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You can have my Andre Nortons when you pry them from my cold dead fingers, & other lessons of moving

Boxes, boxes everywhere!

I haven’t had much time for blogging (or writing, or editing) while we’ve been moving. And a huge part of the packing has involved books. We own (literally) thousands of books. Entire walls of some rooms in our place are lined with bookcases. There were mulitple bookcases in the bedroom and the hallway. Many shelves in each bookcase were double-packed: there was a second entire row of books behind the row of books you could see from the front. We had installed extra shelves in sever of the books so that now vertical space above rows of paperback books would be wasted. And then, of course, because we’re both that kind of reader, there were big piles of book-to-be-read beside the bed on each side–one for me, one for my husband.

Before we knew where we were moving to, we decided to use this opportunity to cull some of the collection. This would have been an absolute necessity if we were moving to a smaller place, but we also knew it was a good idea. There are always books that you realize you’re never going to read again, for instance, that have stayed on the shelf for years through inertia.

I had done most of the book packing until recently. Deciding which books to definitely keep, and setting others aside from my hubby to review. If he didn’t want to keep it, either, then we had to decide whether the book would go the the charity we’ve been shipping many to (Books Through Bars), or elsewhere. The first several shelves I did were a bit difficult, as I had hem and haw over half the books before deciding. But after a while (and having carried enough boxes of books to start appreciate just how much heavy toting was going to be involved in keeping all those books) I got faster at making the decision.

I didn’t quite realize I had done this until last weekend. My husband had recovered enough from the surgery that he was able to stand for longer periods, so he was going through bookcases in one room while I was working in another. And he keep interrupting me to show me a few books that he was dithering over.

I realized that he was earlier in the process than I was, but also that he was thinking of it differently. It was like he thought we had to reach a consensus on books as we went along. So I explained how I’d gotten to the point where I look at the book, and if I feel an immediate, “Yes, we’re keeping this!” I put it in the box. If not, I put it in the pile for my husband. And that’s it. I wasn’t holding up packing he current box in front of me until we’d made a decision. My idea was, as long as one of us wanted to keep it, that was good enough. I didn’t need to agree with every book he wanted to keep, nor did he have to agree with mine. “You can tell me I have to come look at the pile when you’re done.”

I did confess a couple of my other rules, though. One of which inspired the title of this post: “Even if I don’t remember the book, if Andre Norton wrote it, we’re keeping it.” She’s just one of those authors whose books really moved me when I was young, and every time I’ve gone back and re-read one, I’ve loved it all over again. There are other authors in that category, but only a few.

I have to admit if you had asked me during my teens or twenties who my favorite author was (and I did get asked), Norton wasn’t who I mentioned. It was only later, one of the times I had to move in my 30s (actually, I think it was when I and my ex- were dividing property, and the books got contentious), that I realized that I had a much stronger emotional reaction to the idea of not keeping a Norton than I did to pretty much any other author.

Of course, not all of the culling in the move involves books. Nor is it always emotional. The other night when I got home from work my husband said he had four boxes he’d pulled down from a shelf in he back closet that I needed to look at. They were full of papers. Most of the papers were hardcopies of material that had been published in the ‘zine I edited for over 20 years. The material has all been published and is available for purchase in multiple places. And a lot of these papers were copies marked up by editors. No reason to have held on to them this long, truth be told. One box had a bunch of things I worked on back in my teens and twenties. I pulled exactly three things out, and then carried the four boxes outside and put all the rest of the contents in the big recycle bin.

The next night while I was going through some other shelves in a closet, I pulled out two plastic file boxes. Now, I thought that those two boxes contained a bunch of records and legal papers. Tax records from years ago, for instance, and copies of my court documents related to my name change. Neither box contained anything like that. They were instead filled with hard copy markups of more edits and revisions source material for the shared universe of the ‘zine I used to edit. All stuff that had either already been entered into computer files and then published, or otherwise hadn’t been needed for years. But there they had sat for all that time, taking up space. So I made yet another trip out to the recycle bins!

There was a point when my husband was laughing about finding some notes from Dungeons & Dragons campaigns he was in or ran before he moved out to the west coast (so back in the 80s). So a bit later when I came across a pocket-sized ring-binder I had forgotten existed and said, “Hey! I have you beat!” He interrupted and said, “Oh, I have several little ones like that.” So I had to explain it wasn’t the notebook, but the contents. I showed him the first page (which was barely readable because of how the pencil marks had faded): “My first D&D character that survived more than a couple of games. Created in 1977, before Advanced Dungeons & Dragons even existed.”

I know it’s ageist, but sometimes the fact that I’m ten years older than him does figure into things. I was a teenager when the original D&D came out, and still a teenager when AD&D was released and took over gaming. While he was still in grade school.

And no, I didn’t keep the notebook. It’s gone!

Now, if only I could get rid of the steel filing cabinets we no longer need so easily…

They’re just things, that’s what we keep saying…

Picture of my tacky christmas ferris wheel decoration

Silly, tacky, with tinny music — and I Ioved it!

Humans form attachments to other people, to animals, to possessions, to places, et cetera. This tendency to become fond of things has been shown in various contexts to actually have survival value. But we don’t just form these attachments for practical reasons. Emotions are, by definition, not rational. And we can have conflicting feelings about things. Take, for instance, my tacky Christmas ferris wheel. It was a gift from my friend, Kats, who shares my fondness for certain types of kitsch. Her wife, like my husband, does not share this particular interest, and they both do a lot of eye-rolling at our taste in decorations.

The plastic ferris wheel is battery powered, and it had two modes: it could light up and the wheel would turn slowly. The ferris cars rock on the wheel, and the wheel has always been a little bit jerky in its motion, so the little plastic snowmen and penguins and beers and reindeer seemed to be waving cheerfully as the wheel turn. In the other mode you got the lights, the rotating wheel, and you got tinny versions of Christmas carols. It was like a dream come true for me, and my husband’s worst Christmas nightmare all in one!

