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We're moving to Portland in a week. I thought I'd post here to tell those of you who aren't on FB.

It's crazy busy around here packing and finding a new school for the munchkin and trying to craigslist a nice rental sight-unseen. When I have the luxury I will post about all the feelings and thoughts. For now, if you're in/near Portland and we're only internet friends so far, message me so we can meet up!

And of course, if you have a lead on a rental, let me know. :)
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I was looking for some nice escapist reading and so I picked up an OSC novel lying around the house. (Apparently, Spouse got it for a dollar somewhere.) I checked the back cover and figured, cool, it's one of the "special boy is very special" ones, not one of the "special boy is raped and otherwise abused and then murdered" ones. Acceptable escapist reading!

But then the special boy gets to have rape threatened three times in the story. And he is sexually molested by--get this--a traumatized woman who has "men issues" because she was raped all the time as a kid. And not in a "this woman is a real character" kind of way. More of a "women are inscrutable but really people (i.e. men) shouldn't go hurting the poor things" kind of way. And, really OSC? I know you are /capable/ of doing character well.

And *then*, at the end of the book where things are supposed to be pleasant and satisfying, OSC manages to stick a three year old and a five year old boy each in separate solitary confinement for over *a year* and then he handily has a baby murdered who just happens to be the exact age of my son.

Nice, relaxing escapist reading. Grr. Stupid OSC. Couldn't he at least not be a good storyteller so I don't keep being tempted to read his stuff?

And isn't he, like, embarrassed to publish his stuff? Like, I'm not saying any victim of abuse should be embarrassed to tell the world about it, even indirectly. But I feel like reading this book I ended up getting his need for therapy sort of thrust on me. Ick.
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My mother in law, B, is visiting for a few days while Spouse is out of town. I had been totally looking forward to it because I generally really enjoy her when our husbands aren't around. And to be fair, most of this visit has been pretty nice.

But! I told her that we were going to be going to Hawaii in a few weeks and her response was, "Oh, well I won't tell D (her husband) that or it'll really hurt his feelings." According to her, D often complains that we go everywhere else but only visit them once a year. As far as I can tell from indirect comments of his and other garbled communications via B, he's more angry/judgey and more upset on B's behalf about our neglect than actually hurt. (This dude married in about ten years ago, so we know him, but he didn't, like, raise Spouse or anything.) From my experience with D, he seems to judge people recreationally and without much thought and certainly without empathy. So, if I were a purely rational being (I love you, Spock!) I would not be bothered in the least by this.

But, alas, I have feelings. Angry, frustrated feelings! Gah!

At least when B said, "He thinks it's because you don't like him," instead of my usual reassurances to the contrary, I said, "Well, I don't dislike D. But you know, he's not the easiest person to get along with." I was proud of that.

Then when she tried to lay all the responsibility for accord between us at my feet (you, know, because of me having a vagina), saying, "He just teases you more because you take everything so seriously," I said, "Relationships are a two way street and I've been working really hard at it. I'm sure he has too, or maybe not." I was proud of that, too. Also proud to have excercised restraint and not shouted something using the c-word and how me having one doesn't make me responsible for all this shit.

Also, why is she not having this conversation with her own fucking son???! Gah!!!!

ETA: Of course, the whole thing mostly gets to me because I can sympathize. I hate to imagine myself in forty years, with my kids being only willing to visit annually and me being limited in my travel because of money and my spouse's health. Maybe I should be visiting my mom and MIL and lavishing love on them just to model for my children that that's what one does for moms when one is an adult.
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Crossposted to Goodreads

This is a book my sister left lying around my house that I picked up on a whim. My sister, who is a high school teacher, always knows what's going on with the hot teenage novels--if it weren't for her, I would never have read Twilight (and say what you will about it, I'm glad to have read it just for the cultural reference). I see that between the time she left the book kicking around and now, it has become a giant-ass series with three hundred seventy-two books in it. Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't know that because it would have scared me away and this is a fun book. I kind of wish that Goodreads had more than one axis to rate books on. I mean, this book *totally* succeeds at what it's trying to do, but I don't want to give it five stars because it doesn't even compare to the other books I've rated that way in terms of literary quality and depth.

So, basically, the book has no depth. It challenges nothing, raises no difficult moral/ethical questions nor interesting new ideas.

What it does do well is great pacing, sympathizable characters, archetypal Cinderella stuff made fresh. And the faery stuff is really well-researched and fun. Also, it avoids the more nauseating aspects of some other books of its kind--there's no falling in love with someone creepy or abusive; there's no waiting around to be rescued. There is a little bit of the 'virginity is so special' thing, but it's softened by some nice dialogue and interior monologue and by a really awesome grandma character who represents more progressive perspectives on sex.

