All posts by Mary Anne Mohanraj


Anand got the toy he most desired for his 8th birthday (a Nintendo Switch) and I am not sure I have ever seen a child so ecstatic. He is trying to play the game (Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) but is so happy and excited that he keeps getting up and jumping around. He can’t contain himself. He is trying to explain the game to us (he has watched many, many YouTube play through videos about it), and not spoil it for us, but he can’t help giving us hints — ‘the old man isn’t just any old man! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!’ Just now, Kevin went downstairs for something, and Anand ran down a minute later because he had gotten to a particularly exciting bit and he didn’t want Daddy to miss it.

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Today is in theory a writing-all-day day; I’ve blocked it out. I have a Wild Cards story to double in size (really, George? Okay.), three other stories in revision, and a novel I’d like to draft another chapter of.
But in practice, I can’t actually write all day because my brain melts and my fingers ache. So writing all day actually means reading some of the time, and usually also interspersing with household chores. I keep meaning to use the co-working space days I’ve paid for, though, see if they work for me, and they’re going to run out soon if I don’t.
But I have the beginnings of a cold and my house is more cozy than the co-working space. At least I think it is — I think the space is more desk and chair rather than comfy sofas, although I’m not sure. Chris arrives at 9, too, which complicates things, since usually I give him some direction over the course of the day. But I think what I ought to do is at least try the co-working space. If it doesn’t work, I can always come home.
Okay — shower and dress, eat some breakfast, make up a to-do list for Chris so he has things to work on while I’m not here. I’ll probably walk back here for lunch, and I can check in with him then. Of course, if I come back here, will I be motivated to leave again? Maybe I should pack a lunch. I should definitely pack a lunch. But first, I should get off this comfy couch. And turn off Facebook.
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TFW the street construction worker comes to your door to ask if you know who owns the car they’re about to tow, and you’re really glad you have a robe hanging nearby that you can grab.

A little groggy this morning, with a super-scratchy throat — oh, hello, first cold of the season. Right on schedule.

Things to work on:

– Patreon — Chris tried to schedule a few posts yesterday, but we had a string of technical difficulties — trouble connecting his computer (fixed, eventually), trouble editing photos (fixed, eventually), and even trouble cut-and-pasting (bizarre). We did eventually manage to schedule a post to go out at 9 a.m. this morning, we’ll see how that works. I feel a little weird that the Patreon content is basically all the same content I’m posting here already, but I figure FB’s strange algorithms mean that there’s no guarantee anyone reading here will actually see anything I post anyway — with Patreon, you definitely will.

I’m going to go ahead and set up the remaining posts for the week for him now — I already sent him the fiction post for Wednesday; I’m going to write up the curried potato salad recipe for Thursday; I’ll send him another fiction post for Friday, I have a plan for the knitting post for Saturday, and I have a writing prompt ready to go for Sunday. There was a while when I was working on a book about writing and identity, so I have a half-dozen exercises prepped from that. It’d be nice to do more with that project; we’ll see.

– bulbs — it rained last night, and I have some alliums (caeruleum, schubertii, gladiator) to get in the ground — I’m not going to bother with cayenne, I think, because alliums are sufficiently stinky on their own that the squirrels and bunnies should leave them alone

– course prep and grading; about an hour of each. I have some student meetings before teaching today too, so a longish day on campus. Best get going — turning off FB now, so I’m not tempted.

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Signs of autumn

Signs of autumn.


And look, cotton! I haven’t seen that in the store before, v. cool.

It’s nice to have the house full of flowers again — I usually don’t do much with indoor arrangements over the summer, but as we head into the darker part of the year, the need for brightness emerges.

Winter is coming. But it’s not here yet!

