a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
rosefox: Me laughing joyfully. (joyous)
Five things make a post.

1) First, the ending. Long Hidden goes out of print on May 9th. *sob* The last copies are being sold at a steep discount, with proceeds partially benefiting We Need Diverse Books. You can get discounted copies of Hidden Youth while you're there. Go help Bart and Kay clean out their warehouse while they're still allowed to sell the books! All details at that link.

2) Now, the beginnings. J has a new job! He got laid off at the end of last year and the last few months have been challenging. We are all very super excited that his nonstop hustle has landed him an excellent gig doing work he enjoys at a company he likes for good money.

3) X got a bonus and a raise! They inch ever closer to being paid what they deserve.

4) I joined a Slack for queer writers (if you want to join, let me know! All I need is your email address and i can add you) and it's been amaaaaazing for my productivity. People do 20-minute productivity sprints and then share snippets of their work and praise/critique one another in very supportive ways. Sometimes I use the sprints for day job work and sometimes for writing. I've outlined both my novels and passed the 10k mark on Valour Advances the Man (though a good chunk of that is in scenes that probably won't make it into the book but shhhhh), which is my current focus project. I haven't forgotten the Persuasion retelling but it's on the back burner right now. They'll inevitably swap at some point. I'm just so pleased to be writing! And it feels so good!

5) I reworked my Story Hospital Patreon tiers and got more people into Story Hospital Slack, hooray! Now to figure out how to keep conversations going in there. For some reason they just don't catch fire. I will probably be better at that once I'm over this rotten stinking head cold.

6) Bonus sixth thing: the DST changeover happened and I didn't hate it nearly as much as I usually do, probably because I slept 11 hours that night to try to shake the cold. (Didn't work, alas.) Kit's body clock is on the same schedule, of course, so now they're going to sleep at 9 and waking up at 7 and it's WONDERFUL. They have dinner with us! J gets to sleep in instead of waking up at 5! Not sure what we'll do in the fall when the clocks go back but for now we're just enjoying this.
rosefox: A Victorian woman glares and says "Fuck's sake, what a cock"; someone out of the frame says "mm". (angry)
Disney is making a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. The director, Bill Condon, did interviews with Attitude where he said two things that have been making waves:

1) LeFou, a comic relief character whose name means "the fool" or "crazy", will be openly gay... more or less. He's described as "confused" and someone "who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston". Of course you will recall that Gaston is a) the villain and b) obsessed with expressing his own heteronormative cisnormative masculinity by hunting animals, beating men up, aggressively pursuing a woman who doesn't want him, and flaunting his body hair.

2) The depiction of the Beast's curse is a metaphor for AIDS, thanks mainly to the work of lyricist and executive producer Howard Ashman, who died of AIDS a few days after the film's first screening.

Item one is appalling on its face. This is not anything resembling useful or appropriate gay representation. The "wants to be/wants to kiss" thing is pure pseudo-Freudian anti-gay bullshit; the gay narcissist is one of the most pernicious and persistent gay stereotypes. With one voice fandom cried "WHAT ABOUT COGSWORTH AND LUMIÈRE" but no, instead of a happy gay couple we get a bumbling buffoon whose lust object despises him (and, if the live-action film is true to the animated one, repeatedly assaults him in public for the amusement of others or just for fun). In addition, the live-action portrayal is downright swishy. Blech. If it turns out that Gaston is closeted and just stalking Belle as a cover, I may punch a wall.

Item two looks more sweet and heartwarming, a tribute to a gay man's last great work. But while I was searching for the original Attitude interview (because a screencap of the headline was going around with no additional link attached), I found Dan Rather's 1992 review of the animated film, in which he observed what appeared to be a metaphor for AIDS and asked Disney about it.
The folks at Disney tell me that Beauty and the Beast was well under way before lyricist and executive producer Howard Ashman tested HIV positive, and long before Ashman died of AIDS. They say this isn't autobiographical.
In other words, Disney was scared of getting gay cooties all over a children's film, so they erased Ashman's efforts to tell his story, all while his body was still warm.

If you have a box of tissues handy, watch Ashman's partner, Bill Lauch, accept Ashman's posthumous Oscar for "Beauty and the Beast". (h/t to [twitter.com profile] suzisteffen for mentioning it.) Lauch humbly thanks the people at Disney for the support they gave Ashman behind the scenes. But Disney still wouldn't admit in public that the story of the Beast was Ashman's own story of being cursed and running out of time to love and be loved.

Now it's 25 years later and societal attitudes have changed. Here's how Condon describes it in the Attitude interview:
"Disney had been developing Beauty and the Beast for decades," Condon explains. "But there was a specific version they were working on developing in the Eighties."

"On the heels of The Little Mermaid they showed it to [composer] Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Ashman had just found out he had AIDS, and it was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters; until then it had mostly been Belle's story that they had been telling."
To be absolutely clear, Ashman's contributions and motivations are only being discussed by Disney reps because it won't harm the new film's chances of success. This is pure cynicism on Disney's part. Rather's review, which is quite wonderful, notes that the sympathetic portrayal of the Beast could really help to change the way people with HIV and AIDS were seen and treated by the rest of society. And those changes did come, arguably encouraged by Ashman's work on the film. But instead of sincerely honoring Ashman, Disney is coolly taking advantage of his legacy—and his death—after a quarter-century of just as coolly obscuring it, all for their own profit.

Unless they release a statement apologizing for their earlier denials, I see no reason to believe that this is anything other than a marketing ploy. And until they announce that a percentage of the new film's proceeds are going to an HIV/AIDS charity, they're not getting another dime from me.

If you were thinking of seeing Beauty and the Beast in the theater, please consider donating the ticket cost to God's Love We Deliver, the Names Project, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, or another HIV/AIDS-related charity, in memory of Howard Ashman.
1 March 2017 01:41 - "Obvious in retrospect"
rosefox: An extremely delighted white toddler with messy hair beams at the camera. (kit)
Porting two baby-related threads over from Twitter.

Kid things I had no idea about, but that totally make sense now: a short list.

1) When you teach a toddler some sign language, they will babble with their hands. Eye contact, big hopeful smile, incomprehensible hand motion. "Does this gesture mean anything? What about this?"

2) They will also come up with their own meanings for signs. We're pretty sure Kit signs "milk" to mean "I want".

3) Kids wrestling with object permanence and separation anxiety will apply it to EVERYTHING, like the end of a story. When we close a book, Kit looks worried until we show them that the story is still there when we open it up again.

4) The eye-contact look that will soon be "I'm doing a naughty thing" starts out as "I'm doing a thing that makes me happy"—maybe more specifically as "Will you come be happy with me as I do this thing that makes me happy?". It's so hopeful. And I can clearly see the seeds of "You AREN'T going to be happy that I'm doing this thing that makes me happy" in it.

5) So many things we think of as obvious delimiters are invisible to children. Social, not physical. Like "draw on paper, not table". To a kid with a marker, every surface is a surface that can have marker on it. I was in awe the other day watching Kit very carefully draw a line across the paper, over the clipboard, and onto the table. One line, no hesitation. It wasn't a transgressive thing. It was just where they were making their art. No differentiation between media whatsoever.

They also don't readily perceive verbal delimiters. Sound, word, and phrase are all one concept to them. When J says "turn the page" or I say "clap your hands" Kit understands those as whole concepts, like spoken pictograms. If I said "clap your feet" they'd be puzzled because "clap" as a verb doesn't exist for them yet.

I remember [twitter.com profile] oaknfell saying that teaching a kid to read is one long process of apologizing for the English language. Pretty sure teaching Kit to talk is going to involve a round of that too.

I get the phonics thing now—the struggle to explain to children that "clap your hands" has spaces in it, that "clap" itself is "c l a p". If you only hear language, those divisions are in no way intuitive.

An appallingly adorable baby anecdote

We have a blanket that has a hood. The hood has ears and a little bear face. It is very cute. Today X and I were curious about Kit's object permanence and had that blanket over them in the stroller, so we hid one of their hands in the hood.

"Kit, where's your hand? Where's your hand?" They didn't care. Too many other things to look at out in the world. So I tapped their right hand, which was on top of the blanket. "There's your right hand. Where's your other hand?"

They looked at the hood over their hand and immediately decided it was a NEW BEAR FRIEND.

They reached out with their right forefinger and booped its nose—I am not making this up, this really happened—and then they brought it to their face and face-hugged it. They were so happy. "The bear ate my hand and now I have a BEAR FRIEND HAND and everything is GREAT."

They did not appear concerned about their missing hand at all. Who cares when there is a fuzzy bear face to press your face against?

X and I could hardly walk for laughing. Kit happily hugged the bear friend all the way home.

I must get this child some hand puppets. It will be epic.
23 February 2017 01:17 - "It's so hard to say goodbye"
rosefox: An extremely delighted white toddler with messy hair beams at the camera. (kit)
Kit's developing some separation anxiety (yes, only now, at nearly 14 months!) and started crying tonight when we began the bedtime routine because bedtime means saying goodnight and everyone going away. We still did what we always do: big family hug, two parents say night-night and leave, and the third reads stories and provides cuddles and puts the baby in the crib. They clung to all of us during goodnight hugs, glumly (and sleepily) submitted to storytime, and finally fell asleep after only a little more fussing. Then we all sat around feeling heartbroken because it is so hard to see the baby so sad.

Tonight's bedtime story was No Matter What, by sheer coincidence; I spotted it while Kit was demolishing their bookshelf (a favorite activity) and realized we hadn't read it in ages. I'm never sure how much Kit understands of the actual words we say, but I think the meaning was clear, especially with the way I kept kissing and hugging them as I read. And I think it helped.

They've started getting upset when books end, too. We always have to open the book again to reassure them that the story is still there and they can reread it whenever they want. Sometimes they flip through it to find a favorite page before reluctantly accepting that the book is done. When we let them turn pages, they turn them really fast, without waiting for us to finish reading any text; one long look at the images on the page and then it's on to the next. It's so very like the way I blaze through books and then feel disappointed when they're done that it makes me laugh every time.

Kit endured their first ear infection this week, poor thing, and has been taking amoxicillin for it. As soon as they started on the antibiotics, their fever went away entirely and their vigor and appetite returned. (Their first full day of betterness ended with them not being able to fall asleep until 11 p.m. because all the energy they'd lacked while ill came roaring back with a vengeance. Fortunately that was a one-time thing and they're back on their usual sleep schedule.) I'm so glad for our access to good medical care, and also extremely glad to have a baby who sucks obediently on medication syringes, even when they hate the taste of the medicine, and doesn't appear to have allergies to anything. We were all very relieved that they went back to daycare today, because five days in a row of sick (and then recovering) baby at home was very challenging for all of us, especially as we were dealing with another family crisis at the same time. As always, I have no idea how single and stay-at-home parents do it. No idea whatsoever.

We're all quite convinced that Kit has psychic powers that only activate when they're asleep. Whenever X goes to bed—which doesn't happen at the same time every night—Kit sleep-fusses just enough to set off the monitor. Just now I returned to writing this entry after a while of doing other things, and Kit promptly made a few tiny noises. So I'm thinking at them as hard as I can: See, silly baby, I told you that we think of you even when you're not right in front of us. Rest now. No one is too far away, and we'll always be there when you need us.
20 February 2017 00:47 - "IT ME"
rosefox: "You mean the girls were topless the whole time and I never noticed?" (oblivious)
Thanks to a link from [twitter.com profile] tgstonebutch, today I learned about queerplatonic relationships (a term coined in 2010 by [personal profile] kaz and [personal profile] meloukhia) and spent several hours going "WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THERE'S A NAME FOR WHAT I DO". A good primer is here and a post on QP not being "romance-lite" is here. I want to quote both of them at length. I want to hug them. This is amazing.

I'm not aro or ace. But there is absolutely a third category of relationship in my life, in addition to partnership and friendship. I've been calling it "partner-level friends" or "my [name]" because I didn't have a word for it. And now I do. Wow. I haven't felt this seen since I read the relationship anarchy manifesto. (Which is very relevant.)

While discussing this with a friend, he asked how "romantic" was being defined, since both "aromantic" and "platonic" were being defined in opposition to it, and I realized I didn't have a good answer. (Merriam-Webster doesn't either. Their definition of "romantic" points to "romance", which points to "love affair", which points back to "romantic".) After some discussion on Twitter, [twitter.com profile] numbathyal pointed me to this piece by a possible aromantic who asked a romantic to define romance. The definition that came out of their conversation was: "Romance is a natural high that occurs in the presence of certain people, without obvious connection to sexuality, 'good company', or emotional intimacy." That jibes pretty well with my experience, which I described as follows:
When I look at people I'm in love with, my body responds. My heart swells—that's literally a feeling I get in my chest, not a metaphor. My heart rate goes up and I feel a little breathless. My pupils probably dilate. I want to be physically touching the person in some way. I'm SUPER touchy-feely with X and J. Constant small touches as I walk past them. Always sitting as near as I can get.

When I look at people I'm in QP relationships with, I have a different set of reactions. Hardly any physical reaction at all. I do like hugging them, but I don't feel the same urge to be in contact. I get much more of a squee reaction. My brain lights up. It's still something I would call chemistry, but a different kind of chemical reaction.

Things romantic and QP relationships have in common for me: I feel a profound sense of safety. I can relax around the person. I say "I love you" and it's never by rote. I want regular communication of some sort. I feel more myself in the person's company.

