on wednesday week in review posts (or: sometimes weeks are months)

// Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This has been sitting as a draft for a while, because sometimes I am the worst at figuring out what I want to say. Therefore, this particular Wednesday has become a month in review post instead of a week in review post, but my goal is to start actual week in review posts next week.

I know Friday is often the day people choose for week in review posts, but I’ve decided to be more realistic about when I’m most likely to want to sit and think back on the previous seven days. On Fridays, I’m tired. I’ve had a full work week, typically with many (non-work) evening activities, and when I get out of work I don’t want to sit down in front of a computer again. I’m ready for a screen break. I’ve noticed over the past several months that Friday nights and Saturdays tend to be my digital detox days – for the most part, I tend to stay off the computer, tablet, and phone (save making plans). Wednesdays, though, are just a typical day/night, and for me, they tend to be relatively low-key, so it makes sense for me to do something that’s not only productive but also in keeping with the low-key theme. (tl;dr – Wednesday are now going to be week in review days.)

Anyways, for the most part, this has been a relatively low-key month. I’ve done a bunch of new things, though, and I’ve been pretty close to fully successful at completing my buy nothing month plan. Overall, I’d say it’s been a pretty good month for me, and I’m hoping to continue that into May. There’s been some chaos in limited aspects of my personal life, but I’ve largely gotten better at focusing on the positive and allowing the negatives to be experiences from which I learn instead of experiences that drag me down more than I want them to. I have never been one of those people who advocates the whole “You Choose To Be Happy Regardless of How Terrible Things Are or Seem” thing, but I do think that I can have some control over my degree of unhappiness, which is to say, really, control over how much I let one area of unhappiness affect the happiness in/with other areas of my life, if that makes sense. I’ve been working on that more, and it’s going relatively well.

To continue with focusing on the good, some of the fun and/or new things I’ve done this month:

  • Dinner at the Russell House Tavern (I’d never been), which I very much enjoyed. The group was fun – six people including me, two of whom I’d never met and one with whom I’d only spent limited time, varying in age from 24 to ~late thirties. But it worked well, and even though I was exhausted, conversation flowed wonderfully. Food wise,  I got the char, which I’d never had but is very much like salmon (see also: yum!).
  • Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra. First time I’d seen them and first time they’d performed “on the road”, so to speak, because we saw them at Berwick Academy in Maine, which is decidedly not Portsmouth, NH. It was an all Mozart program, and it was absolutely lovely.
  • My first ever Red Sox game. I’d acquired tickets through work, and I really enjoyed myself, even though I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a baseball fan. I was also rather entertained that they were playing the Orioles, as the one and only baseball cap I’ve ever owned was an Orioles cap (it’s a long story, but it mostly boils down to six-year-old me really liking the colors black and orange.) We lost, but whatever. It was a good night with good people and free food/beer. And getting home on public transportation wasn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it would be.
  • Spending the day up in Portsmouth, which consisted of lunch at  Lexie’s Joint (fun fact: their cucumber mint lemonade is the actual very best thing. and their burgers and milkshakes ain’t half bad, either) and then walking around downtown for about four hours. We lucked out, because the weather was gorgeous.
  • Easter. Easter’s never been that big of a deal in my family. (Sidenote: I’m Unitarian Universalist, so while I often “celebrate” the major religious holidays, it’s definitely more of a secular thing in my family, meaning that it’s more of an excuse to have a nice dinner with the good china than anything else.) That said, there was a 10 lb ham for dinner with yams and asparagus, and there’s something nice about going home (/bringing T) and having a meal + wine with family. And there’s also the added bonus that I now have (well, had) a lot of leftovers to bring to work with me for lunches. There’s still a part of me that wishes I received an Easter basket, though, so I don’t really know what that says about me. But I did get to share an Easter basket/bag given to someone else, so I’m counting that as a win (Reese’s eggs! Lindt bunnies! plastic grass! Also, yes, I am six years old.)
  • Boston Symphony Orchestra thanks to their $20 under 40 special offer. We saw “Charles Dutoit conducts Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky featuring pianist Behzod Abduraimov” and it was a wonderful night. The pianist was AMAZING. Caps are seriously not even remotely enough to covey how good he was. Also, he’s only a year younger than I am, and I am now seriously questioning my accomplishments in life…). Also, had dinner at Helmand in Cambridge, and I highly recommend the Qabelee.

