jan16-sunrise

General Highlights:

Happy 2016! It’s been a slightly roller-coastery month, but it’s early enough for me to keep insisting that this will be MY YEAR.

jan16-cyicicles
#seenonmyrun

Running was a major theme of my January. After running 10K for the first time on December 31, I registered for a 15K (the Hot Chocolate in Nashville next month)! Then I hurt my knee. During my week of forced rest, I figured out that I probably have an IT band problem, learned and implemented some stretches and longer-distance running tips, and ran eight miles last Saturday with no trouble. Fitness-wise, I feel stronger and more capable than I ever have in my life. As long as the 15K goes well, I’m planning to run my first half in May. Woo hoo!!

jan16-snowday

Last week I enjoyed my first Midtown snow! Even though the “storm” was much less severe than expected, most of the city (including my workplace) shut down anyway. It was the first true snow day I’ve had in a long time.

 

jan16-reading

Reading:

I tore through all ten Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories in one weekend (a high-maintenance task since my library’s limit is three digital books). Simon has always been my favorite Infernal Devices character, so I was happy to see him get his due. As you might expect if you know his previous story arc, these stories have a lot to say about identity, both personal and relational. Great stuff.

I also read the prequel novella to my bloggy friend Rachel McMillan’s upcoming novel, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder. Her girl detectives are brave and likable, and I’m excited for their full debut!

 

kimmy-nofilter

Watching:

I finally got Netflix, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt surpassed my high expectations. I’m working on a Kimmy-inspired post for all of us who have emerged from a bunker and had to navigate a new world. Stay tuned.

 

Music:

This Decemberists track has been my new-year anthem.

 

jan16-aroundtown

Around Town:

I watched the Grizz beat the Pistons, had a great romp through Sheffield’s Antiques, and went to a car show. I’m also excited to see American Idiot at Playhouse on the Square this weekend!

 

jan16-furniture

At Home:

This month I got two long-needed pieces of furniture! I’d been looking for a new chest of drawers for months, and my friend Christina found the perfect one for me on a resale forum. The sellers said it’s really old, and I’ve gotten confirmation from people in the know that it looks circa 1920s. Meanwhile, my dad built this custom shelving unit to house Rufus’s litter box in my downstairs bathroom. It’s exactly what I wanted! My friends all exclaimed over it, and I told my dad he could probably take orders for more. He’s considering it for his retirement.

jan16-rufuscollage

Typical of January, I spent more time than usual at home lazing around. Rufus was pretty happy about it.

 

jan16-cookingeating

Cooking/Eating:

1. This sweetened almond/coconut milk blend changed my breakfast smoothie game forever. 2. I had my first Earnestine & Hazel’s soul burger – another item off the 100 Things to Eat in Memphis list! It was delicious (but my stomach took days to recover). 3. My pho addiction continues. One day I ate pho for lunch AND dinner, at two different places.

 

jan16-pinkdress

Wearing:

This Jessica Simpson sweater dress, which I got on eBay. I’d love to find it in more colors!

 

jan16-beauty

Beauty:

Once or twice a year, I indulge in a Makeup Revolution order. Their stuff is amazing quality for a great price – it’s the shipping that kills. These palettes have been on my wishlist for a while. BTW, they reimbursed me for the highlighter palette since one of them got broken on its transatlantic voyage.

 

jan16-hermanas

Random Happiness:

My sister, BIL, and nieces have moved back to Nashville after several years in southern Alabama. I drove up for part of MLK weekend, and am thrilled that I can now visit easily anytime!

jan16-catgame

I’m not much for phone games (I even quit Words with Friends years ago), but Neko Atsume makes me smile. It’s not action-packed – my three-year-old niece was like “But what do the cats DO??” It’s just a little dose of joy.

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

jan16-quote

 

On The Blog:

I wrote about my experience on Tinder, and about my One Word for 2016, Light.

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ My SIPster Bethany did a hilarious GIF story about her first, AND LAST, marathon experience.

♥ Emily Austin: We Really Should Do This More Often

♥ Mark Manson: Your Goals are Overrated

♥ Clare Bruff at Femsplain with a name story I related to: My Twice-Changed Name

♥ Elora Ramirez: Why Your Creativity is Hiding in the Shadows

♥ Heather Strong Moore: If We’re Talking Bodies

♥ My high school bandmate Willie Gillis and his wife Angela lost almost 400 pounds in two years, and they were on the Today show this month!

