July was my busiest month in recent memory. If you follow my life at all, you know that’s saying something. I had visitors or was out of town all but one weekend, and my work stress has been off the charts due to a week at an offsite conference, a suddenly extreme workload, and getting a new assistant. Lots of good times, but this introvert is currently feeling like a shadow of herself. Let’s dive in.
Even airport time couldn’t save my book total this month. I finished Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey’s memoir of his college faith crisis, then moved on to books two and three in the much fluffier Magical Cats mystery series. I enjoy these books, about a small-town librarian whose two cats help her solve crimes. Don’t knock it till you try it. Though between the rising body count and secret-murderer count, I’m wondering how sustainable this plot is. It’s not a big town. (My friend Katharine told me Agatha Christie ran into this problem and had to relocate her heroine entirely.)
Taylor and I saw Dunkirk. I don’t love war movies as a rule, but this one is tastefully and powerfully done, and beautiful to look at. I haven’t been watching much else besides Fixer Upper – we get tired trying to decide what to watch and keep ending up back with Chip and Jo.
I went to Chicago with my department for a work conference, and it was pretty great! We had our meetings at big law firms, so instead of looking at a conference room wall all day, I got these amazing views. I was also excited to walk to and from work – urban pedestrian living is my lifelong dream.
We stayed downtown at the Palmer House. Their resident historian gave us a fascinating lecture and behind-the-scenes tour. I had never heard of Bertha Honore Palmer and am shocked that her story isn’t widely told. She used her privilege to support the rights of women and immigrants before it was much of a thing.
On the final night, we had a Roaring 20s party with dance lessons!
On Friday, my longtime friend Becca and her husband picked me up for the weekend! We had lunch at Eataly and visited Millennium Park and the Art Institute (it was only enough time for the highlights – you could easily spend days in that museum).
I’d never been to Wisconsin and wanted to cross it off my list, so we drove to Kenosha and ended up at a place called Mike’s Chicken & Donuts, where we had glazed chicken wings (and top-notch local beer). It was a hilarious adventure. The following day, July 15, will live forever in my history as THE DAY I FIRST SAW HAMILTON!!! ♥
It was even better than I had hoped. The Chicago cast is wonderful (I especially liked Daniel Breaker’s different take on Burr), and seeing the show in person after listening obsessively for a year was like meeting my favorite celebrity. I was so starstruck I even took a screencap of the wifi. Thankful I got to share the experience with equally-thrilled friends. We spent the rest of the evening saying in fancy theatre voices, “Well, when I saw Hamilton…”
Meanwhile, back at home, Debra and my nieces visited twice this month – for a week around the Fourth, and again toward the end of the month. We won Friends trivia at Arcade with my friend Paula and her husband, went to the zoo, and had dinner at the original Pancho’s in West Memphis!
And there’s always time for silly Snapchats.
Taylor and I intended to watch the downtown Fourth of July fireworks from the Peabody rooftop with some friends, but when they went off half an hour early, in the rain, we had to hustle up the closest parking garage. We still saw most of the show, and it was actually pretty fun and romantic.
We went to the Journey concert, which was a big deal for me as you might guess from the title of this blog. During Don’t Stop Believing, the lead singer held up a Believe Memphis growl towel, and I truly felt I was living my best life.
My SIPster/Alanna’s actual sister Katharine (mentioned previously) visited last weekend! Alanna and I took her to some of our favorite local places and just enjoyed being together. I hadn’t seen her in almost three years!
After pinning endless style blog photos of knee-length flowy skirts, I finally scored one I love at Plato’s Closet and have been wearing it a lot. I needed some black sandals with a little heel, and found these Abella wedges in the basement of a Chicago DSW. They’re so comfortable and look good with everything. I also discovered my perfect v-neck tank top at Macy’s!
Your Monthly Rufus:
Pin of the Month:
♥ Rickey Dobbs at Scary Mommy: This Shiplap Is Killing Me: 8 Things I Hate About HGTV
♥ Nomi Kane at The Nib: My Life with a Pre-Existing Condition
♥ Laura Turner at Catapult: On Anxiety, Writing, and Taking the Nature Cure
♥ Liam Stack in the NYT: Patton Oswalt Announces His Engagement — and Strikes Back at ‘Grub Worm’ Critics
♥ Laura Jean Truman: WWJD! What Could Go Wrong? [Mark 6]
♥ Troy L. Wiggins in the Flyer: Letter to My City
♥ Jen Clarke in the Flyer: Farewell, Grit ‘n Grind
June: rainbows, sunrises, sunsets, and good times!
I had some airport time in June, so it was a decent reading month. Everything was good; my two standouts were Girl at the End of the World, Elizabeth Esther’s memoir about growing up in and leaving a fundamendalist cult, and existential time-travel AU novel All Our Wrong Todays, which seemed better and better as I reflected on it later. I went back and upgraded it to five stars!
alt-J released Relaxer and I’ve been rocking out to In Cold Blood constantly (the video is classic trippy alt-J, “nature documentary meets Tarantino”). I haven’t bought the new Lorde album yet, but love what I’ve heard so far. Meanwhile, Memphis Type History (the website I write for sometimes) just launched a podcast, and I’ve subscribed to a few other new ones. Fresh Air’s interview with Roxane Gay was tough to listen to, but gave me a lot to think about.
I won free tickets to Norah Jones in a Downtown Memphis Commission raffle! My Norah-crazed SIL was unable to come to town for the show, so my boyfriend Taylor came with me, and we had a nice relaxing time. The next night we saw John Paul White at Levitt Shell, making for a very chill 24 hours.
For Father’s Day I saw Wonder Woman with my dad :), and it lived up to all the hype. As expected, I was moved and inspired. Gal Gadot is luminous and totally worth the wait to bring WW to the big screen.
I’m still working on season 3 of Kimmy Schmidt. So far it’s fallen a little flat for me, but a few plot points (like Gretchen trying to become the first female cult leader) are catching me with their brilliance on the flip side.
Taylor and I have been introducing each other to some of our favorite movies and shows. Most shows he follows are on HBO, and I haven’t had cable since 2013, so it’s more of a “here’s one representative episode” kind of thing. We also watch a lot of random documentaries. If you haven’t seen The Barkley Marathons, you should, and then I want to talk about it.
