Shared posts

17 May 00:44

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


All the delightful giggles at this one.








ah yes. my gender is blue with pink leg

so this is killing me cause my mind immediately thought.

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




I feel particularly close to this one:


I made a thing aswell.

So scandalous~

hello friends

14 May 15:00

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

by kellbot

Yes, please.

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

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

"How much can you bench?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Comments

  • Chrissie: I had no idea trainers like you existed! I would definitely prefer your style, firstly I have a few health … [Link]
  • QoB: Love that site, but it's not updated often enough :) I also recommend Go Kaleo. [Link]
  • kellbot: It's really different for everyone, depending on where you start from, what else you're doing health/fitnesswise, what your goals are, … [Link]
  • not a weakling, damnit: One of the more gratifying times in my exercise life was when my husband gave ME the jar to open. … [Link]
  • Leah: I want to get into lifting again (I try it off and on) since it's supposed to be good and … [Link]

+ 53 more! Join the discussion

08 May 15:54

Adventures in non-normative normativity.

by Robin Marie


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Jen


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


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

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

[standing] WOOTWOOOOT!!


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

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

A Feminist Love Story

by Kate

All the feels, all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click the photo for a link to the book on Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lockhorns comic strip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Not a real post, but still awesome

by thebloggess

Freaky man...

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

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

Or not.  Just a suggestion.

27 Jan 15:30

Use your words!

by Jan DeVry


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Art Roundup!

by Jen

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

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

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

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

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

FOUR DOLLARS. I mean, c'mon.

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

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

"Mermaid Pirate" 8X10 print, $11.99

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

I'm especially loving her Alice in Wonderland set:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C'mon. How awesome is this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

by Rebecca Pahle

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

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

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

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

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

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

(thanks to tipster Foxfire!)

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31 Dec 15:30

Feminist Movie Night

by wileyreading

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

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

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


RED DRAGON, Thriller


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

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

ALIEN, Science Fiction


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

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



Gimme gimme gimme a whale I can ride on.

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




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

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



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

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

WRECK-IT RalphAnimated Movie

“We’ll get some overarm lifters and four barrel quads, oh yeah.” “Keep talking, whoa, keep talking!”

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





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



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

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

PARIAH, Coming-of-Age


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

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

MATILDA, Children’s Movie



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



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

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

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

5 Ways to Help Your Loved One Through a Panic Attack

by Jen


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


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

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

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

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

1. Give them time.

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

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

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

3. Minimize external stimulation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 Dec 19:00

Why I Am Not Coming In To Work Today

by Jess Zimmerman

Dear employers,

I will have to take the day off today because:

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

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

☐ A dog looked at me

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

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

☐ Daylight savings time

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

☐ Girls are too pretty

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

☐ I accidentally listened to Leonard Cohen


I am submitting the following documentation:

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

☐ Trembling cupped hands full of rainwater

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

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

☐ A crumbling copy of my favorite novel from childhood

☐ The universe

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


I think I just need to:

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

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

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

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

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

☐ Get a drastic haircut

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

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


I will be back to work once:

☐ I can get out of this empty bathtub

☐ It is spring

☐ Someone gorgeous has brought me warm milk

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

☐ I have watched every episode of Key & Peele




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

18 Dec 18:00

The Only Professional Advice I Have Worth Giving

by Mallory Ortberg

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

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

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

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

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

05 Dec 20:00

Jaya Catches Up: So Many Ponies

by Jaya Saxena

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

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

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

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

Scan copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Oct 19:01

How to be an everyday poly (and solo) ally

by aggiesez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for poly and solo allies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Nov 18:30

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

by Cass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust: Like being a zombie, but less creepy

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

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

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

Recent Comments

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

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08 Nov 18:30

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

by Stephanie Kaloi

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

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

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

Baby stuff that isn't plastic

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

Plush organs: unusual yet delightful toddler-friendly gifts

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


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

For little nerds

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


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


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

Toddlers + Preschoolers

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

Tweens + Teens

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

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

Recent Comments

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

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02 Oct 22:31

Video Wednesday: Tiny Houses of DC

by WashingtonGardener

Tiny house love!

Last weekend I attended a tour of the Tiny Houses of DC. These are located at the colorfully named Boneyard Studios off of North Capitol Street and next to an historic cemetery. There are four "tiny" houses on the pie-shaped lot and also several fruit trees and garden beds. In this video, you will get a quick overview of the site and the basics of tiny houses. The simplicity movement has always fascinated me and I think many of us share that "on Walden Pond" fantasy, but being able to live in the city gives you (in theory) the best of both worlds. I encourage you to attend a tour yourself. They are offered monthly, are free, and take less than an hour.
25 Oct 15:20

apple slab pie

by deb

"I realize that if you’ve never been in an apple orchard in October, when you’ve escaped the city to find yourselves in a quiet grove as the leaves are just starting to turn and the sky is unimaginably blue and you’re wearing your first thick sweater of the season, it’s hard to imagine how one accidentally picks 25 pounds too many apples."


apple slab pie

In one of my favorite October traditions, we picked too many apples a few weekends ago. As in maybe perhaps 25 pounds more than we needed? It’s hard to gauge. I realize that if you’ve never been in an apple orchard in October, when you’ve escaped the city to find yourselves in a quiet grove as the leaves are just starting to turn and the sky is unimaginably blue and you’re wearing your first thick sweater of the season, it’s hard to imagine how one accidentally picks 25 pounds too many apples. But I bet if you’ve been there and felt that, how fun it is to pluck crisp, unblemished, unwaxed apples from trees and let the branches snap back and the leaves flutter droplets of last night’s rain over your face, you’ve probably gotten carried away too. I think picking too many apples in October is about as important of a tradition as burning food on a backyard grill over July 4th weekend and going through a whole jar of cinnamon every fall. It’s going to happen either way; it’s best to embrace it.

