read it: so you want to talk about race

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Go. Buy. Read. Now.

I finished So You Want to Talk About RaceSo You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo this weekend, and it was great. But even more than that, it was (is) necessary. Essential. It is honest and clear and direct and kind. This book should be required reading for everyone everywhere.

If I had the means, I would buy a copy for everyone I know. But I don’t, so instead, I’m telling you to go buy it, borrow it, read it, and then tell everyone that you know. Then start having some of the hard conversations, with yourself, with others, with government officials coming up for re-election…

designing a sewing space

About a year ago, I started dabbling in sewing. I’m already a knitter, but I have a chronic case of unfinished knitting projects. Likely because I get antsy when progress seems so slow, and I have trouble sitting there knitting for long stretches of time. I enjoy it, but sometimes I just need more immediate satisfaction.

Sewing is perfect for that: it’s just fiddly enough for me to focus, and the projects I’ve done so far have come together pretty quickly. I still have a lot to learn with regards to pattern alterations and sizing (I made a Tamarack jacket a little over a month ago based on what I thought were accurate measurements, and then they weren’t. But the jacket fit my friend perfectly, so now she has it in DC.) — I assume that comes with more practice.

I haven’t been sewing as much as I’ve wanted to because in order to actually do it, I take over basically the entirety of my kitchen island and dining room table. And then it’s cumbersome to move stuff around (we have a lot of stairs in our house), so there all of that stuff sits until I’m done with a project and I lug everything back upstairs to sit in a corner in my office.

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Taking over the dining table. Incidentally with the Tamarack jacket.

I’ve mentioned before that A and I have been slowly putting the house together. The third floor is still empty — right now, we use it as a makeshift guest room. But what if we could also add some work surfaces and I could have a crafty area?

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tier one gardening

A and I have very different backgrounds when it comes to nature and green growing things. He grew up surrounded by prairie and fruit trees and ponds (of both the fishing and swimming variety), whereas I have always lived in big cities. I have a highly romanticized view of what it means to garden. (In my view, bugs don’t try to bite me all the time.) When it came time to look for a house, we both wanted to have some outdoor space — he to remind himself of the green he had in childhood, and I to fulfill my lifelong dream of having a secret garden.

When A and I moved to St. Louis, we found an awesome Victorian house that had an actual yard, a rarity for most of these older homes. The house sits on a double lot, and all that extra space is gorgeous greenery, something we had been sorely missing when we lived in the metal-and-concrete-locked Dallas.

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The original yard was landscaped with a lot of decorative plants.

Last year, we didn’t think about the garden until summer was already underway. That was a time of life changes and redirecting, and the garden was getting along decently with minimal intervention from us. We had managed to get an herb garden in the ground, though I made the mistake of choosing plants that were novel rather than ones I would actually use. We had a poorly placed lemongrass that tried to cut you when you attempted to get to the other herbs. We had pineapple mint but no minty mint. We had dill, even though I literally never use dill. Yet, even with that small amount of planting and those mistakes (likely because of the mistakes), we learned a lot.

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We took up some of the tiles and made a mosaic herb garden. The lemongrass is that one in the top left corner, and it got huge.

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disengaging from social media

One of my goals this year is to disengage from my phone more. Late last year, my phone completely broke down and black-screened, falling into an inescapable boot-reboot cycle. Customer service quickly threw (okay, diligently packaged and carefully sent) a phone in the mail for me (incidentally, Project Fi is awesome – that’s my referral link if you’re interested), but there was still a weekend’s worth of lag time. I didn’t realize how tethered my habits had become to my phone until I didn’t have it anymore. I couldn’t roll over in the morning and silence my alarm and then immediately check email or my RSS feed. I couldn’t watch Netflix while I was cooking or listen to podcasts while I was getting ready. I couldn’t text people throughout the day. It was jarring to realize how often I reached for a phone that wasn’t there. And then it quickly became liberating because I was actually able to focus on what I was doing without buzzy notifications diverting my attention. It was a pretty great weekend actually.

Now, to be clear, I’m not planning to divorce my phone. But I’ve realized that I’m in a pretty unhealthy co-dependent relationship with it. I feed it electricity (and personal information, let’s be honest), and it gives me the internet and dopamine drips. Overall, I think carrying a computer around that has all the information is amazing. BUT. The pattern of my phone use needed changing. So I uninstalled Facebook and Twitter, I turned off most of my notifications, and I set up specific silence times where my phone doesn’t transmit ANY notifications so that I can have regular uninterrupted stretches of time.

