Writing and Stuff

I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is really great except that pretty much all my creative juices are going into my story and I have nothing left over for this blog. That makes me feel guilty, because this blog is a commitment to myself as much as it is entertainment for my readers, so I’m sorry for being a little more absent lately. It’s for a good cause.

I recently read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and it was really freaking good. So many of the chapters resonated with me, but the part that stuck with me the most was about how easily we tend to flake on ourselves. I really hate the idea of being seen as flaky — I used to have a problem saying no, then feeling really bad when I had to cancel last minute. Now, I’ve learned to only agree to things I’m confident I can see through, and to be honest with myself and my friends if I can’t manage something, whether physically or mentally. Still, when it comes to making commitments to myself, I flake all the time. It’s as if I don’t matter to myself as much as literally anyone else — and that’s something else I’m becoming more aware of. I need to value myself and my time.

Another thing she said — which I’ve written out and taped to the ceiling over my bed — is that no one else has power over your dreams. Only you can decide to give up. And, in case her readers still need to hear it from someone else, Rachel says “You do not have permission to give up on your dreams!”

Writing is hard and exhausting and exhilarating. This time, when I sat down, I looked at why I keep giving up sporadically. I am 100% an editor-writer. I struggle with getting a first full draft written because I constantly reread what I’ve already written and tweak and change and start again. This time, I refused to do that.

This time, I start writing around where I left off the day before. If I don’t remember for sure where that is, I’ll jot a brief summary of what I think that last scene was before jumping in. If I can’t think of a name or term, I write (X) and keep moving. If I can’t think of anything amazing, I will write what literally needs to happen.

He says something else that makes me laugh, and I feel a little better.

When I *finally* get to turn my editor brain on (draft 2, and not before), I will have so much fun re-imagining the scene over and over until I know exactly what he says that makes the character laugh, and I’ll be able to show her feeling better about their situation. For now, I’m writing a first draft full of placeholders.

It’s the only way I know how to get to the end of a fully formed book. In the past, I’ve left bullet points or synopses before moving on, but to me, that doesn’t count as finished. This way, the story may be full of shoddy writing, but it will be a fully formed story nonetheless.

So that’s what I’m up to. I’ll try to get a few more posts in here and there, but for the most part, I’m committing to the characters I’ve been following around for almost five years now. I owe it to them — to me — to get a full version of their story on paper.

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Chocolate-Covered Strawberries: a Rant

Of all the “sexy” foods and dishes out there, I understand chocolate-covered strawberries the least. I do not understand how one can look remotely sexy eating a chocolate-covered strawberry — unless she does it in one bite, I suppose, but have you seen the size of some of these strawberries? I’m pretty sure choking to death on dessert fruit is the least sexy way to end a date night.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the flavor combination. Burst of fruity-sweetness, wrapped in a hint of bitter warmth. I get that aspect.

It’s just every time I bite into a chocolate-covered strawberry (because, as we’ve established, I’m not “sexy” enough to go with the one-bite game plan), the chocolate shatters and juice spills over my fingers and down my chin. The bits of chocolate that were so hard seconds ago are now quick-melting into my favorite shirt and — somehow — caking under my fingernails. To reduce casualties, I messily shove the remainder of the dripping, melting mess into my mouth, desperately holding the — extremely fragile — stem so I don’t accidentally ingest the green part which I’m sure is fine but this-is-a-sexy-dessert-not-a-salad-damn-it.

And then, of course, I’m stuck holding the half-chewed remains in my sticky fingers. In that moment, I don’t know which is the more important find: a trashcan or a paper towel. Or maybe my husband, who has since removed himself from the situation claiming he doesn’t even really like strawberries anyway.

I’ll usually end up peeling off the chocolate and dumping the now-mushy strawberries (priorities). It would be better all around if we just kept our fruit and chocolate separate.

Rambling Review: A Quiet Place

This is — obviously — not a book review, but I just saw A Quiet Place this weekend and I want to tell everyone about it.

It was SO good. I DO NOT do horror movies — my imagination is over-active enough as it is, thankyouverymuch — so believe me when I say everyone should see this movie (yes, Mom, even you). Sure, it is suspenseful. There are a those sudden “jump out” scenes. There are flashes of gore (very brief, and I’d say almost tastefully done). So much of the movie is spent feeling a chill creep up your spine, feeling each tiny hair on the back of your neck stand up in that delicious anticipation of terror. Don’t get me wrong, this movie definitely has those elements that make great horror movies (I assume, as like I said: NOT my thing).

