Shared posts

03 Sep 12:00

The Grow Lights We Like

by Meg Muckenhoupt
Kristen

Shared for all my green thumbs out there!

hydrofarm

After more than 50 hours of research and interviews with five experts—including one who designed plant lighting for Antarctica and the moon—I can say that the Hydrofarm FLT24 2-Ft/4-Tube T5 Commercial System with Bulbs ($92) is economical, is low-maintenance, runs cool in small spaces, and provides bright light for stout plants. It’s the one we would buy if we were starting seeds indoors.

29 Aug 12:00

Keep your fantasy hair color looking vibrant forever with oVertone

by Megan Finley
Kristen

For all the fun hair color lovers out there!

Megan's purple hair that faded way too fast. Photo by Sirens Salon.

Megan's purple hair that faded way too fast. Photo by Sirens Salon.

True story: At the beginning of August I dyed my hair this really pretty lavender, by mid August — even with adding my hair color to my conditioner — it was faded beyond all color recognition. Strangers went from saying "I love your hair!" to "So, what color was your hair?" So depressing.

That is why I'm beyond stoked that oVertone is our newest sponsor, because it's is a line of vegan color depositing conditioners that keeps your fantasy hair color looking vibrant and beautiful. Their mission: to end hair fading for good.

oVertone vegan color depositing conditioner

oVertone was created by Maegan and Liora, who put their brightly-colored heads together and concocted a product that both of them had always wanted — a conditioner that would heal hair between dye jobs and keep it looking as bright on day 60 as it did on day one. As they put it, "We want to be bold, AND look the part 24/7, no matter how long ago our last salon trip happened." oVertone is an end to cold showers and a reintroduction to heat styling. It's a way to keep your hair healthy and colorful every day, no matter how often you shampoo.

But how is that possible!?…

overtone keeps your hair color vibrant

oVertone has eighteen different color combinations and two types of conditioner — a daily conditioner and a weekly treatment — to meet your fantasy hair needs. They offer red, orange, pink, blue, purple, and teal conditioners in three different intensity levels: Pastel, Vibrant, and Extreme.

Simply swap out the conditioner you're using, replace with oVertone, and you have an easy solution to keep things colorful. You can even mix the conditioners together to create your own custom shades! The best part: there's literally nothing in oVertone that can damage your hair, so you can apply as often as you need to!

Katy went from light blonde to surface-of-the-sun hot pink with just oVertone.

Katy went from light blonde to surface-of-the-sun hot pink with just oVertone.

So why is oVertone better than the common "cut dye with conditioner" method?

For starters, oVertone packs a much stronger punch. Their conditioners will actually deposit much more color than a diluted dye mix. Additionally, their pigments deposit faster (imagine a three minute color processing time) and are way less messy (no mixing yourself). To top it off, they are completely non-damaging — while mixing your conditioner with dye can actually negate the effects of the conditioner, oVertone conditioners are all-healing all the time.

DSC_0867

Besides saving your hair, oVertone wants to save the world and save you some money

Besides keeping our communities bright and bold, it's important to us as business owners to give back. We use as many organic and recyclable materials as possible (both conditioners are 70% organic), and we're also working on creating our Give Back initiative, which will allow clients the option to add a dollar onto their order for one of four featured non profits.

We're also committed to showing a wide range of people on our website — racial, body, age, gender, and ability diversity are a top priority for us.

OFFBEAT DISCOUNT:
From now until September 12, 2014 Offbeat Homies can save 15% off their orders. Use promo code OFFBEAT at checkout.

overtone color conditioner for colored hair

oVertone is for everyone who loves to express themselves with their favorite color hair — for those who have been wanting to test the waters, and those who have been bold for years! Bonus points for hair-inspired Fraggle Rock videos.

Check out oVertone and get your hands on the secret weapon that will keep your hair Fraggle Rock-ing long after your last salon visit.

This business has paid a fee to be listed on Offbeat Home because they feel their products and services are in-line with our philosophies and needs … and we agree. Here's more info about how advertising works on Offbeat Home.

Recent Comments

  • Liora: Hey! Sounds like you're a perfect match for our sample pack! I would suggest grabbing samples in our Vibrant Red, … [Link]
  • April: I have a 'natural' looking red dyed on top (a clariol # 6) and extreme purple on the bottom. I'm … [Link]
  • Liora: HOT FREAKING DIGGITY. Now that's what we like to hear! So glad it worked out so nicely for … [Link]
  • Rebecca: Y'all. My bottle of oVertone in Extreme Pink came today…IT IS TOTALLY THE BEST THING EVER. I was purposely waiting to … [Link]
  • Liora: Well once you go back to bold you know where to find us, now! :) [Link]

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18 Aug 15:00

I am racist, and so are you: Recognizing and addressing racism in yourself

by Rachel Shadoan
Kristen

Very important to address this head on.

This post is aimed at white folk, because our position of privilege allows us to benefit from, rather than be oppressed by, institutional racism.

Team Racists T-shirt from Zazzle.

Team Racists T-shirt from Zazzle.

Here's the deal. Racism isn't just guys in white robes and Paula Deen shouting racial slurs. Racism is subtle, racism is insidious, and American culture is so deeply steeped in it that it's impossible to grow up in the US and not be racist.

It's a kind of brainwashing: a set of default configuration files that come with the culture. It's a filter, built up from birth, that alters our perception of the world. (Literally — racial bias makes people see weapons that aren't there.) Racism isn't just conscious actions; it's judgements that happen so fast that we may not even be aware of them. Even people who are horrified by the idea of racism see through this lens, have this default programming. Even you. Even me.

Especially me.

How do I know that I'm racist?

Once, while living alone, I heard a noise that I took to be someone attempting to break in to my house. Instead of transforming into the valkyrie I'd always imagined I'd be in such a situation, I proceeded to have the kind of reaction I usually reserve for brown recluse spiders. Which is to say, I hid and called my boyfriend to come rescue me. When he arrived, finding the only other occupant of my house to be my wildly overactive imagination, he asked me, "What were you so afraid of?"

Unbidden, the image of a tall, young black man popped into my head. I don't remember what I told him, but I doubt it was "young black men".

Several years later, I'm walking home from the train. A black man I pass tries to get my attention, and I ignore him, as is my policy when approached by male strangers. He tries to get my attention again. Heart pounding, I turn to acknowledge him. He asks me for directions to the library, which I of course give him. I walk home with adrenaline surging through my veins and shame churning in my stomach.

Several years later, I'm walking across the street. It's the middle of sunny afternoon at a busy intersection near my apartment. Three tall, broad, black men in baggy tees and baseball caps, walk past me in the opposite direction. They don't look at me, approach me, or interact with me in any way. And yet, I realized suddenly, I felt a flush of fear as they passed.

I don't know what it was about this third interaction that made me recognize my racism for what it was. Perhaps it was because I'd been reading a lot of feminist writings about race and racism. Perhaps the third time was simply the charm. Perhaps it was how utterly and completely inculpable those three guys were in my rush of fear. They hadn't even acknowledged my existence, and here I was, pulse spiking because I'd fucking walked past them.

"Hang on, though, Rachel." I can hear you now…

"Just because you're afraid of black male strangers doesn't mean you're racist. Have you considered that your fear of black men is justified?"

Why yes, I have considered that. It would be awfully convenient, after all. But according to the Criminal Victimization Tables released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics [pdf], white people, who comprise 72% of the population of the US, commit 69% of the violent crime against white people, whereas black people, who comprise 13% of the population, commit 13% of the violent crime against white people. Not only does this mean that I am much more likely to be victimized by a white person than a black person, it also suggests that violent offenders who victimize white people are uniformly distributed across races. So, given this knowledge, why am I not more afraid of white men? Why is it that my brain conjures images of black men to embody my fears?

Upon recognizing my fear for what it was — racism — all I could think was, "Oh my god, Rachel, how fucking cliche is that? You're the lily white blonde girl, afraid of black men. What, were you born on the set of King Kong?"

No, I was born in America. American media and mythos have been peddling the idea of violent and aggressive black people since the beginning of their enslavement at our hands hundreds of years ago; the fear we feel is a tool that has been leveraged to oppress, profit from, and destroy black bodies. The fear persists. Duncan (1976, PDF here) found that when performing the exact same action, black men are perceived as more violent than white men. Sagar and Schofield (1980, Google cache of PDF here) found that both white and black sixth graders rate actions as more mean and threatening when the person taking the action is black. Madriz (1997, PDF here) found that women of a variety of socio-economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds had similar perceptions of criminals — they feared victimization by black and latino men. The research goes on and on — Americans are afraid of black people, especially black men. [Ed. note: these tweets on the topic of White Fear are well worth reading.] This fear, the legacy of hundreds of years of subjugation and racism, is part of our cultural heritage just like hot dogs and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

However, unlike Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this fear kills people.

Mike Brown. Renisha McBride. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. These are only a handful of the hundreds of people killed each year because of white people's fear. Because of fear like mine. Because of racism like mine.

The media will tell you that those people asked for it. They weren't properly respectful. They were thugs or drunks or in some way unacceptable (as though that gives us license to murder them?!). We must recognize that as bullshit. They're soothing, irrelevant, lies that we white people tell ourselves to avoid naming our fears for what they are — racism. We would rather slander the dead than admit to ourselves that our irrational fears are rooted deeply in this country's history of enslaving, oppressing, and murdering black people. It is easier to cling to any justification of our fear, even the flimsiest, most transparent justifications, than it is to probe how our own fears contributed to their murder.

We cannot continue to take the easy way out. This cannot be allowed to continue. People are dying, because white people have not stepped up to the plate and addressed the racism that has wormed its tendrils through our souls.

It is our turn at bat.

"I dunno, Rach. Maybe you're racist, but I'm certainly not."

"I'm not afraid of black men, for instance."

Maybe you aren't afraid of black men, but that example is only the most relevant and easily described way in which I have found my racism to manifest. There are a myriad of other areas in which our racism colors our perception, all requiring hard thinking and serious mindfulness to identify. Mine was so subtle it took years to even notice it.

So are you really sure you harbor no racism? How much time have you spent thinking about and examining your possible biases? How much do you listen to and learn about the experiences of black people from black people themselves? How often do you read about racism and structural inequality? Just how sure are you that you have somehow, miraculously, been able to avoid soaking up the racism that American culture is swimming in?

Look, I'm not here to condemn you. Condemning you, after all, would condemn me as well. I'm here to tell you that it's not us against the racists. We're not fighting a battle with the Paula Deens of the world. If only it were that simple, that cut and dried. The battle is instead us against racism, and that racism resides in each of us. This war begins within.

On the bright side, that means we have the home court advantage. How do we get started, though?

First, we read. Hundreds of people, brighter and more well-studied than I am, have been writing about these things for years. For longer than I've been alive. I'll put a bunch of links at the bottom of this post to give you a good place to start.

Second, we must interrogate our discomfort. Reading will be hard. You will learn things you do not want to know. You will read things that make you want to lash out in your own defense, to shout, "Not all white people! Certainly not me!" Don't shout that. Especially don't shout that at a black person who is telling you about their lived experiences. If you absolutely cannot restrain yourself, and you must proclaim your innocence to someone, you can send me an email. I will say comforting and soothing things about how this is a necessary step on your journey to getting a passing grade in Decent Human Being, and how I expect you to suck it the hell up because as I said earlier PEOPLE ARE DYING and that's more important than either your feelings or mine. This is going to be uncomfortable. It will make you feel sick to your stomach. It will make your heart ache. It will make your scalp tingle and your blood pound in your ears and you will want so desperately to stop and go back to the time when you existed, oblivious, in a blissful bubble of white privilege and YOU MUST KEEP GOING ANYWAY. Your temporary discomfort is a small price when weighed against the lives of millions of people. Sit with your discomfort. Befriend your discomfort. Let your discomfort guide you — where there is discomfort, there is likely unexamined bias. When you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why. "Why does that make me uncomfortable? What is it about that that makes me feel this way? What are the beliefs that I hold that are conflicting with what I am reading?" You will survive your discomfort — black children do not survive being gunned down by cops.

Third, we must cultivate a perspective of belief. As I said, racism is a filter through which we view everything, whether we want to or not. It's like being born wearing tinted glasses — certain colors are filtered out of our perception. The filter of our racism creates makes it very difficult to see the racism at first. We must be trained to see it by the people who experience it more directly. So as you're reading, and making friends with your discomfort, remember: if someone tells you that some event is because of racism, believe them. It may be a long time before you're able to see racism with clarity. Until that point, it is an entirely reasonable default position to believe the people who have been observing it longer. You are not objective in this regard; you must proactively correct for your own cognitive bias.

Fourth, we must be gentle with ourselves. We accomplish nothing by doing more violence to our pysches than our system has already done. You and I are not bad people because our position of privilege allows us to benefit from, rather than be oppressed by, institutional racism. We are just people, products of a racist culture that we didn't choose but got stuck with anyway. It is, however, our responsibility, our ethical obligation, to address our own racism. We cannot change a racist system — a system that oppresses and brutalizes black people and other people of color — without first changing ourselves.

Finally, we must realize that the battle with our racism will never be over. You don't just wake up one morning and say, "I guess I'm done being racist!" Over time, we'll improve, of course. We'll succeed in building new mental pathways that overwrite parts of our racist programming. But we will struggle. We will grapple with pernicious racist beliefs so ingrained that our minds have carved canyons down those planes of thought. It will frustrate us, how quickly our brains find the racist answer, like marbles rolling to a low spot in the floor. And when we succeed in levelling that floor, we'll find new pockets of racism that we didn't even know existed. We will never win — but we must press on in the struggle.

I know you can do this.

I know we can do this.

I know we can do this, because we must do this.


Articles to Read:

Publications to Read:

Books to Read:

Scholarly Research:

Recent Comments

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  • Asha: Thank you for this wonderfully thought out piece, and being willing to admit it. As someone that watched a white … [Link]
  • Asha: I've been that black person approached by the super-excited white person (weekend trip to a small town that was so … [Link]
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13 Aug 18:00

In Which I Endorse an Online Community Other Than Our Own

by Nicole Cliffe
Kristen

Nice to read about more places where people tell other people (especially women!) not to take shit from people.

144
As a Person With Child[ren] who is, for some reason, often the only person with child[ren] you know, I am frequently asked “are there sites/forums for moms or soon-to-be moms that aren’t total garbage?” “No,” I usually say. “They are all garbage.”

(Sidebar: there are many, many wonderful writers who are moms who write about being moms, and conversations about parenting are valid and deserve space in the public discourse, share your favourites in the comments! I just find that sites occupied by many writers devoted ENTIRELY to talking about parenting are almost always garbage, and parenting/pregnancy forums are hellscapes devoted to metaphorical-dick-measuring and the dissemination of medically-unsound information.)

I will not, today, talk about the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Mothering.com forums. I am here to praise a good place, not to bury a bad one. I’ll be back for you, though, Mothering.com. Watch yourself.

I am here to talk about the DWIL Nation forum, on Babycenter. Because it’s great.

*

What’s DWIL? DWIL is an acronym for “Dealing With the Inlaws,” often extended to “Dealing With the Inlaws and Family of Origin.” DWIL is an oasis of REAL TALK in a sea of generic Babycenter forums about generic baby-related stuff. DWIL is where the women on your birth board (your birth board is the month you are due, so, for example, I am linked to Oct. 2011 and Dec. 2014 and will be forever) send you when you post about a real clusterfuck going down with your mother-in-law, who was a total angel until you had a baby but now she’s a FREAK, and they think it’s time to escalate.

(Sidebar 2: I don’t even HAVE a mother-in-law. She’s dead. I understand that she was a lovely person. My other in-laws are delights, except for [REDACTED WHO DOESN'T EVEN INTERNET.] I just enjoy reading about other people’s drama while trying to nurse or while reclining on a divan, and I’m guessing you do too.)

It is a forum with strict guidelines and warnings for posters. It is not for wusses. Your post WILL be automatically cut-and-pasted in case you get offended by REAL TALK and decide to delete it. It is an ADVICE BOARD. “Not a vent board,” as they say. This is because you’ll get newbies who show up, describe a situation they are just whining about and have no interest in fixing, and then say “I was just venting, I don’t need advice” when people are all “girl, you need to shut this down and take control of your business.” TAKE IT ELSEWHERE. These women are here to TELL YOU WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR SITUATION.

Why Is DWIL the Best? 

1. Well, first of all, and let’s put this out here right away: people have horrible relatives who do nutty shit, and it’s super-fun to read about it. I’ve seen people with mother-in-laws who ordered lactation drugs from Canada so they could breastfeed their grandchildren. I’ve seen people with fathers-in-law who get deeply offended they are not welcome in the birthing suite and burst into floods of manipulative tears. I’ve seen baptism tantrums and lawn tantrums and stolen Thanksgiving leftovers and demands to name your kid after a dead relative you hated and unwanted, unexpected wheelchair ramps being installed on the side of your house and all manner of fuckery. And seriously un-funny shit too, (not that these other things aren’t serious), but stuff like “my husband was abused by his parents and now they don’t understand why we don’t let them babysit.” And there are people dealing with people who are clearly mentally ill, and need real help establishing boundaries and disconnecting from situations that are deeply toxic for them and their kids. You’re going to hear “crazy” and “psychotic” tossed around a lot, this is not a forum that is deeply steeped in awareness about ableism, so we’re clear. Know where you’re headed!

2. The advice is good. Oh, don’t get me wrong. You often have to tone it down for reality. The women on here have dealt with such dysfunction and disrespect that they have hair-trigger settings for going nuclear, and, as a Canadian, I would literally never be able to pull off half this badassery. But what I LOVE is the message of self-respect and empowerment that shows up.

“Your husband is allowing them to treat you like garbage. Tell him to get off his mom’s fucking tit and back you up.”

“Say ‘that won’t work for me.’ Say it again. If they keep ignoring you, get your Tupperware of pasta salad, pack your kids, and go home.”

Something I’ve picked up, personally (I think it comes out of Al-Anon, but has really taken root at DWIL) is the acronym JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain) as in “you need to stop JADEing with this lady and just say ‘no.’” You can use that in your LIFE. You don’t need to JADE if it’s your own damn business.

It’s…pretty feminist, really! And the RADICAL notion that you don’t have to take shit from people just because they’re related to you knocks a lot of women on their asses. The women of this board will tell you if you’re the problem. Sometimes it’s you, after all. “We live with my husband’s parents so I can afford to stay home with the kids and they are always up in our business.” I BET THEY ARE.

