Weekend Projects

Our pond has been having some filtration issues, so we went to a pond and outdoor plant nursery over the weekend. The pups came along and got to see some chickens and peacocks for the first time. Meeting such giant birds kinda blew their little minds. The ponds there were beautiful, and they had so many cool plants and lovely fish. I got a few koi a while ago for our pond, but they’ve been super shy and they spent all their time hiding. I noticed how friendly the koi and goldfish at the pond place were, and chatted with some people there for a while. We ended up bringing a big healthy pair of shubunkin goldfish home and they’ve helped our shy koi be a little braver and more active. It’s very cute.

My office needs some new shelving pretty badly, so in preparation for that larger project we made some saw-horses on Sunday. Sawing stuff is pretty fun, and I only got a little bit of sawdust in my eye.

My home improvement skills are growing, but I did manage to thoroughly bungle an attempt to hang up a towel ring in one of our bathrooms. Turns out, it’s not a good idea to try home improvement projects by yourself when already kind of tired and hungry. There are some new holes in the wall now, but at least I learned a few things.

Not my koi, but they’re so pretty. Maybe ours will be as friendly as these eventually. I can dream.

It’s Been a Buggy Week

I’ve caught so many cool bugs this past week. Since I’ve been kinda hyperfocused on them, I figured I’d share.

I collected some very neat isopods on my way home from California a few weeks back. It reminded me of how much I like bug hunting, so I investigated my yard a little more thoroughly and discovered some really cool stuff.

The springtails we have here are much larger than I’m used to. Springtails are tiny detririvores that live in leaf litter and soil. They’re highly beneficial, and very cute if you can get close enough to see them well. They also hop when startled. Most springtails are smaller than a grain of sand, but these guys are much bigger and easier to handle. I’m calling them werewolf springtails because they have cute fuzzy manes on their shoulders and because I don’t know their Latin name yet.

One of my werewolf springtails

I found out that the cute little pillbugs in my yard are a European species called the common striped isopod. They’re apparently difficult to culture in captivity, but they come in some neat colors, so I’m gonna try.

There’s a red mutation of this species, and I’ve been finding some reds, but I’m not convinced that they’re actually the same species as the rest. I’ll need to see if they grow larger or if they stay this size and reproduce. Either way, they’re really cute.

Different color mutations of the common striped isopod, and mystery red guy.

I also settled all my road trip finds into their own tubs so they can produce little broods of tiny pillbugs in all their pretty colors. My favorites so far are the ghosts, which almost have a lilac or pinkish tinge to them. The calicos are pretty adorable, though. These ones are all a larger and more placid species than the ones in my backyard, so they’re very fun to watch as they trundle around in their new enclosures.

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Baby calico, a ghost, and a wild type

Anyway, there are some cute bugs. Technically, they’re actually mostly crustatians, actually. Isopods, including all pillbugs and rolly-polies, are land crustatians. They even have little gills on their undersides. So, there’s a thing you know now.

I Honestly Can’t Think of a Title For This

I’ve been a brain-foggy pile of useless since I got home from my trip. I think the disruption to my sleep schedule and somewhat questionable food choices kinda caught up with me really hard. Wasn’t breathing so well at night, and wasn’t sleeping sensible lengths of time, so I tried to compensate with sleep meds that left me incredibly spaced out and weird the next day. So, lesson learned, I guess. I’ll be even more careful about all of that next time I travel, and I guess I need to not use those over the counter sleep aids too much if I want my brain to work the next day for anything other than zoning out to educational dinosaur videos on youtube and then wondering where the hell the past six hours went and why I’m still in my pajamas. It’s a little funny in retrospect, but getting into a shower and then into outside clothes generally shouldn’t use up absolutely all of my mental energy for a given day.

Really makes you wonder why sleep isn’t just a wee bit easier, given how it’s essential for survival and stuff. I know literally everything about modern life fucks with our natural biological rhythms, but come on.

I say this while typing on a white screen at past-my-bedtime o’clock, of course.

