In Which I Discover I’m an Adult

As I was working on my lesson plan for the book discussion I’ll be leading in Ireland in a few weeks, my mind started wandering.

Before long, I found myself thinking, “I really need to get some sensible waterproof walking shoes for the trip.”

Yes, it’s happened. I am officially becoming my mother.

But you know what? I do need comfortable waterproof shoes for the trip! Ain’t nobody got time for cold, wet feet when there’s an Irish countryside to explore, and ain’t nobody want sore feet from walking on cobblestones all day.

And that, my friends, is how I discovered that Nordstrom has a whole section of their website devoted to comfortable – yet stylish! – shoes. Several…erm…hours later, I finally settled on a pair I quite like (although not from Nordstrom):

Agnes Shoe

This pair of monk-strap Doc Martens is durable, waterproof, comfortable, and…dare I say? stylish enough to wear out. And, oh man, just look at that non-slip rubber sole.

Shoe Sole

The episode with the shoes is just the latest in a long line of small moments that make me step back and admit to myself, “Whoa! I’m an adult!” Here are a few more:

  • When browsing Birchbox the other day, I skipped right past the jewel-toned eyeliners and lingered lovingly on the pages for fancy face washes and high-SPF moisturizers. Hey man, you gotta take care of your skin. (Although I do love me some jewel-toned eyeliners.)
  • In the same weekend, I turned down an invitation to a house party and multiple invitations to Mardi Gras (St. Louis has the second-largest celebration in the country) to stay at home and Get Shit Done. It feels so good to finish a weekend well-rested and with the dishes done. Fancy homemade cookies and a (nearly) finished lesson plan are pretty great too.
  • The other night, I was lucky enough to not only meet one of my favorite musicians after a concert (Kishi Bashi – look him up right now), but to hang out with him and a very cool crowd at a house party after. It was on a Wednesday though, and I was driving, so after turning down (well, just tasting) several cocktails made by a bartender for the exclusive St. Louis bar Blood & Sand, I was the first out the door at 1:30. Aaaaand the next day I didn’t have a hangover and I made it to work on time. #worthit

So yes, I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years. And you know what? I love it.

Get at me, 25.

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A Return to Ireland

A few days ago, I got an email out of the blue. Eire again?! *

My freshman year of college, I took a year-long Irish literature course that culminated in a trip to Ireland over spring break. The class ended up having a profound impact on my life long after freshman year, as that is where I met many of the people who are to this day my closest friends.

A few days ago, I got a chance to go back.

The email was from my former professor, letting me and a few other alumnae of the course she’s still in touch with know that the chaperones for this year’s visit to Ireland had backed out at the last minute and “WE’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU ON THE TRIP!!!” The only catch was, we had to make a final decision within 24 hours so they could book the tickets.

After some quick calculations, I decided to go for it. Spontaneous adventure!

It has been 6 years since I went to Ireland with my own freshman class.

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(Can you even tell which one is me?)

We were required to keep a trip journal while we were there, and I’d like to share a few excerpts from mine with you.

From the first night:

“I got food poisoning from the cod…so I spent the whole night throwing up and consequently got no sleep.”

Nearly every entry after that first one begins “still sick…”, and details which chair I sat curled up in while the rest of the class was exploring museums or touring historic sites.

Fortunately my wonderful roommate took very good care of me.

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Despite all the sickness, I managed to have a great time, as evidenced by my “Things Amy loves about Ireland” list:

  1. hot water makers instead of coffee makers in hotels
  2. interesting crisp flavors (and the fact that they’re called crisps) → Prawn Cocktail, Cajun Squirrel, Crispy Duck & Hoisin
  3. tea EVERYWHERE (in pots, with saucers)
  4. the fact that it is green and beautiful. Obviously.
  5. brown sugar packets
  6. energy efficiency in hotels
  7. third-wheel beds
  8. the trouser press in our room in Galway
  9. the vegetable soup (and brown bread)
  10. drinking Bulmer’s out of pints in pubs instead of Natty out of cans in basements
  11. the oddly tacky framed fake sunflowers at the otherwise very classy Academy Plaza Hotel in Dublin

It’s quite a list. As you can see, some things haven’t changed (my love of tea!), but others most certainly have (drinking Natty in basements instead of craft beer in bars). I have no idea why I included a few of the items on there (the trouser press? the sunflowers?).

