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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
OCT
14

Happy Fall! (Er...summer?)

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Things I miss about fall: changing leaves, cool temperatures, sweaters, light jackets, the smell of campfire, rainy days, and baking sweet things. I also miss all the Ohio State crap in everybody's yard. But don't tell anyone.

It's truly odd to be in this land of eternal sunshine. Because it doesn't feel like fall. It doesn't feel any different than it felt all summer. It's actually even hotter. And how odd to be sweating it out at the beach in mid-October. I keep finding myself checking the 10-day forecast in New York City, where I lived last fall, and Cleveland, where I lived the six falls before that. Temperatures in the sixties, fifties even on some days. It sounds so glorious!! I know I'll be singing a different tune come winter...something tells me I won't mind sitting at the beach in winter...but there's something about fall that a girl just wants to experience.

I can't do much about the sunny temps here in Cali, the lack of need for my jackets and sweaters, but baking? I can do something about that. And so last night I used my oven for the first time in the 4 months I've lived here and baked something sweet. It was an 85-degree day and it made my house so hot that I may never bake anything again, but for a moment, it was fall. Real fall.

OCT
06

#UCCstrong

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I woke up last Thursday morning to the sight of a woman at the top of my driveway putting a bag of dog poop in my trash can. And so I stewed on this for hours, feeling pissed and a little violated. What is wrong with people?

It took hearing the Roseburg news to shake me from my ridiculousness, because in the grand scheme of things, who cares about dog poop? In the grand scheme of things, who cares about anything other than the health and safety of the good people of this planet? What’s worse—or at least what hit me hardest about this most recent mass shooting—is that it happened right near my own hometown. Mere miles from both the home where I grew up and the beloved jewelry store I talk about in Jeweled. The UCC campus itself is where I attended countless dance recitals and community musicals, competed in high school choir competitions, and took yearly school exams.

And so I’ve been sad for my community, even though I no longer live there. I’ve been angered at the vulnerable situation these no-gun zones put people in (think the school in Sandy Hook, the movie theater in Aurora, UCC, etc). I’ve been inspired by the faith and hope of those who have been most affected by this tragedy. And I’ve been completely unconcerned about dog poop in my trash can ever since.

OCT
02

October is for Opal

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So, remember when I was living in New York City and studying gemology? Yeah, me too. One of my favorite phases of life. Ever. I miss the city a lot and the gemstones even more. Studying them, identifying them, subjecting my Instagram followers to pictures of them. Of course, the great thing about now working for a gemology institute is that my building is not in want of gemstone displays. They are, quite frankly, everywhere. And not just the laboratory area either (where, for example, just this week I was able to meet one of the gemologists who graded the Hope Diamond), but lining pretty much every hallway, too.

Most of the pieces I've seen now, through my various explorations of the building, but every now and then I come across one that has somehow snuck past me. Like this opal stunner that literally stopped me cold. I mean, just freaking look at it! And I'm not even an opal girl. Trust me, as a gemologist, I have my favorites--diamond because it's the BEST, star corundum for the asterism, rhodochrosite because it's so unique, turquoise and aquamarine for their beautiful blues--but opals have never moved me. Until this necklace, that is. Maybe it just takes 148 carats to get me there, but either way, this was a happy way to officially ring in the month that boasts opal as its birthstone. Happy October, everyone!

SEP
23

Choose my Table

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I'm getting ready for an author fair next week. I love author fairs. Book events of any kind, really. It's nice to be reminded you're an author, especially when just a lowly one like me. Because sometimes I forget. Sometimes I feel discouraged and wonder why I do it. But an author event can bring me back to myself...my writerly self.

The question at any author fair is, of course, how to get people to buy your books. Selling books is hard. People can't just look at a book like they can jewelry or artwork and know they will like it. And people aren't as free with their money as they used to be. An author fair attendee peruses everything and oftentimes buys only one book. One book. So how do you make sure yours is the book they buy? Just make sure yours is the most interesting book. Right? Possibly out of your control, but even if it weren't, before a person can even think your book is interesting, you've got to get them to approach your table. And there are *a lot* of tables at an author fair. Most of the time all lined up in a row or arranged in some other closely-spaced configuration.

