Wednesday, June 01, 2016

How A Novel Is Like A Television Series


My husband prefers film to TV, but I would rather watch a television show. This is something we bicker about, mostly on Netflix nights when we're trying to decide what to watch. Sometimes, in a moment of snobbery, he insists that film is a higher art form than TV, with the rare exceptions - Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire. I think there are plenty of terrible movies out there, and plenty of good TV shows. For me, however, my preference for television isn't based on artistic value. It's based on the way I experience the story. 

When it comes to books, I prefer to sink my teeth into a novel. Television shows satisfy that same hunger. Movies, on the other hand, are like short stories. 

At first glance, this does not appear to make sense. Television seems, on the surface, more akin to short stories. They're both episodic, consumed in small doses. That, however, is where the similarities end. When you watch a television show, you spend a lot of time in the story. You get to know the characters deeply. You watch as plots develop, narrative arcs, conflicts build and fester. Each night, when you dip back into the television show, you settle in quickly, picking up the story where you last left off, immersing yourself once again. The same is true with a really good novel.

Short stories, on the other hand, are more challenging - at least for me. I love short stories, but they require more energy than a novel. Each time you read a new short story, you start from scratch. What world am I in? Who are the main characters? Who am I rooting for? What is the problem? It doesn't take long to become immersed, but the initial energy you must spend to get to that point is more than is required when you're in the middle of a novel. Then the story is over, and you have to go through the whole process again.

This is why movies are like short stories. A brand new world, every single time. A gift, yes, but not one that I always have the energy to accept. Most Tuesday nights I just want to drink a bottle of wine and slip into a familiar story, visit with old friends, see what's new in their world. Most of the time, I want to watch a television show or, for that matter, read a novel. Most of the time, we do.

(Sorry, Nathan. We can watch a movie this weekend.) 

Friday, May 27, 2016

You're Not the Boss of Me


A few weeks ago I was at the bar with some friends, drinking a beer and having an intense and lively discussion about... credit card interest rates. It was one of those moments where you realize just how deep into your 30s you are. 

Needless to say, I've been thinking a lot about money lately. Mostly because I'm in my 30s, and if not now, when? But also because for the first time in my adult life I actually have some. Not a lot, and most of it is spoken for, but overall our net worth is inching up. (Make no mistake, we're still in the red. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel.) 

This progress, incremental though it may seem, is a big deal for me and Nathan. We've been together nearly fourteen years and for the bulk of that time one or the other has been a student, paying money to a university rather than making it at a job. As you can imagine, this added up. 

Now, however, we both have jobs we like. We live in a city we adore. We've embraced a very frugal lifestyle (with the exception of good beer and decent wine - hey, we're not monks). Financially, things were better than ever, but it still didn't seem like enough. We got paid; bills took most of it away; 10% went into savings; and the rest disappeared, dollar by dollar, until there was none left. When it came to our money, I felt like a passive observer with very little control. 


Apparently, I'm not alone in feeling this way. According to The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans 47% of us wouldn't be able to pay for a $400 emergency without selling something or using a credit card. Until very recently, I was one of those Americans. We tried to save and think ahead, but every time we made some progress something would knock us back down. The article speaks to this cycle. "[T]he primary reason many of us can’t save for a rainy day is that we live in an ongoing storm. Every day, it seems, there is some new, unanticipated expense—a stove that won’t light, a car that won’t start, a dog that limps, a faucet that leaks. And those are only the small things."

"We live in an ongoing storm." I don't know about you, but that line was a gut punch. At some point, I experienced a shift in how I think about finances. When I was much younger, I scoffed at money. "Capitalism is the root of all evil! Money is a social construct! Experiences, not things!" I still believe a lot of those slogans, but the fact is I live in this society. I've made certain compromises for the comforts of civilization. One of those compromises is accepting money and its role in my life. This doesn't mean I have to give up my hopes and dreams of being a writer in pursuit of a field that is actually lucrative, or that I need to drive a fancy car and live in a big house. It just means I need to be smart, get out of debt, and live, finally, within my means. For many years, I thought of money as the chains that held us down. Now I think of it as the key that can set us free.

