[New Year, New You] Week 14: Spiritual Consultation

But you gotta dig your way out
From underneath the ground
Scratching at the dark
Pushing through the gloom
Oh, sticking around
Long enough to see yourself bloom

“Bloom” by Namoli Brennet

At long last! The last page of prompts! I’m a few weeks behind on this one, but as my best friend pointed out to me, I’m doing this in my own time. Each “week” is a relative measurement. I think it is well-paced, but life also has a way of interfering sometimes.

That being said, I also have to be careful to avoid falling into procrastination and calling it “life interfering.” This time around it was a little bit of both.

Y’see, this week’s prompt was all about checking in with my higher Powers That Be about my progress thus far with my goals and this whole making a new year and a new me.  As Deb wrote:

If you are starting to feel run down and dispirited, confiding in your PTB about your worries and troubles may lighten your load. Your PTB may also have advice as to how to better manage your goals. You may want their input to decide if you’re progressing as well as you could be.

How did she know I’d be feeling a bit run down and dispirited?!

Oh, right. She’s done this already. Okay, moving along. So, I actually wasn’t sure how to check in with my PTB. Or, at the very least, what would be the best way to check in right now.

See, I’m kind of eclectic and don’t have a specific structure of Gods and Goddesses that I worship. I tend to call my PTB “The Universe” but sometimes can feel specific spirits or Gods or Goddesses coming through. And I also got out of the practice of communing directly with the Universe, but I’m getting back to that. That’s part of why I started this whole challenge to begin with. To identify what’s important to me and to work towards those things. One of those things being reconnecting with my spirituality.

So. Checking in with them…I felt a little unsure about what to do and not confident in my ability to get good answers on my own. And lately, I’ve been getting more and more into tarot reading, so my first thought was to ask a friend who has offered to do a reading on me and help me with tarot to do a reading of checking in with my PTB. Life conspired against that plan, which we see sometimes.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting some messages loud and clear. Seems my PTB weren’t waiting for me to check in. They were gonna beat my door down. Here are some of the messages:

  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Move/exercise more.
  • You’ve got work to do. Take care of your shit.
  • Don’t throw your energy to people who are not reciprocating in some way.
  • Keep avoiding sugar. You’re on the right path.
  • You have power and are manifesting the things you want. Be careful, though and be REAL FUCKING specific.
  • Write more.
  • Seek out more authentic communications.
  • Be careful who you give your power to.
  • Remember laughter. Being competent. Appreciated. You are a magical human.
  • Dance more.
  • You may not have the love you expected or thought you were going to have but you are incredibly loved and cherished. It just doesn’t look like how you thought it was gonna look.
  • Make more music.
  • Keep being grateful for all the gifts. Even the things that don’t look like gifts. Like the bad pain. It’s still a gift that’s helping you. You’re learning.
  • Be gentle with yourself when you can.
  • Clean. Purge. Streamline. Don’t get so caught up in possessions.
  • Remember being topless in the courtyard, the grass under your bare toes.
  • More vegetables than that.
  • And more movement.

So that…all touches on what I’m doing and it seems I’m doing pretty well, but I clearly still have more work to do.

I also got a message loud and clear yesterday while driving that I really needed to hear. Sometimes, my PTB talk to me in a Dom(me) voice (as if you couldn’t tell from the list above), and this came though:

Little girl, this has nothing to do with you. Live your own life. You needed [this thing that you’ve put a lot of energy into] to get to a certain place. That time is over. Move on.

I had a bones reading this past weekend, and that carried with it a whole bunch of messages I needed to hear. Don’t get too wrapped up in potential. It doesn’t necessarily matter why something is happening; if it’s not working for you or actively hurting you, it needs to stop and you need to make better choices.

Basically, my PTB are telling that I’m on the right track, but I gotta step it up. Seems about right.

 

 

 

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Sugar Sacrifice: Notes from the half way point

So, 21 days ago, I decided to sacrifice sugar for 40 days to show the Universe that I’m serious as fuck about making this new year a new me. Yesterday was the halfway mark…20 days without sugar.

Well, mostly.

Y’see, what happened was…

(And no, this isn’t one of those stories where I decided to abandon my course and had a cupcake. Because FUCK THAT.)

But what happened was…even though I was paleo for a while nearly a decade ago, I forgot about how SUGAR IS IN FUCKING EVERYTHING.

I wrote the post I linked to above, talking about how I was going to eliminate sugar from my diet and the process was all very…tra-la-la, I won’t have any desserts! It’ll be easy. A dear friend who both a) has done shit like this before and b) understands the gravity of making a sacrifice like this to the Universe cautioned me. It went something like this:

Day One

Me: Tra-la-la! I’m giving up sugar as my sacrifice.

Dear Friend: Okay…for how long?

Me: I dunno? 40 days? Maybe forever!

DF: Ummmmmmmmm. Back the bus up, (gender neutral) SisterQueen. 40 days is HARD. It may not seem like it now, but it is. I suggest logic and reason and thinking about this with a clear head and all these other really helpful suggestions. Like what about X, Y, and Z?

Me: Awwwww, (gender neutral) man. I don’t wanna do algebra. I just wanna go back to tra-la-la! But FINE. I suppose some parameters are a good idea. So I’ll write those out. I feel fine. I can do this. I am POWERFUL! The Universe will cheer for me as I journey ever onward towards enlightenment and self-care and being the best me I can be!

Day Three:

Me: (Actual text to DF) Jesus fuck, I forgot how much stuff has sugar in it!

Seriously. All the things. Like the frozen bag of dinner pad thai that I had in the freezer that I thought was fairly healthy and quick to make when I get home after a 12 hour work day and need food but barely have mustered a will to stand, let alone actually cook. Second ingredient? Brown sugar. I do more research and apparently, sugar is a standard in pre-packaged AND restaurant pad thai. Which….fuck me since I had pad thai in a restaurant the day BEFORE I looked this up.

