On Birthdays


I don’t like a lot of things other people love. I don’t like Christmas. I don’t like drinking. I don’t like loud, raucous parties or Game of Thrones (books, I haven’t seen the series) or M&Ms. I’m not interested in rock concerts, even for my favorite bands. Okay, maybe the Beatles, but only because it’d be a miracle since half of them are dead. I don’t care for fast food or Starbucks and I flat out HATED Hawaii.

And I’m not a fan of my birthday.

Hold on, you say. Join the club! Nobody likes their birthday after 21. Anyone saying otherwise is lying. And women aren’t even allowed to have birthdays after 29!

And, yeah, that’s all pretty true. But there’s still a weird pressure? expectation? implied societal contract? that I should at least enjoy my birthday. I should skip work, stuff myself with cake, buy myself presents, or do whatever it takes to fill that void.

What void? It’s the space that exists between everyone’s normal day and what makes it your special day. It’s the absense of change between yesterday you and one-year-older you.

As a kid, your birthday is a big deal. Or, well, it can be. Cake, presents, maybe a party. Maybe a party no one shows up for. Maybe not the presents you wanted or no presents at all. Maybe burnt cake or “the year Mom became a Vegan” cake. I can’t remember most of my birthdays as a child. I’ve seen a few pictures of the early ones. Regardless, I know what it’s supposed to feel like. I started remembering my birthdays because they stopped living up to that gut feeling.

That’s not to say I had an awful childhood or anything. Far from it. I had great birthdays, with slumber parties and pizzas and all manner of fun all the way through high school and then well into my 20s.

But you wake up the next day and think, so this is 16? 18? 25? 34? Doesn’t feel any different. I look back on some of my more recent parties and it looks like I was trying to capture that essence of BIG CHANGE that came with blowing out those candles.

I mean, it’s a lot harder to get that rush as an adult. Turning 10 is a big deal, but turning 34? I keep having to do the Math to remember my age. And that’s not an “I’m so old I can’t remember” thing. It’s a “this number has little to no significance in my day-to-day life” thing.

Plus, parties are so difficult now. It wasn’t so bad in our 20s, since most of our friends were also in their 20s and eager for weekend shenanigans. Now? Friends we’ve known for over a decade can’t find the time for lunch or miss our son’s birthday because their kids have competitions or games. Adults are busy. Adults with kids need sitters and 6 months notice just for brunch.

But listen, I could go on about how birthdays are always lacking. Even if all my Facebook friends and family post on my page, a sulky part of me will wonder why I didn’t get more calls or texts (which, yes, is super dumb and petty, but try explaining that to my Id). Or more birthday cards. My husband has an unparalleled record for amazing gifts, but somehow the fact that my family typically doesn’t go in for birthday gifts will still bother me. This is despite knowing that there are 5 adult kids in my family, plus 3 spouses, 1 girlfriend, and now 5 grandbabies, which is just a TON of people to keep track of let alone afford cards/gifts for. It’s actually kind of nice that there isn’t that pressure to get something for everyone for every occasion because when I do manage to get bday cards sent, I feel like a superstar and not like it’s some obligatory thing.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go all negative about this so I hope you stuck with me through the moping. I wanted to approach this year a little differently to maybe alleviate that inexplicable post-bday let-down.

First, to address that lack of BIG CHANGE between 33 and 34. Let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of your life not a lot changes over a year. You, as a person, are pretty much set by the time 30 hits. But on the other hand, so much can change for you. This time last year, I had a newborn and I was clinging to sanity like Gandalf hanging off the bridge in Khazad-Dum. Did I let go to go fight the Balrog? No, because I stayed sane and didn’t have time for smoting my enemies and getting reborn with new threads. Now, I have a toddler who is mobile (understatement) and a daily/nightly challenge. Am I the same mother I was last year? HA, no. I am a little bit more confident even if I am still vastly intimidated by the tasks that lie ahead (17 more years of them, yikes).

And last year, I was still trying to integrate Mom into my personality. I recently saw a meme about how having kids doesn’t make the person you used to be disappear or some shite.

My friend (mother of 6) who posted it was pissed and at first I didn’t get why. It seemed like the normal inspirational drivel I usually scroll on by, but I’m new to the whole Mom game still and there was some context I wasn’t privy to. Anyway, the woman I was 2 years ago, before I was even pregnant, is kind of a stranger to me now. Weird, right? I mean, she’s still there, utterly confused by how difficult it is for me to get a pedicure on a whim. But I can’t seem to see her as me anymore? And I don’t want to go back to being her. I sometimes wish I could, on bad days or long nights. Just, not really. If I could get a full night’s sleep, crochet all day and still get my happy boy, that’s the deal I’d take. So yes, that person matters, but only because I couldn’t exist now without her. There’s no going back to her. No giving up Momming to indulge the illusion. Having a kid changes you because you must or they die.

Good grief, this is getting all over the place. This year qualifies as a BIG CHANGE year for me, but every year can do that if you just tally up all the little ways you have grown, whether emotional or psychological, or whatever. Every moment you are alive is BIG.

As for the gifts and cake and filling that void, well, I have a cupboard full of chocolate. My hubby got me the writing seminar with Neil Gaiman (SQUEE). My good friend is making me a super cool bag. My boy now plays by himself during the day so I can get crochet done again. And the universe has been plentiful with blessings.

To wit:

Tim Curry narrates the audiobooks for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

2 of my good friends just had healthy babies, one on Buddy Boy’s birthday.

I am alive and in shape (round is a shape, I checked).

I have a decent, caring husband who does dishes and vacuums and folds laundry and plays with his son.

Our tax refund is enough to pay for a flight home this summer so our boy can meet all his cousins and aunties and uncles.

Captain Marvel was pretty great.

I could go on. And so could you. The world is filled with awful, more every day. Take time to remember the good if you can. It won’t fix anything, but it can make things bearable for a time.

Now go forth and enjoy my birthday!

