Y is for Yay!: #AtoZChallenge (one day late)

For about three years, I kept a running record of things I was escited about, or joyfully anticipating, or excited for, or grateful for, or just generally happy about.  The notebook was titled (because I have a morbid side) “Plum Blossoms,” from a quote in Sandman: Endless Nights:

“She decides to make a list of the things that make her happy. She writes ‘plum-blossom’ at the top of a piece of paper. Then she stares at the paper, unable to think of anything else. Eventually it begins to get dark.”

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Endless Nights

The hope was, of course, that I would be able to think of more than just that one thing, an I did – pages and pages of them.  When I was feeling especially down, I’d pull out that notebook read through the entries.  Some of them were upcoming plans – our trip to Florida in 2013, a good friends bridal shower, a big Burlesque show in Boston.  Some were intangible things – the smell of the air after it rains, late night walks illuminated only by streetlamps, impromptu sleepovers after over-indulgent night’s out.  Some were hilariously niche – a sale on strawberries at the grocery store, washing my sheets in a certain detergent, a particular episode of Doctor Who, a very specific Sherlock fanfic.

But they were all genuine, all real things – however big or small – that I had to look forward to, or be grateful for.  They were very real reminders that there were beautiful things in my life, in all forms.

I don’t know what happened to that notebook.  In the three moves since I last saw it, it could have disappeared at a number of different junctures, and I never started one back up.  I sometimes thing I should just go wholly digital, and keep tabs online, but where?  On my blog?  Who else but me would care?

But this entry is about “yay!”  About the joys in my life.  So, maybe not as a recurring feature, but for right now, I’m going to make my list.

Plum Blossoms

  • Warm, windy nights
  • Cookouts and game night’s at Raeanne’s
  • New Adventure Time episodes
  • Steven Universe Steven Bomb starting May 8th
  • Vacation in Conway, first week of August (us and five of our friends)
  • Steampunk Festival in a few weeks
  • Arts in the Park
  • Guardians of the Galaxy II next week
  • Boston Comic-Con in August
  • The sun not setting until, like, 8
  • Sketching out new jewelry designs, finally
  • Going to the library
  • Target Dollar Spot
  • Just got tickets to Phantom of the Opera in Sept.
  • “Fill-a-bag” sales at the thrift store

That’s today’s list.  Hopefully it holds me over until tomorrow.

Do you keep something like this (a gratitudes list, a Happiness list, etc)?  If so, where – online or in a notebook?  Do you share it with anyone?


X is for Xanadu: #AtoZChallenge (one day late)

Xanadu:  (noun)  1. a place of great beauty, luxury, and contentment.

I didn’t grow up in a household with a lot of money – nor, honestly, are we rolling in money now, but that’s another blog post – and spent my youth almost entirely home-bound.  I grow up and still live in Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border, and for years and years the most travelling I ever did was crossing the border to take advantage of tax free shopping.

I didn’t venture further out until college, when I went to a wedding in Rhode Island, and then again in college, when I traveled with a friend back to her home in upstate New York.  To this day,  I only have a few states under my belt (NH, ME, CT, VT, NY, NJ, PA, FL), most of them accessible by car, and no real international travel – Montreal, which was beautiful, but barely counts.  Back when I went, you still didn’t even need a passport.  We traveled in on a bus out of Boston’s South Station.

Of my limited travels, Montreal was by and far my favorite place to go.  I traveled with a friend of mine, the week before I turned 25 – we stayed in a co-ed hostel on the waterfront, in a place called Le Sous Bois, a place that no longer exists.  There was an enclosed cobblestone courtyard with a half-dozen gypsy caravans that were rented out as sleeping space scattered around.  At the center was a firepit, surrounded by lounge chairs, and a massive wooden gate set in the stone wall that opened directly into a street where, if you turned left, you were greeted by Vieux Montreal – the sunset over the water, usually, as we headed out to go drinking.

We stayed for six nights, spending the days at the beach, the museums, the botanical gardens, and nights at outdoor cafes and performance spaces, bars and lounges.  We drank beer and honey wine and ate poutine and took blurry photos of the lights on the water from the balconies of cafes and bistros.  I went to sleep surrounded by the sound of people speaking in a dozen different language, woke to twenty-something men speaking French and playing the bongos in the breakfast nook where we ate dense bagels with hazelnut spread.

