Books · Life

Good Mondays – Libraries

Today I’m going to talk about my love for public libraries. As a child who grew up poor but loved books, the public library was my sanctuary. My local one when I was growing up was not very big, neither was my school’s, but there was a branch that was literally a five-minute drive from my house (or 15-minute walk if I felt like walking alongside a local highway without sidewalks in ridiculously hot weather – the deep south was not fun). I volunteered at that library during summers and the experience actually gave me the inkling to become a librarian. (Alas, life has taken me down a different path, but I really do wonder what would happen had I stuck with that back then.) I went to college at a different state and the university’s library was awesome. I was definitely one of those weirdos who actually spent time in the library not for cram study but just for reading. They had a lot of Chinese literature and that was my only source of it in the States. What can I say? I love reading. Of anything. Everything. It’s just never not been a part of my life.

So imagine my great joy when I discovered that my local library (a wonderful system here in So Cal) carries digital magazines on Libby! I’ve always subscribed to random magazines, but there’s a limit on how many you can read at one time (and it got pricey). One day I decided to check out the magazine collection (I believe it was a recent addition, or they just started to advertise, because I don’t remember seeing it featured so prominently before), and behold, you could get so many current magazine for absolutely free! Unlimited checkout, the issues are always available (but I believe it’s the current issue only. Not sure how you’re supposed to get back issues), and there are so, so, so many choices. (They don’t have everything, such as literary magazines, but uh, those should be paid for so I agree with that decision.) I’ve always wanted to read Wired but never got around to buying a single issue to try. Well, fret no more, I can now do it for free. There’s also magazines I read religiously every month and I can probably stop all my subscriptions now, but I do feel like I want to support them, especially the smaller publishers, so I’m still debating on that.

So a great big kudos for resources in our local libraries. If you haven’t used your membership you really should give it a go. I believe it’s a great public good, and I’m so, so grateful for its existence, especially during these pandemic times.

Life

Good Mondays – Vaccination!

Well, hello everyone. It’s a Monday again and I want to express my gratitude to the fact that I got vaccinated! A week ago, actually, but I didn’t feel the implication sink in until a couple of days later. And now, I am feeling more and more optimistic about the future, at least regarding my immediate life.

I got Moderna from my health provider. So did my husband. So far we only got jabbed once and experienced arm pain. (The second shot is supposed to be a tough one so, I’m certainly not looking forward to that.) I was super thirsty for the first 48 hours after the shot, though, like chugging liters of water kind of extreme thirst. My skin broke out – inflammation all over, I assume – coupled that with maskne and yeah, don’t look at my face right now haha. My husband didn’t feel thirst but he got a slew of cluster pimples. I’ve never heard of a Moderna reaction of cluster pimples before! We think it’s also inflammation related since his skin is super oily. I also found out that a small group of people actually experienced itchiness, swollen injection site, pain, and other irritations 8-14 days after the injection. A sort of delayed reaction – unexplained of course. Well, guess who’s among that small group of people? (Me, it’s me.) The good news is that it’s already getting better. Yesterday my arm was super itchy and swollen, but today it’s less itchy. Still swollen though. My husband also got a really swollen lymph node under his armpit right now. It’s bothering his sleep, but they’re all minor and seems to be temporary. Man, so many different and weird side effects with this mRNA stuff. No wonder people are all iffy about getting vaccinated.

Whatever. Still better than actually getting Covid. With my asthma I probably will die or end up in ICU at least. One of my immunocompromised friend got her two full shots and will be fully protected by midweek. She told me she can’t wait to go grocery shopping again haha. (Being immunocompromised she literally haven’t left her house except to walk her dog since March of last year. She get all her groceries online. No gathering/shopping/doing anything in person.) I can’t wait to go eat in at a restaurant somewhere. We’ve been getting takeout but it’s not the same. It’s crazy how much super mundane stuff we all missed this past 12 months huh? I also want to see a movie in theaters, go to Disneyland, see a live concert (that is probably not going to happen until 2022) and fly across country to see my family (who’re also fully vaccinated). But these are distant goals. Now I just want to go eat out somewhere, preferably with other vaccinated friends.

People, do your part. Get vaccinated so we can all move on as a planet, yo!

