readingchallenge

Question: Jocelyn, how did you become such an incredibly successful Goodreads reading-challenge-completer?

Answer: Oh, gosh. I don’t know. As an incredibly successful person, it can be really hard to assess the secret to your own successfulness. I mean, the thing I’m successful at is completing my Goodreads reading goal, not describing what makes me successful! ha! But I would say part of the secret is just setting the bar real low.

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in which i read three biographies at the same time without getting them confused. well, not *that* confused.

Ahoy-hoy, Internet! It’s a new year, and I’m kicking it off by trying to read three different biographies/memoirs at the same time for some reason and not making particularly good progress on any of them.

First – Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. I’ve had this book on my Kobo for like a year, and I only read it at night when I can’t sleep. If I ever plug my kobo in, the computer will tell the Kobo it’s an expired library ebook, so I can never sync my kobo or put anything else on it. So the Kobo is really a glorified electronic copy of Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, at this point, actually. Having a dedicated insomnia read is the reason I haven’t really made much progress on it. But it suddenly got more interesting and so I’ve been reading it in non-insomnia situations too and things are really picking up. You never know with books written by people who are famous for something other than writing books, whether they’re going to be good at writing. Especially someone like Brownstein who already seems to be pretty good at an improbably large number of things. It’s like, “oh, maybe WRITING BOOKS is the thing she’s bad at!”

It isn’t. Dammit. She writes really eloquently about music and articulately about her own life in a way that’s pretty jealousy-inducing.

Second – Roxane Gay’s Hunger. I borrowed this from a friend AGES AGO and started feeling super-guilty about not having read it or given it back so I thought, well, I’d better get on with it even though I KNOW it’s going to make me depressed.

Third – my book club is reading Andrew Morton’s Diana: In Her Own Words. I know what you’re thinking: “Jocelyn! What kind of bonkers book club is this?” To which I can only respond: I DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE GOING TO MAKE ME READ THIS BOOK. And last time was Canadian poetry! It’s been brutal. Luckily some of my favourite people are in this book club, so I’m not close to quitting it, even if the book aspect has been a bit annoying lately, the club aspect is still awesome. Also the snacks are always first-class.

Here’s the thing about this Diana book, though: It’s weirdly fascinating. I was just a kid when Charles and Diana divorced, not old enough to really care about any royal marriage situations, so my background knowledge was pretty much 0. But I learned from the introduction to this book that Diana made the book happen by sneakily meeting with someone, he would interview her and record the interviews, and then he would smuggle the tapes out to Andrew Morton, who wrote the “authorized unauthorized” biography. Like some kind of James Bond nonsense! She also approved the manuscript pages and would write edits on them, and I’m assuming these were passed to her in crowded restaurants, with an elaborate matching-briefcase-switch trick. So if nothing else, I’ve learned from reading this book that Diana was a stone-cold badass. Also, the edition I’m reading includes some transcripts from the interview tapes, and she refers to her Scotland Yard bodyguards as “my policeman,” which is adorable.

Anyway, these three books are bleeding together in my heart in a weird way and making me feel achey and sad about women’s bodies. It might also be the 5 or so hours’ sleep I got last night. (Don’t worry, in between the first three and the last two I was reading Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, so it wasn’t a complete waste.) When I finish one or more of them I’ll try to come up with some more articulate comments, but that’s all I’ve got for right now.

Also, book club is tomorrow so I gotta get cracking on the Diana biography. I think I can do it. I just have to not take care of my kid at all tonight. And also not engage in my other two recent time-passing obsessions: Playing Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 and watching Star Trek: Voyager*.

*Note: Carrie Brownstein might be ok on her own, but I feel that both Roxane Gay and Princess Diana could use Captain Janeway’s warm, wise help. And so could I. So could we all.

Trying to be a slightly better person

A month or so ago, I encountered this graphic (someone shared it on facebook, I think) called the Buyerarchy of Needs:

03sl2012buyerarchyofneeds-922x1024

Source: Artist Sarah Lazarovic, longliveirony.com

I’ve thought about this a lot off and on, because I think it’s one of the main disconnects in my life: that I think of myself as an environmentally conscious, non-materialistic person, but in reality I shop A LOT and have a lot of stuff and just generally don’t actually do environmentally friendly, non-materialistic things*. And, if anything, this has gotten worse over the past couple years (especially re: shopping on maternity leave, buying baby clothes [AAAAH] and Amazon Prime, all of which I have mentioned before on this blog. Y’all, it is like I have a DISEASE.) So while I hesitate to call it a resolution, I am going to try to make a change in 2018. It’s not a buy-nothing year, but it’s a buy-less with rules year? Not very catchy, right?

