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02 Mar 18:26

What’s Next In College Sexual Assault Policy Reform? The Case For Emergency Contraception And Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

by ddpguestposter

This is a guest post by Kailah Carden. Content note: This article is about campus sexual assault, however it does not contain any descriptions of assault.

Thanks to student activists, our country is paying unprecedented attention to the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. Students across the country have staged protests, filed Title IX complaints, and the Office of Civil Rights in the Federal Department of Education is currently investigating over 85 schools for non-compliance. As a result, institutions of higher education across the country are currently rewriting their sexual assault policies.

While the national attention and policy work is a welcome rupture in the status quo, the dominant discourse has been almost exclusively on reforming disciplinary procedures to hold perpetrators accountable. As a result, survivor’s health needs in the wake of sexual assault have been overlooked. Biomedical interventions, specifically, emergency contraception (EC) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) — both FDA approved medication, that when taken after unprotected sex can prevent pregnancy and HIV respectively – must be included in the ongoing policy discussions on college campuses to ensure unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection are never part of the burden carried by students who survive sexual assault.

Clear and enforceable protocols on sexual assault management are necessary for all college health centers. In order to adequately serve survivors of sexual assault, colleges and universities must develop sexual assault protocols that include EC and PEP and (re)train all health care providers on these updated protocols. Training should not only include basic biomedical information, such as when to prescribe EC and PEP, but also a comprehensive overview on what sexual assault is and how it may impact different communities, with specific attention to gender, sexual identity, gender identity, race, and ethnicity. In addition to developing protocols, college health centers must have mechanisms in place to measure and enforce compliance.

Structural changes are also necessary to ensure access to EC and PEP. The majority of young, female survivors of sexual assault present to emergency departments between 8pm and midnight. Health care providers must be available to students on campus on nights and weekends when the majority of assaults occur. EC — available over the counter without a prescription — should be available for sale on all campuses twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, perhaps in existing convenience stores or stand alone vending machine.

Further structural barriers identified by researchers include high co-pays for HIV testing. All costs associated with care for a survivor should be reduced or eliminated by colleges and universities. Cost should never be a factor for a survivor making decisions about their health. Making EC accessible over the counter, reducing co-pays for HIV testing, and subsidizing all costs associated with care for survivors are feasible and cost effective steps for all colleges and universities to take as compared to the economic and psychological cost of unplanned pregnancy and HIV infection.

In addition to structural changes, colleges must invest not only in updated policies but updated health education. College students must be educated on the basics of pregnancy and HIV prevention for general sexual health. In a population where 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault it is necessary to educate all students on EC and PEP, because they will undoubtedly know at least one person in their college career who will need these services. Proactive education on sexual health is an integral component to utilization of EC and PEP and must be comprehensively instituted on all college campuses in order for these interventions to be effective.

Biomedical interventions such as EC and PEP have the potential to tremendously reduce the burden that sexual assault survivors carry, and must be included in the ongoing conversation on sexual assault on college campuses. Students who have survived sexual assault have a federally protected right to equal access to educational opportunities under Title IX. As colleges and universities update sexual assault policies they must not overlook the importance of the physical health of sexual assault survivors as integral to complying with Title IX. Thanks to EC and PEP no survivor needs to face unwanted pregnancy or HIV infection as a consequence of their assault. It is the responsibility of all college health centers to make sure these resources are immediately available to all survivors.

Kailah Carden is a Master’s Candidate in the Educational Studies program at Tufts University. Kailah completed her undergraduate degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Community Health at Tufts. Her research interests include feminist and queer theory, knowledge production, and systems of power.


Filed under: Rape Culture, Reproductive Rights
18 Feb 22:27

Following in Her Footsteps: Happy Birthday, Audre Lorde!

by lucysmall
Kristen

I need to print out this quote from her and say it to myself everyday in the mirror.

Most glorious day, it’s Audre Lorde’s birthday!

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was an amazing intersectional Black feminist, poet, lesbian, and activist superhero. Her legacy continues to inspire young feminists driving us to be more thoughtful, more intersectional, and to act out our convictions in meaningful ways. Disrupting Dinner Parties derives its name from a passage from Sister Outsider, specifically her essay entitled “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Wondering how best to live out Audrey Lorde’s legacy? Here are some ways to do that:

I’ll close with the passage from which we derive our name:

‘I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.” I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever. Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.’ -Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, “‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.’


Filed under: Education, Empowerment, Queer-LGBTQIA, Race and Racism, Sexuality
18 Feb 01:00

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Chewbacchus, The Mardi Gras Parade For Geeks

by Eris Walsh
Kristen

All of this article is delightful.

Face of Booze

This post originally appeared on the She Geeks blog in two parts: “The Mardi Grad Parade No Geek Should Miss” on February 5th, and “Chewbacchus Part 2: The Parade-ering” on February 11th. It has been republished with permission.

[Editor’s note: Unfortunately this year’s Chewbacchus has already come and gone, but there’s always next year—and if you keep reading, there’s plenty of awesome parade pictures to tide you over!]

It’s Mardi Gras season here in New Orleans, which means tourists, traffic, king cakes, endless renditions of Mardi Gras Mambo, and (of course) parades. If you’re a geek in New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras and don’t go to the Chewbacchus parade, you’re doing it wrong. Period. No excuses. Seriously, even Peter Mayhew himself rides in this geek parade.

It is now even more officially official then the last time I officially officiated my official statement. #All-Hail pic.twitter.com/zVN63diiJi

— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) February 3, 2015

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve heard me go on about Chewbacchus before; well, here’s where I explain exactly why this relatively new parade has been growing by leaps and bounds every year and has a distinctly cult-like following (more on the cult thing later). Read on as I go on an exclusive tour of the parade’s “den” (where many of the contraptions are created and stored), introduce a brand new sub-krewe, and give you guys a sneak peek of some of the awesome, hand-made stuff you’ll see rolling down the parade route:

Chewbacchus Figure

Before we get into the meat of this, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page. Mardi Gras parades are a big deal here; many of them are very old (Rex, for example dates back to 1872), but sometimes it seems like a new parade/krewe pops up every year. Wikipedia explains krewes best:

A krewe (pronounced in the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season. [...] Krewe members are assessed fees in order to pay for the parade or ball. Fees can range from thousands of dollars a year per person for the most elaborate parades to as little as $20 a year for smaller marching clubs. Criteria for krewe membership varies similarly, ranging from exclusive organizations largely limited to relatives of previous members to other organizations open to anyone able to pay the membership fee. [...] Parading krewe members are usually responsible for buying their own throws, the trinkets thrown to parade spectators according to Mobile and New Orleans tradition.”

The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus (IKOC) is one of the more inclusive parade krewes. Their dues are exactly $42.00 (because of course they are), and absolutely anyone can join. You pay your dues, throw on a costume, show up, and march. It’s truly that simple. According to their website:

“The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is a Mardi Gras parade organization for the most revelrous Star Wars Freaks, Trekkies, Whovians, Mega-Geeks, Gamers, Cosplayers, Circuit Benders, Cryptozooligists, UFO Conspiracy Theorists, Mad Scientists, and all the rest of Super Nerdom.

We also have a special place for Fantasy fandom within the Krewe under the auspicies of the Mystic Krewe of P.U.E.W.C. and a contingent specifically devoted to Horror… the Krewe of the Living Dead.

This glittery behemoth of a unicorn is the work of the Mystic Krewe of P.U.E.W.C.

This glittery behemoth of a unicorn is the work of the Mystic Krewe of P.U.E.W.C.

The Mystic Krewe of P.U.E.W.C. (which stands for “People for the inclusion of Unicorns, Elves, and Whinebots in Chewbacchus”) and Krewe of the Living Dead are examples of sub-krewes. Humans have a tendency to clump together based on common interests, and Chewbacchus is no exception. Sub-krewes can be highly organized and independent entities who exist year-round (often doing charity work, throwing their own events, and participating in conventions) like the Doctor Who themed Krewe du Who, or remain loose gatherings of people who simply come together for Mardi Gras and march in the parade in themed costumes, like E.T. themed sub-krewe, The Rolling Elliots.

The Space Commander Chewbaccacabra, Ryan Ballard, describes the Chewbacchus parade as…

“…a mobile, drunken Comic Con in many ways. There’s gonna be a range of fandom out there, represented, and you know, there’s sub-krewes for basically every fandom you could ever imagine. And if there’s one missing, somebody’s gonna make a sub-krewe for it.”

(He means it, too. One of the other sub-krewes new to Chewbacchus this year is the Krewe of Sharknadeaux. I cannot make this shit up, people.)

They literally let their nerd flag fly.

They literally let their nerd flag fly.

I was granted a tour of the IKOC den/workshop/homebase, inside of Castillo Blanco, yesterday. This is where a lot of the parade contraptions are housed and worked on. Chewbacchus is a walking parade, meaning they don’t have huge floats pulled by tractors; rather, they have handmade, cobbled together, contraptions that are either pulled, peddled, or pushed along the parade route by the people who made them. With the exception of a select few remote controlled/battery operated contraptions (like a full scale, remote controlled TARDIS), everything is powered by hand or by foot. There are a lot of bicycles, tricycles, rickshaws and shopping carts being re-purposed as nerdy people movers, floats, and (the all important) beer dispensaries. The “bacchus” part of Chewbacchus was not a mistake. In addition to being a play on the more traditional and popular Bacchus parade (which rolls next week, if you’re so inclined), Chewbacchus is all about bacchanalian (or bacchanALIEN) revelry, so many of the contraptions you’ll see rolling down the parade route are, in fact, working bars/kegs.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 4.34.11 PM

Bar-2 D2, everyone’s favorite beer droid, has become a Chewbacchus staple, and I’ll give you three guesses as to what the Blue Sun Beer Barrel is being pulled by (Hint: She’s the smoothest ride from here to Boros). Other stuff to look out for:

Borg

This is just a tiny portion of a huge contraption that will be lighting up the streets and assimilating the masses.