Life

Good Mondays – It’s My Birthday!

It’s my birthday today! Yay!!

Because it’s pandemic times, I have absolutely nothing planned for it. No cake, no dining out, no presents, no party. My family sent me text messages saying happy birthday, and say I can buy whatever I want using their credit card. OK, cool, I didn’t really want anything. Usually for birthdays my s.o. and I would go out to a fancy restaurant (like, fancy, as in a set menu with no prices listed kind. We’re both foodies and it’s a good splurge once in a while). He’d buy me some flowers (because we made a deal to not buy uber overpriced flowers during Valentine’s Day and do it on my birthday instead), and we’d custom order a small cake from a nice bakery. But of course this year (and last year) planning went out the window. I’m not even sure the bakery we usually go to is still even in business. We’re certainly not dining in anywhere without vaccinations, and flowers? Too much hassle for no celebration. It’s fine; times are rough so I don’t mind just not doing anything haha. I’m happy just chilling today.

Well, apparently the Earth doesn’t like that, which is why in the wee hour this morning I got woken up twice by earthquakes. The second time it jolted me awake so I screamed really loudly at like 4 in the morning. So I slept terribly because when you get rudely woken up because you’re afraid your house might collapse on your face you kind of don’t get back to sleep for a while. Great. And then my mom called and woke me up to wish me happy birthday but it was too early for me. (In truth it wasn’t, it was 11 am when she called so I should be up, but again, when you get woken up at 4 and then again at 5 am because of earthquakes you kind of need more sleep than usual.) It was lousy. I’m going to need better sleep tonight and hopefully it won’t earthquake again. If I were religious I’d think it’s a sign or something since it was right after Easter.

So I decided that, fuck it, I’m not going to bother working today. I know I also said this yesterday about finally working the full 4 hours, but you know, it’s my birthday and so far it’s been pretty lackluster. So I’m not gonna feel guilty about it and just enjoy the rest of the hours that I’m awake. Pretty crappy to have a Monday birthday already but you know, that’s why I started the Good Mondays series. Mondays suck so I’m going to enjoy every little bit of happiness during it as I can. K.K. Slider sang me a birthday song in Animal Crossing so hey, that’s a pretty good bit eh?

Life

Good Mondays – Nice Weather

Let’s just appreciate a very mundane and small thing today – the weather. Today I’m grateful that the weather is nice. Of course, I live in So Cal, so the weather is always “nice” compared to a lot of places. But the cold front did not leave our area unscathed. It had been relatively cold (40s and 50s) and rained a whole lot. Rain here in the desert is not fun. It causes mudslides, so bad that an entire portion of the PCH has collapsed off the continent, and brings out the oil from the roads so it’s more dangerous to drive. Coupled with the plethora of sports cars with no traction and drivers who lose their collective minds when water falls from the sky, let’s just say whenever it rains your safest bet is just stay the hell home.

But finally, the sun has come out and we’re back in the usual “wintery” temperatures of 60s/50s. It means I can now exercise again. I’ve been putting on weight and it’s mostly because I’ve stopped my walks when it got cold. I would walk during the day, but I usually want to go with my husband (because he will never exercise unless I’m with him. It’s one of those things you just can’t change about a person no matter how hard you try), and he doesn’t feel comfortable walking during the day because there’re too many people outside doing the exact same thing. So we always walk at night, when there’re very few people and we don’t have to wear the heavy duty masks (I wear KN95s when I need to go somewhere surrounded by people, and they’re not the greatest when you try to exercise, so instead I wear cloth masks). However, if it’s rainy or too cold we skip it, and it has been that way for a good few weeks. But now that’s mostly over, I can pick my routine back up, and hopefully lose some weight and get back in shape before I try to attempt IVF again.

So a toast, to the sun, to warm weather, to the oncoming spring. I think we all deserve it after such a harsh three months.

Work

Good Mondays – Break

Today I want to talk about, and appreciate, days off. Yes, it’s another generic one about the overall state of things, but I figure we can talk about the ridiculous amount of stationary I’ve amassed over the past year some other time (they do all bring me joy, each and every one). And I want to talk about forgiving yourself for taking a break, because we all need them, regularly, frequently, and they’re nothing to beat yourself up for.

