Attacking the Novella

For about six months, I was regularly working on a short story that made me inspired and proud. I kept it in the box of a “short story” because that’s all it was in my mind. I wouldn’t let it grow past that stage because it would become too hard to control and manage. Then I put it away for about another six months because I didn’t know how to end it or what to do with it anymore. The plot stirring in my brain and the depth I wanted to go into with the characters had naturally grown past a short story and into a mini novella.

A ‘mini novella’ is the best description right now. Novella’s start at about 17,000 words and mine is 11,000. The most important part is not to focus on the word count so I don’t freeze up. It’s more valuable to allow the story to take the shape it needs, even if it doesn’t fit into the prettiest box when it’s complete.

If novellas interest you, check out this New Yorker article, which describes some of the history of them and also recommends the author’s favorites.

I started writing it again at the beginning of 2016 for two reasons. A. I have a general idea of how I want it to end. B. It was annoying to leave a project I am proud of, unfinished.

My final decision is that this is a work that will be shared. Lately I’ve been listening to punk rock/low fi/eclecto musician, Kathleen Hanna. She’s been in multiple bands, from her punk rock days in Bikini Kill, then a solo artist Julie Ruin, then another group Le Tigre and most recently a group show as The Julie Ruin.

In The Punk Singer, a documentary about her music career, she describes that she literally created the Julie Ruin album in her bedroom. She feels that girl’s bedrooms are places of creativity but the products often are secret and she choose to share hers.

I thought about my story and decided that I would share it, perhaps by printing out copies and/or creating it’s own website when completed. I’m not expecting it to feel as special to anyone else, but this is a perfect piece to share.

Organic Cotton Clothing

In my experiment with finding ways to reduce my exposure to chemicals, one part really was a hit. I ordered a custom made 100% organic cotton shirt from an Etsy seller and fell in love with it. And in general with cotton, even better if it’s organic.

The cotton is strong and soft and because it’s a natural fabric, doesn’t hang onto smells or stains as much as manmade fabrics.

I’m also very picky about clothing and I enjoy having hardworking staples that I can wear in lots of different ways. So I ordered two more dresses, one from Violet Star Creations.

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It’s such a pretty soft blue and I’ve already worn it with happiness.

The second is from Woolen Moss.

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Also beautiful and versatile and has been worn a lot since it’s arrival!

These clothes are not inexpensive to buy. The perks are that they are custom sewn to your measurements and are finished well. The sales support independent designers, very nearly free of any concerns of sweatshops, underpaid workers or unneeded chemicals.

When compared to what a new dress from Urban Outfitters might cost, the monetary costs are similar, but Urban Outfitters offers none of the above perks.

So for me to save up and purchase some of these items to add to my closet makes a lot of sense, especially with how often I seem to wear them. Check out the links to the artist’s stores directly for more information!

Being Tough and a Woman

An insult that really hurts is to be called a bitch. I’m not sure why ‘bitch’ is more hurtful than ‘asshole’ or any other go-to insult, but, as a woman, it really bothers me. I’ve had conversations where other women feel that being called a bitch by another woman is worse than being called a bitch by a man. Personally, I disagree.

When I hear a man call a woman a bitch, I flinch. It makes me angry. It feels unacceptable. The reason why it bothers me so much is that, logically, a woman can’t turn around and call a man a bitch. If she does, there’s some kind of unreal nature to it, an exaggerated tone to it. A bitch is something only a woman can be. When men say it, they (probably without realizing it) are saying, “You are this terrible thing, something that I cannot and will not ever be”. When a woman says it to another woman, she’s saying, “You are being what we all socially agreed not to be”. To really flesh out this thought, the meaning of “bitch” needs to be well defined, which it isn’t for me yet and I’m not going to focus on that right now.

Insults are a funny thing. I’ve been insulted and it’s bounced off and forgotten on many occasions. Other times, I’ve literally thought about it for years and it still hurts my feelings.

I realize this is a scattered thought. One week ago, I was unnecessarily called a bitch by a man and I’m still trying to work through the complexities of why it was so hard to hear.

And women have, fortunately, taken back ownership some of this word. Right, beey-botch?!

Healthy Clothes To Healthier Products

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The search for healthier, more ethical clothing led me into an area that should have seemed obvious, but getting thoughtful about the products I use on my body and in my home didn’t seem connected to this mission.

Articles I read referenced more than just ethical clothing companies. I learned a lot about new product lines and, just like a branch on a tree, found my reading branching off into sub-interests.

Safe and ethical beauty products and home products were a harder swallow. Not only are they way easier, cheaper and more abundant to go the most chemical filled route, the information about the safeness and effectiveness of different products is not that clear.