(Related: The Story of a Fuck-Off Fund, which is the most inspiring financial advice I've ever read.) 

Right now, our financial goals are to get out of debt (with the exception of my student loans, because let's be realistic), to replace my car in two or three years when it inevitably dies, to save up a six month cushion of living expenses, and to buy a house before we're forty. (Nathan is 35 now, and I'm 33 - 40 seems far away, but also very, very close.) None of these goals are revolutionary. In fact, most of them are pretty boring. But they feel like a big deal. Each one is a single step closer to freedom.

To help us with our goals (and I promise this whole post hasn't been one long advertisement) we started using You Need a Budget. I'm still new to the software and the method, but I can already tell it's going to change my life. 


I won't get into the nitty-gritty of YNAB, because a thousand blogs have reviewed it extensively. Instead, I want to tell you how it makes me feel, because money really is a social construct and so much of it depends on feelings. 

The first step of YNAB is to assign every dollar in your account a job. I don't think it's a coincidence that "job" is the word they use, and that it implies action. This simple idea - that I can and should put my money to work - was one of those lightbulb moments. Now, when we get paid, I go through all our bills, which are set in stone, and I assign them dollars. I pay credit card bills and student loans and put money in savings. Then I go through all our other expenses, like groceries and gas and all the animals, and I give them dollars, too. Finally, if there's anything left over, I put it toward fun stuff, like alcohol, restaurants, and entertainment. When you use YNAB this way, your budget is a tidy zero, because all your money is spoken for, segmented and assigned. You still have it, of course, and you can shift your budgets around as needed. But having a plan for my money, knowing what it needs to do, makes me feel powerful. My money is active. It's working. 

My dollars have jobs, and I'm their boss. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Right Here, Right Now


Oh, hello there! Fancy meeting you here. I haven't posted in a while, but I do have a few things I want to write about in the coming weeks. For now, here's a little rundown of all the things currently keeping me busy. 

Writing 


Even though I left the freelance world behind when I got my full time job, I still pick up a project here and there. A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to ghost-write an e-book for a local doctor. It's a medical book written for the average person, which is good because despite being married to a medial person I am most definitely not medically-versed. So far the doctor has been really easy to work with, the book is coming along, and I'm going to make enough money to finally pay off the stupid credit card balance I've been dragging around for three years. (I pay it every month, and somehow it never seems to go down!) The nice thing about accepting extra work is that, thanks to my full time job, I have the freedom to pick and choose what I want to take on. (Well, as long as it isn't a conflict of interest.) It's freelance without the pressure of hustling so I can pay my rent, and I like that very much. The downside is that I should probably be working on the project right now instead of writing this blog post... 

Reading 


My book club just celebrated our one year anniversary, and I love it more every month. Right now we're reading The Ghost Network, which is strange and lovely. When I'm done with that, I'm going to read the last Neapolitan book. And then I want to devote the rest of the summer to short story collections. I've been working on novels for so long I forgot how to write short fiction (or maybe I never really knew how?) At any rate, I got some great recommendations on Twitter and I can't wait to dive in. 

Hoping 


Speaking of working on novels, I finished a second draft of my New Book while I was at the Vermont Studio Center, and then immediately sent it to two of my best friends MFA friend. They're both reading it and will give me comments in a few weeks. I'm excited because I worked on this book in compete solitude - no one has read a single page of it, which seems so strange. I'm also terrified, because no one has read a single page of it which means no one had the opportunity to tell me it was a terrible idea and I should stop immediately. Oh, the life of a writer.

