[wish list]

So last night, Kidling called out to me as I walked past his room, wanting to tell me about something he wanted for Christmas. I told him he could, y’know, write wish lists for Christmas and birthdays instead of just randomly telling me, “Oh, yeah, and I want this!”
So today he presented the following “chist mas list” to me:
  1. Pokemon cards
  2. MW3
  3. Toy attack heli
  4. 50$
  5. toy halo scarab
What I find the absolute most adorable/ amusing/ hilarious about this list is #4. I love the straight-up request for $50. Forget asking about whatever he wants to buy, he’ll just take $50 and buy his own gift, a-thank-you-very-much. Love it.
Course, I explained that just because a request is on his list, doesn’t mean he’ll get it. As far as I’m concerned, a wish list is a general guidance tool (in general, I like these sorts of items, please pay attention). I’ve written detailed wish lists for as long as I can remember, and my favorite holidays were always the ones when everyone ignores my wish list and got me awesome/ memorable/ thoughtful/ home-made gifts I never would have thought of requesting. Like the year my sister sent me a personalized CD of songs she thought I’d like (she got the idea after I told her my music tastes had been strongly influenced by what she’d listened to as a teenager). Or the year my brother gave me a bunch of Stephen King books.

gratitude

Today was a stress-less Thanksgiving. In 2001, John and I tried to do the whole Thanksgiving deal, with a turkey and the traditional fixings and both families in attendance. It was . . . stressful. I forgot to thaw the turkey out in time, it turned out that dad wanted giblets which I didn’t know how to fix, I got the wrong “type” of cranberry sauce for John’s side of family (I dislike cranberry sauce, have never eaten it, and had no idea there was a right or wrong type), and our respective in-laws kind of clashed. I swore never again.
After that John and I made our holiday agreement — lesser, non-stress holidays (like birthdays, Labor Day, or the 4th of July) we could host and spend with extended family. But any holiday requiring lots of stressful preparation and clean-up would not be hosted by us. ‘Course, that very quickly didn’t matter — mom was too sick for holiday celebrations, John’s parents were usually working on holidays, and both our siblings either married and spent it with their in-laws, or moved away.
So we’ve built a pretty laid-back holiday tradition. Generally we have pizza or some other low-effort meal, and some Costco pumpkin pie for dessert. Then we play video games or watch movies. The whole goal is to really enjoy the holiday and family time, and take a moment to be grateful for everything we have. Sometimes we accept an invitation to someone else’s place and do that. Pretty much the purpose of Thanksgiving; I just excised the stress of preparation.
This year, my brother and nephew joined us. It was really fun. Turned out no delivery places were open, so I made a semi-traditional Thanksgiving meal in less than 10 minutes — some sliced leftover rotisserie chicken, instant mashed potatoes, instant gravy, and some canned cranberry sauce. We had both pumpkin and apple pie from Costco as a dessert. We spent the day hanging out, teasing the animals, wrestling the dog, and playing Halo, Monster Madness, and Left for Dead 2. John’s mom called early in the morning, and we got to talk to them for a bit, and I’ll be calling my sisters in a 1/2 minute here.
Pretty awesome day. I’m glad to have such a great family. I’m also glad we no longer live in Centralia, which is flooding once again.

