And the World Continues Turning

August 12, 2014


Hey there. I’d ask you how you’re doing, but you’re a website that just hangs out, and this conversation is entirely one-sided. But that haircut is fabulous, dear. Just superb. Sooooo, a number of big things have changed since we last spoke!

That new house I had mentioned moving into? Well, we did, with the help of a diverse group of friendly people armed with high fives and arms around boxes and toasts of cold beers. That little house we moved into has proven to be better than we anticipated. The backyard we initially viewed under a blanket of snow? Best thing about the place. We’ve planted all types of veggies and fruits there (with some help of our next door landlord/master gardener) and I’m currently buried in produce that I’m trying to preserve/can/dry/soak in alcohol as fast as my free time allows. Plus the adjacent patio is the ideal entertaining/happy hour location, and we’ve been soaking up sun, fun, conversation, and contemplation in that little spot as much as possible.

Surprisingly, this is BEFORE the garden went nuts. Now you can't even see that trellis with all the tomatoes, cucumbers, spaghetti squash and zucchini that are snaking their way through it..

Surprisingly, this is BEFORE the garden went nuts. Now you can’t even see that trellis with all the tomatoes, cucumbers, spaghetti squash and zucchini that are snaking their way through it..

The previously mentioned next door landlords? Oh, are they the definition of Good People. They built us raised beds filled with the best soil. They tore down an old shed and built a new one, stocked with all the yard and garden care equipment we could need. They’ve had us over for cocktails in their beautiful and immense backyard, and they shared their family’s Easter feast with us. They’ve introduced us to a bunch of other really super nice neighbors. Heck, they even waved me over one Sunday morning and gave us a couple of freshly made crepes stuffed with fresh crab and topped with creme fraiche. Truly, truly great, generous people. Our hesitations about living next to landlords are gone.

A big change is that I am no longer driving 120 miles a day to a job marketing tasty craft beer. It had been a long and emotionally tolling job search.

(A quick aside with a few examples of that endeavor… I was a final candidate four or five times over the course of 18 months. I was offered a very mediocre [but well paying] job marketing a product in which I had no interest… that I turned down. I did a shit-ton of research on every place that I applied and produced detailed, personalized cover letters over and over and over again, oftentimes to no response and no avail. One snowboarding clothing company VP had me write an after-interview essay on digital marketing strategies, and after I sent it to him I never heard from him or the company again. Trust me, the list goes on.)

I loved the brewery, loved the product, loved the people, loved the place. Still do! But it wasn’t working for where I wanted to go and where I want to be. When I was offered the new gig of being a full time designer for a wholesale home decor company, I bid a friendly adieu, toasted a few pints with coworkers, exchanged a couple tears with my boss, and very amicably parted ways.

This is my first time being a 100% designer (no hyphenated job titles or duties for this gal!) and it’s already been so exciting. Skills are improving, influences are growing, confidence is… biggening. Biggening? Getting bigger. Broadening. See? I’ve stopped including “copywriter” in my job description and look how my vernacular has languished.

In the three months I’ve been there I’ve already traveled to Memphis and Atlanta, and will likely head to China sometime within the next six months. One of the neatest aspects is seeing conceptual products that I’ve roughly illustrated or patched together in Photoshop turn into real, three-dimensional products that don’t look like utter crap! I’m not diminishing my skills with that statement, it’s just amazing to see something I once considered a hobby, an afterthought, not even my major, turn into a full-fledged career that produces items that people will purchase and give meaningfully to friends or bring out each holiday.

Go to Memphis for the first time? End up in a "Who's Who of Memphis" magazine.

Go to Memphis for the first time? End up in a “Who’s Who of Memphis” magazine.

We’re midst a summer that’s already been a busy whirlwind, and as per usual I’m already bemoaning the oncoming fall. I haven’t gotten enough of a tan yet, haven’t jumped into enough swimming holes, haven’t napped outdoors, haven’t played enough. The weekends are quickly filling up and still it feels like not enough time before the rains return and I can’t comfortably drive around with the windows down.

