a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
21 May 2015 02:46 - "Dreamtime"
rosefox: A man's head with a panel open to show gears, and another man looking inside. (examined head)
My dream life has been just amazing lately.

Sunday night I dreamed that J and I wanted to buy a house on the street where my father's apartment is, but we decided that we wanted the only brick building in a row of wood-frame buildings. I started to worry that I was just too non-conformist and it was going to make me miserable, so I went to a company that mind-wiped people and turned them into happy mindless company employees/slaves. They ran a psych profile on me that said I was a very poor candidate because I was such an independent thinker that the mind-wiping might not work on me. I signed a contract, but at the last minute I backed out. The penalty for breach of contract was having a swarm of bees sent after me that were supposed to all sting me at once, and I had a 50% chance of surviving. I ran away down the street and ducked into a store so the swarm would miss me and sting some poor passerby instead, like I was dodging a guided missile. The company sent another swarm after me, but I found a taxi driver who would drive me uptown to where I would be safe. He used telekinesis, I think? Sometimes I felt like we were sitting on wooden chairs, and other times I felt like we were in a black limousine; I'm pretty sure the limo was an illusion. But he got me away from the bees, and in the end J and I decided to buy the brick house.

(At least half of this probably stemmed from a conversation I had with my father on Sunday evening where he asked me whether I saw myself as a rebellious person. I said that I didn't care enough about mainstream values to define myself as rebelling against them, but of course it's more complicated than that.)

Monday night I dreamed that my room had gotten horribly messy and dirty, and that our apartment (which was now very small, maybe a 1BR) was full of ratty, shabby old furniture. I'd agreed to take in two more cats but then I forgot about them. They were black cats and hid under the furniture where I couldn't see them. There were puddles of cat pee everywhere, but I blamed Sam. Bugs and body grossness ) I was incredibly appalled that I had forgotten and neglected the cats and let my home get into such a state, and I think at the end of the dream I was trying to feed and wash them and clean up my room, but it all kind of fragmented.

(I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long for me to have what is essentially an anxiety dream about being a horrible neglectful parent, given that we've been actively trying to conceive for more than a year now and planning it for a while before that, but I guess I'm slow to develop. On the bright side, when I woke up and went out into the main room of the apartment, for once I looked around and thought "We keep this place in pretty good shape" rather than immediately noticing all the housework there was to do. So hooray for perspective, I guess?)

My therapist and I are going to have SO MUCH to talk about tomorrow. :)
20 May 2015 01:43 - "I'm interested in things"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
Stuff that has felt good lately:

* Doing work while listening to birdsong. I still use my Pomodoro playlist of progressive house mixes sometimes, but I find that the birdsong is very relaxing without being soporific--it calms the anxious chattery noise in my head, which lets the rest of my brain focus on the task at hand. Thanks to the birds, I was super productive today!

* Doing my PT exercises. I mean, yes, they're kind of boring, but it still feels really good to move and get stronger. The current list: leg stretches, isometric leg exercises, knee raises, straight leg raises, ankle pumps, weighted leg extensions; hand/wrist/arm stretches, wrist rotations, straight and reverse wrist curls with weights, hammer curls with weights, biceps curls with weights. I do this every night except Monday and Friday when I have actual PT, which is how you can tell I'm seriously committed to getting stronger. 5x5 is on hold until I strengthen my legs enough to protect my knees during squats, rows, and deadlifts, hence all the leg exercises.

* Getting comfortable with low-stimulus time. If I'm waiting for a file to load or sitting on a train for ten minutes, I keep the Twitter tab closed and the phone in my pocket, and deliberately sit alone with my thoughts. I'm still training up that comfort and it's definitely not always easy, but when I can get settled into it, I really like it. I'd been doing the Headspace creativity pack, but more and more I find I want to get back to just basic meditation or mindfulness without the themed bells and whistles.

* Doing gender mix-and-match with my appearance. Super-short buzzed hair and big earrings. A snug V-neck blouse and men's straight-leg trousers. Summer's a great time for this.

* Eating vegetables. I tend to forget about vegetables for a while and then remember them again. They're pretty great! Next I think I might rediscover legumes, which I've been ignoring for some time but are also delicious. Lentil soup, white bean dip, and daal are all on my list. Over the past year I ate a lot of poultry (and red meat and seafood in restaurants from time to time, but not cooked at home) and starches, and I'm ready for a change.

* Spring and summer weather. Breezes! Warm nights! Thunderstorms! I want to hug it all.

Plus the stuff that already felt good like snuggling my family, snuggling my kitten (who has been very very snuggly lately), and so on. :) I just feel very much in the groove right now. It's lovely.
17 May 2015 13:17 - "Dreamtime"
rosefox: A cartoon flower with a monkey's head coming out of it. (surreal)
Friday night I slept nearly nine hours and had odd fragmented dreams that I don't remember at all. Last night I slept nearly nine hours again (?!) and had an interesting variation on a couple of common dreams.

Since I've been going to so many TMBG concerts and listening to their music in between the shows, I dream about them a lot. Last week or the week before I had a dream where they were doing a concert in a tiny intimate venue and they asked for audience requests but didn't play anything anyone asked for. This time I dreamed they were recording in a studio that seemed to be part of a big art and music school. After a recording session I realized some piece of their equipment had gone missing--a guitar pedal, I think--and I went to look for it in the storage room so they would have it for the next day's session. Somehow this turned into realizing I was being pursued by Nameless Authorities and had to escape, along with a friend of mine (some guy who appears to be a dream-person and not anyone I know in real life). We made a plan, and I showed him how to climb up to the top of the wall in one of the school bathrooms and get into the HVAC vents, which would be our escape route.

I disguised myself with a long wig and an oversized jacket and went down to the restaurant in the school basement, where I had a burger. The TV was showing pictures of me and saying I was a missing person. (They reported that I was non-binary, so I was glad I'd thought to wear the wig, which would make me look like a cis woman.) A couple of people I knew recognized me and managed to whisper to me that they wouldn't turn me in because they knew I'd done nothing wrong. After I finished eating, I went up to one of the art studio rooms where the ceiling was very, very high. I climbed up the shelves, which were all white-painted boards attached to the wall and covered with random art supplies and abandoned projects. Someone else was in the room and I pretended I was just going up to get something I was working on, when really I was aiming for the vents. But then a class came in and the teacher took them all up into the shelves to examine some of the projects there, so I had to climb down and look for another way to get into the vents and escape. And then I woke up.

I used to have dreams about being chased all the time, though I haven't had one in a while. But in those dreams I always ran down--down stairs, down hills, once down endless spiraling flights of steps through an hourglass-shaped space station. I've had some climbing-up dreams before, including climbing into ventilation shafts, but they're usually about looking for things. This notion of climbing up to escape is, as far as I can recall, totally new. I wonder what the subconscious difference is between running down and climbing up.
rosefox: A woman's muscular arm. (strong)
I haven't made an unlocked post since May 4, so uh, hi everyone, I'm not dead. :) There's just been a lot going on, and my arms have been sad--though they're getting better.

I'm still doing PT and making good progress there. At home, this was my first week of doing the stronglifts 5x5 program, starting from 0 lb and adding 4 lb per iteration. On Wednesday I did PT and then babysat a friend's three-month-old baby, which involved a lot of lifting and back-patting and so on, and then I came home and did 5x5, and the next day I didn't hurt at all. Tonight my right forearm tendon was whining a little before I started doing my stretches and exercises, and once I really engaged my muscles it stopped hurting. That was pretty amazing. So I'm clearly getting stronger, and hoping to work up to heavier weights fairly soon. I missed PT today because of wretched horrible food poisoning that hit me early this morning, but I felt well enough this evening to do my PT exercises and 5x5, so I should stay on track for Monday's session. EDIT: But of course doing 25 squats barefoot on wood floors left my knees sore and cranky for two days, so I will have a chat with my PT about how to keep that from happening.

May 13 marked a year of being vertigo-free. My tinnitus has been loud lately, and I had a couple of days of occluded hearing that made me very anxious, but I'm trying to keep my sodium intake on the low side and so far there's been no dizziness.

Most of the locked posts have been about IVF. Without going into details, we've been on a real emotional rollercoaster for the past few weeks: bad news, good news, hopeful things, anxious-making things. But on the whole, things are going well.

At work we're ramping up for fall announcements and BEA and then Readercon and RWA; this is always a busy time of year. I'm well settled into working full-time and have made a routine that I stick with pretty well. No progress on the novel recently--emotional rollercoaster means I have trouble focusing, so I can't rush through dayjob work to make time for writing--but I have been reading a lot, which has been really nice. I read three amazing books in a row and that sort of spoiled me for less amazing books. :) On the bright side, that's half my SF/F year's-best shortlist settled, unless something truly spectacular comes out in the fall.

Other than the above-mentioned stresses, J and X are well and happy, though no one's getting enough sleep. But we've been getting some good family time when we're all awake. J and I went upstate to visit his mom last weekend; the weather was perfect and I wore as little clothing as I could get away with. I even buzzed my hair. :) Endless glorious spring breezes on my skin were exactly what I needed. I bought a glorious ridiculous frilly white dress--I've been feeling very femme lately--and can't wait for an opportunity to wear it.

Cats and bugs and a bit of grossness )

We're gradually transitioning Sam into eating in the kitchen with the other cats, now that they're all more comfortable with one another. (For a while she just wasn't eating because she felt too exposed and vulnerable in the kitchen.) Today she queued up behind Sophie, realized there was a second dish, crept forward, began to eat... and Sophie suddenly realized she was there and leapt back with the most affronted look. There was no fighting or growling or anything, just a sort of moral outrage. "Who let your kind into this fine dining establishment? Hmph!" Naturally, Sam's response was to move over and start eating from the dish Sophie had abandoned. Good kitty. :) The more she eats out there, the less I have to have cat food in my room.

Alex still wants to play-wrestle with Sam, and Sam still thinks he's actually attacking her and runs and hides, but I suspect that will be their dynamic forever, and everyone seems fairly settled with it at this point. When I hang out in the guest room they both come sit on the couch with me and there seems to be a sort of room-specific ceasefire in effect. Sophie still wants nothing to do with anyone (human or feline) except her beloved X, though I did catch her sniffing Alex's ear the other night as he snoozed.

Writing this post was my way of occupying myself while I iced my arms and knees post-workout, and I've spent 45 minutes on it, so it's time I took myself off to bed.
rosefox: An adult and a child lead a group of people fleeing from disaster (long hidden)
Long Hidden is a Locus Awards finalist! It's one of the few SF/F awards that recognizes anthologies, so this is a pretty big deal. :) We're up against some big names and I honestly don't expect to win, but I'm really pleased to be on the finalist list. And Sofia Samatar's "Ogres of East Africa", which we published in LH, was nominated in the short story category, for a bit of extra bonus awesomeness.
rosefox: A severed head saying "Thanks.. I needed that". (relief)
Despite getting some sad news earlier today, I went to the TMBG show and I am so, so glad I did. I was feeling really lonely and worried about being there on my own, but it turned out that [twitter.com profile] improperlybusy was in town and already planning to go to the show, so we met up at the venue and got some time to catch up between sets. It was very nice to have a friend there and get some extra hugs.

