May 15, 2020

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“She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip…”

Oh, hi again. What’s new? Nothing! I’ve found a new park in the area that is longer than it is wide. It’s basically a long trail between two neighborhoods, with water chuckling down one side and occasionally across the path, ultimately leading up to enormous Sound-of-Music hills and ?? I still haven’t made it to the end of the trail. It certainly doesn’t loop back in a circle, like many trails, and I’ve walked at least 1.5 miles and not reached the end. Because, as far as you walk out into this semi-wild park, you have to walk the same distance back. It’s been meditative and exploratory and I’m not mentioning the name of the park because I don’t want spoilers about the end of the trail. Stay tuned, I guess?

  1. Why You Should Wear Inside Clothes During Coronavirus, Refinery29. “It’s understandable that one might associate inside clothes with a kind of ailment or defeatism, a sign that you’ve given up on ever going outside again. An introvert’s badge of honor. Conversely, wearing your street clothes at home feels like a headstart on life, like you’re always up for anything at a moment’s notice. If outside clothes are an opportunity to express your best self, an embodiment of your most optimistic plans, then inside clothes are seen as an admission of your worst inclinations and your dashed desires. There’s probably some truth in that for some, but it’s certainly not true about my inside clothes. I’m more inclined than ever to believe that inside clothes are our one shot at understanding the pleasure that comes from really dressing for yourself. No matter how comfortable you are with your own style, when you’re dressing for the outside world, you’re still adhering to codes and expectations. Not so with inside clothes. In my oven-mitt Korean sweatpants and souvenir T-shirts, I am fully dressed for my own eyes, actions, and plans.”
  2. Cereal In My Mouth, Gawker. “It would be extremely easy to blame this chaotic tableau on the lone individual who was in the house during the hours when the crime occurred. It is very tempting to abandon critical thinking and simply assume that—if there is an empty house with only a dog in it, and you leave that house, and everything is clean and in its place, and then you return a few hours later and the kitchen floor is strewn with a hurricane of cereal, and all of the cereal boxes have been opened not by the easy-open flaps on top but instead by being torn and chewed from the side, and there are tooth marks on the boxes, and you’ve seen the dog on multiple occasions push his nose into the crack in the cabinet door and work that door open because he smells the marshmallowy Lucky Charms within, and the dog of the house is hiding in the corner of the living room upon your return, and in the hairy area of the dog’s snout is a good quantity of bluish-white powder consistent with smashed Lucky Charms marshmallows—then the dog of the house is the perpetrator of the crime. Yes, it is quite easy to make this assumption. But where is the proof?” Okay so this is an oldie, that I found in a Twitter round-up of “foundational internet writing,” pieces that define this time period. I’d never seen it before and it is a delight. I like when people write from the perspective of dogs in a way that sounds clever and authentic.
  3. Yoga With Adriene is a YouTube sensation, Vox. Ah, I’ve been a fan of Yoga with Adriene since a friend recommended her 5 years ago. She made me feel like I could do yoga, and that even if I’m a little clumsy or not quite getting the poses, a “little goes a long way” to “finding what feels good” in your body and your breath. If you haven’t tried her yoga videos and you’re curious, she has 7 and 10 minute videos, as well as videos marked for beginners. I loved this: “Sequences are plotted out, but dialogue, apart from her go-to opener, is not. It’s breezy, conversational. She can get silly. She breaks out into show tunes and ’70s R&B, makes Zoolander references, and amps up a Texan twang as needed. She laughs at herself. Her blue heeler, Benji, is forever splayed beside her yoga mat, and she’s not afraid to pause the flow to marvel at his deep, contented sigh or real-deal downward dog. The Today show likened her videos to “doing yoga with a really nice neighbor,” and, true enough, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood provided the initial inspiration for the channel.” No wonder I like her vibe so much!
  4. A Secret Love, Netflix (trailer). Just watched this last night with my husband and sister-in-law. It’s a story of two women in their 80s, who’ve been a couple since 1947, living together as “cousins” or roommates, and who have recently come out to their family. It turns into a story of aging and weighing independence with care, but as my sister said, “The most powerful thing about this story is knowing it’s true, that they’ve existed all this time.” Plus there’s so much good primary source material — photographs, silent footage of the women on the beach in the 50s, in cocktail dresses at parties, playing baseball (oh, did I not mention that one of the women was Terry Donahue, who played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, aka the “league of their own”?). Loved it. It’s so tender and real and Canadian.
  5. Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown. Been working on this book for a few weeks, going slow to absorb it and understand it (and also because nonfiction digests slowly for me compared to ~novels~). She uses metaphors of change and transformation from nature to talk about the best kinds of community movements and individual efforts at changing the world for the better. Dandelions, who use the wind to spread their seeds and influence wide. Ants, who are parts of a whole. Fractals, patterns that repeat from a small scale to a large, like the leaves of a fern or the structure of a snowflake. It’s really good and the more I read the more I would recommend it to you. “Transformation doesn’t happen in a linear way, at least not one we can always track. It happens in cycles, convergences, explosions. If we release the framework of failure, we can realize that we are in iterative cycles, and we can keep asking ourselves — how do I learn from this?”

