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JUL
08

Because I Also Write Books

It's easy to forget that, especially because there are so many other things to talk about on this blog. Like LeBron. And gemstones. And the fact that I've fallen in love which is totally cutting into my writing time. (Worth it, by the way.) But I do write books. 

I'm currently 60% done with my next manuscript. This will be my fourth book, and 60% feels significant. It feels like we're getting somewhere. And I probably say this with every book (someone should really look into this), but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. While the other three each follow a certain theme throughout my entire life thus far, this book is about a single, brief period of my life. It's about a thing I always wanted to do. It's about me doing it, loving/hating it, and ultimately leaving it behind. It's just focused differently...in a way my first three books are not. And I'm also exploring the idea of experimenting with chronology on this one, so you have that to dread look forward to when the time comes.

All good stuff. I like writing so much. I'm grateful it's one of the many aspects of my life. Even if it almost never gets top billing. On this blog or anywhere else. Some things we do simply because we must. Because we are called. Because they are there. Because if we don't, who will ever know that these things happened to us? That we had these feelings? That we dreamed dreams and took risks and failed a lot?

Which is all to say, I'm looking forward to the next 40%.  

JUN
28

LeBron James: He Gone?

It was never a question of whether or not I would go. And, despite the epic hard-coreness that is my fandom, it was never really a question of whether or not the Cavs would win the championship. I would go, and they would lose. Not that the outcome of the game, or the series, really mattered to me, in that I would go regardless. I would cheer regardless. I would believe regardless. I would wear Cavs gear throughout April, May, and June regardless. And I would very nearly end up in the poor house due to the way the airlines jack up prices in cities hosting major events regardless. Yet, I digress.

The fact is, as a Cavaliers fan, watching Lebron make it to the finals this year was nothing short of magic. It was also torturous, but magic trumps torture. A seven-game first round they almost didn’t make it past, a second-round sweep that made a commanding statement, another seven-game series in the third round that took more than it should have, and then the ugly championship sweep full of so many injustices I can’t even think about it. But through it all there was Lebron, and the near-constant reminder that he is still the greatest—not just in The Land, but in the world. Still. After 15 seasons.

I lived in Cleveland once. I lived there when he played as a Cavalier the first time around. I lived there when he left. I lived there when he came back. And now I’m the lone Californian who flies to Cleveland every year to see him play in the finals. And I love him the way the entire city of Cleveland loves him. I want him to stay the way the entire city of Cleveland wants him to stay. I doubt there’s a path to another championship there, and so I doubt he’ll stay, but I wish it didn’t have to be about that. I wish it was simply about playing basketball where you want to play basketball, raising your family in the place where you grew up, being content in the knowledge that you will always be known as one of the greatest to ever play the game regardless of if there are 3 or 4 or 5 rings. He deserves to still be winning championships, he’s that good, but isn’t the legend stronger when you stay in the city that’s yours?

JUN
07

Gambling is Easy

I'd never really done it, see, other than a company party one year where they brought in a bunch of dealers and gave us all fake money. I won a lot of fake money that night, all on the roulette wheel, and it seemed like there were a few key bets that really had pretty good odds. Still, it's easy to take risk when it's not real money.

I go to Vegas once a year now for work, and the thought finally occurred to me this time that maybe I should try my hand at a real table. Put some chips down. And so I bet $20 on red, won, and walked away with $40. In truth, I was so afraid of losing it (and letting yourself actually lose money that you once had seems so stupid), that I quite literally ran to the cashier's booth. I wondered if they'd ever cashed someone out for $40 worth of chips. But seriously, 50% odds at doubling your money? It all seemed so easy.

I got curious again on my last night in town, wondering if I could replicate my luck. Placing $15 on black and $15 between 16 and 17, the first number that came up was black 17. My payout: $300. I couldn't believe it. I'd just yielded 10x my bet. On one spin. People at the table were congratulating me. I couldn't stop laughing from the glee of it all. At the cashier's booth again, still laughing, I watched her count out my $300 still in disbelief that it had so simply become mine.

So clearly this whole gambling thing is totally easy. And I know the trick is quitting while you're ahead, but as long as you have the self control to do the trick, can someone explain to me how gambling isn't a completely legitimate way to make a little money on the side?

