Over the weekend I made a last-minute trip back to Ohio for two things: 1) The impromptu Columbus Alive farewell gathering and 2) my nieces’ dance recital. My visit was a surprise for all but about three people I saw that weekend, and man, I gotta make more surprise visits because the reaction was amazing. I felt so loved! Thank you guys. <3
I’m bummed Columbus Alive newspaper closed. That job validated to me that I am a writer. It gave me so many experiences, discoveries, and friends. Alive’s end is a loss for a community I once loved and I hope the professionals still there find a way to fill the hole left in its wake.
My top two Alive experiences came at the beginning and end of my time writing for it:
2) Seeing Nina West perform while covering Drauma for the paper early in my tenure and returning to the newsroom with a mission: Convince everyone we should write about her AMAP because baby was a S-T-A-R. Shelley was more than game. Covering drag and affirming it as an Arts subject area and creative pillar in the city was a big deal to us 12 years ago, especially under the ownership at the time.
1) Getting to know Alix Reese was an honor and writing about her changed my understanding of writing. I always felt insecure about my extreme disinterest in chasing down a lead or ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS™. In journalism school I once had to go cover a fire at a movie theater and I thought the whole time, “I’m in the way. I really hate this.” I wasn’t cut out for hard news. I do not have the right kind of emotional stamina for it.
But I recognized with Alix’s feature that what I brought to the table was important too. My emotional stamina is built for a different kind of writing, and the storytelling it generates can be just as valuable as the hard-nosed journalists getting the scoop.
A newspaper needs both.
Alix’s feature showed me that when I put my own understanding of life into a piece of writing — particularly about a story as powerful and moving as hers — I can do something meaningful. It’s less obviously important than breaking news, but it still mattered.
So did every version of Alive and its many contributors.
I had food poisoning the day before my birthday, so I’m just now catching up on life and everyone’s super kind greetings from March 15, usually the best day ever (just ask this little party animal circa 1988).
THANK YOU! It was, shall we say, not a great day this year, BUT, I’m grateful for it all the same.
I think the rest of my 36th year is going to be awesome.
Here are a few reasons why:
At the beginning of the year I got accepted into StoryStudio Chicago’s Novel in a Year program. They only accept 12 writers per cohort AND I GOT IN. I have been too shy to apply for years, wary of my fledgling fiction-writing skills, but I finally got the courage last fall and am honored to now get to study under the author Abby Geni for 12 months. The program is giving me the final push I needed to finish this manuscript I’ve been tinkering away at for years. (It’s fiction about two people trying to save their hometown roller skating rink. That’s all I’ll say for now, but I love the story, the characters, and the rink.)
Justin and I are moving to a much bigger new place in the same Chicago neighborhood we’ve loved living in the past few years. It has enough room for us each to decorate our own space of the apartment (a divisive issue in our last spot, because Justin’s style is very 90s hip hop music video house meets minimalist chic and my style is very OMG DOLLY PARTON AT GRACELAND meets “never met a shag carpet or a cheetah print I didn’t like”). I’m turning the sunroom into my office and I can see Metra trains cruise by on the treeline and above the rooftops as the sun sets and, fuck dude, I die everytime I see it because it’s all I imagined a sunroom to offer. The best part is that a dear friend of mine found the spot for us randomly on Next Door and it feels like friend-fate/ the power of my home-is-inside-yourself approach to life coming to fruition IRL.
My new-ish job is chaotic but overall great. Did I post about this last June? Anyway, I got a new fully remote, full time senior writing and content strategy position at a creative studio last June and I’m doing a lot of tech writing. It’s a fun challenge to flex a new writing muscle and learn about computer science and engineering on the clock. I still pinch myself that I get to make such a great, intellectually stimulating living through writing. Writing has paid my bills for the last 18 years. Eternally grateful for the natural talent and the hard-driving teachers who got me here.
Making lots of new art. Last year I started incorporating acrylic and watercolor paint into my practice, and I’ve been obsessed with making collage animations in PhotoShop recently.- Still crushing that auntie game! I love all the little babies! I feel like kids just need a lot of “Yes, and…” when they play and I am excellent at that. I get a lot of joy out of getting to know my nieces and nephews as they grow up. Such cool people my people made!
I finally learned how to make orange eyeshadow work on my dumb face!
It’s worth repeating ad nauseam: My narcolepsy diagnosis a few years ago was life-changing and the medicine I take now to fight my extreme fatigue has been life-giving.
Six years sober in April, baby. My second birthday, as my anonymous friends like to say. Fingers crossed I won’t be sick for that one this year too.
