[CBR10 – Review 1/13] Giant Days, Vol. 2

(Cannonball Read book review #1 – original post @ CBR10)

Last year, I signed up for Cannonball Read 9. Unlike 2013, where I completed my first (and only, thus far) FULL Cannonball of reading AND reviewing 52 books in one year, last year I was a bit more pragmatic. I went for a quarter Cannonball, or 13 books. Unfortunately, last year turned out to be not so much a “reading year” for me as it was more a “I’m slowly going to get more and more upset with my previous job year and struggle to do the best I can because I adore the job but hate a lot of things that are happening in conjunction with said job” year. Didn’t leave a lot of time or energy for reading and writing. My grand count of books read is 5 and books reviewed was 0.

But. One of the books that I read last year was the first in a series of graphic novels that I found through a friend on Facebook towards the end of last year. The series is called Giant Days and it’s a really refreshing story of three women who become friends in college, the subsequent adventures they go on, and all that good stuff. My local library system carried it and with a few requests from neighboring libraries, I had all five volumes in my hands. Volume 1 was great, but I finished that at the tail end of 2017. Given that I’m at the tail end of my renewals for volume 2, it’s high time I reviewed and returned the book.

So without further ado, Giant Days volume 2 picks up with the three main characters Daisy, Esther, and Susan getting ready for the hall ball. They’re in England, so this turned out to be a college version of a school dance. We go with them shopping, where they wind up at a thrift store in mostly ill-fitting dresses, complaining. Except Esther. As the Goth Gal of the Group, who we later finds out has a brother (sewing machine, a cute little joke that comes up later) who can work miracles with ill-fitting dresses, she seems in her element searching for something to wear in the thrift shop. She settles on a Victorian looking wedding gown.

The next people we see shopping for hall ball clothes are two other students: McGraw, a fairly well put-together love/hate interest for Susan and Ed Gemmell, a basket case of a guy who has a thing for Esther. Once they get measured and all for their suits, we fast forward to the actual hall ball. The illustrations are great for showing a nice variety of people, to give it a cool party vibe, but Daisy, who was home-schooled and fairly sheltered, runs into a woman she had a thing for who rejected her and she spirals into an episode of “I don’t even know what my sexuality is”.

The advice her Susan gives is basically to “kiss both kinds of face. Maybe you’ll enjoy them both equally. That’s fine. Let love rule. It’s the 90’s. Get used to it.”

To which Daisy replies, “it’s the 2010’s, Susan. You’re living in the past. Buy a calendar.”

This kind of banter is one of the things I love about this series. They are snarky, flawed, fun, genuine characters. They’re not drawn to titillate, they’re created to be related to. And they’re great friends to each other, too boot. When Esther starting freaking out that she hadn’t been going to classes for more than a month and exams were coming up, she was all too human in telling her friends part of why she was freaking out:

I may not have taken it seriously. I may have asked many stupid questions I thought were funny. I may be quite the jack-ass.”

And when there’s a giant hill to climb in the snow that keeps besting Susan, she winds up at the bottom on her back in a snow bank saying, “No, I’m fine. I’m my own hero. I’m everything I wished I could be.”

I love this sarcastic, real life storyline. I love that it’s drawn exceptionally well by Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin and the dialogue, by John Allison, is just spot on. And can totally pass a Bechdel test. While they do talk about men, there are many other conversations they have that don’t have anything to do with men. It’s all really relatable. The book covers the hall ball, Susan hooking up with McGraw and hides it from her friends, Daisy awkward kissing Ed to see if she likes Boy Face, and Esther later bonding with Ed, who is trying to hide the fact that he’s in love with her. They then go on to winter break, where a hometown woman that McGraw and Susan grew up with try to kill her for something Susan did before she went away to University, and Daisy and Esther trying to save her, and then back to school where Esther proceeds to freak out about how she hasn’t gone to classes in a few weeks. Maybe months.

One of my favorite scenes was after she had decided to further procrastinate studying revising (cause it’s British) and go to a Goth concert, despite Daisy being awesome and trying to help her revise. After the concert, she’s in full-on desperation mode (and full-on skull makeup), looking for divine intervention of her exams:

“Gentle Jesus, I know I’m dressed as a church burner, but I’m good really. Show me the way.”

