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It’s Week 22 and I Haven’t Blogged About the Next Offspring

Let me just come right out and say a couple of things: ...

Somnambulism Seems Easier

My weekday schedule is something of a failed attempt at ye olde ...

Conversations with Emile

The following are excerpts from actual conversations with my kid. EMILE: I having ...

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After Transition, Try Not to Become Insufferable

In a country that has as its national mantra, “I’m special,” it can be difficult to see the overlaps and similarities we have with other people. We mark our sense of style as unique to each of us, even as we shop at the same globally positioned clothiers, or second hand shops that sell the mass-manufactured fashions of thirty years ago. We rail against the evil of larger systems from our seats in the college auditorium. We complain about nasty customers as we daydream about spitting into their food that we’re trying to prepare for them. We lament the oligarchs even though there are so many of us who loathe them that we could theoretically do something about their power if only we banded together about it. Instead of maybe standing in our fierce independentness. But I digress. My point is that we may have distinct DNA and unparalleled lived experience, but we have great similarity to our families (chosen or not), our friends, and even to strangers.

Being a parent for thirty-two months is not much of a history, I know, but it’s enough to realize that many other people have had experiences near the ones I live through these days. Even though I am singularly located in my own place and time and history. There are so many parents out there that I see every day, bargaining with their children, looking joyful or exhausted or proud or revolted (“BOOGER, Daddy!”), sharing a scoop of ice cream or just trying to fucking get their kid into the car because they needed to leave five minutes ago. They are everywhere, parents. There’s no denying it, no hearings on Capitol Hill about whether they exist or not, even as we walk away from broad access to contraception and family planning and free breakfasts for poor kids and welfare to help support families through hard times. Nobody says we can convert parents into being non-parents. The head of Jelly Belly isn’t shelling out five million samoleans to prevent parents from existing in California. We parents know we are something of an entity, even if we don’t go around calling ourselves a “community” per se. Read More…

Transience

It’s an obvious statement to declare that I’m tired. I still get hammered with rapid-fire thoughts but the parts of my body I use for speech can’t keep up, so I wind up cutting my sentences short and fingering the lid of my iced mocha. I’m living at DEFCON 3 of irritation. Things like red light runners, people who take up spare seats next to them with their possessions so nobody else can sit down, line cutters, are all a hair away from my personal rendition of the riot act. No, you can’t put your plate of crumbs on my table at the coffee shop. Gee, I would rather you not drive in two lanes or loud talk your way through the produce aisle as if I care about the conversation you’re having with your invisible Bluetooth friend. I marvel that we’ve gone from Copernicus to nanotechnology in less than a millennium, but I’m a little perplexed that we use our progress for cat videos and Katy Perry. (No offense to Ms. Perry. Your video with Elmo is adorable and it keeps my toddler happy for two minutes and forty-one seconds.)

There’s an upside to having scant shreds of time for oneself and limitless aggravation, however. Priorities are quickly reset. Relationships, ranked. Anything lower than say, dedicated hobby, is truncated right off the schedule. Annoying people, curtailed. Poof, gone, vamoose. Bye Felicia is spoken to anyone who isn’t long-term important. And conflicts, when one needs to have them, are over in short order. Don’t process with me as you argue, because I’ll cut to the base issue. Dang, if only this had been my strategy when I was 23 and not 43. I could have lived a couple of additional lifetimes or something, with all of the saved time.

Limited time has also sped up my writing process—when I can get my brain to work well enough to generate writing, that is. But if the circuits are firing, I find I’m not dilly-dallying with junk like Facebook and email, I’m just writing. I carved out three new story arcs for my time travel series this week (Note to self: negotiate with publisher about the series) and got restarted on writing those 10,000 words I lost when my hard drive died last month. I don’t know when I’ll have a steady block of writing time again so I WRITEWRITEWRITE whenever I have the chance. Tomorrow may not show its face. Write when you get the chance, Maroon. Read More…

Dear parents, you are being lied to.

evmaroon:

Word. As someone who was quarantined along with my family for whooping cough even though we’d all been vaccinated (resulting in a more mild illness for us), I can say that anti-vaccination stances are all based on misinformation and fear. Vaccinate your kids. You may be saving a life.

Originally posted on Violent metaphors:

Standard of care.

In light of recent outbreaks of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses, and the refusal of anti-vaccination advocates to acknowledge the problem, I thought it was past time for this post.

Dear parents,

You are being lied to. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.

View original 1,134 more words

Questions Nobody Asks Me About My Novel

cover for TUTTOne of the reasons I enjoy interviews about my writing (other than the most ridiculous ego-tripping reasons, of course) is because it gives me insight into how people are interpreting my work, which is often something new or that I wasn’t creating intentionally. Sometimes an interview veers in an unexpected direction, and then I’m joyful as I get caught up talking about texts and narrative and form and extrapolating into popular culture more generally. But often there are pieces of the story that I think are glaring for readers but that never come up in conversation. So for my love of talking about textuality and literature, I thought I’d go over a few aspects of The Unintentional Time Traveler that haven’t come up in any of my Q&As.

