I am who I want to be (and that surprised me)

A couple of days ago there was a lot of talk on Twitter about autistic masking, and one corner of the discussion focused on how hard it can be to find yourself after you’ve masked for so long you forget who you are under the mask. During that discussion, I became consciously aware of something that I had been slowly recognizing for a while now.

Okay, if you missed the backstory, in January I did a series of posts about life goals. One of those posts was When I Grow Up I Want to Be HER. I acknowledged at the end of that post that,

It embraces things which have always been core to me–family, connecting with and learning from people, taking care of folks I love, music, being a home-body, not liking in-person socializing. But it also challenges me to grow, not into something different, but into a more capable, confident, comfortable version of who I am now.

But I still saw ‘her’ as someone I needed to grow into, and I realized, that’s not it.

I already am ‘her’

Or at least, I would be her, right now, almost no growing required, if I had the resources and health to do everything I’m already trying to do right now. I am the center pole of my family. I am in contact with friends across the country as often as my health and sanity allow and the only reason I haven’t pursued a closer connection with some folks I know across the globe is our mutual health and spoons makes it difficult to stay in touch beyond an occasionally ‘glad you are still alive.’ My home is as full of books and music and fresh baking and everything else I want as I can manage. I even got a bread machine so I can always have fresh bread, whether or not I have the sanity to manage the kneading/rising cycle myself.

Everything I wrote about wanting to do or have — I am doing and do have to the best of my ability right now. And if I had the resources (primarily money and health), I’d be doing even more.

So… yeah.

Growing into me

The biggest differences between who I am and who I want to be mainly come down to experience and confidence. And, well, you get confidence from experience.

It’s the first time in my life that I can say, I am who I want to be. I still have a lot of healing and growing to do. But I am the person I always want to grow into. That’s…

Seriously awesome and kind of scary. Because that means it’s time to stop working towards a future self, and start focusing on being who I am today to the best of my ability.

Or, to pull out an old cliche, time to spread my wings and fly.

It’s gonna be epic.

In, you know, a down home, introverted, fresh bread and butter kind of way.

Adventures in Zucchini Bread

We got a couple of zucchini from the foodbank last week. Initially, I had images of salads, stir fries, maybe breaded and deep fried… there are so many things you can do with zucchini. But two things came together to change that plan. First, I was still recovering from burn out and just didn’t have the energy to stand over the stove. Second, we were out of bread. So yesterday afternoon I popped on the internet to find some good zucchini bread recipes.

I found a few that looked promising, in particular, one yeast bread meant for bread machines and one quick bread. Based on the amount of zucchini we had (all of it starting to get a bit spotty), we went ahead and made both recipes. Unfortunately, I, ah, kinda forgot to read each recipe through in detail before we started.

When meant that my network on the Fediverse got to see my rant midafternoon yesterday:

zucchini bread rant
Seriously!

While I was measuring out a ridiculous amount of sugar, Michael was adding grated-zucchini-gone-yellow, rosemary, and yeast, to the bread machine.

Eventually we got everything finished and started cooking. The quick ‘bread’ finished before the yeast bread (obviously). I let it cool a bit then dumped it out of the pan. I will say that it baked well, nice solid loaf that came out of the pan cleanly and held together well. But it looked way more like carrot cake than any bread I’ve ever eaten.

Michael got the first slice and declared it delicious, and rather like pumpkin bread. (I’ve never had pumpkin bread, but took a quick look at the recipe. Another ‘bread’ with a ridiculous amount of sugar, clearly meant as a snack or dessert. I repeat THIS IS NOT BREAD!!!!) Kidling and I split a slice between us and… yeah. neither of us took more than a bite each. For me, the taste was okay, but the texture was just impossible. Don’t know what kidling’s issue was, but kidling eats just about anything we put in front of her, so her not liking it was a thing.

Michael finished the last of our slices, the rest is wrapped in the fridge to be shared with friends and family so Michael doesn’t end up eating the whole thing on her own.

The yeast bread didn’t finish until late and just got wrapped up until morning when I decided to try a slice for breakfast.

