Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Secret of Time Management

I won't keep you in suspense: it's saying No. Working smarter not harder is going to get you only so far, and if we're honest, a lot of smart working is saying no to certain things anyway. 

But how does one say No?

The curse of the era we live in is that we believe there is so much that we should say Yes to. The promise of the World Wide Web is just that: an interconnected world. But the world we are given easy access to is just so much garbage most of the time. It's a slightly more heightened version of the one available on television, which is itself a dumbed down version of the one available in books. A richer world is out there, but it's hidden in plain sight beneath the shiny glow of the baubles displayed by the internet.

I bring this up because, for the umpteenth time, I've listened in on a conversation in which people are concerned with Time Management (as well as the latest in gaming and television), and the intensity of these conversations might convince someone that distraction -- or Attention Deficit Disorder -- had been invented in the last two decades. But that is not true. What might be true is that the level of distraction has ratcheted up past what anyone could imagine.

Or couldn't they? Actually, haven't people been warning us about what mass media could do for decades? Neil Postman warned us in Amusing Ourselves to Death that Orwell's nightmare of Big Brother was irrelevant in a civilization that had chosen to make a god out of Entertainment; Carl Sagan saw that as our technology became more complex, many of us would backslide into superstition and revel in our ignorance; and Kurt Vonnegut described a society that was going to disguise the fact that it wasn't allowed to talk about substance by screaming about whatever was still left to us.

As far-seeing -- let's even call them visionary -- as these authors were, I don't think even they saw the sleight of hand that was going to be pulled on us in the twenty-first century. The usage of our modern technology -- small enough to fit into your pocket, more powerful than the Manhattan Project scientists could dream of -- gives us the illusion that we are participating in this movement called Technological Progress while we are, in fact, being commodified. We think we are using our technology to be more connected, but really we are connecting ourselves to a marketplace that listens into what we are already interested in and, like the best marketers in retail and politics, uses that information to convince us to buy what's already out there. We think we are choosing to watch and play the most cutting edge entertainment offered by Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but really many of us can't say no because we are addicted to the prospect of being entertained. 

Raj Patel, who has written more recently, had the great insight that the opposite of choice isn't coercion but instinct: if we have been participating in a marketplace from before the time we could consent -- before we were even born, in many instances -- our very "gut feelings" have been shaped to accommodate market values. Every other kind of value -- moral, political, intellectual -- will be indulged only to the point where it doesn't inconvenience said market. 

If you don't feel in control of your time -- and the life that it is filled with -- congratulations for realizing something that many are not yet able to see. You are not in control of your time because you are not in control of your attention. You cannot say No when you hear a demand, not a question.

This is a question

When you are being given thirty-nine different versions of chips in the snack aisle, you don't have thirty-nine options, but two: buy the chips, or walk away. (If one option has thirty-nine different varieties and the other has only one, what is the math weighted toward once you're in that aisle?) When you have available over fifty services for streaming in the United States, again, you really have two options: watch a program on one of the services, or walk away. (When each option has hundreds of programs per service, and there isn't a lot of drama inherent in walking away, what is the math weighted toward once you open up your device?)

Even those of us in a Community Supported Agriculture program will have to walk into a supermarket at some point, and once there it's difficult to avoid the snack aisle. By the same token, even those of us who are committed to spending as little time as possible on screens have to open them at some points, and once there it's difficult to avoid being plagued by ads and other "reminders" pointing you to entertainment. What is the solution? I don't know. But what I do know is that the more we remind ourselves that we are being asked, not told, we can start to say No more frequently.

Deb in the City

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

What's Making Me Better

A couple of health setbacks in the last month were exhausting enough that I decided to, you know, listen to my body and take it easy. (I hate taking it easy.) So I didn't tax myself with anything more strenuous than walking for about thirty minutes or forty-ish minutes of qigong. Shockingly, I feel better, and I think I got the message from my body that, just maybe, heavy weights aren't my thing, and if I want my epic walks back, I'm going to have to earn them. So now I can walk about forty minutes per day, and we'll go from there.

Along the same lines, but not nearly as serious, I think herbs are not my friend. Please, not those herbs, which have never been my thing for numerous reasons that make me a complete outlier in our civilization. No, I mean medicinal herbs that grow in my garden. I mean echinacea, which people I know have been going on about for most of my adult life. We grow some in my community garden plot, and my plot-mate dried a slew and gave me some to take home. After two tries with the tea in the morning that I thought might be bothering my stomach, I decided to incorporate it into a ginger-bug based soda. I lasted three or four days before I realized that the increasingly painful cramping of my digestive organs was not being helped by the echinacea. And then, oh yeah, my kidneys were sore, which isn't something that happens to me a lot. 

I hate when people talk about "detoxing", but I decided that I was going to confine myself to fruits, vegetables, and nuts until I felt better (basically, a vegan "high raw" diet). And you know what? I do feel better -- better than I have in a few years. So I'm going to stick with this until/unless it feels like it's not enough, and then we'll reassess from there. But I feel...good.

Just say no

The cure, apparently, for what ails me

I'm finding it more and more that I just can't listen to the news. No, I do not mean because it's traumatizing -- did I mention that I'm a member of Gen X and thus I grew up being threatened by nuclear war every other month? -- but because it just seems so dumbed down. I think, and I'm horrified by this thought, that the news is being dumbed down in order to appeal to younger audiences, who apparently aren't being given enough credit to be able to keep up and learn something. (FYI, I'm talking about NPR and Boston's NPR affiliates.) It's one thing for social media to be a younger person's game -- and it is -- it's another thing for the news to be so. So far, the Economist is still doing a pretty good job of being a site that caters to "adult audiences", but we'll see how that progresses in the next few years. Oh right -- I was also watching a lot of NHK Newsline until one of the anchors smugly reported on the failure of South Korea's rocket -- sorry, you want to bring down the tension, or not? -- and Arirang News has some interesting perspectives on foreign affairs.

