Whips & Fangs Cover Reveal and Release Date

(If you’re just hear for the cover and don’t care about the talk-talk, just scroll to the bottom.)

Okay, I should probably back up. This is probably the first many of you have heard of Whips & Fangs, and it certainly wasn’t on my project list a month or so back!

Several years ago, I had an old iteration of this website which had a subdomain, Whips & Fangs, where I shared kinky fantasy stories once a month or so. At the end of the first year, I took at the stories I had written, combined them into an ebooks and put the book out on Amazon and Smashwords.

At the time, we were homeless and I was dealing with several untreated mental illnesses. So I was never entirely happy with some of the stories, it was just the best I could do at the time, ya know? So I pulled the book, planning to edit and re-release when I had fixed some things up.

Except life hit me in the face again and I never finished my edits.

Goodreads calling

A couple weeks ago I got two messages on Goodreads, both asking about where folks could purchase W&F.

It’s fair to say my jaw dropped. Of all the books I’ve released, this one sold the worst and had almost not interest from anyone except a few close friends. I couldn’t imagine how one person had even heard of it, never mind two, never mind on the same day.

It turns out that Goodreads groups actually are good for authors? Someone (God knows who) recommended W&F in a Goodreads group, and now (according to the moderators who contacted me) at least a dozen people wanted to read it.

So… I went back and took at look at my edits. Turns out I didn’t have as much to do as I remembered. So I’ve been finishing up those edits, tweaking the cover, and getting it set up for pre-order on Amazon and D2D.

Whips & Fangs Cover

Whips & Fangs Cover

Whips & Fangs will be out July 31st. (It may be available for pre-order in some places now, I’ve never figured how that worked.)

A knight captured and used by the lady he loves, but cannot serve…
A vampire and vampire hunter in a most unlikely relationship…
A man who asks to join a leather family–but the family in question is more than leather…
The crippled dragon who thinks he can no longer serve and the lady-knight who refuses to give up on him…
A maiden who gives herself to a fairy lord, but has no idea what she’s in for…

These and other kinky fantasy stories fill this book. Using the lens of fantasy this collection explores the many sides of D/s, from the unabashedly erotic to the most extreme of mental conditioning, and more. Enter the fantastical world of kink, and the kinky world of fantasy.

This collection includes non-con stories.

W&F 2?

I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post that I had kept that subdomain going for several years. I’ve got a bunch more stories that didn’t make it into this collection and currently aren’t available anywhere. I originally meant to release a second collection. If W&F develops enough interest, I might go ahead and do that….

Be Careful What You Ask For…

So, Ericka and Nana are settled in, mostly, and plans are apace for Michon, Dilip Numetor Amalia Chetana Waller, and associate kids, to move to the area before school starts. (Possibly later for Michon bc awesome jobs is awesome.)

Rewind a Bit

Anyway, while helping Ericka move, Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller* told me he was worried his tendency towards impulse spending would screw up plans over the summer. (Or words to that effect, anyway.)

Being the dirty minded kinky dom that I am, I’ve occasionally (ahem) entertained thoughts of Dilip Numetor Amalia Chetana Waller as a sub. My sub, to be specific. I haven’t said anything to him about these entertaining thoughts because the poor guy has enough on his plate adjusting to polyamory and how radically his family changed while he was out of the picture. Throwing kink on top of it seemed a bit much.

Plus, he hasn’t given any indication that he is interested in any kind of relationship with me, much less that kind of relationship. Or any indication that he is kinky at all.

Anyway, it did, um, occur to me that if he was my sub and agreed to findom than I would control the money and overspending or impulse spending wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

I took a minute to enjoy the idea and set it aside as ridiculous. Both for the above mentioned reasons and because findom has never really appealed to me.

Fast Forward to Now

Tonight, I gave Dilip Numetor Amalia Chetana Waller a quick call to check on progress before I (again) became completely nonverbal. (It’s been a bad week in general and a really bad week for communication.) He caught on pretty quickly about how badly I’ve been doing and at some point, after something he said made me giggle, commented on the goodness of being able to laugh.

Conversation continues, finding work in the area, apartment hunting, and the money stuff that comes up reminds me of those findom thoughts. Figuring we could have a good laugh over the absurdity together, I say, “On the subject of making me laugh, here’s a weird thought I had…” and I tell him.

And he takes it seriously!

Didn’t. Even. Realize. I was joking.

He counter-offered that he’s control the money at first, but if he screwed up — the first time he screwed up, I could take over. Even said I could monitor his budget and spending from the beginning so I’d know if he screwed up…

What the hell is a dom to do when someone she’s been having hungry thoughts about offers himself wrapped up in a bow?

I told him, “Okay, that would work, but, um, I was joking you know.” (As you know, because I spoilered, he didn’t.)

So… over the weekend (that would be the weekend before this post goes live, I’m writing this post early, as I prefer to) we’re going to have a talk about what findom is, what it involves, and why jumping in before he fully understands what he’s getting into might be a bad idea.

