Happy First Day of Autumn (September 2018 Personal Updates)

It’s September 22nd and officially autumn so I’m currently decorating for Halloween, weighing different costume options, and realizing that next month is gonna go by like a whirlwind. Ah, well. At least I finally finished my Goodreads reading challenge!

Some brief updates on my life:

  • Grad school is busy, busy, busy, and even more so with student org obligations and work, but I’m gonna make it through this year if it kills me, dammit.
  • I’m getting better at giving vaccinations!
  • I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’ve been working with a new therapist since before summer started on some mental health things I’ve referenced on this blog in the past, and it’s helping loads with managing grad school + life stress and setting healthy boundaries. I just need to be better about the “homework” I’ve been assigned to do. (Mental health apps are a literal lifesaver.)
  • I did read way more books this year than expected (granted, a fair few were poetry books, short stories, graphic novels, and DNFs that I dropped like a hot tamale), but I’ve been better about slowing down with my reading now that classes have begun. It doesn’t feel that way sometimes, but I’m in a much better place than I was last semester.
  • I’m still not sure how I feel about alcohol since people generally assume that if you’re going to college and you’re in your 20s, you should be drinking like a fish in your free time. But since I have family members who have since passed on from their chemical addictions and because I lost a friend earlier this year to alcohol poisoning, I’m rather wary of it nowadays. I’ve been better about setting boundaries on how much I drink and when I drink and overall I’ve become that mythical person who can stop after one drink at social outings. I prefer myself much better this way, especially because it means I can still think, function, and get work done. Anyone who doesn’t respect my drinking choices probably isn’t healthy for me to be around, anyway.
  • Since I had a blood test about a year and a half ago that indicated I was pre-diabetic, it’s been a wakeup call to make healthier eating choices (even on the most stressful days) and to exercise more. Hence the renewed interest in cooking and the recipes I’ve been posting here. Many Americans are pre-diabetic and don’t know it, so I’m considering it a gift to have this knowledge early so that I can protect my good health as long as possible.
  • Word of advice: If you know you have diabetic or pre-diabetic family members, try to get your A1C checked at some point because it never hurts to know and lifestyle changes are so much cheaper than dealing with the cost of diabetic healthcare in the USA. I deal with diabetic patients every day at my job and the costs (and stress on my patients because of the costs) are horrifying.
  • Mormonism and leaving Mormonism has been on my mind lately with the Protect LDS Children initiative (and Sam Young’s subsequent excommunication over it), plus the various abuse scandals with missionaries and so on. I try not to let being an ExMormon take over my identity too much, but when a lot is on my mind, it feels like a shield, if that makes sense. Plus, I’m now more involved with the local queer/LGBTQ+ community, so I’m reminded of it since my sexuality (and gender) was a major factor in wanting to get out when I was 13/14. Someday I hope the baggage I carry will feel less heavy and the PTSD will be easier to manage.
  • Related to this blog is the writing blog I started when I was not in a good place in my life and then carried on with as a way to document my writing hobby and the recovery process. I haven’t been writing too much in the past month aside from things related to school and book reviews (mea culpa), but it’s one of the things I’m hoping to do more of instead of wasting time on social media.
  • Goals for next month/autumn (since I may not have time to post again until November): be better about socializing and keeping in touch with people because grad school makes it far too easy to become a recluse, keep my living space as organized and as clean as possible so that it doesn’t become hot chaos, and then less time on social media (I say as I refresh social media yet again lol) and more time on physical exercise and writing as much healthier coping mechanisms for anxiety.

Good luck to y’all with your goals and plans and have a lovely autumn!




A brief word of advice to editors and readers

Normally, this is the sort of thing I’d post to the more casual blog, but I’d probably receive the third degree there for what I’m about to say.

As a hobbyist writer, I’ve been involved with online writing communities for nearly 15 years now and have experienced dozens of different kinds of writer cultures. I think I can safely say that I’ve seen most of the usual writing-and-book-publishing dramas that eventually crop up in such creative circles. I’ve also been the odd beta reader, a casual editor, and a frequent reviewer.

If there’s one bit of advice that I highly recommend to both readers and editors, it’s that in online circles where writers post more personal stuff or post more casually written things (not officially published works), one must bear in mind that many writers have egos that are as fragile as glass. 

Now, I’m not saying that you need to protect their fragile egos from criticism or rejection. Hell no. That’s unhealthy and unrealistic and quite frankly some of us writers actually prefer to hear honest critiques or to know when we make a typo in our creative writing (we exist!). Writers/artistic people can and should be responsible for managing their own emotions, reactions, mental health, and so on. But, uh, in close-knit writing groups on social media, fandom culture, etc etc it might be better for you to take a moment to think before you say something to them there because I’ve seen many folks make an off-hand comment or note something with the intention to be helpful and then immediately regret it because social media can breed such nasty backlash. You can go full Leeroy Jenkins if you want, but also be smart and protect yourself in this screwed up age of internet harassment culture, mmkay?