Like I said, overall it’s been a very good month. Here’s to hoping May is equally as good and fun and filled with good people/events.

*This post was also going to contain an update/reflection on my Buy Nothing month, but it’s gotten fairly long as is, so look for that post tomorrow.

springtime! (see also: how is it already april?)

// Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The small, small part of me that’s still an inner child* wants to make some April Fools’ joke, but I’ve never been particularly good at them. (That said, I’ve been very well fooled a few times, usually by my dad, the most notable of which was when he convinced me on a Saturday that the school district had arbitrarily decided to hold classes because of snow days, so I got up and got dressed and was literally about to walk out the door to wait for the bus, and he was all “lolol no, got you!” Mind you, I was about 7. So there’s that.)  Instead of an April Fools’ joke, however, I want to wish you all a “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” so as to bring good luck. For those who aren’t familiar, saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the first of the month is a thing. Even though it has British origins (according to Wikipedia, but I wasn’t able to find much else, honestly), it’s also definitely somewhat New England specific (maybe because it’s British?? because, New England and all of our ~history?), because as I’ve grown up and the areas from which I know people have widened substantially, I’ve gotten some very odd looks when I’ve said that first thing in the morning – or, alternatively (and much more often the case), loudly proclaimed, “Oh, shit. Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!!!” at about 10 o’clock at night on the first of the month. I’m not superstitious, per se, but it’s enough of a tradition in my family that I feel bad when I forget.

This winter has been a long one. I  realize it’s been spring officially for a little over a week now, but somehow the transition to April feels more like spring. I (along with my roommate) did a bunch of spring cleaning this weekend, and when I woke up this morning to our wonderfully sunlit kitchen (at some point I’ll post a picture but I don’t have a good one readily available), it felt like spring, in spite of the fact that it was still in the upper thirties (but it’s gotten pleasantly warm out today! Northface Apex softshell and no scarf at lunchtime, though admittedly I was wearing a hat).

It gives me hope, though, that we’ve moved to longer days and I can wake up to a sun-filled kitchen and the knowledge that I don’t (hopefully maybe probably) need to wear my winter boots anymore. I can’t wait until I can comfortably wear dresses and cute boots, or even just jeans and Sperrys (which I’ve only just recently converted to wearing, see also: excellent vacation walking shoes). Mostly I just want to not be cold all of the time. On that note, this weekend – as a part of the spring cleaning – I also spring-ified my room, changing over my duvet cover to this floral one from IKEA, largely because there is no way in hell I can justify $150+ on a duvet cover and shams, and this one comes with a duvet cover and two shams for $40. It’s definitely not the highest quality, but it’s definitely not bad for what it is. Oddly slippery, though.

Anyways, the point of all this is simply to say happy April. I’m looking forward to a month of sunshine and going to the symphony twice (!) and drinking good coffee. I’m officially starting my ‘Buy Nothing Month’ now, which for the sake of my sanity is limited to material things** (that is, some entertainment, like $20 BSO tickets, is allowed) and coffee purchasing is to be significantly reduced but not eliminated. I’m excited. Tangible positive steps forward are wonderful. And this is two-fold, because not only do I want to reduce frivolous spending, but I want to save up for a nice camera and camera bag, which are both things I’ve had my eye on for quite some time.

———

*I am pretty sure my inner child has been somewhere between 45 and 90 since I was about five, but whatever.

