a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
27 October 2016 00:01 - "I believe in you!"
you're welcome, origami, gift, 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.)

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confused, trying to understand, hair
The other night I dreamed I wrote a book and forgot entirely that I had done so. Blocked it out of my head. So when mrissa said "I read an ARC of your book and it's pretty good" I was utterly confused. And then she said "But there were some problems with the way you portrayed the Middle Eastern market" and I was even more confused. I felt bad that I had committed racefail and I couldn't really fix it because I didn't remember writing it.

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

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

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

The dream ended with a giant Jewish holiday dinner with lots of friends and friends of friends. rose_lemberg and 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.

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peace, garden, home
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.

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commitment, 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.

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zombie, retro, tired, groggy, video games
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.

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relaxed, contemplative, pensive, thoughtful, comfortable
Year meme thing from [personal profile] yoyoangel. 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.

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12 August 2016 21:20 - "The least among you"
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.

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5 August 2016 21:02 - "IT'S ALIVE"

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.

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2 August 2016 00:49 - "I can help the next in line"
you&#39;re welcome, origami, gift, 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:


If you know of any others, please let me know!

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1 August 2016 13:45 - "I'm with her"
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.

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1 August 2016 02:37 - "The most tired"
zombie, retro, tired, groggy, video games
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.

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29 July 2016 22:11 - "Her memory for a blessing"
love, family, community
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.

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

Rest in peace, Trudy. Thank you for all the laughs and love.

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26 July 2016 05:00 - "It's one of those lazy days"
relaxed, contemplative, pensive, thoughtful, comfortable
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.

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patriotism-dissent, fandom-dissent, uppity
Trump made a scary speech last night. Today Max Gladstone had some passionate thoughts on not being immobilized by that fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Feel free to share the link to this post as widely as you like.

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faint, touched



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

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

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

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

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Here is some advice on road trips with babies!


* 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!

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illness-brain, anxiety, impatient-mental illness
We went to Readercon and we are home.

Things that went wrong (a partial list)Collapse )

And yet despite all this, we had a genuinely very good time. J's mother came to the con and was immensely helpful with Kit. J and I both did several panels that went well, and I got to have the baby on my lap for part of the "Writing While Parenting" panel. My "Story Hospital" experiment was largely successful, though there are definitely ways it could be improved. X remembered how much they like socializing (sometimes) (with the right people). I got to tell Tim Powers how much Last Call means to me. We got to see old friends and meet internet friends, most especially the luminous mrissa; it wasn't a year for making new friends, but that's fine, there will be other years for that. We finally introduced Kit to [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!

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illness-brain, anxiety, impatient-mental illness
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.

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4 July 2016 20:27 - "When is a door not a door?"
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: 😮


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--"


Kit: 😮

Many things about fairy tales, Narnia, and the TARDIS suddenly become clear.

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3 July 2016 22:26 - "Readerconnishness"
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!

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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.

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25 June 2016 01:41 - "When I am a driver"
legs, boots, potential, travel, feet
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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22 June 2016 22:00 - "No rings on your sword hand"
arm, strong, powerful, determined, workout
I went to see a new occupational therapist today. She instructed me to look at everything I use my arms for and figure out how to do it more ergonomically. If I'm not sure how to make improvements, I can have someone take photos of me and she'll help me troubleshoot.

* Using my laptop. I just bought a very clever folding standing desk that hooks over a door, which means I can use it in my bedroom where there's a/c but no room for a desk or table, and will set it up with my laptop and ergonomic keyboard; hopefully that will help. Nothing to be done about using the laptop when I'm out and about, unless I want to spend another $300 on a ZestDesk. (There are much cheaper folding standing desks, such as the $25 Oristand, but they're hard to tote around.) I'm also going to try OS X's built-in voice recognition; it doesn't work for InCopy, but it's good for social media. I am, in fact, dictating this sentence right now. The selection commands don't seem to work very well within this Chrome window, but I'm impressed by the speed of it and how well it understands my commands when I'm speaking at a normal rate.

* Using my phone. Holding it is hard and swiping on it is hard. I don't know what to do about this. Just use it less, I guess. I should definitely use the voice recognition more, since it's surprisingly good.

* Folding laundry. Ergonomically it's okay, I think; I stand at a table that's a good height. It's just a strain.

* Reading books. I downloaded Moon+ Reader, an Android e-book app with pretty decent auto-scroll functions; it can do continuous scroll on epubs, and for PDFs it'll do this wacky thing where it starts unrolling the next page at the top of the screen while you're reading the bottom half of the current one. If I can prop up my tablet and auto-scroll a book, that gives me something to do while putting ice on my arms, and is generally easier on me than holding a physical book. I've been using auto-scroll in Chrome to read books on Gutenberg and it works really well.

