Hi, new people and friending meme visitors! Here is a little bit about me, as of January 2019. ( Who, what, where, when )Why
Why I use Dreamwidth: to keep a record of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and to participate in a community of people who like working at slower speeds and longer lengths than most social media permits.
Why I choose to keep existing: because as grim and awful as this world can be, it's also amazing and wondrous, and has such people in't. I try to pay attention to all the ways things are better than they were ten or twenty or thirty years ago, and to use that as fuel for hope in—and working toward—an even brighter future.
We got SO MUCH DONE this weekend. God, it's great when we're not all sick! I still have a little bit of a sniffle but I'm basically better, and everyone else is fine, and we got a sitter for Saturday afternoon (our first time working with her; she's terrific and will hopefully become a regular) so we could get even more done. My Shabbat was not remotely restful—as the sun went down on Saturday, J and X basically shoved me into my room and told me to read a book for half an hour so I'd at least remember what rest is like
—but it was extremely fulfilling all the same.
Movers came at 1 on Saturday and took away three big pieces of furniture we didn't want. A Taskrabbit guy showed up at 3 and spent two and a half hours (!) building Kit's new play kitchen
, a birthday gift from my mother and her husband. Kit LOVES IT. (We were hoping that it would give them something to do while J is cooking dinner, but no, they'd still rather be in the real kitchen around the boiling water and sharp knives. Oh well.) X sniffed out some cat pee in Kit's room and cleaned it up. J helped me move furniture around in my room; my bed now points north-south instead of east-west, and that gives me room for a standing desk right next to my bed, which is the only way I'm going to use a standing desk instead of using my laptop in bed all the time like I currently do. I did a bunch of stuff-purging, cleaned off the top of my bedside table, and went through all my unframed artwork to see what I wanted to keep (almost all of it, to my pleasant surprise, but I decided I could let go of my 2002 architecture class final project). I also sorted a heap of mail into 90% recycling, 5% "file this", and 5% "do something with this". And somewhere in there I read an entire book, because I do that now!
Today the bustling continued! Kit slept in late and didn't go down to nap until nearly 2:00, so by the time X and I were done with the Readercon concom meeting, Kit was passed out and we could all focus on household things. I ran a couple of washloads, and X and I sorted and folded clean laundry. J moved the last free-floating bookcase out of his room and into the living room where it belongs, and I did my best to level it (our floors are very uneven). He tidied his room, purging a ton of unwanted shirts from his closet, and X tidied theirs, cleaning off a bookcase and trialing using it for clothing storage (because ADHD = out of sight out of mind, and putting clothes where they can see them means the clothes are more likely to be worn, or at least that's the theory). In a very Marie Kondo moment, I turned a shoe box into plastic grocery bag storage; we cannot possibly need more than will fit in there, and it keeps them compact rather than storing a lot of air. J even cleaned out the fridge. The paper recycling, flexible plastic recycling, and trash bins, which were all emptied on Friday, are jammed full.
Kit woke up full of energy. I wanted sun, and the weather was nice, so I took them to the park to give X and J some downtime. They had a blast on the playground equipment and were very sad they couldn't stay on the swings basically forever. We came home and ate dinner and the four of us had a dance party, with X as our DJ; Kit put on their favorite ruffly skirt and danced until they wore out, and then lay on the floor moaning "more, more". It was everything a springtime weekend afternoon should be.
After Kit went to bed, J chilled out and X and I did some Readercon work. X also tried on a whole bunch of new skirts and shirts that I'd ordered for them, with about a 70% success rate, and the rejects are in my room waiting to be packed up and shipped off. Now everyone's asleep and I should be working, but I'm still vibrating with energy. I've had a snack and some taurine, and I'm going to do more laundry and hope I can settle down enough to get some editing done and go to bed. I really don't want to stay up all night going through my old CDs or something.
Next steps: cull the mass market books and mythology books in J's room and do another round of trade-size book culling in the living room, go through my old CDs, dispose of all the things we're purging (adult clothing to the fabric recycling at an upcoming Saturday greenmarket, Kit's outgrown clothing to friends, electronics and chemicals to the SAFE disposal event on April 7, books to Books Through Bars or Housing Works, CDs to Craigslist or Freecycle ["must take all"], misc. stuff out by the front stoop for neighbors to take), select and buy a few more pieces of furniture (a new cabinet for the hallway outside J's room, a new wardrobe and some other furnishings for J), digitize some old audio and video tapes (or decide it's time to let them go) and send them off to recycling, properly sort and shelve our remaining books (I get dizzy with joy just thinking about having all our books alphabetized again).
The house looks so much more like the home we want. It's so exciting! One step at a time, we're getting there.
We ordered some meals from Prepped, a delivery service that promises heat-and-eat meals with special attention to restrictive diets. You can sort their site by dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, etc.
- Arrived with no instructions at all. X put them in the freezer because they weren't sure they were supposed to go in the fridge. (Turns out they can be either fridged or frozen. Would have been nice if someone had told us that!)
- Are lumps in vacuum-sealed packaging, not attractively packaged meals.
- Have no instructions for heating. I had to text their customer service. (Customer service via text is pretty great.)
- Are not good. I mean, they're edible, but I've had better cafeteria food.
So I texted customer service saying, "Look, this is not great food, the steak is in big lumps rather than slices so I can't heat it evenly, there was way too much garlic in the chicken and too much pepper in the cauliflower, and you sent me at least one wrong item. Can we get a partial refund?"
And they wrote back—I have to copy and paste this—
"Well we will report this right now and see if some form of refund can be granted, but we typically get complaints of this nature tbh"
Do you now.
I replied, "If your food is consistently poor quality, I don't see that as a reason not to give people refunds, but I appreciate your honesty."
So if you were thinking of ordering from Prepped: don't.
I have a cold again (thanks, snotmonster baby) and apparently all colds now give me PMS-like emotional lability, so there's no point to writing journal entries about how I'm feeling because how I'm feeling is ALL THE FEELINGS AT ONCE ALSO GIVE ME TEA AND BATHS. But! I did want to make note of one thing, and that is that I have been reading. And I've been reading hungrily and with great delight.
All it took, in the end, after all my angsting over reader's block, was something very simple: getting rid of my to-read list/pile/shelf/shelves. I jettisoned the whole concept. Instead, I read whatever I felt like reading. And once I let myself do that, there was so much I felt like reading.
On Tuesday night J and I were coming home from our date night and I was fidgety with impatience because I'd started a book and wanted to keep reading it, and it was at home and I was on the train. We got home, J went to bed, I blazed through my work, and then I looked at the clock and how much I had left in the book and thought, "I think I can finish this by 4:30 and get to bed by 5." (I did in fact finish it by 4:30, but it gave me too many thoughts and feelings for me to go to bed by 5, so I will factor that into future time estimates.) Once I start a book, I really don't want to stop until I'm done; that's how I've always read. It feels so good to dive in.
The book I read on Tuesday is a forthcoming book that has time travel elements. It made me think of Dean Koontz's Lightning, so I found my copy, and that's what I read today. It turns out that being able to follow those connections from one book to the next, and to bounce between new and familiar books, is really important to me. I had never thought of it that way. I wouldn't have known that about myself if I hadn't gotten my to-read list out of the way and allowed myself to read the way I naturally tend to.
(I'd forgotten that Lightning was the book that made me decide, at age 12 or so, that when I grew up I would be a foster parent, because the depictions of foster children in it are so absolutely heart-rending. Assuming Kit moves out someday, I've mentioned to X and J that after a year or two of enjoying having a guest room, I'd like to foster queer kids. I should possibly make it clearer to them that for me this falls into the category of childhood dreams, and is that rare childhood dream that seems actually achievable, unlike being a ballerina detective. I don't talk about it much, but it's something that's felt central to my concept of myself for a really long time. I never had ambitions to be a parent because I knew I never wanted to get pregnant, but I very badly wanted, and still want, to save every single kid in the foster care system. All because of a book.)
I've finished Lightning and it hasn't sparked a longing for a particular book or genre, so I'm open to seeing what comes next. The book on Kabbalah I got from the library last week? The M/M romance novel that sounds cheesy and delicious? Something off the shelf that is no longer the to-read shelf? Probably not the Regency romance I brought home a few weeks ago; I thought I would want to read it because of things I'd heard about it, but I think I was wrong. I'm still learning what exactly I look for in books, what's likely to make me say "Yes THAT, I want to read THAT". After all these years of having book opinions, you'd think I would know. But I've changed as a reader, and my concept of myself hasn't caught up.1 So I will take some time to observe myself and see what I reach for. I'm looking forward to it.
