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Duncan da Husky
24 May 2016 @ 09:53 am

If the past year and a half has had a theme for me, it has been understanding mental health and what maintaining good mental health requires. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I have always been a worrier, constantly fretting about bad possibilities and such. When confronted I was always laughed it off with, “I’m a worrier; it’s what I do. It’s my hobby.”

Somewhere along the line I realized that maybe that’s not quite normal. Maybe being in a state of frequent anxiety, lying awake at night worrying about things I can’t change, wasn’t always necessary. It took me a long time to figure this out - years, actually. And it was a big step when I finally talked to my doctor about this a little over a year ago and started on a path to setting myself to rights. I can honestly say it was the right decision, and my life has improved immeasurably since. I admit that sometimes feel guilty concerning myself with self-care, but I need to remind myself that sometimes you need to bail out your own boat before you can sail to assist others.

I have given a lot of thought to stress and anxiety: what causes it, how to avoid it. I am fortunate that my current job, while occasionally stressful, is usually pretty easygoing. Travel is always stressful to me, so after consideration I realized that the smartest thing to do is to do what it takes to lower that stress - TSA Precheck, buying upgrades to premium economy (or first class, if the pricing is right), allowing plenty of time at the airports. This has made it a much more pleasant experience and business travel is much less likely to leave me a total wreck.

Similarly, I’ve given a lot of thought to social interactions. Over the past decade+, the organizational bug has led me to want to plan Big Events - big parties, restaurant outings, that sort of thing. I came to realize that while the sense of accomplishment was great, at the end of things I frequently wasn’t happy. I didn’t get to spend as much time with friends as I would have liked, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and sometimes I was just glad that it was over with. I finally recognized that I was creating stress for myself for no good reason.

From a social standpoint, we shifted to smaller gatherings at our house for dinner. While still a fun organizational challenge, it also allowed for greater interaction with friends and was a more enjoyable experience all around. The downside of this is that we can’t invite all of our friends to every gathering, which invariably means that someone will hear of something going on that they are not invited to. I feel quite guilty about this, because I hate the idea of anyone feeling excluded. The reality is, though, that this is necessary to help keep me balanced. To all of our friends, I can only ask for patience and your understanding. If all goes well, now that we are off the strict dietary program, I hope to make small dinner parties a more frequent occasion at our house and invite a constantly-changing group of friends each time.  (And yes, part of this this is a very long-winded apology in advance lest anyone ever feel left out.)

At conventions, while throwing huge parties has been a thing for us, I have to admit that I’d be OK letting that fall by the wayside as well. Smaller, more laid-back gatherings are more likely to occur. Something that will not change (overall) is Wuffmeet, our annual party. That is our one big fun event and I love helping to organize it. The one thing that must change, though, is finally committing to what we have said that we needed to do for a long time: offloading some of the responsibilities of the event to friends who have said they are willing to help. What this looks like is still to be determined, but it is something that needs to happen.

In all of this you have probably noticed I’m talking about “me” and “I”. What about my husband? Dan has been incredibly supportive through all of this, putting up with my ups and downs, and always helping to keep me grounded. While not a complete introvert, he has introvert tendencies, and I have come to understand that better. We have agreed that keeping our social event planning more limited is something that works well for both of us, and that there are times when it just needs to be us alone doing something together and that’s OK. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am and how lucky I feel to have wonderful man like him by my side.

So this is where I am right now. I am in a constantly-evolving state, learning what works and what doesn’t, and making changes to my life as necessary. It’s not easy, but I believe in the end I will be happier and more at peace, and those dear to me will be happier as well.
 
