I've been hanging out in the #yuletide IRC channel even though Yuletide is over, because it's a nice community of writers and that encourages me to keep thinking about writing.
Tonight it encouraged me well enough that I signed up for the Chocolate Box fanfic exchange
(I'm on the hook to write 300 entire words over the course of a month, which is something like 20 minutes of writing for me on a slow day, so I didn't feel I was overcommitting myself) and then did a few rounds of "word wars", 20 minutes of writing as many words as you can. So I have 1100 words of Persuaded
that I didn't have before, and 350 of them are pretty good.
The others, though... talk about your shitty first drafts. Maybe 400 words are okay and then the last 350 are awful
. I could hear the dialogue going clunk clunk clunk
as I typed it, and dialogue is where I'm usually strongest. The characters have no characterization. It's very sad. I said on Twitter that I was going to try to consider the shitty first draft a canon that I then get to write much better fanfic of, but characters are what make a canon worth ficcing, and Austen's characters are why I want to write this book, and if I don't have the characters at least somewhat clear in my head then I need to fix that before I tackle this.
I think I need to go give Persuasion
a good close reread (thanks to Project Gutenberg, I just downloaded it to my phone) and maybe rewatch the 1995 film for good measure, and then replace the clunky bit with something worth reading.
In my defense, I'm fighting off the sort of head cold that has few physical symptoms (I had a sore throat for less than 12 hours) but leaves one utterly exhausted and oatmeal-brained. So it's pretty impressive that I wrote 350 words I'm happy with, and that I wrote 1100 words at all.
I need a better writing userpic. (This is not my writing userpic. I'm just aware that I need a better one.)
Now I'm going to go sleep a whole lot. A whooooooole lot.
The 24th Story Hospital
post is going up on Tuesday. That's pretty amazing. Almost half a year!
I haven't been able to boost the site very much this month, and it shows: no new Patreon patrons joined in December, and the question queues are running dry. I have one question left and then I have to start making them up or pulling them off of Yahoo! Answers. I'd really rather not do that. I want to help real people with their real writing problems.
I know a lot of you have written things: stories, novels, plays, articles, poems, fanfic, essays, PhD theses, instruction manuals, TPS cover sheets. If you've run into any kind of writing problem lately—or ever—and you have a few minutes to spare, would you please write to the Story Nurse about it?https://storyhospital.com/ask_the_story_nurse/
The Patreon patrons are nice and all, but the questions are even more essential to the site than the money. Without people asking for advice, I can't really be an advice columnist. So I would really, really appreciate you taking a moment to send me a question.
Thank you v. v. much.
Yuletide reveals are revealed! My stories this year were "Two for Tea"
, a Questionable Content fluff-fic about Faye and Bubbles opening a tea shop with Hannelore as their tea sommelier, and "The Odds"
, a mashup of both* Ghostbusters
films and Daniel José Older's Bone Street Rumba books, in which Holtzmann and Reza make out on the firehouse roof and Patty and Winston join the battle against the corrupt Council of the Dead.* 1984 and 2016. There are no others.
Both stories were pinch hits. I've been on the list for ten years but this is the first year I've actually done anything with it, which is ridiculous! "Two for Tea" was done within seven hours of picking up the pinch hit; I got the central idea right away, and the only question I had was whether to do it as a story or as a series of scripts for comics. Then I started writing it as scripts and it worked and I went with it. When it was done it was done, minimal tweaking, totally painless. I am desperate for some Questionable Content fan artist to illustrate it.
While I was in fanfic mode, I started thinking that it would be fun to do a Holtzmann/Reza crossover sometime. Then a Holtzmann prompt came across the pinch hit list and I leaped on it.
"The Odds" took me a week, including pretty extensive workshopping. It was a really good week. When I reached the 1500-word mark the first night and realized how much more story I had left, I was a little daunted, but I kept going and kept going. One night I hit the wall of tired that usually means I need to stop for the night, and I thought "I'm not actually that tired, I bet I can write more" and I wrote another thousand words. I want to bottle that feeling.
Every time I needed inspiration, I found it somewhere. Of course there were some factual things I had to research—Baptist funeral customs, double underarm holsters, what kind of nuclear physics people do at Berkeley and how many women are in their physics PhD program, what the roof of the Ghostbusters firehouse looks like—and I reread Midnight Taxi Tango
and rewatched Ghostbusters 2016
to study character voices and make sure I had my references right. But to my eyes the story is one long litany of other nods: to the original film and the awesome backstory for Winston that was cut from it, to Daniel's phenomenal word-portraits of Brooklyn and of black women building amazing lives for themselves (it's not coincidence that Patty has to leave the Ghostbusters world for the Bone Street Rumba world to find fulfillment), to a friend's experiences as a female physicist and other friends' experiences of being neuroatypical and hard of hearing, to someone I knew once who is way too much like Kevin, to my own queer New York life before and after my years in California, to the early days of my relationship with X, to my collections of books on urban history and astrological phenomena, to what it feels like to be building a happy life on the brink of a troubled era, and to my beloved city. I personally recommend every one of the Chinatown restaurants named in the story, by the way, and Ginger's is a pretty good place to shoot pool and chat up queer ladies. And if you're in Lower Manhattan in the summer, you'd better hope a thunderstorm comes through and makes it smell nice for a bit.
Being on vacation was essential
. If I'd had work on the brain I don't think I could have sat down every evening and written a couple thousand words. Of course, if I hadn't been on vacation I wouldn't have been picking up pinch hits.
I was really nervous about the amount of AAVE in the dialogue and ended up haunting #yuletide and emailing people on the beta list and even spamming friends of mine in search of a native speaker who had the time to read a 6500-word story right before Christmas. (I did eventually find one.) I'm also not the biggest GB2016 fan and know nothing about how Holtzmann fanfic is typically written, so I found more betas who could cover that. Then one of the betas pointed out that a black woman having nothing to do except set up her white friend with a love interest was a racist cliché, and she was totally right, so I wrote the Patty and Winston scene and that made it 8000 words. I did a lot of nitpicky revision, pass after pass after pass, and made my last update about two minutes before the archive opened. And then I spent something like 24 hours feeling high as a kite on accomplishment. IT FELT SO GOOD. The writing, the critting, the revising, all of it just felt amazing.
After the bulk of "The Odds" was done, I beta-read a bunch of stories for other people, which was fun and a good use of all my post-writing energy. A long time ago I gave up on the idea of writing groups, but I had such a great experience both beta-reading and being beta'd that I started thinking maybe I should reconsider that stance.
When I came down off the high I started poking at my original fiction projects and immediately froze up. I don't know what it is about prompted, tight-deadline fanfic that frees me to write so fluidly. I hope I can figure out how to write other stories that way, because it felt so good and I want to feel that again. I'm not one of those people who feels coerced by the muse; if I don't enjoy writing, I don't write. But I enjoyed writing these stories tremendously and want to enjoy writing Valour
that much too. There must be a way to do that, right? Even after work picks up again? I really hope so.
Poor Kit had night terrors last night, or something like it—sudden screaming, out of nowhere, red-faced, inconsolable. X and I were quite shaken by it. Eventually Kit came out of it and then played with their hairbrush for a bit and went back to sleep. Babies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For the last few weeks they've been coughing in their sleep sometimes. It's not a productive cough, they haven't had a fever at any point, and it only happens at night, so we figure it's from accidentally inhaling their copious teething-drool (that molar is taking its sweet time coming in). The first couple of nights they'd wake up but now they sleep right through it, which is a little disconcerting. How quickly children adapt. It seems like a strength at first but I see it as a vulnerability too; they can adapt to things that aren't okay and shouldn't be normal, and adaptation can take a toll. Nothing I can do about the coughing, but it's a reminder to be mindful about the other ways I shape Kit's experiences and teach them what "normal" is.
I'm going to try to post more slice-of-life things here that aren't baby anecdotes. X and I sat down together tonight and wrote things by hand! The timing didn't work out for us to do it by candlelight, as the Hanukkah candles had already burned down, but I still felt very old-fashioned using my lovely antique lap desk. The angled surface made writing much easier on my arm, even using a skinny pen. I wrote the last of my notes and cards for holiday_wishes
, and X wrote thank-you notes to people who'd given Kit birthday presents.
One of the people on holiday_wishes wanted cross-stitch supplies for teaching Ukrainian embroidery. I have a TON of evenweave fabric, some of which I've had 20 years or more. I also have a lot of unfinished and unstarted cross-stitch kits, and if my arms ever heal and strengthen to the point where I can do embroidery again—which I'm kind of skeptical about, though it's a good goal to have—I'd start with the kits rather than designing my own. And I'm pretty sure I'll never have the arms for doing knotwork with silk floss again; that was hard even before I developed the tendinitis. So I took all the silk I bought back when I thought I could make money making jewelry (what was I thinking
) (well, okay, my head wasn't very clear at the time), and all the fabric, and put it in a box that I will ship off this week. An immigrant will get to preserve her culture and heritage, and there's more room in my crafting dresser for
all the yarn I keep buying and not knitting with. Everyone wins!
I just left this comment for a friend who made her first LJ post in a year and a half, about needing a refuge from Twitter:It's good to see you here again.
A lot of us are looking for the same thing, and looking for it here (or on Dreamwidth). Twitter seems to have hit a toxicity tipping point, and the recent political news has sharpened our ideas of where we put our effort. Even for those of us who still have the wherewithal to shrug off trolls, we've got more important things to do with our energy and attention than fritter it away on shrug after shrug after shrug.
I locked my Twitter account for unrelated reasons and I'm really glad I did. The one time I unlocked it recently, within 24 hours I needed to flee back to privacy.
Back in the day when LJ was booming, I would compulsively refresh and refresh and refresh until it was late at night and for a little while no one was posting and I could free myself from it and sleep. Before that I did the same with Usenet, and before that with IRC. Twitter doesn't feel very different to me, except that, like IRC, it refreshes itself. But I suspect my usage patterns are unusual and most people get more of a dopamine firehose from Twitter than they ever did from other sources. Having been drinking from dopamine firehoses for a long time, I can tell you with some authority that they are really, really bad for you. And Twitter is unique in what you so beautifully call its "kaleidoscope of contexts"—where one rapidly scrolling IRC channel still only contained maybe two or three conversations, Twitter has dozens all happening at once. It's utterly wretchedly exhausting.
I hope we see a return to longer-form thought, threaded conversations, more order, less chaos. LJ or DW or Wordpress or Medium, doesn't much matter to me, but something better than the noise machine.
There's been lots of talk about LJ's servers moving to Russia
. I will continue crossposting from DW, as I have been. If I were still giving money to LJ I would stop, but I've had a permanent account since forever, so there's not much I can do there. I suppose I'm actually a net drain on their resources. I don't have the sense that they make money off my data. I don't think I'm putting myself in danger or making anyone else more vulnerable by continuing to use LJ. So I'll continue to use it for now, and see what happens. If you're aware of reasons I should discontinue crossposting or delete my data from LJ altogether, please do share.
I was looking for a book tonight and realized a friend had borrowed it. So I checked my "borrowed books" list and ended up emailing a whole bunch of folks to say "You borrowed books from us ages ago, can we have them back?". Many of them have moved house and gone through other upheavals and I will be pleasantly surprised if they even still have the books or remembered that they got them from us, but it'd be nice if it happens.
I immediately got an email back from one person saying (very nicely) "Didn't I already give those back?" so apparently I have not been so diligent about updating that spreadsheet. I'm pretty sure most of the books I emailed about weren't stealth-returned, though. Pretty
sure. We'll see. At any rate, it's an excuse to get in touch with some folks I haven't been in touch with for a while, maybe make some lunch dates with the local ones, and that's no bad thing.
Vosges finally started making a dark chocolate version of their bacon bar and tonight the stars were right for me to have
half of it (oops). I'm impressed with the crunchiness of the bacon bits. The smoky flavor is very strong, which somehow I wasn't expecting; it's the first thing you smell when you open the package and the last note of the aftertaste. It's good.
Of course, having had that much chocolate, I now shouldn't have hot chocolate before bed. I'm tired enough that it probably wouldn't wind me up too far, but better not to take chances. It's so annoying to have to make these calculations. But it could have been one of those nights when I can't have any chocolate at all, so I will count blessings etc. and maybe make some mulled cider for a hot bedtime drink instead. Or ginger honey drink; my mother brought me ginger cookies from England and they are the sort of thick hard cookies that are intended to be dipped into tea or equivalent, and if I can't dip them into hot chocolate (which would be awesome) then ginger honey drink is the next best option.
Or I could just go to bed. But I want to write up Kit's 12-month post (!) (!!!) so I'll be up for a little while yet.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.arms, food, food.candy, livejournal, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.dreamwidth, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, projects.crafts, stuff, stuff.books, stuff.gifts, words.letters
Hilarious 3 a.m. baby anecdote time!