Tonight was the album launch for Glean and apparently the band decided that meant they should play almost all the crowdpleasing songs in their repertoire, going all the way back to their first album. Details cut-tagged for those who couldn't care less, but seriously, this was the setlist equivalent of the all-star team.

So much musical goodness )

After the show, Marty was signing drumsticks and ticket stubs at the edge of the stage; he wasn't in the band in 2002, so I had to explain why I particularly wanted to thank them for playing "New York City", but he gave me a very solemn and sincere nod once I filled in the backstory. I hope he passed the thanks along to the other guys.

I'd felt very pent up around the sad news, and the music broke the dam. I got in a cab home and called Miriam and got all weepy on her. Yay catharsis and good music and good friends.
rosefox: A woodblock print of a woman surrounded by roses. (old-fashioned)
I woke up and thought for a while about what I wanted to do before deliberately checking only my "family" list and locked account timeline on Twitter. I got up and showered and had breakfast and... well, if I wasn't going to read Twitter while I ate, what would I do? So I read a very absorbing book and chatted with my brother for a bit. When X got up, we had lunch and went out clothes shopping. I read a bit more of the book on the subway.

(The book is Natasha Pulley's The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which is deservedly on my list of excellent books coming out this summer. It's is the first book I've read since I started writing my own, and it's extremely good, so I got to have that lovely feeling of "Well, this person is a much better writer than I am"--a particularly easy comparison to make when it's set in historical London with a protagonist who shares many personality traits and a name with my own hero! But I managed to turn it into "This book is a good example of things I'm not doing, and now I get to decide whether to do those things" and that felt better. Anyway, I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who liked Jo Walton's Small Change books.)

We came home and I read for a bit and then J and I went to the supermarket and came home and made dinner. I resisted the Twitter urge and instead posted on FOCA and checked LJ/DW while the chicken was baking. I also checked email (I'm trying to remember to keep the email tabs closed and only check once in a while, or hourly for work email during work hours) and knocked my inboxes back down to zero. After dinner J did the washing up*, X went off for some introvert time, and I finished the book.

* Whenever I read a book set in England and written by someone English, it immediately creeps into my vocabulary. I nearly said that X went off for a lie-down.

X has gone to bed and J will probably conk out shortly. I've just caught up on my limited feeds again (at that level it feels a lot more like catching up on LJ/DW) and now I'm contemplating how I'd like to spend the next four hours. I might get some of the work done that I didn't do on Friday. Or I might just sit here and listen to Glean over and over and over again so that I have it memorized for tomorrow's concert, because I'm a nerd. :)

At some point in the early days of the Ménière's, I wrote that I would miss silence. I'm particularly aware of that today, with my ear so blocked up and the ringing persistent and vexing. But on a more metaphorical level, today felt very quiet without the constant background noise of online conversation. I've missed that kind of silence too. It was really nice.
rosefox: Spock's pointy ear. (ear)
Symptom watch: the tinnitus in my right ear has been on the loud side for the past week, mostly noticeable when I'm in bed at night. Today I woke up with my right ear feeling blocked and congested, and hearing significantly occluded. No change after a hot shower and some Flonase. I may be reaching the limits of last year's Ménière's treatment. :(

I'm not feeling any hint of vertigo, and I'm perfectly functional with only left-ear hearing to rely on as long as people face me when they speak, so I'm not sure there's anything to do at the moment except keep an eye on it and note any changes. But I've emailed my specialist ENT just in case he has any ideas.

And then I will take all the taurine and try not to panic. The thought of going back to the endless horrible vertigo is terrifying, and the treatment I had was experimental, so it may not be available for me to get again. I'm trying not to borrow trouble, but I'm kind of primed for anxiety at the moment, especially when I'm dealing with my other physical disability flaring up. I've really enjoyed being able to hear and stand upright and take taxis and so on. I would like to continue doing those things. I don't want to have vertigo ever ever ever again.

*breathes*

Right. Food, taurine, distraction.

EDIT: I thought at this point it was pretty solid internet etiquette to not provide unsolicited medical advice, but for those who missed that memo, here's a clear statement: I do not want medical advice on this topic.
rosefox: A silver spoon labeled "my very last, very small spoon". (exhausted)
I think it might be time for me to take a break from Twitter. I mostly spend time on there because it's a convenient source of quasi-socializing and it gives me those tasty dopamine pings. Right now, I'm not feeling very social; we're at an exhaustingly anxious stage of fertility stuff and mostly I want to stay at home, cuddle my people, and nest. I don't mind some socializing--see also: plans to go to BBG--but I want it to be socializing that gets me out of the house and moving around, not socializing that costs me sleep and hurts my arms. Dopamine pings are bad for my sleep, which is especially ungood when I'm stressed out and in pain and generally needing more rest; a few days ago I started leaving my laptop in the guest room at night instead of taking it into my bedroom, and I immediately slept for nine hours per night two nights in a row, which is the sort of thing I definitely need to do more of. It's also really noticeable how much more work I get done when I turn off the interrupt machine. (Turns out this is also a downside of inbox zero: as soon as a message comes in I must deal with it immediately and maintain that clean slate! And then it disrupts whatever else I was doing. So I may have to rethink how I do email too--only checking it periodically, maybe.)

When I think about what I want to be doing with my arm-ergs, I think of work, writing, and PT. When I think about what I want to be doing with my time, I think of spending time with my family, writing, and reading. Twitter doesn't even go on the list. It's not a thing I want to be doing; it's a thing that I do, and a thing that takes me away from things I want to do. Nothing personal to anyone I hang out with there. I really do enjoy your company! I'm just in the middle of a fairly massive priority shift.

I don't know yet whether I'm going to go off of it altogether or limit myself to my nearest-and-dearest list or only go on at specific times or what, but expect to see less of me on the Twitters, at least for a while.
24 April 2015 17:59 - "Dreamtime"
rosefox: A diagram labeled "immortal eye" and "fearful symmetry etc." (geeky (worksafe))
Last night I dreamed that J had offered to write some drivers so I could use a USB trackpad with my laptop, and I was affectionately teasing him about what a silly offer it was because he's not really a programmer. We were walking down the street, someplace with wide roads and low warehouse-type buildings--maybe an ungentrified part of San Francisco. Two women who were standing at a bus stop overheard us, and after J got on the bus? went somewhere else? I started talking with them about how much we all enjoy writing x86 assembly code (which I did enjoy the last time I did it, but that was almost 20 years ago!).

When I woke up, I thought "My dreams are the patriarchy's nightmares!" and smirked a lot.
24 April 2015 01:39 - "April showers"
rosefox: Apple blossoms and a monarch butterfly. (spring)
I feel like I'm still at a sunshine deficit, even though it's late April. I feel SO GOOD on sunny warm days, and then we get chilly rainstorms and I droop. This is particularly annoying because I usually love spring rain. I did enjoy the lightning and thunder we got the other night, but that was after a wonderful warm muggy afternoon.

Right now it's 40 degrees and the heat just came on. I mean. This is fucking ridiculous.

But it's supposed to be sunny and warm next weekend, and the cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are just hitting their peak, so who wants to go to BBG on Saturday May 2? Sakura matsuri is this weekend, so going next week should let us miss most of the tourists. :)
23 April 2015 12:04 - "Dreamtime"
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
I dreamed that X and [livejournal.com profile] tithenai and I all went to my high school to retrieve a copy of a paper I'd written. It was buried in the archives in the gym (??) but a nice person eventually dug it up. Then I realized it wasn't on the topic I'd remembered, so it wasn't all that useful to me. Oh well.

Then somehow we ended up in a meadow, in a place with gently rolling hills and occasional stands of trees. There were some small strange half-buildings, with two walls and no roof but all the furnishings, like stage sets; we spent a bit of time exploring them, but they felt very lonely. The queen of the Fae showed up and was annoyed about something, and we had to sing in harmony to appease her. We managed this with reasonable success (singing Heather Alexander's "Dance in the Circle" of all things!) and she left us alone, but the king came over and suggested that we swear allegiance to him instead, so he could protect us in case the queen got angry again. The vast majority of the dreaming-time was taken up with the king making his case and us talking about it. The rest went pretty quickly but when I was doing the wake/doze/wake/doze thing I kept going back to that conversation about swearing allegiance. I think by the time I fully woke up we had decided that he seemed like a pretty decent guy, and that we'd much rather be on his side than the unpredictable queen's.

[livejournal.com profile] tithenai had short hair and was wearing a long flowy dress, and the king appeared as a guy in his 30s with short brown hair and beard and a serious expression. He looked a bit like [twitter.com profile] sentencebender, actually. The queen had a face that I can only describe as pugnacious. I have no real visual sense of anyone else who was in either part of the dream.
rosefox: Apple blossoms and a monarch butterfly. (spring)
In April 2005, we adopted Sam. She was a wee tiny thing and terrified of everything. Now she's an 11-pound middle-aged cat who still acts like a kitten--but a kitten who's affectionate and cuddly, a mighty hunter who just smacked down the first giant bug of the season (I had to deliver the coup de grace, but she definitely gets the RBI), willing to hold her own against the other cats when they get in her face, comfortably at home in every room of the house. At night I turn out the light and she snuggles against my shoulder and lovingly whaps me in the face with her tail. She has no brains in her head whatsoever. I love her with infinite love.

In April 2006, as previously noted, J and I got married. We enjoyed a fabulous low-key honeymoon in Japan, my first-ever trip to Asia.

In April 2007, I started working at PW.

In April 2008, I started really building a friendship with Miriam.

In April 2009, I took on, and aced, my first-ever major freelance copy editing gig. I also started hanging out on Twitter. (Perceptively, I wrote, "Fine, fine, I'll reactivate my goddamn Twitter account. I really doubt I'll use it very much. Five years from now when my thumbs fall off from tweeting (I hate 21st century verbs so much) you can all make fun of me.") And I created my Dreamwidth account.

In April 2010, I danced half the Playford Ball in a tailcoat and the other half in a gown. The me-and-me photo remains tremendously important to me, capturing one of my earliest moments of being explicitly genderqueer within a community that really mattered to me. J and I returned to Japan with his mother and cemented the association of cherry blossoms and our anniversary by climbing Hanamiyama.

In April 2011, I started taking driving lessons.

In April 2012, I ran the Playford Ball.

In April 2013, X and J and I really started becoming a family, and X and I began seriously working out together.

In April 2014, we moved into this glorious home and almost immediately started working on getting X pregnant.

