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In Life on
October 17, 2017

fall bucket list

In honor of (one of) the greatest seasons with one of the shortest shelf lives, here’s what I plan to get up to this fall:

  • Watch playoff baseball at a local bar (Go Cubbies!)
  • Make spiked apple cider
  • Frolic in one of D.C.’s many public lands
  • Finally grab a cup of coffee at the new Blue Bottle in Georgetown
  • Get out of the city on a fall hike
  • Start my own sourdough starter*
  • Buy some cute fall booties
  • Hand out candy on Halloween + watch spooky movies (Hocus Pocus anyone?)

What are you going to do this fall? Let me know in the comments, and if you’re in the DC/MD/VA area, send me some ideas!

*Look, I started this, and it’s really not going well. It smells weird. It’s really goopy. I don’t know guys. I may not be a good sourdough starter mom.

In Life on
October 10, 2017

health = happiness (??)

Several weeks ago, after a routine ear infection, I started feeling off. Something wasn’t right. I was dealing with routine infections I don’t normally get, along with some awesome fatigue. After a trip or two to my doctor, I left with the knowledge that something I thought would be a quick fix would end up taking a month or more of treatment, testing, appointments, and medication.

I hate being on medication – I dislike timing my pills, remembering to keep especially sensitive pills at the right temperature, and I especially dislike the side effects. I couldn’t drink alcohol, which was hard to explain at parties and nights out. Often, I was nauseous, unfocused, and just tired. I was tired of feeling crappy as the weeks and doctor’s appointments dragged on, and tired of having to take it easy, take it slow, especially as summer wound down and I was trying to squeeze every last sunset out on a rooftop.

I’m now at (I think) the end of this saga, and if you’re like me, dealing with medical issues that can be a little all-consuming, there are some things you can do to protect your mental health while you tend to your physical health:

  1. Do all of your favorite things (that you can): For me, this is bubble baths, and lingering giant cups of coffee in the morning, and yoga. I bought a giant bag of Starbursts that lives on my kitchen counter for bad days. This is just something you do.
  2. Eat well: For a while, I just wanted to hole up in bed and eat chicken nuggets and pretend like this wasn’t happening. But it was, and the best way to feel good about myself was to buy some healthy groceries (to be balanced, remember, by the Starburst) and meal-prep some easy meals for the week. That way, when I was exhausted post-work and taking more pills, I could just pop something in the microwave.
  3. (Try) to exercise: Okay, I did not do this every day. Far from it. Aside from being barred from “strenuous activity” I was usually uncomfortable most of the time anyway, so running did not appeal to me. Yoga became my savior, as it often is. Body weight exercises did, too. But, man, you can’t beat endorphins for a mood boost. Staying active also keeps your body in tip-top shape, even when you feel like you’re not.
  4. Stay present: Worrying about the outcome of the next test, or if this prescription will finally work, or if you’re doing something wrong, can take the happiness out of a moment. Yes, you should pay attention to your symptoms (I kept a little symptom log in the Notes app on my phone), but don’t let it consume you. As long as you’re staying on top of it, you’re doing your best. This is the hardest advice for me to take, but it’s definitely saved weekends and nights where I would otherwise have obsessed about my heath.

I hope these help if you’re dealing with an illness or issue, too. Hopefully we’ll all get through this together! I’m certainly rooting for you.

 

In Life on
October 2, 2017

Seattle, pt. 2

My second and third days in Seattle were much different than the first. I spent most of Friday walking around Queen Anne Hill and then down by Lake Union to see the houseboats and seaplanes there. Since I really want to discuss the hike (that was the best part of the trip by far), I’ll just link you to the custom Google map I made of my travels, embedded below- that way, you can see where I ambled throughout Queen Anne Hill on the second day! Don’t forget to zoom in and scroll around, and hover over the little pin-points – I left some recommendations for you!


Sarah was kind enough to take me on a trail at Mt. Ranier National Park that she had done previously and deal with my huffing and puffing up the mountain. Altitude change is no joke! We hiked the Summerland Trail toward the Panhandle Gap and it had, aside from a great lower body workout, amazing views of Little Tahoma, Mt. Ranier, and Fryingpan Creek.