Some gorgeous deep pink geraniums a friend gave me because she’s super nice. They rode in my front seat all the way home from California. I thought I didn’t like geraniums because I was used to those eye-scaldingly red ones that smell super weird when you break their leaves, but I was wrong.

ADHD Willpower Drain

There’s a theory that every choice we make in a day uses up a portion of our supply of willpower. It gets replenished while we sleep, and drained over the course of the day the more decisions we have to make. That’s part of why habits and routines are so helpful, if you can form them, because ideally they each take one or more choices out of the day by making those actions automatic.

I think that that kind of incremental willpower drain is extra hard on people with ADHD, because every time my brain goes “I wonder how hard it would be to build a miniature beach in an aquarium complete with real tiny fish and crustaceans” I have to use a little bit of energy to stop myself from immediately googling the best sources for Thai micro crabs and corkscrew vallisneria. I have to use some willpower every time I think of a cool thing to draw, which happens multiple times a day. I have to use it to decide that I’ll go out in the garden later because I’m currently writing my blog post. And then I have to decide that again fifteen minutes later when the dogs get excited and bark at a squirrel outside the window. And again when I hear the birds outside on our bird feeder. And again when I remember that I meant to move our tomato seedlings back inside so they won’t get sunburned.

Eventually, I usually get derailed. Maybe it’s because I just run out of willpower juice after ignoring every random suggestion my brain makes while I’m trying to just do one damn thing at a time.

I have no proposed solution at the moment. I’ve just been observing how many times a day I have to decide not to do a random thing and how tired that eventually makes me feel. It also, unfortunately, makes me sort of averse to doing creative stuff on a whim even when I do have the free time for it. I get into the habit of telling myself I’ll do that stuff later, even when I totally could just do it now.

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One of the trees in my yard that unexpectedly makes flowers. They are white and pretty and I have no idea what kind they are.
Little white tree flowers on the deck. They’ve been falling like snow, in part because the local birds seem to find them delicious. It’s pretty, but they stick to your shoes if you walk around on them.

Balancing Creative Attachment

I’ve been struggling with some mounting anxiety about writing choices lately. I tend to get into worry spirals about my plot decisions and characters and how different people I know, and lots of people I don’t know, might react to them. Sometimes I can cope with creative anxiety by emotionally pulling back from my work, especially when processing professional feedback, but I think I’ve actually done that too much. I’ve kind of lost track of my affection for Orane and my emotional involvement in her journey. Some distance is definitely good, because a writer who is afraid to make bad things happen to their good people is generally not going to tell a very compelling story.

On the other hand, though, staying that emotionally detached from the story has left me much more subject to the pressure of other people’s opinions. I can’t really feel comfortable with any of my choices because I’m not trusting my own judgement and creative intuition anymore. There’s no point writing a book entirely driven by what I think other people might think. There’s nothing wrong with writing to a particular market, but that’s not my goal at the moment and it’s definitely not what I’ve been doing. I’ve just been scared of judgement. My instinct is to escape the judgement by not writing anything anyone could possibly judge, but that really means not writing anything at all.

That anxiety reached an unpleasant peak this week, where I couldn’t even think about my work without my head just filling up with a whirlpool of worries. I literally can’t function under that much external influence, since every single thing will ultimately be judged negatively by some people and positively by others. There’s no way to please everyone, so for now I’m trying to focus inward and reconnect with my own judgement and creative preferences.

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Image: A pussy willow in late afternoon sunlight.

Writing days this past week: 1

Kindness Porn

I’ve started watching the Tidying Up show with Marie Kondo, not because I’m actually planning to follow her method at the moment, but just because she’s such a delight to watch and listen to. I also loved her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and would highly recommend it as a very relaxing read. It’s an excellent bedtime book.

In spite of all the totally legitimate criticism of the minimalist movement, Marie is really nonjudgemental and seems to be purely motivated by a desire to help people make their own environments comfortable for themselves, not to make them fit into any particular image. If that box of Star Wars memorabilia makes you happy, she wants to help you display it, not guilt you into throwing it away. She really strikes me, above all else, as a person who has completely leaned into who she is, her own unique view of the world, and what matters to her. I think that’s pretty special.