She then proceeds to go into a church to ask the Reverend for help, who basically tells her to go to more classes lectures. She winds up falling for the hot student TA invigilator, because she has a thing for “milquetoast handsome” boys, but he winds up being a stuffy ass and she dumps him quite spectacularly during a dinner party hosted by a professor.

By the end of this volume, the women are back in their dorm staging an intervention for Daisy, who got a little too into the TV show set in Texas about high school football called Friday Night Lights and may’ve started talking in a Southern drawl and wearing “sports casual” (when she’s normally just casual). Susan and Esther help her out of it. Which is basically what this series is about. These three friends and the adventures they go on (sometimes mundane, getting waaaaaayyyyy too into a TV show, type adventures) as they grow, figure out who they are, and what they want. I love that they’re pretty strong, badass, relatable characters in a graphic novel, since comics and graphic novels have had some serious issues with using women as sex objects and/or side stories. This series is just a whole lotta fun and I can’t wait to read and review Volume 3.

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[New Year, New You] Week 1 – Making Way

So a dear friend of mine, who is an author, crafter, and all around glamourous Amazon (or Glamazon, as RuPaul calls them), started a series of 23 writing prompts called New Year, New You designed to fix your situation. And she decided to start this a few years back, before the turn of the new year because why wait. Fix that shit now. 

The first prompt starts here, and it is all about making way for the change you are about to start working towards. She breaks it down into three bite-sized sections for week one:

Let’s start with the easy part.  Time to clean your house.

“Let’s start with the easy part.” Bitch, you almost made me laugh. I love her dearly, but FUUUUUCCCCKKKKKKK.

*whining*

I don’t wanna clean. I wanna keep living in the stacks of clothes and costumes and unpacked bags from this past year. This keeps all that shit in nice tidy piles where I don’t have to deal with it. Because I don’t wanna deal with the job that I left that I loved parts of but couldn’t stay at. Or the costumes pieces full of promise of burlesque routines and exercise I can’t seem to find time to put together or do. And pfffffttttt, what’s the use of putting away laundry? If it’s not put away, it’s much more handy. I mean, seriously…it’s much closer on the floor or piled on a chair than in the closet all the way over there. (for the record, my closet is about 10 feet from my bed. The chair is about 8 feet. I mean, c’mon. That’s TWO WHOLE FEET MORE.

What?

It’s just…I’ve been having such a mental block this past year, not wanting to deal with anything. Getting from day to day took most of my spoons, and now I have a new job to learn, and that new job takes more (but different) spoons than the last.

Urgh.

But she’s right. She’s fucking right. I can’t expect to move forward with a clear head and create good magical mojo when the space around me, that I live in, is chaotic.

Is your time being well spent?

Sometimes.

Next.

Just because someone hands you a big rock doesn’t mean you have to carry it.

Naaaaahhhhhhhh. I’m not carrying any big rocks. No secrets here. No heartbreak. No difficult decisions. No taking on another person’s shit as my own. No endlessly throwing energy into a void. No toxicity. No negativity. No seemingly endless confidences, only some of which I agreed to up front, that are weighing me down. No anger or disappointment or disillusionment or confusion or desperation or depression here. No health issues. No fear. None whatsoever.

*headdesk*

Alrrightee. Now that we know the mega shitstorm of situation fixing I need to do, the next part of her post was taking stock of what she’s done.

So.

Things I’ve done so far:

  1. Started tackling the piles. Eliminated a big one on the chair. Enlisted nesting partner’s help to put their laundry away while I packed away my summer clothes and then put most of my laundry away. Last week, I organized and condensed the pile of costumes and leftover event bags from this year. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress.
  2. Been thinking a lot about how I spend my time lately. Things that are important to me. This boils down to music, writing, spirituality, authentic connections, emotional support, constructive selfishness (a phrase I learned from my therapist today and holy fuck, is it a great concept. Like self care, but…bigger.), kink, creativity, becoming healthier. I spent Christmas Eve with a fantastic friend establishing the first annual Queermas Eve full of playing music (and then taking a deep breath and posting the cover on my FB. I’m contemplating creating a YouTube channel to start putting up my uke sessions in the new year, as a way to continue to push myself to play more and grow), really vulnerable talking & sharing, a Wawa adventure, and some cuddling with a side of kink. It was pretty fucking great. I felt seen, heard, supported and supportive, in turn. I felt an energetic connection, joy, excitement, peaceful. Again, pretty fucking great. And a great reminder of what I’m looking for. What’s important to me. I did a fairly in depth full moon ritual that I felt proud of. Have been practicing uke more. And clearly have picked up writing again. And reading. I didn’t accomplish the quarter Cannonball Run I signed up for for 2017, but I’ve forgiven myself. I’m just glad I started reading again this year at all. In previous years, I’ve read 52 books, or 26 books. Last year, it was something like…five? Which blows. Currently, though, I’m in the middle of a few books. The best is Brene Brown’s “Rising Strong”. So topical in my life right now. I’m going to a play party this weekend and have one topping scene set up and have reached out to a few people to see if I can get some a bottoming scene in before the new year. And I’m trying to own up to my mistakes, take responsibility for my fuck ups, and also seek out authentic connections and emotional support. Hafta cultivate that constructive selfishness. Also have to work towards scheduling time for things instead of flying by the seat of my pants on a regular basis in an attempt to Do Everything (and usually falling way the fuck short on that.)
  3. There are too many rocks. Just in case your sarcasm detector is broke, all you have to do is take everything I said above under the rock section and remove all the “no’s”. Then you’ll have all the rocks that have created an avalanche on top of me and might begin to understand why I feel like I have almost nothing left to give anyone anymore. I’m beyond tapped out. The immolation period of a phoenix fucking SUCKS.

So, there you have it. There’s a lot of situation to fix, but I’ve begun to Make Way.

Yes, Zir! – a pronoun/gender evolution

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post with my thoughts on gender and also how it applied to me. It’s funny how you can write true things…but also write around other truths.

I identify as a woman.

I like being a woman.

Those are things I said last year. They were true…ish. Thing is…I was afraid. Afraid of stepping outside the gender binary. Terrified I wasn’t “queer enough”, regardless of how queer I felt. Scared out of my mind that I would get ridiculed again like I did the first time I found pronouns that felt like they fit me…over 15 years ago.

It’s even funnier how you can support everyone around you being their authentic selves, in everything you do, from your work to your personal relationships to your friendships to people you’ve never met but defend on social media. Proudly rockin’ my “I’ll go with you” button and telling people at the Y in the South that Trans women are…y’know…women. Making sure to be aware of people’s pronouns.

Think I could apply that acceptance and support to myself?

Why the fuck would I do that?

*sigh*

The past two years have shown me all kinds of new things. New people. New ways to be. Life isn’t a binary anything really. Because the gender binary is just a social fucking construct. And challenging that scares people. Hell, it scares me, even as I do it. Another part of what I wrote last year:

The Unknown or New is scary. It’s threatening. I get it. “What else could change?” is the question that bubbles, unspoken below the discomfort with adapting to new information. It scares me, too. I just try not to let it stop me from questioning, exploring, seeking out conversations and information, learning, growing.

One thing that’s changed for me, or at least out loud, in public now, are my pronouns. Over fifteen years ago, I first learned about “ze/zir” and the light of recognition and rightness glowed inside of me…and I quickly squelched it when a former partner promptly mocked the shit out of those words and anyone who would use them. I packed that part of me away.

I don’t have to use the words, right? Fuck, I’ll “manspread”. I’ll pack. I’ll wear jeans and t-shirts and combat boots because they feel good and comfortable and thank (insert diety here) that women, for some stupid fucking reason, are allowed to wear what’s traditionally considered “men’s” clothes but (insert diety here) forbid men try to casually wear “women’s” clothes.

So for years…I didn’t use the words. I wasn’t proud of it. I didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to use them. Even after I met someone else who used them. Even after I met more and more people who go by “they/them”. Even as I met people who go by “she & he”. For some reason, this one was really hard for me. I have no problem taking my clothes off to music in front of strangers, but fuck if I could tell my partners or friends or coworkers I was more “ze” than “she”.