I’ve had it for years. Every Christmas season since Kats gave it to me, I’ve unpacked it along with the ornaments we’re using that year, put batteries in it, turned it on to listen to the music at least once through its medley, then put it somewhere in the living room where I could see it. I would turn the ferris wheel on silent mode a few more times (since the music really annoys my husband). And I would turn the music on at least one more time before taking the batteries out and packing it away with the other ornaments.

Over the years there have been a few glitches. Pieces have broken off and had to be glued back on. One bit of fence broke off several times and eventually I had to admit that it was more glue than plastic and it couldn’t really be put back together. (Side note: in a testament to how awesome my husband is, he did spend some time trying to scan the broken bits to see if he could 3D print me a replacement.) One time a few years ago when I turned it on the ferris wheel wouldn’t turn. My husband fiddled with it and got it working again, but it was always with a more jerky motion than before. The motor was always loud enough to hear from across the room even when the music was playing. And over time the motor sound has gotten louder.

Then this last Christmas, when I put batteries in and turned it on, the lights came on, the motor made its usual sound, the wheel turned jerkily… and the music started to play, then glitched, then played a bit more, then glitched, and started to sound a bit off key. I thought maybe the batteries I put in were nearly dead, so I swtiched them out. Nope. The sound chip was definitely dying.

I set the ferris wheel up, because it’s still cheerful looking, and put off the decision of whether to keep or dispose of it until the end of the Christmas season.

Then we got the first official notification from the new owners of our building that they weren’t going to be raising anyone’s rent, no, they were going to evict all of us. They were applying for permits to do a major renovation to the building, and needed everyone out. They have a guesstimate it would be May or so when they would need everyone to go (once they got the permit process going, we got more official communication and a somewhat more certain timeline). That’s why, when I put the Christmas decorations away this last year, I pulled out all of the containers of decorations (we have way more than we can use in a given year), and went through them selecting stuff to get rid of. I reduced our collection by a bit (though we still have way too much). The ferris wheel, clearly, needed to go.

Except I wasn’t ready to let it go, just yet.

So, I didn’t pack it away nor throw it out. I moved it to the bookcase over by my favorite chair. It’s not Christmas time, but I don’t care. The ferris wheel gets to stay until we leave, I decided. Then it will be retired for good.

We have professional movers scheduled to come deal with the heavy furniture and whatever else we haven’t moved ourselves in about 10 days. So the ferris wheel’s end is looming. It’s just a thing. And as I recall, Kats said she bought it at a second hand place, so I’ve definitely gotten her money’s worth out of it. And my poor, long-suffering husband has already told me he’s going to buy me a new tacky Christmas thing to replace it this next year. So I shouldn’t feel too sad about it going. I am a little amused at myself to realize that some of my anger at the new owners (evicting everyone regardless is the least annoying thing they’ve done; there will be catty snarky blog posts about it eventually, but not now) has become focused on a few weird possessions.

The truth is that I probably would have gotten rid the the ferris wheel once the chip died even if we weren’t trying to reduce our hoard before me move. But I find myself blaming its demise on the new owners of the building. And maybe it’s a good thing to have something concrete to focus the annoyance on, you know? The ferris wheel, the tacky hanging lamp (I’ll talk about that after the move for… reasons), the rose trellises, and so forth are better ways to expend that kind of negative energy than some of the alternatives.

Right?

Personal update: We’re moving to Shoreline

The Junk Lady from Labyrinth. © 1986 Henson Associates, Inc.

The Junk Lady from Labyrinth–which is sometimes how I think other people perceive me and all my collections. © 1986 Henson Associates, Inc.

I’ve mentioned a few times about our building being sold and our need to move. We had some timing complication because of my husband’s surgery and the medical issue necessitating the surgery, plus the way the housing market has gone insane in Seattle. We were being charged far, far, far under market for a number of years without realizing it. And while we’ve looked at a lot of places, there were issues. Most of them being that the place was too small for us and our stuff. And if the place wasn’t too small it was so far out there that the commute made it as economically unfeasible as staying in our old neighborhood.

We found a place last weekend which was big enough, in our price range, and not too far away. It’s in an older building and the neighborhood isn’t as nice as our current one (not that’s it’s horrible, it’s just more suburban mall/strip mall and less home town enclave hiding in a city). We applied, they asked us to come back and put down a deposit, because of the mulitiple applications they’d taken, we were the ones the manager wanted, but he needed to wait for the background checks to complete and the owner to give an okee-dokee. So we’ve been kind of in suspense all week. Yesterday, we signed the lease and got keys. I guess this is happening!

I slapped some stars on this google maps screen shot image to show approximately where I've lived in the nearly 32 years in Seattle. Click to embiggen

I slapped some stars on this google maps screen shot image to show approximately where I’ve lived in the nearly 32 years in Seattle. Click to embiggen

I’ll be posting more about the new place, I’m sure. I need to go load some things in the car and get moving, so I’ll keep this brief, at least for me. One of the things that I’m finding myself oddly disturbed about this move is that the new place is not within the boundaries of the City of Seattle. I moved to Seattle 31 and a half years ago to attend university. The first couple of years I lived in dorm rooms at Seattle Pacific on the north side of Queen Anne (which is both a named hill in the city and the name of the neighborhood encompassing it). That put me just two city blocks away from the Ship Canal, which separates the north and south geographic clumps of the city. The next couple of places I lived were duplexes near the same university. Then I moved all the way to the south side of the same hill to sublet a condo near the Opera House. Then Ray and I lived in a small studio in Fremont, exactly one block north of the aforementioned Ship Canal. We moved to a barely larger one-bedroom apartment in the very same building for a few years, before finally moving to the four-plex in Ballard—a whopping 8 blocks north of the Ship Canal.