certified mail

I am starting to lose my faith in the U.S. Postal Service. I’ve been a proponent of the U.S.P.S. for a long while now — I used U.S.P.S. to send holiday packages and birthday gifts long after everyone else made the switch to the more effective FedEx and UPS. I still send handwritten cards, and I still buy stamps at least once a month. My siblings and dad still send letters, cards, and gifts to me through the U.S.P.S., and I am one of a dying breed of people who has experienced the joyous thrill of opening a just-because, handwritten letter from a loved one, recounting their day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that for the majority of Americans, the U.S.P.S. is pretty much obsolete; a junk mail delivering, lumbering behemoth of yesteryear. I know it’s bloated, underfunded with overpaid workers, and inefficient compared to FedEx and UPS. I know that; but I’ve kept quietly rooting for the underdog, kept utilizing their services, and kept following the news about them.
But I’m starting to get a wee bit annoyed at how they don’t deliver certified letters. I mean, they do — spottily. I don’t really understand what’s going on with this, honestly — I’ve had it happen four separate times, in two different counties. Down in Centralia, the mail usually arrived about the time my husband left for work, so I was always home when it was delivered. Three separate times, I received that little orange certified mail slip saying, “This is your final notice. We have attempted service on this 3x. Please pick up your mail at the ______ Post Office.”
Irritates the crap out of me when that happens, especially when I know for a fact that as a stay-at-home mom with no car, I’ve been home when the mail truck has been through. Nobody ever attempted any personal service on any freaking certified mail. I even called the Post Office once to complain. They had me call the distribution center, and the distribution center said it must be a mistake, but I could pick up my mail at the post office. What. The. Eff. For reals?
Well, it just happened up here. The mail usually comes through right about noonish, and John and I are usually home. For the past week or so, we’ve actually seen the mail truck arrive and gone out directly after to fetch our mail. Added to that, John’s been home with a broken jaw, and (remember) I’m a stay-at-home parent. Our car is broken down, so we are literally stuck at home pretty much all day. We’ve been out of the house a few days for day-long bus rides to the doctors. Well, apparently the post office must have attempted to deliver this freaking letter on those specific dates and times we were out of the house (wait, that doesn’t work — those appointments were in the afternoon, so we boarded the bus around 2 p.m. for each of them — after the mail is delivered).
Today, in our mailbox, was that familiar orange slip. “Sorry We Missed You! Your item is at the _____ Post Office.” According to this slip, this is the final notice, and this letter was sent on 11-7. I can definitively state that no mailman has come knocking on our door to deliver any freaking certified letter. I am starting to suspect that some — not all — some lazy postmen use this little slip as an excuse not to deliver certified letters. I mean, the whole thing must run on the honor system, right? It’s not like they can afford cameras and whatnot, so the postman must just look at the letter, be like, “Ah, fuck, I have to walk to the door? It’s raining . . . fuck it, I’ll just tell my supervisor no one was there. They’re probably at work anyway.”
So then the next time the postman is out, they’re like, “Dude, this again? I have a ton of junk mail to shove in these boxes and I don’t really . . . fuck it, I’ll just tell my supe they weren’t there.”
And so on, until one day I get a little orange slip in my box saying, “Hey! Come to the post office and pick up the letter I couldn’t be chuffed to deliver!”I have no car, but the mailman not only has a vehicle, he is paid to deliver this letter. That is his job, and he can’t do it. One assumes a certified letter must be an important bit of mail and that an adequate effort must be made to properly deliver it, but instead my junk mail (oh, another catalogue from Bed, Bath, and Beyond!?! Your store triggers an allergic reaction from the perfumed air, you think these catalogues go anywhere but the recycle bin?) is delivered rain or shine while the mailmen apparently expect me to trot down to the post office and pick up the letter on their schedule.
At the very least, could you start writing who these damn certified letters you refuse to deliver are from? Is it a creditor I’m trying to avoid or is it a check I’ve eagerly been awaiting?

[same old, same old]

I tossed and turned all night. Could not sleep, could not rest. I was too hot, then too cold, then my leg hurt in the position I laid, then my arm hurt when I flipped to the other side. My mind wandered and meandered, thinking about stuff ranging from Kidling’s new after-school program to what the protagonist in my book should do next to John’s wired jaw.
I thought about the orthodontic appt. John had this Monday, and the slight infection they found, and I wondered if it’s cleared up yet or if they’ll need to drain it. I read about draining infections from a healing jaw, and it sounds painful.
I thought about the doctor’s appt. Kidling and I had on Tuesday; the medications I had changed, the long bus ride, the fact that John’s parents are (or were?) apparently in town. They arrived that day, apparently, and went to his sisters, but they didn’t call us until late in the afternoon. We were waiting for our second bus at that point, at the downtown transit station. It was cold outside. When we finished the appointment, we had a 1/2 hour wait for the next bus, then a 20 minute wait at the station. It was dark and icy by the time we got home, and we were all exhausted and hungry. John was in pain, too. John said he’d rather I just ride down to the store and pick up his prescriptions for the infection in his jaw, and that if his parents were still in town tomorrow they’d stop by or call. They never did, so I’m guessing they left.
I thought about half-days and family nights at school, the new after-school program Kidling is in and the volunteer packets we received at parent-teacher night. I need to find mine and fill it out.
I thought about the bullies in the neighborhood, the kids who seem to be targeting Kidling. With recent events, they’ve laid off around here. Kidling reports that they call him names and tease him when he’s waiting in the line for the bus at school, but that he knows to just ignore them. The other day, John and I picked Kidling up from his stop, and as we walked home I noticed a third kid talking to the two usual bullies. This third kid turned and began heading toward his house, a path that crossed ours. As he approached us, he stopped, hesitated, and then walked directly into Kidling, intentionally bumping him hard with his his shoulder. I looked at him, and he began apologizing as though it were an accident.
I don’t know how to handle this, other than what I’m doing, but those two main bully kids continue to talk smack and tell lies about our family. Three of Kidling’s regular friends stopped coming over because the bullies told them we were recording them in our house, and the kids told their parents. I don’t even know how to combat malicious rumor like that, especially since we addressed this falsehood back in July.
It all started when Kidling, who was being regularly bullied and none of the adults were stopping it (I couldn’t, I’m not the parent of the kids who were bullying; and the parents dismissed it as “playing rough” and “boys will be boys.”). So Kidling began lying to the bullies, unbeknownst to me. He told them we were recording everything they did and reporting them to the police. A child blowing smoke. We grounded him and made him apologize to all the neighbors for lying to them. We also freely offered to let the neighbors review our video files so they could assure themselves they were not being videotaped. They refused, but all seemed well.
But here we are, months later, and the lie is rearing it’s ugly head.   It’s weird enough to know that there are adults out there who are choosing to believe what a bullied, terrified child said over rational adults, but it’s even weirder to realize that there are adults who have never met our family or son and are literally believing the gossip of children over their own rational minds. One boggles at the idiocy.