This is brought on by the Superbowl yesterday. Usually every year we have a small party with a few friends to watch the game, complete with plenty of buffalo wings and beer. Not this year, obviously, but a friend of ours had set up a zoom hangout so we can sort of have a party. It worked alright, and in between getting angry at all the refs being obviously biased we caught up on our respective lives. Afterwards I was too strung up to do any work, so I didn’t, and just relaxed the rest of the day. I was supposed to be working on Sunday – I only allow myself 1 day break between workdays because otherwise I’d lose momentum so it’ll be extra hard to start up again. I spent most of Saturday just playing video games and do a crapload of chores. Sunday I was supposed to devote some time after the Superbowl to work. And I didn’t. And I want to say: that’s okay!

I woke up this morning ready to work. I made myself relax and not worry about the lost productivity from the day before. Superbowl is once a year, and it’s okay to take the day off because of that. It’s okay to take more time off if you’re meeting up with friends after a long time of quarantine, or having just come back from surgery, or your roof fell in from torrential rain and you have to call people to fix it. It’s okay to not get much done because your child is sick, or your mother had a fall, or god forbid someone in your family had caught a bad case of Covid and is in ICU. If you have the choice to not work on bad days, you should take the rest, whether the stress is mental or physical. It will help you in the long run. If you’re forced to work no matter what, then I’m sorry, and I suggest you take at least half an hour to yourself to relax, somehow. It’s important, and we as a society (especially Americans) are just way too focused on working and productivity. Constant production is unsustainable. It’s alright if you need some time to regroup.

So I did not feel bad (or as bad as I would’ve before) that I didn’t work yesterday when I should. I’m definitely back to work today, not feeling burnt out, and that is a whole lot better than trying to focus yesterday and failing and then end up completely losing motivation for the rest of the week. I lost a day and gained another five days of productivity. I think that’s a fair trade.

Life

Good Mondays – General Gratefulness

This is going to be a short one. I don’t have anything specific for today, but I do want to just express my gratitude for everyone fighting in this pandemic. The healthcare workers, the grocery store workers, the people keeping our infrastructures running, the USPS folks (who’re ridiculously overwhelmed right now due to all of our online holiday shopping), the people in the government who are trying and meeting slabs of brick walls from all sides impeding their progress, but still going despite everything, everyone who were actually social distancing and wearing masks and staying home since March, everyone who give a fuck about their fellow human beings and community outside their immediate families and themselves. We’re all stuck here together (well, most of us save the lucky rich few who are sequestered in their mansions with their concierge healthcare), and we’ll still be here in a few months time because vaccine distribution is probably going to be slow and very, very messy. I wish everyone well, and I hope y’all hang in there for just a bit longer.

Life

Good Mondays – A Cup of Coffee

Well hello there! It’s Good Mondays time, because Mondays suck! So, today I want to talk about something that happened a couple of weeks ago actually, and that was that I went out to a bakery, bought some nice pastries, and ordered a cup of Iced Sea Salt Caramel Coffee.

OK, so here’s something y’all gotta understand. Because of my asthma and all the IVF procedures, I’ve basically been housebound since March. We didn’t start ordering takeout until last month, and I rarely venture out anywhere because of the spread. But as the months dragged on and California’s use of masks become more ubiquitous, I feel less stressed about strictly staying home. Where I live people are very diligent about masks, and stores absolutely enforce the rule (or I just don’t visit stores that don’t do it. Also helps that Walmart is like banned within 30 mile radius from the city or something.) So I went out and got groceries and went to farmer’s markets, but I still have not gone into a restaurant that allows indoor dining (I’m not sure there are any right now where I live, actually – outdoor seating only – but still.) I miss going to restaurants. My husband and I are pretty big foodies and part of the draw for us is in the dine-in experience. For a lot of our special occasions we’d save up so we can go to the few Michelin-starred restaurants around the city. So this whole Covid thing took away a large part of our enjoyment of life, and it hurt more than I realized.

