I created my own recipe for peanut butter cup fat bombs since I’m not patient enough to look through 5,000,000 blogs and find a good recipe that someone else wrote. And also, I’m too picky for my own good.
It’s been years since I followed any kind of strict diet, but I have a handful of guidelines I set for how I eat. One of those is to try to stick to sweets that are filling and low in sugar. This fits on both counts.
1 cup peanut butter 1 stick butter 2 tbsp honey Vanilla Cinnamon 1 cup chocolate bits Cacao nibs (optional)
Prepare a muffin pan by adding Halloween-themed cupcake papers to each little cup. This will not work if there aren’t ghosts on the paper. It’s the same principle as how, if a recipe says to use 1% milk and you want to use whole milk, you still have to use 1%. Someone who wrote a recipe said you have to do it, and now your arms are moving on their own, and you can’t stop them.
Melt the chocolate bits. I use dark chocolate since the whole point of these is to have something sweet that’s low in sugar. You can use a little extra if you want to be the type of fancy person who drizzles chocolate artfully on top of things. You don’t need a double boiler for this, no matter what anyone says. Stop living in fear.
While the chocolate is melting, sprinkle a bunch of cacao nibs into the bottom of each muffin cup. They make everything extra crunchy and chocolatey. Plus, ghosts like them.
Once the chocolate is melted, pour it into the bottom of the cups on top of the cacao nibs.
Melt the peanut butter, butter, and honey.
Add vanilla to this mixture. I’m not sure how much, even though I’ve made these numerous times. Half a teaspoon? A whole teaspoon? Just add some. You’re not going to fuck it up. Same goes for the cinnamon.
Pour the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate in the cups. Optionally, you could wait for the chocolate to harden first. But I didn’t put patience on the ingredients list, did I?
Now, if you’re fancy, add the chocolate drizzle to the top, and some extra cacao nibs to go with it.
For more than a month, I’ve been trying to answer the question of whether or not 2019 was a good year. I’m not ready to touch whether or not the 2010s were a good decade. This was the fourth time in my life I’ve watched one decade change into another, and the fact that I’m aging is hitting me hard lately. But a year? I can handle that.
Writing-wise, I kicked ass this year. I relaunched this blog (to no fanfare, as I don’t fanfare well), and I’ve been working diligently on Stars Fall Out. I came out of the combined writing slump of 2017 (anxiety) and 2018 (baby).
Despite this having been my worst mental health year since I was diagnosed in 2012, my writing hasn’t been stomped on by my anxiety the way it was in the past. I have a toddler, and so many weeks, I didn’t write as much as I wanted. Still, 2019 is the most consistent I’ve ever been.
I had a string of bad haircuts, culminating in me giving in and getting a professional haircut for the first time in three years. I’m still pro diy haircuts, but this year was one botched experiment after another.
I lost two aunts and a great aunt. As a result, I’ve put more thought into my own death than I probably have before.
Don’t embalm me. Put me in a simple box, and let people write and draw on the box. Plant a tree over me.
I made less art and went on fewer adventures than I wanted.
It’s no surprise to me that they’ve both been weak; I’ve long considered art and adventures to be two sides of the same coin; one is the input, the other is the output.
My writing is a form of art, and that went well. But there’s only so much to pull out without putting something back in. I miss sketching, watercolor, collage. I miss going to new coffee shops and cemetaries and turning down intriguing roads.
The exception to not having many adventures were the ones I took with my toddler. She loves Dunkin Donuts, but I don’t know how many times one can go to Dunkin and still count it as an adventure.
When I try to figure out what 2019 was, I keep thinking about what turned out to be my flagship anxiety problem. It started when I paid off my car earlier this year.
Specifically, I paid it off a year and a half early to save more money in the long run, including on my insurance.
I was supposed to follow up by letting my insurance know that I had done this, which would give me full control over my policy again so I could choose cheaper coverage options, thus saving myself $200 per year.
This was a smart plan, but I can’t handle phone calls, and I didn’t do it. Reasons and excuses rolled one into the other, snowballing for weeks and then months. Knowing better isn’t doing better.
