Mr. Flibbles and the Bad Luck, Really Kind of Terrible Day

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I am not one to read too much into omens, as much as I have a habit of tracking the feathers I find and am most likely more superstitious than I like to let on.

After about a year and two other attempts and patterns, I have finally started another sweater using some of the handspun I was working on last year. I’m hoping it’ll get me to get Freya out of storage, work down fiber, and I really honestly need my hands busy right now. I decided the problem has been that I’ve been forcing a yarn that really doesn’t want to be a cable into a cable, and decided I like the yarn in a rib much more. Ribbing is really forgiving so it’s actually a helpful move-I actually am aiming for bulky and heavy, for Buffalo winters, and the shaping with be that much easier.

So I happily packed my bag for work, got a few rows in before shift started and then the worst happened.

The damnable needle broke in my bag. And proverbial hell broke loose.

I remember hearing somewhere in my 20 years of fiber wanderings-though Internetlandia is failing me to back it up-that breaking a needle is a hugely negative omen. And within half an hour I was in fights, embarrassing scheduling mishaps and somehow have forgotten how to spell.

I have been knitting for 20 years and this is the first needle I’ve had go on me in the middle of a project. The sheer amount of tension and conflict in the rest of the day makes me want to hunker down in a woolly shelter. I’m not necessarily saying I’m sure it was the needle…but the needle didn’t help.

Those Across the River

Those Across the River

Christopher Buehlman

368 pages

Accessed as an audiobook

When I started this book, I was working under the assumption that this would end up being a review for August-August is Ghost Month.

I am always excited when I completely misread a plot and end up somewhere else entirely. The way that Buehlman invokes Black Shuck should have said something to me, but it didn’t, and I love him for it. This is not a ghost story in the traditional sense.

Except that it almost is. I think that this is one of those gothic horror pieces where the meat of the plot, the whole of the details that make up the majority of the action but not necessarily the main push of the novel, are the best aspect of the book. This is definitely firmly in the realm of war horror-but from the angle of what war does to a man more than the war itself. Frank’s main battle is with himself and there are hints that it could easily become as dangerous and potentially fatal as whatever is going on outside of him. World War I never really ends for him, and everything that he does (and I do mean, everything) is tinted by his war experiences. He is as haunted by his own past as whatever it is he’s found in his new home.

There is a lot of folklore running through this piece-and it’s arguable that the symbolism here may be deliberate (maybe it’s not the pigs the town should have given up-maybe it’s Frank that should have given up the sacrifice of the people he left during the war). It doesn’t cross the line into full folkloric horror and it doesn’t stray too far into the realm of monster fiction. I have read reviews that argue the piece is Lovecraftian and I honestly have to say that I don’t see it-not that it’s a weakness to the book by any means.

It’s hard to give away too much of this plot, but at the same time maybe not-the book is heavily driven by the interpersonal politics in a small Southern town. Frank Nichols moves his partner Dora to the family homestead in Georgia with the intention of writing the history of his family-including the infamy of their slave ownership. There are rumors of something in the woods and Frank’s experiences makes him wonder if the rumors aren’t accurate. However, he couldn’t have possibly foreseen what is actually out there.

In terms of classic monster fiction, this is much more enjoyable if you fall on the Dog Soldiers end of the spectrum as opposed to the Universal Wolf Man. But I do love me some Dog Soldiers

52 in 52 Update

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I can’t tell if I’m well ahead of schedule (5 months to finish another 11 books) or if I’m behind (5 months to finish another 11 books…). I did reactivate my library card-I want access to free Ebooks. The upside to this is that a good chunk of my Amazon wishlist is relatively new releases-which is primarily what Overdrive offers. So I should be able to read books I’ve been wanting to read, for free, with no commitment (the fact that you can’t get a late fine with Overdrive is also appealing). Buffalo, if you have a Kindle, get an Erie County card and use Overdrive.

