28 Feb
2021

The end of the month! Day 28 of blogging every day for the month of February! I’m going to pretend this statue in the photo immediately above is exuberantly rejoicing in my success, but in reality, she doesn’t care. The Lady of The Perpetual Bauble has no time for my literary pursuits, “give me more jewels, dammit!” she snarls, peevishly. Wow, ok lady. I guess I’ll just celebrate alone. Carry on.

As I am pretty sure that I mentioned earlier this month, I was inspired by a fellow blogger, Katie of Wyrd Words & Effigies, to attempt writing a blog post every day for a month. I figured I’d go with February because there’s no time like the present of course, and also it’s the shortest month, so less work, right? Which, while technically true, I’m not sure those two days make much of a difference overall.

As I’ve shared before, I have a full-time job that actually has nothing to do with writing, so it’s not as if I can spend my 9-5 hours writing a blog post. How I’ve managed to do it is by: keeping an ongoing list of ideas, starting a new draft every time I came up with at least one or two sentences for those ideas, and just chipping away at them when I wake up, over coffee, while I’m having my lunch, or after-hours. Somehow I’ve made it work, and I have even managed to schedule some blog posts several days in advance!

What I’ve learned from this is that I should act on more ideas as they occur to me, instead of sitting on them or saving them for a rainy day. And while I definitely will not be doing 30 days straight of blogging again any time soon, I have discovered that I could definitely be writing more frequently than I typically do. 

I tend to set a lot of “challenge”-type goals, and I think that’s because it seems like a good way to structure some ongoing and future creative projects for myself. To get myself thinking and working in ways I typically might not think or work. For the sake of some –admittedly arbitrary– goals, with these challenges I am motivated to learn new things and work with new concepts and materials, but because I’ve set some guidelines (blog every day for a month, make a new cake every month, do a YouTube video every month, do a perfume review every day on TikTok, etc.,) I won’t get overwhelmed with possibilities and just either go totally off the rails or decide to not even try at all.

In addition to those cake goals and blog post challenges, I’m also making one soup every month from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. Almost every recipe in this book has been delicious, with the exception of the orzo and pea soup. I probably should have realized this when just looking at those words on the page in front of me made me want to gag. However! Last night’s Ravioli Potage was another absolute winner. The only changes I made were to add some spicy Italian sausage and I swapped out the chervil for tarragon because who even keeps chervil on hand?? Let me know if I am wrong about that, but I don’t think so.

In other food-related reportings, I implore you to stop everything you are doing and make Rabbit & Wolves’ creamy miso pasta with caramelized mushrooms. This may well be the best pasta I’ve ever had, vegan or otherwise. And you people know I like my melty cheese-covered pasta tubules, so that’s saying quite a bit!

If making this recipe, I would suggest preparing twice the amount of sauce you need, and parcel it out to use in the next day or two. At which point, heat it up on the stove, loosen it up with a bit of broth, add a goodly amount of nutritional yeast and some diced, pickled jalapenos– and then you will have the best vegan nacho cheese sauce of your life.

Here is the second finished object of the year: the hellebore-inspired Winter Rose socks. This beautiful pattern is by Helen Stewart and the wildly vibrant fuschia/magenta yarn is from the inimitable Astral Bath Yarns.

Currently working on: the Wild Oak Socks by Virginia Sattler-Reimer in even more gorgeous Astral Bath yarns, although I don’t think I successfully captured the lovely colors or the wonderful pattern in the photo above. I also broke a needle while I was trying to take that photo, ugh!

I continue to keep up with that wily sourdough starter and am making this sourdough loaf recipe just about every week now. We really love the version where a few capfuls of everything bagel seasoning is substituted for the salt, so that’s what I am sticking with for now.

I hit upon the genius idea to make several batches of naan to freeze for future-us on an evening where a nice curry might call for naan we don’t have on hand or have time to make, but, surprise, we do! Because past-us made a bunch and froze it! I may have shared this recipe before, but I use this one, which calls for sourdough discard and yogurt.

I’ll mention a few changes I made to the naan recipe, for those interested: because I use fat-free skyr instead of yogurt, and I never have milk on hand (as called for in the recipe) I just use water for the milk, and a tablespoon or two of olive oil to make up for the missing fat in the milk and skyr. I also let the dough sit in the fridge overnight. Sometimes it is just easier on your schedule to make the dough the night before and then cook it the next evening…and it’s fine. Didn’t affect the end result at all.