the galas had a bad year

But when we got back to our distinctly not-grove-sized apartment, we didn’t have anywhere to put them. So, we started with applesauce, eight pounds of it. We moved onto oatmeal cookie-ish crumbles (would you like the recipe?), which chipped away at a few pounds apiece, and then my son’s preschool was making something with apples and I was all “LET ME DONATE THEM PLEASE.” There were whole wheat apple muffins (which enlisted 2), then apple pancakes (another 2), and then we made more applesauce (4 pounds) and all of a sudden we had only 6 apples left and I was devastated, because I’d forgotten to make pie. Who forgets to make pie? Nobody you should be friends with.

apples, apples, everywhere

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08 Aug 15:14

strawberry, lime and black pepper popsicles

by deb

For John, the popsicle man. Love this idea!

strawberry-lime, black pepper

I had these popsicle molds for 14 months before using them once, yet in the weeks since I used them for the first time, I’ve made three other varieties and considered doing a 5-day week of posts here exclusively devoted to popsicle offerings. I’ve basically fallen down a popsicle rabbit hole so deep, now every time I see something that looks good, I think, I wonder how that would taste as a popsicle. (My family’s looking nervous around me, understandably.)

strawberries, hulled and quartered
macerating with sugar

So, what changed? First, I realized that they hold 1/3 cup each. One-third of a cup! Do you know how little that is? You could literally stuff it with the most indulgent Ben & Jerry’s and still come in under their suggested serving size, while eating something that felt generous. Not that we’re going to do that. Yet. I also realized that all of the headaches that most iced frozen desserts involve — egg yolk custards, buckets of leftover egg whites, freezer bowls, the churning of machines so loud and groaning that we used to (seriously) lock in the bathroom so we didn’t have to hear it, only to have another two hours of freezer time to go — do not exist in Popsicle Land, a magical place where all concoctions freeze perfectly and but six hours stand between you and your next indulgence-on-a-stick. Finally, seeing as we recently decided it would be a really good idea to buy a white carpet, I especially love that at least the ones I’ve been making aren’t terribly drippy. As they’re mostly fruit purees and other thick things, they don’t so much melt back to a watery state when someone (not naming names) takes an hour to finish one.

a brief simmer to further limpen them

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© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to strawberry, lime and black pepper popsicles | 149 comments to date | see more: Lime, Photo, Popsicles, Strawberries, Summer

24 Oct 06:30

Sometimes words actually do hurt me

by Skylar Fox

I, like many, was a child who was bullied. Constantly and for years. I had it harder than some, not as hard as others. I was never physically attacked (besides the occasional shove here and there), my experience was mostly bullying through insult and exclusion. And while having to deal with that was hard, what made it harder was the fact that no one was capable of supporting me effectively.

From one of my absolute favorite webcomics, xkcd

In my experience society tends to take a triage approach to bullying. Is someone acting physically violently toward you? We know how to handle that! There are lots of systems in place for dealing with it – not all ultimately positive – but we understand it on a fundamental level (hitting = bad) so we prioritize it. And rightfully so, physical violence is incredibly traumatic (sometimes fatally so) and, particularly for LGBTQ children and adults, an unconscionably common experience. Emotional violence, on the other hand, affects people in intensely personal ways, ways we can’t fully internalize because the experience is theirs. Combine that with a victim-blaming my-word-against-theirs culture and the social stigma of therapy and we get a system which dismisses and minimizes (and contributes to) the long-term emotional damage of non-physical bullying.

“Just ignore them and they’ll stop.”

Don’t take it personally.”

“They just don’t understand you.”

“It’s ok, we love you.”

Words can’t hurt you.

All of these aphorisms and more are so common and incredibly well-intentioned but not the least bit effective in actually providing support to someone in need of it. They don’t encourage the victim to identify and process the feelings of sadness and isolation and anger and confusion they feel. While said out of love and a desperate desire to help without the tools to do so, they don’t actually acknowledge our experiences or guide us in creating an identity that simultaneously incorporates and transcends those experiences.

Earlier this year a spoken word poem called “To This Day”, written and performed by Shane Koyczan and overlaid with contributions from over 80 visual artists, went viral and I was hesitant. So many Facebook comments about its power and truth. Subconsciously I didn’t know if I was ready to turn around and face that part of myself, the part that I’d suppressed so well for two decades. I’d moved on hadn’t I? I’ve created an identity and a life that I love. I’m at peace with my past and have moved on!

I found a private place and watched it.

I wept for 20 minutes.

I wept again when I re-watched it while writing this post.

(If you have a little extra time I recommend Shane’s TEDTalk which includes the poem above and more thoughts[1])

I cried because someone had finally acknowledged all of my experiences and feelings. I cried because I finally felt inclusion. I felt respect. I felt grief. I felt relief. I felt joy. I felt overwhelming pain and overwhelming love.

For the first time in my life, really, I FELT.

I cried because just that simple act of acknowledgement, after such a long time, revealed to me just how profoundly and deeply I was affected by my experiences. How that fundamentally informed how I related to myself and the people around me, how I approached relationships, and even how I perceived my own personal value.

At that moment I found opened a flood gate of self-awareness that I didn’t even know was closed. I almost immediately began relating to everything and everyone in new and more engaged and complete ways that are beautiful and satisfying. At the same time I felt sad that it took me until I was almost 30 to have these realizations. That, if it weren’t for a viral YouTube video I may never have processed those feelings.

We spend a lot of time deconstructing and postulating about the “why” of bullies themselves. What is their home life like? What is the source of their anger? … And those are incredibly important questions to address, but at the same time let’s also ask their victims how they are affected. How they feel and how they’d like to be supported. How they perceive themselves and their relationships as a result of their experiences. Let’s acknowledge and respect their struggle and provide guidance for creating an intentional identity.

Sticks and stones never broke my bones but words…

they hurt me for decades to come.

Please respect their power.

[1] The “To This Day Project” also has a website here with links to bullying and support resources along with the video, a transcription of the poem, animator contributions, and even an app.

Filed under: Communication, Harassment, Mental Health, Parenting, Poetry, Relationships Tagged: Bullying, Shane Koyczan, support
11 Oct 01:26

I’m detecting a foul odor coming from your general direction.

by Kerry

The best part of this is the "countdown timer of farts"

Basic hygiene: Sadly, one of those things that some people make it to college without learning…until they end up with a bio major for a roommate.

