Thursday, January 18, 2018

ten on thursday

Bulleted lists and things I want to share because why not?

1) Houston got a Warby Parker store and I am so excited. I went on Friday night and my glasses are already on the way. I'll be sure to post a pic in my instagram stories. I love that there is one cost, one potential upcharge ($30 for thinner lenses), tax is included, and delivery is free. It was so easy - in and out in 15 minutes.

2) The Women's March is this weekend. I really want to go, but I also have to go bridesmaids' dress shopping for a wedding I'm in. I'm so bummed and still looking for a way to do both, but this city is just so spread out that I'm not sure I can and I am SO disappointed.

3) Slightly related to the above, there is a bachelorette party in Vegas next month and I went to the juniors section to find a dress to wear. What does one wear in Vegas in her 30s? No club (at least, I hope not...) but there will be bars and dinner. And it will be cold. Pinterest is no help - ideas?

4) In case you hadn't heard, it snowed in Houston this week for the third time this season. This was the strongest so far and it actually stuck to the ground! There were two snow days where the city basically shut down, but when you work from home, you don't get that - huge bummer. It was really cold and kind of inconvenient. I always say I wish I got snow, but I definitely see why northerners complain. At least I had a reason to drink coffee, hot tea, and cocoa all in the same day. And, I took my first snowball to the face courtesy of my husband (I ducked into it. I'm fine.)

5) The Fake News Awards listing being hosted on the GOP website, which legitimizes this crazy administration even more. I also saw that nearly every "winner" corrected their story soon after it came out. I mean I totally agree that all sides of the media are rushing to publish ideas that further their agenda and may not be doing the level of fact checking they should, but COME ON. Mistakes that were corrected don't warrant a pretend awards show or the title of fake news.

6) Also, did you see the thread on twitter of Andy Richter asking for photos of men who are 6' 3" and 239 lbs (45's alleged height and weight?). The differences in these guys and him are hilarious... if you can't even tell the truth about something we can all see, what else are you hiding?

7) I've been Yelp Elite for the past two years, something that I often make fun of, but for whatever reason, am no longer elite this year. I feel like I've failed the online reviewing community. This bothers me more than it should.

8) Chamillionaire identifies himself as both a musician and a tech investor and wants to help the family of a man deported after 30 years in the U.S. I think this is wonderful, but am weirdly amused that he still goes by Chamillionaire - but hey, whatever works.

9) Media I've consumed lately: The Post (loved the TV-star-studded cast, story was fine, but not a must-see); The End of the Fxxxing World (on Netflix; British and teenagery with the darkness of Dexter); and This American Life: Our Town, Parts 1 & 2 (you have to listen to these via the website now, but DO IT. Are illegal immigrants really costing us a fortune and taking American jobs? TAL investigates using an Alabama town Jeff Sessions uses as a prime example).

10) My coworker introduced me to HQ Trivia. I had heard about it but wondered if it was legit. You guys, it is, and it's frustrating but fun! Basically, you download the app (use my code laurenm10 if you start to play, please!) and every day at 9pm ET and weekdays at 3pm ET, you log on and play live trivia with people across the country. There are 12 questions and a $2000 pot. Everyone who makes it to the end splits the $2000 and you get money via Paypal. The only info you enter is your name and phone number - I haven't found it invasive so far. It does tend to start late, the host's banter is SUPER cheesy, and sometimes the app lags, but if you have time in the evenings and like trivia, I recommend it!

I didn't think I would get to ten things, and I don't think I'll do this weekly (because I'm aiming low at two posts a week, y'all....) but I like to share things that interest me or are going on. It's fun to get back in the swing of writing again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

create the things you wish existed

I mean, that subject alone should be enough to make you think today, so really I shouldn't stare at this blank cursor anymore and I can go back to watching The Office on Comedy Central. Right?

(This marathon is the best thing that has happened to me in so long. Catching a favorite episode of a favorite show never gets old. But I digress...)