The last 20 days have been kinda like that. I have NOT had anything that I KNEW without a doubt would have sugar. Y’know, desserts, candy bars, soda, cake, cookies, etc. However…I remembers that bagels have sugar as part of the base dough. So I thought an egg and cheese on a croissant would be a fine subsitute. Until I got this clawing feeling that I should check into that, too. Turns out, I was fucking Wrongy McWrongersons. Croissants typically have sugar in their base dough, too. Plus a sugar glaze that’s brushed over them. Huh! Fascinating! I’m learning so much about food and how it’s made. And also, FUCK EVERYTHING.

It doesn’t stop there. Most mass produced pasta sauces, dipping sauces, condiments, yogurts, deli meats, cured meats, and bread products like hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls, and english muffins…sugar, sugar, and more sugar.

And of course, there’s not just one type of sugar. On, no! That would be too simple. There’s also:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • regular corn syrup
  • glucose
  • lactose
  • fructose
  • brown sugar
  • demerara sugar
  • turbinado sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • molasses
  • maple syrup
  • honey (which, thank fuck I specified that I wasn’t giving up)
  • muscovado
  • stevia

THEN there are the sugar alcohols like maltitol and sorbitol, and don’t even get me started on all the artificial sweeteners.

It is. Fucking. EVERYWHERE.

So I have put in a good faith effort, especially since DF has made it clear that the Universe doesn’t fuck around if you renege on a sacrifice to it like this. I had refused sauces on salads and dipping sauces for things. I searched for bread that didn’t have sugar in it (if you’re wondering, rye and pumpernickel are pretty good…but the fresher the better. Things with preservatives tend to also add sugar so not all pumpernickel and rye is safe. I found my pumpernickel loaf in the fresher bread section near the produce in my local Shoprite, as opposed to the pre-packaged bread aisle). I made a choice to have a Thai dish with molasses in it’s base sauce since that was a mostly natural sugar (and I didn’t rule out “naturally occurring sugar, such as is found in fruit, wine, and honey.”) It wasn’t eating a cupcake.

Though, speaking of cupcakes and things like chocolate, I went about two weeks without even missing chocolate. Until PMS hit. Then I wanted ALL THE CHOCOLATE. At first, I thought I was thoroughly and completely fucked, but then I remembered that there was a recipe for chocolate frosting shots that was paleo that I loved back in the day. I decided to give that a whirl. And if I had actually READ the directions and NOT poured the liquidy part in the recipe along with the creamy part of the coconut milk, everything would’ve been fine. Alas, I poured most of it in. And so my frothy frosting turned out to be really thick chocolate milk. I was disgusted with myself but didn’t want to deal with cleaning out the Ninja blender, so I stuck it in the freezer and thought maybe I can make ice cream the next night. And the next night, I did! As I told a friend, it wasn’t Haagan Daas, but it tasty like slightly softer than usual healthy soft serve. And it hit my chocolate craving right in the core.

I also went to Trader Joe’s and got coconut cream to try for the recipe (fun fact: not only should you NOT pour in the liquidy stuff, but when they say refrigerate the coconut milk/cream overnight…they might know what they’re talking about and might mean it. Says the person who also didn’t read that part, either, and came up with chocolate milk again on attempt two and couldn’t figure out what went wrong AGAIN. Oh, right. You didn’t READ, dumbass.

My internal monologue has been fairly unforgiving lately.

So, anyway, I stuck that in the fridge, hoping that it would thicken up even after everything was mixed together. And it did! It was lovely and delicious.

Trader Joe’s also had some other no sugar things that were wonderful: goddess salad dressing, vodka sauce, and these citrus date bites that kick a sugar craving in the ass AND are easy to chew because I’m still having some teeth problems, which is a story for another post. Shoprite has ONE yogurt type that doesn’t have any added sugar (beyond plain). They’re tiny, because they’re meant for kids, but they’re sweetened with fruit juice, which I thought was also acceptable within the parameters I established.

This whole process has been an interesting, if sometimes frustrating exercise in spending time looking into my own health and being more conscious about what I put in my body and why. I’ve been proud of my resolve when it comes to this, too.

Like when I was handed a free drink at a burlesque show (double AWESOME) and as I took a sip of it, the bartender was listing what was in it. Whiskey (delish), chocolate bitters (I had pause but had checked the bottle and it was surprisingly okay), bourbon soaked cherries (OMG YES PLS), and a dash of simple syrup. As soon as I heard that, I handed the drink back to my friend and said “I’m sorry, I can’t have any more.” And that was that. I just have to get better at asking and/or research BEFORE I have something. I got that message loud and clear from the Universe.

I’ve found I can make a sugar free mocha coffee at home by adding unsweetened cocoa powder and a dash of honey and a splash of half & half to cut the bitter. Thankfully, I can drink most tea black or with a dash of honey. And actually, except for the two attempts at chocolate frosting shots and the adapted mochas, I haven’t had any honey.

So that’s that. The first 20 full days down. Sugar is fucking everywhere, but I’m learning how better to navigate it. I haven’t been perfect…I had three or four croissant breakfast sandwiches before I got the clawing feeling to check that before I got wrecked. There was that one pad thai dinner I had in a restaurant. One Vietnamese dish might’ve had meat marinated in something with sugar in it, but I didn’t know the name of it so I couldn’t look it up.

I’m not seeing OMG results in my waistband, but the first week, I was able to sleep a little bit better. However, now that my period is here, all bets are off. My colon isn’t happy, my sleep cycle is off, and I’m exhausted. My face might look a little slimmer? Not sure. But I think I’d need a bit more time to see anything really noticeable. Here’s to another 20 days!

 

[CBR10 – 6/13] Lies We Tell Ourselves

(Cannonball Read book review #6 – original post @ CBR10)

It’s Juneteenth, AND Pride month, which makes an incredibly appropriate time to review Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. This book was on my radar since it first came out in 2014, but it took a wee bit of time to actually find time to read it. (Seriously, on this site, I know I’m not the only one who’s reading list is longer than the time I’ll ever possibly have to read over the course of my entire life…) What first drew me in was that the book was about desegregation and I knew there was likely going to be a romantic subplot, but I didn’t know at first that it was a lesbian romantic subplot. And not just that, it was a white girl and a black girl falling in love with each. In the south. In 1959. You don’t have to know a whole lot about American history to know this is not going to be a happy story. However, Talley manages to take a difficult and complex story of racism, politics, history, growth, and first love and infuse hope, joy, wonder in it. I already knew I was a fan of Talley’s when I read and reviewed her second book What We Left Behind but this was a very different reading experience.