I'm detecting foul body odor coming from your bed sheets and closet. Due to the humidity, age, and overall neglect of the Howell building, there are a lot of bacteria and they function at a significantly higher rate than in most other structures. The bacteria feed on human excretions and other easy food sources. These are but are not limited to sebaceous and apocrine gland secretions, actual food, fecal residues from farting, etc. As you may or may not be aware of, the bacteria that metabolizing these substances are odor causing. Since we are paying in excess of $2000.00 for these rooms per semester, cooperation to ensure a livable room and satisfactory cohabitation is a very high priority. I pay out-of-pocket by myself, so I'm resentful that the room almost always falls short in cleanliness in appearance or odor. This smell is not from room humidity, end of story. To remedy this problem, take the following steps...

related: This room is protected by the Constitution!

18 Oct 15:30

How can an introverted couple cohabit with another couple?

by Offbeat Editors

Fascinating and related to intentional community.

Could we all live together in one townhouse? (Photo by: Taber Andrew BainCC BY 2.0)

My husband, our two closest friends (who are married to each other), and I all live in an apartment building that has recently been purchased by an Evil Property Management Company. We aren't bound by a long-term lease, so we're considering moving out — all four of us together.

Since we have loved the community we have created living in the same building (we do a lot together, including having dinner together once per week), we've started discussing the possibility of renting a townhouse together, and living in closer community.

All of us have lived in some degree of community before, and had some combination of good and bad experiences with it, so we want to make sure we don't fall into a dysfunctional roommate dynamic. Also, we're all introverts to a greater or lesser degree, so we need to make sure we protect alone time. Has anyone else lived as a couple with another couple, or been an introvert living in intentional community? What made it work? What made it hard? -Sylvia

Recent Comments

  • Sara B: I'd be really interested in hearing more about this as you all move in together and negotiate living together. … [Link]
  • Colleen: I love the cohabiting couples/intentional and/or unintentional community posts pop up. Like most people above, my girlfriend and I live … [Link]
  • Sylvia: The duplex is the Someday Plan — kind of like the motel is your Someday Plan. Before our apartment … [Link]
  • Brigitte: I'm seriously planning, one day, to buy a motel and turn it into a little intentional community space. I like … [Link]
  • Brigitte: Once I tossed my roommate (who was reading a book) the video game controller and turned on the TV for … [Link]

+ 14 more! Join the discussion

15 Aug 11:50

Want your kids to play outside? Rip out the lawn! by Garden Rant

by Garden Rant

YES!!! Down to the lawn!

Pam's kids loved their lawnless front yard.

Pam’s kids loved their lawnless front yard.

Guest Rant by Pam Penick

Lawns are for kids, right? After all, they need that big, green carpet to enjoy the outdoors. Would it be an exaggeration to say it borders on neglect not to keep a lawn for your children or grandchildren to play on?

Some people think so. In a recent article in the New York Times about drought-prone cities paying homeowners to rip out water-hogging lawns, one critic implied that families should keep their lawns for their children’s sake. “It’s getting to the point where kids live in apartments, and they don’t even see grass, except in magazines,” a Los Angeles mother was quoted as saying, vowing to keep her emerald turf. I hear this a lot: kids need lawns so they can go outside and play.

As a mother of two, a garden designer who works with plenty of young families, and a former kid myself, I think that’s hogwash.

The sad truth is that most kids hardly set foot in their own yards today thanks to the indoor lure of video games, texting, Instagram, and whatever the latest cool app is. Sure, kids still play a lot of sports, but these activities are scheduled on school and municipal fields. They’re not the casual pickup games with the neighbors’ kids in the front yard that some of us remember. Heck, kids aren’t even at home that much these days. After school they’re at piano practice, karate lessons, and tutoring sessions. If the family lawn is meant to entice kids outdoors, it’s clearly not working.

The bad news, much lamented by wellness experts over the past decade, is that kids are spending less time than ever in nature.

The good news is that means the yard is yours! Even you young parents can feel justified in ripping out the lawn and remaking your yard to your gardener’s heart’s content.

The really good news is that doing so can actually make your yard more enticing to your kids than a lawn ever could.

Here’s why. Kids like big rocks to climb on. They like bushes to hide under. They like trees to climb. They like water to splash in. They love trying to catch lizards and holding out a sweaty hand to see if a passing butterfly will land for a moment. They love riding trikes and scooters on circuitous routes through a garden, the junglier the better. They like digging in dirt.

I remember as a kid my favorite spot in my big, suburban back yard was the woodpile stacked between two trees, which my friends and I, caped like superheroes, climbed onto and pretended was the Bat Cave. The lawn was of no interest to us. Next door lived the luckiest kids in the world, or so it seemed to me, because the recent construction of their home had left a 6-foot mound of lumpy soil, overgrown with weeds, which was perfect for creeping up commando-style and spying on grownups from the high, secret perch. When we moved a few years later to a house in an established, more landscaped neighborhood, I loved to hang out in the woodsy, overgrown area at the back of the yard, not the open lawn. During the mild South Carolina winter my sister and I raided our garden’s pine trees and Camellia sasanqua hedge to make tiny bark boats adorned with frilly, pink blossoms, and floated them on the waterlogged cover of the pool.

My own kids, when they were little, confirmed my memories of what children find to be fun. They loved scampering on boulders at the local park, leaping from rock to rock. They barreled around our lawnless front garden on their scooters, cruising the garden paths that I’d paved with ramps rather than steps, ducking under overhanging branches and crazily skirting my planting beds as I hollered, “Watch out!”

They taught me, and I remembered from experience, that the best yard you can create for your kids is one that they can explore. An expanse of lawn gives you no reason to step outside and see what’s going on. You can see everything there is to see from the window. But a garden! A garden beckons and entices. Flowers and seeds attract all manner of entertaining and beautiful birds and insects. Leafy plants offer touchable texture and help hide parts of the garden from view, making even a short garden stroll an adventure: what new bloom or butterfly will appear around the bend? And, if you like, a small lawn fits quite nicely into such a space, offering a restful spot for the eye and the body – and even a game of catch.

