Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'family' Category

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

It seems clear that Flora — AKA Screamy Cat — is in her last days. I took some time off this weekend, am still, and beyond Netflix marathons, it’s mostly been spent caring for her. She’s at the point where walking is clearly painful due to weakness, and getting her to eat or drink is a trial, at best, even after I went and made her a batch of the homemade food all the cats I have ever had have snarfed like nobody’s business when ill. She’s always been tiny, never weighing more than 9 pounds, but now she’s down to five.

About a month ago, we had a crap confluence of pet events around here that seems to have begun with flea season here on the island, something we were totally unprepared for, and so they basically caught us unprepared and seized their moment, investing all the pets and causing all of us to itch for weeks.  I still have scabs on my ankles just from how thick they were outside in the grass.  It’s nuts. So, she got the fleas, then also got a UTI, at the same time one of her nails had a bad injury.  That meant a bunch of different meds, and I think all of that, combined with her age, was just too much for her.  The vet tested her for everything, and save that UTI, which went away, there is nothing technically wrong with her.  She’s just really damn old.

People who know us well know that Flora is really a goldfish.

Around 1992, when I first opened the little alternative school that I ran for a few years, one of my very first wee students came into the place I had set up and created with such care, looked around, then announced, “This is not a real school.” I think I probably gasped, I was so heartbroken. In asking for the criteria of such a determination, he explained to me that real schools have an orange goldfish in a bowl, something everyone knows. Duh. I tried to explain that no matter how much care I give them, I seem to be terrible with fish. I tried to explain that already, there were three cats at the school (and have I mentioned that despite a near-lifetime of having cats around, I’ve always been allergic to them?  Oh yes.), even though they mostly stayed in my office. No explanation would do. I mean, that was all fine and well and good, but it just wasn’t a real school because of this fish issue, and that was just that.

There was a pet store a few blocks away, so — very much needing my school to be a real school, darnit — I asked if we all took a walk down there and got one, with the understanding the kinds would need to help care for the goldfish, if that would fix the problem. This was met with agreement.  So, off we went.

When we got there, did they have every kind and color of fish under the sun?  Oh yes, they did — well, almost. All except goldfish, of course: there were no orange goldfish. In the middle of a desperate discussion with the petshop owner about what fish might look orange under different light, I heard the little guy saying, “Heather, I found it!” Thank christ. I walked to where he was.

He was standing in front of a little cage full of mostly sleeping kittens, save one very rambunctious and especially tiny calico who was jumping all over all of them.  “That’s a very cute kitten,” I said.  “So, where’s that fish?”

“She’s got orange on her,” he said.

“She most certainly does,” I said.  Then we had this same exchange about three or four times.

“She’s got —” he went to say again.

“Orange,” I said. “I know, she’s got orange on her, I’ve got it. Are you saying she’s an orange fish? I know you know she’s a cat. We have cats at the school already, three cats, which is already a lot of cats, I think. And just because they don’t have orange goldfish here doesn’t mean they aren’t somewhere else. I can go to another pet store myself later if this is really important to me — erm, you.”

“She’s got orange,” he said. “And I really like her. She’s funny. She’ll do.”

And so she was, and so she did.

At the time I got her, my hair was down to my waist, and the first few mornings I woke up, I’d be all “Ugh!  My head feels like a bowling ball, what the hell?” This was because she’d nest in there while I slept, continuing to hold on after I stood up.  A few years later, we had an insanely hot summer, and I was also very tired of people mistaking me for Rapunzel and thinking I was in need of rescue, so I shaved my head.  (An experience which taught me many things, the biggest one being that I have a very round head and face, which means that instead of looking hot and butch with a shaved head, I look like a Cabbage Patch Kid. Yay.) She was very unhappy with me for years until most of it grew back.

The other cats made a point of hiding from the kids at the school: not this one. She was playful and friendly and awesome with all of them: they adored her. There were kerfuffles about who got to rest with her at naptime: some years, we even had to make a schedule. A couple years later, in an ironic twist, we were at another pet store and brought back a white lop rabbit who was in a cage with a bunch of dwarf rabbits hopping all over his poor head, after the sympathies for bouncy animals had apparently switched. The other cats were mortified by this: but Flora and Moe often played together.

After I had to close the school  in ‘97, I was in a horrendous financial spot for a while, including having to spend some of a Chicago winter without decent heat and sans electricity or gas. Flora, with the other cats, made it through our awful spot, making do on about as little food as I did, save that the cats could eat the leftover meatstuffs I’d manage to gather from the school lunches at the school I was working at then for my Montessori internship. When I moved to Minneapolis in ‘98, she had to stay with an ex of mine for about six months in Chicago. Flora has always hated being in any kind of moving anything, so moving four unruly cats at once in an 8-hour-drive just was not doable, and she was always the most socially flexible of all the cats. When we finally did get her, she howled the whole. Drive. There.

When Sofi, my pug, came into our lives as a very small puppy, the other cats tried to kill her. For reals. Once I walked into the kitchen and Rita, my eldest cat at the time, in cahoots with another of them, were trying to push knives from the counter unto the unsuspecting puppy below. Flora, on the other hand, often circled the pug, hissing at the other cats. She slept near the puppy, she helped guard her when she ate, she did her level best to teach her all the things puppies ought to know, like why not to grab cat tails and how to clean your face (my dog still bathes herself like a cat sometimes: it’s ridiculous). When Rita began to die, Flora kept her company when the other two cats wouldn’t have anything to do with her. When I was crying my eyes out for days after euthanizing Rita, Flora worked in tandem with Sofi to keep me in fuzzy cuddles.

When I moved to Seattle, Flora howled the whole plane ride over, managing to drown out my own sobbing and very graciously make herself the hated enemy of every other poor fool on that flight so it didn’t have to be me. That’s about the same time Flora learned to yell all night and sometimes all day, for reasons unbenownst to anyone (though my guess is that always living in tiny places with lots of animals, the adjustment to a big old house with its own noises and only one other pet was not easy: it wasn’t easy for me, either, and I felt like howling sometimes, too).

She got a serious kidney infection somewhere in there, something that had felled another cat of mind years back — the lone cat who lived a normal kitty lifetime, unlike my others who all seem to want to hit 20 — and the few days she spent at the vet, they didn’t want to give her back. She’s a very loveable fish: everyone thinks so. They were particularly wooed by the way she lies which everyone instinctively calls Superman: stretching both her arms as far in front of her as possible and just kind of freezing like she’s flying, a posture she often did in the times she spent in my hair when I first got her.

When Blue moved his big dog into the mix, at a time when it was just Sofi and Flora left — a smaller family I think they were both enjoying — Flora was very whatever about it.  Fur did not fly between cat and new dog. When we moved to the island, she delighted in looking out the window at he world outside. When mice found their way in here, despite having only one sad old tooth left in her little mouth, she caught one. She woke us up in the middle of the night with extra-loud yelling. We came out, and she had it in her mouth like, “Umm, okay, I got this thing I think I’m supposed to get.  But I think I’m supposed to do something next I do not want to and also lack the tools to execute.”  The mouse was looking clearly confused. Flora dropped the mouse and it ran away, probably feeling awfully grateful that day for what is, potentially, the world’s most gentle cat.

I have listened to this cat yelling and screaming for hours sometimes, for no reason I know of, where nothing makes her stop.  She has driven me up a fucking wall with that yelling. But you know, I’ll look at her little fishy face, and pretty much think, “Ah, well.  When I get that old, I’m going to annoy the crap out of everyone, too.” Then I’ll bitch about it some more, of course.

She stopped yelling a couple weeks back. I do not miss that yelling. Not even close.  But after a few days without it, it was hard not to know that it probably meant something was wrong.

I’m really hoping I won’t need to put her to sleep.  It’s not a political stance; I’m someone who feels very strongly that if and when life is ending and it hurts and has nothing good to offer, that whether we’re talking about my pets or me, making it better by making it stop is a good thing. But I had a horrible experience putting Rita down, the last animal I went through this with.  Our regular vet was sick that day and his replacement was a shitheel who basically grabbed my cat from me, jabbed her with a needle and put her down while she screamed.  I know that likely wouldn’t happen again, but I’m just really hoping that Flora will pass quietly here while I have her set up to be as cozy as possible and die in a much better, less traumatic way.

Mind, if she keeps going without eating, or barely doing so, or seems to be in real pain rather than just really out of it, I’ll cave, because I don’t want her to be uncomfortable.

It’s weird, Flora dying, weird and so sad.  She’s been an awesome cat, a very strange, very awesome cat. But she’s also the last of my kitty brood, and I won’t be having cats again for a while, something I decided about the time we got Flora. I’m not allergic to her, specifically, thanks to a parent at the school who was a vet tech and who gave me some tricks when she was a kitten, but I am to most other cats, and my skin and sinuses need a break.  It’s also really hard to be able to go places when you have more than one kind of pet, and the dogs really are more than enough for us to care for here, as it is. Plus, I can only take so many vet bills and so many elderly cat experiences.

I was never a “cat person,” whatever that means.  In Chicago, you can’t be a renter and have dogs, so cats it was. Plus, almost all my cats save Flora — though really, even she in some ways — just kind of seemed to find me, rather than the other way round. But I like and understand dogs. I like cats, but I do not even remotely understand them.  I feel about cats the way I think John Gray feels about people: I would need to construct some kind of bullshit philosophy in order to grok their motives or behavior or to make them make sense in my own limited understanding of life.

So, with the end of Flora comes, first of all, the end of Flora.  Flora who I have loved and who has loved me, a big bunch of kids, my pug and other critters and pretty much anything and everyone else she’s come across. By the time a pet of mine gets to this age, I always think I’m so ready for this, but then, you know, I get there and it’s always so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m a very sad camper right now. And it’s also kind of the end of an era, one which started with the first member of my personal kitty brood when I was 18; the end of a kitty family which has, at times — thanks to a stay who entered our midst, had sex with other cats in our building, then left her kittens — been as large a group as eight. There have been some of the roughest times in my life where at least one of those cats was there, and we could morosely sit with booze in hand and catnip on face and say, “Hey, life fucking sucks, doesn’t it? But here’s lookin’ at you, cat.”

And now it’s down to one, this delicate, little one, and then, it seems, to none. And that’s just weird. And sad. Really sad.

Who knows, maybe she’ll turn around: they do that sometimes. But not only do I doubt it (I tried to feed her three times in the midst of writing this, and she just refuses to eat or drink), I just wanted to sing her silly kitty praises and take some time to tell her tales while it was all in my head.

So, here is looking at you, my little cat/fish with the orange on you. May you fall asleep soon, gently, and dream marvelous, endless dreams of hair to nest in, howls to howl, and big oceans it makes no sense at all for you to be swimming in, except to us, for whom you’ve sometimes magically made some important things real.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Last night, I was finished with work, getting started on cooking dinner.

I had the 70s radio station on. I was in my bare feet with an apron layered over a long, cozy skirt, pulling my long hair into a knot to keep it out of the food.  The dogs were lazing around, being a little silly.  I was looking into the forest while I made a beautiful meal with fresh, wonderful ingredients.  I was enjoying a nice glass of wine. I was dancing around a little while I cooked, just kind of grooving out, feeling mellow and satisfied and happy with relatively simple things.  Feeling, as I often do anymore, like I’ve landed in a place and space, literally and in a larger way, in my life where I have pretty much what I need to be happy, and where what all of that is is within my reach.  In a place where thoughts of further attainment — as in, this is awesome, but I really still need that, or that’s great, but it’d be better if I had this — are often far from my mind, even though there are certainly some things that are pretty basic I remain without. In a place where what happens in downtime are things like reading a good book outside in a cozy chair, walking through the forest, hula-hooping in a wide open space, playing instruments at night, lounging in a tub until my fingers get all pruny, tending to the plants, baking delicious things, screwing, talking for hours, getting to know local characters who are as weird as I am in the few local haunts there are. I live somewhere where it’s considered a given that people share things and are kind to one another, where there are peace protests on the street even though the people standing know they’re preaching to the choir. I live somewhere where wearing mismatched socks isn’t just about not giving a crap, it’s about there being something joyful and hilarious in mismatched socks.

It then occurred to me that I had kind of lost my sense of exactly when it was, in the grander scheme of things, and in that, I realized that right now, in a whole lot of ways, I’m basically living the life my father really wanted when he was young and I was wee (soundtrack and all).  This life I have going right now is kind of his low-income aspiration to an almost-middle-income life, where basic needs are met, the luxuries are simple ones, and there’s a level of off-grid that’s still clicked in enough to avoid some major struggles. These are the kind of daydreams my father was having about his life and my life in the midst of Woodstock; the kind of respite he imagined he and I might be able to have if and when the kind of revolution he worked for and wanted — and ultimately, didn’t see happen — took hold and then settled down.

I am essentially living my father’s early 70s dream life, a life he also dreamed for me.  And it obviously was a very good dream, one would think, because I’m really loving my life this way.

Of course, when I think back to college, I realize it was my dream, too, even though it may still be one I inherited or was primed to, at least in part.  There was a while there where I was pretty dead-set on ditching the whole works and trying to buy an old school bus I figured I could somehow renovate to work just fine as a mobile home and use to find a place and a life…well, an awful lot like this one.

I really need to get him up here for a visit. Not only has it been over a year since I’ve seen him, and there’s the given that I always want to get him away from the hell that he lives in, I also want him to be able to experience this. It’s bittersweet, of course, as I know this is a life he’d still like for himself in some ways, and one I don’t have the means to provide for both of us, nor one where he feels up to the adjustment anymore.  But I figure there has to at least be something lovely and satisfying in seeing your kid living the kind of life you’ve dreamed for both of you, right?

I’m not sure, though I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point, hopefully while taking a lovely walk here sometime soon or being delighted that you can get a $3 drink in an unpretentious pace without also having to suffer the company of racist assholes insulated by a crappy tiny place instead of a wonderful one.

But in the meantime, I’m just going to keep on relishing what I have here right now, what I’m able to be part of, and the time I can spend in this life that feels like such a beautiful dream sometimes.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Ugh, my poor old cat.

So, for those of who who have followed my pet sagas for the 10+ years I’ve been keeping this journal, I’m down to one. When I started writing here, I had four cats. In the interim, two have had to be euthanized — Rosie got severe kidney failure when she was 11, and I had to euthanize Rita when she was almost 20.  I had to find a different home for Rosie’s sister Zoe in ‘05 because after years of having her, I developed really intense allergies to her to the point I couldn’t even pet her anymore. Which leaves Flora.

People who know me in person know that Flora, while seemingly a very small calico cat, is actually an orange goldfish. (I’ll get to that in a second.) She’s almost 18 now. It was Flora who assigned herself the role of Sofia’s protector when she was a puppy and the other cats clearly wanted her dead. I earnestly watched one of my cats kick a knife off a counter when Sofia was walking under it once, I kid you not. Flora has always been tiny, never more than 8 pounds, but over the last few years, she’s been around 6.  At this point, I’m guessing five.

She’s been one of those old cats that will seem to be taking a turn for the worse, and you worry she’s starting to go, but then she’ll turn a corner out of nowhere and be totally fine for months.  Just the other night, I was saying that she seemed to be okay now, and that I might just get lucky and have a pet go, when she’s going to, in her sleep for a change, like my bunny did ten years ago. She’s still pretty spry, seems to hear and see okay, still eats decently.

I so shouldn’t have said that.  Two days ago, I found blood in her urine, and she keeps just going off by herself.  last night she was just acting really weird and listless.  I slept downstairs with her because I was so worried. She seems a little bit better this morning, but not much.  And I don’t know what to do.

When pets get really old, I don’t like to subject them to a lot of tests or treatments: it strikes me as needlessly unpleasant and painful for them.  With my cats, too, because they’re indoor, I have never done vaccines for them.  They seem to live longer when I don’t.  So, when I do have to take them to the vet, they often insist on those when I’d prefer not to.

I need to switch vets anyway.  The vet I have used for Sofia is very conveniently a few blocks away, but they’re expensive as hell, and I haven’t been very satisfied with them.  Sofi gets chronic ear infections.  Our vet in Minneapolis did great with these, just vacuuming out her ears now and then (with a machine our current vet doesn’t have), while I did gentle ear washes for her regularly.  This one keeps giving her the same round of meds that keeps not working, and isn’t open to trying anything else. I recently discovered there’s a naturopathic vet about 20 blocks away, so have been planning to give them a shot soon to see if I like them better.

So, the crux is, do I go ahead and make an appointment for both of them?  Or do I let Flora’s little old body either work through this like it has with other things before or let her just let go if that’s what’s going on?I have no idea, but I’m leaning towards taking her to the vet, in hopes that since this one is a naturopath, they’ll understand that a) I don’t want to do any vaccines and b) I don’t want to do any treatments for her which will ask a lot of her old body, or potentially cause her to suffer additionally in any way.

No matter what happens, Flora will be my last cat for a while, which is a strange thing. I’ve had cats since I found Rita starving to death under a van in the winter in 1988.  I’m actually not a cat person, but I have loved my cats, and when it came to being a renter in Chicago, dogs were totally out of the question. I had as many as I did due to a stray my college roomie brought in who promptly went into heat, screwed every other cat in a ten mile radius, and wound up pregnant in milliseconds: Rosie and Zoe were from that brood.

When I first started my little alternative school in ‘93, I did so with no capital at all. Nearly everything in there was either dumpster-dived or something I built with my hands. I was exceptionally proud of being able to make something out of nothing like that.  So, when one of my first wee students came in, cased the place, and remarked that it “wasn’t a real school” I was crestfallen.  In asking why, I was informed that real schools have orange goldfish in a bowl.  This little boy could not tell me the origin of this particular standard, but he was quite firm in it.

I tried to explain that I was horrible with fish, going right back to my first fish in the 5th grade, which I’d won at a school carnival.

My mother works in infection control, an amazingly perfect job for her because she is and has always been profoundly germaphobic. If she could have sprayed my sister and I head-to-toe with Lysol when we came in from playing, she would have. There was a year as a child where I kept a secret collection of pigeons under the nearby El tracks. Likely not knowing what I was doing with them, the man who ran the corner grocery would give me plastic milk crates and I set them up like a little aviary condo dealie back where no one could see. I’d grab old bread and whatnot from his dumpster and set the pigeons up there, sitting and playing with them when they came to hang out, making room assignments and gently moderating squabbles between neighbors. The volume and pitch of scream that issued from my mother’s mouth when she got off the El one day to catch of glimpse of her kid and walked back to find me with a dirty pigeon in each hand is one I have yet to ever hear the likes of again. If a casting agent for a B-movie had been nearby, he would have snapped my mother up instantly, heralding her a star. My evening at home after that day is an experience in scrubbing and sanitation I think only Karen Silkwood shared.

Anyway, unbenownst to me, when cleaning out my fish’s bowl, she felt the need to sanitize it in ways you are not supposed to. I came home one day, slipped my shoes off, went to check on my fish, and saw only a bowl with water in it: no fish.  In yelling to my Mom I couldn’t find him anywhere, I then felt a sickening squish between my toes.  Said fish had clearly suicidally jumped out of the bowl and unto the floor.  And I had stepped on him, and had to rinse pieces of him from my feet, bawling. No more fish for me for a long time.  later when I tried, no matter what I did, they always wound up floating belly-up.  I gave up on fish.

Even this story (told in a far less horrific way, mind) did not deter this kid. So, we agreed that we’d take a field trip to the pet store, the kids would learn how to take care of the fish so it could hopefully avoid my curse, and he would then agree he was, in fact, attending a “real school.”

Of course, did they have EVERY freaking color of fish that day but orange?  Of course they did. Then I hear the kid calling my name from across the store saying he found one. Thank christ. Except that when I got there, he was standing in front of a cage full of sleeping kitten, save one calico troublemaker pouncing on all of them, to their great annoyance. He’s pointing at her. I say that is a very cute cat. He says “She has orange.” I agree that she does have orange, but that she is a CAT, not a fish, and there are three cats at school already. He repeats that she has orange several times, firmly. I repeat my end of the conversation. We make no headway at all. I ask him if — if — we get said cat-with-orange if she will fulfill the requirement for an orange fish, a conversation one would only have with a four-year-old. He is quite certain she will.

And thus, we left with a very fluffy fish with orange who made our school real. Suffice it to say, as the token goldfish for a handful of kids, and the baby of a larger cat brood, she’s been through a lot and is a resilient little thing. It’s really sad to realize she may be getting to the end, here.

Like I said, she’ll also be the last for a while.  With the two dogs, now, and a possible move in the next year, less pets is better than more, and I’m also actually mildly allergic to most cats, so I’d like at least a few years without any skin rashes or sinus issues. But I’ve had cats my whole adult life (so has Blue: in fact, he was also there when Zoe and Rosie were born in our living room), and life without them seems strange.

I’m getting maudlin now, perhaps needlessly.  And I still need to decide what the heck to do about Flora right now.

Update:  I went ahead and took her into our existing vet, who was exceptionally great about seeing all of us on short notice, and with getting a look at her and giving me a set of options.

Ultimately, I decided to choose the option of having them take her overnight to get some fluids in her (she was way dehydrated), try and get her temp up (it was very low), try to get her to eat, and to run some tests to see what’s going on.  Euthanizing her today was put out there as an option, but without knowing if this is just about age, something terminal, something that would require a lot of care or suffering on her part, I wasn’t ready to make that call.  She also just wasn’t giving me the vibe that’s what she wanted, and the pets I have had to put down have all always done that.

1/31 Update: Friday afternoon I got Flora and brought her back home.  She no longer looked like (still doesn’t) she was moments away from death’s door.  The treatment they gave her for two nights seemed to make a really big difference, and they landed pretty soundly on a severe kidney infection diagnosis.

So, she needs IV fluids here at home indefinitely, which I think I can swing.  She’s still eating very little, but she is behaving a lot different and looks a lot better.  She’s got a little abode here in the living room on an ottoman with a heating pad, which she seems to like, and has walked around a little bit, too.

Friday, July 31st, 2009

This is the twentieth time or so I’ve tried to write here in the last month and a half.  I’m determined to succeed this time, despite my fear of doing so.  I got a few notes from people starting to earnestly worry about me: I certainly didn’t need to make anyone worry, but do appreciate the concern.  Given my time lapse, and how complex everything is, there’s going to be a lot to read here today, and it’s going to read a whole lot like a confession, even though I’d prefer it didn’t.  I don’t really know how to do this: I expect to be clumsy, which feels like my default these days.