Fix it. Read this book. Get a better therapist. Block that person from Facebook. Leave. Ask for what you want, demand what you need. You’re the mom. We’ve been there. I live in Tulsa, I can help you. 

3. It’s a wildly diverse group of women (and some dudes, to be fair.) Ethnically, culturally, religious-y, it’s a QUILT of women who have people trying to FUCK UP THEIR SHIT, and they have radically different notions of good parenting. And that turns out not to matter a whole bunch at all. I’ve seen moms who want their in-laws to stop trying to get them to circ their sons backed up by moms who would NEVER consider not circ’ing, because NO ONE IS THERE TO DEBATE YOUR CHOICES, they are there to help you stand up for your rights as a parent to make those choices. Your kid, your rules.

Do you worry that sharing DWIL is going to ruin DWIL?

No, I don’t really think that boundary-stomping inlaws read The Toast, honestly. And it’s a public forum, it’s out there in the world. But don’t prove me wrong, kids.

Read more In Which I Endorse an Online Community Other Than Our Own at The Toast.

07 Aug 14:00

Women Who Are Not Having A Great Time In Western Art History

by Mallory Ortberg
Kristen

Basically the best thing I have seen in forever.

nogon4

you ok?
what?
idk
you’re lying down and you look mad
no im having a great time babe
do you want to go home or something
why would i want to go home
when im having such a great time here
watching you talk to your friends
and watching you drink with your friends
and watching you have a great time with all of your friends that i dont know

nogon17

christ
you can be such an asshole sometimes

nogon1

ahhhh i dont think i should
oh my god just tell us or don’t
jesus
don’t make us beg you to tell us the story

nogon2

no don’t stop now
we’re both so fascinated

nogon5

fine well okay
i’m tired too
i get tired too, okay?
so maybe fucking i’ll just lay down on this marble too, see how you like that
maybe you should carry me home, because i’m more tired than you
there’s more of me to get tired, so i’m more tired than you are, so i’m going to sleep now

nogon5

honestly there is like
not a great way to say this
but i sort of figured that more of you were going to die in childhood
or like
in childbirth or something
like you would die while i was in childbirth
nothing personal i just didnt think there were still going to be so many of you here at this point in my life

nogon6

hooray
no definitely
definitely keep all trying to grab me and get my attention at the same time
yeah just whisper all at once, i’ll figure out what you’re saying afterwards

nogon9

i don’t like you

nogon10

do we really all have to be here for this
oh good question
i don’t know
what’s the only checkers rule that we have in this house
dad
please
WHAT’S THE ONLY CHECKERS RULE THAT WE HAVE IN THIS HOUSE
the checkers rule is that we all have t–
THE ONLY CHECKERS RULE IS THAT WHEN I WANT TO PLAY CHECKERS EVERYBODY PLAYS CHECKERS

nogon11

are you up
what
get up
yes
im already up
no you’re not
yes i am
im not like
leaping around
but im still up
okay well
get up
okay well
i fucking am up, so

nogon12

no get up though

nogon14

wake uppp
im awake
i was already awake

nogon16

i cannot pretend to listen to all of you right now
so one of you is going to have to decide if they actually have something important to say
and the rest of you will just have to GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF MY NECK

nogon15

ugh
yes
im cominnng
im getting up
im basically already up

Read more Women Who Are Not Having A Great Time In Western Art History at The Toast.

12 Aug 16:30

Making Photo Books with Blurb

by Meg Keene
Kristen

Just in case you need to print your digital photos...

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical WeddingMaking Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

By nature, I’m something of an archivist. When I was little, I would spend hours in our garage, going through old family pictures. I wanted to know what life was like, back when my grandmother was a little girl. When I got older, I made albums. My high school albums are a sight to see (and boy am I glad I went all out with them). They have the sticky pages, and are adorned with little notes written in marker, cut out of printer paper. After college my album making trailed off, and didn’t pick up again till we could afford a nice camera and started doing some serious travel after we got married. The decade I stopped making albums was, not unrelatedly, the decade that everything went digital. Those years were recorded in the new novelty album of social networks. My photos were posted to Friendster or MySpace or Flickr, and were then left there, as the Internet world migrated on.

In the last trimester of my pregnancy, I developed a very particular form of nesting. Convinced I’d never have time to do a project ever again (false, by the way), I realized that now was the time to print and organize the pictures of David’s and my first eight years of couple-hood, along with other random photos of my early twenties. Surely, someday my unborn child would want to know what his parents looked like in their twenties! So I set out to track down those digital pictures, and print them. It was good I was already on medically related maternity leave and had time to kill, because collecting those photos was a full time job, and nearly drove me around the bend. It turned out that a lot of those files I’d saved to digital albums were only saved as low-resolution files, and without the originals, the best I could get was a small pixelated snapshot. Other files were corrupt, or had been lost on tiny flash drives in one cardboard box or another. And still other photos had been taken on the first cell phone cameras, and I had no way to pull the (teeny tiny) photos off those dead phones. I finally pulled together an album, but my memories from the first age of digital will forever be pixelated and incomplete.

I vowed to do better.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

When Blurb offered us a chance to play with their services and create some photo albums, I jumped at it. I made four photo books, in an array of sizes and styles. One was of our wedding photos, one was my maternity and newborn sessions with (the amazing) Christina Richards, one was a family session we’d done with (the awesome) Jamie Street Photography (also of Rad + In Love), and one was simply my cell phone pictures. Here is what I learned.

1. Blurb’s software is… just better. Because I now have a goal of documenting, I’ve made photo books on a few different platforms in the past year. I normally get sucked into any place that promotes beautiful and minimal designs (which is a little silly, since obviously you can use just about any book-designing software to create something minimal; it’s maximal that’s hard). I’d come to terms with the fact that book building software was all terrible and clunky, and I had to just deal with it. Not so. (Whoopsy, hours of my life that are now gone.) Turns out you can use Blurb’s software to do just about anything you want (including beautiful and minimal, if that’s your jam), and the platform is the real deal.

Blurb offers a few different book-designing programs. The two geared towards non-pros are Bookify (their online platform) and Booksmart (a program that you download and use offline). I used Bookify for all of my books because I was aiming for the simplest possible way to do things. I wasn’t looking for fancy layouts (or even text), and I wanted to move fast so I could design a lot of books. Even though Bookify is, in theory, the most stripped down of their programs, it was everything I needed. In other programs I’ve used, you can’t re-arrange pages, add pages, or even change the style of the book you’re working on. That means if you realize you’ve made an error on page 30 of a 150-page book, you’re going to be fixing it for 120 pages (cough, Meg, cough). With Blurb, you can rearrange every page, you can change colors and styles, you can make copies of your book and create multiple edits. Blurb offers platforms that work for super amateurs (me), to professionals, and all of their tools are serious business.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

2. Blurb’s Print And Paper Quality were shockingly good. Let’s rewind to the fact that I’ve made books with a lot of Blurb’s competitors in recent years. In doing this, I’d decided that affordably printed books were just always going to have sub-optimal photo quality. The two problems I’d encountered were really cheap paper (like, you touched it and it bent a little. So much for fifty years from now), and color that was just off. (When my baby was born he was pink, not slightly grey, but thank you for playing.) Because Blurb gave me the chance to make more than one book, I made sure to try out lots of kinds of paper, and lots of book and cover styles. I have a few things to report:

  • If you want to keep your book a long time, splurging on good paper is worth it. (Note: when I made a wedding album for my parents, I didn’t splurge on paper, because it wasn’t meant to last fifty years.) I loved both the matte and glossy high quality paper options. When I used the matte paper in a large book, with full bleed photos, it created an art book effect that I loved. When I used the glossy photo paper, I got a more photographic feel.
  • The different book sizes work well for different things. I used the larger sized books for things that felt momentous—wedding photos, newborn photos. I used smaller sized books for family photo sessions, and the smallest books for Instagram photos. The variation in size gave a nice variation in sense of importance, which I liked.
  • The huge books with tons of photos are shockingly affordable, and stunning. The wedding album I made cost $192. I was shocked by how good the quality was… and how big the book was. Years ago we made an expensive wedding album in a coffee table book style. The one problem is we’ll never put it on the coffee table, because replacing it would cost more than a grand. This book, on the other hand looks like a massive and beautiful coffee table tome, and is going to go exactly there (as soon as the toddler stops hurling everything he sees to the floor). At $192, I can risk a wine stain or two, in the service of perpetual enjoyment.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

3. We take photos all day, and do nothing with them. I recently saw an article about a comparison of surveillance video that a restaurant did to try to figure out why the turnover time in their restaurant had jumped from an hour and five minutes to an hour and fifty-five minutes between 2004 and 2014. The not too surprising answer was cell phones. Everyone was checking their phones, and taking pictures of their food and taking more pictures of their food, and asking for their now cold food to be warmed up. Instead of, you know, eating. We’re all taking pictures of every last damn thing, and posting them to Instagram (so we can get our dopamine hit of likes) or maybe texting them to someone. And then… nothing. Since I’m pretty sure we’re not going to peruse our Instagram feeds in our old age (nor will any possible descendants) maybe we need to stop and take a moment to think about what we’re taking photos for. We should think about what we’re trying to remember. (Our… last meal?) And then, you know, maybe we should print the photos that matter.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

4. Blurb has Instagram books. And Facebook books too. It turns out, Blurb offers Instagram books, and even Facebook timeline books that you can create with a click of a button. PROBLEM SOLVED. Well, problem solved if you put all your best pictures on Instagram or Facebook, which I certainly don’t. Still, a one click Instagram book seemed like a great way to organize my cell phone chock full of baby pictures, so I wasn’t going to pass it up.

Here is what I did. First, I backed up my cell phone. Then I sorted through it to try to delete unneeded pictures. I was flabbergasted at the amount of visual garbage there was cluttering up my phone and my life. Four shots of a cup of tea I had four months ago? Great. So I deleted about a thousand photos. Then, I opened a private Instagram account, where I could upload whatever I wanted, not worry about privacy concerns, and not flood anybody’s feed. Then, in the click of a button, I uploaded those photos into a Blurb book, and had them auto populate the pages. It’s almost embarrassing how much better it feels knowing that all those little moments will be in print. I feel like my shoulders can relax a little bit, and I don’t have to have that niggling worry in the back of my head. I didn’t want my baby’s childhood to be eaten by our obsession with digital, and now it won’t be. (And I’m going to keep using that private account to make more books.)

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

5. It’s never too late to make a wedding album. As I mentioned, a few years ago, I made an expensive archival wedding album. I’m really glad I did, but I remember the process as being painstaking, not even a little bit fun. If I was paying a four-figure amount for this album, you better believe it was going to be perfect. I spent months picking the very best pictures of the wedding, and then laying them out thoughtfully. It’s a really nice album, but I never want to have to spend the time making an album like that again (and hopefully I won’t have to).

Because our five-year anniversary was this weekend, I decided that I wanted to make a Blurb album of all of our wedding outtakes. My goal with this album was the opposite of my goal with the first album. Instead of creating an official record, where every family member was represented equally, and only the very best photos were used, this time I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to look at all of the photos I’d forgotten were taken. I wanted to put as many photos into the album as I wanted. Last time I kept reminding myself, “No one wants to see hundreds and hundreds of pictures of your wedding day.” This time, my motto was IDGAF. I was making this book for David and myself, and I didn’t care how many photos were in it, or if the family portraits made it in at all. I wasn’t planning to show this off to every family member, or the world. This was just a cool way to remember our wedding, five years later.

Guess what? The album is the most fun ever. Of course, right? It turns out those photos that weren’t artistically flawless or significant seeming, captured moments and emotions I’d forgotten. Being freed from the expense of creating something important and archival let me remember what it felt like to get married, and why we did it. Highly recommended.

Plus, only five years later, some of those wedding photos stored on my computer have been corrupted. While I’m sure they’re not too far-gone to save, let this be a reminder to you that digital files are not forever.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

6. Everyday matters. The world tells us that our wedding is The Big Day, and everything that comes after is just an after thought. The world is obviously bonkers. But even knowing that, we painstakingly document our wedding… and then forget to even print photos of our everyday. Putting together these albums, I was reminded that our wedding pictures (even the outtakes… particularly the outtakes) captured how I felt in a fleeting moment. And in the same way, pictures of our everyday capture moments I want to hold on to forever. I want to remember what it was like to be heavily pregnant, or to have a tiny newborn, or to have a chubby nine month old, or to wear cool shoes at a huge work conference. And I want people in the future (my kids, my grandkids, honorary god children, who even knows…) to be able to get a sense of what my life was like. Not through Instagram, but through paper. I’m glad I have Blurb books to stack on my shelf, to contain my everyday moments.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

This post was sponsored by Blurb. APWers get 20% off your Blurb order when you use the code PRACTICAL at checkout!* Thanks BLURB for helping make the APW mission possible!

*Offer valid through September 15, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). Valid for first time customers purchasing printed books only. No minimum purchase required. 20% discount is applied toward your product total with a maximum discount of $75 off. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

The post Making Photo Books with Blurb appeared first on A Practical Wedding: Blog Ideas for the Modern Wedding, Plus Marriage.

22 Jul 15:00

How I learned to care less about my family and more about myself

by Amy Stewart

Sometimes caring about yourself means taking time for banana smoothies. (Photo is not the author. By: essieCC BY 2.0)

My morning routine is very much the same every morning, which becomes aggravating at times because I'm the only person awake to do it. I'm typically up at 5 AM, when I proceed to feed all of the animals, take the dogs out for a walk, shower, pack my daughter's lunch, wake her up, make her breakfast, and maybe finish a couple of smaller tasks that didn't get completed the night before, like putting away folded laundry or cleaning the smelly litter boxes. I do this every morning, weekends included.

If you noticed, nothing in that routine was about me with the exception of un-stinking myself — but that's really for the pleasure of other people, as I consider showers to be a real waste of time on most days. My morning routine revolves entirely around my family. Most days I don't bother eating breakfast, or making lunch for myself to take to work, because I am too focused on taking care of everyone else.

While putting everyone before me can be considered a commendable trait, there is a part of me that realizes that there is a real issue with never allowing myself the opportunity to be important.

I almost start to develop a bit of a resentment towards my family. Why does he get to sit on the internet for hours at a time? Why does she get to play on her DS and I can't? It's obviously not their faults, they do their best. But they are lucky in that there is a balance for them between caring for themselves and caring for others, and they are awesome because they can both do it flawlessly and without any effort. I, on the other hand, cannot.

This was brought very vividly to the surface a few months ago when I decided to commit to shaving off some extra weight. I decided to try going mostly raw to boost my health. What kept me from taking the plunge, however, was the sheer amount of time that would be involved every morning making food. I'd have to make smoothies for myself, and pack my lunches. I'd have to commit to working out every day. How the hell was I going to have the time to do all of this, when I barely had the time to take care of all that other crap in my day?

This was when I realized that I had a problem far bigger than the 20 pounds I wanted to shake off. When had I become the lowest common denominator in my own life? Where had the switch occurred?

Here I was, wanting to get healthy, but feeling as though I wouldn't have the time to do it. The time, of course, being the five minutes it would take to throw some ice and bananas in a blender in the morning and maybe 30 minutes total in exercise time. It seemed unbalanced to me that litter boxes and dishes and dog food had suddenly become more important than my own health and happiness. I needed to restore balance, and the only way that I could do that was if I started caring less about my family and more about myself.

It may sound terrible and selfish, but it's the only way that my experience could be explained. I needed to learn that my health and happiness didn't necessarily have to come first, but it had to come to a very close second in the grand scheme of things. I had to be selfish for just a moment and remind myself that I am important, that I am worth the time spent trying to make myself happy. I needed to learn to stop feeling guilty if I was sort of happy that my kid wanted to spend the entire evening outside with her friends. I needed to learn to ask for help, because as I said, my family is awesome, and they will almost always be happy to stop doing what they are doing for a moment to do something that I politely asked them to do.

About a month ago, I woke up at my usual time and reminded myself that I was worth it. I fed the animals and made a big banana smoothie for breakfast. I then took the dogs for a 45 minute walk, getting in my exercise while doing something that I had to do anyway. I came home, showered, packed my lunch, and woke my daughter up. When I told her she'd be packing her own lunches from this point forward, she was actually pretty happy about it. I texted the hubs when he woke up and asked if he would do the dishes from the night before. The litter boxes could wait until I got home. My daughter's bed time went from 9PM to 8PM, because I need a little downtime at night and an early bedtime. And between 8PM and when I went to bed at 10, I started working on a novel I hadn't touched in months and mindlessly surfed the internet.

I felt great. And I realized that caring more about myself didn't implode the house, or kill my family, or send swarms of locusts through the neighborhood. It felt pretty damn good to consider myself important again.

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21 Jul 22:25

Women Who are Ambivalent about Women Against Women Against Feminism

by thebloggess
Kristen

So many way to love The Bloggess.

So...yeah.  Right now there’s a lot of talk about a tumblr called WomenAgainstFeminism.  It’s just pictures of some women holding up handwritten signs entitled “I don’t need feminism because...”  Some of the reasons they give for not needing feminism almost seem like a parody (“How the fuck am I suppose to open jars and lift heavy things without my husband?”) and some (“I don’t need to grow out my body hair to prove I’m equal to men”) just make me wonder where in the world they got their definition of feminism.

At first I considered starting my own “I Don’t Need _____ Because” tumblr with people holding equally baffling signs.  Signs like:

I don’t need books because YOU KNOW WHO WROTE BOOKS?  HITLER.  HITLER WROTE A BOOK.  NO THANK YOU, NAZIS.

I don’t need money BECAUSE I HAVE A CHECKBOOK, ASSHOLE.

I don’t need air because LOTS OF IT IS FARTS.  I’M NOT BREATHING FARTS.  YOU BREATHE FARTS.

