Sunday, July 18, 2021

Hand Calamity, Wabi-Sabi, Against Gratitude

I’ve been dealing all week with a horrific infected cut on the back of my hand, which finally necessitated a visit to the Emergency Department when it started rapidly blistering in the middle of a Skype meeting with my boss. The wound is in the worse place possible for healing—the back of my dominant hand close to the webbing of my thumb, which makes it impossible keep the skin from constantly moving and flexing. As I have watched this wound bubble and swell and calm and ever-so-slowly heal like a living being with a will of its own, I have been thinking a lot about the Japanese art of Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art of mending broken pottery with lacquer that has been dusted in gold, silver or platinum. The philosophy of Kintsugi is that breakage is a part of the history of ceramic ware and its repair should be illuminated rather than disguised and hidden. It is in alignment with the concept of wabi-sabi which is an embracing of the flawed and imperfect. To quote Christy Bartlett Flickwerk in The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics: “The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject.” When this injury is healed, there will be a definitely be a scar. It will be part of the story of my human fragility and the resilience of my body. Perhaps I will dust it in gold powder so it will light up and glow for all the world to marvel at.

I have also been thinking this week about gratitude. I’m beginning to realize that used wrongly, the concept of gratitude can be both a self-trap and a method of controlling people. Gratitude has become a corporate buzzword and a publishing boon for shallow self-help books that proliferate in what I call the Bliss Ninny section of chain bookstores. I think it’s cruel to ask people to remember to be grateful when they are in the middle of dealing with, for example, a prolonged pandemic or a medical or financial crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, gratitude itself is not a spiritual practice and trying to force it onto yourself or other people is to negate and distract from what is not okay in your life or the lives of others. It can be a way to avoid action, to tell yourself that you don’t need or deserve more, or that you should ignore your dissatisfaction and ennui because you “have more than others” or “it could always be worse.” I especially dislike the proliferation of “gratitude journals” and calendars and painted rocks and wall hangings that are everywhere now. There is a moral scolding underlying the whole phenomenon and it smells to me of a thought-stopping exercise. We don’t have to “practice” gratitude. It lives within us as a natural part of our being. Like forgiveness, you can’t force it into being by thinking about it or meditating on it or journaling about it. To quote the commercial, “That’s not how any of this works.”

I hereby resolve to be a little less grateful and a little more self-centered, a little less agreeable and a little more difficult, a little less forgiving and a little more judgemental. We will see what it brings to my life.

Enjoy this beautiful and sage video on the philosophy of Kintsugi:


 --Kristen McHenry

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Scribble Head, Bro Move, Pool Nostalgia

In Stardew Valley, the game that I have nattered about extensively on this blog, the farm animals are simple creatures. They are either happy or unhappy. When they are happy, a heart pops up in the dialogue balloon above their heads. When they are unhappy, a gray scribble appears, denoting their displeasure with missing a meal or being cold or God knows what other lack they are suffering. This weekend has been a gray-scribble weekend for me. I have been walking around with a scribble above my head, unhappy and impervious to any of Mr. Typist’s usual cheering-up methods. It’s not grief, it’s not exactly depression, it’s just a deep sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness. It’s a sign that something needs to change. In the past, I would find these periods of malaise daunting and would be intimidated at the prospect of change, but I’m not this time around. I’m ready. I have full clarity and intent and I know my worth. Interestingly, I did a Tarot card reading this weekend and came up with multiple sword cards, concluding with the Queen of Swords, a woman who stands in her truth and is ready to receive.

Ridiculously, I recently ordered some protein powder from a trusted source, and now there on the kitchen counter is a giant plastic jug of something called “Molk”, a total gym-bro item that I have mixed feelings about. But this new trainer is going full-steam ahead with my goal of a getting to a pull-up, and after our last session, I underwent five straight days of muscle agony from over-using parts of my body that have never been challenged before. She harps on the need for protein and there is no way I can consume enough steak and chicken to get to the correct amount, so I need a boost. I plan to mix it in with some oat milk and see what it does. I’m not generally a believer in supplementation—I tend to be a minimalist and think that one should get one’s nutrition from food alone, but I am going to a whole new level now with the physical stuff and the reality is that I don’t eat enough to meet the need, and a little boost is necessary.

