juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
There have been a number of interim posts since my last post that have not been written outside my head, because I am a perpetual bundle of busy and tired, consistently overstretching my limited capabilities to do politics and be scared about the state of the world.

One post: I did skip Thanksgiving, and my parents didn't come up after because inertia is a thing. But Dee went up to Washington for the holiday and Devon did drive up to see me for the day, just for a few hours. We made in-no-ways-traditional vegetarian hot dogs and mac & cheese (with hot dogs in it); it wasn't enough, but it was significantly better than nothing and I'm grateful.

Another post: practicing by doing the easy political phone calls on answering machines does (barely) make it easier to call real alive people. Somehow, that doesn't make it any less terrifying to forget about time zones and call places which are still open and unexpectedly staffed by alive people.

Another post: I have managed to leave the house, once or thrice. Snow helped (as sidenote: cats staring at snowland), because I missed the end of autumn and refuse to miss winter, too. We had snow + freezing rain, but then snow that stuck around, approximately pristine, for a few days. The latter was lovely.

* * *

Today my parents came through Portland and had lunch with me; they're headed northbound to spend the holidays traveling, including a trip to see my sister in Seattle. It was exhausting but in productive ways, almost entirely my fault—because over coffee I nonchalantly asked why I had which aspects of Jewish upbringing and how my extended family/various cultural aspects affected it, as one does.

I have, for obvious reasons, but especially as Hanukkah approaches, been thinking a lot about what it means to be Jewish and particularly to be Jewish in the face of forced assimilation and, you know, facism (how are these are sentences I'm writing and why is this the real world and can it stop), and also of the narrative of "Hanukkah isn't our most important holiday, and its cultural importance is actually a symptom of forced assimilation, but this year it certainly has extra thematic relevance"—because I was raised with Hanukkah and Passover and not much else, although my parents say there was an occasional Rosh Hashanah, which I think I remember; for me, there was no "more important holiday." It seems like some of that was because of how things lined up with Christmas/Easter and thus with school schedules, but it's also because that's what my father grew up with; his experience was inconsistent (Sabbat sometimes, but not always; Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah for him but not his brother; Hanukkah/Passover/Rosh Hashanah was all he celebrated, too) which has passed through the generations (Allie and I never had any formal religious education; our cousin did).

I grew up on the opposite side of the country from my Jewish grandparents, who always wished they could see us more often, who tried to cram a lot of Jewish Things into the whatever contact they had; they sent me Jewish novels and celebrated holidays with us less, I think, because those specific things were important—they weren't religious, their own practice was inconsistent—but because the identity was important.

White-passing half-Jewish cultural Jew is approximately as distant from the thing as one can be, and I understand the factors, the time, the literal distance, the way that assimilation works and why I have the background that I do. But I also have that identity, and its ... cultural expectation, I suppose, of persecution and persistence. My ancestors came from Russia, and immigrated before the Holocaust; that was not their personal story but it was their cultural story, and they taught me that, too.

I suppose I wanted an easy answer, an, "ah yes, your grandparents always wanted to practice these aspects of the faith with you, and you can now cling to them at least for their cultural significance even if you don't believe." But I didn't get that, I didn't get a "more important holiday" that can enable to me a real Jew. And I don't know where that leaves me, except that this diaspora experience is as real for me as it has been for my father and for his parents, and they are real Jews, so, maybe, I am too.

We also talked about how, for me, politics et al. isn't something to be countered by optimism or hope; that I live within communities where everyone will not (and has not) survived difficult times, and that but for the grace of Devon and August and my parent's financial support that could include me; and I think it's the first time I've ever mentioned suicidal ideation to my parents. My sister's cancer changed things for my family; we've learned to proactively accept and value of each other as we are, and the way that's effected how my parents view me—that they take me at my word when I talk about my experiences and health—as been huge. These are not things I would have felt comfortable sharing, years ago. I'm glad I can now, and the conversation wasn't all politics and Judaism and fascism, I also told them about Dare's antics and Dad showed me this video of him falling off his bike on the way to work. It was a worthwhile afternoon. But I am now very tired, and nothing really feels better.

I'm headed down to Corvallis soon, but we put it off a day and Devon is coming to get me, at some crazy early/late hour when we can skip holiday traffic, so that I can still see him and get my gifts without trying to navigate Amtrak/exhaustion/crazy.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
CW for discussions of pet death.

Two days ago, I got an email from my father that they'd euthanized Jamie. She'd been having episodes when she'd lose her footing or fall, and panic when she was unable to get up. This occurred when my mother was home; Dad left work, and the two of them were able to calm and comfort her until she could get back up. But these episodes were reoccurring, and only likely to become more common, and they could happen when no one was there; and she'd had ongoing health issues, and the vet had just found a possibly-cancerous mass in her abdomen. So that afternoon they took her in to the vet. They didn't want her to ever be alone and in distress.

She bounced back after the episode and she loved the vet and was excited to be there, and they almost had second thoughts, but this is a long time coming—and even Mamakitty, when we took her in, as sick and exhausted as she was, perked up at the vet because it was a new and distracting environment: that momentary change didn't erase the ongoing problems, for either of them.

This was a long time coming, which is why it feels so hard to handle; or rather, not hard, but distant—James had a heath scare a few months back, and I feel like I said my goodbyes at that time, not preemptively so much as in preparation, and I have done my grieving; but of course I haven't grieved and now I can't seem to start. I'm sure it will sink in when I go home, but I'm not ready for that. This in-betweenness of knowing and not believing, of loss without feeling, is unwelcome but not new; I've experienced similar disconnects before (like when Madison died).

Here's what I do know: We got Jamie the year we got back from England—England is an important landmark in my family's history, Jamie was an era. We named her after Jamie Oliver, because we watched his show while we lived in England, and to preserve the family tradition of giving our dogs gender-swapped names. She was 15, and that's ancient in lab years. My mother told my father about what I'd said, when they made the decision: about valuing the time had, about working in her best interest. She was a ridiculously good dog, ever since she was a puppy; she never had a demon dog phase and we even had a ban on talking about her when when Odi was going through his because no one needed the comparison. When she was old and blind and halfway deaf all she wanted to do was lean against her people so that she knew they were there and loved. She was a leggy field lab & she didn't know how to swim because she had skin conditions as a pup and by the time she was introduced to water she was afraid of it. Every Christmas, she got her own stocking and got to unwrap her own gifts:



She had the knee issues common in labs, and had surgery on both front legs when she was young; for a long time, she was afraid of both the vet and the location in the house where she threw out her first knee. For most of her life she didn't bark, she was an entirely silent dog; only in old age did she sometimes boof when a stranger passed the window. She used to stare out the gap in the blinds for an hour before my dad got home each evening—my mum was the pack leader but my dad was her best friend.

In my first year of college when my life began to fall apart, my mother made a surprise trip to Walla Walla and brought James; they waited in the quad for me to get out of class. I saw a dog across the way and thought, oh, a dog! dogs are great! and then the dog began to jump around because before I even recognized it was my dog, before I even saw my mother, Jamie recognized me across the distance and she was so happy to see me.