What's helping me now is my reading, and as I get older I find that to be increasingly the case. I finished Jade Legacy, the final book in Fonda Lee's Green Bone Saga, and I'm kind of ruined now for a lot of other fiction. I'm utterly in awe of someone who can write action scenes that make me feel like I'm watching a movie, organizational and political dynamics, AND intimate portraits of the members of an imperfect family. Needless to say, that's not everyone. Fortunately, there's The Veiled Throne, the third book in Ken Liu's quartet (?), The Dandelion Dynasty. It's 982 pages, because of course it is, but I'm a sixth of the way through and I haven't felt the passage of time. If Fonda Lee can immerse you in an organization with a kaleidoscopic perspective, Liu can show you how the world is built, including everything from the harnessing of silk's static electricity and the building of airships to the dueling philosophical underpinnings of a civilization. If it's not as intimate, it's because the canvas he has to work with is so vast -- and amazing. 

As far as non-fiction, the last month or so was kind of rough. Most difficult title was Not "A Nation of Immigrants" by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Dunbar-Ortiz makes the work of Ibram X. Kendi and Erika Lee feel like a party (and boy, am I never going to look at the Hamilton fans the same way again). Not perfect -- don't get me started on Syria -- but mostly very good. African Europeans: An Untold History by Olivette Otele was a little less wrenching, but not significantly so. I learned a number of things -- one of the de Medici's whose descendants still have some power was in, fact, an African European, as were Septimus Severus and Alexander Pushkin -- but I couldn't help but walk away feeling like, gee, maybe the United States isn't so much worse than Europe. Jesus, Finland, keep your educational system if you're so awfully, extra-special racist, okay? With all that behind me, Stalin's War: A New History of World War II by Sean McMeekin is a relative breeze. I might not be completely convinced of his thesis yet, but it is worthwhile to read about World War II through the Soviet lens (and let's admit that Stalin- and Mao-apologists have persisted much longer than they should have).

No, really -- just say no

My writing continues -- I swear to all the deities of humanity that I will not only finish drafting this, I will also edit it! Getting installment eleven done was a huge confidence booster, and it made getting through installment twelve easier. I am currently in the middle of installment thirteen, and this is where blood touches metal, literally and figuratively. I'm excited because it's here that everything starts escalating and really can't be stopped anymore. And like all writers, I love being on a runaway train!

What's really keeping me sane? Playing with differential equations and studying chemistry in the early morning hours. There, I said it. Now you all know what a nerd I am. (It's not all crazy fantasy fandoms, right?)

Okay -- off to another smoothie and then I catch up on Taxi Driver, the Korean (of course) series -- more on the other k-dramas and k-movies later.

Deb in the City

Monday, August 23, 2021

Dreams, Daylight, and Rooms (Poem)

I used to have a golden dream

I retreated to for relief,

For belief

Once -- maybe twice --

I saw stars in a darkened sky

I used to believe in things like dreams, and stars,

And skies

Perhaps I've traded 

Promises of the night

For the fragile realities of daytime?

The green of leaves

The explosion of flowers

The sturdiness of living wood,

The harbingers of the living world

There is glory in these,

No doubt

And having been in greying rooms

That were just here, just now

Which required dreams to live through

I am grateful for fragility,

No doubt

But shouldn't a life

-- Real and full --

Have day and night,

Dreams, stars, and sunlight?

Perhaps -- perhaps

I need a different dream

Before I can open my eyes

In this other darkened room

Friday, August 20, 2021

A two-dimensional river (Poem)

On the dock by the river

A pattern of criss cross

As good as two dimensions

Are going to get

The current pushed aside

By another force

Is this not

What real life looks like?

Bordered by rocks and lily pads

Stagnant batches in the middle

Lost in the details

Of the side show --

Wishing for "smooth" 

-- Whatever that means --

Then wondering why it seems

To push by 

Too fast

On occasion, a wonder --

A funnel, a swirl, a vortex --

Captivating to contemplate,

A window into the third dimension

-- But ultimately,

Only one direction,

And that is down

A reminder to master the flow of the two

Before we try to plumb

The mysteries of the third

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Wishing at sea (Poem)

Sitting by the breezy sea

Unlike most wishes,

This one comes true

Is that, perhaps,

Why we love the sea?

We know what it can give us

And what it can do

And we know that,

In its own way,

It makes everything else

A little better

Is it the taste and smell of salt?

On the most humid of days

Does it feel a little less heavy

Because instead of moisture

We feel salt giving us a hug?

Is it the sounds?

Waves against rocks or stones

Birds protesting

The escape of food?

We know we are not alone

Or at least

We can believe it

Is it the sight of everything mundane

Suddenly become majestic?

The grey of water

Is now sunlit silver

The blue of sky

Reflecting back a little bit

Of its own glory

The whiteness of clouds

A little fuller

Now that they

Are closer to their home

Skyline meets sea-line on the horizon

Perhaps everything is coming home to itself

This wish,

Unlike most,

Comes true at sea

Monday, August 16, 2021

Awakening (Poem)

Awakening with time

In time

Trying on for size

The responsibilities of the day,

The days that make up


Holding onto sleep, the comfort

Of simply existing

Without the need to prove

Value or meaning

Enjoying contentment

There is nothing to wake up for

Enthusiasm for the day,

The future

Is replaced by satisfaction

With the present

But sunlight can be treachery

Just as are the memories and torments

Of the dark

And contentment

Is always fleeting

We do not rise for enthusiasm

We rise for hope

That we can construct our lives

Day by day

Not with what we must do

But what we have chosen to do

Contentment is fleeting

As is sunlight

As are memories, good and bad

Good and sad

And as is the day

But the things we do

The things we choose

The days -- 

The life -- 

We construct

Are the things that endure

Thursday, August 12, 2021

...but I'm not a minimalist

I've discussed my love of Marie Kondo's philosophy of tidying before, and I will do so again. Perhaps it is because I loved her books so much and read them so closely that I'm always dismayed when she's characterized as a minimalist. No, no, no. She specifically says that when you tidy, your focus should be on what you keep, not what you cast off. Kondo writes about people experiencing a "click", wherein they will feel that they now have the right amount of possessions, and that's when they should stop tidying. (She also does not say that everyone should limit themselves to the thirty books that she feels comfortable with, but the internet loves repeating its bs, so don't let facts stop you.)

Before Kondo arrived at her method, she was obsessed with throwing things away, and wasn't sure why she was still miserable even after discarding bags and bags of things. It was only when she had the insight to focus on what she was keeping that her method was truly born. I bring this up to explain not only why her work resonates with me, but also why I am not a minimalist.