But then I remembered that I’m too lazy to make a tumblr and that this whole thing was a bit ridiculous. Here’s the thing:  Do you think men and women should have equal rights politically, socially and economically?  Then you’re probably a feminist.  There are a million tiny aspects of this to break off into and I get it.  It’s complicated.  There’s not just one type of feminist, just as there’s not just one type of Christian or Muslim, or man or woman.  Hell, there’s not even just one type of shark.  Some are non-threatening and friendly.  Some get sucked up into tornadoes and viciously chew off people’s faces until that guy from 90210 stops the weather with bombs.  (Spoiler alert.)    The point is that sharks, much like feminists, are awesome, and beneficial, and the world would be a worse place without them.  Plus, they’re incredibly entertaining and even if you sometimes think they’re dicks for eating cute seals you still yell “HOLYSHITLOOKATTHAT!” when Shark Week comes on.  I think this is a bad analogy.  Lemme try again.

Feminists are like bees.  They are adorable and fuzzy but people run away from them because they don’t understand that they just want to make things good.  We’d be fucked without bees.  Seriously.  And yes, some bees are assholes and maybe one killed your great-uncle and there are some that you give the side-eye to when they start acting crazy but eventually you realize that you have to take the good bees with the bad bees and maybe just be picky about what honey you choose to eat.  Eat the raw honey, by the way.  It’s way healthier.  That last part isn’t part of the analogy.  It’s just good advice from my great-grandfather (beekeeper).  Also, like bees, feminists secrete a non-edible wax and are easily distracted by smoke.

I’ve lost my point.

Wait, no.  I’ve got it again.

Feminism is inherently good.  It’s not even close to perfect and still needs lots of work and sometimes it gets all fucked up and backward and awful but that doesn’t mean it’s not still worth fighting for.  Now go back and replace “Feminism” with “The human race”.  It works, right?.  That’s because feminists are made of human.  Men and women.  In fact, one of my favorite feminists is Sir Patrick Stewart.

Patrick Stewart, feminist. His mother made 3 pounds 10 shillings for working a forty hour week in a weaving shed. She was also an abuse victim and he’s an anti-domestic violence advocate.

Patrick Stewart, feminist. His mother made 3 pounds 10 shillings for working a forty hour week in a weaving shed. She was also an abuse victim and he’s an anti-domestic violence advocate.  More at the bottom.

I’m not saying you can’t choose to not be a feminist but know what you’re choosing.  Don’t make a decision about a group based on the most radical beliefs of a group.  Don’t get defensive if you get deeper and are exposed to difficult ideas about intersectionality and race and gender and colonialism and patriarchy and male liberation.  Just listen.  Some of it will make sense.  Some of it won’t.  Some of it will later when you’re a different person.  Some of it you’ll change your mind about throughout your life and the world will change too.  Some of it is bullshit.  Some of it is truth.  All of it is worth listening to.

And now you get to decide.  Are you a feminist?  Yes?  No?  Well, don’t worry because tomorrow you get to choose again.  And that keeps happening every day for the rest of your life.

As for me, I am a feminist (among so, so many other things).  I believe in equality and I think we still have work to do.  I’m thankful to the men and women who worked to give me the freedom and rights I have today and I am proud to be a part of a movement that I hope will make the world better and safer for my daughter (and for the men and women she’ll share that world with).  I’m happy we’ve come so far and I’m glad that we’re becoming more aware of feminist issues that don’t just focus on straight, white women, even though confronting those issues is sometimes painful. And I’m happy that the womenagainstfeminism tumblr exists.  Because even though I disagree with most of them I’m glad that those women have a platform on which to speak, and also because if we know what the arguments or misperceptions are against feminism then we can better address them.  Or agree with them.  Or ignore them.  Or discuss them with our sons and daughters so they can make informed decisions for themselves.  It’s up to you.

We’re all equally deserving to express our opinion.  After all, that’s what feminism is all about.*

*Or maybe not.  I got kinda confused after the shark analogy went sideways.

08 Jul 15:00

Making babies the lesbian way, and why it might be good for your straight marriage baby-making

by Kristin Ireland
Kristen

Interesting....

I am not a doctor, midwife, or in any way trained on matters of fertility whatsoever. So please don't take anything you read here as definitive. Check out the book mentioned below, and talk to your own health care providers.

First things first, I should be very clear that lesbians (and trans men) get pregnant in a variety of ways. They might have sex with someone who has sperm or use anonymous/known donor sperm via a sperm donor clinic. They might use fertility treatments, including but not limited to IVF. And that's not even touching on the options of surrogacy, and adoption, and children created in prior relationships. Others, like me, use a known donor to donate fresh sperm and do at home inseminations. But "Making babies (one of the) lesbian way(s)" is sort of a weird title for a post.

So, anyway, where am I going with this? I have a friend. I'm going to call her Khaleesi because I just read that there are now more babies named Khaleesi than Betsy or Nadine in the US  and that totally blows my mind. But that's not her real name. She doesn't want her sex life broadcasted on the internet. I know, weird right?

So, a little while ago, Khaleesi sends me a message asking for specific details regarding our artichoke jar inseminations. This throws me off-guard as I know that she is happily married to a cisgender man. But sometimes people send me messages asking for information for their sister, coworker, hairdresser's cousin's BFF, etc. So I give her my standard reply with a few specifics and point her to The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth, which was basically my bible during my trying to conceive process.

A few days later she sends me a long response thanking me for the information and tells me that she and her husband have been trying to get pregnant, without success, for 10 months now. They have two more months to try to conceive "naturally" before their doctor will give them a referral to a fertility clinic. And in the meantime their marriage is really suffering. Sex has become a chore and they are both frustrated, grumpy, and on-edge.

Khaleesi is taking her temperature each morning in an attempt to predict her most fertile period. This is called charting your basal body temperature and it's awesome for seeing patterns overtime to predict when one is going to ovulate (in addition to identifying some cycle issues that may be impairing fertility). But, in general, it tells you when you have ovulated rather than when you are about to ovulate so there is still some guess work to be done. And Khaleesi and Khal Drogo (also not his name but, hey, I figured I'd go with the Game of Thrones theme) are sick of the guessing game. Khal Drogo is really frustrated with the scheduled sex-on-demand that their attempts at baby-making are producing. And both of them were longing for the days when sex was spontaneous and fun.

To make matters worse, their work schedules don't line-up. She often gets home from work when he is sleeping and sometimes he needs to leave for work before she is awake. So, not only are they having sex that neither of them is enjoying, at least one of them is missing precious sleep to do it.

Enter: making babies the lesbian way.

After my detailed explanation of how to insert "donated" sperm, Khaleesi and Khal Drogo now have a system in place that is working much better for both of them.  During their fertile window Khal Drogo gently nudges Khaleesi awake, and hands her a jar of fresh sperm and then heads out to work. She inseminates herself and then falls easily back to sleep.

"This is seriously life changing." She admitted to me recently. "We do this really wacky thing now where we have sex WHEN WE FEEL LIKE IT and it feels like so much pressure has been lifted off of our shoulders. There's no more fake moaning to try and speed him up so that I can get back to sleep before I'm totally awake. Lesbians have the best ideas. God, make sure you change my name if you write about this."

Of course, I am not saying that using this method of insemination is going to increase a straight couple's chances of getting pregnant. But if you are frustrated with your current attempts, and open to trying something new, this might help to take a bit of the pressure off. The general understanding is that inseminations done with fresh donor sperm are about as likely to result in pregnancy as heterosexual intercourse.

Curious about how to do it yourself? Keep reading….

What you will need (other than your bodies):

  • A jar, bowl, or something with a lid to catch the sperm
  • A needle-less syringe (most jokes about lesbian conception involve a turkey baster but a needle-less syringe is actually easier to use). The best size to use is 3-cc or 5-cc.

What to do:
Make sure the jar you are using is clean and dry. Encourage your partner to take his time producing the sperm. The more turned on he is the greater the volume of ejaculation will be. Decide how you want to do the hand-off. Is it less awkward if he leaves it on the counter for you? There's no right or wrong way as long as the sperm stays warm. Some people also think that sperm can be a bit sensitive to air and light so tell him to put the lid on the jar and dim the lights when he is done. When we did our inseminations, Tracy took the jar of sperm from Andy and then kept it warm in her sports bra until we were ready to inseminate.

I haven't been able to find a definitive amount of time that fresh sperm is "good" for. In The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth, Stephanie Brill suggests one hour (p.288) but other sources have said thirty minutes, ninety minutes, and even up to 24 hours. I am no expert so I can't give a solid answer.

Make sure the cap is off your syringe, that there is no needle in it, and that you have pushed all the air out. Put the tip of the syringe in the sperm and pull the plunger part back, so that the sperm is pulled up into the body of the syringe. Lie on your back and insert the syringe deep inside your vagina. Slowly push the plunger part so that the sperm enters your vagina. When you are done, slowly pull the syringe out. Doing this slowly will help the sperm to not fall out.

At this point you would do all the things that you would regularly do after intercourse. Some women like to lie with their hips up for twenty minutes. Others like to spend a few minutes on their back, stomach, and each side to help the sperm move around and find the cervix.

And that, my friends, is it.

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29 Jun 14:27

Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

by elodieunderglass
Kristen

So, so important. I need to read this once a week.

Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our discussion of the Low Mood Cycle. It’s a concept described in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I thought it would be useful to share.

I am not a mental health professional (more caveats on that at the end). But I felt that if these resources had been usefully presented for free on the Internet – especially during times where taking a train and a bus and a taxi to get to a day-long course seemed like organizing a picnic on Venus – it could have helped me that little bit sooner. Maybe it will help others.

 

What is this Low Mood?

Moods are curious things. We instinctively know what they are (“I’m in a bad mood! I’m in a good mood!”) and how they affect our behavior (“I should never respond to Internet comments unless I’m in a good mood.”) We recognize that we really don’t like to be in Bad Moods or Sad Moods, while much of our free time is spent in pursuing Good Moods. We know intuitively that odd things seem to affect our mood, sometimes apparently out of all proportion  - “A bus driver was mean to me, and while I know that it’s not really significant, it’s ruined my whole day.”

We can spend weeks or months or years in a poor mood, which doesn’t seem quite bad enough for us to call it a mental health problem, or a reason to seek professional help. It’s a funny thing – we don’t really trust our moods as valid emotional states – and really, something as transient and odd as a “mood” doesn’t seem like something that can be treated or cured.

But remember how terrible you feel when you’re in a Low Mood? If we’re creative people, we may explain away the apparent drought in our creativity by saying “I’m just not in the mood to write/paint/draw,” while secretly panicking because what if we’ve lost our creativity? If we’re performative people – people who work in food service, retail, performance art, or another field where you need to project happiness and serenity to do your job – then expressing a Happy Mood when you’re in a Low Mood can feel like operating the most exhausting puppet show ever. It’s really hard to “just do you” when you just don’t feel like it.

Everyone feels like this – it is a natural thing, with underlying logic to it. Here is a diagram of a Mood Cycle, a self-perpetuating hamster wheel which literally every human deals with:

Image: a drawing of a cycle demonstrating Thought, Behavior and Outcome. These three events relate to one another.

Thoughts influence behavior, which influences outcome, which in turn feeds back into your thoughts.

If you’re in a bad place, this is one way that the cycle of badness continues to percolate in your head. And we’ve all been there – we’ve all seen how Low Mood affects your health, productivity, relationships, creative output, and mental outlook. Which is to say: A good deal of your life.

Image: A worried grey blob monster is examining its thoughts, which cycle from Thought to Behavior to Outcome and feed back into Thought. It starts with the thought, "I am a bad person because I never do anything!", which results in the Behavior "So I have no motivation to do anything," which results in an Outcome of "I don't do anything."or if you’re me, it’s a bit more like

Image: Elodie's process is a cycle from "fucking hell" to "fuck this" to "fuck it," garnished with a lot of "nope."

 

If you’re in situations that encourage the Low Mood Cycle – certain types of relationships, jobs and living situations are basically designed to put you into this Cycle and keep you there – it becomes almost impossible to see beyond your current mood. It becomes hard to remember those times where you were really bright and motivated and funny, and you wanted to see your friends and go places and do new things, and you were completing all kinds of projects and doing good exercise and engaging with your life. And remembering those times can be kind of worse, because you’re like “I was that person? How?”

Image: a grumpy grey blob monster is thinking about itself when it was a happy pink blob monster.

“I can’t believe I had a pink phase. It must have looked really stupid.”

Here’s how one facet of the creative process can look when it’s fed into the Low Mood Cycle:

Untitled

Image: This cycle moves from “I never complete anything. I feel awful – I keep failing at completing stuff.” to “I won’t start any new stuff.” to “I never do anything and I never finish anything” and back again.

Which is pretty familiar to everyone. Thought feeds into Behavior which feeds into Outcome, creating a pattern that strangles your creative attempts in the womb.

 

Much Behavior! Such Motivate!

So how do we stop the Low Mood Cycle? We push on any part of it we can, but it’s quite effective to push on Behavior. Specifically, it’s called “behavioral activation” – go forth and complete a task.

If you are stuck in a small and transient Low Mood Cycle and your dirty environment is feeding into that, you break the cycle by getting up and washing the dishes. Of course you don’t want to. Of course this is the last thing you want to do when you’re in a Low Mood. But completing a specific task breaks the cycle.

Untitled3

Image: Here the thought-behavior-outcome cycle is broken at Behavior. A new arrow comes off it, leading to a new event, marked “Behavioral Activation.”

 

For extra points, you can break down the Stuff You Do into three categories:

  • routine stuff (getting up, grooming, eating, taking anti-baby pills)
  • necessary stuff (paying bills, doing chores, completing work tasks)
  • pleasurable stuff.

Image: The phrase "Behavioral Activation" with rose-colored sprinkles around it. Behavioral Activation is broken down farther into three categories: Routine stuff, necessary stuff, and pleasurable stuff. If you aren’t doing enough of one behavioral category, completing tasks in another category will prove refreshing and motivating. If you’re so bogged down in work, stress and lethargy that you’ve neglected your beauty routine, then set yourself the task of cleaning up your eyebrows.

Image: A blobby grey monster is holding a pair of tweezers and making a sexy face at them? I'm sorry, I'm so bad at writing these, this doesn't even make any sense.

because you’s worth it.

At this point in the course, the therapists who were teaching it looked at each other sadly and Mentioned The Housework. When you get home, and you’ve been drained and picked at and worked hard, and your mood is Low, and there is the Housework, the last fucking thing you want to do on this earth is the Housework, because obviously the thing you need to pick you up is Pudding. And it is not Housework Time: it is time to eat pudding. But – the therapists stressed this carefully, aware that they were blowing our minds – if you do the Housework first, then you can still eat the pudding. And it will be the Pudding of Getting Shit Done. And you’ll feel better! They promised this, while the entire room of people looked at them with deep suspicion.

Image: Some grey blob monsters in various shades are looking suspicious and slightly outraged.

“This sounds like a trap.”

 

“Motivation comes after action,” the course leaders said a few times, so that we really got it. The idea is to get yourself into a nice cycle of self-esteem and self-reinforcement, starting with small things:

 

Image: A new cycle that starts with "I'm going to do this thing." The next step is "Hurray, I have done the thing!" concluded with "I am so good at doing things," which returns to the first step.

Many people find that doing things for others cheers them up – giving a flower to a strange child, complimenting someone in the market, or making people laugh give them those good, accomplished, connected feelings.

Many people find that they already do too much stuff for others. These people may get more benefit from doing stuff for themselves – breaking a low mood induced by spending all their energy on others by practicing self-care.

Some activation tasks, which may or may not work for you:

  • Unfuck a very small portion of your habitat
  • Write the email to the loved one
  • Make the to-do list and admire it
  • SEND the email to the loved one
  • pick out the new shoes you need online and buy them
  • wash out the bowls that the pets eat from or live in
  • wash out the bowls that you eat from or live in?!
  • wash the thing you’ve been meaning to wash
  • take everything out of your Sock Collection and give all the lonely socks some sock friends and fold them up together like “heck yeah, I’m shipping these two socks. NOW KISS”
  • open the envelope that doesn’t look like a good envelope
  • argh ARGH it’s a bill why is mail
  • pAY THE BILL YES GOOD JOB
Image: A grey blob monster is holding an envelope at paw's length, staring at it with shock and horror.

YOU’RE SO GOOD AT MAIL

Then a nice thing to do might be to head over to the Friends of Captain Awkward Forum, go to the forum marked “Success Stories,” and share your winningness with the community. If you don’t want to make a whole post, the generous Rose Fox started a thread called “How Were You Awesome Today?” that would greatly benefit from your contributions! Because you are great and the things you do are great.

 

Do Only Doable Things

For 100% best effects, it’s recommended that you pick small, realistic things to do, with a starting point and an ending point, that don’t cost much money or sustained physical effort. If you decide to break out of the Low Mood Cycle with some vague and worthy goal – like “Today I will no longer be sad! I will write a novel and run five miles!” then that’s probably not going to happen, and then you’ll be more sad. If you are a person whose resting energy levels are quite low, then don’t say “I will cheer myself up by CLEANING THE WHOLE HOUSE FOREVER.” It just trips a switch back into feeling bad:

Image: A cycle that starts off with the phrase "I will do the thing." Unfortunately, it then feeds into a cycle where the next phrase is "I can't do the thing. It's too big and hard." The next step is "I didn't do the thing." The step after that is "I'm crap at doing things."

 

Here is how the brilliant, lovely and eternally helpful Quisty put it:

A useful exercise to employ can be to ask yourself, “on a scale from 1-10 where 1 is impossible and 10 is ‘it’s more automatic than breathing’ how sure am I can do this thing? Once you hit on something that scores you 8 or higher, do that.

How useful this is depends on how amenable you are to scales. Also don’t be afraid to adjust your scale if it turns out that your Low Mood has yours all fucked up. They need calibrating sometimes.

Don’t write a novel. Write 500 words of crap in your journal. Don’t renovate the house. Do a nice thing for the fish.

Image: A grey blob monster is over-enthusiastically holding up a square fish tank. The fish looks ambivalent about this. The picture is badly drawn. I'm so sorry about this. I'm so sorry about all of this.

“AND ON THIS DAY, I WILL GIVE THE FISH A WALK AND A BATH.”

The clever and compassionate Kellis also reminded me that many of us, particularly those socialized as ladyfolk, feel pressure to take on Huge Projects while pretending that it’s No Big Thing. Kellis reminds us:

when in doubt, pick a smaller thing.

Say No to People Who Contribute Fruit Flies

What if you’re pretty confident in your own self, but you find that there are certain people in your life who slap down or minimize your achievements?