Learning 


After an expensive spring, thanks to my sister's wedding and my writing residency (I had a fellowship, but I still took two weeks unpaid from my job) Nathan and I are trying to get our finances under control yet again. We don't have much planned this summer, so we will be enacting austerity measures and working hard to pay off debt and save some money. I just started using You Need a Budget which will hopefully teach me about money and make me rich. Last night I drank a glass of wine and watched a bunch of videos, and this morning it finally all started to make sense. I think once I get the hang of it, it'll be a really useful tool. If anyone out there uses YNAB and has any tips, I'm all ears!

Watching 


I'm still conducting a passionate love affair with last year's television shows. I just finished the first season of Jane the Virgin which was utterly delightful, and I continue to worship the women of Broad City. I've also gotten into the Lifetime original series UnREAL, which is  sentence I never thought I'd write. 

Eating 


The last time I did a post in this style, I sang the praises of Trader Joe's Corn and Wheat Tortillas. Guess what? I'm still eating them almost every single day. Now that it's pretty much summer and I'm trying to get more veggies into my diet, I've also revived my beloved mason jar salads, which single-handedly validate the existence of Pinterest, IMO. 

Bragging 


My dear friend Mel, of Local Color XC and Tiny House Hunters fame, has a new line to add to her resume. She just started her very own business, an online shop called Tabled.

Tabled's slogan is, "Every meal should be a small celebration," which is a mission I fully support. The idea is kind of genius. Mel, who has impeccable style and taste, has curated a line of tabletop accessories from independent makers across the USA. You can shop for each item individually and scoop up super cute stuff like a mug rug for your office, USA-themed cozies for your Olympics party, and the happiest serving utensils ever seen. Even better, Mel has also created party packs that have everything you need to throw an extra special event or give an extra special gift, whether it's a wedding, a graduation party, or a birthday. I mean, look at this serving utensils set! It would be a great housewarming gift.


Oh, and for the record, Mel didn't ask me to write any of this. I'm just so proud of her, I think her store is amazing, and I can't wait to watch her knock Martha Stewart off her throne. Go, Mel!

That's It For Me 


What have all of you been up to? Let me know here or on Twitter, where I spend most of my time. In the meantime, have a beautiful Sunday! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

How I Spent My Residency at the Vermont Studio Center

Hello! I'm back from my two week residency at the Vermont Studio Center and excited to tell you all about it. (Don't know what VSC is? Check out this post for more info.) Before I left for Vermont, I read the website and handbook to prepare myself, but I had a hard time finding any thorough, first-person accounts of what, exactly, people did during their residency. This post is an attempt to remedy that situation, and to share the peaceful and productive time I spent in a truly amazing place. It's also really long, so maybe grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat before we dive in. 

VSC after a few days of rain and snow.

The B Team Makes Their Debut 


I arrived at VSC on Saturday, April 9th. The way the residencies are set up is that most people stay for a full month. The folks staying for two weeks are split between groups A and B. The A group is there for the first two weeks of the month, and the B group (or the B Team, as we called ourselves) stay for the last two weeks. There were only nine of us who arrived on the 9th for the second half of the month. This was perhaps the only negative thing about my experience, and it wasn't even that bad; it was akin to moving to a new town your senior year of high school and trying to break into the cool crowd. Luckily, everyone on the B Team was super interesting, nice, and fun, and we had a great time bonding over meals in the dining hall and beers at the bar. If I ever go back to VSC (and I hope one day I will) I will request to come for the first two weeks of the month, because I think that will yield a very different experience. Not necessarily better, just different. 

Resident artwork as seen during Open Studio Night.

New Friends & Social Time


VSC offers residencies to both writers and visual artists. One thing I didn't realize until I got there is that the artists outnumber the writers by 35 to 15. It was refreshing to be around so many artists, especially since they were doing such a variety of work. It was also interesting to compare artists and writers - our work habits and processes are so different, and I'm still working through some ideas based on what I saw, heard, and learned. While the days were very quiet and focused on work, there was usually something going on each evening at 8PM. Sometimes it was resident slides, during which artists shared photos and gave presentations of their work, and sometimes it was a reading by the writers. There were also guest artists and writers there, and they gave presentations/readings in addition to meeting with residents one on one. Antonya Nelson, the wonderful short story writer, was visiting VSC while I was there, and I was thrilled to attend her craft talk and get her feedback on a short story I've been struggling with for almost two years now. 

