Cooper and Oliver’s Relationship Tips (but not really)

We’re starting off with the big questions on the blog today. Something that’s bothered me for years and years but I never think to ask anyone about it. Not a topic that comes up casually all that often, at least not for me. So here it is, un-casually. In books, television, movies, everything, people in the shower often lean forward a bit and let the water wash down their face. I find this tremendously uncomfortable. I rinse my face as quickly as possible.

Is this a thing people actually do? Am I in the minority on this? Or is it just some weird media thing that people who make that stuff decided seemed good? There is a certain drama to it, I can definitely pick up on the emotion of the act even if I think it’s heinous.

Responses welcome.

Anyway.


I have increased my modest exercise regimen for the month of May and, though it doesn’t involve more than a pose or two of yoga, just before bed, I am taking inspiration and encouragement from Bubba, who absolutely does not know yoga but absolutely does end up in weird positions all the time.

It occurred to me after writing this post and giving it a title that we have had cats named Cooper and Oliver in my family. I don’t think I’d take relationship advice from either.

I’m reading a book series, Big Bad Wolf (yes it’s very on the nose, I’m over it) by Charlie Adhara, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a nice enough story and decently written but the main reason I’m enjoying it is because it just seems. Healthy? The romance between the main characters is fraught, of course, but they keep making good decisions for each other? They keep communicating? They keep looking out for one another?

Obviously, in romance-novel-land, almost all stories end happily ever after (or happy for now, as some put it, and that’s plenty, too, sometimes). But there’s also usually quite a bit of d r a m a in between. That’s kind of the point. So I’m not sure exactly what it is but I just am really appreciating the way in which these books take the drama and let it be personal growth but without it feeling quite so. I’m not sure. So dramatic?

It’s not that they don’t make mistakes. They don’t decide “I’m going to do the right thing and we’re going to have a healthy relationship” and that’s that. But they decide they want to be healthy and they consistently try. It’s something the main character, in particular, comes back to even in times of extreme emotion and difficulty. He thinks “honesty and communication are important for this relationship to work” and then makes it happen. Even when it’s hard.

I feel like your reaction to the way I’m describing this is either um duh or wow you need better relationship examples in your life. And I don’t think I mean it as either. Sometimes, it’s just good to be reminded, though, right? It helps me to see it clearly on the page, seeing the character’s exact thoughts and all that. It’s been really nice.


Recently, I’ve been trying to practice patience with others regarding communication. I have some prior experience with virtual communication being my primary way of interacting with friends and family, so pandemic-time restrictions, while difficult, have been a bit easier on me in that regard. Not everyone has that.

I keep trying to communicate clearly with friends and things and I think I do okay most of the time (hurray some modicum of personal growth) but now I need to learn to be with people where they are, rather than expecting them to be on the same page I am–just in the sense of ‘how do/can we communicate and be friends.’ I ranted to a friend the other day about group chats and he reminded me that not everyone understands virtual cues and procedure in the same way that I do.

And yes, I just claimed to have some understanding of social cues and procedures. Somehow.

Anyway, not really going anywhere else with that. I’m going to go back to my books now, have a nice week.

The Impossibility of Going Backward

Walking backwards, possible. Driving backwards, possible. But going backward, impossible. I will never live through this day again. I cannot unplant the seeds that I have planted. I can uproot them–destroy them, transplant them, dig them up. But I cannot take back the action of planting.

As you know, I sometimes spend an unnecessary amount of mental energy thinking about native plants. I want to try to steward the ecosystems around me as best I can and generally avoid being one who ends up supporting an invasive and mean-spirited plant (I can’t help but think of certain ones that way, though I know it’s all our fault, not theirs).

Sometimes, I wish that I could see what indigenous ecosystems looked like without any human intervention. What were these forests I walk through like back then, before people? And not just white people, any people. What would I have seen were I the first human to venture into what we now call the Puget Sound lowlands?

But such thinking invariably leads me to the same place, the titular place, the place in which there is no knowing. We cannot unplant seeds. However, there’s something even more no going back that I sometimes think about.

