Friday, August 24, 2018

Rainy day, Almost autumn

Fridays are my day off, and I typically spend them following up on loose ends, responding to student emails, sleeping in, staying in my pajamas, cuddling with the pets, watching TV. I love Fridays. 

This was the first week of the semester, and since I taught exclusively online last semester, it's been awhile since I've been on campus. I forgot how difficult it is to be a body in front of other bodies, especially a fat, queer, disabled body in a room full of athletic young adolescents. I'm working on building a work capsule wardrobe, because dressing for work is one of my most stressful areas, but until then, I'm just trying to make do. The weather has been that weird mix of cold in the morning then suddenly hot by afternoon, so it's hard to dress for. I wasn't happy with my outfits this week, and I need to get my pants hemmed, because I tripped over them. I heard my students whispering about my body. Sometimes I want to turn around and scream, "YES I'M FAT! YES, I LOOK LIKE A DYKE. I'm well aware that I'm both of those things."

My hair, too, is in an awkward growing out stage. I shaved off most of it this summer, except for what I call a little forelock. I dyed it purple this summer, but for the school year, it is back to bleached out blonde, and my hairdresser recommended waiting to do anything else to it for awhile to let it get a little healthier. I think I'm going to go back to my natural color, though, because I'm sick of the maintenance of being blonde, especially with a short hair cut.

I haven't felt well this week. After I fell on my knee, I could hardly walk, and my fibro has been flaring pretty badly. I'm stressed. But it's a rainy day, and I got to sleep in listening to the rain, and I'm journaling in my leather Traveler's Notebook from Chic Sparrow with my fountain pen, and sipping some delicious tea, and I have my pups at my feet, and things could be worse.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Few of my Favorite Things

I broke my wrist in June, tripping over a cat scratcher shaped like a couch. There's an acronym for the way I fell, actually: FOOSH. Fall On OutStretched Hand. Fifteen years ago, I did the same thing to my left hand. Tripped on a dog toy and caught myself with my wrist suffering the consequences. I know better than to put my hand out to catch me, but I thought I'd fall into the wall. I did not.

Losing the use of my dominant hand for the entire summer curtailed my activities. I was in a lot of pain, and of course it's virtually impossible to legally access pain medication these days. Doctors have actually adopted the philosophy of telling patients to learn to live with their pain, because of the opioid "epidemic," which, like so much else in society, leaves disabled and ill folks in the lurch.

It would be an understatement to say I was depressed this summer. And so I have decided to try to keep this blog up again as a way to celebrate things that make me happy. There is so much in this world to be upset about--and, indeed, we must be enraged. But in order to sustain our activism and resistance, we must also take care of ourselves. This is not a blog about self-care. But about allowing myself to feel and find joy in things, however mundane or extravagant.

One of the first things I did when I regained the full use of my wrist was to clean and re-ink my favorite fountain pens. I write mostly by hand, and journal constantly, and not being able to write by hand was the hardest part of the break.

I think I first encountered fountain pens when I was sixteen, and visited France for the first time, where they are quite commonplace. I bought myself some disposable ones, and a Le Petit Prince fountain pen. I felt quite cool using fountain pens and French planners and notebooks in high school. I let the hobby wane for a long time, using them on and off, but never investing much time or effort in them, but then in 2015, something made me pick the hobby up voraciously. I've since acquired quite a few pens and bottles of ink and I've discovered that it's actually much easier to write with a fountain pen. Less pressure needs to be used, and, over the course of its use, with regular use, it's much cheaper to buy a decent fountain pen and a bottle of ink than to keep buying disposable ball points. I've really noticed the ease of use since the broken wrist. I barely need to use any pressure and I can write and write. I've had the same bottle of Noodler's Heart of Darkness ink (my favorite black ink; I can't resist the literary reference, and the ink is very high quality) since 2015, and it still seems almost full. I buy my pens and ink almost exclusively from Goulet Pens. (I only go elsewhere if they're out of stock or simply don't sell the item). They're a small online business and they put a ridiculous amount of care in packaging orders, and their customer service is just tops. You can also catch Brian Goulet doing weekly Youtube videos answering pen questions. This has been my primary method of learning more about the hobby.