Format-wise, Lies We Tell Ourselves follows a similar back and forth POV style to What We Left Behind with the story being told from each of the protagonists perspectives. There are also some great internal monologues from all four characters between the two books. But that’s where the similarity ends, I think, because Lies We Tell Ourselves doesn’t give you a moment to breathe from the very beginning. What We Left Behind starts out happy, lighthearted. A dance. A first meeting of the couple. Lies We Tell Ourselves first page opens with the chilling title “Lie #1: There’s no need to be afraid” and the very first sentence is “The white people are waiting for us.”

If that doesn’t shoot you in the heart with dread, I…don’t know what will. I tend to try to put myself in the shoes of characters I read about to understand people from different places, times, cultures, classes, etc better. I thought about what it would be like to walk into a throng of angry people who hate me…just based on what they see and think they know about me. Granted, the one thing I can relate to in that regard is that being a larger person, I’ve been read as lazy, ugly, stupid, pitiful, and disgusting by many people…just based on the way I look and the reason people think I got this way. And while that is NOTHING compared to hundreds of years of institutional racism, and does not mean in any way, shape, or form that I understand what that feels like, it has given me a tiny window of empathy and I try to be a better person with it.

So there I am, in my mind, walking with the ten teenagers into the Jefferson High School and it’s terrifying.

“They’re out there all right,” Chuck says when he comes back. He’s trying to smile, but he just looks frozen. “Somebody sent the welcome committee.”

No one laughs. We can hear the shouting, but the sound is too disjointed for us to make out the words.

We learn from there that the teens have been assisted and coached by the NAACP on this transition. Sarah, the main character on the desegregation side gives us this run down:

My father and Mrs. Mullins and the rest of the NAACP leaders have been coaching us on the rules since the summer, when the court first said the high school baord had to let us into the white school. Rule One: Ignore anything the white people say to you and keep walking. Rule Two: Always sit at the front of the classroom, near the door, so you can make a quick getaway if you need to. And Rule Three: Stay together whenever you possibly can.

I’ve been reading fiction about desegregation, the South during the 20’s – 50’s, slavery, and runaway slaves and I never came across that kind of description before. I knew the kids who were the first to face desegregation were brave, but I never fully grokked what this looked like on a moment by moment basis until this book. And this is only on page three of the book. By page five, these two paragraphs stopped me cold:

Police officers line the school’s sidewalks in front of the boys. They’re watching us, too.

I don’t bother looking back at them. The police aren’t here to help us. Their shiny badges are all that’s stopping them from yelling with the other white people. For all we know they trade in those badges for white sheets at night.

The rest of the chapter is just them getting into school the first morning, and it’s filled with hate, name-calling, intimidation, and it’s unclear if Sarah, her younger sister, and their friends are even going to make it in the building. They do make it in, after an almost mosh-pit incident and chapter/lie #2 is “I’m sure I’m doing the right thing” and the new students try making their way to their classes, worrying about getting detention if they’re late. Sarah rightly wonders “but if we have to deal with shouting crowds every day, won’t we always be late?” Makes dealing with traffic or any of the hundreds of other things that made me late over the years for school and work seem more than a bit insignificant in retrospect.

That first day is marked with students screaming at them to go home, threats to them, spitballs, milk being dumped on her, and pencils being bored into Sarah’s back. But we also get the set up for her closeted lesbianism and her budding crush on Linda, a red-haired student.

My mind is running to scary places. The images come too fast for me to stp them.

I imagine what it would be like if I were alone with the red-haired girl. How it would feel if she smiled at me with her pretty smile, and I smiled back, and-

No. I know better than to think this way.

I can’t take any risks. Especially not at this school. If anyone found out the truth about me it would mean – I don’t even know what it would mean. I only know it would be horrible. It would be a hundred times worse than what happened in the parking lot this morning. A thousand times worse.

As the day progresses, there are more lies. “I don’t care what they think of me,” “I’m not lonely” and “They won’t really hurt me” forever” hit pretty hard. We learn that while Sarah’s father is in the NAACP, Linda’s father is the editor of the Davisburg Gazette. “He’s the one who writes the editorials opposing segregation. He’s also Daddy’s boss.”

Whelp. This story just went from star-crossed to totally fucked in two sentences.

There are bits sprinkled in about how the white people view the black people and one of Linda’s father’s editorials details how “Negro children should be taught only Negro teachers, for our own benefit, because no one else can understand how “uniquely” our brains work” but we don’t fully get the white perspective until a few more chapters in when we switch to Linda’s POV.

That set up was very telling of the privileged mind of someone who’s never had to examine her own biases and privileges. Linda’s first lie is “None of this has anything to do with me.” And the first sentence of her first chapter? “They canceled the prom today.”

Because the prom is CLEARLY the most important consideration at that moment. I swear, I’ve rarely wanted to slap a fictional character so badly as I did when I first read that. However, Talley knows how to skillfully turn that self-centeredness and build layers into the story very quickly. That first sentence was followed with:

Because of the colored people. Everything that happens now is because of the colored people.

If Daddy has to work later at the paper it’s because the integration teachers are making up stories. If I’m behind in English it’s because the NAACP forced the school to close last semester. If I get caught daydreaming in Math its because the colored girl in the front row distracted me.

Well, now. Apparently Linda is also taken with Sarah. But it’s disturbing to get into Linda’s head, even as skillfully as Talley brings us there. Linda theorizes, the first time she’s in a bathroom at school with Sarah, that “touching her probably feels like touching sandpaper.” Also that black people have a certain smell to them that “stink” up places. I think the most incredulous was that some of the white people wanted to know where the black people kept their tails. This kind of literal dehumanizing was clearly spoon fed to these people from birth and they just accepted it as fact. But what I love about this story is that we see and witness Linda as her thoughts change as she falls in love with Sarah.