If you’re in a situation where people deliberately foster and perpetuate the Low Mood Cycle on you, the solution is:

  • get the hell out
  • get the hell out
  • hi-ho-the-dairy-oh
  • get the hell out of there

And if you can’t do that because of REASONS (and of course there are REASONS, I recognize that):

  • think of some solutions
  • there are definitely some solutions
  • hi-ho-the-dairy-oh
  • get the hell out of there

Because that is a thing that abusive people do for REASONS of their own: shutting off the part of your brain that deals in motivations, solutions, action plans and goals is a great way to keep you dependent on them. The Low Mood Cycle basically flicks that reward-switch off, making you a smaller person. It’s hard to program yourself out of it. But it’s even harder if you’re trying to round up and trap and defeat and kill all of those little fruit-fly voices in your head, while your partner or your mother or your boss is moving placidly around the kitchen of your brain, planting rotten bananas.

I’m Basically Okay, It’s Just That There’s So Many Assholes

THIS IS A COMMON PROBLEM.

What about when small things – like the mean bus driver, or the microaggressions, or even a friend on the street who appears to not acknowledge you – affect your mood? Obviously there are Reasons for you to be affected by this; nobody is denying the Reasons. But how are we going to feel about that? Note, of course, that you can feel whatever feelings you like, however you want to feel them.

A good way to regain your place at the center of your personal universe is to acknowledge why this is affecting your mood, and to reason with yourself about it.

In the case of the friend apparently cutting you dead – it is a very reasonable thing in my book to assume that this is because they have always secretly hated you. This could bring you down a lot, making you irritable and occupying your thoughts for the rest of the day. It could even affect your relationship with that friend, as you begin to resent them for not noticing you. But stop. Think about it. What are some more practical reasons why your friend might not see you on the street?

  • They didn’t see you.
  • They had headphones/sunglasses on and didn’t notice you.
  • They didn’t recognize you.
  • Their thoughts were occupied with something else.
  • You know them from a specific circumstance that they don’t want acknowledged in public.
  • They are trying to avoid someone you were with.
  • They had a migraine and were trying to avoid everything.
  • It wasn’t your friend at all, just someone who resembled them.

These are much better thoughts to work with than immediately jumping to the conclusion that you are no longer friends. What are some things you could do to feel even better about it?

  • Stop and call out the name of the friend, seeing if they respond.
  • Call or text the friend – ask them if they’re all right.
  • Decide to move on.

Re-aligning your Thoughts is an important part of fixing your Mood. It’s smaller than Behavior, but sometimes harder. Your negative, self-hating, gloomily triumphant thoughts are really invested in being in your head – like weeds or viruses. To fulfill their evolutionary prerogative, they want to breed and infect most of your mental landscape. But they generally aren’t correct, and don’t come from a complete picture of reality.

Image: An illustration of the cycle again. Thought leads to Behavior leads to Outcome leads to Thought. I think I put this here because I was feeling insecure.

The key thing to remember here is that you, yourself, are indeed Basically Okay. It’s just these uncontrollable other assholes that are the problem.

If you find yourself particularly affected by anxiety about other people’s perceptions of you, one thing that may help is keeping a Folder of Excellence. Keep nice things that other people have said about you there. Keep photos of yourself that you like. Keep your love letters, and records of texts you’ve gotten from cuties, and nice things people have said about your work, and silly birthday cards from your best-beloved ones. I am frequently totally convinced that I am unlikeable, untalented, useless, and hated by all who know me; nothing silences my panic spirals like Evidence Against Them.

And if you’d like a few more nice things said about you to add to your Folder, we can arrange that too.

 

But I Can’t Because of Thing

At this point in the course, the other attendees were getting restless and needed to Explain.  They had some problems with all of this and wanted to be excused. As we were quite a diverse group, there was a great diversity of Reasons, as predictable as if they had been reading from a script. Women in real jewelry shrilled and men with dirty shirts snarled, and the woman who’d said she led a Christian choir rang out like a great bell. “I can’t do this because I’m in a wheelchair.” “I can’t do this because I have no time.” “I can’t do this because I’m too tired.” “I can’t because I’m too poor.” “And my father won’t let me leave the house.”

“Okay,” the ladies teaching the course said peaceably.

Everyone waited expectantly for the Magic Solution, for the acknowledgement of the justifications, for the big Doctor’s Note excusing them from this assignment. The ladies looked serene and wrote all the Reasons on their big flip pad.

“I mean,” said the beautiful brown lady in the sharp suit who was writing the Reasons down. “It’s not like we’re assigning you homework.”

“It’s not like you’re supposed to impress us,” said the beautiful fat white lady in the vintage tea dress, who was flipping the pages. “Or anybody else.”

“You said that we could break the Low Mood Cycle by getting a haircut!” said the lady with no hair in a tone of great betrayal. “I have no hair!

“Okay,” said the lady in the suit, as if she had stepped down from a stained glass window.

“Don’t get a haircut,” said the lady in the tea dress kindly.

The lady with no hair said “But what should I do?” She dropped her question like a stone, like a trump card, like a heavy weight, a challenge: who dared to pick her burden up again? Her need was alarming. Everyone thought Oh goodness, what am I doing here, when this lady is here who has no hair? Is it because she is dying? If she is dying, what good will any of this do? How can I come here wanting help, with my little anxieties and crying jags, and sit next to the Lady Who Has No Hair? Her pure, raw need sucked all of the noise from the little room, and people stilled and stared at one another, until the young woman whose hot-pink nails matched her hot-pink hijab and hot-pink Converse rolled her eyes and called across the room “Do your nails.”

“Oh!” said the lady with no hair, and looked at her nails with some surprise. Then she looked at the young woman’s hot pink nails, which appeared to glow, with the gleam of growing greed.

“You could play games on your computer,” said the woman with a voice like a bell.

“Oh?” said the lady with no hair doubtfully.

“They’re not like they used to be, with all that shootin, tellin boys to steal cars,” said the woman with a voice like a bell. “There are nice games now – gardenin games.”

The ladies who ran the course wrote this down too. They wrote everything down, and then stared at it lovingly, so that we stared at it too, as if it had suddenly been transmuted into truth because it was written down.

Because breaking the Low Mood Cycle? Here’s what it’s NOT about:

  • productivity
  • making money
  • being a good role model
  • impressing others
  • “improving” yourself (where the benchmarks for “improvement” are placed by society to make 99% of people feel bad)
  • acquiring skills or moods to function better in a capitalist environment
  • doing stuff to appeal to others
  • making yourself easier to be around for others

Here’s what it’s supposed to be about:

  • doing you
  • getting good at doing you
  • remembering what it feels like to be good at doing you
  • reclaiming yourself and the things that you love
  • feeling proud of yourself, not disappointed by yourself
  • recovering your mood
  • getting rid of a hollow feeling
  • recovering that lost-feeling Thing that you need and love about yourself

The Caveats

I’m not an expert. Captain Awkwarddotcom generally recommends professional therapy. This is not a cure for deep depression, or indeed for anything at all – this is just some diagrams and metaphors that explain the Low Mood Cycle, how it can sap your creativity and motivation, and how to go about ending it.

Think Yourself Happy/Cook Yourself Happy/Unfuck Your Habitat for Emotional Fulfillment suggestions are just not going to fucking cut it in a lot of situations, and that’s okay too! We’re just talking about that state that we all get into of wanting to be the Life of the Party but having only enough energy to be the Housepet of the Party.

Image: An annoyed grey blob monster with cat ears, a tail and a suspicious expression. It's basically an angry-looking bread loaf.

“I’m going to stalk dramatically through the center of the conversation and then disappear. Don’t touch me.”

 

And Then The Lights Like Stars

So long story short: none of this helped with my current habit of ragefainting during driving lessons, which was what I had originally gone to the doctor for. Knowing about the Low Mood Cycle and battling your fruit-fly thoughts can only take you so far. But here’s where it took me.

The lights shone in my face and the invisible audience behind the glare were clapping and laughing and sending back these golden sparks of we like you, we think you are a funny lady. And there was the high, that high of being imperfect, but doing okay stuff, putting it out there, seeing it well-received.

Sometimes when you do you, people like it. And you’re like yes, wait a minute, that’s true – that’s who I am. I’m not a particularly sad person. I just have sad parts.

That’s worth breaking out of any Low Mood Cycle for.

We are all grey sometimes, but under the lights, we are really bright and great – and we are inherently, wonderfully worthy.

Image: A happy-looking sun-colored blob monster that is glowing! Hurray! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

“I have perfect eyebrows, and many people like me because of my beautiful soul!”

Go forth, Awkward Army, and know that you have inherently beautiful souls that other people like an awful lot.


21 May 12:05

"COMPLIMENTS THAT AREN’T ABOUT PHYSICAL APPEARANCE 1) You’re empowering. 2) I like your voice. 3)..."

“COMPLIMENTS THAT AREN’T ABOUT PHYSICAL APPEARANCE

1) You’re empowering.
2) I like your voice.
3) You’re strong.
4) I think your ideas/beliefs matter.
5) I’m so happy you exist.
6) More people should be listening to what you have to say.
7) You’re a very warm hearted person.
8) It’s nice seeing such kindness.
9) You’re very down to earth.
10) You have a beautiful soul.
11) You inspire me to become a better person.
12) Our conversations bring me a lot of joy.
13) It’s good to see someone care so much.
14) You’re so understanding.
15) You matter a lot to me.
16) You’re important even if you don’t think so.
17) You’re intelligent.
18) Your passion is contagious.
19) Your confidence is refreshing.
20) You restore my faith in humanity.
21) You’re great at being creative.
22) You’re so talented at ____.
23) I don’t get tired of you the way I get tired of other people.
24) You have great taste in ___.
25) I’m happy I stayed alive long enough to meet you.
26) I wish more people were like you.
27) You’re so good at loving people.”

- 3:29 p.m. feel free to add to this!  (via expresswithsilence)

28) the way you articulate yourself is so refreshing
29) you have that “brighten-up-a-room” effect
30) you’re just really good to be around
31) you foster my growth
32) you’re really good at dancing!
33) i can share silence with you

(via carlosofthecosmos)
06 Jun 18:36

Notes From A Boner

by JenniferP
Kristen

So, so excellent.

I wrote this to maybe read at last night’s (EPIC!) Story Club, but the name-draw for open mic slots did not go my way. Still, I didn’t want it to go to waste. So here, without ado (and without comments enabled , b/c it’s a performance piece, not a discussion piece) you go.

Notes From A Boner

They pop up from time to time on Facebook. Time-stamp 3 AM, from an old friend I used to mess around with in college. “Hey, what’s new? I was just thinking about you.”

I bet you were, buddy!

Sometimes they show up in the film class that I teach. I play a clip from Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, to show how color temperature isn’t just a technical thing and you can manipulate it to create mood. “What did you see? What do you think?,” I ask the students.

Every time I do this, a freshman boy says something like “She’s sooooo hot” or better yet, “She used to be so hot,” referring to Jennifer Lopez, who frankly kills it in this role. The girls and gay boys don’t say anything about The Clooney, and I quickly change the topic to “What did you think ABOUT THE LIGHTING” while delivering my best over-the glasses disapproving mom look. The one that says “It is I, Queen Femicunt¹, First of her Name, Khaleesi of the Bitchrealms and the Isles of No Funnington.” I want that boner to slink away and think about what it did. But its presence still lingers. Every clip I show, I now have to think about from the point of view of a taunting, persistent boner.“You’re teaching cinema, I see. Did you know that nearly everything ever created in this medium was designed to make ME happy on some level? Muahahahahaha!

Sometimes the notes from boners get delivered on the street, or on the eL. “Smile!” “You should smile more!” “Hey baby, where’s that smile?” and if I don’t smile, or I smile like this (using two middle fingers to hold up the corners of my mouth),“Bitch!” “Fat bitch” “Ugly bitch” Here I was, walking around, grocery shopping, registering to vote, minding my business. I didn’t know I was making the boners sad. Fortunately The Committee for Boner Rescue and Repair was on the case to educate me. I imagine their letterhead, with Notes from a Boner! Stamped! at the top, ready to deliver humbling memos to grateful citizens everywhere.

Sometimes I write back back to the boners. Like, when I tried to sell my bike on Craigslist, and a guy sent me a dick pic from hisrealname@wherehereallyworks.com. Not wanting that boner to go to waste, I shared it with humanresources@wherehereallyworks.com. Boners are spontaneous. They live in the moment. They don’t always think things through.

Or, you know how sites like LinkedIn will try to get you to plug in your whole email address book when you sign up? Yeah, never do that. Because if you do, every single person you’ve ever emailed in your life will get a request to “connect” on LinkedIn. Like me, that girl you hooked up with one time six years ago. And if I get that request, I will write you recommendations. “Not a leader, but takes direction well.” “A workmanlike and thorough attention to detail.” “Extremely dedicated to his work! Goes above and beyond to close the deal!” That last one was for the guy who tried to sell me his TV the next morning while I was looking for my bra underneath it. “Do you like it? Come by Best Buy later, I can totally hook you up.

When I wrote the rec, he wrote back “Thank you!” and still displays it on his profile.

I’m thinking (hoping?) he has no memory of who I am.

Boners and I have had a pretty great relationship, at times. When I first met one in the wild, my high school boyfriend and I were pretending to watch David Lynch’s Dune. He’d just taken off my shirt AND my bra, the first time anyone had done that, and suddenly suddenly this boner, felt up gingerly through a pair of acid-washed overall jorts, was giving me a LOT of information like HELLO, YOU ARE GREAT, MAYBE THE GREATEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WHO HAS EVER LIVED LET’S STAY LIKE THIS FOREVER. It was a level of approval I was not used to. A mutual appreciation society I was happy to join.

I joined up for real in college. So many boners! So many that seemed to like…me! Some that were attached to people who also liked me (which is by far the best place to get one’s boner-supply), though figuring that out was pretty confusing for a while. Like, clearly your boner likes me more than it has ever liked anyone, how is that not translating into true and lasting love? Maybe if we just try that again it will work and you will become addicted to me, Jennifer, the human, and we can also talk about books and go to museums and fall asleep together holding hands? No? Maybe again? Once more time? Let’s check, just to be sure. The dick is not directly connected to the heart, you say? Okay. I get it. Are you really, REALLY sure, though?

Or sometimes the opposite could be true: We could like alllllll the same books and stay up all night talking and dancing and being kindred spirits like in Anne of Green Gables but the boner would be totally silent on the matter. Reluctant. Shy. Gay as (movie version) Gilbert Blythe.

Nowadays things are much less confusing, at least in my personal life. I’ve achieved Boner Congruence, where my favorite boner is attached to my favorite person, and that’s that. Or it should be. But I feel like I can’t escape from boners and their stupid bonepinions². In my class. On my commute. Being merrily stroked in my general direction on the corner outside The Green Mill. And in every. freaking. internet discussion, there they are. Fucking boners. Women can be discussing literally any topic, and dudes will come interrupt to tell us how it makes boners feel. Sometimes they want to reassure us, like, when we talk about being fat as a feminist issue, or the constrictions of conventional beauty standards, they chime into say “But I like bigger girls.” Well thanks, Internet Stranger-boner! That totally makes up for every bad thing women have ever experienced at the hands of the patriarchy, which definitely for sure does not include you. Other times women will be talking about particle physics or literature or their very responsible jobs, like, running the world and stuff, and the boners feel left out and confused, so they just say completely inane stuff. As if “I would/would not do her” is the one true standard on earth.

Sometimes the boners want to warn us, as in “Maybe that HitlerBieber³-looking dude out in California wouldn’t have shot so many people if some chick had just touched his boner. Guys get so lonely, you really don’t understand what it’s like.

Are you fucking serious, boner-owners? There is not a disapproving mom look IN THE UNIVERSE that is withering enough for this. Imagine being That Girl for a moment, the heroine who sacrifices herself so that others might live, delivering the sad lifesaving handy to the twisted boy with the guns in his murder van. Buffy the Boner-slayer. The Chosen One. Do you think it stops there? Do you think she gets to walk out of that van, out of that relationship, alive? Best case scenario she just postpones it for a little while, and then when the shooting starts, it starts with her.

I guess what I’m saying is that I need the boners to shut the hell up for a while. PEOPLE can speak, just, try to go like a month without letting your boner chime in to offer its thoughts on whether someone is sufficiently hot. Please. I beg you. Because everything that made boners lovable – your enthusiasm, your vulnerability, your indomitable spirit – is now just making me tired. Put the letterhead away. Stop telling me what I can do with my face, with my body, with my attention, with my time. Stop poking yourselves into every conversation, nook, and cranny. DEFINITELY take a seat during all future elections or serious discussions of grownup things that actually affect the way we live our lives. Come out singly, one by one, with your tiny invisible boner-hands in an attitude of surrender, when and only when you’re specifically invited to contribute. Until then, go sit in the corner and think about what you did.

_________________________________________________

1 Credit: Cliff Pervocracy

2 An opinion that hijacks a conversation (or a person’s day) to offer inane and irrelevant commentary on appearance and sexual attractiveness. For example, catcalls, every article ever about a woman politician that discusses her clothes and hair, this science reporter’s “fan” mail. I imagine, whenever I encounter these, that the speaker or writer has delivered the comment a piece of paper with “Notes From A Boner” stamped proudly at the top.

3 Credit: Robin “Miss Conduct” Abrahams


17 May 00:44

genicecream: that-darn-hyena: skully-pens: cosmicremix: tordl...

Kristen

All the delightful giggles at this one.



genicecream:

that-darn-hyena:

skully-pens:

cosmicremix:

tordles:

thingsthatsuckass:

marcovicci:

ah yes. my gender is blue with pink leg

so this is killing me cause my mind immediately thought.

and this is why im not allowed to be part of actual serious discussions.

i DONT UNDERSTAND THIS AT ALL I KEEP IMAGINING 

image

image

I feel particularly close to this one:

THIS POST GET’S MORE FUCKIN HILARIOUS EVERY TIME I SEE IT!

I made a thing aswell.

So scandalous~

hello friends

14 May 15:00

Do you even lift, Ladybro? How lifting weights taught me to love my body

by kellbot
Kristen

Yes, please.

Being a bro is not about smiling, it's about looking hard. Like my biceps.

Being a bro is not about smiling, it's about looking hard. Like my biceps.

"How much can you bench?"

