Inspo: Coffee shop branding, an Olympian you’ve never heard of, and “Dick Cheney”

Two Hearted Queen

Funny story. One time when I was about, eh, 14 maybe?, I got a brand new writing desk! It was so exciting and I couldn’t wait to sit down and make a magazine. (Kids these days will never know the incomparable joy of getting to spend study hall flipping through an issue of Cosmopolitan or Vogue, pilfered from someone’s mom’s coffee table. Magazines represented all the possibilities of life after high school. A few years later it would be SATC that we all obsessed over, imagining all our fabulous lives could become if we could just get out of this town.)

I outlined the sections and wrote fake articles and even a precocious little Q&A with a teenage business owner who had “Made It and You Can Too!” I designed the front cover and had little cover lines to go with each of my stories.

THEN. I had to come up with a name for my little book of womanly dreams! I called it “Queen.” Because, you know, every woman should know they are a queen or something.

My mom, happy to see me enjoying my new writing desk, came in all Miranda Priestly. “Queen,” she informed me quietly, was a term applied to men who dressed like women and I should maybe just forget the whole thing.

THE SHAME! I tore up my magazine and threw it in the trash. Not because I was weirded out by men dressing as women. Whatever. They could probably be a target demo for Queen magazine and we could share clothes. But I was so bummed I disappointed my mom by not knowing what this word meant!

Alas, old wounds, old wounds.

But that dumb story makes me love Two Hearted Queen for sentimental reasons. All queens welcome!

The Chicago coffee shop’s branding makes me love them for creative reasons.

Every time you order, you get to make a royal draw. You pick a card from a deck and if you get the queen of hearts, your order is half off. Here's the loyalty card. <3
Every time you order, you get to make a royal draw. You pick a card from a deck beside the register and if you draw the queen of hearts, your order is half off. Here’s the loyalty card. <3

th email list th homepage th tale of two hearts

And their iced chai latte with whole milk makes me love them for taste bud reasons.

Looks like I made it to the Queen magazine dream after all.

Located suspiciously close to a cleaners. Cinderella is that you? #queen
Located suspiciously close to a cleaners. Cinderella is that you? #queen

Wrestling wisdom

Helen Maroulis is the first American to win gold in women’s freestyle wrestling at the Olympics. A lofty accomplishment in and of itself, but the best part of her story is that to get it, she defeated Japan’s Saori Yoshida, a fully packed powerhouse who has only lost twice in her 14 years of stepping to the mat.

Maroulis seems like such a rad chick. There’s wisdom behind that takedown. Look no further than her answer to a question of if she was upset about the media focus on Ryan Locthe’s bro ass instead of her accomplishment (which is why you probably didn’t hear about her big win).

“I didn’t come here to win a gold medal for the media attention. I didn’t come here to win a gold medal in order to find something within myself or some peace within myself. I found that self-worth before I stepped in the mat. I think that’s why I won the gold medal.

Like the old saying goes, one has to love oneself before one can topple a Japanese wrestling legend.

“Dick Cheney” writing for This Recording

This oldie but so-fucking-goodie about the TV show “The Americans” starring Felicity Keri Russell popped up in some social media sphere of mine the other day. I can’t for the life of me remember who posted it, so I must just assume it was a gift from the writing gods. A reminder of what is possible despite the repetitive drudge of pop culture writing in an era of clickbait and masturbatory bylines.

Some greatest hits:

“In which we attempt a vision quest of the first order”

“In which Jared Leto’s existential crisis troubles us all”

“In which Felicity did it for her country”

This whole lede:

dick cheney this recording

And these amusingly astute first few sentences and then the heart-wrenching child psychology in the follow-up. Damn, Dick:dick cheney this recording 2

Interview: 10 questions for Ann C. Barham, past life regression therapist

A number that a man keeps dreaming about turns out to be the identification number of the weapon he used in the Vietnam War.

Another realizes his neck pain in his current life is located in the same spot where his neck broke in a fatal accident generations earlier.

Another client sees how her interactions with her mother’s soul in past lifetimes could be contributing to co-dependent problems they’re having now.

These are just a few stories from Ann C. Barham’s new book The Past Life Perspective: Discovering Your True Nature Across Multiple Lifetimes. Barham is an internationally certified regression therapist.

She breaks up the book by client story, giving a high-level look at what the client experienced while undergoing a regression. At once professional and empathetic, Barham delivers an incredibly balanced, entertaining, and informative look at what exploring one’s past lives actually looks like — and the many ways the past can help an individual’s present.

She also offers practical ways to apply what she and her clients have learned to your own life. Whether you’re a believer or not. (Which, by the way, more and more of you are. According to recent Harris and Gallup polls, about 25 percent of American adults believe in reincarnation and another 27 percent don’t disbelieve ((raises hand)).)

At the end of each chapter Barham lists the Essential Truths Uncovered through a client’s work.

For example, a woman named Natalie was struggling with feeling comfortable leaving her home. In her therapy, Natalie saw that in one lifetime she was forced to leave her home in China as a child of war and in another her little sister was killed in a windstorm while their parents were away from the house. The Essential Truths from Natalie’s story included learning to forgive yourself and move on and valuing time you get to spend with your children. Knowing the potential source of a problem is always immeasurably helpful in solving it or letting it go.