A few months ago, I attended a cat yoga class. Turns out a local filmmaker made a short film about it, and Kelsey and I are in it! I went to the screening this week – it played before Kedi, a documentary about street cats in Istanbul. (I now really want to visit Istanbul.)
My mom, sister, two nieces, and I took a girls’ trip to Miami! The weather wasn’t great (we only got one hour of beach time the whole trip), but we made the best of it. We stayed at a hotel in Brickell part of the time, enjoyed the pool and hot tub, took the girls to a new science museum, and attended my cousin’s high school graduation.
My mom and I went to our family’s favorite restaurant, Shuckers, on my last night despite the bad weather. We also went to Wynwood (my new favorite Miami neighborhood) one night while Debra and the girls went to the pool!
After repeatedly signing up only for the event to be cancelled, I finally attended a Grizzfit Yoga class on the Grizzlies’ training court! It was followed by a “beach body” class that’s taken me almost a week to recover from. I also got to go to a season ticket holders’ NBA Draft watch party with Taylor, where I won a shirt signed by the entire team and Coach Fizz!! I’m going to frame it.
Supper Club was at the Redbirds game this month (complete with a rainbow!). The 2017 Tiger basketball alumni game was Memphis vs. UT, with plenty of favorite Tigers in attendance on and off the court for me to flail over. In food news, we have a new rolled ice cream place downtown (don’t go if you’re in a hurry). Taylor took me on a surprise late-night Gibson’s run one night after I’d been craving a donut all day. He continues to know the way to a Memphis girl’s heart.
I have notoriously bad luck with vacuum cleaners. Years ago I splurged on a cordless Dyson Animal thinking that would be the end of it, but it lost suction and started breaking down regularly. When it died again this month right on schedule, I decided I couldn’t deal anymore and ordered a Shark Navigator Lift-Away. From the first use, my feet could feel the difference in floor cleanliness, and I don’t have to vacuum the downstairs daily anymore. Handling a cord again is a little annoying, but I don’t think any cordless can really hold up to my messy cat, so I’ll gladly take the tradeoff!
Between leaves, pollens, and seeds from my bird feeder, I’ve struggled to keep my patio swept. I decided to look up small leaf blowers and found this electric one for $16!! It has more power than I need, and I can take the nozzle off and store it in my hall closet. Excitement!
Attempting to keep up with my CSA has me cooking more, and grilling as much as possible. I’ve been sticking to the Smitten Kitchen newsletter almost exclusively (green beans with almond pesto, grilled peaches, etc). I’m also enjoying my Moscow mule mugs, and welcome your ginger beer recommendations!
Your Monthly Rufus:
After getting his claws clipped at the vet – I finally decided to stop trying to do it myself. Well worth the 15-minute trip!
Pin of the Month:
♥ Julia Carpenter for the WaPo: Age 30 isn’t a deadline, and other life advice from a former Seventeen editor
♥ Jason Brooks at Touchpoint: Sixteen Years After I Said, “I Do”, Here’s What I’ve Learned. And on the flip side, John Gorman at PS I Love You: I Was Young, Until I Wasn’t.
♥ I enjoyed this story of a cross-country RV road trip with six kids! Living with Kids: Laura George, at Design Mom
♥ Kelle Hampton: An Interview with My Dad on Gay Pride
♥ Lindsay Ferrier: I Will Never Be a Sweet Friend
♥ John Pavlovitz: The Church That Is Making People Homeless
♥ Laura Jean: More Harry Potter, Less Apologetics
Okay, everybody, gird your loins. May was a big month!
I’ll lead with the biggest news: on April 25, I went for drinks with a guy I knew from Twitter named Taylor. We’ve followed each other for a while, but he just moved back to Memphis recently after several years away. We’ve seen each other almost every day since we met, and decided we were Together by mid-May. He’s wonderful, and I’m really happy, if not quite comprehending how I suddenly have this awesome relationship. Life CAN come at you fast in a good way. ♥
I finished exactly one book in May, Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen. It was good, but honestly I don’t remember much about it!
To no one’s surprise, I’ve been obsessed with the new Paramore album. I bought an actual CD because I was going out of town on release day and didn’t have time to download, then burn a copy. It’s pretty much perfection. 2017 is shaping up to be a stellar music year for me – there’s a new alt-J album later this week, new HAIM still TBD, and Hanson even has a new single. Celebrate!!
Best of Friends Podcast finally came to the end of Season 10. Last I heard, they’re watching Joey next (should be interesting – I never made it past the first few episodes) and then maybe starting Friends over at Season 1.
I’m not much of a binge-watcher, but I plowed through 13 Reasons Why in a few days. While it’s excellent and raises a lot of important issues, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone (and am not sure I would have to myself). Ultimately it’s the unvarnished story of a girl who kills herself, and you know that from minute one. The last few episodes gave me an emotional hangover. On a happier note, I’m psyched about Season 3 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but have only gotten as far as Titus Lemonading (genius).
Taylor and I watched True Grit the other night – I had never seen it. My brother now lives in Fort Smith, where some of the action takes place, so it was good to watch before my next visit there!
Wes, Kelsey, Clark, and I made our second trek all together to Rocket City Brewfest in Huntsville and had a blast! We stayed in cabins at a nearby state park again, and this time, our friend Bliss hired a yoga teacher to give us a private yoga class in a Japanese garden! One of those IS THIS REAL LIFE moments.
I went away for Memorial Day weekend with Taylor and some of his family! We stayed lakeside at Lake D’Arbonne, Louisiana, and had a relaxing couple of days: sunning, eating, drinking, and bird-watching from the dock.
A Twitter friend recommended this Lavender Chocolate coffee from Fresh Market, and it’s pretty life-changing.
I mentioned offhandedly to Taylor that I really wanted some Moscow mule mugs (one of my favorite drinks), and he surprised me with a set! Now I can have fancy cocktail hour on my own patio, just in time for summer.
My Julia Child rose and my gardenia had a nice spring!