[thoughts]

So, yesterday we watched Zombies of Mass Destruction, which was streaming on Netflix. It takes place on an island in Washington state, and features as the zombie-fighting heroes the following:
  • A gay couple.
  • An Iranian girl who’s constantly mistaken for an Iraqi.
  • A feminist environmentalist.
Basically, the premise is that these “threats” to America fight the zombies successfully. It’s a kind of cool little flick; my main beef is that the line delivery seemed stilted and slightly self-conscious. For all I know, it could’ve been poor editing or a badly scored soundtrack. Overall, the dialogue was witty and funny — enough so that it detracted from the sometimes-poor delivery — and the special effects were gruesomely awesome. It was a neat film, and I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of zombie flicks or horror films. It’s streaming on Netflix at the moment.
Anyway, there was a running theme that got me thinking early on in the film. The gay couple, Tom and Lance (played by Doug Fahl and Cooper Hopkins) had flown out from the East Coast to visit Tom’s mom. While in town, Tom was planning on coming out to his family and friends. It was made pretty clear that this was something Tom and Lance had discussed in depth and planned over a long period of time, and that Tom was really scared of doing it because his hometown was a small, religious place. Tom mentioned that his high-school crush had been shipped away to straight camp. The fact that Lance had come out to his family already was referenced, along with his dad’s negative reaction. Tom and Lance are obviously a committed, loving couple, but this issue (of Tom’s reluctance to come out) is causing some tension in their relationship.
That whole situation right there is something that has always infuriated me. Not at the couples like Tom and Lance; at society as a whole. For a long time, there was a stigma — still propagated by folks like those at N.O.M. — that those who identify as LGBT cannot have loving, committed relationships. They point to the sexual revolution (driven by gays!) or to the lack of historically recorded LGBT committed relationships as proof. I always feel like screaming when I hear this few — thankfully, we’re hearing it far less as the irrefutable evidence of loving, committed LGBT couples piles up.
This mindset, though, seems to completely ignore the effect that discrimination can have on a relationship. Can you imagine how that would feel, to love someone and share all your most intimate secrets and hopes and dreams — yet this person is unwilling to introduce you as their partner? Can you imagine how hurt and dismissed and unloved you would feel every time your partner told their friends and family that you were a “roommate” or that you guys were “old friends from school,” or worse, never told them anything about you at all?
It’s the same with any counter-culture relationship, though. Imagine a married polyamorous couple who has long-term secondaries outside of their relationship. Those secondaries are not brought to family gatherings, introduced to the parents or in-laws, or otherwise acknowledged in general society. Imagine how that would feel — you’d essentially feel like the dirty little secret, the hidden mistress/ mister. I mean, let’s pretend that “Susan” and “Robert” are the polyamorous married couple. Robert has a long-term someone on the side — for the sake of this, Robert is bisexual and his someone on the side is “Pat,” who’s gay — and Susan also has a long-term partner on the side. There are generally two mindsets among polyamorous people:
  • Your sex life is your business; you don’t need to tell friends and family who would judge negatively or wouldn’t understand.
  • Be honest about being polyamorous, but don’t force people to deal with it.

Both of those mindsets mean that non-poly-friendly family and friends of polyamorous couples never have to deal with the polyamory. Take, for instance, Robert and Pat. Pat would be what is sometimes called in polyamorous circles a “secondary.” Robert may go out with Pat to dates and dinners, may spend the night at Pat’s place, may even meet Pat’s family and friends. But Robert does not introduce Pat to his family or friends. He doesn’t take Pat out in his town. If Susan or any of Robert’s family needs him (or Susan’s family), Robert will break a date with Pat in a heartbeat. Susan treats her boyfriend the same way, always placing him second to other life importances.