Probably a good thing I only go once a year.

MAY
28

Stars and the Moon

My dear hometown jeweler, who recently passed way, has a son who spent several years of his life in the world of theater. A talented performer, during one summer that he spent home in Oregon, he staged a local production of the then-new show, Songs for a New World. I was working at his dad's store at the time, dreaming of how life would unfold and incredibly impressed by anyone who, like my jeweler's son, had left town to pursue a dream, a talent, and then come home to nurture our community with the spoils.

I attended the show multiple times, one song in particular resonating with me in a way I couldn't describe. It was nothing I'd experienced for myself, but the story spoke so strongly of the importance of following your heart, of choosing love, of not letting worldly things or wants become more important than anything else. The song, "Stars and the Moon," was originally performed by Audra McDonald, a fact I learned after tracking down the original recording. I didn't know who Audra was, but the song stayed with me for years, this thing I never wanted to forget as I made my way in the world.

For those keeping track at home, Audra McDonald has won a record six Tony Awards and is one of the biggest names on Broadway. She may not have been when she recorded "Stars and the Moon," which is why when I saw her for the first time in concert this week, I was certain she wouldn't sing it. It's a small thing really, a song. Heard a long time ago. A lifetime ago. I knew so little then about love and life and loss. And yet when Audra introduced her next number as one written by Jason Robert Brown (wait, what?), from the production Songs for a New World (could this happen?), titled "Stars and the Moon" (No. Way.), I could only bring my hand to my mouth in an attempt to contain my glee. Again, it's a small thing. A song. But I wanted to hear her sing it all these years later, to see the sincerity I'd always detected in those lyrics.

I attended the concert with my darling boyfriend, who, let's just say, is not the Broadway enthusiast that I am. He wasn't familiar with Audra or, barring a very few exceptions, the songs she performed, but understanding after the first few numbers that these were songs from shows, he leaned over and asked, as sincerely and innocently as only the Broadway-clueless can, "Will she sing Wizard of Oz? I like Wizard of Oz." I stifled a smile and replied, "No, that's not really Broadway, honey." And then she closed the concert with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, at which point I could no longer stifle the smile. Some nights are just perfect. Some songs are, too.

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MAY
20

A Thousand Splendid Suns

There's always a bit of shame for a bookish, English-degree-holding writer in books she probably should have read but hasn't. For me, most of this gets wrapped up in the classics...books I should have read in high school or college but didn't. Not out of neglect, just out of necessity really. If a teacher assigned The Scarlet Letter over The Grapes of Wrath, then the former is what got read. If a professor preferred As I Lay Dying to Lord of the Flies, then that's what I stayed up all night reading.

Bottom line: there are some definite holes in my literary repertoire. 

Books in more recent history don't make me feel as much guilt over having never read, and while I read The Kite Runner when it was new and on everyone's radar, it didn't bowl me over such that I felt a burning need to read A Thousand Splendid Suns when it followed a few years later. I don't even remember hearing a thing about it. And why was this? Why did no one tell me I had to read it? It's no one's responsibility, yet somehow I feel slighted. Unprepared. Ill-fitted for the world.

I know a play based on a book is totally cheating. I know I have still never read this book. And I know now that it was a mistake not to. Because the Old Globe's theatrical adaption of this book was riveting. It bowled me over--with feeling, with intensity, with injustice, and ultimately with the depiction of the bonds that are possible between women. To know there are such books in the world that remain unread fills me with a panic I can't quite describe. If you know of any, tell me. Tell the world. And then go find more.

APR
29

Nashville

The trouble with visiting somewhere for work is that you don't really get a chance to actually see anything. I'd never been to Nashville before, see, and even after staying in the hotel that is literally connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, I still haven't seen anything that the vibrant Music City has to offer.

Well, that's not entirely true. I did take a taxi early one morning to Five Daughters Bakery to try their epic Hundred Layer Donut. I'd recently come across one of those articles highlighting the five things you just have to do when in Nashville. And it's really not shocking at all that the only one of the five that I didn't immediately forget was the bakery. Hall of fames and museums and legends galore, and the only thing I knew I just had to do was try one of these donuts. Let me just say that if I were basing my opinion of Nashville on this donut alone, I'd give it full marks.