I believe in evolution, that the story of all living things is slow change and dispersal (or, in the case of things like the Galapagos, not dispersal, but you know what I mean). And if I believe that’s true, then there is no primordial, pristine state of nature. Not for botany, not for human habitation, either, given our millenia-long obsession with moving around, changing culture and language and even bodies as we go.

(I realize that last sounded kind of body-snatcher-esque but, again, you know what I mean)

I think protecting ecosystems and supporting native plants and championing the rights of indigenous peoples is important. But it’s not really the issue at hand here.


I sometimes worry that my anxiety (and it is anxiety, every once in a while) about the impossibility of going backward–in that restore-the-habitat, respect-indigenous-peoples way–stems from some sort of self-righteous I Know The Way Things Should Be voice inside me. Other times, I think it’s mostly anxiety because I’d rather not cause problems, generally, than deal with the consequences, and we have a lot of problems I have a limited say in causing.

The idea that time only flows in one direction certainly can be scary. Case in point, the feeling of impending climate doom since clearly we as a global community have struggled to think long-term in that arena. Even if we get our act together, there isn’t any real going back. What’s done is done.

But I think there is hope in it as well. It makes me think (bear with me) of weddings. Currently, I’m certainly looking forward to having a wedding someday (to someone….eventually…I hope…). But I am more looking forward to the marriage that comes after. It’s not like once the day passes, I’ll be sad that I can’t go back and relive my wedding. I’ll be happy, I imagine, to keep moving forward with every day being a new day with my love.

Behold, he has allowed an exceedingly cute picture to be taken

So, in this moment, I’m choosing to turn from anxiety to love. Not in some sappy way but in a very real, this-is-how-I-can-restore-my-ecosystem kind of way.

Thence, I come to poetry, as I am so often wont to do, and thinking of Kahlil Gibran, as I am so often wont do to:

To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
     To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love’s ecstasy;
     To return home at eventide with grati-
tude;
     And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

Big Sky Country

We’ve had some incredible weather here this week. Warm and sunny days, incredibly clear skies, the blush of green and apple blossoms and new growth. So spring, very hope, much enjoy.

I’ve loved being able to get outside, whether reading on the back deck, a short walk down to the water, or a trip further afield to appreciate the beauty of the moment. I particularly appreciated this hike to Teneriffe Falls.

I’m also, as I said last week, very grateful to have gotten my first vaccine dose yesterday. It felt so momentous to me, somehow a much more tangible contribution to saving the world than all the other stuff I’ve been doing (wearing a mask ect). Perhaps because I’ve just gotten accustomed to those things and this was something new and, hopefully, a little more definitive.

Anyway, it’s all got me thinking about the slogan of the state of Montana: Big Sky Country. As far as I’ve been able to determine, the reference is from a book called Big Sky and refers to big, unobstructed vistas that Montana has.

This confuses me a little. Not that state nicknames have to be totally reasonable but. If it’s referring to flat land, like eastern Montana, there are definitely flatter states. If it’s referring to views from mountains, there are definitely more mountainous states. Maybe it’s the combination? But Colorado and Alaska, at least, also have that combo…

But that’s not the point. The phrase itself. Big sky country. I’m here for the poetry of it, you know that I am, but I’m not here for some of the things that I think are subtly implied.

We all have the same sky. We all share the precise same vault of blue above us. Despite our best efforts, it sometimes seems, no one can truly claim the sky as their own.

I don’t really have a problem with Montana’s nickname. I do have a problem with the times when things that belong to the world are claimed by any one piece of the world.

Whether it’s vaccine nationalism or the plain, normal kind. Whether it’s refugee caps or strict skills-based immigration systems. Whether it’s a national anthem about your religion or your ethnic group. I’m just not here for it. It’s a mindset of closure: risk-averse, rigid, exclusionary, proprietary.

There are certainly many challenges posed by imagining global collective goods. There are also solutions, though. Combatting climate change isn’t really about individual decisions at this point–large corporations that exert more influence than the general populace are the much more pressing problem. But the only way forward is to also act, individually and collectively. We can’t do nothing. Even if our small actions aren’t sufficient, they are certainly necessary for a transformation of the human world into something more sustainable.

And, personally, I find it really exciting to think about the sun, the sky, the things that can’t be owned and which we all–every one of us–share. This Earth is big sky country and I, for one, think that’s a thrill.