I don't know what the magic formula is--something tells me it probably involves a low-cut top, a celebrity guest, and an expensive giveaway--but I may try out a few new things at next week's fair. (Much to my sister's disappointment, I will not, as she suggested, be hiring friends to hang around my table and act very interested, thus creating the illusion of mass intrigue and popularity. But that's really only because I can't afford it. And also because I don't have many friends yet...new in town, remember?) In any case, if you find yourself in Pasadena next weekend, I hope you'll choose my table. There will be candy. Which, come to think of it, is probably almost as good as a low-cut top.

SEP
12

Good/Bad

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It's gotten to the point where I don't watch the news anymore. I can't. I won't. It depresses me, frightens me, maddens me. The downside is that I rarely know what's going on in the world, but sometimes this seems like the better alternative.

September 11 was a terrifying day. It may not have seemed completely real to me from the safety of my college dorm room on the other side of the country--bodies falling, burning, this was the stuff of fiction, of movies. I still find myself trying to block out the overwhelming disturbia that sets in every time I'm reminded of the events of that day; that people purposely brought those towers down. Earlier this summer I attended a small short-film festival, and it took until about halfway through the longest of the films to realize that it--following the stories of a flight attendant on a plane, a businessman in an office, and a firefighter in the city--was about 9/11. The sickening disturbia set in like it always does, such that the film's final scenes--the flight attendant crying and whispering to air traffic control about their low altitude, the firefighter's concerned glance to the sky overhead, and the businessman's look of both shock and solemnity as he looked out the office window to see a plane headed straight for him--have not let me go.

I'm not actually recommending avoiding watching the news. It's a wimpy and irresponsible thing to do. We have to be in the world. Since I've been thinking about The Giver (Game-changing Books), remember that the Elders' stance was that it was better to shield people from the pains and sorrows of the world, even if it meant the people could experience and feel nothing...even the good, wonderful, and lovely. Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie about a process that allows people to erase their memories, particularly of other people. I love watching our protagonist, who's had a bad breakup, fight to reverse the process once he's realized that if it means losing all memory of the person he once loved, it's not worth ridding himself of the heart-wrenchingly painful parts of their relationship.

The fact is, there is good all around us. It might be harder to see, it's certainly not publicized as often or to the same extent, but it is there. And even though each day something in the world can be counted on to bring me down, something else equally reliable is the rate at which something--some kindness, some action, some thing of beauty--inspires me. May those moments carry us through. And may we never forget.

 

SEP
09

Spinster

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I know I've been overwhelming you with books posts lately, but wouldn't you know it that just after posting my top ten books (Top Ten Books that I Love), I've read a new one that just might bump something else out. And at the risk of subjecting you to a book reviewy post (isn't that what Goodreads is for?), I simply have to say that if you are a single girl--or anyone who thinks reading about significant female writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who bucked tradition by staying (or at least preferring to be) single--you simply must read this book.

Let me be clear. I'm not one of those women who loves to hate on marriage or shout about how I don't need a man. It's true, I don't need a man and have most of the time found being single preferable to being in a relationship (the exception being the one time I was in love), but I am still a person who wants to be married. In that if I could choose for this, my life, to go any way, I would choose to someday have the opportunity to be married. So in that regard I don't relate as much to the author and her "awakeners'" single-or-bust mentality.

That said, our society could use a crash course on the single woman, and this book was consequently a fascinating and refreshing read. Because spinster didn't used to have such a negative connotation. Interesting then that it--spinsterhood--has over the course of time transformed into the one thing every girl hopes will never happen to her. And why exactly is that? How is it that we've come to believe that ending up alone is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to you? A question made even more blatantly ridiculous after reading about these remarkable, interesting, and fascinating women who not only achieved success and acclaim without a man by their sides, but also didn't spend decades of their lives drowning in the sea of societal pressure surrounding marriage. (Sister ain't got time for that, and, quite frankly, neither do you.) And that's what our society--or, at the very least, the minds of female singletons--could use less of; this constant drone of marriage and when it will happen and where it will happen and with whom it will happen and if it will happen and how many eggs I'll have left when it happens and what if there are no eggs left at all when it happens and maybe I should freeze some just in case it happens and on and on for the rest of the days of your bag lady, multi-cat owning unfortunateness. If you ask me, that is what sister ain't got time for. So get on with it. Life. Yours.

