Fed is best | Weeknotes 5/6/23

I’ve been really swamped at my day job for the last few months, and, surprise, my routines have suffered. But a huge project I was working on just ended, and things should revert to something like normal. But the end result is my writing practice has suffered. I have still sent my newsletter each week, even if I have sent it late twice. People were kind enough to not remark on that. 

In the neurodivergent world, we have a saying that, “Fed is best”. Sure, it might be nice if you made a wholesome, nutritious, well-balanced meal for your kids with organic ingredients. But if you just don’t have the spoons, or the finances, or the time to do that, it’s better to feed them frozen fish sticks and boxed macaroni than to let them starve because you don’t have the bandwidth to do what you want to do. 

Like many folks with ADHD, I feel a great deal of internalized shame about how I show up in the world. I have let many people down, many times, over the years because of my struggles with executive function. So I am always very aware of deadlines, and they both are essential for my functioning and a source of a great deal of anxiety for me. 

In the past, if for some reason I couldn’t hit send on a newsletter on Monday, I just skipped that week. This made me feel shame twice – once for missing the deadline, and another for sending nothing. But, the reality is that even my most ardent fans – both of them – are not sitting there, staring at their inbox on Monday morning, waiting for my email to show up. It will be OK if it showed up Tuesday morning. The world won’t end, and most folks don’t even notice.

Fed is best. 

The Vault

I have been writing publicly for decades. Because of platforms shutting down, industry consolidation, and unpaid web hosting bills, some of that is no longer online. Besides, as the newspaper of my youth used to say, “If you haven’t read it, it’s still news.” So I’m republishing things that aren’t available elsewhere so I can link to them in the future and make them available for a new generation of readers. They are on a section of the blog tagged as “The Vault”.

Some of it has held up remarkably well. I am doing some light editing to bring things into current style requirements, but mostly I’m leaving it alone, so I can have a conversation, as it were, with the Hugh of 20 years ago. 

Google Docs

I’m trying to learn ways to streamline my inefficient, cobbled together over decades workflow. The pandemic broke many things, including most of my coping mechanisms. The combination of that, plus having a job where I am not 100% in control of my time (I know, poor baby) means I have had to reconfigure lots of things over the last year. 

Like, for almost 20 years I have written blog posts in MS Word, then copied and pasted them into WordPress. This is terribly inefficient, and pretty much means I have to be at my desktop to write. But it has worked for me all these years. I saved those files to Dropbox, so I could edit them either on my desktop or laptop, but it was still clunky. 

Recently I have begun using Google Docs for my blogging (and other writing). I have used Google Docs for years, but primarily as a means of collaboration. But I am trying to simplify workflows and the number of programs (and subscriptions!) I use. 

This add-on for Google Docs allows you to write, format and even put pictures in a Google Doc and then import it to your WordPress backend as a draft post. Note: It says it’s for WordPress.com, but if you use self-hosted WordPress and have it tied to a WordPress.Com account (as you do if you use Jetpack or Askismet) it will still work. It’s a game-changer. 


I’m working my way through the Rivers of London novels of Ben Aaronavitch. He writes London mysteries with some light fantasy mixed in. A friend recommended it and I’m hooked, I think.

I’m also dipping in and out of Orwell’s Roses, by Rebecca Solnit. Hope and beauty during the rise of totalitarianism? Yes, please!

And I’m car shopping. I hate car shopping. I hate everything about it. Exactly zero part of it gives me joy. In fact, it fills me with anxiety. I picture this going very wrong and then I have a car I hate and yet still owe money on for years.

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The comfort of books

There has never been a time when I did not love books.

Growing up in my small rural life, books were my window to the wider world. I explored the streets of Paris with Dupin, the alleys of Victorian England with Sherlock Holmes, swung from trees with Tarzan, and visited brave new worlds under the tutelage of Isaac Asimov.

The tiny library in the town 7 miles away from my parent’s house filled my childhood hours with adventure and excitement. It was there I was introduced to dinosaurs, knights, and Druids. The way it smelled, the lighting, the posters on the wall, the massive oak desk with Ms. Lee behind it, glasses on a chain around her neck. The whole gestalt of it all felt like magic.

No, it felt Holy.

Later, as an adult, I would go through a horrible divorce (is there truly any other kind?) and quit my good job and buy a paperback bookstore in Midtown Memphis. It was my act of rebellion, my following the admonition of Wendell Berry to “So, friends, every day do something / that won’t compute.”

It was, I would later say, a great way to go broke slowly.

