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Friday, May 22nd, 2015 10:57 am
Applying for PIP (Personal Independence Payment, the latest Orwellian name for "the bit of money we might deign to give you if we decide you're sufficiently disabled") is just making a big list of everything you're crap at that most people aren't. And it's just as much fun as that makes it sound like it is.

When I moaned about this to [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours just now, he suggested "Maybe you should do a seperate list on the side of things you're awesome at that most people aren't, just for yourself." A marvelous idea!

Unfortunately, in this mindset, anything I might be good at has flown out of my head.

Not that I'm fishing for compliments, but feel free to help cheer me up in comments (which are screened, because I'm not here to brag) if you like.
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Monday, May 11th, 2015 10:18 am
Having a statistically-significant other who's an engineer means I don't want t-shirt/badge/whatever that says SMASH THE PATRIARCHY; I want one that calls for CONTROLED DEMOLITION OF THE PATRIARCHY.
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Monday, May 11th, 2015 05:55 am
Just awake from a ridiculously horrible nightmare. I'm exhausted and sort of disappointed with my brain for concocting such ugly, grim things.

But it was only after several minutes of attempts to slow my breathing that I realized even my nightmares feature friendly clever talking dogs, and exciting science-fictional modes of transport.

I'm glad my brain puts these nice little Easter eggs in even the nasty things it does to me.
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Sunday, May 10th, 2015 08:07 am


By Morag of Manfeels Park.

Of course, the particular reason I've been crying has been this:
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Saturday, May 9th, 2015 09:59 pm
Andrew's just asked me to help him with re-writing the lyrics of a Monkees song into a Shakespearean sonnet.
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Friday, May 8th, 2015 11:58 am
I was 18 for the 2000 U.S. elections and voting for the first time.

From there to 2004 to 2008 where we Minnesotans had to wait eight months to get Norm Coleman to stop throwing his tantrums and let Al Franken take the seat he was elected to...

To 2009 in the UK being the first election I paid attention to here (when we got Nick Griffin as an MEP and Andrew helped a great Lib Dem win Northenden by eight votes, having persuaded more than that many LDs to go vote) to 2010 to Manchester's council becoming completely Labour as the country got all those UKIP MEPs last year, to yesterday...

...each election of my political lifetime, in either country I want to feel is mine, seems more harrowing than the last.
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Friday, May 8th, 2015 08:40 am
Oh I love Andrew.
I see we now have at least two MPs. Good. Two is enough for a leadership election.

Starting tomorrow, we will regroup.
Damn right. I'm scared and I'm angry and I'm sad but I'm determined to make things better, as soon and as thoroughly as I can.
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Thursday, May 7th, 2015 02:47 pm
Even Facebook taunts me.

Every time I look at it today there's a box at the top I can't get rid of, which says "It's Polling Day. Share that you are a voter and find more information..."

I'm not a voter. Not today, anyway (I can vote in American elections.) Thanks for rubbing it in, Facebook.

I can't vote here without British citizenship, which is hardly practical when the fees currently stand at about two mortgage payments. So for now I'm not British, and I can't vote in the country where I've lived for the past (nearly) decade.

So I do hope that all of the people I know who can vote in British elections do so today (or already have by postal vote!). I know the choices are lackluster and the results in many places feel like a foregone conclusion. But I strongly believe that not voting is a feeble form of protest against the establishment and against extremists, as it makes life easier for both of them if you stay away from the polling stations.

Don't make life easy for them. Please vote.
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Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 10:48 pm
Turns out I'd been slightly misunderstanding the idiom "gild the lily."

The definitions/explanations I find for it now seem to indicate it's a sort of "taking coals to Newcastle" sort of thing, whereas I always thought it was a "overegging the pudding" kind of thing.

They're similar, but the coals-to-Newcastle kind is just about doing something unnecessary, a wasted effort, whereas pudding-overegging is about trying too hard to improve something, ruining it by attempting to make it better than it naturally is.