She was a sensitive, engaged member of the household, and would get super upset if people fought or talked about politics. She knew tons of commands, most of which we never taught her and were casual sentences, "Jamie, get out of the kitchen." She was our only black lab (the others were chocolate), her fur was rainbow-white in the sun, she liked ear-rubbing the best, she didn't like having her toenails trimmed but would let us do it anyway, and this was Jamie:

Jamie in the Sunlight


I don't believe that pets owe us love, but that it's something we owe them; it is our responsibility when we make them our responsibility, to provide unconditional care and support. But there is no love like the love of this dog, nothing so essential or complete.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Last month was my birthday. Dee's family came down just before it (her brother and I share a birthday); her brother stayed a few days and her mother stayed some time longer. I went down to Corvallis in the middle of her mother's visit, to see Devon and go to dinner with my family. When I came back up I housesat for a weekend while Dee drove her mother back up north.

The company was lovely and only a little introvert-taxing. Dee, her mother, and I went down to Powell's for an afternoon and Dee bought me my birthday gift of books: three CJ Cherryh novels (one a reread) and the Steerswoman series that I just finished and loved. I went in with my alphabetized, color-coded* to-buy list and still barely managed to hunt everything down and make purchasing decisions in a reasonable amount of time. I'm used to feeling harried when I go book shopping, but I dream of one day having time to browse.

* colors since updated to reflect Powell's room colors, because it's a useful mnemonic and also pretty

The trip to Corvallis was mostly miserable, and I blame that on myself. Birthdays have become harder and harder, this one especially so, and when I see Devon I always dredge out my worst in some subconscious expectation that he will fix it. I've never matured, never become self-reliant; most of the frustrations in my life exist because I am a dependent, not a contributor—thus the long-distance relationship, living circumstances, material goods both frivolous and essential that I don't have, untreated health issues, &c. It's easier to get away with those things in your twenties, when people assume you just haven't grown up yet. But with each birthday, it's more obvious that I will never grow up; my maturation was halted by mental illness and now all my energy is forever diverted into dealing with the crazy. I'm aware that birthdays are universally fraught, but this one was especially dour.

Devon gave me Nagisa Momoe Nendoroid I've wanted for a while, though. That was good.



Nagisa/Charlotte/Bebe is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love her creepy/cute imagery and the way she changes the tone of PMMM; and while I had arguments with PMMM: Rebellion—and normally dislike mascot-/moe-bait characters—I loved her in the film. It's powerful and narratively-appropriate to turn a witch into a person, and, cutesy and mascoty as it is, I resonate with the cheese thing. I've called her Our Patron Saint of Cheese, and it's not quite in jest: she's an icon for the frustrating longing of what we want and can't have, which is indulgent and foolish but remains legitimate, none the least because it indicates why we can't have it (see: fan theories re: her character). There are a lot of things which would make my life better: if I were self-reliant, if being a dependent were financially viable, if there were societal accommodations for my dependency—all valid wants, so the smaller wants are valid too, even when petty or obsessive or in the form of a cute figure. And I have so many wants, small and large. To have her seems to prove the rule; still, I love her, my idol of wanting, so well-timed to my birthday-related frustrations.

When I saw my parents, they didn't have a gift, they just asked me to provide a wishlist of things I needed or wanted, with a subtext of "we can tell you don't really have the means to look after your basic needs; can we help via a birthday gift?" which is true, thoughtful, and hit too close to home: another reminder of the tie between my longings, my disability, and my age. I still need to write that list.

Anyway. I came back into town, had a quiet weekend housesitting the cats which I absolutely consider an auxiliary birthday gift. And then I was hit by a week of debilitating back pain, which (knock on wood) has since passed and which had no trigger, cause, aid, anything really; it was out of the blue and unrelenting. And as soon as that began to clear, my keyboard blew up. It did a low-key, static "acts like you spilled water on it" crosswiring, but no water had been in its vicinity for a year so fuck if I know; I unplugged it, made do to a shitty wifi keyboard; got fed up with shitty wifi keyboard, plugged my old one back in, and it worked perfectly again in a sort of universe-provided bit of gaslighting, "none of your frustrations or problems are real, ahahahahaha"—and then 24 hours after that it broke again in precisely the way it had before. I don't know. A new keyboard is here now, because unexpected necessary purchases don't trigger aforementioned anxieties at all, my old keyboard is probably possessed by capricious minor demons, and the answer of "how do I keep breaking keyboards when I've become so careful with them?" is probably: cats, who are less careful, and covered in fur and litterbox dust.

I've been reading a lot, gaming a lot, caught up with Critical Role which is, in itself, vaguely terrifying because it was such a long, immersive journey to get here; I am fervently not in my own head, because the only way to cope with the anxiety "I am not a real adult who can engage with life" is to refuse to engage with anything. I have my Bebe figure and I adore her. Everything else has been sort of shit, for reasons which stem from me, my vulnerability and inability and this persistent longing for a life different from my own, but, again: these reasons are real.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
As a Christmas gift (which I picked up belatedly, since I skipped Christmas) my parents got me tickets for their Ashland trip to see Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and The Wiz. I used to make at least one yearly Shakespeare trip with my family, and miss it fiercely; it was particularly painful to see these plays on their calendar, because they're personal favorites and because we saw them together once when the Shakepeare trip was to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. So when they told me I was invited, I actually broke out in tears.

Of course, as the actual trip approached I remembers to be consumed by anxiety, because I'm not good at a lot of uninterrupted public time, especially without Devon with me, so I didn't know how I'd fare in three days company with my parents. But not only did I survive, it was a lovely and storied journey. I'm not going to write about the plays in detail here (that will be in the next post); this is a recap of itinerary, weather, and food.

We left noonish on Tuesday, June 14. It's a ~3h drive. I requested no news coverage in the car, as this was two days after the Orlando shooting and I just could not deal; instead of a few uninterrupted hours of repetition and Islamophobia, my mum put on the Hamilton soundtrack. I was aware of Hamilton and had heard a song or two, but had never listened to the entire thing. It is such a productive, powerful way to spend that time.

We got a divided room at our favorite hotel, which meant one king bed and sofa bed, separated by privacy curtain. For both mental and physical reasons, I'm a troubled sleeper—but the accommodations plus the bedding and hotpad I travel with, and the hours we kept, worked beautifully; I was surprisingly comfortable there. We also kept a two meal/lunch and dinner schedule, which is what I prefer.

Hotel wifi was speedy and stable (!!!); I used VoIP to catch up with Devon every evening (because normal people have cell phones but my particular anxiety means I don't), and that worked beautifully.

Tuesday dinner was Standing Stone Brewing Company. I got nachos; greasy, sometimes chewy chips, which was unfortunate, but the rest was flavorful and had good texture. Huge serving portions. Mixed bag, but, like, upscale tasty nachos, I can't complain about that.

The ongoing problem with eating in Ashland wasn't finding vegetarian options, but finding vegetarian options that had at some point rubbed themselves against a form of protein. I eat significantly more protein than most people, so perhaps this only bothers me—but while vegetarian (and vegan, and gluten-free) options were often exhaustively labeled, the first two were "normal dish with meat removed." I forget how spoiled I am by meat alternatives in Portland and even Corvallis.

