Marginalia: When you’re intrigued but simultaneously despise it.

A friend posted a photo on Twitter recently, showing a library book she was reading that had notes in the margins. Someone had been writing notes in pen, either for their own edification, or for a class, or other study of some sort.1  Someone else followed later in pencil, critiquing the previous reader’s spelling and adopting a bit of tone. She captioned the photo tagging a mutual friend and mentioned he seemed like the sort who would write the second note, but said she knew better. He noted it couldn’t be him, because he didn’t write in all caps any more. I cut in and noted if I didn’t abhor writing in books, I’d wonder if I’d written the 2nd note (hashtag postitlover). At this point, yet another friend piped in with simply one word: “Marginalia!” At which point, I remembered a half-dozen things and mumbled I should write a blog about marginalia. Font Folly thought this would be a fun read. So. Here is a bit of un-packing of my thoughts.

In college (or high school, but I recall it the most in college), books are bought (really leased) and then later sold back in book stores, and you end up with used books that are loaded with notes; in the margins, on the page, within the tables, and along the lists.

If you were very lucky, you had a book that was previously used by a smart note-taker. More often, you have people who aren’t always paying complete attention to the teacher.

So I developed an extreme hatred for notes in the margin of biology, chemistry, history, political science and theory books. Even more, as I was an English major, I detested notes in the margins of novels; textbooks of essays, short stories, and poems; and plays. Because I could never experience the work unaffected by others. I never could get a first, unadulterated read.

I quickly discovered most professors had no sympathy for that argument:
“Just ignore it!”
But how do you ignore words on the page when you’re reading?
“Well, you ignore footnotes, don’t you?”
NO! They’re there to be read, and put there by the author or the editor! They’re intended to be part of the work.
“Wait, you actually read the footnotes?!”
Why wouldn’t I?!
“No one else does!”

Eventually, I figured out that not everyone reads in blocks and absorbs at least a general idea of the block of text at a quick glance.

I have to slow down significantly when reading aloud, because I can’t grab all of the text at once. It won’t come out of my mouth right. I recognize that’s not the best example. Everyone has to slow down a little bit to read aloud. Another example: I glance at a sign or ad block, or even a phone screen; and while I rarely get it exact, I can generally summarize what I saw without particularly trying. In fact, I have to work very hard to ignore or focus on just bits at a time. It’s a nice challenge, if I’m looking to do it. But if I’m trying to simply absorb the knowledge I’m reading, it’s a nuisance.

On the other hand, when I’m reading an article about how a historian or archeologist has discovered something new about monks, or normal people, based in part on the study of marginalia, and how those people were interacting with books and papers they found important at the time; I’m incredibly interested and want to read all about it! Yes, I even want to read those pages, myself! Because then it’s historical record, and in some way, my brain has decided it’s okay, even intended, to be experienced in such a way.

I do realize; it’s a hypocritical reaction. But I can’t deny I find the sociological implications very intriguing and even enthralling.

So I can’t say I hate marginalia. Because it’s more that I have a complicated relationship with it. I would prefer to use post it notes myself, when keeping notes2, and not have to see others’ notes when I’m studying something actively; but I do love that they exist and that there are things we can learn from them.

 

1. Honestly, I think the original reader was arguing with the text and couldn’t resist him or herself.
2. A reading journal would be awesome, but I’m not that organized and I recognize that about myself.

A brief update, and a wish for the season

Haven’t blogged in a while.

Honestly not entirely sure what to write about now. But I thought I should check in for a few reasons.

NaNoWriMo – a bust this year. I did worse than last year, which is horribly disappointing. I have some ideas as to why: lack of discipline, an overabundance of depression (how ’bout that election, Fred?) and a bit of seasonal (but not seasonal affective disorder) depression. All are legitimate reasons for my failure, both at 50,000 words and my sub-goal of beating last year’s total (I wanted to manage at least 30,000 words). The very bitchy part of myself says I should have been able to push past those things. And maybe if it had been 2 of 3, I could have. But 3 of 3 was too much this year, and I’m trying to give myself a pass. I did succeed in updating my Scrivener app so I can write on my iPad which is easier to carry than the laptop, and even DID write out and about at least 3 separate times. I just need to make an effort to improve. So, I will.

Not listed in the argh above is the stress of planning a home purchase and move. We haven’t packed as much as I’d like, and it’s throwing off holidays and other things. It probably even contributed to NaNo#Fail. But it’s coming along and hopefully, things will be finalized next month and we’ll be in our first house. It’s the first one I’ve owned, and my hubby is treating it as the first one he has owned – even though technically it’s not – because it’s been so long since the last purchase, and it’s so different, being a stick frame built as opposed to a manufactured placed on a foundation.

