missroserose: (Freedom on a Bike)
It's been thirteen months, hundreds of miles, a few traffic near-misses, and a slightly embarrassing amount spent on accessories, repairs, and eventually a new bike, but I'm beginning to feel like a seasoned urban cyclist. I bike so much (and Brian works from home so much) that, for the first time since we moved here, I've given up our monthly transit pass subscriptions; it makes more sense now to pay as we go, or nab Brian a weekly pass if he's got an on-site job.

My unstated, very-unofficial goal for the spring/summer/fall has been to only use the car for trips involving at least two people. With the notable exception of my once-or-twice monthly Costco/Trader Joe's stock-up trips (I have yet to figure out how to load a pallet of toilet paper onto a bike), this has been surprisingly doable. Especially in a crowded city, biking is often faster than driving for short distances; it may not be quite as fast for longer ones, but that's balanced out by not having to search/pay for parking at the end. (The one exception currently on my regular schedule is the Sauganash studio, which is a fifteen-minute drive with a free parking lot at the end, versus a 25-30 minute ride. But that's balanced out somewhat by being a far more pleasant commute by bike, as well as getting to eat All The Calories afterward.) There's definitely been an adjustment curve with my physical condition, but I feel like I'm largely over the hump, even if my hip and glute muscles might not agree, heh.

All of which is to say, biking is feeling less like a novelty and more like a lifestyle change. I'm...torn on saying whether I'd consider it part of my identity; there's a lot of aspects of the urban-biker subculture I either don't fit into or am less than enthused with (I have zero desire to do triathlons or multi-city tours; I bike largely for commuting/eating purposes rather than recreation; I try not to look down on people who primarily drive, not all of us are able-bodied enough to pedal everywhere). But I think it is, to a degree; I like who I am better when I'm biking most places.

I'm not sure how this coming winter is going to shape up. Last year I put my bike away in late November when the temperature was regularly dropping below freezing; there was more than one period over the winter, however, when the mercury rose and I regretted not having it handy. I think I might try leaving it out this year and seeing how often I can ride it. I am nowhere near hardcore enough to ride in snow, but if the roads are clear and I have enough layers I don't see why colder temperatures have to be a barrier. I suppose a lot will depend on the weather.

In more fun news, I've been combing through Redbubble looking for stickers to decorate my new bike - hence the reflections on biking culture and where I fit (or don't) in it. Still, even with the hardcore athlete/snooty stickers discounted, there are some good candidates, even if my all-time favorite is untrue for me on every level, haha. I like the colors in this one, and the fanciful vintage air of this one; this one has a nice minimalist feel to it as well as being a good shape for a crossbar. This one probably gets the award for most accurate/most likely to be purchased, possibly with this one as a complement; also, it's nice to see an actively non-snooty message in a bike-oriented sticker.

How about you? Are there any subcultures you probably fit in but are hesitant to actively jump into?
Have you ever tried something new and discovered you hadn't even realized it was part of who you wanted to be? Seen any great bike stickers lately? Let's discuss!
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
Hello, fellow book nerds! Last Wednesday was a bit nuts; Brian and I were scrambling about trying to get all the last-minute preparations done for our trip to Washington state, only to discover that our pleasant evening flight had been delayed into an overnight flight thanks to thunderstorms shutting down O'Hare. (Thanks a lot, Chicago weather!) We made it eventually, although we had to shell out no small amount for Lyfts as transit wasn't running that late/early...ah well. The past week has been full of robot fights and gigantic waterfalls and a quick visit with the goddaughter and walks with my mother-in-law and driving. So much driving. And more later today. Washington state, why do you have to be so huge. >.>

And, of course, there has been reading!

What I've just finished reading

The Heiress Effect, by Courtney Milan. Incredibly generic covers aside, I've found this series to be one of my favorite period romances. It does suffer somewhat from the common "Regency romance that's basically modern people living in the trappings of the period" problem, but the characters are so well-drawn and likable that I enjoy them anyway, even if they're ultimately a little forgettable (except, perhaps, for Free and her Suffragettes! in book 4).


What I'm currently reading

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagowski, Ph.D. (Yeah, I'm reading roughly a million other books right now, but I bought this intending to read it right away...almost exactly two years ago, if the receipt is to be believed. :P In any case, I finally picked it up off my nightstand and brought it along for the trip.) If you're interested in sociology and sexuality, this is a fascinating book - far more interesting than Future Sex, for all that it's more science-based than memoir. Nagowski's big reveal (er, spoilers? She talks about it in literally the first chapter) is the accelerator/brakes model of sexual arousal, where rather than an on/off switch, eroticism is mostly a matter of context. So we react sexually when there are enough turn-ons present in the environment (say, presence of an attractive partner, sounds/sights of other people having sex, relaxed and receptive mood) and relatively few turn-offs (say, crying children, an unappreciative audience, history of sexual trauma, general life stress); ergo what we think of as "sex drive" is really as much a question of what's going on in the person's immediate surroundings and in their life.

I have a lot of thoughts on this theory. Primarily, Nagowski seems to think it's mostly applicable to women, because their sexuality is socialized in a more complex way; that may be true, but I strongly suspect it's true for a lot of men too, if perhaps to a lesser degree. Similarly, I don't think it's only sex that utilizes this mechanism; laughter, say, is heavily context-dependent, as articulated in the benign violation theory of humor. And the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system works in a similar way to generate a whole host of responses to a range of different situations. So I'll be interested to see where she takes it.

The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, by AC Wise. I picked this up as part of the LGBTQ Humble Bundle (it doesn't count as buying new books if it's supporting a good cause, right??), and basically opened it up knowing nothing about it. It seems to be lyrical sci-fi stories with a queer bent; the worldbuilding's been a little scanty in the stories I've read so far, but the sheer human longing at the center of each has been strong and well-rendered enough to easily drive the plots forward.


What I plan to read next

Given that I currently have something like eight books on my currently-reading list, I think I'm going to be best served by finishing some of them before I start to plan more, haha.
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
It's amazing how much "I just finished three weeks with all of two days off and no relaxation days in any of them" feels like "I'm fighting off a cold", except without the sniffles and coughing. Not that I'm complaining, but I suspect I've learned my lesson about scheduling downtime, heh. At least until the next time I have a busy period following a long quiet one.

What I've just finished reading

Yesterday was my first SOMA day in three weeks, so while I've gotten some reading in here and there I haven't finished anything. I'm nearly done with a couple of books, though!

What I'm currently reading

What the F, by Benjamin K. Bergen. I'm not sure if the repetitive style is easing off in later chapters or I'm just growing used to it, but it's bothering me less as we go on. Some of this might be due to the proportion of new information I'm encountering - I found the section on profanity as parts of speech, and the unusual rules it follows, particularly fascinating. Cut for profanity, duh. ) Being a giant nerd who loves overarching patterns and rules, but loves finding exceptions to those patterns and rules even more, this kind of thing is absolutely delightful to me.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy. Oh noes! Marguerite, having betrayed the titular hero of legend to the representative of the corrupt French government in order to save her brother, has finally realized that he was, in fact, her seemingly-brainless fop of a husband all along! (Er, spoilers? I mean, the book's over a century old at this point...) Now he, on a mission to save another Comte, races headlong into a trap! Can she get there in time to save him - or, if all goes wrong, at least find him in time to apologize and accompany him to the gallows? I think the modern critics who've compared this to superhero stories aren't far off - the level of subtlety and nuance in the writing is about on par with earlier comic books, haha. Still, it's good clean melodramatic fun - sometimes you just want to cheer the beautiful maiden on against the evil and corrupt government, especially when one's own government seems determined to fulfill that same role.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle. I read this one roughly a bazillion times as a kid but haven't touched it in more than a decade, and I'm surprised at how accurate my memories are of some of the lines - lots of other books in that category I find I've misremembered. Something that jumps out at me a lot more as an adult is how trusting Charles Wallace is of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which - and even more so, how trusting Calvin is of all of them and the Murry family, despite having barely interacted with them prior to being invited to dinner. And yet, I totally feel his exultant joy in having found a clan of people with whom he fits in; combined with the more adventurous/less risk-averse mindset of a teenager, I can completely understand how he'd be down for a cross-universe adventure on the strength of a gut feeling of belonging. Still, the part of my brain that's all "Informed consent! That's important!" is shaking its head more than a little, and thinking it's lucky that the three W's were ancient beings fighting for the good of the universe, and not (say) representatives of the Sea Org.

