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Like A Boss

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about making a big change in my life. Well, the times they are a changin’, my friends.

I am working toward my Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication. And this semester, I am completing my Capstone Project which is basically the thesis project for the program. (Not that I am completely done after this, I just decided to take the Capstone this semester.)

So I had a project figured out and a proposal approved. Cue the angst and the (Wo)Man in the Mirror moment.

I’m intelligent and hardworking. I’m a good writer, a decent accountant and knowledgeable about web marketing. I have an eye for design and enjoy refinishing furniture. Where could all this skills converge?

James made some suggestions, and then something my brother said came back to me.

“You could clean out some space in your garage for a workshop and start selling your furniture.”

“I don’t have time for that.”

But maybe I did? Maybe if I focused my Capstone Project on writing a business plan for this potential business I could make time?

Like I mentioned before, I called my mom. Then I shot an email to my professor with the subject line  “Shooting myself in the foot?”

He approved the project change and my new proposal.

SO.

The shop will sell furniture I have rescued from garage sales and consignment stores and then refinished with paint or stain. I will also sell home goods and clothing, some of it vintage pieces and some of it just well-treated used clothing. All of this will be available for purchase through my website, though I will only sell the furniture to local buyers.

My future customers are people with big design dreams, but limited budgets. People that don’t want to see beautiful, old furniture end up in the dumpster. People kind of like me.

The shooting myself in the foot feeling has vanished. There are a lot pieces to figure out, but I am excited. Like really excited. I started my business plan and have been working on things like gross profit margin and market share. Not even that has dampened my excitement (or at least not much).

I will write the copy for the website and online ads. I am essentially creating a copywriting job for myself. I will be my own boss, which I have to say, sounds pretty fucking great. (Although I am keeping the day job for the time being.)

I’m still doing other writing too. I am here, writing this blog. I sent out another story yesterday, and I’ve got two more almost finished.

I will always be a writer, but now I’m going to try something new, try to keep on changing.

I am also looking for potential collaborators too, so if you know anyone or if you are interested in getting involved in the shop, let me know. And if have some great old furniture that you want to get rid of, please contact me as well.

This week’s video is “The Times They are a-Changin'” by Bob Dylan. The video is not perfect, but Dylan sounds great.

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Fear Isn’t a Reason to Quit

In “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared,” Caroline Paul writes about being one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department.

“I expected people to question whether I had the physical ability to do the job (even though I was a 5-foot-10, 150-pound ex-college athlete). What I didn’t expect was the question I heard more than any other: ‘Aren’t you scared?’”

Read the rest of Paul’s piece in The New York Times here.

As Paul points out, women are raised to be afraid, of well, many things. Things that are gross, things that could hurt us, things that are physically intimidating, etc. Some fear is healthy, of course. Fear keeps us from acting completely irrationally or taking unnecessary risks.

But what about risks that are scary because we could possibly fail? Possibly be humiliated? I mean, let’s be real. What the hell is scarier than failure? Paul writes,

“When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole, she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone.”

Here lies the problem. As Paul states,

“We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.”

When we treat young girls as more fragile, they come to think of themselves that way. They are less likely to take risks because they might bruise their knees or their egos. Paul writes,

“When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making.”

I fear failure, probably a little too much. It has made me timid in my decision making, opting to stay the course, and wait for better things to come along.

It’s not like parents raised me to be this timid girl. My mother raised me to a feminist. To have opinions. To try new things. I mean, my parents let me travel to another continent (without them) when I was in junior high.

Did they treat me different than my brothers? Yes. Some different treatment is necessary. Girls have to learn how to navigate the world we live in, after all. And that’s the point really.

Girls need to learn to look fear in the eye and try it anyway, knowing they might tumble, bloody their knees, and fail. Failure builds character. It makes us stronger. It makes us brave. Paul writes,

“When I worked as a firefighter, I was often scared. Of course I was. So were the men. But fear wasn’t a reason to quit. I put my fear where it belonged, behind my feelings of focus, confidence and courage. Then I headed, with my crew, into the burning building.”

I was talking to a friend of mine about this piece. My friend has two daughters. Her take was she doesn’t want to raise her girls to be fearless, she wants to raise them to be smart and brave.

Sounds good to me. We could use more smart and BRAVE women out there in the world.

So this week, I thought I would try something different. I created a Spotify Playlist. It is my Fearless Mix. You may recognize a lot of these songs from earlier posts. 🙂

 

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Facing Down the (Wo)Man in the Mirror

I am a big Michael Jackson fan. Jackson was a highly controversial figure obviously, but the man aside, I think most people can acknowledge he made some fantastic music.

