Friday, March 27, 2020

A Small Collection of Terror

Things I'm afraid of, in the beginning of the North American COVID-19 pandemic:
  • I will die
  • my son will die
  • my spouse will die
  • my siblings will die
  • my parents will die
  • my extended family will die
  • my friends will die
  • any of the above will get sick sick sick with this disease
  • any of the above will get sick with this disease and be alone and suffering
  • any of the above will get sick and try to call for help and help will not come
  • any of the above will get sick with something unrelated—a big old lump under the armpit, say—and the health system will have to shrug and say "we just don't have the resources"
  • any of the above will get sick with something unrelated, like allergies or a cold, and people will come after them with pitchforks
  • any of the above will get sick with something unrelated, like allergies or a cold, and it will weaken the immune system enough for C19 to sneak in and make life awful
  • I am infected and asymptomatic and therefor merrily spreading this virus among people doing important work, like grocery store cashiers and pharmacy workers, who will infect others, and we will all die in 21 days
  • we will run out of food
  • the grocery store will run out of food
  • garden we are halfheartedly planting will be a total failure
  • people take a crazed mindset at the grocery store and start stabbing each other for Lysol wipes and chicken
  • the grocery store will start price-gouging and we will have to spend $40 on a bag of flour
  • the produce supply chain will collapse without migrant workers and we will have nothing to eat except very expensive Ontario peaches, which I do not care for
  • our electricity will be cut off and we will have no way to cook the shit in my freezer
  • we have no firewood for any kind of camping fire for cooking
  • all three of the propane tanks in our shed are empty
  • the water will be shut off, and our tub is insufficiently clean to store water
  • the kombucha I'm brewing will give everyone the runs
  • I will lose my job
  • my husband will lose his job
  • my husband's boss will be like, "I hear children in the background!" and we'll have to stay mouse-quiet during business hours, aka the daytime, when human children are the noisiest
  • We will have no money for $40 flour or rent
  • we will be evicted in the middle of this
  • we will have to live in a tent in the middle of the Central flats
  • we don't even own a tent—should we buy a tent? In case? Maybe a yurt?
  • my anxiety will flare to the point where everything feels like it's underwater and it's hard to tell what's real, which makes living in a time of deep unreality even tricksier
  • all the therapists will be laid off or furloughed to work as ICU nurses
  • I will become crazed for interactions with people I'm not related to by blood or marriage
  • I will start drinking in the morning
  • I will become agoraphobic and very fat
  • my anxiety will eat my body and I'll become very skinny
  • my sense of boundaries will become totally uncalibrated and I'll behave inappropriately after we're allowed to shake hands again, like a cat with a scratching post
  • my son will never go back to preschool and see Miss Heather
  • my son will not start kindergarten in the fall
  • the library will never reopen
  • I will have to learn how to homeschool, which I emphatically did not sign up for
  • I will do a terrible job at educating my child, and he will enter the post-pandemic workforce stupid and illiterate
  • we're heading towards some post-plague Dark Age, towards a loss of knowledge and an embrace of cultish leaders and demagogues
  • we are all collectively traumatized by even this lite version of social distance and loss and grief and when it actually hits us where we live, we will be totally unable to cope
  • our children will be traumatized by growing up under the shadow of this virus and become socialized to never touch, which will make middle-school hormones especially difficult to work through
  • we will forget who we are and become our worst selves
  • we will forget each other and how to be together in love and community

Friday, February 28, 2020


The five-year plan is something that looms mythic in my mind. I love a good to-do list, and I love thinking about the versions of myself that I could become, and yet: writing a truly captivating, follow-able life plan has, so far, eluded me. Who should I be? What should I do? These are questions that usually obsess people in their early 20s; I am rounding the corner on 37 and I'm still foggy on this. How do people decide? How do people know?

It's not even the details—I don't love my role but hate my company; I don't feel called to a certain profession but have no clear path there; I don't yearn for a job that I know I'd be bad at. I have things that I do in my day-to-day that I love, like making art or writing or cooking; I have things I'm good at, like staying organized and tracking information and figuring out big-picture issues; I things that I'd like to be better at, like facilitating workshops or creating community out of thin air; I have things I chafe at, like being micromanaged or never getting any feedback on my work; and I have things I avoid, like nine-to-fives with a strict butts-in-seats approach to participation. I have big, vague dreams (open a B and B! start an event space!), but those seem like fantasies, little escape pods when my day job or motherhood is overwhelming and unfun. No one really opens and B and B! No one really starts an event space! Or if they do, they aren't me.

