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Memoirs of a Storyteller
"I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's." - William Blake
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1. I'm not going to tell you that you're not alone, that others have difficulty believing in themselves. Since when has the knowledge that other people are suffering ever helped someone feel better? What I am going to tell you is that this is not a grandiose reinvention of the wheel. You are neither the first nor the last person to be self-critical, but the trick is not to pity yourself. Alexander Graham Bell once said that when he succeeded at a prototype, he didn't see all the previous iterations as 10,000 failures. He had simply found 10,000 ways that it didn't work. That in itself is an acheivement. You have to find what works for you.


2. This is going to sound crazy, but keep your living area tidy as much as humanly possible. The way we think about ourselves is tightly woven with the places we spend the most time in. If your bedroom is a colour that makes you feel childish, change it. If your desk is messy, organize it. If your closet if full of clothing you never wear and never will, clean it out. If you can never remember your tasks or appointments, put up a dry-erase board. If your walls are empty, find pictures that make you happy. Love where you live and you can begin to love yourself.


3. Be here now. Planning for the future is fine, but worrying about it isn't. Be prepared in the eventuality that something may go wrong, but assume that things will go right -- they usually do, and even the ways in which things can go wrong are rarely as severe as we think they will be. Practice mindfulness -- pay attention to your surroundings and keep an eye on your thoughts. Do you tend to stray into anxiety or self-criticism more often in the middle of the day? Maybe all you need is a shot of protein to keep your mood up. Do you attempt new things with an attitude of optimism or pessimism? It's hard to catch yourself and change the way you think, but it's so worth it.


4. Exercise. Think this doesn't make a difference to your mood? Think again. Your body evolved to move -- to run and leap and dance. If you spend all day sitting in the same three positions, moving only when you get a leg cramp, your body is wilting. You have to be a little strict with yourself, but it doesn't have to be a grail quest. Twenty minutes out of the fourteen to eighteen hours you're awake? Big deal. But it makes a big difference. Go for a half-hour walk, lift weights, go swimming, climb around at the beach, hop on the monkey bars, anything. It doesn't need to be a regime, and you don't need a gym membership. If you're uncomfortable leaving the house, do jumping jacks in the garage. If you get your heart rate up and find some sweat on your forehead every day, your body and your brain will thank you by working a whole lot better.


5. Have a hobby. Find something you like, something you're good at, and do it frequently. When you make tangible items or results on a regular basis, you build up a positive and productive view of yourself as a creator, someone who can learn, someone who can make other people smile. Find an instrument, pick up a crochet hook, go golfing, plant some perennials. The more you improve, the easier it will be to feel good about yourself. Don't go out of your way to be the Best Guitarist Who Has Ever Been A Guitarist -- it's a hobby. Not a race, not a competition. Let it be what it is, and let it please you.


6. Don't let substance dress up as your confidence. If you drink because you like the taste of red wine, that's fine. If you drink because you enjoy sharing a gin-and-tonic with your father in the evenings, that's fine. If you smoke marijuana because it helps more than anxiety medication, that's fine. But when you start using alcohol or other substances as consumable courage, or to lower your inhibitions, or because everyone else is doing it and you don't want to be the odd duck out, STOP. It's the most damaging thing you can do to yourself, both physically and mentally, and worst of all, it makes believing in yourself without those substances a whole lot harder. Trust me, as a recovering alcoholic and someone who used substances for all three of those reasons, to tell you how damaging it is.


6. Learn how to laugh, especially at yourself. Not insultingly! But the way to take difficult things and failure is with good humor. Laughter is one of the unique gifts of being human. Studies have shown that people who have a good belly laugh at least once a day live longer, are healthier, are less depressed, and generally speaking, they just feel better all-round. Which, well, duh. The universe is beautiful and absurd -- laugh at it! Laugh at yourself, for being so serious about everything. Smile more, even if you don't feel like smiling -- it tells your brain that everything is okay, and that your nerves can relax. Prescribe yourself a dose of silly cat videos or British comedy every day. Read joke books, especially the groaners, and then inflict a few on your peers. The only thing better than laughing alone is laughing with others.


7. Never, ever procrastinate. This, more than anything else, contributes to self-esteem issues in humans, primarily because it's so easy to do, and secondly because it's so easy to hate ourselves for doing it. If you have something you need to do, do it. Don't whine, don't make excuses, don't argue or bribe yourself. Do it. The first time you stop yourself from procrastinating, it'll be the hardest thing in the world. The second time, it'll be the hardest thing in the world. But by the tenth time, it won't be so tough, and you'll feel like the king of the hill. Think about it this way -- if you get that unpleasant crap dealt with before noon, you have the rest of the day to do whatever you want. Anything. Read a book. Drive to Nanaimo. Bake cookies. Go to a movie. Do absolutely nothing at all. Anything! And without a single shred of guilt to mar the fun. How's that for a confidence booster?


8. Flip your instincts. Every time you catch yourself worrying about something that doesn't deserve the time you're giving it, and every time you catch yourself thinking something critical about yourself or others, say "Cut it out!" or "Stop that!" Out loud, if you can. That way, you physically startle yourself and derail that unpleasant train of thought. On the heels of that, think something positive. Tell yourself that it does matter, that you are useful, that you deserve nice things. Remind yourself that you're awesome, even on bad days. Think about the last accomplishment you were proud of. Look at your certificates. Read the poem you wrote and still love. The more often you catch yourself, the easier it is to think good thoughts instead of bad ones, and the easier it is to be optimistic.


9. Remember to reward yourself. Yes, we have to do stuff we'd rather not deal with. Yes, life is hard and homework is death and work is the devil. But that doesn't mean you have to suffer unnecessarily. Make a strong cup of your favorite tea to drink while you're studying. Do enough work to justify a nice, long break. If you manage to do more than you set out to do, celebrate! Positive reinforcement is one of the most neglected tools in your repitoire. Take it from the NaNoWriMo folks -- writing goes a lot faster and a lot smoother if you allow yourself a Hershey's kiss every thousand words. It doesn't have to be junk food; a bowlful of grapes and some 80% dark chocolate is even better. A new bottle of nail polish if you get that essay done tonight, tickets to the hockey game when you get through the semester. Get creative with your rewards. You deserve them.


10. Use common sense. Get enough protein and carbs. Avoid refined sugar, saturated fats, icky chemicals. If you need to talk it out, find a friend. Keep a journal. Keep in touch with family. Get up at the same time every day (it helps insomnia, honestly it does). Read everything you can get your hands on. Light candles. Take baths. Stay healthy. Make things. Forgive grudges. Do your best work. And most of all, remember that you are an Important Person, no less than anyone else.




It's not an easy road. Anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem aren't problems that can be solved overnight. But I find that often, the hardest thing about them is that it's hard to find good, solid coping strategies, especially in the modern self-help industry, which is currently filled with a lot of permissive, passive, no-effort advice that doesn't provide any real or lasting assistance. I hope this list proves helpful to someone else!
18th-Aug-2011 09:37 pm - Why I (Sometimes) Wear A Headscarf
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I've been asked -- frequently, by friends, family, and managers -- why I often show up in public wearing a headscarf. I was considering writing the post when a friend specially asked me to write one about the topic, which I considered to be great serendipity.

First off, let's get The Sometimes Assumed But Incorrect Reasons Why I Wear Headscarves.

1) I'm not Muslim.
Although I have great respect for Islam, both the religion itself and its history (which is just as weird, wonderful and blood-soaked as all Abrahamic religious histories), I am not myself a Muslim. Like Hinduism, it seems like something I could never authentically practice, because I feel as though there is a great cultural rift between this middle-class Austro-European mutt, and the wide spectrum of Asian religious experience. I would always be missing something by not having been raised in it. That being said, every Muslim I've spoken to and every facet of Islam I've researched has shown me that Muslims are generally not offended by non-Muslims wearing head coverings -- they're not even remotely the only religion or culture which practices it, they're just the most well-known. Most, if not all, cultures which practice head-covering are encouraging towards members of other cultures who wear them out of personal choice. Which is a long winded way of saying that I'm not concerned in the slightest to be a non-Muslim, non-Hindu headscarf-wearer.

