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Monday, September 1st, 2014 08:51 pm
I couldn't think of ten books that influenced me, so I was relieved to be the only person left on the internet who hadn't been tagged by their friends to do this meme, but then I got asked on Facebook. I came up with a list but I wanted to talk about them each a little, and that's easier to do here than there.


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This book made me want to be an imaginative child. I thought myself nothing like the talkative, tangential Anne Shirley, but I aspired to be.

Then once I remember being in the car, going somewhere with my family, and seeing an old bus out the window as we passed it. "It looks like a tree," I said, pointing it out, "because it's brown on the bottom half and green on the top."

"Only you would think of these things, Holly," my mom said, and I thought my heart would burst with delight and pride. Especially because I hadn't even been trying to be particularly whimsical just then.

Of course only in retrospect do I realize I had, and have, no trouble being the imaginative chatterbox that Anne was.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Basically this one just means "I grew up on a farm." I was fascinated by a world so different, and yet recognizably similar. I mention the first book in the series here not just because it's first but because it was most like my own life, in the Upper Midwest with family all around to visit, before her life became houses built by her dad.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I didn't realize it at the time, but this book got me started on science fiction. And of course I loved the movie. But this book I read to pieces; I remember falling asleep over it when I was babysitting, sneaking a look at it in my seventh-grade Life Science class when the boys sitting behind me where debating Star Trek vs. Star Wars (a debate which then as now held no interest for me)...it just seemed to be everywhere with me for a while.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Taught by the legendary Mr. Nordlie, the English teacher everyone either loved or hated. He read this to us, a bit each day in class. He made us put all our pencils and books and everything under the desks, so we wouldn't be distracted while we listened, and I certainly wasn't. He showed us the movie after he'd read it, saying he does a better voice for Lenny than the movie, and he was right. We read another book by Steinbeck in sophomore English, The Pearl, and the two of those left me absolutely enamored with Steinbeck. I read everything of his I could get my hands on after that.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
This is when I thought I started reading science fiction, a few years after I had, so it's important for that. Also this and To Sail Beyond the Sunset (where we find out Lazarus Long's mom is from the same town as my mom!), with a little help from LiveJournal, introduced me to the concept of polyamory, which has proven to be rather essential to my life ever since.

Contact by Carl Sagan
This book revived my childish desire to be an astronomer. It also cemented my conviction (though I'd have never articulated it this way at the time) that the gulf between science and the humanities is an illusion: here is a proper scientist talking proper science but also writing in a beautiful style that really stayed with me (and introduced me to some lovely poems he used as epigrams, particularly "Brotherhood" by Octavio Paz). This also got me thinking a lot about what it was like to be a woman with "male" interests, even though it's written by a man of course.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
The first Pratchett book I read, on a whim, lent to my best friend by her brother. I can't remember if she read it but I did and adored it. And the idea that the stories we tell have such power would resonate for me many years into the future in ways I couldn't have expected then.

Unfortunately he lent us another Pratchett I couldn't get into at all -- it was an early Rincewind one, and I didn't get enough of the jokes to even understand that they were supposed to be jokes -- so I thought Pratchett was a dud for a few years until I met Andrew, who got me to read Thief of Time, which I loved particularly because by that time I thought it was awfully Discordian, because I'd read...

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
Andrew introduced me to this, of course. It was via a couple of Discordian mailing-list friends of his that we found each other on LJ, perhaps a fitting start for a relationship that's infused with so much chaos and inexplicability. I liked the idea that things might matter as much as it feels like they do sometimes, that humor was a valid way to investigate and evaluate the universe (it's only been a few weeks since I told someone "it's not true unless it makes you laugh, and you don't believe it until it makes you cry", which is not as true as it is clever but it is still something I keep finding useful).

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
I don't even remember how I ended up with the audiobook of this. I remember the book itself had been recommended to me long before by Andrew's uncle. It sounded crazy: who'd want to read a whole book about such a thing? How could there be enough to say? But it's utterly fascinating, especially because the audiobook is read by someone with a good voice for it, who I like listening to. This one book kicked off a trend of me reading non-fiction almost exclusively and of my increasing love for and dependence on audiobooks. It's one I still have on my computer, and which I'll play a bit of, especially if I'm migrainey or stressed or otherwise in need of soothing.