Also, certain writing circles can turn into toxic echo chambers of the same old advice, same old rules of etiquette, and other toxic behaviors such that folks who think differently will eventually leave (usually to form their own groups). Sometimes it’s better to gracefully bow out or otherwise stop expending so much energy rather than try to force a change on something that refuses to be changed. Because it bears repeating: Don’t set yourselves on fire to keep others warm.

Updates and August 2018 Happenings

Summer is almost over and per the usual, my plans have been more ambitious than what I was feasibly able to do in reality. Normally I’d write one of these posts at the start of next month, but because I will be very busy next month (and even busier until the winter holidays) I thought I’d jot down what passes for a blog update now.

First off, blog updates: I do intend to keep posting little recipes or cooking advice here and there, though I’ll be making more of an effort to do that at least monthly. I’ll also try to write posts like this one at least quarterly, maybe some book recs and creative writing on my writing blog. Over the past year, I’ve realized that I MUST increasingly waste less time on my other social media accounts since while the folks on there can be super friendly, the websites have been far more of a distraction to me than studying, writing, and cooking motivation. For the sake of my precious free time and mental health, I need to devote more time to quieter, less distracting tasks. WordPress is pretty nice about that, as long as I limit how often I post and edit things.

August 2018 Happenings:

  • My new job and a renewed interest in my own mental and physical well-being has pushed me to change some things about my living space and habits et. al., even if it means things like spending money on a backpack that isn’t broken, a small book I’ve wanted to read for years, or the copay for health care services.
  • To that end, my new job is fast-paced and can be quite stressful, but I’m learning from my (many) newbie mistakes and managing and it’ll help me through school and make me feel less anxious about money.
  • I don’t mention it much, but I’m reading a lot of books atm and have had to push forward my Goodreads reading goal for the year far more times than planned. I expect that to dry up by the end of next month since I’ll need to focus more on textbooks and less on fiction reads. Perhaps I’ll still have time to read and review indie short stories here and there, but I’m not making any promises.
  • Speaking of which, I’m trying to build up better study habits, but it has very much been a work in progress since I tend to get distracted very easily, especially during the summer. I’m actually digging out old calendar-type systems again since neglecting to do that since the start of May has led me to brush up against deadlines far more than I’d like.
  • August 1st marks Lughnasadh and that foreboding feeling right before the end of summer (and for me that means school, flu vaccine season, and putting up Halloween decorations). I’m not sure how I feel about this summer, strange as it has been, but I hope all of you are doing well despite the continued heat wave and forest fires and that you can have some time to enjoy the beach or swimming pool and helados for me as I will be too busy then to partake.

May you all have a nice August and hopefully my time away from this blog won’t be as long as my hiatus earlier in the year.

Fruit and Yogurt Popsicles

Another recipe post because why not? (I’ve been reading books, working , and badgering myself back into “good student who is conscientious and knows how to study” mode before next month so not much excitement has been happening in my life lately.) This recipe is how I’ve been surviving the heat wave without melting or spending all my money on overpriced store-bought popsicles, though I’ll admit to buying a few tubs of cheap soy ice cream and fruity sorbets. (Alas, I have yet to see any genuine water ice sold in bulk where I live and the gelato and froyo are both ridiculously expensive relative to the quality. The east coast spoiled me.)


  • 1 & ½ cup of plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup jam, jelly, or other preserves
  • ½ cup powdered sugar (or more or less to taste, but it’s essential to have it powdered so that the popsicles are creamy instead of gritty)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring
  • ½ cup frozen fruit of choice (I try to match it up with the preserves so e.g. a berry preserve would pair well with frozen blueberries)


There’s really not much to this one because it’s so easy, but basically mix everything up in a medium bowl and pour or spoon the mix into popsicle molds and freeze at least 3-4 hours or so, depending on your freezer’s temperature.

Flavor combos in case you need ideas (not cross-posted elsewhere and partly based on The Flavor Bible):

  • Strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry preserves/jam + frozen blueberries or raspberries (since strawberries and blackberries tend to be too large for popsicles unless there’s some way to cut them while frozen without turning it into a smoothie)
  • Frozen peach slices + orange marmalade + 1/2 tsp cinnamon mixed into everything else
  • Frozen peach slices + blueberry or raspberry jam/jelly + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Frozen peach slices + apricot ginger preserve
  • Frozen banana slices + basically any of the above since it’s so versatile
  • Frozen mango pieces + 4 Tbsp lime juice in place of the vanilla and jam and add 1/2 – 1 tsp of chili powder to the mix or more if desired



Summer Mozzarella Quesadillas

I’m back again with another recipe because this season seems to be the time when I experiment a little more (and my most recent “everything but the kitchen sink” vegetarian soup would probably be too tricky to write down since I basically just tossed shit from the fridge + freezer in a pan and the slow cooker and then combined them lol).

