Back to to-do’s

I’ve been trying to figure out where I’m at and where I’m headed and its been difficult. First, because it is hard to talk about. It is hard to admit that I am struggling. I don’t want to be perceived as a whiner or someone who isn’t a hard worker and talking about how things are difficult can make me feel like I’m both not doing enough and also complaining about it. It is difficult because when I think about what I might want next, some of that involves explicitly stating what I don’t want, and some of the things I don’t want are things people I love have chosen. And, as silly as it may sound, I don’t want them to think I’m judging them or that I love them less because I don’t want to go down the paths that they’ve chosen to. Maybe that’s not silly, maybe that’s just really self-centered? Sometimes, I feel like I deserve to struggle and hurt and feel lost and alone. This is another silly thing because I know that isn’t true but it can feel true and that’s hard to not listen to.

One of the things that I’ve noticed, while I’ve wrestled with these things, is that I have given myself space, unintentionally, to founder and wallow. One of the ways I’ve done this is by how I have set up my goals and my paths to my goals. I have created things that are, in essence, open-ended projects that do not have an definitive end date so that I can just keep pushing back what I am doing and putting it off. This is not helpful. So, I’ve decided that as a prepare for the coming year, one of the things that I am going to do is clean out all of my to-do lists every place I may have one. I am either going to let the things on the lists go or I am going to roll them over into projects with a definitive end so that I can think about them more strategically.

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I do still like it…but do I keep it?

There’s a skirt I’ve been thinking about a lot. I bought it in 2003 near Brick Lane in White Chapel in London. It fit me wonderfully, and for me that was something. Things didn’t often fit me straight off the rack. I don’t have the kind of body people design clothes for. It was a salmon color and ruched up one side. It had a long bow. I used to wear it all the time over jeans. Jeans with skirts was kind of my jam.

Anyway, I’m not sure the skirt is really my style anymore, but I still have it. I’ve been doing a lot of going through all stuff and deciding what to give to good will and that keeps making it back into the drawer. I don’t know if I’ll every wear it again but I don’t feel like I can give it away. It’s a fine item of clothing and it brings up good memories. I’m having trouble letting it go. This makes me feel an awful lot like a hypocrite because I’ve kind of inspired/bullied/shamed some other people into going through their closets it recently. I just told my mother, who I was helping going through some clothes and decide what needed to go to Good Will, “If you aren’t going to wear that, what are you saving it for?”

But, so far, I am saving it because I like it and not because I feel bad about not wearing it more or because I think maybe one day I might want to wear it. I’m not sure if that’s a good enough reason to keep something, though.

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To-Do Lists

I’ve talked about Habitica before, and I how I find keeping my to-do list in their app to be helpful. One of the things that’s great about Habitica is that it gives you options for how to set up the list. There are to-do’s, which are one-off, click and you’re done things. There are habits, which can have a + or a – so that you can reward yourself for both doing and not doing something. And, then there are dailies, which are tasks that recur. The recurrence needn’t be everyday. I have things that daily, weekly and monthly. You can set things up yearly. You can specify which days of the week something is done.

My Dailies on Habitca

I like to refresh and reorganize my dailies every three months or so. I’ve missed that refresh twice this year. I can tell. Not only do my dailies not really fit with my life, I’m also not really inclined to do them. They feel stale.

So, today I’m taking some time and refreshing my dailies to get them to fit my post-PhD life and goals.

Now, I just have to figure out what my goals are.

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Gosh, where did September go?

We’re more than a third of the way into October, and I feel like I’m just coming out of a haze of calling/emailing/spending carrier pigeons to my senators and feeling absolutely paralyzed by what is happening in the world.

I haven’t finished my shawl.

My garden yet grows, but its definitely coming to an end as the weather gets colder and colder at night.

My slack for achieving goals is no place to achieve goals. It’s more a ghost town in which no one speaks to anyone ever.

But, I decorated for Halloween. So, that’s nice.

Ginger Kitty and the Spooky Eyes.

And, I got to spend some time with my sister, which was also nice. I have been avoiding a lot of things, and it wasn’t until I checked some of my to-do lists that I realized how much I had been avoiding. When I’m having trouble with anxiety, taking breaks and doing something else can be a really good way to manage my stress. When I’m feeling depressed, taking breaks from what I’m doing is the worst thing that I can do. When you have no energy, you have to spend it wisely. I imagine I am not alone in feeling both really uncomfortably amped and anxious about the world and also distressingly ineffectual at helping. But, we must try. So, I’m easing back into focusing on maintaining the structure, and building new structure, to help me work. Also, over at Stacks Exceed Life Expectancy, we’re celebrating Vampire Month. So, if you want to get your spook on, check that out.