I do hope to return one day when I can take some time to explore properly. Even just from what I saw, I was charmed. By the accents. The fried pickles and corn bread. The late-night with Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers. The constant stream of country music that piped through the hotel speakers 24/7. It truly had a feel all its own. And that donut. I'll be dreaming about it until I can get there again, y'all.

APR
15

Museum of Ice Cream

One of the first things I thought upon entering the Museum of Ice Cream was that it was clearly designed for people much younger than I am. And I'm not even that old. The kind of place that's dripping with whimsy. The kind of place with bottlenecks around every corner while each person takes a selfie in literally every room. The kind of place where they make you answer questions like "What worry are you going to let go once you enter this room" or "Give me the name of someone not with you at the museum today who is a cherry on top of your life?" I confess the introvert in me really just wanted them to give me the ice cream rather than make me repeatedly kumbaya en masse with a bunch of strangers.

On the other hand, when was the last time someone asked you about the person you consider the cherry on top of your life, causing you to think about the aunt to whom you've gone with every work, boy, and life issue you can remember? I mean, isn't that a question worth considering? When was the last time you let go of the drama of an upcoming work trip? Shouldn't letting completely useless crap go be a life requirement? When was the last time you were asked about an ice cream memory and it brought you back to your hometown soft serve joint and how you used to save your pennies for a sweet treat? For that matter, when was the last time you had ice cream, Pop Rocks, and cotton candy all in the same day? 

By the time I immersed myself in the (literal) pool of sprinkles, I was pretty convinced not only that we are never too old for this, but also that the world could use more of it. As I climbed out of the pool and took stock of my rolled pant cuffs, now heavy with sprinkles, I purposely didn't empty them all the way out as instructed. And something about seeing the color I left behind me in the streets of San Francisco throughout the day reminded me that sweetness is pretty universal. So are dreams. So is smiling. So are love, honesty, and digging deep in a place you never would have expected to.

MAR
25

Adolescence and Memory

As a writer of memoirs, I mention a lof of people in the course of my writing. As a no-name author, I've been able to do this with very few of these people even knowing they are mentioned. I have a very small readership, see. And while nothing I write is vindictive and most of the interactions I mention in my books are positive (I remember my dad saying after my first book came out that he wished he were mentioned more), I do have a relatively constant worry that people I have mentioned will discover they are mentioned and be upset with me for mentioning them. 

Recently a girl I went to high school with contacted me to say she was reading my first book and loving it. I reveled in the compliment, but only for a moment, because this girl is mentioned in that book. She's mentioned most notably for hurting my tender adolescent feelings in a rather humiliating way as we began our sophomore year. I waited rather tortuously for her to get to that part in the book and scold me for outing her cruel slight, but the scolding never came. Instead I got a long and heartfelt apology from this girl for putting herself and her budding popularity ahead of loyalty and friendship. 

Of course, then I felt bad for making her feel bad about this silly thing that happened twenty years ago. I'd included it because the whole point of my first book was to make it a study of the things we learn from our school years that have nothing to do with textbooks. And being an adolescent girl is a study in itself. Her slight only affected me so much because I was fifteen, acutely aware of my own lack of popularity, and vastly influenced by the overamplication of any shred of it I gained or lost. So here was this girl, my friend, apologizing for this thing that had meant so much to me then, but now hardly seemed worth mentioning. I mean, what's the protocol for that?

I told her it was ok, because it was, and that it had been a long time ago, because it had. I'd made it through high school just fine, and my life had unfolded quite nicely despite her decades-old diss. So the only thing that really mattered now was that we were back in touch, bonded not at all by circumstance--our lives could not be more different--but by the shared memories of where we were raised, the people we had known during this time, and the uncharted paths by which we each navigated our adolescent selves, hoping for acceptance. 

The simple answer here is I really should be writing fiction. And believe me, if I could, I would. 

 

 

 

 

 

MAR
11

Snow in Paris

Of course I would visit Paris during the coldest cold snap they've had in years. Of course I would become horribly sick over the course of my stay. And of course I would persist in walking around the city while nursing said sickness. But I was in Paris. Staying in bed was not an option. Besides, your worst day in Paris is still better than any other day. Your worst day flying home from Paris while miserably sick is, on the other hand, actually your worst day. 