The protagonist’s name(s)—I could answer this self-imposed question in a few different ways. First, “Jackson” is an intentional play on patrilineage, which the character winds up disrupting by choosing at the end to spend a lot of time as Jacqueline instead of in the time of Jackson’s actual life. But more important to me was the iconic use of the name “Jack” as it appears in scads of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, Jack & Jill, Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack Frost, Jack Sprat, etc. It’s almost at the level of generic marker for boys. So I wanted to create a narrative that took the mainstay name and immersed it in a novel that was focused on LGBT themes and characters. I want to see our stories and our lives within this greater mythology and literature, not apart from it. Jack was the perfect moniker to use to make this kind of a statement. And Inman is the name of a family I know from Washington, DC, but it’s also a great double entredre.  Read More…

On Male Privilege

Today’s post is guest authored by my old friend Shiloh Stark.

I know male privilege because I went from not having it, to having it.

At different points in my life, I’ve been perceived as a girl, perceived as a boy, perceived as in-between. As straight, as lesbian, and as a gay male. I’ve always been the same person, but the Rubik’s cube of my life was extra jumbled up there for a while. Each different setting, though, uncovered a new lesson in how gender works.

When people perceived me as a straight, white, heterosexual teenage girl, every time I took a walk alone, in the back of my head, a part of me worried that I might be raped. It was more present than a fear of being mugged, and carried more dread. I don’t know if all women feel that, or if it gets better over time — I just know that it was the kind of feeling you actively try to discredit, and can forget about for stretches of time, but that you can’t shake.

When I cut my hair shorter and donned more gender neutral clothes, people saw me as a lesbian. Occasionally a man would shout “dykes” when I walked down the street with a girl. I still worried about being sexually assaulted, but the tenor changed: the concern was that some straight man would feel compelled to “teach me a lesson.”  Read More…

Twitter for Writers

A few folks have asked me about Twitter over the years and how such a terse medium can be helpful for writers. What content can one even get communicated in so few characters?

The answer is: a lot. If we stop thinking about Twitter as the site of traditional content that takes eight hundred or more words to convey, and start thinking of it as a touchpoint and springboard or longer form pieces, then the possibilities open up. There are scads of great posts out there on growing followers, how to identify good accounts to follow, and so on, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Here are a few of those, as introductory Twitterverse items.

The thing for writers (or anyone, really) to do to get started on Twitter is to set up a profile, find people who are already on Twitter who you know or by your interests, and start generating content. Let’s take these in turn. Read More…

Express Delivery

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part in the story about Lucas’s birth. Also, I really wanted to write “EDITOR’S NOTE.”

me holding LucasIt’s strange to me to spend time in a hospital these days. I logged so so many hospital hours when I was growing up—between my epilepsy, nighttime seizures, and a bout with the once-named pseudotumor cerebri, I knew the floor plans of at least three medical centers—that there are strange factoids about these places that persist in my knowledge. Rounds happen way too early. Vitals are taken every four hours. Every fifth blood pressure cuff sucks. And nurses come in a vast variety of specializations and competence.

When I spent a week at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I learned I had two clear favorites, though at this point their names are lost to me. One was taller than a Redwood pine, the other a stout, short woman who cast fear into the hearts of doctors. The tall one always had a compliment. The short one always told me the truth. And when the line of residents came into my room to see how messed up my retinas were, all carrying their own blinding penlight, short nurse was there to steer them away after a couple of minutes.

I realized early on that hospitals are spaces of contradiction. They make people well, even as they’re the easiest place to catch a cold or communicable disease. They’re full of kindness in the light of progressive, inescapable illness, which is anything but kind. Their personnel have a wealth of knowledge about physiology, hematology, pharmacology, surgery, and so on, and often they don’t know anything at all related to an individual’s specific problem. Health care providers have been asked to absorb the latest and greatest in the scientific literature and retain their fundamental training. And because they work the middle of a normal distribution like flies to a cherry pie, an outlier’s power to confound is heightened. Read More…

Forget the Waiting Game

Humans love patterns. I don’t mean a Scottish plaid or a pink paisley (although those of course have their place in the world), I’m thinking more of the repetitions and unrandom occurrences that permeate our lives from which we derive meaning, seek comfort, glean knowledge, etc. Some play Sudoku, reveling in combinations of numbers, or look to discover new patterns in math, Fibonacci sequences being old hat and all. Others love fractals, genetic sequencing, a field of clovers, the lines that a purebreed dog is supposed to exhibit, whatever strikes their interest and fancy. There are patterns of things and histories and people out there to suit every interest. And beyond patterns there are trends, or pattern forecasting, if you will. Once we start talking statistics, it’s a whole new world of hit and miss—is this thing a pattern or isn’t it? can we count on this pattern to continue?—and though experts may collude that a given pattern is definitely, absolutely, perfectly true, well, I think we all know better.