Look for this work of art on the back of another piece. These people do not half-ass things.

Look for this work of art on the back of another piece. These people do not half-ass things.

The new Golden Wookie Idol, that is (of course) also a bar.

The new Golden Wookie Idol, that is (of course) also a bar.

I mentioned earlier that Chewbacchus has an almost cult-like following. I wasn’t kidding. The parade’s theme this year is actually The Cult of the Sacred, Drunken Wookie. To celebrate, the IKOC had itself officially registered as a religious entity, specifically a satirical Space Cult. Seriously. Several members have been ordained and will be performing several wedding ceremonies and vow renewals at their ball on Saturday after the parade. Some people may be taken aback by the idea of a parade krewe becoming an official religious organization, but when you get to know the people of Chewbacchus and get to know their (in some cases) obsession with this krewe, you realize that it really was part of the natural progression of the organization.

Wookie Shrine

This ever-growing shrine is a permanent fixture in the den and houses throws and props of old with idols that have been mailed to the krewe over the years.

It is of note that this funky krewe of creative women and men are not simply reaping the benefits of their status as a religion, they’re also making sure to give back to the community. Per my guide, IKOC Cultural Ambassador, Martin Childs:

“This is the first year of our new service sub-krewe, The Charitable Sisters of the Wook. All of our members here, many of modest means, have put together over 300lbs of collected canned goods for Second Harvest [Food Bank], as well as we had a charity raffle, and it was well over 500$ in one evening that we gathered.

In addition to housing many of the parade’s contraptions, a work shop, a practice stage for their bands, and the Sacred Drunken Wookie shrine, Castillo Blanco also includes The Space Sanctuary. Not only is this magical room absolutely gorgeous (I just wanted to lay down and stare at the ceiling for hours), it’s also where you can find the fully functional, salt water, float tank. Yep, you read that right. They have a full sized, working, sensory deprivation chamber in their den. Top that, Rex!

One day, I will do this to my bathroom, and you will never ever see me again.

One day, I will do this to my bathroom, and you will never ever see me again.

Now, you cannot have a Mardi Gras parade without throws, and Chewbacchus has the best throws of all the parades (hands down), but don’t expect to catch any beads. Just like their contraptions and costumes, all the throws from Chewbacchus are handmade by the krewe members. Every single thing you walk away from this parade with was made by someone in the parade, and these are some insanely creative nerds! One of the themed throws this year is the Build Your Own Bandolier throw. Basically, you catch a blank bandolier with some velcro on it, and then collect custom velcroed blocks from as many sub-krewes as you can to affix to your bandolier. It’s bloody genius, is what it is.

Build a Bandolier

 

his fuzzy bandolier block has already made its way onto the shrine with a King Cake Baby in Carbonite and Yoddha.

This fuzzy bandolier block has already made its way onto the shrine with a King Cake Baby in Carbonite and Yoddha.

There are plenty of throws that aren’t specific to the bandoliers as well, like this Rib of the Sacred, Drunken Wookie (painstakingly crafted by dedicated members who were willing to sacrifice their time to eat a bunch of BBQ ribs for the cause):

Sacred Wookie Rib

While at the den, I also had a chance to meet up with some of the members of new sub-krewe, Krewe du Groot, and snag a peek at some of their throws. They might be brand new (formed only 3 weeks ago), but this small krewe is bringing out the Hadron Enforcer of big guns when it comes to creative throws:

Grooter Tail

Baby Groot

(Insider Tip: An undisclosed number of these are random, re-purposed cassettes; you should absolutely try to play them.)

(Insider Tip: An undisclosed number of these are random, re-purposed cassettes; you should absolutely try to play them.)

>>> Next Page: Picture of The Parade-ering

11 Feb 15:00

Power-Playing: Advice To NSFW Fic Writers And Novelists Now That Fifty Shades of Grey Is A Movie - Yes, I'm looking at you writing that NC-17 dub-con.

by J.M. Frey

a2ef2ab0-f55e-0131-6d9c-0aa0f90d87b4It is 2011, and I am at a literary award after party. There is no statue in my hand, but there is a vodka martini. I think it was number three. Maybe four? And the title of the book on everyone’s lips that night was not the one that had taken home the top prize two hours earlier; it was “that new mommy porn book.”

“Have you read it?” people asked each other. “Is it respectful? Is it clever?”

People danced around the topic, not wanting to speak ill of the author or the kink scene, but I, four (maybe it was five?) vodka martinis in, finally said “It’s bad, okay!? It’s got bad wordcrafting, bad punctuation, and bad BDSM! It’s dangerous. Someone is gonna read that sh*t and do that sh*t and land in the hospital because they didn’t get brought into the community through the community. Some poor girl is gonna let herself get stalked by a creeper who does not understand consent and she’s gonna die. The only damn good thing about the book is the great f*cking cover! But the rest? Kink Colonialism.”

Colonialism: The imperialist expansion of Europe into the rest of the world [...] in which a dominant imperium or center carried on a relationship of control and influence over its margins or colonies. This relationship tended to extend to social, pedagogical, economic, political, and broadly culturally. (From “Key Terms In Post-Colonial Theory.”)

In layman’s terms: Colonialism is the act of entering and subjugating a culture, then appropriating aspects of said culture to take back to the “Empire”/mainstream for display/use sans the original cultural context. This also carries insinuations of the mainstream/empirical culture being ‘dominant,’ ‘correct,’ and ‘the best,’ framing the invaded culture as ‘wrong,’ ‘Other,’ ‘weird,’ and in need of correction or saving.

And in Fifty Shades’ case? I won’t make assumptions about E.L. James’ sex life, but it seems as if she grasped onto a dangerous Orientalist view of the BDSM lifestyle and plopped it into standard romance narrative.

This isn’t much of a surprise when you consider the source material: Fifty Shades is famous for being a serial-numbers-filed-off Twilight fanfiction that hit big. The fact that it’s revamped fanfiction is not the issue here; the issue is that Fifty Shades, being based on an extremely problematic novel whose consent issues (amidst issues of racism, exoticism, etc.) are sky-high, has compounded the consent problem.

Because of the quality of both the writing and the kink, I though that Fifty Shades would eventually wither. The novelty would fade, and eventually the people who were honestly interested in the lifestyle that had been appropriated would move on to better-written BDSM romance books (The Sophie Scaife series by Abigail Barnette, who also writes the excellent and expository “Jenny Reads 50 Shades” blog; Phèdre’s Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey). From there I hoped the interested readers would do research, attend info sessions, workshops, playparties, and eventually find themselves a nice, healthy, fulfilling kinky relationship.

But here we are, four years later, and now there’s a movie.
 
This means that not only the reading public will be perhaps, to their detriment, internalizing the messages of Fifty Shades; there’s going to be a whole new viewing public as well. And that raises the question:

If and when one of those people reading or watching Fifty Shades gets hurt, who will be to blame?
 
Can, for example, Jian Giomeshi’s alleged victims sue E.L. James or her publisher Random House? He did name-drop the book in his first official statement after the allegations. 
 
Before I began my career as a writer, I was a substitute teacher in high schools. During free reading periods, I talked to each and every student about the book they were reading – which character they liked best, what drew them to it, etc.
 
I once spoke with a young woman reading Twilight. I asked her if she was enjoying it and nodded along as she spoke, and straightened to go. Then I stopped, turned back and said, in a whisper, “Listen, I’m sorry. I know you’re clever. I just want to point out that this sort of romantic stalker thing in real life is dangerous. If a guy does this, you should–”
 
“Report his ass? Duh,” she interrupted. “This is fantasy. I know the difference.”
 
That conversation has remained in the forefront of my thoughts since.  If we know that consent-play is fantasy, and we know non-consent situations are dangerous, not sexy, then why all the romance novels, films, and stories about the The Highland Bandit’s Kidnapped Wife and The Italian Millionaire’s Bound Pet and Doing As He Says, and the thousands of Daddy-dom erotic GIF blogs? The big question here is:
 
If we know non-consent is bad, why is it so damn good?

Why do we love these fantasies? My pet theory about it is this:

People read and write these sorts of stories to either consciously or unconsciously explore those fetishes that might otherwise make them feel unsafe to explore in real life. The reader can imagine being tortured sexually or forcefully seduced and is allowed to take pleasure in it.  At least in the west, we come from a culture of permission, where “no means no” and issues of consent are extremely pervasive and important.

But when you delve into the world of fantasy, that changes. People fantasize sexually because they are looking for a thrill, a danger to court, or a new sensation to experience, or a new scent and taste, or a new sort of stimulation. They fantasize because they are not comfortable or ready to enact these fantasies in real life, or are not in a position to be able to do so.