SEP
01

Game-changing Books

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We've all read them. Books that literally seem to change the game of the way books are usually written. Or what they're written about. The Hunger Games comes to mind, only because I don't know if I've ever been more unable to put a book down. On a plane (where, granted, it's easy not to put a book down), I stayed in my seat with my nose deep into my gifted hardcover copy as the rest of the passengers deplaned. Just. One. More. Chapter. Kids freaking killing kids. It was disturbing. It was sickening. It was mesmerizing.

The one I've been thinking about this week was a book I read in junior high. I've probably mentioned it on here a time or two, but this book completely rocked my world when I read it. I was a teenager and a lot of things rocked my world--Birkenstocks, The X-Files, Devon Sawa--but this book positively made me pay attention because of its difference. Its felt significant to me, even then. And when I finally got around to watching the movie this past weekend, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Because I remember how I pictured everything, especially that last scene--how epic is that last scene, the snow, the hill, the what-is-really-happening conjectures--and of course I pictured it as nothing like the movie. Now isn't that always the way?

Yet, I digress. If any of you readers have a book that felt like a game-changer to you when you first read it, please share! If what you want to say is longer than a comment's worth, submit it on the website and I may post some of them!

 

AUG
27

A Very Disney Day

 

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I've recently learned that if a Disney employee actually wishes you a "very Disney day" that they are, in essence, flipping you off. But that aside, I did want to mention as a follow up to this post (Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?) that I did get the pass. And for my inaugural pass-holder visit, I was lucky enough to have my brother in town to be my partner in Disney crime. We opened the park (7:30 AM), we closed the park (midnight), we owned the park.

This brother is almost a decade younger than I am, so I wasn't around for much (read: any) of his growing up. I actually had two brothers who were still kids when I left home, and it's one of the reasons why I was such a blubbery mess the morning I drove away, college-bound. Because I was going to miss so much. Of them. Of their games and concerts. Of their laughs and mischief. Of their bedroom door that I'd always pass while on the way to mine...a door completely covered in stickers that I'm pretty sure my mom has never been able to remove.

This was probably the most time my brother D and I had ever spent together as adults (so naturally we went to Disneyland), and while sometimes it can be jarring to think of my younger siblings as having long passed me up (in size, in major life milestones), the way I most often think of them is as the two little boys I used to read Harry Potter chapters to. Fitting then that the family picture I keep framed on my nightstand is a circa 1998 Splash Mountain photo. My brothers, ages 7 and 9, wear priceless faces. One of blatant disgust and the other of sheer terror. Someday I hope we'll be able to recreate it, but even if we do, I doubt I'll ever like any family picture more. It's partly because of the priceless terror faces, but it's also because they were kids. I guess we all were, in a way. And it was magical (yes, I said it) to be with one of them again at the place where you sort of always feel like a kid. Looking forward to your next visit, D.

AUG
15

Top Ten Books that I Love

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In honor of National Book Lovers Day, which went largely unnoticed again this past week, I thought I'd put together some thoughts about some of the books I truly love. It goes without saying that as a writer and avid reader, books mean a lot to me. I know how hard they can be to compose, to arrange, to get out there, to publish, to market. That there are still so many people out there who have thought to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and gone through the whole endeavor just to make their words available for people like you and me is something I am grateful for every day. The escape, the adventure, the creativity, the honesty, and the wisdom we absorb through the written words of others, well, it's what I consider one of the great blessings of our time.

*These are in no particular order, except the order in which they came to my mind. Make of that what you will.

1. Peace Like a River. This one gets me every time, and I've read it plenty. Combining the innocence and humor of a young narrator with the unbreakable bond of family, you'll find yourself torn between justice and mercy...although justice never really has a chance when love and family are in the mix, now, does it? You'll be rooting for Davy and the RV-towing family who's trying to track him down.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Honestly one of the greatest regrets of my life is that it took me until THIS SUMMER to finally read this book. How much time I wasted not being acquainted with the Nolan family. Young Francie and her mother Katie are some of the most memorable characters I've ever known, and something about the degree to which you become immersed in this world of old-school Brooklyn is simply captivating. A true treasure.

3. The Year of Magical Thinking. My favorite of Joan Didion's books, it explores grief in a way that feels both practical and sentimental.