Some new books! Yes, yes, I am still reading all the old ones, but don’t you dare judge me! I know you’re probably doing exactly the same thing, so I do not want to hear it. Included in this mini-haul are:

Fangs
Kink: Stories
Giant Days Vol. 14
Remina
The Low, Low Woods
Field Guide to the Haunted Forest (not pictured, because it arrived after I took this photo!)

Bonus: the BEST new snack to pair with any, all, and every book. Takoyaki Balls!  I ate a whole bag at once, immediately felt sick, and yet still wanted more. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

So…that’s my February. Between blogging and TikToking, having my poem published, doing my first podcast, and some plotting & planning with my publisher for the possibility of something new (!!)–it’s been a busy, and, I might even say, a pretty crazed month. I’m worn out! So if my little space here gets a little quiet over the next week, I think you can guess as to why. I’ll just be taking a moment to breathe. Probably while inhaling some more Takoyaki Balls. They’re so good!

How was your February? What did you get into/up to/around to?

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After Hendrick Andriessen, via Christies

A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From heart-rending to gut-splitting (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.

Previously: February 2020 | February 2019 | February 2018 | February 2017 | February 2016 

💀 Haute Grief: Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s Mourning Mask and Veil

💀 Closure Isn’t a Thing in Grief and That’s Okay

💀 Grief Journaling Tips & Writing Prompts

💀 The Stuff of Death and The Death of Stuff

💀 What a Death Doula Can Teach Us About Living More Compassionately

💀 Is End of Life Its Own Stage of Life?

💀 7 tips for thoughtfully dealing with grief in the workplace

💀 A Greek Photographer’s Ode to the Art of Mourning

💀 Video games revel in death, Spiritfarer focuses on what happens next

💀‘Buried by the Bernards’ Is a Different Kind of Netflix Reality Show 

💀7 Books About Death And Dying For Comfort During Tough Times

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26 Feb
2021

photo by IIurie Belegurschi

A new mix of lullabies and volcanos and the divining of sounds made by cracks in the ice; the eerie creaking shriek as they form, the moan of the wind scouring over them, the ghostly sobs of those who met their end within the fracture.

But mostly, you know, ambient/electronic. Not trying to oversell it.

Það er margt sem myrkrið veit,
– minn er hugur þungur.
Oft ég svarta sandinn leit
svíða grænan engireit.
Í jöklinum hljóða dauðadjúpar sprungur.

There is much that darkness knows, my thoughts are heavy.
Often I watched the black sand burning green meadows.
On the glacier cry deadly-deep ice-cracks.

If you enjoyed this little Icelandic lullaby, then you will find more here. I never thought I’d have comfort blog posts that I’d revisit and spend so much time with over the years, but if I had to pick one, this would definitely be it.

 

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If you caught my dream-post the other day, then the theme of this ensemble may make some amount of sense to you. As much as such things, can, I suppose. Anyway, I don’t feel the need to explain myself–those who know, know!

And to all the nitpicky fashionistas and history-buffs who might have complaints about Edwardian authenticity or who may critique anachronistic eras intermingling, my reply is this: go be that bothersome, pedantic know-it-all somewhere else, please. It’s called dream couture honey, look it up!

In any case, I was just looking for an excuse to build an outfit around that amazing silk bat scarf. You can find the individual details below, but quite honestly, a lot of this stuff is going to be sold out or long gone, because I went waaa-aaay back in the archival hinterlands of my virtual closet for many of the elements included here. I think that’s okay, though– much like the production of PG Wodehouse’s Dracula, this accompanying costume is part of an imaginary dream world, as well.

DETAILS:

Alexander McQueen layered silk-satin trimmed wool and lace coat // Diane von Furstenberg Maxi Dress with Sheer Overlay // Lonely Delilah lace bra & briefs // Gerbe Plumetis stay ups // Ronsantica evening bag // Sergio Rossi Camilla Leather Ankle Boots // Bacchus the bat silk scarf // Ralph Lauren gold-plated tassel necklace // Dust to Dust ring by Magaret Cross // Rose gold mini Hecate ring from Bloodmilk // Black Rose from Erstwhile at Catbird NYC // Prospect glasses from Valley Eyewear // Tempo Eau de Parfum by Diptyque // Rituel de Fille Envious Inner Glow Crème Pigment

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Bon Bon cookies via Vintage Dish and Tell

I must have been thinking of Daft Punk when I came up with the title for this blog post. The end of an era. Dang. But the following thoughts have absolutely nothing to do with the legendary Parisian dance music duo, so enough of that.

I’ve been in a cake-making mood, lately. I don’t even really like cake, although I do have preferences (and none of them are chocolate because apparently, I am some sort of perverse contrarian weirdo.) I don’t want to make a cake every day, but I decided I was going to make a sort of cake-a-month challenge. And you may laugh at my reasons.

