Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2020

It was a slog to read at times in 2020, so I escaped into other worlds through novels and reread a small handful of favorites, too.

Here are 15 books I read and loved this year, in no particular order:

Long Bright River
Liz Moore

This is Moore’s latest novel, and while entirely different in tone and topic than Heft, it’s just as beautiful. At first glance, Long Bright River is a straight, no-nonsense crime novel, but Moore brings to it her literary approach, and her deep sense of compassion. Her characters, who are enmeshed in Philadelphia’s opioid crisis, made me call my own family members just to hear their voices.

Heft
Liz Moore

I discovered Liz Moore through her short story “Clinical Notes” in The New York Times Magazine‘s Decameron Project issue, and I loved her writing voice and the gentle humanity in it. She reminded me of another favorite author, Brian Doyle. Heft has that same gentleness, with sympathetic characters that leapt off the page and into my heart even after I finished the novel.

The Idea of You
Robinne Lee

I needed this romance novel as an escape portal this year. The Idea of You is a pure joyride, a smutty, unapologetic love story between an almost-40-year-old divorcée and the 20-year-old lead singer of a boy band. I enjoyed this story so much because of its specificity and its pitch-perfect art, travel and fashion references. I couldn’t stop reading.

Nothing to See Here
Kevin Wilson

Such a delight!

This wacky novel about an unmoored young woman in charge of young twins who spontaneously combust when they’re upset is strange and sweet and perfect for a quick escape in a “what do I do with this summer Saturday afternoon?” kind of way.

Uncanny Valley
Anna Wiener

I am already the ideal reader for this book, suspicious as I am of Big Tech and the effect its products have on our lives, yet also thoroughly dependent on it. This memoir is a fever dream of shrewd insight into Silicon Valley and the people who shaped it and were shaped by it. I both laughed out loud while reading this and wanted to hurl it at the wall with anger (over how good Wiener is on venture capitalists in all their self-absorbed smugness.) What a timely, satisfying debut.

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout

As the internet likes to say, BIG MOOD.

I love quiet stories like these — evocative, expansive and yet uncomfortably intimate. Gorgeous writing. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to discover Elizabeth Strout.

Eve’s Hollywood
Eve Babitz

Babitz’s Slow Days, Fast Company still takes first place for me, but Eve’s Hollywood was still sublime. It felt especially delicious to read about a sunny, druggy, bright LA while mostly confined to my apartment. Eve Babitz is always a jubilant, seductive ray of sunshine.

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCulloch

I’m nominating Gretchen McCulloch as the internet’s librarian. Because Internet would have been satisfying as an in-depth look at internet culture and how it has shaped and molded language, but McCulloch reaches a step further and maps linguistic differences onto different internet cohorts and life experiences, giving the reader a chance to broaden her view and have more empathy toward, for example, older bosses, younger cousins and less-extremely-online college classmates.

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book
Courtney Maum

An essential reference book for anyone new to or curious about the publishing world, even if the journey leans more toward voyeurism than actually taking the steps firsthand. This book is funny, informative and packed with useful advice from dozens of literary writers.

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
Anne Helen Petersen

I am such an AHP fangirl, and this book solidified my love. Maybe most important in this book is how Petersen calls out approaches to burnout that place the blame on the individual (usually the mother/wife/underpaid woman). We need systemic change in the United States, and Petersen is a vital voice shaping the call for a better, saner, more secure country.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Ottessa Moshfegh

A delicious, perfect little novel. This was exactly what I wanted to read in the week leading up to the 2020 presidential election (if I couldn’t just take an Infermiterol on Tuesday, Nov 3, that is). I love Moshfegh’s dark humor.

The Fixed Stars
Molly Wizenberg

I love Wizenberg’s writing — always have, always will. Her voice is quiet and intimate and unravels ordinary moments in life in a patient, steady way. This book appealed to me for its frank exploration of sexuality and fluidity in mid-life, although I think it would have been a better book if she’d waited another handful of years to write it.