The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross
This too was an early audiobook I acquired (probably from eMusic? Ah, those were the days...) and which is a great marriage of book and reader. It taught me an absolute ton about twentieth-century music, and is another one that I keep going back to because I find it so comforting. I've been playing early chapters to help me sleep lately.
Monday, September 1st, 2014 07:22 pm
It's lovely seeing a lot of my friends do this "ten influential books" meme, because I start to notice a lot of overlaps. Everyone seems to have a Terry Pratchett book. A lot have 1984, or Catch-22, or Narnia, or Robert Heinlein...and I'm delightedly surprised to see how often Steinbeck crops up.

I haven't been able to think of a good list for myself, but it'd certainly feature several of those things. No surprise, I suppose. But it's interesting to see the patterns.
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Monday, September 1st, 2014 08:56 am
In a moment of Morrissettean irony, I woke up too sick for my doctor's appointment this morning.

The headache I've had off and on for a week has come back, but I'm also feeling generally achy, dizzy, and I think slightly feverish. And of course I'm exhausted, but I did have a poor night's sleep, waking up partly because I was feeling so rough.

I got out of bed to phone and cancel my appointment and get a glass of water, and have gone back to bed feeling very sorry for myself indeed. Which is the last thing I needed more of, really, isn't it.
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Sunday, August 31st, 2014 07:59 pm
There are two or three blog posts I wanted to write after my latest Parental Visit, but since I've gotten back I've been so goddam tired I have hardly been able to do words. So tired I have found myself getting upset about it, like a toddler who needs a nap but is fighting it.

Some of the things I wanted to write about have found other outlets, mostly over breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] haggis or beers with [livejournal.com profile] smescrater yesterday. Hooray for friends.

And beer.

Only yesterday, after the obligatory nap, did I remember that as well as a week of insomnia, jet-lag and a sinus infection all being likely to leave me tired, the previous week also saw me (re-)start an SSRI. This one I don't remember doing anything to me the first time I tried it, a few years ago, but I know at least two or three of the previous ones I'd tried got nixed because they left me incapacitated with tiredness. I've got another GP appointment tomorrow to check up on how I'm doing with the sertraline, but I actually don't even think I can tell yet, because of all this other shit going on.
Sunday, August 31st, 2014 12:18 am
So obviously when Clara calls herself the Doctor's carer (in what seems to be half exasperation, half futile attempt at insulting him (a combination that reminded me of Martin Freeman's Watson)) and he replies "Yeah, she cares so I don't have to," Andrew grinned and patted me on the knee and said, "that's what you are for me! You care so I don't have to!"

But this wasn't Andrew's best moment while we were watching. That clearly goes to the first appearance of Michael Smiley, where he said "if you're wondering where you recognize him from, he was Spanners in Spaced.

"...You mean Tyres," I said. If I hadn't already placed the actor I wouldn't have had the foggiest idea what Andrew was talking about, but as it turned out his attempt to be helpful was as funny as anything on the TV.
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 12:23 am
While I was searching for the internet (or rather, the thing that made the internet into wi-fi so I could spend time with my mom while actually typing frantically to sympathetic friends on my phone) I finally found where Mom had packed away all the books that used to be on my huge, sturdy bookcase.

That my mom saw fit to replace all my books with knick-knacks and stuffed animals says a lot about our relative priorities.

I sorted through the four boxes of books, finding about one box worth of stuff I'm at all interested in.

Some that made me absolutely beam to see them again: the Garrison Keillor-edited Good Poems, which I've missed a lot, Anne of Green Gables -- I got the whole set in a box when I was very small; heaven knows what happened to the rest, but it's nice to have the original and I suppose by now I can get the others as e-books if I want to read them again -- the huge Norton anthology of poetry that was so important to me in college, even my Norton Shakespeare, which I was so immersed in the semester I took a class on him when we had to read a play a week.

Having been left so long, there were a lot that mystified me. How did I end up with the German fairy tale? (It's a kid's book, in German.) I remember it, someone actually got it for me in Europe if not Germany (maybe Sarah, when she was studying in France? maybe Seth got it somewhere?). At the time I knew just about enough German to read it, but I no longer do, adding to its mystery.

Mostly I don't think about the life that I abandoned so sharply when I got married. I was very unhappy by the time I ended the era where I had and read all these books. I don't really keep in touch with the people I knew then, or even with a lot of the things I cared about then. A lot of it I don't miss, but I did leave behind some good things along with all the bad. And even ten years later, it's weird and hard, but also exciting and good, to go back and try to sift what I still want, what's still me, what's still worth having around. Andrew's comment to my last entry asserts that I am still in many recognizable ways the person I was ten years ago, which is of course inevitable I suppose but also unsettling to me.