I was here for all three days of Beale Street Music Fest this year, and saw The Strumbellas, Dawes, Jill Scott (Mma Ramotswe herself – she was amazing), Jimmy Eat World, Grouplove, Snoop Dogg, Kings of Leon, X Ambassadors, Death Cab for Cutie, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, and Soundgarden! (Yes, I saw Soundgarden less than two weeks before Chris Cornell died. Still kind of in shock. Do we have a security detail on Eddie Vedder yet?)
As a belated Mother’s Day activity, my mom and I did the Cooper-Young Garden Walk and saw lots of beautiful gardens and yards! The day started out rainy, but the weather eventually cleared. When we were done, I took her to Urban Earth to get a banana tree she’s wanted for years. So far it’s doing well in a pot.
New murals this month: a temporary installation made of duct tape at the Brooks, and a lineup of Memphisy images in Barboro Alley downtown. I also experienced Bike Night on Beale Street for the first time. It happens every week, and it’s loud.
I registered for the four-race M-Town Series! Every summer I want to do it and don’t remember in time. Last week was the 4-miler, Zoom Through the Zoo. Most of it was actually through Overton Park, which deteriorated my mojo because I’ve run those paths many times. I don’t know what to do to get excited or motivated about running again. Between two and three miles, I just feel meh and start walking. I tried to get advice from running friends online, but a stranger popped up telling me to “OVERCOME OR QUIT.” #nothelpful
Good eye cream is quickly becoming a crucial part of my life. I ran out of the so-so Aveeno stuff I was using, searched by highest reviews on Amazon, and decided to try this OZNaturals eye cream. No exaggeration, I saw a difference the NEXT DAY. It’s natural and still cheaper than most of what’s available at CVS. Yay!
Your Monthly Rufus:
Rufus turned three this month! He’s getting into his young adult years. Where does the time go?
Quote of the Month:
(One guess whose lyric this is. Also, I want a felt letterboard)
♥ Gabriela Martins at Femsplain: FOMO Burned Me Out
♥ Addie Zierman: Sermon Notes for Cynics
♥ Bethany Suckrow: Skip the Greeting Card, Call Your Senators.
♥ Samantha Field: what Anne Shirley means to me, and surviving trauma
On April 16 I celebrated two years of living in the heart of the city I love. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Midtown that long, and I still don’t take it for granted. One of the best decisions I ever made!
My mom suggested I host her and my dad for Easter this year and invite a few friends. I enjoy cooking for a small group and don’t get to do so often, so I was on board. I made a favorite menu from an old issue of Real Simple – mustard-crusted pork tenderloin, sauteed collard greens, and Parmesan polenta, with lemon coconut cake for dessert. Church that morning was wonderful, I watched the Justin Timberlake concert movie on Netflix while I cooked, the food turned out perfectly, and we all had a happy, relaxing time. It was a great day!
April was a quality book month. Two of my books had similar conventions: Sleeping Giants, the latest take on alien robots (very entertaining and sure to be optioned if it hasn’t already), and American War, a terrifyingly believable dystopia about life during the second American Civil War. I picked up Everything That Makes You in a Kindle sale and discovered it’s set right in my neighborhood. Not many books are set in Memphis (probably, like, five if you take out John Grisham), so that was a pleasant shock! I’ve been reading Anne Lamott since college, but I think Small Victories is my new favorite of hers. I just loved it.
My favorite band has a new single and a forthcoming new album!
I’m far behind on New Girl, but when I heard the potential finale had aired, I streamed it and was very pleased with how everything ended up. I also watched the Banksy documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which had been on my watchlist for a long time. I have a lot of feelings about the artist it actually profiled instead of Banksy. Mainly confusion.
I took a spring break/mental health vacation the whole first week of April! My first stop was in Nashville to celebrate my BIL’s birthday. I also went to Murfreesboro to see my college roommate and her family – I rarely have time to go out there when I’m in the area. I flew from there to Jacksonville for a few days with Bethany, one of my best friends and travel companions, who’s made many appearances on this blog. We enjoyed her waterfront yard (complete with alligator), got massages, had Hamilton singalongs in the car with her kids, shared a beer flight in Five Points, and ate meals at Maple Street Biscuit Company and M Shack that restored me to life.
We also went to the beach two days in a row, which was the most life-restoring part of all!
After my trip I had a blessed few days off at home to relax. My only real to-do was to buy plants for the empty area in front of my fence. I spent a few happy hours wandering Urban Earth, and finally chose two camellias and some Asiatic jasmine, which I hope will spread out. Later I filled in with a few daylilies.
I’ve wanted to participate in a CSA for years, and my company just started a Bring It Food Hub delivery straight to the office. I got my first bag of veggies this week and am very excited!
There’s nothing like playoff time in Memphis – maximum excitement and civic unity, minimum productivity and sleep. I went to one of the last Grizz home games of the season, then to Games 3 and 6 against the Spurs. After losing last night, we’re now done for the season. I feel like Christmas is over and also like I just graduated.
Brandi joined me for Overton Square Crawfish Fest this year – her first encounter with mudbugs! Per tradition, Wes, Kelsey, and I went to Battle of the Birds (Cardinals vs. Redbirds) with a bunch of friends to kick off baseball season. I saw a ballet in and about Earnestine & Hazel’s, our most famous dive bar – it was really creative. My mom and I saw The Sound of Music at the Orpheum and I was reminded how I prefer some aspects of the stage version (I’m a lifelong Sound of Music fan and have seen it all a million times). Ashley and I went to another Ignite event (they’re like 5-minute TED talks), this one focused on education. I ran the second annual Grizz 5K, and did well considering I’ve hardly run since the St. Jude and signed up the night before.
Photo credit: my mom
On Friday of my break, Mums and I went to the zoo to see the new baby hippo, Winnie, on her first day out in public. We got to watch the mom teach her to swim and get in and out of the pool. It was heartwarming!!
A year ago, I had to take down the white twinkle lights on my patio after a cranky neighbor decided they were “tacky” and got my HOA to threaten a fine. He moved out this month. I waited until the moving truck pulled out with the last of his stuff, and then I re-strung lights on the inside of the fence, where no one should be able to see them. JOYFUL RESISTANCE!!! Just in time for patio season.