As Barham writes, “People often come away with a greater realization of the eternal nature of their being, their connection to others, and a closer experience of the love-filled energy that underlies all life.”

This book’s worth a read, whether you’re just curious or convinced you were Joan of Arc. (Sorry though, you probably weren’t… Think how many everyday people have lived throughout the ages. Although, the book does cover experiences with a couple historical figures.)

The Past Life Perspective is full of stories of how past lives can affect current relationship dynamics, explain physical pains or birthmarks, or provide guidance for pursuing untapped talents.

Below, Barham expounds upon a few key outcomes of The Past Lives Perspective and what she does to relax when this work gets too challenging.

You can purchase the book here. Just try to read it and not itch to find out where and when your soul has been…

Ann C. Barham, MA, LMFT (and former viking).

What made you want to study and practice past life regression therapy?

Past life therapy is an unusual specialty for a Marriage & Family Therapist, and many people wonder how this came about. I write about it in more detail in my book, The Past Life Perspective, but here it is in a nutshell:

I was raised in a conventional Catholic home, but that religion just didn’t fit for me. I embarked on a spiritual quest and did a lot of investigation into other traditions. When I stumbled upon the concept of reincarnation, it just resonated for me. It made total sense that we lived more than one human lifetime and we had multiple opportunities to master our lessons on the human plane.

After I had focused on more conventional therapeutic modes for some years, I found myself restless for something more. I wanted to help people more rapidly and on more levels simultaneously (emotional, relational, physical and especially spiritual). It occurred to me to pursue training in past life therapy as a specialty. I was lucky enough to train with some of the world’s foremost experts in the field at that time, including Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Roger Woolger (now deceased). I introduced past life work into my counseling practice and found it so rewarding and so helpful to clients that it soon became the main focus of my professional work. I believe that this is something that I bring forward from one of my own prior lifetimes.

Would you tell us about your breakthrough revelations from your own prior lives?

I’ve had a number of startling healings of physical symptoms thanks to my own past life work. The most dramatic, which I share in my book, happened in graduate school when my professor used me as the class ‘guinea pig’ to demonstrate when a client might come up with past life imagery. By going to a lifetime as a young Asian woman whose feet were bound, I was able to release a chronic problem in my feet literally overnight. I have also connected with some of my own prior personalities that were significantly different than my current personality – the most dramatic of these being as a Viking raider who loved to rape, pillage and plunder. He eventually met death from an axe through his skull in a dispute over a woman. Seeing life through the eyes of these prior personalities really advances the understanding of other people’s worldview and belief systems. It helps us to gain greater tolerance and compassion toward those different than ourselves. Probably the most fun for me has been to plug into past life memories while traveling. There are certain areas of the world that powerfully affect me when I’m there. Visiting sacred sites in both Egypt and Israel have evoked spontaneous past life recall for me.

 Do you have a go-to example of how confronting a past life issue can open the door to forgiveness and emotional healing in a person’s present life?

There’s an interesting story that I explore fully in The Past Life Perspective about a woman who consulted me about her relationship with her husband, in which she felt like she was “fighting for her life.” We explored a series of lifetimes in which he did cause her death – but we also discovered that she had done the same to him. She was able to forgive him and herself, unhook from this unconscious dynamic and greatly improve the relationship between them.

This story also demonstrates the point that oftentimes the work is to forgive ourselves for past life transgressions or losses; people who battle with guilt or depression in the current life may trace this back to events in prior lifetimes that have not been fully processed and released. We are able to do this in session and help them move forward more freely in their current lives.

Past Life Perspective book cover

How can past life therapy contribute to overcoming prejudice and other forms of social injustice?

One of the things I love about past life work is the fact that we experience ourselves as having lived as a different race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation, and having held dramatically different belief systems than we do now. This leads to a greater understanding and compassion for those who we may disagree with or have a hard time understanding in the present time. We find out that, many times, we have actually walked in their shoes and believed what they believe just as strongly as we hold our beliefs now. I like to call past life work “the great equalizer.” It points out the commonality of our human experiences, which transcends temporary differences. 

How can confronting a past life issue open the door to healing a current life physical ailment? Do we often see physical problems or marks transcend lives?

This is always one of the most fascinating areas, when injuries from our prior lifetimes seem to come through and manifest in our current life. This may be seen as pain or injuries in the same location in the body, or it may come through more benignly as a birthmark in the same location as a past life injury. In my work I have found that when physical issues are carried through, they are typically also connected to an emotional or relational issue. At times, when we unearth the past life origin and work with the physical trauma and the emotional/relational aspect, we can actually release the physical issue in the current life, as I described with the issue with my feet. Other times we are able to at least understand more about the physical challenge, and work with the associated aspects that the recurring physical symptom is asking us to resolve. There are a number of client stories in The Past Life Perspective that include fascinating physical aspects.

Does this work ever get too intense for you? Some of these memories are horrific… What motivates you to keep doing this work?

Many sessions do get quite intense, and I pace myself so I’m always fresh and able to be fully present for each client. Sometimes that means playing a lot of tennis to get grounded again! The very fact, however, that we often see so many examples of man’s inhumanity to man over the ages is one of the things that keeps me motivated. The more we are able to unearth these memories and release their hold on individuals, the more progress we will make as a whole. You can’t go to a lifetime where you were the victim of extreme violence or prejudice and not be convinced that this should never happen to others. At the same time there are also many wonderful stories and profoundly fulfilling lifetimes that we visit. Working with people on such a deep level and helping them to be more effective and more spiritually connected in their current lives is my true motivation.