On this day nearly 100 years ago (1927), Isadora Duncan died the strangest death. She was strangled in not-so-nice Nice (France).
By her scarf.
Duncan was a dancer, remarkable for her ability to use the body’s natural movements and desires as guides for her improvisational choreography. She is remembered for her movement-based rebuke of classical dance and its wealthy connotations at the time. Her dance was independent. Emotional. Beloved by sad corseted ladies and boho-minded men yearning to be free the world over.
Because of this dance style, scarves were kind of her thing.✌️ She usually danced barefoot, while wrapped in free-flowing gowns.
I know this sounds kind of “so what?” in the context of today, a time in which Bonnaroo exists and you can’t walk past a modern dance performance without being thrown a curtain from the rafters to climb into and be swaddled like a baby in the cradle of the womb your subconscious still craves.
At Duncan’s time, the drapery was rebellious — shocking even! Her movement style and sartorial choices were a stark contrast to the toe mashing and waist gashing of classical ballet, the bitchy bell of the dance ball for too long.
Here’s what was not her thing: Cars. 😠 I’m being glib, but this part is actually super sad. Duncan had three children (“all out of wedlock,” Wikipedia notes… hell yeah, Izzy). We’re already off the rails here, so I’m just going to quote Wikipedia again:
“The first two [children], Deirdre Beatrice (born 1906), whose father was theatre designer Gordon Craig; and the second, Patrick Augustus (born 1910), by Paris Singer, one of the many sons of sewing machine magnate Isaac Singer, drowned in the care of their nanny in 1913 when their car went into the River Seine.”
Daaaaamn…. 🙁 And then:
“In her autobiography, Duncan relates that [IN HER UNIMAGINABLE GRIEF] she begged a young Italian stranger [HELL YEAH, IZZY], the sculptor Romano Romanelli, to sleep with her because she was desperate for another child. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son on August 13, 1914, but he died shortly after birth. [WTF!]”
One can not blame Dear Isadora, then, for ignoring the warning of her fellow passenger on that fateful joyride in 1927 to watch her damn scarf.
Why not live free? Look fabulous? Die at 50 in a tragic and grotesquely bizarre way befitting a tragic and beautifully bizarre life? With a burdenous heart broken such as that… then what, pray tell my young man, is a broken neck?
The scarf caressed her as l’automobile revved faster on whatever rue de la franacaise. It slithered silky and sensual out the window, fluttered with the wind and shivered with thrilling joie de vivre. Then, spotting the car’s open-spoked wheels and, being one to fancy danger, the scarf flirted and tickled and teased and then licked the rear axle. The tire, all business of cut-throat rubber and metal grinding dirt, responded and swallowed the tongue of that scarf and consumed it in one harumphing gulp, pulling the legendary body of Isadora Duncan down with it for dessert.
A snap. A slice. An exit wound.
A goodbye, sweet world. A thanks for the dance. ✌️
I haven’t heard my grandma, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, say a coherent word for nearly three years. She said these last words while receiving communion at the assisted living facility. As everyone genuflected to launch into the lord’s prayer, my grandma did too, saying “Father, son…” and then petering out. I figured those were words she could formulate because she had gone to church and said them every weekend of her entire life until the day she moved in here. Those words were seared into the empty rivulets of her brain, so they didn’t seem a miracle to fish out.
I accepted the reality that I’d probably never hear her say another word again.
And then I did.
It happened on my recent visit, a drop-in at the assisted living facility that marked over a year and a half since I’d seen her (pandemic lockdown).
Once my plane landed, I got my rental car and started on the hour-long route north. I called the nursing home to make sure I could walk-in to see her or whether I needed to make an appointment. I didn’t. I asked then, to the surprise of both myself and a Wanda on the other end of the line, if I could bring flowers. Would that be OK?
I don’t know what came over me to ask such a thing. I don’t usually bring flowers when I visit. I don’t usually bring flowers for anything. Maybe I thought there needed to feel like there was more gravitas to this moment. I hadn’t seen her in so long. We’d survived a pandemic. Her husband died during that time. I knew she wouldn’t remember me, but flowers… well, anyone can remember those, right?
I thought about just hopping off the highway to a Kroger or a Whole Foods. They always have little flowers packaged up at the end of the aisles. Instead, I looked up the local Marion flower shop, saw they were open, and entered the address into my phone. It felt good to buy from a local family business after the pandemic. Plus, I knew they’d probably have roses. My grandma’s name is Rosemary. Even if she didn’t remember me, I wanted to show that I remembered her. I got half a dozen multicolored roses for Grandma in a glass vase and another half-dozen in a mournful maroon to take to my grandpa’s grave. He loved his Rose.
