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Inspiration

In Inspiration on
May 8, 2017

do you have a fave pod?


A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a junior in college.

(This is like the fall of 2014)

I still thought I was going to be a news reporter, but had my sneaking suspicions that maybe I wasn’t so good at it (#honesty).

And that’s when I first heard about a “podcast,” and that “podcast,” was Serial. Full confession: I still haven’t listened to all of Serial. I’m a little nervous to go whole-hog on it, to be honest, given that I have so many friends who swear it’s one of the best things they’ve listened to. I tend to treat podcasts like radio shows – perfect for filling empty airwaves while I’m cooking, cleaning, commuting or getting ready for work.

I knew just how addictive and well-produced This American Life was but assumed for a long time that, in the same vein as Serial, I just didn’t have time to follow a podcast.

Long story short: I was wrong.

Here are five of my favorite podcasts. Tell me yours? Then we can all read the comments and bask in the glory of good storytelling, sound editing, and content production:

  • Pod Save the World: I fully recognize how self-serving it is to listen to three white guys discuss whatever Donald Trump has done this week, and while I love Pod Save America for purely indulgent reasons, Pod Save the World does an excellent job interviewing various players on the global diplomactic stage. Tommy Vietor gets access on access thanks to an old gig at the NSC, and the interviews are substantial enough (they can get soft, of course, too). One you can’t miss? His interview with The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald about Snowden. They disagree, and it’s so good. 
  • Dear Sugar: This is chicken soup for the soul, and also a really good way to talk back to your phone (#guilty). Cheryl Strayed (yes, of Wild fame) and Steve Almond give good advice to people who write into the show. I know what you’re thinking (“I don’t want to listen to a Dear Peggy podcast.”) and it’s not that. It’s empathetic with a dose of #realtalk. Just give it a shot. I promise, it doesn’t suck.
  • The Daily: For seven months while I was working the morning shift at a digital news hub, I was a morning person. I got up at 5AM and went to bed at 10PM, sharp. That time in my life has passed, and while I miss the productivity I used to have early in the morning (and the discipline to stick to an early bedtime), I use podcasts to feel productive. The Daily isn’t a comprehensive news podcast – instead, it’s what you really need to know, and why.
  • Up First: All right, so look: I’m a hardcore Morning Edition addict. If The Daily is curated news, this is an overview of the news – what you need to know, and a little bit of why. It’s perfect if you want everything newsworthy for the day in around 12 minutes.
  • On Being: I stumbled upon On Being when they interviewed Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. The talk is long and in-depth – these can be heavy listens, but the storytelling is lush and deep.

What are your favorite podcasts? Tell me in the comments!

In Inspiration, Life on
April 22, 2015

National Poetry Month

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I spent this weekend exploring the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City for the first time! Um, why aren’t all art museums *completely free*? Anyway, I think painting is a different kind of visual poetry. So it inspired me. 

In the spirit of art, April is National Poetry Month! These are my all-time favorite poems (I’m a bit of a classic buff, but I feel something every single time I read them.); send me yours!

When I have fears that I may cease to be (John Keats)

Ozymandias (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

The Lady of Shallott (1842) (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

The Raven (Edgar Allen Poe)

Invictus (William Ernest Henley)

The Rights of Women (Anna Leticia Barbauld)

 Phenomenal Woman (Maya Angelou)

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost)

Breakage (Mary Oliver)

(Did you know that Monet’s Water Lilies works [shown above] that are split up among different international museums were actually all intended to be displayed side by side in an oval room? It’s so that the viewer would be surrounded by serenity and peaceful images. I know. I love him, too.) 

 

 

 

In Inspiration on
April 3, 2015

For Joni.

One of the first CDs I ever received (back when CD players were like, rad) was Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon. I didn’t pay any attention to it, like any good music, until mid-high school. My mom loves Joni Mitchell; we’d play her albums while we did laundry or cleaned the house. That album cemented in me a permanent adoration for the singer and songwriter who was a little more flower-child than rock ‘n’ roll.