A lot of my silence has had to do with waiting for a very, very big shoe to drop.  The long and the short of it is that the once-primary relationship — a marriage — Blue has been in for over a decade has been troubled and deteriorating for quite some time: years before we even started talking again, let alone renewed our romantic and sexual relationship last winter.  And it has now led to his taking the first steps of a divorce.  I haven’t felt comfortable sharing that aspect of all of this until now because…well, wait.

I still don’t feel comfortable sharing, but I feel even more uncomfortable not doing so.  I don’t like keeping secrets, especially big, nasty ones.  I don’t like being secrets, either. All the same, I haven’t felt okay about even thinking about disclosing that until this point.  Both knowing (which I have for some months) what choices Blue wanted to make, and having those choices begin to be enacted was something I needed before I talked about it publicly, for everyone’s sake.

Let me get this out of the way: in general, I don’t care if someone is married, so long as it isn’t me.  However, I have always had a hard and fast rule about dating or sleeping with anyone who is married, even if it’s an open marriage by full and glad agreement: I don’t do it. The one time I was with someone who I found out wasn’t truthful with me about the status of a marriage, I put an immediate end to the relationship, even though it was an important one I didn’t want to sever.  If I went into all my reasoning around why that’s been my rule, I’d have too easy a distraction, but the crux of it is my feelings about marriage, honesty, honoring people’s existing agreements (and dating people who honor their relationship agreements), emotional availability, how much drama I’m up for and what I want and need in my life. I also have been close to too many messy, ugly divorces in my life, with family, with friends, and I want to be as far from divorce — always a possibility with any marriage — as humanly possible.

I made an exception this time, which I’ve had mixed feelings about. Because I did go outside my own ethics, ethics I tend to broadcast, I feel a need to explain why. I made that exception because of the nature of both my and Blue’s relationship, now and in the past, because of my understanding of Blue’s relationship with his wife, because of existing nonmonogamy over there for years before I was back on the scene, and because my feelings for Blue and vice-versa are very strong and enduring.  I’ll also be honest: given our long and complex history and how we have always been when together, beyond my usual bristling at the idea of anyone having ownership of someone else, the idea that Blue is “someone else’s” just isn’t how this feels or has felt.  Not to me, not to him. I made an exception because we both felt gypped at not having another chance to be together at a time in our lives when we could finally handle it. I made an exception because a lot of this — most of this — just felt right, and because in weighing my options, not pursuing this as we have felt like a choice I’d regret more than I would in pursuing it.  I don’t intend to absolve myself of any responsibility for my choices, but in terms of how it has felt and it feels, this hasn’t been one of those things where I’ve been all, “I’m not proud of what I’ve done, but….”  I’m neither proud nor not proud.  In making my choices, I consulted at great length with my heart and head, and with people close to me who I know care about me a lot, understand me, and hold me to the same kinds of standards I hold myself to. I also made an exception because we both intended the way things have been to be temporary.

The end of this marriage isn’t about me: it’s been creeping towards this for some years now after efforts to repair problems for a very long time, and also has not been a sexually active relationship for a long time. Both for longer than I’ve ever even been in a romantic relationship, which is an odd perspective to have.  As far as nonomonogamy over there has gone, they have had is what I describe as a passive agreement to active ignorance (and not the pejorative meaning).  There’s essentially an agreement to denial, rather than to an open relationship, and some interpersonal structures built to provide certain freedoms for nonmonogamy while keeping a strongly padlocked silence about it.

It has not been something workable for me in anything but the short-term, if that.  Even in that limited way, I don’t see my ever agreeing to this with anyone but Blue.  I’m not down with multiple partnership like that where everyone isn’t talking and negotiating as a collective, especially with relationships as serious and loaded as these.  I also feel conflicted with anything — even when it’s a choice one woman has made — that keeps women from connecting with one another.

However, it’s not my relationship, so I’ve tried to be a grownup and not project what I think is kosher for me or in general unto them. Suffice it to say, I can have a certain arrogance about things like this as an occupational hazard, especially if I’m not mindful about it. I’ve tried to deal only with my and Blue’s relationship and how their stuff involves me.  What I could address, obviously, is our relationship, and both what I can live with and want to live with.  I had my ducks in a row over here on my end, and my agreements with Mark sorted already; I had from the get-go.

So, back in March, Blue and I made an agreement that by fall, he would either a) create an open and fully honest agreement per he and I within his marriage — which included the honesty that he wasn’t with some random person, but with me, as well as that he wanted me to become a primary partner — b) for that relationship to switch to a fully acknowledged platonic relationship and/or for the legal marriage to be dissolved, or c) for the model of our relationship to change so that it became a platonic friendship, either permanently or until one of the other options was wanted and chosen.

It wasn’t an ultimatum.  In fact, if his marriage wasn’t in disrepair already, and it was meeting Blue’s needs, in many ways I’d have preferred the first of the three options.

The why of that is complex, but I know part of it is that I just hate any a situation where one person is chosen “over” another or perceives things that way no matter who it is getting chosen, even when it’s me.  (Maybe in some ways especially when it’s me.)  My internal sense of fairness revolts at it, as does my core feeling that we all have room for infinite love in our hearts; room for far more than one person we love in life, and I don’t understand why we accept that as a culture with friends and family, but not with sexual or romantic relationships.  This “pick one” thing just doesn’t sit well with me when it’s about people.  I also know that Blue has a lot of love for the person he’s married to, and has valued many aspects of their relationship.  I hate to see love lost.  However, this is another area in which I’ve needed to work on being an adult when it comes to what other people choose and what they want.  I didn’t have a say in their relationship, to how they structured and lived it: that was all about their choices, choices made a long time before Blue and I reconnected and renewed our relationship.

In any event, Blue wound up choosing door #2.  At this point, discussion of he and I has not yet happened between he and his wife.  I sit on that precipice very, very nervously, the same way I’d sit in the open maw of a lion.  I don’t know what’s going to happen when they get to that point, especially since it’ll mean his breaking an enforced silence on a bunch of things she/they clearly just has/have not wanted to face or address.  His disclosures around nonmonogamy are going to be one thing when talking about other partners, but most likely something else when it comes to me.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s okay for me to talk about this here, but it’s really heavy for me and no small part of all this, so I’m going to say it for now and hope I don’t trespass. I’m a very loaded person in that relationship, and that’s age-old: in many ways I’ve been the most loaded person in that relationship since it began. I started out the bad guy (or rather, girl) for them both: I was the terrible person who broke Blue’s heart, who in some ways he was treated as needing nursing from.  In some ways I’m sure that he did, of course, but there was a lot of demonization there, some of which I understand now, but still don’t like.  I, or the history of myself and Blue, seems to have been a foil for some of their problematic dynamics.  Mind, I don’t think that was fair.  I was 22 years old when I left Blue and in the middle of very terrifying, overwhelming and unanticipated PTSD that took some things away from me (or seemed like it did) that I deeply cherished and felt utterly lost without.  As well, Blue and I had some shared issues, and he had his own missteps. I had a fight-or-flight impulse, and I flew. I handled it all badly, without question, and only after finally really working through all of it together last year did I stop feeling horrible about some of what I did which I know was awful.  However, I didn’t mean to hurt him: I was trying to protect and guard myself with limited skills and a mind that was in total disarray.  So, not fair, but that’s not all that relevant: a lot isn’t fair in life and love, and it’s very clear at this point that they were probably more hurt, and will be more hurt, in creating that dynamic around me than I was or will be.

It’s a bit tough not to feel like something of a homewrecker, though, even though I know that’s not what went on, nor what is going on, and not at all what anyone intended or wanted. But I anticipate it may be perceived or presented that way, especially since it’ll probably be more comfortable in some ways to point at me rather than acknowledging tougher or more painful truths.  If it is, if I am, presented that way, I don’t know how I’ll deal with it.  If I’m honest, I have to acknowledge that I have equal parts sympathy and a total lack of sympathy in that department.  I feel some guilt around this, particularly because I know that there has always been a good deal of jealousy in terms of the strong feelings he has had for me, as well as a (obviously valid) fear he’d choose to be with me instead of her.  I would never want anyone to feel like they were in or lost some kind of competition to me for someone else’s heart: that just sounds abhorrent to me.  I don’t even want to be even a tangential cause of someone’s pain. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of sympathy for anyone losing Blue in any way: I know too well how painful that can be. On the other hand, I have to be kind to myself and cut myself a break knowing that this is not a dynamic I set up: that was someone else’s choice, not mine.   I made clear what I felt and wanted a long time ago, and that last time around, in Act II of all of this, I stepped aside without argument to allow Blue to choose to go to her when a “choose one” was their deal, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, it hurt like hell and I was the walking wounded for a couple years afterward.

It still sucks that this dynamic exists, regardless, and I still don’t look forward to facing it, but expect I will have to.  That everyone will have to.  But maybe we’ve all needed to, perhaps for longer than any of us have realized.

Okay, taking a breath.  Now another one.  One more.

I realize there’s another reason why this has been so tough for me to voice here, even once I had the criteria I thought I needed, we all needed, for me to do so.

It makes me feel small to admit it, but one benefit of having and living very stringent ethics is that it allows you a certain lack of vulnerability. In some ways, a perception of you being superhuman and perhaps not as flawed and fallible as everyone else.  Even if it’s not why you choose your ethics, certain standards of living and thinking do put you on a pedestal to some degree.  They can protect you from some measure of judgment. Of course, if that is the case, however rough some of this is, that’s very important for me to ditch, especially since it may well be part of some treatment or perception of me in life I don’t actually like and which can feel very isolating.

Let’s also face it, I’m hardly anonymous, and putting this out there does make me nervous in terms of my job and position in the world.  I know all too well that there are some individuals and groups who will relish evidence that I am the immoral, skanky harlot who is out to wreck families and traditional relationships it’s been sometimes suggested I am.  I’ve joked about it among friends sometimes, that that’s my easy out, my being everything some have said or implied I was in the first place. But my jesting there comes out of guarding how vulnerable it makes me feel and my desire not to be that person.

I’d be remiss to leave out that disclosing all of this means that if I wind up with egg on my face I can’t hide it.  (I was so close to typing “…then the yolk’s on me” instead.  I’m very sorry that I still did it.)

And that’d all be some of why I was so quiet.  Believe it or not, that is only some.

It’s been rough to figure out how to talk about Mark and I, too.  Some of what came out in all the communication around the poly agreement last winter was a level of honesty Mark had withheld from me –  and himself, really — that was so rough for me.  It wasn’t anything malicious, cruel or purposefully deceptive.  At worst, I’d say it was careless, but at the same time Mark and I have had very different lives, very different levels of experience with relationships and very different personal growth experiences. All the same, what came out hurt me deeply in some ways, and was a dealbreaker for me when it came to us having the kind of relationship we had been building, or that I thought we had.  I don’t mean to be obtuse, but it’s not my right to spill Mark’s guts for him on the Internet, so what I’ll just say is that I want and need certain things in a relationship of this depth and level of commitment that just didn’t mesh with how Mark was feeling, thinking and constructing his own frameworks.

It’s not an honesty I regret, and it was a brave one on Mark’s part that I’m exceptionally grateful for.  I think when this kind of stuff comes out of poly — as it tends to since you’re usually deepening communication a lot — it’s so convenient for people to blame the poly, and this just isn’t poly’s fault.  A lot of good things have come out of us opening the relationship up at the end of last year: I’d number those tough truths among them, even though the outcome of that truth led to a split.  I think, though, it’s probably also going to lead us both in directions that will result in both of us getting what we really want and also coming to whatever our best relationship is.  Mark still feels like my family: I have a hard time imagining Mark will ever feel like, or be, anything but. Mark’s family feels like my family, and they’ve made that clear on their end, too. Mark also remains, however sticky some things are right this second, one of my very best friends in the world.  Visualizing a life without him in it makes no sense to me.  And some of all that is why it’s been tricky to talk about what went down with us: I’m a ferociously loyal person with those near and dear to me, and can be very protective.

Over the years, I have kept finding that one area where it gets tough to write here about my personal life is all about loyalty.  Sometimes, it’s hard to be truthful about the not-nice stuff interpersonally, not just around protecting the privacy of other people, but because I also know that how I talk about someone, how I present someone or a situation with them creates a representation of them a lot of people read here.  I never want anyone I care for and love to be disliked by anyone — heck, even if and when I dislike them, which isn’t the case here, but certainly has been in a couple previous relationships of mine I’ve journaled about.  I absolutely don’t want anyone to think someone in my life is a jerk because of what I say, or because people who know or read me feel a loyalty to me, rather than to that other person.  Talk about unfair.  I can see how, over the years, from an outsider’s view it probably looks like I’m with someone and with someone and then BOOM: I’m not.  I can see how it probably presents a lot of my relationships as a bit one-dimensional, since I tend to talk more about their strengths than their flaws.  But again, I’m not anonymous here, and often, neither are the people I’m involved with.  I think being responsible around that inevitably means presentations that are often fair-weather.

That’s played a part in both of these relationships and my silence around them of late.  That loyalty made me want to withhold that Blue was married because I felt protective about anyone leaping to cliched notions about him and thinking he’s a bad person: I know he’s not and I have loved him dearly for nearly all of my adult life.  That made me want to withhold some things about what has been going on with Mark and myself because I love and care for him deeply and hate the idea of even someone he’d never meet having a fleeting thought that he’s a jerk because it’s so easy to do with only slices of a picture or only my own words.

To keep you in the loop with more practical stuff, Mark and I have stayed living together throughout, which has been okay sometimes; not so okay at other times.  It’s come to the point where we both clearly need some more space.  That means one of us leaving the big old house that we rent, and based on a bunch of issues (I’ve done much of the work to it, it has things I need or like but Mark doesn’t, it’s trickier for me to find a good place because I don’t have a car, etc.) we’ve decided I’m going to stay here.  I still intend to try and move to the islands, so Mark may even come back here and take over when I can do that (probably not until next summer, mostly due to the health stuff and its expenses).  And Blue is planning to move to Seattle to be with me in the next few months, which most likely means moving in here.

I keep going on tangents which I know are coming out of left-field — a very defensive left-field, no less — but I’m going on them all the same.  I feel the need to say that this is probably, from an outside perspective, seeming a bit fast.  From the inside track, though, it feels like something we have both waited for for close to two decades. We were also Olympic Gold U-Haulers when we got together in college.  Our first “date” lasted three solid days and we moved in together right on its heels.   It’s probably the most stereotypically dykey thing I have ever done, and I did it with a guy.  Figures.  All the same, we loved living together, it never felt too fast, and we lived very harmoniously for a few years at a time in our lives when we barely knew how to live alone.  We figure we’re probably better at it now. To boot, when we were together the first time we always basically headed these small collective households.  They were lovely — I often miss our shared house with Becky and Thai and all the kittens a ton.  However, the idea of actually being able to live by ourselves for the first time is pretty exciting.

Where things will go from there, where we’ll want to take them, we don’t know. We’re not there yet and don’t feel a need to be there yet. It’s been one of those things where you just jump.  You don’t have to, but you so want to and you can, so jump you do.  We’re still mid-air, so who the heck knows where we’ll find ourselves when we land.

The timing of all of this has been seriously rough, or maybe perfect, depending on how you look at it.  If Mark had not shared with me what he did, and our relationship hadn’t changed markedly because of it, then we’d still probably have been negotiating switching from primaries to secondaries a few months back.  We’d probably also still have been doing that even if Blue had wanted to choose for he and I to stick to a friendship, or if Blue was going to stay in his marriage.  Hell, the this of this has been rough.  Even from when Blue and I first just started talking again, I was endlessly checking in with Mark because he knew how I felt about Blue: he knew in the first six months we were dating, as I told him about the relationship way back then, before we got to Act III of it.  But of course, I didn’t tell him about it with any expectation that that relationship was anything but over. (In hindsight I’m glad of that: I never had to wonder if I was honest about my feelings.) I never thought any of this was going to be easy, but I do think all three of us thought it wasn’t going to be this hard.  We’ve all been clumsy, we’ve all had our moments of thinking and feeling we have loused everything up or taken missteps.  Maybe we have, any of us, all of us, but all things considered, I think we’ve all done alarmingly well in caring for everyone involved.  And that’s not something I’m simply saying out of loyalty, either.

On a strangely bright note, my parents, who got along for five whole minutes of my life and have agreed on things less often than the fingers I have on one hand (the one without all its original fingers, no less), have both been incredibly supportive.  Oddly enough, my father was the one with some issues at first — usually, it’d be my mother with the finger-wags — but at this point, they’ve both been great. And that’s been a real and unexpected source of comfort.  My friends have also been totally amazing.

On the health front, for the last two weeks, I have finally gotten feeling in my left arm and hand 100% back.  I also have been almost entirely without the constant pain in that arm and shoulder.  I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it is to have months of that be over, even though I am still enormously behind in everything from the months it went on for.  I’m still having weekly therapies for that and some of my other symptoms and issues — muscle work, acupuncture, nasty-tasting herbs — and we still don’t know why it happened, or why I have some other things going on.  But to be plain, the pain and numbness being gone, having full use of that hand back, is enough for me for right now.  I can live without that question answered at the moment.

However, in a lot of ways, all this health business has been a bit of a straw breaking the proverbial camel’s back.

I need to accept, I’ve been trying to accept, that I simply can’t do 60+ hour workweeks anymore. I need eight hours of sleep a night. I need to take plenty of breaks during the day, especially breaks to play outside where I can move my body around and turn off the incessant furnace of my brain.  I need downtime in the evening, and I need something close to two days off a week, not two hours.  I turn 40 next year, not 20.  I need time for my freaking art, including creating things I have no intention of showing or selling.  I also need more flexibility to call it a day when I’ve worked with someone in any given day who has just emotionally tapped me out: the longer I work in the fields I do, the more easily people very deeply connect to me, the more rough stuff they disclose and ask me to help them hold.  Sometimes I can hold it and move through the rest of my day, able to hold more.  Sometimes I just can’t.  That needs to be okay: I need room for that to be okay.

And on top of all of that, with as much diplomacy as I can muster, have to say that I want to be able to have the time when all of the preexisting context of all this is sorted (which may be a seriously long haul) to simply enjoy Blue and being with Blue.  Without attaching any sort of hierarchy to any of the relationships in my life, including my relationship with Mark, I am on the precipice of being able to spend a lot of time with someone I have loved for an age, and to be with him in a way that it seems we are both finally ready for.  In so many ways, there was an unwieldy enormity to our relationship and chemistry the first time around, and for us individually in terms of dealing with very difficult issues in our own lives.  It was a LOT of relationship, a crazy-quick depth of connectivity, some very strange fateful details, and no small measure of drama; a lot of for two relatively young and very passionate people with poor relationship modeling growing up to handle. At this stage in our lives, we are much more capable of both handling it and appreciating it for the rare, mighty thing that it is and always was.  Then, it felt like trying to be out in a thunderstorm holding nothing but an umbrella, more likely to get you electrocuted than it was to offer any shelter. Now I think we’ve both got handfuls of thunderbolts and a far greater strength, care and power to use them wisely and without so much fear.

The both of us, albeit in different sorts of ways and on different schedules until the last year, have been hoping for a chance again for a long time. The only things I’ve waited for this long in my life have been health insurance, world peace, the passage of the ERA and a perfect vegan donut (I at least got the last when I moved here). That it seems we’re going to have it feels pretty miraculous and incredibly unlikely.  I get to find out what happens when you get, and take, the second chance you never thought you’d get but always wanted.  Strangely, this is one of the few times in my life where I find I am not worried about what happens after, not even thinking about what happens after.  I don’t know why I’m feeling that way, especially about something so huge and potentially disastrous, but I don’t particularly care.  I’m just delighted TO be feeling that way for a change.  It’s very freeing.

So, sometime soon, I need to sit down and figure out what has to go in my life: which projects, which jobs, which way I use my time.  Some things simply have to go or get cut back to make room for everything else or I’m either going to lose my mind or do myself in with sheer exhaustion.

Okay.  So, that’s what I’ve got for now.  It’s a lot, I know.  Believe me, I know.  The funny thing is, it feels like I’ve only addressed a little, just kind of opened the door a sliver.  But I had to open it: the longer it sat closed, the more uncomfortable and dishonest it felt, and the more was going to bust out of it when I finally did open it.

I have some silly, light stuff to tell, but putting that here before I just spit out some of the other stuff felt disingenuous, so I can get to that stuff soon now.  Writing those trifles is easy as pie.  The other stuff?  Not easy.  And perhaps not graceful either, but at least it’s done.  I’ve got trembly fingers, but I’m going to push that button that says publish, even though “save” seems more fitting.

P.S. I think the most gracious way to handle this per saying so much, including about other people’s private lives as well as my own, is to password this entry in a little while.  So, I’ll leave it up for all for around a week, then it’s going somewhere more protected.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I’m sorry to have kind of left the ball in the air when it comes to my health.  I’m not great about that, as a general rule.

Here’s the deal as of right now: what the physical therapists identified was a big, swollen mass of muscles around my c6 and c7 vertebrae.  They don’t know why yet this is — pinched nerves, who knows — or what is causing it and some other spots in my body, because until we get that mass down, it’s going to be tough to tell.

Doing some traction and some manipulation of that area with the physical medicine  team and some basic at-home stuff to get the swelling down has been helping.  While my index finger on my left hand is still numb, the numbness of the surrounding fingers is gone.

They’re still thinking they’d like to have either or both a spinal x-ray and/or an MRI done.  They don’t see any need for an immediate rush to this, and this team is a bit more understanding per my lack of health coverage than the last, so are suggesting the spinal X-ray first since it’s cheaper, and think that’d be the best place to start anyway.

I have to say, this earnestly is the worst city I have ever lived in when it comes to public health, and given public health in Chicago, that’s seriously saying something.  I’m tremendously lucky that Bastyr both accepts cash payments and offers a really generous discount (50% for my income bracket).  It’s not cheap, but I can manage it. Thankfully I have (over)worked enough in the last year, and often at decent pay, that this actually is one of the few times in my life where something like this hasn’t completely wiped me out.  I can remember so many other times when a health or some other crisis has literally felt like the end of the world, and I had to sit down and figure out which utility to let go, or how to cut a meal out of each day.  I’m so grateful that I’m not in a space like that right now, but having spent so much of my life like that, and at a time of economic decline, it’s just a bit bizarre.  I keep thinking surely there is some shoe about to drop I’m just not seeing but  — knock on wood — I don’t think that there is.