A beautiful little yoga studio. I came here almost every day.

The town of Johnson, where VSC is located, is really tiny. It has two bars, a coffee shop, and an oddly large number of hair salons. One night, everyone went out for karaoke. A number of nights ended with drinks at the bar. There were two or three laid back bonfires at VSC, which was cool. I also went running a few times along some pretty trails, and there was a VSC yoga studio where I took a class almost every day. Basically, there were just enough social activities to keep you from getting too lost in your own head, and to provide breathing space from your own work. I was grateful for it, and for the friends I made while I was there. (Goooooo, B Team!)

It snowed!

A Comfortable Routine 


I think people who don't consider themselves artists or writers assume creative work is this magical, inexplicable thing. That we're all drifting along, waiting for inspiration to strike, communing with our muses late into the night. In reality - at least for me - creativity and inspiration usually strike when I'm engaged in a routine. Luckily, VSC made it easy to establish a routine almost immediately. Our days were structured around work and food. Breakfast was from 7:30 to 9AM, lunch was 12 to 12:30PM, and dinner was 6 to 6:30PM. This meant all 50 or so residents stopped whatever they were doing and went to the dining hall at the appointed times to eat and take a break from their work. This also meant that every day, from about 8AM until 12PM and then from 1PM until 4PM, I worked. There wasn't much else to do, which was actually kind of wonderful. The dining hall had fresh coffee all day, so sometimes I'd walk over for a refill, but otherwise I was writing, revising, and researching in my small studio. This made it so easy to focus, and I got way more done than I anticipated, which was really gratifying. 

L: the walk to town. R: my little room. 

Room and Board 


All meals were served in the Red Mill, which is the biggest communal building at VSC. It was very comfortable, very cozy, and very beautiful - a great place to talk, eat, and spend time. As you probably know, I love food. I also have some weird dietary restrictions - I don't eat meat, and I avoid dairy as much as possible. While the food at VSC was overall very good - fresh, healthy, and local - it wasn't ideal for a semi-vegan. Most nights there was a vegetarian option alongside a meat dish, but sometimes it was lasagna, with cheese. There was also a big salad bar, warm bread, and a killer cheese plate every day at lunch. I ended up eating quite a bit of cheese (for me) and it didn't seem to affect me too much, which was nice. I know some other people who were more sensitive to me, either to dairy or to gluten, had a harder time. Overall, though, I ate well and appreciated the fact that we had dessert every night. Also many people brought wine or beer to dinner, and if you go to VSC I highly recommend buying a box o' wine and keeping it in your studio. Cost effective and convenient. 

Residents at VSC stay in various houses along the same road. From what I saw and experienced, it seems like the Vermont Studio Center basically bought up a bunch of houses and buildings, then converted them into a sort of commune/paradise for artists. I stayed in Corner House, which a yellow house on a corner. The room was small, comfortable, humble, and even though I shared it with five other people, I almost never saw them. Because we all eat at the dining hall and work in our studios, the houses are only used for sleeping. This was fine with me, because my studio was the best place at VSC, and my favorite place in which to spend time. 

Maverick: Where the magic happens. 

Maverick Writing Studios 


At the Vermont Studio Center, the writing studios are all housed in Maverick. This a long, narrow, two story building had eight studios on each floor. They each hold a desk and rolling chair, a bookshelf and a bulletin board, and a reading chair. Each one also has a large window overlooking the Gihon River, which cuts through the center of the Vermont Studio Center. While I have my own little office at home where I write, my studio in Maverick felt different, almost magical. Maybe it was the fact that it had been used by countless writers, maybe it was the river outside my open window, maybe it was the freedom and privacy it offered, maybe it was just the "room of one's own" vibe. Whatever it was, it made me happy, glad, and grateful to spend time holed up in it, whether I was writing, reading, or staring out the window. 