My not quite favorite song is “Man In The Mirror.” Whenever I hear it, I sing along at full volume and try not to cry. I feel all the feels.

I confessed to my best friend, James, a few months back about how important this song is to me. I felt a bit embarrassed about it. James told me he feels the same way about “Man In The Mirror.” He finds it inspiring and emotional. I was glad to learn I wasn’t alone.

This last week, I have been feeling very “Man In The Mirror.”

Imagine me crooning, “I’m gonna make a change for once in my life/It’s gonna feel real good/Gonna make a difference/Gonna make it right.”

That’s been me for the most of the week, at least in my head. And let’s be real, out loud too.

As I posted last week, I am working toward a bunch of goals this year. I am trying to some changes.

But to be honest, I have been discouraged, especially on the job front.

On Wednesday, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of Pretty in Pink by watching it at home. It is my favorite movie. Good music, good characters, and a good story. John Hughes at his best, in my opinion. Some of my favorite movie quotes of all time too, guys. It’s a solid movie.

So I’m watching and thinking what a badass Andy is, and how I need to be more badass. I’ve got “Man In The Mirror” swirling in my head. And of course, I’m texting James who is listening to my existential crisis patiently, as best friends do. I can’t stop thinking you need to make a change, girl.

An idea starts to crystallize in my head. And yes, it involves a hell of a lot of change. But no risk, no reward right?

I sleep on it, and call my mom the next morning. She doesn’t think I’m completely insane, or that it is a terrible idea. That is encouraging. Mom approval is a serious litmus test.

So I am going to make a big change, which will require a lot of planning and work. I started on it this week, which is part of the reason I am late with the blog.

I am alternating between excitement and terror, which I think is a good sign. I still have some pieces to get straightened out, so I can’t quite share what the new project is yet.

But making this change feels right.

This week’s video is obviously “Man In The Mirror.” Just try to not sing along.

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8 Goals for 2016 (Because I Don’t Believe in Resolutions)

I don’t do resolutions. To me, resolutions are failed attempts to get in shape, eat better, and swear less. I could probably set all those goals. I could become a gym queen with killer biceps.

Ehh.

I own a treadmill. I use it. I eat ok. Salads for lunch a lot, probably too many nachos for dinner. Swearing, well, I like swearing, and I know when swearing is not appropriate.

I do, however, set goals. I know it is basically the same thing, but I like the sound of goals better.

So in order to fully commit myself, I am sharing my 2016 goals here for ALL THE WORLD to see. I assume everyone on the planet reads this blog, but you know, somehow in secret so I don’t know about it.

  1. Keep writing a blog a week until May 29th. On May 29th, I will have written a post every week for one year. Continuing this seems attainable. I have this one in the bag.
  1. Complete seven stories this year, and submit these stories. Starting a story is not hard. Finishing and editing a story until I am satisfied is a much longer process. I submitted one so far.
  1. Stop apologizing for things that don’t require an apology. I say sorry for things I have no reason to be sorry about. Not sure if it is a Midwest thing or a woman thing or more likely both. I worry too much about hurting people’s feelings, especially people that don’t seem to hold my feelings in such high regard.
  1. Spend time with people that value you and make an effort. I am picky about the people I spend time with, but I tend to give people too many chances. If someone makes no effort, then I need to learn to let it go.
  1. Get my finances locked down. I pay all my bills on time, and I have a 401K. But I was having a conversation with a friend about how good she is at saving money, and I thought, damn girl, you could do that too. You should be doing that too. Why aren’t you doing that too?! Call it my emergency furnace fund which even typing that makes me TERRIFIED the furnace is going to blow. (Send good vibes to my furnace.)
  1. Do some home improvements that improve resale, not just make it look kick ass. I have a tendency to buy things like furniture, rugs, and trilobites. You know, the essentials. These things look kick ass, but don’t really add value to your house. So I’m making more permanent changes. I had an over-the-range microwave installed this week, and another guy came over to talk dishwasher installation. I have a few more kitchen tweaks in mind. I would also like my laundry room to appear to be a place other than where you might find someone’s severed torso. So that’s maybe next on the list.
  1. Get a new job. This one has been on my to-do list for quite some time. I have taken steps toward this. Working on a master’s degree, writing this blog, internships, and various other writing projects. I want this to be the year, guys.
  1. Continue destroying the fear. This goes along with many of those goals, like quit apologizing for who you are. Submit more writing. Use more power tools. Change, change, change. Basically, be a better version of yourself. This is a perpetual goal. I think whenever you can let go of your fears, you find yourself a happier person. And that, my friends, is always the goal, be happier.