And dubious or non-consent fantasy narratives tap into what I would call a very visceral and adolescent fantasy about early acknowledgement of sexuality. People of all ages, genders, and sexual identities who are on the cusp of their emergence as sexual beings struggle with the dichotomy of recognizing that they are sexually desirable and/or desire sex, but at the same time are romantically and sexually inexperienced.

Non-consent fantasy narratives allow the writer/reader to experience the rewards of being sexual without the stumbling block of inability and inexperience. In these fantasies, they get to be passive, and are still wanted by the other party, without the possibility of the humiliation of rejection or an inability to seduce. Non-consent fantasy narratives tap into that primal, primary fantasy of early sexuality and allow us to celebrate our own bodies and take pleasure in them without any real-life repercussions or shame.

In a way, in these fantasies, the forcible confinement and fantasy-rape is the ultimate compliment –  we are wanted so badly that the dominating partner literally cannot help themselves. There’s a thrill in the fantasy of someone being so overwhelmed with lust or passion for you that they can’t hold themselves back; the fantasy of being chosen out of the crowd, the one special person, for no particular reason beyond just being you – to have a dark prince charming look at you and say, ah yes, here is the special one. There’s something freeing in the fantasy of being able to give up control, to just be pleasured, to trust your partner to be concerned about your pleasure, to throw off society’s slut shaming, Cosmo’s 101 tips, to not have to think or plan or worry.  To just be given sex, and for it to rock your world, and know that the other person wants you just as you are. There is something endlessly appealing about being wanted.

I also believe that it’s from the desire to be wanted, to be deemed special, that the  impulse to create a Mary Sue in fanfiction stems. I think this is probably especially true in younger girls just starting to explore their own sexuality and romance, girls getting their first crushes and learning what it means to want someone emotionally and sexually. Where better to fixate a first, foal-wobbly desire than on someone fictional? Someone safe? Even if the character they want isn’t the safe one? Especially if they aren’t the safe one?

If we understand why consent-play is steamy, the question that we writers of that genre must ask ourselves it this:

What do we owe the readers of our non-consent fantasy stories?

Firstly, do we owe them anything at all?

Well, yes. I think we do.

Poll a hundred women from the age of sixteen up, and ask where they first read stories involving sex. I will bet you dollars to donuts at least half of them will say they borrowed a mother’s/aunt’s/friend’s Harlequins and Mills & Boons. There are a lot of people learning about romance, desire, and sex from what we write.

And that is a glorious, privileged place to be. I think romance novels are fabulous mostly because the female characters in them have agency to desire, have fantasies, and pursue their own romantic, emotional, and sexual satisfaction. That is a great message.

But we also need to be aware of the other messages our work can send, too.

We don’t owe instruction manuals, or pages of boring explanations; but we do owe readers of non-consent fantasy an acknowledgement within the text that the sex and relationships happening on the page are, first and foremost, a fantasy.

We owe them accurate play scenes, well researched, so that if one of our readers tries to recreate it, they won’t end up in the hospital. We also owe them realistic and honest portrayals of kink culture, whether they’re our own kinks or not. And if a character is going to endanger another character, then we owe our readers to make it clear in the narrative that what that character is doing is unacceptable, wrong, dangerous, illegal, or potentially deadly.

We owe our readers actual discussions of consent or non-consent within the book. We owe it to them to model what consent negotiation looks like. We owe them sex scenes where the negotiation happens before sex starts, and mid-kiss, so they can see what it looks like when desires shift, and consent must be re-obtained. We owe them characters who negotiate boundaries happily and confidently, who speak up when they’re uncomfortable, who are concerned about their partner and who ask, verbally, for permission to continue, and who own their own bodily agency. And if we have a character who is refusing to seek consent or who is going to continue without it, we owe it to our readers to make it clear in the narrative that this is not acceptable behaviour.

We owe our readers realistic sex scenes which include the use of condoms, dental dams, and sex-safe lubes, safe words, and safety precautions. And if our characters are engaging in unsafe sexual practices, we owe our readers the acknowledgement that these sexual practices are unsafe in the text.

And frankly speaking, if you, non-consent fantasy writer, think that being responsible while writing your non-consent fantasy narratives is boring, or will drag down the book, then I’ve got advice for you:

Try harder.

Our job is to make anything sexy: monsters, aliens, dinosaurs, cowboys, race car drivers, and millionaires. If we can tap into the thrill of being wanted, if we can make rape, confinement, coercion, pain, and trickery sexy, we can sure as heck also make discussions of consent and safe sex sexy, too. 

We owe it to our readers. And we owe it to ourselves.

J.M. Frey is a voice actor, SF/F author, and fanthropologist. She also writes SF/F erotica under the pseudonym Peggy Barnett. Her first full-length erotica novel, “Lips Like Ice” is now available from Circlet Press. You can follow her at @SciFrey or @EroticBarnett. She is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.

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10 Feb 15:45

How scheduling saves our super-busy, polyamorous, multi-household family

by Andrea
Kristen

ALL THE SCHEDULES!!

Scheduling before and after
Scheduling before and after

I've always been a day-planner type of person. In the current iteration of my life, scheduling has taken on a whole new meaning — it's not only relationship maintenance, it's been providing a rubric for compromise and communication in a super-busy, polyamorous, multi-household family. The idea first struck me after reading The Offbeat Home & Life post about Family Meetings.

We do ours a little differently, and it has proven invaluable. Here's how it works:

The cast of characters

Me: Full-time dayjob with occasional freelancing.
P: Husband, full-time dayjob, doesn’t drive. We live together.
J: Partner, full-time dayjob and working on starting a business. Lives about one mile away.
Also often involved: my platonic wife, her husband, their two kids, my brother, his wife, their two kids. All live in the same(ish) city as me, P and J. Finally, there’s P’s dad and stepmom that live in a camp trailer on our property during the cold months and share our kitchen and bathrooms when they're here.

How the meeting developed

Long before we had additional partners, micro-farms, or businesses, P and I developed a scheduling system after we moved in together. Between trying to combine social schedules, bill paying, and general household chores for two young adults, a few big things got missed and dealing with those consequences wasn't exactly pleasant. To try and fix it, we bought a giant whiteboard, made a 35-box grid on the top ⅔ and gave it a prominent place in our main living space.

Once a week, we made it a point to sit down together to make sure that the whiteboard calendar included everything that had come up the last week from bill due dates to social engagements. There’s also a space on the board for shopping lists and random notes and, because it’s magnetic, we can attach letters or pieces of paper to it. Everything on that calendar then got copied over to my Google Calendar, because I prefer to work in digital.

When we brought new partners into our little poly "pod," the scheduling meeting gained additional importance because including those partners in the meeting became an expression of their importance in our lives. It is both practical — a chance to check in, make plans, make sure everyone was on the same page; and a sign of respect for those partnerships — showing in action the fact that everyone is equally respected.

What the meeting looks like now

About seven years in, this is what our once-a-week Scheduling Meeting looks like:

Those of us with heavily intersecting schedules, usually P and J and I, all get together over dinner on Sunday nights — on the occasional evening when we can't get together, we put a call in on speakerphone or get together on Gchat. We come armed with our smartphones, the giant whiteboard calendar, and our own notes about any scheduling items that have come up over the week.

We each start with an "opening statement" of our wants, needs, and desires for the upcoming week and anything big upcoming in the next few weeks. This would be something like "I want to make sure to have a date night with J this week. An overnight would be nice in the next couple of weeks, and there are requests to watch kids on Tuesday and Saturday. I have a late night at work on Wednesday, so J, if you could drive P to his meet-up, that would be awesome. The cherry trees are crazy full of fruit, so I would also like to set aside a day or two to pick and process what we can."

Once everyone's put their statements out there, we work our way through the week. The things that match up are easy. When things don’t match up, we try to talk things out and work out a solution that meets everyone’s desires as best as possible. We try to plan ahead for commuting together as often as possible, date nights, big projects, and especially things as mundane as “I seriously need a night to catch up on laundry.”

During the week, if things change, we each address things individually as they come up with the people affected. Generally, the scheduling meeting takes 20-30 minutes at most. Everything goes on the big house calendar and shared Google calendars. Then it’s back to eating dinner, playing video games, or otherwise relaxing.

The big calendar on the wall serves well when P’s dad and stepmom come in to the house, as they can tell at a glance what’s going on and who’s probably where that day. Everyone’s got access to at least most of the digital calendars as well for planning ahead, which cuts down on the “are you available on X day” questions; the conversations are instead usually things like “I see you’re free Friday evening, want to grab drinks?”

The philosophies behind The meeting

If this sounds all-too-Utopia, there's a lot of communication challenges and philosophy that go into each one of these meetings that we’re still figuring out (and probably always will be).

First and foremost, it's about holding everyone responsible for their own schedules and lives. The idea of “your schedule, your business” sounds simple, but seriously, it’s a challenge. It’s easy to unthinkingly obligate a partner to do something with you, or to off-hand say “sure, we will try to make it.” It can also easily feel like you’re being evasive when you’re saying to someone used to scheduling off-the-cuff “I’d like to make it, let me bring it up in the scheduling meeting and I’ll get back to you.”