2) I don't want to hide my hair, my face, or myself.
While I occasionally wear a headscarf if I have to rush out and don't have time to wash my hair, on the whole, I wear them for entirely different reasons. I'm not ashamed with the way I look, and I'm not trying to conceal something I consider to be unpleasant.


Now, let's get onto why I DO wear headscarves.


My usual pat answer? Because they're comfortable. I don't wear them because they're pinchy or hot! Corsets are uncomfortable, so I don't wear them every day, especially during the warmer months. Observant peers will notice that I wear headscarves less in the summer, because duh, extra layers of clothing equals sweat. (I'd like to live in a climate where I could get alway with wearing headscarves all year round.) If I feel really gross, I take it off. It's not an all-or-nothing choice. Mostly, I wear headscarves because I like them. Simple as that. I like the look, I like the feel, I like being able to put soft, colourful things on my head.

On the heels of "because I like them" is practicality. I have a lot of hair, and right now it's at that awkward length where you can't do much but a high bun to keep it out of your face. I can't wear a high bun and a bike helmet at the same time. Headscarves solve that problem. My hair is out of my face, and I don't get a headache from pulling several pounds of hair into a tight elastic at the back of my scalp. If I'm at home and painting, I sometimes just toss a headscarf on and don't worry about it. Earlier I mentioned rushing out of the house, too -- if I don't have time for a shower, I'll throw a headscarf on to go deposit a cheque or run an errand. This may sound silly, but seriously, I have a LOT of hair. It's dense like crazy. The "quick" twenty minutes (or more!) I spend showering every day or two is predominantly spend on All That Hair, and sometimes I just do not have the time. And I am a practical, obsessively punctual domestic lesbian at heart.

A lesser reason is modesty. Yeah, you guys have all heard me harp on about the Modesty Revolution before; I won't bore you with it if you've already heard it. But, like I said once to my father, if twelve year old girls are going to be absurd and wear tiny miniskirts without underwear on windy days, I'm going to be absurdist in the other direction. Wearing more clothing than most people reminds me that my body -- especially after years and years of violent, self-destructive body hatred -- is sacred and special and not anybody's meat. It's mine, and mine to choose who sees how much of it, who admires it, who touches it. Close friends see a lot of it, maybe more than they're comfortable with sometimes, given my propensity to strip down when I'm in that drowsy-comfortable With The Tribe state of being, but I'm less willing to let strangers see even the tattoos, these days. I don't feel free when I wear shorts and a tank top. I feel naked. I feel more liberated the more layers I wear. I like it. I hoard secrets like a dragon hoards gold. Secrets are my weakness. And sometimes, I like BEING a secret as much as I like having them.

My last reason comes up only occasionally, and that has to do with my mental disorders. When I'm having an attack of psychosis (voices, hallucinations) or bipolar (out-of-control moods, unpredictability, paranoia), I feel much safer if I can be in a locked room with my back to a wall, and even more safe if I'm able to layer myself in blankets or stuffed animals or clothing. I sometimes wear a headscarf when I'm having an attack simply because it makes me feel a little more sane, a little safer -- like I can get my grasp on reality back faster. There's no hair to get in my eyes and startle me, there's another layer between me and the maybe-real-maybe-not world, and a weight on my head. It's very grounding.

They also make me feel a little like a cyberpunk anchorite, sending out stories and prayers on little kites from my cell to the rest of you, but those of you who don't understand that historical reference will at least forgive me a bit of storyteller's license.
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What it says on the box.  If you read this, I want to see your list too!
 
  • Graduate.  (Kind of important.)
  • Finish everything I owe.  (Children's story, various art things, knitted objects.)
  • Take a series of classes in Something.  (Fencing, dance, gymnastics, whatever.)
  • Read at least 26 more books.  (I'm on my 75th book at the moment.)
  • Do NaNoWriMo.
  • Finish at least one large painting.  (There are several candidates in my huge sketchbook as we speak.)
  • Visit a synagogue.
  • Go kayaking.  (Already planned.)
  • Finish the two quilts.
  • Save up at least $500 and hide it away for Semi-Secret Future Plans.
 
Not Mandatory But Would Be Nice Anyway:
  • Get a C+ or higher on my math so I can start designing my physics/science/math tattoo.
  • Collect the courage to get my ears pierced professionally.  (I know, I know.)
  • Get a character to level 85 in World of Warcraft.
 
20th-Jul-2011 09:05 am - The Modesty Revolution
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This is a very rambling post, and more informal than most, so bear with me.

Modesty is a lost virtue.

Or on it's way to being lost, certainly. And I absolutely don't want you to get modesty mixed up with prudery -- that's different. Prudishness is refusing to acknowledge that sexuality exists, that it can be both good and healthy. Prudishness is sneering at people who are different, because they frighten you and you can't think of another response. Modesty is... something less definable. Modesty is about taking your shoes off when you go into the mosque, even though you aren't Muslim. Modesty is about using "shoot" instead of "shit" when you're around your six year-old niece. Modesty is about acknowledging that not everyone wants to see your butt falling out of your skinny jeans, or hear about what you did with that stacked waitress last weekend.

Prudery is about ignorance. Modesty is about respect.

All the reading I've done on modesty in the twenty-first century has been solely directed at women. Granted, you can see why with a simple look in the children's clothing area of any department store. Boys: cargo pants, tee-shirts with superheroes and video game characters on them, camo prints, little bomber jackets. Girls? All shades of pink and white, tiny ruffled skirts that barely cover their rears, midriff-baring tank tops that say things like "Juicy" and "Who Needs Credit Cards When You Have A Man?" Little girls don't get superheroes; they get Hannah Montana and sexual slogans. One time, I saw a sequiny top in a girls' section that said LOLITA in plastic rhinestones across the chest, and almost had a coronary. You don't see things like that in the boys' sections -- it's clear that our culture views girls as sensual nymphets as soon as they're out of diapers, and most of the teenage girls I've met seem to believe that too. So while I fully understand why most of the books written about modesty today are directed towards girls and women, I'm not directing all of my energy toward them. Men can be modest too, but no one's telling them how to be, and most of the ones telling girls how to be modest are using the same kind of logic that my grandmother uses when she tells my mother that tattoos and homosexuals are unpleasant. There's something wrong here.

It's no secret that I'm for modesty, not against. I'm pro-celibacy, too, but even if people agree with me about the modesty thing, most of them go running in the opposite direction when I start talking about celibacy. That's okay. I can accept that it's weirdly radical these days. But the funny thing is right there -- that it's radical at all. To be a cutting edge revolutionary today, you have to champion things like celibacy. It's honestly hilarious to me, in the same rueful way that I laugh at news announcements that talk about female priests and gay marriages like they're the most ground breaking bulletin in ten years. I mean, you have to laugh.

So, to reiterate, here's where I'm coming from: I'm on the Celibacy Brigade. I'm a part of the Modesty Revolution. But I'm not a prude. How could I be? I'm polyamorous and queer. I write erotica of all stripes. I'm friends with people who are having sex daily and with people who are waiting very patiently until marriage. I talk about sexuality on my blog almost as much as I talk about writing. I'm not a person who ignores that sexuality exists, nor do I tell people what they should and shouldn't do in the bedroom (with the possible except of things stupid enough to inflict injury, but that falls under safety, not sexuality).

But I wish we could return to the Utopia that probably never existed -- where the concept of morality and modesty and self control actually meant something. These days, we get the impression that every urge exists to be fulfilled. That urges must be met because they exist in the first place. That sex means more than intimacy or love. That's not to say that I think that sex or sexuality should be repressed, ignored, or quashed. Quite the opposite.

