# Broad Strokes

We moved to a new house in Lincoln early this year. We also spent a lot of the year planning to move away from this house, and out of Nebraska entirely. This fall, we received the paperwork that will let us move to Canada as permanent residents. We have some time before we need to move using these papers, if that's what we ultimately decide to do. For now, and really, quite recently, we have decided to stay in Lincoln for another year at least, and then re-assess our situation and where we'd like to be.

I love my community here in Lincoln, and being close to my family, so much. I love it so much that sometimes it hurts. It hurts especially in the times I am thinking about feeling forced to leave, because the state is becoming increasingly hostile to families that look like mine. The people with the most power at the state level here (and maybe the people who voted for the people in power? unclear tbh) want families like mine and people that look like the people I love, to cease to exist. This is hard when I think about how much my family is truly of this place. I met my wife here. We had our baby here. I grew up here; my parents and extended family are all here; I went to college here. We met so many lovely friends, many of whom grew up here, too. Nebraska is where I learned the importance of community, in my tiny hometown of Diller and here in Lincoln.

My values are Nebraska values. And I see Nebraska values when I think about the faces I saw in community this year: on the legislative floor, in the Capitol rotunda, in marches and rallies outside. In the people (like me!) carrying petitions to prevent a private school voucher money-grab, and all the people who rushed up to petition carriers, eager to sign.

Cassey wears a shirt reading 'Nebraska Family Alliance is a Hate Group' and a rainbow button-up, and holds a petition for Support Our Schools Nebraska
You can buy this shirt

In the improv meetup where after laughing and playing for a while, we talked about how the tools of improv can help us de-escalate conflict in real-life situations. In the Lincoln Tour for Rewilding Urban Environments. In the research I did for a bit on the history of activist efforts - the early 70s-era Lincoln City-Wide Tenants Association which held a "Tent City" direct action for housing justice, and the long history of Nebraskans for Peace, which formed from Rural Nebraskans for Peace, founded in 1968.

We are Nebraska, too. We are stronger together, though sometimes I am still so afraid it won't be enough.

an older woman with greying dark hair pulled back into a bun serves meat and veggies in thick colorful sauces  from big roasting pans
Narges at Daffodil is Nebraska, too.

Well. Huh. I bet you came here for music and book recs. And we're getting to that, too, and I wrote all of that first, but it honestly felt pretty incomplete. I'm not going to split the post, because I guess if you don't love me at my "will the state destroy my family for being queer/trans" you don't get to have me at my "joyful consumption of queer & trans media".

on the concrete steps to a front porch, a figure has been created from a pumpkin, half eaten with a painted on scared face, a white upturned plastic tub, and some crumpled up pants
Quick! A palate cleanser!

# On With The Show

# My Year in Music

I listened to a lot of the Mountain Goats and Adeem the Artist this year, accounting for the majority of my listening. And these are not unrelated facts; I first heard Adeem as the opener for a Mountain Goats show in Omaha. My wife & I went on to see Adeem & the Mountain Goats together for a second time in Lawrence Kansas, then Adeem in two different solo shows, in Omaha and again in Lawrence. This is the most live music I've seen probably in my whole life, I suppose if you don't count my years going to the Pla-Mor Ballroom on Sunday nights in Lincoln for country line & swing dancing. I never really understood what people meant before when they said live music could be a spiritual experience, but I definitely felt that way about seeing Adeem and the Mountain Goats this year.

Cassey and Adeem the Artist
This is me with Adeem the Artist. I am a novice at being a groupie but I think I'm learning the ropes quickly.

I like the Mountain Goats for sure, but Adeem the Artist is doing something really special, and I'm so glad to have found their music. So many of their songs speak to me in such a deep way. If you grew up on country music, like me, and maybe you're queer, or maybe you just have realized that the things you were told about the US and about Christianity aren't as true as you thought, maybe Adeem will speak to you, too.

I also saw the Chicks in concert; it was great.

I listened a to a few key songs by Orville Peck and the Magnetic Fields a lot, too.

My kid was really into Baby Shark, and is now able to ask for it by name. (See also: "Elmo song"). When I put her to bed, we sing a song from Renee & Jeremy, who make fantastic modern lullabies.

# My Year in Podcasts

I don't really listen to a ton of podcasts!

This year I started the Classy series with Jonathan Menjivar; I'm not done with it yet, but definitely recommend it.

I listen to Burnt Toast with Virginia Sole-Smith sometimes, but sometimes just read the text versions in her Substack.

Maintenance Phase continued to be a favorite, along with whatever else Michael Hobbes is up to. (Currently, "If Books Could Kill").

I listened to some good episodes of the Ezra Klein show, though I'm certainly not a super regular listener there. The episode on "Sabbath & the Art of Rest" and the one with Ada Limón were both standouts.

My partner & I have been slowly working through the "Old Gods of Applachia" podcast; it's a horror (fiction) anthology podcast that is really good and extremely well-performed.