It will be very interesting to see how the experience is different this time around. I’m 6 years older, worlds more mature (at least I hope so!), and a much more experienced traveller. I also – *fingers crossed* – won’t have debilitating food poisoning this time around. No tartar sauce for me!

No matter what happens, I’m looking forward to sharing my brand new trip journal with all of you in just a few short weeks!



*Eire is the Irish Gaelic word for Ireland.

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Resolutions for 2015

I have never made a New Year’s resolution, other than jokingly resolving to learn to like whiskey last year.

To my surprise, setting the resolution (even in jest) actually worked.

Since I want this next year to be another year of growth and increased personal responsibility, I decided to make some resolutions in earnest.

Here are a few goals I would like to – and totally can – achieve in 2015:

Fruitful:

  1. Go on one at least outdoor adventure (i.e. hike, bike ride, camping trip) each month.
  2. Go to at least one cultural event (i.e. museum, symphony, theater) each month.
  3. Read all the books on this list (and more).

Financial:

  1. Pay off all my credit card debt, then up my monthly car payments by $50.
  2. Put aside at least $1,000 in savings.
  3. Track all of my spending (and actually stay within my monthly budget for each category).

Fashionable:

  1. Give my closet a serious overhaul and sell or donate all the items I’ve outgrown or don’t have a use for anymore.
  2. Focus on purchasing investment pieces that will last for years, rather than indulging in trendy fast fashion.
  3. Finish a knit piece, a cross-stitched piece, and a sewn piece just for me.

Frivolous:

  1. Host a dinner party where I cook multiple courses – and pair wines! – for at least 6 people.
  2. Go on a road trip.
  3. Finish my murder mystery.

Let’s see how this goes!

What are you resolving to do better in 2015?

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Forever Is Composed of Nows*

This bon mot from cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant truly encapsulates my experience in 2014:

My life has a superb cast, but I cannot figure out the plot.

More than ever before, this past year taught me that the future is unknowable, even – especially – when you think you have it all figured out. (As my dad likes to remind me, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”)

2014 was the year I finally admitted to myself that I was an adult, and that that fact wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Full of intense breakups and personal drama, 2014 was also full of immense love and personal growth.

2014 was the year I turned 24.

It was the year I tried yoga, and I stuck with it.

It was when I finally wore out the hiking boots I’ve had since I was 12.

It was the year I got a car and discovered a whole new kind of independence.

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I spent a month in Maine, and remembered again why I am so incredibly lucky to have the family that I have.

I came back to St. Louis, and remembered again why I am so incredibly lucky to have the friends that I have.

I moved into a new apartment, where I hung curtains and picture frames and actually bought a couch.

I tried Tinder, so I will never feel the need to again.

I cut off my hair and dyed it purple and blonde and blue.

I watched my city catapult into international attention as unrest and protests spread from Ferguson, Missouri, and I learned that what makes it into the media is never the whole picture.

I spent many mornings at the farmer’s market and rediscovered the joy of zucchini blossoms.

I stayed up all night and watched the sunrise over Forest Park.

I stumbled into the first paid modeling jobs I’ve had since that time I modeled for water bottle clip packaging in high school (true story).

I picnicked and explored rooftops and picnicked on rooftops.

I voted and voted and voted.

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I learned the importance of having an emergency fund (and discovered that you sometimes have to spend it and start over).

I travelled to New Mexico and San Francisco and Kansas City and all around LA.

I learned to like whiskey.

I put together 3 different Halloween costumes.

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time.

I discovered the joys of having a wonderful doctor.

I went to the symphony three times, and the theater once, and museum openings and events more times than I can count.