What I plan to read next

Totally up in the air at the moment, but I strongly suspect it'll be from my shelves/Kindle storage - I've already broken my "no new books" rule once recently, haha. (I read them when I was a kid! That makes them old books, right??)
missroserose: (Default)
I've tried my best to keep my political posts to a minimum, this election. This is not because I don't like politics, or think they shouldn't be discussed in polite company; I find sociology and demographics and economics and all the other fields that contribute to political choice-making fascinating. Even more, I feel strongly that the point of a democracy (and deliberative government in general) is to encourage discussion and exchange of views between people who may not agree. It's slow, and inefficient, and often anxiety-making; it requires an ability to listen in good faith, and to find common ground. But, at its best, it helps us broaden our viewpoints and make decisions that are best for everyone. I've made a very real effort, therefore, to befriend people on all parts of the political spectrum.

And so I feel like I've gotten a front-row seat to our country's increasing polarization over the past decade. And that's made discussing politics increasingly uncomfortable.

There's no one single cause that I've seen a convincing argument for. Income inequality absolutely contributes, as does the stark divide in rural vs. urban culture and economic opportunity. Self-constructed Internet echo chambers may have had an effect, as well as the culture of bullying that Internet anonymity has given rise to. A news media that depends on conflict and horse-race reporting to generate clicks. But the one very real effect is a complete breakdown of communication between people with different views. An obstructionist Congress that refuses to work with the other branches of government. A Supreme Court evenly split along ideological lines. And, on a smaller scale, a stream of people in my social media feeds - many of whom I like and respect - demanding that people who voted for an opposing candidate, or who have different ideas about this or that issue, unfriend them right now. No more communication.

And the damned thing is, I can understand that. We're all human. None of us like uncertainty. None of us want to admit we might be wrong, that our friends might be wrong. A lot of us aren't even comfortable discussing our thinking anymore - it's too likely someone will take advantage of even that small vulnerability to land a sucker punch. It's so much easier to hide in our bunker with the people who pass our tests of ideological purity, who will reinforce our view of the world, and who won't challenge us for fear of being ousted from our circle.

But the cost is...this. A government so dysfunctional it can't even fulfill its basic, Constitutionally-mandated responsibilities. Social media feeds full of 'gotcha' memes and biased information. And now, a whole section of the populace that feels so left behind, so ignored, that they've (very likely) elected a supremely unqualified person for the highest office in the land, solely for the satisfaction of throwing a brick through the window.

It's times like this that being a big-picture sort of person gets really depressing. Because, ultimately, there's not much I can do about any of these trends. I can't make people listen to each other. I can't stop Internet trolling, or demand that the media quit publishing clickbait headlines, or stop my friends from posting questionable memes. I can't fight what feels like the inevitable tendency of humanity to lose sight of common goals in favor of petty squabbles.

So what can I do? What can any of us do?

Listen. Cultivate empathy to the people you might normally dismiss. Empathy is not the same thing as sympathy; it doesn't mean you agree. It simply means you're willing to consider what they have to say, and their possible reasons for saying it.

Find common ground. For all that we love to find reasons to argue, we're all human, and that means we all have far more in common than we don't. No matter your differences in background, culture, or demographic, I guarantee you have something in common with the next person.

Bring people together. It might be small ways - a yoga class, a church service. It might be bigger - writing a novel, running a protest. But find some way to help people reconnect with others. Help them remember that we're bigger than this.

Set healthy boundaries. Say no to interactions, discussions, and relationships that only drain you. This might seem counterintuitive, but people with the strongest sense of boundaries are able to be the most openhearted with others, because they've saved their energy for the difficult work of listening in good faith.

Maintain your integrity. Practice what you preach.

These are my resolutions for the next four years. What are yours?
missroserose: (Default)
Having spent what feels like the past year deluged with political articles, opinions, and memes on social media, I'm looking forward quite a bit to the upcoming Election Day when it will all be over. (I've already voted; if your area has early voting I highly recommend doing the same. I went in on the very first day it was available, and the line was more than an hour long. It's almost like this has been a particularly nutty election that's made a lot of people very passionate.) Needless to say, this next week feels like it's going to be a record in how long it subjectively feels.

If you want something to take your mind off of our election, therefore, I highly recommend reading this summary of the scandal that's rocking the Korean government right now.

Spoiler alert: this one's a doozy.

I'd vaguely heard that something was up with the Korean presidency, but I hadn't clicked through to details until this post showed up in my feed. And...wow. There's the obligatory shadowy cabal pulling the strings, indulging in all kinds of graft and corporate 'protection' schemes to line their pockets. But that's not even scratching the surface. There's séances. And unencrypted tablet computers. And seriously dysfunctional BFFs. And secret cult ties. And K-Pop music video directors. And rumors of human sacrifice. And...the list goes on. As the author puts it, "Having survived a particularly tumultuous modern democratic history, Korean people may be the world's most cynical consumers of politics. But this. Even the most cynical Koreans were not ready for this." It's the sort of thing that if you saw in a film, your disbelief suspenders would snap in the first five minutes. (Speaking of which, if Park Chan-Wook doesn't make a movie out of this in the next five years, I'm going to be genuinely disappointed.)

Just...wow.

Suddenly our election doesn't seem quite so insane.
missroserose: (Default)
I've written quite a bit about my struggles with anxiety and depression, both in terms of how they feel and how they manifest in my behavior. Yesterday, however, a friend linked to an article that resonated quite a bit: Living With High-Functioning Anxiety.

My experience is somewhat different from the writer's. For one thing, mine tends to move in cycles; there are times when I can't stop the stream of internal criticism, and other times when I feel perfectly normal and happy. For another, even when I'm in an anxious phase, my symptoms aren't usually that severe. But I feel firsthand so much of what she's written. The perfectionism. The need to constantly be busy while avoiding important or high-stakes tasks. The inability to ask for help, because that means admitting you're not capable of handling things on your own. The vacillating between "everyone has it together but you, what's wrong with you" and "other people have things so much worse, what are you complaining about".

Those of you who've been around the past couple years have probably noticed my increasing focus on self-care, mostly through increased physical activity and better diet. (I know that, to some people and in some circumstances, I've come across as more than a little evangelist on this point; to those people, I owe an apology. Yoga and self-care have been quite literally life-changing for me, but I suspect in my exhortations I was ignoring the twin contributions of a move to a much better-for-me environment and a significant socioeconomic boost that came about at the same time.) This has done a lot to stretch out the periods of feeling happier and more balanced. But these past several months, I've been feeling the anxiety creep up on me even with those efforts; this latest bout has lasted some weeks.

