Blizzard2016: Thanks, Snowbama!

If you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic or north, you know that a historic blizzard has blanketed us COMPLETELY in white in the past few days!

Thanks to the wise forethought of my boss, kind telework policies at my office, the convenient snow schedule  (Friday afternoon through Sunday morning!), and of course, the snow (which hit 3 feet, according to some calculations), I’ve been stuck in the house since Thursday night. But there’s a sneaky benefit of that:

PHOTOGRAPHY. COOKING. CRAFTS. AND GAMES.

Over the course of #Blizzard2016, my housemates and I have made 3 soups, snow cream (8 cups snow, 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp vanilla, and then some Bailey’s if you’re feeling wild), nearly 30 cups of tea, kale chips, granola, half a scarf, part of a dress, several waffles, 6 bowls of dinosaur-egg oatmeal, and 4 large hashbrowns. I learned how to play Lords of Waterdeep; I finished two books, finally pulled the trigger on a winter coat after my old one crapped out, and shoveled half the walkways in and out of the house. It’s been a successful Snowpocalypse—and frankly, I have no idea where this productivity came from. Usually, I’ll spend half a day lazing about reading, but the sheer thought of being cooped up has me ANTSY.

The progress of the snow:

Friday 2PM, Friday 4PM; Saturday 2PM

Friday 2PM, Friday 4PM; Saturday 2PM. Positively buried under!

Snow can be magical: it transformed our normal street into a magical mysterious wonderland.

Can you find the SmartCar?

Can you find the SmartCar? Hint: it’s hiding behind the car you CAN almost see!

Before it got too deep, my housemates and I made a trip outside. Dog and I posed for a few elegant snow photos. (Snowtos?)

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After that? All the snow. All the time. More more more. Every time we looked out, it was pouring snow. It piled up faster, faster, faster… and then our back door froze shut. (Dog sure wasn’t a fan of that.)

Once the snow finally stopped Sunday morning, it was time to dig out.

Don’t tell anyone, but I think I love shoveling. I may be sore today, but I spent a good hour in total shoveling, and I FELT SO ALIVE. The cold! The exercise! The fun noises that you make! I think I may be inclined towards colder weather, but HOO. BOY. It was sure nice.

WE DID IT.

WE DID IT.

Digging done, it was time for Dog and Roommate and I to take a few glamour shots. (Dog was very thankful to be let outside.)

Run, puppy, run!

Run, puppy, run!

Li'l tongue!

Li’l tongue!

So handsome!

So handsome!

Ah, the snow is too much for my little heart. I love it. I LOVE IT. (And Dog loves it too!)

Today (Monday) has been much about melting, repairing, and preparing for the rest of the week. It was a work-from-home day for three of us four housemates, the metro is still struggling at half speed, and we’re running low on supplies—so we may have to soon take a trek out to the grocery store.

But I for one am thankful for the extra day: it’s allowed me to pretend that the snow is still coming down, that the world is allowed to be silent and white and sleepy a little while longer. It’s almost like I’m back in grade school, where a snow day pressed pause on our reality, and didn’t release us until the snow had turned to slush. And since there’s still beautiful white powder outside my window, I don’t think it’s time yet to get back to the real world just yet.

Shhhh…. let me keep my snow day dreams.

Hope you all are warm and cozy where you are!

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2015 Resolutions: The Results

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Goodbye, 2015… and hello, 2016!

In 2015, I did something I’d always talked about: I made resolutions I actually intended to keep.

Now sure, I’d always made a resolution here or there, but they weren’t things I even was convinced I’d keep. Exercise more. Say yes to more things. Make new friends. Lose weight.

But while those are nice ideas, they have no plan of attack. They’re not SMART goals — they’re not actionable or measurable. They’re “feeling” goals, not “acting” goals.

I wanted 2015 to be different. And so I decided on three actionable, time-bound, goal-oriented resolutions that I believe I could accomplish, but that would

Here were my 3 goals:

  1. Run 5 miles, and enjoy it.
  2. Read 55 books by different authors (following the 2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge)
  3. Commit to writing at least 1 blog post per month that you can be proud of.

How’d I do?