Speaking of the physical, I miss the pool. Maybe it’s the hot, dry weather or maybe it’s nostalgia, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I enjoyed my Sunday ritual of slinging my tote bag over my shoulder and walking the two miles to the pool. I miss the feeling of the chlorinated water on my skin and the unspoken comradarie of being in the water with other people. I even miss the initial dash of cold shock that enveloped me as I took the initial plunge into the water. And I really miss stopping for chicken tacos on the way home. I haven’t lost anywhere near what many people have during this pandemic, but the closure of the pool is just one more depletion of joy added to all of the others. I’m not a hyper-social person by any means and the isolation didn’t bother me that much, but I’m more ready than ready for normalcy—eating out, seeing traffic again, the incidental interaction with other humans while going about day-to-day life. Humans got to human and this has all gone on long enough.

I don’t know what YouTube knows about me, but for some reason, this video popped up in my feed today. Do they sense I need to relax? Do they know I’ve been contemplating a trip to the ocean? The mystery may never be solved. Enjoy a little Hawaiian guitar and some crashing waves. 

 



 --Kristen McHenry


 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Beach-Based Gloom Buster, European Fitness, When Games Disappoint

It’s a bit of a convoluted story, but for a few months now I have been back at the hospital campus I that transferred out of six years ago, in addition to my regular campus and one other campus forty-five minutes away. The one forty-five minutes away has since been passed on to someone else, so now I “only” have the two campuses, which feels like sweet relief after what I’ve been through these last few months. Now that I will be able to physically spend more time at the new-old campus, I have to do something about my office again. It’s in what I’ve always deemed a “bat cave”--a dark, windowless room in the back of a kitchenette, where no light shines and where gloom ever-hovers at the doorstep. You have to actively fight against the looming oppression of the space. My solution the first time around was a fountain. I was convinced the office needed “water energy” and spent an entire day driving all over town trying to find the perfect fountain to brighten it up. I finally did find a fountain, and it did help a little. People liked it. But it turns out fountains need a lot of upkeep. They get slimy and calcium-deposity if you don’t take care of them properly, and I spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning it and replenishing the water. Again with the water energy, this time around I’ve decided it will have an oceanic theme. I put up some beachy prints last week (on loan from my computer room), and my next goal is to go spend that Jo-Anne's gift card I’ve had forever on some beach glass, sea shells, glass bottles and other beach-related crafty items. I’ve earmarked tomorrow as a craft day and I’m looking forward to an excuse to play with shiny things.

I had my first official session with my new trainer last week, and it went great. In line with my goal of being able to do a pull-up, she wants me to acclimate to “pulling movements” so we did a lot of that, as well as something she called a “Romanian dead lift.” When I told Mr. Typist about that one, he was immediately skeptical and wanted to know why it was specifically called a “Romanian” dead lift and could its origins actually be traced to Romania. That led me to reflect upon how many exercises are named after European-block countries. For example, there is the Russian Kettle Bell Swing, the Bulgarian Split Squat, and the Turkish Get-Up (a nightmare, and yes, I know Turkey is more in Asia than Europe but you get my point.) Yet there no exercises that I know of named after Swedes, Norwegians or Fins, nothing from Iceland, and on the warmer side of things, nothing named after Belize, Costa Rica or Saint Luca. So it doesn’t appear to be climate-related. I don’t know what’s going on here. Maybe the general vibe of those countries is just more chill and laid-back. Whatever the reason, I like doing the European-named exercises. They make me feel strong and intense and geared up for battle.

Speaking of gearing up for battle, Steam had another sale ahead of the 4th of July holiday and I was in the mood for little monster-beating, so I downloaded a game that was as much as titled that, and I was really excited about it, only to find that it immediately enraged me and gave me a stress headache. The monsters are well-rendered and immensely creative, I’ll give them that, but they are infuriating. There is this one sneaky bastard who grabs a giant boulder from the ground and uses it like a shield, then bashes you with it and runs away, not to mention vomits gross stuff on you, and every monster battle is an epic 25-minute fight during which you have to chase them all over the map. It’s too bad, because it’s a very well-designed game in terms of story and visuals, but I play games to relax my brain on the weekends, not to get drenched in adrenaline and cortisol. Forget it. I’m back to my calming, no-stakes jigsaw puzzles.

In the spirit of strength, enjoy this video from my strong, strong friend Meg Squats on the Turkish Get-Up, which I will not be attempting any time soon.


