Scavenger Hunt

It’s been a long time since I’ve read as much as I want to. I was an avid reader in elementary and middle school, but it dropped off a bit in high school and a great deal more in college.

As I’ve tried to get my reading numbers back up, I’ve realized that numerical goals and contests (i.e., trying to read 50 books or a million words in 2017) aren’t for me. I always set them too high, and then I fall behind and feel awful and it’s a whole miserable cycle that you know as well as I. So this year, I’m doing a reading scavenger hunt with my friend Gaven.

Currently, we’re each making a list of 30 things one might find in a book: a stray cat, a forehead kiss, a character with a Mohawk, etc. We’re going to put our lists together and then spend the rest of 2017 competing to see who can find the most things from the lists.

Gaven reads in much greater quantity than I do, so in that sense, e does have an advantage, but because it’s not a pure numbers game, I have a chance, too. All of our scavenger hunt finds will be photo-documented, and I’ll keep you updated on how I’m doing throughout the year.

If you’ve got any recommendations for things I should read, I’m always looking. Tell me in the comments or come be my friend on Goodreads!

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Post-Election Coping Mechanism #1

Tuesday was plain awful. I think we can all agree on that. In light of the hellfire that is the election results, I’ve found myself really craving community and companionship. I live with Kowalski (my beloved asshole cat) but no other humans, and that can get lonely. Over the year and a half I’ve lived in this area, I’ve gotten really involved in my UU church, my church choir, and swing dancing. I do a lot of group activities that are good for my extroverted heart, but I don’t spend much one on one time with friends. 

So I decided to change that. There’s a woman in my church & choir who I think is just the bee’s knees. She’s the mom to two friends of mine who just left for college, but I didn’t ever spend time at their house so she isn’t relegated to “my friends’ mom” in my head. Yesterday, I texted her to ask her to lunch tomorrow. 

I’ve never been so nervous. 

But! In a miracle of miracles, she said yes! She even invited me to her house instead of going out. I’m really excited but it’s scary, too. I have a hard time trusting that people want to be my friend, or that I have anything to offer as a friend. I’m almost in tears just thinking about it because I am so nervous

Part of that is the anxiety of turning a situational friendship (i.e., a friend I see at church and choir) into a more general friendship. And part of it is that I’m not really used to intergenerational friendships. I’ve been friends with professors but that was still within the context of school. I feel like a kid, like an eager student trying to be the teacher’s pet. It’s hard to figure out how to come to this on equal footing. I feel like a kid, but I don’t want her to see me as a kid. You know?

Regardless, I’m plunging in headfirst tomorrow at noon. Wish me luck ❤

today’s song: i don’t need anything but you // annie (1999) soundtrack

The Pope’s Daughter

Happy November! Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month (hereafter referred to as NaNo) and I am so excited. I did NaNo successfully for 7 straight years but the last two, I’ve gotten a day or two in before collapsing under the weight of depression and other obligations. The first year I “failed” was especially tough because I hate breaking my duck. But I survived, as one does.

This year, I have a gentler goal and a little more time and energy. I’m cowriting with my best friend L (which technically makes me a NaNo rebel) and our novel is about a lesbian lady who’s getting married to her partner… in the Vatican. Officiated by her biological father, the Pope. It’s fun! 🙂

L and I have tried to write together before, but never with much success, although we’ve plotted a handful of other ridiculous stories. I’m feeling good about this year, but I also know that I have nothing to worry about if we don’t make it. Our friendship will not be in jeopardy. I actually cannot imagine anything that would put our friendship in jeopardy, barring unrealistic changes in personality.

After all, when we were freshmen in college, I wrote her an extremely embarrassing letter confessing my romantic feelings for her and hid it in her bag just before she left for spring break. And even though she absolutely did not return my feelings (especially since, you know, she identified as straight at the time, which should have been a clue to me), our friendship didn’t falter. She’s basically my platonic life partner. I text her more than anyone, even my gentleman caller. We are best friends the likes of Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe. And we are going to write a kickass novel this month.

If you’re joining us in NaNo, good luck to you!

today’s song: silver lining // cheryl wheeler

Dried Beans

Art is hard. I know that exercising my creative bones* is good for my mental health — and God knows my mental health hasn’t been in tip-top shape recently — but it’s tough. I’ve had a string of really challenging weeks, and the apathy/inability-to-complete-tasks symptom of my depression is hogging the spotlight. I’m tired. I’m lonely. And my soul is drained.

Enter art. Visual art, especially, ought to be helpful because it’s something to do with my hands. I suppose writing uses my hands too, but the imbalance in favor of brain-creativity is often too much for me to handle. But I’ve got a lot of baggage around making art; maybe you do, too. I can’t draw. My paintings look silly. My sister is the artistic one, not me. I don’t have good ideas. Hello, monster in my head. You’ve been practicing.

But I’m not just a tangled knot of excessive question marks and unnecessary exclamation points. I am also a teacher of small kidlets. We do art together daily: sometimes free time to draw and paint, sometimes scheduled projects. A mosaic of dried beans. A bat made from a toilet paper holder. A superhero in only primary colors. Et cetera. They’re silly. They’re fun. They’re exercises in texture or color or fine motor skills. 

And for me, they’re safe. 

I can be creative without panicking at the infinity of options. I can create something without ever needing to step off the path of the instructions. (In this, the exercise of metaphorically coloring outside the lines, my kidlets surpass me every time. But such is childhood.) 