Draft #2!

The Work 


Every writer I met was working on different types of projects. Some were poets, some did short fiction, a few were working on novels, others were writing memoirs. We were also at different stages of our projects. Personally, I'm really glad I was able to arrive with a completed rough draft of the new novel I'm working on. I'd hoped to make some solid progress on draft #2, but by the ninth day I actually FINISHED it. I couldn't believe it! At home, it would have taken me months to make that kind of progress, because I only have about an hour or two a day to work on it, and so much of that time is spent reacquainting myself with the book. At VSC, all I did was work, write, and revise, for six or eight hours a day. I never left the world of the book, and so I was able to dig in and stay there. The hardest part of writing a novel is holding the whole thing in your head at once, keeping all the threads organized, the characters humming along. It's even harder to do this when you work full time and need to reserve space in your head for all sorts of other, non-writing things, like spending time with your partner, walking your dogs, grocery shopping and cooking, going to work. At VSC, those responsibilities fall away, and nothing stands between you and the work. It was actually a bit overwhelming at first, but I acclimated quickly and used my time well. Returning to work tomorrow might be the harder adjustment... 

Final Thoughts, AKA TL;DR


I really enjoyed my time at VSC. Bringing a rough draft of a big project and staying for two weeks was an ideal situation at this point in my writing life. I met great people, stayed in a remote and beautiful town, ate well, and spent hours every day completely immersed in my craft. If you're a writer or artist, I definitely recommend applying for a residency and/or a fellowship. 

Thanks to the Vermont Studio for what was perhaps the most peaceful and productive two weeks of my life. Until we meet again! 


Friday, April 08, 2016

See You In Two Weeks!


Tomorrow I leave for a two week writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center

The Vermont Studio Center, for those who might not know, is the largest international artists' and writers' residency program in the United States. They offer residencies and fellowships to roughly 50 people each month, who stay anywhere from two to twelve weeks. I applied for a two week residency last fall and found out in November that I'd been awarded a fellowship, for which I was incredibly honored and grateful. I've been counting down the days ever since, and I can't believe it's finally here.

What will I be doing at the Vermont Studio Center? Working on my new novel, mostly. As part of my residency, I get a room to sleep in, a small studio to write in, and three meals a day. For the next 14 days, I will have no obligations. No classes or workshops to attend, no jobs to do, no expectations. Just me, my laptop, a terrible first draft, and a whole lot of library books. In other words: heaven.

Because I want to get a lot accomplished during these two weeks, and because this is a rare opportunity to focus so wholly on my writing, I'm planning to cut way back on social media while I'm in Vermont. Just typing that out makes me a little bit nervous, mostly because at this point Twitter is like a fifth limb and I fully expect to feel phantom pains without a steady stream of tweets to get me through the day. I'm going to try to stick to Instagram, since looking at photos is a nice way to use a different part of my brain, so feel free to follow me there. 

Despite my (admittedly silly) fears, cutting back feels like the right thing to do - honor the time I've been given and use it as well as I can. If you could all do me a favor and make sure nothing interesting or exciting happens for the next fourteen days, that would be great.

See you in two weeks, hopefully with a not-so-terrible second draft of my novel. Until then! 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Beginnings and Endings


I mentioned in my last post that I went to both a funeral and a wedding in the same week. Eight days before my sister's wedding, our uncle passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, of a pulmonary embolism. My mother is one of six, and needless to say she, her siblings, and my grandparents were reeling. The only good thing about having a death in the family the same week of a wedding is that many people who were already coming to town were able to get there a few days earlier for the funeral, including me. I was so grateful for the chance to be with my family and mourn my uncle with them. One of the reasons I wanted to leave Texas and return to the east coast was so I could see my family more often, for celebrations but also for tragedies. It meant a lot to be there with them, and to know that my uncle didn't suffer. That said: damn. It's incredible and frightening to realize how fragile we are, and how quickly we can leave this world, without any warning or sign. 