I ran across this Instagram post that said the title of this blog post, and it stopped me. I couldn't stop thinking about it and I had to comment to a stranger on the internet just to thank her.

(That's something I want to do more this year. Engage with "strangers" because after all, if I don't, how will they ever become friends, or at least people who know me on the internet.)

But anyway, it stayed with me. I'm not a cerebral person, so I guess that makes me a creative, but what do I create? I like to bullet journal and I like to write in this blog, sometimes, which I guess is a creative outlet. I used to exercise my creative muscle by planning events but that has taken a different direction so the question became what can I create that I wish existed?

I can create a twitter feed that is observational, sometimes informative, interactive, about TV, and not full of automatic tweets.

I can create an instagram account with my imperfect yet still functional bullet journal to show that you don't have to be an artist or spend a lot of time to make this planning system work. I can create a regular one with food and cats and instagram stories about nothing in particular when I feel like I need to share something or get an opinion. I don't have to stage things unless I want to and I don't have to learn how to use the portrait mode on my iPhone (though really, I should). I can just be a normal person who sometimes takes photos of cool things. Or mundane things. But things that I like and want to share.

I can create a blog about life. I feel like that's hard - I mean, I often have to stop and ask myself what I'm doing that's interesting and worth my time to write coherent sentences about. But I can share myself on the internet, which in a world of knowing what your friends do as they do them isn't really all that special, but it's what I have to offer. I can talk about the things that I love - I really think my ideal job is sharing things that get me excited in some way or another - and I can work harder to talk about deeper things and things that matter. I often worry that I'll sound cliche, or put too much stock in certain people or experiences, but is it really a thing to like someone or something too much? Maybe I'll test that.

So, on that note, and in the name of blogs everywhere - what are some things you wish existed in blogland? What's worth your time to at least read in the middle of twitter scrolling, dumpster fire-following, and incessant instagram stories? What are the things you wish existed?

I feel like it's only fair that I answer, so here goes: talk about real relationships (friend, family, romantic - all interesting), non-sponsored recommendations of anything, weird insecurities, a day in the life or other seemingly boring life things, giving me a new perspective on things going on in the world - your experience with them, bringing them to my attention, or just ruminating on them, and anything you would talk about with your friends in real life. I say these things, but when I try to write them myself, I'm at a loss. But at least now I can try.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

intention

It's 11 days into the new year which to me is still fair game to set resolutions. After all, if you follow me on Instagram stories, you know that my Christmas tree is still up. I'm not proud of it. I've been cooking a lot more than usual (three hours in the kitchen on Sunday, y'all!) so by the time I get done working, walking the dog, and making dinner, the Christmas mess is too much. It will be gone by Sunday evening, though. I'm tired of it.

Anyway, back to resolutions. 2017 was a year of adjustment. I want 2018 to be a year of marked growth and improvement. I'm not one for resolutions, but I do like an overarching idea to guide me, and this year's is to be intentional. I like words that are nice and broad, and open to interpretation.

So, more for me than for you, ways I want to be intentional in 2018:

- With my words. I say "like" far too often. It's something I developed in college, stopped doing in a professional setting, and have gotten back to again. I say it in place of "um" and also as a synonym for "said" and when combined, I sound like a bad 1985 Valley girl stereotype.

  • As a sub-point to this, I also want to be better at showing and telling people that they are important to me, whether it's spending time with them, leaving a genuine comment on social media (especially to people whose online presence I enjoy but don't have a relationship with), or spending time with them, which isn't really words, but related.
- With my time. Spending it with friends, as noted above, is high on the list. But, I spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling. I need to set a 10-15 minute limit at a time and then move on to something else, whether it's writing a blog post, reading, straightening up the house, or getting up on weekends and going to do one of the things I always think I should do. I should also add working out to this list, but baby steps. 

