#AtoZChallenge — Peacock

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

What did I do today? Well, the first thing I did was skim through

Peacock – Indian National Bird #AtoZchallenge

— Read on shilpanairy.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/peacock-indian-national-bird-atozchallenge/

The first time I saw a peacock was at some winery in Northern California, where they wandered freely in the area around the tasting room. I was young enough that I couldn’t drink wine but old enough that I was bored.

Peacocks are loud. Alarmingly loud. Very pretty, but I jumped half out of my skin every time they called.

I didn’t know they were the national bird of India. I haven’t done any particular research on peacock symbolism (yet) so this post was really cool to come across.

#AtoZChallenge — Outside

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

What did I do today? Well, the first thing I did was skim through some A to Z posts. Among them were a haiku titled Outdoors and a short article on conservation of our Oceans. The latter urged that, “Oceans have become garbage cans and it needs to be taken care of ASAP. Try and give a day to beach cleaning and you will realize what they are going thru.”

So, my partner and I went out into the great outdoors to visit the Sonoma Coast. It was a beautiful day — sunny and just enough wind to make the sea air feel extra fresh and crisp.

4ocean-bracelet-the-4ocean-bracelet-275460161554_grandeThe beach we visited was actually very clean, so instead I’ll share something I keep seeing ads and sponsored posts about on social media. 4Ocean is one of the groups out there helping clean up our oceans, and to raise money to do so they’re selling bracelets for $20 each. Every bracelet purchased represents the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines.  It looks cute and it’s for a good cause, and the organization has a cool origin story.

And now, please enjoy this slow motion video of the ocean.

What’s your favorite outdoor space like?

#AtoZChallenge — Negotiating Normal

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

Normal. What the hell is that, anyway?


I’m not a parent (to the extent that cats don’t count), but I agree wholeheartedly with Stomperdad’s post.

First new frames (and lenses) in five years! Man I’d gotten used to crappy vision.

What the hell is normal?

When I was a kid spending weekdays at my maternal grandparents’ house, except for Wednesdays at my paternal grandparents’ house, was normal. By seventh grade, wearing glasses full time was normal. In college, queer relationships and me actually dating became normal. When I met my partner, dogs became normal, and when we got our first kitten together, cats became normal. Until the end of last year, exhaustion and existential misery was normal, but then I quit my job and now writing every day and feeling both healthier and happier has taken its place.

Part of growing up — which I am in no way done with, even though I’m turning thirty in a couple weeks — is trying to figure out what your personal normal is, and finding your equilibrium within it.

Our lives include one negotiation after another. When we negotiate, we are attempting to obtain or bring about some end by way of discussion or other means, including non-verbal communication.


Anxiety is also normal for me. It has been since… I don’t know, probably second grade, at least, but I didn’t realize or acknowledge it until college when I was so apathetic and sad about nothing particularly specific that I made an appointment with one of the school therapists. After several sessions, she suggested I consider anti-anxiety medication and gave me a referral to a therapist, which I never did anything about because I have anxiety about swallowing pills.

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Cats in the washing machine is not normal. Remove all cats prior to starting a wash.

The year after that, I started getting sinus headaches in the fall and spring, so bad that swallowing Advil one half at a time became normal. (That primed me for trying anti-anxiety meds later in life. At this point, I’ve worked my way up to actually swallowing pills whole. … Most of the time.)


It wasn’t until after college and after meeting my current partner that I went back into therapy and started questioning my normal. Asking myself, why do I think this way? And, Do I have to keep doing this?

I wish I had the kind of parents who had been able to see this in me and help me with it when I was younger. They’re good parents, and I love them, but they’re computer engineers and just not super emotional people — that’s part of why examining my feelings and what they came from didn’t come naturally.

Normal changes, that’s why no one knows really knows what it is. And Fandango is right, we negotiate our way through it daily. With our environment, with other people, even with ourselves.

What’s your normal like?

#AtoZChallenge — Mindful Eating

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

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Freshly made pasta is AMAZING. (This photo was taken before I started the keto diet, heh.)

Mindful eating is the practice of cultivating an open-minded awareness of how the food we choose to eat affects one’s body, feelings, mind, and all that is around us.


When I was a kid, my parents didn’t exactly encourage mindful eating. Eating was something I would always do at great speed, to the point where I would get scolded for rushing through dinner. I just didn’t want to sit at the dinner table any longer than I had to. It was all “What did you do today,” which I always found mind numbingly boring because it didn’t seem like actually talking so much as just going over itineraries.