Even then, I was still surfing reddit before bed. I was still watching YouTube videos to fill the silence. I was still reading Twitter (via browser now, of course) for the outrage and righteous indignation as much as for any useful info. It was a visit to my childhood home that prompted me to go even further. During that visit, instead of having face to face conversations and reconnecting as, you know, people, my family mostly sat around on devices (sometimes two devices at once) and ignored each other. It was baffling. Then it quickly became frustrating and infuriating. Sure, sometimes they were reading news or responding to urgent emails. But most of the time, it seemed like they were surfing Facebook or scrolling through various text convos instead of having actual conversations with the people sitting in front of them. (This is apparently called “phubbing,” which is a word I hate almost as much as the act itself.)

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read it: a witch’s guide to escape

I was making the usual rounds through the spec fic magazines that I read and came across the story A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow in Apex Magazine. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the title made me think of Ursula Vernon’s (T. Kingfisher) no-nonsense gardening witches and evoked memories of Patricia C. Wrede and her practical heroines.

And, you guys, I totally didn’t expect it but this story brought me to the edge of tears from the degree of resonance I felt. The depiction of reading and the importance of books, the role of librarians and libraries – these things made me feel and remember (strongly enough that italics were warranted) aspects of my childhood that I hadn’t reflected on in a long time.

The story itself is beautifully written and told using card catalog numbers as a great little framing device. The idea of librarians as a secret coven of witches whose role is to make sure you have the right book at the right time made me think of all the best teachers I have had the fortune of learning from. There are book references and little pop culture jokes peppered throughout in the most unobtrusive way possible. It all flows together so nicely.

So nicely in fact that after I read it the once, I immediately read it again to just recapture the feeling of being lost in the stacks, sitting on the floor between aisles and reading for hours – to escape, to find something that I couldn’t articulate, to live. I want to imprint this story in my brain so that I can refer to it when I’m craving connection and understanding, so that I can remind myself that the magic of books is real and has touched other people too.

I’m still a jumble of feelings about it; there are things I want to examine as to why I felt so much when I read it. But in the meantime, you should definitely check the story out.

currently reading

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Is that enough books to be reading at one time? (On my Kindle, I’m also reading The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin, which is book three of the Broken Earth trilogy – it’s riveting.)

It’s a good mix of intake (and all books I already owned – I’m still doing the no new books thing) – novel, short story collection, some writing improvement and some writing philosophy, and then a couple tomes on mindfulness and self-acceptance.

What are you guys reading?

2017 year in books

Following in the footsteps of Book Punks, a book blog I absolutely love, I’ve decided to start tracking some reading stats. Nikki’s reading round-ups are always hilarious, and the stuff she tracks about her reading is interesting. Those posts also have a tendency to balloon my TBR list, but that’s a problem that can’t really be helped – so many books, so little time.

I did the Goodreads Reading Challenge and set a goal of 40 books, and did…well. I’ll be shooting for 50 this year.

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I got my 2017 stats from the books that I logged on Goodreads.

– Total read: 68 (Goal: 40)
– Men/women (author gender): 14/54 (about a 20/80% split)
– POC authors: 10 (some multiples in there)
– Nonfiction/fiction: 22/46
– Owned/Bought: 12/56
– Ebooks: 53 (surprising since I usually like reading analog more)
– Re-reads: 1 (that I can remember – I tend to not track these on Goodreads)

There were a handful of books (I want to say around 10) that I read that I didn’t log for one reason or another, and I don’t want to go back and figure that out. So… I’m not going to. In the future, I’d like to track some other things like maybe minority representation in the books that I’ve read. But I haven’t totally settled on what to look at. Anyone have any suggestions?

I also started to do the calculation of how many books, both analog and digital, I bought this year and… it was embarrassing. It was even more embarrassing when I then looked at how many books I read of the ones I bought this year. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

I really like buying books. I like being surrounded by them. I like having lots of options to choose from when I’m deciding what to read next (at least, I think I like that… I might arguably do better with fewer options, but that’s something to think about at a later time).

But at some point, I got into this bad habit of buying books for my TBR list instead of just compiling my TBR list. I also basically forgot about the existence of libraries (I have excuses lined up as to why I forgot, but they’re really neither here nor there), even though a library used to be one of my favorite places growing up and through college.

Then this post showed up in my feed. This very timely post about killing your tbr. And I thought, YES I WANT TO DO THAT. So that’s my plan.

My goal is to drastically limit how many books I buy. And anytime I want to buy a book, I have to read 12 books that I own.

Oh, and I’m going to get a library card. Because what am I even doing.