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Getting ready for the coming spooks and books amid the rising dark

An otter climbs has climbed inside a jack o lantern, head and one forepaw sticking out of the opening on top.

Someone’s getting ready for Halloween!

Last Sunday I needed to run to the grocery store for a couple of things before my football game, which was earlier this week than it usually is. I started the car, flipping on the wipers to clear the heavy layer of dew off the windshield, and lowered and raised the side windows for the same thing. I started to put the car in gear when I realized that my music wasn’t playing. I looked at the stereo in the dash and the main screen said “No Device.” We have a small collection of old iPods loaded with various subsets of my music library that I rotate through the car. So there’s always an iPod plugged into the stereo, and the stereo is set to automatically start playing music from the iPod on shuffle when it starts up.

There was no sign that the car had been broken into (one of the reason we have several iPods salvaged from the junk pile at my husband’s workplace is that we have had about four previous iPods stolen from over the last ten years and two cars), so I knew the most likely cause was that the iPod was too cold. I opened up the console, dug the iPod out while trying not to disconnect its cable and it was definitely ice cold. Electronic devices with internal rechargeable batteries have temperature sensors that deactivate the system if the device is either too cold and too hot, because the chemical processes inside the rechargeable batteries don’t operate as efficiently (and safely) outside certain ranges.

This made me realize that the overnight low temps are cold enough that I probably should sit in the car letting the engine idle for a couple of minutes before driving. And this is yet another sign of the changing of the seasons: sometimes it’s cold enough to disable the iPod. That probably means I should bring swap out the iPod in the car to change out the music a bit.

And that reminded me that while I have been thinking about a new Halloween playlist, all I have actually been doing is listening to all my old ones (I usually make a new one each year). Combine that with a conversation between two friends on social media about playlists for NaNoWriMo, and I spent more than a bit of my free time this week setting up a new Halloween playlist and a possible NaNoWriMo playlist.

I love making playlists. Given that there are literally thousands in my library, I probably love it just a bit much. Writing playlist are assembled in several different ways. Some songs I associate with certain characters. Lots of songs simply evoke moods. A good friend always remarks on how many of the songs in my writing playlists have lyrics. He says he can’t write while listening to people talking or singing words. I get that, and I have a few writing lists that are entirely instrumental. The key, of me, is that the songs that have lyrics can only go into a writing list if I know the song well enough that I don’t have to actively process the words to follow the song.

Many of my writing playlists are intended to help me think about writing while doing other things. Listening to my playlist, “A Dark Lord’s Lady” during my evening walk, or while riding the bus, or walking from the bus to the office, or while working on certain tasks at work make keeps me in the mood to write scenes related to one certain characters and subplots in a couple of the books in my fantasy series, for example. Whereas the playlist, “Devil in the Trickster Details” has me thinking about a completely different set of characters and their subplots across….. many more of the books in the series.

To make a new list for this year’s NaNoWriMo requires me to decide which of many projects to actually work on this November. And that’s a problem, because I’ve been running the Red Queen’s Race in regards to a bunch of writing projects for the last few years, and can’t quite manage to actually finish anything. Which is frustrating, but also entirely my fault.

I think I know what I’m going to do. And I have assembled a new NaNoWriMo playlist (currently titled “A Heart Rattling World Ending”) with 55 songs that focus on characters in a couple of the stalled projects. But I might change me mind by the time November 1 rolls around. If you happen to be doing NaNoWriMo this year, and want a writing buddy, I’m Fontfolly over there, so say “hi.”

Compounding the problem for many of us it the grinding compassion fatigue/outrage fatigue/existential fear fatigue that world events have been inflicting on so many of us. There were literal mobs roving streets of cities this weekend looking for liberals and queers and anyone else the alt-right thinks of as enemies. They beat a bunch of people up, and in at least three cases the cops arrested the victims. It should be no surprise, then, that many of us are having trouble getting into the mood for holidays, no matter how much we may love Halloween. Let alone getting in the mood to write a novel.

But I refuse to give up.

In this kind of social/political atmosphere, creating is an act of rebellion. Having fun that doesn’t come at someone else’s expense is an act of rebellion. I’m trying to remember that. Let’s all try to accomplish some creativity and celebration together, shall we?

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No one deserves the closet — #NationalComingOutDay

“If Harry Potter taught us anything... it’s that no one deserves to live in the closet.”

“If Harry Potter taught us anything… it’s that no one deserves to live in the closet.”