I have a slowly growing little list of shows that are both positive and relaxing, and Tidying Up is going on it. The Great British Baking show and Queer Eye are also pretty high up there. I never realized how starved I was for just seeing basic kindness on TV until I first found myself watching a baking competition where the contestants would often stop work just to help each other. Even the comedians on GBBS give out hugs and encouragement in equal measure with their kindhearted teasing and jokes.

Queer Eye offers something even more rare, which is a group of men doing emotional labor for other men. Many straight men rely almost entirely on their female partners for that kind of emotional processing and support, and it can be terribly isolating. The men of Queer Eye are gentle and encouraging, and they provide a great image of non-toxic masculinity. Plus, the show offers a lot of body positivity for men, another rarity.

Side note: There was a great discussion I saw a while ago about how this heavy reliance on their female partners can encourage men to believe in the mythical Friend Zone. Men tend to view any kind of emotional labor as something you only exchange with a romantic partner, whereas women usually also give and receive that kind of support from friends. Thus, basic supportive friendship for a woman looks, to a straight man, like a relationship. This is not a good thing. It wears women out, trying to keep up with the needs of a person who isn’t getting emotional support from anyone else in their life, and is part of why older men tend to die soon after losing their partners. They have no emotional support networks to take up the strain, unlike most older women. Plus, it encourages men to ruin perfectly good friendships by putting their female friends in The Girlfriend Zone. Knock this off, dudes. Being friends isn’t a consolation prize, y’all just need to learn how to do it right.

Here are some of the shows on my kindness porn list:

  • Great British Baking show
  • Queer Eye This is the remake, not the original. I’ve just never watched the original show, so I can’t comment on its tone.
  • Tidying up
  • This one is not a TV show, but Jessica Kellgren-Fozard has a youtube channel, Jessica Out of the Closet, that is pretty much like distilled sunshine. She’s a disability activist, vintage beauty vlogger, and she shares stories about her life with her wife and their two dogs. Sometimes she also talks about her beliefs as a quaker, and about queer and disabled historical figures. She’s one of the most positive and intentionally kind people I’ve ever seen in my life.
  • Big Dreams, Small Spaces is a British show about renovating small gardens so that they’re more functional and beautiful for the families who need them. They often feature disabled people, with a focus on accessibility and tailoring those spaces really well to the people who will use them.
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a short one, but very fun to watch. The host, Samin Nosrat, is incredibly passionate about good food, with none of the usual quibbling about calories or creepy talk about guilty pleasures. She enjoys herself, teaches about the important basic elements of flavor, and she goes out and talks to people who make amazing food around the world. She also has a book.

If anyone has any suggestions for more shows I should add to this list, I’d love to hear them.

I had to rescue this orchid from Safeway, because they had sprayed all the other orchids with glitter paint and it was sad.
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This is my weird hairless dog in pajamas giving me a hug. Granted, she was doing this to stop me from working so I’d pay attention to her instead, but still.

Writing days this past week: 2

The Thrill

Halloween is theoretically a spooky time, but let’s be real, it’s all just fun. People enjoy the little thrills, but mostly it’s an excuse to be creative and silly. Those thrills aren’t even really fear, they’re the excitement of being allowed to look at and celebrate things that are still slightly taboo. We’re not supposed to talk about death too lightly, except right now, when we can hang human skeletons and cute little ghosts from our trees. They’re even selling adorable little fake dog and lizard skeletons in every shop, although most of the time people might think it’s a little weird that I keep real ones in my office.

The most exciting things in life are often the things that have the capacity to be a little scary. That’s why we like roller-coasters, painfully spicy food, kinky sex, and sharing our artistic work in spite of the fairly legitimate terror of rejection and/or mockery. The people who seem to enjoy themselves the most fully are the ones who manage to do what they do in spite of the fear, even learning to embrace the fear, rather than because they had no fear to start with. It’s no fun without the thrill, or maybe there’s just less of a sense of triumph if we didn’t have to push through some discomfort to get to the goal.

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Writing days this past week: 3