Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

Hello, everybody! We’re a few months into 2022 now, so I thought I’d give you an update on what’s going on with me.

January

I’m afraid I have to start with sad news. On December 19, my grandmother fell in her apartment and broke her leg. We took her to the hospital, where they fixed her up, but things got complicated. One thing and another, despite the stellar care of understaffed and exhausted hospital staff, she contracted pneumonia and passed on January 17. My family, who had been preparing for this outcome for quite some time (she was 96), was devastated. We’re still dealing with shockwaves every once in a while. She was a grand old dame and she left a massive hole in our lives that we’re still trying to map and navigate. Our only solace is knowing that we loved the hell out of her, and she loved us just as fiercely back.

Also, we all practice ancestor work, and she did too, so we know she’ll be around when she’s ready.

New Year’s has become one of my favourite holidays. It brings me fresh perspective and renewed energy to take stock and figure how to move forward. This two-year depressive spiral where I barely wrote at all, paired with a severe financial situation in my family, made me feel like I needed a change. Writing fiction will always be my greatest love, but despite everything I say about it being, you know, ‘1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,’ it’s still damn hard to do when you can’t focus. Fiction is hard, y’all. And it’s even harder when you can’t stop thinking about the critics. I don’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome, but I know when I’m off my game, and I don’t like putting out work that isn’t my best.

So I decided to freelance. It’s kind of perfect- my own hours, writing, and a bit of pocket change to remove my personal expenses from the family budget, with an option for setting some aside. Eventually, I was contacted by an academic ghostwriting company, and I took it.

NOW BEFORE YOU COME FOR ME about helping students cheat, first of all, homework is unethical to begin with. Kids already spend all day at school and then have to do more school in their free time. Bullshit. Mandatory school was hell for me and if I could have paid someone to do my homework, I would have. Two, these are Chinese students in English-speaking countries, where they’re held to the same expectations as native speakers, so they’re already at a disadvantage. Most of the essays I write are short projects for elective classes- I’m not writing dissertations and helping people skate through med school. Those sorts of qualifications have much stricter checks and balances. Three, the suicide rate amongst Asian students related to academics is higher than any other demographic, and if I can ease some of that stress for someone, I call that a good deed. And four, I’m a nerd- I like writing essays, and it’s awesome to get paid for it.

February

So, the new job is going well. It’s not bringing in much, but it eased some stress in the house, and I’m learning loads.

Despite the increased workload, I decided to dedicate February to self care. All of the stress of the last month, the burnout from the last six weeks, and the bleakness of the last two years, got to me. Also, February got HOT—FAST. Like, mid-May hot. In February. But climate change is a hoax 😂

So, I started spending more time outside in the hammock by the pool. It’s rough, I know. But I’d go out there with my drink, a podcast or a book, and chill with the dogs and the sun. It was glorious.

Be jealous

Part of this self care dedication involved starting a new diet. Now, to be clear, I don’t believe in diets. Diet culture is proven to be toxic and ineffective, however, I do have a number of health issues that my doctor is happy to ignore. I have to advocate for myself and I’d rather change my lifestyle than take pills. To be clear, I’m not arguing against medication wholesale, some issues need meds. I don’t believe my case does. But I don’t know because my doctor refuses to test me.

So, in February, I joined a 30-day challenge to give this lifestyle change a try and see if anything changes. I’ll update you guys if it’s successful. Essentially, it involves cutting out inflammatory foods, eating more of some of my faves, and *sigh* regular exercise. They promise an increase in energy, so if that happens, maybe I’ll hate exercise less, lol. I figure, what can I lose by eating more whole foods and exercising? Especially if I gain so much.

March

So here we are, at long last in March, and I feel like it’s March of 2020 and I’m living my best life again. A month of self care did me good.

I got a promotion at my job, after only a month of work (why yes, I AM good at research and writing, so kind of you to notice!), and a project a couple friends of mine and I are working on is once more underway. More details on that, once we’re further along.

The diet is going well. I can’t say I’m noticing much when I’m on it, but I certainly notice a change when I take a break and go back to eating junk food. So that’s promising.

I finally reached a major milestone. When the pandemic hit, a bunch of things in my house failed in rapid succession: the oven, the dryer, and the freezer. We had a microwave that could act as an oven, so we muddled through with that until it completely failed at Thanksgiving, but the freezer had been my best strategy for trying to save money on food and see us through an unknown future. So I taught myself how to can. We only had a big stock pot, so I was limited to things I could can in a hot water bath: high acidity foods like jams and pie fillings. If I were better at social media, I would have posted pictures because I set myself the challenge of canning a hundred recipes before I had earned my pressure canner. It was fun and I was getting good practice and not letting fruit go to waste, but it wasn’t exactly stocking the cupboard with food. I needed a pressure canner. But those are expensive and with appliance repairs, emergency medical bills, our notoriously untrustworthy plumbing, and skyrocketing prices in every sector of life, the household couldn’t afford one, even if it would save us money in the longterm.

Well, this month, through some savings, tax returns, and my new job, I was able to buy my pressure canner! So now, I can make salsas and sauces from all those tomatoes that are inexplicably fruiting in March!

MY BABY CAME HOME AT LAST

So, that’s about it from me. I’ve had a decent start to the year, and am looking forward to the next quarter. What about you guys? How’s 2022 treating you, and what do you have to look forward to?

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