Fountain pens, and the desire to find excuses to use them led me back to pen-palling as well. I had pen pals a lot as a kid, and I always loved writing longhand to friends and relatives, even in college, after the advent of email, and it's been a real pleasure to pick up the hobby again. I joined The League of Extraordinary Penpals a few years ago, and it has been so much fun to make pen friends again. I have a little stationery station in my craft room full of neat stamps (postage stamps and rubber stamps), address labels, and stationery, much from La Papierre, a shop that also has a stationery subscription service. Their stationery is so cute and whimsical, and very high quality.

As much as I love technology, the analogue offers a rare sensual pleasure in this world. Good paper, pens, and ink just brings me so much joy. I've also been writing in Tomoe River notebooks in leather traveler's notebooks from Chic Sparrow for the past 5 years. I love signs of use, and these leather notebooks are made to show they've been well-loved. I also love that I can keep filling up notebooks and replacing them with new ones, but I still have the same cover. As a writer, I really do develop an intimacy with my tools, and a dependency, for better or worse, and I love my notebook.

Inside my notebook, I have my Hobonichi Cousin planner. This is a Japanese planner printed on my beloved Tomoe River paper that includes monthly, weekly, and daily planning pages, but isn't a very thick book because the paper is so thin, yet sturdy. I love to paint a wash of watercolor on the page using my Daniel Smith water colors to give me a bright, beautiful backdrop to planning my days. I've used this planner since 2015, and I'm so excited to order my 2019 edition when it releases on September 1st.

Finally, for now, I want to talk about tea. I haven't been drinking much coffee lately, but I am well-stocked on tea. Right now I'm enjoying a cuppa of Victorian London Fog from Harney & Sons. Loose leaf tea is so delicious.

Next Wednesday (in four days, omg), the Fall semester begins, and I return to my teacher life. I love teaching, and I really love where I'm working now. I even get to teach a Creative Writing class, which  I'm thrilled about. But it's going to be a difficult adjustment after a summer of rest and recovery and last spring of teaching exclusively online. I thrive on routine, though. Like a dog. My dogs know exactly when it is 5pm (dinner time) and I look forward to settling in to a new routine as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Comforts of Handmade

I'm sick again. Last week, I spent five days with norovirus, had a few days of feeling ok, and then by Wednesday, I felt myself coming down with a cold. Once again, I find myself unable to do much, brain peering through a thick fog, and so sore I can barely sleep. It's awful. I have multiple chronic illnesses, but I'm lucky in that I don't get sick with acute illnesses very often, so this double whammy on top of one of the worst times of the year for my chronic pain (damp winter air ugh) has felled me.

It's frustrating, beyond the physical pain and discomfort, because I have so much that I want to do. I'm gearing up for InCoWriMo, and I've joined the League of Extraordinary Penpals, so I am eager to get myself organized for letter writing, but, alas, I didn't feel well enough to do much.

What I could do, however, was knit. I find knitting so comforting. Lately I've been knitting very easy, super chunky projects that involve nothing more complicated than knitting and purling, and knitting and watching TV was a nice way to spend a sick day.

I watched One Day at A Time on Netflix, a sitcom about a Cuban-American family headed by a single mother who's a nurse and a veteran, raising her two teen kids along with help from her mother and their friendly landlord. It contains a lesbian character, and every issue addressed is handled so damn well. I highly recommend this show.

So I knitted a pussy hat from Loopy Mango, because I was sad that my first effort did not fit. Sadly the LM hat is a little tight and short.

I also finished a basic garter stitch scarf in gorgeous dark teal from Wool and the Gang. tomorrow I'm hoping to finish another scarf, and/or some slippers.

It's been very cold here, and I knitting feels like the best self care on a day when all I can do is watch the news in horror and moan in pain. There is so much comfort in the handmade.

It's nearly two in the morning, and I've been trying to sleep, but lying down makes me cough, and I can't take cold medicine because most of the ingredients interact with another med I'm on daily, so I'm writing this blog post, buying "Refugees Welcome" pins on Etsy, and listening to the Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast.