Anyway, we went to a bakery when we went shopping for groceries, and I ordered a cup of caramel coffee from there. It was the first beverage made by someone else professional I’ve had since March. I was staring at the cup with the swirl of whipped cream on top and almost burst into tears because it was a sign of normalcy again. Talk about an emotional wreck haha. Not only because of Covid, though, but I also hadn’t been able to have any caffeine for a while due to the whole pregnancy/miscarriage situation. Being able to consume a caffeinated beverage now seemed like a greater deal than it should be. Again, a sign of normalcy, to life before 2020, before the pandemic, and I’m feeling hopeful in 2021 we’ll be able to get back to what was before, somewhat. Meanwhile I will take what I can, and perhaps visit the bakery more often to get more things I missed in the nine months so far of isolation.

Life

Good Mondays – Hobonichi Techo

I’m beginning to notice a pattern with my Good Mondays entries haha. Pens, books, and now, a planner/journal system. You know, I guess it’s not hard to deduce that being a booklover and a writer, the things that make me happy are book-related things. Or at least the joyful things I think of first tend to be book-related things. I’m sure as the weeks goes on I’ll have other hobbies or situations to be grateful for. But for now, bear with me, it’s going to be more paper goods.

So, today I’m going to talk about the Hobonichi Techo – a yearly planner that’s apparently a cult favorite, and comes in limited release every year. I was browsing jetpens.com a few weeks ago (my s.o. really needs to keep me off this website so I don’t bankrupt us buying stationery!) and they had a banner featuring the Hobonichi Techo on the front page. So I got curious and clicked, and many, many Youtube videos later, I basically got hooked. The layout is pretty much exactly how I need it to be, AND it comes in Simplified Chinese version. The paper are thin and good to write on (although slightly debatable when it comes to fountain pens due to its thinness, but I mostly use gen pels so it’s not a problem), the colors are beautiful and pastel, and everything just looks so tidy and organized and clean. And the accessories, oh my! So many stickers and covers and all kinds of stationery just tailored for this brand. Unfortunately they go out of stock really, really quickly, and because Japan loves its exclusives, sometimes there’s one shipment to the US and if you miss it, well then you’re just SOL. And they can get very expensive, so I just ended up buying a hodgepodge of accessories that I think are essential but are made by cheaper third parties. (So instead of a beautiful $8 first-party pencil board I got a $1.50 recycled plastic one. Works the same.) Right now I’m still waiting on the last bits to come in, which is funny, because this planner starts on Jan 1 of next year so I can’t really use it now anyway. It’ll just have to sit prettily in my drawer until then.

Now I know you’re asking: my dear, you already have bullet journals and actual journals and task notebooks – why do you need yet another planner? Well, to be truthful, I don’t. However! It makes me happy, and I think I want to use this as a dedicated work journal. So right now I use my bujo for everything – appointments, work goals, chores, food to eat, people’s contact info, etc. I mean, that’s how bujos are meant to be used – a catch all. But I found that I need a little bit more structure when it comes to prioritization. Right now I feel like my work goals get lost in the minutiae of everyday living. Write two pages, followed by doing the laundry, followed by phone call from a friend, followed by another page of writing, followed by a blog – it’s just so jumbled. Some days when I have a gazillion chores to do I might only write a little bit, but then I would feel like I achieved a lot when in actual work, I’ve done very little. And the reverse happens too. This is not conducive to accurately gauge how much work I’ve done and whether I am on track for my goals. If I have dedicated work planner, I’d be able to isolate my actual workload. Because you know, sometimes how much we think we’ve done is not necessarily how much we’ve actually done, and come review time we’re either caught off-guard how little we’ve accomplished, or don’t give ourselves enough credit when credit is due. And that’s just no good at all.

Or I just really like having such a cute and useful notebook by my desk. That’s a legit reason too.

Life

Good Mondays – Reading

Well hello folks. It’s been a slight while for a Good Mondays entry but hey, at least it’s here. With all the crazy stuff going on in my life I’m just glad that at least I have a small part on the Internet where I can talk about insignificant but happy things. Anyway, today I want to talk about reading. More specifically, the fact that I’m reading books again!

You know, I was an avid reader growing up. Bookworm definitely described me to a T, all throughout grade school, college, grad school, and all that. I didn’t have that many books in my house mostly because I grew up poor. But it’s why I love libraries, and I’ve devoured many many tomes through that (and occasionally I go into bookstores and just read, yes, I know, not good for the bookstore, but I can’t afford buying all the books!). But as the years went on, I began to read less and less. No time, other distractions (TV, video games, yeah mostly those haha), or bouts of depression that make me not want to devote any time to reading. Eventually I just let everything drop, and basically only read articles online or forums, which, as we all know, could take a toll on one’s mental health, especially if done for a prolonged amount of time.

