deaf anymore”.
I first presented the idea of auditioning to my wife. She was supportive, but more honest about my singing ability than anyone else would be. Having survived a number of road trips with me either riding shot-gun or driving, she was the foremost authority on my singing abilities. “No” I thought. “Was she there at that Japanese Karaoke house when I sang Lola? She was not! She doesn’t know what I’m capable of”. If only I had listened, I would have realized she knew precisely what I was capable of. Yet, she stuck by me. My co-workers, however were worse. exclamations of what a good idea it was bombarded me from anyone that heard that there was even an inkling of possibility. When I was still hesitant the bribes started coming. All said and done, when I agreed that I would make a fantastic Seymour Krelborn, I had come out with 2 bags of hot cheetos and some australian soft licorice.
With my intentions set, I let Shannon know I meant business. The singing portion of the audition was to last 30 seconds. That didn’t sounds so bad. Sure it was 30 seconds without accompaniment. 30 seconds in front of people that lived for musical theater. 30 seconds on a stage, With the closest thing to a tune I had carried in my life being a small portion of a grand piano, and even that was difficult. So, I practiced. My wife listened to me sing 30 seconds of Build me up Buttercup dozens upon dozens of times. She was obviously concerned for my dignity, because normally she doesn’t take much interest when I get these hairbrained ideas. This time, however she critiqued and encouraged, she sat on the couch and listened to what could have easily been equated to a flock of bloated penguins playing frogger with a steam roller. That voice though, not mine, but the devious little liar. It kept on whispering to me. “You love Little Shop” it hissed, sounding famished, ravenous. “You need this. We need this. I NEED THIS. Feed me, Daniel!”. Was I sounding better? I was. I was finally getting it! I was Clem Curtis, lead singer of The Foundations re-incarnated. That is if Clem Curtis had died, of course. With a sigh, Shannon wished me luck as I stepped out our front door and into my destiny.
Arriving at the Claire VG Theater in Downtown Lynden, I had my picture taken and wrote down the roles I was auditioning for. No chorus line for me, no sir. I was going big or taking my talents elsewhere. First choice: “Seymour Krelborn”. As I entered the theater, I was instructed that first singing auditions would be held then we would need to stay for the remainder, that would have some read throughs and other activities. My heart was pounding. I have a hard time not panicking when standing in front of crowds let alone SINGING in front of them. And let me tell you, as someone that spent his entire K through High School career homeschooled, I was not socially accustomed to people that do theater all the time… for fun. I mean, good on these people for loving their craft so much, but it was apparent that I was outclassed and out of my element. And when I get outclassed or nervous, I start to find things funny. And people warming up their voices is funny. I soon found out there was a very good reasoning behind such exercises.
I shuffled in and said hello to the one person that I knew there. I sat down shortly before the first person was called up to sing their bit, and I honestly don’t know how they did because I was dreading getting on that stage, there were Phantoms in places like this that killed you if you were a bad enough singer and shamed their theater… aren’t there? It wasn’t until that moment that I truly realized what an egregious error I had made. That inner voice that boosted me with the intoxicating idea of stardom was now shrieking in laughter like some kind of sick, sentient hyena. Like Ariel, I had lost my voice and the villainous wretch was loving it. I calmed myself. I was one of the last people to show up to the audition so I would have time to mentally prepare myself. Even if it was done alphabetically by last name, Robison was a safe bet for later on. The first person sat down to enthusiastic claps and cheers. Good, ok, starting to calm down. “Daniel Robinson” close call, my name is-“no, sorry, Robison. No N in the middle”. I’ve never been smacked upside the face with a regulation slowpitch softball bat, but I imagine if I had I might see a brilliant, blinding flash of off-white before my vision returns to a small tunnel of it what it should be. That’s kind of what happened when I heard my name. I was called to go second. There was no logical reason for me to go second, it was against all reason. I later found out that a lack of reason and sense is a trait the theater folk pride themselves on.
Physically, I’ve learned to mask the majority of my emotions. The exceptions being grief, fear, pain, joy and disgust. Vocally, however, I quickly learned I have little control. As I ascended to the stage, it felt as if I had been munching on a bag of dry cement dust just moments before. I could barely breath, let alone sing. Yet, I prevailed, knowing that if I didn’t complete what I had set out to do that I may very well lose the package of licorice sitting in a drawer at work. I wasn’t about to risk that. So I sang. Or rather, I began to until the warbles kicked in. It was like I was a cartoon character trying to vocalize while underwater and the sound comes out popping like bubbles. But that wasn’t nearly as bad as when my voice just said “screw it, I’m out” and left the stage before I did. That’s right, after what felt to be about seven hours into my 30 seconds, my voice and all the air in my lungs took off. I stood there, mouth opening and closing like a dying fish sitting at the bottom of a boat waiting to be clunked over the head so as to be easier to filet before being smoked for dinner. And then, when I finally surrendered myself to the fact that the sound wasn’t coming back on and no one was going to unmute me, I stopped moving my mouth and stood there. I composed myself and said something I’ll never forgive myself for. “I’ve uh…. never sung in front of a crowd.” I made an excuse for myself, and it was an abysmal one. But that wasn’t the worst of it. After I whimpered out my pathetic apology for what was about as good a performance as my 1st grade church Christmas Pageant with less cute little kids and more awkward grown man; they began to clap. Loudly. Each slap of their palm was like a strike to my face. Every clap caused my cheeks to flush a little more crimson. I’m certain no mal-intent was present, but boy, when you screw up it’s not like Cool Runnings where you feel good for finishing. I returned to my seat, laughing in embarrassment, realizing I had better just buckle down and enjoy the rest of the audition because they asked us not to leave.
Thankfully, after many auditions I felt I could relax a little. I was called to read some lines and that was actually quite enjoyable. Mostly because it had nothing to do with music. But then, sitting down again I heard something that indicated the audition was not quite over yet. “Alright, we’re going to do some choreography now”. Despite what three, maybe four people at my brothers wedding this summer will tell you, I have no sense of rhythm. That’s putting it mildly, I hardly have control over my body, let alone enough control to make it react appropriately to music. But I danced, or rather flailed. I spun the wrong way, I was stiff as a board and I just about fell off the stage. I was laughing all the way out the door, but it wasn’t like the good kind of laughing. It was the kind of laughing when you’re being tickled just slightly more than you’re being hurt and you’re really quite uncomfortable. I learned many valuable lessons that evening. First I was never to audition for a musical again. Second was that musical theater was not thriving, it wasn’t even dying, in my mind it was absolutely dead. NIt had not perished due to the lack of talent for those involved with the production, on the contrary they were all quite impressive. It is deceased in my mind due to my own personal vendetta against it for luring me in, deceiving me and spitting in my eye. It will not happen again… Unless my greatest fear comes to fruition and an open casting call for The Pirates of Penzance is announced.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bruce Wayne Robison