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Francis – Hero Trials


She didn’t quite understand why Simon continued to lunch with her. She rarely joined in the discussions he had with Chad about their shared classes or the news or other people they knew from prep school. And it wasn’t as though he had no other friends. He was frequently hailed by other students, more so than Chad, which was surprising considering the latter’s uncanny attraction. Random kids (she called all of them kids, even upperclassmen) would join their little table for a chat, completely ignoring Chad and her. If she hadn’t been so focused on not appearing interested in her boys (when did she start calling them hers?), she might have minded the intrusions. As it was, she amused herself ignoring everybody while she studied and munched on salads. Chad’s clear annoyance at being left out pleased her to no end, though he hadn’t been nearly as rude as their first meeting.

After a few weeks of Simon’s inexplicable presence, it occurred to her that perhaps he joined her little table since it was ideal for discouraging lunch visits. The times when her preferred dining location was taken and she was forced to choose a larger table seemed to coincide with the times when Simon was bombarded with hangers-on. And not just kids saying a quick word on their way across the grounds. If there was room, every chair would fill up and more would be added until she couldn’t eat for all the elbows and chatter. And the conversation didn’t ever mean anything. Small talk, the weather, gossiping about other students, sure, but nothing important or even vaguely interesting. It got to where if she couldn’t secure a small table, she’d box up her lunch and eat in her dorm, though she ran the risk of socializing with Karen. More than once, she’d been shouted at for waking up the girl (and subsequently shouted at for letting her sleep in and miss class).

She considered, the first week or so that this went on, just leaving upon the arrival of her boys. But that felt too much like running away. She was there first, after all.

Today, however, the inclination to bolt to her room was stronger than usual. Despite the smaller table, there were at least a dozen other students. They crammed chairs around until she was caged by them, all excitedly discussing the latest Hero Trials in boisterous voices. Apparently, this year’s Capital course was especially challenging.

Trials were most frequently made up of a series of obstacles, some physical, some intellectual, and all aimed at testing potential Heroes to their absolute limits. Even with strict safety precautions, people died every year in the attempt to earn their capes.

Territory Capitals, which usually drew the highest density of prospective heroes, would have monthly Capital Trials conducted by Betas and overseen by the City Alpha. Sometimes a Territory Alpha would observe as a way of screening Betas for promotion. Outside of the Capitals, most cities held Trials at the Spring and Fall Equinox celebrations. Rural communities might hold Trials at Midsummer, but few bothered. The best training schools were in the big cities so anyone with the right talent would be sent there.

Smaller Trials weren’t very interesting, however. Except to the families and friends of those participating, of course. There isn’t much renown in becoming a Hero in Podunk, USA. Most small communities didn’t get enough participants to hold a Trial,so as long as you passed the written exam and completed a basic fitness test, you got your cape and the rank of Charlie.

Territory Trials were the only ones worth following. Participants who successfully navigated Capital Trials would automatically be granted Beta status and given the opportunity to try the Territory Trials at Midsummer. Surviving that event grants immediate promotion to Alpha, a rank that takes years to achieve otherwise, if it is ever achieved at all.

The chattering group was discussing the most recent Capital Trials, exclaiming loudly about the spectacular failures of this or that competitor. Raven Man had just lost his grip on the Razor Netting of Justice. Glamorella went down on the Unsub with a Gun steps. Deceptron lost his actual leg – his actual leg! – on the Lava Pit Gauntlet. No one had finished the event in 3 months, despite dozens of potentials competing.

“It’s rigged,” one boy was saying. “That course wasn’t built to be completed. Too many women succeeded last year.” Some of the girls scoffed but they didn’t contradict him. Statistically, women rarely completed the major Trials because they were so physically demanding. Last year, a record 17 women had finished, nearly 6 times the number who had even competed the year before.

One of the girls, a tall athletic blonde, argued, “They had to make it more difficult, yeah, but they went too far the other way. Now it’s just impossible.” Murmured assent passed around the table while Francis focused on her salad.

“Well, and why shouldn’t it be impossible? Maybe that’s the point,” said another boy, a short freckled kid who wore too much Axe body spray. “Bunch of the winners last year didn’t even finish their first posting. Disgraceful.” More assent and sage nodding. Her stomach swooped uncomfortably and she set down the forkful of greens she had been about to eat. She could feel the heat radiating off the kids directly behind her.

“Funny way of putting it,” Simon said coldly, making Frances look up. “So they ‘didn’t finish,’ huh? It’s not like they just gave their 2 weeks and went off to pursue their dreams of…of becoming a hair stylist or something. Half of them were killed by criminals in the line of duty and the others were removed by their own Alphas. But I guess ‘didn’t finish’ is as apt as anything else.” The kids all froze and she realized 3 things all at once: Chad had a restraining hand on his arm, the other kids were definitely afraid of Simon, and she wasn’t the only one who had lost someone to the Trials.

“Simon, he didn’t mean anything by it,” a brunette in a pink sorority sweater said softly. She nudged Axe Body Spray and he nodded fervently. Simon glared at the group, a dull red flush on his cheeks, but then he dropped his eyes to his lunch. Released from his direct gaze, the kids half-heartedly chatted about homework and in swift order found excuses to leave. Chad didn’t drop his hand until it was just the three of them left. Simon pushed around the remains of his chili mac burrito, then jerkily stood up and marched off with his tray. Francis watched him dump it with the precision of someone trying very hard not to smash everything within reach and then stroll away in the direction of the meditation room, long hands shoved deep in his jeans pockets.

“His sister two years ago,” Chad spoke, seemingly to his loaded baked potato taco. “She, uh, was one of the women killed in the Territory Trials when that guy went nova. And last year’s City winners were almost all alumni from our school. I didn’t know them, but Simon’s got lots of older siblings so.” He shrugged and took a large bite of his taco, the hard corn shell shattering between his sharp teeth, spilling potatoes and sour cream all over his plate.

Francis understood.

Her friends use to tease her because she seemed to know all the upperclassmen in high school. It was a side effect of having a highly popular older brother. She was one of the few freshmen and sophomores invited to all the senior dances and she was never hazed like other freshmen. And when some of those kids popped up at local Trials, she’d root for them even if she only recognized them as ‘that one kid who threw up popcorn and jelly beans at Patrick’s 16th birthday party.’

