Rites of passage

I’ve already talked about my tendency for doing it kind of big for Christmas/Yule decorating. Part of that embarrassment of riches is not one but two different Advent calendars.

One of these is the traditional “Advent tree,” where you hang a different ornament on days December 1 through 24. You will note that our ornaments do not so much get hung up as they are magnetically affixed to said tree….

Picture of an Advent calendar: a small Christmas tree with 24 ornaments hanging on it.

The other one works more like this perpetual calendars do. You know the ones that have the blocks you rotate around to show the day, date and months? Here’s an example:

A perpetual block calendar, with multicolored blocks showing the date Thursday, September 24. The blocks are photographed at an angle so you can see some of the other months and numbers on the un-used sides of the blocks.
DIY instructions to make your own available here.

Our is simpler: no months or days, just number blocks we can rotate and re-arrange to count down from 24 to 1 as we go through the month of December. It’s also cuter, since the numbered blocks are held by a dapper-looking penguin in a top hat and winter scarf.*

I haven’t touched the Advent tree since I (magnetically) hung its final ornaments December 24th. But once the calendar turned over to 2021, I put the “countdown penguin” back to work.

He’s counting down days till the Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden.

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Book buffet

I am falling way behind in my book reviews. There’s still one book left over from 2020, as well as the 3 I’ve finished this far for different 2021 challenge prompts. So that leaves 4 titles that “need” covering. Now that I’m back to work after my end-of-year vacation, I won’t be completing books quite as quickly as I was before, which means it is hypothetically possible for me to get caught up. If I keep posting 4 or 5 nights a week and make sure that every other post is a book review, I could probably have everything back in balance before the end of January.

A closeup of a small stone cairn sitting on an empty beach. The water line and sky are out-of-focus behind the cairn.

But here’s the unpleasant truth. I’m not sure I want to post all those book reviews. Thinking about that responsibility, the schedule and discipline needed to get caught up again—and then to stay caught up as I keep reading and blogging—it’s kinda giving this blogging hobby of mine an unpleasant taste of obligation and work.

Call me lazy, but that’s what I’m feeling.

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Permission to fail

With the weekend down-time, I’m probably gonna start my next puzzle tomorrow. It was a Christmas gift from my niece, and it ended up having a bit of a joke attached to it. You see, she’d also brought a puzzle to her parent’s house as a traditional Christmas project—yet another one of those shared traditions I’m looking forward to ALL of us enjoying together for Christmas 2021!*

Only the wintry scene on the puzzle itself was not a match for the wintry scene she’d chosen, as represented by the picture on the box.

A completed puzzle sitting in front of the puzzle box it was packaged in. The puzzle box shows a wintry scene with a gazebo among tress, with a single red cardinal ion the foreground. The completed puzzle shows a wintry scene of a snowman standing in front of a wooden fence, surrounded by more than a dozen birds.
It was the multiplicity of birds that gave it away

(I will pause for a quick sidebar to give mad props to anyone able to do a 1,000 piece puzzle without a guide photo…)

So, I was warned that the photo on the outside of my new Springbok puzzle box might or might not end up matching the puzzle inside.

A box for a 1,000-piece Springbok puzzle, showing a picture of a red-and-white striped lighthouse on a grassy bluff, in front of a pink and peach colored sunset sky.

It’s like a bonus mystery with my gift. Fun!

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Storming the people’s house

[CN: violence; white supremacy; terrorism, domestic & otherwise: specifically 9/11/2001 and 1/6/2021]

I have vivid memories of the early hours of 9/11, after seeing plane #2 go into the South Tower. I was living in the heart of Philadelphia, unsure of the scope of the planned attacks and aware there was a slight chance that the historically significant locations in my then-home city might be interesting symbolic targets. At a couple different times during those endless, rapid-fire minutes, I spoke to other Philly friends, weighing the likelihood of Philadelphia or Washington DC or both cities being targets this clear autumn Tuesday.

The detail that’s haunting me this week is something my friend L. said in that brief slice of time between the Pentagon being hit and us learning the fate of Flight 93.

I think I could cope if they hit the White House, but if they hit the Capitol, it will break me.

And now, a little less than 20 years after that haunting, heartfelt moment, the “they” that hit the Capitol this week was part of an inside job. Domestic terrorists.

A screen shot of a Facebook post by Rebecca Solnit, interpreting a photograph showing an insurrectionist carrying a Confederate battle flag in a Capitol hallway while another rioter sits on a leather couch holding stolen riot police gear. (Link to full post in photo caption.)
Full post here.
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It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens

I write this post tonight not so long after the final polls closed in Georgia’s senatorial run-offs—two elections that will have a tremendous impact on the balance of power in the U.S. Senate and, by extension, on the legislative agenda of the Biden administration and the 117th Congress.

I also write this not-so-many-hours before the (usually-ceremonial) meeting of Congress to certify the Presidential election results from November 2020—a meeting at which approximately 100 congress members* are planning to commit sedition by objecting to the integrity of entirely NON-fraudulent election results, on the basis of…

I dunno. On the basis of them being authoritarian asshole toadies, I suppose.

It’s enough to drive a girl MAAAAAD!!!

A statue of the Queen of Hearts from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, in closeup showing her clenched fist and screaming, angry face.

It’s also a fitting time for me to rock out another book review to catch up from all my vacation reading. Because the book in question is by a political operative who devoted his career to getting Republicans elected, but who felt compelled in this current moment to craft a “blistering attack on the modern Republican Party and its wholesale surrender to Donald Trump.” (The Boston Globe)

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Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I never know whether to read the book before seeing the movie or vice-versa.

