Backyard Babies

Planting things is always exciting, but it’s followed by a period of intensity where you monitor them, hoping they’ll take to the ground. I’ve been going out in the evenings and checking on the plants. Until this past week, we hadn’t gotten a ton of rain, so I’ve been watering them. The kale, broccoli and swiss chard are under an overhang, so they’ve had to be watered every day, even when there is rain. This pleases Ginger kitty to no end, as he gets to go outside when I’m watering the plants.

I’m really happy with how the plants have taken. I have new kale leaves and baby broccolis. (You can see, in the photos, that I’ve also been sprinkling coffee grounds outside when I have them and I haven’t been super careful about how I’ve sprinkled them.)

Broccoli, doing its thing

I have blooms on my tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I this eggplant is blooming. About eight years ago, I went a couple of seasons trying to raise eggplants and this is as far as I’ve gotten. Hopefully, this season, we can move beyond the bloom. I think this plant is getting more sun than previous plants. I feel very hopeful about the whole enterprise.

One beautiful eggplant bloom

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In which Silver Kitty goes to the hospital

Silver Kitty is sick and is in the hospital. She’s having some digestive issues. These are issues she’s had before; this is a flare up of a chronic illness. On the way back from the hospital, we talked about her course of treatment. One of the first things she had to undergo today was an enema. She’d probably be annoyed that I’m writing this, if she weren’t a cat.

Silver kitty on a stool above a brown floor

You’d think I just told her Santa wasn’t real. Instead, I told her she needed a to have an x-ray

While discussing her treatments, we tangented off into a conversation about cleanses. A few years ago, a friend of mine did a cleanse where she ate nothing but apples and gave herself nightly colon cleanings. She had very clear skin following her cleanse. I can’t say it really did anything else for her. I did the leek cleanse from French Women Don’t Get Fat. I did not last the full 48 hours. I get very mean when I’m hungry. Also, I find it hard to concentrate when I’m hungry, which is a huge problem since I make my living doing things that require concentration and focus.

I thought about cleanses while I was watering my plants this evening. I really enjoyed reading French Women Don’t Get Fat. I remember liking the book when I first read it, but I can’t say that I remember much of the details, aside from the boiled leeks and a recipe for chicken cooked in champagne. Thinking back on it now, I feel like the answer might be obvious and may not rest entirely in the individual choices of French women compared to the individual choices of American women. I feel like the French have built their cities and towns in a way that walking is easy way to get from place to place (and a socially acceptable way). I feel like they’ve also invested in mass transit and universal health care. Perhaps the French have easier access to fruits and veg. All of those seem like things that we do together as a society and not things we do individually.

This is something I would like to think on more, but right now I’ve got a sick cat to worry about.

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One more row

I started a new shawl this weekend, even though I had a perfectly lovely shawl already started.

The cast-on

I wanted something that wasn’t going to require a lot of concentration. Saturday was World Wide Knit in Public Day, and I wanted to take my knitting to the movies (saw Ocean’s 8. Definitely would recommend.)

The first few rows

But, I also wanted something that I could work through quickly and feel like I was accomplishing something. There was a lot of bad news last week, with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, and I just didn’t have it in me to be in the inevitable online discussion of these two losses. I needed to sit with my feelings and work through what I was feeling and thinking away from the public response. I needed a distraction. This yarn is from the indie dyer Inked Sheep Fibers in the colorway troublemaker and the pattern I am using is Boneyard shawl by Stephen West. I didn’t pick this pattern on purpose, for any morbid reason. I picked it because it’s a 12-row repeat of stockinette stitch, with minimal increases that are done at the edges and around the center (which is marked). Once I got going, I just had to count to 12. No big deal.

The first repeat

Most of my thoughts ended up being about society as a whole. Have we created a world that is good for us? Do we have strong communities? What does it even mean to have a strong community? What could I be doing? How have I failed? Can we have a macro-level conversation about systemic issues that make mental health hard to look after or mental illness unbearable without implying that people with mental illness aren’t themselves doing enough? How do we make space for healing? How do we support that while fostering an understanding that “healing” isn’t the same as “curing”? [

The second repeat

I think the beginnings of that are already out there. There are people working to end mental health stigma. More people are coming out and discussing their illnesses publicly. Beyond the discussions of the individual celebrities and loss, the general discussion about suicide and mental health is something we need more of. And, it would be great if we could do that outside of a death. And, maybe we’re getting there.