My favorite project we ever did was the bean mosaics. Square inch by square inch, I covered my cardstock with liquid glue and dried beans, each pressed up tight against its neighbor. The goal was completion, to fill the page. The result, unexpectedly, was a piece of art that is not only visually pleasant (and appropriately autumnal), but also a satisfying sensory experience when I need to get out of my head. I run my hands over the dried beans, and it feels good, and that’s really all that matters. 


*yes, yes, you don’t exercise bones, let it go

today’s song: hammer and nail // the indigo girls 

Beloved Dead

I am a Unitarian Universalist. Today, as on the final Sunday of every October, we held a celebration and ritual honoring our beloved dead. There was music — hymns from the congregation and songs from the choir, of which I am a part — and there were stories. There was prayer and there was meditation. And there was the naming. 

In one of my favorite UU rituals, inspired by celebrations of the dead in other cultures (including DĂ­a de los Muertos), we name our dead. Those who wish to do so line up to speak a name into the collective sacred space and light a candle. There are too many of us for each of us to name all our beloved dead; at the microphone, we get one name each. On our way back to our seats, or once seated, or if we never stand in line at all, we whisper the rest of our names into the space. The air between us can hold them all.

I have made it a practice to bring at least one name of a person I have never met. This year, the name I spoke at the microphone was a beloved professor who passed only weeks ago, but among the names I whispered was a dear friend of my gentleman caller, who died before I ever came into his life. Last year, it was my then-girlfriend’s late grandmother whose name I spoke. It is a small thing, but it helps me not only to keep connected to my own loved ones, but also to remember that I am but one thread in the interconnected web that binds us all. 

Your loved ones are my loved ones. Your humanity is my humanity. Your beloved dead are my beloved dead. 

Currently Reading: Americanah

Brief blog update: There were some personal stories on here, which I’ve decided to remove/make private for the time being. 

    The schedule will be floppy for awhile until I figure out what works for me to maintain.

    Onward ho! The book I’m currently working through is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m less than 50 pages in, but it’s really interesting so far. It’s told from two perspectives: Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman living in the States, and Obinze, her ex-lover who still lives in Nigeria. Chapters from both perspectives are in 3rd person, which I appreciate. I find it much easier to follow a 3rd person narrative with multiple perspectives than a 1st person one.

    One of the main reasons I love it so much, so early on, is that it’s already made me learn 2 new words! I have a pretty wide vocabulary, so it’s rare that I have to look words up while reading a novel, let alone 2 in the span of a chapter. (The words are recalcitrant and propinquity, if you were wondering.) 

    I’m proctoring state tests for the next two and a half weeks, which should mean lots of reading time! I can’t wait to get a little deeper into Adichie’s beautiful writing in Americanah.

    A New Year’s Morning

    It’s 2016! I love the New Year; it’s one of my favorite holidays. I’m all about renewal and rejuvenation, and even though it’s a little cheesy, the New Year is perfect for that.

    Every year on January 1st, my dad and I go swimming in the ocean. We live in Florida, so it’s not much of a polar bear swim (today the ocean was over 70°F), but it might be my favorite tradition. Last year, he was teaching in Germany, so I had to swim without him. Weird. 4/10, would not recommend unless absolutely necessary. The cleansing aspect was wonderful, but I don’t love going it alone.

    But! This year we went together, and my mom and sister and girlfriend all came along and swam, too, which was amazing. Mehek and I went out just past where the waves break and hung out in the water and talked about what we were letting go of this year. I’m letting go of resentment and frustration about my job—I’m deciding to love it like it deserves to be loved. My students deserve all the love I can gather, and I’m not wasting any energy holding onto frustration with the administration of my job or the unreasonable expectations often put on me.

    I’m big on resolutions, and I tend to make upwards of 10 or 15 every year, but for 2016, I’m scaling down. Making 15 resolutions just leaves me with the bitter taste of self-loathing on my tongue every time I think about them. That’s the fun part of depression, isn’t it? Making multiple big life changes at a time is hard enough for anybody, but especially with my favorite symptom of depression: overwhelming apathy.

    [tweet https://twitter.com/rubyetc/status/682688083704344576] [tweet https://twitter.com/rubyetc/status/682688575587135488 hide_thread=’true’]

    I feel you, Ruby.

    So what are my resolutions? To check my email nightly and respond to every email that needs it. To be kind to my soul—do all my weekend work on Saturdays and leave Sundays for church, trips to the ocean, books and art and music, time with my girlfriend. To be kind to my body—eat more fruits and vegetables and be more active.

    What am I not going to do? Count calories. Make a star chart for exercising. Expect myself to be a different person. Weigh myself (at all, ever). Make vague promises about being happier or stronger or braver.

    [tweet https://twitter.com/gabrielabarkho/status/682761470682226689]

    To be slightly less glib, I love Wendy Xu’s take—on everything, really, but especially this. I want to make more art this year, but I don’t want to make numerical goals for it. Just getting in touch with my creativity is enough for me.

    [tweet https://twitter.com/AngrygirLcomics/status/682254781067431936]

    2016 is going to be a beautiful year, y’all. I can feel it.

    Other reading: 15 Fresh Start Ideas for your New Year, Healthy Resolutions that are Alternatives to Weight Loss, Dying the Metaphorical Death