After a few days on Long Island remembering and honoring my uncle, my family turned to the next event in an emotional week - my sister Susan's wedding. We were all glad to have something joyful to focus on, and honestly a celebration about love, family, and new beginnings couldn't have come at a better time.  


My sister Susan and her husband (!) Derek spent 15 months planning an impeccable wedding. It took place in Cape May, on the Jersey shore, a vacation town I'd never been to but immediately fell in love with. We stayed at the Southern Mansion (pictured above) a bed and breakfast that doubled as the site of the ceremony and reception. Cape May itself is picturesque, and my only regret is that we didn't have more time to explore. Luckily, the bridal party boarded a trolley before the ceremony and drove all over town, taking photos at some of the cutest spots. It was a fun way to see more than the just the Mansion, though honestly I would have been perfectly happy to stay there and never, ever leave. 


I was my sister's Matron of Honor and our youngest sister, Ally, was the Maid of Honor. We gave a joint speech during the reception that seemed to go over well. My favorite part was when I revealed that I had helped Susan edit her OK Cupid profile years ago, and so, in a way, *I* was the reason were all there that night. The other best part of the wedding was the $5 selfie stick I bought at Target the day before. While all of us have, at some point, rolled our eyes at and bemoaned the existence of the selfie stick, I am here to tell you that they are actually 100% awesome. We passed it around the reception, where everyone had a blast playing with it and got some great group photos. Highly recommended. 

Thanks, Susan and Derek, for an awesome weekend full of family, love, dancing, and selfies. Here's to a beautiful marriage! 


Monday, March 28, 2016

Race Report: Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 2016


(I mean to finish writing this and post it last week, but then I went to a funeral and a wedding - more on those soon - and now this race feels like a million years ago. Still, I'll do my best to write a report, because I like looking back on them and also old habits die hard.)

On Sunday, March 20th, I ran the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon for the fourth year in a row. And for the fourth year in a row, my training was abysmal. Just now, I skimmed my previous recaps (see?!) and this seems to be my pattern. Sign up for the race, become overwhelmed by life, forget to train, and spend the weeks leading up to the event feeling guilty, unprepared, annoyed at myself, and swearing that this race will be my last one ever.

Then I run the race, it's not nearly as bad as I feared, and I promise that next year I'll actually train, run an amazing race, and smash my PR. Thus the cycle continues.

This year, a few things were working against me. I've now been working an office job for just over one year, and sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week has definitely had a negative impact on my workout routine. I reserve my early morning, pre-work hours for writing, which means I have to exercise after the workday ends, which only happens about 50% of the time. Basically, fitness has become a necessity, whereas running used to be one of my main hobbies. I'm comfortable with this shift, except for when I'm standing at the start line in the cold rain at 6:30 in the morning, staring down 13.1 miles.

All of which to say: it really wasn't that bad. I forgot to charge my Garmin, so I ran by how I felt rather than time, and this was perhaps the best accident I could have made. I stayed with my running buddy Katie for the first three miles, but then she pulled ahead and we promised to count all the dogs on the sidelines (but didn't decide where to meet after the race, which was perhaps my worst accident.) (Also, I counted 37 dogs - an excellent turn out, especially in the rain!) At around mile six, I felt someone grab my butt and turned around indignantly, only to find my husband. He'd worked an overnight shift the night before and got to the race a few minutes late, so I hadn't seen him before we started running. Nathan was also running an easy race, so we stuck together until about mile 10. Then he pulled away and I finished on my own. During training, I'd run two 10-milers, but nothing beyond that, and my body knew it. Miles 11 to 13.1 were pretty ugly, but I got it done and crossed the line in 2:06:12, with an average pace of 9:38. My slowest time on this particular course, but not my slowest time ever. I'll take it.

As for lessons learned: none, really, considering I keep making the same mistakes. I'll probably make them again next year - stay tuned to find out! 