Y’see, during that first time in the bathroom, Linda and Sarah get into a bit of a spat because Sarah dares to be anything but polite and deferential to Linda. This pisses Linda off to no end. At first, she uses it to justify her narrow world view:

Daddy was right. The Negro students think they’re entitled. They think their own schools – the ones set aside specifically for them – aren’t enough. They think they have to come for our schools, even if it means hundreds of us have to suffer just so a handful of them can be satisfied.

Linda doesn’t see that separate but equal rarely, if ever, actually means equal. She doesn’t see the suffering that black people have endured at the hands of white people for centuries. She can’t see beyond her own small corner of the world. But Sarah is about to change all of that. Because of the first convo in the bathroom, Sarah and Linda (and Linda’s friend Judy) are late to French class and the teacher decides that that means they’ll be grouped together for the French project.

Now Linda and Sarah have to figure out how to work together, but not only how, but where. Clearly they can’t be seen anywhere together in the white parts of town and it’s also likely not a good idea for Linda to be going to the black parts of town, either. Judy works in Bailey’s Drugstore in town, which has a back room that they can meet in because no one is in there after 4pm on a school day, so they all three agree to meet there. And that’s where the meat of the story really starts unfolding. I don’t mean to disrespect the desegregation parts at school, but it’s when the girls on by themselves and the mob mentality isn’t allowed to prevail that Judy and Linda can start to see that Sarah isn’t stupid. She’s not ugly. She’s not uppity or “entitled”. They begin to learn about the humanness of each other and that they’re more similar than each had previously thought, especially from Linda’s perspective:

The part about her parents and her church choir was strange to read. I’d never thought about what the colored students do when they’re not in school. Sarah must have a house somewhere. She must do things like help her mother with dinner or iron her clothes for church. The same kinds of things I do.

But this is one of my favorite parts of their conversation, after Linda calls Sarah and “agitator” like it’s wrong:

“The point is, we didn’t force your governor to do anything,” Sarah goes on.

“My governor?” I say. “He’s your governor, too.”

Sarah lifts her chin and looks me straight in the eyes again. “He’s not my anything if he doesn’t treat me the same way he treats you.”

My jaw drops.

“That’s anarchy,” I say quietly. I wait for her to take it back.

Sarah doesn’t even blink. “No, it’s not. If the law is wrong, we have to say the law is wrong.”

Linda freaks out about this and again, uses it to justify her views, calling Sarah a Communist. Sarah says she’s not but Linda counters telling her she’s going to tell her own father about Sarah being a Communist. She thinks she’s going “fix integration.”

Sarah very smartly asks how she plans to do that when Linda’s father doesn’t even know they’re working on a project together.

Linda’s list of chapters/lies for this section are little insights into her own mind:

  • None of this has anything to do with me.
  • I’m exactly who I want to be.
  • I’m sure I’m doing the right thing.
  • If I keep pretending, everything will be all right.
  • She’s wrong.
  • This doesn’t change anything.
  • I hate her.

The story truly unfolds from there and Linda and Sarah grow closer while the tormenting at school gets worse. By the end of that section, though, which is about halfway through the book, things come to a head between Linda and Sarah. And right after, we switch back to Sarah for next quarter of the book. Sarah decides that the best thing to do to combat how she feels about Linda is to ignore Linda and put her energy into dating Ennis, one of the other students integrating with her. As we watch her do this, we also get her internal process of how she doesn’t feel that spark with Ennis that everyone says you’re supposed to have with a boy…that she definitely has with Linda.

It makes an odd juxtaposition to Linda’s musings about her fiancee, Jack, and how the pin he gave her “means I belong to someone” and that “Jack is all I need. He’s more than I deserve” whereas when Sarah starts to think about marriage to someone, possibly Ennis, and having existential crises while theater goers are gossiping around her on date, she thinks:

I envy these women. I bet none of them ever doubted whether they should get married. I’m sure none of them ever had any unnatural feelings.

As she’s trying to puzzle this out, she keeps dating Ennis and she and Linda avoid each other. Until Linda seeks her out to tell her that some of their classmates are planning something terrible for the choir concert tomorrow. Because after initially being told they shouldn’t join any extracurriculars at the white school, Sarah’s incredible vocal talents get her into the school choir. The classmates tried to sabotage Sarah by not having an accompanist for her solo. However, Sarah handles it in her own, graceful way.

After this third section of the book, we suddenly get a change. The last section is called “Amazing Grace” and from there on, we get three chapters, one each from Linda, Sarah, and Sarah’s little sister Ruth. Those chapters are now titled with “truths” instead of lies, to mark the journeys that each of them has taken:

  • Truth #1: (Linda) It’s up to me.
  • Truth #2 (Sarah) None of them can touch me.
  • Epilogue, Truth #3: Ruth We did it.

These last few chapters wrap up decisions that Linda has to make, including whether or not to confront her father, what she was going to do about her fiancee, and, by extension, the rest of her life.

Sarah has to face some of her own demons, too. And some things that have happened to her classmates. One got hit with a baseball bat, one was nearly killed by a band of white boys, and then near the end of school, someone pees on her desk chair and the teacher tries to make her sit in it and won’t listen to why she won’t. The teacher gives a choice to sit or leave, so she leaves and goes right to the principal’s office. That conversation is fascinating as all hell to get into yet another white person’s mind from the time about on how all this looks and should work. But after what could’ve been a very disheartening meeting, Sarah left feeling not angry or sad, but more confident in herself:

I can keep sitting quietly, like a good girl.

Or I can get out the letter that came yesterday and decide for myself what happens next.

The book ends on Ruth’s chapter, “We did it” and we get to see Sarah graduating after a brutally hellish year at Jefferson High School and then a small window into where Sarah will go next. I like that there’s hope in this chapter and in this book. It’s more than I was expecting during a volatile, difficult time. It also seems appropriate that it passes to Ruth, who is the next in line to stay on to fight next year when she attends Jefferson High School in the fall.

