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Last week I listened to this episode of Insights at the Edge (transcript also available at the link) where the guest was Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Rabbi Rami was a congregational rabbi for twenty years, and now teaches on being a holy rascal and what he calls "perennial wisdom." Tami, the host, asked him about moving away from Judaism. He describes Judaism as, "It's all about God as a male superpower somewhere," talks about issues with the idea of Jews as the "chosen people," and says that many organized religions treat a service as something to just get through. The whole time I was listening to that, I kept thinking, "That's a really narrow view of Judaism." Then I went to a Saturday morning torah service, and thought, "Oh, now I see what you mean." It felt like we were just doing things to get through them without any time to think about what they meant. Also, I discovered that where I know the Friday night service very well, I knew almost none of the Saturday torah service.

There's another part in the podcast where Rabbi Rami talks about the "house-church movement where people who don't feel comfortable at church are just getting together. They pray something, they read something, and then they just have conversations. ... I think what people were hungry for was conversation," which made me laugh because conversation is the last thing I want out of a religious service. I'm not even all that interested in the teaching part - I have a lot of other avenues in my life for that. The other thing that made me laugh is when he says, "we didn't have a cantor so we had whale song instead—recorded whale songs," because I thought, "You don't need a cantor; just sing!"

The combination of listening to Rabbi Rami's thoughts on Judaism and going to a Saturday morning torah service (with a cantor) really helped me define what I want out of a religious service. First, I want a slow, gentle approach to prayer where you get to really think about and feel what you're praying. This is particularly true for me in a Jewish service because I don't read Hebrew, so I'm always trying to follow along with the transliteration while skimming the English translation to see if there are things I don't want to say. Secondly, I want to sing or chant with other people. We chant in my yoga class, and my yoga teacher has various things she says to get people to not feel embarrassed or weird about it and just chant. I find chanting easy because I grew up Jewish without speaking Hebrew, so for me, singing with other people in a language I don't speak is my idea of collective spiritual practice. Part of what I like about Friday night services versus the Saturday torah service is that we sing a lot of songs I know, and when I started going to services on occasion again, what I wanted was to sing with other Jews. Lucky for me, our current rabbi does a contemplative service one Saturday morning a month that's an hour of chanting and guided meditation. It's really lovely, and I do really feel a connection with the divine during that experience. (I feel a little bit guilty sneaking out after the contemplative service instead of staying for the torah study afterwards, but, again, the conversation/learning part is not the valuable piece to me.)

In February, the rabbi's adult education class was "An Intro to Jewish Angels," so at the February contemplative service, she did a guided meditation with angels that I found really moving. (Also interesting: I had a very clear image of the personification of three of the four of them.) It probably helps if you've already done some chanting and breathing first and pause to breathe into each of these, but here it is as best I can remember it: Close your eyes. Take a few breaths. Now imagine to your right the angel Michael, the one who is like God. You may feel some warmth or see a light. Now imagine to your left the angel Gabriel, the power of God. In front of you, imagine Uriel, the light of God. At your back, imagine Raphael, the healer. Now feel the angels surrounding you in their warmth or in their light. Rest in their light. Now from above, feel the light of God pouring over you like honey.

I really love the divine light guided meditations the rabbi's done at both of the contemplative services I've been to so far. For a secular version of a filling yourself with light meditation, I also recommend Danielle LaPorte's Light Scanning Contemplation (at her site, registration-free Soundcloud version).
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Part 1: I feel scared to talk about how scared I feel for fear that the admission of vulnerability will make me more of a target, for either negative comments or well-meaning dismissal of my fear. I'm a woman, a lesbian, and a Jew. One side of my family is Jewish. The vast majority of my friends are women, queer people, people of color, and/or people with ongoing health issues that require care. I feel terrified about what will happen to us, to other vulnerable populations, to our country, to the world in the next year, four years, however many decades the next president's nominees sit on the Supreme Court.

Part 2: A prayer for the new year and always:

May our hearts be open.
May we be thankful.
May we choose love over hate, kindness over contempt, compassion over fear.
May we choose creation over destruction, peace over war, hope over despair.
May we choose the liberation of all over power for the few.
May we believe the stories of others and may our stories be believed in turn.
May our wishes for life, health, and happiness extend beyond the borders of our own families, our own communities, our own countries.
May the entire universe be filled with peace and joy, love and light.
May our hearts be open.


Feb. 22nd, 2016 08:11 pm
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I've been thinking about crying a lot recently. I'm generally in favor of crying. There are some obvious caveats: crying as deliberate manipulation and the white women's tears phenomenon are shitty behaviors we shouldn't engage in, and if you're crying so much it's having a distinctively negative impact on your life, it's time to seek some professional help. But as a personal, individual release of emotion, I'm all for it.

I signed up for Danielle LaPorte's free Fire Starter Sessions audio course. I think one of Danielle's greatest strengths is that she writes really great self-inquiry questions, and that's true of the Fire Starter Sessions worksheets. Any time you go deep with self-inquiry, it brings stuff up, and I've spent some time crying about some of the stuff doing these worksheets is bringing up. It's not really surprising; I'm a crier. I cry at nearly every Grey's Anatomy episode. I sob my way through the endings of really emotional books. I like going to movies that require kleenex.