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Behold a Shawl

I’ve been spending my evenings knitting and watching sports (there are only about a dozen regular season baseball games left!) or netflix. It has become a really nice way to unwind my day. Especially since, as I knit, this mystery project is beginning to take shape. I don’t know what it is about mystery knit-alongs that is so fun. Maybe it is the surprise of not knowing what it is that you are working on. Or, maybe it is that the knit-alongs are social affairs (although, arguably, this one has not been for me. I haven’t posted in the ravelry thread at all, I haven’t kept up with posting about it on instagram, and I no longer have a local knitting group to share my progress with, either.)

This shawl is going to be so beautiful. I can’t wait to wear it in Deep Fall and Winter. And, Sweet Georgia Yarns has such luscious yarn. I’m really enjoying working with this tough love sock yarn.

My progress, lit by a halo of daylight

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My advice to you is that you should return your library books

I’ve been feeling like a total flake and irresponsible person in the past week. This has been a real bummer because it hasn’t been because of my current actions or behavior, I’ve been making progress towards my goals, but rather because I have been addressing and working with previous shortcomings and that has me facing some feelings. Case in point: I moved with two library books. And, I didn’t even forget that I had them. I knew they were there. I just didn’t think of them until my books were all packed. And, then I didn’t think of them again until my pod was all packed. But, I’ve graduated, so of course the library wants them back. And, I don’t need them anymore. In fact, one of them I have already purchased a copy of my own so that I could have it as a resource. The other one is a book I checked out because of idle curiosity. So, I did the responsible thing. I saw the email from the library, so I made a note to myself to call and schedule access to my pod. Once access was scheduled, I put it on the calendar and set the time aside to go search my pod for the books. I dealt with the overwhelming feelings one gets when they open their storage unit. (One feeling really: why do I have all this stuff? Why do I keep carting around most of this?) Then, I set about rearranging things so I could get to the boxes of books which were, of course, mostly near the back. I had to do this twice because the first path to the book boxes only gained me access to a few boxes. The second path was better. I found the second book in the third box (it was the third book down!) (I found the first book with my books in my house. Apparently, a part of me did know I’d need to send it back.)

And, it all feels so silly and shameful, like I’ve done something wrong. When, what did I do? Borrow library books? That is the point of library books. And, now I’m returning them. It is no big deal. But, it feels stupid and thoughtless, even though I can think back to when I packed everything up to move, a move I made with just over a month’s notice, a month in which I had to be away from home for a conference for two weeks. I did okay. Even if it doesn’t feel like I did okay. It is okay, even if there were more efficient ways I could have done it.

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Fall Feasting

It has been a good week for Fall food. The weather has been chilly but not too cold (until the past couple of days where it swung back up into the 80s), and there is a bounty of veg, both late summer and early fall, to cook with. Last weekend, I made a chicken and barley soup. I used kale from the garden, instead of spinach, because I still have an abundance of kale. I would recommend some modifications to the recipe, though. First, I would recommend that you had a couple of teaspoons of Penzey’s Fox Point in with the onions and garlic at the beginning. Second, definitely use stock, don’t use water. And, finally, feel free to be heavy with the pepper when you break out the salt and pepper. The soup was roundly enjoyed by everyone.

Chicken and barley soup with cream and bacon

Next, sticking with the Fall theme, I made an apple slab pie with a cinnamon roll crust. This was delicious (and, I may have had it for breakfast the next day.) My notes on it are that I had trouble getting it to fit the pan that it called for. So, next time I’m either going to make it in a smaller pan or a deeper pan. But, there will be a next time.

Apple slab pie with cream cheese icing

When it got warmer, I moved back to summer vegetables with summer squash and zucchini. First, I made a hasselback zucchini pizza. When Hasselback anything comes out right, I really like the look of them. But, I haven’t quite got the execution of them down. If I make these again, I’m going to use the smallest, thinnest mozzarella slices I can manage, because the cheese was hard to get into the zucchini and, it melted everywhere into a huge puddle, which had everyone scraping at the foil to mine up some great cheese gold. That was no fun.

Finally, I made an easy cheesy chicken casserole. This was delicious and well received. I chopped the vegetables a little smaller than pictured, and the results were slightly soupy. I think, in the future, that I will chop the vegetables earlier and allow them to sweat a little before I cook them. Also, it’s definitely important to use a shallow pan, otherwise you really have to go digging for a piece of chicken. I served it with angel hair pasta and it was a big hit.

Despite the terrible lighting, with easy cheesy chicken casserole with angel hair pasta was amazing

I’m already planning my next set of recipes. It looks like it is going to stay in the 80s in Iowa, so I think I am going to veer back towards salads!

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Staying caught up

Unicorn stitch marker to announce the beginning of a new round

I knew when I saw the colorways of this MKAL that I had to do it. It has been so long since I’ve done an mystery knit-along. It is exciting to knit up a something not knowing what the end result or even the next section will look like until you get started on it.

