The nasty B word

Yep, it’s finally happened.

I’m trying to create a working Budget.

This is a post I shared with a Facebook group for folks who use YNAB (You Need A Budget). It felt really good, like a huge win, for this to happen today. Big enough of one that I tackled some work that had the potential for that retraumatization I talked about in my last post, and came out on the other side only exhausted, and not reeling. Spoon balancing act for the day, successful.

”So this isn’t my first attempt at YNAB, but for some reason I couldn’t wrap my brain around the core concept of assigning my money jobs. I’m working with a financial coach (I fondly call her my Money Boss) and when she told me that the goal is for my ‘to be budgeted’ to always be zero, the gears began whirring. Today, my first payday after our second meeting, everything clicked into place. I had gotten to zero then realized I hadn’t put in my car payment (I’ve only made two so far, she’s new). I thought, where am I going to find these dollars?? then remembered that I didn’t need to budget for the month, but only until more $ came in. So I backed out CC payments that are due after my next paychecks; halved the month-long true expenses like groceries and gas; checked my dates for scheduled haircut, therapy, RX refills; and was back to zero with a few adjustments.
I know this will probably seem like a no-brainer to a lot of you, but I’ve never felt the slightest modicum of control over my finances, or anything like security around money. Seeing this, having it make sense to me, isn’t something I ever expected to happen. EVER. So, sharing my ‘yay’ moment 😊”



So much new exists in my life right now. It’s beautiful and scary and thrilling and overwhelming and exciting and exhausting and I’m hopeful and terrified.

The voices in my heart are at war, and I can only hope my current, older self has enough data to successfully battle years of repetitive, restricting, damaging messages.

This particular battle has required that I not submit myself to retraumatization in other arenas: I can only hold up so long under such circumstances.

If you haven’t heard from me, this is probably why. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. I’m taking care of myself in the most complete way I have in eight years, and I think you’ll be as glad of it as I am, in the end. I hope so.

And I hope that, in time, I will be able to give of myself again. But, give me August. Let me disappear into my new home and my new school and my new responsibilities and my new car, god, let me drive my new car without a care in the world but finding the next amazing place to park and spend some time enjoying the Maine coast.

Let me nest. Let me marvel in four living beings existing in more than two and a half rooms. Let me leave calls unreturned and emails unanswered and don’t resent me for it. I’ve worked so hard, for a lot of things, for so long. I’m finally in a physical place where I’m not making it work, I’m not being resourceful, I’m not practicing creative problem-solving. And of course there are still challenges, like my cat who thinks that pooping isn’t only for litter boxes and carpets be damned; I will absolutely put centipedes outside but goddamnit now I feel like they’re skittering all over me; learning how to close windows discreetly when work calls are punctuated by my neighbor hollering, “MURRAY! MURRAY COME DOWN YOU. GO PIPPEE. GO PIPPEE!” (for the non-Mainers, That’s French-Canadian for “Murray the dog, come down here and urinate.”) But on the whole, it’s a dream.

I’ve never known this. And I don’t think I deserve it, that I’ve earned it somehow. But I hope to get to a place where I can at least appreciate it without guilt.

From the text message archives:

I really feel now like, my last place wasn’t somewhere ANYone could have kept clean under our circumstances, and I’m less hard on myself. I’m not unpacked yet, but everything is clean, dishes and laundry are happening like clockwork, my work surfaces are tidy.

I really needed a fresh start. This isn’t 100% that, but it’s enough of a reboot that I’m bringing more new, older Kirsten stuff in, than there is left of who I was when I came home.


Sunshine Orange

This entry started life as an Instagram post, then I remembered that I’d wanted to start writing regularly again and I was doing it, just not where I would see it and count it. So, here we are.

TL;DR: I’m super glad I have a garden and that I made myself go to it today. Also #marisolthesubaru is the same color as a perfectly ripe sun gold.

This week has just been a lot. ER with J Monday, in the middle of turn-over-the-keys moving day. Multiple full-body applications per day of both heavy duty lotion and steroid cream to a particularly nasty case of poison oak or ivy or something, with no visible resolution, and his dominant hand looking like it may explode from the swelling. A self-care appointment I only have once a month and social plans involving ice cream had to be put off for a visit to his doctor’s office, during which I didn’t manage to keep my game face on entirely and maybe let it slip that I’m a human and feel impotent and helpless when I can’t fix everything for J. Then a fucking wasp queen decides to hold court in MY kitchen. 

:deep breath:

Other things that have also happened or been true: I talked with Rich about housing the ECC library and finishing up the cataloging job, so “my” library will be a completed project before I am officially done volunteering there for the duration of school. I spent time with lovely people eating good food, watching fun TV, playing/watching people play tabletop games, and discussed gender-y things and feelings-y things and life things. I saw Jupiter and 3 (maybe 4 but not certain) of its moons through my telescope from my living room. My sister got a promotion she’s really excited about. Our new home  allows for us to have both internet service and a WiFi router that should mean no more frustration for work or play. I harvested the first tomatoes from my garden (which are really my primary focus there if I’m being honest). I had my first meeting with a financial coach and am excited rather than dreading our work together.

