The analog joy of a Traveler’s Notebook meetup.

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Stack of Traveler's Notebooks

Today I attended a Traveler’s Notebook meetup at Oblation Papers and Press, Portland’s premiere paper boutique and letterpress studio, and one of my favorite places on Earth.

I bought my first Traveler’s Notebook in May 2010. The first words I wrote in it were, “I know, I know — a new notebook, really?” Yes, really, self. And look at me, eight years later, meeting other people who probably wrote similar sentences in their own similar notebooks.

The future, despite the decidedly dystopian trajectory, can still contain glorious moments of geekery.

A certain giddiness engulfs the soul when surrounded by people who express their creativity with the same tools. I get this feeling in a posse of writers and I got the same feeling today. Our host, Kelly, exuded delight as she remarked on the fascinating ways in which each of us had customized our notebooks. I brought some journaling supplies to share and inked some fountain pens too, but I needn’t have over-prepared because Oblation provided inks to try with dip pens, stamps and ink pads, washi tape, stickers, and goodie bags containing paper samples and other ephemera.

And so our version of a group photo contains zero people. Or does it? Here we are: our notebooks as our avatars, blank canvases turned into journals, into sketchbooks, into planners, into endless possibilities.

This Week.

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This Week was also Birthday Week, which ended up wonderful after a rough start. On Tuesday evening, the snow and ice came back to make things interesting. Our neighborhood saw a few inches of snow, and the roads iced up overnight, so I was back to the bus commute on Wednesday morning.

But the week ended with an extended birthday celebration involving sushi dinner, well-wishes and gifts, two brunches, Star Wars, model trains, and reading books by the fire on a rainy evening. It was just what I wanted.

Occupations

Due to the inclement weather and lots of meetings, I didn’t make much progress on my work projects. I did, however, make lots of progress on fretting over how much progress I wasn’t making on my work projects. I also gave my task list several meaningful glances.

Diversions

On the Page

On the Screen

We are done, so done, with Season 3 of “Outlander” and jumped right into Season 7 of “Homeland”. I find myself wishing that the series had ended with Season 3.

We finally saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and I enjoyed that mess quite a bit, especially how it added nuance to most of the main characters. It tried to add nuance to Kylo Ren, it really did, but there isn’t much to do about that pathetic man-child. At least we got Emo Kylo Ren out of it.

On the (Figurative) Turntable

Kimbra’s new single, “Version of Me”, dropped this week. I love it!

In the (Literal) Game Room

Our friend Mike came over and we played “Ex Libris”, a game about being gnomish librarians collecting magical texts, and if that sounds like that game is right up my Diagon Alley, that’s because it absolutely is.

One of my birthday presents from FunkyPlaid was Scrabble Typography, which I am eager to play!

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Related: I no longer attempt to play Scrabble, Words With Friends, or any word-building games online. I’m miserable at keeping up with asynchronous multiplayer games, especially multiple ones at the same time. So if I have ever accepted your invitation to play, made it three rounds, and disappeared … that’s why.

I did start playing a puzzle adventure game on my iPad called “Rusty Lake Paradise” which is unsettling and strange and very good so far.

On the Internet

The best thing I read online this week was “The Problem with the ‘What Else?’ Mindset” by Jocelyn K. Glei because of this quote:

You could witness the most precious moment of someone’s life, or read a news story about a horrifying and terribly sad event, or complete one of the most impressive accomplishments of your creative career… And somehow it’s never enough.

On the Globe

The Portmeirion Village webcams have been taken down. 😢 I will have to find a new magic window to peep through.

Ink o’ the Week

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This Week.

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Hey, it’s this week’s This Week! I’m on industrial-grade antibiotics! I don’t have an intro!

Occupations

I do this thing where I let myself get Super! Excited! about something, painfully excited, that excitement that is all shiny sparkling hummingbird buzzing with all of the good possibilities that the something may bring. I convince myself that everyone else involved is also Super! Excited! and it is so cool to share that feeling, you know it is.

And then the next day, I realize that I’m the only person that is Super! Excited! about the thing because everyone else has other stuff going on and I get hugely bummed out.

At the beginning of January, I let myself get Super! Excited! about a potential writing group. Then it didn’t seem to pan out the way I thought it would: huge bummer. But a new writer friend and I are forging ahead with a biweekly meeting date at a local café. If no one else shows up, we’ll at least have a few hours of focused writing time. Or chat. 🙂

I had another Super! Excited! moment at work recently when I became the subject selector for my library’s science fiction and fantasy collection. (Just typing the sentence makes my head explode a little.) But nothing can bum me out about that. Nothing.