And that’s why people call polyamorous couples selfish. They’re not trying to be, when you think about it. The polyamorous people I know are generally very honest and clear about the relationship parameters for secondaries — but the problem is that the secondaries are not equal in the relationship. In Western society, we’re raised with a very clear ideal of entering equal, loving relationships where both partners contribute fully to the psychological, emotional, and lifestyle health and comfort of the other. We’re raised with an ideal of communication, respect, and love. That ideal of equality simply cannot exist in a polyamorous relationship in our current society. There are legal issues, ranging from hospital visitation rights to how to incorporate a committed secondary into your children’s lives without having CPS called on you (that’s a real issue, that is debated and discussed in poly forums). There are the issues of society as a whole not accepting it. There are issues of in-laws and extra in-laws and possible children.
I don’t think polyamory can really exist properly in our society at this point in time, to be honest. The way the Western world responds to it, and the way every polyamorous relationship structure I’ve seen works, there’s the primary, socially recognized couple, and there are secondaries who are not able to fully participate in their partner’s life and relationships. The secondaries are, basically, not equals in the relationship.
There are already so many difficulties to overcome, so much work inherent in a socially-condoned relationship. There are financial issues, sexual compatibility, lifestyle differences, parenting disagreements, etc. etc. To throw in one partner pretending another doesn’t exist to their friends and family . . . that just seems devastatingly cruel.
I think the LGBT couples who have dealt with that sort of pain with their partners, yet managed to stay together, are probably the strongest, most loving relationships there are. Because to overcome the rejection and pain of having your partner disavow you to their nearest and dearest takes a lot of love and trust.

dinner and treats

So, when I was still living in my parents home, one of my all-time favorite meals was pot roast. The first time I tried to make pot roast as a married woman, it turned out completely awful. This was actually a running theme with my early attempts at cooking — raw on the inside, crispy on the outside. If you’re wondering how to ruin slow cooker pot roast, I don’t know. I just know I managed it in 2002.
Well, obviously a couple of years have passed since then. And I’ve learned to cook — pretty well, if I do say so myself. I’m no Amy, Goddess of the Kitchen, but I’m a decent cook. Tonight we had pot roast, one of my absolute favorite dishes to make since John bought me a decent crock pot (the one I got as a wedding gift was lacking in both size and temperature/ time options).
The roast was perfect — all tender and moist (I suspect this is a result of pan-searing it in olive oil and spices prior to putting it in the slow cooker). Usually I add the potatoes/ celery/ carrots/ onion a little later in the process, so they’ve still got a little heft to them instead of being soggy much. This time, I put them in at the beginning, but added less water. Also, I decided to use a Lipton Onion Soup packet instead of half a diced onion and a bouillon packet. I did feel it was a little too salty, so I’ll probably use half a Lipton Onion Soup packet next time — or maybe just use my usual recipe. I dunno.
Anyway, eating the pot roast tonight got me thinking about other meals and treats of my childhood, foods I really miss and am constantly trying to re-create the way mom made them. Unfortunately, several of the most-desired recipes mom used seem to have gone missing after her death. My sisters and I have all called each other, trying to find out who has them. It appears none of us do. But these are the recipes I’d like to find.
  • Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Mom never cooked that awful bright yellow boxed stuff. I was introduced to boxed Mac & Cheese powder as an adult, and I’ve never been able to develop any taste for it. Truly horrific stuff. I miss the goodness of real cheese, melted with milk into a roux of flour and butter, then baked with al dente macaroni noodles in the oven. I’ve tried a variety of baked macaroni recipes over the years, but none of them quite achieve how mom’s was. It mostly seems to be a problem in the crust — I remember mom’s baked mac and cheese as having a kind of chewy/ crunchy crust, but all the ones I make have a barely-there crust.
  • Mint Surprise Cookies. Mom made these every year at Christmas. She would buy a pack of Andes mints, slice them up into slivers, wrap the mints in the cookie dough, roll them in granulated sugar, and bake them. Fresh out of the oven, they would get topped with a pecan. They were delicious, but I don’t know the actual cookie dough recipe.
  • Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies. I know, I know. Recipes for this cookie abound. I even made them all the time as a teenager. I don’t know what the hell is going on with my PB cookies now, but they always turn out (in my opinion) kind of dry and crumbly instead of chewy on the outside and moist on the inside. I thought maybe it was because I was using crunchy PB, so I switched to creamy, but nothing doing. This, admittedly, may be a situation of me being a perfectionist, because everyone who’s tried my PB cookies swears up and down that they’re delicious.
  • Jam. The homemade jam recipes I’ve tried have been pretty basic. The jam turns out as required, but it’s not very . . . jammy. Like, thick. Mom’s was thick. Mine is spreadable and still delicious, but it’s not as thick as mom’s was. Again, no one else seems to mind. Last time I canned jam, we ran out within 3 months. But every time I ate it, I remember the jammy perfection of my mom’s jam, and I felt let down and disappointed.
  • Schnitzel. My parents made it out of breaded pork, served it with a squiggly pasta and capers, and usually had an apple/ raisin/ yogurt salad on the side. I’ve never even tried to make it, but I’ve been missing it lately.
  • And finally, that most important and wondrous of recipes . . . Crescent Rolls. I don’t know what mom did or where she got her recipe, but I’ve been unable to recreate it. These were the flakiest, butteriest, most delicious rolls in the world. She would usually make a double (sometimes triple) batch at Thanksgiving, and they were always the first leftover to disappear. We’d just wander into the kitchen, grab a couple of these babies out of the bread drawer, and wander off snacking on them. My dad’s new wife is a pretty freaking awesome cook, and even her crescent rolls can’t match my moms. In sorrow, I’ve reverted to buying those Pillsbury canned rolls — they may not be awesome, but I least I can comfort myself that the inadequacy and lack of flavor is derived from the can.