Happy Earth Day.

I’ve Got Issues

I’m a firm believer that pretty much everything is political since, at its core, politics is just figuring out how to live with other people. But I do think that something being a “Political Issue” is different than it just being political. Maybe it’s just semantics but.

Clearly, requiring face masks in public spaces, for example, is political. But it didn’t have to be a Political Issue–some people made it into one. Issues are for when people have issues with something. Requiring children to have vaccines has been an Issue for a while at this point–at least in the US–and this pandemic predictably, if unfortunately, highlighted and heightened that.

I do actually value robust debate about political questions. And certainly this pandemic has posed new (or not dealt with in a long time) questions so perhaps it was worth revisiting some things. But also, sometimes debates are just over. Specifics about this or that vaccine, the proper way of preventing a disease spread be it masks or whatever, those are things to talk about.

The basic premise, though, I feel like we should all agree on? That we should protect each other when we can? That we ourselves should want to be healthy? That doctors know more about how diseases work than random people on the internet?

I don’t need to have a whole thing about this, I just don’t have the wherewithal right now. I don’t want to convince people to get the vaccine, I just want people to want it, you know? Anyway, I’m very grateful to have gotten my first dose scheduled and coming up. I wish that could be said of more of the world, particularly considering all the people around the world who do want the vaccine and don’t have access to it because of Political Issues that disincline countries from sharing.

Anyway, I hope that you are healthy, whoever you are and whenever you’re reading this, and I hope that Issues don’t prevent you from caring for others as best as you are able.

Spontaneity

A lot of personal unpacking happening, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The opposite of spontaneous is generally planned. But I kind of feel that for me, it’s ‘routine.’ Even if it’s planned, if it’s not part of my regular programming, I can count it as spontaneous.

I’ve been trying to unpack this a bit recently because I’m trying to be a) more self-aware and b) grow as a person. I think it’s wrapped up in expectations. Even among close friends and family, I often find myself in a state of constant guessing and questioning about every word and action:

Am I taking a joke too far? How long should I sit in this position? What is eye contact? What’s a reasonable follow-up question to that story? How can I convey interest even though I could not be less interested? How can I convey that I’m not interested in a polite way? Is my foot tapping distracting (it’s not a sign of impatience, I promise, I’m just a wiggly person)? And so on.

I also sometimes become too aware of these questions themselves, wondering to what extent the other person is asking similar things? Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by my inability to experience another’s existence. But on that front, the best thing I can do is share and see what other people have to say.

Anyway, about spontaneity. With all that swirling in my head in pretty much every social interaction I have, it feels like a big ask to thrust me into situations that call for all that brain power and social energy without lots of notice.

To be fair, I do sometimes really enjoy spontaneous things. Occasionally, in the past, if a friend has asked me to do something unplanned with them within a few hours, I’ll feel horrible about it but I’ll agree and I’ll actually have a lovely time! It can and does happen. So there’s that.

But other times, I’ll agree, be filled with dread until the event, and then just feel extra awkward and uncomfortable the whole time. Doing Things takes a lot of psyching myself up and without that mental fortitude, I sometimes just feel swamped.

So on the self-betterment thing, I’m trying to develop that fortitude in a more reasonable timeframe. Just telling myself to agree and go to things hasn’t really worked. Sometimes, I have fun and sometimes, I kind of regret going. The same as always. So I’m in search of methods to give myself the time to prepare without needing like a full week of notice. Any thoughts on techniques are welcome.

On the other hand, I’m also trying to believe in the strengths of being this way. A friend recently pointed out that this mindset makes me a very reliable person in the sense that, when given notice, I will make my intention of going clear and I will certainly show up. I love a good RSVP moment followed by a good Actually Being There moment. And that’s who I am, as much as the person who needs to RSVP to even the most mundane things because otherwise it feels to spontaneous.

Camaro is all worn out thinking about all that

Do not think I am ignorant of the fact that my preceding paragraphs have started with “anyway,” “to be fair,” “but other times,” and “on the other hand.” Let no one day I never waffle.

