Categories
Miscellany

Coping mechanism

 

 

Our lives, and especially our Saturdays, are occupied by wedding planning and will be through October. Instead of asking me how I’m doing or what’s new in Kansas City, people ask me about wedding planning. We have been consumed by the wedding industrial complex.

We are so fortunate to be planning a very large party to celebrate our relationship and our decision to spend the rest of our lives together, and we are also overwhelmed. The wedding industry isn’t really about marriage. It’s about money. It’s also about image, any event in 2019 serving the higher purpose of creating content to share on social media.

We spent several hours this morning side by side on our laptops, looking at images of wedding bouquets and reserving hotel room blocks. Mid-afternoon, we decided we’d had enough. Ryan picked up an empty cardboard box that was waiting to be taken out with the recycling and held it out it front of his chest.

“Kick it,” he said.

I did, letting out a loud yell as my foot hit the cardboard. It felt amazing.

I held it so he could have a turn, the box starting to collapse in upon itself as he gave it a few swift punches.

We put on our shoes and went to Costco. After a morning spent wrapped in the high-pressure expectation of planning a modern wedding, it felt satisfying to quietly enjoy a hot dog and a couple of chicken bakes in a giant American warehouse.

Categories
Miscellany

Utilize the public library

 

A curator used to be someone who worked in a museum, but now we all curate our lives. We select and order every aspect of the endless stream of media we consume: our Instagram feed, our news consumption, the brands and styles we shop.

Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to reject curating my experience when I can. I don’t always listen to myself — I spent 45 minutes last week sitting in a Chicago hotel lobby scrolling through Yelp when I could have just wandered into a neighborhood and trusted that whatever I found would be delicious.

Studies show us that “maximizers,” people who feel the need to choose the very best possible option, aren’t any happier for their exhaustive research. (I tried to remember this when I was itching to read Consumer Reports as we began to build our wedding registry last weekend. “It’s your wish list, not your shopping list,” the salesperson told us.)

I went to the library today to pick up one book on hold, and I wandered the stacks and found a handful of other books that I didn’t know I wanted to read this month. It can be good to let fate intervene.

Reading next: Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing.

 

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2018

10 books I loved this year, in the order I read them:

Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

This book is an insightful exploration of loneliness and urban living through the lives of artists like Edward Hopper and David Wojnarowicz.

Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

I read this book before the news broke that Alexie was accused of sexual harassment, but that fact makes this piece of work all the more heartbreaking, sad and raw. A searing memoir.

Mary H. K. Choi, Emergency Contact

Utterly charming and smart, with the right dash of zeitgeist. This YA book addresses tough issues and true diversity without feeling heavy-handed.

Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

This novel is a powerful look at Black American life, heartbreaking in its honesty about how we can never truly know all the intricacies of another person — or another relationship.

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

An epic novel, sprawling across generations and countries. This opened up a history I didn’t know enough about and an immigrant experience that feels all too relevant today.

Meaghan O’Connell, And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready

Meaghan’s self-deprecating, shattering honesty is just what I needed to read, and it’s what all my mommy friends need to read, too. 

Lauren Groff, Florida

This story collection is rich with strong female characters, with the tension of life as it comes to us, with the singular moments that feel like they can change our trajectory forever, and maybe do.

Porochista Khakpour, Sick: A Memoir

Porochista’s voice is a light in the forest of chronic illness, muddied by medication and sleeplessness, resilient in her ability to finish another essay, make another move, fall in love again.

David Sedaris, Calypso

In Calypso, we get Sedaris being his funny, wacky, obsessive self, but also going broader and deeper on important topics: death, grief, addiction, aging. This book is entertaining and important.

Rebecca Traister, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

This book is relevant, edifying and dotted with hope. It also made me want to punch all the comfy, rich white guys seated around me on the plane as I read.

Here are ten other books I read and liked:

Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know

Olivia Laing, Crudo

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Ali Smith, Autumn

Evan Connell, Mrs. Bridge

Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere

Scaachi Koul, One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2018

1. Early walks to and from yoga class. The mystery nest of twigs that someone built around a sycamore tree. The grouchy little brindle dog in the neighbor’s yard. The sun glowing on the buildings across Broadway.

2. A hungry rush of consuming Oscar-nominated movies: The Shape of Water; I, Tonya; Call Me By Your Name; Phantom Thread; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

3. Green tea with almond milk and honey.

4. BOGO pho on Wednesday nights at iPho Tower.

5. Painting murals for an MLK Day of Service at Northeast High School. 

6. Lurking around the edges of the experience of motherhood. Lydia Kiesling’s essay on yelling at her children. Laura Turner’s beautiful birth story. Angela Garbes on claiming space (and science!) as a mom of color.

