Yesterday I taught Beatrice how to use the garden hose nozzle. After a few back-and-forths regarding the proper usage of the nozzle trigger, she understood and started to get a feel for the mechanics of it. Meanwhile, Penny was looking around the neighborhood for birds (BOID!) and dogs (PUPPA! WOOF WOOF!) and demanding walks (WA!).
Next week, I’ll get Beabear on the pressure washer so she can help clean our house. It’s pretty polleny after a tumultuous spring and summer. She’s already got a bit of practice spraying the neighbors’ house, as seen in the video below. I think she’ll do just fine.
Do you remember six weeks ago when I was all, “I’ve got to wear this silly little finger brace for six weeks”? Well, as it turns out, that was a lie! I have the pleasure of wearing this stinky little thing until the doctor sees me again. He asked me to make a follow-up appointment in four weeks.
But guess again! The next available appointment was in six weeks, not four! Cool! That will bring the total time wearing this gross splint to 13 damn weeks. Woof.
I have a physical therapy appointment for Monday. I was able to bend the finger at the recent follow up, but not all the way. The doctor says if I try to make a fist right now, I’ll just tear through the scar tissue that has developed, which is not the ideal result apparently. Instead, we want to slowly stretch out the healed tendon. Sounds pretty tedious and boring, but better than a permanently messed up pinky.
The doctor wants me to go twice a week. Pretty cool. I was really hoping for a chance to have more chores integrated into my life.
Fortunately I still have an extra splint from my ER visit. I purchased a Dremel rotary tool after my appointment, even though I have one in my friend’s garage in California. Nothing fancy, but sufficient to cut the long, non-stinky splint down. I thought about buying snips which would have been cheaper and done the job just fine, but the rotary tool will be more useful in the long run for a wider variety of tasks.
Yesterday, I stressed the joint trying to hold Beatrice down so I could get her dressed. I heard a lovely cracking sound and the finger’s been all sorts of sensitive today. That bodes well. Afterward, I redressed it so the tape was much tighter than the doctor had applied it. There was too much wiggle room before which allowed for enough flexibility that my finger could try to bend. No good. Now it’s tight and straight and unbending.
Finally, and most importantly, the fingernail on my pinky is getting super long and gross. I suppose I could take the tape off and clip the thing, but where’s the fun in that? If it’s funny gross and not just gross gross when this is all done, I’ll share a photo of what 13 weeks of fingernail growth looks like.
I have to keep my finger in this tiny, stupid splint for six weeks!
I suppose, though, it could be worse. It could be my whole hand. Or a finger on my dominant right hand. Or my arm! OR MY NECK!
It all happened last Thursday. I was home, getting the girls ready for their evening bath. I had Penny undressed in my right arm and Beanut in her diaper in my left. The bath was run and the water was warm. Everything was going swimmingly.
Then Beatrice saw something so fun on the floor and dove for it. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but 1 year olds do not possess the world’s greatest self-preservation instinct. Luckily, I was there to get my hand under her to prevent toddler suicide. The bad news was that I got my left pinky under her sternum at just the wrong angle. It snapped.
The child was, and still is, totally fine. I caught her and she had no idea about the fate she narrowly avoided. I placed them both down on the sofa, set my broken finger back into place, and moved them to the tub. I sent Sarah the following text message:
She promptly called me back and I told her what happened as Penny and Bea splashed in the background. She promised to be home as soon as she could. I gave the girls a cursory bath, got them dressed, and set them up with some milk. I’d be lying if I told you I combed their hair, though. That really requires two hands: one to stabilize the squirming child and the other to operate the comb. Getting them dressed usually requires two hands as well, but I managed to pin them down with my forearm. No left hand fingers needed for that task.
By 6:45pm Sarah was home, and by 7 I was on the road to the local ER. They did a round of x-rays, determined that the photos were inconclusive, wrapped my finger in a splint, and sent me home. I was home by 9. It might have been the fastest ER visit I’ve ever had. Of course, they barely did anything and arrived at no answers, but, still, it was quick.
For a week, I’ve lived with the busted pinky. I’ve shoveled snow more than once. I’ve cared for tiny children. I’ve deboned chicken. All successfully, if a little slower than normal. Each day, I took off the splint for my shower and carefully redressed it afterward. I definitely splinted it more securely than the ER did.
On Thursday I had my follow-up appointment. The ER discharge paperwork told me I should have gone in on the 29th, but that wasn’t going to happen because A) a blizzard rolled through on the 28th and B) it was a Saturday. So Thursday it was.
I got another set of x-rays done and this time we were able to see the tiny bone fragment floating in my finger where the tendon snapped the bone. Pretty cool! I regret not asking for a copy of the images, though. Then the doctor told me that every time I take my finger out of the splint I tear through any new scar tissue formed and that if I want it to heal correctly—that is, heal in a way that allows me to fully straighten my finger—I need to keep it in the split for six weeks.
What a pain in the butt. At least the doctor cut the finger-length splint down to a knuckle-length splint to allow me to partially bend my finger.