Even given all that hope at the end, the thing I hate most about all this, though, is how relevant it all was to the current political climate. Today, in 2018, this was scarily too similar to the rise of Neo-Nazis and white supremacy and it’s horrific and depressing to think we haven’t come all that far in 60 years. There’s still more to fight, more to overcome, more to change, but I’m so glad that there are authors like Talley out there on the front lines helping to make that change happen one reader at a time.

[CBR10 – 5/13] grl2grl

(Cannonball Read book review #5 – original post @ CBR10)

I’d been wanting to read this compilation of lesbian YA short stores from Julie Anne Peters for a few years, so I was very excited when I discovered a copy in my county library collection. As a fan of Peters for a while, since I love how she draws me into believable worlds of lesbian and trans teen characters with humor, warmth, and great writing, this book didn’t disappoint. In fact, it went beyond my expectations in terms of variety. Without going into spoilers on specific stories, it covers the fear of coming out and going to a Gay/Straight Alliance meeting, breakups, cheating, first love, sexual abuse, trans hate crimes & violence, impossible crushes, religion, classism and the complications of friendship, non-traditional families, less common pronouns, online dating, and so much more.

The first story, Passengers, details a budding crush one teenager, Tam, has on a fellow classmate named Andi. How she’s observed her sitting alone everywhere. “In Art, senior seminar, lunch, on the train.” Tam and Andi are drawn as different from the get go because Tam says if she were alone on the train, she’d “find something to do. Read or work on homework or doodle, fake it, so if [she were] alone it’d look like [she] wanted to be alone.” But Andi doesn’t seem to care. Throughout the story, Tam brings the reader along on her crazy whim to get to know Andi. It seems like Andi confounds Tam. She doesn’t understand the other girl. Andi is a bundle of mystery, and Tam wants to know her better. We get a snapshot of one day where they spend time talking outside in the cold and then go into school library’s “Brittanica Boneyard” where all the library and other supplies go to die. It was nice to read a story that was just…a beginning and like any great author, I so wanted to know what happened the next day.

The next story is called Can’t Stop the Feeling and it’s about the utter fear of coming out. Mariah keeps wanting to go to the Gay/Straight Alliance meeting at school, and keeps getting closer to going in. However, she has some pretty abject terror: “The dread and fear of exposing myself to them was nothing compared to telling my friends. Did they even qualify as friends? There wasn’t one of them I could trust, or confide in.” It sucks to be that lonely and I found myself rooting for Mariah to get in that Band Room to be part of the Alliance finally.

After Alex hit me pretty hard for some personal reasons. In this story, Rachael’s friends tell her not to take back her girlfriend after Alex cheated on her, but Rachael is still knee deep in heartbreak and pining for the loss of her first love. So when Alex comes back around, begging Rachael to take her back, Rachael is thrown back into remembering the first time they really made a connection and snuggled on a train ride back from a GSA field trip. It’s funny; the story just before this one was about a character who was afraid to join the GSA, and in this story, Rachael talks about finally getting up the “nerve to join the Gay/Straight Alliance at school.” Then Rachael remembers the first time they made love and we come back to Rach’s friends trying to convince her not to get back together with Alex. This is the first story we get a definitive ending on, in that we know what Rachael does in response to Alex wanting her back, and I understand her choice oh-so-well.

Outside/Inside was a clever way to tell the story of a crush, via the outside and inside of cards that the main character, Logan, wants to send to someone she cares about at the beginning of winter break. It ends with the card’s presentation to the crush and I shook my head at Logan’s feelings. I remember having similar ones when I was in high school. I don’t want to cast spoilers out here, even for a short story, so I’m just gonna leave it by saying that things are likely gonna be complicated when Logan when she gets back from winter break.

On The Floor uses a basketball game and two players who’re on opposing teams to build a sweaty, fast-paced, well played metaphor of lust and sportsmanship. I really liked the short, quick sentences in this story and how the way she wrote it really did make give it the stop-start-screeching halt-quick sprint feeling of both a basketball game and the dynamic tension of a couple.

Stone Cold Butch was a rough one for me as it dealt with sexual abuse and how it’s hard for someone who’s gone through that to connect to another person in a romantic or sexual way. The main character, Cammie, calls herself a stone cold butch. She won’t let anyone do anything for her in that intimate way. She’s shut down. Which is heartbreaking to watch from inside her head when a classmate develops a crush on her and pursues her, even though Cammie verges on cruel.

In Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder, Peters tackles the subject of how abstinence-only sex ed affects queer students. Things like how birth-control wasn’t really a thing for same sex couples because, duh, no risk of pregnancy. Also, when Aimee, the protagonist, asks why should students who were gay wait for marriage when they weren’t allowed to get married and did that mean that they were just never supposed to have sex, I almost threw my fist in the air when reading. Aimee’s teacher gets snarky with her and first tells her she’ll be playing a lot of Solitaire (wtf?! But I can totally see certain teachers I had in school answering that way, and now I’m suddenly glad that I had fairly good NOT abstinence-only sex ed in school) and then later, when Aimee presses her for a real answer, tells her it’s between her and her god. I love the anger that rises in Aimee and also that afterward, in her head, she goes into a rant:

I stormed out after class. My god? My god? What did she know about my god? She probably thought since I was gay, I was godless. Against religion. But I’m not. I have a god. I go to church. My god isn’t her god. My god doesn’t scorn or condemn me. My god is kind and benevolent and accepting. We made a sacred pact. I’d be the best person I could be and God would save me a place in heaven. The real one, where it doesn’t matter who you are or how you look or how you sacrifice your dignity and self-respect most days just to be true to yourself.

The story takes a bit of a twist (to me, at least) from there, introducing an old friend, Peyton, that had dropped Aimee after her parents got divorced and Aimee moved to the wrong side of the tracks and “inner-city housing.” But it was awesome to see Aimee and Peyton reconnect and by the end of the story, with some humor and snark, we get hope for the two girls to be friends again.