1: The original footnote 1, circa 2005, was "Whenever I tell you something about myself, it should probably be regarded at least as nonsense and more generally as pure bullshit. Life's so much easier when you ignore or at least disregard any explanation I make for my behavior or suggestion I offer for preferred behavior around me. Just observe me, and trust your observations. Simpler and more flexible all around." In 2006 I updated this to "If your judgment conflicts with what I've told you, your judgment has an excellent chance of being based on more current information than my self-evaluation and therefore more accurate." These days I'd phrase it more as "This is my current understanding of myself, but my information may be out of date." All my posts tagged 'footnote 1' are from 2005–2008, but I have not forgotten about it—it's a very useful essential truth about me—and possibly all my posts should be tagged with it as a matter of course.
It's funny how all my fears about "what if reading makes me feel things!" have totally vanished now that I'm reading the books I want to read rather than reading the books I feel like I'm supposed to read. I hadn't even remembered having that fear until just now. When I initiate contact with the book in an atmosphere where consent is built in from the start, when I feel fundamentally in control of my reading experience, I'm so much more comfortable gradually relinquishing that control to the writer (once they've earned my trust) and allowing myself to get swept away. There's no past-Rose or imagined wielder of "should" being an intrusive third party and telling me what I'm supposed to want. I just get to want what I want. Absolutely liberating.
Hi, books! I missed you! Let's catch up!
When I was growing up, my mom taught me that if I ever had a nightmare, I could call the Dream Police and they would save me. This was apparently very effective for her when she was young. Alas, I never managed to do lucid dreaming to that extent, but I remembered the idea of it.
Kit has gotten afraid of monsters under the bed lately. X drew an ambulance on Kit's headboard to protect them from the previous fear, scary shadows, and we told them it was also effective against monsters. (They call everything with a siren a "weeyoo" and I'm not sure they really distinguish among fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars, but specifying an ambulance makes us feel better even if it doesn't matter to Kit. We are not big fans of the NYPD.) X and J taught them to flap their hands at monsters and say "Shoo!", and then Kit realized they could roar and growl at monsters to scare them away, so they do this gleefully. We practice monster aversion every night at bedtime, like fire drills, playing around a little but always taking Kit's fears seriously. They know and we know that the monsters aren't real, but the fear is.
Today after naptime, Kit told me and X they'd had a nightmare. (We didn't even know they knew that word.) They said it involved monsters, and they tapped their teeth a lot and then put all their fingers in their mouth, so either the monsters bit them or the monsters had big teeth, I guess. We cuddled them and I told them that if they have monsters in their dreams, they can shoo them away, scare them away, or call the Dream Weeyoo for a rescue. So now that lesson passes to the third generation, and possibly the fourth—I seem to recall that my mother learned it from her mother, though I'm not sure my recollection is correct.
Kit likes wearing their coat around the house because it makes them look big and scary. This afternoon we got two puffy winter coats on them, and added a pair of oven mitts and a kitty ear headband for maximum scariness. They happily ran around growling. No monster would dare.
At bedtime I asked Kit if they wanted me to sing "Goodnight Moon" to them, and they nodded and then said "Monster". So "Goodnight Moon" became "Goodnight Monster" (and "goodnight cow jumping over the monster", naturally), and we also said goodnight to weeyoos and beeping cars and the potty and books and Brooklyn.
Just now I heard a little whimper from their room, where they are managing to sleep despite a very stuffy nose. If they're having another nightmare, I hope they can shoo or scare the monsters off. And if not, may the Dream Weeyoos swoop them away and keep them safe until morning.
Back when J and I were childless and had things like money, energy, and time, we'd take an "annual honeymoon" on our anniversary weekend. We'd like to restart that tradition this year. Our couple-versary is the second Saturday in April, and our wedding anniversary is April 8, so our plan is to go somewhere April 12–14.
Since our original honeymoon was in Japan in springtime, we have strong associations with our anniversary and cherry blossoms. I suggested going down to D.C., where the cherry trees bloom around the right time. We agreed that we don't want to spend much time in D.C. proper, especially in places thronged with tourists, but would like to find somewhere nice to go that meets the following requirements:
- Has pretty cherry trees in town or very nearby.
- Can ideally be reached via public transit or a not-hugely-expensive cab. We might rent a car while we're there so we can travel around the area a bit, but we prefer to wander on foot.
- Has a fair bit of walkable downtown and/or nearby low-effort hiking trails; see above re wandering on foot.
- Has a decent hotel with a restaurant or dining room where J can get coffee and breakfast while I'm still asleep.
- Has enough good restaurants to feed us four excellent, non-allergenic meals.
- Is safe for visibly queer Jewish Yankees to visit. I figure this is probably most places... but it doesn't hurt to specify.
The best options I've found so far seem to be Old Ellicott City, Md., which looks delightful (and could use some tourist dollars after a terrible flood a few years ago) and is near Centennial Park, where cherry trees flower a little later than in D.C. and should be just about at peak on the weekend we'd be there; and Old Town Alexandria, Va., which is clearly touristy but has a fair bit of actual historical and local color, some cherry trees (past their peak by then), an Amtrak station, several Metro stops, and a big downtown. Right now we're leaning strongly toward Alexandria because we wouldn't need a car, which is a huge point in favor, and there are no conventional hotels near Ellicott City.
But I really know nothing at all about the region, so if you have local knowledge, please make suggestions!
Today I went to a judaica shop to buy a yahrzeit candle for a friend who needed one, and while I was there, I bought my first kippah.
It's dark green velvet, because of course it is. (A friend recently sent me a link to a green velvet evening suit, and I replied with several paragraphs of explanation of why I would absolutely wear a green velvet tailcoat but not with those trousers and definitely not with that shirt and... this is my brand, is all I'm saying.) I've been wearing it all evening. I don't want to take it off.
Over the past couple of years, as part of my exploration of Jewish practice, I've quietly gotten into the habit of covering my head most of the time when I'm out of the house—it's not the only reason I wear caps and hats a lot, but it's a significant reason. This was the obvious next step. I've been thinking about going into that shop for a while, and when my friend mention needing a candle, I leapt at the chance. I expect the kippah will mostly be an at-home and at-shul thing, but someday I'll be brave enough to wear it out and about. (I think the list of places to wear it, from least to most likely to get raised eyebrows or unwanted comments and questions, goes something like: home, Kolot, any other shul I'm likely to go to, most of New York, my office, the Orthodox end of my neighborhood, around my mother or brother.)
X, thinking of our Orthodox neighbors, asked whether I was planning to get a tallit katan
, the "little" prayer shawl (though it can look more like an undershirt) with dangling fringes (tzitzit) worn under everyday clothing. ( I have some thoughts about that. )
I suppose I could think of my binder as my gender tallit katan: something that goes under my shirt to remind me who I am and who I choose to be, and, for those who look closely enough to see it, a declaration to the world of my identity and affiliation. And I suppose that would make a tallit my Judaism binder: sometimes obvious and sometimes just for me, somewhat confining and not always in line with my mindset, powerfully affirming and community-connecting under the right circumstances. Something I should have in my closet just in case I wake up in the morning absolutely desperate to wear it, even if it's years between one wearing and the next.
(How does anyone grapple with this stuff without 40 years' worth of life experiences to draw analogies from?)
I would be very surprised indeed if the Lubavitcher judaica shop had a tallit katan designed for a non-bound body like mine, but I can DIY
. And perhaps I will. It needs more thinking about—both the whether and the how—and I'm in no hurry. There is a legend that all Jewish souls were present for the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai; if that's the case, my soul has been Jewish for several thousand years, and it can wait a little while longer for me to sort myself out.
There's a preview of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
on Google Books. I flipped through it for a bit.
If I had realized that this was essentially a memoir of having OCD, disguised as a manual for organizing one's home and life, I would have bought a copy years
ago. She sobs as she cleans red slime off of a shampoo basket! She rhapsodizes over shoe boxes! She exclaims at the accumulated grease on items kept next to the stove! This is my kind of book!
(Excuse me, please, I need to go make sure our toilet paper rolls are stored the right way up. This increases their odds of being put on the spindle correctly.)
So I bought it, along with her illustrated tidying manual, Spark Joy
. I'm quite happy with how I store my clothes and never have trouble finding what I'm looking for, but it's good to learn things.
Naturally I started reading the tidying manual first, and so far the introduction is a charming mix of funny anecdotes, acceptance and commitment therapy, and an analysis of the concept of spark joy
that sounds an awful lot like "NRE isn't the only kind of love". The last got me thinking about how fortunate I am to have so many lovely relationships with lovely people that I can use as metaphors. Is this object vivid and exciting? Is it warm and reliable? Is it something I could use every day and not get tired of? Is it something I only use rarely but am always so glad to have a chance to spend time with again? I understand those feelings because they're all things I feel for people. (Hello, lovely people.)
