Blogging as letters to our future selves

I blog for a lot of reasons. One of them is because blogging is a little like writing letters to your future self.

My current research contract (technically a postdoc) ends in early January. I constantly agonize over what to do next.

But it turns out past me knows what I want to do next. What both past and present me want to do is something I’m still figuring out how to turn into an income.

High Pain Day: Oh yeah, I'm disabled! I had forgotten.

I had my first high-pain day since we came to Europe yesterday (or today, if you’re in the US when I’m writing this).

I think I must have eaten something with cornmeal in it, because my joints and muscles were (and still are, though less so) sore from the moment I woke up.

It was a rough time to walk around Cologne in the cold and rain. I know I complained about the pain often, and I really appreciate my sister, her husband, and my friend Kessie having such patience with me.

We’re in Cologne for another day and I hope if I rest now, I’ll have a better time.

This is such a classic variable disability/chronic illness scenario. Sometimes you’re walking around Aalsmeer in 40 degree weather with no problems, and sometimes you ache with every step and even if you’re lying down. It’s easy to forget you’re disabled at all, until it isn’t.

The tricky thing is that you need rest, but if you’re in pain, it’s hard to sleep.

I'm a piler-filer. Who are you?

Austin Kleon blogs about pilers and filers, a dichotomy/spectrum he learned about reading Temple Grandin’s book, _Visual Thinking _, in which Grandin discusses Linda Silverman’s work:

In a presentation about the differences in learning styles, Silverman flashes a slide showing a person with a tidy file cabinet and a person surrounded by messy piles of paper. The “filer” and the “pilers,” to use her terms. You probably know which one you are. What does it say about the way you think?

Kleon says:

All of these “versus” type situations can be rethought as spectrums and/or creative tensions. There are times when I want to access that sequential part of my brain and bring order to things, and filing does that, but there are other times I want to access my visual brain, and piles help.

I am my father’s daughter, which means I’m a piler-filer.

Both my dad and I often have stacks that look like a mess to other people. But when I was a teacher, my colleagues marveled at my ability to run exactly what I needed from one of these piles within seconds.

I also had immaculate file cabinets full of things like student paperwork. I love a label maker.

For me and for my dad, piles are for current projects and files are for reference materials and archives. If something goes into a file before we’re done with it, it ceases to exist until an external event prompts us to track it down, by which point it may be too late for us to have done what we needed to do with it.

A panorama of a desk with multiple stacks of paper, a laptop, two monitors, keyboard, and trackball on it..
This is a panorama of my desk when I was managing editor at LEARN NC. The stacks on the desk and in the standing file were projects in-progress. I filed finished projects in the drawers in the file cabinet/snack station on the left side of the desk.

So. We’re piler-filers. Are you one, the other, or a combination?

How a post ends up on my blog

Hi friends.

I wanted to take a moment to share my blogging “process,” which I put in scare quotes because it’s not very refined.

First, I have a thought or encounter something to which I have a response and decide I want to share that thought/response.

Then, I open up Google Docs and type what I want to share into a file called “Current Blog Post Draft.” I mainly do this to avoid losing a post because of a browser or app crash.

I sometimes read over it before posting. Sometimes I post right away.

My posts aren’t reviewed by an editor or even a beta reader. They go out fresh, raw, and often flawed in either form or content. The ideas are sometimes half-baked. I’m sometimes writing in the heat of emotion. I’m going to be wrong sometimes. Perhaps often.

Blogs are tools for thinking. As such, the thoughts expressed in them will not always be our most polished.

This is a personal blog, not a professional publication. I don’t mean for it to be anything but a personal blog and portfolio.

Thanks for reading it.

Quiet Time in Aalsmeer

Our second week in the Netherlands has been quiet so far. Exactly a week after we got here, I came down with a cough that has developed into a pretty standard respiratory virus. The COVID self-test was negative. This wasn’t a surprise because the rate of infection here is vanishingly small. Aalsmeer has about 32,000 inhabitants. One of them has tested positive this week.

Meanwhile in Amsterdam, 13 out of about 903,000 people reported positive tests last week.

For the purposes of comparison, that’s 1.2 cases per 100,000 people over 7 days. At home, there were 153 new cases per 100,000 people last week.

I know ground water numbers are more reliable but I struggle to interpret them, so this is what I use to determine risk.

So, it’s probably not COVID given the low incidence of COVID here and the negative test.

I’ve still felt pretty crappy, so I’ve been sleeping a ton. ME, M, and I ventured out to the Grote Poel (the large pool) of the Westeindeplassen. The humidity outside really helps my breathing but I have to be careful not to overexert myself.

A blue sky, white clouds, a lake, bare trees in the distance In the distance, an old brick tower looks out over a lake. In the foreground, concrete and stone steps lead down to the lake. A red-roofed house on a lake

Today both ME & M are feeling poorly.

In the meantime, W has been into the city a couple times and loved exploring. I’m looking forward to getting the whole family there next week once we’re all back on our feet. It always takes at least an hour to get there from the village.

(When we booked the house, there was a bus that went directly to the airport train station but they changed the routes right before we came so it doesn’t run anymore. This adds one or two transfers to every trip.)

I guess people really want to know about what food you get when you travel. We mostly buy groceries and prepare our own food, so we haven’t tried anything extra Dutch besides stroopwaffels. Those are delicious.

The eggs here are super fresh and excellent. They have all the produce you might expect. They have a mix of Dutch brands and other brands. Froot Loops are Unicorn Froot Loops. We eat a lot of Nature Valley granola bars. There is, of course, immense variety in the cheese available.