  1. FIVE MILE FUN RUN:
    This past June, I signed up for my first 8K, which totals roughly 5 miles. My father traveled in from out of town and we did the race together, encouraging each other on the unbelievably muggy summer day.

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    I won’t tell you that that race was so terribly fun, but being together with my dad, exercising and joking and sharing the day, it was meaningful, above all else.

    And moving forward? This June, I’ll be participating in a duathlon, so this one has really stuck! YAY FITNESS!

  2. READING CHALLENGE:
    YES. On December 27th, a few days before the end of the year, I finished Book 55, for the challenge. I had read a few other books here and there that weren’t part of the challenge, but that’s only because ROBERT GALBRAITH and WORK BOOKS sometimes pop up unexpectedly, after they won’t fit in any remaining challenge areas.

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    This challenge was made more fun because I had two friends working towards it with me. Though only two of us finished before the new year, we had an amazing time cataloguing our progress together on our Book Bros Blog, and decided to make the challenge a yearly thing. This year, I’m trying to read only (or mostly) books by authors who aren’t straight, white men. You can track progress of this next year’s challenge on bookbros.tumblr.com!

  3. BLOG POSTS:
    Have you seen this blog?! (:

    I’ve loved blogging my way through the year, at least once per month — and while my posts occasionally lag behind my actual experiences (sometimes I don’t think to blog until a week later!), I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. Hoping that 2016 is even better!

Now. Unsure what 2016 will bring, but I think I’m ready. BRING IT ON.

Will keep you updated as I go along!

 

Handmade Christmas Stockings!

This fall, I was itching to get to work on a new project. Once it gets a little cold in the Mid-Atlantic, I start hankering for something I can do inside (maybe… by the fireplace with a cup of tea?).

After a lot of lolling about on Pinterest, I decided that I’d attempt a Fair Isle knitting project for my housemates and myself. Maybe, if I started immediately, we’d be done before Christmas. And with the help of my lovely friend Miriam (our resident graphic designer), we adjusted a pattern we found online (info below!) to make personalized stockings for every person and animal in our house. I started watching YouTube tutorials on Fair Isle knitting every free second.

Several weeks (and several skeins of wool) later, the results were in… stockings are SO MUCH FUN to make! I shared a picture on my Facebook/Instagram when I was done with my first set, and suddenly, I was working on a few sets more for my sisters and their households. I started making my own specifics for patterns, too, which is how we came up with the two tiny foxes in the snow.

Definitely recommend stockings to any first-time sock knitters, as they don’t have to be fitted to a foot.

Next step will be to line these bad boys with fleece. May take me a few months… after Christmas, we won’t be in any rush! (:

All yarn from KnitPicks, which had fast shipping, delightful customer service, and gorgeous yarn colors at affordable prices. Each stocking cost about $10 worth of yarn, and took about 12 straight hours to make. (The smaller stockings — the pet size — cost about $8 worth of yarn, and took about 6.5 hours of straight work.)

Major props to blogger Jennifer Hoel, whose pattern I worked from, after finding it and falling in love with it on Ravelry.

Anyone need any stockings for next Christmas?

Facebook, Tragedy, and the Art of Grief Performance

When you grieve, how do you tell Facebook?

It seems like a silly question. I’ve just lost someone important to me. Why would I care what I post on some stupid website? Why would I even log on?

But like it or not, social media has a presence in all aspects of our modern lives—and that includes grief.

We may not think about it until tragedy strikes, but we have a natural inclination to externalize our feelings about loss. We’re social people, and grief is performative. And death happens.

It’s normal and natural to feel obligated to perform grief. It can be an important part of the process of grieving, to show that your life is changed, and that you’re affected by your loss. We cry, we dress in black. And apparently, these days, we also change our profile pictures. Make a status update. Post on the wall of someone also affected, or of the person we lost.

And on a practical level, it’s become almost a necessity to have an external-facing proof of your grief. We must tell the community at large what has happened. It’s a post-print-obituary, ever-expanding world—so where else will people learn about significant losses in their friends’ lives, than on social media? Plus, telling people that loss has happened on Facebook is easier than a more personal text, a phone call, or an awkward confrontation in person. One single post, and the social network becomes your town crier, sharing your news to others so you don’t have to. People will now know why you’re visibly upset if they see you around, or why you won’t be coming to brunch this week.