Her Body and Other Parties
Carmen Maria Machado

These stories are brilliant, creepy, sensual and haunting. (A good October read.) I read “The Husband Stitch” on a weekend away for my first anniversary and “Inventory” during, well, a pandemic — the stories were hitting uncannily close to home for a while, but they also lent a sense of wonder and curiosity to the seemingly ordinary.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

This sweet book highlights the relationships that rarely get formal recognition in our lives but are often the true bedrock of our identity: friendships. Sow and Friedman excel at telling their story with honesty, wisdom and heart while making the reader want to hold her own friends a little closer. An important manifesto for modern society.

Educated
Tara Westover

This tale of escape and triumph over adversity is a bestseller for obvious reasons — I simply couldn’t stop turning the pages. I’m a sucker for a story about the power of knowledge, and Westover delivers.

Here are five other books I’d recommend:

That Kind of Mother, Rumaan Alam
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, Brian Doyle
Weather, Jenny Offill
The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory

And three worthwhile re-reads:

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill
Hyberbole and A Half, Allie Brosh
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2020

1. Refining our homemade pizza dough approach. Making it a near-weekly staple by the middle of the year.

2. Writing a pair of pieces for EarthBeat about millennial Catholics (including me) who are grappling with childbearing and climate change. Upping the cool factor by working with a talented, passionate illustrator on this project.

3. Dragging Ryan to a matinee showing of Little Women. Convincing myself that I’m a Jo while knowing that I’m probably just a Beth.

4. Falling hard for CHEER on Netflix and then going to an aerial yoga class in an attempt to recapture some of the slight acrobatic abilities of my youth.

5. A decadent, slow, lovely Restaurant Week meal out at Extra Virgin (made all the sweeter in my memory by the fact of the months that followed).

6. Gerard Mas’ medieval-girl-with-a-modern-twist sculptures.

7. Listening to podcasts in the bath.

8. Bringing home Utz chips and kettle corn seasoned with Old Bay after traveling to Baltimore for a conference. Taking a long evening walk through the city. Sharing a very French meal with colleagues at (now-closed) Chez Hugo and daydreaming about future travel.

9. Marveling at Ryan’s joy and the rest of the city’s on Super Bowl Sunday when the Chiefs brought home the championship. Getting sprayed with prosecco in the street in Westport. Crowding onto the sidewalks with thousands of other Kansas Citians in chilly February for the homecoming parade.

10. Becoming a runner. Getting outside three days a week since February to move for 2-6 miles, sometimes surprising myself, sometimes working through tough feelings, sometimes counting every step until I get home again. Running a solo 5K down a two-lane road in suburban Kansas City, and then another one on a curvy SW Portland boulevard on a very foggy Thanksgiving morning.

11. So much television. Pen15. I May Destroy You. Schitt’s Creek. Sex Education. The OA. Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. Our Planet. Ramy. The Baby-Sitters Club.

12. Scheming to buy Ryan a copy of I Am Easy to Find on vinyl for Valentine’s Day — and receiving the exact same gift from him.

13. Roxane Gay on the big step and simple pleasures of moving in with her fiancé.

14. Eating Vietnamese and Italian food with colleagues in Anaheim. Working poolside on a beautiful evening. Taking long walks to the convention center in the mild winter weather. Listening to travel stories told by my 75-year-old colleague, a Catholic sister who has been to more than 30 countries.

15. Celebrating my cousin’s wedding on Leap Day. Ryan tearing it up on the dance floor and doing a front handspring during a Rihanna song. Flying for the last time in 2020 just as we began to hear about coronavirus cases in the U.S.

16. Martha Stewart’s easy basic pancakes.

17. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Dream podcast. Do the Thing with Melissa Urban. Esther Perel’s How’s Work. Rabbit Hole. OPB’s Timber Wars.

18. Exploring the Rock Island Trail by bike — and quickly learning it was uphill, all the way, and my tires were leaky. Digging deep for motivation to keep going.

19. Creating a quarantine zine.

20. Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Lianne La Havas. Mordechai by Khruangbin. Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore on endless repeat.

21. Riding, for too brief a time, a wave of cresting hope as I rooted in the primaries for Elizabeth Warren and her intelligence, kindness and extreme competence. Warren and Kate McKinnon flipping the script.

22. Pantry meals. Dried beans. Yes, homemade bread, a bit behind the curve. Baked risotto.

23. Making ugly collages and silly doodles in my journal. Participating in one of Wendy MacNaughton’s Draw Together sessions and hanging our artwork on the bookshelf.