That’s the latest here. I hope to be more adventurous soon!

Our first 60 hours in Europe

In case you missed it: my husband, W, received a Fulbright award to study European & transatlantic copyright harmonization, especially with respect to fair use/fair dealing. M and I are accompanying him. My sister ME is here as well serving as a mother’s helper for the first couple of months so I can actually do my job. (After she leaves, W and I will trade off childcare time.)

We’re currently based in Aalsmeer, a town closer to Amsterdam than Chapel Hill is to Durham. (That distance means more to people from our hometown than it will to other people but I thought it might be a useful comparison.) The University of Amsterdam is Will’s Fulbright host. He’ll interview scholars there as well as in Maastricht.

Because his award is specifically a Fulbright-Schuman award, his research is international, so we’ll also be visiting Helsinki and Rovaniemi in Finland, Bonn in Germany, and Brussels in Belgium.

In March, we’ll leave Aalsmeer and travel the UK and Ireland so he can interview scholars there. We’ll finish up in Paris and head home before Memorial Day.


We left the US Monday evening and arrived in Amsterdam Tuesday morning, then road a train and a bus and walked about 600 meters to the house where we’re staying.


I already love it here. Harbor cities always make me happy. I’m delighted by all the canals.

Also, the roads: buses have a completely separate set of lanes divided from the car lanes and so do bikes. Aalsmeer is a very walkable town.


Yesterday we briefly went into Amsterdam proper for our appointment with immigration. UvA is used to international scholars sticking around, so they’re following all their normal processes with us including getting us set up with Dutch identification numbers and everything.


Because we are using public transportation, it takes us about an hour to get into town. I already feel disappointed that we haven’t explored more but I have to remind myself that we haven’t even been here for 72 hours yet and I was in immense pain after the flights here.


More to come. For now, have a picture from the chocolate shop near our house.

An assortment of chocolates in a shop's display case

How I Begin

In Austin Kleon’s paid newsletter post today, he asked his readers, to share how we begin.

I opened by saying, “I don’t know how I begin.” Then I proceeded to describe how I begin.

Because the biggest projects in my life have been scholarly writing projects, I thought about those. I thought about the most recent one, my dissertation, and the oldest one, my Master’s paper.

I realized that for both of these, I had a sunshine-soaked AHA! moment when I knew: this was the topic I was going to write about, this was the research I was going to do.

But then I thought about it, and that wasn’t the beginning for the dissertation. (It may have been for the Master’s paper. I don’t remember.)

In my PhD program, writing a comprehensive literature review that demonstrated our familiarity with the state of our research area was a major milestone. I went into this process with no clear research question or idea, just a set of topics that interested me. I don’t remember all of them, but they included makerspaces in libraries, gaming in libraries, and connected learning, among other things. I wrote two or three chapters of this lit review (one for each topic), flailing about, no research plan in mind, just getting familiar with the literature.

But this flailing was part of my process! I arrived at my dissertation topic by reading someone else’s dissertation and deciding to answer one of the questions she posed as a possibility for future research!

And yet, I had read her dissertation before that sun-soaked day.

What was different upon this reading?

What was different was that I had been living the night before, not working. (Work is a part of life but you know how it’s easy to forget to do all the parts of life that aren’t work? Or at least to berate yourself for not focusing on work all the time? If you’ve ever been a grad student, you know what I’m talking about.)

The night before my sun-soaked AHA!, I had gone to a concert. A video game concert. Where I saw cosplayers who inspired me. And it was putting together the dissertation I read with the inspiration I felt at that concert that led me to my dissertation topic: how cosplayers find, evaluate, use, and share information.

So these are the ingredients in my process:

  1. Read what other people have written, especially keeping an eye out for interesting questions that I might want to anwer. What do I read? Whatever seems interesting.
  2. Do interesting things that aren’t work.
  3. Sit in the sun and think.

If I skip any of these three steps, I struggle to begin.

Tarot: My Year Ahead

I’m taking Lindsay Mack’s tarot class called The Threshold. Here’s my reading for the year ahead. Four major arcana - huge!

Five cards from The Wayhome Tarot: The Hermit, Judgment, The Sun, Temperance, Ten of Pentacles

This whole spread fits with what’s going on with me. We leave for W’s Fulbright on Monday and hoping to do a lot of internal work while we’re away, vibing with the Hermit.

One of the things I’m struggling with is feeling a sense of purpose. I feel like Judgment combined with the Hermit gives me big “Show Yourself” (from Frozen 2) vibes - “You are the one you’ve been waiting for all of your life.” I have to look to myself for purpose. All the career quizzes and analysis of my 10th house in the world isn’t going to get me where listening to the quiet voice in myself will.

In being invited to give up the Sun, I see myself letting go of the need for bright, external, paternal clarity. It’s time to dwell in shadow for a while, to live in the murky and liminal.

With Temperance, I’m moving towards integration, integrity, my whole self being welcome in every part of my life. I think this will be key for the work I’m doing with the Hermit and Judgment.

And finally, the Ten of Pentacles: a reminder that I already have an abundant life, and that this abundance can carry me through the quiet and seeking.

Deck is the Wayhome Tarot.

A Dispatch from the Threshold of 2023 🚪🎇

I don’t know if I’ll get to do all the year-end/new year transition things I’d hoped to do today: tarot stuff, bullet journal migration. I need a nap and my right wrist is hurting and I think my left will soon follow. But guess what? Listening to my body is a great way to mark this transition.