It was a beautiful week.  As with all things, a big part of it was context.  I was nearly twenty-five, and traveling for the first time, staying somewhere full of strangers who spoke languages I didn’t speak, coming from places I had never been.  My friend and I were both either newly in a relationship (her) or just started to looking at relationships and experiences I’d like to have, and in both our cases, these situations were new and exciting and terrifying.  Life, in so many ways, was for us, at the time, new and exciting and terrifying.  We talked about love and sex and art and plans and ambitions, and we drank and we ate, and we took shitty photos in darkened bars.

I’ve never had the opportunity to go back.  Real life hit; I became more serious about my job, I moved out and rent had to be paid, and then I had grad school, and then my boyfriend lost his job, and then we got married, and then got a more pricey home, and then the baby… and by that point, I’d need a passport (which I didn’t have), and who has the time, really?

I still hope to go back, someday, though I know it won’t be the same – some of that magic of freedom and possibility won’t exist anymore.  But maybe there’ll be a different kind of magic, this time.

Review: Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded
Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not what I expected. Hannah’s characteristic humor and optimism shines through, even when talking about some incredibly heavy topic, including loss of faith, coming to terms with sexuality, mental illness, and self-harm. I appreciate her honesty in talking about her life and her experiences – I imagine there are numerous of her followers going through their own struggles made to feel less alone and less ashamed of their experiences, as well as more hopeful about their own futures.

Hannah could easily have written a fluff piece and published it, and her followers (including myself, no judgement) would have happily read it. I’m so grateful that she did something more than that, and I’m humbled that she’s opted to share so much of herself with us.

View all my reviews

W is for Welcome to Night Vale: #AtoZChallenge (two days late)

For people who’ve only popped in to visit, it probably seems strange, but to me, Night Vale is home.

In my little insular fandom bubble, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that there are stillpeople who don’t know what Night Vale is, but of course, Real Life Me understands that, so – Welcome to Night Vale is a twice monthly podcast, now in its fifth year that has been described as “Lake Wobegon as seen through the eyes of Stephen King or David Lynch”, or “NPR meets the Mothman Prophecies.”  It’s Pythonesque, it’s Lovecraftian, and it’s a beautiful mix of meaningful and nonsensical, creepy and comical.

And it feels like home.

I got into Night Vale around the same time everyone else did – I don’t know why, but in mid-to-late 2013, the show (which had been running for 35+ episodes already) suddenly exploded on Tumblr, and the cryptic posts made everyone need to find out what Night Vale was.

At this point, you sort of have to take the plunge and just listen to the damn thing.

I held out until December of that year, and got hit massively by the flu just after Christmas.  It was on one of those sleepless and feverish nights that I decided to listen.  The experience was interesting: I was drawn in by the writing, by the strange mythology of the town, and intrigued by where it was going – but I was also soothed by the narration.  I fell asleep listening to it every night of my illness.

The night I listened to the eighth episode, I surfaced just slightly from my feverish sleep for the first few chords of the Weather, which for that episode was Danny Schmidt’s “This Too Shall Pass.”  There was something about the melancholy of that song, paired with the weirdness of the show, the calmness of Cecil’s voice, the developing evidence that this show was going to have a canonical queer couple as its central figures (and it does), and the groggy fever dream state I was in – everything felt a little surreal and a  little  beautiful.  After that night, Night Vale became a minor obsession for which I ran a blog, drew fan art, and, and in February of 2014, began attending live shows.

I was at Arisia in January of 204 – at a Night Vale panel, in fact (which was literally standing room only) when I heard the Boston tickets for the live show the following month had sold out.  Devastated – and knowing I had to go – I told my husband, who got us tickets for the show in Northampton.  It was General Admissions seating, so we got there early and had a two hour line party with a bunch of other fans, and when the doors opened, we practically sprinted in to get front row seats.

The live show had an entirely different energy, one that I have always loved in live theatre, and when the show ended and we filed outside, someone told us it might be a good idea to stick around.  Sure enough, about twenty-five minutes later, someone came out yelling that they cast were in the lobby.  My husband and I got everyone’s autographs, and I got a great photo with Cecil (like, really great.  Cecil is looking dapper AF and my hair and makeup are were on point).  We’ve made it a point to go back every year, now; we saw our fourth Night Vale tour earlier this month, and should they grace us with another show next year, we will see our fifth.