Around this time, the trichotillomania I’ve dealt with since my teens hit me the worst its ever done. Every so often, I’ll pull out eyebrow hairs while reading or thinking. I don’t typically notice until my thumb and forefinger come into view with five or six hairs pinched between them. I usually have months between episodes, so it hasn’t been too big a deal.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I haven’t had my eyebrows in their entirety for the same amount of time that I’ve been procrastinating on this call.
My social skills have seemingly deteriorated, which makes sense because assuming they are actually a skill and not a talent, one would have to practice to keep them sharp. It’s been a bad year for social anxiety, and I haven’t done well at keeping in touch with people. Low key texts to friends get wrapped up in the bigger anxieties of every other correspondence-related task I’m putting off. Like that phone call.
So back to that. For ten months, I assumed I had to make a call. For anything important, it’s always a call. No matter that we’ve advanced technologically to the point where that shouldn’t be the case. It’s always a damn phone call.
But then I went on to my insurance’s website in a fit of desperation, knowing it was a waste of time and I wouldn’t find anything. Instead, I learned that I can change my policy online. And because it made me feel like I was doing something, I filled out a contact form and asked if there were any way to have the lien removed from my policy electronically.
I knew this wouldn’t be possible. I knew they would tell me to call.
Instead, six hours later, I got an email that said it would be taken care of.
AFTER TEN MONTHS. That was it.
I’d love to see if my eyebrows grow back.
I couldn’t tell you why I started a list with every single year of my life and tried to label each year with a single word.
2009 The Year of Depression.
2015 The Year of Change
2017 The Year of Pregnancy
2018 The Year of the Baby
I’ve only managed to label six years of my life, and those ones came to me easily. The others bleed together. Nothing clearly demarcates them except for the numbers we put on calendars.
I remember twenty years ago, in 1999, the odd precariousness of realizing that all four numbers would be wiped away. 2000 would be a new, different world. This is both true and untrue of every new year that comes.
A few weeks ago, I asked my partner if he thought 2019 had been a good year. His response? A series of quizzical noises.
And so it came to be that 2019 was The Year of the Mixed Bag. I don’t know if time and introspection will turn that into the official label, but it’s true for now.
There’s nothing like becoming a parent to turn someone into a militant, judgmental psychopath. A common complaint is that our culture has become increasingly polarized. I often wonder if this is true, or if this statement is a result of nostalgia. As parenting goes, the polarization is here now, and easy to spot, starting with natural birth versus hospital birth and breastmilk versus formula. Once toddlerhood comes about, there’s child leashes versus YOU MONSTER WHY WOULD YOU LEASH A CHILD LIKE SOME KIND OF ANIMAL?*
That’s where I am now.
I started researching this topic when my toddler was about a month into walking, and her running off into the road became a tangible possibility. Was a leash something we’d need or want, or was this now considered a barbaric practice better left in the 1980s?
What I found at the start of this research process didn’t help me at all. There haven’t been a lot of studies done on child leashes. In lieu of science, the internet served up a chunky stew of thinking errors, logical fallacies, and ad hominem attacks.
In other words, the discussion of child leashes borders on useless. In a state of reactionary horror, the anti side won’t entertain practical considerations, instead screaming about ethical questions that they don’t bother to ask. The pro side has seemingly been more willing to look the pragmatic side, but the ethical questions are the elephant knocking politely at the front door, still having not made it into the room.
In the would-be Venn diagram of these two sides, both lack questions that should be asked, and the overlap between sides is crescent-moon thin.
That’s where I come in. I have either no sides, or many. I’m an amorphous cloud with no direction.
I’m pro rationality. I’m pro critical thinking. I’m pro questioning.
Forget sides. If you’re figuring things out, here are some useful questions to ask about child leashes and other parenting choices:
Is there any scientific research to support either position?
In terms of physical effects?
In terms of psychological effects?
How old is the research?
Who funded it?
Is it applicable to all types of leashes, or only a particular kind?