I don’t want to eat cake. I want a visual document of a cake I made. I just want to take pictures of my cakes.

 

1-2-3-4 vanilla cake from The Baker’s Appendix

Flipping through my grandmother’s Betty Crocker cookbook was one of my favorite past times when I spent weekends visiting my grandparent’s home as a child growing up in our tiny Ohio town. I would park myself in an old armchair with a stack of them on my lap and flip through the pages, tracing the photographs with my small fingers, dreaming of making these delicious desserts myself.

Often times on those weekends, my grandmother would bake a pie* and I would “help” by rolling shapes out of the leftover crust, sprinkling them with sparkling sugar, and baking them up in the still-hot oven, after the pie had finished its time there. I was always rather disappointed that my creations looked absolutely nothing like the colorful confections in the pages of those books that had inspired me so.

*Speaking of pie, I found this image yesterday and I have been cackling about it for the past 24 hours.

 

Birthday bundt cake fail. We couldn’t get it out of the pan, so we piled on pillowy mounds of espresso icing and ate it straight from the vessel with large spoons.

As I grew older, I never completely lost my love for cookbooks but found myself more frequently drawn to food blogs on the internet, where I had begun to find recipes to experiment with. When I created my own blog (not this one, but its very distant cousin) back in 2002, one of my biggest inspirations and motivations was to one day feature delectable images on my website that rivaled the beauty of those that had captured my imagination. This, as it turns out, was no easy feat for a person with no eye for design and no photography skills or training. I mean…that’s a lot of work. And not necessarily work I was interested in investing in what is basically just a personal blog.

As we’ve talked about here before, I want to be the best! No work, only best!

 

Cranberry oatmeal bread (I’m not sure what recipe I used for this?)

I eventually came to the conclusion that I was going to have to learn something if I wanted to improve my cake pictures. And while I won’t pretend I put a lot of effort into it,  I did watch a class on Skillshare that I do think was pretty helpful and I think I’ve actually leveled up a tiny bit! I’ve shared pictures willy-nilly throughout this post, and none of them are in any sort of order, chronological or otherwise–but I think you can spot the few that I did post-video classroom.

Now please remember, I am coming at the subject from someone who knows next to nothing, so obviously if you’ve got some of these skills under your belt already, then there’s probably not much insight to be had here. I watched Olena Hassell’s course on photography, composition, and styling but there are probably free videos on YouTube that may share similar tips, tricks, and techniques. It was actually a YouTube video that convinced me to pay money for Skillshare, ha! I am too easily influenced.

 

Italian plum and almond cake

I’ve obviously got quite a ways to go, and I’ll probably never get there, where ever “there” is. That’s fine. I think I have reached a point where some of these photos are exactly as good as the photos on those cooking blogs of yore that I was so enthralled with. But that’s just my opinion, and even if they’re nowhere even close, I am pretty excited to continue trying my hand at it and sharing beautiful photos of cakes, while fobbing off on someone else the actual cakes themselves, for purposes of digestive disposal.

Next month: Hatteras Fig and Whiskey Cake? Parsnips and Peppercorn cake? Whatever it is, I can’t wait to show you!

 

Molasses gingerbread cake with cooked cream cheese frosting

 

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

 

Persian Love Cake garnished with pistachios, rose petals, and candied ginger

 

Gâteau au Yaourt

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24 Feb
2021

Photo: Stéphan Valentin

I read something once, I forget who said it or where I saw it, but it was something to the effect of that the peculiar thing about recurring dreams is that, no matter how many times you dream these same things, they always take you by surprise.

This is somewhat true for me. I have a handful of recurring dreams but in the moment of the dream, it feels like the first time it’s ever happened. And yet it also feels inevitable. This is the part where I tell you about my dreams. This is the part when I learn what camp you fall into (I have observed that there there are only two, this is very black and white and no middle ground): you will yawn and your eyes will glaze over and the bounce rate of my site will rise precipitously, or you will dig in and commit, no matter how boring and mundane my nocturnal reports turn out to be. I fall into the latter category. I will listen to anyone’s dream despite how ridiculous and nonsensical they might be, even if they are so tedious and tiresome that they are actually putting me to sleep. Dreams are fascinating.

My main five recurring dreams, however, are pretty boring, so I won’t go into them at length… but I am very curious about other people’s recurring dreams. Research has shown that there are common dream themes; do yours fall into any of these categories? Are they similar to mine? Are they quite different? Are they dull affairs or are these things you dream frequently full of adventure?

