Signs & Symbols

I tend to art when I am not wording. It’s the product of being easily distracted & inclined to procrastinate multiplied by the fidgety need to be Doing Something even when I am doing nothing.

The world of Rough Passages is a reality jam-packed with political, social and personal disruptions, so it seemed logical that political and social movements would exist in it.

All movements need flags & slogans & signs & logos. Today I designed a few graphics for the Unity Alliance, which is an activist group dedicated to protecting R-factor positive individuals from harassment and promoting full integration of active rollovers.

Are their goals apparent from their promotional materials? I hope so. Describing visuals is more  a strength than making them, but here they are, for your entertainment.

I’m imagining the blue images as official or semi-official flags, maybe with the “Love is positive” slogan in the star circle or very small around the outer red circle… (My graphics skills weren’t up to that challenge)

The red crosses I see as pins/lapel buttons, and the white squares with the slogan below a round are my idea of a banner.


Revelations 1: Looking Back

Bear with me. This one begins with a broken ring finger. To be precise, it begins with the aftermath of the broken finger. The breaking itself is a different story. (a boring one, I assure you.)

At 10 AM on a Saturday my broken finger and I made a visit to a random orthopedist assigned by emergency room staff at 2AM. Random Doctor Ortho examined my x-rays and my sausage-like digit, and he promptly recommended surgery the next day to install tiny pins, screws, and a plate. Surgery: as in hospital overnight, full anesthesia, the works.

My first reaction?  Internally it went like this: “Oh, hell, no. Are you serious? Go under general anesthetic  for a minor appendage helps balance my tea mug and push around my mouse? No. Deal with metal bits in a bone thinner than a pencil forever?  Why? I’m not a painter or a musician or a surgeon.  Can’t it just be splinted?”

For Doc Ortho’s benefit I self-censored a bit. What came out of my mouth was more like, “What happens without surgery?”

Doc Ortho pointed out the splintery bone mush on my x-ray and gave me the odds from perfect healing to gnarly, useless, permanent hurtiness. Both possibilities were outliers. Some degree of stiffness and gnarling was guaranteed without surgery, which was strongly recommended again. I emphasized my disinterest again. Firmly.

Looking back, (check the post title) I realize what a lucky draw I made in the health insurance/medical establishment lottery. Doc Ortho treated me as a partner in my own care from the first. Now that I’ve had to fight for that same respect a few times with other doctors I know how rare it was. I appreciated it then. I have added respect now.

I asked for non-surgical alternatives and their likely outcomes. Doc Ortho offered options. Discussion ensued, and I left with a custom removable cast that hugged my left forearm and enveloped my poor, abused hand.  The next day, Spouseman drove me, my cast, my pain meds, lots of stretch bandage, and RICE instructions to the airport at ridiculous-early o’clock, and we flew to the Emerald City together.

Yup. I basically refused surgery because I wanted to go on vacation.

Above and beyond my “WTF, it’s only a finger?” reaction, I also had non-refundable airline tickets. Our Big Visit with the Spouseman family had been in the works for months. Unless Doc Ortho had insisted the finger would fall off without surgery, I would’ve vetoed it. I was not giving up the multiple-day excursion train trip, a day cruise, and assorted niece&nephew visitations because of a little injury.

That was my thinking. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as they say.

Looking back, I can see that any injury normally addressed with surgery cannot reasonably called little. Back then, I was determined to go have my fun. The whole finger experience taught me how much the depth of a desire influences not only my choices but also my perceptions.

“I’m fine,” I said a dozen times that first day of vacation, between arrival embraces and shared family meals, during conversations and as Spouseman and I were trundled off to guest beds. Awaking the second day, I knew I’d been jet-lagged, exhausted, dehydrated, and in serious pain the day before.  Now I was fine. My pain levels were lower, my energy better, and my excitement higher. Sure, I got queasy when I took off the cast so I could slide my arm into a sleeve while trying on clothes, sure, I got dizzy easily and had to sit down a lot and had no appetite, but I was having fun.

The next day? I woke feeling better and realized I’d been stupid the previous day and I hadn’t been fine at all. That my body resorted to nausea to stop me from stupidity because pain messages weren’t getting through. That I’d still been exhausted and in pain. So I resolved to take it easier, and I knew it would be easy because I felt much better today. I was fine now.

Are you seeing a trend? It took me almost a month to catch on. I was not fine in any objective sense until several weeks into the healing process.** And yet at the time I could not judge that reality accurately, and I would’ve argued if told otherwise. I’m fine, I would say, and I believed it when I said it. That didn’t make it so.