I’d also like to try my hand at fried chicken again. Mom never made this, and I never really learned how. However, I recently learned that my husband loves fried chicken, but he dislikes KFC about as much (if not more) than I do. We’ve been settling for Albertson’s fried chicken in the lack of a Church’s Chicken (which is, according to John, the only place to buy fried chicken at). Amy, Goddess of the Kitchen and All Things Delicious, has promised to send me her fried chicken recipe, which I’m excited to try.

I would also like to try pork loin. My dad always overcooked it, so I never liked it. But then again, I didn’t like spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, salads, or canned fruit back then either. Well, to be fair, I still hate and loathe canned fruit salads. Ew. But just because I’ve never had a delicious, perfectly cooked pork loin doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There’s got to be a reason it’s such a popular dish — so I want to try my hand at it.
It just kind of worries me. It’s got to be a pretty sensitive dish to cook accurately, because I have seriously never had a yummy pork loin. It’s always dry and overcooked and bland. I don’t understand how this meat came from the same animal bacon and ham does. So either nobody knows how to cook this dish, or it’s really super easy to accidentally overcook, or it’s actually that disgusting. Seeing as it appears to be a popular dish, I’m thinking that it’s probably not disgusting when cooked correctly — but no-one who’s served it to me knows how to cook it. And that’s why I’m a bit worried about trying to cook pork loin.

[e-readers]

So someone close to me recently bought a Kindle. Three, actually — one for themselves, one for their spouse, and one for someone I had gifted my old Nook to. Honestly, I don’t care if someone owns a Kindle. That’s their preference, and I actually have a few friends who own a Kindle. It only bothers me insofar as I can’t lend or borrow books with people who use that device.
But this purchase did bother me, and continues to bother me. Why? Well, some specific reasons:
  1. They made fun of me for getting an e-reader when I first bought my Nook. Not, mind you, for buying a Nook specifically — for getting an e-reader, which they said was useless and a waste of money.
  2. When they changed their minds about e-readers, they asked my advice and opinion. Specifically, over the course of several visits. I gave them all the reasons — ranging from the shady ethics of Amazon, the poor treatment of their authors and customers, and the superior OS of the Android-based readers — to get any e-reader except Kindle. 
  3. Beyond simply ignoring me, they also chose to buy a Kindle for someone I had gifted my first-gen Nook to. I had also planned to buy her a Nook Touchscreen at  Christmas if she liked it. When she returned the gift of my Nook within two weeks because she had been gifted a Kindle, it felt a bit like a kick in the teeth.
  4. Finally, and most bafflingly, these people have a B&N membership, which would have really extended the value of a Nook.  
The B&N membership, which costs only $25/year, means they could’ve gotten the Nook Color for $25 off the listed price (bringing it to $174; cheaper than the closest comparable Kindle product), or the Nook Touchscreen for $10 off, bringing it to $89 — only $10 more than the ad-supported versions of the Kindle they chose to get. Yes. They bought the versions of the Kindle that will have ads on them. They paid money for a product that will always have ads on it.

Additionally, with the B&N membership, they would have access to the usual member discounts on books and media, not to mention free public library access to as many books as they like. Comparatively, with Kindle, there is not yet full integration with free public libraries, and the Kindle “lending” system requires you to pay $79 for Amazon Prime to get one — one — lent book a month. Not even a free, keep it book — just one lent book. Hell, they could’ve bought the Nook, rooted it, put the free Kindle app on there, and had access to both B&N and Kindle books (a fact I informed them of).
In short, it appears that they specifically asked my advice, then went with the more expensive option of the Kindle solely because I recommended they go for the Nook or any other e-reader. Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but there’s back history there to support this theory. Plus, honestly, I didn’t understand why they were asking my advice, since they’ve made it pretty clear they don’t think very highly of me as a wife, mother, or person. They’ve never asked my advice or opinion on any before, ever.

So the one time they do ask my advice on something, they make a big thing about bringing it up every time they see me, asking the pros and cons of each device, discussing it in depth — and then going with the only e-reader I categorically recommended against? Seriously, I recommend the Nook, the Google Story, the Kobo — even the freaking Sony Reader line over and above the Kindle. Mainly because I feel Amazon is a horribly unethical company that only makes changes to benefit their customers when they’re a) called out on their dickery or b) when a competitor begins making money hand-over-fist because they offer something Amazon has refused to offer despite repeated customer requests (see every improvement to the Kindle since the Nook came out).

