Journal

Thrift Treasures: The Coat

I found a great winter coat! And I mean great! First of all, it is looong! All the way to my ankles, which is the length I have been dreaming of for a while, because the Olsen twins make it look so good, and also because a recent, frigid weekend trip to Boston made me aware of how much more protection I could get if my coat was longer.

Secondly, the coat it is made of all natural fibers, which is the first thing I look for when thrifting, as you may know. The fiber content is 50% suri alpaca and 50% lambswool. And on top of it all it is not stiff and doesn’t weigh a ton, due to how the fabric is woven and also to the high alpaca content.

Thirdly, the coat is shaggy-looking and super warm, basically a teddy bear coat. It reminds me at the same time of the Max Mara teddy coat and of the coat Romanian shepherds wear called suba [shuba].

Romanian Shepherd
Photo by Eduard Gutescu.
The Max Mara teddy bear coat.


This fall I also bought (off eBay) a North Face maxi down coat, which is amazing as well and makes any freezing temperatures feel insignificant.

I feel lucky. For many years I didn’t own a proper winter coat because when my weight changed significantly after I had my daughter, I couldn’t make peace with a body that I didn’t know how to dress. Coats, all coats, just seemed to make me look so much bigger than I already was! My weight has been fluctuating, and now it’s again pretty high, but this time I know what feels good on this body, and I know how to find clothes that continue to make me happy regardless of weight. Finding coats that I love to wear is the ultimate proof that I am good and happy. Weight can come and go. And so can long and freezing winter.

Happy New Year

I don’t know if I am going to call this a resolution, but I plan to work on my website more in 2022. It’s been ignored for too long. So yeah, expect me to be more present here as I slow down an other places like Instagram for example.

I will first of all have to update my digital marketing & design portfolio page because this is what’s be been keeping me busy these post two years. More than writing or even Web design I have been doing digital art and social media marketing. It’s been a period of learning and growth but also mourning for the times when I could still find time to write. I need to get back to that. Because if I don’t write who am I?

My artistic preoccupations have been more in the area of watercolor, digital design than writing. I find visual arts much more relaxing. Writing is too intellectual, too much only in the head. And that can be very taxing. But drawing? Painting? I feel they are more free. You don’t need to think that much and you can allow yourself to be led by inspiration only. Maybe some writers can do that too. For me, it might be an issue of writing in a language that’s not exactly my own.

Here are a few of my paintings. The “woman with the hairband”portrait is digital art done in Procreate on the iPad, and all the others are watercolors. I have an affinity for portraiture, clearly.

I have also been sewing a lot more in the past two years. Lots of oversized square tops in linen and silk, and several #cottagecore dresses in Liberty of London fabrics with which I’ve been having a short-lived infatuation.

My fountain pen hobby has remained a constant, although I did streamline that after getting a coveted gold nib for my birthday this year.

I think I might have found my perfect pen finaly. It’s the Kaweco Special. So underrated! Tried the Al sport first and just hated it! Everyone raves about that pen on fountain-pen enthusiast discussion forums. But the special is great for me. I like a thin barrel and a sturdy but not heavy aluminum construction. Plus it can hold a large international cartridge, which holds a lot of ink. So yeah, I bought a second one! Had to. I always have a need to buy two of everything. Or three if it’s really love. Anyway, in the case of the fountain pens I needed two because I use one extra fine point nib for regular writing, and a 1.1 calligraphy nib for headers and such. But those are the only pens I use every day. I know many people keep several inked pens at a time (up to a dozen or so). I am good with two.

Okay. This is a long post and I’m just about starting to bore even myself. So let’s not push it. I’ll be back!

Beerstorming with Charlotte Bronte in New York, by Rachel J. Fenton

This has been long due. Long, long due. I just couldn’t. And I still don’t know that I can. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed. So honored. So undeserving. 

First, my friend Rachel Fenton calls me her friend in real life. And that, let me tell you right now, it’s so wildly underserved that it frightens me. It frightens me right underneath the bed, where no one can see me and judge what a poor excuse for a caring, loving human being I am to be honored like this. Because what have I done? What? But not respond to texts in time, take six months to write a letter and never reciprocate with gifts as generous as those with shich she’s always showered me and my family. I am not a good friend. 

And then, my friend Rachel Fenton, is an insufferable good writer. So good that I don’t even feel jealous anymore, because what’s the use, you know, futile waste of energy to envy someone whose equal you’re not and never will be. Her creative energy is so exuberant, it just attracts you into her magic and you cannot but admire and clap, clap, clap as hard as you can. And now, she decides to make me a someone inside her book and I am not good enough. I cannot be a good character. 