No wonder April always makes me so happy. Good things happen. Good things begin. Hooray for literal and metaphorical springtime. :)
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
There is this anxious thing I do, that I think a lot of people do: if I know something difficult is coming up, especially a difficult conversation or interaction, I rehearse it in my head. My rehearsing mechanisms go back and forth with my editorial mechanisms, refining what I'm going to do or say and how I'll respond to questions until I'm reasonably certain that I have prepared for every eventuality.

This is apparently also how I write, at least based on how it's gone so far. I pick a scene (either because it follows logically from the one I just left or because I get excited thinking about it) and frame it in terms of interaction; if it's not multiple people interacting, it's an individual interacting with their environment, memories, worries, plans, creative work, etc. Then I turn the scene around in my head and rehearse it a bunch of different ways. If something feels out of character, ahistorical, or otherwise off, I tweak it. Lather, rinse, repeat (sometimes literally--I do a lot of this sort of thinking in the shower).

I focus less on specific words and more on concepts, same as when I'm rehearsing for a real-life event: make sure you express this, but try to avoid discussing that. I don't worry too much about how the scene builds plot, though having characters' different motivations interact almost always develops story to some extent; I'm just getting a sense of how the interactions might go. And the emphasis is on "might": the first time I noticed that I was doing this, it was because I'd caught myself assessing a scene in my head and realizing that there were several different and equally acceptable ways that it could go. That alone was kind of revelatory. I'm not usually so easy-going. :)

When I write the scene down, the written words are like a translucent overlay on the imagined interactions. I fill in a lot of details while I'm writing, things like body language and staging and specific witticisms that aren't relevant to the rehearsals. Then I look at the places where the overlay diverges from the rehearsal and decide which I like better.

I do almost all my writing on Tuesdays, and write maybe 1200 to 1500 words in a day, so I spend most of a week casually exploring possibilities for fairly short scenes. It's a leisurely process. I like it.

The one thing I need to watch out for is that when I'm rehearsing for real-world things, I want them to go as smoothly as possible, whereas sometimes fiction needs to go very badly for one or more people involved. J reminded me today that I struggle with maintaining tension in my longer narratives; I always want to solve all the problems right away! I also tend to keep writing after a scene has already done all the things it needs to do--I guess I just get in the groove, and I don't quite have a sense yet of the natural stopping point--and then it trails off in the fiction equivalent of people awkwardly making small talk at a party because they don't know how to escape. But I'm working on that. I suspect it's going to involve writing a lot of scenes that go like this:

1. setup
2. presentation of problem
3. resolution of problem/unnecessary restatement of problem/hot air

and then cutting part 3 and either throwing it away or saving it for later. I guess this is a type of "writing out of order" but I'm not doing it deliberately; I'm just an amateur writer who doesn't know how not to kill tension yet. :) Fortunately I'm also a decent editor who can spot the problem once I'm looking back at it.

Arm pain is my friend here, oddly. I had to stop writing on Tuesday night because ow, and then I went back on Wednesday and realized that actually that scene had done everything it needed to do. It didn't end in a perfectly resolved way, and that's just fine because I am writing an entire book and individual scenes and chapters don't need to be perfect tiny short stories. :) So I will leave the # at the bottom of the page where Scrivener put it and move on to the next thing, which is probably Nathaniel and Eliza having a fight.

I might even end the scene while they're still--*gasp*--annoyed with each other.

Gosh, that feels wicked and daring. :D

Have I mentioned that I'm having so much fun with this? The slow pace really helps with that too. At 1200 words a week I'll be done in a year and a half or so. That's fine. I'm in no hurry. And I just get to enjoy it.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention the flip side! Of course there is a companion anxiety thing where after I've done something that I feel bad about, I replay it over and over in my head, sometimes years later. Well, I do the post-hoc analysis with writing too... but it's called "revisions" and I get to fix everything I regret. So tremendously satisfying.
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Tuesdays appear to be my writing days. 800 words, woo. :) And I get to introduce Nathaniel and Algernon, which I've been waiting for.


A bit of banter )


Nathaniel does get to banter too, later on. It's just that Eliza and Algernon are both natural wits, and Nathaniel... has other talents.

I'll probably stop posting excerpts at some point but I'm just enjoying this too much not to share it. :)
13 April 2015 22:26 - "Strength to your arm"
rosefox: "He realized that all this time, when he'd been saying OW OW YOU FUCKING BITCH what he really meant was I LOVE YOU." (pain)
After six weeks of the best care I could manage while still working full-time, my arms kept being almost but not entirely better. SO FRUSTRATING. I hate being stuck in the tendinitis paradox:

* More muscle strength will protect the tendon.
* Exercising your muscles aggravates the tendon inflammation.

I really tried to get the inflammation down to the point where I could go back to the gym, and it kept not happening. So today I gave up and went to PT instead. For $30 (same cost as half an hour with the personal trainer at my local gym) I got 20 minutes of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), which strengthens the muscles while ignoring the tendon entirely, and 20 minutes of some of the best and most seriously intense therapeutic massage I've ever received. I said I'd had therapeutic massage before and wouldn't yell, and Ravi the PT did not hold back. Whenever I said "ow" he took that as a sign of a spot to work on harder. I didn't yell. I did bite my lip, and bite my tongue, and hiss, and whimper, and tear up a couple of times. He distracted me from the worst of it by making me repeat his name until I got the rolled "R" right. :) It was really good. Not fun, but good. I'll probably have some splendid bruises tomorrow.

(Physical therapy and kink: sometimes very, very similar.)

Ravi suggested going once or twice a week; I'll aim for twice, knowing that sometimes I'll only manage once. In the meantime, lots of ice and Celebrex and stretching and taking breaks, oh yes.
rosefox: Three hearts in green, blue, and purple, with the caption "<-- I'm with them -->" (family-subtlehouse)
Wednesday was my 9th wedding anniversary with J. We went to Delmonico's and had glorious steak and gazed adoringly at each other over the table (seriously, we look like lovesick teenagers when we do this, it's ridiculous). Then we walked all the way up along the Hudson River to Chambers Street, nattering about anything and everything. It was intermittently spitting chilly rain and we didn't care at all.

Today X and I had a wonderful lunch with my mother, and then we walked all around Chelsea and the Village--it was like a movie montage of landmarks. We shopped for useful things and shiny things, wrote heart-baring entries for the Strangers Project, sat in Washington Square and people-watched, and got haircuts. I talked them into buying a stunning necklace at a pop-up flea market. It was sunny and windy and probably too cold for sandals and we didn't care at all.

Tonight the three of us had dinner together and came home and snuggled and giggled and teased and were just a little sappy. It was perfect.

I love my people and my city. I love them so, so, so much.
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Shiny new userpic! The typeface is Grit Primer and the image is from an 1813 drawing of a lending library in (I believe) Scarborough:



That library is about five times the size of Nathaniel and Eliza's little shop, but it gives you a sense of the space, and the customers. I love this drawing so much.

On Sunday I felt frantic and overwhelmed by overdue work. I spent all of yesterday working my way through the heap and catching up. Which meant that today I could write. And I actually wrote, putting down the opening scene that's been in my head for months. I cannot begin to articulate what it's like to have the text overlaid on the more nebulous mental concept, or vice versa; there are places where it doesn't quite feel right yet, and somewhere in the back of my head (and trying to come to the front, though I won't let it) I'm already writing editorial notes to myself. But: draft first, revise later. I even caught myself starting to revise when I was about 500 words in, and I made myself stop revising and keep writing. And now the scene's done, at about 1270 actual honest-to-gosh words.

Writing at this length is so freeing! There's room for banter, for character development, for delicate lashings of exposition! I can sneak in the occasional reference to obscure historical figures! (I have helpfully footnoted them in the excerpt below.) I plan to write long, long, long, gloriously long, and cut it down later. 1270 words for just one scene--not even a full chapter! Such a luxurious change from reviewing a book in 200. :D

It's a rough draft it's a rough draft it's a rough draft. I will tattoo these words on my eyelids. But since you've all cheered me on so much, you deserve a peek at the fruits of my research, and so I will stop tweaking the damn thing and just post it. You all understand it can and will change between now and whenever I consider the book actually done, right? Right.


A taste )


Positive and supportive comments only, please; I am v. vulnerable around this and not equipped to handle even the smallest and most helpful suggestion. If you think it sucks or you want to go on a rant about people speaking with contractions in 1810 (p.s. they totally did) or you want to make sure I know about the very obscure law forbidding people named Hawthorne from becoming butchers or whatever, I'm sure you can find another place to express those feelings, secure in the knowledge that I will re-research every word of this book once I write those words.
rosefox: A black cat happily hugs a denim bolster (cat)
Yesterday J and X and I were hanging out in the guest room, with cuddly cats and a beautiful breeze. In this room is a bookcase full of my various stuffed animals.

Alex, walking past the bookcase for the dozenth time, suddenly decided a teddy bear was looking at him the wrong way. So he stalked it, and swatted at it. It tilted forward and he fled in terror. Then he came back, stared at it, hissed, and swatted again--and missed, hitting a stuffed turtle that fell on him.

He is now firmly convinced that all stuffed animals are his deadly enemies. We could not breathe for laughing. I didn't have a phone or camera to hand, but even if I had I don't think I would have been able to capture the epicness of it.

The guest room was cat-free until very recently, when we decided that having cats and a couch in the same room trumped the futile effort to have an allergen-free room in a house full of cats and books. That means it's no particular cat's territory. As a result, Sam and Alex are downright amiable toward each other when they're in there, unless Alex gets right up in Sam's face. (Sophie is mostly too nervous to come in, though she did carefully and quietly explore it a bit the other night.) Earlier today Sam was snuggled next to me and Alex hopped down from the windowsill and landed right behind her. She was so confused by this that she didn't even turn around or growl or anything, even when he leaned around to sniff her a bit.



And tonight he was curled up and snoring, and she tentatively reached a paw toward him (from a couple of feet away) and then thought better of it.

I very much hope this newfound peaceful attitude translates into better kitty relations in the rest of the house. Not that they've been bad, but they can always be better.
5 April 2015 12:21 - "Party time, excellent!"
rosefox: Cartoon people having a party. (party)
I dreamed that X and J and I bought a house, a long low house stuffed full of cheap flimsy furniture, somewhere in the country. It was an incredibly ugly house, cramped and narrow with low ceilings, and all the grass around it was withered and dry. We were clearly hoarders; each of us had two beds, and our clothes didn't fit in the closets (if there were closets) so we had them on racks around our rooms like they were showrooms. All that was missing was a truck on blocks in the front yard to complete the portrait of rural American poverty-consumption.

X and I got married and we decided to throw a party. The house was pretty big, despite having a lousy layout, so we made it a BIG party, and soon the place was full of people I didn't know. It was like walking through a house full of Twitter stereotypes: black literary nerds over here, white tech nerds over there. X and J had moved several of the beds into one room to leave other rooms empty for partying. The guests thought we were giving away the clothes on the racks and started trying them on. Everything was in disarray. And at some point J and X got tired of it and left, so I was all by myself, though I found this more vaguely annoying than really distressing.