And I’m… still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Is it too bad of me to hope that this may be a foot in the door for a broader D/s relationship?

*Yes, I am writing that name out, in full, every time. I almost never let myself be petty. But I’m making an exception this time.

When My Sexuality Can Be a Joy (possibly TMI)

I want to reach a point where my sexuality can be a joy. I want to be one of those old folks who has lots of sex and revels in freaking the younger generations with hints of the naughtiness she gets up to while they’re imagining her celibately puttering around the kitchen or playing parcheesi. (Which is actually a pretty fun game, but I’d probably be playing magic or Carcassonne.)

Two usually non-sex things are making that a challenge.

Sensory Issues + Sex = badness

The more common (and more annoying) these days is my autism.

I know, not one you’d expect to be causing sex problems. Relationship problems, sure, but sex problems?

Well, one of my major autism challenges is sensory issues. I hit sensory overload very easy, mainly because I don’t have the nifty ability NTs have to filter out ‘background information’. It’s worst with sound, but second worst for me is tactile.

And, you know, getting comes with quiet a few tactile sensations. There’s the various tinglings and warm feelings and wetnesses. And it just…

You know the recommended way to handle an autistic kid who has a meltdown? Remove or remove them from all sensory stimulation possible. Don’t touch if you can avoid it. Remove all stressors possible. You’re ideal is a quiet, dark area where no one intrudes until they are doing better.

How the fuck do I remove sensory stimulation being caused by my own body? It just ain’t fucking happening. Do it’s a negative feedback loop that can leave me a mess for days on end.

Yes days, because for some reason once I get horny it doesn’t go away until I do something about it. I have never found any equivalent of a long cold shower that works for me. And yes, that sucks too.

Trauma + Sex = badness

The second issue is PTSD/anxiety. This one makes more sense in broad strokes but the specifics are harder to describe. On the other hand, the specifics are no one’s business if I don’t choose to share them, so… anyway.

Yeah, sexual abuse means PTSD and anxiety can be major issues around sex. In fact, there were such major issues that at one time I didn’t think I had a sex drive. It turned out to be… more complicated than that.

Anyway, for whatever fucked up reason, (see above) being an anxious place or a bad-memory place or a “I feel like I’m a shit person” place doesn’t stop the horniness. It just makes it really unhealthy, where I feel like a dirty bad person for being horny, and a worse person if I do anything about it, and doing anything about it likely to trigger a panic attack, but again, it doesn’t go away and it’s another negative fucking feedback loop that fucks me up for days.

Progress Counts

It isn’t always bad. Actually, the more I’ve healed from the sex trauma, the more I’ve learned about my autism and how to handle sensory shit to avoid reaching the point of overload, the more I’ve been able to be horny, and do fun things with myself or my partners, and just… enjoy it.

I’m really hoping that in time I’ll be able to build on that progress and eventually the bad-horny times will be so rare they are noteworthy events and the good-horny times are the norm that I get to enjoy and to all the crazy sexy things.

Though, in an ‘irony wins’ fashion, the best solution I’ve found so far to horny+sensory overload is actually to go do all the sexy things as soon as I realize it’s happening.

Sexy Fun as Solution = Goodness

See, while we can’t filter out ‘background stuff’ many autistic people have found that a single, intense sensation can drown out all the sensory overload and give us some rest from it. This is actually the ‘why’ behind a lot of (though not all of) the self-harming stims some autistic people do. It’s also why spinning, spicy food, and weighted blankets tend to be popular with autistic folks.

And, done right, it doesn’t get much more intense that sexy stuff. (Especially if you throw in clamps, wooden horses, and those kind of fun things. Keep Wartenburg wheels and vibes way the fuck away from me thank you very much! Steady constant stim is what we’re going for here.)

This post brought to you by a sensory overload+horny morning fucking with my head. Very tight rope harness with crotch rope is my friend. Yup yup.

Planting Life in a Dying City: First Chapter (Draft)

That move I mentioned a couple posts back is happening this week and I didn’t have the time or spoons to write a blog post. So instead, here’s the first draft chapter of Planting Life in a Dying City


A shaft of sunlight lanced through the forest gloom highlighting another empty snare. Lefeng shook eir head as ey pull up the small game snare and examined the grass rope. Somehow no one had seen that break in the canopy over the summer. They were lucky they snare hadn’t been sun-touched.

Ey coiled and stash the snare-rope it in eir pack with the dozen others ey had pulled earlier that day and the pair of lemurs that had been caught by two of the traps. Ey had been surprised to find that many after [sibling] ran the trapline two days ago. Lefeng was just as glad that ey had forgotten to pull the snares. It gave eir a chance to get into the foothills on eir own one last time before the summer ended.

Ey moved with a ground-eating lope to the next snare, pausing on the way to pull leaves from a low growing mint plant to munch on and moisten eir mouth. The air was dry in the foot hills, away from the influence of the ocean. But ey only had a few more snares to pull and then ey could head home.