That all being said, life is darn peachy right now and I couldn’t complain a bit.

Things I Accomplished This Weekend

March 16, 2014

… in no particular order.

  1. Herb roasted a giant turkey breast
  2. Packed up the majority of immediately unnecessary items in our kitchen
  3. Slept 8+ hours each night
  4. Cooked a giant pot of Filipino beef stew
  5. Deadlifted 220 pounds for the first time
  6. Walked to the store in a tank top and was not cold
  7. Drank several beers, two glasses of wine, and a mint julep
  8. Squatted 140 pounds for the first time
  9. Watched my first episode of Scandal
  10. Watched six episodes of Scandal
  11. Got the keys to our new house
  12. Dropped off the first load of boxes in our new house
  13. Had to write an unexpected and un-budgeted check to our new landlords for a deposit we had never discussed
  14. Jacked up my upper back/t-spine area doing military presses
  15. Walked the 5k Shamrock Run with my mom, husband, and father-in-law
  16. Listened to a quarter of the audiobook for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods while packing and doing chores
  17. Ate some candy
  18. Fielded a phone call from my nephew who thought every sharply dressed female mannequin in Banana Republic was his auntie, was sad when it wasn’t, and needed to talk to me because he missed me

It was busy enough to be notable.


Moving Along

March 13, 2014

We’re moving from NE Portland to SE next week. Midst the expected chaos of packing, sorting, cleaning, and getting rid of stuff, we’ve had time to reflect upon the things we will miss and the things we will certainly not miss in our current abode. Comparatively, the lists are a little unbalanced.


A very private backyard. Enclosed almost completely with a freestanding garage and giant laurel hedge, the backyard made a nice little retreat. Also: there was a few square feet of grass where absolutely no one could see you, unless they were in the house. Scantily clad sunbathing days are gone.

A bathroom with lots of natural light. I actually made a greenhouse out of the sunny, south-facing expanse we had out of our bathroom window and it always seemed cheerful.

My raised beds. Sean, my dad, and I built four 2’x4′ raised beds last year and filled them with excellent organic compost and soil, and in them I had my best garden to date. 

Our firepit. Another thing we built last year and thoroughly enjoyed, especially when having friends over for a few beers around the fire on warm summer nights.

Our neighborhood. It’s a nice place near parks and schools with lovely neighbors, within walking distance of a grocery store, theater, liquor store, and a few decent restaurants, and has easy access to the highway and airport.

It was our first house together. So, you know, sentimentality and all that malarkey.



Not having a dishwasher. HOLY CRAP ARE WE SICK OF HAND-WASHING DISHES. Especially because I cook a lot of awesome food and we both have busy schedules. Dishes pile up easily in this place, so washing them is an hour-long chore of dread. This will be a HUGE timesaver.

Mowing lots of lawn. Our new place has modest patches of grass in the back and front yards, with everything else being established beds of neat plants. I hate mowing and our current place, with large front and back yards AND long sidewalk strips of grass, was the worst. Add in a crappy electric mower and it was my most hated warm weather chore.

Having only one bathroom. Where everything you do is easily heard by anyone else in the house. (That part of hosting guests was always awkward.) And your husband camps out in there for what seems like hours. And two people getting ready at the same time was near impossible due to its tiny size.


Fabby hogs the sink. AGAIN.

Not having a fan with our stove. There’s a nice layer of greasy dust on everything near the stove because the ventilation in the kitchen is A.) a window, or B.) a door.

Stinky cupboards. For whatever reason, the cupboards and drawers at our current place have a weird old wood, old cardboard funk to them. If anything has been in there for a long time, you need to wash it first before using it because you’ll then taste it in your wine or dinner. While packing I found a stash of paper plates I had kept in the back of one and I immediately threw them out.

Oil furnace heat. Spending somewhere between $700-1000 once a year to fill a tank of fossil fuels to heat your house is the worst. Granted it does heat the house quickly, and if the place is smelly for whatever reason (say, the garbage wasn’t taken outside early enough), a spritz of perfume in the intake vent did instantaneous wonders. However, fuck that inefficient, unsustainable, and expensive noise. Literal noise, because that shiz is loud.