Second, a functional scheduling meeting means respecting each other enough to actually communicate and then follow through with what we say we will do. The scheduling meeting isn’t set in stone — life happens. When life happens, telling the people it has an effect on is important. Date nights can and do get cancelled or moved. Sometimes friends are having a rough night and need some company. Work goes late. Whatever happens, we try to see communicating that as a sign of respect — and knowing what’s on your calendar for that week helps a LOT in figuring out who you should tell first.

There’s also the additional layer that scheduling off the cuff after work drinks or hanging out is a lot easier if you actually know your calendar is clear for that day, instead of having to call everyone to ask if you had anything planned (or worse, accidentally stand someone up).

Third, when it comes to relationship maintenance, there is almost nothing better than a quick business check-in. Sharing lives can get messy, emotional, complicated, and exhilarating (and sometimes all in 20 minutes). It’s extraordinarily nice to, once a week, have a time set aside for the exclusive purpose of figuring out the logistics. It’s easier to sit down, relax and enjoy an evening on the couch together, or a long bike ride, or coffee out with a friend, if you’re not stressing out about if you missed the mortgage payment or wondering if your husband/wife/partner/friend remembers that work dinner tomorrow.

Finally, a quick word on boundaries

One of the more surprising things we’ve discovered over the years is that there can be quite a bit of pushback from people about these meetings. I’ve encountered responses ranging from “seriously, you schedule sex?!?” (to which the answer is, yes, sometimes, and that’s not a bad thing) to “well, if you want a week’s notice, I guess we just shouldn’t hang out.” Most of the time it’s just seen as quirky and a bit odd.

There are a not-insignificant number of people that will try to pull the passive aggressive “but if you caaaareeeedddd you would say yes RIGHT NOW” or “It’s disrespectful of your autonomy to have to check in with five other people just to go out to drinks!” That’s usually a sign to me that that person may not be a great fit for our group, or at least doesn’t understand the moving pieces.

It’s gotten significantly easier to learn that asking someone to respect the scheduling meeting isn’t imposing on them, it’s asking them to respect the things that I find important. If nothing else, setting that boundary enforces priorities and self-care, and those two things make everyday life a heck of a lot easier.

Recent Comments

  • G Wilkins: That is such an epically cool idea!! Though presently my household consists of just hubby, me and hubby's Dad (who's pretty … [Link]
  • Zooey: I love that idea. It seems as though your poly relationship has made you look more closely at other close … [Link]
  • alexcansmile: We finally had to start using shared calendars when he snapped at me for never letting him go to car … [Link]
  • justanothersciencenerd: Right? It's just a courteous to check with other people who are influenced by your schedule so you can … [Link]
  • justanothersciencenerd: "I consider her as important and as "legitimate" of a relationship as my relationships with my husband and partner." I love … [Link]

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10 Feb 12:45

Take a peek into this mysterious Sherlock-themed bathroom

by Haplesschyld
Kristen

Now I want to do an awesome small-themed bathroom too!

The very red room.

When I went looking around for ideas for our tiny upstairs bathroom, it seemed that my only options were 1: seashells, 2: minimalist spa, 3: things on clearance at a big box store. I wanted something that made me happy, but I also wanted the bathroom to look clean and be easy to clean.

I've been obsessing on BBC's Sherlock since season one, and so I figured, this is my place, why the hell can't I have a BBC Sherlock bathroom? So I did…

wall art I wanted to do a subtle Sherlock theme. I also wanted to use pieces that were original. I found this print from photographer Jorge Maia because it reminded me of Sherlock's opening credits.

The words.I had these plaques from a thrift store, and they were just waiting to have something done to them. I thought I would do a play on the usual inspirational quotes art, and just take words that are specific to the Sherlock 'verse, and toss them up there.

Small things matter. Here's another view of the framed magnifying glass, the hand soap curiously full of stones, and the hand towel that is like Sherlock's wallpaper.

The last labor of love.We had never put up wallpaper before. SCARY! At least we only had a tiny space to try it. And now that I am over the fear, I will absolutely use it again! While I wasn't springing for the crazy expensive wallpaper from the show, I was happy with how this turned out. The reclaimed shelf and the silhouettes were both purchased on Etsy.

Obvious!Finally, what is a Sherlock bathroom without a Baker Street sign?!

If you have an awesome themed room, we'd love to see it! Either submit a room tour, or upload photos of it to our Flickr pool!

Recent Comments

  • Levi: Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, appreciate it. “It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling … [Link]
  • Heather: Love love love love it! [Link]
  • AmeliaJane: I love this sort of subtle nod to geekery. That, if you're in the fandom or what have you, you … [Link]
  • Tobi: This pleases me vastly. [Link]
  • Jamie: I really love this!!! You did an excellent job making your theme obvious, but it doesn't feel like it's too … [Link]

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29 Jan 15:00

Cartoon Characters Who Were Significant In The Development Of My Queer Identity And Current Inspirations For My Weightlifting Routine

by Mallory Ortberg
Kristen

YESSSSS

Hyena, Gargoyles

hyena1

Influence on queer identity: Haircut, lascivious smile
Weightlifting inspiration: Squats, swimmer's press

Kida, Journey To Atlantis

queer13

Influence on queer identity: Look at her
Weightlifting inspiration: Deadlifts

Carmen Sandiego, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

queer12

Influence on queer identity: Hair lustrousness, general butch-y swagger, boots
Weightlifting inspiration: Bent-over rows

Queen Beryl, Sailor Moon

queer11

Influence on queer identity: Cackling, imperiousness, redheaded deviousness

Read more Cartoon Characters Who Were Significant In The Development Of My Queer Identity And Current Inspirations For My Weightlifting Routine at The Toast.

21 Jan 15:45

Positive demotions and Mental Health Awareness within relationships

by Catherine
Kristen

This chart is just wonderful.

Bipolar
By: Nicola Jones – CC BY 2.0

My wife is bipolar. For her, that means a life full of mediocre, less-than-positive contentment. And that's all when she is at her absolute best. When she is having an episode of either mania or depression life is awful and she doesn't want to live.

But we are working on understanding it. We are working together with individual therapists, a psychiatrist, a couple's counselor, a bipolar support group, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Family-to-Family classes. We are working, individually and collectively, on understanding her abilities and limitations.

I use the word "limitation" in a neutral, guilt-free, shame-free way. Limits are defined as "the final, utmost, or furthest boundary or point as to extent, amount, continuance, procedure, etc." So let's stop putting stigma and negativity on that word when it is empowering to remove the shame and acknowledge that we all have limits.

My wife recognizes her exact limitations — learning what she can and cannot do, and in the process learning what she can and cannot handle.

For example, she currently has a very prominent job at an institution of higher learning. And she is consciously leaving it. In leaving her prestigious, well-paying, highly-praised, highly-important position on campus, for a less-prestigious, less-well paying, less-praised-but-still-equally-important position on another campus, she is making a supremely mature decision.

As I mentioned before, I am in a NAMI class for family members of people with severe mental illness. In a recent class, we went over this worksheet:

NAM1-001

We discussed where we were on the chart as family members/caregivers. I'm bouncing between 2.5 and 3 in regards to the emotions section.

Then we talked about where we thought our family members with mental illness were. According to me, she is all over the charts depending on whether or not she's in an episode or stable. But when she's stable she's right there with me around 2.5

It was a great conversation once I got home, to have with her. We agreed on where we were but it was empowering to have the resource and the conversation.

Thanks to NAMI, she has words, and a diagram, and a physical piece of paper to hold, that helped her recognize where she was, where I am, where we are together, and where we are individually. And it was wonderful.

This conversation that we had, (and these conversations that NAMI provides us with the tools for having) along with this "positive demotion," create excellent opportunities for us to be in a place, physically, mentally, individually, and as a couple, that we will be healthier and happier.

Self realization, self actualization and empowerment FTW!

Recent Comments

  • Wendi: Academia is a crime family! I hate it. It's so...nasty. Wow, what a great descriptive word for this insanity that … [Link]
  • Wendi: I wish more people understood limits. I have generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression. There are some things I just … [Link]
  • LK: I just want to say thank you for mentioning the awesomeness of NAMI. Many don't know that NAMI exists. … [Link]
  • Kirsten: Is the "individual living with mental illness" listed in the reference title the patient or the partner of the patient? … [Link]
  • Liset: So grateful to the offbeat empire for posting these kinds of articles. It makes my heart feel lighter to be … [Link]

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08 Jan 00:32

Why, Phylicia? Bye, Phylicia.

by Dominique

byephylicia2

I am disappointed. Phylicia Rashad is a legend. She is graceful, beautiful, and a wonderful, Tony award winning actress. She played a black woman on television who was sophisticated and sharp, and who broke down feminism for the masses. She’s my Soror, and I like to think of her as my TV auntie, too. A lot of people do.

But Phylicia let me down. In an interview posted on Tuesday, Rashad is quoted as responding to a question about Bill Cosby’s alleged acts of rape by saying: “Forget these women. What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

On ABC news this evening, Phylicia elaborated on her statement. “…that was a misquote. What I said is, ‘This is not about the women. This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of legacy.’ ” Girl…. same difference.

By “these women” Rashad is referring to the at least 27 women (including three who came forward just today!) who have said they were drugged and raped, or almost raped, by Bill Cosby during his heyday.

Phylicia is asserting that the existence of a massive, decades long conspiracy where dozens of women from different circles falsely report having eerily similar assault experiences at the hands of the same man is so much more likely than a reality where Bill Cosby raped these women, that we shouldn’t even give the women’s stories a second thought. We should forget them. Now Phylicia, you know that don’t make not a lick of sense.