“So that’s why they all suck up to him? Pity?”

Chad took a moment to spoon some of his potatoes onto a larger piece of taco shell. “Yeah, that’s part of it. But you ever wonder why he’s at this school even though he doesn’t have powers?”

She had, but it just wasn’t polite to ask. It was enough of a shock that he even mentioned it at their first meeting, rather like someone introducing themselves with their porn preferences. Maybe she had been too long in Nigeria, but things couldn’t have changed that much.

He’s going to tell me, she thought, and it’s going to change how I look at him. All those kids pretending to like him, seeking his approbation, they aren’t his friends at all.

Am I his friend?

“Don’t,” she said before he could say any more. “Whatever it is, he can tell me. Or not. Doesn’t matter to me why he’s here. Don’t have to be a witch or a faerie to be bad at math.” The bell rang for the end of lunch and she cleared her tray, thinking hard about the stricken features of Axe Body Spray. She probably should have passed him one of her bad pennies, but perhaps he had his own bad luck coming.

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So Let’s Talk About Socialism


Puppettron's Blog

There’s been an incredible number of memes passed around about what socialist parties or people would want to happen in the US, mostly scare memes filled with a load of the most ignorant things I could possibly encounter, and I honestly wonder how people I know to be fairly intelligent can come to such vastly ignorant conclusions.

Let’s take this meme here, Socialist Monopoly. socialist monopoly

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The Nature of Sympathy in a Global Community


It’s pretty well established that tragedies bring out the humanity in people. This is not always a good thing.

When terrible things happen, usually the overwhelming response is positive. Outpourings of support, donations, prayers, and sometimes change are the norm. You’ll see this most with natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc). At first, anyway. There’s only so long people can focus on one disaster before another one crops up. Mother Nature is trying to wipe us out one tidal wave at a time and it’s hard to sustain sympathy for very long.

We are still recovering from Maria and Harvey and Sandy. We’re still recovering from Katrina. Puerto Rico and Haiti are still in shambles. It takes a long time to rebuild the bones of our lives when they are swept away by the whims of nature.

But you can’t get mad at the transient nature of human sympathy. We can’t sit bemoaning the plight of others all the time. There are cat videos to watch. We gave our thoughts and prayers, donated $10, added a banner to our profile picture, maybe ran a marathon or bought a shirt. But then we had to move on to the next sensational tragedy. Surely someone is still helping, the government or the cajun navy or whatever. Even if there isn’t a new disaster to focus on, we have to get back to our lives, sharing political memes and watching reality tv and making fun of Florida Man. Until we are directly affected by a disaster, we don’t have the emotional space to cling to it.

Keep in mind when you are chiding people for forgetting about Haiti and Puerto Rico and Flint and California that, while humans are communal creatures, the global community is a relatively new invention. Our true community is the one we see/physically interact with every day. It is difficult to maintain a mental space for people and places that exist only vaguely in our social media feeds and the price of produce.

I guess what I’m saying is KEEP REMINDING US. People complain about how the media isn’t covering this or that. Well, they cover what gets them ratings. And we constantly tell them that we only want to hear about NEW, SENSATIONAL STORIES THAT CONFIRM OUR WORLDVIEW. Congratulations, kids. YOU are now our source for news. When Nebraska got flooded last week, I kept seeing complaints that the national media is ignoring this huge catastrophe just because Nebraska isn’t on the coast. And, yeah, that’s pretty awful. But, come on. Who even trusts the Media any more? I’ve given up on nearly all of them, except NPR and The Daily Show. And honestly, I don’t watch/listen to the news much at all because everything is so sh*tty all the time. I just get angry or hopeless, usually both, and life sucks enough without adding the weight of everything falling apart and dead whales and callous politics. I didn’t notice the lack of media coverage because all my friends and family in the Midwest have been posting about it constantly.

So, yes, keep posting current updates because I don’t mean to forget about you and I do want to know how you are.

Ok, that is not actually what I wanted to write about, but I had to cover that first to get to what really ticks me off.

It’s not so common with natural disasters, but there’s a response I see time and again around more controversial tragedies. First of all, how is that even a thing? People are dead/homeless/starving/suffering, but sympathy is doled out based on what? The source of the suffering? The race/religion/sexuality/nationality of the victims?

Here’s how not to respond to a tragedy (here defined as any pointless loss of life): that’s sad, but…

Anything you say after “but” is wrong. The victims should have done something differently so it’s their own fault they died? NO. There are other tragedies that involve our own people so let’s focus on us first? NO. Okay, but the victims are actually the perpetrators NO. It’s all just a conspiracy to take away our NO. STOP. JUST SHUT UP.

If you respond to a mass shooting at a Mosque by sharing articles about Christian genocides, what exactly are you trying to prove? If you send “thoughts and prayers” and then sit on your hands and do nothing because it might upset your corporate backers, what are your prayers actually for? If you terrorize survivors of mass shootings just to prove they’re part of a conspiracy to make Nazis and gun owners look bad, FUCK YOU. Nobody is coming for your guns. If the government decides to go all tyrannical on you, they have nuclear bombs. They aren’t actually scared of you and your toy pistols.

And now I’m angry and hopeless again. Because when people are murdered for their beliefs/gender/sexuality/locality, assholes come out of the woodwork with their well actually, Irish people were slaves, too and Muslims are the real terrorists and Sandy Hook was an inside job.

Tragedy is not a competition. It is not a conspiracy. It is not a chance for you to get up on your soapbox about how none of this would have happened if. If what? How does that even help to drag in your political agenda? Especially if that agenda would rather blame the victims than address the issues. You don’t want stricter gun control, fine. Come up with SOMETHING, ANYTHING. FFS, how much more bloviating do we have to suffer through? Cuz closing our eyes to every sh*tstorm because it brings up awkward questions about human rights/religious freedom/climate change/etc ISN’T. FUCKING. WORKING.