Boi deals with an FtM trans character and opens with some fairly explicit talk about children being curious about body parts and how one moment with a cousin was a tip-off for the main character that ze wanted zir own penis. Over a decade later, the same cousin helped Vince get zir first packing penis. Vince’s cousin Kevin were raised by their grandparents. I really liked this story as soon as I started reading it, so the assault that happens to Vince utterly gutted me. Fair warning, this story ends on an incredibly upsetting note and I hate these fictitious boys for what they did to Vince. The damage they did may’ve been fictional, but it’s indicative of the real damage and hate that gets carried out everyday all over the world towards trans people and it’s horrific.

I think TIAD was my least favorite story. I certainly relate to it. It mostly takes place in a chatroom online and I remember what it was like to connect to someone in a chatroom, think that you have something in an LDR, and then to have it all fall apart. This one just felt a little flat to me. However, it is funny that the acronym and it’s meaning has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently wrote a piece about how Tomorrow Is Another Day, so that’s important to remember but this one just didn’t really stick in my brain and I had a hard time connecting to the characters.

Aaaand whereas I couldn’t connect in TIAD, I did nothing by connect with the story and characters in the last story of this compilation, called Two-Part Invention. This was definitely my favorite, but that’s likely due a lot to the fact that it was music-based. Whereas On The Floor was all sweaty sports-filled adrenaline, this was pure lyricism, ripe with music references, and I love how music can be a metaphor for love. This story centered on Kat and her yearly pilgrimages to an elite camp for musical prodigies and the girl, Annika, she’s fallen in love with. There’s a beautiful tension where Kat is trying to bring herself to tell Annika how she feels about her and also trying not to freak out about how Annika has been recently talking about a fellow male prodigy musician named Bryce, throwing a wrench into things for Kat to figure out if Annika might feel the same way. I won’t tell you how it ends, but I was a fan of the ending and think it was the perfect story to end the book on.

Have I mentioned how much I love Julie Anne Peters?

[New Year, New You] Week 13: Sacrifice

Last post before I get to the last page of prompts on Deb’s blog! (I am silly excited about this. Measurable progress is awesome!)

This one is all about sacrifice. Which should be easy, right? For someone who likes helping other people, sometimes to the detriment of zirself, I should be able to breeze through this one, right?

And it’s not like there isn’t a whole mess of sacrifice going on in my life now. I can’t really talk about much of it, but there’s also the impulse to downsize, so I’m getting rid of stuff. And also I’m working on writing a post about getting rid of things I have outgrown, such as a movies and tv shows that I used to love but realize I can no longer stomach watching anymore.

Deb talks about blood sacrifice. One day I might do that, when I have a clearer idea of exactly what and to whom…but for right now, when I just have a general idea of the direction I’m moving in, I’m going to go with something that I’ve been getting a lot of messages to give up for a while now.

The latest message came two days ago in my weekly horoscope from Rob Brezsny:

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Promise me that you won’t disrespect,
demean, or neglect your precious body in the coming weeks. Promise me
that you will treat it with tender compassion and thoughtful nurturing.
Give it deep breaths, pure water, healthy and delicious food, sweet sleep,
enjoyable exercise, and reverential sex. Such veneration is always
recommended, of course — but it’s especially crucial for you to attend to
this noble work during the next four weeks. It’s time to renew and
revitalize your commitment to your soft warm animal self.

So, in that note, to work towards treating my body with tender compassion and thoughtful nurturing, I’m giving up sugar. It’s been a three decade long love affair and it’s time to draw it to a close. It no longer is serving me, or helping me…not that it ever really did.

Ironically, it will affect my blood, and my hormones, and my health. I’m scared, honestly, to give it up because it’s usually my go-to to deal with anxiety. But I will find other (hopefully healthy) ways to cope. And I want to show the Universe that I want to keep moving in this direction.

So! Specifics:

I am giving up processed and artificial sugar, starting today, June 7th, 2018. I will not have processed or artificial sugar knowingly until July 16th, 2018 when I will re-evaluate.

This does NOT include naturally occurring sugar, such as is found in fruit, wine, and honey.

I do this to dedicate to moving forward in my spiritual quest. I want to live cleaner, more authentically, more creatively, and more lovingly. And I need to extend that love to myself first for once and renew and revitalize my commitment to my soft animal self. I vow to sacrifice sugar under these parameters for the next 40 days.

So mote it be.

 

[New Year, New You] Week 12 – Everyday You’re Hustling

So close to the last page of the writing prompts! I mean…it’s the longest page, what with ten prompts on it, but I’m almost there! I can do this! After this prompt, there’s only one more and then it’s the last page! I’m doing it! Look at me go! Thankfully, I’ve got some good momentum towards the hustlin’ I gotta do for this week.

So. What does hustlin’ mean in this context? From the original post:

I keep talking about breaking down your goals into small pieces. This week is about putting your money where your mouth is. I want you to keep a daily journal. In it, talk about what you’ve done that day to accomplish your goal(s). If you didn’t do something towards your goals, examine your reasons why. Were you really that busy or could you have taken a half hour to work towards your goals? What stopped you from making your goals a priority?

If there are days when you don’t do something that moves you closer to your goal, be sure to journal about what stopped you from getting there. This might be a good week to contemplate a phrase that’s often used in matters of the heart: Never make someone a priority when you’re only an option.

Have you made you an option instead of a priority? If so, it’s time to make yourself a priority so you can accomplish the things you want to accomplish.

Daily journal it is! Here is the journal from this past week, including steps for the day and daily tarot card draw:

Day one: (Card of the Day: Ace of Shells) helped a friend move. This challenged me to get over a fear from the last time I drove a big box truck (clipped a hearse…in a funeral processional…in front of a state tropper. I know how to do it up.) Thankfully, no hearses were harmed in the move this time. But I got my strongs on. Made my body active because one of my goals is to move more. Reached out to a friend for help and they were able to. Got a little sassy with them when we were parting ways, but it helped me establish better parameters. Passed along some vessels for a creative project they’re helping me with. Read a short story when I got home. Instead of going to quick fast food, I drove to Shoprite and bought a semi fast but way healthier dinner option (mmmmm, pad thai) and made that for myself. Took a delicious shower. Continuing my one card a day draw to get more familiar with my new tarot deck. 7702 steps.