I am a creature of habit, avowedly so. I value routines in a Very Extreme Way. There are pros and cons and I am trying to lean into the pros while ameliorating the cons. I want to hear about you. How do you think about your life, in terms of schedule and interaction and planning and whatnot? Do you have tips for me? Do you feel the same way, or know people who do? I want to talk about it because I want to learn.

Fools

If I had to guess, I would imagine something like 90% of all uses of the word “fool” fall into one of three categories: Disney villain, Gandalf, or love song.

One of my favorite examples of the latter, inspired by April Fools’ Day in fact, is this lovely one by Sam Tsui and his husband. “We were young and foolish but still we managed to get one thing right. I’m wiser now, it’s true, but I’m still a fool for you.”

I’m not sure why but I just love that line. I’m wiser now but I’m still head-over-heels, I’ll-do-anything for you. The thing that really matters–that’s what we’ve got right, no matter how silly it looks to everyone else. It’s a cute sentiment and so nicely put.

It puts me a bit in mind of that odd exchange of King David’s where he moves the Ark of God and goes dancing before it half-clothed. In response to someone who is embarrassed on his behalf, holding that no king should behave thus, David responds in part, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” We’re here for a foolish king, if the king is humiliated over something worth being foolish for.


I am getting more and more spring moments these days and I am so grateful. Made it into April in one piece. We’ve go daffodils and cherry blossoms and it’s just all coming together. Yesterday was the first Real Nice Day in my book, sunny and even warm. Took a nice walk down to the cove as I am wont to do.

For all the blehh things about how my life has been progressing this past year, times like that are a good way to keep me grateful. Not just for the sun and water and flowers, but those things help me think more about gratitude. 

I do love the rain and all that–grey skies and mossy stones and whatnot. But I’m here for a good seasonal transition. Enough is enough. I’m not sure how I’d do, living in a place with mostly very consistent weather. Even if it were very nice weather for me to enjoy. But then again, there’s always travel for times I need to see snow or whatever I’m lacking (pandemic times aside, of course).


A little note about this picture of my cousin’s darling kitten. That carving was made by my grandmother and given to this cousin many, many years ago. And apparently in a prophetic moment because that resemblance is wow. Also, what a photogenic cat? I’d honestly say that for probably any cat in probably any pose but still. Love her.


I’ve never been much one for April Fools’ Day. Nor practical jokes in general. I’m not against them but it’s just not really how I work, in coming up with them. And I can’t promise that I’d be the best sport about being a victim, either. Participating in someone else’s plan? Perhaps, I have a few times and it can be fun.

Fun, that’s the key thing. Good-hearted and also, hopefully, good-resulted. This feels like a much more friendly opportunity for pranks than, say, Halloween and all that mischief. Enjoy responsibly and don’t worry if you end up a little undignified.

He Laveth the Thirsty Land

My water bottle has laved my thirst for more than thirteen years, carrying water and stickers and love across five continents. It has been a daily companion and a partner for big adventures. I can’t capture all the stickers, and lots of them are faded into nothingness as it is, but I had to offer at least a glimpse.

The stickers don’t reflect all the places I’ve been but my rule has been that all my stickers are strictly places I’ve been–other than the rainbow, which I think is a valuable symbol and so allowed it. My memory is trash so I don’t have a specific memory of getting this bottle but I know it was the summer after 7th grade, at Camp Spalding. I remember I got one for my sister as well, a blue one. I know the first stickers (before my place rule was established) were from a Leave No Trace visit to my environmental science class freshman year of high school.

My plan has long been to turn it into a vase when I run out of sticker room. I believed, with the addition of the Alaska moose and M-22 stickers, the time was fast approaching. I intended to get a new one when I got a new job and moved somewhere new. And then…I didn’t get a new job…and still didn’t…and still didn’t. I know it seems like a dumb thing to be so fraught but it really took a lot of willpower for me to finally decide to get another water bottle even without the job. And so I now have. The age of this water bottle has ended–at least for its intended use.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I’m thinking of poetry in this moment of change, as the generally change-averse person I am. Gibran says of wanderers: “We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.”

I appreciate being cast as a seed–a potential that is also completely fulfilled in its purpose exactly as it is. It reminds me, though, of a different botanical analogy. Something I’m trying to learn, which I say all the time but rarely feel in my bones: bloom where you’re planted.