If you haven’t heard, Mitchell has been in the ICU since Wednesday after being found unconscious in her home. Don’t let the headline fool you; “Big Yellow Taxi” may be her most well-known song, but it isn’t her most complex (naturally). While I’m hoping she recovers, I have to acknowledge that she’s lived a long and accomplished life. So if you’ve never heard of her, or never taken the time to listen, here’s your chance:

I could drink a case of you / and still be on my feet. 

Get well soon, Joni.

In Inspiration on
March 24, 2015

I’ll Drink To That.

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(Note: I am currently writing this in a giant beige wool sweater with mutton sleeves from the eighties. Thanks, Mom!)

My maternal grandmother is an icon. MaryCarol was a powerhouse of color, style, and cigarettes. To me, she embodied the last great women who dressed extravagantly well.

Which is why, when I spotted Betty Halbreich’s memoir, “I’ll Drink to That,” sitting on a shelf at my local library, I was instantly attracted. From a coddled upbringing on Chicago’s South Side to a devastating end to a terrible marriage, I loved Halbreich’s wit throughout the book. She pushes the story along with a dry humor and bluntness that is at once amusing and jolting.

Above all, though, I appreciate Halbreich’s love of luxury and of life. A self-proclaimed “child” throughout her twenties and thirties, in her first and only marriage, she’s gently comes into her own as an independent woman post-separation, relying on what would become an iconic job at Bergdorf Goodman’s department store to get her through the day.

It sounds shallow; I can see some of you rolling your eyes as you read this. And perhaps it is. But I know this: every single woman has a piece of clothing in her closet that makes her feel gloriously beautiful. It could be a pair of jeans, a shirt, a dress, or a hat. Halbreich celebrates that fact.

She reminds me of my grandmother in some ways, who was always swathed in some kind of pastel, with pants that sat much too high on her waist, always with a belt. MaryCarol smelled like a combination of cigarettes, oil pastels, and Coco Mademoiselle perfume. She was a florist, an artist, a wife and a mother. She was dynamic. I still look up to her long after her death.

This memoir, if you love clothes, comeback stories, powerful women, dry wit, or simply interesting anecdotes about famous people, is a phenomenal read. I finished it in two days flat. Perhaps the occupation with dressing well is something few people will understand, but the heart of the book, about finding your purpose through self-exploration and serving others, is broadly applicable. If you’re looking for a new read, I highly recommend this book.

In Inspiration, Life, Link Roundups on
March 16, 2015

Begin Again.

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(This is a “Things I Wanted to Write About This Week, But Didn’t” + personal updates. I hope you don’t mind!)

It has been quite a long time since I took to this blog to share my thoughts. A lot of things in my personal life have come to a turning point, and I’m sure details will leak into this blog eventually, as they always seem to do.

I’m proud of the journey I’ve made, and I’m proud of the journey I have yet to make. But some days, it’s hard to be cheerful, so here are a list of things that are making the bad days better, and the great days into phenomenal ones:

The fact that people take books, make them teeny tiny, and then into jewelry.

Can all fictional plots be reduced to data points? This article from The Paris Review discusses whether we can break down our favorite literary works into formulas based on overarching emotion–it’s pretty cool.

Two words: Breakfast. Sandwiches.

GIANT THINGS THAT ARE PRINTED TO LOOK LIKE OTHER THINGS (a.k.a. this comforter from H&M looks so cozy).

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And a little list of tiny things that make me smile. I’ve been keeping lists like these around my room lately:

Homemade chocolate chip pancakes (that I just learned to make) // a good friend’s laugh // the season’s first nectarines // foggy Missouri mornings // Thursdays // Retellings of Greek tragedies that include quite a bit of humor (‘Argonautika’ was delightful, despite all the sadness) // leisurely cups of coffee // living with a great roommate // watercolors // phone calls to my mom // a good cry // sunrises // the fact that spring comes so early here and lasts so long.

I hope you have a great week! I know I will.

 

 

In Inspiration, Life on
November 13, 2014

What Are You For?

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And for every day you paint the war, take a week and paint the beauty, the color, the shape of the landscape you’re marching towards. Everyone knows what you’re against. Show them what you’re for. (Andrea Gibson)

That quote is one of my favorite quotes from Andrea Gibson, who is a phenomenally talented spoken word artist. Her poems and performances are works of art. I can’t get enough of them. (My favorites are this one, this one, and this one.)