Tuesday evening was Hamlet, in the open-air Elizabethan. Rather than raising an American flag, they raised a pride flag to general cheering; it was striking against the gray sky of dusk, and a heartening public gesture. It sprinkled just enough to warrant rain jackets, and got cold enough to demand one more layer than I wore, but neither required modifications to the play. I would rather it be a little chilly than horrible and hot while I'm traveling, I thought! Oh, little did I know.

Wednesday and Thursday brunch was Morning Glory, which is twee (a bit like stepping into a Mary Engelbreit illustration) and crowded and overpriced, and doesn't accept substitutions which is hard for me as a vegetarian/picky eater. On Wednesday I had a fantastic open-faced egg sandwich, but on Thursday I tried an omelet which was overly full, too strongly flavored, and had an awful texture. Mixed bag.

Wednesday afternoon was Twelfth Night in the Angus Bowmer. Afterward, my father and I went to the Q&A with Ted Deasy, who played Malvolio—what a marvelous experience. The volunteer introduced him as one of their favorite actors in the company and said that, after this talk, he would be one of ours too; absolutely correct. He had active, informed insights to his role, the play (esp. how it handled gender), and acting, with some particularly thoughtful anecdotes about how playing two characters in a single season forces those roles to inform one another, often in unique ways. (The particular anecdote about an audience member from a previous Q&A like this one asking, "I saw you in X play and Y play this season; why do you perform both roles the same?" which prompted a season-long bout of self-doubt, do I play these roles the same? why? should I? that lead him to realize what similarities united the roles, and then to be increasingly aware of how the overlap was both strengthening and muddying his performance.) The occasional talk by an actor devolves into them advertising their independent projects, but most are equally as compelling as the plays—and this was one of those.

Wednesday dinner was Caldera. A tip: when possible, eat as early as possible and/or drive outside of downtown; no waiting for a table and less rush. The dishes weren't particularly strongly flavored, but were robust; and one appetizer was a baked avocado, which isn't even that different from a normal avocado except for being warm and with a somewhat deeper flavor, but was still somehow a revelation: I can love avocado even more than I already loved avocado. Desserts, by contrast, were bizarrely strong in flavor.

Wednesday evening was The Wiz in the Elizabethan. Learning from the night before, we had stocked up on extra layers and a blanket. This helped somewhat, but not an awful lot, because it rained. It rained almost torrentially until intermission, and then only sprinkled while growing increasingly cold, "I know I probably won't die of hypothermia in the two hours' traffic of our stage, but I'm a little worried" cold. About two thirds of the audience left, and we toughed it out in part because you don't go to Ashland to bail on a play and in part because the cast enthusiastically toughed it out, too. Half of them wore ponchos, I'm sure some choreography was modified, and the adlibbed responses to the weather were delightful. Certainly an experience! But, as we commiserated after the event, by the time they made it back to the Emerald City we were all three of us thinking, "click your heels, Dorothy, just click your fucking heels."

Anxiety is a strange monster. On one hand, it well prepares me for this sort of thing, because I know to bring my suitcase full of comfort objects and I know to always have a book to read so that I never have unwelcome idle time which is my surefire way to begin panicking (and there's a lot of downtime in car rides/waiting for tables/before plays and during intermission). On the other, it infallibly makes me assume things will be awful, while things are not infallibly awful. It turns out that, given a busy enough schedule that we are either completely occupied or crashing during all available downtime, even I can do things for three solid days without a nervous breakdown.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Be ye warned of discussions of pet health/aging/death.

A little while ago, my family's dog Jamie (a fourteen year old black lab; lab life expediency is 10-12 years) had a health scare that resolved to be a probable brain bleed, collapsing, some seizing, labored breathing, etc. We did the entire routine of family panic, "the dog may be dying" phone calls, considering trips to the emergency vet; the crisis resolved overnight and they were able to take her to her normal vet the next day. She's been acting old-dog normal since, with all the ongoing health issues but no new ones. But the vet still believes she won't make it through autumn, if only because they see most old animals die in spring and autumn when the changing seasons add new stressors.

Talking about this with Mum after the fact, she said that she'd used me as an example of calm and acceptance when everyone was doing the crying freakout thing—which startled me to hear, but makes sense. I've seen so many companion animals die, both recently and generally. I am on intimate terms with non-human animal death, in ways I never am with human death, even when I know the deceased. These dying animals are in my care or care-adjacent; their lives and deaths and my responsibility. None of that has a negative connotation, and I have gotten really good at calmly accepting end-of-life events.

When Mama died, so quickly, despite lifesaving measures, we still had a sense of absolute certainty. We watched her transition from skittish bedraggled stray to a playful, profoundly affectionate, calm housecat, and that was our doing; we also helped her in sickness, and made the decision to euthanize her, and that was equally as beneficial to her wellbeing. I cannot have one of those things without the other, nor would I want to. This one thing, providing love and care to animals, is within my ability, and there's nothing I'd rather do.

My sister got a mini red merle Australian Shepherd named Tiber last year, and, I mean, he's a good dog, but I was watching my family replace Jamie, not with intent but because it was easier to bond with a lively young dog than to accept Jamie in her old age, with her failing body, her loud panting, her constant need to Be With. They were looking after her physically, but their emotional energy was diverted. And, to be honest, I don't think Jamie knew or cared; with her blindness and exhaustion came a particularly dogged affection, a love unswayed by physical or social concerns. But seeing the impatience and distraction she received bothered me.

When I explained all of this to my mother (everything except the quiet judgment, obvs.), my emphasis was this: I was sad when she seemed like she might be dying, but not afraid and not sorry, because I regret nothing about Jamie, not the life I had with her, not who she is now, neither her eventual death. It's not an inconvenience or a price to be paid for the better parts; it is part of an experience, and that experience is the thing I value most in my life.

I don't expect them to do that, to turn tolerance into engagement and value Jamie-now as easily as Jamie-then. But not everyone engages with companion animals the way I do, and to be honest my engagement is something I've severely fucked up and undervalued in the past (and that I do regret). But her health scare woke them. They know not to take for granted the time she has left, and so to engage with her in that time, even if that requires patience with her old dog ways. I'm glad to see it, because she deserves the world—they all do, these animals we pledge ourselves to, but Jamie does in particular.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
What is it about the holidays that inspires an intense heartsickness? Hanukkah is arguably more important to me than Christmas—it feels more intimate and profound—and yet I take some issue with how my family's come to handle it, growing lazier, we don't even make our own latka anymore; and whenever I go home, I realize how distant from my family I've become. My sister's been living there since her diagnosis, and she's always been more comfortable in that social setting. They're noisy and casual and gossip about people I don't know or care to; I go home to feel like an outsider, and to half-ass something important to me.

It makes me want to reclaim the holiday, to learn to make my own latka, to replace what's gone missing—but the very nature of the holiday season means I'm spoon-bereft. I put the average introvert to shame: I rarely socialize, but I rarely feel like I lack anything for it. Except now. This is the only time when I feel like I am actually missing something, that I'm denied something by my sheer inability to ~people~.