Then I realized that "fortunate" isn't the entirety of it, because I have spent the last 17 years KonMari-ing my personal life. (Longer if you count moving to San Francisco as my first attempt at it.) I phrased it more as "my social circle is an asshole-free zone" and "I have no tolerance for misery" and the like, but the underlying philosophy is the same. I have those lovely relationships with lovely people because I put effort into giving them my time and attention, and I have time and attention available because I don't waste my resources on people or relationships that aren't right for me. Likewise my lovely job and lovely hobbies.
Speaking of which, I'm spearheading a big project at work, which is very exciting, and told X and J that it was partner-level important to me. J said, "Yeah, you were overdue for one of those." I related this to my boss with some amusement, and explained that every few years something comes along that I am absolutely passionate about and I throw myself into it.
He said, "And when the next one happens, you get rid of the last one?"
"Oh no," I said. "I keep them all. I get rid of everything that doesn't
make me feel like that. And that's why my life is amazing."
I've also spent the last 17 years recommending this approach to anyone who will listen. (Longer if you count the many times someone said "You're uprooting your whole life and moving to California because you felt like it? Gosh, I wish I could do that" and I replied "You can; it's just a matter of what you're willing to give up".) I'm very glad that someone is getting a lot of traction spreading a similar idea and encouraging people to pursue joy in all parts of their lives. In some ways the focus on objects feels like a bit of a smokescreen
. But the smokescreen is valuable, if it's getting a lot of people to think about happiness and inhabit the physical experience of being surrounded by joy and love.
Having come at it from the opposite direction, I feel a little silly for not having necessarily applied the concept to objects myself. But there's no time like the present to begin. X and J are very interested in giving this a try throughout the house. We just have to buckle down and do it.
What will really be challenging is applying it to the ways I spend my time. But I think I will leave that for last, once dealing with our objects has, as Kondo says, honed my skills.
In conclusion, a selection of quotes from Spark Joy
that could, with a very few edits, become an excellent polyamory manual, particularly (but not solely) for those who tend toward Pokémon-style polyamory.( I am not in any way joking )
Hey, it's been a while since I posted a Kit story.( Setting boundaries )
I'm really proud of both of us. That was hard. And it's crucial for me to remember that it started with leaving the house early—patiently moving at toddler speed, physically and emotionally, is only possible when I allow enough time for it. It didn't cost us much in actual time (maybe ten minutes for both staircases combined?), but I needed to be present and calm, and that's so much easier when I don't feel rushed. I'm not good at being on time, much less early, but I will keep trying to get better at it, because moments like this are so worth making time for.
I wanted a bit of a snack, so I toasted up some bread (a bit stale, but brushing all exposed sides with water before toasting will un-stale bread like magic) and made a little saucer of olive oil with thyme, oregano, and salt. I dipped the bread in it and took a bit, and it took me right back to my first apartment, in Jersey City, where my go-to snack was a toasted English muffin dipped in herbed olive oil.( My first culinary efforts )
When you first cooked for yourself, what did you make? Tell me all your stories of nutritional horrors and brilliant innovations.
It was a nice quiet day
. We haven't had one of those in one million billion years.
Nothing much happened. J gamed, X napped, Kit napped, I slept 11 hours. We ate leftovers for lunch. We hung out. X went out and got a haircut. Kit demanded to get in the shower with X, and then grumbled "whatev
er" in a very X-like way when J informed them they'd need to be toweled off afterwards. I gave them corn chips dipped in mild salsa and they didn't mind it, though they preferred the chips plain. We made havdalah and put Kit to bed and had more leftovers. I did some laundry. X and J had good smooching time and X and I had good talking time. It was lovely.
I found myself at loose ends around 1 a.m.—I'm still slightly cold-groggy and had no interest in cleaning out my inbox, which is at the top of my to-do list—so I got out the knitting I'd wanted to do last night and ended up doing about ten rows, fairly slowly, while watching DS9 S1E1 for lack of anything more appealing. (I would have watched Black Panther
but I didn't want to do an entire movie's worth of knitting; that seemed like the road to arm sadness.) I was really good about not tensing my hands, and took a lot of breaks. My forearms are very mildly sore and should be fine by tomorrow. I immediately felt twinges inside my shoulders (biceps tendon pain? I'll have to ask my PT), but keeping my back straight, my shoulders down, and my head up seemed to help—I'm glad I put my laptop up on a stand so the screen was at eye level—and I'll do some stretches before I go to bed.
I haven't touched this project
in a long, long time. I started it in September 2016 and marked it 70% done in August 2017; I must have done some since then, because it's close to 80% now, but mostly it's been sitting patiently in its bag waiting for me to unfuck my arms and shoulders. There's about 80 rows left on the right front, plus a few rows of ribbing at the armholes, and then it just needs to be seamed up the sides and get two buttons stuck on the front. So if I'm careful and limit myself to eight or ten rows a night, taking time off when I need it, I could finish it... within three to four weeks, maybe? Soon enough for Kit to actually wear the damn vest during vest season. (They're skinny, so it'll fit them width-wise; it's just going to be a bit short, like all their shirts.)
And now I'm yawning, which is excellent at this relatively early hour, especially after sleeping so much last night. It's hard to stop knitting once I've started, but I'm going to make myself wind down and get some rest. The Readercon concom meeting is at noon and I should call in at least briefly to make a report, and then there's the Kolot membership meeting, where we get to officially approve the board's selection of our new rabbi—I definitely don't want to miss that, because everyone's really happy with their choice (and happy that the Year Without a Rabbi is almost over!) and it's going to be a big party. So I'd better sleep while I can.
As is the usual way of things, posting here about being sick meant I was shortly to be past the worst of it. Tuesday I felt pretty decent and Wednesday I felt great. I slept! I got housework done! I went to PT! I took Kit to speech therapy! I shoveled snow! (My arms and shoulders are doing great and I wasn't even slightly sore the next day.) I had lovely smoochy times with J! He was a little sniffly but we assumed he was fighting off the same bug X and I had had.
Now I'm a little sniffly. And sneezy. And disproportionately tired...
But it's just a little cold, nothing nearly as bad as the flu-like thing that wrecked me for the past week. I didn't go to the office yesterday because I don't want to be a plague carrier, but I got work done from home, and J and I even took a leisurely walk in the not-too-chilly evening air. I was sad to miss the nice daytime weather, the likes of which we will not see again for a couple of weeks, but the walk was a decent consolation prize. And the kosher bakery was open late, so we got jam cookies and hamantaschen and bourekas ("for tomorrow's boureka-fast", we always say, because we find ourselves very funny).
I got more housework things done today, including folding all the laundry and entirely clearing off the dining table, and the house cleaners came, so the main area of the house looks great. The Shabbat candles are burning, the machines are quiet, the cats are mostly not being jerks, the humans are mostly asleep. It's very peaceful. I'm thinking of putting on a low-key TV show or movie and doing some cross-stitch or knitting for the first time in ages. It'd all be even nicer if my body didn't have that lingering bleh feeling of being sick, but it's still pretty nice, and pretty nice things have been scarce around here lately, so I will take it.
EDIT: I got out my knitting, but I think I am too tired to knit, so I'm going to go sleep a lot.
Tonight a book on my shelf caught my eye, so I read it.
The book was Double Trouble by Carol Morse, a 1964 teen comedy that I inherited from my mother—though she was in her 20s when it came out, so I'm not sure how she ended up owning it or passing it along to me. At some point I misplaced her copy or gave it away, thinking I wouldn't miss it, and then I missed it; after years of searching—do you know how many books are called Double Trouble?—I finally found it on AbeBooks a couple of months ago and gladly snatched it up. It's about boy-crazy twin girls learning how to be their own people and have their own feelings and interests instead of doing everything together. They live in a generic small American town that out-Pleasantvilles Pleasantville, and their lives are wholly unlike anything I have ever known. I first read it with absolute fascination in the 1980s, feeling as though I were doing research on a foreign country. It seems even more alien now. (Though this time around I spotted the lesbian, English teacher Miss Winifred Lawrence, who never felt like herself until she went to an all-girls school where people started calling her Larry. She's also tough as a teacher but nice once you get to know her, and the narrative goes out of its way to establish her as an outdoorsy, sturdy world traveler. Mm-hmm. She felt familiar, an un-strange person in their strange self-contained land.)
There was no purpose to me reading it, except that I was glad to own it again and wanted to see whether it still gave me that feeling of fascinated curiosity, which it does.
I hadn't realized how much the notion of a to-read pile/shelf/list was pinning me down. I feel free.
(I'm not saying that Squirrel Nut Zippers' "Meant to Be"
to be about decluttering and finding that one perfect object you absolutely have to keep, but it's very fun to listen to it that way.)