 --Kristen McHenry


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Death Hot, Nerds in Hiding, Genuine Confidence

Every three years or so, I have to come onto this blog and moan about a spate of 90+ degree weather and justify my my angst by explaining that no one in Seattle has air conditioning. The air conditioning situation is starting to change a little, slowly, but Seattle almost never gets so hot that it’s widely needed and when we get hit with a rare heat wave, it’s always a city-wide mad scramble at Lowe’s for fans and module air-conditioning units. The mother of all heat waves hit Seattle this weekend with record-breaking temps of well over 100 degrees, and all bets are off in the non-air conditioned Typist household. I have been drinking copious amounts of ice water, lolling around playing hidden-object games on my tablet (because I enjoy the low-key torment of their terrible logic and nonsensical plots) and taking sponge baths to avoid having to turn on the shower. It’s slated to hit 110 by tomorrow, which is unheard of and utterly freakish for Seattle. I’m already deep into plotting my work wardrobe for tomorrow. My hospital is air-conditioned, but there looms before me a 15-minute walk home during the peak heat, and I don’t have any breezy little summer dresses or “lightweight” summer work clothes. Again—those are almost never needed, so why would I? The problem with uber-temperate Seattle is that we are never prepared for extreme weather on either end of the spectrum. Every single time it snows or gets legit hot, it’s a city-wide crisis and we all run around with our hair on fire for the duration.

I met up with my new trainer last week for an assessment, and it was fun and energizing. There was just one slightly bizarre moment where she had me walk on the treadmill at a relatively slow pace to ensure that I wasn’t “lying to her about a heart condition”, but other than that, it was great. She’s peppy and enthusiastic and was happy that I came with good form already so she doesn’t have to teach me the basics. I told her that my other trainers nagged me to death about form, so she has them to thank. She then ensured me that she was going to nag me too, because it was “good for me.” And she talked a lot about exercise science. I’ve always had one idea about trainers, which is that they are all naturally athletic, physically gifted, and were universally popular in high school and therefore have no ability to relate to their physically inferior and non-ideal-bodied clients. But now I am beginning to think they are actually just nerds in hiding. Big old freakin’ spectrumy nerds who love nothing more than to geek out about the intricacies of exercise science and hypertrophy and ATP and sliding filaments. You would never know it by looking at my new trainer—she is a classic statuesque pretty blonde with long glossy hair, but believe me, lurking inside of her is an obsessed uber-nerd.

I can’t go into specifics, but I did a thing a few weeks ago that I hadn’t done in a very long time, mostly just as confidence-booster/get back-into-the-saddle type of move. I was happy to find that I did well, better than I had expected, and that I felt genuinely confident and sure of who I was throughout. It didn’t lead to the outcome that I hoped for, but I got really good feedback from it and it may lead to something in the future. I realized that I have the ability to operate from a position of power now, and I have for a long time—I just didn’t realize it because I hadn’t stretched myself in that way for over ten years. I had a bout of real depression recently, but it didn’t feel generalized—it felt specific, like a an urge to make a change. It was my being telling me the gig is up and it’s time to stop hiding and telling myself it’s okay. We’ll see what the future brings.

In honor of our freakish heatwave, enjoy this blast from the past with Bananarama. 80’s hair was so fun!


 

 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Mild Hypochondria, Food Anhedonia, Emotional Growth

I’ve been trainer-less for some time now and I’ve been doing okay on my own, but I feel a little lost and goal-less. There are some things I want to do, like dead-lifting and achieving that ever-elusive pull-up, that I can’t learn on my own without coaching. Also, I think my form has gotten a little out of whack without the vigilant attention of a trainer. The guy I was on the verge of signing up with got into a motorcycle accident and can’t train for a while, so I was waylaid once again. But then I noticed that a young lady who has worked at the front desk for a quite a while now got her bio up on the wall as a certified trainer. When I congratulated her on her achievement, she said that she took the test and passed it easily without having ever bought any books or study materials, and that she “couldn’t wait” to start training people. I was impressed with her confidence and decided to go with her, despite her lack of experience. The first thing she said was that during our consultation, she would put me on the treadmill to assess me for “injuries you might not know you have”, which has triggered a mild bout of hypochondria. I find myself mentally scanning my body for pulled tendons, torn muscles, and weakened bones. So far everything seems to be fine, but I suppose we’ll find out tomorrow. I’m not thrilled about the treadmill aspect of this plan—I hate the treadmill—but hopefully that part will be over quickly.

