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Shots All Around!

My daughter got her first Covid vaccine shot over the weekend! Lots of her friends have also received theirs or have appointments coming up soon, and most of her older relatives have been boosted. We are all so happy and relieved that we can look forward to celebrating winter holidays and birthdays indoors with friends and family this year. We've waited so long for this! And it was free! And, according to her, it didn't even hurt! She felt a little bit of soreness at the injection site for a little while, and she was very sleepy all weekend, which I understand is a good sign that her immune system is working hard to gear up in response to the vaccine. We are very pleased, and our extended family is feeling major relief and hope for a more relaxed, pleasant winter. Michigan is having a particularly rough go with the Covid at this moment in time, with outbreaks driven by Michigan's preteens and teens, and in these dire circumstances, it is so good to have a real reason to hop

Happy Daylight Spending Time!

Happy Daylight Spending Time! It's finally our chance to enjoy the quality of life offered by Real Time. Now we can sleep until almost dawn, commute to work and school in the actual morning instead of during the night, savor the golden hour of the evening with active quality time outdoors without pushing into what should be winding-down time, and then relax into the beauty of a backyard bonfire or a candlelit dinner or a holiday light viewing stroll before the hour required of most human beings to go to bed in order to receive a healthy amount of sleep. Ah, what a relief from the unsustainable grind of Daylight Saving Time! It is fashionable to hate on the end of Daylight Saving Time, but I will not be fooled into participating in that griping. I believe that most of the whiners are conflating the onset of Standard Time with the time of year when the overall amount of actual daylight decreases naturally in the northern realms of the Earth, which is a fact of life outside the contr

Pocket of Joy: Companionship in Solitary Work

Coffee shop ambience. Silent meditation circles. Sitting with a loved one in grief. Writing sprints. There is something soul-sustaining about being in the presence of others who exude love, focus, hope, creativity, inspiration, or any other energy that fills up our spirits while we journey alongside one another on solitary paths. Something about autumn pulls us inward, to reflect upon our own personal moods, dreams, and goals, but also together, as we long for cozy companionship. As more people finally receive Covid vaccinations and cases continue to decline after a nasty peak, book clubs are coming back together. Families are reuniting for long-delayed weddings and memorial services and looking forward to holiday celebrations. We are starting to grieve and to dream again, together. Personally, I am looking forward to having my daughter, the last little member of my family, vaccinated so that we can celebrate with a "vaccination celebration bucket list" our daughter started f

Blown Away on Publication Day

The responses to Leirah and the Wild Man 's publication have blown me away! I feel like one of Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham's little fall fairies lifted on a happy gust of wind. I told my husband earlier this month that I wanted to release my first novel secretly, so nobody I knew would feel obligated to buy it and pretend to read it. Even worse, I didn't want my parents or coworkers to actually read my salacious book! I’ve tried for years to find a literary agent who might grant me access to the professional services and veneer of legitimacy that traditional publishing offers, so I would have the courage to put my weird and wild writing out there for readers who don't know me but happen to be looking for 11th century Byzantine thrillers. But I ran out of patience with the publishing industry's compounding scandals, dramas, changing rules, and vulnerability to volatile markets and supply chains. Years ago, finding an agent felt not only possible but inevitab

Pocket of Joy: Catching More Grief with Sugar

A few days ago, I wrote about the irrational anger at death that I discovered lurking under my grief and fear . Then I saw this poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and it broke my heart open in a different place. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gabrielle Calvocoressi (@gabbat) It is said in pop psychology that sadness lies beneath anger, but in myself I find layers of both, one upon another over and over again, glued together with veins of sticky sweet frustrated longings and backed up affections and other feelings wedged here and there untidily, which cannot be easily peeled apart and healed. I suspect that most people are like me in that way, more or less, and so they have patterns of mixed up emotional tissues unlike mine, in other disordered arrangements. Last week I realized once again, as I must do from time to time, that I am a coddled pet of this world, with so many privileges that a sense of entitlement sneaks up on me whenever I forget how a