I still think my version is better. Feel free to start using it.
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Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 10:13 pm
Along with not wanting to hear about how Americans are the weird ones, I also hope I don't have anyone telling me that the way the U.S. votes for its president is weird or confusing.

Because this:


And it's even worse than this, since the UK was given a chance to make the second circle look more like the first circle and turned it down (this is actually a demonstration of why referendums are stupid, but that's a digression), whereas no one's even asked me if I'd like to improve the voting system in the country where I can vote!
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Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 10:38 am
Despite having slacked off all of yesterday, I find myself completely without motivation for anything today. I can't even figure out what it is I should be doing.

Spending so long slogging through the process of applying for benefits and asking charities and the council for help with the whole blindness thing, and so long before that putting it off, I'm used to there being something I'm dreading and putting off and thus feeling guilty about putting off. But either I've done all those things, I'm waiting on other people to do the next bit, or I've buried them so successfully in my mind that I don't think I have any of them left.

I cleaned everything in the house less than a week ago and I did two loads of laundry yesterday. There's no dog to walk any more (and even doing nothing feels like more of an activity if the dog was sitting on or next to me while I did it. I will spend this evening stuffing envelopes to help get John Leech re-elected, so I don't even have to feel guilty about being a bad Lib Dem.

I feel like I've emptied my mind which the zen practitioners tell us is a good thing but a chronic procrastinator like me feels downright lonely without a bunch of shit nagging at the back of her mind for her to do it! I am lost without it.
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Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 09:27 pm
My dad didn't just get a gold watch when he retired. He got a gold hard hat.
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Thursday, April 30th, 2015 06:52 pm
Just about now, my dad is finally done with work.

Forever.

He's retiring today, and the tradition at his place is everyone (it's only a dozen people or so) goes out for a meal, my mom gets invited along too, and then he gets to go home after that, he doesn't have to work the afternoon.

So right now, it's about lunchtime where my dad is, and I'm thinking of him.

He's worked so hard, all his life, with a heavy load of farm chores since he was old enough to do them. He's one of those people who's never sick, never complains, never thinks "no I won't go to work today because there's a blizzard."

He's worked hard his whole life, missed a lot of my brother's and my school concerts and football games when we were growing up and he worked nights. He's done a lot of manual labor jobs, even as his body gets older and slower and a bit more prone to aches and ailments.

He is the ideal I always feel I fall short of, for working so hard and so uncomplainingly, with all life has thrown at him, his whole life.

He's worked so hard, no one could more deserve their retirement. But it's weird, too: I can't imagine him not working. Neither can he. He's already talking about all the stuff that needs doing outside and the places around Minnesota he'd like to visit. I hope he has very much very happy time to do all he wants, now.
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Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 10:29 am
My "Support Plan" from the sensory team arrived in the mail today.

My surname is STILL spelled wrong, even after I've tried about three times to get it changed (and I have gotten my e-mail address finally fixed, which contains the correct spelling of my name...). My date of birth is wrong, interestingly; that was new to me.

And it just went downhill from there, really. Stuff I can do it says I never do. Stuff I can't do it says I have no difficulty with. Pages and pages of reading about myself in the third person and not recognizing who they're talking about. Which happened to me all the time in school, and which led me to just throw the bundle of papers down on the table.

Yes, it's nice that now that I'm not in school I can fix this. I'm still getting used to being listened to and taken seriously for anything to do with my eyes, because that just never happened in my endless specialist appointments at the Mayo Clinic and my IEP meetings at school with my parents and teachers and the visual-impairment caseworkers. So yes, it's good to know I can fix this and hopefully things will get straightened out. But just thinking of how much work it'll be to do this -- seriously, I started off just adding corrections but I think I might have to re-write this whole document -- makes me tired and sad.

It'll be a struggle not to just curl up and ignore this, and probably everything, the rest of today.

Oh well. I was about to make cheese on toast when the post arrived, because I haven't eaten anything yet today. I suppose I'll go make myself that, even though cooking is on the list of things I can't do for myself.
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Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 04:20 pm
I'm on a mailing list for Lib Dem bloggers (even though I'm not really one) and today as sometimes happens there I noticed an e-mail asking people to share a link to a video they'd made. There was another e-mail from someone saying it was great and that they would do so.