 

What I'm Into

2 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

bootsgirlsittingalone

 

Last June, around the five-year mark of my Perpetual Singleness, I decided living like a nun was no longer acceptable to me. Even nuns have priests in their lives; I had one single male friend. All I wanted was to meet guys in an organic way, getting closer to people already in my orbit, but it never happened. Having navigated my own field of post-divorce emotional land mines years before, I could no longer stand at the edge of the relationship field, wondering what bombs lay buried out there. I was past ready to figure some things out and have stories to contribute when friends talked about their love lives. For my own health, I needed to meet some guys and go on some dates, and I really didn’t care how it happened. So I took the path of least resistance: Tinder.

My only previous online dating venture was a disastrous stint on eHarmony in 2012, which resulted in zero actual dates. Tinder appealed to me because it was fast, free, and low-pressure. At first I was skeptical of its shady reputation, but a few friends had met decent guys there, proving it wasn’t exclusively for slimeballs. I created a profile on a Sunday afternoon and had a date by Friday night! Over the next few months, I went on a lot of first dates and a few second dates. At first, I just wanted to meet new people and have fun. Feeling attractive, interacting with different men, and seeing proof that some good ones existed was good for me. But the shine wore off quickly. I texted for hours with matches I never even met. I learned that some people approach online dating and Craigslist purchases the same way: express interest, make arrangements, then bail at the last minute with no explanation. I learned that negging is very real. Many of my matches commented on my non-toothy smile almost immediately (extra offensive/confusing since they’d liked me based on looks). “You have a very unique smile.” “What’s wrong with your teeth?” “Do you HAVE teeth??” I also received hasty requests for nudes despite the fact that my profile stated both “I love Jesus” and “No hookups.”

All told, only three guys I met on Tinder were worth mentioning. One was sweet and fun to be with, but after three dates I had to admit I wasn’t feeling it romantically. One was smart and interesting until our interaction turned into a job interview. One, the only match I felt instantly fluttery about, showed me a wonderful time on a summer evening and never called me again. I would have been happy to remain friends with them, as all my girlfriends have done with guys they’ve casually dated. But it didn’t work out that way, giving me another reason to feel defective when I had hoped to find some healing and encouragement.

By October, Tinder held no joy for me. Rather than an adventure, every date was a requirement to put on my game face for a stranger I’d likely never see again. I had to develop a pre-date decompression ritual of cranking up “Gangsta’s Paradise” in my car and rapping every word like I meant it. I realized this wasn’t working for me anymore. I could do light and casual for a while, but I’m still a relationship girl by nature. I also need adequate time to warm up to someone and decide if I want to be in a relationship (and in my world, that also means deciding if I want someone touching me). I felt no closer to that ideal than I was before. When would I get to excitedly anticipate seeing a guy I really liked, instead of always feeling anxious and tired? When would I reach a point of inclusion in each other’s lives and knowledge of each other’s friends? That was the problem, really; my only worldly connection with any of these guys was a mutual right swipe. We had no Venn diagram, just an intentional, manufactured connection totally separate from our regular lives. I realized online dating was pulling me away from my goals and the people and activities I enjoy. It had become a detractor, not a contributor. I looked at the big picture, and decided I had more important things to do than keep trying to impress Random Dude of the Week. So I quit. When I deleted my Tinder profile, I felt zero regret, only relief that I could now get back to my life.

In the span of just a few years, in my demographic, online dating has transformed from a source of shame to basically the only way anyone dates. So quitting Tinder returned my love life to its previous nonexistence. It’s possible that I had a meh Tinder experience simply because I met the wrong people. My affections strike as rarely and brightly as lightning. When I really click with someone, it doesn’t matter if I met him in a Dumpster. But the consumerist framework of dating apps makes it tough for me to get there. I want to gradually get to know a whole person who also sees and respects me as a whole person, instead of trying to make quick judgments while protecting myself as a commodity. And that aspect of online dating is the same whether you’re on Tinder or Christian Site-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. They might prioritize different commodities, but you’re still not a real person, a friend or even someone a guy happened to talk to at a bar… you’re primarily a list of features and statistics. I’m pretty sure that if I die alone, it’ll be because I couldn’t get on board with that.

Since last summer, various readers and tweeps have asked me about my Tinder experience. It’s taken me several months to get this to come out right. I’m not sorry I tried it; it was the right decision for me for a while. I had some happy moments and nice dinners. I learned things about myself and what I want to do better in the future, which is helpful. I’m not even saying I won’t try one of the other apps, because I will eventually feel the itch again to have something instead of nothing. But it’ll never be my first choice, and I don’t have any answers or solutions. I’m just a flawed human doing the best she can, still wishing for a real, permanent partner in crime and life – but still making her way without one.