A lot of my co-workers have been getting standing desks. Standing all day doesn’t sound great for my feet, but I wanted to do something, so I asked for an exercise ball chair. After a few weeks, I’ve noticed a difference in my posture and back muscles. The only real drawback, other than getting tired as the day wears on, is it’s a pain to get up and sit down and realign myself, especially in a skirt or dress. Still, I’m glad to work a little toning into my day! I also started My Fitness Pal – I’m already in a healthy weight range, but I just want to lose a few pounds so my jeans will feel good again. When I felt weak and sick by the end of the first week, I realized 1200 calories a day isn’t going to cut it for me and I’m going to have to try a higher range. I’ve gotten much better at listening to my body, and I don’t know why I thought I could semi-stop feeding it and expect it to respond well. :P But it is working!
I’ve been growing my hair out for about a year, and its current length pleases me. I haven’t had longer hair in a long time.
Your Monthly Rufus:
Rufus has been jumping the patio fence for several months. Now he’s a fencewalker. He can make it all the way around to the gate.
Quote of the Month:
Bethany saw this quote tile at a craft fair and got it for me. I must be doing something right! ♥
On The Blog:
I wrote nothing of substance in April, but I’m sitting on a post about how life is hard for everyone no matter your life stage. I had a Facebook thread on this topic go to about 100 comments, so clearly it’s not something I’m processing alone.
♥ “You are not someone who half-asses anything. You are an overachiever and a perfectionist. Your letter is dynamic, crystal clear, and concise. You set your mind on losing weight, and you lost it. You set your mind on attaining multiple advanced degrees and an amazing career, and you achieved those goals… You are selling hard because in your mind, you are working with flawed goods. You’d better be convincing… If you keep asking for feedback, you will crack the code. You will satisfy your clientele. You will win the big prize of Happily Ever After.” This piece hit me right between the eyes. I’ve been thinking about it for a week. Ask Polly: What Am I Doing Wrong With Men?
♥ Lisa Nielsen at Keen IO: The Best Benefit You Can Give Your Employees is Free
♥ Elle Berry: Be Brave
♥ Emily Freeman: Unhealthy Hustle: 3 Signs You’ve Crossed the Line
♥ Kerry Smith: Reflections of an Iris Farmer
♥ Heather Strong Moore: You’re Better Off Alone
♥ Mark Titus at The Ringer: The Perpetually Overshadowed Life of Mike Conley
I caught a beautiful sunrise while leaving my morning yoga class the other day, and had to dash over to Tiger Lane to get a picture of it coming up over the Liberty Bowl. One of those happy Midtown moments!
Okay, let’s dive in!
Sorrow’s Knot (my next stop in Erin Bow’s bibliography) is YA fantasy about three friends in a mystical, matriarchal native society, and reminded me of Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue. For American Band, Kristen Laine embedded with a state-champion Indiana marching band for its longtime director’s final season. If you, like me, have band in the fiber of your being, this will take you back. The book is about fifteen years old, and when I was done I wanted to look up all the key players and find out how they’re doing – some of their stories are pretty incredible. Today Will Be Different is a quick, intriguing read. I haven’t read Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but people who have say this one is similar.
Normally I don’t do horror movies, but I made an exception for Get Out for its cultural significance. If you can tolerate suspense at all, you need to see it. I didn’t fully appreciate its genius until a few hours later after I’d started to process all the layers.
Unsurprisingly, I loved the Beauty and the Beast remake. The movie is a visual feast, and the extra depth and backstory keeps it from being a frame-for-frame reboot. I especially enjoyed LeFou’s character arc, or maybe I just love Josh Gad.
In March I watched all seven-plus hours of O.J.: Made In America. I was in high school when all that happened and had forgotten how truly insane it was. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. The documentary does a great job of establishing the setting and history that led to him being acquitted.
I saw Ben Folds at Minglewood. He is a musician’s musician and a nerd’s nerd. I had heart-eyes the entire time. Tonight I’m going back to Minglewood to see Johnnyswim!
This month’s Supper Club was a beer dinner at High Cotton catered by Stanley’s Sweet Street Treats (which, despite its name, is not a dessert truck). Everything was delicious and it was one of the best-attended Supper Clubs yet. Two days later I was back at High Cotton for their annual Girl Scout cookie pairing, an event I LOVE. My favorite pairing was Baller Brown Ale with Samoas.
A few co-workers and I helped out at a free legal clinic. I need to start earning CLE hours, and this is a great way to do it. Wanting to help people is one of the reasons I got my paralegal certificate, so I was happy to put that to use, and plan to volunteer there again.
I made it to one Grizz game in March, in connection with a monthly networking event I go to sometimes. We’re getting closer to the playoffs, and Tiger basketball is over (and how :(), so I’ll be attending more games soon!
For the first time, I went to the Beale Street St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was funny and extremely Memphis.
I’m a member of the Ronald McDonald House Red Shoe Society, and the Red Shoe Gala in March is our biggest fundraiser of the year. My friend Justin went with me and we had a great time (and yes, I wore red shoes).
All the sibs (minus my BIL) and nieces gathered at my brother and SIL’s house in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Kevin moved there last summer and this was my first visit. It’s a pretty nice place. We drove over the bridge so I could cross Oklahoma off my states-visited list, and my mom and I made a quick trip to the Fort Smith art museum to see a Peanuts exhibit. (Unable to resist the siren call of their children gathering, my parents came too and camped in their RV a few miles away. But they took my nieces for one night so we could have a sibs night on the town!)
With my parents’ help, I completed a little bedroom redo this month! It started with a new accent wall the same color as my study. After that the room looked unbalanced, so I bought new curtains, repainted my bedside lamps, and hung new art that I painted myself. The next day, I remembered this large square mirror that was left in my attic by the previous owner. We detached the child-sized mirror from my dresser and hung up this one instead. It was exactly what that long wall needed, and I am THRILLED with the results!
My mom and I went to a soul food place, The Choo, for Memphis Black Restaurant Week. (I’ll be back!) I was excited to find a McDonald’s in Fort Smith with Shamrock Shakes (PS, proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House!). I gave up bread for Lent, which has been more difficult in terms of convenience than anything else. But I’m doing okay… brunching on a lot of potato hash!