Diversions

On the Page

On the Screen

FunkyPlaid and I are almost through Season 3 of “Outlander” which has managed to make high-seas pirating boring. Last season made 18th century Paris boring. Paris! It’s not a good trend.

We recently re-watched “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and it was even better than I remembered. I can’t wait to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. I’m also really looking forward to “Black Panther”!

On the (Figurative) Turntable

I hope I am never blasé about Spotify surprising me with gorgeous music I haven’t heard before. “Butterfly” by Snowpoet appeared in my life today and … yep.

 

In the (Literal) Game Room

We had friends over and played Love Letter and Jungle Speed. One of these games is calm and methodical and the other involves sprained fingers and hysterical laughter. Both are really, really fun. Play them instead of Monopoly or Risk. They are great games that won’t make you hate your friends.

On the Internet

I lost my social media mojo a while back, but I post wee updates and photos to my microblog, Honk. (Thanks to FunkyPlaid for the name!)

On the Globe

We’ve just started planning our trip to Scotland this April! I cannot wait to see everyone and everything and take a million photos and eat proper curry.

Ink o’ the Week

It is snowing right now (WTF, Portland?) so my TWSBI Eco is loaded with Kaweco Summer Purple. Wishful writing!

Homesick.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Race Report: 2017 Beat the Blerch 10K

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Been a while. Let’s see if I remember how to do this!

Yesterday, I participated in my first race in almost two years. The race is part of a series called Beat the Blerch based on a comic by The Oatmeal, a/k/a Matthew Inman. Even if you don’t enjoy running, the comic is really funny and you should read it.

I wouldn’t have even known about the race if my friend K hadn’t asked our other race-loving friend R and me if we wanted to run it with her. It was selling out fast so I said yes, thinking that a race was as good a reason as any to spend time in Seattle with my friends, and that I could absolutely train for a flat-course 10K in four months.

While it was fantastic to spend the day before tooling around Seattle with K and R, I was not in racing form by the time Sunday rolled around. That ended up being fine because my racing partners were also dealing with their own health challenges, plus the race was very walker-friendly. Also, personal worsts are encouraged in a Beat the Blerch race because they ply runners with cake and Nutella along the way. So once we picked up our bibs and shirts, the three of us relaxed, chatted with other runners, and hammed it up in photos with a Blerch.

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A Blerch and me.

R and K tried Burritoughnuts (yes, tortilla-wrapped doughnuts).

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R actually ate hers!

Soon after this monstrosity was consumed, we had one last bio-break and then joined the other runners at the starting line, where a Blerch tossed tortillas and marshmallows at us, and then showered us with Doritos as we got on our way.

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Lining up for the 10K.

The mood was high as we made our way through the woods, peeping costumes and chatting and snapping the occasional pic. Mile 3 brought the hydration (and cake and couch) station! I knew the cake wouldn’t be gluten-free, but I hadn’t realized that all of the Nutella would be in sandwiches, so I didn’t get any mid-race Nutella break as planned. That was okay, though, because the day before I had loaded up on post-race treats from Flying Apron Café.

Despite my plan to take it easy, I got caught up in the excitement, and I told K and R I wanted to run for a bit. I ended up running about a mile in two separate segments. Although the running bursts felt good, I had trouble staying within my target heart rate, so I slowed down to a walk. There was also a long stretch of gravel that proved challenging; all of my other races have been on pavement, and I wasn’t keen on injuring myself so soon after recovering from the sneaky sciatica of last month.

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Through the woods.

Even though I was surrounded by people, I was lonely for my friends, so before the mile 6 marker, I stopped for some water and waited for them. The three of us ran the last wee bit to the finish, collected our medals, and got chocolate milk! (And then a proper meal in Redmond.)

All in all, the strengths of this race were the feeling of camaraderie with the other participants, the rampant silliness, the costumes, and the high-quality tech shirt with thumbholes that I’m going to love wearing while running in the cooler months. The challenge was the course: despite how scenic it was, that large-rock gravel was not fun for less experienced runners, and sharing a narrower course with both 10K and half-marathon runners meant that there were lots of “clumps” to navigate.

10K is a great distance for me, training-wise, and I’ve already signed up for another 10K race in about a month, my first in Portland proper. Going to the gym will be a lot more fun with this goal in mind. But I already miss my racing buddies!

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Racing is better with friends.