This sense of angst has haunted me since high school, when we were encouraged to pick our career paths at the advanced age of seventeen; all through university, which I took eight years to complete because I didn't know what I was working towards; my working life, when about half my jobs have fallen into my lap (which I've gladly accepted, since I really do believe that people can sometimes see skills and potential that would never occur to you); and now, when I feel like I want to take a leap towards something meaningful, big, and interesting. I want to set up the back half of my life in a deliberate, thoughtful, strengths-based way; the challenge is that I've always been a tich too deliberate and thoughtful, to the point of total decision paralysis.

My friends, bless them, do not seem to struggle with this crisis. One has told me that she takes jobs based on how much she will learn, and she has the most marvelously interesting career. Another told me that he pursued his work after enjoying a trial run one summer and being told he was good at it. Others wanted to own businesses like the ones they worked in, or get paid for skills they had honed in volunteer work, or feel called, vocation-style, to the work they do. For a while, after sitting on the board of a housing co-op, I wanted to work in non-profit housing; six months at a particularly wretched company cured me of that, and I feel like I've been casting about for the right thing ever since. I'm motivated by the social mission of non-profits, the coming-together aspect of community events, the beauty of interiour and graphic design, the wide-open calendar of stay-at-home parenting. Assembling those pieces into a meaningful whole, though...

If it matters, in some areas of my life, I do have a genuine sense of some internal drive or timeline. When I was 26, I had an ovary removed, and I spent the next five years obsessing over marriage and/or children (mostly children), because my biological clock was suddenly one minute to midnight and I was convinced (by myself, sure, but also by a number of not-very-thoughtful GPs and fertility doctors who made concerned "mmmmmm" faces every time I showed up on their paper-covered benches) that it would be A Process. Or, in the prime of this blog, I made a commitment to writing here once a week, and I did exactly that for seven years, only slowing down when I had a baby.

This feeling comes in waves; I can be fine with something for a long time and then suddenly hit a wall, desperately scrambling away from a job that hasn't worked for a while but whose warning bells were a mere tinkle in the background amidst the chaos of other life. Or it can be a decisive day, a single email, that throws the need to move on into bright relief.

What I'm thinking about now is a combination of many things I love: community programs, beautiful spaces, organized calendars, festivities and fun. I dream about opening a space that would be good for yoga retreats and intimate weddings, for craft fairs and community theatre. I want to run Fermentation Fridays and coffee clubs and youth circles, and if not run them, then make space for them in my community. My barrier there is money: the idea of finding a space and giving over actual money runs backwards to the idea of "income," at least at the start. It's terrifying! I'm terrified! How do people do this? Should I create a non-profit? Should I take out a loan? How do I write a business plan, and do I need it? (I think yes?) What happens when I hit a bump, or, you know, actually fail? How do I come back from that

But I feel, for the first time, like it might be My Thing To Do, and I have to figure out how to make it go.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Creative Life

This is the year where I start thinking of myself as an artist. It's a grand statement, I know, and to be honest, I don't know even know if it's accurate (does art include design and/or writing and/or noodling?) and I don't know if it will stick (the year is only twelve days old, after all). But already in 2020, I have designed and made a necklace and drawn a self-portrait, and my to-do list includes a wide variety of projects in a number of different media. So artish, pah, who really knows? But a maker, a creative type, a person who dreams of being an artist? Sure.

When I was a kid, I used to make my own paper and cloth dolls, and act out fairy stories in the front garden. We had a strict television diet (no more than an hour a day), and my brain, starved for stuff to do, would spend hours designing magazines for kids—one issue, produced in the sixth grade, centred around pigs—or trying to memorize song lyrics, or drawing pictures of clothes I'd one day wear. I liked things to do with paper and words, with fantastical stories, with pretty things, with ideas that made me feel light and adult and in charge. I was a serious kid, and not often liked by my classmates, and sometimes, making things was an escape into a world where I could just flow.

And, like many kids people, perfectionism looms large: sometimes, projects just didn't work out. I didn't have the vision, or the skills, or the patience, and sometimes, I just threw the whole shebang in the garbage. There's is nothing quite as frustrating as seeing something in your mind's eye and not being able to figure out how to execute it. There were a number of sewing projects in high school that embarrassed what used to be perfectly good tea towels and button-down shirts by transforming them into thready, ill-fitting garments. Did I wear them? Oh, I did. But the perfectionist part of my brain was like, "This is really...not all." (Sewing, to this day, remains a bit of an irritant.)