Kit's been really into clapping their hands lately. When they're sad they clap to cheer themself up. It is amazing. They've learned that when they clap the adults all clap back, and they get DRUNK WITH POWER and lead call-and-response clapping for quite a long time. Sometimes if you say "clap" they clap but that's not consistent yet.
Tonight they woke up just as I was going to bed. X is back on overnight duty (which is why I can go to bed at 3, which feels like absolute luxury) and got up to cuddle the baby back to sleep. I finished my nighttime ablutions and went into Kit's room for a quick snuggle. I had been reading a parenting book that was interesting and useful but also contained anecdotes about kids younger than Kit who can do things Kit can't do yet, and some part of my brain always freaks out about those comparisons. The best cure is to spend time with the actual baby and marvel at what a wonderful tiny person they are. I had been hoping they would wake up precisely so I could do this, even just for a moment.
Kit was sleepy but happy, and indeed, seeing them was an instant balm on my poor anxious brain. I kissed their forehead, tucked the fuzzy go-to-sleep blanket around them, and told X that I had finished all my chores and was going to bed. X held up their hand and we high-fived.
Kit looked interested. "That's a high-five. It's like clapping but with someone else's hand," I said. They had their right hand out of the blanket, so I gently tapped my palm against theirs. "See? Like that. High-five."
X high-fived them, and I high-fived them, and then they pulled their left hand out of the blanket. I held my hand up near their left hand. "High-five?"
They tried and missed.
It was the tiniest, funniest little limp-wristed attempt at a high-five that I have ever seen. X and I laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. Kit laughed along with us because people who are laughing are also funny, at least if you're a baby.
When we all recovered, I gave Kit a few more gentle high-fives, and then we all clapped for a bit because it's fun. Then I said goodnights and left the world's best and most hilarious baby to fall back asleep on X's lap, puzzled but pleased. And now I can go to bed suffused with joy at my child's accomplishments and eagerness to learn new things... even if it takes a few tries.
You are one year old today. It has been a very eventful year with lots of ups and downs for our family. Through it all, you have warmed my heart (and my lap) and made all the hard things feel bearable and all the good things feel even better. Your smile lights up my life. Your hard work and perseverance in the face of frustration inspire me. Your unstinting love and trust make me melt.
No offense to other kids, but every time I meet another child I think how lucky we are to have you. Of all possible children, I can't imagine one better suited to our family. You are goofy and ridiculous, opinionated when it matters, amiable when it doesn't, generous with demonstrations of affection, serious about self-improvement, vocal about your needs and easily satisfied, fascinated by the world. When people ask whether we're planning to have another child, we tell them honestly that it would be unfair to our second child to have to put up with having such a purely wonderful older sibling. Besides, we only ever wanted one baby. I'm so glad that baby turned out to be you, my best Kit. So glad.
I don't at all want you to feel pressure to live up to some ideal of perfection. You are perfect just as you are. You're perfect when you're clumsy and you're perfect when you're cranky and you're perfect when you lick the couch pillows with your mouth still half full of milk. (You will also be perfect when you're old enough to do your own laundry. The couch pillow covers are washed on cold and hung up to dry.) Don't ever think that I love or appreciate you "despite" some part of you. I love every single bit of you.
Sometimes I joke that you're my littlest roommate. Before you were born I occasionally worried that when you got older we'd have trouble living together; in the past it's sometimes been hard for me to share space with other people. But I love living with you, and I think we'll have a pretty easy time of it even when you're bigger and more actively making use of the house. You're already really good at showing us when you're hungry or tired or desperate to go outside, and I'm sure you'll only get better at understanding what you need and asking for it, whether that's time to yourself or quiet together time or shared activities. And an advantage of three parents is that there's almost certainly always going to be someone who wants to hang out with you if you're in a hanging-out mood.
I worry about you sometimes, but it's because I'm the worrying sort. By any objective measure you are a sturdy, healthy child. You rarely get sick and get over it quickly. When you fall down you complain for a bit (quite reasonably) and then get up again like nothing happened. You are so generous with your smiles that we never have to wonder whether you're happy. And you even snore just a little when you're asleep so I can hear it on the monitor and don't have to turn the camera on to make sure you're breathing. Every anxious parent should have such a reassuring baby.
The next year is going to bring us some exciting things. You'll learn more about moving your body the way you want to. You'll get better at crawling and then leave it behind in favor of walking. You'll learn to use some words and signs to communicate; I can't wait to hear you say our names. Maybe this will be the year you start to sometimes want one particular parent and not just whichever one is handy. The next time your birthday comes around, you'll probably want to eat the cake and not just stick your fingers in the frosting. And I bet you'll make friends with all the street cats in the neighborhood.
To quote a very kind and wonderful man, Mr. Fred Rogers, whose work I hope to introduce you to someday soon: "You are growing so well inside and out. I'm proud of how you are growing, and I hope you are too."
Endless love, my little bean. Thank you for being such excellent company for the past twelve months. I can't wait to see who you become this year, and beyond.
It's Yuletide! Hooray! I actually picked up two pinch hits this year because I was on vacation and the prompts spoke to me and why not? And then they ended up being 10,000 words combined. Which I wrote in eight days. D: I don't even know how I did that but it felt GREAT.
While we wait for the reveal, some fics I've loved so far:
ZOMBIE CANNIBAL SHIA LABEOUF. This is exactly the sort of bonkers amazingness that Yuletide is for. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8975062
I asked for trans!Ozma on the pinch hit requests page and didn't get it (maybe next year), but that reminded me to look through this year's Oz fics. This just barely slashy Ozma/Polychrome ficlet is super cute: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/9001966
Two queer suffragists show Dorothy around San Francisco and listen to her Oz stories. So sweet! And full of good SF history, too. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8886220
A wild Oz/Labyrinth/Princess Bride/Neverending Story/Narnia/Arthurian legend crossover. Wow. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8973598
For Fifth Season
fans, pregnant Syenite and tender Innon and adorable poly negotiations: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8829922
And one of Alabaster learning about, uh, that spoilery silvery thing: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8873668
Someone wrote about Aral Vorkosigan asking Captain Awkward for advice because the world is beautiful: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8924812
This teeny little Craft Sequence fic is sly and subtle. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8876092
80s movies! You wanted sweet sassy sexy Ferris/Sloane/Cameron fic, right? Yes you did. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8879641
Lydia Deetz house-sits for the Addams Family: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8888698
And this 21st-century Heathers
fic redeems Veronica in a rather lovely way. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8879437
I don't know The Handmaiden
, but I beta'd this fic and it's gorgeous. Kinky queer girls finding happiness: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8974219Hamilton
crossover with Patty staring down Jefferson? Hell yes. Expect to see this one on a lot of rec lists. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8952964Ghostbusters
F/F/F/F is the definition of "I do not ship it" and I still thought this was super cute: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/9005827
There are THREE fics that mix Good Omens
with "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and they're all pretty fun, though my favorite is (of course) the one with the footnotes, "Crowley and the Golden Fiddle": http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/tags/Good%20Omens%20-%20Neil%20Gaiman%20*a*%20Terry%20Pratchett/works
And there are two Hark! A Vagrant pirate/nemesis fics and both are ADORABLE. "Duel to be Kind" just slew me, if you'll pardon the expression: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/tags/Hark!%20A%20Vagrant/works
This adorable sexy postscript to The Grand Sophy
is pitch-perfect: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8880568
I've got lots more bookmarked for future reading. If you feel like wandering around, the list of included fandoms
is a good place to start.
Kit happenings today:
1) Our crib mattress board has three height options. It's been on the middle one since Kit was born; we got a thick mattress and a crib bumper that meant the top setting was never quite workable. Today they were sitting in the crib and pulled up to standing without any help, and I realized that the crib rail came up to only slightly higher than their waist. I promptly took them out of the crib and lowered the mattress to the lowest setting for safety. As soon as I put them back in, they figured out how to pull up to standing again, which is good—I really didn't want to respond to their accomplishment by making it harder for them to accomplish things. They generally seem quite happy with the change. Such an amiable child.
2) X pointed out that Kit really likes our laptops and phones because they see us using them so much, and suggested that we do more non-digital things with the baby. So this evening Kit and I cuddled up on the couch and read books together. We probably spent most of an hour like that, me reading an advance copy of Daniel José Older's Battle Hill Bolero (very good), Kit playing with and drooling on That's Not My Owl (they adore that whole series of books). Occasionally I'd take pictures or answer a text, and while my hands were occupied Kit would steal my book. They liked turning it upside down and tugging at the cover and opening it to the middle and attempting to eat it. I encouraged all these things except the last one. It was one of the best hours of my life.
This morning I got to bed late because the baby had woken up and all I wanted to do was spend time with them, and then I barely got any work done because the baby was home from daycare (J's parents were here in the morning and early afternoon) and all I wanted to do was spend more time with them. Right now they're fast asleep and I'm resisting the urge to go into their room and scoop them up; it's great that they're sleeping so well lately but it means we don't get our mid-night cuddle time and I miss it. I just can't get enough of this happy cuddly squeaky squealy serious hard-working baby.
Aw, they just woke up babbling happily and I could totally justify going in to cuddle them. But I don't want to go in because we're trying to encourage them to go back to sleep on their own when they wake up. Nnnngh. I knew parenting would take willpower but was not aware it would take this particular kind of willpower!
EDIT: They started to get fussy so I indulged in some cuddling. Such a good snuggly baby.
Tonight I went to a civil rights speak-out organized by Jesse Hamilton, my state senator. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually really useful!( Politics )
Hamilton is going to start holding monthly civil rights task force meetings, which I plan to attend. He said the next one is going to be specifically queer-focused. It's really nice to see non-queer people doing these things.
Bonus: a high school acquaintance was there and recognized me, so we caught up a bit and swapped contact info and like that. So I got everything I wanted out of it and then some.
I have a thread on kaberett
's love meme post
if you feel like leaving me a comment. Lots of other good people are there too. Spread the love around. Also check out swan_tower
's tikkun olam open thread
I'm offering free training over Skype for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively call their elected representatives and ask them to support bills or otherwise take useful action. If you're interested, PM me. Feel free to let others know about this offer; it's available indefinitely.
I downloaded a URL blocker for Chrome and set Twitter and Tweetdeck to redirect to an eight-hour video of birdsong
. It's doing wonders for my mental health. I also ate two full meals yesterday, took the baby to visit my mother for lots of intergenerational hugs, got a haircut, and solidly slept seven and a half hours. Now I just need the last of this head cold nose-cloggery to go away and I might actually start to feel human again.
This userpic has never felt so apropos.
Our plan for Election Day included a plan to make sure we ate dinner, and I am very glad for that, because I haven't managed to eat a full meal since. Maybe I'll be able to eat tomorrow.
I haven't cried. I guess I'm not shocked enough to cry. Or maybe I wasn't personally invested in Clinton enough to be devastated when she lost. I don't know. But whatever it is that's making people cry, I'm not experiencing it. I've been anxious all day in a sort of abstract way, and now I've talked to both my parents—the Clinton voter and the Trump voter—and somehow both those conversations calmed me way down. I can't explain why that's as true of talking to my father as it is of talking to my mother. Maybe because he couldn't actually bring himself to tell me he'd voted for Trump. He said, "Each of us knows how the other voted, so let's just leave it at that." My father's never shied away from a political conversation over a long lifetime of holding contrarian and often outrageous opinions. If even he feels abashed about this vote, maybe there's a little hope yet.
My mother, with six decades of leftist activism under her belt, assured me that this, too, shall pass. I needed to hear that, and hear the sincerity in her voice.
I've been glad to see so many people posting to LJ/DW today. We need spaces like this to get all our many thoughts and feelings out.
I called in sick to work—I am actually sick with a dreadful head cold that just will not go away, which is the other part of why I'm not sleeping or eating well—and spent the day activisting on Twitter. Replicating some of that here just to get the various words out:
I'm really pleased to see so many white cishet people saying "We need to step up". Step 1: LISTEN TO THOSE WHO WERE ALREADY DOING THE WORK. Don't let your guilt or eagerness or habituation to privilege con you into thinking you lead this movement. The movement against white supremacy did not just begin today. It has been around for decades. Respect and follow those who are already in the know. Educate yourselves. This thread
points to a major area where white people need to do the work: talking with our white relatives. I will personally add the caveat that I know there's significant overlap between "my relatives who hold different political views" and "my relatives who are so toxic I can't safely interact with them" and I continue to support people in not interacting with relatives who are not safe to interact with. But if you can have those conversations without significant harm to yourself, do.