Lastly, my friend Rachel Fenton, writes about a delicate, very beautiful and sensitive memory we both share of the time we met for the first time after many years of correspondence from across the world. It was a magical time for me that left such an intense shape on my mind that I, for one, still have not formed into any kind of words. But for her, like for any good writer, this was an experience to memorialize in poetry. Poems! They turn me to mush. I do not have a good relationship with poetry. 

Her own experience of that time is much more profound and complex. I was just meeting a friend, she was researching a book on Mary Taylor and Charlotte Bronte, and she was sowing the seeds for a book of poetry. About a different, new day kind of Mary and Charlotte. And, oh no, you guessed it, reader, I a good Charlotte do not do. 

How couldn I ever? It is not dark enough under this bed! Where else to hide? Hoe much deeper to go before I emerge on the other side? 

Love you, Rachel! I am beyond honored to play any part in anything that you write. I hope to offer help. support and love. As you need it. Always. Always lots of love. That I can, have, and do. Not hide. When it comes to you and your work. 

Cheers! Noroc!❤❤❤

Quieting

The thing that holds me back from posting here the most is the pictures. At the same time, I easily find pictures to post on Instagram at least weakly. So what is happening? My brain being … a brain. What do I know?

This start of the year has been hard. We are planning a trip back home to Romania. I miss my family so much that it makes me sick, but at the same time, travel couldn’t be more daunting. Why? I think I am allowing myself to think too much about it. Especially flying. I think about it too much. It’s stupid. But I do it anyway. Why? Why, brain?

I’ve started creating this survival kit for myself: essential oils, crystals, prayers. But maybe it’s just January that makes it all seem harder than it is. I swear, I feel like this trip is the end of the world. I am not well in the head. But then this head is my whole world. So I have to work with it. Make it work with me. I need to exercise and I need to meditate. Eat well and sleep well.

I swear it’s like the world flipped upside down and inside out around the time I turned 40. Nothing is anymore the way it was long time ago. I have completely transformed and been replaced by a new thing.

And life is good, by all objective measures. I have work and I have friends and family has been well. Still, in the middle of the night when I wake up, I am on a plane experiencing turbulence and I cannot quiet my heartbeat.

Anyway, I know I can do this. I have faith. I think this is the ingredient that’s been missing. Belief in something bigger. A bigger intelligence out there that has our (my) well-being at heart. I need to believe again. In essential oils, incense, gems, prayers. In the Mother. She knows. She hears. She heals. She’ll make it all right.

Knave of Wands

I bought a new Tarot deck this summer during our annual trip to the Maine seaside. There is a rather large new age shop in Kennebunkport that we visit every time. I always look at the Tarot decks but most don’t speak to me. I have strict criteria. The cards need to be a certain size, the designer needs to be a woman, and the illustrations must speak to me. This year I couldn’t leave the shop with out this Nicoletta Ceccoli deck. I loved it so much that I also bought a small, travel pack for my daughter.

It’s not like I know what to do with my Tarot cards. I have a couple of older, neglected decks gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. Like with all things of the esoteric inclination, I am wary but so attracted to Tarot! But wary.

I think, though, this might be the year when I pick up the Tarot more seriously. As an introspective, spiritual practice. I’ll put some effort into it. Maybe I’ll actually learn something, not just pretend.

So I pulled out the cards this morning and I did a four card spread that I found somewhere online, and it was relevant enough. Then I started reading some Tarot blogs, subscribed to a Tarot newsletter and researched ways to shuffle the cards. While doing all this, one of the cards in my deck kept coming up on top. It was the first card on top when I pulled the deck out of its box and then it continued to appear from behind all the others, as I worked with the cards. So it finally occurred to me that maybe it had something to say. And since my Tarot abilities are limited right now to the booklet that came with the deck, I went there to find out what it meant.

Knave of Wands: One who is learning about magic and energy.”

All right, Tarot!

Moonlit Dreams/Moonlit Nightmares

“Receiving Room” is a short story that came to me quickly and complete. I wrote it in a couple of sessions, which is very rare for me (I tend to rewrite to death). It was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had writing a short story. I never had to struggle to find its connecting threads or its ending. It remains one of my favorites. And now it has been published in Moonlit Dreams/Moonlit Nightmares, a collection of short stories compiled by Laura Seeber of Antimony and Elder Lace Press.