7. Watching Planet Earth on my new 4K TV.

8. A front-row spot at a morning yoga class three times a week. Finding community on the mat. Smelling sage and palo santo on my clothes hours later.

9. Launching a membership program at NCR in the hopes that we can sustain our mission of delivering independent Catholic journalism.

10. Discovering the group Choir! Choir! Choir! and their lovely project of teaching an audience popular songs in harmony.

11. Quinoa bowls.

12. Walking through Roanoke Park and playing on the adult-sized jungle gym.

13. A February visit from my youngest sister. Eating a lot of barbecued meat. Donning Gonzaga gear to create an impromptu Kansas City fan club. Making cookies and drinking Disaronno. Underground beers at O’Malley’s in Weston. Dancing at The Ship. Screaming at each other in an escape room: “That’s not what you do with binoculars!”

14. Watching the Winter Olympics and becoming an instant expert on snowboarding and every other obscure alpine sport. Stealing the phrase “nimble little sucker” from a commentator for perpetual inside joke use.

15. The first breaths of cool, thick air when landing back at PDX.

16. Eating dinner at Thames Street Oyster House in Baltimore. Walking the snowy streets in shoes with leather soles. Escaping into a bookstore for warmth and finding some hidden gems. Watching the Olympics in a Mediterranean restaurant. 

17. Welcoming my sister and her friend as our first weekend guests in the new place. A lineup of LC’s barbecue takeout on the kitchen island. Getting dressed up for a Sam Smith show. Riding Bird scooters in the rain. Having a tour guide and the beer taps to ourselves on a Boulevard Brewery tour. 

18. A recipe for stir fry sauce from Michelle Tam.

19. Brandi Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You.

20. Jackson’s Honest apple cider vinegar potato chips.

21. Mike Leach and friends’ gentle spiritual reflections on care and grace in NCR’s Soul Seeing column. 

22. Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor in the theater on the Fourth of July.

23. My boyfriend’s dad making smoked ribs when my parents visited in September.

24. A crunchy hike at Wyandotte County Lake in late January. Taking photos from the dock of the icy lake. 

25. Grappling with how to be a better podcast host. Terry Gross on the art of the Q&A.

26. Using the Marinara extension to stay focused with the pomodoro technique.

27. This staggering, brilliantly reported longread about America’s richest farmer. You may not have heard of his name, but you’ve eaten his pomegranates or lemons or pistachios.

28. Catching the biannual misprint sale at Hammerpress.

29. Melissa Clark’s hot honey shrimp.

30. St. Vincent yanking on my heartstrings in her Tiny Desk Concert. Grace VanderWaal’s lovely, scratchy, aching voice. YoYo Ma returning again and again to Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

31. Boulevard Brewing’s tequila lime gose.

32. Original glazed donuts from Lamar’s.

33. Changing my phone display to grayscale, thanks to a little nudge from Vox.

34. Winning “Best Podcast” from the Catholic Press Association.

35. Buying two new bras.

36. Supporting a new local cafe and bookstore… and a second outpost of my favorite KC ice cream shop in the same neighborhood.

37. “Through the Eyes of Picasso” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

38. Reflecting on the Catholic Church in a messy, heartbreaking, awful year. 

39. Sea Fare Pacific soup pouches.

40. Anne Helen Petersen on gentrification, experience-driven millennial tourism, and what that very specifically looks like in the trend of bachelorette parties taking over Nashville.

41. Making a Spotify playlist based on Kurt Harden’s “Essential Mixes.”

42. Soft Sounds from Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast.

43. My sister Erika and Jonathan’s wedding. My parents’ yard filled with 450 happy guests. Doing my own updo and liking it, for once. Erika’s shoulder shimmying during their first dance. Eating quesadillas in the kitchen late in the night.  

44. Going to a podcast listening party featuring an episode of Ear Hustle and then listening to a panel of local speakers on the societal and emotional effects of longterm incarceration.

45. “Neighbors” by Lucius. “The Upswing” by Bell X1. “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande.

46. Observing candle hour.

47. The Obama presidential portraits

48. Snapping up boxes of Traditional Medicinals Healthy Cycle whenever I can get them. When cramps strike, it’s better than Advil.