I guess it comes back to, again: if you are less vulnerable and marginalized, you need to do more of the work on behalf of those who can't. Challenge your Trump voter dad on behalf of the trans teen who can't safely come out to their Trump voter dad. Speak up in your Trump voter cousin's Facebook comments on behalf of the queer cousin who doesn't read Facebook anymore. If nothing else, you're telling the queer cousin who does still read Facebook (but never comments) that you're an ally for them.
If you can't or won't reach out to that Trump supporter in your family or social circle, maybe you can reach out to their kids. Tell the marginalized teens you know that you're there for them. Tell them directly and plainly. "I see you. I've got your back." If you suspect a conservative's kid is queer or trans, never EVER put them at risk—but do show them extra love. If you're a white parent, put your kid in the least segregated school you can find, and fight de facto school segregation in your city/town. Write letters in support of prosocial children's television. Tell Nickelodeon how much you love those gay dads on The Loud House
. Buy #ownvoices children's and YA books and donate them to school libraries. And join campaigns against whitewashed, queerphobic, and transphobic children's media.
Organizations that are doing useful things:https://our100.org/
and its various signatorieshttps://www.hias.org/http://www.bendthearc.us/https://www.plannedparenthood.org/https://www.cair-ny.org/https://www.lambdalegal.org
Donate if you can. If you can't, sign up for mailing lists and click every one of those petition links when they come through.
Some people are talking about writing to electors in swing states and urging them to break faith and vote for Clinton. I don't see the harm in attempting this, but it's important to remember that electors are ordinary citizens, not public officials, and that hunting down their home addresses or calling them is a really terrible idea and certain to be counterproductive. I think the best way to write to them would be via the state GOP office.
has good info on taking care of your mental health right now.This
is a useful illustrated guide to bystander intervention if you see someone being harassed in a public space.This post
has some interesting post-election thoughts. Not sure I agree with all of them, but I think they're worth reading.The #TransLawHelp hashtag
connects trans people with legal help if they'd like to get name or gender changes before Trump takes office. I've seen recommendations to prioritize getting a passport with the correct gender marker, as that's usually faster and easier than a name change and the passport can be updated with the new name later. Good info on that is here
from someone in the U.K. is lovely and kind.Some wise words
is collecting suggestions on activism for introverts
I picked up Kit from daycare. Their daycare teacher (a Black woman) and I just stared at the babies with teary eyes for a bit. I told Kit, "Reagan was elected when I was two and I got through it. We'll get you through this."
"Really?" the teacher said. "I liked Reagan. I remember my grandma had Reagan things all over the house."
"I was in Greenwich Village," I said. "People had AIDS. No one was a Reagan fan."
And we looked at each other like "nothing's ever simple, huh?" and then talked about how we're going to take care of our kids.
It's horrible but true that there are people who didn't survive Nixon and Reagan and GWB, and there are people who won't survive Trump. All we can do is try to keep our communities together, to support our most vulnerable. Pay one another's bills when we have to. As an EMT once told me, you can't save them all. But you don't stop trying to save the ones you can. And we will keep making art and arguing ideas and having children and otherwise creating things that will live on after we're gone.
I put a post up on Story Hospital about writing goals and deadlines in a time of strong emotions
. It's nominally about NaNoWriMo, since I had a NaNo post to do and I think people doing NaNo are going to feel particularly stressed by the combination of deadline pressure and election fuckery, but it's pretty broadly applicable. I hope it helps someone.
I wish I felt up to writing tonight. I suspect Nathaniel and Algernon would be talking about the raid on the White Swan
This, too, shall pass. Let's do everything we can to make it pass faster and with minimal harm.
Today Kit had their first real playdate! ( It went great! )
Yesterday was one of those days where you have to say "Everyone is fine" before talking about how the day went. ( But don't worry, everyone is fine )
I am trying really hard not to think about the election. Really really hard. I have plenty of other things to think about. But it intrudes constantly.
I have phonebanked and texted and done everything I can to get the vote out for Clinton. I will do a little more tomorrow and Tuesday. I have researched all the down-ballot candidates (including the one who's on the judicial ballot by mistake
). I have a plan to vote
. I just need to remember to wear white
I will be so glad when it's Wednesday and we can at least stop waiting for the results, whatever those results are.
The Brooks Brothers shopping trip consisted of me walking into Brooks Brothers, saying "I don't belong here", and bursting into tears. The way Brooks Brothers does masculinity is really not the way I do it, for all sorts of reasons. Also, I couldn't bear the idea of letting their tailors anywhere near my body. On the way to the store I'd gotten really tense trying to figure out how to project the "right" sort of masculinity and when I realized that was impossible the tension kind of went boom. So we walked out again, and J will find some way to sell the gift card, and then we'll spend the money at Bindle & Keep or on getting good tailoring for the shirts I already have. In the meantime, I went to Express and got some really nice curve-hugging turtleneck sweaters in gorgeous colors. And then I ordered more sweaters from the Express website and a couple other things from H&M (they were on sale!) so now I have a fall femme wardrobe and am very pleased about that.
Ever since I decided not to go on T, I've been feeling very femme. I don't think it's coincidence.
I'd hoped to use the DST change to get myself back on an earlier sleep schedule, but X was totally wiped today because of being up with the coughing teething baby all night last night after the whole ER happy fun times, and I'd gotten plenty of sleep, so I said I'd take the overnight shift. Staying up until 5 is much harder when 5 feels like 6. But J has just woken up, so I'm going to hand off the monitor and go fall asleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.activism, behavior.parenting, body.body clock, body.sleep, experiences.disaster, experiences.dst, experiences.hospitals, ideas.politics, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
Kit's getting over a cold, poor bean. They've held up very well through it but have endured a lot of snuffling and coughing. Last night they technically slept ten hours straight, but there was pretty frequent sleep-coughing and sleep-fussing. (I don't know what other people mean when they refer to babies as "fussing". We use it as an all-purpose term for any brief vocal complaint, the baby equivalent of "Ugh" or "This is bullshit!".)
Tonight I put them to bed as I usually do, and about five hours later they woke up and complained for a while. I waited to see whether they'd fall back asleep on their own, but instead they started coughing, which went on for a bit, so I went in and scooped them up and cuddled them under the fuzzy blanket that's one of our signals for "time to sleep". They tried to gnaw on my knuckle, so I gave them a pacifier; we've been mostly avoiding those while they're sick, because they have trouble breathing through their nose and the extra saliva makes them cough more, but sometimes they just need it to fall asleep. Once they'd settled back to drowsiness, I put them back in the crib and asked them to try falling asleep on their own.
This whole self-soothing thing is still relatively new. When they have trouble settling, I stroke their back and the back of their head (they insist on sleeping face down, stuffy nose be damned) to help ease the transition. Tonight they shifted around a bit and grumbled, so I stroked their back for a bit and then stepped quietly away—avoiding the creaky floorboard next to the crib is an art we are all gradually mastering—and waited to see whether they'd relax.
They reached a hand back and stroked their own head. Several times. Very gently. And then they tucked their hand under their face and fell asleep.
Hi. It's been a while.
J's job rather unexpectedly ended at the beginning of October, and he's been pounding the pavement looking for a new one (and getting lots of interviews because he's awesome). I was sick for a week with a horrid intestinal thing and then had to put my annual best books lists together, which is always quite an undertaking. X has been in work crunch as well, and has been bringing their new boss up to speed. The baby has been absolutely lovely but also, well, a baby—and teething a lot, poor thing, which is no fun for anyone. The cats all needed their annual checkups and so did we, because last October was when we did the whirlwind round of all our doctors to get it out of the way before the baby arrived. I've barely been finding time to breathe, let alone chronicle all the busyness. But October is nearly over, and we're in the calm before the winter storm of holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.
The Story Hospital patron drive was a smashing success. I'm at 54 patrons, and it's not even the end of October yet! So I am definitely going to do NaNoWriMo posts and am very excited about it. I love this project so much. It just brings me pure joy.
I'm having one of those precious evenings where everyone is asleep and the washing machine is chugging away and there's nothing I need to do except keep an ear out for the baby. I could even go to bed early for a change, except that X has been fighting off the 24-hour cold virus I had on Thursday—it quite literally hit at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and was gone by 4:30 p.m. Friday—and really needs a full night's sleep. So I'll stay up until J gets up, just like old times.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend in Boston with emilytheslayer
. It was my first time away from the baby. And I slept
. Oh, how I slept. I entirely ignored the deadline looming over me. I hung out with my hosts, we went shopping at Goodwill for fall femmewear (a previously unnoticed deficit in my wardrobe), I did some knitting, I phonebanked a bit, and I slept. The second night there, I ran out of things to do around 1 a.m., so I decided to start getting ready for bed. I was in bed with the lights out by 2:30. And then I slept until nearly noon. It was magnificent.
Of course then I came home and stayed up until 10 a.m. meeting my deadline. (I am very pleased with my selections
.) And since then there have been a few up-until-6 nights. But I think it's gradually getting better. It was so good to be reassured that I can
still go to bed that early. Apparently I'm much less anxious about needing to be awake in case something baby something something when I'm a few hundred miles away from the baby. And the baby was perfectly fine while I was away (though my spouses were extremely happy to have me come back and resume my share of babycare duties). So on those nights when I feel the anxious urge to stay awake, I remind myself that if I were in Boston everything would be fine, and therefore I can sleep.
I joked today that six months from now I'll be writing a clickbait article called "How Sleep-Training My Baby Cured My Sleep Disorder". It's kind of true, though. Every time I say things like "Your bed is a nice place to sleep" and "It feels good to rest" and "The clock says it's sleep time now" I feel like I'm talking to myself. I've also been feeling a lot of regressive urges to have someone tuck me in or cuddle me to sleep. Maybe it's time to finally replace my dear departed teddy bear, which the cats kneaded into threadlessness. I try not to entirely indulge my parenthood-induced regressions—and incidentally I am so glad
my therapist warned me to prepare for those, because otherwise I'd be totally baffled by what seem like random bouts of feeling like a little kid—but when they don't require anything from anyone else or do me any harm, why not?
On the more adult front, I have killed an unexpected amount of time contemplating tomorrow's long-awaited shopping trip to Brooks Brothers. I'd been meaning to get a suit, and have a $900 gift card that will very nearly suffice for that purpose. (Brooks Brothers suits: not cheap.) But I hardly ever have a reason to wear a suit, and for $900 I could get a sport coat, a waistcoat, a pair of very nice trousers, and two or three shirts, all tailored to fit me, all of which I would wear frequently. I already have a sport coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and shirts, but they're nearly all secondhand and the fit is far from perfect, so upgrading is not a bad idea. I'm also undecided as to whether to present as my indefinable self or as a trans guy. Probably won't wear a binder, but probably will bring one with me, though the very wise ifthenelsa
pointed out that a shirt or jacket that fits me at my bustiest will also fit me if I'm binding, whereas the reverse is not true. And I should bring my elevator shoes, because if I get a suit I will want the trousers tailored for the 3" lift. So many factors to factor in!
The thought of hauling around my elevator shoes (which are somewhat heavy) is enough to put me off of getting a suit, actually. I guess that tells me where my priorities are. And when I was wandering around the Brooks Brothers site, I liked the look of the sport coats and trousers much more than the low-end suits. (I also started coveting a $300 skirt, but I can get skirts anywhere.) Okay then, waistcoats and shirts and sport coat, and maybe trousers if I find some I really like. No binder, no lifts.
The baby woke up just now and needed to be cuddled back to sleep, and that is beautifully simple. I nearly fell asleep myself as they snored on my lap. The need to teach Kit good sleep habits (and to spare my neck the ache from sleeping in the rocking chair) won out over the urge to stay like that until dawn, but it was a close call.
I was going to knit for a bit, as a thing to do to stay awake, but I'm too sleepy now and it would be all dropped stitches. And it's 4:30, so J will be up soon. I will do my bedtime things, and by the time they're done he'll be awake and I can actually go to bed. And then I will sleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.work, ideas.gender, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
I'm doing a Patreon patron drive
on Story Hospital
, my advice column for writers! If I get to 50 patrons by the end of October, I'll do four EXTRA posts in November, one per week, with advice specifically aimed at people who are doing NaNoWriMo. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a big challenge and I want to give those writers some support.
I'm totally fine with people signing up as patrons just for one month (though of course I hope you'll stick around!) and the minimum pledge is just $1 for the entire month. And if we make the goal, all the NaNoWriMo advice posts will be made public on the main Story Hospital site, though my patrons will get to see them early. So even if you can't chip in, feel free to subscribe to the site, ask a question or three, and share your favorite posts with your friends who write.
If you like the site and are interested in supporting it, please become a patron
and/or spread the word about the patron drive. We've already gone from 39 to 45 patrons in just a few days, and I think we can make this happen by October 31!
(Proper personal journal entry to come soon, I hope. It's been a very hectic month over here.)