Day two: (Card of the Day: Five of Shells) caught up on my two weeks behind writing goals and also started working on this week’s. Both posts focused on spirituality, which is a double bonus towards goals. Also, in the middle of the night, I felt compelled to do a 3 card draw about a situation I’m confused about. More confused, but I’m working on it. (Spread: Situation/Action/Outcome – Cards: Awakening, The Star, Love) Thanked friend for amazing tarot deck gift. 2378 steps.

Day three: (Card of the Day: King of Acorns) Opened up to a coworker about spiritual things. Listened to their stories and helped where I could and opened up to their guidance and assistance and knowledge. Still processing that. Might be it’s own post. Gave me perspective, though, on relationships, spirituality, my path, my abilities, some of my health issues. Stood up for myself in an argument. Asked a friend for help reseting my brain. I know that I have a lot of work and manifesting and challenges to go through yet and I’m already depleted and exhausted and just…want something good. Something that shuts my brain off. So I went to a friend I know who has the best track record so far to do that. Talked to a new friend about some poly and kink stuffs.  Also tarot. 1484 steps.

Day four: Day off from work! Slept waaaaaay the fuck in. Couldn’t fall asleep until around 4am and didn’t make it out of bed until around 2pm. Asked to reschedule an early morning meeting I had for a project I’m working on because I hadn’t slept. Turns out the meeting was the next day. D’oh! But yay for doing my best asking for what I need. Did some laundry. Set up dinner plans with best friend. Realized that that I really needed to see my therapist, so I apologized for the short notice but asked her for an appointment for Friday. She did. Awesome. Asked a close friend if they’d be available to talk anytime soon, because I sensed I was going to need support with some life stuff happening. Also wanted to get their feedback as someone whose opinion I trust. We set up a time to talk the next day. Didn’t get a response from friend about reset so I checked in. Turns out there was a tech glitch and my full message didn’t go through. Cleared it up and they agreed and are working on it. Realized when I was going to sleep that I didn’t do a daily card draw. Felt a way about it, but realized that I’ve been doing it very consistently, and my morning routine was very different because of morning phone call. Need to make sure I’m still paying attention to spirituality even when life changes. But also need to go with flow and not beat myself up abut not doing something. Don’t want to get locked into it becoming a crutch and superstition.  Worked a little bit on an event class me and a partner are developing. 1446 steps.

Day five: (Card of the Day: The Wheel) Day two off from work! Managed to get up earlier on time for early morning phone call, which went well. Had therapy. Also went well. Had phone convo with close friend about some major changes that I felt coming in my life and how some very life changing discussions were likely to be happening soon. Had lunch with another close friend to catch up and also talk about said major changes I felt coming. Had an incredibly hard, fucking painful convo re: some relationship things. 1941 steps.

Day six: (Card[s] of the Day: Awakening & Love jumped the deck. Actual pull was Five of Acorns) Crazy busy day at work. Took some time off from work to have lunch with best friend who was awesome and came to visit me at work to help keep me sane. Also good because they got something through to me that I’ve been having a hard time with. I need to ground and center every night. And it should involve yoga. Messaged back a new connection I met at Beltane to talk about future stuff. Stood up for myself and said when I wasn’t comfortable with something with someone at work. Sang. Didn’t accomplish much else in terms of creative or health goals (well, making sure I ate on a holiday weekend was good towards my health.) But had no energy to do anything else after I got home after 14 hours of work. 2075 steps.

Day seven: (Card of the Day: The Tower) Another crazy busy day at work. Stayed in touch with most of my Amazon Network for support. Got to know a new (to me) coworker and that was fun. My best friend recommended I try to keep positives in my heart and let them carry me. Had a good success with that. Left work early (yay for splits!) Had dinner with nesting partner and then decided to go see Solo. 1437 steps.

All in all, it’s a good-ish week in terms of goals, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

Here’s the shortlist of goals I’m working towards (from Week 2 of the writing challenge):

  • Creativity – music, writing, drawing
  • Spirituality – practicing more, meditating again, yoga
  • Kink – honoring all sides of the slash, seeking out play, educating myself more about the scene, honing my classes
  • Health – mental, physical, emotional
  • Authentic Relationships – better communication, being my most authentic self, fixing my own fuck ups and holding others accountable for theirs, seeking better connections and not settling
  • Cleaning – organizing, downsizing, not living like a trash panda

And here’s a breakdown of how I did adhering to those goals this week:

Creativity: Wrote two posts and started working on two others. Sang almost every day, even if it was only just in my car. Did sing one day for coworker.

Spirituality: I’m doing well with spirituality, I think. Want to do better with actual rituals and manifesting. And read more about tarot. Learn both my decks better. But I’m doing my morning draws, learning various spreads. Talking with people about it to learn more.

Kink: Worked a little on class I’m developing with a partner. Reached out for reset. Worked on new groundwork for new connection. Talked a bit with dear friend about scene possibilities.

Health: I think I did stellar for my mental health this week. Therapy, looking for a reset, talking with Amazon Network, taking some time away from work for mental and physical health breaks for important things like connecting to friends and eating foods. Honoring my emotional and mental limitations. Trying to get enough sleep. Need to walk more. Need to eat better. Going to be working on a meal plan soon with a dear friend. Took my meds every day. Stayed pretty hydrated.

Authentic Relationships: Staying connected to Amazon Network, having really fucking difficult conversations and honoring the weirdness of relationship changes but also that love doesn’t have to look one way. Being fairly blunt and not letting my brain get into the same traps with certain people as it has in the past year.

Cleaning: This is the one I fail the most hardcore on. I’m in such a cleaning rut. I don’t remember which day it was, but I did clean one bathroom counter. Took care of the dishes a few times. Did some laundry. But otherwise, I really need to downsize more and quicker. Sell and give away stuff. Go through paperwork and clean out my car.

So now, I think I’m going to come up with some short term goals within the framework of these bigger, long term goals to help me keep working towards them. Can’t wait to work on that and next week’s writing prompt!