I was in Paris to see my best friend get married, her having recently fallen in love with a Frenchman. It's been interesting to watch her merge her world with his, a world where a lack of a shared native language and differing cultural backgrounds present some interesting and unique challenges. But love doesn't take these differences and challenges into consideration, one of my favorite things about it. Because who among us is looking for the least complicated option? Who among us has always wished to settle for the easiest possible scenario? 

As I sat in a velvet-lined chair watching my friend vow to love and cherish her husband under a golden painted ceiling, the whole thing made me so very happy. Because love wins. As it should always. To hell with the unknowns, with the things that make it harder, with the fact that I couldn't understand a damn word anyone was saying. By the time they were married and the room erupted in applause over a concerto of Vivaldi, I was already hopelessly enchanted. And it hadn't even started snowing yet.

 

 

MAR
03

For Frank

I moved to town when I was 9 years old, and while sometimes I think I must have come off as a bit of a freak to the local jeweler (what kid is this interested in jewelry?), mostly I think my passion for his work must have delighted him. 

I always planned to follow in his footsteps, to become a jeweler. Life happened differently, of course, but when I finally wised up and decided to pursue my dream, even if a bit late to the game, it was Frank whom I called to get advice about training options. He'd gone to GIA, so I did too, and while a perfect end to this story might have been me buying his store, a slightly less perfect ending is me winding up in the sparkly industry of gems and jewelry after all; of seeing Frank at various tradeshows throughout the country; of being able to talk shop with this man I've long admired.

Me wanting to make him proud could be a classic case of someone meaning much more to me than I did to him, but I still hope on some level that I succeeded; that the thought of this Graduate Gemologist's clumsy start as a shy salesperson cleaning fingerprints off the jewelry cases of his store made him happy. I dedicated my second book to him ("For letting me in, for showing me the ropes, and for always being so sparkly.") and after he read it, he told me he hadn't realized my time in his store had meant so much to me. But that's the thing about life, about plugging along doing the thing you are passionate about, however ordinary it is to you. Because you never know who you are influencing, what young person is taking note and making plans based on the appeal of your everyday. You never know when your ordinary will be someone else's sparkle. That's what Frank was to me. And I will miss him.

If you are a professional, I encourage you to find a young person who finds your ordinary sparkly. Be a mentor, a friend, and let's do what we can to pass our passions down the line to those who come after. And if you knew Frank, my hometown jeweler, I trust you feel as lucky as I do.

FEB
15

Valentine

It’s early. The part of the relationship where he sends me flowers and I shave my legs a lot. I’m sure both of these will change as time goes on, but for now, it’s that delicious beginning I spoke so fondly of in Fooled. The part where you’re not far enough in it yet to have botched it/discovered a dealbreaker/gotten cold feet. The part where you’ve got nothing on him but unadulterated hope.

It does become harder as we get older, I think. Harder to give up the “me”-ness we get so attached to as long-term singletons. Harder still to not become pessimistic about love, even as you’re beginning a new relationship. Because odds are, it won’t work out. If you’re a long-term singleton, it literally never has. It’s not so much the trite notion of it only taking one that buoys me up, even though it does. It’s that hoping each new relationship is The One is really the only chance we have that it ever will be.

So try. Don’t worry about keeping other options open, about hedging your bets, about back-up plans. Don’t worry about the last time, about all the times, about the time yet to come when you might lose him. Don’t worry about time at all, or eggs, or about what you think you should want. Want this. Nothing else. And maybe you’ll get it.

JAN
27

Retreat

It's like this. January sucked. So I checked myself into the Marriott in Anaheim for what felt like a much needed retreat. I meant to spend the bulk of the weekend at Disneyland, but a hot bath and a king bed are tough to walk away from. I meant to get some reading done, but this room service menu might be as far as I get. I meant to do a little writing, but this blog may have to suffice.

Retreat in its noun form can of course refer to a place of calm or quiet where a person can rest and relax. That's certainly what I had in mind for this weekend. One could argue that my own house is enough of a retreat already...I mean, isn't it pretty much always calm and quiet? Yes and yes. But no one there will cook whatever I want from a menu. No one there will make my bed. No one there will clean up after me. Or my cat. No one there will give me rewards points for booking a stay. Nothing about a person's every day life feels very much like a retreat.

