a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
19 June 2018 00:02 - Upcoming stuff 'n' things
rosefox: [blank] (dot)
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rosefox: A spark crossing a spark gap with the word "aha!". (aha!)
"It's 4 a.m. Do I want to make the spice mix for next Saturday's chicken stew?" I thought about it. "Nah, I'm too tired. I can do it tomorrow."

This felt somehow luxurious, and I was reminded that for a long time I couldn't count on being able to do something the next day. If I had the energy to do it right away, I did it right away.

When I was a kid and a teenager, I'd stay up late, the way my body clock wanted, and then I'd get up early, the way society wanted. I was pretty useless during the day. The only time my brain really worked was at night. So if I wanted to get something done, I'd better do it at nighttime while I was functional. Plus I was always running late with things, pushing deadlines or blowing past them, pulling all-nighters to make up for days of slacking or struggling.

Depression and anxiety exacerbated this. For years I had daily mood swings, from crushed and miserable in the morning to ebullient at night. Nighttime was the time for doing things. I felt alert and creative and smart. Morning was... impossible.

My intermittent physical disabilities (tendinitis, vertigo) aren't tied to circadian cycles, but they certainly amplify the calculation of "Am I functional? Then GO GO GO because who knows when I'll be functional again". And freelancing full-time made it easy to alternate between long intense work days and long exhausted crashing days, which I did on an approximately biweekly cycle. I still book my freelance contracts on that principle: "This will take me three days to do, so I'll quote nine on the theory that I should be capable of working on at least three of those nine days." I push deadlines occasionally but not nearly as much as I used to.

I've always relied on being fast and efficient enough when I can work to make up for there being a lot of time when I can't. (I refuse to bill hourly for freelance gigs, because I put in half as many hours as anyone else and do just as good a job. Flat fee or nothing.) I've put a lot of effort into training myself to work faster and faster. I use countless organizational tools to make myself more efficient. And my anxiety wires me up and drives me hard.

After I recovered from an awful bout of depression a few years ago, I took such joy in having extra energy to burn off every night. I'd bustle around the apartment, tidy, do dishes, take late walks. It was an amazing feeling. "Leftover spoons! Who knew that was possible? Is this what normal people feel like all the time?" But soon that was coopted by the certainty that the next spoon deficit was just around the corner. You can't really bank energy or awakeness or clarity of thought. You use it or lose it. And I couldn't risk losing it and then finding myself unable to replenish it later.

I'm no longer paralyzed by depression or anxiety. My body's in pretty good shape, and I haven't taken a sick day in months. My personal and professional schedules accommodate my body clock. I'm not overloaded with work. Every night I struggle to make myself turn out the light, always certain that there's one more thing I could (should) be doing, always anxious that if I don't do it now I'll have missed my chance--and then I wonder why I feel that way when my odds of being functional tomorrow are pretty high. The "now or never" voice is obviously wrong.

But it's been right most of my life. And I'm not getting any younger, so presumably something will shortly go haywire in my body or brain (or we'll have a baby) and I'll need to go back to ruthlessly using up every scrap of energy as soon as possible before it fades and can't be replenished.

This starvation mentality is awful. I recognize it--I've seen it in people who grew up without much money and in people who grew up without much love, so it's pretty easy to see that I grew up without much time--but I don't know how to get out of it.
14 September 2014 22:00 - "Fine and dandy"
rosefox: Me in men's evening dress. (boy)
"I'd love a watch fob," I told [livejournal.com profile] kythryne, "but my 'pocket watch' is my phone."

Charcoal-grey waistcoat with silver watch fob on a chain that leads to a mobile phone in the breast pocket

This is a lousy photo because of course I couldn't take it with my phone--I ended up holding my laptop over the table and using Photo Booth, ugh--so here's a much better picture that Kyth took of the fob itself:

Watch fob of an antique pen nib with silver wire wound around it in fantastical swirls

She made the fob from an antique pen nib and silver wire and chain, with a hand-hammered bar. I recently killed a cheap micro USB cable, so I snipped off the end and wound more wire around it (an entirely amateurish job that I hope Kyth will redo the next time she visits) and clipped it onto the end of the chain. Voilà: a phone chain and fob. It's the perfect combination of techno and retro and swirly silver elegance and it makes me very very very happy.

This was a proof of concept for Kyth, so she doesn't have any ready-made watch fobs in stock, but she'd probably be willing to adapt any of her amazing pendants for a small fee. Or you could just buy them and wear them as pendants, of course.
rosefox: Me hugging a giant teddy bear, very sad. (sad)
Some years I have a lot of thoughts about the 9/11 anniversary, or a lot of feelings, or both.

This year I am utterly exhausted, far more than usual--basically no sleep last night, not much the night before--so I have no thoughts or feelings beyond a particularly deep sad weary anger over our grief being appropriated to justify military invasion, jingoism, and racism. And I've felt that way for 13 years, so at least it's familiar and not precisely wrenching.

I ended up walking past the memorial tonight, entirely by accident. I was picking something up from X's office and foolishly went to the nearest subway stop, which is right up against the WTC site. The sidewalk was crammed full of gawking tourists taking photos of themselves and each other and everything. It was all I could do not to shout at them all to fuck off. I saw a couple of firefighters in dress uniforms and gave them The Nod. They looked sad and uncomfortable. I probably did too.

I want another memorial somewhere else, somewhere small and quiet, a memorial that only the grieving go to. In a hundred years it can just be another peaceful little sculpture park with a somber plaque that most people don't bother to read, a place where office workers eat lunch and kids play and life goes on. I would like that a lot.
9 September 2014 01:10 - "Cigarette butts in gutters"
rosefox: Autumn leaves on a wet sidewalk. (autumn)
After taking a break from Headspace to think about whether I wanted to keep using it, I decided to give the anxiety series a shot. So far it's pretty good. I haven't been able to do it every day, because doing it at bedtime wasn't really working for me, but I'm doing my best to keep up with it. I'm still annoyed about the enforced altruism, but it helps to have deliberately decided to keep going with full knowledge that that's part of this particular system. Tonight the meditation really emphasized taking a long moment to think about the other people who will benefit from my "improved relationship to anxiety" and I found it very comfortable and emotionally engaging instead of enraging. So buy-in was clearly key, and I'm glad I obtained my own buy-in even if the narration didn't bother to.

The main exercise I'm doing in this series is observing what distracts me and labeling it: thinking, feeling, remembering, sensation. Mostly I'm thinking. I take a lot of notes in my head. I narrate everything I do, as though I'm blogging or tweeting about it or telling my therapist or telling X and J... really, constant narration. Underneath it all is anxiety that if I don't explicitly take note of something I'll forget about it. (This is the same anxiety that propels me to take an empty glass into the kitchen as soon as I spot it, or to put something on my calendar as soon as it's booked. I think of these as good habits, but their roots in anxiety are problematic.) I might try deliberately preparing for meditation by telling myself that whatever happens in those 15 minutes happens outside of time, essentially, and that I don't have to remember any of it. I wonder how that would change things.

=====

We took Sam back to the vet on Saturday when she started displaying UTI symptoms again. They gave her a shot of antibiotics that's supposed to work for two weeks. She was fine Sunday and most of today, and then tonight she started running to the box every five minutes again. :( Poor kitten. I'll call the vet tomorrow and see whether we just need to wait it out while the drugs do their work.

While I'm there, I'll get Alex a Prozac refill; we tried taking him off of it for a couple of weeks and he was just too agitated about being cooped up in an apartment. Poor kitty. He should really be a barn cat with a belly full of mice, a territory measured in acres, and a life expectancy of about five years. But he's a city cat and we would like to keep him around for rather longer than that, so Prozac it is.

=====

Last week I got some erroneous information about a deadline and fell way behind. I did a lot of work last night and today and am now caught up. I'm very pleased with myself for buckling down and getting it done. That's not something I've traditionally been too good at.

=====

My physio pointed out that my right quad muscle is now visibly larger and stronger than the left. Apparently I respond extremely well to electrotherapy; all my workouts at home are bilateral, but at PT we've only been doing electro on the right leg. I've been taking lots of long walks and my legs are very happy about it. My knees still twinge occasionally, but it's all muscle and tendon aches now from the walking and exercising. The joints feel much more protected. I am very relieved to have had a more rapid recovery with my legs than I did with my arms (undoubtedly aided by catching it early and not shrugging it off).

=====

I've been working on a private project that I haven't shown to anyone. I told X and J that it exists, and occasionally I talk with them about it a little bit, but mostly it's for me. It's as much a way of exploring the inside of my own head as it is about the project itself. It's remarkably liberating, having something just for me.

=====

We've had five fans running in the main room all summer: two venting, three circulating air. Sometimes it's six when we turn on the range hood. Tonight I turned them all off, even the little vent fan in the ceiling. The quiet was amazing. I wonder how much of a burden it's been on us, just being surrounded by all that noise. It presses in on you.

Last night I slept with my window open, and my air conditioner off. It was almost too cool to wear shorts today. I'll probably wear jeans tomorrow.

Hello, fall. I missed you a lot. I'm so glad you're here. It's been a tough summer and I could use some gentle breezes.
4 September 2014 00:25 - "I'm not a rabbit!"
rosefox: "That dumb ass analogy just cost me a few million brain cells." (metaphor queen)
R: I am very tired.
X: Yes.
R: I am... non-Euclideanly tired.
X: Um...
R: Layers of tired cake held together with tired and frosted with tired frosting. Sculpted into tired.
X: Promise me you'll stay off Twitter.

(Edited to add my metaphor userpic.)
3 September 2014 01:58 - "Your cat though"
rosefox: A crossdressing man in bed with two women asks "Do I come across as too analytical? I could see that". (threesome)
Random assortment of stuff.

1. It hit 92 today, and felt hotter than that. There was an air quality advisory until 10 p.m. Even my aggressively air-conditioned room felt warm and humid. I didn't go out for my midday walk, and missed it. My knees are doing better and I am desperate to be outside and moving around except for the part where the actual air is made up of equal parts murder and hate. Usually I get this kind of cabin fever in the winter; I'm not used to it in summer.

2. A work deadline that I thought I had missed by several days turns out to be tomorrow. That was a very nice email to get.

3. Sam peed on the old suitcase she likes to sit on, and then on the one Alex likes to sit on, and also on the top of my dresser where Alex's suitcase was. So the suitcases are out by the trash bins, and Sam is confused and sad because her usual sitting places are gone. I think it's stress, not another UTI, but I have no idea what to do about it. If I shut her in my room at night she gets upset because she can't get to her litter box (of course I moved it into my room but she doesn't care because it's in the wrong place). If I leave my door open at night Alex chases her around and sometimes chases her out of the litter box while she's using it because he is a jerk. So... I have no idea. I should probably just keep shutting her in my room until she gets used to it, and put up with the inappropriate peeing in the meantime.

Alex is resolutely napping on top of the dresser as though his suitcase was still there. I'm torn between "poor kitty" and "that's what you get for being a jerk and stressing Sam out so much that she peed on your favorite spot".

(The suitcases themselves are no big loss; they were coated in a thick layer of shed fur and I had no plans to ever use them again for travel. I knew this was how they would eventually die. Still, it's sad.)

My room smells of pee despite aggressive cleaning and spraying Anti-Icky-Poo on every surface that might possibly have been contaminated. I am really not happy about this.

I'm taking Sam to the vet tomorrow just to make sure it's not another UTI. At least they'll be happy about her weight gain.

4. J and I had a very nice date tonight: endless punning, dinner out, a lovely lazy stroll around the fountain at Grand Army Plaza (the mist made the warm evening quite bearable), buying ice cream, tasty makeouts. Sex TMI ) It was one of our best dates in recent memory.

R: I missed you.
J: I missed you too.
R: I missed me. I thought you were the one who was gone, but really it was me all along.
J: Yeah.
R: I'm really really glad I got off the Zoloft.

Punning and joking! I'd just plain forgotten how to do that--I'd forgotten to do it. It's good to be back.

5. X had a panic attack tonight because it's been a shitty stressful couple of weeks. J and I wrapped them in hugs until they felt a little better. I prescribed a low-stress diet, by which I mean farming out or postponing anything that can be farmed out or postponed. Hopefully that will help.