4 Comments + Posted in: dating, singleness

light-intropost

 

2016 will be my fourth year of participation in One Word 365. The practice of adopting a word for my year, instead of a list of specific resolutions, gives me a little purpose without a lot of pressure. I see my word as a guidepost, both for the year and for long-term growth. I’ve learned if I need a concept enough to sit with it for a year, it’ll probably stick with me longer than that. So I choose carefully, considering what I need and what I think God wants me to focus on. 2015 was a difficult year in my heart, and I wanted a fresh word for 2016, a word that conveyed newness and hope. After rejecting a few ideas, I found it.

 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. – I John 1:5-7

The first word that you ever spoke was: light. Thus time began. For long you said no more. – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve grown tired of smoke and mirrors. I yearn for the clean, well-lighted place… This is the honest way I want to live and love and write. – Amy Poehler

Still there are darkened places deep in my heart
Where once was blazing light, now there’s a tiny spark.
Oh glory, come and find me. – Paramore

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

 

Light

(n.) brightness from the sun, fire, or electricity

My Florida upbringing made me a child of light. I soak up sunshine like a plant and battle SAD with a sun lamp all winter. I’ve always needed a lot of light to be happy and healthy. Sunlight, candles, campfires, twinkle lights… these are all connected with good times.

(n.) understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment; spiritual illumination by divine truth

I’m naturally pretty honest and transparent, but over the last couple of years I’ve thrown a lot of unresolved problems and heart-things into a dark room and shut the door. Nothing sinister, just stuff I got weary of wrestling with. It’s also scarier than it used to be to talk/write openly about my thoughts and feelings – I’ve gotten more defensive and untrusting. But living in the light means being real about my fears, messes, and mistakes, at least with God and myself… and being with people who value my particular light and bring their own to the table. I also hope for spiritual enlightenment this year, more light on my path to give me direction and understanding.

(v.) become illuminated; ignite

I want to be a light in dark places, a candle lighting other candles. I believe encouragement is one of my gifts, but feel handicapped by darkness. It’s really hard to give hope to others when I don’t have much for myself, or energy when I’m burned out and not operating at full strength. I want to be re-illuminated and fully alive. I want to see light win here and now, not just in glory by and by.

(adj.) having little weight, not heavy

My life is carefree on the surface, but I’ve carried some burdens for a long time. I want to shake off the ones I can shake, somehow develop a lighter heart about the ones I can’t, and generally eliminate stuff I don’t need (both literally and metaphorically).

Common usage: bring something to light; in a different light; the light of someone’s life; the lights are on but no one’s home; light a fire under someone; see the light of day; cast light on something; the light side of the Force; light at the end of the tunnel

 

What really excites me about this word is its abundance. Like light itself, the concept of Light surrounds us and permeates our culture. It’s so rich that I really struggled to narrow it down enough to write this intro. I’ll have plenty of reminders of it and new angles to consider. Most of all, I like its life-giving connotations and the idea that it’s something I’m open to receive, not something I have to strive for. Bring on the light!

PS: Follow my ongoing inspiration at my Light Pinterest board!

3 Comments + Posted in: one word: light

book-187876_640

 

As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew by Jen Chaney (4 stars)
This is exactly what the title says, and if you love Clueless like I do, it’s a delight. I read the whole thing in a day.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (4.5 stars)
Rainbow Rowell’s previous novel Fangirl (my favorite of her books) included a lot of fanfiction about a Harry Potter-esque character named Simon Snow. Later, she kept thinking about Simon’s world and how she would write it as herself, not as her character Cath (does your head hurt yet?). Carry On is a funny, fresh, self-aware, totally Rainbow take on all the hero’s journeys we love, centering on magician Simon Snow (“the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen”), his whip-smart best friend Penelope (in the Hermione role), and his snotty possible-vampire roommate Baz. I loved it.

The Martian by Andy Weir (5 stars)
As most people already know from having read this and/or seen the movie, the titular Martian is Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars when he’s presumed dead during a mission abort. The story bounces around among him, his departed crew, and the people back on Earth trying to save him. It is fantastic. I won’t lie, I was kind of crushing on Mark Watney, though some of that may be the Matt Damon influence.

 

December books: 3
2015 Final Total: 65

Add a Comment + Posted in: book reviews

iceland-mebasalt

 

Last December, Emily Freeman hosted a What I Learned linkup. I’m not sure if she’s doing it again this year, but it helped me to reflect on the lessons of my year, so here’s my 2015 edition.