Bad bathroom lighting. Despite me loving the natural light in the bathroom, it’s a pain in the ass for eyebrow plucking. And the small spotlights directly over the mirror create harsh shadows that point out every conceivable bump on your face.

Weird laundry system. The washer empties into a large sink basin. If you don’t watch it vigilently, the small drain could plug up, the sink could fill, and the whole thing overflows. It only happened to us twice, but you could never just put a wash on and go. Also, the dryer doesn’t vent outside the house. Instead it vents into a little plastic basket on the floor, in which you’re supposed to pour a little water to trap the inevitable lint. That… kinda works? As a result, the basement turns into a sweating sauna. Nice in the winter, awful in the summer. And lint covers everything, including the popcorn ceiling.


You could easily just summarize this entire post with FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. Because they are. But! What you can easily deduce from these lists: we’re really looking forward to our new house. Onward and upward!


March 10, 2014


Night creams, day creams, creams for your wrinkling decollete, creams for rough elbows, creams for rough days (TAKE A GODDAMN CALGON MOMENT YOU UNFEMININE AUTOMATON), cellulite erasers, spanx, lip plumpers, hair straighteners, high heels, push-up bras, self tanning lotions, shellac manicures, brazilian waxes, microdermabrasion, eyelash extensions, hair extensions, chemical peels, teeth whitening, diet pills, diet drops, diet drinks, vajazzling, rhinoplasty, labiaplasty, liposuction, butt implants, cheek implants, hair transplants…

Play us the theme song, Beyoncé!

A Work in Progress

January 26, 2014

In an amazing feat of table turning, within an hour of me posting about being proud of my weightlifting accomplishments, this photo was posted of me performing the exact thing I was proud of.

1509730_1453613204857540_55759594_nAnd despite words of praise, my initial reaction to this photo was ANYTHING BUT PROUD. Let me illustrate my thought process a la doge memes. (Click to embiggen.)

olymeet_dogeMy first reaction is to criticize my appearance, look for faults, hide from public view, and overlook the radness of what I’m doing (with decent form, might I add!). And that fucking sucks. It’s also proof that despite my bluster, despite my efforts to be strong and proud and to look past what society expects from me, my superficial ego still holds tremendous sway over how I view myself.

In other words, I have a long way to go.

I think this is also the appropriate time to share this beautiful video on, of all things, selfies. I didn’t realize until the end that it was a Dove promo, which kinda pissed me off since I’ve railed against their heavy-handed “Redefine Beauty” campaign in the past. But this video made me want to cry multiple times. Our own criticisms are often ridiculous in the eyes of other people. One girl hates her big hair, which I would personally ADORE. But as another girl stated, we often hate the things that make us different, when those are the very things that make us unique. Strength is accepting your differences and finding beauty within them.

Watch, share, discuss. And maybe try to lose (or lessen!) your fear of a bad photo.

This is Part 4 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud

The Strength to Be Proud

January 26, 2014

Yesterday I completed the aforementioned Olympic weightlifting competition and… whoa.


Before I get into those fun details, I just want to say how incredibly awe-inspiring and humbling the feedback I’ve received from my Strength to Be Strong post has been. From calls to texts to social media comments to emails, I’ve heard back from so many wonderful people. It’s made me smile and reflect and feel so freaking grateful. What amazes me the most is how admitting your own insecurities opens a much more honest conversation with people, especially those with whom you’d normally only exchange banal pleasantries. It cuts to the quick of our experience as functioning humans in a social world much more so than discussing politics or the weather ever could.

In the wake of that post I’ve had so many more open, free-speaking, and in depth talks with people than I normally would ever have. From people I admire to people I don’t know very well, the all-encompassing lesson as been that EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN HANG-UPS. We’re all insecure about something. And I think the fact that I come off as a fairly confident person, especially in this world of social media where 90% of what you discuss publicly is fashioned to be positive, made the admissions I’ve held within for a lifetime that much more resonant.

