hello from the other side

I took an inadvertent blog break because from April (right around the time my newspaper had layoffs) through June, I was covering two government beats, which is basically the reporter equivalent of working two jobs. I did not really have a choice, and it was a lot of work, and it left me very little time for anything other than seeing my husband for an hour or two each day and then going to bed. (Also, coffee. I drank a lot of coffee, and ate a lot of crap because I was too busy and tired to cook, and generally took terrible care of myself. It was the most stressed I have ever been and it was a solid three months of feeling that way.)

I did not blog about that really because I did not have time to but also because everyone has things they don't like about their job and who wants to read about that on a blog? I don't? I also did not really want to write about it, I just wanted to drink wine and complain to Brandon, so that is what I did. 

Anyway, the madness ended in July, and things have since been much better.  I have had time for the important things, like borrowing Nashville and Laguna Beach DVDs from the library, getting stamps on our downtown Greensboro passports, exploring trails with my best puppy friend (never with less than four cameras in tow, I have a problem)

and hanging out with my best human friend too.

Even if sometimes (photo on the left) he is cranky and not that interested in taking pictures with me. Then we just have cocktails until (photo on the right) he is a more willing participant in my particular brand of madness.

Some other things happened because life, but I feel like that's a fairly accurate summary of the highlights. Oh, except I got new glasses (IMPORTANT). Brandon does not really like them.

(Brandon is wrong.)

me and the magnolias

A Southern thing: in the space between spring and summer, while the heat creeps closer and it rains all the time, the magnolia trees start their show.

The trees are everywhere in our neighborhood, including a big one across the parking lot next to our house. Frequently, I think because the blossoms are so large and showy and heavy, the trees drop their flowers before they're done blooming. I have taken to rescuing them - plucking them off the ground and placing them in shallow dishes of water on the mantel in the dining room. They don't last long inside (nothing that beautiful ever does), but within a few hours the big creamy petals unfurl and the sweet smell brightens the room for a day or two before the whole flower crumbles, suddenly, into brown parchment.

That day or two, though. 

I remembered last week to photograph one before it turned. I took it outside and perched it on branches and bushes and, for a brief moment, next to the "beware of dog" sign that does little to deter strangers from walking through the backyard.

Life has been really hard lately. I am stressed all of the time, I'm not taking care of myself, and I am responsible for so many things that I am failing, spectacularly, to be responsible for anything. It is hard most days to pause, to breathe deeply, to take a second to find a bright spot.

Those magnolias, though. Lately, I never fail to find those.

redux

Yesterday while I was getting ready my phone lit up with a text message from a coworker: my newspaper had started layoffs.

We had known it was coming, or had at least heard rumors that it might be. We did not know how many people would be let go or when or the details of why, beyond the fact that we work for a newspaper and so layoffs have become an unfortunate, and terrible, part of our reality.

I am in New York for a reporting seminar. I felt very disconnected and far away from everything happening back in my newsroom. My phone buzzed with updates throughout the day as I traced my way through the city.

By last night 36 people had been laid off. At least eight of them came from the newsroom. Across the company, 289 jobs were eliminated. One hundred and eight of those were vacant. In an email, the CEO explained that the cuts were mostly due to losses in local and regional advertising revenue. Smaller businesses are struggling to keep up with online retailers, he said, and those businesses are the ones that typically purchase ads in local newspapers. As they flounder so do we. Your local newspaper, it turns out, is vitally connected to the health of your community, in more ways than you might think.

An hour after I received that message, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released updated information on newspaper publishers. The industry has lost half of its employees since 2001.

When I lived in New York all I wanted to do was write. My dream job then was to work for Jane magazine; it folded in August 2007, two months after I left the city to go to graduate school for journalism. I got my first newspaper job in August 2008 and survived my first round of layoffs later that year.

I survived my fifth round yesterday.

The people who lost their jobs yesterday didn't do anything wrong. They didn't get laid off because they performed poorly or deserved to be fired. Their jobs were deemed unnecessary or redundant or expendable, even though their jobs were vital and important and desperately needed. We will now struggle to move forward without them, to do "more with less," until the next round of layoffs hits. I don't prefer to be a pessimist, but it seems safe to say that's a "when" and not an "if."

Staying in print journalism is a conscious decision and not one that I take lightly. Ultimately, I keep doing this because I love it and because I'm good at it, because it's something new every day and because I love to ask questions and learn new things. I keep doing it because I like to talk to people and tell their stories. I keep doing it because it's what I've always wanted to do and because I am aware, more every day, that I probably won't be able to do it forever. I have looked at other options before and I will probably have to look at other options again. But this time, I survived.