We can't forget, however, that retreat has other meanings, and in my current state of feeling nothing short of gutted by the havoc January has wreaked, I can't help but think of the definition that implies the act of withdrawing; of recognizing impending defeat and getting yourself the hell out in order to regroup. (My words, not Webster's.) Like I said, January sucked. And its implications will spill into February, into spring, summer, and likely affect my entire year in a way I am not at all prepared for.

So, see, I need this weekend. I needed to retreat to this retreat, and while I'm not sure what the next several months will bring, here's what I do know: tomorrow I'm ordering waffles for breakfast and will ride Radiator Springs no fewer than three times. (Unless I decide to stay in bed, in which case, just the waffles.)

JAN
14

Recovery

I don't think I do surgery well. Who does, you ask? I guess people who have more surgery than I do. There were many, many, many painful and annoying things that have come along with the past ten days of recovery, but I suppose if there's one thing being stuck in bed is good for, it's making progress on your new manuscript. I'm happy to say it's probably about 25% done. Still so much further to go, but it's progress. I just need about a half dozen more surgeries.

Seriously though, one of my 2018 goals is to write more. 2017 was a record low writing year for me, a combination of a high reading goal and a new gym membership that sucked the majority of my free time. This year I've lowered my reading goal and will focus on balancing my evenings between writing and the gym.

As I've written this past week, it's been a treat to think back on memories from my time living in New York City. That seems to be where the subject of this new manuscript is settling, and from the good to the bad to the obscenity-inducing frustration, it's a place I look back on fondly enough to build a mini lego Chrysler Building while stuck in bed.

There's more where this came from if I end up needing more surgery. My cat, for one, would be thrilled.

DEC
31

What's in a Year?

What is a year, really? There’s that iconic Rent song, of course, that boils it all down to love—probably a more accurate measure than we realize. But if you really take a look at a year, what is it?

Is it measured by the things we do? Six jewelry trade shows, one sunrise hot air balloon ride, two book parties, one eclipse viewed in complete totality, four holidays with family, one stolen suitcase, three days at Disney with a nephew, one international vacation, forty mini gingerbread loaves baked, one dear friend’s funeral, one NBA finals game attended, two resolutions kept…

Or is it better measured by the things we don’t do? Twelve more eggs lost, the man I should have let go sooner, or maybe the one I didn’t keep but should have, the zoo membership not renewed, work projects not completed, books I didn’t read, chapters I didn’t write. Do these things carry more weight when taking inventory of our five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes?

Sometimes it’s easy at the end of a year to feel more haunted than happy; more regret than resolve. And you should know me well enough by now to know that this is usually the camp I sit in. It’s not that there’s anything irresistibly romantic about melancholy (read: it is the very definition of irresistibly romantic), it’s that there is value, at least to me, in pining for what might have been. What we do not accomplish. What we fail to achieve. To me, it gives us the opportunity to evaluate how badly we want it. And failing either makes us double our efforts to get or achieve this thing, or it allows us to let go of what turns out to be less important than we first thought.

I only set two resolutions in 2017, and I hit them both. I’m very proud of that, however minor they are in the grand scheme of my life. In addition to resolutions, however, I always write a letter to myself in preparation for each new year. It’s part encouragement, part tough love, and in general serves as a road map for the kind of person I want to be in the upcoming year. The letter that sat taped to by bedside table each day of 2017 was written last Christmas Eve while sitting inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. There was a pretty significant personal change I wanted to make this year; a rather toxic situation I counseled myself to get out of. I remember tears spilling down my cheeks as I rested my head against the cold cement of a cathedral column while composing the letter. Yet early on in 2017, I had already failed in my effort. And I won’t say it didn’t affect me greatly to wake up each morning and see my letter, knowing I hadn’t taken my own advice. But failing at this has brought about the doubling of effort I spoke of a moment earlier.

Something else that helps me in the wake of regret or falling short is to expand my perspective beyond a single year. It’s less about what’s in a year. It more like, what’s in a life? I was able to spend a few days in my hometown over Christmas, something I rarely do, and it was incredibly grounding to be amongst people who have known me since I was a child. Our lives are about everything we do, see. And the foundation we set is large; it is always present, regardless of how any individual year shakes out. We’re more than the sum of our years, so keep that in mind as you resolve, refocus, and reprioritize for the next five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

Happy New Year!

