lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
Feels like that, anyway.

As class ended last week, one of my students asked me if I "do" CONvergences and I was all flippant and said, "Of course, of course..." and might even have SOMEHOW managed to let slip that I'm a former GoH. He takes all this in stride and says, "Yeah, I'm hoping to actually be on programming for the first time this year," and starts making it sound like he's already getting his schedule. Suddenly, my heart is in my throat and I think, "!" and I think, "!!" and then, "!!!" and then: "OH GOD, DID I EVER EVEN ACTUALLY TELL THE GUEST LIASON THAT I WANTED TO COME THIS YEAR??

CONvergence should not have been that far from my mind. My BFF Naomi is going to be one of the literary GoHs and I was asked to write her bio. Mason, my son, has only been having crafternoons with his cosplay buddies for the last several weeks, building their costumes for CON. So, it's not like I could possibly have forgotten that CONvergence was coming, but somehow I FORGOT THAT CONVERGENCE WAS COMING.

In an utter panic on Tuesday night at like 10:30pm, I dug up the email asking if I was coming to con. (Thank you, Gmail, for never making me delete anything, ever!) There is was, FROM JANUARY, very politely asking if I could please let them know my attendance for 2017. I hit reply so hard and typed out a desperate, apologetic, OMG PLEASE STILL TAKE ME I AM SO ASHAMED I AM REPLYING 4 MONTHS LATER message. Thank goodness the CONvergence folks are flexible and professional and accommodating even to pathetically forgetful old ladies like me. So I will have a badge! *whew!*

That settled, my next freak out was about paneling. The way my student was talking I was half-convinced final schedules were going out and that panels were all already filled. Plus, a couple of my twitter peeps were talking about the annual midnight slash panel in a way that ALSO made it sound like maybe it was already scheduled and my panic level kept rising. I was fairly convinced I had MISSED THE BOAT. COMPLETELY. So, I shot off an email to programming, who were very nice but a little confused at my panic and wrote (paraphrasing here), "Uh, we only just opened it? Here's a link: http://panels.convergence-con.org."

Deep breath.

I am happy to say that I've since filled out my programming form and should be set. I got the little acknowledgment email, so unless the universe conspires against me, I should be in the programming matrix somewhere. That is good enough for me. At least I didn't miss the deadline. I really was convinced I had.

So yeah, class. I have to say I have always been tremendously lucky when it comes to my Loft classes. I can really only think of one, very early group, that I would have categorized as 'meh.' That was the class that, when I asked them what their favorite science fiction or fantasy novel was, told me, almost to a person, that they didn't have time to read and/or "weren't big readers." After that group, I started making sure to have at least one part of my lecture series entitled, "So you want to write? THEN YOU'D BETTER F*CKING READ."

I also started assigning readings after that class. With the Loft, I can't actually _assign_ anything. I put it on the syllabus and I *strongly* encourage people to read the stories if they have time, but the majority of my students work full-time (and have families, etc.) This year I have one student (besides myself) who is faithfully reading the stories. We're going through some of the Nebula nominees right now, so we've read, ‘‘Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station│Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0’’, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 3/16) and ‘‘This Is Not a Wardrobe Door’’, A. Merc Rustad (Fireside Magazine 1/16).  I actually highly recommend LISTENING to the podcast of "Welcome..." It's a kind of a chose-your-own adventure and the narrator pauses in a way that, I think, makes it a little easier to parse? I'm not sure, but, the point is, I really enjoyed it as an audio story.  The structure of it makes me think it'd be harder to read, I guess. (Though, admittedly, I did not try.)

it's interesting that one of my students (one who had to dropout, actually,) was talking about how difficult it is to sell portal fantasy. I think that's still true for novels, perhaps, but there are two stories on the Nebula ballot that are portal fantasy related, Rustad's and Seanan McGuire's "Every Heart a Doorway" (novella). I see that I can listen to McGuire's... hmmm, I might have to consider that option. Naomi was telling me about the plot of that one and it sounds like... well, it sounds like parts were problematic, but that it's still a good read.

At any rate, the point is my class is great. I love teaching the advance class though I have not quite hit my stride with lectures. Usually, by this point (this was the third class) I've had a talk where I thought, "yes, that was good information. I have given them INSTRUCTION!" That has not happened yet for this class. I think, in some ways, it's because they're all active writers and therefor, my peers. I feel less beholden to pass on INSTRUCTION! to my peers, you know? And I think that sense creeps in when I start to stand in front of them. Last time, in fact, I was supposed to talk about character building but instead ended up asking each of them about their process--where they started, what hit them first.  I think this next time I'm just going to have to confess that this class has turned into a round-table.  :-)

If we weren't doing a lot of critique, I think my evaluations would suck this time around.  But, luckily, the majority of class is critique and that's like high-intensity learning that covers All The Topics.
lydamorehouse: (ticked off Ichigo)
I guess  I taunted the weather goddesses a little too much in my blog yesterday, because I came out of Magers & Quinn last night and snapped this picture:


snow falling outside Magers & Quinn Bookstore, Minneapolis, MN April 10, 2017


Again, if you can't see it, is shows a bookstore storefront. The awnings below a lit-up "Magers & Quinn Booksellers" sign are snow-covered. You can see grainy streaks of heavy snowfall overlaying the whole shot. The cars parked in front of the bookstore are likewise covered in snow.

Snow.

Apparently, when I complained about the lack of moisture falling from the skies for the past few days, the weather Powers That Be heard my taunt to 'put up or shut up' and thought, "HA. We'll show HER. How about a half inch of SNOW, huh? YOU LIKE THAT, PUNK???!!"

I did not.  

It was fairly horrific to drive home in--there were points on the highway where I was fairly certain I was making up my own lane lines, since I really couldn't see where they were supposed to be...and that's never a safe feeling.  But I made it home fine, andI am happy to report,that  the new car handles like a dream in slippery weather.  I mean, the new car is funny.  Patrick, that is.  He's like a stately, yet somewhat cranky old man. He just doesn't do fast, even when you'd really like him to have a bit more pick-up and go.  So, to say he 'handled well,' really means that he was just not fussed to go any faster than all that and so took the turns and such in his own damn good time.  That's Patrick for you. He's kind of stubborn like that.  A good car, though. I'm still very happy with it. Especially pleased to have heated seats last night. (And a heater that works!)

The reading itself could not have gone better. Remember how cranky *I* was about Magers & Quinn not being able to get any copies of Precinct 13? Well, they managed it in the end. There were several copies available for sale when I came in. I was so pleased that I decided that whatever didn't sell, I'd just buy myself, because I always need giveaway copies around. I think I ended up taking home three of them (which was about half what they ordered, I'd guess. So a good night for them, too, I'd think).

The readers were all lovely. We were gender balanced (almost exactly), though all of us were white (as far as I could tell). There was a band that played songs as intermissions, which was... fancy?  There was wine and cheap snacks on a little table. We read at a podium with a microphone. I felt like I did pretty well. The story excerpt I read was from "Everything in Its Place" a story that I significantly revamped for this anthology, but which I originally sold to Tales of the UnAnticipated back in the day. (TOTU gets first publishing credit.)  When Eric first published "Everything..." he told me he didn't like the ending, which was bleak.  I'd conceived it as a horror story, really.  But, he asked me to rework it, and so I did.  It ended up still dark, but the ending has the heroine making peace with 'the thing' that lives with her.  A good, possibly better ending, but not my original intent. For the anthology I revised it back to its original, more horrific ending

One of the many nice things about having an archivist for a wife, is that I still HAD a readable electronic copy of my original. I'd saved it as Thing One (the version I sent to Eric which eventually sold to him was labeled, naturally, Thing Two.) But, it was.. clunky. So I had to do some significant revision.  I guess now I have a Thing Three, which completely ruins the Seuss reference.

Tonight, I teach!  



lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
 ...but it probably won't.

The last few days have been very dreary. There's been cloud cover and cold, moist winds that smell like rain.  Yesterday, it actually sprinkled for all of ten minutes (it even thundered), but when all was said and done, it was a very lackluster show of moisture.  I think my plants would really like some wet.  If it's going to be dark and stormy-looking, I wish it would just commit to the idea.

Weather people are saying it might actually snow. Of course, it'll do THAT, now that every Minneapolitan/Saint Paulie spent the weekend uncovering their various gardens. My luck, the snow will kill the few things that have managed to sprout in my otherwise dead yard.

I think this is the year I give up on grass.  I've been trying to re-grass the top of our hill, under our maple tree for the last couple of years.  I usually have pretty decent luck getting grass to sprout, but it never manages to really take hold and survive the winter.  I think it's time to look at a shade garden for the top of the hill.  Ferns and hostas and stuff like that.  

Usually, my biggest hold up for projects like this is money.  Hostas are surprisingly expensive.  Plants, in general.  So, if you're local to me and you hear about plant sales/giveaways please let me know.  I think this week I might go to Menards some dirt and start prepping the area.  Somewhere in this house we still have a gift certificate someone gave us to Gerten's. I might have to make a trip out there soon to see what they have that might work under the tree.

In other, possibly more exciting news, I'm doing a reading tonight at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis from 7 pm to 8 pm.  I'm going to be part of a group that's reading from the anthology we were all published in: BOUNDARIES WITHOUT: The Calument Editions 2017 Anthology of Speculative Fiction (link is to the Kindle edition, but it's also available in paperback).  It's sometimes tough to find parking in Uptown, but I usually park in the ramp there behind the square or whatever it's called. Should be a good night. I hope to see some of you there.

For some reason Magers & Quinn could not get copies of PRECINCT 13 to sell, so if you go, you might want to ask them to order a few copies and/or bring your own for me to sign. This has been happening to me a lot--where I agree to be at various venues, and the book purchasers say that they can't get my most recent publication.  The first time this happened, I discovered it was because SONG OF SECRETS was showing up as my latest release.  That book has been completely pulled by the publisher for various and sundry reasons. But, even when I underscore to bookstore people that, no, please get my most recent Penguin release, they can't seem to manage it.  I don't really understand why not. From what I can tell, all my romance books are still available.  It's concerning.  I suppose I should see if I can order some from Penguin for myself to sell (because that's what Magers & Quinn wanted me to do--bring my own for them to sell on commission, but I don't normally keep my own books around, since they SHOULD be easy to order.)

On the other hand, maybe my lack of other books will inspire more listeners to buy a copy of the anthology.  I'll look at it that way.  Besides, I suspect that a lot of people who know me have already bought their copies of Precinct 13 some time ago.  :-)
lydamorehouse: (shield)
Today Democracy looked like Senator Klobuchar's town hall meeting in an overcrowded room in the Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall in Maplewood, MN.

Democracy, today, was a little milquetoast, not unlike the senator herself.

This was a last minute town hall in response to a petition started to get her to give one, yet I think certain things were calculated on the senator's part. Maplewood is a suburb. If I had needed to take a bus to get there it would have taken an hour and 28 minutes--and that's presuming I caught my transfer on time. I actually live fairly close to this particular suburb. It's on my side of the Twin Cities.  

5 pm, when this was scheduled, is the beginning of a lot of people's dinner hour.  Luckily, my family was already planning on "yoyo" (you're on your own,) and so I just waited until we wrapped up at 6:30 pm to eat leftover wild rice soup.  She even said, a little surprised, that there were a lot of us for a Saturday at such a weird hour (like that was out of her control.)

Even so, the room was standing room only.  Apparently, the hall had the capacity to fit 400 people. 

That gave me hope that this was going to be a good meeting. But, literally no one asked Klobuchar anything hard. No one even shamed her for being slow to agree to filibuster or her shameful vote on Pompeo, nothing.  It was all "thank you for you hard work!" and "how can we help you do your job?"  

Seriously, if I didn't know better, I would have thought some of these question askers were plants. 

But, it was clear from her opening remarks that Senator Klobuchar was expecting hostility.  She painted a very clear picture of herself as someone who gets things done and who answers to The People.  She used strong words against Gorsuch and Trump--even though she's lagged behind Franken (and in some cases the rest of the Democratic Party) on every turn.  She kept telling us that 'the movement' (apparently she couldn't quite commit to calling us the resistance) was the driving force behind any of the wins, no matter how small, that have been happening in Washington, D.C.  

She was a good politician, reading the room.

What I found most interesting was her clear rivalry with Franken. She brought him up several times and poked subtle digs at his ego and showmanship.  She even told a story talking about how they both like to say they inherited Hubert Humphrey's seat (apparently, they both did, since he was both senior and junior senator at different points in his career), but, we should know, she actually has Humphrey's DESK. 

I was weirdly pleased to hear this bitterness because it's been my biggest leverage point when I talk to her staff or write letters (or faxes). I always, ALWAYS point out that Franken has taken a stance, etc., and then I needle her about being the senior senator who really should be out front.  Because I'm evil like that. (While I might be a Gryffindor, I play a Slytherin on TV.)  

Even though I was disappointed by all the softball questions, it was still interesting to go. I was surprised to hear one question asker identify as a Republican.  (It should be noted, no one booed him or mocked him.  Everyone was very respectful in general.)  But, even he asked an easy question--particularly for her--about what she's done to work with Republicans.  Answer: tons.  She's always making legislation that requires co-signers, etc., from the other side of the aisle.  (I personally think this is why she's so reluctant to make a stand in this time of need. She still thinks it's business as usual, and so she wants to keep her Republican allies sweet.)

So not what this constituent wants.  Yes, I know, governance equals compromise.  IN NORMAL TIMES.  These are not those times.  Clearly, the Republicans will nuke their own future ability to filibuster in order to shove their Supreme Court pick down America's throat.  This is not the time to play nice, and I was really hoping someone in the audience would tell Klobuchar that.

Ah well.  I suppose next time that "someone" will have to be me.
lydamorehouse: (Renji 3/4ths profile)
I jumped into the fray on FB because I just couldn't take it any more.

A friend of mine posted a link to this article: Bashing Romance Novels is Just Another Form of Slut-Shaming. I skimmed it, because anyone who has professionally published romance, like I have, has been there, done that... and had to do it again in the comment field.

I don't know why romance garners such hatred.  

Actually, I do, but I don't like to think about the fact that readers, even other women, will happily poo-poo romance as 'not real writing' because it's predominately women writing for a largely female audience--and, yeah, it's just like this author says, it's worse than that because women's sexuality is involved. I gave up going to WisCON partly because I got really sick of having to defend my writing as worthy. I think certain women really hate on romance because they fear it's everything strong, smart women are supposed to eschew. It apes the patriarchy and only lonely, white women of a certain age, sitting at home in their aprons, read romances.

Not true.

Plus, everyone knows romance novels are just bad writing, right? They're just full of lines like "her velvety womanhood" and his "thrusting manhood."

Yeah, I won't deny these phrases EXISTED (in 1973), but they're _just_ not that popular in 2017 (BECAUSE THEY WERE MERCILESSLY MOCKED IN 1974). The truth is simple. Most romance readers want what all readers want: a good book devoid of overly purple prose. Yes, I have to write about body parts, but most romances fall into the "hot" category, which is sexual but NOT EXPLICIT. It's not erotica, people. You actually have to go into another section of your bookstore to find that stuff, okay?