Another link from a friend, Life Hacks of the Poor and Aimless, has shed some light on what's been going on in my subconscious. Laurie Penny posits that my demographic's obsession with self-care isn't in spite of the scary events going on in the rest of the world, but is in fact a reaction to that very sense of helplessness. We can't refill the Ogallala aquifer, or stop ourselves hurtling past the carbon emission point of no return, or fix a broken political system, or avert any number of other disasters that seem to loom over the horizon. So we turn our focus selfward instead, and convince ourselves that by practicing "radical self-love" we can find happiness - and, on this philosophy's darker side, feel as if we're insufficient when our self-care practice fails to adequately substitute for a stable and functioning social contract.

And yet, the answer can't be to give up self-care entirely. One of my favorite yoga teachers would probably fit Penny's description of an "Instagram happiness guru", or at least an aspiring one. But I go to her classes regularly, because she makes a real effort to make them a safe place, where we can work on self-improvement without judgment. When it feels like the world is falling apart around us, where there's no good answer or right thing we can do to stop things hurtling toward a horrible conclusion, there's a real value in that sort of centering, in exercising that little bit of control we do still have. I always leave her classes feeling more hopeful, more able to focus on the positive aspects of my life. It doesn't always overcome the overall sense of helplessness, but it provides a bulwark, a small protection for my sanity that helps me keep a more even outlook.

And let's not kid ourselves - outlook is important. It's a lot easier to focus on the positives, to work towards making the world a better place in those hundreds of small ways that seem insignificant but are far more likely to ripple out into something lasting, if we're feeling energized and stable and hopeful for the future. Zeitgeist matters; the more we become convinced that the world is headed for disaster, the more likely it is that we will bring that disaster on ourselves. No single one of us can prevent it, no, but by each doing what we can to help raise each others' spirits, perhaps we can improve our collective future.

That's what I feel in my more hopeful moments, anyway. During those times when the anxiety starts to build, when (to paraphrase Brian) I spend more and more time either absorbed in news articles or staring off into the distance, I start to think that this is what my friends and family felt like during the Cold War. Those awful moments of hope mixed with increasing dread, that encroaching certainty that the worst will happen, it was just a question of how and when. It's not a fun feeling; I especially hate how it robs me of the ability to enjoy things in my life here and now, when the worst (whatever that might be) hasn't yet happened, and may not at all.

I've been thinking, too, about my earlier post on paradox, and how essential it is to our existence, even though it's uncomfortable and difficult for us to accept. Perhaps this is how humans get into these destructive spirals in the first place: we don't like uncertainty, we want things to be good or bad. And if things stay uncertain enough for long enough, if the constructive future feels too difficult or too far away, eventually we pick the bad option, just for the relief of knowing the uncertainty is over. Perhaps this is why it's so important to practice holding our paradoxes: that anxiety and depression are challenges to overcome and perfectly reasonable reactions to an increasingly scary world; that we need to focus on taking care of ourselves and fighting for a better society; that we can contribute meaningfully to our collective future and we're dependent on other people to help us build that future.

My head is not the happiest place, of late. But I hope getting these thoughts out in the open will help, if only in the sense of lancing the wound. And to everyone whom I owe letters, or a phone call, or words of comfort - I'm sorry I've been so unresponsive lately. Hopefully this will go some measure towards explaining why.
missroserose: (Default)
Not that I figure anyone really had any doubt; I've been plenty active on Facebook and even a bit on Twitter. But for a while I feel like I've had long-form writer's block; I have several blog posts full of Big Thoughts and Theories percolating in my head, but nothing's coming out. So instead of trying to write about Big Thoughts and Theories, I'm going to fall back on my usual blogging habits and relate some small things that are happening in my life right now.

--Things continue to go well in my work life. I've settled into the spa job, and found it to be both interesting and fairly lucrative. There's little opportunity to build repeat clientele, but I'm gaining all kinds of experience working with different body types, and the tips have been quite good on the whole. My private bookings have seen a real boost too, thanks to some good word of mouth, and I've acquired several regulars. For the past couple of months I've been averaging two to three bookings a week, which doesn't seem bad at all given that I'm working out of my home and don't advertise other than in person. And I've had a few of the yoga teachers at the studio specifically ask for feedback on their assists, which is gratifying.

--I'm gearing up for another Big Summer of Travel; upcoming is a trip to Alaska to help my mother move into her (giant, gorgeous) new house. (Related: if anyone's interested in traveling to Alaska in the future, hit me up - I know a great place we can stay.) Shortly thereafter is a trip to Washington, DC to visit [personal profile] peacefulleigh's family. Also, my fellow Arizona-dwelling PNW expatriate friend Niki is finally escaping the desert, moving not fifteen minutes away from Leigh's clan. (I may or may not catch her this trip - her tentative schedule has her arriving a couple of days after I leave - but still. Hurrah for good friends living close to each other! It's the next best thing to having them both live close to me.) Then in September, I have plans to take my friend Elyse to Anchorage to do touristy things, then hop down to Juneau to visit friends I haven't seen there in far too long. I'm looking forward to it.

--My Goodreads friends may have noticed, I've been on a real comics kick lately. After a good friend did a killer cosplay of Gwendolyn from Saga, I figured I should read the source material, and am enjoying it greatly - I love the contrast of the crazypants fever-dream worldbuilding with the so-shopworn-as-to-almost-be-mundane (but lovingly told) story. Also, courtesy of my local comics shop's Memorial Day sale, I picked up the first volume of Sunstone (already read on DeviantArt, but worth revisiting and supporting the author both) and a new-to-me series called Paper Girls. Hopefully that'll tide me over until the new Wicked and the Divine comes out.

--One of the long-form posts I've intended to write and never gotten around to has been a product review of Soylent, featuring some of the goofy labels Brian's written on the bottles as illustrations. Having built something of a backlog at this point, I've started a Twitter account to share them with non-Facebook-using friends. Feel free to follow or retweet!

--I feel like I'm barely skimming the surface here, but for whatever reason this is what my brain's coming up with at the moment. So I'll post this now, and maybe it'll help rekindle my more (semi-)regular writing habits. I can hope!
missroserose: (Default)
I have an ongoing dialogue of sorts with a Facebook acquaintance about compassion, and the need to exercise it while - incongruously, it seems - maintaining strong boundaries to protect yourself. And in a recent iteration of this conversation, it occurred to me that this sort of paradox was far from unique:

It is precisely the embodiment of these sorts of opposing values that fascinates me about life. We need to be compassionate, and we need to have strong boundaries. We need to be open to new ideas, and we need to be skeptical of claims presented without evidence. We need to keep our games (literal, metaphorical and political) simple enough to be accessible, and complex enough to keep our interest. We need to focus on the goals we hope to attain, and accept that the path to them may be more roundabout than we anticipate (and that the roundabout path may be more rewarding). And although you will find people advocating one side or the other of literally all of these metrics, those who are most successful are always the people who realize that it's not an either/or proposition, but being large enough to embody the whole.

What really struck me, when I was writing this out, was that I had started out phrasing it as precisely the sort of either/or setup that I later disclaimed. "We need to be compassionate, BUT we need to have strong boundaries." "We need to be open to new ideas, BUT we need to be skeptical." It was such an engrained habit of thinking that it wasn't until I reached the final sentence that I realized that I was presenting these options as choices, and thus reinforcing precisely the sort of either/or framework I was decrying.

Having recognized that, still...it was surprisingly difficult, writing these seeming contradictions out not as quandaries, but as both/and directives. Even though there's plenty of research showing that people with the strongest boundaries are also the most compassionate. Even though just about any Internet comment thread will demonstrate the dangers of both over-openmindedness and over-skepticism. Even though my own life has borne out the value of the long road to a goal. Even knowing all of this, it was almost physically painful to stop thinking of them as choices, and start thinking of both as necessities.

Thinking about why, I was put strongly in mind of Q's final admonition to Picard in All Good Things...:

 
Picard: I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here.
Q: You just don't get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.
Picard: When I realized the paradox.
Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered.
That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.

Paradoxes don't sit well with human nature.  We like things to fit neatly into boxes, to be all good or all bad.  It's genuinely difficult, almost painful, to hold two seemingly-contradictory ideas in our heads, even when we know they're not a contradiction, but two halves of a greater whole.  

But while I can't speak for anyone else's experience...when I manage to hold the paradox in my head?  It's exhilarating, even elevating.  Like I've grown larger, somehow.  Like someday I might be able to understand the entire universe.  

I'm curious, now - do any of you have experiences like this?  Are there paradoxes in your own lives that you struggle with?  Things you've learned that make you feel bigger?  Tell me!

missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's the first real cold morning of winter (15 degrees in Farenheit, -9 in Celsius, At Least Three Layers And All The Winter Accessories in Ambrosia), and I decided to skip yoga class before work because I'm having a hard time convincing myself to go out before it's absolutely necessary. So now that I have two whole hours free, I thought I might wave to my LJ friends and reassure them I made it into the new year just fine.

Biggest laugh of the morning: Women Having A Terrible Time At Parties In Western Art History. "maybe if i keep covering more of my face with my hands/he’ll forget i’m here/and go away"...oh man. Vivid memories of working circulation in my college library, and certain patrons who thought they'd try to chat up the cute girl behind the desk.

It's been a quiet first week of the year. Our holiday plans fell through somewhat - we'd intended to go to a dance/concert with some friends, but they had an emergency and had to cancel. Since we already had tickets, and I had an outfit all picked out, we decided to go anyway; people-watching was fun, but ultimately we just weren't feeling it and decided to hop a train home before the rush. And really, that was okay; we got back and sipped some leftover sparking wine and went to bed. I guess this is officially The Year We Are Old.

Since then we've mostly been hanging out at home, partly due to holiday budgetary hangover and partly due to Brian having come down with a cold (Brian, dismayed: "I was working nights all month and barely left the house! Where did I get a cold?") I managed to fight it off successfully with a combination of Emergen-C and taking it easy for a few days, but given that next week he's going to be commuting to/from a client site in the suburbs, I think our plans to take down Christmas decorations are getting delayed a week.

Other than that, though, things are good. I have a longer and more thoughtful post percolating on finances, long-term goals, social/generational trends, and luck, but the upshot is, we're finally at a point financially where we're able to seriously save for a home of our own. I've honestly doubted for a long time we'd ever reach that point, since the places we wanted to live (i.e. urban environments with good transit and lots of restaurants/attractions) tend to be quite pricey, and historically we're more prone to want to enjoy our money than sock it away; but thanks to hard work, good social connections, and some excellent luck, it's looking like we may be able to start seriously house-hunting (or, more likely, condo-hunting) in a couple of years. We'll see how it works out - make plans and the gods laugh, after all. Still, it's a nice place to be.

I don't have any New Year's resolutions as such; most of my goals are continuous (keep up with yoga/healthier food choices to keep my mood issues in check, keep an eye out for new career opportunities, keep learning new things to avoid getting stuck in a rut, et cetera). But a theme that's been coming up in my life lately has been practicing gratitude without anxiety or entitlement. I have a lot of friends who did not have a great 2015, often due to factors entirely beyond their control; I know that someday that might be me (in cases involving death of a loved one, someday it will be me, unless I die first). And I also know a lot of people - including me, sometimes - who have trouble appreciating when things go well because all they can focus on is how temporary it is, and how things are bound to go wrong eventually. So I've been working on holding that sense of gratitude, and the vulnerability it entails, and being gentle with the part of me that wants to get caught up in worrying about the future. Similarly, there's the part of me that's terrified of becoming an entitled white person, who subconsciously believes they're owed their privilege and success simply because they've always had it; it's partly why I get so uncomfortable in the suburbs, where there's a high percentage of people with that mindset. So I'm trying to be gentle with that part of me as well, acknowledging its existence and reassuring it through various means (staying socially aware, donating when I can and without feeling guilty for not giving more, practicing compassion towards others even when they're doing things I disagree with or find inconvenient). It's a tough balance to strike, and man, is it difficult to practice self-love towards the parts of your personality you don't like. But it feels like important work, so I'm going to keep at it.
missroserose: (Default)
Last Friday night, I had a very bad reaction to NyQuil.

To call it unexpected would be something of an understatement; NyQuil has always been my go-to cold medicine. When I've got a sore throat, am coughing too hard to sleep, or am otherwise miserable with a cold, it's always been there for me, willing to knock me out for a few hours of much-needed rest. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I've probably taken it a hundred times over the past several years. Even this past week I'd taken it a few times - I've been dealing with a lingering cough and scratchy throat from the Swedish flu, which seems to get worse at night.

But this time, something in the chemistry was off. Instead of falling asleep and waking up in the morning, I awoke after two hours, heart pounding and blood pressure skyrocketing...only to nearly lose consciousness as it bottomed out a few minutes later. I had tremors, sweats, chills, nausea, and all the other symptoms of a bad flu, made worse by the clockwork shots of adrenaline that jolted my system every half-hour or so.

Since sleep was out of the question, I put the time to use doing what few things I could - Googling the symptoms (they all checked out as less-severe uncommon side effects of the drug), making and drinking tea to stay hydrated, and taking deep breaths and firmly telling myself that this was temporary, that I would make it through this. That last was rather more difficult than it sounds with the regular adrenaline dumps, but it was pretty much all I could do, so I did. (I would like to add with some minor grumpiness that, had I been in Sweden or just about any other first-world nation and could go to the ER without it costing literally thousands of dollars, I would have checked myself in for observation - "liver failure" was listed as a "severe" possible side effect. But I decided against it and instead checked my skin and the whites of my eyes every hour or so to make sure I wasn't showing signs of jaundice.)

Quite frankly, I was fucking terrified. In precisely the primal, hindbrain, violent sense that phrase evokes.

---

It's occurred to me, as I've been listening to the book on trauma that I was wrote about in my last post, that this qualified as a mildly traumatic experience - I was in fear for my life and I could do very little about it; even once it was past, I couldn't shake the feeling that it could recur, despite (obviously) avoiding NyQuil since then. And as I started to pick up the pieces of my daily routine, I realized that I could observe all the stages of healthy-person trauma recovery that Dr. van der Kolk discusses. I found words to describe the experience (naming and articulation). I reached out to friends and family for support (social connection). When I experienced some minor avoidance and flashback issues -- difficulty getting to sleep the next night despite being exhausted; performing a massage in an unusually warm room yesterday and, as I started to sweat, feeling my heart rate and blood pressure rise -- I dealt with them using deep breathing and centering techniques, reminding myself that this was not the past (reestablishment of temporal perception). And, gradually, my brain has been able to put the experience in the past (integration), instead of being constantly on alert, convinced that it will happen again.

---

Recently I've been ruminating on The Pictures are Pretty but the Struggle is Real, a plea for us to "be real" on the Internet. The author's a little fuzzy on the definition of "real", but suggests that we need to be honest about the things we're struggling with, to allow some of the rougher edges of our lives to show, in the hopes of better connecting with other people.

