Our cheap wedding RSVPs keep making my day

We didn’t want to spend much on wedding invitations. In fact, Justin preferred we do it all online.

But considering that this is only happening to us once (ringed-fingers crossed) and my sister is a professional graphic designer willing to create an invite and custom envelope free of charge, I couldn’t not have this physical representation of our nuptials.

Nuptials. See also:

  • Wedding
  • Big Day
  • Ceremony
  • Marriage
  • Union
  • Matrimonial Event

I’ve been writing for a regional wedding magazine since I was 22 (and 100% percent certain I would never get married. Typical.).

That’s 9 years of finding synonyms for wedding words I write over and over again and covering trends in the wedding biz, which is as monstrous in scope as Bride of Frankenstein’s hair.

Key takeaways imparted on me through this work include:

  • Some venues will nickel and dime the ever living frosting out of you. Ask about eve-ry-thang. Do they charge for the linens? What about cutting and serving the cake — is there an extra charge for that? Do you have to pay for the bartender’s services in addition to the alcohol? I sounded like a jaded divorcee on her third marriage asking all of this and more of my venue’s director, but now I know there will be no surprises on the final bill.
  • It’s always worth hiring a professional. For any of it. Except maybe making the centerpieces. Those you can recruit siblings, cousins and mothers for.
  • Make it your own. The best weddings and the happiest couples I’ve interviewed did what they wanted for their <insert above word of your choosing here>. Etiquette, tradition and standards be damned — or rigorously applied, if that’s what you’re into.

As I’ve pointed out before, I have a thing for snail mail. Though, who doesn’t? Unless it’s a bill, getting letters and postcards in the mail is as Santa Claus as an adult is going to get.

A box of postcards had been gathering dust in my myriad apartments’ closets since about 2012. I bought them from Anthropologie for a fluffy feature magazine article about cool things made out of books or inspired by books.

Flowers crafted from torn out pages, their words never to be read in order again. Sturdy jacket spines transformed into a hipster-approved mobile. Postcards of Penguin’s most colorful hits.

I remember getting reader hate mail for this magazine piece. Never underestimate the fury of a bored, lonely, passionate reader.

How dare books be seen as any kind of art beyond that of writing? What a crime to desiccate these tomes or admire them for their design purposes. I and people like me were to be the downfall of this great country!

But hey it was mail. Santa giveth.

I don’t know why I never threw the box of cards out after the photo shoot. A guess: I had bought them with my own starter journalist salary ( = not much) and couldn’t bear to throw away something that felt so expensive to me at the time ($40 could have bought a lot of toilet paper and Lean Cuisines).

So there they sat. And there they moved. And moved. And moved again. Until I tucked them into our latest place, deep in a desk cabinet, all set to wait out another year in the dark corners of the envelope drawer. Stories buried. Pandora’s box on PTO.

It’s not like I didn’t try to use them before this. But whenever I’d effort to make a selection, I’d be overcome by their beauty and selfishly wish to keep them to myself. Or I’d fear their hidden messages could accidentally offend.

Because, in typical Millennial milieu, I don’t know much about what these postcards actually represent, what the books were about — I just loved their jacket covers, the colors and the style, and what they could mean symbolically. I love books, after all. Just not these ones. Most of them remained a mystery to me.

I feared sending a grandparent, for example, a postcard with a seemingly innocuous book title and pretty cover print only to find it’s about repopulating Mars and all the wooing, weird and wetness that would entail. A book that perhaps caused a scandal in their day! Too big a risk.

But as we planned our wedding invitations to one of our three events (ugh I know… we’re those people… ceremony in Chicago, two parties in our Ohio hometowns), the box of Penguin postcards nagged the back of my brain.

How fun would those be as RSVPs? (Also, how deliciously free.) A “love story” theme for our Marion reception? Sure, they didn’t match the beautiful invitations my sister made, but what have I learned? Do what you want. It’s your wedding after all.

I knew I risked someone reading too much into a title. I was selective.