Tonight I showed X the cute gay couple episode of Tidying Up
("I feel like I was just punched in the face by niceness," they said), and then we turned around and considered the bookcase behind us.( The right-now book )( Categories of maybe-keep-maybe-not books )
Categorizing the books in this fashion made it easy to pull down a dozen or so and send them on their merry way. X reminded me not to do too much tonight—I have a cold (again) and have been sleeping very badly (again) and that's not ideal for this sort of emotional task—so I channeled my tidying urges into trimming the extremely large mattress-type tags off our new dining chair cushions and agreeing with X and J that we should get rid of our coat tree, which is huge and space-occupying in a non-useful way.
And now I'm going to to take a long hot bath and read High Stakes
, because it said "Read me now!" and there is no better reason to read a book.
EDIT: It was just as good as I remember, and I had forgotten enough of the plot to get very tense in a few places and appreciate how it all went down. Absolutely an A+ keeper—I may have to wait another 20 years to forget the plot again, but when I want to read it I will be very glad to have it to hand.
This post is about me and books. But in order to talk about books, I need to talk about kanji study. Bear with me.
Last year I took a stab at studying Hebrew, and all it made me think was "I miss studying kanji". So at the start of this year, I reinstalled the Wanikani app on my phone, and since then I've been reliably doing 30 to 60 minutes a day of kanji study. It's really satisfying and fun. If I miss doing it in the morning, I leap at my first chance to do it in the evening.
For the past several years I've been saying "I miss reading books" (by which I meant fiction, as that's always been my focus as a reader). So at the start of this year, I put a short story collection on my phone that I'd been meaning to read, and since then I've occasionally spent 10 or 15 minutes reading that book. (But only when I was on the subway, because Wanikani's app is really just an interface for the website and doesn't work offline.) When I finished it, I didn't put another book on my phone.( I'm starting to think I don't actually miss reading books. )
So here is who I am today, ( and what that implies for my book collection )
The purpose of a book is to be read. A book sitting on my shelves going unread for years isn't happy and isn't bringing anyone else happiness. I do the world a favor by putting those books into the hands of people who will read them. I do myself a favor by clearing the wall of never-to-be-read books out from between me and the books I actively want to (re)connect with.
To facilitate choosing books, I should narrow down my choices. It's much easier to choose from among a few hundred books than among a few thousand. I'm not used to thinking of a few hundred books as a lot, but right now I read 20 books a year if I'm lucky. A few hundred books would last me a long while even if there weren't great new books coming along all the time, which of course there are. I'm aware enough of that to feel overwhelmed when I look at crowded shelves. I need to be aware enough of it to prune ruthlessly until the books on my shelves feel interesting and exciting, not exhausting. If "someday" does come, I can buy more books then, or take them out from the library. Until then, less is more.
The purpose of a library is to facilitate reading. It should be constructed with the reader in mind. I need to understand what kind of reader I am now in order to make my library a library that makes me want to read, that builds on the way I read now: spontaneously but with focus at home, and in occasional moments out in the world.
To facilitate spontaneous reading at home, I think I need to have not just a to-read shelf but a designated next print book, or maybe a next fiction book and a next Judaism book and a next project book (no more than that). I should choose these at a time when I'm in a planning mood, so that when I'm in a reading mood I can just grab one of the designated next books and start reading it. Putting them on a shelf at eye level and facing them out will encourage me to see them and think about whether this might be a good time to read them. Plus I'll get to enjoy the art on their covers (which I realize I almost never see on books I own). Also, I should finish rearranging my room, because the plan is to move Kit's loveseat-size rocking chair in there and have it facing two bookcases, with a standing lamp nearby, to create a little reading nook right where I spend the most time.
To facilitate occasional reading out of the house, I should have my digital next book on my phone and loaded into the app and waiting, and put the app shortcut right next to the Wanikani and Empires & Puzzles shortcuts.
And maybe I still won't read. Time will still be tight, focus will still be scattered. But I hope that taking this approach will improve my odds. Because I do miss reading books. That just means something very different from what I thought it meant.
The first round of lice combing last night was really challenging. Kit had already had an awful day and the technician came at 5:30, which is usually fuss o'clock. Kit screamed through the whole thing. When J took his turn in the chair, Kit ran and grabbed a cloth and pressed it into his hand in case he needed to cry. ;︵;
I say "first round" because this morning the daycare teachers found what looked like nits and sent Kit home again. So we called the service and a different technician came over to do a second round of combing. She explained that only empty egg cases were left, not live nits. Kit is now absolutely free and clear and hopefully will remain so.
Both technicians were amazing and I left a glowing review.
The house cleaner came and vacuumed the hell out of the couch, the laundry service picked up three bags of laundry, I have washed three loads of laundry today and will do at least two more tomorrow, and... oh whoops, the IKEA assembler is coming at 10 a.m., I had better get to bed.
Thank you all for the comments on the last post. I only got five hours of sleep for reasons known only to my body, which woke itself up rather earlier than I had planned on, and I've got a ton to catch up on, so I'm not sure when or whether I'll be able to reply individually, but I appreciate your kind words very much.
I finished watching Tidying Up
and I have some general thoughts.
1) I love love love that all the scenes are timestamped "day 24" or whatever because it emphasizes that this shit takes time. All these people are obviously working and raising their kids and living their lives. It's going to take weeks or months of concerted effort to make big changes. I need to keep that in mind and see the home organization process as a long, slow thing.
2) I want to get Marie Kondo's book.
3) Getting certified as a KonMari expert is a great backup career plan for me.
4) I am super ready to get rid of a lot of stuff. Mostly books. Mostly a lot of books. Also, I suspect, clothes. I understand that getting rid of stuff is not her primary thing, but as soon as I start thinking about "what in my house sparks joy", I feel the psychic weight of all the stuff that doesn't. Fetch me a forklift.
I also have ( some questions )
Many of these are rhetorical, but answers and comments are welcome. I'd especially love to hear from people who've personally tried KonMari, especially if they've done it in collaboration with someone else who shares their living space.
Speaking of which, ( a final thought )
- thinking about:
behavior.love, behavior.organization, behavior.planning, experiences.tv, experiences.tv.tidying up, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.josh, people.xtina, places.home, stuff, stuff.books, stuff.clothes
Since Saturday afternoon I've been fighting off a virus that has no symptoms other than making me exhausted and horribly
depressed. It's like the PMS virus. It didn't help that our hot water was out for much of the weekend, nor that Kit had unpleasant digestive upset and we couldn't give them baths because of no hot water. And a heap of IKEA boxes was delivered on Sunday but my PT has forbidden me to assemble any of the furniture myself, so they're taking up all this space and making me feel very sad about my current state of disability. (Kit has been drawing on the boxes, which improves them somewhat.)
I felt much better yesterday—I got the right amount of sleep, and a lot of sun on a lovely warm day—but today I was woken at noon by a call saying Kit had lice and needed to be picked up right away, and the combination of being short on sleep, being woken by the school calling (always terrifying), and having the day's routine totally disrupted meant that I am right back in the pit. All I've eaten today is one piece of toast, and I know I need more than that but nothing feels like food. All I want to do is sleep for a million years and wake up to everything being tidy and everyone being happy and no one needing anything from me at all.
Clawing desperately at anything that might help the house feel less like an endless chaos vortex, I arranged a furniture assembly service for Thursday, when X works from home. I still hate so much that I can't do it myself. I genuinely love building IKEA furniture. I won't even be able to supervise/spectate because that's my day at the office. But at least it'll be done.
Kit desperately needed a nap when I got them home. They're now very crankily awake—a car alarm startled them out of a deep sleep, poor thing—and watching TV while we wait for the lice removal service
to come check us all out. (X and I have very short hair and are probably fine; J has a curly ponytail and has Concerns.) And we will pay a laundry service to wash everything on super-hot, and I have checked to see whether our house cleaners can come tomorrow instead of Friday. I'm so glad to have the option of throwing money at these things because I have no me to throw at them at all.
EDIT: My boobs are sore so maybe the "PMS virus" was just the world's worst PMS? Or
I'm getting PMS in addition
to the virus. Let's go with the former.
Longtime New Yorker Shares Stories About The Gritty Times Square Of 1970s & '80s: Gothamist
Testing the signal boost bookmarklet on a non-DW thing. Seems to work okay!
I was really struck by what she said about there being half as many people on Earth back in the 70 and 80s. I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but it's true. And the city did feel less crowded.
I was a kid then, so I don't have the nostalgia for the low-rent era because I wasn't paying rent. But that feeling of "we can just start our own [whatever], sure, why not" was definitely still around when I was growing up, and it influenced my generation of New Yorkers a lot. Part of why I like the area we live in now is that the rent has been depressed enough that there are still a lot of independent stores and people being entrepreneurs—and yes, I include the people selling bootleg DVDs and unlicensed taxi rides on Utica Ave among them. Rents and home prices are going up around here now, and I don't like what that implies about the future of the neighborhood.