Instead of one word for 2023, I have two:


Tomorrow I’ll share more about my intentions for the year with Leigh Bardugo’s Begin As You Mean to Go On and Kim Werker’s Year of Making. But I have three intentions for the new year:

  1. Read for pleasure.
  2. Make things.
  3. Take walks.

More on those tomorrow.

And I want to keep moving toward living in alignment with my core values:

  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Care

That’s all for now. I’ll share more soon.

My Reading Year 2022, Part Deux

I’m calling it for the year. I’m not going to try to squeeze one more in before the end of the day tomorrow. When I wrote my year in reading post on December 2, I’d read 46 books this year. I’ve read 5 more since. I’ve also got a nifty new plug-in that will show you the covers of all the books I read.

Not a lot has changed in terms of my favorites since that original post. Hildafolk and The Bloody Chamber continue to be standouts. I’m very happy to be caught up on Leigh Bardugo just in time to get behind again when my preorder for Hell Bent comes in.

Season of Love is a recent favorite. Raybearer was super compelling and as I’ve started the sequel, that’ll probably be my next finished read.

I’ve got Bloodmarked on hold but it’s a wait of about 14 weeks. (I’m going to buy the paperback when it comes out so it’ll match my copy of Legendborn.)

Here’s all the books I read this year:

Hooky Career Change: Stop hating your job, discover what you really want to do with your life, and start doing it! The Freelance Academic: Transform Your Creative Life and Career Star Trek: Discovery - Aftermath Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love Rose (New Poets of America) Hilda and the Troll: Hilda Book 1 (Hildafolk) Hilda and the Midnight Giant: Hilda Book 2 (Hildafolk) Hilda and the Black Hound: Hilda Book 4 (Hildafolk) Hilda and the Stone Forest: Hilda Book 5 (Hildafolk) Hilda and the Mountain King Death on the Nile [Movie Tie-In 2022] Murder on the Orient Express Season of Love Raybearer Rule of Wolves (King of Scars Duology Book 2) 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater The Lives of Saints Nona the Ninth Snowbound with the CEO: Now a Harlequin Movie, Snowbound for Christmas! Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham Up Howl’s Moving Castle The Hobbit Different Seasons: Four Novellas The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It Star Trek: Discovery: Succession Star Trek: Discovery - The Light of Kahless The Dead Zone Carrie Borderland 1 The Puzzler: One Man's Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life The Bloody Chamber War for the Oaks Redwall: A Tale from Redwall Building a Second Brain Go Hex Yourself The Date from Hell "So What Are You Going to Do with That?" Winterkeep Shang-Chi by Gene Luen Yang Vol. 1: Brothers and Sisters How to Make a Living with Your Writing Third Edition Jane, Unlimited The Immune System Recovery Plan Ninth House (Alex Stern Book 1) Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative King of Scars (King of Scars Duology Book 1) Sexism Ed: Essays on Gender and Labor in Academia Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic Truly Devious: A Mystery

Moderating my own smartphone use (but still not belonging in the Luddite club)

I thought, given my heavy criticism of the potential perspective that we should all join the Luddite club, it might be useful to discuss my own smartphone use and the steps I take to moderate it.

Let me start by saying that I know in the case of addictive behavior, moderation is sometimes not an option. I have no objection to people recognizing that they are in this situation and opting out of smartphone use, or potentially any Internet use at all. You’ve got to do what’s right for you.

My objection is to people who might suggest that what’s right for the Luddite club is right for everyone with a smartphone.

Don’t want a smartphone? Cool! Get rid of yours if you have one! Never get one if you don’t!

I myself vacillate wildly between intense use to the point of it disturbing my sleep (not good, obvs) and more instrumental use that is less disruptive to the rest of my life.

When I start to notice intense use - or when something like the Luddite club article prompts me to consider my own use - there are a few techniques I rely on to curb my use and help me moderate.

For a long time, my default was to work my way through this Better Humans article, Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You. It links an Android version at the end, but the principles work for any smartphone, regardless of OS. This is a time consuming process and actually in the name of habit change and productivity involves adding apps I almost never use, so I have stopped going through the full process. I’ll sometimes Google around for other ideas about turning smartphones into tools (as opposed to toys or distraction), and use what I learn in those, too.

Here are the things I do, divided into almost always and sometimes categories.

Almost always

Turn off almost all notifications. I get notifications for calls, texts, and maps. That’s it. Corollary: I almost always have my phone on vibrate or silent, so even those notifications don’t disturb me.

Avoid social media apps. As much as possible, if I’m going to use social media, I do it through the browser. Occasionally I’ll need a feature like putting up a story on Instagram when I was on the UC Irvine Strike Solidarity Team’s Social Media Team and was contributing to that Instagram account. But I usually uninstall pretty rapidly after that.

Turn on Do Not Disturb. I’m in Do Not Disturb mode, with only starred contacts allowed through, unless I’m expecting a call from someone who isn’t a starred contact (like my doctor or a contractor who’s coming to work on the house). Starred contacts include family members and my kid’s school. That’s it.

Use no wallpaper + a black background OR Austin Kleon’s Read a Book Instead wallpaper. Pretty self-explanatory.

Turn off Raise to Wake. I have to push a button to turn my phone on and put in a code to see anything on it. (I just switched from a swipe to a numerical code in order to add a little more friction.)

Use bedtime mode at night. Most of the time, I have the phone in black and white with even more notifications blocked than usual, between 7:30 pm and 7:30 am. If I’m up in the night and want to watch something or play something on my phone, I try to leave bedtime mode on and do it in black and white. This only helps some, though.


