Book review – Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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I picked this book up for the delicious cover and the title. The synopsis intrigued me all the more. All girls school, closed off from the world? Dystopian setting with a strange infection and nature running wild? Gore and queer romance? Yes, please.

I devoured this in four days, which is superhumanly fast for my abysmal current average reading time. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I did it wouldn’t let me go.

First of all, I love, love, love the setting and premise of the novel. Like I already mentioned, it’s set at an all-girls school, on an island, quarantined because of an unusual infection on the island. The girls and remaining teachers are fighting for their lives against the wild, wild dangerous woods around them, as they wait for a possible cure from the authorities. At the center of it are Hetty and her two best friends, Byatt and Reese.

The relationships between these girls are beautiful. They care so much for one another and are willing to do everything for each other in this cruel world. The girls themselves are brave, compassionate, tough, determined, raw, insecure and have dark, believable impulses. They’re real and relatable. At least, the three main characters are. The secondary characters didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

As for the plot, I love the many twists and turns it takes. It starts off fairly simple and straightforward, but early on we discover that not everything is as it seems. From there on it goes in so many directions that you don’t expect. Sometimes it does get a bit messy though, both in good and bad ways. The ending is also a little disappointing. Too much disappears off the stage, in favour of the main characters. I do love the revelation about the infection we get at the end; I got chills at the very possible possibility of it. The last scene is lovely too.

One of the few things that bothers me in this book is the writing style. Mostly, it’s great. Beautiful in its simplicity, visual, visceral. The more experimental, open-ended style of Byatt’s chapters is brilliant and fits so well with what she’s going through. At other times it’s redundant and empty drama, which is a shame as so much else in this is so good.

I’d recommend Wilder Girls to anyone interested in unique, female-centered dystopian and horror stories.

The chronic back pain story

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I thought I was doing very well for myself. My online business was thriving, I had a day job that gave me financial security, I had a new little home away from the student scene, I met up with friends fairly regularly. I felt like I was going in the right direction with my life.

And yet.

With all the work I was doing, the back and shoulder pain I generally refused to acknowledge got worse. (It’s damage I got from overburdening my back and shoulder at an previous job behind a conveyor belt at the old distribution center.) At first I only had pain when I was working my day job in the office or sewing for hours at a time. Then the pain lingered on through the night. Then it seeped into my off-days, until there was barely a moment when I did not experience some level of pain. I did more yoga. I took more rest. I went on a month-long vacation, during which the pain blessedly dwindled away to nothing. Then I came home and first day back at the office, it was as bad as it was before my vacation.

Now I’m not a person to complain about pain. I have a high pain tolerance. I’ve almost never used painkillers for things like headaches or stomachaches, I just wait for them to pass. I’ve accidentally cut myself and didn’t even notice until I saw the blood dripping on the table. I’ve had six-hour tattoo sessions that I sat through so stoically, it threw off the tattoo artists.

But this, this was a different beast. Not just because my back and shoulder pain became so bad I felt like I was going to pass out in my chair on a regular basis, but because it was constant and seemingly never-ending. So in January I started seeing a physical therapist. After suffering this for four months. It got better, then it got worse again. Then it got better again, and worse again. I had started regularly going to the gym, which helped. Then in June, it seemed like it was only going to get better. I’d had several weeks in a row in which I’d barely had any pain.

And then it got worse again. Whole days strung together with pain kind of worse. I started a new massage therapy, which has been helping, like the other things had been helping. The masseuse told me not to expect any miracles. As long as I kept doing this kind of work, I would have pain. The physical therapist had told me something similar before.

So now we’re at the end of August. I’ve been doing my office job for over a year with constant cycles of pain. I’ve been putting in the absolute minimum effort with my business since January. I’ve long since realized that I can’t keep going like this. Something will have to change. I’ll probably have to quit either my job or my business. Or both, and do something else entirely. Something not in an office, not (too) physical, with a larger variety of tasks and more creativity. Preferably something with a salary comparable to my office job. And where I don’t have to deal too much with people.

I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. This gives me terrible anxiety on some days when all l can think is what am I going to do what am I going to do what am I going to do. On other days it’s strangely exhilarating, the possibility to do something else, something that could fit me better. I do think there’s a lesson in all of this, in that maybe I should be doing something different with my life. It’s important to look at these setbacks and see what you can learn from them.