It’s National Coming Out Day! And just for the record, in case it isn’t clear: I’m queer! Specifically I am a gay man married to a bisexual man. For many years I lived in the closet, and am almost indescribably happy that those days are over. So, if you’re a person living in the closet, I urge you to consider coming out. Coming out is scary. And I know that not everyone is safe to come out—a frightening number of parents throw their children out if they even suspect they are gay (not to mention the cases where parents have murdered their kids they thought were gay). 40% of homeless teen-agers are living on the streets because their parents either kicked them out because the teens were gay (or suspected of being gay), or drove them away through the constant abuse intended to beat the gay out of their kids. This statistic is the main reason I advise kids not to come out until they are no longer financially dependent on their parents. Yeah, there are many stories of kids who came out to their parents and those parents became supportive allies. But not all, by any means.

There are less extreme reasons why it isn’t safe for everyone to come out, I get that. So not everyone is ready. But…

Being in the closet isn’t just an inconvenience. Studies show that being closeted adversely affects your physical health. You live in a constant state of high anxiety about people finding out and what they might do when it happens. This affects us the same as extended trauma, inducing the same sorts of stress changes to the central nervous system as PTSD.

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short.” —Armistead Maupin

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.” —Armistead Maupin

Coming out is scary. Some of your family and friends will react badly. There may be drama. You may have the unpleasant surprise to find that some of the people you were sure would be fine with it are not at all. On the other hand (and I speak from personal experience), you may be pleasantly surprised at some of the people who support you—one of my aunts that I was certain wouldn’t react well was the first person to say to a bunch of my relatives, “If you have a problem with Gene being gay, then you’re going to have a much bigger problem with me!”

And coming out isn’t a one and done thing. People will continue to assume you’re straight. You’ll find yourself coming out again and again. But the thing is, being out is so much better than being in that closet. You will be amazed, as you process the aftermath, at how much energy you were expending worrying about people finding out. You will be surprised at the sheer weight of the stress you were dealing with being closeted. Like me, you may discover that a lot of health issues were fueled by that stress, and they get a lot better once you’re no longer hiding, deflecting, thinking of plausible lies, and constantly dreading someone finding out.

I wish we lived in a world where fear of being who we are wasn’t so real.

But one of the small ways we can make the world a little less scary for queer people is to come out. As a teenager, the one time I saw a gay couple on a news program being interviewed about the gay rights struggle probably saved my life. There were two men admitting they were gay—two men who had been in a committed relationship for years and seemed happy. It was a ray of hope I desperately needed.

And that’s one of the reasons I am out. It’s why I mention my queerness as often as I do. So that some frightened queer kid might see that, look, there’s a gay man who is happy, has a good life, has people who love him, has friends—gay, straight and otherwise—who have his back. So, maybe, we can be a glimmer of hope for them.

No one deserves the closet. No one deserves that fear and self-loathing. When you’re ready, come out. It really is a wonderful world outside of that closet.

You don’t have to love what I love, but not all differences are merely opinions

"I respect people who get nerdy as fuck about something they love."

“I respect people who get nerdy as fuck about something they love.”

I’m a nerd, and an old one at that. So, for instance, I watched Star Trek: the Original Series when it was on prime time television back in 1966 (I was in kindergarten and first grade, but I watched them!). And I have a giant collection of classic Doctor Who episodes in our disk library. And every time my family moved to a new town during my childhood, I quickly found, checked out, and read every book by Heinlein, Bradbury, Le Guin, and Asimov I could find in the school and public library. And so on, and so on. But I also happen to love watching my favorite football team play. And I love finding science fiction and fantasy authors whose worlds don’t erase queer people, women, people of color, and don’t replicate the patriarchal white imperialism that much of the scf fi I grew up on assumed to be normal.

I don’t think that I should impose my faves on other people. I will enthuse about things I love so emphatically that it sometimes comes across that way, and I am sorry to anyone that has felt that I was pressuring them to like everything I like or dismissing their difference of opinion.

At least I’m not as bad as some people. One of my friends was recently scolded for using the phrase “sportsball.” The person doing the scolding said that sportsball was a derogatory term that implies that people who like sports are bad. To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement.

I’m a football fan (specifically most often the Seahawks) and I use the phrase “sportsball” all the time. Sometimes I use it when the topic under discussion is a sport that I am less well informed about, such as professional Soccer or Basketball. Sometimes I use it because I know that I am talking to people who do not like sports, and I am attempting to signal that I understand they might not find the topic as interesting as I do. And sometimes I use it to communicate the fact that I know it is an entertainment and a luxury and not of real importance to the life and well-being of 99% of the planet.