Luckily enough, I’ve studied enough literature and enough films to understand the differences between these two expressive languages. Different story-telling techniques make a great book as opposed to those that make a great film, and a film can err just as readily by being too faithful to the book it’s adapting as it can by disregarding too much of its source material. (Exhibit A: Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)

That perspective helps me regardless of which direction I travel (book-to-movie or movie-to-book) with a particular text.

A stack of leather-bound books sitting next to a small stack of film canisters.

Still there are times when I make a very decided choice of what direction I want to travel. It’s not always the same direction, ‘cos I’m complicated that way. Sometimes I make a very strong “movie first” choice, and sometimes I go all-in for “book first.”

With Just Mercy it was a strong “book first” directionality.

The book’s been on my radar for quite a while, and I remember hearing about the movie when it came out in 2019. Then it all came back more strongly onto my radar last spring, when the film was made available for free in the early wave of last summer’s #BlackLivesMatter protests.* When a co-worker shared this tidbit of news on our social email chain, there were several other colleagues who shared how the movie was totally good, but paled in comparison to the book.

So I moved Stevenson’s book closer to the top of my reading list.

Continue reading “Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson”

Cosmic rewards

I’m almost sorry to be going back to work tomorrow.* Not all-the-way sorry: it’s good work with good people, and mama likes being able to pay her bills.

Still, I’d had fantasies about what I’d be able to do with two full weeks off-the-clock: I was hoping to do a whole bunch of decluttering and start rearranging my home office so that I can treat myself to a real, functional desk for here. Now that I’ve been working here every day for 9 months, with no end in sight, and doing more writing AND with grad school on the horizon, it’d be really nice to have a workspace bigger than 19″ by 40″.

But the truth is that I was so burned out after 2020 that it took me a number of days just to unwind from that. And then there was the time and effort I put into hosting my first solo grown-up Christmas. So I didn’t really turn my attention to the house until this past Wednesday or so—and even then, I balanced my efforts on that score against my (entirely legitimate) desire for rest & relaxation.

All of which is to say: I’m still a bit of a ways from having the office cleaned up enough to make room for a replacement of my elementary-school desk.

An image of classroom desks lined up in an empty classroom.

Still, I’m glad of what I managed to get done in these few days. I filled several more boxes for Goodwill, and have emptied out more than a dozen file boxes that were holding various stuff that had been stowed down in the basement at various points in time when we were trying contain and conceal my hoarder’s mess in advance of hosting friends over for some sort of event or other.

(Ah, the pre-COVID days when we were able to host parties!)

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Shine on, you crazy diamond

I’m gonna be a little bit emotionally honest tonight.

One of the main reasons I posted my reading challenge list last night is ‘cos I was still too embarrassed to share my word for 2021.

[Quick catch-up for anyone who needs it: I’ve chosen focus words for a few years now, which is something a number of folks in the self-development world do. And, as I mentioned in the run-up to New Year’s Eve, my word organically came to me somewhere early-to-mid-December.]

Now, that unbidden emergence is the way all my successful word-of-the-year experiments happened,* so odds are that unbidden word is the right choice for me in 2021. And I have enough trust in my intuition that I haven’t been actively seeking a different option. But, alas, I also have enough self-judgement that I’ve not been willing to share this word with anyone.

And what is this super-embarrassing term that has me in such a tizzy?

Shine.

A close-up picture of a sparkler.

(Kinda silly, right?)

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Let the reading commence!

I had a profoundly, delightfully lazy New Year’s Day today. A little bit of puttering around, a little napping, a little bit of jigsaw puzzling, a little TV.

A LOT of reading. And a lot of spreadsheet-y getting organized for this year’s reading challenge. Which, since today is the first day of said challenge, it kind of makes sense that I should cough up my list tonight.

A soft focus shot, looking over the shoulder of a white, female-presenting human at the Kindle she is reading.

But first, some context. As I did 2 years ago, I’m focusing on the Goodreads community-driven challenge called Around the Year in 52 Books as my main reading challenge. Also similar to 2 years ago, I’ve created a master plan that cross-counts some of my ATY books against the annual challenge categories from PopSugar and from Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge.

What is DISsimilar from 2019 is how I’m not going to put any active effort into those other two challenge lists until I have a sense of how things are going with ATY. I mean, if I read a book that I’ve cross-counted for categories, I’ll mark off the relevant row in the other list(s): I’m not that single-focused! But I’m not even really committing myself to those other challenges until I make some good progress on the main one.

Especially since the prospect of Ed-doctor-school could blow all my fantasies of recreational reading out of the water….

Continue reading “Let the reading commence!”

Laying some groundwork

It’s been a long time since I did “New Year’s Resolutions” (I wrote about that last year and the year before). Nonetheless, in these waning days of 2020, I find myself in a reflective state of mind, drawn towards the notion (fantasy?) of getting myself more centered/grounded/organized before 2021 rings itself in.

Part of it is that odometer-turning energy that gets me every turn of the calendar. Part of it is the positive side effect of allowing myself to really-and-truly check out of work—-something I’d not done since COVID started.

But let me be clear: NONE of this is irrational exuberance about 2020 turning into 2021. As far as that cosmic detail is concerned, I agree with this wisdom I’ve seen going around Twitter and FB:

Nobody claim 2021 as “your year.” We’re all going to walk in real slow. Be good. Be quiet. Don’t. Touch. Anything.

Solid advice, as far as I’m concerned.

Still, I find myself doing some preparatory things for this quiet walk into 2021.

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