Until TES Fest this July. Until I was on the registration line and presented with a badge that had a blank field for pronouns. Something in me shifted. And I wrote “ze/zir”. A friend took note in the hallway and it sparked a conversation. I told them that it’s taken me years to admit it out loud and they were very supportive. A partner overheard the convo and a month later in an email just started using “ze” to refer to me. When I saw it, I cried. The happy kind of tears. And thanked them. A few days later, I asked someone I hadn’t talked to in a little bit if they had any pronoun updates. They didn’t, but then asked if I did. I took a deep breath and said “yes” and told them. To which they replied with the title of this post – “Yes, Zir!” I laughed, because…it’s kinda fitting. The switch in me was happy, and the nonbinary me was thrilled.

At therapy recently, I began talking about pronouns and my therapist asked me what it meant for me, to me. During our session, she leapt up and drew an “M”on the left side of the dry erase board and an “F” on the right with a line connecting them. She handed me the marker and asked me to mark on the board where I felt I belonged.

I paused. My first thoughts were a mashup of, “but…I don’t belong on a line. It’s not just ‘M’ over here and ‘F’ over there…it’s not linear…” and then an idea struck me. Why stay on the line? Hell, why use letters at all? So I drew a star a about a foot above the line, slightly more towards the “F” but only mildly right of center, connected the star to the “M” and “F” with two swooping lines and then drew another line going from the star straight down and connected it to a sun.

My therapist blinked. Then smiled.

“What does that mean to you?” she asked.

I tried to explain that it wasn’t quite a binary and I didn’t feel like I fell anywhere on the line….I mean, I drew influences from what society says is “normal” for women and from men. But that I also drew from…other sources that aren’t so easily categorized, so I used the sun to symbolize their brightness and validity. She thought that was awesome. I’m grateful to have a great therapist.

It hasn’t been all awesome, though. Someone called my pronouns stupid. That hurt a whole helluva lot and brought up some old wounds. I cried the bad kind of tears when that happened. However, we talked it through and they understand more now and apologized. Thankfully, the few friends I’ve told have been supportive and apologized in advance if they fuck it up and asked me to just make sure I correct them.

Sometimes I don’t catch it when someone refers to me as “she” but I play it back later and kick myself for not catching it. Writing my bio for a kink event recently was strange. It was the first time I’d ever used those pronouns so openly. The sentences looked weird at first, but there was also this feeling of recognition and peace.

I re-evaluated things like whether I still like being called “girl” or “little girl” in a D/s context to which the answer is a resounding “yes” when I’m submissive and/or bottoming. When I’m in Top or Domme space, I can go in different directions, depending on the person. I like “Sir” but hate “Ma’am”, but don’t even get me started on “Daddy” and “Mommy”. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of writing, self discovery, and evolution.

Polyamory (and so much more!) in Pictures

(Book review #5 – original post @ Cannonball Read 8)

KimchiCuddles-AskMeAboutPolyamory

Fair warning: I’m going to pepper this review with a few actual strips from Kimchi Cuddles, because pictures are awesome and I love being able to use the actual author/artist’s art to drive a point home. 

That being said, here; have a comic!

Kimchi Cuddles #300 - "The Scandalous Truth" from KimchiCuddles.com

Kimchi Cuddles #300 – “The Scandalous Truth” from KimchiCuddles.com

Yup. Welcome to polyamory. I’ve been a practicing polyamorist for close to 15 years now and this might just be my favorite book on the subject. And that’s saying something because while there aren’t nearly as many books on the subject as I wish there were, there are still a goodly amount and I’ve read most of them. This is not an easy relationships style and while it is incredibly rewarding and wonderful, it also, in my humble opinion, takes a lot of self-awareness, communication, and emotional maturity. I’m working on ’em. It’ll likely be an ongoing quest, but I’m glad to have people like Tikva Wolf to help with the journey for the past few years.

I’ve been following Kimchi Cuddles as an internet comic strip for a while; her semi-autobiographical strips sometimes make me laugh and sometimes chop a clear path of understanding right through a problem that I was having trouble with, and sometimes, just make me feel not quite so alone. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can be polyamorous and feel alone or lonely. You can totally be polyamorous, have multiple partners, and still feel really alone and lonely sometimes. It’s kind of like how you can be going through the sadness of a breakup but also be happily married. Oh hey, btw, there’s a comic about that:

Kimchi Cuddles #301 "Sci Fi Marathon Time" - from KimchiCuddles.com

Kimchi Cuddles #301 – “Sci Fi Marathon Time” from KimchiCuddles.com (another thing I love about this is the note on Facebook when this was posted was that the author/artist likes to watch “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” after breakups. All Of The YES.)