Going by the publication dates, I was most likely junior high aged when I read Jerry Spinelli's School Daze books. I don't remember much about the plot, but there are a few things I remember clearly. One of them is this bit of wisdom from Salem Brownmiller, who was the mental template Hermione Granger later fit into:

"Hollered at you? That's even worse. Feelings hurt more than bones. You have to let it out, don't you know that? You boys are so dumb. Listen, you know how you feel better after you throw up?"

Raymond nodded. "Uh-huh."

"Well, crying is like that. Tears are like your feelings throwing up. You'll feel better. Come on now, I'll cry with you. Let it out."
My yoga teacher tells us that we hold emotion in our bodies, and sometimes doing yoga can release that. "You might feel like laughing or crying," she says. You don't have to know why, or what you were holding on to. The release is what matters. When someone was having trouble with the class because she kept crying, our teacher told her, "I think we should laugh every day and we should cry every day." In the middle of working my way through some of the tougher Fire Starter Sessions worksheets - particularly thinking about your past failures and facing down your fears - I spent a yoga class tearing up.

Last week's PostSecret included an email from a young woman about her experience at The PostSecret Show. At the end of the show, she wrote a secret on a whiteboard about how inspirational her mom is and sent it to her mom:

She was in tears. She called me crying and told me how much that meant to her and how much she loves me. I was crying as well. My mom told me that even my dad was in tears; my dad doesn’t cry often so I considered this an accomplishment. I continued to tell my mom how much I cried because of PostSecret. Her response was this: "You are a rock most of the time. Sometimes it’s okay to be the river."
It's good advice. Cry. Let go. Be the river.
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The central piece of the workbook section of The Desire Map is the part where you figure out your core desired feelings (or CDFs, as Danielle calls them). You start by brainstorming how you want to feel in each area of your life, then she has you think about each word/look up their meanings and see how they resonate with you, and then work on narrowing down your list.

I did the first round of brainstorming, and then felt a little thrill of relief when I started looking up words and many of them had similar meanings. I had an underlying worry that I was doing it "wrong" as I was brainstorming, and the convergence seemed to mean I was doing it right. I narrowed it down to four words. They were good words, good feelings, certainly things I want to feel. And I didn't connect with them. I let them sit on the living room floor at the top of the stack of paper I'd been writing my answers out on, and I just never felt excited about them.

I did what meditation teaches you to do and I started over. I also ditched the rules - Danielle's advice on CDFs is to stick with nouns - and told myself to write down whatever I genuinely wanted to feel, not what I thought would be good answers. I narrowed those down. And narrowed them down some more. And then I had four things. Two of them I was pretty sure about, and two of them I still needed to think about. So I let that list sit on the living room floor at the top of the stack and thought about it off and on. One of Danielle's suggestions for using your CDFs is to, in moments where you're not feeling how you want to feel, remind yourself of how you want to feel. The section of the workbook after figuring out your CDFs has you write down what you would need to feel that way. So one day when I was feeling frustrated and decidedly not how I wanted to feel, I said to myself, "What would make you feel [feeling from my list] right now?" The only one that worked for me was one of the two I was pretty sure about: relaxed. Just thinking, "What would make you feel relaxed right now?" made me relax.

It's taken me a little bit to be okay with relaxed as a core desired feeling. There's a part of me that reacted to it with a "Really? That's all you want?" kind of attitude. I also have a twinge of, "But what if that's just a reactionary wish and not something deeper?" What I actually wrote down for more than one life area was "relaxed (free of tension)," and that seems less like something I want because I want it and more like something I want because it's the opposite of something I really don't want - and something I not only don't want but have been experiencing a lot of in the last few years. But I keep reminding myself that it's still something I want.

The other thing that's happening in my life is that it's summer, and as those of you who have been around for a while know, I don't deal well with the heat. Every summer I've been trying to be better about self-care and being gentle with myself. This summer I decided that part of my self-care and trying to be more relaxed was to ease waaaaaay up on my writing goals. I dumped all original fic goals from my list. I put off making fic goals until after I finished doing prompt snippets at the beginning of July, and then when I made my weekly goals, I decided my official goal was to do some work on AGally/Prusty dating fic every day except Thursdays. My unofficial not exactly a goal was that I would like to write at least 200 words of it every day except Thursdays. Somehow, having the official goal of "just do something" and a word count as an "I'd like to" really works for me. I wrote at least 200 words of it most days. Just as importantly, on the days that I didn't make it to 200, I didn't feel anxious or stressed out about it, and because my actual goal was to write something, it didn't push any of my "you're a failure" buttons.