Tomorrow, the adults and near-adults like Lefeng would start packing for their winter travels. They’d follow the old ways, camping for a shor ttime to gather food and supplies, then travelling on when the area they were in started to become depleted. Each year they travelled a slighty different path, giving the land time to recover.

The ground shook, making a stone under eir foot move. Ey fell to the ground. “Stagnant water!” ey cursed. That was the third shake today. The first one had been strong enough to bring down some of the young saplings. Earth shakes were a part of life. As the [priest] liked to remind them, even the earth is alive in it’s own way. But three in one day was unusual.

Ey stood and cursed again. Eir right ankle hurt when ey put weight on it. Checking the ankle showed that it was only swelling a bit. And it had held when ey put weight on it. Ey hobbled up to a straight sapling a short distance off the trail and used her handaxe to cut the sapling down and strip the branches from it. With this rough-made walking stick ey carefully continued down the trail carefully.

Ey had no intention of staying in the village this walking-season. And a bad injury would keep eir in the home compound this winter with elder, the young children, and some of the grandparents. Two of Lefeng’s siblings who were courting other family’s in the village and would be staying with their prospective-spouses most of the winter.

That was the last thing Lefeng wanted. Ey was planning on marrying-in and spending the rest of eir adult life the way ey had spend eir years so far. And GreatWave, a child of a fishing family who had been courting Lefeng and eir siblings would be coming with them this walking-season. Ey was hoping to get some time with eir outside of the crowded confines of the compound. So no more falls!

A short time late, ey had finished pulling the snares and was headed home. The sun was setting—ey’s injury was making eir late. But there was still light to see by.

A half-mark from the village ey reached the lookout clearing. The hill top had been cleared of trees to give a clear view of the sea. The fisher families used it in storm season to watch for storms gathering on the horizon.

There were no storms today, but the sea looked strange. More like a mud puddle a child had jumped in, swirling around and full of debris.

Lefeng licked eir lips and looked harder. Ey had the best far sight in eir family, and while ey had never seen the sea like that, some of that debris looked familiar. Like the scraps of wood and sail that washed up on shore sometimes after a boat was caught out in a storm or wrecked by the one of the bright days.

GreatWave had gone out with eir family boat that morning. Ey told Lefeng ey wanted to feel the sea under eir one more time before spending more than half the year in the mountains.

Caution forgotten, Lefeng pelted down the trail, skidding and sliding in damp leaves and muddy loam. A short time later, ey burst out of the trees at the edge of the village and stumbled to a halt.

Everything was mud. Mud and dead fish and ragged stumps of wood where walls and homes had been that morning. Here and there, a lump sprawled in the mud, lumps covered with fabric and often trailing banners of waterlogged hair.

Lefeng stared, trying to take in what ey was seeing. It was like the entire village had been washed away. Step by step ey crept out into the mud. It sucked at eir boots and clung to eir legs.

The first body ey came to was the elder, TallDeer. Ey’s face was unrecognizable, but somehow ey was still wearing the silly bracelet of nuts and dried berries ey had worn for nearly twenty years. Lefeng sank into the mud next to eir and gently touched the bracelet. Lefeng had given it to eir, a chilidsh gift from a youngling to eir favorite grandparent. TallDeer had promised never to take it off.

Now, Lefeng removed it for eir. “Journey long, Baba. Until I join you at the meeting-fire.”

Tears pouring down eir face, Lefeng forced eirself to stand. Somewhere, there had to be someone still alive. There had to.

When dark fell, Lefeng, retreated into the shelter of the trees and made a small camp. Ey forced eirself to eat, having learned well the lessons of the trail. Never go hungry when there is food, you don’t know when you will find more.

With dawn, ey returned to the remains of the village.

No one had survived. Most were simply gone, no sign remained that they had ever existed.

Where eir family’s compound had once stood were a few stumps from the fence and the wooden frame of the house. Scattered throughout the village where a few–a very few–things ey recognized as once belonging to eir family. Ey gathered everything ey could, both from eir family and others, that might possibly be useful.

The next day, ey spent gathered the bodies together on a pile with as much wood as ey was able to move. It had been over a year since ey had started a fire without a coal or spark to work with. And the wet wood didn’t want to burn. But the effort of getting the fire started kept eir from really thinking about what ey was doing.

About what ey would do next.

It was possible that others from the village had survived, but no one had been off on a long journey. Only the far-walking families regularly ever went further than a half days travel from the village, and they had all been here, preparing for the winter journeying. Even the fishing boats returned each day except for their yearly trips up the coast to the big city. Anyone who hadn’t been in the village when… whatever it was happened should have returned by now.

Which meant Lefeng was completely alone.

Finally, the fire started. Ey sat upwind and watched it burn. Saying and singing the prayers that were meant to be said when the dead were buried, but there was no way ey, alone, could bury them all before scavengers became to bold for eir to chase away.

The fire burned long into the night and ey watched.

I Climbed a Mountain… and Found Some Birds

Okay, not really. But I did get in a good challenging hike straight up the side of a mountain. The almost-last section of trail was a couple hundred feet across what I think was once a glacial moraine. It’s basically a long (wide) line of large rocks and small boulders running across and sort-of-down the mountain.