If Kondo wanted to know why she was unhappy no matter how much she got rid of, others want to know why they were miserable no matter how much they had. For them, minimalism, or getting down to the brass tacks of what they needed to survive, was what they needed to break free of consumerism.

Believe me, I sympathize, and maybe other Gen-Xers do as well. Many of us were born when things were tight in the 1970s, and were alternately dazzled and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff in the 1980s. (And for those of us who could not afford all of the trappings, many of us felt and sometimes were bullied.) I appreciate the luxury of being able to say "No" to stuff you don't want and don't need. If I'm going to take on a label, then the one I want is Anti-Consumerist.

Perhaps it is because I am reflexively atheist, but there is just too much of a vow of poverty and the promise of salvation to the current cult of minimalism to appeal to me. It is the opposite side of the coin of consumerism: if one fetishizes things, the other venerates not having them. Neither appears at all to be helpful or healthy.

I am reminded of the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode, "The Saint"/"A Person of Interest". You may know this as the one that starred Stephen Colbert as the villain, James Bennett (I am not making this up), but what I think about is his character's mother, Betty. The detectives figure out that she was suffering from a form of depression which made her vulnerable to wanting salvation, and the church she was a part of took advantage of that by encouraging her to donate beyond her means even when she had a child to raise. This is what so many minimalists look like to me when they focus on how little they have.

Focusing on having almost nothing as a way to salvation seems, to me, to be indulging in as much magical thinking as those who buy into marketing and advertising. The underlying premise of just about all of it is that you will be happier merely because you possess said thing, whether that's a piece of software, an item of clothing, or a hard-to-find ingredient. The promise of minimalism is that you will be happier merely by not having it. As I said, two sides of the same coin.

I find both minimalism and consumerism to be automatic and unexamined. Both are, in their own ways, belief systems. One says have as little as you can (and you're helping the environment), the other says have as much as you can (and you're helping the economy). I like belief systems -- they're very simplifying -- but neither reflect the messiness of reality. In every day life, we need to make choices that reflect the nuance of our options.

I need to eat, therefore I need food (the ultimate disposable consumption category). That's a primal need, so much so that most people don't argue that is a need...but you will get people who will tell you that you should eat so much, or only so much, of this ingredient or that ingredient. You should eat at home, of course, because cooking for yourself is cheaper and more customizable, but that's not always helpful advice for someone with a busy work schedule. (Well, why are you working so much in the first place?) You should be willing to make an investment purchase and get only the most pristine, organic, locally produced option available, but that's not always possible for someone who has a limited budget.

Then there's shelter, clothing, healthcare, and transportation. Those are essentials, and the decisions about them always come with trade offs; sometimes it makes sense to consume, and sometimes it makes sense to think about consuming as little as possible. But for the majority of people, no one philosophy makes sense all the time.

I am right now reading The Day The World Stops Shopping by J.B. Mackinnon and re-reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Daczyzn. The exploration of these topics and the proposed solutions feel like the middle of the road between minimalism and consumerism, because they require thought and reflection. Those things are exhausting, and sometimes we don't have that luxury. All I can say is that with practice, it become more of a habit of mind than a conscious exercise. Maybe?

But there's no easy answer.

Deb in the City

Friday, July 30, 2021

Busy ≠ Productive ≠ Satisfied

As far as I can tell, Fear Of Missing Out (FOMU) is unfounded. As I've written before, while many people worry that giving up their smartphone will mean they're going to be consumed by thoughts of the social media posts they're missing out on, I've found the opposite to be the case; after just a few days without a smartphone, I didn't even want to check my email on my laptop. Hell, after a week, I didn't really want to look at a computer screen, period. There's this ideal existence out there for me in which my conventional flip-phone is my sole means of electronic communication and my notebooks are my primary vehicle for writing.

You know what else is implied in that ideal existence? Not being so god damned busy, and letting go of that was much more terrifying that letting go of my smartphone and my stupid social media accounts. My sense of self was tied up in those notion of myself as Someone Who Got Things Done, and even more frightening, what if I was bored?

Three months after I walked away from being a Busy Person™, I can assure you, once again, that FOMU is overrated. I'm not only calmer with less on my plate, I'm more satisfied.

What you'd like to use when you have a lot to do

I didn't add anything new to my life. Everything I'm doing now is something that I had to do already, in one way or another. Those projects include:

  • Managing my finances. Now, instead of keeping one eye on my balances and another on my expenses, I'm able to dig in thoroughly and attack some "structural" projects, like refinancing my condo (which I began and completed between May 1 and now). I am loving the kakeibo system, not just because of the structure, but because, as with all things of this nature, it's forcing me to make sure my short-term actions are reconciled with my long-term goals. (And no, I am getting absolutely nothing from you clicking on that link, other than the satisfaction that you're not clicking on an Amazon link.)
  • Educating my sons. I'm calling it "educating" because we're transitioning out of homeschooling, but I'm still playing an administrative role (I don't think this is very different from many other parents of teenagers). Since May 1, this has included getting them ready for a placement exam, helping them register for courses, and navigating the financial aid system (add that to the above category too). 
  • Writing. I've touched on some of the challenges I've encountered over the last few years, not the least of which was negotiating COVID-19 and the effects it had on my family (again, I don't think this makes me very different from many other people, particularly of teenagers). I have felt, in many ways, behind with this project -- here's another reason to avoid busy-ness, because that's a constant state of being, and it's nerve wracking. I've been able to get back into the habit of regular writing -- even if it's just a paragraph on some days -- and I recently felt brave enough to commit to a goal of getting this installment done by the beginning of November (what's the opposite of a stretch goal? A safety goal? Because that's REALLY doable for me) and the whole thing drafted by the end of February (that may be a stretch goal). A few days ago, I went back and figured out what I've already written and what I have left to write. While I've been telling people that I'm half-way through this saga, it turns out that I'm more like 60 percent along (make that 62.5% if you want to be really nerdy about it); 10 down, 6 more to go. (What?!) I may not be able to make the end of February, but now that I have fewer other things to do, I'm going to get much closer that I would have before. (And you'd better believe I'm going to want to throw myself a party when I'm done.)

The above is three bullet items, which doesn't look like a lot, but all of them have multiple layers and nuances. In my experience, that's true for most things -- but also in my experience, those nuances feel like roadblocks when we're juggling multiple projects, but exciting opportunities for growth when we're not. (I'm not exaggerating, but it's something you have to experience for yourself to believe it.) 