The funny thing about May 20 is that it isn’t really all that close to June 29. As obvious of a statement as that is, when it comes to due dates in regards to when your first child should be born, it becomes a pretty glaring and important difference. The following is a, relatively, brief description of the day nearly six weeks before Bruce’s projected arrival.
I had just started a new position at Lynden Door a mere four months prior. I settled in for a day fighting the eternally blazing fires of the customer service industry. Having worked the previous few years at a medical imaging facility, I say with absolutely no sarcasm that the general population reacts to a diagnosis of diverticulitis better than to the news that their doors will arrive a week later than expected. As I fended off the lions I was receiving occasional texts from Shannon that day. She nonchalantly informed me that she was taking a break from work to go to the doctor, but it was nothing to get concerned over. So, naturally I concerned myself over it, but not to the detriment of cancelling my plans to meet with a co-worker for a friendly game of “Small World” after work. Another text informed me that the doctor wanted to run some tests, just to be safe. It was at this point that I considered cancelling my game night so I could spend time with my, obviously emotional wife. The poor frail dear. I shot an instant message over to my friend informing him that Shannon had gone to the doctor, and it wasn’t anything serious but I should probably spend the evening with her. He must have seriously questioned what my definition of serious was after what happened next. “They think my water broke”. Poor Shannon, in her obviously frightened state she must have mis-typed that last text. I replied with something along the lines of “what?! Where are you?! Are you ok? where do I need to go?!!! I love you, What’s going on?!” keeping it cool so as not to alarm her any more than necessary.
As Shannon spilled the details of where I was to meet her I stood and turned to my supervisor. I’m certain everyone in the office was considering the possibility that a mystical board game that causes the dangers of the deepest darkest jungles to spring to life was announcing it’s presence with the furious pounding of native drums. Fortunately for all involved (except perhaps Alan Parish) it was just my heart trying to race to the hospital faster than the rest of my body, but it kept crashing into my pesky rib-cage. “Oh, hey Marissa” I began “I need to go, they think my wife’s water just broke”. I was immediately chased out of the office with questions of “Why are you still here?! following me. I jogged through the warehouse to the back parking lot, narrowly avoiding being crushed by a flock of forklifts. I entered my car and began my half hour drive to the hospital.
I had absolutely no intention of going all Steve Martin in The Father of the Bride Part II, I knew I had to calm down, if I tried to speed along the two-lane highway to the hospital I would end up dead in the ditch or pulled over, neither of which would have been very productive. I grabbed my phone, taking crucial seconds to select a playlist that I hoped would be somewhere between drive-faster-than-you-ever-have-in-your-life and this-music-is-unrealistically-slow-and-isn’t-going-to-do-anything-KEEP-DRIVING-FASTER. I settled on a spotify playlist with medium-upbeat tempo entitled “Bumpit”. It wasn’t working, with no warning my right foot had become the heaviest part of my body. Then “Love is a Stranger” by Eurythmics  began to play and everything cleared. As I raced along at 5 MPH over the entire trip, I simply kept that song on repeat, an anthem that kept my heart racing, but allowed my body and mind to respond to the stress. Poor Shannon, in her frail condition, receiving this news so early must have broken her.
I burst into the birthing center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham with ears ringing from a full 30 minutes of 80s pop synthesizer blaring into my eardrums through the stock speakers of my 96 Buick Regal. “Shannon Robison” I breathed to the receptionist who was no doubt accustomed to the shadows of terror that flashed across my face. I was given a room number, which may as well have been some sort of secret clue as I entered the labyrinth behind the security doors. After asking three nurses and solving a riddle asked by a sphinx, I entered the room where my wife sat, half in a hospital robe and half in work clothes. She was obviously in a state of shock, it was visible even through the facade of calm she had shrouded herself in. I again asked every question that came to mind in rapid succession, to which she simply informed me “They’re going to do a test, if it’s positive we’re going to be having a baby today.” Her nerves betrayed her, so to make her feel more at ease with her emotions I made myself shake like a leaf and began wringing my hands.