24. Learning to cut Ryan’s hair at home. Receiving a hair clipper kit from Ryan’s parents as a going-away gift. Persuading him to trim my hair during a 10-month break from the salon.

25. Feeling soaring highs and gloomy, disengaged lows through a promotion that didn’t pan out.

26. Zoom chats with my college girlfriends, with my writing group, with my cousins, with my therapist, with a volunteer committee. Zoom fatigue at work. Learning to “hide self view.”

27. Gaming the hell out of the Go365 program through our Humana health insurance in the quest for a free bicycle.

28. Movies. Palm Springs. Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Portrait of A Lady on Fire.

29. Praising the heavens for takeout containers of premixed Negroni at Il Lazzarone.

30. Adjusting slowly to the work-from-home life. Propping my laptop up on thick books. Learning to get up from my desk often. Sharing lunch with Ryan instead of my colleagues. Being OK with not wearing makeup to every Zoom meeting. Starting my work day at 7:00 am. Finding freedom in restriction.

31. Watching livestreamed Mass for a few weeks during Lent. Celebrating Easter, and then ignoring the digital option entirely for months.

32. Writing a song on the ukulele with Ryan in the early still-creative stretches of sheltering at home. Playing that song on Zoom with a couple dozen extended family members singing along.

33. Learning coping mechanisms from the smartest people around: kids.

34. Buying a Nespresso machine and letting it bring us some small joy every weekend.

35. Reflecting on how in lockdown, it all changes and it all stays the same.

36. Supporting my yoga teacher on Patreon instead of in the studio. Buying a strap and a second cork block for my home practice.

37. Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener. Heft and Long Bright River by Liz Moore. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You.

38. Feeling very fortunate as we made generous donations to local nonprofits with a chunk of our stimulus checks.

39. Accepting gifts of homemade masks from an upstairs neighbor and in the mail from my mom.

40. Participating in a gratitude photo exchange with my sisters during the first weeks of lockdown.

41. Keeping a StrikeThru journal to organize and clarify my work and home life.

42. Taking a Sunday drive to Clinton, Missouri, and getting startled by an Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer snake while on a walk at the nature preserve.

43. Ordering takeout to celebrate birthdays and the end of another mundane week and in a tiny, futile attempt to “save the restaurants.”

44. Going on a virtual trip to Nashville to visit my sister instead of flying out for Memorial Day weekend like we’d planned. Shopping online at Nashville stores, listening to live music on Zoom and taking photos in front of “local” murals.

45. Crying about work stress and moving stress and the pandemic and Ryan’s unemployment and a gloomy Saturday and life not happening on my terms. So. Many. Tears.

46. Participating in Brian Benson’s Daily Write class on Zoom in April and May. Having a piece published in the resulting anthology, Proof That I Exist.

47. Saying goodbye for now to my dear friends and colleagues in Kansas City in a 2020-appropriate meetup.

48. Mailing a birthday card for Breonna Taylor to the Kentucky attorney general. Reading and talking and learning about systemic racism in this country during the summer’s wave of social unrest. Feeling helpless and hopeless and desperate for change.

49. Surviving several weeks of a bedbug infestation in our home. Commuting to and from my in-laws’ so we could get some sleep. Buying a new mattress.

50. Saying goodbye to Ryan’s Corolla and becoming a one-car family.

51. Dan Sinker’s son’s research project leading to an endless string of Bird Weeks.

52. Moving cross-country in the middle of a pandemic (after stressing about that move for endless months). Eating Taco Bell on the tailgate of our Budget moving truck. Almost running out of gas outside of Laramie, Wyoming. Wiping down every possible surface of our hotel rooms in Grand Platte, Nebraska, and Meridian, Idaho.

53. Watching movies simultaneously with friends and live-texting our reactions. Choosing yet another weekend film thanks to the inspiration (and Twitter threads) of Vulture’s Friday Night Movie Club.

54. Supporting Ryan through a rocky, prolonged spring of uncertainty at work and eventually, a few months of unemployment.  

55. Facetiming and Zooming and participating in car parades to celebrate holidays with extended family and grandparents. Masking up for distanced outdoor greetings. Waiting as long as possible to go to the grocery store.

