A Brilliant 2020

I already wrote my post reflecting on 2019, so this post is about my hopes for 2020 and beyond. Last year, I said I don’t like resolutions because they’re broken so easily, but I did keep to my 2019 goal of reading 40+ books (the grand total is over 60 and I promise I’ll post the entire list and highlight my favorites). I also sent queries to over 20 agents, so I kept to my goal of pursuing publishing in 2019. I *didn’t* do so hot at keeping up bi-weekly manicures (and my hands are still a mess most of the time) BUT I was getting a little better at “treating” myself more frequently–then we moved and I’ve yet to find a nail salon I love as much as the one in the Central West End (but one goal for 2020 is to stop being passive-aggressively-bitter about no longer living in St. Louis).

Riding on last year’s coattails, my goals for 2020 are similar. This year, my goal is 50 books. I’m not anticipating the downtime of a move between jobs, so most of my reading will be squeezed into the in-between-life moments: brushing my teeth, waiting for elevators, steeping my tea in the mornings.

I’ve decided to hold off querying any more agents until I’ve gotten a first draft of my sequel finished. Partially because I think this might take some pressure off, mostly because I know how the story ends but no idea how to get there, and I like the flexibility of being able to tweak book 1 if needed to make the entire story better. So my 2020 goal is to finish drafting Sticks and Stones (working title), then regroup in terms of publishing. (Of course, that goes completely out the window if an agent offers representation now) 😉

I like the idea of doing something very resolution-y and health/physical-body-related, even though my follow through is statistically horrible. I’m going to try getting up a half hour early and incorporating a quick yoga routine into my mornings. And maybe get more manicures again.

I’m also going to return to therapy in 2020. This one’s kind of cheating, because I’ve already made the appointment, but I like crossing things off lists. Look at me go, already starting 2020 ahead of the game! I want to be more honest (I know that’s a goal I’ve had in the past, but this year I’m particularly focused on no longer lying to myself), and I hope therapy will help me separate out how I actually think/feel/want to act from the ways I *think* I should think/feel/act.

And I’m totally going to bake more, because I absolutely love it. I want to master challah, and tackle at least 5 items on my baking bucket list in 2020: macarons, croissants, sandwich bread, pretzel buns, and rainbow cookies.

Because everything in life should come with a soundtrack, here’s my song for 2020: BRILLIANT by Shinedown. If I can be one thing in 2020, let it be this kind of brilliant.

Best Nine of 2019

I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.

Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?

At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!

We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).

Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!

2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.

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We also enjoyed adult beverages in the street, because St. Louis.

We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.

After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.

My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.

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We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.

An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).

Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.

And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…

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The challah that started it all!

I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl

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As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!

And to 2020: No pressure. 😉

Taking a Walk to Clear My Head

Today is one of those achingly beautiful days. The sky is painfully blue, a blue you could gladly drown in, and the sun bathes the multi-colored trees golden. Each breath is crisp with decaying leaves and the promise of frost.

Cars fly through the intersection. A golden-doodle pants at my side, distracted from the sight of the park across the street by a new person to smell. I bury my gloved hands deep in my coat pockets and tilt my face skyward. A light but insistent wind tugs at my earlobes and rubs the tip of my nose, but the sun’s warmth soothes away the sting.

It’s a day that reminds you you’re alive and demands you be happy about it.

The light changes, a shiny pickup and rusted old Honda blurring past anyway. Everyone waits a collective breath, then the dog leads the charge into the crosswalk. Two joggers pass, spurring the dog and its owner faster. I take my time. Forest Park waits patiently.

Inside the park, the sun dapples through slowly-dying leaves. I cross the bridges, first over the metrolink, then over the parkway, and descend to the Victorian footbridge. Wood planks echo underfoot. I take a moment to lean against the black metal railing. A chill seeps through the down of my jacket sleeves. The sun reflects off the water below, and on the far bank, a weeping willow flutters in the wind.

Two teenagers speed past on electric scooters, rumbling across the footbridge. Wisps of breathless conversation drift by as speed-walking moms push their strollers toward the ice rink. I turn right instead, gravel crunching beneath my boots. Here, without the burnt-hued trees shading the path, the sun sinks into my skin. Frigid air burns my nose with each inhalation. Every breath tastes of life.

By the time I reach the statue and pause for a vehicle headed down the road toward the Muny, my fingers are numb despite the gloves. Breath clouds in front of my face and my cheeks tingle. I turn and follow the path back along the creek, past a man calling for his black lab as his little boy cheers on the dog sloshing through the shallow current. Past a couple arguing on a bench near the pond with the fountain spraying rainbows between its jets. Back under tree-cover, a smile for the homeless man curling up on the bench surrounded by brambles and caught-leaves. Across the footbridge, pausing for a cyclist to cross my path. A grandmother helps a toddling child in a princess skirt climb the stairs to the pedestrian overpass. She trades a smile with me over her shoulder then cautions the little girl to “let the lady pass.”

A train blurs below as I cross the second bridge, its rails whistling protests against the cold metal. Somewhere, a fire crackles in a wood-burning fireplace, filling the air with the smoky-sweet scent of home.

It is a good day to be alive.

Blood and Bones: Mix 5

I’m back with another playlist of songs that I’m jamming hard to! Some are new(ish), some have been around forever. It’s not the most cohesive list, but they all make me crank up the volume!