Some postcard titles that didn’t make the wedding RSVP cut:

  • The Horizontal Man
  • The Lost Girl
  • Dreadful Summit
  • Middlesex (awkward)
  • Flying Dutchman (sounded like a slang sex position… also awkward)
  • Vile Bodies
  • Man Trap (ha!)
  • Warfare by Words
  • The Case of the Half-Awakened Wife (I’m woke!)

As Justin compiled his reception’s Facebook invites, I formed a factory line for mine, thoughtfully choosing a postcard for each invitation and working my tongue dry with envelope sealing, like a kitten who got into the salt lick.

Keying and creaking open my rusty mailbox the past month has been a joy. Bronte and Austin and Fitzgerald await. Sixties style art reproductions stand at attention beside desperate credit card offers and Bed Bath & Beyond coupons.

My reception guests respond exactly as I expect each of them to — some add stickers and drawings to the postcards, others just tell me their guest count and sign their name. Some get so excited they forget to sign it. Luckily I remember which postcard I picked for them and know who of my friends would forget to sign a postcard they sent. (To be fair, I would forget too. That’s probably why we’re friends.)

It felt good to get rid of the postcards, to use them in some productive way. But as a buddy pointed out: Technically, I didn’t get rid of them.

Like bookish boomerangs, back they come. To sit in my drawers for another six or seven years. But with my own story, my own favorite characters now imprinted on them.

Ten years later, how Mad Men speaks to modern feminism

“I’d like to be the first woman creative director at this agency.” Peggy Olson

It may be called Mad Men, yet the most memorable characters from this show, aside from beautiful-baby-disaster Don Draper, are women.

Peggy, Joan and Betty in particular re-shaped how we collectively think about the American 1960s woman. No longer is she a stereotype or one-dimensional object of pity or icon of resistance.

These characters’ stories were so different, so emotionally nuanced and raw, it was reported that some real women who were alive during that time couldn’t bring themselves to watch the show. They lived that pain, conformed themselves to thrive or simply survive under its weight, and had no desire to experience it all again.

They knew too well the unspoken rules, the hypocrisy and harassment, the subtle and not–so-subtle degradation of living in the world as a woman before feminism’s second wave swept us all to higher ground.

Oh, and the crinoline and cocktails. There were a few wins during this era too.

This week the show celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Perhaps its most realistic nod to feminism is that it doesn’t really talk about feminism or the women’s liberation movement.

The characters are each obviously affected by it in some way and we notice that effect because we, the viewers, are grounded in what was happening historically during this time. There are hints at women’s rise, but, brilliantly, the writers carefully refused to caricature something so big.

Sweeping social change, after all, takes time. It’s a result of millions of drops of blood in the bucket. There wasn’t even a term for sexual harassment as Joan endured it, so it would ring false to make her deal with it in any other way than how she did; and how she did deal with it is what made her Joan Motha-Fuckin’ Holloway, a character for Hollywood history books (“Peggy, this isn’t China. There’s no money in virginity.”).

It’s too easy to stamp a whole decade’s populace with one identity and reaction. Anything is foggy as it happens in the present. Not until the big picture, brought into focus by time, is in view does a movement get tacked in place.

That approach to character development (no impassioned speeches really, just real, dynamic, heartbreakingly lovable or despicable people; aptly, products of their time) is why Mad Men still resonates today, beyond the wonderful scenery, skirts and sets.

Thus, it’s a matter of time before someone decides what to call what’s happening now, in 2017. But a decade deep after Mad Men aired, it’s easy to see conversations it sparked on important threads of the modern feminist movement, including the following.

What is rape?

“I know people say life goes on, and it does, but no one tells you that’s not a good thing.” Betty Draper

These aren’t mad women. They’re furious under all that pastel and powder, whether they recognize it or not (Betty’s rage manifests itself in hands that won’t stop shaking and a body that won’t stop widening).

Two scenes especially highlight why they’re so angry. In this mad world, rape isn’t called rape. And the outrageously off-kilter power dynamics of sex are on full frontal display.

Joan is forced by her fiancé to have sex in her boss’ office after he makes her role play the slutty act he thinks she does in the office each day, clearly demonstrating he has negative-point-five respect for what she does for work and that he’s the one ultimately in charge.