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In Life on
September 20, 2017

seattle, pt. 1

Over Labor Day, I hauled myself up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 AM, hopped on an Amtrak train to BWI and somehow survived a 5-hour flight next to a man with extremely long legs. What’s awesome about traveling westward is that you essentially get all of the time you spent on the plane back – which I love. So I took advantage of the time, and met Sarah (my best bud, soul friend, life force) for lunch a little north of downtown Seattle, and then proceeded to explore downtown, and up into Queen Anne the next day. I’ll write more about our hike around the foothills of Mount Rainer (holy hills) but for now, I hope you like these photos!

One thing I can say: buy an ORCA card. If you’re familiar with DC’s transit system, it’s literally almost the exact same as a SmarTrip card. An ORCA card is reloadable, costs around $2, and works on all buses, trolleys, etc, except the metrorail. It also works on the LightLink, which is the Seattle underground/above-ground transit system.

Sarah works literally one block from the Space Needle.

I ended up buying a daypack the week before the trip while picking up my hiking boots at REI. It’s the Co-op Flash 22 Pack, and it was supremely helpful both in hauling groceries home after my trip and serving as my personal item on all of my flights and travel. It’s super light, held up really well in the Seattle rain (phone was in an exterior pocket and didn’t get soaked from the city’s traditional mist). I also primarily used it as my daypack when Sarah and I went hiking, and it was the perfect size for a water bottle or two, an outer layer, granola bars, phone, keys, wallet.

Seattle really quenched my thirst for a huge city again. I hate admitting it, but I miss Chicago’s skyscrapers, and I miss the way the river cuts right up against the riverwalk. Seattle really felt similar to Chicago in that way – it’s right on the Sound, and while I’m sure the skyscrapers downtown aren’t the main draw, they made me feel happy for some reason.

I immediately headed here as soon as I landed because 1) the weather was sucky and I figured it wouldn’t be crowded, and 2) I was curious! I’ve only seen photos!

It was extremely crowded, and the sun came out right as I got there, so it was hot and sweaty and a little claustrophobic. But I’m still glad I went.

In addition to the main market, which you’ve probably seen photos of, there are also levels of the market down below as well. I found a cute little vintage mug shop down there, and almost caved and bought the Mt. St. Helens mug.

Post Alley is an alley right next to Pike Place, and is also filled with cute-but-touristy shops. Worth an amble.

One of my other goals for my first day in Seattle was to get as close to the water as physically possible. Mission accomplished.

After making it downtown, I headed over to Pioneer Square to get a cup of coffee at Cherry Street Coffee House and to make some personal phone calls – it was nice to take a break from walking. Sarah recommended Pioneer Square, and I’m so glad she did. The area is one of the oldest in Seattle, and has all of these giant green trees and old shopfronts.

This is pretty much where day one ended because I just walked back to meet Sarah for dinner. Day 2 + 3 are coming soon, and I’m working on an interactive Google Map showing you around the city from my point of view. Stay tuned!

In Life on
September 12, 2017

what 9/11 means to me

I struggle, always, to write about 9/11. It’s not because I knew anyone in the towers (I didn’t) or because I had an experience with someone who did (I haven’t). I was in Disneyworld. I was 7.  While it is a bizarre story, I still have a story in the same way everyone else does; where they were when they learned about the news, and who they were with and what they were doing. My aunt is the only person I know who knew people who died in the attack on the Pentagon. We visited their names at the memorial in New York City. We paid our respects. Then, we left.

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In Life on
June 19, 2017

mind your gap

Anybody in a creative-leaning field has seen it:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. (Ira Glass)

Have you looked at your gap?

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In Life, Link Roundups on
May 29, 2017

easy like (23)

(I feel like your birthday should hold all of your favorite things, and this is mine: sunrise on a rooftop in Rome. That’s the Vatican in the distance.) I wrote a whole other post for this day, but upon re-reading it, it just didn’t fit. #Typical.

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In Life on
August 15, 2016

Two Months Later

Georgetown Canal

Georgetown Canal

The weirdest thing about having an apartment all to yourself is the silence. The gentle pad of bare feet on wooden parquet floors. The constant hum of the too-powerful air conditioning, and the stifling humidity outside when you manage to get the window open.

I’m a slow adjuster to life in new places. And I have a lot of needs that I haven’t fulfilled yet. I need a coffee shop. I need a local bar to call my own. I need a hair salon, and a corner store. I need a church. I need a Thai place, or even better, an Indian place. I need open spaces. There are things like this that I haven’t figured out yet.