Not only have I been living only in Seattle the last 31+ years, but you can see on the map I slapped-together from a Google maps screen shot and some extra stars, it’s all been in a fairly small part of the city. I’m really familiar with all the stores and restaurants and so forth in this vicinity. I’ve mentioned several times how nice it is that be only two-four city blocks away from two different supermarkets, one of with (Ballard Market Town & Country) I’ve been shopping at for at least 30 years.

The blue star is approximately the location of our new place.

The blue star is approximately the location of our new place.

Now people familiar with the area might point out the the City of Shoreline is barely out of Seattle. The two smoosh up against each other. Most of the border runs along major thoroughfares, so one side of a street is Seattle, the other side Shoreline. And it’s true, Shoreline is practically next door. But we’re barely in Shoreline. We’re all the way at the far side of it, just five blocks from the border to the next neighboring city, Edmonds. Which coincidentally means were five blocks from the border between King County and Snohomish County.

I’m deeply steeped in Seattle politics and was really looking forward to the next round of city council and mayor elections this coming fall. Except by then, while I will still be working in Seattle, I’ll no longer be able to vote there. I have to get used to a whole new set of election tropes! At least I’m still voting for King County Executive and a councilmember (though I’ve been in District 4 forever, and now we’ll be in District 1).

Anyway, I’ve spent longer on this than I meant. I have loading to do!

Confessions of a guy who likes the rain

Cat with coffee mug

I’ll be fine if you just give me my coffee… and my snacks… and my allergy meds… and… and… and…

So one of my co-workers had been working for the same employer in an office on the east coast, and decided to move to Seattle and work in our group. She’s been here since mid-summer, and it’s been quite an experience trying to explain Seattle weather to her. Yesterday she was asking why summer hasn’t already started, because a daytime high of 48ºF with lots of drizzling and some rain with sun breaks in April seems absurd to her. I hadn’t realized that each of the times she had come out to work in our office for several days over the last few years had always been in August. I tried to explain how our summer doesn’t really start until about July 12, and so forth, which seemed to astound her. I think maybe she thinks we’re all pulling her leg or something. I mentioned that I like the rain, and really don’t like our typical August weather at all.

My walk home later that day was fun and weird. It was raining, but the sun was also out, so I had to put on my sunglasses. When I got to the corner, where our office building was no longer acting as a wind break, I found out it was really windy. At the next corner I swear a whirlwind touched down on me and threatened to sweep me away. The rain got much more intense as I walked the third block… and then it turned to sleet. I had sleet for about three blocks, with the wind buffeting me from many directions. The wind is particularly weird now because of my new hat, which has a much broader brim than my old broad-brimmed hat. So the amount of lift it was putting on my head was disturbing.

And I should mention that even when the rain and sleet were coming down hardest, the sun was still shining right in my eyes, since it was close to the horizon and there were blue skies visible there.

The sleet let up to just a light drizzle by the time I was at about the 11th block of my walk, and the wind shifted to a fairly steady breeze coming straight out of the north—right in my face.

The rest of the walk home (about 4 miles total) was breezy with occasional drizzles. The sun was just dipping below the horizon (but the sky was still lit nicely) when I got to the house.

The new hat, by the way, didn’t let any water reach my head. Some of my previous hats would have been soaked and my head would have at least been damp by then.

Seattle weather is like that a lot—by which I mean, weird mixes of things that change quickly throughout the day or that just change from one neighborhood to the next. One of the consequences of this is that I own several different coats and jackets. This was another part of the co-worker’s disbelief: she’s used to owning one heavy coat for winter, and a light jacket for the fall. She was freaked out at how many different types of raincoat she tried (and returned) before she found one she liked last fall. And now neither of her three coats work, because it will be too cold for the light coat or rain coat when she leaves the house in the morning, but too warm for the heavy coat when she goes out for lunch in the middle of the day. I and several co-workers said (almost simultaneously) “That’s why everyone in Seattle wears layers.”

I have several coats. My heavy winter coat, which is leather and has a hood and that I waterproof regularly (and also has a removable extra liner) gets me through several months from the late fall through winter. I start wearing it without the liner mid-fall, add the liner about a month later, then take out the liner around the end of January. Then I have a medium jacket, which is puffy and insulated and looks like it might be for colder weather than the coat, but because it only covers my torso is inadequate for winter. Well, not totally. It gets worn on weekends a lot during the winter when I’m only out of the house to go shopping or visit friends and mostly driving rather than walking and busing. The jacket works for part of fall and a bit of spring. Then I have a lighter jacket that still has some insulation. It tends to take over around April and is the jacket I wear until about June. And then there is a light windbreaker style jacket with a hood that gets carried around in my backpack starting in late May or June and usually through September because you often need a jacket for part of the day during those months.

When we were out looking at apartments (again) on Saturday, I wore the medium coat, and regretted it because it was too heavy for how warm it was. So I switched to the lighter coat Sunday, when I ran out to buy a money order because the property manager of the apartment we put in an application for called and asked us to bring the deposit the next day. Finding a place to sell me a money order using a debit card on a Sunday was more of an adventure than I expected, in part because of that switch in coats. When I switched, I wasn’t diligent about moving things from the medium jacket to the light one, so my emergency granola bar I always carry in case I have a glycemic crash wasn’t in my pocket. Because I’m on timed-released or long acting insulin, I have to have small snacks of meals every couple of hours, or my blood sugar drops too low and I have a glycemic crash.

For me, glycemic crashes mean my mood gets weird, I usually get a headache, and my brain just doesn’t work right. The problem is that the low blood sugar headache feels just like a hay fever headache, so if I don’t realize it’s been longer since my last snack or meal then I think, or notice that my fingers are trembling if I hold my hand up, I don’t realize what’s going on.