The answer to the big question, unfortunately, is “not very much.”
How does being leashed affect the child?
In the long term?
In the short term?
Does this encourage the traits I want to instill in my child?
Does leashing encourage or curtail a willingness to explore?
Does it encourage or curtail bodily autonomy?
And which of those things do you want?
The antis say no, duh, your kid is on a leash. The pros say yes, because you’re now enabled to take your kid into the environment and let them walk.
Is the leash a response to realistic dangers or imagined ones?
Is my view on leashes, as it is now, consistent with other views that I hold?
Would it make more sense to avoid the situation in question, at least until the child is older?
Are there some situations where leashing is more or less acceptable?
Are there some situations in which it’s worth trading off long-term effects for the sake or safety?
Long term psychological damage is meaningless if a child is truly harmed. But if you can avoid the situation altogether, wouldn’t that be preferable?
Is it the most pragmatic solution?
Do leashes even work?
If so, are they effective, particularly versus other options?
Have you fixated on the leash as a solution when there is a different root problem that needs to be fixed?
Some anti-leash folks say that kids need to be disciplined, not leashed. That statement itself is a huge can of worms, but does point to a potential root problem that might need to be addressed.
Also, I can say from experience that leashes don’t always work. I was leashed as a child, and I still remember squirming out of my harness at the fabric store and hiding in colorful bolts of patterned cotton.
No, I have no idea how it affected me psychologically. I did enjoy the fabric though.
In his latest season of Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell did a series on “thinking like a Jesuit” and using Jesuit reasoning to solve moral dilemmas by looking at the particulars of a situation. In this case, one might ask, “Is a child leash closer to a set of handcuffs, which might hold a prisoner, or a safety strap on a carseat?” One might also ask if it’s like having a dog on a leash, and if so, is having a dog on a leash positive or negative.
It’s a lot of thought-work for one seemingly minor decision. But habit shapes who we are, and if a leash is something that would potentially be used often, it’s worth considering possible outcomes. The gap between intention and actuality is where our personalities form.
When I first drafted this several months ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to conclude by choosing a side. I would leave it open, even if writing this and thinking through all my questions had swayed me to a particular side.
This hasn’t been an issue that I’ve spent endless months grappling with, or lost any sleep over. When I first drafted this, my toddler was still at the stage of strollers and wrap carriers. In the interim, as this sat on my hard drive and I posted other things, my child went from a hesitant walker to a kid who yells, “RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING” at the top of her lungs and climbs anything. We passed into the stage at which, if we were going to use leashes, we would be using them.
You know the saying that actions speak louder than words?
By my actions, I’m on the side of no leashes.
But my circumstances allow this. I live on a rural area; I don’t need to contend with busy city streets. I also have only one child.
I taught her not to run into the road. Considering that she just turned two, I’m happy with how well she does. However, I have no way of knowing if that’s down to successful parenting, or if it’s because she’s an easier kid than I was.
The research that hasn’t been done yet is what would’ve swayed me to one side or another. As it is, while my actions have put me on the no-leash side, philosophically and ethically, I’m still neutral.
Neutral, and excessively pro-questioning.
*People like to ignore that they too are animals. I’ve taught my two-year-old to answer the question “What type of animal are you?” The answer is “hooman.”
If you’re entertaining in your home this year, there are many reasons why you might want to utterly destroy a guest with obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the technical differences between a frenemy, a nemesis, and a cousin who drives you to murder with a turkey baster are beyond the scope of this article, all are bound to show up at your door this holiday season, and one of them might have OCD. By taking the words of Sun Tzu to heart, and learning these actionable techniques, you can deal with that person.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
OCD comes in many forms, and this guide is not meant for all of them. But if you know your guest has OCD, and you know that their OCD intersects with germaphobia or health anxiety, you need not fear the result of this holiday season.
Greet your guest at the door
Start off on the right foot! Or rather, the right hand, where you keep a great deal of germs. A hearty hug or a handshake is the perfect way to warmly welcome your OCD guest into your home while also saying, “Nothing is safe for you here.”