Use Firefox Focus as my browser. When I’m getting way too deep into Internet rabbit holes, which I usually do in Chrome, I disable Chrome and switch to Firefox Focus. It doesn’t remember my log-ins, so I have to log in to each site I visit every time I visit it. It doesn’t keep a history, so I have to either search for or manually type in URLs. Sometimes, I need the affordances of Chrome, and I switch it back on. I haven’t figured out how to copy and paste in Focus yet.

Remove everything from my home screen. I usually have a pretty sparse home screen, but sometimes I remove everything from it. I’m not sure this is very effective though because then I tend to pull up the app drawer and scroll through all the apps, including some distracting ones like the browser, to get to the thing I want. So sometimes I’m more strategic and drop my most frequently used useful apps, like Google Keep and anything related to books or podcasts, on my home screen.

Use bedtime mode all day. Having the phone be in black and white makes it less appealing.

In the future

I still am in the bad habit of checking my phone first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, and any time I get up in the night. So I’ll be working on that.

Maybe we don't all need to join the Luddite club.

I have some thoughts about the Luddite club.

First, I don’t have a problem with people switching to flip phones. I do have a problem with the implication it makes them morally superior to people who use smartphones.

I think one of my biggest problems with the article is the feel of the writing: a sense of awe, a focus on fashion, a vibe that reads to me like “Ooh isn’t it amazing that these kids wear Doc Martens and read books?”

I fully support the desire to break free of slot machine dopamine hit features of social media. But here are activities that, in the article, read as though they require giving up your smartphone but that I, a person with a smartphone, sometimes do:

  • Draw
  • Paint
  • Close my eyes outside
  • Read books
  • Sew
  • Borrow books from the library
  • Go to parks
  • Fall asleep away from the glow of my phone
  • Read in hammocks

I’m glad teens do these things. And if they can only do them without smartphones, okay. But let’s not act like these activities are inaccessible to people with smartphones.

One of the most concerning things is the veneration these kids seem to feel for Chris McCandless. One of them says, “…that guy was experiencing life. Real life.” But actually, what he experienced was death. This dude might have been sympathetic but I know I don’t want my kid holding him up as a role model. If you’re going to go off the grid, learn how to take care of yourself BEFORE you get there.

I’m also not convinced that this is the beginning of a social movement. The founder of the club was discouraged when people suggested it was classist, but she says, “[my advisor] told me most revolutions actually start with people from industrious backgrounds, like Che Guevara.” I think the word we might be looking for here rather than “industrious” is “privileged,” “middle class,” “bourgeois,” or “capitalist.” But also, Che Guevara was motivated by witnessing other people’s misery and took action directed at alleviating it. I hope Luddite club kids use some of their screen-free time to benefit others. The article doesn’t make it clear whether they do, so I don’t know how apt the comparison to Guevara is.

Meg Pillow pointed out that for some of us, social media has been a great way to expand our awareness beyond our own experiences, to escape a filter bubble. One of the kids quoted in the article said, “Being in this club reminds me we’re all living on a floating rock and that it’s all going to be OK.” But when I read this, it made me think that without some other way of learning about the world, this is simple escapism. Are the Luddite club kids listening to the radio? Reading independent newspapers? Watching public television? How do they learn about the world beyond their schools and club, about the world that’s not printed about in classic or mainstream printed texts?

The most honest part of the article seemed to me to be when the founder of the club said that she likes that her parents are addicted to their smartphones, “because I get to feel a little superior to them.” This is developmentally right on track for a high school senior. I’m pretty sure these kids in the Luddite club will be fine. But I think we adults need to look a little deeper at what’s going on before deciding we should model our own lives on theirs or pressure our kids to do likewise.

'Wednesday' is full of "Whoa." 📺

I just finished the first episode of Wednesday. I have so many thoughts and feelings.

First, I’ve seen criticism that the Addams Family works best when you have the whole family. (Sadly, I can’t find the link to where I read this right now.) I completely agree but the decision to rely on the trope of a teen rebelling against their parents means any family time here is very tense. So I don’t want the whole family together because they’re not as loving as I’m used to.

As Emmet Asher-Perrin points out, the Addams Family movies are all about family as a safe haven, on the unconditional not just love, but positive regard they have for their children. That vibe isn’t present here.

(I’ll mention at this point that I haven’t seen the recent animated Addams Family movies, and that I shunned the musical because a huge part of the premise was Wednesday wanting to be normal for a boy and that’s just… not very Wednesday.)


Jenna Ortega is brilliant. She perfectly revives My Generation’s Wednesday (what’s my generation? Xennials I guess?). Her delivery is beautiful. Her physicality is on point (🤺).

I really appreciate the Christina Ricci cameo. She’s adorable.

I love how this feels like a goth Veronica Mars. I’ve seen comparisons to Riverdale, but at least in the first season, Jughead’s narration is reportage, not reflection. He is wryly commenting on the corruption in his town. In contrast, Veronica and Wednesday give us interiority that isn’t self-indulgent.

It has me thinking about what bell hooks has to say about confessional writing, how perception of it is gendered. I’ve been reading remembered rapture lately.

I can’t deal with the family tension and all of the school bits are sort of… just being the cliche rather than commenting on it?

We’ve seen this roommate dynamic in Wicked (I may have started singing “Loathing” to myself when Wednesday and Enid met). There doesn’t seem to be a new take on it here.

