Oh hi, it’s me again

Whenever I go for a while without blogging, I get into a negative feedback loop about it.

It’s been a while, so my next post needs to be something Big and Important.

I don’t have the time/energy to write any Big and Important posts right now.

[days pass]

[cycle repeats]

So this post is a deliberately short note to break the cycle.

I’m almost halfway through this pregnancy.  The baby is healthy, so far as I can tell; he or she is a strong kicker.  I’m healthy by the numbers, but ridiculously fatigued, which is pretty much the story of my adult life in one sentence.

Little Boy’s two-year-old cuteness deserves its own post.  The Terrible Twos get a bad rap, I think.  He can be plenty obnoxious sometimes (and has an inexhaustible supply of bouncy energy), but he’s also smart and thoughtful and independent and deeply engaged with his world.

How are you?

Country music on the brain

There’s a country song on the radio right now that starts like this:

Grandma and Grandpa painted a picture of sixty-five years and one little house…

(It’s “From The Ground Up” by Dan + Shay.)

I kind of love this song, in the sense that it’s got a great melody and it keeps getting stuck in my head.  But I can’t help but wonder: whose grandparents lived for sixty-five years in the same house?

Certainly not mine.  One of my grandfathers was an M.D.; he and his family moved around the country from medical school to residency to practice.  The other set of grandparents moved for education and better jobs.  And none of them now dwell in the homes my parents grew up in: both pairs saved up and bought nicer homes for retirement.

There’s a lot of privilege and good fortune wrapped up in their life paths, but it’s a different sort of privilege than the kind that allows you to buy a house when you first get married.




This is the kind of thing I think about when I’ve been home alone for a while.


Status: steam-blocking

Now that I’ve gotten back into knitting and am feeling a bit more motivated to complete things, I’ve pulled some old projects out of hibernation and am working on the finishing touches.  That means weaving in ends (soooo tedious), sewing pieces of an afghan together (even more tedious), and blocking.  Blocking means coaxing your knit piece into its final shape and dimensions, using water or steam; it’s basically the process of making everything look nice at the end.

Two pictures of a knitting afghan square, before and after blocking.

The whole pinning and steaming procedure is a nicely meditative thing to do while Little Boy takes his afternoon nap.

I answer some more questions about myself

I’ve been tagged in for another round of Liebster Award question-answering by the eponymous Jan from The Life of Jan.  I’m not going to do the full thing of tagging in other people, but I like Jan’s questions, and I’d enjoy hearing from you, dear readers, what your answers to these questions would be.

1.  Who would you say has been your greatest writing influence in terms of your own writing style?

My writing style is very… absorbent? assimilative?  I have a tendency to pick up bits of style and tone from whoever I’m reading at the moment.

2.  Aside from blogging, what are some of your other hobbies?

Coding, knitting, running, reading, doing crossword puzzles, skiing (when I can).

3. What are three books that you have read more than three times?

That’s easy: the first three Harry Potter books.

4. What is your favorite genre of music? Does the music you listen to affect your writing in any way?

To the second question: no, I don’t think so.  To the first: country, as long as it’s not too redneck.

5.  Do you find writing by hand more preferable, or typing on the keyboard?

Both.  When I’m writing a “product,” like a grant proposal or a research paper or a blog post, it happens on the keyboard.  But if it requires significant revisions, it usually get printed out and written all over by hand.  Brainstorming works better that way, too.  I also keep a physical research notebook rather than using Evernote or anything like that.

6.  Do you consider yourself a full-time writer, or a part-time writer?

Ha, I don’t consider myself a “writer” at all.  Grad school involves writing, though, and I’ve chosen to write for my blog on a semi-regular basis, so I guess that qualifies in one sense.  Part-time, then.

7.  What time of day is most productive for you in terms of finding time to write?

Little Boy’s nap time!  (Which presently runs from 12:30–3 p.m., for the curious.)

8.  If you were to start writing a book right now, what would it be about?

Post-apocalyptic fiction.

9.  What is your favorite topic to write about?

It’s not really a topic as much as a category, but—things that make me mad that I can’t complain about in real life.

10.  What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

In the immortal words of Chandler Bing, “I’m not great at the advice.  Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”

Jumbled bits and pieces

Today has been a struggle to pull my mind back together after a family vacation (pros: family, lack of work; cons: four days in the car with a ten-month-old).  I forgot to put on makeup this morning, for goodness’ sake.  So for tonight’s post, enjoy a sampling of the things that have been bouncing around my brain.