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I embraced my library card and made progress on my long list of books to read.

I didn’t go hiking and camping enough, but thoroughly enjoyed the times I did.

2014 was the year I turned 24.

It was beautiful and difficult, and now….

it’s over.


*The title is borrowed from the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem

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25 Books for 2015

My reading list has been growing at an alarming exciting rate lately, so I thought I would share with you some of the books I will definitely be taking out of the library in 2015.

With a total of 25 books on the list, I will need to read just 2 each month (plus an extra one month) to finish them all in one year.

While there are many, many more than 25 books on my regular reading list, I have organized this 2015 must-read list into 5 categories to ensure variety:

  • Classics I’ve Missed: These are famous works by well-known authors that I somehow haven’t gotten around to reading yet.
  • Authors I Need More Of: These are more obscure or more recent works by authors I have read and loved in the past.
  • Contemporary Women: These are contemporary novels by women authors I haven’t read in the past.
  • Essential Nonfiction: These are books I hope will help me be a better human. All of them cover important and relevant topics that I should be thinking more about.
  • Stranger Than Fiction: These are nonfiction stories that will reveal more about this strange and wonderful world we’re living in.

All sections are arranged alphabetically by author.


CLASSICS I’VE MISSED

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  1. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees

    I studied Italian in college, spent a total of 8 months in Italy, and have still managed to never read anything by Italo Calvino (other than If on a winter’s night a traveler in high school – when I was not yet ready to appreciate it – and a few pages of Invisible Cities). Clearly, this needs to change.

  2. Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness

    I used to read a lot of science fiction, but while I conquered many of the greats of the genre (Asimov, Adams, Bradbury, Herbert, L’Engle, etc, etc), I somehow missed reading anything by Ursula K. Le Guin. The Left Hand of Darkness is one of her most iconic novels, so I figured it was as good a place to start as any.

  3. Susan Sontag: Against Interpretation

    I have read bits and pieces of this thought-provoking essay collection over the years, and now I would like to finally read the rest.

  4. David Foster Wallace: Infinite Jest

    I spent most of the summer of ‘10 trying to check Infinite Jest out of the Washington University library, entirely without success. Hopefully I will have better luck at the St. Louis Central Library in 2015.

  5. Virginia Woolf: Orlando

    I know, I know. I’ve never read Virginia Woolf, and it’s getting to be embarrassing.


AUTHORS I NEED MORE OF

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  1. Margaret Atwood: The Edible Woman

    Ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale in middle school, I’ve been a big fan of Atwood. I’ve made it through the major works in her canon, but I’m still far from a completist. Tackling her first novel will bring me one step closer.

  2. Daniel Handler: Adverbs

    One of my favorite library moments is when I found out that Roald Dahl, a favorite author of my childhood, also wrote books and short stories for adults. So, when I recently stumbled upon the fact that Daniel Handler (alias Lemony Snicket) had written a novel composed of interlinked short stories for adults, I was thrilled.

  3. Haruki Murakami: The Strange Library

    Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors of all time, and I’ve read as many of his novels as I could get my hands on. When NPR informed me that his illustrated novella The Strange Library had just been released in English, I couldn’t wait to add it to my reading list.

  4. Helen Oyeyemi: White Is for Witching

    I discovered the magic that is Helen Oyeyemi in 2014 with Boy, Snow, Bird and Mr. Fox, and I hope to continue it in 2015 with White Is for Witching. Hopefully I’ll have time for The Icarus Girl and The Opposite House too!

  5. Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch

    I read The Secret History and enjoyed it, so when The Goldfinch was everywhere in 2014, I knew it would eventually end up on my list.


CONTEMPORARY WOMEN

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I’ll let the books in this category – and the following categories – speak for themselves. Since the authors and topics are new to me, I don’t have specific reasons for choosing each book other than the fact that all of them come well reviewed and highly recommended.