This one is especially great if your guest is female! No matter how many gender norms we see fall by the wayside, the norm at gatherings of friends and family is still to hug women while men shake hands. If you are warm, effusive, and sweater-wearing, you can hug everyone.
Once you’ve mastered the basic greeting, next year you can pull out of the hug and cough demurely. Something is going around!
Make space for everyone
Do you need to make space on the table for another side dish or for another guest’s plate? Does your OCD guest have a cup full of water that they’ve been sipping from? This is a two-birds-with-one-stone situation, like when you have multiple turkeys and kill them yourself with the molded plaster “Welcome to our home!” tile that you scooped up from the walkway.
Wait until your OCD guest glances in your direction. Then pick up their cup by the rim–the part they drink out of–and move it two feet or so.
Remember, don’t pick the cup up by the base; this method is less effective less of the time, and you should make sure you know your guest is suitably sensitive before trying it.
Take more mashed potatoes
Curses, you’ve run out of mashed potatoes! You scoop up more potatoes, but they are hearty and thick, and they stick to the spoon. Don’t panic; you can get out of this situation with subtlety and panache, and you can destroy your OCD guest at the same time.
Now, do you have the serving spoon in hand? Clunk the spoon onto your gravy-swirled plate. This action will free your desired serving of potatoes, while also leaving a subtle seasoning of your mouth-germs on the spoon, which you should then stick back into the nursing-home-yellow casserole dish.
Burn those holiday calories
Going for a post-meal walk or run either to burn off some calories or for a good reason? For convenience, place your sneakers soles-down on the table before you sit down to put them on. Make sure it’s not a side table, an end table or a coffee table: you want to use the kitchen or dining room table.
This will send a clear message: “All the germs from every public restroom I’ve walked in with these shoes are now on the table where we eat!”
Keep up your dental hygiene
Is your guest staying over? You have a great opportunity here! Make sure they’re around when you brush your teeth, and do the following: squeeze out your pea-sized ball of toothpaste, scrape your wet, used toothbrush over the opening of the toothpaste tube to get the paste off, and hand your guest the tube. Make sure to tell them, “All set! Here you go!” in your cheeriest holiday voice.
Even though flax is a flawless egg substitute when it comes to cookies, make sure you use raw eggs in your cookies. After you’ve rolled out your cookies and put them on trays, but before you wash your hands and tidy up, make you sure touch a lot of things. Chairs, doorknobs, and refrigerator handles are great options which are all in close proximity of your kitchen.
If you really want to be a maverick, combine this with the next tip.
Put out the guest soap
You know those shell-shaped soaps that sit ambiguously in their dish, making guests fret over whether they’re supposed to use them or not? Don’t use them. That kind of holiday anguish is old-school, and definitely not on-trend. These days, there’s a better way: have bars of moisturizing soap at every sink, and turn off your hot water. The slippery, difficult-to-rinse nature of the moisturizing soap draws out the oft-repeated hand-washing process of your OCD guest, making it as long an excruciating as possible.
Keeping your hot water off ensures that if your guest needs to wash hands multiple times—and they will, if you’re following these tips!—their fingers will be too numb to unwrap presents or pretend to eat your dubious food.
Share some comfort and joy
Is there a flu going around? Has your guest expressed concern about the flu, or about the sick children you invited because child germs are different from adult germs? Remember to make vague comments about upset stomachs, then assure your guest that it’s indigestion.
Does your guest think the meat seems undercooked? Make sure you dismiss this silly concern! Even if you used a meat thermometer, even if the pink occurs naturally in that cut of meat, even if you’re an experienced cook, don’t say any of those things. Don’t explain how you know the meat is fine. Simply say, “there’s nothing to worry about.”
Remember that dismissing legitimate concerns isn’t holiday gaslighting; it’s sharing comfort and joy.
As Sun Tzu said, that’s what the holidays are all about.