May 8, 2020

Last week I took the week off. It was an accident, the Friday just flew by me, but I never swung back around and tried to squeeze out a late post (a Saturday 6?). Been doing an okay job keeping my mood afloat, but it’s taking all my attention. Honestly, I played more video games than read anything last week anyway. Oops! Thanks for bearing with me:

  1. Pandemic Mental Health Safety Plan, Queering Psychology. This is a SOLID resource. I went through the questions in preparation for this post and ended up taking a break to journal and check in with what my body is needing (the answer? lunch). It’s so helpful to have some questions to prompt me, otherwise I stare at my journal like “Well…I know the feeling is Bad, but beyond that I’m STUMPED.” Highly recommend having this one in your pocket, or just thinking of those check-in questions for yourself from time to time.
  2. 30 Non-Boring Virtual Date Activities to Try From Home, Vice. Saved this one to share for you all because of this suggestion: “My favorite iteration of the last suggestion is an after-practice bar tradition I have with my bandmates called “draw a cartoon character from memory” that I picked up from the comics artist and critic Nick Gazin. You can’t look at the character in question before you begin—you have to sketch them wholly recollectively. Start with Bart Simpson, move to Betty Boop, despair at the impossibility of Mario of Super Mario fame. It’s so stupidly funny and makes for beautiful keepsakes. It’s also really impressive, infuriating, and hot when someone is, improbably, good at it.”
  3. Baopu #72: Working From Home, Autostraddle. Relatable comic. (I’m feeling Day 40 lately.)
  4. “Meditation 17,” John Donne. Written as Donne recovered from a serious illness. There are a lot of familiar lines in it, and power there: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
  5. 33 Moments Where Friends, Family, And Total Strangers Had Each Other’s Backs In This Pandemic, Buzzfeed. This is sweet and did make me feel better. Lots of selfish, defiant people getting a lot of national attention right now, and while stories of compassion and community are sometimes quieter, I do still believe they’re more powerful.

Bonus features:

April 24, 2020

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@the_memeing_librarian – a lot of librarian memes are CORNY but I like this account

This post will be a little different, and more locally-focused than usual. In honor of National Library Week (which was 4/19-4/25), I want to highlight 5 cool things you can get at the public library while you’re stuck at home. First, if you live in Maryland and you don’t have a library card, FCPL is offering temporary library cards that last til June 1 and can get you access to most of their digital resources, which I’ll be highlighting here. Also, all of these things are free for u, my friends!

I don’t work for FCPL but I am a big nerd for libraries, and I know their resources don’t get used as much as they could be, so if you have any questions about using any of this stuff, or you want a book recommendation or somethin’, reach out! I like to librarian for friends.

  1. E-books and e-audiobooks. Do you like listening to your own audiobook a month from Audible? You can get even more books, both in audio format or as an e-book you can swipe through on your lil phone or tablet through the library. Here’s the ones I like from FCPL:
    • An app called Hoopla where you can check out 30 books and audiobooks, as well as some TV shows and movies (I haven’t done much of that but they’re out there!). The number of things you can check out might vary depending on your library system, but check it out!
    • The other big book/audiobook app is called Libby (by Overdrive), and I like that one too, even though you sometimes have to be put on a waitlist to get super in-demand books.
  2. Virtual storytimes! FCPL does these live on their Facebook at 10am every day, and you can also browse their archive on Youtube. These are designed for kids 0-5.
  3. Lynda is a portal where you can find high quality videos to learn “business and career skills, software and IT, job search tools, web design, social media and publishing tools, and photography.” I used Lynda to learn how to use Photoshop, and there’s some good Microsoft tutorials in there too.
  4. Kanopy is another really popular library resource. It’s a place to find streaming videos (like Netflix), and it has its own Roku channel and smartphone app. There’s a lot of educational stuff on there, but also movies from the Criterion collection, indie films, and lots of documentaries.
  5. A couple homeschool/educational resources:
    • Kids InfoBits is a really cute tool for elementary-to-middle schoolers (and me, when I want simple, comforting facts about farm animals).
    • Gale Virtual Reference Library — I can personally vouch for this database, I use it all the time with students at work! Very readable and user-friendly, like a scholarly version of Wikipedia. I’d say it’s a high school to college-level resource, but I am also very bad at estimating reading level by age.
    • LearningExpress Library has test prep and practice tests for SAT, ACT, AP, GED, GRE, and citizenship exams, plus I think some occupational exams like the NCLEX for nursing. Back in the day, I used their GRE practice tests, because those books are expensive!

So there ya go. Hope you can find something fun to read or watch for the weekend. You know what they say on Arthur, having fun’s not hard…

April 17, 2019

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More of my practice drawin’ hands!

