Welcome!

If you’re new to Femme Flavor, chances are that you’ve been directed here for one of a few reasons. The short list:

  • You’re looking for a freelance writer to assist you with a resume, cover letter, editing, ghostwriting, marketing materials, product descriptions, or other various and sundry services. You’re in the right place – email me at kirsten@femmeflavor.com and let me know what kind of project you have in mind!
  • You are Femme, queer, a dyke, butch, trans, genderqueer, or any number of identities that might have brought my page up in a search engine – welcome and do read on! You will find much woven into the posts below to satisfy your search for community, and I encourage you to comment or to contact me directly.
  • You are researching or a member of Al-Anon, a community of individuals whose lives are affected by alcoholism and/or addiction in a family member or friend. Please feel free to contact me directly for resources for local and online meetings, or to search the site for keywords like “sponsor,” “program,” etc to find relevant posts.
  • You searched something incredibly random like “the phrase my main man used in 2012″ and my page came up. (True story – took me a while to figure out what that search even meant, and how I came up as a hit, but I got there eventually.)

Whatever your reason, I am glad you’re here. I choose to leave comments open and unmoderated, preferring to manage spam myself in order that anyone who may want to engage or respond but who would like to remain anonymous may do so. My posts represent only my own thoughts and are not representative of any institution, entity, or community.

Okay, enough business – read on, reader, and welcome to my little corner of the web.

Shut up and be grateful.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and I want to stop being an employee, a parent, a taxpayer, a friend, a student, a support, a petowner, an advocate, an educator… Then, I realize there’s not much left to me when you take all of that away. And rather than feeling resentful, I feel humbled – damned near shamed.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be so much to so many. May I remember that feeling, and be thankful, every time I have the opportunity to decide whether I am responsible for, or responsible to. I have this knowledge, the ability to discern the difference between the two, because at least one someone made that decision about me,  as the recipient of their support and advocacy and all those things… and found me worthy of the emotional investment. (My therapist doesn’t count, because I pay him. But I pretend he would totally be my friend if I weren’t his client.)

Don’t let me not give back. Even when the sun is a teasing vixen and the temperatures could quite possibly indicate the next ice age. You can absolutely support my efforts to ditch this frozen tundra and find more temperate climes, but… Remind me that I’m here, now, for a reason, and to STFU about snow because I have some kickass boots and can make the teen carry all the groceries, and even shovel if there’s no time crunch. Even when I should absolutely be checking in daily because I know you are going through a Tough Time and I think about you every day but don’t say so. Even when the extent of my friendship is responding to your text that says, “Oh, Kirsten, hahaha” with an “Oy.” Even when I make even less sense than that, and you know that it is because of the things that make me feel like the first paragraph of this blog entry… Don’t let me get away with not giving back. Or paying forward, in a way that honors your gifts to me.

Because every time someone reads this blog, it is a gift to me. And I don’t want just the sweet and loving gifts of praise and support. Don’t get me wrong: those feel amazing and are sometimes EXACTLY what I need. But sometimes, I need someone to see what else I really need, and to call me to task. I don’t get to take a break – but I don’t need one. I just need to accept the gifts you all offer, and recognize the way they supplement what I feel are my weaknesses. Because in the moment of weakness that began this post, I found something so big. So powerful. So intrinsic to who I am. And for that, I thank you.

It’s my life.

***If you wanna cut to the “good stuff,” skip down to the bullet point list.***

I started this post in my head many hours ago. I haven’t known what all of what I’ve listed in my head should actually make it onto the blog post. But really? About 4 people read it, so I don’t think I’m gonna end up in any worse a situation for sharing than I’m in for feeling how I do.

So here we go.

Some things about my life just are. I know that people looking in from outside have strong feelings about what my life has looked like, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve escaped. I have also been SO fortunate, and have had such great love around me, and have learned from situations I couldn’t have even dreamed into existence earlier in my life.

I made choices a few years ago. They were not these, but they meant these:

* There will be 1.5 squares of TP on the roll every time you go to the bathroom.

* even a closed door isn’t really closed.

* there will only be one sip or bite left of anything I intended to eat or drink. Every. Single. Time.

* dry cereal will show up in every kitchen crevice. Forever.

* the laundry will never be done.

* I will always have to make unpopular decisions.

* I will always – at least for two more years – have to make my life decisions based on the needs of a teenage boy.