I won’t go into all the details of finding out I couldn’t get a money order from debit at the first place I went, or the rude customer in line in front of me, and so on. But what should have been a clue was that once I had the money order in hand, there at a counter at the second place, with my wallet in my other hand, I had this thought that I shouldn’t put the money order in the wallet because I might lose it if I didn’t keep my eye on it. So I walked out to the car clutching the money order very tightly in my hand, and only when I was inside the car and needed both hands to operate the vehicle, did I decide I should put the money order in a pocket or something. All of the pockets seemed like a bad idea, and I finally remembered I could put it in the wallet. Which I did.

When I’d left the house, Michael had asked me to pick up a very specific brand of juice. Instead of stopping at the grocery store on my way back with the money order, I drove right past it and was just pulling up in front of the house when I remembered the juice. So I went back to the store, parked in the garage under the store, grabbed a shopping bag from the bag of the car, and ran upstairs. It was while I was having trouble finding the juice that I finally realize that I was in the middle of a glycemic crash, so once I found the juice, I grabbed a cold bottle of thai iced coffee, which would give me both caffeine and some much needed carbs, and headed to the front of the store.

All of the registers were open except the express line, and they all had really long lines. So I ran down to the self serve checkout. I’d scanned my items and was feeling around in my pockets for my wallet. Which wasn’t there. I had to cancel my transaction, which meant the clerk monitoring the whole section had to scan her card in and authorize the cancelation. I told her that I seemed to have left my wallet in the car. She said, “It happens to everyone. You want me to keep these up here for you?” I thanked her and ran down to the car.

And I couldn’t find the wallet.

The wallet with all my usual wallet things plus, today, a very large money order. I was trying not to panic. I pulled out my phone to fire up the Tile app and ping my wallet, hoping that it had just fallen on the floor of the car and rolled under a seat or something. I hadn’t quite gotten the app up when, because I was leaning into the car slightly differently, I saw where the wallet had bounced when, apparently, I had tossed it at the passenger seat after putting the money order in it. I hadn’t slipped it back into my pocket because by that point I had strapped myself in (don’t ask me why after pulling the wallet from my pocket while sitting in the car but before I put it back I had decided to put my seat belt on, making the pocket inaccessible; my brain wasn’t working right, see above). I grabbed the wallet, ran back upstairs and only when I got to the clerk did I realize I’d left my shopping bag behind.

I paid for my purchases and was on my way out when I saw another clerk who had helped me earlier and I had seen dealing with an unreasonable customer, and I stopped to thank her for her help before and hoped she was having a better day.

Back at the car I drank down the coffee drink so I would start to get my blood sugar back where it ought to be. I strapped in, turned on the car, checked all my mirrors, looked over both shoulder, and put the car into gear. I heard an immediate crash and the car jolted funny. I stomp on the brake, put the car back in park, and looked around. There was no other vehicle. No sign of anything that I had hit or had hit me. I turned off the car, suddenly remembering that I had seen someone walking by as I was starting the vehicle, and had a complete panic that I had actually hit a person who was currently trapped under the car.

So I jumped out and ran around the car.

Nothing.

I took a deep breath and squatted down to get a better view under the car. I slowly circled the car again, looking under at several locations. Nothing and no one was under the car, thanks goodness. I circled again looking for scratches or dents on the fenders and such. Still nothing.

I took another deep breath and held up my hands. My fingers were still trembling, but not as badly, so my blood sugar was coming back up. I climbed into the car. I opened up my Breathe app on my Apple Watch and went through a cycle with it. Half of the reason was to just not move for a minute and let my blood sugar keep improving. I started the car, foot firmly on the brake. I looked carefully around. And then I hurt the crash again. I turned up the volume on the stereo. We keep an old iPod (really old) in the car plugged into the car stereo set to random play. It is loaded with a bunch of my music and a bunch of Michael’s music. There’s a particular They Might Be Giant’s track that has a lot of these dramatic orchestral blasts that sound a lot like a crash.

I remembered that sometimes, if I take the Subaru out of Park and let my foot slip from the brake before it gets all the way to reverse, that the transmission does this little thing that makes the car wiggle just a bit, once. I had apparently managed to set off the wiggle at exactly the same moment that one of the musical crashes happened, when the stereo was turned down so that I could hear only some of the music, and not realize what was happening. So I hadn’t run over anyone or hit something.

I drove home. I told my hubby of my misadventures while he had juice and I ate a yogurt. When gathered things up, I swapped laundry loads, I tested my blood sugar and made certain I had a granola bar in the jacket pocket.

And then we headed out to pay our deposit and get on with the day.

I didn’t make as many runs to Value Village as I would like, but otherwise, the rest of Sunday was great.

Confessions of a guy who cries…

This little guy made me cry...

This little guy made me cry…

My husband and I have to move, and we’ve been going through our stuff, hauling things we don’t use any more to Value Village and the like, boxing other things, et cetera. It’s a long, boring, tiring process. It is also sometimes grueling emotionally. I’ve always been someone who cries easily—tear jerker moments in books, movies, or TV shows always get me, for instance. There’s an old idiom I don’t hear very much that captures it well: “I cry at card tricks.” There are a lot of moments while packing things when I find myself a bit surprised at the emotions things evokes. One reason is because we just have a lot of stuff so that every book case in the house as shelves where there is a second row of books behind the books you can see. And it isn’t just books that have been put away like that. So I keep finding things that I haven’t looked it in a long time and were hung onto for sentimental reasons.

Not everything that has hit me like a stab in the heart has been stuff that was hidden away.

My late husband Ray passed away 20 years and 5 months ago. It wasn’t a surprise, and yet it was. Almost four years previously doctors said he probably had less than two years to live, you see. There had been so many doctor visits & tests, then surgery and chemo and more tests and so forth. But, like that line from a Buffy the Vampire episode, when Tara is asked, regarding the death of her mother, “Was it sudden?” she answers, “No. And yes. It’s always sudden.”