Let me talk about something else for a moment, something as maligned in my culture as modesty -- duty. Duty is something to be laughed at, now. MCA Hogarth put it best, in a post that made me cry in anger when I first read it, because it cuts to the bone:

"Our increasingly secular mainstream culture ignores as backwards (or dangerous) the notion of duty to God. Duty to family has been under attack not just by children who no longer honor their parents, but by parents who, in putting their own pleasures above their children, have created children who see no reason to do so. Duty to authority has become perilous thanks to authorities who don't take their duties to their followers seriously. Duty to oneself has been replaced by "fun/pleasure for oneself." Duty to others is an inconvenience, and duty to those who come after us is too abstract a concept to bother with."

She goes on to say that the root of self-respect is doing your duty, even if it's hard, even if no one notices, even if it's exhausting and unrewarding.

My duties are multiple. I must write, I must make art, I must search for Beauty. But beyond that are the things that I've made into duties, the things that aren't necessary for my soul to be at ease but I feel are important nonetheless. My championing of modesty falls into that category -- I could say nothing about it and live the same way. But keeping quiet is easy. It doesn't involve any effort.

And what's the point of ignoring something simply because it's easy?

I feel very brave talking about all this, because no one seems to. I feel like the first flower children must have felt as the Sixties rolled over North America and brought the concepts of free-love and public sexuality into the spotlight. I think about how scared they must have been, to stand up and say something that they knew would get them beaten and jeered at. Or the gays and lesbians and straights who protested at Stonewall, knowing that police were coming with nightsticks and guns and rioted anyway because it was the right thing to do. I'm not quite that brave. I'm not on a street corner proclaiming any of this; I'm just talking into space on a tiny corner of the internet with less than a dozen viewers. But that doesn't change the fact that what I'm saying is both revolutionary and brave.

So let's get to the meat of it.

I think modesty is very important, and I think we're losing it.

I think that whenever I see boys who let their pants fall down to their knees before they remember to hike them back up. I think that whenever I see girls who wear miniskirts on windy days without underwear. I think that when I see children dressed like tiny streetwalkers next to their mothers, from which I must draw the conclusion that the mother both accepted and purchased the articles in question, especially in the case of children too young to dress themselves. I think that whenever I hear someone swear loudly or talk about the details of sex in public, especially if children are nearby. I think that when people send me emails making jokes about how all Muslims are terrorists and all Jews are money-hungry.

I get angry at feminists who insist that because I've chosen to be celibate, I'm denying the last century of growth towards equality for women -- I CAN have sex, it's my right as a liberated woman, therefore I must. It doesn't work that way, guys. We can't have sexual progress without including all forms of healthy sexuality in that progress, including celibacy. That is a form of sexuality, you know. Like how vegetarian varieties of meat dishes are still food. Celibacy acknowledges that there's sex to turn down in the first place, and that it's wonderful for some people but not for all of them.

The sexual revolution was fifty years ago, not in the millenium. The ironic thing about sex these days is that it's everywhere, it's used to sell and shock, but in some ways we're more backward now than we ever were. The sex that we think is revolutionary is really a step backwards, in my opinion. Instead of talking about it maturely, we treat it like it's a joke. Who hasn't heard someone append "in bed" into a relatively innocuous sentence, or "that's what she said"? Who hasn't had someone giggle when they used the word "cock" to describe a rooster, or when you were talking about the "bush-tits" that visited your bird feeder yesterday? I think that in a lot of cases, that's nervous laughter. We're still getting used to the idea that we can be open about sexuality. That we can even talk about it at all. That we can have sex before marriage without being tarred and feathered and run out of town. I think it still scares us, just a little, how books like The Ethical Slut can be published, or how we can walk into Chapters and find the Erotica or Sex Help sections without any trouble.

No, the scary and radical thing these days isn't about championing a new sexual revolution. We've already got that, and like a baby dropped in our laps, we're still not quite sure what to do with it. We have the same questions and confusions as any new parent: If we hold it this way, it cries. If we poke it, it giggles. But now what? How do we feed it without killing it? How do we raise it to be mature and polite and sensitive, to be witty and pretty and bright? Good god, what have we gotten ourselves into?

Sometimes I wonder what goes through the minds of people who dress themselves like trash when they walk out of the house. I wonder if they actually think they're mature and liberated, if they feel hot or if they just feel like meat, or if they don't think at all. Remember what I said about duty and self-respect? I don't know if it's possible to respect yourself in denim shorts cut higher than regular underwear. I just can't make the cognitive leap. You may wonder how that's related to duty, but think about it like this: a few decades ago it used to be a man's duty to look professional when he left the house or showed up at his daughter's birthday party. No matter what. I consider it my duty to, well, consider other people when I leave the house. I try not to swear in public, and I never, ever dress like anybody's meat. Basically, if I wouldn't do it around my grandmother, I won't do it on the street. When I say things like this, the usual reaction is incredulity -- what the hell, K, you're such a suck-up. No one respects their elders anymore, or other people. Don't give a shit what they think of you. Stop being so conservative. (Which is, of course, hysterical, because I'm absurdly liberal, but that's beside the point. Being liberal doesn't make me better than anyone else.)

But it's not about what other people think of you. In fact, it's the opposite. Kids (and adults who should know better) who dress like trash aren't dressing that way for their own personal satisfaction, they're doing it because they want external validation. I know I'm making an overarching statement here, but I'm going a little ab absurdo for the sake of argument. My generation and the following generation generally think that modesty is something that people did in the past -- that it's an outdated expression of old-fasioned social mores and no longer necessary for us liberated folk.

Um, what?

No. Remember what I said regarding modesty -- that it was about respect? Well, it's easy to see that respect is a dying virtue as well. Not nearly as violently, but it's on the wane. I've had people the age of my parents and grandparents openly gawp at me for smiling, nodding, and wishing them a good morning on the street. I've had little old gentlemen double-take when I call them "sir" in the shop. It's because they've come to expect the opposite from people my age, let alone those younger than me. It kills me, to see that shock and surprise.

I want to take back modesty. I want to make it into something cool, something edgy, something daring. Even if people are just using it to rebel and don't actually believe in it, that's progress. The rebels of today are the role models of tomorrow, and right now, our future role models are sitting in Mcdonalds in tube tops and mini-skirts, bragging about how young they were when they lost their virginity. Modesty isn't relegated to our grandparents and those with religious convictions. Regardless of whether we have a scriptural reason to uphold it or not -- I certainly don't -- I believe that we can and should take back modesty as a virtue.

Not prudery. Not repression. Not ignorance. Not silence. Never any of those things that make our culture backslide into its days of pushing things into closets because they were inconvenient to think about.

I'm talking about duty.

I'm championing modesty.

I'm encouraging respect.

And I hope it becomes a revolution.
16th-Jul-2011 09:03 am(no subject)
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I bet you guys were starting to think I'd never post again.  Heck, I was starting to wonder the same thing.  Not so!  Talking to myself is an unbreakable habit, and it's all the better if I can share those ramblings.  The key is feeling motivated, and lately, I just frankly have not been feeling it.
So, early on a delightfully rainy July morning before work, I am writing.
 
READING:
  • For The Love of Physics, by Walter Lewin.  So far, a little disappointing, but I knew it was more of a biography than an science book when I ordered it through the library.  Lewin is a brilliant teacher whose brilliance clearly comes from his deep and abiding love of the subject, and that definitely comes through in his writing.  He's one of those rare people who never lost his childlike glee at the way the world is put together.
  • The Eerie Silence, by Paul Davies.  Davies is one of my favorite -- if not THE favorite -- science writers today.  He's primarily a physicist, but he writes books about astrobiology and religion also, and he does it very well.  I love science writers who (shocking concept, I know!) assume intelligence on the part of the reader; John Moffat and Leon Lederman are two others I love for their belief that a layman who picks up a physics book is there to learn, not be coddled.  Great stuff.
 