This week’s video is “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac.

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Like Stories about Collapsing Lungs and Crocodiles?

I consider myself an optimistic pessimist. Meaning, I hope for the best, even if my thoughts don’t naturally go in that direction.

But lately, I’ve been complaining A LOT.

Sleep is a big part of keeping me on an even keel. If I am short on sleep, I act like a bad version of myself. Reading a good story also turns my mood around.

I try to read every night, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. Or sometimes, I start a new book, and the story hasn’t captured my interest yet. And sometimes, I just forget to do the things that are good for me.

I have a favorite design blog, Design*Sponge. The site showcases people’s beautiful homes, but also explores art, traveling, recipes, and artists. It has also started to focus more on writing.

I ran across a post about writer Rahawa Haile yesterday. She created a site called Short Story of the Day. Her idea was to post a short story from a minority writer every day in 2015.

I enjoyed the freshness of these stories, the ability to startle. Sure there was a breakup story, but the main character also had a collapsing lung. There was another story about a girl whose mom brings home a crocodile.

These stories forced the reader to suspend belief for a moment. To live outside the realm of the every day. Reading these stories allowed me to escape myself and all my petty gripes.

Sometimes, disappearing into a world of crocodiles and collapsing lungs is just what you need.

Last night, I also attended that Dave Eggers and Marlon James book event which benefited the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute. As I mentioned last week, MOI is an after school program that helps students aged 6-18 work on their homework, focusing particularly on creative writing.

Along with Eggers and James discussing their work, three students from the program read stories. The stories were written in letter format. One was addressed to an alien, one to a dragon, and one to the sun. Each was funny and charming.

Eggers and James were fantastic, but I think everyone who attended would agree the kids stole the show.

It was another reminder of the power of a good story. A good story allows you to lose yourself in the moment, to try to absorb all the joy and possibility in the weird, little world of that story.

This week’s video is “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage.

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Book Nerd Alert! Come See Dave Eggers and Marlon James Talk Books in St. Paul

We are serious about our books here in the Twin Cities. For a woman who loves books as much as I do, that is good news.

Imagine my excitement when it was announced that Marlon James and Dave Eggers would be talking books in St. Paul. You can still buy tickets for the Thursday February 4th event here.

The event benefits the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, an after school program that helps students aged 6-18 work on their homework. The nonprofit focuses particularly on writing and gives kids the opportunity to publish their own books. According to an article in The Star Tribune, the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute is somewhat based on the “network of writing and tutoring programs that Eggers co-founded, called 826 National.”

Despite his work with 826 National, Eggers is a polarizing writer. Many people find him arrogant. He did, after all, write a book called, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I get that doesn’t come across as particularly humble.

I also understand the need for arrogance as a writer. You have to think your writing is better than the writing of most other people. You also need to have enough ego to survive the inevitable series of rejections.

So Eggers’ ego has never bothered me. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was the first Eggers book I read, and it remains one of my favorite books. And I mean favorite books ever.

I read it after losing my brother, and I found it funny and beautiful and devastating. To me, it was an honest book about what it is like to lose someone (or two someones in Eggers’ case) you love.

When you lose someone, you try to mourn and not become overwhelmed by sadness. You also need to go on living. You need to find the joyful and funny moments when you can. This is what I love about A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers shows himself laughing and crying and f*cking his way through a completely devastating situation. It is messy and at times awkward. But so is life, and so too is death.

Eggers has also written other books I’ve loved. Two of his other equally compelling and devastating creative nonfiction books are Zeitoun and What Is the What. Zeitoun follows the Zeitoun family through Katrina, and What Is the What is the story of a young Sudanese refugee, one of the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan. The Circle is one of Eggers’ fiction works, and it is basically a modern day 1984. The book is a disturbingly, realistic scenario of how technology could change our lives and not for the better.

James just received the Man Booker Prize for his historical fiction novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. The novel is set in Jamaica and depicts the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. James lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College.

I have only just started A Brief History of Seven Killings, and I haven’t read James’ other novels. But so far, I can attest that James is an incredible writer.

So when I saw the event with Eggers and James pop up on Facebook, I knew I had to go. I don’t go to nearly as many readings as I should, but when a favorite author reads, I get there.

So if you’re around the area and a fan of these authors, I suggest you get there too. And oh yeah, it’s for a good cause. Nothing better than that for a book nerd like me.