I’m really trying not to let it bother me, since that was no doubt their intention. And honestly, it’s their problem. They made the decision to buy what, in the long run, is the more expensive product. I mean, yeah, it sucks that I won’t be able to use LendMe to lend them books and borrow books — we share very similar genre interests — but it’s mostly just hurtful because it really appears they went to great lengths just to show how little they value my opinion and advice.

By the way, I didn’t name names or how I know them because they’ve been known to blog-stalk me on past blogs (that I’ve since abandoned), so I’m protecting their online anonymity in the unlikely event they’re following me here, too.  

[day to day]

Not much has been going on lately. Mostly staying at home while John recovers. He caught a cold and has been sneezing a lot, which with the broken jaw really sucks. I’ve been doing some writing, some job searching, and considering going back to college for my Bachelor’s. We’re debating the pros and cons of it right now, but I think ultimately (if I can get scholarships/ grants) it would be worthwhile, especially since I have a targeted degree path in mind and would use my time there to cultivate contacts in my planned field.
As for my writing, I’ve got a few different writing projects going, both fiction and non-fiction.
  • A suburban sci-fi YA novel. I’m pretty sure that when/if I finish it, it’ll actually be considered just YA sci-fi, but I call it “suburban sci-fi” because it’s similar in tone to a suburban fantasy (fantasy in a modern-day, real-world setting), but it’s sci-fi instead of fantasy.
  • An autobiography. This one I am, admittedly, not concentrating much on. See, more than a few people who mainly know me through my writing have told me I should write a book about my experiences of the past 10 years — marriage, motherhood, losing my own mom, separating from my husband, getting back together with my husband, becoming atheist, dealing with natural disasters, the marriage/ relationship experiment we tried, coming to terms with my husband’s sexuality, etc. etc. And John’s said he’s okay with it, even though it would more than likely reveal some pretty private stuff about both of us. But I just don’t feel comfortable with it, because it does require writing about family and friends who may not want to be written about. So I work on this on a sort of intermittent basis, but I don’t focus a lot of my energy on it. Honestly, I could probably just compile 10 years of letters never sent, blog posts (both posted and unposted), and journal entries. But it’s a really personal, revealing project, and it really does make me uncomfortable on a visceral level. Mainly I’m worried that if I finish it and it does get published, people I know will read it. I don’t care about strangers reading it; but I don’t want family or friends reading it. Also, it feels a bit, I don’t know, egotistical to write an autobiography. I’m a nobody. I’m told this doesn’t matter, and that I have a lot to teach people. It still feels very . . . arrogant. Reeking of hubris. You could say I’m conflicted about this project.
  • Finally, I have a series of short articles on feminism and relationships.
I’m mostly doing all this for fun. I have no idea who to submit the finished works to, or if there’s any market for them. I just like to write. I think I might do what one of my friends has done, and hire someone to help me edit the finished manuscript, then go ahead and publish it in e-book files. Maybe with a small print run, if there’s any demand. I don’t know.
Finally, I’ve made some decisions for my personal health and happiness. I really need to start focusing on my psychological and emotional health, and stop letting myself get caught up in toxic situations and with toxic people. With that in mind, I’ve made the following decisions:
  • I am going to work harder on maintaining lines of communication between myself and my siblings.
  • I am not going to associate with people who drag me down.
  • This Christmas, I am going to focus on what I’ve always loved about the holiday: family, giving gifts, and baking.
I really love my family. I may not always agree with them, but in the end they’ve always been a wonderfully supportive and accepting group of people. I used to think our family was dysfunctional, but as I’ve grown older and had the opportunity to observe other family dynamics, I’ve realized I really hit the jackpot with my family. They’re an amazing group of people, and I’m lucky to have them. I knew a girl back in Centralia who had such a rocky relationship with her family that she didn’t know her mom had died until a month after the funeral. That’s really horrifying to me.
Not associating with people who drag me down is pretty simple. If every time I hang out with someone, I end up angry/ agitated/ frustrated/ hurt, and all my best efforts to alleviate the situation have failed, then I just stop hanging out with them. There’s absolutely no validity to it, and (honestly) I have no doubt that the few people in my life who make me feel this way would probably prefer not to see me anymore. So why make both of us miserable?
The Christmas thing is because I miss the Christmas celebrations of my childhood, and I think I’ve possibly been focusing too much on the material aspect and cost issues of Christmas since I’ve gotten married — and definitely since I became an atheist and felt I could no longer celebrate the “reason” for the season.But honestly? Christmas was a pagan celebration long before it was co-opted by Christianity, and I can find meaning in the historical significance, not to mention the seasonal shift. More than that, you don’t need to believe in god to believe in the meaning and importance of relationships and family. So instead of worrying about the larger philosophical questions of celebrating what has been co-opted into a religious holiday, I’m going to focus on what’s always made Christmas such a special time of year: The people I love.

