The difference a dollar makes

Good morning.

I want to tell you about Zoofari. Zoofari is an initiative we’re part of at The Hamilton Zoo. The four zoos in NZ are all a part of it in conjunction with The Warehouse (kind of NZ’s slightly more ideologically palatable Walmart). The Warehouse has a group of programs where you can add a single dollar to your purchase and then they take that money and put it to something good. There are a bunch of them. I can’t speak for all of them. I can speak for Zoofari.

I do most of the Zoo-side logistics of Zoofari. It allows us to invite low decile schools to visit the zoo. We subsidise entrance fees and transport fees. Schools apply, we accept their applications, and we get to bring these kids to the zoo.

This is life-changing shit, you guys. Some of the kids who come to the zoo have never left their hometowns. Most of them have never seen a rhino or a tiger in real life. Watching a fifteen-year-old go from being too cool for school to a conduit of wonder as he gets to pat a rhino on the shoulder is one of the great joys of my job. Talking to these kids, watching their excitement, getting to occasionally watch that conservation penny drop in their heads as they stare straight into the eyes of a giraffe – I watch magic happen with these groups.

I had a conversation with an 11-year-old recently that went something like this:

Kid: Miss, how do I become a zookeeper?
Me: You study hard, and then you go do a course about it. I can email your teacher the details if you want.
Kid: Yeah. I want to do this now.
Kid’s friend: Bro. I thought you wanted to own The Warehouse?
Kid: *staring back towards the rhino he just encountered* I’ve changed my mind.

It could be a passing fancy. It could be the moment this child’s life changes direction.

I watch these moments happen with these kids all the time.

And you know what makes that possible?

People adding a dollar to their purchase at The Warehouse. One. Dollar.

I always do it now, no matter what program is currently being fundraised for. Because I have seen first hand the difference it makes. Whether I’m buying All The Christmas Presents or one thing of bubble bath, I add the dollar.

I have multiple Patreons, for the different things in my life. The vast majority of patrons are 1-5 dollars a month. Those Patreons allow me to keep this job I love at the Zoo. If I didn’t have them, I would have to quit and find something more full time that pays better. They allow me to keep working on Wolfenoot, on the Raven, on making books, on creating magical kindness internet machines.

I think a lot of people are vaguely embarrassed to only give a dollar, like they feel like they should do more. And then they end up not giving anything, because it seems too small. I think a lot of people feel like the problems of the world are so huge that doing a tiny thing is useless. I’m combating that, as much as I can, with my Just One Thing project. (If you haven’t, please check it out. It suggests one thing a day that you can do to help save the world. If we all did these small things each day, things would change fast.) Small things can make a big difference, if you have enough of them.

One dollar can make more difference than you can imagine. One action can make more difference than you can imagine. Don’t underestimate it. Small things add up. Trust me. I live that truth every single day.

#justonething #justonedollar

 

What if we could save the world?

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time worrying about climate change. When I say a lot, I don’t mean I think about it from time to time, I mean I think about it constantly. I’m fairly certain that it is a major factor in the fact that this year my SAD is worse than it has been in a while.
I have an eight year old. The most recent study says we have ten years to turn this shit around or our planet will be uninhabitable by 2050. He should be 38 in 2050. That’s younger than I am now. I really don’t want the world to end before he has a shot at a long and happy life. I want all the kids growing up now to have that shot.
If you ever wanted to be a superhero, now is the time. I don’t have the answer, and I sure can’t do it alone. But maybe if we all turn our energy to this problem, we can solve it. I believe we have the intelligence and the technology. What is stopping us is societal inertia and, well, billionaires.
There was a small response. But it’s a start.
I am not a scientist. I am not a politician. Hell, I’m not even really a fighter, though I reckon I could learn to be if I had to.
I am a bard. If I save the world, it’ll be with a well placed ninth level counterspell. It’ll be with bardic inspiration. It’ll be with suggestion.
So here’s my suggestion. Do one thing. Follow that link. Do the thing I ask. Keep an eye out for some others. Let’s try and start a snowball.
One thing. Just one thing. Today.
#justonething

Asking for help sucks balls

Writing this is hard.