Even more importantly, for me at least, is that being able to work on three projects on multiple levels is much more satisfying than having to work on six on a shallow level. When you have, frankly, too many things to get done, emergency mode requires you to keep the high-level goals for everything foremost in your mind, and some of the most important details easily accessible. You have to know The How, but it's very easy to lose sight of The Why. When you have fewer projects, it's harder to lose touch with The Why, and that can "power you through" when the work gets tough (sadly, nothing ever guarantees that sometimes work won't get tough). 

What you can create for yourself when you're not overscheduled

All of that means that different parts of your brain are working; instead of a two-dimensional map, you're able to create a three-dimensional globe that helps you navigate in more detail. And instead of feeling like you're going to fall of the page and into the end of the world once your project is over, you'll have a better idea of where your next destination should be and how you should get there.

Which is awesome, because come to think of it, that idyllic existence I talked about above is definitely going to benefit from the presence of a globe.

Deb in the City

Monday, June 28, 2021

Progress is a spiral, but it does happen

I'm a math nerd, in case that wasn't clear before. So when someone said that progress was like a spiral that felt like a circle and showed me a picture, I squinted and said, oh hey, that actually looks like a "screw", which is one of the Simple Machines that makes work easier (you move up not in a straight line but at a more gradual incline; it's slower but it makes it more doable). A fantastic poetic insight, if I do say so myself, but it still doesn't always make it possible to recognize when you're moving up and not just around.

Fortunately, even spirals sometimes have milestone markers.


It only looks like you're going around in a circle

I homeschool my sons. That feels like a confession every time I say it, because I grew up believing in institutional education (even if I always felt like an alien in those environments). I was so earnest, it took me years to realize something was off. Actually, it took the suffering of one of my children, and then the incredible boredom of another. Schools failed my children in one way, but they fail other children in other ways. Not all children, perhaps, but enough that my conscience doesn't ping me as much as it used to about my decision to pull my children out.

I tried very hard to replicate "school" for my younger children, but it took me less than two years to realize that wasn't what they needed. We prioritized play, and I tried to focus on what they did well rather than what they didn't, with the theory that when they were older everything would basically even out. I wanted them to enjoy their childhoods as much as possible, even when I could feel other adults glaring at me because I was doing it wrong, and even when I could hear in their voices the concern that I was somehow ruining my children. Sometimes that made me dig in deeper, sometimes that filled me with anxiety that maybe I was using my kids as a social experiment and not being their mother. But every time I thought of changing course, the cues I got from my kids indicated that they wouldn't do better with more of a regimen.

Mind you: this did not mean that they loved homeschooling with me every step of the way. They rolled their eyes at me so many times they must have pulled some ligaments, and every mistake I made I was called out on. There's a rightful concern that parents can be the harshest teachers of all and make their kids feel stupid; not too many people talk about the ways in which our kids make us feel stupid (but, you know, maybe they should).

It had always been the plan to send them to community college at about this time. "About this time" because I would have ideally done it last year, but that wasn't much of an option given the pandemic. So we plugged along, with the normal attendant dramas along the way. Finally, we got to the point where they were ready to register for classes at one of the community colleges in Boston, but first they needed to take a math assessment test.

Long story short: they both did really well, in spite of the fact that they had never taken a standardized test before and one of them has significant anxiety around math. That one tested into Pre-Calculus, and the one who likes math better tested into Calculus.

I was overjoyed -- one of them will never have to take math again, and the other *might* be able to get out of a Statistics requirement, but if not, that's the only math class he'll ever need. More importantly, they both know that 1) they can handle standardized tests, and 2) that they can handle math. And we did it without "drilling", year after year, something they didn't like into their minds in a way that would make them dislike it even more.

There was no guarantee this approach would "work" if working means performing intelligence for anyone. But that was never what I wanted for them. I wanted -- and still want -- for them to explore the topics that they are interested in and find the things subjects that thrill their minds. Letting them "play" in different ways with what they liked helped foster that, I'm convinced.

It only looked like we were faltering in place...right?

Deb in the City

Friday, June 18, 2021

How I survived the Year of Hell - a story in Tarot

I'm so grateful for my posse of bloggers (Caroline, Jami, and Kerrie) who join me on these fun blog hops. I spent a lot of last year looking forward to talking about "the end" with them, and once again they came through.

I feel like a lot of people slowed down in some way during the pandemic, because they didn't have a choice. Lockdown meant being locked down, so most people were home a lot more, and since most people's lives were "out", that was a big adjustment.

That's not what happened to me.

Naeily , Ami. “The Hanged Man.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
I got this brilliant idea at the beginning of 2020 that the climate action group I was working with should have an arm that focused on the connections between climate change and agriculture, and I got people to agree with me. The pandemic meant that we could do all of our programming online, so between April 2020 and February 2021 we did the following:

  • Four webinars on topics including victory gardening, compost, "foodprints", and bringing Jewish values to the garden as we fight climate change
  • A film series
  • A three-part class on trees
  • A two-part webinar on the importance of native plants
Oh yeah, between September of 2020 and April of 2021, I was also working on a conference for said environmental action group, including not only organizing sessions around agriculture but also making sure planning got...done for the rest of it. (I guess you could call me the project manager?)
Naeily , Ami. “Knight of Pentacles.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
This was as exhausting as it sounded, but in the middle of that, I also decided that I should put together a learning circle on Self-Care with my friend Jordan. I thought it would be really easy, but it took several months to finalize. I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out -- hope you agree.
Naeily , Ami. “Queen of Cups.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
During this time, I continued to homeschool my sons, albeit at the pace I've always used (let's call it "relaxed"). We managed to cover a bunch of material, including physics, calculus, chemistry, some biology, history (boy, was this a good time to re-read Stamped From The Beginning with them, as well as America for Americans), and "random" stuff like computer science and some classic literature. Oh yes, I also started a correspondence with the author of their physics and calculus book, and gave him a few suggestions for answers to two of the physics problems (after I spent three days figuring one out). The seventeen year old in me who did NOT do well in physics senior year was a little chuffed, I admit it.
Naeily , Ami. “Page of Swords.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
It wasn't all drudgery. I had a lot of fun getting into Tarot with a friend of mine and sharing our spreads daily. No, please don't worry, I am not going to start talking about messages from beyond or anything like that. I see Tarot as a much prettier Rorschach Test: each card has so many meanings, though only a few "speak" to you. The question is why. That's been what I enjoyed most about it, and I enjoyed tapping into that intuitive part of myself that I was told to shelve years ago.
Naeily , Ami. “The World.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
I also enjoyed deepening my friendships with two people while we worked on the learning circle and getting closer to two others as we shared some of our writing. (This made up for having to abruptly walk away from a critique group that, to put it mildly, wasn't working out for me.) Yes, of course we talked about the pandemic every time we met, but we also talked about the things that were, literally, giving us life. I'm truly grateful for those connections. And it would not be fair to talk about 2020 without also mentioning how much I loved the fact that I was already in a gardening community that has been putting up the good fight in the community for decades now. I got a lot out of working in the soil, and I'm so glad we're back at it. (And, oh yes, I made a project out of that as well; didn't my daughter do a great job on this video?) 