So I say to those who reject the idea of a no-lawn yard as detrimental to children, think again. Unless your children are playing on that lawn regularly, you could transform your yard from a lawn desert into a diverse, interesting, enticing place of discovery for your whole family to enjoy, and likely conserve water and create wildlife habitat in the process. When you think about it that way, a lawn is depriving your children of experiences with nature that they’re unlikely to get elsewhere.

But don’t worry – it’s an easy fix. Just get out the shovel and start digging. Find a few extra shovels, tell the kids it’s OK to get dirty, and they may even join you.lawngone

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Whether you’re ripping out your lawn for you or your kids, you may be interested in my book Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, which I wrote for beginning gardeners and anyone concerned about the environmental costs of maintaining a lawn. Filled with how-to information, design ideas, plant suggestions, and plenty of inspirational photographs, it’ll show you how rewarding a lawnless or less-lawn garden can be.

How to enter? Just leave a comment on this post; one comment per person, please. Entries close at 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, August 21. Winner must reside in the U.S.

Pam Penick is a garden designer in Austin, TX and blogs at Digging.

Want your kids to play outside? Rip out the lawn! originally appeared on Garden Rant on August 15, 2013.

17 Oct 14:30

The Girl Who Loved Too Much: A Fairy Tale

by Jan DeVry

Too beautiful not to share. Too honest, and sweet. And some parts are too familiar.

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved too much.

Too much to be “normal,” that is. As a child, she made “little while friends” on vacation and floated between cliques, welcome in all but never really one of them. Sometimes she was part of a group of three or four girls, but she never had a “best” friend – or if she did, it didn’t matter if the best friend had another friend who was best to them. When she was friends with someone, though, she meant it, and was generous and helpful and loyal. And she was all right by herself, sneaking off at recess with a library book to see her friends within the pages.

The girl who loved too much grew up, and started noticing boys. One day the boy she liked called her, asked her to work on a project for the school play with him. He was older, and had a girlfriend, but it was nice just to talk to him and create something together. It was enough, to just feel the warmth and happiness that came from love. She almost wanted to keep him at a distance, so that nothing would happen to the love.

The boy graduated; the girl’s parents moved away. In the new city was a new boy, who played the upright bass with his arms wrapped around it like a lover. She was jealous of that bass. What a silly feeling, jealousy! As though arms could be used to hold only one thing; as if he were supposed to stop making that wonderful music just because she was there now. Eventually, he did wrap his arms around her, and the warmth returned, and this time she didn’t have to hold him at a distance. They explored each other’s bodies together, silently, and for the first time there was a bit of pain, but still the feeling of love, and it was wonderful.

The boy graduated, went to college, got a new college girlfriend. The girl who loved too much was sad that he couldn’t just tell the new girlfriend about her, so they could keep having sex on his visits home. She wouldn’t have minded sharing him. But she knew that you just couldn’t ask about these things.

The girl graduated, went to college, got a new college boyfriend. She went home for the summer without telling him how she was feeling, because you just don’t talk about these things, especially with the person you’re having the feelings about. The girl who loved too much met an old friend, also home for the summer, and for some reason he smelled good and she wanted to rub her face against the stubble on his chin. And the fact that she was nominally already dating someone just seemed like such a small thing, not worth losing this opportunity for. But after a couple of glorious months of sex in the woods and on the sun-warmed pebbles of a pocket beach, taking walks with his dog and having him over-tip for coffee at the place she worked, it started to feel silly that she wasn’t telling her boyfriend about this great, positive love that was blessing her summer. It would have been so easy to hide, and lie, but it didn’t seem important enough to lie about. So she told him, on the phone late one night. And he flipped. It was horrible and blamey and there was shouting and the words “I love you” used in hatred and manipulation, when before there had just been two people making each other feel good. There were promises never to do it again.

She did it again, only this time she didn’t tell. There were just too many wonderful people with which to fall to sleep in a sweaty tangle of naked limbs. But the yelling and the manipulation still got worse, and it was a huge relief when they broke up, making the secret she had been holding meaningless. Still. She didn’t think of herself as a bad person, but this was what bad people did – not choosing one person to love. And despite the fact that she had just spent several months making love to people who knew they weren’t the only one, she didn’t know anyone other than herself who was doing this, so it must be impossible to do in the real world, in the light of day, with real love.

Jeffrey Alan Love polyamory

The girl who loved too much made a friend, one friend, one girl friend, with piercings and invisible scars and sarcasm and experience, who introduced her to the online oracle for freaks in the back of the alt weekly with the sex worker ads. And Dan Savage said the magic words: ethical non-monogamy. There are people doing it. There are people who will be open to it if you ask them for it. There are people who don’t want to do it, and if you do, they’re the wrong people for you anyway. Forget them. Find the ones who will love this part of you, with radical honesty. Find the ones who, like you, realize that what we’re told about relationships is completely dysfunctional, and every aspect of every relationship must be negotiated on its own terms. Realize that the most important people to me may not be the sweaty tangle of naked limbs people, but the friend people. Love is what you make of it.

Armed with Dan Savage’s magic words, the girl who loved too much made her way out into the world. Many people came through her life; sometimes the magic words didn’t work and people heard “easy meaningless sex” when she thought she was saying “radical redefinition of patriarchal structures.” Still, it gave her the courage to ask for what she wanted, and leave if she wasn’t getting it, knowing that she was and would always be her own person, and there would be more people to love. Sometimes what people thought the magic words meant was “sure, sex with other people, but those relationships will be less than ours, and here are a bunch of hoops you must jump through to prove that to me.” The girl who loved too much tried that a couple times, but she never got the satisfaction out of them she thought she would, and quickly took them back. There was just no way that every situation could be covered with a rule. You had to just talk about what would work for you. One time a boy she loved made a rule: of “I want you to tell me about dates before you go on them.” Another boy asked her to get together, as a friend, but she wasn’t sure and wanted to make sure she wasn’t breaking the rule, so she told the boy she loved that it was a date. And she treated it like a date, and that made the friend look at her in a different way, so the second time he asked her to get together, it was a date. That, she thought, is what rules do. If you trust someone, you don’t need rules. If you don’t, it won’t matter if you have them.