As an adult, I've gone through waves of making and creativity that are sometimes flood-like and sometimes, y'know, parched. In university, I took a year off and decided that, instead of returning to my boring old English degree, I would start fresh by applying to OCAD; immediately after that, I could not think a single interesting thought. (Actually, not true: I had the idea of making a bunch of paper mache hearts, dropping them inside fishnet stockings, and then suspending the whole works from the ceiling. I don't know what I was trying to say or do, except the concept seemed sufficiently "art school," and was also a tedious mess to try to assemble. I glopped together one lumpy heart and then abandoned the whole project.) But my eight (sigh) years of university also saw the creation of this blog, of a bunch of beading projects, block printing, collage, knitting, and interiour design. All of this was hobby-level, of course, but all of it brought me back to that same child-like level of flow and focus. After I graduated, I wrote a book (unpublished), designed a wedding (it was rad), and never once learned Photoshop, despite it being an actual skill that could have been useful if I wanted to be a professional creative.

There was a huge spike of creativity after my son was born; for the first six weeks, all I could think about was Projects! I! Had! To! Do! But I was so busy nursing and not sleeping that the idea of actually building a small collection of cabins in the woods was nuts, never mind the cost, never mind the fact that I've never actually built a cabin, never mind that one of the cabins was a ball pit. (Postpartum brains can really throw some stuff at the wall.) And then there was a several-year-long period where my life went so far off the rails that knitting and cooking were my only real creative outlets—making, still, but everything with a recipe or pattern. Just following orders, ma'am. Training my hands in the motions, and giving my brain a ledge to stand on.

But lately—and I don't know if it's working through past trauma, or the slight amount of free time, or just the arrangement of my genes—I've been feeling pulled into real creativity once more. Interestingly, the part of the process that I find the most enjoyable and fulfilling these days is the planning portion. I don't have a lot of time for doing projects—a bit of daytime, some evenings and weekends—but I do have quite a lot of walking-around time. I often use that time to listen to podcasts or plan meals, but I also use it to think about upcoming projects. What details to include? What process to use? How to make it work? Even questions like, "do I have enough magazine cuttings to do a fashion inspiration collage?" or "what am I going to use that colour of yarn for?" or "that empty frame needs something interesting in it."

Example: When I started working on the family cookbook last summer, I realized that I had been mulling it over in my mind for over a year, thinking about how I wanted it to look. And, of course, when I sat down to actually do it, I hated the initial version. I am not actually a great drawer, so illustrating 30+ recipes was going to be a nightmare. It required a quick pivot to another media, replacing illustration with papercutting, replacing hand-written recipes with typed versions, but the end result is so cool and I'm so proud of it. But without that planning period, that mulling-it-over time, there would have been no pivot: it would have been a sigh and heave and into the garbage the whole project goes.

That planning process gives me time to hype myself up for a project. I am a ruminator, a person who loves to sink her teeth into a question and then attack it from every angle. When I'm not doing so hot, this takes the form of crippling anxiety about, you know, climate change / my health / if there are ghosts in my house / if/when my friends get together and talk meanly about me / eviction / death. But when I'm able to set those topics aside, gently, like a baby bird, and pick up something else, well, let me tell you: it's a goddamn joy. Thinking about the placement of words on the page or the next knitting experience or what colour to paint my walls is actually way more fun than chewing over all the ways to feel pain and heartache, and in the end, I get to sit down and make something beautiful.

And there is the other end of the stick: a chance to bring more beauty, more of myself, into the world? What an honour. What a privilege. What a joyful thing to be able to enact, even if the end result is a little off-kilter or unpolished or untrained. Making art, or design, or just creative play, is such a mitzvah for so many. It's often the time and place where my brain and body feel most integrated, when my self-consciousness disappears, and I can just be in the world.

Here, now, especially, I want to shout out my fellow-mothers, the people who are so often tasked with all the mundane day-to-day house and life administration (the appointments, the consent forms, the calendar, the thank-you notes, the donation bin, the shopping list, the gas gauge, the expiry dates, the always and forever, amen). I know that sometimes, carving out creative time is akin to carving out a pound of bloodless flesh, and I see you and that struggle to sit down with your clay, fabric, sketchbook, paints, cuttings, whatever. I see your dreamy eyes as you push the stroller and scheme on your next half-hour chunk of time, to be spent during naptime or after bedtime, when you can finally put down what you've been making in your mind.

I hesitate to truly call myself an artist because I'm a generalist, a person who uses multiple media to experiment and play, and because I'm a hobbyist, with no interest in monetizing these things. The closest I might come would be to draw up some knitting patterns for sale on Ravelry, but even that would be some time away. For the most part, I like to create because I like to create. There's something inside me that uses what I do as an emotional, expressive language; when words won't do, a pair of knitting needles can pinch-hit. Or some scissors. Or a stack of clippings. Because truly, there is something magic about organizing thoughts into actions, actions into art.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Things That Happened in 2019

January: I have very little recollection of this month because February was already brewing, but I know I knit Noah a sweater and went grocery shopping at least once. So...there's that?