Coloring, laundry, bickering, comfort, fatigue, and friendship. Is there more to report on? I hope you are staying well and on top of your mental health as best as you can, dear friends. I’m breaking my “no pandemic journalism” pact because I have found a few reads that have been helpful (and none are from the Atlantic, whose dramatically grim headlines have given me anxiety flare-ups every time I see them, thank you very little, the Atlantic!):

  1. Sorrow Is Not My Name, Ross Gay. “there are, on this planet alone, something like two / million naturally occurring sweet things.” A new favorite line of poetry. The whole poem is hopeful, go read it!
  2. Why Its OK To Be Bored And Not Productive In Quarantine, Refinery 29. “It was the countless hours I spent dialing into my family’s broadband internet to meticulously build bad websites on Geocities — not the hours in front of a piano — that led to mine. Of course, the point of wuliao [a Chinese phrase that which translates to ‘the absence of conversation,’ and generally means ’too bored’] is not to think about the future. Any hobby, even the pointless ones, will immediately become poisoned if you approach it with the plans to eventually reap from it.” This article shows some cool and cute examples of people’s silly innovations and activities during self-isolation.
  3. Colorful Maps of a World in Coronavirus Lockdown, CityLab. I love this and am inspired by it. Might draw my own map, which would be of my beloved unremarkable hometown of Walkersville. A place I know almost every inch of, one that is incredibly special to me even in its unspecialness, its one-in-a-millionness. In the link, my favorite one is the fantasy-style map from a reader in PA.
  4. This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For, Laurie Penny. “In the end, it will not be butchery. Instead it will be bakery, as everyone has apparently decided that the best thing to do when the world lurches sideways is learn to make bread. Yeast is gone from the shops. Even I have been acting out in the kitchen, although my baked goods are legendarily dreadful. A friend and former roommate, who knows me well, called from Berlin to ask if I had “made the terrible, horrible biscuits yet.” These misfortune cookies tend to happen at moments of such extreme stress that those around me feel obliged to eat them. They say that if you can make a cake, you can make a bomb; if the whole thing implodes, my job will not be in munitions. My job will be the same as yours and everyone else’s: to be kind, to stay calm, and to take care of whoever happens to need taking care of in my immediate vicinity.” I am doing my darndest to not share pandemic journalism but the writing in this one is just irresistibly good. It makes me want to see what else she’s written. It makes me want to hug my friends. Someone should invent a way to make a virtual hug that actually feels like a physical hug.
  5. Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks Rapped Over Dr. Dre’s Beats – Surprisingly good for kids and grown-ups!

Bonus features aka my favorite section these days:

April 10, 2020

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Remember Nutsy, in Disney’s Robin Hood? He’s a vulture (?) keeping the night guard, walking around the courtyard with an axe and shouting the time on the hour: “1 o’clock and allllllllll’s well,” to the Sheriff of Nottingham’s sleepy irritation. The past few weeks, writing these intro paragraphs has felt like that. It’s Friday, I’m here with my axe, and all is as well as it can be. Also can we talk about how good the Disney Robin Hood is?

  1. Museum Asks People To Recreate Paintings With Stuff They Can Find at Home, Here Are The Results, Sad and Useless. These are real cute! It’s cool seeing people be creative and how everyone is working to imitate the light in their chosen painting. I like the Mondrian open face sandwich the best (or the dog one at the end!).
  2. How Craft is Good for Our Health, The Conversation. “One of the strengths of craft practice, especially as a contributor to well-being, is precisely that it can be both solitary and collective, and it’s up to the individual to decide. For the shy, the ill, or those suffering from various forms of social anxiety, this control, as well as the capacity to draw away any uncomfortable focus upon themselves and instead channel this into the process of making, is a much valued quality of their craft practice.” I like this a lot. I sewed a lot of face masks in the past week, which made me feel both empowered and exhausted, and now I’m taking a breather to decide if I want to keep working on sewing projects. If not, there’s always coloring books, a welcome break for my brain.
  3. Wild Geese, Mary Oliver. “let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.” A comforting classic.
  4. A Few 19th-Century Parlor Games to Amuse You While You’re Stuck at Home, LitHub. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jane Austen books lately — the parallels for social distancing and many, many evenings at home with the same few people are easy to draw — and mildly amusing parlor games seem like something the Bennetts might have done to pass the time. These games are really weird and clearly designed by people who don’t get out much. But hey, better than reading from Fordyce’s sermons, right?
  5. This Flapper’s Dollhouse Cost More than Most People’s Homes, Messy Nessy. I. Love. Miniature. THINGS. What a thing (“including the smallest Bible ever written”) to pour millions of dollars into. We visited the Biltmore last year with David’s parents, and as we walked through the house, each room more elaborately furnished than the last, David’s dad kept saying, “This is STUPID money!” Which is how I feel about this dollhouse. I can’t relate to the priorities, although she did use it to raise charitable funds, but it’s definitely a work of art.

Bonus features: