It's rainy and cold. Perfect fireplace weather.
I spent a lot of time in upstate New York when I was growing up, and our house had a fireplace. In the evenings I would sit in front of the fire and cross-stitch and drink hot chocolate and listen to my mother's records. And then I would go down to my room and dial in to AOL so I could telnet to my BBS and get on IRC. (Calling the BBS directly would have been an expensive long-distance call. Remember those days?)
Right now I have a fireplace video
going, and I'm playing one of the albums my mother used to listen to a lot (Keith Jarrett's Köln concert), and I'm on IRC, and I'm drinking hot chocolate. And I'm knitting (or would be if I weren't typing), which is not cross-stitch but scratches the same itch. It is basically 1997 over here right now.
My brother's birthday dinner was tonight, just him and me and our mother and her gentleman. I misread the reservation email and got there half an hour early, so I found a quiet place to sit and knit. I'd had a really stressful day of feeling extremely anxious for no reason whatsoever, and that half hour of knitting was about the best thing I could have done for myself. Dinner was delicious, and we managed to have good conversation despite the noisy restaurant; we teased one another about old jokes and talked about politics that we could all agree on. When I pinged the household Slack to say I was on my way home, I found a message from X saying "we did all your chores, hope you had a good time". And it's Friday so I have no work deadlines. So I'm full of happy warm family feelings and relaxation, and have walloped myself with massive nostalgia on top of it. What a lovely way to end the day.
Yuletide reveals are revealed! My stories this year were "Two for Tea"
, a Questionable Content fluff-fic about Faye and Bubbles opening a tea shop with Hannelore as their tea sommelier, and "The Odds"
, a mashup of both* Ghostbusters
films and Daniel José Older's Bone Street Rumba books, in which Holtzmann and Reza make out on the firehouse roof and Patty and Winston join the battle against the corrupt Council of the Dead.* 1984 and 2016. There are no others.
Both stories were pinch hits. I've been on the list for ten years but this is the first year I've actually done anything with it, which is ridiculous! "Two for Tea" was done within seven hours of picking up the pinch hit; I got the central idea right away, and the only question I had was whether to do it as a story or as a series of scripts for comics. Then I started writing it as scripts and it worked and I went with it. When it was done it was done, minimal tweaking, totally painless. I am desperate for some Questionable Content fan artist to illustrate it.
While I was in fanfic mode, I started thinking that it would be fun to do a Holtzmann/Reza crossover sometime. Then a Holtzmann prompt came across the pinch hit list and I leaped on it.
"The Odds" took me a week, including pretty extensive workshopping. It was a really good week. When I reached the 1500-word mark the first night and realized how much more story I had left, I was a little daunted, but I kept going and kept going. One night I hit the wall of tired that usually means I need to stop for the night, and I thought "I'm not actually that tired, I bet I can write more" and I wrote another thousand words. I want to bottle that feeling.
Every time I needed inspiration, I found it somewhere. Of course there were some factual things I had to research—Baptist funeral customs, double underarm holsters, what kind of nuclear physics people do at Berkeley and how many women are in their physics PhD program, what the roof of the Ghostbusters firehouse looks like—and I reread Midnight Taxi Tango
and rewatched Ghostbusters 2016
to study character voices and make sure I had my references right. But to my eyes the story is one long litany of other nods: to the original film and the awesome backstory for Winston that was cut from it, to Daniel's phenomenal word-portraits of Brooklyn and of black women building amazing lives for themselves (it's not coincidence that Patty has to leave the Ghostbusters world for the Bone Street Rumba world to find fulfillment), to a friend's experiences as a female physicist and other friends' experiences of being neuroatypical and hard of hearing, to someone I knew once who is way too much like Kevin, to my own queer New York life before and after my years in California, to the early days of my relationship with X, to my collections of books on urban history and astrological phenomena, to what it feels like to be building a happy life on the brink of a troubled era, and to my beloved city. I personally recommend every one of the Chinatown restaurants named in the story, by the way, and Ginger's is a pretty good place to shoot pool and chat up queer ladies. And if you're in Lower Manhattan in the summer, you'd better hope a thunderstorm comes through and makes it smell nice for a bit.
Being on vacation was essential
. If I'd had work on the brain I don't think I could have sat down every evening and written a couple thousand words. Of course, if I hadn't been on vacation I wouldn't have been picking up pinch hits.
