Sep. 20th, 2017

Spectator, Remi the cat watches as, in the process of helping Middle-Little sister clean her apartment, I accidentally shotgun a beer. No, don’t ask me how, it’s best left up to the imagination. (at Troy, New York)
The sister whose apartment I appropriated for Found Cat has decided to motivate herself to clean her by now very cluttered apartment by throwing one of those Tupperware-style parties on Saturday. It’s for luggage or something, I don’t know. Anyway. 

The apartment’s a disaster; when she moved in, she filled the large closet in the entryway with huge rubbermaid bins full of shit she hasn’t looked at in the four years since (and, I might mention, shit she’s hauled from Cortland to Buffalo to Denver to Troy to across-Troy). And then she had bad depression, and then she went through grad school, and then she had roof leaks that meant she had to pile everything she owned into different rooms in the rather small sort of railroad-style apartment (buildings in old Troy are like fifteen feet wide for real), and it happened like three times that the lighting fixture in her bedroom crashed down amid filthy water all over her bed at three in the morning, but the landlord (a good dude don’t get me wrong the building’s from 1831 and shit happens) finally fixed it, and then she came home once and her living room was full of water on a sunny day and it turned out someone’s garden hose next door had burst and sprayed straight in her window for hours, warping her floor and damaging a lot of her belongings (the mortified neighbor paid, but, the damage was impressive). 

Anyway. This place is to put it mildly a disaster area. I’ve hauled furniture out, in the last couple of months I’ve spent several days here mostly cleaning out bags full of old mail and shit she threw in there to hide it when someone came over and she was “tidying”– but today I promised her several hours, and showed up with a half-assembled quiche Farmsister had prepared for the occasion, and threw it in the oven and we started to clear out the Dreaded Closet.

She insisted, see, that if we just got the shit out of the closet, the stuff she cares about can go in there, and then she’ll go through those boxes and throw away most of what’s in them.

But like. The closet was stuffed full. The rest of the apartment is also stuffed full. So we pulled out a filing cabinet yesterday, and put it into my car, and Farmsister now has a second filing cabinet for her office, which doesn’t fit but that’s her problem, not Middle-Little’s and thankfully, not mine. 

And it’s going to take weeks to go through the contents of these boxes. We moved the remaining filing cabinet into the closet, but that now means we can’t put even a single one of these totes or boxes back in– and some of them might be things she wanted to keep after all, so… 

We hit on a daring plan. Earlier, Farmsister had expressed to me that she worries about Middle-Little, and thinks she should probably make a standing dinner date with her once a week going forward, it’d be good to see her and make sure she’s eating properly and also, Farmbaby loves her and listens to her and wants to see her all the time. 

So I said, we take all the boxes over to the farm, and then you have a deal: Once a week, you come to dinner, and the first thing you do on arrival is take a box. That box comes back to your apartment. You know you have now one (1) week to get through that box. And Farmsister isn’t going to let you not take a box next week. You’ve got to get this one put away and sorted out and gone, in your apartment that is already cleaned and organized with your current belongings. You start from a baseline of your currently-used belongings are present and accounted for. And then you go through your old shit and either make it fit, or throw it out. Instead of binging, it’s regularly-scheduled.

This, unlike many plans– which Middle-Little excels at making and literally never sticks to– will work, because Farmsister is really good at sticking to a fucking plan, ok, and she’ll do it, and she doesn’t understand Middle-Little’s total lack of executive function but she does love her and want to help, and this way she won’t be too mean, but she also won’t let her slide. 

So we called Farmsister and she agreed to this. It’s probably five carloads of stuff, which will fill about half of one of the empty grain bins up in the granary. 

This all is very good, because our poor mother has awful PTSD, of sorts, about cluttered apartments in Troy– when her brother, her only brother, her baby brother, died very suddenly a couple of years back, he left her a three-story townhouse in Troy absolutely stuffed fucking full of cats, their vomit and shit, tuna cans, old clothes, books and books and books, garbage, and priceless antiques, and she and Dad had to clean it out alone. Well, they had the help of the homeless man who was living in the garbage-filled basement apartment. I’m not kidding, there really was a homeless dude in there. My uncle knew he was there and had decided he was cool with it. The dude was… not really… okay, but Mom and Dad gave him actual money to keep the house from burning down while they were cleaning it out, and they all parted friends, sort of, in the end. Which is better than you’d expect a story like that to go. 

Anyway. Mom cries sometimes because she’s worried about Middle-Little’s apartment. It’s good she hasn’t seen my house in six or seven years. Though, she wants to visit. Yikes.

Hey, I got like six huge totes full of fabric and old drapes out of my basement to make yurt quilts so that’s a start. 

And if I can save Middle-Little’s apartment– she’s lived here exactly four years as of last week, by the way. Yiiiiikes. 

I took a break and let Middle-Little have some time to herself to go through her shit, and instead deep-cleaned her bathroom, which was cathartic as fuck and rewarding. It’s a lovely little tile joint and I Magic Erasered the fuck out of it and it’s literally never been that clean, so I feel really good.

The other thing I did today was clean out half the granary’s second floor, and inventory all the Christmas ribbon, and go through the dried flowers from last year and cut down all of the statice and sort it by color. Then I spent the afternoon entertaining Farmbaby, whose cooperation was easily bought by the promise of a single candy bar. She’s wonderfully bribeable and it’s great. 



Something I did not know…

wait, so the clowns are Insane Clown Posse fans? I just assumed they were random clowns.



charlie brooker literally said in the post-emmys interview that he initially tried to write san junipero about a heterosexual couple and it kinda sucked and he switched them to a same-sex couple and it immediately became much better and also easier to write and he finished it with ‘so that’s my writing tip’… the only true ally

ah yes, because everything gay is automatically better. //s

it sure is bitch!