My Dad is really freaked about my not being well.  He’s in this headspace where he’s sure he will outlive everyone: he found out most of his old friends died when Googling the last time he was here, and it really did a number on him.  I’ve explained that no one has even suggested the vaguest idea that this is because of anything terminal: the worst possible diagnosis remains MS, which doesn’t have anything to do with death or dying.  My guess is besides the connection to the friends some of the freakout is about me sharing that I was scared, sharing that I was upset, sharing that I really, really didn’t feel well.

This would be, perhaps, some of what happens when you take up permanent residence with the people closest to you as Ms. Stiff Upper Lip too often, I think.  I really, really need to work on doing less of that, and also less of sharing something big, then taking several steps back or going quiet because I felt exposed in the sharing.  It’s no good for anybody, myself included.  I swear, there are areas in my life in which I feel so enlightened, but others where I feel like the the wild child of Avignon.

* * * * *

Blue is coming back this week, and will be here from Wednesday night through Sunday.  We’re going to be staying at my friend Pam’s in West Seattle, hanging with her a couple nights, then housesitting while she’s away for two more. On Friday, Blue, Mark and I are finally having a dinner that is long overdue: they still have not met due to distance and poor timing every time we try and get it together.  Mind, at this point, it’s not the same sort of dinner we’d have had six months ago, but it’s still important.

It’s a bit nervewracking.  I think we have some good ground rules set, and I’ve made sure there is time for Mark and I to take a walk alone afterwards so we can process anything we need to.

Our shift into a platonic relationship, as I’ve said, is still shifting and shifting, and not be cliche, but it’s complicated.  There are solid steps and missteps on both sides almost constantly.  I think we’re figuring it out, and are helped by what a gradual shift this has been in many ways.  But there’s always that thing when relationships really start to move to a different place:  you can feel out-of-sorts or out of step with the passage of time.  Now and then, you have to press pause and remind yourself of both where you are and where you’ve been, then get it all sorted into the place it is now.  It’s disorienting sometimes.

At other times things feel just right, more right than they have in a while.  Mark has learned not just to cook, but to love cooking while we’ve been together, and Heath and I got him a couple cooking classes for his birthday he’s really stoked about.  Listening to him be excited about that or some of the more relaxed gabbing we’ve had around a couple of the dates he’s been on: it all feels as if it’s where we all should be.  We both think that for right now, living in the same space is still okay.  We still feel like family.  My guess is that it’s going to get more awkward for Mark as time passes than it is for me, since I’m not back in the dating pool like he is, but we can see how it all goes as it goes.

He talked to his family about our relationship changing a week or so ago (we’d decided that while his father was in a health crisis, it was best we not put any undue burdens on them), and they were really lovely about it, making clear that I’m still a member of their family no matter what.  Such fantastic, loving people: I love them dearly, so I was worried about that.

I really hope the dinner on Friday goes well and that everyone feels good about it.  I hate the notion of anyone walking out of it not feeling loved and fully loved, and that’s my biggest fear.  Ideally, of course, I’d like everyone to love each other, that’s always my ideal in everything, but even with the change in our relationship here, I think that’s asking a bit much of a first meeting.

* * * * *

Circling back round to what I was saying about closeness and some of my barriers to getting close,  there are some facets of getting very close again to one of the people I have been closest to in my life, ever, especially someone who was present for one of the most heavy and confusing times of my life, and who I probably did more stumbling with, made more mistakes with, than anyone.

I am reminded, with various things, that I have had a lot of forward movement in a whole lot of areas.  Sometimes, I almost forget what a wreck I was in so many ways back then, especially when the shit really hit the fan.  It’s really weird, and also pretty weird to kind of have this person who holds some memories for me that I don’t have myself, or which are really fuzzy.  One unfortunate result of having a lot of trauma in your history, especially in early life, is the lapsing memory tends to do around times of trauma.  There are some moments in my life I honestly barely remember now, and having someone else to reference them and remind me about what they really were like is a gift.  Too, I sometimes forget — not from trauma, just from absentmindedness, age or giving myself less credit than is due me — what the lead-up was like in terms of what I have done with my life to date: I forget how much foundational stuff I was building back then for what I do and who I am now.

I think that in the last year and some since we’ve been talking again, some of that reminding has shown up in the work I’ve been doing with the teens and young adults: there’s something you take from someone who knew you so well in (in my case, some of) those years, who keeps the you-of-yore from then real, not idealized.  In my teens I was holding and hiding so damn much, withholding a lot of stuff from so many (and myself) that would burst the dam, and Blue was there for much of that bursting.  It’s a whole lot of why we burst, both of our personal cloudbusting happening in a whoosh all at once.  It’s kind of fascinating to see the things we each worked out separately, grew through or past, as well as the things we’re both still working on.  It’s also really amazing to see how much we really moved for each other back then, how we still do that now, and what that experience is like with more awareness, maturity and sensitivity around it.

I also have a visit from Mya coming up the night Blue goes home.  What I’m hoping, what I need, is that save Thursday’s clinic, then my outreach morning at the shelter next Monday, I can just go ahead and take much of the next week off.  So many things have been happening all at once, and Dr. Tiller’s assassination and the flavor of the world in its wake have just left me toasted.  I feel much less sharp, a little numbed out, delicate and certainly worn down. I wasn’t able to get out and ride for a few months due to my dead bike: having a new one and being able to go ride in the early mornings and do my morning sit on the dunes or at Gasworks Park has brought me to feeling where I’m at right now more acutely.   Without a lot of movement and being outside, my meditation is never as good.

I think I need to do that thing I know I am allowed to do but never quite feel justified in doing: I can take time off.  It’s ridiculous that I can’t figure out that when you go weeks working seven days a week, that means that now and then you do get to make up for that by taking more than one or two freaking down days.  There are really only 10-15 hours of work in the next week I absolutely have to do, so it’s actually a good time to take some downtime.   I’m hoping for a nice day to take Mya kayaking when she’s here, get a Discovery Park hike in, a few other things I think she’d enjoy.   And for the love of Jaysis, being able to just mellow out with Blue this weekend would be great. For real mellow out: seeing one another in person often requires a good deal of time spent sorting out a bunch of heavy stuff, especially because his transitions are bigger, more complex  and have had less room made for them in his life than mine have in many ways.

I’m babbling, I know.  See?  Told you I needed some downtime.  I’m off to physical therapy, and then a full at-home workday.  Tonight and Wednesday I can get a pile of things done, and then Wednesday night I can pretty much bugger off for a week besides the few things I am scheduled to do.  If you see me working, snap my fingers in the laptop, will you?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

On Sunday, this journal turned ten years old.

Here’s that first entry, just because:

I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder, echoing off of the window beside the bed.

From the breadth of the sound, I assumed there would be sheets of rain, pummeling the grasses and sidewalks. The sound of the thunder woke both B. and I, and I slunk into my jeans, through the glass doors to the wooden porch to ingest my morning take of nicotene and take in what I expected to be a strong storm.

Though it sounded like a storm, it was the gentlest rain I’d experienced in some time. The drops fell down so lightly; it was like the softest kisses one could imagine, fleeting and teasing in their lightness. Shy rain, I would call it, just a little warm and very timid. I sunk my bare feet into the puddles on the walk and stood outside for several minutes, kissed gently again and again by the tiny droplets, inhaling the scent of morning, and all things new.

With that feeling, I start yet another journal. I have journals as far back as 1976, when I had just begun to write; six years old at the time. They often dissapoint me. I am an impetuous person: I embrace new projects with all the vigor of war, but often, as soon as something which seems bigger looms it’s voracious head, I drop the former notion before cobwebs have had time to settle.

I have many times sat and read through the pile of journals, looking for inklings of myself - as I am now - hidden in the pages written when I was a child, an adolescent, a blossoming woman. Often, I find them, and it amazes me how little - on some level - we truly change from what we were born as.

It is with these things in my mind: the newness of things that are in truth not new at all, and the compulsion and determination to begin, always, again and again, knowing there will be some lapse, but hoping there will not be; knowing it is nearly futile. Though living may be a continuum, there are always lapses, and they come and vanish in an instant that can swallow years.

By way of introduction, I warn you now: a journal for me is not a confessional. I was not raised in that cultural sect which keeps secrets and then feels the need to purge them somewhere secretly. Instead, I was raised with the notion that a large part of being an artist is to bear witness: to record events through individual eyes for the purpose of marking personal history, and perhaps bringing the personal to history in a way that is unique and diverse. By virtue of what I am - an artist who has, since I was a child, been a sensate creature, engrossed with touching, tasting, feeling, and the union of body and soul - I expect, like any journal I have kept, this one will be a bit more salacious than another artists memoirs may be, though I similarly suspect what is sensual, sexual, and considered an event by myself may be those things considered less noteworthy by others.

Being kissed by the rain this morning was an event. It may or may not have been as noteworthy an event as the falling of the Berlin Wall, the day women gained the right to vote, as a death, or a birth, or the union of two souls, but from moment to moment - and in an individual life - those moments spent with our feet in the puddles, the rain kissing our cheeks, are those I never wish to forget.

(I cannot help but laugh out loud at the “not a confessional” monologue.  If a journal never was for me before, it most certainly has been one here far more than once over the years.  Oh, hindsight: you briny bastard.  It’s also a bit hilarious to read my little warning about the fact that I would likely talk about sex and sensuality here: the internet most certainly is not the place it once was.  There really was a need for that statement then, for serious.  There was not a need to be so pretentious about it.)

When I first started journaling online, very few others were doing it, and no one was blogging yet: we didn’t even have the word “blogging” yet.  I also had far fewer gray hairs.  And I think my bottom has started migrating south since, no less.  If it’s heading to South America, I hope it takes me with.

I was thinking I’d sum up everything that has happened in the last ten years, but I started to do that and became dizzy very quickly.  It’s been one hell of a decade, and I can’t fathom how very much I shoved into it.  Meetups, breakups and makeups, nearly the entire development of my career in sexuality with all the ups and downs that has entailed, the whole of my photographic work behind the camera, four moves (two to different states), struggling with money (there is a post back when where I was literally unable to get myself a warm coat in Minneapolis, and a very kind reader — thanks, Kat — sent me an old coat of hers), struggling with family, struggling with life as we know it.  I’ve been single in this journal –sometimes gladly, sometimes miserably — I’ve been with partners, I’ve been cohabiting.  I’ve been flush and in scarcity, high and low; there has been high comedy and high tragedy.  There have been trials (literally) and tribulations (and how). Writing here has at times made me feel very comforted and with community, and at other times very isolated and overexposed. In many ways the world has changed massively throughout this relatively short span of time.

The arrival of Sofia even happened during this journal’s tenure.  And no, I can never turn down the opportunity for a gratuitous shot of my dog, so here’s us when she was around six months old.

As insane as I kind of feel for doing this for so long and in this way, this has actually been the most consistently kept journal I have ever kept in my life.  By all means, it has its limitations, but it also has its boons.  While I’ve had to make some adjustments over the years due to the way life has changed, how journaling here does or doesn’t work for others in my life or for all aspects of my life, and it’s not the same journal it once was in many ways, I don’t see any good reason to stop writing here.  I like writing here, and I also feel really blessed by those of you who read here, some of whom have offered me generous feedback, solace, comfort, help, humor, love, compassion, understanding, counterpoint, friendship, lust, confusion, sadness, cheerleading and silliness. I’m even strangely grateful for the occasional vitriol and bullshit left in comments here over the years.

So, moving forward, here’s my right now.

There is a spirit of candor I’ve tried to keep over the years I have written here: most often, I think, I’ve managed it, though sometimes I’ve slid, particularly unsurprisingly, when things are tough, awkward or painful, or when I have been worried about invading someone else’s privacy or having such a lack of my own that I just wouldn’t be comfortable. Certainly, when I first started journaling online, the audience was much smaller, and I didn’t imagine I’d be read by as many people as I have been over the years, nor as visible with everything else I do: thinking maybe ten or twenty people are reading you and knowing thousands do is a pretty huge discrepancy.

But I’m going to try to write today with that same spirit, even though there have been some things that have been difficult to talk about, certainly personally, but particularly publicly.  I’ve been avoiding them with no small measure of intensity.

One is that I’ve not been well lately.  I’ve said a little about it, and over the last few years, have also made some mention of some things that have gone wrong with my health.  But in the few months, things have gotten pretty scary over here at times.  The long-story-short, sparing you my whole medical history ad nauseum and giving myself some semblance of privacy, is that I’ve had various neurological issues my whole life.  I was epileptic for years in high school have had heinous headaches off and on since I was a kid.  The deal in the last month and change is that…well, two fingers of my left hand have gone numb, and my left arm has periods of either numbness or pain. Needless to say, when I already have a disability in my right hand, this is even more scary.  (However, the weird part is that I’m so used to adapting for those two fingers on my right than shifting the same behaviors to my left at least isn’t something new I have to learn.)  I get some weird tremors, shakes and spasms these days, and every now and then, my speech also seems to simply run away with itself in a really disconcerting way.  I’m also just plain exhausted, despite getting way more sleep lately than usual.

So, what’s going on?  I don’t really know yet.  By virtue of not having healthcare for decades, and public health in Seattle being beyond heinous, I’m limited in this process, which blows in part because the not knowing bites, and also because I’ve no management for the pain this has involved yet, and am very tired of being in pain all the time.  I do, thankfully, have the benefit of the services of the Barstyr clinic here.  I prefer eastern  or holistic healthcare to western anyway, and I can both pay cash to go there and get a discount due to my income.  I don’t have a ton of dough to do this with, but for now, I’m managing.  As of this week, I’ve had a bunch of tests done, and just got the results of my bloodwork back yesterday.  So far, nothing terrifying, but I do have some low levels of a couple things which may be a cause of, a contributor to, or signals of something else, or the problem all by themselves. My care team has some theories, but they’re all still murky.

By the way, am I the only person who did not know — and being in any branch of healthcare, I feel like a particular dipshit about now knowing — that very LOW cholesterol is a problem?

I’m going to start some physical therapies this week, have been given some nutritional therapies, too, and then they’ll determine if we want to see about getting me an EEG and MRI, which will be a bit of a trial because they can’t do them there, and the one place we found I could pay cash for them did not exactly have a nice-looking price tag.    I’m also groaning at the prospect of those tests: been there, done that, more than once.  I swear, high school was a blur of having shit stuck in my hair.  If it wasn’t a whole can of aqua net from making it all stick up, it was the rice from Rocky Horror shows.  if it wasn’t the rice, it was someone’s beer or whatever from a mosh pit.  if it wasn’t beer, it was glue from some brain scan or another while they tried to figure out the seizures and the headaches.  Apparently, I have come full circle.  Maybe I need to go buy some Aqua Net.

What else?

Well, Mark and I have been in the process of shifting our relationship to a friendship and family relationship.  That perhaps has been obvious.

It wasn’t having the triad that got us here (yes, I say that defensively: I really hate that bullshit perception that when you go poly, some relationship will go to shit).  I do think it can be said that all the deep communication that went on in that process made us realize we already were or were heading here for the last year or more, maybe even for the last three, but I don’t think that’s a bad discovery or by-product.  The more we’ve talked it all through, the clearer it becomes that this has been the direction for more time than the both of us had a real, full awareness of or wanted to have an awareness of: we like and love each other a lot, and this isn’t the outcome either one of us really wanted when we first got together.

I write about that today in part because I’m reminded of how tough it has always been to write and publish here about these kinds of times and spaces.  Obviously, one of the big things to manage when you journal so personally and publicly is how you write about others in your life, especially those closest to you.  While certainly, everyone I’ve gotten intimately involved with over the last decade has known or been made aware that I publicly journal, that doesn’t mean anyone is automatically signing up for their every detail, shared moment or feeling to be shared here: that’s not my right.  I’ve often done negotiating around what I write, and my default setting with intimate relationships tends to have been that both for myself and for others involved, everyone is — unsurprisingly — a lot more comfortable with me going on about the good stuff or the easy stuff than the tough stuff.

I haven’t usually tended to write about arguments, about huge conflicts, about many incompatibilities, about some of the changes that have gone down.

Obviously, that’s a big flaw when it comes to the integrity of writing because of course, the way I present my relationships are often going to appear a bit fair-weather.  And I know more than once that readers have felt like a breakup or interpersonal change of mine has seemed like it came out of left field for that reason.  At the same time, I’m not quite sure how to remedy that, especially with such a public journal, especially with always having kept it under the same name I do rest of my work and personal life with.

I’m not going to go on and on about the deal with Mark and I right now, save to say a few things, both for clarity’s sake and because they’re so important.  We’re still living together.  We likely will be for at least a couple more months, and perhaps even a good deal longer than that.  It’s hard to say, finances, practicalities and the whole soup both either of us moving and no longer being housemates entails, emotionally and otherwise. Blue may also be moving out here in time, too, which is another complex ingredient to factor in. We are no less friends than we have ever been.  We also still very much feel like family, and both of us have a tough time envisioning that ever not being the case.  By all means, we’ve had some rough moments and have been very sad at times; hard truths on both sides have whacked both of us upside the head lately, but we love each other very much.

This is coming off like a parent talking to their kid about an impending divorce, no matter what words I use: sorry about that.  Mommy doesn’t mean to talk to you like you’re six.

In short, no one has done anything wrong here. There’s no bad guy in this.  Without unfairly disclosing someone’s feelings and experiences which aren’t mine, this feels primarily like both of us facing certain limitations we each have, and those of the situation we’re in.  This is about us figuring out the difference between things we want and things we need, dealing with the fact that the overall arc of our lives and our relationship history have always been incredibly different, and that in some ways, we each want to head in different directions, or have a different timetable for the directions we’re heading in.

I’m still involved with Blue, and while that has its own kinds of complexity, as well as its own brand of not knowing where anyone will land in many ways, it’s been a very good thing.  There are a lot of old fears involved, some new ones, and I really wish someone had written a guidebook for having a new relationship that is also one of the oldest ones you’ve got.  It’s also a relationship that for a big batch of reasons I’m not up to discussing over much here yet.  Too, Blue is far more of a private person than Mark is or I am, or than many other partners of mine have been for that matter, so we’re just going to have to feel this out as we go in terms of what I write here.

I’m still hoping to make a move to the island here in the future, but I just don’t know when I can make that happen.  Finances are a usual issue, and until I have the word on what the hell exactly is going on with my body, what I need to/can do about it, and have some idea of what to expect per getting better or getting worse, getting there soon isn’t exactly a doable plan.  Putting myself in a rural space alone when I’m having days where I can’t open a can or am feeling dizzy and disoriented all day long?  Not so smart.

From the Department of Things Far Less Heavy, the SSSS weekend at Monterey Bay was just lovely.  I got to have quality time to sit down and talk with some people I respect the hell out of (like Joani Blank and Susie Bright), catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in way too long (being able to sepnd the Aquarium afternoon with David Steinberg and gab for hours was a real treat: the last time we had a lunch was in 2000), meet some new people, see some excellent presentations (the Sex in the Sea lecture from Steven Webster at the aquarium and Gina Ogden’s and Remi Newman’s talks were big highlights), and also enjoy a breathtakingly beautiful place for two days.  I did a lot of solitary walking meditation, which I’ve very much needed.  I went to bed very early both nights and didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn, either.  Getting the award was really awesome and flattering (even though with the recent shakes and other unpredictable body stuff, I felt self-conscious about standing up in front of people), and it got all the more compounded by winding up getting two awards for my work in one week, which is seriously something else.

This last weekend, I was up on the island at Sacred Groves with my buddybro Ben, both looking at some places and options, and just chilling out.  We built a vulva out of branches and leaves, because we’re like that.  We made a nice communal dinner.  I got to sit in a meadow bathed in sunlight for a half hour Sunday morning.  We got to have the talks brothers and sisters who are close do.  Good stuff, all of that.

Work has been….worky.  Not a lot to write home about, since it’s the usual stuff, sparing a lot more travel in the last year than I’ve done before.  I’ve been doing more of that in order to get myself more comfortable with it.  I’ve gotten a lot better over the years at speaking publicly to bigger groups, but it still isn’t something I love to do or which I find fun, so more practice always helps, and it’s a smart thing for me to do more of career-wise.  I am also trying to create a plan so that, ideally, sometime in the very near future I am burning the candle at both ends a lot less, for both my mental and physical health as well as so I can be sure I’m doing the best job I can when I am working.  Perhaps off-topic, today I have been asked more times about this by press people than seems reasonable, and am apparently the Pulling Out Poster Girl even though I’ve never used withdrawal as a method myself, and I haven’t been asked about something like this with other methods of contraception before.  So, I don’t know what that’s all about.

me, on this journalversary.

And that’s really about that.  Or the best I can do with all of that for now, anyway.

Again, I want to express my love and affection for everyone who has been on any leg of this journey with me, and particularly to those who have been readers the whole damn time.  I think there may be something seriously wrong with you for reading me for this long here, but that doesn’t make me love you any less.

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I know that of late I’ve been talking much more work than the rest of my life (and I’m still due to blog about sex::tech), but the work stuff is a lot less complicated.  Given what I do, that’s seriously saying something.

The thing is, there is a lot of limbo right now, and it’s not just my own.  Since I accepted that no, I’m not digging Seattle and I seriously doubt it’s ever going to feel like a home for me, I’ve started looking more at elsewheres.  My feeling right now is that I’m in no way ready for an out-of-state move yet, for a whole lot of reasons: financial limitations, because that’d also mean moving far away from Mark (he wants to stay here, and it’s also more complicated than that), and because I’m also not sure I dislike Washington state yet.  Just sure that I dislike most of Seattle-proper.

Of late, I’ve been thinking about trying life on one of the islands here.  The rents are about the same if not better than in the city, there is water everywhere, loads of trees and green stuff, beach and, in general, a slower, more quiet life. The social dynamics also seem to be less chilly, cliquish and painfully hip, which is my primary complaint about Seattle. That’s sounding very nice to me, more like a life I have wanted to head towards for a while, but didn’t think would be able to happen until much later.  It also sounds like a much more suitable place to write a second book.  Oddly, just as I was starting to think that early in the week (I haven’t known when I’d get going on another since I finished the last), an editor from an imprint I like wrote me asking about something else, but we also may start batting around ideas, since apparently they’d love to publish me. I need to spend some time later today, in fact, creating my writing wishlist for her, then hop to more photo editing: it’s been great to have whittled out time to get back to my artwork.