**excluding one necessary thing, which is a birthday present for which I have not yet purchased the materials, and since said birthday is in April, that is something I need/want to do.

on things i’ve been thinking about recently, or: a post before vacation*

// Friday, March 28, 2014

I leave for vacation in less than twelve hours*; I’m going to the Caribbean for six days and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve been ‘attempting to pack’ for the last four days or so, because I come from a family of compulsive overpackers (one time, when I was 11 or 12 and my mom and I went to Florida for a little less than a week, we brought – in addition to presumably more clothes than we could possibly need – my two American Girl dolls, our Razor Wheelie Scooters (the basic ones with the wheelie bar on the back, and we justified bringing them because they ~collapsed~), and somewhere between 8 and 10 Nancy Drew books for the trip (I read 3 on the way down, I think; somehow we both overlooked the fact that I should be reading more difficult books, clearly).) Nowadays, I can be on either end of the spectrum: I’ve used a Rothko Messenger Bag [in khaki], which I love, for weekend trips to NYC/weekend trips in general for the last two years, but I’ve also been known to pack a full duffle (this, in pink and black, which is also what I’ve used for my last three trips; I’m able to pack a LOT into it) for a weekend. Incidentally, that’s the duffle I’m packing for this upcoming week. (Sidenote, I’m also bringing this backpack from LLBean, which I just got in blue and with which I am kind of in love.)

But my point is this: in thinking about packing and making lists and winnowing down lists (Do I really need eleven shirts for six days? No, no I do not), it’s occurred to me just how easy it is to accumulate far too many things.

I recently happened on to the blog Our Little Apartment because I wanted to clarify a cold brew iced coffee recipe, and somehow I ended up reading ~four years of her life. Her blog (which is fantastic, and I now highly recommend it) has such a focus on being frugal without being obsessive about it. I came across a couple of different posts that really resonated with me, from discussing Target as a guilty pleasure and way to kill boredom, to how she allocates her family’s budget, to how she’ll be the bag lady sipping a latte. I’m inspired by her ‘Buy Nothing Month’ posts; that’s definitely something I should do once in a while.

Anyways, my point is this: now that I’m going on vacation for a little less than a week and then will be back and feeling like I shouldn’t spend money, I’m going to say that April will be a ‘buy nothing’ month for me. What that means, essentially, is that I am limited to spending money on only necessary items (food, bills, house items like paper towels, etc.). I’ll definitely do a few posts in April detailing how that’s going. I think, overall, I do pretty good re: purchasing, but there are things on which I should work. I’m also going to limit myself to purchasing at most one coffee per week; the k cups at work won’t kill me if I run out of time to make coffee at home before work.

*I left for vacation March 14th. It’s now March 28th. This post was 99% finished and I forgot to add the links and post it. Yes, I am the worst. Yes, I am going to backdate it in about a week but I’m still going to leave these asterisks here. So there’s that.

ps: a vacation post will be up soon. vacation was the most wonderful.

personal versus blog!personal

// Tuesday, March 4, 2014

As much as I’ve been on the internet for forever, relatively speaking, in the past I haven’t been the most successful at actually maintaining a Public Persona Writing Blog, which is kind of how I think of it. The tone is different, and it’s not about publishing every single thought that comes into my head; it’s about thinking and planning and typing and editing, until there’s a final product that’s worth posting. I like the idea of being able to use that part of my brain on a regular basis, because it’s a type of writing that I miss (which is something I’ve touched on enough thus far that I won’t repeat myself). I am still figuring out the overall direction this blog is going to take, and I’m realizing that it is something I won’t know for sure until I post more, until I see what it is that I want to post more. I am, however, accumulating a number of drafts, of potential posts that I know I need to flesh out more before they’re something.

What I am currently struggling with – and I realize this is not unique to me – is where the line is between personal and blogme!personal: for example, I’ve had an instagram account since March 2012, and I’ve been fairly active there. There is a lot of overlap between the type of content I’ll be posting here (read: pictures of political books; of traveling; of  many, many cups of coffee), but there are also things that are separate from that, things that are still perfectly acceptable but outside of the realm of this blog. Do I link it? Do I create a separate instagram and re-post some of the pictures, acknowledging that they are reposts? Do I have a post, here, where I detail some of the places in said pictures and use said pictures, but start the new instagram from now, from pictures only taken after January 1, 2014? Am I overthinking this? (Hint: yes, yes I am.)