The feeling of "nothing and nowhere is particularly safe and no one's going to help if you're in trouble" was also deeply influential. I don't miss that. I'll always carry a bit of it with me, but I think a lot about how much to teach it to Kit and how much to let them enjoy being in a much safer city than the one I grew up in.
In January I tracked time spent on various categories of things that aren't work, housework, or family time—things I do for fun.
organization (mostly setting up the spreadsheet for tracking the data): 2 hours
creativity (writing): 2 hours
spirituality: 5 hours
volunteering (Readercon, Kolot, beta reading/volunteer editing): 11 hours
entertainment (movies, theater, TV, books): 15.9 hours
language study (Japanese): 24 hours
I didn't note my daily ~30 minutes of playing Empires & Puzzles. I probably should have. Oh well.
I'm fighting off some sort of virus-shaped thing that is causing no upper respiratory symptoms at all but is fogging my brain and making me want to wear six layers and sleep the clock around, so I have no feelings or opinions about this data at this time.
I don't know whether I want to bother to track this stuff for February. I don't really feel like I'm getting a lot out of writing it down, other than a bit of satisfaction whenever I read something and get to log it. I very slowly read all of Shira Glassman's Tales from Perach over the course of the month, and a couple of Judaism-related nonfiction books, and the occasional fanfic. That felt like a real accomplishment, given how little I've read in the past few years. On the flip side, the total absence of handicrafts, though explained by my need to reserve my forearm capability for doing shoulder exercises, makes me sad.
But between this cold (or whatever it is) and my not having a chance to lightbox or get real sun over the last couple of days, my mood has crashed again, so I probably shouldn't make any decisions right now.
(I didn't mean
for this Shabbat's parsha post to turn into shitposting just in time for Faffing February or whatever it is. It just, uh, happened.)
I finally caught up on my Torah reading. This week's parsha is Terumah
, which explains how to build the tabernacle, the portable temple intended to be carried around the desert until the proper permanent one could be built.
Exodus 26:14: "And make for the tent a covering of tanned ram skins, and a covering of dolphin skins
me: o.O I was not expecting that.
So I did some digging. I learned that there are dolphins in the Mediterranean, which I had not known, so the idea of dolphin skins being among the treasures the Israelites "borrowed" from their Egyptian neighbors is not actually all that weird, despite my immediate reaction of "they're in a desert!". I also learned that the original word there is tachashim
, plural of tachash
, and no one has any idea what the fuck it means.
Some other proposed translations:
* leather that's dyed blue
* leather adorned with faience beads
The only thing most people can agree on is that it came from a clean animal, because the idea of putting skins of an unclean animal on the Tabernacle is abhorrent (though I will note that dolphins are not kosher, so whoever picked that translation seems to have discarded this qualification), and it was probably either blue or multicolored. (This piece
goes into great detail about the various arguments in favor of one reading or another, and comes down in favor of the beaded leather interpretation.)
The dolphin idea apparently comes from a 19th-century scholar who noticed that Arabic for porpoise
, and suggested the two words were cognates. That's not a bad theory, as theories go. Probably more likely than the unicorn.
While reading various writings on this, I found this commentary in Midrash Tanchuma
R. Nehemiah contended that it was a miraculous creature [Hashem] created for that precise moment, and that it disappeared immediately thereafter from earth. Why is it called orot tahashim ("sealskins," lit. "skins of tahashim")? Because the verse states: The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits (Exod. 26:8). What known animal could supply enough skin for a curtain of thirty cubits?
Thirty cubits is 45 feet long. That is pretty big! Especially for a porpoise-like, blue-skinned, possibly one-horned or long-necked animal...
At that point I started researching what fossils have been found in that region. After all, like most deserts, it was once an ocean.
My conclusion is that Hashem, whose presence extends throughout spacetime and to whom billions of years are as a day, dragged a poor confused plesiosaur out of the Cretaceous and dropped it at the foot of Mount Sinai, where it was turned into curtains.
I'm glad I could solve this 3,000-year-old mystery for everyone.
Yesterday I lightboxed. I had a good day, went to bed a bit past 4, and slept nearly nine hours. Today I lightboxed briefly (hi, it's more effective if you actually turn it on
; I sat in front of it eating lunch for a good ten minutes before realizing I hadn't pressed the button, and then I only had five minutes more before I needed to get up and do things), had a good day, and got all my work done so early that I did tomorrow's work too, or at least the part of it that I can do from home.
I'm still getting occasional blips of anxiety, sadness, and despair, but it's a lot better than it was last week. Reading all the wonderful talks and workshops people have proposed for Readercon has also definitely perked my mood up. I love that first rush of getting excited for the con as I get hints of what the program is going to look like.
I'm going to wind down by watching Marie Kondo while doing my exercises and folding laundry, and then go to bed early again. BECAUSE I CAN. And also because I have PT at noon and need to go straight from there to work for an important meeting, and wouldn't it be fucking amazing if I got up at 10 and had time for kanji study and a decent lunch and carefully choosing what to wear?
Just kidding, I know what I'm going to wear. I have a beautiful fresh manicure, matte Colonial blue
, and I want an outfit that will show it off; it's also going to be extremely fucking cold
tomorrow, which limits my choices somewhat. So, blue turtleneck, jeans over fleece-lined tights, low-key necklace, no earrings (they're uncomfortable under earmuffs). There, I just made my morning routine ten minutes faster.
Ah, the jittery joy of being actually well rested for a change. Definitely low-key wind-down time.
I needed something to do for 15 minutes while eating dinner, so I hit up my Dreamwidth network (friends of friends) page. I'd forgotten it existed until someone mentioned it recently. It was a perfectly cromulent way to spend 15 minutes. I think the average post was about 30% the length of the average post on my reading page; I guess I follow a bunch of wordy people. :) It was nice reading random public snippets of people's lives: a cold snap, a pinball tournament, a book review. I might do it again sometime.
If you're interested in commentary on media and fandom, doctorsidrat
is for you. The first post was full of extremely tasty links. I hope it continues!
X and I watched the season 5 finale of Steven Universe
, "Change Your Mind", and I had to pause it for about 15 minutes while I cried so hard my eyes hurt. I haven't cried that hard at a show/movie since I saw Spirited Away
It took me a few years to get into SU because of all the people who said "IT MAKES ME CRY OMG"; I felt like I didn't have time or energy to spare on feeling extra feelings. Turns out sometimes you actually need
to feel your feelings. Who knew? It was a good and useful cry and dug up some stuff I'd shoved pretty far down.
(R: Guess I have things to talk with my therp about on Thursday.
X: It's not like there was a shortage
The episode isn't billed as the show's finale, but it could easily serve as one and ties off a lot of loose ends, so if you've been waiting to watch SU until there's some kind of conclusion, you can start now. (I recommend starting with the pilot, even though it's not technically canon, because "Change Your Mind" has callbacks going all the way back to the pilot
. The layers of this show are absolutely wild.) And if you've been put off because you're too busy to feel feelings... consider trying it anyway.
A random resurrected meme from
the dawn of time
2003, which I found while searching my back entries for something else entirely: Who would be in your League of Extraordinary Gentlepeople? You get to pick any five real people or fictional characters. Optional extras: a recruiter, a vehicle, and/or a villain to face off against. ( My choices )
Spread the meme! Post your answers in your own space and drop a link in the comments.
Tonight X and J and I sat down and sorted out what was broken in how we make food happen and how to fix it. I made a list of "food units" for me and X and Kit and set up reminders for keeping them stocked, and we determined who owns various tasks and who they devolve to if the person who owns them can't do them, and ideally we will all get fed one way or another.
A food unit has three qualities:
- Can be kept in stock basically always, either in the freezer/pantry or in the fridge if we know we'll finish it before it goes off.
- Can be made edible with minimal time and effort.
- Is reliably food.
This is mostly a concern for me, X, and Kit, as X has a number of dietary restrictions, Kit is a highly variable toddler, and I go through phases where something is Always Food and then Never Food. (For a while I was buying vanilla cashew Kind Bars by the box. Then they abruptly stopped being something I had any interest in eating. Very frustrating.) I also eat lunch at home a lot more than anyone else does. I'm hoping that a policy of "check every week that we have at least 10 food units in stock for R/X/K, order more if we're running low" will prevent what happened last week, when I would realize that I was hungry and had very little time before leaving the house or going to bed, and there was nothing I could immediately eat.
This week's food units for me are eggs, bacon (we cook the whole package at once and then I eat it over the course of the week—I don't mind it cold if I need protein ASAP), chicken soup, and frozen ravioli. For Kit we have puree packets, bananas, pasta, and pasta sauce. For X there are tins of beans. There's a rotisserie chicken in the fridge that we'll all gnaw on as needed, and I found a different kind of Kind Bar that Kit and I both like. I think that should cover us.