When I enter the long-term care wing and ask for Rosie, the nurses look at me grimly, wondering whether I’m prepared for just how far gone she is. I am. They wheel her into her room and shut the door. It’s the two of us.
After some fruitless and awkward talking to her while sitting across from her, I spend most of my time squatting next to her wheelchair, rubbing her back and nervously trying to use my other arm to keep her in her seat. The medication they gave her keeps her nodding in and out of sleep. She doesn’t register my presence when she has to look at me, but she seems to lean into my hugs.
So I position her so that when she wakes up from the brief naps, she’ll see only the flowers, now sitting on a table in her room.
And that’s when it happened. I was squatting by her side, arms around her, when she woke up and, clear as day, said, “Flowers for me.”
Three little words. One moment I’ll remember forever. 🌹
She passed away two weekends later. While writing her obituary, I turned to my notebook of stories written by her and my grandpa. There I found another gift. A recollection of her first memory: “I was about 2 ½ years old then. [Brother] Eugene and I were in the barnyard with Dad. We were standing near a wagon watching the men who were taking the horses. Well, about the time one of the horses was being led to the truck to be taken away. Dad put his hands under my arms and swooped me up into the wagon, as he did with Eugene. I remember the horses coming by the wagon bobbling their head like horses do when they walk. I was about eye-to-eye level with the horses. I think this is the earliest memory of my life.”
In January, I wrote about six smartphone apps and creative writing productivity tools I planned to use to stay motivated on my personal projects throughout 2021.
Am I still using those? Yes.
But now, seven months deep, I’m still trying to avoid work about work.
Aren’t we all? Hell yes.
“60% of time is spent on work coordination, rather than the skilled, strategic jobs we’ve been hired to do,” according to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index 2021.
I feeeeeeel that. In my professional work certainly, and in my personal work as well. Even though I’m not coordinating with a team of designers, clients, or account managers while, say, drafting a novel or making a new embroidery collection, I still find myself tinkering away for hours on planning, documentation, and (my ultimate seems-like-work-but-isn’t guilty pleasure time suck) video streaming Skillshare/Creative Live videos.
So in July, I reassessed how I was working on these things. It was time to think about my time. Given that the pandemic wasn’t keeping us under lock and key anymore, I needed to adjust my routine for the quicker post-pandem pace and packed schedule. Here are four new tools and strategies I implemented to get myself in a rhythm—and keep myself making.
OMG! I love Airtable! A friend told me about this spreadsheet app while we were on our final quarantine walk. It’s free and the UX is intuitive, especially if you’re familiar with Excel or Google Sheets. My favorite aspect of Airtable is that I can upload documents, jpegs, and various other things directly into a cell block.
I have one Airtable project set up with three tabs, one for each of my writing projects: a novel, a book of creative nonfiction, and my blog. From there, I’m able to schedule out each piece of the larger work, add photos for reference or posting, and drop in both the Google doc link and the Word doc of the final version so I can move on.
I know I could keep a folder on my cloud somewhere with all of this content, but it’s so nice to have it linearly lined up, with deadlines attached, and the ability to just dump it when I’m done so it doesn’t take up space in my drive.
Writing tasks can be overwhelming to me because I get ~too~ into them and, when I’m in that addictive headspace, I feel like I have to write the entire book in the next month. But writing is also my most important thing. With Airtable I don’t fold under the demanding weight of such self-imposed pressure. I just keep ticking things off, bird by bird.
App fatigue is real. According to the Anatomy of Work Index, U.S. employees jump between 13 tools an average of 30 times per day. Yikes. I think I hit even higher numbers when it comes to things I want to read. GoFullPage has helped with this personal brand of digital distraction. When clicked, the extension will basically scan the entire web page you’re on and turn it into a PDF or jpeg.
I use GoFullPage for saving things I want to read later as well as for capturing clips of my professional writing. I capture what I want to read, download it, and save the PDF in a “To read” folder on my drive. I have time set aside on Saturdays that I scroll through the folder and read whatever still intrigues me and then delete the damn thing when I’m through.
I tried using the “Reading List” feature on Chrome for a process like this, but then I just racked up links on links on links and never read any of them. With GoFullPage, I don’t have endless tabs open, and there’s just enough effort required to capture and save the page as a PDF that I must decide if I truly, truly want to read it. Adding it to the Reading List was way too simple. The potential discards clogged up the line.