DEC
10

Holiday Blunders Thus Far

 

Ran out of Christmas cards

Sent a portion of my address list cat stationary instead

Went to Michael’s on a Saturday in December

Went to Michael’s in December

Went to Michael’s period

Loaded 40 unwrapped ceramic loaf pans in my trunk

Drove over a curb with 40 unwrapped ceramic loaf pans in my trunk

Went back to Michael’s to replace broken ceramic loaf pans

Asked someone if Harry and David pears arrive ready-to-eat

Went ahead and cut into the just-arrived pear and found it not at all ready to eat

Missed the rehearsal for my office Christmas party’s flash mob

Donated a gift basket with a copy of each of my books to a jewelry auction because one of them is about jewelry and doesn’t that sort of count?

Picked a recipe for this year’s holiday treats that involved candied oranges

Drove all over town looking for candied oranges

Went to Trader Joe’s (found candied oranges) on a Saturday in December

Went to Trader Joe’s on a Saturday

Went to Trader Joe’s period

 

It’s going to be a long month.

NOV
12

Cat Lady

There's something very socially damning about being a single woman with a cat. I'm not sure why this is. Other than the stereotypical Cat Lady image that has proliferated from the one woman we all know whose house is overrun with them, stinky, hairy, and with a shocking lack of separation between human spaces, dishes, and food and cat spaces, dishes, and food. This lady will inevitably be single, (because who would really want to get with that?) and so there you have it. The Single Woman with a Cat Stereotype Inevitability.

For me, the threshold has always been multiple cats. Sticking to one, I maintain, is just normal pet ownership. Now, I do own cat "things." There's a cat quilt on the back of my chair at work. There's a cat clock on my desk. I have a few cat tank tops I wear to the gym. I hardly think that's Cat Lady territory, but it does show that I like my cat enough to admit that I like having a cat. When I got to work on Halloween, the girl who had dressed up as a Cat Lady (grey curled wig, stuffed cats sewn onto a ratty bathrobe) shouted over to me excitedly, "For you!" I guess because...I'm a Cat Lady?

And perhaps I am. I did admit to her that I liked the pants she was wearing, a rather psychedelic pattern of colorful cat heads, and half-joked that she could give the pants to me after Halloween if she was looking to get rid of them. I had forgotten about this until last week when the pants showed up in an intraoffice envelope on my desk at work. I became immediately embarrassed that I had asked for them (like, to wear for real), but, as you can see from the above picture, really, what's not to love about cats on cats?

Maybe don't answer that.

OCT
30

Scotland

Since fiction has thus far proved to be out of my wheelhouse, all the characters in my books are real people. And there’s a character in my latest book who passed away before I had the chance to visit him in Scotland. I made a promise when he died that someday I’d make the trip, and while there were other reasons why I wanted to go (the beauty, the piece of my heritage), I found myself thinking about this person the most. I’d wonder if I was walking down any of the streets he walked or seeing any of the things he’d seen. Weird, isn’t it? This person who has been gone from this planet for almost a decade. This person with whom it probably never would have worked, as it hadn’t in either of our previous attempts. But there’s something about the unfinishedness of it all that made me extra pensive as I strolled along Scottish sidewalks.

Scotland was, in a word, breathtaking. I kept trying to define the bright shade of green that covers all the hills. It’s in the kelly family, surely, but so much more striking than any kelly you know. And complemented perfectly against the rich aquamarine tones of the sea that hug the shoreline. So if you get high enough, the combination of green against blue is one you’ll wish could be re-created in your regular life. It won’t be though. And that’s what gets me about this trip. See, someone close to me explained it once. After having witnessed something beautiful, she wept when it was over. This happens to many of us from time to time, being moved to the point of tears. But her explanation for the tears has stayed with me, in that she said she was crying for herself, for the fact that she would never witness this thing again. In that moment, it seemed too much to bear; that there could be such beauty in the world yet her exposure to it so limited. And that’s really the only way I can describe how it felt to drive away from the Highlands, having just stood alone in the Quiraing, nothing but a sea of this unnamed electric kelly green all around. Gaelic music played as I followed the path of the Loch Ness back into town, a few tears hot on my wind-burned cheeks. Because I would never see this again. And how was that fair? How could I exist knowing it was there and I wasn’t seeing it?

