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29 Great Things About Being 29

29 Great Things Graphic

Tomorrow I’m turning 30. To help celebrate, I’m stealing an idea I’ve seen a few other places online, collecting 29 great things about being 29. In roughly chronological order:

Sculpture Garden/Minneapolis adventures with Lindsay and Patrick – Technically, this happened while I was still 28, but I’m counting it because I count all of July as my birthday month. Seeing friends from when we lived in Madison and getting the chance to adventure in my hometown was a treat. I also got to drink a Rhubarb Streisand, which might be the best cocktail ever.

sculpture garden

Surprise birthday cake from the boyfriend – Last year for my birthday, we had friends over to grill and hang out. The boyfriend surprised me with a birthday cake, which was delightful!

Day in Dispatch – One of the big stories I worked on this year was about our local dispatch center. I spent a couple shifts hanging out and asking questions, and I think it turned into a pretty neat look at what it takes to be a good dispatcher and some of the challenges that office faces.

Margaritas nights (any and all) – Before a dear friend moved to Wyoming, we were doing regular margarita nights at a local Mexican restaurant. They were awesome. We snuck one in last night and I remembered how much I missed that.

Tea at The Orangery – I could probably every moment of the trip I took with my sister to London/Bath/Athens/Poros on this list, but that’d be boring. So, I decided to try and pull out some of the best ones. Our first “British” excursion was shopping/walking in Notting Hill, followed by high tea at the Orangery, a restaurant at Kensington Palace. It was so incredibly cool.

orangery

Walking Tower Bridge in the pouring rain – The day we decided to go to the Tower of London was pouring rain. While trying to tour the palace in a downpour wasn’t great (just memorable), our walk back to our rental flat across Tower Bridge was fun.

Visiting the studio where they filmed Harry Potter – Pretty much every part of touring the studios where the Harry Potter films were produced was amazing. I haven’t geeked out over anything in my life as much as this.

privet drive

Tour of Buckingham Palace – I did not expect to find a self-guided walking tour of Buckingham Palace to be as fascinating as it was. If you have a chance to do this during the summer when the Queen is gone, I highly recommend it.

Seeing the Acropolis – The actual climb to the Acropolis in Greece was miserable. It was like 100 degrees, humid, and sunny. I was a grump, but I’m glad we did it. And I’m glad to have this picture with my sister.

acropolis

First moment seeing the beach in Poros – Getting from Athens to Poros, an island about an hour by ferry, was an adventure. I’m a nervous traveler in the best of circumstances… and navigating public transportation in Greece is not the best of circumstances. Luckily, my sister is a saint and got us to the hotel we were staying at safely. The moment we walked into our room and saw our view of the Mediterranean, it was totally worth it.

poros

Lowlights – I finally took the plunge and got some professional lowlights put in my hair. Love it.

Egg, bacon, and cheese biscuit at Butter Bakery Cafe – Best breakfast sandwich ever.

Friendsgiving – The boyfriend and I didn’t travel for Thanksgiving this year, but got to have a feast of sorts with several local friends. I think Friendsgiving is a pretty spectacular holiday.

friendsgiving

Making a Katniss cowl (or four) – Learning to crochet a Katniss cowl was a big accomplishment!

Hydro Flask water bottle – I’ve tried a lot of water bottles, but this one truly is the best ever. It keeps drinks cold for SO LONG.

Hamilton – The soundtrack to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical has been on repeat basically non-stop since last November. I’m obsessed.

Christmas with both of our families – For the second year in a row, the boyfriend’s parents came up to Minnesota for Christmas. I was so grateful to have the chance to spend the holidays with everyone we care about, and I’ll look back gratefully on this year since it turned out to be the last year we got to spend with the boyfriend’s dad.

christmas

Clover Amour crochet hooks – One of my Christmas presents this year was a set of new crochet hooks. They are beautiful and light, which has really helped my wrists when I craft

Winning first place in the MNA Better Newspaper Contest – Taking first place for a human interest story I did on a breast cancer survivor was such a thrill. It’s a big category, so to be recognized for a story I worked hard on felt really good.