So yesterday I had a bit of a minor breakdown. I realised that our financial situation had gotten bad enough that I didn’t have what I needed to pay for the next block of pole classes. I’ve been more or less keeping us afloat with stubbornness and careful juggling, but I ran out of resources to juggle.

See, a month or two ago I had to reapply for sole parent benefit and one of the things they ask about is whether you have a partner. I am now living with my partner, so I told them that, and the benefit went away. Poof. Suddenly we’re living on about $350 less per week than we were before. I suppose I could have lied, but that’s not really my way. I had some backup funds, I figured I may be able to solve it before it became a problem.

I couldn’t.

This wasn’t new information. We haven’t just been ignoring the problem. But somehow that $180 shortfall and the fact that it is for the one thing I do ALL for me, the one hard thing I have fought to keep up despite multiple setbacks just broke something in my brain.

I lost it. My brainmonkeys got free rein, and oh boy they had a lot to say about how hard I work and how little I have to show for it. How I keep trying to save the world, but no one gives a shit enough to save me. How I don’t have friends, I just have people who hope to benefit from the connections I have made. How I think I am special and making a difference, but actually I am just mediocre, and all my attempts to help people amount to nothing, my belief that I am making a difference is self-delusion, I want to be special but I’m not. And so on and so forth.

I hit the deactivate link on my facebook account and sat and stared at the confirm button for a while. Then I hit cancel and went and turned off my notifications and climbed in a bath and cried into my Cheer Up Buttercup bathbomb for an hour or so. And then I went back to bed.

And Adam came home and made me tea and a cheese sandwich. (I tend to stop eating when my brain goes kablooey. I don’t deserve food, you see. It’s awesome.)

I slept. All day. (Or at least until I had to go get the sprog from school.) And while I slept he worked on things in the background. He knows, you see, that my hope is that my various online ventures will make enough to keep us floating, that they will mean I don’t have to go back to editing erotic fiction for money. (It was hilarious, but the turnarounds are gruelling and the money not super.) He knows how hard I worked to get away from all that freelance editorial stuff that paid the bills and ate my soul. He knows how much I want to be able to make just enough so that I can focus on the stuff that I love, the stuff that IS making a difference: Wolfenoot, Critter Gifting, the Raven. He knows the invisible hours I put into those things to try and make that happen.

I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me up to now. Some of you have been there since day one, and have copies of my very first book on your bookshelves. I can never express my gratitude to all of you.

I don’t want to be a millionaire. Realistically, I never will be, because even if I make it that big, I am a longer table girl and always have been. I want enough to live a reasonably comfortable life. To not have to worry how the bills will get paid. To do pole classes. To buy bath bombs and take our kids to mini golf. You know?

I don’t want to have to quit the job I have at the zoo that I adore because I need to earn more money and part-time isn’t cutting it. I don’t want to have to give up on Wolfenoot and CG and the Raven because I need to earn more money. I genuinely think me giving up these things would be a loss to other people too. Like, yes, it’s selfish: I love doing them. But also, I love doing things that make the world a brighter, more beautiful place.

But it’s crunch time. Something has to give. I can’t keep this up anymore, not all by myself. I need help.

My Wolfenoot Patreon says that $2000 a month would let me treat it like a job. What it doesn’t say is that I am already doing that and it’s taking a toll. What it doesn’t say is that if it hit that threshold, I could stop fretting about the financials and just focus on the joy and the charitable aspects of it.

Our Raven Patreon is making some really fucking beautiful things that hardly anyone is seeing. I haven’t had the juice to promote it the way it deserves. I am stretched too thin. It is a pity, because the art and the stories are so damn gorgeous.

My personal Patreon was meant to help me get back to writing stories. I have so many stories in my head, but sitting down and writing them feels indulgent when there is so much more that needs to be done.