It’s a question I would have asked my departed friend, over pouches of greasy food and a couple of weathered notebooks open between us. And while it doesn’t make me wish any less that he were still here, I suppose the upside is that he never has to stop seeing it. And I bet the view is spectacular.

OCT
11

Life is Beautiful

I attended the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas last month. Ironic then that the man who opened fire at the Route 91 festival a week later was supposedly in a rented B&B a week earlier, looking over those of us at the Life is Beautiful festival, ready to make his move if he saw the right opportunity. I remember thinking to myself that it would be a particular blow to humanity’s morale if at the very fest where the beauty of life (art, culture, ideas, music, and, naturally, food) was being celebrated, a large contingent of it was taken. For my own sake, I remain grateful the shooter didn’t pick my festival, and remain horribly sad and disturbed that he picked any festival at all. I mean, should any of us have to spend these festivals—or any event with large gatherings—worried about this? What’s beautiful about that kind of life? 

It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot, and I know others have too. I’ve never heard more people remark about their uneasiness (to the point of changing future plans) at attending large events. I’ve never seen certain of my friends so down (to the point of not feeling up to their normal activities). “It’s a numbers game,” a lady at work mentioned after the Vegas shooting. Implying that the randomness and general uncommonness (when compared to how many concerts and festivals happen in the world every day) suggest you’ll probably be OK. But that hardly feels comforting. And even though we accept the possibility of our demise every time we so much as get in the car every morning, I understand our collective pause over this. I do.

And yet.

We must live our lives.

So I flew to Albuquerque over the weekend and took in the hot air balloon festival with an estimated 80,000 other people. It’s not that it didn’t occur to me that it would have only taken one of them to make tragedy for the rest of us, but I pushed through those side-minded anxieties and took in the world from a sky-high balloon as the sun rose. There were balloons in every direction up there, everywhere, all of us rising together in a mass ascension. When it comes to memorable views, I’ve never seen its equal.

The bottom line, see, is that life really is beautiful. It’s beautiful every day. I hope we can remember that. And I’d rather go out on a hot air balloon at sunrise than sitting in my house worrying about the state of the world. But maybe that’s just me.

SEP
20

Smell Like a Woman

A certain gentleman in my circle gave me Chanel No. 5 for my birthday a few months ago. For the record, I had never before owned Chanel No. 5. I had never before even smelled Chanel No. 5. It’s just out of my league; one of those perfumes I always figured I had no business wearing.

Anyway, it’s not about the perfume. That’s not what I’m stuck on. Rather the note this gentleman had written on the accompanying card. “Time to smell like a woman,” it said.

Time to smell like a woman.

It’s an age I’m not crazy about, so maybe you can read in these words a sweet and comforting message of encouragement about embracing my status as mature woman. But that’s not how I read it at the time. I, in fact, became rather internally panicked about what, exactly, I’d been smelling like up to that point. An adolescent? And what does that even smell like? Exclamation? Sunflower? The vanilla fragrance from Anthropologie I’ve been wearing for years?

The gift made me wax pensive over maturity, and over what life looks like before and after that point. This particular gentleman is the epitome of mature, in that he’s older, owns a sizable and expertly-furnished home, and fills it with art and sculptures and pictures from his world travels. Whereas the last time we were at my house (a small one-bedroom beach cottage with furnishings from IKEA), I had to scrounge through cupboards just to find a glass out of which to offer him a beverage. Do you see the difference? Do you see why his gift made me panic? Because now I’m convinced my whole life wreaks to him of adolescence. Except, isn’t this more minimalist-style life I live equally valid? Aren’t I still a legit adult woman even without the Chanel?

When I moved to Manhattan a few years ago, I downsized to probably only 10% of what I owned. I did this because I had to fit my large Midwestern home’s worth of goods into a 350 square foot studio apartment. And I’m not saying it wasn’t hard—seeing your costly possessions strewn about your yard and driveway being purchased for pennies can be depressing, as can realizing that you no longer really “own” anything even as a mature adult woman—but what I am saying is that I liked being so minimal. I liked only having what I needed. I liked the ease with which I could clean and pack. I liked knowing if I needed or wanted to up and move again, which, incidentally, I did a short time later, it would be a cinch. I liked being so transportable. I liked defying the Laws of Suburbia which state that possessions are what make us happy and determine our level of success.