February: This was one of the hardest winters I've lived through. I was marooned on Anxiety Island, desperately working my CBT processes, trying to hold back intrusive thoughts that were literally screaming "KILL YOURSELF" inside my brain 18 hours a day. Noah was deep in a tantrum season, I was a solo parent 5/7 days, the house had the ghosts of a million cockroaches in it, the days were only fifteen minutes long, I was working through some super complex feelings about a former friend, I was packing to move, and there were three ice storms in three weeks. This was the month that 2015-2018 really came and sat on my chest: when I realized that I either had to get right with my life, or I was going to be unsustainably unhappy for a long time. (Or, maybe, a short time.) In the midst of all this, I managed to write an article about women in aerospace, which was a distraction from alllll that. 

March: We moved to a new house, still in Stratford, still renting. However, this house is bright and creaky in a pleasant way, with odd nooks and crannies and an enormous attic for wild rumpusing. The kitchen window faces south over a large backyard, so every afternoon, the place where I spend the most time is flooded with brilliant yellow light, or at least with the orange smudges of a winter sunset. Noah started preschool, and for the first few weeks, all I can do while he's at school in the morning is watch Queer Eye and rest. After this ruined winter, preschool gives Noah and I the space we need to like each other again, which is a relief.

April: The buds return to the trees, the clocks have shifted, and suddenly, I am alive again. At Easter, I have a shouting argument with my in-laws about my marriage/life/move to Stratford/general personality that left me utterly drained for the rest of the week and back on my heels until, well...I am writing this in December and I'm still slightly unsettled, to be honest. Families are so strange, and I'm not the first person who has struggled to calibrate a relationship with their in-laws, which is tough fucking work when we're trying to figure out how to navigate different definitions of love and safety and good choices. On a friend level, we all got VERY into Game of Thrones.

May: I start work on a new creative project, which is a family cookbook, illustrated with papercuts. This brightens up my brain in a huge way. I love teaching myself new skills! And I got my G1 for the fourth time. I love taking literally 20 years to learn a very basic skill!

June: I meet with Claire Tansey and talk about food writing, and she's very complimentary and encourages me to do something with my talent; so far, I've been basking in the glow of that meeting and done precious little actual writing/pitching. I learn how to knit brioche socks. We take Noah on his first 'camping" trip, in which we sleep in a tent in our friend Emmett's front yard, and Noah treats the whole excursion as an excuse to eat seven hot dog buns in 36 hours and turn the tent into a bouncy castle. It turns out that putting a three year old to bed inside of a de-facto light box is not easy. Thank god he was still nursing then, or else I don't think he would have slept the entire weekend.

July: I join the YMCA for a trial month and start going three times a week; this sounds impressive, but at least one of those weekly outings is just me dropping Noah off in the playroom and sitting in the lobby reading Bon Appetit. I finish the family cookbook. I start PTSD counseling, and it's scary as hell. My grandmother has a hip replacement; my grandfather dies. My mother is swept up in the feelings of loss, and I feel helpless to help her carry the burden of grief.

August: I get thirteen pounds of cucumbers from a farming friend and spend a week making relish and pickles. We go to the cottage. My best friend is pregnant and it's so fun to watch her little bump grow. I listen to Harry Potter audiobooks and it's an amazing way to spend my knitting time. August is one of those months where nothing really happens but since there's no structure to our days, everything stretches like taffy and we pack in a lifetime into 31 little calendar squares. Noah stops nursing, which is a bit of a sadness but he was three and half, so yeah.

September: Noah re-enters the preschool and we settle back into a rhythm, which is a good thing. My sister takes me to the Carley Rae Jepson concert and I sob through at least three songs; then we get very drunk and I stay out until two in the morning, which I hadn't done since 2015. I continue to feel like Stratford is not quite the fit that I want it to be: people are busy, and we aren't part of anyone's regular friendship rotation. In January and February, this would have made me so hopeless; in September, it makes me feel more resolved to find my folks and dig deeper with the ones I have.

October: There was a federal election and I felt a lot of weird angst about it. Living in a small town in a large county means that I can't really pretend my politics are universal, which I could kind of get away with in certain progressive corners of Toronto. I did a lot of research and ultimately went with my heart, which was not an effective strategy by any metric. I start listening to a new Harry Potter podcast during my morning walks. The fall is long and fairly warm and the trees in Stratford are absolute babes. I get an actual haircut. We fail to deliver on an artisanal Transformers costume for Halloween, but Mike brings home a store-bought Bumblebee outfit and saves our hides.