Next week, I’m heading to a cabin on Bainbridge island for a few days to feel life there out some more, and to get some serious downtime, solace, creative inspiration and a visit with Blue.  I figure that’s one of several little minibreaks-with-purpose I’ll do over the next few months, trying a new island each time.  I’m just going to make-believe I live there and see how I feel about it.

Lord knows I could use the downtime anyway. There has been so much travel, so much work of late with both Scarleteen and the clinic.  I’ve also been putting so much of myself out there in life and work in a way that does take a lot of energy, and is a bit more than even I’m used to.  I can do all of this for the rest of the year, I think, but I’m going to need more downtime than I usually take to manage it.

The relationship limbos are even tougher than the locational ones or the work ones.  Well, tougher in some ways, anyway.

I find I’m frequently inarticulate about what’s all been going on in my love life, despite babbling like a brook about it with both my partners and with some friends.  Things are tricky and sometimes tough, though I don’t know if I’d say they’re capital-H hard.  There have been some moments of sadness, but in so many ways, things are also really good with everyone, too.  Where some aspects of the relationship Mark and I are in have been seeming to be stagnant or go on the back-burner, over the last year or so, other parts have been growing; they’re just not the parts either of us expected to be at the forefront of everything, especially when our relationship was new.  There’s not really anything hugely wrong, per se, with our relationship right now, it’s just been transitioning over the last year or two as it is, and us getting to adding other partners — and the deeper communication involved with that — seems to have amped up or illuminated some of those changes more over the last six months.  Even just in talking more and more deeply, some things have come to light coming from both Mark and myself about our relationship, not about anything outside of it, which have made many things more clear which were murkier before.

The quick-and-dirty on all things interpersonal right now is that both of my most intimate relationships have been changing, and both have their own kind of intensity.  While some of the changes are certainly challenging, I also think that things are all moving in the direction that is likely most right for everyone, even if it’s not what any of us expected, even if sometimes it’s been a bit rough and bittersweet and scary.  There’s a whole lot of surprise in everything, really, whether we’re talking about Mark and myself per how we saw this at the onset four years ago and how we see things and interrelate now, or talking about Blue and I: heck, after Act II of our relationship in ‘96, we were both absolutely sure (actually, I more than he, as he tells it) that we’d never even see one another again, let alone be involved like this.

I know I’m being annoyingly obtuse. It’s so damn tricky to write much about this or Blue and I here, despite there being a whole lot to say, and a whole lot I want to say. Mark and I’s courtship was so all over this journal that, understandably, he feels some sense of ownership with this space and it feels uncomfortable for him to not have that same ownership or, more accurately, that singular focus.  I get it completely, and want to honor that because I love him and want him to feel good, but that doesn’t mean I can easily figure out quite how to walk the line here.  It’s just as tough to talk or write about new-old relationship energy (still haven’t figured out if you can have NRE in a relationship with this much history) at the same time our relationship is in transition.  And it’s always tricky to write publicly about the parts of any relationship when it’s not just mushy-gushy stuff: I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to read about the tough parts of their relationship online. We’re all three of us (Mark’s other partners have so far all been very casual, one-time folks, so none of them are involved in the big stuff yet) pretty tender-hearted about everything lately, and sometimes it feels like everyone is getting the shaft in some way, but that may just be my own guilt talking; my own need to have everyone taken care of all of the time.

A month ago, in a wonderful but very intense therapy session I had in Austin, I came to some conclusions about how I have been living my life and some things I really need to work on changing.  Some of these led me to a desire to have this be the year I worked on learning how to be more… well, self-centered.

The therapist talked a lot about my nature to be a caretaker — in work, in my interpersonal relationships, even just in my worldview at large — which also made me think about parts of how I grew up, and how often I parented my parents more than they ever parented me: it’s crazy in how much of my life I’ve felt like an orphan, even as a child.  My last couple moves, for example, have been about what was most convenient for others rather than for me, about making sure the other person was comfortable, even if that meant I wasn’t.  What I’ve said to myself about them in the past was that I had the ability to be more flexible than others. But when I take a long, hard look at it, that’s just not true: it’s that I was willing to be flexible when others were not. I have to take responsibility for some of that, too, because I often don’t even ask for concessions to be made for me. And I often see myself as more flexible and able to give than everyone else, in work, in my personal life, in a ton of even just simple, daily interactions: as the person who needs to provide comfort, to help and aid others, who needs to step aside or yield, who needs to fight for so-and-so’s rights, with my own stuff second.

Long story short: I need to seriously knock it the fuck off, because I’m at an age where if I don’t soon, it’s likely to stay a pattern through the whole of my life.  So, I’ve proclaimed 2009 as The Year of Being Selfish.  We’ll see how well I do with that, and obviously, there are limits to it beyond being just not being a total asshole.  I have no desire to do different work than I have been doing: I just may need to deal with the doing of some of it differently. I want to be yielding, flexible and giving with the people I love, I just need to require more mutuality in all of that, and step into these things with more already intact in the first place. I need, I think, to recognize, that everyone has the ability to be just as adaptive as I have been, it’s just a matter of whether or not they want to, and also a matter of whether or not I keep shouldering everything by default.

(As an aside, I did manage to do this even with my father lately, who is the toughest person for me to do it with, since I am his lifeline in so many ways, and the only person he’s really got.  I also love him to bits, and his opinion of me very much matters.  But he’s been very strongly judgmental with me lately, especially about my relationships, and was kind of going to the place where it’s my job to take care of everyone and give everyone what they all want, even if it isn’t in alignment with my own wants and needs. I was able to draw a very serious boundary about this with him, which included making clear that I’ve clearly shown myself to be more capable of managing my relationships, and having healthy ones, than not just both of my parents, but than most of the people on either side of my extended family.  I was also able to make clear that he gave me the message loud and clear growing up to create my own models, so it was a little late now to have a problem with my doing that.  He’s still a bit pissy with me about my refusing to talk with him about certain things, and my insistence that I am making the best choices I can despite his feelings to the contrary, but I think we’ll work it out in time.)

I also have been thinking about how much of my life has been about fighting for survival.  Mind, much of that was unavoidable if I was going to survive, or others — like my father — were going to.  However, it’s so easy to kind of get stuck in that place, and be fighting and struggling even at times when you don’t need to anymore, or don’t need to be fighting quite so hard anymore.  I also find myself in the position, now, of having some more resources than I have during much of my life, and thus, have the ability to restructure so that I do that less, especially when we’re talking about the ways I do it so unconsciously. Heck, I fight enough with my work: needless struggle or needless battles elsewhere is just freaking silly.

… and as I hear myself say that, while struggling with writing about this when I’m really not required to, one supposes I’d best heed my own advice, figure I did the best I could so far, and get on with the rest of the day as I want it to be.

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

One thing I love about you journal readers is that I can vacate for a while without having to make any kind of big to-do about it.  I appreciate that kind of latitude.

I’ve been working a lot, and struggling to keep up with the mad pace of work a lot , which for this year includes a lot of planning for both Scarleteen and the FWHC job and dealing with a lot of adjustments and shifts.  I’m also adding a few things to my load for the year: I recently accepted a position on the editorial board for the American Journal of Sexuality Education, I’m soon starting a Teen Talking Circle through CONNECT, I’m doing a bunch of travel for work which I’m usually more apt to decline.  I’m also keeping up with the column over at RH Reality Check, and have a couple new pieces for various things I’m working on in fits and starts.

When it comes to my more personal stuff, I’ve been writing for myself or writing for, talking with — to a point of very intense immersion –  the people the most close to me and the people I want to be closer to.  I’ve been spending plenty of time with my piano and even the dulcimers now and then (ah, to have my hands work like they used to: it’s a pity fingerpicking hurts like a bitch so much anymore), reading, meditating, taking long walks.  I took a break from my camera for a bit there, and it’s time to pick it up again.  Just being able to write a snippet of this, a snippet of that, and know it doesn’t have to turn into anything else or more is golden: I haven’t given myself that permission in a long while.

None of my time away or to myself is because anything is wrong: despite things being challenging in my life on several levels at the moment, nothing feels at all wrong.  Quite the opposite. There’s just a lot of cross-roadsy stuff that’s been going on all over the place, and it’s been really nice to be very introspective about it — and private about it — and when I do share outwardly, to be making an extra effort to do so almost entirely intimately.

It’s not something I tend to be inclined to do much of the time: hermit that I can be in some ways, I also don’t tend to keep things very close to the chest.  I usually write about them or express them very outwardly in some way.  But every now and then, the time calls for it and it feels like just the right thing.  And this has.  Of course, this season always lends itself to that, it’s for that, really.  The time of year is not inconsequential.

I have a very expansive heart right now: it’s been stretching its legs exponentially of late.

There have been a lot of opportunities for me to water and grow my compassion over the last few months, my ability to love well and wholly.  I’ve felt it at work with the Scarleteen users and the FWHC clients, with my family, and even just out on the street as I walk the dog.  It’s been a marvel, especially with things with Mark and Blue where as all three of us have stuff to work through, inconnectedly and separately, when either of them apologizes for bringing heavy bags, and I say it’s all okay, I mean it so sincerely.  I also mean that it all feels okay: I’m feeling so freely able that sharing a tough load with either or both of them may have its moments, but can feel nearly effortless when it comes to the flow of my heart and what I want to offer.  I feel bigger of late, more mighty, I feel like I have a clarity in how I’m seeing people, experiencing people, what I have to offer — and want to offer — others that’s more attuned than it has been in a while, one that makes getting really close much less daunting.

There are a few strings of phrase from some private writing a month and a half back which does a very good job of expressing some of this:

This is not often a sanctuary
for small, broken-winged birds,
a Muzak-humming rest home for invalids.
It is where the giant-footed few
who have the seemingly strange inclination
go to toast marshmallows and sing campfire songs in the midst of an apocalypse;
it feels a temple for legend, not leisure.

We seem to tend to err most
when we underestimate the nature of who we are,
what our unique alchemy is,
and try and fit magnitudes into the tiniest of boxes.

I have to confess that I can sometimes have — have certainly had in the past on far more than one occasion — the tendency to give people I am close to a whole, big lot, but also to withhold just an eentsie-enough that I am still withholding.  I actually think it’s partly a writer thing: I seem to notice that many of we wordsmiths have this tendency. I’ve been a lot better about that lately, a lot more fearless with it.  I’ve been letting people really know me, which perhaps sounds very strange coming from a total oversharer in so many ways, but to anyone in my life who has come very close to me, I assure you, those kinds of barriers of mine are well known. Opening things up and being in both of these relationships has been so just right for me, and I feel so, so nourished by all of this.  Nourished in my own heart and head, nourished with what I give out interpersonally, in work, in everything.  I have had a very strong feeling of being exactly where I am supposed to be.

Pema Chodron said some things I really like which relate to some of what has been going on with me:

There is a Tibetan teaching that is often translated as, “Self-cherishing is the root of all suffering.” It can be hard for a Western person to hear the term “self-cherishing” without misunderstanding what is being said. I would guess that 85% of us Westerners would interpret it as telling us that we shouldn’t care for ourselves—that there is something anti-wakeful about respecting ourselves. But that isn’t what it really means. What it is talking about is fixating. “Self-cherishing” refers to how we try to protect ourselves by fixating; how we put up walls so that we won’t have to feel discomfort or lack of resolution. That notion of self-cherishing refers to the erroneous belief that there could be only comfort and no discomfort, or the belief that there could be only happiness and no sadness, or the belief that there could be just good and no bad.

But what the Buddhist teachings point out is that we could take a much bigger perspective, one that is beyond good and evil. Classifications of good and bad come from lack of maitri. We say that something is good if it makes us feel secure and it’s bad if it makes us feel insecure. That way we get into hating people who make us feel insecure and hating all kinds of religions or nationalities that make us feel insecure. And we like those who give us ground under our feet.

When we are so involved with trying to protect ourselves, we are unable to see the pain in another person’s face. “Self-cherishing” is ego fixating and grasping: it ties our hearts, our shoulders, our head, our stomach, into knots. We can’t open. Everything is in a knot. When we begin to open we can see others and we can be there for them. But to the degree that we haven’t worked with our own fear, we are going to shut down when others trigger our fear.

So to know yourself is to forget yourself. This is to say that when we make friends with ourselves we no longer have to be so self-involved. It’s a curious twist: making friends with ourselves is a way of not being so self-involved anymore. Then Dogen Zen-ji goes on to say, “To forget yourself is to become enlightened by all things.” When we are not so self-involved, we begin to realize that the world is speaking to us all of the time. Every plant, every tree, every animal, every person, every car, every airplane is speaking to us, teaching us, awakening us. It’s a wonderful world, but we often miss it.

Of course, in all of this as well is the fact that for a very personal writer, I often find myself lately in the position of being the keeper of more than one very private vulnerability or big confidence which is okay, but it means that the gristle of a lot of my life at the moment is behind a closed door. It also means I’m being trusted to hold all of it, which is so small gesture, and these are trusts I’m grateful for.

I’m off for the most whirlwind of trips to Chicago on Monday for both love and for work — my apologies to all the Chicago people I just can’t see and who can’t (or don’t want to) catch up with me for a short bit at the workshop (by the way, I think we still need some more women on the younger end).  I get back Wednesday night, then head right into the clinic on Thursday morning, and if all goes well, on Friday, I have something to do with something that resembles rest.

Friday, December 26th, 2008

My poor dog.  Everytime the last few days I’ve taken her out for a walk or let her out back, she’d had to effectively try to learn to ice skate or swim.  The remaining snow here — which is of course, everywhere, since no one in Seattle owns a shovel — is so hard, and she weighs so little that when she walks on it, she either slides right over, or her little feet fall in an inch or so, leaving her stuck.  Her other option is to try and swim in the huge pools of melting snow which are the other half of the landscape right now.

She also did not get our annual ritual of an early yule morning walk, something we both (well, I can only assume) have enjoyed in the past here.  Ballard is total Goyville, so pretty much everyone else is in their homes celebrating Christmas, which leaves our usually bustling neighborhood beautifully silent and empty.  But it decided to rain here much of yesterday, so all she got was a round of toy-wrestling in the living room followed by the daily ear-cleaning she despises.

I’ve been fairly lazy here the last few days, only working half-days, and spending the rest of my day in the tub, reading, cleaning the closet, writing for myself, and starting to go through some photos.

When I was at my mother’s earlier this month, we sat with a big box of some of my childhood art and schoolwork, some of which is completely hilarious, so I have a bunch of those shots to edit.  I also left home with a handful of photos, mostly from childhood, and some slides (most of what we have from my childhood is on slides, because that’s the age I am).  I say some of which because looking at things like an earnest will written at the age of 12, not long before my first suicide attempt, is not hilarious.  Suffice it to say, things like that are not going to be making it into the archives.

When I was looking at those photos, there was a whole lot of bittersweet that started happening, and then some outright meltdown, some of which has continued since.  Most of what that comes down to is that I actually had a pretty good childhood, despite a lot of tumult (some of which I didn’t really know about until later in my life), and when I see photos of myself as a kid, I’m looking at a kid I really like.  But I’m also looking at a kid whose childhood came to a crashing halt due to a confluence of events — my mother’s second marriage and the nightmare of a man she married, my pre-teen assaults, some other things.  Seeing, for instance, a photo of me at 11 the other day, seeing what a baby I was with my shirt covered in rainbows, barrettes in my hair, I realized I was looking at what some vile man in his 40’s decided was ripe for the picking and it just left me floored and furious.  I cut my hair after that primarily to try and cut him out of it.  So, while in some sense, I love seeing me and aspects of the childhood I cherished — and honestly, thank the powers that be I had, otherwise things that happened later may well have left me a vegetable — in another, I find myself feeling angry at the world-at-large for taking that kid away so fast and so suddenly, and, in some sense, robbing me of enough of her left over.

I’m not going to get too into it, because so much of it feels so private, but my visit with my mother this last time was exceptionally healing for me.  I got the chance to tell her something I have simply needed to for some time.  That was that while there are things from my late childhood and adolescence I just don’t think I can ever forgive, and certainly cannot forget — some of which she was part of or very much enabled — the older I get, the more I understand not just the greater context of her life, but the lives of so many women like her, and can see the bigger picture of what landed her and us there and fed so many of the dynamics at play.  I was able to tell her that the more I understand, the more I accept, the less I blame, and that no matter what, she’s my mother and I love and accept her.

Being able to say that was a huge deal, and also had an unexpected impact on her: it seemed to make her feel safe enough to finally ask — just outright ask — about some of what had happened to me in the last handful of years before I left home at 15.  She was able to be honest enough to say that she didn’t think she could handle hearing all of it — an honesty I really appreciate, particularly since it reminds me that that’s some of why there was so much denial about what was going on with me then.  And we were able to talk about some of it, and she was able to really listen, to hold what I was telling her, to take responsibility for some of the things I have very much needed to.  Mind, I found out some things which were in some sense a relief, and also in some sense had already known or strongly suspected, but which were also tough for me to hear: for instance, finding out that it truly was only me who was the object of my stepfather’s malice made me glad that my mother and sister were not done any real harm.  It also validated how totally alone in everything I felt then, how singled out and victimized. But at the same time… well, it wasn’t a pleasant truth.

That process also invoked her to tell me some things about her life I hadn’t known, particularly in my early childhood, when my mother, at only around 21, wound up the head of a household that included 2-year-old me, my Dad (who stayed at home with me while my mother worked), and my fathers two teenage brothers who survived the accident that killed the rest of his family.  Unbeknownst to me, my mother even had to be the one to identify the bodies — my Dad just couldn’t deal — and this image of my so-freaking-young Mom with too much already on her plate having to literally look at bloody heads in bags just gutted me. (Not to mention that both of us having to deal with bloody heads and dead bodies at a point in both of our young lives was just eerie.)

Again, not going to get into too many details here, especially since a lot of it is about someone’s life that isn’t mine.  But I think this may have been the first visit I have ever had with my mother that left me feeling even remotely like this: it was intensely liberating, very healing for the both of us.  We’ve even made tentative plans to, for the first time ever, try and take a vacation together somewhere in the next two years, something which, before this month, would have been a daunting, rather than pleasant, prospect for me.

* * *

On the home front, Mark is back in Ohio visiting family after getting waylaid in Philly on Christmas Eve.  While I usually enjoy the time to myself when he goes home for the holidays, having him leave this time was a bit sad, because it drew our all-night conversations we have been having on the couch every single night since I got back from Chicago to an end.  He was just saying the other night that he has never felt closer to me than he has in these last couple weeks, and indeed, while I didn’t think we needed a turning point in our relationship, we seem to have landed at one, and it’s so, so good.  I feel like we wound up going to this totally new place that’s really exceeded where we thought we could go, where we thought we would go, which is seriously huge since I already have thought we’ve got something really damn good.

Next week, we both have dates: Mark has one out where he is, and Blue is coming to see me for a couple of days.  In our heart of hearts, we were hoping for a magical harmonic convergence during which we could both be in those things at the very same moment, but alas, it didn’t quite work out that way.

All of this moving into a much more tangible and physical reality is all the things one’d likely expect: exciting, nervewracking, anxious, exhilarating and more with the anxious.  Obviously, it’s a bit like a moment of truth is coming, where we’re going to find out if everything that seems like it feels so right to all of us involved really is.  I keep having these small moments where I second-guess what we are are saying and feeling, how harmonious it all seems to feel so far for everyone, and then I second-guess (or is that third-guess?) my dismissal of those moments, worried it is coming from a selfish place because exactly what I want appears to be something I can have that is also in alignment with everyone else’s wants, even though we all seem to have such different sets of needs.  When I voice this to either, the both of them effectively sigh and suggest I start trusting all of us — and myself — more, which is apt advice.

Having such history with both of the people involved on my part vacillates from being a total comfort to being completely daunting.   But I just got off the phone with Mark (clearly, we both want to continue our couch-conversations, even without a shared couch), and one thing we noted that seems to make this such an unusual scenario — and which I actually think makes it an easier adjustment for all — is that the person who is my domestic partner is also the newer person in all of this.  In other words, he’s already well used to Blue being in my heart and  being a part of who I am: when he walked into my life, that existed before he and I, and he obviously has coexisted with it just fine.  I can’t figure out if I envy Mark that, for now, anyone he’ll see is likely to be very new to him, or if I wish he were in my position on his end.  I do envy him some for having the ability to just ring Blue up and talk together, and I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice to have the same opportunity, but hey, maybe I will at some point.

This is one of those times where I wish I knew a bit less than I do, particularly about sex and love and relationships.  I was sitting last night in a stack of books from the shelves which addressed open relationships, and feeling very much like it was all so 101, and of such very little use to me.  I wanted the AP versions — even though I don’t think we really need them — and they don’t seem to exist.  I sat scrolling through my head with my own history with things like this, save that I don’t really have anything like this in my history.  Anything remotely close has felt like splitting before, or sharing, and it doesn’t feel like that, perhaps because both of these people have been in my heart already: no one is taking up any new real estate here.

I’ve also gotten to the point in my life where I know I am big enough, wide enough, AM enough for this.  Oddly, I think working at the clinic has been part of that: keeping a lot of distance is so typical in anything remotely medical that my being very open to clients, really kind of letting them in has occasionally worried my co-workers.  And yet, the way the clients have been with me, the way they want to disclose so much and have me hold so much while they’re in with me stands counter to that. I’ve heard more than once that I “just can’t” be as open to them as I have when it comes to kind of holding their truths and their feelings and really being in it with them for that brief period of time and possibly deal with it…and yet, I know full well that I certainly can, and that it’s one of my gifts as a person.  It’s not one-sided, either: it doesn’t just benefit others, but it also deeply enriches and expands me, too.

* * *

And I suppose that’s my rather random set of bleats for the day.  A Scarleteen once-user, since-volunteer and someone who feels very much like family to me is moving into the neighborhood next week, and will also be housesitting for me with her kid while I’m staying downtown.  They’re coming over the evening before for some hangout and dinner, and our place is so far from toddler-proofed, it just isn’t funny.

Thankfully, this week of the year is always exceptionally slow at Scarleteen, so it’s one of the few times where I feel able — without guilt or worry — to take some time for myself and work a short shift.  So, I was able to spend some time just talking more to Mark and Blue, and can now go spend some time housecleaning (which needed to happen anyway: bless houseguests for making you have to hop to it), maybe going through some more of those photos, doing some languid yoga, writing a bit more just for myself about everything going on with me, taking another bath and setting up a new computer that needs setting up.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I don’t mean to be such a stranger.