- I want to be intentional with the things I have. I tend to hoard things rather than using them, as is intended. I have tons of beauty samples, so I'm trying to use one a week. I keep buying bullet journal supplies, so I need to make sure to use them (or be generous to my friends and de-stash when we have brunch and bujo). It feels good to try new things. I'm using eye cream for the first time ever and it's life changing. And when my bullet journal is pretty, I get excited to document and plan, so wins all around.

- I want to think things through more. Seeing the end while I'm still in an early stage has never been my strong suit, and I don't often think about how an outcome will have a ripple effect, whether that is positive or negative. I've noticed this more in work situations than in real life - I'm happy to go along with what feels right and move on - but it's something I'm definitely conscious of and can improve upon.

I'm sure there are more. I created a bullet journal spread about what being intentional meant to me and it has little things like listening to more records and having more dance parties. OH and trying not to do things because I feel like I have to. Do you really want me at your birthday dinner if I'm going to hate it? Do you want a half-assed blog comment because I felt obligated? If you're still reading this post, the answer is probably no. I'm interested to see how my list changes and I reapply things over the year.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

books lately: january 2018

I haven't linked up with Steph and Jana since September, so there are some books that didn't make it to my best of 2017 list that I still want to talk about. I'll spare you from all of them - these are just the ones that elicited a reaction in me.

All the Lovely and Wonderful Things - Okay you guys, I need to discuss this one with someone. I get that it's beautifully written and I guess that we're supposed to feel that these characters belonged together, but it was a bit pedophile-adjacent for me. If this was real life and someone I knew, I couldn't support it at all, so reading a book that made a relationship with this big of an age difference while one character was still far too young to decide that just felt... icky. I gave it three stars on Goodreads because it sucked me in, but I don't know that I can really recommend it.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four Letter Words - My love of TV started long ago; I remember reading Michael Ausiello's column in TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly years ago. I follow him on twitter now and he talked about writing a memoir about his partner's cancer diagnosis and ultimate death. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I cried, empathized, laughed, and enjoyed the way the story was told - neither character was perfect during this time in their lives. Even though it was heavy subject matter, I completely enjoyed this one. I always love a story where even the deceased is painted with the same messy strokes as the living.

Young Jane Young - Eh. It was one of those books that just... ended. I wanted more resolution. I liked it, but it was no AJ Firky. Since it's the same author, I was hoping for similar magic. It was fine, and I liked the perspective it gave, but I wouldn't run out to read it.

Just some things you should know about books lately. I just got Sourdough from the library and have been making my way through You Will Know Me. Still waiting to fall in love with a good novel so I'll be looking to see what others are reading today!

Not relevant to anything, but I'm not linking up with Steph and Jana solely because it's sometimes hard to comment on book posts since tastes vary so widely and I feel bad for linking up and not being a good participant. And if you are reading here then you already blog-know them so I don't need to tell you that that's where you go to talk books on the internet...


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 in review

I honestly wanted to do this in my bullet journal, but writing by hand takes a long time, so blogging will have to do. I was going to include photos, but now that Picmonkey makes you pay (and we all know I am inconsistent with blogging, let alone using photos), I didn't. If there's an alternative I should know about, let me know.

I started 2017 with a new job offer in the works, so I knew it was be a year of change. I put in my two weeks' notice in January and never felt more love from my old job. Doubleback BBQ helped the Hop Stop celebrate their first anniversary with a busy, day-long party and so many of our friends came to support the guys - it was great to see them, but I was so busy, I couldn't really enjoy them! I went to the Women's March and felt empowered and saw Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds in concert, which was wonderful.

The Super Bowl came to Houston the first week in February and took over downtown. My sister-in-law and her husband, his mom, and a friend came to stay with us and they went to the game. I started working from home and I chopped off a lot of hair. I went to NYC for work and visited Harlem for the first time.