WRITING:
I came to the realization a few days ago that I hadn't written anything more than a couple of short stories since November 2009.  Yeah.  I know.  I was shocked too.  I've been thinking about stories a lot, but not doing anything with them -- case in point, I'm working through a story in my head right now that isn't commericially viable, is something I couldn't share with friends, and yet is wonderfully amusing to muse on when I'm not doing anything else.  It's World of Warcraft fanfiction, in essence, but -- okay, here's the thing.  Here's why I love open-ended video games where the character's personality and movement is entirely in the hands of the player: because it allows every single character to be a person.  Games like WoW fascinate me because it's clear that the creators (and to a great extent, the players) came to the blackboard because they loved stories.  You don't make a game like WoW if you don't like stories, piling on and through each other like a deck of cards.  The tiny details that don't have to be there, but are anyway, you know?  One example of this is a particular element in the Druid class; as I understand it (or at least how it worked for me) is that you can get your cat form at level 8 and your bear form at level 15, but you can't use the bear form until you visit the Great Bear Spirit.  To do that, you have to teleport yourself to a secret Druid sanctuary where Night Elves and Tauren (bitter enemies elsewhere) keep guard together.  You find the Great Bear Spirit by wandering into the mountains to have a conversation with it, and yes, it is actually a giant bear.  After that, the patriarch of the sanctuary comments that you seem to have acquired a great deal of wisdom in a very short amount of time, and puts you on a hippogriff to fly home.  At this point you realize that you've teleported yourself hundreds, if not thousands of miles into level 50+ territory, and it takes literally ten minutes on the back of this creature to get anywhere near your city.  The storyline itself is thoughtful and pleasing, and the flight itself goes over some of the most beautiful areas in the game, but it makes me wonder about the part of the story you aren't told.  How did your Druid feel about all this?  What's he going to do now?  I just can't play these sort of games without coming up with the most convoluted stories for the characters I'm using.  So although I'm not writing, I'm thinking a lot about deeply about stories and meta-stories, all thanks to a "meaningless" video game.
 
ART:
A couple of you have noticed the ridiculously detailed drawing I uploaded yesterday, which is related to what I talked about under Writing (i.e., the Druid and his questing companion).  Art still baffles me.  I've talked about this before at great length, but writing is something difficult for me, something I have to put a lot of work into, a challenge.  Art... not so much.  I've never felt challenged by art.  Frustrated, yes.  But I've always been able to look at something and see how it works, how to render it on paper.  It might take a couple of tries, but the point is, I've never had to practice.  It's just something I'm inately good at, like walking.  I'm like the Centipede who's asked how she dances -- I just can't explain how I move all the parts.  And improvement is just a mystery.  It happens to me, instead of me making it happen.  Watching myself GET something right before my own eyes is honestly surreal.  I wish I could do that sort of thing with math, but it seems completely relegated to artistic things, like drawing and crochet.  I'm so lucky to be able to do these things, to express myself in fabric and yarn and paint, and yet I feel like I've cheated somehow.  Like I stole it, because I've never had to work at it.  The pleasure I get from looking at my own art is similar to that when I look at the art of other people.  I know it's come from my hands, I know that intellectually, but I just can't quite make myself believe it.  I am thankful for it precisely because it's an enigma.
 
SCHOOL:
I finished the first unit of math yesterday!  Two months late!  And I only have nine more to do before the end of October!  Oh god I'm going to die.  All joking aside though, I am really enjoying the math.  I love the playfulness of it, of finding the one right answer out of thousands of variable mistakes, and how magical it is that everything in our world seems based on these seemingly random collections of numbers and symbols -- that when you put them together in the right way, they dissolve down to a single, radiant statement.  It's the closest thing I have to prayer.  Damnably frustrating, yet indescribably beautiful.
 
FABRIC CRAFTS:
I've got two quilts in the making right now.  One is a Moorish Spain inspired thing, very gaudy, very ornate, very gold.  Think Muslim architecture.  The top is finished on that one, and when Rachel is ready to put hers together, I'll be doing mine as well, using an old-fashioned method that doesn't require binding.  You sew it inside-out with the layers pieced strangely, then flip it outside-in and seam the whole thing before quilting the design.  I'm still undecided as to whether I want to hand-quilt it in the ditch, or send it off to be long-armed.  We'll see how finances are, I suppose.  The other one is -- wait for it -- a HALLOWEEN QUILT ZOMG.  I can't even contain my excitement about this.  It's just a crib-sized one, as opposed to the Gigantic McHuge Enormous Moorish Quilt, but it's going to be the best thing in the world.  Eee!  Quilting!  Halloween!  Eee!  [/dork]
For the record, I am taking quilt comissions, by which I mean if you pay for the fabric, I will make you one, no extra charge.  Fabric and supplies for a smaller quilt, suitable for a twin bed or a crib or a lap, runs me about $120 - $150, and anything larger is about $200.  We can also talk trade, if you're broke but really interested in one.
 
MEAN THINGS:
Large family gatherings after eight hours of dealing with tourists.  I'm not really looking forward to tonight's dinner, but I'm gonna suck it up and enjoy myself anyway, damnit.  My grandfather is worth it.
 
NICE THINGS:
Silly cats, Sharpies, spring cleaning in July, my mother watching me play WoW and trying to interpret what she sees on the screen, uncontrollable laughter at 10:30 at night, the smell of coffee and my father's cologne.
 
THE BLOG:
I swear to god, I will update this thing more often.  I have so many posts saved that I just haven't gotten the courage to post, and having them sit there accusingly is very hard.  Note To Self: avoiding something just because it's scary is dumb.  We've learned this.  Go forth and make people think.
 
I hope you're all enjoying this lovely rainy day to the best of your abilities.  I am off to work.
4th-Jun-2011 08:21 am(no subject)
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Hey, guys.  It's been a while, yeah?

I just haven't been feeling the blog thing right now -- which is not to say I'm burned out, just that I'm tired in general.  All the unexpected bills and equally unexpected drama that happened over the last two weeks have all but shut down my ability to cope and socialize (I mean, more than usual).  And that means the blog suffers.  It's certainly not for wont of finished posts, because I have those in spades, just waiting to be released on the unsuspecting internet.

I'm still getting back to maximum brain, so let's have a news post to ease back into things.


READING:
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene.  I've read his Elegant Universe earlier this year and, while I enjoyed the easy-going writing style and concise explanations, I'm totally not sold on string theory, so it was kind of lost on me.  (Cue long rant about how it isn't really science unless it can be experimentally tested here.)  I'm also working on his newest book that I can't remember the name of because my mother is using my Kindle currently.  It's... I don't know, he's not my favorite author, but he makes good books that relax me before bed, so I like them.
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  • Deadline by Mira Grant, otherwise known as Seanan McGuire, author of the wonderful October Daye books.  I briefly mentioned my admiration for her previous book, Feed, and Deadline is so far just as good.  Tough reading, truth be told, but that's my dislike of depressing stories shining through.  Her writing and the story are absolutely amazing, though, which shows because I'm willing to read the series even though it's grimdark.  But the characters are brilliant and realistic, the plot moves along without feeling like it's dragging or rushing, and best of all, the virology concerning the zombies is most excellent and keenly believable.  Kudos congratulations for another job well done!

WRITING:
  • I literally have not written a single thing in the last two weeks, besides the occasional Twitter update and comment.  No fiction.  However, I have been thinking a lot about Thomadin's story after we got a bunch of Russian stuff in the shop, and seeing all the pre-Revolution stuff made me remember how much I love his weird, twisted world.  I'll work on it piece by piece until I'm ready to write the thing.  I know it's not a long story.
  •  
  • Toni's story is still the main contender for NaNoWriMo this year, despite how much Eliseo and Thomadin have been on my mind lately.  I need her story right now for a number of reasons -- mainly because she's fantastically easy to write.  Snarky but not world-weary, strong but not unwilling to ask for help, she's just a girl trying to keep her dignity when the world turns upside down.  I'm not going to fret the details on this one, because I'm not attempting to get it professionally published at all.  I'll self-publish to those who want to read it, and that's about it.  If you've always secretly wanted to see me write urban fantasy with teeth, this is the one to watch for.  Toni is one of those characters I put in my top-ten favorites but rarely talk about.  I hope you guys will fall in love with her too.