What was particularly eye-opening were the emails and conversations exchanged with the people I look up to, the ones that I naturally assume “have it all.” Just as much as you, they have their own shit that they’re worried or embarrassed or ashamed about. In fact some of the things they’re insecure about will seem ridiculous in your eyes. But that’s the thing– we all compare ourselves to each other and what society expects from us, and we all find ourselves lacking. If we’re all lacking, then that means no one has everything, right? So striving to achieve perfection is a futile endeavor and we should all be celebrating our own little triumphs and moments of awesomeness, rather than overlooking them in search of the flaws. The notion of “having it all” is a stupidly perpetual myth.

So, on that note… the weightlifting meet.

I’ll say off the bat– it went great. I could easily do the stereotypical “chick” thing and diminish my accomplishments (which, as a journalism major, I always feel like I need to do for the sake of objectivity) by saying that I lifted the least amount of anyone competing, or that the only reason I placed was that there were no other women in my (“heavy” 75kg+) weight class.



I went in there with only a month of experience, lifted weights I have never lifted before, set personal records, and placed first in my weight division. AND I AM NOT MARGINALIZING THOSE ACCOMPLISHMENTS ONE GODDAMN BIT. I am wholeheartedly going to pat myself on the back for being ballsy and competing in something in which I have no expertise. I did it with a smile and maybe a weird dance or two on the platform while I was at it, no less. I had one goal that day: to successfully complete both a snatch and a clean & jerk, and I totally did that. Hands in the air, that’s all I’m here for, PEACE. Mic drop.

But I achieved more than that, and I choose to be proud.

And that’s the thing. YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE PROUD.

You don’t need permission or a mythical future point in your life where everything will fall into place (because, hey there, real talk: it never will). In this world, in this one precious life, you have this incredible ability to choose your own adventure, to choose your own perspective, to choose your own happiness, and to choose to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. So go out there and do something for yourself, for no one else, and make yourself PROUD.

That’s what I did yesterday. And I plan to keep it up.
Plus I’m kinda hooked on this Olympic weightlifting thing.


This is Part 3 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 4: A Work in Progress

Training, with GIFs

January 17, 2014

My head-first introduction into Olympic weightlifting only weeks before a meet has surprisingly been much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I’m getting stronger with every session (I’m working out and training 3-5 times a week right now), but Oly requires a different set of skills than the ones you utilize when you’re simply lifting weights. There are so many intricate movements and positions to remember at every moment, whether you’re at rest or you’re hurling a bar over your head.

My first few training sessions were a breeze, and I left them feeling confident that I was progressing nicely. Then two nights ago I just could. not. do. it. And the only thing holding me back was my brain! In fact it felt exactly like my many summer days as a kid, standing on the high diving board, staring down at the water, and not being able to jump. I knew I could do it, I knew I’d be fine, everyone else can do it so easily, but something in my brain would block my legs from leaping. It was the same thing the other evening, and I was so frustrated with myself I felt near tears.

In contrast, I squeezed in a few practice lifts (of just the bar, mind you) last night and had no problem whatsoever. I just did it.

To use video game GIFs to express my point:

… Here’s me two nights ago:
(It’s so sad how literal this nearly is.)

… And here’s me last night:


In addition to that weird mental block, the reality that I committed myself to a COMPETITION in a very difficult and detail-oriented category of physical strength that I’m just now LEARNING definitely hangs over my head. It’s just a little bit insane, and I question it regularly. When I’m not staring at a bar in frustration, though, I know it’s just another challenge and you could qualify this level of ridiculousness as something akin to being brave, if you look at it in only the most flattering light. Does it matter how I fare on that day? Not really. Does it matter that I show up and try? Absolutely.

The meet is a week from tomorrow, and I’m about to fly out of state for work for four days. The timing is wonderfully shitty, especially since I’m eating super clean this month AND not drinking, and I’m heading to a three-day gourmet food show. Plus I won’t have any type of workout facility during those four days. Bodyweight hotel room workouts FTW!