A nurse came in to administer said test, then told us to sit tight for 20 minutes while we waited for the results. Shannon spoke calmly and matter-of-factly about the events leading up to this point, I listened with Eurythmix still playing on repeat in my head.
“Alright, you’re going to be having a baby today” was how we were greeted by the nurse after that 20 minute eternity. How can she be so calm?! Can’t she see everything is going to change?! and a month early! They left us again for some sadistically inconceivable reason. So we sat there, she called her parents and I called mine. I remember telling my mom what was going on. She cursed me for a liar and nearly hung up the phone. Apparently I’ve joked about this situation before. “Shannon’s having the baby today” it was the first time I really comprehended the situation as a whole, and so as to let Shannon know it was absolutely fine for her to do so, I teared up a little… just for her sake. She declined the invitation. We were ushered into a small room, where we were informed that Bruce would be born via C-Section, something we had known was probable for a couple of months now anyway. We had about six hours before his birth, so we settled in. While the doctors and nurses went over the preliminary information and prepared us for what to expect, I sat there thinking two things 1) I can’t believe this is happening so quickly and 2) Love is a stranger in an open car to tempt you in and drive you far away .
The rest of day happened in some weird time vortex that combined slow motion and fast forward. I ran home to get supplies for a few days stay at the hospital for Shannon and I. I went to the comic book store, because I thought it very important to buy a new batman shirt to wear into the Operating Room. Then I was nearly late for the C-section because doggone it, I was hungry and nervous and needed some McDonald's. I don’t smoke, but when I get nervous I can eat McDoubles. A lot of them. So I did. I walked back into the birthing center with about 15 pieces of gum in my mouth to mask the stench of processed american cheese and fried beef.
As they prepared Shannon, they informed me that while she was getting set up, I would wait in the hallway and then be brought in for the surgery which would take maybe 15 minutes. Shannon had no labor pain, she went in calm, it was surreal, absolutely nothing like the movies which I had relied so heavily on for my education on such a subject matter. The Doctors wheeled Shannon in and I sat on a bench for what they tell me was 15 minutes. Despite what they and the clock said I stand by my opinion that they lied. I sat there in a blue paper gown, Batman shirt showing through the thin material, a plum colored camera hanging from my neck, waiting forever. alone. The silence was absolutely deafening, the gravity of the situation called for something of note to be done, so I checked into the hospital on Facebook. Then the doors opened, I was ushered into a bright room with a lot of people in gowns running around, I was told to sit in a stool by Shannon’s head. “Distract me” she said. So, doing the best that I could, I talked to her about doors, which is not a terribly exciting topic, I suppose, but it’s something when you’re trying to distract yourself from the fact that someone has just cut you open and is trying to pull a living being out of you like some twisted magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Shannon is a terrific listener when she’s having a C-section. at 9:23, they held up a bluish-gray little human that was desperately trying to cry but no sound was made. they assured us that he was just fine. they took the little person over to a table and we suddenly heard the shrill, loud cry of a newborn infant. Again, I wanted Shannon to feel comfortable, so I forced a few tears out. Bruce Wayne Robison had exited Shannon’s body and had entered, full time into our world.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Samuel