I’m nearly finished with organizing, making and getting out the big mailing to nearly 200 organizations in Washington State for CONNECT.  It’s crazy how hard some of this has seemed: I’ve clearly gotten spoiled over the years by new media.  The funny thing is that way back in the day in the early 90’s, when I ran my little alternative school, I was the queen of all things paper: I refused to use any kind of computer at all, even a basic word processor for the first year.  For several of those years, I produced a pretty involved alternative ECE newsletter and doing that and I don’t remember getting it out being this big of a deal.

However, it’s looking shiny and awesome and once it’s off my desk, I will be one very happy chick.

I’ve also been overwhelmed with just trying to run two programs at once, getting the voting guide done for Scarleteen, and trying to keep up with all the usual work there. I’ve been distracted — though that’s likely not the best word — with the elections, national and local.  And per usual, I’m still just not feeling well.  I don’t think I have ever had a stretch of time where I’ve gotten so much sleep every night (I’ve been managing to get 7 or 8 hours a night), and yet, I feel like I could sleep all day, every day, and it still wouldn’t be enough.

I keep thinking that I should be very personally concerned about the current financial crisis, but then I realize that a) I own nothing, b) most of the contributions to Scarleteen aren’t even from the U.S., and c) I don’t make shit now and don’t know how much worse it could really get.  I also remind myself that I have enough to worry about already.  I guess sometimes freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

My Dad is coming up here in a couple of weeks, and staying for a couple of weeks.  He’s been in a really bad way lately, which at times means my having to have one or more long phone conversations with him in a day, where his moods and what he is saying are just all over the place, which is really tough to deal with. One of the most recent several-day conversations involved me patently refusing to cancel his plane ticket simply because he was certain that the dreams he has been having about plane crashes were prophetic and that he would die on the way here (which is a strange concern for someone with a long history of being suicidal to have, but so be it).  Unfortunately, this dream stuff has gone on before, and it’s tough to expect him not to believe them: his mother, my grandmother, stated she was going to die to everyone mere hours before she and half his family were in the truck accident that killed them when I was young.

I’ve had times in my life where I’ve gone through phases of this with him, but it just feels like it’s happening more frequently lately, to the point that I feel like I might need to start looking into what exactly someone in my income bracket can do to find residential care for a parent. Him living with us just isn’t an option: he would never agree to it, and even though we’ve lived well together before — more harmoniously than I live with most people, to be truthful — I don’t see it being a good answer.

How on earth, if I could find something, I could convince my father to even consider such a thing, I don’t know.  In so many ways, he’s so progressive, but there always remains some very prototypical Italian pride my father clings to.   I honestly don’t even know how I’d bring this up to him, and explain why I feel we need to consider it without hurting his pride and also triggering his guilt: he expresses guilt constantly (always has, but more of late) that I’m the only person he has in the world to lean on and that I have no other help or support when it comes to him.  But I’m just getting really worried, and I just feel like I have lived long enough with my parent living like this.  It’s breaking my heart, and I just can’t stand it anymore.

The place he stays at is still in one of the worst parts of the city, worse than it was when we lived in that neighborhood, and it’s just really vile.  Last week, he had this major freakout — validly — because in his dank little room the size of your average bathroom, four huge rats had gotten in.  He was so scared and wigged out that he wound up blowing his disability check to sleep in a motel for a couple of nights.  More then once while I have been talking to him, I can hear freaking gunshots. Given how he is mentally, as well, the isolation that he has very clearly just is not healthy for him: he’s so much better when he’s here, around people, somewhere safe.

I don’t suppose there’s any of you out there around my age who have been in a similar situation with any idea of where I’d even start when it came to looking for this kind of care?

Anyway, that’s most of my stuff.  Things at home here are totally fine, including that my boyfriend found a way to turn bacon into flowers last week, his new brag of late.

Apparently, if you’re at the farmer’s market, and you indulge your carnivore-sweetie’s longing for good bacon by giving him five bucks to buy some from the butcher, and he buys it, but then turns around and buys you a $5 bouquet, bacon has been turned into flowers.   Now you know.

I’m very lucky, dead pigs notwithstanding, to have his whimsy around.  I was just remarking to him the other day that it’s one of the things I appreciate most about him, and a quality I find it pretty rare with a lot of people: I need creativity around me, I need silliness, I need to be whimsical with someone.  I can go without a lot of things in my life, or in a given week or day, but if a day or two passes and I haven’t laughed my arse off, I just can’t deal.  While now and then that means that sex gets shelved — because we tend to take a left turn at silly, to the point that there is just no turning back — I’ll take it.

And on that note, I leave you with something I begged him to let me have a while back, which he penned during a meeting he was clearly very interested in at his day job.  I don’t think his boss would be particularly delighted, but I’m fairly certain I don’t care.

Mark's Very Important Work Notes

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

I just got off the phone with my Pop.

I’m appreciating so much that over the last two years he’s been able to be in the SRO where I can actually be able to be in contact with him, know where he is, and that there’s a phone so we’re able to talk with some frequency and for decent periods of time.

When all the work crap went down a few weeks ago, and we were talking, we got into a conversation where he was asking why I was dedicated to activism the way I was, and I interrupted myself in the midst of explaining to tell him that I thought it was pretty damn silly for him to be asking why I was pretty much exactly the way he taught me to be. He took a pause, and he asked if that made me suffer. I answered that while it certainly doesn’t make for an easy life, it’s so rewarding and such a huge part of who I am that I don’t even know who I’d be otherwise: that what he gave me in that regard was a massive gift. And then he cried big, happy tears (this after crying sad tears about something else he’s been dealing with, so that was good).

My father has always been very hypercritical about being as good a parent to me as he could have been, despite the fact that given the whole of our situation, the whole of my childhood and adolescence and his life, and all of the things he has done for me — including, quite literally, saving my life and my sanity in my teens — I think he was a great Dad. I feel very blessed. I have a parent who has always been 100% supportive of me in everything I have done, who has always been my dearest friend. While his disabilities and his issues certainly have often been very hard for me, and having to provide care for him sometimes (being his only person in the world is certainly a burden), have him be on street sometimes, all of that, has by no stretch been easy for me and has often been acutely painful, I’ve also always been aware that neither he nor I can control much of that. When it all comes down to it, I have such a unique relationship with my father: one I see other people have very rarely, and without that….well, I just don’t know what on earth would have become of me in many, many ways. Really, I think I do know, and I do not think it would have been at all good. I don’t even know if I’d be alive or intact, honestly.

Those rare moments like that, where he actually experiences and feels the value he’s had, feels proud of the way that he parented, is able to have his self-critique and self-loathing fall away when it comes to me: it’s so awesome, and I’m so glad.

I probably won’t be able to see him again for another handful of months. Our plan at the moment is to fly him out here for the elections. We figure if it’s a good result, we all get to celebrate together, and if the worst happens yet again, we’ll at least have good company for a solid three-day bender of epic proportions.

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Mark finally came home yesterday, and it’s really nice to have him back.

When we travel apart, I don’t forget about the good stuff, but when we come back together, I’m usually reminded how good the good stuff really is; how much I value it as a very unique and individual expression of who we are together.

Because of what I do, I see a lot of people, daily, who are impatient for that stuff between each other to grow, and motivation for sex can in part be from a desire to make that stuff — very individual, unique expressions of who you are together — happen sooner than it might otherwise. I don’t think it’s a terrible motivation for sex, mind: it’s not like it’s destructive or unsafe. But if it’s the only motivation (especially when sexual pleasure isn’t part of that for one party), or if that’s the only place anyone’s relationship has or is nurturing this stuff, that’s not so wonderful.

Anyway, I love the way that via cooking together, Mark has grown to love cooking, not just be proficient at it. When we met, it was about him learning how, but it’s developed to the point where he is in love with it. It’s been an interesting process, especially with him often asking why a given alchemy happens the way it happens and wanting this in-depth chemistry of the thing, and me being all Italian and goony about it and pleading, cajoling with him, while pouring a glass of wine and handing it over, to just enjoy the alchemy and emotionally connect with the flavors and smells.

He came home yesterday toting a box of hot sauces and spices he’d gotten while away he was all geeked out about, and last night, using some of what he brought back, we each cooked together making our two separate pots of chili (Mr. Price is a massive carnivore), and he was hopping around the kitchen like a gleeful mad scientist, rubbing his hands together. He also did that thing he does a few times while cooking, where when he’s thinking deeply, he’ll stick his tongue out of his mouth a little, not realizing he’s doing it.

I love that we often spontaneously dance in the dining room. In fact, having decided that we wanted to do NYE at home this year, we may even go the extra mile tonight and dress up to dance in the dining room. Probably to the Journey box set I got for Mark, no less.

I love that when he gets a new piece of clothing he likes, he has to catwalk back and forth a few times; he is that delighted with his own dapperdom.

I love (even if sometimes it’s a bit frustrating) how sometimes, we’ll go upstairs with an eye towards having sex, and one or both of us will get so silly about something, and keep the goofy rolling for so long that we wind up feeling utterly unable to have sex because things have just gotten too damn silly. Of course, it’s also very nice when that does not happen and the original plan delivers.

I love that our major time to regroup and reconnect always happens sitting together in the bathtub, and that if I brush my teeth afterwards, I have to try and look away from Mark because otherwise, he giggles at me the whole time since I tend to move my eyeballs in tandem with the way I’m moving my toothbrush.

I LOVE sleeping together. Which is always very weird, since previous to dating Mark, I can count on two digits the other people, including friends, I have not only enjoyed sleeping with, but have not done bodily harm to during the night because my subconscious self was SO annoyed and frustrated with having to share my bed.

And I love the fact that I’m the natural early riser here and that at times like these, when he’s still sleeping, I can creep back into bed after my morning coffee, find him all naked and warm, and wake him up.

Monday, November 19th, 2007

It’s really a pity when you have a really nice weekend with friends (Mark and I drove down to Portland with Ben and Joriel yesterday), a great treatment from your acupuncturist (even better when she’s just a doll and treats you gratis), several phenomenal vegan meals, and then a mellow night back home and end it all with a night full of troubling dreams.

All night last night I had a series of what were clearly anxiety dreams about this job interview tomorrow. Most were based around perceptions of me as not likeable, which has got to be about the interview, because I pretty much stopped caring overmuch if people liked me in high school. There was also a lost-on-the-bus dream, which I know is also about this, as I’m having to take four busses to get to the location they want to interview me at and potentially have me work at. (I know four busses would suck, but again, I really want this gig quite specifically, and I really need a second job, so.) Then I had a revisitation dream about the very ill-fated second job I tried to have in Minneapolis in 2002, where I was doing home-care for a developmentally disabled woman who physically attacked me, including ripping a handful of my hair out in her hand, on the first (and thereafter, only) weekend I was there for an overnight. Joy.

It’s been a while since I had a bonafide job interview, and a while since I had a second out-of-the-home job. Since 2002, actually, with that disastrous homecare gig (if I don’t count co-teaching kickboxing, which I would save that it was a barter-work situation, rather than something I was paid for with the green stuff). This is something I very much want, work that I think is critically important with aspects I have been wanting to learn to do for some time, so that’s part of why this is clearly very loaded for me. Too, I think the anxiety is piling up because while my conscious mind can work out how I can do most of what I already do full-time and an additional job, out of my own office and at a considerable distance, my subconscious mind is all “SAY WHAT?!? We want a vacation, dammit, not more work!”

I’m also a bit nervous, since they decided to interview me at a different clinic than I initially applied to — the first was for a part-time spot — that at this one, the position may be full-time, and if they offer me a full-time spot, I’m not sure what I would do. While I can figure how I could work something else part-time and still run Scarleteen and keep up to some degree with my art and other writing, I don’t know how I would do two full-time jobs and everything else. Horse before the cart, chickens being hatched before eggs…I know. I’m just sorting my crap out, okay? I stopped teaching in ‘98, and even just substitute-teaching in ‘99 because it wasn’t workable to do that and everything else at the time, and that was when there was far LESS work involved, and when I was almost ten years younger than I am now, and when I needed a lot less sleep. My kingdom to have all that energy back, man: if I remember back ten or twenty years when I could work 18 hours or more in a day, grab three hours of sleep and be a bit low-energy, but otherwise fine, and bounce right back to normal in a day, I find I am stewing with jealousy towards the me I once was.

I think I’m also worried I’ll find myself having to make a hard choice again between two things I very much want to do, and it’s making me nervous for no good reason, since I don’t even know if that’s a realistic possibility at this point.

Gah. Just need to get to tomorrow, I guess. For all I know, I may be being just plain silly. Even though he’s worse at babbling for hours than I am, so a call would eat up a good amount of my day, I should probably call my Dad for some support: it’d make me feel better.

That involves doing an awful lot today, including prepping some artwork for an anthology, trying one last time to get a written piece done for the same anthology. I tried several times to write Friday and yesterday, only to find that when it comes to the topic at hand, I’m all style and little substance right now. It’s all fine, well and good to write beautiful sentences and gorgeous phrases, but one doesn’t want to go all Macbeth and be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, especially when you’re talking about the future of feminism. One more try this morning, and if the writing just doesn’t happen, I accept that I do, indeed, have limitations and not only cannot always be brilliant, but can often enough not be anything even within the same zip code.

Also on the agenda, finishing a batch of photos I did of Robert and Carol a couple years ago, a phone meeting with the c-chair of the western region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality about them flying me in to do a talk for their conference in April, sending out a pile of books, meeting Cheryl for our Monday early evening cocktail hour, ringing up Northwest to try and work out transferring my miles to Bri so that she and The Baby Liam (who is not really a baby anymore, but who is likely stuck with that nickname from me well into adulthood) can be here for a bit in December, doing some laundry, and evaluating my cupboards.

The one unfortunate part of seeing my acupuncturist — who moved from Minneapolis to Portland — is that she suggested that she thinks it’s a strong possibility that I have developed a gluten allergy. I’m used to making dietary changes, so it wouldn’t normally be that huge of a deal, save that at this point, I eliminate so much for health and/or ethical reasons (and out of habit and necessity: even if I was suddenly okay with eating meat, the last time I ate it was in ‘81, and I ate it pretty infreqiently even before that, so it’d likely make me sick as a dog), that if you also pull wheat, rye and barely out, I’m not left with very much. For someone who routinely forgets to eat, the less available food there is, the harder it gets when I DO remember TO eat. Not good. On the other hand, if getting rid of gluten even makes a dent in some of the health issues I’ve been having, it’d be well worth the loss.

Lately, too, I’ve been having some not-so-great reactions to soy, which is a pretty intense vegan conundrum, to the point that I’ve figured I may soon have to add back fish or eggs on a quasi-regular basis, because without any soy, I’ll find myself with a pretty huge protein problem, especially when I can’t eat at home. Regardless, for the next two weeks, we’ve agreed I’ll go gluten-free to see what happens and how I feel.

Oh, how I will miss you, sweet, beautiful cupcakes: I loved you well. Here’s hoping that either Jelena is wrong, or that you’ll be able to make some adaptations yourself and accept some other kinds of flour through which to express yourself.

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Strange as it may sound, I asked my mother today if she’d write me a reference for a part-time job I very much want.

This would be beyond a dream job for me. I’ve been looking for work for a while because it’s just not doable anymore to try and make Scarleteen pay me a living wage for the hours I put in, even as lean as I live. I have busted my ass this year trying everything I could think of to make ends meet with it, but it’s just not going to happen per anything I can actually do myself at this point.

The ideal, of course, has been to find something where I still am doing the kind of work that is direly important to me and my life’s work, but which will also not wear me out (or bum me out) so much that I still can’t put in close to full-time hours with the site. There are a couple options, but when this one floated across my email box today, I very nearly leapt into the air, it’s so much of something I have been wanting to do for some time now.
While it would normally be odd to have a reference from your Mom in the pile, understand that given the fact that this is in healthcare, it’s quite appropriate in this case.

The fact that my mother and I have had an incredibly strained relationship for most of my life isn’t news to anyone who has been reading here for a while. It’s been VERY slow going for us to…well, not repair it, really, we’ve just had to try and make a whole new one. The old one wasn’t reparable. But when it comes to work, that’s turned out to be one of the lone ways my mother seems to understand me, and one of the easiest ways for us to connect.

She sent me something back within the hour, I read it, and I just felt really floored.

Really, I wasn’t sure what she’d say: I simply asked her because my mother is quite literally a healthcare/infectious disease goddess in Chicago, she knows this stuff like nobody’s business, takes it very seriously, and is also critical as hell when need be, so I knew she wasn’t likely to just be nice. My mother takes her work and healthcare so seriously, I know she’d never fib, even for one of her kids, to help get us work in any given arena of it if she wasn’t damn sure we could do it and do it well. She is equally admired and intimidating as hell in her field, as I understand it and have seen for myself now and then. Once in one hospital she worked in, when I was having some health issues, she got me in, and some poor nurse was so nervous in her presence, she managed to stick herself with the same needle she’d stuck me with, and was then so doubly freaked that I had to lean over and whisper, “It’s okay: she scares the hell out of me, too.”

(Tangentially, when that happens, you of course then have to be tested for every bloodborne anything to be sure your healthcare worker wasn’t endangered. When I got a copy of all those test results for myself, I noticed I was tested for pregnancy. Ummm…okay. Though I gotta say, it sure would have been something if I not only could have gotten some girl pregnant, but done so through the sheer power of my blood alone.)
Anyway, to read my mother assessing my professional skills so objectively, and from the vantage point of knowing way more than her share about these skillset, and to see that she thinks *I* am a goddess with this stuff myself is just…..dayum. My mother seriously thinks I am hardcore hot shit these days.
She made me weep today, and in the best way possible. This actually makes this the second time or so this year that I earnestly felt both my parents’ pride in me — and both demonstrated it clearly — very viscerally, and it’s just the most incredible thing.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

So, up to ten miles round-trip now: I spent an hour yesterday afternoon sitting under a highway bridge at my mid-point near UW.

This is goodness. My hamstrings and quads currently disagree, but what the hell do they know?

It’s really good for me to do my daily sitting out of doors, rather than indoors, and attaching it to movement in some way. It always has been, really. In fact, at the first meditiation community I ever went to in Chicago, I had someone next to me complain once that my bouncing on my feet was bothering them. I resisted the urge to tell them that I knew I wasn’t moving the floor, that they weren’t supposed to have their eyes open anyway, so there, and that meditation is supposed to be all about working to tune out outside static and get in harmony with your surroundings, so they should consider me their special helper then, shouldn’t they? SNAP!

I resisted that urge because any of those comments and most certainly the snap would have been even less appropriate than the initial complaint, but also because I didn’t want to be the snappity-snip in the middle of a giant group meditation, which has absolutely zip to do with my spiritual growth and absolutely everything to do with preferring someone else be caught holding the asshole bag, by the by.

I’ve generally done better with walking meditation than seated. I’m not looking forward to the couple of months here where biking isn’t going to be an option often, but hey: it’s at least a shorter period of time to be away from it than it was in the midwest.

I realize, too, that my best meditating in this new ritual happens twice. It happens once when I take my sitting break at a mid-point — especially with things for my eyes to take in and associate, I’m such a visual learner — and the happy lasts the rest of the ride home, but even more so, it happens the first few minutes I get on my bike. I’m not thinking about the challenge of the hills, I’m not thinking about if it rains, I’m not thinking about where I’m going to go, and I’m not worried yet about being hit by a car: I’m just flying down the street feeling the breath in my lungs, the strong force of my body, and the wind on my face. I feel freed. I’m not thinking about anything but those moments for long enough that I can’t determine when they start or they end.

I think doing this is also me making a certain peace with Seattle that’s been slow to grow. I don’t dislike it here, not at all, but it very much doesn’t feel like Home. I’m not sure it ever will, not completely, and that’s okay — the landscape is just so different than the one that registers as home in my head (which is odd, because I feel very at home in Mexico, even without that registry). It’s beautiful all the same, and it’s certainly home for now. Given how slow everything often seems to be to warm here, perhaps that’s as it should be; that I should be as slow to warm to it and it seems to be to me.

(I’m keeping a photo journal of sorts of some of these sessions here for me to have a handful of visual koans for myself — my bike is being my self-portrait stand-in, it seems.)

* * *
So, for the first time I know of as of yet, I missed out on a big opportunity because I’m not someone’s mother. A production company for a big TV studio contacted me about needing a teen expert and wanting me, but that the gig required said expert being a Mom.

I walked out of my office after this brief conversation and into the kitchen, where Mark was hanging out. I very calmly, but with great resignation, voiced that I’d apparently passed the age where I was going to get penalized for BEING someone’s mother, and entered into the one where I was going to get penalized for NOT being someone’s mother.

I had to wonder if at any point there is an age for women where it’s neither considered too early nor too late for to be mothers when it comes to our careers and our market value.

I’m thinking not.

* * *

I talked to my father on the phone yesterday, who I didn’t know had climbed on a group bus to from Chicago to go protest for the Jena 6 two days ago: he’d just gotten home when I called. Not only am I supremely impressed he was able to battle his worsening agoraphobia to do that, it also makes me really happy.

I know, I know, activism is always supposed to be primarily about whatever cause or group or person you’re being active for, and I agree. But in my father’s case, especially since he feels so useless so much of the time, him being able to essentially do something that was like the civil rights movement work he once did, something he feels so strongly about, and something that made him feel so useful, is a really big deal. Him giving up the $50 that’s very little to others, but a big lot of money for him, to go is important. And it was a great experience for him, being able to go and step up, and also just being able to talk to other people on the bus there and back to whom it all matters. He sounded so happy, so energized.

We have had strange conversations about racism, my father and I. Not so strange, all things considered, but they’re sometimes not what one’d expect from a guy who once took fire hoses in the face to combat racism, and who ditched what easily could have been his best romantic relationship to do that work. He’s very anti-affirmative action, for instance, primarily because he feels like it’s asking my generation to “pay” for something that other generations did. I disagree with him on this point, I always have. For starters, I don’t feel like we’re paying for anything, that there is any sort of price I pay for affirmative action at all: while I don’t have a lot of privilege, I am visibly white, and even with things like affirmative action, privileges are and have been extended to me that are not and have not been to those of color. I don’t see anyone of color taking anything away from me with it, and I also feel like any band-aid we can have while the still wide-oepn wound of racism remains fresh and bloody is important. Really, I could care less about it from my vantage-point: it doesn’t hurt me in any way at all, and even if it did, I’m aware enough of the privilege I do have that when my privilege increases someone else’s burden, I want to do what I can to bring that in better balance. I’ve learned this from a lot of people and places in my life, but it’s odd to be pointing this out to a man who may well have been the first person to teach me to do that. Let’s even say that somehow, policies like affirmative action actually made it so that we whiteys were on the bottom of the olde race hierarchy for a time (yeah, I’m laughing, too): we’ll freaking well live. Everyone else has for a damn long time, after all.