My first thought when I sliced it open was ‘am I having a memory blip?’ This zucchini bread just looks like bread. No sign of zucchini or rosemary. Just a regular slightly-lighter-than-usual whole wheat bread. I want the flavor as ‘natural’ as possible, and I need to go food shopping anyway, so I keep it simple, some butter slathered on top and some raisins on the side.

OMG. This bread.

This is just moist enough, somewhere between fluffy and chewy, with a subtle savory flavor that…. UMMM.

I can probably give this bread to Kid 1, who is notoriously picky, and he won’t even notice it isn’t ‘normal’ bread. I can use it as sandwich bread, toast, bread crumbs, for dipping in soup, all the ‘usual’ bread stuff. (Which is exactly what I wanted.) And it’ll actually be better. Not ‘practically eating air’ with store bought bread. Not ‘so chewy you get your exercise eating’ with regular whole wheat bread. And better tasting than either. Just… yum. *happy sigh*

According to the recipe site, it you figure the cost of the ingredients, this zucchini bread is $2.49 per loaf. Which means even with the zucchini and rosemary and sesame seeds (and those last two are pretty damn expensive per pound) it’s still cheaper than store bought. Not as cheap as a regular whole wheat loaf (for comparison, a basic whole wheat bread from the same site is listed as being until $2). But still cheaper, while being healthier, better tasting, and easy to make.

Win-win-win.

*happy sigh* Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bread to eat.

I Refuse to Be Futile

When I was a child, I used to dream about being the next Martin Luther King, Jr. The next Rosa Parks. The next Victoria Woodhull.

I was going to be a world-shaker, one of the people who refused to accept the horrors of the world and forced the world to change rather than changing to live within the world.

Over time, as I learned more about myself, and about the world, I accepted that this was one dream that couldn’t be. I don’t people well enough to be in the forefront of any movement, my anxiety and autism mean just taking part in a march, never mind leading one, would be impossible. And God knows I will never be respectable enough to be anyone’s flash point in this mad world.

So I turned my eyes to smaller versions of the same goal.

I would be a thought-leader in the polyamory communities. A writer whose fiction grabbed  minds and changed hearts. An online educator who helped people see and understand experiences and life-paths they had previously dismissed or denigrated. A homemaker who created a safe place for at least some of the people who have been chewed up and spit out by this world. A foster parent.

So many dreams. Some of them, I made progress towards, perhaps achieved in some small way. Many others are still on my to-do list.

But in all my dreamings, my hopes, my plans, my goals, there was one thing I never imagined I might be:

Futile


I have never written directly about politics on my blog or website. Indirectly, yes. The personal, after all, is political. I can’t write about being polyamorous, or bisexual, or non binary, or having trans partners, or disability, or mental illness, or poverty, or, oh, any number of other things I have written on, without there being politics lurking beneath the surface.

But as the ancient book says,

To everything there is a season.


I pride myself on my words, but words fail me.

How can I encapsulate the journey that brought me to this point? Where do I start? What do I say?

Because the truth is, that if you are in the US, and you follow politics at all, you know what this is about. Whatever your reaction, your thoughts, your beliefs, you can’t have even the most peripheral knowledge of what is going on in the US right now and not know. You’ve heard of it, seen the reports, had your own thoughts about concentration camp vs internment camp and who to believe in the ongoing political PR battles.

But, in the end it comes down to just four words:


Never again is now.


I have been tortured for weeks by one thought:

What will I tell my children?

Years from now, when they ask me what happened, when the ask me why, when they ask me what I did — what answer will I give them?

I cannot march. I cannot stand in blockades. I can’t even give much in the way of money.

But every time I find myself agonizing over this question, I find something else I can do.


Today, I am asking you:

What will you tell your children?

Years from now, when this is all over, what will you say?