* Driving. The OT recommended changing hand positions frequently, doing upper back stretches (bringing my shoulder blades together) while driving, and taking breaks to rest and shake out my arms and shoulders. I also plan to bring our giant ice packs in an insulated bag. They won't be frozen solid by the time we stop for a break, but any cold is better than nothing.

* Picking up the baby. The OT suggested scooping from the side (one arm supporting the baby's head, the other supporting the bum), which uses my upper arms, rather than lifting under the armpits, which uses my forearms.

* Pushing a stroller. Hard to change the ergonomics of that, but we just bought a lovely shiny 10-pound Maclaren Volo that will be much easier to push and lift than our splendidly feature-rich but heavy Graco Modes; the Volo even has a carrying strap to use when it's folded up. We also got an Ergobaby 360 carrier that's better ergonomically for both us and the baby than the Baby Bjorn. X would rather push a stroller than use the carrier, especially in the summer, so they'll bring the baby to daycare in the Volo, and I'll pick them up with the 360 and either push the Volo home empty or fold it and carry it with the strap.

What the hell else do I even do with my hands these days? X and J have been taking over a lot of my chores so I can rest and recover. And I already know not to stir a pot or chop vegetables or carry grocery bags by hand. I suppose this is enough to change, anyway. Just another way that I'm shaking up my life. Might as well do it all at once. (I am very glum today, but that always happens on my first day of physical therapy or equivalent; it brings up a lot of miserable feelings about how long I've been in pain and how hard it is to believe that I'll ever really get better. I'll be okay once I've had a chance to get some rest.)

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21 June 2016 13:39 - "You can be a new man"
boy, crossdressing
Someone just wrote to me asking for advice on getting started building a dapper wardrobe, and of course I have LOTS of advice. I figured I'd share it here too.

Style inspiration: I love looking at portraits of the original dapper dandy, Beau Brummel, and his fellow Regency-era men. A quick Google search for "Regency men's clothing" will give you a ton. If you like more flamboyant styles, researching the fops and fribbles who predated him is also a lot of fun. In the modern era, try looking up drag kings, who have fabulous style and do interesting things with the basics of menswear. Or flip through the catalogs/websites of high-end butchwear companies even though you can't afford anything they make.

Buying clothes: EBAY EBAY EBAY. I'm a boy's size 16/18 in shirts, and it turns out there are a lot of teen boys who wear very nice shirts once and outgrow them, and then their parents put them (the shirts, not the boys) up on Ebay for pennies. The best thing is that many of them are posted with measurements as well as size numbers. Buy a few different brands and see what fits. You can also go to a big department store and try on things from the boys section. Men's trousers are more difficult to find unless you're skinny all the way down; I have a small waist and a big butt, and I do pretty well with Old Navy men's jeans as long as they're a tapered fit. Don't shy away from fitted clothing. Baggy pants won't hide your shape--they'll just make you look shlumpy, and you won't feel good about yourself, which hampers the self-confident attitude that's the true hallmark of the dandy.

In one word, I teach you the secret of success in dapperness: ACCESSORIZE.

The most obvious accessory is the tie. If you have a short torso, regular men's ties will be much too long for you, so get pre-tied clip-on or zip-up ties for kids (very easy to find on Ebay in a wide range of colors and sizes) or wear bow ties. You can also try bolo or string ties if that's your style. I like wearing a vertical pin on my shirt placket to give the suggestion of a tie without the formality of one.

My favorite way to dress up a button-up shirt is with a vest; it can be hard to find one that fits if your chest is big, but a little subtle tailoring can turn a blocky square vest into something smooth and glorious that also hides your waistline a bit. Sweater vests stretch to accommodate your shape and are great for autumn. In the winter, wear suit jackets. In the summer, wear a white cotton undershirt (I like Hanes men's small) to soak up sweat and keep your thin cotton shirt from wrinkling or going transparent. Use shirt stays--they're like suspenders that attach your shirt to the top of your socks and keep it tucked in and smooth. A neatly folded pocket square or a pair of suspenders can also do wonders, though I find that I have to wear a binder (gc2b is an excellent brand) if I want suspenders to lie properly on my chest.

And hats! Hats are great! My preferred hat shop is Goorin Bros. even though they inexplicably started dividing their collection into "men's" and "women's"; ignore those artificial distinctions and get yourself a fedora (we can reclaim them from the whiny bros) or a flat cap. If you have long hair, either tuck it up into a hat or wear your hair in whatever long style is associated with men of your race/culture (single ponytail, single long braid, tidy dreads, loose and all one length--there are a surprising number of options even if you don't think of there being long hair styles for men), with or without a hat.