Now that I’m in a (slightly) bigger home—one that actually has a bedroom—I’ve re-acquired some things, but for the most part I’m still pretty minimal. And it works for me. Now, would I be more attractive to this gentleman if I had stemware, artwork, and a bed and dresser I hadn’t assembled myself? I guarantee it. But if I’ve learned anything from his gift, it’s that being a woman doesn’t have to look—or smell—a certain way. Of course, I’ve also learned that Chanel No. 5 is divine, so let’s just call that a bonus.

SEP
04

10 Things I Wish I'd Realized Before Invisalign

10. It’s not just the trays. It’s also these sort of sharp, notch-like things that are adhered to several teeth. Unsexy, yes, but that’s not really the complaint. The complaint is that they are annoying. And getting them drilled off at the end of all this was so painful that I almost asked the technician to hold my hand. (True story. I didn’t know what else to do.)

9. You’ll feel like you talk funny with your trays in, but people won’t really notice it. So don’t even bother prefacing every meeting or presentation by apologizing for your sexy Invisalign lisp, because no one would have even noticed it. And it’s not sexy.

8. Your teeth will hurt. All the time. It’s pretty much constant, in that anytime you eat something with any kind of crunch or chew to it, you’re going to feel soreness in the deep center of your teeth. Every day. Every meal.

7. Your teeth will move. Like, all of them. Easily. And soon. Even if you can’t see it, it’s happening. On day 3 of Invisalign, my old retainer, the one I’d been wearing for upwards of 15 years, would no longer fit. As in would not even go on my teeth. At all. The upside of this is there is potential for very real progress, and in relatively short order. The downside is you may get more movement than you want. Or at least feel freaked out all the time, to the point of nightmares, about things going horribly wrong. Oh, just me? OK then.

6. You’ll be annoyed with the trays (removing them for meals, cleaning them, not being able to chew gum, etc), but you’ll get so used to them that you’ll actually prefer having them in. As in you’ll feel anxious after a meal until you can brush your teeth and get your trays back in. Ah, all is right with the world. The little guys are all buttoned up tight. Also just me? Yikes.

5. Keep your trays with you (like on your person) when you travel, in case someone steals your suitcase from the overhead bin when you land at JFK for a business trip. You won’t have underwear, clothes, or shoes, but dammit, you’ll have your next set of Invisalign trays ready to go and your orthodondist will be so proud.

4. Your teeth won’t feel smooth after the Invisalign is over. Pretty sure when they drill the notches off, it removes the smooth top layer of tooth. Is this possible? It’s certainly what it feels like. Other than my front two teeth, which remained notch-free during this process, my other teeth feel a bit gritty. I’m obsessed with running my tongue along my teeth now to feel the contrast. This is kind of sick.

3. Your teeth will need whitening after.

2. The thing you were trying to fix won’t end up fixed. Not that this is the case for everyone, but just be prepared. They aren’t braces. Especially if you choose an “Express” experience like I did, it’s not as extensive as the full process would normally be. And sure, they took molds of your mouth and ran the whole thing through a state-of-the-art computer system that mapped out a plan that was then debated by and ultimately carried out by exceptional and watchful orthodontists, but what does THAT really mean?

And the #1 thing I wish I’d realized before Invisalign:

Your teeth are already straight.

I guess if I could sum up I’d call the whole thing overkill. I was told I was a perfect candidate (already had braces, just need a small correction), but the near-perfectness of my teeth meant that there was always a risk not only that the small correction wouldn’t fully correct, but that other movement of teeth would ultimately leave me worse off. Or at least liking my former smile better. Not that I’m saying this happened or that it was all bad. My bite is better aligned, that I can tell. And my teeth overall are probably a teensy bit straighter. The fact that the thing I wanted fixed really wasn’t fully fixed does sort of bum me out, but I have to keep this all in perspective and realize that my teeth were straight before and they are straight now. This is not a crisis.

(To be clear, I would readily recommend Invisalign to anyone wanting to straighten their teeth. It’s not as intrusive or life-altering as braces, and it does move teeth very effectively.)

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