All of this is shaped by my tendency toward feeling very definitely like I "click" with certain people. Often upon meeting them. A little alert box pops up that says "You and this person could have something amazing together! Pursue it!". I can tell you the exact moment that happened with both X and J, and with all four of my QP people. So I don't know what "romantic" looks like for people who don't have that zing or sniff test or instalove or whatever you want to call it. I spent literal months knowing I was going to fall in love with J and waiting for it to happen. Had to WD40 the "in love" switch. But it finally flipped hard and has never flipped back. <3

This is also not what my romantic relationships looked like when I was in my teens or 20s. Much healthier now. :) Twenty years ago, desperate longing to be loved and valued was part and parcel of romance for me. Now I love myself.
Some of the useful links that came up in conversation (h/t [twitter.com profile] tgstonebutch and [twitter.com profile] numbathyal):

Sexuality and romance as pet elephants that are invisible to ace and aro people
Limerence and "platonic attraction"
How to write about queerplatonic relationships in fiction (lots and lots of useful links there)
Various concepts of greyromanticism

I was amused to choose "oblivious" as the userpic keyword and have this userpic come up, because at first it seemed totally inappropriate for a post discussing nonsexual relationships. In its original context (Sluggy Freelance, if anyone remembers it), it's being said by a guy who is very into topless women and sad that he missed a chance to ogle some. But I've always used it because I am genuinely the sort of person to not really notice that an attractive woman is topless, because we're too busy talking about other things and connecting on other levels. So maybe it's appropriate after all.
13 February 2017 01:46 - "A toast!"
rosefox: A bearded man in a yarmulke shouting L'CHAIM! (Judaism)
Today was my mother's 75th birthday party. Instead of making a traditional toast, I wrote her a poem.

~~~~~

A warm baguette with fresh unsalted butter
Good whiskey served in glasses meant for wine
Fine art and jazz and clothes with flowing lines
I learned appreciation from my mother

Speak from the heart; don't ever silence others
Defend our rights and fight to right what's wrong
Wave signs, wear buttons, sing those protest songs
I learned my activism from my mother

Write eagerly, then edit out the clutter
Read lit and genre, dictionaries, poems
A wall of books will make a house a home
I learned the joys of language from my mother

Immense affection for my younger brother
No matter how we'd argue, snark, and fight
"You'll sort it out," Mom said, and she was right
I learned both love and patience from my mother

Abundant hugs and kisses, but don't smother
Praise every scribble as a work of art
Be honest and respectful from the start
I learned to be a parent from my mother

Find endless ways to cherish one another
Build families from friends through joy and trust
Each day, she teaches that to all of us
Please join me now to toast my splendid mother

~~~~~~

Happy birthday, Mom. :)
31 January 2017 04:02 - "Every little bit helps"
rosefox: This has been a consciousness-raising message from THE SISTERHOOD. Power to the oppressed. Stay strong, sister. (activism)
I made supportive postcards to mail to my local mosques today. And then I made more to send to mosques that have been attacked. And I designed more postcard fronts with awesome public-domain clip-art images. And I bought a roll of 100 postcard stamps because it turns out this is a thing I can do easily that is at least a little bit effective and feels really good.

If you know people looking for ways to speak up that don't involve phone calls or marches, and if those people have printers and funds for printable postcards and stamps, point them to http://tinyurl.com/angrypostcards for customizable templates with useful addresses already filled in.

I also finally got a PO box, so when we apply for/renew our passports tomorrow, we'll have somewhere safe to send them. Packages get stolen from our front steps a lot, and having Kickstarter rewards and online purchases sent to the office is always a bit awkward, so it'll be good for that too. But mostly I care about the passports. Just in case.

And I supported this fundraiser for a Bed-Stuy knitting shop that's in danger of closing, because direct giving matters as much as giving to organizations and sometimes goes even further. That store has been a haven for black women who need a place dedicated to peace, creation, and community. I want to help it stay alive. Please help if you can.
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (patriotism-dissent)
I did not go to JFK tonight, because that seemed like a recipe for being arrested, and I don't participate in actions where arrests are likely due to that whole parent of a baby thing. But I really really wished I could.

Instead, I shared a bunch of action ideas on Twitter, and now I share them here.

Here's a list of basic action steps from [twitter.com profile] HIASrefugees, a Jewish pro-refugee organization.

Some things you can do if you have a printer, or have access to one:

Download this "Everyone Is Welcome Here" poster from Dropbox, print it up, and post it in your school, library, store window, etc. Print up extra copies and hand them out to your neighborhood shop owners to post in their stores. (The original poster is from here, via [twitter.com profile] FwdTogether, but that site requires you to put in a credit card even if you're just getting the free download, so I recommend using the Dropbox link instead.)

Invest in a pack of printable postcards and use them to write to your reps, mayor, governor, etc. This Word doc has the "Everyone Is Welcome Here" image formatted to be the postcard front. This doc has addresses filled in for Trump, Ryan, and the State Department; change the addresses depending on who you you feel like writing to. Write your message, print, sign, stamp, mail.

The Women's March folks also created these all-purpose cards for expressing your political views. Print on one side of the postcard sheet, flip/rotate it appropriately, print on the other side.

Feel free to share those links around.

UPDATE: All the postcard files are collected in this Dropbox folder. Bookmark and visit often, because I'll keep adding more. The latest: supportive notes to mosques.
24 January 2017 20:28 - "Don't panic"
rosefox: A woman with words running through her head nonstop. (noisy brain)
This is a compilation of things I tweeted today about not poisoning the social media well with anxiety and panic. It's primarily aimed at Twitter users, but I expect it's probably useful for Facebook too.

As a person with an anxiety disorder, I really understand the urge to conflate being ANXIOUS with being MOTIVATED. The reason I understand that so much is that it is a lie anxiety whispers—or sometimes yells—in my ear every day. "You need me!" anxiety says. "Without me you wouldn't notice or accomplish the important things! Without me you'd be a useless lump!"

This is a LIE. L I E pants-on-fire lie.

For one thing, anxiety often paralyzes. For another, it occludes judgment. "Fight, fly, or freeze" is the choice anxiety presents to you. These are immediate, adrenaline-powered responses to immediate threats. They are USELESS in the long term. Their only purpose is to keep you alive long enough to HAVE a long term. Panic consumes all your energy in a single explosive burst and leaves you exhausted. It is very bad for your brain and your body.

Right now, what we are facing is a very large, multifaceted set of threats, short-term and long-term but not immediate. Panic will actively impede our ability to respond to those threats. It will not motivate us. It will only harm us.

If you have been feeling anxious or panicky about the news, please take a moment to make a PLAN for how to prevent and treat your anxiety. "I will go on social media and say I'm scared and everyone will reassure me/be scared with me!" is not a plan.

Read [twitter.com profile] TGStoneButch's #DailyCoping threads (that's a roundup link on a blog for those who don't read Twitter) for some really good specific pointers on dealing with different kinds of stress responses.

Right now, my primary anxiety prevention strategy is CLOSE THE TAB. Anything that makes me panic is harmful and I will move away from it. This doesn't mean cutting myself off from all sources of information—only panic-inducing ones. I get a lot of political emails. If they fearmonger, I unsub. I keep the ones that are about concrete action, like http://tinyletter.com/resist and http://tinyletter.com/re-act.

I unfollow even dear friends who only post about being angry and frightened. I love them, but I need to protect myself. And I reach out to them by email and IM instead so that we can connect in other ways.

If I am feeling anxious, I take anxiolytics. I make myself do this even when the anxiety is screaming that I need it to survive. It is very hard to treat anxiety. Sometimes I envision it as a living entity that wants to survive at any cost. I even feel bad for it. But I need my brain more than my brain parasite does. So I take my anxiolytics, and breathe and meditate, and do other #DailyCoping things.

For longer-term treatment of anxiety, I work with my therapist and my family on various strategies. In the past I've taken SSRIs.

So that's my plan. I really strongly encourage all of you to make one too. Especially if you haven't been anxiety-prone before now.

I spent yesterday in crisis mode. I spent today having the belated panic reaction that would have kept me from functioning yesterday. So I am SUPER AWARE right now of the difference between panic and responding appropriately to a crisis. We are in a crisis. We can't let our totally understandable anxiety about that prevent us from taking appropriate action.

And please, if you feel anxious or panicky, DO reach out for help. But DON'T just broadcast your panic; it's infectious. Call a friend or a hotline or your therapist. Email or IM or DM someone. Enact your plan.

Twitter has been our collective id for nearly a decade. It's very vulnerable right now. Please take care of it.

BTW, I'm really pleased to see a lot of people returning to LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. That's a great place to write about big feelings! You can filter them, and cut-tag them, and let people opt in to them, all while expressing yourself at length. Dreamwidth accounts are free and it's a wholly user-supported company with great community aspects. I recommend it highly.

Comments are off to discourage trolls. Please feel free to share this link around.
20 January 2017 21:27 - "We'll try to stay serene and calm"
rosefox: Me pulling hair away from my face, trying to see. (confused)
Today I joined the general strike. Instead of working, I wrote a post on how to make art in scary and difficult times, and then I met with the teens I mentor and talked about writing and reading and why we read SF/F and how to overcome writer's block and stop procrastinating. It was exactly the way I wanted to spend the day. I boycotted the inauguration so hard that I mostly managed not to even think about it.

When I was getting dressed I wore all black, which I basically never do. I hadn't planned to, but I opened my dresser drawer and went "Oh, yes, I think the black turtleneck is what I want to wear today, and the black trousers too". I dithered over jewelry and ended up with my origami peace dove necklace. I came out of my room to greet [twitter.com profile] peripateticmeg, who was here to babysit Kit (they've had a nasty head cold since Tuesday, poor thing), and she was also wearing all black. X said several people at their office were too.

It's been a really spectacularly terrible week in a lot of ways. The baby being sick means all of us have had our sleep and work schedules disrupted, the power to our house went out for five hours on Tuesday (some sort of wiring issue, apparently), I had some shitty family stuff to deal with, a company made J a job offer but is now delaying on finalizing it, our bank messed up our rent payment (no doom, fortunately, as we have a great landlord and a spotless payment history), Alex-the-cat has been an aggressive asshat to the other cats, Sam and Sophie have been hairballing everywhere, friends are also dealing with unhappy and stressful things, and of course the inauguration. But we are holding on and even finding ways to feel good:

* We've had lots of good family dinners, even when we were all almost too tired to talk.
* J and I shared some good hugs today and went for a nice walk in the drizzle. We've both been so busy and tired that we barely see each other. It was wonderful to get a companionable hour together.
* X and I have been having lovely nightly half-hour hangouts on the couch before they go to bed. We talk about the day and make plans and send each other into bouts of exhausted hysterical laughter. I just remembered that we used to do this when they first moved to NYC; I guess we naturally gravitate toward that time of night as together-time.
* Kit is coughing less, and when their fever spikes occasionally it never gets higher than 102 (which is also much less worrying now that they're over a year old) and responds very well to Tylenol.
* [twitter.com profile] grammar_girl livetweeted an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and it genuinely made me cry.
* I had a quick but delightful dinner with [livejournal.com profile] teaberryblue on Thursday.
* Long Hidden contributor [twitter.com profile] nbarischoff and her husband came to visit me at work and we had a good conversation about crowdfunding for anthologies. (Support her fundraiser for Problem Daughters, a marginalized feminist SF/F anthology!)
* I made plans to see my mother and brother on Sunday to celebrate my mother's birthday.
* Just now Kit woke up and seamlessly transitioned from lying down to sitting up while I was watching on the monitor. It's been clear for a while that they can do that, but I hadn't seen it. They're super perky right now because their fever is down. They're lying in the crib squeaking contentedly and playing with the teddy bear, who was recently named Face Hugs. (Kit believes teddy bears are for faceplanting onto.)
* I've been catching up on laundry. I always feel better when the hampers are empty.
* I've been really on top of my work schedule since coming back from vacation, even with everything else going on. Hanging out on #yuletide has been wonderful for my productivity because people do "word wars" or "productivity wars" that are basically Pomodoro timer installments except in 20 on/10 off instead of 25 on/5 off. I also reworked my Persuaded outline from scratch and even wrote a little bit of the opening. The character voices are much clearer this time around, though the story hasn't quite found its own voice yet. It'll get there.

And now the baby is finally asleep, so I'm going to do some knitting for the first time in ages. I still hold out hope for finishing this sweater before Kit outgrows it, though I think I'd better hurry. They keep getting taller!
17 January 2017 22:36 - "Never pay full price"
rosefox: A heart-shaped Roomba. (housework)
X and Kit are planning to swap rooms, which means X needs to downsize to a smaller bed. Their bed is only two years old and really nice. If you're in the NYC area and interested in buying a full/double pine captain's bed with an extremely plush mattress, here's the full listing.
4 January 2017 01:44 - "And wash your hands afterwards"
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (zombie)
I've been hanging out in the #yuletide IRC channel even though Yuletide is over, because it's a nice community of writers and that encourages me to keep thinking about writing.

Tonight it encouraged me well enough that I signed up for the Chocolate Box fanfic exchange (I'm on the hook to write 300 entire words over the course of a month, which is something like 20 minutes of writing for me on a slow day, so I didn't feel I was overcommitting myself) and then did a few rounds of "word wars", 20 minutes of writing as many words as you can. So I have 1100 words of Persuaded that I didn't have before, and 350 of them are pretty good.