49. Watching Making Movies perform at the mayor’s State of the City address.

50. Hanging out in an infrared sauna on a cool spring day.

51. Appreciating the seasons.

52. Women standing in their own power. Ellen Pompeo and Aminatou Sow being unafraid to demand their professional worth. Lauren Groff’s By the Book column, shot through with searing poise and brilliant recommendations. Women!

53. Volunteering for KC Scholars and helping lots of striving youth and adults continue their higher education.

54. Lunch with my writing group at The Sundry.

55. Hosting friends for paella and tinto de verano. Feeling my heart swell at finally having a place suited to entertaining.

56. Florida by Lauren Groff. And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. Autumn by Ali Smith.

57. Receiving a creative compliment from my new dentist.

58. Buying garden plants at the City Market and helping Ryan’s dad till his garden beds so we could reap the benefits of fresh peppers, tomatoes, herbs and squash.

59. A weekend in Spokane celebrating my youngest sister’s graduation from college. Showing Ryan the waterfalls and trails and parks of Spokane. Live piano music at a long, loopy dinner. Soaking up the Gonzaga love. Breaking bread with three good friends and their partners. Burgerville milkshakes on the drive back to my parents’ place.

60. Flint Town on Netflix.

61. Finding a kindred spirit who shares my unpopular opinion about Kansas Citians.

62. Sister Jean.

63. Creating a game of “Sex Jeopardy” for my sister’s bachelorette party. Creating the best Bloody Mary bar. Hiking Black Butte even though it felt impossible. Shutting down a karaoke bar in Sisters, Oregon.

64. Seeing The National live at Starlight Theatre in early October, their music pulsing out across the soggy crowd as rain pelted us continually and Matt Berninger waded out into the audience to share the moment.

65. Long walks at Champoeg State Park while visiting my parents.

66. Maggie Rodgers’ singles “Light On” and “Fallingwater.” Her technically and emotionally very good performance on SNL.

67. Taking a dance class from my brother-in-law. My entire family doing the Wobble on a wedding dance floor… and at a suburban TopGolf. 

68. Red wine and Cheetos at my grandparents’ house.

69. Witnesses like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in a year that for women felt like a long uphill hike through quicksand. 

70. Hating on the big four (Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon) despite using their products every week. Thinking more critically about my consumption of technology.

71. Comedian Ali Wong’s specials Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife.

72. Choire Sicha’s clever editing of the New York Times style section. Take, for example, this primer on self-care. His goofy, real advice in the Work Friend column.

73. Shrimp tacos for dinner.

74. Dancing all night at a silent disco during a weekend in Des Moines. 

75. Trying to keep up with good e-newsletters. The Ann Friedman Weekly. Matthew Ogle’s Pome. Anne Helen Petersen’s The Collected AHP. Katie Hawkins-Gaar’s My Sweet, Dumb Brain. Tributaries by John Graeber and John Hawbaker.

76. The music video for Janelle Monae’s “PYNK.”

77. Wesley Morris, very good as always, on the “anxious confusion of activism and criticism” that “robs us of what is messy and tense and chaotic” about art.

78. Moving into a condo just a few blocks away, but also a flying leap into cohabitation. A wall of west-facing windows. Bright, natural cabinets and hardwood floors. A gas range and a gas fireplace. A soaking tub. Waking up next to my love. Paring down two households into one. Sharing candles and furniture and kitchen counters.   

79. Feeling happy and bright on a day trip to Rocheport. Riding bikes under the beautiful fall canopy on the Katy Trail. A delicious lunch at Abigail’s. Hanging out with sweet, sleepy Clydesdales at Warm Springs Ranch. A glass of wine on top of the bluff.  

80. Watching Wild Wild Country and squirming with glee at the strange, strange phenomenon that briefly swept through my home state. 

81. A week in Florida with the fam. Reuniting Ryan with Gomek, a renowned (and now taxidermied) alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Sticking our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Iced tea on long afternoons in theme parks. My brother-in-law’s joy at taking the entire family to Waffle House for breakfast. Backyard pools. Celebrating Erika and Jonathan at a reception in Jacksonville. 

82. Seeing Spoon and Grizzly Bear at the Middle of the Map Festival on a hot, heavy June day.

83. Kyle Chayka on the depressing homogeneity of coffee shops, AirBnBs and Instagram accounts everywhere: AirSpace. (Bring on that book!) 

84. Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River.”

85. A very thoughtful, thorough goodbye to Rookie magazine and to the challenging media landscape, from Tavi Gevinson.

86. Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.

