Autumn Calling (September Round Up)

September is over already, which I find incredibly rude. I don’t know where the summer went (although if I’m being brutally honest, it feels like I blinked once in January 2020 when I opened my eyes, I was here).

[Photo ID: Government of Canada logo for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, with the date (September 30th). The logo consists of an orange circle with a white path running through it and stars above, and superimposed with the silhouettes of a narwhal, an eagle and a beaded flower. Smaller icons of the same images, outlined in black, are enclosed in three circles to the bottom right of the image. Source: canada.ca]

Today, September 30, 2021, is Canada’s first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, in response to the #everychildmatters movement and acknowledgement of the immeasurable harm done to the First Nations people by Canada’s residential school system. This country has an incredible amount of ground to cover when it comes to recognizing the on-going genocide and abuse of First Nations people. You can find more on that history here, as well as explore the APTN National Day for Truth & Reconciliation playlist with video resources here, including Calls to Action. Please keep in mind that this subject matter, while triggering, is crucial to engage with if we want to understand our accountability to the First Nations communities whose land we have settled on.

[Photo ID: “Every Child Matters” logo on an orange background. The logo is a circle formed by a circle of stylized hands to symbolize children being lifted up, with the words “Every Child Matters” in the center, designed by Andy Everson of K’ómoks First Nation. Source: mcgill.ca]

As we race closer to the end of the year, I’ve been a busy little bee pollinating as many metaphorical flowers as I can. I have a bittersweet announcement to share, but there’s some good stuff in here as well. Keep reading for a general life update, writing updates and latest tips, a podcast update and my monthly reading round-up. And if you want to subscribe to my blog, sign up below!

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[Photo ID: A bumblebee on a sunflower, grown from the sunflower seeds people bring to feed the birds at the Clifford E. Lee Sanctuary. Credit: Me]

Life Updates

This summer I’ve been investigating an ADHD diagnosis. This might come as a mild surprise to those of you who don’t subscribe to Listen 2 Me, or who aren’t familiar with the hallmarks of the disorder—verbal impulse problems, trouble focusing, overwhelm and anxiety especially as relates to productivity, keeping seventeen calendars (or none) because you can’t stay organized, etc.

Getting diagnosed is a long process, and I actually started this some time ago, reading up on ADD/ADHD and trying to figure out how I wanted to address it. I’ve been in therapy for many years and I’ve learned a lot of excellent coping strategies for dealing with the worst bits, but things have always been a struggle. Part of the problem is that when things are going well generally, it’s a lot easier to keep all my coping strategies going, but as soon as things go off the rails (as life is wont to do), it gets a lot harder. And I’ve always, no matter how well things were going, struggled to get things done without external accountability. That’s been a massive hurdle for me accomplishing any of the things I want to in terms of my writing and other creative endeavours!

Anyway, after meetings with therapists, reading two books about ADD/ADHD, speaking to ADD/ADHD-diagnosed friends about their experiences, getting a secondary consult, then making an appointment to speak with my doctor about a possible diagnosis and treatment options, I started on medication at the beginning of the month. While I’m still working on figuring out which dose is correct for me, I will say that it’s made a huge difference.

The way I describe it to non-neurodivergent people is like this: imagine you’re in a room with sixteen radios playing all at the same time, some blaring music, some tuned to talk stations, and none of them have power buttons or volume knobs. That’s what it’s like in my brain every damn day. It’s nearly impossible—and takes an insane amount of effort—just to listen to one radio at a time and do it for very long, because everything is so overwhelming. When I’m on the medication, it’s like someone came in and shut all the radios off and put their buttons and knobs back. I can choose which ones to listen to when I like, at the volume I prefer, instead of being at the mercy of the noise.

One thing I will say: if you think you might be struggling with ADD/ADHD symptoms or someone you know might have it, check out the self-screener questionnaires from CADDRA (The Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance), pick up a book about it or read some articles or accounts from other people with ADD/ADHD if you can. I started with Scattered Mindsand Driven to Distraction, both older books but still considered seminal, and there are plenty of alternative resources like ADDitudeMag.com or r/ADHD. It was incredibly validating to read about other people who had experienced the same struggles that I had, and also so heartbreaking to know that if the people in my life who were responsible for my well-being had made more of an effort to understand me sooner, I might not have had to struggle quite so hard for all the years that I did, going undiagnosed.