Shortly before dawn I decided enough was enough. I started going from room to room telling people to knock off the partying and start cleaning up. Everyone was eager to help, and even the drunk people weren't especially clumsy. One guy, who was the walking personification of the slightly woebegone nerdy white dude, had cracked a bed's footboard when he tried to move it, but I assured him we could get a new part from IKEA. Most of my relatives had left, but my mother was passed out drunk in the bathroom (???); I managed to get her somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep it off. The rest of the dream was so repetitive--go into another room, roust the partiers, tell them to put back our clothes and move our furniture back into the right rooms, move on--that I woke up from boredom.

I'm always entertained when part of my brain tries to have anxiety dreams and another part finds solutions to all the anxiety-causing situations.
rosefox: A little blonde girl in a men's shirt and tie and a black skirt, with a glued-on mustache (genderqueer)
My ears itch. I wore earrings tonight for the first time in months, and I swabbed both earrings and ears with rubbing alcohol first but my ears itch anyway.

Last week my therapist asked "Why don't you wear earrings?" and I had to really think about it. It was not a trans-clueless question. (My therapist is awesomely clueful.) What he meant was "Why do you personally make this choice?" rather than "Why don't you conform to femininity?". I don't remember how earrings came up in the first place, but I mentioned that I have an extensive collection of them and almost never wear them. So I have been thinking about that, which means I've been thinking about the times when I wear guy clothes to be a guy vs. the times when I wear guy clothes to be genderqueer.

Note: I am perfectly comfortable using terms like "guy clothes" while knowing that people who aren't guys wear those clothes. I want to distinguish between clothing that's culturally coded as masculine and clothing that's culturally coded as male, and it's the most useful shorthand I've found. Feel free to skip this entry if that phrasing bothers you.

The easy answer to "Why don't you wear earrings?" is "They don't go with my guy clothes". The easy answer is not precisely incorrect, but it is certainly insufficient. I've worn earrings with suits before. They look queer and great. But when my goal is to look as male as possible, they don't serve that purpose.

And then tonight I put on my new purple shirt and thought "I have a platypus pin that matches this" and then "I have earrings that match this" and it was just right.

Photo )

I think the key difference between tonight and the past several months of being super-duper male-presenting all the time (to the point where I recently got very firm with a waiter who was calling me "miss" like it was written on me, because if wearing a men's shirt and a men's hat and a fabulously flattening binder doesn't stop people from calling me "miss", it at least gives me the courage to tell them they're wrong) is that tonight I was having dinner with family. I love queering it up for my family. They know me and they love me. They've seen me in gowns and in suits. They know this is who I am and what I do. I wasn't dressing in desperate hopes of going one god damn day without being called "miss" by strangers. I was dressing for a fun night out with people who know me well.

It felt great, start to finish. I've got a version of that photo as my Twitter photo now (with a silly photo filter on it) and I love that you can see the earrings so clearly even at a small size. It looks like me, the whole entire me.

The whole reason I have a purple shirt is that I realized almost all my guy shirts were white or blue and suddenly I got tired of it. That's not just masculine dress--that's a very specific sort of masculine dress. A very mainstream, bland, boring sort. I wanted more options. I wanted colors. I love wearing colors! And while all my femme clothing is solid-color because the focus is on the cut and shape, I'm enjoying stripes and checks and other geometric patterns on my looser men's shirts. I'm developing a real style there that's about the things I like and look good in, and it makes me very happy. I like the blue and white shirts too, but I suspect that in a few years I'm going to give them away, the way I did with a lot of my early experiments in women's businesswear: a necessary developmental stage, but not one I feel a strong urge to return to once I've moved on.

In the privacy of my own room, or in the company of sympathetic people, dressing toward my own concepts of my gender--which remains firmly genderqueer, significantly transgressive, often masculine, and not male--feels so much better, in my body and in my head, than dressing away from being crapped on by patriarchy and cisnormativity.

In the rest of the world, of course, being crapped on still makes me feel like crap.

As the encounter with the waiter makes abundantly clear, there is literally no such thing as me passing for anything other than female, not unless I want to glue on some fake facial hair and take just enough T to lower my voice. And even if I consistently passed as male, that would lose its savor pretty quickly. What I want is to pass as genderqueer. I don't just want to not be perceived as something I'm not; I want to be seen as what I am. That is not possible in this culture and that's... well, that's always going to hurt, if I'm honest. It's hurt a lot over the winter, since I was already feeling pretty vulnerable and low.

On the other hand, when I'm already generally feeling happy and strong, I can also see it as liberating. If wearing a proper blue oxford shirt won't get me so much as a "sir-uh-ma'am", then why not wear lavender? If no one looks at the hat and the shirt and the blazer and the trousers and the loafers and the flattened chest and sees someone who just might not think of themself as female, then why not add earrings to the mix? If I'm very lucky, queering it up will confuse people enough that they won't know how to gender me and will give up trying, which would be a great big step in the right direction.

Lingering depression-brain worries that dressing in a way that feels expressive of my actual self will make me more vulnerable to the pain of being casually misgendered. It will also probably make me more angry. Dressed as male but read as female? Maybe it's my fault for somehow doing it wrong. Dressed as myself but read as not-myself? Well, I can hardly be more myself, at which point I know it's the other person's fault and I get mad. But optimist-brain suggests that dressing in ways that feel good and comfortable will give me strength to deal with unpleasantness, and there's probably some truth there too. And scientist-brain has the best argument: what I've been doing hasn't been getting the desired result, so it's time to try something else. Maybe tomorrow I'll hunt down my jar of jewelry polish and shine up some more of my earrings.
4 April 2015 00:32 - "My body is ready!"
rosefox: Apple blossoms and a monarch butterfly. (spring)
Spring, cont.:

1) X and I took a lovely two-mile walk after dinner. We saw a wee little adolescent black kitty and X hung out with it while I ran to a bodega and got it a tin of food, which it quite appreciated. This is a very cat-friendly neighborhood (when J and I were out walking on Wednesday we saw three cats, all quite plump) and the weather is getting warmer, so I'm sure tinycat will be fine, but we both really wanted to scoop it up and take it home, or at least TNR. :/ Alas for not being able to have infinite cats.

Anyway, it was an extremely nice walk. I wore sandals! Trees were budding! We got drizzled on just enough! The neighborhood was basically deserted because of the holiday. We admired the rather ludicrous houses near Kingston, overheard occasional bursts of Seder singing and talking through open windows and screen doors, and talked about whatever. It was a perfect date. As a bonus, I got delicious oxtail and rice & peas from the jerk chicken place around the corner before we went home. (Dinner was leftovers from the same place, and small, so after a long walk I was surprisingly hungry.) I must find out what the official name of that place is so I can give it good reviews--not that Yelp is really a thing in this neighborhood, but it never hurts. Mmmm, oxtail.

2) The other day I bought white undershirts that fit, and tonight I washed them, so while I was putting them away and getting rid of the ones that don't fit, I decided to do my summer/winter clothing swap. I keep off-season clothes in a foot locker. I was a little startled to see a big pile of jeans in there, and then remembered that I'd put them away because they didn't fit over my thick winter tights.

Nope, I was wrong. They don't fit over me. And neither do most of my shorts. :( I've only gone up two waist-inches but that's enough. I blame a very inactive winter, between all the snow and the sudden cessation of commuting. Definitely time to go back to the gym, now that my arm is better, and add some cardio to the weights. I keep feeling a weird urge to go running--weird because I've always actively disliked running the times that I've done it--but my knees absolutely would not tolerate it even if I wanted to try indulging that urge. There are plenty of other ways to get moving, though. And more walks! Long, long walks.

In the meantime, all those thick winter tights are in the foot locker now, and the shorts that fit are in the dresser, and I put my winter boots in the closet and put my sandals on the shoe rack.

3) I did finally have to close my windows because my room was cold, but the air in here is still wonderfully cool and fresh. Even through the closed windows I can hear epic alley cat sex happening in the back yard.

I've been getting a lot of California nostalgia lately, which is very unusual, but tonight I have an even more unusual nostalgia for the few months I spent living on East 7th Street. I bet the Village is hopping. The whole city seems to have decided that today is the first day of real honest-to-gosh spring, and we are going to celebrate our asses off.
rosefox: Apple blossoms and a monarch butterfly. (spring)
My arms appear to be better. Haven't taken Celebrex for two days. Still treating them gently but I think I can go back to the gym next week. This is a huge relief--they were bad for nearly a month.

My mood has been horrible: mostly depressed, sometimes anxious, sometimes both. I blame this wretched endless winter. I have been starving for spring.

Horrible winter mood has meant horrible sleep: staying up until 5 or 6, sleeping badly once I do go to bed. I think I more or less managed to catch up today but will probably need to catch up more over the weekend. It also means I'm struggling to focus on work, both directly because depression and indirectly because poor sleep. I'm managing, mostly, but it's hard. Yesterday was extra super hard because I had to get up early for the presentation; I went to the office, recorded the radio show (nearly falling asleep mid-interview, and not because the interview was boring), went to therapy, had dinner, and went home instead of pulling my usual late Thursday night. I was almost too tired to walk, let alone assign books.

Spring is really here now, though. There are buds on the magnolias and the pear trees and the cherry trees and the unidentified trees outside my bedroom window. BBG set a date for sakura matsuri (a very late date, to no one's surprise, but I was starting to gloomily believe that the trees would simply never blossom at all). Yesterday I drank iced chocolate in Madison Square Park and squinted at the barest fuzz of green creeping across the lawns and around the tree branches, my unnecessary coat bundled into a shopping bag at my feet. Last night I turned off the white noise recording, took off my nightshirt, and opened the curtain and the window; a soft, cool breeze washed over my skin and the city's night sounds murmured in my ear. It was like taking a bath after months in a desert. In that moment I found myself genderless, my thoughts and emotions and sense of self all ebbing away until I was a purely physical being in the physical world--such a relief after these months of mental and emotional turmoil, of being wrapped up in coats and blankets and layers of protective separation from the refrigerated world. Cradled by the breeze and the ambient orange cityglow, I swam off into sleep.

Then the light and noise woke me five hours later, and Sam got all excited that I was awake and started demanding food and cuddles, and I tossed and turned for two hours. Still basically worth it. X graciously released me from my promise to accompany them to an early morning doctor's appointment; I shut Sam out of my room, went back to bed, and slept like a rock.

Now the air is warm and wet and I have the window open despite the chametz smoke that permeates the neighborhood. In a little while I'll get up and go to the office and do all the things I didn't do last night, but it's impossible to tear myself away from the breeze. I have never wanted so desperately to be able to fly, just so I could hover in the air and be completely surrounded by rain and wind and pollen and smoke and spring, spring, spring.