87. Receiving a total of 34 bath bombs for my birthday and Christmas from family members who know me the best.

88. David Foster on Celine Dion. Her wacky, earnest ballad for Deadpool 2. Her killer summer of high fashion.

89. A long weekend with my college girlfriends. Learning too much about labor and delivery. Making dinner together. Swinging in the living room and on the porch with my honorary nieces. Breakfast at Rockwood Bakery. Craft cocktails. Trying to remember the names of buildings on campus.

90. Having a community of neighbors who know us by name. Greetings in the elevator. A housewarming gift. Closing down the holiday party with the 60-something retirees. Petting neighbor dogs.

91. Sarah Taber’s smart, informed Twitter threads on agriculture, animal husbandry, biology and technology. Especially this one about draft horses

92. A summer “progressive tapas” crawl through the Crossroads.

93. Voting.  

94. Discovering a technique that finally brought life back to my dry ends: heated deep conditioning.

95. Walking through the Water Gardens in Fort Worth. 

96. The duet version of “Party of One” with Brandi Carlile and Sam Smith.

97. Frequenting our neighborhood vintage market on First Friday weekends. Finally finding an original, bright piece of art to hang over our bed.

98. Birthday cocktails at Miracle, a pop-up Christmas bar.

99. Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix.

100. Saying yes to spending the rest of my life with Ryan.

Categories
Nature

Spend more time in nature

I love fall, but this year I’m seeing it as never before. I have my city to thank for being where it is on the middle of the map, I suppose. Some delicious combination of early-season rain and cool days has left us with a jaw-dropping show of color on every tree, pops of crimson and orange, gold and lime.

Kansas City has seasons, unlike my western Oregon hometown, where the months can seem to blur into each other during the more damp, gray half of the year.

There’s an audacity to a showy autumn. We’re giving up the ghost, the leaves say, but not before going out in a flash of brilliance. In a political and cultural space where those too long in power can’t let go of anything, can’t say yes our time is over, can’t accept that we may need to make space for what is to come, they ought to watch the leaves: bold, fleeting, now crunching under our feet.

Categories
Miscellany

Be thankful

This is what I saw at Mass this morning:

A little boy wearing a shark tooth necklace.

A retirement-age woman leaning over to her husband to whisper her opinions on the homily.

A woman who reminded me of a friend I met through another Jesuit parish, her face radiant as she lifted a host to each person approaching her, offering them the Body of Christ.

A man who I see almost every Sunday, stepping gingerly and leaning on a pair of crutches, his T-shirt tucked into a pair of athletic shorts cinched high around his waist.

The cantor greeting the congregation before Mass, asking us to “sing with full voices.”

A young man behind us kneeling down after receiving Communion, head bent low over his hands. He was breathing so heavily he may have been crying.

A string of people like a thread of rosary beads, clasping one another’s hands during the Our Father. One man stood with his arms crossed in front of his torso so that he could hold hands with his wife and reach out to the person behind him.

Voices rising into the air, singing, “I will come to you in the silence / I will lift you from all your fear.” A feeling of nostalgia, home, yearning pulling at my chest during the chorus of the song.

A toddler coming back from receiving a blessing during Communion, clutching a big, overstuffed teddy bear to his chest.

A little girl with braided pigtails skipping out into the aisle to shake hands with a stranger during the sign of peace.

My fingers laced into my boyfriend’s fingers.

The priest speaking from his heart, asking us to pray for the victims and the perpetrators of clergy sex abuse, for all Catholics who feel heart-heavy and weary and bruised and yet still find ourselves in the pews each week.

A teenage girl who looked like she would rather have been anywhere else, her eyes sleepy, her long legs bare.

A brother and sister carrying up the gifts, the sister stage-whispering “STOP” to her brother as they reached the steps, then elbowing him hard to tell him where to hand off the collection basket.

A Eucharistic minister wearing cargo shorts on the altar.

Black faces. Brown faces. White faces. Old faces. Young faces. Tired faces. Emotional faces. Apathetic faces. Lovesick faces.

A family gathering up their purses and backpacks and coloring books so they could leave discreetly after receiving Communion, skipping the obligatory announcements.

A mother with her three children in their preferred pew at the back of the church, her sons in suits. She wore a black fascinator on her head and pointed-toe pumps.

Light streaming in through the blue stained glass, the thin, modern windows reflected in the glass face of my wristwatch.

The altar flanked with tall potted palms bedded in decorative moss.