* I will do the right thing and be accused of doing the wrong thing on a regular basis.

* my life will be exponentially more expensive forever and ever amen.

* and let’s not even talk about college expenses.

But you know what?

nothing in the world could stop me, even the me from 4 years ago, from taking this on. Because you know what else is a sure bet?

* a teen boy cackling with glee over some completely absurd YouTube video

* if I ever need to know anything about anything Nintendo related, I’ve got the wicked hookup.

* even if we disagree at first, my kid and I come to an understanding, and agree on a course of action. That’s some crazy progressive shit.

and the final point is that… This is all tongue in cheek, and none of it even begins to describe the hard parts of this sister-mom/brother-son relationship. But if this is all funny… Can you imagine what the serious shit looks like?

yeah, I have some big decisions to make. But you know what? I don’t have to make them alone. My kid and I are a team. He may not be the flesh of my flesh, but he is the heart of my heart. And we will find our home following those hearts.

A New Year.

I spent this evening and the turning of the year in the company of many of the same people I spent New Year’s Eve with two years ago. This year, there was a beautiful wedding and fun reception in lieu of a standard NYE shindig, which was kind of kick-ass, because this town is shit for new years parties, and I didn’t have any decisions to make about where I’d go or with whom. Oh, and the wedding couple are kind of kick-ass, too. :)

It got me thinking about NYE two years ago, and how, some of the people I saw tonight I know better now than I did then, some are still at the same level of friendly acquaintance, some are welcome new additions, some I don’t know as well, and some people who were present in my world two years ago are no longer. I went back and re-read this post, which I wrote right after that NYE party, and, rather than berating myself for not satisfying the commitments I made then, which was what I expected I’d have to do, I realized that I’ve actually done pretty well by my choices. I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone and made new friendships, developed close connections with people I would have previously thought wouldn’t give me the time of day, and graciously let relationships that were ready to change, do so.

There are things about that night two years ago that I also felt tonight. There are also things about tonight that the girl who went to that NYE party two years ago didn’t have anywhere near the capacity to feel. I am so grateful for everything that has happened to bring me to this place of knowing myself better, of growing into the person I now know myself to be, of growing beyond the person I thought I could only be. And I am so grateful to every person who has been a part of my life, both in the past two years and in the years before, for your contributions to who I am. Because it’s not only a part of me, but a part of Joshua, and a part of my Mamau, and a part of my other family and friends who cherish me. I am am able to give so much love, because you have loved me so. Thank you for that love, for your support in shitty times, and for reading; may 2014 beat the shit out of 2013.

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Growing up.

I just peeked into the mancave to see if Joshua was still asleep. Sure enough, crashed out with all his blankets wrapped around and around him. I recalled how my other younger brother used to love being wrapped “burrito-style” when I would tuck him in, and it made me smile to see Joshua sleeping the same way. Walking back to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, I thought about Joshua’s bedtime ritual when he first moved in with me, how I would wave his blanket over him and he would swat it away, laughing more hysterically with each attempt I made to get the blanket to touch down. It was so playful and childlike, and while it may not have seemed “age-appropriate,” he didn’t experience that sort of thing when it would have been. Last night I told a friend about a couple of things Joshua has said and done lately that show just how much he’s grown, just how significantly he has developed on multiple levels over the last three years. I realized that I rely on Joshua for things that, three years ago, I didn’t dare believe he’d be able to do unassisted. I realized that we’ve moved from a debilitating stutter and monosyllabic responses to coaching on “May I” versus “Can I.” I realized that I really love the individual that he is, not just because he’s my brother or because he lives with me, but for the funny, quirky, helpful, random awesomeness that is Joshua. And I realized, most likely prompted by my friend’s saying so last night, that I can take some credit for that.

It’s hard, accepting praise for his accomplishments. It’s hard to believe that I have done more than give him the resources to do what he was capable of on his own. But then I remember a giggling twelve-year-old, gleefully batting blankets from the air above his bed. And then I think of the young man who put a scrap of wrapping paper from a gift from Mamau in his “Nostalgia” box. They say kids grow up so fast, but it’s exceptionally true in his case. And we did that, together.

Update.

I haven’t written anywhere in a long time. I’ve put it off, more out of a lack of motivation than an active writer’s block or similar obstacle. But, the only way to stop not-writing is… to write. Right? Right. So, hi. Here I am.