That person

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I never thought I’d be that person who wakes up early and does fitness exercises.
I never thought I’d be that person who meditates every day.
I never thought I’d be that person who spends a lot of time in nature.
I never thought I’d be that person who goes to festivals.
I never thought I’d be that person who cultivates many good friendships.
I never thought I’d be that person who travels to another continent to see a band.
I never thought I’d be that person who surrounds themselves with plants.
I never thought I’d be that person who skateboards.
I  never thought I’d be that person who improves their singing voice.
I never thought I’d be that person who says ‘yes’ to all tempting invitations.
I never thought I’d be that person who goes out dancing and stays until the end of the party.
I never thought I’d be that person who dates casually.
I never thought I’d be that person who goes to the beach on their own.
I never thought I’d be that person who fills up a whole sketchbook.
I never thought I’d be that person who travels with only a small backpack.
I never thought I’d be that person who works in an office, and actually enjoys the work.
I never thought I’d be that person who builds up a business on the side.
I never thought I’d be that person who often surprises themselves.
I never thought I’d be that person who happily embraces change and the possibility for growth.
I never thought I’d be that person who sees this as essential for living a good, full life.

Yet here I am, reveling in every minute of it.

Writing, or the Future of this Blog

Ever since I opened up my clothing shop around this time last year (congratulations to me for making it to a year) I’ve barely written a word. Only texts for my shop and maybe two unfinished short stories. I stopped writing for this blog because a) time and b) I felt like no one was reading blogs anymore anyways. Not much has changed since then, but I have missed blogging. And if nothing else, my blog helped me establish a consistent writing practice. Nothing has helped me write as consistently as NaNoWriMo and my blog.

So, I’m going to start again.

I have no plan. I don’t know what direction I’m going to go in. (As usual) All I know is that I want to write more. Write better. Write consistently. And maybe someday it’ll go somewhere. Or maybe it’ll be a hot mess. Who knows, it doesn’t matter.

It’s going to be an experiment, as this blog has always been. I invite you to take it with me.

Shop update

It has been a bit of a rocky start with my shop, DAAIN. Within a week after the opening, my sewing machine had to be repaired. I was separated from it for six days, which felt like an eternity. When I finally got it back I happily continued to work maniacally and made four new things. After I photographed them in the forest I got sick. I’m still sick, but I did edit the pictures and write descriptions and list those clothes in the meantime.

I made a velvet crop top, a multi-layered asymmetrical skirt, a hooded vest and a sleeveless maxi dress. All up for adoption now! Besides the dress they’re all made from recycled materials. The dress is made from the same eco-friendly, fair-trade, organic fabric that I used for my other maxi dress. The more I learn about the clothing industry, the more I stand by this use of materials.

Kickstart My Heart – The Influence of the Music in Our Lives

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I’ve had a realisation last year. A realisation that I keep having lately. It’s about the music, and media in general, we consume and how it influences our mood. I have already written a blog post about my experience, but it felt necessary to revisit.

Over the past few months I have almost exclusively been listening to music that makes me feel good. As much as I love my angst-ridden metalcore, nihilistic doom metal and gloomy goth music, I know that it’s not particularly helpful to listen to on a daily basis. Continually listening to negative music inevitably leads to dwelling on things that make me unhappy. There is a time and place for it and that time and place is not every day.

Instead of Bring Me the Horizon I’ve been listening to Four Year Strong, instead of Cult of Luna I’ve been listening to Mötley Crüe, instead of Lana del Rey I’ve been listening to Elvis, all the pop punk, and so on. Of course I’ve still been listening to Every Time I Die, but more their newer, more positive music, rather than say, Ex-Lives.

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These little tweaks have made a huge difference in my life. It’s so simple and so effective. The simplicity and the effectiveness still baffle me. I’ve been singing and dancing through my apartment all day. I’ve been a lot more motivated to do things. I’ve been more creative. I’ve been more social. I’ve gradually been watching less series that don’t directly add to my sense of wellbeing; instead of horror or drama series I’ve been drawn more to stand-up comedy, documentaries about nature or inspiring people, and magical girl anime shows (of which singing along to the theme songs is an absolute necessity). I’ve also been reading more non-fiction books about spirituality and people who fascinate me. These other media have been enriching my life in turn.

This is just scratching the surface. So many positive experiences stem from putting on upbeat music as early as possible in the day. Once you’re in that positive place, so many more positive things will start happening. And then I think of my mom and how she turns on her radio first thing in the morning and cheerfully sings along. She’s been doing this for as long as I can remember. I used to find it insufferable, but now it’s like Mom! All along you knew this secret to happiness and you didn’t tell me!*

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Well, my friend, I’m here to let you in on this secret. There are a lot of things that I’ve been doing over the past few months to consciously get into a positive mindset (or into THE VORTEX as Gala Darling and Abraham-Hicks call it) and listening to uplifting music as much as possible is unquestionably one of the most powerful. And unlike I used to think, uplifting music doesn’t have to mean only modern radio pop. There is so much uplifting music in alternative genres: pop punk, punk rock, horror punk, glam metal, glam rock, ebm,  synthpop, 50s rock and roll. You just have to weed it out.