For getting sh*t done: Do not disturb phone setting
I mean, it’s obvious what this does, right? Turn it on for your phone and it will quiet all alerts. I get by with a little help from my robot friends, etc. Every morning I block out my day hour by hour. (I know this is a little intense, but my Meyers Briggs Personality Test confirms this kind of planning is best for my sensitive lil heart/mind. INFPs are for lovers.) I use Do Not Disturb when I’m on an hour-block that requires focus, which is usually writing, but this can also be helpful for administrative work or artmaking.
Productivity research from UC Berkeley’s Becoming Superhuman Lab found that 92% of people believe that “carving out a daily block of uninterrupted time called a ‘Focus Sprint,’ where they do not need to toggle between apps or constantly monitor the inbox, would positively impact their and their team’s productivity.” Teams that used these Focus Sprints reported they were 43% more productive. Sign. Me. Up.
“Individuals could save 6 hours and 5 minutes every week—290 hours per year—through improved processes,” like clearly defining roles and responsibilities, the Anatomy of Work Index found. Plus, nearly 70% of respondents said they would feel better-equipped to hit personal targets with clear processes to manage work. This seems obvious, but do you give your personal creative work the same approach? Why not?
I have been using a free version of Asana for my personal tasks for a while now, but I simply could not make a calendar view of tasks work for me. I would just blow right by the deadlines when paying-work had to rise to the top of my to-do list. I tried switching to board view, et voila. Now we’re cooking.
My board view is essentially a habit tracker with four columns, or boards, set up: Monday-Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monthly. Under each column I have five or six tasks that are related to my creative projects. For example, I write one paragraph a day on my novel every weekday, Saturdays are for embroidery, etc. The task descriptions never change, I just check and uncheck items as I complete them each day.
This process has been ideal because I don’t have to hold every task in my head or copy-paste the tasks to every day’s to-do list. They’re not tied to a time-specific requirement, so I am able to remain flexible depending on what the rest of my day looks like. And then, since I have a slew of separate Asana projects set up for more detailed notes on each creative task, I can stay within one program to jot down notes as they arise.
On our recent trip to New Mexico, I made it all the way to the clouds before realizing I’d forgotten my swimsuit. My old bikini remained rolled up somewhere, seducing moths with its neon thread trim and fading pheromones of summer’s past (chlorine, sunscreen, Red Hot French fries).
How does one end up suit-less on a pool-centric vacation? I blame COVID. It’s been a year and a half of never really leaving the apartment. I don’t know how to plan to be out in the world anymore. I’m still getting my sea legs back under me. Pool legs?
We landed in El Paso and saddled up our slick white Mustang to drive to Las Cruces. As I worked from my laptop at the Airbnb we’d rented for a few days, Justin drove with the top down to Target and tried to find a swimsuit in my size that was as close to cute as possible.
He came back with this neon orange bikini:
It’s too big in the bottom. The drawers are droopy. Any time I climb out of a pool, waterfalls pour from the sides. I look like a soggy toddler bopping around in a dragging, dirty diaper.
But who cares. It was a sweet pick. He even snuck a size swap so that the top and bottom are two different sizes. Medium on the top, large on the bottom for my back-country backside.
I guess that’s just what happens when we forget how to do things we used to remember. We improvise. We make do. We jump in feet first. I’m just happy to be here.
I started a new job in June as a senior content strategist and writer at a Chicago studio (also fully remote!). But between making that transition and traveling for several weeks throughout the month, I haven’t had a chance to post a proper update. Now the point feels moot, so instead I’ll share some of my final work for the college — interviews with recent alum and students. It was such a pleasure writing and editing for California College of the Arts, and I can’t wait to visit campus — and the beach — when I finally get out to the Bay later this year. 🙂
“Writers, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, filmmakers, painters, printmakers, movement practitioners. I’m here to tell you that you’re needed. I was recently having this conversation with one of my friends in the humanities and they said, ‘Well, we’re not curing cancer.’ And I thought, fuck that. I might be inspiring the person who does.“
“We have to honor that the environment already gave us those resources to produce those textiles and we need to honor those materials. They’re still useful and they’re beautiful. We just have to find innovative ways to use them. As a society, we consume so many things, all the time, that it won’t be possible to sustain. I like thinking about the hidden history of materials.“
“Sometimes people get so careerist in the artistic sense; they think it is all being in the studio. But some of my best work and connections were more organic. It’s not something you can game. You have to figure out where the heat is and invest your time and energy—and make the work. So many people get caught up in what the secret is that they don’t have any work when they crack it.”
I’m excited to have a new essay and artwork featured in the Spring 2021 editing of IntimaJournal of Narrative Medicine!