At least once I week I will dream:

-That I am still working at my high school fast-food restaurant job, and have been doing so on and off for years. I haven’t checked the schedule recently, so I show up for a shift on the off-chance that I am supposed to be there. At some point during the dream, I realize I haven’t collected a paycheck in many years.

-That I am simultaneously paying rent on two apartments. I had somehow rented out another, completely forgetting that I was already living somewhere else. This frequently involves a side dream in which I panic, suddenly remembering a pet who hasn’t been fed for a while, but I can’t recall which place they are living in.

-That I have to move back to New Jersey, for some reason. When I was younger, I dreamed that I had to move back to Ohio. Basically, I am moving back to a place I don’t have any ties to anymore.

-My sisters are visiting and messing up my house, and I am getting very frustrated and upset.

-This last one is not a frequently recurring dream, but it does happen from time to time, and it is always, 100% the harbinger of a nightmare. I will walk into a dark room, flip the light switch…and nothing. The light does not come on, and although the scenario after that point is always different, the broken light switch is always a signifier that the situation is about to go to hell. I have gotten very good at waking myself at this point, as soon as I realize the room did not light up! Also, I have realized that I tend to have this sort of dream when I am overly warm at night. I now keep a fan on no matter what the time of year, I tend to wear airy pajamas, and I don’t bundle myself too tightly in my blankets. It’s been years since I’ve had a really awful bad dream, and I attribute that to learning how to pull myself out of it and keeping myself cool at night.

 

I have taken to sharing my more interesting dreams over on Twitter over the last few years. The one above I tweeted about just last month, but good lord, I’ve got 140 character dream diaries going back almost a decade over there. Before that, I used to share them on Tumblr but someone was rude to me about it once, and I got super butthurt and gave it up. Twitter is much better at ignoring me, and I am OK with that! Here are a few for your enjoyment, puzzlement, or just for you to ponder “good lord, what is WRONG with her?”

-“Last night I dreamed I attended a production of ‘P.G. Wodehouse’s Dracula.’ “

-“Last night I dreamed I was aboard a warship that was actually just a jaunty ferris wheel that had become unmoored and was floating aggressively across the sea.”

-“Dreamed of ascending a never-ending spiral staircase in a grotty old pawn shop/museum in order to view a murderbone exhibit. Bones of murderers? Bones used for murder? I woke up, so we will never know.”

-“Dreamed that Han Solo gave me a cb radio and a pair of track pants. I never saw him again.”

-“Also dreamed I sat in as an observer at auditions for a show called America’s Next Top Witch. The potentials looked like Rock of Love contestants, only spookier and I’m not sure how this is possible, but also sluttier. I could tell it was going to be an incredible show.”

-“Dreamed of a much-coveted bangle but I could only buy it in two colors: poison or live snake.”

-“Last night I dreamed that I contracted the legal services of Hooker, Hooker, Corncob, and Charles.”

-“Dreamed I flung myself through the window of my high-rise suite, thinking, “wow, it would be cool to float through the creepy midnight clouds like the vampire gang in The Lost Boys”. And it was way super cool.”

-“Last night I dreamed of thwarted attempts at peeing in a massive gravy boat. 9/10 of my dreams are me trying to take a wee; it’s a wonder I am not a chronic bed-wetter.”

-“I dreamed three things: spiders as big as coconuts; my mother’s last grocery list; a heart pricked thrice and baked with raisins.”

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In yesterday’s post, I referred in a vague sort of way to having done something that scared me and that I had been dreading. But it was also something that would provide a valuable opportunity to not only step out of my comfort zone and have this new-to-me experience, but also to make a connection with a wondrous kindred spirit…both of which are good things to try for, so I agreed to do it.

This thing I am referring to also happens to be something I swore I would never do (which is another thing I have recently written about!)
I am, of course, talking about my first time ever being a guest on someone’s podcast.

I swore this was a thing I would not do, not because I have a problem with podcasts or those who create them! No, my problem is with me, my shyness, and my inability to carry a conversation. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I might stumble and falter with my words and look foolish…and I especially didn’t want to make the person trying to converse with me look foolish, either! When it comes right down to it, this is the main reason I write: I have a terrible time articulating my thoughts verbally. They just make more sense on the page.

The Red Transmissions podcast aims to document the work, behind-the-scenes moments and creative process of the characters in their network, and explore why artists, activists, and “worldthreaders” do what they do, how they do it, and hear about the inner workings of their projects.  I was so very honored to talk with Red Transmissions host –and remarkably fascinating human in her own right!– Elizabeth Torres this past Saturday about all manner of things, from my upbringing in a weird household full of art and spirits and new-age wonderments, my history and experiences with writing and online curation, and what goes into writing and promoting a book during a pandemic.