There's one more piece to my current strategy, which is something I picked up from Gretchen Rubin. I don't connect quite as much with her current focus on habits as I did with her happiness work, but there's one thing that's working for me. Her habits work is divided into various strategies. One of these is the "Strategy of Treats," and she wrote a post (warning for diet and weight talk) about it where she says, "If we want to stick to our good habits, we should try very hard never to allow ourselves to feel deprived. ... When we give ourselves plenty of healthy treats, we don’t feel deprived." In one of her other posts on the Strategy of Treats, she says, "A treat is different from a reward, which must be justified or earned. A treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it." I changed my habits because of this. Before, I wasn't allowing myself to do anything purely for fun in the mornings until I met my writing goals - checking Tumblr and fic reading were rewards, and writing fic was a reward for doing my original writing. But that always made me feel deprived. I've really changed my approach now in that I will check Tumblr and maybe read some (short) fic first thing in the morning, and then write.

Since I've made several changes all at once (this is a highly unscientific process), it's hard to tease out exactly what's making the difference - or if it's all of it put together - but I find myself feeling more relaxed in general, more relaxed about my goals, and much less resentful of my goals.
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I've made a few false starts at trying to write out this story and I've told bits and pieces of it before, mostly in tiny comments over Twitter, but I haven't told the whole thing to anyone, not even my closest friends. I didn't want - and still don't want - anyone to tell me my feelings are wrong or give me advice. While I might be able to manage it now, at the time I didn't know how to say, even to the people I'm closest to, "This thing happened and my feelings are hurt. Please only say things to me that can be rephrased as 'Poor baby. I'm sorry that happened to you. I love you/think you're great/know you're awesome.'" Telling this story to all of you feels scary and vulnerable: I'm telling you about something that hurt my feelings, I'm telling you about the soft places where I can be hurt, and I just have to trust that you're not going to use it to hurt me.

A Story )
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One of the soul limber prompts in The Desire Map is, "What's different about me is that". My first thought, the thing I wrote down immediately, was, "I'm smart," and then I had this whole "UGH" feeling about it, and I wrote, "BUT THAT'S NOT ALL I AM OR WANT TO BE."

I was always the smart kid growing up. I got good grades and had the highest SAT scores in my graduating class. Teachers didn't always know what to do with me. I spent a lot of time withdrawing and reading because I had already gotten whatever it was we were covering in class. I think being smart is valuable and part of who I am and part of what makes me special in the world. I also think always being the smart kid can be damaging and limiting.

What I learned from being the smart kid: you always have to know the right answer. You always have to succeed (at least at things that rely on you being smart; I never had a 4.0 because of my B/B+ PE grades, and as an adult, I'm okay with not being good at physical things).

Illustrative story 1: The beginning of seventh grade, possibly even the first day of seventh grade, and one of the kids I've known since fourth grade raises his hand and says, in response to something I can't even remember now, "Ruth is always right." Our English teacher looks at us and says, "Ruth is always right," as if it's a truism about the universe.

Illustrative story 2: In tenth grade, we had an awesome Honors Biology teacher. One of the things she did was extra credit on tests if you happened to use whatever she'd chosen as the secret word, which was always something we'd talked about in class. (This is relevant to the story so you know that giving extra credit for creativity was a thing she did.) We would go over our tests as a class when we got them back. For one test, she asked someone to read his answer, for which she'd given him a point, and he read out, "For the right answer, see Ruth's paper."

I didn't just learn that smart kids are supposed to know the right answer; I learned that I was supposed to know the right answer. The most important thing I've learned as an adult is that it's okay to fail and it's okay to be wrong. Intellectually, I know this is true. But I still haven't totally internalized it, and getting something wrong can still send me into an internal "I'm not good enough" shame spiral.

I also struggle against the way that "smart" is a hard label to expand beyond. When you're smart, you're supposed to only believe in and engage in things that are intellectual, scientific, fact-based. I'm smart, but that's not all I am: I'm creative; I have a tender and deeply loving heart; I have a daily spiritual practice that connects me to the divinity/oneness of the whole universe. There might be science that says creativity, feelings, and meditation are beneficial to us, but creativity, feelings, and meditation in and of themselves are not intellectual activities, and I keep hitting up against that belief that intellectual things are the only worthy pursuits, even though it's the creativity, feelings, and meditation that make me happy.

I know some of you were also smart kids growing up. Did you have some of these same experiences? Have you found ways to learn to be okay with being wrong? How about ways to expand beyond "smart"?
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I figured I should balance out the wish in my last personal post with some gratitude. Not that I'm trying to deny my wish or say that making it isn't an acceptable use of time/energy/words, but gratitude is also important, also a good use of time/energy/words, and also something I want to both feel for myself and put out into the world.

One of the prompts in the soul limber exercise of The Desire Map workbook section is, "Light and heavy: This brings me alive, enlivens me, reminds me of who I am." One of the things I wrote down was "positive reflections from others." Some examples of that:

On a day when I was feeling like I wasn't being my best self, I posted some sort of being a better person inspirational quote to Facebook. One of my friends commented on it and said I was a reminder to him to be a better person.

I kept thinking I wasn't being supportive or loving enough to one of my friends, and then she told me I'm a great friend.

I always think it takes me a while to get to know people and that I'm slow to open up, and then I got a holiday card from a new fannish friend who said she appreciated how open I was to making new friends.

I felt very vulnerable with my last personal entry, and then people commented on it and said I was brave for putting it out there, and also commented on how much I really do this kind of personal development work.