These books are from the first time in my life I really failed at anything, the first time I was depressed though it'd be several more years before diagnosis or treatment. They're from the last time I had a brother.

I kept a lot more poetry from college than I remembered: Yeats, Adrienne Rich, Beowulf (don't need that now; I've got the Seamus Heaney translation I prefer), Anna Akhmatova... and something called Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, which I distinctly remember loving thanks to the high school English teacher who changed my life...but I can't remember the poems I loved or even how I ended up with the book, which made for a really spooky petites-madeleines moment. I am both excited to open it and rediscover it, and also savoring the fleeting experience of remembering loving something without remembering why. It must be almost fifteen years since I saw or thought about the book, almost half my life, and isn't it strange that things so important can vanish so completely?
Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 05:09 pm
I got the most lovely e-mail from Andrew, a perfect travel send-off:
Hope there are no lines, that the vegetarian food is edible, that there are three films you want to watch on the little screens, that you accidentally get upgraded and get free spirits, that the flight from the US takes just long enough that you have plenty of time in Amsterdam to get to your plane but don't have to wait a long time, that you get some proper sleep on the plane, and that you get home tomorrow feeling refreshed, happy, and loved.
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 03:30 pm
I can't see the new Doctor Who until Thursday! So tell me how it was.
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Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 11:50 am
I always forget that, after a couple of days here, I'm just hungry all the goddam time.

There's no protein here, except in the meat I have to eat which makes me sick, but there's hardly even any vegetables. The only one I've had since I've gotten here is corn on the cob.
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 06:01 am
Well if I'm going to have insomnia, at least I've got a lovely thunderstorm to entertain me.

A friend from Washington (the state) moved to Ohio a little while ago, and started saying things like "omg, Midwestern thunderstorms!" on facebook. Only then did I appreciate how lucky I was to grow up with such weather.

And this is a particularly good one, too, the kind that makes me wish I had company to share it with, someone whose eyes I could catch and smile in mutual recognition of the brightest or loudest bits. Thunderstorms can be seriously destructive and scary but they remind those of us lucky enough to have them to be grateful of sturdy walls around us, and for the company of people to mutter to about our mutual experience.

I saw the first flash of lightning so long before any other signs of weather that I had time to convince myself I'd imagined it before there was another one. After a good long time of increasingly-frequent flashes, a few minutes apart or so, I started to hear thunder in the distance. No rain, so I could savor the gentle, rolling thunder along with the lightning. Tons of lightning, a proper light show. Gradually louder, and some of the peals go on and on, but it's rumbling rather than cracking and there's still no rain so I don't think the storm can be very close. Just once the thunder is so intimidatingly violent and loud overhead that I don't blame anyone who believes in a thunder god. Then finally there is rain, in a short intense burst of white noise so different from the Manchester rain, which I always say sounds like someone throwing gravel at the windows. Now the thunder seems to be quieter again, receding; we must just be catching the edge of the storm here. The lightning is still filling the world with light every few seconds, eerie in its relative silence -- this is not one of the storms where you can count "one Mississippi..." to see how far away it is -- but the sky is brightening too as we get on. towards dawn. A couple of hours now I've been watching and listening to this storm, and (along with one of my favorite radio stations, which plays ambient/electronica music over Apollo-era astronaut and mission-control chatter) it's held my attention better than any movie of similar length.

Now I think it's gone. I find myself holding my breath, listening for more thunder.

Ah, there it is. Not done yet.
Sunday, August 17th, 2014 11:13 pm
So yesterday people are turning up for the wedding feast/party and milling about with drinks and such (I have now tried Pimms! it just tasted like cucumbers...) and I find myself close enough to where [personal profile] magister is standing that I hear my name so wander a bit closer and find him laughing at something someone-I-can't-remember-who-it-was said. She explains to me that she was just telling him "we'll have to get you married off", so I hide my startled open mouth behind my hand, but can't keep from giggling, and the more I think about it the funnier it gets and it takes a while for me to stop laughing.

We hadn't really thought about how this poly thing might complicate things. I only got told once that I'm probably called Janice (close enough...) and that I live in Brighouse, but people seemed to have the rough idea that we lived together and have been together possibly longer than we have. James rightly didn't want to scandalize or confuse his relatives on a day that was supposed to be about his sister, and it wasn't really a problem, but that 'we'll have to get you married off" line is still making me giggle for so many reasons.