I’m reading poems again for a literary magazine and I found myself leaving a cranky comment on the submission site about how poems about food bore me. I try not to leave cranky comments even though they are only seen by the editorial staff, but I could not stay silent any longer. There is no food experience I have ever had, no matter how toothsome or novel, that has inspired me to write a poem about it. I don’t care a whit about pomegranates or orange pulp or dates or fragrant stews or fresh-baked bread. Those thing are all fine and good, but my philosophy has always been, it’s just food. Eat and move on already. What’s with the fascination? It makes me wonder if I am somehow missing out on something. Like maybe I have a dulled sense of taste or that something fundamental to the human experience of food consumption is missing within me. I do often find myself annoyed that I have to eat and at odds with my stomach's insistence that it’s hungry, so maybe there is something wonky in that part of my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a food experience amazing enough to inspire poetry, but I am solidly middle-aged and it hasn’t happened yet. (All this reminds me that I ate turtle stew once. It was okay.)

We’ve had nice weather in Seattle the last few days, which is annoying when one is mildly dysthymic, because there is so much pressure to be happy and energized by it—especially in Seattle, where our good-weather window is like, four days in mid-July. Good weather makes it all the more difficult to cope with emotional struggles because of the added guilt over the failure to respond with elation to the copious amounts of warmth and sun. Speaking of emotional struggles, one of my blog posts from over ten years ago somehow climbed it’s way into the “Popular Posts” section of my blog. It was about failure, and I forgot having written it. At the time, for whatever reason, I was struggling very much with Impostor Syndrome. I’m pleased to say that I do not have that anymore, not even a whiff of it. I’m a very different person now and I fully stand in my strength and know what I am capable of. It feels good to look back and see that I have grown so much emotionally. It took ten years to get here, but progress is progress.

There’s no video this week. You would be amazed at how hard it is find a video poetry performance about food that doesn’t veer into political territory or turn into a rape metaphor. I’m done scouring the internet this morning. Go eat something tasty and enjoy the sun!

--Kristen McHenry


Sunday, June 13, 2021

It Came from Within Them All Along

At the gym the other day, I went to go hang my keys up on a coat hook before my workout and I noticed that my beloved and long-possessed sterling silver Kokopelli key chain was missing from my keying. At first I was a little disoriented and couldn’t remember if that was actually the ring of keys that I kept it on. I’ve had that key chain for almost twenty years, so long that I don’t visually register it anymore. It was quite confusing until I rapid-cycled through the stages of grief and accepted that it was somehow gone. I bought that key chain almost twenty years ago when I went on a retreat to Sedona, Arizona with a group I was involved with at the time. The woman who sold it to me told me that the Kokopelli was symbol of good tidings in marriage, and having just gotten married, I snapped it up eagerly and have kept it on my key chain every single day since.

When I came home and started combing through my purses and pockets looking for it, Mr. Typist asked me why I was so obsessed with it. I told him the story behind the original purchase, and to my surprise, I found my eyes welling up with tears. “I always thought that maybe it helped a little,” I confessed. I know that’s superstitious and magical thinking and all of that, but over the years I have come to think of the little engraved Kokopelli as a guardian of our marriage and secretly thought that no matter what happened, as long as I held onto the key chain, everything would be okay. I do realize how patently absurd that it, but I’ve always had a tendency to imbue inanimate objects with mystical powers, even while knowing that’s silly. It’s just something that has always comforted me. Always in stories, the protagonist comes to realize that it was never the object that gave them their power but that it came from within them all along. Maybe the key chain went missing because I don’t need it anymore and it’s my time to have this realization. And maybe it’s time for some other realizations too, about things that I have held on to past their date of usefulness to my life and my growth. (Not my marriage—Mr. Typist and I doing just fine, at least from my point of view.) But other things.