I consider it one of my good qualities that I hang onto my electronics as long as possible. In part, this is because I want to do as little as possible to contribute to an industry that destroys the planet and uses questionable labor practices*. I buy refurbished most of the time. I repair things when I can. I tolerate screen issues that literally make other people gasp in horror and ask if my computer is going to be ok. (It’s not. Oh, it’s not, it’s not, but you are so sweet and innocent, we can pretend that a repair will be possible.)
Anyway, this is normally a good thing. But sometimes it lands me in a situation in which my two vital electronic tools go on the fritz at the same time.
My phone shuts off randomly, many times per day, while still at 90% power, sometimes dying in an endless loop of battery deaths. It’s kind of like this:
My laptop will act completely normal and then lines of static will burst across the screen and defibrillate my eyes. It’s kind of like this:
Everything breaking at once sucks.
It’s also a strategy.
Or rather, it’s part of a strategy.
I’m keeping my overhead low.
Times are always tough economically for artists and freelancers, so define the sort of lifestyle you want to live, budget for your expenses, and draw the line between what you will and won’t do for money.
And remember: If you want maximum artistic freedom, keep your overhead low. A free creative life is not about living within your means, it’s about living below your means.
“Do what you love!” cry the motivational speakers. But I think anybody who tells people to do what they love no matter what should also have to teach a money management course.
“Do what you love” + low overhead = a good life.
“Do what you love” + “I deserve nice things” = a time bomb.
Keep Going came out recently, but this is a strategy I’ve been living for a few years now. It’s intertwined with the fact that I work part-time in large part to make sure I’ll be able to do my writing. These two parts of my Master Plan are so inextricably linked that I had to cut an entire post’s worth of material about what it’s been like to give up the only full-time job I’ve had in my life.
The Alone in a Room With Invisible People podcast aired two episodes on perfectionism, in which they also discussed the concept of making financial trade-offs to gain more time to do what you really want with your life. In this case, writing.
It’s not that I have any more time than you. It’s that I spent my time specifically doing these things. I have made sacrifices in my life to sit down–and I have less money, less security– we have less security, we have more worries because of our sacrifices. In order to help me do what I want, like we did for him. And people don’t understand. They just think, “Oh, you’re lucky.” No.
In the podcast, Rebecca goes on to talk about having less stuff, and less nice stuff, than other people, and not being able to go out to bars or shopping with friends all the time because of her commitment to writing. We live in a time and place in which it’s possible to live on fairly little money, and end up with way too much stuff (Hi, Dollar Store!), but that’s besides the point.
If someone prefers physical books to ebooks, don’t make them justify it. If someone doesn’t have a smartphone, don’t make them justify it. If someone doesn’t have internet access at home, don’t make them justify it. If someone doesn’t have GPS and, to all appearances doesn’t need it, don’t make them justify it.
It doesn’t matter if they are poor, or old, or technologically illiterate, or made a choice that you don’t understand and don’t give a shit about. Don’t make them justify that they don’t own an item, just like you wouldn’t make them justify not owning designer jeans or not owning a home aquarium or not owning a BMW*.
I wrote the above quote right around when I came up with my Master Plan. The idea of making trade-offs and not compromising on my dreams and goals was one and the same as my reasoning for not upgrading my phone, my car, and my laptop until I absolutely needed to.
I had a flip phone until December 2016, and I got a ton of shit for being a Luddite (even though I design websites!) because people didn’t understand the nature of the choice. I upgraded only when the smartphone choice became pragmatic as well as shiny, like a unicorn with a sensible rain coat.
We don’t have a microwave either. Same deal. That, too, was a choice.
One night at my old job, when I was training a fellow security guard, he brought in his new computer, an $1100 HP laptop. Awesome graphics card! Fast processor! Huge hard drive! Tons of RAM! Can make paninis and will sing you to sleep while gently stroking your eyelids with delicate little machine hands!
What did he do with this awe-inspiring machine?
He watched Youtube videos and typed Word documents, two things you can do on absolutely any computer.
In other words, he could’ve saved $900 if he’d taken a few minutes to think about what he’d actually use the laptop for. That’s all it comes down to: taking a little time to think.