Another song, one that we always sing before receiving Communion: “Take, oh, take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be. Set your seal upon my heart and rest in me.”

A community that I don’t see elsewhere in my city, although I live and work and shop among the people that join me in the pews. A belief that flickers and wavers. A belief that brings us back to the pews most Sundays, to talk to a being we can’t see, except when it appears in the people around us, a kingdom of God, sleepy and earnest, striving and slouching toward hope.

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2017

10 books I loved this year, in no particular order:

Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship

A vital book in these polarized times. Boyle’s stories about his work with gang members in rehabilitation sing with joy and awe.

Emma Cline, The Girls

This book was sexy and gritty and earnest and deeply unsettling. I loved Cline’s deft use of language.

Molly Wizenberg, Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

Intimate and easy, Wizenberg’s writing always nudges me to realize what food is really about: connection and love and nourishment.

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

An important look at the dysfunction and discrimination in the American justice system. Stevenson’s work is making a difference for those on the margins. 

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

The gorgeous writing in this short novel is Saunders at his best and most human. A lovely, strange, and daring take on a moment in history. 

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home

The title of this encyclical has become my favorite catchphrase. Walking a block to recycle my cardboard? Laudato Si’! An important message from a compassionate world leader.

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

This book made me want to be alone on some drippy, green part of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Or in Japan again. 

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

This heartbreaking novel opened up Black history, weaving two branches of a family tree until they’re interlocked and yet continents apart. 

Tanner Colby, Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America

Colby studies systemic racism in real estate, the workplace, education, and church. He makes me want to spend more time east of Troost.

Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter

I gobbled this book down in a few days. It’s a messy, sexy, smoky romp through New York’s restaurant industry.

    I escaped through books a lot in 2017. Here are ten more books I read and liked:

    Categories
    Miscellany

    100 things that made my year in 2017

    1. Staring at the moon on walks from the car to the apartment.

    2. Seeing Anne Lamott at Unity Temple and hearing her talk so hopefully and genuinely about writing and love and political resistance. And then complimenting me on my outfit. 

    3. Crispy Thai pork with cucumber salad.

    4. Thinking about tree blindness. Being able to name the sycamore trees that line my street thanks to a MLK Day nature walk with a friend.

    5. A Harper’s Bazaar article on emotional labor that I couldn’t stop thinking about and sharing with my girlfriends.

    6. Welcoming George Goss to National Catholic Reporter for a few months as he helped us launch a podcast and we helped him explore Kansas City though sight and sound.

    7. Understanding the appeal of Anthony Bourdain by diving headlong into Parts Unknownand rejoicing when Netflix didn’t pull it after all. A New Yorker profile on Anthony Bourdain’s movable feast.

    8. Frequenting the Stumptown Coffee Roasters cafe when flying in and out of PDX.

    9. Hamlet at Shakespeare in the Park.

    10. Getting through heartbreak with music. Belting out Charles Bradley’s “Victim of Love” at the top of my lungs while driving down the highway. Finding hope in “The Skies Will Break” by Corinne Bailey Rae. Eventually, bopping along to “Sure Don’t Miss You” by The Dip.

    11. A happy hour with coworkers that turned into a night out at a dueling piano bar.

    12. Winning a Sodastream at a charity auction. Lemon or lime soda water on the house almost every night. 

    13. A weekend in Big Sky, Montana with my dearest girlfriends. Elaborate Whole30-friendly meals and lots of dark chocolate. Playing shuffleboard, having a glass of wine, and going to bed by 10:30. Talking about dating and kids and debt. A yoga class overlooking the mountains. Bear hugs and tears and baby spit-up.

    14. Buying myself a Kiersten Crowley ring.

    15. Getting ready in the morning while listening to The Daily.

    16. Saying goodbye to Brian Doyle while continuing to share his beautiful words. Rereading “Joyas Voladorasand sending it to friends

    17. Austin Kleon’s reminders for sanity, here, here, and here.

    18. Participating in a group email conversation courtesy of a dear friend who was spending several weeks in Zambia. Remembering when email was correspondence, not just a compulsory scan of a list of marketing appeals. 

    19. Staring up at the sky and feeling our country’s collective wonder and awe during the solar eclipse. Putting eclipse glasses on the office’s cardboard cutout of Pope Francis. Eating Milky Ways and Sun Chips and queueing up the David Bowie tunes.