But overall Dan Savage’s magic words worked, only they weren’t Dan’s any more, they were hers. She found people who were using the same words, and even if they meant slightly different things they could still talk to one another. They were good at talking. Love got even better through talking, except when it didn’t. Words were painful, sometimes, but still better than silently trying to guess a person’s intentions and feelings, through the spending of money and the returning of phone calls. She couldn’t go back to loving only one person, and the people who wanted that usually lost interest right away. She couldn’t rely on one person to meet all her needs and fulfill all of theirs – it was clear no love could survive that. She didn’t want to compromise. She didn’t want to act out the charade of ownership invented when women were only slightly more valuable than cattle. She didn’t want to look for a missing half; she wanted to be one whole person, held aloft in a web of love, holding others in turn. And society said that she loved too much, and would run out one day, but to her, the more she loved, the more she could love.

And she lived, relatively happily, for a while longer. It’s hard to say how the story will end; she’s making it up as she goes along.

With apologies to A Softer World

With apologies to A Softer World

Filed under: Relationships, Sexuality Tagged: personal histories, polyamory
08 Oct 01:02

My Introduction To Rape Culture

by Charlie Glickman

I remember exactly when I first understood what “rape culture” meant.

I was nineteen and a sophomore in college. I was talking with a woman I knew about gender and sexual politics, and I just wasn’t getting it. She was describing what it was like for her to move through the world as a woman, to be constantly under sexual surveillance, to always be worried about whether some guy would harass or attack her, to never know if she could walk down the street without getting cat called. This was pretty foreign to me, because I’d never seen any of this happening.

Partly, that was because I’d never really fit in with most other boys and I didn’t understand how the performance of masculinity encourages boys and men to compete with each other to demonstrate their manhood. I simply didn’t play those games. But more than that, it was because men don’t do the same things when they see a woman with a man. I had no idea that women’s experiences walking down the street were so different when I wasn’t there.

So my friend gave me a challenge that changed my life. She offered to walk down the street on a weekend night and allow me to walk behind her so I could see what happened. I took her up on it and the next Friday night, out we went. She was dressed in pretty standard “going out” clothes and we headed out to the strip of stores, bars, and restaurants that most college campuses seem to have within walking distance. I stayed about twenty feet behind her- close enough to observe without seeming like we were together. And I was shocked at what I saw.

Individual guys whispered or made comments about her as she passed them. They’d ask her where she was going or simply turn and stare at her ass. Groups of guys were worse, though. I could see them checking her out and talking to each other about her body and appearance. A few times, one guy in a group would say something and the rest of them would laugh while staring at her. And twice, one guy said something, followed by another guy escalating either the volume or the message, with another dude chiming in. I could see them all competing with each other to be the most macho, not caring that their games were at the cost of my friend’s feelings of safety.

It was an eye-opening experience for me. It was the first glimpse I got at the crap that women have to put up with, simply for moving through the world. I started paying attention to it more and thought about how I would feel if I couldn’t go anywhere in public without having to think about getting harassed, how I would feel if I couldn’t feel safe walking down the street. If a picture is worth a thousand words, getting to see this for myself was worth so much more.

Over time, I came to see that I needed to do more about this than simply not participate in it myself. In my workshops on sexuality, masculinity, and gender, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and backgrounds about these topics. And one pattern that consistently shows up is that there are a lot of cisgender men who act like this without realizing the impact it has. Many of them are so surrounded by the Act Like a Man Box that they see it as totally normal. Some of them would like to break out of it, but they don’t know how and don’t have the support to do it. And a lot of them are scared to change because other people will attack and shame them back into the box. It’s not just men who reinforce this prison.

I also started to understand the connections between street harassment and sexual assault. One of the common threads is the belief that one person’s desires for sex, sexual attention, or validation as a man outweighs another person’s autonomy, safety, and consent. Another is that very few folks are actually teaching boys and young men about respect. Most of the conversations that I’ve seen center on shaming them without giving them the skills they need to navigate relationships. What if we could actually talk with boys about how to ask for sex, or ways to flirt without being creepy? I know some parents who are doing this, but the “boys will be boys” attitude is still common. Just as most people shy away from talking with girls about these issues out of discomfort with addressing adolescent female sexuality, we also avoid looking at adolescent male sexuality with any clarity. So is it any surprise that people grow up confused about relationships? Is it all that shocking that many of my coaching clients struggle with these same issues as adults?

I’m deeply grateful to my friend for showing me what rape culture is about. For helping me understand that the world she moved through was so different from the one I moved through. For making it possible for me to take my first steps towards understanding what she and other women deal with every day. If you’re a cisgender man, I really encourage you to ask a friend if she’d be willing to do this experiment with you. Trust me. It’ll change your life.

The post, My Introduction To Rape Culture, is from Charlie Glickman's website.
09 Oct 15:38

How to Take Coleus Cuttings and Over-Winter Your Coleus

by WashingtonGardener

Washington Gardener Magazine ( shows you how to over-winter your coleus plants by taking cuttings from them and rooting them in water.

I posted this two years ago, but somehow it never made it onto our main Youtube channel.

My cat, Santino, was a BIG help filming this one. Because he would get out of the shots, I worked him into the video. I think a star is born!
23 Sep 10:45

The Science of Stress, Orgasm and Creativity: How the Brain and the Vagina Conspire in Consciousness

by Maria Popova

NSFW images and language.

Absolutely fascinating about the biological changes in the body when women are stressed, assaulted, or exist in stressful environments.

“To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially, part of the female soul.”

“The more closely we analyze what we consider ‘sexy,’” philosopher Alain de Botton argued in his meditation on sex, “the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human being who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.” But in his attempt to counter the reductionism that frames human sexuality as a mere physiological phenomenon driven solely by our evolutionary biology, de Botton overcompensates by reducing in the opposite direction, negating the complex interplay of brain and biology, psychology and physiology, that propels the human sexual experience. That’s precisely what Naomi Wolf, author of the 1991 cultural classic The Beauty Myth, examines in Vagina: A New Biography (public library) — a fascinating exploration of the science behind the vastly misunderstood mind-body connection between brain and genitalia, consciousness and sexuality, the poetic and the scientific. What emerges is a revelation of how profoundly a woman’s bodily experience influences nearly every aspect of life, from stress to creativity, through the intricate machinery that links biology and beingness.