Please, please, if you love the work I do, please consider popping a dollar or two a month into one of those three things. Because I am at the point where if I can’t make this work, I will need to reassess how I spend my time and my contributions to them will drop off significantly. This is the most meaningful work I do, and I would do it for that meaning alone if I could, but alas, I still live in a capitalist society, and I still have to pay bills.

If an ongoing subscription is out of your means or you’d prefer a once off thing, you can buy me a coffee. I probably won’t actually spend it on coffee, but I will appreciate it.

I love you all. It is so hard for me to ask for help. But I am. Help me keep doing the work I do. Help me keep making a difference.

On letting people be who they are

Right kids, sit down and pay attention. Especially those of you who think that transgender people are “ikky” or that gender is a simple binary directly related to the genitalia you have when you are born.

1. It is so much more complicated than that, omigod. Seriously. Do some damn research.

2. Even if it wasn’t, why does it matter so much to you? FFS.

Look, if someone tells you they’re a Hufflepuff, you more or less take them at their word, right? If they tell you they love Supernatural, you don’t go, “ah, but I remember when you were a child and you loved My Little Pony, so you can’t possibly love Supernatural now”.

When women get married and change their names, you’re totally cool with that. You can at least 95% remember to call them by their married names, and when you forgot you’re all “Haha oops sorry”, try to remember next time and carry on with your day.

I’m not trans. But I am good friends with several trans people, and it pisses me off that you’re making their lives hard with this idiocy.

If someone tells you that they’re a woman, just fucking accept that, will you? They don’t need to justify it any more than they need to justify identifying as a Ravenclaw. Perhaps LESS because they don’t actually have a lot of choice about it.

If a person changes their name FOR ANY REASON AT ALL, just fucking respect that. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. It’s not your business unless they want to tell you. Stop being jerks. Just call them by their chosen name. My birth name is Jacqueline, and almost no one calls me that because I said I like Jax more. It’s not hard, we do it all the time.

Finally, your curiosity is NOT THEIR PROBLEM. You live in an age where all the world’s knowledge is at your fingertips. Learn to fucking google. If you’re curious, go look it up instead of hassling people just trying to live their lives. And if you’re specifically curious about another human’s genitalia, well, my darling, that’s its own kind of problem, and you really should address that with some self-reflection.

That is all.

Go forth and be awesome, humans.

 

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Ask Jax Anything (Part 16)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

We are in the process of moving house – we have an offer accepted on ours and are now just looking for where we want to move to. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be the house out there in the areas we are looking at that fits all of our criteria. I know (and expected) that there would be compromises, but I can’t figure out what we should compromise on. Location means a longer commute and further from family & friends, number of rooms means we may have to move again, large kitchen means we would be in separate areas of the house for significant portions of the day. Do you have any suggestions?

It is very difficult to make suggestions without knowing who you are and what your priorities are, so please take everything I am about to say with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, the answer depends on what you and your family need most, what you can’t live without, and, obviously, what you can put up with.

It a commute a problem? It might be if, for example, you have small kids with whom you want to spend time instead of sitting in a car while they’re in daycare. However, having space between work and home can be a good thing, if you enjoy alone time in the car. Turn up the music. Reset your brain. Listen to some audio books. There are ways of spending that time that can be beneficial. But you may hate being in the car, and having friends close may be a huge part of your lifestyle. In which case maybe it is a problem.

I live in a house without enough storage/space and it drives us nuts, so the rooms thing would probably be huge for me. Also I have spent most of my adult life in some kind of state of transience. If I were buying a house, I’d want to be looking at staying there for a couple of decades. But that’s me. The admin of buying a house seems overwhelming, so I wouldn’t want to have to do it more than once. You have obviously already done it more than once, so maybe moving again in a few years isn’t that big a deal for you?