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah
  2. Aimee Bender: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
  3. Alexis Coe: Alice + Freda Forever
  4. Tayari Jones: Silver Sparrow
  5. Scarlett Thomas: The End of Mr. Y

ESSENTIAL NONFICTION

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  1. Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
  2. Marjorie Hillis: Live Alone and Like It: The Classic Guide for the Single Woman
  3. Garrett Keizer: Privacy
  4. Eli Pariser: The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You
  5. Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

STRANGER THAN FICTION

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  1. Katherine Howe: The Penguin Book of Witches
  2. Jill Lepore: The Secret History of Wonder Woman
  3. Mary S. Lovell: The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family
  4. Daniel Okrent: Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
  5. John Safran: God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi

What’s on your list this year? Let me know in the comments what you’re most looking forward to reading in 2015.

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Books Worth Reading: Badass Women Edition

There’s something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can’t tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he’s liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can’t adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All this happens to me when I surface from a great book.

– Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck

You and me both, Nora.

There is nothing quite like surfacing from a deeply absorbing novel – you feel like you have left a part of yourself behind in its world. Some books you never entirely recover from, and they remain a part of your psyche and shape your worldview long after you have turned the last page (I’m looking at you, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ).

However, I have a tendency to dive into similar works of fiction again and again, so I decided that this installment of Books Worth Reading would explore previously uncharted waters (or at least those I had not previously dipped my toes into).

And with that, I bring you this new selection.

Most of these authors are contemporary; all of them are incredible. Go forth and read.


Jenny Wren: Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl

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We begin our jaunt very much within my 19th century comfort zone.

In fact, I’m pretty sure this book was written just for me.

A collection of essays published anonymously (under the pseudonym Jenny Wren) in the 1890s, the book deals with topics that are still relevant to the modern woman, from falling in love and tolerating babies to afternoon tea and slightly rude parlor games.

If this passage doesn’t pique your interest in Jenny’s delightfully biting essays, I don’t know what will:

“For those who have a taste for speaking spitefully of their neighbours, I can suggest an amusing game which was, I believe, started in Oxford. It is called Photograph Whist and is played by four. Two or three dozen photographs are dealt round and each person plays one, he who plays the ugliest portrait taking the trick. The more hideous the photograph, the greater its value as a trump! I have played the game with a man who always keeps his brother to the end and then brings him out with enormous success, the said brother never failing to overtrump any other card in the pack! So you see it is a most amiable game altogether. You must only be careful not to spread your doings abroad, or no one will present you with their portraits ever again.”

19th-Century Twentysomethings — They’re Just Like Us!


Anne Brönte: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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You may not have heard of Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in that. It is not nearly as well known (or as much adapted) as some of the works by the other Brönte sisters, like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

However, its obscurity is not well-deserved.

Because of its unflinching portrayals of alcoholism and escape from spousal abuse, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was so controversial that Charlotte Brönte suppressed its publication after Anne’s death.

But this is a work that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

One passage about the need for equality in the moral education of boys and girls had me practically cheering, so I thought I would reproduce it here:

“Well, Mr. Markham, you maintain that a boy should not be shielded from evil, but sent out to battle against it, alone and unassisted […] – but would you use the same argument with regard to a girl?’ […] ‘No; you would have her to be tenderly and delicately nurtured, like a hot-house plant – taught to cling to others for direction and support, and guarded, as much as possible, from the very knowledge of evil.

[…] You would have us encourage our sons to prove all things by their own experience, while our daughters must not even profit by the experience of others. […] I would not send a poor girl into the world, unarmed against her foes, and ignorant of the snares that beset her path; nor would I watch and guard her, till, deprived of self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the power or the will to watch and guard herself.”

#feminismbeforeitwascool

Speaking of underappreciated Bröntes, read Charlotte’s Villette. There’s a classic Brönte heroine (who may not be what she seems), a ghostly nun, and a whole lot of 19th century snark.

#postmodernismbeforeitwascool


Susannah Cahalan: Brain on Fire

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I picked this book up at the airport bookstore with no context other than a spontaneous recommendation from a fellow shopper who saw me scanning the back cover.

Two pages in, I was hooked.