Speaking of bad writing, someone ALWAYS has to bring up "the formula."

This insistence that all romances are written to a formula provided by the publisher is a big part of disrespect. I'm sure this formula exists (or, more likely EXISTED) somewhere. HOWEVER, even now, Harlequin has to post on its web site, that, NO, THERE IS NO FORMULA, outside of genre expectations (i.e. a romance should, you know, have person a meeting person b and falling in love). Sorry, folks, but you're expected to write a good book--an original, creative book, with plot and characters--JUST LIKE A REAL WRITER.

Because, guess what? Romance writing is real writing.

Look, I get it.  I used to be the same way.  When writing science fiction novels, I would occasionally mutter, "OMG, this is so HARD, I should give it all up and just write romances!" Because I believed it, too.  I believed that, somehow, romance was easier to write because it was just silly hack work.  Smut.  Fun sexy times with no plot beyond slot b and tab a.

Yeah, no.

Writing romances is just as hard writing any other book.  There is no formula to follow.  No editor anywhere (outside of maybe a satirical publisher) wants a character, made of cardboard and Fabio hair, named "Lance Thrustsalot." If you "read that somewhere" it was likely on a porn site or possibly in an article published in 1973.  (I blame everything on 1973; it was a bad year.)  

I had to come up with all of it when I proposed and wrote my nine romance novels. All of them, too, I put just as much blood, sweat, and tears into as I did any other writing. I don't know if I can express how much I hate this stereotype, because it completely and utterly devalues the work I did and the books I'm proud to have written.  

OMG, just stop already. Don't make me come in there.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 Everyone deals with "big" birthdays differently.

For instance, this year, both Shawn and I are turning 50. Shawn has been very typically unhappy with her "transition through the demographic lifespan." She would like to have remained in her early 40s.  She decided this year that she's going to game-ify birthdays. So instead of wishing her a happy birthday last Saturday, she wanted everyone to congratulate her for achieving LEVEL 50--which I have to admit sounds pretty badass. Some of you may not know that I met my wife playing D&D.  (I know, she SEEMS so mundane!  But she's secretly pretty darn nerdy.)  In fact, in one of those 'if you wrote this into a novel, everyone would say that things like this don't happen in Real Life (tm)" moments, one of the last things that our campaign did was marry Shawn and my characters.  She was an assassin; I was a thief.  And for a while, our college's cafe (as opposed to their formal cafeteria) sported graffiti of a heart pierced by a katana with our character names in the middle.  This was a cafe that had decades of graffiti, going all the way back to its founding, so it wasn't quite as awful vandalism that you might imagine.  So, for Shawn to have achieved level 50 as an assassin seems fairly legit.

For the most part, I'm not terribly fussed about growing older. In fact, I have a tendency to pre-birthday myself shortly after my actual birthday. For instance, I already think of myself as 50, even though I be 49 until mid-November.  I have actually accidentally lied to reporters and interviewers because of this tendency, and many printed articles about me have me as a year older than I was at the time.  Ah, well. It's always a pleasant surprise when I realize I'm not nearly as old as I think I am.  (I do this on my driver's license, too. I always add at least 5 pounds to my weight.  I figure that way I can look at it and think, "Wow, I'm thinner than I think I am!")

But... 50 is a big one, so I've decided to think of it as going into my Hobbit years.  I'm going to accept the fact that I can comfortably rest my arms on the swell of my belly and just embrace the odd bits of hair that my body has started sprouting.  I'm going to aggressively garden and intentionally watch sunsets with a cup of tea (my equivalent of a pipe).  I'm going to make sure my larder is always well stocked in case a bunch of random dwarves show up, and, while I will complain when they do, I will lay out a fine spread and enjoy myself--because food should be a pleasure and we should *all* know about second breakfast and elevenies. There will be a  lot of jigsaw puzzles and other Hobbit-like pursuits, like gossiping about my neighbors and avoiding grand adventures--except, of course, when they come to you.  You wouldn't want to be rude, now would you?
lydamorehouse: (Renji 3/4ths profile)
 Well, apparently, there is such a thing as free photo development.

I mean, there probably is, somewhere out on the internet, but what happened to me was actually kind of cool.  As I've written before, I have a bunch of folks that I'm corresponding with as part of my International Pen Friends membership.  There are a couple of things I'm learning, one of which is that it's standard to send along a photo of yourself.  This is the sort of thing I should have been prepared for, but wasn't.  Several people have sent along theirs and so I decided today was the day I'd head over to Walgreen's and get a few developed.  Since the advent of the digital camera/iPhone, we've been TERRIBLE about having actual developed pictures around.  

Despite not yet having my morning coffee, I managed to figure out the photo printing machine and sent off my order.  A message flashed up that seemed to imply that I could pick up my photos TODAY.... in an hour?  But, the message went by so fast (and I didn't get any kind of receipt) that I waited by the photo register for a minute to see if someone could tell me if I should... hang around? Actually go home and come back in an hour? Or should I really just come back tomorrow morning or something?  A manager-type came over and said that he would "press some buttons" and then it should just be a couple of minutes. So, I agreed to wander the store (I always enjoy fondling the art supplies and pens) and come back. When I did, another person tried to help me out. At first she couldn't find my pictures, but when she did, she couldn't get them to ring up on the machine. Apparently, there's some kind of new photo package software and it EATS THE PRICE TICKETS.  They called the manager over and he handed me my photos and quoted the Monopoly game: "Bank error in your favor."  I understood what he implied, but I still stuttered, "What? You're not serious?" He nodded and said, "It's too much of a hassle for three bucks."  

Deal.

The pictures I picked for my pen pals include one of my Tate Hallaway head shots--of me by a cemetery gate. Then, I also included one of me protesting--because that is literally what I look like most days.  And... then there's a lovely one of Shawn and Mason.  

I haven't come out to all my pen pals yet.

I know I'm being silly, but I have already lost a pen pal due to the fact that I'm a pagan.  This lovely correspondent, Bianca, from Germany asked me what I typically do for Christmas and so I told her.  It involves a Yule Log and no Christ in Christmas.  I mean, I think I said it much nicer than that, but, well, that was the last I heard from her.

I find that odd. One of the boxes that I checked as an "interest" on my pen pal compatibility chart was "religion." I guess *I* presumed that meant that anyone I'd be connected with had an interest in religions, as in plural, multitudes, all of them--not just looking to talk to other Christians.  Apparently, that's not the case.  One of my Australians just asked me what I plan to do for Easter, so I told her that we already celebrated Ostara....

So, maybe I will whittle this down to one or two correspondents.  

I suspect that coming out as queer might be the last straw for some of these folks. I have mentioned Shawn and use pronouns when I have to, but I've been kind of vague. Which is weird, because normally I'm like, "Hi, Lyda Morehouse, lesbian."  Of course in person, looking at me, it's hard not to guess.

On the other hand, my Netherlander already knows because in her first reply to me, she told me about her daughter and her daughter's partner and how they have cats named after Star Trek captains.  :-)

lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
 A lot happened since I last posted, however.  Mason and I went down to Mankato, Minnesota, on Thursday night. We had a fun time traveling together as we always do.  We ended up stopping early for "road food" in Burnsville.  Shawn laughed pretty hard when I called from the "Old Country Buffet," given that we hadn't even managed to break the exo-suburbs before pulling over.  To be fair, Mason had had one slice of pizza for lunch (one of those school fundraising things) and I was just generally starving, too.  Of course, the food there was.... meh. I always make the mistake of thinking the taco bar should be okay. (It's not.)