The look in Joan’s eyes as she finally stops fighting is absolutely brutal to watch. It’s a look of acceptance. It’s anger stuffed down, down, down further still, for the sake of a deeply ingrained gender role and the isolating knowledge that no one would believe her if she said she didn’t want it anyway. (And, lest we forget, raping one’s wife wasn’t illegal at the time. So there’s that.)

And, it’s a look that feels familiar, which is most unsettling of all. Discussion boards lit up after this episode aired about whether or not this scene was actually rape. Clearly, we’re still unsure about what to call something like this, but it got us talking.

Joan’s actress, Christina Hendricks described the alarming reaction this way to New York magazine: “What’s astounding is when people say things like, ‘Well, you know that episode where Joan sort of got raped?’ Or they say rape and use quotation marks with their fingers,” says Hendricks. “I’m like, ‘What is that you are doing? Joan got raped!’ It illustrates how similar people are today, because we’re still questioning whether it’s a rape.”

The other notable scene involves Pete Campbell. Sigh. Fucking Pete. Of course it’s Pete, the most childishly confounded of the male characters about what makes a man and how to achieve it.

In his attempts to flee from his crushing self-hate and unhappy, made-for-mommy life choices, he’s got an inappropriate crush on the au pair downstairs. After finding her crying in the hallway, he sees she snuck out in her mistress’ expensive party dress and spilled a drink down the front.

Here’s his cue. He offers to get it cleaned for her, no worries, just please stop crying. Pretty girls don’t cry!

Pete gets a new dress. Takes it to the au pair. And, oh, she owes him now. He makes it clear he’s not leaving until he gets what he wants, or he’s keeping the dress and therefore the au pair, who we can assume is an immigrant, is fired.

This scene is quiet. He coerces her but there’s room for interpretation. Is it rape when a woman must do it to protect her livelihood? I think if you’re ever forced to say yes to protect yourself, it’s rape.

The beauty of storytelling is that it gives us safe examples to reference as we figure out real situations. A few years after the season with these scenes, the infamous Stanford rape happened. Again, an area some people would argue is gray (it was rape though).

The most prominent piece of that story was the victim reading this letter that powerfully attributed sole blame to the man who had violated her and called out a culture that still acquiesced to the hideous idea of masculinity being tied to sexual exploits. This was so shocking because nothing like this had happened before on such a grand stage. She was no doubt empowered by a culture that has also been shaped by empathetic storytelling, where bad things happen to multi-faceted characters we love. Characters who, despite the supposed gray, make us recognize that we’re not alone. Who make us furious that this isn’t fixed yet.

Jane Doe spoke for all of us. Including the au pair. Including Joan.

Can liberation be subjective?

“Get me some coffee, will you?” Roger Sterling

“No.” Peggy Olson

Can liberation be subjective? The easy answer is yes.

Feminism is about equality, and when you’re equal, you’re able to choose what your life looks like.

Our fledgling liberated ladies of Mad Men have wings broken in too many places to fully achieve the feminist ideal. Except maybe Peggy, but her younger age and personality type work in her favor here.

Her defense of Joan against sexual harassment seems like it’s leading to a moment of girl power high fives and thank yous. Sisterhood here we come!

But instead…

Joan. Is. Pissed.

Peggy has stepped into her carefully guarded territory. Peggy has exposed Joan’s weaknesses to the men who hurt her, and Joan, who’s been in this game longer, knows this is the direct path to even more humiliation, not justice. Joan’s sexual power is just that. Her power. It’s what gets her to the place to prove her equally impressive intellectual power and she, to the best of her ability, maintains zero shame about that.

The scene in the elevator after Peggy’s defense of Joan really nails home the fact that liberation looks different to a woman like Joan because it has had to. And these younger women are doing it all wrong, mucking it up for her. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

“You want to be taken seriously, stop dressing like a little girl.” Joan Holloway

Peggy and Joan are easy to compare side by side because they have similar goals—to be taken seriously—and struggle in the same environment with the same people. Betty, however, is where things get really intriguing.

Restrained. That’s Betty’s whole MO. And that doesn’t just change when she finally sticks up for herself and kicks Don’s sorry ass out. It’s not like she discovers her clit with the divorcee down the street and grows out her armpit hair.