This harrowing autobiography chronicles the author’s apparent descent into madness – and eventual recovery due to the diagnosis of a rare autoimmune disease.

While it moves at the pace of a mystery thriller, the story continued to smolder in my mind long after my plane landed and I turned the last page.


Deborah Blum: The Poisoner’s Handbook

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I have a serious weakness for Agatha Christie, secretly enjoy watching forensic procedurals, and am endlessly fascinated with America in the 1920s (Exhibit A).

Since The Poisoner’s Handbook fits perfectly at the intersection between these interests, I was expecting to love it. However, the story of the beginnings of forensic pathology (and particularly poison detection) in New York City in the Jazz Age exceeded even my wildest expectations.

Equal parts political intrigue and corruption, true crime, and chemistry, The Poisoner’s Handbook is a must-read for anyone with an interest in mystery, history, or science.

When you’re done, pick up Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon for even more true stories of scientific achievement. In this case, the subtitle says it all: “True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements.”

Then, pick up Simon Garfield’s Mauve to find out “How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World” and Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman for “A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.”

History is crazy, ya’ll!


Karen Abbott: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

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Speaking of history (and badass women), Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy takes a close look at four female spies during the American Civil War.

  • Belle Boyd is a young Southern firebrand whose complete lack of subtlety is more than made up for by her complete lack of fear. Determined to catch the attention of Stonewall Jackson, Belle brazenly flirts with Union officers while smuggles messages to the Confederates right under their noses.
  • Emma Edmonds enlists in the Union army as Frank Thompson, where she is tapped as a spy and, during several missions, finds herself as a women dressed as a man dressed as a woman.
  • Rose O’Neale Greenhow is a DC socialite turned Confederate spy. Engaging in scandalous affairs with Union officers and high-ranking politicians to gather information, she continued to use her young daughter to gather information and convey coded messages even after she was placed under arrest.
  • Elizabeth Van Lew is a wealthy abolitionist living in the Confederate capital. Disgusted by the politics of slavery and secession, she builds up a wide-ranging spy ring and helps Northern prisoners escape – all while being repeatedly investigated by suspicious rebel detectives.

The courage, resourcefulness, and cool thinking under pressure of all of these women is both inspiring and riveting.


Eleanor Catton: The Luminaries, The Rehearsal

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The Luminaries may be an intimidating 850 pages, but by the time I turned the last I was wishing there were 850 more.

Eleanor Catton’s New Zealand gold rush mining town – and the cast of characters with which it is inhabited – are impeccably wrought, and while the novel is full of murder, prostitution, opium, and (of course) gold, it never slips into the sensational.

The story centers around Walter Moody, a fledgling prospector who ends up unearthing rather more secrets than gold when he unwittingly stumbles into a secret council his first night in town. Layered over this tale of murder and mystery is a celestial structure, wherein each member of the council is associated with one of the signs of the zodiac. Additional characters, including Walter Moody, are associated with the heavenly bodies. Furthermore, the novel is divided into 12 successively shorter sections, mirroring the waning of the moon.

But just as the plot never veers into the sensational, the symbolism manages to avoid seeming gimmicky. In fact, it is subtle enough that you could easily choose to ignore it entirely as you read. In any case, if you enjoyed the first two installments of Amitav Ghosh’s similarly opium-fueled Ibis trilogy (the third has yet to be published), you will love The Luminaries.

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Eleanor Catton’s other novel, The Rehearsal, is something else entirely. An exploration of the aftermath of a high school student’s affair with her music teacher and the local performing arts school’s appropriation of the scandal, the story is alternately seen through the high school student’s younger sister and a first-year drama student. While the plot, the characters, and even the writing style could not be farther from the gold fields of The Luminaries, The Rehearsal is hauntingly absorbing in its own right. If nothing else, it proves Eleanor Catton’s impressive versatility as a writer.

I know I’m looking forward to her next novel, whatever it might be!


Catherine Lacey: Nobody Is Ever Missing

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When Elyria buys a one-way ticket to New Zealand – leaving behind her husband and her middle-class New York life – she is really trying to run away from herself.