Starting with beauty products seemed right for me. My face products were already safe: witch hazel to clean and coconut oil to moisturize. My method was to take out all unnatural products and experiment with products that are rated very safe on the EWG database. If I liked them, they became part of my new collection. This included mascara, toothpaste, sunscreen, sunscreen lip balm, bar soap and deodorant.

Here’s my verdict…Sadly, most of the all natural products weren’t the right fit for me. My teeth hurt after a week of using the all natural toothpaste. The pain stopped after switching back to my normal brand.

One item I really, really wanted to work was all natural sunblock. I tried Badger for both the face and lip block. This is not chemical sunscreen that sinks into the skin. Instead it is a zinc based layer that sits on top of it. My skin itched and it came off if I rubbed my face. It annoyed me enough to switch back.

The all natural lip sunscreen, on the other hand, is still happily with me and I wear it daily. What irritated me on my face is not even noticeable on my lips. Score.

The all natural, mineral mascara works well, except it’s not waterproof. It’s called Pacifica. Semi-score.

The bar soap smells awesome and makes me happy. I’ve been buying “Good” bars with no packaging on sale at Whole Foods.

Deodorant was a battle. I found a recipe and made my own mix, which worked okay, until it started a rash under my armpit. Over two months, I tried a variety of application attempts and it just didn’t heal until I switched to regular deodorant. Although the brand I have now doesn’t have aluminum, it does have a fairly high “toxicity” score on EWG. This is still an unsolved mystery as to what my next step will be.

The only household product replacement I did was a watered down Dr. Bronner’s in a spray bottle, which works great for everything. Another score. But I did find my old hankies and cloth napkins and started those in rotation. I also made new rags which are helping reduce the amount of paper towels I use.

I also did research on each company to see who I was buying from and learning who own what company was eye opening and is a whole series in itself.

Since most of them aren’t a long term fit, I’m going to have to wait until more effective products come out.

Getting educated on all this was the by product and doesn’t feel the least bit like time wasted. At least I’ve been able to reduce my exposure to unneeded chemicals that much more. Until next time!

 

Getting Stronger: Another Timeout

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My apologies if this is dull. It’s just what’s on my mind.

I’ve been learning lots of new skills for the past 6-8 months. Learning about how databases work, about how research is done, what data science actually is and how people use it.

At the beginning, I was scared of all this because it was out of my learning sphere. What I mean is that it’s harder to learn something new if you have no background basis in it. Once even a little bit of it sticks, it’s easier to keep sticking more pieces of information on from there.

These will be lifetime skills that I have to keep working on, but I’m glad to finally have a basis. And I hope to get stronger from here.

Walking the Beautiful Dog: A Time Out

Today’s post is a break from the sustainable fashion series I’ve been plowing through.

Instead, today I’m musing about dogs. I don’t own a dog, but I do borrow my boyfriend’s parent’s dog to walk, usually once or twice a week. She used to live with a pack of dogs and now is all by her lonesome, the last of the pack left.

Our walks are my time outs. There is a great park near his parents and it’s our favorite place to go for doggie adventures.

But, first let me tell you something about this dog. She’s beautiful. Not like, “I adore this dog so much that she’s beautiful inside and out because I can see all of her positive attributes”.

Not like that.

If this dog were a person, she’d be a model. She’s thin and long and has big brown eyes and long eyelashes. She’s blonde with long ear hair framing her face. She’d look fantastic in doggie couture, if his parents ever decide to go down that road.

Let me tell you something else about her. She is constantly making a mess of herself, digging in something or sleeping somewhere gross. So I usually spiff her up a bit before taking her out.

And even if I don’t, the reactions to her are intense.

“Wow! Gorgeous!”

“So pretty!”

“She’s beautiful!”

For real, this is what it’s like to walk her. It’s like hanging out with your ridiculously good looking girlfriend who everyone notices and compliments.

In dog form, it’s hilarious because she is totally clueless about all of this and is always focused on figuring out which dog peed in this spot a week ago.

And getting to laugh about that weird intersection of where people values meet dog values is why I love walking the beautiful dog.

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A Second Hand Wool Coat

On my biggest visit to donate a bunch of my clothes to The Second Mile , I allowed myself a not so quick peek through the shop. My pickiness level is way up, but I stumbled onto this beautiful vintage 100% pure wool jacket (and skirt, which sadly didn’t fit). Both were soon mine for $12.00. To care for it, I ordered a Kent wool brush and cedar wood hanger, in case of moths.

There’s an awesome label inside, which shows this was made in Portland, Oregon. Secondhand and made in the USA, can’t get much more ethical than that.

It has a proud place in my closet now and looks great with my very vast selection on scarves.

Scarves!

Wool Coat in Action

Wool Coat Label