I went to reblog this because I love the sentiment that everything gay is automatically better as a true thing, but I do find this sort of thing is often true about writing and stories in general. Oftentimes writers will unwittingly take shortcuts and rely on formulas without realizing it, and if you actually turn and address your assumptions head-on instead of handwaving a Default Everything, your story will be much richer. 

By “default assumptions” I mean all the boring formulaic shit that everyone assumes in stories, and it’s lazy. Like, the boy gets the girl, that’s a formula; the boy’s story is centered, that’s a formula; everyone important is white, that’s a default Hollywood assumption; everyone important is straight, ditto; a whole list of tropes and assumptions and formulas and frameworks that the part of the story you’re interested in hangs on without you noticing.

The more you pay attention to those, and come up with real genuine thought-out ideas instead of relying on frameworks, the richer your story is, the more worldbuilding you’ve done in those little ways– like, is a character disabled in some way, or from a marginalized identity, or from a different background, and can you give even your background characters some real consideration as humans, all of that weaves in and makes the story, the “hook”, the plot thing that made you want to tell the story, have much more resonance. 

Even things like, you’re a middle-class person who grew up with financial security but not a ton of extra money, and you’re writing a story where a bit of the plot framework hangs on some event relating to money, giving your protagonist a background of either extreme wealth or extreme poverty, and then really considering how that would have formed her character up to this point, will give her a lot of resonance with readers in how she reacts to this central plot point. She’ll react differently as a person than you, the author, would in this situation, and that will ripple outward and change all kinds of unexpected things about the story, and that will give you so many things to work back into your story, enriching it the whole way. Similarly, even not plot-significant traits that you don’t have but that many humans on this earth do, will pay dividends in giving your character a whole set of characteristics that make them see the world in a distinct way. (Like, your character is an amputee, or something– it doesn’t have to matter in any way to the plot, but if you write the whole story with that characteristic in the background, it just enriches the character. It doesn’t have to be a story about How Janey Got A New Foot; she can have one she likes just fine, and it doesn’t affect the plot, but it’s going to affect tiny details of a lot of her scenes, and that’s cool. As a side bonus, if you do your research really well, someone who has a prosthetic foot and has never read a novel with a protagonist who had that trait too will find this story to be the Most True Thing Ever and will maybe write you to tell you so, and it will make you cry Good Tears.)

Of course every time you write a character whose background– race, disability, economic class, sexual identity– is different from yours, you have to research, and be prepared to get something wrong and have to research more how to fix it– but that’s all such a good way to immerse yourself deeper in a story, and get a much clearer headspace for the story. And anytime you upend your assumptions and see what weird shit is living under a particular rock, you’ve expanded your world an awful lot.

This is a long-winded way to point out that I tend to write diverse stories not because It’s The Right Thing To Do And Representation Matters– although that certainly doesn’t hurt, I do think of that sometimes, and sometimes notes from readers who saw themselves and were kind enough to tell me so make me cry a lot of the Good Tears and it’s great– but because the stories are just so much better, the more of the Real World Outside Your Own Personal Experiences that you try to draw upon to create your fictional world. This applies across genres, of course. 

Anytime you’ve got unexamined tropes and Central Casting Characters you’ve mostly just changed the hair and outfit of, you’ve got a weaker story. Even if you do decide to go with tropes and Central Casting, if you’ve at least considered why, your story will be better.

Also, yes, everything gay is automatically better, that’s just the truth and I don’t make the rules.
I had saved this photo, which my mother texted to me from France the day before yesterday or so, because I wanted to post an illustration of how goddamn adorable my parents are, but @dolly-bassett just posted about visiting this site and I suppose it does warrant a much more serious caption.

Adorable little old folks aside, this is a very somber site. It’s the Carriére Wellington, which is a museum related to WWI: in the chalk soil, since medieval times there had been tunnels dug to quarry the chalk, and during the War, British sappers connected the tunnels to blow up a huge mine during the Battle of Arras in 1917.

My parents are currently overseas on a long-anticipated once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit WWI battle sites– they’re focusing on sites relevant to American units, as my mother is finishing a book documenting the experiences, insofar as she can verify them, of every man from our local town who served. They’ve participated in a number of wreath-laying ceremonies. Dad has his own investment in it; he served for many years in the 42nd Infantry Division [National Guard], which was formed in order to fight in WWI. (My sister, meanwhile, served for a long time in the 3rd Infantry Division [regular Army], and at the gate of any base they staffed, their standard greeting was “Rock of the Marne,” which was the Division’s catchphrase– they were first blooded there, at the 2nd Battle of the Marne, in 1918, and awarded the nickname for their refusal to retreat.)

(Maybe the US should have stayed out of it, and maybe WWII would have been averted. You could argue that either way, but you can’t deny that, clearly, a lot of our modern military and status as a world superpower kind of grew out of that intervention. Maybe we should have intervened earlier. Nobody ever writes that AU, they’re too busy saving the Confederacy or letting the Nazis win. Has anyone written an AU where the Americans stayed isolationist? Hook me up.)

Today my parents took a side trip to Verdun, which, no, was not a site American units notably participated in, but is important to see. About a million people died there, about a hundred years ago. Humbling to consider. 
Making potpourri with last year’s dried flowers, dried herbs, and some essential oils. Statice, larkspur, gomphrena, lavender, even some celosia and probably some odds and ends I don’t remember now, and topped off with some of last year’s hydrangeas, which have now leached to a beautiful creamy golden color. (at Laughing Earth)



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