All this came to a head for me last week, when Facebook alerted me to the news of the attacks in Paris.

In the wake of the Paris tragedy (and the subsequent media chattering about THE RIGHT WAY TO SHOW SUPPORT), Vox published an article that so beautifully articulates the connection between social media grief and history. Here’s just an excerpt:

“What I understand now is that to some degree, we weren’t mourning in any concrete, specific way. We were making ourselves available the only way we knew how, through a kind of performance of grief, a way of saying, “We are here, and we know you are in pain, even if we can’t understand it.”

I’ve long thought of this response as a sort of group consciousness. One person might feel something intensely, and then it ripples outward through everybody else, until even those at the very edges feel its dull echoes.

In the age of the internet, this phenomenon has gone global.”

Communities grieve together. The feelings of loss ripple outward through the network of people who are affected by it.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, people changed their profile pictures to photos—some of them of the city itself—overlaid with the colors of the French flag. Although it may seem new, this is just traditional grief with new packaging. This is normal. This is grief, in the age of social media. Facebook has facilitated a way for people countries away to lift up Paris,  so that the global community around Paris can come together to grieve.

Yet, we’ve seen people from all over rise up to ridicule those who’ve switched their profile photos. That doesn’t do anything. We need to do more. Of course, I won’t change my profile picture, because I think that’s a paltry show of support. Others died, too, in different cities. Why aren’t we changing our profile pictures to support those cities, too?

What’s important to realize is that this is sometimes how communities grieve. This is modern loss. If you are affected by Paris, and you are offered a chance to perform grief in a certain way, it’s up to you to decide if that performance suits you—not to determine if on a grander scale, you’d prefer different grief from others. If changing your profile picture isn’t your form of grief, that’s okay. But if it is, that’s okay, too.

It is so unnecessary to police others’ grief, especially in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. If grief is not destructive, if it is not harming the individual or others, then who are we to stop it? Grief after a terrible event is natural. It is normal. Grief is how we process loss.

There will be time later to talk about how we, as a global community, can better support people in cities that feel farther removed. And we should have these conversations—they will be critical to growing as people, and pushing back against fear and terrorism. But the feeling of grief, especially communal grief, is motivated by compassion. We should nurture this compassion, try to understand the grief we feel, and build on this feeling to better our world. No grief is made better by shame.

Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls, & the Uncertainty of Unexpected Sequels

If your name is Kelsey Ryan, these last few weeks and months have been pretty thrilling in terms of your pop culture fixes.

JUST ANNOUNCED: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD WILL BE A CONTINUATION OF HARRY’S LIFE AFTER BOOK 7

THIS IS NOT A DRILL: GILMORE GIRLS IS COMING BACK ON NETFLIX FOR 4 MINI-MOVIES

Bam. Just like that, all within late October. And there’s a part of me that heard this news and broke out in “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

In so many ways, this is a return to childhood. Young Kelsey wept endlessly in the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Weeks and months were spent imagining within the Harry Potter universe. I practically went to Hogwarts—and I’ve still got the trivia knowledge to prove it.

It’s the same for Gilmore Girls. I remember my first episode of the show when I was in eighth grade. My middle sister had bought Season 3 for my oldest sister, and one day, during some day when I was sick at home with the flu, I figured why not give it a try? And I was hooked. Lorelai was who I aspired to be: independent, hilarious, and just the right amount of sassy. Mother and daughter quipping pop culture references nonstop like it’s some sort of new language. The show introduced me to binge-watching, and now that it’s on Netflix, it’s never far from my “Keep Watching” list.

These series are part of who I am, and they make me endlessly happy—still, to this day, I relive the series every so often when I’m down. But although a part of me celebrates this news that my childhood has NOT yet ended,  there’s a part of me that can’t yet join the party.

Why am I feeling like such a downer?