In my eternal quest for makeup for real oily skin, L’oreal Infallible Matte has been a solid discovery. Primer makes it even better. I’m also always looking for strongly pigmented eyeliners that don’t clump, break off, or do anything weird, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by these Cover Girl Perfect Point eyeliners. Finally, though I object to mascara named like a bra, I’m reluctantly impressed by Revlon The Falsies Push-Up Angel.
My hair dryer died at the beginning of March. It was my third or fourth Conair Infiniti, and while I still like that model, it seemed like a good opportunity to see what else is out there. I finally settled on the Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium Portofino. It was more than I’ve ever spent on a hair dryer, but it has a four-year warranty, and so far it’s totally worth it!
After a fun late snow on St. Patrick’s Day night, spring arrived for keeps, and it’s glorious! I cannot overstate how beautiful my neighborhood is in spring.
I painted another shirt for International Women’s Day!
This recycling bag has changed my life. For two years, I’ve stacked a variety of makeshift bins on the back of my washer and dryer, and getting full ones to the car and then the recycling center has looked like the Before of an infomercial. Now I hang this huge, three-compartment bag on a wreath hook inside the laundry door, and when it’s full, I just pick it up and go! SO much easier.
I had my first regular eye checkup, nine months out from PRK. I’m solid at 20/20 and still SO THANKFUL to be able to see with my own eyes.
Oh and: I BOUGHT A TICKET TO HAMILTON IN CHICAGO!!! :D I think I was in shock at first. I’m going this summer, so by the time it happens I’m going to be insanely psyched.
Your Monthly Rufus:
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
I talked about my ongoing struggle with burnout.
♥ Victor Lodato in the New York Times: When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship
♥ “There is a certain shame associated with leaning into skepticism that keeps people of faith from openly, earnestly seeking answers, and, to be honest, I’m over it. It’s too uncomfortable to keep it all shoved inside, zipped up, on the verge of ripping at the seams. So, if you’ve ever sought permission to be like WTF, God? — with any authority I have as a person who loves Jesus, I’m here to grant it to you. Welcome to the club.” Tara B: The Search: My Fledgling Quest for Answers about Faith, God, and Theology
♥ Lavanya Ramanathan in the WaPo: We thought Gen X was a bunch of slackers. Now they’re the suits.
♥ This made me cry: Hannah Brencher: Things Fit, a note to those flying solo
♥ Addie Zierman: Yields vs. Abundance and the Slow Work of Cultivating Faith
♥ Bob Vulfov in the New Yorker: Kellyanne Conway Spins Great Works of Literature
I’ve always believed that everyone has a built-in failsafe, that people who are truly, legitimately overwhelmed by their lives will involuntarily shut down. They can’t get up, go to work, go out, smile. They’ll stay in bed, ignore their responsibilities, stop answering calls: the classic cliche of a depressed, burned-out person. Most people can understand that picture (and understanding and awareness is good!). But fewer understand someone who’s checking all her “should” boxes and appears strong and capable, yet confesses things like I can’t handle one more thing. I am barely making it through the day. I’m perpetually exhausted. I feel no hope for my future. I need help. I’ve said those things to friends and professionals at various points, and I’ve gotten responses like But you’re very high-functioning. But you seem to be doing great. I don’t know what to tell you. Those words are both encouraging and (unintentionally, I know) shame-inducing. When I hear them, I think, Nothing is really wrong and no one can help me, and I gather myself again and push harder.
I’ve already had two significant periods of burnout in my adult life, stress waves that threw me onto the shore so ruthlessly, there was no way I could miss the message. Both times, I listened and granted myself some rest and space. I thought, hoped, I’d finally “fixed it” – after all, how long or often is someone like me allowed to claim burnout? I’m a single, childless, healthy, financially secure woman. But about six weeks ago, I knew something was Wrong again. My chest felt tight, my stomach hurt, and I started waking up a lot in the night. I’d look at my dayplanner or my inbox and need to do yoga breathing. I’d receive a few aggressive e-mails and want to go have a quick cry in the bathroom. I needed brief naps after work to make it through evening social activities. I’d go to loud events where everyone was having fun and feel increasing physical anxiety. Every simple invitation and request felt like another thing I had to be “on” for. I felt incapable of handling small tasks, even as I did them anyway. I shouldn’t be talking about this exclusively in past tense, because I’m still struggling with it. But I have had a few helpful realizations:
♥ I do not have a failsafe. When God was handing out failsafes, I was in line for the people-pleasing perfectionist hyperdrive, a device that, once healthy fuel has run out, can run on guilt, ambition, and any garbage within reach. Many people have, and will, use that hyperdrive for their own benefit with no respect or care for how it affects me. I forget that easily. Most likely, I will never have the Big Collapse that makes people say whoa, maybe we took too much from her. No, I can keep right on functioning until I drop dead, figuratively and/or literally. Therefore, it’s up to me to actively draw the line, to decide when I’ve had enough. No one is going to do that for me. There is no safety net.
♥ What energizes others often depletes me, and I need to evaluate that regularly. A big burnout signal for me is when many things I usually enjoy start to feel like burdens. It’s a good time to assess whether I even want to do those things anymore. Sometimes I just need a break. Sometimes I need to walk away. Sometimes I need balance. For months, instead of the real relationships and meaningful conversations I need, my social life has been mostly noise. I definitely enjoy a lighthearted good time, but living on relational cookies alone makes me sick. Thankfully, I have steak people in my life too.
♥ Anything less than excellence feels like failure. The more I achieve, the more pressure I feel to keep it going. By my own yardstick, I veni, vidi, vici-ed the crap out of 2016. A normal person would probably feel entitled to chill out. Meanwhile, I’m panicking because I don’t have enough left in the tank to match and preferably exceed that right now, and I feel like that pace is what the world requires of me. But sometimes wholeheartedness means being a B student.