I keep doing this job because it is important and it matters.

And this time, I survived.

"get a dog," they said. "it'll be fun," they said.

Here are some things that Maisy has done lately!

1. Ate a book.

Felt sort of bad about it maybe? Hard to say. Clearly not that badly, since a few days later, she

2. Ate a packing slip and receipt.

And also

3. Destroyed some innocent toilet paper that had done absolutely nothing to her.

After all of this Maisy lost her out-of-crate privileges during the day. I thought this would be enough to exorcise whatever demon is currently residing in her heart, but I was VERY WRONG, because sometime last night, Maisy wriggled between my pillow and Brandon's and deposited a large pile of vomit on the bed. Neither of us noticed until 6 a.m., when I plopped my hand directly into it.

I believe this is what you might call a "rude awakening."

And so the current standings in our home are as follows.

Lest you feel bad for Maisy: right before I put this in writing she came over to me, sat right below me, and pooted. So yeah. Last place with a bullet.

Sophie, it should be noted, is everything you want in a first-place pet, including benevolent and patient and willing to hang out with her underlings.

Teach her your ways, Sophie. TEACH HER YOUR WAYS.

ides

I'm sitting in my bathrobe with wet hair and a headache. I feel sort of hungover and out of it even though I didn't drink last night. Yesterday someone I interviewed for a story threatened to sue my newspaper because I used a quote that I had been given permission to use, which feels like some kind of reporter milestone but also just kind of exhausting. It's been oddly warm here for the past month which has been wonderful, even if it means I don't get to wear my sweaters and boots as often as I might like.

I am stressed out and burned out and tired almost all of the time.

It is March and springtime and we're all just waiting for things to bloom.

in defense of factual statements

Neil DeGrasse Tyson came to Greensboro last week to give a talk entitled, "Adventures in Science Literacy." He paced the stage wearing blue socks and wondered aloud when society decided to stop striving for progress. Brandon wore his "Carl Sagan Rules" T-shirt. I took pictures and remembered how, when I was in eighth grade, the thing I wanted most in the world was to be the next astronaut to walk on the moon.

My colleague John covered the event for the paper; his article was fantastic. A day after Neil left town, John's write-up of his talk was the third-most popular story on the front page of Reddit.

I find myself feeling weighed down by things lately. The public discourse is exhausting and nasty from every side, and it seems sometimes like nothing in the world is simple and objective. It was nice, for a night, to be reminded that actually, a lot of things are. You can start with science, but if that's too overwhelming, you can do what I do and just look up.

aloha, part 2!

I want to preface this post by saying that it feels weird to blog about general things in my life without at least acknowledging the bonkers political climate in the world right now. Walking the line between professional reporter and personal blog is a bit of a struggle, but I honestly don't think I have anything to add on the subject that hasn't been reported or said better. But I don't want my posts to seem tone-deaf, like I'm prattling on about my awesome trip to Hawaii with no acknowledgement of what's happening in the world. I'm paying attention! I promise! I just don't have anything productive to add to the discourse at this point. It doesn't mean it's not on my mind.

"Aloha" is an uncreative title for a Hawaii blog, but breaking it up into two parts is very revolutionary because it means both hello and goodbye. So consider part 1 our landing, and part 2 our time there and also our departure. See? REVOLUTIONARY!

It also means this post is long (it's so long) and fulllll of photos. Which is not an apology - because Hawaii is ridiculously beautiful so hopefully looking at the photos is enjoyable! - but just a warning so you know what you're getting yourself into. (A blog post. Is what you're getting yourself into. Welcome!)

Anyway. To recap part 1: we escaped the snow and got to Hawaii. Thus, part 2 begins this way: WE WERE IN HAWAII.

We spent the first day at the pool, but Brandon and I ventured to the beach in the afternoon so I could test a rumor. Humpback whales spend their winters in the Pacific waters off Hawaii to give birth, and a woman at the resort's spa told me they were so plentiful that it was possible to hear them singing just by wading into the ocean and putting your ears underwater. Whales are pretty much the coolest, and I wanted to know if it was true. So out we went.

And you could hear them. They were singing, constantly. It was faint, and if I hadn't been told to listen for it I would have missed it, but when I put my head in the water, there it was: whales, just offshore, singing to each other. It was magical.