A minute later there was another e-mail from the second person: "Is that one scarf or two, btw?"

I hadn't been able to watch the video yet, but I already knew the answer to that question.

Reader, I had knitted those scarves.

And yes, there were two (though apparently only one is in the video, as there's more than enough of it to drape around a person). The pattern I used, from doctorwhoscarf.com, called for so much yarn and so much knitting that you could have blanketed an elephant with it. Having realized this after having yards of knitted fabric and realizing I still had half the yarn I'd bought left, I decided to stop there and start another one, so Alex and Richard could each have one as their wedding present, rather than having to share the one. The scarves, I wrote in the explanatory yes-I-know-the-orange-is-wrong-it-was-the-closest-I-could-find (because Alex and Richard are the kind of people who'll know that the orange is the wrong shade, though they're polite enough that you can't expect them to let on), are not the same but two halves of the whole, something I thought reasonably appropriate for a wedding present, especially since I can't think of any two people who better epitomize the idea of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

I was honored when I saw that the scarves were a wedding gift that got packed into their suitcases for their honeymoon in the U.S. As Alex said today (in answering the question about whether there were one or two scarves), "They got a lot of attention on our honeymoon, particularly in Chicago - the Windy City - in November, where people kept stopping us on the sidewalk to ask where we'd got them (and shivering)..."

If ever I were going to burst with pride, it would've been when the famous Alex and Richard told random Americans where they got their Doctor Who scarves: it was from me. And similarly now that Alex and Richard have made a video about the long journey to their marriage, I am again delighted to see my scarves -- well, one of my scarves as it turns out they're sharing one in this video, bless them -- showing up too.

None of my Lib Dem heroes are famous: they're all people who are on worthy committees and reading dry papers and making phone calls and delivering leaflets. When things anger or hurt them, they don't just rage about it on social media; they start writing policy motions. And they get drunk and sing songs making fun of everyone, especially ourselves.

We don't always know the effects that our actions will have. I've helped write Lib Dem policy that has and hopefully will continue to contribute to the life and liberty of LGBT+ people.

We meet and fall in love. We go to each others' weddings. We sit at those weddings around a table set nicely for a fancy meal and get in screaming rows about devolution and what "England" even means.

We make Doctor Who scarves for wedding presents, with thoughtful advice on which version from which season is the most appropriate to the couple. Here I've gone with the Season 18 three-color scarf, less well known than the traditional multicolored Doctor Who scarf you see on cosplayers and such. It was suggested in recognition that Season 18 is a favorite of Alex's, but I think it also serves to demonstrate the unexpectedly unique couple to whom the scarves were given.

You can read what Alex says about the long journey to their married life here, and here's the video:




Transcript. )
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Monday, April 27th, 2015 02:44 pm
 photo IMG_20150424_144240.jpg

Having told [personal profile] magister I'd rather do things than have things as presents, he arranged for us to go visit his sister and brother-in-law, who live in Hove, for a long weekend.

Yes, nowhere near my birthday. I knew it'd be in the new year. March was the first time everybody's schedules coincided and trains conspired against us then, so it got pushed back a month. Which seemed devastating at the time (my ambitions for this year having led me only to frustration and the conviction that nothing was ever going to get better and I wasn't capable of any of the tasks confronting me...in other words, I really really needed a break), but probably meant we had nicer weather for it than we would've otherwise. Which is good since our interests are mostly wandering around, looking for bookshops and nice pubs and parks to sit in and suchlike.

We arrived not long before James's sister and brother-in-law finished work on the Thursday. I'd seen their house extremely briefly when we were there for their wedding last summer, but this time it really left an impression on me. I loved almost everything about it: the black-and-white paving on the front walk which I said reminded me of dazzle ships, the wooden floor, even how white all the walls were painted.