What are your tricks and tips for making sure no one goes hungry even when you're exhausted, sick, hurting, or pressed for time?
I dreamed that there was some sort of live-action Yuletide and J was so compatible with the person he matched with that they ended up hooking up. The rest of us kept saying "He does this every year! How does he do it?!" in that half-impressed, half-vexed way.
I told him this and he said, "So in your dream I was a... fanfic playboy?" And I said that was basically correct.
Brains are very odd.
I went to bed at 10:45 p.m. and slept for eleven hours, and my nose is congested even after doing a sinus rinse with steroids. J made me a big breakfast of bacon* and eggs and toast, and I drank the last of the orange juice, and now I want to nap even though I just got all that sleep. I can't tell whether I'm fighting off a cold (AGAIN). On the other hand, this was a week of vastly insufficient sleep and food, plus a small emotional storm yesterday. Hopefully that's what's wiping me out and I'll feel better once I've caught up on sleep a bit.
* My traditional Shabbat treif.
X and Kit are napping, J is watching TV in his room, and I'm lounging on the couch. I can barely keep my eyes open. Maybe I'll drink this mug of honey ginger tea and then lie down for a bit, just to be on trend. I had some notion of going to Shabbat Shira services this morning, since I got up so early, but all I really want is to be at home getting rest.
melannen posted: Signal Boost: SignalBoost✔ bookmarklet
And the first comment on it was somebody hoping people would check for access lock when using it, and, well, my coding fingers were itchy (they get itchy about every six months, which is not actually often enough to build skill, sadly), and astolat gave permission to modify, so here's a modified version that automatically warns you if you're about to link to a locked DW post. (I think it would probably also work on locked LJ posts but I haven't accepted LJ TOS, so I can't test that.)
I got a lot of 1105 errors when I tried to use it on a page that was styled in my custom style, but with format=light on, it worked just fine.
There's an improved version in the comments on that post that doesn't give me errors at all. Hooray!
Yay people being helpful! I really like this approach of "We'll keep doing things the DW way, but we'll make it easier to do so that new people have an easier time adjusting to the local culture".
(If you haven't seen the posts and discussions about Tumblr-style reblogging on DW, doctorsidrat
has a rundown of those and other meta conversations
. See also this explanation of what "reblogging" means for DW users concerned about their text being copied
Hypothetical fic meme via moetushie
Give me the title of a hypothetical fic (and fandom/characters/pairing if you like*) and I will:
-tell you what it's about
-recall my favorite or least favorite parts
-possibly attempt to write an excerpt of it
* If I don't know the fandom/characters/pairing you suggest, I will fake it.
There is a very low-key Dreamwidth friending meme here
. No need to write a profile; just comment "yes" and let other people look at your public posts and decide whether to subscribe to you. I have commented, and maybe tomorrow I'll have five free minutes in which to look at other folks' DWs and add a few.
=====( Earworms, nail polish, dance logistics, PT )
=====( Kid stuff )
My work schedule has shifted in a way that distributes my tasks much more evenly across the week. You'd think that would help me go to bed earlier, but it has not. I suppose what will really help is Kit getting over this cold, at least to the point where they sleep through the night without much coughing. When they were an infant, I took the night shift, and that habit is still deeply ingrained in me; the thought of leaving X to deal with any coughing fit bad enough to wake them up through the wall (as happened the other night) just feels wrong. The night shift is what I'm for
. X and J can only sleep at night. I have other options.
I can't just blame Kit being sick, though. Last Thursday I told my therapist that sleeping 6 a.m. to noon was my new normal, and I don't want that to be true but it's true. Maybe someday it will be less true. (Maybe tomorrow it will be less true, since my PT appointment on Wednesday is at noon...)
Kit has mostly stopped coughing, and J is awake. Night shift is over. One more listen through "Brooklyn Meditation" and then I sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, behavior.planning, body.arms, body.body clock, body.exercise, body.hands, body.sleep, experiences.dancing, experiences.music, livejournal.memes, people.kit
I meant to stay off chat on Shabbat, but then I wrote a little thing that I wanted to share with aris_tgd
, and then Aris and I got to talking about music, which led me to digging up a recording of John Denver singing "The Ballad of St. Anne's Reel" (no offense to Mr. Denver, but wcg
does it better), which led to me thinking about English country dancing.( Apparently I miss it a lot )
I was not expecting to wist this hard. I will have to think some more about this.
(BUT NO VOLUNTEERING, SELF. NO CHAIRING BALLS AND NO BEING ON THE BOARD. LET US BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THAT.)
Since taking my break from chat, I've been really productive... except today, when I dithered and dilly-dallied and did everything except work and laundry, which was what I really needed to be doing.
Finally I realized that I'm exhausted
. I barely slept last night, got up early for Kit's birthday party, and then ( there were lice )
At least the party went well, as did J's birthday yesterday, and realizing that tiredness was the issue let me push through it and start getting work done. And X and J are now much more inclined to agree with me that we need to cut Kit's hair soon. The curls are adorable when we take care of them, but we just don't have the time or energy to do a lot of combing and oiling and the like, and then they tangle and mat up and it's no good, even without the bug factor. We'll keep their hair pretty short until they're old enough to take care of it themself.
When can we catch a fucking break, is what I want to know. We had one (1) nice day of everyone feeling well, which fortunately was J's birthday, and now it's back to grossness. I will undoubtedly feel less pessimistic and miserable about this once I get some sleep.
Tonight I did candles and juice and bread with X and Kit (who thinks it's great fun to cover their eyes and then uncover them after I light the candles, though they pay no attention to whether I've finished or even started saying the blessing) and then dashed off to shul for Kabbalat Shabbat led by Miriam, the second candidate to be our next rabbi. I was late, but not too late; I got there just before the dvar Torah, which was a delightful discourse on trees in advance of Tu B'Shevat (which is, very suddenly, in two weeks... so much for my notion of planning a Tu B'Shevat seder! Maybe I'll manage it next year when it comes in February). Then we sang "Lecha Dodi", a song for welcoming in Shabbat personified as a queen or bride
. ("She's fashionably late," Miriam said cheerfully.)
Just as we reached the last verse, when everyone stands and faces the door and bows to the incoming Shabbat, a longtime member of the congregation came in. She uses a cane, and someone hurried over with a chair for her, so she sat right by the door and grinned as we sang welcomes and bowed as though directly to her. We kept singing, but we were laughing too. After the service, several people complimented her on her timing and asked her whether she enjoyed being the Shabbat queen.
I suppose there are some other congregations where this might be seen as sacrilegious somehow. I'm glad to be part of a congregation where it's just hilarious.
Now I'm home, and the candles have burned down, and I'm reading God in All Moments: Mystical and Practical Spiritual Wisdom from Hasidic Masters
. Its overlap with texts on Buddhist mindfulness is striking. ( Musings )
I'm certainly never converting to ultra-Orthodox Hasidism, and if I'd been raised in it I'm sure I'd have fled it just like my ancestors did. But I'm glad to have books like this that give me access to Jewish mysticism and mindfulness (and even silent meditation!), and leave it up to me to decide how and when to apply it.
Being away from chat has been very good for me. I get a lot more done (because I'm less distracted) and I'm less anxious. I dipped a toe into Slack tonight, and at some point I'll go back to Discord, but right now I'm remembering what quiet is like, and what simply existing is like, and it's great. I think I should start making this part of my Shabbat practice.
I've been noting what kinds of things make me want to go into chat, and mostly it's wanting to narrate my life (especially sharing things I did or said that I thought were funny or interesting, or random look-at-this things like "why does our block now have a Popeye's across the street from another Popeye's") and share pictures of Kit and the cats, with a bit of wanting hugs and sympathy around challenging things. I'm trying to let go of the performative urges rather than seek external validation, and be present for the witty lines and cute kid moments rather than distracted by wanting to share them or preserve them for posterity. When I think "I miss everyone, I wonder how they're doing", I glance in, read the scroll, and close the app again. At some point I expect I'll feel something more genuinely social and go actually hang out again. I probably need to sleep more first, though.
(Of course, as I write this I'm alone at the office at nearly midnight and feeling lonely, and it's very tempting to open up Discord just for some company. But I will put on music instead.)
(EDIT: Music was a great idea! I forgot about music! I've got my Dream Theater collection on random and it's nice to encounter all these old favorites. Maybe I will put listening to music on the hobby list.)