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Cancer log 192: Two interpretations

Today’s mammogram came back benign.  There’s been some pushback recently in the medical community against early mammograms, with a concern that they’re picking up very-slow-moving cancers that under normal circumstances might not develop into anything problematic until the person is fifty years older — by which point, they might easily have died from something else.
I was talking to Kevin last night, and he’s sort of settled into thinking that might well be what happened with me — they caught something that might never have actually bothered me if we hadn’t done mammograms, maybe we went through that whole terrible year of treatment for nothing, that almost certainly, none of the follow-up mammograms will find anything, and they’re probably a waste of time (but one he still thinks I should go through with, just in case).
I don’t feel that way. Part of it is that there were various aspects of my tumor that didn’t seem so slow-growing — on surgery, it turned out to be bigger than they thought it was from scans, etc. But mostly, I’m just not that optimistic, I guess. I’m in the better safe than sorry camp, and I’m glad we did the treatment, however grueling it was.
I also have no confidence that the cancer won’t return. Pretty much every time I go in for a mammogram now, I feel like it’s 50-50 what they’ll find. That may not be accurate, but it’s my emotional reality, and shapes my reaction not just to mammogram day, but to my plans for the future. Every time they say ‘benign,’ I feel like, ‘okay, that’s another six more months I can plan on being around for.’ I do make longer term plans, of course, but they’re strongly influenced by my heightened awareness of mortality.
The clock is constantly ticking in the back of my head now, which is a good thing in some ways, prodding me to make the most of my time. But I’ve been feeling some increased anxiety as well — I’m not normally an anxious person, but it fades in and out now. If it’s still around at my next internal medicine doctor check-up in a few months, I might ask her to set me up with a therapist who can do talk therapy and/or prescribe me something for it, because it’s distracting and unpleasant.
For now — more time outside, more gardening and knitting, trying to keep the to-do list from getting too long and the e-mail inbox from getting too full (both of those are anxiety-provoking, in a way that quickly gets paralyzing, which is counter-productive.) Maybe book a massage once in a while. Read and write.
Writing is my greatest therapy, always, so thank you all for listening.
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Cancer log 191: Mammogram Day

Plan for today: scan some materials in for my students to read (excerpt from Russ’s _How to Suppress Women’s Writing_) and send it to them, then head to Loyola for six-month mammogram. Try not to stress. It will probably be fine. Take laptop with me, spend any free time between 9 and 12 on e-mail. Come back, meet Chris and go over what he’s doing for me today (he’ll start by watering the lawn, finishing up the party dishes, and taking out any remaining party trash from yesterday’s union BBQ, but after that, I’m hoping to get him started on cataloguing how many extra copies of my books I have, and then setting up a quick clearance sale on my site. I’ll let y’all know. Also starting the Patreon daily posting, woot.).

From noon to 3, try to write. I’ve gotten comments back from several people on stories (THANK YOU!), and I think I know how to fix “Skin Deep” now, or at least know more clearly what was wrong with it. (Essentially, I rushed the character development for one character, so her motivations for a fairly dramatic action felt unclear and implausible. The fix is probably going to involve going in and writing another scene or two from her past, so you can see why she did what she did.) Russ (agent) also read the first four chapters of the novel that I gave him and sent me comments late last night, so I’m itching to get back to that.

At 3, I meet with a representative of the League of Women Voters to tell them about what’s been going on with the library board, the last three months. They usually send an observer to the various boards, but they didn’t have anyone available to cover library (local folks, especially younger folks, the League of Women Voters could really use a little of your time and energy!), so they’re sending someone to get a report from me. (Matt Fruth, if there’s anything in particular you want me to pass along, please feel free to send it.)

I have time tomorrow morning to finish grading and prep before class, so then I relax for a bit, hang out with the kids, maybe knit or putter in the garden. There’s a local Indivisible meeting at 6:30 at Edwardo’s, and I’ve been meaning to check them out, so if I have the energy, I’ll go to that. But mammogram day means all bets are off, even if the news is good, as we expect it to be — it’s just a stressful day. If I want to tuck myself in bed this evening and eat leftover strawberry-topped cheesecake from the BBQ, that is totally okay.