I watched my income drop by $80,000 year over year and went from living in a large apartment overlooking the Parkway to a tiny attic room over a friend’s office. I delivered pizzas at night to support the bookshop and me. I entered into all sorts of ill-advised romantic relationships with art college students who loved the romance of a bookshop. Later I would learn that addicts often slept with their dealers. I leaned into the Bohemian existance of a man in his early thirties who drank wine from boxes, listened to jazz piano, walked to work, and read. God, did he read.

Books saved me during this time. Every moment I was at home, in my tiny attic room, I had a book open. I read poetry. Complicated fiction. Magical Realism. Sci-fi. Biographies of all the major Beat writers. I read that Truman Capote said that Kerouac wasn’t writing – he was typing. I loved that, so I read all of Capote.

It was an intense year.

I opened the shop at 10 Tuesday through Saturday. But I’ve always been an early riser, so I would find myself at the store around 7:30 many mornings, drinking coffee and sitting on the couch in the middle of the store, surrounded by books.

The shop had large windows that faced North, giving good, soft light throughout the day. In the early mornings, the edge of the sun would peak through, casting light across the shelves. Motes of dust would drift lazily through the sunbeams, and Monk would play on the 80’s era jam box I hid behind the counter.

During these times, when the stack of bills on the counter went unopened – when I could briefly not think about the many people I had let down, the rural life I had walked away from, the marriage I had walked away from, the careers I had walked away from. When I could just stop walking away and just be, on that couch, surrounded by thousands of books. It was then that I felt the way I always assumed a better person than I would feel in church.

Books – Day 3

II’m blogging every day of November, with each day being a post about a thing for which I am grateful. – HH

On the third day, I am grateful for my love of books.

I grew up on 33 acres, 10 miles away from a town with 800 people in it. My best friend lived a mile and a half away. It could have been a lonely life. But I never felt that, because I had my books.

I can never remember not being surrounded by books. Our home had piles of them everywhere, and both of my parents read before bed every night, and they both read to me every night, and eventually I read to them every night, and even now, I cannot go to sleep without reading first.

My parents were just babies themselves when I came along, but I was mostly raised by people in their 50’s and 60’s, the elders in our community that stepped in for my dead and absent grandparents. And those people loved to read, and they ooohed and awed over my reading. I remember being five or so and at a neighbor’s when they had company over, and handed a newspaper and getting a rousing ovation for being able to read it.

They also didn’t cater to me. When I was 8 or so and would stay over at my great aunt’s, I would read her paperback mystery novels, largely because there were no “children’s” books to be had. I was taught to use the dictionary for words I did not understand, and I learned to love both dictionaries and pulpy mystery novels.

To this day I can get lost in either – there is nothing more comfortable to me than seeing Hercule Poirot assemble everyone in the drawing room for a satisfying denouement, or getting sidetracked in my search for a word by finding other words I did not know existed.

My immediate neighbors, an elderly retired farm couple, did not read books, but they read the paper each day as if it were Holy Writ, and taught me to do the same. It was a never-ending story, current events were, with chapters spread out that you had to piece together yourself.

In the small town we lived near, the town hall, the fire department, and the library were all in the same building. The library was really just a small room, perhaps 20×15, with shelves around the perimeter and a row of shelves down the middle. Ms. Lea was the librarian, and she was a retired English teacher. They only were open a few days a week – perhaps Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and only a few hours each of those days.

I read books at a prodigious rate and would, in the summer time, check out a stack of books on Saturday, bring them back on Thursday, and get one or two then to tide me over until Saturday again.

They had a summer reading program every summer, and after my winning each summer for 3 summers in a row, I was given the equivalent of a lifetime award and was not eligible for further participation, “to let the other kids have a chance.”

I didn’t care, as long as they let me read the books. I would rather read than compete: Still would, in fact.

In my early 30’s I would, for a few years, own a bookshop, which is somewhat akin to being an alcoholic and owning a bar. I had just gone through a horrible divorce, and I would sit in my quiet shop, early in the morning, before the shop would open.

The sun would come in the windows, and dust would catch on the rays of the sunlight against the backdrop of the thousands of books on their shelves and I would feel like I was surrounded by friends, and I knew – just knew – that nothing very bad could happen to me.

I still read at a prodigious rate. For instance, a quick search of my records tells me I have borrowed 121 library books since January, and bought another 43 (almost all used), plus others I have gotten as gifts, and I have reread more than a few.

My office is at the front of our house, and I can look out my window at the world going by, but inside here, I am surrounded by bookshelves on every wall. And every time I enter it, it is like being surrounded by friends, and I know – just know – that nothing very bad can happen to me there.