For someone to leap to the conclusion that “sportsball” is a derogatory term is laughable, at best. I, certainly would never disparage someone simply for being a fan of one or more sports. Unless that person is a fan of the New England Patriots, or the Dallas Cowboys, or the Philadelphia Eagles—because those fans are just not right in the head. To be fair, plenty of them think the same thing about Seahawks fans, but that’s one of the weird things in sports culture, at least the portions of it I’ve been involved in—we trash talk each other’s teams all the time.

I have a very old friend who is a big fan of the Arizona Cardinals, and he teases me by calling my team the Sea Chickens all the time. And I have been known to make the comment that his team’s mascot should be a possum, because they play dead at home and get killed on the road. There’s also one of my sisters-in-law who is a big Kansas City fan, and before the last divisional re-org, our teams had to play each other twice a year, so we have been known to taunt one another whenever the other’s team loses.

But those are people I know, and we know that just because we’re super enthusiastic about our faves, that doesn’t mean we’re talking about something that really matters in the big scheme of things.

That isn’t true of all forms of criticism, though. It’s one thing, for instance, if I say that I really enjoyed reading the science fiction of Robert Heinlein when I was younger. Or how much I learned from reading the non-fiction of Isaac Asimov (and also loved his sci fi work). It’s quite another if I tell other people they must like those writers or else. Particularly if they are offended by Asimov’s personal sexual misconduct, or Heinlein’s sometimes rampant jingoism (and his weird attempts to not be racist or sexist that come across very differently today).

I don’t deal well with certain types of scary movies. I have nightmares, they crank up my anxieties, and sometimes I get physically ill. I have friends who can’t watch really violent shows for similar reasons. Certain shows sometimes hit some of my other buttons—characters who remind me of my abusive father, for instance. Worse, situations that remind me of specific beatings. So there are some shows and even some stories, that I get partway through and have to put aside. There are a couple of authors whose work I refuse to read any longer because they are overly fond of certain tropes/actions/plot devices that have a similar effect on me as those aforementioned scary movies. My approach to all of these things I dislike is to not buy them, not read them, or not watch them. I don’t tell other people they are bad people if they partake of those things.

“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

(click to embiggen)

However, there are other books I don’t read or shows I don’t watch because the stories themselves promote and revel in various kinds of bigotry or oppression. There is at least one author who took that beyond the fiction to write op-ed pieces in various publications calling for laws to oppress certain categories of people (women and queers, mostly), who fundraised for organizations who actively sought that oppression, and who even in some of the op-ed pieces explicitly encouraged the bullying of children who appeared to be queer, and wrote justifications for gay bashing. For those kinds of things, I can’t just stand by quietly. I speak. I write critiques. I encourage people not to spend money on those things. And, yes, I do think less of the people who read those works.

That’s different than referring to something one doesn’t enjoy as much as other people by an intentional misnomer.

And don’t get me started about separating the art from the artist. Scroll back up a few paragraphs where I explain that I love work by certain people who were less than exemplary in all aspects of their lives.

The thing is, it’s okay if you don’t love the stuff I love. As long as what I love isn’t causing harm to you or others, or encouraging harm of any kind to you or other people, I think I should be able to enjoy it, and you can ignore it, and we can be friends. And if I happen to say I don’t like something you love, that isn’t an attack on you. Even when my critique is emphatic, I’m commenting on it, not you.

But I think the Weird Al said it best:

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

It’s October again!

Once again as autumn settles in I find myself feeling like a new door has opened. I mostly blame school. Between grammar school, middle school, high school, five years attending community college part time while working, then three years at university, for 21 years the end of summer meant a new year beginning. And then I had a few years where I was just working full time without that fall reset until I joined the newly formed Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus, and for the next eight years fall meant the beginning of a new chorus season. It was a lot like school: we’d have our Pride concerts and march in the Pride Parade in June, then have a couple months off until rehearsals resumed at the end of August/beginning of September.

So, while Spring may be what most people think of as the time of renewal for the natural world, for me it’s autumn.

For various reasons, for the last 20 years, the day after my birthday (which is in the last week of September) feels like the big turning point. I start thinking of it as being October on the day after my birthday, which is kind of funny.

I had hoped that this weekend would be a nice, relaxing time when I could finish some chores related to getting the plants in my huge collection of pots and planters on the veranda ready for winter, re-assess my goals, and maybe make some progress on long lingering projects. But I would up working until almost midnight Friday, and still had to put in a few more hours during the weekend. Then there was some construction happening on our building: some work on the roof, and because one of the access points to the roof is a hatch right outside out door, for a big chunk of the weekend there was a ladder braced out there. It didn’t technically block us in, but it was awkward getting in and out of the house. So the weekend was a lot less relaxing than I would have liked.