I’ve also realized, upon reflection, that meals growing up were always very portion controlled and… kind of like being on a diet without anyone ever really needing to or saying the word diet. My dad likes to cook, and when I went off to college I didn’t realize that chicken stock and similar things could actually be bought in stores rather than made at home. Homemade stock, homemade tomato sauce, and homemade burgers cooked in the oven on little racks so all the fat (and moisture, and flavor) dripped out. Desserts were for special occasions, or if we had extra pears that my dad felt like poaching and making a simple syrup for, or sometimes just raspberries from the backyard with a little sugar and cream. If we had garlic bread, there were exactly four servings of garlic bread and no extras.

There was always one protein, one starch, and one vegetable, all of which were mandatory. Concessions were made for my dislike of certain vegetables, so I was never dragged kicking and screaming into eating a salad but I did choke down my fair share of broccoli. And if I took a really big scoop of mashed potatoes, or of rice, or of pasta, I often got a brief reminder not to eat too much starchy, bready things because then I might get fat.

When I savored food, it was in the somewhat rare evenings where we went out, or when I was at my Grandma’s house. Even then, I didn’t think too much of it.

Living in Sonoma County has changed my relationship with food entirely. Most of the restaurants around here have farm-to-table leanings, so everything is fresh and vivid and delicately nuanced with flavor. It’s that moment when you close your eyes and eat slowly, so slowly that in some moments you don’t even necessarily chew because you’re too distracted by just tasting, experiencing the moment.

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Chocolate Avocado Parfaits, with fresh raspberries and Pamela’s gf graham crackers crumbled up.

Kristen talks in her Healthy Eating Blog ‘Eating The Moment‘ post about how “eating often leaves us with feelings of guilt. We don’t listen to our bodies, but give in to our minds that are tricking us into thinking we’re hungry.” I remember experiencing that. But the more I take the time to savor my food, the less guilt I feel.

Also, now that I’m on the keto diet I pay a lot more attention to what I eat and experiment more with healthy recipes that I can make in our new slow-cooker, and that’s a whole new world of appreciation too. I even borrowed a book from the library (volunteer shelving leads to finding some interesting gems, let me tell you) full of low-sugar baking recipes and tips for using less processed sugar. I’ve made chocolate avocado parfaits, low sugar pumpkin cupcakes with honey-cream cheese frosting, dark chocolate coconut cups… Healthy desserts! And they were delicious.

I haven’t read the book that Kristen’s post is talking about, but I’m all for mindful eating. What about you? What kind of eating habits were you raised with, and how have they changed over time?

#AtoZChallenge — Ladybugs 🐞

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

Today, while reading this post on Ramblings of a Writer, I realized it’s been a long time since I saw a ladybug. But the last times I remember were very memorable.

From 2010 to 2012, I had a job with a very small kale chip company. Working out of the smaller half a commercial kitchen small. I did all the shopping and made all the recipes small. The stuff was mostly sold at farmers markets small. Every day I came with my iPod loaded with audiobooks and spent the day planning, blending, mixing, dishwashing, and avoiding being the person to dress the kale with sauces if at all possible, because some of them kinda made my arms break out.

The kale was organic, so you know what that means: no chemicals or pesticides to keep the bugs off. Most of the time that wasn’t a problem, but every now and then there would be ladybugs. We washed the kale before dressing it, and usually found them then, but not always.

Sometimes my assistant (who made more than me, but whatever) would be dressing the kale and suddenly notice a ladybug crawling up her arm to escape. I’d come get it and take the little guy outside to fly free.

But once, the boss came in with a container of kale chips that someone had returned because the customer had found a ladybug that had been dehydrated with the leaves, poor thing.

Maybe that’s where they’ve all disappeared to…

#AtoZChallenge — Katharine Hepburn

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.


As a mostly-lesbian, my first instinct is to wholeheartedly agree with this quote. At the same time my partner is, at heart and gradually more and more in body, a dude. (Fun story: This is also not the first time I’ve had feelings for someone who later ended up transitioning or being genderqueer.) And although I tease him quite often about how boys are gross and stinky and please for the love of god stop biting your nails and leaving the resulting bits in my car, I am totally okay with that.

I suppose it helps with the “boys are gross” thing that he’s an OCD and a neat freak. (These are distinctly different things: one is a wired-in brain compulsion that often leads to frustration, vicious self-reproach, and tears; the other is more like this…)

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Here’s the thing about men and women… they’re often raised differently, and the respective upbringings don’t always include a detailed understanding of the other. 