  • The house was not invaded by insects while we were away.  I am relieved.
  • Obnoxious ex-advisor continues to be obnoxious, now with more unprompted and condescending reprimands about how the culture of our field operates.  If it weren’t so aggravating, it would be hilarious: 90% of the times she’s done this, she’s been wrong.  (The other 10% of the time, she gets it right — but she misses that I was already well aware of cultural conventions and chose to work around them for a very deliberate reason.)
  • The long days in the car with a ten-month-old were exhausting, but they weren’t really that bad.  As on our first, shorter road trip, Little Boy generally napped well, ate well, and handled the new places and people with aplomb.
  • Rest areas without changing tables make me grumpy.  Really, I’d like to see changing tables everywhere, but a facility that is built specifically for highway travelers to use the bathroom doesn’t have any good excuse to leave them out.
  • I’ve been strongly tempted to join the Dark Side open a Twitter account under my blog name, even though that I’ve rolled my eyes at Twitter for years and am a huge Luddite with a flip phone.  I am currently stymied by the need to come up with The Perfect Profile Picture.
  • Despite arriving to pick Little Boy up from daycare at 5:15 p.m., we’re consistently some of the last parents in his age group to do so.  This doesn’t bother me, but I do find it rather odd.  Where do these other parents work?

Have a random thought to share?  Leave it in the comments below.

It-Gets-Better Girl

The lovely Irene of Finkelstein and Sons challenged me to a free-writing exercise with the prompt, “Create your own personal super hero alter ego and describe his or her day.” 


I’ve always said invisibility, when asked what superpower I would choose if I could have but one.  It’s a reflex response born out of a lifetime of wanting to be left alone, un-judged, un-bothered, un-teased.  But I don’t know what I would do with that, as a superheroine.  It’s a selfish response, as is my second choice: being able to instantaneously transport myself (and my family and stuff) wherever in the world we wanted to go.

So maybe not invisibility.

Throughout my life, I have returned repeatedly to the idea of sending support to myself through time.  Huh?  When I’m doing well, when I’m in a good place, I imagine myself sending strength to the person I was when I was going through a bad time.  It gets better, I think.  Fifth grade only lasts for one year.  It gets better – college really is better than high school.  It gets better – babies don’t stay that exhausting forever.

So if I were to be a superhero, perhaps that’s the power I’d hold.  The power to look into someone’s future and find the good parts.  To see beyond the darkness that envelops them today.  And to communicate that to them somehow.  Maybe with some details, or maybe just in a positive feeling, the strength to get up and keep going for one more day.  Maybe they wouldn’t even know I was there, or that I existed at all.  They’d just know that it would get better.

That’d be me: It-Gets-Better Girl.  It’d be a daily struggle to be a superheroine, I think, knowing that you couldn’t help everyone every single day.  What if I looked into someone’s future and it didn’t get better?  What then?  What kind of power would I have to change the future?  Would it be the kind of foresight where you can see multiple probable futures at once?

I could really start overthinking this.

But oh, what a difference I might make.  Of course, as a self-reflective superhero, I’d be worried about getting too full of myself, too proud of my accomplishments.

Maybe I wouldn’t be very happy that way.

Or maybe I would.  Maybe being It-Gets-Better Girl would bring my life new purpose and a satisfaction.  Would it be my job?  I don’t think being a silent superheroine pays very well, so I’d still need a day job.  But then when would I sleep?

Evidently I’d need a few extra superpowers to go along with it.

I’ll admit, I followed the spirit of the challenge more than the letter – I wasn’t trying to maximize my word count or anything, and I kept going after my initial 15 minutes were up.  But the exercise got some thoughts flowing, for sure.

And now I’m really curious what It-Get-Better Girl’s costume would look like.  Doodle time!

A non-exhaustive list of words flagged by WordPress’s “Proofread Writing” function



















and my personal favorite,


*indicates words that were, for reasons unknown, deemed to be correctly spelled in THIS post.

Obvious food labels

Me, reading package: “‘Tea is a Gluten Free Beverage.’ [yes, it was capitalized like that]  Well, yeah, it’s tea… are there any beverages that aren’t gluten-free?”

Husband: “Uh…”

“I guess if you put non-dairy creamer in coffee that would maybe have glu-”


“Oh yeah.  Beer.  Definitely beer.”

As you can tell, we don’t do ingredient-avoidance diets.  Or drink beer.  (Wine, on the other hand…)

Really obvious labeling on food tends to amuse me.  At least “Gluten Free Beverage” could perhaps represent some kind of standard, indicating that the company was committed to avoiding cross-contamination to ensure that those with celiac disease could safely enjoy its product.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, though.  More likely they’re just pointing out tea’s natural lack of gluten as an advertisement.