We only got turned around a couple of times once we reached Mankato.  The in-city map was printed very small and there was the classic confusion of is Stadium Road the same as Highway 58 (or whatever)???  Turns out it was, but we at least figure that out BEFORE we drove too far out of town.  Yes, there is great irony in the fact that we got LOST ON THE WAY TO THE GEOGRAPHY BEE.

We spent out hotel time doing geography quizzes based on Trivial Pursuit cards, which was our fun way of studying.  Mason did bring along some atlases and such, but it was much more fun to read the questions and think... is the answer going to be the USSR? Or some other country that no longer exists because this deck was printed in the early 1990s???!  We laughed a lot, which, IMHO, is the very best way to study.

On the day of, we got up early (too early in my case. I woke up precisely when the cats normally would rouse me: 5:45 am.)  We were too nervous to do much constructive, so we at at the hotel (passably okay) and then thew everything into the car, checked out, and headed to the bee, which was being held in the Student Union of Mankato State University, about four or five blocks away.

Here's another attempt at a picture:

Mason at bee 2017

This is a picture of a smiling (smirking?) Mason holding up the classic yellow National Geographic magazine's frame around his face.  He's wearing a blue plaid shirt and you can see his official geography be name tag over the right pocket of his shirt.  The wall behind him is marble-esque and has some letters carved into it, which make up some part of Mankato State University, I suspect.  

After some brief discussion, it was decided that I sit out the preliminary round. Two of his teachers were there--Ms. Lesser and Ms. Croone.  Ms. Croone was there as one of the judges, but Ms. Lesser went in with Mason to root for him.  I would have done the same, but we decided that me being there might make Mason more nervous. If you can't tell, one of the big themes of this trip for us was that we really, really wanted this to be as FUN as possible. No stressing about how far we made it in the competition, etc.  Just to accept that it's really pretty damn awesome that we made it this far--because it is/was.  Mason had to beat out not only his whole class, but also the other two grades that were eligible (there were some 6th graders in the competition: Mason is in eighth.) Out of the 500 people who got that far, only the top 100 scorers on the written test advanced to state.  

Out of those 100? ONLY 10 advanced to the final round.

Mason wasn't one of those. But both he and his teacher thought that he did very well in the preliminary round, but he was eliminated. You have to get a near perfect score (only one wrong is allowed, two wrong and you're OUT) to advance.  

We stayed to watch the final elimination round and it was INTENSE.  There were a couple interesting things that happened.  At one point, in the second round of questions, you could hear someone in the audience give the right answer. What I found fascinating is that, though there was an admonishment from the National Geographic judges to the audience, that question was allowed to stand (no re-take) and the person who answered that question went on to be the final-place winner.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, but the judges decided to let it stand.  I'm really surprised that they didn't give that particular competitor a different question. But, whatever.

it's also interesting to me that the winner was actually the previous year's winner... and home-schooled.  I've been trying to decide if I feel like homeschooling is an unfair advantage here, or not.

Also, 90% of the competitors were white and male.

As Mason wondered out loud, "Why? What about geography has a gender bias?" Outside of institutionalized sexism and racism, I have no idea. Two of the ten finalists were obvious PoCs, but they were all male.

Other than that depressing observation, we had fun.  I don't know if there is a high school version, so Mason may not have a chance to do this again, but we ARE planning to watch the National bee when it's aired.  Despite the weird start, we ended up liking the state champion.  Mason called him, "The Han Solo of Geography Bees" because it was very clear that he was making a lot of educated guesses that were turning out correct (you could tell by his occasional SHOCKED expression.)  That made him very likable, so we will root for him in the Nationals.

The drive home was fun. Mason LOVES road trips, so we had our usual enjoyment of watching small towns roll by, commenting on especially creepy rural cemeteries, etc.  We managed to leave behind Mason's school iPad's cord, but that was the only even vaguely dark cloud on the whole trip. (Cue a lot of calling the hotel, not getting answers, and then finally what I think of as a brush off, which was, "Nope we never found it." The next whole rigamarole will be getting a new one either from school, or apparently the Apple store, but that's a whole other headache. Though, it should be noted, ultimately VERY solvable.)

Saturday was Shawn's birthday. She has now successfully leveled up to level 50. When I went out to fetch the birthday cake and coffee on Saturday morning a lot of the people I interacted with asked, "So BIG plans?"  I had to say, "Listen, Shawn is an introvert. It's big enough we're going out to dinner." And, it was true, after the excitement of cake and presents we spent much of her birthday doing a lot of napping and jigsaw puzzling on the porch.  It was so lovely out that I did a little garden prep, but that was about the pinnacle of excitement for us.  :-)  Dinner was at the Indian place in Maplewood, per usual. Shawn and I both really love that place.  Turns out, Mason loves it now, too, so that's extra wonderful.
 

 



lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 ...waiting to head back up the hill to pick up Shawn to take her to physical therapy.  For those of you who have been following along with all of Shawn's back problems, I'm happy to report that she's doing better (?)  The screaming pain, at least, is being managed. Shawn tells me that parts of her leg are still numb, however, which seems pretty BAD, if you ask me. She considers this progress, so I have to take her word for it.  I guess the PT guy told her that what they were aiming for was for the pain to mostly return to her lower back, and Shawn says they've got it there.  

I still yell at her any time she tries to pick things up.  

She's also still forbidden to do laundry, but Mason has been very happy to take over that duty.  So, it's working out just fine. (Well, Shawn will tell you that no one is doing things WHEN and HOW she would, but we would counter that things *are* GETTING DONE so that ought to count for something!)

Meanwhile, Mason and are getting pumped to head off to Mankato tonight.  We've booked a hotel so that we can be there bright and early for his big state National Geographic geography bee competition tomorrow.  We were looking through all of the material again last night and I realized that there are only 5 students from the Minneapolis/St. Paul school system going.  Actually, there is at least one person who qualified who is listed as homeschooled. I can't remember if they were one of the Twin Citians or not, though.

OF COURSE one of the other Saint Paul schools that qualified a student was Capitol Hill, Mason's deep, deep rival school (thanks to Math Club.)

it should be a fun time, no matter what happens.  I'm only sad that Shawn is going to have to stay home.  Because, wouldn't you know it, Mark's memorial service is tomorrow.  One of us really needs to go to that. Shawn decided that it would be her because she really wasn't sure how her back was going to do with the trip to Mankato, anyway. It's not THAT far away, but Shawn has been really working to not sit too much--she even got a standing desk at her PT's advice.  And being stuck in a car is different than sitting for a half hour at a funeral home chapel.  

I'm a little bummed to be missing the service, actually. Many of Mark's friends are flamingly fabulous and it might be quite the thing to see how Margaret deals with all of that gay on display.  Plus, I'd like to be there to support Joe, Mark's partner.  But, it's not like we could send Mason to the bee on his own.... 

So that's that, I guess.

Fingers crossed we have fun news tomorrow!
lydamorehouse: (Renji 3/4ths profile)
 Who on earth thought it was a good idea to teach a class AT BEDTIME??!!

For those of you who don't know this about me, I've been a lifelong 'lark.' A morning lark is the opposite of a night owl.  Even when I was a teenager, I used to regularly get up an hour or so before my parents and make coffee, go for walks, and generally enjoy the solitude of the early hours. To be perfectly honest, in high school, I often used the extra hour or hours to do All the Make-Up and my hair. (Hard to even imagine now, isn't it?)  

