a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
3 December 2016 03:25 - "I heard there was a baby"
baby, kit
Kit happenings today:

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

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

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

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

EDIT: They started to get fussy so I indulged in some cuddling. Such a good snuggly baby.


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16 November 2016 23:58 - "You're taking a stand"
feminist-militant, activism, activism-feminist
Tonight I went to a civil rights speak-out organized by Jesse Hamilton, my state senator. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually really useful!

PoliticsCollapse )

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

Bonus: a high school acquaintance was there and recognized me, so we caught up a bit and swapped contact info and like that. So I got everything I wanted out of it and then some.


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14 November 2016 14:45 - "God damn it, you've got to be kind"
love, family, community
I have a thread on [personal profile] kaberett's love meme post if you feel like leaving me a comment. Lots of other good people are there too. Spread the love around. Also check out [personal profile] swan_tower's tikkun olam open thread.

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

I downloaded a URL blocker for Chrome and set Twitter and Tweetdeck to redirect to an eight-hour video of birdsong. It's doing wonders for my mental health. I also ate two full meals yesterday, took the baby to visit my mother for lots of intergenerational hugs, got a haircut, and solidly slept seven and a half hours. Now I just need the last of this head cold nose-cloggery to go away and I might actually start to feel human again.


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10 November 2016 02:47 - "Where were you when—"
patriotism-dissent, fandom-dissent, uppity
This userpic has never felt so apropos.

=====

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

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

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

=====

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

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

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

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

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

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

=====

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

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

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

=====

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

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

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

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

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

Some wise words from maryanndimand.

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

=====

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

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

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

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

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

=====

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

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

=====

This, too, shall pass. Let's do everything we can to make it pass faster and with minimal harm.


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6 November 2016 23:37 - "A mixed bag"
zombie, retro, tired, groggy, video games
Today Kit had their first real playdate! It went great!Collapse )

=====

Yesterday was one of those days where you have to say "Everyone is fine" before talking about how the day went. But don"t worry, everyone is fineCollapse )

=====

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

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

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

=====

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

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

=====

I'd hoped to use the DST change to get myself back on an earlier sleep schedule, but X was totally wiped today because of being up with the coughing teething baby all night last night after the whole ER happy fun times, and I'd gotten plenty of sleep, so I said I'd take the overnight shift. Staying up until 5 is much harder when 5 feels like 6. But J has just woken up, so I'm going to hand off the monitor and go fall asleep a whole lot.


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baby-whee, me and kit
Kit's getting over a cold, poor bean. They've held up very well through it but have endured a lot of snuffling and coughing. Last night they technically slept ten hours straight, but there was pretty frequent sleep-coughing and sleep-fussing. (I don't know what other people mean when they refer to babies as "fussing". We use it as an all-purpose term for any brief vocal complaint, the baby equivalent of "Ugh" or "This is bullshit!".)

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

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

They reached a hand back and stroked their own head. Several times. Very gently. And then they tucked their hand under their face and fell asleep.


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busy-bad, spontaneity, scheduling
Hi. It's been a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was going to knit for a bit, as a thing to do to stay awake, but I'm too sleepy now and it would be all dropped stitches. And it's 4:30, so J will be up soon. I will do my bedtime things, and by the time they're done he'll be awake and I can actually go to bed. And then I will sleep a whole lot.


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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"
genderqueer
The National Center for Trans Equality asked me to take action on behalf of trans students. So I wrote a letter to New York State's schools commissioner.

Dear Commissioner Elia:

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

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

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

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

Thank you,
Rose Fox

If you're in the U.S., please send your own letter through NCTE's site--they'll find the address for you and even make some suggestions about what to say--to support trans students in your state.


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5 August 2016 21:02 - "IT'S ALIVE"
creativity
https://www.patreon.com/storyhospital
https://storyhospital.com/

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

Please feel free to share either or both of those links around. :D I am very nervous and excited! I've never done a Patreon thing before. And this project relies heavily on people sending in questions--if they don't do that, I'm kind of sunk. But people are becoming patrons already, and tweeting lots about it (I unlocked my Twitter account so that my announcement tweet could be retweeted), and I am optimistic.


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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:

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

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


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1 August 2016 13:45 - "I'm with her"
politics
Hillary Clinton's campaign just asked me why I donated to her. Here's what I told them (using "Hillary" instead of "Clinton" because that's the campaign's language):

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

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

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

Trump is terrible. But I'm not just voting against him--I'm voting for Hillary. And I plan to hold her accountable to her voters and her public.


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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.

It
is
JULY

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

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

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

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

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


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faint, touched
ALEXIS HALL'S FOR REAL WON A RITA AWARD

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

AND I MAY NEVER TURN MY CAPS LOCK OFF

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

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

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

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


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driving
Here is some advice on road trips with babies!

Driving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overnight stays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I am happy to answer questions about anything I missed!


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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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