 

I am not an entrepreneur. This is not a cool thing to admit in 2015, when building and hustling for your brand is, like, the only way to be a creative person (or even a person). For a long time, I assumed that my goal should be to reach a point where I could make a living independently, whether by writing or something else. I compared myself to people doing this successfully and always came up short – because it’s a true apples-and-oranges situation. It was freeing to realize I’m just not made to build and hustle. It wouldn’t make me happy. In the song of life, I am the harmony. I am the glue. I’m meant to find something I genuinely believe in and use my gifts and energy to help make it happen in partnership with others. That’s not sexy, but the world needs it, and me.

I’m a hipster. Fine, I give up. I live in Midtown, eat and drink local, wear hipster glasses, listen to hipster music, and attend a hipster church with hipster coffee… and I love it. As long as I don’t pick up the worst hipster trait of believing my preferences make me better than everyone else, I guess I can live with it!

Waterproof mascara > regular mascara. Thanks to the sleep mask I have to wear, my eyelashes have become very straight, i.e. I’ve lost the only curls I had that were culturally desirable. So I’ve been on a Holy Grail eyelash curler/mascara quest. I’ve never liked waterproof mascara because it’s hard to remove, but for whatever reason, it holds a curl noticeably better than the regular kind. My current pick is Maybelline The Falsies.

Basalt pillars, in Iceland or elsewhere, do not taste like salt.

If you live in a multi-story home, you need two of everything you use frequently. I have upstairs and downstairs scissors, candle lighters, Clorox wipes, etc. Also: you can never have too many phone charging cords.

♥ “Sometimes love does not look like what you had in mind.” – Anne Lamott

It’s okay to change. I’ve changed so much in the last couple of years that sometimes I hardly recognize myself, and sometimes that terrifies me, especially in a spiritual sense. Aren’t Christians supposed to be steadfast, unchanged by experiences or the world, always relating to and understanding God in the same prescribed way from cradle to grave? I’ve been living with an undercurrent of fear, angst, and the sense that even though my core love for Jesus has not changed, I must be going off the rails.

About a month ago I attended a talk about faith and creativity, in which my pastor mentioned several famous bands who experienced a major transformation at the height of their careers. They created albums that everyone loved, then went through a difficult time that resulted in a rebirth and completely different sound. The new sound was just as brilliant and valuable as the old… and they had to tear down and then rebuild in order to find it. The transformation wasn’t wrong or a mistake, even though some people didn’t like it. It was the plan. This example helped me more than anything else I’ve heard this year. It was icing on the cake that one of the bands/albums he referenced was U2’s Achtung Baby, one of my all-time faves. Also, achtung means attention, or caution, like something is dangerous. I’m ready to be a little bit dangerous. ;)

It can take a long time for all the pieces of the story to come together. Both in writing and in life. And that’s not my fault or failure either, even though it often feels like one.

It’s okay to walk away. I said something similar last year, and it’s an ongoing lesson. Due to both nature and nurture, I tend to hold onto things and force myself into molds long past the expiration date, in the name of stability, responsibility, and sunk cost. I continue to get better at recognizing, accepting, and moving forward when something isn’t working anymore (or just needs tweaking). Sometimes Being Content! and Making Fetch Happen! is really beating a dead horse. You can stop trying. You can say enough. You don’t need a defensible list of reasons why.

 

What have you learned this year?

3 Comments + Posted in: reflections, year end

Here are my top ten fiction and nonfiction reads of 2015! I didn’t even rate all of these five stars, but I chose them based on 1. enjoyment and 2. how much they’ve stuck with me. A book can be very good and/or enriching and not possess those qualities. Rather than summarize them all again, I’ve gathered them into the common themes that I seem to prefer.

 

FICTION

bestbooks2015-fiction

 

Epic Amusing Metacommentary: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Everyone Feels Small in Space: The Martian by Andy Weir; Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer; We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Emotional Nomads: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour; Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Spunky Heroine Having Fun: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan; Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

 

NONFICTION

bestbooks2015-nonfiction

 

Wholehearted Library: Rising Strong by Brene Brown; Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton; Never Broken by Jewel

Lives of My Celebrity BFFs: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling; Girl Walks Into a Bar… by Rachel Dratch; Wildflower by Drew Barrymore; Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles

Faith Journey: Soul Keeping by John Ortberg; Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux by Heather King

What’s Wrong with Our Society: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

 

What books did you love this year?