X asked how I was feeling, and I said, "Like spring just came to visit after a year-long LDR: happy but clingy, and suddenly aware of the ravenous wanting that I've been trying to suppress." At least I know the "visit" will last a couple of months before it makes way for summer. By then I may even feel like I've gotten something like enough of spring, or at least enough to tide me over for another year. I am still so desperately needy and hungry. A day of spring can't make up for the slog of winter, five full months of clawing out little bits of warmth and light for myself in the darkness. But the rain is starting to wash away the gloom, and I think I can see my way out.

We're having our Seder tomorrow night instead of tonight, its lateness feeling like another symbol of the season to go with lamb, eggs, baby greens, and what I hope will be the last salt water and bitterness that we taste all year. Let the Christians have their Easter rollercoaster of grief and alleluias. My resurrection begins today.
rosefox: A little blonde girl in a men's shirt and tie and a black skirt, with a glued-on mustache (genderqueer)
On five hours of sleep, I gave a talk to a dozen 11-year-olds about gender non-conforming people in 18th- and 19th-century Western Europe. They asked amazing questions:

"Our parents had to sign permission slips for us to attend this talk. That means transphobia is still a big problem, right?" (I love it when kids call adults on their shit.)

"If gender identity and sexual orientation aren't the same thing, why did you talk about gay people who crossdress?" (GREAT QUESTION that let me talk about how people absorb and interact with culture even when that culture tries to exclude them.)

"Is there any way to know whether James Allen's wife knew that he was transgender?" (Nope. It seems likely that she did, since they shared a house and a bed for 21 years, but anything is possible, and she's not around to ask. Studying history frequently involves saying "we don't know".)

"Do you think America is more accepting than other places?" (I firmly shut down both the idea that America only has one culture and the idea of there being any benefit to playing "we're better than you are".)

"When can we read your book?" (Bless you, child. I have to write it first!)

The last question--from a kid who was clearly doing some serious thinking about their own identity--was "How do you deal with it when people are transphobic?". I managed to answer clearly (I get sad and angry, I lean on people I trust, I heal in safe spaces, and then I grit my teeth and face the world again) while my heart shattered into tiny little pieces.

I talked with that kid a bit afterwards and told them they could get my email address from the teacher and anytime they wanted someone to talk to they could write to me. I emphasized that I really really meant it. Then I thought about it and asked the teacher to give my contact info to all the kids who attended the talk so that no one had to single themself out by asking. (Incidentally, I am super appreciative of the teacher and the school administrators, who were really enthusiastic about the talk and spoke very supportively to me about the gender-questioning kids in the group.) And then I left and did my best not to cry on the subway.

Those wonderful kids. I hope the world is good to them.


I'm pondering ways of publishing the talk, which is suitable for all ages and has a lot of basic gender info wrapped up in fun discussion of entertaining historical figures. It includes a very broad range of gender non-conformity including trans men, masculine lesbians, genderfluid drag queens, fops and dandies, stage performers, and female soldiers. Right now it's a Powerpoint deck of images, with a script in both bullet-point and full-narration format. Runs about 35 minutes. It doesn't have citations but they wouldn't be hard to add. It could be a blog post, a video with transcript, a Cracked.com piece on Seven Amazing Gender Transgressors in History, a something else... but I want to get it out into the world one way or another, in a way that it reaches a lot of educators. Making $3 a download or something would be nice but isn't essential. Thoughts welcome.
28 March 2015 02:40 - "Begin as you mean to go on"
rosefox: Me blowing out a birthday candle. (birthday)
Happy 14th anniversary to this journal (a day late, almost to the minute if one goes by the timestamp on my first entry). That's the longest I've consistently kept up with anything other than, like, breathing.

My first day on LJ, I made five posts: one meta plus daily diary, one about staying up until 4:30 making art, one with a to-do list, one about interpersonal difficulties and trying to understand myself better, and one about body shape and weight and physical self-image. That's pretty much what I've used it for ever since. I've changed a great deal over the past 14 years, but I still feel strongly drawn to examine and muse about my inner and outer selves, my inner and outer lives, and this is still the best medium I've ever found for it.

LJ/DW aren't as conversational and social as they were, but I have Twitter for that now (as I had IRC and Usenet then), and I think I also need the commentary and discussion less than I did. How funny that I started out keeping this journal as a way of interacting with other people, and along the way it also taught me how to do the thing most journals are for: write for myself. I certainly don't mind if someone reads it, but I also don't mind if no one does. I think I'd still find it extremely hard to keep a purely reflective journal in a paper book or a file on my personal computer--there's something important about doing this as a public exercise, and about being part of our increasingly tangled digital web--but I'm no longer constantly refreshing my inbox waiting for the next comment email to land. In fact, I'm always vaguely surprised when someone does comment. :)

I keep fumbling around theatrical metaphors, but "performance" implies a degree of artifice that I've always tried to avoid in this space (and, over time, in all spaces). I'm not onstage, you're not the audience, and there's no row of footlights between us. I'm not even sure why I'm looking at metaphors when it's so easy to state it plainly:

This is where I talk about myself and my life. Sometimes other people come by and we talk together. Sometimes I talk to myself. That's what the space is designed for, and it works very well. It's comfortable. I like it. I think I'll stay around a while longer.
rosefox: A man's head with a panel open to show gears, and another man looking inside. (examined head)
Just briefly making links between my recent post on the joys of not being necessary and a 2012 post about falling asleep at parties and in 2004 about "the lovely shock of being reminded that there are tremendous parts of the world that do exactly as they please without depending on me in the least" and also in 2004 about singing in choruses (literally and metaphorically). I assume there are others between 2004 and 2012 on the same topic, in one way or another, but those are the links that came to hand today.

Moments of glorious unnecessity are so essential to balance out the dreadful weight of feeling responsible for making the sun rise, and to teach me alternatives to submerging my self in another person's need for me. I know I've written a lot about those feelings too.

I have always been me, apparently.

I keep looking for a way to link in my "being useful" tag, but I think that's actually orthogonal to concepts of necessity, because it's all about making the choice to offer assistance. Utility is a surface thing, a satisfaction that doesn't dig too deeply into the psyche. Need is... deeper.
rosefox: A severed head saying "Thanks.. I needed that". (relief)
(Quote source because I can't put the entire song in a subject line.)

I used to get a huge ego thrill out of giving people useful, wanted advice or help. And I still do, occasionally... but I like it even better when someone else gets there first so I don't have to. I mean, I never have to, at least in the sense of outside obligation, but in the past I've been in situations where I felt like I was the only one who could help--because I had unique knowledge or insights or there was no one else around--and it's just so incredibly refreshing when someone else steps up with their own unique knowledge or insights, or in any way at all that relieves me from being on point. I was going to say "refreshing when I can delegate" but that implies authority I don't have. I get the same sense of relief when I delegate a task to someone who I have faith in, though, or when a partner seeks support from one of their other partners. It's a thing that's off my plate, off my mind. I feel freed to deal with other things where I am actually the only person who can do it.

Sometimes I open up the recent posts list on FOCA, pick some threads where I think I might be able to help, read them, nod along with the other advice people have given and admire the things they thought of that I didn't, and then close the tab with a sense of pure contentment. I rarely even feel the urge to chime in, and I never feel an obligation. It's not because everyone else there thinks the way I do; I have apparently moved past the notion that My Way Is the Right Way and Other Ways Are Wrong. It's because everyone else there offers advice and support in ways that strike me as entirely sufficient. I have apparently also moved past the notion that sufficiency lies only in perfection--meaning My Right Way, of course. Hooray, evidence of gradual maturity.

I keep using and deleting "have to" phrases. The obligation is so clearly internal, coming from the same place as the OCD feeling that I am the only one who can do a thing correctly and no one else can be trusted. It feels so good to prove that feeling wrong. I really dislike its desperate urgency. The further I can get from that, the better.

I recently reread this very emotionally raw post from May 2001 where I pondered the perils of being necessary. At the time I wanted to be needed but was pretty sure it was bad for me. Now I have a slightly more nuanced view: I like being valued and important in situations I choose, like my job or being someone's partner, but I don't like being valued and important in ways that I didn't choose, and I really don't like being necessary in the sense of there being no backup plan or safety net if I want or need to step away. The OCD positioning of my obsessive self as the guardian of perfection quickly transmutes into pure stress and anxiety as I try to do everything while regarding everyone else with suspicion. I can't really turn off the part of me that's constantly checking whether I need to be doing or fixing something, but how lovely it is to look around and be reasonably confident that everyone else is doing a perfectly fine job and I don't actually need to do anything at all.
15 March 2015 03:36 - "YOUR CAT THOUGH."
rosefox: A black cat happily hugs a denim bolster (cat)
X, on IM: Ugh, bad dream.
R: Want hugs?
X: Yes pls.

I go across the apartment into X's room. They relate the details of the dream. I give them lots of hugs.

X: It was awful and gross.
R: You poor thing. I'm sorry.
X: I know it sounds innocuous but it felt terrible.
R: I understand completely.
X: And the worst--
Sam, in the distance: *begins making a horrifying, indescribable noise*
X: --what the fuck.
Sam: *gets louder*
X: Okay, checking on your cat gets priority.
R: No, I'm pretty sure that's the "I killed it" song.
Sam: *sounds like a yodeler using a jackhammer*
X: Uh.
R: Hang on.

I go across the apartment and into my room. Sam looks up proudly from a crumpled piece of paper. I go back.

R: Yep, it was the "I killed it" song. She killed a bit of paper.
X: Holy shit. She sounded like a pig on a treadmill.
R: I thought she sounded like she was being attacked by an octopus.
Sam: *begins yodeling again*
X: YOUR CAT.
R: I should have taken the paper away.
X: YES.

I go back into my room and take the paper away. Alex has come to see what all the fuss is, so I toss it to him. I pick Sam up, carry her into X's room, and put her down in her usual spot at the foot of the bed.

R: I took it away and gave it to Alex.
X: Good plan. That noise!
R: She used to do that all the time when we lived in Inwood. She'd kill packets of cough drops, or tubes of lip balm, and sing the "I killed it" song outside my door at 2 a.m.
X: I had never heard it before. It is not like anything of this earth.
Alex, in the distance: *bats the crumpled paper*
Sam: *jumps down from the bed and goes out to see what the noise is*
R: If they start fighting over the ball of paper I'm... just going to let it happen.
Cats: *scamper*
Sam: *HISSSSS*
X and R: *hysterics*

I go out and find that Alex has cornered Sam under a bookcase. I chase him away. Alex glares at me like I ruin all his fun, which I do. I leave Sam under the bookcase and go back into X's room.

R: So anyway! Uh, pat pat, there there, I'm sorry you had a bad dream.
X: I think the moment is past. ...That's not a bad thing.
R: THANKS FOR KILLING THE MOOD, SAM.
X: I've never sincerely thanked someone for killing the mood before!
R: If nothing else, she is extremely effective at providing comic relief.
X: She sounded like a pig on a treadmill, I swear.
R: I'm sticking with the octopus attack.
X: It was totally fucking bizarre, whatever it was.
R: You realize this whole thing desperately needs to be blogged.
X: You go ahead and do that. I'm going to go to the bathroom, stare at pictures of cute things until my eyes bleed, and go back to sleep.