I was really nervous about the amount of AAVE in the dialogue and ended up haunting #yuletide and emailing people on the beta list and even spamming friends of mine in search of a native speaker who had the time to read a 6500-word story right before Christmas. (I did eventually find one.) I'm also not the biggest GB2016 fan and know nothing about how Holtzmann fanfic is typically written, so I found more betas who could cover that. Then one of the betas pointed out that a black woman having nothing to do except set up her white friend with a love interest was a racist cliché, and she was totally right, so I wrote the Patty and Winston scene and that made it 8000 words. I did a lot of nitpicky revision, pass after pass after pass, and made my last update about two minutes before the archive opened. And then I spent something like 24 hours feeling high as a kite on accomplishment. IT FELT SO GOOD. The writing, the critting, the revising, all of it just felt amazing.
After the bulk of "The Odds" was done, I beta-read a bunch of stories for other people, which was fun and a good use of all my post-writing energy. A long time ago I gave up on the idea of writing groups, but I had such a great experience both beta-reading and being beta'd that I started thinking maybe I should reconsider that stance.
When I came down off the high I started poking at my original fiction projects and immediately froze up. I don't know what it is about prompted, tight-deadline fanfic that frees me to write so fluidly. I hope I can figure out how to write other stories that way, because it felt so good and I want to feel that again. I'm not one of those people who feels coerced by the muse; if I don't enjoy writing, I don't write. But I enjoyed writing these stories tremendously and want to enjoy writing Valour
that much too. There must be a way to do that, right? Even after work picks up again? I really hope so.
Year meme thing from sfred
. Year: 2003.
Age then: I turned 25 in June 2003.
Age now: 38.
Relationships then: I was partnered with Josh and Jen and Joe, and pursuing X like my life depended on it (I sort of felt like it did). "Just the N of Us" was starting to coalesce, and in particular I was building a wonderful friendship with Kathleen. I had become very close with Liz and David. I could not possibly count or name all the people I was on smooching terms with. The N in "Just the N of Us" was really not a joke; I think it was 7 <= N <= 13 with considerable variation over the course of two years. And there were many non-JTNOU people in my life as well, both platonic and not. I was a social butterfly and loved it.
Relationships now: Happily married to Josh and X; happily parenting Kit. The last time I smooched someone who wasn't Josh or X was... uh... years ago? It's been a while, certainly. The baby has made it hard to do evening social things like the KGB readings, so these days I'm focusing on maintaining and building on existing connections. I Skype regularly with Kathleen, Miriam, and Graham; hang out in Slack with the Subtlefriends; and get as much in-person time with Tea and Veronica as I can. My interest in relationship categorization has gone from "not much" to "zero", so that's really all I can say about that.
Where I lived then: San Francisco. In May I moved out of Kiri and Doug's grubby Sunset District walk-up and spent a month in a lovely little room-to-let with all my stuff in storage; I'd begun rental-hunting with Josh and Jen and Mik based on my lease ending in June, but my roommates broke the lease and moved out a month early, and I couldn't afford to pay a full month's rent on my own. In June the four of us moved into a much nicer* four-bedroom house in Glen Park. I had a downstairs bedroom with one small window and an enormous built-in closet. Other than the boring beige carpeting, it was basically my ideal room. The upstairs had two big open social rooms where we put mattresses on the floor and lined the walls with bookshelves. It was pretty great.* This was before it became infested with rats and J's bedroom ceiling developed horrible mold and the cat brought in fleas from the garden and we discovered that our landlord was a useless asshat. And even with all those things it was arguably nicer than the walk-up.
Where I live now: Brooklyn. Josh and X and Kit and I have a four-bedroom apartment that's genuinely lovely without any asterisks or caveats. My room here has a slightly larger window and a much smaller closet, but hardwood floors count for a lot, and the window looks out onto trees. We sprawl on the pull-out couch instead of the floor and the walls are still lined with bookshelves (some of the same ones, even). The kitchen is VASTLY superior, the landlords are splendid, and there are no infestations at all. I hope we stay here a good long time.