I’m going to end this here, but please note that a post regarding the comments, hugs, kind words, and high fives that I’ve received in reaction to my Strength post is forthcoming. It’s been phenomenal, and fills me with warm fuzzies still. You are all glorious diamonds.

This is Part 2 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud
Part 4: A Work in Progress


January 14, 2014


The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink digital download is free on Amazon until tomorrow.

The Shriver Report is a multi-platform project of A Woman’s Nation, the nonprofit organization led by Maria Shriver that raises awareness, ignites conversation, and inspires impact around the defining issues and fundamental changes facing modern women. By convening influential voices and bold ideas from across the cultural spectrum, The Shriver Report project seeks to chronicle how American families live and work today, giving clear insight into one of the most important social trends of our time: the emergence of women into all areas of society.”

If that doesn’t interest you, maybe the Report’s essay by Beyoncé on gender equality will?

If an essay by Beyoncé doesn’t interest you, maybe this AMAZING amazing video from her Visual Album will? Because it’s my favorite.

The Strength to be Strong

January 4, 2014


Yesterday I signed up for my first ever competitive weightlifting meet. Not that I’m super great at lifting weights– I still have such, SUCH a long way to go! And I honestly don’t expect to “win” a single thing. But it’s through the gym that I’ve grown to love over the last two months, and it’s a fun challenge and a tangible goal to work toward. I like the feeling of lifting something I wasn’t able to lift weeks earlier. I love the feeling of progress, of strength, and the confidence that comes with pushing your body (safely!) to its limits and coming out the other side as your own personal champion.

What was interesting though was the meet’s online sign up process. Amongst fields reasonably asking for your name, age, and weightlifting experience, was a field asking you to define what weight bracket under which you’d be competing. For people like my husband who compete within weight brackets all the time, that’s no big deal. It’s how you logically parse the competitors.

For me, though, the “admission” of my weight range was, for a moment, almost a game killer. Especially since it would be in the last tier of brackets, “Women’s 75kg+”.  My first reaction was to lie, which is the default reaction for most women. But then I read that there would be a weigh in before the meet (yes, ladies: WEIGHING. YOURSELF. IN. PUBLIC.) and that was almost the second deal breaker.

I’ve regretted, loathed, lamented, hated, avoided, ignored, or been disgusted by my own body at various stages and intensities for over half my life. Societal factors, upbringing, and a lack of true, knowledgeable ownership over my health and well-being compounded into a big, ugly opinion that is sadly the norm with many women and girls nowadays. When was the last time you heard a woman say she loved her body?

Only in recent years have I slowly come out of that self-hating funk, but I’m STILL working on it. What’s particularly interesting about that though are the diverse factors leading to what I would almost describe as a “self-love epiphany.”

My husband. The biggest is my relationship with my husband. Sean believes in me endlessly, long after I’ve given up on myself. The fact that someone I hold in such high esteem has that much confidence in me was nothing short of revolutionary. Plus he is actually a DELIGHTFUL workout partner (which is also why he makes a great coach), and will always push me to try a little harder and not get caught up in the “I can’t do that” mentality that’s been driven into my head for decades. In his eyes I see the person I’ve always thought I was, but felt encumbered by my body, or others’ perceptions, or other self-imposed limitations that hold me back from truly expressing and experiencing myself.

Paleo eating. The next factor is definitely my decision to go paleo/primal two and a half years ago. Losing 30 pounds within a smattering of months was, naturally, a HUGE boost. I’ve kept everything level since then, but knowing how to properly fuel my body, and what makes it the happiest, is incredible. With that has come acceptance that I won’t always be perfect in my diet and exercise, and that’s okay. As long as I don’t “eat like an asshole” I know I’ll be healthy and happy. Even when I do eat like a jerk, like I did this holiday season, I had little-to-no guilt. In fact it was an interesting experiment noting all the negatives as a result of eating grains, sugar, legumes, processed foods, and lots of booze. I slept horribly, my joints ached, my stomach ached regularly, digestion was sketchy, and my skin broke out.