Besides, it’s not like people of my generation are not still doing exactly the things that make affirmative action needed. Oh, if only.

My Pop is often of the mind that the playing field is somehow already level.

Mind, the neighborhood he lives in, the one we used to live in together, is over 80% of color. It’s also exceptionally dangerous, being one of the biggest gang neighborhoods in Chicago, and also THE place for metric arseloads of dealing and prostitution (yes, you’d think he’d realize that that alone should be a big, neon sign that the playing field when it comes to race is hardly level, but alas). White people TIPTOE through that neighborhood unless they’re cops, and no one with half a brain is going to be spouting racist bullshit on a regular basis over there, but only because of a fear of being directly hurt for doing so. He VERY infrequently leaves that neighborhood.

By virtue of barely being off-street, my father also looks that part. In other words, many of the same kinds of biases racist people have against people of color come into play with homeless people, so. I was trying to explain to him on the phone that when I find myself in spaces and situations where no one knows who I am, what my background or beliefs are; when all they can see is what sex I am and what color, I hear this crap a’plenty. When Briana and I were at the State fair in MN during my last visit, we got a serious doozy, as an example.

We saw a bathroom where the line wasn’t too bad, and while neither of us had to go, I figured it was best to go in advance so that when I was about to wet my pants, I wasn’t going to have to stand in one of those lines. So, in line we went. In a few minutes, two or three pre-teen black girls stepped out of the line for a minute, and walked past us, pretty clearly to go see what was taking so long and how bad the wait really was. When they turned around, they appeared to be doing that little bob one does when one has to pee like a racehorse. I asked if they had to go pretty bad, and got given the “ohmygodohmygodI’mgoingtopeeonthefloor” look we all get when we’ve hit that point, and so just said they could just take my place in line, since I really didn’t have to go, anyway, and certainly not that bad.

Behind Bri was a perfect blond woman with her perfect blond children in her perfectly shiny stroller and her perfectly shiny clothes, and the moment I did that, I heard her say, quite audibly, “What is this, affirmative action?”

I made a point not to turn around, because I just did not know what would have come out of my mouth if I did. Bri did turn, and shot her a look, because she then said (not at all apologetically), “I’m sorry, I’m a redneck.” Because that justifies everything, you know. Without the look, she likely wouldn’t have said anything at all, and part of saying what she did was based on her presumption that everyone around her was also racist, because most of the people around her were also white. So comfortable is someone like that in that, that they WILL say something like that, loudly, nearly anywhere because they’ve no reason at all to fear that they’ll be unsupported in their sentiments or be harmed in any way for them.

So, I’m telling my Dad this as an example, and explaining that of COURSE she would not have said anything like that if the girls I let go ahead of me were white. Or her kids. She likely wouldn’t have said anything at all, really. I told my Dad about the time Mark and I were at that B&B in Whiterock, right after Katrina, and how the older Canadian woman who owned it with her husband literally asked me, in absolute seriousness, why “those” people ever “chose” to live in that area way back when in the first place. And how I sat there, floored, trying to drop clues about the history of slavery and the legacy of poverty and the boon of being with one’s family in the hopes that with one, two, maybe even three, she’d realize what freaking stupid things she was saying sooner rather than later. I dropped a lot of clues, and some not so hinty-direct statements. She never got it. We excused ourselves from breakfast early and got the hell out of there.

Oh, I have stories, we all have these stories. But I don’t want to sit recounting them: they’re just too maddening, even to me.

My father just kept saying to me, the other day, that he just could not, would not, believe things were still like this in 2007. He finally at least said that he just didn’t want to. I tried to explain that my impression with this generation in particular (high school and college-age right now), was that I’m seeing a lot of hardcore resentment amoung plenty of youth when it comes to racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, the works. Plenty seems to feel like and express that asking them to take stock of their privilege and consider it when dealing with others is something they are entitled NOT to do (yes, I know, it’s such an obvious symptom of the thing that it’s not even ironic: it’s plain old literal), that they should not HAVE to do (because it’s such a strain on them to act and speak with compassion), and that I’m a big old asshole for even suggesting they do. So much of the ugly history of racism isn’t something many even know or care to know, and for those who do, it often seems very far away, when it’s really only-yesterday stuff, and in many ways, still-today stuff. I could go on about this for a solid year, really, it’s one of the toughest parts for me of working with young people right now, but the point is, his awareness of this isn’t so great.

My Dad is also all about everything really boiling down to class issues: I got my first socialism from him, to be sure. In some respect, I agree with him, but in others, I really don’t. (And we’ve had similar discussions about sexism.) Mostly, I don’t think we can untangle all of these things so easily, especially given the ways they intersect, and for whom they intersect most. But perhaps more to the point, I don’t find that most people are sophisticated enough, or maybe more accurately have the desire or the interest in deconstructing and examining all of this enough — because when you do, of course, you have to take more personal responsibility for certain things — to be able to even make those distinctions. Plus, it can be about class all it wants, but we still have to acknowledge that not only are more women and more people of color lower-class, but that the impact of classism is greater when you’re dealing with compounded minority.

I also have to remember, though, that my father was and has been exceptionally depressed that all the activist work he did was for naught in many ways, and that that’s a big driver in these discussions and feelings. The civil rights movement absolutely did some good, but it didn’t erase racism: the friends he had who lost lives or health in doing that didn’t lose them for nothing, but they also didn’t lose them for what they’d hoped for. The anti-war movement with Vietnam was important as hell, and made some difference, but here the hell we basically are again, all that history forgotten or dismissed. He didn’t change the world, and he really, really wanted to: he sacrificed a lot trying. It’s very hard for my father to have to deal with the fact that, for instance, racism is still alive and well and not just living in Lousiana and Alabama but also in Maine, New York and Seattle. It’s hard because of what it means about the world, but it’s also hard because of how it makes him feel about himself.

* * *
I’m finally putting up a few new photo sets today, and making more headway in my backlog. The sets going up later today include a set of photos of a transgender friend currently IDing as genderqueer: I’ve been dying to do some transition photos of someone for a long time.

It was her idea to do a series in which she was in her clothing of choice, nude, and then in old boy-clothes. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I’m pleased as hell with the results. But I’m very glad she suggested it, because it’s not something I’d have felt at all comfortable in suggesting to her myself, much in the same way that I wouldn’t for a minute feel comfortable suggesting that a cisgendered woman pose in stiletto-heels and corsetry and makeup, even if I had some brilliant creative intent, if dressing that way would make that woman feel terribly uncomfortable and put in a drag she didn’t like (and as far as I’m concerned, it’s drag no matter who’s got it on — some folks just happen to like being in drag). As it was, seeing how Amy looked, mood-wise, in the boy clothes, I was RACING to take those shots: it was earnestly painful for me to watch her face kind of fall.

Per the final results, I hate to talk over artwork, but I think the images are incredibly telling. I did almost wish that I had had an assigned-sex woman who doesn’t dig girl-drag to do a sort of mirror of them — one in her regular clothes, another nude, and another in say, hardcore Victorian garb or, say, head-to-toe fetish latex blah-de-bah. But another day (and again, she’d probably have to volunteer to do it herself: I’d just feel so ooky asking someone to stand around like that who didn’t want to).

Next up, finishing Becca’s pregnancy shots as well as my first shots of baby Odin, who is — of course he is — cute as the freaking dickens.

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

The good news is that I have come home to a much improved little pug.

The day I left, I had Mark go back to the vet with Sofia, who in taking a next step, put her on some Cortizone tabs. One to cover all of the bases, I let Mark know to keep an eye peeled for sleep disturbances, appetite changes and the like.

But I must confess, I was a little concerned about my wee dog being on the ‘roids. It’s always the innocent looking ones you’ve got to watch out for, after all. I should know: I live with two such creatures, one furry, the other, not so much.

So, I was also sure to tell him to be on the lookout for breast growth, facial shape changes, weight gain, irritability and serious mood swings, hyper-aggression about her lack of treats and desire to eat the cat food, sexual harassment, outright assault (I suggested her perhaps just sleep alone for a bit: I love him too much to see him psychologically scarred by a snorty dog jumping him while calling him Sally) looting, and above all else, made him swear that no matter how aggro she got or what kind of puppy eyes she gave him, he was absolutely not to cave in when she insisted on the purschase of weight training equipment.

But lo, all it has resulted in is the dog finally ceasing the infernal itching and Mark finally getting to sleep through the night, unmolested and all.

Unfortunately, Sofi is currently the only one experiencing any relief from her allergies right now. I got whacked with a full-force attack in Minneapolis, which went from bad to worse with an evening spent in a friend’s house with two male cats.

On the flight back home yesterday afternoon, in a Benadryl-induced haze already, my ears completely plugged up during the last hour of the flight, to the point where I was literally unable to hear anything. Given there were not one but two exceptionally unhappy infants on the plane who didn’t stop screaming for a millisecond, this was something of a blessing, but it’s also pretty disturbing as a normally hearing person to see a wide open screaming face and not hear a sound. I could hear a bit better slowly through the evening, but my ears only finally popped for real this morning. Yeowch.

It was a trip mostly full of babies — Becca’s new son, who is cute as the dickens, and looks like someone put a shrink-ray gun on Becca to make him, and The Baby Liam, who is less baby than certified little big boy at this point. I educated him this time in the fine art of fort-building, living room dance parties, slide-climbing, sidewalk-chalking and other very important survival skills. Then he broke my heart the day I left by being intensely unhappy I was going.

Really, I don’t want to be back in Minneapolis — especially given that my neighborhood there has continued to change so much that I couldn’t afford to live there anymore — but I would very much like it if some of the people I cared about most were not so very far away. Missing my closest friends’ kids every little stage really just freaking sucks: I take my gig as Auntie Extraordinare incredibly seriously, after all, and I’ve made a family of my friends. However, Elise and I made a barter which involves my going back in June. I had initially thought it might be a good year and a half or so until I went out that way again — I am just so wiped from all this travel — but alas, it’ll be a bit sooner.

Mark picked me up last night and, elated about the spices I brought back from him, cooked me up a scrumptious supper, peppered me with wine and bourbon and we then engaged in some very enthusiastic interpretive dance in the dining room as a welcome-home. Since the food, booze and wild gesticulating wore us right out, I had to wait until this morning to jump his bones. There’s always something particularly nice about telling someone you’re so terribly sorry you made them a bit late for work but not truly being sorry for it in the slightest.

So, I’m back in the saddle as of tomorrow, and got a little head start today.

On that note, from now through September 16th, we have an arrangement with the popular Broadway play My First Time for ticket vouchers for Scarleteen donors. I’m doing it blind-auction style, so they’ll go to the 18 donors who give the most, and can be used through the end of October. More details are here for those interested in donating or circulating the information, particularly to New Yorkers and other nearby east-coasters. I’d love it if readers could circulate that info: it remains a bad year for us, and this is a nice opportunity for us and donors. Thanks!

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

I don’t want to deal with the bad parts of the trip just yet. I still feel a little shellshocked about it, to the degree that when telling my Dad just about the car accident on the phone today, and he started talking about lawyers and all that, I completely snapped at him, which is something I very, very rarely do. Yesterday, today and likely for the next couple of days, I just want to enjoy the bliss that is being back in my own place, in my own bed, with my own dog, and with the ability to almost completely control who I see and deal with in a given day without any wild cards. For the most part, I’m curling up under the covers like a kicked puppy.

I also don’t want to talk about the shite because there were some really good things amidst all the yuck.

Like, for instance, getting to spend the day with one of my favorite living contemporary artists, including a lot of walking, touring her around the Art Institute, a lovely dinner at Reza’s, and hours and hours of nonstop conversation and mutual admiration. We also planted a tiny seed for a possibly great idea in the not-at-all-near future, and not only is it a good seed, it’s plain old wonderful to be planning something with someone as overextended as myself who completely gets that saying you want to do something a year or two down the road with them is not only not unreasonable, but ideal. Laurie is so very many kinds of brilliant and glorious, and if I hadn’t have started that first full day of the trip with her, I may well have lost my mind before it was over.

The Early to Bed event was absolutely fantastic. We had parents, sisters, a clergy student, an adolescent public health administrator, teachers and friends of teens, all clearly there because they all gave that much of a shit. One thing I’ve been coming to realize a lot lately in terms of the struggles I’m having with Scarleteen is that it isn’t problematic just because I work with sexuality. It’s also — and perhaps just as much — because I work with a population that, for the most part, no one, sparing companies wanting to gather teenage cash, could care less about. If I did the kind of work I do for small children with cancer, rather than with teenagers with pregnancies or STIs or body image or gender dysphoria or sexual trauma or just plain agony, I’d be in a very different place. So, when I find myself in a room full of people all dedicated to doing what they can to be supportive of teens and do what they can to help them out, it’s very feel-good for me. That event ended up tackling some serious topics, but also being more stand-up comedy/put-people-at-ease Heather than the WCF event later in the week (and I’ll get to that event at a later date).

The winner of the best exchange for the evening was a mother asking if she needed to be concerned about giving her 12-year-old too much information. To give an example, she described hearing her and a friend getting into a giant argument in the basement, and had gone downstarirs to see what the fracas was about. When she got downstairs, her daughter, in a huff, said, “Mom, is it ANAL sex or ABLE sex?” My response (before I addressed the larger issue of TMI and why it’s really not something to worry about in this regard), was that it likely depended on who was having it, really.

Extra bonus? My Aunt Ginny showed up. I told a few people there that night about the fabulousness that is my Aunt Ginny, but for y’all in the cheap seats, I have loved this woman since the first time I met her when I was around seven years old.

She’s an aunt by marriage, in my mother’s side of the family. Understand that my mother’s family — especially my now deceased grandparents — was incredibly traditional and insanely stifling, on top of being abusive. Even at that young age, it had already been made very clear to me that I did NOT belong. In fact, in looking through family photos with Mark at my mother’s house last week, I found a photo of me at around 2 or 3, on the farm, with my mother seeming to introduce me to a black sheep. If that photo had had a word blurb, it would have said, “Heather, meet the black sheep. Black sheep, meet Heather. I think you’ll get along famously: you have a lot in common.” It’s one of the most symbolic childhood photos of me I’ve ever seen.

There was a family dinner that night, and I remember all this to-do about some big scandal with my uncle’s new wife. The Very Big Deal? That she MADE him do the DISHES. Gasp! (I didn’t get it, for the record: while I have plenty of valid beefs about my childhood and upbringing, one I do not have is that we had very fluid gender roles between my folks, to the degree that my Dad was the stay-at-home parent in my early childhood, and my mother the breadwinner.)

This given, even before she showed up, she seemed very, very exciting, and very appealing, since I’d already figured out that anyone my grandmother and grandfather really didn’t like was usually exceptionally cool.

When she finally appeared, she showed up in this somber, sober house of buttoned-to-the-chin people in these crazy black lounging pajamas with feather boas at the cuffs, crazy black hair all over the place, and sat telling off-color jokes to a completely unreceptive audience for the whole of the evening. I was in LOVE with her: she was the first woman I had met in that family who I wanted to be when I grew up. (She tells me that the feeling was mutual: she saw a wee ally in me right off the bat, and ever since, if one of us gets stuck at a family gathering without the other, we’re seriously bummed.) She’s also one of these women who seems to excel at absolutely everything, even though she is fickle as hell. She’ll decide she’s going to do something career-wise totally out of nowehere, with no background, wind up doing better than the folks with the background, and just when she’s peaking, she gets bored and moves on: it’s like she’s managed total non-attachment, effortlessly, to the stuff most folks are highly attached to. Plus, she’s the mother of teenagers who are actually bummed out when they can’t hang out with her: talk about an anomoly.

Last she told me, she was thinking about starting a heavy metal band next. I can’t tell you how much I love the idea of a metal band made of fifty-something suburban mothers: I want to hear a handbanging, screeching anthem about menopause or grocery store parking lot traffic so badly, it makes my uterus ache.

So, Ginny showed up, and we went out for drinks after the event with she, my friend Erika, a friend of hers, and one very awesome event-goer.

Who, FYI, I filled in on something Very Important to Know about book events, and that is this: there are two kinds of people who wind up at drinks or dinner with you after events. There are the one or maybe two people who are so cool you invite them along — that was her — and then there is the one, and it usually always seems to be one, who not only do you just find at the table with you without having invited them at all, but who is inevitably the absolute LAST person from an event you’d invite. Now, I’m not sure there was even anyone at that particular event who would have been in that latter group, but I’m glad we avoided that all the same, especially since NOTHING ever seems to make those people go away. NOTHING.

We stayed out late. Very late. By the time Ginny came back with me to Erika’s (after winning every woman in a ten-mile radious over completely, as is her way), it was 2:30 in the morning, and after she passed out face-first on the couch, Erika and I stayed up until four. The only downside to the evening was that for the first time since I moved away from Chicago, the whole evening left me feeling very homesick (and a little tipsy, but that part was nice).

Let’s see, what else…?

Millennium Park for an afternoon with my Dad. I ended up tearing up watching so many happy kids play in the fountain, in part because something else I’ve realized lately is that unlike when I was doing classroom teaching, I don’t really get the good stuff with the bad stuff in terms of my “students.” I mostly get the crisis, their hardship, their agony. For sure, I do get to see them often feel better about it, and feel better over time, but it’s incredibly rare for me to get ONLY the happy bits without the awful ones.

Much-missed time with my mother’s partner, who somehow manages to be one of the most brilliant women I know — and who also works in a challenging arena: she’s a Holocaust scholar — but also the most hilarious. To whit, after the WCF event Friday, we met Mark (who came into town a handful of days after I did) at an Italian banquet hall doing karaoke in La Grange, where my mother now lives. Until you have seen a Kenosha-bred, polish-sausage eating, femme in a butch body (her self-description), doing Baby Got Back flawlessly, with drunken suburbans fawing all over them, you haven’t seen nothin’.

Some time with my mother was good: but that’s more complicated and for another entry. same goes for time with my sister and some of my mother’s family.

At the WCF event, not only do I believe I have started a new friendship with an exceptional woman, one of the attendees came up afterwards to get two books signed and explained to me — while apologizing for it, of all things — that I was the role model and shero of she and her closest friend in college and grad school, and that my work had inspired them beyond bounds to work in this field. It’s not so much what she said, but the look on her face when she said it. There’s something amazing that happens sometimes when you’re just as touched to meet and connect with someone else as they are with you, for entirely different reasons, and she made my whole week, easy.

Just because it deserves a second mention: my mother’s partner. Baby Got Back. Don’t believe me? Ask Jen (who it was also so wonderful to see: it had been too long).

I also went to Chicago with a photo project in mind. The plan was to take photos of places which were important — good stuff, bad stuff, the whole gamut — in my childhood and adolescence. Given how much places change, and knowing already that a few locales of import already were going to look very different, my goal was/is to take photos to build a large wall piece of many small photos, posted with (and I still need to figure out how to engineer this) brief summations of what happened there, and why that given place was important.

In doing this, I had to go to a few very difficult places to revisit. But the biggies were the hair salon where the man who cut our hair molested me at 11, and then the site where I was gang assaulted at 12. Before I’d moved from Chicago, even driving by those places was beyond difficult, and often resulted in me breaking down a few blacks later, feeling fearful and traumatized all over again.

But this time — perhaps I’ve simply had enough time or distance — not only did I not break down, but I was even able to stand right in the parking lot, right where I was assaulted, without tears, without feeling scared or triggered. In fact, I felt incredibly strong standing there, as if a car could even pull in and hit me and it’d bounce right off as my feet and legs were firm and unmoved. It was an unexpected response: I’d prepared myself to feel very upset and vulnerable, and it just didn’t happen that way at all.

In addition, I got to see the house that was my hell, where I also had expected to respond badly. But the house that was so awful for me clearly had a loving family living in it for whom it was now a haven. There were beautiful, joyful chalk drawings all over the sidewalk, and things left astray on the walk, in the accepted disorder of a creative, lively childhood, which made clear that the life being lived there was a good one. It felt like what had since been lived there had somehow washed away the badness, which left me feeling just a few more steps closer to free.

Also? BOTH my parents came to the WCF event. Both of them being in the same place at the same time is an incredible rarity, and while I accepted from childhood that I was never going to have that thing where both your parents were in any way a unit or pair, that it can happen at least every decade or so, even in a limited context, with limited contact, is a luxury and a gift.

I got to see my favorite ex, his kids and his partner, who I like a whole lot, twice, once by myself (though I nearly slept through it, since it was the morning after the night out with Erika and Ginny, where I couldn’t determine if I was hungover from the booze or from my aunt), and once with Mark. That second visit, they’d caught a small mouse in their house. They’d named him Springy, due to how he kept bouncing in the big jar they had him in, but I felt more comfortable calling him Mr. Springy, since I felt it was a bit presumptuous to be so familiar with him when we’d only just met. Since Judy was heading out to Michfest with the girls the next day, and had no time to get out of the city before to set him free, I took on the job myself, knowing there was a forest preserve by my Mom’s on our way back. As it turned out, we went in the wrong entrance, which was labeled as government property only. Mr. Springy and I had a small moment, and I felt certain that he was well up for not only going out on his own in the woods, but infiltrating the government at the same time. I expect great things from him: fight the power, Mr. Springy.

In Ohio, I got to meet both one of my longtime Scarleteen volunteers as well as one of our most active All Girl Army bloggers, both of whom drove some distance to see me, and both of whom were just as exceptional as I had thought them to be. While I can’t exactly call it a perk, upon leaving the coffeehouse for a smoke, I had a man on the street feel the profound need to invent a song and then loudly rap it, singing the praises of my ass. Really, I don’t even think he meant to be lecherous (my backside has inspired — if you can call it that — some odd behaviour from people for a long time, many of which found themselves clearly infected with, and rather embarassed by, Tourette’s), but I did have to explain that no, I didn’t want him to stop because I was ashamed of my bottom, but because I would rather that it wasn’t brought to the attention of the whole of lower Cincy at the moment.