November: We go to a friend's wedding that was held in the LIBRARY and there's a DRUMLINE and it's magical. The wedding is basically a co-op reunion party and it's super nice to see that the guys I loved when I was 22-26 are all pretty much Good Dudes now, and the women I loved in that same time period are all doing great, and I left that wedding feeling held and part of a friend group. It was a delight. My mom and I go on the most poorly-planned girls weekend and it turns into a wonderful sleepover in St Marys, which is perfect. The PTSD therapy kicks into high gear and I leave my sessions feeling like I have been drained of all my blood, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like maybe I will be able to survive the next big crisis, whatever that it. I feel more relaxed, and much happier. (And my best girl had her baby!)

December: My dad comes and stays with me for two weeks, and we spend our time walking around town and eating simple carbs and chatting, and he's wonderful to be around. My dad was kind of a distant/always-working figure when I was growing up, and I've often been closer with my mom, but we've spent so much time together in the last year that our own father-daughter relationship has bloomed in a special way. Our bike trailer gets stolen off our front porch, which is devastating because it's our "car;" my parents go out and FIND IT, which is a miracle. We spent Christmas in Toronto with my in-laws, which is a 7/10 experience for me, but Noah gets four new Transformers, so he's in a great mood.

This year, I spent a lot of time feeling out of place: wishing I could be in Toronto with my friends and siblings; wishing I could be in Stratford with my kid-life and house. The integration I want to have happen here isn't quite jelling, and I should put in a bit more work and a bit more time, and also honour the meaningful roots that are taking hold. I also was more selfish this year: taking time for knitting, for creative projects, for working out, for cooking, for therapy. This type of selfishness will scan as obvious and necessary, because those things nourish me in a very real way, but the last couple years have been so unbalanced that reclaiming that space and time for basic needs was an act of empowerment. (And I knit a bajillion things this year, which was absolutely wonderful for me.) And, finally, the therapy that I've been doing has made a real change in me. Everyone spent the spring and fall complaining about rain; all I saw were trees blooming.

On January 1, 2019, I saw a fox running on the train tracks into the city, and it felt magical; that same day, a homeless man who looked like a wizard pointed at me and shouted "GOOD YEAR" and it felt magical, too. I turned the calendar knowing that I was not okay, but that I was going to get better, and I was right.

Monday, November 11, 2019

How to Be a Fan in 23 Easy Steps

 1. Be a teenager.

2. Become aware of the Giant Pop-Culture Book Series and Literature Event for Children (GPCBS&LEFC) as the first few books are published.

3. Read the first two books. Feel slightly smug when you, a high schooler, do not get caught up in the same whirlwind of readership that your younger sister, a middle schooler, enjoys when the third book is released. Ignore the subsequent books as being "for children."

4. See the first two movie adaptations in theatres. Be vomitously hungover for both. Leave the theatre during the giant-spider scene. Use that opportunity to sweat in the bathroom, away from your parents.

5. Let sixteen years pass. Get dumped a few times. Have a kid. Get evicted. Have people you love get sick. Be in your 30s.

6. A friend—a good friend, a friend whose opinions you trust—reads the GPCBS&LEFC. She reads the whole series in a summer: on the beach, during work breaks. She like them.

7. Look at your life's to-do list and realize that you've written "read an epic book series" on it. Ask your friend if she would recommend the books. She does!

8. Get the books out from the library. Realize that the hold system for these books—that they are still on hold 20 years after their initial publication—means that you can't just read them straight through. There will be lag times. There will be binges. Read in floods and droughts.

9. Read 300 pages of the fifth book of the GPCBS&LEFC in one night. Feel that there is something happening inside yourself. Do not say anything out loud.

10. Take an online quiz about which characters you are most like in the GPCBS&LEFC. 

11. Finish reading the books. Watch the movies. Realize the movies are utter garbage compared to the texts, which are themselves a C+ literary experience, but absolute BANGERS when it comes to plot, world-building, and general immersive fun.

12. Unrelated to this reading project, ask for podcast recommendations. A friend will recommend a queer-inflected, feminist, very funny podcast that does a critical reading of the GPCBS&LEFC. Download every episode of the Feminist Podcast. Listen to every episode while knitting.