Upshot--nice read if you're tired and overworked and looking for yummy brain candy!
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Okay, before I read any insightful/cynical/keen-eyed analyses from anyone else, I just wanted to put myself on the record saying that I was actually impressed with and moved by what Obama said today about closing Guantanamo. I've been all disillusioned about him not closing it and feeling all cynical, but I'm really inspired that the detainees' hunger strike actually is working to get the President of the United States to change his priorities and take another whack at it. I mean, it's inspiring to see in real life (and not just a Timmi Duchamp novel) people who are about as powerless as it's possible to be actually dramatically affect US politics.

But that's not what I started to talk about! What I'm trying to do here is publicly cop to being moved by the President's moving rhetoric, to having some hope that his newfound resolve will actually result in changes toward closing Guantanamo. I feel like I have to write this now, because I suspect that there are a lot of reasons smart people who are paying closer attention will find to by cynical about the whole thing and I don't want to be all fake pretending like I saw it all along. I guess I also want to just go ahead and feel uncynical (I hesitate to use the word "hope" here because it will sound like "Hope(TM)" the campaign slogan) and to believe that sometimes things can work how they're supposed to, that as a country we can do something terribly wrong and shameful but then cop to it and fix it. Closing Guantanamo won't make it fine like we never did that horrible thing, but I want to believe that some aspects of our system work like they're supposed to--that when a few brave people do something like the hunger strike, people who are basically decent will notice and care and then that indignation and anger will actually affect what the government does.

I do want to note, though, regarding the drone program, that I was disturbed that while Obama copped to targeting the US citizen who was actively trying to kill people (although without a court, how do we evaluate that information?) he said nothing about the drone strike that targeted that guy's 16-year-old son. And knowing about that convenient omission, I feel a little queasy about how good the rest of the speech sounded.

But enough about that! I don't want to harsh my own squee right now. I'm still glad he talked about it and set some clear legal guidelines limiting the use of drone strikes.
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Well, look at that! It's Wednesday and I'm posting about reading, all on schedule and everything

Recently Finished

I just read _Hungry Ghost_, the sequel to the one I just reviewed about the lesbian werewolves. I'll probably do a full Goodreads review sometime, but here's a little bit. This book was not as fun as the first one, with fewer sex scenes and more sexual angst on the part of the protagonist. It was still a fun read--I think I read it in maybe three days?

The things that really worked in it:
- Moon gets real about the less talked about stuff in GLBTQ culture, like sex work and BDSM and conflicted feelings about transgender issues and feminist in-fighting about porn and stripping.
- She has a transgender character and does it well.
- There's a neat theme about transcending the either/or bimodal paradigm (sorry, there are actual feminst theory academic words for that teasing my brain, but I'm not dredging them up right now). She ties together some neat stuff from academia with transgender issues and the whole werewolf thing. Interesting ideas and fun literary play.
- There's a little more in there about the protag's relationship with her father, which I was glad to see.
- One pretty hot BDSM sex scene

The things that pissed me off because of my issues:
- Her protagonist is a poor student. Smart, but whiny and easily distracted and completely unappreciative about the opportunity for education. Having gone to school with a bunch of wealthy, privileged kids who partied and had fun while I financed my half of the tuition my scholarship didn't cover, it just  kind of hits a nerve. I get that Moon is probably making the character annoying so that there can be dynamic character growth, which leads me to my second pet-peeve point.
- A lot of the character's struggle is explained to the reader and only shown in a really fuzzy, confused way. You know, the whole "Lexie felt like she would never be able to have conviction about anything" type of writing. Which seems pretty common in brain-candy type books and doesn't bother a lot of people. But it really ticks me off because I never let myself do that in my writing but I haven't yet mastered how to pull off showing character growth in a smooth and natural way. So I think I get pissy that someone else gets to write it the easy way and still gets to have people read her stuff and like it.

The things that I think are more objectively places where the book is weak:
- The protag's father is pretty two-dimensional. For someone so important to the protagonist and to her character arc, I think he deserves more depth.
- The pacing is choppy. The character growth is shown in sort of jagged spurts and all the plot and action sort of stop dead while that happens.
- Dammit, not enough sex scenes! Or should I say, too many abortive sex scenes that could be great but stop in the middle because of the character having issues. But like, since the character arc isn't smooth or compelling, it doesn't seem fair to have that ruin the sex scenes. I know I seem to be obsessing about the sex! But since this book is a brain-candy book to me (I mean that in the good sense!) I feel like it should have fun-to-read scenes. And, seriously, one of Moon's greatest strengths as a writer are her awesome sex scenes.

I see that I've sort of ended on a downer here. So I'm just going to re-state my overall take, which is that this book was enjoyable to read and does things right (like trans stuff) that you don't often see done well.

Currently Reading
That Duchamp short story collection which is so good.
The other short story collection whose title and author I can't remember but which is also good.
I got Mieville's Embassytown in from the library and read a few pages. It's not really doing much for me, but neither did The Scar and so many people love that book. I think it's because I mostly read for characters and I just am not feeling anything for the characters. I'll probably slog through a little more before I decide whether to finish it.