Denial is a talent I have honed to a dangerously sharp edge. Hidden behind a veil of desire, it can cut me until I bleed. The Summer of My Broken Finger wasn’t the first time I learned that lesson. It wasn’t the last. It’s a truth I seem incapable of retaining long term.  Every so often, I need reminding that I can only recognize many of my hurts in retrospect.

I‘m fine, we all say sometimes, and we believe it when we say it. That doesn’t make it true. We are none of us our own best advocates every day.

That’s where trust comes into the picture. I look back every day and am thankful for the friends and family who steer me away from cliff edges and sit me down when I won’t rest.  And I hope I see clearly enough for my friends and speak strongly enough to be there for them in my turn.

Trusting the wrong person is costly. But that’s a tale for another time.

**I’ve made light of the injury, but it was pretty disgusting. I don’t bruise easily, but the trauma left swelling and bruising from fingertip to elbow. Wrestler’s break, it’s called, and despite Doc Ortho being as supremely pleased with the results of the casting job as I was, I couldn’t move all the fingers on that hand properly for almost a year and still have nerve lag and a slight twist in that finger.

Refusing surgery was the right decision, despite making it for odd reasons. Having screws and bits inside my skin…ew, no. I would’ve worried at the damned thing night and day.




Not Like The Other Girls?

This is a phrase that gets cyclically dissected in social media these days. The last time its bones got picked, I saw it being portrayed as a phrased used by women to men as a defensive measure to make themselves look better. It was said to be a distancing tool, wielded to earn better treatment. As in, “I’m not like other girls, so don’t treat me the way you treat other girls. Treat me with respect.”
Okay. That is clearly true for others in situations outside my experience. But this is my blog, where I talk about me, and that narrative doesn’t match my life. So, let me tell you my story. Not interested? That’s all good. I am hardly a mainstream example of anything. Except, y’know, white, married, educated, employed, not-poor privilege. I’m all that.
 I’m only saying, I did say those words, and I meant them, but it was never said(and I doubt was ever interpreted) with the meaning stated above. Bottom line, though: I’m not speaking for anyone else.
When I used that phrase with men (and I haven’t in over 25 years)  I was saying it to reassure guys who were afraid to trust me. These were guys over whom I held all the power of acceptance or rejection in the social dynamic. They were accustomed to dismissal and outright derision from women who were not interested in scruffy-haired comic-reading, math-obsessed, Monty-Python-quoting fantasy-RPG playing men. I was saying to those men, “I know the rejection you feel, for I, too, am a social outlier.”
And in an aside, those same women were the ones who actively, vocally refused association with me because I was a scruffy-haired, flannel-wearing, moisturizer-indifferent science-obsessed weird girl. Just saying.
And back then when my overwhelmingly male social circle said disparaging things about women followed by, “but we don’t mean you, you’re not like them,” I called them out on it, oh, yes I did. Mostly by pointing out that I was indeed female and emphatically did identify with the “girls” they were dissing. Sometimes by simply tugging my collar and doing an ostentatious boob check.  (how often? usually? always? I can’t judge from memory. I know I had a whole repertoire of comebacks memorized by junior year in college.)
I never felt “better than” other girls. I was measurably isolated in my differences. I had damned few compatriots in my limited peer group and fewer adults as role models. Until college, I knew three women who read SFF. My physics teacher, her daughter, and one classmate in a high school class of 700.  (And four I met in summer camp. We shared two unforgettable, brilliant, giddy weeks fighting light saber flashlight battles and talking about The Dark Is Rising, but we had no internet to hold us together when the dream weeks ended, and we never saw each other again. The end.)

I met a couple more women SF gaming nerds in college. By which I mean two. TWO.  But sure, there were always some other girls like me. When I said “I’m not like other girls,” to guys I was never declaring myself a unicorn who should be revered, just a member of a shared minority. And it was accepted in that same sense by guys who were not like other guys. Our geeky awakening was a shared, culturally alienated phase where all of us were truly wasn’t like almost any other people we knew.

The men I hung with, back in the day (and now) treated women with respect. No, really. They tried, to the best of their ability and experience and blind privilege. And when they didn’t get it right, they got read the riot act (and told me I was being emotional, got read MORE riot acts until they eventually learned.)
We stuck with our passions, me and my guy-exclusive social circle, the world turned around us slowly, nerd culture became mainstream, and I no longer had to reassure men I understood difference. These days I can’t swing a cat without hitting nerdly women and men in every walk of life.
 If I was 20 years younger, I would’ve had girl friends who didn’t turn away from magic stories in junior high and start shunning me. I would’ve had Harry Potter-raised, video-gaming adept girl buddies. I never would’ve said I wasn’t like other girls to men, because my sisters in nerdliness would’ve stepped up beside me and I  would’ve been like them all along, loving nerdy guys and girls right back.
The glory of nerd passion is that it can be discovered and embraced at any age, by anyone, so women of my advanced age have discovered SFF and video gaming and comics over the years too. (When curiosity meets ubiquity, magic happens)   I am now like so many other girls it makes my heart sing and my head spin with giddy joy.