Various awesome things have happened this year. Various ugh things have happened this year. Mostly, I’ve wanted to vent about the ugh things, but I don’t feel 100% safe doing that in this space, and haven’t. I’m not entirely sure how I want to deal with that, but I’ve found a tiny steam valve and am starting to use it a bit more. I think it’s safe, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s a short form location though, and sometimes, I want long form. So it could very well change in the future.

Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday. And the anniversary of his death. He’s been gone 12 years, as of roughly 8am (slightly earlier, if I recall correctly) tomorrow morning, and there are days when I miss him dreadfully. On Christmas night, it will be the anniversary of mom’s death. She’ll have been gone 6 years. I’ve missed her worse this year than in a very long time. Most of that is the election. Some of that is the house. Some of it is a couple of movies I really think she’d have enjoyed so much. Sometimes, I blog specifically about those days. But this year, work is… work. And I don’t think I’ll have that luxury, so I’m just going to leave this hear and remember them as best I can in the moment.

I wish the merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of holidays to all of you. Whether you’re a dear friend who happens to stumble on this space and we speak daily, or you’re a stranger who just sees it in passing, know that there is a person in the world who does, honestly, hope that everyone is able to enjoy a moment of pure joy this season. We all deserve it, no matter what anyone anywhere says or does.

What feels “normal”?

I was thinking about it the other night, when doing the dishes, and I can’t really remember not knowing someone who is not straight. I can remember not having a word for it, or not completely understanding why we never got to meet the person they were dating, but for as long as there have been “not blood family” people that interacted with my family, there were always men who didn’t have girlfriends or wives, and occasionally women who didn’t have boyfriends or husbands in my life. I’m 43 years old. I’m not a kid.

So when people would say things about men being bad to little boys, I’d have extreme doubts they knew what they were talking about. Because J was one of my favorite babysitters. He was an awesome cook, he would listen to the reasons for building cushion and tinker-toy forts the way we built them (you have to use the tinker-toys so you can make a tent roof out of sheets), and realize that yes; I’m a girl, but I still don’t believe he’d do bad things to little boys. And when I finally got around to asking mom why he didn’t have a girlfriend or wife, because he’d be an awesome daddy, and she explained he didn’t date in town and why, my first reaction was: Oh, okay. And then I was sad. Because it was stupid. I was so excited many years later to know he DID get married and he and his husband had a daughter they adopted. And I was even more sad to know that he passed away later, and I’d never gotten to hug him again. I think I first met J when I was 5.

There are others, obviously, that have been in and out of my life. Students and co-workers of my dad’s, my own teachers, students I went to school with (and occasionally had crushes on). But non-straight people have been people who were normal (and yet very quiet and careful) for more or less all of my life that I’ve been aware of other people. And to me, literally the only different things about them were: they loved someone who was the same gender as them (mostly, I don’t remember many people as a kid who said they were asexual, although I wonder about a few and if they just didn’t have a word for it then), and they were almost always scared to talk about it except with very trusted close friends and family. And I always accepted what they wanted, because it’s their life, but it still made me sad.

A lot of those friends and family are scared now, and I believe they have every reason to be. And I keep trying to figure out why there are still people in the world who judge people who are LGBTQ+ as evil, or sinning, or anything negative, and I wonder if it isn’t because they’ve never known that they know people who are. I grew up in a town of under 9,000 people, you see. Yes, I had the advantage of that town being home to a four-year university of about that size enrollment, but still. It was in Texas. There were more than 100 churches of various faiths (but mostly protestant type Christian – some evangelical) there. And I still was aware. On the other hand, I have also been aware that my habit of taking people at face-value can be rare. I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic by those who are more jaded. At the same time, I’ve been accused of being pessimistic when I’ve tried to be careful – because of being jaded myself by people’s reactions.

So I still get trapped in a circular headspace of how? How do you decide that just because that woman on TV loves another woman, she’s a sinner and horrible; when you know nothing else about her? Why assume that a man who loves men is broken in some way, when you know nothing else about him? If they have done something else – robbed a store, thrown a burning match into a school, stolen their neighbors identity to buy a car – then fine! They are obviously not nice. But just about who they love or want to have sex with?

Bi-sexual people are not immediately kinkier than anyone else just for being attracted to two genders. I myself, for a very long time, have noticed women more than other women seem to. Yes, quite a few women look at other women or will objectively note that one or another is pretty. But I really sometimes wonder – am I actually attracted to them? There have been feelings for individual women that have been really close to what I’d call a “crush”, based on crushes I’ve had on men. I still can’t decide if that makes me bi-sexual. And frankly, writing this paragraph scares me because I am putting it out in public, and my face is on my blog. But beyond being supportive in my votes and my charitable contributions, perhaps I ought to just also be more open about myself.