Where do you think our souls go in between lifetimes?

Most clients experience going to a wonderful, profoundly peaceful, joy and love-filled realm where they reconnect with ‘source’ – be that god or whatever you want to call it – and with other beings who are significant to them. I believe there is a non-physical dimension in which our souls reside and from which our human personalities are animated. Each individual human personality merges with that soul identity after death.

You stress in the book that all the stories are real even if a client’s memories differ from the historical record. Can you clarify the difference between real and factual?

As we all know, memories of events even in our current lives are variable and not always 100 percent accurate or factual. If you ask four different observers of a traffic accident what happened, you will probably get four slightly different versions of the ‘facts.’ However, our memories are ‘real’ to us because it’s how we experienced and remember the event. What is important in past life work is to uncover how a lifetime was experienced by the client who lived it, what the feelings were, the attitudes and decisions adopted, what meaning the individual made from the experience. That is ‘real’ to them and that’s what counts. And, we also know that history was written by people who often had a bias, so how completely accurate are our historical accounts anyway?

Seeing life through the eyes of these prior personalities really advances the understanding of other people’s worldview and belief systems.

Do you have any practical advice on how and where to begin if someone is eager to access their own past lives? Is it possible to DIY past life regression?

There are a number of exercises and suggested practices that you can do to expand your awareness of your own prior lifetimes in my book. There is also a guided past life meditation on my website, pastlives.org, that people can access. It is possible to retrieve some past life memories on your own, however they typically will not be as detailed nor as effective in releasing stuck places as you will get in an individualized session with a professional past life therapist to guide you through the process. And if the material is difficult or challenging, you probably will run into blocks that the therapist would be able to help you negotiate successfully, that you probably would not be able to do on your own. However, many people find that it is fun and at times insightful to experiment on their own.

If you could invite three people to a dinner party, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Well, if I wasn’t concerned about how the three people would get along, I’d have an eclectic mix. First I would invite Jesus of Nazareth because I would like to meet and talk with him in person, to know more about the man and experience first-hand his transformative loving kindness. I think another guest would be Queen Elizabeth I who ruled England in the 1500s. I don’t know if I’d like her particularly, but I think she’d be fascinating to observe and interact with. What an amazingly strong woman and leader from a time in history where women were not so highly regarded. Finally, I’d invite John Stewart for his wit and humor to keep us all laughing at ourselves – something I always try to remember!

Inspo: Words in the fro-yo parlor, Kadenze, and the 1936 Olympics

Frozen Yogurt copywriting

frozen yogurt

Thirsty fro-yo is the tastiest fro-yo.

Kadenze

This online course provider has been around for a while, but I recently enrolled for a few courses as an auditor (meaning I don’t get any certificate or college credits but I can watch all the course videos and access any additional resources for free).

The classes are led by instructors or professors from elite arts colleges and universities. It’s an excellent resource for broadly exploring creative subjects or software. I love that there are options like this available to 1) continue to democratize education and 2) give prospective students an idea of whether or not to  pursue a field of study. Having a featured professor is a great non-traditional marketing tool for the educational institution as well.

kadenze

My next class is “Comics: Art in Relationships.” I’m no illustrator, but I’m looking forward to hearing a professional break down how this powerful form of storytelling lives and breathes. Check out all the upcoming courses here.

The 1936 Olympics

When you need a break from watching the actual 2016 Olympics (*cough* biking *cough*), check out these two documentaries about the foreshadowing games from 80 years ago.

America’s nine-man rowing team beat the pruned-to-perfection Germans in the race for gold, but more interesting is their story of getting there. This ragtag group of hard laborers turned college boys defeated the East Coast’s upper crust crews and overcame a whole lot of personal struggle spawned by the Great Depression to become the team to represent that States in ’36. In an era when potential American Olympians are plucked early for glory grooming, it’s fascinating to hear a story of regular blue-collar boys working together to become bonafide athletes—athletes who gave, if even for a second, Hitler and his Nazis a sense of doubt of their disgusting illusions of superiority. (Watch the entire American Experience episode here.)

Jesse Owens did this to Hitler (and a very racist America) too. That’s the story most of us know from this Olympics. The documentary Hitler’s Olympics on Netflix gets into a few others, including the fact that the relay with the torch that we still do today was a Nazi Germany invention and not one of Ancient Greece. There are also, obviously, sad and scary stories of Jewish German athletes intimidated into telling the national press that they were being treated kindly and then, eventually, stripped of the chance to compete, even though some of them were breaking records in the trials. A few got redemption much, much later, but most didn’t, their lives taking violent turns soon after the games ended. The least we can do is remember their stories today.

Essay-ish: Happy Acres Kampground

Perhaps it was because I was grieving, but I couldn’t stop giggling about the sign outside Happy Acres Kampground.

Happy Acres is located just north of the Illinois state line in Bristol, Wisconsin. It has everything you’d expect from a campground that spells campground with a K.

“Tenting. Trailer & Cabin Rentals. Swimming. Fishing. Planned Activities.”

“Planned Activities” is the amenity that caught my attention. It seems like such a funny promise for people looking to get away from structure and back to nature.

Let us all line dance like Lewis and Clark!