The novel’s run-on sentences bear you along through the currents of Elyria’s mind as she hitchhikes alone through an unknown country. But what we find out in the title, she has to learn the hard way: Nobody is ever missing…from themselves.

Here’s a beautiful passage that embodies the mood and tone of much of the novel:

What’s your trouble? He asked me. Tell me your trouble, baby.

I looked back at him like I didn’t have any trouble to tell because that’s my trouble, I thought, not knowing how to tell it, and this is why my favorite thing about airport security is how you can cry the whole way through and they’ll only try to figure out whether you’ll blow up. They’ll still search you if they want to search you. They’ll still try to detect metal on you. They’ll still yell about laptops and liquids and gels and shoes, and no one will ask what’s wrong because everything is already wrong, and they won’t look twice at you because they’re only paid to look once. And for this, sometimes, some people are thankful.

Who hasn’t felt this way in an airport sometime? Who hasn’t at some point felt the urge to run away?

In this passage and throughout, Nobody Is Ever Missing is simultaneously opaque and utterly relatable.


Looking for more? Check out Books Worth Reading, More Books Worth Reading, and Even More Books Worth Reading, the first three installments in this series, for additional thoughts and recommendations.

I would also love to hear your thoughts and recommendations, so please feel free to leave some in the comments!

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Feuerabend*

First of all, everyone is OK and my apartment is intact.

Now aren’t you curious?

Last night, Molly and I were just finishing up dinner when we heard a strange whooping noise from somewhere in the apartment. This was closely followed by a classic science fiction omniscient computer voice (more “Donna Noble has left the library…” than Scarlett Johansson’s Her) calling out “Attention! Attention!”

By this point I was thoroughly bewildered.

The TV wasn’t on, I don’t have a radio, and the sound wasn’t coming from any computer speakers.

It continued.

“A fire has been reported in the building. Please proceed to the nearest exit.”

The whooping resumed, alternating with Big Sister’s calmly delivered yet dreadful message.

Molly and I exchanged glances. This didn’t seem like a drill.

I blew out the candles and grabbed my phone, my computer, and my childhood teddy bear**. Pausing only to slip on shoes and jackets, Molly and I headed down the back stairwell into the alley.

That’s when it finally started to seem like this could potentially be serious. There was a whiff of smoke in the air, and although the sky was clear, rain was drifting down out of an upstairs window. Sirens pierced the air and the first of three fire trucks pulled up to the curb.

Then…nothing.

IMG_4176Neighbors and dogs milled about on the cold sidewalk while pairs of firemen sauntered in and out of the building. From their supreme lack of urgency, we gathered that the fire was fortunately not a serious one (I later found out that someone on an upper floor had left a pot unattended on the stove and it had either melted or caught fire). By this point, I was seriously starting to regret not having grabbed a pair of pants to pull on under my skirt.

“Does anyone here live in number —?”

The apartments surrounding (and underneath) the unit where the fire had caught were flooding from the sprinklers, and the firemen were trying to get in to shut them off.

More waiting.

Eventually we moved into the lobby, because by this point it seemed nothing was aflame anymore.

More waiting.

Finally, one of the firemen told us it was safe to go back upstairs. And that was that.

The whole drama fortunately turned out to be a relative non-incident for Joe and I (although it was a very bad night indeed for anyone whose apartment was flooded), but the experience was certainly an eye-opener.

Let’s just say I’ll definitely be taking a closer look at my renter’s insurance policy sometime soon.

Post-Fire Selfie*The German Feierabend signifies the end of work, but translates to something like “Party Evening”. Feuer is fire, so a Feuerabend is a “Fire Evening.”

**When I was a child, my biggest fear was my house catching on fire. So, every night as I lay in bed, I would plan escape routes and decide which precious articles I would rescue from the inferno. Polar Bear always topped the list. (To the right you can see us with a hot water bottle, trying to warm up after being let back into the apartment.)