Seeing Newsies at the Orpheum – Seeing musicals with my sister is always fun.

Test driving cars with my dad – I bought a new car in February, which was exciting, but the most fun part was going to test drive vehicles with my dad. I’m glad we got to spend that time together.

new car

April 2016 Readathon – I love all the Readathons, but I felt like I really nailed the spring Readathon this year. It was so much fun!

Coloring night! – A local arts organization hosted a coloring event called “Cork and Color,” where you could color, socialize, and enjoy delicious snacks.  

Book Expo America 2016 – I am so glad I got to get back to BEA this year!

Jane the Virgin – I pretty much got obsessed with this show early in 2016. It’s a delight. Other big binge-worthy shows of the year were White Collar, Suits, Person of Interest and several more I can’t remember now…

Keen shoes – I am a new devotee to all types of Keen shoes. Rivington CNX Criss-Cross’ got me around Europe without a single blister, and a new pair of Sienna MJ Canvas Mary Janes have been my go-to comfy shoes this spring.

keen shoes

Flannel shirts – This year I’ve started to embrace wearing flannel. I’ve bought too many shirts trying to figure out what kinds I like and want to keep wearing.

Open, my one little word for 2016 – When I picked “open” as my word for 2016, I had no idea what a big influence it would have on my year. Having that word in the back of my head has helped me feel more like the best version of myself that I can be – generous, kind, brave and open-hearted. And, it helped bring me to the last thing on my list…

A new job in the Twin Cities! I buried the lead a bit with this one, but oh well. The big change I alluded to in my last post is that I’m starting a new job in August! It’s almost identical to what I do now, serving as editor of a community newspaper, but it’s in a location closer to our families and part of a newspaper group with some great mentors for me to work with. I’m so sad to be leaving our community, our friends, and my coworkers – every time I think too hard about it I get teary-eyed – but I know this is the right move for us right now.

So there you have it, 29 great things about the year I was 29. For the most part it was a big, exciting year, but other parts of it were heartbreaking and hard. I had globe-trotting adventures, and made myself have difficult conversations, and now life is changing all over again. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around turning 30, or really any of the things that are coming up, but I’m sure it’ll be another year to remember.

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June 2016 Reading Wrap Up

My June reading was slumpy, slumpy, slumpy. But as I started drafting this post, I realized that I shouldn’t really be that surprised at a mid-year slowdown. I tend to read right around 100 books for the year, no matter what I do to try and read more or read less. At the end of May, I was already at 44 books for the year. If I’d been reading at a “normal” rate in June, I’d be well ahead of the amount my brain seems to “like” to read for the year. So instead of reading, I hunkered down on the couch and watched way too many episodes of Person of Interest instead. C’est la vie.

Due to all that tv and reading recovery, I only finished three books in June:

  1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (fiction)
  2. Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley (fiction)
  3. Another Day the Death of America by Gary Younge (nonfiction)

I wasn’t totally enamored with Before the Fall, but I loved both of the other books I finished. Stiletto was total delight, exactly as fun and funny as I hoped a follow-up to The Rook would be. If you like fiction about the supernatural that features several kick-ass female characters, these books are worth grabbing.

And and I can definitely say that Another Day the Death of America (Oct. 4 from Nation Books) is going to be on my list of best books of the year — there’s a reason it was named to the 2016 BEA Editor’s Buzz panel. The book looks at 10 young people who were killed by guns in the United States on one random day, Nov. 23, 2013. Younge uses their stories to take a look at what it means to live in a county that can’t seem to enact meaningful gun control measures. It’s a sobering, emotional read that I can’t wait for more people to get in their hands.

A Look to July

I honestly have no idea how July is going to go. The boyfriend and I have some big changes coming up that are going to make July unpredictable, but more on that in another post.