A large kitchen is a must for me! Hehehe. I’m not sure I understand why that makes you be in different portions of the house, but I guess, again, I have to ask how much of an issue that is? Do you enjoy alone time away from each other? Does that make the time you spend together sweeter? (This is true for me and my partner, fwiw.) Perhaps the shift is simply about changing up your routines a bit so you spend time together anyway?

It’s not something I can answer really without knowing you. Hopefully, some of what I have said is helpful. Or, perhaps, you already found your dream home and this has all come too late. 😉 I kinda hope that’s the case.

Either way, I wish you a good home and a happy future. ❤

I have no more questions on my list, so if you have anything you’d like to ask me, now would be a great time to get to the top of the queue!!

Lessons in Virality

So it turns out that Nathan Pyle of the Strange Planet cute aliens fame is (or, at least, was) SUPER anti-abortion. I became aware of this on Facebook, and did some digging and, while the tweet in question is fairly old, there’s no evidence to suggest he has changed his stance.

This got me thinking about virality and how weird it is. I have worked quite hard over the years to own the bad shit I said and did and I’m now someone who is pretty much willing to stand behind the things I believe now. I may change my mind on the finer points as I get (god, I hope) wiser, but the basic gist is probably pretty much gonna stay the same.

The weird thing about virality is you get no real warning about how people are going to dig into your past and/or critique with a fine-toothed comb your every idea/statement. I had right-wing people show up in my DMs absolutely ENRAGED that I have very lefty attitudes about most stuff. Throwing their toys and announcing to me that they had LOVED the concept of Wolfenoot, but they could NOT in good conscience support someone who is pro-choice, feminist, socialist, dyke (which, like, I’m in a het relationship at present, so not sure what that shit was about), whatever label they objected to just at that moment.

I made a conscious decision not to care. Wolfenoot is about inclusion and kindness, and that is completely coherent, in my opinion, with my socialist leftist hippy leanings. I was (and remain) totally cool with not having the MAGA/incel/whatever extremists hanging around it.

Mr Pyle will probably never read this, but he is about to have to make a similar decision. Whether he digs his heels in, whether he sticks to his (in my mind deeply misguided) principles, whether he rethinks his position, or whether he just decides he doesn’t want the pro-choice fans to stay fans.

For all we know, he HAS rethought his position, but if that is the case, then now is a great time, Nathan, to say so. Because people’s mindsets DO change. My favourite book in my late teens/ early twenties was Atlas Shrugged. YES, REALLY. I interpreted it somewhat differently to the way Ms. Rand intended, but also I was young and dumb and hadn’t really grasped the wider picture of inequality and oppression yet.

Virality is weird because you don’t get to carefully curate and build your presence the way you do when you are making a career out of, like, art or acting or music or whatever. You don’t get a PR team. You just get thrown in the deep end, and you do the best you can. And if there are skeletons, they will probably come out, sooner or later. I’m reasonably comfortable with mine, because I have spent years learning from my mistakes, owning them, and being relatively honest with people about my own fuck-ups in the hope that my stories might help others not make my mistakes.

I guess if there is a lesson here it is to try to be fairly coherent about who you are and what you believe, to actually think it through, to be open to new ideas, even the ones you mull over and then reject, and then to accept that not everyone is going to dig your position. That way, if/when virality strikes, you have solid ground to stand on when the people who don’t dig your position start yelling at you.

Also, humans, try not to yell at people on the internet. It’s not good for your mental health. Go be kind to someone instead.

Be awesome. I love you.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 15)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

Friends of my partner have bullied me for the last 2 years. I tried everything to be their friends, then to just ignore them but they just find new ways to bully me even after I have blocked them on everything. My partner can’t post anything about me at all without them both ruining it by leaving tonnes of nasty comments about me until he eventually deletes it to stop them. I began feeling suicidal recently because of it and asked him to remove them from his social media so that they can’t keep doing this otherwise I couldn’t be with him because it was taking too much of a toll on my mental health. I feel like I did a shitty and controlling thing by saying that. Was it wrong or was it okay in this context? I don’t know if it eas selfish to make him choose but I didn’t know what else to do. 

