Author Archives: Kait

You’ve Got a Great Wardrobe For Radio

A few days ago, Rebecca Wells, writer and bookseller extraordinaire, posted on twitter that she’d love to see gift/style recommendations from several people, yours truly included. Never say I don’t give the people what they want. Additionally, I’m posting it here cause a) we post all sorts of not-strictly-podcast-related things here and b) we have been pushing a lot of these brands at our live shows to the point that ModCloth in particular probably owes us some unofficial sponsorship money.

When I was in middle school and high school, those tender years where you become hyperaware of your own body and how it compares to others, I had a uniform–I wore jeans and a t-shirt, usually black, usually with some nerdy saying/logo on the front of it. The shirts were all men’s XLs, even back then, and nothing touched my body if I could help it. I was very aware of how big my chest was and how much heavier I was than the other girls, and hiding my body seemed to be the best way to avoid having to confront those facts.

Something shifted in college–I ran out of fucks to give, I made friends with new people, I was away from everyone who knew me and could experiment without calling attention to myself. I bought a skirt. I loved it. I bought two more. I bought some dresses. I moved to Boston, once again away from people I knew and with room to reinvent myself without question, and I discovered online shopping and…well, here we are.

  

(Excuse basically all of these pictures of me? The lighting in my house is awful, so I rarely get full outfit shots and when I do it’s usually “hey I just got this dress what do you think group chat?” sort of non-flattering shots)

I could make this an entire post about weight and self-esteem and depression and fat positivity, but I won’t. I mostly outlined the above to demonstrate that a) I totally understand how scary it is to give yourself a style make-over when you’re surrounded by people who are going to call attention to it and b) it’s possible to do it anyway. Because here, now, in 2017 I am…well, I don’t want to use the word “fashionable,” because I think that brings to mind popular trends. I have a style, it is strong, and I am happy to lean into it. I get a lot of questions about what I wear–clothes, jewelry, lipstick, glasses–and I am usually ecstatic to share the details of all of my fashion secrets.

So, that’s what I’m going to do! A few things to address before I get started on the fun stuff:

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When Reading is Hard

I self-identify as a reader and I have since a young age. I didn’t learn to read until first grade–I’m a first-born child and it never occurred to my parents to teach me at home. That’s what school is for, right? So while a lot of my Big Reader friends learned as toddlers or in pre-school or kindergarten, I didn’t learn to read until my first grade teacher started our Learning to Read unit. Once I learned, however, it seemed like I never stopped. In a cliche I’m sure many of you are familiar with, I sat through many a family gathering, sporting event, and school recess with my nose in a book. My parents, for a time, had a rule that I had to use my allowance to buy toys, etc, but they would buy me as many books as I wanted. This rule didn’t last long, purely because I burned through books so quickly even the library could barely keep up.

So, I read all through elementary school and middle school and high school. In college, I did my best to read on top of school work and mostly succeeded. After college, I worked in a bookstore and read all day in addition to reading at home. My mother was accidentally an early Kindle adopter, and I quickly stole it and filled it with more books than I could otherwise carry in my purse. In the first few years I lived in Boston, I found myself reading slightly less. I recognized that it was because reading was no longer a large component of my job, and before I could worry too much about it, I started really diving back into comics and discovered my library system’s e-lending program, nearly simultaneously. Now I could read on my phone, anywhere, any time, and even when I was too disinterested or depressed to read the book I was in the middle of, hundreds more were at my fingertips.

Last year, the way my depressed brain started to interact with reading changed. I’ve always been plagued by an inability to focus when depressed, but usually that just meant finding the right book to grab my attention. Now I could barely bring myself to focus on the written word at all. If I wasn’t reading fanfiction, I wasn’t reading, period. I pushed my way through a few written books, but it was audiobooks that largely saved me. With the Kindle/Audible partnership that provides the audio of Kindle books you already own at a discount, I was set once again. Sure, I couldn’t focus on words, but listening was somehow easier. I could load my phone up with audiobooks and drift in and out a little if my brain fogged over, but I generally didn’t lose the thread of the story and managed to get through the boring parts by half-tuning out the narration.

And that’s been fine. Mostly. Except that the last few months, even that has stopped.
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Ten Good Things About 2016

I’ll fess up: the reason we don’t have the first half of our Best of 2016 booklists up is totally my fault. In the past two weeks, I broke my foot and Renata got pneumonia. On the last possible day we could have recorded part one, Renata had juuuuust about recovered enough to record. I, on the other hand, did Something Stupid with my broken foot and had to spend two hours not moving on the living room couch.

Sorry! But, never fear–I would never leave you without #content on a WBS Monday.