I have done no writing at all so far this year, nor even thought about things to write. It's so great to no longer have that 120-day deadline hanging over my head. I've decided not to sign up for Chocolate Box; I'll just treat, and maybe pinch hit. Letting go of all the effort associated with sign-ups (deciding what to request and offer, writing a letter, etc.) and releasing myself from the obligation of writing an assignment feels very relaxed, or relaxing. Freeing. It feels the way I've felt in the past when defaulting on exchanges, actually, so that makes me extra glad I'm deciding not to sign up rather than defaulting a month down the road. I have no regrets at all about not being able to request the things I nominated; if someone else likes my nominations, they can request them or write them, and if not, there's always next year. Sometimes I like the external structure of having assignments, but right now it feels much more important to be able to do as much or as little writing as I like.
Also liberating was declining an opportunity for a more intense Kolot volunteer commitment. I'm flattered to be asked, but no thank you.
Meanwhile, in hobbies I do want to get more invested in, I've put the Wanikani kanji study app back on my phone and reset my account. I was at level 14 when I went on "vacation mode" in February 2015, but four years is a long time and I figured it was best to start over.
I'm so excited. I'm really doing this. :D I keep finding blog posts where I mention wanting to go back to kanji study and I'm thrilled to be making time for it at last. I'm very very very tired and underslept today, so I'll probably wait until tomorrow to start it.
Last night I watched Desk Set and folded all the unfolded laundry (which took most of an hour) just because I felt like it. This "free time" thing is wild.
I'm taking a week off from Discord and Slack, and not commenting much or replying to comments on DW. I was starting to get that agitated labile feeling of must talk and talk and talk until people like me and that usually means it's time to step back and take a deep breath or three.
I also want to think about how to approach this year with intentionality. I had some goals for 2018, but I sort of flailed and flopped my way toward achieving them, or I went too far in the other direction and made excessively specific plans that I could not possibly stick with. I want to take this week to do some happy medium planning for 2019, to create some tools and structures and also leave room for improvisation and serendipity.
And honestly, I need a week to recover from the vacation that wasn't. To cap the year, J caught the norovirus from X and Kit and all of them are still having some lingering symptoms, so I have been the primary functional adult in the household for the past couple of days. I am washing my hands so much. I have the alphabet song stuck in my head because I sing it to myself to know that I've scrubbed with soap for a full 20 seconds. I need everyone to get better, and I need us to have good birthday parties for J and Kit this weekend, and I need some time of there being three functional adults and one healthy child in the house.
We did have a nice start to the new year otherwise. My first meal of the year was cold rotisserie chicken with ginger fig jam and whole grain mustard. I gave Kit an oatmeal bath and got them dressed, and we Skyped with Graham for a little while and then went out to get the last bit of sun. They pushed their doll stroller all the way to the park! I promised them pizza after, forgetting that the pizzeria would be closed for the first of the year; fortunately we had a small dairy/wheat pizza in the freezer for Kit and a larger DF/GF one for me and X, so I baked Kit's in the toaster oven and ours in the oven and we put on Tom Petty and had a pizza party. We goofed around for a while and then they had the second half of their pizza and allowed us to put them to bed.
For dinner I made extremely simple chicken soup with two cups of pre-chopped mirepoix, the breasts from the rotisserie chicken*, and two boxes of broth, plus a pack of GF spaghetti that I'd forgotten we had, and all three of us actually ate a homemade dinner at the table together for the first time in approximately eons. I wrote up my year-end posts, X and I watched the latest Steven Universe episode, I went out to the store for a snack, and then I sat on the couch and ate potato chips and drank hot chocolate and contemplated the future.
* For ages we've made chicken soup with rotisserie chicken by boiling up some broth and throwing some chopped-up chicken in it. Somehow the chicken always feels dry even when it's wet. The other day I realized that dry doesn't mean not wet but not fatty. I tested this by simmering some shredded cooked chicken in salsa and olive oil before putting it in tortillas, and the oil made a huge difference to the texture and flavor. So tonight I sweated the mirepoix in olive oil until it was soft, added some ground ginger and thyme and dill, and then added a big additional glug of olive oil and stirred in the chicken. As it soaked up the oil and the liquid from the vegetables, it became silky and tender. I made sure the oil was thoroughly absorbed before pouring in the broth, adding a splash of soy sauce, and bringing it to a simmer. It was waaaaay better than any rotisserie chicken soup I've ever made. Definitely doing it this way from now on.
The dishwasher is done, the washing machine is done, I'm not on chat, and it's very quiet. I needed quiet. I'm glad I'm finding ways to get it.
Creative work year in review, 2018, based mostly on isis
's year-in-review post with some questions ganked from moetushie
.( The year in numbers )
I did it. I fucking did it. I won getyourwordsout
. 120 writing days (days in which I did at least 20 minutes of writing-related tasks), 61,586 words of fiction written on 33 projects./keels over( Implications for writing in 2019 )
The other thing I learned from doing this is that I can find 20 minutes almost every night to do something that isn't work or family or housekeeping. That leads to the question of what I want to do with the 245 days that aren't writing days. I've been pondering that question for the past month (and with reference to my earlier thoughts on monthly focus extracurriculars
), and the list is pretty short.( Thoughts on other hobbies for 2019 )
Speaking of sleep, I really hope that being out of writing crunch time means fewer nights of staying up because I had to do just one sprint and then I got sucked into it and spent two hours writing and another hour tweaking what I'd written and another hour winding down and oh look it's getting light out. Perhaps sleep will be my fourth hobby.
So in theory, in 2019 I'll do 120 days of writing and 245 days of reading, handicrafts, Japanese, and/or saying "fuck it" and going to bed early. I don't have individual goals for any of those, though I will probably track them in some descriptive-not-prescriptive way. In practice, I expect there will be some overlap. On a day when I commute to the office, I might read a book on the way in, knit in a meeting, and run through some kanji flash cards on the way home. There will also be days when I don't want to do any of those things and I end up watching a movie or baking a cake or something else random. That's fine. I don't have a goal for any of them except writing. It's just good to have an established short list of options for when it gets to be midnight, I'm wide awake, the current load of laundry won't be done for another two hours, and I'm looking for something to do.
I'm just so, so glad to be done with "write something on 28 of the next 31 days, go". It might take me a few days to adjust and realize that now I can
just say "fuck it" and go to bed early, guilt-free. (And then I'll have to do my Chocolate Box sign-ups and letter, but I've already got my original work sign-ups mostly chosen, which is always the hardest part.) I'm incredibly proud of making my pledge goal and smashing
my 50k wordcount goal—over 60k, unbelievable—but that is entirely eclipsed by being so happy that it's done. DONE. I DID THE THING AND IT IS DONE. \o/
What this vacation really needed was for me and Kit to get a cold and then for X and Kit to have norovirus. MERRY CHRISTMAS etc.( Somewhat gross, but nothing too detailed )
At some point I will have some feelings about our beautiful two-week staycation being entirely consumed by people being sick or dealing with medical worries. Right now I'm too tired. I was sick for our entire April staycation too, so J says he's never taking a vacation again, and I know how he feels; the idea of staycations carries trauma now.
I needed this break from work so badly. I needed to sleep. I needed to fix my room up and fix the house up and catch up on household paperwork. I needed happy cuddle time with my partners. I needed to feel relaxed and happy. I have gotten none of those things. I still need a vacation
and it's going to be months before I can take another one. I'm terrified of going back to work in this state, without a moment's pause to really rest; I'm worried that I'm going to burn out hard, and angry that I poured almost half my annual leave down the drain. And I could have rolled that vacation time over if I'd known that December was going to be a horror show—though of course then I'd have been working on top of this. So... yeah. Lots of feelings. But I can't think about it or I will just fall apart and there is no one for me to fall apart on because we are all absolutely trashed. No therapy this week either, because holidays. He's sure going to get an earful of my woes next Thursday.
I wrote some stories for Yuletide and I got some stories for Yuletide and I beta'd some stories for Yuletide and there are some great stories in Yuletide but I have zero spoons to make rec posts or anything. I left kudos and brief comments for my kind authors and I hope that is enough. I'm so glad I can wait until after author reveals to reply to my own comments. I haven't even posted about my Disney Animated Movie Exchange stories and gifts yet, and that was more than a month ago. I'll do that too once I sleep enough to be able to focus.
Comments disabled so I don't stress about being too wiped to reply, but your well-wishes are assumed and appreciated.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, behavior.planning.agley, body.illness, experiences.disaster, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, words.fanfic, words.fanfic.venues.damex, words.fanfic.venues.yuletide, words.writing
My fandom stocking is up!
Since reveals aren't until January 6, I'm going to stay focused on Yuletide for now.
I've done less than half the amount of Yuletide beta reading this year that I did last year, but I've been a bit distracted. I did get a couple of treats done in addition to my assignment and pinch hit, so that's good. Finding a title for this post is hard because I have an earworm that would give away one of the stories I've written, so it can't be a line from that but I can't think of anything else.