If you disagree with me, and yet have continued this far, thank you. I know it is a hard thing for many people. You have your reasons for feeling, for believing as you do. I’m not going to dismiss that. Or tell you that believing I’m over-reacting or exaggerating makes you a bad person. Politics have gotten so angry, so many people have been crying wolf, and it’s so hard to know who and what to believe.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this isn’t the next step on the road to genocide.* But I ask you to seriously consider something:

If I am wrong, what is the harm in taking steps to ensure that detained children have medical care, decent food, and decent shelter? Even if the effort is wasted, is the cost so very high?

If you are wrong, what is the harm in not taking those steps? Is the cost of being wrong one you are willing to pay?

History always has the best quotes, so I’ll borrow this one, said on the eve of a long ago civil war:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

*Did you know that at first the Nazis only rounded up foreign Jews? Invaders, job stealers, disease carriers… do you know enough of the history to understand why the words used about (illegal) immigrants and asylum seekers are physically painful to those of us who do know it?

If you want to do something, but don’t know what you can do, here are a few things:

Call your congress critters and urge them to increase funding for immigration services.

Election year is coming up. If your congress critters or representatives are running, let them know that concentration camps and fear mongering are not acceptable in the US.

Donate to Raices and other groups that provide free and low cost legal services to asylum seekers.

Learn about the immigration process and share what you learn with friends, family, and on social media. (Did you know that an asylum seeker not only can but *must* enter the US before they can apply for asylum? “To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.” — USCIS website)

Learn about the concentration camps and share what you learn with friends, family and on social media.

Contact your local government reps. Some states, counties, and cities have contracts with ICE. Urge your local government to cut any such contracts.

Get with the leaders of your church, school, company, etc, and see what your community can do to fight back.

Get out there and take part in those blockades, marches, and other in-the-wilds activism. Take an extra sign for those of us who physically or mentally can’t get there with you, but are there in spirit.


I refuse to be futile. I can make a difference.

So can you.

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.

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.

Some Useful Adulting Lists

Like many millennial, growing up and moving out on my own meant confronting the fact that my parents hadn’t taught me most of what I needed to know to be a functional adult. Which, of course, is why ‘adulting’ became such a thing for many of us. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that I confronted my mother about why the hell she expected me to be able to keep an apartment clean when she never taught me to clean anything.

Apparently, she expected me to graduate college and magically get a job that paid enough to higher a cleaning service.

Even before the Recession this was ridiculous.

Anyway, now that my household is in a stable living situation and the worst of health problems are under control, I figured it was time to get a handle on some adulting stuff that had been on my mind for a while. Like having a proper first aid kit for when the kids bang themselves up or the right tools for various household projects (and learning how to use them).

So I put together, using a variety of sources, a few lists. And I’m sharing them here for other folks who aren’t quite sure what they need for a basic kitchen set up or what a good cleaning schedule is.

Household kits check list

Ideal cleaning schedule

Progress Counts: Adulting Version

While there are places you can buy a fully stocked first aid kit or emergency preparedness kit, I’m not saying anyone should do that. And if, like me, keeping the dishes clean is a constant challenge, you shouldn’t immediately try to clean the whole place in schedule every time.

I call it Ideal cleaning schedule for a reason.

Personally, each month that we have the money, I try to grab three more things off of the kit checklists. (I just realized I forgot to put a clean copy together for this post, so if you download the list you’ll see what I’ve got checked off and what I’m still waiting on.)

As far as cleaning, right now I’m working on getting a regular routine for daily and weekly cleaning stuff. Once I have that down, I’ll start integrating monthly and yearly stuffage.

And of course, if you are in a survival situation, maybe don’t open the lists at all. Maybe, as I did, file them and forget them for a while. They’ll be there when you are in a better place.

My Families

Since I’m going to be talking about my family a lot more than previously, it’s probably time I actually lay out who-all is in my family.

I know family life is always complicated, but mine is a bit more complicated than most, having two families-of-origin and a sprawling overlap of chosen family/polyamorous network.

My families of origin probably won’t be showing up that often, if only because (due to various kinds of distance) they just aren’t an active part of my life these days. Which is a sad.