These days I wake up a little earlier than I'd like. Mason's school starts at 7:10 am (first bell) and so our house is up starting anywhere between 5 and 5:30 am.  That's a bit early for me, and a lot of days I push it by pulling myself up long enough to brush teeth and get dressed and then I collapse back into bed until 6:00 am, which is much closer to my natural wake-up time.

I also typically really prefer to get 8 hours of sleep. So, staying up past 10 pm gets rough.

My Loft class **STARTS** at 7:30 am and goes until 9:30 pm. Yesterday was my first class and it went well--aided by a bit of caffeine from the coffee shop at Open Book.  I have an even dozen students, who all seem very smart and engaged. I think we're well-primed to have a good class in terms of discussion, etc.  For those of you who have taken classes from me (or, frankly, have seen me on panels at local conventions,) know that I put a LOT of energy into my teaching.  I'm also an extrovert, which means I leave class with INCREASED ENERGY.  Coming home and bouncing around until 10:30 pm = NOT GOOD COME 5 AM.

SUPER. NOT. GOOD.

I was Madame Cranky-Pants in my typical low point (--my biorhythm is such that even on good days I'm lackluster from about 2 pm - 4 pm.) I may or may not have shouted at my family, "I'm not passive-aggressive, I'm just aggressive! No, I'M JUST ANGRY." But, luckily, at this point Mason and I were lugging this ridiculously heavy kitty litter box out to the car and alternately yelling and laughing. Even so, I had been seriously bitchy previously.  

I'm NOT made for late nights.

And, yes, yes, you night owls are all laughing your heads off about how "early" this all is.  Just try to imagine having to teach a class at 6 am and you might understand.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
...An overcrowded, stuffy room in the State Capitol building, apparently, at least for me, today.

Sometime ago I got invited to the "traditional constituents luncheon" for district 64. It sounded like a very relaxed sort of affair, boxed lunches for $11 from Cecil's deli, and "conversation" with my Minnesota Legislators: Dick Cohen (Senate), Erin Murphy (House 64A, my district), and Dave Pinto (House 64B).  Senator Cohen looked out over the standing room only crowd with more than a little trepidation and apologized profusely, "We don't have enough seats. Honestly, we normally expect about ten people."

Well, they got at LEAST 50, possibly more. I'd guess close to 80.

These are Democrats, representing staunchly Democratic districts in Saint Paul.

Let me tell you something, these people were all woke.  When they spoke, they mentioned specific bills, by number! (I was really pleased that I'd been following WatchYourReps MN enough to at least know which ones were being talked about by reputation, if not actual number.) And more than that, most of the people in the room leaned HARD Left. The biggest applause (nay, it was more of a spontaneous CHEER,) happened when Representative Erin Murphy suggested they push for Medicare For All for Minnesota.  

Meanwhile, poor Senator Cohen was having a little trouble reading the room. After her big cheer, he cautioned that he'd be behind that, but it'd have to be economically sustainable, (which I actually agree with, but DUDE. CLEARLY, the 80-some people here want to hear you leading, radically, up in the front of the pack!)  But, I ended up liking Cohen. He reminded me of our governor, honestly. Kind of a slow build to any kind of fire, a bit plodding, but secretly very, very liberal.  Also, he's a career politician, with simple ambitions. It was a little hard to trust Rep. Murphy because she's running for governor.  So, she has been reading the room and knows EXACTLY what we want to hear. My sense was that she was at least somewhat sincere, but I watched her playing that room--calling certain people by name, waving to others as they came and went.... so, you know, grain of salt there.

The room was also damn near lily white. Only two easily discernible PoCs in the crowd that I noticed, which given the population of my district is... wrong.  On the other hand, this "luncheon" was clearly meant to be something for retirees and self-employeed people like me who can make time to be at the Capitol at 11:30 am on a Tuesday.  Especially since it officially went until 1:30 pm.  Also this was NOT MEANT as a town hall type meeting (though it kind of turned into one) and Senator Cohen kept stressing that normally this is very informal, but because so many people were there they basically were forced to make it a rapid-fire Q&A session rather than a conversation.  Apparently, there is a town hall scheduled for my district, so I'll have to look into attending that, too, and see if it's a different population or if this is basically my SUM (Stand-Up Minnesota, our Indivisible breakout) District group. (The invite to this luncheon got shared on my SUM group e-mail, which I'm not sure was 100% kosher, since I *think* this was an invite only event. They asked for RSVPs.)

Things I learned as far as activism goes:
     1) Go ahead and call and write the governor's office if something passes that's egregious. He's not likely to veto EVERYTHING, but he'll probably veto MORE if he knows we have his back.  This was good to know. I've been hesitant to bombard his office like I have been the legislators'. 
     2) You can contact representatives out of your district on bills/issues, but they really stressed that should only be done if you have a strong, specific story that relates.  Better to get friends and relatives who ARE in that district to bug their legislators.
     3) Corporate interest show up at these things. I was really, really surprised to hear someone in the audience identify as a business owner (NOT RESIDENT) in the district, and they pointed out several other people in the room who were the same.  I'm really, really glad residents--actual constituents--outnumbered these people or this would have been a very different meeting, at least with a very different tilt, I suspect.  As it was our legislators all heard that what we wanted was strong defense, strong leadership, and for everyone to go as hard left as they possibly could.

So, that's about it. It was a fairly interesting time, I'd say, honestly.

Now I'm getting ready for my Loft class (12 students!) which STARTS at bedtime.  OMG, I don't know how I'm going to do this whole starting teaching at 7:30 pm gig.  WISH ME LUCK.
lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
 A cinnamon pull-apart loaf is rising in the kitchen. I hope it turns out.  It's a new recipe and so I have no idea if I did all the steps right, you know?

I managed to write and submit a 300-word short story to the Queer SF Flash Fiction Contest.  300 words is a serious challenge, especially given the amount of stuff the contest expects you to try to pack in, but it was a good exercise for me. These last few days I haven't much felt like writing anything, not even fan fiction, which is VERY unusual for me. I blame Trump, I really do.  I find myself so very anxious about the news and when I'm anxious the last thing I want to do is sit still and write. Instead, I tend to want to do something physical.  I had had a really good method of dealing with stress in the past. There used to be a web site called Project 1491 that sent out daily progressive activities. I found that if I made the calls they asked of me first thing in the morning, I could feel like I'd done my part for the revolution and I could go on with my day.  They disbanded.  And I've been hunting around for other similar organizations, but I've not found anything that works quite as well for me.

I signed up for Daily Grab Back, which offers daily actions, but I find some of them kind of... I don't know, but today, for instance, they want me to donate my gently used shoes to some organization or other. That's a great idea, if I had a lot of extra shoes lying around.  But, that's not who we are. If we buy shoes, it's because the soles have fallen off the last pair, and I have LITERALLY worn shoes that other people left behind. Plus, this doesn't feel like direction action to me.

I also signed up for Do a Thing. Do a Thing is very much set up for the revolutionary who wants and needs simple, yet-sometimes abstract things to accomplish.  Do a Thing is for the activist who is in survival mode, who really needs to be able to participate, but who also has to do a lot of self-care. I signed up for this one knowing it wasn't going to fulfill the same shoes as Project 1491, but as a counter-balances for those days when I can't even. Like one of the things Do a Thing suggested was "Feel Feelings." This is good advice, but not exactly frontline revolution, you know? They do also offer concrete things, however, like donating to Meals-on-Wheels and or signing up to volunteer.

I just found this one: The Loyal Opposition, which looks to be more what I was hoping for--something with a daily phone call to make. Because part of my problem is feeling overwhelmed by all the things that are ON FIRE in this administration and not knowing where to pour water first.