♥ Valuing myself and my health means accepting disapproval, perceived failure, and even grief. This is the hardest part. I take every opportunity I can to improve myself and work toward my goals, but ultimately, my most important goals involve other people. I cannot get what I want in a vacuum. I can’t make the right people come into my life, or make them see me. Too often I’ve knocked myself out trying to be perfect for people who are going to reject me no matter what I do. I know logically that I can’t make them see my value, but a little part of me is still hell-bent on running up to kick the football. It’s an illusion of control that’s comforting at first but actually makes the situation worse. It’s that false American belief that you can have anything you want if you work hard enough, so if you don’t have it, it’s your fault. To stop burnout, I have to get off the hamster wheel and face the fears that rise up every time I “slack off”:
You’ll never get promoted.
You’ll never have a career that brings you joy.
You’re already too old, and if you don’t hustle twice as hard you’ll never make an impact.
You’ll never meet anyone, and your friends will forget you, if you don’t go out constantly.
You’ll never be impressive, exciting, or sparkly enough for a good man to love and choose you.
Courage means looking those fears in the eye and saying, Okay. It means deciding that being wholehearted and fully alive is more important than any of my dreams, that my peace and joy are too high a price to pay. I’ve visited that place. I’d like to take up a more permanent residence there.
I’m starting to accept that burnout is not something I can fix once and be done with it. It’s the cyclical dark side of my personality, fed by the culture I live in, and it’s an ongoing battle. All I can do is try to get a little wiser and have a little more grace with myself each time.
My mom and brother both have February birthdays, so we usually celebrate both as a family on President’s Day weekend. This year was a milestone birthday for my mom! We had a birthday lunch for her at a farm-to-table restaurant followed by an IMAX and dessert at Muddy’s. (It was great having my new SIL there for her first official family event. I still feel happy every time I say “my-sister-in-law.”) We gave my mom a new record player and spent that whole evening having a dance party (nieces included) to her old records from the 70s. Great times.
The weather was beautiful that Sunday and we all enjoyed Overton Square: Belly Acres, the candy store, and some cornhole!
February was a difficult month for my church. Without getting into details, our founding pastor is no longer with us, and we’ll be working through that individually and collectively for a while. But I’m extremely proud of how the leadership is handling it, and hopeful we’ll come out of this stronger and more unified than before.
Real talk: this month wasn’t the greatest for me personally either. I’m clearly going through another cycle of burnout. I keep thinking I’ve resolved it, but it keeps coming back. I feel overwhelmed, even smothered by my schedule and responsibilities (sometimes to the point of physical anxiety), and also at a loss to do anything about it. Life is just hard. Also, I haven’t had a real vacation from work in about a year and a half.
The Swan Riders is the sequel to my best book of 2015,The Scorpion Rules, and it surpassed my expectations. Anyone have an Erin Bow book club I can join for discussions? I also loved Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, which, among other things, reassured me I’m still a writer in my heart… all her thoughts about the creative process resonated deeply. Despite its great premise, Steelheart took me a while to get into, but I think I’m sufficiently hooked to read the rest of the series.
My mom and I saw Garth Brooks during his four-concert stand here in Memphis. I might not have gone if she hadn’t been so keen, but I have to say, it was a show for the record books. He played all the hits with boundless energy for over three hours. We were getting concerned for his health since he had another show right after ours!! Some of those songs are a lot more meaningful now that I’m older. It was surprisingly emotional.
On the podcast front, after following John and Sherry elsewhere for years, I’m loving the Young House Love podcast. Not only is the home content interesting, but you can also tell they really love each other and are true partners, and it does my heart good to be reminded that that exists. I’ve also gotten hooked on Missing Richard Simmons. Forget Season 2 of Serial and go straight to Richard!
Brandi, Lexie, and I narrowly got second place at Clueless trivia (the tiebreaker question was the date of the depositions Cher had to highlight for her dad).
I went to The Break-Up Show at the New Daisy, which will be my Valentine’s weekend tradition henceforth. It was an ensemble-cast dramatic reading of terrible dating app messages and breakup texts – I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Whenever I get back on a dating app, I’ll be saving the awful messages I get for submission to the show, instead of trying to forget they happened.
I got lower-level tickets to both a Tigers and a Grizz game, courtesy of a friend from trivia. Thanks Pete!!
Kelsey and I excitedly attended cat yoga last weekend! It was designed as an adoption event, and was so successful on that front, there weren’t many cats left to roam around during yoga. I think they’re going to try kitten yoga next, at the shelter’s facility, which should make the cats more comfortable to interact!
Overton Park has another new gate on the forest path. I was glad to see it on a run last week (one of few this month – my running mojo is currently very low).
This Month at Wiseacre: I went to a beer-and-chocolate pairing (YUM), and made a special trip over on the night Lucky Cat Ramen was there (also yum).
On my way to a hair appointment after work one day, I witnessed a VERY bright and impressive rainbow. It was a double rainbow and the stronger arc was almost doubled on itself. Normally I wouldn’t have been in a place where I’d see it so clearly, so I felt extra thankful!
Your Monthly Rufus:
This one has a story: on weekend mornings, I actually have time to ease into the day, so Rufus and I curl up on the loveseat by the window while the coffee is brewing. He loves this ritual and starts meowing at me if I don’t sit down at the expected time. :) I love his personality.
Quote/Meme of the Month:
♥ Candice Benbow: Notes from Esther on Valentine’s Day 2017
♥ Mark Manson: The Disease of More
♥ Chump Lady (my blog discovery of the month): Nice vs. Kind
♥ Simon Worrall for National Geographic: We Are Wired To Be Outside
♥ I usually skim Design Mom’s Living With Kids posts, but this one was worth a full read. Living With Kids: Paige Posladek
♥ Ijeoma Oluo: When A Woman Deletes a Man’s Comment Online
♥ Ask Polly: I Got Sick, Dumped, and Fired. What Now?
As usual, I didn’t have time for What I’m Into in December, so this’ll be a slightly supersized post!
My brother got married on New Year’s Day! He and his now-wife have been off and on since college, and I couldn’t be happier to have her officially in the family and get to say “my sister-in-law.” The whole event was at a rustic lodge in Kansas – a rehearsal dinner and New Year’s Eve party, and the ceremony the next day. We celebrated New York midnight and everyone got good rest for the wedding. It was the best NYE I’ve had in years!
It snowed the first Friday of the month. That may be our only snow this season, but if so, it was still more than last year, when we barely got one dusting.