What it comes down to, really, is that throughout most of college, I had this phrase that I kept coming back to that related to being a lover of blurred lines (no relation to the Robin Thicke song, I assure you), referring to a number of things, but for example, how sometimes relationships aren’t always delineated the way one would expect, a sort of ‘modern romance’ problem, as it were. But as I’ve grown up and accumulated more life experiences, I don’t think that’s the best way to live, at least not in the broad sense. There are many, many areas of life where grey is good and acceptable and necessary, but so too are there many areas where  dividing things into at least reasonably rigid categories is the better option (Facebook is not for coworkers, per se; etc. etc. etc.). So given that, where does this blog fall? How much of my online identity is inherently tied to my private personal identity, versus my more standard public identity, or even my public professional identity? Where is that line, and to what extent does it matter?

I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but I’m working on it. If anyone has thoughts, feel free to share. I’ve been ruminating on this for quite a while and haven’t gotten any closer to figuring it out.

find your path, give back, make good choices

// Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The title of this post is not mine; it’s a refrain from a poem and a phrase on a t-shirt, both of which were written/created to memorialize the sudden death of Peter Arthur, a man who I was lucky enough to have as a teacher my freshman year of high school.

February 4th marked the eighth anniversary of his death. This is the first year I haven’t had some sort of Facebook status with the above phrase, lacking this year in part because I rarely use Facebook now and in part because there are very few people with whom I am Facebook friends with now that would understand. It’s odd to me, I guess, that I didn’t have someone to do the whole, “wait, how was that eight years ago?” thing with, but at the same time, it’s also strange that not posting on social media feels strange, that it almost feels like I’ve forgotten to remember because I didn’t remember publicly on the day of the anniversary.

I moved to the town containing said high school the August before senior year of high school; there are stark differences between the town and my hometown – socially, economically, politically. Mr. Arthur, in many ways, was crucial to me finding my footing. (Sidenote, I now realize why I’m sort of a pack rat, because I have no idea if I’m misremembering his class was my first class of the day or not, and I could check that the next time I go home home, maybe, possibly, if I can find the right box.) My locker was right outside his classroom, and due to the wonky school bus schedule, I would get to school at 7:05 even though classes didn’t start until 7:45. He almost always came in at 7:15, and we’d say hi and chat and that gave me such a wonderful sense of having some sort of anchor, someone at that school to whom I mattered. I’ve come a long way since then. We talked the Friday afternoon before he died and made plans to catch up the following week (because we were busy, because there would be time).

And this post is off-topic, in a sense, if only because this posts exists only to say that I miss him, that I remember, that time is a very strange thing, that putting things off can have unforeseen consequences.

February is a time to tell those you care about that you care about them. Too many terrible things have happened in February throughout the years.

Regular posts to return soon.

on reading and goals in 2014

// Friday, January 31, 2014

A week ago, I read a New York Times article/opinion piece, “Reading Books is Fundamental” by Charles M. Blow, that cites a recent Pew study regarding Americans and reading in 2013. The study is primarily examining the growth of e-reading and its relationship to how books are consumed, but the study also provides telling information about the amount Americans read. According to the study, the ‘typical American’ read five books last year, but what’s more interesting is the breakdown of people who read a certain number of books [p. 12 of the report]:

PIAL2. During the past 12 months, about how many BOOKS did you read either all or part of the way through? Please include any print, electronic, or audiobooks you may have read or listened to.

None – 23%
1 book – 5%
2-3 books – 14%
4-5 books – 12%
6-10 books – 17%
11-20 books – 13%
More than 20 books – 15%
Don’t Know – 2%

The fact that twenty-three percent of the Americans surveyed did read even one book all the way through is depressing. Only thirty-one percent of those surveyed read between one and five books, and the survey doesn’t even ask them to specify if they read them through to completion. I think we should do better than that.