And I missed two tasks that I’d really meant to get done during the weekend.

But!

Fall is here. Decorating season has begun. We don’t have much in the way of Halloween or Harvest decorations up, yet, but we’ve made a start. And once again I’m re-assessing goals. One thing that has become clear this year is that I have to stop thinking of the long work hours and associated stress as a temporary thing. It’s just a reality of our economy, now. I need to find a new way to keep making progress on personal projects including by not limited to writing, without feeling resentment when I don’t have the energy and time that I used to. That includes both attitude adjustment for me, at the least.

But this is the perfect time of year for me to do that, because it’s my personal time of renewal.

What did you expect would happen? Or, Why I didn’t report

“1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”

(click to embiggen)


With all that has been in the news lately, it should come as no surprise that I have been thinking of the many ways that we are all socialized to accept, excuse, and even enable a lot of socially aggressive behavior from guys. And also how we, as guys, are socialized to aggressively pursue what we want. So, when what a guy wants is sex, well, having been told your whole life never to take no for an answer, well, a lot of those guys are going to do some bad things to get it. And many of the rest of us will deflect, deny, or minimize the severity of what they have done, sometimes even when we witness is.

And yes, even when we are the victim.

There have been many times over the last 28 years that I have tried to write about my experience being sexually assaulted. I have stopped myself from publishing it many times. Because even now, 28 years later, I’m still ashamed. There is a part of me that still believes it was my fault. I was a grown up man, and men are supposed to be able to take care of themselves, right?

Looking at the way people talk about the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, I see that millions of people still blame the victims in these cases. They often insist that it isn’t blame, it’s disbelief. Why didn’t she say something sooner? Why didn’t she report it? They are completely unaware that this refusal to disbelieve is exactly way when one is a victim of sexual assault, we don’t say anything.

So, it’s time to share my story, including why I didn’t report it. Obvious content warning: alcohol, queer men dating, and sexual assault. Don’t click on the link unless you’re prepared…

Read More…

More confessions of an aging homo devil

“I'm not playing a role. I'm being myself, whatever the hell that is.” —Bea Arthur

“I’m not playing a role. I’m being myself, whatever the hell that is.”
—Bea Arthur

When I was a kid, I was always being told to stop acting “like that.” It wasn’t usually that I was hurting someone or playing with with something that they thought I would break. It was usually because of things like the time my dad caught me singing along to the “My Own Home” song from Disney’s animated Jungle Book—I had a towel or blanket wrapped around me, like the girl in the movie was wearing, and an empty milk jug balanced on my head. I know, now, that the reason I was so into that song was because 5-year-old me had a crush on the cartoon version of Mowgli. And clearly Dad suspected the same thing.

Admonishments about me acting in a manner inappropriate for my gender and/or age came from Dad and certain other relatives, plus teachers, and of course classmates. Such admonitions were often accompanied with more than just verbal abuse. They kept coming even after my parents divorced and I moved 1200 miles away from Dad. Grade-school and middle-school kids can tease and bully cruelly, but it’s nothing compared to the lengths teen-age boys will go. Just like the teachers who had told my parents earlier that there was nothing they could do about the bullying as long as I “talked like that and acted like that,” the guys who targeted me in my teens and twenties would tell me it was my own fault. If I just would stop “acting like that” they’d leave me alone.

It wasn’t just me this happened to. I still remember a news commentary show that I used to love watching on PBS, when they covered the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. If you look at historical pictures of the immense crowd, you will see huge numbers of men and women dressed in polo shirts and slacks or t-shirts and blue jeans. There wasn’t a lot of people in glitter or marching nearly naked. But the only footage this news show included in their coverage were shots of the very few individuals (and it was a tiny minority—this wasn’t a Pride Parade, this was a coordinated activist event that thousands of people traveled cross country to participate in) who were dressed very flamboyantly. And one of the pundits on the panel said something along the line of, “if the homosexual community wants civil rights, they should stop acting like that.”

Even though I was deeply closeted at the time, I wondered why queer people needed to earn their rights. The definition of a civil right is that you are entitled to it regardless.

At some point during the process of coming out I had the epiphany that they did genuinely believe that it was an act. I mean, I had one relative angrily yell at me after I came out that I was just “doing it for attention.” Right? Why would anyone want to be publicly known as being a member of a group that is regularly targeted for violence just for fun?