So for the next six weeks I’m living with this adorable pinky splint that I need to keep clean and dry. I’ve ordered some extra-large nitrile gloves from the site that shares a name with a rainforest which will hopefully get me through six weeks of dishes, diapers, and cat litter. I already want to take the thing off and bend my finger. But I am going to be good.
Today is the first birthday of my wonderful, screaming monsters. Sarah made them a confetti cake and they got a visit from Grandma Bev and Grandpa Redge. Snow fell. Diapers were changed. They made a huge mess. Photos were taken. Bath time was torture. Getting dressed and having their hair brushed was an unbearable misery. Overall, a perfect first birthday.
Today is also a day tinged with sadness as we remember our lost Olive. Milestones come fast during a child’s first few years. First teeth. First steps. First words. First Christmas. First lawsuit. You get the idea. And, as we see Penny and Beanut make all these steps growing up, we can’t help but be reminded that Livvy didn’t get a chance for any of them. I miss that little baby and I miss the person she could have been.
When the sadness of the situation is overwhelming, I feel comforted in the two girls we do get to see grow, learn about the world, and chase the ever-patient Noodle, and knowing that Livvy’s essence has gone back to the universe that made her. In the end, we are all just stardust and she has gone back to the stars earlier than we would have liked.
Happy birthday, girls. I love you all very much.
Enjoy some photos of babies with a bunch of cake on their sweet, little faces.
Penny. It’s almost midnight. Why have you been laying in bed with your eyes open for nearly 30 minutes? PenPen, it’s night-night time. Go to sleep, Penny. Stop staring at the ghosts. They know you can see them. But you’re a growing girl and there will be time for spirits.
These aren’t just personal or professional goals, but a mix of the two. In this era of working from home in the midst of being a stay-at-home parent, the lines between the two types of goals are often hazy, so why not mix them together in this list and let it fly? They’re already mixed together in my head. Besides, work is essentially personal since, for me at least, I work to support my life rather than live to work.
I share these with you as a commitment device. If you, faceless reader, know that I am striving to accomplish these things, then I will more easily be able to pressure myself out of slacking.
In no particular order, here we go.
Record some TBLR episodes: I dabbled with The Black Laser Reads many years ago and then sort of let it drop. However, I’ve been thinking about The Black Laser Reads non-stop since then. A dig through the post archive reveals that only two episodes were released, both in the in summer of 2011. That means it’s been bouncing around in my head for ten and a half years with little public action. I’ve finally got an acceptably imperfect VO booth set up here in my office and an ever-deepening list of public domain works that I am interested in. It’s just a matter now of doing the recording.
Make more photos: Sarah and I have this crazy idea of owning a photo studio one day, but, as a photographer, I feel like I still need lots of practice. I’m getting the dust out and I shoot and process very deliberately, but there are so many aspects I need to improve on before I’d be comfortable charging for the work. Practice practice!
Improve my photo compositing skills: I am like a B-minus level photo compositor. The problem is that I don’t really know what I need to do to improve. I enjoy the work, definitely, but I am at a bit of an impasse where I need some structured education in the matter. I really just want our holiday cards to be better than everyone else’s. Simple.
Write more on The Black Laser: I’ve already started doing this. I’d like to keep it up. At the beginning, I wrote here all the time about anything that interested me. A lot of it is very bad, but that is the price we pay to get better at a skill. Then, for many years—let’s call them “The Quiet Years”—I worried that no one cared at all about what I wrote here. That is the result of my skill and taste levels increasing at different rates. Significantly better taste with moderately better skill. Many ideas were hatched and all were killed by the “Why bother?”s. Much silence ensued. Now, while I am still unconvinced that people are too interested in what I have to write, the whole purpose is the bother. That is, the work is the reason to do the work. And I’m enjoying it again!
Write some more stories: During the class at Cabrillo I was on a streak. Sure, it was for the class, but I was in the mindset and the barrier to the work was low. Then we had COVID hit the world, the cross-country move, the triplets pregnancy, the temporary move to Maryland, the birth of the girls, the unending hospital misery, the loss of Olive, the move back to Delaware, and the struggle to figure out how to be parents who work. Somewhere along the way, the needle just sort of popped out of the groove. I’d like to flip it over and start the B side.
Make a local friend: It’s crazy what social distancing and two little girls who can’t walk yet will do to prevent you from making friends. No one’s fault, of course. As much of an introvert as I am, having a friend within driving distance would probably not be such a bad idea. How to make that friend is a totally different proposition.
Continue to practice my penmanship: My handwriting is not bad, by any means, but it is a funny mix of half-remembered cursive and printing. You will often see both a cursive S and a printing S in the same word. I purchased the Spencerian Penmanship book set a few months ago and was steadily practicing while doing overnights just after we brought Penelope and Beatrice home. After the move back to Delaware, I have not been keeping up with it so well. There’s something about not having 8 hours of forced quiet time every single night to make you lose sight of the learning you were doing. Of course, my penmanship doesn’t matter at all, but it’s something I’d like to improve so I am going to.
That’s kind of a lot of stuff, I guess. But there is kind of a lot of time in a year and it is important to have goals. Keep up with me and see how far I get! Commitment devices!