Because I would be very willing to bet that the straight cis people who keep othering those in the LGBTQ+ community know more people in that community, trust more people in that community, go to church with and shop with more people in that community, than they think they do.

Link: The Southern Poverty Law Center/Responding To Everyday Bigotry — Captain Awkward

This excellent guide is full of gentle, direct scripts pulled from real situations. Speak Up: Responding To Everyday Bigotry

via Link: The Southern Poverty Law Center/Responding To Everyday Bigotry — Captain Awkward

I’m sharing this link as a way to keep track of it for myself, but also because it looks so helpful in general. I would love to think we would need it less, but I don’t think that’s a realistic hope, and it’s better to be prepared.

Overwhelmed

I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.

When I did, I knew I probably wouldn’t make my 5o,000 words. Not because I’m a pessimist – I’d really like to finish that many, and I think some day I will, even if it’s not some November. No, it was because we’re trying to get into a house before the end of the year, and historically, I’m sort of worthless for the last week of the month because of Thanksgiving. Some of that is just the holiday and the responsibilities I place on myself for it – cooking, hosting, and so on. Some of that is that my favorite season (autumn through Christmas) has gotten complicated with grief over the last 12 years or so. So, while I’d like to get 50k, my actually goal is to beat last year’s total, which was around 27.5k. I got more than halfway there! I was very happy with that, as I decided to start late, and I definitely failed the last week of November. So that was about 2.5 weeks of writing, really.

I forgot to take the election into account.

So many of my friends (and many polls and political writers) have been so sure Clinton would win. I wasn’t. I kept seeing horrible reports across my social media about people who I would never believe would support Trump supporting him. Counseling Center staff. Religious women. Hell, women in general. Veterans who were furious that other presidents had dodged military service – or made fun of veterans were supporting him. I’ve been nervous for weeks, but I was allowing myself to hope a bit more than even I guess I realized, even though in private messages to my uncle, a Hillary supporter, I would express fear. 

Because it didn’t occur to me how devastated I would feel if he won. Don’t get me wrong. I was and am terrified. I’m already seeing reports of violence related to sexism and racism. But I didn’t take into account how much I would grieve knowing a significant amount of the population CHOSE him, or CHOSE to not vote at all. Voter turnout in my county was considered extremely high, and still 30% of the eligible public did not participate. They decided that it didn’t matter. There were so many close states. And who knows, maybe they would have voted for him anyway. But they still would have participated. 

I want to be able to focus to write in my story. It’s interesting. I like my characters. But I can’t. 

Every single damn time I start to open the file I get worried about someone else in my life who is likely to lose health benefits. Or be attacked running errands, because their skin is the wrong color or their accent is different from the norm. Or someone ASSUMES something about them based on the way they dress or present themselves. Or they’re told their marriage isn’t real and they’re violently attacked. Or they’re told to just leave the damn country then. 

I hope I can focus again, and get more words in that story and move on with life. But right this minute, I’m still grieving the fact that so many people are so selfish that they are putting their own desires above the true needs of their fellow countrymen. I know that I’ll continue to vote, write representatives about bills, and donate what I can afford. But more than ever, I’m also scared to voice my opinion and realities in my real life, because the person who appears to be sympathetic is just as likely not to be. This election has proven that beyond the usual level.

Weapons of Mass Creation

Creating the things. I like to create things. Sadly, sometimes I create half-finished or un-finished things, more than complete things.

I even have a t-shirt that reads Weapons of Mass Creation (I wore it yesterday in fact) that shows things like a fountain pen, paint brush, pencil, crochet hook and knitting needles.

Sometimes, figuring out and focusing on the way that I want to create/make art/make things in the moment I’m feeling like making a thing is more challenging than I’d like. Is it necessary to focus on just 1 or 2? To improve my skill level, I’d have to say yes. I’m not going to magically be able to draw technically well without practice. Or to paint well without practice. Or to have consistently good cookies or pie or dinner without practice. To just enjoy whatever I’m making though – maybe/maybe not? Sometimes, just the act of crocheting or writing can be satisfying.

Sketching / Writing / Crochet / Baking / Cooking

I enjoy fiddling about with all those things.

I’ve managed about half the words for a successful NaNoWriMo (and am planning on participating again next month). I’ve participated in the Camp NaNoWriMo’s and … well, not necessarily succeeded but have definitely increased word count, which is a sort of success, because of the Camp’s relaxed rules.