The third repeat

By the end of the weekend, I had knit quite a bit and ignored quite a lot. To be honest with you, at some point on Sunday, working on this project veered into avoidance and away from self-care. There were things on my weekly checklist that should have probably been seen to on Sunday. But, I keep coming back to some ideas that were in my head this weekend. Like, do we recognize reaching out when we see it? How can we can better at that? How can we make our support more easily accessible? How do we lower the barriers to access to resources that support people’s health? What would a society that supports the health and well-being of its members look like?

It’s even pretty on the wrong side

Looking at the knitting I did this weekend, I have to laugh. Some people knit every stitch with love, I knit, it would seem, every stitch with a question.

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Ya, but does it work?

Screen shot of the forest app timer counting down

I was asked on instagram is my forest growing and pomodoros really helped me get things done and I believe that they do, so I want to tell you an anecdote from this morning.

Following a meeting, I picked up my phone to tweet something. I then scrolled through my twitter timeline. I looked at the clock and gave myself five minutes to play around on twitter.

10 minutes later, I told myself I needed to stop.

10 minutes after that I was still playing around. So, I took a deep breath and I started the forest app. Now, that only kept me off my phone–but I have standing blocks on social media on my laptop for most of the day, so blocking things on my phone immediately cuts down on my field of distractions.

Sometimes, I am okay at sitting down and working and it isn’t a problem. But, if I’m having a slow-start day or a stare-off-into-space day or I have fallen down a rabbit hole or if I really, really just don’t want to do the work that needs doing, it is nice to be able to cut the noise and narrow down my field of options. Self-control, decision making and concentration are finite resources, and I really don’t want to waste them on keeping myself on task.

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I like planning but I also like the washi tape

The first step and also the last step in keeping track of how I spend my time is a physical planner from ink+volt. I sit down on Sundays and write out my goals for the week.

a blank weekly page

There is nothing like a fresh spread, just waiting for whatever for your appointments and goals

I check on my progress from last week. If its the end of the month, I set goals for the next month, after checking on my progress towards my yearly goals. I try to keep the big goals for the week to three or four, and then for each day I break those goals down into sub-tasks. For example, this week I am looking into some explanations for something I came across in my data while I was working on my dissertation. The first step is gather all of my notes and to put them into a coherent format that has some structure, so I know exactly what it is that I am doing. From there, I can set up next steps for the rest of the week that are going to include going back to the primary data files and examining them further. By the end of the week, I will hopefully have an answer to my question. But, maybe I won’t.

Goals of the week page just waiting for my 3-4 big tasks

That’s just one of my goals.

I have some personal goals for the week, too. I am changing storage unit companies this month, and that is going to require some further planning, too. So, that’s the big goal. The little goals are going to involve pricing things out and so I can make informed decisions.

I also have tasks related to side projects that were put on hold while I finished my dissertation.

Finally, I do a little decorating. Adding a little color to my planner is something I enjoy. I really don’t do anything creative or fancy. I like to use washi tape and this is a perfect excuse for it. It also provides a way to see how well I am keeping up with the system (and, also, probably with my work) at a glance. You can see the white section where there isn’t any evidence of decorating. That’s because I didn’t decorate those weeks. I just tried to push through with my goals and minimal planning. I’m not sure that really served my needs very well.

You can tell when I didn’t decorate. There’s an entire strip of white down the middle of all the taped up pages.

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At the intersection of OH GOD and I CAN’T.

I am in a hell of my own making.

And, I’m being dramatic.

But, while I’m being dramatic, it isn’t untrue. I could have been a healthy, put-together, reasonable person who filed paperwork on time (any time in my life before quite recently, you know, in another timeline. Obviously, not in this one). I am trying to submit some paperwork today. This will be for the fourth time (maybe the fifth?) and it is paperwork that I should have done years ago (and tried to do a year ago). It just hasn’t gotten done because it is at the intersection of two things that make me incredibly anxious, one of them being my own research being recognized and seen out in the world and the other being university paperwork. And, because it is at the intersection of two things that make me anxious, I ignored it. For a long time. I shouldn’t have. This isn’t a excuse but an explanation: I ignored this paperwork and a lot of things that made me anxious while doing a bad job of taking care of myself in general. But, I’m working on letting my research be out in the world without an undue amount of anxiety and panic and I’m working on being a reasonable person when it comes to paperwork. You’d have no way of knowing this, looking at the paperwork I’m submitting today, but I’m actually getting better at paperwork. The last time I had to submit anything, it was on time.

Still, though, I have this backlog of things that I ignored that I now want to reconcile and be responsible about and it feels very much like hell.

So I am, head hung in shame, going back to do things that seemed too big and scary to do before and I totally ignored.

I’ve spent the last hour trying to maintain an internet connection so that I can send these pieces of paper off. So they can hopefully be done. So, I can be caught up, like an actual grown person.