And that’s normal. I’m still exhausted after work every day. I’m usually too tired to do anything on the weekends except bake and read and call friends, and maybe if I’m ambitious, I’ll run when it’s not too muggy. But I still find myself slogging slowly around the Lincoln Memorial, dodging tourists, losing my pace again, and realizing that moving to another place doesn’t just mean moving all of your stuff.

It means moving your heart, too. And a little piece of mine is stuck in Missouri. Along with the little piece stuck in the lake-riddled north-easternmost county of Illinois. And the piece lodged in the sugar sand of Santa Rosa Beach on the Gulf.

So maybe this is how we do it. We take little pieces of our hearts and hide them all over.

I guess the trick is never asking for them back.

 

In Life on
June 1, 2016

The Last Two Years

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After the end of my sophomore year of college, I wrote a blog post in the form of a letter to all new college freshmen describing what I’d learned in my first two years of college. Here’s what I’ve got from the last two, for all the rising college juniors out there:

  • If you only paint the toes that stick out of the sandals, no one will ever know!
  • The only person beating yourself up for pressing snooze instead of working out is you. Sleep is a form of self-care, too.
  • If you think you might need to see a therapist, see a therapist. It feels better when it has a name.
  • It’s okay to cry after you get home from the party. Just remember that everything feels worse at 2 a.m. Get some sleep.
  • Ask them out, but for the love of God, don’t do it over Facebook. If you’re not ready to do it in person, you’re probably not ready, period.
  • You are allowed to take as much time as you need to heal. Do not rush your healing. If you do, you could find yourself in the middle of a house party you never wanted to go to, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, wondering why the hell you decided to put a dress on in the first place.
  • Embrace the mistakes you’ve made. Learn from them. Part of growing up is being able to look your mistakes squarely in the eyes.
  • Dance. Or sway. Bob your head. It doesn’t have to be good. You don’t have to look good doing it. You don’t even really have to dance at all. But in the moments I felt the most beautiful, I was dancing. 
  • Sometimes painful thoughts will come back. So if your mind is a living room, let the painful thoughts sit on the couch. Don’t let them change the channel on the TV or let them say mean stuff to you; just let them sit. They’ll get bored and leave eventually. One day, those thoughts won’t come back. And it’s your job to close the door on their way out.
  • If you feel good in it, wear it.
  • If someone tells you’ve they’ve suffered at the hands of another because of who they are, who they love, where they come from, or what they look like, pay attention. There is injustice in this world, even if you’re just learning about it now. Pay attention. Do all you can, but most of all, be a good listener. Pay. Attention.
  • If the teacher doesn’t like your writing, they don’t like your writing. You’re not going to convince them otherwise. But that doesn’t mean you should stop writing.
  • Push yourself. Stay out later. Work harder. Sometimes the best stories come from recognizing how much you can toe the line–without crossing it.
  • Always take criticism with a grain of salt. Step back, and reevaluate. Sometimes they’re right, and you should change what you’re doing. Sometimes they’re wrong.
  • Tell the people you love that you love them.
  • You don’t need anyone to fix you. You do, however, need to take the time to examine your cracks. And if you need fixing, in a beautiful, difficult way, you’re the one responsible for it.
  • “Sometimes you have to say no to your friends and yes to the work.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  • Try to drink it without a chaser. This goes for life, too.
  • WEAR SUNSCREEN.
  • Walk away from people who make you feel less than. You don’t need an excuse.
  • You don’t have to like them back. Your heart is not a consolation prize.
  • But give the unexpected a chance. You might end up working at a Disaster and Community Crisis Center for a year and a half, loving every single second of it. You might become the “weird girl who always knows what FEMA is up to.” And that’s cool. That can be your calling card. And you won’t mind a bit.
  • You are more than a stereotype. People are complicated and have many facets; know it for yourself, and know it for others.
  • Passionate people are the best teachers. Seek them out. Explore something they love (in my case: swing dancing, 19th century European Art History, watercolors, Italian, baking).
  • Be thankful for the journey. 

In these last two years, you will work harder than you’ve ever worked. You will stay up to see the sunrise and take long midday naps and hope that the damage you’re doing to your sleep cycle fades with time. But there are bars to visit full of the gorgeous faces of people you love, and beers to share, and stories to swap. There is ambitious, creative work to be accomplished, work that makes your heart beat faster and your palms sweat. There are hearts to break and hearts to mend. There are stories to be told. There are tears and hysterical laughter on the streets of a small city in Missouri you never expected to miss.

But I’m going to.

Remember:

Know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed. (Misty Copeland)

Good luck.