[misotheist vs. atheist]

I was watching this video today, and it got me thinking about being an atheist in America. I actually don’t notice much (if any) discrimination. I think it’s because of my location — the Pacific Northwest is an ideal place to be an atheist. We’re not at all uncommon around here. A friend of mine once told me that our state has the highest rate of churches per capita, and the lowest attendance. If true, that’s a really interesting factoid.

If you watch that video, there are interviews of mid-west/ Bible belt atheists, and how they get treated by classmates, teachers, neighbors, etc. when they come out as atheists. One woman was kicked out of her apartment by her landlord; one girl was called ‘devil worshipper’ by her teachers and told to leave America; and one family lost all their friends because they spoke out about public school time being used for religious indoctrination. The other day, an Ohio atheist posted a question on reddit about his group of friends being kicked out of a pizza place because one of them was wearing a shirt with the red “A” symbol on it. The waitress asked what it meant, they said they were atheists, and the owner came over and kicked them out — but only after taking payment and refusing to box up the leftover food for them.

These kind of stories always surprise me. Around here, anti-atheist sentiment is highest during the holiday season — this is when I tend to say, “Merry Christmas,” instead of “Happy Holidays” because I don’t really want to be subjected to a rant from a random bystander about the sanctity of Christmas. In recent years, I will admit that when I’ve been subjected to those rants, I’ve responded by just pointing out that Christmas — like Easter and Halloween — is a co-opted celebration of a seasonal shift, often referred to as a pagan celebration, and that celebrations of these holidays pre-date the arrival of christianity.

But most of the year, no-one seems to really care one way or the other. I do sometimes worry that my atheism is affecting my job prospects — there’s no way I would know, since the only way a potential employer could know is by googling my name and then refusing to hire me based on the information available online. I don’t think that’s too likely, though. And to be completely honest, the type of employer who would refuse to hire me based solely on my lack of religious belief is the type of employer whose work environment would likely prove toxic and difficult for me.

Anyway, another thing that linked video up there made me think of was the popular idea that atheists “hate” god. I’ve actually met a misotheist. I found out when we were having a discussion about church — I mentioned in passing that I’d been raised LDS (we saw the missionaries walking through the neighborhood), and she asked if I still went to church. I said no, then hesitated — we’d only known each other a short time, and I wasn’t sure how she’d react, but I decided to bull forward. I figure if someone is going to judge me negatively about something intrinsic to my personality, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. So I said, “Actually, I’m an atheist.”

“Yeah?” She responded. “I don’t believe in god, neither.”

I felt a wash of relief, and smiled — but the smile faded seconds later, as she continued talking, “God ain’t never done nothing to me, so I’m not gonna do nothing for god. He can f*** himself.” She proceeded to rant about god in a way that indicated she did, actually, believe in a higher celestial being — and she really, really hated this being.

I interrupted and said, “No, I don’t believe in god. Like, I’m an atheist — I don’t have anything against god, I just don’t believe there’s sufficient evidence to prove god exists. You sound more like a misotheist, to be honest.”

She just looked at me, her brows drawn slightly together in confusion, and an awkward silence followed. In a chipper voice, I added, “I am anti-religion, though! I think churches and religions are a damaging construct that encourage otherwise kind and decent people to engage in unkind and cruel behaviors, like homophobia, racism, and sexism.”

The conversation limped on for a minute or so more, and then we changed the subject. She is a strange lady. Anyway, that situation clearly highlighted to me that some people honestly believe atheists hate god, and that some uneducated misotheists might believe there is no difference between atheism and hating god. That’s weird to me. You can’t hate something imaginary. I don’t hate the teletubbies or Edward from Twilight. I hate the fact that Twilight was written, I hate the writing “style” (heavy sarcastic quote marks) of Twilight, I hate how all the characters are one dimensional, and I hate that it’s such an obvious LDS religious allegory — but I don’t actually hate Edward what-ever-his name is, because he’s a fictional character. Ditto for Voldemort — evil bastard, scary as all get out, employees dementors (which are basically just walking depression spreaders) — but I don’t walk around hating Voldemort all day because he’s a fictional character.

Tell me one imaginary thing that you actively hate. Like that you spend energy and time on hating — leprechauns, unicorns, centaurs, pegasi, Norse gods, Greek gods, the Chesire cat. Anything? Do you actively hate any of those things? Do you sit around going, “Geez, leprechauns are such dicks. Hiding their gold like the selfish little bastards they are. Why can’t they share the gold? What kind of magic is being selfish?”

No. You don’t. Because they’re fictional characters. And that’s how I respond to god. I don’t hate god. I don’t fear god or love god or anything like that. God is a fictional character, and I respond to that mythology in the same way I respond to any mythology — with a detached interest and enjoyment of studying it.