And now Sam is washing herself on the foot of my bed as though none of this ever happened.
rosefox: Me on a beach, holding a red pencil and looking at a notebook. (writing)
"I can't work on the novel," I said. "My arms hurt too much to do any focused intense writing," I said.

And then I made the mistake of asking "Where are all the trans Cinderella stories?" and of course Twitter's response was "You should write one" and well. 1000 words later, my arm does hurt a bit, but not as much as I thought it would. And I have a chunk of a story.

Every morning and every evening, she looked in the mirror. Sometimes she saw herself as she truly was, and her face shone with joy. Other times she saw what she had been trained and taught to see by the people around her--ordinariness, or ugliness, or filthiness, or nothing at all--and she wept. But every morning and every evening, whether she truly believed it that day or not, she stared at the mirror and repeated, "My name is Daniela and I am beautiful."

Daniela had a fondness for sweepstakes; they cost no more to enter than a stamp and a few minutes of filling out a form, and they gave her happy things to dream about. They also gave her a reason to open her mail, which she otherwise might have avoided, for it was only ever bills that she struggled mightily to pay. She never really believed she would win, so the day that an envelope showed up that was not a bill, and the letter inside told her she'd won a free makeover at the local Sassy Sally Beauty Salon franchise (sponsored by a makeup company she'd never even heard of), she stared and stared and sat down hard on her only chair.

Of all the things to win, she thought. She'd seen makeover shows on television, the ones that spent an hour on vitriolic scorn for "before" and a mere handful of minutes on the improbable "after". She didn't want to set herself up for that. And she knew that no salon would ever make her look like the beautiful Daniela she still sometimes managed to see in the mirror. She'd be lucky if they saw her well enough to laugh at her and send her away.

But she went anyway. She was Daniela, and she was beautiful. And beautiful Daniela deserved the makeover that was the only thing the world had ever given her for free.


1000 words seems to be about as far as I go before I fall out of trance and suddenly have no idea what to write next, which is good for my arms and also generally useful for me to know. Not sure when I'll pick this up again--I really do want to work on the novel first, and I also really do want to rest my arm and not fall prey to the lure of "it feels mostly better, a little work won't hurt it". But I'm happy with what I have of it.
rosefox: Me staring off into the sunset. (wistful)
Terry Pratchett has died.


A lot of people are talking about which books of his they're turning to for comfort. I turned to Reaper Man.

IF WE DO NOT CARE, WE DO NOT EXIST. IF WE DO NOT EXIST, THEN THERE IS NOTHING BUT BLIND OBLIVION. AND EVEN OBLIVION MUST END SOMEDAY.

Was that what it was really like to be alive? The feeling of darkness dragging you forward? How could they live with it? And yet they did, and even seemed to find enjoyment in it, when surely the only sensible course would be to despair. Amazing. To feel you were a tiny living thing, sandwiched between two cliffs of darkness. How could they stand to be alive?

YOU FEAR TO DIE?
"It's not that I don't want... I mean, I've always... it's just that life is a habit that's hard to break..."

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.


He wrote what amounts to scripture, for those of us who constantly struggle with the concept of death. It's so easy to forget that when he was writing about Death, the anthropomorphic personification, he was also writing about actual death. Over and over again. From every angle. Religious, irreligious, spiritual, uncertain. Death and afterlife and undeath. Memory and grief.

I don't worry about my own death--as I told my therapist recently, I expect to be alive for my entire life--but one of my OCD manifestations is constant inner narration about bracing for the deaths of those I love. I call it Death Radio. I can't turn it off and it's very hard to turn down. It makes death feel like this enormous ever-present horror that could swoop in and steal someone from me at any moment. But Terry Pratchett put death on an equal footing with humans. We could look it in the glowing blue eye. Talk to it. Make sense of it. I can't overstate the value of that to someone like me.

I can't really grieve; he gave us so much that it's hard for me to feel a sense of loss. (I gave a little bit back, too--I knitted a square for the Pratchghan. It's the blue and cream pyramids square on the right-hand edge. Pyramids remains my favorite of his books, though there are a great many close runners-up.) He provided warning of his eventual demise, and promised to make it as easy on himself as possible so that we wouldn't have to fear or be sad for him. To the very end, he made death feel smaller, kinder, a thing to nod respectfully to rather than cower from. So today I feel as calm in the face of death as I have ever been able to manage.

If I weep, it's because I'm grateful.
12 March 2015 01:16 - "Like clockwork"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
I did everything on my list today. Everything! A little later than planned, at first, but by 13:00 I was caught up. (I skipped my hoped-for manicure and filed my own nails instead. I'm trying so hard to keep from biting them, even if that means filing 2x/week.) The day ticked along exactly as planned. I ran my errands and did my work and met my deadlines. Then I had a really splendid date with J and a relaxing post-date evening, unencumbered by deadline anxiety.

When I meet my deadlines I try to really inhabit the feeling of joy and relief and accomplishment, as positive incentive for next time. Once I start checking in with how I feel, I always find a nugget of anxiety, too--fear that I've forgotten something, that I'm not actually on top of things the way I think I am. Right now I'm on Celebrex 2x/day and that makes me more anx-prone, so that worry feels bigger than usual. But I really am caught up. I'm no longer a freelancer juggling lots of projects. I have one set of deadlines, and it's in a to-do list, and the to-do list is clear.

Must stop typing now. Ice. Meds. Sleep. More awesomeness tomorrow.
9 March 2015 01:43 - "The envelope, please"
rosefox: An adult and a child lead a group of people fleeing from disaster (long hidden)
Last-minute Hugo recs:

Here is awards eligibility info for all 2014 titles from Crossed Genres, including Long Hidden. I would especially love to see nominations for Sofia Samatar's "Ogres of East Africa" (short story) and Meg Jayanth's "Each Part Without Mercy" (novelette). I don't pick favorites among stories I edited :) but I think those two LH stories are the most widely lauded in their respective categories and stand the best chance of making it onto the ballot. I also personally loved them both a whole lot.

Long Hidden cover artist Julie Dillon absolutely deserves to be on the ballot for Best Professional Artist from now until time immemorial. P.S. buy her book.

Also in the novelette category, I am in awe of Kai Ashanté Wilson's "The Devil in America". A tremendous gut-punch of a story.

I co-sign all of Bogi Takács's Campbell Award nominations, most especially and heartily the phenomenal Sabrina Vourvoulias.

Daily Science Fiction is the only SF/F magazine I read, and not just because they make it so easy by emailing me a story every day instead of making me *ugh* GO TO A WEBSITE or OPEN A PDF. I mean, that's a real chore. I joke and yet... I do not actually go to websites or open PDFs, because I never feel like I have the time. But I always have the time to read Daily SF's one tiny little story. They aren't all brilliant stories, but many are (such as Eugie Foster's "When It Ends, He Catches Her"). Also, they are quietly publishing some of the most diverse SF/F stories in the current field, which I think gets overlooked because they're almost never "issue stories"--they just happen to have protagonists with a wide variety of identities and presentations. The stories with non-marginalized characters are still remarkably free of sneaky microagressions and assumptions and -isms. I feel safe when I open up a Daily SF story, and that means a lot to me. Please consider nominating them in the Best Semiprozine category (I thiiiiiink that's the right one, and will update this post if I get different info).

Finally, two very different recommendations for Best Fan Writer:

1) Bogi Takács, who has been quietly doing phenomenal work collecting and promoting speculative works by trans, non-binary, and otherwise diverse authors. You can see eir recommendations at the diversepoems and diversestories tags on eir website. This curation means the world to marginalized folks looking for works that speak directly to their experiences, and for role models and community in writing. E also has really good taste in stories and poems. :)

2) Deirdre Saoirse Moen, whose MZB/Breendoggle reporting really deserves recognition. She put a great deal of effort into collecting information and getting it out where people could learn from it. Also, I think that the community of Worldcon attendees and Hugo voters--which is not all of fandom by any means, but is a significant portion of it--needs to demonstrate a willingness to admit that this same corner of fandom enabled and supported Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley when they were known to be abusing children. That admission, however belated it may be, is a vital part of building safer spaces and committing to the protection of the most vulnerable members of our communities, even (especially) when the people who target them are famous and popular and powerful.
7 March 2015 23:10 - "Quivering with impatience"
rosefox: A woman's muscular arm. (arm)
I met with my fabulous teen mentees on Friday and told them I was doing research for a novel. They were very excited. One said, "I remember when you were all 'Oh I'm an EDITOR, I don't write!' " and I blushed a bit and said, well, that was before I got bit by the story bug, and also the idea of writing is still really scary! But the story bug has bit me hard, so I want to keep going.

They asked for advice on making time for writing and I said that you have to remind yourself of all the things you love about it. The passion, the excitement, the love is what will drive you to prioritize it over everything else. I sent them Kahlil Gibran's "On Work", which is basically the anthem for my life.

March is when I said I'd start writing. Well, it's March. The thought of writing an entire novel is daunting, but I'm more eager than terrified. I really do want to get going on it, even as I'm absolutely certain that I have done insufficient research. And... my arm is hurting a lot. It's been hurting for two weeks. It got better and then got worse again.* It certainly is not in any state where I can tap into my excitement about the book and sit down to knock out a couple thousand words. It's not even in a state where I can revise the outline. It's in a state where I probably shouldn't be writing a multi-paragraph LJ entry. This is really, really frustrating.

* I think the getting worse again was probably because Mention turned up a website where people were talking about me with transphobic slurs and malicious misgendering, and that gave me two days of constant low-grade panic attacks and poor sleep--please do not ask me for more details on this or offer sympathy for it or discuss it with me in any way at all, I do not want to think about it, I'm just noting it here because it is relevant and because I want to have some record of it--and emotional tension leads to physical tension leads to pain. Plus Celebrex makes me more anxiety-prone and I sure wasn't about to take any while I was already taking multiple grams of taurine a day to stay functional.

But I guess that means more time to research. Except that arm pain means I'm working slowly, which also stresses me out. I basically have 60 weekday hours of work + research/writing + personal time. When I'm physically and emotionally healthy, I can do all my work in 30 hours and probably get in about 10 hours of research plus a healthy 20 hours of faffing off. When I'm hurting and anxious... 50 + 0 + a vastly insufficient 10 + probably doing more work on the weekend.

I really need to get better.

So, now to March 21: Only left-handed housework (carrying out trash, loading washing machine). Minimal social media, ideally via dictation rather than typing. When reading for research, if I need to take notes, type lefty; no writing. Gaming left-handed only. Celebrex 2x/day until I wake up not in pain, then 1x/day for a week to be sure. Lots and lots of ice. Take long walks (keeps me entertained and relaxed without arm use, encourages blood flow as I swing my arms). Gym: legs and core only, nothing that requires me to hold weights (which means annoying narrow-focus machines instead of lovely core-building weighted squats/toe raises *sob*). As much sleep as I can manage.