And, quite frankly, it is nice to have a project that I can work on and use as a reward for getting through the things that I have to get through. I have officially now graduated with my PhD. So, I’m doing nothing but writing papers, applying to jobs, and trying not to worry too much about the whole thing. For so long, the main goal was to just finish my dissertation and finish my degree. And, now that I’ve reached that goal, it is time to set some new bigger goals. This is something I’ve avoided talking about, partly because I don’t have many answers and so I don’t know what the narrative is, but also because I’m afraid I’ll write something, it’ll get read, and it’ll keep me from getting a job. But, I think it is important to talk about the whole process because it is so easy to feel alone in it. I have been so heartened and helped by others who have talked about finishing their degree and moving onto the next step that I feel like its my turn to pay that forward.

So, I’ve been working on a shawl. Last week I worked on a co-authored talk that my colleague is giving today in Rome and this week I’m working on a paper that we’ll hopefully have off to a journal in a month or so. Fingers crossed. And, I’m job-hunting. The hunt continues. While it continues, even when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, I have every row of the shawl to remind myself that little things do build up into big things with work and time.

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We all have a story

Since its September 11th, and the world is what it is, I’ve been thinking about an experience I had in the days immediately following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. That fall I had the immense privilege to be studying abroad in Mysore, India. I took classes in the mornings and most afternoons I had free to work and explore the city. On the day I’ve been thinking about, my roommate and I had gone to a cafe in town to have tea and sweets in the afternoon. I did my best to wear culturally appropriate clothing and to fit in, although, as a five-foot-nine-inch tall, fat, blonde, white woman, I could really only be graded on effort. I did not fit in. And, it wasn’t uncommon for women, complete strangers, to approach me and tell me I was wearing some piece of clothing wrong, and then to re-dress me in the streets. I have an intense aversion to having my physical boundaries crossed, but, for some reason, I always felt very grateful for these experiences. I wanted to get it right and I was happy for the help. So, on this particular day, while we waited for a table, I was not surprised when two Muslim women approached us and said hello. It was a brief conversation. After exchanging greetings, one of them asked if my roommate and I were American. We answered in the affirmative. And, she said, “I am so very sorry for the tragedy that happened in your country. But, now you know how we feel.”

All I could think of at the time is, “We don’t.” It occurs to me, now, that what I have taken as a comment about empathy and understanding, may not have been. It may have just been a statement about the pain caused by our foreign policy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about listening, and how the world is full of voices who are describing what they see and what they feel. They are explaining, sometimes over and over again, how actions and policies and ideas have hurt them. And, listening to those voices and thinking about how my actions, or inaction, is contributing to hurting other people. It is especially upsetting if I don’t intend for the hurt. It’s taken me a really long time to come to the understanding that when someone points out how an (in)action of mine was hurtful to them, that even if the conversation is upsetting to me that they aren’t hurting me, they’re doing me a service by giving me a way to help make the world better.

I think about that day a lot, honestly. I think about it whenever someone like me, white or middle class or educated, calls for empathy or compassion in a discourse. Yes, I want to be understood. Yes, I want to be treated softly and compassionately. But, more and more, I think it is my job to provide as much of that as possible to others (and to myself). And, while I still don’t think I understand what it feels like to be a Muslim woman in a post-9/11 world, I do think I can make room for those voices, and listen, and keep trying my best understand what I am hearing.

Here are some (not necessarily Muslim) voices I’ve been listening to lately:

How to Survive the End of the World: Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown talk about survival and Octavia Butler and I have learned so much from this podcast and I have been so touched by many of their episodes.

Boom! Lawyered: Jessica Mason Pieklo and Imani Gandy talk about justice issues. It is really great to hear legal things from legal experts.

Thirst Aid Kit: Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins talk about women’s desire and their show is great and sometimes a little sexy.

Desi Geek Girls: Swapna Krishna and Preeti Chhibber are two nerds (who happen to be Indian and ladies) and they talk pop culture. My sister got me addicted to this podcast.

Pod Save the People: DeRay Mckesson’s discussion of headlines with Brittany Packnett and Sam Sinyangwe, and Clint Smith at the beginning of every show always brings my attention to something important I’ve missed or provides me with a different perspective and I am so, so grateful for that.

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A Slack for Achieving Our Goals

I have started a slack for setting work goals and then encouraging folks to meet those goals. In the space, everyone is invited to set weekly goals and to check-in as often as you’d like to update your progress or lack thereof. Any kind of work will do. I am currently working on writing projects, but don’t feel like you have to be limited to just writing.
I have found that I work well in a semi-structured space where I can check in and both encourage others and receive encouragement. If that sounds like a space you’d also find useful, let me know and I will send you an invite.

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