The Price of Juggling

I do a lot of things. You may have noticed. 😉 What you may not have noticed is the cost of all that – the cost to myself, the cost to my long-suffering, ever-supportive partner who is just quietly proud of me and reminds me to rest and eat on a regular basis.

I run Critter Gifting, an online community built from the most astonishingly generous and amazing fandom I have ever had anything to do with. Once a year I run a massive international Secret Santa which in three years went from ~200 participants to ~1300. This takes a lot of energy and discipline and spreadsheeting mojo. (We’re looking at ways to automate it, but that’s a work in progress.) I have help – a team of about 25 people when you include the mods in the facebook group and the discord and all my Critmas elves. But still. It makes this time of year very full on for me.

And then there’s Wolfenoot, this little idea my kid had that snowballed last year and is now well on its way to becoming a legit non-profit raising money for organisations that work with canines of all kinds – both wild and domestic. Going viral like that has been a very weird experience. I’ve always had a reasonable following on social media, but this turned me into someone people squee about when I talk to them, which I can’t really get used to. This turned me into someone who has email conversations with GRRM’s social media people. It’s all extremely surreal. And when is Wolfenoot? Oh yeah, end of November, right when Critmas is about to get super insane.

So this time of year turns me into a crazed, ball-juggling stress-bunny, just moving from Highest Priority Thing to Next Highest Priority Thing. I ran a Pledgeme campaign and gave it almost no attention and still made three times as much as my target, because Wolfenoot I guess. (I intended to push it harder, but see all these balls? Yeah.) I have almost completely ignored the Raven and meBooks and all my other projects for the last two months, because there’s just one of me and so many demands on my attention.

What I want, what I really, really want, Baby Spice, is to be able to treat all of this as an actual job and not constantly try to fit it in around the things that make money, and parenting, and life. Because, alas, capitalism is still a thing, and in order to survive, we have to pay bills.

In 11 days I turn forty. This is another thing boggling my mind. But it’s a big one, so I am going to ask for a present from you. I am going to ask you for $12. Even better, I’m going to ask that you pay it a dollar at a time over the next 12 months.

I have FOUR patreons, for four different parts of my life. For my birthday, dear reader, please become a patron on one of them. A single dollar, once a month.

If any of the things I do or write or say have a positive impact on your life, please consider supporting me this way. Those dollars add up. They make a difference. There are 18k people in the Wolfenati Central group. If they all became single dollar patrons, I could literally quit my job and build an actual organisation. I could have STAFF with that. It could change our lives. It could allow me to make this stuff I do the central focus of my life instead of cramming it into whatever hours I can find (usually 5-7am, if I am honest).

Pick one. Hit the become a patron button. Wish me a happy birthday. 😉

Wolfenoot
The Patchwork Raven 
Jax’s Bardic Inspiration
The Bookish Jellybean

Or, if that’s asking too much, just buy me a coffee. 😉

As always, I can only do these things because of the support of my crowd. You are all amazing. I love you. ❤

On Myers-Briggs

I posted this on FB yesterday:

Did Myers Briggs at work again.

Got an almost entirely different result from last time.

Last time: ISFP
This time: ENTP

Last time it was winter and I was pretty depressed. This time it was spring and my meds had been sorted.

This aligns with my gut that MBTI changes depending on mental state (at least for those of us with broken brains) and all my jokes about being an introvert in winter and an extrovert in summer may actually be more accurate than I thought. 

It seems a lot of people missed that I was being mildly sarcastic about it. My honest opinion is that it is pseudo-science and pretty much anything that aims to categorise humans into nice neat little categories is bound to fail.
 
It did lead to an interesting conversation though, because after the workshop was over, I went and chatted to the person who ran it and asked them how they thought mental health influenced results. And they had never thought about it.
 
So I was like, “I mean, you realise how many people in the world are battling with one kind of mental health issue or another, though, yeah? So if you’re going to do a ‘personality diagnostic’, you kind of have to take that into account. I am way more introverted, have way less energy in the cold months, and if the point is for my colleagues and managers to “understand me better” isn’t that something they need to understand?”
 
To which their response was, “Well, it is intended as a test for people who are ‘well’.”
 
Reader, I had to force myself not to laugh. Because you don’t get ‘well’. That’s not how this whole depression/anxiety/etc thing works. You get better. You develop coping mechanisms. You find better meds. You don’t get ‘well’.
 
My depression is part of my emotional landscape and will be forever. I get better at handling it. But it doesn’t go away. It’s not a cold. This isn’t like not doing your workout when you’re under the weather. If your “diagnostic” can’t handle the ups and downs of mental health issues, it is fucking useless.
 
So yeah, I feel my point was made. But I also think there is some danger here. I am very aware of my own mental landscape. I am very open about it. I talk to my managers and my colleagues about it. The people around me know about the bumps in my mental landscape.
 
But not everyone is as open as I am. Not everyone is a decade or more into learning how to handle the shit in their heads. Some people are only just starting. And now their managers think they’re this one thing, and then in six months or a year, they’ll be something totally different.
 