  1. A Murder in Mount Moriah
  2. Hairspray and Homicide
  3. A Mouthful of Murder
  4. Green Lake
  5. Pineapple Lies: A Pineapple Port Cozy Mystery
  6. Who Murdered Mr. Malone?
  7. The Shining
  8. Dead Leaves
  9. Mechantula
  10. Ted Saves the World
  11. Haunted New York
  12. Murder Under Construction
  13. Murder on the Page
  14. Death Takes a Trip
  15. Sharcano
  16. I Bring the Fire Part 1
  17. Dead Shifter Walking
  18. A Head Full of Ghosts
  19. Shifty Magic
  20. The Long Way Down
  21. A Feral Darkness
  22. A Narco History
  23. The Virginian
  24. The Halloween Host
  25. Halloween Tales
  26. At the Sign of the Jack o Lantern
  27. Crazy Little Thing
  28. Only Yesterday
  29. Grim Tidings
  30. Walking After Midnight: Tales for Halloween
  31. Death of Addie Gray
  32. Owning Your Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche
  33. Urban Shaman
  34. Just Add Trouble
  35. Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet
  36. The Sweet Dreams Bake Shop
  37. The Creature from the Bridgewater Triangle and other Odd Tales From New England
  38. Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection
  39. The Bucolic Plague
  40. Money Secrets of the Amish
  41. The Worst Noel

 

The Unborn [2009]

Either The Unborn is a remake of a movie I’ve already seen, I’ve actually seen this already at some point, or this movie is just so driven by tropes that I might as well have already seen it. I honestly can’t tell.

In some cases, movies that run off of nothing but tropes can still be entertaining. They really have to subvert tropes to hit the ‘good’ level, but if you’ve been following along with this blog for any amount of time, I’m much more interested in entertainment value than structural quality. Because a movie can be perfect in construction and be a terrible bore; my favorite movies are the ones that I can pull the technical quality, sociological strength, and entertainment out of the piece. However, that being said, you can still have a movie that is enjoyable and a valid use of ‘self care’ destressing time and not be that awesome of a film otherwise.

I’m not sure that this one hits that level though. I feel like there’s a lot of plot elements that get a little convoluted and a little overly complicated compared to the rest of the film (how the protagonist finds out the main push of the tension seems a little clunkier than is necessary) and there’s a few points that seem to be slightly out of place for the rest of the film-the ghost, such as it is, seems to be out of sync with the rest of the movie (the clothing especially seems out of place). While this actually is linked to the rest of the plot, the fact that the protagonist never stops and goes ‘hey, why does this ghost not fit in with 2009?’ when she seems to be capable of latching onto every other aspect of the haunting bothers me a little. I know that it’s getting a little compulsive with the details, but it did bother me.

There are a few other points that don’t sit well with me, for quasi-social politics reasons. There is a subplot involving mental illness that plays out in ways that my non-neurotypical self is not entirely thrilled with. While it makes sense for the plot, “I would rather believe my mother was haunted than accept her mental illness” feels a little hysterical and not exactly healthy to me*. I also have issues with pregnancy in horror-it’s a weird way of Othering a state that is deeply connected to women in a way that rarely occurs to men and fatherhood. There’s a weird usage of pregnancy and by extension women/femininity as a vessel, doorway, or other liminal state and strip the humanity out of the woman in question. You are nothing but a means to an end! And then the emphasis gets shifted away from the woman who is endangered, to the unborn child, thus further dehumanizing the character…it just gets very awkward very quickly and it’s very rarely done well.

Do I have to state outright that I feel like it’s not done well here?

I feel like maybe I’m coming down too hard on a film that may be best viewed as a soda and popcorn film. I feel like perhaps I am being slightly harder on this movie than I would otherwise be…because it’s a movie that straddles the possession/haunting line and I sort of wish it were a stronger piece than it is, because there’s so much that could have been done, but the production team went with an established set of tropes instead of pushing envelopes. Even just strengthening the effects would have made this a better film. If you’re the type of person who likes films that play with world folklore [even if in this case it’s just taking out the word ‘ghost’ and replacing it with the word ‘dybbuk’], really likes to watch as much ghost and haunting related horror as you can, or if it’s just a slow, stormy afternoon, then why not watch it? But I’m not recommending seeing this one on the strength of the piece alone.