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
~ MLK (source)
(I did take this quote out of context from the post I found it in, but I feel it can be applied to gender inequality as much as it can to racial inequality.)

Living with a trans man is different. If I have cramps or period-related back pains or ridiculously sensitive nipples, I get sympathy born of genuine understanding. He never leaves the seat up, or drips pee on the floor. (I’ve never dated a cis guy, but I’ve lived with them and so has he.) There are probably other stereotypes I’m forgetting that equally do not apply, but I can’t think of them at the moment.

Really, the biggest stumbling block we’ve had in the relationship is the OCD. On basically all other fronts, we coexist quite suitably together. So I’m not sure if I do agree with that quote after all.

#AtoZChallenge — Junk

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

A to Z Challenge: J is for Junk (#AtoZChallenge)

A to Z Challenge: J is for Junk (#AtoZChallenge)
— Read on zombieflamingoes.com/2018/04/11/a-to-z-challenge-j-is-for-junk-atozchallenge/

I agree that junk can make for good pictures, and this post reminded me of some screencaps I took a couple months ago of… some Buzzfeed list, probably. The reason I saved them is because seeing them made me think of my fantasy novel, set sometime after our modern world collapses and magic replaces technology.

Okay, not all of these are technically junk. But it’s all “stuff we don’t want any more, stuff that probably doesn’t work anymore, or we don’t need any more, or is stained or broken.”

These are the footprints we will leave, for better or for worse… and someday, someone is going to think they look really interesting. If that’s not a reason to incorporate things like this into my fantasy setting, then what is?

#AtoZChallenge — It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across. 


Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages and Karen Hume’s RAW NEWS framework as examples of a daily routine to support your creativity
— Read on profoundjourney.com/routine-never-too-late-a-z-challenge/

The post I’m featuring today is one I stumbled across through the comments on a blog I follow.

I’m turning thirty in about two weeks, so it’s not like I’m in danger of a midlife crisis quite yet. But I did hit the ejector seat button on my job about eight months ago… and in some ways it’s like I’m learning how to live all over again. Like Karen, “I didn’t do much of anything other than sleep and destress for quite a while,” but now I’m much happier, getting a healthier amount of sleep, being more active throughout the day, and eating a lot better.

Have I settled on my ideal routine yet? Not quite. Every morning I make a list of three things I want to accomplish in the coming day (though sometimes I make the list the night before, or at the end of the day if I forgot and just want to acknowledge that I actually got stuff done). Every night I make a list of three things I’m grateful for (and usually at least one of those things is about food, haha). If I haven’t done either of those by 10pm or so, my Grid Diary app reminds me.

These are important habits, and they’ve helped me a lot with just getting my mind back to a good place and keep it there, but I wouldn’t mind adding to my routine.

“I would be relieved if I made time to….”

  • Write more. 

And to be fair, I have been doing more of this since November thanks to NaNoWriMo. I write when I’m inspired, but I can’t decide if it would motivate me more to carve out a specific Writing Time or if it would just inspire me to procrastinate more.

When I finish my current fanfiction masterpiece I’ll get back to the novels I want to publish someday.

  • Meditate more.

Seriously, I’ve been saying this for years. A few years ago, when my partner went to London for twelve months, I found a meditation group at an LGBT center near my parents house and started going once a week. It was amazing and relaxing and it got me out of the house to interact with new people, which I don’t do on my own very often. I told my therapist at the time about it, and she told me about a meditation-based anxiety group she was running, which was also great.

When we moved up here, I half heartedly looked for other groups to join but couldn’t find anything I felt comfortable with, and the Calm app on it’s own has not been enough to keep me on track. What little breathing exercises I have done recently have all been very short and only thanks to the promptings of the Aloe Bud app I’m helping beta test.

… Actually, I just remembered my old therapist gave me a bunch of cds with meditation recordings. I should get those on my new computer!

  • Go on more walks.

I will do this, once the weather dries up a bit. Because seriously, walks in the rain can be okay if you have an umbrella and a neighborhood with sidewalks, but I currently have neither of those. I’ve been gradually bumping up my daily step goal and am currently at 6k a day — taking long summer walks would be really good for that.

  • Apply to more jobs.

I’ve been a lot better about this in the past week. I guess the A to Z Challenge productivity is catching? But basically, I keep forgetting what day it is and I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. I need to find a job again!