Pocket of Joy: Sunny Days with Dark and Stormy Nights

We need both sunshine and rain to survive, all of us--all people, all animals, all plants, all life on Earth. And when we can learn to enjoy changeable weather and seasons with a flexible attitude and a readiness to take advantage of whatever comes along, we can weather the storms of life--metaphorically speaking. Literature helps us to envision pleasures we've never experienced as well as terrors and hardships we've never faced--in the safe, pillowy world of our own imaginations. Reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic and resilient when we encounter situations we've read about in real life. Dark fiction inoculates us against shock and despair in the real world. Writing fiction has therapeutic benefits as well. Way back when I used to participate in NaNoWriMo , I learned that a good author must behave like a fickle, brutal god of the ancients--setting up trials and tribulations for our beloved creations just to watch them fight their way through. My writing compa

Small But Sweet Bathroom Renovation

We have fixed, upgraded, and redecorated our little old bathroom just in time for another pandemic winter! Now that the kitchen and main bathroom are both functional and personalized for our family, we are ready to hunker down in comfort. I had hoped I wouldn't have to spend quite as much time at home heading into 2022, but here we are. At home. What a difference it makes to have a beautiful bathroom, though! For a tall person, it is such a relief to my back to have a higher bathroom vanity that allows me to wash my hands without bending over, and a shower that rains down from well above the top of my head! We put up a taller mirror (an inexpensive antique) than the one that was there before and installed the new light fixture ("rescued" from our local Habitat ReStore) up close to the ceiling, making the room seem taller and bigger even though there is actually less space between the vanity top and ceiling. We saved loads of money by doing as much work ourselves as we co

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Bogus Critics

Beware the false devils of other people's anxieties, insecurities, and petty jealousies that they try to project onto you. If you hear negative messages about yourself repeatedly, especially from people who are very significant to you, like your parents or closest friends, they can worm their way under your eardrums and hijack your own inner voice with their damaging scripts. Once internalized, they can sound like fundamental truth, but they lie as shamelessly as the false angels of your ego do. Don't listen to those who fear your competition because they feel threatened by your talent, your passion, or your persistence. Don't listen to those who would betray you just to keep you down in the crab bucket that they themselves are too afraid to escape. Don't laugh with people who are laughing at you in a mean way. It's healthy for your friends and mentors to keep you humble with constructive criticism, friendly ribbing, and gentle teasing. It's good to maintain yo

Feast Your Eyes on This Cozy Cabincore Kitchen

My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen! It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home , where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages. Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax , who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece th

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Your Bogus Ego

We deserve nothing in this world. Let go of the whole idea that you "deserve" or "don't deserve" the fulfillment of your dreams. Whether you get it or not depends upon luck and what you do, not what you deserve. There is no cosmic Santa Claus doling out blessings and curses to the passive Nice and Naughty lists. You can be as nice and naughty as you like while you decide each day whether to keep working toward your goals or give up. And remember, changing your strategy isn't quitting; staying the course when it isn't working is a sneaky form of giving up on yourself under the guise of hustling. To win at life, as far as I can tell, you must be both humble in your identity and confident in your abilities to learn and adapt. You must love yourself so deeply from the inside out that you can laugh off your bogus ego, release your baggage, strip down to your truth, and get light and free. What a joy it is to finally accomplish that, no matter what achievement

When to Paper Over Your Problems

Figuratively speaking, I think it's okay to paper over a problem when it's temporary--to buy time to save up for a real solution--or when it's a superficial problem anyway, like a harmless spot on your skin that you can slap some concealer on and go about your day. Generally I'm not a "paper over" kind of person. I like to get at the root of things and invest in lasting upgrades. But the pandemic has opened my mind to more flexible, creative solutions when permanent solutions aren't available. Like building a kitchen peninsula out of got-dang particleboard covered in removable wallpaper. But it looks cool, doesn't it?  Literally, I've decided that it's great to paper over things when you cannot obtain quality building materials, bead board, or (I expect very soon) decent paint due to global pandemic-related supply chain disasters. Sometimes that hasty, panic-driven plan B results in a bold and exciting design feature like our birch tree wallpap

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a