I still, of course, get information from MoveOn.org and Daily Kos.  I like MoveOn.org because they have a local group that does #ResistTuesdays where they gather at the local offices of our senators to protest and to talk directly to the senior staff there. For the last few months I haven't been able to go, however, because I've had to work on Tuesday mornings. I should be able to get back to it starting in April.

All that went on hold, too, during this last week, dealing with Mark. In his honor I feel like baking a lot and bringing stuff over to Joe. :-(
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 I'm sorry to have been MIA, but this has been an insane week.

Last Friday (on Saint Patrick's day) our old, beloved car Steve finally gave up the ghost.  Through a series of fortunate events, we already have a new car: Patrick Bryce.

Yesterday, my (step) brother-in-law, Mark died.

Mark was Margaret's son, Margaret married Shawn's dad some time in the late 1980s. Our families never mingled terribly well. Shawn like to explain that instead of becoming a melded family, we were more like 'adjacent.' For a long time, we really didn't even cross paths with Mark or his sister Karen, not even at Pat & Margaret's place, where it would seem likely.  But, Mark lived here in the Twin Cities, and one Pride Festival (probably in the mid-1990s), I ran into him at the "Tubby Lovers" booth. Neither Shawn nor I had ever realized Mark was gay.  He's just not the sort that automatically trips a person's gaydar, and he was always pretty closeted around his mom.  It was one of those things, though, where had we thought about it realistically for five minutes we would have realized that OF COURSE Joe was not just Mark's roommate.  

Mark always had a lot of health issues, and in these last few years his kidneys had mostly failed and so he was doing dialysis. Sometime after Thanksgiving, Mark fell in the parking lot of his dialysis place.  The hospital determined that he had sepsis--which is the catch-all phrase for a body-wide infection. Likely culprit was the dialysis port.  My father had sepsis (as did Mason, actually,) and it is ALWAYS life-threatening.  Mark seemed to be doing fairly well, recovering, however.  Joe had been keeping people posted on Facebook and the news was mostly of the "I can't believe we're still doing this, but Mark is okay" variety.  This was very familiar to me, because my dad's recovery was just as long and frustrating and the longer you stay in the hospital or hospital-type settings, the more vulnerable you are to other infectious diseases. But, as I said, Mark seemed to be in the kind of holding pattern you're in when you're dealing with this kind of major illness.

Until last Sunday night. 

He ended up back in the hospital.  Joe had just left for home when he got the call to come back. Long story short (and it is a long story), we lost him yesterday.

Joe and Mark never married. They've been together for 22 years, but for reasons, the biggest one being Mark's health insurance, they never tied the knot.  I wish they had. Partner is not a word that carries much weight (even though it should). But legally, you might as well be roommates. Things worked out for Joe, but I just want to put this out there for my unmarried friends--queer or straight--GET YOUR DAMN PAPERS. Do NOT depend on he kindness of relatives to include you, because, legally, they don't have to. You might be saying, but they've always loved me. Yeah, I'm sure they do, but will that be your consolation when the death certificate you're going need to close out bank accounts and credit cards goes to someone else? It's not that hard or expensive to have a health care directive. Wills are a good idea, but they are more of a commitment. But, there's no excuse for all y'all not to be sure you have a health care directive ready to roll.

/public service announcement

So, the car. It's lovely. It's a Ford 500, metallic green, with (by chance, since it's a used car) heated leather seats. This car is, in point of fact, the most TRICKED OUT car we've ever owned. Apparently, the first person who bought it originally did NOT see an optional feature that they did not want.  So, now that it's been passed to us, we feel like we're driving around in some kind of luxury sedan.

The story of how we ended up with it is kind of funny, but not one I'm entirely up for recounting today. Suffice to say that probably the LUCKIEST part of this unlucky day was the moment when Shawn's brother Greg called up Shawn and said, "I just got your email about that car you're thinking about. I'm sitting in my car, taking a break between work sites, and I can see the dealership from where I'm sitting. You want me to go check it out for you?" This is why our car now has a second name of Bryce.  (Greg's middle name.) The car was also DIRT cheap.  Our budget for new (used) cars is under $5,000.  Also the whole thing was kind of a whirlwind. Car was pronounced DOA at 7:30 am and I drove our new (used) car off the lot at around 2:30 pm.

Other news. My Loft class is viable, so I'll be starting teaching next Tuesday night for about eight-weeks (I think.)

And... Gizmodo linked to an article I wrote for Bitter Empire.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
I would like to petition the universe to change this whole superstition around FRIDAY the 13th and shift it to MONDAY the 13th.  I just looked up "Friday the 13th" on Wikipedia and the connection between Friday and the number 13 seems wholly unsatisfactory.  Apparently, there are some bits of folklore associated with Friday that are unlucky, but they seem mostly related to Christianity and the idea that Jesus died on a Friday. The vast majority of people in the world are non-Christian, so let's dump that whole thing, shall we?  Meanwhile, in the UK, more people commit suicide on a Monday than any other day of the week. And, frankly, we all KNOW Monday starts the workweek in most places around the world, and therefore is just plain YUCKY.  I think we should all agree that Monday the 13th is way, way worse than Friday the 13th, ESPECIALLY WHEN A FULL MOON FALLS ON SAID MOON-DAY.

That is my general complaint about today.

My specific complaints are as follows:

The hardest thing about the last couple of days for me has not been the time shift (ALTHOUGH THAT DEFINITELY SUCKS,) but the fact that I haven't felt like writing _anything_.  It's been true for a while that getting motivated to write original work has been daunting, but lately the well has been completely dry. I'm not even excited to write fan fic, which is *very* weird.

I'm hoping that what this is, is my brain gearing up for something. I've been finding myself thumbing through my old astrology books, because I've been toying with the idea of trying my hand at an astrological murder mystery.  I'm not sure I'm a mystery writer, but the idea of doing something creative with my half-a$$ astrology knowledge appeals to me.  Of course, I say this like I'll actually do something with this idea, and I probably won't.  

Eh, ignore my bad attitude. I seem to have caught it from Mason who woke up in a bad mood(or I have my own hormones to blame, because while I am nearly 50, I am still getting my periods... yay.) 

Meanwhile, Shawn's back is still not making much improvement--or so she feels, at any rate. This is another one of those moments where I'm sure she *is* making some, small improvements, but it's super-difficult for Shawn to sense them. The problem is that she's still in a LOT of pain, and, I remember from my own nerve pain, it's really, really hard to see past that.  What she's not remembering is that the weekend before this last one literally all she could do was lie in bed. She spent a huge amount of time upright this weekend, functioning, AND doing her physical therapy exercises.  

So, yes, I would please like to chalk today up as the bad luck of Monday 13th.  Who's with me?
lydamorehouse: (gryffindor)
 ...you get an invite for a meet-and-greet at the State Capitol from the office of your district's Senator.  

It's not a fundraiser, either. Believe me, that was the first thing I figured and I thought, "Good luck! I can NOT afford 'luncheon' prices!" I've seen those things come through my in-box before and they're out of my league in _so_ many ways.  

But, this is not that. It's a RSVP/invite-only event, from what I can tell, BUT you can brown bag it if you want or they will provide a box lunch from Cecil's for $11.00.  Eleven bucks?  I can afford that! So I hit the RSVP button and emailed the staffer my lunch preference.  Because why not? The ironic thing is that I'm NOT all that up on what's going on locally. I mostly just follow what Watch Your Reps MN  tells me to do. But that DOES mean I've been e-mail a LOT.  