That said, in 2013,  I didn’t do much better, honestly, than the majority of Americans, now that I’m thinking back on it. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman in its entirety, but I’m not actually sure if I completely read anything else that I previously hadn’t read. I’ve read and reread bits and pieces of books I love (Good Omens, also by Neil Gaimen, is the first that comes to mind, but there was also The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais and Free Fall by Robert Crais, and others that I can’t think of).  I started The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver back in March, but I’ve still yet to finish it. I’m in the middle of a super simplified introduction to statistics book, because I’ve realized that’s an area in which my knowledge is lacking. That said, though, the amount of serious books I read has diminished considerably. There are too many other things able to distract me: the internet, largely, but also an ever changing social life and figuring out how to better distribute my time (which is to say, the shift to working full time and a frequently changing commute (I moved twice in 2013) made it such that it took me longer than it should have to develop a routine).

I’ve set a lot of tangible goals for 2014 without specifics to which I need to adhere: for instance, I am determined that I’m going to use this blog (and purchase this domain one of these days, as well as decide if it makes sense to move to self-hosted or just purchase the custom design upgrade), but I haven’t set an “x post per month” rule or guideline. I am trying to be realistic about it, because I think if I do set an “x posts per week” rule, it’s too easy to feel like I’ve fallen hopelessly behind, which can end up spiraling downward. (See: a few failed blog attempts in the past, the fact that my daily journaling is now 21 days behind.)

Reading more books falls under that same category of ‘goals set without specifics’. Reading in general does as well. Because my grandma is wonderful, I now have unlimited access to the New York Times website and apps, so I’ve been at least marginally better about reading articles daily. I’m not reading varied enough articles yet, but it’s a habit that had fallen by the wayside; it takes a little time to redevelop the discipline. Academic reading is on that list as well, and thanks to Coursera and edX, I’m inspired to do more. I’ve signed up for two free* courses, a counterterrorism course through Coursera and a introductory computer programming course through edX. I love my job, but in some ways I miss taking classes (for the learning aspect; I have no desire to still be in college), so essentially free, relatively self-paced courses are a great way for me to start using that part of my brain again.
  [* While both courses are free, I’m taking the Coursera course as a Verified Certificate Course, which means it costs $50. I think it’ll be worth it.]

In spite of the lack of specifics re: the goals I’ve set, however, a friend and I have decided to hold each other accountable for our writing; as such, starting February 1st, I’m committing to writing for at least half an hour every day with one skip day allowed each week. Provided that goes well, I’m going to up it to an hour. I’m looking forward to this. I know there’s some author that said writing is a muscle; said muscle is something I’m working on strengthening again. (In related things, one of my best friends is planning to be in the best shape of his life by age 25, and I’m inspired to work out physically more as well. His goal is a good one, and I’m latching onto that momentum a little.)

Point being, basically: here’s to getting in all different kinds of shape this year. 2014 is going to be a good year.

on notebooks and pens (but mostly notebooks)

// Monday, January 20, 2014

In keeping with my 2014 resolutions, I’ve started documenting my life more, keeping what amounts to a belated daily journal (inspired by a friend’s notion of daily logging – her version is more detailed and dedicated than I can see myself truly able to maintain, but it’s more or less what I aspire to do). I purchased an extra large Moleskine notebook (the yellow-orange color of this one, but in the 7.5×10 hardcover version) for it; it’s lovely and really kind of oddly calming to write in a large notebook, because usually I end up using the 5×8 Moleskines and then end up feeling like I’ve written a lot when really I haven’t written any words at all, relatively speaking. When I’m away from my room, though, I write in a grey 5×8 volant journal because it’s easy to carry in my purse, write, and then transfer said writing to the larger one. It’s a process, and I haven’t gotten fully into the habit yet, but I’m working on it. I’m only a couple days behind at the moment.

Anyways, so now that I’ve taken to writing in this nice, pretty, well-crafted journal with nice pens (through work, I’ve rekindled my love affair with Vision Elite microball pens? The ones I really want to find that my roommate has, I can’t, which is a bummer. I know they exist? They’re the cloudy micropoint uniball ones, and they’re perfect. But the ones I have will do, so whatever), I started thinking about how different paper/pens really can make a difference in how I perceive the quality of what I’m writing and also in whether or not I’m motivated to write (which is why I splurged on the Moleskine in the first place). That thought process, in turn, made me remember one of the quotes I latched onto in the novel One Day by David Nicholls, and how fitting it is:

“She drinks pints of coffee and writes little observations and ideas for stories with her best fountain pen on the linen-white pages of expensive notebooks. Sometimes, when it’s going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationary. The true writer, the born writer, will scribble words on scraps of litter, the back of bus tickets, on the wall of a cell …. But other times she finds herself writing happily for hours, as if the words had been there all along, content and alone in her one-bedroom flat…” (114)

Because for me, both of those are true. When I worked at Borders (I miss Borders more than I should, maybe) before and during college (likely would’ve been after, too, if they hadn’t gone under before I graduated), I wrote on the backs of receipts and blank receipt paper all of the time. But now that I don’t have prolonged periods of idle, wandering thoughts while standing at a cash register, I find that if I’m not writing on the computer, I’ll only really write if I’m writing in a good quality notebook or on good quality paper. Sometimes that worries me. That’s something I’m going to work on getting better about as well. Writing more is writing more is writing more, regardless of what kind of paper is used. But regardless, more writing: a thing I am going to do.

In keeping with that mentality, this past weekend (of the 10th, not this most recent one), the goal was to be productive at least part of the time, so T. and I went to D2 Java in Exeter, NH for coffee, followed by lunch at Me & Ollie’s Bakery and Cafe, which then turned into a writing and working afternoon, and it was the most wonderful. D2 Java, by the way, is one of my absolute favorite places for coffee; a post about afternoons in Exeter is forthcoming very soon, because it merits more than a few sentences. For now, though, I’ll leave you with a picture from Saturday. Coziest of cozy.

coffee and productivity, january 2014

coffee and productivity, january 2014

an introduction of sorts.

// Wednesday, January 1, 2014

This blog has been something floating in the back of my mind for quite some time. It’s been too long since I’ve written anything particularly suited for public consumption. My goal is for this blog to be a (public!) outlet for my thoughts on a whole variety of topics, though the most frequent posts will likely have to do with (a) my search for good coffee and/or travel adventures, (b) my love of writing(/writing in literature/writing in television), and/or (c) my interest in politics/the relationship between media and politics.

My creation of a coffee-inspired blog where I document not only coffee shops and traveling but also writing and news and my views on said news stems from the realization that most of the sites I currently follow are either one world or the other: they are the virtual homes of English majors and lovers of literature, or they are those of political junkies and holders of Strong Opinions. I want to carve out my own little corner of the internet, where I can document not only general life events, but also both of these broad but important aspects of my personality. A good cup of coffee and a good book are just as important to me as a good academic discussion on the nuances of political communication.

My love of both English and politics started in high school and continued to develop throughout my college years.  My sophomore year of high school marked the beginning of my first serious foray into creative writing, inspired by a English class journal project on The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which has become one of my favorite books. The project assigned had various components, not all of which I remember, but the main one was to create a journal from the perspective of a eighteen-year-old just drafted into the Vietnam War. Would  he flee to Cannda? Go to war? It was the first time I’d ever written creatively where the writing explicitly was meant to be read by someone else. I’d written stories in my head for as long as I could remember, but anything written down was written for me, not others. The assignment made me realize just how much I wanted and needed to write, and how the constraints I’d imposed on what I wrote didn’t need to exist. In college, I explored the other end of the fiction/politics relationship spectrum, examining fiction in politics versus politics in fiction, exploring how misinformation and sometimes outright fiction – intentional or not – often has real world consequences and significant public policy implications. The more I read and know of the world, the more it seems the fictional worlds of literature (defined in the broad sense, to include not only written but film/television) and the ‘real’ world of news and events and politics are intricately linked.

Now a year and a half out of college, I want to get back into writing, into examining the world as I live it and the world as others live it – hence the blog. I fell in love with modernism and post-modernism in college English classes, and in some ways, this blog is a delayed product of that fact: where’s the line between living regular life, having coffee in a coffee shop, and living a life projected to an audience, where everyone directly and indirectly influences each other? I think that line doesn’t exist in the way that it used to exist, and I no longer want to pretend that it does.

This is a New Year’s resolution to which I plan to adhere.