I don’t know what happened to my Kokopelli key chain. It’s unlikely to have just fallen off the key ring, which means that someone might have actually taken it. I don’t lock up my keys at the gym and maybe someone saw it in the locker and wanted it for some reason. If that’s the case, that person’s crops are going to fail and they will be plagued with infertility and ill livestock, so the joke’s on them. Now I guess I’ll have to look around for a new key chain to imbue with mystical powers. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities: Serpents and wolves and eagles, oh my. We’ll see what I land on. In the meantime, enjoy this strange and musically compelling performance:


 --Kristen McHenry

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Swimming Nostalgia, The Language of Divinity, Opening Day

Maybe it’s the unseasonably dry, summery Seattle weather, but for some reason, I woke up this morning really missing swimming. I don’t know when my local pool is going to open up again. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve swam, and when I think about it, it’s probably been well over a year. Despite my time at the gym, I’m not getting much work done on my calves and they’ve gotten a little mushy since I haven’t had access to the pool. There is a calf machine at the gym, but I can’t use it because it has a very awkward seat and it strains my lower back. When I was swimming regularly, I had very strong calves. I don’t feel like doing the calf raises one of my trainers taught me because something about doing them creates a feeling of existential angst in me. I don’t know why. It seems very silly to just stand there and go up and down on my toes repeatedly. I don’t know why I even care about my calves. I don’t wear shorts and it’s not like I’m trying to break into the fitness modeling industry. I just miss the feeling of having strong, rounded calves. But I also miss my ritual of walking the two miles to the pool, getting into my swimsuit, swimming until I’m too hungry and exhausted to go any longer, and stopping for fish tacos on the way home. I’d usually only go once a week or so, but it meant a lot to me and I’m feeling a little down about it today.

This weekend I spent some time reading poetry—some for a literary magazine I judge submissions for, and some from books that have been lying around that I haven’t cracked open for a while, namely by Wallace Stevens, who is my favorite poet, and Kahil Gibran. I needed to read both of those poets because somewhere in all of the chaos and heaviness of working at a hospital during the pandemic, I have lost my sense of passion and wonder. I feel ground-down and machine-like. I’ve been in survival mode for a long time, devoid of a sense of beauty and boundlessness, afraid to take any time to notice the natural world around me, afraid to slow down, afraid to allow for any sense of space and openness in my life. I shut everything out except the work that is front of me day-to-day, and I’ve been driven by dread—dread of the massive responsibility that has been handed to me at my place of work and at the same time, dread of being laid off, dread of loss both real and anticipated, and dread of what may come in the future for our country and for the world. I needed to read about love and astonishment and the miracle of pineapples and the cat forgotten in the moon and how the trees are there for me. I needed good language, the language of noticing, the language of elevation of the spirit and the essential divinity of human life:

“The whole of the wideness of night is for you,

A self that touches all edges.”

--Wallace Stevens, A Rabbit as the King of Ghosts

We’re coming out of it now, and I’m ready. Ready to breathe without a mask muffling my nose and mouth, ready for traffic and shopping malls and movies and night parties, ready for patients to flow into our facilities again, ready for the world to open its petals like a rose and for humanity to return to human-ing. For better or for worse, I don’t have a particular religion to hang my spiritual beliefs on, but I believe that we are children of God, and we need to remember our origins.



--Kristen McHenry



Sunday, May 30, 2021

Time-Panic Fugue State, When Hippos Escape, Pondering an Endeavor

 

After months of intense work stress, long hours and working weekends, I find myself with a full, luxurious stretch of three days off in a row, and I hardly know what to do with myself. I’m in full-on rebel mode and have resolved not to look at work e-mail or go into the office. I know there is plenty to do, such as obtain a Civil Engineering degree so I can actually play “Planet Zoo”, finish the third book in my Nancy Drew box set (someone set off a bomb in her cabin and I’m very worried for her), or clean the oven, but I’ve gone into some kind time-panic fugue state and I find myself just staring into space, not knowing where to start. Leaving the house is not an option mentally or emotionally, so maybe I will just sit on the couch and play Bejeweled and get caught up on my conspiracy podcasts.

Speaking of Planet Zoo, I have literally never played a game with such an insane learning curve. I have watched numerous tutorials now and I’m still barely getting the hang of it. The most helpful video so far is by a guy who goes by the moniker of “Old Guy Gaming” and suggested doing all ten full in-game tutorials before even attempting to make your own zoo. I like the Old Guy. He seems very resigned. He’s low-key and doesn’t expect anyone to watch his videos because he’s an old. I find his attitude refreshing and his advice sage. Maybe I’ll start my own channel, “Old Lady Gaming” one of these days. I have a lot of advice to offer about Stardew Valley, including who the best bachelor is to snag for marriage, (Alex) and what to give as a gift to the townspeople (coffee--universally loved by all.) I’m way better at Stardew Valley than Planet Zoo. So far in PZ, all three of my chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure and I had to pay a lot of money to have them shot with a tranquilizer gun and returned to their habitat, a hippo also escaped and I got dinged for letting him roam free because he was just minding his own business in the river and wasn’t bothering anyone, and my tapir habitat got dirty to the point that it became a health issue. It’s exhausting. I have a job. I don’t need another one in the form of a video game.