Naeily , Ami. “Four of Wands.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,

Mostly though, I was busy, so busy that I felt kind of empty and dried up, and looked forward to life returning to a new and better normal in May. That included getting back to my writing, which had to take a back seat because, well, there are only so many hours in a day and days in a year.

But life did not become a better normal. I had to come to terms with the fact that I felt empty even when I wasn't hustling, and it wasn't because of my activities. Something was *wrong*. And mid-May I realized what that was: I was living with addiction again, and I don't mean my own.

Naeily , Ami. “The Devil.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
I'm not going to go into the details, because as anyone who has ever been in this situation will tell you, after a while they don't matter (but I will tell you this: there's a fine line between a "healthy hobby" and an addiction). Hell is not just the substance, it's everything that goes with it: the lying, the rationalizations, the inability to plan for a future because there is no future past the next fix, and, as I said, that feeling of emptiness. Addiction is the fun house mirror version of "living in the present".

Someone else is on a path toward rehabilitation...perhaps. I am trying to plan for my future. Normal? No clue. But definitely happy.
Naeily , Ami. “The Sun.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
Come at me 2021 and 2022; if I was fortunate enough to live through the last 15 months, I can get through anything.

Naeily , Ami. “The Fool.” Cute Magick, 5 Apr. 2021,
Deb in the City

Thursday, May 20, 2021

A Meditation at Boston's Long Wharf (Poem)

sunlight on ripples and waves

undulating like a snake

expanding, receding, becoming, being

waves on waves

lighting the path on water


I *might* have read a collection of Li Po's poetry very recently. 

In all seriousness, this has not been a great few days for me, and when I feel that way, the best thing I can do is go for a long walk -- in the case of the walk this morning, one that went past the three-hour mark. I covered a lot of ground -- did I mention that Boston isn't very large? -- but at the two hour mark I needed a break, and Long Wharf was the perfect spot. The sound of waves lapping against the stone wall inspired me to meditate, and it was the peace I needed. 

But the sunlight on the water, which my phone did an okay job of capturing, was what made the respite so peaceful, and what inspired the above poem.

If only I could be there every morning!

Monday, March 22, 2021

How come no one cares unless there's sex?

I was moved to write Needs, Wants, and Other Weaknesses because I couldn't stop thinking about the exploitation and human trafficking present in our every day lives. There's a bit about prostitution, but the prostitutes I glance at aren't trafficked, and they're not the main story. The exploitation in the books deals with those mundane things we see all the time but do nothing about, whether it's someone who works for a low, low price serving us food at a restaurant or the really cheap shrimp we can buy because the people who do the hard work on shrimp boats are slaves.

But people don't want to hear about that because there's nothing remotely fun about it. Exploitation is dreary and ugly -- but if you sex it up a little bit, then just wait to see people clutching their pearls and delivering condemnations about the ugliness of human trafficking and demanding that something be done.

So we know this. It's not okay, but okay. But that same dynamic struck even closer to home than usual last week.

Asian Americans have been being literally pushed around, beaten, and killed for over a year now. Actually, it's been much longer, but it spiked 150 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic. So many of the victims have been elderly, and the things they have done to draw the ire of their attackers are things that are symptomatic of a normal life: grocery shopping. Getting money at an ATM. Taking the train. For the crime of existing and not hiding, they have been beaten and sometimes killed.

This is not a secret. I am not part of any secret cabal, and certainly not one that focuses on Asian American life (sadly -- no one invites me to these things like they're supposed to). This has been in the news, but it hasn't the media's greater attention. Yes, thank you for condemning the former president referring to COVID-19 as the China Virus and Kung Flu, but where were you when we couldn't leave our own homes and had to organize people to escort our elderly to the grocery store?

But wow, they can't get enough of what happened to the women in Atlanta. I feel sick thinking about a gun man going after these women, but who was going to stop him? Nobody cared when other Asian Americans were being hurt, so why should they care about someone going after them?

Because the completely not racist murderer had to make it about sex. (Throw in guns and Jesus, this guy should have just written a movie script. Or wait, haven't we all seen this movie before?) And now the media can't shut up. Now, suddenly, they're talking about how we've had targets on our backs for years, and they've only gotten bigger, and our attackers more vicious.

Gee, thanks. Now I just have one question: where will they be the next time?

Friday, February 12, 2021

A meditation on South Korean entertainment

I used to joke that I didn't watch any entertainment that wasn't in Korean, only it's so frequently true that it's not really a joke anymore. Not that I'd be inclined to feel guilty about this for any reason, but even people who are shouldn't. It's too easy to snark about how unoriginal Hollywood productions are these days, and I find myself watching something made in South Korea and think, "why can't Hollywood do a story like this?"

I recently finished Delayed Justice. Two unrelated Parks -- an attorney who only went to high school, and a reporter from the wrong side of the tracks who recently lost his good-paying job -- team up to get justice for one downtrodden group of defendants after another, all connected to a corrupt judge, an uncouth businessman turned mayor of Seoul, and a kingmaker who used to be a prosecutor during the last military dictatorship. It was a fun little show, and I'd be lying if I said that some of the backstage drama -- one of the original actors got picked up for drunk driving and needed to be replaced -- didn't add to some of the appeal.