And then, I hope, writing at last.
4 March 2015 22:34 - "Knocked it out of the park"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
Today:

I got work done.

I got research done.

I apologized to a friend for being a dick (as in, I literally said "I was a dick to you and I apologize"--two hours of rehearsing the apology helped me refine it down to its core); he was very nice about it and things appear to be entirely patched up, but it was a bit nervewracking.

I told J when a thing he did annoyed me, and then processed it all out with him (kind of clumsily because we were both hungry and he was underslept, but we got through it) and still managed to have a nice evening out.

I helped X suss out whether a medical problem requires doctor-going.

I started a load of laundry even though I don't usually do laundry on Wednesdays, to make up for having skipped Monday when I was ill.

I dealt calmly with an entirely unexpected overdue notice from the gas company, and with realizing that I haven't seen a bill from them in two months and didn't notice (oops); it's paid now, all's well, and tomorrow I will call and let them know the payment has been sent and also that their incredibly arcane website won't let me sign up for e-bills and can we fix that right now please.

Now I'm going to go do more work and then more research and then fold the laundry and take out the trash. Maybe I should take out the trash now while I still have all my warm clothes on. (WINTER. WE ARE DONE WITH YOU. GO AWAY.) And pill the cat.

Alex is purring at me and I am all YES I DESERVE PURRS. I EARNED THEM TODAY.
3 March 2015 21:58 - "Two steps forward"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
Note to self: "my arm is only slightly sore" is not a good reason to go work out with a personal trainer and then knit for three solid hours. Whooooof. It's back up to about 90% health but there were a few two-Celebrex days in there.

I also ate something yesterday that gave me 36 hours of some of the most intense intestinal discomfort I've ever experienced. Fortunately we had some probiotics in the medicine cabinet, and that plus a lot of ginger and fennel and very plain food seems to have mostly fixed it up.

So between those two things and the last of the winter blahs (WINTER. GO AWAY. IT'S MARCH. YOUR TIME HERE IS DONE.), I have not been very productive over the last two weeks. But today I buckled down--even though I wasn't feeling well enough to go to the library--and got completely caught up. Personal inbox zero, work inbox zero, work to-do list clear. My rejiggered to-do list definitely helps me to catch up quickly when I'm behind, and the work I was dreading the most turned out to be the easiest and fastest to do. I even did the last tiny thing that I could technically have left until tomorrow. All the rationales for "why not do it tomorrow?" are the same rationales for "why not do it now?" (it's small, it's quick, it's not urgent, there's no stress) so I did it now. I feel very good about this. :)

In theory March is when I start actually writing Valour Advances the Man. I'm frankly terrified. My outline isn't ready yet! I'm still figuring out important plot points! Can't I just research forever? But really the problem is that I haven't been doing research any more than I've been doing work, so the magic has lost its hold a bit. I hope that some intensive reading over the next two days will get me fired up enough to push through the fear and start work on what I tell myself very firmly will be a rough first draft. And having some research left to do means I can still be productive on days when I can't bear the thought of writing.

We're apparently in for another two days of utterly miserable weather. Then, I hope, we will start to have something like spring. I've taken to putting on this eight-hour video of a sunny forest full of birdsong as a sort of low-grade constant therapy for SAD. It genuinely does help. It's also generally relaxing to listen to, even when I don't have it foregrounded. I'm going to leave it up now while I read about the history of homosexuality, to soothe me through the parts that make me angry and sad. And then I will get to write a book where queer people get to be happy and live long satisfied lives and never see the inside of a courtroom, and it will be grand.
26 February 2015 19:48 - "Been a lifetime on deposit"
rosefox: Me laughing joyfully. (joyous)
I am now officially out at work. Pronouns and all. :D :D :D

Here's the letter I sent to my colleagues once I'd personally talked things over with management (who have been super awesome from start to finish) and my team (ditto):
It's a bit long )
And now I collapse in relief.

:D :D :D
23 February 2015 17:23 - "Smooth and controlled"
rosefox: A woman's muscular arm. (strong)
Yesterday it was so warm that when I stepped outside to go for my walk, I went back in, changed into my gym clothes, took my walk, and then went to the gym and worked out for the first time in months. And then I made an appointment with a personal trainer for today, and kept it even though I was sore, and he was VERY helpful and totally supportive of me being a read-as-female person who wants to build upper-body muscle bulk. (I didn't want to have to explain non-binary-ness etc. so I said "Just treat me like a really small dude" and he did!) He's had the same type of arm injury that I have, so he knows just how to strengthen around it without aggravating it, which is vital. My arm's a little sore post-workout (even after I iced it) but not in a dire way, which is pretty impressive given how much I was pushing myself.

I upgraded my gym membership so that I can go to other branches, and I'm going to try to figure out how to fit workouts into my work schedule when I'm working from the library or the office, even if it means making myself use a locker room (ugh, why is everything SO GENDERED). I also booked more training sessions; that gives me incentive to work out during the rest of the week so that I have progress to report. :)

Bodyweight resistance exercises are just the best thing. I kind of fell in love with back extensions today--they're even better than leg raises! The trainer said, "I usually suggest back extension sets of 15 to 20, but for you it should be 20 to 30." Oh yes, sign me right up. There's just something about that kind of controlled refutation of gravity that gets all my endorphins flowing.

Not getting to the gym has been one of the hardest things about endless winter, and I'm really proud of myself for managing to do it today in windchill of 5F/-15C. (Yesterday's warm weather was, sadly, a fluke.) I've proved to myself that it can be done, and that will make it a lot easier to go in the future. Yay for fleece-lined sweatpants!
rosefox: Me on a beach, holding a red pencil and looking at a notebook. (writing)
I chatted a bit with Daniel tonight and he asked me how things were going with my novel, which now has the pretty firm title of Valour Advances the Man. Since I haven't written about it much here lately, I figured I'd note where things stand.

Research, outlining, perfectionism )
18 February 2015 11:57 - "Doom and gloom"
rosefox: Me hugging a giant teddy bear, very sad. (sad)
I had an awful dream about pregnancy/birth. No medical details and no one died, but if the topic of scary post-partum things is likely to distress you then you should skip this post. In the real world everything is fine--it was just a really bad anxiety dream.

Ugh ugh ugh )

I just want to go back to bed and get a do-over. Return that dream for a refund. Something.
17 February 2015 02:07 - "And only one thing remains the same"
rosefox: My hand with my wedding ring prominently displayed. (wedding ring)
Fourteen years ago, I married myself.

Ten years ago, J and I moved back to NYC.

Three years ago, X and J and I moved to Brooklyn.

I tend to think of late winter as a bad time for making major life decisions, because everyone feels utterly miserable and irritable and inclined to do foolish things. But all of those decisions were pretty great for me, and I'm very glad to have made them.

In a recent therapy session, I brought up my self-marriage, and my therapist was astonished that in seven months of treatment I hadn't mentioned it at all. I thought about it and realized that I've internalized all those things that I used to have to phrase as dialogue between myself and my wife--essentially, I told him, I've automated those processes. For example, tonight my arm's hurting a bit, so I didn't fold laundry. I didn't angst or fret over it; I just checked in, evaluated my abilities, and decided not to do it. I commit these little acts of self-care a dozen times a day without even noticing.

In February 2001 it was absolutely radical (to my mind) to pull out my dream journal and write, in large firm letters:

All these things I will be to myself:
Kind
Respectful
Courteous
Honest
Gentle
Patient
Loving
Generous


Looking back, it's stunning to me how strongly I felt the deep urgent necessity of treating myself well. I needed my own love so desperately. At the time, one of my most defining behaviors was giving and giving and giving to my romantic partners (and, to a lesser but still significant extent, my friends and communities) until I suddenly began to thrash about like a drowning swimmer, having run out of emotional oxygen. Other people loved me deeply and treated me kindly, but there's no amount of external love that will fill a vacuum like the one I created in myself. When I turned my attention inward, I was harsh, despairing, and terrified; I only really took care of myself when I hit rock-bottom misery or someone who loved me encouraged me, and even then it was a struggle. (On 11/23/00, I recorded a dream where I was having dinner with my partner Harry and said "See? I do eat" and he was thrilled. Most of the time I was so anxious that I had no appetite.) So giving myself to myself, loving myself the way I loved others but without the element of self-negation, was an extraordinary notion. But once I'd had the idea, I had no clue how to envision it, let alone to implement it. The only way I could think of to get there was to make the commitment and then do my best to live up to it.

And now, 14 years later, I am kind, respectful, courteous, honest, gentle, patient, loving, and generous toward myself, comfortably and pretty consistently, with very little effort (except when very old baggage gets triggered and I slide toward those ancient habits of self-negation, and even then I do so much better than I used to). I'm not perfect, but no spouse is. And I'm tremendously proud of how far I've come, with my hand in mine.
rosefox: A little blonde girl in a men's shirt and tie and a black skirt, with a glued-on mustache (genderqueer)
It is easy to see that Shakespeare, in making use of this device [of crossdressing], does not merely disguise his characters; he transfigures them. The influence of the costume penetrates to the very soul of the wearer. The mind changes its sex, or to speak more accurately, plays its part in a region where the idea of sex has no place.... Numerous examples might be quoted in which the English text has no difficulty in avoiding anything calculated to remind the spectator that he is contemplating either a young man or a young woman. But these being[s] of indefinite sex—how are we to regard them save as angels or fairies? To what world could they belong, save to the world of spirits?
—Gustave Fréjaville, quoted in the introduction to Women in Men's Guise by O.P. Gilbert (and translated, along with the rest of the book, by J. Lewis May), 1932
Gilbert appears to have been quite the forward-thinker. Elsewhere the introduction states plainly, "Some men are really women and some women, men. That is a commonplace." There's also an anecdote about a psychiatrist who treated cases of "confused personality" by encouraging patients to live in accordance with identity rather than anatomy: "It is an essential part of Doctor Magnus-Hirschfeld's treatment to make his patients happy... he doubtless humours the disease, but he notably alleviates the condition of the unhappy people committed to his charge."

I've had to limit how much research I can do on the historical crossdressing front, because so much of it, including in very recent academic works, consists of outright trans-erasure, and I get very upset if I read too much of it at once. It's incredibly refreshing to read any book, let alone one from 1932, that readily acknowledges both that there is such a thing as being trans (something that literally is not mentioned in most of the books on crossdressing that I've read so far) and that trans people deserve to be happy. And to see any mention of non-binary anything is astonishing.

The introduction concludes:
Man and woman striving to resemble one another; does it not still live on, that graceful legend of Hermaphrodite and the nymph Salmacis irrevocably intermingled in a single bod?