2016 has been a garbage fire of epic proportions. Editor Becca claims that, in her view, every year people say the next year will be the one where the bad things stop and it’s never true. That’s not really my experience. I had a spate of bad years in a row, but generally I go back and forth. 2016 even seemed like it might be a good year for me at the start of it! It’s hard to call it a good year with the way it ended, though, as I’m sure we all can agree :\

That doesn’t mean it was all bad, though. For one thing, we read a lot of good books that you’ll be hearing about in two weeks! But even beyond that, I had good experiences that I’ll remember for a long time. (Would I have given up every single one of these experiences for a different outcome in the election–well. Yes. But that’s another post.) So, for your reading pleasure, in an effort to shine a little light into the last days of 2016, here are my Top Ten Good Things About 2016, in roughly chronological order.

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Get Your Shit Together August: Behavioral Health Treatment

And we’re back for week three of Get Your Shit Together August! Today’s post is maybe not applicable to everyone personally, but is certainly applicable to at least one person you know, even if you’re SUPER well-adjusted. (If you are: what’s that like? Please tell me.) Today we’re talking about anti-depressants and behavioral health therapy.

Now, straight off the bat, here’s a disclaimer: I’m not a therapist. I’m not a doctor. I work in this field, but I’m not licensed and I’m gonna be talking about things very generally here, but in no way is this advice from A Medical or Behavioral Healthcare Professional. Okay? Okay.

When I was in high school, I went from being at the top of my class in almost all of my classes to struggling very hard to keep up with work. To be honest, I had struggled a little in middle school, too, frequently doing homework on the bus or at lunch because I just couldn’t make myself focus when I was at home. High school was more work, though, and it became harder for me to fit in everything I needed to do before school and during lunch. I was tired all the time and spent my after school hours taking long naps instead of doing my homework. I felt heavy and overwhelmed and I couldn’t say why or how or when it started. Finally, in my junior year, it caught up to me–my academic and personal issues combined for a perfect storm of mental catastrophe. I had to take a math class–my worst subject–with a teacher who was terrible. And, let me tell you this, I was never one of those kids who hated and bad mouthed any teacher I didn’t agree with. I understood teaching was hard, and that even if I didn’t like a teacher personally, they were probably doing their difficult job pretty well. This teacher? This was a bad teacher. I had never before wished harm on another person, but when she broke her hip halfway through the year, I actually thought, “Dear god, please let her be out for the rest of the year.”

Anyway, the point is, I got a D in her class the second or third marking period of that year. I had never gotten below a B- on a report card up to that point and my parents were livid. I broke down when they confronted me, had hysterics, literally ran out of the house and called a friend with a car to come pick me up. My parents eventually came and got me, apologized for yelling, and started to gently ask how I was feeling and how long I had been feeling that way.

I am extraordinarily lucky. I have always had a good relationship with my incredibly understanding parents. There’s a history of mental illness in my family and they weren’t judgmental at all about getting me into therapy and eventually getting me on medication. I had some amazing teachers to balance out that one rude math teacher, including an English teacher who literally changed the curriculum to fit my needs. Everyone around me me was willing to cut me some slack. Except, of course, for me.

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Get Your Shit Together August: Bullet Journal

Welcome back to Get Your Shit Together August! I hope you found last week’s post helpful! This week’s is obviously up a little later in the day, and that’s because, in true shitshow fashion, I did not take my photos last night and didn’t realize until I went to post them that I needed to black out some of the work information. WHOOPS. Which is a good reminder that this series is about trying to get your shit together if you’re a shitshow, and your shit will never truly be as together as you wish. That’s just life, tragically.

Anyway, I’m sure that bullet journaling is old news to most of you. It’s been scientifically proven* that 99.9%** of our listenership are librarians, aspiring librarians, librarian spouses, librarian BFFs, ex-librarians, library ghosts, three libraries in a trenchcoat, cardigan salesmen, etc, and librarians are notoriously Ahead of the Organizational Times. My library bros have been talking about bullet journaling for months, maybe years. When Renata and some other Twitter bros started doing it, I googled it out of curiosity and was immediately overwhelmed by the website, unable to entirely grasp what the process was like or how it could be helpful to me. I put it out of my mind, and it stayed there until this spring/summer when Kelly Sue DeConnick and the Bitches Get Shit Done group started to pick up the habit.

Kelly Sue started to keep a bullet journal and started occasionally tweeting and tumbling about it. Again, I looked at it and felt totally overwhelmed and put it out of my mind. But it was Kelly Sue AND a lot of office supplies seemed to be involved AND all my friends were starting to dip their toe in the water AND I’m a sheep desperate to be liked, so I decided to try again. Having already perused the website and come away with little-to-no useful information, I turned to google. I managed to find a few blogs that went into detail about how and why bullet journaling can be helpful and began to suspect that it might be the sort of thing I needed to add some organization to my mess of a life.