A month after that first live show, I found out I was pregnant.  Night Vale got me through the pregnancy insomnia (blessedly the only real “symptom” I had), and when I left my obgyn’s office the day she told me my son was finally able to hear thing outside the womb, I started playing Night Vale at an even higher volume, with the Kindle nestled against my belly.  When I wrote Cecil my a fan letter last year, I told him something that I honestly hold true – there is every possibility that, aside from my own and my husband’s, his voice is probably the first voice my son recognized.  I look forward to when Night Vale is a pleasant place for my son to visit as well, instead of just a soothing memory of a voice from Before.

Is there a book, movie, show, whatever, that feels comfortable and homey to you?

V is for Vices: #AtoZChallenge

As is evidenced by my aforementioned shitty blogging habits (and my endless, unrelenting whining on how I never managed to get stuff done), it will likely come as no surprise that I am not exactly a paragon of positive routines and healthy habits.  I’m not all bad, obviously, since I manage to maintain a marriage and household, raise a healthy (and happy) child, and hold down a job, but I wouldn’t posit myself as a role model. Not with habits like these:

  1.  Smoking. Okay, so I don’t do it anymore, but God, I still miss it, sometimes. I know it’s better that I don’t, but I’m not going to lie about it.  It was a good stress relief, and I miss having a cigarette or two when I’m out drinking.
  2. Peeling off my nail polish.  I know it’s not good for my nails, and I already have super weak, brittle-ass nails, butI can’t help it.  When I’m distracted I just star picking.  When you can peel the whole nail off at once? Ooh, that’s satisfying.
  3. Zit popping.  Ugh, gross.  But you know what?  The internet has made “Zit popping videos” this, like, whole big thing on YouTube, so y’all can’t judge me too hard, Internet (PS: I’ve never watched those video.  Doing it to myself is one thing, but watching someone else doing it is just, eughhh).  Yeah yeah, don’t pick, it’ll scar, yada yada.  Look, I’ve been doing it for twenty-three years, I got this. Ok?  I got a handle on this.
  4. Borderline abuse of the “open bar” system.  Not really abuse, but I mean… I get way, way too excited when anyone utters the words “open bar,” partly because a.) with some alcohol in me, I feel substantially less social anxiety, and b.) I like trying new drinks, and open bar is the only time I can risk trying one and not liking it without being out $10.  Let me put it this way: there has been more than one occasion where the fact that there was an open bar was the deciding factor in my attendance.
  5. Smut.  Smut smut smutty smut.  Reading it, watching it… Enough said, I think.
  6. Playing with my nails… after I cut them off.  What can I say, I’m fascinated with the things that come off of my body.  When I trim my nails, I spend several distracted seconds bending and flicking my nail clippings before I throw them out.

Mmm, well, that was delicious.  What are some of your vices or bad habits?

U is for Unexpected: #AtoZChallenge (one day late)


I’m home on a sick day today, which, as I’ve discussed before, is kind of an emotionally tumultuous thing for me.  But I woke up this morning, turned over, and promptly thought I was going to throw up.  I literally stumbled out of bed and had to brace myself against the wall, I was so dizzy and nauseous.  I still got dressed and made it out to my mom’s house to drop my son off, but when I sat down to attempt a cup of coffee, my stomach roiled in such a way that I said, fuck it, I am not going to make it through work today.  So I’m at my mom’s house (I couldn’t face another car ride), and after some water, some food, and some coffee, I am still dizzy as shit (and running kind of hot and cold) but I can move around without feeling like spewing.  So, hey – yay for progress.

I figured I’d try to be productive, given that I now have seven-and-a-half hours free that I normally wouldn’t, so of course, I logged online (hey, I’m not at home, so it’s not like I can do my chores or anything).  When I logged on to WordPress today, I was greeted with a pleasant surprise – my blog had hit 100 followers.

That was… unexpected, to say the least.  I garnered a few followers during the NaNo Blog Hop back in November, but I think that capped out at 30 or so.  At some point in the intervening six months, another 70 people found me and decided I was worth keeping tabs on.