This is the second wedding I've been to since my own and the first one I enjoyed. Probably not being invited to The Actual Wedding helped. But also enough time has passed now I think that my own doesn't make me so sad any more (I'm happy I'm married, but everything about my wedding was miserable and I hated it). I was a little wistful hearing the father-of-the-bride speech, but I realized this is more because I couldn't imagine my dad doing anything like that. I'm mostly content with the alternatives that choice and circumstance have led me to, but sometimes I I do get a twinge of longing for convention.

Then we raised our glasses in a toast to the bride and James jogged my elbow just as my glass touched my lips, sprinkling cider (we were using a lovely dry fizzy cider for champagne) all down me and, worse, making me laugh which caused more ripples in my drink that sloshed onto my borrowed posh clothes and up my nose. Yes it would be nice to do everything "right" but that's never gonna be me, and at least I was laughing.

The food was amazing. My hopes were not high when I found out it was a hog roast, but everything else was vegetarian, and there wasn't a thing I didn't devour --lentils and beetroot, new potatoes with chili flakes, green beans with some very light orangey dressing, butternut squash with a bunch of lovely stuff I don't remember (everything was really well labeled but I couldn't see the labels so James read stuff out for me and I basically forgot everything immediately after I was told), including some kind of actual nuts. And gorgeous moussaka! If aubergines were always like that, I wouldn't have to work so hard at trying to like them (I taught myself to like mushrooms cos they're in so much veggie food and that worked so well I'm now trying courgette and aubergine, with less success so far). I basically ended up eating two platefuls because James gave me his and went back for more moussaka.

Oh and our table won the quiz, much to my astonishment (not least because James, who set it, was told by his mother to fix it so someone (I can't remember who but I think it might have been the person who called me Janice) won because he'd put a lot of effort into it). We might have been at something of an advantage what with the bridesmaids being at our table so they could answer all the "how did the lovely couple meet?" kind of questions. I wasn't even paying attention because, never having even met them before, I knew I'd be useless. But my ears pricked up at the first line of Pride and Prejudice and then there was a question about Jane Eyre and the bridesmaids (and, I think, partner of one of the best mans) were dead impressed with me for knowing these things. They said if we won it'd be down to me, and indeed no one else wanted to take the wine and chocolates home so I've got them.

I had a nice drunken conversation with the Australian bridesmaid, who seems to live some kind of complicated bi-hemispherical lifestyle, about how hard, but also nice, it is to have two places you belong. James's sister said at breakfast this morning that I'd apparently made a good impression on her, which really surprised me because it turns out losing my inhibitions only makes me talk a lot of depressing garbage these days (well, it still makes me want to kiss girls too, so there's hope for me yet), so it's nice if baffling to hear that I wasn't too off-putting anyway.

I needed a brilliant weekend, to get me through the week now ahead of me. I'm glad I got it.
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 09:07 am
As late as yesterday morning I was thinking how nice it was, in a way, that so many people felt able to talk about depression and suicidality and mental illness generally. Even only a few years ago, I don't think it'd have happened like that: there was more awkwardness and discomfort in people's reactions to suicide and they seemed keener to change the subject.

Now people are criticizing tabloids for not following the Samaritans' guidelines on how to responsibly talk about suicide and while I haven't seen or heard anybody saying suicide is cowardly or selfish I have seen many swift and thorough smackdowns of those ideas in response to such things being said elsewhere. Now a lot of people are talking about their own experiences of mental illness. It doesn't seem to be associated with a campaign or an organized effort on anybody's part; something about the state our culture's gotten to and perhaps the particularity of Robin Williams -- who was popular for so long to so many different kinds of people, including a lot of film roles that were important to people at young impressionable ages (like Aladdin or Hook...or, if you're me, Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poet's Society, because I was a weird child) -- has made for this organic outpouring of grief for his particular tragedy and rage at the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental illness.

I'm glad of that, even as I've found it hard to see all these things and to think all these thoughts and see the effects it had on the people I'm closest to.

Not helped by the fact that I had a terrible mental-health day yesterday, for unrelated reasons -- I cocked something up and induced possibly the worst panic attack I've yet had, one whose effects lingered for hours afterward and I'm not sure aren't still ongoing (if only because I have zero reserves of energy or self-care right now). So it was a really hard day all round, really, and I'm struggling to find reasons to be cheerful even now.