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Knitwitchery

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I just completed my most ambitious knitting project to date.

A little back story:

Photo Credit to Rachel Sacks

Photo Credit to Rachel Sacks

I started knitting about a year ago, and my absolute favorite knitting blog (and the source of most of my patterns) is purlbee.com, which is run by Purl Soho in New York City.

Purl Bee patterns have provided me with Christmas and birthday gifts for many family members and friends, and their tutorials have helped me master a variety of new stitches and techniques, so I’m kind of a super fan.

I was very excited to finally be able to visit the store itself when I was in New York this past December. There I spent a delightful several hours browsing through yarns and patterns (my friend Rachel snapped a photo of me deep in thought next to their enormously colorful wall of yarn), and I eventually settled on the sweater dress shown here, which was certainly a larger, if not more complicated, project than I had ever undertaken before.

Fortunately everything went well, and I am proud to finally be able to show off the finished product!

For the curious among you, here are the details:

Colorblock Tunic: Frontenac Pattern by Julie Hoover made with Purl Soho’s Super Soft Merino in Pale Stone & Dark Loam
Slouchy Hat: Target
Ankle Boots: Qupid
Seahorse Pendant: Scarlett Garnet (which is the source of most of my favorite jewelry)
Tights: Who knows!

And here are the detail shots:

I would estimate the project took me approximately 50 hours to knit, which gave me plenty of time to get almost all the way caught up on Doctor Who. Working with yards (miles?) of wool probably caused my hands to sweat a bit, and I may have dripped a few tears on it when Amy & Rory’s time with the Doctor came to an end, but fortunately no blood went into the making of this sweater!

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Wherever you go, there you are

I have been hankering to travel lately.

This is not an infrequent phenomenon. I grew up a nomad, bouncing back and forth from coast to coast – California to Maine to New Mexico to Florida to Washington State to Virginia and back up to Maine – before ultimately landing somewhere in the middle.

Map of Moves

The constant exposure to new places and the need to constantly assimilate into new environments has influenced me in a number of ways.

  • I am closer to my family than I might have been otherwise. For most of my childhood, my brother was often the only friend close to my age that I had (and certainly the only one I could depend on to still be around the next year). Also, Robert and I spent probably 300 hours in the backseat together during all of our cross-country drives; while there were frequent spats, it was in our best interest to get along.
  • I am much more outgoing than I would have been otherwise. Funny how having to make a whole new set of friends every year from the time you’re 5 turns you from someone who hides behind your mother’s leg to someone who craves new social experiences.
  • I rely less on the approval of others than I might have otherwise. Now, my parents certainly did their best to cultivate my independent streak, and I have always been one to Know What I Want. However, I credit my perennial misfit status (I was never the cool new kid – just the new kid) for my ability to dress how I want and do what I want without fear of what people might think – even if that means knitting by myself in a bar. That said, I’m a human being, so I do still care what you think of me. LIKE ME! PLEASE LIKE ME!

Heck, all that moving has even affected the way that I speak!

Linguistic Map

I loved my nomad lifestyle (despite all of the last-picked-for-every-team pain it caused along the way), and embraced it even more in college. A new living space every year? Friends from big cities whose couches I could crash on? Opportunities to learn new languages and hone them during months abroad? I was in my element.

College was four years spent exploring new places and spaces, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that at the end of it, I opted for one more new experience – remaining in St. Louis while most of my friends moved away.

Instead of being the one who went, this time I was the one who stayed behind.

Now, this is all old news, and while the summer after graduation was a conflicted one, I am happy with the decision I made.

A year and a half later, however, my nomad instincts are rising again. Despite the fact that I love the city I have chosen and all it has to offer, despite the fact that my apartment is beautiful and my boyfriend more so, despite the fact that I am well employed and enjoy an active social life with people who challenge and support me, I am feeling a pull to…elsewhere. I can’t stop the sneaking fear from creeping up on me that I am becoming Stuck in One Place. (Did I mention that a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence is the last thing I have ever dreamed for?)