# My Year in Poetry

I came across a lot of great poetry this year. I'd like to read and write more of it next year! I attended a local poetry workshop, but mainly read, not wrote, poetry. I saw an instagram post at one point that admonished readers to stop sharing protest poetry about Palestine, and do something more effective instead. And while I agree it's important to engage in other forms of advocacy, too, I fully intend to continue sharing protest poetry, about Palestine or otherwise. I think it matters.

Poetry by Diane di Prima, particularly her Revolutionary Letters, seemed to show up all over the place this year; I was generally very into it whenever it did. I would like to read more by Diane!

An Ezra Klein Show episode introduced me to Ada Limón's work - I had heard of her as the US poet laureate, but not really read much. I loved the poems featured on the episode, and immediately went to read more that I could find online. I'd like to check out more of her work this year, perhaps in library book form!

Many Mary Oliver poems really spoke to me this year.

I also learned about Rainer Maria Rilke, from someone in a workshop series I attended at the local Unitarian Universalist church. Mary K made a very compelling case about the beauty found in Rilke's work, and how it had impacted her as a young woman. Later, Adeem the Artist referenced Rilke on stage at a show, and I got the reference! I'd like to read Rilke more, too.

# My Year in Books

This year I read 25 books in entirety. (Lots of books I start but don't fully finish never make it on to these lists, especially the more activist-y oriented ones I read.)

# Fiction

My favorite fiction books I read included:

  • Killers of a Certain Age (four female contract killers celebrating their retirement must go on one last big mission)
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (a magic school that is very much not safe for students, very dark but in a fun way)
  • Legends and Lattes was a really pleasant, cozy fantasy read. An orc straight out of a D&D campaign adventure settles down to open a coffeeshop and discover true friendship.
  • Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow was a book club pick; it's available for free online if you'd like to pick it up. I wasn't into it at first, and the writing is not stellar, but it was so different than anything else I'd read and I just keep thinking about it.
  • Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072 was excellent speculative anarchist fiction, that honestly felt quite believable. It gave me hope, though the path it described the world taking to arrive at utopia did not sound fun to live through.
  • Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer and translated by Usurla K. Le Guin was a fascinating collection of stories set in the same fictional empire. Wonderful worldbuilding.
  • A Lady for a Duke was a great historical (Regency, I think) romance with a trans protagonist, that wasn't about the struggle of being trans.
  • The Unstoppable Bridget Bloom by Allison Bitz is by a local Lincoln author, and was a really fun YA read. I was annoyed by Bridget at first, but totally cheering for her by the end.
  • Ancillary Justice was good; included here because I've mentioned nearly all my other fiction reads that I liked! I want to read the second book in the series but am a little intimidated about how much political intrigue/lore I'm probably supposed to remember from the first book.

# Nonfiction

It was also a really good year for me in nonfiction; I read a lot of nonfiction and nearly all were really good. I only read a few on audiobook; I'll note those as I go.

  • Screaming on the Inside by Jessica Grose was good; it covered similar ground as books I've read before but was still a worthwhile addition to my background on modern parenting struggles.
  • Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H was phenomenal. A memoir of a queer Muslim who grew up as an outsider in an Arab country and moved to the US in early adulthood.
  • Good Inside by Becky Kennedy is a parenting book I expected to think was over-hyped, but found it is actually entirely correctly hyped and probably everyone who parents should read it. (and perhaps even more than that - it helped me a lot with perspective on challenges in my romantic relationship, too!)
  • Your Money or Your Life had good money-mindset stuff; I wrote notes on it.
  • Queer Conception is a book I read most of, and found the practical info quite useful and very inclusive. If you are looking to make a baby outside a cis man/cis woman partnership (including as a single person, with multiple partners, or other gender/sex configurations), I definitely recommend it.
  • Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture is one I was looking forward to from Virginia Sole-Smith, and even as a big fan of hers (I read all the newsletters and have read her first book), there was so much more that she had to say that I hadn't heard before.
  • Transgender History by Susan Stryker had so much good info in it; I'm really glad I read it.
  • All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell deserves to be in the canon of "books you should read if you like thinking about death" - people mention Caitlin Doughty a lot and neglect to mention Campbell's excellent book, which focuses on people whose jobs bring them in contact with death. Obviously it's about death, but content warning in the latter half particularly for a focus on infant death. Nice on audiobook.
  • Love Lives Here by Rowan Jette Knox is a memoir by a person who at the time believed themself to be cis & straight, reflecting on life before and after their child, and then spouse came out as transgender. Content warning for transphobia of course, but also discussion of addiction & traumatic violence in the early chapters especially.
  • You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith is the divorce memoir of the year that all the cool girlies (who are slowly all announcing their divorces if they haven't already) were reading. (I read it & loved it, though I am not announcing a divorce!) Maggie is very obviously a poet, and I loved reading her words even though my heart was breaking for her. Good on audiobook!
  • I revisited How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis; if you haven't read this one yet, give it a chance - it's short, and will help you reconsider some beliefs you might hold about how household tasks are "supposed to" work.
  • This Arab is Queer was an excellent anthology with a lot of different perspectives on being both queer & Arab.
  • Essentialism is another one I read and blogged about.
  • Gender Euphoria: Stories of Joy from Trans, Nonbinary, and Intersex Writers, collected by Laura Kate Dale, was a nice lighter read on my list, though a lot of the writers in the collection did seem almost required to contrast their joy with how much pain they had also experiened. So it was not as lighthearted of a read as I had hoped, but it was still so nice to see so many different ways that people have found joy in gender outside their assigned genders at birth.