Family of Origin 1

My birth family, including father, mother (recent deceased), 5 siblings, an aunt, a grandfather, a sister-in-law, and a sort-of uncle (my mother’s brother-of-choice) who I tend to forget exists half the time. (Sorry!)

Family of Origin 2

My adoptive family, including father (deceased), mother, brother, assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins, and apparently soon a sister-in-law.

Chosen Family/Polyam Network

Several of these folks will be coming up regularly. Especially in relation to generational household and old ‘woman’, but also sometimes also the farm. Often enough and enough detail that I went around and asked a bunch of them if they were okay being talked about and what name I should use for them.

  1. Michael — nesting partner, father of two of my children, my BDSM submissive & pet (24/7). She/her. Fursona is a demon.
  2. Michon — cuilmate, mother of two of my children, co-dom to Michael, head of family. Ze/hir. Fursona is a dragon.
  3. Dilip Numitor Amalia Chetana Waller — father of two of my children, Michon’s live-in co-parent, still figuring out where he fits in our weirdness. He/him. Told me to come up with a pseudonym for him, so I used my favorite random name generator. Now he’s stuck with it.
  4. C — girlfriend, LDR. She/her. Fursona is a cat.
  5. Ericka — Michael’s girlfriend & BDSM submissive, my friend. She/her. Fursona is probably a cat.
  6. B — sister-of-choice, auntie to two of my kids, mother to a kid of her own. She/her

Other folks who will also get mention from time to time:

  • The five kids Tween, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kidling, and Kidlet. For those who have been following the blog a while, none of these were part of the custody battle I was involved in several years ago. Tween is B’s kid. The others are mine by birth or by choice.
  • Michael’s brother-by-choice (J)
  • J’s mom, whose become mom-by-choice to me and Michael (MB)
  • Ericka’s Nana

When I Grow Up I Want to Be HER

I mentioned having an identity goal a few weeks ago. This is it.

For as long as I can remember, I have an image in my head. This image is a mix of real people I have known over the years, characters who struck a chord in me, a few philosophical discussions, and, yes, some stereotypes.

I refer to her as the ‘old woman,’ partly because the majority of the people (real and fictional) who went into making her are/were women. Partly because for most of my life I thought I was a woman.

She is who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’

I don’t think I can encompass an idea I’ve built up over a lifetime in a single blog post, but I can try to hit the highlights.

The Old Woman

The first thing that would strike most people about her is her self assurance. She wears her grey hairs as the badge of life and experience they are. She knows who and what she is and is comfortable with that knowledge.

Her home is a sanctuary she has built, both for herself and others. It rings with music, is frequently filled with the smells of fresh baking, has cozy nooks for someone who needs some space to curl up with one of the many books (bookcases in every room). Outside are flower and herb and vegetable gardens ringing the house.

Her favorite thing is to have her home filled with the sounds of family and friends, but she can be content in herself when everyone is out or gone home. She isn’t very active in the local community, being content to save most physical interaction for family and friends. But she has wide-ranging correspondence with people from all over the world. And without ever leaving her locality she is able to open her young family member’s eyes to some of the true scope of the world around them.

She is one of the center-poles of her family. Organizing family events, ensuring that everyone is up-to-date on the latest changes, and folks who need help are connected with folks who can help. ONE of the center poles because she encouraged and helped others take on these roles also. She knows that if she is the only one the family will lose coherence when she needs to step down from this role.

And Me

After putting a great deal of thought into it, I do think this is someone I can become, or come close to. There is nothing in this characterization that conflicts with who I am. Not like if I, say, wanted to become a world-renowned speaker or a local community leader *shudder*. It embraces things which have always been core to me–family, connecting with and learning from people, taking care of folks I love, music, being a home-body, not liking in-person socializing. But it also challenges me to grow, not into something different, but into a more capable, confident, comfortable version of who I am now.

And since I generally like who I am now, but want to be MORE than I am now, I think that’s a good thing.

Future posts related to this goal will be varied, I’m not sure yet what topics beyond self-care and baking will come up. Just gonna see how it goes, I guess.