One thing I will do in this vast expanse of three days off is go to the gym and throw around a barbell. My last trainer wouldn’t go anywhere near the machines in the gym, so I got really used to using barbells and dumbbells, and now I’m somewhat hooked on a routine that I worked out where I can do dead lifts, squats and overhead presses all in one go using a barbell. I have an upcoming consultation with yet another trainer this week, and I really hope this one sticks around for a while. He’s been at the gym since I started going there. He’s their star trainer and he seems very dedicated, but he has a full-time job outside of training and he’s already booked to the max with clients and only agreed to take me on as an exception. So we’ll see how it goes. I don’t know why I am so stubbornly insistent on having a trainer when I know I can do things on my own now, but I feel that I grow faster and do better under tutelage. Maybe it would be a different story if I had spent a lifetime in sports and had always been athletic, but that’s far from the case, and I still feel the need to have oversight. I have no plans to pursue this, but just out of curiosity, I’ve been looking into personal training certification just to see what it entails and what kind of topics the tests cover. There is an alarmingly wide array of certifications out there, some better than others, and very little standardization. In my mind, personal training is a huge responsibility. I still recall my first trainer and how easily things could have gone awry if he hadn’t taken my knee injury seriously and hadn’t been thoughtful and strategic about structuring a plan for me. Becoming a personal trainer is not an endeavor I would take lightly, and I likely won’t do it anyway, but it’s interesting to explore.

In the spirit of old guy and gals, I found this video by Shredded Sports Science a funny, interesting and thoughtful take on fitness and aging. 


 --Kristen McHenry


Sunday, May 23, 2021

Grid-Blindness, Slow Creativity, When Cobras Attack

The game “Planet Zoo” went on sale for half-off this week, and desperate for some mental distraction from my stress, I downloaded it and plunged right in. It’s an amazingly well-designed game and it has great individual elements, such as detailed information about the various animals and their natural habitats, and beautifully-rendered creatures. I just wanted to make some cool-looking animal habitats and maybe build a reptile house, but the only thing that’s happening is that I am being driven slowly insane by how fiddly and difficult the building process is. I can’t freakin’ figure out the grids and the snapping and the swapping of walls and the pathing and the stair-building. I’ve watched a number of tutorials but it’s just not clicking. I finally watched one YouTube tutorial that set everything up in a “simple” grid pattern, and I tried to follow it exactly step-by-step, but I kept getting off track on the square count somehow and all I ended up with was a lopsided grid and a headache. When I explained my woes to Mr. Typist he was puzzled: “Grids are foolproof, sweetie.” Grids are not foolproof. If they were foolproof my zoo layout would be nice and square and logical and wouldn’t look like something out of a Picasso painting. I’ve decided I’m just going to embrace my dyslexia and make an artsy, non-linear zoo with wildly veering circular paths and surprises around every corner. You can’t take a right brain and force it to make perfectly symmetrical grids.

I’ve started reading poems for a literary magazine that recently re-launched, which has inspired me to dabble in verse again and think about starting a new series. I have a germ of an idea that I think would be fun to do and could lead to some interesting places. So I worked on that a little bit this weekend, and took a break from the damn grids to once again pick up my tiger punch-needle embroidery project. I’m working with full six-strand embroidery thread, which is the thinnest material I’ve worked with before. Previously to this, I’ve only used yarn, but I wanted to be able to do more detailed and intricate work. So far, I’m quite pleased. It’s very painstaking and slow and it’s taking an alarming amount of thread to cover just a small area (I’m going to have to order more), but I like the effect. I’m enjoying the depth of color and texture this new way of punching allows, and it’s not like there’s a deadline for completion.. To top it off, for the first time in over a year, Mr. Typist and I walked to the park and had a picnic by the water. It felt nice to work on some creative projects and do a normal thing like have a picnic instead of going into the office in an attempt to keep on top of the avalanche of e-mail. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m human and I need to do human things.