ART:
  • Those of you who read this on Facebook will note that I scribbled up a cartoony self portrait the other day.  I've also got a page of girl-faces to paint -- I was feeling jammed, so I pulled out my old RPG files and doodled up a character from each campaign.
  •  
  • Speaking of RPG's, I'm totally getting into Pathfinder, and starting to design a lady dwarf to tool around with.  She's definitely going to have a beard.  I love her already.  I'll draw her soon.
  •  
  • I've been crocheting, um, a lot.  I learned how to do one kind of granny square and promptly fell in love, so I've been churning out piece after piece of plum-turquoise-grey goodness.  It's going to be the best thing, and I can't wait to chain it all together.  Right in time for the warm weather, right?  Oh well.  I really like making granny squares because it appeals to my "quick, finish this thing and feel like you've made progress" sense, which is something I can't get when I'm knitting row 112 of 260 and there's already over a hundred stitches on the needles.  Knitting makes me feel like Sisyphus, sometimes.

SCHOOL:
  • I am so behind schedule it isn't even funny.  But at least I haven't given up yet, right?  I should be okay once I get past linear equations, because what the hell.  Word problems make me want to shove pencils up my nose and run away screaming.  It's not that they're hard, it's just that they're... I don't know.  A stupendous amount of work for very little reward.

MEAN THINGS:
  • Minor psychotic episodes.  They don't get easier with practice, unfortunately, or I'd be pretty good at them by now.  Bah!

NICE THINGS:
  • My mother having the patience of a saint, mostly.  And forgiving me when I lash out at her for not being able to read my mind when I'm having a bipolar attack.
  •  
  • Tea and physics.

Well, I'm off to dust the shop.  Y'all have yourselves a good Saturday.
23rd-May-2011 09:05 am - Family
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I talk a lot about how I hate kids.  The people who live around me are all familiar with this.

But it's a lie.  The truth is this: I want a poly family.

And I want children.

I have to break this down a bit so it'll make sense.  See, barring wacky antics and a good dose of amnesia, I'm never going to physically bear a child.  Multiple reasons, starting biologically and ending psychologically.  It's just not going to happen, and the chances of me dying in one horrifying way or another are too much to risk.  I'm with Jewish beliefs here -- the living woman is more immediately important than the hypothetical child-to-be.  If I got pregnant by accident -- because it would be an accident, I'm cogniscent enough to understand the risks and why it's completely insipid to flaunt them -- then I would most likely terminate.  Not because I hate children, and not because such a plainly female and human act scares me (although it does, of course, but not in the way you think), but because I'm not willing to give myself up to put another person into the world.  There are plenty of other people willing to do that, to take that risk, and just as many who are willing to do that but can't or are forbidden from keeping the child.

So perhaps I'm more clear now: these children I want aren't necessarily, and ideally won't be, my own.  Not from my body.  The concern that I'll pass on my mental disorders or health issues means that I won't take lightly the idea of fathering a child either (because science can do that now, and it is absurd and beautiful).  But this brings us back to my first truth, and that's about family.

I've always been off-base with my sexuality -- no matter what label you want to put on me, there's one that doesn't fit, and that's straight-monogamous.  The queerer and more gender-blurred the label, the better.  And most of all, I know that my relationships function best if it's me and others, rather than me and that one person.  It's not that I'm sex obsessed -- because hello, asexual -- or that I'm desperate for attention or affection, or that I'm some sort of slut-variant.  It's just the way my brain works.  Same deal goes for friends; if I'm alone with one person I trust I'm okay, but it's kind of uncomfortable.  Two people that I trust, much better.  Three is ideal, and more than that gets back into uncomfortable territory.  You get the idea.  It's something about my inability to focus on one single person entirely, and my inability to have one single person focused entirely on me.  I've never felt guilty or upset about my propensity for polyamory.  I'm not the kind of person to leap around and sleep around.  I think the going term these days is polyfidelity -- the same thing you monogamous folks do in your relationships.  You have your partner(s) and you don't cheat.  Cheating involves lying, involves secrecy, involves going behind each others backs, and it involves far too much planning to be accidental.  Having multiple partners, or adding a partner to an existing relationship in a poly sense, is not cheating.

I could talk about the philosophy and practice of polyamory all day, but the crux of it is this: when the other kids in school were dreaming about their Prince Charming or Princess Vasalissa, I was dreaming about messy domesticity, about a drag king and a drag queen sharing a house on the waterfront with me, or about a sub boy who did all the cooking and a dom woman who went to work in a suit.  I was dreaming of cuddle piles, of a big creaky mansion full of wolfy dogs and fluffy cats and fey small children, of being a gentle Mrs. Darling sort of Victorian mother who took in the Lost Boys instead of having her own.  The house had a below-ground den, and eight bedrooms for kidlings and guests, and a library the size of a large apartment.  I put a lot of thought into this, when I was a queer girl-child on the cusp of adolesence.  I wrote stories about it (that unfortunately didn't survive the Great Purge Of 2003) and drew innocent pictures that I always tore up afterwards, afraid that someone would see and think I was some sort of pervert.  It never occurred to me that I couldn't be the kind of asexual I was, and a pervert, at the same time.  I put myself in the same class as pedophiles, for a while, until at a remarkably early stage I decided that I wasn't going to guilt myself about my poly dreams and just...stopped guilting myself.  Really.  Just like that.  It's one of the most spectacular turn-abouts in my life, because at that point I was actively searching for anything I could use against myself.

So polyamory, to me, is very familiar territory.  Most of my (admittedly few, admittedly strange) sexual experiences have involved multiple partners, but while they were enjoyable, they were disappointing the sense that there was the agreement, unspoken, that we would never see each other again.  For any of you out there wondering if one night stands are sexy and risque and edgy, think again.  They are, for the most part, unpleasant.  It's as awkward as kissing a stranger, which is exactly what you're doing.  No, I realized, after those experiences -- I wasn't just being repressed about sex.  I actually am asexual, and at peace with that.  I'm not saying that I'll never have another sexual experience, because life is long and I know I will, but I've since realized that I confused "multiple partners" with "fulfilling poly relationship".  One night stand does not equal fulfilling relationship.  I still dream in poly.  I'm still (passively, at this point in my life) searching for open-minded partners, whether they come as a set or whether I have to go searching for each individual.  And I'm not searching for a fling.  I am, literally, searching for partners.  Life partners.  Just like anyone who's dating long-term starts thinking about marriage.  My white-picket-fence and two-and-a-half-kids-plus-dog fantasies are not any less valid to me than those of my monogamous friends.  My situation, despite having extra people in it, is no different.

This household in my head, this dream creation, has children in it.  Children for whom I want the world, want the best, want all the opportunities.  I know what songs I'll sing them to sleep with, I know what books I'll read to them and what books I'll write for them, and I know that I'll tattoo their names on my skin.  I know I'll paint fantastic scenes on the walls of their rooms.  I know that I want my friends to be a part of their lives, and that hopefully, my friends want to be a part of theirs.  As a writer, children to me are like little characters, except that I have weirdly both more and less control over their lives than a fictional person.  I find that wondrous and fantastical.  I authentically like children, when they're not being obscenely bratty, but a lifetime of avoiding them has left me completely sideswiped when dealing with them.  I would not know how to respond to one of their amazingly honest questions, or how to comfort them, or how to discipline them.  But I find them fascinating.

Right now, though, I have to keep saying that I don't want children.  That I don't like them.  I have to, to remind myself that I'm not ready.  I mean, I know I'm not ready.  I'm only twenty years old -- there's at least another ten years ahead of me before I even have to seriously consider the idea.  But the more I remind myself that I'm not ready, the more I remind myself that I have to make myself ready.  In the last six months, my main domestic goal has been to be a better person to my family.  I haven't been perfect, but it's still been like day and night.  My mother and I can have a conversation that doesn't end in blood or tears, now.  That's seriously the best feeling in the world.  That's the part of me making myself ready for a family, someday.  For partners and kids.  For pets and taxes and a house.  For settling down.