The other night I dreamed I wrote a book and forgot entirely that I had done so. Blocked it out of my head. So when mrissa
said "I read an ARC of your book and it's pretty good" I was utterly confused. And then she said "But there were some problems with the way you portrayed the Middle Eastern market" and I was even more confused. I felt bad that I had committed racefail and I couldn't really fix it because I didn't remember writing it.
Then there was a lengthy dream scene about rolling up RPG characters. The DM wanted us all to have 200 [something] but the base character I picked from the book only had 60 [something] so we agreed that on any day when I was in a bad mood I'd get an extra hit die because I hit harder when I'm grumpy.
We started playing the game, and I guess we were LARPing because I started doing a folk dance with five of the other players. We danced in pairs and I mostly remembered the steps from my country dance days but it was hard to keep track of the steps and play my character at the same time. My dance partner was much better at it than I was and kept gently reminding me not to keep my legs so straight because this was a different era than the one I was used to dancing in.
In character I was snooty with racist undertones to the other characters who were dancing and as myself I felt bad about it. "Feel bad about racism but have plausible deniability" was apparently the dream theme. Ew. >.<
The dream ended with a giant Jewish holiday dinner with lots of friends and friends of friends. rose_lemberg
called to tell us all that they were getting married, except their child actually made the call because he wanted to and they thought it would be fun to let him. It was very sweet. And the more observant Jews at the table taught me some interesting things about holidays and fine points of observance and schisms and so on.
And then I woke up, wondering how I managed to write an entire book and forget
I wrote this last year
, on October 2:All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.
My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.
Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.
I was right: it's perfect.
- thinking about:
behavior.domesticity, behavior.parenting, experiences.housework, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.calm, mind.feelings.contentment, mind.feelings.joy, mind.feelings.relaxation, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.ocd, people.kit, places.home
Tonight my therapist made me cry in a good way. I was talking about the cycle of "I gotta do the work/chores" "but I don't wanna" "but I gotta" "but I don't wanna". He said, "That's the cranky kid and the authoritarian parent, but where's the third voice? The compassionate parent?"
"Oh," I said. "That's the one I call my wife." (I've decided I'm not going to poke at why my wife is still my wife even though I'm NB-identified now. It's just how it is.)
"...I forget to look for her."
"Well, try inviting her into these conversations."
Oh right, being kind and compassionate to myself, I forgot about that.
So, some things my brain is telling me lately, and things I can say back to it with kindness and compassion:
I don't want to do work right now.
"I'm sorry it's hard. It needs to get done, even though it's hard. And once you start it will be easier and go faster than you think, and then you'll be free of the burden of needing to do it."
I have so much to do and I don't want to do any of it because there is so much.
"It sounds like you're tired and need to go to bed. When you're rested you'll be more confident, more efficient, and better able to prioritize."
I can't go to bed. I have too much to do.
"Right now, while you're as awake as you're going to get, do anything that has a real serious deadline between now and noon tomorrow. Then go to bed. You can do the rest after you get some sleep."
I can't sleep. Something bad might happen to the baby.
"You're not on duty overnight anymore. X has the monitor on and reliably wakes up when the baby makes noise. J is getting up in a few hours. The baby is very healthy and will be totally fine. Also, it needs to be normal and okay for you to sleep while Kit is sleeping instead of hovering over them and fretting. Let's practice that tonight--just do it once to see how it goes. Remember that the last time you went to sleep before J got up, everything was fine."
I don't think you understand. SOMETHING BAD might HAPPEN to the BABY.
"The vanishingly unlikely worst-case scenario is that J wakes up, discovers something is wrong, and wakes you and lets you know. And that would be horrible, but you have survived other horrible things and you would survive that too."
There was another two-voice scenario that should be three. When I'm getting things done during the day, I feel like "This is very challenging and I'm totally on top of it!", but when I'm flopped on the couch after dinner, all I can think is "There's so much to do and I feel it on top of me like a weight". The third voice there isn't agitated or despondent but calm and relaxed, both capable of doing things that need doing and fully present for times of rest and fun. I'm not sure what to do to get there, though. Having less to do would help, but isn't going to happen anytime soon. I will think more on that.
In the meantime, I'm going to pet my cat (I've been home from the office for three hours and she just came into my room yelling WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN because she is oblivious) and then talk myself into going to bed. Maybe even before J wakes up.
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.love, behavior.parenting, behavior.procrastination, behavior.responsibility, behavior.self-care, body.sleep, experiences.love, experiences.therapy, experiences.work, mind.feelings.compassion, mind.feelings.stress, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.negotiation, people.my wife
I have been tweeting only a bit, and posting here not at all. I have some draft posts saved as text files, which is very unusual for me, but I've been too wiped out to finish any thoughts that are longer than a paragraph or two. So here, have some random catch-up blather.
The baby's great--eight months old now and much more interactive, so I'm enjoying time with them a lot more. Story Hospital is going really well and I'm really enjoying doing it. (Ask me questions!
) My arms are doing super duper great and I have officially graduated from occupational therapy; I can stir pots and write by hand and carry shopping bags and fold laundry and all sorts of exciting things like that. I have been hoping to try knitting again but haven't managed to find the time. The weather is finally cooling down, which means we can cook in our kitchen and eat in our dining room and stand to touch one another for more than two seconds at a time. This is doing wonders for our feelings of family togetherness.
J and I have started shared therapy for some longstanding issues around physical intimacy that we just were not managing to tackle successfully on our own, and it's going fantastically well, but it's also bringing up a lot of feelings I have about my body that I had been mostly ignoring. One outgrowth of this is that I'm hoping to make an appointment for a consultation with Zil Goldstein at Mt. Sinai Hospital's new Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery
to discuss low-dose testosterone supplementation. I also bought some shiny new men's shoes, including a pair with lifts in them, which I've been wanting for years. They are fancy shoes for fancy occasions, same as my femme high heels, so don't expect me to be 5'7" all the time--my knees would never forgive me--but I'm really glad to have them for when I want them.
I am, as always, struggling with workload and time management. I keep staying up until 5 a.m., or even later (today I went to bed at the appalling hour of seven ack emma), even though I don't need to anymore; months on that schedule got it into my head that 5 a.m. is when I stop being responsible for the baby and am allowed to go to bed, and even though I'm now permitted to turn X's monitor on after either Kit's mid-night feeding or 2 a.m. (whichever comes first), I still find myself staying awake way past that. I am so tired, all the time. I want to go to bed earlier. I want to sleep more. I don't know what to do about this. I keep rejiggering my schedule and setting up alarms and nothing works.
And here it is 3 a.m. and I haven't done any work yet tonight. And I need to take the trash out. I will go do that first, and hope that moving around helps me wake up enough to do at least some editing and then go get a lot of sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, body.arms, body.body clock, body.body image, body.sex, body.sleep, experiences.work, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
Year meme thing from sfred
. Year: 2003.
Age then: I turned 25 in June 2003.
Age now: 38.
Relationships then: I was partnered with Josh and Jen and Joe, and pursuing X like my life depended on it (I sort of felt like it did). "Just the N of Us" was starting to coalesce, and in particular I was building a wonderful friendship with Kathleen. I had become very close with Liz and David. I could not possibly count or name all the people I was on smooching terms with. The N in "Just the N of Us" was really not a joke; I think it was 7 <= N <= 13 with considerable variation over the course of two years. And there were many non-JTNOU people in my life as well, both platonic and not. I was a social butterfly and loved it.
Relationships now: Happily married to Josh and X; happily parenting Kit. The last time I smooched someone who wasn't Josh or X was... uh... years ago? It's been a while, certainly. The baby has made it hard to do evening social things like the KGB readings, so these days I'm focusing on maintaining and building on existing connections. I Skype regularly with Kathleen, Miriam, and Graham; hang out in Slack with the Subtlefriends; and get as much in-person time with Tea and Veronica as I can. My interest in relationship categorization has gone from "not much" to "zero", so that's really all I can say about that.
Where I lived then: San Francisco. In May I moved out of Kiri and Doug's grubby Sunset District walk-up and spent a month in a lovely little room-to-let with all my stuff in storage; I'd begun rental-hunting with Josh and Jen and Mik based on my lease ending in June, but my roommates broke the lease and moved out a month early, and I couldn't afford to pay a full month's rent on my own. In June the four of us moved into a much nicer* four-bedroom house in Glen Park. I had a downstairs bedroom with one small window and an enormous built-in closet. Other than the boring beige carpeting, it was basically my ideal room. The upstairs had two big open social rooms where we put mattresses on the floor and lined the walls with bookshelves. It was pretty great.* This was before it became infested with rats and J's bedroom ceiling developed horrible mold and the cat brought in fleas from the garden and we discovered that our landlord was a useless asshat. And even with all those things it was arguably nicer than the walk-up.
Where I live now: Brooklyn. Josh and X and Kit and I have a four-bedroom apartment that's genuinely lovely without any asterisks or caveats. My room here has a slightly larger window and a much smaller closet, but hardwood floors count for a lot, and the window looks out onto trees. We sprawl on the pull-out couch instead of the floor and the walls are still lined with bookshelves (some of the same ones, even). The kitchen is VASTLY superior, the landlords are splendid, and there are no infestations at all. I hope we stay here a good long time.
Was I happy then: Often. In a post from June 2003, I wrote (rather defensively), "I'm happier than I can remember being, I'm doing a fucking fantastic job of completing my recovery from devastating emotional trauma, I've met the only real lifetime goal I've ever consistently had--a wonderful house full of happy friends--a full decade before I expected to have a chance at trying for it, I treat myself well and require the same from those I associate with, I never indulge my bad habits to the point of damaging myself or others, and I'm completely and fully satisfied with the life I live except for not being in New York and not being near australian_joe
. I am happy and satisfied, and those who choose to rely on me for support of any kind have no complaints." I was surrounded by lovely people who liked me, and was starting to really recover from grief and disordered eating. I quit school after a year of studying architecture, which I was a little sad about, but I got my job at LegalMatch, which I really liked even though it stressed me out a lot (and eventually wrecked my arms, but that didn't happen until 2004). I was full of hopes and dreams. By the end of the year the dreams were starting to get a little worn around the edges ("I don't think I'm cut out for living with anyone full-time," I wrote in December. "Not unless it's a mansion and each of us gets a wing") but on the whole it was a pretty good year.
Am I happy now: Often, and in a way that feels much more sustainable and anchored in reality.
If you'd like me to pick a year for you to post about, leave a comment.
- thinking about:
experiences.history, experiences.work, livejournal.memes, mind.feelings.joy, people, people.friends, people.jen, people.joe, people.josh, people.kit, people.mik, people.xtina, places.us.ca.san francisco, places.us.ny.new york.brooklyn
The National Center for Trans Equality asked me to take action on behalf of trans students. So I wrote a letter to New York State's schools commissioner.
Dear Commissioner Elia:
I'm writing to you as a transgender New Yorker who attended NYC public schools, and as a mentor for trans youth, to ask you to please create and implement trans-positive policies for all of New York's schools.
Trans children are especially vulnerable to bullying and discrimination. For trans teens, puberty can be horrifying and traumatic. New York's schools need all-gender toilet facilities so that questioning and non-binary teens don't have to pick a gender or a presentation in order to safely and comfortably use the bathroom, and they need a directive from the state level affirming that it's imperative to permit students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. They need teachers who know how to respond when a student changes their name or pronouns. They need school counselors who are educated in the needs of trans kids and will support them through the daunting process of coming out to peers, teachers, and family, or through the anxiety of needing to remain closeted for their safety. They need school nurses who will help them access gender-affirming medical care or just take their meds on time. They need safety officers who have been trained to respect students' genders even when those students misbehave. They need administrative staff who know to greet them by their correct names, even if those aren't the names in the database. And they need peers who have learned in school, both from the curriculum and from watching the adults they look up to, that being trans is totally normal and that teasing and bullying trans students is unacceptable.
I have often found myself in the position of having to educate people around me on how to interact with me. It's exhausting and sometimes scary. We should never place that burden on a child. The burden is on you, Commissioner, to properly train school personnel and make sure that all of New York's schools, from the wealthiest suburb to the poorest neighborhood, have the facilities these students need. It's on you to create trans-affirming school curricula. These students need you to lead the way--not to make them beg for something so basic as being able to use the bathroom.
A new school year is coming. Please help make it a safe one for trans students so they can dedicate themselves to learning and making friends, just like any other student.
Rose FoxIf you're in the U.S., please send your own letter through NCTE's site--they'll find the address for you and even make some suggestions about what to say--to support trans students in your state.
Story Hospital is an advice column published on four Tuesdays a month. Each column answers a writer's question about their work in progress. These columns are focused on the craft and practice of writing. I don't tell you how to get an agent or quit your day job; I get right into the heart of the relationship between the author and the work.