That night, we ate dinner outside by the beach.

I tried to get everyone to play games after dinner - I always have at least one deck of cards in my purse - but my brother-in-law and his girlfriend were disappointingly meh about it so it didn't go very well until they went to bed. At which point I convinced my in-laws to play euchre with us! I can't remember who won (open bar = endless champagne), but we can just assume that it was me and my mother-in-law. #TeamDalene

The next day, Brandon and I rented a car and drove up into the mountains of Maui. We did this because when we landed at the airport we saw an ad for a vodka distillery and thought it might be a fun thing to check out (I like vodka). To be perfectly honest neither of us were expecting anything that exciting - it was literally just a thing to do - but it ended up being amazing.

The company, Ocean Vodka, was founded and is run by a family that's been on Maui for three generations. They operate on an old cattle farm, which they painstakingly rehabbed to allow for sugarcane farming. Sugarcane is what they use for their spirits, but they also grow dozens of native varieties of the plant in an educational partnership with the University of Hawaii.

Each variety has a slightly different flavor, according to our tour guide (the awesome Earl) - some taste like the sugary milk left in the bottom of a cereal bowl, others are fruity, tart, and extra sweet. 

The distillery is almost totally self-sustaining, thanks mostly to solar power. They farm everything organically, simply because it's better for the land. Their processes are smart and environmentally friendly, and do not pass any additional cost to the consumer. We purchased a bottle of rum for around $22, which is not any more than you'd pay for a quality spirit in a liquor store. (Ocean Vodka is available pretty widely in the continental U.S. - you can see if it's near you on their website.)

The tour included a tasting of both vodka and rum. I would like to be a person who drinks vodka on the rocks easily, without grimacing, from a heavy cut-crystal glass - this just seems like a sophisticated and adult thing to do - but sadly, I am not that person. During the tasting we were encouraged to drink the liquor slowly, letting it "wash over" our tongues, and it did not go particularly smoothly for me. I remain undignified. 

We wandered around the property for awhile after the tasting. Because:

After, we went to a goat dairy farm and then to a winery, where we tried pineapple wine. I'm not a fan of sweet wines so I was skeptical about this, but it was pretty delicious.

Our entire drive was probably 35 miles round-trip, but the roads were windy and steep, so our outing took all day. Brandon stopped the car whenever I wanted to hop out and take photos...which was pretty often.

We stumbled upon a little Chinese park

It was one of the best days of my whole life and one of my favorite things we've ever done together. I haven't really done it justice here (one of the drawbacks of blogging about things days/weeks after the fact, I think), but adventuring and exploring with Brandon is one of my very favorite things to do, and having a whole day to wander around and discover nooks and crannies in paradise was just wonderful.

he had a good time too. promise.

he had a good time too. promise.

The next day, we went whale-watching. Rum punch included.

Some of the people on the boat were kind of upset because we did not see whales all up in our faces and we didn't see a ton of them, but I had a hard time being disgruntled because a) we were on a boat in Hawaii, b) there was rum punch, and c) THERE WERE WHALES! I was just happy to be out there among them, really.

On our last night we ate outside by the water again, this time at a luau. The luau was...long, and there was a prolonged skit that involved hula dancing, and I don't know. The scene was OK, though, I guess.

On our last morning we got up at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m., hopped in a rented van, and drove to the summit of Haleakala to watch the sunrise. It did not disappoint.

On the way back to the car, facing the other side of the mountain, we caught the moon setting.

It was a nice way to end our time in Hawaii, though I guess a better way would have been to send for the pets and set up camp there permanently. Also, it feels like this all happened years ago. 2017 is really progressing in dog years thus far.

On that note, thanks for reading my much-belated vacation post. I plan to come back and gaze at these photos whenever I feel like I need a vacation. I hope you do too.

emails from my father

I just felt the world needed to see these.

Some background for reading comprehension purposes: I grew up in Madison, Wis., but I went to the University of Michigan. My parents both attended the University of Wisconsin, so when I moved to Ann Arbor and became a football superfan, a familial rivalry was born. My dad doesn't really care about football anymore (he has "matured," he says), except for when he does.

National Signing Day was apparently one of those times.

Later, in an email exchange that had nothing to do with signing day, he brought it up again.

He also lauded the beginning of February, my birthday month.

Another email came yesterday morning. It was blank. Except for the subject line.