Betty is still very much Betty. Cold, but now with strength and a hint of self-worth. I loved this new Betty, but again, not even close to a feminist ideal. She remarried because that was the thing to do. She also did it for love and we all cheered because she deserved to be treated well after that Don nonsense. She remained a conservative, but she also had no-strings-attached sex with her ex-husband.

Betty was her own kind of liberated. She benefitted from the women’s movement and could, in some ways, be pointed to as a feminist (ie. divorce in a time where you “didn’t do that,” selectively curated promiscuity). But she also encouraged her daughter to have an eating disorder, etc.

No matter what, Betty was kind of fucked and, therefore, fucked up, you know?

It’s easy to connect to and want to protect someone like Betty because her actions and opinions have no emotional repercussions on those of us in the real world.

Earlier this year, women who weren’t pro-choice were told by some parade leaders and supporters they shouldn’t be at the Women’s March. Because to not support choice is to not support women. At first I cheered. Then I thought about Betty and this fictional example of how women turn out differently under the weight of gendered expectations. And they should be allowed to.

Are these women? Aren’t women who we fight for? Shouldn’t that unite us overall? If they were willing to march for us, what do we say when we kick them out? When we say their answers aren’t correct do we immediately contradict our own? Should the question not be can liberation be subjective, but should it be?

Those answers are harder to find.

How does the masculine ideal still hurt men?

“You don’t kiss boys. Boys kiss you.” Betty Draper

The writers let the soundtrack do a lot of the talking when the men couldn’t or wouldn’t. Here, two of my favorite examples.

“I’m A Man” by Spencer Davis Group. Played as Don seems to be back and better than ever. He’s a man again. Not some pussy with feelings and childhood abuse to work through.

“16 Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford was an episode’s closing credit. “I owe my soul to the company store.” Work was imperative for respectable identity. Work was what they were fighting for. Work was worth sacrificing all.

Mad Men was inherently a drama, but it was really funny too. A lot of that humor came from the dialogue and a lot of it came from the men who didn’t know any better. Yet.

Here are a few real examples of real ads from that time. Try not to punch your computer.

The juxtaposition of our world compared to theirs—and how shockingly offensive and unfair theirs could be—was a source of funny because things had gotten better. We could relax a little.

So, the most painful parts were probably when we saw moments created by things that hadn’t changed. Things like toxic masculinity. How deeply this cut into the psyches of, in particular, Don and Pete. It kept Don from healing. It kept Pete from being honest with himself. It kept both from giving or accepting or even recognizing real love. They left a trail of pain in their wake because of it. In that sense, it’s fair to also call Mad Men a tragedy.

Feminism, in its most pure application, is humanistic. It’s about making life better for everyone, not just women. Men are also hurt by unmet, unnecessary, patriarchal-induced expectations of manhood and if we got rid of those, redefined what made a man a man, we would all be better for it. Sometimes we, blinded by our own outrage, forget men are human too. For example, we’re still at a point where we don’t want to let boys cry. And that’s as destructive as these stupid fucking ads.

Where does race fit in all of this?

If Mad Men were written in 2017, it would have covered race a little more comprehensively on account of our interest in it, not the characters’.

There are a couple of sub-plots that touch on race. We see people of color in bit roles and professions they were relegated to in this super-segregated, racist time. Pete makes a case for selling to “negroes”, who, shock!, have some money now. Paul Kinsey and his black girlfriend go to freedom marches, but his motivations to look cool and progressive are as see-through as he is.

This is Mad Men’s biggest miss. Although, when they do touch it, they do it well. Like when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s only two African-American secretaries, Dawn Chambers and Shirley, joke with each other in the breakroom by calling one the other’s name.

It’s lighthearted. And it’s devastating.

It’s a wonderful example of that old writer’s adage—show, don’t tell. More importantly, it’s a cue to the viewer that everyone in the office mixes these two up. Because they’re black. Because they’re expendable.

Theirs is a necessary sisterhood the white women in the office will never understand. Because as invisible as the white women are, the black women don’t even seem real enough to be invisible in the first place.

These scenes (including this one with Peggy and Shirley) called into consideration our own prejudices today and what our white feminist motivations are or where we’re still missing the mark on inclusivity. How we, through our own struggle for equality, forget others also on the way up.

