I recently completed a series of interactive fiction games (and the graphic novels they inspired) called “Life is Strange.” Each game in the series features a character with some supernatural ability. The most recent game, “True Colors,” features an empath as the lead character. She is someone who has never really had a home. She was separated from her older brother in the foster care system, but her brother finds her (as an adult) and invites her to live with him. Anyway, there is this line that he says to his sister, and it really is the central theme of the game, but I think it also fits in with what you have been writing about recently: “Home isn’t something you find, it’s something you build.” I kind of think of home that way. Even though I have lived in the same city all but two years (less than two actually) of my life, it isn’t necessarily where I wanted to be. I wanted to stay close to family, but by choosing to be here, I passed up a lot of other opportunities. Instead of being miserable or feeling trapped here, I decided that if I wanted things to change, I had to get involved with building the kind of community I wanted to be a part of. I was very involved in a lot of different projects when I was healthier, and remain involved in some of the ones that matter most to me now. I have this bracelet made from wooden beads that I got from the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, and there is a message printed in Kanji on it. The translation of the message is: “ make where you are where you want to be.” I know that doesn’t work for all people in all places, but it is the way I have lived for awhile now. Will often remarks that even though he is a transplant to Wisconsin from California, he has lived in this house longer than anywhere else, and this is more of a home to him than anywhere else has ever been. He lived in several different cities in Northern California before moving here. It hasn’t been all rosy; I have apologized to him for how some people here have treated him. I still get very frustrated with people here and the place itself. I call Wisconsin Rapids “Crapids” because I get frustrated with things. There have been a lot of things that have gotten better, but sometimes there will be a loss in progression. Even though this place is more diverse than it used to be, there are still so many narrow-minded people. I have visited a number of cities that I thought would be so much better, but found the same problems. It only ever gets better for me when I can help address those problems and build something. It isn’t that I have my name on anything per se, but there are a number of community projects that I can point to and say, I was part of that. Same with Will. Some are things we started, others are things we help out with now and then. We have been involved in developing sustainability strategies for projects that would have died without our intervention. Those have been some of the bigger undertakings. We were the life support. No one remembers the people who function to keep a program going during a period of transition. We fade into the background, but that is okay. We are support beams in a structure; overlooked but vital. My favorite quote of all time is from Futurama, and I based my whole AmeriCorps service years on it, even though few fellow AmeriCorps volunteers got it: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” It sounds counterintuitive in a way, but I think it is spot on. I traverse this fine line between leaving no trace and establishing a legacy. Having a positive impact isn’t so cut and dry. I used to think the best thing I could do is to embrace Jainism as much as possible, and while I have great admiration for the philosophy, practice is beyond difficult and perhaps somewhat impractical, or at least for someone who is as much a force of disruption as I can be. I was at a workshop a few years back where someone said, “we are not so much Earthlings as we are placelings.” There is this whole realm of communication study dealing with place that I have delved into quite a bit over the past two decades, but I always come back to this notion of utility; maybe it is that old saying, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” That notion goes past the constructs of relationships and gets down to purpose. Maybe that is the ultimate home we build for ourselves, but if that is the case, it can be a tall order indeed.

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Your game and graphic novels sound so cool. Are you going to try to get them published or put them online somewhere?

It never occurred to me that anyone who is "home" would feel like they needed to change it to make it feel more like home. In a way, what you did is way braver than traveling around looking for a place that suits you.

Working to improve something without payment or recognition sounds like a huge exercise in egolessness. It's always the people doing the thankless work that no one sees, but everybody needs that keep communities from falling apart.

"Crapids" is far less crappy because of you. Somebody should do a podcast on the town and your relationship with it.

I've always admired your willingness to get involved and be the change you want to see. So many people sit back and complain, but how many actually do something about it?

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I didn’t create the game and graphic novels; when I said “completed” I just meant that I played/read :) I highly recommend them.

I do have a story that I am working on for a graphic novel though, but it is more supernatural than “Life is Strange.” It’s about a man who sells his soul to win the love of a lounge singer who is actually a witch. The crossroads demon comes to collect 20 years later, per the contract, but there is a way out, that involves the witch proving she would have fallen in love with the twerpy traveling salesman she married even if there was no deal. Their son, who is actually a powerful demon in his own right, is able to facilitate time travel, so the story is about that. It is based on a dream I had. I call it, “For the Love of a Bad Woman,” as a sort of homage to one of Will’s favorite quotes from George Burns. But it will likely be a couple years before I have anything completed on it. I have too many other things to finish first. I did work on a script for a decision tree type of game called “Walk a Mile” back when Will was taking a class on game development. Most assignments were for board games, but students could work on ideas for video games as well. The game I worked on was a social commentary where the player took on the role of a teenage girl and was faced with so much societal pressure regarding so many facets of her life. The message was a feminist one. Will and I wrote it together and I did some concept art for it. If we would have ever completed development, it would have been made available free of charge to schools and social service organizations. Thank you for all the kind words!

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