Up Next
I just got a message from the library that _Seraphina_ is in. Looking forward to that one.

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xposted from goodreads

I just got book #2 in the mail and before I read it, I want to jot a quick review of #1. I read it when it first came out (2011?) so this review will be just a short bit. (Even before baby sleep deprivation, my memory wasn't the greatest.)

I'll jump right to the main point--Lesbian. Fucking. Werewolves! When I heard that, I had to buy the book and read it. And Moon totally delivers with great werewolves and great sex scenes.

Since the book is self-published, I was curious to see if there was anything seriously different from what you'd get from a traditionally published book. I found two things: subject matter that probably wouldn't get through the mainstream filter and a really slow first chapter. I think that if Moon had needed to pitch this book to an agent, she would have, by necessity, made the opening scene and opening chapter much more grabby. But, fortunately, the slow opening isn't reflective of the rest of the book.

There was an "author's first book" feeling to it, with a pretty straightforward plotline and pretty sparse supblots. But there was definitely enough plot there to hold my interest and to justify the awesome lesbian werewolfness and the sex scenes.

So, summary: a definitely enjoyable read if not literary magic. And awesome lesbian werewolves!


Apr. 17th, 2013 09:14 pm
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I am proceeding cautiously with trying to read a little bit sometimes, because of the happiness I mentioned in my last post. My usual experience with books is that I have a hard time engaging in real life when I'm reading one, but since last time I was happier even *after* I finished reading for the day (and before I finished the book), I figure I'll read a little more.

I started reading Timmi Duchamp's new novel _Never at Home_ which seems good, judging from the first few pages. I have high expectations because of her other stuff, especially _The Red Rose Rages, Bleeding_, which was far more easily readable than the Marq'ssan series (which I also love).

I'm hoping to read _The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care_, too, but since that's not fiction I'm not going to write much about it here. Unless I find something totally fascinating and change my mind.

In my fiction queue I have _Seraphina_ by Rachel Hartman and _Embassytown_ by China Mieville. I found them both via goodreads and they were recommended highly by smart friends, so I have high hopes. Seraphina is apparently about dragons who fold themselves up into human shape and Embassytown, I understand, is about aliens. (I bounced off _The Scar_, but I think it's mostly because of all the cold oceany landscapes which I found not cozy enough to spend reading time living in and also because I had trouble liking any character much or understanding the point. I couldn't find any stakes to care about in there. But aliens! That's a whole other thing.) I put these two on hold at my library and should get them soon, since I'm always going there for my daughter.

In my "eventually it would be cool to read" pile I have _Redwood and Wildfire_, by Andrea Hairston. I actually ordered that one from Aqueduct Press a while ago, so it's in my house somewhere. I read the first couple of chapters, which I found riveting, but then got distracted and then misplaced the book.

But there! I all organizedly have a plan for future reading, which gives me a happy little glowy feeling. I suppose that if I find myself getting too engaged with fiction, to the point where I'm just annoyed with anything that gets between me and my book (like a certain adorable little tyke) I suppose I can always cut myself off again.
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OK, I'm not going to try to defend some of the shit he says. But I was just driving kid-free this evening and heard "Lose Yourself" on the radio and it got me thinking. Because I actually really like eminem's stuff. And I was like, why? He says such awful things!

I think I figured it out, though. It's two things: good writing and authenticity.

Take these lines, for example: "There's vomit on his sweater already / Mom's spaghetti." You just don't see that kind of strong, fresh image in the lyrics of most raps on the radio. I mean, in eight words, you find out a lot about this character (or about him, I suppose, depending on how autobiographical he's being): (1) he was really nervous trying to break in and success was not something that came naturally, (2) he was wearing a sweater, not something more fashionable like a hoody. So implied kind of awkwardness, financial strain, (3) he was either living with his mom still or at least she was still cooking for him, (4) even though he's not a child, they're eating spaghetti, not something more foodie; again with some class stuff. I wish I could write like that! I mean, maybe I do sometimes, but it's not easy for me, and he makes it look easy.

And I really like that he writes about stuff that other people would try to hide--the living in the trailer, the working 9 to 5 and still taking food stamps and *still* not being able to afford diapers. I mean, that shit is real. I'll take that any time over the tired old lines about panties dropping. I even like how he writes about getting really mad, and how hard it is to try to be a good dad but that it's super hard with his "prima donna baby mama." He's certainly not writing a well-developed, complex female character and his stories sure as hell fail the Bechdel test. But he's writing about his life and his experiences in a real way, about his pain and the ways he doesn't live up to who he tries to be. And that kind of honesty and vulnerability gets me every time. I think I may be the only person on earth to compare these two artists, but it's the thing I like most about Tracy Chapman.