What we are seeing here is not new. It is a rerun. Black America, denied positive representation on everything from the Supreme Court to our television screens, finally got a piece of what we’ve been craving…. only to find out that the black man embodying our wishes ain’t shit and that success for him is not actually a triumph for black women. But, desperate for that representation, for the preservation of legacy, we decide to side with him anyway- as even inspirational women like Maya Angelou did during the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. We place the responsibility for his tarnished legacy at our feet, and the feet of those he has hurt, instead of at his. This time we have the chance to do better.

Phylicia Rashad had the opportunity to say that the progress of black people in America does not have to happen on the backs of black women, and does not require us to be trampled and gagged into silence. She had the option of defending The Cosby Show, its critical contributions to American culture, and what it has meant to black people, without defending legacy of a man who is almost certainly a serial rapist and who has not even stepped forward to defend his own self. She didn’t take those opportunities, but we can.

Phylicia Rashad, ma’am, I will not forget these women. This is about them, and they will continue to be heard.


Filed under: Race and Racism, Rape Culture Tagged: Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, rape culture
30 Dec 15:45

What Disney taught me about healthy polyamory

by Caroline Diezyn
In an alternate reality, this living arrangement was quite different. Image from Disney's Snow White.
In an alternate reality, this living arrangement was quite different. Image from Disney's Snow White.

No one would ever try to argue that Disney love stories are realistic portrayals of the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of relationships. Their fairy tale happy endings are what make them so endearing, but they definitely don't set proper expectations for dating in the real world. A prince is probably not going to come wake you up from sleep with an enchanted kiss while woodland creatures serenade you. But, there are some relationship lessons I have recently realized Disney imparted on me — and they're the least likely of all.

Let's see what Disney characters can teach us about healthy multi-partner relationships…

Image from Disney's Cinderella
Image from Disney's Cinderella

Relationships aren't one-size-fits-all

Grand Duke: The prince sire! Swears he'll marry nobody but the girl who fits this slipper.
The King: He said that, did he? Ha ha. We've got him!
Grand Duke: But, Sire, this slipper may fit any number of girls.
The King: That's his problem. He's given his word, we'll hold him to it.

The fact that the slipper may fit any number of girls doesn't necessarily have to be a problem if the prince decides he'd rather be polyamorous. In Cinderella, the Prince's plot revolves around the pressure he's under to find a wife and have children. But just like the glass slipper doesn't fit every eligible maid in the kingdom, monogamy doesn't fit every person, either. Having an open or polyamorous relationship doesn't mean that the Prince couldn't also raise a family with one or more committed partners. Of course, given how jealous the stepsisters are, it's important to acknowledge that…

Image from Disney's Aladdin
Image from Disney's Aladdin

Possessiveness is very uncool

"I am not a prize to be won." -Jasmine, Aladdin

In polyamorous relationships, everyone is going to get hurt if there's competition or possessiveness between partners. Jealousy is a symptom of needs not being addressed between partners, and shouldn't be present in a non-monogamous relationship. Polyamorous relationships can have many iterations, and sometimes they can include a main or primary partner with other partners, too — but no one should enter a polyamorous relationship with the idea that they'll eventually "win" a partner completely. That's disrespectful to everyone involved. And after all…

Image from Disney's Hercules
Image from Disney's Hercules

Trust and respect are the most important aspects of every relationship

"You know how men are: they think 'no' means 'yes' and 'get lost' means 'take me, I'm yours." -Meg, Hercules

Meg from Hercules understands the importance of trust. She has a lot of difficulty opening herself up to Hercules, and it's because her trust has been broken in the past. In a polyamorous relationship, trust and boundaries are the most important aspect. Respecting a partner's "no" is paramount — as it is in any situation! Open and honest communication and setting clear boundaries are the only ways to make sure that everyone can get their needs and desires met in a respectful way.

What lessons about non-monogamy can you glean from Disney movies?

Recent Comments

  • Anie: So it's Dreamworks, not Disney, but I recently saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 with the kiddos and they … [Link]
  • Bird: Hah me too! [Link]
  • kate t: haha! Great article. I'm always yelling "you wouldn't have this problem if you were poly!" at shows and movies that … [Link]
  • Brie B.: Incidentally, despite that it should be a pretty obvious recipe for disaster, apparently it's so common that some polys call … [Link]
  • Michelle: I don't know my Disney well enough to glean any lessons, but I do really like this line: no one … [Link]

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18 Dec 15:45

Avoid canine cabin fever with these winter dog walking tips

by Offbeat Editors
Kristen

Keep those pups safe this winter!

winterdogwalking

It's wintertime where I live. In case you're like me, and you are trying to avoid canine cabin fever for as long as possible, here are some tips to make sure your pup is happy and healthy during the winter walking season.

1. Paw protection

Dog paws are not impervious barriers to winter cold, chemicals, and other nuisances. Snowmelt chemicals can cause paw irritation and toxicity if the dog licks their paws, and cold sidewalks can cause chaffing and cracking. Dog paw protection is a must for winter walks…

For my dogs, high quality boots were a necessity. I like the Grip Trex by Ruffwear (and am currently trying out the Summit Trex model to see if it keeps snow out of the boot better). I've also read many positive reviews for the Muttluk's All Weather or Fleece-lined dog boots. Yes, $40-70 bucks is a lot to spend on dog boots but they are a worthy investment. I've put my dog's Grip Trex boots through three winter seasons and besides protecting my pups' paws flawlessly, they still look brand new. Cheaper alternatives aren't going to do the job and probably won't last as long.

Dog boots tip #1: You've really got to get the right size so the boots don't come off easily but are still comfortable. Measure your dog's feet according to the manufacturer's instructions several times to ensure accuracy. And definitely check out the seller's return/exchange policy before purchasing in case you need a different size anyway!

Dog boots tip #2: As with any new pet accessory or device, you have to introduce boots slowly and positively. Not many pups are going to be overly thrilled about having boots on for the first time in their lives, but (in my experience) they forget about their footwear disdain when they discover how much more comfortable they are outdoors.

While you're introducing your dog to the wonderful world of dog boots (or if your dog just really isn't going for shoes), there are several things you can do to keep your pup's paws as comfortable as possible in the meantime!

  • First, trim the fur between your dog's paw pads. This will keep the fur from matting and clumping around snow, ice and snowmelt chemicals.
  • Next, use a paw salve like Musher's Secret Pet Paw Protection Wax or petroleum jelly to moisturize and minimally protect your pup's paws from the element.
  • Finally, thoroughly wipe your dog's paws with a washcloth after every outside excursions, being sure to get in between the paw pads.

2. Coat protection

Depending on how cold it gets where you live, or if you have a short-haired, elderly, young, or ill dog, a dog coat is also a great investment. There are some pretty hardcore coats on the market from brands like Ruffwear or Hurtta that will set you back $40-90 and some less impervious dog sweaters from other retailers like Target or Petco for about $20. A wet coat isn't going to do your pup much good, so if your area experiences severe weather during the winter, opt for a more expensive, waterproof winter coat. If you're just combating the cold and can avoid rain/snow/sleet all of the time, a cheaper dog sweater might cut it.

Cold, dry winter air is as rough on your dog's skin as it is on your skin! Ask your vet if an omega-3 supplement could help keep your dog's skin moisturized and healthy during the winter months (and beyond!). Lastly, it's a good idea to wipe off your dog's legs and underbelly after walks just like paws. You may even want to bring a towel with you during walks to remove snowmelt products or snow/ice from your dog's coat and feet immediately.

3. Keep your dog on leash with a harness

Although hazards for off-leash dogs exist in abundance year-round, winter poses some particular risks for un- or under-supervised dogs. Toxic substances like snowmelt chemicals and antifreeze abound, and if your dog is zooming around off leash, you may not notice her gulp some rock salt or take a lick of an antifreeze spill. Chucks of ice, asphalt liberated from the street by snow plows and sticks are also items your pup shouldn't ingest but might if left to her own devices. So play it safe and keep your dog on leash.

Clipping a leash to a neck collar is not an optimal way to walk your dog at any time of year because it puts strain on the dog's neck, leading to breathing problems and eye issues as the result of increased intracranial pressure. It's also, like, the least efficient way to control your dog's position in space, which can really be an issue in winter when ground conditions aren't ideal. Opt for a front-clip harness like the Easy Walk harness and carry a small bag of dog kibble with your to keep your pup by your side during distracting events.

4. Keep it short

No amount of gear and preparation will wholly protect your pup from winter hazards, so keep walks short by breaking your usual walking time into two or three shorter components that are spaced out over the day. Monitor your dog for signs of real discomfort, frost bite or hypothermia. Frostbitten skin will most common occur on extremities like the ears, tails and toes and can look pale or red, painful or numb, and swollen. If your dog is exhibiting shallow breathing or disorientation, get your dog inside immediately and check for a slow pulse — these are all signs of hypothermia and your dog should be taken to a vet ASAP.

What are YOUR suggestions for walking in a winter wonderland… with your pup?

16 Dec 17:30

Bitter Greens

by Mindy Hung
Kristen

So many things in this piece

When I was seven years old, my grandparents began a squatter’s garden over empty city land.

