It’s been a hot minute since I joined this linkup with Anne of In Residence. More specifically, the last time I participated was October – so hard to believe! I’m glad to be back.
anticipating | work getting a heck of a lot busier in the next few weeks. our biggest event is in six weeks, and we have a ton of work to do to get prepared for it. we also have a whole bunch of smaller events in the lead up to it. it’s my first year going through the process, and it’s hard not to be stressed. but i’m also excited for it.
going | to be much busier in the next few weeks, as i mentioned! i’m not headed anywhere physically; i’m staying put in LA for a while, as far as i know.
making | lots and lots of lists! lists of things i like doing, lists of things i’ve read and watched, lists of things i want to accomplish. new recipes, new friends, new routines.
watching | gossip girl, believe it or not. bri and i were scrolling through netflix the other night and couldn’t agree on what to watch. that’s what we landed on. i also watched the ted bundy tapes, and it was exactly as dark as i expected. the patriots win their sixth (!) super bowl title on sunday, which was fun.
wearing | the same old stuff, really! i’m trying to dress up for work a bit more lately, since our office is so casually but i miss looking nice. that said, i’m frequently wearing a new pair of sneakers that i got from one of our sponsors because they’re so comfy and definitely work-approved.
The week before last, I won tickets through an Instagram giveaway to a show called Pop-Up Magazine. I had never heard of it before, but I am always up for trying something new, especially cultural events. The event was last Wednesday, and I loved it.
The show is described as a magazine performed live. I didn’t quite know what this meant, but it’s basically live stories told through documentary films, animations, and poetry. The coolest thing about this is that none of it is recorded; the only way to hear the stories is to be there.
Some of the stories that really stuck with me were about the survivors of an Ebola epidemic around 20 years ago, about a taco restaurant that gave patrons free tacos for life if they got the shop’s logo as a tattoo, and about a woman who goes to work every day – but it’s really a home for adults with memory issues and she’s a patient there.
I had no clue what to expect but I enjoyed it. I went with my friend Molly and it was my first time at the Ace Hotel, the LA venue. It was beautiful. The performers stay after the event to hang out with the audience, but I went home since I’d woken up at 4:45 that morning and I was very tired. I highly recommend keeping an eye out on their website to see when they’ll be coming to your city.
I started a newsletter last month. And I realized that I’ve mentioned it here, but I’ve never straight up talked about it or told you how to subscribe. (Spoiler: you can do so at the bottom of this post.)
Three Things (on Thursday) is a weekly newsletter where I send things that make your life a little better, week after week. This comes in the form of three things to read (usually books or links to articles), two things that you should know, and one thing I’ve learned in recent weeks.
It’s been a blast to write, and I would love if you joined the community and subscribed!
– Clean and organize my toiletries. – Sort through books and put some in storage. – Update my resume and portfolio website. – Read 10 books. I read nine! – Have an adventure day. – Keep writing my newsletter. – Write 3 blog posts a week. I wrote 11 in total, so pretty close. – Write 3 freelance articles. Nope. – Pitch a book review to a website. Nope. – Write 5,000 words for a writing project. Also nope.
– Finish my upcoming 10k race with a smile on my face – Read 10 books – Apply to 25 jobs – No frivolous spending (more about this later this week!) – Visit a new place, ideally from the 101 Things to Do in Los Angeles book – Finish updating my freelance website – Plan a friend hangout + stick to it – Find a therapist – Write 25,000 words
Again, most of these goals come from my 2019 goals, which I blogged here. What are you hoping to get done this month?
I read nine books in January! Two were while I was traveling and three were during the 24 in 48 readathon. I’m overall pretty pleased with my reading choices this month. All but one of those are books I acquired in the last few weeks, which is crazy (I spent a lot of money on books), and ironically the one I bought a few years ago was my least favorite. Okay, on to the books!
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Summary: When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…
At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…
Review: I read this on a bus trip from Limerick to Dublin Airport. I liked it but didn’t love it, so it got three stars from me. It’s about a young woman who gets proposed to on the big screen at Dodger Stadium, but she’s totally not expecting it and not really all that interested in her boyfriend to begin with. She gets rescued by a brother and sister and ultimately finds herself really interested in the brother. They start dating, but she’s really hesitant to rebound so soon. As an aside, her best friend owns a cupcake shop, which seems so fun!
I liked this book for its diversity and portrayal of friendships and a realistic, fun love story. I didn’t like how cheesy and inauthentic it felt in terms of Los Angeles – sure, people complain about going to the other side of the city, but it wouldn’t stop you from seeing your own brother for months at a time!