Also: the embrace of the supernatural beyond the Addams’s immediate circle feels a little off to me here. In Charles Addams’s comics and in the 90s movies, the world was pretty normal. To suddenly have a school full of vampires, werewolves, gorgons, and sirens feels not exactly random, but out of place.

On this note: Thing. Thing has scars, Frankenstein’s creature style, and I don’t love it. I think because a disembodied hand is enough weird. It requires no additional weird.

The costumes are wonderful. The exterior view of the school makes me super happy.

I’ll give it a few more episodes but giving the Addams Family the Riverdale treatment with a Harry Potter setting, Doyle/Cordelia-on-Angel visions, and a more-Veronica Mars-than-Jughead voiceover feels mostly like trying to do too many things at one time.

(Also, I’ve seen comparisons to Nancy Drew, Buffy, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch but none to VMars, which feels super weird to me.)

On being an escribitionist

In November, when I realized there was no way I was going to be able to get 50,000 words of writing done, I decided to try writing 750 words a day using the website I enjoyed doing morning pages this way. The traditional writing-in-a-notebook way tends to give me hand or wrist pain. But I was using the new site, and after a streak hiccup, I realized that it wasn’t quite the write tool for me. I actually do better without streak tracking, because if I mess up (and I didn’t, their system didn’t save my 750 words even though I’d written them), my perfectionism has me go NEVER MIND!

So I decided to use a combo of my Google Calendar to send me an email reminder like 750 words does and Scrivener to set up a journal where each entry had a 750 word target. That went well, for a while, until I hit a day when I just didn’t feel like it. And I gave myself permission not to. And that was fine, too.

I got back into it but overtime it just felt like… not quite what I was looking for. I would write things in there, and then I would think I had said those things to someone, but I hadn’t. And I realized that private journaling is great and valuable, but if I’m looking to be motivated to keep up a regular practice, I want an audience. (Can you tell I’m an obliger?)

I’m not a journaler. I’m not a diarist. I am an escribitionist. I have been for over 20 years. So if I want to keep up a writing process, blogging is the best way to do it.

I also really appreciate blogging as a mode of thinking, as a way of finding out what I think. When I write for no audience, words come out, but they don’t have sticking power in my mind. I do best when my ideas are things I can talk out with another person, even if that other person is a silent reader. I love having my blog as a tool I can refer to when I need help, a place where advice from my past self bubbles up for me.

So hi. I’m trying out daily blogging, again. I’m not setting a word target. I’m not going to stress if I miss a day. But this is my plan, to get something a little more deliberate than a quick note written every day.

How to feel like myself

My kid’s best friend’s mom got a new job and isn’t starting it until January, but has already left her old job. She has all of December to just be, with her kid in school for the first two weeks.

I told her that sounded amazing.

She said, “I feel like… I feel like myself. I was going to say I feel like a whole new person, but really I feel like myself.”

I said, “I want to feel like myself. I’ve gotta figure out how to do that.”

2022 feels like a year that was stolen from my whole family of origin, thanks to my mom’s leukemia and paraplegia. My mom has obviously had an incredibly hard year. My dad is learning what it is to be a primary caregiver at almost 70 years old and it’s a very different life than he’s ever known before. My brother has gone from being cared for to needing to give care to. My sister and I have both experienced frequent chronic illness flares.

In the spring, I resented the flowers for blooming. Didn’t they know my mom had leukemia? I didn’t do any of my normal springtime stuff.

In the summer, I made a whole plan to achieve summer vibes, but I only really did it halfheartedly.

In the fall, my mom was in the ER about once a week, with an extended hospital stay due to the cognitive effects of a medication reaction. Halloween was fun but I didn’t appreciate the gorgeous weather nearly enough.

And now Winter Is Coming 🐺, and I am realizing for the first time that I have always been A Christmas Person, but when we were decorating our tree I suddenly got very grouchy. Because of how different this year is and will be.

This is not just me sharing the bad — it’s me elucidating the things that have made me feel Not Me.

In a very Me move, to figure out what feels like me I went to my blog archives to see how I was coping in year 2 of the pandemic, before my mom got leukemia.

How to Feel Like Myself

Books & Reading

  • Share quotes from what I’m reading.
  • Read lots of books in a variety of formats & genres, but come back home to fantasy frequently.
  • Talk to other people about what we’re reading & what else we might want to read.
  • Read & write fanfic, especially for sitcoms and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Read a lot of interesting articles.
  • Re-read Austin Kleon’s books.

Health & Wellness

  • Blog about my experiences with chronic illness.


  • Blog about my research.


  • Gather references for a cosplay but don’t make it yet.

TV & Movies

  • Watch holiday rom-coms.
  • Watch Star Trek.
  • Introduce my kid to older kids TV.
  • Blog about what I’m watching.

The Internet

  • Think about cool possibilities for the web, mostly late at night.
  • Take occasional breaks from social stuff.

Uh oh, I’m doing me things and I still don’t feel like myself

I’m reading, especially fantasy. I’m watching holiday rom-coms and Star Trek. I introduced my kid to Wishbone 🐶. Why don’t I feel like myself?

The Missing Piece

I’m not reflecting, blogging, and talking to people. Metacognition is key to Kimberlying and I have let it get away from me. Time to get back to it.

My Reading Year, 2022 📚

Everybody is doing their year-end stuff, so I thought I’d do mine.