I think one of the big life lessons all of those instances is something I've been thinking about in this whole inquiry into my soul process: how I see myself, how other people see me, and how I think other people see me are three different (and only sometimes overlapping) things. (Unanswered question: where does who I actually am fit into that?) This is part of what I appreciate about those positive reflections: they remind me of something else I wrote down in the soul limber exercises: I can be warmer and more loving than I think. They're also, of course, positive attention being paid to me (yay!) and reminders that other people see and love me. Thank you to everyone who has reflected myself back to me like this.

One more example that doesn't fit the pattern of the previous four:

My brother and his girlfriend K were in town recently (they moved about five hours away in December), so we had family dinner at my parents' house. When I got there, K said to me, "You look good. You look really happy." That's definitely in the top five best compliments I've ever gotten.
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You may remember that one of my intentions for this year was some sort of spiritual refreshment. I want to be able to talk about that, and also it's an area where I feel very sensitive and vulnerable, and where it would be really easy for other people to unintentionally hurt my feelings. There are two things I want out of talking about it: (a) the opportunity to talk it out and (b) nonjudgmental listening. So first of all, I'm posting to LJ instead of emailing people about it because if no one responds to my LJ post I won't be upset where I would feel ignored if no one responded to that kind of email. Secondly, I'm going to change my usual if you write a comment I will reply to it approach to comments for these kinds of posts. If you want to empathize, ask questions, tell me about your experience, acknowledge the reality of my feelings, that would be awesome and I would love to have conversations with you! If your comment tells me I'm wrong about what I think or feel about my own experience or tells me what I should do when I haven't asked for advice, I'm not going to reply to it. That might seem like a lot of verbiage, but I think I need to be clear about my expectations and boundaries around this.

In a case of when the student is ready the teacher will appear (or the student will notice the teacher, since I have read one of her previous books), I followed a link to Danielle LaPorte's website, read almost all of her posts, and then bought her most recent book, The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul (I promise I'll make a post about the book itself when I'm done with it). I've read my way through the theory part, and am just started in on the desire mapping process/workbook part of the book. (Note: she has a whole book club associated with the book; if anyone else wants to also read it and do an online book club, I would totally be into that.) The basic premise of the book is that you figure out how you want to feel (what she calls your core desired feelings) and then build goals that will help you feel that way.

The workbook section of the book starts with what she calls "soul limber": a bunch of prompts designed to "loosen some of the calcification from your intellect and get you closer to your heart." The first one is, "I crave," and I wrote down "ATTENTION." I then spent the next few days getting the weirdest feedback on fic, which reminded me that sometimes when you ask the universe for something, you get it. So then I started thinking very loudly, "Okay, universe, when I said 'attention,' what I really meant was 'positive attention.'"

Maybe a month or so ago, I was doing yoga, and I thought to myself, "All I want is for someone to pay attention and listen to me," and then burst into tears because it's such a fierce wish, and such a deep one. (Also in my list for the "I crave" prompt: "to be heard.") I have a hard time untangling how much of that is a response to junior high trauma and how much of it is a basic human wish to be seen and heard. I listened to this interview with Danielle about desire mapping, and she talks about how some people look at how they want to feel and say that it comes from a wound, and her response to that is, "So what?" Even if it comes from a wounded place, it's still something you genuinely want to feel. I really like that framing, and particularly the way it says it's okay to want to feel however you want to feel.

So back to wanting attention. There's an episode of The Simpsons where Bart jumps around the room saying, "Pay attention to me!" I think it's supposed to be a joke about his attention-seeking behavior and how he can't stand for Lisa to be the center of attention even once, but I think about that scene a lot because I feel that way a lot. My want for attention often feels needy, greedy, and desperate. (Which is probably related to the cultural idea that attention-seeking is a bad thing, which means that wanting attention that much is also bad. Or maybe there's something there where I don't quite feel worthy of more of it.) I really like Gretchen Rubin's happiness commandment of "spend out," and that's what I've been trying to do: when I'm feeling ignored or not paid attention to, I spend out by paying attention to other people, or when I'm feeling not exactly unloved but not as loved as I want to in the moment, I spend out by sending someone else a love note (emailed or on paper). What's harder is to ask for attention. I've done it sometimes, mostly on Twitter, but I try to save it for those times when I'm having a really bad day and really, really need the support. I don't know if this a good strategy in that it does get me some attention when I'm feeling icky or a not good enough one in that I could get that need for attention filled more often if I just asked for it. The scary part is: what if I ask for it and no one gives it to me?
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I get enough (a) dudes and (b) plot/things happening from following hockey, so what I really want out of TV right now is (a) women and (b) emotions/melodrama. I also enjoy quiet, restful crime shows, like The Killing and Broadchurch, but none of them are current at the moment, so they got left out of this post. This is just stuff I'm watching right now. I've only picked up one new show for sure and two more maybes this season, so if you have suggestions for something else new I should try out, or if you want to talk about any of these, I would be into that! (Note: I haven't watched this week's ep of Revenge yet. I won't be upset if you spoil me, but I won't know what you're talking about until tomorrow evening.)