I’ve gone up that trail before but always stopped at the edge of the rocks. Yesterday I said ‘fuck it’ and just kept going. Shortly after the edge of the rocks the trail I was on ended at the Appalachian Trail.

Gotta admit, I looked at the A.T. and was tempted to just keep going. Didn’t matter which way, I just wanted more trail and more time on the trail.

But I told Michael I’d be hiking in the local nature center. It’s basic trail safety: you tell someone where you are going to be, because accidents happen and cell phones don’t always work on the trails. So I turned my back on A.T. and headed back down the mountain.

Maybe next time.

Birds!

First Encounters

Along the driveway to the nature center, I saw a bunch of blue-and-white (with the blue shading to black in places) birds sitting on a fence. And a couple of yellow birds with black wings flying away. So before I hit the trail I stopped in at the center (open for once — I usually go late in the day after it’s closed) to see if anyone know what birds those were.

I mentioned to the volunteer that I had been thinking of picking up bird watching again. I walked out with the names of three new birds (while she was showing me some tree swallows to confirm that’s what I saw on the drive up, a red-winged blackbird flew by) a check list of birds that folks had reported seeing at the nature center and surrounding trails, and a guide to which birds are likely to be found where.

Bird Watching On the Trail

Walking through the scrub of the lower-trail to the trail I wanted was frustrating. I heard birds everywhere squawking their heads off. But I couldn’t see them. Or if I could it was just a quick flash. Once I got on my trail and into the forest-proper, I mostly forgot about the birds and focused on the hike.

I paused a few times to look for particularly loud or near-sounding birds, which also let me pace myself a bit. (Which I needed. While I felt fine pretty much the entire hike, when I was almost back to the scrub I noticed my blood pressure was spiking. I don’t have high blood pressure, so this was unusual and a concern. On the up side, I clearly got my cardio for the day.) Most of the time I didn’t see anything, and I never saw any of the noisemakers I was looking for.

But one time when I looked up at just the right moment, I saw a scarlet tanager (male) fly by.

(It’s possible the yellow-and-black bird I saw driving up was another scarlet tanager (female), but given that the area was scrub and wetlands I’m betting on American Goldfinch.)

There was a bench I knew of on the short loop trail through the scrub, so I got off my trail again I looked for it and sat down. Resting gave my blood pressure a chance to come down as my heart got a break, and gave me a chance to look through the guide in more detail than the quick glance I gave it before hitting the trail.

Awesome Ending

My last, and best, surprise came at the very end of the scrub trail. A tiny bird, small enough to fit in Kidling’s hand, was ‘hiding’ in a small evergreen shrub. ‘Hiding’ because I could easily see right through the shrub at any point it’s limbs were so loose.

The bird hopped from branch to branch, dipping it’s tail every now and again. I slowed, taking a step every couple of seconds and tried to stay quiet as I did so.

I’m pretty sure it knew I was there, but it must have felt safe in the shrub because it stayed there, letting me get a good long look at it. It was brown on the back and wings, yellow on the stomach. It had what looked like white lines around it’s eyes, but in the shadow of the shrub might have been yellow. On it’s head, a red cap. It was the red cap that kept me looking so long. I wasn’t quite sure I was seeing it. But eventually it tilted it’s head in just the right way that I saw the cap clearly.

As I passed the shrub it was hiding it, still at a slow pace, it flew away.

Mixed up Identity

The volunteer at the nature center told me it was an ovenbird and was really excited about it. I forgot how much fun it was connect with other people who are excited about nature and talking about birds and trees, and that weird-melted looking bit on the one rock, what could have caused that anyway?

I got home and immediately started looking up the birds I saw, confirming my identification.

It wasn’t an ovenbird. It was a palm warbler. Apparently they are pretty rare in the area. Ovenbirds are the usual warblers with a redcap around here, which explains the volunteers mistake. But ovenbirds have a white belly and no eye flash. This one must have been migrating a bit late (apparently they usually migrate in early spring, which is the only time we usually see them here.)

I’m not sure I’m right in my identification. But everything I’m seeing is that red cap, yellow belly, eye flash, tail bob in scrub means palm warbler. And the ONLY other warbler with a red cap is the ovenbird.

So that was a pretty cool end to the hike.

Personal Win

I woke this morning without any of the stiffness or soreness I half expected after climbing over all those rocks. I’ve always known it’s my legs that are in the best shape for my body, but that still surprised me a bit. Might make that trail a weekly run for the cardio, and see what other birds I can find while I’m at it.

Remembering Myself

One important thing I realized from this hike, is that in becoming the Old ‘Woman’ I’m not just trying to do new things or strengthen the things I already do. I’m reclaiming things I had lost. I grew up bird watching through my grandmother’s windows, with her huge, old, falling apart Guide to North American birds usually open the page on chickadees and sparrows. I spent most of my teen years tromping through woods whether doing a proper hike or just rambling through a local patch of forest.