The others, though... talk about your shitty first drafts. Maybe 400 words are okay and then the last 350 are awful. I could hear the dialogue going clunk clunk clunk as I typed it, and dialogue is where I'm usually strongest. The characters have no characterization. It's very sad. I said on Twitter that I was going to try to consider the shitty first draft a canon that I then get to write much better fanfic of, but characters are what make a canon worth ficcing, and Austen's characters are why I want to write this book, and if I don't have the characters at least somewhat clear in my head then I need to fix that before I tackle this.

I think I need to go give Persuasion a good close reread (thanks to Project Gutenberg, I just downloaded it to my phone) and maybe rewatch the 1995 film for good measure, and then replace the clunky bit with something worth reading.

In my defense, I'm fighting off the sort of head cold that has few physical symptoms (I had a sore throat for less than 12 hours) but leaves one utterly exhausted and oatmeal-brained. So it's pretty impressive that I wrote 350 words I'm happy with, and that I wrote 1100 words at all.

I need a better writing userpic. (This is not my writing userpic. I'm just aware that I need a better one.)

Now I'm going to go sleep a whole lot. A whooooooole lot.
3 January 2017 03:22 - "You are your own muse"
rosefox: a stethoscope on a manuscript (story hospital)
I finally made a [twitter.com profile] StoryHospital Twitter account! It'll tweet links to posts that can actually be retweeted. I'm going to change my post publication time to 10 a.m. so tweets go out when people are reading. Feel free to follow, RT, ask quick writing questions, etc.

Some great questions have come in but I can always use more! Ask me your writing questions!
1 January 2017 23:40 - "Ask me anything"
rosefox: a stethoscope on a manuscript (story hospital)
The 24th Story Hospital post is going up on Tuesday. That's pretty amazing. Almost half a year!

I haven't been able to boost the site very much this month, and it shows: no new Patreon patrons joined in December, and the question queues are running dry. I have one question left and then I have to start making them up or pulling them off of Yahoo! Answers. I'd really rather not do that. I want to help real people with their real writing problems.

I know a lot of you have written things: stories, novels, plays, articles, poems, fanfic, essays, PhD theses, instruction manuals, TPS cover sheets. If you've run into any kind of writing problem lately—or ever—and you have a few minutes to spare, would you please write to the Story Nurse about it?

https://storyhospital.com/ask_the_story_nurse/

The Patreon patrons are nice and all, but the questions are even more essential to the site than the money. Without people asking for advice, I can't really be an advice columnist. So I would really, really appreciate you taking a moment to send me a question.

Thank you v. v. much.
rosefox: A fox writing book reviews. (writing)
Yuletide reveals are revealed! My stories this year were "Two for Tea", a Questionable Content fluff-fic about Faye and Bubbles opening a tea shop with Hannelore as their tea sommelier, and "The Odds", a mashup of both* Ghostbusters films and Daniel José Older's Bone Street Rumba books, in which Holtzmann and Reza make out on the firehouse roof and Patty and Winston join the battle against the corrupt Council of the Dead.

* 1984 and 2016. There are no others.

Both stories were pinch hits. I've been on the list for ten years but this is the first year I've actually done anything with it, which is ridiculous! "Two for Tea" was done within seven hours of picking up the pinch hit; I got the central idea right away, and the only question I had was whether to do it as a story or as a series of scripts for comics. Then I started writing it as scripts and it worked and I went with it. When it was done it was done, minimal tweaking, totally painless. I am desperate for some Questionable Content fan artist to illustrate it.

While I was in fanfic mode, I started thinking that it would be fun to do a Holtzmann/Reza crossover sometime. Then a Holtzmann prompt came across the pinch hit list and I leaped on it.

"The Odds" took me a week, including pretty extensive workshopping. It was a really good week. When I reached the 1500-word mark the first night and realized how much more story I had left, I was a little daunted, but I kept going and kept going. One night I hit the wall of tired that usually means I need to stop for the night, and I thought "I'm not actually that tired, I bet I can write more" and I wrote another thousand words. I want to bottle that feeling.

Every time I needed inspiration, I found it somewhere. Of course there were some factual things I had to research—Baptist funeral customs, double underarm holsters, what kind of nuclear physics people do at Berkeley and how many women are in their physics PhD program, what the roof of the Ghostbusters firehouse looks like—and I reread Midnight Taxi Tango and rewatched Ghostbusters 2016 to study character voices and make sure I had my references right. But to my eyes the story is one long litany of other nods: to the original film and the awesome backstory for Winston that was cut from it, to Daniel's phenomenal word-portraits of Brooklyn and of black women building amazing lives for themselves (it's not coincidence that Patty has to leave the Ghostbusters world for the Bone Street Rumba world to find fulfillment), to a friend's experiences as a female physicist and other friends' experiences of being neuroatypical and hard of hearing, to someone I knew once who is way too much like Kevin, to my own queer New York life before and after my years in California, to the early days of my relationship with X, to my collections of books on urban history and astrological phenomena, to what it feels like to be building a happy life on the brink of a troubled era, and to my beloved city. I personally recommend every one of the Chinatown restaurants named in the story, by the way, and Ginger's is a pretty good place to shoot pool and chat up queer ladies. And if you're in Lower Manhattan in the summer, you'd better hope a thunderstorm comes through and makes it smell nice for a bit.

Being on vacation was essential. If I'd had work on the brain I don't think I could have sat down every evening and written a couple thousand words. Of course, if I hadn't been on vacation I wouldn't have been picking up pinch hits.

I was really nervous about the amount of AAVE in the dialogue and ended up haunting #yuletide and emailing people on the beta list and even spamming friends of mine in search of a native speaker who had the time to read a 6500-word story right before Christmas. (I did eventually find one.) I'm also not the biggest GB2016 fan and know nothing about how Holtzmann fanfic is typically written, so I found more betas who could cover that. Then one of the betas pointed out that a black woman having nothing to do except set up her white friend with a love interest was a racist cliché, and she was totally right, so I wrote the Patty and Winston scene and that made it 8000 words. I did a lot of nitpicky revision, pass after pass after pass, and made my last update about two minutes before the archive opened. And then I spent something like 24 hours feeling high as a kite on accomplishment. IT FELT SO GOOD. The writing, the critting, the revising, all of it just felt amazing.

After the bulk of "The Odds" was done, I beta-read a bunch of stories for other people, which was fun and a good use of all my post-writing energy. A long time ago I gave up on the idea of writing groups, but I had such a great experience both beta-reading and being beta'd that I started thinking maybe I should reconsider that stance.

When I came down off the high I started poking at my original fiction projects and immediately froze up. I don't know what it is about prompted, tight-deadline fanfic that frees me to write so fluidly. I hope I can figure out how to write other stories that way, because it felt so good and I want to feel that again. I'm not one of those people who feels coerced by the muse; if I don't enjoy writing, I don't write. But I enjoyed writing these stories tremendously and want to enjoy writing Valour and Persuaded that much too. There must be a way to do that, right? Even after work picks up again? I really hope so.
30 December 2016 23:51 - "Five things make a post"
rosefox: A fox writing book reviews. (writing)
Poor Kit had night terrors last night, or something like it—sudden screaming, out of nowhere, red-faced, inconsolable. X and I were quite shaken by it. Eventually Kit came out of it and then played with their hairbrush for a bit and went back to sleep. Babies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For the last few weeks they've been coughing in their sleep sometimes. It's not a productive cough, they haven't had a fever at any point, and it only happens at night, so we figure it's from accidentally inhaling their copious teething-drool (that molar is taking its sweet time coming in). The first couple of nights they'd wake up but now they sleep right through it, which is a little disconcerting. How quickly children adapt. It seems like a strength at first but I see it as a vulnerability too; they can adapt to things that aren't okay and shouldn't be normal, and adaptation can take a toll. Nothing I can do about the coughing, but it's a reminder to be mindful about the other ways I shape Kit's experiences and teach them what "normal" is.

=====

I'm going to try to post more slice-of-life things here that aren't baby anecdotes. X and I sat down together tonight and wrote things by hand! The timing didn't work out for us to do it by candlelight, as the Hanukkah candles had already burned down, but I still felt very old-fashioned using my lovely antique lap desk. The angled surface made writing much easier on my arm, even using a skinny pen. I wrote the last of my notes and cards for [livejournal.com profile] holiday_wishes, and X wrote thank-you notes to people who'd given Kit birthday presents.

One of the people on holiday_wishes wanted cross-stitch supplies for teaching Ukrainian embroidery. I have a TON of evenweave fabric, some of which I've had 20 years or more. I also have a lot of unfinished and unstarted cross-stitch kits, and if my arms ever heal and strengthen to the point where I can do embroidery again—which I'm kind of skeptical about, though it's a good goal to have—I'd start with the kits rather than designing my own. And I'm pretty sure I'll never have the arms for doing knotwork with silk floss again; that was hard even before I developed the tendinitis. So I took all the silk I bought back when I thought I could make money making jewelry (what was I thinking) (well, okay, my head wasn't very clear at the time), and all the fabric, and put it in a box that I will ship off this week. An immigrant will get to preserve her culture and heritage, and there's more room in my crafting dresser for new yarn all the yarn I keep buying and not knitting with. Everyone wins!

=====

I just left this comment for a friend who made her first LJ post in a year and a half, about needing a refuge from Twitter:

It's good to see you here again.

A lot of us are looking for the same thing, and looking for it here (or on Dreamwidth). Twitter seems to have hit a toxicity tipping point, and the recent political news has sharpened our ideas of where we put our effort. Even for those of us who still have the wherewithal to shrug off trolls, we've got more important things to do with our energy and attention than fritter it away on shrug after shrug after shrug.

I locked my Twitter account for unrelated reasons and I'm really glad I did. The one time I unlocked it recently, within 24 hours I needed to flee back to privacy.

Back in the day when LJ was booming, I would compulsively refresh and refresh and refresh until it was late at night and for a little while no one was posting and I could free myself from it and sleep. Before that I did the same with Usenet, and before that with IRC. Twitter doesn't feel very different to me, except that, like IRC, it refreshes itself. But I suspect my usage patterns are unusual and most people get more of a dopamine firehose from Twitter than they ever did from other sources. Having been drinking from dopamine firehoses for a long time, I can tell you with some authority that they are really, really bad for you. And Twitter is unique in what you so beautifully call its "kaleidoscope of contexts"—where one rapidly scrolling IRC channel still only contained maybe two or three conversations, Twitter has dozens all happening at once. It's utterly wretchedly exhausting.

I hope we see a return to longer-form thought, threaded conversations, more order, less chaos. LJ or DW or Wordpress or Medium, doesn't much matter to me, but something better than the noise machine.


There's been lots of talk about LJ's servers moving to Russia. I will continue crossposting from DW, as I have been. If I were still giving money to LJ I would stop, but I've had a permanent account since forever, so there's not much I can do there. I suppose I'm actually a net drain on their resources. I don't have the sense that they make money off my data. I don't think I'm putting myself in danger or making anyone else more vulnerable by continuing to use LJ. So I'll continue to use it for now, and see what happens. If you're aware of reasons I should discontinue crossposting or delete my data from LJ altogether, please do share.

=====

I was looking for a book tonight and realized a friend had borrowed it. So I checked my "borrowed books" list and ended up emailing a whole bunch of folks to say "You borrowed books from us ages ago, can we have them back?". Many of them have moved house and gone through other upheavals and I will be pleasantly surprised if they even still have the books or remembered that they got them from us, but it'd be nice if it happens.

I immediately got an email back from one person saying (very nicely) "Didn't I already give those back?" so apparently I have not been so diligent about updating that spreadsheet. I'm pretty sure most of the books I emailed about weren't stealth-returned, though. Pretty sure. Mostly sure. We'll see. At any rate, it's an excuse to get in touch with some folks I haven't been in touch with for a while, maybe make some lunch dates with the local ones, and that's no bad thing.

=====

Vosges finally started making a dark chocolate version of their bacon bar and tonight the stars were right for me to have a nibble half of it (oops). I'm impressed with the crunchiness of the bacon bits. The smoky flavor is very strong, which somehow I wasn't expecting; it's the first thing you smell when you open the package and the last note of the aftertaste. It's good.

Of course, having had that much chocolate, I now shouldn't have hot chocolate before bed. I'm tired enough that it probably wouldn't wind me up too far, but better not to take chances. It's so annoying to have to make these calculations. But it could have been one of those nights when I can't have any chocolate at all, so I will count blessings etc. and maybe make some mulled cider for a hot bedtime drink instead. Or ginger honey drink; my mother brought me ginger cookies from England and they are the sort of thick hard cookies that are intended to be dipped into tea or equivalent, and if I can't dip them into hot chocolate (which would be awesome) then ginger honey drink is the next best option.

Or I could just go to bed. But I want to write up Kit's 12-month post (!) (!!!) so I'll be up for a little while yet.
29 December 2016 02:51 - "Gimme paw!"
rosefox: An extremely delighted white toddler with messy hair beams at the camera. (kit)
Hilarious 3 a.m. baby anecdote time!

Kit's been really into clapping their hands lately. When they're sad they clap to cheer themself up. It is amazing. They've learned that when they clap the adults all clap back, and they get DRUNK WITH POWER and lead call-and-response clapping for quite a long time. Sometimes if you say "clap" they clap but that's not consistent yet.