    20. Seeing Arcade Fire live, at long last, and finding the term for one of my favorite genres of music: art pop. (Roisin Murphy, Beck, St. Vincent, Kishi Bashi, The Blow)

    21. Local articles that start conversations about race and culture in Kansas City.

    22. Getting upside down and balancing on my arms and lying in savasana at Karma Tribe Yoga. Doing Yoga with Adriene when I can’t make it to the studio.

    23. A day trip to Lawrence, Kansas. Lunch at Merchants. Exploring Wonder Fair, an utterly charming gallery and paper goods shop. Reading in the park. 

    24. Breakfast potatoes.

    25. My dad’s endearing new hobby of capturing sunsets and sunrises.

    26. Cover Stories, an album of Brandi Carlile covers.

    27. Hot tea before bed, sometimes with honey. Collecting new flavors of Pukka tea like they’re precious treasures.

    28. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. She’s forever my favorite food writer.

    29. Seeing The Shins live and feeling all the angst and yearning of my high school days in their lyrics.

    30. The very sweet and strange Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories on Netflix.

    31. Riding my bike alongside my boyfriend while he trained for a half marathon. Even if he is so fast that he had to come back looking for me once.

    32. My funny sister and observant mom.

    33. Being completely floored and motivated by Bryan Stevenson’s career in Just Mercy.

    34. Dancing to a Lady Gaga/Madonna cover band at the Kansas City Pride Fest.

    35. Long Sunday afternoon phone calls with a long-distance friend dissecting the week’s articles and political twists.

    36. Gentle reminders that we’re all in this together.

    37. Befriending a three-year-old. Crawling around on the floor. Playing UNO.

    38. Enjoying pastries from McLain’s Bakery when my coworkers were feeling generous.

    39. Documentaries. Life Itself. Icarus. Life, Animated. I Am Not Your Negro

    40. A sweet, beautiful spring wedding with immense pans of paella and crispy churros and open arms from a family I was meeting for the first time.

    41. Watching Obama say goodbye to Joe Biden with a surprise Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    42. Discovering that Randy Newman wrote “Feels Like Home.” His charming Tiny Desk Concert.

    43. Shopping at my friendly neighborhood wine store.

    44. Seeing U2 and Beck at Arrowhead Stadium.

    45. A literary reader for Lent, from Nick Ripatrazone.

    46. Big Little Lies on HBO. Insecure. The Handmaid’s Tale. A late-in-the-year discovery wrapped in perfectly British packaging: Lovesick

    47. Joining a writing group and sitting down at the library most Wednesdays to workshop pieces in progress and talk about nerdy things like grammar and who’s who in the literary world. Moving on after the library closes to Sully’s Pub for a drink in a Mason jar and book list comparisons.

    48. The Thrill of It All by Sam Smith. That lovely, lovely falsetto. Taffy Brodesser-Akner on his tear-stained confessions.

    49. Nicholas Bate’s Autumn 7. (And the rest of his stripped-down-but-rich-in-ideas blog.)

    50. Becoming a podcast host. Producing episodes like Muslim for Christians and the Communion of Saints (and Souls).

    51. Laura Turner’s column on anxiety at Catapult.

    52. Watching This Is Us and, yeah, tearing up sometimes.

    53. Nicole Cliffe’s delightful and hilarious habit of asking her Twitter followers thoughtful questions.

    54. A week in Maui with my sisters and mom. Cooking dinner and eating on the lanai. Riding ATVs through the red dirt and green foliage. Jumping off of Black Rock. Zipping through the rainforest. Reading so many books. Playing cards. Watching movies. Sleeping hard on the pullout couch.

    55. Leading horses for riders Johnny and Sheila at Heartland Therapeutic Riding on Monday nights. Sheila’s answer when I asked her how her Thanksgiving went: “It was great! I had a Bud Light for you.” Thick winter coats of fur. Picking hooves and stalls. Jogging alongside a horse through deep sand and over poles.

    56. Mari Andrew’s brilliant illustrations. Pete Souza’s masterful parallel political posts. Liana Finck’s weird and lovely drawings.

    57. Hanging out with my sister’s massive English Mastiff puppy.

    58. Spending an hour in the float tanks at Floating KC. And in a dreamy zero-gravity massage chair for 15 minutes before my float.

    59. Feeling so much summer love for Julia Fierro’s The Gypsy Moth Summer.

    60. Soup and salad for dinner on Sundays and Tuesdays in the fall. Bon Appetit’s simple technique for dressing a salad. This parmesan brodo, which comes together quickly and has unforgettable flavor.

