In Memory of Philip J. Reed

In Memory of Philip J. Reed

I don’t know if anyone here remembers the time I spent railing against the deceptive and predatory practices of self-pub companies iUniverse and Author Solutions years ago, but it made me some pretty good friends along the way. One of them was Philip J Reed.

Phil reached out to me after I posted to Help A Reporter Out (HARO) for interviews with anyone willing to talk about their experience with self-publishing. He shared his story back when I was still Two Write Hands.

Over time, he revealed himself as kind of brilliant, full of humor, and very upfront about and aware of his mental health.

He and I discussed brain zaps as only two people who’d weaned from antidepressants could. He wrote some brilliantness for Boss Fight Books, and let me play a tiny roll in his success.

He posted my Facebook updates to my blog when I was in the hospital, newly diagnosed with brain cancer.

He ran online-only annual Xmas Bash events for charity that made me laugh until I cried. Streaming in the days before the pandemic, which I think also made him a visionary. Or maybe an avid gamer.

I’d lost touch with Phil for a while because of my own health problems, but I read something about Alf on social media, which made me think of him and the Alf review series I followed on Noiseless Chatter, which prompted me to look up his website, which taught me that he died in August 2022.

Jesus. Had it been that long? Time is meaningless in so many ways now.

I got the old grief lump in my chest and told Dan our friend was gone, because grieving isn’t something that I should do alone.

So nothing else to post today. I’m just going to be sad that I live in a world without Philip J. Reed.

Pivot!

Pivot!

I have decided to pivot! to spending more time on my website.

It started with more frequent blogging. But those more frequent updates made pages like How to Make Crock Pot Cannabutter, How to Get Your Doctor to Listen, and How to Draw Zentangles more relevant to search engines, and I think it’s in my best interest to pivot and go where this increased site traffic is taking me. 

Lamenting the stagnation of my Zentangle channel on YouTube while I can’t hold a pencil, control my pen strokes, or see clearly when I look down at my paper isn’t doing anything for me. It’s depressing to dwell, and I don’t want to. Focusing on writing for my site will mean I have less time to be anxious and depressed. 

So, there will be changes around here, kids. Nothing major in the works. But if something you come across is glitchy or twitchy, please bear with me. I promise to do the best I can, as respectfully of readers as I can, but I’m not exactly an expert at this WordPress admin stuff. (The brain tumor doesn’t help me learn anything quickly either.)

Anyway, here’s what you might notice going forward:

More links: I’m going to try to build up the site’s reputation with search engines by writing more about the things that bring the random people here—Zentangles, weed, brain cancer, and chronic illness.

New affiliates: I don’t really have any specific companies or products in mind, but I may have to be open to more capitalistic partnerships. I’ll make it super obvious what’s going on if that happens. I mean, I have to. But also it’s the respectful thing to do.

More asks for your help: I’ll try not to be annoying about it. But not everyone reads every page. I imagine I’ll be more annoyed by the asks than you will.

And here’s what you might not notice:

Alt-text: I recently discovered that Canva will help me by suggesting alt-text for images. This is an accessibility thing that I’ve been really bad at for fatigue-related reasons. I think I can do better now. I’m going to stinking try!

Young brown tabby headshot. He is lying on a pillow with his eyes closed.
This picture has alt-text that can be read by screen readers.

Style changes: I have already tweaked a few of my featured images. But my plan is to be more consistent with them from here on out. I want the images to be more pleasing and to be more recognizable when they are pulled for social media links.

Repeat shares: You might come across certain posts and pages more than once out there in the wild. It’s necessary. I know this. But it also feels wrong. I have to remember that there’s a lot happening out there, and some stuff gets lost in the shuffle. It’s not spam to make my content available more than once.

If you want to help, that’s great. (If you just want to read my blog by RSS and walk away, you are welcome to!) Here’s what can help other people find my website:

Social shares: Google and Facebook, for example, like to know my stuff is entertaining or useful. They learn that by seeing how people engage with my posts. So if you share stuff that other people might enjoy, the tech overlords will notice.

Comments: This is for me. Being sick is a lonely thing sometimes. I like to hear from you.

Collaboration: If you have something to promote (that is relevant) maybe we could exchange links or social media shares or something, I don’t know.

Basically it boils down to this: Running a website costs money, but it can also make money. I think it’s time for me to pivot!

A Likely Story

A Likely Story

My Dad used to say, “a likely story” a lot in response to me saying something that sounded fishy coming from a small child.

For example:

“Kids with puppies do better in school, I swear, Dad!”

“A likely story.” He’d lower an eyebrow and give a scrutinous look.

I hear him in my head now as I am writing this, and it makes me laugh, but here I go anyway: 

I think I’m allergic to spinach.

I should qualify that by adding I like spinach, but—as they say—spinach does not like me.

Remember the veggie blend Cheerios I was so excited to try? They tasted fine, good even, but within minutes I was sneezing, bloated, in excessive pain from head to toe, and my hands and fingers were both achy and numb at the same time.

So it’s not an Epi-pen situation. Maybe intolerance is a better word?