Having helped and talked with my friends a lot about decorating lately I am compulsively noticing the color of everyone's walls, but I think this would've been striking anyway: everything was white. Which my fellow DIY friends have both described as "cold" or "clinical" lately, but to me this looked simple, clean and elegant and bright, especially with the ridiculous amounts of sunshine that greeted our arrival. I spent the whole weekend admiring this and wanting to make it work in my house, though I fear we, and our house, are too scruffy to pull it off.

I do want these shutters, though.



This isn't a great picture of them (oh look, there's my finger in the corner of the shot; I am so good at this) but hopefully you get the idea. They can be folded over the windows, and the slats on each section can easily be turned to whatever angle you want, too. It'd get rid of the horrible net curtains (which Andrew insists on but I hate), would keep us from slowly pulling the horrible curtains off the horrible curtain hooks, and just make me really happy, I think.

Our white room had (in addition to more of these shutters) a lush white duvet and white towels neatly laid out on it when we arrived. I could easily have believed I was staying in a B&B. Only it was, for me, way better than a B&B: it wasn't bed and breakfast, it was bed and dinner. I got my own cornflakes and tea for breakfast, but I couldn't help with dinner beyond the extent to which hanging out in the kitchen with a glass of wine and chatting was help. Of course there are few things I love more than someone else cooking for me, but even so I luxuriated in the food and drink I got this weekend.

[personal profile] magister and I even managed to find a great Italian restaurant that gave us simple food made from amazing ingredients at a price that didn't make our poor northern wallets cry. (Poor James was horrified at the price of the beer we got while waiting in London between trains, and at everything in Brighton. I knew Brighton was as bad as London but this kept coming as a shock to him.)

That was on the Friday, when we were on our own while normal people were working. We walked from Hove to Brighton. Having been given the directions "go to the seafront and turn left," we only realized when we left the house that no one had exactly told us what direction the sea was in. James said we could stop and ask anyone and I said I was not going to go up to a stranger and say "Where is the sea?" Anyway we struck out and found we were heading in more or less the right direction.

We walked along the seafront until I started recognizing stuff from the other time I've been in Brighton, Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2012. I loved Brighton then: getting up at eight to be on the LGBT+ Lib Dems stall by nine, talking to people all day who thought we already had equal marriage or wondering what the acronym stood for, wanting all of Jen's badges (especially "Vince was right" and "coalicious," though), getting Jeremy Browne's photo taken in front of our banner holding a little teddy bear, forgetting to eat, arguing with people on one subject and agreeing vehemently with them on the next, shouting Awkward-Squad things in the debates, having someone (probably [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours remind me to eat, going back to [livejournal.com profile] plumsbitch's where I was staying, where he'd have likely made something amazing to eat and we'd stay up until four in the morning drinking wine, listening to music, chatting...and then I'd wake up at eight again the next morning and start the whole process over again. I was almost dead by the end of it, especially after Glee Club that last night, but I loved it.

So anyway, I knew by the time we walked past the cinema it was time to turn left again, off the seafront, because after that it was just tat and fish-and-chips shops, so we walked down what I now know is Queens Road and found a secondhand bookshop and two chocolate shops on the same road. I bought myself a book there on the history of women in the Middle Ages, and then I bought a bunch of chocolate -- I didn't know Montezuma was based in Sussex but having learned this I now think they're keeping all the best stuff for themselves. We bought white chocolate for [personal profile] miss_s_b and mint chocolate to share because that's my favorite, and oh man it was the best mint chocolate I've ever had in my life.

After the lovely Italian lunch, we went to the toy museum.



It was only little, and I was expecting a lot of stuff-I-didn't-recognize, but they had a bunch of trains too so that was all right.





But I got nearly as excited about the freight trains as the passenger ones; my sentimentality about trains knows no limits.





I took this picture thinking I don't know what the Great Dorset Steam Fair might be, but it sounds like I'd like it:



There were dolls and toy kitchen appliances and baby buggies there too, but we of course ignored all that stuff.

We got a bus back and spent a quiet afternoon with TMS on the internet-phone-radio. Helen came home from work, we all went to the pub and then had Lebanese takeaway, which was gorgeous. And an early night, because we're rock-and-roll that way.