    61. Popsicles on the porch at NCR.

    62. A monthly meeting with three writers at a kitchen table, where we talk about a chapter of a writing textbook but mostly lament about the difficulty of the writing life that we can’t stop choosing.

    63. Maria Bamford’s special Old Baby.

    64. Watching the Zags cruise all the way to the NCAA championship game during March Madness. Holding down my bar stool at KC Bier Co. Convincing all my coworkers to come watch the game with me—and to wear my Gonzaga apparel. 

    65. Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply.

    66. Standing tall on my favorite new soapbox: that Silicon Valley isn’t here to help anyone but themselves. Scott Galloway’s TED talk. Lauren Duca speaking truth to power.

    67. Catching the Alvin Ailey Dance Company at Johnson County Community College.

    68. Early relationship nerves and self-consciousness blossoming into easy, comfortable intimacy. 

    69. Discovering more local restaurants that I’m striving to put into (somewhat) regular rotation. Brown & Loe. The Corner. The Rockhill Grille.

    70. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” 

    71. Ta-Nehisi Coates on the first white president. Some of My Best Friends are Black by Tanner Colby. Yaa Gyasi’s stunning Homegoing.

    72. Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my very enthusiastic coworker Michele, who happens to be a Catholic sister in her 70s. Drinking frozen butterbeer on the cobblestone steps. Whizzing over Hogwarts on a (virtual) broomstick. Hearing Michele tell a child, “The wand does choose you, you know.”

    73. Learning that it’s really not so hard to make chicken wings at home. Baked crispy peppercorn wings. Buffalo sauce.

    74. The unabashed joy and tenderness of Greg Boyle’s Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.

    75. Laughing way too hard at stupid, silly tweets, especially when they’re about the social media platform itself. Melting down with the rest of the world when Twitter introduced a 280 character limit and then promptly getting over it. But still mostly tweeting under 140 characters.

    76. Getting back to the ukulele and realizing I’m actually not horrible at stringing together chords.

    77. Making out.

    78. A summer morning swim in my parents’ backyard pool.

    79. Loving Celine Dion, who loves us all back.

    80. Walking to the beautifully designed Monarch Coffee and sipping an americano while reading the Sunday paper or working on an essay.

    81. Taking my sister to dinner at Pok Pok.

    82. Cecile McLorin Salvant’s Dreams and Daggers

    83. The New York Times Magazine’s Letter of Recommendation series. Propagating pothos plants for many lucky recipients. Giving Kneipp herbal bath oils as a post-race gift.

    84. Homemade chia pudding.

    85. Giving in to an incessant marketing campaign but still truly enjoying the 21st-century wonder of Thinx.

    86. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. The Pacific Northwest. Japan. Loneliness. Journals. Nature. I’m on board.

    87. Love letters from a young Barack Obama.

    88. Succumbing to peer pressure and watching The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise with coworkers. 

    89. Seeing Katy Guillen and the Girls play at Knuckleheads Saloon. 

    90. Baby Driver, before knowing about Kevin Spacey. 

    91. Finding oases of healthier, tastier food on a business trip to Orlando, like Sofrito Latin Cafe and Tabbouleh.

    92. A much-needed February visit from three of my very best friends. Eating brunch on a patio in the winter. Letting my friends backcomb my very curly hair before a night out. Drinking half-caf lattes as though we can handle them. Putting on sheet face masks and almost peeing our pants with laughter. Four of us sleeping and hanging out in my tiny apartment.

    93. Happy hours, tours, and trivia night at Boulevard Brewing’s Beer Hall.

    94. Watching Emily McDowell burst onto the internet A-list with her much-needed line of empathy cards. Giving and receiving her gifts and cards. Reading There Is No Good Card For This. 

    95. Splurging on Josh Rosebrook skincare

    96. A flannel duvet cover and a new set of sheets.

    97. Silent but keen public observation.

    98. Tank and the Bangas bringing so much joy into my year.

    99. Taking the occasional break from breaking news in a politically stressful year. “All that’s breaking at this point is you.

    100. Beginning to understand, finally, what Toni Morrison means when she writes about rising in love.

    Categories
    Miscellany

    Player piano

    My mother’s mother is feisty and stoic, a sixth-generation Oregonian who has always called the land on which she lives home. Her hair is straight, a light brown that’s well faded into soft gray. She has small blue eyes and large, wonderful hands that nurse the ill and the injured and play the piano with quickness and grace.