This is the question I get almost unfailingly when I tell people I lift weights. I started lifting three months ago, when I hit a wall with my workout routine and was just generally feeling shitty about myself. In that time I've gotten a lot stronger but along the way something surprising happened: my relationship with my body totally changed even though my appearance stayed pretty much the same.

Ok, it's not completely the same, because look at these guns. That's right, if the lighting is just so and I flex really hard, you can see that I have something resembling a bicep. And on the topic of epic gains: I think you should know that I have moved up to bench pressing the heavier of the two empty bars available to me. I am, in a word, crushing it.

I didn't expect to love lifting weights. When I was preparing for my first aerial silks performance I quickly realized I didn't have the stamina to survive five minutes in the air. On the recommendation of a friend I booked an appointment with a personal trainer who has biceps the size of my head. At our first session he asked "OK, what are you currently doing for triceps?" and I stood there blinking at him in silence before asking where my triceps were.

Having located my triceps, we came up with a weight lifting routine to dovetail my silks training. I learned how to bench, squat, deadlift, and just generally manhandle lumps of iron. Admittedly small lumps of iron. I felt silly picking up the five pound dumbbells at my gym. Do you even lift, ladybro? And as I eyed around the room looking for people snickering at me I realized that no one cared. Most people at the gym are too busy with their own workout, or taking gym selfies, to care what I'm doing.

A manual of free gymnastic and dumb-bell exercises; for the school-room and the parlor (1864)

The girl in this this 1864 illustration knows where it's at.

When I pick up a dumbbell I'm battling one of the greatest forces on earth: gravity. As I get stronger I get so excited about what my body can do that I've stopped agonizing over what it looks like. My thunder thighs are home to the biggest and strongest muscles in my body. Does my post-baby gut stick out a bit? Must be because of all these big damned muscles in the way. My relationship with food improved; I no longer see food as the enemy or something I must vanquish in an effort to make myself take up less space. Food is fuel for this incredible machine I will use to lift all the things.

I didn't expect to end up here, but I'm so glad I did. I make fun of brotastic gym culture, but I also understand it now. Squeezing out one more rep or adding 5 more pounds to a lift is so immensely and immediately satisfying. My body is capable of so much more than just looking pretty, and I love all the stuff I can do more easily now that I'm stronger. Pull ups? Check. Push ups? Check. Opening my own jars? Oh hell yeah.

Want to try it yourself? Here are some good places to start:

  • NerdFitness.com: I love this site because it is extremely positive towards women who want to lift, and quickly dispenses with garbage ideas like "lifting heavy will make you bulky." It also has one of the least-awful exercise forums on the 'net.
  • Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe: If you want to get your nerd on, this book has a practical approach to the science of lifting and plenty of diagrams. The website also has some great resources.
  • Jefit Exercise Database: This is the most comprehensive exercise database I've found, and is great for finding things that work with the equipment you've got (or don't got).

Finding a personal trainer
Some people feel more comfortable having someone show them the ropes. Many gyms offer personal training, but make sure you check out the trainer's credentials before signing up for an appointment. A trainer should support you in reaching your goals, not make you feel stupid, weak, or bully you in any way. The two largest professional associations, ACE and IDEA both offer databases of certified trainers in your area.

Do we have any other weight lifting Homies in the house? What have you gained from lifting? How much can you bench?

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08 May 15:54

Adventures in non-normative normativity.

by Robin Marie
Kristen

YES. THIS!

In a few months, I am about to do something incredibly, horrifically normative. I am going to get married.

But of course, why “horrifically” normative? I don’t, actually, think getting married is any kind of horrific – but, it is undeniably normative. Yet my ironic use of the term points to my consciousness, as a feminist, leftist, and “egghead,” about how this news has been received by those around me. Put simply, I’ve received the standard responses from either side of the cultural divide – the elation that seems to surround the spectacle of a woman “settling down” and, the shock of those who thought I would never do it.

But first to the more standard responses, as they are likely more familiar to many of us. The first thing that struck me about telling people that I am engaged was how often I was greeted with empathic “congratulations!,” delivered with such excitement that you would have thought, had you just started eavesdropping, that I had won a Pulitzer Prize. In fact, I don’t recall so many people congratulating me with such animation for anything I’ve ever done before – and I have a PhD, so, it’s not like I don’t have an accomplishment worthy of comparing it to. Interestingly, though, most people seem aware of the oddness of this fact, because I’ve often responded to these congratulations honestly by smiling and saying, “Thank you!, all of this attention is making me feel like I accomplished something really difficult” – and this almost always gets a big laugh. (Or perhaps they are laughing because they are thinking, “I know!, right? So hard to find a good man willing to get hitched before we’re all shriveled up shrews”?)

The especially funny thing about this is how you get this response from people you don’t even know. I’ve now had two conversations with two separate bank tellers about where I am getting married, whether or not I have a dress, when is the date, etc – it seems like they not only feel compelled to extend this small talk into a more substantial discussion, but they genuinely enjoy doing so. Knowing that this random person they’ve never met is getting married soon well, it just brightens their day!

Which, like the heart-felt congrats, leaves me cocking my head and maybe giggling to myself a bit, but it doesn’t bother me too much; because quite frankly, I’m happy to take the attention, even if I think our society’s sheer joy at the thought of a wedding is problematic for all the obvious historical (read: patriarchal) reasons. And then that, of course, is where the question comes in of whether or not any self-conscious feminist should participate in any of this.

I’ll be honest. I have no misgivings about getting married and very little about having a wedding on top of it. This is primarily because the way I’ve always thought about weddings – or at least certainly my wedding – is that it is an opportunity to throw a huge party, wear an absolutely amazing dress, and have everyone talk about how great my partner and I are. This, to me, sounds awesome. If being a good feminist means passing this up – and how many feminists really make such an argument, anyway? – then I am not a good feminist.

Yet my attraction to having a wedding is not merely about having a good time or feeling fabulous; it is also about ritual, and ritual, I think, is something most human beings derive a great amount of meaning from. Not everyone – and there is nothing wrong with you if the effect falls flat – but a lot of us. I look forward to being able to share with my friends and family, through a ceremony designed by me and my partner, what that relationship means to us and why we have decided to commit to one another. The impact such ritual can have on us sometimes creeps up on us, I think; I remember walking the walkway towards the stage during my college graduation while beautiful bagpipes played and, much to my surprise, tearing up – although, honestly, that might have just been the bagpipes, because they are crazy powerful like that! But in any case, I did learn that I can definitely enjoy me the psychological, almost Jungian satisfaction of a good ritual.

Finally, of course, you get to tweak what the actual ceremony and party look like quite a lot. Not only are my partner and I doing a goy/Jewish hybrid of a ceremony, but we’re cutting out a decent amount, such as a cake, an announcement of our entrance to the reception, physical invitations, throwing the bouquet, doing that obscene thing with the bride’s undergarment, and I’m walking down with both my mother and my father, because really, they both equally raised me, right?, and that sort of cancels out the creepy implication that my Dad has the power to “give me away” to my next male overlord. In this way you can make whatever your wedding looks like in line with what you think a ritual ought to highlight and celebrate.

But then of course there are things we’re retaining despite my knowledge of their less-than-stellar symbolic origins; I am, for example, wearing white. I have no good reason for this; I just want to wear a white dress, damnit. Can’t help it. What can I say, the superstition in which you grow up…

IMG_6758

Passage from G.E. Lessing; this hangs out on my fridge. (Usually it makes me think of more substantial things like the Protestant work ethic but hey it works here too.)

And interestingly, the response from others that has stood out to me – other than the startling elation – is the surprise I’ve received from several others. Some of these people know me well, and others more casually, but the basic reply is the same: I never thought you would get married! This is interesting because, I’ve always wanted to get married, actually. I’ve never doubted I would try to do so, should I find a good partner. I love the idea of a partnership, of commitment, and of mutually shared sacrifice in the pursuit of that commitment. I’ve been in substantial partnerships and I’ve been single, and while both certainly have their positives, I much prefer life when I am sharing it, and myself, with one other person. That’s just what works for me.

But because I’m known to some as snarky, opinionated, eccentric and political, many assumed that I would never do such a thing. As even my own sister put it, “I’m so excited about this, especially because I never thought you would ever get married.”

“That’s funny,” I replied, “Because I’ve always wanted to get married. Yet no one ever thought to ask me if I did.”

Yet it does not offend me that my sister and others guessed wrong, because I can see why they would make such an assumption. But it does intrigue me. We all, of course, make assumptions about one another, even if we try not to; but how often could we get a richer idea of what it means to be a feminist, an activist, a leftist, a Christian, a Muslim, an atheist, or insert-any-identity-here, if we simply started with asking people what their relationships are with certain ideas or practices? What kind of creative mishmash of traditional, non-traditional, normative and non-normative arrangements are out there, some already lived realities and others as yet only inchoate or yearning dreams? To think of these possibilities, as I imagine my own little monument to myself and my partner, excites me. It seems, quite frankly, like the point of liberation – for it is simply the freedom to build the life that feels most like yourself.


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: pop culture, weddings
22 Apr 19:39

Ashol-Pan, The 13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress

by Jen
Kristen

YESSSS EAGLE HUNTRESS!

Jessica G. sent me a cool story from BBC News: For possibly the first time in 2,000 years, a 13-year old girl named Ashol-Pan has been apprenticed in Mongolia to hunt with Golden Eagles:


WHOAH.


Ashol-Pan is part of the Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia, the only people today to hunt using Golden Eagles. BBC photographer Asher Svidensky spent time with 6 of their apprentice falconers, and described Ashol-Pan as being "more comfortable" and "more powerful" with the eagles than her male counterparts.

Awww yeah. Care to join me in a little standing-and-cheering, my friends?

[standing] WOOTWOOOOT!!

Ahem.


Head over to the original BBC article to read more, and to see more amazing photos like this:


Now, who else is inspired to write a whole YA series based on Ashol-Pan? And/or cosplay as her? Just me?
15 Apr 15:05

A Feminist Love Story

by Kate
Kristen

All the feels, all the time.

Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

“There’s no positive feminist alternative to the Disney model of romance,” an old friend told me late one night.

As is not unusual in conversations with me, the topic of feminism had come up, and I’d asked him whether he thought gender roles were a good thing. He responded by sharing a story of his own heartbreak: a relationship that ended after moving in together and falling into a pattern of contentious discussions about who should be responsible for which chore.

My friend seemed to be implying that gender roles make things easier, that the feminist model of each couple negotiating for themselves was more work. “We spent all our time in negotiations about living together, instead of just enjoying living together.”

I pointed out that it was more work for him to talk about it, but probably less work for her because the continuing inequality in household chore breakdowns means that, statistically speaking, women who don’t specifically negotiate otherwise tend to end up with an unfairly large chore burden. And of course, relying on gender roles for divvying up household chores only works for couples with one man and one woman.

Nevertheless, I think there was value in my friend’s observation about a feminist alternative to the typical romance narrative. It was a revelation to me, perhaps because I live in a bit of a feminist bubble: I think there is a feminist story of love, and perhaps we just have to do a better job of spreading it.

What do I mean when I talk about a feminist love story? I don’t mean a specific fairy tale, although those are nice too.

click the photo for a link to the book on Amazon

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a love story, but “The Paper Bag Princess” may be the greatest fairy tale ever written. Give copies to all the young people in your lives, please!

As a fancy grad student, I’ve recently been studying “narrative theory”- the idea that all of life is understood through stories: stories we tell about ourselves and stories hear about the world and try to fit our lives into. In this sense, a “love story” is a cultural narrative about what love is and how it happens. Our mainstream love story includes elements like being about a man and a woman, the man making the first move, a diamond ring engagement, marriage, children. Our mainstream story says the woman does the laundry and the man mows the lawn. It says you own a home in the suburbs, and stay together until you’re adorable old people. It says that when you find “The One” or “True Love” everything can be perfect, and you live happily ever after. It’s reinforced in commercials, books, politicians’ speeches, TV shows, religious congregations, classrooms, and our conversations with each other, just like so many other stories we have about life.

If love is a big part of life, and if romantic gender relations are a big part of feminism, then we have a big stake in changing the mainstream story.

Before I talk to you about the feminist love story, I have a confession to make: I think the mainstream story is crap. It makes our relationships worse and our lives more difficult. It’s not romantic; it’s stupid.

Do you remember back in 2003 when the Postal Service released “Such Great Heights” and it was everywhere? The first few times I heard it, I misheard the chorus. The song actually says:

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now, but we’ll stay

The portion of this I managed to catch in the background of friends’ radios was “Everything looks perfect from far away / Come down now.” I found the message difficult to understand at first, because without those last three words, it contradicted everything I was told was romantic. If you’re on such great heights with someone, why would you ask them to come down to earth?

As I thought about the meaning of the line, however, I grew attached to the beauty of what it suggested: “Sure, our idealized images of each other seem perfect,” it seemed to say, “but I don’t want to love an idealized image of you. I want to love the real you, here in the real world.” Perfect things aren’t real; if you love an imagined perfect version of someone, you’re losing the opportunity to love the actual human standing next to you. The fairy tale “happily ever after” isn’t real because life doesn’t stop happening. Listening to what I thought the lyric was made me understand I don’t want my love for someone to exist outside of my life; I want that love to happen in it, even with all the ordinary and non-magical moments that entails.

…Then I realized that the end of the chorus existed, and I was sad that my beautiful contradiction to the mainstream love story was actually just another reinforcement of it. I still can’t hear the song without being reminded of that disappointment.

“Perfect” is a problem, because it’s not about action. If you expect something to be perfect, to magically fit together all on its own, then when it’s not perfect, it’s a failure. This “perfect” problem is one of the ways the major ways the mainstream love story hurts relationships. It’s no coincidence that the same culture that created the “happily ever after” trope also created every trope perpetuated by The Lockhorns.

Lockhorns comic strip

So romantic! Seriously, there are comics just like this that have been published every day since 1968. Leroy! Loretta! You are so unhappy. :(

The “perfect” problem shows up when studying math- Several studies found that students either thought of intelligence as an “entity” trait (just part of who they were) or an “incremental” trait (something they could work to improve). Guess which group learned more? Yup, the latter.

If we expect something to be magically perfect, then when it falls short we think it’s failed and stop trying. But when we understand that the good things we have are (at least partially) thanks to the effort we put into them, then we’ll keep putting effort in when things get bad.

It may seem like I’ve just spent this whole post badmouthing romance, but I’m really just badmouthing the mainstream story of romance. I enthusiastically and sappily believe in the beauty and romance of the alternative story.

As I see it, those talks about chores that my friend found so frustrating aren’t really work. I know a conversation about dishes doesn’t seem romantic, but when the reason you’re talking about them is that you’ve chosen to share a home together, to share meals together, that’s beautiful. Maybe it takes effort, but it’s effort I’m happy to put in.

And the feminist model allows for relationships that aren't one man and one woman, like Raven and AzMarie

And the feminist model allows for relationships that aren’t one man and one woman, like Raven and AzMarie. Who’s gonna do the dishes now, Patriarchy?

 But it’s not just the gendered breakdown of chores that feminism refuses to assume; it’s things like how wedding engagements work, how childcare will happen, or whether you’ll have children–not to mention the acknowledgement that monogamy isn’t the only relationship model. We get to negotiate each of those for ourselves as well. All those negotiations require conversation.

There’s a lot to love about love, but some of the closest, most romantic moments are those conversations. They can be quiet, cuddly, sweet, difficult, funny. They’re intimate because they’re vulnerable. They’re bonding moments because they’re when we reveal ourselves to each other and talk not about what we’re expected to want but what we, as individuals and in relation to each other, actually want from this thing we’re creating together.

couple-in-bed-15And that’s really the crux of it: we’re creating something new and totally ours, together. That’s the feminist love story. Feminist relationships don’t expect you to fall into two neat cookie cutters or gender roles. They don’t even expect you to mostly fit (though it’s fine if you could).

It’s like the mainstream story is the most boring baking project: man contributes items A, B, and C. Woman puts in items X, Y, and Z. They only ever combine in that way and they only ever make that one recipe. Forever. No matter who you are. No wonder the Lockhorns were so unhappy.

The feminist love story, though, is about baking something entirely improvisational, from scratch–a new recipe that creates the delicious result of the ingredients specific to the two of you at this particular time in your lives. Sure, it involves a little more communication, but in the end you’ll never have that same boring mandated recipe of the mainstream model; you have this beautiful, colorful, complicated, bright, soft, amazingly unique, love-filled life that’s just yours, and just right. Because when it’s not right, you can fix it. Together.

 

 


Filed under: Communication, Gender Roles, Relationships Tagged: cinderella, disney, housework, lockhorns, love, narrative
08 Apr 15:57

Not a real post, but still awesome

by thebloggess
Kristen

Freaky man...

Hi.  This isn’t a real post but I’m posting it anyway and so I think that makes it a real post.  Unless you’re epileptic, in which case you need to leave now.  It’s for your own good.  Come back tomorrow when I write about something less likely to make you fall down.

Okay, see the video above?  Open it to full screen and stare at the center of the video for the full minute that it plays.  Then immediately look at your hand.  Then bring your friends over to watch it and when it ends say “Never mind the video.  What is wrong with your hand?”  Then back away and tell them that’s exactly what people’s hands look like right before they morph into a werewolf.  

Or not.  Just a suggestion.

27 Jan 15:30

Use your words!

by Jan DeVry
Kristen

Yup.

Valentines’ Day is coming up, and because of a fantastic quirk of scheduling I’ll be spending it with basically everyone I’m currently dating, at Dark Odyssey: Winter Fire (link NSFW). This is not everyone’s idea of a great Valentine’s Day, I know. My sweeties may have other priorities that night, be it a new crush, an out-of-town lover returned for the weekend, or a longtime primary partner. But I am very much looking forward to being the center of a big cuddly loving poly group and seeing what deeper connections the weekend brings me.

That’s how I do polyamory, or poly for short, but there are a million different ways. Judging by the media interest, poly is trendy right now. I believe that poly might be right for a lot of people who had either never heard of it before, or didn’t believe that it was something that they could actually create in their own lives – until they saw that other people were successfully doing it. That’s the way it was for me, at least. I still remember the day I read in the Savage Love archives that ethical non-monogamy was fairly common, I could find other people who also identified that way, and that if someone flipped out, they probably weren’t a good person for me to date anyway.