How I got this book: I bought it at LAX on the way to Ireland.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Summary: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
Review: The very first book I remember crying over was by Jodi Picoult: My Sister’s Keeper. I wept and wept when I read that. Nothing will ever top it for me, but this book came close in terms of questions of faith and morality and the right thing to do. A gunman comes into a women’s center similar to Planned Parenthood and holds people hostage. It’s very powerful, with character backstories like only Jodi can do. It didn’t grip me like some of her other books (some of which have kept me awake at night thinking about them) and the backwards narrative was confusing at times. But I would recommend this for sure.
How I got this book: I bought it at Dublin Airport on the way to LA.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Summary: In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
Review: This book. Wow. I have so many deep feelings about it. In fact, I read it as a library book but immediately ordered a copy of my own so I can convince everyone to read it. It’s told through dual narratives: Yale is a young gay man living in Chicago in 1985, and everyone around him is dying of AIDS. In 2015, Fiona is searching for her adult daughter, who’s run away. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I had never thought about the AIDS crisis in such simple, human terms until I read this book. Definitely, highly, absolutely recommend.
How I got this book: I borrowed it from the library, and then loved it so much that I immediately bought my own copy.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Summary: Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away.
Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.
Review: I read all of One Day in December in one day in January and absolutely loved it. After hitting pause on two books (one I wasn’t loving and one that felt emotionally heavy) this was the perfect read. It wasn’t as seasonal as I expected, which made it great to read even after Christmas. It starts in December but takes place all year.
Laurie is on a bus when she makes eye contact with a man sitting at the bus stop, and immediately feels connected to him. She needs to know more – but then the bus drives away. What follows is a ten year saga of love and heartbreak and friendship and life changes. I love how realistically this book depicted female friendship and the highs and lows of relationships. I thought this was a really charming book and I definitely recommend it!
How I got this book: Book of the Month.
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Summary: As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
Review: This book, this book, this book. My friend Hannah told me to pick it up and then immediately said she was worried she had overhyped it. She didn’t.
It was a slow, deep, thoughtful story about a Muslim Indian family living in California. The parents struggle to raise their American-born kids in a culture that’s so different from their own. The book deals with that clash and many others. It starts at the oldest daughter’s wedding and then jumps back in time, starting when the kids are very young. It was easy for me to see myself in the oldest daughter: smart, eager to please, trying to do the right thing. This book is a bit slow to get into (and I even set it aside for a week) but once you get going you will love it. Highly recommend.
How I got this book: Bought it at Barnes and Noble.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Summary: One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.
Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
Review: In a college town outside of Los Angeles, a girl wakes up to find her roommate in a deep sleep that won’t end. And then the sleep spreads to other people on the floor. First two, and then three. And then it becomes an outbreak, an unidentified virus spreading through the small town. This book got me thinking all sorts of deep thoughts about life and family and love and loyalty. It reminded me a bit of Station Eleven, naturally because of the outbreak plot but also because of the emotions present in this book. Highly recommend.
How I got this book: Borrowed from a friend!
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Summary: In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.
Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon’s home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known—her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy—reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
Review: I got this book from Book of the Month in February 2017, nearly two years ago. I never got around to reading it, and I finally picked it up this month. I got more than halfway through and wasn’t loving it, so I set it down (trying to do more of that this year!) for a while.
I picked it back up a few weeks later to finish it off, but quite honestly I still hated it. The book didn’t get better for me. I can see why people like it but the whole thing felt sad and depressing to me. It wasn’t easy for me to care about any of the characters. I did like the aspects of unhealthy friendships, because that’s very real, but that was it for me. Just not the right book or the right timing for me!
How I got this book: Book of the Month.
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Summary: Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.
Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.
Review: I really liked this story about a woman running for political office in the 2018 midterm elections. Charlotte Walsh is trying to become the first female senator of Pennsylvania, but to do so she needs to change her family’s life and sweep a lot under the rug. It deals with ambition, politics, relationships, marriage, and friendship. I tend to find books like this cheesy or too reminiscent of the 2016 election, but this one was all about making a difference and shooting for your goals. I liked it a lot!
How I got this book: Purchased it from Book Outlet.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Summary: At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.
Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?