[New Year, New You] Week 11: Casting Out Doubts

So, I’m a week or three behind with my NYNY writing prompts. I have to keep reminding myself that I made a commitment to complete and I will, but it might take a little longer than the original challenge. My best friend has told me more than a few times to be gentle with myself and to go at my own pace, and I think I’m finally getting there. I purposefully waited until going to Beltane to do this week’s prompt because it seemed like the perfect place to do it. I was right, but not in the way I expected.

Y’see, this week is all about Casting Out Doubts. Pssssshh. It’s not like I have any doubts. At all. Whatsoever. *cue sarcastic, uncomfortable laughter that fades out into a sigh of defeat*

Fine. I have all sorts of doubts. That I’m not attractive enough. That I’m not spiritual enough. That I’m not sexy enough. That I’m not talented enough. That I will never have the life I want. That I suck at writing. That I’ll never make a living in a way that honors my values. That my voice isn’t good enough. That I’m not good enough.

I’ve been challenging myself to release videos once a month of me as I learn uke and sing. And while I’m proud of myself for doing it, I’m a month behind and every time I hear my voice and my still rudimentary uke skills, I cringe. Also, Jesus Christ, when the hell am I going to start eating healthier for the two hormonal conditions I have?

Also, I’m not exercising enough. I’m not dancing enough.

I have eleventy-bajillion relationship questions and evolutions happening in me that I don’t know how to reconcile. If you don’t stay married, what the fuck are you going to do? And how would you even afford a divorce if you wanted one?

Also, what the hell even is your sexuality these days?

Also also, the people you like and/or are attracted to do not think about you nearly as much as you think about them. Chill the fuck out. Because you’re never going to get what you want in that regard. That magical feeling you’ve found a few times with some people will never be something you can sustain. It doesn’t exist for you because you’re too fat and old.

And how are you going to get another car because yours is dying soon. Fuck, and if you don’t have a car, how will you make money? Also, how will you stave off the anxiety attacks of not having a car? You’re never going to be able to just buy a car that you love on your own like normal people who go to a dealership and pick out something they actually like, not what’s given to them.

Where will you live after this house? You know you’ll never be able to have the poly creative commune that you dream about, that you yearn for, where you’re surrounded by and inspired by people you care about and can teach, travel, write, sing, and dance for living. That’s just stupid. Because you’ll never find a career or cobble together a career that unifies the things you loved about your last job without all the madness and negative chaos that also came with it because that’s just not poss…

FUCK. PLEASE JUST STOP.

It has to STOP.

Like the post this was inspired by said:

We need to free ourselves from this horribly insidious, inner voice that wants us to never try, to never dare, to never dream, and to never step outside our little boxes. It sure as hell doesn’t want us to succeed, despite living inside us. It’s a really shitty team player because it tries to put on its Concerned Face and tell us how it’s only looking out for us and doesn’t want us to be hurt or rejected.

This voice is a lying, lying liar! It’s not concerned! It just wants to be comfortable, even if you’re miserable right now. It doesn’t want you to change because change is hard and scary.

Comfortable misery (or status quo) is good enough for this voice.

Do you feel uncomfortable right now doing this Experiment? You should. That’s how you know you’re doing this right. That’s what’s riling up that annoying, horrible voice inside you to triple volume . You are freaking it out.

Well, then. Yes. All of that. I am freaking out that horrible voice inside me. It’s in full-on panic mode currently, as all levels of life are in a flux and I feel myself moving into a new major phase of my life with no idea exactly where I’m going.

So what to do about it?

Again, from the original post:

There are two approaches to dealing with this Horrible Voice (HV):

1. The HV is like a scared child inside you. It may be your scared child inside you (or Talking Self or Fred or whatever you want to call it). Regardless of its name, HV is bugging out right now because HV is terrified. You can try talking to HV and see if you can soothe HV or get HV to open up as to why HV is being such a colossal pain in the ass. You can explore how to get HV to stop.

2. HV is shitty energy you’ve collected from yourself and others. It’s time to get rid of it. This can be done by washing your hands with salt. (Wash towards the sink, away from your body.) As the salt washes down the drain, chant, “Seeds of doubt, I cast you out!” Or you could use a method of your own choosing to banish the negative energy.

Like I said, I waited until Beltane to deal with this HV. I was totally expecting to go with the second option and actually, ritually cleansing and casting out the doubts with salt and chanting. Turns out, Ramblewood had other plans for me. Here’s what I wrote in my notebook while there:

Talking to my Horrible Voice (HV) tonight. In a field under the stars. Unsure of where to go. Wanting to dance but not feeling drawn to the drum circle fire pit nor the dance party. What if I look stupid? They are all thinner. Prettier. Done up in Bellydance gear or birthday suits. I don’t look like I fit in. Or they’re all ravers twirling things. I’d look so out of place.

But also…also thinking that maybe I’d go topless. Around people. Ones I know, even. And strangers. That scares the fuck out of me. But maybe…

The thought I had as I picked the liminal place as I so often do, between the fire circle drumming and the barn techno raver dance party, was:

what would happen if you just…stopped? Stopped caring what that HV said. Stopped being afraid of your body and people’s reactions to it?

And this feeling of peace washed over me. I mean, it was already peaceful as hell in the field. But then I let the energy of the drumming and fire and dancing and the earth under me take over and thought:

What if? What if I just opened myself all the way up? Was my full Goddess self? What if I held that scared inner child who grabs a megaphone and spouts terrible things to protect herself? What if I held her sacred and told her I got this? I got her. I got us. And what would happen if I turned my magic all the way the fuck on?

She felt okay with that. She put the megaphone down, but she’s still got it within arm’s reach. We’re going to work on working together now. Thankfully, during the 7 day yoga challenge I still have yet to write about, she and I started talking a bit so it was a bit easier once I got to Beltane and had the magic of Ramblewood to help facilitate more in depth conversations with each other.

It’s funny; the original post had the above-mentioned two suggested ways of dealing with the HV. Before Beltane, I kept thinking that I had to get salt to do this because we were out of salt. I kept forgetting. And I didn’t realize until after I’d gotten back from Beltane that my spouse had picked up salt before I left. Turns out I didn’t need it after all.