Ingredients (for 1 serving)*:

  • 1 flour tortilla (I made this with the fajita size ones so you’ll need to scale up the other ingredients by about double if you use the super large ones)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper spread (I get mine from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 slice of fresh mozzarella from a mozzarella ball, approximately ¼ inch thick OR use about ¼-1/3 cup shredded mozzarella OR non-dairy mozzarella substitute of choice like Daiya
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves (or a mix of basil and parsley, but the basil is a must for best flavor results)

*Technically you could make these into margherita quesadillas (in the loosest interpretation of the latter word) if you used pizza sauce and oregano instead of the red pepper spread and drizzled some olive oil on top, followed by sprinkled salt and black pepper, but you do you. Also if you want to make it a little more veg-heavy, you could add cooked spinach and red onion to the fillings or maybe a bit of thinly sliced tomato and change up the type of tortilla or wrap you use.


  1. Heat a medium or large nonstick pan or electric griddle to medium-high heat (this recipe is fairly quick so just keep an eye on things and the bottom of your tortilla won’t burn).
  2. Use a butter knife to apply a thin layer of pepper spread to the tortilla and place it on the pan, pepper spread side facing up.
  3. Add the mozzarella slice dead center or sprinkle the shredded cheese around the tortilla, keeping about ½-1 inch away from the edges.
  4. Sprinkle the basil + other herbs on top and cover the pan/griddle with a lid or a heat-safe plate.
  5. Cook until cheese is melted and basil leaves have wilted, about 3-5 minutes (so watch it like a hawk).
  6. Fold tortilla in half and use a spatula to remove it from the pan to a plate so that you can dig in!

July 2018 Updates

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog beyond the irregular shared post on personal or writing advice (or both!), so I thought I’d make a post today instead of continuing to overthink my unplanned hiatus.

So, here are some personal happenings over the past year or so (well, since this blog was more active):

  • I’ve made new blogs and writing accounts elsewhere, which are a lot more free-spirited and good for making casual friends or acquaintances who share a lot of my interests. I won’t say where or link them (but those of you who can guess enough to know how to PM me are welcome to ask me privately). There are definite downsides to juggling different styles of blogging, but I’m not giving up on WordPress because even though the writing community here is smaller and less active, I do enjoy its simplicity and peacefulness that is relatively free of drama compared to other places.
  • I’m also writing 3 WIPs: two novel-length ones that have been stuck in my head for at least a couple years (if not much longer) and one short story just because. They’re hobbies for the time being; I’m not seriously planning to publish them within the next few years, but instead study the process of writing and have a place to creatively vent with words.
  • I’ve started grad school in the past year which, for multiple professional, financial, and personal reasons, has felt somewhat like throwing myself repeatedly into an MMA ring after having only a week of beginner’s boxing lessons. And then sometimes I manage to win a match and I go, “Huh, I guess I know more than I feel like I do.”
  • Some parts of grad school have been rather difficult because I was rather starry-eyed about being surrounded by lots of grad school friends and dropped the ball a bit on the work needed to make friendship happen. I’ll have to do better. While I have dozens of nice enough classmate acquaintances, I’ll need to think more about how I might be a better friend to them, as well as choose my friends more wisely.
  • I’ve started a new part-time job after a year of doing odd jobs and mostly having too much time for a brain as anxious as mine is. The work can be stressful, but I like that it challenges my brain and keeps me moving and focused on my schoolwork and adulting skills. I hope I can stay on with this one, no matter how busy I get, at least until I earn my degree in a few years if not longer. It’s not the sort of work I planned to be doing 6 months ago, but I’ve changed my mind about what I’m interested in since then.
  • On that note, I started up one-on-one therapy again. It’s not perfect (therapists who have expertise in spiritual abuse and cults are unfortunately rare), but my therapist does know a fair bit about PTSD and so I have hopes that I can improve my patterns of thinking and make them healthier, since now I’m not only responsible for my own health, but also the patients I encounter when working or volunteering. I often have this image of myself as having to be strong and capable for the others who rely on me, but that’s not possible if any aspect of my health (mental or physical) is teetering off a cliff.
  • I’ve also started doing my own spiritual practices again. Last year, I was expecting to have joined a UU congregation by now, but I’ve concluded that going to a church building every Sunday might be more triggering than I originally thought. So, I can do my own thing instead, something I do for myself and keep fairly private, and can return to on my own terms and whenever I have time, considering how chaotic my schedule can be.
  • I would also be lying if I didn’t mention here that I am very worried for the future of my country and trying to do what I can to preserve the interests of future generations while picking my battles wisely and trying not to fight all of them alone, given that allies and potential allies are everywhere. There are many ways I can help, more than what one might see on the nightly news. I’ve always wielded my sense of politeness (even reservation) and easy ability to get on with those much older than me like armor, as if to protect myself from the things I experienced in my childhood and prevent them from ever harming me again. However, it occurs to me that the things I’m learning and the skills I’ve developed over the years can extend that armor to others, and I really ought to do that when I have the spoons.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope everyone is having a nice start to their July so far, and if not, I hope you have easier days soon.