4. The End of Your Life Book Club. I'm such a sucker for memoirs anyway, and this one was both literary (you'll get lots of great ideas for reading material!) and heartbreaking (from the very beginning, you know how it has to end). For anyone who has ever loved their mother.

5. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.. I'd never really thought of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's ushering in a whole new era of female sexuality (and not really sure that I entirely buy it), but as a huge fan of the novella, of the jewelry store, and of Audrey Hepburn, this book has plenty of all three. From the writing to the casting to the filming, this is a fascinating look at a movie that, if not quite sexually redefining, was undoubtedly iconic. An absolute treat.

6. The Secret Life of Cowboys. An honest and messily beautiful account of a writer turned cowboy who takes his chances on ranch life. And Tom Groneberg actually reached out to thank me when I complimented his books in a previous post. We've corresponded a bit, and you've got to love authors who aren't above reaching out to their fans.

7. Tis. Out of Frank McCourt's trilogy of memoirs, Angela's Ashes gets the most press. But I find Tis to be the best of the bunch. His childhood years behind him, Tis tells of McCourt's first years in America.

8. The Alchemist. A beautiful story packed to the brim with symbolism and parallels that will have you thinking lost past the last page. A book ultimately about following your dreams and finding out what exactly it is that the universe has in store for you, it's what ultimately inspired me to go get my gemologist diploma.

9. Quiet. Fascinating (and, oh, so true) nonfiction read about the power of introverts in a society that lopsidedly praises (and goes to great lengths to matriculate) extroverts. Every introvert will rejoice...and for every boss, manager, dean, and CEO, it should be required reading.

10. Frankenstein. This one made such an impression on me when I first read it because it's not at all the book you think it's going to be. We hear so much about the story of Frankenstein, but, believe me, you should read the real thing. Not unlike characters such as Elphaba and the Phantom, you'll be left musing over these tragic characters who, initially so full of goodness, were ultimately changed and cracked by the way others treated them.

AUG
12

Unfinished Business

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I just finished reading a book whose author passed away prior to its completion. Since her wishes had been to have it published--even partially--the book, a much-anticipated sequel, went to press as it had been at the time of her death--only halfway finished. It was tough to read, partly because the original book had been so phenomenal. Any sequel--even a completed one--would have struggled to hold a candle to such a fine work. And then there was the matter of the sequel's incompleteness, its lack of editing, etc. Fulfilling the author's wishes is the important thing, so nothing else really matters, but the whole thing did make me a little bit sad. Sad that the author wasn't able to make it the book she intended for it to be. As a sentimental, somewhat morose, and occasionally morbid writer myself, naturally this has caused me think about what I would wish upon my own partially-completed manuscript.

In short, what I would wish is this: That no one see it. Ever. (Except the sumbitch who broke my heart, who should be forced to read my account of said heartbreak over and over again.)

All kidding aside, I do think about the whole death/manuscript relationship fairly frequently. The thought horrifies me. Not the death part. The unfinished manuscript part. The great thing about getting your memoirs published, see, is that you have the chance to pick the stories you want and then polish them until they sparkle. No one has to know that the way you originally wrote it in your journal was something along the lines of, "He said this and I said that and then we did this stuff and afterward went to this place where that neat thing happened." As of now, my manuscript unfinished and unedited, there are several things that my post-death computer discoverer will have to wade through. Like entire sections I already know are going to be cut. They aren't very strong and the manuscript's too long anyway. So should the worst happen, my apologies in advance. Both to whoever it is that discovers my partial manuscript, and to my faithful readers, who unfortunately won't be given a partially completed book to wean themselves off of me. I'm afraid you'll have to go cold turkey.

Although you could always hunt down my ex for the heartbreak chapter.

 

AUG
02

Imagination

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I was talking the other day with my six-year-old nephew about a humorous card I had mailed to his house--one that featured a cat poop joke--and told him that Clementine (my cat) had liked it, too. There was a pause, followed by a thoughtful question. "When you say Clementine liked it, you don't actually mean that you know if she liked it, right?" I assured him that, no, I didn't actually know what she thought, but that I sometimes like to imagine the kinds of things that a cat might think or like. "I don't imagine very much," replied my nephew. "I'm just not that kind of person," he continued, and further explained that this is why he prefers reading books with facts in them.