Tonight they woke up just as I was going to bed. X is back on overnight duty (which is why I can go to bed at 3, which feels like absolute luxury) and got up to cuddle the baby back to sleep. I finished my nighttime ablutions and went into Kit's room for a quick snuggle. I had been reading a parenting book that was interesting and useful but also contained anecdotes about kids younger than Kit who can do things Kit can't do yet, and some part of my brain always freaks out about those comparisons. The best cure is to spend time with the actual baby and marvel at what a wonderful tiny person they are. I had been hoping they would wake up precisely so I could do this, even just for a moment.

Kit was sleepy but happy, and indeed, seeing them was an instant balm on my poor anxious brain. I kissed their forehead, tucked the fuzzy go-to-sleep blanket around them, and told X that I had finished all my chores and was going to bed. X held up their hand and we high-fived.

Kit looked interested. "That's a high-five. It's like clapping but with someone else's hand," I said. They had their right hand out of the blanket, so I gently tapped my palm against theirs. "See? Like that. High-five."

X high-fived them, and I high-fived them, and then they pulled their left hand out of the blanket. I held my hand up near their left hand. "High-five?"

They tried and missed.

It was the tiniest, funniest little limp-wristed attempt at a high-five that I have ever seen. X and I laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. Kit laughed along with us because people who are laughing are also funny, at least if you're a baby.

When we all recovered, I gave Kit a few more gentle high-fives, and then we all clapped for a bit because it's fun. Then I said goodnights and left the world's best and most hilarious baby to fall back asleep on X's lap, puzzled but pleased. And now I can go to bed suffused with joy at my child's accomplishments and eagerness to learn new things... even if it takes a few tries.
28 December 2016 01:08 - "Onward and upward"
rosefox: An extremely delighted white toddler with messy hair beams at the camera. (kit)
Dear Kit,

You are one year old today. It has been a very eventful year with lots of ups and downs for our family. Through it all, you have warmed my heart (and my lap) and made all the hard things feel bearable and all the good things feel even better. Your smile lights up my life. Your hard work and perseverance in the face of frustration inspire me. Your unstinting love and trust make me melt.

No offense to other kids, but every time I meet another child I think how lucky we are to have you. Of all possible children, I can't imagine one better suited to our family. You are goofy and ridiculous, opinionated when it matters, amiable when it doesn't, generous with demonstrations of affection, serious about self-improvement, vocal about your needs and easily satisfied, fascinated by the world. When people ask whether we're planning to have another child, we tell them honestly that it would be unfair to our second child to have to put up with having such a purely wonderful older sibling. Besides, we only ever wanted one baby. I'm so glad that baby turned out to be you, my best Kit. So glad.

I don't at all want you to feel pressure to live up to some ideal of perfection. You are perfect just as you are. You're perfect when you're clumsy and you're perfect when you're cranky and you're perfect when you lick the couch pillows with your mouth still half full of milk. (You will also be perfect when you're old enough to do your own laundry. The couch pillow covers are washed on cold and hung up to dry.) Don't ever think that I love or appreciate you "despite" some part of you. I love every single bit of you.

Sometimes I joke that you're my littlest roommate. Before you were born I occasionally worried that when you got older we'd have trouble living together; in the past it's sometimes been hard for me to share space with other people. But I love living with you, and I think we'll have a pretty easy time of it even when you're bigger and more actively making use of the house. You're already really good at showing us when you're hungry or tired or desperate to go outside, and I'm sure you'll only get better at understanding what you need and asking for it, whether that's time to yourself or quiet together time or shared activities. And an advantage of three parents is that there's almost certainly always going to be someone who wants to hang out with you if you're in a hanging-out mood.

I worry about you sometimes, but it's because I'm the worrying sort. By any objective measure you are a sturdy, healthy child. You rarely get sick and get over it quickly. When you fall down you complain for a bit (quite reasonably) and then get up again like nothing happened. You are so generous with your smiles that we never have to wonder whether you're happy. And you even snore just a little when you're asleep so I can hear it on the monitor and don't have to turn the camera on to make sure you're breathing. Every anxious parent should have such a reassuring baby.

The next year is going to bring us some exciting things. You'll learn more about moving your body the way you want to. You'll get better at crawling and then leave it behind in favor of walking. You'll learn to use some words and signs to communicate; I can't wait to hear you say our names. Maybe this will be the year you start to sometimes want one particular parent and not just whichever one is handy. The next time your birthday comes around, you'll probably want to eat the cake and not just stick your fingers in the frosting. And I bet you'll make friends with all the street cats in the neighborhood.

To quote a very kind and wonderful man, Mr. Fred Rogers, whose work I hope to introduce you to someday soon: "You are growing so well inside and out. I'm proud of how you are growing, and I hope you are too."

Endless love, my little bean. Thank you for being such excellent company for the past twelve months. I can't wait to see who you become this year, and beyond.

Your loving
Zo
rosefox: Chocolate ice cream covered in snowflakes, with snow in the background (winter)
It's Yuletide! Hooray! I actually picked up two pinch hits this year because I was on vacation and the prompts spoke to me and why not? And then they ended up being 10,000 words combined. Which I wrote in eight days. D: I don't even know how I did that but it felt GREAT.

While we wait for the reveal, some fics I've loved so far:

ZOMBIE CANNIBAL SHIA LABEOUF. This is exactly the sort of bonkers amazingness that Yuletide is for. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8975062

I asked for trans!Ozma on the pinch hit requests page and didn't get it (maybe next year), but that reminded me to look through this year's Oz fics. This just barely slashy Ozma/Polychrome ficlet is super cute: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/9001966

Two queer suffragists show Dorothy around San Francisco and listen to her Oz stories. So sweet! And full of good SF history, too. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8886220

A wild Oz/Labyrinth/Princess Bride/Neverending Story/Narnia/Arthurian legend crossover. Wow. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8973598

For Fifth Season fans, pregnant Syenite and tender Innon and adorable poly negotiations: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8829922

And one of Alabaster learning about, uh, that spoilery silvery thing: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8873668

Someone wrote about Aral Vorkosigan asking Captain Awkward for advice because the world is beautiful: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8924812

This teeny little Craft Sequence fic is sly and subtle. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8876092

80s movies! You wanted sweet sassy sexy Ferris/Sloane/Cameron fic, right? Yes you did. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8879641

Lydia Deetz house-sits for the Addams Family: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8888698

And this 21st-century Heathers fic redeems Veronica in a rather lovely way. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8879437

I don't know The Handmaiden, but I beta'd this fic and it's gorgeous. Kinky queer girls finding happiness: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8974219

Hamilton and Ghostbusters crossover with Patty staring down Jefferson? Hell yes. Expect to see this one on a lot of rec lists. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8952964

Ghostbusters F/F/F/F is the definition of "I do not ship it" and I still thought this was super cute: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/9005827

There are THREE fics that mix Good Omens with "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and they're all pretty fun, though my favorite is (of course) the one with the footnotes, "Crowley and the Golden Fiddle": http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/tags/Good%20Omens%20-%20Neil%20Gaiman%20*a*%20Terry%20Pratchett/works

And there are two Hark! A Vagrant pirate/nemesis fics and both are ADORABLE. "Duel to be Kind" just slew me, if you'll pardon the expression: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/tags/Hark!%20A%20Vagrant/works

This adorable sexy postscript to The Grand Sophy is pitch-perfect: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8880568

I've got lots more bookmarked for future reading. If you feel like wandering around, the list of included fandoms is a good place to start.
9 December 2016 01:09 - "Out of order"
rosefox: A woman with words running through her head nonstop. (noisy brain)
This story has a happy ending.

What it's like to have OCD and misplace something )

Now I am going to take a nice relaxing hot shower and go to bed. And tomorrow I will still be in the universe where I have my sunglasses and at least that little part of everything will be okay.
3 December 2016 03:25 - "I heard there was a baby"
rosefox: An extremely delighted white toddler with messy hair beams at the camera. (kit)
Kit happenings today:

1) Our crib mattress board has three height options. It's been on the middle one since Kit was born; we got a thick mattress and a crib bumper that meant the top setting was never quite workable. Today they were sitting in the crib and pulled up to standing without any help, and I realized that the crib rail came up to only slightly higher than their waist. I promptly took them out of the crib and lowered the mattress to the lowest setting for safety. As soon as I put them back in, they figured out how to pull up to standing again, which is good—I really didn't want to respond to their accomplishment by making it harder for them to accomplish things. They generally seem quite happy with the change. Such an amiable child.

2) X pointed out that Kit really likes our laptops and phones because they see us using them so much, and suggested that we do more non-digital things with the baby. So this evening Kit and I cuddled up on the couch and read books together. We probably spent most of an hour like that, me reading an advance copy of Daniel José Older's Battle Hill Bolero (very good), Kit playing with and drooling on That's Not My Owl (they adore that whole series of books). Occasionally I'd take pictures or answer a text, and while my hands were occupied Kit would steal my book. They liked turning it upside down and tugging at the cover and opening it to the middle and attempting to eat it. I encouraged all these things except the last one. It was one of the best hours of my life.

This morning I got to bed late because the baby had woken up and all I wanted to do was spend time with them, and then I barely got any work done because the baby was home from daycare (J's parents were here in the morning and early afternoon) and all I wanted to do was spend more time with them. Right now they're fast asleep and I'm resisting the urge to go into their room and scoop them up; it's great that they're sleeping so well lately but it means we don't get our mid-night cuddle time and I miss it. I just can't get enough of this happy cuddly squeaky squealy serious hard-working baby.

Aw, they just woke up babbling happily and I could totally justify going in to cuddle them. But I don't want to go in because we're trying to encourage them to go back to sleep on their own when they wake up. Nnnngh. I knew parenting would take willpower but was not aware it would take this particular kind of willpower!

EDIT: They started to get fussy so I indulged in some cuddling. Such a good snuggly baby.
16 November 2016 23:58 - "You're taking a stand"
rosefox: This has been a consciousness-raising message from THE SISTERHOOD. Power to the oppressed. Stay strong, sister. (activism)
Tonight I went to a civil rights speak-out organized by Jesse Hamilton, my state senator. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually really useful!

Politics )

Hamilton is going to start holding monthly civil rights task force meetings, which I plan to attend. He said the next one is going to be specifically queer-focused. It's really nice to see non-queer people doing these things.

Bonus: a high school acquaintance was there and recognized me, so we caught up a bit and swapped contact info and like that. So I got everything I wanted out of it and then some.
14 November 2016 14:45 - "God damn it, you've got to be kind"
rosefox: A needle drawing thread that forms the word "Love". (love)
I have a thread on [personal profile] kaberett's love meme post if you feel like leaving me a comment. Lots of other good people are there too. Spread the love around. Also check out [personal profile] swan_tower's tikkun olam open thread.

I'm offering free training over Skype for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively call their elected representatives and ask them to support bills or otherwise take useful action. If you're interested, PM me. Feel free to let others know about this offer; it's available indefinitely.

I downloaded a URL blocker for Chrome and set Twitter and Tweetdeck to redirect to an eight-hour video of birdsong. It's doing wonders for my mental health. I also ate two full meals yesterday, took the baby to visit my mother for lots of intergenerational hugs, got a haircut, and solidly slept seven and a half hours. Now I just need the last of this head cold nose-cloggery to go away and I might actually start to feel human again.
10 November 2016 02:47 - "Where were you when—"
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (patriotism-dissent)
This userpic has never felt so apropos.

=====

Our plan for Election Day included a plan to make sure we ate dinner, and I am very glad for that, because I haven't managed to eat a full meal since. Maybe I'll be able to eat tomorrow.

I haven't cried. I guess I'm not shocked enough to cry. Or maybe I wasn't personally invested in Clinton enough to be devastated when she lost. I don't know. But whatever it is that's making people cry, I'm not experiencing it. I've been anxious all day in a sort of abstract way, and now I've talked to both my parents—the Clinton voter and the Trump voter—and somehow both those conversations calmed me way down. I can't explain why that's as true of talking to my father as it is of talking to my mother. Maybe because he couldn't actually bring himself to tell me he'd voted for Trump. He said, "Each of us knows how the other voted, so let's just leave it at that." My father's never shied away from a political conversation over a long lifetime of holding contrarian and often outrageous opinions. If even he feels abashed about this vote, maybe there's a little hope yet.

My mother, with six decades of leftist activism under her belt, assured me that this, too, shall pass. I needed to hear that, and hear the sincerity in her voice.

=====

I've been glad to see so many people posting to LJ/DW today. We need spaces like this to get all our many thoughts and feelings out.

I called in sick to work—I am actually sick with a dreadful head cold that just will not go away, which is the other part of why I'm not sleeping or eating well—and spent the day activisting on Twitter. Replicating some of that here just to get the various words out:

I'm really pleased to see so many white cishet people saying "We need to step up". Step 1: LISTEN TO THOSE WHO WERE ALREADY DOING THE WORK. Don't let your guilt or eagerness or habituation to privilege con you into thinking you lead this movement. The movement against white supremacy did not just begin today. It has been around for decades. Respect and follow those who are already in the know. Educate yourselves.

This thread points to a major area where white people need to do the work: talking with our white relatives. I will personally add the caveat that I know there's significant overlap between "my relatives who hold different political views" and "my relatives who are so toxic I can't safely interact with them" and I continue to support people in not interacting with relatives who are not safe to interact with. But if you can have those conversations without significant harm to yourself, do.