These are things that were always part of me, and I lost track of with the stress, time-loss, and struggles of adulting-while-poor.

I’m going to enjoy reclaiming them.

Jess Mahler’s Upcoming Books 5/13/19: #AmWriting

I realized that since re-starting this blog, I never shared what-all my active writing projects are. It’s probably time and past-time I do that.

At the moment I have 2 projects I am working on regularly and 3 more that I consider ‘active/backburner’. That is — I am keeping them in mind and will work on them when and as the mood strikes. They’re simmering, basically.

I have many many many projects that are ‘in holding’. They are projects that I reached of point of saying ‘no, this isn’t working;’ but think there is enough potential there that I might pick them up again in the future — or might not. (Probably not, if I’m being honest. But maybe.)

Polyamory on Purpose Books

Polyam and Kink

As I’ve talked about elsewhere, my next PoP book will be Polyam and Kink. It’s currently one of the two projects I work on regularly. I don’t actually know what the current word count is — I’m using this manuscript to experiment with eMacs and orgmode. I have to say, I really like eMacs for straight writing, but org mode is giving me headaches on the regular.

Because the writing is scattered across several dozen text docs all linked together through orgmode, figuring out the word count before I’m ready to pull it all together is going to be an absolute pain.

Abuse in Polyamory

Had a blog post about this last month, but tentatively planning for the next PoP book to be Abuse in Polyamory. At the moment, this is more the seed of an idea than an active project. I’ll probably start writing it when I get to the painful part of editing Polyam and Kink.

Jess Mahler’s Fiction

Planting Life in a Dying City

I need to work on this title. I want the final title to be something like this, but not sure if this is too long or not. *shrug*.

Anyway. I’m just past 29,000 words on this one.

I’ve thought of putting one of those progress tracking widgets on the sidebar, but I never remember to update them. So you’ll need to make do with blog posts like this every month or two.

Planting Life in a Dying City is a story of a group of individuals who come together to build a family in a bronze age society where if you don’t have a family, you are nothing. My blogs about generational families and nalbinding were referring to this manuscript. I’ve also got a Quora answer about the magic system that this world will have.

Space Werewolf

I don’t have a title for this one yet. It’s (as the working title suggests) a sci-fi novel with werewolves. (No, not science-fantasy. I’ve got a science-based explanation for having werewolves. It’s no less realistic than FTL drives. 😛 )

I’m pretty sure I haven’t blogged about this at all or discussed the details with anyone other than close friends and family. The two main characters are a werewolf who was is an undercover operative for the (Underground) Railroad and a human/ship entity who botches the werewolf’s op by ‘rescuing’ her.

This one is at around 19,000 words and has been backburnered since last fall. I expect it’ll move to fully active project soon.

Arranged Polyamory

What if, instead of dating and trying to find people to build relationships with, three lonely and lost strangers decided to make a commitment to each other and see what they can build?

At about 6,000 words, I’ve barely started on this one. I’m using it as an experiment in kishōtenketsu style narrative. One thing I’ve struggled with in my romance (and aromance) stories is lack of conflict. Conflict being central to Western-style story telling, but if you have two characters who are constantly in conflict and in a relationship, usually what you have is rather toxic… and I’m realizing that this could be a whole blog post on it’s own, so maybe next week.

Anyway, kishōtenketsu is a narrative style that doesn’t require conflict. So it seemed like a good idea to give it a try.

Thinking and plotting in a completely different manner from what you learned growing up is hard. Hence the very slow burn on this novel.

Historical Space Romance

I admit it, I got lazy.

This was going to be a historical romance set shortly after the Norman Conquest of England. But I didn’t have the spoons to do the research necessary to make it reasonably accurate, and wasn’t willing to not make an attempt to be accurate if I was doing historical.

So I cheated, and it’s now one of those ‘sci-fi’ romances that are set on a colonized world where people lost a lot of tech knowledge and are scraping by and I’m handwaving the ridiculousness of having cultures so similar to Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman because fiction.

The basic idea here was ‘You know all those historical romances where the woman is forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t know/doesn’t like and over the course of the novel becomes a dutiful, submissive medieval wife to her warrior-husband? Yeah, I’m gender-bending that shit.’

It turns out that in Anglo-Saxon England women could do a LOT of things that Norman women weren’t allowed to do. And when the Normans took over they put an end to little things like women holding land in their own right or being their father’s heirs (assuming there was no male heir, of course.)

This one is sitting at right around 10,000 words, written in short bursts as inspiration hits. I’m struggling a bit with this one because i don’t have a general plot arc laid out, beyond what I mentioned above. I’m pretty much purely pantsing is, which is NOT my usual and a challenge. (But obviously not as much of a challenge as kishōtenketsu since I only started it a few months ago and already have this much!)

I’ve shared a few snippets from this one in Jess’ Pack if you want to check them out.

Battling Imposter Syndrome

This week is the first time I’ve actually had to come up with a blog topic, instead of writing about whatever comes to mind as relevant. So I decided to take a look at which of my goals I haven’t written about in a while. And immediately realized that I haven’t addressed the farm at all. And that I am terrified to write about it.