In this waiting place–that I’m also trying to think of as more than a waiting place, since my life is still happening in the meantime–maybe a new water bottle can be a little part of a blossom. It’s silly, it’s small, but probably most of my life is silly, small things anyway so I might as well embrace it, right?

So I’m sitting here with my new water bottle (after lengthy research and careful consideration… another Nalgene, but grey/brown with a yellow lid) and my two new stickers (a new rainbow and one for my current place). It’s one of the objects that I interact with most–I take my hydration very seriously–so I’m sure we’ll be good friends shortly. And maybe years hence it can remind me that sometimes, drought is self-imposed and it’s okay to bloom a little even when you feel like you shouldn’t.

Favorites

This past weekend, in the midst of baking an apple pie in honor of pi day, my family was trying to help me remember my favorite movies. Because I had forgotten. Several years ago, in deference to people’s continued questioning and also my extreme distaste (or incapacity) for choosing favorites, I had come up with a “top five in no particular order.” I feel like I may even have mentioned in on here at some point, but we couldn’t find the post.

A very pretty apple pie, if I do say so myself. Obviously, I added cardamom

I think I’m bad at favorites, I think, for three main reasons. First, as we’ve covered before, I’m just an indecisive person. Something I’m working on but it is what it is. Second, I do really feel incapable of weighing diverse entries in a category and saying one is better than the other, if they’re substantially different but I like them both. Third, I inexplicably feel like once I declare a favorite, I must stand by it until the end of time and I’m wary of making such a commitment. This is likely related to how much I dislike change but we needn’t get into that just now.

In the event, on the movie question, we successfully recalled four of the five and I felt decisive enough to reincarnate the fifth entry with a movie (which I utterly could not recall) that I’m certain was made after my list but which I think probably works well. I think this list gives a pretty well-rounded and mostly comprehensive view of my tastes (only missing a rom-com and political/psychological thriller). So, for future reference, my five favorite movies in no particular order are:

  • The Lord of the Rings (as one movie, maybe that’s cheating, sue me)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Wonder Woman

If you happen to recall my previous fifth entry, or you’re outraged that something you know I love didn’t make the cut, please do let me know. You know my memory is trash and this mysterious fifth movie might deserve the chance to reclaim its spot.

While I’m in a decisive mood, I may as well list a few other favorites that I do feel comfortable with choosing. Favorite color: definitely and probably always yellow. Favorite Harry Potter (book and movie): Goblet of Fire. Favorite flower by appearace: dahlia, with daffodil in second place. Favorite flower by scent: lilac. Favorite animal: musk ox. Favorite household pet: surprise, cat.

I have to say, I think my healthiest thinking around favorites has historically been around Jelly Belly flavors. I’m not sure why but this has been one thing where, from an early age, I felt confident in declaring a favorite and have also been okay with my favorite changing. First, I loved buttered popcorn. Then, it was watermelon. Now (and for many years, at this point), it’s juicy pear.

If you ever want to ask me my favorite book, I’ll be real with you, it’s just not going to happen. Too many books to love. If you say favorite by a particular author, maybe maybe. Possibly but unlikely if you want a favorite within a very specific genre. But I think that’s okay. I’m allowed to just love things without ranking them.

But here’s a little reminder to myself. It’s also okay to just choose something as a favorite. It doesn’t need to be the end-all-be-all of the category for the rest of your life. Favorites can change, no one really cares that much. You don’t need to be putting that much weight on your inconsequential choices.

Watermelon yesterday, juicy pear today, who knows what tomorrow. It’s okay. Just enjoy the treat.

Err on the Side of

It’s starting to be springy here and I could not be more thrilled. We’ve had some gorgeous, sunny days and while the temperatures have remained rather chilly overnight, we’re definitely moving toward warm times. Flowers are starting to happen, bulbs have sent up some leaves, the cherry tree by the front door is budding, I’m feeling good about it.

I’m really ready to get back to my daily walks around Glen Cove. There’s not been anything stopping me the past several months, and I have actually gone on a few. But I just don’t really enjoy being cold and I don’t love bundling up more than I have to (I love sweater weather but mostly for being cozy inside).