I dunno about the song where he wants to tie his girlfriend to the bed and light the house on fire, though.
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This morning, I was feeling so terrible that I had a cup of caffeinated coffee. So I've been feeling awesome all day. (If only I could do that every day and it would still work!) And feeling awesome, I was able to remember all the people who *are* rushing to my aid as if I were a sweet, spunky protagonist in a teen fantasy novel. Since I spend so much time here whining, I thought I'd share about that for some balance! Things people are doing/have done/have offered to help me:

- [personal profile] wild_irises invited me to come stay with her for a weekend so that she could stay up all night with the baby while I slept. (This one kind of blows me away. Like, really?) I haven't been able to take her up on it yet, but just knowing the offer's on the table makes me feel less desperate.

- A woman I met through my daughter's school offered to drive her back and forth to school every day that she doesn't have a babysitting gig, which works out to about three days a week, two hours a day.

- My dad handed me a $500 check to pay for the first while of having a night nurse, even though we can afford it ourselves, because he didn't want money to be an obstacle to getting started. (So far I haven't found anyone to do it, but maybe I will...)

- My sister spent more than half her spring break playing with the baby so I could sleep during the mornings. She even took him once at four or five in the morning, but that didn't work so well. Still, she was willing to!

- Spouse has started taking the bb for five hours Saturday and Sunday mornings while I sleep. (This is part of the results of that head-tearing-off thing I mentioned in my last post.) I feel sort of strange listing him in my "people helping me" list, since he's the kid's parent, too. So "helping" isn't the right category. But it's more than he was doing before and he started doing it because I asked him to, so that counts for something. It's not half of the sleeping hours around here, but on the weekends, I'm getting more sleep than he is.

- My mom came up for a few days when I was most desperate and cleaned the house for me. And she's coming up again tomorrow!

They might not be supernatural beings offering to eviscerate my enemies, but these people are pretty fucking awesome. When I get out of my own misery enough to consider it, I'm boggled that so many people are willing to do so much for me.
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I actually read a book! I was in the library with kid no. 1 and snagged _Written in Red_ off of the tiny sci-fi shelf (it covers all spec fic, but they label it that way) in the new books section because it looked kind of interesting in the two minutes I had to glance. It was full of problematic stuff, which I mostly ignored so I could damn well enjoy getting lost in a book already. (I also grabbed _The Games_ from the not-new section, but it was awful. By pg 9 it had sexism, fat bigotry, and a horrible stereotyped ineffectual mother who fails to save her kid. I stopped there--I don’t really even have time to read *good* books.)

Just to get it out of the way, the problematic aspects of _Written in Red_ that glared out at me were:

- a protagonist whose superpower is inspiring protectiveness in those around her, ‘cause she just so darned sweet and so ineffective at taking care of herself

- a villain who is mostly characterized by being beautiful, ambitious, and willing to use sex to manipulate dudes

- that’s the only sex in the book, and the only sexual female character

- a semi-love-interest who is so inspired to protectiveness that he just can’t help acting like an aggressive asshole around the protag

- a backstory of enslaved young women and girls that isn’t literally sexual, but has enough sexual overtones to remind me of [personal profile] metaphortunate ’s question, “Why are there so many songs about sex dolls?”

- a little bit of cultural appropriation

But, really, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t totally enjoy reading the book. I think some of the enjoyment was from the problematic thing with the protagonist being all wonderful and cute and roundly loved by everyone around her. Maybe I just need that right now--a little fantasy of being so amazingly delightful that people would crowd around me to help me and bake me cookies (actually happened in the book!) and protect me from hard things in life. And the hard things in life would be, like, single events full of drama and excitement and not the endless, slowly wearing pain of never sleeping much or the sort of personality-numbing tedium of doing a lot of housework and wiping up of baby vomit and rarely seeing another adult. Another aspect of fantasy indulgence that I enjoyed was how, if someone annoys you enough, you can be super powerful and just kill them and you don’t have to stop to consider how they maybe have reasons or whatever. (In a whole other post I’d like to talk about having discovered for myself the useful, constructive aspects of what Buddhism calls “the world of animality” or that desire to dominate/cower in the sorting out of social order. I had this great experience of chanting and fantasizing about literally ripping off someone’s head. It ended up being very helpful in my real life.)

Anyway, other than the sort of teenage wish-fulfillment aspects, there are things that the book does well:

- vampires and werewolves made totally fresh (at least for me) with well-done, thorough worldbuilding

- a neat premise about people who see accurate prophecies when their skin is cut

- aspects of the protagonist that I like--creativity, courage, kindness, a Bilbo Baggins kind of reluctant willingness to venture into the unknown

- some interesting exploration about physical power/the ability to inflict violence and how it influences freedom and social power (although there are some aspects of this that really could have used more delving)

If I were seriously reviewing this book, I’d probably have something smart to say about the slightly wavering pacing, but it wasn’t enough to actually bother me. There are some characters I’d like to see more fully developed, but this book is clearly the start of a series, so that will probably come.