Joan gives Dawn her old job because she’s the best person for it — but Joan also, in not so many words, threatens a racial discrimination lawsuit when Bertram Cooper wants to fire Dawn because it’s easier on her not to have to hire a new secretary, not necessarily because she cares about keeping Dawn around.

This dichotomy is a window into our own world. We have work to do too.

Words on the Street: July 20, 2017

A CTA and a directive in one smart sentence. Napkins are so helpful.

That’s a new one to me. So says Oxford: “A red, plum-sized tropical fruit with soft spines and a slightly acidic taste. Early 18th century, from Malay ramutan, from rambut ‘hair,’ with allusion to the fruit’s spines.” Heh. Ram butt.

This image alludes to most of the writing I’ve been doing the past week. That of thank you notes. I like imagining what a “well-managed forest” looks like. The rabbits have daily staff meetings and the oaks delegate responsibilities fairly.

Mmm-hmm. Outside a vet’s office outside Chicago’s River North.

“Home is where you dive into a novel.” It’s also where you dream of being while waiting at this bus stop, trying to distract yourself with said novel.

“Made with water, barley and hops. Anything more would be like putting ketchup on a hot dog.” For those of you who don’t know, putting ketchup on a hot dog is a mortal sin to legit, born-and-raised Chicagoans. Definite regional copywriting win.

Three shows for today’s armchair activist

Or you can just pray — the OG slacktivist strategy.


If you’re into: Freedom of speech

Watch: The Defiant Ones

Interscope Records brought us some of the best free speech boundary pushers: musicians of the ‘90s and early ‘00s. The company’s success is in large part due to a poor Italian boy with laser focus and a Compton kid with a legendary ear and genius gut.

The Defiant Ones HBO series tells the story behind the Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre partnership, which gave us Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Gwen Stefani and Eminem, just to name a few. They discuss the grey line of free speech and violence and defend artistry in a way only someone who has been through hell and back for it can.

Their, well, defiance, is matched by some rule-breaking editing for a series that’s like a visual earworm. Also, you’ll get lots of cool behind-the-music-style stories and insights from the interviews.

Like, did you know Dre loves Nirvana?


If you’re into: Women’s rights

Watch: GLOW

This kickass girl power TV series stars indie faves Marc Maron and Alison Brie as the unwitting leaders of a rag tag crew of LA rejects that eventually becomes the star of the TV series Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

An ‘80s cult hit, GLOW got some modern-day fame thanks to a 2012 documentary about the real-life ladies.

You’ll fly through this 10-ep Netflix original and thank the goddess that ‘80s style is deader than Hulk Hogan’s dignity. And that even comedies aren’t afraid to touch sexism in their storylines.

The show gets into the disheartening one-dimensional roles actresses of that era faced and has an abortion sub-plot that deserves credit as the new standard for handling such a sensitive topic with wit, grace and honesty.

Props to the writers for showing choice in an unapologetic light with the drama dialed down, making it a big deal but not. The balancing act is title-belt worthy.


If you’re into: Saving the planet

Watch: Chasing Coral

One of many excellent documentaries on Netflix right now, “Chasing Coral” is perhaps the most alarming in the sense that the terror implied in its conclusion has only just begun.

Basically, the astoundingly bright coral reefs around the world are losing their magnificent color as they struggle to survive pollution and global warming. It’s just one way our oceans are changing in a dire warning to all of us.

Soon, the only thing whiter than a Trump supporter will be the coral reef.

Depressing backstory aside, the documentary introduces scientists and engineers (the real heroes) who will make you feel better about humanity. It beats the alarm bells (and soon a very literal dead horse if we don’t pick up the pace) with a stick of hopeful optimism.

You’ll be inspired to at least recycle that pop can when you finally get out of your chair.

If “Ironic” was written now

Isn’t it ironic… you won’t watch a movie because it “takes too much time and feels like such an investment” but will instead binge five straight hours of a TV show.

Isn’t it ironic… your health insurance sends mail confirming your new address — to your old address.

Isn’t it ironic… the (white) guy on your Facebook feed angry that (black) musicians who sample music “are stealing” is also is an uncompromising fan of Elvis Presley.