My grandmother died at 1:50am on October 18. My aunt April, my sister Kayla, and I sat with her as she took her last breaths, and I was glad that April asked that the oxygen tube be removed. I wanted Mamau to do it on her own. I think she would have wanted that, too.

She was buried in her minister’s robes… and the purple and hot pink “Nerd” tube sock I gave her. I was going to ask her if she would take it with her, but I didn’t have to… She refused to have it taken off.

Life since then has been… All of the things. I’ve reconnected with my Uncle Matt, who I’d not seen in two decades plus. I’ve made an absurdly last-minute weekend trip without one shit given for the money I spent that I didn’t have. I’ve waited for the other shoe to drop – for Mamau’s death to hit me. I’ve received love and support from unexpected sources, and not heard a word from people I thought would at least send their condolences. I’ve had wonderful and horrible experiences with immediate family members. I’ve been completely useless at a wonderful Thanksgivukkah dinner and not apologized to my chosen family hosts for not cooking or cleaning enough, even though I really want to, and kind of am right now.

I’ve also belly danced. And will start a new session January 15.

And shit, now I’m crying. Maybe for the first time since the last time I wrote. And this… this is why I need to write. And why I’m so grateful for you. You, reading this. I’m just gonna publish this now, cuz, yeah. It’s about time.

[INSERT PICTURE HERE. Because wordpress hates me right now and if I don't just publish this shit now, it'll be left in drafts forever. Is Mercury retro again so soon???]

My grandmother is dying.

That’s just the truth. And as I squint trough my tears to type this on my phone because yes, of course I want to post that awesome picture of us from Christmas but I can’t fucking stand to sit at my desk to write this on the mini instead of my iPhone because that not only makes it real but reminds me of things that hurt aside from the fact that

my Mamau is dying.

I have to keep typing it. It’s a sick obsession, compulsion, I don’t even know the difference right now and most times I would look them up and make sure I was saying the exact right thing because most times that’s so important to me but right now

my Mamau is dying.

and I can’t change it and I can’t fix it and I can’t do anything but hope hope hope that I am wrong, and that she’s just sick for now and will be better tomorrow and better yet the next day and GODDAMIT Mamau, you can’t go yet.

please don’t go yet.

 

I have depression.

This isn’t news to most of you; I’ve been “out” about my depression for a couple of years now, and have very little conscious shame or self-inflicted stigma around it. This post isn’t about what depression is, or how hard it is to live with an “invisible disease,” or to ask for support, patience, or any other thing someone in a depressive funk needs. Those posts are all necessary and vulnerable and I have read many of them and thanked the writers for their candor. But this isn’t that. This is me holding myself accountable for treating my depression like a real thing, something that is always there and requires that I acknowledge, respect, and care for it, even when I feel “fine.”

A couple of months ago, actually, it was probably a few months ago – long enough that I can’t remember, at any rate – I stopped taking my antidepressant. It wasn’t a conscious choice, not a defiant bout of med non-compliance or because I felt it was no longer helping. I just… forgot. I had been taking birth control pills and chantix, so it was easier to remember that I had to take three pills each morning than the one that was left after I switched to the shot and finished the chantix. The weather was getting warmer, the hard things in my life were starting to resolve or even out, I was still making it to work and paying the bills and doing my sister-mom duties of feeding and housing and watching Doctor Who with Joshua. Plus, I’d first taken Wellbutrin as a quit-smoking aid, and happened to notice the difference in life in general, so I decided to keep at it, but it hadn’t been prescribed for depression, so no harm in going off, right? When I realized it had been several days, it seemed like it’d be okay for me to let it go for a while; after all, I have situational depression, so if there’s no situation… why the meds?

Well, here’s why. Because situations happen. And they don’t come with warning pop-ups on your iPhone or a “save the date” in the mail. And sometimes, the situation is as innocuous as the changing of the seasons. Around this time every year, Richard addresses the importance of preparing my body and mind for shortening days, for the time change in October, for the upcoming stretch of the year that is historically difficult for my mother, and thus for me. I’m currently only seeing Rich monthly or less frequently, and I’d told him last month that I had been off my Wellbutrin for a while, and he let it go. Last week, he asked me about it again, and when I said I felt “fine,” he said something that I don’t think he knew would hit the nerve it did, but boy did it set me back on my heels, emotionally. I acknowledged that he was right, I did sound like someone with bipolar disorder who had decided that they know better than their doctor about how they should be medicated – I know this because I have had this conversation with someone with bipolar who is being med non-compliant on purpose, and it was frustrating as hell. Richard then made it my homework to find or refill my prescription and get back on my meds (as well as vitamin D and fish oil supplements) if I didn’t have a reason not to be on them, because before I knew it, winter would be here. So, I did. And three days later, I sent an email that started with, “Thank you, Rich; you were right, Rich.” Because I went from feeling “fine” to feeling present. Capable. Aware. GOOD. I could see what I had allowed to happen around me, from my personal space at home to my social life to my blog. You name it, it was “fine,” but not good. Not by a long shot.