But there is such a depth to the story as well. The premise is fairly simple: sound = death. There are creatures who hunt solely by sound, so the family has to live in silence. Because of this, the viewer gets to interpret the story in their own way, more so than in most movies. Actions truly do speak louder than words, and the beauty of the story is found in the facial expressions, in gestures and sign language. A life lived on mute makes everything more profound — both the joys and the pains.

I was afraid I’d be terrified to make noise the whole time, but there was a comfort in the crack of popcorn kernels and the seat shifting going on around me. There were times when I breathed into my sweatshirt, trying to convey advice to the characters on the screen. And I audibly gasped, empathizing with them. The movie made me stress-sweat, wondering if I could bear what they do without making a sound. And my admiration for them all grew with each scene.

I’ve said it many times, but I love for my entertainment to also move me. This movie did that. I cried, I rejoiced, I feared, and I cheered. It lingers in a way that doesn’t make me need to keep a light on to sleep, but makes me appreciate the little things like being able to swear loudly when I stub my toe — and the big things, like how much my own parents love me.

It is suspenseful without being horrifying, sweet without being trite, sad without wallowing, and triumphant without being cheesy. A Quiet Place is so well done, and so worth seeing.

Stealing Song Lyrics

Do you ever notice a particular line in a song that describes you exactly? Or you’re mindlessly listening to music when a lyric slaps you across the face with its poetry?


It happens to me all the time. I know I’ve written before about songs capturing the essence of “me” perfectly, but this post is about what I’ve started to do with those lines. It started at work — meaningless doodles scattered with jotted down song lyrics. Next thing I knew, a storm had erupted across the page, snippets caught in a hurricane.

I noticed a trend on Pinterest — or maybe it just seems like a trend because I’ve been pinning more and more about it — of hand-lettering. I love the idea of turning words into visual art, especially when the words themselves already provoke a visceral, art-like-response in me.

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When I had a writing corner, I’d tack these up around me for encouragement or commiseration.

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Sometimes I’d dedicate whole projects to a story, the playlist for inspiration bleeding across a page.

img_3429-1 Spotify: Writing – Beast playlist

Now that we’ve moved and my student-husband has taken over the desk, I keep the scraps of paper tucked into my planner or a favorite book, waiting to surprise me when I open to the right page.

Magic of Home

So as I was driving home the other day, I was trying to think of the right words to explain the love I feel for where I am. Every time I try to simply say “I love Saint Louis,” it doesn’t capture what I mean. My husband is able to make it smaller, explain away the magic with rationalities like the convenience of city living or the newness of this environment for us.

And he’s right, but he’s also so very wrong. When I say how much I love it here, I mean so much more than the architecture or stores or restaurants or people. They’re all fantastic, sure. But there’s something…more. Deeper. More pure. It’s a knowledge in my bones that I belong in the world. It’s magical. It’s home.

And as I reached my exit, I glanced up at the bridge that spans the highway like I always do — there’s often someone standing up there, just watching the cars pass, and for whatever reason, it makes me smile. Today, though, was more magic.

Someone had written a marriage proposal in painted cups wedged into the chain link barricade. Whoever Jonna (Ionna? Tonna?) is, I hope they say yes.


And for all the other people dating other Jonnas who take 44E home, tonight may get a little awkward.

MAGIC, GUYS!

One More Light

This song by Linkin Park quietly destroys me every time.

February has been the worst month for as long as I can remember. It makes no sense that the shortest month would take the longest to pass by. It isn’t the beginning of the cold, dreary weather, and it isn’t the tail end either. It just sits in the middle of gray and crushes me every year.

Part of it may be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but while all of winter is generally more of a struggle than the rest of the year, in February in particular, I’m a shell of a person. Everything is hollow and cold and faded inside. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or any particular trauma — trust me, I’ve tried to trace this weirdness to some tangible explanation. My husband says it’s self-fulfilling prophecy: I expect February to suck, so it does. He (thankfully) can’t understand the depth of it — or sudden lack of any depth of emotion at all. Every year I hope it’s better — I hope I’m better, healthier, happier. And when it turns out I’m not, there’s still a tiny sort of comfort in knowing I just have to make it to March.