1 Comment + Posted in: book reviews, year end

brendainiceland

 

I’ve done the same survey every year for longer than I’ve had this blog. Past iterations: 2010 // 2011 // 2012 // 2013 // 2014

 

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Ran more than five miles; snow skied and enjoyed it; attended a gala; became a blood donor; sold and bought a home on my own; briefly reigned as the Friends Trivia co-champion of Memphis; got on Tinder and dated random strangers; went to Iceland; rode 17 miles in the Midnight Bike Classic; visited the National Civil Rights Museum.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My OneWord365 for 2015 was enough. I have a lot to say about it, but here’s a quick summary: Enough is a concept I’ll be learning and wrestling with for the rest of my life. I did not master it in 2015 – my personal sense of enough-ness is battered and bruised, and while I successfully declared “enough” in a few areas of my life, I made little progress in others. This year was a starting point, if anything. Barring unexpected divine intervention, I’ve chosen a word for 2016, and I WILL talk about that after the new year.

3. Did anyone close to you have a child?
No, and this is so unusual, I feel paranoid I’m forgetting someone.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My ten-year-old cat, Peach. No one of the human variety.

5. What countries did you visit?
ICELAND!

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked this year?
Love and purpose.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
February 13: my house went on the market. March 21: saw my new home for the first time and knew it was the one; got a cash offer on my old house the same day. April 16: closed on both places and moved. June 5: put Peach down. July 11: my wonderful housewarming party. September 16: brought Rufus home!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
9. What was your biggest failure?

After some reflection, I think these questions have the same answer: I gave myself amnesty in 2015. I’d hovered around burnout level for most of 2014, so this year, I did what I needed to do to stay above it. After my move in April, I thought I’d be back to full throttle in a month, tops, but it never happened. My current schedule is very relaxed compared to what it’s been for most of my adult life. I’ve gotten better at quitting activities, saying no, and/or staying home without an excuse. Around the time I moved, I also realized I could no longer keep up three “jobs” – my paid full-time job, freelance writing, and regularly writing this blog. Obviously the first one isn’t optional, and it’s also zapping my creative energy for the other things. So my writing has suffered. I hate that, and it’s been detrimental to me, but I’m trying to have faith that it won’t always be this way.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Two bouts of hardcore laryngitis (which I’d never had before), and water trapped in my middle ear for a month after a dive trip. Other than that, I feel great and am thankful for my good health!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Aside from my house, my original Hillary Butler painting; my new living room rug; and a humidifier.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My mom’s. She spent much of this year going back and forth to Miami to help care for one or both of her parents – usually my grandma, who has been extremely difficult to deal with. She’s also been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my decisions and who I’m becoming. I feel like we’ve learned a lot together this year, and it means everything to know she’s not disappointed in my non-traditional life. And it’s even more special because it wasn’t always this way. I’m thankful for her and our relationship.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A lot of dudes on Tinder. I’ve had a post about my Tinder experience (and why I quit) sitting in drafts since October, so I won’t elaborate right now, but trust me, Tinder Nightmares is real. Also: Donald Trump.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel and concert/event tickets. I’ve made good on my intention to spend more on experiences and less on stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Living in Midtown; going to Iceland; the Tiger Basketball Alumni Game in July; starting to write for Memphis Type History; my (extremely slow) running progress; getting a new cat; MEM’s new direct flight to Ft. Lauderdale; the Tigers going 8-0 in football; my sister and her family moving back to Nashville (which will happen next week!!).

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. See also: My 2015 Soundtrack (which doesn’t include that song, but I did name my Iceland photo album after it).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Happier on a surface level; sadder on a deeper level. About the same. Slightly poorer (but I don’t regret it).

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Yoga. Praying. Writing. Reading (my book count is down).

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Competing.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I’ll spend it here in Memphis with my parents and brother.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
No.

22. What concerts did you attend this year?
Third Day; Paramore, Jenny Lewis, Bleachers, Ed Sheeran, Hozier, and St. Vincent at Music Fest; Beck; Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE at Moon River Fest; Rob Thomas; alt-J with San Fermin

23. What was your favorite TV program?
The Mindy Project. Thanks again to Hulu for saving it!!

24. Do you dislike anyone now whom you didn’t dislike this time last year?
Yes.

25. What was the best book you read?
Top-20 book post is in process.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
alt-J, as I have said before.

27. What did you want and get?
A fresh start in a home that exceeds my expectations. A new healthy, happy cat companion. Lots of fun adventures with people I love. Some dates.

28. What did you want and not get?
A kiss. A boyfriend. Something else important.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I only had time for the heavy hitters: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, and Mockingjay Part 2. All awesome.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36. I went to church in the morning, and later had dinner with friends on the patio at Slider Inn followed by fun and games at Rec Room.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A sense that my life is meaningful and going somewhere.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
I pared down my wardrobe this year and am continuing to simplify my style. I recently noticed I have a lot more leggings than I used to. I also officially gave up on any non-denim pants ever looking good on me, and discovered Joe’s Honey Fit is my Holy Grail of jeans.