    Some of my earliest memories are centered around the piano at Grandma Carol’s house. She would play for my sisters and I as we huddled around her on the piano bench, belting out Christmas carols or Disney songs. Her Wurlitzer is a player piano, and when Grandma would move on to clean or cook, we would take over. Small doors over the keys slid open, and a lever above our knees revealed a set of pedals, which we would lay on top of a folded towel.

    Grandma keeps her piano rolls above the band-aids and the rubbing alcohol in the hallway cupboard. I can smell the inside of that cupboard now, reassuring in its odor of latex and medicine. We would drag a chair over to the shelf to choose a song, maybe Tiny Bubbles or The Sound of Music medley. Grandma would help install the roll, sliding it out of its red box and tightening the roll of paper as we listened to the squeaking noises it made. “Listen!” she would say. “Can you hear the birds?”

    Then she clicked the roll into place and hooked the tab over the smooth roller beneath it, and the music began. My sister Erika especially loved to play, gripping the underside of the keyboard frame and pumping the pedals up and down as fast as her legs would allow. We watched the roll, small holes cut into the paper telling the piano which notes to play, the phantom keys jumping up and down as the music rose. Printed words on the right-hand side helped us sing along. When Erika’s legs ached and the roll had been played through, someone flipped the metal lever back, and she slowly pedaled to rewind the roll so that Grandma could return the birds and the music to the narrow red box.

    My grandma instilled in us a love of music, which she inherited from her father Norman. I don’t remember him, but I have a photo of me as a toddler sitting next to him on a piano bench, watching his talented hands run up and down the keys. We have recordings of his organ music, and his electric organ sits in my grandma’s basement. Music runs through the family tree: Grandma’s sister Maxine is a talented pianist, playing for her church and weddings and funerals and teaching children to play, too. My mom loves to trot out her jaunty rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” every Christmas, and my sister Erika teaches herself pop songs and owns her own piano, which is just about to come out of temporary storage at Grandma Carol’s house. Sometimes I catch myself singing a note of alarm, maybe when I’ve narrowly saved something from falling off the kitchen counter. As soon as I hear the sound escape my lips, I know it’s in the key of Grandma Carol.

    Categories
    Miscellany

    Rest when you are tired, eat when you are hungry

    1.

    Food is exploration. I am 24 and riding an undercurrent of adrenaline and the slight buzz of a cocktail made with ingredients that I had never tasted before tonight. I am in another city, Chicago, or maybe Atlanta. Sitting around this restaurant table are bloggers and chefs, photographers and magazine editors and me. Plates are placed before me and I eat from them. I can talk now about foie gras and rapini puree and Castelvetrano olives. Food is a map of the world. I am feeding my wanderlust, my desire for knowledge, my hunger for more. When I am full, or past full, I climb into a hotel bed with white sheets and rows of pillows. Sleep comes quickly. I am groggy and aching as I stand before the bathroom mirror the next morning, but then there’s a cappuccino and at the back of my brain, the siren song of another new ingredient. I roll my shoulders back and stride out into the brisk day. 

    2.

    Food is fuel. I am 27 and chopping onions and kale and mushrooms. My roommate and I share a small kitchen in our cozy rented bungalow, the contents of our weekly CSA box spilling across the wooden countertops. Standing at the sink, I realize I know how to feed myself. On Sunday afternoons, I cook frittatas and brown ground beef, wash and dry and slice endless piles of vegetables in preparation for the week to come. I would fight the first person who asked for a meal’s worth of protein that I have purchased and prepped, awaiting me in the fridge. I could fight them, too. I feel strong, smart, equipped. I take long, solitary walks in the wooded park nearby, feeling the ache in my legs as I climb the steep hill to gaze out at the skyline. Success in dating eludes me, but I feel safe within the walls of my small room, held by the soft powdery blue walls and the billowing white curtains.

    3.

    Food is love. I am 30 and happy to have some of my best friends in my new city. I’m standing in my small kitchen, scraping strands from half a spaghetti squash as I hold it with an oven mitt, feeling the steam on my skin, knowing I’m rushing this meal but wanting to feed my friends. Slightly impressing them never hurts, either. We’re all still convincing ourselves that we’re adults. I pour generous glasses of Malbec and set the timer on the oven. We sit around my small table and talk about religion and relationships and finances. The love I feel for my friends seems to pour out of me and into the room. We inflate my air mattress, pushing aside chairs in my little apartment. Two of us take my bed and the other two pull the blankets over themselves on the air mattress. We sleep soundly, confident in the way one can only be when surrounded by those who see her.