Please feel free to share either or both of those links around. :D I am very nervous and excited! I've never done a Patreon thing before. And this project relies heavily on people sending in questions--if they don't do that, I'm kind of sunk. But people are becoming patrons already, and tweeting lots about it (I unlocked my Twitter account so that my announcement tweet could be retweeted), and I am optimistic.
I'm thinking of starting an advice column for writers. Specifically, a writer would write in and say "Here are the problems I'm having with my current work in progress!" and I'd give them advice on handling those problems. Examples:
"I keep revising the beginning instead of moving on to the next part of the book."
"My fun side character is trying to take over my serious story."
"I wrote down this dream but it doesn't have any plot and I don't know how to turn it into something people want to read."
"I never feel like I've hit the point of 'I've done enough research, time to start writing.'"
"My characters are great but my plot is floundering."
"My plot is great but my characters are boring."
A lot of writers struggle with very similar problems. I think the answers to even fairly specific questions will be interesting and useful to a wide audience.
My plan is to make one post a week and use Patreon on a per-post basis (rather than a monthly basis) so that no one feels robbed if I have to take a week off; I have a baby and a full-time job and I want to treat this as a freelance gig rather than as a second salaried gig.
Where I need help is with figuring out Patreon backer levels and perks. If you were supporting an advice column, what would you expect to get for $1, $2, or $5 per post? Would you be interested in early content (see next week's column this week), bonus content (extra advice, videos, cat pics), personal connections with the creator (your question goes in a priority question queue, postcards with pithy words of support or advice, feedback on your WIP), or some other reward for backing at a higher level? Can you think of any reason you'd back at a level higher than $5, keeping in mind that posts are going up weekly?
Also, Patreons can have goals, like "If I reach $100 per post, I will answer two questions a week instead of one!". What goals would you expect to see and find motivating on an advice column?
I've found these advice columns on Patreon that are doing fairly well:https://www.patreon.com/TheAngryGMhttps://www.patreon.com/mkirin
If you know of any others, please let me know!
Hillary Clinton's campaign just asked me why I donated to her. Here's what I told them (using "Hillary" instead of "Clinton" because that's the campaign's language):
I'm queer, transgender, and raising a seven-month-old. I don't want my child to grow up worrying about my safety, or scared that our family will be torn apart, or angry because the government denies us our rights. I'm counting on Hillary to make the United States safe for me and my family, and to support services for families that don't discriminate against any parents or children.
We're a white family living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, an overwhelmingly black and low-income neighborhood with many immigrants, some of whom are undocumented. The public and private schools are heavily segregated, as they are all over the city, which is detrimental to children of all races. My neighbors struggle to pay their bills, fight predatory landlords, and worry more about police harassment than about violent crime. I'm counting on Hillary to protect my neighbors from aggressive cops, promote racial integration in schools (if you don't think that's a 21st-century issue, you aren't paying attention), and find ways to redistribute wealth and help undocumented immigrants stay here legally so that these families can stay together and thrive.
I am disabled. I'm fortunate to have a job but often struggle to get my work done because I'm limited and in pain. I'd drop to part-time hours but I can't afford to, because we have to pay for childcare. And many disabled people can and want to work but have to keep their incomes and assets artificially low so they can receive essential services. A lot of the rhetoric at the convention focused on the idea that if you work, you shouldn't have to live in poverty. But NO ONE should have to live in poverty, including people who don't or can't work. I'm counting on Hillary to champion universal basic income in the United States so that disabled people are no longer caught in this horrible trap, and so that we can proudly say that in our nation, no one is poor.
Trump is terrible. But I'm not just voting against him--I'm voting for Hillary. And I plan to hold her accountable to her voters and her public.
The funeral went as well as a funeral can. J's family is splendid, even in the midst of sorrow. pablod
was tremendously kind and drove us there and back. X handled babycare while I supported J. It was hard, but not intolerable, and I'm very glad we went. And metaphortunate
was totally right: a baby is one of the best things you can bring to a funeral. Kit was a little overwhelmed at times but mostly their smiley sociable self and quite happy to be smooched and dandled by cousins they'd never met, and their big grins really lightened people's hearts. Also they gave us an excuse to leave when we got wiped out. (And we put them in pajamas before driving home and managed our first-ever car seat–to-crib transfer with a minimum of fuss, because they are the very best baby.)
To get very petty for a moment: someday I would like a vacation where nothing bad happens. I'm 0 for the past 3. But having spent the first week of my vacation on unexpected grief and funeral travel planning, I am at least going to spend the second week of it on being on vacation
Josh's grandmother, Trudy Zeidman, has died following a short bout of illness. She was nearly 93 and had lived a full, long life, traveling the world many times and refusing to be bound by notions of what women or older people couldn't or shouldn't do. She was alert and sharp to the end, and determined to get better, even when she was very ill; a week ago J and I visited her (and Skyped in X and Kit, which I am tremendously glad we could do) and she insisted she was going to be at Kit's kindergarten graduation. She outlived two husbands and is survived by two children and their spouses, three grandchildren and their spouses, and four great-grandchildren, all of whom she adored passionately.
Trudy welcomed me into her family with open arms. Whenever I told her how lucky I was to have J, she retorted, "HE'S lucky to have YOU!" At our wedding, as soon as the ceremony was over, she heckled us until we kissed. She was boisterous and vigorous and opinionated. And she was always willing to change her mind in the direction of being more kind and open-hearted, whether that meant accepting that her daughter was marrying a Japanese man (a big deal to a Jewish woman who lived through WWII), accepting her children's gay friends, or accepting that her youngest great-grandchild was born out of wedlock. She was the life of the party at our baby shower, visited us after Kit was born, and said over and over again that Kit was fortunate to be so loved by so many people; we maintained the fiction of X being our "roommate", but we're pretty sure she knew what was up and didn't care at all as long as there was love and happiness. I'm so glad X and I got to know her a little, and got to introduce her to Kit.( photo )Four generations: Trudy, Glory, Josh, and Kit. Photo by Erika Kapin.
Rest in peace, Trudy. Thank you for all the laughs and love.
I'm on vacation! For two whole weeks! I hardly know what to do with myself. But here is a list of things that I would like to at least think about doing:
* do some writing, or at least continue working in my writing journal
* spend time with friends
* phonebank for Hillary Clinton
because when Michelle Obama says to get to work
, I get to work
* take Kit to visit my mother and J's relatives
* maybe start a Patreon-based advice column for writers, if that seems like a thing anyone would be interested in
Despite the prominence of sleep on this list, it is difficult to keep my sleep schedule intact when I'm not working. I mean, it's hard enough when I am working and even harder when I'm not. But I'm going to do my best. Yesterday I stayed up until 7:30 in the morning, which was a bit excessive, but I think I can drag myself back from that an hour or two at a time.
I wish the weather were at all conducive to going outside and walking around. I just renewed my membership at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens but I can't enjoy it in this oppressive heat, and today's storm was so fierce that even I didn't want to be out in it (though it was lovely to watch from indoors). Maybe next week it will be cool enough for me to take a couple of long walks.
Now that I have Zipcar membership again, it's very tempting to drive somewhere upstate or out on Long Island where there're lots of trees and it's cooler and the air has more oxygen. But if I do something like that I think I'll probably take the train; it's easier on my arms and more eco-friendly even if I do always rent a Prius. I just really like driving. And I'm much more comfortable with it now that I've done the drive back from Readercon. I drove out to New Jersey this past weekend to visit J's grandmother and it was amazingly easy. Anything less than six hours of evening/night driving with the baby in the back of the car feels like a piece of cake.
- thinking about:
behavior.activism, behavior.planning, behavior.relaxing, body.body clock, body.sleep, experiences.driving, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.summer, experiences.weather, experiences.weather.heat, experiences.weather.rain, people.family, words.writing
Trump made a scary speech last night. Today Max Gladstone had some passionate thoughts on not being immobilized by that fear.
This is really, really important. It's JULY. Stop acting like Trump's already won!
I understand being scared. Take a day and feel the fear. Then let it power you into positive action.
Last night a friend asked what I thought they should be doing to prepare for helping people if Trump wins, which I guess meant "should we furnish our attic for the next Anne Frank" or something. I told them that I have the energy to either phonebank for Clinton or become a President Trump prepper, but not both. So I'm going to phonebank for Clinton.
(Is she perfect? No, obviously not. But she's not a dangerous fascist, and Trump is, so Clinton's got my vote and my activism. That seems pretty straightforward to me.)
Also, I refuse to treat fascism as the tipping point for helping those in need. Help the people who are in need now
, and who will be that much worse off under a Trump presidency. The institutional equivalent of your furnished attic is your local shelter; perhaps you could give them some time or money. Or donate to the Ali Forney Center
; while Trump makes grotesque claims about loving abstract theoretical LGBTQ people, the Ali Forney Center is helping real actual queer kids who've been kicked out by their families. Or fight felony disenfranchisement
, which horribly skews the demographics of who can vote. Or support organizations helping Syrian refugees
to counter Trump calling them all future terrorists, or tear down his wall before he can put it up by supporting organizations for just and humane border practices on the U.S.-Mexico border
. He has so many odious policies and positions that there are a hundred different ways you can push back against them, so pick one that calls to you.
And phonebank for Clinton
*--you can do it right now from your home, so throw a phonebanking party or make five quick calls before work every day or whatever suits you--or volunteer locally
. Give money and/or time to the Democrats or MoveOn or Avaaz or your preferred organization. As Max says, don't let the fuckers think they already own tomorrow.
and we have four months to win this. That is not a lot of time, but it's enough time as long as we don't pause too long to wallow in despair.
Don't furnish your attic toward an inevitable fascist tomorrow. Fight NOW so that no one needs to hide in an attic ever again.
P.S. Lots of people have been dropped from voter rolls. Check your registration right now.
Re-register if you need to. And then register your friends and neighbors and relatives. And then help them get to the polls, or make their postal votes. And bring your kids to the polls with you so they can see democracy in action and learn that when they're old enough voting will be important for them to do. We need all hands on deck, now and in the future--the future that we get to shape.* You may need to disable ad blockers to get the Clinton phonebank page to work.
Feel free to share the link to this post as widely as you like.
ALEXIS HALL'S FOR REAL
WON A RITA AWARD
AND THEN SARINA BOWEN AND ELLE KENNEDY'S HIM
WON ANOTHER ONE
AND I MAY NEVER TURN MY CAPS LOCK OFF
RWA approved the creation of the Rainbow Chapter in 2009. 2009.
It took them that long
to openly acknowledge that queer romance is romance. And now, in 2016, TWO male/male romances, one of them written by a queer author and published by a queer publisher for a queer audience
and one of them in a contemporary romance category
, are winners of the organization's highest award.
The contemporary romance thing is key because queer romance is often assumed to be erotic, or treated as though it's erotic just because it has queer content. So winning both within and outside of the erotic romance category is a big deal. And the Ritas are voted on by RWA members, most of whom are straight women who have probably never read anything remotely like the glorious queer kinkiness of For Real
Hall's editor, sarahf
, gave a particular shout-out to #ownvoices authors, "queer and trans, black and brown". (Was that the first time anyone's ever said "trans" onstage at RWA? It might well have been.) And Sarah is a cancer survivor and a good friend of mine and so passionate about her work, and has put an incredible amount of effort and energy into making her small queer romance press succeed, and this is their first Rita, so yeah, I was sobbing.
Robyn Carr, who won this year's lifetime achievement award, gave an amazing inspiring speech about keeping your head down and doing the work. And last night I picked up my writing notebook for the first time in nearly two months and read a bit in The Plot Whisperer
, and one particular bit in the section on story structure inspired me to fix the giant gaping hole in my novel outline. (I know what the characters' problems are and I know what the eventual solution is. So what makes that solution so incredibly difficult for the characters to accept and invest themselves in? What psychological cliff do they have to step over? OH HELLO EMOTIONAL CLIMAX scribble scribble scribble
) What with that and Readercon and seeing a book that looks a little like my book win an actual goddamn Rita motherfucking Award, I am pretty fired up.
Here is some advice on road trips with babies!Driving
* A friend recommended putting the baby in overnight diapers to prevent rashes from lots of sitting and keep the baby from complaining between stops. We ended up not doing this because Kit doesn't really complain about wet/dirty diapers; we just stopped every two hours to give them a break from the car seat (which is very important to do) and changed them then. That said, they did start to get a bit of diaper rash redness by the end of the trip, so if you don't use super-absorbent diapers, I recommend applying diaper rash ointment proactively/preventively.
* If possible, stop at restaurants rather than highway rest stops. It's so much easier and nicer to change the baby in a restaurant bathroom than in a noisy, crowded rest stop bathroom where a dozen high-velocity hand dryers make a horrible noise that makes the baby scream, and restaurant food is better and tastier than rest stop fast food. Second-best option for a quick change: stop at a Babies R Us or similar baby supply store, which is guaranteed to have a well-appointed changing room.
