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Homesick.

crisper

Over the past two days I’ve had three different conversations about my life in Scotland. By the time I got in my car to drive home, I was deeply homesick for it, mostly the friends and coworkers I miss, but also mundane bits like Christmas Eve in Waitrose, random herds of curious horses, learning how to ride the bus in a foreign land, and frost-covered moss. I was thinking of that moss when I encountered the frost-dusted leaf in this photo.

Homesickness is generally expressed as a one person, one place phenomenon, but I have experienced waves of homesickness for every place I’ve ever lived. I even yearn for Alabama from time to time, especially the late afternoon summer thunderstorms that shake the magnolia trees, all slick green and heavy cream. Does it make me feel fickle sometimes? Sure. Someone once excoriated my use of the word “favorite” because, in his words, “They can’t all be favorites.”

Can’t they?

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Trains” by Poppy Ackroyd.

Bloom off the rose.

tough

I don’t mean to eavesdrop on the breakup. My earbuds are in but I’ve woken up with a start, and the podcast that I was listening to has ended. I don’t have noise-canceling earbuds, so if there isn’t anything playing I can hear everything going on around me.

She’s telling him a version of “it’s not you; it’s me,” and it is long-winded and involves a mention of her “journey” and I get whiplash from cringing so hard.

He sits there and stares at his trainers on the rubber ridges of the bus floor. (Getting dumped on a bus is pretty bad; getting dumped while sitting in the sideways seats is worse. Every movement of the bus is shoving you into the last person you want to touch.) Occasionally he turns to her with a tearful glare but he cannot look at her for long.

She keeps talking, mostly too soft to hear. She reaches for his hand, and he does not move away, but his hand is prey, playing dead, while she swoops and takes.

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Take On Me - 2017 Acoustic” by a-ha. Sometimes I miss taking the bus to work.

Encyclopedia Brown and Mister Rogers.

travelersnotebooks

About that writing offline I mentioned yesterday

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with notebooks. The first notebook I remember loving so hard that I wore it down to a floppy nub was spiral-bound with an orange cover. In my notebook I wrote down a lot of facts that I thought Encyclopedia Brown would need to know if he ever needed my help to solve one of his cases.

Now I carry two Traveler’s Notebooks: one for work, and one for creative projects. I like having this separation between the two worlds. When I switch between notebooks, I feel like Mister Rogers trading his jacket and dress shoes for a cardigan and trainers.

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Spotify’s Winter Classical playlist.

Postponing nothing.

selfleafie

Sometimes when I stroll through the circulation workroom of my library, a book cover catches my eye but because my to-read pile is already unreasonably large, I will merely nod respectfully to it and keep walking.

Yeah, right.

Recently my attention was snagged by “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. I was really digging November’s meditations on acceptance. This month’s meditations are on mortality, and they are more challenging. Example: December 1st was “Pretend Today Is the End” with this quote from Seneca:

"Let us prepare our minds as if we'd come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life's books each day. . . .The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time."

--Seneca, Moral Letters, 101.7b-8a

I expected this year’s Holidailies to be about how horrified I am by American politics. But when I considered the meditation, I didn’t want to write about that anymore. I’m no less horrified, and I will continue to combat the forces of darkness, but writing about it online is not how I want to spend my remaining time on the planet. (Writing it all out offline is a different story, and has kept me sane this year.)

In the interest of postponing nothing, here are things I want to tell you today:

  1. Fallen leaves smell really good. I know this because I got a good whiff when I took this selfie even though I have grown to hate how I look in photographs.
  2. I misheard a friend say "Van Gogh's Mirror" and started writing that short story in my head but if you beat me to it I won't be too mad.
  3. Reading this essay made me feel somewhat okay again after that NYT piece on Nazis in Applebee's. And also canceling my NYT subscription. Oops, politics.
  4. I have been knitting a sweater for FunkyPlaid since before we moved to Scotland but I finally got professional knitting help today and I think this year might be the year I actually finish it! Postponing nothing, right?