I still don’t know all the little behaviors and verbal ticks about me that set some people off. Given how many times since I came out, even during my Big Earring Phase, other people would mistake a woman friend as my wife, I know that the I’m not that gender nonconforming. Regardless, it isn’t an act. It has never been an act. It’s me being me. Yeah, I like to sing along to songs that I like. I like to dance, even though I know I’m not good at it and even if I’m just by my self. I like wear bright colors—including pink and purple. I love purple anything. I get excited and nerdy as f—k about things I love. I cry out loud at sad or poignant scenes in books, movies, or television episodes I watch (heck, I cry at some commercials!). I don’t often wear makeup, but I know how to put on mascara and eye-liner and I’m not ashamed of it. I grow flowers. I make my own flower arrangements for the house.

And yeah, I’m a guy who likes men. I have fallen love with a couple them over the years. And that isn’t an act either. That’s just me being me.

One of the reasons I’m thinking about this right now is because an old friend who has moved back to the town where we went to high school together, ran into one of my cousins that still lives back there, and was a little appalled when said cousin mentioned being glad I don’t visit often because “he just acts gayer and gayer every time I see him.” Probably a good thing I wasn’t there. Because I probably would have said, “Honey, I ain’t acting!”

The only time I was acting was back when I was trying to avoid more bullying or ridicule, trying to force myself not to do the few things I had figured out qualified as “acting like that.” When I was closeted and scared to death to be myself, that’s when I was acting.

This post is going up late because today is my birthday. I took the day off from work. I slept in. I spent much of the day reading or just watching the birds at the feeder, and the larger jays and squirrel rummage threw the spillage on the deck under the feeder. My husband left a bunch of gift bags scattered around the house, and a couple of packages from my mom were here, so every now and then I would open one. It was a fun way to spend the day. My husband took me to dinner at one of my favorite local eateries. He made me a martini (he makes the best—when we first started dating he was working as a bartender, but oddly enough, he doesn’t like to drink himself).

It has been a good birthday.

I’ve written before of how the AIDS crisis (which began when I was a closeted 20-something and was still ravaging the community by the time I was out in my thirties) had made me feel I was unlikely to live into my fifties. When you go to 16 funerals over the course of a few months, mourning guys who are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties—it just feels as if the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head. It really did seem that it wasn’t a matter of whether one would get sick, just when.

And so I find myself a bit surprised and a lot grateful to celebrate this birthday. I’m getting close to 60, and I honestly didn’t believe back then I would make it to 50.

So I am happy and thankful. Especially this year and this week. Yesterday morning at work we all learned that a guy we all work with (and a guy who is a couple of years younger than I) suffered a fatal cardiac arrest on Sunday. I usually close my birthday posts with some bit of wisdom or advice. This year, I’m going to quote one of my other co-workers while we were all processing the news together: “It reminds us to treat everyone with kindness and respect, because we never know which conversation will be our last.”

More confessions of a guy who likes the rain

Picture of a person under an umbrella in heavy rain, labeled Tourists. Below, a man stands in the rain, head tilted up, eyes closed, labeled True Washingtonians.

(Click to embiggen)

Thursday evening, as I was turning out lights and otherwise getting ready to climb into bed, rain started pounding the roof, hard. It had probably been raining for awhile, but I hadn’t noticed the sound until then. We’ve been getting a lot of drizzly days the last couple of weeks, but this was the first time in a long, long time that I’d heard that kind of really hard rain. So I pulled on my slippers and a shirt (since I was just wearing my fleece Seahawks shorts and ankle socks), went out on the veranda, stepped up to the rail, and held out my arms to let the rain fall on my for a few minutes.

It was the first time that evening that I had felt good.

I didn’t realize that I was sick on Thursday until about an hour after getting home from work, when the cough started. I have hay fever for at least ten months of the year, and weather transition periods are one of the times that my symptoms get really bad. And the previous two weeks, while we had had some drizzle and scattered showers with temperatures in the 60s, we’d also had at least one day each week when clouds all vanished and the temp edged up passed 80. So lots of transitions.

My hay fever almost never includes coughing. Congestion, sinus headache, sometimes achey/itchy eyes, and yes lots of sneezing, but not coughing. And if the hay fever has been severe for a few days in a row, I also start feeling really run down.

So all day Thursday I had felt like I had no energy, I had to work hard to stay focused on tasks at work (it was one of the few times I was glad that I had nearly half the day in meetings). My sinuses were very painful to the point that my throat was feeling it. I was in denial that it was an actual cold right up until that cough.