Isn’t it ironic… the original definition of ironic is mostly obsolete and now subjective depending on whether or not you like Alanis Morissette. See also: colluding, meddling, presidential, Dave Coulier.

Isn’t it ironic… you’re in a dead zone and can’t live stream your wedding day.

Isn’t it ironic… you meet the man of your dreams. Then meet his three polyamorous girlfriends.

Isn’t it ironic… saying “take a seat” to someone who was probably definitely sitting down when typing their wry, reactive Facebook comment that set you off so completely.

Isn’t it ironic… Rainforest Café serves a lot of food that contributes to the destruction of rainforests.

Isn’t it ironic… you can’t do anything without hurting someone or something somewhere probably definitely.

Isn’t it ironic… ten thousand spoons when all you need is an Android-compatible charger.

Make a wish, it’s 7/7/17

I wish to never forget…

That the most fun of the seven deadly sins is lust and that my favorite number is nine.

A summer night in a hot cottage on a dancing lake, gazing at the fireflies that snuck inside to perform a light show just for me. I was nine and my grandparents had yet to realize what I already knew, they were old and time was slipping and memory might too.

Chakra is from a Sanskrit word that means wheel. Though the seven of them live in line from your head to your toe, the crown to the root, they represent the circle of life, coming full circle, the repetition that happens when we don’t know, don’t know how to help ourselves. The yellow chakra is held in your torso. Chakra number three. Odd. Stored here: Joy, anger, personal power, fun, ambition and sensitivity. When it’s blocked: Anger, martyrdom, insecurity, feeling adrift, unfocused, ulcers and bad shits. Warrior pose is the yoga asana best for healing a power-sucked solar plexus. Open arms, open heart. Not unlike the pose of on a crucifix. Impossible to bring down. A fighter for self, for selflessness, not of self.

My final lover’s face before our first kiss.

The fork in the road on Whetstone River Road. North. Take a right. Shortly before the first house on the left sits a tree, on the right, where it’s rumored an Indian chief is buried. The giant morphing trunk a memorial to human sacrifice. Not unlike a crucifix. It’s too big to completely hug but its branches watch over every car and bee that hums beneath it. When the sky has turned velvet and the fireflies mate you can hear the same sounds that once guided generations of a people.

The arrowheads my daddy would bring home, found in his cornfields, and the way they felt pressed beneath my small fingertips, my print now fused with the others that had touched it before. Each different from any other ever made. Buried treasure. A reminder that death is necessary for life.

A wish is a prayer is a meditation is a spell by another name.

Words on the Street: July 6, 2017

Same. Cleveland.

A bus stop in Cleveland’s Birdtown. Poetry and quotes about birds.

The Crowd Theater bathroom reminder. Chicago.

“Owner/Mule”. Barroco in Cleveland. A MUST.

“Full of Character[s]”. Advertisement for a suburb hanging in downtown Chicago. I get the community theater aspect but its promise of characters rang flat considering the man in the furry outfit across the street while I took this photo. You want characters, stay in the city.

Hole. Irving Park. FYI.

Yes, Virginia, there is an American Writers Museum

It’s in Chicago’s Loop with an entrance that’s hard to find on Google Maps. Instead, follow that old book scent. Or just look for this sign on Michigan Avenue.

After you finish gawking at the books on the ceiling, begin your life-affirming trip through the The American Writers Museum in a long hallway of the country’s great crits, conservationists, comedians, cooks and cultural contributors.

Along one side is a timeline of American history to put in context the row of authors below. Descriptions of their life and work explain how they shaped our country’s consciousness. Interactive displays include a touchscreen of literary academics talking about the recurring themes in American writing and, a favorite, a display of materials described in “Little House on the Prairie” (fox fur, calico, etc.) that you can touch.

The other side of the hallway offers boxes with names of some of the most influential writing in American history.

Flip the boxes around to smell Julia Child’s chocolate chip cookies, hear an “Oh! Susanna” refrain, listen to a presidential speech or find a new fact about one of your favorite writers.

Have Tupac stuck in your head the rest of the exhibit.