Shows I'm Watching

Nashville - I almost gave up on Nashville after two episodes. I started watching it because it had singing and Connie Britton, and then her character wasn't very interesting. I was bored, though, and watching a lot of TV, so I ended up watching a few more episodes, and eventually I was hooked, but not because of Connie Britton. Rayna's storyline is the most boring one on the show. The interesting ones are those of the other two women: Scarlett and Juliette.

Spoilers )

Grey's Anatomy - I watched Grey's Anatomy for a couple of seasons and then gave up on it. A while back, I had an urge to watch the first ep of it, and then I ended up watching something like seven and a half seasons in about six weeks, so I was completely caught up, and I've been watching it ever since. It is definitely one of those shows where you can see the writers run out of ideas every so often, but when it's about Meredith and her people, it's really good (in a soap opera way). Spoilers )

Scandal - I don't know that I actually like Scandal all that much, but it's an involving enough melodrama and I do like reading the Racialicious posts about it, so I keep watching. Spoilers )

Reign - Reign was on my to try out list anyway, and then [ profile] allegram suggested I might like it, so I watched the first episode. It is ridiculous, in a really good way. They really aren't trying to make it historically accurate, and it's obviously just a soap opera. But it's about Mary, Queen of Scots at the French court (somehow there's never any language confusion; see above, re: lack of accuracy), which means that not only do you get over the top, if inaccurate, outfits, but also that Nostradamus is a character. Nostradamus! Amazing. (I had to Wikipedia him to check and see if that was historically accurate - it is - or if it was just bonus ridiculousness they threw in there.) Spoilers )

Shows I'm Sort Of/Maybe Watching

Revenge - I don't know that I really like Revenge, but I keep watching it. I usually get caught up on TV over the weekend, and then this airs on Sunday, so it's there to be ridiculous melodrama for me to watch on Monday or Tuesday. Spoilers )

Haven - I used to really like Haven, but now I don't really care. It's one of those shows where it's gone on too long and they need to wrap up the story. Spoilers )

Hostages - The premise of Hostages is really interesting - a surgeon, who was chosen to operate on the president, and her family are taken hostage and told they'll be let go when she gives the president a drug that will kill him - and it has Toni Colette, who is great. (Also of fannish interest: Sandrine Holt!) The show is okay. I think it would be better as a movie or miniseries where they didn't have to keep stretching out the situation. I will probably watch another episode or two to see if I get into it more before I decide to ditch it altogether.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - I liked the first two episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I thought the third one wasn't as good, and Andy Samberg's delivery being very, very Jimmy Fallon-like started to bother me. I don't know if that was more about the show or about me - I watched it on a different day than the first two - so I will definitely give it another episode or two, especially since I like having a half-hour show to fit into those times when I want to watch something but only for half an hour. For those of you who don't watch comedies because of an embarrassment squick, the first two eps (but maybe not the third) would be doable for you. There are places that seem like they're going in an embarrassing direction, but the characters aren't embarrassed, so it didn't feel embarrassing to me. It also has some good jokes, and some good, extremely subtle and easy to miss jokes (look for the binders behind Andre Braugher's desk). The biggest downside is probably that it thinks Andy Samberg should be the main character when Andre Braugher and Stephanie Beatriz are much more interesting.
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I used to think I wasn't neurotic about my writing at all, but since I've been using Twitter and can just blurt out whatever I'm thinking about whatever I'm writing, I've realized I'm much more neurotic than I thought. Anyway, here are a couple of writing-related things I've been thinking about. Tell me how you do things!

Notebooks. I know [ profile] lakeeffectgirl uses one notebook per story (or used to, anyway), but I do too little writing by hand for that strategy. Also, I currently have four things I'm working on every day (well, six days a week) plus two more miscellaneous stories, so if I walk over to the library to write, I really just want to take one notebook. I end up just making a squiggly line through a blank line between stories.

Always writing. My mom took me on an overnight theater trip last month. We got to the theater really early, and while we were waiting for the show to start, I pulled out a 3x5 card and a pen and jotted down the outline for one of the things I'm working on so I wouldn't forget what was going to happen. My mom said she was impressed that I was always writing (I also spent our half hour of downtime in our hotel room that afternoon writing, while she checked Facebook on her phone, which made me laugh), and that she doesn't always manage to get things down before she forgets about them. (Note: she's a poet, and she also has pens and paper stashed all over the place in her house and purse.) That didn't seem weird to me at all - it's not the first time I've made story notes or written a couple of sentences on a 3x5 card in a theater - but maybe it's not something everyone does.

Tricking my brain 1: word count goals. My current daily word count goal is 200 words per story per day, six days a week. With four things, that only amounts to 800 words per day, and I could write a lot more than that. (And some days I do.) But if my word count goals are too high, I will rebel against them (even though I set them) and just not do them.