I also recently enjoyed Lucky Romance, but that was primarily because the leads (Ryu Joon Yeol and Hwang Jung Eum) are so charming and talented they could move me while reading the phone book. And A Korean Odyssey was one of the best ensemble comedies I've seen in a long time. And while sometimes I tire of derring-do in Korean action, Vagabond was AWESOME. Now if only they come back for a second season to close the loop...

K-dramas are fun, but in general they're just not as satisfying as the movies. (I don't think this is specific to Korean entertainment.) Not all movies are perfect -- I can think of more than a few that have fallen flat -- but when they're good you feel like you've spent two hours (or more) wisely. Best movie I've seen in several months is Beasts Clawing at Straws. By the title, you can guess that it's about the poor and/or desperate of South Korea trying to pull themselves up with one fever-pitched, make or break attempt, and you'd be right. The stories are intertwined, and even when you think you can see where it's going you'll still feel hit by a curve ball at least once. Can't say it had a happy ending, but most people will be satisfied by it.  

Beasts Clawing At Straws...everyone is as well-adjusted as you think they are.

I'm probably like a lot of movie viewers in that I'm prone to following good actors. Ryu Joon Yeol, mentioned above, is REALLY good. The first movie I saw him in was Believer, and he played the kind of character that made me want to hide under my covers while I hyperventilated. Then I saw him play completely different roles in Little Forest, The King, and Hit-and-Run Squad that made me feel, well, a little less panicky. He's an actor I really hope we see more from soon. 

Gang Dong Won is another compelling actor. I knew this from some of his recent films, but I was surprised at how adept he was over a decade ago in The Temptation of Wolves (look, I'm not the one who makes up these titles, okay?) and Haunters. He, like Ryu Joon Yeol, is a good actor for a director to enlist when they need someone to sell something absolutely crazy and make you believe it. 

Ryu Joon Yeol: trust me, this guy can play scary as easily as he can play charming.

No discussion of Korean cinema is complete without Song Kang Ho (you can think of him as the Parasite guy). With the glaring, horrible exception of Drug King (just...why?), he's been universally fantastic. The oldest movie I've seen him in is a ridiculous little film called Foul King, but he managed to be really touching and made the best of the material. After that, he really took off, starting with Joint Security Area and then Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. (People have probably seen him in Snowpiercer and The Host, but those just aren't my cups of my tea.) He was excellent in both The Attorney and A Taxi Driver, but my favorite of all of his roles is Age of Shadows. Basically, if you see Kang featured as an actor, it's an almost sure thing the production will be good.

Wait, aren't there Korean actresses? Um, yes, but I'm sorry to say that with few exceptions, women have better roles on television than in the big screen. Many of the movies fail the first two questions of the Bechdel test, and I've seen very few that pass the fourth question. Actresses who consistently work in movies include Kim Hye Soo, Jun Ji Hyun, Kim Tae Ri, and Kim Go Eun, but even those actresses arguably had roles with more depth on television than in film. In that regard, it's more than a little depressing that South Korea has the same problems that Hollywood does. 

Kim Hye Soo: A talented actress who should keep playing leading roles.

Deb in the City

PS Just about all of these movies are available on Netflix or Viki. Also, I am not getting any consideration from, their information is just more consistent than Wikipedia's.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Short-Term Planning and Parenting, FTW

Finished Range yesterday. The chapter about letting go of our familiar tools was surprisingly devastating. As in, by the time I realized what was actually being discussed, I gasped. And then I gasped again. Let me not spoil the surprise, but it's worth reading.

In a nutshell, the thesis of the book is that it's a myth that only those who specialize early will ever achieve success is a myth. Of course there are Tiger Woods, Mozarts, and Bobby Fischers, but no one -- individual or parent -- should feel like a failure if they haven't "arrived" by the age of thirty (or twenty). As one chapter discusses, personalities change over time, and the best way to arrive at a vocation that fits is to experiment or, as we lay people might put it, live. No one can guarantee greatness, but broad exposure to a wide range of materials does a better job of ensuring fit and, perhaps, happiness.

I feel comfortable saying Range speaks to the value of short- and medium-term planning, and in such a way that leaves us open to taking detours if we discover the path we're on isn't for us. That's good advice, but it's also lousy advice as the advice industry goes because it isn't neat and it doesn't come with easy to follow steps. That is, of course, part of the point, but I suspect that will be one reason why the plan early and thoroughly crowd will continue to have dominance in parenting circles. 

And that's a shame. When I've been able to step back from my hyperventilating paranoia that my children will never amount to anything if I don't make sure they are following the exact path proscribed by -- who again? -- I see and hear them creating magic. Do they spend too much with video games? Yes, as do most teenagers right now. But they're also making art, making music, and digging deep into the things that interest them. 

One of the best examples of someone who did it his way

 I haven't loved all of it -- there was a period a few years ago where I heard a little too much about a certain snarky "public intellectual" who used specious logic to demean non-binary people, among other things -- but conversations with us and exposure to critical reasoning and media literacy went a long way toward ending that phase. So, too, did maturing from a preteen to a teenager, but perhaps the most instructive was the sheer ugliness of what they saw. (Why this isn't working for people who aren't teenagers, I have no idea.)

Don't sweat two decades out; sometimes getting through two months is an achievement. Trust your judgment -- trust your children's need to explore -- and dig into the discoveries you make along the way.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Confirmation Bias

I've been reading Range for the last few days, and for some reason it's slower going for me than I thought it would be. I suspect those reasons have more to do with general exhaustion than the book itself, which I'm really enjoying.

I just finished the chapter "Fooled by Expertise", which I think most readers will recognize as a meditation on confirmation bias. Yes, you're right to groan when you think about a certain relative or friend who is unable to change their opinion about anything but particularly their pet subjects, evidence be damned. The solution may or may not be "education"; what this chapter and really the whole book show is that the more expert you are at one thing, the more likely you are to only be able to see a narrow perspective. 

I am also in the process of reading To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu. I still think he's an amazing writer, but of course I'm disturbed -- if not completely disgusted -- by revelations about his position on what's happening to Uighurs, as well as perhaps his orientation about the Chinese government itself. He's not opposed, let's just put it that way. I'm forming certain opinions about the man as opposed to the author based on that information, and those opinions don't improve after reading We Have Been Harmonized.