I guess it comes back to, again: if you are less vulnerable and marginalized, you need to do more of the work on behalf of those who can't. Challenge your Trump voter dad on behalf of the trans teen who can't safely come out to their Trump voter dad. Speak up in your Trump voter cousin's Facebook comments on behalf of the queer cousin who doesn't read Facebook anymore. If nothing else, you're telling the queer cousin who does still read Facebook (but never comments) that you're an ally for them.

If you can't or won't reach out to that Trump supporter in your family or social circle, maybe you can reach out to their kids. Tell the marginalized teens you know that you're there for them. Tell them directly and plainly. "I see you. I've got your back." If you suspect a conservative's kid is queer or trans, never EVER put them at risk—but do show them extra love. If you're a white parent, put your kid in the least segregated school you can find, and fight de facto school segregation in your city/town. Write letters in support of prosocial children's television. Tell Nickelodeon how much you love those gay dads on The Loud House. Buy #ownvoices children's and YA books and donate them to school libraries. And join campaigns against whitewashed, queerphobic, and transphobic children's media.

=====

Organizations that are doing useful things:
https://our100.org/ and its various signatories
https://www.hias.org/
http://www.bendthearc.us/
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
https://www.cair-ny.org/
https://www.lambdalegal.org

Donate if you can. If you can't, sign up for mailing lists and click every one of those petition links when they come through.

Some people are talking about writing to electors in swing states and urging them to break faith and vote for Clinton. I don't see the harm in attempting this, but it's important to remember that electors are ordinary citizens, not public officials, and that hunting down their home addresses or calling them is a really terrible idea and certain to be counterproductive. I think the best way to write to them would be via the state GOP office.

=====

This thread has good info on taking care of your mental health right now.

This is a useful illustrated guide to bystander intervention if you see someone being harassed in a public space.

This post has some interesting post-election thoughts. Not sure I agree with all of them, but I think they're worth reading.

The #TransLawHelp hashtag connects trans people with legal help if they'd like to get name or gender changes before Trump takes office. I've seen recommendations to prioritize getting a passport with the correct gender marker, as that's usually faster and easier than a name change and the passport can be updated with the new name later. Good info on that is here.

This post from someone in the U.K. is lovely and kind.

Some wise words from [livejournal.com profile] maryanndimand.

[personal profile] xtina is collecting suggestions on activism for introverts.

=====

I picked up Kit from daycare. Their daycare teacher (a Black woman) and I just stared at the babies with teary eyes for a bit. I told Kit, "Reagan was elected when I was two and I got through it. We'll get you through this."

"Really?" the teacher said. "I liked Reagan. I remember my grandma had Reagan things all over the house."

"I was in Greenwich Village," I said. "People had AIDS. No one was a Reagan fan."

And we looked at each other like "nothing's ever simple, huh?" and then talked about how we're going to take care of our kids.

It's horrible but true that there are people who didn't survive Nixon and Reagan and GWB, and there are people who won't survive Trump. All we can do is try to keep our communities together, to support our most vulnerable. Pay one another's bills when we have to. As an EMT once told me, you can't save them all. But you don't stop trying to save the ones you can. And we will keep making art and arguing ideas and having children and otherwise creating things that will live on after we're gone.

=====

I put a post up on Story Hospital about writing goals and deadlines in a time of strong emotions. It's nominally about NaNoWriMo, since I had a NaNo post to do and I think people doing NaNo are going to feel particularly stressed by the combination of deadline pressure and election fuckery, but it's pretty broadly applicable. I hope it helps someone.

I wish I felt up to writing tonight. I suspect Nathaniel and Algernon would be talking about the raid on the White Swan.

=====

This, too, shall pass. Let's do everything we can to make it pass faster and with minimal harm.
6 November 2016 23:37 - "A mixed bag"
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (zombie)
Today Kit had their first real playdate! It went great! )

=====

Yesterday was one of those days where you have to say "Everyone is fine" before talking about how the day went. But don't worry, everyone is fine )

=====

I am trying really hard not to think about the election. Really really hard. I have plenty of other things to think about. But it intrudes constantly.

I have phonebanked and texted and done everything I can to get the vote out for Clinton. I will do a little more tomorrow and Tuesday. I have researched all the down-ballot candidates (including the one who's on the judicial ballot by mistake). I have a plan to vote. I just need to remember to wear white.

I will be so glad when it's Wednesday and we can at least stop waiting for the results, whatever those results are.

=====

The Brooks Brothers shopping trip consisted of me walking into Brooks Brothers, saying "I don't belong here", and bursting into tears. The way Brooks Brothers does masculinity is really not the way I do it, for all sorts of reasons. Also, I couldn't bear the idea of letting their tailors anywhere near my body. On the way to the store I'd gotten really tense trying to figure out how to project the "right" sort of masculinity and when I realized that was impossible the tension kind of went boom. So we walked out again, and J will find some way to sell the gift card, and then we'll spend the money at Bindle & Keep or on getting good tailoring for the shirts I already have. In the meantime, I went to Express and got some really nice curve-hugging turtleneck sweaters in gorgeous colors. And then I ordered more sweaters from the Express website and a couple other things from H&M (they were on sale!) so now I have a fall femme wardrobe and am very pleased about that.

Ever since I decided not to go on T, I've been feeling very femme. I don't think it's coincidence.

=====

I'd hoped to use the DST change to get myself back on an earlier sleep schedule, but X was totally wiped today because of being up with the coughing teething baby all night last night after the whole ER happy fun times, and I'd gotten plenty of sleep, so I said I'd take the overnight shift. Staying up until 5 is much harder when 5 feels like 6. But J has just woken up, so I'm going to hand off the monitor and go fall asleep a whole lot.
rosefox: A white adult and a white toddler, both with flat caps on, grin at the camera. (me and kit)
Kit's getting over a cold, poor bean. They've held up very well through it but have endured a lot of snuffling and coughing. Last night they technically slept ten hours straight, but there was pretty frequent sleep-coughing and sleep-fussing. (I don't know what other people mean when they refer to babies as "fussing". We use it as an all-purpose term for any brief vocal complaint, the baby equivalent of "Ugh" or "This is bullshit!".)

Tonight I put them to bed as I usually do, and about five hours later they woke up and complained for a while. I waited to see whether they'd fall back asleep on their own, but instead they started coughing, which went on for a bit, so I went in and scooped them up and cuddled them under the fuzzy blanket that's one of our signals for "time to sleep". They tried to gnaw on my knuckle, so I gave them a pacifier; we've been mostly avoiding those while they're sick, because they have trouble breathing through their nose and the extra saliva makes them cough more, but sometimes they just need it to fall asleep. Once they'd settled back to drowsiness, I put them back in the crib and asked them to try falling asleep on their own.

This whole self-soothing thing is still relatively new. When they have trouble settling, I stroke their back and the back of their head (they insist on sleeping face down, stuffy nose be damned) to help ease the transition. Tonight they shifted around a bit and grumbled, so I stroked their back for a bit and then stepped quietly away—avoiding the creaky floorboard next to the crib is an art we are all gradually mastering—and waited to see whether they'd relax.

They reached a hand back and stroked their own head. Several times. Very gently. And then they tucked their hand under their face and fell asleep.
rosefox: A woman saying "Sorry... I don't see 'spontaneous fun' scheduled anywhere in here." (busy-bad)
Hi. It's been a while.

J's job rather unexpectedly ended at the beginning of October, and he's been pounding the pavement looking for a new one (and getting lots of interviews because he's awesome). I was sick for a week with a horrid intestinal thing and then had to put my annual best books lists together, which is always quite an undertaking. X has been in work crunch as well, and has been bringing their new boss up to speed. The baby has been absolutely lovely but also, well, a baby—and teething a lot, poor thing, which is no fun for anyone. The cats all needed their annual checkups and so did we, because last October was when we did the whirlwind round of all our doctors to get it out of the way before the baby arrived. I've barely been finding time to breathe, let alone chronicle all the busyness. But October is nearly over, and we're in the calm before the winter storm of holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.

The Story Hospital patron drive was a smashing success. I'm at 54 patrons, and it's not even the end of October yet! So I am definitely going to do NaNoWriMo posts and am very excited about it. I love this project so much. It just brings me pure joy.

I'm having one of those precious evenings where everyone is asleep and the washing machine is chugging away and there's nothing I need to do except keep an ear out for the baby. I could even go to bed early for a change, except that X has been fighting off the 24-hour cold virus I had on Thursday—it quite literally hit at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and was gone by 4:30 p.m. Friday—and really needs a full night's sleep. So I'll stay up until J gets up, just like old times.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend in Boston with [twitter.com profile] emilytheslayer and [twitter.com profile] ordquelu. It was my first time away from the baby. And I slept. Oh, how I slept. I entirely ignored the deadline looming over me. I hung out with my hosts, we went shopping at Goodwill for fall femmewear (a previously unnoticed deficit in my wardrobe), I did some knitting, I phonebanked a bit, and I slept. The second night there, I ran out of things to do around 1 a.m., so I decided to start getting ready for bed. I was in bed with the lights out by 2:30. And then I slept until nearly noon. It was magnificent.

Of course then I came home and stayed up until 10 a.m. meeting my deadline. (I am very pleased with my selections.) And since then there have been a few up-until-6 nights. But I think it's gradually getting better. It was so good to be reassured that I can still go to bed that early. Apparently I'm much less anxious about needing to be awake in case something baby something something when I'm a few hundred miles away from the baby. And the baby was perfectly fine while I was away (though my spouses were extremely happy to have me come back and resume my share of babycare duties). So on those nights when I feel the anxious urge to stay awake, I remind myself that if I were in Boston everything would be fine, and therefore I can sleep.

I joked today that six months from now I'll be writing a clickbait article called "How Sleep-Training My Baby Cured My Sleep Disorder". It's kind of true, though. Every time I say things like "Your bed is a nice place to sleep" and "It feels good to rest" and "The clock says it's sleep time now" I feel like I'm talking to myself. I've also been feeling a lot of regressive urges to have someone tuck me in or cuddle me to sleep. Maybe it's time to finally replace my dear departed teddy bear, which the cats kneaded into threadlessness. I try not to entirely indulge my parenthood-induced regressions—and incidentally I am so glad my therapist warned me to prepare for those, because otherwise I'd be totally baffled by what seem like random bouts of feeling like a little kid—but when they don't require anything from anyone else or do me any harm, why not?

On the more adult front, I have killed an unexpected amount of time contemplating tomorrow's long-awaited shopping trip to Brooks Brothers. I'd been meaning to get a suit, and have a $900 gift card that will very nearly suffice for that purpose. (Brooks Brothers suits: not cheap.) But I hardly ever have a reason to wear a suit, and for $900 I could get a sport coat, a waistcoat, a pair of very nice trousers, and two or three shirts, all tailored to fit me, all of which I would wear frequently. I already have a sport coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and shirts, but they're nearly all secondhand and the fit is far from perfect, so upgrading is not a bad idea. I'm also undecided as to whether to present as my indefinable self or as a trans guy. Probably won't wear a binder, but probably will bring one with me, though the very wise [twitter.com profile] ifthenelsa pointed out that a shirt or jacket that fits me at my bustiest will also fit me if I'm binding, whereas the reverse is not true. And I should bring my elevator shoes, because if I get a suit I will want the trousers tailored for the 3" lift. So many factors to factor in!

The thought of hauling around my elevator shoes (which are somewhat heavy) is enough to put me off of getting a suit, actually. I guess that tells me where my priorities are. And when I was wandering around the Brooks Brothers site, I liked the look of the sport coats and trousers much more than the low-end suits. (I also started coveting a $300 skirt, but I can get skirts anywhere.) Okay then, waistcoats and shirts and sport coat, and maybe trousers if I find some I really like. No binder, no lifts.

The baby woke up just now and needed to be cuddled back to sleep, and that is beautifully simple. I nearly fell asleep myself as they snored on my lap. The need to teach Kit good sleep habits (and to spare my neck the ache from sleeping in the rocking chair) won out over the urge to stay like that until dawn, but it was a close call.

I was going to knit for a bit, as a thing to do to stay awake, but I'm too sleepy now and it would be all dropped stitches. And it's 4:30, so J will be up soon. I will do my bedtime things, and by the time they're done he'll be awake and I can actually go to bed. And then I will sleep a whole lot.
27 October 2016 00:01 - "I believe in you!"
rosefox: Origami boxes. (helpful)
I'm doing a Patreon patron drive on Story Hospital, my advice column for writers! If I get to 50 patrons by the end of October, I'll do four EXTRA posts in November, one per week, with advice specifically aimed at people who are doing NaNoWriMo. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a big challenge and I want to give those writers some support.

I'm totally fine with people signing up as patrons just for one month (though of course I hope you'll stick around!) and the minimum pledge is just $1 for the entire month. And if we make the goal, all the NaNoWriMo advice posts will be made public on the main Story Hospital site, though my patrons will get to see them early. So even if you can't chip in, feel free to subscribe to the site, ask a question or three, and share your favorite posts with your friends who write.

If you like the site and are interested in supporting it, please become a patron and/or spread the word about the patron drive. We've already gone from 39 to 45 patrons in just a few days, and I think we can make this happen by October 31!