Working out/lifting weights/yoga. Being active is well known for its abilities to boost your confidence. I feel the best when I’m getting at least three weight training sessions in a week, and one of those is usually with my husband at his gym. I used to ride the chronic cardio train, wasting time on elliptical machines while staring at a TV, or twiddling away on machines. I never had that great of results with these, and I never left the gym feeling as good as I do now, having really tested my limits. I feel STRONG.

Feminism. This is a pretty damn broad bullet point, and likely something that warrants its own blog post, but reawakening to the concepts of feminism and how important it still is has shaken my values tremendously over the past year. It began with the internet, in blog posts about the perpetuation of rape culture, in admissions from friends about the misogyny they’ve experienced in their lives, in the reports and GIFs further exposing the unrealistic standards to which beauty is held, and talking about both men and women being regularly held to unrealistic and limiting gender norms.
Websites like The Hairpin and Jezebel were incredibly important here too, in that it wasn’t about strict feminism, but highly intelligent, and often funny, stories and conversations by women reacting to the world around them with a sharp eye, quick wit, immense creativity, and sometimes a sad shake of the head. I still maintain that the Hairpin has the best comments section in the internet.
Reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman (as mentioned in the previous post) was the major game changer. After that I finally subscribed to Bitch Magazine, which smartly disseminates feminism across pop culture and politics. I was able to promote Bitch Media through my work when I got to brew my own beer this year, and in the process get to know the amazing women there, and inadvertently become directly involved with striving for equality of the sexes on a public level.
Overall, rediscovering feminism has given me the strength to speak up for myself, to strive to be more empathetic, and to identify and sometimes even call out the injustices around me that I might have ignored or shrugged off in the past.

Self-love leaders. Recently I’ve come to love a number of women online who promote self-love, acceptance, and encourage you to define healthy and happy on your own terms. Jen Sinkler is a weight lifting badass who writes a plethora of thought-provoking content that’s so relatable to me. Seeing multiple posts scroll across my Facebook news feed daily from Chichi Kix constantly remind me to feel good about myself, strive to be better, not compare myself to anyone else, and have a damn sense of humor about it. Melissa Joulwan is not only the author of my favorite cookbooks, but she also talks about clean eating, lifting weights, accepting her “flaws,” and finding out what works best for her body and her life in her blog. When I found out that she and Jen Sinkler were IRL friends, I tweeted them this pic (where I’m wearing an “Unapologetically Strong” shirt from Jen while cooking a recipe from Mel’s first cookbook), which they both appreciated.
BTXkfTdCYAAKqGaPlus the hilarious and all-too-relatable Amy Schumer debuted her fantastic show this past year, and her skits like the amazing “Compliments” below exaggerate and highlight women’s tendency to hate on themselves recreationally.

There are so many more factors and people that have helped me become happier with who I am and frequently encourage me to challenge both myself and the world around me. Too many to list. But I love all y’all. Thank you, thank you, thank you,

After initially balking at inputting my weight on the sign up form, I thought, “You know what? This is my body. That is my current weight. I’m not defined by that number. Technically, that number is defined by gravity. Also defined by gravity? Whether or not I can lift some weights. So let’s do this.”

I have three weeks to train.

This is Part 1 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud
Part 4: A Work in Progress

My Second Year Immersed in Literature

January 1, 2014

This is the second time I’ve documented all the books I’ve read or listened to over the course of the year, spurred by the fact that I’m in a car for at least 10 hours a week for my daily commute. Audiobooks are a godsend for that ultimate time suck, and occasionally I hit the perfect type of book (not too dense, not too simplistic, engaging story, great narrator, not overproduced, good sound quality) that actually makes me look forward to the daily drive. In fact, some of these were so wonderful that I was gleefully anticipating each 60 mile journey, and was then popping in headphones once I got home to continue the book while performing menial chores like dishes or gardening.

Last year I finished 61.5 books. I set a goal for this year to finish 75, which was pretty damn lofty. I should have done so with a bit more of an action plan in mind, because I realized too late in the year that to accomplish that I should have been selecting books based upon length more than I was. So how’d I fare? Here are the numbers.