But I did want to share this link, from trusty Captain Awkward, about how to reach out to people with depression. It's the most cheering -- not to mention helpful and useful -- of the many, many things I read yesterday.
I think one thing you can do to help your friends who are depressed is to reach out to them not in the spirit of helping, but in the spirit of liking them and wanting their company. “I’m here to help if you ever need me” is good to know, but hard to act on, especially when you’re in a dark place. Specific, ongoing, pleasure-based invitations are much easier to absorb. “I’m here. Let’s go to the movies. Or stay in and order takeout and watch some dumb TV.” “I’m having a party, it would be really great if you could come for a little while.” Ask them for help with things you know they are good at and like doing, so there is reciprocity and a way for them to contribute. “Will you come over Sunday and help me clear my closet of unfashionable and unflattering items? I trust your eye.” “Will you read this story I wrote and help me fix the dialogue?” “Want to make dinner together? You chop, I’ll assemble.” “I am going glasses shopping and I need another set of eyes.” Remind yourself why you like this person, and in the process, remind them that they are likable and worth your time and interest.

Talk to the parts of the person that aren’t being eaten by the depression. Make it as easy as possible to make and keep plans, if you have the emotional resources to be the initiator and to meet your friends a little more than halfway. If the person turns down a bunch of invitations in a row because (presumably) they don’t have the energy to be social, respect their autonomy by giving it a month or two and then try again. Keep the invitations simple; “Any chance we could have breakfast Saturday?” > “ARE YOU AVOIDING ME BECAUSE YOU’RE DEPRESSED OR BECAUSE YOU HATE ME I AM ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU.” “I miss you and I want to see you” > “I’m worried about you.” A depressed person is going to have a shame spiral about how their shame is making them avoid you and how that’s giving them more shame, which is making them avoid you no matter what you do. No need for you to call attention to it. Just keep asking. “I want to see you” “Let’s do this thing.” “If you are feeling low, I understand, and I don’t want to impose on you, but I miss your face. Please come have coffee with me.” “Apology accepted. ApologIES accepted. So. Gelato and Outlander?”
if nothing else, it sounds like a lot more fun than Being There to Help.
Monday, August 11th, 2014 11:57 pm
I have had a rubbish day, mental-health wise. Also a sinus headache.

So I'm in extra need of reminding myself of nice things.

1. I braved my inbox, applied for jobs, and caught up on a bit of Plus work. I did all these things half-assedly, and they all need a lot more work, but half an ass is better than no ass, right?

2. People were really nice when I said on Facebook that I'd done these things. All I could can think about is how much there is left to do, but some of the best people I know told me very firmly that what I had done was enough for right now. I'm still working on believing them.

3. I'm very glad I have such good people in my life. I'm particularly grateful when I cannot believe myself that I have (what I used to call in college) justified the clean underwear I put on today.

4. I basically had a mint chocolate milkshake for my dinner. It seemed to help my sinus headache, as an added bonus to how tasty it was.

5. Cosmos is on Netflix! The new, Neil deGrasse Tyson one that I've heard so much about from North American chums for ages now, all good. And so far it seems to be maybe the first thing I've ever seen that I can really appreciate the high-definition of: until now I could honestly say that in anything I've seen, the HD may as well not be there for all the use it is to me. I shall resist the temptation to stay up all night watching this. Honest. I can go to bed any time I want.
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Friday, August 8th, 2014 02:52 pm
Ever since I first got here British people have been telling me that they love to talk about the weather. This has always mystified me -- maybe because of the people I know? -- because compared to what I'm used to no one talks about the weather at all. I remember hearing forecasts on the Today programme that go "Rain in the northwest, otherwise nice." That's it!

Whereas my dad still talks about isobars because a local TV weatherman used to go on about them. My grandpa got irate at me once for not being able to answer to his satisfaction the "what's the weather like in England now?" question when I was visiting; I still remember him demanding "but what's the temperature?" like he was Jeremy Paxman, because I didn't have a number ready for himself. My dad has a rain gauge that measures down to hundredths of an inch, so it's not at all unusual for him to tell me "yeah, we only got seven hundredths." After talking to a few friends and relatives, a good Minnesotan will be able to give you a comprehensive picture of the wider weather situation, comparing rainfall or snow accumulation or temperature/windchill/heat index differences thanks to their equally precise family and neighbors.