This week’s video is “People Got A Lotta Nerve” by Neko Case.

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Oh What a World in Which I Can Write Poems about Swimming with Sharks

Last April, I signed on to do the Writer’s Digest Poem A Day Challenge, and I blogged about it on here. For each day in April, I wrote a poem. The challenge coincides with National Poetry Month.

The writer directing the challenge, Robert Lee Brewer, posted daily prompts for us to use, or not use. Writers were then encouraged to share their poems on an open thread on the website. People could comment on the poems and make suggestions.

It sounded like a bit of a nightmare to me, or at least the part about posting your poem online that YOU WROTE THAT DAY.

I have never written a poem (or a story or a blog post or even an email), and then thought, Gee, that is amazing. It’s the work of true genius. I should publish this immediately.

I am not that confident or foolish or both. I edit. Sometimes, I enjoy editing. Sometimes, editing feels like a slow, painful death through sentence restructuring.

(I do recognize the possibility that the people who posted their poems spent all day writing and editing those poems. And in that case, I am jealous of their luxurious amount of time for poem writing.)

And yes, I edit my emails. Sometimes you get that stream of thought going, and it just flows. But oops, you forgot the You part of Thank You, so it just says Thank.

That’s weird, guys.

Or maybe if you reread that email, you’d have realized abbreviating follow-up to f/u is not a good idea. At least not if you don’t want your boss to wonder what she did to deserve a fuck you reply.

I digress.

My point is editing is important. You should edit your writing before the world sees it. The thought of putting it out on the internet largely unedited terrified me. So I didn’t.

And what have I done with those thirty gems of glittery poetry since?

The poems are sitting out there in the cloud, mostly untouched. I have been writing and editing things since then, it has just been mostly stories and papers.

So I let my thirty, shiny poems gather dust.

A month ago maybe, I realized I missed poetry. I opened my Poetry in Progress folder, and the title “Shark-Infested Water” caught my eye.

It was poem about a dream where Agnes (the character I write about often) and I were swimming with sharks. I didn’t remember the dream or the poem, to be honest. I had written just a few lines. But I liked the idea.

Swimming through shark-infested water with your main character. The brain is full of weird, amazing ideas.

I started to flesh it out a little more, changed the title, and workshopped it with my writing partner/friend Rachel. She liked it, but wasn’t crazy about the ending. As usual, she was right.

I’ve been working on it the past couple of days. It’s getting close. And after I’m done, I will submit it. Then it’s back to the Poetry in Progress folder.

I have at least twenty-nine other poems to edit. And it feels like it’s time to get back at it.

This week’s video is a live recording of “Oh What a World” by Rufus Wainwright. It is a fantastically beautiful song, and this is a great recording of it. The performance does seem to have taken place on Halloween though. Wainwright doesn’t usually wear a witch hat when he performs. Enjoy friends!

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Burning Down the Page with Plath

“My night sweats grease his breakfast plate.”

The line caught me, stopped me from flipping the page.

I whispered it to myself. Rolled it around on my tongue. Tasted it.

This line is from the poem “The Jailor” which appears in the poetry collection, Ariel. Ariel was the manuscript Sylvia Plath left behind when she killed herself in 1963. Her husband, poet Ted Hughes, published the book after her death.

I first read Plath in junior high, after a teacher recommended her work. Her language was dark and beautiful. Her voice was strong. Her words burned down every page. She was the first writer I really fell in love with.

I have Ariel The Restored Edition. It includes Hughes’ original version of the book, Plath’s version of the manuscript, and her notes throughout the writing process. It also includes a foreword from Frieda, Plath and Hughes’ daughter.

Plath and Hughes’ relationship was tumultuous, to say the least. Some people think having Hughes edit Ariel was a disservice to her work. He was, after all, a subject of scorn in many of her poems.

You see the tension in their relationship in the first line. Plath is angry, and she is angry at Hughes.

“My night sweats grease his breakfast plate.” Try saying it out loud.

That is part of what I love about Plath. Her poems aren’t filled with flowers and sunshine, but that doesn’t make her words any less stunning. Her phrases have a musicality, a flowing of sound.

Two stanzas later:

“Something is gone.
My sleeping capsule, my red and blue zeppelin
Drops me from a terrible altitude
Carapace smashed,
I spread to the beaks of birds.”

My favorite sound here is the “Carapace smashed” line. The phrase is musical, even if the image described isn’t conventionally beautiful. But that is one of Plath’s best tricks. She turned ugly images into beautiful sounds. This juxtaposition is part of what makes her poetry so arresting.