When this tide of vague discontent starts lapping at my toes and threatening to sweep me back to the East Coast, to Europe, to Anywhere But Here!, I try to think back to words happened upon in The Chronicle: Wherever I go, there I am.

It’s true. We’ve heard so many times – human beings are incredibly adaptable creatures, and the New rapidly (d)evolves into the Familiar:

“If we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of Earth.”

[Full disclosure: I have never read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which is where this is from – I also snagged this gem from The Chronicle]

If I moved to back to Boston or Bologna (or even to Bogotá!), they too would eventually begin to pale. The curse of the New is that it cannot remain so long.

So, for now at least, I’ll content myself to experiencing the New in novels and non-fiction, art exhibitions and friends of friends, restaurants and weekend trips.

But I’ll also keep sighing over the Italian Instagrams that clutter up my feed.

#keepthedreamalive

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All of this happened, more or less*

I’m not much of one for celebrating the New Year. It’s not that it’s not exciting to “start fresh” or to stay up late and drink champagne; it’s just that I forget to plan for the occasion. I don’t make resolutions and I don’t remember to document my New Year’s Eve.

IMG_3998[Proof: The image to the right was the only photo I took during my night out on New Year’s Eve, and the only reason I have this one was because the man at the coat check told me to take it since it was more likely that I would lose my ticket than my phone. Incidentally, I didn’t lose my ticket.]

So, instead of posting photos of my amazing EVEning and making New Year’s resolutions this year, I’m taking some time to think back on the year that has passed. After all, 2013 was a big one – it was my first spent entirely in the so-called “real world” of office work and all that comes with it.

2013 was the year I turned 23.

It was the year of my 5th high school reunion (which I did not go to) and my 1st college reunion (which came to me).

During this year, my parents came to visit me. My cousin came to visit me. Sasha and Ellie and Dan all came to visit me.

I visited my parents. I visited my cousin. I visited Sasha and Ellie (but not Dan). I visited many other people besides.

I made it to Los Angeles and Minneapolis and Boston and Maine and New York.

I experienced my first family reunion with the entire family present when my grandmother turned 80.

IMG_2063

I also experienced my second robbery when the seats were stolen out of the back of our rental car.

I had a best friend move to Scotland.

I saw a lot of incredible art.

I saw a lot of incredible music.

I tweeted once or twice, and one of the times I did I won 5 tickets to LouFest.

I planned a surprise birthday party for Joe and a surprise trip to Maine for my mom’s birthday.

IMG_2309I spotted an amazing chair on the side of the road and we somehow managed to cram it into Joe’s sedan so we could take it home with us.

I made my first post-college friends.

I came frighteningly close to agreeing to adopt a dog.

I joined a gym for the dance classes. I discovered that I am terrible at hip hop dancing. This was not a surprise. I also discovered that I love dancing to Michael Jackson. This was a surprise.

I got a Haircut. When I took a selfie to document this fact, my nose disappeared.

IMG_2312

I took up knitting in earnest. I took up embroidery and sewing besides.

I embraced that “chi se ne frego” (who cares) attitude and knit by myself at a bar while reading a book about A/B testing. I also knit at bars even while not reading books about A/B testing.

I drank a lot of incredible beer. I made my own gin. I got better at mixing drinks.

I read lots and lots and lots of books.

All of my Pandora stations converged on M83’s “Midnight City”.

I became an enthusiastic party host, and pulled off an obsessively detailed murder mystery party.

I went to my first baseball game. I went to my first World Series game. These were not the same.

My German got worse, but my feminism got better.

I celebrated 2½ years in a serious relationship. I learned more about what love is and why there’s no such thing as happily ever after (and why that’s a good thing).

I was and I am happy.

2013 was the year I turned 23.

It’s been said that nobody likes you when you’re 23, and BuzzFeed (that source of deep-thinking, hard-hitting journalism), has even emphatically declared 23 to be the single worst year of the 20s.

I have to say though, being 23 hasn’t been too bad.


*The title is taken from a line in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

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