33. What kept you sane?
The support of my friends and family.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I went suddenly and unexpectedly heart-eyes over Ed Sheeran. It must have been “Thinking Out Loud.”

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Is it me, or was 2015 overloaded with passionate political issues? Too many to name? I will say, my political opinions have shifted pretty drastically over the last couple of years. Many times in 2015 I found myself having a strong emotional reaction to events and thinking, “Oh wow. I guess that’s how I feel about that now.” It’s alarming but also kind of exhilarating.

36. Who did you miss?
My siblings. But my sister and her family are about to live much closer!!

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met many wonderful people this year, but I have to give extra props to my friend Hannah. She came to Memphis at the beginning of June for a weeklong work training. About a month beforehand, she asked if she could stay with me. I barely knew her – I’ve been online friends with her sister for years and she was the one who suggested the whole thing – but I was up for a visitor. Well, when the time came, Hannah arrived to a distraught, weepy hostess and a sick cat’s last days. I felt terrible that she had to witness it all, but her presence and companionship that week were such a comfort to me, and we actually had a great time together. I’ll always be thankful to her for that. PS: during her visit, she had a mutual feelings confession with a longtime friend… and they got engaged last week!

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Reinvention is not automatically a detour, downfall, or mistake. It’s often not only okay, but also necessary and part of the plan. (Thanks to my pastor and U2 for that one.)

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Another day older, everyone you knew
All chasing bells and ahead of themselves
And you know you can’t move.
One step forward, step right back
Run for the hills, honey, run for the hills, honey
Run for the hills, don’t look back.

Want to live like an animal, by the skin of your teeth
Put your good face on, you’re fooling no one
You’re a jackrabbit underneath.
One step forward, step right back
Run for the hills, honey, run for the hills, honey
Run for the hills, don’t look back.
– San Fermin

Add a Comment + Posted in: year end

It’s that time again! Here are the songs that encapsulated my year. My self-imposed rules: no repeat artists (duets/feat.s don’t count), and the final edit has to fit on a CD. You can listen to this playlist, or the full unedited version, at Spotify.

Past years: 2010 // 2011 // 2012 // 2013 // 2014

 

2015tunes-sidebyside
perfect “cover” image by Debbie, via Flickr

 

1. Left Hand Free – alt-J
I have no idea what this song is about and can’t decipher most of the words, but it rocks, and alt-J is my Best Band of 2015. Honorable mentions: Breezeblocks, Every Other Freckle, Hunger of the Pine

2. ***Flawless – Beyoncé
Queen B’s (and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s) best pep talk. I like it so much, I bought a T-shirt.

3. Elastic Heart – Sia
My “title track” and anthem for 2015. I also enjoyed discussing Sia’s performances and videos with people throughout the year. I find her weirdness/performance artistry much more real and Wholehearted than, say, Lady Gaga’s (though I can appreciate Gaga too).

4. Make You Better – The Decemberists
The harmonies in the chorus are the best part of this. Aside: I knew my hipster transformation was complete when I couldn’t stop talking about how great What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World was.

5. FourFive Seconds – Rihanna feat. Kanye West
I’m a total sucker for a RiRi hook, and this one grabbed me right away. It’s so satisfying to sing along to.

6. Future – Paramore
Every year needs a Paramore track. Future is how I felt about leaving my home of eight years. I wished for a shorter version for this playlist, because after the lyrics there’s a five-minute no-holds-barred jam session. But I saw it live at Music Fest, and it was really cool – at one point they turned off all the amps on purpose, and you could still hear everyone whaling away. So that’s a memory too.

7. Welcome to New York – Taylor Swift
8. Good Morning Baltimore – Nikki Blonsky (from Hairspray)
My moving-to-Midtown and new-Midtowner themes, respectively. Replace both city names with Memphis. ;) During my first month or two in my new place, I frequently described my mood to friends as “totally Tracy Turnblad,” and it wasn’t an exaggeration. I was breathing pure elation and possibility. If I could have climbed onto a city garbage truck and sung about the panhandler at the Circle K, I would have.

9. Only One – Kanye West
I truly heard this song for the first time when Bleachers covered it at Music Fest. I know Kanye wrote it about his mom and daughter, but to me, these words are Jesus talking straight to me, and I can rarely listen to it without crying.