If you’re interested in the sort of music that makes me feel really good, I’ve made a playlist on Youtube (NSFW). It starts with Avril Lavigne, naturally. I’ve tried to keep it somewhat cohesive, but hey, I listen to a lot of different music.

 

I don’t know if all this is obvious to anyone else, but it was mind-blowing to me. Once you become conscious of the media you consume on a daily basis and how much it informs your experience, you can change your world.

*Then again, I probably wouldn’t have been in such a receptive mode as I am now. It’s something that I’ve had to grow towards.

Shop now open!

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I have been scattering hints like breadcrumbs these past few weeks and now my shop is finally open! It’s called DAAIN, which means ‘witch’ in Sarnami. It is, of course, all monochrome eco-friendly witchy fashion. So far I have three ready-made items for sale, and one custom option. The first top I have already shown on this blog:

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The other two are a maxi dress and a crop top:

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Before this dress, I had the ambition to only make clothing from repurposed materials. I went to thrift shop after thrift shop, prowled around flea markets and scoured the web for second-hand clothing. But I came to realise how impractical that would be. It would take a very long time to build up a good collection to work with. So I went for the next best thing: organic, fair-trade, environmentally friendly produced fabrics.

I bought a couple of meters of black jersey fabric from SewNatural, a Dutch shop specialising in eco-friendly fabrics that I have only recently discovered. I must say, it’s the nicest jersey fabric I have ever worked with. I would love to buy a lot more of it for clothing for myself, haha. But for now, I made this maxi dress to sell. I thought it was a good basic staple to start off with.

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And then I made this top, from a thrifted lace dress that I’ve only just scored a little over a week ago. I gave that poor dress a much more exciting life as this little top. I hope. The flared part of the sleeves was already part of the dress, its finest feature. The rest was all my own hacking and stitching.

I’m so excited to make more clothing and fill up my shop!

Etsy Review – Vintage Casio watch from LateRabbitWatch

It’s been a hella long time since I did an Etsy order review. I’m not even sure if I ever wrote one for this blog, or if it was something I had only done on my old one. In any case, I’m doing one now.

Last month my beloved Batman watch broke. I was at my temporary job at the post distribution centre and when I took off my gloves at the end of the day, there was a violent clatter on the ground. I looked down. There lay my Batman watch in pieces. It had always been too large for my wrist and it seemed to have been pulled off along with my glove. I was devastated. That watch had been with me for three years.

But, with every ending, there is a new beginning. I thought it was a good opportunity to buy myself a nice, grown-up watch that actually fit my tiny wrist. So I browsed through the small, black watches in the vintage section on Etsy. I came upon this Casio classic 90s watch from LateRabbitWatch. It was more or less exactly what I wanted and at such a reasonable price. So I thought I’d try it.

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It was shipped very fast; the day after I ordered it. It took a while to arrive, but that’s to be expected from Singapore. When it did arrive, it was in a small, square box which protected the watch well on its long, perilous journey. I opened the box.

It was love at first sight. Pictures don’t really do this beautiful watch justice. I love the minimal design of it, the colours (obviously) and the textured band. And the size! I was pleasantly surprised at the size. It had looked larger in the pictures, which I had been worried about, but it turned out to be the perfect petite size for my petite wrist. I almost couldn’t believe how perfect it is.

The more I wear this watch, the more I love it. It is so exactly, exactly what I needed. It’s so small, I barely feel it. I even forget that I’m wearing a watch over the course of the day. It’s so lovely to not constantly feel a big chunk of clock on the end of my arm. I can do so much with my hands without having to take my watch off; lovely.

To go back to the shop I ordered from, they have a lot of beautiful, vintage watches on offer. Their service is good. If you’re also in need of a new watch, I would definitely recommend checking out LateRabbitWatch.

A little taste of their selection:

Happy watch-hunting!

More sewing: Long-sleeved hooded top

You won’t believe how long it took me to make this top. It looks simple, but a lot of experimentation and puzzling with materials went into this. And re-doing, oh re-doing. It turned out amazing though. It falls perfectly and it’s super comfortable.

It’s made of all recycled materials: thrifted shirts and a scrap or two left over from old t-shirt reconstructions.

I’m a bit disappointed with the pictures though. I thought I had devised a good set-up with a wire strung across my room and a €1 thrifted sheet, but the lighting in this room is pretty terrible. How I miss the natural light in my old room… I suppose I’ll have to invest in studio lights to make this work. And a bigger tripod.

Thanks for looking!