I read 46 books this year including comics/graphic novels and poetry. About 12 of those were graphic novels or poetry and another 2 or 3 were short story or novella collections. This puts me right about where my usual average for longer works is, around 30 books. I don’t set quantitative reading goals anymore besides reading one more book than I’ve read so far in a given year.

My reading this year was heavily influenced by the microgenres/aesthetics of cozy fantasy, adventurecore, and woodland goth.

I sought out cozy fantasy and adventurecore in particular because I wanted my reading to comfort me.

I joined the Atlas Obscura book club on Literati, because Austin Kleon stopped running his book club. I only finished two of the 5 books I got, but I look forward to finishing the ones I didn’t. I love the curation but the monthly format doesn’t really work for me and I wasn’t making the kinds of connections to other readers that I’d hoped to.

I started to list my favorite books I’ve read this year but the list got too long. I loved the Hildafolk series and The Bloody Chamber.

I began the year with the intention to get caught up on Leigh Bardugo’s backlist, and I only have one book to go, The Rule of Wolves. I started that this week, so I hope to finish before the year is out and be caught up just in time for the release of the new Alex Stern book.

I think that’s all I have to share about my reading this year. How did your reading year go?

The lyrics from Disney's Disenchanted that make me sob. 🎵

Spoilers for lyrics from Disenchanted follow. Without context they only mean a little but if you’re avoiding spoilers, just move along…


Are you ready to be spoiled?


It’s how I’d make a world for you
That never breaks your heart
Where you can grow and thrive
And your every wish can flower
I will always love you, Morgan
I’m so proud of how I know you’ll carry on
I’ve known a lot of magic in my life
But never anything as strong
Love power
My love for you has power
And you’ll have it there inside you
When I’m gone

These lyrics make me sob as a mother AND as a daughter because of course this is what I want for my kid but the “When I’m gone” part hits extra hard when your mom has leukemia and chemo/TKI complications you know?

This is a big cry I’ve been saving up since January as I kept it together for everybody else.

Okay, time for me to go strike now.

A letter to my past self circa 1997

Dear Kimberly,

I’m just going to jump right in.

Remember E’s cute boyfriend and how you noticed she seems to not be dating him anymore and you think that’s kinda sad? Don’t be sad. YOU’RE MARRIED TO HIM NOW. I mean, you’ll marry him in 2009.

You’ll have a beautiful kid with him in 2016. The kid has long eyelashes and says delightful things. You had him later than you expected but he’s worth the wait, I promise.

Hey guess what neighborhood you live in starting in 2011? W! That’s where rich people live, you say? Well, two things: 1. It’s actually where a broad range of middle class people live and 2. you definitely would think of the household you live in by 2022 as rich. Y’all could eat Lunchables and Fruit Roll-ups and drink Capri Sun Every Day if you wanted to. (But you won’t, it would create way too much trash.)

You have a PhD (2021) and your job is to read, write, and talk to librarians. ON THE INTERNET. I know, right? Pretty sweet gig.

There’s a lot of scary stuff going on in the world right now (2022) - global health stuff, political stuff, war stuff, climate change stuff (that’s what we call global warming right now because it’s more accurate). Also, some family illness stuff. I know that doesn’t feel new, and it’s not, but it’s still a lot.

And yet in spite of those difficulties, on the micro level, your life is AMAZING.

Just wanted to let you know.

Love, Kimberly

What feels like your people?

I have a lot of friends, but the circle of friends I think of as my people is much smaller. If I make a list, it’s probably maybe 10 or so people right now, though the circle has porous boundaries.

This morning I sent something Austin Kleon wrote to a friend with the note “This seems like something you’d appreciate.” Sometimes my friends send me things that remind them of me.

Sometimes there’s an obvious reason, like when anyone sends my sister red panda stuff or me mermaid things.

But my favorite times are when it’s about a vibe. That feels to me like accessing the ineffable core of a relationship that I always imagine you can only get at after a very intense initial period of friendship, unless you happen to be friends with a literal horse, in which case it happens instantly because horses just understand you.

There’s a sort of distance that I think makes this kind of thing easier. My dearest friends all live far away. I think it facilitates finding this kind of thing. I want to be in the lookout for more opportunities to do it for my most inner circle, my innest circle? My spouse, my child, my household of origin.

Do your people have vibes that give you shortcuts to letting them know you’re thinking of them?

Maybe not 50K words of literally anything...

It turns out giving yourself credit for everything you write is actually really challenging because you have to pull it all together somewhere, and sometimes you lose track of the last thing you counted.

It’s far too early to give up on NaNoWriMo.

But have y’all noticed that November is a really hard time to write in the Northern hemisphere? There’s the time change. The lack of light because of it. If you’re in the US, Thanksgiving eats up fully 5 days it feels like. (That’s 17% of your writing time!) At least it does in my family.

It’s just a brutal time!

This is why I like Camp NaNoWriMo. Especially July. July, if you work in education and can afford to send your kid to camp, is a great time to write.

Anyway. I’m not giving up on NaNo but I’m also not trying to do word counts on all my texts.

The only time I won NaNo, I wrote 25K words on November 30.

I’ve won Camp NaNo a few times with smaller goals.

I do want to write. I don’t know what a good writing goal, process, or practice looks like for me. Maybe I’ll take the rest of this month to figure it out.

NaNoWriMo pivot: Back to 50,000 words of literally anything at all

Hello friends!

It’s been slow-going working on my TNG fanfic. Early in October, I toyed with the idea of being a NaNo Rebel with the goal of writing 50,000 words of literally anything at all. At the time, I meant fanfic, original fic, and academic writing.