Battling Imposter Syndrome

The thing is, all my other goals are, in some way a natural extension of who I am now. Oh, getting the generational home will take a hell of a lot more money than any of has and I’m a long way from being able to look in the mirror and see the old ‘woman’. But they are still closely related to who I am now. I can see the seed of them in myself, even if it hasn’t come to flower yet.

The farm

Okay. Here’s the hard truth: I’ve had a black thumb since I moved out of my parents’ house.

Growing up, I was always in the garden. I was the one who picked the flowers we’d plant each spring out of the catalogs Dad ordered for me. (LOTS of tulips and later hyacinths. Mom hated the smell of the hyacinths but to me, they smell of spring.) I was the one who pushed to have a vegetable garden and had to be talked about of getting fruit trees because ‘they take years to produce anything!’ (I still don’t see why this is a reason not to try. We had the room for more trees and we could have enjoyed apple or cherry blossoms just as much as we enjoyed the blossoms of the dogwood trees I WAS allowed to get. The fruit would come eventually.) I planted, I watered and weeded. I picked the cucumbers when they were ripe and found the tiny strawberries peaking between their leaves. (Store bought strawberries haven’t tasted right since.)

But after I moved out, I couldn’t even keep a houseplant alive.

So am I actually able to keep a garden, much less a farm, going? Or was it just that I had Dad to tell me what to do, when to do it, and to handle the stuff I didn’t know I didn’t know that made the garden I had growing up possible?

What the hell am I thinking trying to get a farm going when I manage to kill cacti, of all things?!

Looking Past Fear

The only way I’ve found to get past imposter syndrome is to bring logic into it.

First, of course, I needed Dad’s help as a kid — I was a kid. That doesn’t mean the experience doesn’t count or I didn’t learn anything from it.

Second, all my experience growing up was with outside plants. That doesn’t translate well to understanding where to put *indoor* plants for maximum light. Or how often/how much to water something in a pot, never mind stuff like fertilizer, repotting, etc.

Third, half the times I tried to grow anything in the past 15 years, I was in a crisis or survival situation. I could barely able to handle the basics of life and self-care, never mind plant care. Yes, I forgot to water or didn’t make sure the plant was in an area with good air circulation (lack of air circulation combined with too much water is what killed the cacti — mold found a nice home and moved in) in those situations. That does not mean I won’t be able to manage plant care in a healthy situation.

Fourth, in the past few years I’ve learned that I am autistic, have been battling a major B12 deficiency for most of the past decade, have bipolar disorder, and that my PTSD was way worse and more pervasive than I had thought. Untreated medical and mental conditions and no support do not make for good project management of any sort. Especially project management involving living things.

So I can’t take the past as a predictor of the future. I need to start from today. Battling imposter syndrome isn’t easy, but it’s doable. And the main thing it takes is just being stubborn.

I’m good at stubborn.

Starting From Today

Today I have a handful of plants, most of them fairly new. There’s a pansy that I picked up because I wanted to have something that I could enjoy without worrying about how to keep it alive. No matter what I do it’s going to die off in a few months. A hyacinth sort of ‘ditto’. We don’t have anywhere to plant the bulb when the season is over, but I’m hoping to find someone to give it to so it will bloom again next year. I’m nowhere near ready to try coaxing a bulb to grow and bloom out of a pot.

I have a fern that I picked up last week. No clue yet how it will do long term. But I have a spot right next to my desk where it gets the bright (but not direct) light it needs and where I can easily check if it needs water.

Finally, I have my last surviving cactus. It’s actually a cutting from one the cacti I managed to kill over the winter. But it seems to be doing okay, it’s putting down roots and has one new branch.

Recently I realized that pot it’s in is way too big for it. So I’ll be repotting it in the near future. We’ll see how that goes.

I have tentative plans to try to grow some micro-greens this summer. It isn’t exactly hard to get seeds to sprout, and it’ll be a small success I can enjoy (metaphorically and digestively).

Okay, TODAY…

(The annoying thing about writing posts ahead of time and having a buffer is that sometimes things CHANGE before the post goes live…)

The re-potting seems to have gone well. This cactus starting as a cutting from one of the cacti I killed. It is putting down roots and a small branch. No sign of mold or other problems (yet). So fingers crossed!

One thing I forgot to mention is that I kept all the cacti alive for a bit over a year before the mold hit. I moved them to a new location where they both got less light (so water evaporated more slowly) and less air circulation, and, well, yeah.

Re-potting the cactus into a small pot that fit it better left me with a lot of soil from the over-sized pot that had been used only a month or so. I didn’t want to just through it out, seemed like a waste. So instead I checked it pretty obsessively for any kind of mold and went ahead and planted the spinach seeds I had tucked away from the last time I tried to grow spinach (which didn’t go all that well). No, I didn’t plant them in the big pot. I have a tin foil cake pan that got to squashed to make cake with. Spread the soil out in there about a half inch deep, sprinkle with seeds, put it in a spot with good light.