When it came down to it, I wasn’t as terrified as I thought I might be. Elizabeth was so patient with me; soothing my jangled nerves and wrangling my rambling chatter! I’m afraid that the worst did happen… there was an instance or two where she asked me something and my mind went completely blank and I froze and stuttered and stumbled. But when the world didn’t come crashing to an end that second and she prompted me with an additional question or shepherded me along with another line of thought, and the conversation moved on. I wish I could be totally cool and tell you that it all went swimmingly and I was amazing and flawless, but I think you know me too well for that, ha!

I shared a press-type photo that was shot by my brother-in-law around this time last year for the purposes of this podcast and its corresponding article for the Red Door Magazine this summer, but since that time, as I’ve shared here before, I’ve chopped all that hair off. Here’s a photo of me post-recording, feeling empowered and exhausted and cultivating the 1996-97 dELiA*s catalog hair I’ve always dreamed of.

 

 

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Billy Kidd

I cringe thinking about my early existence up until about my mid-20s or so, and all of the people I left hanging, all of the promises broken, all of the things I said I’d do and then…didn’t do.

You know how you often see those memes or webcomics about how you’re all ready for bed after a long, hard day; you’re tired, you’re exhausted, your head hits heavy on the pillow and then BAM. Your eyes pop open with a startle and a shudder because you’re suddenly bombarded with the excruciating memory of that really humiliating thing you did or that embarrassing thing that happened to you when you were in the seventh grade? My personal version of this scenario is being suddenly reminded of all the people I’ve let down, that time I didn’t make a deadline after I swore I timeliness, that afternoon I flaked out and didn’t meet someone, somewhere, when I agreed that I would.

In retrospect… I did these things a lot.

In looking back on myself with a kinder gaze, I know why I did this, and it often had to do with situations that required boundaries and advocating for myself. I was always trying to please everyone or avoid conflict and in doing so, I frequently ended up overextending myself. It’s possible that at that time in my life I wasn’t self-aware enough to realize that while something sounded good at the moment, I was never going to follow through with the plan. And most often, I just flaked out of a situation because I was scared and anxious about it.

If I needed extra time, I should have asked for it. If I didn’t want to do something, I should have spoken up. If something seemed scary, it would have been helpful for me to explain it to the person whose request I was acquiescing to, so that they could have the opportunity to support me. Or at least so they knew that even though I agreed to do something, it was going to be a struggle for me!

I still feel guilty these many years later about that time I told my sister that I would meet her on campus to sign up for classes, and then I just… never showed up. I didn’t intend on taking any classes that semester and I was too scared to tell her — so I just did the easy thing at the time, which was telling her, “yeah sure, see you there” instead of “hey, I think you need to know I’m not planning on going to school right now.” What was easier for me at that moment was definitely not easier for me down the road, when I had to make up my excuses about not showing up that day, and then continue lying for the next few months about the classes I wasn’t taking.

Billy Kidd

I suppose this is on my mind because yesterday I did a thing I had been dreading terribly. I had agreed to do it because I knew it would probably be a good experience that would benefit me in the long run, and so there was really no question about whether or not I was actually going through with it. I said I would, so I did. And this is because as I have gotten older, I have been able to look outside myself and beyond my fears to finally see it from the other person’s perspective: they asked something of me, and I said yes. They are depending on me for whatever it was that I agreed to. They are trusting me to uphold my end of the bargain. And whatever temporary relief I would feel from backing out would definitely not be worth knowing that this person’s experience with me left a sour taste in their mouth, and not only would they probably not want to work with me again, who knows what they might have to say about me to other people?

Having spent the majority of my youth being the person most likely to flake out on a friend or family member, it is extremely important to me now to feel that I am someone reliable and trustworthy.  That I can be depended upon to hold up my end of the bargain.
…AND WOW.  I am reading back over all of this right now and it sounds SO self-righteous and sanctimonious, so please listen:

-I understand that last-minute issues and emergencies come up and plans fall through.
-I understand that my chronically ill friends are frustratingly challenged when it comes to making and keeping plans. I am definitely writing from a place of privilege and relatively decent health here and I recognize this.
-I understand that everyone is at a different place in their life’s path, and we are all just doing the best we can.