* I actually am not a reviewer that requires every image to be ‘perfect’, as in, I don’t need every piece to feel like it’s handled in the most accepting, representative way possible. At the end of it, we’re talking about horror. But it is possible to fall too far to the other side where the handling of a image or trait such as gender, race, sexuality, mental health, etc falls into category of a secondary monster in and of itself, where the trait is almost as undesirable as whatever is driving the plot. In some cases that’s a valid angle to portray, especially when it is an active motivation on the part of a character or is pivotal to the actions taken in place driving the story line [Psycho wouldn’t be Psycho if we were taking a loving, open stance on mental health], but if it’s just an added layer of interaction and therefore crosses the line into stigma, I have issue with the usage. While it might have made a weaker image, the fact that the character here is quicker to accept ‘possession’ than to accept ‘depression’ is a major issue in terms of mental health stigmatization.

 

In Season Produce-June

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What is in season for your particular region will vary. Check with local growth charts (or watch what is going on sale at your farmer’s markets and grocers) for particular harvest patterns.

Apricots

Beets

Blueberries

Canteloupe

Carrots (some, regional)

Cherries

Early corn (regional)

Early peas

Early stone fruits like peaches

Green beans

Hot peppers

Kiwi

Radishes

Strawberries (regional)

Yellow Squash

Lettuces-Boston, green leaf, red leaf

Green onions

Watermelon

In Western New York, produce this end of the month is still sort of slim pickings. It’ll pick up as we get closer to July. However, I did get a head of local Boston lettuce for under a dollar tonight. This is a good time of year for WNY to start centering on local and seasonal-local and seasonal is always a good idea, but unless you’re in a growing zone with a long time range, it can be difficult at best to do. This is the time to start freezing, canning, and drying for those of us with a three month growing span.

The Wolves are Burning: Living with PMDD

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There’s really no reason I’m writing this post -now- except that I was sitting at my laptop thinking about the fact that I haven’t blogged in a week or so.

For some background, to ground out this entry a little. I was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) in 2005,  but there is strong indication that I had been showing symptoms as early as 1997 (roughly the start of puberty, in my case). This disorder, not to exaggerate, basically ran my life for a very long time and caused all sorts of, um, interesting situations develop throughout my life cycle.

It is hard to describe how PMDD differs from ‘normal’ PMS because you’re almost talking about two completely different things. Sometimes PMDD is framed in the media as ‘exceptionally bad’ PMS which I have honestly seen lead to women trying to self diagnose, or worse, downplay what those of us with PMDD go through on a monthly basis-well I cry and get annoyed and eat a lot of chocolate and bloat. I don’t require medication and other interventions.

There is such as  thing as severe PMS, and I am the first to admit that part of the issue is that we don’t talk about either reproductive or mental health with nearly the level of respect that we talk about other health conditions. But here’s the thing: women are sometimes pushed to the point of suicidal ideation with PMDD. This disorder destroys marriages, interferes with women’s ability to work, and drastically impacts quality of life. This is in large part due to the nature of the disorder itself: the easiest way to frame PMDD may be to view it as a hormonally triggered disorder more similar to bipolar than PMS. You really can’t relate this to PMS other than the fact that it hits each woman somewhere between ovulation and active menstruation each month. In order to get a diagnosis you need to experience symptoms to the level of life disruption for multiple cycles a year.

No woman will experience symptoms in the same way (I get the anger and anxiety issues, other women get intense energy shifts, other women have issues with food), or at the same point in the cycle the same way-I can actually tell when I’m heading into my flare point when I start obsessing about money. No joke. It’s almost a 100% success for me. No two cycles will hit the same way, and you can go multiple cycles with no symptoms and then hit a flare that almost shuts you down completely.

Symptoms shift over time and won’t necessarily show in every flare. Average symptoms include:

irritability ranging into anger control issues

depression

anxiety

extreme bloating

changes in interest in food

fatigue, including intense fatigue

changes in the sleep cycle

impulse control issues

A sense of a loss of control, both over self and over life events

Extreme mood swings

Physical symptoms connected to PMS such as breast tenderness

Again, this is not a full list and these symptoms have to range beyond what would normally experience with PMS, and need to reduce or end completely at menstruation [it is a very odd sensation to actually feel your hormones shift, because you can -feel your mental state change as it does-]. I also need to stress that this is not ‘hysteria’ or ‘overreacting’-while it took perhaps longer than necessary for PMDD to end up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V, it is in there as a recognized disorder. It is however fairly rare, with an estimate as high as 8% of women experiencing these types of disruptions-however, not to get into gender politics, but it might be a lot higher since women are so actively discouraged to talk about this aspect of their health.