Here I turn to pregnancy. Show me a woman with a 28-day cycle and I’ll show you thirty more who cycle in a different pattern, or via no pattern at all. (They live with an annoying label of “irregular.”) If Western medicine loves a broad pattern on which to base its practices, women’s reproductive systems are the proverbial fly in the ointment. All of science still fails to understand how the start of labor is even triggered. Is the uterus like, “I’m done?” Is it a sign from the fetus? A signal from the placenta? Somebody’s hippocampus? Ted Cruz? Despite all of the not knowing going on, we are presented again and again as hopeful parents to be with the same ill-fitting narrative: most women will experience X. If a given woman experiences X+2 or even Z, that’s on her.

We’ve  seen Susanne get some symptoms of pregnancy and not others, some for a longer or shorter duration than the Mayo Clinic’s book suggests will happen, and she’s had different experiences over both of these pregnancies. Why do these things change or vary?

Who the hell knows? Read More…

Waiting Games

Emile and an accordionIt’s public knowledge that toddlers are not known for their vast quantities of patience. Instead, the image is more of screaming, purple cries, stomping feet and/or thrashing on the floor. I often cover my face so I don’t get hit while Emile does his version of tilting at daddies. But he calms down quickly, at least, as I remind him of the obvious, saying “We don’t hit each other in this family.”

“But I want to,” is often his counter. And then there’s a discussion of why wanting to do something isn’t always a good enough reason to do it. At some point he will likely tack on a “But why?” and then we’ll have a whole new level of explanation to provide whilst ducking tiny blows.

Another tactic—I guess—is modeling the good behavior we want to see in him. Sometimes I tell him when I feel exasperated, but more often he notices my frustration and asks me what’s going on.

“Daddy just wishes the traffic light would turn green already.” “Well, I’ve been on hold for a while now and I would just like to resolve my customer service problem.” I’m sure a lot of this is over his head, but the point is that I’m talking despite my negative emotions, I’m digging a little deeper to continue being patient with an aggravating set of circumstances. That’s the lesson here, right?

We’re in Week 39 of Susanne’s pregnancy, and our patience at this point is thinner than a string of fibre optics carrying NSA eavesdroppers across the Atlantic Ocean. The baby is squirming, bonking Susanne from the inside, and throwing triple axels in a bid to become the youngest Olympian ever. It was several weeks ago now that mom redux started throwing her hips forward in a bid to maintain her center of gravity while walking, and now she’s just ready for a tiny human to emerge from her body. The cocoon is closing, kid. I whispered to her belly this morning, “Get out.” So far child number two ignores us as well as Emile does. Read More…

Befrazzled

I’m working on two grant applications for work and I’ve nominated myself (I know, how ostentatious of me) for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s emerging writer award, the application for which is due by March 7. I’ve already applied for two writing grants, am looking at three submission deadlines at the end of the month for short work, and submitted two other pieces for consideration in anthologies. Meanwhile Susanne and I have cobbled together the new baby’s nursery, hesitatingly accepted an invitation to a baby shower, and put together various things for our second kid. Her physician tells us that the baby could come at any time, even though we’re two weeks away from the due date. We have a backup plan in case labor begins before her mother flies into town. I’m trying to get my office ready for my short absence, and manage to keep a semblance of a writing schedule up until the rush to the hospital. And oh, my debut novel is due to be released in a little more than a week.

I’m not sleeping through the night anymore. Please don’t worry for me. It makes perfect sense, after all. There’s a lot going on. (See: preceding paragraph.) I’m no longer the French vaudeville guy spinning plates on sticks in front of a hostile audience. I’m spinning plates and juggling fire-torches at the same time. Or something. Forget it, it’s a sucky metaphor. In my 90 minutes of insomnia a night I play a little sudoku, read twenty pages of a novel, and roll over like a hot dog at 7Eleven. Once or twice I’ve groped my way out of bed to try to write a little and I wind up deleting the disaster the next day. I remember going to an exhibit in DC several years ago about women artist and insomnia, and there was this one wall—seriously, the whole gallery wall—that was a series of pen points that created a behemoth picture. I can’t even recall what the picture was. It could have been pugs dancing in tutus for all I know. The thing that stuck with me was the three gazillion dots on the wall. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. It was intricate, and mad, and just under the threshold of out-of-control.

My insomnia is nothing like that. It’s not tortured or angsty. It doesn’t feel like the edge of a precipice so much as it feels like I’m about to emerge out of a long tunnel that is curved just enough to keep from letting any light reach my retinas. It’s traveling through a space just dark enough to inspire or frighten one’s trust. So far I’ve got that trust, layered with excitement. I’m thrilled for the family to grow. I’m stressing over the external sleeplessness I know comes with round-the-clock feedings. I wasn’t worried when Susanne was laboring to bring Emile into the world that she’d be unable to walk for more than a month, but now I am. Knowledge is maybe not always power.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy, I’m fulfilled, I’m chocked up with anticipation, and the kinetic energy I contain on a daily basis this month is too much for my brain to get me to a decent sleep level. And so, I look forward to her labor, to my moment of giving her my best support, and the time when they lay a little body on her chest and she falls instantly in love with her newest child. I just have to get a ton of shit done before then, because there’s no way I’ll care about it afterward.

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