56. A charming, simple look at the socially distanced life through the lens of a mom of teenagers.

57. The NYT Cooking app. Cheesy, spicy black bean bake. Dutch babies. Japanese-style tuna noodle salad. Somen noodles with mushroom broth. Korean barbecue-style meatballs. Mississippi roast.

58. Too much screen time.

59. Foraging blackberries from the end of the street.

60. Oliver Burkeman on the only life question we really need to ask ourselves: “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?”

61. Voting.

62. Escaping into a different reality through documentaries. Honeyland. Crip Camp. The Dawn Wall. Free Solo. This Mountain Life. My Octopus Teacher.

63. Saying hello again to a more bruised, angry, striving version of one of my favorite cities.

64. Eating (almost) every flavor of Kettle Chips in a summer obsession. Crowning Korean Barbeque as one of my favorites.

65. Settling into our rental house in southwest Portland. Hanging artwork on the plaster walls, after a few small emotional outbursts. Trying to revive our sunburnt houseplants. Purchasing real furniture.

66. The Oregon Zoo’s Twitter feed reminding us of our fuzzy neighbors while it’s closed to visitors. Uni! Juno!

67. Exploring our local parks and trails. Feeling more than a little awestruck when first stumbling across the old-growth forest in Marshall Park. Running in Tryon Creek State Park. Getting very familiar with the Springwater Corridor.

68. Nicknaming the neighborhood cats (Simon, Lindor, Mitt and Taffy), who mostly ignore us.

69. Hunkering down at my grandparents’ beach house for an incredibly restorative, restful, beautiful, slow anniversary stay on the Oregon coast. Building fires in the circular fireplace. Reading entire books. Hiking on muddy trails. Identifying jellyfish and crabs and anemones on the shore and in tidepools.

70. Passing the knowledge test to become licensed in Oregon again and celebrating that (and my legal name change) with a beer and several tears. (Still waiting on that Oregon license plate, though!)

71. Drawing so much hope and inspiration from the launch of The 19th* and its first year of coverage.

72. Playing and singing and generally just goofing around with my toddler nephew Preston.

73. Afternoon walks around the neighborhood with Ryan.

74. Learning to use our new Traeger grill. Happily reuniting with the abundance of Oregon produce in the summer. Filling our freezer with salmon fillets.

75. Missing book readings until I decided to find them on Zoom. Listening to Molly Wizenberg talk about her latest, The Fixed Stars. Delighting in BFFs Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow chatting on my screen. Looking forward to reading Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom.

76. Trying to take a mental vacation when we couldn’t really go anywhere.

77. Remembering what’s really important with Ada Limon’s poem The Conditional.

78. Scratching my travel itch just slightly by exploring the aisles at Barbur World Foods.

79. Hunkering down during a long, scary 10-day stretch as Portland had its first true wildfire season. Staying indoors and refreshing air quality index readings hourly. Worrying about family friends and their homes. Having dance parties in an attempt at exercise and ease. Trying not to overthink headaches and scratchy throats.

80. Finding a perfect bit of peace in a rainy fall visit to the Portland Japanese Garden.

81. Looking at the full moon through my binoculars.

82. Trying to ground ourselves in the seasons. Eating a lot of squash and making homemade pumpkin spice lattes and watching silly Halloween-adjacent movies like Addams Family Values and The Blob.

83. Getting outside to work off some nervous energy the weekend before Election Day and taking a 20-mile bike ride on the beautiful Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

84. A.O. Scott on Wallace Stegner and the conflicted soul of the west.

85. A new job for Ryan at On running.

86. Worrying as family members and friends and colleagues contracted COVID-19. Trying to balance my sanity with my safety. Using hand sanitizer that smells like a college basement. Staying home.

87. Reading the archives of Orangette while Ryan watches Chiefs games.

88. Having a two-week dalliance with cold showers and loving the jolt of morning energy.

89. Finally getting our hands on a kettlebell and a set of resistance bands. Setting up a little workout area in the basement.

90. Lurking on TikTok and learning that even Catholic sisters are using the app to connect with Generation Z.

91. Sharing some of my favorite books in the #perfect31 challenge.

92. The radical quilts of Rosie Lee Thompkins.

93. Toasting to better things to come with Haus aperitifs.

97. Enjoying a gentler waking experience with a sunrise alarm clock.

98. Hand-painted signs at the coast that reminded us to go slow. “Slow down. Seal crossing.” “Slow is the new fast.” “Yo, dude. Slow down.”