Get shoes from Tomboy Toes, or from Payless, which has some decent men's shoes in very small sizes for very cheap. My first pair of shiny captoes in size 5.5 came from Payless and cost something like $20. I still have them and love them, even though the soles have cracked.

Pay attention to detail. If you're wearing a jacket, shoot your cuffs. Shine your shoes. Wear silk socks and boxer briefs, even if no one but you will know. Iron your handkerchief. Wear earrings that match your cuff links. Wear men's shirts rather than masculine-styled women's shirts so that the buttons are on the correct side, and never ever wear a men's shirt with a women's jacket or vice versa. The little touches that pull an outfit together are really what give the impression of dandyness.

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annoyed, annoying, pain
I am getting really tired of people asking "Boy or girl?" and "Is this your first?" and "How are you sleeping?" and have also been caught without suitable alternatives when meeting other people's babies. So here, have two lists of useful, appropriate, non-intrusive things to say when someone (EDIT: by which I meant someone you don't know well--apologies for not making that clear!) tells you they have a baby, introduces you to the baby, or shows you pictures of the baby. If you feel totally lost when confronted with babies, memorize these lists and you will come off like the world's #1 baby fan.

1) Statements. Statements are great! They make no assumptions at all--they don't even assume that the parent is the biological parent, or is happy to be a parent (that day or at all)--and don't require the parent to give you information that might turn out to be way more personal than you (or they) want. Statements can also be made directly to the baby, which further reduces the risk of asking accidentally inappropriate questions or hearing discomfiting anecdotes from parents given to TMI.
  • "Congratulations/mazel tov/that's wonderful!"
  • "What a cutie!"
  • "Oh gosh, so adorable!"
  • "That's a great outfit!"
  • "Look at all that hair/that bald little head!"
  • "Look at those smishable cheeks!"
  • "What long fingers/toes!"
  • "ELBOW DIMPLES OMG" (Seriously, you are permitted and encouraged to be loudly impressed by any visible part of the baby, because literally every part of a baby is, by definition, cute.)
  • "Aw, you're getting sleepy."
  • "Aw, you're a little shy. That's okay, kiddo, you're not required to make friends."
  • "Wow, what a smile!"
  • "You're making noises with your mouth! That's so cool!"
  • "You just cooed/farted/grabbed that toy! Yes you did!" (This sort of babble sounds like nonsense but it really is part of how babies learn to identify objects and actions.)
  • "Who's the cutest baby in the immediate vicinity? It's you!" (Asking and answering rhetorical questions teaches babies the patterns of conversation. I'm not making this up.)
  • "What a strong grip! Ha ha, guess you want to take my finger home with you!" (You washed your hands before touching the baby, right? Good.)
In essence, you are agreeing that the baby is a baby, and approving of the baby's baby-like qualities. You really can't go wrong with this.

2) Minimally invasive questions. Any question is going to put the parent on the spot a bit, but these at least avoid the possibility of answers involving infertility, miscarriage, life-threatening labor complications, and the like.
  • "What's the baby's name?"
  • "When was the baby born/how old is the baby?" (Do not follow this up with a comment on the baby being big or small for their age, or on expected milestones.)
  • "What's the latest exciting thing the baby learned to do?"
  • "Can I do anything for you?"
  • "I'd love to give you a present for the baby--is there anything you especially want or need?"
  • "I've/we've got a baby on the way--any advice or recommendations?"
  • "May I come over and babysit sometime?"
Topics to avoid, unless you are a close personal friend of the parent and they have indicated that such topics are fair game (because obviously these aren't things that one may never talk about, but they need to be handled with some care and context matters a lot):
  • The baby's health (including eating, sleeping, and digestion), size, personality, intelligence, or well-being.
  • The parents' health, weight/size (yes, people make comments about the bodies of people who've given birth, it's terrible and disgusting), age, mood, parenting skills, or well-being.
  • Labor and delivery. Even if you've given birth yourself and are well equipped to offer support and sympathy over a hard labor, hesitate before asking someone to recall what may have been a traumatic experience.
  • The process of procreation, including plans for any frozen eggs, sperm, or embryos.
  • The process of adoption, guardianship, or fostering, or anything regarding the baby's birth family.
  • Existing or future siblings.
  • The baby's assigned gender or genital anatomy.
  • The baby's race, citizenship, or ethnic heritage.
  • The baby's intelligence or achievements.
  • Comparing the baby with their age cohort or with any other individual child in any way.
  • Plans for the baby's education.
  • Plans for the baby's religious upbringing/education or lack thereof.
  • Plans for childcare.
  • The baby's future profession or accomplishments.
Folks with kids, feel free to let me know what you think I should add to any of these lists!

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