So, What Actually Is a Bullet Journal?

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Get Your Shit Together August: Bitches Get Shit Done

I’m a person who’s struggled with organization my entire life. I remember being in third grade and desperately wishing I wasn’t too much of a goody-two-shoes to forge my mother’s signature on my assignment pad. While I had completed my assignments, I had done it from memory and forgotten to have her sign  the actual book. As I grew up and clinical depression started to eat holes in my memory, I started missing assignments or forgetting assignments, and went from being a perfect, straight-A student to a person who got straight As on tests and mandatory Cs on my late homework. Sure, this dip in grades helped the adults around me identify and diagnose my depression, but that diagnosis didn’t make it any easier to organize and stay on top of my life.

I’m in my thirties now, working an office job, doing a podcast, and writing in my spare time. I have a jam-packed social calendar (trying to schedule hangouts with me has become the epitome of “it’s so hard being pretty and popular!”) and a miniscule amount of free time. I’m still a hopeless mess, but I’m starting, finally, to come up with strategies to get that mess under control. I’m going to turn this month into Get Your Shit Together August and talk about a few of them, from the perspective of a scatterbrained, messy nerd in hopes that other scatterbrained, messy nerds will see that there’s hope, even for them. My life might not be perfectly organized and neat and logical, but, hey, I’m paying my bills on time and that’s not nothing.

Bitches Get Shit Done

One of the first steps in organizing my life and attempting to get my shit together was nearly completely inadvertent. In January 2014, I signed up for Kelly Sue DeConnick’s text-based reminder system, Bitches Get Shit Done, or #bgsd. I did it sort of on a lark—I figured the people who would get the most use out of it would be people who had school deadlines or were working on big creative projects. I have a desk job. A small child could probably do the same work just as easily as I do. It would be cute to get the messages, but I figured they wouldn’t necessarily apply to me.

Oh boy. What a simpler time that was.

But let me back up for a second. While I’m sure 99.99999% of our listenership know who Kelly Sue is, for the remaining .00001% of you, she is a writer (primarily of comic books), business owner, mom, KISS fan, Mama Shark, and in the ranks of Mallory Ortberg and Lin-Manuel Miranda when it comes to imaginary Twitter BFFs. I could go into all of the ways she’s important to me, personally, but I already did that once and accidentally-on-purpose made her cry in public, so just know that she’s someone you should Be Aware Of if you aren’t already.

A few years back, comic book writer and trash of the thing Chris Sebela jokingly agreed to having Kelly Sue periodically text him to nag him to get his work done. It wasn’t a joke and she made good on the threat. After tweeting about it, lots of people expressed interest in having her nag them to get work done, so the Bitches Get Shit Done list was born. It’s a text-based “shotgun blast nagging,” in Kelly Sue’s words–set up through the Remind101 service, a mass text goes out a few times a week with anything from inspirational quotes to firm entreaties to close tumblr and start working to tips on organization and productivity.

It is, for reasons I can’t quite nail down, extraordinarily helpful. Despite the monotony of my work, sometimes I do need that kick in the butt, and despite the fact that the messages come during the 9-5 work day, a lot of them stick with me hard enough that they’re still in my mind when it comes time to open my own creative endeavors at the end of the day. It’s just the right mixture of firm nagging and gentle understanding that creating is hard, achieving your goals is hard, and frequently you’re your own worst enemy. It’s a balance that I’ve been looking for a long time. I do need someone to occasionally glance over my shoulder and nudge me to focus and remind me that I have deadlines and warn me that the only way to get the thing done is to do it. But I also need the reminder to breathe and drink water and take my time and put myself first. I need the nagging, but without the “everyone can do anything they set their mind to, just push through, you’re the only thing holding yourself back from greatness” motivational speaker style encouragement. BGSD is realistic, or at least, realistic to my life. It reflects my attitude, my sense of humor, and the kind of world I want to live in. It’s not a lofty organizational method, it’s not a zen-like lifestyle change, it’s a push to make whatever progress you’re able and encouragement to feel good about that, no matter how small it is

Also, I think Kelly Sue has secret cameras in my cubicle because, goddamn, those messages usually come when I need them the most.

But really, the thing that might be at the heart of the success of BGSD is Kelly Sue herself. The texts feel like they’re coming from a mentor or a friend, from someone who wants you to do your best and really cares about the outcome. More than once I’ve made myself close Two Dots and get working because I didn’t want to let Kelly Sue down by slacking off. She’s not my mom or my boss–I’m a stranger on the internet. Was she going to read my contract report? No. (Is upper management even going to read my contract report? Probably not, let’s be real.) But that lingering sense of something not unlike loyalty keeps me on task, at least for a few minutes, at least long enough to check something off my 2do list.