I’ve seen this sort of thing before.  Extra-virgin olive oil with a shiny “Zero Carbs!” sticker.  Marshmallows that proudly proclaim they are Fat Free!  (Like every other marshmallow on the shelf.)  Aligning yourself with the latest food fad is a good way to make your product look healthier than the competition without actually doing anything different.

But my favorite superfluous food label has nothing to do with health fads and everything to do with not wanting to be sued.  Or maybe just mass production.

At some point when I was roughly middle-school-aged, my mother purchased a large tub of peanuts at the grocery store.  It was a transparent plastic container, about as wide as a dinner plate and several inches tall, clearly containing uncountable numbers of shelled peanuts.  Across the top, in block letters, the label warned, “May contain traces of peanuts.”

The first of many


I should be annoyed that the spambots have found my site.  Instead, I’m oddly pleased.  It feels like a blogging milestone.

The Liebster, or, Hey! A reader!

I had the very great pleasure this week of learning that someone enjoys reading my blog enough to think it’s worth a link.  A big merci beaucoup to B. D. Cavet, who gave me a shout-out for the Liebster Award.

Now before anyone gets all excited, this isn’t an AWARD award.  It’s more like a chain letter for new bloggers – the fun kind of chain letter, where you get cool postcards from around the world, not the lame kind that threatens dire consequences if you don’t forward it within exactly three minutes.  It’s a neat way to share the names of new bloggers and find some interesting reads that you might not otherwise have uncovered.  Plus, you get to put this picture in your post:


Which is a nice change from my usual picture-less situation.

By accepting the “award,” I’ve agreed to answer a handful of questions, i.e., ramble on about myself for a bit, which seems to be something I’m quite good at.

1.  If you had an entire day free of every obligation, what would you do?

If it was wintertime, and I was near some good snow-covered mountains, I would spend the whole day skiing, then snuggle on the couch with my family and drink hot chocolate.

If I were at home, I think I would have a normal-ish day, just minus all the work.  Sleep in a little but not so much that I felt groggy, wake up, go for a run in some crisp sunshine.  Enjoy a leisurely breakfast with a cup of tea.  Listen to my baby laugh.  Spend a lot of time reading and catching up on the crafty projects that I always have in the back of my mind but rarely make the time to do: filling out Little Boy’s baby book, printing photos from our vacations, maybe casting on a new sock.  I would take a luxurious nap in the late-afternoon sun, get some thoughts out of my head in a blog post, and end the day with more reading and family time.

2.  What’s an odd quirk that you think is unique to only you?

I’m not sure that there’s any one thing that’s completely unique to me; it’s the combination of all the odd little things that makes me truly an individual.  One of the small strange things about me is that I always say “knock on wood” – and try to literally knock on wood or wood-like material – when I say something is going well, so as to avoid tempting fate.  I am otherwise a highly scientific and non-superstitious person, as are my parents, so I don’t know why this habit is so engrained.

Also, I don’t like fan fiction.  I have a really hard time reading anything non-canon.

3.  Why do you blog?

I’ve talked about why I blog in several posts (like this one) and don’t want to bore folks by being repetitive, but here’s the gist.  I blog because:

  • I think in the form of blog posts.  Seriously, I’ve been writing hypothetical “posts” in my head for about two years.  Typing them up gets them out of my brain for a while.
  • I’m too chicken to post angry and/or personal things on Facebook.
  • I feel better because of it.

The next step in this whole Liebster thing is to nominate a few new bloggers (defined as those with less than 200 followers) to carry on the chain.  My nominations are:

The Mort Mommy

Unbeaten Mommy

Madi Does Motherhood

(I’m sensing a theme here… )

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and I won’t be offended if you don’t), is as follows:

  1.  Thank your nominator (a.k.a. the lovely moi.)
  2.  Answer the questions posed by your nominator (see below).
  3.  Nominate N other bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (where N is a number between 3 and 11, depending on how energetic you are and whose version of the rules you’ve read).
  4.  Come up with N new questions for your nominees to answer (as above, N=3-11).
  5.  Make sure your nominees get the news.

Nominees, your questions are:

  1.  If you were stranded on a deserted island and allowed to bring just one item, what would that item be?
  2.  In your opinion, what is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?
  3.  What are your hopes for your blog over the next year?

P.S.  Google Translate says that liebste means “dearest” or “favorite” in German.

Edited to add:  My husband, who took multiple years of German in high school and college, informs me that “liebster award” is so grammatically incorrect that he doesn’t understand how it could possibly be written that way.