This is all fine with me because I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY. I do not understand people who don't care about their birthdays (like Brandon). How do you not care?! It's like Christmas except it's ALL ABOUT YOU! Because of this I typically draw it out to an entire birthday week with many celebrations, and much reminding people that it is my birthday, and sometimes I wear a tiara to work, and I do not care if you think any of this is obnoxious because a) you are wrong and b) clearly I was raised this way and so it is not my fault.

HOWEVER. I did NOT get a "month of Kate day 3" email this morning. So I emailed to see what was going on.

 

I sense he's mocking me. TWENTY-FIVE DAYS LEFT, CJ.

bookstacks: January

Let's have a reading update, shall we? Quick and dirty. The way I like my books. (What? I don't know.)

Quick recap: My reading resolutions this year are to

  1. read more of my own books (as opposed to library books, which I read almost exclusively despite having a bajillion unread books on my own shelves...and floors)
  2. read more books written by members of marginalized groups (women, people of color, LGBTQ authors) than by straight, white men
  3. read 110 books

I keep track of all of this on Goodreads. If you are not on Goodreads, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior (Goodreads)? I'm going to assume that you do. Yay!

Goodreads is basically social networking for people who read and do not want to bother themselves with details of anyone's life beyond what books everyone is reading and what they think of said books. It allows you to set reading goals, and keep track of how many books you've read, and to organize them onto "shelves" by genre, or author, or really anything you want. Here is my Goodreads profile page:

When I first started using Goodreads I was very anal about my shelf names. I have since gotten over this (as you may be able to tell by the one labeled "bookstagram"). There are zero rules - you can label your shelves whatever you want, or you can not bother with shelves at all and just mark the books you're reading and the ones you want to read. After you rate a few books you've finished - on a scale of 1 to 5 stars that infuriatingly does not allow half-star reviews (this is the only downside to Goodreads) - the site will give you book recommendations. You can follow other people's reviews, save quotes you like, and take nerdy book quizzes.

But really the best part is the tracking. My Goodreads account is the only reason that I know a) which books I've read in the past five years, b) which of those I've liked, c) which books I want to read in the future, and d) how many books I've read recently. And that is all amazing! So basically if you don't have a Goodreads account, go make one, and then add me and we can be best book friends. K thanks.

Now that I have imparted unto you the secrets of my bookish ways, here's what I read in January.

Total books: 13.5 (4 ahead of schedule, which puts me on pace for 114 this year.) (Note: it is Feb. 1. The ahead of/behind schedule marker is fairly meaningless at this point.)

Highest rated: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. I gave it 4 stars.

A young-adult book, "Before I Fall" tells the story of Samantha, a popular high-school senior who's kind of a terrible person. Her terribleness is mostly the generic clueless teenager type, but her friend group - particularly the queen bee Lindsay - are a bunch of mean girls, and Samantha follows them blindly and participates while they do mean-girl things. And then, abruptly, the group gets into a car accident, and Samantha is killed. This would make for a short book, except that she keeps waking up and reliving that last day of her life over and over again, in Groundhog Day-style. Breaking the cycle requires that she slowly put the pieces together, and it's not clear until the very last second whether doing so successfully means she'll live or she'll die. The ending is pretty intense and I've been thinking about it since I finished it (I refer to this as a book hangover). The book's average score on Goodreads is 3.92, and you can browse people's reviews of it here.

Lowest rated: Hollywood Kids, by Jackie Collins. ONE STAR. I REGRET NOTHING.

EXCEPT FOR MAYBE READING THIS HORRIBLE BOOK. 

When I was in high school I read Hollywood Wives, which is a fairly famous trashy novel by Jackie Collins. I wanted to read it after I heard it mentioned in an episode of Saved By The Bell (by a super-obnoxious girl that Zack is on a date with while he's trying desperately to get over Kelly). It was fine, I think? I don't know, I was 15 and getting my literature recommendations from Zack Morris' dating rejects.

yeah.

yeah.

Around five years ago I somehow realized that Hollywood Wives had spawned a whole Hollywood series, and I decided to read them all. Hollywood Kids is the third book - following Hollywood Husbands, natch - and it is just bad. And not in a funny, trashy, good-beach-read kind of way. It's just not good. I can personally attest to this because I literally read it on a beach in Hawaii, and even that could not make it good. Do not read this book. Or do, and then let's talk about how bad it is, except I will not be able to go into detail because nothing about it was memorable other than the fact that it was bad. Thank you and good night.