Oh man, what a horrible situation.

I don’t think you did the wrong thing. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own mental health and if being with someone is damaging it for some reason, then you need to tell them what the thing is that is damaging and give them the opportunity to address it.

Personally, there is no damn way I’d stay with someone who ignored a situation like that. It’s not just about not caring enough about your mental health to address the issue, it’s also about what it says about him that he has people like that in his life and doesn’t mind, you know?

I guess there could be extenuating circumstances. These people could be super important to him for some historical reason. I have people in my life who are problematic for various reasons, and I keep them around because of history, or because I believe they are genuinely trying to improve, or for any other number of reasons. However, I also manage my expectations of them and if they started coming after someone I love who is vulnerable in public spaces, they would be told in no uncertain terms to quit that shit. I can’t really imagine a situation where I would be okay with that. I can’t imagine a situation where my partner would be okay with that.

I think we often view standing up for our own boundaries as controlling, but think of it this way: it’s not controlling, because you didn’t force him to change. You told him that if this situation did not change, you would not be able to stay in it. He then chose which was more important to him. Either way would be a totally valid choice on his part. Like I said, I don’t know the circumstances, and at the end of the day he, like you, is entitled to choose who he keeps in his life.

If it weren’t people, it would be easy right? Let’s say you were super asthmatic, and your partner smoked. And you really tried to handle it, but you frequently couldn’t breathe, and your health was obviously deteriorating. And you said, “Look, I love you, but I cannot stay in an environment with so much smoke, because it is going to kill me. I need you to either keep it out of our house or, preferably, quit, so that I don’t die of an asthma attack.”

Don’t you think that is a reasonable request of someone who loves you?

How is this different?

I hope that helps. ❤ My best wishes.

 

I have only one more question on my list, so if you have anything you’d like to ask me, now would be a great time!!

The ongoing struggle between creation and bills

Things are a bit tough at the moment. I’m about to get kind of real, so bear with me please.

I’ve been on a single parent benefit since the Kid’s Dad and I split up. I am about to lose it because I now live with my new partner. This means we’ll be down about $300 a week. We can probably manage. I am a budgeting guru from all those years as a broke single Mom. But it is turfing up a bunch of anger and frustration.

Because I work all the time. At least, that’s how it feels. I get up at 5 in the morning, and I work. Then I parent. Then I go to my Real Job. Then I come home and eat lunch. Then I pick up the kid, and parent some more. Then I collapse. And in between that, I make books and manage several rather high maintenance communities (although I do have help with that, for which I am eternally grateful), and I try to move Wolfenoot painfully slowly towards being a Foundation, and I give advice and I learn pole and I try to still be a human being with, like, friends,  and time to read, and I garden and I make sure the fish don’t die….

But every time I try to push any of this stuff towards a place where I can actually make something resembling a living that will pay the bills, it feels like wading through treacle. So I do the right things. I create more content. I make new stuff. And each time a little more trickles in, but then I have now created more work for myself.

I’m always being asked, “How do you do so much?” and told I need to rest, but the truth is all the stuff I really love to do doesn’t pay, and, well, I still have bills. So I can either give up the things I am passionate about, or be a stress-bunny about finances.

All I really want is to be able to focus on Wolfenoot and the Critter Community and the Raven and put beauty into the world and not have to worry about how much revenue they are making. All I really want is to cover my costs. And occasionally buy some bath bombs or a CR t-shirt. You know what I mean?

There are 10000 people in the Wolfenoot group on Facebook, and if every one of them joined the Patreon at the lowest possible level (1 dollar a month), we’d be away laughing and I’d have a Wolfenoot Foundation by the next Wolfenoot. Instead, I am spending a huge amount of my resources trying to work out how to coax people in so that I can make that happen.