Maybe it doesn't seem very brave on the outside, but admitting all this, writing it all down, has been one of the hardest pieces of prose I've ever done.  Sharing the lie that I've told myself for years to keep myself sane -- that's a big thing.  Big as a house.  Big as a family.  But sometimes it's only when you share something, when you let it breathe, that it becomes more real and beautiful than it ever could in a cage.  So next time I frown at a child, or say that I don't like them, remember that it's a code.  And that code translates to this: Someday, But Not Yet.
21st-May-2011 08:54 am - No Thanks, Harold Camping
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So I was talking with my father this morning about the ridiculous Rapture stuff going on today.  We were joking around about it, and then he asks pseudo-seriously, "If you had just today, twelve hours, in order to be saved, what would you do?" I thought about it for a while, and then said as clearly and concisely as I could:

"I wouldn't do shit."

And I mean that.  Every word.

If I found out right now that this interpretation of the Rapture is correct, and that without repentance I was doomed to several months of torment followed by an eternity in hell, I wouldn't repent one damn thing.

If there is a God, or many gods, or ANYTHING that knowingly and lovingly created this world, then I can definitively say this: that kind of god is not going to bring down a "Rapture" that involves torturing 97% of the human population.  And you know what else?  That kind of god made me exactly the way I am.  The whole shebang.  Sure, I've added a few touches along the way, but what artist wouldn't try to improve on what came before?

No, I wouldn't repent.  I wouldn't apologize for being me.  Nor would I insult God by implying that He could have made anything other than exactly what He intended to make.

I don't believe in this Rapture thing.  That much should be obvious.  Neither do I believe in ANY movement, religious or not, that preaches pain and suffering over and above any doctrine of love.  And if it did turn out to be the case, that this idea of the vengeful god and the Rapture was true, then I would just flip off the sky and get on with whatever was left of my life.  No god that acts like a spoiled child deserves my worship.

I am deeply religious, an advocate of the Modesty Revolution, and an ardent seeker of beauty -- whether that be artistic, mathemathic, or philosophical.  I get angry when I see ugliness and hatred.  I have Muslim friends, pagan friends, atheist friends.  I write about sexuality.  I happen to have mental disorders.  I also happen to be queer.

 And if heaven doesn't want any part of people like me, then I don't want any part of heaven.
16th-May-2011 09:06 am - The Elitist Minority
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I have a confession to make.

I'm queer, right?  You guys all know that, if you read more than five posts on here -- I'm not exactly quiet about it.  That's not what I'm confessing, though.

What queer means for me is a lot of things.  I mostly like women and sometimes like men, but I'm not really attracted to either gender.  I'm an asexual who experiments.  I've used the phrase "bicurious man in an intersex woman's body" to describe myself.  Putting on my work clothes makes me feel like I'm dressing in drag, in a good way.  One day I want a Big Fat Polyamorous Family, whatever combination of genders that ends up being.

And I'm ashamed.

Not because I'm queer.  Never because I'm queer.  But because of how I've acted.

Only in the last six months have I realized just how stupendously wrongly I reacted to my queerness.  Even though it's because I thought I was doing the right thing, what everyone does when they realize they're queer, it still doesn't make my actions valid.

I knew I was queer when I was a kid, even though I didn't have the words for it, and that's where it all started.  I went around saying that I hated girly things, I hated the colour pink, I hated purses and high heeled shoes and dresses.  I ranted about all the different ways in which society made me hate myself.  I went around proclaiming how much I hated children and that having children as a choice was disgusting and morally reprehensible.  I hated myself whenever I found myself liking a man, because obviously that meant I was doing it wrong.  I sneered at feminine women.  I sneered at comfortably straight men.  I sneered at straight people in general and made jokes that, in reverse, would have been labeled homophobia of the worst degree.  I hated my body because I thought queer people were supposed to hate their bodies until a certain, vague, spiritual moment in which they accepted themselves, usually involving surgery.  I changed my queer statement every few months because I thought public labels were more important than personal identity.  I thought there was a right and a wrong way to be straight, to be queer, to be a woman, to be a man.

And I apologize deeply for all of that.

Most of it was a big series of lies I told to keep up appearances: I do like the colour pink, for instance, and I like purses too.  I wear big Victorian skirts and boots with heels and I've never burned a bra.  It took me god knows how many years to realize that liking pink didn't make me a bad queer.  It just made me a human being.  Just because I don't crossdress every day and insist that people call me Kevin doesn't make me less of a trans person.  It's about identity, not any sort of external validation of the label.

I did honestly believe, though, that there was a right and a wrong way to do these things, and that straight women who chose straight men, who had white-picket-fence families and who wanted to have children, were wrong.  Desperately so.  I looked down at them, acting just like the homophobic population I hated so much.  I thought that being queer gave me the right to bash straight people, even in a joking manner.

Pardon my French, but ex-fucking-scuse me.

Let me say it here for all of you: there is no one single right way to be a woman, nor is one way of being a woman more valid than another way.  Girly girls aren't a lesser class of human being.  And that goes for men too -- if you want don't want to look like Adam Lambert, good on you.  Or if you do, good on you too.  And of course, there's no single right way, or even a select handful of ways, to be queer or trans.  You can love your body and still be trans.  You can be a lesbian and still kiss guys, if you want to.  You can be a Female-to-Male transsexual who hasn't had surgery, who wears dresses and makeup, who likes lipstick and ponies and cute socks, who knits, who listens to Madonna -- and that doesn't make you any less trans.  Even if you never get the surgery.  Even if you never get your name changed.*

Avoiding the stereotypical activities and preferences of your birth sex simply because they are stereotypical just perpetuates the concept that there's a right and a wrong way for that gender to act -- saying "I hate pink because I'm a lesbian" is damaging to women, straight or gay, who do like pink, because it's claiming superiority.  We have to stop blaming our preferences on our sexuality.  Making fun of straight people and yelling that we're surrounded by homophobes is crass and hypocritical.   (Yes, I am calling myself crass and hypocritical.  I said this was a confession, all right?)  There's still bugs in the system -- it does feel right to be straightphobic in some senses, because there are more homophobic people in the world than there will ever be straightphobic ones, and not being straightphobic feels like a betrayal, like we're just condoning the people who will end up slapping us in the face.  But hatred just begets more hatred.  The offensive jokes don't fix things.  They just make the segregation more apparent: both sides standing up and saying that there's US and there's YOU and US is better than YOU and that will NEVER change until you join us.

And I'm starting to realize how icky that is.

For years I ranted about perpetuating gender norms, about how straight girly girls made it harder for non-feminine women to be seen as beautiful or normal.  But when we do that, we're alienating the women who are lesbians but don't want to dress in cargo pants and own a bulldog.  Stereotypes help no one.  I was perpetuating gender norms too, just as badly.  Why I thought I had the right to be a gender cop, I'll never know.

I think my moment of greatest horror came when I realized that all of the Male-to-Female crossdressing characters in my novels -- every single one -- was like a cardboard cut-out of the fabulous drag queen stereotype with a huge sex drive who acted like the world's biggest femme fatale.  I quickly made revisions and then sat back, stunned.   I realized, Oh my god.  I do that with people, too.  I sneer at them if they don't match my mental image of a lesbian, or a transsexual, or anything.  I automatically think that queer people are better and more interesting than straight people.  I remembered the day that I was talking to the Serious Crew and said, "I wouldn't be a very interesting person if I wasn't queer."  I remembered saying over and over to different people, I'm not a girly girl.  Translation: I'm better than that, I'm one of the guys which is better than being one of the girls, I'm queer so I'm more special than straight people.

I don't think anything I can do for the rest of my life will ever equal the amount of disappointment I felt in myself then.