I guess what I am getting at is this. Sometimes I write things here about my experiences so that other people can connect with and perhaps gain something from them. I don’t think that’s what blog entry is for. This is not advice for you. And if you are reading this and thinking this is about you, it is not. I promise. This is about me recognizing something good about myself and celebrating and sharing. I used to be a certain way, and now I am not, and I am incredibly proud of myself for that. And of course, I screw up. I still hate to tell people no. I still have to extend deadlines or postpone a phone call or possibly disappoint someone when I can’t be as timely as I like. I’m not perfect.

Billy Kidd

For example, in the last few years, I tried to be part of a thing that entailed doing something on a fairly regular basis that made me terribly anxious and uncomfortable. I gave it my best, more than once, and I found that I just couldn’t. It was awful and I hated it. Instead of continuing to RSVP and then make excuses as to why I couldn’t attend, I finally spoke up and explained that this was a thing I could not do.

And you know what? It was fine. Because those few moments of vulnerability and an embarrassing confession were so much less painful than doing a thing that made me so unhappy, and now I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Another example is when I asked a certain organization whether or not they would be interested in doing an interview with me. When they agreed, I told them I would have a Q&A over to them in a month or two. Which because I had overextended myself, turned into two or three months. I reached out and apologized for the delay and asked if they were still interested. They replied that they were and that I should just feel free to get to it whenever I got to it and that would be fine. Well, it took a whole damn year, but I finally did send them that Q&A. I tried to do what I said I would do, but when I couldn’t do it in a timely way, I communicated and kept in touch as best as I could about it to make them aware of the timeline.

So as a human person, despite the strides I’ve made, sure, I still screw up. But I realized when I’d bitten off more than I could chew, comfort-wise, and I handled it. I recognized that my timing was quite far off from what I had anticipated, but I still wanted to make the thing work so I handled that too. Imperfectly, but these too, are things I am proud of.

I did stress that  writing all of this was more for me than it was for you, BUT, if you are someone who is looking to make some improvements on your personal reliability, this is what I can tell you:

-If you could turn back time, do not agree to those plans. But you can’t, so future-you needs to remember that if you don’t want to do something, don’t say you’ll do it. But present-you had probably better do it, because you said you would.

-But seriously, the next time you’re called on to do something, really take a moment to ask yourself whether you have the bandwidth to make good on the promise. Declining now is far better than breaking your word later.

-If you have to cancel plans, do it NOW. Do not wait. Did you wait? OK WELL DO IT NOW. But especially do not wait until the last minute.

-By that same token, if you are running late, let your friend know. It’s a text that takes like two seconds. It’s polite. Don’t just show up twenty minutes late, like it’s no big deal.  People’s time is worth something. Even your friend’s time. Especially your friend’s time. When you show up late with no explanation and without having notified them, you are basically saying “you? I shit on your time!”

-Are you a young junior baby employee? Maybe you haven’t been in the workforce very long and you don’t have much experience with keeping your boss or your manager happy? A good thing to remember is that if you are going to be late, even a few minutes late–call and let someone in your office/store/restaurant/whatever know about it. If you are not going to be at work, don’t just not show up. You have to inform someone so that they know what’s going on with you and they can plan a shift or a schedule accordingly. I worked with many college interns a few years ago, and there was nothing worse than when my boss asked me “hey, where’s so-n-so today?” And I had to tell him that I had no idea, they were scheduled and they didn’t show up, and they didn’t even call about it. That made ME look bad. So try and look at it from that point of view. Your showing up late or shrugging off your shift might not just reflect poorly on you. It’s affecting other people, too.

-Plan, I mean really plan for your deadlines. If that means parceling them out in small chunks or time blocks on your google calendar, complete with notifications, do that. Put your appointments and meetings in your calendar or your planner or your phone. Don’t expect yourself to remember everything you’ve got going on. You can’t. So write it down and keep it handy. If you are disorganized and forgetful, that can translate as dismissive and inconsiderate.

-Ask for help. I don’t know what this might mean for you, but for me, this might mean asking a family member to remind me at least 24 hours before we’re scheduled to have a Skype call. Or I will ask my partner for extra support, encouragement, and ultimately lots of tough love if needed, because maybe I have agreed to do something really scary but that I know will benefit my personal growth… and also I know I will want to talk myself out of it, every step of the way. You might require different kinds of help with your different situations. It’s worth making a list of where you might run into trouble, who it is that may be able to assist you, and what it is exactly that they could do.

Billy Kidd

At the end of the day, I am still the person who is happiest when plans are canceled. My sister and I– the same one I stood up in the registrar’s office– have in the past paid for concert tickets many months in advance (and this is more than once, mind you) and then looked at one another on the evening of the event, each already knowing what the other is thinking. We just don’t be the one who has to say it out loud. “Do you REALLY want to go to this thing tonight?” “No! Do YOU?” “OH THANK GOD, LET’S JUST STAY HOME.”