Another month another sibling getting married. That seems to be the Robison way as of late. With the successful familial transfer of my sister having taken place last month, I now prepare to be arguably the second most important person in the my brother Sam's wedding: one of like 15 groomsmen.
   
It's going to be a beautiful ceremony, I hear August in the middle of the desert is the perfect season and location for an outdoor afternoon wedding.  Ah, Hemet California, where dreams dreams of moving out of Hemet are born. I warn all those that might be in attendance that my pants will not match the rest of the groomsmen, as the 16 year old working at Forever 21 informed me that they would have to send someone into the basement to see if they had one size under what I actually wear. It took all of 20 seconds in the plus size sections changing room to determine that I would have to purchase my blue chinos elsewhere, namely Costco. In my defense, the plus size section of Forever 21 is primarily for people that eat on a regular basis, and as I have a slight fondness for not being hungry, I was the ideal candidate. But this isn't about me, it's about Sam, and his bride. I will, as far as I know, not be giving a toast at the wedding. For this reason I am branching out to my personal blog, where my mother and a complete stranger from the Netherlands will reminisce with me.

Samuel was the first at home birth in our family. He began the glorious tradition of having movie nights at the neighbors and coming home to a new sibling. Sam was the first little brother I had, and Julie and I wasted no time in using him for the scape-goat tendencies that he was born for. As he grew we quickly learned that he had this inner fire that burned when provoked; and he provoked easily. He was the closest thing to The Incredible Hulk the Robison clan had. If one was capable of making him angry enough, he would charge at you in a blind rage, to the detriment of both his head and whatever piece of furniture you happened to be standing behind should you be quick enough to move out of the way. The memories of playing "bull fighting" with the new little brother are fond ones. A Doctor once confirmed that red dye# 40 acted as a catalyst to his hyperactivity The bull fights could commence on a whole new level now that we had a mixture of allergic reaction, competitiveness and pure, unadulterated rage at our command. It was an odd personality trait for the individual that played the part of Baby Jesus in our home Christmas Pageant just years before.

All that to say, he learned to contain that rage. I laughed about it, probably a lot more than I should have, because he operated on a level of frustration that I simply couldn't comprehend. So, when he learned to control that, over time with both my mother and the Lord's help, I gained an admiration of him that has stuck with me to this day. Samuel is competitive and generally good at what he competes at. While a lot of that is natural talent, more of it is something that's even more admirable; hard work and determination. Those qualities mixed with a complete and utter reliance on Jesus Christ are a more than decent starting place for his marriage, at least on his end. The other half of this union is Jocelyn, a woman that professes to love Samuel, but more so loves Jesus. The elements are all there for a lasting and powerful marriage that can, and I believe will be, used to further the kingdom of heaven.