With the local representatives, I haven't been calling that often, honestly. I called about the transphobic bathroom bullshit bill and I broke down in tears on an answering machine that seemed to be shared by several Minnesota Senators. Most of the bills I've been e-mailing them about aren't as personally important to me, so I've decided it's okay not to call unless it feels (like the bathroom bill did) urgent and personal.

Anyway, that's near the end of the month on a Tuesday, in the middle of the day (11:30 am - 1:00 pm). I'm guessing it will be one of those things where you mostly sit and listen to boring speeches and shake a few hands, but I love Cecil's Deli, so why not?


lydamorehouse: (shield)
 I'm wearing red today, but, like a lot of woman in my economic situation, I *have* to go to work today.

What are you talking about, Lyda? You're a writer, you don't have a job.  Actually, I have a couple, but the one I can't skip today is my job as a library page. It's not an IMPORTANT job or a critical one like being a police officer or a firefighter.  I don't get scheduled often, and, had I been thinking ahead, I could have remembered that today was a day I was supposed to try to stay home.  I didn't think of it, because I tend to say yes to whatever hours fit my schedule because we need my extra income.

I don't get sick time. I don't get vacation. I don't have to work often, but the fact is: if I don't go into work today, I don't get paid.

Shawn is going to work, too. Ironically, if she had not had her back go out, she might have been able to stay home.  But, she's up to the line: any more days off and she has to go on unpaid leave.  We definitely can't go without her income.

I like the idea of this.  It would be very powerful, indeed, if every single woman could just not show up.  I feel like, if we could really do it, certain entire economies would collapse.  I heard on the radio that there are several school districts that had to close because so many teachers were asking for the day off.  (I hope that's true.)

I stand in solidarity, however. I'm wearing red. Hopefully, people will notice all the women around them wearing red, if nothing else.


Adulting

Mar. 6th, 2017 09:12 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Today, I woke up thinking about "adulting."  

Last Wednesday, I had lunch with a friend of mine.  We met at Eli's East, which I had never been to before.  As usual, I had a great time chatting with this particular friend, who is someone I've recently gotten to know after last year's Gaylaxicon.  At one point during our conversation he said that even after marriage and divorce, the thing that made him feel like a real adult was caring for houseplants.  

At the time, I mostly let this comment go by, unremarked, because I was far more fascinated to know that he'd been married and divorced already. (He's younger than I am by a decade... or possibly two.)

This morning, a half a week later, I woke up thinking about this idea: what are the sorts of actions, events, etc., that make people feel like an adult?  What constitutes "adulting" for most people?

I was thinking about this because I remember the first time I felt really independent, adult.  It was the first time I took my own laundry down to the basement laundry room of my college freshman dorm building. I was seventeen. It was, in point of fact, the first time I'd ever done my own laundry.  Despite a lot of other independent acts in high school, for some reason, doing this job that my mother traditionally ALWAYS did for me, felt like the true moment of independence.  There were things about it that also felt very... Big City. I had to have quarters, figure out the machines on my own (and all the sorting rules!), and some weirdo tried to convert me to Lutheranism--he was very affronted that I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.

But, then again, my generation has, I think, less issue with "adulting" as a thing.  We grew up in that mythical era when parents flung open doors to the very young and said, "Come back by dinner time," and we really did roam far from home without any supervision whatsoever.  I regularly had to solve problems like, "Holy heck, how do I get my shoe out of this muck I have wandered into in the local marshlands" without being able to use my nonexistent cellphone to call for help and being miles (often literally) from home.  

And I wonder if it's some of this early practicing with independence that made the transition into "adulting" a little less... noticeable?  Or, maybe more accurately, MORE noticeable on a smaller scale.  I mean, for my friend it was the small thing that made him feel grown, too.  But, it came much later for him than for me.  MUCH.  

I guess my question is, how about you? No matter how old you are, do you have a singular event where you said to yourself, "Wow, this is IT.  THIS is the moment I am independent. THIS is the transition into adulthood!"?? No shame if it's something "traditional," like, "The day I signed the lease to my first apartment" or "got married" or "got my driver's license." Similar, no judgments, if it's something really odd, like, "The day I bought my first pair of underwear" or something I can't even fathom.  

I'm also curious if you find yourself in your late thirties (or forties or fifties or whatever) and you're still not feeling like "adulting" is a thing you do regularly. 
lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
 I'm trying to convince Shawn that she's having a "pajama day," rather than day eleven of her back trauma.  I'm not sure it's working.  But, we are cuddled up in bed with several cats, the Sunday paper, and I have a nice hot cup of coffee and my laptop.  If Shawn wasn't still so miserable, it would be very pleasant.  

Unfortunately, Shawn is still really miserable.

Nerve pain is like that, though.  Last year, when I woke up with searing pain in my upper back, that was nerve pinch pain. It was the only time in my life that I screamed, "EIGHT, totally EIGHT!" to my doctors when presented with that ridiculous pain chart.  I think most Minnesotans, including myself, don't really like to be a bother and so even if we were legitimately bleeding out, we'd say, "Oh, I don't know? A four?"

If you've never read Hyperbole and a Half's 'real pain chart' you totally should. I always think of it at times like this.

Shawn's doctor finally consented to prescribing a fairly heavy-duty painkiller, though at a low dose. I think that's helping some, even though Shawn is convinced she's going to be crippled for life.  Like Shawn, probably a lot of you are wondering 'what the hell did she even DO???!!" Thing is, Shawn has had a bulging disc for the past, oh, nearly the entire time I've known her, so maybe 25 years or so?  A lot of people who have bulging discs don't really notice them until THEY SUDDENLY DO.  For Shawn, I think her first OHSHITOHSHIT episode happened when she sneezed.  Seriously, a sneeze brought her down. The doctors all said, "Yep, this is a thing that happens."  So, it really does not take much for her to end up bedridden. 

Usually, however, there isn't this nerve pain, and so she can slowly exercise her way back to better health.  This time, just moving her leg or putting pressure on it was excruciating (see: "I have seen Jesus, and I am scared" on the REAL pain chart.) So, that's played a big role in Shawn's slow recovery.  One of the reasons Shawn's doc agreed to the serious painkillers is that she (the doctor) really wants Shawn up and moving so that she can do the PT that is really going to help.  Pretty much everyone, including Shawn, agree that PT is the real "miracle drug" for back issues.

But, Shawn really needs to get back to work tomorrow.  Not because she's so vital (although I think she is as State Archivist), but because she's out of sick and vacation days.  If she stays home too much more, she'll have to go on unpaid leave and we really can't afford that.  Ironically, I think being stressed about that is actually tensing up the muscles that her muscle relaxants have been working so hard to unwind.

:-(

The only thing I really have planned for the day is to take Mason to Barnes & Noble.  We want to buy him a fancy, up-to-date Atlas as a reward for having gotten this far in the geography bee.  Plus, we haven't been to Barnes & Noble in forever and it would be nice to do a little window shopping. (Also I have two overdue books that need to be returned to the Roseville Library.)  Ive been thinking about attending a revolutionary song sing-along at Merlin's Rest today, just because I love singing rebel songs and it might be good for my soul.  We'll have to see if the timing works out, though. If you're interested (and local) here's the FB page for the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1496323087074798/.

Yesterday, I briefly entertained the idea of going to a counter-protest at the Capitol yesterday.  Apparently, it was a Trump supporter rally day, and the SDS organized a "Make Racists Afraid Again" counter-protest.  The SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) are... well, I remember them from my college days.  Augsburg was hardly a hotbed of activism, but we had one rabble-rouser Biology teacher who was the head of our campus SDS. One of our colleagues got caught up with her and ended up constantly being arrested down in Chicago where they would go an join laborers on strike or what have you. I think I would have been down there with them, if I'd been able to get along with this teacher (which I really couldn't.)  The point--and I do have one--is that when I saw it was the SDS organizing this my first thought was, "Someone's gonna throw a punch."