But I guess that’s camping in 1970 and onward.

happy acres pond

At Happy Acres, the 1970’s influence abounds. That’s when it was founded. It smells of bonfires and kitsch, which is really all they would need to put on a sign to get me to go there.

“Putting the camp in camping since 1970” is the slogan of somewhere I’d want to go always.

There’s putt putt golf and a fenced-in “zoo” of lady peacocks who just chill all day. There’s a pool and a horseshoe court. A paddle boat shaped like a pirate ship and one like a giant swan. A miniature merry-go-round and the co-opting of totems from cultures who worked these grounds long ago.

happy acres totem pole

happy acres peacock

It also has those giant concrete tubes laid out in an L-shape. They’re the playground accompaniment to a swing set and plastic elephant slide. But those concrete tunnels look like a Millenial parent’s worst nightmare, conjuring images of wayward children of yesteryear surviving under bridges alone or being kidnapped by a former wayward child who grew up to be a man who really, really liked clowns.

I’m sure I’m reading into them too much, letting my imagination run away into the darkness. But that’s pretty standard for me, and my daydreaming is especially amped up here, where I have nothing to do but relax and the visual time warp beckons from every corner.

I feel like at any moment Jessica Fletcher is going to walk by in sensible kitten heels and a neck scarf.

“I found a body in the pond,” she’d say cheerfully as she passed, waving from the wrist.

Those tunnels were cool as a kid but they always gave you scraped knees, the kind of scrape made of a hundred intersecting, strawberry-red abrasions reaching down the full length of your knee. Like a lifeline of summer.

happy acres tunnel

This thought takes me to a time about 24 years ago in a campground not so different from Happy Acres. The Fox’s Den on Put-In-Bay island. My Grandma and Grandpa Mantey stayed there during my childhood summers. The campground was all trailers transformed into makeshift summer homes, and its layout was in a little circle, an excellent landscape for me and my siblings to ride our bikes around.

There’s one summer I particularly remember because of the glasses I was wearing. It would have either been between kindergarten and first grade or first grade and second.

I had these thick plastic glasses that were a nearly nude shade of brown. They were super trendy in the eyes of my parents, probably, who wore those giant rims for style points. But to me they were unwieldily and ugly. 

Whatever summer it was, I was riding my bike around the campground and I crashed. My glasses went sprawling in the opposite direction of my little body. My knee was gushing blood but all I could think about was those damn glasses. They had broken in my fall. I thought about how mad my mom was going to be. I didn’t know much, but I knew glasses were expensive.

I limped back to the campsite crying, handing the pieces to my mom and apologizing. She didn’t even notice. Everyone ran to look at my knee, cooing over me to see if I was hurt, if I needed stitches. There are many glasses, mom said, but only one Jackie.

Grandma with Dad.
Grandma with Dad.
Dad with me (and my glasses).
Dad with me (and my glasses).

I’m rubbing my knee now. At age 30 I still have a scar from that fall. I didn’t get stitches and I’m glad. The bump is a reminder of that story, a reminder of how loved I am.

Justin and I are visiting Happy Acres on vacation, one thats timing worked out well. The week before, we buried my grandma, the one who lived on Put-In-Bay for half the year.

My grandpa, her husband, had died last year. He was the first of my grandparents to pass away. (Again, how lucky I am. To have had all my grandparents around for such a big portion of my life.)

But something about my grandma dying was harder. That’s not to say I loved one more than the other, but there was something about the fact that they were both gone now that I was having trouble processing. To me, grandparents came in pairs. So when one was gone but one was still alive, the first death didn’t seem absolute. Life didn’t feel like it had shifted to a new plane.

Now it did. A new perspective and understanding of the world without my grandparents in it was settling into place. And it was kind of a relief to do it in foreign territory where there were so many manmade things shaped like animals.

happy acres elephant

happy acres deer

happy acres horses

These play things were so gaudy, and the dissonance that their being around created — in a place whose whole purpose is supposedly rooted on celebrating the natural — made me feel more comfortable about feeling so uncomfortable in my understanding of the world. Happy Acres Kampground’s absurdity is exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

I’m sad my grandparents never got to meet Justin, my camping/life companion. He packed almost everything for this trip. Planned and booked it. Made all the food. Brought what we needed, and emailed me a list of what I needed to bring (like, only two things) the day before we left.

This is how we work as a couple. I’m good at making a living. He’s great at living.

Really, this kind of stuff is effortless for him. He picked all the playlists (“In My Room” by Jacob Collier, “Black Messiah” by D’Angelo, “Guapaspasea!” by Gecko Turner, and “Classic Hip Hop: The Samples Radio” on Google Play). All of which he played at the perfect moment to set whatever mood required.

He’s exactly what I didn’t know I needed, too.

At night, we sleep in a tiny cabin the size of a closet. It’s hot but I still curl helplessly into Justin, afraid of the bugs that might eat at me or lay eggs in my ears. Afraid of so much I can’t see in the dark.

It’s the not knowing that he’s so good at navigating. It’s the not knowing that makes me feel so helpless.

happy acres justin cabin

happy acres home is where the heart is

If I were to write a review of Happy Acres, it would say to definitely go on the trails. They’re a wooded area in the back of the grounds with a few benches and several unhelpful maps, but all the short trails walk you in a circle, so you can’t really get lost.