10. The Less I Know The Better – Tame Impala
Tame Impala snuck up on me – I realized suddenly that a lot of their stuff was in my rotation. I chose this one because the theme is relatable, it has a great groove, and you have to love a song that rhymes “together” with “Trevor” and “Heather.”

11. Feeling OK – Best Coast
The peppiest accurate representation of life with mild depression ever.

12. What the Hell – Avril Lavigne
My mindset as I embarked on Tinder for the first time last summer. I felt fed up and restless, and sort of needed to believe I was capable of being this girl. (Spoiler alert: I’m not.)

13. Jackrabbit – San Fermin
This resonated with me from the first listen. I saw San Fermin when they opened for alt-J, and they’re really unique and cool. A+ for inclusion of band instruments.

14. Clearest Blue – CHVRCHES
One of my top five running songs. When that bass line hits, I’m all YEEEEES like Rocky running up the stairs.

15. Pretty Pimpin – Kurt Vile
Singing the days of the week was never so much fun.

16. Rivers and Roads – The Head and The Heart
Another song that usually makes me cry. It’s about the changing nature of relationships and loved ones lost and found, which has been a major theme of my life this year.

17. First – Cold War Kids
Another instant like. I have no other anecdotes about it.

18. Door Number Three – Sara Bareilles (from Waitress)
I was musing about a closing track for this list/my year when I remembered I still hadn’t downloaded Sara Bareilles’ latest album, the soundtrack to her new Broadway musical. Sara is one of my most inspiring and kindredly artists, and sure enough, when this song ended I said “Yep. That’s it.” Also, I want to plan a trip to New York next spring to see Waitress!

 

Top Five Best of the Rest:
Independent – Webbie feat. Lil’ Phat (this is “my song” with my friend Christina)
Uma Thurman – Fall Out Boy
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran (painfully swoony and romantic, so I can’t listen to it much)
#Beautiful – Mariah Carey & Miguel
Here – Alessia Cara (anthem of introverts at parties across the land)

 

Yay for another year of musical ADD!

2 Comments + Posted in: music, year end

nov15-booklist
(source)

 

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore (4.5 stars)
Drew Barrymore has always been one of my favorite celebrities, so I really enjoyed her stories in this memoir. There are essays about her parents and unconventional childhood, adventures with her best friends, the evolution of her career, her relationship with her husband, and her thoughts on motherhood. I think what I admire most about Drew is her ability to keep her feet on the ground AND her head in the clouds. She’s a wise, talented, and fun lady.

Enough: 10 Things We Should Tell Teenage Girls by Kate Conner (3 stars)
Since this is my Year of Enough, this book title caught my attention when I saw it in the sidebar of Kate Conner’s blog. Despite the fact that I’m not a teenage girl, nor do I have any in my life, I decided to check it out. Kate is funny and gracious, and I’m on board with most of what she had to say here. However, I know from her blog that her life has changed drastically since writing this book, and I’m really interested to know whether she’d give all the same advice now.

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (5 stars)
I think this is one of those novels people will either love or not get at all. It’s a multilayered, uniquely told story about Sunny, a housewife with secrets who’s knocking herself out trying to be normal; her brilliant scientist husband, Maxon, now an astronaut on a mission to colonize the moon; her dying mother, Emma; her autistic son, Bubber; and the Stepford-like Virginia community where they’ve planted themselves. These characters seem so real and think about some real stuff. One of my favorite books is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and I heard echoes of it in Shine Shine Shine, in a more immediate and individual way.

Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth (4 stars)
I loved the Divergent trilogy so much that I saved these short stories for as long as I could. The first three follow Four through his Choosing Ceremony and the year or so after, providing backstory for both him and the Dauntless faction as Tris finds it when she arrives. The fourth story is mostly some events of Divergent from his perspective. You can keep your Cullens; give me Tobias Eaton any day.

 

November books: 4
2015 year to date: 62

1 Comment + Posted in: book reviews

nov15-catpatio

General Highlights:

I wondered why I still feel so tired after a five-day weekend, but putting together this post answered that question for me. November was nonstop.

nov15-races

I ran two 5Ks (one for my alma mater, one for the House of Mews), and my first Turkey Trot 4-Miler. To my own surprise and joy, I cut three minutes off my last four-miler time in September. That’s probably the quickest progress I’ll ever see! I really need to join one of the many running groups in Midtown for more companionship at races.

nov15-thanksgiving

Mostly due to hunting, my immediate family has split up on Thanksgiving for many years. I’ve had Thanksgiving with friends, with extended family in Miami, and with my BIL’s family. But this year, I got to be with my parents and brother! (“So they’ve killed all the deer?” a friend asked innocently.) It was great. This photo is actually the best of our Thanksgiving group pics – the others were thumb shots.