They had already dug up our entire backyard and planted it with Asian vegetables. They killed the lawn and my mother’s flower patch. They razed my sandbox. Wearing wide straw hats, and smocks sewn together from fabric scraps, they tore up the land from our back steps up to our tall white fence, littering it with tarps, planks of scavenged wood, and plastic containers to collect rainwater.

It wasn’t a likable garden. Our neighbors in this white, lower-middle class suburb in Winnipeg, Canada built high fences, but the barriers couldn’t keep the smell out. At night, my grandfather buried fertilizer peelings, eggshells, and coffee grounds; he didn’t wait for it to break down, he just put it all straight into the ground. Our yard smelled like trash. It looked like trash. It seemed a surefire way to attract rats. Except if there were rats, my grandfather would have mentioned them; the only thing he liked better than eating things was killing things. He liked to watch nature documentaries to speculate on how each animal might taste.

Worse yet than the smell, though, were the vegetables that grew in that garden. The pat tsoi, spoon vegetable, Chinese celery, and heaping piles of mustardy greens that my grandparents tended ended up on our table every night in fibrous, tangled piles, uncompromisingly bitter. The recognizable vegetables—zucchini, pumpkin—didn’t turn into pies or cakes. The pumpkin was boiled in huge chunks, skin still on, to be gnawed on. The zucchini grew huge. Bigger zucchini fed more people but they were chalky and full of seeds. My mother wrapped them in newspaper and kept them in the basement.

What I really would have liked them to plant were well-ordered rows of white-people vegetables: potatoes, carrots, or lettuce, neatly hoed with a seed-packet marker at the end of each sprouting. I wouldn’t have minded a curly wall of pea tendrils, some peas.

That was not what the garden yielded.

Read more Bitter Greens at The Toast.

11 Dec 00:19

winter beauty tips for the slovenly and unkempt.

by samantha
head. when i was a kid, my "lipstick" was a reddish-brown eye pencil my mother, who dyed her hair fire engine red every four weeks without fail, used to draw on the eyebrows that had fallen out never to return when she was pregnant. i would trace my lips with the pencil and fill them in as much as i could without wearing it down so much that she would notice, then dab a little vaseline on to make it shiny. i would also pat some of her heavily perfumed oil of olay cream on my cheeks and eyelids because listen, i'm motherfucking luxurious, b.

i'm not going to go into a whole thing about how growing up poor turns you into a ravenous, insatiable hoarder of nice things once you get enough money for an apartment and the occasional double cheeseburger. BUT IT'S TRUE. my very first paycheck was probably 70% rent and 30% mac lipglass. winter is a rough time of year to try and be cute. maybe if you live in malibu it's possible for you? but those of us in the heartland just resign to bundling up and dragging our chapped lips and ashy hands out to olive garden  for some fancy spaghetti every once in a while until the tundra thaws out enough to put an open-toed shoe on. when it's balls cold outside this is how we dress: warm tights, socks, giant boots, pants, base layer shirt, thin sweater over that, gross outside hoodie over that, puffy warm coat that is too hot to even put on in your steamy, radiator-heated apartment, hat, scarf, mitts: it's like wearing a motherfucking space suit in real life. i'm surprised anyone can stand upright while trying to get the bus to work. so i'm not gonna be worried about getting my lipstick right when the avalanche i gotta walk through will just rinse the shit off my face. but i do have to keep a job.

i have Very Specific Hair. which is not to say that my hair is more moody and petulant than anyone else’s, it’s just the kind of hair that when bitches on the train is like, “girl, what do you use!?” i gotta sigh and be all, “HOW MUCH TIME YOU GOT.” so, if you are a yeasty little beast and have gross, scaly seborrhea crawling from under your bangs down into your unruly eyebrows, i rotate jason tea tree shampoo on my barefoot chai recycling plastic bottle days and head and shoulders dry scalp care with almond oil on my mcdonald’s drive thru styrofoam hummer days. and once a week i wide tooth comb some 99 cent suave conditioner through my hair to get the big knots out? ugh i’m lying. once a month, maybe. i have read all of the curly hair blogs about co-washing and sulphate-free shampoos and conditioners and i tried all that shit but i am scaly and itchy and FUCK THAT. last week i did my yearly under the bathroom sink purge, and found no fewer than 827 bottles of styling creams and 592 tubes of various curl-defining gels. and this is the part of caring for natural hair that becomes a giant toilet into which you flush all of your disposable income: THE SEARCH FOR A STYLING PRODUCT THAT IS JUST A TINY BIT BETTER THAN THE ONE YOU'RE ALREADY USING. because even if you've found a good one, and your curls are lengthened yet defined yet supple yet not crunchy, you are never fully convinced that you are using the very best product you could be. it is the curly hair curse, this neverending quest to find the one product that does everything your hair needs just a little bit better than every fucking thing else. the one product i have stayed married to despite several fleeting affairs (miss jessies! mixed chicks! aveda pomade!) is paul mitchell the conditioner. it's frothy blue elixir from the gods, and if you've seen my hair in real life YOU ALREADY KNOW. also, you can use the shit as body lotion. quit playing.

because i'm your elderly abuelita i use pond's cold cream and moisturizer pretty much every goddamned morning in the winter, because they make your skin feel like gorgeous fried chicken. i wipe the cucumber cold cream all over, dangerously shave my lip hairs in the dark, then wipe it all off with a warm washcloth and slather on the moisture. then i dance around for a minute because you for real cannot let your face touch your shirt with that greasy shit on it. but trust me: after you fight through the congested commuter train out into the throng of hot dads in their biker shorts and clicky shoes blocking the condiment island at starbucks before finally stumbling ten minutes late into work your skin will be the goddamned wave. no ashy spots, so bleeding cracks, just glistening, supple babybutt skin.

i'm going to spend as little time as possible dwelling on the sickness i have when it comes to lipsticks and blushes. in my defense, i do not wear: eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, bronzer, highlighter, luminizer, concealer, face powder, primer, false eyelashes, or liquid foundation. so i promise i will not bore you to death with any of those. yes, i probably have $300 in yves saint laurent lip stains but THEY ARE THE BEST AND I NEED THEM. see also: 1 occ matte lip tar. my jam shades: anime, nylon, hoochie, rollergirl; messy as shit but worth it if you like neon pink lips, except you have to use a brush so ugh. 2 bite beauty high pigment pencil. my jam shades: pomegranate, grapevine, violet; super bright and creamy! i like my shit bone dry, though, so i gotta have 2a bite beauty cashmere lip cream. my jam shades: moscato, sancerre, rioja, port; good color payoff, starts out liquid and dries to a powder finish that doesn't move never ever. THE BIG DOGS: i probably have tried every 3 mac matte lipstick ever produced, and they are almost the perfect ratio of vivid to dry. my jam shades: ruby woo, flat out fabulous, all fired up, dangerous. but the best of the best of the best, my #1 lover, is 4 NARS velvet matte lip pencil. it's bright as shit and dry as fuck and if you see me on the street please know that i have more dragon girl pencils on my person than i do dollars and/or credit cards and/or money in general. like i said, it's a sickness. send help.

shoulders. i’m not going to talk to you about drinking water. i fucking hate that shit, when all you wanna do is read about a bitch’s skincare routine and she’s all, “i just drink eight glasses of water a day and sleep eight hours a night and tee hee lots of sunscreen.” FUCK YOU, BITCH. i could drink 37 glasses of water before lunch and still wake up the next morning with cystic period chin and a nose sprinkled liberally with blackheads. to achieve my picture perfect complexion i rely heavily on three crucial elements: 1 daily exfoliation 2 organic coconut oil and 3 motherfucking instagram. and mac studio fix in C6 if i am feeling like a person who tries. i am supremely lazy. and usually i am already in my pajamas with some incense lit and my night wine, ten pages into whatever i most recently added on goodreads before i remember that i wore a pound and a half of blush to work that day. so i keep a pack of alba good and clean towelettes by the bed because i hate ruining my pillowcases and these have a smooth side and a rough, nubbly side because i’m one of those idiots that feels like if it doesn’t sting or scrape or catch fire then it’s not really working. i keep several exfoliating cleansers in the shower: philosophy microdelivery peel, lush dark angels, and my broke shit: st. ives blackhead clearing green tea scrub. yeah i know they never  go the fuck away, and if you are not a sufferer of the blackhead wrath go kiss your mother on the mouth, because this shit is a nightmare. it’s like the curly hair thing: you already know that what you’re already doing is probably as good as it’s going to goddamned get, yet strolling through the aisles at target you can just hear the new products calling out to you from the shelves, all of the pore strips and the clay masques and the extraction tools. and i get it, man. i’ll be all the way in the cheese section and hear that new motions leave-in calling my name and then before you can say "economy sized box of oreos" i am in the hair aisle contemplating spending $137 on the newest pudding/elixir/lotion/creme to turn these dusty slave knots into silky ringlets. and why do we believe them, these disingenuous candy-colored tubs and tubes!? because that's the real american dream, that if you just work hard and pray, someone will invent a non-sticky gel that stretches a curl and doesn't flake by two in the afternoon.