But. I do still use equivalents of that phrase with women to this day. These days, it is a different defensive shorthand, explaining in the language of the groups I move through that I don’t enjoy things they assume (nay, insist) I should and must like because of my gender. What I actually say is something more like, “I know <X> is a popular thing, but it isn’t my thing.” They’re the ones who nigh-invariably translate that to “well, you’re not like other women.” Which is patently not true, and I will call it out when I have the energy, but there’s only so much ingrained prejudice I can fight. If they want to think me different, well, then, bless their hearts.

Battles. I pick them.

The Sum of Our Contradictions

The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things…well, one thing, anyway.

Let me explain my love of gargoyles. It’s a love of grotesques, if I want to be precise, and I do like precision in most things. Gargoyles are a subset of the larger grotesque category, somewhat like Malamutes are a subset of the category dog. I love Malamutes, but I like all dogs. Mostly. There’s some ambivalence when it comes to absurd little creatures that have to piss every hour because their bladders and their brains are the size of peas. I pretend those aren’t dogs. It’s the easiest solution.

Back to gargoyles and grotesques.


O, Frabjous Day

In a week I get to post a sign over my desk that reads, “I’d rather write” and dial back social media presence to pre-publishing levels. I am antsy with anticipation. I’ve already axed Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone and tablet. Next I re-install the blocker on my laptop. Happy dancing will ensue, I assure you.

When I committed myself to mastering what I call “Authoring” (all the non-creative elements of self-publishing)  I knew the task would pull me away from writing. Authoring doesn’t only eat up time, it fills the brainspace needed for dreams and ideas.  I have only missed two writing days the whole year, but I’ve produced mostly ephemera (correspondence, posts, tweets, blog entries) and paddled around in the shallows of creation–revising, formatting, designing graphics etc. The demands of marketing, networking, advertising, and administration sapped my creative energy and shattered my attention span. I knew they would, from past experience with juggling jobs. I knew, and I knew how badly the loss would scrape at me, but I did it anyway.

I had to try, to see if I could. I’m a sucker for a challenge. I also had to make the investment to know if my words were worth it. The publishing world is flooded with writing. I had to breach the inherent barrier of visibility to learn if my work had appeal.  Would it attract readers who came across it by chance or through secondary recommendation? (Spoiler alert: yes. Color me with blushes.)

I know I’m supposed to write for myself, but it’s not how I’m built. No point in lecturing me about external validation. Deaf ears. I’m a competitor by nature. The drive to be best, to claw my way to the top of any ranking, isn’t about winning over anyone else. It isn’t about putting others down. It’s internal all the way. I can know I am good enough all day long–but I will never believe it until I hear it from someone with no reason to placate, pity, or pander to me. So I went hunting.

Turns out I have an audience. My work has fans. I got out there and self-promoted and networked and learned about marketing tricks and channels and shared all I learned in turn.  My audience isn’t big, but its members are passionate, and I cherish them. Their enthusiasm–their willingness to not only make time for my words but also to share their enjoyment with others–inspires me. In a word, they rock.

So here’s the thing. I gave full-time Authoring a year, and I have visibility. I’ve started a fire in the darkness. The flames in the kindling are flickering nice and bright.  I could toss in more branches, promotionally-speaking, and build it higher until my visibility has a bright, wide reach. Or I could bank the hot, glowing coals and let them burn low and slow on their own for a while. Guess which option leaves me time and energy to write. Ayup. I’m banking those fires.

All my major travel for the year is finished. My summer/fall schedule, packed with family obligations, required events, and constant activity: completed at last. Best of all, my resolution to spend a whole “Year of Attempting Authoring” is almost done. This doesn’t mean I become a hermit. I have authoring plans for next year already. (I have postcards to hand out, dammit. And a game I want design) It only means I dial back on authoring distractions and manage the rest with an emphasis on efficiency.

Bottom line: I’d rather write than author. And as an independent artist with little prospect of ever profiting from my work, that’s a choice I have the luxury of making.  So I’m doing it. I’ll stoke my creative fire rather than see my name in lights.

Not this kind of fire. A figurative one.