6. I reached level 5 on WaniKani! This whole kanji study thing is pretty cool. I am purely astonished that a language can simultaneously have so many pronunciations per word and so many words per pronunciation. (Does "sen sei" mean "thousand correct" or "previous life"? I would have thought the former was a more likely term for "teacher" but it turns out to be the latter.) A lot of any language is figuring things out from context, but the number of meanings for e.g. こう is making me really impressed that anyone can comprehend spoken Japanese at all. Understanding the kanji is actually easier in some ways, and when I mess up on the quizzes it's almost always because I've mixed up on'yomi and kun'yomi or otherwise forgotten how to say the word, not because I've forgotten what the character means.

7. Biweekly Skype dates with [livejournal.com profile] karenbynight are one of the best ideas I've had in years. It's just so lovely to hang out and talk with a friend.

I'm tired and I have work and chores to do and I need to do my knee exercises, so I should probably go do the dishes, eat ice cream while exercising (the joy of low-impact exercises one does sitting down), do my work while post-exercise ice is on my knee, and go to bed, in that order.
2 September 2014 04:43 - "I wish it would go back"
rosefox: Spock's pointy ear. (ear)
It's been 16 weeks since the injection.

Saturday and Sunday I had a weird sort of sensation that felt like static in my head, which may or may not be related to the ear stuff. I was also massively underslept and think that's more likely to be the culprit. But I note it here just in case.

Yesterday and today, my right ear hearing has been occluded slightly; I blamed the storm system that's been squatting over the region giving us all pressure headaches. Today I had a three-hour bout of vertigo, from about 18:45 to about 21:30, mild enough that I had to keep checking to make sure it was still going on but definitely vertigo. Symptoms )

I took two taurine and had substantial food, and it cleared up pretty quickly after that, but I'm quite certain it was neither anxiety nor hunger-dizziness; it was vertigo, and I didn't miss it at all.

I really hope it's just the atmospheric pressure and will go away when the weather breaks. If I need to get an injection in my ear every four months I will be Very Put Out.
2 September 2014 00:03 - "Bait and switch"
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (uppity)
Three comics crossed my browser in sufficiently short order that I sat up and took notice. (In all cases, click the image to view the original.)


Transcript )

"You think I'm transphobic... but all I really care about is accurate costuming!"


Transcript )

"You think I'm transphobic... but all I really care about is fashion!"


Transcript )

"You think I'm transphobic... but I'm just mad about you lying to me!"

The punchline in all three cases is that the cisgender authority figure could be an asshole, but is choosing not to be... and they want to make sure the person with no power--the child or employee, the trans* or GNC person--is aware that it's a choice. It's a statement of power. I could make your life miserable, but I won't! Ha ha!

And I want to focus especially on the reaction shots, first distress:



And then elation:



These people are so upset at what sounds like scorn, and then so grateful for what turns out to be (or look like) respect and acceptance, that they don't even notice the way "respect and acceptance" have been recast as gifts rather than as simply what they deserve for being human. The children are particularly vulnerable to this, because few things are more devastating to a child than the threat of a parent's love being withheld. The relief on Sarah's face is heartbreaking.

If respect and acceptance are gifts, rather than a person's birthright, they can be taken back, or bargained for. That makes for a very unpleasant dynamic when it's combined with the dependence of a parent/child or employer/employee relationship. And the emotional weight of that combination is what the creators of these comics are drawing on when they write these jokes.

When the power differential is removed, friends can come out to friends and have it be no big deal:


Transcript )


Transcript )

No tears or glowing relief there--just a brief awkward moment of "So what do we talk about now?".

Or they can talk and argue and say foolish things and learn from each other as equals, as in the Irma/Irving arc from The Princess, which is too long to quote here but is really excellent.

But add the element of power and you get gripping emotional tension. And comics creators are choosing over and over to use that tension to fuel a joke, without really thinking about what it feels like when someone who has a lot of power over you, someone you respect very much and possibly even love, has just said something that sounds a lot like a condemnation of your identity and/or self-expression. That moment is devastating, and no table-turning additional context can redeem the thoughtless cruelty of an authority figure saying something like "Take that off immediately before the neighbors see you!" or "No one will take you seriously" to a person who is in a tremendously vulnerable place.

I will give some leeway to the creator of The Princess, because so much of the comic is about Wendy and Sarah's relationship, and Wendy slowly coming to terms with Sarah being trans. The very first strip was Wendy yelling at Sarah to stop wearing a dress. The comic up there, where she says she's going to donate Sarah's boy clothes, is strip #500. So their relationship is a lot more than a one-off joke, and full credit for that! That said, the ellipsis between panels 3 and 4 is massively unfair to both Sarah and the reader, and so is Wendy's angry tone. Sarah has no happier expectations of "Go straight up to your room and open your closet--" than James/Batgirl has of "Take that off immediately before the neighbors see you!". Her face in panel 3 makes that clear.

As a bonus, in the first two comics we get cis people being experts on how to be trans*/GNC correctly. "You don't want to be wearing the clothes you're wearing! You want to be wearing these other clothes that follow the rules. Poor clueless person who doesn't know how to gender. Since I am fortunate enough to have a lifetime's experience in being exactly one gender, I will help you to learn gendering, for you are like a newborn lamb tottering about on wobbly gender-legs." I'm the first to acknowledge that cis men have provided me with a tremendous amount of useful advice on menswear and I'm very grateful for it, but you know, if someone's first reaction to seeing me in a men's suit was to tell me that it was out of date and also my haircut sucked, I would find that really goddamn rude. So even the "respect and acceptance" isn't, really. What if the employee's tie was his grandfather's and it means a lot to him to wear it? What if Batgirl hates wearing yellow and enjoys walking around in impractical shoes? Why does being accepted mean being pressed to conform to particular dictates of fashion?

Well, because this culture sucks and its notions of gender are inescapably about conforming to gender norms. But perpetuation of that is not acceptance. Especially when it comes to GNC folks, and to people who are just starting down a new path of gender expression and have to maintain two separate wardrobes and are low-level employees who can't afford a lot of new clothes, and to people who have their own fashion sense, and to people--both children and adults, but especially children--who need room to play around and experiment and explore and figure out what they like. That newborn lamb needs to totter about on its own for its legs to get stronger so that it can leap off to wherever it pleases.

Accepting someone as e.g. male doesn't mean crushing them into a tidy little packet of 100% Grade A Extruded Maleness. It means saying "Oh hey, nice haircut, and I like that tie" the way you'd say it to anyone else who cut their hair and wore a tie. It means treating them like an individual person who gets to make individual choices.

I'm not criticizing people for laughing at these strips. I laughed at the Batgirl one, which was the first of the three that I saw. It's very easy to fall into the cultural pattern of thinking this sort of thing is funny, of sharing the trans*/GNC character's relief at not being stepped on like a bug and turning that relief into laughter even as the "respect" comes in the form of a backhanded insult compounded by social pressure that makes it nearly impossible to decline what crumbs are offered. (If the employee really liked his tie and didn't want to change it, do you think he felt free to say so to his very vehement boss? I don't.) But in actual real life, it's not funny. In actual real life, it hurts a lot. In actual real life, it's incredibly unpleasant to have people act like the only two ways to treat you are to either reject you or force you to conform. And the repetition of it really got to me.

I know pain is the root of a lot of comedy. But when this particular pain is made into a punchline over and over again, I have to ask why, and to challenge creators to do better.
1 September 2014 03:43 - "A little butterball"
rosefox: A severed head saying "Thanks.. I needed that". (relief)
I just weighed Sam and she's up to 11.2 pounds! Hooray! That's actually slightly more than she weighed at her last annual checkup (10.9 pounds). I'm so relieved that the weight loss was caused by an environmental/social thing that we could correct, and wasn't a sign of a dire health issue. When we feed her high-protein kibble in a place where she doesn't feel she has to compete with the other cats, she happily chows down. It's splendid to see her in such good appetite and back to her normal healthy size.

For weight maintenance, the kibble bag suggests feeding her 1/4 cup twice a day. I might give just a little more than that, since Alex sometimes sneaks in and gets a bit of it, but that should be enough to keep her happy.

Weighing her means weighing myself--she doesn't stay on the scale when I put her there, of course, so I weigh myself alone and then holding her and do the appropriate subtraction--but so far that hasn't bothered me. I just have to be careful to only do it once a month. Otherwise I start thinking about my body shape in numerical terms, which I really don't like doing.

In cat drama news, Alex has taken to chasing Sam out of her litter box when he sees her using it. This is Very Not Okay. He also chases her around at night if they end up in the living room at the same time. If I leave my door open at night he sings the "I killed it! Look, look!" song just outside until I wake up and stagger out to see whether he's killed a bug or a cat toy, and sometimes he skitters in and paws under my closet door at imaginary critters. We took him off the Prozac because he seemed to be doing well and getting along fairly well with the other cats, and I'd rather not put him back on it just because he's a rambunctious young cat full of energy, but Sam is nearly ten years old and was never really interested in playing the way Alex wants to play, and I need to be able to sleep through the night.

I tried keeping her in my room last night, and shutting Alex out. That worked okay, since she has food and water here and would be happy to snuggle me until the end of days, but she woke me after about seven hours to ask to be let out to use the box. Tonight I moved her box into my room (to the spot where she peed when she had the UTI) and hopefully she'll make use of it in a fairly quiet way that doesn't require waking me.

Poor Alex. When he saw me today after being shut out all night, he was SO loving and purring and nuzzling and love-biting. I hate locking him out. :( But he can handle it better than Sam can, by which I mean he doesn't howl at my door when he's separated from me for a few minutes, and I'll make sure to give him lots of love and access to my windowsill during the day.
29 August 2014 19:57 - "The world could end today"
rosefox: Me hugging a giant teddy bear, very sad. (sad)
With shock and great sorrow, [twitter.com profile] ladyjax reports that [livejournal.com profile] deluxvivens/[twitter.com profile] deluxtoo has died.

I think she'd be astonished that I wept for her the way I did. We weren't close friends. But I admired her tremendously, and learned a great deal from her, and was always glad when I got the chance to chat with her or read her words. She was the embodiment of defiance, full of warmth for those who earned her friendship, often surprisingly patient with the clumsy but well-intentioned, and unstintingly scornful of fools. She loved Black American culture and history and shared her knowledge widely, along with her extensive collection of photos and videos of sexy men of color--and she may have played up her thirst for manflesh, but she was very serious about celebrating those men as a way of fighting back against stereotypes that demonized them. It was one of the most splendid marriages of the personal and political that I've ever seen. She was a Black NDN, fiercely proud of her Native heritage, and powerfully outspoken in support of indigenous peoples everywhere. She was a Brooklynite with roots all the way down to bedrock.

I always thought we'd find a way to get together someday for a stroll and a drink in Brooklyn, or a movie full of hot shirtless guys. I was looking forward to teasing her about being seen in the company of a white gentrifier and what that would do to her street cred. I'm really sad that that won't ever happen now.

The world is a better place for having had her in it.
rosefox: Me staring off into the sunset. (wistful)
I was feeling sad today. I tried listening to Information Society's Don't Be Afraid*, which used to be my go-to for "having a bad day and want to wallow", and I realized I am just not depressed enough to ride that ride.

* Well, technically it's Kurt Harland's solo album, but he released it under the band name for reasons I will never entirely understand.

If you're not familiar with the album, it is a nonstop parade of horrible lunatic depressive misery. Do not click here if you're susceptible to graphic depictions of mental illness. ) It doesn't need a PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker so much as a TRIGGER WARNING sticker, for the album as a whole and for each individual song.

I used to play it on constant repeat. It was the narration of everything in my head. It made perfect sense. It was so comforting to know that someone else felt the way I felt. I wasn't experiencing actual visual hallucinations, but the rest was true, bone-deep true.

Upon reflection, I suspect I was rather more messed up than I realized at the time--and I knew I was fairly messed up.

Just a little bit, I miss how wonderful it felt to get that soothing reassurance that I wasn't alone, to know that someone really got it at a time when everyone else just sort of looked confused or worried whenever I tried to explain what was going on in my brain. That was a good feeling, and obviously I really needed some good feelings at the time. But on the whole, I'd rather be too sane to listen to it, and getting my good feelings from actually feeling good rather than from knowing I wasn't alone in feeling indescribably awful.