13. Start giving TED Talks in the shower about how toxic masculinity presents throughout the GPCBS&LEFC. Give other TED Talks on family-building, and on PTSD, and on depictions of queerness. Credit the Feminist Podcast with giving the texts enough life to do these kinds of deep dives. Wonder briefly if you can go to graduate school for GPCBS&LEFC Studies, and if so, where.

14. Discover by accident that the city you literally just moved away from has a store devoted to the world of GPCBS&LEFC. Go to the store. Feel sort of ashamed as you poke around the merch, because the merch for the GPCBS&LEFC properties is often sort of...dumb. Or, at least, it feels a bit like getting a teeshirt on your high school trip to Italy that just says ITALY in big letters, and doesn't capture how it felt to stand under the Sistine Chapel and quietly know that this is a Big Moment in your life, maybe a touchstone, maybe you'll major in Art History and come back in seven years during graduate school knowing so much more about Michelango and Italianate art in the High Renaissance, and that the ITALY teeshirt sort of represents all of that, but also does any of it zero justice.

15. Buy a GPCBS&LEFC patch and sew it onto a knitting bag. Understand that you are deeply, deeply nerdy.

16. Listen to the GPCBS&LEFC audiobooks as you walk your child to preschool three times a week. Listen to them when you knit. Listen to them in the tub. Try your best to forget the film depictions, and instead imagine each chapter in your own head. Be careful that you don't accidentally adopt a British accent.

17. Finish the sixth audiobook and realize that you're not ready to start the seventh book because you're not ready to be done. Feel sort of silly. Honour that feeling.

18. Google "GPCBS&LEFC podcasts." Find a new one, a chapter-by-chapter reading done through a queer lens. Listen to four episodes. It's just the hosts braying "That's fucked up" at each other for 40 minutes. Unsubscribe quickly.

19. Google "GPCBS&LEFC podcasts." Find a new one, a chapter-by-chapter reading done by divinity school graduates. Listen to 27 episodes. Find their focus on gratitude, blessings and connection to be surprisingly healing. Remember that one of your life's unmet needs this decade is to find a spiritual community that doesn't have "believe that Christ is a god" as one of its entrance exam questions. Remember that you don't want to be spiritual alone in a field somewhere; you want other people, in conversation. Realize that living a life of gratitude, blessings, and connection is choosing a life full of those things. Realize also that choosing those things doesn't protect you from getting dumped, evictions, sickness, loss, or grief. Continue listening to the podcast. Feel a lot of feelings.

20. Buy GPCBS&LEFC fan art, including pins that you are too shy to put on your actual clothing, so you put them on your bedside table and look at them fondly and often. 

21. Go to the GPCBS&LEFC-themed bar in the city you moved away from. Watch as the bartender lights every third drink on fire. Talk loudly to your tolerant husband about the books. Delightedly receive a GPCBS&LEFC-themed gift from your tolerant husband.

22. Continue giving TED Talks in the shower. Continue listening to podcasts. Continue thinking deep thoughts about healing, compassion, forgiveness, grief. Start PTSD counseling. Google "churches without Christ" + location. Hold off on starting the seventh audiobook. Listen to podcasts. Feel a lot of feeling.

23. Feel a lot of feelings.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Your Fall Horoscope

It's Scorpio season, motherfuckers! Time to pull on a goth sweater, light a dank/legal joint, and flirt aggressively with basically everyone who crosses your path. Here are your fall horoscopes.

Aries: Time to embrace all of your so-called "embarrassing" pastimes. You know the ones: the hobbies you don't bring up until the seventh date (Gilmour Girls Trivia nights!); the unsexy kinks; the obsessions that you keep hidden because you're scared of letting your freak flag fly. You know why? Because, despite your ongoing conviction that everyone else is cooler than you, this is patently wrong and you need to come into your adulthood in this final way. Get weird. Own your weirdness. Put it on a leash and walk it back and forth in front of your neighbour's house. Make direct eye contact.

Taurus: I have basically zero patience for people who sign up for something and then shirk their responsibilities. (Is this about my former landlord, who declined to provide pest control, which is definitely part of being a landlord? Maybe. Motherfucker was a Taurus if I ever met one.) Have you committed to things that you're feeling half-assed about? Time to commit. People are counting on you. This goes double if you're slacking off on commitments to yourself; your unused gym membership/pile of unread New Yorkers/filthy bathroom is not the Everest that you envision. Just do the things.

Gemini: I want to encourage all my favourite Geminis to embrace this fall and winter as the season where you integrate your inside self and your outside self into one amazing, imperfect, human being. Geminis are secret-keepers, by nature; your twin halves are private and public, and you keep them rigorously separated. But I will tell you a secret, Gemini: all of you is worth loving. Your secrets, your inside-self, the part you keep hidden away because it seems unbearable to share it? That part, still. You can't lock it away. Let some folks peek in on that part of you, and shine a little love on those secret corners.