Gardening and stargazing both have the potential to give me perspective when I need it most. While I’ve always been in general awe of our natural world, I hadn’t dug deep (if you’ll pardon the pun) into what it means to be a part of it until I had a garden, and I couldn’t truly appreciate the vastness of it until I had a telescope.

And you know, this is a complete derailment but both of those things, I got from Southern Maine Community College.

I am so excited about my acceptance to and upcoming time studying at Mount Holyoke. But especially now that I’ve connected those real-life ways SMCC has informed the way I exist in the world, I’ll never forget or lose sight of how truly priceless experience there has been.

Photo through the open window of an open driver’s side door overlooking gardens and the ocean. The car’s exterior is bright orange, and a hand holds a bright orange sun gold tomato in the frame of the car window.

Marisol and my first sun gold of 2018.

Are you a…?

Last month, I attended a reading/signing at Print: A Bookstore so I could get a copy of Alexander Chee’s new book signed for a friend. I decided to get a copy for myself, as well. When it was time to sign mine he asked, “Are you a writer too?” As I’d explained that my friend had very vividly expressed Chee’s influence on their writing, perhaps he thought, “Only another writer would understand this well enough to go out of their way to make sure this personalized book made it into their writer friend’s hands.” Or maybe most people who attend his readings are writers, looking for… I dunno, affirmation, agent connections, a personal reading of their MS.  But in any case, I wasn’t prepared for the question. Unlike most questions that feel like they ask me to assign myself greater value than I necessarily think is permissible by gentle society’s standards, asking if I am a writer feels almost like a trick question. Because I am absofuckinglutely a writer. A good one, even. But not of novels. Not, as I vehemently asserted when Martín Espada asked, “Are you also a poet?” of poetry. “No! Noooooo, no I, uh, I mean. I write. but yeah poetry isn’t, I can’t, I don’t… [mumble mumble ad nauseam]”

But tonight, at this Stonecoast scholarship fundraising event, I had this moment when I felt like I have only a couple of times before in my life: I felt born again. I felt renewed and revived and like I knew what I was about.

I’m a writer.

This doesn’t change my path one iota, doesn’t even mean I feel like I need to change my major, but it gives me something I had let go of, allows me to feel competent while also pursuing new skills and knowledge.

So I’m going to try to write a little every day, hopefully in the early morning.

but for the moment, I’m going to sleep.

No air

They say mine is an air sign. But I don’t know what that means.

Water has always been my element. I seek it for solace; I seek it for soothing; I seek it when I need to see my tumult mirrored in the world around me without feeling like I am all chaos, and nothing natural.

But when I am not water,

I am fire.

I am howling anger and rampant destruction and senseless endings.

This is how I Gemini, tonight.

If I’m going to write…


…may as well record it somewhere I may see it again.

Week 6 journal, PHIL 155, Spring 2017, SMCC

When children are asked, “If you could have any super power or special ability, which would you choose?” some might say super strength, or to be able to fly, or to read minds. And some might think that the greatest super power they could ever wish for is invisibility. The ability to move through space and time without being observed, without being held accountable, without being responsible to or for anyone or anything you see when you cannot be seen yourself. But there are times when being invisible is painful and damaging, when it is isolating and demeaning.

“Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting – the equivalent of ‘hello’ in English – is the expression sawu bona. Literally it means ‘I see you.’” – Excerpt from Bennett J Sims quote, PTK 142

Last night, an Academy Award was given to a man who has been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct against multiple women. A woman who is an anti-sexual assault activist and a survivor of sexual assault had to present him with this award. Today, other activists and survivors are saying, “I see you. I see your struggle and your pain, your strength and your courage. I see you when the Academy did not.”

“It means that until you see me I do not exist; when you do see me, you bring me into existence.” – Excerpt from BJ Sims quote

Last week, the president rolled back protections for transgender students that required schools that receive federal funding to allow students to use the restroom that correlates to their gender. To those trans students, Laverne Cox said, “I see you.” To the world she said, “When trans people can’t access public bathrooms we can’t go to school effectively, go to work effectively, access health-care facilities — it’s about us existing in public space. And those who oppose trans people having access to the facilities consistent with how we identify know that all the things they claim don’t actually happen. It’s really about us not existing — about erasing trans people.”

“Ubuntu is the key word used to shorten a phrase in the Zulu language that translates ‘a person is a person because of other people.’” – Excerpt from BJ Sims quote

Last month, an executive order resulted in legal Visa holders being denied entry to the United States, being detained in airports around the country despite their right to enter freely. To those detainees the ACLU said, “We see you. This is not right and we are going to take this to court for you.” And the people said, “We see you,” and donated $24 million to the ACLU to support this action.

I walk through life invisible to my community. To the woman at the bar who says, “You know this is a gay bar, right?” I’m equally invisible to strangers. To the countless new acquaintances who have seen my ring and asked, “And what does your husband do?” And there are times when that invisibility is like a super power. It can protect me from street harassment, or not getting an apartment, or losing a job. It makes women in restrooms smile at me instead of pointedly looking at me, and then at the door, and saying, “This is the WOMEN’S room,” as frequently happens to my partners and friends.