Review: I loved this book. Hannah Martin is 29 years old and moving back to Los Angeles as she tries to figure out her life. On her first night back, she has a choice to make. That choice plays out with both decisions in parallel storylines in this book. What is fate and how much can one tiny choice change our path? What is actually meant to happen? I loved how there were both good and bad things in both storylines, and it was hard to pick which one I liked more! I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I went to a different college or moved to a different city, because my life would certainly be very different. But this book shows how even seemingly tiny choices can have big effects.
How I got this book: Purchased it from Barnes and Noble.
I also tried to read A Separation by Katie Kitamura, but stopped after 75 pages. The writing style and never ending introspection weren’t for me.
So that means nine books to start off 2019!
In total this month:
Total number of books: nine Number of fiction books: nine Number of nonfiction books: zero Books by people who are not white dudes: nine Total number of books this year: nine
Hannah wrote a post about her gifts of January and I couldn’t help but be inspired to emulate her and write my own.
WORKING OUT AGAIN :: After a weird few weeks where my relationship to fitness + health felt rocky, it was lovely to move my body a whole bunch toward the end of the month. My mottos are ‘baby steps’ and ‘have some fun with it.’ My fitness life since running the marathon last March has certainly had its ups and downs, and I want to be better about caring for myself.
OWNING MY FEELINGS :: I am the queen of downplaying my feelings + emotions for the sake of feeling like I don’t take up too much space. I desperately hate the idea that people may think I’m overshadowing them or that I’m inconveniencing them by sharing my emotions. In January I tried harder to let myself sit in my feelings and let them be what they are. There’s no point in pretending I don’t have big feelings, no matter how hard I try.
A FRESH START FOR FINANCES :: I’ve written before about how using You Need a Budget changed my relationship to money (here and here). For a six/seven week stretch of November through January, it felt like I completely went off the rails and abandoned all semblance of budget categories. I ended up doing a fresh start with the program (super easy) and even in the last week it’s been nice to feel like I’m a bit more in control.
READING DURING LUNCH BREAKS :: I try very hard to take an actual lunch break away from my desk, and lately I’ve been trying to fill that time with reading. Sometimes I’ll eat lunch at my desk while I work and then I’ll have a full half hour to read whatever I want. A mini gift: reading books I want and giving myself the permission to put them down when I’m not interested!
NOT WORKING EVERY WEEKEND :: From Halloween to Christmas, I worked pretty much every weekend between my two jobs. Now that I’m no longer working the seasonal retail job, I’ve had weekends to myself. It’s been lovely to have a bit more time to breathe. I do laundry, I sleep, I see friends, and I grocery shop. I read a lot of books. It’s wonderful.
A DAIRY-FREE LIFE :: I learned a few months ago that I function better without dairy. My skin clears up and I feel much better when I’m not eating it. In Ireland I was able to eat as much as I wanted without issue, but the dairy must be different here because I have totally different results. Ice cream hurts my stomach and cheese makes me break out. Any time I don’t eat dairy is like a gift to myself. It’s a gift I squander some times, but when I don’t eat it, I feel better.
It’s a well established fact that I love reading challenges. I love the idea of getting myself to read outside my usual boundaries. Finishing reading challenges, however, is another story. I feel like my interest usually wanes a third of the way into the year, and then I forget about them entirely. That’s fine if it works for you, but I’m an enneagram 3 and I’m all about completing the goals. That’s why this year I’m going to focus on just one.
Enter the RAD Reading Challenge. It’s the sole challenge I’m committing to completing for the year. Last year’s challenge was to read all the Harry Potter books; this year’s is to complete this challenge. (Find more of my bookish resolutions in my 2019 reading goals post!)
I think the key to completing challenges like this is preplanning a few options for books that would fit the selected categories. It’s nice to give yourself some flexibility, but I always find that if there’s a book on a list, I’m much more likely to actually read it. In that vein, thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’m planning to read for this challenge.
a book of poetry
I’ve had Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur for two years now, and I’d love to read it for real.
This is for sure going to be Becoming by Michelle Obama. We’re reading it for book club next month, and I cannot wait to start it. I’ve heard such amazing things.
a fun or beautiful children’s book
I think for this one I’ll head to the library and pick up something that looks like it fits the bill!
a book with a cover in your favorite color
Sugar Run by Mesha Maren is a mix of my two favorite colors: pink and navy! Definitely bought this because the plot sounded good but also because the cover was so pretty.
a book by an author who shares a name with you
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson sounds pretty wild + good.
a book about food or a cookbook
This is the one that I’m stuck on and I would love some recommendations! Nothing is coming to mind right now.
a book blowing up your insta feed
This will likely be Where the Crawdads Sing, which was everywhere a few weeks ago. I don’t see it as much lately, but considering that I bought it because of its popularity on my feed, it absolutely qualifies.
a book published in the year you were born
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides has been on my “someday” list for a long time, and it was published in 1993!
a book your bff recommends
I just picked up The Likeness from Book Outlet on Bri’s raving recommendation, so it’s likely going to be that.