I marched in the Memphis Women’s March on January 21 with several family members. It was a positive, empowering experience that I’ll always remember, and I would absolutely do it again. It also resulted in more opportunities to overcome my people-pleasing nature, and not waste energy on the world’s disapproval or wrong assumptions about me or my actions. Now more than ever, this is the hard internal work of my adult life.
Anna Kendrick’s memoir is the best and funniest I’ve read since Mindy Kaling’s. Just don’t listen to the audiobook around your kids! I got Shauna Niequist’s latest book for Christmas and read the whole thing on the plane to KC. One of her underlying points, which I’ve been thinking about a lot, was about finally becoming the adult her child-self thought she would be. I’m in a similar place. It’s a good thing.
After an all-time moviegoing low for most of 2016, I’ve been seeing and loving a lot of movies! Hidden Figures is so great I saw it twice.
Memphis got an IKEA right after Thanksgiving! I’d never been to one before, and waited until after the holidays to make my first pilgrimage. An hour or so into our wandering, my dad declared it “a casino for furniture.” Accurate. I left with new curtains, pillowcases, and bookcases for my guest room.
Ghost River has been advertising a food-truck brunch at their new taproom, so my friends and I checked it out after church one weekend. It lived up to the hype. We ate delicious chicken and waffles and got up to 32 levels of Jenga (at which point everyone in the room was watching).
I saw The Bodyguard at the Orpheum with my mom and Kelsey. They’ve changed the story to incorporate most of Whitney’s catalog, and Deborah Cox killed it.
The Brooks Museum had another outdoor art installation, Intrude, consisting of giant illuminated rabbits. I was very excited about it and went twice! The people-watching there was also amazing.
With my parents’ help, I finished my guest room remodel and will henceforth refer to it as “the study.” I love it and am basically living in it full-time. Rufus is enjoying it too and seems to sense how well the decor complements his fur. My bedroom seems bland and boring now, so I’m going to do an accent wall in this color.
This 5-Ingredient White Chicken Chili is very adaptable to time constraints or even the five ingredients. I didn’t have salsa verde, so I used green enchilada sauce instead and it was still good.
After wanting one for a long time, I made this race bib and medal holder. It’s in the style of one I saw on Amazon but was half the cost to put together myself. It makes me happy to look at it!
I wanted to feel beautiful at my brother’s wedding, and succeeded! The New Year’s Eve sequined dress is a Michael Kors I bought on Poshmark; my wedding outfit was a formal high-low skirt and fitted tank from a local boutique, The Attic. A friend who was moving to Florida gave me the mink stole about a year ago, and it was great for warmth as well as added fabulosity.
I like to get a piece of jewelry for my One Word. A few weeks ago I learned the ammonite (the fossil of the nautilus shell) is an ancient symbol of abundance, so I ordered an ammonite necklace! I’ve had a nautilus shell tattoo for several years, so this connection is a big deal to me.
I’ve talked about Garnier Naturals Coconut Cocoa Butter conditioner before, but the matching leave-in conditioner is also a win. I picked some up when I didn’t have time to go to Sally for more of what I was using, and I think it’ll be my go-to for the foreseeable future.
I have a lot of small scars – from acne, cuts and scrapes, having moles removed, and many years of cat ownership. I’ve been spot-treating with Mederma PM scar cream before bed for a couple of months, and it’s helping, especially on my face. Hoping for a more even skin tone this summer!
Your Monthly Rufus:
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
♥ Kelle Hampton: Happy New Year: There Is More
♥ Tina Muir: Why It’s Okay to Admit You Are Struggling. (I love her!)
♥ Bailey Steger: When Belief Becomes a Work
♥ Bradbury-esque flash fiction by Ruby Bastille that haunted me for DAYS: Half an Hour
♥ Michael Kramer at Grok Nation: Back to the Present: Trump, Nixon, and Taking Protest to the Streets. (I’m hanging on every word of our elders lately, and appreciated this perspective.)
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – II Corinthians 9:8
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
There is always more on its way – more opportunities, more ideas, more love. – Glennon Melton
Scarcity tells us the table is full, that we have to fight for a spot or fight to keep ours, that the spots will run out, or that we better pick a different table. But Abundance, abundance has endless wings to add to the table. Abundance has an endless supply of chairs. Abundance says yes! you can come! Bring your friends! There is plenty. – Abby Norman
2017 will be my fifth year of One Word. Choosing a word is sort of a mystical experience. Around October, I start listening for words that are resonating with me and/or coming up frequently. I decide what I need and what I want to work on in the coming year. I pay attention to how each possibility makes me feel.
Early last year, I was depressed. I believe many long-term life experiences have a snowball effect, a cumulative impact that’s hard to understand from the outside. Over recent years, I’d taken so many blows big and small that all my fight was gone. The future looked bleak. I couldn’t trust God at all. I felt so hopeless and exhausted that even professionals (both faith and medical) had no practical advice for me. Then help started to arrive: a good, supportive relationship, for a while. A small group full of quirky, honest people and holistic approaches to spiritual things. People I value consistently expressing confidence in me, no matter how little others thought of me. An inner spark that enabled me to do more and more on my own behalf. I’d felt neglected and even abandoned by God, like I was an inconsequential cog in His sovereign machine, and I thought I had to accept that fate with a smile on my face. I couldn’t do that, which created additional angst. I’m privileged in many ways, but in the deepest sense, scarcity had been my reality for a long time, and it seemed increasingly unlikely that that would ever change. But as my general circumstances improved, I let myself believe these were not isolated bones being thrown to keep me hovering just above despair. I let myself believe that the tide was rising, and started stepping out accordingly.