Sure enough.

Apparently six people were arrested and there were, shall we say, fisticuffs (and pepper spray?)  Here's an article about what happened: http://www.fightbacknews.org/2017/3/4/minnesota-protesters-disrupt-trump-rally-capitol.  

You know I'm all for Nazi punching. The NY Times wrote an article about what happened in Minneapolis between the Wobblies and the Nazis (no, this is not an article from 1937, though I swear it could be:) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/arts/design/anti-trump-protest-minneapolis-institute-of-art.html?_r=0  

How do I feel about all this?  

I'm not surprised that the Socialists and the Wobblies and the far-left of of our vanguard is reacting first, reacting hard.  Should they go to jail for assault? Absolutely. Am I just as glad I wasn't there? OH HELL YES.  Would I go their bail? I dunno, but I'd certainly throw some change in a bucket.
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 Mason is in the Junior Honor Society.  As part of his membership, in addition to keeping up his grades, he's required to do a certain number of volunteer hours. It's difficult to find places that accept thirteen year-old volunteers.  However, Shawn found that Second Harvest will take volunteers 8 and older.  We managed to find free slots (no easy task!) for yesterday from 1:00 - 3:30 pm.  

The place we went was Second Harvest's Warehouse out in Golden Valley.  Second Harvest is a neat idea. They take food that grocery stores are required to dump due to "sell by" dates and, if the food is still good (which it often is), sends it off to various food shelters.  They also take the ugly/misshapen crops that famers can't sell to grocery stores and distributes it to various food shelves as fresh produce. They have huge crews of people looking through pounds and pounds of potatoes, etc.  Right before us, apparently, they had just processed onions.  Our group--which was mostly populated by a corporate group from US Banks--took donated and past 'sell by' food and packaged it into 30 pound "mystery boxes." What was cool about the mystery boxes is that they contained fun items--soda, cookies, crackers, potato chips--with bits of other more traditional food shelf foods, like canned peas or what have you.  All stuff that was otherwise going to go to waste would be distributed as a surprise, a bit of joy. I ended up with the box builders, but I was situated across from the people who were packing and I could see how much fun some people were having coming up with neat things to put into each mystery box.  One guy was specifically trying to find various things that could make a special meal. Other people were just enjoying putting fun treats in as a surprise among other more necessary items.  

Mason ended up among the sorters.  His job was to go through all the donated items and double check REAL expiration dates and then sort into giant bins of canned goods vs. 'soft' goods, etc.  He said he had a blast.  For myself, even though all I did for two and a half-hours was build boxes, I was surprised how fast the time went.

The other thing I ended up being pleased about during this volunteering was the careful way Second Harvest talked about hunger. The videos we watched about it made no effort to claim that hungry people were anyone other than your neighbors. They talked about rural hunger, suburban hunger, and urban hunger.  They did not talk about... oh, I don't know, a certain kind of poverty, maybe? Thing is, there have been plenty of times when Shawn and I have considered whether or not we needed to use food banks/food shelves, etc.  Having read a lot about food politics (for some reason this is an area I often end up going down the rabbit hole about. I don't seek it out per se, but if I hit an article in the Atlantic or wherever, I will read the whole thing, etc.) I know that food is a complex issues and that lots and lots of working people are hungry in this country.  

Anyway.  

It was a good experience.  I'd do it again.  

Coming Out

Mar. 3rd, 2017 08:25 am
lydamorehouse: (gryffindor)
 For years I thought I was a Slytherin.  Look, I'm very ambitious, okay?  I have some very Scorpio tendencies that align themselves with some Slytherin traits.  I knew I wasn't the typical sneaky, back-stabby (mostly) Slytherin, but then neither was Professor Slughorn. I very much felt a certain kinship with Slughorn.  And, I am a Scorpio, okay? I hold grudges. I have occasionally, deliberately, sneakily pulled strings to make bad things happen to my enemies.

But, there were signs that maybe I wasn't like the other Slytherins.  

Every time I took those "Which Hogwarts House are you?" quizzes, I would always end up a Gryffindor.  Mostly, I think, because I refused to lie. (YES, I KNOW THAT WAS PROBABLY A VERY, VERY OBVIOUS SIGN.)  Even so, Pottermore put me in Slytherin, though, and that's supposed to be the Word of God.

HOWEVER.  I can't hide it anymore.  I can't deny my true nature. My real life actions* have shown that I am, in fact, a Gryffindor. 

In other news, Mason had his parent/teacher conferences last night.  For some reason, Washington still does these "student led" conferences, where basically the student is required to self-rate themselves and come up with their own "action plans" to do better at school.  This has always been silly for Mason, since he's pulling almost straight-As. I can't imagine what it's like for the kids on the other end of the spectrum, however.  Hopefully, there's more interceding from the teachers in those cases.  What I hate about it is that we only get to see Mason's foundation teacher (like homeroom), and mostly they just observe and rarely offer commentary about how Mason is actually doing.  Mason is a good student, but he's not forthcoming.  I don't get stories about classroom antics, unless they're especially funny or something Mason decides to share. Worse, Mason's foundation teacher actually left us in the hands of his student teacher, who didn't know anything about the Geography Bee or, I think, from his surprised expression, that Mason was in 10th grade advanced math.  I have NEVER, ever  gotten to connect with the math teachers, despite stalking the halls hoping to run into them. I mean, yes, Mason is doing fine--better than fine, but that's never been the point of parent/teach conferences for us. We like to make a connection. I mean, I really, really would have loved to have met Mason's math teacher just to shake his hand and say, "THANK GOD FOR YOU," because Mason's appreciation for school jumped up miles once he was actually challenged in math. In 5th grade, before we moved to Washington and Mason was instantly advanced, he was starting to show signs of boredom and, had it gone on, I think he could have ended up depressed.  So, it was especially frustrating that first year because I really, really wanted to tell the math teacher how important being in that class was for Mason.  

Grrr.

But, at least it's not critical for us to talk to any of these teachers, you know?  I seriously don't know what people do who have kids who are struggling. I also wish I understood the philosophy behind this. It feels inherently lazy, like the teachers are making the kids do work traditionally done by them.  I know that's unfair to teachers to some extent, but at the same time, aren't they uniquely qualified to talk about individual student's progress?

Anyway, we did run into the principal who shook my hand in a crushing MAN grip and told us how proud Washington is that Mason is representing them for the Geography Bee. I did find out that this is the first time (in a while? ever?) that Washington has sent anyone to state.  The school has always participated in the school-wide bee, but there is a computerized test that qualifies students for the state-wide bee. Mason apparently took the test in 15 minutes, and it normally takes about 45.  His Geography teacher figured Mason had blown it, honestly.  :-)  
I also baffled the principal when I suggested that maybe we'd let Mason go entirely on his own.  Of course, we'd WANT to see him participate. Of course, we're PROUD of him. But, this is not OUR accomplishment or OUR event. It's Mason's.  So, if Mason would feel best going on his own, that's legitimately up to him.  But, one of us may have to go since the school can't exactly rent a bus for one kid, and it's unclear yet if any of the other St. Paul schools are organizing transportation or if everyone is on their own reconnaissance, as it were.  If one of us has to drive, likely both of us will go and attend.

So that's that.



---
* I discovered, in real life, that I am actually willing, without a plan, to intercede in a situation with a stranger just because it looked wrong.  I may tell the details later, but suffice to say that I'm now putting the MN ACLU on my speed dial.

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