Mary Anne Mohanraj


February 3 -- 10:22 PM

Tomorrow morning I get on a plane and fly to New York, where I will do a quick meet-up with my agent, a slightly longer meal with my sister and brother-in-law....and will then dive into three solid days of working on Tremontaine. I am very excite!

What is Tremontaine, you ask? Well, the short version is that it's a series fiction written by multiple authors, much in the same way television episodes are written by a roomful of writers. Yes? The first season has just wrapped up, thirteen episodes, and I'll be coming on board to write three episodes of season 2.

I'm exciting to be collaborating on this project. I've really enjoyed the work I've done on George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards (I have two stories in that universe, in _Fort Freak_ and _Lowball_), and it was really fun developing my poly threesome story and my South Asian super heroine who creates forcefields when she dances bharata natyam. It's been really fun figuring out how she fits into George's world, and while collaboration is always complex, it's also a lot of fun. Writing can be a lonely business.

But what really got me excited about this project was that it's the world of Swordspoint. Do you know Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint? You should know Swordspoint, intimately. I first found this novel when I was a baby bisexual, heading off to my first conventions, and I fell head over heels for the swordsman and his lover at the center of that book.

I'm still a little in love with them both, decades later. I've read and loved the other novels set in Riverside, and also grabbed up every short story in the world that Ellen grants us. I was super-excited when I saw that she was returning to the world with this Tremontaine serial fiction, so you can just imagine how much fun I'm going to have writing in this world.

Have I intrigued you? I hope so. If you want more, I would recommend you either a) go back to the beginning and start with Swordspoint, or b) dive right into Tremontaine.

You'll be hearing a lot more from me on the subject soon. :-)

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February 3 -- 9:48 PM

My workshop LOVED the new draft of the SF novel. I have to say, people, I was feeling really tense about it, because I worked super-hard on the revision, and I thought it was really good, hugely improved from the previous version, but it's so hard to judge your own stuff, so I wasn't sure AT ALL, and when they started telling me how much they loved it, it was like this huge weight rolling off my back.

I mean, I still have to write the rest of the book. But the first 32,857 words are pretty golden. :-) :-) :-)

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February 2 -- 2:38 PM

Cancer log 154: Anand's been having enough trouble with school (acting out, etc.) that we asked for a meeting with the support people. I can't remember who warned me that it might be a lot of people, but I appreciate the warning -- there were literally ten school people in the room with me and Kev, which would definitely have been unnerving if I didn't know that in advance. (They did send me a list of who would be there.) It was his teacher, social worker and team facilitator, psychologist, school nurse, occupational therapist, special ed. resource teacher, principal, an intern -- and two more I'm forgetting. Whew.

I took many notes, which I may transcribe at some point, but the upshot is that they think Anand is sort of on the borderline of typical vs. atypical kindergarten behavior (sensory issues, impulsivity, etc.), and it's up to us whether we want to pursue testing to consider early intervention for things like additional occupational therapy. They also strongly recommended some more physical activity for him, like swimming (which he's super resistant to, I think in part because the pool is loud, and he has trouble with loud spaces) or gymnastics, to help him get a better sense of his body and how to control it. I think we probably will look into testing, including gifted testing, just so we have a better sense of what might be helpful.

The school nurse said, "I always tell parents: a little extra physical therapy never hurt anyone." Fair enough.

And I'm posting this as a cancer log because, as I told the school support group, after getting the diagnosis last January, much of our family time was swallowed up with testing and treatment, finishing up in mid-December. Our parenting went into maintenance mode for a full year, and while the kids are doing okay, I think Kevin and I are both feeling bad about it. It's clear, for example, that Anand has not gotten as much help with school stuff as Kavi was getting from us at the same age. We were confused as to why he started acting out more a few weeks ago, when things are finally getting back to normal on my health front, but as one of them said, sometimes kids hold it together through the hard times, and then once the crisis has passed, then they feel free to let the emotions out. Makes sense; I felt that way myself.

We're back now, and have started doing things like working with him every night on his writing and reading, and I'm pretty hopeful that once he learns to read, a lot of the school behavior will smooth out. But still, we can afford to spend a little money and time to get him tested, so we'll do that. Feeling grateful that we have those resources. And grateful that the (public) school has such a great and well-resourced team working together to help Anand have a hopefully happy and successful school experience.

(I should say, we're not super-concerned about any of this. Mostly, we'd like him to a) not disrupt the classroom and/or get a reputation as a difficult / trouble-making kid, and b) enjoy school, and think of it as a fun place. I really liked going to school. So does Kavya. Hopefully, Anand will soon too.)

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February 2 -- 10:51 AM

Cancer log 153: I promised that I would tell you guys about the Victoria's Secret trip, post-lumpectomy. It was weird, people. So as context, I'll note that I developed breasts at age 9, and they were large, DD. This was not a blessing, esp. on a five foot tall frame. You can imagine my misery, in my Catholic school uniform with its gaping buttons. I thought about a reduction for a long time, but I wanted to have kids and have the option of breastfeeding, so I waited. And I'm not sorry I waited, but after I'd had my kids (whom I ended up pumping exclusively for because neither would nurse, but that's another story), I practically skipped my way to the plastic surgeon's office for a reduction.

By that point, my breasts had grown and shrunk and grown and shrunk a few times through pregnancies, and were somewhere in the F range and I was living with constant back pain. Had the surgery, recovered in a few weeks, back pain went away, like MAGIC. (That was 2011 -- back pain is still gone, five years later.) My only regret was that the surgeon wasn't willing to go all the way down to a B, so I settled for reducing to a C. (He had some arguments about it not being medically wise to take away that much at once, but later conversations with others, including other doctors, indicate that it was more likely that he was used to shaping a C cup, and was both uncertain of his ability to do a good job with a B, and was worried that I would complain afterwards that they were too small. If I'd realized that, I would've pushed harder for the B. Oh well.)