If I can, there are a couple of fun fiction books coming out in the July that I’d like to read. The first is The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown (July 12 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons). I loved her debut novel The Weird Sisters, so I’m excited about this one, a family story connected to life in Jazz Age Paris. It sounds charming. The second is Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (July 20 from William Morrow), which sounds a lot like another book I enjoyedCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

And July is also my birthday month! I’ll be turning 30 on July 8, which I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. I have some thoughts brewing on that for a post as well, but we’ll see how all of that turns out.

At any rate, happy June to everyone, and here’s to a better July!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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Currently | In the Room Where it Happens

currently june 26 2016

Briefly | We’re going to see Hamilton! I managed to snag tickets for my sister, a friend, and I to see the Chicago run of Hamilton for March 11, 2017. Yes, we’re planning a theater trip nine months early. No, we’re not sorry about it.

Reading | I think I finally hit a reading groove this week. I finished Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley (a follow-up to his excellent debutThe Rook, about a government bureaucracy tasked with saving Great Britain from supernatural threats). It was a delight, if maybe 100 pages too long. I also made good progress in two other titles — Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (Oct. 4 from Nation Books) and Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend. They’re both great so far, and I am so glad to be getting over my reading slump!

Watching | After finishing Person of Interest, I needed something that seemed more fun. Enter Grace and Frankie from Netflix, a comedy-drama about two women who come together after they learn their husbands — business partners for 20 years — are in love and want to be together.

Loving | Marigolds! There’s a house down the street with two beautiful planters of marigolds right by the sidewalk. They make me smile every time.

Hating | Like many Americans, I was late to paying attention to the vote in England over whether to stay exist European Union. But now that the vote has passed, I’m trying to catch up. I thought this article on voting demographics was particularly telling.

Experimenting | I’m working to build some better lifestyle habits playing around with Habitica, an online role-playing game where you turn to dos and habits into a game where you can level up and earn treasure. It’s silly, but I’m having fun so far.

Anticipating | We’re headed to the cabin again this weekend! This time it’s for a bit Fourth of July celebration my parents throw every year, and since it’s a long weekend we’ll actually get to be there for longer than just 24 hours. Hooray!

Can’t Let It Go | I thought this article from TV critic James Poniewozik on coverage of the House Democrats sit-in over legislation on gun control was great. I love his point about there being no “neutral” way to share the news given the oddities of who controls television access in the House chambers:

All this put C-Span in an unusual position, carrying a news event shot from the perspective of an interested party. But it was news, and another interested party controlled the usual television cameras. There was no party-neutral decision to be made here, but there was a journalistic one, and C-Span made it.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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before the fall by noah hawleyOn a foggy summer night, eleven people — ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter — depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs — the painter — and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family. With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work?

After alluding to it a bit in my Sunday post, I decided that today I want write a little bit more about my feelings on Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, a book I really enjoyed right up until the ending pretty much wrecked it for me.

Fair warning, this post is going to talk about the ending of Before the Fall – including the reason for the plane crash – in some detail. If you don’t like spoilers, just stop reading now!

Ok, with that out of the way, some context… I got started thinking about the idea of toxic masculinity in fiction after reading a post from Jenny (Reading the End) about male violence in The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan. The post is so full of intelligent rage that I want you to just go read the whole thing. But here are a couple parts in particular that are relevant (bold emphasis mine): 

The helpless anger that women live with every day because that’s the price of admission for us to live in this world, and what else? Because if there’s nothing else — if it’s just another man who decided to hurt people because he couldn’t figure out what to do with his feelings — then don’t come asking me to understand his motives for doing violence. I understood already and I decided it wasn’t enough. …

I am fed up with being asked to imaginatively identify with the men who commit violence while the barest of lip service is paid to the interiority of the women in their orbit. You know how sometimes there are tropes that have lasted so long and been so damaging that you kinda have to retire them for a while? Like how we just need to place a ten-year moratorium on killing TV lesbians? I’d like a break from the glass-shattering fury that consumes my heart every time I read any iteration of the worst story in the whole world, i.e., Once upon a time, a man turned to violence because a woman he wanted to fuck wouldn’t fuck him.