It was like I turned around and suddenly noticed that the walls I was building around myself were almost too high to climb out of.  That I almost believed the things I was lying about.  That for years, I'd said things I didn't mean, that weren't true, just to conform to this ideal I had in my head -- that if I was a lesbian then liking men made me a bad, boring person; that if I was trans there was something wrong with liking my body; that if I was queer I couldn't like girly margaritas or pink underwear or pop music.  It's wrong and pernicious and I'm not nearly the only one doing it, and that scares me.  It scares me especially because of how long it took me to realize that it did scare me, and that it should.  It should scare you too.

Inasmuch as I've been an active contributer to this nonsense, I'm sorry.  I know sorry doesn't cut it, and I'm certainly not going to stop at "sorry".  I'm an activist about a lot of things, much to the annoyance of the people who have to deal with me, and this is just another to add to the list.  But it's a good addition.  It needs to be said.  And I apologize even more to anyone whose choice I've tried to make invalid -- whether you're straight or whether you want children, or anything else that I may have sneered at in my attempts to figure out who I was, I'm sorry for ever thinking that you shouldn't be.

This is how we grow -- one mistake at a time.


* [ObDisclaimer: The jury is still out on people who claim an identity that isn't true, like women who call themselves lesbians for attention, but those people are VERY far and few between and have issues of their own.  It's between them and their gods if they want to call themselves that.  However, celebrities like Lady Gaga who call themselves bisexual but actually just put forward a damaging view of bisexualism that the rest of us are trying to fix?  Not cool.  But that's a whole 'nother post.  I just needed to make sure I addressed it.]
12th-May-2011 10:43 am - 100 Things
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1.  One of my favorite things in the world is to read aloud to people, even though I'm not terribly good at it unless I concentrate.  I have a fantasy in which I read a book to someone I love, page by page.

2.  I am absurdly pee-shy.  Public washrooms give me the screaming mimis.

3.  I genuinely love Gone With The Wind.

4.  I abhor the "sequel" with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.  My geek.  Let me show you it.

5.  The greatest disappointment of my childhood was finding out that I couldn't be an astronomer because I was bad at math.

6.  The second greatest disappointment was finding out that I couldn't be a priest because I was a girl.

7.  Related: I love the Anglicans for being exactly like Catholics except not retarded.

8.  I often forget that I have a tattoo on my stomach because I avoid looking at myself in the mirror when I'm naked.  Sometimes it will actually startle me when I'm in the shower.

9.  I like tarot history and theory more than I like reading the cards.

10.  I used to live at the base of a mountain in the Okanagan Valley.  I fell asleep every night to the sound of coyotes.  A cougar came right up to the front window, once.

11.  If I could pick any language in the world to instantly learn, it would either be Hebrew or French.  My second choices would be Welsh or one of the Northern European languages.  Or maybe Arabic.

12.  If I could do nothing but write, read, knit, and lift weights for the rest of my life, I would be deliriously happy.

13.  I really like lifting weights, but I can't afford a gym membership, and every set we bring into the house mysteriously breaks or goes missing.

14.  I can sing along flawlessly to Lady Gaga when she comes on the radio.  And Nickelback.  And Madonna.  And a number of other performers generally scorned.  That's not because I worked in a Dollar Store for a year -- it's because I actually listen to them.

15.  I do homework to Madonna's "Confessions" concert.  It makes me obscenely productive.

16.  I think the truest and most beautiful piece of prose in the world is Desiderata.  I will probably get it tattooed on me some day.

17.  I have three freckles in a perfect triangle on my left thigh.

18.  I was in the fetal position for a couple months when I was an adolescent, when I was going through the worst of my psychosis, and my body hasn't forgotten.  My default posture is knees-to-chest, hands curled at my collarbones.  I have to consciously force myself out of it.

19.  I like knitting in theory more than practice -- it hurts my hands just to do basic rows, let alone purling or lacework.  But I can't stop coming back to the needles every few months.

20.  Every sexual proposition I've ever received has been abnormal.  If it wasn't D/s, it was a threesome.  Thus the ongoing joke that I can't seem to have a boring request.

21.  I have odd hearing quirks.  Sometimes, it's like I'm wearing earplugs and I have to ask everyone to repeat themselves, but most of the time I can hear a pin drop in the next room.  Part of the reason I have trouble sleeping is because the slightest sound will jerk me awake.  (Oddly, I usually sleep through my father and sister leaving the house in the morning, despite that.)

22.  I don't think that rape or racism are ever funny.  The fastest way to lose my respect is to make a joke regarding either.

23.  For a few weeks when I was a pre-teen, my irises were yellow, just like a cat.

24.  Although I don't even have the words to express how sick I am of school, a part of me knows that my life would look very, very different if I hadn't dropped out and had graduated when I was supposed to.  And not in a good way.

25.  I have to be very careful about listening to certain songs.  "Into The West," for example, destroys me.  Every time.  It takes a lot of distraction and a good amount of willpower for me to hear it and not cry.

26.  I've become more emotional, the older I get.  I used to only weep when I got angry enough -- now certain movies make me burst into tears for no good reason.  I can't watch "Brother Bear" in public because of this, and I have no idea why.

27.  I have a vampire story that I'm not writing because I know the market is saturated with them right now.  It's still one of my favorite stories.  I hope to share it, one day.

28.  I don't read mainstream novels or watch television, mainly because I don't see the point.  I know what Earth is like, I know what family drama is first-hand -- why would I want to read or watch more of the same?

29.  The only non-SF/F books I tend to read are published or set before 1930.  Either that, or books that are so far from my understanding of the world that they feel like science fiction, like the Dirk Pitt novels.

30.  My only really awful habits are A) ripping the skin off my lips when I'm bored or nervous, and B) procrastination.

31.  My two favorite colours are Mediterranean blue and pumpkin orange.  I also love lime green, but only on certain things.

32.  My obsession with pumpkins goes far beyond the colour.  It's a story thing.

33.  We shall not speak of the Pumpkin Incident, for it had less to do with pumpkin-love and more to do with being-drunk.

34.  The Pumpkin Incident was the first truly illegal thing I ever did.  Until a few years ago, the idea of disobeying authority figures or doing anything that would conceivably get me in trouble was enough to give me a coronary.

35.  I never skipped school without parental permission.  Not even once.  (And by parental permission I mean missing a day for travel, or medical appointments, or funerals, etc.)

36.  However, I did miss whole weeks of class because I was either mentally ill or physically ill.  Yes, I really am one of those people who was Sick As A Kid.

37.  Once I got over my fear of cars, I discovered that I love being in a moving vehicle.  Car, bus, train, whatever.  Especially trains.

38.  I don't like buses because of the crowds, but I do like riding on them.

39.  It took me only one day to remember how to read sheet music for the piano, despite not having touched one since I was five years old.

40.  Hilariously, my refusal to remember the correct finger placement persists too.

41.  I'm not one of those people with natural musical talent, but the years in which there were no musical instruments in the house were some of the worst.  I like making pretty noises.

42.  The biggest regret of my adult life was cutting my hair.  The biggest regret of my childhood was throwing away several hundred sketches because I'd improved a little and didn't want to see my early attempts any more.  If I could change one thing about my childhood, it would be keeping those sketches.

43.  Someone once asked me why I collect skulls, since my worst fear is death.  Weirdly, I had never thought of it like that before they asked me.  I actually find them oddly comforting and don't really associate them with death at all.

44.  People ask me about the skulls' names a lot.  The truth is, I'm just obsessed with naming the things I collect.  Within half an hour of owning one, they usually pop out a name without rhyme or reason.

45.  I name my technology, too.  The iPod is Lovecraft, the phone is Cthulhu, the laptop is Sascha (Russian diminutive of Alexander), the jump drive is Kingston, the external hard drive is Persephone, and the camera is Yuki.  Dad's computer is Freud.  The new PC is Shakespeare 3001.  Don't ask me, I just live here.

46.  I've looked into purchasing a human skull.  I'm still undecided.

47.  I used to hate word searches because I thought I was bad at them, but I've recently discovered that I really love them.  If you want to entertain me for a few hours, bring me some of those.  Works wonders.