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Follow the Leader” by Foxygen.

Not mine anymore.

not_mine_anymore

Face-down on the operating table, I’m not yet numb. This part had escaped my meticulous mental preparation – not so meticulous after all – and when I realize that the numbing portion of the day’s festivities will involve injections of lidocaine, the familiar effervescence of panic travels across the backs of my arms and into my scalp.

I lose track after the twelfth injection. And you know how I love to count things. I have experienced lidocaine injections before, for dental work, and once for a cut on my finger that required stitches, but nothing compares to the precise, bee-sting pain of multiple injections. My breathing exercises work to a point, but it takes a lot more than breathing exercises for me to sit still while someone hurts me. I wish I had something as cool as Sherlock’s mind-palace. There isn’t even a tropical beach with swaying palm trees waiting for me in my mind. Visual imagination is not a strength of mine, so where I go in my head is a facsimile of a rundown, cramped office of the psychiatric resident I saw twice a week while I lived in Alabama.

I take a deep breath. The nurse says, “You’re doing so well!” and she sounds surprised. “Most people really hate this part.”

I really hate this part, I think as I exhale. But I am also my parents’ daughter, and I know how to put on a brave face when I think my discomfort might put someone else out.

When all of the numbing has taken effect, the part I still can’t fathom happens. It is a routine procedure and yet a piece of my skin is being removed, and my brain hamster-wheels as it tries to square these two things. I feel tugged at in a way that I did not expect; maybe I expected it to be more like opening a handbag, pulling out a glasses-case, and snapping me shut again. My eyes have been closed most of the time but they pop open as the surgeon calls softly to the nurse, and I see him pass a piece of my flesh over to her, settling it gently in a jar of clear liquid. Suddenly I picture a long line of glowing specimens in jars at the Museum of Science and Industry.

“O,” I say, louder than I mean to do.

“Everything okay?” the surgeon asks. He is at least ten years younger than I am.

“Yes,” I say, and it is, and it isn’t. The panic has receded, replaced by boring old nausea.

“We send this off to the lab for tests. To make sure,” the surgeon says. He does not need to finish the sentence.

Pain peels back my manners enough that I ask for more lidocaine during the sutures. It takes so much longer to sew me up that I feel like a sock that is too worn through to be darned, every stitch opening a bigger hole. Eventually the surgeon places a waterproof bandage over the site. My arms and legs are starting to shake when I slowly sit up.

“It’s the lidocaine,” the nurse explains. I’m wound up like a mechanical toy, limbs paddling air, waiting to be let go. She has a piece of me in a jar in a plastic bag. It seems rude to leave it behind but it’s not mine anymore.

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Cave” by Future Islands. The surgery described above happened two months ago; I’m already healed and everything was benign. Still processing it, apparently.

Where were you?

zen_heater

I hear a piercing cry from somewhere in the house. It’s a small house, but sound carries and bounces and hides. I do a full circuit, glancing in all of the usual places, and get halfway around again before I hear another cry, this time from upstairs.

“Zen? Zen?” She can’t have gone far; she’s almost twenty-one years old, and “running” isn’t in her repertoire anymore.

I reach the top of the stairs but she is not in sight, so I walk down the hall into the bedroom. No, nothing in here. I walk back out and she is standing at the top of the stairs, gazing down.

For a moment, I watch her contemplating her own existence, or staring into the middle distance – it’s not always clear which is which, with cats or humans. But it’s not long before I can help myself from saying, softly, “Hey.”

She looks at me and makes the different sound, the purr-trill that I’ve come to know as, “Where were you?”

I scoop her up and carefully descend. She’ll settle again for a little while, until a chill or the wind or a bad dream or existential dread will rouse her from twitch-ridden sleep. Like she is mourning an old friend, Zen’s cries will rise and slide up the wooden bannister until I, bleary with my own bad dreams, will go and find her again.

Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the low hum of the space-heater. Welcome to Holidailies, a free community writing project that promotes sharing your writing and other online creative endeavors during the winter holiday season.

Day 366 of Project 365: Last snap.

As 2016 ends, so does this round of Project 365. I am relieved on both counts, although I will miss how the act of sharing a daily photo kept me connected with faraway loved ones. Thank you for being here; your presence meant a lot to me during this very challenging year.

I’m excited to refocus my creative energies on my writing in 2017, but I’ll keep sharing here from time to time. Stick around.

I hope that your 2017 is filled with enough light to see through the darkness.

via Instagram ift.tt/2hYnrrm

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the Song Exploder episode about Justin Hurwitz’s “La La Land”.

Day 365 of Project 365: Penultimate.

2016 had one last stomach bug to throw my way. Earlier this afternoon I was feeling dizzy so I went outside for some fresh air and saw this lichen-spotted sign.

via Instagram [ift.tt/2hBWIDc](http://ift.tt/2hBWIDc)
Writing from: my living-room in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: an episode of "Travelers" on Netflix. It had promise but ultimately suffered from the same issues that plague all shows about time travel.

Day 364 of Project 365: Pine-scented.

A tiny tree sits next to a pine-scented candle, and it is drizzling outside. Zen wanders through the house, pausing to express her displeasure at all of the chilly corners that lack FunkyPlaid’s presence. But soon he will be coming home, and we’ll all be warmer.

You have noticed by now that despite being Day 364 of this project, there are two more days left in 2016. Leap year granted me a bonus Day 366 photo! No pressure …

via Instagram [ift.tt/2huRpSO](http://ift.tt/2huRpSO)

 

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the rain. Happy it’s not snow!

Day 363 of Project 365: Turning the page.

Tonight I turned the page to peek at 2017. It looks so clean and new from here. I am sure 2016 looked much the same, last December 28th. Is it foolish to look forward to a symbolic fresh start? Are these merely the first few hours of our darker days?

via Instagram [ift.tt/2iHenLA](http://ift.tt/2iHenLA)

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Carrie Fisher being interviewed in 1977 about “Star Wars”. In French. She really was awesome.

 

Day 362 of Project 365: Fireblue.

Here is my first Kaweco, a Liliput Fireblue, which is one of the smallest fountain pens – less than four inches long when capped! Each pen is hand-torched by Kaweco CEO Michael Gutberlet to give it the distinctively mottled steel finish. I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces in future ink tests!

via Instagram [ift.tt/2iCK3O3](http://ift.tt/2iCK3O3)

Day 361 of Project 365: Batgirl.

Hopping into my time machine to catch up with some posts from the weekend! Yes, I am wearing a bat onesie pajamas (kigurumi), a most excellent gift from FunkyPlaid.

via Instagram [ift.tt/2ilD5h5](http://ift.tt/2ilD5h5)

Day 360 of Project 365: Happy merry.

Hopping into my time machine to catch up with some posts from the weekend! FunkyPlaid and I were together on Christmas Day for the first time in too long, and it was wonderful.

via Instagram [ift.tt/2hiiacS](http://ift.tt/2hiiacS)

Day 359 of Project 365: Gamescape selfie.

Hopping into my time machine to catch up with some posts from the weekend! Here's a selfie I took at Gamescape North, the best and friendliest local game store in the world.
via Instagram [ift.tt/2hewEe4](http://ift.tt/2hewEe4)

Day 358 of Project 365: Reading by the fire.

I’m reading Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt” and enjoying the new fireplace in my inlaws’ living-room. Not pictured but very close by: FunkyPlaid. 💕

Writing from: a cozy home in Marin County, California. Listening to: the quiet whir of the fireplace.

Day 357 of Project 365: Zen's new hiding place.

Zen didn’t get up to say goodbye as I was heading to the airport, but that’s okay. She has a new hiding place: right in front of the register, underneath the nesting tables. 