But hey, don’t worry. Because we have the attention span of a hummingbird. I’ll be mad about this for a bit, I’ll worry about my home state, mourn the massacred in New Zealand, weep for the Parkland kids who are still dying, and lament the death of another whale to a stomach-full of plastic bags. But before anything can change, before your thoughts and prayers have even gotten cold, the news will turn to the next SENSATIONAL TRAGEDY THAT CONFIRMS MY WORLDVIEW and I will forget. Sorry.

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6 Yards of Fabric


(Trigger warning – pregnancy gone bad)

The sand is cool under her feet. She likes the way it shifts with each step, dragging her down as though it knows her intent. The breeze coming off the water cuts through her hospital gown, raising goosebumps on her bare legs. Her cheeks are flushed red, the tip of her nose numb, and each breath is like swallowing needles. But the exertion from walking here has warmed her limbs enough that she welcomes the gusts that send snow flakes dancing through her streaming hair. Somewhere behind her are alarms and panicked voices calling her name, but here there is only the grit of the sand, the frigid wind, and the still, deep water before her.

Her and the boy. He is safe from the cold, wrapped tight to her chest in six yards of fabric and zipped into her winter coat. His tiny feet are carefully tucked away and his hands balled into delicate fists between her breasts. She places her lips on top of the dark hair that lies thickly on his head and she sings to him. She sings and remembers.

There was an anomaly at the 20-week scan. Nothing to worry about. We’ll run some tests. And then some more tests. They brought in an expert, who performed more tests and stared at charts and took samples of blood and umbilical cord and amniotic fluid.

No one had wanted to tell them. The nurses, the midwife, the expert all looked at something else. So she knew before anything was said that the registry should be taken down. Little onesies and toys and diapers and books and all their dreams for who he was going to be, all had to be returned or given away or abandoned.

She hated that while the expert explained about genetic disorders, she was mourning the fact that they had only just decided what stroller to buy and her sister would have to cancel the baby shower. But perhaps her mind was focused on the shallow details so she wouldn’t feel her soul bleeding out in that cramped, cold, sterile room.

Her husband argued. And when they explained calmly again that there was no chance, he sat on the floor and wept, arms wrapped painfully tight around her legs. She just sat with her hand resting on the little bump and asked the only thing she could. What now? Nothing. It must run its course.

Her mother cried, her face pressed to her swollen belly. She set her church to praying for a miracle. He was still alive, so there was hope. It was easier to let her think that.

She quit her job and stayed home, finishing the blanket she had started for him. Late at night, she felt him move, an alien creature discovering his cage. Her hatred was palpable then, a thick viscous poison in her throat. She refused to cry for him. She wept for her husband who was so broken when he looked at her, his face crumpled like an empty shirt. She let him hold her when he needed and she nodded along when he planned to try again. One day, when she’s ready. We can get through this.

The time came and it was the perfect birth. Everything went exactly as it should. She pushed him out after only an hour of active labor and they plugged him immediately into their machines. Just to monitor him. Nothing could help him. It was only a matter of time.

A day passed. Then two. He wouldn’t stop crying, a piteous wail that filled the little room and carried down the hall. She fed him as often as she could because when he latched on her he couldn’t cry. But he was is pain every moment, limbs trembling and each breath a gasp. His very bones were on fire, nerve ending alight with the agony of life.

On the third day, her husband brought the baby wrap. It was the only thing they had kept. Six yards of stretchy fabric that cuddled him to her chest. He stopped crying. Her husband smiled, his face betraying the stupid hope he had carried all along. She didn’t crush that hope. She was a coward.

The monitor was a simple device, really. The mute button was easy to find. They weren’t going to come running to her room, in any case. The ward was full of other new babies, babies who would live and needed constant attention. There was no reason to be attentive to her baby.

He stopped crying because he couldn’t anymore. He whimpered, his fists balled tight, his face pinched. He couldn’t open his mouth to latch anymore, just curled tighter into her chest, face turning blindly from one side to the other. She walked around the little room, bouncing him gently with ever step. Her bare feet slapped softly on the linoleum and her hands absently stroked his back through the fabric. She paused, just a momentary hesitation in her pace, and her husband woke from his fitful sleep on the recliner.

She ghosted a smile, assured him the boy slept, and asked for something from the vending machine. Nothing crunchy. She didn’t want to wake him. He pulled on his shoes and gave her a swift kiss on the cheek. Still hopeful.

Her winter coat had an added panel, a gift from her best friend when they first announced it. Pregnant women need to be able to zip up their coats, too! And when he’s born, you flip the panel and it will zip over the carrier. Isn’t that neat? It was very convenient for walking out of the ward. He was so small, the coat completely hid him from the drowsy nurse at the desk. Most of the nurses had taken to looking through her, anyway. Grief is so very painful to look at.

The rest of the hospital was dark, lit by exit signs and dimmed hall lights. The walk from the ward to the elevator was deserted, as was the lobby near the exit. It only took a few minutes to cross the parking lot and the main road, follow the little walking trail passed the ghostly park, and come to the serene, frozen lake.

She had stared at it for three days from the fourth floor. Not a large lake, but it was deep and dark. When he had relaxed on her chest, the pained breaths ceasing their static rhythm on her skin, she had paused in surprise. A swift glance at the monitor confirmed her suspicion. A little red light was flashing urgently, but everything else has stopped.

She knew she was a coward. That’s why she had left work before she had to tell anyone. It’s why she had hated the life growing pointlessly inside her. Why she had allowed her husband to think she would survive this and certainly why she had sent him away at that moment. She couldn’t tell him his son was finally at peace.

She can hear sirens now. There are distant voices calling and flashlights hunting the darkness for her. She finishes the lullaby verse and then walks out onto the water. The ice burns her feet, cracking like broken bones. She is glad for the ice. It is unlikely she could have swam far enough out otherwise.

She walks a dozen steps, two dozen, and begins to worry that the ice is too thick. She brought nothing to break through it. But she keeps walking, feet thankfully numb, tears freezing to her cheeks, and still humming the lullaby. Until she steps through the ice. A moment of paralyzing cold, an instinctive gasp for air, lung full of icy daggers. Then nothing but the little weight on her chest, secured safely in six yards of fabric, dragging her down into blissful night.