Total number of audiobooks: 54.5
Total number of eBooks: 5.5
Total number of books: 8.5
Total number of books consumed: 68.5!

Not quite 75, but obviously an improvement over last year. Progress, people! Here is the whole list in its word-filled glory. I’ve provided links to my favorites.


29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
Panorama City by Antoine Wilson
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Let me tell you one thing: astrophysics is hard to absorb and fully grasp when you’re just listening to it, rather than reading it. Coupled with an audiobook with bad audio– so quiet that I had to jam earbuds in while driving just to understand what was being said– and I sadly did not get as much out of Stephen Hawking’s classic than I would have liked. Gone Girl was a great book. Panorama City represented a trend of the year: I book that I realized too late to be not so great (in this case, annoying characters and meandering plot), but I was too stubborn to quit. The Night Circus was a fun, quick read. 29 Gifts was a lovely way to start the year, with a focus on altruism and reframing the concept of giving.

We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World by Simon Mainwaring
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien
Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Aida D. Donald
Teddy Roosevelt was the shit! Okay, let’s rephrase that a little more intelligently. I had always been curious to learn more about our 26th president, especially regarding his role in conservation and the establishment of so many treasured parks and reserves, and this book did not disappoint in not only dispensing the facts but doing so in a way that was highly engaging. For an American girl that lived up in Canada during all the years she would have been learning US history, this filled in a lot of gaps I had regarding that time period.

Best story: Roosevelt was shot in the chest at the beginning of a speech in 1912 (after his presidency). His eyeglass case and 50-page speech manuscript slowed the bullet, so while he was definitely very injured, he also wasn’t dead, so he said, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” He then shows his bloody shirt as he pulls out his massive (and now holey) speech, says, “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,” and continues speaking for another NINETY MINUTES. What!?

I highly enjoyed the other three books this month as well. FYI.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The Iceman: the True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer by Anthony Bruno
What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson
Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell
Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
The Age of Miracles was one of those addictive reads that you can’t put down or stop thinking about. The global implications of the Earth inexplicably slowing its rotation, framed within the perspective of a young teenager coming of age was unique and captivating. What Dreams May Come finally finishes my reading of Richard Matheson’s books, and I’m now fairly convinced the dude knew what’s up with the afterlife. Everyone Communicates was a great, short book on, well, communication, while the last two of the month were just so-so.

An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life by Mary Johnson
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse by Sam Sheridan
Purple Cow by Seth Godin
I found Mary Johnson’s story of her life as a nun within the Missionaries of Charity and frequent interactions with Mother Teresa absolutely enthralling. It’s such a foreign life to the one I know, and not without its faults, politics, sex (!), and personal turmoil. Sam Sheridan’s book made me want to learn how to shoot and handle a gun, establish an emergency preparedness kit (for both the home and the car), learn how to survive in the wilderness, AND outrun a zombie. Obviously Harry Potter was awesome– explaining why the books are outstanding isn’t even necessary. However I will say that the narrator for the series (Jim Dale) is just as good as my other favorite narrator, Roy Dotrice, who read four out of the five ASOIAF/Game of Thrones books. Both have a tremendous capacity for individually voicing each character with such authenticity and skill that you forget it’s a single person. Highly talented when you consider the number of characters in both series.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe
The Eye of the Dragon by Stephen King
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
How to Talk to Anyone: 62 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes
Reading Cloud Atlas made the sprawling movie make so much more sense, and I’m glad I waited to read the book until after I had seen the film. The concepts of life and death here somewhat echoed that of What Dreams May Come two months prior, which I found to be quite satisfying. Maya Angelou’s personal tale was, of course, incredible, and having her velvety rich voice read it aloud made it that much more intoxicating. I’ve also determined that the only way I can appreciate David Sedaris at all is when I’m listening to him read his own stories. Otherwise… meh.