I tried to move the tables and put her bed there, but she just folded herself up underneath the tables and looked disappointed. Message received. I’ll miss this little weirdo but I’m looking so forward to seeing FunkyPlaid for a few days!

Day 356 of Project 365: Winterbloom.

I had lofty goals to come home and get all of my chores done and pack and take a nice hot bath with custom-made bath salts that a friend gave me … and then I was delayed at work, and all that melted like so much Portland snow. I’m still packing! But in twenty-four hours I’ll be reunited with FunkyPlaid.

When I arrived home, this confused camellia bud greeted me. Happy Solstice!

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: a podcast called “LifeAfter” that I am not quite enjoying.

Day 355 of Project 365: Wrapped up.

Gift-giving makes me incredibly anxious. I’m not certain where it comes from, but it is pervasive at this time of year, especially when I don’t have my very best shopping pal at my side to talk me out of talking myself out of choices.

I do like giving people things, but I’m always convinced I’ve given the wrong thing. And it sucks, doubly so in a new workplace where I am still unsure of the gift-giving protocol.

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It will be a miracle if I can get to sleep tonight.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: my internal monologue.

Day 354 of Project 365: Chicken and cornbread in the slow-cooker.

My immune system collapsed in the wee hours this morning, when I woke up to a coughing fit and severe sinus pain. I haven’t done much today except sleep, but I did manage to put a meal in the slow-cooker so I will have home-cooked lunches this week. I love this recipe for barbecued chicken and cornbread because the cornbread bakes on top of the barbecued chicken like some sort of food sorcery. This is my first attempt with my new favorite gluten-free store-bought barbecue sauce.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “This Christmas” by Mason Embry Trio from Spotify’s Christmas Peaceful Piano playlist.

https://open.spotify.com/track/0gWpfyUrTKSavND3OhIJpt

Day 353 of Project 365: Sunday karaoke.

Now that I have a car, I sing (badly) all the time, but I was definitely overdue for some fun karaoke times with friends. Courtney, V, and I went to Voicebox and sang our hearts out. About ducks.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Zen’s snores … making me so sleepy.

Day 352 of Project 365: Live-snarking rom-coms.

Some friends of mine get together regularly to watch romantic comedies and good-naturedly snark about them. Living thousands of miles apart doesn’t stop them: they meet online and sync up their various media players so everyone is experiencing it in real-time. I joined in the fun today and it was exactly the low-key social distraction I needed.

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In related news, “While You Were Sleeping” is an incredibly stressful romantic comedy to watch, since it is all based on a ridiculous lie. This is likely true of most romantic comedies, which is why I tend to avoid them.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: only the taps of the keyboard.

Day 351 of Project 365: Forward.

After a wearying week of winter weather, bouts of insomnia, and seasonal ennui, I found myself on this path near the end of my morning commute.

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I would like to say that I was 100% thrilled to be going to work this morning, but I was not. I was exhausted and irritated and overwhelmed and pretty daunted by all the slipperiness pictured. I can be pretty idealistic about my profession, but I wasn’t feeling so hot about the logistics, not today.

I started to walk anyway, and as I did I heard the satisfying crunch underfoot and saw the glimmer of the sunrise on the slick outlines of footprints. I moved forward. I did it slowly, but I did move forward.

And it was worth it.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: cars skidding out around the corner.

Day 350 of Project 365: Box of Christmas cheer.

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A beautiful box of Christmas cheer from my dad and stepmom was waiting for me when I arrived home. It could not have come at a better time; with FunkyPlaid away I haven’t felt much holiday spirit this year, and last week’s weather foiled two of my planned holiday outings. Then this week’s weather caused the worst commute ever. Today’s drive home was less horrible but still harrowing, and I won’t be taking my car back out on Portland roads in even vaguely snowy conditions without chains. And maybe a cowcatcher.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: some holiday music. I’m trying!