But this quote from her resonated with me this week for some reason. I’ve been swamped in activities and homework lately, struggling with applications and internships. In between all of those things, I’m also worrying about whatever I want to do when I graduate. Juggling all of that doesn’t always make me the most cheerful person, and I tend toward sarcastic most days anyway. It can be hard to stop criticizing, whether it’s myself or the world I’m living in.

I hope I’m not the only one, but I feel like I have this tendency to dream about the future to escape the present. It’s easier than facing the challenges that are right here in front of me. It’s easy to be cynical and distant; it is much more difficult to be positive.

What are you for?

 

In Inspiration, Life on
August 23, 2014

College Is Hard Sometimes

Look. I don’t have this whole “life” thing figured out. I don’t really even have this “college” thing figured out. But if there was anything I wish someone had told me about my first two years away at school, it would be this:

  • Change your major to whatever makes you happy. Seriously. (Warning: This is harder than they tell you.)
  • Don’t treat college as a “career prep” program, where you need to network 24/7. Learn how to think here. Learn how to learn here, because those skills will be immensely valuable.
  • Find out if a boy’s brain is just as attractive as his face/arms/smile/eyes/muscles. (If you’re into girls, find out the same things.)
  • Know that you can reserve the right at any time to say “no.” No to plans, no to drinking, no to sex, no to kissing, no to a sketchy walk home. No to healthy eating habits, no to exercise, no to positivity. Your “no” holds more power now.
  • Spending a Friday night watching Netflix doesn’t make you a loser. 
  • Spending a Thursday night out at frat houses doesn’t make you a skank, either. 
  • Discuss life and art and beauty and science and poetry. Find friends who talk about things and ideas and events and places, not people. Talk. Debate. Think!
  • You will bring your laptop to class. And you will be on Facebook. You don’t even like Facebook. But you’ll do it. Because you haven’t learned the art of *ignoring the Internet* yet while in lecture.
  • Dress to make yourself feel comfortable. If you hate sweatpants in public, don’t wear them. If you love them, throw ’em on.
  • Seek people who are different from you because you will learn something from them; something that cannot be learned in a classroom. 
  • GO TO OFFICE HOURS. You’ll make their day just by stopping to say hello.
  • You can disagree with professors. They’re not gods. They actually like being argued with (the good ones, anyway).
  • Take one class that happens to count for a gen-ed, or a minor, or towards your major requirement that seems totally interesting and “I can’t believe this actually counts, sweet” because those classes are very important to your holistic development. 
  • If someone disagrees with you, shut up and listen. Maybe you’ll learn something. And if you don’t? You have more time to formulate your argument.
  • If you don’t like the hook-up culture, don’t buy into it. Make a guy take you on a real, decent, dinner-and-a-movie date. Keep your standards as high as Mount Everest. You’ll find someone who reaches them.
  • You may meet your soulmate in college. But your soulmate is still only one half of you. Don’t forget about yourself. A relationship you’ve spend hours agonizing over will mean nothing if it leaves you empty at the end. Learn from every person to whom you give your heart. 
  • If you act like a child, you will be treated like a child. 
  • Send handwritten letters to your friends from home. There’s nothing like opening your mailbox to see a letter from a familiar name. Send care packages if you can, too.
  • Try to get paid for what you love doing. Lots of people will take jobs as waitresses and camp counselors but if you can find a job that will actually count for your major (not an internship but a job job) it will teach you about your potential career early, and what you do/don’t want in a real job.
  • Be grateful for every single class, every lecture, every hour spent in a library. Higher education is still a luxury in America with a high price tag, as I’m sure you’ll find out. Be ever so grateful. Use it wisely.
  • Everyone else feels like they’re pretending at being a grown-up, too. We’re all a bit scared.
  • Don’t let the haters bring you down. 
  • Find the people who love what you love. 
  • Get help early. Ask questions. Be annoying to your TAs. Ask, ask, ask because they will not be checking up on you to make sure you understand. Email. Send a carrier pigeon. Act desperately. It’s better than flunking a class you’ll have to pay to take again.
  • There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist because of stress or friends or family issues. It feels good. Trust me. 
  • It’s okay to have only two or so close friends. It’s better than having thirty kind-of-sort-of-maybe friends.
  • Take care of yourself. Get as much sleep as you’re able. Feed yourself wholesome food. Love yourself. It’s so much harder than it looks, and everyone else seems to be better at it, but when you start, it’ll be like you can’t stop. Give yourself rest, give yourself a break. Take a mental health day if you need to. Always take care of yourself. You are so, so important. 
  • These won’t be the “best four years of your life.” If they are, you have this whole adulthood thing figured out wrong. This is just the beginning.