(Proper personal journal entry to come soon, I hope. It's been a very hectic month over here.)
rosefox: Me pulling hair away from my face, trying to see. (confused)
The other night I dreamed I wrote a book and forgot entirely that I had done so. Blocked it out of my head. So when [livejournal.com profile] mrissa said "I read an ARC of your book and it's pretty good" I was utterly confused. And then she said "But there were some problems with the way you portrayed the Middle Eastern market" and I was even more confused. I felt bad that I had committed racefail and I couldn't really fix it because I didn't remember writing it.

Then there was a lengthy dream scene about rolling up RPG characters. The DM wanted us all to have 200 [something] but the base character I picked from the book only had 60 [something] so we agreed that on any day when I was in a bad mood I'd get an extra hit die because I hit harder when I'm grumpy.

We started playing the game, and I guess we were LARPing because I started doing a folk dance with five of the other players. We danced in pairs and I mostly remembered the steps from my country dance days but it was hard to keep track of the steps and play my character at the same time. My dance partner was much better at it than I was and kept gently reminding me not to keep my legs so straight because this was a different era than the one I was used to dancing in.

In character I was snooty with racist undertones to the other characters who were dancing and as myself I felt bad about it. "Feel bad about racism but have plausible deniability" was apparently the dream theme. Ew. >.<

The dream ended with a giant Jewish holiday dinner with lots of friends and friends of friends. [livejournal.com profile] rose_lemberg and [livejournal.com profile] prezzey called to tell us all that they were getting married, except their child actually made the call because he wanted to and they thought it would be fun to let him. It was very sweet. And the more observant Jews at the table taught me some interesting things about holidays and fine points of observance and schisms and so on.

And then I woke up, wondering how I managed to write an entire book and forget.
rosefox: A painting of a peaceful garden. (peace)
I wrote this last year, on October 2:

All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.

My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.


Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.

I was right: it's perfect.
rosefox: My hand with my wedding ring prominently displayed. (wedding ring)
Tonight my therapist made me cry in a good way. I was talking about the cycle of "I gotta do the work/chores" "but I don't wanna" "but I gotta" "but I don't wanna". He said, "That's the cranky kid and the authoritarian parent, but where's the third voice? The compassionate parent?"

"Oh," I said. "That's the one I call my wife." (I've decided I'm not going to poke at why my wife is still my wife even though I'm NB-identified now. It's just how it is.)

"Where's she?"

"...I forget to look for her."

"Well, try inviting her into these conversations."

Oh right, being kind and compassionate to myself, I forgot about that.

So, some things my brain is telling me lately, and things I can say back to it with kindness and compassion:

I don't want to do work right now.
"I'm sorry it's hard. It needs to get done, even though it's hard. And once you start it will be easier and go faster than you think, and then you'll be free of the burden of needing to do it."

I have so much to do and I don't want to do any of it because there is so much.
"It sounds like you're tired and need to go to bed. When you're rested you'll be more confident, more efficient, and better able to prioritize."

I can't go to bed. I have too much to do.
"Right now, while you're as awake as you're going to get, do anything that has a real serious deadline between now and noon tomorrow. Then go to bed. You can do the rest after you get some sleep."

I can't sleep. Something bad might happen to the baby.
"You're not on duty overnight anymore. X has the monitor on and reliably wakes up when the baby makes noise. J is getting up in a few hours. The baby is very healthy and will be totally fine. Also, it needs to be normal and okay for you to sleep while Kit is sleeping instead of hovering over them and fretting. Let's practice that tonight--just do it once to see how it goes. Remember that the last time you went to sleep before J got up, everything was fine."

I don't think you understand. SOMETHING BAD might HAPPEN to the BABY.
"The vanishingly unlikely worst-case scenario is that J wakes up, discovers something is wrong, and wakes you and lets you know. And that would be horrible, but you have survived other horrible things and you would survive that too."

There was another two-voice scenario that should be three. When I'm getting things done during the day, I feel like "This is very challenging and I'm totally on top of it!", but when I'm flopped on the couch after dinner, all I can think is "There's so much to do and I feel it on top of me like a weight". The third voice there isn't agitated or despondent but calm and relaxed, both capable of doing things that need doing and fully present for times of rest and fun. I'm not sure what to do to get there, though. Having less to do would help, but isn't going to happen anytime soon. I will think more on that.

In the meantime, I'm going to pet my cat (I've been home from the office for three hours and she just came into my room yelling WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN because she is oblivious) and then talk myself into going to bed. Maybe even before J wakes up.
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (tired)
I have been tweeting only a bit, and posting here not at all. I have some draft posts saved as text files, which is very unusual for me, but I've been too wiped out to finish any thoughts that are longer than a paragraph or two. So here, have some random catch-up blather.

The baby's great--eight months old now and much more interactive, so I'm enjoying time with them a lot more. Story Hospital is going really well and I'm really enjoying doing it. (Ask me questions!) My arms are doing super duper great and I have officially graduated from occupational therapy; I can stir pots and write by hand and carry shopping bags and fold laundry and all sorts of exciting things like that. I have been hoping to try knitting again but haven't managed to find the time. The weather is finally cooling down, which means we can cook in our kitchen and eat in our dining room and stand to touch one another for more than two seconds at a time. This is doing wonders for our feelings of family togetherness.

J and I have started shared therapy for some longstanding issues around physical intimacy that we just were not managing to tackle successfully on our own, and it's going fantastically well, but it's also bringing up a lot of feelings I have about my body that I had been mostly ignoring. One outgrowth of this is that I'm hoping to make an appointment for a consultation with Zil Goldstein at Mt. Sinai Hospital's new Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery to discuss low-dose testosterone supplementation. I also bought some shiny new men's shoes, including a pair with lifts in them, which I've been wanting for years. They are fancy shoes for fancy occasions, same as my femme high heels, so don't expect me to be 5'7" all the time--my knees would never forgive me--but I'm really glad to have them for when I want them.

I am, as always, struggling with workload and time management. I keep staying up until 5 a.m., or even later (today I went to bed at the appalling hour of seven ack emma), even though I don't need to anymore; months on that schedule got it into my head that 5 a.m. is when I stop being responsible for the baby and am allowed to go to bed, and even though I'm now permitted to turn X's monitor on after either Kit's mid-night feeding or 2 a.m. (whichever comes first), I still find myself staying awake way past that. I am so tired, all the time. I want to go to bed earlier. I want to sleep more. I don't know what to do about this. I keep rejiggering my schedule and setting up alarms and nothing works.

And here it is 3 a.m. and I haven't done any work yet tonight. And I need to take the trash out. I will go do that first, and hope that moving around helps me wake up enough to do at least some editing and then go get a lot of sleep.
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
Year meme thing from [personal profile] sfred. Year: 2003.

Age then: I turned 25 in June 2003.
Age now: 38.

Relationships then: I was partnered with Josh and Jen and Joe, and pursuing X like my life depended on it (I sort of felt like it did). "Just the N of Us" was starting to coalesce, and in particular I was building a wonderful friendship with Kathleen. I had become very close with Liz and David. I could not possibly count or name all the people I was on smooching terms with. The N in "Just the N of Us" was really not a joke; I think it was 7 <= N <= 13 with considerable variation over the course of two years. And there were many non-JTNOU people in my life as well, both platonic and not. I was a social butterfly and loved it.

Relationships now: Happily married to Josh and X; happily parenting Kit. The last time I smooched someone who wasn't Josh or X was... uh... years ago? It's been a while, certainly. The baby has made it hard to do evening social things like the KGB readings, so these days I'm focusing on maintaining and building on existing connections. I Skype regularly with Kathleen, Miriam, and Graham; hang out in Slack with the Subtlefriends; and get as much in-person time with Tea and Veronica as I can. My interest in relationship categorization has gone from "not much" to "zero", so that's really all I can say about that.

Where I lived then: San Francisco. In May I moved out of Kiri and Doug's grubby Sunset District walk-up and spent a month in a lovely little room-to-let with all my stuff in storage; I'd begun rental-hunting with Josh and Jen and Mik based on my lease ending in June, but my roommates broke the lease and moved out a month early, and I couldn't afford to pay a full month's rent on my own. In June the four of us moved into a much nicer* four-bedroom house in Glen Park. I had a downstairs bedroom with one small window and an enormous built-in closet. Other than the boring beige carpeting, it was basically my ideal room. The upstairs had two big open social rooms where we put mattresses on the floor and lined the walls with bookshelves. It was pretty great.

* This was before it became infested with rats and J's bedroom ceiling developed horrible mold and the cat brought in fleas from the garden and we discovered that our landlord was a useless asshat. And even with all those things it was arguably nicer than the walk-up.

Where I live now: Brooklyn. Josh and X and Kit and I have a four-bedroom apartment that's genuinely lovely without any asterisks or caveats. My room here has a slightly larger window and a much smaller closet, but hardwood floors count for a lot, and the window looks out onto trees. We sprawl on the pull-out couch instead of the floor and the walls are still lined with bookshelves (some of the same ones, even). The kitchen is VASTLY superior, the landlords are splendid, and there are no infestations at all. I hope we stay here a good long time.

Was I happy then: Often. In a post from June 2003, I wrote (rather defensively), "I'm happier than I can remember being, I'm doing a fucking fantastic job of completing my recovery from devastating emotional trauma, I've met the only real lifetime goal I've ever consistently had--a wonderful house full of happy friends--a full decade before I expected to have a chance at trying for it, I treat myself well and require the same from those I associate with, I never indulge my bad habits to the point of damaging myself or others, and I'm completely and fully satisfied with the life I live except for not being in New York and not being near [livejournal.com profile] australian_joe. I am happy and satisfied, and those who choose to rely on me for support of any kind have no complaints." I was surrounded by lovely people who liked me, and was starting to really recover from grief and disordered eating. I quit school after a year of studying architecture, which I was a little sad about, but I got my job at LegalMatch, which I really liked even though it stressed me out a lot (and eventually wrecked my arms, but that didn't happen until 2004). I was full of hopes and dreams. By the end of the year the dreams were starting to get a little worn around the edges ("I don't think I'm cut out for living with anyone full-time," I wrote in December. "Not unless it's a mansion and each of us gets a wing") but on the whole it was a pretty good year.

Am I happy now: Often, and in a way that feels much more sustainable and anchored in reality.

If you'd like me to pick a year for you to post about, leave a comment.
12 August 2016 21:20 - "The least among you"
rosefox: A little blonde girl in a men's shirt and tie and a black skirt, with a glued-on mustache (genderqueer)
The National Center for Trans Equality asked me to take action on behalf of trans students. So I wrote a letter to New York State's schools commissioner.

Dear Commissioner Elia:

I'm writing to you as a transgender New Yorker who attended NYC public schools, and as a mentor for trans youth, to ask you to please create and implement trans-positive policies for all of New York's schools.

Trans children are especially vulnerable to bullying and discrimination. For trans teens, puberty can be horrifying and traumatic. New York's schools need all-gender toilet facilities so that questioning and non-binary teens don't have to pick a gender or a presentation in order to safely and comfortably use the bathroom, and they need a directive from the state level affirming that it's imperative to permit students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. They need teachers who know how to respond when a student changes their name or pronouns. They need school counselors who are educated in the needs of trans kids and will support them through the daunting process of coming out to peers, teachers, and family, or through the anxiety of needing to remain closeted for their safety. They need school nurses who will help them access gender-affirming medical care or just take their meds on time. They need safety officers who have been trained to respect students' genders even when those students misbehave. They need administrative staff who know to greet them by their correct names, even if those aren't the names in the database. And they need peers who have learned in school, both from the curriculum and from watching the adults they look up to, that being trans is totally normal and that teasing and bullying trans students is unacceptable.

I have often found myself in the position of having to educate people around me on how to interact with me. It's exhausting and sometimes scary. We should never place that burden on a child. The burden is on you, Commissioner, to properly train school personnel and make sure that all of New York's schools, from the wealthiest suburb to the poorest neighborhood, have the facilities these students need. It's on you to create trans-affirming school curricula. These students need you to lead the way--not to make them beg for something so basic as being able to use the bathroom.

A new school year is coming. Please help make it a safe one for trans students so they can dedicate themselves to learning and making friends, just like any other student.

Thank you,
Rose Fox

If you're in the U.S., please send your own letter through NCTE's site--they'll find the address for you and even make some suggestions about what to say--to support trans students in your state.
5 August 2016 21:02 - "IT'S ALIVE"
rosefox: A "plant" of connected dots sprouting from a pot. (creativity)
https://www.patreon.com/storyhospital
https://storyhospital.com/

Story Hospital is an advice column published on four Tuesdays a month. Each column answers a writer's question about their work in progress. These columns are focused on the craft and practice of writing. I don't tell you how to get an agent or quit your day job; I get right into the heart of the relationship between the author and the work.

Please feel free to share either or both of those links around. :D I am very nervous and excited! I've never done a Patreon thing before. And this project relies heavily on people sending in questions--if they don't do that, I'm kind of sunk. But people are becoming patrons already, and tweeting lots about it (I unlocked my Twitter account so that my announcement tweet could be retweeted), and I am optimistic.
2 August 2016 00:49 - "I can help the next in line"
rosefox: Origami boxes. (helpful)
I'm thinking of starting an advice column for writers. Specifically, a writer would write in and say "Here are the problems I'm having with my current work in progress!" and I'd give them advice on handling those problems. Examples:

"I keep revising the beginning instead of moving on to the next part of the book."
"My fun side character is trying to take over my serious story."
"I wrote down this dream but it doesn't have any plot and I don't know how to turn it into something people want to read."
"I never feel like I've hit the point of 'I've done enough research, time to start writing.'"
"My characters are great but my plot is floundering."
"My plot is great but my characters are boring."