The poem ends with this stanza:

“That being free. What would the dark
Do without fevers to eat?
What would the light
Do without eyes to knife, what would he
Do, do, do without me.”

The language is simple, but no less stunning. What a clever way to describe light, as something that knifes your eyes.

But it is the ending that grabs me.

“What would he/Do, do, do without me,” she writes. The repetition of do, do, do sounds almost like a pop song. But in this context, it is a fiery question aimed at Hughes. A question that suggests he needs her as much as she needs him.

Reading Plath at a relatively young age shaped the way I write. Her style helped me develop an my ear for language. My stories inevitably have a few sentences that sound like lines from a poem. I strive for the musicality of Plath’s language.

A year or so ago, I was working on a story, and I wrote, “A man is a man is a jet plane is a rusted fire escape.” I knew what I meant, but maybe the reader wouldn’t have known. But more than anything, I liked the way it sounded. This line contained some of the mystery and beauty of poetry. It has since hit the cutting room floor, but I still love the sound it, the way it rolls off my tongue.

Plath also helped me learn how to channel my ferocity in my writing. I want my words to burn down the page like her’s.

In the foreword to Ariel The Restored Edition, Frieda writes, “Her own words describe her best, her ever-changing moods defining the way she viewed her world and the manner in which she pinned down her subjects with a merciless eye.”

Ariel contains Plath’s final words. Here we see her at her most fierce. Her eye most merciless. Her language most stunning.

What would he do, do, do indeed.

This week’s video is “Husbands” by Savages. They are an all female London-based rock band. And they rock hard, my friends.

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All I Wanted for Christmas was Some Chill (And a Tepee)

Hi friends!

Sorry for the late post. Like many of you, I was celebrating Christmas with my family. It was nice to have some time off to chill, watch movies, and eat delicious food.

I promise next (this) week I will have a full blog post.

After my house emptied out, I spent some time working on a story, reading, and thinking a lot about writing. I should have an interesting post for you this Friday.

In the meantime, I have been listening to Brandi Carlile’s latest album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, on repeat. It is really, really good. So this week’s video is “Wherever Is Your Heart” which is off of The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Enjoy!

P.S. I asked for and received a tepee for Christmas.  I guess I’m never going to outgrow my love of forts. 🙂

Max Wiener and I in my new tepee.

Max Wiener and I in my new tepee.

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Finding Peace in a Room Full of Stories

When I lived in NYC, I worked as a visual stylist at Saks Fifth Avenue. My days were spent up and down ladders, applying graphics, dressing and re-dressing mannequins, painting, moving furniture around the floor, and putting together chandeliers. You name it; we pretty much did it.

It was inspiring. It was thrilling. It was chaotic.

I usually left bone-tired. Some days, it was more than that. I was frustrated. I was annoyed. I had hit my bullshit limit. Those days, I needed an out, some sane, a little peace and quiet.

Anthropologie was across the street in the Rockefeller Center shopping area. I know. There are so many beautiful places around this area. But for me, Anthropologie was the peaceful space I needed.

The smell hit me first. The store always burned its signature candles, which smelled like autumn air and musk and spice. The space was huge, airy. All the clothing, accessories, and home goods were perfectly placed. Everything looked like it came from your most stylish friend’s house.

I would walk in and breathe the peace and quiet. Let it settle on my skin. Sometimes I would buy something, usually something small, like a candleholder. Anthropologie is not inexpensive.

After I felt restored, I would grab the train home.

Spaces affect your mood. There are some rooms and places that just breathe peace. For me, Anthopologie is one of the places.

But I can’t really afford to spend every day at Anthropologie, nor do I want to revisit my life in retail.

This brings me back to my writing room/library. I wrote about it a few weeks ago.

I have made progress since then. I painted the walls (and some of the carpet) grey. I bought a rug to hide the (some of the carpet) grey. My friend helped me move a bookshelf in. I found a great Craigslist wingback chair. We moved the desk in.

I broke my writing room/library in on Wednesday.

Bookshelf

Bookshelf porn.

A space full of stories is a lovely space to be in, my friends. And it is working already. I started a new story on Wednesday.

This week’s video is actually a shout-out for my partner-in-crime, James Wilson. His band, The Paisley Fields, has a record out today. If listening to country music music is your idea of peaceful, check out my favorite song “Brooklyn Rodeo.” Support his awesome band, and buy the EP! https://itun.es/us/PYOd-

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