Cancer: I always like checking on your self-care. Are you going to your appointments? Scheduling those follow-ups? Are you getting your veggies and/or your protein? Have you slowly pulled back from the people who wear you out and wear you down? Have you thrown away your uncomfortable and too-small underwear? Treat yourself the way you would treat a beloved friend who has just had a minor surgery: move slow, examine your incisions, and keep your health bar high.

Leo: I am afraid of heights; but that's not quite accurate. I'm afraid of the barely-controllable urge I sometimes have to throw myself from a great height. Sometimes this urge is funny, but when it comes in a blue mood or a dark season of my life, it takes a new dimension, revealing to myself that I'm actually not as okay as I want to believe. It's a neon-sign way of checking in - do I feel abject terror at height? Or just butterflies? The answer will often reveal a deeper truth about if I need help. This fall, look intentionally for your neon-signs, and pay attention. Are you backing away from the edge slowly?

Virgo: When I was a kid, my mom set up a book club for me and some other nerds in my fourth-grade class. It was pretty awesome: we read The Great Gilly Hopkins and ate popcorn balls and there were at least three girls named Jennifer in the club. I really look on that experience fondly, and I hope that one day, I can do the same for my kid, and whatever he is into. Creating the chance for someone you love to experience something they might love is such a heady part of loving someone. Virgo, have you done this for your favourite people lately? Not done something, per se, but rather, have you created an environment where they could do something rad for themselves? If not, think about where you can inject some of that into your relationships.

Libra: I recently discovered that, aside from being Sagittarius, nearly all my other planets reside in Libra. My high school bestie was a Libra, and suuuuuper into it for a long time; I, on the other hand, never really connected with my Sag side. I am neutral about travel and prudent about drugs, so typical-Sag excursions like taking molly in Bali sound tiring, not #goals. It was a relief to find out that we are entitled to many dimensions in our lives, many facets, many houses. We can constantly discover new versions of ourselves when we dig a little deeper, and what we find may attune to who we actually are.

Scorpio: You are red wine and gummy bears. You are making out in hot tubs in mid-tier hotels. You are death's head hawkmoths. You are ankle boots and rainy days. You are paying bills the day after they're due. You are a job interview where you feel nothing after. You are windows that don't open. You are fine, not fine, knowing you're not fine, feeling buried under a mountain of not-fine, and pretending, because you are who you are and in the families you're in and have the obligations you have, that you are fine. But Scorpio, you gotta move through all that bullshit and sadness and fear and come out of it, because you are so much more than your pain. Crack yourself open. It will feel like a heart attack, but do it anyway.

Sagittarius: I am a Gryffindor sun, Ravenclaw moon, Slytherin rising. I resisted my Gryffindor-self for a long time, despite literally every online quiz, include the official Pottermore one, sorting me into the red-and-gold house. I felt it was...hacky? Too obvious? I wanted very much to be a Ravenclaw, dreamy and intelligent. But truth be told, I am persistent to a fault, and brave in my own way (I am much more of a Neville than a Harry, tyvm). Like we all do, I have elements of the other houses too: my Slytherin side, which is cruel and conscious of social status, is present, but I do my best to tamp it down or use it for good. And these days, I aspire to Hufflepuff-ness: close to the kitchens, deeply loyal, deeply kind. The house system is, obviously, about as fake as astrology, but I feel like attaching these labels to ourselves sometimes helps us understand what we want to embrace and what we want to resist. We are all more complex than a quartet of houses...but are we?

Capricorn: The most delicious cereal is Honey Nut Cheerios and I will brook no argument. Much like the best diet is Paleo (and keto can go fuck itself), or cycling is the best mode of transportation, or Temp #9 is the best cider, it can be reassuring to decide that something is The Best. It feels final. But sometimes we grow out of our childhood favourites (although I actually still think Honey Nut Cheerios is the best), or what used to work stops fitting into our lives so well (Paleo is great if you don't have a toddler who only eats pasta; cycling is great if you live within 4 kilometers of all your friends and family). What favourites are you hanging onto that still actually click, and which ones are carry-overs from other days?

Aquarius: Whenever I think about Aquarius, I think about swimming at sunset, the water washing over us deep purple and sparkling orange, the waves crashing around our bodies as we get tired and hungry but stay in the water still. I think about golden moments, tinged with a faint sadness because golden moments don't last. My dad and my son and my grandfather, all Aquarians, none of whom are strictly golden but whose shine is shot through with deep thoughtfulness and care: the deep purple water over which the golden sparkles shine. It is possible to carry light and dark in us, and you Aquarians are the best at it. In these dark months, unleash that golden shine and remind us all of August days.