Now, you'll never convince me that any six-year-old kid out there has no imagination. And I've seen this particular kid use imagination all the time--in the games he invents or the silly words he makes up. But I get what he's saying, I respect it, and, more than that, I respect that even at such a young age he recognizes this in himself. He just prefers reality. And thinking about things as they really are.

I'm a non-fiction girl myself, in that most novels leave me feeling mildly frustrated, wholly unbettered, and filled with a desperate sensation of just-let-me-read-about-something-that-really-happened. I had always planned on writing fiction, but that's not the way my mind works. Fiction is clearly the ticket in the publishing world. And if I could think up a futuristic trilogy involving an oddly-named, kick-ass heroine, I'd probably be a lot more profitable as an author than I am now. Or at least have the chance to be. I suppose in many ways I feel like my nephew in this regard, in that I don't have much of an imagination when it comes to writing. I'm just not that kind of person. Luckily there are those who are, and luckily there is still space for everyman memoirists like me. Granted, there's a lot less space for everyman memoirists, but I'll take those odds. And who knows. Maybe one day you'll see that I've broken through with a series involving a vampire going off to 7 years of vampire school (Batty Cotter?). But doubtful. I really, really am just not that kind of person.

JUL
28

Fireworks: Musings on a Small Town

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This is just a firework, and a mediocre one at that, but it's a firework that was set off in my hometown, above the baseball fields in the town park. Other than Christmas, I go home so seldom that I think this past weekend may have been the first time in over a dozen years that I was around for the annual summer festival.

It's comforting, going home. You know where everything is, for a few days you feel as young as you did while living there, and that so much seems exactly the same is a great constant amidst the fluctuations fast enveloping all other aspects of your life. But even as I walked through the booths at the small festival thinking that everything--the layout, the goods, the pre-fireworks exploding anvil--was identical to when I was a teenager and taking some comfort in that, it was also a teensy bit alarming to realize how much about this trip was, in fact, different. The golf course has been renamed. To something totally ridiculous, by the way. The Dairy Queen is about to be replaced by another franchise; some dispute over fry sauce. And when I attended my old church congregation, I saw a sea of mostly strangers. It felt weird to introduce myself. "I grew up here," I said, as if I were reaching for some kind of justification for being there at all.

It's just the way of things, I suppose. You never forget or feel less endeared to a place, but the connections you have there grow thin when you move away and never come back. Writing books about the people you grew up with doesn't really help your cause either, but I've made my choices, I suppose. I guess I just wish I chose home more often. It's hard to find good fry sauce.

JUL
19

I Want to be Famous

 

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I've come to terms with the fact that it will never be mine, fame and copious amounts of money, and really, that's OK with me. I rather enjoy paying my bills each month, saving where I can, fighting with the bank--let's call them Schmells Schmargo--to get them to overturn $90 worth of fees I should have never been hit with (in the end they refunded only $50.50, and it still felt like a small victory). On one hand, that I care so much about bank fees makes me feel a little bit desperate, but on the other hand, we're talking about 90 freaking dollars, not to mention the principle of the thing (I'm talking to you, Schmells Schmargo), and despite all the indignities that come with being a regular person (think coupons, sales, packing lunch, buying off-brand, fighting with Schmells Schmargo), I find the struggle quite invigorating. It's living. But every now and then, I just want to be famous. I want to breathe easy about retirement, to have living in the most expensive city in the country (NYC) followed by the second (hello, California) not even phase me, to buy my parents a beautiful house, to be so cute and popular that my picture shows up in the weekly People magazine. Heck, I'd even settle for occasionally just being recognized while out in public.

Just prior to leaving New York, I spent the day with a celebrity. He's not an A-lister, but he's very well known, and I found it thrilling just to be in the presence of someone who was stopped everywhere we went (at the botanical gardens, at dinner, at Target) for autographs and pictures. I felt famous simply by association. Even as I could tell he was years weary of these being-stopped-in-the-street moments, all I could think was how much better my life would be if such things happened to me. If the manager sent out free dessert simply because I was dining in his restaurant. If the people at the table next to me asked for a photo. If I had a bajillion Twitter followers. Or even 250.