It’s a journey. If you’re not ready to tell the people around you, that’s totally fine. Not everyone is, and that’s cool, that’s part of the journey. But if you’re a manager taking this shit seriously, keep in mind that apparently it only works for “well” people (whatever the fuck that means), and given the stats, that means a pretty statistically significant group of people break it. Even if you DO buy into it. Which you probably shouldn’t, since there’s pretty much zero science behind it.
 
If it’s helpful to you, then cool. I find song lyrics helpful. But try not to take it TOO seriously.
 
Stay awesome, nerds.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 18)

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.

As part of a polyam triad (me being the third that was brought in to their four year relationship) how best do I bring up the discussion of negotiation for serious topics like marriage, children, etc.? He is willing to do this but she… not so much.

Hm. This is, unfortunately, often a problem when someone is brought into a pre-existing relationship structure. It is very rare that both parties of the original couple are actually on the same page.

The fact is, though, that polyamory really only works through communication. If you don’t have that, eventually things will inevitably break down into drama and jealousy, since someone, inevitably, will not be getting their needs met.

My advice is to work out what your ideal situation would be regarding marriage and kids and all that long-term stuff, what you would be willing to accept (since there is bound to be some negotiation) and what is a dealbreaker.

Once you’ve figured out where your lines are, I suggest you approach them both and say that you need to deal with this. If she is unwilling to even have the conversation, then, I am afraid to say, that should probably be a dealbreaker for you. That does not bode well for future bliss.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still be involved with them, but it may mean that you need to accept that this is not going to be a perfectly equal nesting-partner triad situation. That may be fine for you. Perhaps you’re perfectly happy being a free agent who pops in from time to time. Perhaps you actually only want a relationship with one of them, but they have insisted it’s a package deal. You haven’t given a lot of information. There are other options, other than the closed triad thing.

But you do need to make sure your needs are getting met, and the only way to do that is to be real honest, firstly with yourself, and then with them, about what those needs are, which ones are non-negotiables, which are dealbreakers, and which you can bend on without damaging your own mental health.

You cannot control what they do or say or feel, or how they behave as a result. But you can choose whether you are willing to stick around and deal with that. This is true for all relationships, romantic, sexual, friendship, poly or mono. ❤

I wish you the very best of luck. ❤

If you have anything you’d like to ask me, do so here!

Positive Nihilism

I don’t know if this will be helpful to anyone else, but I have been thinking about it a lot, and the more I think about it, the more it shifts my mindset away from despair and closer to something more hopeful. So I shall share my strange little mind wanderings in the hope that it helps some of you as well.

So, basically, as a species, we’re pretty fucked. The world is burning, figuratively and literally. There is a very real chance that if you’re under about 60 years old right now, you might live to see the end of humanity. By our own stupid, greedy, capitalist hands. We’re destroying our home, ripping holes in the ship on which we travel through space, with no functioning life rafts, and nowhere to go on them, even if we had them. So. That’s a thing. It’s a thing I struggle with constantly, because it is so big, and my problem-solving tendencies want to believe I can do something about it, but the simple truth is that I probably can’t. I just don’t have the kind of power needed to. There are small things I can do, and I try to do as many of them as I can, but it’s a bit like that old starfish story, except the sea is made of acid and the sand is getting hotter, and there really is no escape.

Cool. That’s a super hopeless view of the world, I realise. Here’s the thing I keep returning to though. Death is always there. Death is always just one mistake, one lump in your skin, one bad decision at a red light away. I don’t want to die. I am in no hurry to give all this up. But, let’s face it, it can come at any moment, for any of us. That’s part of the human condition. You can mitigate it – you can eat healthily, and exercise, and all that good stuff. But sooner or later, that ticket gets called and you’re up.

So all this hopeless end of humanity stuff is much the same. Nothing lasts forever, and I suppose some generation had to be the unlucky shmucks who drew that card, and I guess that’s us. (Or, probably, anyway.)

So maybe we have 20-30 years. Maybe civilisation will collapse around our ears as the food runs out and everything dies and the seas rise. Maybe that will happen.

Here’s what you can do. You can do what you can do. For each of us, that’s different. For some, they can get into power and change regulations and laws. For some, they can create amazing tech that can mitigate some of these things. For most of us, we can make careful and conscious choices about our consumerism and our votes, and not much more than that. We can’t all be revolutionaries. Do what you can. Whatever that is.

And then live your damn life like you only have a decade left. Spend time with the people you love. Make your childrens’ childhoods exceptional, just in case their adulthood sucks donkey balls. Hug your dogs, rescue kittens, visit beautiful places, learn that thing you always meant to learn. Go see a doctor about your mental illness. Make that change in your life that you always wanted to make but never quite found the courage for. Life is SHORT and that may be more accurate now than it has ever been. But it has always been short and unpredictable and full of cruelty and grief.