[Photo ID: A dark and spooky tree with tangled branches reaching toward the camera. The pale lichen on the branches makes them look almost skeletal. Credit: Me]

Podcast Update: Small Town Spooky

Speaking of Listen 2 Me—you may be wondering where we’ve gone. Never fear! Gio and I are taking a brief hiatus while we reorient ourselves and figure out where we want to take the show next. It’s been a true blast and a privilege making our “little dog and pony show” for the last year and a half and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

In the meantime, if you’re missing my voice, you can check out Small Town Spooky, my new podcast dedicated to unearthing the weirdest, creepiest stories, urban legends, cryptid sightings and rumours from small towns. It’s part history podcast, part mystery podcast, and 100% oddity. This is a project I’ve been wanting to get off the ground for a while now, and I’m so excited to finally be able to share it. I like to think that even my dad would have listened. Episode 01 airs October 3rd and covers my favourite local ghost story from my own hometown (or close to it, anyway) that centers on a certain road named after a U.S. State. I don’t want to give too much away—go to smalltownspooky.wixsite.com/home or follow @smalltownspooky on social media to find out more.

[Photo ID: A person typing on a typewriter sat on a desk under lamplight with books and a jar of wildflowers nearby. Credit: Photo by Min An from Pexels]

Monthly Writing Tip

The thing that really got me through writing podcast episode scripts, descriptions, website copy and working on my YA manuscript this month was using sensory triggers to “set the mood”.

When I was working on the podcast, I had other spooky pods or cursèd reality TV shows like True Ghost Stories or These Woods Are Haunted playing in the background. While I worked on my novel manuscript, I listened to a playlist of punk-pop that I made that includes some faves from when I was an angsty teenager and some female-fronted bands that I think my characters would enjoy. I also lit a specific candle that I connect the smell of to working on the novel, and for some reason it really gets me into the zone of writing about these characters and their weird little town.

If you’ve tried anything similar or use other sensory triggers in your creative work, let me know in the comments! I want to hear what you use.

Reading Round-Up

[Photo ID: Screenshot of the book covers from the books listed below that I read over the last two months. Source: Goodreads.com]

I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked this month (isn’t that always the way?) but here are the ones that I did get through between August and now:

  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  • Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang
  • Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos
  • Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Peterson
  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
  • The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk
  • 7 Ways to Sunday by Lee Kvern
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

I’ve been doing little mini (spoiler-free) book reviews over on my Instagram, but I don’t always get them all in. The best fiction book I read in August was A Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk. It’s a mashup of genres—urban fantasy, Victorian, alchemical sci-fi—and I just loved the worldbuilding. There’s also aro/ace rep which I love to see. I also really enjoyed Under Shifting Stars and you can check out my mini-review of that one on Instagram. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was a book club pick (not mine) and I really enjoyed it—it’s one of those that’s going to stick with me for a while as I continue to digest it.  We had the fortune of interviewing Lee Kvern on Listen 2 Me and her short story collection 7 Ways to Sunday is like a master class in character vignettes.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was a recent read and it was very affecting in a way that I didn’t expect (also funny and sweet). For my non-fic picks, Can’t Even and Quackery top the list, with the former being a compelling deconstruction of the millennial lifestyle—I can’t recommend it enough, but it’s a gut-punch of a read. Quackery was more casual, recounting the most batshit (sometimes literally) methods of curing diseases and ailments curated by the best (worst) of Western medics and charlatans from early Greek (we’re talking BCE) physicians into the mid-1900s. It was, in a weird way, a nice break from being pummelled in the face by reporting on today’s anti-vaccine sentiment and science denial.

As always, if there’s something you’re reading or watching or excited about—let me know in the comments. Or come say hi on social media! I promise I don’t bite (hard). From what I’ve seen online the past few weeks, things are getting a bit rough for everyone. I feel that, and if you do too, you’re not alone. Take care of yourself, stay safe, and try to keep track of the little joys. You’ll be surprised at how much they can add up.

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