My celebrity friend is a singer, and a very good one, too, but since he hasn't been focusing on recording for some years now, he hasn't exactly been "working." On our day about town, I was just finishing up my gemology sabbatical and getting ready to start my new job, and I was a little sad (translation: completely depressed) about having to say goodbye to the delightful world of Not Having a Day Job. I said as much to my Famous Friend when he began to complain about having nothing to do. Now, see, isn't that interesting? He was complaining about having nothing to do.

Me: "Having just experienced a phase of life where I had no job and no responsibilities, it was pretty much the best thing ever."

FF: "Yeah, but you were still working toward being a gemologist. You had a goal."

Maybe it's just a classic case of the grass always being greener. It's just that celebrity grass always seems like it's the greenest. Not to say that my Famous Friend envies my life (I wouldn't wish Schmells Schmargo fights on anybody), but does he envy parts of it? Parts of a regular person life? I think he does, and that makes me feel good inside. I'm still never going to be famous, but I'll settle for knowing that there are aspects of my life--even the mundane, lowly ones--that are enviable even to those who appear to have it all. I'll settle for my day about town with my famous friend, both of us singing in his car at the top of our lungs. I'll settle for that drive, the NYC skyline before us, and the way he said "Tali, sing girl!" when I hit the high note.

JUL
14

Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?

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It's like this. I live pretty close to Disneyland. As in, I could drive there, like, every weekend if I wanted to. An annual pass seems like a no-brainer, as it should be for EVERYONE who lives in SoCal, but as I've asked around since being here, I've yet to find anyone who actually has one. Worse, the one person I found who used to have one said she didn't use it enough to make it worth it. For clarification purposes, depending on the level of pass you buy, you have to go between 2 and 5 times in order to actually make it a savings. And from where I'm sitting (less than an hour from the Magic Kingdom), I have a hard time believing that ANYONE could find themselves not using the pass enough to make it worth it. Still, though, it's a chunk of change, not to mention that I don't have a plus one. A solo Disney trip is fine once, twice if need be, but every time you go?? Is that depressing? Maybe. Less fun? Probably. But is it worse than not going at all? Doubtful.

There's just such a stigma around "aloneness" and I know I should be doing what I can to push back. I hate that I feel, for lack of a better term, "lame" when at dinner or a movie by myself. Partly because it sucks to be reminded that pretty much everyone else in the world apparently has a date that night, and partly because I picture all the couples and families thinking pitiful, tragic thoughts about the Alone Girl in the corner. I know no one actually thinks about you even half as much as you think they do, but my natural instinct is to avoid doing social things alone. Which means that sometimes I miss out on something I really want to do/see. And isn't that a lot more pitiful and tragic than doing something alone? Yes. Yes, it is. I think I just made up my mind about the annual pass.

JUL
06

Let Freedom Ring

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I look at it differently now. Freedom. I'm older, yes. I'm wiser, yes. But mostly, I attribute this different perspective to the fact that my brother joined the Airforce a few years ago. So now I've got some skin in the game, see. And trust me, it makes a difference. Because how many of us have ever had to give up anything for our freedom? Even one single thing. I visited Arlington National Cemetery recently with a friend whose brother died while serving as an Airforce fighter pilot. It's not that I think my brother will meet the same fate, but he could. And that's a possibility that the average family in this country doesn't have to grapple with. To be honest, it tears at my heart a little every day.

Selfishly, I wish my brother had a different occupation, but I know I will be forever grateful for his service because it has changed the way I feel about our country and the people who serve to protect it. I can't hear the national anthem now without crying, nor can I see the face of a military member without seeing my brother. And especially having so recently driven across the expanse of the entire nation in a matter of days, I've been reminded just how much we have to protect. I know I'm a few days late, but to all who serve this nation, to their families, and to the families of those brave men and women who have paid the ultimate price, I say thank you. I am so proud to be an American.

JUL
04

Eat. Sleep. Beach.

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No, make that eat, work, beach, sleep. Or actually more like eat, work, bakery, beach, sleep. Or sometimes (like this weekend) just beach, sleep.

It's truly a wonder, the weather in San Diego. And while I'm very out of practice when it comes to applying sunscreen and hence have had pretty much a constant sunburn since moving here, most of the time I'm stuck in a sort of sun stupor, where I'm so baffled by how weather can possibly be this good all the time that I start suspecting I may not actually be awake.