The experience of reading this book made me realize how much happier I would be if I found a way to work reading into my life. (I’ve been finding it rather cute how the whole reading Wednesday thing assumes that people always have something they’re reading, something they just read, and something they’re planning to read next. Obviously not a meme created by a parent of an infant. But now I’m thinking that I just might want to figure something out. I don’t need to read a novel in four days like I just did--even fifteen minutes a day is something.)

I don’t know if I’ll actually write it, but I’ve been wanting to do a post about managing reading time. Something I never learned as a child but that I might want to take on for my kid’s sake--my daughter is clearly as much of a bookaholic as Spouse and I were and it recently occurred to me that I could do something other than the totally-unrestricted-reading-time thing my mom did for me. (Literally. I never had the experience of hiding under covers with a flashlight because my mom didn’t care if I read until 2:00 AM.) (BTW, no, I don’t let my daughter do that. So I guess I’m already doing something different.) Anyway, the whole thing bears thinking about.
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Wheat did not make the cut today. I reintroduced with a sandwich on sourdough bread and felt major ick and minor gastrointestinal upset pretty quickly. <sigh> At least I know.

Why does Pandora have a swear-word filter but no misogyny filter?! My daughter has transformed her love of Michael Martin Murphy (cowboy music) into a Pandora station that plays cowboy nostalgia, country, and weird 70s folk. (OMG, if I have to hear John Denver sing Rocky Mtn High one more time I'm gonna puke.) Anyway, it's weird how country can be all sweet and idealistic and girl-meets-boy-handholding one minute and grossly, disgustingly misogynistic the next. And also, so much gender essentialism! My deal with her was that she could listen to "grown-up" (i.e. not made-for-kids) music but that I could thumbs-down at will. So I do a lot of thumbsing-down. Which is probably fucking up Pandora's method for figuring out what kind of music she likes. (She loves Don Williams, but the one about "pull down the shades, turn out the light, and love me tonight" got the hammer. Not for the sex innuendos but for the annoying demandingness and sort of implied objectification.)

It is weird how strongly some of the country music affects me. I mean it's super sappy, but it gets me. I actually started crying at the dinner table when this song about how this dude and his wife won't be sad when their children grow up and move away because they'll remember when. My daughter was so cute; she said "if it makes you so sad, then don't listen to it." Anyway, I think I get this weird identity resonance/dissonance thing listening to it. I used to feel guilty whenever I listened to country music, but now that I decided to stay married and have another kid, sometimes I just identify. Which is so weird, because it's all heartland, bedrock, God stuff. I dunno.

I had some caffeinated tea today at 5:00 and so I'm awake now, even though the only time the little dude sleeps in his own crib for more than an hour or so is like 8 to 9:30. But you know what? I feel so /damn/ good. It's giving me hope that being depressed really is mostly about sleep deprivation and not something harder to reverse. Not that I can really reverse it right now. But it's nice to have a little brief artificial feeling of enough rest. I know why I always get re-addicted to this drug.

Yay dairy!

Mar. 26th, 2013 08:40 pm
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I haven't posted at all about this big elimination diet I was doing for 30 days, even though I have a lot to say about it, but I wanted to announce (joyously) that I just reintroduced milk and had no problem with it *at all*.  I was all expecting that it would make be super sick, because that happens with a lot of people if they take dairy out and reintroduce it, but I appear to be one of the lucky few folks who really can chobble down on the cheese and milk and whatnot without suffering ill effects. Yay!

(I'm suspecting that I will discover that I can reintroduce everything just fine, and that the problem I was trying to suss out has more to do with my total sugar/starch intake than any one single food I can just avoid. Kind of good new/bad news, but I'm just going to be happy about butter and lattes for a bit.)
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Thank you all for your comments in my last post. It helped a lot to read them.

Just wanted to let you all know that I am feeling a bit better. Also, my mom is coming to help me for a couple days! Thank God she's in a good place right now and is able to help.


Mar. 17th, 2013 08:31 pm
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I've been having a super hard time this weekend. I think it was that I expected to get some rest, or fun, or something and then didn't. (Obv, because I didn't make it happen, but still.) On top of going to FOGcon and expecting it to help the loneliness and it didn't. (Because I was too stressed out to really connect with anyone. I have a half-written, long, whiny post about it I may finish sometime.) It's interesting how I feel awful when the thing I'd been hoping for is over, like the looking forward to con or the weekend is what kept me going.