And, just in case you're curious, previous race reports here:

Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 2015
Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 2014
Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 2013

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Morrow Mountain State Park With Local Color


This past weekend Nathan and I packed up the car, the camping gear, and the dogs, and headed west. Three hours later we pulled into Morrow Mountain State Park, where our friends Carson and Mel were waiting for us. 

As you may recall, Carson and Mel are in the midst of a year long road trip. They meticulously renovated a vintage trailer and now they're spending a week in each state. Carson is filing stories from the road (he's a writer and accomplished journalist) and Mel is starting her own business (which I'll be sharing more about soon!). They also have their goldendoodle Costello along for the ride, who I'm pretty sure is actually a cloud in disguise. 


The trio is about three months into their trip and we caught up with them while they were passing through North Carolina. We spent the weekend ogling Elsie, as the camper is affectionately known, playing Hearts (I won), drinking by the fire, and watching the dogs swim. While living in 120 square feet probably isn't as glamorous as it sounds, Carson and Mel seem to be acclimating well to their tiny home and to life on the road.

I won't lie: following their adventures and seeing images of their trailer has made me green with jealousy more than once. Seeing it all in person just made my envy worse. My only consolation is that they really are the best people who have worked very hard to make this year happen. I guess they deserve happiness and success. I guess. 


The highlight of the trip was the afternoon we spent on the Pee Dee River, watching the dogs swim and chase sticks. (We wanted to hike a bit more, but Seamus is getting old and can't go too far these days.) Thanks to Carson for getting these great shots of the boys with his fancy camera! Way nicer than my iPhone shots. 



Overall, it was a great getaway with some of my favorite people in the world. Also, we've now been camping two times in 2016, which means we've already broken last year's record. That's what I call a successful weekend. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Weekend Reads From Around The Web

I read a lot of things on the Internet. Here are the essays, articles, and interviews I liked best these last two weeks, just in time for the weekend!  

photo credit


"No one in this industry has to be convinced that books matter. No one who managed to make it onto this banana farm would be here, underpaid and often underrepresented, unless books—literary or otherwise—mattered deeply to them. But if people in publishing genuinely believe that books save people’s lives, their output shows they believe only certain lives to be worth the trouble."   


I will read anything Rachel Syme writes (Selfie, anyone?) and I will also read anything that analyzes a nostalgic pop culture phenomenon in such a smart and vivid way. Also I grew up on Full House and am unabashedly looking forward to the reboot. No shame here. (UPDATE: I watched the first two episodes and couldn't bare to watch anymore. Sorry, Jodie.)

He Rescued a Dog. Then the Dog Rescued Him. NPR & Mutual Rescue

I made the mistake of watching this at work and then weeping openly at my desk. Yet another reason open office plans are the worst. 

10 Things I've Learned in a Decade of Roller Derby, Medium

I "know" Lauren from when we both blogged about roller derby all.the.time. Ten years later, she's still involved in the sport and this beautiful and funny essay is the result. Reading it made me laugh, cry, and long to hip check someone.

The Return of the D.I.Y Abortion, New York Times

Two of my favorite things - Google and reproductive rights - collide, but in a horrifying way. This article reveals the dark truth of what happens when women's rights are slowly stripped away.

How to Pay for an Abortion, by State, Cosmopolitan

Relevant and a great resource, especially after that last article. Rights shouldn't be limited to the rich.

The Official Bullet Journal Guide, Bullet Journal

After seeing the bullet journal system floating around the 'nets, I finally caved in and started using this analog organizational process. After just one week, I'm a convert. I'll write more about this in the future, when I have a few more weeks under my belt, but for now I will say the system is elegant, useful, and as simple or complex as you want it to be. (I'm sticking with simple for now, but I'm also stalking Instagram for beautiful examples of other people's journals.)

Questions I Would Have Preferred to Have Been Asking In My 30s In Lieu of "Why Don't You Want Kids?", McSweeney's

I actually don't get asked this question very much, but I have a feeling that will change as I creep further into my 30s. At any rate, this made me laugh.