So last month I set a goal. I will read more! Starting with the non-fiction book I checked out from the library that I wrote about in the last blog post. It’s the first book I’ve finished in years, and I think that must’ve opened the floodgates, so to speak. I started to follow book rec blogs (since I definitely have not kept up with any bestseller lists) and put the ones that I could find onto my library’s digital loan program. Not everything has a Kindle version and not every ebook is available in my library, but there’s enough to get me started. I’m not ambitious – none of the a-book-a-week or whatever awe-inspiring goals these book reviewers go through. If I can finish reading one thing every month I’ll be a happy gal.

I wish I have more profound things to say than “yay! me reading!” I don’t really haha. However, I do feel like I’ve recovered something I’ve lost due to years of depression. I’m not sure I’ve stopped reading books solely because of depression, but stress definitely has something to do with it. And the more stressful my environment is the less I want to do things that require thought. I would delve into Youtube and other visual, super passive media because I just didn’t have the energy for more focused activities. (Come on, you can’t say that reading things like Swann’s Way doesn’t require active energy. Like, there’s a reason people study this stuff for their Ph.D thesis or whatever.) So me getting back into reading actual books, and finishing them, is a good sign. I can’t promise continual progress, and so my Book Thoughts series might be slow, but I’ll definitely try to set some time off every day to read. It used to be one of my greatest joys. It should become one again now.

Life

Good Mondays – Pens

Alright let’s start our official Good Mondays post – where I post something that makes me happy (and hopefully the happiness is contagious? ahaha bad word choice but you know what I mean) so I can get through the rest of the week. Or more like a daily gratitude post – thankful for small things, but weekly – anyways I should just get on with the topic, yeah? Today – pens!

More specifically – gel pens! So you know from my past posts that I do bullet journal religiously. I mostly use fountain pens with it, and they’re great, but lately I’ve been bitten by the ‘more color all the time’ bug and changing ink every time is a huge hassle. I actually don’t own any colorful pens – it’s either expensive fountain pens or cheap plain black BICs, so I thought, let’s go to the middle and buy some nice gel pens, eh? I kinda went on a shopping spree and bought a bunch different ones to test out. I’m a sucker for muted colors, I found, so sepia, various “colored” blacks (that also sounds bad, but I just meant like red-tinged black, blue-tinged black, etc.), deep green and navy and aubergine and etc. They just look very…calm and centered? Without being boring. And god knows we all need some calmness right now.

I got three separate sets: the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner in Summer Festival, the Uni-ball Signo UM-151 in Off-black, and the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip in Vintage Color 2. They’re all slightly different thickness but all write very smoothly. It’s funny, because I’m trying to consolidate and streamline my life but ended up dividing things into categories anyway, like with these pens. I was totally just going to use them interchangeably for everything, but found myself delegating the Zebra ones to writing long journal entries, the Staedtler ones to daily logging, and the Uni-ball to everything else. I think it’s mostly because the Zebra ones are thicker, therefore more comfortable to hold, and so best suited for when I need to write for an extended amount of time. And it really tells me something about my psyche when I’m drawn to the yellows in all the sets first. Yellow is a happy color, and I could definitely use some pick-me-ups, so my notebooks are just swamped with bright and cheery colors now.

It’s kind of silly to be so happy over such mundane things like a set of pretty gel pens. And even sillier that so far my happy things are all stationary products haha. Well, these are abnormal times, folks. Normally I’d be ecstatic over going to a good restaurant or watch a good movie or going to a good concert – none of which are possible right now and probably for many months to come. I know people have been going to bars and restaurants regardless, but I need to be extra safe because of my upcoming medical procedures. I guess obsessively recording and organizing my life is a way for me to cope with the stress, so pardon me while I celebrate tiny things like a smooth-writing pen on thick, none-feathering paper. And if the color yellow reminds me of sunshine and brings a smile to my face, then everything is working as intended, and I’m only thankful that such small gestures are actually enough.