While I was nursing the intermittently screaming baby tonight (I started putting him to bed too late so he was super hungry and overtired), I had this half of a suicidal thought. Like, along the lines of, "Oh wouldn't it be so much easier if--" and then I mind-scrubbed it. It wasn't like suicidal ideation or anything, more of a wisp of a thought. It concerned me a little; I think if I were less depressed it would have scared me. I'm sensitive about that stuff, since it's been a not-unreasonable fear of mine that my mom's going to off herself since I was about twelve. Also, I'm the one in the family who isn't bipolar, who is cheerful and bubbly, you know? So it's kind of disturbing to not be holding that. But, like I said, it's hard to actually care too much about that right now.

I had a plan to find a freakin' night nurse for the baby so I could sleep, like, eight hours for a month. Then I was going to feel better and be able to figure out a long-term plan to get the stupid way-too-old-for-this-shit baby to sleep. And to deal with my big kid's school issues. And all my freaking out about my unintentional weight loss. And all the other shit.

But Spouse is opposed to the idea. Because it would be incredibly expensive, but also because he doesn't like the idea of someone else doing it. And I'm like, why don't you not sleep for eight months and then tell me about what a bad idea this is? But then I get all fair and remember that we operate on consensus and that I get to veto letting the baby cry it out so I guess it makes sense that he gets to veto the night nurse idea. But honestly? I'm still pissed off at him.

And why do I even have the energy to be pissed when I'm having trouble giving a crap about the things that, intellectually anyway, seem important?

I have no wrap-up thought here. I guess I can't give a crap about thinking of one.

A carreer?

Mar. 14th, 2013 08:26 pm
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So, a while ago I wrote one of my many posts-in-my-head about a realization that hit me all at once--how much my choice to be home with my kids is economic. Like, it's totally true that I think the work I do is important, and that I think it serves my children best to have a lot of time with me when they are very young. But if teaching preschool paid as well as Spouse's engineering job? You bet your sweet bippy I'd be off doing it, leaving dear Spouse at home stressing out because how in the hell do you make dinner while the baby's screaming?! And if gender socialization was different and if our dominant cultural narrative treated teaching as equally important to engineering, I'd totally be arguing that my important work that supports the family requires that *I* be the one to get a good night's sleep and Spouse just has to cope because, you know, he /could/ do his job at home without sleeping. Hell yes, I would. In a hot minute. It's disturbing to me how much my feelings about the Importance of Mommy Being Home might just be some lame justification. (Not saying it is for other women and men who stay home and do domestic stuff! Just me!)

So then, today, I heard this great interview on the DIane Ream show with Cheryl S(mumble, mumble) (I swear, that's time-constraint, not laziness!) the COO of Facebook about women and careers and her book and social project Lean In. And I'm thinking, hell, Spouse has a head start, but there probably is a job out there that I would enjoy and be good at that pays about the same as an engineering salary. I don't know about that transition, where I'm needing to be in school or learning or whatever, which makes it kind of hard to have Spouse stay home while I do it; I mean, it's nice for the family to income More than nice. But still, I have this feeling that if I could just figure it out, there would be a way to swap with Spouse, get some fucking sleep, be the one who gets to do the thing our culture calls important, and, like, have an adult life.

I mean, I made as much per hour as Spouse when I was a contract tech writer, but I didn't have benefits or guaranteed hours, which are both necessary to be the breadwinner. Also, I hated it.
dancingsinging: (Default)
My baby just discovered a box of tissues. I found him happily gnawing on one, surrounded by drifts of more. Oh, the constipation to come!

The pediatrician's office has a changing table in the women's room but not the men's. If I weren't so exhausted, I'd rage.

I saw a licence plate that said "EVILEVA" and went into fits of jealousy. How did I not think of that?
dancingsinging: (Default)
I ended up going to Potlatch even in the midst of baby-induced exhaustion because we had some money with Southwest that we were going to lose if we didn't spend it. And also because I have been feeling really lonely and my poor writerly self has been starved for attention and air-time. I figured that the energy expended in getting us all up there would probably pay off handsomely in an emotional boost from hanging around with people who were eager to talk to me and from having a chance to talk about writing and geek out about books.

Things started off badly, though. I spent Friday night re-introducing myself to people I had met at previous conventions who had been eager to talk to me before but had completely forgotten doing so and now seemed to kind of want to edge away from me. (I'm wondering if I was giving off an exhausted/desperate vibe? Or maybe it's because I've gained about 20 pounds and quite a few wrinkles and don't look as cute anymore? I know that sounds awful, but I think most people unconsciously respond to conventionally-conceived beauty. On a total side note, several weeks back, I noticed that I was totally obsessing about the way my body looks, against all my rational beliefs and convictions. Like seriously I couldn't stop bashing my looks in my own head and being all disgusted with myself. And then I finally was like, What the fuck? I have to figure this out! So I did a bunch of chanting and realized that I was super lonely and somehow I had some fucked-up emotional wiring that was skipping my bayain and just concluding that if I was lonely it must be because of being fat and that of course I had to solve the being fat problem and of course the way to solve being fat is hating your body. So messed up, right? Figuring out what was going on helped break the obsessing.) Anyway, back to my main story. So no one seemed to really want to talk to me, and then I had a couple of minor interactions that made me feel really unwelcome (not that anyone was actually un-welcoming me, it just made me feel that way).