But it is also exquisitely beautiful, full of small joys and big ones, full of colour and light and people doing small wonderful things for each other every single day, in every single land. Love really is universal. Kindness can resonate and ripple in unexpected ways. If we can’t save the world, maybe at least we can save today, for one person, or a few. Instead of spending it fretting about the things in 10-20 years, DO WHAT YOU CAN about that and then LIVE.

If nothing matters, then EVERYTHING does.

If there is no meaning, if everything is fucked, then the only meaning is the meaning you create. The only meaning is the small kindnesses, the small lights you grow in the palm of your hand, in the corner of your smile, in the eye contact with strangers, in the kind words between coworkers. The only meaning lies in the love you feel for the beings in your lives (human, animal, plant, fiction). The only meaning lies in the things you create.

When everything is being destroyed, when all you see is despair, then kindness and creation are rebellious acts. I told someone today that my positivity is a coping mechanism: a big fuck you to despair.

There is nothing more punk than staying bright in this dark world. It takes guts and strength and courage and gumption in a way that getting jaded doesn’t.

Nothing matters. It’s all dying. So be punk. Be kind. Fuck despair.

If nothing matters, then EVERYTHING does.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 17)

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.

After watching one too many episodes of Nailed It (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), I attempted to do some of the stuff I had seen the contestants attempt. So I made the cake up, it wasn’t the best result, I was experimenting with marbling. Cake was still edible, just looked like unicorn vomit.

We had some family come over, and I served them some. They told me it was lovely and sweet, they liked it. They asked about the recipe, and I was honest and said it was a packet mix. Well, suddenly it wasn’t such a nice cake anymore.

I mean I have tried to DIY cakes from scratch, measuring flour and all the other ingredients, there is a reason I now use packet mixes – it’s a lot nicer, and way more consistent. I felt packet-mix shamed! And was on the defensive, like of course I normally make my cakes from scratch, this is because I was experimenting that’s why it’s a packet mix.

Was I in the wrong to tell them it was a packet mix, should I just say I made it myself. I mean I did make it, I didn’t buy it premade from Countdown, and try and pass that off as my own baking.

What should I do in the future, apart from learning to bake. Say something, not say something. Not offer guest food?

– Marie Antoinette

First of all: ugh, what jerks!!

Okay, so I make cakes from time to time, and I almost always use packet mix. I can bake from scratch, but holy buttercream icing, Batman! I am a busy human, and I am often baking because the cake is needed like that day and I can’t afford for it to all go pear-shaped!!

If the whole point of the exercise was to practice/play with decorating, why the bleeding hell not use packet mix? I mean, I suppose if you were actively trying to learn to bake and you were all “hey, try my newest creation”, and then when they went “mmm gosh, look at you” you went, “PSYCH! It’s packet mix!”, they’d have a fondant leg to stand on in terms of being a bit butthurt, but in this case, just eat the damn cake and be grateful.

Lordy.

Who has time to be such a judgipants?

The official Jax ruling on this situation is that if you can’t bake from scratch, or even just can’t be arsed baking from scratch, then, by all means, use packet mix. Just not Nestle products, okay? 😉

And if someone feeds you a cake they made with their own damn hands, don’t be a judgy asscactus, just say omnomnom thanks for the cake, like a decent fucking human being.

That is all.

If you have anything you’d like to ask me, do so here!

Musings on my Winterbrain

So I had a bit of a realisation the other day while I was chatting to one of my awesome fellow mental health heroes.
I was diagnosed with depression at a time in my life when everything was going to shit. My marriage had just ended, I was broke as fuck, I had a toddler who didn’t believe in sleep, I was failing at work, I was extremely unhealthy, everything sucked beyond belief.
Over the last 6 or so years I have hauled my ass out of that hole through sheer stubbornness, a deep desire to be a better parent, and with the help of a pack of amazing human beings who have been there through all of it with me.
Now, I have a job I love, my creative passions are starting, slowly, to help pay the bills in meaningful ways, My kid is amazing, I have an active hobby that I enjoy, my relationship is everything I ever wanted. My life is pretty great.
And I’m still depressed.
And it sucks, yo. This winter is feeling worse than usual for me, but the people around me keep saying I am better than I have been in years. And I think it’s cos everything is great, and I’m still depressed.
And that makes me angry. Because it was supposed to get BETTER. I did all that work, and made all those changes, and my brain is still a butthead.
I ended up having a big convo with Chennay yesterday at pole (I was the only one in the class yesterday) about all this, which triggered the thought that maybe I have just gotten so used to being in survival mode, so used to feeling shitty, that I have forgotten how to just be happy. Maybe I just need to retrain myself out of this “what’s the next thing” mode of survival, and enjoy THIS THING.
Because things ARE better. I have come so damn far. Anyone who knew me back in 2012 when everything went to hell would be able to tell you that the person I am today is a million times healthier than that wreck of a human was.
Maybe it’s time I just enjoyed the fruits of my labours and embraced my amazing life and stopped worrying so much about The Next Thing.
I’m gonna try.

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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