Saturday morning we walked to Brighton again, going a different way so that we could look in on Sussex Country Cricket Ground, which we'd seen signs for the previous day and we'd even checked if they had cricket we could go see, but the last match had ended on Wednesday. Still we walked up to it and poked around a bit, took a peek at the grounds through a fence, found an open door and admired some action shots of cricketers and plaques with the names of all the chairmen and captains and England players for the county until someone heard us and told us in the most polite British way to go away, so we did.

On to Brighton, then.

We walked through some markets that seemed half-Camden and half-Longsight to me. There was a shop with a couple of t-shirts I liked, though; one James suggested I get for Andrew that said "Normal People Scare Me" (which would've been true but not at all in the sneering-goth way it was intended by the look of the rest of the shop) and one I wanted for me so much that I'm really sad they only had one in a tiny size.



"It's not about how you look, it's about how you see" seemed particularly apt with me using my still-novel white cane a lot and making tons of comments about how the numbers on buses were easier to see and James noting that I got a lot of double-takes when I walked down the street with my cane in one hand, looking down at my phone in the other. He said he really wanted to stage-whisper at me "You're supposed to be blind!" but didn't because he knows I don't have much of a sense of humor for these things. But we both agreed that's a shame, because it would've been really funny. I worry enough about being thought a scrounger or faker as it is anyway, though, because I use it some-but-not-all the time and because I do stuff (like stare daggers at people who sneak in front of me in queues thinking I won't notice) that "gives away" that I can see at least a little.

We did eventually walk down the pier, either because we hadn't before or because the amusement arcade in it featured toilets we could use; I can't remember which. I didn't take a picture of the almost-life-size plastic cows or the tables with legs that look like cow legs this time, because I was pretty sure I had done that last time, but I couldn't resist a photo of the tin-can-knocking-over game which was decorated with minions.



(For anyone who hasn't seen Despicable Me, this video will illustrate why I wouldn't think you'd want to remind carnival-game players of that movie:


)

Also, at the end of the pier, there was a wagon with steps leading up to it wherein, apparently, you could get a tarot reading.



Ivor. Ivor the tarot wagon.

I bought overpriced doughnuts because they smelled so good, and we ate them walking back up the pier and watching people in those bungee-jump chairs which I'm always tempted to try, but I didn't think they'd be very good on a day when I was wearing a dress.

I did enjoy Brighton, but I felt a bit out of place, too. It's very white and very middle-class, and I'm...not. I mean, I am white, of course, but I feel uneasy in such overwhelmingly white company. I know Brighton prides itself on its diversity but I also know people who find it frustrating or damaging because they're too far from the white, straight, cis, non-disabled norm: being gay is okay but being anything else seems less so, and heaven help you if you're more than one other thing. I had a nice visit and I'd happily return, especially to the generous and accommodating company of James's sister and her husband, but it did make me appreciate my scruffy, beloved Levenshulme all the more on my return.

Plus, the water doesn't taste like metal here.

Saturday night we had a barbecue: lamb koftas for the others and mushrooms and halloumi and corn on the cob for me. Well, I think they all had all those things too! Then we watched a movie from a set James had picked up in CEX that day. It was called Homecominmg and it was completely amazing. Very funny, in that way that horror movies sometimes are which may or may not be intentional. It's about a thinly-veiled version of the U.S.'s recent wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, full of cynical, bald-faced lying politicians who are shown up when soldiers start coming back from the dead as zombies who want nothing more than to...vote for someone else to be president. I thought I'd seen every possible take on zombies but zombies voting absolutely charmed me. I loved it. And considering how much my horror-loving friends overlap with my politically-involved friends, I think a lot of people I know would like it too.