I sketch as the mood strikes me. In fact, on my drive home this morning from my sister’s house, I decided that instead of buying a birthday card and wrapping supplies for my godson’s birthday gift (already purchased), I’d use comics and draw him a thematically appropriate card. I got him a tackle box for fishing. He’s just getting into it, and really excited. So I googled an image of a trout, and found a rainbow trout that looked simple enough for me to recreate in colored pencil. It came out pretty darn well. Sometimes, that happens. Sometimes it does. I want desperately to draw and no topic comes to mind.

I haven’t crocheted in a while. I should. We’re getting to the right season for it again. So maybe, soon.

And of course I cook several times a week, even if I’m not always baking. Luckily, cooking and baking are basically just chemistry with instructions; once you have a basic idea for how things interact with each other, you’re set. There’s a baking school starting up north that I’d really love to attend. I hope it does well. I’d like it to succeed so that I can try to attend some semester in the future.

But the thing is, they’re all hobbies. They aren’t things I do to earn a living. I like dabbling here and there. But I do sort of wish I could improve more quickly. (And I haven’t even addressed things like musical instruments or coding, which I haven’t truly touched in years.) But again, without focusing…

So, am I thinking too hard about focusing? Is it just finding something to whine about?

Is the fact that I’m writing about it to explore the idea just an expression of the easiest to explore or is it a sign I should focus on writing?

Any or all answers are probably true.

I wonder how people think of me? Do they think of me as an artist or consumer? Depending on which, what kind of artist/consumer?

Some of this triggered by Patreon. Some is just standard existential questions that wander through my brain in passing. Maybe my brain just can’t stand a quiet moment and feels compelled to mutter at me in the brief ones I have. Anyone else have those moments?

Staycations and Use of Time

My current place of employment has some really nice perks for employees. Among them, is a pretty fluid time off policy. However, in order to comply with various state (and in our case, city) ordinances, we also have some things in the handbook that seem to suggest we do not have a fluid time off policy. Like our use-it-or-lose-it vacation time.

We have 40 hours of vacation time that, if I remember correctly, zeroes out and restarts at 40 upon hire-date anniversary. Which means that in mid-July, my vacation time resets at 40 and I have to use that time, or it goes away and resets at 40. And management really doesn’t want us to separate that out. We need to use all 5 days at once. We can wrap them around a weekend, if we want, or we can use them Monday through Friday, but we can’t use them one at a time here and there. That’s what discretionary PTO (personal time-off) requests are for. And that’s where the fluidity enters into play, because as long as you aren’t asking for time off during a black-out period (basically when conventions happen or mandated holidays) then it’s more than likely going to be approved. We also have 40 hours of sick time that front-loads in January. It’s gone when it’s gone, but again, we have PTO to fall back on, plus a variety of other things that could be used (because of the FMLA, for one).

So I knew I had 40 hours of time that I should use, as a block, coming up. And I’ve been feeling vaguely short-tempered occasionally (not necessarily about work, actually – more about some things I can’t control but am still stressing about), and wouldn’t mind taking time off, but I didn’t want to take off a whole week at once. Because hopefully, in December, I’m going to be moving and a chunk of readily available time off would be very useful! But after talking it over with my manager, it was determined that it would be better to ask for PTO in that case, and hurry up and use my time off. So I’ve had a staycation this week.

It’s been interesting. I’ve mostly let myself sleep in. Ridiculously so on Monday.

I made a list Sunday, of things I have been putting off, or just basic chores that we have a hard time getting to on the weekends for one reason or another. I’ve mostly worked through it. There were a few items that I thought about putting on the list and didn’t; mostly because I knew I’d have a hard time accomplishing them and saw no reason to depress myself. But I’m further along that I was afraid I’d be by this time, so I’m happy.

I have a few little things to do tomorrow that are errand related, and some more general housekeeping to do, and I think that I’ll be happy enough with things that I can reward myself with a day-trip to the coast, which was also a goal for the week.

I’ve also been reading a little more, here and there, which is nice. I haven’t finished anything yet, as far as actual books are concerned, but that’s all right. It feels nice to just read. And it’s good practice. Reading is important for writing and I really want to try NaNoWriMo again in November.

Mostly unrelated to the staycation, but coincidentally, I’ve also been playing a lot more of Borderlands 2 with friends, and that has been particularly awesome! I really am glad to finally be doing that more. I like playing with them a lot. So far the only downside seems to be wishing I saw them in person more regularly as well.

So yeah, much as I was stubbornly pouty about being “forced” to have vacation earlier than I wanted (even though I did ultimately choose the dates), I think it’s been worth it so far. Now to keep enjoying the time off through Sunday!