Does any of this sound at all appealing or helpful to you? Well, you’re in luck—BGSD subscription is always open. To sign up for your very own nagging texts, text @bitchesg to (971) 244-8342. (Standard text changes apply, etc etc) To read a little bit more about the origin of BGSD, check out this post on Kelly Sue’s tumblr. And to get in on the action on Twitter, check out the #bgsd and #bgsdlist hashtags.

And that’s it for today, folks—the first step in sort of kind getting your shit together. Next week: bullet journaling, which is actually WAY less complicated than the bullet journal website wants you to think!

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#Hogwarts4Ham

There’s a strong possibility that this will be the most controversial thing I have ever posted on the internet.
I’ve been blogging in some form or another since the late ’90s. In my youth, I wasn’t above getting into angry political fights in comment sections. I had an active Facebook account during the 2004 primaries and went to a college known for having one major, campus-wide controversy each semester.

And yet, here we are.

I am going to sort the Hamilton characters into Hogwarts houses.

This is a dicey proposition for multiple reasons. For one, this podcast and its listeners exist in a larger internet social group of book people that sorts characters for fun pretty regularly. For another, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, King Nerd of the Nerds, certainly has capital-I-Ideas about what houses these characters should be in, even if he won’t share them with the public. And, of course, sorting in and of itself is based on so many subjective qualities that any answer given for any character can be disputed with an alternate interpretation of the text.

Let’s visit the larger issues with sorting for a moment, along with some issues particular to this case:
1) Age – In Harry Potter, characters are sorted into their houses at eleven years old. There’s a lot to be said about the things about your personality that are steadfast and unchanging, but let’s be real–no one is the same person they were at eleven. When I was eleven, my social anxiety/shyness led me to believe I was the world’s biggest introvert who never wanted to be around people, despite spending all my spare time either hanging out with my local friends or chatting on the internet with my far away friends. I clung to that identity–the broody loner who wasn’t like other girls–very strongly. I imagined my whole future based on those assumptions about myself. AS IT TURNS OUT, I’m a chatty type-a leader who needs human contact to get through the day. Surprise!

Which is all to say, unless we’re sorting middle grade characters or characters whose journey we’ve followed for quite a while, we’re already using a different set of characteristics to sort than the hat would be if these characters actually found themselves at Hogwarts. In this case, though we get a little background about Alexander Hamilton’s youth in the opening number of the musical, we’re mostly working with men and women in their early twenties through late forties. Who knows if the Alexander at eleven would have been sorted the same way as Alexander at twenty-two?

2) Good/Evil Dichotomy – There is a tendency, in people who don’t spend as much time thinking about this as you, reader who’s already made it this far, for Gryffindor to be equated with good guy, Syltherin to be equated with bad guy, Ravenclaw to be equated with nerd, and Hufflepuff to be equated with cheerful idiot. All of this is, of course, incorrect. I know it. You know it. Whether JK Rowling knows it is up for debate, but the point is that all of the Hogwarts House traits are admirable in their own way and all of the houses have their flaws. It’s important to look past that when sorting, but many non-fannish types, major media outlets doing this for kicks, and casual fans can’t seem to do that. Your protagonist isn’t always a Gryffindor. Your antagonist isn’t always a Slytherin.

3) Interpretation – As I mentioned above, the defining traits of the Hogwarts houses are all present in all of us to some degree or another. No fully developed character is a cardboard cutout that is only ambitious or only loyal, with no other personal motivations. This means that interpretations of what a character’s strongest trait is are very objective. You can probably find evidence in the text to argue one way or another about many of the houses and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong; it all comes down to what particular things about that character you value above the rest.

4) Personal Preference – Sometimes we want our faves–or at least the characters we over-identify with–to be in our house. Simple as that.

And, specific to this sorting:
5) Historical vs. Literary – Lin-Manuel took a lot of liberties with timelines, events, and characters in order to turn Hamilton’s life into a condensed, three hour biography with a coherent narrative. Some bits of characters/historical figures’ personalities suffered from that. For instance–Margarita Schuyler was, by all accounts, kind of a badass in real life. In the musical, she takes a decidedly more timid role. John Laurens was, pardon my French, a total reckless shithead. The music as we hear it glosses over that somewhat (although I will say that seeing the show live, a lot of Laurens’ more reckless nature comes through in the staging). Historical Hercules Mulligan seems to have been something of a braggart and cheerful opportunist. Musical Hercules Mulligan acts exactly like you’d think a guy named Hercules Mulligan would act.

I’m going to focus on sorting the characters based on their musical personalities/arcs, but I can’t promise a little of their historical counterparts won’t shine through.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the part you’ve been waiting for. I eagerly await your refutation in the comments:
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