Wolf writes:

Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality, or just about pleasure. It serves, also, as a medium of female self-knowledge and hopefulness; female creativity and courage; female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom. To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially, part of the female soul.


Once one understands what scientists at the most advanced laboratories and clinics around the world are confirming — that the vagina and the brain are essentially one network, or “one whole system,” as they tend to put it, and that the vagina mediates female confidence, creativity, and sense of transcendence — the answers to many of these seeming mysteries fall into place.

Handcrafted vagina embroidery by artist Kira Scarlet

A pivotal player in this mediation is the female pelvic nerve — a sort of information superhighway that branches out from the base of the spinal cord to the cervix, connecting the latter to the brain and thus controlling much of sexual response. But this information superhighway is really more like a superlabyrinth, the architecture of which differs enormously from one woman to another, and is completely unique for each one. This diversity of wiring in the highly complex female pelvic neural network helps explain why women have wildly different triggers for orgasm. (By contrast, the male pelvic neural network is significantly simpler, consisting of comparatively regular neural pathways arranged neatly in a grid that surrounds the penis in a circle of pleasure.) This biological reality, Wolf points out, clashes jarringly with the dominant culturally constructed fantasy of how sexual intercourse is supposed to proceed:

The pornographic model of intercourse — even our culture’s conventional model of intercourse, which is quick, goal-oriented, linear, and focused on stimulation of perhaps one or two areas of a woman’s body — is just not going to do it for many women, or at least not in a very profound way, because it involves such a superficial part of the potential of women’s neurological sexual response systems.

Embroidery from the series 'Lessons from My Mother' by artist Andrea Dezsö

Another key component of sexual experience is the autonomic nervous system (ANS) — the puppeteer of arousal, controlling all smooth muscle contractions and affecting the body’s response beyond conscious control. It encompasses both the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions, and ensures they work in unison. Because arousal precedes orgasm, the ANS first needs to do its own work before the complex pelvic neural network can work its own magic. Wolf writes:

For women, sexual response involves entering an altered state of consciousness. … In women, the biology of arousal is more delicate than most of us understand, and it depends significantly on this sensitive, magical, slowly calmed, and easily inhibited system.

To be sure, Wolf reminds us that it’s not at all uncommon for women to have a physiological response during rape, despite the enormous psychological pain and stress of the assault, but this response is not the same as the transcendent, dimensional orgasm that takes place when brain and body work in harmonious bliss. This also holds true in sexual situations that aren’t as violent as rape but still assault the ANS in one way or another:

If a woman’s ANS response is ignored, she can have intercourse and even climax; but she won’t necessarily feel released, transported, fulfilled, or in love, because only a superficial part of her capacity to respond has been made love to, or engaged.

In fact, the most fascinating aspect of the ANS, absolutely critical yet poorly understood, is that it is profoundly impacted by the mental landscape, steering the immutable interdependence between brain and vagina. The ANS, which serves as the translator between the psychological and the physiological, is thus particularly vulnerable to what psychologists call “bad stress.” (By contrast, the “good stress” many women experience in exciting or mock-dangerous sexual scenarios which they still control can be compelling and pleasurable.) “Bad stress” stems from the perceived lack of safety, and the presence of safety is absolutely essential to catapulting the female brain into the kind of “high” orgasm that is only possible in this disinhibited trance state. Wolf explains:

This biological, evolutionary connection for women of possible ecstasy to emotional security has implications that cannot be overstressed. Relaxing allows for female arousal.

Just as being valued and relaxed can heighten female sexual response, “bad stress” can dramatically interfere with all of women’s sexual processes.


“Bad stress,” researchers have now abundantly confirmed, has exactly the same kind of negative effect on female arousal and on the vagina itself. When a woman feels threatened or unsafe, the sympathetic nervous system — the parasympathetic nervous system’s partner in the ANS — kicks in. This system regulates the “fight or flight” response: as adrenaline and catecholamines are released in the brain, nonessential systems such as digestion and, yes, sexual response, close down; circulation constricts, because the heart needs all the blood available to help the body run or fight; and the message to the body is “get me out of here.” Based on [research insights], we now know that threatening environment — which can include even vague verbal threats centered on the vagina or dismissive language about the vagina — can close down female sexual response.

This notion that biology conditions consciousness and vice versa, of course, isn’t new. But the research Wolf cites presents compelling evidence that “bad stress,” especially rape and early sexual trauma, can have profound biological effects:

There is growing, if still preliminary, evidence that rape and early sexual trauma can indeed “stay in the body” — even stay in the vagina — and change the body on the most intimate, systemic level. Recovery is possible, but treatment should be specialized. Rape and early sex abuse can indeed permanently change the working of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) — so crucial for female arousal; and, if she is not supported by the right treatment, it can permanently alter the way a woman breathes, the rate of her heart, her blood pressure, and her startle reaction, in a manner that is not under any conscious control.

Even more strikingly, some studies have found that elevated SNS activation is linked to a variety of health hazards seemingly unrelated to sexual trauma, including vertigo, motor control and balance issues, visual processing problems, and elevated startle response. In other words, sexual abuse alters the brain in a way that sabotages multiple body systems and damages healthy stress response. Wolf recapitulates the implications poignantly:

Understood in this way, and with this significant evidence, rape and sexual assault, with their attendant trauma, should be understood not just as a form of forced sex; they should also be understood as a form of injury to the brain and body, and even as a variant of castration.

Demonstrating just how strong the connection between mind and body is, Korean researchers discovered that stress and sexual trauma actually affect, on a biological level, the very functioning of the vagina. Studying female rats, they found that “chronic physical stress modifies [sexual behavior] through a mechanism believed to involve complex changes in sex hormones, endocrine factors, and neurotransmitters.” What’s more, they were able to identify the precise biological mechanism responsible for this deep-seated interplay:

Evidently nitric oxide (NO) and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) play important roles in vaginal and clitoral engorgement — helping the smooth muscle of the vagina relax and the vaginal tissues swell in preparation for arousal and orgasm — and these chemicals and their actions are inhibited when females are negatively stressed.