A rare honorable mention to a book I haven't finished, but want so many of my friends to read: Needy: How to Advocate for your Needs and Claim Your Sovereignty by Mara Glatzel. It's short, but go slow, like I am, and take time to the recommended journal prompts throughout. I hoped this book would tell me the magic words to get people around me to recognize and respect my needs, but instead it is telling me that I am responsible for asserting, defending, and acting on my needs. Rude!! And also, correct. It's a work in progress for sure, but it's helping.

# My Year in Movies & TV

Towards the beginning of the year, a friend hosted a private showing of Romeo + Juliet at the Joyo Theatre. I did not study Shakespeare much in school, and was pretty confused for a lot of the movie, honestly.

I watched some good YouTube videos, particularly on logistics of the modern world (like concert tours).

These two youtube creators visited every Rainforest Cafe in the country and both made videos that present the trip in dramatically different ways (Ted vs Eddy); we watched their follow-ups a year later visiting every Margaritaville, too.

I watched Nimona and loved it, and the classic conversion therapy/coming of age film But I'm a Cheerleader. Right now I'm watching the new animated Scott Pilgrim series; it's pretty good though I get bored during the fight scenes sometimes. My partner & I watched Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich on Netflix; I would describe it like the Marie Kondo reality show but for personal finance, which is to say, I absolutely loved it.

I loved the Barbie movie; it was definitely a highlight of my year in entertainment for sure. Jessica DeFino had my favorite Barbie movie critique.

# My Year in Newsletters

SO MANY NEWSLETTERS I cannot read them all and I definitely cannot pay $5/month to every single newsletter author I would love to support. I'm sorry, newsletter authors! It is just too much.

But I do pay for Casey Johnston's newsletter on strength & fitness-adjacent stuff, Virginia Sole-Smith's on parenting & anti-diet/anti-fatphobia, and Garrett Bucks's White Pages, on anti-racist organizing by white people, among white people. I plan to keep giving them all my money in 2024, too.

# My Year in Hobbies & Habits

I went on lots of walks, and continued to do lots of phone calls with friends while walking. I love walks.

I didn't do a ton of creative stuff - that's something I'd like to do more of next year. I journaled some. I'd like to do that more, too.

I spent some time meditating this year, mostly in a group setting! A friend in my neighborhood started hosting guided or silent meditation groups in his living room once a week and we met regularly for a few months. There was often just two or even three of us, but it was a really nice time, and I could see the positive effect on my emotional well-being really quickly from a super small weekly amount of meditation!

# My Year in Health

My kid started day care this year, so I got sick a lot more than I had in previous years. We spent Halloween in the ER with the kiddo, which was a big bummer, but overall, we had few serious illnesses as a family.

Throughout much of the year, I had back pain that I attributed to postpartum issues. (My kid was about a year old at the start of 2023.) I was so stiff, and often in pain. I knew I probably needed to regain strength, so I would try to lift weights, but every time I did, the back pain would get so much worse. I had people check my form; they said it looked great. I watched videos on how to brace and thought I was doing it right. (Spoiler, I was not.)

I was in & out of physical therapy several times, trying to find something that would help with my back pain. The first PT I saw had me focus on postural restoration, and I didn't understand at the time that that was kinda bullshit and not going to help my issues, and that set me back for several months. Eventually I switched PTs, and the next one asked me right away to flex my core. I was very confused at how to do that. It turned out, I could not actually activate my core muscles on command. My weak core meant that my back was doing all the work of supporting my body each day, and that made my back very tired! And when I lifted weights, my lack of core strength meant all the lifting was happening in my back, since I wasn't bracing (aka flexing my core) the way I needed to be. (The lifting videos that focused on simply breathing as part of the brace led me astray!) This PT said lack of core strength is very common in postpartum people, and was really surprised my previous PT had never even checked for that. The new PT had me practice flexing my core, then start core strengthening exercises, and my pain got much better! Except when I "graduated" PT, the doc said I should keep working on things at home, and then I did not, and now I am really kicking myself about it because I am having issues again and it's affecting my daily life rather a lot.

# Computer Crap

I also want to tell you about the software & other tools I use; I gave in and have put those in a separate post.

# Onwards; a Blessing

In 2024, I want to keep going on walks. I want to keep showing up for my community and my family. I will keeping love trans people with my whole heart. I will keep being queer, and living in accordance with my values as best I can. I may play some video games! I will certainly read books. I will listen to a lot more Adeem the Artist, and unfortunately, a lot more Baby Shark, too. I will keep learning to identify and honor my own needs. My wish for you is that you learn that, too, if it's something you haven't learned all the way yet.

May you show up for your community just as they show up for you. May we give thanks that we have made it through 2023, and hold in our hearts the many we cherish who did not. May we and all our beloveds make it through 2024, too.

May there be a ceasefire in Gaza.

May hungry children be fed.

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