Tricking my brain 2: not giving things their own docs. I have a Google Doc titled "Snippets and Such" for tiny snippets. If something I start working on there ends up being long and something I keep working on, it eventually gets its own doc. I said on Twitter the other day that maybe I need a standard for when things get their own docs. [ profile] lakeeffectgirl said she usually gives things their own docs at 500 words; I often give them docs at about a thousand. I don't want to do it too early, because as long as I'm writing into the snippets doc, I can pretend it's not a real story and I don't feel like I'm cheating on other projects by working on it. (This is also why I sometimes write/plot bunny things over Twitter or straight into email.)
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So yesterday all I was thinking about was that Tyler Seguin somehow found my post about him, and I thought it was hilarious that he was so bored that he somehow found it. I said a lot of things here and on Tumblr about how I believe in having posts open. This morning I went and read the anon memes and other opinions about it, and I realized that in thinking about how it was my post that got linked, I didn't at all think about how it would affect people who commented on or were linked in the post. I'm sorry. I agree that we have responsibilities to each other in this community, and I'm genuinely sorry that I fell down on those responsibilities and hurt people. :( At this point, the only remaining comments on that post are from people who are okay with their comments remaining or people who commented after it was linked to by TSegs.

I am not going to change my opinion on keeping my posts open. I still very much believe in open fandom. (While also believing that it's not okay to push it at the objects of fandom.) But if this kind of thing ever happens to me again, I will be better about protecting the limits of the other people who were involved in my posts.
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I was going to do things today, but then I got home from running errands after having lunch with friends to find this:

Yes, that is Tyler Seguin tweeting my Tylers Seguin-Brown picspam at Tyler Brown as part of his continuing jealousy over Tyler Brown's girlfriend. (For the record, I talk a lot on Twitter about how adorbs TBrown and Julie are, because they're totally adorbs. No hate here!)

Anyway, I promise I'm not the type to freak out and I won't lock or delete anything because of it. I may, however, not get anything else done today because I might never stop laughing.
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Those of you who've been around for a while know that I'm a fan of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog, and you may further know that I wasn't as excited about her first book on the subject, also titled The Happiness Project. She now has a second book on the topic, Happier at Home, which I was able to request from my local library much faster than I thought was going to be possible.

I liked Happier at Home much more than The Happiness Project. (Keep in mind that I read the first book two years ago, so it is possible this is a change in me more than a change in her.) I thought it was a more useful, concrete book. One of my problems with the first book was that I felt I didn't learn anything I didn't already know from the blog, where I didn't feel that way about this book. I've been reading her blog all the way through the time she implemented the happiness project for Happier at Home, and somehow that worked better for me with this book. I recognized things in the book that I'd read posts about on the blog, but instead of finding that repetitive, I got a thrill out of it, a little like I was an insider. I do still wonder how it would read to people who haven't read the blog - there were places where I could practically see the hyperlinks to previous posts that would explain her basic philosophy (and she did just post about her abstainers vs. moderators distinction in response to a lot of book tour questions about it), and there are patterns to how she talks about things that are familiar if you read the blog - but I think it would still be a useful book even if you aren't a regular reader.

As the title implies, the focus of the book is on being happier at home. As she usually does, Gretchen (side note: proper book review etiquette would involve using her last name, but I feel like I know her too well from her blog for that) breaks her project into several thematic areas that she then focuses on one at a time on a month by month basis. She then has four or five specific resolutions within each thematic area. I found the resolutions for this book much more concrete - and, in many cases, more widely applicable - than the ones in the previous book. I finished the first chapter on "Possessions" and put the book down to reorganize a nearly-unusable cabinet. I also finally threw away my broken umbrella (although I haven't yet replaced it).

There are three of her specific resolutions that I've been thinking about. The first is "give warm greetings and farewells." This is one of those resolutions that doesn't seem particularly applicable to me: I live alone, and I have people over about once every other month. However, we already have mandatory warm greetings at work: when someone comes into the main office area, everyone has to say hello to them before they can fully enter the room, and they have to go around and greet everyone individually (originally, the options were handshake, fist bump, or high five, but it's devolved to everyone just exchanging fist bumps). It really has made a difference in the attitude of our office, and it's exactly what Gretchen talks about: taking a moment out of whatever you're doing to greet someone. I've been trying to do the same thing when people leave for the day, although I have to admit I'm terrible about looking up from what I'm typing to say hello or goodbye.

The second resolution I've been thinking about is "make the positive argument." The idea behind it is what she calls "argumentative reasoning": "When a person takes a position, he or she looks for evidence to support it and then stops, satisfied." Gretchen specifically talks about this in the frame of her marriage: whenever she's upset and tempted to think something like, "Jamie isn't very thoughtful," she then thinks to herself, "Jamie is very thoughtful," and can come up with a lot of evidence to support that argument as well. "Make the positive argument" fits right in with a lot of similar advice about seeing the positive side of things, but it's one of those things that you hear over and over again, and then you're in the right place and it's said in just the right way that it sticks with you.

The third of her resolutions that I find interesting is "enter into the interests of others (within reason)." The basic idea is to take an interest in other people's interests by listening or asking questions: "entering into other people's interests is an important way to show respect and affection." I've been thinking about this in two ways. One is that I've been trying to be a better listener over the past few years, and paying attention to and asking questions about other people's interests (which is not something I'm good at, particularly the asking questions part) is one way to do that. The other is that one of my coworkers, who I don't know very well at all, brought in a craft project for us when it was her turn to lead our weekly teambuilding activity. One of the things I really liked about it as an activity was that she told us that the craft supplies she'd brought for us to use were just a small portion of the supplies she has, and that she has an entire room at home devoted to crafting. Crafting is very much not my kind of thing, but knowing that about her and seeing what kinds of things she brought in for us to use has made me feel much warmer toward her.