I don’t know if this was inspired by Planet Zoo or not, but I had a terrifying nightmare a few days ago in which I was being eaten alive by a giant cobra. He had his jaws solidly around my leg and was making rapid progress on swallowing his meal whole. One of my hospital volunteers was attempting to rescue me and he kept telling me to be very, very still. I listened closely to his instructions, all of the time convinced I was going to die and devastated because I didn’t want to shed my mortal coil in the jaws of a giant cobra. In the end I was saved, but I woke up in a cold sweat and awash in adrenaline. I made the mistake of Googling “eaten by snake dream symbolic meaning of” and none of it’s good. I find it very unfair that a cobra was aggressively trying to eat me. I have always been very snake-positive and have stood up for snakes in the midst of wide-spread cultural fear and loathing of them. And this how they thank me. Sheesh.

But forget about the scary cobra and enjoy this cute Planet Zoo game trailer:


 --Kristen McHenry

Sunday, May 16, 2021

In Defense of Hufflepuff, Buck-Naked Lady, The Joy of Seeing Faces

I returned to simultaneously mindlessly playing Minecraft and watching Youtube videos as a stress-relief measure this weekend and as such, I came across a video of a famous/notorious Canadian comedienne interviewing a famous/notorious Canadian psychologist and public intellectual. I was delighted to hear her ask him that iconic question, “Which Hogwart’s house would you be sorted into?”, which made me re-consider that question for myself. I was always a big fan of Ravenclaw, but I know full well I would never get sorted into that house. I think I would be Hufflepuff, which for some reason seems to be the least desirable of all of the houses. I’ve always thought Hufflepuff was under-appreciated. The Hufflepuff folks are admittedly a little goofy, but they are earthy and fun and loyal, and they love and protect the natural world around Hogwart’s. Hufflepuff isn’t the most glamorous of houses, but their people are kind, they have an affinity for animals and plants, and they are just solid folks. There’s nothing inferior about Hufflepuff, but since they aren’t competitive and they don’t toot their own horns, they tend to get overlooked. FYI, the famous Canadian psychologist/public intellectual thinks he would get sorted into Slytherin and has a particular affinity for Snape, which I also appreciate.

Walking home the other day, I noticed a cop car pulled up in front of a coffee shop on the main drag of my neighborhood. When I rubbernecked to see what was going on, I was a bit shocked to see a 100% buck-naked lady standing out in front of the entrance in full view of God and everyone. I would have expected this from an elderly person with dementia, but this was a young, attractive woman who appeared completely normal in every other way. She was perfectly calm and reposeful, not all at combative, just...naked. At one point she settled into one the chairs in the outdoor seating section, drew her knees up, and just sat there. It was quite strange. The cop on site was in observation mode, being very hands-off and obviously trying to shield her body as much as possible. I hope the naked lady is okay and that she got connected with some good mental health resources and that no one took pictures of her and posted them on the internet (I was watching the other pedestrians closely to make sure they didn’t have their phones out). The whole thing made me wonder about my own capacity to crack to the point that one day I just decide take all my clothes off in public and stand around nonchalantly. Somehow I don’t think this will ever happen. I am innately as modest as a nun and have a horror of being seen in anything less than full-length pants and skirts, so hopefully, even if I do have a complete mental breakdown one day, it won’t involve me stripping in public.

Mr. Typist and I took a long walk yesterday in celebration of the outdoor mask mandate being lifted, and I was surprised at how joyous it made me to see people’s faces again. It was a sunny, almost-warm day, there were a lot of people out, and practically no one had a mask on. Every time we passed people without masks, I was filled with a little zing of happiness at being able to see their full faces. I don’t know any of these people; they are just strangers out in public, but somehow seeing their whole faces brought me a sense of jubilance. This brings up all kinds of questions about what sort of long-term psychological affects that masking has had on us, and how it has affected our sense of our own humanity, and what it means from a biological and evolutionary standpoint to be visually cut off from the view of our fellow human’s faces for prolonged periods of time. All questions that I am sure will be pondered and expounded on for years to come by those far more intelligent than I.

Enjoy this nostalgic sorting-hat clip from the first movie. I really should go back and watch all of those films again. My brain needs every break it can get these days. 


 --Kristen McHenry