94. New sweatpants. Crewneck sweatshirts.

95. Getting slightly lost on a 10-mile hike on the Oregon coast but finding worthwhile views and good company.

96. Watching grackles fight in the front yard and Steller’s jays hopping around the spruce tree.

99. Telehealth appointments.

100. Two of my sisters receiving their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. A few extra minutes of light at the end of each day.

Read my lists for past years here.

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2019

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

Becoming
Michelle Obama

Yes, this is the story of a First Lady, but it’s also the memoir of a modern mother and career woman. I was moved and motivated by Michelle’s reflections on her career in the nonprofit sector and her growing family. She tells a beautiful story of how she strived for both with grace and determination.

Kitchen Confidential
Anthony Bourdain

The kitchen is a tough place to work and live, and Bourdain doesn’t shy away from the dark side. Knowing that he decided his own fate, in the end, made the darkness in these pages feel more bleak. The book ultimately is about love, though, about a undying commitment to food and the people who make it, to bringing people together despite the abusive veneer of the harsh language that unites them. His voice is singular and I miss it.

Slow Days, Fast Company
Eve Babitz

I love Babitz’s funny, droll, evocative voice. After my first-ever trip to Los Angeles, I wanted to know more about the city — to really get to know the city — and several readers I trust pointed me to her work. She does not disappoint. 

The Golden State
Lydia Kiesling

This voice of this novel is beautiful: tense and distracted, bored and self-conscious, in love and hopeless. I’m recommending it to all of my friends who are parenting toddlers. I loved Kiesling’s expansive, searching internal monologue.

How to Do Nothing
Jenny Odell

This book feels groundbreaking and yet timeless. Deeply helpful in a world that’s constantly vying for my very divided attention and limited energy. This is the kind of practical philosophy I am here for.

Horizon
Barry Lopez

This book is stunning in scope. Lopez is an author whose gentle perspective and lifelong studiousness I have long admired, and this is his opus. His research and wisdom on elders and self-sustaining communities should be required reading for every urbanist and every politician.

Once More We Saw Stars
Jayson Greene

This memoir stunned me. Greene writes with self-love and searing honesty as he works through heartbreak and deep grief. His story helped me to better understand what it’s like to lose a child, as those close to me have. I feel very fortunate that Greene so generously shared his story.

The Book of Delights
Ross Gay

For several months, Ryan and I ended the day by reading aloud a brief essay from this delightful little volume. Gay’s reflections on big and small delights in ordinary life helped us appreciate the ups and downs of our days.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Lori Gottlieb

Written by a therapist about her experiences with therapy patients and as a patient herself, this book is a generous, open-eyed look at the human condition in all of our striving and struggle and confusion and love. I loved Gottlieb’s sense of humor, her humility and her ability to embrace both the light and dark in life.

A Pilgrimage to Eternity
Timothy Egan

Equal parts travelogue and spiritual memoir, with huge dashes of history sprinkled generously throughout. Egan’s voice feels as trustworthy as any, and I loved the way he wrote with perspective on his relationships with his wife, his children and the faith tradition that he lost but can’t quite shake.

Here are ten other books I read and liked:

Keep Going, Austin Kleon
The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang
Like A Mother, Angela Garbes
Tropic of Squalor, Mary Karr
Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
In Pieces, Sally Field
A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Good Talk, Mira Jacob
Little Panic, Amanda Stern

Categories
Miscellany

Stop spending money at businesses you don’t respect

I’m a millennial, so I have a fair amount of anxiety about the financial reality I will be living into in adulthood. (“The systems are failing us!” I often yelp at my fiancé or friends or anyone engaged in current-events conversation with me.)

One of the things that helps me is remembering that art can save us. Matthew Arnold says it best, as engraved on The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: “Art still has truth, take refuge there.”