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It’s the Little Things


Nothing is ever gained by reading the comments.

I’d like that inscribed my gravestone. Or on the plaque marking the tree growing out of my remains.

It never fails. Read an inspiring article or personal account or harrowing experience, maybe something I relate to on a deeply personal level. Feel validated or vindicated. This person gets it. I’m not alone in this thought or philosophy or experience. Just don’t read the comments.

Don’t do it.

You’ll regret it.

Well, the ones I can see are all positive so maybe I’ll just scroll down a little…

Damnit. I hate people.

It’s not just the Trolls. Those are easy to pick out. Look at me! Making libtards/snowflakes/sjws/whatever fight me in the comments is the only way my tiny dick gets hard. NOT ALL MEN! WHOO!

The non sequiturs are annoying. I didn’t read the post, but I fully agree/disagree for a long paragraph that has nothing to do with anything. Please validate me because the cats don’t cuddle me as much as I thought they would.

It’s tragic that you lost your baby months before it was born, but we prayed really hard and our friend’s daughter didn’t have a Down Syndrome baby so it’s a good thing they didn’t abort.

The “I support you but not how you express yourself/protest” comments.

The “that’s not how I handled a dissimilar situation” comments.

The “My story is so much worse, let me prove it” comments.

I think, after much consideration, the worst comments are Dismissives.

Yes, it is awful that some stranger harassed you on the subway and women face this blatant disrespect EVERY DAY, but get over it because there are starving children in China. I hope you’re happy that we don’t live in a country were female genitals are ritually mutilated and you’re allowed to leave your house without a male escort.

I’m sorry that your rapist went unpunished, but there is an island of trash in the Pacific and 16 species of bee went extinct in the last ten minutes. So, you know, get over it.

Ok, yes. There are a lot of problems in the world, but how exactly does pointing that out help? Does snidely tacking on #firstworldproblems when people are harassed or bullied or triggered make anything better?

It’s such a little issue in the grand scheme of things, why did you waste the time to complain?

Well I say, eff that jazz. When you’re hurting, you may think it helps to remember that others have it worse. Well, it doesn’t. Your pain is unique to you, there’s no scale you have to measure up to before you qualify to feel pain or anger or fear. “You must be this traumatized to ride the Shitty Life Roller Coaster.” Bull. Shit.

We are all trying to get by. I’m trying to save the planet by ditching straws and buying package-free products and recycling bottles and paper scraps even though I know I can never make up for the sheer magnitude of 100 years of industrial waste. And everything I do to help the environment is usually just as bad as not helping. (Like buying a hybrid or electric car to reduce my carbon footprint only to find that building and shipping that car caused so much pollution that I’d have to drive it for 1000 years just to break even.)

I’m hoping to raise my son to treat all people with respect, even while judges refuse to hold grown men accountable for raping preteens because they took money from him so they were the aggressors. And women saying it’s better to thank a catcaller because ignoring them can cause escalation from friendly flirtation to murder, even though catcalling is totally harmless. And people are more pissed off about aborting dead babies and kneeling athletes than black kids being shot for wearing hoodies.

How am I supposed to protect my son from toxic masculinity if you think it’s what bought him his freedom? How do I explain Conversion Therapy and 22 veteran suicides a day? How much damage will I have to undo when you tell him that boys don’t cry? Don’t be a pussy. That’s gay. Man up. Remember, son, your problems are insignificant, so stop bitching and go chop some wood and threaten to rape a girl because she’s playing a video game.

How about instead of telling a girl that a random stranger yelling that he’d totally fuck her is a compliment, we tell boys that catcalls are a threat? And asking for a hug is a subtle way of reminding women that if you wanted to, you could rape her behind a dumpster and leave her for dead because you have great swim times.

To return to my point, it is an ugly world out there. But we aren’t going to fix it by pointing at the ugly and yelling at people to get over their issues. If we don’t fix the little problems, we’re screwed.

To quote the late great, Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

That means you don’t treat people like things. Even if you disagree with their politics. Even if you feel attracted to them. Even if you can’t see their faces. Stop responding to criticism with insults. Stop adding to their suffering to make yourself feel more important or righteous. Stop blaming victims for their abuse. Just stop being assholes. Don’t be a pretentious twat waffle. Why is that so hard?

Maybe if we start respecting people again, we can start respecting other things.

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Francis – Math, Talents, and Lunch


It was pretty clear that Karen had a talent for sigils. Most of her textbooks seemed to be about using text to affect your surroundings. People like her ended up as security specialists or in public relations for heroes. Francis had heard of one sigilist who went into costume design, stitching protective symbols into the warp and weave of the suits she made. Of course, most sigilists could only power one symbol at a time and were limited by distance, medium, and intent. Karen was by no means a greater power, but her ability to power a keep-away spell made in chalk while out of the building was fairly impressive. Francis spent her first week in school surreptitiously checking for hidden sigils in their room. Nobody likes being unduly influenced by chalk, but it appeared that her roommate was no longer interested in affecting her.

They mostly didn’t see each other during the day. Francis had worried that they might have the same lunch break, but it turned out that when she actually attended class, the other girl much preferred the smaller cafeteria since it was more convenient and featured the newest food bar trend: toast (everything you could possibly put on toast, a dozen different kinds of bread including English muffins, bagels, donuts, and gluten-free bread, and a coveted French toast panini option on Fridays). The only class they shared was Hero History, which was solid lectures with everyone struggling to take notes on important landmarks in Hero legislation and the far-reaching implications of Hero involvement in the Great War of 1906.

She quickly noted that she was one of the few students who owned a laptop. Since most of the students fell into the category of middle to upper class white kids, she was surprised by this, but she didn’t really know how to ask about it. Part of her just assumed that somehow laptops were old-fashioned and the younger generation was all about college-ruled notebooks.