In the canny words of comedian John Mulaney, who was not talking about this blog, but rather a comedy special:

“I appreciate you coming to a thing because you didn’t have to, and it’s really easy not to go to things. It is so much easier not to do things than to do them, that you would do anything is totally remarkable. Percentage-wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them. And so much fun not to do them, especially when you are supposed to do them. In terms of, like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin. It is an amazing feeling. Such instant joy.”

It’s definitely easier not to do things. But if you cancel on me, I am probably not going to be mad at you. I understand where you’re coming from, and I get it. But I hope you know I am super easy to talk to and if you didn’t want to do it in the first place, you totally could have told me! And hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you, too. That I don’t want to go to your thing. That way when I don’t show up, you weren’t even expecting me!  And as long as you call me if you’re running late, we’re never gonna have a problem.

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Via artist Tyler Thrasher

Sometimes I get a little down on myself for not being an absolute expert on the things I love or enjoy. Like how dare I profess an adoration for fragrances if I haven’t studied under master perfumers, traveled around the world sniffing varieties of rare volatile oils, and begun to create my own blends and open up shop to sell them! Who do I think I am to say that I thoroughly enjoy the practice of knitting if I haven’t been educated in textiles and fashion, if I haven’t apprenticed with a craftsperson, if I haven’t begun to draw up my own patterns and publish a book of them? Can I even mention my love of cooking if I didn’t attend some sort of culinary institution, if I didn’t train with a celebrity chef or appear in a great bake-off, if I don’t have a professional series of videos on the internet documenting my homecookery?

I find delight in too many things to devote that amount of time to any one of them, and honestly, I don’t know that I love any of them enough to dedicate my entire existence to them. I have a great amount of respect and admiration for those who have found that one thing, or who are willing and able to put in the work to become some sort of next-level guru. But it’s not me. It might never be me.

I think these fears massively play into my anxiety and depression with regard to social media comparisons. I see people being wildly successful in their chosen field or craft, the thing that (I assume) they’ve devoted their lives to, and I start feeling badly about myself, lesser-than, for not excelling in similar ways. But wait. Stop. Step back a moment. Why am I feeling badly about a thing I know I don’t want for myself anyway? I already know I don’t possess that devotion or dedication or discipline to pursue any of my interests to that degree! There is nothing to compare, here. These people and I are on totally different paths, with different priorities and goals. What they are doing is wonderful and I wish every single one of them all the success that they deserve. But their journey is not mine. Somewhere along the way I’ve gotten things twisted and confused and made them more complicated than they ever had to be.

All of these thoughts whizzing round-and-round in my head made me think of this thing that my friend Flannery shared, and which I relate to in an intensely comfortable way. I don’t want to be the best and smartest at a thing! But…do I? No, that’s work I don’t want to do!
Still…if we could be THE BEST…?!

Ok, but no. It’s all too much work and I’ve got too many other things I want to at least know a few things about! I don’t have the time or the inclination to know everything! Even so, realizing all of this, I sometimes question myself. Like…who am I to even offer an opinion about a thing, if I don’t have the scholarship and academic background and rigorous study and training to back it up? I guess it’s times like these that I must remind myself of this piece of wisdom from goofball alchemist and artist Tyler Thrasher, which I have re-shared from his Instagram, above in the featured image for this post. Take a moment to scroll up and read it aloud, or to go straight to his Instagram and read it there.  He continues this line of thought in his caption for the image:

“Have no shame in multiple hobbies and interests. The world is vast and there’s room for it all.”

I was extraordinarily privileged to interview Tyler for Haute Macabre about his art practice and philosophies back in 2017; I love all of the artists who take a moment to answer my questions, but this Q&A has a special place in my heart. Tyler is so damn smart and savvy and talented–but also, just…fun. So much fun! And something he shared, which sums up his work and his art and everything he puts out into the world, is in this statement.

“I think curiosity and experimentation are just vital for being human.”

I don’t know who needs to hear this (I mean, me for sure) but: you really don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to choose, you can be multiple things in life, and having many interests is not a curse–you are a creature of curiosity and it’s part of being human. 

I may never be a fragrance guru, a champion knitter, a captain of cakes. And I don’t even want to be! There’s so much else to do and see and know and be! I like to think I am leading a creatively complex life whatever my skill levels, even if they plateau and never improve, even if I abandon that particular interest for something else entirely. And you, too! Let’s just love what we love and not be dicks about it–not to others, and especially to ourselves.