My feelings on this are...complex. I applaud her intent, but I think she glosses over a lot of the complexities of honesty and sharing. I think [livejournal.com profile] alexmegami had an excellent point over on Facebook: "The Internet is also home of the overshare. I question the ability to be fully yourself with an audience of hundreds or more. While I'm not opposed to honesty...a fight with your spouse is not something to be blasting across the tubes the day of or the day after or even within a week or two, especially without their okay." Vulnerability is powerful; misusing that power to hurt others is not cool, even if you genuinely need help.

And that's not even addressing the question of degrees. Is saying "I'm having a rough time of it today" any less honest than saying "My partner and I had a huge fight over moving today"? Is making a joke to put a humorous spin on a scary situation, as I did with NyQuil by announcing our breakup on Facebook, any less "real" than admitting how terrified I was, as I did above? Heck, is it somehow less honest of me to wait a few days to blog about it, until after I'd had some distance and time to process, than it would have been to write a mostly-incoherent in-the-moment accounting?

There's a lot to be said for the power of vulnerability: used conscientiously, it can be a powerful invitation to sympathy and connection. As [personal profile] peacefulleigh put it: "I strike a balance, or at least I try to, with triumphs and moments of frustration. But even in the latter, the point is not honesty, it's connectedness. I know that my friends have either felt that way too, or we can all laugh together at my foibles later."

And there, I think, is the key. There's nothing wrong with honesty (or "real"ness) in and of itself, just as there's nothing wrong with preferring to present a more polished appearance to the world. But neither of them are an end unto themselves. The point is connection; remembering that we need to strike a balance between reaching out from a position of power ("Look how thoughtful and smart and together I am!") and vulnerability ("I'm really scared about this and need help"). Maybe one's success on social media (and in the social world in general) is best measured in connections made. I think that's what I'm going to experiment with, ultimately; if I feel like I'm not engaging with people, I'll check to see if I'm spending too much time in one mode or the other. Which, yes, will probably require me being vulnerable a little more often. Sigh.
missroserose: (Default)
Yep. I'm sick again.

Brian started feeling under the weather just before we left Sweden, and had to navigate public transit, international flights, and customs all while coughing and feverish, poor guy. (The one upside: August being a slow month for vacationers, on the long-haul flight both ways we got a whole row of seats to ourselves. So at least he wasn't coughing on anyone directly.) At first we just thought he'd picked up whatever cold I'd gotten on the way there, but when he started in on a wracking chest cough, and especially once I started feeling under the weather a couple of days after our return, I figured it was time for us to see the doctor.

The diagnosis? Flu! (And flu shots literally just became available here in town. Augh, timing.) And because Brian's an overachiever, he also had a secondary strep infection. (Or as he put it, "I thought I just had Plane Ebola, but apparently I have Double Bonus Plane Ebola.") And because I live with the overachieving bacterial-colony-host, guess who's also showing strep symptoms two days later? Yup, that's me. Overachiever by proxy.

In fairness, things could be much much worse. The doctor wrote me a prescription for antibiotics as well ("I hate just giving out antibiotics but you seem smart enough not to take them unless you start getting symptoms, and there's a high likelihood you will"), so the extra-bonus-miserableness will likely be short-lived. Brian didn't have anything pressing on his schedule for the next week or two, and his boss has been great about letting him work from home (and occasionally doped up on codeine cough syrup). I'm not scheduled to start my new job until the 20th, which hopefully, with the help of Tamiflu and amoxicillin and lots of tea and rest, will be plenty of time to get better.

So my life has once again been reduced to bed, couch, books, tea, carrot-dill soup (homemade and brought over by local friends - thank you so much, Tara and Nate!), and YouTube videos. I put up a request on Facebook for silly videos or series recommendations, and my friends came through in spades. Here are some favorites, in case anyone else is under the weather or wants to have a stash of entertainment handy for the next time they're sick:

--The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a retelling of Pride & Prejudice through Lizzie Bennet's vlog. I'm a little burned out on P&P retillings, to be honest, but this one is pretty well done all around: exceptionally well-cast, well-acted and expertly produced, and adapted with relative ease to the present-day setting (instead of entailment, the Bennets are concerned about losing their house to the financial crisis; Mr. Collins is an aspiring indie vlogger who's received a huge venture capital investment from a "very wealthy and exceedingly intelligent woman"). Plus it's surprised me by adding more than a few modern twists to the story - I particularly liked one video where Lizzie debates with herself over the ethics of putting recordings of people (or even her impressions of people) online without their knowing. A dilemma for the Internet age, certainly, but I find myself wondering if Jane Austen had similar thoughts when writing characters who (I'm sure) were based on people she knew in everyday life.

--IKEA Heights, a soap opera filmed entirely (and unbeknownst to the staff) in the Burbank, California IKEA store. Unlike the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I'm not certain this one really offers much past its basic premise, but man, that premise is a downright gold mine of visual gags, and certainly holds up for the four-episode initial arc.

--This variety show act, whose provenance I am uncertain of but which made me laugh to no end. It's a good trick, elevated by the impeccable delivery.

--The Tale of How, a hypnotic and fantastical animation that (even having watched it several times) I'm not quite sure how to describe - surrealist, certainly, but with a fairly traditional story beneath the natural-industrial-mashup art design. The music is similarly strange, eschewing traditional intervals and harmonies and at times almost dissonant, but with a mostly-consistent rocking beat that evokes the ever-moving ocean. I'm honestly sad I can't find a version in high-def - the intricate visual work frankly deserves it.

--And, equally well-done but on the complete opposite end of the artistic spectrum, We Like Them Girls, a highly NSFW music video with amazing production values that's a pretty pitch-perfect satire of mainstream dance music (and, in many ways, mainstream masculine culture)...done entirely in LEGO. It pre-dates the LEGO Movie by a few years (and is obviously aimed at a much less, erm, mixed-age audience), but it feels like it has a lot of the same anarchic satirical spirit, enough that I'm curious if the same person ended up working on the movie. Even if not, I'm pretty sure this video helped inspire the "Where are my pants?" gag. Reductio ad absurdum: works for social satire even better than for online debates!

Okay, that's enough from me now - it's time for some NyQuil and a nap. ("NyQuil and the Naps" would be a horrible band name. Don't use it.) If you want to add to the video suggestion list, please do - I'm likely going to be on the couch at least another day or two, and can always use more recommendations!
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
The Summer of All The Travel continues. One week until we leave for Sweden! The flight is going to be...interesting; we're flying overnight into Heathrow, and then have a six hour layover before the flight to Gothenberg. Given how well I sleep on planes (read: I can't), I was thinking about booking a hotel room to catch some rest between flights, but then I looked at the prices for the Heathrow Hilton...and since the layover is during the day, we'd probably have to reserve two nights. Nope. Nope nope nope. I'm willing to be a little sleep deprived in order to save three hundred pounds, thanks. So, flying sleep-deprived into a foreign country...it'll be an adventure! Maybe I'll be too tired for my ambiguphobia to trigger? We'll see!

Travel plans for my Washington trip in October are coming together. I'm flying in to Seattle on the 21st and spending a couple of days there before taking the train out to Mt. Vernon (and Donna, and my goddaughter!) on the 24th. I have emails out to a couple of friends I'd like to stay with. I'm hoping to get my tattoo while I'm there, but I'm unsure if it's a piece that can be done in a single sitting; I've emailed the artist I'd like to work with, but haven't heard back yet. I'm hoping I didn't come off as a dilettante wasting her time; I mentioned that this was my first tattoo, and I'm sure my questions belied my relative inexperience, but I'm absolutely serious about wanting to get this done.