So now, I’m slowly climbing out of that. I wasn’t in the depths of a depressive episode, or whatever whoever wants to call it. I wasn’t actively in a bad place – I was holding steady. But at a lower level of functionality and engagement in my life than I am capable of, or want for myself. And now I have accountability femmes who will check in with me if they sense a shift in me, because they will, and ask if I’m on my meds, and I won’t feel defensive or be flippant or lie or feel shame. I will check myself, and either say, “Oops, I did forget and then quit them for a while; will fix,” or, “Yeah, taking them but I’m PMS and an emo train wreck because depo effs with me” and they’ll post silly shit on my facebook timeline or bring me chocolate and snuggles.

So, I keep thinking about those ads for depression treatment that say, “I have depression – depression doesn’t have me.” Those ads didn’t bother me until I came to terms with my depression. And I actually just had to re-write the sentence I had typed because, as I was typing it, I realized why the ads bother me now. Because depression does have me – when I don’t treat it. It has me fooled. Fooled into little things like, it’s been rainy for a few days, that’s why I want to read emails and look at photos from a zillion years ago and hyper-focus on a situation that hasn’t been relevant to my life for some time. And also bigger things like, I’m not good enough to be a part of this thing that’s really important to me, so I’m going to self-sabotage and be in control of getting “out,” rather than do my best and still be out. This is what depression does to me when I’m “fine” – it insinuates itself into my daily rites and rituals, and turns them against me in very subtle ways. Yes, it is lovely to spend time reading each evening, Depression – but when that comes at the expense of doing laundry or dishes or giving the bathroom a once-over with cleanser and a rag, every night for a month… That’s problematic.

The initial burst of inertia that comes with going from barely functioning to keeping up doesn’t stay forever. But it’s in full effect right now. So I’m going with it. And once things even out – on this higher plane of living, this place where I am truly present and pay attention to myself and my environment – I hope that, this time, I will remember part of what I texted to a new and dear-to-me friend when I was talking about why I hadn’t written this post yet: “I need this medication, and that is okay.”

Lesson learned? Eh, mebbe, mebbe not.

Lesson learned? Eh, mebbe, mebbe not.

I re-read this post just now because this quote came to mind and I knew for certain that I had written about it before, so I searched my blog. Coincidentally, it was almost exactly a year ago, and the number of connections between the circumstances surrounding what I wrote then and what I feel tonight is rather astounding. Does this mean that in a year, I’ve not grown or changed? I don’t think so. I think it means that I am still fundamentally the same person, but that I am coming to terms with things more readily, with less guilt and/or shame, and with more appreciation for what 32 gave me. This quote is still one that stands out in all of fiction, and one I find myself grateful for on a regular basis. I am surrounded by so much love, and I think I’m doing better at accepting, acknowledging, and reciprocating that love without feeling inadequate. That’s kind of a big deal. And so is this reminder:

“The great love is gone. There are still little loves — friend to friend, brother to sister, student to teacher. Will you deny yourself comfort at the hearthfire of a cottage because you may no longer sit by the fireplace of a palace? Will you deny yourself to those who reach out to you in hopes of warming themselves at your hearthfire?”

No, I will not. Thank you, little loves. You feel so big to me.

No more excuses.

You are all full of ideas that need to become realities; if you weren’t, I wouldn’t be as devoted to and in awe of you as I am. A friend just posted this on Facebook. Read it. Please. If it also leaves you a sobbing mess of pride and shame and fear and new resolve, you know your idea is The One, and it’s time.

My book *is* going to happen, and on my to-do list for tomorrow is the lucky pen and lucky notebook. This is me saying, “I’m going to build an airplane in my backyard.” Hold me accountable. So grateful for this, and for Rich, and supportive friends and family, and new opportunities that just keep coming, as if to says “What more do you need???” This, I guess, was the “more” I needed, and I just got it.
http://www.sampottsinc.com/projects.html

Happy Mother’s Day?