Now throw into the mix Liu's short story that I read last night, "Full-Spectrum Barrage Jamming". To be honest, my jaw dropped. I am not opposed to reading something from the perspective of the Russian military, and I'm not opposed to the Americans being villains, but OH MY GOD. The megalomania ascribed to the Americans here is excessive enough that I can't help but see some paranoia, especially when the author threw in a discursion about the South China Sea...

I felt both better and worse after I read that story. Better, because a pre-existing notion seemed to confirmed, and worse because a pre-existing notion seemed to be confirmed.

I don't like being wrong, and I like even less having someone telling me I'm wrong. Which is why when I see confirmation of something I've thought or said I feel a little lift. ("Look at me and how correct I am.") As if that somehow insulates me from criticism. But I don't like being correct -- being right -- as much as you might think an opinionated person would, and boy, do I find it irritating to be among people who constantly agree with me. It gives me the feeling that the world is much narrower than I've been told it should be, and that some important function I should be enjoying -- the one we usually call "learning" -- has been shut off from me, and I usually grit my teeth if I have to sit somewhere or with something that is too intellectually familiar for too long. I'm gratified to read in Range that I'm not alone.

Please don't take this as a recommendation that we should all be consuming "alternative" news so we can "form our own opinions". (There is a distinction between reality and fantasy, and it can usually be confirmed with a fact check.) And what Liu said about Uighurs is just plain wrong -- human rights are not subject to debate, full stop. What I am saying is that we should look at the same set of facts from a different perspective, preferably one we haven't been exposed to before. It's definitely uncomfortable, but not as much as always thinking you're right.

More reading

There I was, trying to stay heads down so I could make it through the two (or three) TBR lists I have going, and then I came across two recommendations from Austin Kleon that I had to pick up: Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work by Akilah S. Richards, and Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. 

I'm almost halfway through Range, but I already tore through Raising Free People one day last week. The description was provocative, in large part because I couldn't anticipate where it was going, but once I read it, I got it. If we send our children into constructs in which they have no voice and place an emphasis on performance of intelligence -- you know, the kind that ends with someone pinning a gold star somewhere on the child's body or psyche -- we're making it difficult for those children to grow up and become the kinds of adults that question and ultimately dismantle social and political structures that are screwing all of us. And if the children we're talking about are BIPOC, we're making it even harder than it had to be. 

Yes, of course I've been re-evaluating my family's homeschooling plans since I finished reading this last week. Stay tuned as they develop. Also, do you think Ms. Richards would think it was weird if someone followed her around like a groupie? Asking for a friend.

Let's do it already

That was a satisfying book, one that made me feel like I was being nudged into something that shifts my perspective, but unfortunately I didn't feel that way about the work of fiction I finished last week. In fairness, I'm not the target audience for Beasts Made of Night, by I think some of what got me applies across ages. I don't usually like to criticize an author's work publicly -- there's enough of that elsewhere on the internet -- but part of why I don't feel guilty here is that I'm pretty sure I'm not criticizing the author but the editorial team. There were weird spots where it looked like someone had pulled away passages that would have developed characters or explained motivations. Having written, and having been edited, I'm positive that those passages were there in the beginning but removed for length. It seemed pretty clear when I'd finished reading that the editors had chosen to prioritize plot and only kept what was necessary to make sure the reader could follow. I'm guessing this book was closer to 400 pages in its original form, and it should have stayed that way.

The book has such a cool premise, and it seems like the central question is what do we do with our sins. There's a sequel out, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to read it -- after I work through the rest of my pile.

Deb in the City

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Dreaming of May and June

If I'm honest, I get sick -- or at least feel sick -- a lot more often than I should. If I go a week without feeling some level of lousy, that's sort of amazing. While health is a multi-dimensional subject, I feel pretty good about correlating much of that to how much I get to sleep.

But it's more than that. Yesterday (or at least, the day before I wrote this), I woke up after eight hours of sleep and felt Pretty Good. Alright, awesome. Proceeded to do my day, which included a couple of errands. About four hours into it I felt awful. My limbs hurt, I was tired, and I just felt Lousy. 

This may or may not be related to the event I had later that evening and the stress around prepping for it. I'm not sure, I don't really care. The one thing that I do know is that I'm exhausted, burnt out, and I need a break.

I don't get a break, really, until late April. I've spent a long time looking forward to something -- "Everything will get better when...", but my body, mind, and literally my heart are telling me that I need to fully arrive at that day in late April and take the break I've been looking forward to in one way or another.

I think I need six weeks, and that brings us to early June. I want to find a balance between being having a schedule and feeling overwhelmed with to-dos. 

The thing I keep thinking about is walking, for a long time, in spaces I love. As we're coming out of extremely cold temperatures right now, that feels like a fantasy, but even in Boston that will be doable by May. I want walks every day, in beautiful spaces.

A little bit of heaven

It will be garden season by then, so one day of my weekend can be devoted to gardening, composting, rose bush pruning...ah. (If it sounds strange that I'm looking forward to kind of grueling physical labor, perhaps that gives you an idea of the other stresses I've been under.)

I will get to deliver my Self Care Learning Circle at that point, and it feels like I'll have a little more integrity doing so since I'll be taking care of myself. That's one night a week.

Could I go to a museum at that point? I would love to, although it's not nearly as much fun with a mask.

And then? Maybe nothing. Maybe I'll enjoy sitting at home and reading, or maybe I'll be able to sit outside and read. (Beaches are not worth even thinking about at that point here, pandemic or no.) 

I have no idea how I'll feel after that or what I'll want to do, but I know that I need this.

Friday, February 5, 2021

What an Organizer Does

I'm a born organizer...actually, no I'm not. I make myself hyper-aware of the little details that need to be done to make a vision a reality because I'm actually not innately aware of them. When I have a vision, I don't automatically see all of the steps needed to get there, which is why I have to work so hard to make them happen.