I know I’ll be complaining about heat before we know it but what can I say, I’m fickle that way. Or rather, I’m temperature sensitive and get used to things too quickly. I am what I am.

And though Camaro looks fantastic here, cuddling in some afternoon sun on a cozy bed, I’m ready to relax in the sun outside. Reading on the back deck, yes please. Those days cannot come back soon enough. More sun, more green, more warm, yes.


I don’t need to have a big political moment but I want to have a small one. Something I’ve been thinking about recently that applies to governments deciding who gets unemployment, faith communities deciding who gets to be ordained, the justice system, the education system, it’s all over the place.

I’ll phrase it as a question. Would you rather let someone in who shouldn’t be in, or keep someone out who shouldn’t be out? We live in an imperfect world, it’s unlikely that we’ll always get it right. Which side would you rather err on?


I haven’t been baking loads but I did want to share these chocolate chip cookies just because I thought the picture looked nice. For all the baking content I consume on YouTube, there’s really not much that I actually put into practice–recipes or tips and tricks. But I have learned two things that I really do think make a huge difference.

First, chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips. It doesn’t have to be any kind of fancy chocolate, just the semisweet bars in the baking aisle. It really does make such a difference. Especially when there’s a variety of sizes. You get big melty bits, little chocolatey bits, and that chocolate shard/powder stuff that infuses the whole dough. So amazing. 

The second crops up in recipes somewhat regularly but I never really bothered in the past. But chilling your dough is a good thing. Even if it’s not that long, twenty minutes in the fridge can give the butter some good cooling time (which helps it spread less) and also supposedly gives the flavor time to integrate or something. And maybe is also good for the flour? Anyway, I think you should chill your dough if you don’t. Even if it’s not in the recipe.


Anyway. Just to close. I want to be clear about what I said earlier. I don’t always feel like it, but the idea I strive for is to let people in. As much as it is reasonable to err on the side of caution, I want to err generously.

Genesis, Exorcist, Leviathan, Do the Right Thing

I honestly cannot hear someone talk about the Pentateuch without remembering this moment from the show Psych. What great characters.

Speaking of great characters.

Also, I finished the first arc of the D&D podcast I’ve been listening to for the past year or so. Not Another D&D Podcast is the actual name of it. One hundred episodes, averaging I’d guess 100 minutes each. A lot of show to get through. And though it is a comedy podcast and is often quite funny, it also had some real and poignant scenes. Seeing those characters through to the end of it all was very moving for me.

It was a comedy and they kept it pretty light but there were some heavy moments. There were also some conversations that felt like philosophy. Hard to avoid, even if everything’s a joke, when you’re talking about characters taking over Hell and having to decide what to do with it, things like that. In many ways, conceptually and in the issues that arose, it reminded me of The Good Place. It’s all fun and games but also I feel like I’m pondering big questions?

One thing that I really appreciated from this final episode was something an NPC wrote in a letter to our main characters. He was a part of their team and departed the world in the final minutes (in the denouement, not the action, if you were worried). Basically, he just pointed out how small his world had been before he met the heroes. And how they all came to fight for the world.

Though they fought because they cared about their friends and families and communities, the longer the journey grew the more they came to fight simply because they saw things that were wrong and wanted to do the right thing. They traveled and saw and learned, and they increasingly had the power and authority to do something about the bad things they saw. They became invested in this big, final battle not just to save their friends or even their world, or because they alone had the power to stop a great evil. They just knew that it was a good cause and they couldn’t help but see it done. They had made a habit of doing the right thing.

It makes me think about the whole right thing/right reason question. I don’t think it’s always enough to do the wrong thing for the right reason but I also don’t think it exactly hits the spot to do the right thing for the wrong reason. I’m not sure which to weight more heavily, the Thing or the Reason. Or if it should always be the same one.

I guess the thing is to participate. I’m thinking again of Wonder Woman. We all have good and evil inside us. We have the capacity to be heroes. But we’ve got to choose it, every day. We have to do Things and have Reasons and try to strive for the right ones on both counts. And maybe we have a lot of reasons for doing things but I hope that Right Thing can be one of them more and more regularly. That’s what I’m kind of trying to go for, at least.