The researchers found that the stressed-out female rats were less receptive and more hostile to their male partners, displaying measurable aggression and irritability, and ultimately refusing to copulate. Stress, it turns out, diminished the female rats’ ability to reach arousal by greatly impairing their genital blood flow. The scientists concluded:

In animal model studies, mental or physical stress increases the level of serum catecholamines, thereby causing vascular contraction, which in turn reduces blood flow and leads to sexual dysfunction. . . . Since stress is concomitant with an increased output of catecholamines in blood . . . it is reasonable to assume that blood flow to the genital organs reduces during periods of stress. . . . [W]e measured norepinephrine as an indirect index of catecholamine level and found that it increased in the stress group and decreased in the recovery group. This result indirectly supports the suggestion that stress affects female genital blood flow.

Most ominous of all was the projection that if such stress levels were sustained over time, the physiological changes they cause would eventually affect the vaginal tissue itself. Indeed, researchers tested those tissues after the female rats were dead and found “biologically measurable changes.”

Women, of course, are not rats, but this only means that the effects of such stress are even more profound. Wolf argues that besides impairing women’s ability to reach orgasm, “bad stress” also affects the overall capacity for joy, hopefulness, and creativity. Unlike rats, humans are also susceptible to forms of abuse beyond the physical — Wolf cites the tragically prevalent cultural tendency to deride the vagina and its owner, embedded even in the slang we have for female genitalia. She writes:

The role of manipulating female stress in targeting the vagina should not be ignored. This behavior—ridiculing the vagina—makes perfect instinctive sense. These acts are often impersonal and tactical—strategies for directing a kind of pressure at women that is not consciously understood but may be widely intuited, and even survive in folk memory, as eliciting a wider neuropsychological “bad stress” response that actually debilitates women.

She cites one particularly unsettling example:

In 2010, male Yale students gathered at a “Take Back the Night” event, where their female classmates were marching in a group, protesting against sexual assault. The young men chanted at the protesters, “No means yes and yes means anal.” Some of the young women brought a lawsuit against the university, arguing that tolerating such behavior created an unequal educational environment. Ethically they are in the right, and neurobiologically they are right as well. Almost all young women who face a group of their male peers chanting such slogans are likely to feel instinctively slightly panicked. On some level they are getting the message that they may be in the presence of would-be rapists — making it impossible to shrug off immature comments, as women are often asked to do. They sense there is a wider risk to them that is being threatened, and indeed there is, but it is not just the risk of sexual assault. If they are stressed regularly in this way, they will indeed depress the whole subtle and delicate network of neurobiological triggers and reactions that make them feel good, happy, competent, and as if they know themselves.

One study termed the complex and lasting effects of such stress, an increasingly recognizable medical pattern, “multisystem dysfunction” — and it can effect such a wide array of physical health issues as higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, hormonal imbalances, and fertility problems. But the most damaging consequences of these physical changes, Wolf argues, are cognitive and psychoemotional:

The female body reacts in the same way to “bad stress” whether the context is the birthing room or the university or the workplace. If the female brain senses that an environment is not safe, its stress response inhibits all the same organs and systems, regardless of setting. Many of the signals that either stoke or diminish female desire have to do with the female brain’s question: Is it safe for her?

So if a woman goes to work or to study in a sexually dangerous or threatening atmosphere day after day, she risks — because of the cumulative, long-term effect of that “bad stress” — having the letting-go, creative “relaxation response” inhibited even outside her work or school environment.


If you sexually stress a woman enough, over time, other parts of her life are likely to go awry; she will have difficulty relaxing in bed eventually, as well as in the classroom or in the office. This in turn will inhibit the dopamine boost she might otherwise receive, which would in turn prevent the release of the chemicals in her brain that otherwise would make her confident, creative, hopeful, focused — and effective, especially relevant if she is competing academically or professionally with you. With this dynamic in mind, the phrase “fuck her up” takes on new meaning.


The vagina responds to the sense of female safety, in that circulation expands, including to the vagina, when a woman feels she is safe; but the blood vessels to the vagina constrict when she feels threatened. This may happen before the woman consciously interprets her setting as threatening. So if you continually verbally threaten or demean the vagina in the university or in the workplace, you continually signal to the woman’s brain and body that she is not safe. “Bad” stress is daily raising her heart rate, pumping adrenaline through her system, circulating catecholamines, and so on. This verbal abuse actually makes it more difficult for her to attend to the professional or academic tasks before her.

Cartoon by Emily Flake from 'The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the Ifs, Ands & Buts of Feminism.' Click image for more.

Yet despite the compelling scientific evidence, the most moving and encompassing point Wolf makes is an anthropological one:

The way in which any given culture treats the vagina — whether with respect or disrespect, caringly or disparagingly — is a metaphor for how women in general in that place and time are treated.

Vagina: A New Biography is absolutely fascinating in its entirety. For a less scientific but no less pause-giving take, complement it with The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the Ifs, Ands & Buts of Feminism, then revisit Susan Sontag on sex.

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08 Oct 19:10

Gutsy Talk About Anxiety

by Jen
Trigger Advisory Warning: While I don't think this post is very triggering, I do discuss managing anxiety & some of its general causes, so please proceed with caution.

Yesterday I finished a Buzzfeed roundup of 24 comics about anxiety, and then I started worrying that maybe I don't really HAVE anxiety, because almost none of them seem familiar to my own experience at all, but then I thought maybe being anxious over whether you're really anxious or not is one of those paradox deals that cancels itself out. Or... something.

Even so, it still seems most of the comics I've seen online (and it's weird to describe them as "comics," given the subject matter) describe a kind of social anxiety I don't generally feel. In fact, the only common experience I found in that roundup was all the physical symptoms:

(Although they left out the near-certainty of impending death - that's a big one.)