With that for context, on to the book!

For the most part, I loved the way that Before the Fall didn’t feel like a thriller or a mystery, even though it’s marketed that way. The central mystery of the book — why did the plane crash? — feels secondary to exploring the stories of the victims in the crash. And for the most part, it isn’t really much of a mystery to solve — the crash investigators do their work, but “solving” the crash just comes down to finding the flight recorder and listening to the tape which basically explains what happened. The book is very much about characters and the ways in which we interact with each other. 

But that’s precisely why the ending is so unsatisfying. The story is all about complex characters, but the person who actually crashed the plane was so predictably bad, it just felt like a cop-out. The flight recorder reveals the plane was taken down deliberately by the co-pilot, a man who tricked his way on to the flight so he could harass the flight attendant. She broke up with him earlier because he was abusive and unpredictable, but he just wouldn’t accept no. He brought the plane down deliberately in his rage over rejection from a beautiful woman.

And as Jenny said… that’s the worst story in the world: Once upon a time, a man turned to violence because a woman he wanted to fuck wouldn’t fuck him.

Certainly, I don’t think the book is suggesting that the co-pilot’s rage is an excuse for his actions, or even a reason to emphasize with him. But it’s also just so incredibly boring. In a world where convicted rapists are serving fewer than six months in jail and men repeatedly perpetrate mass shootings, another story where another man — for whatever reason — chooses violence and rage in a moment of frustration just left me feeling disappointed and annoyed.  

That story is boring. That story is common. And that conclusion doesn’t serve the complexity and interest in creative storytelling that’s so wonderful in the rest of the book. 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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currently June 20 2016

Briefly | The boyfriend and I spent the weekend at my parent’s cabin in Wisconsin. We had a little celebration for my sister’s birthday, and Father’s Day. It was a pretty brief trip, but worth it just to go swimming for part of Saturday afternoon.

Reading | I finally finished a book! My first and (so far) only finished book of June was Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, which I really enjoyed right up until the ending wrecked the book for me. I don’t want to spoil much, so for now I’ll just say that Jenny’s (Reading the Endpost about toxic masculinity and The Association of Small Bombs articulates some of the issues I ended up having with the way the central mystery of Before the Fall — what caused the plane crash — ended up being resolved. While at the cabin I spent my time flipping between Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley and You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein — both very funny, rather perfect as beach-side reads.

Watching | My Person of Interest binge is almost finished. I got through all four seasons available on Neflix, then splurged to buy the current season on Amazon. The series finale is this week, so I’ll finish up shortly after that. It’s been quite a run.

Promoting | My blogging BFF Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) proposed a collaborative project for book bloggers to share reviews and favorite reads each month. It sounds pretty great!

Loving | This Washington Post piece by Alexandra Petri, “How to Cover Donald Trump Fairly: A Style Guide,” is my favorite election-related piece written so far. An excerpt:

2. Style is as important as substance. A good post about Donald Trump includes at least one of the following words: “huge,” “great,” “manly,” “terrific,” “incredible,” “fantastic,” “remarkable,” “big”/”bigly,” “immense,” “girthy,” “magisterial,” “gargantuan,” “tumescent.” Ideally, this word would be in the headline. A bad post about Donald Trump includes the words or phrases “puny,” “dangerous,” “Godwin’s law,” “cocktail shrimp in a toupee,” “husk of dead skin and hyperbole,” “garbage fart,” “what results if you accidentally leave Guy Fieri in a microwave.”

Anticipating | Later this month, our community is participating in a mock emergency disaster exercise. It’s going to be a lot of work trying to get photos and write up a story, but I also think it’s going to be a fun challenge. I’ve got some planning to do this week to get ready that I’m actually looking forward to.

Can’t Let It Go | The Tyrannosaurus Rex is pretty popular right now. A group of T. Rexes were seen doing yoga in Ottawa, and a T. Rex even tried to complete the American Ninja Warrior course. Amazing!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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