Some further reading…

 

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Ninette Bradley doll from Etsy seller MyraMelinda

I am the eldest of three sisters. Sometimes my friends assume that I am the youngest. I don’t know if that’s because my other sisters seem more accomplished than I am, or maybe I just act like a baby. Who knows? But it was I who was born first amongst this weird trio of siblings. We’re two years apart each. More or less. And at different points in our lives, we’ve probably felt closer to one sister over the other, and that’s a thing that is always in flux. I don’t know how they might feel about it, but I know these things happen and it’s okay. Some of us have more in common with another sister, and that’s fine, too. And this, too, is eternally subject to change.

One thing that I think we can all agree on at the current moment, is our mutual obsession with a particular set of dolls that we owned when we were very young. I say “owned” but that never feels quite right, does it, when you’re a kid and you’re not allowed to play with or even touch the item that supposedly belongs to you? Anyway, we’re all in our 40s now and these childhood fascinations came up as a topic of conversation when a few weeks ago we were chatting online and one of us mentioned our long-ago memory of these dolls, and asked if each of us also had a recollection of them

Well, of course, I do; I’ve probably thought about that doll every day of my life and continue to do so this very moment. I was utterly obsessed with her. She sat atop a chest of drawers, so high at the time I could barely reach the bottom of her skirts. She wore a frothy periwinkle lace frock (my sisters insist it was lilac but I know what I know!) and a ruffled bonnet and a knot of opalescent pearls around her throat. Our middle sister, whose room I shared at the time, had a similar doll that stood next to mine. Hers was chestnut-haired, where mine was frosty blonde, and hers swanned about in a deep burgundy dress whose tiers were crowned with cream-colored ruffles.

Our baby sister slept down the hall from us at that point in time, so her doll lived out of reach on her own chest of drawers, in her own room. We gradually came to agree that hers was a bit of an outlier; comparable in face and figure, but as she was a sassy cowgirl in suede and braids, her attire lacked the refinement and glamour of the other two. In retrospect, she was no less charming, but I think at the time my sister harbored a fair bit of resentment about being stuck with the doll who was, in the eyes of a sensitive little girl, not as good or beautiful as her two older sister’s dolls. I think they were all three lovely, but I get where she’s coming from.

You can get Cowgirl Mandy from this amazon seller.

I should mention, though you’ve probably guessed it: we’ve not seen these dolls in years. We have no idea what happened to them, although I suspect they were sold at a garage sale when my family moved from Ohio down to FL in 1985. Independently of each other the night of our doll discussion/debate, we each performed midnight acts of searchery and sleuthery, and we all arrived at the same conclusion. These vintage mysteries with their lavish Victorian/Grand Ole Opry style costumes, silky wigs, and haunting eyes were Bradley Dolls.

There doesn’t seem to be an official site for these gals but most of my reading points to the Bradley line of dolls being manufactured in Japan and Korea for the American market from the mid-50s until the early 80s; Artmark’ or ‘Treasure Dolls’ are two other brand names they were released under. The dresses are often elegant period pieces, with big hoop skirts and plenty of lacy frills, although their catalogs included a variety of themes and styles, including a few ‘mod’ ones that are noted as being the most elusive and most sought after. Some versions of the dolls had large, eyes, reminiscent of manga or anime characters, and the odd feature of strange, nightmarishly contorted fingers. Ours, thankfully, had the garden variety hands

Thus far both of my sisters have been able to identify the dolls that belonged to them. Middle sister has already located and purchased one to cherish anew, but baby sister, and I quote, still thinks her was “stupid and ugly”. Poor Cowgirl Mandy!

Search as I may, I can’t seem to track down my icy blue beauty. She was one of the fanciest things I had ever seen at 7 years old, and her influence has loomed large over my style and preferences throughout my life, inspiring and informing my yearnings over time. However much I grow and change, there’s always going to be the heavily-lashed, unwavering gaze of that exquisite doll, urging, Sarah, let’s be fancy. Let’s be fancy forever.

Heeding her impeccable advice, I think it’s time I too found a replacement. Sadly, it is looking as though I might never be able to find the original doll, but if it’s possible, I may have found one that I love just as much. I may be clearing a spot on my chest of drawers as we speak. And this time, I’ll even be tall enough to reach up out touch her dress, feel the folds of lace, fondle her pearl buttons. And best of all, she’ll really be mine. Not just “sit on a shelf to look at and never touch,” but well and truly mine!

Getting older is the pits but I guess at least we can finally play with our toys.

Candice doll from Etsy seller RogueRetro

 

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