My story is in great company there. The other stories included are

A Consultation by Moonlight By Thomas Vaughn
Phosphene by Sarah Walker
A Visitation by Parineeta Singh
When the Moon is Full by Dawn J. Stevens
The Sound of Stars by A.P. Sessler
One Stormy Night… by Jesse Moak
Anamnesis by Cara Fox
The Magic Circle by Dimitris Psomadellis
The First Victims Club by Shaun Avery
To Make A Violin by L. Seeber
The Experiment by Todd P. TaylorYou can read a great review of the book by Jamie Ryder on The Comic Vault. (Thank you so much, Jamie!)

The book is available at the moment on the publisher’s site, but will soon be available with the major book retailers. I’ll keep you informed!

In the same sentence

My name found itself in the same sentence with Charlotte Bronte’s and now I can die happy.

My friend Rachel Fenton is a wonderful writer and graphic novelist (An Anthology of Aotearoa Women’s Comics and Island to Island, a Graphic Exchange between Taiwan and New Zealand are some of her publication credits), but above all, to me, she has been an incredibly generous friend that I do not deserve.

In this article on Something Rhymed, a blog celebrating female literary friendships, she talks about her new book, a biography of Mary Taylor, an intimate friend of Charlotte Bronte’s, with her own literary ambitions and radical views of the world and of women’s standing in it.

Rachel generously mentions my name in the article and makes it sound like I had some involvement with the book, although from where I stand it was more than minuscule and of little consequence, not at all deserving of all the praise.

But our friendship is indeed as special as it sounds. And I feel a lot of gratitude. I hope she finds a wonderful publisher for the Mary Taylor biography, a truly spectacular work (believe me, I know!).


A story in the Dig Two Graves anthology

One of my short stories, “The Maiden of the Triangle,” has been published in the newly released Dig Two Graves: An Anthology Vol. II, from Death’s Head Press.

I’m very excited and grateful to Death’s Head Press for publishing my work, and in such amazing company too. “The Maiden of the Triangle” is a feverish dream of a woman’s escape and journey towards the freedom to be her own. It is set in a small tourist town in the mountains, inspired by a place where I used to go to summer camp in Romania. It is there thate a fickle pastoral deity looms larger than present or history. It’s a story unlike most I’ve written, and I’m very fond of it and very happy it has found its place in this beautiful book.

The everything notebook – my journal system

I am rarely inspired to write on the blog these days. I don’t feel like I have the time. But yes, plenty of time for taking outfit pictures and posting on Instagram, that I have, obviously. Well, let’s not dwell on the failures.

Today I feel like writing a longer blog post about my thoughts on the not-so-bullet journal I have been keeping for about two years now and which is working miracles for me.

The tools

First of all let’s talk about the fun things. The notebook and the pens. Very important.

After a lot of thought, I decided to move from my personal Filofax into a big A5 sized bound notebook. I considered the Traveler’s system, with the many thin notebooks tied with elastic into the same plain leather cover, but while the system looks very good, I am sure the shifting of the notebooks in those elastics would have annoyed me to no end. One compact notebook is a better choice for me.

I also chose to use blank notebooks, where I can make my own notations for each day and use as much paper as I need. Some days are very productive, others not at all, and I hate to waste paper, so I cannot stand the already marked diaries.

I started two years ago with a nondescript, Moleskine-sized notebook that I had around the house and a few gel ink pens. And I was happy. Until my sister gifted me a fountain pen, the likes of which I hadn’t used in many, many years. And after that I of course couldn’t use any other pens. I know, I am rolling my eyes at myself too.

So I bought myself a couple more pens and two bottles of ink. Nothing too fancy: one Pilot Kakuno with EF nib and a Kaweco Sport (also EF, but the line is so much wider than the Pilot that it’s upsetting) and Pilot Iroshizuku inks.

I use two pen pouches. One is larger, holds maybe up to ten pens, and one smaller, for three to five pens maximum. In the small one I keep one fountain pen and one gel ink, along with a thick felt-tip for my headlines and a couple of colored flexible tip pens for underlining, etc.

When I was finished with that first notebook, I got myself a fancy A5 Clairfontaine (bought it from Montreal on our trip there last year) with very special paper that is supposed to be one of the best for fountain pens. By then I had also found a nice leather cover in the thrift shop that I cut to A5 sized and dyed black.

I am on my third notebook now. It’s a Stalogy 365, which has a much thinner, yet very smooth and fountain-pen friendly paper. (Still haven’t graduated to the Tomoe River paper that everybody raves about, but it is probably coming next.) I also recently bought a $5 pen from eBay, a Chinese dupe of the Lamy Safari, and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted. And last week I found a new leather cover in the thrift store. It’s a little tight on my A5 notebook, but not too bad.