  1. Halfway Right – Linkin Park (“All you said to do was slow down, but I was already gone…”)
  2. Reflections* – Lucidious (I’ve got to have a Lucidious song on here–I’m convinced he’s me in rapper-form: “I ask myself would I write this shit if nobody loved it?”)
  3. Hostage – Griffin Oskar (the chorus gets me belting it out like “‘Cause love don’t wanna let me leave AND-I’M-A-HOSTAGE!”)
  4. BKCBD* – The Blancos (“And we don’t know who we are, just Broken Kids Chasing Broken Dreams”)
  5. Someone to Rely On – John Allred (from the first strum, this song *feels* as reliable as the title implies. Definitely a song for every couple I’ve ever written, but especially fits for my future piratey story)
  6. Play That Song – Train (so the melody of this song is totally “borrowed” from Heart and Soul by Hoagie Carmichael, which is my #1 song for my WWII series I’ve been working on, which immediately made me love it. That it’s so peppy and fun only makes it better)
  7. Old Town Road (Remix) – Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus (this one just makes me think of the OBC–my husband’s friends from business school)
  8. Secrets – Tribe Society (this song is really badass, and one I’m definitely saving for some powerful, dark character someday)
  9. bury a friend – Billie Eilish (another fun one to bounce along to, with a kind of dark twist. Also works for Solvi heading into Book 2)
  10. Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi (this song gives me all the feels. Also perfect for my pirate story, but could fit Einar/Solvi, too…)
  11. Never Really Over – Katy Perry (I *adore* this song. Every shift in the music is amazing, and I love bopping around to the “just-because-it’s-over-doesn’t-mean-it’s-really-over…” part)

Like I said, it’s a weird mix, but if you’re interested in listening to the entire playlist, you can find it here.

Blinding the Entire Ozarks

Life update: my husband graduated business school last weekend! To celebrate/because we were invited to crash a friend’s family’s Memorial Day celebration, we’re heading out to the Ozarks this upcoming weekend. That is, unless the hubs needs to stay away an extra week. He’s currently interviewing and/or meeting with 4 different companies in D.C. this week, still looking for that elusive post-grad job (side note: if anybody’s looking for a fresh MBA in the real estate field, hook a sister (‘s husband) up!!).

Because of this–the Ozarks, not the job thing–I’m currently working on edits to my book while sitting in front of a very sunny window (really, it’s because I’m a house cat). But I read on the Google that it *is* possible to get tanned/sunburnt through a window (yeah yeah, with extreme exposure, whatever), so I’m hoping this will help keep me from blinding the entire Ozarks with my winter-legs upon arrival.

Makeup Thoughts

I was thinking this morning as I did my makeup, about how naturally pretty my mom is, and how little makeup she wears. Most of what I know about techniques and color palettes I learned from YouTube. I was thinking about my own someday-daughter, and what I’d want to teach her about makeup–or if I’d want to emphasize her natural beauty. I definitely have days where I don’t feel pretty until I’ve slapped on some eyeshadow and brow powder, and I wouldn’t want to teach that insecurity to my daughter. I’d want her to see makeup as something fun and pretty that she can wear when she feels like it–like a nice pair of earrings or killer heels. Something that adds a little “oomph” but isn’t necessary.

That got me thinking about makeup as a concept. As I drew a careful line in plum eyeshadow along my lower lashes with the tapered eyeliner brush, I thought of how artistic the act of applying makeup really is. And how cool it is that someone was so overflowing with creativity that they looked at their own skin as a canvas for color and art. Makeup is an artform that anyone can participate in, an art project we wear on our face and show to the world, and often receive compliments on. It’s a touch of beauty in the every day, and that’s awesome in its own way.

Blood and Bones Mix 4

Here’s my first playlist of 2019! Most of these songs carried over from last year, and I’ll be honest, a lot of them relate in some way to my writing. Still, they’re all pretty fantastic!

  1. Play with Fire (feat. Yacht Money) – Sam Tinnesz (this one is just a badass sounding song…kind of makes me think of my MCs at the end of their story. And I love Yacht Money’s part.)
  2. Unspoken – Welshly Arms (also a Solvi/Einar song, just a lovely, lyrical love song that’s got an intangible sad note underscoring it)
  3. Dance with Darkness – Skrizzly Adams (really fun beat, a great tequila-dance-party song)
  4. Resurrect Me – Skrizzly Adams (ok, I’m pretty obsessed with Skrizzly Adams in general. This one is empowering — and makes me think of my male MC Einar)
  5. *Infinity – Niykee Heaton (a strong yet sad yet hopeful love-song — I’m beginning to see a theme — this one makes me think of my female MC Solvi) [PS this one has F-bombs]
  6. Tusk and Bone – Shaman’s Harvest (the voices get down into my bones — even if it’s on in the background and I’m not paying attention to lyrics, I can *feel* this song)
  7. Silence – Gavin Mikhail (“I found peace in your violence…” these lyrics are so great)
  8. Better Than the Pain (Acoustic) – The Woodlands (Solvi/Einar song, another sad love song…)
  9. Leavin’ – Wildling (I love the jaunty beat and how peppy the sound is when the lyrics are all ‘eff you I’m out’ — btw there’s no swearing, that’s just the vibe)
  10. Happy to Be Here – Julien Baker (this one puts some of the worst things I’ve felt into poetry and makes me feel seen/understood/less alone in the darkness that settles sometimes)

The whole playlist is here on YouTube.