This kind of thing is what makes polyamory so magical. Honoring the complexity of life and feelings and actively celebrating it all with people. Through polyamory, I’ve been able to grow more than I ever thought possible, come (mostly) to terms with anger, be a better communicator, open my heart to uncertainty and loving outside of social norms. And Kimchi Cuddles has helped me navigate all that. Tikva Wolf has a very open, nurturing way of handling the myriad challenges of polyamory and even when she’s struggling with her own demons, she helps others by sharing that struggle through her art. And as you may’ve guessed, there is a comic for that, too:

Kimchi Cuddles #326 - "Appearing Perfect" from KimchiCuddles.com

Kimchi Cuddles #326 – “Appearing Perfect” from KimchiCuddles.com

Being out of the closet is important to me, too, as is being able to write about my life. And I love being able to support artists and authors and musicians who help me along my path, so when I found out there was a kickstarter for the first compilation of Kimchi Cuddles comics in physical book form, I was SO on board. And so grateful I had the money to support this fantastic endeavor.

Random note: This book smells really good. I admit it; I love to open a book and stick my nose in center and inhale. I embrace my weirdness. Therefore, this comic seems appropriate:

Kimchi Cuddles #274 - "Queers" from KimchiCuddles.com

Kimchi Cuddles #274 – “Queers” from KimchiCuddles.com

What’s even more nifty about this comic, as you might be able to tell from above, is that it doesn’t just talk address poly issues. The book is divided into six sections (parenthetical notes are mine):

  • I. Discovery Polyamory (All Poly, All The Time)
  • II. Practical Living (the practicality of poly including family dynamics, sleeping woes any triad or quad (or more) poly person will recognize, and something I like to call “eating habits: you just can’t win with that many diverse people”)
  • III. Successful Relationships (I love this section because there’s so much relationship advice. It asks the big question: What makes a relationship successful? It also deals with metamours, love, intimacy, openness, support, and encourages discovery)
  • IV. Troubleshooting, Transitions, Taking Care of Yourself (a rougher chapter to get through, but so worth it. Touches on difficult things like jealousy, misogyny, relationship transitions, conflict, compersion, and fear)
  • V. Dating Scene (fantastic chapter about poly dating, NRE, labels or the lack thereof, LDR, Mono/Poly, Cowboys, and Unicorns. A very fascinating chapter, indeed.)
  • VI. Identities (Including: Trans, Genderqueer/fluid, Asexual and Sexual, Queers, and Pride!)

One of the most important things I’ve learned from Kimchi Cuddles is that there are a plethora of ways to love. I mean, I kinda knew that going in to reading this comic, as I’d been polyamorous for over ten years by the time I first encountered this comic. But I was still very enmeshed in hierarchical modes of thinking and feeling about love. Kimchi Cuddles helped me deconstruct that and see the fear that has been living underneath. By asking (and attempting to answer) questions like “what makes a relationship successful” and “what does love mean to you”, I’ve been asking myself those things and coming up with some surprising answers. And it’s cool to see characters in the strip go through a similar growth process as they seek the answers to questions like this and more. When I read books, the ones that stay with me often are the ones where I can relate to the characters and feel like in a parallel world, they’d be real. Characters I’d want to talk with, date, be friends with, get into arguments with, cuddle with, admire. This is what the cast of characters in Kimchi Cuddles is like for me. What’s even more brilliant is I may or may not know some of the characters that the people in the strip are based on. Cause it’s a small world, after all.

And that small world, even with all the love in it, and all the possibilities, can get scary. Love is the ultimate emotional vulnerability and it can be hard to navigate that with one person, let alone many. In the end, though, I’m learning to embrace the uncertainty, open my heart, and allow love in in whatever form it takes without trying to obsess over labels (though I still maintain they have their place and can help understanding, when applied judiciously). I’ve come to much of this new found understanding and peace with the help of Kimchi Cuddles, and for that, I’m entirely grateful. And with that, I leave you with one more comic in the author/artist’s words and pictures:

Kimchi Cuddles #93 - "Ask Kimchi from KimchiCuddles.com

Kimchi Cuddles #93 – “Ask Kimchi from KimchiCuddles.com