 
Duncan da Husky

I realized yesterday that I bought my first M/M romance book on June 7, 2015. They've all been through Amazon Kindle (read using the Kindle app on my iPad or laptop), which is good and bad – good for easy accessibility, bad for impulse buying! While musing about this over the last few days I made some observations:


  • Everyone in this genre is fit, muscle-bound, and well-endowed. As someone in the rather average-to-chubby side of the spectrum this was a little off-putting until I realized that as a gay man, I am not the target demographic for these books. The majority of the market is women writing for women, and as much as women are subjected to ridiculous beauty standards by men I suppose turnabout is fair play, particularly when it comes to fantasizing. And that’s OK – the beauty of reading is I build whatever image of the characters I like in my mind as I read. That said, it would be nice to find something well-written with guys who are average or maybe even a little bearish (which apparently exists!).
  • M/M romance novel covers range from OK to hilariously bad. To whit:



    I’ll assume this is due to self-published works or working with a small publisher of limited means. Since I’m buying ebooks it doesn’t really matter much to me, though I’ve learned to avoid looking at the cover before I read a book’s synopsis.
  • Dreamspinner Press is one of the biggest publishers of M/M Romance out there. They have a lot of good stuff…and a lot of dreck.
  • Goodreads is invaluable for exploring a new genre of fiction, but you can’t take the numerical ratings at face value. I find I need to read the reviews to see what the average reviewer is reading for – it’s often not what I’m looking for in a book. Even so, I’ve been trying to limit my explorations to books/authors whose average reviews run better than 4.0 (out of 5). The pickings are starting to get a little slim. This leads me to…
  • The more narrow the genre, the fewer the possible titles, and the even fewer possible titles worth reading. M/M romance, no problem. M/M Romance/Paranormal, ok but fewer. M/M Romance/Paranormal/Werewolves, you start to really narrow your choices. There are still some gems to be found, though.
  • The fans of each genre on Goodreads have their own jargon and acronyms. For M/M Romance you have things like MC (main character), HEA (happily ever after), Gay For You (GFY). The latter notion (“I’m straight, but I’ll go gay for you”) annoys me slightly because I believe the correct term would be “bisexual” but there’s no point in getting my hackles up over it.
  • I’ve found things that I adore in a book: a drawn-out courtship, good writing, a coherent plot, and likeable characters. I also like well-constructed conflict, though not to the point where everything bad in the world happens to the main characters. Many reviewers dismissively call this “angst” but I think it is an essential storytelling element.
  • Conversely, I’m not a fan of instant-meet-fall-in-love-and-directly-into-bed, more sex than plot, or ridiculous plot developments that only exist for an obvious non-plot related purpose (i.e. introducing a character for the next book in the series).
  • Many books follow a very obvious structure: Introduce characters. Introduce conflict between characters. Resolve conflict between characters. Introduce conflict between characters and outside parties/forces. Resolve conflict between characters and outside parties/forces. Happily ever after. Now, this is certainly not unique to this genre by any means, but this is the first time I’ve seen such blatant examples of plotting by numbers. Good books can follow this slavishly as long as it is well-written and well-plotted.
  • Writing a good first book is the easy part. Writing sequels is more difficult. Writing sequels that include the same characters as the first book and keeping the reader’s interest is really, really hard, particularly if you’ve already wrapped up their story with a Happily Ever After in the first book.
  • Finding one author you really like and working your way through their books is pretty awesome (see also: Amy Lane).
  • (Edited to add one I forgot!) Apparently in M/M romances, there are no tops and there are no bottoms. Everyone is a switch. Cute in concept, not particularly likely from my experience. There’s probably some interesting psychology behind this - authors introducing a notion of equality between partners, perhaps, although that gets into the probematic question of whether either role is a sign of dominance or submission. Or maybe they just like to see everyone having fun in as many ways as possible!