Most poly people, I imagine, have an experience of monogamy that left a bad taste in their mouths. I see my friends’ relationships continually hamstrung by things that would never be an issue in mine because of polyamory (“How do I know where this is going?!” Um… ask?) They find monogamous dating hard, and can’t imagine why I would want MORE of it; I find poly dating easy, because I’m surrounded by attractive, feminist friends with good communication skills. It’s tempting for polys to conclude that poly is inherently better than monogamy. But I think there are actually two things going on here. There’s the sex, and then there’s the communication.

The standard cultural narrative at the time I hit puberty was that you could not talk about your feelings with the person you had them for, because terrible things would happen. Instead, you had to engineer elaborate scenarios to impress your beloved so that they would decide they were in love with you, make a grand declaration, kiss, and roll the credits. Or there would be a breakup where you never told your beloved what they meant to you. Or they would randomly leave you for someone else and you’d have no idea why. Perhaps this was just the way teenagers approached relationships, but it was reinforced by the media, by our lack of a road map from our parents, by the little dramas played out by our slightly older peers.

Bo, Lauren, and Dyson, the central should-be-a-goddamn-V of Lost Girl.

Bo, I love you, but this “I’m monogamous!” script the Lost Girl producers insist on is getting old.

When I found poly, I found an excuse to talk. I could no longer follow the script of silence. The first few times I asked the important questions (“Would you like to make out?” “I want to continue to see other people, are you cool with that?” “What were the results of your last STI test?”) they were hard, but I immediately noticed a huge improvement in the amount of power I felt I had in the relationship. And I eventually found that, the more experienced someone was with poly, the more willing they were to use their words as well, and the more fulfilling the relationship was. I thought I would regret cutting monogamous people out of my dating pool, but I quickly started to find their inability or refusal to use their words unattractive. The whole question of how many people we wanted to have sex with, respectively, seemed like a secondary issue.

Polys don’t have a monopoly on communication abilities, of course. Slowly my monogamous friends are outgrowing their fear of talking about feelings, and discovering concepts like “Continue to ‘date’ your partner even after you’ve committed to them!” and “Have your own friends and hobbies!” and “You deserve a fulfilling sex life!” They’re having conversations about whether monogamy is actually important to them — sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Whether or not those conversations are prompted by the increasing visibility of poly people or just by the fact that the silence script is an untenable way to run an adult relationship, this feels new and improved.

Apparently there are also poly people who attempt to recreate the script, just with more people. There’s this idea that you need lots of “rules” to make poly work – as though you only need to have one hard conversation, then conduct the relationship forevermore based on where the other person’s comfort zone was then. You write a new script; it’s less silent, but it’s still a script, substituting for ongoing communication. That kind of poly never appealed to me, because again, the sex with lots of people was a sideshow to the brave and honest communication that I found in the poly community.

It's taken the media quite a few tries to get poly right, probably because good poly doesn't make for good drama.

It’s taken the media quite a few tries to get poly right, probably because good poly doesn’t make for good drama.

I suppose maybe if our culture had had a different script, my boot camp in adult relationship negotiation wouldn’t have come through the lens of ethical non-monogamy. I probably would have ended up poly anyway, because I just don’t value monogamy and that would have come up in any honest conversation. But the pull of the script is strong. People have spent their whole lives feeling like they don’t really know their partner, or couldn’t trust them not to cheat, or had only one shot at love. I’d like to believe that poly’s surge in popularity helped make it cool to negotiate with your romantic partner, no matter how many of them you have.


Filed under: Communication, Relationships Tagged: polyamory
21 Jan 21:28

January Art Roundup!

by Jen
Kristen

SO MUCH delicious, attractive and beautiful art in this round up!

John came down with a head cold at exactly 4:30 Friday afternoon, which I tried to tell him was against every law of nature and, like, totally not cool, but to no avail.

So, I spent the weekend playing sick with my actually-sick husband, meaning we spent it on adjoining couches mainlining the last season of The Office on Netflix. :) Playing sick when you're not actually sick is pretty awesome, btw. I highly recommend it.

Anyhoo, so far I've managed to dodge the germy bullet, and John's feeling a lot better tonight, so... LET'S LOOK AT SOME COOL ART, PEOPLE!

First up, these adorable ACEO prints by Craig Michael Scott are only $4 each:



FOUR DOLLARS. I mean, c'mon.




He also has larger sizes and more geekery galore over at his Etsy shop, so hit one of the links up there to see the rest.

I've been a fan of Hannah Lynn (formally Hannah Disney) for years, but I don't think I've ever featured her work here on Epbot. Fixing that riiiight.... NOW:

"Mermaid Pirate" 8X10 print, $11.99


Hannah has hundreds and hundreds of prints to choose from, so good luck picking just a few favorites. Her 8X10s are all $11.99,  and her open edition ACEOs sell for just $3. (She also has LE edition versions that are hand-embellished, and bidding over at Ebay starts at $10. Pretty sweet!)

I'm especially loving her Alice in Wonderland set:

Head over to Hannah's Ebay store to see Alice, the White Rabbit, Cheshire, and lots, LOTS more. Or visit Hannah's website; she sells at both places.

(Just remembered I still have one of Hannah's hand-embellished ACEO's on my give-away board, so you can also enter to win that one!)


I'm a sucker for travel posters for fictional places, and these ones by Ali Xenos (aka Teacup Piranha) are awesome:

The Shire, 5X7 print, $8.50 (larger sizes available, too.)

Up Set of Two, starting at $13.60 for 5X7 prints (more sizes available)

I'm going to need someone to base an entire nursery around that UP set, please.


As far as I can tell Jennifer Valano Karp only sells at conventions, which is a shame, because LOOKIE:

"Pirate Ivy & Harley" by Jennifer Valano Karp, aka "NoFlutter" on DeviantArt

 She also has a whole Facebook album of people cosplaying her art, which is so. cool. (Here's Pirate Ivy & Harley!)

In fact, I've even seen her most famous trio cosplayed out at MegaCon in years past:

C'mon. How awesome is this?



I don't know about you guys, but there are days when I think I may scream if I see one more Disney Princesses variation. You know, princesses with beards, princesses wearing college clothes, princesses as robots...  Wait. Actually, I'd like to see that one.

That said, there are still artists out there doing it right, and they make all the rest worth wading through. I saw two fantastic examples last week. First, Sadyna over on DeviantArt did a Warrior Princess series, and it is stunning:

The only problem here is that I see no way to purchase any of Sadyna's work. Sadyna! Open thee an art store, STAT!

Oh, and she made Cinderella a Cyborg, so I guess I get my Robot Princesses wish after all:


I especially love it when artists put their own spin on the princesses, instead of making them look exactly like the movies. Sadnya did it perfectly, and so did Heather Theurer, who I hope will be making an entire set of fine oil paintings like this:

Show of hands: who's hearing "See the Light" in their heads and getting a little weepy? Just me? (It's that song, I tell you. THAT SONG. Gah.)

So far Heather has also painted Cinderella, Mulan, and this gorgeous Merida:
 

 Head over to NerdApproved to see the others, or go to Heather's site to see the rest of her work. (Sadly I don't see any more Disney or geeky characters, though, and no prints, either! Boo! Maybe we'll get lucky and she'll paint enough princesses to make a calendar.)

And finally, my favorite from Katie Cook's most recent sketch-posting spree on Twitter:


 LOOKIT JEDI GUMMY!

Katie is one of my favorite artists of all time, and I know most of you love her, too, so you'll be delighted to learn she's FINALLY opened up commissions in her online store again. (A custom ACEO is only $10!) Act fast, though; I doubt those will last long!

And, of course, I still have 3 or 4 original Katie Cook ACEO's on my give-away board, so there's a freebie option for ya. :)

K, guys, you know the drill: comment below to enter to win the art of your choice from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board! (I was tallying it up today, and it looks like roughly half of the board has been given away by now. So let me apologize in advance for all the goodies you're going to see over there that have a big "NO LONGER AVAILABLE" underneath. Heh.) 

I'll announce the winner in a few days, and yes, I'll ship world-wide!

The give-away has ended, and the winner is ZeaBunny/Michelle! Congrats, Michelle, and please e-mail me your mailing address & choice of prize!
10 Jan 19:00

Little Girl Who Took Australia to Task for Not Inventing Dragons Finally Gets Her Wish

by Rebecca Pahle

Two days ago we told you the story of Sophie Lester, a seven-year-old girl from Brisbane, Australia who has all lived her young life feeling the very keen sting of there not being dragons in the world. (Don’t we all?) So she wrote a letter to CSIRO, the national science agency, asking whether they could please make her one. CSIRO, perhaps won over by the way Sophie started off her letter with “Hello Lovely Scientist,” wrote her back apologizing for the grave error they made in not having invented dragons yet and promising to get on that ASAP. And now they’ve sent her one. It’s 3D printed, but that’s probably for the best. I’m not sure Australia needs any more killer lizards, especially with Steve Irwin not around.

The dragon, named Toothless per Sophie’s request (if it were a boy it would be Stuart), was 3D printed from titanium and officially—yes, officially, don’t argue with me here—belongs to the species Seadragonus giganticus maximus. Via CSIRO’s blog:

“Being that electron beams were used to 3D print her, we are certainly glad she didn’t come out breathing them … instead of fire,” said Chad Henry, our Additive Manufacturing Operations Manager. “Titanium is super strong and lightweight, so Toothless will be a very capable flyer.”

Toothless is currently winging her way from the lab where she was born to Sophie’s house, where I’m sure the new Mother of Dragons will be very happy to meet her daughter. Sophie originally requested that Toothless be black, and as you can see in the picture she’s blue. But if Toothless is, per the taxonomy, a seafaring dragon, being blue will just make her blend in better when she skims along the top of the ocean, right? So it’ll be that much easier for her to avoid capture, making Sophie’s quest to conquer neighboring cities and eventually march back home to reclaim her birthright that much easier.

And anyway, the CSIRO blog tells us that they were contacted by none other than Dreamworks, who said “they knew how to train dragons and wanted to speak with Sophie.” So she might be meeting the actual Toothless.

Who totally exists. Or had better soon. Don’t flake out on me, Australia. 3D printing a toy doesn’t get you out of your promise.

(thanks to tipster Foxfire!)

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31 Dec 15:30

Feminist Movie Night

by wileyreading
Kristen

I've only seen about a quarter of these. Clearly I need to add some to my netflix cue.

No work of art is perfectly feminist, nor should it be. But like Miss X, I love movies! And sometimes I just want to watch one where a woman kicks ass. Or one that features meaningful relationships between women. Or contains gender-stereotype-defying characters Or simply has characters who look like my girlfriend and friends and family rather than Hollywood bots. Since those kinds of movies can seem few and far between, I’ve pulled together a list of some of my favorite feminist-leaning movies by genre, to make your next movie night a glorious celebration of the strength and versatility of good female characters.

This will contain spoilers! However, the most recent of these movies came out two years ago so I think we’ll be ok.

SRS MOVIES FOR SRS PEOPLE:

RED DRAGON, Thriller

source: http://frabel45.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html

IF you want my body AND you think I’m sexy COME up on me on this couuuuch.

Reasons to watch: Although she’s not the main character, Reba, the blind film processor who romances the serial killer Francis Dolorhide, makes this movie worth watching. When we first meet her, she explains to Dolorhide how to move around in her photo lab by using the step-counting method she’s developed–right away she establishes that she navigates the world just fine. Then she rejects, politely but firmly, the advances of a guy she dislikes, and decides to go out with a guy she DOES like, because he’s sexy and doesn’t pity her. She’s kind to him, and obviously attracted to him, and after he takes her on an awesome date, she seduces him. At no point is she anything but a total boss.

ALIEN, Science Fiction

source: http://www.scificool.com/sigourney-weaver-wants-to-bring-back-ellen-ripley/

Say hello to my little friend. By which I mean unnecessarily large gun.

Reasons to watch: Sigourney Weaver’s character is competent, complex, and intelligent. She “has no interest in the romance of finding the alien” according to Roger Ebert, but instead focuses on how to effectively eliminate the threat to her safety and the safety of her team.

WHALE RIDER, Drama

source: http://faculty.guhsd.net/mejohnson/Filmwhalerider.html

Gimme gimme gimme a whale I can ride on.

Reasons to watch: Pai is a twelve year old girl just discovering that she possesses the qualities, both spiritual and practical, to become a leader in her New Zealand indigenous community. Her grandfather, whom she loves and whose opinion matters immensely to her, doesn’t approve. She spends the film growing into herself and trying to convince her grandfather that she’s the best choice for the next leader. Her family members (both male and female) support her decision and try to help her–extremely refreshing.

FUNNY MOVIES:

LEGALLY BLONDE, Comedy

source: http://cs.wellesley.edu/~mfeldman/designportfolio/hw2/recommend.html

I know, the end of sweater weather is hard. But we’ll face this bleak time together.

Reasons to watch: This movie explicitly acknowledges that law school is a boy’s club. Yet, Elle, when she decides to enter Harvard law, not only retains her femininity, she uses it to her advantage. She makes friends with the other law students by treating them like her beloved sorority sisters–being kind to them, baking, and cheerfully including herself in their plans. She makes friends with her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend instead of competing with her, reacts with utter contempt when a professor sexually harasses her, and generally just succeeds wildly at whatever she puts her mind to. There’s even a delightful sub-plot featuring a sexy UPS guy.

SAVING FACE, LGBT RomCom

source: http://flavorwire.com/23103/its-a-love-fest/comment-page-1

“So we’re supposed to like Shane why?” “I don’t know Ma, but everyone does.”

Reasons to watch: Everyone in this movie is a stereotype turned on its head. Mom is a woman who loves independence and hot boys and dislikes babies. Daughter Wil is a workaholic worry-wort surgeon who’s afraid of commitment. Even Wil’s girlfriend is a graceful ballerina who is totally dedicated to her career–and brooks no bullshit from her stubborn girlfriend. See also: touching mother-daughter moments, a hilarious date scene, and OH MY GOD EVERYONE IN THIS MOVIE IS GORGEOUS EVEN THE MEN.

WRECK-IT RalphAnimated Movie

source: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2012/11/wreck-it-ralph.html
“We’ll get some overarm lifters and four barrel quads, oh yeah.” “Keep talking, whoa, keep talking!”

Although one of the main characters of this movie is the predictable loveable (male) oaf, the other main character is a tiny female badass. Vanellope von Schweetz, a cart racer in a video game, is focused on her career, driven, and convinced that being different from the other racers is what makes her special. In addition, her friendship with the titular character is based on mutual respect. See also: Jane Lynch in a complex and engaging supporting role.

ASS KICKING/COMING OF AGE:

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, Fantasy

source: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/beasts-of-the-southern-wild-2012

RING RING RING RING RING RING RING–CHICKENPHONE!

Reasons to watch: Hushpuppy (brought spectacularly to life by Quvenzhané Wallis) is a tough young girl living in a fantasy-world New Orleans. Her relationship with her community and her father are beautifully poignant and realistic, and it’s wonderful to watch her survive and adapt to her changing circumstances. Although bell hooks criticized the rage and aggression displayed by Hush Puppy’s father in the movie, I believe it’s worth seeing.

BILLY ELLIOT, Dance Flick

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms/film/billy_elliot/gallery

Don’t fuck with my ballet, no, cause you’ll be sorry, wooooah.

Reasons to watch: This is a delightful dancing romp coupled with some pretty decent class commentary. BONUS: it features a gender-sterotype-defying straight boy AND a friendship between said boy and a boy who later turns out to be gay. Billy is charming and determined, his family is believable, and it has a happy ending. Bam.

PARIAH, Coming-of-Age

source: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2012/01/27/actress-rises-to-role-as-teen-in-turmoil.html

“Hey mom knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “How many tigers did you kill to make that blouse?” “ANIMAL PRINTS ARE VERY IN THIS SEASON ALIKE.”

Alike is a sympathetic character who has a complex relationship with her family, her best friend, and her community. The most refreshing part of this movie is that Alike’s sexuality doesn’t torment her–only the bigoted reactions she gets bother her. She ends up navigating her coming out process and first time falling in love in an immensely powerful and heartbreaking way, and in the end chooses a path full of hope.

MATILDA, Children’s Movie

source: http://blog.urbanoutfitters.com/blog/style_icon_matilda

TAKE A LOOK. IT’S IN A BOOK. READING RAINBOWWWWWWW.

Reasons to watch: Matilda is a smart, kind-hearted, curious girl born to indifferent parents. Despite a concerted lack of parental effort, she grows into a bright, loving child. When she goes to school, she encounters a headmaster who tortures her fellow students. Using her intelligence and newly-discovered magical powers, she teams up with her sweet teacher to take down the headmaster and free the other kids from her tyranny. This movie is funny, sweet and features little girls and traditionally feminine women teaming up to kick butt. Plus a hilarious scene involving a gigantic, delicious chocolate cake.

SUCKER PUNCH, Action

source: http://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/is-zack-snyders-sucker-punch-a-radical-feminist-deconstruction-of-action-movies/

Guys we’ve been over this. I can DO the LAUNDRY mySELF.

Reasons to watch: This movie is an action film I didn’t loathe–the cast is mostly female, the plot is a grade above simplistic, and there’s no awkwardly-thrown-together romance. The content is disturbing–don’t see this movie if you can’t handle forced institutionalization and sexual violence–but I found the treatment of it very powerful. The scenes where the main character “dances” were very powerful for me, but reactions from other viewers have been mixed.


Filed under: Media, Movies, Pop Culture
01 Jan 18:00

5 Ways to Help Your Loved One Through a Panic Attack

by Jen
Kristen

ALL THESE THINGS. Yes.

I know this is an odd post to ring in the new year, but the holidays mean stress, and for some of us, stress can mean anxiety attacks! Please note these tips may be triggering.

*****


I thought I was doing fine the morning John and I were to leave for our trip last week. I zipped up the suitcases, got dressed, packed a snack bag for the road... and froze just inside the front door, unable to step outside.

Dread hit me in a slow queasy rush, my palms began to sweat, and I felt light-headed and jittery. The thought of getting into the car for 12 hours loomed over me like some kind of night terror, and all I wanted to do was run back to my room and lock the door.

I've learned to put a name to my particular flavor of anxiety: agoraphobia. Like most people, I used to think agoraphobics could never leave the house, but that's an extreme example of only one potential aspect, and every anxiety sufferer's mileage will vary. For example, my Mac dictionary defines agoraphobia as "an extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places," but massive crowds don't bother me at all - unless they prevent me from moving or reaching the door. I think of it more as "escape anxiety;" I always need the option of an immediate and easy get-away.