Fast forward to 2015 and breast cancer diagnosis, and yes, I will always wonder -- if we'd taken out more at the reduction, might we have caught the bit with the cancer too? I'll never know the answer to that question.

I did five months of chemo first, which shrank the tumor significantly, so that in the end, they were able to do a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. So if you look at my breast, the upper half looks normal, but the lower inner quadrant is mostly scooped out, and there's a big puckered scar. If I wear a lined bra (or a compressing sports bra), it's entirely unnoticeable under clothes. Without a bra, you might notice, if you were staring at my chest.

So I needed a couple of new bras, in part because they'd also taken out some lymph nodes under my arm (diagnostic), and the underwire in my bras was poking that tender area very uncomfortably. (It was worst at the tail end of radiation, actually, when that area essentially sunburned and then the skin peeled.) I went bra-less when I could, but I was still teaching, so that wasn't always an option. And I was at the mall, and they had a Victoria's Secret, so I went in.

People. That place. I think I hadn't been in one in a decade or so. Their bras aren't cheap, and I've mostly been picking up bras at Target since the reduction, since it had gotten much easier to find bras that fit me and supported sufficiently. VS has really changed their set-up. Now you walk in, and one of their fit people accosts you, and takes you into the back, where the walls are lined with dark pink cushioned fabric, so it's almost as if you're inside a giant vulva -- I'm sorry, but seriously, that's what it looks like. And then they fit you, and they have a sample of all their bras in back, so you tell them what styles you're interested in, and they bring you the different styles in your size to try. And once you've finalized fit and style, you can go out and pick the colors you want. It's all very regimented, and they get a little distressed if you try to vary from their script.

It felt weird, being in that place that seemed so clearly designed to help your breasts conform to a certain aesthetic (perky, cleavage-y, well-supported, etc.). I felt like I was failing at feminity, with my scarred, quarter-gone breast.

In the end, I bought two bras, and I like them well enough, though I'm not sure it was worth going through the gauntlet. Amusingly, they asked what size I thought I was, and I told them, and they looked at me and said they thought I was wrong, and then they measured me and were surprised to find I was right. Hah!

I'm not sure I would have even gotten around to writing all this up, because it all felt a little distasteful and sad-making, but yesterday I stopped into Jayne, which is a cute little store down the street, and they had just gotten in these lovely little bralettes, I think they're called. And I'd never owned such a thing, because even after the reduction, I was in the habit of buying the sturdy, heavy-duty bras. But I don't actually need those anymore, and this was so charming, in pink and gray lace, so I tried it on, and the sales folk and I agreed that it was so pretty that it'd be a shame to cover it up, and didn't it look great paired with the lace tank top I happened to be wearing that day?

So in conclusion, if you find a bra that makes you feel pretty, you should buy it, and be damned to what Victoria's Secret thinks your breasts are supposed to look like. The end.

(Note: If you're wondering what happened to log 152, it was all about my hair, and I am feeling lazy about editing and posting several photos here. But if you want to read that post with its pictures, you can find it on Facebook here.)

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February 1 -- 8:32 PM

So, I mentioned to Kavi that I was leaving on Thursday to go to New York for a few days (Tremontaine planning session), and she got upset, which was surprising. She said I go on trips ALL THE TIME, and she even started to cry a little.

I admit, I was kind of bewildered, because I've hardly gone anywhere for months, so I wasn't sure where this was coming from. I did go to CT for a few days right after New Year's to help my parents with some things, and Kevin reminded me that I've done the AirBnb once since then, although I stayed in town and actually came back mornings and nights, so the kids still saw me every day. Still, Kavi was upset, and I felt so bad for her.

I ended up pulling out the shared calendar, and showing her my upcoming trips, and also, all the other weekends and weeks when I'll be here, which is most of them. And I showed her our upcoming family trips in May too, and after going through, week by week, she was doing much better. I think it helped her, having a better handle on exactly when I'd be gone, and seeing how little it actually was. (Miss Kavya likes to plan, and know exactly what to expect. This is the child who lays out her clothes for school the night before, every night.)

But mostly I'm mentioning this because after all that, I had a bit of a brainstorm. See, I had gotten her a Christmas present, of a little silver heart locket engraved with a 'K,' with photos of her and me inside it. And then Christmas was harried, with lots of visitors and lots of presents, and I decided to just hang on to it 'til her birthday instead, which is coming up in May. But after this whole conversation, I pulled it out and gave it to her last night instead.

Reader, she LOVED it. I am not sure I can emphasize enough how happy it made her. Kavi wore it to school today, and apparently every single girl in the class wanted to see it, and wanted to know if it opened, and if there were photos inside it, and some of her friends made her show them over and over again. And she told me again today that she LOVED it.

I was afraid lockets were a little old-fashioned and passť, but apparently, eight-year-old girls still find the whole concept totally entrancing. Which makes me think that it might be time to go hunt up a diary with a key that locks; if I'm remembering right, that was a big deal when I was about this age.

Anyway, crisis averted, bad mommy moment turned into awesome mommy moment, whew. Sheer luck -- I only did it because I happened to like some of the photos we took this summer of the two of us at my own birthday outing. This working mother thing -- it's not so easy sometimes. Parenting in general -- mostly, you just hope you're not messing up too badly!

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