(I had a really weird episode with arugula several months ago, too. I could not stop sneezing.)

That’s the reason for my most recent break in blogging—I didn’t feel up to the challenge.

Anyway, someone on social media mentioned a histamine intolerance so I’ve been looking suspiciously at foods again. 

A histamine intolerance seems very possible, what with chemo, IBS, moderately high eosinophils, and an immune system that seems to always be like, “WTF is this now?” 

I decided to test the Cheerios again, for science, but this time with Flonase on hand. I immediately reacted with the same symptoms and felt a little better after snorting the corticosteroid.

I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty convinced.

The new Cheerios are made with spinach powder, which I have come to suspect to be something my body doesn’t handle well. Like, at all. Fresh spinach is less problematic, but I’m still shy about it.

So, I didn’t even open the second flavor of Cheerios. I’m just giving them both away and giving the boxes a couple of middle fingers on their way out the door.

Going back to my other birds now. Later.

There are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis

There are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis

(placeholder photo from Pixabay until Dan gets me one)

Pardon me for another post about birds so soon, but there are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis. I repeat: there are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis.

Merlin identified this non-native species on Day 1. I didn’t initially confirm it. I figured Merlin was probably confused or high and skipped it, not recognizing the species packs I’d installed in the app were actually for North America and the Midwest and so something else had to be going on.

Ignorantly, I did a quick—not thorough—Google search, because: confirmation bias. The map on Wikipedia showed a distribution of about what you’d expect for a species with Eurasian in its common name. I was like, “Yeah, no. That’s not my birb.”

These are my birbs. The ones that woke me up pre-dawn.

The Ruby-crowned kinglet is migrating.

Anyway the little Eurasian Tree Sparrow popped up in another recording the next day, and it made me more curious. Long story short: I got my first rare bird. In. My. Back. Yard.

Hello dopamine.

It turns out in the 1800s homesick Germans brought Eurasian Tree Sparrows to North America, and today they live only in St. Louis, across the river in Illinois, and parts of Southeastern Iowa.

From a wonderfully written piece on the matter (read it!—it includes a fascinating piece of St. Louis’s German-American history and it’s got swears):

On April 25, 1870, roughly 20 Eurasian Tree Sparrows were ceremoniously released in Lafayette Park.

Danke sehr, meine dudes.

I have so many things in common with the writer, too. Like Collin, I enjoyed birding during the pandemic. Got a backyard feeder. Set up a tripod. Saw a grosbeak for the first time. Started tripping on endorphins.

But ongoing cancer stuff and the move to the St. Louis Metro East (basically suburban St. Louis but Illinois) sidelined this hobby. For a while. 

As you know, I picked it up again this weekend. And on social media where I was like, Eurasian Tree Sparrow my ass, someone sent me the links to Collin’s article in Riverfront Times and an online fact sheet from the Missouri Department of Conservation, which revealed the bird is a thing here and also sometimes called the German Sparrow.

Another local follow on Bluesky mentioned he recently bought a Birdbuddy feeder. And, you guys, my Wishlist has been updated.

I talked to Dan—my husband, caregiver, and personal photographer—about driving me around for birding adventures. 

“I could do the audio and IDing with Merlin from the car! You could get out your fancypants DSLR again!”

He is amenable. Watch this space.

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See who else visits my backyard.

For the Birds

For the Birds

I had a rough few days, which is why I haven’t been blogging at my usual clip. But I’ll get to all that another day. Maybe.

Instead, let’s talk about why I didn’t post anything yesterday: because the weather was fabulous, and I had better things to do.

On social media, an academic follow from the University of Illinois (I always follow some local people if I can find them, and I used to live in Champaign-Urbana) who is into birds (like PhD-level into birds) shared about birding with the Merlin bird app.

That app is like a real-life Critterpedia. I’m hooked. You can ID birds by photo, but also by audio recording. So I sat in the backyard for 10 minutes, listened to birds chirping, and collected these feathered dinosaurs while making vitamin D.

There were more, actually, but it took me a while to realize I needed to confirm and save my findings, so I identified a species or two that I don’t have saved yet.

Merlin is so good at recognizing songs and calls that I can even do it from bed when the window is open. This is hugely delightful for a woman who spends a lot of time being sick in bed.

There’s a surprising amount of wildlife in Mom’s yard, partly because she has made it into a park and partly because the SIUE campus isn’t far away.

It’s one of those sprawling Midwest state-school campuses. Trees and fields with the odd modern building, as opposed to your more urban settings with buildings and parking garages and the odd, perfectly coiffed tree, where applicable.

It’s not unusual to see lots of animals in Edwardsville. Deer. Turtles. Mountain lions. (Ahem.) Foxes. Snakes.

Bald eagles and skunks too, though Dan’s not got pictures of those to share…yet.

The neighbors have a pond in their backyard, and though I can’t see it from here, I can hear the frogs. Sometimes one shows up to feast on the bugs our patio light attracts.

Nice, innit?

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PS: Our cats, Izzy and Ollie, frequently climb that screen and don’t damage it. Highly recommend!

PPS: There are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis.

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