So yay for not being that messed up anymore, I guess. It's just weird to have healed too much to listen to music that used to speak to me so deeply. I listen to it now and even as I can recite the lyrics from memory, it's like... overhearing two people having a conversation that has nothing to do with me.
27 August 2014 03:58 - "Fuzz. Brrr."
rosefox: "It's a bug! It's a bug!" "It's a piece of fuzz!" (panic)
Two big bugs managed to get in from the front garden today. I got one and Alex got the other. He may be a brat sometimes but it sure is useful having a trained killer in the house. I gave him a treat and then emailed the landlord about having an exterminator come poison the garden again.

This post is basically just an excuse to use this userpic.
26 August 2014 01:34 - "COOK ALL THE THINGS"
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
Today: two pans of chicken parts roasted (it would have been three but the chicken necks went off, alas); one jar of cashew gruyère blended up (super easy with the Vitamix!) and set out to culture; and I made a kickass pizza for dinner with Vegan Gourmet mozzarella, high-quality low-sodium tomato sauce from a jar, and so much salami that red-orange oil oozed over the crust. I was trying out the Udi's GF crust and the edge crisped perfectly but the middle was chewy to the point of being gummy; next time I'll try parbaking it, maybe with foil around the edge so it doesn't overbake once I put on the toppings.

Tomorrow: the roasted chicken parts and various veg will be turned into nine-hour stock; the gruyère will be turned into something delicious (croque monsieur? fondue? mac 'n' cheese? haven't decided yet). Then I might be done cooking for a bit, since we're back to summer weather. Forecast.io says it'll be cooler Thursday through Saturday, with highs in the 70s rather than the 80s, but Thursday and Friday I have a lot of work to do, and Saturday we'll be out of the house all day.

...I could use the gruyère to make French onion soup. O.O But I think X (who dislikes onion) would object to the house smelling of caramelizing onions. BUT I could totally do cheesy toasts on top of the chicken broth and it would probably be amazing.

Nngh why can't the cheese be ready right now.

Okay, I need to go to bed before I talk myself into stealing a taste of the cheese. It really needs to culture for at least 12 hours so the flavors can intensify and the probiotics have time to add a proper tang. I should not go scoop out just a bit and stick breadsticks into it. Should not. Definitely not.
25 August 2014 00:51 - "The groaning board"
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
It's starting to feel a bit autumnal! The evenings are cool, even if the days are not, and that means lots of cooking now that the kitchen isn't unbearably hot. Today J and I strolled to Western Beef ("The Meat Supermarket") and acquired chicken thighs, backs, gizzards, and a whole roaster, plus assorted vegetables. We actually shopped early enough in the day that we could make chicken-inna-pot and roasted sweet potatoes and still have dinner at a reasonable hour. We were very impressed with the quality of the chicken: tender and juicy and very flavorful. Chicken-inna-pot can make any chicken tender, which is why it's our go-to recipe when we're trying a new brand of chicken and aren't sure how tough it will be, but I think our next Western Beef chicken will be brined and roasted. The sweet potatoes were pure heavenly bliss.

After J and X went to bed, I deboned the thighs, cruelly denying Alex even a scrap of raw chicken. The thigh bones and backs and gizzards and the carcass from the roast chicken and some of the veg will become broth on Tuesday, when I'm home all day and can babysit the stock pot. Not sure what we'll do with the thigh filets yet but I'm sure we'll think of something.

-----

I recently sampled a couple of vegan mozzarellas and was impressed by the new version of Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet mozzarella shreds. It's comparable to, say, Polly-O: not something I'd snack on by itself, but entirely fine for pizza--and the last vital ingredient for lasagna, which we used to make three pans at a time and really miss. That goes on the list of things to make sometime soon. I'm pondering lasagna variations: ground turkey seasoned like Italian sausage? grilled chicken and spinach? grated zucchini? Twitter conversations reminded me that anything that works on pizza also works in lasagna, so we have about a billion options.

I also want to start making vegan cheese again. Last week we bought fresh miso, xanthan gum, and probiotic capsules for making faux rejuvelac, and to my surprise our nutritional yeast is still good, so I might soak some cashews tomorrow and whir up a batch of Miyoko Schinner's cashew gruyère, because it's easy and delicious. Then I'll either buy soy yogurt or make my own cashew yogurt and try Schinner's improved mozzarella recipe.

Shopping at Modernist Pantry for agar and kappa carragheenan (both useful for cheesemaking) is dangerous. Now I want to get Wrise leavener and Freedom gluten replacement, and make a no-yeast no-rise GF pizza. Or maybe invest in some Fiore Glut GF pizza flour, which apparently makes incredible pizza dough...

Right, right. First use the Bob's Red Mill GF pizza dough mix I have in my pantry right now. Once I've done that I'm allowed to investigate other options.

-----

Tonight is clearly an OCD night of following things down the rabbit hole.

"I can do the after-dinner clean-up." *renders the entire kitchen immaculate*

"I feel like doing something with my hands." *debones ten chicken thighs, scours and bleaches every surface they might have touched, takes out the trash*

"Is the nutritional yeast still good?" *completely reorganizes the baking section of the pantry*

"I wonder what else Modernist Pantry has that we might find useful." *rapidly opens twenty tabs' worth of information on various ingredients and baking methods*

"Where are those nice landscape photos?" *ends up scrolling through tumblr looking at anything tagged "landscape"*

On the plus side, a) I realized that this was what I was doing and b) I managed to mostly find rabbit holes with defined endings, so I can jostle myself out of the mindset and get to bed at a reasonable hour. All the tabs are closed and all the links are here for when I need them; that's what tagging is for. All the clean-up is done. The pantry is as organized as it's going to get tonight. I have looked at some very pretty photos and I'm done looking at them now.

-----

I took my very last dose of Zoloft today. Early in the afternoon I got a bit weepy, and now I've got this compulsive behavior thing to contend with, but otherwise I've felt pretty much fine. I feel... like myself, but more so. It's good.

Time to do my PT exercises and get some sleep.
rosefox: A man's head with a panel open to show gears, and another man looking inside. (examined head)
I paid for a month of Headspace to see whether I'd get any use out of the additional meditations. Some thoughts so far:

* The walking meditation is great. I used it for a walk in the park on Thursday before therping and felt fantastic afterwards. The sitting meditation was a bit hard to get into, but walking meditation feels like it was made for me.

* About halfway through the daily meditation, the narration suggests checking in with one's emotional state. This has been really useful for me, and in particular has helped me identify anxiety-based emotions as distinct from organic ones.

* The daily meditations have also started telling me to think about the people in my life who will benefit from me "training the mind". I feel quite resentful every time this comes up. I'm taking this meditation time for me. It's really important to me that it's a thing I'm doing for myself. I do a whole lot of things for other people; I do not need this to be turned into an altruistic thing too. And then I feel bad because clearly I'm supposed to be doing this as an altruistic thing--the narration is all about how thinking of doing this for other people helps your mind soften and be more receptive, and that is the complete opposite of my reaction--and then I feel angry about being made to feel bad. This is not a good state to be in while meditating.

I posted a question to the forums about whether this continues over the next several days. If it does, I might quit using the daily meditation part of the site (which is too bad, as I find it otherwise useful, but there's no point to meditation that leaves me tense and angry with undertones of guilt). I also wrote the site staff an irritable letter about it.

The gendered aspects of this are inescapable. Most men probably need the reminder to not think about themselves all the time, because culture puts them in the center and tells them to consider themselves first. Most women, on the other hand, are trained to put themselves last, and don't need guided meditation--which gets very deep into one's head--contributing to that training. But I guess the guy who wrote the scripts wasn't thinking about that, because men are always the default audience, and argh. Or, X suggests, he was in fact aiming at women and the goal is to keep them in their place. EVEN WORSE. I think the thoughtlessness is more likely than the overt sexism, but either would be pretty embarrassing for a site that's all about being mindful.

I just finished fifteen minutes of meditation! I don't want to be sitting here swimming in resentment and annoyance! Bah.

EDIT: I started listening ahead and it appears to be part of every daily "foundation" meditation henceforth. "Think about your motivation, and be sure to incorporate the people around you and how they'll benefit." Oh well. It really is too bad, because the twenty-minute sessions in particular sound like they have some useful suggestions for ways to incorporate mindfulness into daily life.

There are a number of themed meditations that I've unlocked by going through the foundation course (their app can't tell the difference between listening all the way through and skipping to the last twenty seconds), so I think I'll start with the themed packs for anxiety and sleep troubles. If it turns out they require skills that I just don't have yet, I'll go back to the foundation ones and figure out a way to get through them. Either I'll skip past that part of the recording--it happens at the same place every time, right after the emotional check-in, so the disruption would be minimal--or I'll take some time to consciously adjust from thinking of this as a thing I'm doing for myself to thinking of it as a thing I'm doing both for myself and for others.

If I were invited to think of my meditation practice as benefiting other people, rather than instructed to, I don't think I'd have a problem with incorporating it once I made the personal decision to do so. I don't have a fundamental problem with altruism being part of the Headspace philosophy. I just really resent it being a thing that's sprung on you without any warning up front, after ten sessions that are gloriously self-focused, in a firm instructional tone that's quite at odds with the open, inviting approach of the rest of the exercise. There's nothing the least bit didactic about any of the rest of it. I realize no one's perfect, but this one off note grates on me and that's extra frustrating in this context.
23 August 2014 01:59 - "House proud"
rosefox: A painting of a peaceful garden. (home)
We finally got the public areas of our house neat enough that I'm willing to post photos. :) Here's the Flickr set. (You may wish to make occasional reference to the floor plan.) Enjoy the tour!

We've been here since late April and we still turn to one another and spontaneously rhapsodize about how much we love this house. Now you can see why. :) And I didn't even take pictures of my lovely quiet back bedroom, or the cozy cluttered guest room/den, or J's spacious room full of books and clothes, or X's gorgeous window-walled room done up in royal blue and white. Or the splendid high ceilings with exposed beams and chandeliers. Or the sunlight slanting through the living room windows when it's cool enough to open the insulating curtains.

I'm so so happy with this house. I hope we can stay here for a very, very long time.
18 August 2014 23:50 - "Huddle around the campfire"
rosefox: A mopy cartoon man saying "Weh". (depressed)
No mood score for the last couple of days; been feeling just kind of meh and low on motivation. I blame poor sleep, the continuing terrible news from Missouri, and Sam knocking over a glass of grape juice onto me, my bed, my laptop, some books, etc. The bed and laptop are fine, though the keyboard action is a bit sticky now. The books are probably toast. :( But they're replaceable, not rare or signed or sentimentally valuable or anything like that.

-----

In good kitty news, I weighed Sam by the time-honored method of stepping onto the scale* both holding her and not holding her, and she's gained two pounds since we started feeding her kibble in a more secluded and protected part of the house. Hooray! In less good kitty news, the vet called and left us a message today saying that the post-antibiotics urine test turned up some evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so I have to call back tomorrow and find out what we do about that. I really don't want to give Sam more antibiotics that upset her stomach and make her all lethargic. She seems totally fine right now, energetic and happy and with a very hearty appetite, so I hope the infection is minor enough that we can trust her immune system to fight it off.

* Scale bought for this purpose. It's weird owning one. (Cut for very brief talk of people-weighing; no numbers.) ) I have shoved it into an obscure place behind some boxes and plan to ignore it until we actively need it, same as any other tool.

-----

My physio prescribed daily short walks up and down a hill, so now I have to leave the house every day. This is a very good thing. Between working from home and cooking dinner at home, it was getting to the point where I could go two or three days without going outside. I should not be worrying about SAD in August! And being that sedentary really isn't good for me (or anyone). Conveniently we have a nice little gently hilly park right nearby, so I plan to take lunch-break walks there.

-----

Working from home has let me get a little too sloppy with my workday schedule, so here's my attempt to get back on track.

Work-from-home schedule, non-PT days )

Work-from-home schedule, PT days )

Work-from-work schedule )

Weekend schedule )

I'm going to go set up a bunch of alarms and see whether I pay more attention to them than I do to my current alarms. *shifty eyes*

-----

One last Ferguson link: [livejournal.com profile] karnythia and [livejournal.com profile] thewayoftheid are planning a trip down there from Chicago to provide supplies and offer help to the town's residents. If you have some spare change, please send it their way; if you don't, please signal-boost the link. I know them personally and absolutely vouch for their integrity and follow-through.
18 August 2014 03:54 - "Who's next?"
rosefox: Origami boxes. (helpful)
Here is a list of donation opportunities in Ferguson MO, various online petitions, and info on protest marches in several locations.