Pisces: Here is your reminder that it's fine to go to bed with the dishes unwashed and the counter unwiped. It's fine to not put every piece of kid art on the fridge. It's fine to spent an afternoon reading in the hammock, and not reading the book-club selection, but something frothy and encouraging instead. Unwind yourself a little. Unclench your jaw and your ass. Let things go undone. Let your life be about more than just your to-do list, and relax. We don't think of fall and winter as chill-out times, but do your best to channel that hammock energy in an ice-storm season.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Captain's Log: Random Thoughts Edition

- I've started knitting my first sweater and boy howdy, I have signed up for a process. I'm knitting a  fingering weight sweater (read: skinny-ass yarn) in an oversized style and because of the way the gauge is working out, I'm going up two full sizes. At one point, there will be over 500 stitches in a row. I'm excited and nervous: this is by far the largest knitting project I've undertaken and I usually go for fast, complicated projects (socks!) rather than lonnnnng ones.

- Okay, but seriously, why isn't Hermione in Ravenclaw?

- This summer has been the living end for sunsets in Sauble Beach, and I wish someone could invent a camera that really captures what it looks like, because everything I take a picture of ends up looking yellow, instead of the deeply vibrant orange/pink/red/purple we've been actually seeing

- I am feeling rather bored with my kitchen right now, and I'm hoping for some inspiration. I've been doing another deep dive on Six Seasons, which I use mostly for food-porn reasons and less as an actual cookery text, but its autumn section does have some intriguing recipes, and I should just commit to it. Most of my fun food energy goes into preserves, so I need some weeknight dinner slam-dunks. (Oh my god, I sounds like a parody of a middle-aged white woman, but f'real, y'all.)

- Last fall around this time, I started dreading the winter so hard it was almost palpable. I'm really trying to pay attention to myself in this regard again this year, because last winter was one of the hardest things I had to get through and doing another stint sounds like a goddamn nightmare. However, reassuringly (?), I do not currently find myself at that level of anxiety. I have this dream of booking a last-minute getaway to somewhere hot and safe and easy, and even though I have no real way of manifesting that without doubling my non-zero credit card debt, I just have this sense that somehow, for no good reason, this winter will pass a little easier.

- Okay, but seriously, is Ron Weasley even a very good wizard? Like, I know Harry Potter is a bit of a chode, but he is remarkably talented and can somehow hold his own against Voldemort while still a teenager, and clearly Hermione is even more talented than Harry, but what does old Roonil Wazlib bring to the table? Snide commentary?  Is he literally just there for friendship reasons? Please explain.

- In a few weeks, I'm going for my first haircut in over a year, and I'm at a loss as to what I want her to do. Is "fix my whole messy life" too much of an ask?

- I have some real garden goals for next summer, but I have no real garden experience. I want a garden yoda to help me grow food for myself! I have visions of hyper-local food sovereignty.

- I feel very creatively juicy right now, and even though my cooking and knitting both feel like chores at this moment, I know I'll get back into it. In the meantime, I'm daydreaming about my next-next knitting projects, and learning (teaching myself?) how to screenprint, and maybe some one-page fiction challenges, and sewing! Oh, sewing. And hanging art and then designing a little she-shed for myself, and creating a personal sigil and a family tree and a map of my own personal hotspots. I love creative projects, and one of the things I like best is daydreaming and percolating over them for months, sometimes years, before I really launch myself into them. I like really sitting with an idea for a long time, because then it's just like, boom, execution, done.

- Okay, but seriously, can we agree that Dumbledore is, in fact, the very worst character in all the books? Fuck that guy times a million for letting Harry stay with and get abused by the Dursleys, and even though JKR ret-conned a reason into the fifth or sixth book, it's not fucking good enough.

- Three is a tough age for both the three-year-old and the person spending time with the three-year-old, and I will leave it at that, but I do feel like the people who complain about the terrible twos have standards that are too high, and also maybe three is just sort of a bullshit time. Thank god for preschool is what I'm saying.

- I love my kid though. And I love my family, and Celebration cookies, and my new bed, and the yarn I have coming to me, and the dates I have planned for my husband, and I love peeking at the cute guys at the coffee shop, and meeting new mom-friends and friend-friends, and getting invited to people's weddings and baby showers, and the sunlight over a field of brown-and-orange soybeans, and dark fall skies, and slowly, slowly, feeling like maybe the ground beneath my feet might be okay, even just for today.