In March, I settled into my new role a little more. I went to Lindy West's book event (my most liked IG pic of 2017, which is weird) and went a little crazy at my neighborhood's garage sale.

Our annual BBQ and Bluebonnets trip kicked off April and we found a great field this year. And had Truth BBQ (Cake. So much cake.). I also worked my first event at my new job, which was luckily in Houston. It was a learning experience for sure, but so nice to be in a place I knew.

May brought another work trip to NYC. This time, I stayed in Midtown and took a walk through Times Square solo (so many people, so not for me). I saw cute pigs and stopped eating pork for like, three weeks. I went to New Orleans for the first time (again, for work) and fell in love with a bar where you put your card in a machine to dispense however much wine you want and then pay at the end. I left early so I could come home to go to the U2 concert, a huge one off of my concert bucket list. We had an incredible spot in front of the stage and I loved that it was The Joshua Tree tour. We experienced our first Sunday Supper at State of Grace, which was among my favorite meals of the year.

For the past three years, June has meant a trip to Austin for the ATX Television Festival. We passed Damon Lindelof crossing the street, I relived my childhood via Pete and Pete, completely enjoyed the cast of Younger, and saw Adam Scott in real life. I also had a work conference in Vegas full of great swag and good parties. Andrew joined me for the last few days and despite the awful heat, we watched my beloved Bellagio fountains, finally tried Lotus of Siam, and saw the Beatles Love yet again (I think this was the fifth time?). We also celebrated one of my best friends' engagements and went to our only Astros game of the year (in which they lost miserably...).

In July, I got a new niece! Technically, she was born in late June, but I met her in Atlanta on July 1st. Newborns are cute, but they sleep so much. We had a relaxing few days with Andrew's family, and then I stayed in town an extra day for a work event. We tried to go to an Astros game for Andrew's birthday, but it was a disaster so we left for tacos instead. We celebrated a few days late with a great dinner at Xochi. I had brunch with Bre which turned into a trip to Michael's which turned into starting a bullet journal.

My nieces came to town in August for their annual summer trip. The oldest one is a senior in high school this year, so I don't know how many of these we have left. We got pedicures, took photos at the water wall, did mud masks, and went to the science museum. Andrew and I went to the Avett Brothers concert and had great, free seats (thanks, twitter). I went with him to a few BBQ stops as he worked to get through the Texas Monthly Top 50 and was a good BBQ wife. I got together with friends to Brunch and Bujo and made it into an instagram account and now a thing we have done every month since. At the end of the month, the city started to prepare for Hurricane Harvey, which we didn't think was going to really be a thing, but we were so wrong.

September was a bad month. Parts of the city were shut down due to the hurricane, but there was also an incredible amount of humanity visible all around. People were off work and kids didn't go back to school right away - everything felt a little off. Amidst all of that, Andrew's sister passed away. She had been fighting cancer for 18 months. We had one last, good, funny visit with her, and shortly after, she was gone. I don't want to sound blasé and gloss over this, but I don't feel like I want to go into it on the internet, either. But there was a week in September spent in a hospital and then helping our 20 year old niece plan a funeral so it was emotional and hard and busy.

Needless to say, I was happy to see the calendar flip to October and loved having Astros playoff baseball as a distraction. Working from home was a huge perk for daytime games and plans were made to be home in the evenings to see each one. I went to Philly for a work trip, got to meet Steph in real life, volunteered at Broad Street Ministry (such a cool org), and saw a little historic architecture. Andrew and I had a trip planned for my birthday weekend to the Texas Hill Country to stay in a cute Air BnB in Wimberley. We went to a very cool winery, a bourbondistillery, shopped in the town square, and watched baseball on my iPad from the house's fire pit on the first cold Texas night of the year.