So what does it feel like to actually live like this? It is an extreme study in balancing. There is still a lot of research going on to determine base causes, whether it’s a brain chemistry issue, if it’s a hormonal issue, if it’s something else entirely. It’s knowing that for two weeks a month  I can suddenly flare and basically fall apart. It’s fighting your brain all the time. It’s a constant search for what ‘works’ for treatment.

In terms of treatment I’ve tried a great deal and have finally found a working system. Often women are put on both hormones and SSRIs for symptom control (hormones to hold your levels steady since it seems to be the shifting that sets of symptoms, and SSRIs for the mental health symptoms). Some women experience symptoms intense enough to require surgical interventions. I can’t take either SSRIs or estrogen for medical reasons, so I have developed this balance for myself:

-Buddhist style Zen and mindfulness work

-Mantra work

-Exercise [a minimum of four miles walked a day for it to work]

-dietary changes including low carbs two weeks a year and low levels of red meat

-D3

-Magnesium

-B vitamins

-Passion flower extracts

-Cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT]

-Progesterone

So basically constant walking or dancing and at least five pills a day two weeks a month. The trade off is that I have maybe one ‘bad’ flare a year now-but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the year is awesome, it just means that I’m not waking up screaming into a panic attack or getting enraged suddenly.

[This is one of those disorders that impacts the people interact with the women flaring as much as it does the women themselves. I would love to get Mid to write or dictate his experiences, because he’s had to deal with some intense…shit. I have no other word for it, since being with me. He once described a time we went out in public during a flare in which I was pushed into a confrontation as ‘the time Katie rode in on a pack of burning wolves.’ It’s been called wolf week in my household ever since.]

Pinterest Made Me Do It-The Tomato Slice Hack

heirloom sprouts

I haven’t posted one of these in a good long while.

The idea is that instead of trying to sprout and grow individual seeds you cut up a tomato and plant that.

I…never actually read the original post. So some of what I did I seem to have done wrong, and some of what I did, I did on the advice of wiser Facebook friends.

There doesn’t seem to be much more to the pin/viral post other than chop up a tomato, plant it in a pot, wait for a plant. Here’s what I was told by word of mouth: the tomato should be an heirloom tomato in order for it to have a chance to actually grow tomatoes, and that the tomato should be sliced thin.

So two things here:

  1. I actually have access to heirloom tomatoes. While I wanted a black one I ended up with a plum/Roma type. It was the smallest, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on this, and I’ve heard since then that blacks are really finicky to grow. The fact that I have steady access to heirlooms seems surprising to people. I’m working off the assumption it was actually an heirloom,it was in the heirloom bin.
  2. I found out about the ‘thin’ thing after the fact. I didn’t slice it thin. About as thin as you would for a hamburger, I ended up with 4 slices.

I’m not sure what happened to my fancy planting photo but it’s boring. I will say this though since I don’t know if it’s actually relevant here. I drowned the pot two or three times before I realized that the pot wasn’t draining properly and I transplanted it to the pot it’s in now. The soaking wet potting soil may be a factor here, I don’t know.

Perhaps this is me being unfair but the other thing I noticed is that it took a good while for them to sprout. I was actually about to dump the pot and use it for herbs when I dug up one of the slices and found it full of sprouts. Now that it’s going, though, I’ve gotten a ton of sprouts and the entry photo is the first thinning.

*Again, I’m working off the assumption the tomato was an heirloom. Since I can’t verify that, I’m considering the post a success-the pin was about planting tomatoes and getting them to grow. They grew. I didn’t plant with the end goal of a huge crop of tomatoes.

**I’m practicing what I call Meh gardening. I planted them. I put them in the sun, the neighbors seem to tolerate where they’re at. They get watered if it’s really dry (that’s the bottle in the photo), otherwise I let them get watered when it rains. I haven’t fed them, I haven’t done anything other than pick obvious dandelion seeds out of the pot. If they grow awesome if not oh well. I’m taking the stance that nature doesn’t mess with plants and neither will I. If I feel like feeding them once they get bigger I will if not, okay too.