On Thanksgiving, Dee's immediate family came into town; they made stuffing and gravy the day before, then left on Thanksgiving itself to visit relatives. I was alone overnight, watching two dogs and four cats; I pulled out the couch and made a big nest of animals, and we watched TV and I ate stuffing and gravy. (Pics or it didn't happen.) It was perfect—enough socialization on either side, but the day itself was stress-devoid and I could actually enjoy my comfort foods.

And between the two, the quiet frustration of Hanukkah and the perfect day that was Thanksgiving, I'm tempted to spend Christmas at the house alone, watching the cats in quiet while Dee goes up to Seattle; but I worry that that tends to far towards not celebrating the holiday at all, and because I can't reclaim it and engaging with it as-is seems unpleasant I'll just ... let it pass me by, which is almost worse.

There are other, personal frustrations which are piggybacking on to this sense of heartsickness, homesickness, longing. I don't have a resolution for any of it.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
That massive depressive episode that began with my sister's cancer diagnosis finally died a lingering death (I gave up tracking its length by the end, it started in July 2014 and lasted until ~June 2015, so it was basically a year of my life), but a ~month later I had a resurgence of my normal month-long (I think, I hope, but I'm not measuring; I'm too tired for real records these days, I'm just trying to wait things out) episodes, so: I have been absent-ish from social spaces/friendships because I'm not feeling great; it's not a severe episode, but I was just beginning to feel hopeful about recovery when it began so it's bitter and gently spirit-crushing. You know, more than depressive episodes usually are.

- - - - -

May-June back pain episode did resolve a few days on Tramadol.

- - - - -

Dare is settling in well! When you adopt a pet, but especially a cat, you make an (informed, one hopes) gamble: they are their own people, so, while they do adapt, their underlying personality will shine through. We gambled well with Dare—her outgoing nature counterbalances her blindness, and makes her a good fit into the house's preexisting social structures. What amazes me most is how bright she is, how proactively engaged with her environment; she's more aware than anyone in the household, nevermind not having eyes.

- - - - -

Made a brief visit back home: my sister got a puppy, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd named Tiber who is currently 3 months old. She's still living at my family's home, so Jamie (who is now far into Old Lady territory) has to deal with him. He's ... well, he's a puppy, engaged and bright but overflowing with energy. They're doing pretty well by him training-wise; Jamie isn't pleased with the new dog.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Late but existant holiday gift list, for my future reference:

Given
Mother: A red-toned glass snail by Alcyon Lord; my mother has a few of this artist's pieces, some from me, but this is one of my favorites—and she liked it.
Father: Two Hanayama cast metal puzzles, also well received; because these are solid metal, they can't be bent or cheated—they look nice and are impressively difficult.
Sister: Bananagrams—in Italian! which she studied for a number of years and has a job translating from.
Devon: A Cougar 700m gaming mouse to replace his gaming mouse that died earlier this year and the pathetic wimpy one he'd been using in the interim.
Dee: Resident Evil Revoluations (Playstation port), since she's been (re)playing the series after getting RE6, and Dev played/I watched Revelations and rather liked it.

Received
Parents: A pair of socks, a bunch of chocolate*, a selection of hot sauces and olives, a Moleskine, and money for eventual clothes shopping.
Father/Grandfather, paternal: my great grandfather's Siddur (Jewish prayer book)
Grandmother, maternal: Money for the eventual clothing fund.
Sister: Two knit sweaters, one black and one white, and one black waist-length peacoat, all of which fit and look fantastic.
Devon, Hanukkah: a Windows cell phone to use as a PDA/mp3 player; I'm not putting my SIM card in it (phone calls, including spam, trigger panic attacks) but it's been fantastic as a calendar/mobile browser/music device; I'm surprised how much I love it.
Devon, Christmas: We're still figuring this out.
Devon's family: 3 pairs of socks, one of which I'll certainly wear to death; jellybeans again, sigh.
Dee: Chocolate, and a delicate copper necklace with a small heart and a teeny little spoon. This is the second time someone has given me a spoon as a gift (the other one wasn't wearable, though) and it is actually the most perfect thing.

* Chocolate haul: chocolate orange, Trader Joe's single origin palette, Vosages Black Salt Caramel Bar, Pasca 85% Dark Chocolate, the last of which is certainly the best. This list is not redundant nor overkill; right now I'm at a point where the only way I can remember and force myself to eat is because after the meal there will be chocolate—it's one of the only things I can still enjoy, and having a lot of it is lifesaving.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Most memorable Hanukkah event so far thus year: Loki the kitten jumping up on the menorah windowsill the first night and (harmlessly) singeing her fur. She gets locked in her bedroom for candles, now.

I'm still amazingly unwell. Every few years I lose the holidays to my illness, because I don't have the energy to engage as giver or receiver—so I'm sensitive about how this season intersects with my mental health, which predictably increases my anxiety. I'm so stressed and exhausted that I keep forgetting things, like eating and lighting the menorah.

Between the genetic aspect of my sister's cancer, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's, I'm very aware of my Jewishness right now. Being half Jew, especially through your father's side, especially when you're cultural/non-religious, is a tenuous thing. I'm white-passing and not-Jew in the bulk of my life, but the Jewish imprint lingers—and it's frequently an unpleasant burden, an inherited pessimism, a culture of Exoduses and Maccabean Revolts and Holocausts, a presumption of suffering. And right now it's also BRCA mutations and Alzheimer's.

I don't look very Jewish, I don't act very Jewish, but lighting the candles makes it real. It makes cancer and Alzheimer's real; it's an acknowledgement—but despite all the negative connotations, that menorah is also my light in the dark. I don't know why. I suppose it's enough to validate and memorialize something, that that act has meaning. But this is the most sacred Hanukkah that I can remember.

My father gets back from Florida in a few hours; I'm meeting him at the airport to drive with him down to Corvallis, and spending a few days with Devon and my family. Just arranging it has been exhausting, but I'll be glad to be there.

(Raise a toast to my boyfriend, who buys me a Hanukkah gift and a Christmas gift, because he knows that Hanukkah matters and deserves its own special recognition.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I went down to Corvallis over Christmas (Dee decided to go up to see her family immediately after Christmas, so it was lovely no-stress scheduling), and it was okay, I guess. Every few Christmases, the holiday comes during a depressive episode and I just want to wish the whole thing away because I lack the spirit to begin with and all the holiday responsibilities and events serve to exacerbate my mental state; at least once I've effectively defaulted on Christmas, even failing to buy gifts. This would have been one of those years, there but for the grace of Devon—he saw it coming, and so he researched wishlists and gifts and made it stupidly easy for me to pick presents for others. And everyone loved them! and that surprised me. Buying for my family is hard; my parents have a lot of art in the house and I've had good luck getting new pieces for their collection, but that grows predictable year after year; my sister and I have radically different tastes, and I never know what on her wishlist reads as "something you actually really want but may still have sentimental value." Considering where I started, with a deep unwillingness to do anything and an utter dearth of Christmas spirit, coming out the other side having given successful gifts feels awesome.