As [livejournal.com profile] yagathai pointed out on Twitter, the situation on the ground is complex. Different people involved want different things, and it seems pretty clear that a handful of people (maybe from outside the community) are leading violent actions that many of the residents are strongly opposed to. But the police are very definitely overstepping in a way that's guaranteed to provoke people: setting arbitrary curfews and violently enforcing them, sending tear gas and rubber bullets and aiming LRADs into crowds full of civilians (including children), arresting and threatening journalists, and lying and obfuscating at every opportunity. A residential neighborhood is being coated with tear gas residue that will be very difficult and expensive to clean up. The start of school was delayed, which means children went hungry without access to free meals at school. A food pantry was looted. A lot of the major media coverage has been sanitized and skewed. These are unambiguous problems and there are things we can do to try to fix them.

If you can donate funds or goods (keeping in mind that funds are almost always better, especially when delivery trucks may have a hard time getting into the area), please do. If you can sign and signal-boost petitions, please do. If you can join protests, please do. If you can write to your favorite news sources and ask them to include more citizen journalism in their news reports so that you're not just getting the official line, please do. And if you can get to know the people in your town or neighborhood and collaborate with them to bridge racial divides and fight racist and militarized policing, please especially do that. Otherwise the next Ferguson could be in my back yard, or yours.

Here's that link again.

Comments are very definitely off, but feel free to share the link to this post.
17 August 2014 03:11 - "Everybody bask in the afterglow"
rosefox: Me laughing joyfully. (joyous)
Five points of hysterical laughter: achieved! with the coinage of "squam", tinned meat for giant squids. Also known as submarines.

I love family Saturdays. I slept in a lot (after sleeping very poorly), and when I got up, X and J came in to hang out in my room while we sorted out what we wanted to do with the day.

J: Do you want to take the first shower?
R: Nope.
J: Hm, neither do I.
X: Okay, Rochambeau! One, two--
J: *paper*
R: *scissors*
R: I win!
J and R simultaneously: You get to take the first shower!
R: Nice try.

J and I planned and shopped and cooked, turning a whole bunch of leftover chicken bones (from a ten-pound pack of chicken thighs that were supposed to be boneless and, uh, weren't) and the carcass of a roast chicken into glorious soup stock. We roasted the bones at 350F for about an hour, browned some mirepoix, threw in fresh thyme and fresh oregano and freeze-dried cilantro and two bay leaves and a corn cob, added a lot of water and a box of low-sodium broth for extra flavor, and simmered it down for nine full hours.

X logged and shelved a great many books, clearing off the shelve-me cart and the dining table. J and I culled some cookbooks to make room for more cookbooks, that being the cookbook cycle of life.

The stock wasn't ready in time for dinner, so we nuked up some insta-rice and homemade frozen meatballs, tossed in butter and a bit of sauteed spinach, and called it a food. I had a slice of banana cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert, which was pretty excellent. After that there was lots of good family snuggling and smooching and so forth.

R: Who wants to be in the middle?
J: I do!
X: I do!
*slightly awkward pause*
*slightly hilarious pause as we all realize the obvious solution*
X: Oh okay FINE. One, two--
J: *rock*
X: *paper*
X: I win! I knew you were going to play rock because Rose played scissors earlier.
R: You know, this is exactly what people think polyamory is like.

After everyone else went to sleep, I wrote a 1000-word piece on knitting innovation for #24CC, the spiritual successor to #24MAG. I miss the intensity of #24MAG but it's nice to be able to do #24CC from home. And look, I did a creative thing instead of just being what [twitter.com profile] SpaceCraftETK calls "a creativity-doula"!

I watched some of the livestream from Ferguson and wrote some angry tweets about the long-term effects of tear gas residue on poor residential communities. (One of those tweets is at 120 RTs and counting. O.O Didn't expect that.) When I hit my limit, I closed the livestream tab and let my rage cool down.

Around 03:15 I realized the stock was probably done and decanted it. There's about a quart and a half, and it's intense; we were planning to make chicken soup with it but I could happily just drink it on its own. I did the dishes and took the trash out (it was full of delicious-smelling chicken bones and I didn't want Alex to attack the trash can) and now I'm relaxing and just feeling good.

hysterical laughter + hot sex + spontaneous creativity + joking around + household productivity = +15. No negatives at all today--I haven't even felt dizzy. My boobs are still sore, but if PMS is affecting my mood at all, I really can't tell.

It was a very very very good day.
16 August 2014 02:29 - "Confusion is a walrus"
rosefox: A woman with words running through her head nonstop. (noisy brain)
Yesterday: work and more work, as is typical for Thursdays. Home before midnight, which was nice. No therping as therp is still on vacation. Got caught up playing a video game but managed to get to bed by 5.

work productivity + compulsive gaming = -3

Today: slept a whole lot, then worked very little, as is (unfortunately) typical for Fridays. Was intermittently a bit anxious and cranky and dizzy, but I took some taurine and shook it off for a nice date out with X including a good long walk from SoHo down through Little Italy and Chinatown (with a detour for pork buns) to Fulton Street. My leg felt only very slightly knee-twingy post-walk and it's fine now, which is excellent. Pulled myself out of compulsive stuff twice before they ate my face: once work things that were annoying me, once tidying when X was waiting for me. Post-date I got another wave of anx but without the crankiness this time. Suspect I needed to eat more, at more appropriate times, than I did. That said, I carefully avoided sugar and chocolate during my cranky and anxious times, and I think that was a very good idea and I should keep doing it.

When I hugged X goodnight, I felt it in a way that I haven't felt hugs in ages. I didn't even realize I missed that. I just felt more there, more able to experience the sensation of a hug. For a moment I was totally present, just being there for that hug and nothing else. I think it showed, because they came out of their room a bit later to ask me something and then gave me another lingering hug just because. It felt really good.

long walk + spontaneous pork buns + joking around + two waves of anxiety + one wave of angry/grouchy + two partial instances of compulsive behavior = +1

Random things:

I've had various parts of Janelle Monáe's ArchAndroid album stuck in my head for days. I keep thinking of Ferguson. Such a pity that the city's just a danger zone.

We decided to take Alex off Prozac--going off antidepressants is the trendy in thing these days!--and he's actually more friendly and snuggly without it. Last night while I was doing my leg exercises, I was petting Sam with my right hand and Alex with my left, and they were both purring up a storm.

PMS appears to now be a two weeks on/two weeks off thing for me, which is very annoying. My boobs are starting to get sore and swollen again, so I guess it's time for the two weeks on. (That might also have been affecting the crankiness today.)

I just finished day six of Headspace's ten-day introductory set of guided meditations. Not yet sure whether I'll upgrade to the paid version. I wish the site gave more information about the content of the sessions behind the paywall.

I think my tinnitus increases and decreases in tune with my anxiety. Hard to be sure, though.

I've bitten down all my fingernails again.

Sex TMI )
14 August 2014 01:10 - "Day to day we live in a daze"
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (tired)
Monday's PT for my intermittently sore knee appears to have annoyed my quad tendon. My leg tendons are so tight that it's very easy to annoy them. Fortunately I know lots about treating unhappy tendons, so I just did my ten-minute Headspace meditation with a big ice pack on the sore spot, and I've been doing gentle stretches all day, and I'll take Celebrex before I go to bed, and I'll keep doing stretches and focused exercises on the nearby muscles and by next week it should be fine.

Ironically, the knee itself is doing fine, but walking hurts in new and interesting ways. That didn't stop me from going to PT today (where the physio was very apologetic about the ouching and gave my leg a splendid deep massage), getting some work done, going out again to run errands (including hauling around ten pounds of kibble and two vials of cat pee*), directing and spearheading the transformation of various ingredients into two trays of turkey meatballs and three servings of dinner, and organizing the hell out of our bathroom supplies. Finally X lovingly chivvied me into my room, where I promptly fell into a chair and decided that would be a good place to stay for a while. I had one (1) slice of cake and some watermelon and a few potato chips, and that fueled me through the rest of the editing I need to do before bed.

* Sam is all done with the antibiotics for her UTI, so we're doing a post-meds test to confirm that the infection is really truly gone. Getting her pee to the vet is much, much easier than getting her to the vet. Much. And the pet food store is conveniently around the corner from the vet's office.

I was not expecting that going off the Zoloft would make me more productive--not in the compulsive uncomfortable way but in the butt-in-chair way--but I'm definitely finding it easier to make myself stop faffing around and get work done. A couple of weeks ago I would have left the editing for tomorrow (and then gotten stressed out by having too much work all piled up at once). I suppose motivation and anxiety have a lot in common.

On the other hand, I'm a bit more forgetful and less focused. This is the second night in a row of forgetting to call the vertigo reporting line before midnight, and I let my phone die and then forgot to plug it in.

I'm also quite dizzy but I think it's mostly from being tired, or at least exacerbated by being tired. I only got 5.5 hours of sleep, which I blame on having too much chocolate and watching an exciting movie too close to bedtime. (I was up until 6:30. Oof.) I've held off taking taurine for the dizziness because I didn't want the taurine to damp down what little energy I had left, and it's not stopping me from doing anything. The top of my head just feels kind of loosely attached. Compared to the Ménière's vertigo, it's barely worth mentioning.

Hooray for no mood crashes. I was a little cranky but no more than I'd expect given undersleep and pain and a lot to do, and I haven't been teary or anxious. Everything going on in Missouri is horrible, and I feel compelled to bear witness and help the news get out, but I have been looking at Twitter as much as I can stand to and then turning it off when it gets to be too much, and so far it hasn't crushed me.

Today's mood score: work productivity + kitchen productivity + compulsive bustling = -2. I'm not counting making dinner, which was really easy, but the meatballs were an actual accomplishment and a task that I would have put off if I'd been in a lousier mood.

And now I sleep ALL the sleeps.
rosefox: Me laughing joyfully. (joyous)
I got to use my baking station! Now there's a chocolate chip banana cake cooling on the windowsill (literally--it's lovely and rainy and cool out, so there's a nice breeze coming in, and I couldn't resist the cliché) and the dishwasher is humming and I'm happy.

I'd forgotten what it's like to be happy like this. Happy all the way down to the very center of me, and all the way out through my fingers and toes. Not manic, not jittery, not bustling, just sitting here listening to rain and feeling the rainy breeze and smelling banana cake and happy.

I'm sure it helps a lot that I slept a solid 8.5 hours last night. I took two taurine and did ten minutes of Headspace meditation (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] australian_joe for the pointer) before bed, and closed the curtains instead of leaving them open several inches so the cats can get to the windowsill. Clearly I should do all those things again tonight. Sleep makes everything better. But going off mood-levelers is redefining "better" and I am so, so, so glad to be doing it.

Other good things today: a great date with J (brief walk before the drizzle turned into pouring rain, cooking with zero reference to recipes, snuggles, excellent conversating, planning for future good things), a little bit of giggly time with X, getting work done even though I didn't really want to, sorting out a freelance gig for the next four weeks, Alex and Sam peacefully sharing the windowsill. I also got a bit of sad news, but it wasn't entirely unexpected and I took it well.

Now I'm watching Toys because it's the best way I can think of to remember Robin Williams. Still such a strange, great jumble of a movie. The casting is probably singlehandedly responsible for shortening several hundred Kevin Bacon chains--really, LL Cool J and Robin Wright and Joan Cusack all in one place? The soundtrack is Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn with guest appearances by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Tori Amos, and Enya. The visuals are a mix of dollhouse surrealism and just plain surrealist surrealism (I really should be watching it on the big TV for the full effect). The plot hasn't aged well; the notion of turning toy planes into weapons, steered by people whose hand-eye coordination and lack of empathy were trained in childhood by video games, is obviously no longer anything like novel, though it really wasn't shocking even in 1992. (The nods to Ender's Game are... unsubtle.) But the importance of taking joy seriously is timeless, and there was no better champion of that than Robin Williams. Highly recommended to fans of unique, ambitious, peculiar cinematic experiences.

Today's score: snuggles with J + improvisational cooking + spontaneous banana cake* + spontaneous movie + joking around with X = 15. A very very good day.

* Three-word band name!