It was mid-November when he died, and everything in my memory for the next gets a bit jumbled from that moment when they turned off the breathing machine through the next few months. There are some moments that stand out for different reasons. One day probably right around the beginning of February, not quite 3 months after Ray died, I walked into the grocery store that’s a few blocks from our place. I had grabbed a hand basket rather than a cart, because I was only planning to pick up a few things. Just inside the door they used to have this sort of miniature gift shop? It had a small variety of greeting cards for many occasions, some gift bags, and a few tiny toys, trinkets, and/or small plushies. The sort of thing you could grab as a last minute present because you didn’t have time to go elsewhere. I was walking past this thing when something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention.

I stopped, glanced over, and there was this cute little stuffed brown mouse holding a red heart. I picked it up, a warm feeling washing over me with the thought, “This would be perfect as a little surprise Valentine’s present for Ray!” The sort of thing I would attach to the outside of a gift-wrapped box with something bigger in it.

Before the thought had completely articulated itself in my head, I crashed right into the recollection that Ray was dead and I wouldn’t be sharing any of our usual Valentine’s Day activities with him. It wasn’t the first time that I had that particular momentary internal dissonance. Those moments were among the worst: for a second I would forget that he was dead, and have a normal thought about something I would tell him when I got home for instance, then the realization, which was a shattering moment reliving that first wave of grief when the doctors convinced me that Ray was brain dead and I needed to let him go. It really felt as if I had lost him again. And then, a moment after that, an equally devastating stab of guilt—how could I possibly forget that he was dead?

So there I was, standing in the grocery store suddenly sobbing my eyes out. And when I say standing that’s being generous because I had to lean against something to keep myself upright for a minute. A complete stranger asked if I was all right, and I shook my head, then nodded my head and managed to stammer out something about “I’ll be okay in a second.”

I put the mouse in my basket, because damn it, I was buying it for Ray, anyway!

Ray's current resting place.

Ray’s current resting place.

Ray’s ashes are in an urn that has been resting on a shelf in one of the bookcases in my current living room for 20 years, 4 months, and 2 weeks. The urn is attended/guarded by three of his tigers, two of his teddy bears, and the little mouse that had me sobbing in the store three months after his death. This is just one of the reasons I don’t want to move. This was the last place Ray lived. Of the three homes we shared, this was the first that he really loved (because when we first got together we were both coming out of messy break-ups that left us both in bad financial shape, so we first lived in a really crappy studio, and I was still digging myself out of the previous relationship’s debts a few years later, so we moved to a slightly less crappy 1 bedroom, before finding this place). Ray loved having a yard, even though it was very small, and being in a neighborhood that felt much more like a small town than part of a city.

I know that we shouldn’t get too attached to things. And life is about change. I’ve lived in the same place for a long time, maybe too long. And we’re never completely ready for change when it comes. Even though Michael and I have known that this was likely to happen since September, and that it was definitely going to happen since December, it still feels like it’s too soon. It’s not sudden, but…

Confessions of a pink and purple flaunting dandy

“Let your colors shine.”

“Let your colors shine.” (click to embiggen)

When the Bryan Fischer tweet crossed my timeline, I did a search to see if there were any related stories, because often when he and similar wingnuts go off on a topic it’s in response to a news story or other event. I didn’t find any obvious inciting incident, but I did uncover a number of memes and posts (many anonymous) from people lamenting the fact that they like rainbows, but since they aren’t gay, they feel a need to only wear rainbows if they can also wear a t-shirt or button or something that identifies them as not gay but also not a homophobe.

Which flabbergasted me. Okay, it didn’t completely bewilder me, but several of them insisted that they didn’t have any problem with gay people at all, no sirree, but they just wanted to make certain no one mistook them for a queer person. And I’m always confused when people exhibit that much self-delusion.

Because here’s the thing: if you didn’t have a problem with queer people, it wouldn’t bother you if some people concluded that you were one of us. And feeling a need to be defensive about your sexuality and lack of bigotry means you are bothered.

People will assume all sorts of things about you no matter what you do. When I was in my thirties, for instance, I went through of phase of wearing unusually colored beach pants, and many of them looked tie-dyed. People who saw me wearing them sometimes assumed that I was a Grateful Dead fan—especially if I was wearing the rainbow-colored pair. Which was mostly just confusing, because I was so much not a Dead fan that I usually didn’t understand for the first several sentences of the conversation when some stranger tried to strike up a conversation. But while I’m not and never have been a Deadhead, it didn’t offend me that people sometimes thought I was. It never occurred to me that I should get a button made that said, “Not a Deadhead” nor did I ever think I should stop wearing my rainbow shirts or tie-dyed clothes.

We’ve probably all met straight men who refuse to wear pink. I’ve seen men get apoplectic if their son or another boy of their acquaintance even picks up a pink object, for goodness sake! Which is really hilarious given that just a bit over a hundred years ago pink was considered a very masculine color—ironically because magenta pigment was newly invented and very expensive to manufacture. It’s also hilarious because colors don’t have gender.

Pink isn’t my favorite color, that would be purple. But I’ve known a few straight men who also shy away from purple. It’s true that many people can’t tell lavendar from pink, and many shades of purple blend into the pinkish, but it’s kind of sad that guys who are most likely to insist that they are absolutely confident in their masculinity are the most likely to fear being caught wearing pink or many shades of purple.

Those are cat ears. No vagina looks like these hats.

Of course, that is part of the power of the pussy hat as a political symbol regarding women’s rights. Misogynist prigs are exactly the sorts of men who would feel skeeved out wearing pink. While we’re on the subject, can I just say that the jerks who try to make some sort of argument about how women can’t be upset about rape culture if they’re going to go around wearing a “vagina hat” are utter morons? I mean, I understand that the kind of person who thinks that a pink knit hat with cat ears on it (which is where the pussy comes in) is supposed to be a vagina has never actually look at a vagina.