Despite my freeze-up that morning we were on the road within an hour, and I felt great the whole drive, no meds required. I think that's because John has learned just how to support me during my attacks, which speeds up my recovery and gives me more confidence going forward. And since I've had several e-mails asking about it, here are the 5 best tips I can offer for helping someone you love through an anxiety attack:

1. Give them time.

Pressure will only add to the panic, so try to be as relaxed as possible. You're going to be late? Then be late. Your loved one comes first, and needs to know that. (On average I need at least 10 or 15 minutes for the initial adrenaline rush to dissipate.)

2. Give them space, but don't go far.

Nervous hovering is incredibly bad, but a gentle presence that's ready and willing to help is good. John will sit nearby and play on his phone, so I don't feel watched or pressured, but I still know he's there. Every few minutes he'll ask how I'm doing, but without pressing for in-depth answers.

3. Minimize external stimulation.

Turn down the music, pull off the road, walk away from the crowd, etc. Remember that a panic attack is a fight-or-flight adrenaline response, so it's not unusual for someone to retreat into themselves during one, closing their eyes and becoming less responsive. (During my worst attacks I look like I'm asleep. Is it any wonder so many folks fail to recognize one? )

I know it's tempting, but do not try to hug someone having a panic attack, and keep your questions limited to an occasional "are you Ok?" and "can I get you anything?"

4. Tell them it's going to be Ok.

Be careful not to patronize or scold, but remind them what they're feeling is temporary. Remember their fear is both real and physical, so they just need an anchor through the tumult. It's not rational or logical, so don't try to reason it away; just be as reassuring and confident as you can. (If you get scared, their own fear will feed on that.)

Sometimes it helps to distract the person by talking about something else. Try telling them about your day, or a funny story. Just don't expect any interaction, and know when to zip it.

5. When the time is right, give a little push. 

This is the trickiest one of all, so proceed with sensitivity and caution. However, when you feel your loved one is ready (ie his eyes are open and he's starting to interact with his surroundings again), try a little firm guidance. Something like, "Ok, we're going to walk to the car now. It's going to be fine, I promise. Let's go."

If your loved one resists, try one more round of encouragement. If he still resists after that, though, stop. Some attacks take a lot longer to recover from, and you can only rush things so much.


I still had that sense of dread that morning, but after a little recovery time I let John nudge me through the front door... and almost immediately felt better. Somehow John knew I was ready before I did, and that confidence carried me forward. This isn't always the case, though, so don't expect too much too soon.

And one final tip, for extreme attacks: if your loved one's heart rate tends to zoom out of control, try fetching a bag of ice or a cold cloth and have them hold it on their hands and face. This will help slow their heart rate, and also give them something constructive to focus on. (Back when I first started having attacks my heart rate would shoot from 60 to 160 in under 10 seconds, so that ice trick helped a LOT.)

I can only imagine the helplessness John first felt watching me go through my initial panic attacks, so I hope these hard-learned tips will help some of you out there with your own loved ones.

Here's to a 2014 free of fear and brimming with belly-laughs - and more Sherlock episodes, like, NOW, if you please!




17 Dec 19:00

Why I Am Not Coming In To Work Today

by Jess Zimmerman

Dear employers,

I will have to take the day off today because:

☐ It’s December and the streets are papier-mached with wet bronze leaves and it’s so dark outside that the cars have their headlights on at 3pm

☐ I have recently been through a breakup, or I have been through a breakup at any time in my life really, and I woke up today with the absolute conviction that I will never be loved again

☐ A dog looked at me

☐ I got a text from someone for whom I feel a mix of concern and frustration and recognition and longing that is both more and less than romance

☐ Someone made a joke about dead pets meeting you in heaven

☐ Daylight savings time

☐ I passed a knot of flowers that were so bright they glowed through the dim grey water of the day and when was anything in my life last that luminous?

☐ Girls are too pretty

☐ For the first time I genuinely comprehend that there is not enough time to have all the lives I wanted

☐ I accidentally listened to Leonard Cohen

 

I am submitting the following documentation:

☐ A scrap of an old lover’s favorite flannel shirt

☐ Trembling cupped hands full of rainwater

☐ Light angling over the face of a brownstone at 4 on a winter afternoon

☐ A blunt-edged ticket stub from a movie of which I remember nothing except how soft her hands were

☐ A crumbling copy of my favorite novel from childhood

☐ The universe

☐ The peachy glow of a sodium lamp far ahead down an icy pitch-dark path

 

I think I just need to:

☐ Stare at a cup of tea held in nerveless fingers and slowly leaching heat

☐ Watch the sun glow ruby through the dogwood leaves until I regain some capacity to be comforted by beauty

☐ Read old emails from someone who loved me because he knew nothing

☐ Move to Omaha without telling anyone and find work as a sympathetic bartender named Roxy

☐ Learn to live alongside the fundamental meaningless of existence, not just mine but everyone’s

☐ Get a drastic haircut

☐ Listen to Tegan and Sara’s “Heartthrob” on repeat for 24 hours

☐ Scream into a pillow until my throat feels like it’s going to split

 

I will be back to work once:

☐ I can get out of this empty bathtub

☐ It is spring

☐ Someone gorgeous has brought me warm milk

☐ The consequences of being terribly drunk start to seem more grim than the consequences of not being terribly drunk

☐ I have watched every episode of Key & Peele

 

Sincerely,

________

Read more Why I Am Not Coming In To Work Today at The Toast.

18 Dec 18:00

The Only Professional Advice I Have Worth Giving

by Mallory Ortberg

adviceIn the course of my daily work, I sometimes find occasion to visit coffee shops, where I am often witness to introductory job interviews. I could not put my finger on what exactly about these interviews bothered me — other than the inherent degradation — until this morning, when I heard yet another interviewee respond to the question “Can I get you anything?” with “I’m fine, thanks.” This is then followed by no more than twenty minutes of perfunctory question-asking, at which point the battle is already lost.

Over the course of your young life, you will find yourself in many situations where someone older than yourself, almost certainly wearing a blue-and-white-checked buttoned shirt with excessively stiff cuffs, will offer you something to eat or drink. This may happen in the course of an informational interview, in a meeting with a prospective mentor or volunteer coordinator, or a late-stage job interview, but no matter what the circumstances are, it is imperative that you resist the urge to say “No thanks, I’m fine.”

It is an admirable impulse on your part, I am sure; an attempt to demonstrate your innate stoicism and willingness to Go Without for the Sake of the Company, but you are cutting yourself off at the knees. Nothing in life is certain, and you have almost no chance of getting this job. They are meeting you in a Starbucks. They are not serious about you. The job listing was posted merely as a horrible joke; they have known the exact name of the man (it is a man) they planned to hire for months, and he has known too. Order a goddamn bagel and a large coffee. Soak them for all they’re fucking worth. You know how many opportunities there are for free food in a young professional’s life? Not nearly fucking enough, that’s how many, and the opportunities get fewer and fewer the closer you get to 40 and are expected to be consistently feeding yourself.

Free food is a good thing, perhaps the best thing, and when you get the chance, you have to grab it with both hands and put some of it in your purse for later. I can’t tell if you’re going to get that mentor, or a decent lead, or whatever it is you’re looking for when you put on your nicest black slacks and talk to someone who clearly hasn’t read your resume for half an hour, but I can tell you this: if they offer to buy you a drink and you say yes, you have gotten a free drink. That is something that has happened to you in the course of your day. The day has not been in vain: you have supped and drank on this shitty company’s miserable dime, and no one can fault you for it. You are being offered free food and drink. This is not a trick, nor a trap designed to expose you as a freeloader. It is a gift. Take it. Take the bagel and run.

Read more The Only Professional Advice I Have Worth Giving at The Toast.

05 Dec 20:00

Jaya Catches Up: So Many Ponies

by Jaya Saxena
Kristen

Horse Girls. Man, that was and IS a thing.

horseRaise your hand if you were a Horse Girl. It’s ok, this is a safe space. Honestly, I was one too. If you’re not familiar with a concept of the Horse Girl, here’s the breakdown: a Horse Girl is that girl in your 5th grade class who is obsessed with horses. Horse Girls are found most commonly between the ages of 6 and 16, though if left untreated, this condition can often continue into adulthood.

Often the Horse Girl has never seen a horse in real life, or if she has, has no concept of the work and cost of actually caring for a horse. Horse Girls talk a lot about the freedom and beauty of these creatures, or about how intelligent they are. They often fantasize about getting married barefoot on top of a hill and riding off on a horse into the sunset. Girls who regularly care for horses, raise horses, or compete with horses are no longer Horse Girls. One positive side effect is that the Horse Girl is the only person who knows how to draw a horse. Talk to your children about Horse Girl syndrome today.

I most definitely was a Horse Girl. My grandparents kept horses, but even though I’d spend weekends grooming their Shetland Pony, Honeybear, and picking up manure, I was abysmal at competing, and had a lot of fantasies about riding bareback through fields.

Scan copy

The other thing about Horse Girls is that there is a whole genre of books dedicated to their interests. These books are full of willful children who discover true friends in horses, the only other animal apparently capable of an almost-human level of intelligence. As you may have guessed from this series, I did not read many of these books, but my impression is that no matter how much inside-horseball talk there is, or how long it takes for child and horse to actually bond, the book can and should always involve a bitchin’ horseriding montage.

Which is why My Friend Flicka is a bunch of horseshit.

The book begins with 10-year-old Ken riding Cigarette, what I assume is a goth horse, through his family’s ranch in Wyoming. Ken is always daydreaming, forgetting to do his chores and his homework, and now he is at risk of getting held back a grade. This doesn’t really matter to Ken, who spends all his time thinking about what it would be like if he had a colt of his own. (Note: This book uses the term “colt” the way most people use “foal,” that is as a young horse of either sex. Typical usage has “foal” for either sex, “colt” for a male, and “filly” for a female. O’Hara’s interchanging usage is extremely confusing and makes me question whether she was a real Horse Girl, though who knows, it was probably different in 1941).

Ken’s dad, Rob,  doesn’t want to give him a horse and is constantly grumbling about Ken costing him money and being irresponsible and not doing his chores, but I don’t know man, what else did you think having kids was like? I know you wanted sons to work your land on the cheap but maybe you should have just saved up and hired some adults. So Rob is grumpy, but just as soon as it seemed Ken was doomed to a summer of extra schoolwork and tense moments with his dad, his mom, Nell, steps in and convinces Rob that maybe giving Ken a foal to care for will teach him responsibility.

I want to take a moment to talk about Nell, who is by far one of the most interesting (I hesitate to use the term Strong, for some reasons) female characters I’ve encountered in YA. Nell’s story is that she’s a hardworking farm woman with a New England background, and a degree from Bryn Mawr. She bakes her own bread and knits, then goes on hikes to seek solitude and shoot rabbits. She spends the whole book seeming to long for something, whether it’s for her husband to understand Ken, for the daughter she will never get to have, or for her life back north. This is something I particularly appreciated, since there are too many narratives to count about city kids who wish to be free in the wild west (“too many to count” = “I can only think of Newsies right now but I know there are more”). It’s nice to see someone who can love the mountains, and still miss life in the city.

Nell plays the part of the good farm wife by providing food for all the men around her and making sure everyone is taken care of, but beneath it O’Hara depicts a sadness, and a desire to be more than what she is. O’Hara writes:

It has amused Nell at first to be addressed as Missus, but it had not taken her long to learn that, here in the West, it meant “the woman,” with all that word signified of gentleness and motherliness. Here, in her world of men, husband and sons, hired men, haying crew, horse buyers, to be the Missus meant to be that before which they could remove their hats, and bend their heads. In the cities a woman could turn herself into a driving machine, or harden herself to meet difficulties, but the Missus on a farm or ranch, though she might be milker of cows or trainer of horses, must be more and not less of a woman for all of that, or she would rob the men around her of something which was as sweet to them as the sugar in their coffee.

When we complain about Pick Up Artists, or Nice Guys bitching about the “friendzone,” this is the feeling we’re talking about. It’s a world that sees women not as their own agents, but as props in the story that men have crafted for themselves. If she became a “hardened” woman, or stopped being gentle and motherly, she would be “robbing” these men of something they believe they’re entitled to, rather than making her own choices. Her inability to adhere to this lifestyle would be a crime. So Nell goes on her walks to watch the sunset by herself, or drives into town to see a movie alone. She makes decisions and watches as her husband gives orders over her. She lets the farm hand take an axe from her because he thinks a woman shouldn’t cut wood while there are men around to do it. Every time she speaks I can hear her sighing.

As Nell mentions, she is surrounded by men, the foremost of which is her husband, Rob. Rob could easily be featured in Dad Magazine. He’s gruff and tries to raise his sons with tough love, and in his more playful moods chases his wife around their porch or makes some comment about how strong she is. He seems to understand that Nell and Ken have a deeper connection, and is honestly distraught by how much his son seems to be scared of him, so he quickly takes her advice and lets Ken choose a foal.

Ken chooses Flicka, a fast horse with a strain of “loco” blood from her mother, who was never able to be fully broken. There’s a lot of talk about how she’s beautiful but unbreakable, fast but unreliable, but Ken doesn’t care and makes his dad and the farmhands reign her in. She, being a wild fucking animal, becomes scared of the humans chasing her and tries to run through a barbed wire fence, which leaves her with bad wounds and infections.

The rest of the book is just Ken bringing his sick pony some oats, petting her, telling her how much he loves her and how she is his and he will take care of her forever, in language that I am sure would not be out of place in an Otherkin messageboard. Ken is very serious about his love for Flicka, and she seems to reciprocate (“She loved his hands, his touch, his caresses…They looked into each other’s eyes as lovers look,” I MEAN). Eventually she learns to trust him and do what he says, but she remains sick and her infections are causing her to lose weight. Eventually Rob gives the orders to his farmhand Gus that, at some point when Ken isn’t around, Flicka needs to be put out of her misery.

(By the way, there is also a whole subplot about a mountain lion that’s terrorizing surrounding farms and I just, I don’t even care, it is so boring. The mountain lion kills a foal and a cow and then Rob shoots it. The end.)

Ken then decides to spend one last night with Flicka, sneaking out of his room and cradling her body in a cold stream as she dies. Because for about a full chapter, O’Hara leads us to believe Flicka dies. She uses the words “she died,” and you’re thinking “great, now I’ll never get my bitchin’ horse montage” and think about watching Fly Away Home instead, because no it’s not horses but it’s still animals and humans accomplishing something together!! Gus comes to find Ken shivering in the water and carries him home, then comes back to find Flicka is actually still alive.

So now Flicka is getting better and Ken is sick, and the next chapters are just Ken in basically a coma and Flicka learning to walk again. And you think maybe, just maybe, they’ll both get better and reunite and ride off into the sunset. No. You know what happens? Ken, still sick, is driven out to see Flicka, and upon seeing her regains some strength and starts running toward her, and Flicka starts running toward him, AND THAT’S IT. He never rides her, or trains her, or gets to stick it to his dad and his asshole brother that he got the best horse and they were idiots to have doubted him. No, he just gets to run toward a horse. I can run toward a horse. Central Park is across the street from my office and any day I want I could jog over and spook one of the mares pulling a carriage. I won’t, but you are not special, Ken!

Tell me, Horse Girls, that there are other horse books that include scenes of children riding free with their horses, after they have learned to communicate solely with their eyes. Tell me that there are books that at least involve a relationship between human and horse that exists when they are both healthy, because I cannot take a horse book with another disappointing ending. Though maybe it’s different if you’re really into horses. To be honest, I was a pretty shitty Horse Girl. I couldn’t even draw one.

Read more Jaya Catches Up: So Many Ponies at The Toast.

11 Oct 19:01

How to be an everyday poly (and solo) ally

by aggiesez
Kristen

So good. So, so good. SFW unless your boss is a douche canoe.

alliesHey folks, it’s National Coming Out Day! Congrats to everyone who’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer — you’re wonderful, whether you’re out or not.

Of course, today isn’t solely about sexual orientation and gender identity/presentation. It’s also a day to celebrate being out as polyamorous, open, a swinger, solo by choice, asexual, kinky — and any other way in which you might not quite fit the standard social relationship escalator norm.

National Coming Out Day also celebrates our allies: people whose sexuality, gender presentation, or relationship approaches may not veer much from common social norms, but who also appreciate and embrace the fact that other people do things differently. Love was never one size fits all — and that’s a good thing for all of us.

Allies are people who don’t simply passively accept the existence sexual, gender, or relationship minorities. They acknowledge us. They welcome us. And they’re also willing to stand with us publicly and speak up on our behalf, in order to combat ignorance, stigma, discrimination, and even violence. They treat our lives, preferences and relationships as no less important or valid (or inherently healthy or unhealthy) than their own.

Allies are tremendously important to any minority community, mainly because they generally enjoy social privilege. Because privilege exists. It’s not inherently wrong or evil; it simply is. People didn’t ask for or earn the privilege they have; it’s bestowed upon them by social norms.

But if you do have some privilege — including monogamous or couple privilege — you might as well use it for good.

You don’t have to act like an activist, or be obnoxious, in order to be an ally. This is something you can do in small ways, every day (or on any day, if not all the time). You don’t need to march in Pride parades or write pro-polyamory or anti-couplehood op-eds. You can be an ally in the course of casual conversations and daily decisions, simply by modeling inclusive, accepting behavior.

If you enjoy monogamous privilege or couple privilege and are a poly/open ally, then you have an advantage: Other monogamous/coupled people will probably notice and listen more — and respect it more — when YOU speak up on behalf of ethically non-monogamous people, solo people, and their preferences and relationships! Hearing such inclusiveness from mono or coupled people is more likely to inspire general tolerance and acceptance (and combat ignorance and stigma) than when it’s just poly and solo people speaking for themselves. That’s just how the world works.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT an “If you’re not with us, you must be against us” situation. I’m not saying that people who opt not to do some/all of the tips below  all the time, or who disagree with some/all of these suggestions, are opponents or bad people. Conversely, neither am I saying that doing any of these things “proves” that you’re an ally.