I’m looking forward to reading these books! Are you doing any fun reading challenges this year?
Last year, my friend Mallory and I ran a half marathon that finished on the finish line of the Rose Bowl. It was Mallory’s first half and my fifth, and we had a great time doing the race together.
This year, I worked that race. My new job is at the company that produces the Los Angeles Marathon and the Pasadena Half, as well as a few other smaller races. It was certainly a different experience being on the other side of the race, seeing how it works behind the scenes.
It was a good, worthwhile, exhausting weekend. I worked at the expo on Friday and Saturday and then arrived at the race at 4 am on Sunday to prep for the event. I didn’t leave there until around 1:30 pm. My role at the expo was to answer questions people might have about any of our races and to register people for the ones that are upcoming, notably the marathon in March. On race morning, I worked at paid bib pick up and then continued to register people after the race.
I spoke to hundreds of people over the course of the weekend. I got to share my experience of running the marathon last year, take photos of runners at our artsy backdrop, and meet some cool volunteers. The mom of one of the volunteers asked me to fill out a form verifying her son’s service hours, and I swear I almost said, “Shouldn’t a real adult do this?” But it turns out that at 25, I am the real adult.
The morning of the race was a bit stressful; there’s bound to be some hard to deal with people in every bunch (trying to be diplomatic here) but I do feel like my coworkers and I handled any issues that arose really well. I have a renewed confidence for my ability to focus on the task at hand and avoid any distractions from working the long line at bib pick up!
I think my main takeaway is that I never considered all the work that goes into setting up a race and then breaking it down after the fact. We were on the field taking down the finish line setup and the signage long after the runners had left. By the time I got home and laid down on my couch on Sunday afternoon, I felt like I’d run a half marathon myself!
If you’re local to LA or ever in the area in January, I recommend running the Pasadena Half Marathon. The course is beautiful and the finish through the tunnel and onto the Rose Bowl is a really cool experience. And I’m not just saying that because I work there!
— Clean and organize my toiletries. — Sort through books and put some in storage. — Update my resume and portfolio website. — Read 10 books. — Have an adventure day. — Keep writing my newsletter. — Write 3 blog posts a week. — Write 3 freelance articles. — Pitch a book review to a website. — Write 5,000 words for a writing project.
My priority this month:
Mental and physical health.
Lots of these goals come from my 2019 goals, if you missed that post!
I went to an exhibit called NOTORIOUS RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Skirball Cultural Center this weekend. It was lovely.
Here’s the museum’s description:
With so much at stake on the Supreme Court, come explore the American judicial system through one of its sharpest legal minds. Coinciding with the twenty-fifth anniversary of her appointment to the high court, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first-ever retrospective about the famed associate justice and American cultural icon.
The night before, I went to see On the Basis of Sex, the movie about RBG’s life that stars Felicity Jones, and I cried for half the movie because I felt so inspired. The exhibit was no different.
We weren’t allowed to take photos, but it was so lovely. Each section of Ruth’s life is in its own little interactive section: a living room set up for her early life, a car for her early marriage, her desk set up for her life on the Supreme Court. You can put on a judge’s robe and sit behind the Supreme Court bench to pose for a photo. I heard a woman when we were leaving say that the exhibit was so much better than she expected. I knew it was going to be good, but I agreed: it was much more interactive than I’d expected.
It would be easy to make this exhibit information-heavy, but it didn’t feel that way. Instead it felt like I was walking through Ruth’s life and learning about her impact on those around her and then later, the country as a whole. Ruth had never intended to become a judge; she instead saw herself as an advocate for others, especially the marginalized. She co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights project and sought to strike down sex discrimination laws one by one. She also had a truly equal partnership with her husband, a rarity at the time. She is amazing.
The combination of the film and the exhibit had a profound effect on me. I’d already known that Ruth was a hero, but to hear about the specifics of her life really cemented that for me.
The exhibit is open at the Skirball Cultural Center through March 10, 2019. Adult tickets for the museum are $12, and the exhibit is included in the ticket price.