Yes, I include the married politicians who have made those comments in that category. Remember, these are the same kind of guys who think that tampons are sex toys, that menstrual bleeding is somehow voluntary, and that a woman who isn’t enjoying being raped can’t get pregnant from the act. Their understanding of the anatomy of their spouses is clearly lacking. They may have had sex with their spouse (and possibly other women), but they must be the kind of guy who doesn’t like to look at that part of the body.

Just a wild-eyed old guy with a new hat!

If you truly do like rainbows, just frikkin’ wear a rainbow. Don’t worry about what other people think. And if you’re actually making the meme or posting the comment on the anonymous site because you’re trying to “four dimensional chess” your way to that give the rainbow back to god argument, stop being a prick. We’re going to wear what we want, whether it is rainbows, pink hats with kitty cat ears, or two-tone purple broad-brimmed hats if we want. And we’re not going to stop doing it because some of you think that we’re making it difficult for you to wear the same colors.

And why do I have a new two-toned purple hat? Because if you’re under doctor’s orders to wear a sun-shading hat all the time so as to reduce the chances of getting another skin cancer, you might as well wear a colorful hat. Life is two short to wear boring browns and muddy greens!


Ed Sheeran singing Rainbow Connection with Kermit the Frog on Red Nose Day 2015:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Not fooling around with my goals this year!

“Keep Calm and Achieve Your Goals”

When I set my goals for this year, I pledged to do monthly updates. Mostly because I’ve done a better job achieving those goals during the years that I did the updates. So, how did I do in March?

My specific tasks for March were:

  • At this point it’s time to just pack everything, so pack! We’ve been packing. There are boxes stacked everywhere.
  • Get the new living situation sorted. We’ve contacted a number of property managers, but haven’t gotten a place nailed down.
  • Make reasonable progress on writing/editing knowing that the above is going to eat up most of our available time.I got a small amount done, but not much.
  • Disconnect from the internet at least one night each week. I managed to do this every week!
  • Write at least two blog posts about things I like. I gave myself a lower number for this month because I figured with the packing and trying to find a new place I wouldn’t have as much time to write or blog. I still managed to beat this number by writing four posts about things I like!

My overall goals for the year, where I’m trying to follow the idea of replacing bad habits with better ones:

Don’t get mad, get busy. My tasks are: write about about things I love; listen to music and audiobooks more and podcasts less; spend at least half of my lunch break writing; set specific monthly writing/editing goals in each check-in; write at least one blog post a month about organizations we can donate to that are fighting the good fight.

I did fairly well on this one.

Reduce, pack, and prioritize. We now officially know that we have to find a new place to live this year. We have lots of stuff to go through and decide what to discard and what to pack.

Packing, hauling, getting rid of stuff continued apace. My hubby found a great charity to ship a lot of our books to. That helps me feel better about getting rid of them.

Take care of us. My initial tasks are related to some specific medical things that aren’t urgent, but need to be dealt with. I am going to remain vague on the details of this one.

My husband had his surgery and I tried to play nurse. He’s recovering, and it’s a great relief to get this taken care of before the move!

Submit and publish. Initial task was to organize how I’m going to find calls for submission and set reasonable targets for the novel revision/finalization.

I worked on three submissions. Got one done. I’m frankly amazed at the amount of progress I did make this time given everything else.


Finally, my specific tasks for March are:

  • Pack and move!
  • Pack and move.
  • Squeeze some writing time in somehow.
  • Remember to have fun at NorWesCon (whether we attend the whole weekend or not).
  • Write at least two blog posts about things I like.

“YOU must be oppressed because WE are terrible people”

“Bigotry wrapped in prayer is still bigotry”

“Bigotry wrapped in prayer is still bigotry”

As the legal battle over marriage equality moved its way toward the Supreme Court a few years ago, the anti-gay forces found their old legal arguments being debunked and thoroughly rejected by all but the most arch-conservative of judges, so that by the end they had fallen on a convoluted and truly weird argument. Marriage, they said, had to legally remain applicable solely to straight couples because without the legal institution of marriage forcing straight people who accidentally become pregnant raising their kids together, all children would be deprived the benefits of two-parent families. Basically, they asserted that straight, traditional-minding humans are so terrible that they are incapable of being responsible about reproduction without the inconvenience and expense of divorce to enforce responsibility.

There are many, many problems with the argument (not the least of which is that humans have been having children both in and out of wedlock for as long as marriage has existed, and unmarried parents are perfectly capable of being responsible child-rearers, while married parents are just as capable of being irresponsible). The only way their argument could even begin to make sense was if the laws were changed so that any time unmarried humans get pregnant that they are forced to marry, and if divorce became completely unavailable. But even then it would have big logical holes. One of those being that allowing non-straight people to marry didn’t take marriage away from straights.

This is hardly the only time that fundamentalist religionists have argued that some people must be oppressed because other people are terrible and incapable of self-control. This is why in some countries it is illegal for women to go out in public without clothing that conceals their faces, et cetera. Men, the reasoning goes, are incapable of refraining from randomly raping women if they happen to get a glimpse of a woman’s cheeks or hair, apparently. Similarly, dress codes in schools and the like are are built around restricting girls (seriously, go look at them: the codes for girls are complicated and specific about concealing this and that body part with notes about how far above or below the knee skirts must reach and so forth, while the boys’ rules almost always boil down to: wear clean, mostly untorn clothes) because boys are deemed incapable of refraining from sexually assaulting a girl if they happen to get a glimpse of a girl’s shoulder or knee.