The Astros won the World Series on November 1st and the next day, I went to Rapid City, SD for work. I was bummed to miss the citywide celebration but had a great experience learning about Native culture - attending a pow wow, putting up a tipi, and seeing the Badlands were all incredible. And it snowed a little, and I got to see Mount Rushmore. It was a cool place that I don't know I would ever visit otherwise. We had our annual Friendsgiving (Andrew smoked a turkey) and Thanksgiving with my family and then spent Black Friday getting a new Christmas tree, going crazy buying new ornaments, and having a nice lunch. I think lunch and ornament shopping may be new Black Friday traditions for us.

The year ended in a bit of a blur, but December is nearly always that way. It was nice to have fewer work commitments than I used to, but I did spend a night in San Antonio. Houston had its first snow in nine years and it was magic, but it melted way too soon. I spent weekends Christmas shopping and weekdays working from the couch so I could enjoy the tree. We traveled to Delaware to spend Christmas with Andrew's family and got to see our now six-month-old niece (way cuter now, but she still sleeps a lot). It was cold, but no snow, and it was a nice, relaxing trip. We came home and had Christmas with both of my sets of parents, and my nieces came down, which is always a treat. We kept New Years low key, going to dinner at Nancy's Hustle, which is new and casual and had an incredible burger, and were home by 9:30 to watch awful NYE specials on TV in our PJs.

... and that's about it. I feel like I grew professionally, learned a lot, and also did a lot of nothing. My friends are no longer ready-made coworkers, so I worked harder on maintaining friendships all around. My hope for 2018 is that my recap is twice as long due to the number of things I did and accomplished. We'll see if I can keep that in mind for the next 12 months.


Monday, January 1, 2018

best books 2017

My reading habits changed pretty dramatically in 2017. Since I no longer commute, I no longer have time for audiobooks, so my volume was definitely lower than it has been before. And, for whatever reason, I had a hard time getting into novels - something I definitely hope changes in 2018.

Keep in mind that I have an awful memory, so in reviewing the 41 books I read last year, these are the ones that stuck out to me; therefore, they are the best of the best for me in 2017. Honestly, now that I look at the fiction books, I almost feel I could have left them off, but while reading both, I really did like them.

Non-Fiction:
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie: I read this on the way to and shortly after attending an event for Native people in Rapid City, SD. I had no idea how much I didn't know about the Native experience in the U.S. and what troubles Native people still face - like reading about any other group different from you, you will see similarities and also learn a lot. I also really liked Alexie's voice. If you want to know more about modern, Native culture in the U.S., pick this one up.

What Unites Us by Dan Rather: This is the sole audiobook on the list due to a solo trip to San Antonio for work. He reads it, so it's even better. This is like a collection of Rather's Facebook statuses, only more detailed. He is knowledgable but not preachy. He clearly has feelings about the current administration but never names names. He talks about being a decent human, a patriot, and how the past should inform our present. I liked this one so much I gifted it for Christmas. If you like him on social media, read this.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond: I love sociology and I found this topic SO fascinating. Housing is something we all seem to take for granted, but what if we didn't have it? What if we were landlords whose livelihood depended on people paying rent or kicking them out? This book tells several people's stories, both tenant and landlord, and goes into detail about situations I hope to never be in, really humanizing the plight of so many working poor in the country.

It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort: After listening to Nora's podcast and deciding that I wish I could be her friend in real life, I had to read her book and it was better than I had even anticipated. She talks about her own life and insecurities and there were so many parts where I thought she was in my head. The heart of the book is about loving and losing her first husband and how she got through it, but not over it. It's sad and funny and I loved it so much, I had to buy it.

Fiction:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This was a book whose world I liked being in. It wasn't earth-shattering but it was enjoyable and when the book was done, I wanted more time with the characters.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: Given our current climate, I thought this book was very well done. The story was intriguing, I can see how it would make a person think about how they function in society around people of other races, and it wasn't a preachy morality tale.

I currently have Imagine Me Gone (eh) and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (on SO MANY LISTS but I haven't started it yet) from the library so here's to 2018's books getting off to a great start!