I do rather hate the way that an imaginary character influences society as a whole, with religious believers fearing/ hating atheists, homosexuals, and other religions — because that’s what they’ve been taught to do. But that’s not god’s fault; that’s the fault of his fans. I wouldn’t blame Marvel if a Comic-con convention got out of hand and supervillians and heroes rioted en masse in the streets. Some people just take the stuff they read a little too seriously.

arts & crafts

I went to Michael’s today. I had to ride my motorcycle, because the Falcon is making a funny sound in the rear end — it did sound kinda like the ocean, but it’s more knocky now, and it sounds a bit like a fast heartbeat at this point. I think the u-joint might be going out, but John says it’s either that or the bearings. It seems to be in the left rear. Anyway, we gotta get in there and look at that, but it has to wait until John’s jaw is healed, because I don’t want him doing mechanic-type work in this state.
So I rode my motorcycle. It was a gorgeous clear November day — the high was supposed to be about 53, but it actually got up to 60. It was nice. There was this one point when I was waiting at a stop light to turn left, and a car pulled up next to me. I was kinda zoning a little bit, enjoying the crisp air and autumn smells and blue sky, when all of a sudden, I hear someone yelling, “Hey, hey!”
So I look over, and there are two strange guys in the car next to me, their window rolled down, smiling at me. The one in the driver’s seat calls over, “Hey, what kind of motorcycle is that?”
I pulled my helmet down a little, flipping up the visor so my voice wouldn’t be too obscured by the helmet, and yelled back, “It’s a Yamaha FZ6.”
They called back, “That’s hot, baby. Keep it up.”
I was kind of taken aback — it seemed like an odd way to phrase a compliment to my motorcycle and advice to keep it shiny side up. Then the light turned, and as I pulled away it occurred to me that they might have actually been referring to the combination of me on my motorcycle.
I don’t know. Maybe they were referring to just my bike — it’s a pretty damn sexy bike if I do say so myself.

But then, I don’t really tend to walk around thinking, “I’m a girl. I’m a girl, la de da. People respond to me in certain ways because I am female and I have boobies. Girl girl girl!” And I especially don’t think of myself as obviously female when I’m on my bike.

When I’m on my bike, I’m just a rider. I wear a full-face helmet and a black leather jacket. I feel anonymous — an androgynous, blank rider, hidden behind helmet and bulky gear. Neither male nor female. So it’s always jarring when someone responds to the fact that I am a female rider, especially when I’m actually on my bike, hidden by my helmet and gear.
Weirdly, being catcalled (if it was a catcall) when I’m on my bike isn’t as nerve-wracking as it is when I’m walking. Maybe it’s because I’m still uncertain as to whether they were commenting on me or my bike, while when I’m out walking there’s no uncertainty. Maybe it’s just because I feel safe on my bike. I know how fast I can go, and how slow the average car is. More than that, I know how quickly I can go from 0 to 60, and that the average car (and driver) cannot match me. So it doesn’t really concern me.
Anyway, so then I went to Michael’s. This is another fun thing about riding — I walk into Michael’s in my motorcycle leather, helmet swinging from my fingers, holding my little manta-ray tank bag under my arm, and I head back to the crochet needles and yarn. I notice, as I stride through the store, that I’m getting some disapproving glances from the matronly looking women milling the aisles. An employee starts shadowing me, not very subtly.
It sometimes bothers me how I can be looked at askance just because I’m wearing motorcycle gear — it mostly bothers me in the stores I’m comfortable/ familiar with. The ones I visit frequently, like Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s or Barnes and Noble, and the only time I get attention from customers and staff is when I go in geared up. It doesn’t happen all the time, and I’m not trying to claim it does.
In this case, I didn’t mind. It meant I didn’t have to wander around trying to find an employee to help me out with finding what I need to start crocheting. So I bought some lovely, soft, thick yarn and a set of crochet needles, as well as a small booklet with beginners patterns.

I’ve decided to start crocheting because I have a somewhat twitchy, antsy nature. I fiddle constantly when I sit still, and when I have panic attacks I start pacing and snapping. Smoking is how I’ve dealt with my antsiness and panic attacks, but I don’t want to smoke anymore. I stopped in August, started again in early October, stopped for a week or so in mid-October, started in late October when a bunch of  unexpected stress started causing near-constant panic attacks, and right now I’m at this place where I’ll buy a pack because I’m having a panic attack, finish it off, go a few days to a week without buying a pack, and then something else will happen to start another panic attack.

But I don’t want to smoke anymore. I’m tired of the amount of money we — I, now — spend on this habit.  I’d rather spend that on gas (prices also rising) for my bike, or on parts to repair the Falcon, or on  e-books or a seasonal pass to the zoo or the children’s museum.
So I’ve decided to take up crochet. I’m also going to talk to my doctor about getting some anti-anxiety medication, and hopefully the combination of the two will help me take that last little leap to fully quitting.
Plus, I’ll be able to make little funny hats and sweaters and booties for my animals. They will hate me. This is Dmitri’s future:

I don’t know who’s cat this is. I found it on google images.