This tea came in White2Tea’s monthly tea club, which, if you’re interested in learning more about Chinese tea, I highly recommend. (For those who weren’t around for prior explanations: in parts of Asia, they refer to what we call “black” tea as “red” tea: so this is a highly oxidized tea.)
This is a black tea made with leaves that usually get made into white tea, and the result is a heavy, sweet, almost syrupy amber liquid. The days here on the front range of the Rocky Mountains are still warm—seventies, eighties, for the most part—but the nights are growing chillier. This tea pairs well with the weather, robust and sweet, the perfect accompaniment to sitting at my kitchen table and watching the sumac in the yard turn red while the sage next to it blooms as if winter will never come. The sage is wrong: we are predicted to have our first tiny snowflakes this weekend.
But for now, there is a deep contentment to this tea: a feeling, after each heated mouthful, that I am safe and warm and happy.
minor item of housekeeping
If you entered the giveaway a few weeks ago, please check your spam to see if there is a reply from me. I’ve heard from almost everyone.
(Side note: I don’t know how many times I have convinced myself I can grow sprouts and microgreens. I cannot. I love sprouts and microgreens. I keep trying to grow them. I have, on and off, for twenty years. Not once have I succeeded. I always forget to water them before they’re ready! Every single time. Some day I will learn that this is just not the hobby for me, but every time I think of it again I’m like a newborn child, wide-eyed in the concept of fresh sprouts on my kitchen counter.)
I did not grow up in a tidy household. I grew up in a house with seven kids. At one point, I shared a room with three other sisters, a hopeless endeavor. In retrospect, it was impossible to clean the room because there were too many things, and the things we had didn’t have a place. Some times mom and dad would tell us to clean the room and we’d sift through things and throw out the things that needed to be thrown out and then hide the rest in giant heaps somewhere so that the floor would be temporarily visible. I hated cleaning the room. It took hours and then the luxury of having a clean room would only last until Mom or Dad gave us the thumb’s up, and everything would fall out of the nooks and crannies where we had crammed them.
(My parents always blamed the messy state of the house on the number of children they had, which…fair. But also: we have seen the house since all the children moved out, and…yeah.)
I had to learn the basics of cleanliness as an adult on my own. The idea that every thing needed to have a place was a revelation: that if you had to constantly be inventing new places to shove things, you were, in fact, not cleaning up, but just pushing things from one place to another.
That is how I graduated from a wildly messy person, where nothing had a place, to an untidy person, who would occasionally stop before things got precarious and sort all the things into the places I had found for them. I still hated the act of cleaning up: nobody likes to interrupt one’s day for an hour to put things away. But I did like the aftermath. The clean spaces lasted longer—four or five days, before things started to pile up on the coffee table. And I enjoy living somewhere tidy.
After I sent that newsletter, I asked myself this: I have this vision in my head that being a “clean” person meant constantly engaging in the act of cleaning, a thing that I associated with the painful act of stuff into its place for hours at a time.
But—and those of you who are reasonably tidy are probably looking at this strangely—I hadn’t realized that if I was doing this on a regular basis, it would not take me an hour every day.
So I tried an experiment. I wasn’t going to clean a whole house every day; that sounded too big. But I decided that I was going to try to do one thing: every day, after I had breakfast, I would clean up the kitchen. That meant doing the dishes. That meant putting away the tea and putting the tea things back in place. That meant wiping off the counters and the stove and the sink. Just the kitchen. Just after breakfast. Just that, to see how long it took me and how much I hated it.
This tiny little habit turned out to be massively transformative. You see, there was something I hadn’t realized. Having a clean kitchen after breakfast meant that when I walked in to have lunch, I had a clean slate, and that meant I felt I could make a decent lunch, and then, it was easy to clean up after lunch because I wasn’t doing all the breakfast and lunch stuff all at once. It also meant that when I came into the kitchen for dinner, my brain didn’t shut off into immediate “no” mode. For a long time, I thought I was just out of willpower at the end of the day, and that was a constant source of us ordering pizza. It turns out that no, my brain was rejecting doing things in a messy kitchen.
It took me a few weeks to understand the mechanism. One of my unconscious ADHD adaptations that I developed is that I leave important things out as a reminder, because if I put them away or file them, I will forget they exist. This is why my ballot is on the living room table. The flip side of this is that when things get messy, my brain takes all the clutter as ninety-seven giant reminders and it shuts down.
Also, I discovered that the thing I hated was spending hours cleaning up a place. My brain is fine with spending two minutes to restore a place to cleanliness: I like it when things are clean, and doing things this way means I get a near-instantaneous reward.
I am sure that at some point my executive function is going to falter, and I’ll have to reset everything, but I’m kind of amazed at how well this worked out for me.
Next up is to clean my office (oh dear) and to try to see if I can get into a habit there.
drop by drop (again)
One of the things I faced in writing this book is that if you’re writing a book, and your heroine has a goal, you generally want her to achieve that goal.
In this book, Free wanted women’s rights in general and suffrage in particular, and unfortunately, we know when that happened, and it is not during the timeframe of this book. There are a lot of books that are solely about how much it sucked to be a woman back then, but I wasn’t super interested in writing one of those. So I had to think about how to define winning: what would it look like, what would she achieve, what would happen?
And for this book, the win condition for Free was that (a) she kept fighting, and (b) that she won not all at once, but person by person: that justice could be personal, and it mattered to that person.
This is a thing that I return to for myself time and time again when I feel despair: even when it feels like everything is upside down, there is always a chance to do something that matters to one person, and that person is important.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
I am finally catching up on my reading. I did a virtual panel in August with Sangu Mandanna and thought she was delightful as a person, so I got a copy of this book and have been hanging on to it ever since.
I know this book was not written for me, personally, but it feels like it could have been. The main character, Mika Moon, is a witch who is exceptionally good at brewing potions, and among those potions we include her teas, which she develops to have properties like bringing good luck and (sobs) making That Time of the Month bearable.
This is a very warm book about finding family and a lovely romance and people are just so genuinely kind in this book that I can’t help but wish that our world was more like this one.
It’s also a book in which the backdrop of the world for witches is deeply unjust. Witches have learned not to congregate for fear of discovery; witches are under a curse (of a sort) that causes them to be orphaned shortly after they are born. This book is deeply cozy without shying away from the fact that the world isn’t fair or good. It’s a book that takes that awful world and shows that it can be made better, person by person.
I definitely needed to read this book this week.
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