If I'm not, this is pretty much the best dream ever.

JUN
27

Back to the Salt Mines

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Although that's hardly a fair comparison considering this ocean view is the view from my office. Not to mention that working for a gemology institute is, for me, kind of like heaven. There are gemstones lining the walls, beautiful displays in all the hallways, you walk past people's desks and they are covered with pictures of various gemstones, all being prepped and positioned with copy, and when you overhear meetings, people are talking about things like birthstones. It's all just so ideal for a person like me.

Not to say that I'm not on some level mourning the end of my gemology school sabbatical. Taking 6 months off got me a little too used to sleeping in, to wearing nothing dressier than jeans and a t-shirt, to having my time be completely my own. Less than a week into my new gig, I'm exhausted and wearing high heels all day is giving me blisters. But I confess that despite any discomforts this transition may present, it feels awfully nice to have weekends once again become so coveted. When you're not working, weekends don't really mean much. Sort of like not having seasons. Everything is always the same, so what difference does the day make? Incidentally, I've just moved to a place that has no seasons, but that's neither here nor there. Besides, I'm not sure 75 degrees and sunny ever gets old.

JUN
21

Top Ten Moving Moments

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Hello from the Pacific time zone. How good does that sound? No more staying up until midnight (or after) watching sporting events. I'd driven from Michigan to Utah once (and back again) many years ago, but this cross-country venture was truly that. From New York City to San Diego. I was surprised not just by how not horrendous the drive was, but also by how much I enjoyed it. I remember thinking on the last day of the trip that I was going to miss being on the road, starting somewhere new every morning, eating somewhere new each evening, seeing such beautiful and varied scenery in such quick succession. Here are some of my favorite moments from the trip.

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10. Driving by my old house

I never appreciated how palatial my house was. A 2 bedroom!! It's simply unheard of in NYC. There were so many nights I pined for the quiet of my old street, for the lack of any noise coming from above, beside, or below me. Seeing the house again made me smile.

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9. Impromptu Stops

This was a functional trip, one on which we made very few stops, but when we did veer off the path (like this pic in Indiana where we stopped to see my aunt T and uncle S), it was nice to change it up.

8. Cleaning out my storage unit

I had all of one day to empty my midwest storage unit. There wasn't much in the way of substantial items inside, save my writing desk and guitar (both of which I am thrilled to be reunited with), but to the medical resident who swung by and bought my bedroom set, I will be forever grateful. There simply would have been no room to take it with me.

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7. Passing through Omaha

I blame this on the boy who introduced me to the Counting Crows when I was 17. He was handsome and won me over by playing Omaha on the guitar, and passing through the midpoint of the trip had me waxing nostalgic. Not necessarily for the boy (who's now married with kids, although who isn't married with kids these days?), but for the summer I was 17. For me, discovering love and Adam Duritz go hand in hand.

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6. Beach proximity

My new place is 5 blocks from the ocean. And although I don't eat fish, it's nice to know I can stop at the fish shack on the way back and be served even in my sandy bare feet.

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5. Introducing Clementine to her cousins

Traveling with a cat went smoother than I thought it would (meaning we only lost her once), and although it was by far the scariest of all our stops for poor Clementine, my sister's house found some little boys very eager to meet their feline cousin.

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4. The NYC send-off

It's my favorite building. Honestly, it is. And the trouble with going to the top is that you can't see it...because you're on it. So the Top of the Rock became my favorite place for viewing the Empire State Building, and you can bet that's where I spent my last NYC sunset.

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3. Mountain Day

Driving cross country is largely flat. And consequently easy. You set the cruise control and you are golden until you stop for the night 10 hours later. But mountain driving (Colorado mostly) is steep, it's winding, it's got a lot of pesky construction, and if you do manage to find the apparently one gas station within a 50-mile radius, you'll still have to drive 12 miles to the station after you've taken the exit. That said, my day of mountain driving was perhaps the most beautiful I've ever spent. At literally every turn you're surrounded by mountains, trees, rivers running alongside the road, sky, clouds. It was hard not to look away, and at the risk of waxing spiritual, it was good for the soul to be reminded of how much beauty there is to be had on this rolling sphere of ours.