EDIT: 5 a.m. and I'm still up and my heart is pounding because I had two pieces of chocolate chip cake. Oops. But I don't feel anxious; I'm just a bit caffeinated. I'll do my leg exercises and meditation and take some taurine, and that should bring me down enough for sleep.
12 August 2014 02:18 - "You may proceed"
rosefox: A clock with pills instead of numbers. (drugs)
I went to my doctor today, or rather to my covering doctor. She says a little dizziness and some mood swings are not uncommon when coming off SSRIs. Her advice )

This all sounds a bit dire but it's mostly protecting against worst-case scenarios. Hopefully the trend will be positive and all will be well.

Numerical data will help a lot with getting an accurate portrayal of the situation, and should ideally be reassuring when we start to doom-think. (And now I want one of those "N days since our last industrial accident" signs.) She suggested a scale from 1 to 10 but those things never make sense to me, and it's hard to give a single score to a day that might include both very positive things and very negative things. I was thinking more of a point system, where higher numbers indicate more calm and happiness and lower numbers indicate more anxiety and distress:

* Laughing until I can't breathe: +5 points
* Good happy satisfying physical activity: +4 points
* Spontaneous or improvised self-care, self-indulgence, or fun: +3 points
* Joking around: +2 points
* Work-related productivity: +1 point
* Anxiety-related gut-twinge or rapid heartbeat: -1 point
* Unexpectedly teary-eyed or angry: -2 points
* Tossing and turning when trying to sleep: -3 points
* Compulsive bustling or other agitated behavior: -4 points
* Panic attack or uncontrollable sobbing: -5 points

Today: pedicure + joking around once + productive + teary-eyed once + tossing and turning = +1. That's pretty good, and certainly better than yesterday! I did have a bit of rapid heartbeat but it was clearly linked to excessive chocolate consumption, so I'm not counting it.

I'm exhausted--in addition to the doctor's appointment I had physical therapy for my knees and I got a ton of work done--so time to try this sleep thing. Hopefully I will actually sleep, which I didn't really manage last night.
rosefox: A clock with pills instead of numbers. (drugs)
Just finished my second week at 6.25 mg/day of Zoloft instead of the 12.5 mg/day I've been on for a year and a half.

The mood swings are UNREAL. I had sobbing meltdowns last night and tonight, of the "well, I might as well go to bed, since I'm apparently not going to stop crying and I keep repeating myself and nothing makes me feel any better" variety. That was awful. :( X and J have been total champs, but they're getting pretty burned out and I don't blame them at all. I'm pretty burned out too.

I'm also getting occasional dizziness, which is a whole lot of no fun since I keep thinking it's the vertigo coming back. But when I take taurine the dizziness goes away. It's like a panic attack without the panic. Very weird. (I'm tagging this experiences.vertigo even though it isn't, to aid future-me in researching my medical history.)

When I sleep, I wake up every few hours, but I can usually get back to sleep fairly quickly. I remember similar things from ramping up the Zoloft, and it sorted itself out within a week or two, so I'm fairly confident that that side effect, at least, won't linger for long.

At least I'm not getting the dreaded brain zaps.

Tomorrow I start two weeks of alternating meds/no meds, since I can't really cut the quarter-tablets any smaller. (I was pleased that I was even able to cut the tiny little 25 mg tablets into quarters.) I'm a little worried that that will make things worse, but mostly I just want to get fully off these meds so my neurochemistry can stop freaking out. I sure am glad I didn't try to stop cold turkey, though. Sometimes ripping the bandage off is appropriate, and sometimes it really really isn't.

My therapist is on vacation, but I've emailed him. Tomorrow I'll call my primary care doctor. Dr. Lavine, the marvelous doctor who's been my primary care doctor for several years and was the prescribing physician for the Zoloft, just moved out of town *sob* and I don't really know her replacement very well yet, but better to have the support of a doctor I don't know--and one who has access to Dr. Lavine's notes and the rest of my medical history--than no MD support at all. I might also get in touch with X's awesome awesome psychiatrist and see whether he's got time for a consultation.

In the meantime, I would welcome advice on non-pharmaceutical ways to cope with and mitigate the mood swings. Stuff I'm already doing: taking a gram of taurine when I feel dizzy or anxious (which right now means three to four times a day), doing my best to sleep enough and at regular hours, doing my best to eat enough and at regular hours.
10 August 2014 17:42 - "Three's company"
rosefox: Three hearts in green, blue, and purple, with the caption "<-- I'm with them -->" (family-subtlehouse)
New userpic for Subtle House, courtesy of [syndicated profile] kimchicuddles_feed. :D It's even in the right colors! (Green for me, blue for X, purple for J.)
rosefox: "Angsty about it?" "No" "Yes you are" (fussy)
I kind of fell out of the habit of keeping a media log, but I wanted to note this one down. On a random Twitter recommendation, I watched The Brothers Bloom tonight, and really liked the first 75% of it or so. Then it went completely off the rails from my perspective--because I kept trying to see Penelope as a real person, and the movie kept trying to make her a symbol and an object.

I am so tired of this.

SPOILERS etc. )

The person who recommended it saw it as "a straightforward existentialist narrative". (We had a whole long conversation about it here.) So if you like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing you'll like, I guess. I just found it profoundly frustrating, a word I use way too often to describe movies and books. It's so tiresome. Why can't people write stories that are interesting and complicated and have female characters who deserve to be happy and realize their dreams and shape their lives?

The worst part is that the writer created a really splendid and amazing character in Penelope. She's smart, she's funny, she's interesting, she has a powerful personal philosophy and moral code, she has a wealth of talents. But once he'd written her, he had no idea what to do with her other than objectify her. A criminal waste.

Bah. Bah, I say.

On the bright side, this bit of TBB/The Avengers crossover fic, which hinges on Mark Ruffalo coincidentally playing characters in both films, fixes the ending of TBB in a pretty fantastic (if cracktastic) way. Superhero Penelope! Yes!
rosefox: A half-completed game where one organizes jumbled dots. (OCD)
Unlike many mental illnesses, OCD has actual advantages, at least in the way it manifests for me. One of them is that its itches can be scratched, and when they are, it feels really good. There's something so satisfying about getting that painting hung perfectly straight, or sweeping up every last crumb on the floor, or being confident that I have caught every single typo in a document. It's not just relief from the pressure of wrongness that demands correction, but active pleasure.

The other night I had a dream about starting work at a biotech company. As I was being introduced and saying a few things about myself, some of the men on the team started talking over me like I wasn't even there. I got outraged and told them off. At some point during the ensuing discussion, the dream began to degrade into little colored blobs. I've been playing a marble-matching game a lot lately, and the blobs looked a bit like the marbles, but instead of being in a long string they piled up in heaps. They were very untidy, so I got a Dustbuster and vacuumed them all up. When I was done, I woke up feeling really good.

This morning I awoke mid-dream; I don't remember what I was dreaming about, but I had that nasty unfinished feeling that can hang over me for hours or send me into a lengthy spiral of dozing and trying to finish the dream and dreaming about something else instead. So I closed my eyes and imagined the dream falling into pieces. I guess this dream had a different structure from the other one, because some pieces were colored blobs but others were long and spiky. When it had fallen apart completely, I got the mental Dustbuster and vacuumed all the pieces up until my dreamscape was clean and white and empty. Then I opened my eyes and felt calm and refreshed, ready to get up.

I am going to try very hard to remember this and apply it as needed. Hooray for OCD making it so satisfying to tidy my brain.

Now I'm pondering whether I can use it on the other end of the day, to somehow "tidy" my evenings so that I feel like the day is properly done and I can go to bed with that same calm, ready feeling. I wonder what that would entail.
5 August 2014 03:50 - "Shorn like a sheep"
rosefox: My head with freshly buzzed hair. (hair-buzzed)
New haircut! I love love love it.

Owly Images

And the photo's not bad by bathroom mirror selfie standards.

At some point I should go around my various accounts and replace my old headshot with one that's a bit more current. I wear my contacts all the time now--I switched back to them in the spring when I thought my outdated eyeglass prescription might be contributing to the vertigo--and I'm definitely a fan of the buzzed on sides/longer on top hairstyle. I've had it for a few months and expect to stick with it for a while.

And now to sleep, even though my freshly buzzed hair rustles and crackles oddly on the pillow.
5 August 2014 00:38 - "But it's not all hard work"
rosefox: My hand with my wedding ring prominently displayed. (wedding ring)
Problem

Now that X is going to bed earlier in the evening, I find myself with a whole lot of free time. Hours on end. I have no idea what to do with free time. I end up just refreshing Twitter and LJ and DW (but I'm only reading limited lists so new things don't come up that often), and desultorily playing S&P2 (I'm pretty bored of it at this point and may just give up), and doing WaniKani lessons and reviews (but they space them out every few hours). Sometimes I snack--ooh, exciting! Sometimes I play games on my phone, because they're there and easy. Sometimes I do chores or tidy, because that is a responsible use of my time.

I can reel off a list of other options: knit, cross-stitch, read, watch TV or movies, listen to music, organize and log books, bake cookies, work, write, call a friend who's in an appropriate time zone. But nothing grabs me.

Basically, I'm bored. And I don't know quite how to un-bore myself.

First Analysis

All the options sound difficult, somehow. Effortful. I'm not sure whether that's because I'm tired or because it's generally hard for me to motivate myself without some external prompt like a deadline or an interaction or a commitment.

Easy, Incorrect Answer

Maybe the best way to deal with the "because I'm tired" possibility is to take the fidgety page-refreshing as my cue to go to bed. If I do that often enough, I'll catch up on sleep and be more awake in the evenings, and then maybe getting out my knitting and picking a movie to watch while I knit won't sound like a dreadfully large amount of work.

Deeper Analysis

I don't think it's just tiredness, though. I feel like there's something blocking me from doing those things in the evenings, something that makes them look more difficult than they are, or actually makes them more difficult than they should be.

*pokes at it* *frowns* *pokes some more*

It feels something like anxiety, maybe. My anxiety is very good at coming up with Very Good Reasons why I can't do something. I can't bake cookies because it might wake up X (whose room faces the kitchen). I can't start reading because I will choose reading over sleep every time, no matter how tired I am, and that means I won't sleep enough. I can't watch a movie and knit because it takes time to pick something out and just as I settle in to watch it, it'll be bedtime. Etc. etc. All these reasons, which sound very reasonable at first and then can be easily undermined with about two seconds of thought. X sleeps through me putting away dishes; baking won't wake them. I can read short stories and have easy stopping points when bedtime nears. I can pick out a movie in advance, or listen to music instead; I have many happy memories of evenings spent cross-stitching while listening to Casey Kasem count down the top 40, back when radios had antennae and dials, and I'm sure knitting to music would work just as well.

And yep, as soon as I start to argue with the Very Good Reasons, I start feeling the actual frantic anxiety, and the Very Good Reasons are replaced by unspecified Potential Terrible Consequences! Good job, brain. Once again I am scared of fun.

*sigh*

Okay, that's not entirely fair. It's more accurate to say that unstructured time provokes intense anxiety in me, and picking out a thing to do in that time--a thing that's just for myself, not a response to something external--is an overt way of admitting the time is unstructured that brings the anxiety to the fore.

Also, once I commit to doing something for myself, I'm no longer available to do things for other people. I'm reminded of the day in 1999 or so when a friend came over and suggested I impulsively take a weekend trip with him to visit another friend. "I can't go," I said. "My [long-distance] boyfriend might call." My friend stared at me and said, "You have a mobile phone. You could bring it with you. Do you even have plans to talk with him?" "Well... no... but he might call." After a few more exchanges like this, he basically instructed me to pack a bag and get in his car. We went off to visit our other friend* and had a great weekend but I cannot begin to describe how terrifying that was. This is sort of like that, on a smaller scale.

* Who, in a hilarious twist of fate, is now partnered with my at-the-time boyfriend.

Rational-brain says that when everyone is asleep I get to do whatever the hell I want as long as I don't wake anyone up, especially since the things I'd be doing are all very interruptible in case of an emergency. I expect that X and J would entirely concur with rational-brain on this.

Anxiety-brain claims that if I were interrupted, I'd resent it, and then I'd be putting myself above other people, and then they'd be upset with me for doing that, and then I'd resent not feeling like I get to come first sometimes, and maybe that would trigger a whole bunch of long-harbored resentment, and off we go sliding down the thought-spiral into doomland. This is old, old baggage that has almost nothing to do with my current life; among other things, I don't actually have any long-harbored hidden resentment, and I frequently get to put myself first in my life without any pushback from other people. I get pushback from me, but I'm working on that.