  • I have really enjoyed this year of reading, and I am still learning more about the genre and finding new and interesting authors (and revisiting authors whose other works I've read, too!). After taking literally a few decades off from casual reading, I am finding this a welcome and refreshing return to something that I have always deeply enjoyed.
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    15 May 2016 @ 10:07 am

    Have you ever read a scene in a book that was so powerfully emotional and vivid that you can still see and feel it clearly even months after finishing the book?  For me, it’s in Amy Lane’s Keeping Promise Rock. The reviews on Goodreads are interesting - many low-to-middling ratings by people who say it’s “too angsty” (these are offset by more reviews raving about it, which makes me glad because that was how I found the book!). I don’t know if I’m approaching it differently, or if I can visualize the characters and their situations more, or maybe it’s just that others are just looking for a light and fluffy read, which this definitely is not.

    I can’t really go into the details of the scene due to spoilers, but for those who have read the book it is the one with Deacon in the storm with Crick’s horse. It really sticks with me and I don’t know why, but I’m glad that I read it and that it could invoke that depth of feeling. I guess the book is going into my to-reread pile!




    Originally posted 28 April 2016
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    HowlWalk

    How to Howl at the Moon, by Eli Easton (Howl at the Moon #1)
    How to Walk Like a Man, by Eli Easton (Howl at the Moon #2)

    First off, a few things about me: I’m a gay man who enjoys well-written gay romance novels. I am a complete sucker for courtship stories. Finally, I’m a fan of anthropomorphic fiction and art (colloquially, a furry fan).

    All of these things combine to make me the target demographic for these books (though the latter is not a requirement – if you enjoy fantasy fiction, this will be up your alley as well).

    The full review is below the cut...
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    Originally posted 23 March 2016
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    15 May 2016 @ 10:03 am
    Well, here we go! As of today, Dan and I are participating in Centegra Hospital’s Optifast Program. You can find more info here, but here’s the short version:
    •    12 weeks of nothing but Optifast shakes, bars, and soups.
    •    8 weeks of transitioning back to real food
    •    8 weeks of maintenance/consultation

    During the first 12 weeks there are weekly classes, bloodwork, and metabolism monitoring. After that, there are monthly meetings/consultations, and follow-up with the program. This is a Really Big Deal, but it is something that we feel needs to be done.

    Some Frequently Asked Questions below the cut!
    Read more...Collapse )
    Originally posted 09 February 2016
     
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    15 May 2016 @ 10:00 am

    Why do I keep working for Midwest FurFest, even after 16 years? Last night’s Closing Ceremonies reminded me why.



    MFF’s charity this year was Save-A-Vet (http://ift.tt/XW2mgm), a group that helps rescue military and law enforcement working dogs when their service to country and community is done, and provides housing and relief for disabled veterans who help take care of the dogs. It’s a wonderful cause, and the people running it are incredibly nice.

    Fund raising went on all throughout the convention. At Closing Ceremonies, the readout of the money raised rolled in. $800 from one event, $500 from another. $400 just from passing the hat at a comedy improv event. The Charity Auction, highlighted by a hockey stick signed by the 2015 Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks which went for $5,500, brought in a total of $8,600. Add to that several thousand dollars in donations from the jar on their table (including a check for $1,000!), and the total came to $19,400. The charity thought that was wonderful - their annual operating budget is $21,000.

    Then came the famous “One More Thing”…a giant corgi brought out a large novelty check from the convention for $40,000. The Save-A-Vet guys were overwhelmed, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Once everything settled down, it was announced that the final take was just shy of $60,000.

    And here’s the part that reminds me why I love this community.

    A voice from the back of the audience (of 1,000+) called out “How shy are you?” And it was noted that they were at $59,400. And that’s when someone came up from the audience and tossed a twenty dollar bill on the stage. Then someone else came up. And another until soon there was a steady stream of people walking up, dropping off cash, and returning to their seats. This went on for a couple of minutes as the charity and even the convention leadership looked on in astonishment. And in the end, that little extra help turned out to be an additional $2,600. And again, there were tears of gratitude all around.

    Furry fandom is a composed of people from all walks of life who like to get together at conventions, hang out with friends, wear funny fake animal suits, and make art of animal people. Yeah, they’re weird.