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Union BBQ

Puttering day. At 4, we’re hosting about 50 people for a faculty union BBQ. After going to the leadership conference this summer, one of the things Kev and I talked about with our union organizer was how to build community within the union members, and build a sense of shared goals, as we fight for a stronger university for ourselves and our students.

The union sends out lots of communications to us, but we’re all flooded with e-mails, and it’s easy to let those slide by. How do you motivate people to join committees, to spend time and energy volunteering to improve community? Well, starting by feeding them is a time-honored tactic. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll get to know each other better, we’ll find out more about what the union is working on right now, and where they could use help. (I may have gotten drafted into the Communications team. Mary Anne, stop putting your hand up. Why don’t you ever listen?)


Food and drink is mostly bought (thanks, Costco), though at some point will duck out for ice and maybe some more lemonade. The Village decided to tear up a good part of our street this week, which is great for getting new sewer lines, but a little intimidating if you don’t know what’s going on — you can still park there, but it looks terrible. Oh well — hopefully, people will figure it out. We may get a little rain just before the party, but if we need to cook and hang out inside, it’s not the end of the world.

Plan for the next eight hours — straighten up in a lackadaisical manner while watching lots of silly tv. There’s not much actual cooking planned, but I do need to marinate some chicken and make some potato salad. But what kind of potato salad? That is the age-old question. So many delicious choices…

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Autumn Cookies

Owl and owlet.  These are made with my speediest form of decorating — make a six-second icing, color it, dip cookies and scrape off excess (takes a light touch to get the right amount off, but you get used to it), sprinkle with colored sugar.


These are quite time-consuming, adding these details, because you need to mix up different colors, put them into separate squeeze tubes or pastry bags, and apply the layers with time to dry between each one. But they are super-cute, so I suppose that makes it worthwhile.


Lots of little cookies, dipped and sprinkled, goes pretty fast, even if you do a few different colors.

I plan the color layers so I can do it all in one bowl — start with white, set aside any white you’ll need later for detailing in a mini squeeze bottle. Stir in yellow gel color to the bowl, ice some cookies. Add orange, ice some cookies (set some icing aside for detailing). Add copper, ice some cookies. Add burgundy, ice some cookies. Add brown, ice some cookies. Add black, set aside for detailing.



Tried a new technique this time, marbling, which is super-easy — dipped the cookies to get the base color, squeeze bottle to add a line of a contrast color, use a toothpick (while both icings are still wet) to draw lines through them both. Really like the effect, suspect I will do it often going forward. A little sugar sprinkle makes it even more festive; these are my favorites out of this batch.

Finished little batches — cookies & owlet. Hopefully will sell lots of them for Pem‘s hurricane fundraiser! I think they’re pretty darn cute, and would make a nice little snack for yourself, a treat for your kids, or a sweet gift for a friend.

Cookie recipe:

Icing recipe (thinned with hot water to 6-second icing):

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I wanted to note, because I realized recently that I haven’t said this explicitly, that I’ve gotten very phone-avoidant over the last decade. It’s a little weird to me, since I was the teen who literally spent all day on the phone with her best friend, talking about nothing. But at this point, I find myself resisting using the phone much at all. Calling people is hard, picking up phone calls is even harder. I sort of wish I didn’t have a phone at all. I sometimes go weeks, or even a month, without looking at my voicemail. I also mostly don’t text.
I have all kinds of theories about why this is, mostly having to do with my life being much busier, with an immense number of people in it who want / need to engage with me, and feeling like I need to manage that flow in order not to get overwhelmed.
E-mails feel more manageable, because I can set aside time to deal with them. Phone and texting have an immediacy to them that is stressful. FB messages are interesting, because they’re sort of immediate; I like them because I can usually respond v. quickly to them, but if I don’t have time to look at them for a day or two, the sender knows I haven’t seen their message yet, so it doesn’t feel as pressing as a phone.
Anyway, obviously this is all very individual, but for those who *might* call me, I thought I should say at least once that it’s not a good way to reach me these days.
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