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
Freeway Guides by Susan Leahy
Peace by Richard Bausch
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I used to love Chuck Palahniuk. I’ve met the man several times, own a necklace he made for me, along with several signed books and personalized letters. I even have a framed and signed photo of him with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt on the set of Fight Club. I used to buy every tome he published. Somewhere along the way though, they became untiringly predictable and annoying in their obtuse need to shock and awe. Damned was a great example of that, and I’m still mildly incredulous that there’s a sequel in the works. Sorry Chuck, I love you as a Portland local, but you lost me.

heart of the current, crispin young

World War Z by Max Brooks
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Alone on the Ice: the Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts
This is Water by David Foster Wallace
Sean and I both listened to World War Z while roadtripping through the desert, which was a pretty apt setting for such a desolate, zombiefied future. How to be a Woman blew my frickin’ mind. Easily one of my absolute favorite books of the year, and having Caitlin Moran narrate it herself was sublime. I’ve bought at least four copies for other people and have recommended it endlessly. Caitlin Moran is a spirit animal of mine. (Triva time! Other women I declared to be my spirit animals this year: Neko Case, Amy Schumer.) I’ve declared it a Must Read for both women and men. Sean totally agrees with this statement– he loved it.

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link
Heart of the Current (Tales from Tahldia) by Crispin Young
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
The most notable out of this month’s bunch is the fantastic first novel written by my dear friend Crispin. Having never read much of her work prior to this book’s publication, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So I was highly pleased to find it completely enjoyable and at times, addictive. I may or may not have read a few pages of the eBook version on my phone while working. Another Must Read of the year, even when you consider my mild bias. She did a beautiful job of weaving science fiction and fantasy to create her own world, peppered with realistic dialogue and probable character arcs.

Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield
The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age by Janet Wallach
Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
A mixtape themed autobiography, two true stories of rich and powerful women in history, and professionally published Jane Austen fan fiction. That’s about all I have to say here.

I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Saga, Volumes 1 & 2, Chapters/Issues 12-14 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormack
Preacher, Volume 1 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Bride of New France by Suzanna Desrochers
Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon
Oh, how I love the eloquent writing of Michael Chabon. I deeply connected with this book despite not being anything like a husband, father, or son. I even gifted a copy to my father-in-law for Christmas. I Married Adventure was a book appropriately gifted to me by my husband, and it’s a delightful autobiography of an adventurous midwestern couple from 1917 to 1937 as they explored the world. Less delightful: the “era-appropriate” racism and animal slaughter. Still, though! I recommend it. Kitchen Confidential was a great insight into what goes on in a commercial kitchen, and I do love Anthony Bourdain. Finally, I never really learned much about the Khmer Rouge and the atrocities in Cambodia in the mid-to-late 70s, and Patricia McCormack’s first person narrative from someone who survived the genocide was chilling.

Naked by David Sedaris
Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer by William Knoedelsede
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel by Jess Walter
Preacher, Volumes 2 and 3 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Windhaven by George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle
Bitter Brew was fascinating for two main reasons. 1: I work in the beer industry, and 2: I had just toured the original Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis a few weeks prior. I borrowed the first three trade books of the comic Preacher from my brother-in-law and tore through them over the past two months. Literally the day I finished the third it was announced that it will be turned into a show in the near-ish future. Dark Places was just as compelling as Gillian Flynn’s other book from earlier in the year, the soon-to-be-a-movie Gone Girl.

Hollywood Said No! Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings from the Creators of Mr. Show by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk with Brian Posehn
The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
You can’t really go wrong when the cast of Mr. Show is reading/performing their never-produced stories and scenes. Lean In by Facebook’s COO was maybe one of the timeliest reads of the year for me, offering key soundbites of advice about women and their careers exactly when I was pondering mine. It’s received criticism for being narrow-minded and privileged in its perspective of women staking a claim for themselves and rising to the top of their workplaces, and justifiably so, but I found much of this very applicable to my own life. Ready Player One was an addictively awesome story set in the future (that constantly references pop culture from the 80s and 90s), and I was attached to that audiobook constantly. A definite Must Read that I’ve geeked out over and recommended to at least a dozen people. Audiobook perk: it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton. And finally, finishing the year with tales from my spirit animal Caitlin Moran is a truly solid finish to a lovely year of books.


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