Have you read anything good, interesting, or horrifying this weekend? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! In the meantime, happy Friday. 

Monday, March 07, 2016

Gambling Away My Life in Atlantic City

Here's the funny thing about blogging. When you're busy, you have a lot to write about! But you also have no time in which to write about it. That's the current state I'm in, so I'm stealing a few minutes before work to quickly catch y'all up. 

As I've mentioned before, my sister Susan is getting married on March 26th. Because she's my sister (I'm the oldest of three girls), and because I'm Matron of Honor, and because they have been engaged since December 2014, wedding planning has been a long and involved journey. But! Now the wedding is less than 3 weeks away, and we've already made it through the big events leading up to the main attraction. 

The Bridal Shower 


The bridal shower took place on Long Island back in January. Yes, I went to Long Island and I didn't blog about it! (I did Instagram about it, however, so I'm not a total lost cause.) The trip doubled as my holiday visit, since I didn't go home for Christmas this year, and I spent five days at my parents' house. This included shower prep, trips to Target, a viewing of The Revenant (ugh) with my youngest sister, a vegan meatball hero, and, of course, the shower. 

The shower was held at The Three Village Inn and featured a brunch buffet, unlimited mimosas, and only one corny game. (We interviewed my sister's fiancĂ© about his personality and habits, and then asked my sister the same questions to see how well she knew him. Luckily, she got most of the answers right.) It was a pretty laid back visit and really family-focused, which was just what I needed. 

The Bachelorette Party 


You know what's not laid back and family-focused? Atlantic City, which is where we headed for the bachelorette party a few weeks ago. My sisters have both been to AC before (Susan in particular is a bit of an Atlantic City expert) but this was my first time. It was probably also my last time. While I had fun with my sisters and her future SIL and created many lasting memories, most of which I am not at liberty to share on this public forum (you're welcome, Susan) casinos and resorts are just not my thing. We stayed at the Tropicana and I was flabbergasted by the fact that you literally never have to go outside. In addition to hotel rooms, it also has restaurants, shopping, bars, and, of course, a 24-hour casino where you can throw away your money while waving away cigarette smoke that can't help but drift into the non-smoking section. 

While I like a good game of craps, it had been a while since I'd played and also the tables all had a $15 minimum (I prefer to start with $5). So I stuck with the bachelorette party, who stuck to the slot machines, and slowly lost $80 over the course of a few hours. But then I won $94 with the push of a button, and felt an electric thrill, a sort of giddy high, and immediately realized why people become addicted to gambling. Winning feels so good! I kept playing, chasing that high, but then I started to lose again and somehow managed to quit while I was ahead. Overall I lost $20 over the course of two days, which is acceptable. 

Brooklyn


Okay, so Brooklyn really had nothing to do with my sister's wedding, but I did manage a short layover there after the weekend in Atlantic City. I stayed with my dear friend Nicola, who is one of my favorite MFA friends. She lives in an adorable apartment in Greenpoint, right around the block from Brian, one of my favorite undergrad friends. We ate an amazing vegan pizza with him, and also hung out with two of her friends, one of which is a food blogger with 22K Instagram followers! (Obviously I was very impressed by this.) 

My time in NYC was very brief (like, less than 24 hours) but it was exactly what I needed after the excesses of Atlantic City. Healthy meals, craft beer and Trader Joe's wine, a beautiful bookstore, and a long walk through DUMBO under the Manhattan bridge (or was it the Brooklyn bridge? After twelve years in the south, I can't tell anymore). I'm always grateful for an opportunity to see a friend, and was so grateful that Nicola took me in at the last minute and made me feel whole. I love my friends so much. 

Next Up

The wedding! It's in Cape May, New Jersey, and for once Nathan gets to travel with me. I'm excited to see the celebration finally come together, to wear a pretty dress and a flower in my hair, to drink and dance and take a thousand photos. Until then, I'll be working on my MOH speech (my first one!) and counting down the days.