My essay, titled Sleep to Dream, is the story of how a recent medical diagnosis has been a surprising, missing plot point for several of my self-narratives.
“Fatigue is my kryptonite. The never-ending scramble for sleep is simply part of who I am. That was the story I told myself, anyway. Then I fell asleep while alone in a late-night Uber ride and finally admitted that slogging through these onslaughts of exhaustion was cause for concern.
That’s why I’m here, trying to make small talk with an uninterested sleep technologist pushing electrodes onto my head…“
Five years is 1,825 days. It’s 12 steps and two weekly meetups. It’s one husband, three therapists, and a better best friend. It’s a boost on a bad day. It’s a confession on a good one. It’s a letting go of all that was lost when drowned. It’s noticing flowers bloom, leaves change, skin prickle, water bend, sirens howl, clouds melt, squirrels race, backs curl, dumplings steam, cake melt, chest tighten, pink glow, humility work, and truth help—for the first time, over and over. It’s the distance it takes to be the same shape, stitching, color, and silhouette of spirit—turned right-side out. It’s the whole of all that is countless.
I’m drawn to every version of it. Bubblegum. Neon. Fuchsia. Pepto Bismol. Patent leather (my favorite).
My senior year of high school my mom made me a hot pink crochet blanket as a graduation gift. I loved it. For a while. Then I stored it away in the top of my closet for about a decade. Why? Pink feels authentic to me, but I became embarrassed by my love of the color.
Pink seemed too conventional, too basic, too one-dimensional. That was how I perceived others perceived it. It was as if pink had already been claimed by women who weren’t like me, representing identities of the shopaholic bimbo that I wanted to distance myself from. I felt like pink had been claimed by a consumerist or sexualized society that made me feel less than valuable.
By my mid-college life I had veered away from pink’s statements, shamed by how the color has been weaponized to sell women shit and commodified to represent a whole community (i.e., who should like it and who shouldn’t). I was also cowed by the seeming conventionally of it (this, my own confused internalization of the weaponization of the color), and instead dabbled for a bit in punk rock black or wannabe-queer camo. Color and pattern are so tied to identity in that way.
Eventually, as I settled into myself, I came back around to pink, and I think it’s no coincidence that I fully embraced its powerful hold on me in my 30s, an age profound in its allowance to let me be myself. My true self. My awash in pink, sadly joyful selfhood.
Pink is a symbol of my roots, my discontent, and my self actualization.
I love when men wear or like pink, but I am not too interested in using the color as an obvious gender statement in my artwork, though it probably can’t be unthreaded from that experience in a small capacity. No, I use it in my artwork as a reclamation of the color individually. Pink is powerful. I don’t find it feminine necessarily, but I myself am feminine and find power in being feminine—and power in accepting my femininity.
As an artistic element, pink makes anything and everything pop. Pink is a bold choice. It draws your eye and doesn’t let you go. I like that it’s still a bit divisive. It is the most stereotyped hue, as far as non-bodily pigment is concerned.
Pink draws attention to itself. Pink makes you look. Pink says, “I am not what you think I am… even though you are looking at me because you think you know precisely what you think I am.”
Pink in an artwork makes you confront something inside yourself.
That something could be big or small, upsetting or comforting. Doesn’t matter. The confrontation is what’s important. A confrontation is a question that makes you pause. It can be as small as a stitch, or as big as an elephant. A confrontation is a question that you’ll answer almost immediately with your intuition. That’s what I’m interested in. The naturalness, primality, invoked by such an unnatural color.
Pink is a loaded adjective as much as it is a color. It is something we culturally face everyday so we’re bound to have associations with it.
Pink cloud in sobriety refers to the typically short period of euphoria that some people feel soon after quitting their drug of choice.
Pink tax is the term for how women are nickel and dimed on toiletry products made for their gender.
Pink line(s), one or two depending on your situation, is what we look for on pregnancy tests as the minutes tick by.
Can’t we just like something? Sure, but what we like has connotations, meanings, and layers. I don’t judge these. Just find it interesting. When we confront our connotations, meanings, and layers as individuals and as a whole, nonjudgmentally, we are closer to making change.
In the path from girlhood to adolescence to adulthood, the color identity shifts along with one’s self and understanding of their persona and place in the world.
Assumptions can be made. Let them.
What we like can change. Let it.
Who we are can change. Let’s.
The color though. The color never changes. And maybe that’s it. Maybe pink is some form of—some outlet for—controlling the narrative of my own life. Seeing my self, my life, my color for what it truly is: Whatever I make of it.
And I want to make it beautiful, fun. I want to make it pop.