Shockingly, Hollywood Kids has an average score of 3.82 on Goodreads. I guess everyone was smoking meth when they wrote their reviews. Don't hold this against Goodreads. It's not Goodreads' fault. Also, don't do meth.

not even once.

not even once.

Other books I read and did not like: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham (I love Lauren Graham and I'm very sad that this book was not better) and Getting In by Karen Stabiner (400 pages of rich white kids having problems that don't really matter!).

Other books I read and would recommend: Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (a slow starter, but ultimately a brutal and realistic portrayal of what it's like to love someone who suffers from mental illness) and Pug Hill by Alison Pace (if I had written a book when I was 24 and living in New York, this would basically have been the book).

Books by women/people of color/LGBTQ authors: Nine out of 13. Winning!

Owned books: Three out of 13. Not really winning, but that's more of my own books than I read all of last year, so also KIND OF WINNING. I got rid of one of those (the aforementioned Getting In - I'm culling the collection, y'all) and I may get rid of another (The Perks of Being A Wallflower, which I liked but am not sure I'll want to read again).

Total pages read: 4,162

Currently in the middle of: Settle for More, by Megyn Kelly.

I am so very conflicted about Megyn Kelly. I have spent at least an hour this week asking various friends and relatives what they think of her. I'm about halfway through her memoir and am only becoming more confused about whether I like her and respect her as a journalist. SO. MANY. FEELINGS.

This month I'm going to: try to read at least five books I already own, and to stay on pace to hit 110 books for the year. Aaaand break!

(PS did you join Goodreads yet?)

I included purchase links for the books I liked, but not for the ones I didn't. If you want to buy and read books that I disliked, you are going to have to Google them yourself. #sickburn

Lahaina

One night in Hawaii we went to Lahaina, an old whaling village, for dinner. We took a chartered bus there and the views were the worst.

Lahaina is VERY touristy so it wasn't my favorite outing of the trip. However, going there did allow my father-in-law to live out his dream of getting shaved ice.

My in-laws have been to Hawaii a bunch of times and the shaved ice is one of my father-in-law's favorite things about the islands. It comes up in conversation semi-frequently; often enough that when we first moved to Greensboro and I saw this building by my office, the first thing I did was send him a picture.

(Not Hawaii.)

(Not Hawaii.)

He was pretty unimpressed. I think he asked if it was some kind of drug front. I have never actually seen anyone working here, nor have I ever seen anyone inside buying shaved ice, so it's possible he's right. 

Anyway. Bob finally got his dessert. We got two enormous cups. I thought it would be like a snow-cone, but it's nothing like that at all. Shaved ice is creamier, somehow, and the flavor spreads throughout all of the ice instead of just sinking to the bottom. It was delicious. Definitely lived up to the hype.

We ate these before dinner because we are rebels. Then we ate dinner too, and drank a lot of wine, and then got on the bus to go back to the resort, at which point Brandon and I got into a very heated argument about Jim Harbaugh.

I would say that we argue about Jim Harbaugh semi-frequently. I will not TOTALLY rehash these arguments here (mostly because Brandon will read the summary later and get mad and we will have to argue about it again), but the basic gist is that he buys into the "Jim Harbaugh Is An Amazing Coach And Will Be Amazing And Has Been Amazing" narrative, whereas I am more in the camp of "IDK He's Been Here For Three Years And We Still Haven't Really Done Anything And If Brady Hoke Had The Same Three Seasons IDK Would We Be As Patient And If Not Why Are We Now IDK?"

This is all fine and a normal part of our marriage (yours too I'm sure), right down to him telling me I'm being annoying and me telling him I am LITERALLY JUST TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHY WE LOVE HARBAUGH AND I WANT YOU TO EXPLAIN IT TO ME AND YOU ARE NOT DOING A GOOD JOB. Except that this time we were sitting right behind his parents, who were not talking, and so probably overheard every word, and thought that we were crazy and maybe also headed for divorce.

The argument continued after we got back to the hotel, but we had to pause it briefly for the very important task of going to my brother-in-law's room to collect the pool floaties so we could use them in the morning. And after that, it became sort of impossible for me to keep arguing, because Brandon looked like this.

I was laughing so hard I almost fell down. Undaunted, he kept trying to make his point and waving his arms around, which made the floaties bob up and down and only made it worse.

And so our marriage survived the Great Hawaiian Harbaugh Fight.

ilikehim.jpg

I am sure the Great Greensboro Harbaugh Fight (Part 82) will happen soon. I will keep you posted on the outcome.