In other words, women and girls must be tightly controlled and restricted because men and boys are terrible people. This is also the source of a lot of the victim-blaming that happens around rape: it’s not the rapist’s fault if the woman was out in public alone, or dressed “that way,” or drunk somewhere, et cetera, et cetera.

This logic shows up in a lot of other policies and practices, and has come to light this week because (among other rightwingers) our Vice President believes it would be immoral to have any female friends, which is also why there are virtually never any women in any significant staff positions under the veep now, nor in any appointed state positions when he was governor and so on. Having women as managers and directors and so forth would necessitate occasionally having one-on-one meetings. There’s also the fact that governors and similar executives are most likely to appoint and promote people they develop friendly relationships with. If a boss believes it’s immoral to be friends with a women, guess what that means about women’s chances for advancement?

This assumption that people who might potentially be attracted to each other can never be in close proximity without supervision is why the churches I was raised in insisted on separating Sunday School classes and Bible studies and similar activities by gender. And it’s the reason that people from such churches get so freaked out about being around gay people, particularly in locker rooms and bathrooms. That meme that defines homophobia as “being afraid gay men will treat you the way you treat women” isn’t a joke.

It’s why fundamentalist communities that claim to be accepting while “disagreeing with the lifestyle” discourage friendships between straight guys and gay men and straight women and lesbians. When you combine that with the fundamentalist belief that sexual orientation isn’t an inherent trait, that means that such communities also discourage friendships between opposite sex straight people and queers. And it’s all subtle and usually not even talked about. But it manifests in lots of ways. In my 20s, for instance (when I still hadn’t come out), I learned that throughout my teen years I had been excluded from some activities and some positions within my church and the evangelical teen choir I was in for all that time because everyone suspected I was gay. These were adults making this decision about a kid without ever talking to me about it. And that’s on top of the bullying and related activities from the kids my own age.

It’s another layer of cruelty. Just like the religious people who claim that they welcome queer people into their church so long as they are celibate, never date, et cetera. You’re welcome as long as you’re lonely with no love in your life.

But all of it comes back to that idea: the reason rightwing leaders (who are always men for supposedly theological reasons) assume that gay men can’t refrain from assaulting other men is because they believe that they, themselves, are incapable of refraining from jumping the bones of anyone they are sexually attracted to if given half a chance. So we can’t use public bathrooms and have to stay out of locker rooms and not work in jobs where we might be around people unsupervised, can’t live in their neighborhoods, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera because they are terrible.

It is beyond stupid. If they’re so bad, they are the ones who should resign and go live like hermits, right?

You mean the world to someone

“Watch your step. You mean the world to someone.” (click to embiggen)

“Watch your step. You mean the world to someone.” (click to embiggen)


 
G’day11931!
 


Footnotes:
Read More…

Defining my existence as inappropriate; why should that worry me?

“Sick of your heteronormative bullshit.”

“Sick of your heteronormative bullshit.”

Not long before my 16th birthday we moved to southwest Washington and began attending the church where my maternal grandparents were members. My new Sunday School teacher was a middle-school librarian in his day job. This particular church had all Sunday School classes segregated by gender (which was fairly typical for Southern Baptist Churches3) and by age, so it was a bunch of guys ranging in age from about 14-18 years old. One Sunday morning shortly after we joined the church, the teacher was telling an anecdote from his public school job, and he mentioned the novel Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret?. “Some of you may have heard of it,” he said.

Without thinking, I nodded my head and said, “Yeah, it’s a pretty good book.”

The teacher turned on me as if I had just transformed into a rattlesnake and was switching my tail ready to strike4. He had the most appalled look on his face. Then the expression changed to very amused condescension, “Oh, Gene! You would never have read this book! It’s a book for girls, and is completely inappropriate for a boy!”

I shrugged and said, “If you say so…”

He shook his head, chuckling even more condescendingly, and then went back to his story.

But I had read the book, several years earlier. I had gone through a pretty intense Judy Blum phase6, see. It started with the novel, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t which was, among other things, about a boy dealing with puberty and significant changes in his family’s financial situation. I had loved the book so much, that I proceeded to read everything else of hers I could get at the public library (or through inter-library loan) in the small Colorado town we had been living in at the time. Sure, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is a book about (among other things) a girl going through puberty and all that entails. But it’s also a book about one’s relationship with the faith they were raised in, and learning to make adult decisions about what you yourself believe.

The idea of boy’s toys and girl’s toys and boy’s books and girl’s books is pretty messed up when talking about small children, but it seems to me it is much more messed up when talking about teen-agers8. Some people will immediately point out that the teacher may have been so appalled because he thinks of menstruation as a sexual topic9, and good Christian boys who are not yet married10 aren’t supposed to know anything about sex. As if that argument is any less BS than the idea that a boy could never possibly read and enjoy a book that some people think of as a girl’s book.

It’s all heteronormative BS. My church insisted on separating girls from boys in Sunday School classes in part to supposedly thwart sexual improprieties12. But heteronormative BS is not limited to members of fundamentalist evangelical churches.

YouTube's completely BS explanation for why they're restricting videos that just happen to be made my Queer people. (Click to embiggen)

YouTube’s completely BS explanation18 for why they’re restricting videos that just happen to be made my Queer people. (Click to embiggen)

YouTube is hiding some videos touching on various topics related to the LGBT community17. Not sexual videos. Among the videos that have been found to be hidden the Restricted Due to Mature Content label are: trans people showing how to apply make-up, a gay vlogger talking about 8 LGBT African-Americans who ought to be remembered during Black History Month, music videos without sexual content that happen to have been made by queer musicians, some coming out videos, and so forth.