Was I happy then: Often. In a post from June 2003, I wrote (rather defensively), "I'm happier than I can remember being, I'm doing a fucking fantastic job of completing my recovery from devastating emotional trauma, I've met the only real lifetime goal I've ever consistently had--a wonderful house full of happy friends--a full decade before I expected to have a chance at trying for it, I treat myself well and require the same from those I associate with, I never indulge my bad habits to the point of damaging myself or others, and I'm completely and fully satisfied with the life I live except for not being in New York and not being near australian_joe
. I am happy and satisfied, and those who choose to rely on me for support of any kind have no complaints." I was surrounded by lovely people who liked me, and was starting to really recover from grief and disordered eating. I quit school after a year of studying architecture, which I was a little sad about, but I got my job at LegalMatch, which I really liked even though it stressed me out a lot (and eventually wrecked my arms, but that didn't happen until 2004). I was full of hopes and dreams. By the end of the year the dreams were starting to get a little worn around the edges ("I don't think I'm cut out for living with anyone full-time," I wrote in December. "Not unless it's a mansion and each of us gets a wing") but on the whole it was a pretty good year.
Am I happy now: Often, and in a way that feels much more sustainable and anchored in reality.
If you'd like me to pick a year for you to post about, leave a comment.
- thinking about:
experiences.history, experiences.work, livejournal.memes, mind.feelings.joy, people, people.friends, people.jen, people.joe, people.josh, people.kit, people.mik, people.xtina, places.us.ca.san francisco, places.us.ny.new york.brooklyn
Every time a longtime friend visits and meets the baby, I say "Look at me! Look at all this!" with some bewilderment, and we agree that back when we met we had no idea this was where we'd end up. Tuesday was my 15th self-wedding anniversary and I had a similar conversation with myself.
I still vividly remember writing down those wedding vows in my dream journal, back in my slightly shabby room in the mint-green Jersey City house. It was two months before my nervous breakdown but I was definitely already feeling the strain. My lease was coming up in March, I was moving to California in June, in between I had grand and rather daunting plans to tour Europe with my mother and then take a train across the country for alt.polycon, my relationships were coming apart at the seams, my physical health was precarious, being prescribed the wrong dose of Zoloft had completely fucked me up mentally, and I had a job but no career and savings but no goals (other than the move, which ended up entirely consuming those savings faster than I could have thought possible). I knew a lot of things in my life were broken and I had no idea how to fix them.
Making vows to be good to myself--as good to myself as I was to my partners--was an essential first step on the road to making things better, the road to where I am now. I'm in a beautiful house with a wonderful family, my mental and physical health are the best they've been in my adult life, my relationships are rock-solid, my job and career are deeply satisfying, and we're almost done paying off our debt. I've had a lot of good fortune, no question, but there's also no question that I got here because I insisted on loving and valuing myself and continually reshaping my life into one that made me healthier and happier.
In mid-2000, as my mind and my life were slowly falling apart, I wrote this little ditty:
I am here and all is well
And all the world can go to hell
As far as I'm concerned
There's one thing that I've learned
Standing on your own two feet
You beat a path along the street
Sometimes you walk alone
I'm okay on my own
There are people in my life
Though I may never have a wife
But I think that's okay
I'm living day by day
Moderation is the thing
Though I may never be a king
But that's all right with me
It's better to be free
If I never have a throne
I will always have a home
I carry it inside
A place where I can hide
Someday I would like a cat
Perhaps a house and all of that
But that's a ways away
I'm living day by day
No matter if I walk on glass
Or concrete or green growing glass
Don't mind if I'm alone
'Cause I'm on my way home....