* Expect each stop to somehow take at least 30 minutes even if all you're doing is changing the baby and giving them a little wriggle time. (Pack a picnic blanket you can lay out on a table or a bench or that little strip of sorry grass next to the parking lot.)
* Bring a few extra layers of clothing for the baby so you don't feel any urge to drape a blanket over the car seat even if you're cranking up the air conditioning in the car.
* If your kid isn't yet weaned, you may want a policy of only feeding liquids in the car so you don't have any concerns about choking hazards. Obviously you should NEVER EVER breastfeed in the car. Apparently this is a thing people do? Don't do it. Bottle-feed in motion, or breastfeed at a rest stop.
* Pack your regular diaper bag with everything you'd need for a day trip and have it handy for rest stops. If someone's sitting in the back seat with the baby (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) they can also dip into it for toys, pacifiers, etc. en route. You won't need many toys with a young baby; they'll mostly want to look around and sleep. (And you'll mostly want them to sleep.)
* Have a prepared playlist of music that's soothing for the baby but not soporific for the driver. Ella Fitzgerald singing heartbreak songs was perfect for putting Kit to sleep while I stayed alert.
* If no one's in the back seat, consider getting a car seat mirror so you can occasionally glance back and make sure all's well. But they can be major distractions, so use with caution.
* Don't be afraid of side roads and alternate routes, even if they slow you down a bit. It's more soothing for the baby if you drive steadily at 40 MPH than if you sit in stop-and-go traffic on the interstate.
* We got these cling-on window shades
and they worked perfectly: easy to put on when it was sunny and take down in the evening, effective at shading the baby. They're great for rental cars and safe in accidents (unlike shades with metal edges).
* Consider a car seat protector
to keep the area under and around the car seat clean. It's especially useful if your kid is at the Cheerios-scattering age, or if you're worried about damage to car upholstery. Waterproof car seat liners
are vital for kids prone to spit-up, diaper leakage, or toilet training accidents. Get two so if the one in the car seat is soiled mid-trip, you can swap it out.Overnight stays
* If you're staying in a hotel and storing breast milk or pre-made formula in the room's mini-fridge, bring a fridge thermometer to make sure the fridge is at an adequately cold temperature. Remember to pack a little travel bottle of dish detergent and a bottle brush for washing bottles.
* Graco Pack 'n' Play travel cribs are the awesome. They're easy to set up and take down, and they work as playpens and/or changing stations during the day as well as cribs at night. Kit's regular crib at home is a mini crib, so we bring their mattress and sheets along. If that's not an option for you, get a thin mini-crib mattress (takes up barely any space) and some mini-crib sheets and mattress pads that you launder a few times to give them that familiar smell; your baby will sleep much better surrounded by the scents of home.
* Get a travel humidifier for use in hotel rooms, which always have extremely dry air.
* Expect to have two duffel bags worth of stuff for the baby even just for a weekend. Diapers take up a lot of space, especially cloth (disposables have the advantage of not coming home with you). So does bedding, and you'll want extra in case of spit-up. Kit's very drooly right now because of teething and we went through two bibs and four to six burp cloths a day. Bring a laundry bag to make it easy to tell what's clean and what's not.
* Traveling with cloth diapers is a challenge. We used a Planet Wise hanging wet/dry bag
for Kit's cloth diapers and it was fantastic--there was no smell leakage at all, even after days on the road, so we could just throw it in the trunk of the car with the suitcases. A smaller wet/dry bag with five diapers went in the diaper bag and was equally useful.
* Don't forget to bring a stroller or carrier for toting the baby around outside the car. A car seat frame may seem tempting, but your kid's already spending a lot of time in the car seat, and it's better for them if you can change it up a bit.
* Pack a first aid kit that includes gas drops, your antihistamine of choice, Tylenol, saline spray/drops and a snot-sucker, and a thermometer. If your kid gets a cold or has an allergic reaction mid-trip, you'll want all your vital supplies on hand. Calamine lotion is great if you're anticipating bug bites.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I am happy to answer questions about anything I missed!
We went to Readercon and we are home.( Things that went wrong (a partial list) )
And yet despite all this, we had a genuinely very good time. J's mother came to the con and was immensely helpful with Kit. J and I both did several panels that went well, and I got to have the baby on my lap for part of the "Writing While Parenting" panel. My "Story Hospital" experiment was largely successful, though there are definitely ways it could be improved. X remembered how much they like socializing (sometimes) (with the right people). I got to tell Tim Powers how much Last Call
means to me. We got to see old friends and meet internet friends, most especially the luminous mrissa
; it wasn't a year for making new friends, but that's fine, there will be other years for that. We finally introduced Kit to roddenberrypie
, who absolutely lit up. Lots and lots of people cooed over the baby, who smiled at everyone despite teething pain and crowds and loudness--I was especially charmed by ninocipri
's gasps and exclamations over Kit's cuteness ("How DARE that baby!"). Our usual little room party was a little subdued because we were so tired, but we still got to introduce some of our friends to one another and hear some tasty industry gossip. The drive back was very smooth. And on the way home, we went to the Mystic Diner again and Kit discovered that a plastic packet of oyster crackers makes an excellent rattle. I immediately sent photos to my New England–born mother. :)
Notes for future years:
* The drive can be done with two stops. One of them should be the Mystic Diner. It has a changing table and a kids' menu and food all of us can eat, everyone there is really nice, service is quick, there are lots of families with kids, and it's right off I-95. Not sure where the other stop should be, but it definitely should NOT be the Fairfield highway rest stop. Look for another diner somewhere around Stamford, maybe.
* The "take I-95 until the end of time" route works pretty well other than the twisty bit through Providence getting kind of hairy. Might be worth trying out I-84 and I-90 as alternatives.
* Pack two big ice packs for post-drive use when we get to the con. Leave the other two in the freezer for when we get home.
* Do a better job of packing the things we might need for the baby where we can get to them at rest stops.
* We never use the carrier or the car seat cover. We use the stroller and the bouncy seat a lot.
* The natural foods store in Quincy is A M A Z I N G and we should stock up on things from there for room snacks etc.
* X and I both really like driving the Prius.
* Sleep more. Eat more. Have more fun!
- thinking about:
body.digestion, body.sleep, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.disaster, experiences.driving, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina
I was weeping on J and X tonight about how hard it is having my empathy cranked to maximum so I can try to understand what the baby wants/needs and do the right thing. J pointed out that the consequences of guessing wrong are really pretty minor. Oh no, I fed the baby even though they weren't all that hungry! I put them down when they wanted to be held! So what?
Then he said, "But you have a hard time around people who aren't in control."
X and I both whipped our heads up.
People who aren't in control. People who are volatile. Worrying about doing the wrong thing and not making their distress go away. Staying attuned to the tiniest shift in their behavior and leaping into action. Telling myself stories about what they're thinking. Oh yes, I know exactly how that one goes.
Kit's had a cold for the past few days and I've been a total wreck. When they get sick, my anxiety goes through the roof. I think this is part of why. They need something I can't provide, and in an abusive situation, that's doom forever. And I begin to see the illness as the abuser that I desperately need to appease or it will take the person I love away from me. It doesn't matter that all Kit has is a very minor cold and they're in zero danger. It doesn't matter that there is absolutely nothing I can do to speed the healing along. The fear is bigger than reason. It's big enough to swallow the sun. My world has been very dark recently. I can't stop hovering over the crib, can't make myself sleep, can barely eat--the moment I stop being vigilant is the moment something bad will happen, I just know it. And I berate myself for my deficiency, my anxiety, my lack of cheerful calm (my lack of a protective mask, my failure to protect Kit from my feelings), my failure to make everything perfect, while hardly realizing whose voices I hear those words in.
Not the baby's voice, though. The baby can't say those things and doesn't think those things. The baby is maybe thinking something like "I don't like the way my body feels" or maybe just "Blaaaarh". The baby doesn't blame me; they don't even have the concept of cause and effect yet. And what baby hasn't been cried on by a parent at one time or another? "If running out of cope makes you a bad parent," X told me tonight, "there are no good parents."
So I figured I'd post this for other parents who have also been in abusive relationships and might find this dynamic familiar. Because as soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I realized I could stop doing it. The baby can't hurt me. They're a baby. I have all the power in the relationship. I have to behave responsibly, but for moral reasons, not because I'm scared. If I try to do the right thing and sometimes get it wrong, the baby won't rage at me, or punch the wall, or spit cruel words, or shut me out. They won't take my wrongness as a sign of my deficiency or think I don't love them anymore. They'll just do their best to communicate that they still have unmet needs, and when I figure out the right thing to do, they'll go right back to smiling at me and trying to grab my glasses.
I have been holding the baby and whispering "I've got you, you're safe" a lot. Maybe I needed to tell myself too.
There's a closet in Kit's room that we use for storing winter coats and things. They've never seen it open. Today X was holding them and opened the closet.
They spent the next several minutes looking around the room like "What the fuck ELSE is a door? Are there magic portals just fucking everywhere? Have you been keeping this from me this entire time?"
They looked at the ceiling. "Is THAT a door?"
X, helpfully: "Well, actually that part there slides open so you can get to the attic--"
R: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."
J comes in. We explain what happened. Kit is still looking around, astonished and suspicious.
J: "Aw, they're looking at the ceiling wondering if there's a door there too. Actually, there is the entrance to the attic--"
R and X: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."
Many things about fairy tales, Narnia, and the TARDIS suddenly become clear.
My Readercon schedule fills me with GLEEEEEEE.
Friday July 08
2:00 PM BH Welcome to Readercon. Jonathan Crowe, Rose Fox, Emily Wagner. New to Readercon? Not new, but curious about what might be different this year? Our program chair and other Readercon regulars will give you some peeks behind the scenes and suggestions about all the cool not-to-miss stuff. We're nice. Come hang out.
Saturday July 09
2:00 PM C The Return of Writing While Parenting. Rose Fox, Nicole Kornher-Stace (leader), Ken Liu, Kate Maruyama, Kit Reed. This panel will discuss the difficulties of parenting while writing (as opposed to working a job while writing, which is for the most part a very different challenge) and how the panelists have managed to reconcile their parenting duties with their writing needs and responsibilities. Panelists may include parents of small children and older children, writers who parent full-time, parents who write full-time, and children and spouses of writers.
As the child of writers and as a writer and parent, I have lots and lots and lots of opinions and feelings about this. And I'm delighted that Kit and Kate will be providing the parent/child dynamic in real time!
3:00 PM BH Story Hospital. Jeanne Cavelos, Michael Cisco, John Crowley, Rose Fox (leader), Lila Garrott, Maria Dahvana Headley, Elaine Isaak, Keffy Kehrli, Robert Killheffer, Kate Nepveu, Terence Taylor. Story Hospital pairs up writers with editors and reviewers for 10-minute discussions of what's broken in their WIPs and how to start fixing it. Think of it like a pitch session where the editor's already on your side, or speed dating where you actually want the other person to tell you what you're doing wrong. Writers: come prepared to quickly and succinctly explain what you're working on and the problems you're facing. Our handpicked team of editors, reviewers, writing teachers, and enthusiastic readers will bring thinking caps and kind hearts. Leave your manuscripts and red pens at home--this is a 10-minute spoken conversation only--but bring cards with your contact info in case you both want to continue the conversation later. The discussions will be facilitated (and stopwatch will be wielded) by longtime editor and critic Rose Fox. Sign up in advance at the information desk. We have room for 30 writers and their brilliant ideas.
LOOK AT THAT STORY HOSPITAL DREAM TEAM. I am SO EXCITED for this. I hope I can matchmake a bit based on genre, but even if I just go strictly by sign-up order, I think any writer will benefit from a conversation with any of those brilliant people.
I think this is exactly the right amount of workload for my first Readercon with baby in tow. One hour on Friday, two consecutive hours Saturday, all done. With two other parents and a grandparent to keep an eye on Kit, I should be able to manage that. :)
Will you be at Readercon? If you are, find me and say hi!
I first posted this on Twitter, where lots of people have shared very kind replies. I'm posting it here too, in part so I can find that thread when I need a boost but in part because I am having a pretty hard time and will take all the support I can get right now.
I have been hiding for a while. Posting less here, and locking a lot of posts. Locking my "public" Twitter account. Staying quiet about a lot of things that I might once have been loud about. Hiding feels safest right now. But it also means I feel invisible, unseen, even by those who I would like to see me.
It's the nature of editing that my work mostly goes unnoticed. It's the nature of being non-binary, being biethnic, that no one who looks at me knows what they're seeing. It's the nature of being new parents that we are all too tired to perform our usual small acts of noticing and gratitude to one another. But all of this making perfect sense doesn't make it easier to feel myself vanishing.