Who are you? What do you do? Will the new shiny thing help who are you and what you do?
I’m Kris. I write. I go outdoors. I try to take care of my family, even though I’m only about three-quarters of a functional person.
Between the first draft and these final paragraphs, I upgraded my phone. It’s not as important to my writing process, but I don’t want to be left at the mercy of its treacherous battery if I’m out hiking and get some kind of injury.
I find myself examining my new phone’s case and screen protector over and over again to make sure they won’t betray me after I finally spent the money to upgrade.
And the laptop? The laptop is like the terminal cancer patient who is given one month to live, and lasts another ten years. Or, more literally, one year. I’ll replace it as soon as I can’t write on it because writing is what I do.
This is what it means to make trade-offs for for my work.
It’s not about asceticism; it’s about an honest accounting.
*To put it diplomatically, which I probably shouldn’t do.
I have a friend who hasn’t seen as many movies as I have and doesn’t watch everything I watch on Netflix. We get along great otherwise, but they don’t get my references.
I feel like I’m always explaining things like who Pauly Shore is and which Ghostbusters movie had the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Usually, I have to clarify that it is not, in fact, “the Pillsbury Doughboy or the Michelin Man or something.”
As extreme as it sounds, this person hasn’t even seen every single sitcom of the eighties and nineties.
The mental exhaustion of this is taking its toll in every area of my life, as unlikely as that may seem.
Please help, Judgmental Advice Column.
Sincerely, Baffled Buff
At times like this, it’s worth nothing that we all have our differences. If all our friends were exactly like us, what would be the point of having friends? Our beauty is in our diversity.
That said, there’s something you need to remember:
If someone hasn’t seen a movie that you like, it says everything about them as a person.
I used to have a friend–let’s call him Ted, which is also Ted Bundy’s first name–who enjoyed the 90s sitcom Step by Step, but didn’t know that Suzanne Somers was in Three’s Company many years before. As you can imagine, this was a horrifying and difficult situation to be in.
I was younger then, and didn’t handle the situation well. It’s still embarrassing to admit that I told him, “You should check out Three’s Company sometime. It’s a classic.” I wince writing this, thinking of how I said nothing to speak out against Ted’s cultural ignorance.
So, here’s my advice to you, Buff:
Don’t listen to this person’s flimsy excuses about not having time or money. Don’t let them fool you with some claptrap about “reading books” or “going hiking with my brother.”
Ask yourself, if the situation were reversed, would you let them say those things to you?
Remember that age is a common excuse for people like this. Only you can say how much leeway you can give this person for having been born ten years before or after you, or for not having lived through the exact circumstances that led you to see each and every movie you’ve seen.
If they haven’t seen that show you always forget you already told them about, remind them that it’s on Netflix. If Netflix has removed the show from their catalog, that is a regret they will have to live with the rest of their life. In this case, you could show them compassion.
But if they say they “still haven’t seen” A Very Important Movie, well, why not? Ask. It might be difficult, but you need to be the one to bring this issue to the light.
Another thing to consider, Buff, is that communication and respect are the foundations of all relationships. You can’t respect someone who uses the wrong preposition when quoting a movie.
You need to correct their misquotes, and let them know that this behavior is not ok with you.
But ultimately? This speaks to the sort of person who can’t be bothered to memorize an entire movie, absorb all the trivia from its IMDB page, and then watch every single other movie that those actors had even a two-second cameo in.
You can do better, Buff. You say this person is your friend, but you shouldn’t have to debase yourself by explaining your references to tertiary characters in Punky Brewster like some kind of animal.
I can’t say if they are beyond redemption–that falls to you alone. But if this person doesn’t remember the names of all the actors who played the Brady Bunch kids…
If they’re incapable of even distinguishing the Ninja Turtles from one another after having only watched the show sometime last century, as if telling apart identical cartoon turtles named after Italian painters isn’t something we all have to do every day…
You may need to think about what, exactly, your common ground is with this person.
You may need to excise them from your life.
You can always replace a friend the way Suzanne Somers was replaced on Three’s Company.