I would definitely recommend Happier at Home, and if you read it without having read the blog, I would especially love to know what you think about it. I liked it so much that I might actually buy myself a copy to have on hand for reference when it comes out in paperback.
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Twitter changed something this week, and whatever it was broke clients, including my beloved Twhirl, which is no longer being supported and therefore will never be fixed. I have two Twitter accounts (one I actually use, one I use only to follow celebrities), otherwise I would probably resign myself to just using the (in many ways inadequate) website forever. Here are the features I want in a desktop client that I loved about Twhirl:
  • Pops up tweets in the corner of the screen. I don't mean a notification that there are tweets, I mean the actual tweets. I don't know what the duration of Twhirl's popups was, but it was more than long enough for me to read the tweet. (If there were four or more, it would just pop up a notification that there were x number of tweets, and then you had to go look at the actual client. This is acceptable behavior.)

  • Everything in one column. I do not want separate columns or tabs or pages for replies. I want all tweets by people I follow and any tweets that are replies to or mention me (even if they're from people I don't follow) in one list.

  • Supports multiple accounts, each in their own column.

  • Not ugly. I tried out TweetDeck, and it's hideous. I want black text on a white background, but I will accept black text on a light gray background, which was one of the Twhirl color schemes. (I also liked that replies were in a different color - Twhirl made the background a dark yellow - but that's not a dealbreaker.)

  • Must work with low screen resolutions. I have a relatively small monitor, and my resolution is set at 800x600. TweetDeck's desktop client is mostly unusable at that resolution (and if you try to do anything with settings on their web version, the box is so far to the right that the x to close it is off the screen). I need something either small or sensibly scalable.

  • Ability to retweet with commentary. This isn't a dealbreaker, but I get frustrated every time I try to use the website to retweet something because it doesn't let you add commentary unless you copy and paste into a new tweet. I would like to be able to do this in a sensible, one-step way.

  • Has a Windows XP version. Yeah, whatever, I live in the dark ages of computer software. I've yet to run into a reason to upgrade.
Anyone have any suggestions for a client that might work for me?

(Just so you understand how important this is to me, my alternate post title was "Summer Meltdown Number Two." And, yes, I did cry my eyes out over this. If I can't find a useful client, my alternate plan is to just stop following celebrities on Twitter, which is not what I really want to do.)
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I loved Snow White and the Huntsman. The friend I went with only liked the first hour, and another friend who saw it opening weekend hated it, so I was expecting more varied opinion, but after collecting opinions, they're still the only two people I know who didn't like it. I thought about writing about the movie before, but I didn't really know where to start or what to say; I loved nearly everything about it, and it's the kind of movie I should have seen alone (and did see alone the second time) so I could just enjoy and revel in it without having to talk about it. But I've read a couple of things about it - a small handful of delighted fannish posts and a meta post - none of which get anywhere close to talking about the things I liked best about it. (In the interests of full disclosure, part of the reason I haven't written about the movie is that summer meltdown number one was about this. Even while I was in the midst of it, a part of me kept thinking, "Snow White and the Huntsman, really? This is what's going to send you into a meltdown?" It wasn't about the movie, of course, but about feeling like I was wrong, which I'm even less emotionally equipped to handle in the summer.) So here's a short list of some of the things I liked about the movie, and why I disagree with the tiny part of fandom I've seen talking about it.

Spoilers/Literary Analysis/Fannish Disagreement )
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I know, I have questions about titles all the time. I honestly find coming up with titles to be the hardest part of posting fic. Today I have just two specific things to ask about.

First, how do you feel about lowercase titles versus capitalized titles? It never bothers me when other people have all lowercase titles, but I always feel pretentious using them myself. (Like, I want to preemptively tell people who might scoff that I do understand title case and the lowercase section headings in Leads to Another Kiss were an artistic choice.) Part of that, I think is that lowercase titles seem like they should go with more literary things while I tend to write very straightforward stories.

Secondly, what if a lyric works as a title for the story, but the song as a whole doesn't? Will people notice? And if they do, will it bother them? Or should I just use the lyric?
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I keep thinking I should post about hockey more so we can have more conversations about it and do all that fannish stuff, but (a) I'm not very industrious when it comes to things like pictures and video and (b) I think [ profile] lakeeffectgirl is the person most interested in it, and she and I email about hockey all day long anyway. And speaking of, go read her snippet about the Briere kids wanting Claude to move back in. It's so great! Also, I really want all the stories about the Briouxs and their kids. ALL THE STORIES. (Well, actually, only the good ones. Badly written ones can stay unread.)