But at 4 AM this morning, I decided to return to that, with a much more expansive definition of “literally anything at all.”

Here are the things I’ve added to my word count so far:

  • Blog posts (including short notes)
  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Slack messages
  • Meeting agendas
  • Comments on other people’s documents
  • Forum posts

And once I log back into social media tomorrow (I’m posting this via micropub), I’m going to add replies and quote tweets.

Why am I being so generous to myself with this definition?

A lot of the time, I use a goal like NaNoWriMo to prove to myself that I “can* write.

But lately, I’ve felt not that I have writer’s block, exactly, but that I’m just at a moment in life when writing is beyond my current capacity, that I just don’t have the bandwidth to write at present.

So I’m using this expansive definition to prove to myself that I do write, that I an writing, even when I feel like I can’t.

How’s NaNo going for you? Can you find a way to be more generous with yourself this month?

📚🍳Marinated Beans with Crunchy Veggies from I Dream of Dinner (So You Don't Have To)

Cooking is really hard with chronic illness, because both pain and fatigue reduce your options for homemade food that won’t eat up all your energy for the day.

When Suzanne Scott mentioned the cookbook I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To) at the Fan Cultures/Food Cultures session at FSN North America, citing the ease of prepping its recipes when you’re exhausted, I immediately put it on hold at the library.

I picked it up over the weekend. Today I made my first recipe in it: Marinated Beans with Crunchy Veggies. TL; DR: It’s tasty and I still had energy left after making it.

The cookbook I Dream of Dinner So You Don't Have To opened to the page of Marinated Beans with Crunchy Veggies

Right away the book delighted me by including all prep work in the written instructions rather than ingredients. Author Ali Slagle doesn’t say “Fresh shallot, finely chopped” in the ingredients list. Instead, it’s the first step in the recipe. Slagle also encourages substitutions.

I modified the recipe a bit to make it even friendlier for my chronically-ill self. Here are some photos with explanations.

The first change is that I subbed garlic powder in for chopped shallot. Target didn’t have shallots and I didn’t want to go to another store. Plus, I already had garlic powder on hand.

A container of garlic powder

The second change is that I used canned diced green chiles instead of chopped fresh chile. I’m a spice wimp and once again Target had limited selection.

A can of diced mild green chiles sits next to a plastic food storage container with garlic powder in it

I then followed the recipe as written, using canned black beans, salt and pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Slagle suggests chopping and adding veggies right before serving but I wanted to do that in advance, so I sliced celery and cucumber and stored them in a Mason jar to keep them crisp until serving time. They’ll only keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days, but so will the beans.

Celery and cucumber on a cutting board before slicing Sliced celery and cucumber in a small-mouth 32 oz Mason jar

When it was time for lunch, I spooned a quarter of the beans into a bowl, then pulled some celery and cucumber out of the jar and stirred it all together. It was a lovely, easy lunch.

The finished meal: Marinated Beans with Crunchy Veggies

(The real star of this photo is my beautiful new kitchen counter.)

How to Scholar(?)

In my doctoral program, there was a class that we colloquially referred to as “babydocs.” As it was taught the year I took it, the purpose of babydocs was two-fold: 1. to introduce us to the field of library and information science and the variety of potential research areas and 2. to introduce us to the skills a person needs to be a scholar.

It’s been over seven years since I started babydocs and I’m still trying to get that “how to be a scholar” part down. Here are the topics and skills babydocs covered in this vein:

  • Theory and methods
  • Literature reviews
    • searching for literature
    • reading other people’s literature reviews
    • managing literature
    • writing literature reviews
  • Peer review
  • Project management
  • Research ethics
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Presenting orally
  • Empirical research methods
  • Collaborative & interdisciplinary work
  • Creating posters
  • Writing research proposals
  • Grants and funding
  • Data management
  • Writing referred papers
  • Metrics

This was a two-semester course and that was only HALF of what we covered, with the other half being specific to our discipline.

I know how to do all of the things on this list, but I still haven’t created a cohesive framework or workflow that lets me do them in any but the most just-in-time manner. But a just-in-time scholar isn’t really the kind of scholar I want to be.

(And I do want to be a scholar, even though I’m not interested in tenure-track work.)

I share all of this because I’m going to try, all these years later, to create such a framework. Something that wasn’t part of babydocs.

I plan to blog about it and I thought y’all might like to follow along.

#FSNNA 22 Roundtable: Materiality & Liveness


Welcoming everyone to the session "Materiality & Liveness"

Talking about WWE and the impact of it being termed an "essential business" during COVID shutdowns

Professional wrestling bridges the gap between sports & entertainment

When both entertainment & sports were shut down, WWE was still available with both athletics and storytelling and thus the potential to appeal to fans of both sports and media.

Lucas's argument: WWE didn't have live audiences during shutdown like they usually do. They had to have a national audience to stay open for working, but only at facilities closed to the public.

WWE met both criteria when most other sports couldn't.

WWE moved toward "cinematic matches" - "like an extended version of a video game cutscene" - wrestlers in story-specific environment with editing, effects, and supernatural elements.

Matt Griffin:

Playful Nostalgia: (Re)creating Video Game Spaces as Mods

Nostalgia for 3D platformer video games from the late 90s/early 00s like Super Mario 64, Sonic Adventure. Newer games are emulating (but not, y'know, ~emulating~) the older games.