Restatement of Problem

Unstructured time always freaks me out. Overtly doing things for myself often freaks me out. When I'm confronted with unstructured time that I want to spend doing things for myself, I freak out a lot.

Easy, Mostly Correct Answer

Put the time on my calendar as "my date with me" and let J and X know about it. Their acceptance/approval will ease my anxiety about taking time for myself. Then do a little advance prep, the way I do with my dates with X and J: around mid-afternoon, ask "What do I want to do tonight?". If it's a movie-and-knitting night, pick a movie and put it at the top of my Netflix queue. If it's a book-and-bath night, pick a book, put it on my phone, and make sure we're stocked up on oatmeal bath stuff. If I'm not sure what I'll be up for or interested in, at least narrow it down to two or three options that can be selected from based on energy levels or whatever. This will provide structure, reinforce "my date with me" as a real thing that gets to happen, and keep valuable date-time from being eaten up by indecision.

Difficult, More Correct Answer

When my therp gets back from vacation, work with him on feeling less freaked out by these things.
3 August 2014 04:41 - "So far so good"
rosefox: Me snuggling a giant teddy bear, entirely contented. (happy)
Zoloft taper: All the side effects are lessening, and I'm not having any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms other than occasional moments of very slight dizziness. Taking a gram of taurine at bedtime has helped considerably with the sleep issues. My body and brain both feel more present, more responsive to stimulus, and more... dextrous. Like I just took off my mittens and now I can use all five fingers. It's a good feeling.

Home: The apartment is still awesome. Our landlord is traveling right now, but when he gets back we plan to ask about extending our lease to two years. Everyone's in decent health, which is refreshing, and very happy about my increased happiness and silliness and snuggliness as the Zoloft-fog lifts.

Knees: Mostly not achy. Did more PT on Friday, with a different guy who massages more gently but makes me exercise more. Isometric exercises (leg raises, knee extensions) have been added to the Theraband exercises. I've figured out how to do all of them without using my arms, so I can play phone games while doing the lying-in-bed exercises and eat ice cream while doing the sit-in-a-chair exercises.

Sam-the-cat: After a week of antibiotics, she's back to her old self. For a while she only had energy to get halfway up to her usual perch, but yesterday and today she's bounced right up there. She's on the antibiotics for another week just to be sure the infection gets entirely gone. We've also been feeding her lots of protein-rich dry food in hopes of getting her weight back up. She certainly has an appetite, and she thinks kibble is the best thing ever, so hopefully having snacks easily available will be sufficient. She's snuggled up to me right now and purring happily. I think that means it's bedtime.
31 July 2014 00:51 - "Intermittent failure"
rosefox: A clock with pills instead of numbers. (drugs)
From back when I started the Zoloft:

Taking Zoloft with lunch means it wears off enough by bedtime that I have a bit of trouble falling asleep (my old anxiety-induced awakeness) but stay asleep all night. Taking it with dinner means I fall asleep easily and then wake up every few hours. I'll stick with lunchtime for now.

(I cannot overstate the value of having this journal to track medication use and effects. It's a personal PDR. So essential.)

I'm still taking it at lunchtime, but reducing the dose has me waking up every few hours again. Last night I kicked the cats out so I could get a solid night's sleep, and then I woke up two hours later thinking I'd heard the doorbell. I hate it when that happens, because I don't even check the time and realize that it's 6 a.m. and I'm imagining things; I just leap out of bed to go answer the door.

Presumably this effect will fade either once I get used to the new dose or once I go off the meds altogether. Hopefully the former, since I've got three and a half weeks to go.

Yesterday I actually felt a little flirty, which was very nice.

Tonight I made a joke that fell very flat and J (who is also underslept) got upset and I got upset and we got into one of those stupid conversational spirals where we knew nothing useful was happening but we couldn't stop, and finally I had to text X and ask them to come in and intervene. That broke the spiral but left us all pretty thoroughly done in for the evening. We all forced ourselves to eat and then went our separate ways. I did the dishes and found my brain filling with angry upset self-loathing thoughts, so after I was done I pinged X and they let me cry on them. I am so, so, so tired of crying. On the bright side, I did resist the urge to smash all the dishes, and I no longer feel so awful at/about myself.

I don't think any of that is about the reduced dose, though who knows? But mostly it just felt like being underslept.

I took taurine and put on "Thursday Afternoon" (eternally grateful to [twitter.com profile] meetar for introducing me to it) and now I'm feeling calmer, though I made the mistake of playing a rather intense game on my phone and now my heart is pounding a bit. Might take more taurine. No more intense games tonight, for sure. Just Wanikani kanji practice (I totally blame [personal profile] yhlee for getting me into this) and a bit of Swords & Potions 2.

I really hope I can sleep tonight.

EDIT: I slept for a solid seven hours, woo! I think I'm going to keep taking bedtime taurine until I'm entirely done with the Zoloft; it clearly helped a lot.
28 July 2014 23:20 - "Hurts so good"
rosefox: "He realized that all this time, when he'd been saying OW OW YOU FUCKING BITCH what he really meant was I LOVE YOU." (pain)
This userpic isn't applicable to many sorts of pain, but it is perfect for physical therapy.

PT is EXHAUSTING. I'd forgotten. Also, going straight from PT to walking half a mile to the subway station, sitting on the L for 45 minutes, and then driving from Manhattan to Brooklyn was maybe not my smartest move ever.

The physio thinks my lifelong right hip wackiness is the cause of the knee issues, which would make a whole lot of sense. Apparently my right ITB and quad are "astonishingly tight". "Wait until you get to my hip flexors!" I said cheerfully. Then he tried to make my right hip bend the way most people's right hips bend and I yelled a lot.

Prescription:
* 8 weeks of biweekly PT
* Daily exercises at home w/ Theraband: 3 x 10 @ leg press, 3 x 10 @ hamstring curls, followed by ice (have the ice pack handy before starting to exercise so I don't have to hobble to the freezer for it)
* Start taking glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM (I've ordered an unflavored drink mix version that I can mix into chocolate milk or something, rather than swallow those enormous pills)
* No more sitting with both knees pointing to the left <.<

I'm seriously tempted to just keep going weekly or every other week after my eight weeks of intensive PT are up. The physio is hands-on and terrific, and therapeutic massage is amazing. And because I'm going to a shabby little PT clinic over in Brownsville (also known as "the neighborhood that will never, ever gentrify"), it's only $50 a session. That's the uninsured rate*. O.O The physio was telling me that he moved to Staten Island because he can't afford Brooklyn--maybe it's because he's seriously undercharging his clients. At that rate I really could go just for... well, not fun, exactly, but because it would probably be good to work on fixing my hips so that the knee problems don't recur, and because it feels good, and because I'm a lot more likely to exercise if it's been prescribed by someone I have to fess up to every week or two.

* I have insurance, but my plan year just started and I haven't met my deductible yet. Insert standard "American health care system is broken and bullshit" rant here.

The drive from Manhattan to Brooklyn was because [livejournal.com profile] auntyglory is in town and she hasn't driven to our place before. Giving her directions would stress her out and navigating from the passenger seat would stress me out, so she drove into Manhattan from her cousin's place in New Jersey, and I met up with her and drove us home in her car. This was definitely the least mentally and emotionally taxing option, but NYC traffic means a lot of right-leg work, and by the time we got home I was very thoroughly done with any sort of moving around. She wants to go shopping tomorrow; I hope I'm up for it.
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
Today I went looking for a paper I wrote for a college course in 1996--and found it. It's... um. It's not bad, by the standards of papers written by white freshmen about AAVE. There are surprisingly few parts that make me cover my face and shake my head, probably because most of it is primary source quotes. I'm amused to realize that I still write articles basically the same way: quote primary sources as much as possible, with just enough link text to provide some structure and flow.

Anyway, that got me looking through my folder of old text files, and I found a diary entry of sorts, dated December 3, 1996. If LJ had existed at the time, it would have been an LJ entry, so I posted it, backdated. It's here if anyone's curious. I find it of interest mostly because it establishes a date for my first self-diagnosis with depression and describes my experience of being depressed at the time. Also little notes about my life that are very telling:

"I've found a job that makes me almost as happy as writing for a living would, and which requires much less courage." That job was copy editing for the NYU student newspaper. I admire 18-year-old me for being so perceptive; I continue to cherish editorial work, and to choose it as a career, because it requires far, far less bravery than writing.

"I still have my writing talent, but no time to exercise it, and it's trapped in a cage where I can feel it reverting from housepet to wild animal, all the training eating itself away.... I still have story ideas, though they rarely get to bloom, and the only thing that hurts worse than the unsprouted seed is the one which pokes up a few shoots, looks promising, and then withers away because I don't have the time to care for it properly." Clearly I came into my talent for metaphors at an early age. And... yeah, this is all still true, except that I've gotten a lot better at not looking at it.

"The present never interested me; the past, the future, and the timeless are my domain. The present is vaguely repellant. The past is warm and familiar, the future softly bright and promising..." The positive descriptors are misleading. I'm not drawn to the past or future. The description of the present as "repellant" is much more accurate; specifically, it describes what I would now call anxiety. The past and the future are places to hide from the present.

"I use that word a lot these days. 'Safe.' I wonder what I feel that I need to be kept safe from. My own weariness, maybe. Or the world. Or time." These days I challenge the whole notion of wanting to be kept safe. Risk and bravery are better.

And now I'm going to close those folders before I start reading old chatlogs. That way lies days of secondhand angst and misery.
27 July 2014 22:16 - "Get me off this crazy thing!"
rosefox: A clock with pills instead of numbers. (drugs)
Zoloft taper time! The plan:

Day 0 (today): 12.5 mg/day (the dosage I've been on for the last 18 months)
Days 1-14: 6.25 mg/day
Days 15-28: alternate 6.25 mg/day and 0 mg/day
Day 29: fully discontinue

The last time I went off Zoloft I dropped it cold turkey because I was at much too high a dose for me and it was making me suicidal, manic, and possibly psychotic. (As indicated above, my therapeutic dose is below most people's starting dose, and my psychiatrist at the time had no idea how to dose someone like me.) I don't recall experiencing any adverse effects from the abrupt stop, but I wasn't really paying much attention at the time, and I'm not sure I would have noticed anything unless it was worse than the effects of the Zoloft itself. That said, I don't expect to have any problems, especially since I'm tapering this gradually.

I wasn't expecting to be able to cut my half-pills in half again, but J keeps our kitchen knives nice and sharp, so that makes life easier. I could possibly cut them even smaller but I think that's probably unnecessary.

I cannot wait to be off this stuff. Cannot. Wait.

Usual rules for comments about medical stuff: no advice unless I specifically ask (which I'm not) or you think I'm about to inadvertently harm myself.
25 July 2014 22:40 - "Go kitty go!"
rosefox: A black cat happily hugs a denim bolster (cat)
Kitty micturition TMI--all good news )

Other than that, it's been a very lovely day. My mother came over for lunch and was thrilled by the new place and impressed by our kitchen layout and equipment. Always nice when an FCI-trained chef is happy to cook in your kitchen. :) After she left, X came home early from work and I sobbed all over them for about an hour--going to the vet's office is very hard on me, plus it's just generally been a rough week--and then wiped my face and declared myself done with crying. We spent the rest of the evening snuggling and knitting and attempting to make gluten-free bread in the bread machine (the dough was too wet, so it overflowed and scorched on the heating element; I'm letting it dry out overnight in hopes of that making it easier to clean up, since right now it's basically yeasty glue).

Pre-pregnancy things have shifted X's sleep schedule around a lot. We used to have tea five nights a week from ~10 to ~midnight, but now they're exhausted and ready for bed by 10 or 10:30. This is our first time trying a weeknight date, on the theory that one long date a week could replace shorter but more frequent teatimes. I had been very very reluctant to delete the "time for tea!" alarm from my phone because it felt like such a loss, but if all our dates are as good as this one was, I'll feel a lot better about the change.
25 July 2014 01:43 - "A wide variety"
rosefox: A woman with words running through her head nonstop. (noisy brain)
Good things:

The one (1) knee doctor in NYC who takes my insurance was great. He says I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, which means "That pain you told me about, where your knee meets your shin bone? It's pain where your knee meets your shin bone". I love medicine. ℞ is physical therapy to stretch and strengthen my quads, biweekly for eight weeks. Conveniently, the one (1) physical therapist in NYC who takes my insurance is also 20 minutes from my house by a single very direct bus.