  1. I’ve already grieved for the end of these shows.

    I cried when Harry Potter ended. I felt the loss, knowing that Gilmore Girls was done when Rory showed up at her going-away party and the credits rolled. I’ve dealt with the feelings of emptiness and loss that comes with finishing something and knowing  that you can’t go back and experience it all again. And of course, there was a part of me that would have done quite a bit in order to get just ONE MORE PAGE or just ONE MORE MINUTE of these series, back at that time.

    But then I got over it. I know that post-series grief (pardon the expression), and I handled it by moving on, and reliving the beautiful moments we already had. Now that BOTH of these series are back in my life again, not with the friendly remembrances of familiar stories, but with NEW STORIES, I’m afraid I feel wronged. Why didn’t this happen years ago? Why couldn’t you have worked something out back then, back when I was crushed that the series was over? Where were you then, JK? Why didn’t you finish the series yourself, Amy Sherman-Palladino?

    I know these things couldn’t have been planned ahead. But some part of me feels like this is holding onto past events, rather than stepping ahead and making something new. Yes, I want these series to keep coming, but what will they even look like?

    Strangely enough, these series feel like long-lost friends, who disappeared for years but are now back and want to hug again and pretend like they never left. Are we that close still? I thought you had died. I’m not ready for hugs just yet.

  2. I don’t trust that these series were brought back for good reasons.

    This is pure speculation, I know, but it’s a thought that haunts me more than I’d like to admit. Why are these series being brought back now? Amy Sherman-Palladino has moved on. She’s done Bunheads (the critically acclaimed but short-lived series about little ballerinas that I could never get into). She’s supposed to have moved on, just like her audience was asked to.

    JK Rowling has done the same, and I’ve followed her to each of her other projects. She’s published  at least 4 unrelated books to Harry’s story, which has been satisfying and feels appropriate: I feel like I’m enjoying life after Harry, when I read these. I can see she’s doing well, and she CLEARLY doesn’t need the money. So why a play? (Why not something more accessible to the millions of fans Harry’s amassed over the years?) And why now? Why is this appropriate? Why try to turn this story into more money, when it feels like you’ve made  enough off this one story, this one character and world?

  3. I want these new versions to be done right.

    If we’re going back to Stars Hollow, you had best be bringing along Melissa McCarthy, because a Gilmore Girls without Sookie is absurd. And JK, if you expect us to all buy our tickets and shell out thousands and traipse along with you across continents to follow Harry, you are out of your mind.

    I know a remake/reboot/update of these series in this new form is exciting. (And theatre geek/daily Netflix watcher Kelsey is WILD about a new way to experience the magic.) But they’re also deeply concerning. Are we going to just have to trust that the series will do the old series justice? What about our headcanons? Whatever happened to “death of the author,” where you as the creator set down your creative control over these universes, offering it to your fans? These series had conclusions. They were finished. They are done, and they are now in the hands of us, the fans. Taking back creative control feels cheap, and I worry that our memories of “the good old days” of these series will be over.

    This is different from the transition from book to movie. This feels not like a retelling, but a reshuffling, a revision. And it will probably disappoint, even if these creators are as careful as can be. They are taking back control of the series from the fans, and that’s deeply concerning.

It’s given me a lot of heartburn, guys. More than a play and a Netflix series really should.

This makes me think there’s a problem in the way we deal with conclusions. We are a culture that can’t handle death, and one that’s obsessed with eternal youth. Why can’t we be happy with the endings that we’re given? Why must a story be told and retold until we’re finally able to move on? Because all we want is the happiest of endings, and media companies know they can eke out more money from the same story because of this. Why are we accepting a seventh Star Wars? Why are we cool with splitting up the Hunger Games into four daggum movies instead of 3, and why are we encouraging Stephenie Meyer to tell us more about the Twilight universe please please please?

There’s something in stories that keeps us coming back, whether we like it or not, even though we’ve grieved and tried to walk away. When we’re attached, we as people hold on for dear life, though it may have been 10+ years since we said goodbye.

Nostalgia is a powerful force. And I’m no exception: I know I’m waiting with bated breath for Netflix to announce even one more detail about the series update, and reading every article about The Cursed Child.

Sign me up for that sequel. But when we’re waiting around to see Harry Potter 30: Harry Reloaded, and we’re all a little discouraged with the person Harry is now, at age 52, just know that I totally called it.