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2. Catching a Cavs game

By now you should know how I feel about Cleveland and my beloved Cavaliers. Though the game didn't go my way, I'd always wanted to see them play in the finals, and I was lucky to be able to attend a game while passing through. To cheer alongside 20,561 others inside of Quicken Loans Arena once more was a definite trip highlight.

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1. Roadtripping with my mom

And of course none of this would have been possible without my mom. Or at least I can't imagine it being possible. Going it alone on such a trek (which I actually had believed for a time was my preferred method) now seems so foolish, and knowing now how much she helped and supported me before, during, and after the trip, I definitely couldn't have done it without her. Not to mention, I just got to spend 11 solid days with my mom, and what adult can say that? Lucky doesn't quite cut it, and after dropping her off at the airport yesterday, my passenger seat felt very empty.

JUN
10

Goodbye to all that

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I've been reading a collection of essays written by female writers who have at some point lived in (and left) New York. It's amazing how conflicted we writer folk can be about this city, and in almost every essay is what I've come to dub an inevitable waffling between how we could never leave new York and the fact that we can't leave fast enough because being here is, at most, draining and shallow, and, at worst, sort of sucky. In these essays there are three camps of people: those who love New York, those who hate New York, and those who--for better or for worse--feel an unnamed sense of belonging, pull, and attraction to being in New York. This final group are those who even after moving away end up moving back; those who even if they choose not to move back still pine for the city every day, wish they were there again, home.

I suppose you could say I belong to this third group of people, although I'm not really sure why. It's not like New York was ever mine. Certain of the essayists make quite clear, in fact, how annoyed they are with these so-called baby New Yorkers who move to the city with big dreams and after a few months of living with a bunch of roommates in a small flat in the East Village start going around claiming the city as their own. But when I say I belong to this third group, it's because my attraction to New York is something I cannot help. It's wired into me. I know this because living here has been hard. I've found many aspects of it much more challenging than I had ever anticipated, yet the thought of leaving tomorrow has me weepy.

To me, New York City equals possibility. On a grand scale, certainly, and the fact that I've been able to complete and fulfill a dream while here certainly boosts the life-making fantasy I've got going in my mind when I think of Manhattan. But I'm talking about possibility on a small scale, too. Because no other city is like this. No other city offers so much in the way of daily activities, eateries, or attractions. Any day could take you in any number of directions and result in any number of outcomes, favorites, and new friends. As an introvert, it's not even as if I was taking full advantage of this, but the point is that it's there for you when you want it. And there is comfort in that. Not to suggest that I'm sad about beginning a new chapter on the other side of the country (translation: I am totally sad), but I know every night will find me wondering what everyone in New York is up to, feeling the way you feel in dreams when you've been left behind, beating off with a stick this annoying sense that a bunch of fun is being had without you. Having now lived in New York, I know it will absolutely be true. To quote the essay that opens the book, "California has taught me this: you can take the girl out of New York, but all that accomplishes is taking the girl out of New York." I guess we'll just have to see.

JUN
03

End of an Era

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People have asked me what it feels like now that I'm a gemologist. And while it's hard to say that "the same" and "amazing" can both be valid answers, they sort of are. It's like you feel after your birthday...no older, but you'd like to think you are changed somehow nonetheless. And of course every day there is still the recollection of last week's exam, how hard it was, learning I passed, the satisfaction and amazement still fresh.

I can sum up post-gemology life in two succinct bullets:

1. I've resumed the writing of my third book. Feels good to be back in the saddle. I still have no idea really how this one will turn out, especially since it'll be my most personal book yet, so there are some jitters. But as always, I'm looking forward to how it comes together.

2. I've accepted a job. It's in the gemology field, so experiment Quit My Corporate America Job to Become a Gemologist and Switch Careers in the end has been a complete success.

Of course, going back to work can be summed up in two equally succinct bullets:

1. My time will no longer be my own. (ie. no more sleeping in, whiling away the afternoons reading in the park, doing really whatever I want all day long) And the end of such a satisfying sabbatical would make even the most stout-hearted cry like a baby.

2. I am leaving New York. Speaking of crying like a baby. I always assumed if a gemology job came my way it would be here. But it's actually on the other side of the country, which gives me only a few final days to get as much city time in as I possibly can.

So I'm going to stop writing and go outside.