Her second math class went much better than the first. Mrs. Hugo had, unfortunately, broken her hip while getting a snack at the vending machine down the hall. As a consequence, she had decided to finally retire from teaching. Professor Williams, her replacement, had no difficulty in believing that Francis was who she said she was. He gave a brief lecture on his syllabus, assigned some homework from the textbook, and then gave them the remaining class time to work through the problems.

Again, Francis found that she was the only one using a laptop. The boy sharing her table was arduously copying out the math problems into a thick notebook, green-eyes narrowed as they flicked between the textbook and his lined paper. He had a graphite smudge on his high forehead from brushing his vivid orange hair out of his face.

“What?” he asked when he caught her looking.

“Oh, sorry, you got pencil on your forehead,” she replied, hastily returning to her work. He rubbed his forehead with his palm, succeeding only in making his skin turn bright red. Francis pulled out her pocket mirror and passed it to him. He licked his thumb for a more serious attack.

“Thanks,” he said when he returned her mirror. “I’m Simon. Training to be a mage.”

“Francis. I’m a leprechaun.”

Simon snorted, but when he saw her face tighten he said, “Oh, sorry. I, uh, didn’t know that was a thing.”

“I didn’t know Mages were a thing, but saw no reason to laugh at you,” she replied tartly.

“Well, they aren’t, actually. My talent isn’t defined yet so I just kinda made up the term. Until my abilities present, I mean.” She watched a blush creep swiftly up his neck and into his face, immediately regretting her harsh tone. Most people’s talents presented at birth or at the onset of puberty. But it wasn’t unheard of for them to wait until full adulthood to manifest, either as weak abilities or (more often) unfortunate physical mutations. Before she could apologize, he waved the conversation away and gestured to her laptop. “I didn’t know Faeries could use modern tech.”

“Leprechauns aren’t like other Faerie types. Affinity for metals, especially gold, is built in. Oh, is that why no one has computers here?” It hadn’t occured to her that most of the students would be classed as Faeries, though it made sense. The college catered to mid-level abilities, either weak Hero skills or non-crime-fighting talents. That meant Faeries, Magic-users, Side Kicks, and Half-breeds, among others. Sensitivity to iron was typical among Faeries, with the most common side-effect being an adverse relationship with technology. She suddenly felt very stupid.

The bell for lunch rang before Simon could answer, so she threw her laptop in her satchel and hurried out. Not because she was embarrassed for not realizing something so obvious. She just hated waiting in line for her food.

Today, she indulged in the pasta bar, piling her plate with as much macaroni as she could and then layering on alfredo sauce, mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, and pepperoni from the pizza bar. There was an empty four-top on the outdoor patio and it was just cool enough to make most people choose to eat indoors. The spindly-legged table was a bit wobbly, but it was much quieter outside. She was just digging in when Simon sat down across from her.

“So anyway, what can you do? If you don’t mind me asking.” He wasn’t looking at her, choosing instead to focus on drizzling ketchup over his french fries, baked potato, tater tots, and grilled cheese sandwich.

“I bring luck,” she said unabashed. The pasta was over-cooked for her taste, but at least the alfredo was good. “Mostly work with metal, like I said.”

“Fuck, Simon, could you find a smaller fucking table?” Another boy dropped his tray on her table and then scrouged a chair from another table, the metal legs dragged carelessly across the cement. He was wearing navy blue khaki shorts, a pastel pink polo shirt, and smelled strongly of Axe body spray. “Hey, I’m Chad.”

“Francis.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t look like a Francis.”

“Well you look exactly like a Chad.” His smile was all straight, white teeth and for some reason, her stomach flipped when he winked at her. He was ridiculously good looking, all perfectly tanned skin and broad shoulders. Francis felt small and dark and ugly next to him, embarrassed that she was drawn to him since she was clearly unworthy. The warmth rolling off him made her very uncomfortable, all tingly and languid, so she turned her attention back to Simon. “Do Chads often follow you around? Is there some kind of repellent I could buy?”

Simon snorted so hard he nearly aspirated a French fry, though Francis wasn’t trying to be funny. She was simply over-compensating for the strong desire to rip his stupid polo off and ride him to the ground. Chad laughed heartily, one of those big, honest, gut-born chuckles then smacked Simon on the back with one of his broad hands.

“I like your girl friend. Very fiesty for such a little thing.” He had the nerve to wink at her again, charisma dripping off him like honey. Francis narrowed her eyes and then laid one hand flat on the table top. The swirling pattern warmed to her touch almost instantly and in her mind’s eye she followed the heat along the whirling path to where Chad’s hand rested.

He didn’t notice the subtle change in temperature, but he did notice when at the first bite his entire burger and toppings slopped out from between the buns and into his lap. He leapt up, swearing vehemently and Simon really did aspirate a fry.

After he stopped laughing, Simon offered some napkins from the sizeable stack he had on his tray. “Dude, you should know better than to try charms on women here.” Chad glowered at him and then snatched the napkins and began aggressively wiping at the mess of mustard and ketchup down his front. “Sorry, he’s a Siren,” he explained.

“He lures sailors to they’re death with his song?” She stared incredulously at both of them.

“No,” Chad interrupted. “I’m naturally enticing. I have to be an asshole or else people just fling themselves at me.” With that, he took his tray, dumped the contents in the trash, and went back inside to resupply. Watching him saunter away, Francis admitted to herself that had he been less of a dick, she would have happily thrown herself to sea for the sake of his backside.

“So that was self-defense?” she asked, still staring from under her lashes.

“Sorta. Most people don’t care how he treats them so long as he smiles,” Simon sighed. “Growing up with him was tough, you know? I had to be his conscience a lot because he never learned empathy. It’s a real handicap. But rudeness does help temper the attraction, so maybe it is a kind of self-defense. Though, I’ve never seen it work so effectively.” He chortled appreciatively and ate a few fries.

By the time Chad returned with a new burger, Simon and Francis were discussing their classes and dorms and the absurd obsession the school had with Jeffersonian architecture (does every building really need columns and domes?). By the time the bell rang for afternoon classes, Chad was cheery again and his effect on Francis’ libido had softened enough that she didn’t want to rip his shirt off, even just to treat the ketchup stain.