Most importantly?

I know it seems scary right now. And overwhelming, and exciting, and terrifying. You’re caught between wanting to hide in your dorm room all the time because it’s the first familiar place on campus, and being out there in the thrill of it all, doing things, counting down the days until you don’t feel so shiny and new.

It’ll come. It’ll happen. And soon you’ll be a junior in college, a former RA, who taught a class and worked at a tech startup, got crazy drunk on mango-flavored rum once and drunk-texted her boyfriend, met a great boy, cried on the phone to her best friend at 2AM and screamed “vagina” in the middle of campus in winter to raise money to end domestic violence and rape. I finally learned what “feminism” really was, lost friends, gained friends, gained weight, lost weight. I have been both badass and had anxiety attacks, stayed up all night exactly (and only) once; I miss my graduated friends dearly and am currently doing informal research on a topic I didn’t think I’d fall in love with…

And you realize how quickly time flies.

You’re going to figure this out. I promise. 

So I’m leaving every new college freshman with this:

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.” 
― Tyler Knott Gregson

In Inspiration on
August 21, 2014

Change Your Dialogue

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I call myself “boring” a lot.

“Yeah, I’m pretty boring,” or “My life is boring,” are phrases that come out of my mouth multiple times a day. At the very least.

But I’m not boring. I have a pixie cut for God’s sake. I am not boring.

I write every single day in a journal. I keep a book of quotes near my bed. Currently, I’m reading The Last of the MohicansThe Age of Innocence, and several Longreads articles. I have an affinity for the cover Bastille did of TLC’s “No Scrubs” going around the Internet. Also, “Girls” by The 1975 is on replay. My favorite style blogger is Sami from Beautycrush. I’m currently performing informal research with an anthropology professor. I am thisclose to deleting my Facebook account.

So why do I keep calling myself boring?

Okay, I really don’t have an answer. Mostly because I’m not sure why I bring myself down like that. Maybe it’s because we get so caught up in life that we don’t notice how interesting we are as human beings. Or maybe it’s because I don’t appreciate my own interests enough, or value them. It can be so easy to think that because your life doesn’t look like something out of your favorite blog that it’s not worth talking about. At least, that’s something I can admit that I struggle with. In truth, my life’s pretty damn awesome, with my yoga periodicals and patterned notebooks (and Lucky‘s September issue, helloooo girl crush, Dakota Fanning).

Long story short, I’m not boring. I’m actually exciting, just in my own slightly-old-ladyish- way. We’re all exciting in our own way. If we weren’t, wouldn’t this world be such a boring place? (See what I did there?)

P.S. the French word for “boring” is “ennuyeux” which is a decidedly un-boring word.

In Inspiration, Interior Design on
August 12, 2014

Tiny Houses

I have become borderline obsessed with something:

Tiny houses.

First, for the photos (found via Google Image Search):

 

Photo 1 // Photo 2 // Photo 3 (Click photos for links, too!)

Tiny homes are homes that are roughly no larger than 200 square feet, according to this super-informative CBS article. But what you lack in floorspace, you make up for in efficiency. Your carbon footprint is smaller, you have less crap to move around (honestly, how much stuff do we even need?) and your home is more organized, simply because it has to be!

CBS profiled a woman who moved into her tiny home because, after her stroke at just 39, she wanted less stress and I for one think it was the perfect option! She also wrote a memoir about her move from 2,000 sq ft to just 84, titled “The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir.” I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Additionally, A&E recently debuted a show called “Tiny House Nation” profiling people building their own tiny homes.