This particular variety of knee pain is like most back pain: the best day-to-day treatment is to pretend it's not there and keep doing what you'd usually do. So I've been doing that and my knees are doing better, though still really not fond of stairs.

X and J and I had a really really nice family date night last night. We made a tasty dinner and watched "Encounter at Farpoint", and then J went to bed and X and I stayed up for a bit and snuggled and watched Northern Kings metal covers of pop ballads and giggled together. It was just right, and sorely needed.

I bought new sandals: Naot Karenna, dark brown ("buffalo"). They're very comfortable, though it's taking me a little while to figure out how tightly to fasten the straps; I'm used to the shift-and-give of buckles, not the firmness of Velcro. I had the toe strap on the left one too tight today and it rubbed a bit. But they suit my gender perfectly and my knees feel great when I'm wearing them. And I already had a dark brown belt to wear with them, because this dandy is prepared.

Therapy today was of the wrenching emotional variety and also the being gently scolded challenged by my therp. "Be messy," he said, "and stop policing your emotions." New therp is very very good. I am very very full of feels and now very very aware of being full of feels and very very nervous about letting them out. Augh. Oh well, this is what therapy is for. It is still a good thing, though it's hard.

After therping I decided that what I really needed was a steak and a book where people are nice to each other, so I went out to Outback (not the best steak in the world, but in my price range and right across the street from work) and read a good chunk of a romance novel, and felt considerably better after that. Yay self-care.

Annoying things:

Rose, mid-May: "I'm going to cut back my FSA contributions a lot, since I'm finishing up with my therapist and generally in good health."
June 1: annual FSA contribution adjustment deadline passes
Rose, mid-July: "I'm seeing a new therapist who doesn't take my insurance and now I need 16 sessions of physical therapy. Um. Welp. Guess I use post-tax money for that."

Can't foresee everything, I suppose.

The Naot sandals are made in Israel. I struggle a lot with the whole boycott idea, which has some significant downsides, but it's still hard for me to buy Israeli goods right now. I can talk around and around the politics and morals and practicalities and it comes back to that point of pure emotion: it's hard for me. And I'm so sad that Israel is doing such terrible things. And I'm going to stop here because I can't even really bear to think about any of this right now. (So no comments on this topic, please.)

Sad things:

My poor little Sammycat has a UTI. I think this is the first time she's been ill in the nine years she's lived with us, so she is confused and perturbed. I had to put her in kitty jail overnight because she was leaving sad little pink-tinged puddles all around the house in hopes that maybe if she pees in this spot it won't hurt. I lined the entire thing with wee pads and gave her food and water and a cardboard box to sleep in. It's going to take her a while to figure out that kitty jail is a place she can't get out of, and then she's going to whine and wail for a bit, and then hopefully she'll be able to sleep.

Alex is completely freaked out by the sight of kitty jail--he spent several days in quarantine there when we first got him, and clearly has not forgotten--and really confused by being on the outside of it and another cat being on the inside of it. I hope he leaves Sam alone. I placed it as far from all our bedrooms as possible, and well away from the cat tree that's Alex's most likely perching spot. Usually he and Sam both sleep in my room, but I have my door shut so I can't hear her crying. My poor tiny cat. :( :( :( I just hate making her sad, but I can't stay up all night and follow her around with paper towels.

One of us will take her to the vet tomorrow and get her some tasty antibiotics. Good thing we've trained her to think of Pill Pockets as treats. Since she's never been sick, we've never had to pill her, but I can't imagine she'd handle it well.

Augh, even with the a/c and fan on "high" I can hear her agonized lonelyhowl, the sound she used to make at our old apartment every night because I couldn't let her sleep in my room. This is awful. At least I know from that experience that she'll give up once it's clear that I'm not coming out to free her.

I keep telling myself that this is character-building and will help me prepare for being a parent. Or something.

Time to sleep so I can be a good cat-parent in the morning.
23 July 2014 00:36 - "Next!"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
The last piece of IKEA furniture is DONE. DONE DONE DONE DOOOOOONE.

(Well, we may put knobs on the drawers at some point. But whatever, that's minor and easy to do and we may decide not to bother. Everyone seems happy to open the drawers from the side right now.)

The very last remaining things to do:

* I put the base and lids for our old blender up on Craigslist Free Stuff, and someone is coming to get them tomorrow.
* The IKEA boxes go out with the recycling on Friday.
* On Saturday J and I will haul two huge bags of fabric recycling to the farmer's market.
* Possibly there will be some vacuuming.

And then I will take photos of the living room/dining room/kitchen/library and you can all see what a splendid apartment we have, now that it's populated by furniture and books and appliances rather than boxes and boxes and boxes.

=====

My knees were feeling somewhat better today (yes, plural--I'm putting more weight than usual on the left to spare the right, so the left is complaining too), despite poor sleep. I've been trying to work from my very comfy office chair instead of in bed, and I think it's helping. After J and I met for dinner, we took a very small stroll in the park. I had the brace on my right knee and was careful not to overdo it, and my caution was rewarded by an almost pain-free climb up the subway stairs on our way home. I rested for a few hours and then got up and did a bit of tidying (no heavy lifting). So far so good.

I can feel my shin muscles aching now that I know what I'm looking for, and the heating pad helped a lot yesterday, so I'm increasingly certain that working from home in a one-flight walkup has simply made me too sedentary and my muscles have weakened to where they can't adequately support my joints. I also need new sandals, which I will hopefully get on the way home from the knee doc tomorrow. I don't like any of this season's Merrell or Timberland sandals, and I've been wanting something a bit more solid and butch, so I'm seriously considering my first Birkenstocks. Fortunately the knee doc is at 33rd Street, so I'll pop over to Eneslow and try on shoes there to get a sense of Birkenstock sizes and how they feel on my feet.

=====

Yesterday was a pretty rotten day for me and X, and we were both staggering a bit today from the emotional hangover. But we managed to pull through it with a great deal of support from the always amazing J, and there was even a bit of cuddling and laughing later in the evening. Tomorrow we inaugurate our weekly family date night, which is probably going to be like a typical night except with more snuggles. I think that sounds excellent.

=====

I didn't get to bed until 7 a.m. yesterday, so I've been groggy and fleh all day. Time to try the yoga nidra mp3 of [personal profile] norah's that [personal profile] rydra_wong pointed me to, and see if it can put me to sleep at something approximating my best bedtime.
20 July 2014 02:00 - "Achy breaky"
rosefox: A mopy cartoon man saying "Weh". (cranky)
My right knee has been cranky for the last couple of weeks. The pain feels like it's directly under my kneecap. I didn't twist it or fall or anything; it's just started complaining when I go up and down stairs or spend more than about 15 minutes on my feet. I've been PRICEing and NSAIDing to no avail. J says it's a sign that I'm getting old. In 11 months I'll be able to say "I'm 37, I'm not old!" at him; for now I just roll my eyes.

...okay, I admit, it's more like PICE. I don't know how to rest. I certainly didn't rest it much last weekend; Readercon = lots of walking around the hotel + lots of driving. And when I have a brace on it doesn't hurt, so then I run errands and do dishes and so on. I'm sure I should rest it more.

I just don't know how to treat joint things. I am a tendon injury treatment expert. Muscle aches are easy to work out or soak away or ignore until they get better. But joints... I feel like the ice isn't even really getting through to the part that's sore, because my patella is in the way. Advil doesn't touch it (though I may still have an Advil tolerance from back when I took 2400 mg/day for my arms) and more troublingly, Celebrex doesn't either. And I hesitate to wear the brace all the time because that's counter-indicated for tendon injuries and (like any pain relief) it encourages overuse rather than rest. So I'm kind of stuck on what to do, other than literally sitting around with my leg up on a couple of pillows.

I have an appointment with a sports medicine doctor for Wednesday. In the meantime, joint pain sufferers, any suggestions?
19 July 2014 14:59 - "Cash dollars"
rosefox: An adult and a child lead a group of people fleeing from disaster (long hidden)
I just got my first royalty check.

It has... a lot more digits than I was expecting. Four of them. BEFORE the decimal point.

My first thought was "Eeeeee!". My second thought was "This means my book is helping to keep Crossed Genres afloat". I am really, really glad to be part of something that's doing so well for CG.

And now I'm going to scan it before I deposit it. :D
18 July 2014 19:03 - "Pay a heavy price for it"
rosefox: This has been a consciousness-raising message from THE SISTERHOOD. Power to the oppressed. Stay strong, sister. (feminist-militant)
Shorter Wiscon: In recognition of the possibility that a harasser may eventually learn to behave himself like someone who graduated kindergarten, we will guarantee that a minimum of two people (the ones he harassed) will no longer feel comfortable at our convention.

Good job, folks. That is some solid community-minded thinking right there. When you have loads of people saying "As long as this dude is at your convention, I will not feel safe there" the OBVIOUS feminist position to take is that the dude's potential rehabilitation matters more than the feeeeeeelings of all those laaaaaadies. They're probably just being oversensitive. They'll come back. After all, there are no other soi-disant feminist conventions for them to go to!

All sarcasm aside, I suggest that any con that has ever permanently banned a harasser begin labeling itself a feminist convention, as the claim to the term is clearly pretty wide open at this point.

I wrote about redemption narratives and convention harassment in 2012. I could write about it again, but why bother? It's clear that the people who needed to read it the first time around either never did or forgot it as soon as they closed the tab. And we're right back where we started, following some guy through his sin-repentance-redemption story while ignoring all the women who will be going to other conventions or just staying home.

(Incidentally, if you want to help mitigate the financial costs to Elise for having to stop selling her gorgeous handmade jewelry at Wiscon, please consider buying some of her wares for yourself or someone else.)

Note that Frenkel can appeal the decision in case he thinks it's too harsh, but no one else can appeal it for being too lenient. That's a very clear sign as to which way the committee thinks it's erring. And it's dead wrong.

The subject line of this post is from Dan Harmon's plot embryo:

1. A character is in a zone of comfort
2. But they want something
3. They enter an unfamiliar situation
4. Adapt to it
5. Get what they wanted
6. Pay a heavy price for it
7. Then return to their familiar situation
8. Having changed

That's the Frenkel story. He's supposed to pay a price for getting what he wanted--the opportunity to harass a couple of women--but all he loses is four years of Wiscon. However, anyone who doesn't want to be around harassers loses Wiscon forever. And Elise and Lauren pay the highest price of all for having spoken up: the price of being told, almost in so many words, that their pain and sorrow don't matter as much as Jim Frenkel getting a second chance. They don't get to return to their familiar situation. They don't get what they wanted. They don't get the neat episodic story arc. They're left to make new stories for themselves, with so much less cultural and community support than they need and deserve.

This is really dispiriting.
16 July 2014 03:00 - "Wet blanket"
rosefox: A clock with pills instead of numbers. (drugs)
For about the first year I was on Zoloft, it was basically perfect: fewer panic attacks, increased ease of controlling anxiety, minimal side effects. The worst of the latter was dry mouth, and once I switched to special toothpaste/mouthwash and started carrying around peppermint candies all the time, that was pretty bearable. I had to very strictly avoid caffeine and alcohol, but my consumption of those was already minimal, and the dry mouth exacerbated my oral allergy reactions, but I really can't object to having an additional reason to not eat things I'm allergic to.

Then a few months ago, as I really shook off the last of 2013's depression, I started to feel like my emotions were wrapped in a blanket. It's become particularly apparent since the vertigo went away and I stopped being a storm of vertigo-related frustration and misery. I can tell that my moods are being artificially leveled. I do not like this feeling. I do not like it at all.

X and J are bubbling with NRE and silliness, and I can't enjoy it the way I'd like to. I'm quietly terrified that X is going to get pregnant and I won't be able to really feel my reactions to that either; that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I want to be there for it. And not being able to access deep emotions is very inconvenient for being at the beginning of a course of therapy that's touching on a lot of deep, old stuff. Readercon was fun but not transcendent, and I suspect that's because I can't achieve transcendence right now. There are other things I can't achieve either--the famous SSRI anorgasmia has struck at last, with really terrible timing--but mostly I'm bothered by not being able to be giddy. I can float, but I can't fly.