So. I suppose a little back story is necessary here. My Mamau, my maternal grandmother, had a very serious heart attack three weeks ago. She’s been at Central Maine Medical Center since, due to unforeseen misadventures in open heart surgery, and to be honest, it’s scary as hell. Which is why I haven’t written about it – I’m not ready. So instead, let’s talk about a different kind of terror.

I called Joshua from the hospital this afternoon to check in, since I’d stayed the night with Mamau. My call finds him out walking cuz he “just felt like a walk.” Yeah, right – this kid doesn’t leave the house on a weekend without orders or bribery; what’s really up? Pressing the issue yields nothing, so I say, whatevs, he’s alive, I’ll deal with it later.

I get home from 24 hours at the hospital and a business meeting for which I was woefully unprepared (thank you for your understanding – you know who you are). The boy is in that unusually chipper state that is typically reserved for after he’s been busted on something. I’d been thinking about his peculiar behavior since the phone call earlier in the day, and had decided to casually ask for my change from yesterday’s bus ride and grocery trip. This request turns up no receipt and a discrepancy between amount spent and change received. So I give him the “one more chance to tell the truth” bit. He gets uncomfortable and confesses to going to the store to buy a pack of gum, and swears to me that that’s all he bought. Lying and stealing earn him a night of grounding from all electronics. I know there’s more to this, but he’s not talkin’. I’m puzzled, and honestly a bit worried, because I truly thought he’d spent my money on soda, chips, whatever, and didn’t wanna ‘fess up. But if he was willing to tell about the gum….

We go about our night. I make us a kickass steak dinner while he does the dishes without much complaint, because he knows he’s in the doghouse. We talk books and I give him The Lightning Thief to read. I bust in on his naps and tell him he doesn’t get to sleep off his punishment; he has to stay awake until 1am, his usual weekend bedtime. He complains that he’s really, really tired, and I suggest a shower. He tells me he’s already taken one today.

“………..”

Let’s break this down.

Kid who only takes showers on school days because he knows I’ll make him stop on his way out the door and make him late which means detention if I bust him + Saturday when I wasn’t home and he didn’t have to do a damned thing he didn’t want to = no effing way he showered. But he’s insistent, and I believe him. and, unbeknownst to him, that’s the key to his undoing.

“You showered… because you were getting ready to go out… to buy a pack of gum.”

Checkmate.

“I was going… to meet my friends.”

“Which friends.”

And then my little man takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders and says, “My girlfriend.”

…This is the point at which Kirsten is rendered verbally unconscious.

You guys. I have no training for this. No idea what it’s like to be a 15 year old boy, let alone one on the spectrum. No idea even what it’s like to be a 15 year old girl allowed to talk to boys and date. This shit is foreign and I haven’t given it a single thought – not because I didn’t think I’d have to, but because I didn’t think I’d have to yet.

Things that came of this event:

Joshua and I discussed a lot of important stuff. During which I maybe used the term “heinous bitches.”

I told him I want to meet her, and offered a ride to the mall or something like that. I’m hopeful that she’s a sweet, shy, awkward girl and they’ll just hang out and mostly ignore each other while they play video games on his iPhone. If I smell a rat, bitch better watch herself. (Which I made abundantly clear to J).

We addressed how hard it can be to tell the truth when you don’t know which option is worse (his words) and established a “safe word” for those times when he wants to lie to protect himself. His idea. I was so proud of him for this.

I asked him to think about ground rules for dating, and said I would do the same, and that we’d talk about them tomorrow. This was to buy me time, in case you hadn’t figured that out.

He blushed at least 5 shades of pink to crimson. It was adorable.

I gave him pointers for wooing the ladies. Cuz what the hell kind of dyke sister-mom would I be if I didn’t?

What this all amounts to is —- actually, I don’t know. Right now, Joshua and I are having the most ADHD night ever, and I’ll leave you with this snippet:

“Tomorrow I think we really should try to finish that game [Zelda].”

“We can probably do that; I only have three things to do tomorrow – finish the business proposal that was interrupted by your girlfriend-having-ness, give the dead bird to my friend, and meet my ex-girlfriend’s uncle.”

“Don’t you mean, ‘ex-ex-girlfriend?”

Yeah, this is how we roll.

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