I’m just saying: If you’d like the world to be a friendlier place for people who have nontraditional approaches to honest, ethical, mutually consensual intimate relationships (specifically poly/open), or who prefer solohood to escalator-style relationships, you can help create that change through small, everyday actions and interactions. You can model the behavior that can clue others in, which helps create a more inclusive society.

Tips for poly and solo allies

Here are some ways you can be a poly/open ally — and a solo ally — in your everyday life, in the real world:

Don’t assume that everyone is, should be, or wants to be monogamous. Try imagining that, say, every third person you know is poly. Your friends, your relative, your colleagues, the cop who just wrote you a traffic ticket. We’re all just people, and difference is a part of life. Monogamy is a good option — and it’s not the only one.

Don’t assume that couplehood or primary-style relationships are universal goals. Couplehood is important to many people. They enjoy — and seek — lifelong, cohabitating, socially recognized life partnerships. But couplehood doesn’t work for everyone, and not everyone wants it. Even people who are in couples may not want to ride the relationship escalator in a standard way — they may never want to live together, etc.

Don’t hypersexualize ethically nonmonogamous people. We are no more or less likely than anyone else to be sexually voracious/indiscriminate, or perpetually sexually/romantically available (seriously, we have lives and limits too!), or seeking casual hookups, or predatory, or willing to engage in deception or cheating (yeah, we’re generally serious about the “ethical” part), or “sex addicts” (which itself is a pretty biased concept — basically, anyone has/wants more sex than you think is “normal”), or even interested in sex at all (many asexual/demisexual people consider themselves poly/open). If a poly/open person invites you to coffee or offers to let you crash at their place, don’t automatically assume they’re hitting on you. React as you would when getting such an offer from any other person.

Don’t conflate love and commitment with exclusivity. Don’t assume that poly/open people, and also anyone who prefers to be solo, are averse to or incapable of deep emotional investment or lasting commitment in intimate relationships. Don’t assume that our relationships and partners mean less to us than yours do to you. Don’t assume that our breakups hurt less because we may have other partners at the time. Don’t assume that exclusivity is required for love or commitment to be “real,” valid, significant, “serious,” or healthy. Remember that plenty of exclusive relationships end up being shallow, fleeting, or unhealthy.

Similarly, when talking about love and commitment with people you believe are monogamous, don’t act like, or talk like, exclusivity and the relationship escalator are synonymous with emotional investment and commitment.

Don’t make the verbal evil eye. When someone mentions polyamory, don’t automatically say, “Well, I could never do that!” Seriously: do you feel the need to react that way when someone mentions that their religion is different religion from yours, or that they prefer a different type of dancing than you do? Unless someone is explicitly suggesting that you, personally, should try polyamory, don’t react as if they’re talking about you. You don’t need to defend or distance yourself from other people’s choices.

Don’t ask, “Can polyamory ever really work?” Let me answer this up front: ANY type of honest, mutually consensual relationship can be healthy and happy — or not. This includes monogamy. It all depends on the people involved. I’m sure you know that, monogamous relationships can be unhealthy, drama-prone, and detrimental, too. The potential for relationship dysfunction is equal opportunity. The main difference is that monogamy enjoys a ton of social, legal, financial, media and governmental support — which serves as exoskeleton, and as role modeling, and as discouragement from developing skills for dealing with diverse relationship types. All of this makes it much easier to enter into, and to stay in, a monogamous relationship.

Maybe you’ve asked this question because the only nonmonogamous relationships you’ve heard about are ones that have had messy breakups. Well, guess what? You probably hear more details about monogamous relationships with messy breakups, too. Healthy relationships are peaceful and boring; people don’t really talk about them much. Sex advice columnist/podcaster/author Dan Savage has a lot to say about why you don’t hear about successful open relationships.

Do take media portrayals of poly/open relationships with a grain of salt. Most mainstream media portrayals of polyamory focus on the couple+ model (implying that it’s mainly done by and for couples), and emphasize rules and hierarchy, or family-style polyamory where everyone lives together in one household. Speaking as a journalist, that’s lazy journalism: writing the story you already know how to write, rather than the one that exists. There has been some fair, accurate coverage of polyamory — but so far that’s the exception, not the rule.

And as for reality TV shows about polyamory: You know the “reality” in “reality TV” is always ironic, right?

Don’t assume that solo = lonely, or antisocial — or that someone’s only solo because they’re they “couldn’t land a partner.” In fact, many solo people (poly, open, or not) are involved in pretty significant, ongoing intimate relationships — just not escalator-track ones. Also, lots of solo people are really happy that way; and lots of partnered-up people are completely miserable.

Don’t assume someone is cheating if you see them out on a date, or being affectionate with, someone other than the spouse/partner you know about.

Don’t ask poly/open people rude questions about their sex life. Hey, if you’re monogamous, guess what? People probably assume that you have sex, too! (Or at least, that you want to — which shows how marginalized asexual people are, too.) Do you want them to ask you about your sex life?

Don’t out people as poly/open. Just because someone has outed themselves to you doesn’t mean they are out in general. Many poly/open people are selectively closeted — they’re willing to be out in some contexts, or with some people, but not others. And they should be the ones who decide when, how, and where they share this information. Poly/open relationships face a lot of stigma and judgment, and get no protection. People do get fired, ostracized, lose housing, lose professional advancement, lose child custody, and more for being ethically nonmonogamous. These risks are very real. You don’t get to decide which risks other people take. But by acting everyday to make the world a friendlier place for poly/open relationships, you are reducing those risks. (Thank you for that.)

Don’t perpetuate or tolerate polyphobic stereotypes and myths. Such as: all nonmonogamous people must have commitment issues, or be sex maniacs, or are hippies, or have low self esteem. Don’t say these things, and — more importantly — don’t just stand there silently when you hear others voice them. Say something. You can be nice about it. You can be gently educational or humorous. Or you can get pissed off if you want to. The point is to let people know those remarks and stereotypes are as wrong, and as damaging, as racism or sexism.

Don’t concern troll poly/open people. This is when you question/criticize/judge someone under the guise of acting “concerned” that their identity, choices, or behavior may cause harm to themselves or others. This happens to ethically nonmonogamous people a lot, and it’s really hurtful, patronizing, and insulting — even when it’s well meant.

Concern trolling is especially damaging when it comes from medical, legal, social services, or education professionals — it actively interferes with people gaining access to services or exercising their rights. Also, it’s common for poly/open people to concern-troll solo poly people.

Not concern trolling people mainly comes down to not asking stupid, biased questions, such as:

  • “Aren’t you worried that you’re more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease?” (Lack of testing, communication, honesty, and safer-sex skills and supplies are what increase your STI risk — not whether you’re monogamous. Plenty of mono people get STI’s — because very few people are 100% monogamous, and because monogamous people are probably less likely to be comfortable with or skilled at safer sex and sexual health communication.)
  • “Aren’t you worried that this is bad for your children?” (Parenting skills do not depend on monogamy. Single parents often get this same kind of concern trolling.)
  • “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on having a real relationship?” (Nonexclusive relationships are just as “real” and valid as exclusive ones. In fact, you could argue that exclusivity of any kind might be more likely to cause you to “miss out.”)


Do acknowledge that ethical nonmongamy is an option.
When you get involved in discussions involving fidelity, monogamy, and cheating (because most people talk about these issues at least sometimes), mention that ethical nonmonogamy is a viable option. Or at least, don’t avoid mentioning it because other people might think it’s weird.

For instance, if someone is saying how another person is cheating on their partner, you might ask, “Are you sure this is cheating? Maybe they’ve agreed to have some kind of open relationship.”

Don’t believe in guilt by association. Stigma is only contagious if you buy into it. Are you concerned that if people knew that some of your friends, colleagues, family members, neighbors, etc. are poly/open, or that they prefer solohood — or that if they hear you speaking up on behalf of such lifestyles and relationships — then they might assume that YOU could be “that way” too? And that then they might start treating you like you’re weird/dangerous/flawed, and that you could be ostracized, judged, or otherwise suffer as a result? Let that go. You can’t control what others think.

Also try not to decide whether to invite/introduce/include people in your life or events on the basis of their lifestyle. That is, don’t worry: “Well, if I invite that poly/open/solo person to this party, what might people think that says about me?” Rather, consider this: If people were to judge you on that basis, what might that say about them?

Don’t issue “+1″ invitations. If you’re holding an event (like a wedding) where seating is limited, simply ask people to indicate how many guests, if any, they want to bring. Don’t imply that people should bring a date (and only one date) — as if attending solo is unwelcome. Similarly, don’t imply that people must choose among their significant others in order to attend your event. Issue invitations in waves, count the RSVP totals as they come in, and issue more invitations until you’ve reached your seating/space limit. Or better yet, build in flexibility to the number of people you can accommodate. Events that only accommodate people in pairs tend to be stultifying.

Don’t ask poly/open people, or people who prefer solohood, to conceal that aspect of themselves. Don’t say, “I’m fine with your lifestyle/relationships, but please don’t mention it to X” (my family, my dinner party guests, my kids, my friends, etc.) If you ever feel someone is inappropriately raising ANY topic (like Walter re Vietnam in The Big Lebowski), that’s a separate issue to address. But don’t assume that your poly friend/acquaintance mentioning their relationship(s) or lifestyles in a casual, non-sexually-explicit way is any more or less appropriate than other people mentioning that they’re married, dating, single, pregnant, etc. And if your family/guests/etc. react strangely to such mentions, you can be an ally by demonstrating through your behavior that consensual, ethical nonmonogamy or a preference for solohood are no big deal. Let your family, etc. deal with their own reactions; you are not responsible for managing them.

Do watch your language. Even poly people fall back on couple-centric and hierarchical language and concepts. Be aware of them, and be willing to catch and correct yourself when you do it.

Do educate yourself about polyamory in general (the Polyamory Weekly podcast especially rocks), monogamous privilege, solo polyamory, swinging (and where swinging shades into polyamory), couple privilege, the relationship escalator, and the perspective of non-primary partners. And share those resources with others!

…That’s my list so far. What would you add? Please comment below. I’ll be revising this list as new stuff comes up, so consider this a living document.

Thanks to the many allies of polyamory, open relationships, and other approaches to ethical nonmonogamy. We really appreciate you, every day, for supporting us in everyday ways.


11 Nov 18:30

Who gets your money, your vinyl collection, or your blog? The basics to making your estate plan, part 1

by Cass

Don't let your eyes glaze over yet! This shit is really important, and we're going to do all we can to make it interesting.

Who gets your vintage vinyl, and your other stuff? By: doguloveCC BY 2.0

With some basic planning, you can provide for your loved ones in the worst case scenario. "Estate planning," an umbrella term, can help you direct exactly what happens with you, your loved ones, your money, and your things in the event of your incapacity or death.

Every person can benefit from a basic plan that provides peace of mind for you and gives your loved ones what they need to know if you cannot tell them.

Usually people think that an estate plan requires an attorney and a lot of money. While an attorney will be able to give you comprehensive advice and documents unique to you and your situation, it need not be expensive. And you do not necessarily need an attorney for many of the documents that can help in tough situations. These documents are also a great place to start if your partnership is not legally recognized where you live. You can essentially make a contract between you and your partner to give each other some rights that would otherwise be automatic if your marriage were legally recognized.

This overview is meant to be general information and applicable for wherever you are. For your specific situation, check your local legal help society, inquire at your bank, or ask your doctor.

Wills: for more than just post-dead-times!

The first thing people tend to think of is their "last will and testament" that says who gets their stuff when they die. However, a will is an extremely powerful and versatile document that can do so much more. A last will is valid only when you die. This document lets you decide who (or what) gets your money, your vinyl collection, your blog, or your pet cat when you die. If you have children, this is also the place to say who will take care of your child — if your spouse is a step-parent to your child, this is a MUST to make sure the logical transfer of care happens and that your spouse takes care of your child.

Healthcare power of attorney(POA)/Living will/Advance healthcare directive: Sign all the forms!

Whether you realized it or not, you likely filled out one of these forms if you underwent any major surgery. Hospitals make people fill out this form so they know what they can or cannot do if you cannot make your own healthcare decisions. The healthcare POA is valid only while you are alive and cannot make your own decisions related to healthcare. This is where you tell your doctor that you do not want to stay on life support, or that you do want painkillers if you have a terminal condition. Here, you can also say what kind of funeral or body-handling you want in the case of your death — likely this is the only document around when you die.

The healthcare POA is one of the easiest plans to make, as many are forms where you check boxes and fill out a questionnaire to indicate your preferences. Once made, give copies to your decision-maker (patient advocate) and your doctor, and bring it with you to the hospital if you are having surgery.

Durable power of attorney: who signs your checks and steps in your shoes?

Durable power of attorney is one of the most confusing parts of your estate plan, and it is also extremely powerful. While you are alive, you can designate someone (your "agent") who can do things and make decisions on your behalf. This document lets you decide who can sign checks for you, participate in legal matters, or do practical things like pay bills and negotiate contracts on your behalf. Everything your agent does for you is only what they know you want them to do. However, because this document allows someone to "step in your shoes" to act as if they are you, this is not a document to be made lightly, and should be as specific as possible.

Trust: Like being a zombie, but less creepy

Often called "the hand from the grave," a trust gives you control of your property, and is valid while living or after you die. Trusts are often used to direct how someone is allowed to use or manage your property. Trust fund kids are really just people who get income from some account which is not controlled by themselves, but by a trustee who manages the money for that person. You can set up a trust to benefit yourself, your family, your pets, your business, or a charity.

This document is extremely flexible and treated a bit differently everywhere, so this is one document to consult with your attorney.

These documents are the basic documents of many estate plans. There are more, but they are more complicated and are not legally binding everywhere. Document titles may differ depending on where you live. For legal advice, seek an attorney.

Recent Comments

  • Tiffany: please please please talk with anyone you choose to handle your final affairs! Make sure they are comfortable with … [Link]
  • Holly: I look forward to part 2! My husband and I have had these conversations with eachother but not with … [Link]
  • Cass: A GREAT question. Typically creating a new Will will void the previous one. (There are special cases, but an attorney … [Link]
  • Cass: Yes. If OBH is publishing part 2, that will be its focus - the questions to ask to get these … [Link]
  • Cass: That's a good reason not to use those Popular Online Legal Services or the kits from Kinkos. They just ask … [Link]

+ 11 more! Join the discussion

08 Nov 18:30

A non-parent's holiday guide to picking out offbeat children's gifts

by Stephanie Kaloi
Kristen

I NEVER have any idea what to get kids! Bookmarking this website. Search by age = brilliant!

I love everything to do with gifting: giving them, receiving them, scheming them, you name it. Since I have a kid, a lot of my non-parent friends and family members will often ask me what kind of fun, kind of weird, somewhat non-traditional gifts they should give their nephews, nieces, and family friends and I've decided I should just compile a list to make it easy on everyone.

I built this list with non-parents in mind, so here goes:

Baby stuff that isn't plastic

Oompa Toys is one of my all-time favorite websites for baby toys. You can shop by category (blocks, arts and crafts, music, and so on), age (they cover newborn to 9ish), theme (architecture, ocean, etc.), and brand. Everything is wooden and typically sources from organic materials, which means your plastic-shunning parent friends will love the all-natural materials, and you get to look like an awesome and informed friend. Win-win.

Plush organs: unusual yet delightful toddler-friendly gifts

I'm going to take you to the next level and introduce you to a few toddler-friendly things that aren't your average toy for a two-year-old.

[related-post]

I discovered plush organs a while ago when I was looking for a great holiday gift for my son's hematologist (answer: this super cute platelet), when I discovered the wide, fantastic world of weird stuffed animals. These are totally cool for toddlers because they can be toted around anywhere. Each organ is a potential funny conversation piece ("Excuse me, is your son playing with a blue testicle that kind of looks like Elvis?" Why yes, he is.), and you'll probably get a few chuckles from the parents in your lives. Or at least, you would if you gave these to my kid.

For little nerds

Nerdy kids are my favorite kind of kids, so if you've got a mad scientist between 8 and 13 in your life, get pumped. I'm all about those cats! I'm particularly infatuated with the FrankensteinLabs Einstein's Brain Desk Lamp because OMG: that's incredible. Can you imagine growing up with that in your bedroom? Epic.

Books

When in doubt, buy BOOKS. Offbeat Families has a TON of pages of archives filled with different recommendations based on what you might need. There are books about LGBT adoptive families, books that feature children with disabilities, and more. Here are a few that I really love, divided up by age:

Babies

Babies don't really care what you read to them as long as you're doing it, and I'll go ahead and tell you that many a parent has appreciated a baby's book with a fun twist.

Toddlers + Preschoolers

I have to avoid the temptation to make this book section all about Star Wars, but need to mention Darth Vader and Son and Star Wars: Vader's Little Princess just in case you missed hearing about them. There are, after all, many toddler and preschooler-friendly books out there (and if you're looking for good reads for elementary aged kiddos, we have a great list right here. Fair warning: City Dog, Country Frog will make everyone cry.

Tweens + Teens

I love, love, love Young Adult Fiction. I love it so much I still read it regularly! I knew I'd love Eleanor & Park as soon as I saw the cover.

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT: quite a few gift ideas for the kiddos in your life. It's not exhaustive by any means — what awesome gifts have you given in the past to kids?

Recent Comments

  • enigma: Love these game suggestions! I got my cousin (nearly 10 then) Apples to Apples for Christmas last year and … [Link]
  • Ariel: This is an oft-asked question, and the answer is … I think if you click this link and make your … [Link]
  • Karen: So I love some of this stuff and would like to buy it but I'm in the UK and don't … [Link]
  • jane: These are great suggestions for littles and bigs. I find the 6-10 age range the hardest to shop for. … [Link]
  • Ellie: I love your recommendations, especially for books! For your Tween/Teen section on books, though, I'd actually say that those … [Link]

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02 Oct 22:31

Video Wednesday: Tiny Houses of DC

by WashingtonGardener
Kristen

Tiny house love!



Last weekend I attended a tour of the Tiny Houses of DC. These are located at the colorfully named Boneyard Studios off of North Capitol Street and next to an historic cemetery. There are four "tiny" houses on the pie-shaped lot and also several fruit trees and garden beds. In this video, you will get a quick overview of the site and the basics of tiny houses. The simplicity movement has always fascinated me and I think many of us share that "on Walden Pond" fantasy, but being able to live in the city gives you (in theory) the best of both worlds. I encourage you to attend a tour yourself. They are offered monthly, are free, and take less than an hour.