So I went up to my room and plunked the baby on the floor with some toys and cried. Then I sat down to chant, because I didn't want to waste the whole day feeling like crap. While chanting, I figured out that everything was hitting me extra hard because I was afraid that I could never be the writer I want to be, that I could never actually figure out how to get the beautiful stories I can imagine down onto paper. And being at Potlatch had made me remember how much I really, really want to tell those stories.

Shortly after that, I got to have dinner with [personal profile] wild_irises, Nisi Shawl, and Suzy Charnas. It was a wonderful dinner. Exactly what I was hoping to get out of Potlatch--great conversation with interesting people who like me! Then I got to have a one on one conversation with w_i, wherein I related all my suffering about writing. She had some great ideas (like letting the part of me that thinks I'm awesome have a mental dialogue with the part that's afraid that I just suck too much to accomplish anything), great encouragement (she says she thinks I have talent and that she thought the one story of mine that she's read was a good story), and great advice (that I ask some writers who write in the way I want to write how they know whether their work is good).

Then I went to this awesome, awesome poetry reading "moderated" by Eileen Gunn. I went because Nisi Shawl was reading and I love her fiction. Her poetry was amazing--and, bonus!, so was the poetry of the other two women reading. I mean, it was /all/ really great stuff. And then there was this great discussion that included the audience. One of the poets, JT Stewart, struck me as a real master; she's been writing and teaching for decades. She asked the audience if anyone had questions about the writing of poetry, as opposed to the meaning of the poems that had been read. So I went ahead and asked, "How do you know when your work is good?"

She had the most amazing answer, which I can't entirely remember because it was metaphorical and spiritual and, well, an answer that a poet would give. But I can remember two bright points from it--the first, it was the first thing she said, was to not ask that question-is it good or bad--but rather to ask 'what is working in this poem?' or 'why does this poem work?' She said that the first question is useless and eats away at your self-esteem (which is totally true for me!) The other thing she said that I remember is that if you are a person with "antennae" that pick things up from around you, you have to take it in, transform it (she referred to Ovid's Metamorphosis), and then give it back out. That things like that aren't meant to stagnate within you, that you can't just receive it and keep it; that's selfish. Every thing she said resonated with me so deeply.

Then after the programming ended, she spent quite a while with me one on one talking about poetry and rhythm and oh my god I am so inspired to write poetry now. I bought the new Aqueduct Press book of feminist poetry they were all reading from. It looks great. I've read the first poem and it's by Ursula Le Guin and it's great. You all should buy this book! I will hunt down a link eventually, I hope. JT is a remarkable woman and if you all ever get a chance to talk to her at Wiscon or something, you totally should.

Then I ventured back to the consuite briefly (briefly bc Spouse had txted to say that the baby would probably need my boobs soon and could I please get to the room /before/ the screaming for milk started). At the consuite people wanted to talk to me! And I met a writer who was at about my level and had a great conversation about writing! And we swapped emails because we're both looking for crit buddies!

And on top of all that, today when I went to the Aqueduct table to buy the poetry book (and Timmi's new short story collection, yay! And Redwood and Wildfire, which I had been all sad to miss at Wiscon last year, yay!) I had this really fantastic conversation with Timmi about her work. And then I asked her about feeling like is it even worth it to work on this? And she also had great things to say. She said first that every writer pretty much has to do that work, every time they sit down to write. And that was great, to frame that struggle with the question as part of the work of a writer, rather than some stupid thing I do because I suck on even this new meta-layer. Also it made me feel kind of better that even Timmi, who has this whole body of amazing work as evidence that, yes, she probably can pull it off, that even she still has to do that work. And TImmi had practical suggestions, too! She suggested that I have some piece of music that I reserve for just before I write, like a cue to my imaginitive brain that it's time to work. And she suggested that I give myself plenty of time to daydream, and do something with my hands while I do it. And then when I told her that the dreamy part I totally have down, it's getting the thing into a story that I struggle with, she suggested that I let the words get starting /while/ I'm daydreaming. She also had this great metaphor of throwing a bunch of balls in the air, but then writing from /inside/ that place of holding all the balls, not from the outside kind of analytically looking at the balls. She said that if you do it from inside, you intuitively know what comes next. And maybe this sounds super weird the way that I'm writing it down here, but it made PERFECT SENSE when I heard it. Like, something totally clicked.

I am so excited for a chance to sit down and try this stuff out. I'm not sure how I will exactly swing that now that I'm back to real life and not con-space. But maybe I'll figure something out.