A lot of writers struggle with very similar problems. I think the answers to even fairly specific questions will be interesting and useful to a wide audience.

My plan is to make one post a week and use Patreon on a per-post basis (rather than a monthly basis) so that no one feels robbed if I have to take a week off; I have a baby and a full-time job and I want to treat this as a freelance gig rather than as a second salaried gig.

Where I need help is with figuring out Patreon backer levels and perks. If you were supporting an advice column, what would you expect to get for $1, $2, or $5 per post? Would you be interested in early content (see next week's column this week), bonus content (extra advice, videos, cat pics), personal connections with the creator (your question goes in a priority question queue, postcards with pithy words of support or advice, feedback on your WIP), or some other reward for backing at a higher level? Can you think of any reason you'd back at a level higher than $5, keeping in mind that posts are going up weekly?

Also, Patreons can have goals, like "If I reach $100 per post, I will answer two questions a week instead of one!". What goals would you expect to see and find motivating on an advice column?

I've found these advice columns on Patreon that are doing fairly well:

https://www.patreon.com/TheAngryGM
https://www.patreon.com/mkirin

If you know of any others, please let me know!
1 August 2016 13:45 - "I'm with her"
rosefox: The words "I'M one of THEM and I VOTE". (politics)
Hillary Clinton's campaign just asked me why I donated to her. Here's what I told them (using "Hillary" instead of "Clinton" because that's the campaign's language):

I'm queer, transgender, and raising a seven-month-old. I don't want my child to grow up worrying about my safety, or scared that our family will be torn apart, or angry because the government denies us our rights. I'm counting on Hillary to make the United States safe for me and my family, and to support services for families that don't discriminate against any parents or children.

We're a white family living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, an overwhelmingly black and low-income neighborhood with many immigrants, some of whom are undocumented. The public and private schools are heavily segregated, as they are all over the city, which is detrimental to children of all races. My neighbors struggle to pay their bills, fight predatory landlords, and worry more about police harassment than about violent crime. I'm counting on Hillary to protect my neighbors from aggressive cops, promote racial integration in schools (if you don't think that's a 21st-century issue, you aren't paying attention), and find ways to redistribute wealth and help undocumented immigrants stay here legally so that these families can stay together and thrive.

I am disabled. I'm fortunate to have a job but often struggle to get my work done because I'm limited and in pain. I'd drop to part-time hours but I can't afford to, because we have to pay for childcare. And many disabled people can and want to work but have to keep their incomes and assets artificially low so they can receive essential services. A lot of the rhetoric at the convention focused on the idea that if you work, you shouldn't have to live in poverty. But NO ONE should have to live in poverty, including people who don't or can't work. I'm counting on Hillary to champion universal basic income in the United States so that disabled people are no longer caught in this horrible trap, and so that we can proudly say that in our nation, no one is poor.

Trump is terrible. But I'm not just voting against him--I'm voting for Hillary. And I plan to hold her accountable to her voters and her public.
1 August 2016 02:37 - "The most tired"
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (zombie)
The funeral went as well as a funeral can. J's family is splendid, even in the midst of sorrow. [twitter.com profile] pablod was tremendously kind and drove us there and back. X handled babycare while I supported J. It was hard, but not intolerable, and I'm very glad we went. And [personal profile] metaphortunate was totally right: a baby is one of the best things you can bring to a funeral. Kit was a little overwhelmed at times but mostly their smiley sociable self and quite happy to be smooched and dandled by cousins they'd never met, and their big grins really lightened people's hearts. Also they gave us an excuse to leave when we got wiped out. (And we put them in pajamas before driving home and managed our first-ever car seat–to-crib transfer with a minimum of fuss, because they are the very best baby.)

To get very petty for a moment: someday I would like a vacation where nothing bad happens. I'm 0 for the past 3. But having spent the first week of my vacation on unexpected grief and funeral travel planning, I am at least going to spend the second week of it on being on vacation.
29 July 2016 22:11 - "Her memory for a blessing"
rosefox: A needle drawing thread that forms the word "Love". (family)
Josh's grandmother, Trudy Zeidman, has died following a short bout of illness. She was nearly 93 and had lived a full, long life, traveling the world many times and refusing to be bound by notions of what women or older people couldn't or shouldn't do. She was alert and sharp to the end, and determined to get better, even when she was very ill; a week ago J and I visited her (and Skyped in X and Kit, which I am tremendously glad we could do) and she insisted she was going to be at Kit's kindergarten graduation. She outlived two husbands and is survived by two children and their spouses, three grandchildren and their spouses, and four great-grandchildren, all of whom she adored passionately.

Trudy welcomed me into her family with open arms. Whenever I told her how lucky I was to have J, she retorted, "HE'S lucky to have YOU!" At our wedding, as soon as the ceremony was over, she heckled us until we kissed. She was boisterous and vigorous and opinionated. And she was always willing to change her mind in the direction of being more kind and open-hearted, whether that meant accepting that her daughter was marrying a Japanese man (a big deal to a Jewish woman who lived through WWII), accepting her children's gay friends, or accepting that her youngest great-grandchild was born out of wedlock. She was the life of the party at our baby shower, visited us after Kit was born, and said over and over again that Kit was fortunate to be so loved by so many people; we maintained the fiction of X being our "roommate", but we're pretty sure she knew what was up and didn't care at all as long as there was love and happiness. I'm so glad X and I got to know her a little, and got to introduce her to Kit.

photo )
Four generations: Trudy, Glory, Josh, and Kit. Photo by Erika Kapin.

Rest in peace, Trudy. Thank you for all the laughs and love.
26 July 2016 05:00 - "It's one of those lazy days"
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (relaxed)
I'm on vacation! For two whole weeks! I hardly know what to do with myself. But here is a list of things that I would like to at least think about doing:

* sleep
* do some writing, or at least continue working in my writing journal
* spend time with friends
* phonebank for Hillary Clinton because when Michelle Obama says to get to work, I get to work
* take Kit to visit my mother and J's relatives
* maybe start a Patreon-based advice column for writers, if that seems like a thing anyone would be interested in
* read
* meditate
* sleep

Despite the prominence of sleep on this list, it is difficult to keep my sleep schedule intact when I'm not working. I mean, it's hard enough when I am working and even harder when I'm not. But I'm going to do my best. Yesterday I stayed up until 7:30 in the morning, which was a bit excessive, but I think I can drag myself back from that an hour or two at a time.

I wish the weather were at all conducive to going outside and walking around. I just renewed my membership at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens but I can't enjoy it in this oppressive heat, and today's storm was so fierce that even I didn't want to be out in it (though it was lovely to watch from indoors). Maybe next week it will be cool enough for me to take a couple of long walks.

Now that I have Zipcar membership again, it's very tempting to drive somewhere upstate or out on Long Island where there're lots of trees and it's cooler and the air has more oxygen. But if I do something like that I think I'll probably take the train; it's easier on my arms and more eco-friendly even if I do always rent a Prius. I just really like driving. And I'm much more comfortable with it now that I've done the drive back from Readercon. I drove out to New Jersey this past weekend to visit J's grandmother and it was amazingly easy. Anything less than six hours of evening/night driving with the baby in the back of the car feels like a piece of cake.
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (patriotism-dissent)
Trump made a scary speech last night. Today Max Gladstone had some passionate thoughts on not being immobilized by that fear.

This is really, really important. It's JULY. Stop acting like Trump's already won!

I understand being scared. Take a day and feel the fear. Then let it power you into positive action.

Last night a friend asked what I thought they should be doing to prepare for helping people if Trump wins, which I guess meant "should we furnish our attic for the next Anne Frank" or something. I told them that I have the energy to either phonebank for Clinton or become a President Trump prepper, but not both. So I'm going to phonebank for Clinton.

(Is she perfect? No, obviously not. But she's not a dangerous fascist, and Trump is, so Clinton's got my vote and my activism. That seems pretty straightforward to me.)

Also, I refuse to treat fascism as the tipping point for helping those in need. Help the people who are in need now, and who will be that much worse off under a Trump presidency. The institutional equivalent of your furnished attic is your local shelter; perhaps you could give them some time or money. Or donate to the Ali Forney Center; while Trump makes grotesque claims about loving abstract theoretical LGBTQ people, the Ali Forney Center is helping real actual queer kids who've been kicked out by their families. Or fight felony disenfranchisement, which horribly skews the demographics of who can vote. Or support organizations helping Syrian refugees to counter Trump calling them all future terrorists, or tear down his wall before he can put it up by supporting organizations for just and humane border practices on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has so many odious policies and positions that there are a hundred different ways you can push back against them, so pick one that calls to you.

And phonebank for Clinton*--you can do it right now from your home, so throw a phonebanking party or make five quick calls before work every day or whatever suits you--or volunteer locally. Give money and/or time to the Democrats or MoveOn or Avaaz or your preferred organization. As Max says, don't let the fuckers think they already own tomorrow.

It
is
JULY

and we have four months to win this. That is not a lot of time, but it's enough time as long as we don't pause too long to wallow in despair.

Don't furnish your attic toward an inevitable fascist tomorrow. Fight NOW so that no one needs to hide in an attic ever again.

P.S. Lots of people have been dropped from voter rolls. Check your registration right now. Re-register if you need to. And then register your friends and neighbors and relatives. And then help them get to the polls, or make their postal votes. And bring your kids to the polls with you so they can see democracy in action and learn that when they're old enough voting will be important for them to do. We need all hands on deck, now and in the future--the future that we get to shape.

* You may need to disable ad blockers to get the Clinton phonebank page to work.

Feel free to share the link to this post as widely as you like.
rosefox: A tentacle monster saying "woogie. now i'm all weak-kneed.". (faint)
ALEXIS HALL'S FOR REAL WON A RITA AWARD

AND THEN SARINA BOWEN AND ELLE KENNEDY'S HIM WON ANOTHER ONE

AND I MAY NEVER TURN MY CAPS LOCK OFF

RWA approved the creation of the Rainbow Chapter in 2009. 2009. It took them that long to openly acknowledge that queer romance is romance. And now, in 2016, TWO male/male romances, one of them written by a queer author and published by a queer publisher for a queer audience and one of them in a contemporary romance category, are winners of the organization's highest award.

The contemporary romance thing is key because queer romance is often assumed to be erotic, or treated as though it's erotic just because it has queer content. So winning both within and outside of the erotic romance category is a big deal. And the Ritas are voted on by RWA members, most of whom are straight women who have probably never read anything remotely like the glorious queer kinkiness of For Real.

Hall's editor, [livejournal.com profile] sarahf, gave a particular shout-out to #ownvoices authors, "queer and trans, black and brown". (Was that the first time anyone's ever said "trans" onstage at RWA? It might well have been.) And Sarah is a cancer survivor and a good friend of mine and so passionate about her work, and has put an incredible amount of effort and energy into making her small queer romance press succeed, and this is their first Rita, so yeah, I was sobbing.

Robyn Carr, who won this year's lifetime achievement award, gave an amazing inspiring speech about keeping your head down and doing the work. And last night I picked up my writing notebook for the first time in nearly two months and read a bit in The Plot Whisperer, and one particular bit in the section on story structure inspired me to fix the giant gaping hole in my novel outline. (I know what the characters' problems are and I know what the eventual solution is. So what makes that solution so incredibly difficult for the characters to accept and invest themselves in? What psychological cliff do they have to step over? OH HELLO EMOTIONAL CLIMAX scribble scribble scribble) What with that and Readercon and seeing a book that looks a little like my book win an actual goddamn Rita motherfucking Award, I am pretty fired up.
rosefox: a green and white highway sign that says THIS LANE FOR ROSE (driving)
Here is some advice on road trips with babies!

Driving

* A friend recommended putting the baby in overnight diapers to prevent rashes from lots of sitting and keep the baby from complaining between stops. We ended up not doing this because Kit doesn't really complain about wet/dirty diapers; we just stopped every two hours to give them a break from the car seat (which is very important to do) and changed them then. That said, they did start to get a bit of diaper rash redness by the end of the trip, so if you don't use super-absorbent diapers, I recommend applying diaper rash ointment proactively/preventively.

* If possible, stop at restaurants rather than highway rest stops. It's so much easier and nicer to change the baby in a restaurant bathroom than in a noisy, crowded rest stop bathroom where a dozen high-velocity hand dryers make a horrible noise that makes the baby scream, and restaurant food is better and tastier than rest stop fast food. Second-best option for a quick change: stop at a Babies R Us or similar baby supply store, which is guaranteed to have a well-appointed changing room.

* Expect each stop to somehow take at least 30 minutes even if all you're doing is changing the baby and giving them a little wriggle time. (Pack a picnic blanket you can lay out on a table or a bench or that little strip of sorry grass next to the parking lot.)

* Bring a few extra layers of clothing for the baby so you don't feel any urge to drape a blanket over the car seat even if you're cranking up the air conditioning in the car.

* If your kid isn't yet weaned, you may want a policy of only feeding liquids in the car so you don't have any concerns about choking hazards. Obviously you should NEVER EVER breastfeed in the car. Apparently this is a thing people do? Don't do it. Bottle-feed in motion, or breastfeed at a rest stop.