Seven weeks until the vertigo treatment study is done and I can get the hell off this drug.
rosefox: The Readercon logo flipped to read R F. (readercon)
Home from Readercon. It was an excellent con and I spent most of it feeling floaty and joyful. As usual, Friday night ended with "there's still so much of the convention left!" and by midday Saturday it was "how is the convention almost over?!". It remains my most favorite convention ever.

Highlights of this year, in no particular order:

* Peter Straub very sweetly asking me to autograph his copy of Long Hidden. "Teenage me just fainted," I told him. Afterwards I actually leaned on the wall in the hotel hallway and cried happy tears.

* Lots of driving. Every time I return a rental car, I'm a little sadder than the time before. Driving is tiring but so exhilarating, even when other cars rocket around hairpin turns and nearly hit me. (Fun times. The adrenaline rush from that might have contributed a bit to the tearfulness noted above.)

* Lots of wonderful time with some of my favorite people in the world, especially [livejournal.com profile] grahamsleight.

* Getting to dandle [twitter.com profile] dailyjuna on my knee as we sprawled on the grass on a sunny afternoon.

* Going to a really good panel on new models for masculinity.

* So much celebration of Long Hidden! Daniel and I gave a great talk, Crossed Genres threw us a great party, and our authors gave great readings. I lost count of how many books I signed, for friends and strangers.

* A splendid room party where people drank cocktails, ate chocolate, and played Slash.

* Squeezing [livejournal.com profile] emilytheslayer's hand as Ada Palmer sang about the importance of the people who make conventions happen. And [twitter.com profile] aahairsto and [twitter.com profile] djolder's performances at the Miscellany, which were glorious in entirely different ways.

* Reading my room poems aloud at the poetry open mic, and having people compliment both the poems and my reading all weekend. Also, having my mind blown by the amazingness of the open mic! Brilliant poems, brilliant reading. [livejournal.com profile] kythryne and [twitter.com profile] gabrielsquailia's readings especially took my breath away. [livejournal.com profile] tithenai was the perfect gracious welcoming emcee.

* A sleepy snuggly morning phone call with X that recalled all the best parts of our LDR days.

* Squealing and hugging with [livejournal.com profile] vschanoes after she won a Shirley Jackson Award.

* Kit Reed telling me that if we did a Long Hidden sequel she'd send me a story for it.

* Shoshana E. actually jumping up and down and squeeing when she realized she was talking with one of the editors of Long Hidden.

* [livejournal.com profile] hakamadare giving me an ice pack for my arm and beaming with the joy of being useful and helping someone feel better.

* Going to L.L. Bean with J and buying we-missed-you gifts for X.

* Watching the safety team work like a well-oiled machine. There were no major incidents, and the minor ones were quickly and smoothly handled.

* Having a friend tell me, "I ragequit the con scene several years ago because of all the harassment, but at this convention no one talked to my breasts. I'll be coming back."

* Talking with [livejournal.com profile] vschanoes for the entirety of the train ride home.

And now I am home, and J and I have clung to X and been clung to in return, and now I have Sam snuggled up against my arm and I am content.

As of today, I have resigned from the Readercon concom. I'll probably stay on staff in some capacity, but that's all; I'm done with that kind of exhausting volunteering for now. Of course the very first thing I did with my new civilian status was head to the registration desk to buy a membership for Readercon 26. I may be off the committee, but there are very few things that could keep me away from this convention. I was going to say that nothing could, but if X gets pregnant in October and is due in July... yeah, that would do it. Barring that sort of excitement, though, I am already very much looking forward to next year.

And seriously, I signed my book for Peter Straub. How amazing.
10 July 2014 02:30 - "N O A P NOAP"
rosefox: A pie chart for "yes" and "no" that is 100% "no". (no.)
Dear Boston friends: I'm sorry, but I won't be seeing you at those big annual parties anymore.

I do plan to make occasional trips to the Boston area, alone or with J and/or X, so if you'd like to get together one of those times (or suggest a particular weekend that would work well for you), let me know. I'll also see you at Readercon, and maybe one of these days I'll make it back to Arisia. And of course I'd love to hang out with you anytime you're in NYC.

This post is not a space for discussing recent events or the people involved with them. I'm leaving comments open solely for use in planning future travel.
8 July 2014 18:06 - "Just around the corner"
rosefox: The Readercon logo flipped to read R F. (readercon)
Oh hey Readercon is THIS WEEK. Amazing how relaxed I feel now that I'm not program chair anymore.

Here's where I'll be, complete with absurd room names that all sound the same. (What was the Marriott thinking?)

3 p.m. Friday, Embrace: Long Hidden reading with seven of our amazing authors: Sofia Samatar, Claire Humphrey, Lisa Bolekaja, Sunny Moraine, Michael Janairo, Sarah Pinsker, and Sabrina Vourvoulias!

7 p.m. Friday, Salon G: Romance recs for spec fic fans! Come hear me talk about how Isabel Cooper wrote the best time travel novel that no one in SF has ever heard of.

3 p.m. Saturday, Enliven: Daniel and I talk about how we edited Long Hidden!

9 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Envision: Long Hidden party, open to everyone!

You may detect a theme.

I think J and I may also be doing some sort of room party thing on Friday night, so if you feel like joining us, ping me anytime Thursday evening or Friday to get our room number.

I should be much less of a running-around blur this year, so feel free to stop me and say hello if you see me in the hall. I am easily identified by my shorn head, snazzy clothes, and wry smirk.
8 July 2014 00:26 - "I'm just drawn that way"
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (contemplative)
A friend with some experiences of OCD made some super helpful suggestions and comments that I'm noting here in hopes that other people will find them useful.

* It's very common to self-treat OCD with exhaustion. I know I do this a lot. Unfortunately it's also really bad for me. I need to be more aware of when I'm doing it, and try to use other coping mechanisms instead.

* Urges can't really be shut off, but they can be redirected/retrained in combination with being reduced. For example, I channel my judge-and-fix urges away from people and toward housework and editing. As I identify problematic behaviors as coming from OCD-urge-space, I'll try redirecting them as a first step in combination with dialing them down, rather than trying to battle them head-on.

My friend suggested redirection into strength training; my first reaction is to be really wary of that, since I already have a) a chronic overuse injury and b) gender-related body dysphoria. I don't want to treat my body as a thing that's wrong and needs to be fixed at all costs. On the other hand, I find the structure and orderliness of things like the 10-week You Are Your Own Gym program very appealing, and strength training is a thing I want to do once my arm recovers from this weekend's overexertion*. So maybe there is a way to do some channeling of OCD urges without it turning dysphoric or leading me to overwork my body.

* I let agitation get the best of me )

* Meditation is useful for calming the mind, but OCD brains are too noisy to handle traditional no-stimulus or single-stimulus meditation. Try two-stimulus instead, like doing visualization exercises while playing with sand, or listening to music while doing free-form drawing. I may try walking meditation with music.

* Treat the urges as entities that can be negotiated with, rather than as instructions that must be obeyed. I've already done some of this. It's definitely a useful tool to have in the toolbox, especially when combined with my techniques for negotiating with other people.

* My friend suggested cannabis to help dial down obsessive thoughts and compulsions, but I don't use it. However, I will add OCD thoughts/feelings to the list of things that I can probably mitigate with taurine when I need to.

* The OCD need for control is a response to obsessions and urges, which can make you feel very much out of control. Seeing that need for control as a thing that's induced, rather than a thing that's inherent to me, will be very helpful as I try to overcome my fear of unstructured, uncontrolled situations. Developing comfort with unstructured things is not in conflict with my entire personality, even though it feels that way sometimes. Rather, I've been programmed a certain way and am now trying to change my programming. Still scary and hard, but not so much terrifying and impossible.

Thank you very much, awesome helpful friend!
rosefox: A half-completed game where one organizes jumbled dots. (OCD)
I appear to have OCD, not in the "ha ha all editors have OCD" sense but in the "hits all the diagnostic criteria" sense.

Mental illness diagnoses are so weird. Simultaneously, everything I do makes so much more sense and appears totally disordered.

New diagnosis + new therapist to help me with that diagnosis = expect this journal to be all OCD all the time for the next few months. I know I can have bouts of anxiety triggered by descriptions of other people's anxiety symptoms, and I figure this is likely to be similar for other folks with OCD and anxiety-spectrum things, so I will cut-tag any descriptions of agitation and similar things.

I know lots of people who talk in public about having depression or anxiety. I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk in public about having OCD. American culture treats it like a joke, a synonym for perfectionism or neatness; and the actual experience of it often involves disturbing thoughts that are deeply embarrassing to admit to. Since I'm me, I figure that means I should be public about it, and hopefully help other people directly as well as helping to fix our awful broken culture, which is so especially broken around matters of mental health.

Miscellaneous things )


Positive things: My coping mechanisms are top-notch given that I developed them without really knowing what I was coping with. The OCD is relatively mild and controllable. I'm not feeling any urge to self-harm. The condition doesn't interfere with work; quite the contrary. (I am certainly in the right profession.) My new therapist is awesome. J and X are being splendidly supportive.


General comment policy on this topic: I'm willing to take advice from other people who have direct experience with this type of mental illness, either their own or a loved one's. Everyone else, no advice, please.
6 July 2014 01:31 - "Vast improvement"
rosefox: Me laughing joyfully. (joyous)
Yesterday was a pretty crap day. I was full of sadfeels pulled up out of the dusty depths by Thursday's therapy session, and then I didn't eat enough, so I got really cranky and then cried a lot. J and X were understandably unsettled by this, and there was a lot of eggshell-walking and nervousness all around. Despite all our best efforts, I was still fussy and anxious when they went to bed, and I ended up tidying for a couple of hours just to tire myself out. Before I went to bed, I emailed them to say, "All I want for Saturday is for it to be better than Friday."

Saturday was SO much better than Friday. As soon as I woke up, X let J know I was awake so he could wind up his gaming session, and then came in to give me snuggles. As I gradually acquired actual consciousness, I felt the last shreds of yesterday's bad mood blow away. It was such a relief to be able to feel happy and enjoy things again! I got up and showered and shaved and had a proper lunch with actual calories in it, and J finished gaming and he and X took their turns in the shower. Then we hauled out all the unwanted furniture that's been taking up physical and psychic space for weeks. The neighbors promptly scavenged the lot, hurray. Also X found someone on Craigslist who came and took away all our empty book boxes. And none of the cats got out or even tried to, despite there being a few minutes where the stairgate was down and the front door was open.

After that there was lots of snuggling and making out and happy good times. That wound up around 18:30 and we realized it was too late in the day for the big batch of cooking we'd planned to do. J suggested a quick stroganoff, I found a recipe, and we shopped and cooked while X did some room-tidying. And then! Then! We ate dinner at our new dining table!

Amazing how many things needed to come together for that to happen. We have a splendid new table that's pretty and comfortable, with no one's knees banging into awkwardly placed table legs. Thanks to new insulating curtains in the windows and some nice weather today, the living room wasn't a sauna the way it's been for the past couple of weeks. My tidying bout from the previous night meant there was actually space on the table for food. Everyone was at home and feeling well. Our lovely new restaurant-quality napkins had just come back from the laundry. And having all the old furniture gone meant the space was so much more pleasant to be in.

When the three of us first moved to Brooklyn together, we had some awkward and difficult negotiations around dinner because we all had different ideas of what Dinner At The Table is supposed to be like. We ended up mostly eating dinner in X's bedroom, picnic-style on the bed, to avoid all the confusion and stress. Tonight we realized that the confusion and stress were gone; a couple of years of picnics have helped us find our own shared family rhythm and understand one another's expectations, and it was delightfully easy to just settle in and enjoy a very tasty dinner.

Post-dinner, X cleaned up while J rested and I wrote up the recipe, and then we snuggled up on the couch and watched Kung Fu Hustle. After that X and J were wiped out and went to bed. I was all wired up from the movie, so I built the new microwave cart and put wheels on the butcher block cart. Now all we need is to make the drawers for the new hardware cabinet and we will be DONE DONE DONE with the living room. DONE.

I just managed to install the first set of drawer rails upside down while thinking admiringly "IKEA is so smart to make it impossible to install things the wrong way", and my arm is getting kind of sore, so I think I am done for the night.

...and 40 minutes later I have finished doing the dishes and tidying the kitchen, and I am REALLY done for the night. Ice pack on arm. Dishwasher running. Soon: snack, Advil, sleep.

...and then Graham introduced me to Euclid: The Game and suddenly it's 6 a.m. Augh. BED.
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