See what happens. Hopefully, if I did (and keep doing) everything right, in a couple weeks I’ll have a nice microgreens salad.

After that, it’ll be small steps. I’m at least a couple of years away from having a yard where I can have an outdoor garden. No need to rush. Just take it a day at a time and enjoy the plants I have.

And keep telling imposter syndrome to STFU.

Season of Moves

The next few months are going to be crazy, but I think worth it.

Ericka and her Nana will be moving up here late May. We found a mostly-wheelchair accessible place. A friend of Bea’s is building a ramp up to the door (with landlord’s full support).

Then, if things go according to plan, Dilip Numitor Amalia Chetana Waller will be moving to the area in June. He’ll be looking for a job and apartment for him, Michon, Kid 2 and Kidlet to move into later this summer.

So if all goes well, we’ll have most of our fam all in the same area before school starts next fall.

Of course, all this is on top of normal life stuff, end of school year rush for Kids 1 & 2, various health issues, Michael being deep in NRE for new relationships, Michon having con-thing and exciting short-term gig…

So yeah, crazy couple months.

But Worth It!

Luckily, Ericka and grandma’s move got pushed back. It was originally planned for the end of April. Which, in addition to being right after Pesach, would have been way to close to some health issues and MORE life stresses to have gone well. (As evidence of how bad this might have been, I didn’t get a post up last week for the first time since re-starting this blog.)

When it’s done, all of us will have a larger *local* support network, much more access to physical intimacy, and (if I have my way!) regular family dinners. The kids will all have more adults involved in their lives on a regular basis as well as being able to spend more time with each other doing kid things. And the folks moving into the area will have access to the surprisingly decent resources for poor and disabled folks in this area.

Last but not least, we will all be better positioned to start working towards having a place where we can all live together. Our (hopefully) generational home.

This Isn’t 1939 Germany — But that doesn’t mean everything is okay

The one thing I am holding to right now is that the fucker got arrested.

As long as these ‘lone wolf’ shooters keep getting arrested and jailed, I have hope. Because as long as enough people stand against their bigotry to keep the justice system running, we haven’t reached a tipping point.

I’m Personally Invested.

Let’s get that out of the way.

Yes, this shooting hits me more strongly than the HBChurches burned in Alabama last month or the attacks on mosques that have been near constant for over a decade.

Yes, I’m writing about this now because of this shooting.

I’m human.

That doesn’t make me wrong.

This is Not 1939 Germany

For years now, people have been comparing the US to 1939 Germany and claiming we are following the footsteps of Hitler. I’ll own it — I’ve done it myself. Technically I’m doing it again here.

Personally, I’ve always come to the conclusion that yes I could see the similarities, but didn’t think a slide in fascism and Holocaust was likely. Possible, but not likely.

I still think it’s possible. I still think it’s not likely. But the ‘not’ has gotten… a bit smaller, let’s say. In plain text, rather than bold.

There are many differences between the US today and 1939 Germany. Starting with the man in the head office. Yes, Trump is a populist strong man who admires dictators and might like to be one. And his speeches are just about as readable as Mein Kampf. That’s where the similarities end.

We also don’t have a large group of disaffected veterans who blame the government for their suffering. We don’t have people standing in breadlines for hours. (Okay, the wait at one of the local food banks can run on hour, but that’s because it’s so slow, not because there’s that many people.) We don’t have runaway inflation killing the value of everyone’s money. We don’t have huge military expansion going on to ‘stimulate the economy.’

We have not seen an equivalent of The Eternal Jew in our museums or Krystallnacht in our streets. (No, ‘lone wolf’ shootings aren’t an equivalent of Krystallnacht.) We haven’t seen citizens expelled for their religion or ethnicity. We haven’t seen concentration camps for citizens set up. (Not downplaying the horror of the ‘facilities’ that were set up for illegal immigrants or the horror and travesty of having parents separated from kids. ) We haven’t had a Rechstag Fire. Our government system is the same as ever, even if it’s creaking a bit more than it used to. We still have a president and not a Fuhrer or equivalent…

There are similarities

and I’m not denying that. We do have a large disaffected population with lots of guns. We do have a messed up economy where a lot of folks are struggling to cover their basic needs. We are suffering a kind of national psychological shock as it becomes more and  more apparent that the US is no longer the sole world power, that American exceptionalism maybe isn’t all it was cracked up to be. And we have a leader who plays to the divisions in our society rather than help mending them.

That’s a bad combo.

But it isn’t 1939 Germany.

Comparing It to 1939 Germany Is Not Helpful

At best, it’s a shock tactic. At worst, it creates deeper divisions as the people who are said to be on the side of the ‘Nazis’ (most of whom want nothing to do with literal Nazis, ever) feel attacked and vilified. Even more so if they know their history and know how specious this comparison is.

A more accurate comparison might be 1929 Germany.