knees. i'm not going to talk to you about eating better, either. the best skin i have ever had was when i was living on a steady diet of half-thawed toaster strudels and packets of lipton rice mix with approximately 4000mg of sodium apiece; i've had three bushels of kale since monday and my shit is as dull and dry as all of these orangey red leaves strewn all over the sidewalk. COME ON, VITAMINS. i don't fuck with body scrubs because i haven't gotten any handicapped bars installed in my shower yet and i haven't yet tried one that doesn't turn my bathtub into an oil slick. but i would take a cheese grater to my backside if i could. IT MAKES ME FEEL SO CLEAN. so, i improvise. i stand on the bath mat and lather up with bliss hot salt scrub and then rinse off my individual parts without playing slip and slide in the goddamn shower. my broke shit: yes to coconut polishing body scrub. smells like you're in hawaii, which is fine because it's the closest i'll ever get to the beach.

have you ever wondered why there are so many goddamned kinds of lotion? i've decided it's because none of them really works. i'm a sucker for scientific drawings of microscopic lotion drops piercing six layers of epidermis as much as the next guy, but i have never been not ashy after using regular-ass jergens in the dead of winter. i switched to oils a couple years ago, and basically i look like a motherfucking ten year old. my friend michelle uses organic coconut oil, so now my ass uses organic coconut oil. i buy big jars of kelapo from amazon (sorry factory workers) and i use it all over. added benefit: if you have a disgusting scalp, coconut oil will hook you up. and i am the fucking grossest, i'm talking flaky eyebrows and a constellation of grody dermatitis stretched along my hairline, and a dab every morning has cured me. i also use neutrogena sesame formula and regular johnson's baby oil. shaving is for jerks but sometimes i do it, and barbasol soothing aloe costs maybe fourteen cents and lasts forever. angie gave me some lush charity pot lotion which i keep on my desk along with a container of their lemony flutter cuticle butter because sometimes i'll be writing and look down at my hands and get grossed the fuck out at my lack of self care.

toes. I FUCKING LOVE INFOMERCIALS. i'm not sure if it's the delirium caused by being awake at two in the morning or if the promise of a product that is too good to be true is just too goddamned hard to resist, but if a man with big white teeth makes me a promise for $29.99 plus shipping who am i not to believe his claim? i've tried: several snuggies, a nutribullet, a pair of pajama jeans, proactiv, oxiclean, and the slap chop. I REGRET NOTHING. my most recent bleary-eyed infomercial purchase? the amope pedi perfect. it's pretty much a rolling scraper with a motor, and it is by far the best beauty tool i have ever purchased. and i bought that cindy crawford skincare! in less than a minute it ground my callouses to dust and left my gross december feet super smooth. i'm going to level with you: come wintertime, i really let a lot of shit go. i'm not peeling off nine layers of waterproof clothing to contort myself in a goddamn pedicure chair for twenty minutes, i'm really not. but if this marg can last until april it will be nice to not rip holes in my socks with my razor sharp heels. it sells itself. ask your mom for one for christmas.

i don't paint my fingers or toes regularly because shiftless, but i do enjoy purchasing nail polish. look, whatever keeps me from walking out into traffic, okay? my fave kinds are marc jacobs and deborah lippman and rescue beauty lounge. i use $5 scented frankincense and musk oils from the african dude on my block (along with clumps of black soap and tubs of raw shea butter), but sometimes i order fancy ones from the long winter soap company to switch it up. perfume makes me sneeze, but beauty is suffering and i keep a bottle of jo malone french lime blossom around anyway and as soon as i get paid i am treating myself to some tom ford black orchid. I'VE BEEN SO GOOD, SANTA. umm i am a certifiable maniac for blush, not kidding, and my absolute favorite is cha cha tint by benefit. i love a bright orange cheek and i wear that shit every fucking day. don't be scared, babies. GIVE IN TO THE MANGO FACE. if i ever go out at night which (come on i am almost thirty-five i don't fucking go anywhere ever) is rare i use mac powder blush. my jam shades: frankly scarlet, modern mandarin, and dollymix. like i said, i don't fuck around. crazy doll cheeks all the goddamn time. try it so we can be on some grey gardens shit together.

so now that you know i basically sit in my apartment writing jokes with lipstick on while watching family feud, holler at me if there's some new shit i need to know about. also: please note that this is why a bitch doesn't have any savings before you yell at me about my fancy taste and irresponsible choices. also also: i don't have life insurance, but i do have a backup plan in case i ever get fired and have to survive on lipstick from the grocery store. best cheap gloss: maybelline color elixir is really so fucking good. best cheap matte: maybelline color sensational creamy matte is almost good enough to compete with my boyfriend nars. best HELLA CHEAP stain: nyx soft matte lip cream is six motherfucking dollars. also also also: i swear to god i am going to open a savings account. i might have a new car's worth of beauty products in my work bag right now. ugh, god. just remember that i used to use a dollar store eye pencil as pretend makeup, okay? i've earned these sumptuous ruby red lips.
08 Dec 13:11

A (Sort Of) Gift Guide

by megan
Kristen

YES! For alternate gift guides!

I love gift guides but, honestly, I find myself using them most often for the sources they draw from so please allow me to just go ahead and tell you about the spots I’m using for ideas this year:

Kickstarter at MoMA – That neat stuff that was on Kickstarter but you might have since lost track of? Here it is! Also see: the whole gifts section. (I’ve been eyeing that Bubble Necklace for a few years now. Not a hint. Ok, yes, it’s a hint.)

Good Gift Games at The Morning News – An annual curated list of tabletop games by Matthew Baldwin and one of those things I look forward to every year. I know the guy in person and can vouch that all these games have been well tested over rounds of beer with good people at good pubs. I’m going to throw my support on the Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game and also call up a past game that is a most-played in my house: Forbidden Island.

Cool Tools: Mark’s Picks and Under $10 – Have somebody on your list who is a Maker or very practical or just plain hard to shop for? Cool Tools will have a suggestion for that one thing that they might not already know about. Among the most well received gifts to family that I’ve given have come from past Cool Tools recommendations including a craft assistant setup for a model-making family member and guitar tuning devices for my part-time rock star husband. (If said giftee just likes knowing about neat things they might love the Cool Tools book, which I fully admit to becoming engrossed in myself, it’s huge like a coffee table book and packed with information like a catalog.)

Brit+Co Shop – Among the many awesome things in this shop I’m particularly in love with the Gold Leaf Valet Kit with Lovely Indeed, the customizable wood burnt Cheese Board with Design*Sponge and the wooden Pop-Out Ornament Cards. See also: the whole Tech (Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote for an iPhone!) and Merrymaking Color Block Muddler!) selections. Full disclosure and blatant self promotion: this winter I have my own collaboration with Brit+Co for a set of mini gingerbread house mug topper cookie cutters which, as of me typing this, should be back in stock to purchase on Friday 12/12/14. Update: The DIY Kits have sold out, thanks to everybody who purchased one!

What are your favorite sources for the difficult to shop for?

21 Nov 23:30

Holy Crap Tamora Pierce Showed Up: The Mary Sue’s Favorite Comments Of The Week

by Sam Maggs
Kristen

Sharing because now that TAMORA PIERCE has talked about her top favorite books ever, I must read them!

hires

No big deal, just a huge YA author and one of my personal idols showed up in the TMS comments section this week. But first; your brilliance!

Once we learned we were able to edit that horrible Barbie book ourselves, commenters wanted to photoshop it to improve it. Forget pillow fights; Ciella to the rescue!

hammer

After the Barbie writer responding (not excellently) to the backlash against her book, Lady Commentariat was all: “run c://digging_myself_in_deeper/foot_in_mouth.exe”

In response to the Barbie Facebook page’s official apology, Russell Jones suggested: “Next up: The Barbie I Can Be A Brand Content Specialist Book.”

After the Rosetta went to sleep, Kris Smith and brainmist re-wrote a song just for the tiny machine (and also now no one can say that I have an anti-Kris Smith For Favorite Comments agenda Kris Smith).

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.38.20 PM

Speaking with WWE Wrestler Mike Foley about his new movie I Am Santa Claus, Munich Marvel felt very passionately about Foley’s feels. “Ah, no, if anybody should enjoy Chritmas it’s Mick Foley! He loves Christmas… no seriously, he loves it. If he wasn’t married to his wife, it would be something like a Thanos/Death situation except with Mick and Christmas.”

When discussing problematic movie The DUFF, SnappyTron has some words for their past self:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.35.37 PM

Finally, earlier this week I wrote a piece about Tamora Pierce and then Tamora Pierce showed up and was all over the comment sectionI feel like we have been blessed by a YA angel.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.49.21 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.49.03 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.48.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.48.38 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.45.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.44.51 PM

So mote it be.

(image by Minuiko)

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25 Nov 16:58

Compassion is painful. That’s how you know it’s working.

by thebloggess

I’m sad about last night for a lot of reasons.  And if you are human, and allow yourself to be so, then you probably are too.  Maybe it’s the verdict that upset you, or the destruction afterwards, or the long and difficult path that has led us here and has shown us we have so much further to go before we get to the place where we want to be…a place where kindness and compassion and vulnerability are the things which can be lauded and seen and encouraged and felt.  Or maybe, like me, you’re upset about all of those things and you feel too defeated to want to care anymore.