But I reject this super power. I reject this invisibility that the world projects onto me with its stereotypes and narrow-mindedness. I come out and come out and come out, because if I am ever going to be seen, I have to make myself seen. Some folks don’t get that option. They can’t hide the color of their skin, or practice their religion without the outward signs that make them targets. They are seen, but not in the sawu bona way. They are told, “You do not get to exist. We refuse to see you.”

I feel like we are moving backward in many respects in this country. Like so many, I give what I can in the ways I can, I go to the events I can, I make the calls I can. But no one can do it all. And sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t change things singlehandedly for any entire group of folks who are invisible to this administration. But I can say, “I see you.”


Read more…

Proper Sorrows

Shortly before I moved back to Maine from San Francisco, I was subject to a devastating life change that sent me into the deepest depression I had experienced in my life. Good news for my dear friend Erin, who was composing a photography series called Proper Sorrows.
The name of the series comes from the 19th century when women were institutionalized, often in their own homes (see The Yellow Wallpaper), for experiencing “undue” or “prolonged” sadness over events in their lives like miscarriages. There was a mourning period that was considered “proper,” and beyond that, women were considered hysterical, and subject to treatment. Signed off on by their owners — err, husbands.
So, as much as I hate being photographed, I agreed to be part of the project. Erin made it comfortable and easy, and I love her results, even if I don’t love looking at myself.
Here is the shot she ended up displaying as part of the exhibit.
I thought of this today because the last time I remember feeling like I do right now, I was crying soundlessly in a chair on my back patio. I am devastated to my core and I can’t see any light at the end of any tunnel and I really don’t want anyone to try and convince me to see things differently just yet.
Allow me my sorrow. Let me decide what is proper.



Today, a car almost hit mine head-on when the driver turned the wrong way up State Street out of a driveway at the bottom of a block. The oncoming vehicle I had no way to avoid felt familiar.
Today, I wanted to apologize to every little girl I saw in the grocery store.
Today, I cried in front of strangers and friends.
Today, I wondered if my pharmacist was just better at putting on a customer service face than I am these days, or if he was not bothered.
Today, I attended, and left, a vigil that did not feel like where I wanted to be.
Today, I supported and comforted others who are mourning because it is the only thing I have to give that does not take from me what little I have in reserves to function.
Today, I wondered where I could go and feel safe, and I had an answer.
Today, I am broken. Today, I am fucking destroyed. Today, I am unable to trust more than half of the people around me. Today, I cannot understand. Today, I want to know WHY.
Some of these things will also be tomorrow. Some will be Friday, and next Wednesday, and January 20.
What I am not today, is unable to go on. And I know that that is not how many of us feel.
If you today, are unable to go on, please, please reach out to someone who will help you not have to. We can hold onto the rest of the pieces so you can just exist, in stasis, until you are ready to move. We can make the phone calls and mail the rent checks and call the bosses and do the grocery shopping. We can change the sheets and get fresh kleenex and pick up the kids and find that DVD. If you can’t do these things for someone else but you have a few dollars to share with someone who can, donate to one of the organizations below, or the ACLU, or your local worker’s center or pride committee or women’s health clinic.
We need each other more than ever. Let’s pair the resources with the need and get each other through this.
24-hour Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386
US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366

Crisis Text Line
Text NAMI to 741-741
24/7 crisis support via text message

Imperfect ally.

Part one of a two-part post, which was written second, but which needs to come first.

I fuck up. Often. And on many levels.
I get defensive.
I try to recognize when I feel defensive, so I can check myself. Defensiveness is often a sign that my privilege is leading the way.
But I don’t always see it.
Sometimes, I don’t realize that I’m being ableist, or racist, or transphobic, or otherwise Othering.

Sometimes, I learn this by being on the sidelines of a conversation that could well have involved me. That always feels a bit like I’ve dodged a bullet: if I had said that thing that that person said, which I would have said if I had been a part of this conversation and not just observing, then I would feel defensive and also like a horrible person. Now I’ve learned that that thing is not an okay thing to say, and also why.

But sometimes, I am the person who says the thing. And I can beat myself up about that for days and weeks and months after I’ve learned why it was a terrible thing to say and what it really means for me to have said it, but I can never take it back.

I’m trying to learn how to lift up the voices of communities to which I do not belong, in spaces where I have privilege they do not have. I am trying to center those communities rather than speak for them. And as I was typing this, I realized that part of the problem is that, I’m not asking them how to do it. And that’s in large part because I’m afraid that I will be told that it isn’t up to them to teach me, because haven’t they got enough to do just trying to survive in a world that wishes they wouldn’t? And it is 100% valid for them to say that.

I don’t know how to fix the disenfranchisement, discrimination against, and outright slaughter of people I consider community and family. People whose lives I value. People whose fate could be mine, if the bigots of the world could see past my presentation, which they perceive one way, and know me for the perverse individual they would think I am if they knew my truth. But I want to. Maybe not “fix,” but “work toward a fix for.” Whatever I can offer, but don’t know how to give.

Knowing “just enough to be dangerous” has greater consequences in some situations than others. How can I be a better ally now, and continue to grow in that capacity?