There, that'll do.
I am still so exhausted. Hope I can sleep tonight.
Yay, I don't have breast cancer!( That's the important thing )
I didn't make it to Kabbalat Shabbat tonight because I didn't get home until 6:45 and then I had no interest at all in going out again (and the service started at 6:30 so there was really no point), but I'm about to go to bed so I can go to morning services tomorrow. I don't usually haul myself out that early—I tend to feel that alarm clocks are not Shabbosdik—but I am feeling a very strong urge to go say birkat hagomel
and be uplifted by my faith community. And then, more family time and more hugs and more sighs of relief.
Week in review in very brief:( Writing and other hobbies )( Home )
I did a lot of work.
I didn't get a lot of sleep.
I got a manicure: tenoverten Grand (fine pewter glitter) with Deborah Lippmann Flat Top matte top coat. I'd forgotten how great matte over glitter is; my nails look like brushed steel.( Body )
Today Kit started running on the way home (on a nice long stretch of empty sidewalk, totally safe) and I chased after them, calling "I'm gonna catch you!" When I caught them they laughed and exclaimed "Gat me! Gat me!" and took off running again. We played "gat me" all the way down the block, sometimes with me chasing them and sometimes with them chasing me ("Gat you!"). Kit only tugged my sleeve and said "walking" when they realized we were getting close to home and they didn't want the fun to stop. I wish we could have kept running all night through the rain, laughing and playing around with how scary-good it feels to step apart and then be reunited.( Readercon and Kolot )
I need to get some work done on Sunday night, and then I'm on vacation through the end of the year and it will be glorious
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.planning, behavior.planning.agley, behavior.volunteering, body.arms, body.breasts, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.joy, experiences.reading, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.winter, food, food.cooking, people.groups.pillowfort, people.kit, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, stuff, stuff.games, words.fanfic, words.writing
The nice thing about being an advice columnist is that I can answer a lot of my own problems if I phrase them as letters to an advice columnist.Dear Avuncle Rose,
I keep bumping things later and later on my to-do list—things that don't have deadlines but are important for life maintenance, like unpacking from a trip I took a month ago and throwing away the dead plant on my shelf—because I don't want to do them, and then putting them off even further because I'm ashamed of not having done them. How do I break the cycle and get them done?
Dear To-Do Lost,
Sit down with someone you trust, take a deep breath, and confess. Say out loud what you just wrote to me, not only the bumping later part but the shame part. Do whatever helps you work through that shame, and lean on someone who can reassure you that you have not grievously erred.
Also think about what might be worrying or upsetting you about the idea of those tasks being done. Are you anxious about what you might find in the pile of mail? Are you daunted by the thought of all that clean floor, or cynical about the likelihood that you'll clutter it up again? Are you sad about the plant dying, or guilty because you couldn't keep it alive? Is change, even positive change, scary and hard? Your supportive person can help you grapple with those feelings too, and remind you of the upsides of having paid your bills, made your room beautiful, and planted some new seeds.
Finally, get some company for doing the tasks, less to hold yourself accountable and more to help distract you a little from your churning thoughts. Invite a friend or partner to sit on your bed and read a book while you do your things, chatting with you occasionally about what you find or how you're doing. They're not observing you; they're just hanging out, in a chill companionable way.
As always, this will be easier if you've got a good Maslow's baseline going: sleep, eat, hydrate, and give yourself a calm, supportive environment in which to tackle these hard things. And they really are hard! It may seem silly to be so het up about something so small or easy—it's going to take you, what, 15 minutes to get that suitcase dealt with?—but sometimes small things carry outsize feelings. Your literal baggage has metaphorical baggage. Unpacking the second will free you to tackle the first.
(Now I just have to take my own advice, which is always the hard part...)
Hilariously, the first time
I used the mind.wiring.negotiation
tag, almost exactly 13 years ago, it was for these competing urges:Urge to write: "I should go do more [things related to an original fiction project], because it's fun."
Urge to meet deadlines: "I should start on the Yuletide piece, because it needs to get done soon."
Urge to sleep: "I should sleep, because I'm a zombie and wouldn't be able to string three words into a sentence if someone gave me needle and thread."
And the most recent time
:Oh right, being kind and compassionate to myself, I forgot about that.
Plus ça change, plus les word-for-word identical journal entries.
I am intrigued that the inner place I look for the kind and compassionate voice has shifted from "mediator" to "my wife" to "advice columnist". I think the mediator was sort of a rough first draft of the advice columnist. My wife is still tremendously important to me, of course, but is more on the emotional support side. The advice columnist is more practical: they take me at my word that I have a goal I want to achieve, and talk me through achieving it. I have a deep, longtime, complex relationship with my wife. The advice columnist is more distant, not entangled with me, and so maybe a little more free to call me on my bullshit and poke me where it hurts. Both very good entities to have in my mental arsenal.
A question for the non-Christian parents: how do you talk to your young kids about Christmas? Kit is old enough to be fascinated by the lights and shiny things, and curious/puzzled about the iconography (mostly things like Santa, reindeer, and candy canes—they haven't encountered the more directly Jesus-y things like Nativity scenes). They're also being taught "holiday songs" at daycare, which of course is 95% Christmas carols. The daycare is trying very hard to be inclusive, but Christianity is still the default. (And they are so, so clueless about Judaism. They didn't put their chanukiah up for four days because they wanted to put up all the holiday decorations together, but they forgot to account for Hanukkah being early when they started planning their tree and snowflakes and so on. And now they still have it out and lit even though the holiday is over. It's not offensively wrongbad, it's just... sigh. And I'm personally a little bummed because Kit and I are usually the ones who light the chanukiah there when I pick them up, and we only got to do that on one night this year. So we got a tiny droplet of our holiday, and meanwhile there's this heckin' big tree that will be up for an entire month.)
I've gotten as far as "Christmas is a holiday that some people celebrate" and "that thing you're seeing/hearing is traditional for Christmas". I also sometimes say "Our winter holiday is over but Christmas hasn't happened yet". Kit really loves the National Geographic Holidays Around the World books about Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah (because they're full of photos of kids doing fun and interesting things), so I've requested the Christmas one from the library. I assume that will cover things like "Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, and this is a celebration of the day Jesus was born" and "there is a traditional figure called Santa, or St. Nicholas, who is said to bring presents" and "people go to church and sing songs and then have big parties". That part is all fine and I'm comfortable discussing it.
What I'm caught on is how to explain that this is a thing that's all around us, but not ours. This is complicated by X being ex-Mormon and still having some fond feelings about some cultural aspects of Christmas. So in that sense it is part of Kit's heritage... but insofar as they're being raised in a faith, it's Judaism, and as a Jew I have particular feelings about the way the U.S. does Christmas and gets it all over everything else.
The other day the daycare teacher proudly told me that they expanded the idea of "you're being watched to find out if you behave well or badly, and if you're good you get presents!" to include Hanukkah presents as well as Christmas ones! And they emphasize it by pointing to the security camera in the classroom! You should have seen my face. I told her I didn't want my child raised in a surveillance state, and then I turned to Kit and said clearly, "There are no bad babies." But to the teacher, moral judgment is indelibly attached to holiday presents, and it didn't occur to her that Jews might not be so keen on it. (Yes, I know about the Mensch on a Bench. Jews aren't a monolith. But there is no traditional Hanukkah equivalent of the lump of coal in the stocking.) It's that kind of thing that I don't know how to fight, or prepare Kit for, or prepare myself for. If X wants to share their love of red and green with Kit, then I will find a way to cope despite 40 years of associating red and green with cultural aggression and erasure. Inside the house, we can negotiate and navigate things like that; it's part of having a family that comes from diverse traditions. Outside the house, it's all just very daunting. And with a minimally verbal kid, "wait until they ask" doesn't apply.
Tonight we had an absolutely glorious eighth night Hanukkah party. We inaugurated our beautiful new eight-quart Instant Pot with some of the best pot roast I've ever had, and turned five pounds of potatoes into excellent gluten-free latkes, and got our vitamins from maple ginger thyme carrots and pan-fried Brussels sprouts. Meg and Will and Gina and SJ came over and filled the house with merriment. It was just the right number of people for our house (and for the number of chairs, with SJ sitting on adults' laps). We got all the food to the table reasonably hot, at the same time, and lit candles with some haste so as not to delay the eating—though we took the time for a heartfelt Shehecheyanu.
Recipes:( Instant Pot pot roast )( Gluten-free latkes )Maple ginger thyme carrots.
I feel that much light has been brought into the world tonight. And now, renewed and fulfilled, we rest.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, events.holidays, events.holidays.hanukkah, events.parties, experiences.joy, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.beef, food.cooking.beef.pot roast, food.cooking.potatoes, food.cooking.potatoes.latkes, people.friends