Mini Polaroids taken with the Fujifilm Instax 8 Mini, the best off-registry wedding gift in the history of weddings and also gifts.

aloha, part 1

At the end of the first week of 2017, Brandon and I boarded a plane and left to meet his family for a week in Maui.

SPOILER ALERT: we made it, but not without drama. Our trip coincided with North Carolina's version of a "blizzard," wherein schools get canceled three days ahead of any predicted snow, people literally go to the store to literally buy literal bread and milk (GET WINE, YOU FOOLS) and everyone freaks out and talks about nothing else for days. As a reporter this is annoying, because every time it snows all I do for a week is write and report about the fact it's going to snow or has snowed or might snow and shoot me now (in the snow, if you must). As a Midwesterner, it's equal parts funny and infuriating, but the longer I live here, really, the more annoying it becomes. The scales really tipped that way this year as the forecasts continued to get worse, and our Saturday morning flight was canceled - on Thursday night, an entire day before any snow was predicted to start falling.

Over the next 24 hours we were booked and rebooked on eight different itineraries. The final one had us leaving Greensboro on a 4:30 p.m. flight on Friday, which kept getting delayed and then undelayed until finally being pushed back for real to 7 p.m. Brandon and I had not planned to leave until Saturday morning and had to scramble to leave work early, drop Maisy off at her foster mom's, and pack in time to make it to the airport. (OK but really Brandon took care of most of that, while I sat on the floor of our bedroom in a packing meltdown, surrounded by open suitcases and piles of clothes. I have never had a packing meltdown before and never really understood them but lo, I get it now. I THOUGHT I HAD AN ENTIRE DAY TO PACK, Y'ALL.)

Anyway once we got to the airport (which was easy, because it was barely snowing), it was fine. Our flight left a little behind schedule, but our flight attendant made up for it by buying a round of drinks for the entire cabin. We spent the night at a hotel by LaGuardia so we could catch a 6 a.m. flight out on Saturday. The Comfort Inn in Queens had a good Yelp rating and was described by one reviewer as "romantic," which we really understood when we got there and saw the view.

Brandon was 100 percent convinced that the room would be haunted. His protective man-mode kicked in, by which I mean he made me sleep on the side of the bed closest to the window so that spirits in search of a body to possess would find mine first. #blessed

We made it to Dallas and got on our direct flight to Maui, an 8.5-hour trip on a plane from 1979 with no individual screens or power outlets. The safety video mentioned something about charging ports so I flagged down a flight attendant and asked if she could show us where they were.

"Oh, did you bring your AC power adapter car charger?" she asked me, blinking innocently.

I stared at her. She blinked.

".....No?" I finally said. "Because it's....2017?"

She looked around the cabin for a minute and then shrugged. "It doesn't matter anyway, the closest outlet is four seats behind you and in the ceiling."

Shortly after we took off I realized that I had lost my (nice, expensive) headphones somewhere between LaGuardia and Dallas. I felt really badly about it, both because I hate it when I do things like that and because the flight was very long and now I would have nothing to do for any of it. Brandon asked a flight attendant if they had any spare pairs on board - there weren't individual screens, but there were a few cathode-ray tube TVs hanging in the middle of the plane that you could watch if you felt like contorting yourself into a triangle - but OF COURSE THEY DID NOT HAVE SPARE HEADPHONES! So with nothing to watch or listen to I spent the entire eight-hour flight reading, enduring endless turbulence, and poking Brandon in the arm because he had working headphones and a tablet he did not want to share with me.

The only good thing about the plane was the 15-ounce bottle of chardonnay that Brandon bought for me after we realized that on top of everything, American Airlines knew but did not care that I am gluten-free and so had nothing for me to eat. I almost started crying at that point - I was so bored and hungry and so, so tired but couldn't sleep because of the turbulence - but that sweet husband of mine pulled out his credit card to buy me some booze and that stopped my tears before they could fall.

The flight attendant pulled the wine out and set it in front of me with a plastic cup.

"Do you want another glass?" she asked.

"Yeah, no," I replied, and then considered drinking it straight from the bottle in front of her. (I did not do this.)

Most of the flight was spent either bumping on top of or inside of clouds, so for a long time there wasn't much to look at.

But eventually the clouds cleared. First, there was ocean.

And then there were mountains.

And then, blissfully, islands. Beautiful, wonderful islands.