At the start of 2017, I feel stronger than I have in years, maybe in all of my 30s so far. Some important needs are still unfulfilled and I’m dealing with a lot of the same crap, but my inner fire is back, and I think I might be coming into my best self. My pastor says people tend to face the difficulties of life in one of three ways: Denial, Determination, or Despair. It’s Determination time, but no matter what I do to change my life, I already know there are things I can’t make happen. I need help. I need God to SHOW UP. A year ago, I couldn’t even ask Him to show up in any specific way because one more no would have broken me. It was less painful just to try to deal by myself. Now I’m in a better place. Now I have evidence that I might not be a cosmically designated short straw, and that sometimes the courage to ask makes all the difference. So I accepted my boldest One Word yet, a word easily perceived as selfish and Joel Osteen-y, a word that seems incongruous with the alarming state of our world, a word that feels like a culmination of all my words so far:
Here’s what Abundance means to me:
♥ Abundant options. I’ve experienced a legitimate scarcity of career and relationship options. I’d like reassurance that there’s plenty to go around, so I’m not tempted to act out of fear. I’ve successfully kept my dignity and said no to things that weren’t right or fruitful for me, but I don’t know if I can continue if every rare opportunity looks like my last, best, only chance. I’d like to consider a buffet of good things instead of one appetizer, to feel like a well-fed daughter instead of a starving beggar unsure if she’ll ever have another meal. I’d like to be happily surprised. Paradoxically, I’d take one Right, True Thing over lots of options in a second, but either way, abundance is needed.
♥ Abundant love. I’m lucky to have abundant friends and family to love, and I want to love them better. I want to show love to myself by maintaining good boundaries and self-care. I want to be in love with a man who is in love with me. On a wider scale, I am determined to choose love over hate, continue learning what that looks like, and do whatever I can to encourage that behavior in others.
♥ Abundant life. The state of my Christian faith can’t be summed up in even one post, but it’s often sucked the life out of me more than it’s given me life. I’ve thought about this a lot lately, and I believe that since Jesus came to bring me abundant life, I need new perspective. I don’t know what that will take, besides the courage to let go of some things and draw further disapproval from fundamentalist types… but I’m already on that path, so bring it. Also (hang with me), I’ve been getting more connected to the Holy Spirit, and I’d like to continue exploring that.
On a real-world level, abundant life involves finding and fulfilling my purpose, which takes us back to the options thing. I think it also involves abundant words. My words dried up last year, but when I am able to write, it feels really good. I want to reclaim the right to express myself purely because it brings me joy, even if it’s not especially meaningful, even if it’s a non-defensible sharing of my heart (like this) in a time when some people won’t let anyone speak without “proof.”
I’m asking God for abundance not because I deserve anything, not because I’m good, but because He is, and I want to know that in a new way. Officially I don’t believe in name-it-and-claim-it, but… I’m kind of claiming it. Whatever you believe about God’s role in suffering (and all I have to offer is a big question mark), I’ve suffered, and I’ve milked it for all the growth I could. Now, I need Him to SHOW me that He is good, loves me, and wants good things for me. Right or wrong, that’s just where I’m at. It’s not as selfish as it sounds; an overflowing cup waters everything around it. If I operate from a place of abundance and security, I have more to give.
Common themes start to emerge after you’ve been practicing One Word for a while (something I’d love to discuss with other long-termers). I don’t think that’s bad or wrong. In December, in a moment when I wasn’t thinking about my word at all, I got a sudden clear image of my progression in the form of an airplane. Enough, in 2015, was the plane pulling away from the gate. Light, in 2016, was excess baggage being removed and the runway lights coming on to point the way. But Abundance is about taking off. Buckle up, because in 2017, I’m going to fly.
This used to be a linkup with Emily Freeman. I’m not sure if it’s happening this year, but I have learnings to share, so gather round!
♥ Run on different sides of the street. Not a metaphor. While training for a 15K at the beginning of the year, I developed some IT band problems. Up to that point, I had always run on the same side of the street. I’d never thought about the fact that I did this OR that it might matter. When I started switching it up, the problems went away and haven’t come back!
♥ Do not automatically accept blame. I cannot count the number of times this year I was accused of not doing something or other. But it almost always turned out I did do the thing – the other person forgot, didn’t check, or wasn’t paying attention. So, over time, I’m conquering my knee-jerk panic and self-abasement, and checking my facts and reality before proceeding. This skill is improving my quality of life and becoming more useful all the time.
♥ St. John’s Wort can work. For those who don’t know, this herb is widely considered to be nature’s antidepressant. I started taking it in the spring, I think, with no real expectation that it would do anything (making me a good test case). I’d been mildly depressed for a long time, but I can now say semi-confidently that I’m in a better place, and I attribute some of that to St. John’s Wort. My emotional baseline is much higher and my lows are less low, which is how many friends have described the effects of “real” antidepressants. So if you’re interested, it’s definitely worth a shot! Just know that it can take several weeks to kick in, and the effect is subtle. I didn’t really stop and take note until recently.
♥ Don’t buy shoes on Poshmark. Unless they’re new in the box and you already own a pair of the same size and brand. Even then, it’s a gamble.
♥ Treating others well is not only right, but also an investment in your future. I’ve seen people’s behavior come back around to them in sometimes-shocking ways this year.
♥ We all need to drive more carefully. Becoming a frequent pedestrian has changed my perspective. I ran hundreds of miles on the streets of Midtown in 2016, and almost got hit by a car many, many times. I’ve never been nervous behind the wheel before, but the defensive anxiety from city running has started to seep over into my driving. I’m still figuring out how to handle this better.
♥ There are many valid ways to pray, and we may need different ways at different times. After years of angst over my prayer life failing to adhere to a prescribed formula, I learned this year that prayer really can be as natural as breathing. Rather than working hard at maintaining a Right Relationship with God (e.g. “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?!?”), prayer can be about opening ourselves up to what God is already doing all around us. It can be more about listening than talking, more about peace than discipline. Processing this concept has been revolutionary and restorative for me.
♥ Pho is life. I could happily eat pho and El Porton’s chicken tortilla soup alternately for most of the year.
♥ The more you challenge yourself and do hard and scary things, the easier it is to do so and the more you can achieve.
♥ I was not made to be single. I’ve always believed this, but my six-month relationship removed any growing inkling of doubt. I know who I am both as an individual and in a relationship, and being in a healthy relationship makes me feel like the fullest expression of myself. I feel more peaceful, grounded, and alive. I didn’t fully appreciate what an energy suck singleness is for me until I didn’t have it for a while. Facing life alone while hustling in an endless beauty pageant will never be a natural fit for me. What I’m good at is being part of a team and loving someone with everything I have. I soaked up every minute, but it still wasn’t enough time. It just wasn’t enough time.
What did you learn this year?