And a funny thing about when I’m in denial that I’m sick: the moment I admit that maybe it might not be hay fever, I notice that every symptom I have is worse. It’s like the denial sets up a dampener that cuts out half the pain signals coming in? I realized that in addition to the coughing, my throat was more acutely sore than I had thought, and my sinus headache was worse, et cetera.

I took some cold meds right away, but the coughing kept going, and it seemed like each coughing fit made my whole body more miserable.

So that moment of standing in the rain and really, really enjoying it was great.

Friday had already been scheduled as a work from home day, so I hunkered down with coffee and tea and got through it. We had to cancel weekend plans with friends—not just because I was miserable, but also because we don’t want to infect anyone. The two times that I had to leave the house, I wore a mask and did a handwash before leaving the house. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning where (along with periodic blood work) I was supposed to get my flu shot, so I figured if the cold hadn’t begun to get better by then, I’d see what the doctor thought.

He doesn’t think I have the flu, but I do have an upper respiratory infection. So! Antibiotics for me!

At several points during the weekend I took comfort in opening the windows so I can hear the rain coming down. I started having the chills on Saturday, so I haven’t been going out on the veranda except briefly to refill the bird feeder, but I can hear the rain just fine with the windows open, and even feel the cool, moist rainy breeze on my face occasionally.

I love Seattle weather when it’s rainy or just cool and overcast.

I love it so much that I get cranky at people complaining about the weather when it arrives in the fall, or when it lingers into June. I try not to say disparaging things to them when it comes up, because I have been know to gripe and whine about the heat during the seven-ish weeks of real summer weather we get most years. But in my head I think of the folks who gripe about our weather as anti-rain trolls—particularly the ones who wax rhapsodic about the great hiking trails or the beautiful mountains that they love to ski or snowboard on.

All that snow? It’s what happens to the rain storms after they pass over us and get to the mountains. All those gorgeous hiking trails? There’s a reason we call most of the forested area of the Olympic Pennisula a rain forest. Yeah, we have pine trees (and other conifers) instead of a tropical plants, but it’s still a rain forest and all those lovely hiking trails wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have all the rain.

So, welcome to one of my favorite times of year! Let me enjoy the rain in peace. I’ll try to whine less about being sick. And I will continue to try to keep my griping about the heat each summer to a minimum. Deal?

Why I hate hay fever reason #6502

“Wait, I'm going to sneeze.”

“Wait, I’m going to sneeze.”

Some people will be surprised that I’m writing about hay fever when it is practically autumn. Well, this is one of the reasons my hay fever is so annoying. I have a moderate-to-severe allergic reaction to every pollen, spore, and mold that the allergists test for, and in the mild climate west of the Cascade Mountains, that means hay fever season runs from about mid-Febbruary to approximately mid-December every year.

We’ve had a significant shift in the weather this weekend. In the middle of last week we had one day where the temperature creeped above 80º in some places. All this week, the daily highs are forecast to be in the lower to mid-60s, plus rain every day.

I absolutely love this kind of weather.

Unfortunately, one of the “features” of my hay fever is that my sinuses react most harshly to changes. If a new species that hasn’t been the predominant pollen-contributor in a while ramps up production, my sinuses go bananas. If the weather changes, whether from damp and cool to dry and hot or the other direction, then it’s all congestion and running nose and red itchy eyes for a couple of days.

So, while I should be ecstatic that I had to pull the lightweight jacket out of the backpack (where it gets carried most of the summer in case we have rain) to wear for the trip in to work, I am instead sniffly and sneezing and miserable.

Pass me that box of kleenex, please?

Confessions of an absent-minded misplacer, part 2

You have to respect the honesty…

I lose things all the time. I wind up spending an embarrassing amount of time searching for misplaced eyeglasses, or the mug of coffee I had just a minute ago, or the bookmark I was using and I just want to set the book down long enough to get some more coffee, or the headphones I was wearing five minutes ago. So I’ll be retracing my steps, trying to remember what I did and was thinking about. I used to constantly lose my keys and wallet, and only slightly less often my badgeholder with my bus pass. And of course my phone. I was logging into Find My Phone at least twice a week to make the phone ping so I could find it. Now I have tiles attached to the keyring, badgeholder, and wallet. I can use an app on my phone to ping them. If I misplace the phone, I usually have my watch on and can use it to ping the phone, but I have also used the feature of the tiles where you can squeeze it’s button to make the phone you usually use to track them play the Find My Phone tone.