Marketing and branding include a pitch toward nostalgia: "It's just like N64" "It's just like the Gamecube"

How do players take up this nostalgia themselves? For example, players create environments from old games in newer video games - e.g. creating an area from Super Mario Sunshine in A Hat in Time

We aren't limited to a single mod, so you could play in A Hat in Time, a Sonic Adventure level, with Sora from Kingdom Hearts as your player, riding a Kart from Mario Kart Double Dash.

Factors that influence textual meaning: paratexts, plays, fan-made histories, "mods as simulacra"

"Player-made mods construct nostalgia through remediation and play"

Emma ✨:

Talking about authorship in TRPGs (!!! calling @theroguesenna & @friede)

Looking at changes in D&D and other TRPGs related to race.

Summer 2021 was the #SummerofAabria when Abria Iyengar was guest DM on multiple actual play shows

AP has often been associated with the creation of a single DM but when Iyengar's work raised the question: how does authorship change when you have a guest DM? Who has authority?

Now notions of canonicity are taking root in actual play. How do TRPGs exist as both a transformative and an original work?

DMs like Iyengar can use their work to critique traditional depictions in fantasy.

Dylan McGee:

The cultural afterlife of plastic toys and how they're curated and collected online now

Fans have to make consequential decisions about material objects (collectable toys) based on digital images

"attachments and affects can be complicated when realizing that what arrived in your mailbox was not exactly what you bought online"

Buyers read the materiality through images: What quality is the plastic? How much has it been damaged? Is it authentic? Is the blister packaging still attached?

During COVID, there's been a boom in the fan economy of vintage collecting.

A lot of collectors have liquidated their collections because they didn't have enough income during COVID.

The Japanese Yen to the dollar is at a 32 year low, so lots of Japanese collectors are liquidating them and selling to buyers overseas (mostly in America).

These collectors then only have immaterial access to their collections - images and memories.

Matt Griffin:

There are important distinctions between player-made mods and official re-releases. There's more freedom to mix-and-match. Legality is an interesting question. Mods aren't strict emulations (in the code sense).

Court case in 2016 found you can't copyright ALL of a game. For example, you can't copyright game mechanics. Player-made mods do give players a sense of ownership.

People get introduced to older "texts" (video games) through these mods - e.g. you play an area in A Hat in Time, and decide to then go explore the game it's originally from.

Reproducing a cartridge like Limited Run games does introduces a new materiality that's different from mods. The gatekeepers are different: purchase vs. download from fansite.

Emma ✨:

Players of D&D often have a strong intertextual awareness before they even sit down at the table, usually have engaged deeply with fantasy through literature, film, video games.

There's often either a dissatisfaction with or true love of fantasy media that the player brings to the table and uses as inspiration for their character.

If the rules are dissatisfying/frustrating (e.g. I want to play as a dark elf and it's wrong of the rules to penalize me for that), this is where homebrew comes in. This leads to players & DMs bring worldview to the game.

based on personal experience, "play seems to become more valued as you have less recreational time." When work happens at home during lockdown, it can feel like all of life is work so

Additionally, the interpersonal aspect adds extra value. For example, RPing just hanging out in a pub became a fantasy it was valuable to play out.

Rules can give real-world obstacles a clear stat block and make it possible to fight these things in a really satisfying way.

Dylan McGee:

Unlicensed toys also became part of the market and are often more highly valued by collectors than official, licensed ones.

#FSNNA22 Keynote: Turn On, Tune In, Get Out: Rethinking Escapism and Domestic Spectatorship

Caetlin Benson-Allott:

Beginning Turn On, Tune In, Get Out: Rethinking Escapism and Domestic Spectatorship

articulates the need for a theory of escapism, specifically as respite

has never felt the need to get out more than the past few years but where is there to go?

Theory: escapism as a spectatorial mode, one way viewers interpolate cultural objects

"Escapism is a desire that viewers bring to media irrespective of its genre, spectacle, exhibition context, or reception culture"

Viewers bring escapism, not vice versa.

Critics call things "escapist" when they think media's artistic merit doesn't align with its popularity

Escapism is frequently deployed in reference to media that has large fan communities

Historicizing the term "escapist," which was coined in the 1930s. (Benson-Allott is including a lot of detail so look out for her book on this topic later.)

"Escapism" is used both to argue that art should uphold morals AND that art doesn't need to engage with contemporary issues.

"Escapist" is used by critics to indicate a disconnect between a piece of art and themselves.

Previous work (by only 2 scholars) looks at escapism and whose pleasure is marginalized.

Others have focused on genre but not looked at how or why viewers engage in escapism.

As a viewer's sensibility changes, the viewer needs different escape.

If different types of movies can provide escape in a shared geocultural moment, then escapism can't be located in a particular piece of media or genre.

Escape from what? Not necessarily about a change of locale. "If it were, all fantasy films would supply escape to all viewers."

"Escape may be hard to achieve, but it is not site-specific."

Dr. Kimberly Hirsh at #FSNNA22:

Lots of talk here about how what we're escaping is being ourselves, which makes me think about the Daniel Tiger song: "You can change your hair or what you wear but no matter what you do, you're still you."

Caetlin Benson-Allott:

"Because pleasure is a process, it represents an escap-ing, rather than an escape."

"It cannot be an end, because it ends."

We can find escapism in media that acknowledges inequity and injustice.

"Desiring escape is not the same as desiring oblivion or obliviousness..."

Dr. Kimberly Hirsh at #FSNNA22:

Seriously this work is super rich and I can't possibly capture it all in a Twitter thread.

Caetlin Benson-Allott:

Escape as ex-cendance: getting out so you can go back