Christmas gifts given. )

Christmas gifts received. )

As always, I record this stuff because my memory is horrible and they're things I don't want to forget.

My father's birthday was December 21st, so we did a family dinner in and a family dinner out, and I went to the house to decorate the family tree, and then decorated Devon's grandparents's tree; Christmas Eve was blessedly quiet, but I went to both Devon's grandparents's family Christmas (a dozen people were there) and had traditional Christmas homemade pizza dinner with my family; Devon and I drove up to Portland on boxing day so that he could transport and set up the new monitor and Dee could leave to see her family the next day. In other words: exhausted, utterly exhausted, and while there were highlights and the homemade pizza continues to be the best pizza, I am mostly just exhausted. And exhausted.

But the days have been silver gray and heavily fogged; skeleton trees against cashmere skies; cold weather, scarf and overcoat weather, hot coffee weather; distinctly winter.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
My grandfather's funeral was a few weeks ago. Everyone in my nuclear family went but me; I went to Corvallis to watch my parent's house and the family dog while they were away. My impression is that this is the best decision I could've made; it sounds like the funeral was a minor nightmare, too much alcohol and grief and drama in one place; I would have found it extremely stressful, and that's not how I want to remember my grandfather. Jamie and I meanwhile had a fine few days of watching bad TV and walking in autumn weather.

Hanukkah began the night before Thanksgiving this year—very early! I was down in Corvallis Wednesday/Thursday/Friday last week, and then came back up so that I could watch the house and approximately one thousand cats (kittens, man, they're like a dozen cats in one small cat body) while Dee went up to visit her family over the weekend and Devon did Thanksgiving with his extended family on Saturday. My family and I had latka for the first night of Hanukkah, traditional French Toast on Thanksgiving morning, and a very relaxed Thanksgiving dinner that night. The weather has been starkly cold, dry and bright and on the edge of freezing, just what I needed to clear my mind in between too much socialization. The menorah has been burning each night both at my parent's house and at Dee's house here in Portland.

Hanukkah's early date has made me extremely sensitive to how easily it (the holiday, Judaism, take your pick) is overlooked—that sense that with Thanksgiving passed we're all now preparing for the "holiday season," but half of mine is nearly over, and so "holiday" obviously reads as "somewhat secular Christmas." I celebrate secular Christmas, too! with enthusiasm. But the erasure is needling me, this time around.

I think it's reasonably safe to say I've been in another depressive episode these last few months. Given the accommodations in the rest of my life, these episodes are mild now—pedestrian, even: something between ennui and anxiety, a suffused discontent and sadness with the catharsis of a breakdown. The best recourse is just to try to stay out of my own head, thus the constant reading and TV watching and gaming. I got worse and better—see: the catharsis of a breakdown—while in Corvallis, which was expected because even family stuff stresses me out. Been listening to Kelli Schaefer's Black Dog when I'm hopeful; Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog the rest of the time.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Devon came up a few days before Christmas. Dee and Odi were out of town, with her family up in Washington (honestly an awesome mini-gift to an incredible introvert like me); Devon brought with him a van full of things: 1) A TV to replace the living room TV; it's bigger and has a better screen, and Halo 4 thanks me. Devon just replaced his TV with one that's better suited to function as a monitor, so his castoff is my gain. 2) A new harddrive for the PS3, which had a near-unusable 40 gig drive; it's now 120, so there's breathing room for games. This one is explicitly a gift for Dee, because the PS3 is her primary console; now every install won't require an equal and opposite uninstall. 3) One of the big black bookshelves which was in his room, so the books that were in the corner of my room piled to near my height (the last of my books in storage in Devon's parents's garage) are now instead crowding a bookshelf. I also sorted more of my boxes-that-needed-sorting while he was here, and my room—while not perfect—now feels remarkably less crowded and much more me, bless.

Awaiting Devon when he got here was 4) My new computer case, a SilverStone Fortress in titanium. I've had my old case for about a decade, and while the guts are up to date the case was old and dented and ugly and had small and exceedingly noisy fans; this one is tall and clean and quiet. Also 5) A new keyboard to (finally) replace the one that August broke.

August used to love to sit on my old computer tower; the new one has vertical ventilation, so the entire top is a vent and can't have a cat butt upon it. Because she is my cat, August has shown zero interest in sitting on the new tower; I have, instead, found her on the new bookcase at two in the morning, walking on top of a row of mass-market paperbacks and occasionally, intentionally, knocking one of them to the ground.

These were a lot of big things, not surprises (I need some of my gifts to be surprises in order for me to get into a holiday spirit, but my Hanukkah gift was so that was sorted), but sorely needed. Everything they replace met a bare minimum of functionality, but the bare minimum was not horribly satisfying.

Also awaiting Devon was his Christmas gift, Beats Pro in black. Not a surprise (his gifts rarely are, as it's his money that buys them p.s. wouldn't you love to have me as a partner), but he likes them. They sound awesome.

Dee came back early on the 26th; my family came up for an early dinner and more gifts that evening; Devon left that night. My sister gave me a beautiful burnt orange knit throw which I am pleased to claim as For Personal Use Only (No Cats Allowed), which is nice because August has coopted every other soft thing in the entire house); my parents gave me a number of indulgent consumables and some baking supplies and significant monies. My mother's parents sent me The Dark Wife and Moonwise, both of which I'm happy to have but never expected to get—normally people read the blurbs of my wishlist books and go nope, too weird, not buying; one of these is a lesbian Greek myth retelling so guesses are Grandpa didn't read any blurbs at all but you know, I will take it. And from Dee, alongside the fingerless gloves for Hannukah: my favorite socks in three new colors yaaaay, a copy of The Night Circus which I shall immediately lend to her, and a number of new cat toys, immediately coopted by Gillian.

A good holiday all in all—busier than I like, but a quiet New Year's will balance it out. I know all of this is about material goods, but that's partially for my records and also because I am deeply material in the sense that I love stuff, I love stuff I want and love, which makes my living space usable and comfortable; I rarely if ever buy stuff, so gifts are why I have socks I want to wear and a computer I want to use. Devon likes to give gifts, not receive them, and that's a totally valid approach; I had a fantastic run of gifts-given this year, but at my heart I am a recipient, and gifts to me mean love and holidays and family. And this year, I had all of that.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just returned from Corvallis today; came back to Portland to a very excited dog and two! cats, which I don't yet take for granted. August was not her usual snuggleself on my return home; she was preoccupied by Gillian, by how his presence changed our interactions. (She is still, always, my favorite; she knows that.) But five minutes before I sat down to type all this, they were playing with the same piece of ribbon.

I went down to Corvallis for the start of Hanukkah. My sister was working late on the first night, so I just lit candles for the family. She was home all day on the second, so we did latkas and a family candle lighting and half of the holiday gifts and then I decorated the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music, as one is wont to do during Hanukkah. They bought new lights this year, LEDs in a crystalline white, so I went out of my comfort zone for a light, white-toned tree (I tend towards red and brass, with a preference towards a wooden cranberry garland and wooden amanita decorations). I don't have pictures—my sister took some, but hell if I know where they got posted—but consensus is it turned out well.