So if Sam is The Incredible Hulk, then I guess Jocelyn is his Black Widow... Assuming I'm interpreting the relationship right based on the vaguety of that Age of Ultron sub-plot.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Julie



My younger sister Julie is the kind of person that would have been an entertaining side character for a mid 90s family sit-com. As she aged in life, so she would have aged in the seasons, with her role in the show primarily remaining the same. She would have memorable catch-phrases that would change every two seasons or so and would often find herself in the emergency room due to some of the most absurd circumstances that any writer could cook up. She is not, however, a character in a mid 90s sit-com. She is a sister and a friend. I am proud of her and the woman she is and is becoming and to show that I’m going to tell an embarrassing anecdote or two about her. I am doing this primarily because I am not her best man, and thus will have no formal platform to humiliate her on her upcoming wedding day. My love for her takes a strange form.

On May 15th 1990 the world was graced with the presence of one of a million other screaming pink little infants. The one in question was born the 5th child of the Robison household in southern California. Julie and I share a unique situation in the, being born 4th and 5th in a family of 8 kids, we did whatever it took to get the most attention from my parents. It was a skill that, although I had a little over a year headstart on her, she mastered far better than I could, primarily by removing all of her clothes and singing along to children's Bible songs with more gusto than Pablo Pavarotti.

It was a tough game, vying for attention in a house filled to the rafters. But I just didn’t have it in me to compete with a person that would do the type of stuff Julie did. The medical bills alone would have turned more heads than any sort of dumb dress-wearing shenanigans I would ever pull. Swallowing pennies, cartwheeling down a cement staircase, breaking her arm on three separate occasions. I was desperate but not THAT desperate. I remember she once, at the age of three walked out of the bathroom and proudly displayed the fact that she had found Dad’s razor and managed to cleanly shave off one of her eyebrows. She was dedicated to the cause, and was a master at her craft.

My personal favorite near-catastrophe involving Julie took place one evening when our family was enjoying the tide-pools at a local beach. And when I say enjoying I the children were probably having a grand time while my parents wondered at their short-sighted decision to bring 5 children to the the ocean in the hopes that the van would remain sand and water free on the way home. Julie, in an attempt to fend off the mind-dulling boredom associated with rumbling waves, pools of sea-life and something we had dubbed “wave-racing” found a more enticing pass time; crawling between a very tight space between two large boulders resting in the sand. After multiple successes she decided to give it one last go before we left, however this attempt differed from the others in that she was had donned a button up coat. Wriggling she managed to get her head through the small hole. Her finite 4 year-old wisdom failed her at this point as she had failed to factor in the thickness of her coat. She politely requested the attention of my parents, who I am sure were attempting to prevent David from tossing me into the ocean, by screaming for help. This drew plenty of attention, which is probably exactly what she had hoped for. Like I said, she was pretty good at that. Frantically my father began digging and pulling at her to free her, but to no avail. She was stuck between tighter than a fat man in a school desk. There was a helpful lifeguard who ran up to inform us that the tide would be rising above her head in ten minutes though, so that was nice.

A crowd gathered to observe the panicking man, his wife and 4 of his children as they failed in every attempt to free the little girl whose jacket was hopelessly caught on the craggy edge of a boulder in the sand. Thankfully, and this is one of the more surreal things that I’ve observed in life, a homeless man showed up wielding a knife. Digging in the sand, he pinpointed the exact spot on the jacket that was keeping Julie entrapped and cut it loose. I remember thinking that on top of everything that would happen, Julie had lucked out and would probably get a brand new jacket.

To say Julie has had a life already full of interesting stories is an understatement, and I’ve been lucky enough to be by her side for some of the earlier ones. She has matured into a woman that honestly seeks to pursue the single thing worth pursuing in this life; furthering the kingdom of God. She has found a partner to share that goal with, and my prayer for her and my soon-to-be brother in law is that they go after that cause doggedly, with more passion than Julie displayed the time she destroyed her knee in a dance off against a Romanian orphan. Julie has been given an abundant gift from God. She has been blessed with an abundance of talent and an overflowing fountain of personality.

Julie, use those gifts for the purpose they were intended. I really wanted to share that one story in particular about how God has changed you over the years, you know, the one you told me I could never tell? with the birthday card? You know what? If I ever get into stand up comedy, which probably won’t ever happen, but I reserve the right to tell that story.