Misplacing things while moving around the house doing things is one category of lost possessions, but it isn’t the only one. No, far worse are those times when one I have to say the phrase, “I remember thqt last time I was using it I said to myself, ‘I need to put this somewhere that I won’t forget…’” Because I only utter that phrase after I have looked in the places where I thought I had put it way and now I can’t find it.

Part of it is about how my brain categorizes things. Let’s say I’m looking for the spray bottle with the stain remover in it. I’m putting my shirt in the hamper, and notice that I’ve spilled food on it earlier in the day, so I want to spray the stain with the soapy stuff before tossing it in the hamper in hopes of preventing a stain. And I go to the hall closet where the laundry detergent is, expecting to find the bottle there, but it isn’t there. And it isn’t in the bedroom by the hamper where I probably used it last time. This means that at some point while I was doing something completely unrelated to laundry, I noticed the spray bottle out where it shouldn’t be, and instead of putting it in the hall closet, I put is somewhere else. It might be in the cabinet under the bathroom sink, for instance, because a lot of soap-like things are kept there. Or I might have put it in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, because a lot of cleaning supplies are there.

Why not back to the closet? Because I probably found the bottle where it didn’t belong while I was in the middle of another task. And I didn’t want to lose track of the other task, but I also wanted to put the bottle away, and my silly brain instead up popping up with the location of the closet where the laundry detergent is, suggested some other place where other cleaning things are.

Maybe.

Or maybe the task I was in the middle of was getting ready for work and get out the door, and the next thing I had meant to do was assemble my lunch, so I carried the bottle with me as I go to assemble my lunch. Assembling the lunch involves getting some things out of the pantry. When I got into the pantry I reached for soup=in-a-cup, which involves opening a box and selecting one of the cups and realized I was still holding the bottle of stain remover so I set it on the lower pantry shelf to free up my hand and get the soup, then walk back out into the kitchen to get on with lunch. And because that lower shelf has a lot of bottles of varying sizes and a variety of colors of labels, and the pantry is only dimly lit, it just blended in and neither of us noticed it for two weeks.

But yes, one other time I found it under the bathroom sink. Another time under the kitchen sink. Both of those were found the same day I noticed it missing. The time it was left in the pantry it took longer.

Then there is the topic of important papers. Maybe I have a folder of instructions from the doctor for a procedure scheduled a couple of months out. I read through it all once, but I’ll need to consult it again a few days before, because I had dietary restrictions the day before. So it needs to be put away somewhere where it is out of the way, but I will find it when I need to.

So I take it into the computer room and I put it in a standing sorter near my desk where a bunch of other important papers are. Or at least, that’s what I thought I did, but of course when I go looking again it isn’t there. So if I didn’t put it there, where else did I put it? The drawers under the stand-up thing where a lot of other papers are? Maybe. Or maybe the bin where the bills to pay are kept. That’s a pile of papers I go through frequently and I always know where it is, so maybe that’s where I put it. Or maybe it’s in the filebox where a bunch of other important papers are kept… or…

So I spend a couple hours searching everywhere I can think of, and it’s getting late and I just resign myself to having to call the doctor’s office the next morning before I go to work. I begin the going to bed routine and I grab my nighttime meds… and that’s when I notice a familiar-looking folder stuck behind all the prescription bottles and vitamin bottles and the blood pressure thing and so forth. There wedged in besides the receipts from the pharmacy that I save so that every few months I can scan them in and fill out the only form and get re-imbursed for the co-pays.

I put it with other papers that I save, all right. And they’re even medical papers! But somehow making that decision got mangled in my memory as the location in the computer room.

It made sense at the time, but darned if I’ll remember a week afterward…

Listen, buddy, there is no pumpkin in pumpkin spice, and if you don’t like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and such in your food or beverage, then don’t order it…

“I think people who hate on pumpkin spice but praise bacon are hypocrites. The only difference is that bacon is seen as 'manly' and pumpkin spice is seen as 'girly.' Both groups want to put it on everything, but only one gets shamed for it.”

“I think people who hate on pumpkin spice but praise bacon are hypocrites. The only difference is that bacon is seen as ‘manly’ and pumpkin spice is seen as ‘girly.’ Both groups want to put it on everything, but only one gets shamed for it.”