One person who replied on Twitter said that parenting is very isolating. I keep thinking none of this is related to becoming a parent, because that's been so easy in so many ways. But then I think about how much more I hide myself in order to keep my child safe, and the connection becomes clearer.
I've been very visible and loud my whole life, and on the whole I've liked it and benefited from it. (Loudness is a different kind of survival tactic.) Now I get one taste of it every year at Readercon, and the rest of the time... I'm invisible.
If I've done a thing that touched you, that made me real to you, please tell me. It would help a lot right now. Thank you.
The Brexit news is wretched and I can't pay too much attention to it or I fall into this sort of stupor of grief. Fortunately we had a lot to distract us today: our first-ever car trip as a family, the minimum-three-hour drive to visit J's mother upstate.
Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine
. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.
Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.
Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine
. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.
After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.
While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.
Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.
I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy
here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.
I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton
, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby
. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.
I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, body.arms, experiences.driving, experiences.travel, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.joy, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.us.ny.mosswood
I went to see a new occupational therapist today. She instructed me to look at everything I use my arms for and figure out how to do it more ergonomically. If I'm not sure how to make improvements, I can have someone take photos of me and she'll help me troubleshoot.
* Using my laptop. I just bought a very clever folding standing desk that hooks over a door
, which means I can use it in my bedroom where there's a/c but no room for a desk or table, and will set it up with my laptop and ergonomic keyboard; hopefully that will help. Nothing to be done about using the laptop when I'm out and about, unless I want to spend another $300 on a ZestDesk
. (There are much cheaper folding standing desks, such as the $25 Oristand
, but they're hard to tote around.) I'm also going to try OS X's built-in voice recognition; it doesn't work for InCopy, but it's good for social media. I am, in fact, dictating this sentence right now. The selection commands don't seem to work very well within this Chrome window, but I'm impressed by the speed of it and how well it understands my commands when I'm speaking at a normal rate.
* Using my phone. Holding it is hard and swiping on it is hard. I don't know what to do about this. Just use it less, I guess. I should definitely use the voice recognition more, since it's surprisingly good.
* Folding laundry. Ergonomically it's okay, I think; I stand at a table that's a good height. It's just a strain.
* Reading books. I downloaded Moon+ Reader, an Android e-book app with pretty decent auto-scroll functions; it can do continuous scroll on epubs, and for PDFs it'll do this wacky thing where it starts unrolling the next page at the top of the screen while you're reading the bottom half of the current one. If I can prop up my tablet and auto-scroll a book, that gives me something to do while putting ice on my arms, and is generally easier on me than holding a physical book. I've been using auto-scroll in Chrome to read books on Gutenberg and it works really well.
* Driving. The OT recommended changing hand positions frequently, doing upper back stretches (bringing my shoulder blades together) while driving, and taking breaks to rest and shake out my arms and shoulders. I also plan to bring our giant ice packs in an insulated bag. They won't be frozen solid by the time we stop for a break, but any cold is better than nothing.
* Picking up the baby. The OT suggested scooping from the side (one arm supporting the baby's head, the other supporting the bum), which uses my upper arms, rather than lifting under the armpits, which uses my forearms.
* Pushing a stroller. Hard to change the ergonomics of that, but we just bought a lovely shiny 10-pound Maclaren Volo that will be much easier to push and lift than our splendidly feature-rich but heavy Graco Modes; the Volo even has a carrying strap to use when it's folded up. We also got an Ergobaby 360 carrier that's better ergonomically for both us and the baby than the Baby Bjorn. X would rather push a stroller than use the carrier, especially in the summer, so they'll bring the baby to daycare in the Volo, and I'll pick them up with the 360 and either push the Volo home empty or fold it and carry it with the strap.
What the hell else do I even do with my hands these days? X and J have been taking over a lot of my chores so I can rest and recover. And I already know not to stir a pot or chop vegetables or carry grocery bags by hand. I suppose this is enough to change, anyway. Just another way that I'm shaking up my life. Might as well do it all at once. (I am very glum today, but that always happens on my first day of physical therapy or equivalent; it brings up a lot of miserable feelings about how long I've been in pain and how hard it is to believe that I'll ever really get better. I'll be okay once I've had a chance to get some rest.)
Someone just wrote to me asking for advice on getting started building a dapper wardrobe, and of course I have LOTS of advice. I figured I'd share it here too.
Style inspiration: I love looking at portraits of the original dapper dandy, Beau Brummel, and his fellow Regency-era men. A quick Google search for "Regency men's clothing" will give you a ton. If you like more flamboyant styles, researching the fops and fribbles who predated him is also a lot of fun. In the modern era, try looking up drag kings, who have fabulous style and do interesting things with the basics of menswear. Or flip through the catalogs/websites of high-end butchwear companies even though you can't afford anything they make.
Buying clothes: EBAY EBAY EBAY. I'm a boy's size 16/18 in shirts, and it turns out there are a lot of teen boys who wear very nice shirts once and outgrow them, and then their parents put them (the shirts, not the boys) up on Ebay for pennies. The best thing is that many of them are posted with measurements as well as size numbers. Buy a few different brands and see what fits. You can also go to a big department store and try on things from the boys section. Men's trousers are more difficult to find unless you're skinny all the way down; I have a small waist and a big butt, and I do pretty well with Old Navy men's jeans as long as they're a tapered fit. Don't shy away from fitted clothing. Baggy pants won't hide your shape--they'll just make you look shlumpy, and you won't feel good about yourself, which hampers the self-confident attitude that's the true hallmark of the dandy.
In one word, I teach you the secret of success in dapperness: ACCESSORIZE.
The most obvious accessory is the tie. If you have a short torso, regular men's ties will be much too long for you, so get pre-tied clip-on or zip-up ties for kids (very easy to find on Ebay in a wide range of colors and sizes) or wear bow ties. You can also try bolo or string ties if that's your style. I like wearing a vertical pin on my shirt placket to give the suggestion of a tie without the formality of one.
My favorite way to dress up a button-up shirt is with a vest; it can be hard to find one that fits if your chest is big, but a little subtle tailoring can turn a blocky square vest into something smooth and glorious that also hides your waistline a bit. Sweater vests stretch to accommodate your shape and are great for autumn. In the winter, wear suit jackets. In the summer, wear a white cotton undershirt (I like Hanes men's small) to soak up sweat and keep your thin cotton shirt from wrinkling or going transparent. Use shirt stays--they're like suspenders that attach your shirt to the top of your socks and keep it tucked in and smooth. A neatly folded pocket square or a pair of suspenders can also do wonders, though I find that I have to wear a binder (gc2b is an excellent brand) if I want suspenders to lie properly on my chest.
And hats! Hats are great! My preferred hat shop is Goorin Bros. even though they inexplicably started dividing their collection into "men's" and "women's"; ignore those artificial distinctions and get yourself a fedora (we can reclaim them from the whiny bros) or a flat cap. If you have long hair, either tuck it up into a hat or wear your hair in whatever long style is associated with men of your race/culture (single ponytail, single long braid, tidy dreads, loose and all one length--there are a surprising number of options even if you don't think of there being long hair styles for men), with or without a hat.
Get shoes from Tomboy Toes, or from Payless, which has some decent men's shoes in very small sizes for very cheap. My first pair of shiny captoes in size 5.5 came from Payless and cost something like $20. I still have them and love them, even though the soles have cracked.
Pay attention to detail. If you're wearing a jacket, shoot your cuffs. Shine your shoes. Wear silk socks and boxer briefs, even if no one but you will know. Iron your handkerchief. Wear earrings that match your cuff links. Wear men's shirts rather than masculine-styled women's shirts so that the buttons are on the correct side, and never ever wear a men's shirt with a women's jacket or vice versa. The little touches that pull an outfit together are really what give the impression of dandyness.
I am getting really tired of people asking "Boy or girl?" and "Is this your first?" and "How are you sleeping?" and have also been caught without suitable alternatives when meeting other people's babies. So here, have two lists of useful, appropriate, non-intrusive things to say when someone (EDIT: by which I meant someone you don't know well--apologies for not making that clear!) tells you they have a baby, introduces you to the baby, or shows you pictures of the baby. If you feel totally lost when confronted with babies, memorize these lists and you will come off like the world's #1 baby fan.
1) Statements. Statements are great! They make no assumptions at all--they don't even assume that the parent is the biological parent, or is happy to be a parent (that day or at all)--and don't require the parent to give you information that might turn out to be way more personal than you (or they) want. Statements can also be made directly to the baby, which further reduces the risk of asking accidentally inappropriate questions or hearing discomfiting anecdotes from parents given to TMI.
- "Congratulations/mazel tov/that's wonderful!"
- "What a cutie!"
- "Oh gosh, so adorable!"
- "That's a great outfit!"
- "Look at all that hair/that bald little head!"
- "Look at those smishable cheeks!"
- "What long fingers/toes!"
- "ELBOW DIMPLES OMG" (Seriously, you are permitted and encouraged to be loudly impressed by any visible part of the baby, because literally every part of a baby is, by definition, cute.)
- "Aw, you're getting sleepy."
- "Aw, you're a little shy. That's okay, kiddo, you're not required to make friends."
- "Wow, what a smile!"
- "You're making noises with your mouth! That's so cool!"
- "You just cooed/farted/grabbed that toy! Yes you did!" (This sort of babble sounds like nonsense but it really is part of how babies learn to identify objects and actions.)
- "Who's the cutest baby in the immediate vicinity? It's you!" (Asking and answering rhetorical questions teaches babies the patterns of conversation. I'm not making this up.)
- "What a strong grip! Ha ha, guess you want to take my finger home with you!" (You washed your hands before touching the baby, right? Good.)
In essence, you are agreeing that the baby is a baby, and approving of the baby's baby-like qualities. You really can't go wrong with this.
2) Minimally invasive questions. Any question is going to put the parent on the spot a bit, but these at least avoid the possibility of answers involving infertility, miscarriage, life-threatening labor complications, and the like.
- "What's the baby's name?"
- "When was the baby born/how old is the baby?" (Do not follow this up with a comment on the baby being big or small for their age, or on expected milestones.)
- "What's the latest exciting thing the baby learned to do?"
- "Can I do anything for you?"
- "I'd love to give you a present for the baby--is there anything you especially want or need?"
- "I've/we've got a baby on the way--any advice or recommendations?"
- "May I come over and babysit sometime?"
Topics to avoid, unless you are a close personal friend of the parent and they have indicated that such topics are fair game (because obviously these aren't things that one may never
talk about, but they need to be handled with some care and context matters a lot):
- The baby's health (including eating, sleeping, and digestion), size, personality, intelligence, or well-being.
- The parents' health, weight/size (yes, people make comments about the bodies of people who've given birth, it's terrible and disgusting), age, mood, parenting skills, or well-being.
- Labor and delivery. Even if you've given birth yourself and are well equipped to offer support and sympathy over a hard labor, hesitate before asking someone to recall what may have been a traumatic experience.
- The process of procreation, including plans for any frozen eggs, sperm, or embryos.
- The process of adoption, guardianship, or fostering, or anything regarding the baby's birth family.
- Existing or future siblings.
- The baby's assigned gender or genital anatomy.
- The baby's race, citizenship, or ethnic heritage.
- The baby's intelligence or achievements.
- Comparing the baby with their age cohort or with any other individual child in any way.
- Plans for the baby's education.
- Plans for the baby's religious upbringing/education or lack thereof.
- Plans for childcare.
- The baby's future profession or accomplishments.
Folks with kids, feel free to let me know what you think I should add to any of these lists!
The Con or Bust auction is going on right now, and you can bid on a tea-and-advice date with me!http://con-or-bust.org/2016/05/tea-and-advice-with-rose-fox/
There are only two bids up there right now, and the top four bids win, so bid early and often. :) And if we're not going to be in the same geographical location anytime soon, we can have a Skype-and-advice date instead.
Con or Bust is a fantastic organization that gives people of color financial support and free memberships to attend SF/F conventions. They've helped hundreds of fans and do amazing work. I'm thrilled to be supporting them by donating my time, and I hope you will support them too by bidding (there are lots of other delicious things up for auction, including jewelry and signed first editions), donating to a future auction, and/or spreading the word. Fan-run fan-supporting organizations like Con or Bust are part of what make the SF/F community so great--please help them keep doing their amazing work!
asked me whether I knew of or had written a post on using Slack
for households. I don't know of one, so I decided to write one.
For those not familiar with Slack, it's a chat room app, as distinct from a one-on-one chat app. It runs basically like IRC, if you're old enough to remember IRC. :) The fundamentals are:
* multiple users
* timestamped chat in text and emoji
* topic-based conversations in individual chat rooms called channels
* personal conversations by direct message (DM), one-on-one or in groups
* importing and integration of images, documents, links, etc.