Day 349 of Project 365: Twelve miles in five hours.

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Here’s how my evening commute went today:

  • 15:15: I decide to stick around past quitting time in order to avoid some of the traffic on snowy roads. This decision has the added benefit of helping out at work a little, too.
  • 16:30: Quitting time comes and goes. Snow continues to fall. I remain unperturbed.
  • 18:00: The library closes early and I leave with two coworkers to walk across the traffic-laden street and get into my car.
  • 18:10: After scraping the windows and warming the car up a bit, I decide to drive around the parking lot a few times to see how the car holds up with the snow. A bit skiddy, but okay.
  • 18:15: I set off on my way home.
  • 18:17: I hit my first patch of ice and experience that fun sliding feeling.
  • 18:18 & 18:19: Two more patches of ice. I get the hint and decide to drive to the transit center and take a bus home instead.
  • 18:50: I finally make it the seven-tenths of a mile to the transit center. I call FunkyPlaid to confirm that I am doing the right thing by leaving my car at the Park & Ride and taking the bus home.
  • 19:00: I approach the bus that appears to be my bus, but it is a driverless, darkened bus, and does nothing to greet me.
  • 19:46: The driver appears and lets us all on the bus. I feel very happy that I am soon going to be home! I am less happy when I watch my phone battery and backup battery drain from 100% and 60% respectively to 0% and 1% without warning. But still pretty happy.
  • 20:21: The bus, unable to make much headway in brutal traffic, gets stuck on a very busy road. Not even a little stuck: properly stuck. And all of the passengers suddenly discover that we have boarded a bus that has no chains. No chains. In a snowstorm.
  • 20:30, 20:40, 20:50: Helpful passengers try to get the bus un-stuck. It is of no use. Other helpful passengers say really encouraging things and share their snacks with people who have said they are hungry. I am reminded that I do like Portland, even when it is a big snow wimp.
  • 21:01: Another bus comes and we all get on it. It is now very full but it has chains and is moving at a proper pace. A fellow passenger strikes up a conversation and we trade commute woes. They are similar; we share solidarity and even bitch about the recent election a little. This takes my mind off the fact that I have not eaten dinner or gone to the restroom in too long. We marvel at the number of cars stranded, apocalypse-style, along the side of the roads.
  • 22:01: The second bus gets stuck, just over a mile from my house. I debate walking and then I watch people attempting to walk down the street and near cars and really falling a lot more than I am comfortable with. The bus driver and another passenger start digging the bus out. My new bus friend is not going to walk; she is going to stick it out. I decide to stick it out with her.
  • 22:50: With all of the passengers crowded toward the back of the bus, crossing fingers and otherwise hoping a lot of hopes right out loud in front of each other (maybe even some bad language, but in a positive way), the bus driver punches it like when I say, "Punch it, Marge!" to myself even though I'm not Marge and have no idea where I got that, "The Simpsons" maybe? He punches it and the bus demurs a whole lot before lurching out into the intersection. We are free! We whoop and holler. It feels a lot like the winning goal in an '80s movie high school sports event.
  • 22:59: My new bus friend waves goodbye and gets off the bus. When I get off the bus, I thank the bus driver and the helpful passenger, and all of my other new bus acquaintances wave goodbye. It is pretty great. I forget that I still have to walk home.
  • 23:00: I remember quickly. The walk sucks. I take a lame photo.
  • 23:15: I walk in the door and Zen yells at me and all is well.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: a loud explosion. Uh-oh, power outages are on the way …

Day 348 of Project 365: Picnic advent.

Each year my mom sends a thoughtful and creative advent calendar around a theme of her own devising. This year it is a picnic basket with assorted picnic-themed goodies, one to unwrap each day! When FunkyPlaid comes home (and the weather clears up) we will be all set to explore Oregon, one picnic at a time.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: odd creaks and bumps that are probably nothing but are still creeping me out. I’ve been watching too much TV.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.