*Well, I mean, I do SOME. I am still using cloth diapers at home. And I bring my own coffee mug to Tim Horton’s most of the time. And this past summer I started using a glass milkshake straw instead of the plastic ones they give you. Yes, I HAVE A SPECIAL MILKSHAKE STRAW WHAT’S YOUR POINT.

And I have gotten a lot better at not buying books. I already hardly ever buy new books. But still. I probably still create more garbage than like 90% of the people on this planet, so then bringing your own straw to the fancy coffee place in your neighbourhood to drink your $7 milkshake with doesn’t really count for much, does it?

So anyway, rules for A Buy-Less Year That Needs A Catchier Name:

Yes:

  • Used books
  • Clothes from thrift stores
  • Things you can buy at a grocery store
  • Things that are part of our Amazon subscription
  • Existing gift cards will be grandfathered in
  • OK to eat out because if we didn’t do this we would literally die

No:

  • New books
    • I already obeyed this rule by putting the new Maureen Johnson book on hold at the library instead of pre-ordering it like I was going to! YES! I am crushing this!
  • New clothes
    • Exception: if Malcolm really needs something and I can’t find it used. James is the arbiter of “really needs” and will approve these purchases. It will be like an old-timey heteronormative family from a classic sitcom, where I run purchases by my husband! Fun, right?!
  • New jewelery, accessories,¬† shoes
  • Random stuff from Amazon. Non-subscription things need to sit in my cart for 48 hours before I order them.
  • New craft supplies/fabric. Thrifted ones are ok, and I’ll make occasional exceptions and buy something new if I REALLY NEED IT and can’t find it used. Can I trust myself to be my own arbiter of this? No, but no one else can do it better.

__

So I wrote this post above a couple of days ago(/LAST YEAR), and didn’t have time to finish it, and then I was going to “polish” it and maybe add some jokes (or “jokes”) and then publish it on January 1st. It is now January 3rd and my kid is sick and so far in 2018 I’ve gotten, I don’t know, like 8 hours of sleep or some nonsense and I already feel like giving up on EVERY SINGLE PROJECT ALREADY UNDERTAKEN OR UNDER CONSIDERATION and just, I don’t know, eating carbs and drinking coffee until I die. Yesterday and today I have days off from work and Malcolm is supposed to be back in daycare and I was like THINK OF ALL THE THINGS I CAN DO! Here are a few of the things I was going to do: Swim laps! Do laundry! Make little snacky foods for him that we can easily freeze! Design a vinyl design to make a scarf for myself! Here are the things I did instead: NOTHING! (Actually, not totally true. Before I got the dreaded Daycare Call yesterday I did have an eye exam and work out. So that’s two things.)

But, I haven’t broken any of the shopping rules yet and I probably won’t be able to for at least a few days because I’ll be here, unable to even really go outside, listening to a sad baby scream. So that’s good, I guess? Whatever. Just hit publish. 2018: Year of Good Enough. Again. That’s three years in a row!

On goals, and not meeting them

Well, it’s December 31st, so it’s time to contemplate the successes and failures of 2017 and anticipate the failures of the year ahead. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Oh, and successes too you say? That’s very sweet of you.

I did not reach my 2017 reading goal. Not even close. On Friday, I checked it (on Goodreads) and it said something like “17 books behind schedule… 2 days to go. There’s still time!” LOL GOODREADS. You joker. Leave me alone. I’m obviosuly going to finish The Good Place on Netflix instead. And eat 80 chocolates.

This year, I spent a lot of days/weeks carrying around books I wasn’t reading while reading nothing. Once I was done with the intensive-breastfeeding part of being a mother, where you can easily spend 7 or 8 hours just SITTING THERE out of every 24, it got much harder to find the time and energy to read. Also I was doing other things. Like sewing. And smelling my kid’s delicious peanut-butter-head. And washing cloth diapers. And crying in bathrooms.

Also, I wasn’t at the last meeting of my book club, and in my absence they chose to read A SELECTION OF CANADIAN POETRY. Whaaaa? So I did read some of those Canadian poems, and here’s what I learned from that experience: My attention span has evaporated. I’ve never been much of a poetry person, but now apparently I am unable to concentrate on it even enough to absorb the words, let alone figure out what they mean. Sorry, poetry. The Internet ruined me. Also probably getting like 5.5 hours of sleep per night on average for the past year and a half? Huh. So I guess what I’m saying is that in 2018 I hope to finish reading the Lincoln Lawyer books. That should be about my speed. Also there might be a second season of The Good Place. Sorry, world. I’m going to keep on disappointing you.

lemon5

Amazon Prime addendum

Last night, we realized we had no more diapers and I was just contemplating whether we could just use cloth ones all the time until our next subscription order arrives on Thursday. James and I discussed this and decided it would be fine.