Most of my students are Muslim immigrants and refugees from countries that are now on the list of banned countries, and I am aghast. I'm making lists of organizations to support, poems to read to my students, and taking comfort in how many people showed up to airports to show support for our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to resist this unacceptable ban.

I don't have anything intelligent to say about anything. The cold is overtaking me, but I am paying attention, and I'm making plans for what actions I can take when I recover, including finding knitting projects I can donate to worthy and needy causes.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sick Days

I've been sick for four days. I was so sick, with a very bad stomach flu, and I'm still recovering. No fun. Talk about kicking my productivity out from under me.

I'm grateful to have passed the worst of it, and glad I have the weekend to recover. I missed a day of making, but the next day managed to start a simple scarf I've knit a few rows on each day. I can't believe how much I missed it, and how comforting I find knitting, but especially my daily making routine already.

My teaching semester just began this week (rotten timing to be ill!), so I'm getting adjusted to a new routine, but I'm also gearing up for International Correspondence Month (aka InCoWriMo). The aim is to write and send a handwritten letter every day of the month of February. I love writing letters, and I savor any chance to put my fountain pens to use, so I'm looking forward to a month dedicated to letter writing. I'm going to put together a little box of stationery supplies I can have always my supplies at the ready. If you'd like a handwritten letter from me, pop your address in my Postable account, which I'm using to collect and organize addresses.

Most of my list of pen pals is made up of folks I know, but I'm always willing to meet new pen pals, especially ones who share my interests!

It's difficult to remain hopeful right now, and I am being careful with how and when I encounter political information. I subscribe to a lot of print and online newspapers and magazines, and listen to the radio regularly (NPR and local radio news), but I've put filters on Facebook (using an extension called FB Purity) to avoid a lot of politics on FB. It's not the place for me to have those debates and get so anxiety-riddled that I can't focus on doing my job, which involves helping local immigrants learn English, and being a positive, supportive, empathetic person for them in this very uncertain political climate. I also can't write good poetry if I'm too depressed, so boundaries and self-care are important. This is also why I didn't attend a Women's March. Marches are not great for disabled folks anyway, but there was a lot of friction between disabled groups and the March organizers, and I'm still so sick, I couldn't have attended anyway. Many of my friends went and promised to carry me with them in spirit, and all the marchers were in my thoughts today, but we all have to focus on what we can do. A friend of mine babysat children so her other friends could attend. The revolution will have childcare or it will be bullshit.

I've been reading a lot.  did finish Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg  a novel I started back in September and then lost (it fell behind my bed). I enjoyed most of it, but the second half was not nearly as strong as the beginning, and I felt very confused and disappointed by the end. Still, it's worth a read. It's told from the POV of a girl who lives in a commune/cult in rural England, complete with its own vocabulary. The establishment of the world of the commune, the only place this girl has ever known, was strong and really drew me into the story, but, as I said, there was a radical shift, and the story lost its power at that point. I felt much the same about the novel Room, which is also a book with a very specific and confined world and vocabulary. Once the characters move to a different location, the book isn't as compelling, not because I only want to hear of misery and torture, but because the story isn't as tightly constructed. Room was a lot more successful than Foxlowe, but there were similarities between the books' structures.

I also finished reading a friend's novel draft, which was a lot of fun, but nothing I can review here. Not yet, at least.

I spent last Saturday reading The Assistants by Camille Perri. It was a fun, quick read, and it was nice to finish a book in a few hours.

Yesterday I slept most of the day, and then found myself unable to sleep at night. Pretty much all I can do is lie in bed, I still feel so weak from days of puking, so I'm taking advantage of that and reading a lot. I finished reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett, which I liked, but also feel conflicted about. Still, it's a good debut, and I'm excited to see it getting so much positive attention.

Now I've been engrossed in a mystery, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner. I realized last year that I really love British mystery thrillers, especially on audiobook. This one is a hardcover I got from Book of the Month, but it fits the bill. It's not a genre I'd ever read before, but I usually have one going for my commute, and they keep me awake during a boring commute. I am liking this one so far, though I do wish I had it on audio. Still, it is diverting, which is exactly what I was looking for.