Another helpful tactic is remembering that we have a public option. You probably think about health insurance when you hear the phrase, but it’s a cornerstone of our public policy. State parks, city pools, libraries, highways and public schools are all examples of the public option.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in light of what’s not working for everyone. Today (and tomorrow!) is a made-up holiday for the biggest American retailer. Its warehouse employees wear adult diapers so we can get our guaranteed two-day delivery. The behemoth didn’t pay a dollar in federal income tax last year. Workers are striking to protest low wages. We love the convenience of shiny new industry disruptions (Lyft, Postmates, Instagram), but we’d be wise to remember who they (mostly) serve: Big Profit.

The public option gives me hope because institutions like libraries and parks and the Postal Service keep me connected to other people and my community without causing harm. I mailed some hand-written notes and bought two sheets of Sesame Street stamps today instead of shopping online. It feels good to acknowledge how our tax dollars contribute to our civic wellbeing.

As Austin Kleon writes, “I think of the public library as one of the last spaces in this country where you can go and feel like a real citizen. You’re not being sold anything. You’re welcome to be who you are, or work on becoming what you want to be. The library is there for you.”

I’m also drawn lately to Jenn Armbrust’s envisioning of the feminine economy. In fact, it’s what inspired me to launch this very blog a few years ago — the title of this post and several others come from her Proposals for the Feminine Economy. Her rainbow wheel of feminine principles highlights traits that I feel when I’m exploring a library branch or sitting in a park with friends: ease, connecting with nature, intimacy.

Like Jenn says, if we want to keep joyful, communal things accessible to everyone, we need to support them with our time and money and voice. Pay the fees (unless your library is like mine and recently removed late fines, which makes them an even better institution). Show up. Share the places you respect with people you love.

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
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

    Don’t waste time trying to master what you’re not good at

    Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

    Amy Krouse Rosenthal

    Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star.

    Martin Luther King, Jr

    The turning of the seasons and recent conversations with a trio of good friends has me thinking about working smarter and better. I’m happy with my work, which is in a field that I love and provides me new challenges on a weekly basis. I don’t know if this work will be what I’m doing in two years, or in five, or if my position will even be relevant then. Sometimes I see people who are also doing this work, but on a more public scale, or who have two impressive side hustles in addition, and I have to remember that comparison is the enemy of joy. 

    I am where I meant to be. I know that this job, and the creative work I do here and elsewhere, serves me well. It plays to my strengths. On the best days, it makes me feel alive, able to offer smart solutions, more connected to people and to purpose.

    My three friends and I talked about our work in my little apartment a few weeks ago. We’re 30 this year, and none of us are doing what we thought we’d be doing. One has started her own business doing work that she didn’t even know existed when we graduated from college. Another is the executive director of a nonprofit. A third works in sales for an event planning business. In her spare time, she’s remodeling the house she bought a couple of years ago. I moved across the country last year, just when I thought the window on leaving my home state had closed.

    And we’re happy, and struggling, and learning that how we are is probably more important than what we are. 

    It’s hard to break away from the siren song of upward mobility, but I’m increasingly convinced that I don’t want to aspire to height in my life, but to depth. To long conversations with friends about our vocations. To writing postcards to senators with women that I’ve only just met because we all want to take political action, and technology has allowed us to find each other. To opening my home to share meals with my community, and to traveling to spend time with friends and family.   

    These are heightened and fraught and exciting times. I’m seeing more organizing and more action. More people not wasting time trying to master what they’re not good at, which is to stay small and silent, or to strive for status, exhausted and wrung dry. We’re digging deep. 

    As Jenn Armbrust says, “Here we are, a bunch of bright and driven humans with the capacity to envision the future and the wisdom and resourcefulness to make our visions real.” 

    (There are so many smart, daring thinkers flourishing in this time!)

    And here’s a manifesto of sorts by Courtney E. Martin, taken from her compelling book The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, (which you should read, especially if you’re under 40).

    It’s up to us to make lives that we can be proud of—and to make communities and systems and policies to cradle those lives. It’s up to us to reject tired narratives about success, instead authoring new ones that are less about exceptional heroes and more about creative communities. It’s up to us to reclaim the best of what previous generations did that made this country so unique and so beautiful—as well as to own up to the destructive legacies that we’re a part of, to expose them to the light, and to figure out how to fix them. It’s up to us be humble, to be brave, to be accountable to our own dreams, no one else. It’s up to us to be iconoclastic, to be together, to stay awake.