I am an avid fan of the Brady Bunch so I was very excited to land at the airport, have a lei draped around my neck, find a random tiki statue on the ground and get cursed by it and then go to a luau. (You know, the usual.) Tragically and unexpectedly, none of this happened, but we did find Brandon's family at the airport right away which was almost as good. Then we checked into the exceedingly ridiculous Grand Wailea, GOT LEIS, and found food, and then Brandon and I went to bed and slept for 12 hours and woke up to the sound of the ocean outside of our room.

The view from our balcony. NBD.

The view from our balcony. NBD.

The moral of the story here, I think, is that if you live in the South and it might snow in the next 48 hours you should get on a plane and go to Hawaii, even if you have to rearrange your life to do it and even if that plane is from the 70s. Will be worth it, can confirm.

 

 

2017

I do this thing with blogging where I have an idea and I start a post and then I leave it in drafts because there's some dumb and arbitrary thing that I feel like it's missing. FOR EXAMPLE below is a post about my new year's resolutions, or lack thereof, which I finished writing and then didn't post because most of it is about books so I thought I needed to go take some artful photos of the stacks of books all around my house. And then I didn't do that, because I have a job and a life and, it turns out, not a lot of motivation to take artful photos of the stacks of books around my house.

I'mma publish that post as is, but with an addendum: I'm going to do less ~curating~ and more blogging and story-telling this year. I like this little internet space of mine and am going to do my best to get over this feeling I have that every post here needs to have the justright amount of text and photos. Because first of all what does that even mean? (NOTHING. IT MEANS NOTHING.) More importantly, when I put a post on hold to (theoretically) take those photos or whatever, things get stagnant here while a hundred little stories happen in real life and I neglect to write about them. And that is dumb. And there's enough dumb in the world without me contributing to it needlessly.

So, onward! Here's what I wrote originally (with just a few tweaks):

I'm normally very into new year's resolutions because I like the idea of a fresh start and a chance to do things all over again. This year, for whatever reason, I let the first go by without even giving the tradition a thought.

en route to Pittsburgh for New Year's. a seven-hour drive I could have used to think of resolutions but instead spent seat-dancing and serenading Brandon with the 90's on 9 year-end countdown.

en route to Pittsburgh for New Year's. a seven-hour drive I could have used to think of resolutions but instead spent seat-dancing and serenading Brandon with the 90's on 9 year-end countdown.

It's not that there aren't a thousand things I would like to do (or do better) this year. It's more that the fresh start is kind of a myth, in that you can start certain things all over again anytime you want to. Some of those things - being a better partner to Brandon, continuing to try to meet people in Greensboro, soldiering on in my quest to educate the masses that CAPSLOCK DOES NOT NECESSARY INDICATE YELLING, hustlin', reading more (and making sure those books are written by people of color, LGBTQ authors and women more often than they are white men) - are constants in my life, and January is a nice reminder to place more emphasis on them. Beyond those, the only new "resolution" I really came up with is to try to read more of - and then part ways with - my own books.

I'm a sucker for a bookstore and a book sale. (If you don't like books, why? Can I convince you otherwise? Have you smelled one lately?) Because of this I have over the years accumulated so many books that my shelves - five of them; three taller than I am - are overflowing. There are stacks of books on the floor in both bedrooms in our house. I don't think you can ever have too many books, but we might be getting close. I'm wading through my current stack of library books (The Princess Diarist is wreaking havoc on my emotions), and then it'll be a mix of paperbacks from the floor and new books I check out from the library instead of buying.

I will also continue to work on being present, on planning less and enjoying more (very hard for me), and on having new adventures with this guy.

This photo makes me so moony, I can't even deal with how handsome he is. Doing life with him continues to be the best.

This photo makes me so moony, I can't even deal with how handsome he is. Doing life with him continues to be the best.

I also think I might try to drink champagne more often, because there's always something to celebrate.

This was taken in Germany on our honeymoon! I did not blog about our honeymoon but that is because Squarespace hates uploading my photos. We'll work it out this year, maybe.

This was taken in Germany on our honeymoon! I did not blog about our honeymoon but that is because Squarespace hates uploading my photos. We'll work it out this year, maybe.

Cheers to 2017!

 

thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it revolves around food and wine and being cozy and grateful and with the people you love. For the past two years, Brandon and I have spent the holiday hunkered down together at home, eating tons of carbs and watching "Tower Heist," a fairly bad movie that I love, in which the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade plays a pivotal role. This year it was 65 degrees and balmy here, so we welcomed the day with mimosas and then took Maisy on a long leisurely walk.