I've been singing it a lot lately, with a smile. Here I am, living in someday. It's even better than I dared to imagine. It's true that the particulars aren't quite what I might have predicted, a decade and a half ago. But I have a cat, and a house, and all of that. And even though it's nothing like what I expected, it's exactly what I wanted.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.love, body.health, events.anniversaries, experiences.history, mind.wiring, people.kit, people.my wife, places.home, words.songs, words.songs.day by day
I felt fidgety tonight, so I sat down and scanned in FutureKid's sonograms. Then, since I had the scanner set up, I scanned some old photos from my mother's side of the family. I never quite noticed before, but most of the photos of my grandmother from the 1980s (the last decade of her life) show her with an expression that I can only characterize, in the modern idiom, as "no fucks to give"
. I guess I take after her. :)
The photos were in one of the two storage bins I brought home from a recent trip to the house of a friend who's been holding on to a lot of my mom's things, since she doesn't have space for them. I had no idea what was in the bins; they were just labeled "Rose". Turns out they contain heaps of photos, my baby book, my birth certificate (not the original but a certified copy), an autobiography I wrote when I was 10 (screamingly hilarious), more photos, copies of the book in which my first published story appeared, a blank notebook that my mother and I doodled in when I was maybe two years old, a comic strip I drew in first grade, a binder of photos of my grandparents' house, even more photos... I only managed to get the binder and a handful of the other pics scanned in. It's time-consuming. I scan as PDFs so I can leave notes on the image with info about the print photo, like a good archivist.( Grandparents and melancholy )( Young Rose and hilarity )
Ever since I was a wee child, my mother's traditional cake for my birthday has been a vanilla or marble cake with chocolate ganache and "roses" made from raspberries and sugar-frosted mint leaves. I have so many memories of coming upstairs on my birthday morning to see her hovering over wire racks covered with mint leaves, fretting about whether it's too humid and hoping they'll dry in time. (Of course they always do.) There have been variations--square cakes and round cakes, semicircle cakes for my half-birthday, cupcakes the year I had a picnic party, dairy-free cakes (with dairy-free ganache!) after my pernicious allergy developed--but the soul of the cake has always been the same.
This year we're upstate visiting J's mom, so I made sure to buy raspberries while we were shopping for the weekend, and then tonight after dinner I mixed up a vanilla mug cake and dropped in chocolate chips and decorated it with a raspberry and two fresh leaves from the mint plant on the windowsill.
It was exactly as good as it should be: delicious and satisfying, while manifestly not a patch on the original. It'll last me the weekend. Maybe next week she'll make me the real thing. :)
Also, I got the BEST birthday present: getting to watch our proto-baby squirm and flail around on the 11-week ultrasound yesterday. "This one will play sports," the ultrasound tech said as she patiently waited for the wriggler to wriggle around in the correct way so measurements could be taken. X has been superstitiously waiting to use our chosen name for the proto-baby until it felt right (we've been calling them "Kiddo" in the meantime), and apparently seeing them so magnificently manifestly indubitably alive
was sufficient to flip the "it felt right" switch. So now I get to call them by their name and that is making me very happy. (We haven't decided how to handle name stuff online yet, so for now they're still FutureKid in tweets and blog posts and so on. Hopefully we'll figure that out before FutureKid becomes ActualKid. :) )
If anyone wants to do anything in honor of my birthday, I ask that you do what you can to make the world safer and kinder for my child and everyone's children. Every little bit helps.
If you say the word "clafouti"
to me or my brother, we will immediately start giggling. This is because my mother spent several months in a clafouti phase, making every possible type of clafouti: sweet, savory, small, large, for breakfast and lunch and dinner and dessert, clafouti unto forever. We eventually staged a revolt until she agreed to stop making clafouti.
There was similarly a homemade marshmallow phase. (The one I remember best was the savory basil marshmallow, served in a bowl of tomato soup.) And there have been several iterations of the monochromatic meal phase; that one is not so much a phase as an orientation, really. And there's the Simpsons
episode where Marge is hammering tiles on the roof and Homer says "Marge, it's three a.m.! ...shouldn't you be baking?" and yep, that's my mom. (And me. And my brother. And, I suspect, my uncle. In case anyone wondered whether this sort of thing was genetic.)
Anyway, I have been testing this horchata recipe, and recipe testing is perfectly fine and normal, nothing wrong with that, but then I looked up horchata on Wikipedia, and now I'm contemplating horchata cubana
and tigernut horchata
(I love the Spanglish on that page) and Puerto Rican sesame horchata
thinks would be gross and I think would be delicious, like a liquid version of one of those sesame and honey candies) and horchata cocktails and all these recipes
(FRIED HORCHATA ZOMG) and I want one of these machines
and oh god it's a horchata phase
and I'm turning into my mother
I suppose every woman has a moment like this at some point in her life. And at least I recognize the danger of entering into a horchata phase, and I can reassure myself that this is what tagging is for and I can always put the recipes away for a while and then come back and find them exactly as I left them. Which I will totally do. Right.
Unrelatedly, while looking through posts on various recipe blogs, I found the best spam comment ever
on a recipe for Guatemalan oatmeal horchata
. I am in awe.