Earlier this week I put an event for Jewish Climate Action Network, Massachusetts chapter (JCAN-MA), in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation for their Sacred Grounds program. This is how we got there:

  • A year and a half ago I asked one of my sons what he wanted to study
  • Among other things, he says "the science of climate change"
  • I find a bunch of books, including one by Judith Schwartz called Cows Save the Planet that talks about the potential of regenerative agriculture. (I'd been exposed to the concept before, but never in that detail.)
  • We read another book of Schwartz's, Water in Plain Sight.
  • I see this as a great complement to the work JCAN-MA is doing with heating/cooling/transportation, and propose it as a team.
  • People like the idea.
  • I organize one webinar on victory gardens. Not only do I find someone else to host, I find other people to attend, one of whom joins the team.
  • I organize another webinar on compost, led by the second person who told me about regenerative agriculture. People come.
  • There's enthusiasm for all things gardening and agriculture, in large part due to the pandemic. We apply for and get a grant for money to bring more programs forward.
  • The vice-president of JCAN-MA wants to talk about the limits of food and agriculture as a climate solution, and I'm all over it. (I have not saved the world with three decades of vegetarianism.) People come.
  • One of the team members hosts a webinar on how we can bring Jewish values, including caring for the earth, into our gardening. People come.
  • With some of the money from the grant (above), we host a film series and discussion including two films, Intelligent Trees and Hometown Habitat.
  • We love both films, and we all really love Sacred Grounds, a program mentioned in Hometown Habitats.

We're bringing these guys back

  • We contact the National Wildlife Federation, and they love the idea of JCAN-MA bringing this to the Northeast.
  • The president of JCAN-MA and I scramble to find people to partner with. Some people stay, some people leave, some more people come in.
  • We organize three book groups about related topics. People don't come in good numbers (mental note: it is easier for people to watch a film than to read a book), but we read Nature's Best Hope by Doug Tallamy, and I have a better idea of what we need to talk about in a Sacred Grounds session (even if I'm not totally in love with the book, and even less so after I'm reminded of what Ibram Kendi has to say about E.O. Wilson in Stamped From The Beginning).
  • We spend a lot of emails and Zoom calls trying to figure out the best way to divide the information up, as well as who can present. We settle on two programs, Why and How.
  • I get a little crazed over nailing down a date because I want to start publicizing ASAP.
  • We settle on a date and start emailing and posting.
  • Meadowmaking for Biodiversity reaches out to us, and turns out they've been doing this work in our area for about six years. They happily agree to help present at both sessions.
  • We realize we're competing with people for attendance because of another Jewish climate festival at the end of January.
  • I warn people that numbers might be low, but they're fine going forward anyway.
  • I'm trying to nail speakers for our conference in April in the midst of this.
  • I'm also setting up a presentation for said late January Jewish climate festival.
  • We have a tech rehearsal, and I start to think we're going to be okay.
  • The brilliant person who works on all of our tech, among other things, helps shape promotional slides.
  • We work up to three hours before the event. I come to the realization that almost all organizing equals admin, plus charisma. Therefore, in my case, all admin.
  • I know we're prepared, and I feel a sense of calm, if not elation.
  • The session begins! We have a lot of people. I'm an utter goofball, and so glad that I have speakers who know what they're talking about.
  • Success! But...will they come to session two?

I skipped over the items that were not part of the direct path to these sessions, but there's more work, some of which I might lay out in another post about other projects. Oh yeah, during all of this, I'm also homeschooling my sons for the last year and trying to finish the series I started working on four years ago, as well as keep track of my elderly mother and autistic sister to the best of my ability. For some reason, I keep getting sick (not with COVID-19) and I'm not getting as much exercise as I would like.

I think it would be easier to donate money.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

I don't get it

I came across a story yesterday about a company in my state that is selling four products. I won't name all of them, but one of them is for a salad dressing whose name pretty much is the recipe. I looked at the website and blog, and blinked. Apparently you can put the salad dressing on roasted vegetables or salads with grains (known as "bowls" these days), and you can take something I've always called tomato sauce and make things like vegetable parmesan with it, in addition to pasta and pizza. Don't get me started on things you can do with sandwiches or pound cake.

There was a time when I would have gotten really excited if someone had said, hey, having these four items in your refrigerator will make your life so simple while varying your dining options, and here are the recipes, and aren't they clever for the little twists on the classic versions? (If I'm honest, I do pat myself on the back for being Just So Organized and Clever when I have homemade kimchi, tomato sauce, chili, and vegetable broth in the fridge.) But if they had said "or I can sell that to you for the low, low price of $9 per jar", I would have looked at them like they were crazy. Actually, I would have just walked away and figured out how to make it on my own.

I don't mind naming Crate & Barrel in a conversation I had with one of my sons a few weeks ago. While my husband was looking for the perfect bowl (which we did not find), my son came upon jars of sauces meant for things like Chicken Marsala and Pulled Pork. When he asked me how it worked, I explained that you needed to get the chicken or pork yourself, cook it, then add the sauce and let it simmer. That didn't seem like a great trade off to him, although he did think it compared well to the cost of take out, based on what he'd seen. And I think he's right, but it's a lousy bargain compared with the cost of actually cooking at home.

My husband reminds me that I'm not their target audience because, among other things, I know how to cook and have been doing so since I was little. I'm also, judging by the marketing photos, about a decade older. But...have things really changed so much since 2011?

Excuse me, I'm going to make some salad dressing with tahini, miso, and lemon while I cleverly ponder that one.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Progress in Learning, with a Touch of Shame

Every parent has shame around parenting, I think, and it’s a separate shame for each child, no matter how many children you have. (Unfortunately, it’s possible to have more than one per child as well.) In the case of my “youngest” (by thirteen minutes), it’s the shame around how he feels about numbers. I panicked when he wasn’t as facile with numbers as he was with letters and words when he was younger; I scolded him for not applying himself, I know I made him feel bad and panicky around them. Hence, the shame, both his and mine. (For what it’s worth, his brother had the opposite learning dynamic, which meant there was a different set of shame, but that’s another story.)

When I collected myself, I had a realization – or was it a theory? – that the things they both struggled with at seven or eight would be easier to work with when they were older, and what they needed more of at that age was play. So we prioritized outside time, tried to make sure they touched words, numbers, and documentaries, but I let them be for as long as possible.

I was right. (Please appreciate how much someone who experiences so much shame on a regular basis enjoys saying that.) At sixteen, the “younger” one can multiply numbers quickly (and better than about half of the adults I’ve met), while the “older” one, though he still doesn’t love reading, can read, write, and comprehend at the level you’d expect when you hear him speak (they’re both sharp-witted, let’s leave it at that). They are, in other words, both everything they need to be and just fine.

Kids need more outside time, because math and words will come. Adults need to remind themselves that even if they don’t, it’s better that they have memories of what they can do, not what they can’t.