Seeing Mark’s family was also a big perk: I really couldn’t ask for a more loving adjunct family. It was also a perk to see his old Appalachian grandmother: the lady loves her Bible, but she’s also a serious spitfire, and she likes to wink at me a lot.

Best conversation of that family dinner? One of Mark’s brothers was talking about how his little dog Randall had saved his life by barking right before a truck nearly ran him over.

Grandma: Well, I know what saved your life.
Brother: What?
Grandma: Jesus. Jesus was looking out for you. Jesus saved you.
Brother: So, Jesus speaks to Randall. Awesome.

* * *
Those’d be the highlights. I’m sure I’ve missed a few things in there, but in less than an hour, I’m heading out with Fish to go and see Patti Smith, which is just the very thing for me right now (please: as if it ever couldn’t be). A goddess-in-the-flesh (and homage to black sheep everywhere), a good friend and a couple of cocktails will do me quite nicely.

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Greetings from sunny Minnesota!

(I’m not being ironic: it’s freaking gorgeous here right now. I heart midwestern summer more than more.)

Just a quick hello, as I’m between gigs, currently hanging out on Becca’s deck, enjoying a beer and a lot of sunshine. I’m off in a little bit to the middle-of-nowhere, to celebrate The Baby Liam’s first birthday party w/Briana’s family, in the land of zero wireless and lots of cheese product on hot dishes.

I saw Liam yesterday, and he isn’t a baby anymore, he’s a very little toddler boy. Full head of hair, moving around, making a ton of noise, and reveling in his own chaos, just as he should be. I confess, I often feel a bit like an alien when I’m around babies and kids, and when I feel giant surges of love for them, I never find myself thinking, “Oh, I wish I had one of my own,” but instead, simply, “I wish I could see that kid more often.” I’m not sure if that’s really unusual — given the former reaction seems to be more common — or just whether the culture of women presented as needing to be maternal (and thus, women learning to present themselves that way) is just so huge that everyone has internalized that message, and thus, can often react differently. Of course, too, I have spent more time in the muck and the mire with other people’s children than most. In any event, I wish I could see that kid more often. We had a fantastic time yesterdat evening, and I expect that we’ll have some more before I leave.

Speaking of kids, my red-eye flight was from hell. It’s not just about getting exactly no sleep, even after taking a sleeping pill. I was seated in one of the most claustropobic seats possible, and in my row and the row behind, was surrounded by Amish family, who I haven’t been that near since I was a kid. The window was to my right, and at left, a 12 or 13-year-old boy. Not only did he snore like a mother (and here I thought, not sleeping at home for once, where Mark and Sofia are a veritable symphony of snores, that I’d get a break from snoring), but anytime I almost fell asleep, or looked asleep, he’d touch me with his fingers on my arm or my face, my guess is, out of simple curiousity. If I shifted in my seat, he’d harumph loudly, despite the fact that because I’m small and he was 12, we had plenty of room between us. The lone time I went to go to the bathroom, he was so freaking beligerent, he wouldn’t even stand up so I could get out, so I nearly had to give the kid a lap dance in having to crawl over him.

Suffice it to say, given it was Amish family, I didn’t exactly fell able to say, “Hey, sod the hell off, kid! While you’re at it, quit with the freaking snoring, wouldya?” Becca’s husband suggested I should have given him a copy of my book to read, since he was clearly so bored. Pity I didn’t think of that myself.

That child made me neither wish to have any myself NOR to be able to see him more often. And I have no doubt that that reaction on my part is exceptionally normal.

So, yesterday, I managed to nab three whole hours of sleep during the day, after which I had to do a Chicago Tribune phone interview, hoping to christ I didn’t sound as incomprehensible as I felt, but did have a fine afternoon and evening with Becca, Briana and lil’ Mr. Liam. I got to see Heather today, and expect Bri and I to make a long hangout of it tomorrow night. Sunday is the book release party, the first of the three events I’m doing while I’m here.

I’ve gotten more and more acclamated to Seattle, but not enough that the first thing I did when I got here was to call my hairstylist and my dentist and make appointments. I intend on going by the eye doctors while I’m here, as well, despite the fact that my cash flow for these things is not exactly generous at the moment. Alas.

Did have another book benchmark for me today, which is finding some libraries that ordered and are carrying the book, which in many ways, is far more important to me and of more value than bookstores carrying it. I was one of those kids for whom the public library was a second home: iwas latchkey, so it was normal for me to spend a lot of time at the library after school. In addition, when the shit really started to get super-bad at my house, one benefit of still managing to be a dedicated student is that when you won’t be allowed out of the house for anything else, you are often still allowed to get out of the house if you’re at the library. I need to make a point while I’m here in Minneapolis of heading to a couple branches with books to donate. I know I sat with my first copies of more than one vital sex book in the stacks, and it pleases me to no ned to think I can be providing the same experience for other young adults.

P.S. Just because it seems it needs to be said lately in more venues than I can shake a stick at: the feminist blogosphere is not feminism. The feminist blogosphere is not the feminist community. The feminist blogosphere is just that: the feminist blogosphere, and supposing it to be, or presenting it as, a good representation of the whole of feminism, the whole of theory, the whole of feminist activism or community is foolish. To be honest, I don’t even involve myself much at all with the feminist blogosphere or all its dramas in large part because it is so incredibly discordant to my experiences with feminism and community amoung women otherwise.

I mean, certainly, still in our culture, women as a class are in very big trouble. And still as ever, feminism is in big trouble. But in my estimation, neither are in the kind of trouble we’d think they were if we presumed the virtual community to be represnentative of the whole. And that’s the case with the blogosphere, period. It has it’s value, for sure, but an accurate representation of life and community as a whole it is not.

So, if you’re a person who feels strongly about feminism, but the blogosphere is bumming you out, I’d really encourage you to turn off the computer and go find some real-life community. Join up with your local NOW chapter, volunteer at a women’s crisis line or shelter or with a more ad-hoc feminist or women’s community, or just make your own. Names that go with faces that go with voices that go with a more visceral connection really do make a world of difference.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007


I gotta say, I’m not sure how often I give what I’d call explicit advice. If I did, I think I’d use a lot less words than I tend to and sum it all up by just answering every advice question with, “Things will always get better. And then they’ll always get worse. A good orgasm is good when they’re better and when they’re worse, and a shitty relationship is good for neither, so don’t ever promise to stick around for both.” But I digress, as I often do.

Despite how whoo-whoo the copywriter who does the front page for the P-I clearly felt the need to be, it was pretty darn cool to see that staring at me from the city paperboxes the other day. The reporter did a fantastic job and it’s a really excellent, positive piece (though I felt more than a twinge of discomfort at some of the more traumatic parts of my youth being mentioned sans context in a big paper, but then, I don’t keep it a big secret, and it is good for people to see that abuse survivors, like, DO things) — and featured on the front page, yo — which is a great energizer for me. And lord knows, I needed it. This old girl is TI-RED these days.

So often, press pieces about Scarleteen have had this sort of begrudinging acceptance. Like, “Yeah, I guess kids need this stuff but it sure sucks that they do, and yeah, I guess this woman does serve a lot of them and do a good job, but it’d sure be better is she was somebody’s nice, married, surburban Mom, and not this childless, queer, feminist skank who actually really likes having sex, and not the kind we’d prefer she liked. But I guess it’s still a good thing.”

This? Much better. And a fine how-do-ya-do, I’d say, from my new home city.

* * *

But none of that is half as cool as a phone conversation with my Dad today telling me, all choked up, that he just had the very best day of his life.

What happened?

He got to go into a bookstore and get a book solo-authored by his kid, who he has watched and mentored with her writing and work since he taught her to read, and without fail, ever since. My father may have his failings, but I cannot think of a single instance in my life when he was nonsupportive of my aspirations and my creative work, no matter what direction they went in.

Apparently, he not only felt he had to tell every single person working at the bookstore that HIS KID wrote my book, but he also sold every copy the Barnes & Noble he was at on the north side had.

As these conversations were relayed to me, the cashier, when my father was buying a copy and going on ad nauseum, said, “Oh it’s for your daughter, that’s nice,” to which my oh-so-gracious father replied, and probably loudly, since he has no idea how to speak quietly, “No, it’s BY my daughter, you dumbass.” It’s easy to see where I get my charm from, now ain’t it. Ladies and germs, my fabulous public relations department.

I guess when he walked in and found it, he saw some other woman thumbing through a copy, and he asked her about it, and she said she’d really needed something like it for her daughter. So, as he did with everyone ELSE, he made clear that HIS daughter wrote it, and — my father, toothless, road-weary and all, is a highly infectious and gregarious guy — she ended up buying a couple copies, as did someone else nearby. On top of that, he and this woman went out for coffee afterwards. Hell, even if all my book did was net my Dad some normal social contact that most people get but he rarely does (his economics and homelessness — though he’s still in the SRO — are only part of the issue, as over the past few years, he’s also become pretty agoraphobic, not surprisingly given his neighborhood), that’d be a damn fine result.

But sitting and listening to one’s parent, especialy a parent who has been around some serious luminaries in their day, and had one helluva life, tell you that seeing and buying your book (especially with the peanuts they have for cash) was the best day of their life is a really wonderful, loving, incredible thing to have happen as someone’s child.

Of course, I cried like a freaking baby. I mean, bloody HELL.

Especially considering that just the day before today, I’d gotten a small package from him in the mail with a letter that closed with this.

* * *

Still been chugging away every day with Garrett to get to a finish on the full site upgrade for Scarleteen. It’s looking phenomenal, and I’m really excited, especially considering how much easier some of this system will make my life. But days and days on end of making graphics and staring at code utterly fries my brain and makes my limbs feel like lead weights. How you techies out there do this shit every day of every year is completely beyond me.

It’s one thing to do it when combined with other work — I code and do graphics regularly, but I’m also writing, doing more creative work, at the same time — or when you have the time to take long breaks, grab a walk or a hoop or a yoga fix. But given our deadline and the crazy amount of work that shifting an almost ten-year-old site (how the hell did THAT happen?) into an entirely new format and layout, there’s been so much work packed into the day that half the time, I’m forgetting to eat and barely have time to wipe my own butt.

I did carve out a few hours today to fit in two photo shoots with visiting friends, and get contact made with another major paper who wants to do a piece, but now I have to get cracking. In the barely-more-than-24 hours I have left before I go to Minneapolis for a week and a half, I have got to get a pile of books addressed and sent, do laundry, pack up clothes, photo equipment and book stuff, eat some dinner, have sex (hey, when you’re going out of town and know it’ll be a while, you need to be pragmatic about fitting it in), grab The Baby Liam an extra birthday present, deal with some banking, do more work with the site upgrade and maybe lose my mind just a little more before I pass out on my midnight flight.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

(all things great and small)

One of my favorite things about living in the Pacific Northwest, is that I am constantly reminded about how very small we actually are, just by opening my eyes and looking skyward.

Becca was here visiting over the weekend, and we went out to West Seattle Sunday afternoon, and got a chance to spin over to the other side of the water and take a nice walk in Lincoln Park (which seems strange, being natively from Chicago, where Lincoln Park = yuppie lunacy, not water and earth). On the drive home, we were both chatting about simply not understanding the mindset of most mountain climbers, who seem to look at a giant range and think “Conquer it!” while we just find ourselves in an appreciative awe, glad to let her have her power, to diminish us bny nothing but perspective and history, to pose those gentle reminders that the world is very, very big and we are very, very small, and that Very Big is made of the Very Small, besides.

There are other places to get this sort of thing, of course, but I just love being somewhere where there are trees right here, in my own yard, I couldn’t hug with a circle of four people locking hands, they’re so wide, so massive and so old. When I left Chicago in ‘99, I had many reasons for doing so, but one was that I had gotten to a point where while the urban was familiar, and I never had any problems being urban, I need plenty of green mixed into my city. Minneapolis did me right on that score, and Seattle does a fine job, too.

But as more time passes, I think that ultimately, my life is perhaps leading me to a place where maybe twenty or thirty years from now, it’s rural or village life I’ll crave. The mere fact that every couple of years, I feel a strong urge to reread Pilgrim at Tinker Creek sends that message loud and clear, and the fact that however much I love my cities, I feel more at home, in the most basic way, in the quiet and the green, in the dirt under my fingernails and the scuffs on my knees.

* * *
I just got a phone call from my sister today, wishing me a happy birthday a day in advance.

That perhaps seems mundane, unless you bear in mind that I get calls from my sister maybe once every five years. I suspect that besides her earnestly wanting to wish me a happy birthday, the call may have come because our mother has been ill. We think she’ll pull through, but we’ve had a big scare and a big shock lately, and since my sister has never had a relationship with my father, our mother is really our only tie, and that may loom larger just now.

We never got on growing up — we’re just incredibly different, and our parents also treated us very differently — and when I left home to get out of the hell I was in, it cemented a distance we’d had already, and which would only grow wider as the years went by. The fact that she was yet one more person in my mother’s family who met me with dissaproval and disbelief from day one, no matter what I did has never helped, and neither has the fact that years back, I just plain gave up trying to fill her in on all that happened to me she didn’t know about: she didn’t want to know, and while it’s possibly crappy of me to not have tried again in a decade or more, I just got tired and worn too thin trying so hard to get that branch of the family to hear me and understand or accept all I’d been through.

I struggle often with the fact that all in all, I have been a great big sister to so many women, but a really shitty one to my own flesh and blood, and it’s so hard to rectify or know how to fix, especially with someone so different than me, who in so many ways dislikes who I am and what I do with my life, and whose emotional/psychosocial makeup is so foreign to me. My sister is like my mother in that regard: very guarded, very nervous, very uncomfortable even hugging, and very, very freaked out by anything that even remotely rings of conforntation, so even in the moments when we connect and might almost get along, it’s like we’re two people who speak two entirely different languages which share no roots.

* * *
The book cover FINALLY went up at Amazon, far late in the game, but I can’t figure out why the image looks so mushy. Stupid Amazon.

But bonus: Jane and I are going to the Olympus for my birthday tomorrow, and Ben and I — whose birthdays are within a day of each other, and who both have sweetie-less birthdays this year as our partners both got stuck with commitments they couldn’t get out of — are having some sort of to-do Friday. Plus, there is a very big present covered in Muppet wrapping paper sitting on my office floor from Mark.

Old as any of us get, the gargantuan allure of the Very Big Present remains.

(It doesn’t make noise when I shake it. I tried. It’s just heavy. Hmmm. Big. Present.)

* * *
Yesterday at Scarleteen, a 19-year-old user made a post about a friend’s mother, just older than me, who had, since this girl was 14, treated her all BFF and gained her trust and loyalty… then wound her way into a lesbian relationship with her. She essentially appears to have done this to spice up her existing live-in relationship, by doing things like sending sexed-up emails to this girl, then forwarding them to her partner to get some good jealousy going, and having sex with this girl one afternoon, then shoving her out the bedroom door to let the primary partner in for their turn, knowing this poor kid was standing right in the other room listening and clueless.

And of course, this girl is torn as hell, feeling she owes this older woman “willing” to be her friend for so long all this loyalty; feeling used and wanting out, but not knowing how to do it without somehow being a bad person in her mind, and also putting her relationship with her best friend, the woman’s son, in a pickle.

Christ, people are goddamn awful sometimes — what the FUCK is wrong with people like this? — and some days, there just aren’t words and it just overwhelms completely. There are days when I really love my job, but there are days when I just really, really don’t, solely because the crap people pull with young people, and the shit so many of them have to wade through needlessly, that what little we can do to help out just feels silly.

* * *
I have a meeting this afternoon with the owener of the Belltown martini bar where we’ll most likely be having the Seattle version of the book release party, emails to get out for more book promo, including to the owner of the space which will hopefully be up to hosting the Minneapolis release party, workworkwork coming out of my ears, and a bedroom floor so overflowing with laundry that we couldn’t find the bed last night under all of it.

And unless I’m going to go to this meeting in my pajamas — which sounds wonderful to me, but likely won’t be recieved that way — it’d be sage for me to actually do some of it right now. Bummer.

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

There’s something highly amusing about spending the evening in a hundred-year-old dive bar, and playing poker for (oyster) crackers with my Dad and Mark.

Really, it’s all the more giggle-inducing when you’re “gambling with crackers” while sitting across the table from the whitest guy in the universe (my melanin-impaired boyfriend).

Best exchange of the evening?

Mark (who won big, but refused to throw all the won cracker-chips into his mouth and munch them crazy, crumbly Cookie Monster-style to amuse me): I am the WINNER! You are the LOSER!
Me (calmly): No, I am simply a person without crackers.
Mark (incredulously, to my Dad): Do you see how this goes? Amazing. Even a simple poker win is somehow political. How does she do that?

My Dad just chuckled and shot me a grin. Apple, tree, my friends.

(By the by, when playing for crackers, don’t space out and eat some of yours. It kind of screws you over. This is especially vital when playing for actual chips, especially if you value your teeth.)

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Ah, redesign.

So, while my father is still sleeping — and why he always insists on sleeping on the couch when I set up a room for him, I will never know — with my pug curled on his legs, I’m sitting in the office here downstrairs working on the redesign for Scarleteen.

Because in a month or so, the site revamp really should be finished so that when the book rolls out, the site looks its best and also has the supports needed to help sell and promote the book.

Umm, eek.

My end of the work isn’t huge, really: the users have always liked our design scheme and vibe, so I’m not making ginormous changes, just some sprucing up, and some work to create a layout that will both work in Drupal and be more useable overall. We also need some text design upgrades. Thank christ the users like the yellow jammie stripes we’ve had for years, because I couldn’t bear to part with them: they’re just so cozy. In fact, without even realizing I was doing it, I like them so much I unconsciously painted the upstairs studio in the exact same stripes.

(My poor AGA blogger and also longtime Scarleteen user who visited me a couple weeks ago had to feel like she was sleeping inside the site. Thankfully, most of our houseguests aren’t Scarleteen users, so they just find the stripes fresh and charming, rather than a little disturbing. Maybe the stripes are the issue with my Dad, though. Hmm.)

Truth be told, I miss design work. Back in the day, when I first started all the sites, I did a lot of freelance web and ad design to keep me afloat, and it was one of those things I rarely got tired of doing. It always feels a bit like rearranging your room, when you’ve got an existing design, with existing limits and contraints, but you get to freshen it up a bit so — ideally — you get that fine combination of the comfort and familiarity of your old room with the feeling that you’ve inherited a new one.

I wish I could donate every minute of the next couple of weeks to doing this, because fiddling with colors and text, moving things around to see how they fit, fashioning patterns and such is just a seriously good time. It’s the kind of work you can very easily lose hours and hours in without knowing they passed, and any work that has that effect is always my favorite.

Of course, we’ll see if I still feel this way about it once I get it done to the point where Garrett and I start trying to fit it into Drupal and make everything work. It’s always the functionality stuff that bursts my happy-play-with-the-pretty-colors bubble.

* * *
While I’m doing this, I’m also talking IM with Becca about Montessori and such for her in-utero kid. It’s awesome to be able to talk to her about this stuff, but it’s also a really big bummer not to be there with her for all of this. Moving here has had a lot of perks, but there have been some very real losses, and not being able to see the closest friend I’ve ever had, especially right now, is absolutely one of them.

Thankfully, she has a visit here scheduled for a few weeks from now, too. Here’s hoping that when she leaves I don’t end up with a reenactment of the night before I moved from Minneapolis, when I had a cry about leaving her and Briana that I — and poor Mark — wasn’t sure would ever end. I’ve had some hard, hard breakups in my life, but it’s been really rare for me to end up upset to that level, where breathing was difficult, where I didn’t think I would ever stop drying, and where your stomach muscles hurt from sobbing so hard. Over the first couple months I lived here, I’d have to make myself just not think about Becca and Bri, because when I did, I’d end up a big, weepy mess all over again.

Anyone who supports the cultural mandate that romantic relationships are by default somehow the most important, more important and bigger than any other, has never had a cry like that over having to part with friends.

And now I’m missing teaching in the classroom, to boot. Best get back to designing to chase the impending blues away, and to, you know, get it done.

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

A brief interlude to send a few more thanks for folks blogging about and helping out with Scarleteen fundraising efforts — in no particular order: edwarddain wrote this GORGEOUS entry here, we’ve got Miz Daisy Cutter here, Kythryne and Amy did an awesome thing over here, Amanda wrote a zinger of an entry, and also thanks to Figleaf (who I’ve started reading off and on lately, I dig his style), Pescana, faymar, Naamah and Cecily. More thanks to everyone: right now, we’re just over half of our fundraising goal for this push, which is awesome, and all thanks to people spreading the word this way.

I’m hoping for a fairly mellow weekend. I just spent the last 36 hours or so fending off a rabid pro-lifer across two of my sites (must be that time of the month), and am bitter and exhausted, but glad to see that (knock on wood) she appears to have become quickly bored, or perhaps, with the weekend here and her working spouse around, needed to actually take care of her precious children, rather than harass myself and a couple of someone else’s children at Scarleteen. I do have most of the posts filed away for a later date, however, for what will make a fine study in the 24-hour life cycle of an anti-choice escalation.

On the upside, no telling if it’ll pan out or not, but the last time I flew my Dad up here, we got him an application for low-income housing up here. Given they sometimes have waiting lists as long as two years, we weren’t all that hopeful for an immediate answer, but lo, an opening in one came up yesterday, and I’m going to check it out for him Monday morning.

The Low Income Housing Institute here is a very, very cool thing. I particularly appreciate them trying to build in nice neighborhoods: all to often, people underestimate or just don’t understand the effect living in a ghetto has on a person. It’s hard enough to barely get by, and to live more-than-leanly, but to have to do it in a neighborhood where you get mugged all the time, where your safety is a 24/7 concern, where it’s just as dangerous to walk during the day as it is at night, where street prostitutes are getting beat on my their pimps right out your window every night is just beyond, especially as years go by. My father has now been mugged nine times in his life. He has all of about four teeth left in his head.