I've been using a Bullet Journal as my planner this year, after years of using a Filofax and/or an Erin Condren, then this fall, falling deeply in love with the Hobonichi Cousin, the A5 version of their popular techo. I still use the Cousin for teacher planning, and find it works perfectly for that, but the Bullet Journal is just perfect for me. I love that the Leuchtturm1917 paper works for fountain pens, and it's just a good size. Having everything in one place, and being able to control every detail--and change any aspect of my planning--makes this the perfect system for me. I bullet journaled last year, too, but felt guilty abandoning my other planners, so I kept up with them, even after they no longer worked for me.

Thanks to Pens and Tea on Youtube, I've discovered David's Tea. I took advantage of their holiday sale, and have been enjoying their Caradmom French Toast tea, and their Chocolate Covered Almond tea especially.

What are you writing with/reading/planning/drinking?

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Year of Making

In 2017, I'm doing a Year of Making, a thing I'd seen around the interwebs, and read more extensively about from Kim Werker. I've always been a creative person, but four years of adjuncting and living pretty hand to mouth has had me pretty focused on just surviving. Also, the past few years, I've been focused on revision, as I had two books slated for publication, one in 2014, and one in 2016, so I have been in revising not creating mode. Last year I was on tour promoting my second book, and didn't have any time nor energy to write new work. This year, however, I'm looking forward to going absolutely nowhere, and buckling down and getting to work.

A Year of Making entails making something, anything every day, whether it's a few rows of knitting, a sandwich, a list, a drawing. Whatever. As long as it's something creative.

I've gotten away from the playful spirit of creativity, however, so the year of making seemed perfect. In the past year, I've gotten into art journaling, and giving myself permission to play with colors and a messy, colorful sort of memory keeping enriches my creative spirit. Dabbling is also a thing I need help with.

I have a tendency toward professionalization. I blame grad school. Eight years working toward becoming an expert in something gave me the feeling that I need to do that with everything in my life. For example: I became a doula. I opened a tarot shop. I took a Certified Metaphysical Practitioner course. I was allergic to hobbies, and needed always to prove myself in order to like a hobby. Why do something at all unless you can be perfect at it, right? Bullshit. I'm learning just how bullshit and harmful this kind of thinking is, so trying new things through the year of making is just what I need. Embracing the learning process and getting comfortable being bad at something and having to practice it, sharing with the world my bad drawings and messy knitting, is freeing in some way. I'm not perfect. I'll prove it. And that's okay. I hope that, ultimately, this not only helps me take more risks in my writing, but also makes me a happier person.

I'm taking an online drawing class, and have quickly amassed a large quantity of art supplies, plus I'm learning to crochet, and I've gotten back into knitting, a hobby I once loved, and was actually good at, but which got abandoned when I lived in Florida. The other day, I finished my first project in seven years, a Pussy Project Hat, and even though it turned out way too big (despite following the pattern exactly), I really loved the process of getting back into knitting again, and best of all, I had so much fun knitting it.

This fall, I got into cross stitch, after taking a Kinky Cross Stitch workshop at A-Camp. I loved knitting political cross stitch projects, and naught words and such. I never thought I could sew, but then I'd never tried. I'm having so much fun discovering things outside of work and Netflix marathons!

Last semester, I taught four classes at two schools in two different cities, and I was so busy, I was barely keeping my head above water. This spring, I'm only teaching one, plus working in the writing center for ten hours a week, and while that's shitty in terms of income, it means I will have a lot more free time for writing my book, and making things in general. My primary goals for this year are to make something daily, work on writing my third book, and reorganize and decorate my house. I definitely have a bachelor(ette) aesthetic going on here right now, and I still have a closet full of unpacked artwork that needs to be up on the walls.

This blog is sort of part of all this, too. I want More of This: playing, dabbling, being creative, having fun, and less of That: negativity, perfectionism, jealousy, stress. I also wanted someplace less formal and career-connected to write about my hobbies, my craft projects, my fountain pen collection, and my planning obsession. I'll be posting my year of making photos on my crafty/planner Instagram account. , and writing about more significant/larger projects on here.

Here's to a year of chunky yarn, ink-stained hands, piles of filled journals, and cuddling by the fire with my pets!