March is nothing special. In fact, I’d say it’s my second-least favorite month. March is when the cold and the damp and the wind wear me down, but at least it’s in a more normal way that nearly everyone is getting worn down. I know I’m more alive in March.

Recently, January has added a day or two of February-level angst. It happened today, which got me thinking about this time of year. At least with the January days, I know exactly where it comes from. Three years ago, I lost someone to suicide.

I felt strange at first, claiming the loss as my own. It’s his family I’m closer too. But he was a light; even in the snippets of time I shared with him, I could see that. Sometimes I could recognize his darkness, too. Along with his death, I lost my old friends. They are the same and yet wholly new people. How could they not be, after clawing their way back to the living, forever watching where they step around the gaping hole that will never fill?

Suicide brings loss in many ways, not all of them expected. That’s something I learned three years ago.

The January punch-in-the-gut doesn’t always happen on “the day.” But in each of the past three Januaries, I have woken up feeling hollow. My mind replays little details from that time, as vividly as if it were happening all over again. I feel the carpet fibers under my fingers as I lay on the floor beside my bed, tears leaking into my ears. My throat catches, remembering how I called my mom and said “what do I do?” because moms are supposed to have all the answers, but what mother can fathom losing a child until it happens?

Today I feel both carved out and filled with everything. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I drove to work, and for a terrifying moment, I feared February had come early.  Then that song came on and I realized it’s my January ghost. He sits with me and reminds me to feel it all. The pain and the anger and the heartache. He reminds me of carpet fibers and clogged eardrums. Of his mom promising to shower and brush her teeth, even if she couldn’t bring herself to do anything else all day. Of his stepdad, hollow-eyed and deflated, trudging through parking lots with the dogs that kept them both breathing.

My chest cracks open and pain bleeds through my shirt and it’s all I can do to get through the day without crawling under my desk and sobbing, but I make it. I always do.

Because January is here to remind me how imperative it is that I survive February.

“Who cares if one more light goes out?”

So. Many. People.

Our Sixth Month-iversary

I just reread my post after we’d been in Saint Louis for a month and kept thinking how adorable it was/we were. So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and timid of our surroundings.

There is still SO much for us to do and explore and conquer, but damn have we gotten comfortable, too. We’ve found a neighborhood bar for football games in I-Tap, or Tom’s for trivia, awesome chicken tenders, and karaoke on the weekends. Oof, I’ll have to write a post (or several) about all the amazing food we’ve had.


I love Forest Park, even (especially?) the pathways that intimidated me at first, with the shadowed bridges and wooded trails. I have no fear wandering the park alone, or sending my husband to take his daily walks through the park or the neighborhood by himself. Sure, we’re aware of our surroundings, especially at night, but no more so than we were back in the DC area.


The Grove is also one of our favorite neighborhoods. It is home to my husband’s favorite sandwich spot: Gramophone (mention either the Grove or Gramophone to him and prepare to hear at length about the Alcatraz sandwich). It’s also the location of Urban Chestnut Brewery, which might be my favorite of the local breweries. I’ll probably put out a post about all the beer we’ve had since moving at some point, too.


My husband found his coffee shop in Kaldi’s Coffee in Demun — which is also his favorite residential neighborhood to wander through, enjoying the different houses. He’s also recently started using our French press to make coffee at home (that damn Crate & Barrel coffee maker gathering dust on the shelf in our front closet). With Whole Foods and Straubs Market each a block away, we’ve had no excuse not to cook at home most nights, and it’s encouraged us to try a lot of new recipes and cook with ingredients we just hadn’t before, like tofu and tilapia. Also, I’ve never been into seafood the way I have been here. It’s so weird, being landlocked, but the fish is flown in fresh daily to most places.

Blackened Tilapia Tacos

I could go on and on, and plan to be better at posting about our adventures and discoveries, but for now, let me just say: I freaking love Saint Louis. I love the Midwest, I love living in an urban setting with lush parks and nature steps away. Guys, there’s also NO TRAFFIC. It’s so easy to get to hiking trails, or the mall, or my office (20 min to go about the same miles), or Missouri wine country… There’s always some sort of festival or event going on, and most of the time it’s free. Seriously, everyone come visit. Or come stay. Six months in, and I’m not looking back.

Brewery Lights Tour