Moments later, my phone pinged with a notification from the Amazon app that our diapers had just been delivered. And there they were, on our front porch.

Conclusion: I believe in Amazon Prime the way some people believe in luck, or karma.

One year of mom-ing.

Hey internet-blog!
Sorry, I stopped updating this blog, obviously. It became summer and I was gardening and then I started an Etsy store and got kind of obsessed with that. It’s called Infant Industrial Complex. It turned out to be the perfect thing for me, at the perfect time. I needed a project I could do from home, in little bits of time here and there, and I was sewing lots of stuff for Malcolm but mostly dumb made-up things he didn’t really need. So I decided to actually start a store and try to sell dumb made-up things to other people for THEIR babies. So far, I am not getting rich, but I am having fun. Also, I love the way sewing solves engineering problems with fabric with cute designs on it.

Diversionary paragraph related to my Etsy store: I expressed something to James about how I would inevitably fail at this, just as I have failed at/abandoned every creative/online venture I have ever started (see: this blog). And he was like, “how can you fail at something if it’s just for fun?” That thought had NEVER OCCURRED TO ME. Self-realization: I am not great at doing things just for fun. This is why it’s good to be married to someone who is not the exact same as you.

My son turns one tomorrow. And on Monday, I started back at work part-time. I am on a weird schedule for the first couple weeks, but when my new normal schedule begins, I will be there three days a week. Lots of people I know have said this was about perfect for them when they had little ones, so I hope that turns out to be the case for me. Right now it feels like staying home any longer is impossible, like returning to work is impossible, like sending my kid to daycare is impossible, like trying to keep nursing him while he CONTINUOUSLY BITES ME is impossible. (That last one might actually be impossible, for real. I started flicking him on the cheek when he does it, and then he bursts into sobs, looking at me as if I’ve betrayed him TO HIS CORE. And I’m like, dude. You BIT MY BOOB. That was SO MUCH WORSE. Babies. They have no sense of proportionate retaliation. [Anyway, the cheek-flicking isn’t really retaliation, it’s supposed to be a deterrent, although so far I would say it’s accomplishing nothing, except that it also makes my baby cry, which is worse.]) So I guess, with all this impossible around, I’ll just try one of the seemingly impossible things and see if it works.

Anyway, when I went to work on Monday, a co-worker asked me a benign question about how things are going, and it included the sub-question, “But don’t you just love being a mom?” or something like that. And it made me think a lot harder than it should have done. I mean, I love this kid so much it hurts my heart, so much I don’t throw him across the room when he bites my boob five times in the space of one hour, so much I spend approximately 95% of my life doing dumb crap I don’t care about so he’ll stay alive and happy. But that’s not the same thing as loving¬†being a mom. You can love a person and still not be happy about the other stuff. For example: right now Malcolm is getting a molar*, his first one, and the inflammation in his gums makes his nose run continuously. Like, when people who hate kids imagine a prototypical kid, they’re probably imaging a grubby, grabby little demon with snot literally bubbling out of his nose. That is my kid, right now. And he hates having his nose wiped, so I spend, I don’t know, half an hour a day pinning his arms down with one hand and trying to wipe away snot with the other while he squirms and screams like I’m torturing him. Would I say that makes me happy? Like, in my soul? I’m going to go with no.

But here’s the thing about being a mom, I think: the cultural narrative about how rewarding all this shit is is so powerful that it’s not even a question, it’s an assumption: you love being a mom, right? What answer is there for that question other than yes? I guess No, because I’m a terrible person? It’s kind of a tough corner to be in, conversationally. So we’ll just go with, yes, I love being a mom! I think it’s all the snot, and the biting.

*We assume. He will not let us look in his mouth.

One year ago today, I was in labour. FOR THE WHOLE 24 HOURS. So at least today is better than that, because I’m gonna order takeout later, and my kid scoots around the floor on his butt like a total weirdo and makes me laugh every day.

Also, I’ve read some books. Maybe I’ll blog about them soon. After all, it’s fall, so my gardening time is over, and a person can only sew so many stuffed hedgehogs**. Sorry, Internet! I’m gonna try to be better.

**It’s a lot, though. Last week I made 11 stuffed cacti and yesterday I started 9 hedgehogs. I only make prickly animals and plants into toys, because I’m a bit of a prickly person.