    But you know what? I’m proud to call myself part of that bunch of weirdos!

    originally posted 08 December 2015
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    15 May 2016 @ 09:57 am
    I’ve been reading romances lately, and a thought struck me. It’s comforting and even jealousy-inspiring to read of burning hot relationships and declarations of undying love, but in reality? Maintaining a relationship like that would be absolutely freaking exhausting! It’s an interesting reminder of the realities of relationships, and that holding up romance fiction as some sort of ideal is a really bad idea.
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    15 May 2016 @ 09:53 am
    Believe it or not, I do still read LJ. It comes up in my morning tabs each day and I enjoy reading the friends who still post here.

    These days I'm posting much more to Twitter and Tumblr (the latter of which is mirrored in my personal blog). I'm going to repost a couple of things which were important to me over the last 8 months or so, so there is at least some new content here :-)

    In the future, I will make an effort to post my occasional writing here. I'll leave the photos and fluffy reblogs and such to Tumblr, though.
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    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Arctic Char on a cedar plank with a brown sugar-mustard glaze (and Pumpking in the background!) (at Beelow’s Steakhouse)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1LPQ57u

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    The Pajun Pancake. #yum (at Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1Q1GnAu

     
     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Also, today’s specials. I went with the pajun pancakes, though. (at Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1ErpQ7o

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Decisions, decisions… (at Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1LDQJEY

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    29 August 2015 @ 07:07 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    #Furry table represent!

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1X0kqq5

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    29 August 2015 @ 06:39 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    #Furry table represent!

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1X0kqq5

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Why yes, we are seated at the furry table. We are Those People 😄

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1X0kpSV

     
     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Gratuitous #dog photo. Buddy says, “a Where’s my doggie treats?”

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1WZJKN4

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Buddy says Happy #NationalDogDay!

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1JnpXzS

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    26 August 2015 @ 06:16 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    This week’s#CSA box.

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1MVEk2n

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Oh my goodness, this is absolutely delicious!

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1JhwwUF

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Klingon Warnog. So apparently this a thing.

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1EbMIYT

     
     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    21 August 2015 @ 12:04 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    Buddy is ready to go out now!

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1h17YW3

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    The rib tips called to me (and neither of us felt like cooking). (at Hickory Pit BBQ)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1TX39tJ

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    19 August 2015 @ 05:47 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    This week’s #CSA box.

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1TWNmeh

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

    And suddenly, it’s autumn! (at Cranberry Lake)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1hqcsq9

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    19 August 2015 @ 10:25 am

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. You can comment here or there.

    I never really thought I lived a sheltered life. I mean, I’ve been involved in various fannish activities in different genres, I’ve read science fiction and fantasy all my life, fanfiction (both good and awful), and nonfiction of all stripes. I generally have a good idea of what is available to the modern reader. Apparently there is one genre I overlooked: romances. Specifically, gay romances written by women. So that’s a thing.

    I have always thought of romances as bits of puffery that one reads while lounging at the beach, half paying attention. Perhaps the literary equivalent of a Twinkie. A few months ago, one of my favorite podcasts, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, devoted an entire show to romance novels. It’s not something I normally would listen to, but I do adore all of the people on the show and enjoy listening to them chat. An offhanded reference to gay romances caught my attention. “Huh.” I though.  “I wonder if that’s worth looking into.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.



    Another reason why I love getting our dog’s prescriptions filled at Costco 😀

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1PqDh8J

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    14 August 2015 @ 04:31 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.



    So, so tempted… (at Costco)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1UJ8p6n

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.



    Bored-while-waiting-for-a-prescription-at-Costco selfie. (at Costco)

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1Mp1Jaz

     
     
    Duncan da Husky
    12 August 2015 @ 07:27 pm

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.



    This week’s CSA haul!

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1hyTTzT

     
     
    Duncan da Husky

    Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.



    It appears that Tootsie likes Buddy’s food…

    on tumblr: http://ift.tt/1MZ8GAK