But if you’re like me, you can’t switch those emotions off.  It’s so much easier to turn those feelings of vulnerability and hurt into a shield of rage.  Rage feels powerful and strong.  It feels good.  And rage is important.  But not at the cost of compassion.  If, like me, today you woke up weary and wanting to become numb, or turn away, or lash out angrily at everyone involved then I feel you.  But I encourage you to keep compassion at the forefront.  Remember humanity.  Remember that your words and actions make a difference.  Remember that the majority of us are so much better than the worse things we see in the news, and that so many of us are leading a quiet revolution to be kind, and compassionate, and to listen to the hurt, and amplify the things that will make a positive difference in our world.  It’s a quiet revolution that will never be covered on CNN.  It’s a movement of people who redirect anger to kindness.  Who listen even when it’s painful.  Who take the hurt of others on ourselves and feel it so that we can become better people.  Who wade into horrible online threads and inject compassion and reason because we know that it can become contagious if done the right way.  Who hope that reason and empathy will somehow lead to a place which is safer for our children and grandchildren.

Yesterday someone sent me this photo and it’s stayed with me, and it helped.  If you’re like me, maybe it’ll help you too.

hope

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? ~ Henry David Thoreau

I don’t usually write about serious things like this because I think of this blog as a place for us to get away from the crazy bullshit of the world.  A place to laugh and heal and be ridiculous.  But sometimes healing comes in different ways and I need to write this so I can let go of some of this angst and refocus on what positive things I can do next.  Like donating to the Ferguson Library, which has served as a quiet sanctuary for so many children and adults.

Tomorrow we’ll be back to ridiculous cat pictures and possibly a story about an alligator in my toilet.  And tomorrow we’ll still feel compassion for the people who are struggling, and will continue to do our best to enact positive changes in our own ways.

I hope to God both of those things are true.

06 Nov 21:10

Relaxing puzzle games for tablets

by megan
Kristen

For sweet and pretty games

These are the games for iPad that I find particularly relaxing and keep around to replay after enough time has passed that I’ve forgotten how to solve most levels.

Monument Valley
This is a stunningly beautiful and simple game that plays with Escher style geometry and has a slightly spooky story. For iOS, Google Play and Kindle Fire.

Doggins
This is a short and exceedingly sweet game about what a dog dreams about. An especially stylish version of a point and click style adventure. For iOS, Google Play and Kindle Fire.

Find the Line
In this game you slide a few lines until they compose a picture and watching the lines dance through their patterns, which work as hints, is beautiful and mesmerizing. One downside: while the game is free the distributor has put video ads between each level and you cannot pay to make the ads go away. Bummer. Just in iOS.

Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake
A cartoonish and funny puzzle game with a surprising amount of levels. I thoroughly loved this game and the levels are satisfyingly tricky while the story is well developed. For iOS, Google Play, Amazon Apps and Steam.

See also the previously mentioned: Tiny Thief and Little Inferno.

17 Oct 15:00

5 reasons why living in a trailer park is awesome

by Jill Smith
Kristen

Tiny house! If only DC had trailer parks

Photo courtesy of Redfin.com

Photo courtesy of Redfin.com

The past few months my fiancé and I have spent a lot of time discussing our living arrangements for after the wedding day. We currently live in a trailer park and at first it never crossed our mind to stay here any longer than necessary.

We looked at buying a house, or moving into a condo; but both of those options left us with little cash to travel and so they were ruled out.

We looked into renting an apartment but the majority of places would not take in our furry babies, and so they were ruled out.

And after several discussions we made the intentional decision to stay in our trailer park, and we are SO STOKED.

The problem is that most people can't get over the fact that we are "living in a trailer." So I would like to, on behalf of all proud trailer park residents, set the record straight on this super-awesome alternative living space…

1. Love tiny houses?

A trailer is basically a tiny house that is pre-built. There's no need to spend months planning and designing — it's already done.

2. No shared walls

We did spend some time in an apartment in the past, and I'm not sure if I can handle sharing walls again. We can finally play our music a little bit louder, we can have a few more people over for our monopoly tournaments, and we don't have to worry about disturbing our neighbors.

3. We have a yard

Our very own yard that allows us to plant our own veggies, gives us space to enjoy the outdoors, and a place for our dogs to have their own space.

4. Affordability

We are currently paying less than half of what we used to pay for our apartment, for twice the square footage! (Did I mention we also get a yard?)

5. Amenities?!

For two people just starting out in the world, there are not a whole lot of bonuses out there. But in our trailer we have skylights, hardwood floors, in-unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, tentacle bathtub (yes, we did steal the tentacle bathtub idea from Offbeat Home — actually most of our décor ideas) and a whole lot more that I never imagined we could afford.

Our trailer is exactly what I always wanted my home to be — it is cozy, comfortable, cost-efficient, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, with a kick-ass kitchen, and our neighbors are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

I love my trailer, and my trailer park life. So can we please move on from the stigma and start looking at all the awesome bonuses of this offbeat living space?

Who else rocks a trailer home? What are your favorite things about your trailer park life?

Recent Comments

  • any mouse: I currently rent a 2 bedroom mobile home in a mobile home community. It's cheaper than trying to rent an … [Link]
  • Anna: Home sweet home & your home is so awesome! I always dreaming of having my own house, big or tiny … [Link]
  • Jay: This very subject has been on my mind for awhile! I've been trying to research it online but finding frustratingly … [Link]
  • Stacey: Where I grew up trailers were really not a cheaper option because you had your trailer mortgage plus lot rental … [Link]
  • izzet: If your area has an online crime map, that might help you see the frequency and types of crimes that … [Link]

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11 Sep 09:00

GoodRx.com

by mark

I recently needed to fill a particularly expensive prescription. The first pharmacy I visited, a big box retailer with a reputation for low prescription drug prices, quoted a price of $800.

A few moments later, I found the exact same prescription from a pharmacy just down the road for less than $300.

The market for prescription drugs in the US is ridiculously inefficient. Fortunately, companies like GoodRx.com are creating tools that can help you find the best prices online, making true price comparison fast and efficient.

GoodRx works by pulling in price feeds from most of the top pharmacy chains in the US, allowing you to search and sort by drug, delivery form, dosage, count, and pharmacy type. It’s trivial to compare prices for brand name vs. generic, and the website automatically sorts the results by price.

If you create an account on GoodRx.com, you can save searches for later reference, which is handy. Prices change daily, so it’s worth re-checking prices before refilling your prescriptions.

Once you find the best option, you can print out a “discount card” that contains GoodRx’s Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) information, so the pharmacist can find the GoodRx quoted price. (They’ll also mail you a card for your wallet if you request one.) Every time you fill a prescription using GoodRx’s group information, they make money via referral fees, so the service itself is free to use.

Out of curiosity, I had the pharmacy quote prices using the GoodRx rate vs. my major health insurance company’s negotiated group rate. GoodRx won by $150.

A quick search on GoodRx.com saved me over $500 in less than a minute. If you live in the US and need to fill a prescription, search here first.

– Josh Kaufman

GoodRx.com
Free

-- Josh Kaufman

GoodRx.com

24 Sep 09:00

Texas Fireframe Fireplace Grate

by mark
Kristen

Super neat "must have" if we have a fireplace some day!

The Texas Fireframe is the best way to burn ordinary logs in your ordinary fireplace (that is, no pellets, no gas, no installation, no electric fans) and not have most of the heat go up the chimney. Going by the catchphrase/slogan, “The Physicist’s Fire,” this improvement on the fireplace grate permits an arrangement of the logs that forces the heat into the room. In fact, I can put my hand into the fireplace over the fire and hold it there for thirty seconds or more, but I have to lean in from the side, because the heat coming into the room is so intense that I can’t stand directly in front of the fireplace.

Unfortunately for the manufacturer, this thing — made of cold steel — lasts practically forever. In fact, I’ve used the first and only Texas Fireframe I ever bought for over thirty years. Still works as well as it did the first winter I had it.

Check out the diagram of how it works at the website, and you’ll probably have an “Of course!” reaction. It’s definitely a cool tool.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.12.16 PM

-- Bob Leedom

Texas Fireframe
$95 to $215

Available from Texas Fireframe

19 Sep 12:00

What are some fictional books that feature realistic and healthy couples?

by Megan Finley
Kristen

Excellent resources and very timely

Untitled

Thanks to danielle for uploading this photo to our Offbeat Home Flickr pool

What are some fictional books to read about happy marriages? Stories that are fun and good to read, and also feature realistic and healthy couples.

The only one i can think of is The Time Traveler's Wife, which is slightly weird in the beginning.

-Artemis

We've talked about reading non-fiction books about marriage, and we've talked about reading non-religious books about marriage, so now let's talk about reading fiction books about marriage!

Here are some suggestions before I open it up to the Homies…

My hopeless romantic guy friend suggested, "Try something by Mike Gayle or Lisa Jewell. They always seem to write about couples who work it all out."

In Offbeat Bride's collaborative recommended reading list for books about marriage and relationships, there were two novels:

Your turn, Homies! What are some good books that feature realistic and healthy couples?

Recent Comments

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  • TashaB: This reminds me that I need to read "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" so that I can then watch … [Link]
  • Becky: I was going through this thread thinking about recommending this series, though not at all sure which relationships I would … [Link]
  • Jen D.: I don't want to be right, either! My fiance now knows the way to my heart is through occasionally affecting … [Link]
  • Bird: Oh and I just remembered the Catherine LeVendeur mysteries by Sharan Newman! 12th century ex-novice who (spoilers for the first … [Link]

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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

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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.

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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:

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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.

Recent Comments

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