Obligatory Craigslist grumping: I'm trying to sell the massage table I used for school - it's a good table, and in great shape. I put up a Craigslist ad with pictures, and got a couple of hits overnight, but both of them were...shall we say, curt? Admittedly, both came through the iPhone app (and had "Sent from my iPhone" appended to them), but usually one of the ways I filter out the flakes/scammers is by looking for people who take the time to compose a proper message using full sentences and punctuation. Even on an iPhone, is the difference in time between "Still have table" (seriously, that was the entirety of the message) and "I'm interested in looking at this table, do you still have it for sale?" really that difficult? Maybe I'm just old-fashioned.

Faith in humanity restoration: Humans of New York's campaign to help a Pakistani woman fight the horrible institution of bonded labor. HoNY is one of my favorite corners of the Internet, in no small part because the comments on their Facebook page have managed to stay one of the few uniformly-positive and hopeful communities I’ve ever encountered online. Seeing the pictures of this woman, reading her story, and seeing how quickly the numbers are ticking up on her donation page, just gives me the warmest feeling. I hope she gets closer to her goal than she ever thought possible.
missroserose: (Red Red Rose)
A friend posted this article on Facebook, which, as someone who flies a lot, I've been mulling over. One of the recommendations in particular - specifically the one to wear a mask on the flight, despite the social repercussions - is making me think hard about self-image, and how much weight we ascribe to maintaining that, even in the light of serious potential repercussions.

Purely from a health perspective, wearing a mask on a plane is an unmitigated positive. It keeps your mucous membranes from drying out in the dehumidified air, it blocks airborne pathogens, and it provides a barrier to keep you from touching your nose and mouth (and thus transferring surface-borne germs to those ever-important mucous membranes). And it requires little effort and even less maintenance, with no physical side effects.

But, as the overwhelming mask-less majority of plane passengers demonstrate, health reasons aren't the only ones to consider. There's a strong social negative to mask-wearing, even in as understandable an environment as a plane. Facial coverings in general carry a strong stigma in Western culture, as the only people we think of as regularly sporting them are religious conservatives and those who have reason to hide their identity (bank robbers and what have you). Even surgical masks, which are purely medical in implication, imply hypochondria when worn outside a hospital.

Thing is, that doesn't seem like it should be a serious issue for me. I have a strong streak of social iconoclasm, and have in the past lost large chunks of vacation time (and, once, the strength of my lower back muscles) to airplane-transmitted colds. It's happened so often that my mother has taken to stocking NyQuil in her guest bathroom sink. A few hours of uncomfortable social interactions seem, objectively, like they shouldn't outweigh days of misery, especially highly-valued vacation days. I like to think I'm generally more pragmatic than I am vain; it's why I'll wear zinc oxide sunscreen if I'm out in the sun for any length of time, even though it makes me look like a Cullen sibling.

And yet...and yet. I am vain. It's hardly news that being attractive and well-dressed nets you social perks, and I don't relish the idea of trading those perks in for a liability, especially during an already-miserable experience. I could certainly claim to be getting over a cold and not wanting to pass on the germs to others, but that would only counteract the issue with those willing and able to listen in the first place.

Upon further rumination, however, it occurs to me that it's not just vanity at work. In our culture, we regularly tie cleanliness to moral character. We have a strong streak of victim-blaming when it comes to disease: they must not have washed their hands, they must not have used enough disinfectant, they must not have followed proper protocol when working in the infectious disease ward. To an extent, that's a positive to group survival, since it motivates us to make extra sure we're doing what we can to prevent disease transmission. But it makes surgical masks socially fraught, since merely by wearing one you're delivering a low-level but undeniable insult to those around you by implying that they aren't hygenic.

On the whole, then, I was somewhat relieved to come across this investigation while I researched this post. According to the microbiologists interviewed there, it's far less likely to be the recirculated air (which passes through multiple HEPA filters as part of the plane's system) that gets you sick than the huge colonies of microorganisms on various surfaces, especially the bathrooms and aisle seats. So instead of wearing a mask, I think I'm going to spend my next couple of flights with a packet of Clorox wipes and some Purell, and see how that serves.

And, of course, dressed nicely. Because I'm just a little vain.
missroserose: (Red Red Rose)
• Dispatch from the Internal Wellness Department: Slowly regaining both my energy and my brain, although neither is yet 100%. I still have that strange feverish manic energy despite not having the actual fever (or energy). Odd. Still, I cleaned the kitchen and got showered and dressed and to the store and back, which is more than I've done in the past three days put together. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll feel up for yoga tomorrow.

• Dispatch from the Increasing Girliness Front: I'm preparing for my first (professional) waxing. When Brian and I first started dating, I informed him of my policy on leg-hair removal - I like smooth skin as much as anyone, but shaving every other day is way too much time and effort, and hairy legs don't bother me enough to make it worth it. (Armpits are another matter, as the effort/reward ratio is much more satisfying.) If he wanted to buy me a waxing, I'd be happy to go in for it. Ten years later, he finally offers. *laughs* Though I think I'm going to hold out for a facial and maybe a mani-pedi, too. There's a place just down the way that's well-rated on Yelp and has a very reasonably-priced package deal.

• Dispatches from England: My friend Suraya ([profile] pleiadeslion on LJ) was recently featured on the Risk! podcast's first London show. I hadn't heard of this podcast before, but quite like the format (people tell true stories about dramatic/inspirational/meaningful moments in their life). Hers starts around 21:30, and while it's a bit dark (trigger warning for suicide/corpses), it has a wonderfully human depth to it, and her telling of it is beautiful. (Unrelated, one of her housemates had to move out in a hurry, so she's looking for a new occupant for this beautiful room in Harringay - the whole house is lovely, in fact. I don't think I know anyone else in London, but figured I'd post it on the off chance there's someone in my extended network who'd like to share a house with some awesome people who have a slightly morbid sense of humor. Almost makes me wish I lived in London...)

• More dispatches from what's looking to be an outright Storm of Girliness: I'm thinking I might look into makeup lessons, specifically eyeliner. I've always been a bit hopeless at getting it symmetrical, but I love that colorful mascara/eyeliner is coming back into fashion, and it seems like it might be a fun way to soften the somewhat butch haircut I've been sporting lately. (Brian, the first time I came home after finding my new stylist: "You look great! Really great! ...Possibly like you kind of don't like boys, but great!") Between this and the rate at which my wardrobe's been expanding, I'll be into glitter before much longer...

• Dispatch from Facebook, shamelessly stolen from my friend Dana's feed:

Comment sections should have a filter that prevents you from submitting if your comment contains a logical fallacy. Like if you're placing an order online and try to submit and a red warning pops up, "this is a required field," type thing. Except it would say something like "ad hominem, please reword", or "No True Scotsman, edit and resubmit".

HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN. For srs. There has to be Nobel Peace Prize potential in there somewhere.
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
Today has been one of those frustrating "mind is awake and rolling but body is ill and prone" kind of days. I've been spending the endless-seeming hours drinking tea and fizzy water, and reading*, and giggling over adorable gifs**, and discussing feminism and its ramifications on the traditionally-cultured male psyche with a friend, and listening to Welcome to Night Vale, and doing all the things you do when your brain wants to go go go but your body's just like "nope, rest".

This afternoon, however, I managed to:

--Get up to make more tea (+)
--Fold some laundry while the kettle boiled (+)
--Sit down to recover for a bit while the tea brewed (-)
--Discover some leftover pumpkin spice caramels on top of the fridge (+)
--Which I can totally fit into my calorie count because the only other thing I've eaten today has been a half a bowl of oatmeal and a banana (++!)
--Get the tea back to bed in that space between the tinnitis growing louder and the vision starting to blur (-)

So, yeah. Not better yet. But working on it. And having a reasonably okay day anyway.