Maybe it'd be different if I hung out with farmers here too, but as things are the only place in British life I now encounter sufficiently-detailed weather reports is during rain delays on Test Match Special. It's quite sweet and soothing to hear the details of the direction the storm is moving, the appearance and growth of water puddles, the wind and the color of the sky.
Thursday, August 7th, 2014 11:51 am
This sounds so "me" to me that I wish I'd been clever enough to think of it and strong enough to write it. But I'm neither, so I'm glad someone else has done it.

I wish I'd written it not because I'd like to be a skilled and clever writer (though I would!) but because I don't know how to convey to people how I'm doing otherwise. I worry I'm talking too much about my mom's situation and then get asked by someone I met at BiCon if they'll see me if they come to Manchester over the bank holiday weekend. No, because I won't be here. I'll be cooking bland meals for my mom and watching boring TV with her. I will not be kissing you.*

I would probably think it ironic or frustrating that after ages of being quietly fine with the prospect of being flirted with and it never happening, now a couple of people have tried to do it at the one time when I'm too distracted, too anxious about everything, to see it as anything other than a problem to be solved as quickly as possible. It's hard to override my usual eagerness to please but easier than usual because I really do have no energy, I'm not even doing fantastically well at maintaining the relationships I do have -- I can't reply to e-mails or blog posts reliably, Andrew hasn't seen enough of me, I've been neglecting volunteer work... -- so it's a no-brainer that I can't encourage anyone right now. I'd feel dishonest if I did.

So I'm honest with the new person and with the person from way back who's picked today to text me, and they're both lovely actually, saying they care about me and they're here for me. Fine, but they have to be there for a while without me doing anything interesting. ‎‎Because even the long-term weather forecast is weird and intense. 


* Thinking about kissing when I'm at my parents just makes me go sad and weird (I could do another version of this article for when I'm at my parents', which wouldn't be about my mom's recovery but would fit the same structure and style but be about all the times the non-heteronormative non-monogamous world infringes on my mind in the way that filial worry and sadness does now: "...in the third Hallmark-channel movie Holly watched with her mom since the last time she thought about the last woman she kissed. Oh. No. Not any more, gotta reset that counter now").‎
Monday, August 4th, 2014 08:07 pm
The third best thing about the Fat Femme Clothes Swap at BiCon was that when Jacq called something "a Doctor Who coat" and I thought it was because it was black with a flash of red lining I could see as it was unfolded...but it turned out to be my own pinstripe Joe Brown coat, the one [livejournal.com profile] doctorstewie told me when first he saw me in it looked like what a female Doctor would wear; I'm delighted that this idea had been developed independently.

The second best thing was, of course, that I came away with some nice clothes: a couple of dresses and an orange skirt (which clashes with everything I own but I like wearing it so much I don't are).

The best thing, though, was that it was a big pile of clothes for fat people. It felt so luxurious, to have such abundance. I'm so used to having practically no options. A lot of us are used to having to buy clothes online so not getting to try things on like we were all doing here -- indeed a lot of the clothes brought to swap were things whose sizes weren't what the internet led us to believe they'd be. Also, the phrase "that's too big on you" was quite often said, and that's not something I'm used to at all. A lot of clothes and clothes stores can make me believe I'm at the absolute tip of the bell curve, and that this is why I "deserve" so few options in what I can wear. Of course I know this is bollocks, but the actual experience of hearing and saying these words was oddly powerful. And even more so was the fact that, since the conference room we were in had no mirrors, we were left with what other people told us about how the clothes looked on us.

And there was so much positivity flying around that room. So much "That really suits you!" and "that's a good color/cut/etc on you" and just lots of "ooh!"s. But it wasn't all pollyanna-ish; there was as I said plenty of "that's too big" or "these trousers need someone taller" or whatever too; the substantial amounts of niceness did not get in the way of gentle, constructive honesty.

And as always when you know that people won't lie in a (misguided, in my case!) attempt at flattery, it does make the actual nice comments all the better. Once, I put on a dress and suddenly everyone was looking at me and grinning and saying nice things and it was actually kind of overwhelming (admittedly I am easily overwhelmed these days...). It was really nice. They were people who don't know me hugely well if at all and had no reason to be so positive if they weren't really feeling it, so there was nothing there for my confidence-killing Jerkbrain to work with. I just soaked up the nice comments and made sure to keep the dress.
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Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 10:45 pm
My chili is apparently good enough that tonight I've had my second "if you needed to marry somebody so you could stay in the country, I'd marry you" offer, which made me smile.