Speaking of re-entering regular life, it was interesting driving home. I noticed that the landscape and images of the drive from the freeway to my house now have a total association of loneliness for me. I hadn't realized how sort of laquered on, day by day, that emotional experience has been. But today, at least, it was kind of nice because I could feel the loneliness in the scenery, but I felt sort of wrapped in the last trailing clouds of friendship from the con, so it was kind of buffered. Sort of like standing outside in a cold wind but having a blanket to wrap yourself in.

dancingsinging: (Default)
I bought this book for Spouse for xmas and then promptly snatched it from him and read it. :) I hope he gets around to reading it soon, because I think he'll like it even more than I did.

I really had fun reading this book. (Since I only have a few minutes a day to read what with the new baby and all, a book being a fun read is kind of a requirement.)

I particularly liked the narrative voice. It's a lot like Neal Stephenson--credibly urban, young, and modern, with enough self-consciousness and wry humor to keep it from being annoying. I also enjoyed the adventure-hero structure applied to a modern, non-fantasy setting. I think this was an aspect that made it so fun to read.

I like also that "what are physical books good for anyway and do they have a place in the modern age" is a theme running through the book. It's something I wrestle with myself quite a bit and I was hoping the story would offer some beautiful insight. That didn't seem to be there, but I still enjoyed the presence of the question.

The development of the female characters was kind of weak. Not, like, Heinlein-weak, but it just read a little like Sloan didn't want to bother developing the women's motivations all that much. I did appreciate when Sloan wrote about an engineer off somewhere in the background and then later referred to that engineer as "she" (catching me in my own sexist assumption of what a generic "engineer" looks like!) and at the end he throws in some layers of complexity in the main love-interest female character, but it read kind of like something he slapped on there when someone pointed out that she was two-dimensional and sort of a fantasy woman.

Still, there are fun characters in the book and it's paced nicely and full of interesting turns. I'd say it's worth a read.
dancingsinging: (Default)
The other day, my daughter asked me if we could go to the arctic to help the polar bears. I asked her what we'd do when we got there, and she explained that the polar bears are drowning because the ice floes are melting and the bears get too tired swimming and drown. Her plan was to bring a big freezer and lots of cold water to the arctic to make a big ice cube for them to stand on. She explained that she knew it wouldn't solve the long term problem, but that it would help for now.

I asked her what else we might do to help the polar bears besides going to the arctic. She thought maybe we could tackle global warming. I told her we could help by sometimes walking to the store instead of driving and by using less electricity. She went around the house and turned off all the lights we weren't using and dimmed the light we were using. It was very sweet and cute and it made her feel a lot better.

But I still felt like crap. Because, damn, what /are/ we going to do about global warming? Seeing her sincerity and that purehearted belief that we could do something to make a significant difference to fix this seriously fucked-up thing made me confront my own cynicism and (dang, if I weren't so sleep-deprived I could think of the word I want. You know, the one that means how you get all resigned and fatalistic when you don't know how to make something better.)

I've been planning to buy a newer used Subaru, because the one I have is getting pretty old and also is too small to fit a baby car seat in comfortably and doesn't feel that safe. But after the global warming conversation, I started thinking maybe about getting a car that can run on biodiesel*. Or an electric car**. (I discussed it with my engineer spouse and he has a litany of reasons for why electric is better.) This has me now trying to convince myself that it wouldn't be horribly financially irresponsible to buy a new Tesla model S. OMG, that would be so freakin' awesome.

Anyway, back to my story. So I tearfully related the polar-bear-drowning info to Spouse, feeling like a total asshole for having ever driven a car in my life, and he was like, "Didn't you hear? That's totally not true and was fully misrepresented!" And I was all, "Conservative propaganda lies! I'm Googling it!" and anyway it looks like it really isn't true. I mean, polar bear habitat is being lost because of global warming and it's really not pretty what's happening in the arctic, but there are no polar bears pathetically swimming and swimming until they drown. And apparently the original report about it was done in a scientifically unethical way and was basically just some dude who saw four floating dead polar bears who had drowned because of a /storm/ who then speculated that there are more storms bc of global warming but really had no evidence of that.

So I feel all manipulated and also all mad that my *daughter* was all manipulated. I mean, we are both sincere people who care and want to do something about global warming anyway. No need to lie to us and manipulate us already!

So, seriously, do any of you know of anything real my daughter or I could actually do about g.w.? I mean, that's not token effort like in the "10 things kids can do to help the environment" kind of way?

*I know that it's still combustion and still releases carbon dioxide. But the corn plants used up that same co2 to grow, so it's not releasing sequestered co2. (Hey, I have a question. Why can't we just grow a lot of algae or something and then sequester it by like putting it in metal balls and burying it before it decomposes? That would totally take co2 out of the atmosphere, right?)

**I know that the electricity is generated in a co2-producing power plant. But I understand that the efficiency is much better, with a pollution equivalent of, like, 100 mpg. I would research this more before I bought the car.
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