*I'm about midway through Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World via audiobook, and today I've burned through most of Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days, largely because it was on my Kindle app (it had been on sale and I'd heard good things about it via Twitter), and I just haven't felt up for wrangling a real book when my iPhone's much easier to hold/prop up. I was gratified to discover that much of the excellent worldbuilding came from Mongol history, and I strongly suspect Hale used Modern World as a primary text. I feel all smart and well-read!

**In between fits of giggling, I tweeted the link to this gif and how it had completely made my day. Somewhat puzzlingly, my tweet was favorited by a dude I had no visible connections to; his profile said he was a writer for It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which I've never watched. When I opened the gif on my computer just now and saw the full file name, however, I realized it's a scene from that show, possibly one that he wrote. So I'm hoping I made his day too. :)
missroserose: (Default)
 Some random thoughts that are in that awkward "too big/too complainy for a Facebook post, too little for a blog post" zone:
  • I'm not prone to squeamishness.  I can look at disgusting stuff (open wounds, rotting corpses, STD sores, centipedes, spiders), and not feel much more than a vague disgust.  (Once during my brief stint working at a vet clinic, I ate lunch while watching three doctors perform surgery on a dog through the observation window.  I thought it was fascinating, but several people who walked by were all "How can you eat while you watch that?"  Smells are a different beast altogether, but I don't think anyone's immune to them.)  My weak point?  Drug effects, especially nasty ones.  Of all the weird, strange things to have a physical reaction to, reading descriptions of drug effects is the one thing that will always raise my stress levels like crazy.  I made the mistake of reading an article on the use of and potential issues with nicotine gum on my phone while standing up, at a point when I hadn't eaten anything all day.  I actually had to sit down and put my head between my knees and breathe deep for a minute.  Weird.
  • I got a letter from a friend of mine who just yesterday had surgery for ovarian cysts.  She is one of my oldest, dearest, and sweetest friends, and it was hard both hearing about the pain she'd been in (she'd written the letter last week) and the cost of the surgery (enough that she won't have any spare cash for the next six months, even with her insurance).  I think I'm going to have to see if I can visit her this year.  It might be a bit tricky to do so while sticking to our budget, but the last time I saw her was our first year in Arizona, and life's short enough. And in the meantime, at least I've got all sorts of fun cards to send her.
  • If you're looking for something to read that's both edifying and elevating, I can't point you at much else better than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Annual Letter for this year.  It frustrates me to no end to hear people endlessly kvetching about how the world is getting worse and worse, when in fact, by many objective measures, it's in fact getting better.  But of course, complaining is easier than actually doing anything about it, whereas taking the positive view that our efforts are having an effect means that we have to continue to make efforts.  So it's perhaps not surprising, even if it's frustrating.  (Ever-manic author and vlogger John Green also did a great video talking about, in part, how increasing global wealth benefits everyone, not just the countries in question.)  Possibly my favorite pull-quote:  "When pollsters ask Americans what share of the budget goes to aid, the average response is '25 percent.' When asked how much the government should spend, people tend to say '10 percent.' [...] Here are the actual numbers...For the United States, it’s less than 1 percent."  So...maybe we should give the people what they want?
  • This week's writing has so far been...less good.  I'm still doing it!  But so far it's just been the minimum, and it's not feeling as easy nor as inspired as last week.  And I'm having a devil of a time figuring out this rewrite.  Sigh.  I wish inspiration weren't quite so ephemeral as it is.  (Me and every other writer ever.)  I am meditating heavily on today's Terrible Minds entry:  "It Takes the Time That It Takes".
  • I miss my old hairstylist.  Well, that's not quite true.  I do miss her, but mostly I miss her prices.  I love my pixie cut but when we're trying to stick to a budget I just can't justify spending the $60ish every month to maintain it.  My old stylist was $18 to $22, though I usually gave her $30 because she did a fantastic job and was far-better-than-Bisbee quality.)  I'm trying to promise myself that when I start bringing in an income I can use that, but it doesn't seem to be working as a motivator.  Grump.
  • I just realized I'm about to go to bed and I totally had nothing but bourbon and chocolate for dinner.  Huh.  Well, I'm a grown-up, and can have booze and candy for dinner once in a while if I want.  Besides, it was dark chocolate.  So obviously it was good for me.
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
Good morning, Chicago! Happy dark, grey, depressing-looking Monday morning! The winter birds are singing, the L is rattling along on its once-every-three-minutes morning-rush schedule, and the temperature is that in that perfect zone right around 30 degrees where the puddles are still frozen over but your flesh isn't actively trying to crawl off of your face. What a lovely day to be here!

...In all seriousness, I am feeling ridiculously chipper this morning. Due to what may have been a Poor Life Decision, I had some coffee last night around 7:30. Normally the caffeine rush wears off after four hours or so, so I figured I'd be okay to go to bed around midnight as per usual, but as it happened it wasn't until an hour later that I finally stopped feeling jittery. And a half hour after that that I finally gave up and went to bed, despite still feeling wide awake. And now it's 8 AM, and I suspect I didn't sleep very deeply at all last night, and yet I feel awake-bordering-on-manic. Obviously the smart thing to do is have some more coffee. *nodnod*

Honestly, I don't even have all that much to say this morning (HI, INTERNET! IT'S MONDAY! I'M MANIC! HOW ARE YOU?). The weekend was quiet but pleasant; we finally took down the Christmas decorations. (And the whole time we were going "Gosh, isn't it great to have had Christmas in Chicago rather than to be going 'please let this be the last Christmas in Arizona' like we have the past couple years?") I've been halfheartedly poking at my story all weekend, but if I'm going to rewrite it, now's the time. So that's on the list, along with sending some cards to people. I owe some thank-you notes, and I got a couple boxes of pretty cards on clearance at Papyrus last month; I figure a cheerful note on an elegant card is just the thing to cheer up some folks' grey Januarys.

Now that the holidays are over, it should be quiet for a couple of months. I may or may not be going up to Anchorage to visit my mother and help out while she has a medical procedure - I was originally slated to be there right now, in fact, but she's going around in circles with the insurance folks on it, so the trip has been postsponed. February is Brian's birthday (and Valentine's, of course). And in late March a couple of my folk-musician friends will be visiting and giving a house concert, which I'm very much looking forward to. We don't really know that many people in town to invite yet, but that's probably good, as our condo is not large. I am hoping to at least have a few folks show, though; aside from the "I want to share live music with you!" aspect, I miss hosting parties, even if it's only once or twice a year. (Really, without a staff to help out, "once or twice a year" is about our limit - we love hosting but it's a lot of work.) I'm thinking the featured drink of the evening will be Pink Victrolas; I've had nothing but rave reviews about them in the past, the name goes nicely with the retro-ish music theme, and they're a favorite of a particular gentleman who is sponsoring the musician's visit. Plus Costco has liter-size bottles of Hendrick's, and I've been looking for an excuse to pick one up. Score.