I love this idea if only because it appeals to the part of me that desperately wants to sell what she has and backpack across America. I don’t see myself in a large home anyway, and I can imagine it would be difficult to raise kids in a tiny house, but for someone who only has a partner or lives alone, this is a great alternative!

Granted, I am skeptical, too, about my own ability to live in a tiny house…but a person can dream, right?

Curious about more? Check out tinyhouseblog.com, tinyhousebuild.com, thetinylife.com…there are so many websites that you can investigate!

In Inspiration on
August 5, 2014

Are We Ready?

A few months ago, my friend Luria was participating in a scholarship pageant at our university. One of her questions during the Q&A session was “Are we ready for a female president?”

Luria’s answer was that yes, the modern woman was ready to take on the role of POTUS, but that the modern world wasn’t, yet. It was a nuanced answer (especially for a high-pressure pageant situation!) and I was impressed! Not only did she win the pageant (I see you Miss Kappa Alpha Psi 2014), but she also planted a question in my head.

Are we ready?

In Commander in Chief, Geena Davis played the first female POTUS. It only aired from 2005-2006, but I was addicted to the show. My mom and I used to tune in for every single episode. (via digitalspy.com)

With Hillary Clinton all but admitting she’ll run for office on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, we could see the very real possibility of a woman running this country in the next few years. Or at least, an office bid again, which would be monumental in itself, since no woman has run for either of the highest offices in the land since Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.

If you asked my 5th grade class, they’d tell you that I once gave an entire presentation on what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that was President of the United States. I had a poster with Magic Marker bullet points and everything. I put the Presidential Seal on the podium that I was a smidge too short for. They even said the pledge of allegiance when I went up to present, which may have been going a bit too far!

Would I want to be president today? Probably not. I don’t think I’m quite made out for the cutthroat world of politics, to be honest, as much as I adore the fiction that Scandal keeps throwing out there; it’s addictive and completely unrealistic, but #TeamOlivia for life. Do I want a woman to be president? Now that’s a loaded question.

If a woman were to take the highest office in all the land, I imagine a lot of things would happen, both good and bad. For one, if she was married, like Hillary is to Bill, then we’d have our first First…Husband? First Man? What’s the title? We’d have to create one. There would be conversations started about whether women can “have it all,” if the new female POTUS has children (Hillary’s are all grown and she’s going to be a grandmother, so that conversation might not apply to her). A conversation about whether or not it’s important to note what Madam President is wearing (Hills is infamous/famous for her power suits and pantsuits); do we ever hear about what President Obama is wearing? No, because no one cares. No one’s thought to ask, except maybe a fashion editor or two.

Is asking what the first Madam President is wearing be a bad thing? In some eyes, yes, because it trivializes her power and overshadows her important decisions on security, budgeting, and foreign policy. In some eyes, no, because it makes her more human, more approachable, and a welcome platform to promote American designers, as Kate Middleton regularly does with British designers.

Will rumors be started à la Jill Abramson, the former Managing Editor of The New York Times, that the new president is too “bossy” or “overbearing” or “blunt?” Will there be commentary on how the First Husband puts together a State Dinner, or will we wonder if the Madam President will have a hand in it as well? Will a “Madam President” unite this country, or divide it?

The funny thing about a lot of -isms, like sexism, racism, eliteism, etc, is that they are often subtle. We don’t always notice when we’re being sexist, for example, because it is ingrained firmly into our psyche. In fact, I still sometimes have to catch myself before saying “Girls don’t do that!” or “You’re the boy, you do it.” But I do think this country is making progress, which is why I’m on the fence regarding this issue. Yes, I would love to have a female president, a strong one, a courageous one, one who pushes bills through Congress and makes real change, effective change happen.

But that woman will have a huge weight on her shoulders. She will feel the pressure of history bearing down on her every move, every high-heeled step. Perhaps someone like Hillary, accustomed to such pressure already, would be best. But one must agree that even for the most seasoned of politicians, being the most powerful leader of the free world will always be more of a challenge than any of us can ever imagine.

Do you think we are ready? Tell me in the comments. I really am quite curious as to what you think.