Need we recall Leonardo da Vinci and his angels, his fauns and his virgins, and the strange and adorable yearnings they engender?

"O pale Androgyne," cries Peladan, "vampire supreme of civilisations that have grown aged and effete, O monstrous precursor of the fire from heaven,

"Wherefore Vampire?

"Man, (shall we say?). Woman? Androgyne?

"Or simply, Perfect Being?"
I'm sure the rest of the book will be full of erroneous pronouns, as they all are, but it's certainly off to a good start.
11 February 2015 00:39 - "The only way to win is not to play."
rosefox: An anxious woman and the words, "She needed a plan. Preferably one that didn't suck." (planning)
I've been trying this flexible schedule thing for a couple of weeks now. Preliminary results )

I need to get up early tomorrow for an appointment before work, so I'd better wrap this up, set up my overnight oats, and get to bed.
8 February 2015 13:25 - "Prurient interest"
rosefox: A man's head with a panel open to show gears, and another man looking inside. (examined head)
CN: misgendering, cis people being weird about transness.

A weird and discomfiting dream )

So basically my subconscious decided to pull out every uncomfortable thing that cis people do around my transness: othering me to the max, or seeing me as just another dyke with a strap-on, or treating me like a resource when they're supposed to be helping me. THANKS BRAIN.

I suspect some of this stems from reading about historical crossdressers. In all the literature I've encountered, even people who literally lived as men their entire lives are called "she". Sometimes their chosen names are put in scare quotes, which I really dislike. And there's all this scandalous emphasis on their fake penises (one devised a very clever stand-to-pee device, others used dildos to deflower their ostensibly unsuspecting but probably fully aware wives) and how the very fakeness of them PROVES that these "women" were never, and could never be, "real" men. I can cope with it for a while, but eventually it gets into my head and stresses me out. :( I might switch to reading about gay men for a bit. Or platonic friendship. Or clothing.

...ugh, everything's fraught. Maybe I'll just renew all my books and take a couple of days off from thinking about it.
rosefox: Me on a beach, holding a red pencil and looking at a notebook. (writing)
Anne Lister is, at present, the most famous lesbian of the Regency era, having handily eclipsed the Ladies of Llangollen. A friend of a friend described the recent passion for all things Lister as "an industry" and that's not far off the mark. Two books of her journals, two movies, countless academic works of various lengths... there's a lot of Lister-mania out there. (I always have to resist the urge to call it "Listeria".)

I tried to read the first volume of her journals and couldn't get through it. I'm not going to bother with the second volume, and will probably skip most of the critical analyses. But before I realized I'd over-Lister'd myself, I requested an interlibrary loan of Miss Lister of Shibden Hall: Selected Letters (1800–1840). I didn't realize until I received it that it predates the decoding of Lister's journals, so there's not the slightest whiff of queerness in it unless you read between the lines of her impassioned yet curiously gender-free letter about wanting to find a romantic partner with whom to share her life.

It's marvelous.

Anne Lister was a hell of a letter-writer. Where her journals are terse, her letters are verbose in the most splendid Regency style. Even when she was 12, in 1803, she was writing things like this:
As my Letter draws to a conclusion, I must now make my request to you, which is, that when an opportunity offers and you have leisure time, you will have the goodness to purchase for me a Dictionary I mean one of the very best (pub)lications, one that will not only instruct me in Spelling but in the (proper?) and fashionable way of pronunciation.
A woman after my own heart! Metaphorically, I mean. I'm much too butch for her--she wanted a demure and biddable wife.

As a young adult, she wrote to her brother, "Ah! let the well-ascended blood that trickles in your veins stimulate the generous enthusiasm of your soul, and prove it is not degenerated from the spirit of yr ancestors." What a masterful little bit of guilt-tripping.

Her reminiscences of 1819 Paris are lyrical, even over the most mundane things:
To us, also, who had been accustomed to see charcoal as a sort of rarity, used only for special purposes, the countless barges full of it, were an object of novelty, and, together with the large and beautifully piled fire-wood stacks, instantly reminded us why the atmosphere incumbent over Paris was almost perfectly clear, while that over our own capital might have served Homer to represent the smoke of Vulcan's forge.
LOOK AT THOSE COMMAS. What a truly 19th-century sentence that is. And note how capitalization has changed in 16 years--the last of the Germanic noun-caps are entirely gone.

I wish everyone who ever wrote Regency-era dialogue would take the time to read letters from the period and grasp the nuances and pragmatic beauty of the language. In a stuffy theater, "we were almost dissolved with heat." Stories of Parisian decadence may "shock decorum... but a thick veil covers the exterior of deformity--it does not meet you barefaced as in the streets and theatres of London." Of the weather: "a very nice, mild, morning after a rainy boisterous night." In an overheated closed carriage, "the atmosphere, before we had done with it, was pretty well elaborated." Of an ivy-covered building: "not a particle of brick is to be seen. Not so the tiled roof which has a shameless conspicuousness that spoils the whole."

All of these examples are from the first quarter of the book. It's tremendously sad that Lister died relatively young, though she traveled far in her 50 years--if she'd had another few decades to roam the world, how many more keen observations might she have gifted to both her contemporaries and later historians?

I want to swim in this book and absorb all its words. I fully intend to come back to it (and other collections of letters) when I've finished my draft and I begin revising the dialogue and description. Lister is a bit higher-class than my characters, and of course not everyone will be quite so eloquent. As she writes to a friend who appears to have taken her dry wit the wrong way, "I have sometimes, they tell me, a way of saying things peculiarly my own." But I think that spending some time savoring the rhythm of her language will still help me write in a way that feels appropriate for the period. And it will be delicious. :)
6 February 2015 18:15 - "Tiny wonders"
rosefox: A black cat happily hugs a denim bolster (cat)
I had to take Sam to the vet for her rabies shot and to check on a little bump under her chin (all's well). The cab driver on the way home had the thickest Lawn Guyland* accent it has ever been my pleasure to hear. I reassured him that Sam would be well-behaved and he immediately began telling me stories about how much he loves animals. He loves them a LOT. When sad animal stories come on the news radio, he has to turn it off because they make him cry. His first dog ate too much human food and died young, and now he's extremely strict about not feeding his dog Rufus from the table at all, because he wants him to live a good long life.

* If you're not from around here, the joke is that this is how people from Long Island pronounce "Long Island". You can hear it here. At 0:53 in that video someone actually says "Lawn Guyland" and it's amazing.

We bonded over feeding stray cats and wanting to adopt them all, especially in the winter, and he went on a long rant about heartless people who abandon their pets. I said our cats were rescues and he said warmly, "If deah's someone up deah, dey's lookin out fa youse." (I am not exaggerating his accent in the slightest. When he said he was Italian it took immense effort not to say "Really?!".) I joked about us being two tough New Yorkers getting all soft-hearted over kittens and puppies.

His mother calls him seven days a week asking when he's gonna get married and have a kid. He says "Ma, I've got Rufus!" but she won't accept his dog as a sufficient grandchild substitute. I hope someday he finds the perfect wife (not just some girl in Florida his ma is trying to set him up with), and I hope they have as many pets and kids as they want.
5 February 2015 01:24 - "L-space"
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
This multi-track schedule thing has been very good for me. Most weekdays I've been getting up at 11, and generally sticking to the starts-at-11 schedule as planned. Even if I go to bed at 4, that's still a solid seven hours of sleep, which is enough for me. On the weekend I didn't let myself sleep past noon, even the day that I stayed up until 6 a.m. grieving for Borderlands.

Working at the library is the best thing since toast, or would be if you were allowed to eat toast at the library )

I'd already determined that I was going to give 10% of my book proceeds to NYPL and BPL. In addition, thanks to a link that [livejournal.com profile] vschanoes posted on Twitter, I just sent this email to Hizzoner:

TLDR: libraries are awesome and you should give them money )

If you live in NYC, please take a moment to send your own letter in support of libraries and library funding. BPL gives you a very nice sample letter at that link, so all you really need to do is fill in your address and hit "send your message"--it takes two minutes and can make a big difference. If you're not in NYC, please consider sending a similar letter to whomever funds libraries in your community.

And now, only slightly behind schedule, I sneeps, full of satisfaction and happiness and steak. Mmm, steak.
3 February 2015 03:05 - "Asked and answered"
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
Wow, between comments here and on FOCA, I have a TON of breakfast ideas to try! Thank you all!

Here's the list so far. It is a long list.

Long list is LONG )
rosefox: A head with challah for brains. (food)
Having meticulously assembled those possible daily schedules, I realized that they were only suitable for days when I work from home. Now that I've got the Wertheim Study space at NYPL, I'd like to use it at least a couple of times a week.

Food and drink are absolutely NOT allowed in the library, so I have to be very disciplined about eating before I go, taking a lunch break, and getting home in time for dinner--no snacking, no eating at my desk (which is what I do on office days). And if I'm eating lunch out in the world, I don't want to spend a lot of additional money on breakfasts. That means eating breakfast at home, or on the train in a pinch.

How do I breakfast? I am not good at breakfast at ALL.

Requirements:

* Dairy-free; dairy substitutes are fine but nothing soured (no yogurt, buttermilk, etc.)
* Something I can eat on the train if I'm late leaving the house
* Eaten cold or nuked in its own container--nothing I have to actually cook in the morning, not even something as simple as blending up a smoothie (because then I have to wash the blender, etc.)
* High protein
* Low sodium (so nothing that relies on sausage or bacon)
* Sufficient to get me through a one-hour commute and three hours of good work before I break for lunch
* It's fine if it contains eggs but it can't just be eggs or quiche or other things where the egg flavor is central
* No raw fruit or veg other than very ripe bananas; cooked fruit and jam are fine
* Not super sweet

Foods that taste lunch-ish rather than breakfast-ish are fine; I'll probably default to peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate milk, which was my childhood school lunch for years and years and years. (Just peanut butter, no jelly--I didn't like jelly or jam when I was a kid, and I've never really learned to like peanut butter and jelly together.)

I'm also going to try making overnight oats, probably with peanut butter for extra protein and bananas because bananas.

I'd really appreciate other suggestions.
1 February 2015 18:07 - "Dust to dust"
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
Borderlands Books is closing. I don't have words for how heartbroken I am over this. I cried last night and again today, trying to imagine San Francisco without Borderlands. It's one of the very, very few things I miss about the Bay Area. Alan and Jude truly understand how to make a bookstore into the beating heart of a literary community, not just locally but internationally--I first learned about the planned closing on Twitter from Alisa Krasnostein and Jonathan Strahan in Australia, who were talking about what sad news this is.

Seeing a picture of Long Hidden on the Borderlands front-of-store display was what made it a Real Book for me. Now I'll never get to sign stock for them.

The same issue of Locus that broke the news also put Long Hidden and Sofia Samatar's story "Ogres of East Africa" on the 2014 recommended reading list. Any other day I'd be thrilled. Today I can barely bring myself to care.

I am just devastated.
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