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Francis – Day 1


The first day of classes was fine. They were all basically the same. Roll call, syllabus, lecture about how the students aren’t in high school anymore. Most professors were pretty adept at covering their surprise that Francis Kelly was a small black girl. Her Math professor called her a liar and told her to leave because she was disrupting the class. On her way out, she left a quarter on the stupid woman’s podium and went straight to her advisor.

“Ah, yes, Mrs. Hugo. She’s been teaching here since the school opened in ’75.” The young man behind the desk squinted through thick glasses at some paperwork, his tone dismissive. “She’s set in her ways, that’s all. And it wouldn’t be the first time students have tried to pull something like that.”

Somewhat stunned, Francis countered, “Something like what? She called me a liar in front of the class because my name isn’t black enough. I didn’t try anything but take a required Math course!”

Mr. Peebles (for so his desk proclaimed him to be) looked up startled by her heated retort. “Well, there’s no cause for raising your voice, young lady. Maybe if you controlled your temper, you’d still be in class.”

Francis could feel the heat rushing to her face. Young lady?!? She wanted very much to dent his thick head with his name plate. Instead, she took several deep breathes through flared nostrils and focused all her anger down her left arm and into some coins she held tightly in her pocket. When the tingling stopped and the coins cooled, she felt calm. “Is there another class I can take?” She knew her tone was too sweet to be believable, but he seemed satisfied.

“There are a few, but you’ll have to take this class eventually if you want to graduate. I’d stick with it, if I were you. You’ll just have to apologize at the next class.”

She did not slam the door when she left. Across from his office was a huge cork board covered in notices for clubs and events. She focused on a page while forcing more rage into her pocket of change. By the time the halls filled with students heading to their next classes, she had read nearly all the flyers and felt almost giddy.

The coins were heating up in her pocket again, so she decided to stop by her dorm before lunch to drop them off. Her father had warned her against keeping metal that she had charmed. Channeling strong emotions into metal was a great talent to ease stress. But when kept close to the source, those emotions would try returning. “Never keep your anger close, love. It’s too easy to take it back and it grows in strength the longer you hold on to it.”

The milk jug was nearly half-full of her feelings. The good feelings she tried to pass along, usually to harried service workers. A couple pennies could make a major difference in a bad day. The bad feelings she had to treat more cautiously.

The cheerful jingle of change unfortunately woke her roommate. “Dafuq?” she slurred, glaring bleary-eyed at Francis with her sleep mask askew. “Why are you making all that noise? It’s almost 1:00 am!”

Francis decided to respond by jerking up the blinds to let in the blazing sunlight. To her intense satisfaction, the other girl shrieked like a scalded cat. “Better get dressed or you’ll miss lunch,” she said in a sing-song voice on her way out.

About twenty minutes later, she was just finishing her lasagna and considering the dessert bar when Karen plopped a tray down at her little table and dragged a chair over, looking freshly showered and clearly disgruntled.

“Well?” the girl snapped. Francis raised an eyebrow. “Why the hell didn’t you wake me? I missed 2 classes this morning.”

“I. Am not. Your mother.” Deciding that dessert wasn’t vital at the moment, she took her empty tray to the wash station and left the cafeteria. The classroom for Hero History of the 20th Century was locked, so she sat outside the door reading a book. Karen was going to be a problem if they couldn’t establish some ground rules. Imagine getting mad at someone else because you were too stupid to set an alarm?

Her reading was disrupted by an impatiently tapping foot. Karen was glaring down at her, a picture of righteous outrage in pink khakis. “Oh, do you have this class, too?” Francis asked breezily, returning to her book.

“Why are you so mean!”

Francis let out a long sigh. She was stuck with this idiot for the foreseeable future. Did she really want to make an enemy of her? Her father never let anyone think he didn’t like them. It made borrowing money that much easier.

“I’m sorry, Karen. It hasn’t been a great morning. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” The girl stilled, clearly unnerved by the sudden change in tone. Francis gave her her most winnning smile.

“Fine, apology accepted. Just don’t do it again.” She carelessly dropped her backpack on the tiles and slumped down next to Francis. From an outside pocket she drew a hairbrush which she drew rapidly through her thin, blonde hair a few times, wafting a heavy floral scent into Francis’ face. As she gathered her hair up into a ponytail, she considered the other girl’s hairdo. Francis hadn’t bothered to do much with her hair today, abandoning styling creams for a simple headband to keep the wiry curls out of her face.

“No,” she said just as Karen opened her mouth.

“What?”

“No, you can’t touch my hair.”

“How did you…”

“Everyone asks.”

They remained silent the next few minutes, until the professor, a narrow, older woman in layered skirts and a hijab, opened the door. Karen took a seat next to Francis, who had the willpower to not find a different seat.

Professor Rushdie followed the same pattern of the other teachers, though she didn’t bother looking up from her roster and so missed the chance to double-take at Francis. She also made it clear that she expects most of the students to drop the course over the next few days. After a droning thirty minute lecture on just the syllabus, Francis understood why.

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De Quervian’s Tenosynovitis


Sometime last spring I noticed my wrist was sore. I don’t know exactly when it started. I thought maybe I’d overdone it on crochet so I took a couple weeks off from hooking. It’s not like I really had time for fiber arting. Buddy Boy was eating every 2 hrs like clockwork (the clock started at the beginning of the feed and he was spending 30-45 min on the boob at a minimum and an hr+ when cluster feeding). I barely had time to eat and I don’t think I slept those first few months at all.

Well, my wrist didn’t get better. I finally decided to get it checked out when my thumb started disjointing itself whenever I spread out my fingers. So I go to the doctor, explain what’s happening, mention that I have a newborn, and she laughs (oh, yes, I also find my pain hilarious, aha aha). De Quervian’s tenosynovitis, she says. It’s a very common injury for new mothers. Me, a new mother and an intellectual, never heard of it. But every women’s group I mention it to has several members who exclaim that they had it, too. Well, thanks for the warning, guys.