* searchable archives
* hierarchy of owners, admins, and users, plus a programmable autoresponder called Slackbot
* can be used on the web, in a desktop app, or in a phone app, with various types of notifications
* reasonably full-featured for free, accessible pricing for additional features
Slack is pitched as a platform for business collaboration
. I've never used it that way. But I'm currently part of five different active Slacks and one that's gone dormant. The active ones are the Subtle House household Slack, two social Slacks, and two project Slacks. The inactive one was an attempt to be a combined project and social Slack and it never really got off the ground for reasons I'll get into below.( Longread )
And most importantly: Your Slack will work if everyone enjoys using it and finds it valuable.
Now that we're starting Kit on solid foods, I'm trying to figure out when to give them food, and how to include them in mealtimes. I don't think they've ever really seen us eat! J and X leave work at 6 and have ~45-minute commutes, so usually J cooks while X and I put the baby to bed, and then the adults have dinner around 8 after Kit's asleep. And mornings are such a rush; I'm not awake then, but I think J and X usually grab a quick breakfast during Kit's morning nap. So I think for now, solid food will have to happen on the baby's schedule, and I guess once they're old enough to stay up until 9, they can have dinner with us at 8. (I was always a night owl and perfectly comfortable eating on an adult schedule, so the whole "kids have early dinner" thing totally baffles me.)
Parent-type friends, what do/did your young kids' mealtime schedules look like? How did you manage this transition?
Many months ago, before there was a Kit in the world, I went over to kissane
's place to hang out with them. I think kissane
and I were having a work date or something. meetar
came home and was v. tired and shagged out after a long day. He went to their music player and put on some amazing soothing music I'd never heard before. It was the most relaxing. "What is this?" I asked in wonder. He told me it was Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon"
I fell in love with it. I played it for X, who fell in love with it. And one night when we had a fussy baby, X played it for them. Now, every night at bedtime, we play "Thursday Afternoon" and rock Kit until they get sleepy, and then we put them in the crib to sleep. And every night I think how glad I am that meetar
happened to be in need of some soothing music that day.
Today I downloaded "Thursday Afternoon" to the tablet we have over the crib for a baby monitor, so it could sing Kit to sleep. Just now they woke up yelling--poor baby, trying to get used to dreaming, which really is such a weird thing--and I put my hand on their belly and put the music back on. They settled right back to sleep. Out like a light.
The only snag is that we have to wait for the track to finish, or sneak in and turn it off*, before we can use the sound-activated baby monitor. But that is a very small price to pay for an aural sleep-cue that is 60 minutes long, can be turned off at any point without a strong sense of interruption, doesn't become boring or annoying no matter how long or how often you listen to it, and doesn't require a parent to sing the same three-minute song over and over to the point of hoarseness. New parents and parents-to-be: I recommend it very very highly.* At some point I'm sure we will set up some sort of networked speakers, or root the tablet so we can remote-control it. Right now, tiptoeing in works fine (and lets us stare at the baby a little bit too).
X and J and I all have separate bedrooms and keep different schedules. This has led to us being the most well-rested parents of a newborn in the history of ever (other than those who have 24/7 nannies, I suppose). J naturally wakes up around 7 a.m. and I naturally go to bed around 3 a.m., so we shifted our schedules two hours each and met in the middle, doing a shift change at 5; our bodies didn't entirely love it, but we at least got decent rest for six or seven hours a night/day. Once X stopped having to get up in the middle of the night to pump breastmilk, they got to sleep their natural hours, which was really important for C-section recovery.
Four and a half months later, Kit is now consistently sleeping through the night. There's been a bit of four-month sleep regression
waking (or maybe a growth spurt? They've also been super hungry and eating huge meals) over the last couple of nights, but mostly they can self-soothe back to sleep when they wake up. (This is a skill they taught themself; we can claim no credit at all for sleep training.) We've nudged their bedtime from 7 to 8 so they have a better chance of sleeping until 6. And X is pretty well recovered from the surgery. So as of tonight, I go to bed when I want to and J gets up when he wants to, and in between, X sleeps with the monitor on. Specifically, I tiptoe into their room and turn it on when I go to bed, and J tiptoes in and turns it off when he gets up, so that X isn't woken by baby-fussing when someone else is already awake to handle it. X is a very sound sleeper and falls back asleep easily once woken, so this should work pretty well.
I really appreciate that X immediately said "Yes, I'm totally happy to take my turn being at risk for sleep disruption" as soon as I suggested the change. Yay for good partnership and load-sharing. 💞
The only downside for me is that I won't get to see sleepy J in the mornings. But since he's not getting up at 5 anymore, I'll get to see much more awake J for longer in the evenings, which will be stellar.
I don't even know what to do with all this freedom! I'll be able to have noon lunch dates again! I could go to bed at 2 and get up at 10! I could get most of my work done during daylight hours! I only just finalized a schedule last week, and tonight I spent a couple of hours revising it and putting it into Gcal. But I'm really happy with where it is now, and especially with the lovely long stretch between 01:30 and 12:00 that contains getting ready for bed, eight hours of sleep, and two hours of time to myself (as distinct from work time) that I can enjoy before and/or after sleep, as I choose
. And never going to bed later than 4. *happy dance*
It'll probably be a little while before my body clock (such as it is) gets used to this, but oh, I can't wait
to be used to it.
Copied from a letter I just wrote to a friend:
I have been thinking a lot about writing, and getting into some good conversations about it, and doing some good reading about it. It's making me realize just how little I know about the craft and process of creating a book. I know it abstractly, in broad strokes, but not the nitty-gritty. And some of what I think I know is wrong, which is actually great, because the stuff I'm unlearning is stuff that was holding me back. I'm doing a lot of poking at outlining right now, for example, and unlearning all my notions about how one goes about making an outline--it's not the same thing as a synopsis at all! It's a crafted piece of writing, the way the book itself is a crafted piece of writing, but using a totally different skill set. And there are lots of different possible ways to craft an outline. You can write it start to finish, or you can develop a set of hypotheses and test them (a notion that made me really get the idea of doing preliminary character sketches first, because in order to do plot-chemistry with your characters you have to understand their characteristics and how they interact and what makes them explode), or you can develop your outline as you're writing the book and let them argue with each other, or any number of things. I could even make a flowchart outline with images for the scenes instead of words! I didn't know any of this, really, and the idea of outlining is now much more interesting and appealing than it used to be. It feels like a useful tool instead of building a cage that my story is trapped inside of.
So in retrospect it feels sort of silly to say "I started actively trying to learn things and lo! I have learned things" but the best thing I've done for myself as a writer is to approach it as a student instead of a hobbyist--to think about it every day, and seek out new knowledge and relate it to what I already know, and scrawl angry notes arguing with books on writing (the one I'm reading now asserts that no one will care about your characters until they do something interesting, and that is SO BACKWARDS and made me SO MAD that I nearly crossed it out in the book itself, but I settled for complaining in all caps in my little writing notebook). And it doesn't feel like a delaying tactic, partly because I'm constantly trying to apply what I'm learning to the projects I'm working on, and partly because this skill-building and analytical thinking is so clearly necessary as a precursor to writing. Like learning good form before lifting heavy weights.
Speaking of which, writing in that little notebook is hard on my arm, and I did a fair amount of it tonight after going to a really splendid panel on transgressive fiction (Ellen Kushner, C.S. Pacat, Sarah Rees Brennan, Damon Suede, Marie Rutkowski, and Eloisa James--stunning lineup, wonderful conversation). C.S. Pacat said some useful things about developing and maintaining tension as a matter of writing craft and I wanted to make sure to write them down before I forgot them, and then I just kept going because it was a long subway ride back to Brooklyn. But then I got home and did a lot of editing and now I really need to stop typing and go to bed.
Last night I dreamed that it was some sort of trans pride day and I was carrying a big rainbow flag around. A cis woman mistook me for a cis guy and made some snarky look-how-hip-I-am comment about cis people horning in on trans stuff. I unbuttoned my dress shirt like Clark Kent to show my binder and was all WHO'S TRANS ENOUGH NOW. And then I hung my rainbow flag on a lamppost and strolled off.
Most satisfying dream I've had in ages. :D
I had a total meltdown tonight over needing to be the perfect parent so that the baby will love me and believe I love them--so that I can make up for my lack of biological link to them. Kit has a cold (the first time they've ever been ill) and has been so snuffly and feverish and sad. If Kit is sad and I don't fix it, what the hell kind of parent am I? And that triggers the doubts and fears about being no kind of parent at all.
This wasn't helped by someone asking me about my Mother's Day plans with my mom and assuming they didn't include the baby, because that person doesn't really think of Kit as my child or as my mother's grandchild. I've lost count of how many times people have erased my various identities--seeing me and J as a het couple, getting my pronouns wrong all the time, assuming X mattered less to me than J because of gender and distance, to name just a few--but oof, this erasure hurts the most, because on some level I believe it. (And also because the whole idea of being a parent is new, I think. I'm still not really used to it at all, so if someone says or implies I'm not one, I don't have that rock-solid identity certainty to brace myself against.)
I vented on Twitter, as I do, and oh_also
sent me to First Time Second Time
, a blog by two queer parents who each gave birth to one of their kids. They write a lot about being non-gestational parents and it's really good. Their non-bio mom manifesto
is exactly what I needed to read tonight, and the last two paragraphs in particular:
Even though I really hate the “Different but Equal” refrain, I’d be hard-pressed to say that my relationship with Leigh wasn’t different than Gail’s, at least during early infancy. So even though I get annoyed by such statements, I also sort of agree. But if I truly believe I do have a different and equal relationship to Leigh, even though she didn’t grow inside me, even though I didn’t nurse and nourish her as a baby, and even though she does not look a bit like me, there must be something else that I offered her. What is it? What is the “something extra” that I gave to her, that she wouldn’t have gotten in a family with only Gail as her parent?
This has been eating at me for years. Sure, I can see my influence in her mannerisms, the clarity with which she expresses herself, her bull-in-a-china-shop quality, her overt enthusiasm, and her love of connecting with all kinds of people. But none of that seems quite like the answer. The other night, though, I realized Gail had finally figured it out. What I offered to her, that only I could offer her, was my choice. I chose to parent her, and chose to love her deeply, despite a multitude of pressures that said either that I shouldn’t love her, or that I was unnecessary. Some of those pressures said explicitly that I’d damage her by my mere presence (those coming from, say, the religious right). Some of those pressures were more subtle, like the ones that said it wasn’t important for me to take leave to spend time with my new infant, or the ones that said if I pushed too hard to feed her or spend too much time with her, I’d take away from her all-important “primary” bond to Gail, resulting in some sort of vague but longstanding psychological damage. It is precisely the central challenge of being a non-bio-mom, the need to choose to parent your child, that makes the bond special. To spin something precious out of what looks and feels like nothing at the outset — no pregnancy, no genetic link, no nursing link, no overt need on the part of your child — is truly a gift to your whole family, and it is a gift that only you can give them.
I will clutch this to my heart forever. For-ev-er.
I will quibble only to say that each of us made a choice--each of us and all of us made many, many choices over a period of several years--to be Kit's parent. J chose to father the child and X chose to carry the child, and their biological contributions don't make their subsequent choices to be devoted, attentive parents any less important or essential. But my lack
of biological contribution doesn't make my choice any less real or meaningful.
I write this from the rocking chair in Kit's room, where I plan to sit all night. Their fever's broken--it never got above 101.2, so we were never super worried, but any kind of fever is no fun--and the congestion is easing, but they're still snuffly. My anxieties are soothed by listening to them breathing, and if they wake up fussy I want to be right here for them. They slept on my lap for a while, and when I stood up to put them in the crib, they woke a little and turned their head and pressed their face against me in the purest gesture of trust and comfort-seeking I've ever seen. They chose me too. I choose to believe them.
It's coming up on a year and a half since Valour Advances the Man
started kicking around in my head. I still want to write it. I haven't put any new words on the page since last fall. And yes, we had a baby, all of that, but there's other stuff in the way too.
I've been poking at this in various places, and today I did the thing where I ask Twitter to solve my problems
mostly so that I can see what I dislike about people's suggested solutions, which in turn helps me define the actual
problem.( Definitions )
=====( Analysis )
Realistically, it seems very unlikely that anyone is going to hire me to write a novel that I haven't already written. First novels are nearly always written on spec, and I say "nearly always" rather than "always" only because I'm sure there must be exceptions somewhere, not because I personally know of any. (Also, honestly, if I were an editor, I wouldn't hire someone with my résumé to write a novel sight unseen.) But I feel much better having come up with what feels like a plausible scenario for success. I'm going to set it aside for a bit and go get some work done, and let the back of my brain work on figuring out how to mimic or approximate those conditions.