And the difficulty in getting non-sufferers to understand my limitations:

So now I'm curious: tell me, fellow anxiety peeps, are you mostly only afflicted in social situations, or while thinking about social situations? You know, parties, group interaction, self-doubt, over-analyzing past conversations, that kind of thing? Or basically everything described in that roundup?

Because me, I seem to be struck by panic more from excessive stimulation (like watching a movie in the theater), situations I can't easily and immediately escape from (Disney rides, public transportation), or  - though incredibly rare these days - random no-reason-whatsoevers while I'm relaxing at home (sudden heart palpitations.) I guess you could say my anxiety isn't very people-oriented, while it seems from these comics most other peoples' anxiety is.

I do tend to over-think things, I guess, and I dislike parties as much as the next introvert, but I never associated any of that with anxiety before - maybe because my "over-thinking sessions" have never led to a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. (And why do I feel like I should knock on wood right now? Ha!)

There is no "better" or "worse" form of anxiety, of course, so please don't think I'm trying to qualify it in any way. I'm just genuinely curious if social anxiety is really the most common, or if maybe it's just the most easily identified - and easiest to identify with, since I'd guess we've all experienced bouts of self-doubt and awkward social situations and whatnot, even if not to the extreme degree other anxiety-sufferers do.

And while we're on the subject, I've been wanting to share this ABC News article Felicia Day tweeted ever since I got back. Apparently some studies have found a (perhaps tenous) link between mental health disorders - like anxiety - and your gut health, which strongly correlates with my own experience. Often times anxiety and GI problems are a chicken-or-the-egg thing, with most people assuming the anxiety comes first. In my experience, though, the GI issues did, since I was first diagnosed with a "nervous stomach" in my pre-teens, followed by everything from mild ulcers to GERD to IBS since, but I only started having panic attacks - literally overnight - about six years ago.

I've been managing my anxiety pretty well these last two years by avoiding triggers, regular trips to the chiropractor, and a little mental jujutsu I picked up from the book Hope and Help for Your Nerves. Even so, I'm fascinated by the possibility of a gut connection.

Plus, the reason I'm so excited about sharing that article with you guys is because the potential "fix" is ridiculously easy, and good for you either way: just take a daily high-quality probiotic.

I'd been taking cheap probiotics from Wal-Mart for a while - the ones with only a single type of whatsits in them -  but since reading that article I switched to the nicer, more expensive blends (I change brands every month), which have made a noticeable difference for my gut, at least.

(Keep in mind I have almost every stomach problem imaginable, though, so unless you're uncomfortable most days the change might not be as dramatic for you. I've also taken up veggie juicing a few times a week, which I'm sure could also be helping. And even then I'm still often in pain, because my stomach really is the devil.)

As for my anxiety, well, since I was already doing pretty well I can't say for sure if this is helping. I've been paying closer attention, though, and have noticed several seemingly direct connections between that general anxious unease and extra-bad GI days. (Suffice to say that once the spirit moves, the spirit immediately feels MUCH better.)

So, yeah, I think I'll be staying on the nicer probiotics. It would be wonderful if this was the final piece in managing my anxiety puzzle, but of course only time will tell. (Not to mention having a GI track that isn't actively seeking my demise would be a nice side-benefit.)

SO, while you guys are telling me if you're anxious more about social situations or more stimulation-and-escape-centric like me, could you also tell me about your guts? :D Again, I'm just curious here, but it'd be nice to know if anyone else out there is a similar basketcase of happy funtimes.

Oh, and are any of you gluten intolerant? And if so, did cutting gluten help your anxiety? I've heard that could be key, but darned if I have the self-will to try the diet for long enough to tell if it helps. :/ (I do realize I have most of the symptoms for it, yes. BUT GOSH DARN IT I LIKE MY OREOS.) If I hear enough success stories, though, that MIGHT convince me to try again. Maybe. Possibly.

Ok, I've yammered on long enough. Your turn.
04 Oct 12:17

The Shutdown Hits Home by James Roush

by James Roush

Really? I mean, this was your last straw? That the website was down? Don't even get me started about your feelings on the WWII memorial....

Friends, in his own opinion, ProfessorRoush has done an exceptional job at Garden Musings, avoiding any mention of politics here over the now 3+ years I’ve blogged. Only those who know my tendency to rant over seemingly minute issues can fathom what a struggle that has been, but I’m going to make an exception today. The dam has broken. The Rubicon has been crossed. The …. oh, you know what I mean.

Last night, I was at a Riley County Extension Board meeting and the local horticultural agent reported that he and the ag agent had recently seen a new “weed,” Tragia sp. and had visited the plant experts at K-State to identify it. Now, Tragia, also known as NoseBurn, is not new, since two species have been reported in Kansas, but it’s fairly rare and I hadn’t seen it before either. In fact, it’s not described at, my go-to Kansas native plant site. So I pulled out my iPhone and went to, where, to my surprise, I received the following message:


My Fellow Gardeners, that is way beyond absolutely ridiculous. This is the ultimate evidence that the bureaucrats are playing games. I’m in a fortunate place in my life, not old enough for social security or medicare, not directly dependent on the federal government for income, and not planning any trips presently to a national park. So I’ve been personally unaffected by the “Shutdown” and as long as the military and senior citizens get paid, I have enough of a libertarian streak that I’m happy for a respite from government. I was a little aggravated yesterday over the news of closing of the WWII memorial; I mean, the place is for walking around—do we have to barricade it off? But to shut down a running informational website? I understand that the information may not be immediately updated, but I’m sure that I can manage without the absolute latest information on a botanical specimen. I suppose someone might offer the feeble explanation that no one is around to make sure Server #2115 doesn’t overheat and subsequently burn down Washington, but the USDA plant database isn’t the only thing on those servers and I suspect that computer technicians in charge of running servers are on the “critical” list of personnel anyway.

Recognize that I’m not pointing a specific finger here. Blame the Democratic senators or blame the Tea Party, but they are all representing the people who elected them, and we got what we asked for, stalemate, which is almost as good as not having a government. Shutting the USDA plant database down, however, is nothing but a political ploy. A pox on both their Houses.

The Shutdown Hits Home originally appeared on Garden Rant on October 4, 2013.