Justin and I did this on our last day at the campground, smacking at mosquitos on the other’s back in between holding hands.

The morning we left, Justin took us to a pancake place up the road. Whenever we travel together he always finds little local places to hit up, and this one had the interior that was like a set of “Grace Under Fire.”

happy acres restaurant

My grandparents would have loved it. There was straw hat decor, pink vinyl booths, family pictures hung about, and plastic tabletops that bore the art of an eagle in front of an American flag. It was so country, but also a clear clash of time periods and personalities and ideas of what happiness looked like.

After breakfast as we headed back to Chicago, I secretly wished that we could stay for the weekend’s “planned activities.” Riding and walking around in circles, knowing we were safe.

happy acres justin walk

List-ish: The four best feminist moments of Stranger Things

I’m sure you’ve heard of or watched Stranger Things by now. (If you haven’t and don’t want me to ruin all the fun, stop reading now. Spoilerz are inevitable.)

You’ve at least definitely seen fan representations of summer’s breakout third wheel, Barb.

Gone to the big library in the sky. We love you, Barb. RIP.
Gone to the big library in the sky. We love you, Barb. RIP.

This 8-episode series by Netflix is set in 1983. It’s a monster story. A conspiracy story. A kid buddy story. It’s straight-up visual nostalgia for anyone who clocked in some childhood during the 1980s. RL Stine meets Stand By Me meets The Goonies meets The X-Files.

Did your head just explode? Well put those eyeballs back in, mister. You’ve got some bingewatching to do.

In addition to all of the above awesomeness, the beauty of something that’s supposed to be in the 1980s being filmed in 2016 is that the writers and directors bring a more nuanced interpretation of gender and sexuality to the series.

It’s, of course, not a huge element of the show; it would feel contrived if it were. But if you’re paying attention, you can sense that today’s gender equality influence is all around, like the creepy snow in the Upside Down.

Here are four big moments in Stranger Things that make this Third Waver (and former third wheel #weareallbarb) cheer.

4) Joyce tells Lonnie to beat it.

We’re first introduced to the idea of Lonnie, Will and Jonathan’s father, when Joyce goes to the cops to report Will missing. Chief Hopper is a little dismissive and assumes the father, who’s been out of the picture for a while now, kidnapped the boy, since “99 out of 100 times” that’s what happens.

Joyce is adamant that that isn’t the case. And in this moment she says something important: “Lonnie calls him a queer. He calls him a faggot.”

Putting this line in here to point out the dad’s ineptitude and cruelty as a father is very 2016. I’m not sure a 1980s audience would have understood it to mean what a 2016 audience understands it to mean. It shows the progression we’ve made as a society that this would be a character development point to a modern day audience. It’s a small point in the dialogue, a subtle but big moment for gender and sexuality on the show.

Joyce’s desperation in this line is a condemnation of those words, whereas Will being called a fairy by the school bully later in the series is more par for the course of homophobic implications in ‘80s or ‘90s characters.

Viewers could have deduced that Lonnie was a bad dad through other examples, but the fact that the writers used this as the main example is very revealing of how today the idea of masculinity in boyhood has shifted. That today’s audience could infer from this that he is not nice to his son proves that gender roles have become a little less suffocating.

However the main moment for Joyce and Lonnie happens when he comes back for the funeral. Joyce is obviously distressed. She’s scared and confused and grieving. It is understandable that when Lonnie shows back up brimming with strength for her and her family, she cautiously acquiesces. Joyce could have continued to let him take the reigns for a while—he owed her at least that—even after she found out he was there to scam some money from Will’s “death.”

But she doesn’t. Joyce has seen Lonnie’s back turned to her one too many times for that. She kicks him out as fast as he got there. Doing it alone sucks for her right now, but it’s better than doing it with someone who treats you and your children like shit along the way.

3) Nancy decides maybe she is that kind of girl, after all.

Since this series is in homage to ‘80s horror movies, the old sexual tropes have to be there. They just have to. So there they are.

Nancy is at first a prototypical good girl who tells Steve that she “isn’t like that.” The Heathers, Beckys, Staceys are like that. In true ‘80s fashion, Steve calls those girls sluts, even though he still is into Nancy after they actually do it less than 24 hours later.

So Nancy “loses” her virginity and what happens? Her best friend dies a terrible, tragic, forgotten death because she was busy getting busy. Hello female sexual shame via blood-and-guts metaphor at its stupid finest.

At school the next day Nancy is afraid everyone at school now thinks she’s a Heather-Becky-Stacey (who are probably cool as fuck and also getting A’s in Chem, OK Nancy, while smoking under the stadium while listening to The Clash, btw… let’s give these unseen characters a spin-off).

Her worst fears come true a few days later, when Steve’s punk friend shames her publicly because they think she hooked up with Jonathan. Nancy though, having seen an actual monster at this point, is having none of that dumb shit and confronts the dummy. Welcome to the feminist party, Nancy; it’s awesome here and we don’t care whom you take your high-waisted Jordache jeans off for.

Nancy’s story arch is really interesting. I like the bait and switch the writers do with her love triangle. The final episode shows us who she’s chosen (for now) and the life she wants—it’s not an accident that before you see her at family Christmas under Steve’s arm, you see her dad snoring on the recliner. It implies that she’s going to choose a life like her mother’s and she seems happy with that. And that’s really cool. That’s the whole point of feminism. Choice. And it’s cool that in Stranger Things you can see she had options and made the decision she wanted, regardless of whether you consider it basic or badass.