Devon rearranged his work schedule during my visit so that he was home by sundown, bless. I also had some simple, precious downtime with him. For Hanukkah he gave me a Kobo Mini, which is my first e-reader—I still prefer traditional books, but this opens up giveaways and more library lending and lots of free classic literature, on a display I like and without any icky Amazon ties. My parents gave me a remote for my camera, which lets me add myself to the pictures of my cats if for some reason I'd want to do so.

(Devon is also giving me a Christmas gift—the way he's distinguishing and celebrating each holiday this year means a lot to me. I'll probably see my parents around the week of Christmas, when they make a day-trip up to Portland.)

(I gave my sister Beats earbuds, which turned out to be quite timely as her earbuds had just been damaged. I gave my mother The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I've wanted to give her since its release; I gave my parents a pair of ceramic bird garden sculptures by a local artist. Devon's gift is his when he comes for Christmas; Dee's will be here when she gets back from visiting her family at the same time. I'm rarely a good giftgiver, because I am chronically low on spoons and have no money to my name; sometimes it just doesn't happen. This year it's all working out beautifully, everyone is getting the perfect things, and I'm so glad.)

It was bitterly cold last night, and after some back-unrelated (the worst canker sore I've ever had—my pain tolerance is exceptional but this was one of the worst things I've lived through) reliance on pain medication I'm back to being med-free and I spent last night with the sort of stabbing back pain that can only be brought on by insomnia and shivering, and I still don't mind. It's cold and crisp followed by bouts of slate-blue rain; it's coffee-drinking weather, and in the dark nights we raise shining lights. I took the train at 6a, which is my favorite time to ride it (until 7a, when the loud gentlemen got on and seriously, dudes, shut up), I took a nap with my cats, I lit candles and Dee gave me a fantastic and immensely useful pair of fingerless gloves. Winter has always been a strange time for me—through my childhood my extended family wintered in Texas and Florida, which are decidedly non-wintery places; as a young adult I've spent years bouncing between locations and living arrangements and multi-family gatherings of mixed success; always as a cultural Jew who celebrates Christmas it just becomes a bit ... strange. I hate Christmas as a multi-month institution, and would never want to do something extravagant for any of the winter holidays. But while autumn is my season, there is something so powerful to me about the symbol of a light in the dark, of lit trees and menorahs. I don't begrudge winter and I don't fight the night; I like the contrast, and what it means to flock to the comfort of that light.

So, yeah. It's a good time of year.

(Many thanks for all of the Kuzco-related condolences. I've had some good time to reflect, if not overtly grieve, and am gaining some distance from it; I'm really doing fine.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Last weekend was fantastic and hugely busy. On Saturday, Dee and I made a day trip down to Corvallis. We brought Odi to board the day in grandparents's outdoor dog kennel, and went with Devon and my family (parents and sister) to the Fall Festival, an outdoor fair of local artists. I usually go just with my father, or sometimes with my sister as well; having such a large group was a bit like herding cats (oh, the yelled cell phone conversations), but it was also lovely. The weather held at mostly sunny but not hot, my parents bought some metal work for the garden, and I got to show off one of my favorite artists, Cameron Kaseberg. When we were done with the booths, we split up and Devon, Dee, and I went across the street to the library book sale, where everything was half price for the end of the day; I am absolutely drowning in books over here, but I still managed to find Dracula, some Atwood and Woolf, and a Southern Gothic novel of questionable potential for $6, and who can say no to that. Then we went out to a delightful dinner.

Back at Devon's grandparents's house we discovered that—true story—as soon as we'd left, Odi had managed to pull up the chain link sides to the kennel, wriggle underneath, and follow Devon's scent trail across the yard and back to Devon's house, where he had found Devon's father and invited himself inside and spent the day gorging on found bags of cat food and playing. We're exceedingly lucky that he wasn't hurt in the escape and that he immediately found a safe place to go (as a one-eyed dog he's pretty identifiable, so Devon's folks recognized him), but: WHUT.

On Sunday, Dee and I took the bus to Hawthorne—one of my old Portland stomping grounds out in SE—for the Under Wildwood release party. The Wildwood Chronicles take place in St. Johns (our neighborhood here in Portland) and the vast park visible from the neighborhood; at the release party we got a pre-release signed copy of the second book in the series, and the author and illustrator did a joint talk which was all about the book as a collaboration—their joint approach to creating its world, and then exploring it in their respective mediums as author and illustrator. Afterward, we went to an early dinner at Chez Machin—I'd never had savory crêpes, and they make theirs with chewy robust buckwheat; mine was filled with mozzarella, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and topped with a pesto sauce. I'm an extremely picky eater, mostly in regards to texture and new foods, so it was a bit of a risk but a complete success: A+, would love to eat again.

On one hand this is exactly what I want of autumn: more to do, more desire to do it, the delicious exhaustion and enthusiastic downtime that follows having done it. That said, we noticed this week that Kuzco has been having some troubles eating: he lost a top incisor a bit ago, which is totally normal, but I think he lost this one way down at the root and the root got infected. It's just broken through, so he's probably fine, but he's lost a bit of weight in the meantime and the infection may still linger. He has a vet appointment tomorrow just to make sure he's fine, but here's the thing: Kuz is 7 years old, and guinea pigs live between 5 and 8 years. He's developed a cataract in one eye; when he's eating well (which is usually) he gets rotund but the weight is all in his tummy—he's never been a very plump pig, but he's on the bonier side now. What I'm saying is that he's an old man, the last of his herd. This tooth issue is probably unrelated to aging, but it sort of makes his mortality hit home. I'm not dreading or even anticipating his death—Kuzco has had a good life, and he can stick around for as much more of it as fate determines—but this comes while we have a cat in limbo and while I just feel ... exhausted.

It's money issues (even if Devon doesn't seem to think there ... are any), it's fear of commitment and responsibility, it's general exhaustion and the need for some downtime. Two weeks ago I was exhausted and went to escape in Corvallis, and spent the whole time having an extended nervous breakdown. Then there was cat, then there was social stuff, now Kuzco, and I haven't showered in a couple of days and when I'm not surfeited with distraction (making stars while watching a show, reading a book while watching video games) I'm on the verge of a crying jag.

Gillian is fine! He managed to groom the section that he had groomed to the skin, so that's still healing, but most all of his scabs have flaked off and he's no longer vibrating with itchy frustration. No other health problems, he's on the second half of his preventative medication course, and really the only thing he hates is being trapped in one room. I'm just having a hard time bonding, because right now I don't see "cat I love"—I see "ongoing responsibility and monetary investment." That's selfish, and it doesn't mean I don't love him, but it's a connotation I can't shake right now.