Basically, it’s tendinitis of the thumb joint where it meets the wrist caused by the repetitive motion of picking up my GIANT BABY. And it hurts. Not all the time, mind you. If I notice it at all during my day, it’s maybe a 1 or 2 on the pain scale. Unless I go to use my wrist. Brushing my hair bumps it up to a 3 or 4. Picking up the boy is maybe a 5. But catching him, or any sudden jerky motion with a heavy weight ratchets it up to a 7. (Why not higher? Bc labor really effs up your pain scale.)

Anyway, they gave me a splint to wear ALL THE TIME, even sleeping, and some Ranger Candy (800mg Ibuprofen) and said to come back in 3 weeks if it wasn’t better.

The splint did help at first. I didn’t take the Ibuprofen unless it was achy, which was fairly rare. 3 weeks passed. Then 3 months. That’s about when the splint stopped helping and my wrist started getting worse.

You know how when you sleep, your joints swell up? Well, that inactivity pushes my thumb out of joint which I don’t notice until I try to move my hand. It’s extremely painful to make a fist, grasp anything, or rotate my wrist. Every morning I have to stretch my thumb across my palm to my pinky to work it back in so I can use my hand. Same thing happens if I hold my phone in that hand for too long. Or a book. It’s not fun.

I put off going back to the doctor for a long time. I was busy, Buddy was busy, it was hard to get a sitter, and I knew it was a waste of time. This type of injury only gets better when you STOP performing the repetitive motion that caused it. And, sorry to say, I can’t stop picking up my son. He’s 20 lbs. I’m not strong enough to lift him one-handed.

Well, I did some research and asked my mom-groups who mostly said the next option was a steroid shot. I might have to keep getting shots to offset the continued aggravation to the injury, but at least it could mitigate some of the damage and help with the pain. Add that to the growing concern that a weakened wrist is a liability with a high-energy baby and a follow-up appointment seemed inevitable. What if I go to catch him and it just gives out? Can’t risk dropping him if there’s a better treatment.

I made an appointment for the week before Christmas since Buddy had free time finally. I filled out the questionnaire (why are you here, when were you injured, what helps it, what hurts it, etc). I sat with the nurse who asked me all the same questions while she took my vitals. Then I answered the same questions again with the doctor. Following up on a wrist injury. De Quervian’s. I had a splint but stopped wearing it because it stopped helping. No I didn’t think to bring it with me. Just Ibuprofen when it aches. (This is the second time I’ve been seen at this clinic for this same injury, are there no records you can refer to?!?) The doctor was very kind, said it was definitely still De Quervian’s from repeated lifting of my son and explained that the hard part for this injury is usually discovering the cause, but we know so it’s just a matter of treatment. Which is a steroid shot or physical therapy. Oh and I should be wearing the splint when handling the boy and try to vary how I lift him.

Can I do the shot AND physical therapy to strengthen my wrist? Sure, but I still need a referral for Orthopedics. Woot. I called ortho to set up an appointment, which ended up being today (2 weeks later).

I did try to wear the splint. Honestly. But it restricts my movements and I have a HIGH ENERGY BABY. Luckily, I also have a husband to lift things when he’s home. And I made an effort to to lift the boy using the forearm rather than hand/wrist of my injured arm.

Today, I went in, filled out another questionnaire (why are you here, when did you get the injury, what helps it, what hurts it), answered the nurse’s questions (De Quervian’s, last spring, stretching/rotation/ice pack/Ibuprofen, using it to pick up my son), answered the doctor’s questions (see above), and then listened to her explain that I have tendonitis from repetitive motion that won’t get better until I stop lifting my son.

Yes. I know. She also told me it’s a common injury for new mothers. Oh? Really? And the only real treatment is a steroid shot. YOU DON’T SAY?!?

I don’t get this system. I fill out a bunch of questions, then re-answer everything twice. They don’t even LOOK at the sheet I filled out. The doctor doesn’t get my answers from the nurse. They don’t refer to my previous appointment records. And then I have effing deja vu at the specialty clinic bc they do the EXACT SAME THING.

*deep breath*

I KNOW WHAT’S WRONG. THE DOCTOR REFERRED ME HERE TO GET THE FUCKING SHOT, NOT TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG OR HOW I GOT HURT. READ THE FUCKING PAPERWORK.

*deep breath* Sorry. I don’t like having my time wasted. Especially when it’s time I don’t have.

So, yes, give me the shot. Why yes, I am breastfeeding. Yes, I can wait while you check if breastfeeding mothers can safely get steroid shots. Oh, of course they can’t. How silly of me to assume that a common injury for new mothers would have a safe treatment for new mothers who happen to breastfeed.

*table flip*

Ok, she prescribed an anti-inflammatory cream which should help, but not a lot. I asked about physical therapy. “Oh, well that doesn’t help at all, but if you really want to…” No, I don’t have time for that anyway. But I will take your guidelines for wrist exercises (which are actually for sprained wrist recovery, but whatever). Well, good luck and come back when he stops breastfeeding and we can fix your wrist instantly.

This is exactly why people don’t go to doctors. Two appointments that I had to carefully arrange around a newborn and what did I get for my time? Getting told what I already knew by 2 different people and a long wait at the pharmacy for a topical cream that probably won’t help which SHE FORGOT TO EVEN PUT IN. It’s no wonder people turn to healing crystals and essential oils. They may be placebos, but at least placebos actually work sometimes.

I’m so angry. So I bought yarn.

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You need HELP!


Therapy struggles

Measureable progress

So I have heard this 3 times in the last week.

Here’s the problem: I am simultaneously the smartest person in the room, and the least equipped to handle anything.  The first thing people notice about me is that I’m not very bright, but I am very loud and annoying.  No, the first thing people notice about me is my size, and they are shocked to find out I taught ballet.  No, the first thing they notice about me is that I’m always talking.  No the first thing they notice about me is I stand in a corner just watching.  I am a dichotomy.

I agree with the person that said I needed help with the house and recommended a cleaning company.  I think I’m going to do that.

I agree that I have a bad self image.  I don’t know how to fix that, so I would need to…

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