It’s still not a perfect comparison. There hasn’t been any equivalent of Wall Street crash for instance. And unemployment is decreasing, not increasing. but it’s a much better comparison.

If there is any validity to comparing the US today with Germany 80 or 90 years ago, it is that populism, nationalism, and fear are all things, and those things in combination are dangerous things, in any country or time.

I’m Still Scared

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. If we do go the fascism-and-genocide route, it won’t be exactly the same any other country did. Which means there will always be people who can dismiss concerns and say, ‘But this is different from Germany/Italy/etc, that can’t happen here!’

(Pro-tip: the most likely way FOR it to happen is to think that it can’t happen here. It’s the equivalent of looking at the shell of a house ruined by time and thinking ‘that will never happen to my house! My house is properly built’… but not fixing that one annoying leak in the roof because you are so sure that your house is better built and will never come crashing down around your head.)

The truth is that Jews in America have been lucky. Ashkenazic Jews in particular have been able to assimilate and get comfortable and live without threat more in America that just about anywhere else in the past 200 years. And having that comfort shattered is a shock.

But we know our history. Sooner or later, the corrupt leaders need a scapegoat.

I Don’t Think I’m JUST Biased

The thing is, looked at logically, I DO think antisemitism is more of a canary in the coal mine than attacks on Black churches or Mosques. Like it or not, there is a long history of racism in the US, and economic difficulties and political tension has always exacerbated that.

9/11 and the way-to-fucking-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did happen. Our response was disproportionate, fear drive, and frankly pretty stupid. Which is par for the course when America gets attacked (Pearl Harbor and the Japanese concentration camps, anyone?)

There are reasons — shitty reasons, illogical reasons, stupid reasons — that scared, angry, hurting people in the US who want a target would lash out at Black and Muslim Americans. I’m not excusing it. I’m just saying that it isn’t something that would surprise anyone with a working brain.

But there is no history of violent anti-Semitism or pogroms in the US. We weren’t given refuge here in WWII, but neither were we shipped off to Germany in 1940. Israel is seen as a major US ally. If 5 or 10 years ago you asked random person A if they thought we’d see synagogue shootings in the US, they’d likely have laughed in your face.

This is a change, an escalation.

We should never have let it get this far

We should have found a way to nip it in the bud after the attack on the Oak Creek gurdwara. After the Christchurch shooting.  After Charlottesville. After so many other incidents.

We didn’t.

So now we’re here. And I don’t know how to stop it now, anymore than I knew how to stop it then.

And people are asking of Jews, as they asked of Muslims not long ago, ‘Should the Jewish community in the USA consider leaving the country?

Because it’s apparently reasonable to suggest we leave our homes rather than suggest the people of this nation put a stop to this shit.

I don’t have answers. And that scares me. Because this isn’t 1939 Germany. But that doesn’t mean everything is okay.

A New Idea for Sexuality Labels — I’m Androphillic and Enbyphillic (mostly)

Idea that’s been kicking around for a while and I’ve mentioned here or there. But I think I’m gonna start putting it into practice.

It’s ridiculous that we identify our sexuality by reference to our gender. Why don’t we say who we are attracted to? If we need latin-esque words for sexuality labels, why not:

  • androphillic or androsexual (lover of men)
  • gynophilic/gynosexual (lover of women)
  • enbyphillic/enbysexual (lover of enbies)
  • etc

I’m not saying that folks who are gay or lesbian should feel the need to give up those identities. Do your thing!

But our current sexuality labels do not work once you move beyond the binary.

What is monosexual nonbinary person who is attracted to men? Or a monosexual woman who is attracted to nonbinary people? How do genderfluid people map to our current terminology? It doesn’t work.

Not Everyone Is Monosexual

Labels based on who we are attracted to allow clearer descriptions. Especially for folks who aren’t monosexual. There is no way to say ‘I’m mostly straight but a little bit lesbian.’ The best we have is bisexual. But you can absolutely say ‘I’m mostly androphyllic but a little bit gynophillic.’ Or how to describe someone attracted to nonbinary folks and men, but not women? Again, best we have is bisexual. Doesn’t ‘androphillic and enbyphillic’ work better?

Side note: I realize that not all nonbinary folks identify as enbies. I’m making this up as I go along and am open to other suggestions.

Flexibility Matters

Of course, that’s another good thing about this construction — it’s flexible. You can create new terms and be as specific as you want. There’s nothing stopping you from saying you are agenderphillic or panphillic or sarisphillic (if you happen to have a thing for people whose gender is an ancient Jewish thing almost no one has ever heard of)

Obvious, I lean toward a -phillic construction. It’s distinct from the current -sexual construction and would (hopefully) prevent confusion. But the -sexual construction has the advantage of being recognizable. people who haven’t heard it before will still understand what it’s referring to — someone’s sexuality.

So What’s my Dating Profile Look Like?

Hi, I’m Jess. I’m mostly androphillic and enbyphillic, but there have been a few women who caught my eye, including my awesome girlfriend C. I’m not looking for a new relationship right now, but I wouldn’t say ‘no’ if the right person came along.