Why does this have to be so hard?

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Cold Brew

I am a huge fan of cold brewing coffee. Before cold brewing, I had heard people talking about notes in the coffee, different flavors and smells they found, but I really didn’t get it. Maybe that was because I was buying cheap coffee or maybe it was the brewing technique, I do not know. But, I started cold brewing last year, and it changed coffee for me. I can definitely taste the difference between coffees from different regions now. (I’ve also started buying higher quality coffee. Not a coincidence, these things are related.)

I thought I had a system all worked out. I was already using a melitta pour over coffee filter, so I thought perfect. I’ll just make it in a mason jar and the get the grounds out using my regular pour over set up.

Somehow, I always managed to make a mess. The coffee grounds would either create a seal that splashed or that you had to break yourself, getting grounds all over everything. Or, I wouldn’t be paying close enough attention and I’d overfill the filter and end up with grounds in my coffee concentrate. Ridiculous. But, then it occurred to me that other people have probably already identified and solved this problem. And, they have. You can get a coffee sock, which is a reusable filter made out of cotton fabric and it should last about a year. So, now I don’t have to work out how to get the grounds out.

Now that the grounds are all in one convenient place, I am thinking its time to figure out how to use them as fertilizer. We’ll see how that experiment goes.

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In the middle of last summer I moved closer to my parents. This was an excellent choice, but it was in the middle of the summer, right after my summer teaching duties ended, and was quite quick. I like doing a little gardening and my Mom doesn’t mind it, but it was too late in the season last year to really get anything done. Thankfully, the early summer had been so hectic that I hadn’t managed to get anything into the ground that I then abandoned when I moved. This year we decided we were going to get some things in the ground.

An idea popped into my head after the daffodils and tulips started to fade. My Mom was brainstorming taller flowers that we could put where the spring flowers had been. She thought she wanted to do some annuals for some color. I suggested we try something a little different and do some greens. I don’t think she was sold on the idea at first. I suggested we put in some colorful red curly kale and some swiss chard. And, if we’re going to do that, we might as well do a few things in containers on the back porch, too.

The library got the ball rolling by providing me with two free-to-a-good-home tomato plants and one pepper plant. To this, we’ve added a cucumber plant, two more additional varieties of pepper, one additional variety or tomato, spaghetti squash, ichiban eggplant, basil and broccoli. I couldn’t be more excited about our plants. They look so lovely in their new homes.

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I Did a Thing

These are all the hours I’ve logged with forest since I started using it in February

I submitted my dissertation manuscript yesterday to my committee. If you are unfamiliar with the process of receiving a doctorate, in linguistics it works like this: you research and write up what is more or less a book length, multi-chapter piece. You do this in consultation with your advisor (or in my case advisors) and your committee, who are also researchers with an overlap in interests with you (hopefully…sometimes the overlap is a little bit of a stretch. Although, not in my case.) When you’ve completed this book-length piece of writing, you officially submit it to your committee, the department and school and a defense date is set. Then, you defend you work and hopefully pass with only minor revisions and then that’s it. You’re a doctor.

So, this is a pretty significant milestone. I am nearing the end of this process. I did it. There is stuff we know now that we didn’t know before because my fool-ass decided to go out into the world and figure it out. I was just looking at the pdf of it and feeling overwhelmed. I did that. I made that thing. That exists because of me.

And, of course, not just because of me. I am a language researcher, so dozens of people volunteered to take part in my research. I had advisors and committee members who were constantly poking and prodding me to make it better, make it clearer. And, friends and family who have looked after me and cheered me on and distracted me when I needed it (and forced me to sit down and work when I needed that.) Ginger Kitty has been a near-constant companion through this last push in the process. As I was finishing things yesterday, he sat by my side the entire time, sometimes purring and sometimes snoring. I did a thing! But, I didn’t do it alone. And, that might be the coolest part of this whole thing.

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Now that’s a scrub

In April’s ipsy glam bag, I got a deluxe sample of a body scrub. I’m the kind of person who typically makes her own body scrub (its super easy, sugar and olive oil and some essential oils for the scent/potential benefits.), but I’m always happy to get a sample of something to try.

coconut oil and coffee sugar scrub

Pūrlisse coconut oil + coffee sugar scrub. Photo from

The coffee smell of this product is amazing. It hits you right away. And, the coconut oil was so moisturizing. I felt so smooth and hydrated after I used it that I didn’t need to moisturize after my shower. The MSRP is $36 for the scrub. That is, honestly, more than I am willing to pay for a scrub. But, if I were looking to splurge, this would definitely be on my list.

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