If sleep were easier (not having nightmares, just sleeping restlessly), I'd want to sleep for a week. Devon wants me to come back to Corvallis for another try at downtime, but it depends on what Kuzco's vet visit turns up. I just wish there were an off button for the world, or for me.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
This is my life:

Yesterday was my birthday! Devon and I went to have dinner with my parents; we went to Laughing Planet, which I discovered last time I was in Corvallis and fell a bit in love with. I had the cheese and pico quesadilla that I always get, and it was a fantastic meal: enjoyable but low-key. As much as I think my parents wish I did something with my life (which is a valid desire), they're still pleasantly surprised just to see how much I've improved in recent years—I think they're relieved to see that I'm more vivacious and simply happy, and dinner had that vibe to it: it was a relaxed pleasure which I couldn't've managed some years back.

As if to prove a point, I noticed in the middle of a completely different discussion that the restaurant was playing Florence + the Machine, and so I broke into a lengthy recounting of this experience, explaining (mostly to my mother, who's more emotional and emotionally-receptive than my father—that's not a condemnation: he's a happy well-rounded person and so, frankly, doesn't "get it," for which I envy him more than anything else) how it came down to the fact that I needed that concert to be beautiful, and it wasn't beautiful in the back, and I couldn't tolerate that—because F+tM is about living life with foolishly and joyfully, not in halved in experiences; not because you have no fear or regret, but because you swear to yourself to throw them off.

The song they were playing? The Dog Days are Over. Then after that, I shit you not, they played Shake It Out, which at the concert was the song that told me about throwing that devil off, and has become my secondary theme song.

The bakery we went to afterwards didn't have the dessert I wanted, because F+tM and no chocolate deliciousness apparently now go together, but who the hell cares. In my life, a restaurant plays Florence for me on my birthday and reminds me of everything I should never forget, bless.

The weather's broken somewhat, down to reasonable warm-because-summer, not hot-like-burning levels; it's the sort of weather that almost lets you glimpse autumn on the horizon, and that's a gift in itself. Devon's gift is still in the air, or may be a number of various long-needed necessities. (After seeing my parents last evening, we did a late Fred Meyer run and came away with three nail polish shades I've wanted for a while—no necessity by far, but yaaaay.) My father gave me spending money (BPAL Halloweenies in my future, perhaps?), including credit at The Book Bin which I will go spend today; my mother gave me, with assurances that in a few months it would be lovely instead of torturous, a black knitted cowl which doubles around the neck and is squishy and warm—and I actually had the chance to wear it already, when Devon and I went to an early morning breakfast today while the air was cold and fog was still on the fields, oh bless. Later today when we finally get moving we have many shopping trips planned, to the bookstore and elsewhere.

So. That's all I could ask for: love from friends and family, time with the boy, good food, things I want, and Florence.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Christmas tree (family)

Every year it goes like this: We procure a tree (sometimes my parents have it when Allie and I come home for the holidays, sometimes Allie and I go with to get it—this year it was the former). Papa drags boxes down from the attic, wraps the tree in lights, and then wraps the tree in wooden cranberry garlands because they're my favorite Christmas decoration. I sort out ornaments and decorate the entire tree. When it's 95% finished, Allie puts her birth ornament in a special spot, Mum decides where her birth ornament should go and either Papa or I hang it, and then I put on finishing touches and fill in gaps. The end.

This year, Mum managed to sort all the Christmas stuff while I decorated, and we got rid of a few big boxes worth of the sort of kitschy stuff we don't like but have managed to collect—I hope it made someone at the local Goodwill happy. Last year I leaned red and gold with the decorations; this year, motley red, relying less on the sets of ornaments I love (the piles of wooden mushrooms and brass bells) to mix in more of the unique ornaments in our collection. It's a little more folksy than my usual taste, but I like the chance of pace. The tree this year is a Nordmann Fir, which was a joy to decorate.

So nothing special I guess but: hey look, a Christmas tree. (Fun game: count the Starbucks ornaments. There are more than a dozen.)

Jamie we are trying to take a picture of the tree. )

A close-up shot. )

Driving into town on Saturday—after my parents found the house, and met my cat, and briefly met Dee; after we picked up my sister and went out to Thai and got coffee; after we made the drive home—as we were reaching that point where you feel like you could almost walk home from here if you weren't so tired, we passed a side street and Papa and I glanced out the window and both did a "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT WE ARE MAKING A LOOP TO SEE IT AGAIN."

A decorated house in Corvallis
That was this.

This is the sort of light display that makes the house across the street light up, too. And it animated. And it was set to music. Multiple songs worth of music. It was somewhere between awesome and horrifying, so one night when Devon and I were driving back from errands and dinner we went down the same road and I had him look down the same side street, and we did the same loop and then he got a video. Unfortunately we didn't get really audio, and it's blurry, and you should still watch it. )

Meanwhile, this is for Dee: Wizards in Winter. )

There's a newer, clearer version out there now, and I honestly do not care. The Wizards in Winter Christmas light display is my favorite YouTube video perhaps of all time, I watch it every year, and now so can you.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I don't do this every year, but I should—even if it sounds like an acceptance speech. I don't care about Thanksgiving food other than pumpkin pie, but I hold giving thanks quite dear. The last year in particular has been good to me, and so I have too much gratitude to give and the need to give it all.

To Portland, and for Dee making it possible to live here. This city sets me free.

To friends, in particular to those that I now also know offline—Dee, Lyz, Express, Sarah, even Rachel and Danielle and Tiffany—not because real-world friendships are necessarily more meaningful, but because this has been a year of making them and that's meaningful to me.

To family. My sister is off studying in Italy, and she amazes me. My parents have shown me incredible understanding in the last year, and to be seen, known, and loved by them is something I don't quite have the words to describe.

To Devon, who has made Portland and a semi-mostly-long distance relationship possible again, and is my favorite person in the entire world, and loves me.

To stupid fuzzy animals—but mostly to August. She is my dream come true, and I still haven't gotten past the shock of that. I love her enough to break my heart.

And to books and perfumes that smell like carnation and drinks that taste like pumpkin, and relative health and wellness, and relative financial stability. I am a diehard malcontent and will go back to feeling miserable at the drop of a hat, but the truth is that every one of the last few years has been better than the last, I am healthier and more sane, I am surrounded by love and I usually have a cat on my lap, and I am so, so thankful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Yesterday night I made these:

Pumpkin chocolate chunk espresso muffins
Pumpkin chocolate chunk espresso muffins


I riffed off my family's pumpkin bread recipe with Handle the Heat's Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins and some simple experimentation, with an approximate resulting recipe of:

Pumpkin chocolate chunk espresso muffins recipe. )

If I did it again, I'd either cut down on the sugar (which I'd already decreased from the family recipe), or omit the chocolate or use darker chocolate (this was 68%); as it is, they're a little sweet. Chocolate chips may be better than chocolate chunks, for better distribution and so that they don't all sink into the heart of the muffin, which tastes fine but looks boring. I went heavy on the spices, which is lovely; it could probably use even more espresso powder, however, so that that flavor is more distinct. I might also increase the pumpkin and decrease the oil just a touch.

I'm heading down to Corvallis this evening to spend a few days there, and I'll bring about a dozen of these to spread around. It's good timing: I can show Mum how my first version of our pumpkin bread recipe turned out, and with others to help us eat these Dee and I won't drown in dessert. This weekend is also the Fall Festival, an unintended and delightful coincidence—I was thinking of going to the farmer's market with Papa, and now we can do both, and I can't wait. The weather has been a bit warmer these last few days, but the young maple one house down is going gold, and so help me autumn is here.