The System

I don’t follow any bullet journal notation and I don’t limit my notebook to certain subjects. I write everything in it, personal and professional, dinner menus, meeting notes, wardrobe wishes, short stories.

I start the day with a little leaf-style doodle for the date in a corner of the page, then each morning I sit and make a bullet list of tasks (phone calls to make, e-mails to write, appointments, meetings, writing/editing/submitting, housework, etc.) Each Monday I make a dinner menu for the week, which I expand into a grocery shopping list on my phone so I have it handy when I am at the store.

Once my daily task list is done, I usually allow myself to just write something, whatever, nothing too coherent. I have this sort of entry almost each day. Then I have entries for what I’m writing/editing. I write stories, I think out edits for manuscripts, I write detailed research information for some ideas. Most of my days include these parts. I separate them with large headings written in felt-tip pen or even colored boxes.

Then there are other entries. Each dinner party gets one entry with menu and shopping lists. Each vacation has its own packing details. Sometimes on weekends I write down about my thrift hauls, although I have a separate notebook where I keep track of my thrifting trips.

At the back of the notebook I have pages with book lists, sewing lists, story ideas, wishlists.

And that’s about it. Nothing too complicated. It is basically just a brain dump notebook and it works very well for me. It makes me feel extra happy and special and confident to walk around with my notebook and pen case in my bag. Even when I don’t use it, it makes me feel good to know that I have it there in my bag and that if something weighs heavy on my mind, I can just pull my notebook out and take it all out on paper. It helps in many ways.


Instagram is evil (maybe) and other things

I have been away from this blog for too long. Feeling guilty about it. Because this is my space and I should be taking better care of it. Instead, I have been posting a lot on Instagram. Which is not my space. It belongs to Facebook. I don’t like that. And yet.

Instagram is easy. One picture, a few words and you’re done. Exposure is wide and varied, depending on the hashtags used. Dialogue is open and frequent and interesting. I’m visual, I like beautiful images, they connect with a part of my brain that apparently needs this connectivity, so there you have it.

Of course, there are bad things about Instagram. I’ve seen many people suffer from severe Instagram fatigue. Because it seems to turn into a very competitive place: who posts most often, who gets most likes, views, follows, who has the best visually organized feed and I don’t know what else. Evidently, most of us don’t get the big followings that others seem to acquire at lightning speed.

I’ve read my share of articles about making Instagram work best for you–post at certain times of the day, post frequently, comment a lot, that sort of exhausting thing, but I don’t have the energy or time to use any of the tactics. While I see my account there as a public interface for my writing, not necessarily a personal space, I do post personal images (outfit pictures, hello!) and I enjoy that part a lot. I am torn between how much exposure I want for that kind of thing, but I keep doing it, even though it seems like not a very serious preoccupation for a serious writer, which I definitely am. It is my thing, I’m going to own it.

But I don’t want to feel like I am tied down to the platform. I don’t want to start feeling like it’s another kind of work. It’s not. I don’t monetize any of my social platforms, besides possible readers who might want to buy publications where I’ve written. So I post whenever I want, whatever I feel like. Mostly outfit pictures, as I said, because … for a good reason, I’m sure, let’s not get into that right now).

So, what was I trying to say here? Wow, this new WordPress update is messing with my head. I mean, it is good and all, but change is difficult to adjust to.

I’ve been having a huge pain in my neck for the past week. It appears that most neck pains are psychosomatic. They are caused by depression and anxiety and deficits in social support (Depression and anxiety as major determinants of neck pain). Interesting, right?

I am reading a lot about consciousness and brain function and I am feeling a renewed faith in the so-called “irrational”, superstitious, symbolic, etc. Science leaves space for it. We don’t need to be fully aware and rational 24/7. Which is a relief. For me at least.

Back to Instagram? Well, there is not much more to say. I have no strong feelings against it. I am not in competition with anyone and don’t have any ambitions related to that platform. I do  wish there was a simple way to transfer all the content I have published up there to this website of mine. I’ll have to figure something out. Because my biggest gripe is that I don’t want my content at the whim of some nefarious tech company out there. I have started a page on this website where I am trying to upload old outfit pictures. I hope I can keep that up, although I feel bad that all the captions being lost, not to mention the comments that are often more interesting that what I ever write.

In writing news, I started a new novel during Nanowrimo this year and I am feeling positive about it. It’s about life, death, resurrection,  consciousness, and séances. All the good stuff. I will probably take January to finish the first draft, after which I will give it a time of rest and return to Dragaica, the second book, the one that is almost there, and I’ll finish those last edits on it and start submitting it again, while also submitting short stories. It’s going to be busy. And that is good.