Before anyone tries to lecture me of all people that this doesn’t constitute censorship (which I never said it did), let me explain. YouTube is privately owned, yes. But it offers a service to the public, and therefore must abide by the legal and ethical obligations that comes with offering a public accommodation. They incur those obligations whether or not they charge fees for the service. Among those obligations is one that is sometimes referred to as truth in advertising19: if you represent that your product or service does a thing when it does not, you can face penalties. YouTube claims that it is simply labeling content of a “mature or inappropriate nature” so that other users who choose to surf in restricted mode will not see offensive20 material. They also keep referring to it as a voluntary program.

“8 Black LGBT Americans Who Inspire Me” is not mature content. How to apply foundation, eyeliner, and lipstick is not mature content. “How I Came Out to my Family” is not mature content. Nor are any of those inappropriate.

It is also misleading in the press release to say the program is voluntary. Yes, whether or not a viewer choose to see content that has been labeled “Restricted” is voluntary. Whether a creator’s material is thus labeled is not. Neither are the creators informed that their material has thus been labeled. They have to log into YouTube as a different account and set that account not to view Restricted material and then try to view their own videos to see which ones have been labeled “Restricted.”

So I’m exercising my free speech right to call BS on YouTube. This isn’t a misunderstanding on our part. It is a discriminatory business practice21. It is more of the same old heteronormative BS where anything that admits that queer people exist is treated as if it is pornography, even when they are doing something as innocuous as sharing make-up tips22.


Footnotes:
1. By “we” I mean my mom, my oldest sister, and myself. Dad had remarried and was living in Utah by that time, with where my step-mom was had just given birth to the youngest of my half-siblings2.

2. It is worth pointing out that the precipitating event of my parents’ divorce was the discovery that Dad had been carrying on an affair with the woman who became my step-mom for years.

3. Many years later that particular church decided to allow a mixed gender Sunday School class, but only for the people over 65 years old. And members who happened to be that age but didn’t want to attend Sunday School in a mixed gender setting were allowed to attend the adult men’s or women’s class, instead. When my grandmother told me about it, she actually tittered and made a comment about how radical it was to let men and women discuss the Bible in the same room. My step-grandfather then commented that, “Well, I guess at our age they don’t expect anyone will misbehave.” From which you can correctly infer that one of the things at least some Evangelicals believe is that you can’t put people of the opposite gender in rooms with closed doors without the very real risk that sexual hijinks will ensue.

4. Which may seem like a really strangely specific metaphor, but because one of the churches we had briefly attended during my nomadic childhood had included some members who were into snake handling5, I actually had seen another man in a church have the exact expression as this teacher did when a rattlesnake in a jar that most of us didn’t realize one of the members had snuck into the church, suddenly got very tired of being trapped in said jar.

5. Snake-handling: A practice in certain Pentecostal and Evangelical churches inspired by a literalistic reading of Mark 16:17–18. Handling venomous snakes without being harmed is seen as a sign of one’s faith and possession of the Holy Spirit.

6. To be fair, many years later, when I mentioned something about Judy Blum during a conversation at work, at least one of my co-workers gave me a rather startled look and asked, “You read Judy Blum when you were a teen-ager?” When I said that I had and mentioned a couple of my favorites7, her response was a very emphatic, “Wow!”

7. Deenie, It’s Not the End of the World, and of course Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.

8. Although, attitudes like this teacher’s make it easy to believe the story that gets shared around from time to time of the adult male legislator with a wife and teen-age children who didn’t know that menstrual blood flow was an involuntary biological function.

9. It’s a biological function that occurs in members of one sex, yes. And it is related to the reproductive cycle, yes. But it’s biology. And sometimes a health issue. Fully functioning adult members of a society ought to have at least a passing knowledge about the health issues of their species, regardless of whether they experience it themselves.

10. I should mention that two of the guys sitting in that Sunday School room with me that morning would, in less than two years time, each have a rushed marriage to their respective girlfriends who would each give birth to their first child only a few months afterward9.

11. A situation which studies have shown again and again and again would happen much less frequently if kids are given accurate information about sex, sexuality, reproduction, et cetera.

12. Because sex (and flirting and dancing14) can only happen between people of opposite sexes, right16?

13. There is no thirteenth footnote.

14. An old joke which was much beloved by my college debate coach (though I’ve heard it from others before and since): “Why do Baptists condemn sex other than missionary position15? Because they’re afraid it might lead to dancing!”

15. It’s true, even married people are not supposed to do anything other than very vanilla sex. Which is the inspiration of a similar joke: “Why do Baptists say it’s sinful for a woman to smoke cigarettes? Because they’re afraid it might lead to oral sex!”

16. Which is ridiculous. I know for a fact I wasn’t the only queer boy sitting in that Sunday School classroom that morning. Not that I had any romantic or sexual relationship with the other guys, just that I and two others each came out of the closet years later. One of them I’ve run into a few times since, as he lives in Seattle, now, too. Last I heard, the other was living in San Diego.

17. YouTube faces social media storm over LGBT-blocking ‘restricted mode’

18. You can read a bit more of YouTube’s side here: YouTube apologizes for blocking LGBT videos. Note that the headline is completely false. YouTube’s statement is not an apology for blocking the content. It says the word “apologize” but it’s for our supposed confusion at not realizing that they’re restricting LGBT content for reasons and not because of other reasons. Except we aren’t confused, we understand perfectly.

19. The principle is not limited to advertising. Any communication about the use of the product can be subject to this scrutiny.

20. Oddly enough, a lot of videos spouting off white supremacist, racist, and anti-queer bigotry (often making the kinds of hate speech which YouTube’s user guidelines says are not allowed) are freely available on the service without the Restricted label. So it is reasonable to conclude that the service is applying a definition of “offensive” that tilts cartoonishly far in one particular political direction.

21. Restricting or denying service due to the sexual orientation or gender identity of the people producing it, which is clearly the case in the vast majority of the identified videos.

22. And if you think that it’s universally offensive for people of some genders or some gender identities to wear make-up, then please explain why we keep having to see the horrific spray-on tan of our deplorable president.

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