* Pack your regular diaper bag with everything you'd need for a day trip and have it handy for rest stops. If someone's sitting in the back seat with the baby (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) they can also dip into it for toys, pacifiers, etc. en route. You won't need many toys with a young baby; they'll mostly want to look around and sleep. (And you'll mostly want them to sleep.)

* Have a prepared playlist of music that's soothing for the baby but not soporific for the driver. Ella Fitzgerald singing heartbreak songs was perfect for putting Kit to sleep while I stayed alert.

* If no one's in the back seat, consider getting a car seat mirror so you can occasionally glance back and make sure all's well. But they can be major distractions, so use with caution.

* Don't be afraid of side roads and alternate routes, even if they slow you down a bit. It's more soothing for the baby if you drive steadily at 40 MPH than if you sit in stop-and-go traffic on the interstate.

* We got these cling-on window shades and they worked perfectly: easy to put on when it was sunny and take down in the evening, effective at shading the baby. They're great for rental cars and safe in accidents (unlike shades with metal edges).

* Consider a car seat protector to keep the area under and around the car seat clean. It's especially useful if your kid is at the Cheerios-scattering age, or if you're worried about damage to car upholstery. Waterproof car seat liners are vital for kids prone to spit-up, diaper leakage, or toilet training accidents. Get two so if the one in the car seat is soiled mid-trip, you can swap it out.

Overnight stays

* If you're staying in a hotel and storing breast milk or pre-made formula in the room's mini-fridge, bring a fridge thermometer to make sure the fridge is at an adequately cold temperature. Remember to pack a little travel bottle of dish detergent and a bottle brush for washing bottles.

* Graco Pack 'n' Play travel cribs are the awesome. They're easy to set up and take down, and they work as playpens and/or changing stations during the day as well as cribs at night. Kit's regular crib at home is a mini crib, so we bring their mattress and sheets along. If that's not an option for you, get a thin mini-crib mattress (takes up barely any space) and some mini-crib sheets and mattress pads that you launder a few times to give them that familiar smell; your baby will sleep much better surrounded by the scents of home.

* Get a travel humidifier for use in hotel rooms, which always have extremely dry air.

* Expect to have two duffel bags worth of stuff for the baby even just for a weekend. Diapers take up a lot of space, especially cloth (disposables have the advantage of not coming home with you). So does bedding, and you'll want extra in case of spit-up. Kit's very drooly right now because of teething and we went through two bibs and four to six burp cloths a day. Bring a laundry bag to make it easy to tell what's clean and what's not.

* Traveling with cloth diapers is a challenge. We used a Planet Wise hanging wet/dry bag for Kit's cloth diapers and it was fantastic--there was no smell leakage at all, even after days on the road, so we could just throw it in the trunk of the car with the suitcases. A smaller wet/dry bag with five diapers went in the diaper bag and was equally useful.

* Don't forget to bring a stroller or carrier for toting the baby around outside the car. A car seat frame may seem tempting, but your kid's already spending a lot of time in the car seat, and it's better for them if you can change it up a bit.

* Pack a first aid kit that includes gas drops, your antihistamine of choice, Tylenol, saline spray/drops and a snot-sucker, and a thermometer. If your kid gets a cold or has an allergic reaction mid-trip, you'll want all your vital supplies on hand. Calamine lotion is great if you're anticipating bug bites.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I am happy to answer questions about anything I missed!
rosefox: "My body is sick JUST because my brain is upset! This is SO STUPID." (anxiety)
We went to Readercon and we are home.

Things that went wrong (a partial list) )

And yet despite all this, we had a genuinely very good time. J's mother came to the con and was immensely helpful with Kit. J and I both did several panels that went well, and I got to have the baby on my lap for part of the "Writing While Parenting" panel. My "Story Hospital" experiment was largely successful, though there are definitely ways it could be improved. X remembered how much they like socializing (sometimes) (with the right people). I got to tell Tim Powers how much Last Call means to me. We got to see old friends and meet internet friends, most especially the luminous [livejournal.com profile] mrissa; it wasn't a year for making new friends, but that's fine, there will be other years for that. We finally introduced Kit to [twitter.com profile] roddenberrypie, who absolutely lit up. Lots and lots of people cooed over the baby, who smiled at everyone despite teething pain and crowds and loudness--I was especially charmed by [twitter.com profile] ninocipri's gasps and exclamations over Kit's cuteness ("How DARE that baby!"). Our usual little room party was a little subdued because we were so tired, but we still got to introduce some of our friends to one another and hear some tasty industry gossip. The drive back was very smooth. And on the way home, we went to the Mystic Diner again and Kit discovered that a plastic packet of oyster crackers makes an excellent rattle. I immediately sent photos to my New England–born mother. :)

Notes for future years:

* The drive can be done with two stops. One of them should be the Mystic Diner. It has a changing table and a kids' menu and food all of us can eat, everyone there is really nice, service is quick, there are lots of families with kids, and it's right off I-95. Not sure where the other stop should be, but it definitely should NOT be the Fairfield highway rest stop. Look for another diner somewhere around Stamford, maybe.

* The "take I-95 until the end of time" route works pretty well other than the twisty bit through Providence getting kind of hairy. Might be worth trying out I-84 and I-90 as alternatives.

* Pack two big ice packs for post-drive use when we get to the con. Leave the other two in the freezer for when we get home.

* Do a better job of packing the things we might need for the baby where we can get to them at rest stops.

* We never use the carrier or the car seat cover. We use the stroller and the bouncy seat a lot.

* The natural foods store in Quincy is A M A Z I N G and we should stock up on things from there for room snacks etc.

* X and I both really like driving the Prius.

* Sleep more. Eat more. Have more fun!
rosefox: "My body is sick JUST because my brain is upset! This is SO STUPID." (anxiety)
I was weeping on J and X tonight about how hard it is having my empathy cranked to maximum so I can try to understand what the baby wants/needs and do the right thing. J pointed out that the consequences of guessing wrong are really pretty minor. Oh no, I fed the baby even though they weren't all that hungry! I put them down when they wanted to be held! So what?

Then he said, "But you have a hard time around people who aren't in control."

X and I both whipped our heads up.

People who aren't in control. People who are volatile. Worrying about doing the wrong thing and not making their distress go away. Staying attuned to the tiniest shift in their behavior and leaping into action. Telling myself stories about what they're thinking. Oh yes, I know exactly how that one goes.

Kit's had a cold for the past few days and I've been a total wreck. When they get sick, my anxiety goes through the roof. I think this is part of why. They need something I can't provide, and in an abusive situation, that's doom forever. And I begin to see the illness as the abuser that I desperately need to appease or it will take the person I love away from me. It doesn't matter that all Kit has is a very minor cold and they're in zero danger. It doesn't matter that there is absolutely nothing I can do to speed the healing along. The fear is bigger than reason. It's big enough to swallow the sun. My world has been very dark recently. I can't stop hovering over the crib, can't make myself sleep, can barely eat--the moment I stop being vigilant is the moment something bad will happen, I just know it. And I berate myself for my deficiency, my anxiety, my lack of cheerful calm (my lack of a protective mask, my failure to protect Kit from my feelings), my failure to make everything perfect, while hardly realizing whose voices I hear those words in.

Not the baby's voice, though. The baby can't say those things and doesn't think those things. The baby is maybe thinking something like "I don't like the way my body feels" or maybe just "Blaaaarh". The baby doesn't blame me; they don't even have the concept of cause and effect yet. And what baby hasn't been cried on by a parent at one time or another? "If running out of cope makes you a bad parent," X told me tonight, "there are no good parents."

So I figured I'd post this for other parents who have also been in abusive relationships and might find this dynamic familiar. Because as soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I realized I could stop doing it. The baby can't hurt me. They're a baby. I have all the power in the relationship. I have to behave responsibly, but for moral reasons, not because I'm scared. If I try to do the right thing and sometimes get it wrong, the baby won't rage at me, or punch the wall, or spit cruel words, or shut me out. They won't take my wrongness as a sign of my deficiency or think I don't love them anymore. They'll just do their best to communicate that they still have unmet needs, and when I figure out the right thing to do, they'll go right back to smiling at me and trying to grab my glasses.

I have been holding the baby and whispering "I've got you, you're safe" a lot. Maybe I needed to tell myself too.
4 July 2016 20:27 - "When is a door not a door?"
rosefox: A comic of a man holding a baby and looking stunned. (baby-wtf)
There's a closet in Kit's room that we use for storing winter coats and things. They've never seen it open. Today X was holding them and opened the closet.

Kit: 😮

They spent the next several minutes looking around the room like "What the fuck ELSE is a door? Are there magic portals just fucking everywhere? Have you been keeping this from me this entire time?"

They looked at the ceiling. "Is THAT a door?"

X, helpfully: "Well, actually that part there slides open so you can get to the attic--"

Kit: 😮

R: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."

J comes in. We explain what happened. Kit is still looking around, astonished and suspicious.

J: "Aw, they're looking at the ceiling wondering if there's a door there too. Actually, there is the entrance to the attic--"

R and X: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."

Kit: 😮

Many things about fairy tales, Narnia, and the TARDIS suddenly become clear.
3 July 2016 22:26 - "Readerconnishness"
rosefox: The Readercon logo flipped to read R F. (readercon)
My Readercon schedule fills me with GLEEEEEEE.

Friday July 08

2:00 PM BH Welcome to Readercon. Jonathan Crowe, Rose Fox, Emily Wagner. New to Readercon? Not new, but curious about what might be different this year? Our program chair and other Readercon regulars will give you some peeks behind the scenes and suggestions about all the cool not-to-miss stuff. We're nice. Come hang out.

Saturday July 09

2:00 PM C The Return of Writing While Parenting. Rose Fox, Nicole Kornher-Stace (leader), Ken Liu, Kate Maruyama, Kit Reed. This panel will discuss the difficulties of parenting while writing (as opposed to working a job while writing, which is for the most part a very different challenge) and how the panelists have managed to reconcile their parenting duties with their writing needs and responsibilities. Panelists may include parents of small children and older children, writers who parent full-time, parents who write full-time, and children and spouses of writers.

As the child of writers and as a writer and parent, I have lots and lots and lots of opinions and feelings about this. And I'm delighted that Kit and Kate will be providing the parent/child dynamic in real time!

3:00 PM BH Story Hospital. Jeanne Cavelos, Michael Cisco, John Crowley, Rose Fox (leader), Lila Garrott, Maria Dahvana Headley, Elaine Isaak, Keffy Kehrli, Robert Killheffer, Kate Nepveu, Terence Taylor. Story Hospital pairs up writers with editors and reviewers for 10-minute discussions of what's broken in their WIPs and how to start fixing it. Think of it like a pitch session where the editor's already on your side, or speed dating where you actually want the other person to tell you what you're doing wrong. Writers: come prepared to quickly and succinctly explain what you're working on and the problems you're facing. Our handpicked team of editors, reviewers, writing teachers, and enthusiastic readers will bring thinking caps and kind hearts. Leave your manuscripts and red pens at home--this is a 10-minute spoken conversation only--but bring cards with your contact info in case you both want to continue the conversation later. The discussions will be facilitated (and stopwatch will be wielded) by longtime editor and critic Rose Fox. Sign up in advance at the information desk. We have room for 30 writers and their brilliant ideas.

LOOK AT THAT STORY HOSPITAL DREAM TEAM. I am SO EXCITED for this. I hope I can matchmake a bit based on genre, but even if I just go strictly by sign-up order, I think any writer will benefit from a conversation with any of those brilliant people.

I think this is exactly the right amount of workload for my first Readercon with baby in tow. One hour on Friday, two consecutive hours Saturday, all done. With two other parents and a grandparent to keep an eye on Kit, I should be able to manage that. :)

Will you be at Readercon? If you are, find me and say hi!
rosefox: A man and a woman holding hands, labeled "INVISIBLE QUEER". (queer-invisible)
I first posted this on Twitter, where lots of people have shared very kind replies. I'm posting it here too, in part so I can find that thread when I need a boost but in part because I am having a pretty hard time and will take all the support I can get right now.

I have been hiding for a while. Posting less here, and locking a lot of posts. Locking my "public" Twitter account. Staying quiet about a lot of things that I might once have been loud about. Hiding feels safest right now. But it also means I feel invisible, unseen, even by those who I would like to see me.

It's the nature of editing that my work mostly goes unnoticed. It's the nature of being non-binary, being biethnic, that no one who looks at me knows what they're seeing. It's the nature of being new parents that we are all too tired to perform our usual small acts of noticing and gratitude to one another. But all of this making perfect sense doesn't make it easier to feel myself vanishing.

One person who replied on Twitter said that parenting is very isolating. I keep thinking none of this is related to becoming a parent, because that's been so easy in so many ways. But then I think about how much more I hide myself in order to keep my child safe, and the connection becomes clearer.

I've been very visible and loud my whole life, and on the whole I've liked it and benefited from it. (Loudness is a different kind of survival tactic.) Now I get one taste of it every year at Readercon, and the rest of the time... I'm invisible.

If I've done a thing that touched you, that made me real to you, please tell me. It would help a lot right now. Thank you.
25 June 2016 01:41 - "When I am a driver"
rosefox: My feet on a pebbly beach. (travel)
The Brexit news is wretched and I can't pay too much attention to it or I fall into this sort of stupor of grief. Fortunately we had a lot to distract us today: our first-ever car trip as a family, the minimum-three-hour drive to visit J's mother upstate.

Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.

Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.

Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.

After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.

While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.

Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.

I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.

I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.

I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
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