2) Jonathan lets Nancy fight with the gun.

Jonathan is a terrible shot, despite his deadbeat dad’s attempts to make him more “manly” by having him shoot a bunny as a kid. But when it’s Nancy’s turn to practice shooting the targets? Clang, clang, motherfucker. Bull’s-eye.

So in the very next scene, who do we see carrying the gun? Nancy. She’s better with it, and when it comes to life or death by monster, what you’re packing in the pants department (non-weapons category) doesn’t matter.

I love that the directors make this subtle. It’s never addressed that Nancy gets the gun even though she’s a tiny teenage girl. It just happens. That’s some post-Hunger Games filming, my friends. Audiences are used to girls getting the big guns, sometimes literally, if they prove they are the best at handling them. The directors knew if they made a big deal about it, the scene would feel like a feminist afterschool special. They also knew Jonathan’s character — a sensitive artist type worried deeply about getting his brother back — wouldn’t argue with her about using the gun while he carried the bat. Good writing all around.

That’s why we love you, Jonathan. Not just because you like the Clash and look like a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
That’s why we love you, Jonathan. Not just because you love the Clash and look like a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

I also love that the writer’s don’t let Nancy save the day with said gun. The two guys, Jonathan and Steve, do most of the heavy lifting in the monster fight, thus saving themselves and Nancy and giving them and their own fledgling masculinity time to shine, which they also deserve.

1) Eleven saves the world.

This one is the most obvious. That a 12-year-old girl who has been held captive and forced to do things with her talents against her will by not just a man but The Man is now free by her own accord and able to use her powers to save her friends… well that’s just everything we feminists have ever wanted as an option to watch/ do.

And that Eleven still has so much love and compassion and morality left in her heart even after all her abuse? That’s what will save the world even more than her telepathic powers.

Story: Stan’s scammy numbers

Cadence inspired by the incomparable Joe Frank’s story “Howard Johnson’s Brownies.”

*****

Everyday at 5 am Stan woke up to the sound of his television turning on. For exactly 10 minutes he’d lie in bed and watch the infomercials. They motivated him to stay awake. The motivated him to do what he was about to do all day long.

At 5:10 am he got out of bed, right leg pulled from its warm cocoon of covers first. He’d place his foot down. Count to 10. Pull out the left leg.

Stan found this slow pace made him less suspicious. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed, he knew, was a false idea but a real fear.

To be proactive about his paranoia was something Stan learned, coincidentally enough, from an infomercial. But that was back when he watched them because of his insomnia, not because of his morning ritual.

It was three years ago and the course was called “Bye Bye: Manny Masterson’s Guide to Getting Rid of the Voices.”

Manny looked a lot like Stan, which made him trust the TV salesman. Early 40s. Not-fat fat. Balding on the sides enough to only be noteworthy to other men also balding on the sides.

Manny probably had about seven Khaki pants on rotate, one for each day of the week. Seven was Stan’s lucky number.

Stan also liked Manny’s catchphrase, “Buy Bye Bye!” He thought it was clever and valued that a man who was trying to sell something to people who were probably superstitious was smart enough to have a catchphrase that said a word three times.

Good things always come in threes.

After watching Manny’s masterful one-hour sales pitch for the third time seven nights in a row, a voice told Stan to call the number on the screen.

“But I don’t want to get rid of you,” Stan said aloud.

“Oh, that’s a valid point. It’s not good for me, a voice inside your head, to tell you to buy something that will get rid of the voice inside your head,” said the voice inside Stan’s head.

Stan admired the clarity of this voice and decided that it must be a sign to, indeed, order Manny’s program.

It was a series of four DVD talks and a journal that Stan filled out diligently. All in all, Stan concluded, it was a good decision, although he had to purchase a DVD player to watch the lectures.

But soon, Stan’s order proved to cause a real problem.

Because he had called the 1-800 number to buy “Bye Bye,” Stan’s cell phone number was added to a list for marketers and scammers and pollsters and other people who called other people for a living.

He just had a little flip phone at the time, so he was in the habit of answering these unknown numbers. It felt so satisfying to just flip the little phone open but that meant he had picked up the line.

The last straw was when Stan got a phone call from someone pretending to be the IRS. When Stan said, “I know you’re not the IRS,” the voice on the other line yelled back, “How do you know I am not the IRS? You should be scared of the IRS! I am the IRS!”

“That’s enough,” Stan said out loud in his empty living room after he had flipped the flip phone shut. “I didn’t hush the voices inside my head to be intimidated by real ones.”

That very day Stan began his campaign. And that campaign is what he did all day long for the rest of his life.

Promptly at 6 am, he rode his bicycle to the coffee shop near his apartment. He ordered a small coffee and added three Sweet and Low packets. He waited and drank his coffee until 6:10 am (because those numbers add up to seven). Then Stan began making phone calls of his own.

At first he called all the numbers that had called his little flip phone. He’d call each phone number seven times for three days. He would ring until someone answered and he wouldn’t say anything, just wait until they hung up exasperated.

Usually these scammers would get angry at being called so much, which Stan loved. How terrible it was to be called by someone you didn’t want to talk to. Worse when it was someone who didn’t have anything to say!

How wonderful it felt to give these people a taste of their own medicine, Stan thought.

