Dear Arie,

Cute HandsA lot of people in this life figure out who they are without having kids. Most of them do, I’m guessing.

I am not one of those people.

12 years ago today, I met you. And I met myself. Thank you for showing me the best person I could be. And the worst person, as well.

In any case, I am finally the me I was supposed to be, and I owe it all to you and your little brother. But you — you are the one who taught me to be a mom. Who taught me to be my true self.

With enormous gratitude,
Your mom


Femme Appreciation Day

TRACEY-SPICER-p90-2-1bbtls0So, a day or two ago I shared a Tracey Spicer TED talk in which she goes on an on about how much more productive women would be if we weren’t held to ridiculous beauty standards and didn’t spend so much time on them. I made some wry comment about how judging from myself I don’t think women would be doing much more than fighting even more with strangers on the Internet.

Folks responded at length, and I realized that I had more to say about this: I think women get enough shit from society without getting EVEN MORE SHIT for being girly, which honestly is what I sort of felt like she was doing. (I will admit I did not have the patience to watch it all; her endless litany of self-loathing at the beginning for merely working out and putting on makeup and support hose was too offputting for me. Perhaps she later gets more compassionate toward other women like her. EDIT: a friend who actually watched it all says: “The end of the video is about self awareness and mindful choice of what rituals of feminine conformity are worth it.” Great! I am truly glad to hear this. I still think the intro to the video, and the reams of other femme-shaming stuff out there, is a problem.)

I know there is much more pressure on women in other professions to meet a beauty standard than on freelance writers. This is a real problem.

But one of the examples she gave was that it takes the average woman 27 minutes to get ready for work in the morning. Um. It takes me way longer than that, and all I have to do is shower, slather goo on my face and in my hair, throw on some possibly dirty jeans and a Tshirt, eat, and drink tea. If women are doing this amazing other regimen she describes in 27 minutes, hats off to them! Maybe she’s right and a woman with that sort of ruthless efficiency of movement WOULD be able to take over the world with that time added to her day. I have no idea. I am not one of those women.

I guess I just want to say this: femininity is as genuine, real, and lovable as masculinity. Femmes are GORGEOUS, smart, and celebratory of who they are as people. One of my favorite femmes is also wicked good with power tools and carpentry (oh hai Dena Landon Stoll). Many of them are also queer as fuck.

Women who really enjoy the ritual and sensual pleasures of grooming should not be made to feel as if they are somehow less because of this. It pisses me off.

Pointless anger

littledannyToday would have been my cousin Danny’s birthday. I mean, I guess it still is, but he’s not here to enjoy it.

Some days when I think about my beloved dead, I feel sad and loving and generous. Today is an angry day. Angry with medical people in his childhood who breezily told his mom that his heart was just fine. Who, years later when he was a young adult, treated him like garbage when he was having a heart incident and who kept demanding that he confess how muck coke he’d done (the answer was “none, you fucking assholes,” but they wouldn’t listen, so he pulled off the goddamned monitors and walked out). Just angry.

I hate these days because there is nothing I can do with this anger. Even if I could bring those assholes to some sort of justice, it wouldn’t bring him back.

Lots of people in my life are confused by why I don’t trust the medical establishment. It’s not a deep, confounding mystery, folks.

How am I going to survive until December 19

Probably you have no idea that I grew up reading old Little Orphan Annie comics. I LOVED them. I read them over and over. (You should read the old comics. They are a really interesting view of Depression-era America, and a wonderful soap-opera. Daddy Warbucks loses all his money! He goes blind! He punches this dood out in a warehouse!) I loved the movie of the musical: Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan was truly inspired. And I am SO EXCITED to see this version. Quvenzhané Wallis. Her voice is INCREDIBLE. Cameron Diaz. She does mean so well! (Will it be a more sympathetic portrayal, I wonder?) Do we really have to wait until Christmas?


“Why do you keep hitting yourself with that hammer?”

this is me today I swear

this is me today I swear

Because it feels so good when I stop!

What this Minnesota winter does to you: I anxiously asked the guy in the market: “will the fish be okay in my trunk for a few hours?”

He laughed. “It’s below freezing out!” he said, and I didn’t believe him until I looked it up. I was certain it was at LEAST 40 degrees out. (It’s 20).


birdby Alan DeNiro

This weekend, the finalists for the 26th annual Minnesota Book Awards were released. As with most other years, I wonder if this is going to be a year when the pattern is broken. But it’s not.

What is that pattern? There have been only two books of adult fiction nominated over the last decade that could be considered science fiction, fantasy or more broadly non-realistic: Alicia Conroy’s nontraditional short story collection Lives of Mapmakers in 2007, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s high fantasy novel Paladin of Souls in 2004.

That’s it. And that’s a problem.

It’s a problem because the Minnesota Book Awards presents a skewed version of  the literary culture in the state, and goes forth with events, celebrations and resources (such as grants to bring MBA winners to libraries) that ignore any books that aren’t in the here-and-now. Even the Popular Fiction/Genre category of the award, which should be a mix of (as the eligibility requirements note) “mystery, detective, fantasy, romance, graphic novel, and science fiction”, is almost every year composed strictly of mysteries and thrillers.

Of course, literary realism is its own genre, full of its own conventions and meta-structures. Which is not an indictment against it; however, seeing realism as the only game in town (or the state) is toxic for the literary health of a community. It privileges one form of storytelling as a default mode of expression against which all others should measure.

Read the rest at Goblin Mercantile Exchange.