 

Places I’ve Called Home

 

To the places I’ve been lucky enough to call home, if even just for a few months:

Oh, how thankful I am for you.

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Thank you for connections and reconnections, for a point of comparison, for all-embracing acceptance.

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Thank you for grounding me. Thank you for warmth and love and foundation.

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Thank you for growth, for seasons, for failure, for success.
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Thank you for rivers and belltowers and history and ruins. Thank you for the joy of hard work with my hands.

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Thank you for narrow paths, for independence, for reduction, for direction. Thank you for hard-won proof that I am getting there.

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Thank you for opportunity, for expectations, for introductions.
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Thank you for horizons of big possibilities, and greater things ahead, for stretching and stepping up, in all its forms. Thank you for daily surprises. Thank you for being home right now, for the foreseeable future.


 

With each move, I trade a bit of myself for each location I leave. And I’m better for it.

One Editor’s Favorites: Sources, Research, & FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS

Lost for ideas of where to read about writing? Feeling like you’ve fallen behind on content strategy trends and such, because Buzzfeed is just too EASY to keep reading instead?
I’ve been there. (Heck, I still feel like I’m there! Tell me more about how I can transform a stool into a flower pot, Buzzfeed DIY!) But over the spring and summer of this year, I’ve started to take stock of my favorites in the content strategy/freelancer space, and I thought I’d share with you all.
Some of these resources are things I found to do my full-time job better. Others are things I picked up for personal reasons. But I can’t imagine life without them now, and I hope you’ll enjoy them, too!

1. Contently/The Freelancer

Contently is a source for online media workers, like writers and graphic designers. Their portfolio service (which is free!) is one of the best out there, in terms of ease of use and search engine friendliness. Having a portfolio where links to all your digital work lives is so important, even if you already have a website or blog (which is a great idea, and I’m happy to discuss with you if you’d like!), or you use Twitter a ton.
Contently also has a daily subscription email (free!) all about being a writer today, called The Freelancer. A lot of it is directed towards people already working as freelance writers professionally, but it’s so important to learn early about the culture of writers, how business is done, and how to get new skills/experiences. I read The Freelancer every day.

2. Freelancers’ Union

Freelancers’ Union has a fantastic blog, designed with professional freelancers in mind—and they share regular interviews with innovators, which is a big plus. They also have a really amazing founder, Sara Horowitz, who’s killing it on Twitter, too.

3. Feedly

To keep everything all in one place, I use Feedly (on my desktop, and also on my phone). It’s an RSS reader that allows you to select websites you want to track, so you can read the NYTimes, Jezebel, Vox, Slate, Grist, and Everyday Feminism, all in one place.
Lots of fun to try out, and free!

4. Google Trends

As you’re trying to decide on articles in the future (and as you’re writing SEO, if you ever do that professionally), Google Trends will become your best friend. You can type in search terms and find out what related terms people are searching, how popular the term is (and has been, over time), etc.
Also free.

5. Google Alerts

Google Alerts are so easy to set up—and once you’ve done that, you can get a personal email (sent daily, weekly, or whenever news happens) that gives you top hits for specific search terms. I’ve put in my own name, and topics I care deeply about (company titles, etc.)—and it’s helped me find article topics, keep tabs on important news mentions, and make sure I’m aware of relevant stories.
Google Alerts is free, as well!

6. Always Subscribe

This may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me at first: if you’ve found a website that you like, get on their mailing list: it’s the easiest way to keep tabs on what they’re doing and saying. (And of course, it’s also easy to get yourself off their list, if you don’t like their email newsletters, or you’re getting too many emails, etc.)

7. Content Marketing/Content Strategy Resources

I say this all the time: CMI (Content Marketing Institute) is always useful for learning more about content strategy and the professional industry of content storytelling. That’s definitely true (and I’m excited to chat more with some of you about the webinar this afternoon!), but I have a few more options for you, if you really enjoy CMI’s resources:
Seth Godin (THE voice of marketing)

Content Strategy for the Web (a book—can’t recommend this enough!)


Hope these resources are useful for you all! Anything I missed that I should be checking out? If you come across others, please feel free to send them my way. I’m always up for new tools and tricks!