Mostly my everyday tiny hockey things go on Twitter or Tumblr. I have a confession about Tumblr: sometimes I open things with the intention of reblogging them, and then don't because tagging them seems like too much work. (And I refuse to reblog without tags. My biggest Tumblr pet peeve is untagged and uncaptioned pictures. You can't interest me in people if you don't tell me who they are.) I think I use Tumblr all wrong anyway because I almost never just reblog things. Everyone who follows me and is interested in whatever it is probably also follows the person I'm reblogging from, so there's no real point in reblogging unless I'm going to say something about it, which I don't think is how you're supposed to use Tumblr. You all know I'm wordy anyway, so of course I can't just use Tumblr for pretty things. I also often open things and then decide that, no, I'm not going to pick a fight about it. (But I think there's at least one thing that's getting some angry commentary if I see it a third time.) See? This is why I can't just be fannish, because I overthink things and refuse to just capslock. Semi-relatedly, I'm horribly jealous of how much time people seem to have for fandom. Why can't I have a job where no one cares if I watch videos of hockey players taking us on tours of their houses at my desk?

I must have more time than I think, though, because I ran out of hockey fic to read. (If you know of things I'm not likely to have read, meaning things not at AO3, you should tell me about them!) I tried reading some Generation Kill fic instead (because I generally love GK fic even though I've never seen the show), but it turns out I've read an awful lot of it already, particularly the AUs, which are what I like most. I don't know what to read now. Is there new good Star Trek reboot fic?
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The only thing I've written this week is Sherlock fic. Sherlock fic! I do not feel qualified to be writing this - I'm not British and I don't think I'm up for the kind of plot it actually demands - and yet I have.

I'm fascinated by what it's like to have things on AO3. Watching what people kudos is totally interesting. Also fascinating: my top three stories by hit count are Angle of Refraction, which is Sherlock Holmes movieverse threesome fic that I wrote just after the movie came out, when it was likely to be noticed; Pick Yourself Up and Get On With Your Life, which was my Yuletide story and therefore likely to get noticed; and The Task At Hand, which I wrote for [ profile] bandgirlsbang, which means people noticed it because of that. Even above and beyond that, what I find interesting is that two of those are stories where I consciously and deliberately worked to match the tone of the source material. I suppose that paid off!

Last time I did this meme, the only person who answered said she had a question about "The Task at Hand," which I was still writing and not ready to talk about. But now it's done, so let's do this again! Meme originated with [ profile] disarm_d:
I've heard people say that writing is hard because you have to make decisions, but we never really talk about the decisions we make with stories or why we make them. We talk about plot bunnies, but not about how we actually turn them into a story.

And it seems like a lot more fun to do that than to work.

So, if you wanted, ask me questions! Anon commenting is on, if you feel shy. Or ask your flist to ask you questions.

What were you trying to do [here]? Why did you decide to ____? This is what I thought about xyz, is that what you were going for? What made you write ____? And so on.
Let me also repeat my own disclaimer from the first time, which still stands:
I've been hesitant about asking questions of the people on my friends list who have done this because the questions I want to ask people are the kinds of questions that I can imagine might be uncomfortable, so in addition to leaving anonymous commenting on, I want to invite you to ask me uncomfortable questions if those are the kinds of questions you have.
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I'm feeling very between fandoms and non-fannish* at the moment, which means I will probably go back to my between fandoms mode of occasional random fic posting and no discussion. (Watch: in two weeks I'll be in love with something new and won't be able to stop talking about it.)

In other fannish news, I have imported all my fic into AO3. Total number of stories: 409. Even taking into account the fact that that includes some permanently unfinished things, that's a lot of fic. I tried to count how many fandoms it was yesterday, but I got tired of counting at thirty. It's probably somewhere over fifty, even doing things like collapsing individual bands into bandom. I knew I had written a lot of fic in a lot of fandoms over the last thirteen and a half years, but that was possibly even more than I expected.

One more piece of unrelated fannishness: I have Netflix again for a while. (Thanks [ profile] allegram and [ profile] dedalvs!) My plan was to watch some TOS so I could get all the references in Star Trek reboot fic. Instead, I'm watching/rewatching (I haven't yet hit the point where I stopped watching the first time around) Grey's Anatomy. It's so soapy and sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in it, but I can't stop watching. I loved this show when it started - A soapy medical drama with lots of female characters? Totally my kind of thing! - and then at Escapade one year someone ruined it for me by saying hateful things about Meredith. (I gather she's generally not well-liked. I always liked her.) Alex/Izzie is my Grey's Anatomy OTP forever. I would take fic recs!

Other things I've been watching: Nikita (my favorite show on TV right now), Once Upon a Time (I wasn't into this week's ep; we'll see if that's the show or my mood), Hawaii Five-0 (I'm an ep behind, and I keep holding out hope that it'll get better, but we'll see how it goes), Revenge (love this show, and they hit the reveal I've been waiting for this week), Leverage (sometimes I love this show, sometimes it's just okay), Ringer (I still love this show for its interesting plot).

* My heart and mind are completely occupied by Sherlock but (a) I don't feel qualified to write fic for it (pay no attention to the Google doc behind the curtain), (b) I don't want to talk about it as much as just hold it in my heart, and (c) I don't really want to read discussion about it because I know that if I do, someone will ruin it for me. [back]


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Ruth Sadelle Alderson


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