I can’t live like that again, myself, and I didn’t deal with it even half as long as my father has. I actually had to ask Mark (Seattle is the only city he’s lived in: he grew up in suburban Ohio) to stop talking, even casually, about moving to L/A. or New York on a whim, in part because we just bloody moved. But mostly it’s because when I moved from Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul, I got used to not having to worry every night when I went to bed about break-ins, not having to step over drunks in my lobby in the morning, not finding human waste literally steaming on my doorstep, not having cats to deal with mice and rats, or having to walk from the el or my car with my keys splayed through my fingers in one hand, mace in the other, in a constant state of on-the-alert. When I left Chicago, I was living in a tiny basement barely-apartment with a concrete floor, one radiator on the ceiling which didn’t provide me any heat at all, a stalker, no security, and with my van getting broken into about once a month. All this for a rent that was not dirt-cheap, and only because the oweners of the house were doing me a very big favor in letting me live there to keep me from winding up on the street after an eviction from another place before, a place I lived through the previous winter in without electricity and gas, and where I ate maybe once every two days, for a period of several months.

Had I stayed living in and like that, I wouldn’t have known the difference in any tangible way, but since I didn’t, and close to ten years now have passed since I did, I just can’t go back. I don’t want to, and I don’t want anyone else I care about to have to live that way, either.

My Dad loves to walk: walking has always been his solace, and that he can’t even do that to find peace is grotesque. The place I’m seeing on Monday is on the top of Queen Anne Hill: it is in a gorgeous, safe neighborhood, and this particular building is only open to seniors and the disabled, so I’m hopeful. It’s a much-sooner opening than we expected — April — and unfortunately, that possibility had my Dad a bit panicked. Living in crap really sucks, but it’s also familiar at this point, and you know how it goes, especially as it gets earlier: sometimes the hell you know feels safer than the heaven you don’t. Plus, we’ve always had these issues with his pride and my caring for him. Way back when when I ran the school and I was taking care of him, it hurt his pride, especially when I had to foot all the bills, which I get, but at the same time I feel like there must be some middle ground between his pride and self-worth and his safety and my sanity.

We shall see: he may not even get this one this time around anyway, but there being an opening this soon makes it at least feel really possible that sometime in the near future, both of us will have to worry a lot less, and things can potentially be a lot better for my Dad.

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

After my coffee permeates my brain, I’m heading out this morning to accompany my friend Ross and his eldest daughter to a skate clinic for younger girls that one of my Scarleteen users and new AGA bloggers teaches at. How cool is that? Hoping to grab some fun photos of the (as she calles them) “lil’ rippers,” and engage in the simple pleasure of watching teens be proactive. I see the more passive ones way too often for my own good.

I spent that whole day yesterday working on graphics for the upcoming Scarleteen fundraising and promotion, which included many hours of perusing stock photography until my eyes bled. Want to know something seriously sad? When you search for photos of teen women, a good half of them are half-dressed or in bikinis. Suffice it to say, the same thing doesn’t happen when you search for photos of teen men. Ugh.

Also spent some hours on the phone with my Dad, who got mugged for the now ninth time in his life: some jerk followed him from the currency exchange where he was cashing his disability check, which meant he lost the whole of his money to live on for the month. When he was last visiting here, we got him an application for low-income housing, and he got a postcard back, telling him he did qualify and would be put on the waiting list, but sweet jesus, this just can’t happen fast enough. I may need to make some calls and see if there isn’t anything to be found in the interim, because this is just lunacy. At a certain age, it’s just beyond unfair that you can’t have some small measure of safety and comfort in your life.

Speaking of certain ages, I really don’t keep up lately, but is there a dearth of sex advice and information sites for adults these days? Because over the last year, we’re getting more and more adults, some even older than I, coming to Scarleteen with earnest questions and it’s really quite weird and, suffice it to say, borderline appropriate, given the fact that it’s really important our teen and YA users have some feeling of ownership with the space. More selfishly, I have to confess that I also find most questions from middle American marrieds more depressing than almost anything a teenager could ask me. I mean, it’s one thing to have someone’s 15-year-old boyfriend not get that two minutes of obligatory heterosexual intercourse as an entire sexual experience is substandard. It’s an entirely different matter whan the partner in question is 45, for crying out loud.

Before I shove off, a desperate cry for help from me for Wordpress experts: is there anyone at all out there able to give me maybe an hour of time, max, to show me how the hell to change items in the sidebar here, which is written into my template? I haven’t even been able to add a permanent link to the book since I updated, and it’s getting really critical, as is just updating basic links, the archives and the lot. HTML I get, easy. CSS is another matter entirely. For some reason, it just all looks like Greek to me. Glad to barter for your time: if someone wants a print, for instance, I’d be happy to do a swap or suchlike, or even toss a few bucks your way. I just really, really need to be able to know how to do this basic stuff ASAP. Thanks!

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I expect to be mostly incommunicado over the next week, because my fabulous friend Mya is coming in for a visit from Minneapolis. In addition, we’re finally having the housewarming party we’ve been meaning to on Friday, and I’ve also just had the fantastic joy of spending a day and a couple evenings with Jeyoani (at right).

Big social month, apparently.

It was awesome to be able to finally meet Jey. We have a very similar spaztastic energy and enthusiasm: in fact, her first night here, we didn’t get to bed until 3 because for the life of us, we just couldn’t stop babbling. Great to be able to meet her at last: Jeyoani is the eldest daughter of my friend and mentor Cheryl, and we’ve chatted online and by phone for a couple years now, and she’d also partnered up with me in forming the AGA with Jenny and Becca.

Oddly enough, she met Mark before she met me, by way of rescuing him from a transportation fracas in L.A. about a year and a half ago. (During which I felt like a total ‘net celeb stud, by the way. He’d called me all panicked because he was there for a workshop, and his ride blew him off, so I was all, “Where are you? L.A.? No problem. Let me put out my bat-signals amoung everyone in the whole world I know, who OF COURSE will jump to help my sweetie, and we’ll fix this pronto.” In ten minutes, it was done and he was rendered utterly speechless in the wake of my supershero powers. Good times.)

It’s also a pretty cool thing when you can go out with two close friends who are also mother and daughter. The older I get, the more range my friends have in terms of age and identity, and there’s something really fantastic about that: the wider and more diverse a net I have, the happier I am. Strangely, that was always the case with my romantic and sexual relationships: not sure why with my friendships, until the past handful of years, that was less the case.

Cheesy as this is going to sound, it’s so hard for me to imagine my life without my friendships. That’s life without family. The move has been tough in that regard (it’s always especially touch to forge new friendships when you freelance), but nothing close to as tough as when I first moved to MN. I had near to a good three years there without a circle of friends, and it’s no damn wonder I got whacked with hardcore depression then.

I’m always so saddened to see the teens at Scarleteen who make their entire social lives their partners or their partners friends, and just seem to either not get or space out how important platonic friendships are. When the relationship is still ongoing, they don’t have a real support net, they often have all these troubles with abondonment issues or with giving their partners a normal amount of personal space, and it seems to kind of skew the view of romantic relationships as only one important kind of relationship. Of course, when the relationship ends, they wind up totally alone, since the friends they had were shared and there’s that usual your friends/my friends awkwardness that happens with a breakup when it comes to shared social circles.

We have a user right now who is in that spot, and just feels she’s too shy to make friends, but we’ve heard that before, and oddly, someone the same too-shy’s can cultivate romantic relationships, a disparity I can’t quite figure out.

You never want to tell them, point blank, that romantic relationships, especially at their age, tend to peter out a lot faster than they suspect, and friendships are more lasting, because a) a person only needs so much buzzkill when they’re just starting their lives and b) there are just so many variants there that neither of those things are always true, by a long shot. Truth is, during developmental years most of their relationships PERIOD will often be phasal, will come and go, or will be somewhat temporary because everyone’s identity is in such a state of flux. Note to self: figure out a nice way of explaining this — might help during those years when we often feel like no one will stick by us — without sounding like you’re saying they haven’t got a chance in hell of anyone sticking around until they’re older, and in such a way that supports the value of both their friendships and romances, and makes clear that the cultural notion that any one type of relationship is more vital than the other is hogwash.

That said, there are rooms to clean, errands to run, and still a load of catchup work to continue, all left around in a giant pile from the last few months of book craziness. If I catch up with everything that has fallen behind even by the end of this whole year, it’ll be a bleedin’ miracle.

P.S. And to be filed under the “I Need a Miracle” department (ah, those deadhead years, how I miss’em), until recently, I somehow forgot how insanely happy a bowl of steel-cut oats with raisins makes me. Almost fifteen years ago or so, I had a partner (the one who still holds the crown of my favorite ex, ever) who always made them for breakfast: at first, they seemed so utilitarian and plain, I wasn’t too excited about them. But then, the beautiful texture of the oats made itself apparent, and having someone make you warm, toasty grains in the morning was such a treat. A much-belated thank you to Michael Hays for turning me onto those delightful oats. Yummy.

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Last week I was terribly unproductive. (This week has been much better: next week best be better still.)

Having my father here was just amazing. Per usual (sparing my annoyance at the television constantly being on, especially since I’m barely used to it being in my house, period), we got into a routine almost right away, shifted right into our usual comfortable dynamic, talked a lot, walked a lot, watched movies… and I tried not to cry too much.

It’s very rare when I wish I’d made different choices in my life. I generally feel very good about the ones I have made, and the sacrifices that entails — primarily financial — are ones I can live with.

But when it comes to my Dad, I find myself wishing I had found some way to have a livelihood that involved me having money. I HATE that I had to send my Dad back to the SRO in the ghetto-hell he lives in. I hate that while he was here, it was a luxury for him to be able to walk around feeling some measure of safety; to be able to sit on a porch outside at night feeling confident he wouldn’t be shot in the head. I hate that I can’t just fix that: it should be so easy.

Sending him back home last Wednesday night was just so hard. Both because I’ll just really miss him, and because I want him to have a better life than he has, and I feel like a rotten daughter to be able to help so little. (This is about the only reason I have any investment and hope in the book selling millions of copies from a monetary perspective: wishes to the universe it does if for no other reason than it giving me the ability to move my Dad here and into someplace safe. That, and I really, really need a part-time assistant: I just get further and further behind with everything with every passing month.)

It’s reruns for anyone who has read me for a long time, but my father and I have an incredibly unique relationship. He brought a copy of “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” with him for me to watch, because, while in many respects it is a highly bizarre movie, and not representative of us, he felt the dynamic and tone of the relationship between father and daughter in that film was us to a T (and was so excited about it, he wouldn’t be quiet through the film), and he was spot-on. Strange mirror to look in, really.

I was trying to explain to Mark that in many respects, our relationship is both more sibling-like, and more spousal than parent-child. Before you get the creeps (Mark was all, “Yuck!” until I explained what I meant by that), understand that what I mean by the latter is that we’ve always shared responsibilities; it’s always been presumed I was an equal partner in our relationship and the shared aspects of our lives. In some ways, that wasn’t so great, but for an exceptionally independent child, I’m not sure what else would have really worked, and I’d say that for the most part, that approach was and has always been ideal for me.

(Save that as a small child, at one point my father insisted he’d prefer I call him Dave, rather than Dad. I became quite confused, and asked if he wasn’t my Dad. He assured me he was, but would prefer I didn’t call him that because he didn’t want to be my capital-F Father. It’s cool to give your child credit for being a smartypants, but this concept was a bit evolved for a four-year-old, especially one who once tried calling her mother by her first name in front of friends and getting a VERY negative reaction to this, which she was NOT about to risk again. Suffice it to say, after seeing me terribly tangled in his sticky web of grownup logic, he accepted that he was getting called Dad.)

Unfortunately, in the middle of my Dad’s trip, my mother also sent an email that was pretty clearly an attempt at sabotaging or sullying my Dad’s visit. I’m 36 years old, and given all the other issues my mother and I have to resolve and ever grapple with, I really, really wish that she’d find a way to let go of the negativity about my Dad. They haven’t been together for 30 years now, after all, and while it was her first relationship, and sure wasn’t easy, she’s more negative about my Dad than she was about the abusive bastard she married afterwards who nearly turned her eldest child into a total vegetable.

The time before this that I saw my Dad in Chicago — when he was doing TERRIBLY, he’s been doing much better now, he looks in far better health, he’s not as close to being on-street again — I went back to my mother’s afterward, and we ended up getting in a terrible row about him. She’d asked if I was tempted to try and care for him, and I’d explained that of COURSE I was. I explained that even given the terribleness I’d weathered with her (which I have not with him) I’d feel the same way about wanting to care for her were she in the same position. I took the time to try and talk a bit even about how hard it was to have my two parents in such radically different positions financially and per their quality of life. And she started in with the sort of thing she’d say to me when I was a child, about how she knew him so much better than I did, blah blah blah. I was angry enough that I found the chutzpah to explain that at that point, I had spent DECADES close to my father… and she had not, so it was really ludicrous at that point to tell me she knew someone better she’d been with for a handful of years who I had spent far, far more time with in my life.

That, for whatever reason, seemed to sink in that time, to my amazement. So, I expressed that henceforth, I just could NOT listen to any more strife about my father, whom she hasn’t had to deal with at all, in any respect, since I left home in my teens, and that I really expected her to respect that, especially since I felt it was just really out of order to keep putting me in the middle of a one-sided battle (my father has never talked shit about my mother to me, ever, not even when it would have been totally valid) for the whole of my life, over someone I cared very deeply for.

I thought we had an understanding on that, but the passive-aggressive email I got belied that. It’s a tough spot to be in, because pretty much since birth, my father and I have had this Heather-and-Dad-against-the-world relationship that didn’t leave room for anyone else. Even before the awfulness in my mother’s house started, our relationship was very exclusive, and I think for my mother, it meant that she didn’t get the love she wanted or expected from EITHER of us. I can imagine that all dysfunction aside, and the fact that she very much really screwed me in ways she shouldn’t have back when, we made her feel very lonely. I can imagine that it probably hurts to see how much closer I am to him than I have ever been to her, but in the same vein, the opposite is true for my sister, so it isn’t as if she doesn’t have a close relationship with a child. And lord knows, if I had NOT had the relationship I had with my father I would have been a complete basket case, and someone unable to have any kind of relationship with anyone at all, let alone my mother. Of course, too, it’s not as if as children we choose which family we connect with and who connects best with us: that I’m more like my father than I am my mother, and always have been, is in large part, hardly something I could have controlled.

Barghblehgah. Family crap. Never easy to navigate, especially in any kind of public forum, but it’s not that much easier in my head, either. I still, two weeks later, haven’t figured out how to even respond to that letter. “For the love of Pete, knock it the fuck OFF already,” is about all I’ve come up with, and I don’t see that exactly netting the best results.

In any event, the visit was wonderful. I’m so, so grateful my father was finally able to get disability, because being able to see him having gained a little bit of weight, in clean clothes, knowing that however shitty the roof, he’s got one over his head makes all the difference. It was a real treat being able to make him beautiful dinners, share some good wine, take walks, watch him play with the dog, have us both smoke too much, talk too much, and watch Mark’s amusement at our doppleganger-like mannerisms and behaviors. That I got to also have Briana and The Baby Liam here in the middle of his visit just made it all the better, especially since my Dad has always had that awesome baby and kid magnetism that just makes kids happy to be near him. It was cool to watch him with a wee one: it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. All in all, the whole works was cool: even when it’s tough, even when we’re at some kind of odds, my Dad is someone I just never get tired of being around.

Thus, though, my lack of productivity in the days immediately following. It’s hard to have the people you care for so close to you and then so far away again.

I have to get started on some backlogged photo editing today. Among what needs to be edited, I was really pleased that my father let me take some portraits of him. He doesn’t really like having his photo taken, never really has, and he wasn’t the most cooperative subject, but it seemed like such a tragedy to do so much portrait work, yet have nothing (save one of the first photo portraits I ever did, actually) of the person who is likely the most important person I’ve had with me throughout my life. I didn’t get many, but the few I did just make me really happy.

* * *

I’ll likely be stating the obvious, and sharing the feelings of many, when I say that I was only marginally excited with the FDA finally passing EC for over-the-counter use for adult women.

Yes, it IS a good thing. And yes: there are adult women (heck, including myself nowadays) for whom not needing a prescription can be pretty vital, whether it is because they are uninsured, or because in their area, there is bias afoot from their doctors per prescribing it. Of course, since the same bias generally exists with pharmacists, I’m not sure how helpful this will be in that regard for an awful lot of women.

I guess I just feel like the only reason this passed was because the FDA was tired of feeling the heat, and those politically influencing the FDA were becoming concerned about their influences becoming more and more known. I feel like this decision was made to get us to shut the hell up already and take the heat off, in a word. I want a bigger win than we got. I want the win that says, outrightly, “Shit, what a bunch of assholes we are for trying to lawfully own women’s bodies! We gotta stop this shite NOW!”

Obviously, given what I do with my time and who I advocate for, my real interest in getting EC OTC has not yet been served, because it still is NOT so for the young women who need it the most. I don’t believe it’s an issue of concern for their health, because if it was, every doctor and his uncle wouldn’t be throwing young women on the pill with the slightest menstrual complaint. After all, if there is a real concern about what is effectively a one-time dose of four birth control pills, the same concern would exist with taking those pills daily, ongoing, and in some cases, in back-to-=back use for menstrual suppression. I have not heard any such concerns.

I don’t believe it’s about concern for young women’s ability to follow the instructions for EC, as I said in a comment here to one of the AGA bloggers posts about EC:

    Two years earlier in age, young women have, and are given, the ability to follow the directions for driving a CAR, on the road, with other cars. It’s also an easy okay that married women under 18 have the ability to REAR A CHILD. Our culture has ZERO problem with putting young teens on antidepressants or Ritalin, and no trouble entertaining the idea they can use those ably. Our culture has women under the age of 18 graduating high school, passing the SAT, readying to begin military service, college, job training. And yet, we’re supposed to believe that all of these young women could not possibly handle the complexity of the following instructions on the package of levonorgestrel: Take 1 white pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex and 1 more white pill 12 hours later.

And I can’t fathom that anyone in charge believes any of us are so stupid not to see the conflict in that.

I’m glad, though it seems ludicrous this is even up for debate, that our federal government has made a decision which supports the outrageous, revolutionary notion that grown women are not children and should have access to birth control and be legally entitled to the ownership and management of our own bodies. But that should be the case for women of reproductive age, not women of legal age. Our bodies don’t wait to reproduce until we’re of voting age, after all, and many of us never even got the choice as to when to become sexually active; many women still won’t, daily.

There are greater risks to a young woman not using condoms correctly — which she can get over the counter — than to not using EC correctly. There are greater risks to a young woman not using tampons correctly, greater risks to a young women not using Advil correctly, greater risks to a young woman not using sleep aids correctly: all of which she can obtain over the counter.

This isn’t about concern, it’s about control. I recognize I am stating the obvious. Hell, my administration likely wouldn’t even deny that: for them it’s not a matter of whether or not it’s sage TO control women’s bodies, but a matter of understanding why it is not their PLACE to do so.

I’m very interested to see, when this all comes to pass, what the laws will be per adults obtaining EC for minors on their behalf. Because if it’s not expressly unlawful, that’s the first thing I’ll work on organizing, pronto.

But yes: yay to all and any of us who worked to get this passed at ALL, and yay for the very first step finally having been taken. Here’s hoping things are more optimistic per getting to the real victory than I think they are.

* * *

On a lighter note, Mark got home from a week and a half in Cincy Sunday night. Boy gives seriously amazing I-missed-you, let me tell you. Sparing a two-day business trip a little while back, and my visit to Minneapolis in May, we haven’t spent time apart since I moved. I certainly didn’t forget how good he is at that, but boy howdy, was it sweet to be reminded.

I still really don’t understand why neither of us are bored yet, or why we still act like teenagers much of the time. Not knocking it, mind you, it’s bloody amazing, but I don’t GET it.

I can have the lousiest day imaginable, but if it starts with us waking up together and ends with us snuggling in to sleep, it’s all okay, always. That shit is just WACKY.

* * *

I haven’t taken photos in a while, or updated a set to the subscription area, I know. In part, this is because I don’t have new subjects to work with here in Seattle yet. In part, this is because I just don’t feel particularly inspired with self-portraiture right now. Obviously, using oneself as subject sometimes has limited mileage. I don’t feel there are a finite number of ways to look at oneself, but I do feel that sometimes it’s just not particularly inspiring or interesting, and if it’s neither, I can’t do good work. If anyone knows of (or is!) Seattleites who want to do some portrait work — nude or not, erotic or not — point them my way? per usual, I don’t come to a sitting with any preconceived notions or particular needs in a subject. Interesting people of any shape, size or conceivable hue who are open to sitting for me and letting me explore what I see are really all I need to fit the bill.

On a similar note, it really distresses me when women email me asking about sitting for me (unfortunately, often from places I have no plans to travel to) and include photos of themselves, rather than words. I need to update the portfolio site, I think, to make clear that that just isn’t necessary. To some degree, it even hinders my work: one of the benefits of working off the net is that I usually find out about someone’s life and personality BEFORE I see them, which I’ve felt adds a special flavor to the portraiture I do, and helps me be able to try and bring to the surface what lurks underneath (which is generally a helluva lot more interesting than the surface).

I suppose I’d hoped that the sort of work I do would make it clear that I don’t decide to work with someone or not based on any physical criteria whatsoever (save that for various reasons, including my own safety, I rarely shoot men). Perhaps I’m being naive in that, or heck, perhaps my work doesn’t come off looking as accepting or authentic as I think it does in that regard. Always room for improvement, and of course, it’s extra-tricky when we’re talking about the female nude, which is nearly always presumed to be about sex appeal or someone else’s entertainment: creating and honing alternate ways to work within that milieu is challenging as hell. But I’d just really hope, especially the longer that I do this, that a day comes when I don’t have a woman essentially asking me to physically evaluate her. I’d like to think we all can have SOME escape from the assumption that we must be physically evaluated, and I’d at least like to think that’d be something people could understand is really counter to the aims of someone like myself.

So, a question: what could I say to make clear that it’s actually pretty vital women do NOT send me photos of themselves, rather than just merely unnecessary?

P.S. Is there anyone out there with an old laptop they want to ditch? I actually am looking for two anyones. We have two girls at the AGA without working computer access (one due to money the other due to a custody battle over her which leaves her away from the house with a ‘puter a lot), and this would help a lot. All they need to be is able to have ‘net access and to run browsers and basic WP. Nothing schnazzy is needed.

P.P.S. Found a helper (thanks, William!) to help me shift the journal over to Wordpress, so hopefully, sometime soon, that’ll come together and make updating a fuck of a lot easier. This once-a-month stuff is just ridiculous.