Okay, enough procrastinating. Time to get to work. (And Fallen London is down, so I might even actually get some work done. Gasp. Shock.)
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's been a nice holiday. What with not having many social contacts in the area, along with post-Christmas brokitude and some pretty severe cold/snow, we decided that a quiet observation at home was in order. But it was lovely nonetheless. Last night, I made one of my favorite incredibly rich meals, so Brian got a holiday off from cooking. When midnight rolled around, we had champagne cocktails and lay down on the hardwood floor by the fire (Brian: "I think 2014 might have to be the Year of Rugs") and recounted our many blessings for the past year. Today, we slept in before braving the (continuing) snow and taking the bus down to a nifty little Jewish deli in Lakeview for lunch, and after getting back I cleaned the bathroom and had a nice bath with one of the fancy bath bombs from my Christmas stocking. Now there's lemon pudding cakes in the oven, and when they come out we'll have the rest of the bubbly with them and watch Sherlock. {That part was written a few hours ago. The lemon pudding cakes were amazing, and so was the show. For a story about a protagonist who's completely clueless about human relationships, it's so incredibly smart about interactions and the power dynamics inherent therein.}

I don't have a lot of resolutions per se. I did tweet my wish for 2014: "Wishing us all new and better opportunities, and new and better guts to stand up and say 'I'll do it.'" I admit it's a bit of a selfish wish, given my plans for the upcoming month/year, but it's nonetheless true - I don't want to be the only one making scary plans and doing scary things!

About those plans...one of the biggest changes that's going to be happening is that I'll be making a concerted effort to raise my public profile somewhat. I don't know by how much, since popularity is a difficult thing to predict, but I'm hoping to make inroads in author communities and the like - I've met a lot of cool author-y people online, but even aside from that, name recognition is a good thing, and can often translate into sales. I've already re-Twitterpated myself (and even attracted a few followers, thanks to a few interactions with the ever-hilarious Chuck Wendig), and I'll be starting a writing blog this week, probably on Wordpress.

All of which is to say that I'm trying to decide what to do with my Dreamwidth/LiveJournal accounts. So far I've been fine with keeping them 99.9% public, as I tend to curate my friends carefully, pick low-drama folks to hang out with, and generally be obscure enough that even when I weigh in on a hot-button topic, it doesn't attract a lot of attention. But that may not be the case in the future. And there's a lot of history here - more than a decade, now, including many bits of myself and my growth process that I'm...not ashamed of, precisely, but that could easily be taken out of context. It doesn't help that I'm planning on writing in a controversial genre/about some controversial topics, and while I'll do my best (as always) to be fair and diplomatic on the subjects, that doesn't mean I won't piss some people off.

I've been thinking for a while about exercising LiveJournal's (and, I assume, Dreamwidth's) "change all your past posts to friends-only" feature, but resisted it so far largely because I know at least a few of my friends read this because they see the links through Facebook or an RSS reader, and if I were to only make posts under friends-lock the only people who would see it would be the ones who check LJ/DW regularly. Which - let's face it - is an increasingly small number.

I'm still deciding what the writing blog should focus on. If I make it a personal blog like this one, chances are that I'll stop posting here almost entirely. If I decide to focus on a few specific subjects (feminism, sexuality, the role of porn in Western society, and the cultural experience of sexually proactive women all seem likely topics, given my interests and the subject matter of my writing), I may keep this blog up separately for more personal journal-style posts. But either way, chances are I'll be going exclusively friends-only, here. So if you'd like to keep up here, and aren't already signed on my friends list on either site, let me know.
missroserose: (Book Love)
Like much of rural Arizona (i.e. places that are Not Phoenix), Bisbee's a pretty low-income area. The median household income here is just under $28K, or only a little over half the national average. Brian's and my household income took a huge hit when we moved here thanks to my un/underemployment, but we're still firmly in the top 25% of earners here. Additionally, there's little infrastructure or aid to be had from either local or state government; they'd all planned their budgets around the obscene property taxes they were collecting during the housing bubble, and are therefore still reeling from the sudden evaporation of that anticipated money. (Visiting Alaska made the contrast especially stark; they're both "frontier" states with some definite similarities in attitude, but Alaska has a well-funded and relatively well-managed government that actively works to build infrastructure and has numerous programs to help its rural areas. Arizona has far less cash coming in, and what does come in through taxes or grants from the Feds is almost exclusively kept within Maricopa County, a point of some resentment for the rest of the state.)

I'm not writing about this to complain; one of the things that I really love about this place is that, even without a lot of ready cash, people here do their best to pull together and make a community anyway. Lots of potluck dinners, lots of live music, lots of inexpensive classes for yoga or dance or art of all sorts. But there are absolutely some downsides, especially if you're a kid - geographic isolation, very few things to do, very little money for new programs - they can only afford to keep the schools open four days a week.

That's why I'm posting a link to this fundraiser for the Community Montessori School here in town. This is grassroots work at its finest - a bunch of people getting together and saying "This situation sucks. What can we do to change it?" and then actually working to change it. I know many of them personally, and have helped with the renovation work on on the house they're renovating - it's a beautiful building and is going to be a fabulous school. Additionally, Emily Munoff, the proposed director, is both eminently qualified and one of the sweetest and kindest people I know. They've been working on this project for four years, and they're getting very close to opening; hopefully this fundraiser will help put them over the edge.

One would hope that this goes without saying, but I'm not posting this with an inherent expectation of contributions from anybody, nor am I going to think less of anyone for passing on the opportunity. I don't think anyone in my LiveJournal friendslist lives in this area, so none of you have particularly close ties to what happens with the community here, and we all know how many worthy causes there are for any spare cash you might feel like donating. But I wanted to post it anyway, because it gives me heart to see people actively working to change a crappy situation, and perhaps to inspire others to do the same. They did it...maybe you can too.
missroserose: (Book Love)
Like much of rural Arizona (i.e. places that are Not Phoenix), Bisbee's a pretty low-income area. The median household income here is just under $28K, or only a little over half the national average. Brian's and my household income took a huge hit when we moved here thanks to my un/underemployment, but we're still firmly in the top 25% of earners here. Additionally, there's little infrastructure or aid to be had from either local or state government; they'd all planned their budgets around the obscene property taxes they were collecting during the housing bubble, and are therefore still reeling from the sudden evaporation of that anticipated money. (Visiting Alaska made the contrast especially stark; they're both "frontier" states with some definite similarities in attitude, but Alaska has a well-funded and relatively well-managed government that actively works to build infrastructure and has numerous programs to help its rural areas. Arizona has far less cash coming in, and what does come in through taxes or grants from the Feds is almost exclusively kept within Maricopa County, a point of some resentment for the rest of the state.)

I'm not writing about this to complain; one of the things that I really love about this place is that, even without a lot of ready cash, people here do their best to pull together and make a community anyway. Lots of potluck dinners, lots of live music, lots of inexpensive classes for yoga or dance or art of all sorts. But there are absolutely some downsides, especially if you're a kid - geographic isolation, very few things to do, very little money for new programs - they can only afford to keep the schools open four days a week.

That's why I'm posting a link to this fundraiser for the Community Montessori School here in town. This is grassroots work at its finest - a bunch of people getting together and saying "This situation sucks. What can we do to change it?" and then actually working to change it. I know many of them personally, and have helped with the renovation work on on the house they're renovating - it's a beautiful building and is going to be a fabulous school. Additionally, Emily Munoff, the proposed director, is both eminently qualified and one of the sweetest and kindest people I know. They've been working on this project for four years, and they're getting very close to opening; hopefully this fundraiser will help put them over the edge.

One would hope that this goes without saying, but I'm not posting this with an inherent expectation of contributions from anybody, nor am I going to think less of anyone for passing on the opportunity. I don't think anyone in my LiveJournal friendslist lives in this area, so none of you have particularly close ties to what happens with the community here, and we all know how many worthy causes there are for any spare cash you might feel like donating. But I wanted to post it anyway, because it gives me heart to see people actively working to change a crappy situation, and perhaps to inspire others to do the same. They did it...maybe you can too.

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