And FB is making it so hard to promote things like this now, because their algorithms eat patreon posts for breakfast. Bah. So I have to find new marketing techniques too. I don’t want to waste time on this stuff. I want to get the books out and create more merch and get back to pushing the charitable part of this thing.

I want to pull Critter Gifting into its own webspace and give it more structure and more force for good.

I want to use the Raven to make beautiful books and beautiful art.

Stupid money. I hate it.

If you’ve read this far, and you’re going, “How can I help, Jax?”, here are some ways you can help.

I have a Ko-Fi account where you can drop a couple of dollars at any time. This goes straight into my paypal account, and therefore straight into my bills. If you enjoy anything I do, this is an awesome low-maintenance way to support my work.

Critter Gifting has a Ko-Fi account too. This goes straight into the CG Paypal, and will be used to cover domain fees, website fees and so forth once I actually have time to set all that up. Any extra will be ploughed back into the community in the form of random gifts for people, etc. This does not pay my bills, but it does allow me to work on CG stuff without going out of pocket myself. 🙂

I currently have three active Patreons, with different focuses.

The Wolfenoot Patreon. The goal of this Patreon is to ultimately make Wolfenoot my job. At the moment, I am drawing about 2/3rds of the profits for this to pay bills etc. A “salary”, if you will, albeit a very little one. (It doesn’t even cover rent at the moment.) It helps! But it doesn’t yet allow me to stop hustling. 🙂 The other 1/3 goes towards costs. Postage, proofing merch, website costs, all that stuff. The $2000 a month goal would allow me to treat Wolfenoot as a real job. Which means a foundation, more charity work, more merch, and maybe even one day (this is my not-so-secret pipedream) an animal sanctuary.

The Patchwork Raven Patreon. The profit from this (if there is any) goes straight back into the Raven and is used to help fund more awesome books and beautiful artsy things. I love the work we do at the Raven, but neither of us has yet ever made a cent from it. All the profits just get ploughed back in to do more beautiful things. The Illuminated Manuscripts we’re doing for this Patreon are so beautiful and I am honestly a bit surprised more people are not enamoured by them. I love this project. This is the best place to support the Raven at the moment.

My own Patreon. Back before everything went nuts, I used to write a lot of stories. I think I’m even fairly good at it. This really needs an overhaul, and it is on my radar to do this. I have a new plan for it. I just need to get around to it. But if you’d like to support my first love – my writing – this is a good place to do it. I only charge when I actually write, which these days is not much.

If you love the work I do, I would be so grateful if you would consider picking just one of these and throwing a few dollars at it. It really wouldn’t take much at the moment to tip the scales to a place where I can stop thinking about the financials of these things and just focus on making amazing stuff happen. You can help make that a reality.

Again, this isn’t about me cashing in. This is about me needing a way for these things to support me and my family so that I don’t have to turn my attention elsewhere to do so. This is the situation in which I currently find myself. If I do have to turn my attention elsewhere (ie: get more editing gigs, paid work, etc), that means less Raven, less Wolfenoot, less CG. I am just one tired human. I only have so much energy. I really want to be able to focus it in the direction of beauty and love and not just, you know, paying the rent. Your support can make that happen.

Thank you for reading. And thank you to everyone who has already (and continues to) supported me.

Boils

Trump is not the problem. Trump is a symptom. A real big awful symptom, like the big motherfucking boil on your forehead that lets you know something is not right with your system. That kind of symptom.

You can lance the boil. But unless you also address the toxins that led to it, you haven’t solved the problem.

White supremacy, racism, capitalism. These are (some of) the (major) problems.

DISCLAIMER: Not a doctor, don’t really know how boils work, may be fucking up the analogy, but hopefully you get where I am going with this.

PSA

Hello, beautiful humans! Over the next little while I am going to be reposting some of my longer pieces from the book of face here to keep them for posterity. 😉

I will be backdating them, but they may still result in a bit of a spammy notification feed for those of you who get notifications when I post. Just so you are warned and can turn notifications off for a week or two if you so desire.