I love bacon. I love a good martini. I love nice olives. I love a my husband’s homemade chicken soup1. I like sampling different kinds of winter ales/holiday beers. I love cooking a big pot of chili to eat while watching a football game. I love the many variants of Earl Grey tea. I love coffee. I love beef stroganoff (both making it and eating it). I love sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, pear and ginger pie, or any homemade fruit pie even though I can almost never eat pies any more. I love lamb stew. I love my husband’s solstice cake2. I love homemade vanilla and the many wonderful things I can make with it. I love cooking veal scallopini (and not just because when I open a bottle of wine to cook with I need to drink the rest of the bottle). I love very rare steak. I love a nice Old Fashioned made with really good bourbon. I also love a lot of what some people call froo-froo cocktails. I love homemade ginger bread.

And yes, sometimes, I like to spice things with a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspace, and cloves. Because those spices tastes incredibly delicious on many foods.

As autumn approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, we see the unveiling of the many snarky and condescending memes and social media posts about pumpkin spice. And one of the things that really amuses me about them are the large number of them who seem to think that the drinks and foods and such are pumpkin flavored.

Pumpkin spice lattes do not taste like pumpkin. They taste like coffee, steamed milk, and cinnamon. It’s not pumpkin, guys, it’s pumpkin spice, specifically, the spices that are traditionally used in pumpkin pie. It’s spices—you know, those substances whose entire existence in our culture is to be added in small quantities to various edible things to make them taste better? It isn’t something weird or new-fangled or unnatural. They are spices.

If you don’t happen to like cinnamon and so forth, that’s fine. But there is no reason to go hating or shaming other people who do. And I find it particularly irritating when I see it being done by the kinds of guys who are really into craft beers, or who want bacon on everything, or who buy up the various winter ales/holiday beers as soon as they show up in stores. All of these foods and beverages are things that some people really like, other people could take or leave, and other people dislike. It’s no big deal.

I know that you don’t think you’re being an asshole. You think your clever meme about guys dressing up in pumpkins to attract the ladies is funny. I totally get it. There are foods and drinks that I despise, and sometimes I describe my dislike for them in rather extreme terms4. But just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that it is inherently inferior to other things.

But your hating on pumpkin spice and your shaming of people who like it? That totally makes you an asshole. If you make fun of other people for liking cinnamon, you are a douche, an idiot, an asshole, and a petty insecure hypocrite.

You don’t have to buy any of the pumpkin spice things on the market. Their existence neither hurts you nor causes you harm. So chill. Relax. Let it go and stop hating on some spices. Unless you like being known widely as a prick.


Footnotes:

1. He makes the most amazing soup. One time when word got out that he was making chicken soup for a writing meeting we were hosting, one pair of friends changed their travel plans so they can attend for the soup. That’s how good it is.

2. It’s a cake he invented when he was tired of people always hating on fruit cake, so he concocted a way to turn pineapple, apricots, figs, and a bunch of fruit into a puree and then cook it in a way that people think they are just eating fluffy golden sponge cake. One year he made a bunch of them that we served at our Christmas party, took to some other people’s gatherings, and he took two into his work. The cakes were so good, that two of the people at his workplace got into a literal fist fight over the last slice of the cake. And the company instituted a rule that Michael couldn’t bring in home baked good any more, for fear it would happen again3.

3. Just more proof that I am the luckiest person in the world, because that amazing man is my husband!

4. For instance, raisins. I hate them5. I often call them Satanic Fruit.

5. Seriously, they taste so vile that I almost vomit with I get some in my mouth. It took several years to get to the point where I could stop that reaction and just find a napkin to put the the stuff in6.

6. And I have a history of this. When I was a toddler, the doctor wasn’t happy with some of my blood tests, and told my mom to feed me something like an ounce of raisins a day for nutritional purposes. My poor mom tried. I violently spit them out, cried, pushed her hands away, et cetera. She tried hiding them in other foods, soaking them in water, soaking rhem in apple juice, cooking them in various ways, and so forth. And every time I spit out the raisins. I would eat the other stuff around them, but I spit out the raisins again and again. Finally, Mom called the doctor’s office to say that I absolutely refused to eat the raisins. They started listing other foods that would take care of the nutritional deficiency they were worried about. When they got way down on the list and mentioned liver, Mom interrupted: “Liver! Why didn’t you say so, he loves liver!7” And she hung up the phone and headed to the store.

7. She knew I loved liver because my dad also liked liver, so just about every pay day they would splurge on some liver and Mom would cook up a mess of liver and onions for my dad. And at some point Dad offered me some and I gobbled it down and wanted more8.

8. I know lots of people hate liver, and that’s fine. May taste buds are different from yours. Raisins probably don’t make you gag because your taste buds are different. That’s okay. You can have my share of the world raisin supply. I’ll take your share of the world liver supply. We’ll all be happy, right?

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