(In fact, I made pumpkin muffins because we had extra pumpkin puree after Dee made a simple, fantastic pumpkin soup. We had it with grilled (fake) chicken/havarti/arugula/kalamata sandwiches that night, and the next day we had it with toasted crusty bread with topped cream cheese. Both were fantastic, and you wish you had been there to have some.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Devon's in town. Last night he made nachos—perhaps the best I've ever had, and I'm not sure why: there was nothing special about them except for the addition of second, chunkier chunky salsa, I wasn't particularly hungry at the time, but they were beyond delicious. Today we grabbed a pizza and added a side salad, and ate them watching one of the Star Trek: Voyager episodes that I remember best from my childhood.

And there was stuff.

Devon brought with him the bedding that my parents bought me for my birthday. They got both the sheets and the duvet cover, and they look fantastic. All my pillows are now covered in modal, and the plums and chocolates also look awesome against the orange sheet I'm currently using—so I can modify my color scheme at whim, and I think it'll look especially nice in autumn. That they bought both means that I now have all Grandpa Mel and Ilene's birthday money to spend as I will. I'm anticipating the BPAL Halloweenies, but after much deliberation also decided to buy a custom necklace from Sihaya Designs Jewelry/[livejournal.com profile] sihaya09—kin to this one but with a squatter pumpkin bead and shorter chain. I've desired her pumpkin designs for some time, and I think they're seasonable without being cutsey or Halloween-only, and autumn is so close I can almost taste it, and I want a pumpkin goddamnit. I hope I love it.

These socks in denim and these socks in rust arrived today. I'll wash and wear them and see how well they work—right now I prefer the fit on the latter, which are a bit shorter, but the former comes in more colors. I know it's silly, but I've wanted socks for so long—(occasionally) colorful, fitted, flattering knee-highs. This is a start. As I find which fit me best, maybe I'll even buy more.

I'm currently debating whether I should grab tickets to Kim Boekbinder's Impossible Tour Portland showing. Since I discovered the concert (and artist) it's reached full funding, but her music falls right into that genre of unusual female artists that I love so. Dee is away at Dragon*Con so I can't ask if she'd like to go—but the ticket prices are more than reasonable, and my gut says she'd be interested. It also satisfies this craving to do more, and more locally, and more with an indie and unique vibe.

Express and I have almost finalized plans for a visit. He was going to come up last month, and then rescheduled for this month, and then canceled again because he can't get a break at work. So I'll visit him instead. It looks like I'll be in San Francisco from October 7th through 14th, meeting a friend of many years for the first time. We are both nervous/excited to great degrees. It'll be a long train trip, but we finally found the best travel route, and I'll bring an entire carry-on containing just bedding, and buying a month in advance even means tickets are cheaper. Now we just have to buy them.

This afternoon I was able to email my mother and say, "We were considering a trip to Ashland—well, here's my upcoming schedule, and here time span for a trip. Do we want to make plans to go?" We're thinking of seeing Henry IV Part 2, and I'm eager for it. I'm filling out these dates on a handy Google calendar. I'm keeping a calender. I'm even making sure that birthdays get added.

It bothers me that much of this is money buying happiness. I don't talk about it often, but as blessed as I know I am to have a life of leisure—it's what keeps me sane, and it's an opportunity most don't have, and I am grateful for it—it's unempowering to have no independent income. Everything I have is essentially a gift—which means I don't get every BPAL blend I wish for, but it also means that I don't go shopping, that even my socks are borrowed or hand-me-downs, that it took me years to buy a new pair of shoes. This isn't because Devon doesn't notice or care, or a sign that I'm somehow unloved. But strictly speaking, all of these things—no matter how basic—are extravagances. I had bedding—it was ugly bedding, but I had it. I have socks—they're borrowed men's socks, but they work. I don't need anything, but I want so much. I want to do more with the life I've managed to save, and I want to control my self-presentation, and I want to do and have stuff that, yes, costs money. It cascades: If I have socks that flatter me, perhaps I can wear shorter skirts, but I'd have to buy them too. If I'm buying a necklace, shouldn't I be buying something more important, like shirts, instead?

And that tempers this, but doesn't destroy it. With this bedding, I can begin to pull together my room. With these clothes, my appearance. I can do things, and engage, and that thrills me. It's can be bitter, but it's still so sweet.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
The good news is that August missed me, and would like to celebrate my return with cuddles. It's not frantic behavior, she's just a little velcro'd and very fuIl of purrs. I was worried that she wouldn't care that I had left or returned, because I'm paranoid like that, and so I'm beyond relieved and it feels even better to come back to this home, to my city, to my babycat. The bad news is that it's about a thousand degrees outside, as summer would like to go out with a bang this year. But touching the black long-haired cat is still worth it.

I was gone because it was my birthday! I'm now 26. I went down to Corvallis last Tuesday evening. My sister is living with my parents for a few weeks before her semester abroad (in Italy) begins, so I was able to go home on my birthday, Thursday the 18th, and see everyone for homemade pizza and flourless chocolate torte. (I also renewed my driver's license on my birthday, the day it expired.) On Friday I went home for a briefer day visit, and picked out a few of my mum's quilts to hang in the Portland house. On Saturday Devon and I ran errands in the blistering heat, but now I have bedding and shoes on their way to me. I'm ridiculously excited for them, because they're a long time coming. The bedding is a birthday gift from my parents (and, depending on how much of it they decide to buy, the rest will be purchased with birthday money from my paternal grandfather and his wife), and it'll be a huge step towards pulling my Portland room together. The shoes are a longtime wish finally fulfilled (and none too soon, as my current shoes are dying)—they're Sketcher's Parties - Mate, and I sure hope I love them. I also came back with some BPAL, Boy's on-the-day birthday gift (as the big gift was August, who came just a bit early), a few books from Border's funeral party, and some chocolate that will probably be used for baking because by my lofty standards it's not fit to eat. On Saturday evening, Devon's family stuffed me full of chocolate cake. On Sunday morning, I took the train back to Portland.

This is my birthday torte. )

Candles on my birthday cake
And this is what happened to the candles in the 90 seconds they were lit.
It was pretty ridiculous, but hilarious. It's a good thing the wax came off easily once it had dried.

Also, Jamie says hi. )

I saw Jamie, and Woof, and Dude and Madison (and so help me if Madison isn't the size of a grapefruit—that cat is so small). I saw everyone, really, and went everywhere, and felt like I was doing nothing but eating celebratory food but I suppose there are worse evils than that. It was an unexpectedly busy trip, and a fantastic one, and I am just as glad to be back.

For my own records, my birthday gifts. )

And now it has grown too warm to be sitting here at the computer. Happy belated birthday to all my fellow Leos! For about as long as I can remember, about half my friends have been born in this fire time of the year, and we all get a bit swamped by the concurrance. But I had a great birthday—and I hope you did too.

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juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
juushika

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