After the first year Stan ran out of numbers to call, so he began looking up numbers on the Internet that were posted on message boards. They were always numbers that belonged to notorious scammers.

He especially loved pranking the ones that preyed on the elderly or mentally handicapped. Sometimes he’d call them six times a day for fourteen days just for good measure.

Stan knew some of these people were just doing their jobs, but as far as he was concerned, so was he. It was a job he loved, tying up their phone lines, stopping the voices from hurting anyone else.

It’s what got Stan out of bed every morning at 5:10 am. One leg at a time.

Inspo: Hawaii, real talk, and Real Simple

Hawaii 

To be fair, I’ve been having Hawaii-inspiration as experienced by a Midwestern white person (I recognize that my “Hawaii” isn’t a complete picture of this land and its people).

Maybe it’s because it’s summer but probably mostly my interest is because a new Poke restaurant opened up near my apartment. Poke is a Hawaiian dish that means “fish salad,” which sounds disgusting but is the opposite. The restaurant near me has awesome branding. It’s subtle. Laid back. Surfer cool.

808 = Hawaii's area code.
808 = Hawaii’s area code.

Monday through Funday.

aloha funday aloha instagram

Just read it... ;)
Just read it… 😉

I’ve watched this documentary with an incredible ending. It’s on Netflix now.

“Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau”

I’ve been running along Lake Shore to The Ventures.

And yowza I am wasting the crap out of my time clicking through photos of Hawaiian life post-statehood (1959).

football

It’s fascinating how the two cultures (native Hawaiian and white American) converged — and how they didn’t. It’s a rich time capsule of imagery, depicting a way of life that’s now lost at sea. How many stories there must be in aging upper class memories from a time when the idea of vacation and leisure travel were taking off … of supper clubs and shrimp cocktails and real cocktails and luaus and forbidden loves and changing social construction under a tiki torch glow.

luau

HOME Podcast’s “About Us” episode

I’ve been listening to Home Podcast for about six months. Holly and Laura are such a breath of fresh air to sobriety discussions. Their stories feel young and familiar (I am so very, very much a Holly), and they present sobriety as something that’s quite the opposite of deprivation. If you’re trying to get control of your life and want to open the door to possibility instead of Groundhog Day-ing through one of pain (regardless of what you want to be sober of), listen to every episode of Home. I can’t recommend the thing as a whole enough. However, this episode is one that was especially revelatory in terms of human emotion and relationships—beyond sobriety and modern spirituality. The girls talk about their friendship and what they struggle with personally in being the other’s friend. It’s such an honest and frank look at how real relationships are challenging and ever evolving but oh so absolutely worth it; I also love the nuances in here of having friendships that mostly happen via technology and how that influences the way we communicate as friends in the modern era. Any writers doing research for a book about female friendship set in 2016? This is full of wonderful, raw, brave material for you. I love these women for being so open. #friendcrushforreal

Real Simple’s article style

Any time a magazine finds a new way to present and idea or a story that’s been covered a million times before, I’m into it. Print journalists are particularly challenged because they can’t just have a book full of lazy listicles, which is what so many of The People presumably want nowadays. The Atlantic is one of my favorites for creative and innovative photo illustrations, and Real Simple is one of my favorites for presenting helpful but old information in new ways.

Recently, I was drawn to this article with a hook-and-heighten approach. Readers want to feel like you’re providing them with something useful. By highlighting what they already know and then delivering something they don’t know on that subject, the reader retains the information better and feels like they just learned something proactively (versus being talked at with information). This article’s impact wouldn’t be the same if it were just a list of the new facts.
real simple
This article inspired the format for a freelance piece I recently put together for a wedding magazine; I think the approach works particularly well in lifestyle categories, where readers or consumers already have a solid foundation of understanding about your content but want to learn more.
(An aside that this particular article conjures: I always say I must have missed the day in class where we learned about percentages because I’m 100% sure I do not understand how to use them. The same could be said about the lesson of why you take your shoes of in the house. There’s more than just mud or dirt on them—there’s probably poop and maybe e-coli and definitely other disgusting invisible things that you’re traipsing all over the floor that you’ll probably nap on in the next few days. WHOA?! I’m sure someone tried to teach me this basic element of sanitation but I wasn’t listening. I had other places to be in my brain; probably with an imaginary Hawaiian island loverboy… no one puts baby in a corner without her dancing shoes on.)

Essay-ish: A kiss and a ham sandwich for the road

Friends stayed at my house on Friday night. I was a stopping point for their trek to a wedding further west the next evening.

We did what one should do in Chicago — eat. After a subpar experience at a restaurant with too-kind Yelp reviews and duck fritters that might have just been chicken maybe(?), we decided to walk around and wing it.

That’s always when the best things happen.

We ended up at a Thai restaurant that we smelled a block away. The weather was lovely, so the place had its sidewalk-to-ceiling windows open and the scent of spicy chili noodles, curried meats, and delicate fried crab drew us toward it. I don’t even know if we walked there or floated on the fumes, mouths agape.

The only reason we made it out of there with leftovers was because we had eaten beforehand. The next morning, I packed the cartons into a brown paper bag for my friends to take with them on their drive. I included some fruit, a few donuts, and plastic silverware I’d saved from long-forgotten takeout trips.