A Word Waterfall explores the range of American identity and injustice.

A special exhibit showcases Kerouac’s famous scroll that became “On the Road.”

Quotes remind you you’re not writing and maybe should when you get back home. But it’s cool you tried to be human for once.

Get inspired by the room of Chicago writers and literary heroes.

Find out what you have in common with famous writers. Here’s mine. Not listed: A constant insecure ache that our writing sucks and also addiction issues!

Discover your state’s most iconic writers on an interactive display (Lorraine Hansberry FTW).

Take home a bookmark with a shoutout to your state writer… or the one with the quote you like best.

Cry like the big baby you are in the kids’ book gallery and promise yourself to get a copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” for your home library.

Check out the gift store.

Plan a date to go back because you have so much left to read about!

Happy Fourth of July! Here’s a Rocky IV drinking game.

Granted, I don’t drink anymore, but watching Rocky take down The Russian is a holiday tradition in our household. Any holiday, really, but especially July 4. (Game copyright Justin “Thunder Lips” Golak.)


  • Anytime there’s cake.
  • Anytime someone drinks something. Double if it’s alcohol.
  • Anytime a new round starts.
  • Anytime someone speaks Russian.
  • Anytime someone arrives in a new country.
  • Anytime you see the press.
  • Anytime anyone gets knocked down.
  • Anytime someone says Drago or Rocky. Double if they say the full name. Triple if anyone says Paulie.
  • Anytime you LOVE AMERICA!

And some additions if you’re playing with me.


The best American history podcast you should listen to immediately

How does one America with America fatigue?

Asking for a friend.

I love the principles of America. Freedom, equal rights, the pursuit of happiness, a perfectly grilled hamburger and cinnamon-spiced apple pie.

What I don’t love is how differently we interpret what those principles mean.

I already feel exhausted by this president. Celebrating the Fourth of July felt much more momentous when I felt like we were moving toward being a better country for all… when I felt like we were an example of trying hard to right wrongs and move everyone forward in fairness.

Trump doesn’t make me feel like we’re going backward, he makes me feel like we’re careening into a future where science, empathy, intelligence and diplomacy don’t matter as long you win.

I’ve heard a few friends say they have never been ashamed of our country until now.

I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid for our country until now.

I’m worried everything is going to break down, and not just because of Trump’s behavior, but because of the attention we place on things that don’t matter, like celebrity or sound bites or bickering on Twitter in a way that ultimately leads nowhere.

Facebook has also made it easier to see how violent people can be with their words and ideas and allowances. They’re more blood thirsty, defiant than they would ever be in person. Moments like this make the atrocities of history — slavery, the Holocaust, unrelenting religious and racial persecution — feel closer than they ever have before. I can see how those things happened, how good people stood by and watched, OKed it even. I don’t know if I could say that before social media and before Trump.

Mostly though, I think this president is a nightmare and I’m ashamed of him. I’m embarrassed a man like that — who says those things and acts that way, who so obviously is only out for himself and fooling the people who adore him — could hold the most dignified and important position in our country.

My only hope is that it’s over in four years with as little damage done as possible. I guess that’s what I’ll America about this Independence Day: We live in a place where we have the opportunity to change it soon.

Maybe, just maybe, the Trump presidency will just be a stain and not a permanent mark.

I’ve been listening to The Dollop podcast as catharsis. Learning about history doesn’t just help us to prevent mistakes from happening twice, it helps us remember how far we’ve come.

The Dollop offers comedic relief woven into the (mostly horror) stories of the past. I listened to the Newsies and the Harriet Tubman pieces back to back and, while dying from laughing at the co-host’s comedic take on it all (he doesn’t know anything about the history story the episode covers until they record), I was crushed by the reality too many children and people in this country — most people in this country — have had to live through.

In those it didn’t break is a courage damn near intimidating in scope. Listen to that Tubman episode to see what I mean. She’s an American badass, with the most hero-y hero story, and I can’t believe it’s 2017 and she still doesn’t have a piece of currency dedicated in her honor.

Can a girl get a Hollywood biopic?

Check out a few episodes before tomorrow. It’ll remind you that there’s always been bad, but it’s worth it to not give up on the good.