nov15-mylababywolf

We celebrated Myla‘s birthday, and also her baby boy, due in January! My baby-shower tolerance is low these days, but I had a genuinely great time at hers. Excited to meet Baby Wolf! ♥

nov15-tigers

After an amazing 8-0 run, during which they briefly became a contender for a New Year’s bowl, my Tigers lost three straight. We closed the season well on Saturday with a 63-0 trouncing of SMU… then lost our wonderful coach the next day. Meanwhile, basketball season has started (I have fantastic new seats), and those Tigers are all over the place. So far we’ve lost to some UT offshoot and beaten Ohio State. Bottom line: in Memphis sports, getting your heart broken is part of the deal.

 

nov15-books

Reading:

Drew Barrymore’s latest memoir, Wildflower, is a really enjoyable read. There are stories about her childhood, skydiving with Cameron Diaz, motherhood as someone who never had traditional parents, and her creative soulmate Adam Sandler… among other topics. I first picked up Shine Shine Shine in a bookstore several years ago, read a few pages, and made a mental note to find it later at the library. Well, I finally did, and gave it five stars. It’s an unusual novel about an unusual family and I loved it.

 

nov15-movies

Watching:

I saw Mockingjay Part 2 with my friends, and The Peanuts Movie with my mom, who surprised me at the theater with my old Charlie Brown doll. Hilarious.

 

nov15-video

Video:

I feel like SNL knocks it out of the park about once a year. This year’s best episode was the pre-Thanksgiving episode with Matthew McConaughey. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing. My favorites were the Adele Thanksgiving miracle (which has already become shorthand in my family) and Should You Weigh In On This?

 

nov15-ignite

Around Town:

Kelsey and I attended Ignite vol. 9 at the beautiful new Halloran Centre. It was my first Ignite event – if you don’t know how it works, learn about it here. It was fun and inspiring, and I’ll go again! My favorite talks were by Paul Morris of the Downtown Memphis Commission, and Brian Balough, founder of Wiseacre Brewery.

nov15-aroundtown

We had a great Supper Club at Greencork on a rainy night; I went to the Broad Avenue water tower lighting with my mom and Gwen; and I finally did my duty as a Memphian and went with my friends to Raiford’s. It was a blast.

Also, per my tradition, I saw the New Ballet Ensemble Nut ReMix at the Cannon Center. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. Usually, alumnus/Memphian Lil Buck headlines, but this year he’s busy touring with Madonna and promoting his new shoe line with Versace. NBD. The show was as awesome as ever.

 

nov15-cookingeating

Cooking/Eating:

I was in charge of desserts for Thanksgiving! I tried a new pumpkin pie recipe – highly recommended, but don’t bake at 300 as she says, unless you want to wait all day. (Also: pre-made pie crust saves half an hour!) I also attempted to make mini apple bundt cakes, but the recipe I randomly chose didn’t yield hefty enough batter for mini bundts. So I baked the rest as a sheet cake, added the fallen-apart cakes as a crumb topping, and covered it all with a brown sugar glaze. Not perfect, but I didn’t put peas or onions in anything, so it was all good.

After we couldn’t get in at the Beauty Shop one morning, Kelsey and I discovered the fantastic Sunday brunch at Strano. We will be back.

 

nov15-beauty

Beauty:

My last few mascaras have been Maybelline, and this new kind is the best I’ve tried yet! (The angel wings make me happy too.) I also grabbed this NYC eyeliner at Dollar Tree, and it’s outperforming several expensive eyeliners I’d researched and ordered online. Sure, I can’t sharpen it, but it cost a dollar.

 

Quote of the Month:

Not a quote exactly, but my new official answer to this question:

nov15-quote

 

On The Blog:

I participated in Hollywood Housewife’s One Day project for the third time. I also wrote about my trip to Iceland for my friend Kim’s travel blog, Girl Lost in the World: a list of my top five Iceland must-sees, and an ode to Icelandic geothermal hot tubs! I will eventually write more about my trip here on my own blog.

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ Elisabeth Klein: How to Be Okay with Things that You’re Not Okay With

♥ Amanda at All the Little Pieces: Force Quit: An Invitation

♥ Kelsey Munger: What Evangelicals Get Wrong About the Personal Narrative

♥ Erin at Design for Mankind: When Your Friend Changes

♥ Micha Boyett: The Faith Chapter

♥ Alana Semuels in The Atlantic: Dorms for Grownups: A Solution for Lonely Millennials?

 

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