Before they drove away, they thanked me for taking care of them. It was nothing, I said. And really it wasn’t. It was just love by way of clean sheets and a packed lunch.

I thought of all this today as I tried to write a few lines for my grandma’s obituary, the use of which is quickly approaching.

It’s comforting that my family, like me, turns to getting work done in moments of sadness or overwhelming emotion; one might consider preparing photos for the funeral and an obituary for the newsmen before my grandma actually passes as morbid or denying in-the-moment grief, and maybe it is a little bit.

But I prefer to think we’re proactive. Realistic. Farmers. Doing this work now makes logistics easier when the real loss hits. Work is where we find solace — it’s the only thing we can control. And taking control of our own lives and experiences is a way to honor the lives of the family who worked so hard before us.

I get my callous work ethic honest.

As I do my enjoyment of hosting.

A line I wrote for grandma’s article (one of only a few I could actually muster):

“Carolyn was as quick with a comeback as she was a homemade sandwich for your journey home after a visit.”

grandma

Inspo: Words on the Street, Chicago, and the poetry of Penny Dreadful

Copywriting

CLE Don't Stall CLE Going GOing Gone

Take me out to the bathroom, am I right? Coming at ya from Jacob’s Field Omar Vizquel’s Castle Progressive Field in CLE.

Progressive Field

There’s no jazz hands in baseball!

a league of their own no

This is the menu for one of five salons within three blocks of my apartment. Gotta stay competitive. Who knew waxing could be so fun?

Wax services

Chicago

I’m obsessed with this city. Steady. Pulsing. Strong. Brass. Balls.

Penny Dreadful

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

  • (mindfulness circa William Blake)

For the love of all things unholy, have you watched this Showtime series? It’s on Netflix and I finished two seasons in a week. Sultry, smoldering, steamy, and spooky—it’s got everything *and* Josh Hartnett. Plus, the beaten down prostitute Brona Croft turned femme fatale man killer Lily Frankenstein story line is EVERYTHING.

lily

I turned the subtitles on to watch Penny Dreadful (same with Peaky Blinders) because those damn accents, and the pleasure of viewing is amplified by reading the lines. The language has transformed into a character itself as I watch. It’s hard to imagine living in a time as terrible as Victorian London, but, silver lining here, at least they had the time and sadness to memorize Yeats and Blake and Shakespeare!

The show’s recurring use of the song “The Unquiet Grave” has haunted me for days. I know that tune from my days as a kid in the Catholic church. But these were definitely not the lyrics. Shudder.

My breast it is as cold as clay,

My breath is earthly strong;

And if you kiss my cold clay lips,

Your days they won’t be long.

How often on yonder grave, sweetheart.

Where we were want to walk,

The fairest flower that ever I saw

Has withered to a stalk,

When will we meet again, sweetheart?

When will we meet again?

When the autumn leaves that fall from trees

Are green and spring up, again.

Story: Match Game 78

Jean leaned over for Richard’s lighter, bumping his bourbon with her breast on purpose.

“All I’m saying, is it’s no coincidence that men are the ones who name their sons after themselves and not the women. It’s like building phallic statues everywhere and putting your names on them.”

Richard caught her slender wrist and pulled her hand from the lighter slowly, as if he were pulling apart one of his wife’s grilled cheese sandwiches. He reached for her other wrist and gently pushed the cigarette onto her lips. He clicked the metal wheel and held up the flame.

“Ah, you’re taking it as an insult when it should be a point of pride. As men, we are proud of our names. That’s our heritage, our line. Do you know what it’s like to survive out here as a man? That’s worth celebrating. Passing down. Sometimes it’s all a man’s got, his name. Hell, I’ll probably give Jr. my lighter here too someday.”

Jean smirked and blew out the flame.

“Bartender, do you have a pack of matches?” she purred.

“See now there. Why do you women’s libbers get to use your femininity when it works for you?”

“Oh, jealous are we? That’s not going to do you any good tomorrow at round two.”

Richard thought about that. He and Jean were at the bar of the Ritz in Hollywood, staying the night before filming of the popular game show “Match Game.” Jean was his competition and she’d beaten him in all the practice rounds today.

He knew most of that game was luck. Sure, how could he know what some celebrity like Betty White was thinking? But no one likes losing, and he definitely did today.

“Tell me something, Jean. How do you decide what you’re going to guess in the game?”

A velvety plume of smoke trailed from Jean’s lips as she exhaled.

“You can’t overthink it. Usually your first thought is also theirs. There’s no right or wrong answer, but there’s always an obvious one.”

The phone at the end of the bar rang.

“Excuse me. Are you Mr. Richard Henley?” called out the bartender, the phone receiver pressed to his chest.

“That’s Mr. Richard Henley Senior to you, sir,” Jean said, smiling.

Richard raised his eyebrow at her and got up from his stool. He took the phone and turned his back to Jean, watching the bassist on stage play quietly as he listened to his wife tell him about little Richie’s home run earlier that day.

“I miss you too, dear.”

As he sat back down, Jean gave him an inquisitive look.

“Tell me something, Richard the First. Do you really love your wife?”

No one had ever asked him that question before. Richard really liked Jean. She was brave, the kind of woman it felt OK to lose to. She could make it in a man’s world, with or without any match game.

“You can’t overthink it,” he said, pulling his hand from hers. He put money for both their drinks on the bar and headed upstairs to go to bed.