Also, you might have noticed an audio file embedded in the top of this post. Click it! That’s me reading to you on my website for your enjoyment. I thought that adding audio versions of these posts would be a fun way to add a little value to the site and give me a chance to hone my monologue editing skills. You get all the benefit; I do all the work. Win-win.
Social media is bad. There’s no denying it’s bad. It’s been a major source of the disinformation which earned us Orange, a prolonged pandemic, and Q supporters. It’s also incredibly distracting, makes people compare their lives to illusions, and can be alienating. The companies that run the social media ecosphere are villainous with little respect for their users, only seeking to commoditize attention. This is no secret. No one doubts this.
And yet, social media used to be fun. When I first signed up for Facebook—which I assume was most people’s first major social media exposure—it was great. It was fun to see what people who I hadn’t seen or spoken with in ages were up to. I enjoyed looking at people’s silly photos and reading about their trips and lives and ups and downs. It was nice to bullshit with people in a way that allowed me not to face my crippling phone anxiety (sorry, everyone, I still love you). It often felt a lot like real connection. Distant, sure, but genuine still.
Then we had Twitter, Instagram, and a whole host of also-rans which worked themselves into our daily lives. And they were pretty fun, too! Each in their own way. Twitter was a fun way to interact as succinctly as possible. Instagram was a fun way to get a photostream of in-the-moment photos of what people were up to. That was pretty cool!
But then things started to change. Slowly. Imperceptibly. Yet change they did.
People started to perform for social media, instead of allowing their social media pages to reflect how they actually behaved. We saw the beginnings of what would come to be called “influencers”, a term nearly as cynical and heartbreaking as “content creator”. Soon after the advertisers came. And with advertisers came real money. And with real money, the platform was doomed.
Users transformed from participants in a network of real people, to click-throughs and eyes for a new generation of internet advertising. Sure, the new ads weren’t the old pop-ups everyone rightfully hated so much, but they were just as intrusive, just as in-your-face. And, worse, it was often harder to tell what was an ad and what was genuine. They learned to dress ads and news and lies in a friendly disguise. Those of us who were savvy understood the difference, but your uncle who grew up in a world without any internet at all didn’t.
Now, my Facebook feed is full of ads, suggested posts, and nonsense. I use an ad blocker and an additional browser plugin that cleans up the feed and it’s still filled with nonsense. Where we once got posts in a chronological order, the algorithm now puts them in some impenetrable order which is decipherable only to its machine intelligence. Why can I not just see what the most recent post is, by default, all the time? My well-curated selection of liked pages means nothing when Zuck & Crew just put whatever the hell they want in front of me any time they please. My eyes are vastly more valuable as a target for ads than I am as a contributor to the platform.
Instagram, now also owned by Facebook, is just as bad. Suggested posts slipped seamlessly into my feed, an unending stream of reels which I didn’t sign up for, ads shoved into ever crevice, and posts presented into the algorithm’s order.
All the old pleasures of the platforms are gone. It has been a death from a thousand cuts, but, finally, now, it has reached a point where it’s just not worth it any more. All social media gives me now is anxiety from yet another political post or someone else asking for me to be outraged about something or some dire click-bait news about something I have no power over shoved in my face. If I have to see one more photo of Mitch McConnell’s wattle in my social media feeds I will lose my mind.
It all just stresses me out. We have a duty as adults not to subject ourselves to things that make us crazy for no reason. Many things in life are unavoidably crazy-making. Why not eliminate the things we can?
With that, my theme for 2022 will be:
The Year Without Social Media
Seems simple, right? It’s not! Stupid social media has become such an easy crutch for me, my most favorite of all time-wasters even if it constantly makes me feel bad. Many of you have had me leave stupid comments on your posts or click through your Instagram stories (without my sound off) or whatever this or whatever that. This year I’ll be having none of that. For me, it’s time poorly spent avoiding doing things that would ultimately make me feel better even if they are more difficult in the short run. Like writing here on The Black Laser.
I won’t be checking my feeds this year. At all. None of them. If I had a way to check to see what my friends are family are posting without being subjected to endless aggravating noise, I would. All day! But I can’t. Clearing out that section of my head will be helpful. If your trash can was full, you’d take the trash out, right? Same thing.
I’m not glassing the earth, however. I still think my accounts will be a good way to direct people here. I still want to share and no one reads blogs anymore without being pointed to them. So, the accounts will stay with handy signposts to come here to The Black Laser to follow-up and see what I am doing.
I don’t know if I will eventually come back after the year is up. I am not even sure how it will make me feel. Better? Worse? More isolated? Less aware of my isolation? The whole point is to detox to see how I feel. Get some things done. Make some stuff. If I get to the halfway point in the year and I find myself direly missing social media, I’ll come back. Or if this year ends and I realize some utility for enduring the misery, I’ll come back. However, in the meantime, the break will be nice.
You want to see cute pictures of the girls? They’ll be here! You want to read my inane, messy thoughts about my life? This is the place! You want to comment on something I wrote or shared? Do it here! I’ve already got a platform; I built it myself thirteen years ago. There are no ads, no trackers, no algorithms. This is what it is and I encourage you to make yourself at home here with me.