Then we went to bed early and woke up early and spent most of yesterday traveling back. Getting the trains to and from London via Brighouse was ace -- the Grand Central trains there are cheaper and better than the Virgin trains from Manchester in every conceivable way, except it does mean it's a long day for me if I make the whole journey back at once. But we broke it up a bit with an hour in Brighouse, with a late lunch from the chippy and a nice pint of beer in our favorite pub there, basking in sunshine the likes of which we'd not seen in the last couple of days by the seaside, no doubt an indication again that Yorkshire is God's chosen county.
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Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 10:06 am
The next time anybody feels the need to inform me of the fact that they think American holidays are silly and Americans celebrate them in silly ways, I hope I remember to tell them that today I saw a bunch of guys walk into Wetherspoons dressed like knights out of Monty Python (the scruffy trainers under their red-and-white robes adding particularly to the Pythonesque effect).

Remember, kids: No country has a monopoly on being silly or looking for excuses to skip work, dress up, or start drinking lager at breakfast time.
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Saturday, April 18th, 2015 07:56 am
I had an extremely odd dream.

Andrew and I were on vacation, somewhere in Britain but there was a Target there. We went in and, seeing that they had a counter where you could change your name by deed poll, I spontaneously decided to.

I didn't have anything particular I wanted to change my name to, but I was suddenly very keen on having a name people could spell and understand when I said it ("Holly" sounds different in my accent than in the ones people around me use, and I have had to spell it a lot recently...And of course my last name continues to be a nightmare). To illustrate the difficulty of my name, in the dream I had to write out my current/old name a couple of times, and I kept making odd spelling mistakes and writing it illegibly.

Since I wanted to change my name but I didn't know what to, dream-Andrew suggested "Morag," which I wasn't sure about but couldn't think of any reason why not. The guy at the departmet-store deed-poll counter (this should so be a thing) was Scottish, so he thought that was a good idea. I thought I might keep my own middle name -- which is Michelle -- but then I saw he'd written "Lynsey" down on the forms (this is also how I learned I was apparently going to "Jones" as a surname) which I did not like, so the three of us had an argument about what my new middle name should be...It was nearly "Ginny" but then the Scottish man said something about "Kean" (and, in the way with dreams, I immediately knew it was that spelling) and I excitedly latched onto that.

So I happily walked away with a big envelope full of paperwork and a list of all the things I had to notify of the name change...all emblazoned with the name Morag Kean Jones.

I'd love to know what dream-world I was living in where a Scottish first name, an Irish middle name usually expected to belong to a gender different from mine were going to be easier to navigate the world with than the name I've already got!

It amused me when I woke up (which is good because I woke up way too early to the noise of the damn smoke alarm whose batteries need changing but which I hav never been able to take apart to get at the batteries, so I'd have otherwise been very grumpy).

Waking-me hasn't ever really thought about changing my name, beyond using that as a rhetorical device to whine about how sick I am of having a name people get wrong, and the whole milliseconds it took to make the decision not to change my surname when I got married.

But in the dream, I didn't feel much attachment at all to my name. As I signed the paperwork, I distinctly remember being a little sad I would no longer have the same name as [personal profile] miss_s_b's daughter, and thus the still-running joke of her being my mum (a real thing! which, months after the misunderstanding that spawned it, is still an idea that makes me laugh) might have to die. But on the other hand, dream-me mused, it'd take Andrew absolutely ages to get used to calling me anything other than "Holly," and I'd enjoy laughing at him when he did.

I was vaguely aware there'd be a lot of bureaucracy to deal with in changing my name, but I didn't dwell on that nearly as much as losing my affiliation with another awesome Holly and watching Andrew get something wrong.

Brains are such funny things, aren't they?
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Friday, April 17th, 2015 10:24 am
How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.


My life seems full of half-eaten elephants all over the damn place right now. I try not to think about this too much because it diminishes anything I have accomplished. But some days the slog gets too much and I just long for anything to be easy or straightforward.
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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 06:54 pm
"Very nearly" because it won't technically be two years until Saturday, but on Saturday he'll be working and I'll be painting [livejournal.com profile] haggis's kitchen, so I consider today, with pizza and Doctor Who and beer, to be a much better celebration.

This afternoon we sat in the same pub in the same place (only me sitting where he had been and vice versa) where he first said he'd like to kiss me and my life changed for the better.
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