If you’re currently working on a summer project or anything, I’d be happy to hear about that, too!

Captain Awkward: Reminder to Vote

Content note: There are mentions of suicide later in this post and also some very US-specific political stuff. I promise not to turn this blog into an all politics, all US health-care policy all the time site, but this couldn’t be more important or personal to me. I could not in good conscience neglect the […]

via How To Help People You Love Who Have Depression, Revisited — Captain Awkward

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Ten writing prompts that play with reader expectations

Since I don’t really have much to add in the way of writing advice that hasn’t already been said before, here’s some funky writing prompts instead:

  1. An eldritch abomination/horrifying cryptid is actually real and comes into the public limelight to terrify humanity again, only to be rather confused by having a ready-made fandom and memes about them. They eventually decide that stardom isn’t so bad and becomes a regular figure on talk shows, discussing their horror dimensions from which they originated.
  2. A deity falls in love with you and while their text messages to you are god-tier entertaining, you’re really not interested in a relationship with them.
  3. A mysterious entity takes over your country’s government and appears to be capable of controlling everything that happens with very little effort. However, they have a weakness for your award-winning homemade recipe and would do just about anything for a batch.
  4. History class at night school is rather boring until ghosts start giving their input during the lectures.
  5. Whenever anything is burned to ashes, it appears in another dimension. The original resident of this other dimension is starting to get rather annoyed by the clutter.
  6. Atlanteans asked the gods to hide them from the rest of the world because they were having a very bad case of Impostor Syndrome-induced anxiety and didn’t want to put up with other people’s pressures and expectations anymore.
  7. Demons don’t cook anything to eat and they think the human customs of doing so are essentially a magical religious practice.
  8. A knight has a mission to rescue a princess from the villain/monster, only to find that she has already escaped and the only clues as to where she went were left behind in a diary.
  9. A wizard commissions a magical cloak of invisibility, but a typo in their order leads them to receive a cloak of enhanced visibility instead.
  10. A young witch attempts the common taboo of making a love potion and manages to succeed, but the potion promotes platonic love and enhanced communication skills. The government sees it as a threat to the war effort.

(Crossposted from my other writing blog.)
Image credit: Pexels 

Things that happen in large families

Or: Funky things that have really happened and that would be fun writing prompts or writing inspiration in the right, non-chronically-sleep-deprived-because-grad-school hands.

These are so underused in fiction even though they can be a treasure trove of humor and drama just waiting to happen. Admittedly, it would take more work to tweak these for a fantasy or science-fiction series, but it probably wouldn’t be impossible. Also, a lot of these can be applied to the Found Family/Family of Choice trope.

  • The youngest sibling and the oldest sibling wear styles from completely different decades (e.g. 80s and 90s) because the youngest kid’s entire wardrobe is hand-me-downs from the older ones. And yes, it looks as hilarious in family photos as you might think.
  • Birthdays and holidays spawning a lot of Dobby the House Elf moments
  • There is no such thing as a perfect family photo. Someone is always blinking or making a silly face or sneaking in a rude gesture. Always.
  • Grocery carts piled ridiculously high with the basics and yet inevitably one item on the list will always be forgotten and it just so happens to be essential for dinner
  • Cooking a meal involves both racks of the oven, three-quarters of the stove, and sometimes an electric griddle or crock pot on the side
  • Bunkbed Discourse™ x1000
  • Four+ people trying to get ready in a bathroom at the same time (the nicer ones will eventually give up and get ready in a bedroom that has a decent mirror but they’ll still maintain that the bathroom mirror is the best)
  • One sibling piled under two blankets with three pillows over their head in their fully-lit bedroom at 1:38 AM because one of their siblings procrastinated on their homework. Meanwhile, a third sibling reads a book and the fourth sibling sneaks back through the window from their latest nighttime adventure.
  • Similarly, siblings getting roped into homework projects and favors around the clock, especially if they involve videos, pranks, or both
  • One sibling bribing a pack of siblings with junk food or favors so that they’ll leave the sibling alone with their crush

And if you have more to add (even if you don’t have many siblings), by all means, please do so in the comments! This was pretty fun to think about, even if messily organized.

(A crosspost from my other books and writing blog)

Photo by Markus Spiske