I’m not being falsely modest by saying I’m kind of shocked.  I’m not the greatest blogger – I don’t think I’m a bad writer, but I’m keeping this as a personal/creative journal, and everything I write is pretty self-indulgent.  Plus, I’m a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad commenter.   I’m bad at Approving comments, I’m bad at replying to them, and I’m awful at keeping up with and commenting on my blog roll, especially in the last few weeks when all my WordPress energy has been focused on proving to myself that I could actually complete this challenge.  I’m hoping I’ll be better when I’m no longer under the (admittedly self-imposed) pressure of daily blogging.  I’m just not cut out for it, honestly, but I want to see this challenge through to the end.

So, thank you to those of you who have seen me fit to Follow, who are actually interested in my not-so-interesting thoughts on rather mundane matters and my endless prattlings about the nonsense in my brain.  I promise that I am working on becoming a better and more engaged blogger, and I’m glad you’ve elected to stick around to hopefully see that change evolve.

I’m going to go lay back down and try not to feel like a garbage fire when I wake back up.  Cheers.

T is for Tattoos: #AtoZChallenge

My husband is not a fan of tattoos.  Or facial piercings, or piercings in general, or really any kind of body modification.  It’s not an ethical or religious objection (being a “devout” atheist), it’s just not part of his aesthetic.  And hey, that’s fine.  If he wants to be wrong, that’s his prerogative.

I love tattoos.  I also love piercings, for what it’s worth, but tattoos are my jam – tattoos can tell a story.  They don’t have to, mind you; there’s nothing wrong with getting a tattoo done for the sheer aesthetic pleasure of it.  But it can have a meaning.  And more than that, it can convey a meaning.  I’ve got a gorgeous pair of white diamond earrings a friend of mine bought me as a bridesmaid’s gift when I served in her wedding.  Those earrings have a great deal of meaning to me, but they don’t convey anything to others; no one stops to ask what my earrings “mean.”  I love that tattoos can start a conversation.  I love that they can have layers.

In case you are wondering, I have roughly, um, zero tattoos.  Not for lack of wanting, obviously, but for an abject fear of needles.

(But Jess, I hear you say, didn’t you give birth?  Surely the pain of childbirth can’t hold a candle to getting a tattoo!

I did give birth.  In fact, I labored for nineteen hours.  But I also got an epidural.  Not that it was a walk in the park after that, but it was a damn sight more pleasant than it had been.

But… Jess, you continue, confused.  Isn’t an epidural, like… a big-ass needle?  Used to insert a catheter??  Right into your spine???

Yeah, it — you know what?  I don’t owe you an explanation for this, imaginary reader.  Just, needles suck, ok?)

I’m still psyching myself up for one, because I know the fear is irrational, especially – yes – in light of having gone through childbirth.  Even pushing aside the birth itself and the epidural, it’s not like the doctors don’t try to practically drain you of blood at every chance.  By my third trimester I went from needing a glass of cold water and a lie-down after a simple injection to texting with one arm while the doctors drew multiple vials of blood from the other.  Broken of that routine, though, the fear returned. Funny how the psyche works.

I don’t want anything overly large, which is helpful in trying to gear myself up for it; I love the look of full sleeve tattoos, watercolor tats, geometric designs, etc., but my own aesthetic has always leaned toward monochrome and typography.

I’m a text tattoo baby.  Always have been.  And while I’m still revving myself up for one, I have several that I’d love to get done:

There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them.
(The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

and I am a writer / a writer of fictions / (I am the heart that you call home)
(“The Engine Driver,” The Decemberists)

With this long last rush of air we speak our vows and sorry whispers
(“Hazards of Love IV: The Drowned,” The Decemberists)

You shall above all things be Glad and Young
(ee cummings)

Fearfully and wonderfully made
(from Psalm 139:14)

You shall love your crooked neighbor / with all your crooked heart
(“As I Walked Out One Evening,” W.H. Auden)

You can see a growing Pinterest gallery of other tattoos I love here – if that’s your thing.

**I came to my husband one day professing gleefully that I knew how I could get through the tattoo without freaking out.  Was really bummed out when he told me no reputable place would tattoo me if I was drunk.  Damn it.