I am of course happily married and don't need to be married to stay here any more (or indeed to make chili for someone!), but that's hardly the point.
Sunday, July 27th, 2014 08:43 pm
Oh look, we're at it again.

(Except he said now Mars has that system of satellites? So that's sorted!)

Today we were working on our moonbase. Which featured conversational exchanges like "The Moon's eight light-seconds away, so we can Skype it because TCP/IP will work" and "We'd only need about, what, a hundred meters of extension cord? I've got a fifty meter one in the house."

Which might well be the one [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours just lent me along with his hedge trimmer. Because until we get to worry about protecting the solar panels from micrometeorites and the benefits of orbiting vs. flyby unmanned missions, I have to tackle the overgrown hedge in front of our house.
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Friday, July 25th, 2014 09:02 am
I got a card from [personal profile] magister's parents with sympathy and good thoughts for my mom. It really surprised me (though not James, who thought he knew what it was before I'd gotten it out of the envelope) and I found it really touching.

This is exactly what I grew up with (jokes about whisky-acquisition are a more recent development in "how to be nice to someone who has bad news"): you buy a nice card probably with some pastel watercolors on it and you write a sentence in it and sign your name (and that of your husband, yes, this is not a perfect system, just my native one).

Also, I've only met his parents twice and I am the first example of poly not just as something their son's put up with from his girlfriend for the last few years but as something he's interested and involved in himself. I want them to approve of that even more than of me, because that'll be good for James in ways more far-reaching than those which directly affect me. And they have certainly been nothing but welcoming and kind to me. I really enjoyed the Easter weekend James and I spent at their house.

But his parents and I don't otherwise talk -- as evidenced from the fact that the card was sent to his house and had only my first name on it -- and it hadn't occurred to me that James would've told his parents about my mom, though of course it seemed perfectly obvious that he would once I gave it a second's thought. So it was an unexpected kind of loveliness, and a reaffirmation not just of the network of love I feel privileged to be surrounded with, but also of how important the kindness of other families is to me at the times when I feel furthest away from my own.
Sunday, July 20th, 2014 09:54 pm
Here's a list that's all about people being nice to me.

1. [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours has a present for me. I don't know what it is yet (the one advantage of my ridiculous headache is that it means I told him to come round tomorrow rather than tonight) so I get to enjoy the anticipation for now.

2. [personal profile] trinker tells me I am easy to love at a time when I am feeling especially weird and intense and difficult (of course she's not the only one; Andrew and James have been very reassuring too, but it's nice to hear this from less expected quarters too!). I seem to have a knack for making hyper-vigilant people feel at ease and I'm especially glad to be comforting to people who find it difficult to feel comfortable around people.

3,4. ‎plok's always good for happy things. Here are two in a row, from an e-mail he sent me.
When [a friend of his] had something she wanted to talk to me about, that she could only talk about elliptically, it's because YOU wasted time on ‎educating me about queerness that I was able to be intelligently ‎supportive. So:

THANK YOU, HOLLY.

Once again, you have been really really great. How in God's name do you manage it, week in week out, year after year? With all your own headaches and troubles? You astonish me. Look at your friends, and how ‎good they are: who the *fuck* draws that many good and smart and generous people to themselves. I mean it just isn't natural. I was going to send you an email a couple of weeks ago asking you to which Doctor you'd prefer to be a Companion...but it's clear that this was me taking it completely the wrong way around.

*You'd* make an excellent Doctor. So which Doctor would you like to be?

...clearly Troughton, that's the Holly one? I mean, the *most* Holly one, in advance of a one *more* Holly-like? Ha, maybe Peter Capaldi will be the most Holly one...‎
I told Andrew and [personal profile] magister and they agreed that I am the most like Patrick Troughton (so far!), which delights me.

5. My dad got me a present too. The All-Star Game was last week at Target Field. Apparently there was a big thunderstorm just before the Home Run Derby and when Minnesota Twin Bryan Dozier came up to hit there was suddenly a big rainbow over the ballpark and the Minneapolis newspaper was selling prints of this for ten bucks. My dad thought I'd like one and so it'll be waiting for me when I'm next there. He said the photo was taken from about where we were sitting the time we saw a game at Target Field, so you can see out over the skyline, and yes that is a great view but mostly hearing this just makes me happy I've been there with Dad.