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I don’t garden by “the rules” – I am friends with the couple who run the local urban garden network here in my city, but every time I mention what I’ve been up to, they note how unconventional I am. “Carrots aren’t started indoors,” one of them pointed out one day, and sure enough, my little carrotlings never seemed to grow right once I got them outside.

This year, I’ve had some surprise successes: a pile of cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, and tomatoes later, I’m quite satisfied with the level of intervention I had, but I’ve got mildewy squash leaves, pockmarked kale plants, and the most inpenetrable snarl of tomato vines. Still, I got myself together this year to embark on a new journey: fall plantings.

Last year, high on the experience of eating summer veggies that I grew myself, I let the whole garden run rampant during the September and October months; I continued to harvest a few tomatoes but mostly let everything go. This year, I’m modestly incorporating some spinach, new salad greens, and onions into some plots I ripped free of their summer foliage. I’ve got my first sproutlings, and it makes me happy to think that, while I don’t garden like everyone else, I am getting better every time I get to work on those beds.

What do you love most about what you are learning in the garden lately? I have really enjoyed harvesting kale and freezing it, so that it shatters and can be used easily in smoothies later on. I am not always the most diligent at preserving the foods I grow, so that one is very lovely to me.

Keep your eyes open for a recipe post soon on Tomato Zucchini soup and Butternut Squash mac and cheese, since these days I pretty much incorporate the garden produce into every meal. Delicious indeed.

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Sometimes I think us blogger-types are people who like to complain. English majors, also, teach us to note the weaknesses, flaws, and shortcomings of the things we read, so it makes sense that a lot of how I filter the world is through what it could be. I try to be encouraging of my friends and family, and am invariably optimistic about their chances of achieving their dreams.

Having Husband around has woken me up to how much negativity I introduce into the average day. I try to be positive about Husband: his looks, his abilities, his achievements, and his goals. However, I now have to see the pain on his face whenever I mention how unlikely I am to achieve something, how bad I look, or how disappointed I am with my own productivity. Invariably, he will encourage me, offer a solution to a problem, or just listen well, but I tend to spiral if I start complaining, eventually crying and thinking that everything is awful.

I’m trying an experiment lately, where I try to note every time I say something positive and hopeful about the world and every time I am critical (not in a “turn left, not right” kind of way, but in a way that doesn’t help anyone involved). I’m finding that just the act of trying to notice my complaints is helping me do it a little less. I know there are a lot of times when people appreciate being able to vent, and I don’t think all complaining is bad, but I’m in a time in my life when it seems like complaining itself makes me unhappy, whereas trying to have a positive outlook can reverse the cycle and put me on a path to a happier day.

I might update you all on the complaining department; I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of sunny person that so many of my friends think I am, but I think I can manage to not always see the worst in myself, and instead try to see hope in my world.

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I’m not a naturally neat person. I joke (but it is true) that I prefer living in a space where I can, at a glance, see everything I own. I don’t do cubbies, drawers, cabinets, or shelves – well, shelves actually work quite well, but

So, this summer I’ve taken to doing something that I believe has been dubbed as “cleaning sprints” – I tell myself a small area or a specific task, I give myself 20 minutes, and I just get that one thing done. I try to do 3 or 4 per day because I’m at home and alternating between a lot of tasks, but with 4 sprints I get almost an hour and a half of cleaning. I naively hope that this is enough to undo the mess I incur per day!

I used to think about cleaning in terms of what was necessary, and that got me nowhere: I can live with any amount of mess if I have to! I had to instead start thinking about how I would want to present my life to others: if my mother-in-law was coming over, would I want her to see this? If a friend was bringing a baby over, would I be satisfied with how clean this was?

It took a long time, also, to make sense of Husband’s cleanliness needs. He is a fairly neat person, but he also doesn’t freak out when things are messy, and he also spends quite a bit of time procrastinating on things like picking up his own socks or getting laundry fully put away. I learned after a while that if I can contribute to surfaces (dining room table, for instance) being clear, dishes being put in the dishwasher promptly, and all junk mail recycled immediately, he was pretty much happy. Everything else could happen when he and I were able to do it.

I will also say he DOESN’T expect me to do all the housework, or even more than 50%. We both work long hours occasionally, so we have an informal relationship of exchange – trying to pick up the slack for each other relative to how much work is taking over our lives at the given moment. It’s a good system, I think, though whenever he has to do the dishes because I have been busy and haven’t pulled my weight in a while, it can be hard. I have much more trouble being taken care of than I have taking care of others.

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            The name of the blog combines my most frequent state, being a bit of a mess, with something I love a lot: maps.

We have a room in our house that is still decorated with sports-ball trim from the children who lived in it before we moved in, and I have covered the walls in maps of the places I’ve been rather than actually painting or wallpapering the space. It’s not a permanent solution (whatever, we might someday have a little kid who could grow into loving a room with sports balls on the walls!), but maps everywhere makes me feel like there is SO MUCH POSSIBILITY in the world. It’s one of the most sane-making feelings for me, perhaps because when I’m stuck in one of my own small problems, it reminds me “there’s a whole world out there, where people are doing amazing and interesting things.” It gives me comfort that I am not alone.

I love the intricacy of maps, and how I can find my way to anywhere I want just by knowing the address and using the indices. It’s a tool, but also so artistic: when I teach English, I hope I can provide that same balance of art and functionality.

I have sometimes created maps just to figure out where I want to be in life, or how my friends are connected to each other, or how topics I need to cover in an essay are ordered. Maps give me a way to understand the world. I mean mapping out in both the physical, geographical sense and also in the mental sense: my to-do lists, my planning, my future thoughts, all are forms of mapping, trying to set in ink what’s just out of my sight.

Not everyone needs these things to get through their days, but with my combination of daydreaming about the future and being pretty messy in the present, it’s an essential part of who I am, always mapping out what’s next.

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The title of this blog is a bit of a contradiction: someone who makes maps has to be pretty meticulous, always noting where things are in relation to each other, always charting a path from here to there. Still, if they are messy they may end up with mountains of maps, smudged lines, and all manner of chaos in spite of attempts to organize their worlds.

This is who I am: I’m the girl who makes a zillion to-do lists and loses them, realizing that most of the lists are just to remind myself how anxious to be and how much I can relax during a given hour. I’m the girl who wants to plan her life a year in advance and then forgets her keys the morning of. I’m fixated on being great at my job, but my wandering eyes always want to be learning something new in addition to getting better at old things. That’s what I want to blog about: I want to blog about getting better at things slowly as I quickly pick new things up. I want to chart progress, and chart what progress means to me.

Some of these progressions will mean a lot to you – if you are a crocheter or home cook, you might gain inspiration here, but more likely you have to be a person who thinks a lot about what a good life looks like, and what being a good person looks like, to appreciate the messy maps I’m drawing. Either way, I hope you find something you like here.

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