48.  I really don't like anime, but I do deeply enjoy well-written fanfiction, even for animes I've never watched.

49.  I think fanfiction fascinates me in general because, for the good stuff, you get this interesting effect where a particular character is different in every fic, but at the same time, they're all recognizable as themselves.

50.  I unrepentantly read Trigun, Yugioh, and Due South fanfiction.  I don't know what this says about me as a person.

51.  But I don't care what anyone says, RPS (real-person slash, as in fanfiction about real living people as opposed to characters) squicks me the hell out.  When I figured that out, I realized why historical fiction kind of makes me uncomfortable.  It's RPS with dead people.

52.  Some authors I Buy On Sight -- like Sarah Monette, China Mieville, Tom Spanbauer, Catherynne M. Valente, and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant.  But with some authors, I fervently love one book or series from, and absolutely can't stand anything else.  Elizabeth Bear is one of those, and Julie Czerneda.  It's almost always one or the other.  Love 'em all, or hate most of 'em.

53.  The sad irony of my life is that I'm an author and artist, and desperately want my products to succeed -- and yet I hate people and social interaction.  But what is an audience but people?  Ergo, I'm trying to get over it.

54.  It's hard to get over something that appears to be a part of my DNA.  My father is exactly the same way: polite and business-like when he needs to be, but otherwise, would be fine living on the moon for all he cares for socializing.

55.  My father is still my hero.

56.  I hate modern women's clothing with unbridled passion.  If I could dress like a Victorian (male or female) every day, I would be ecstatic.

57.  I really, really hate cell phones.  Especially the implication that if I have one, everyone has the right to contact me anytime, anywhere.

58.  Abbreviating or shortening text messages in order to fit them into 145 characters actually causes me physical pain.  For some reason, I never seem to have this problem on Twitter.

59.  I write informal essays like they're going out of style, but formal essay formats give me the crawling horrors.  I loathe them like Indiana Jones loathes snakes.  Still doesn't mean I can't write a damn good one if I set my mind to it, though.

60.  Being a west-coaster, I don't have a stereotypical Canadian accent.  I do notice quirks about my speech, though.  I say "ain't" only when I'm feeling snarky, and often graft "Oh," "Well," "So," or "And" onto the beginning of sentences.  I can't make my mouth differentiate between "cool" and "cruel," or "are" and "our."

61.  If I have nothing else to do, I can read two 700-page novels in a single day.

62.  I can't multitask.  Like, at all.  I have to reserve time slots, and sometimes entire days, to get a single theme-of-task done.  (If it's the same theme, I'm fine.  Clean, dust, vacuum, and reorganize room?  Fine, give me six hours.  Math in the morning and English in the afternoon?  I will lie twitching on the floor.)

63.  When I was a child, I had an irrational fear of spontaneous combustion.  If you ever wanted to know where my habit for taking cold showers started, there's your answer.

64.  I think the time I made my mother laugh the hardest was when I finished the last assignment of my AP course, stalked into the kitchen, and yelled, utterly deadpan, "SOMEBODY FETCH ME A MINSTREL TO EAT."

65.  All the novels (and some of the short stories) I write have soundtracks.  Flipping through my iPod some days is like taking a walk through a store stocked with my books.

66.  I'm a tiny linguistic sponge, in that I know little enough of several languages to be useless and just enough to be offensive.

67.  Most of my scars are self-inflicted, a legacy from my teenage years, but my biggest scar is one you can't even see because it's under my left eyebrow.  When I was three, I took a header into the edge of a chair and needed six stitches.  I have a vivid memory of calmly watching the doctor sew up my face.

68.  I think scars on other people are ridiculously sexy.

69.  No matter how mature I get, I think I'm always going to giggle at this number whenever I see it.

70.  I don't like any of the Big Three Dystopian Classics, partially because they all read the same and get mixed up in my head.  Some days I can't remember what elements are from Brave New World and which are from 1984 and which are from Anthem.

71.  We all have our preferences -- some of us slaver over redheads, and some of us go nuts over a pair of green eyes.  Me?  I have a thing for people with albinism or vitiligo.

72.  When I got my first dyke haircut at around age 15, someone told me I looked like David Bowie.  That's how I discovered his music.

73.  Now, with the long shaggy perm, when I take my glasses off I'm told I look like a glam rocker from the Led Zepplin era.

74.  All of which points to the fact that I am secretly a rock star at heart.

75.  I love writing LGBT fiction, but really, it's all GBT.  I've never seriously written anything about lesbians.  Partially this is because I'm paranoid about doing it badly, due to not being a typical lesbian myself.  This is, of course, ridiculous, especially since I have no fears about writing gay men, etc.  And something I'm trying to fix.

76.  I think LGBT couples are basically the most adorable thing in the world.  Second only to kittens.

77.  If I came across an LGBT couple holding kittens, I would probably die on the spot.

78.  Whenever I hear my straight friends complaining about how hard it is to find a date, I remind them that it could be worse.  They could be queer, asexual, and polyamorous, like me.

79.  On that note, I've had a surprising amount of opportunities to enter into polyamorous relationships -- but I always called it off because of my insecurities.

80.  People are always amazed to hear that I'm insecure and un-selfconfident.  I'm good at hiding it.

81.  Despite that, in another universe, I'm a professional actress.  Being good at hiding your insecurities also means that you're a pro at taking on roles and acting.  In fact, I write most of my novels by acting out the scenes.

82.  I greatly dislike my first name and will eventually publish under a pen name.  Nothing fancy, just a spin on my real name.

83.  My mother says she wished she named me after her grandmother, and I agree: Katerina, pronounced the Russian way.  Short forms: Katya or Kat.  I'm also partial to Katushka.

84.  I really, really like Russian names.  And Russian history.  Must be my Galician blood.

85.  A good swath of my family tree traces back to Galicia, a country that no longer exists.

86.  Someday I'll write a story about that.

87.  I was raised on the Beatles, the Bee Gees, the Eagles, and songs like Woolly Bully and Hair.  My aunt tried to improve my education with Yanni, but I wouldn't have any of it.

88.  This means that I'm of the firm opinion that modern music needs more saxophones.

89.  Also less sex, but that's just me being old-fashioned in general.

90.  I may have written (wrote?) more sex scenes than I can count, including the entireity of Whispers In The Dark, but I'm still a straight-laced Victorian spinster-aunt when it comes to sex in public, music, and television.  Books are fine though.  I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't think so.

91.  I hate the Romantic poets, especially Shelley (with the notable exception of Ozymandias).  Not much fonder of the Restoration poets, either.  My love belongs to the Elizabethan and Jacobean bards.

92.  Among the things I wasn't introduced to until I was eighteen or older are pickles, sausage rolls, prawns, curry, milk (as in drinking, not as an ingredient), cranberries, olives, croissants, scallops, macaroons, and dessert truffles.  Sheltered life or something.

93.  I've grown out of a lot of the things I didn't like as a child, but I still loathe asparagus, rabbit, red onion, and goat cheese.

94.  My nails grow at a ridiculous rate, fingers even more so than toes.  I can have manicure-perfect long nails in a few weeks, without any effort.  Unfortunately, this also means that no matter how short I make them, my girly hands give me away when I cross-dress.

95.  I love writing long letters and emails, but I fear that in these days of text messages and Twitter, the art of the long, lovingly crafted missive has been lost.  I wonder if it will ever be resurrected.

96.  The most complex flavour experience I've ever had was in this form.  Take a brandy snifter.  Put one shot of amaretto and one shot of Grand Marnier in the bottom.  Place a lemon wedge on the lip and a whole cinammon stick inside.  Pour peppermint tea over the cinammon stick.  Drink.  Trip balls.

98.  I don't just have theme songs for my novels -- I have them for life events too.  I can't listen to "Had To Say I Love You In A Song" or "I Think We're Alone Now" without thinking of the people I was in love with when I heard them for the first time.

99.  I think that moral relativism is the most frightening philosophy of all.

100.  I'm a sucker for interesting memes.  But if you've read this far, you know that already.
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