What about your routines? Are there any new habits that you want to start building up?

#AtoZChallenge — Hair

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across. 


— Read on bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/hair/

I don’t get my hair cut often, partly because I’m broke and partly because I just don’t put much effort into my hair. Sure I wash it, comb it, etc., but I never got into blow drying it or putting product in it or anything like that. My wake up routine when I have somewhere to go is usually roll out of bed, get dressed, comb hair, walk out the door.

But last week while my partner had an appointment in town, I tagged along and checked out the salon next door. I did very little research before hand and did not make an appointment, despite my best intentions, but they accepted walk-ins and I only had to wait fifteen minutes.

The shampooing my is my favorite part. It’s a glorious scalp massage, with warm water.

The talking is my least favorite part, because I’m awkward as hell. It seems like it would be rude to just sit there in complete silence, especially since they always try to start conversations. But the lady cutting my hair was nice enough. I told her I just wanted a trim because I’m growing my hair out for the wedding next year.

She asked, “Who’s the lucky guy?”

Awkward alert! I’m used to correcting that sort of thing with “lucky girl,” except now my partner is out about transitioning. So there was this pause in which my brain went durrrrrrr for a while, then I think I said something like oh it’s my partner we’ve been together for five years and lived together for three.

After a while she started to catch on that I kept saying partner instead of using pronouns and apologized for being heteronormative. I was so inspired by that I explained that my partner is transitioning and I’m still getting used to the pronoun switch, and we ended up talking about hilarious ways our dudes have been startled awake — mine by a cat biting his nose, hers when she yanked the pillow out from under his head because she was worried he’d roll over on the baby.

I think I’ve posted about this before, now that I’ve written it, but whatever. It’s important. It was a refreshingly good encounter, both in terms of non-awkward acceptance (cough cough my parents are awkward as hell, wonder where I get that from) and me being more talkative while using the new pronouns. It’s just, you never know how people are going to react, you know? This is a pretty liberal town, but still. And… I kind of loathe the idea of being mistaken for straight. We’re a queer couple, but the pronouns no longer indicate that without the extended explanation, and it feels as though my identity gets lost or that I’m lying about it by omission. Both of our identities, really.

So… that’s part of the quandary of getting my hair done now. They always want to talk. I always feel awkward about the talking and end up telling the story about how our last apartment gave me fleas. Every time. It is not a story that makes me sound like a classy person. I don’t know why I always tell that one, it just pops out.

Are there such things as silent hair salons? Because if not, introverts of the world! We should rise up and demand quietly mumble a request for them!

#AtoZChallenge — Ghosts

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across. 

I’m not sure if I believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories. Like this one I just read: The Puppets in the Woods, written by The Creative PTSD Gal for today’s A to Z letter. It genuinely gave me the chills.

… Partly because I read that the author was retelling a true story, and my brain accidentally skipped over the “and add a little oomph to it.”

c5513b4a9976db9c2673d3991943d2b1-stephen-kings-warner-brosI still remember the first haunting movie I stayed up late to watch. It was sometime in middle school and I was really into Stephen King books, and I saw a commercial about a three-night Stephen King made-for-tv-movie event. Only I missed the first night, tuned in a third of the way into the movie when all the really creepy stuff had started happening, and got so scared watching it alone at night that I had to turn it off and go to bed. Years later, I rented Rose Red from Netflix and watched it during the day — I now own a copy of it and it’s kind of my rainy day feel better movie. There are even still a few jump scares that still get me, and though I will admit that the special effects are not the best ever, it’s not so much the effects that get me as the setting itself. Plus, the concept was heavily influenced by the Winchester House in San Jose, CA, which was about half an hour away from where I grew up by freeway.

The Perspective Hallway. You can’t tell what’s down there, man!

The only time I’ve felt as if a ghost was watching me in real life was at a friend’s house. It was right after the four of us had watched Insidious, or The Conjuring, or something like that, and when I got up to use the bathroom I could’ve sworn there was someone in there. Either watching me from behind the mirror or hiding in the bathtub as I passed by. (I peeked in the latter, just to check.)

Apparently, the house used to belong to one of the friend’s elderly relatives. I don’t remember if they’d literally died in the house or if that was just the last place they lived before passing away, but the bedroom on the other side of the wall behind that mirror has the same vibes but stronger. And it wasn’t just that one night, that bathroom makes me jumpy every time I use it and always has. I just had to be in the ghost movie mindset to place the feeling.