Someone got poop on her foot and had to have it washed off when we got home, which was very undignified for everyone.

I also cooked a lot - mashed potatoes, baked praline sweet potatoes, buttermilk cornbread, deep-dish apple pie - but I don't do food photography (everything looks disgusting no matter how hard I try), so you'll just have to trust me on that one. 

 

elected + trumped

I spent the last three months covering the presidential election for my newspaper. I got to do some really amazing things, like embedding with the White House Press Pool to cover President Obama's visit here:

Taken under the wing of Air Force One on the tarmac

Taken under the wing of Air Force One on the tarmac

I covered a Hillary Clinton rally, then got whisked backstage to a small media availability with her:

I interviewed Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Cory Booker at different campaign stops in Greensboro, and I joined former President Bill Clinton's motorcade twice as he stumped here for his wife. (The best was the Sunday service at a tiny Pentecostal church that had no idea he was coming.)

You'll notice that I don't have a lot of coverage of Donald Trump to balance this out, which is something my editor and I struggled with during the campaign season. Journalism is inherently about balance; what you do for one side, you do for the other. But Trump did not run a traditional campaign, which meant there were no surrogates - people campaigning in his place - coming through town. He did not have a local spokesman, where the Clinton campaign had a team of four media people assigned to my area. Ultimately, what we decided was that our coverage might appear biased - but if the Trump campaign wasn't responding or holding its own events, it wasn't anything we could control. People like Bill Clinton and Cory Booker and Jesse Jackson are newsworthy, and so we covered them.

I have a clear conscience about that. I feel less great about my attempts - or lack thereof, I guess - to seek out Trump voters and understand their thoughts and concerns. The county I cover voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, but nearly a third of precincts here also voted for Trump. Of those, not a single one voted for him by a margin of less than 51 percent. In most cases, the margin of victory was much higher.

These people exist, and I failed to find them. Going into Election Day, I believed - as did most people - that Clinton would win, and that she would win easily. We know now that's a fallacy; that the polls failed miserably, and that huge swaths of largely white voters - most of whom had been disengaged with the political process for years - voted Trump into office.

These people live in the county that I cover and I did not know about it. And I don't think that's OK.

In the weeks since the election, there have been dozens of mea culpa pieces penned by journalists. I realize I'm adding to the pile, which is not really my intention, but the election, and my coverage of it, made clear to me certain shortfalls in my own reporting. I cover an entire county but rarely leave the city of Greensboro; I focus too much on policies and proposals and not enough on the people affected by them. These things aren't unique to me - as small newspapers die out, media coverage is concentrated in urban areas, which inherently leaves communities behind; finding a "real person" for a story can be the hardest part of the job - but they do affect me.

I don't have the reach of a reporter at the New York Times or the Washington Post, but I do have the same responsibility. I've come out of the election with a renewed desire to do my job well, to talk to more people, and to learn more about the place I cover - and live. 

So this is an apology of sorts, and a promise as we move forward: I'm sorry I haven't done an adequate job of finding and trying to understand all of the people who live in the county that I cover, and I promise to do better. 

If you're interested in reading/understanding more about the election, why it went the way that it did, and why the vast majority of us didn't see it coming, here are some pieces I found particularly helpful:

"How Half Of The Country Lost Its Fucking Mind" - the headline implies this will be a scathing review of Trump voters, but it's actually an exceedingly eloquent and easy-to-understand explanation of small-town rural voters, their fears, and why they voted the way they did.

"Trump's Data Team Saw a Different America - And They Were Right" - why the mainstream polls were so wrong, and how Trump's team - unknown to all of us - won the election.

"Revenge of the Forgotten Class" - excerpts from interviews with rust-belt voters, many of whom voted for Obama previously.

"Polls miss huge swath of disenfranchised, first-time voters" - my post-election story about the polls in North Carolina and why they were so very, very wrong.

And finally:

"A Letter to America from Leslie Knope, regarding Donald Trump" - for some much-needed levity.

 

366+3

On Monday, Brandon and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.

By "celebrated," I mean we exchanged cards in bed at the end of the day, where I had laid all day dramatically suffering from the world's worst head cold, contracted somewhere in Europe last week on the last legs of our honeymoon. We told each other some things we like about being married, and then I kissed him on the cheek (to prevent the spread of "the black lung," as he's calling it), hacked up some mucus, and fell asleep.

I do not mind the lack of a big momentous acknowledgment of our first anniversary, partly because we just spent 10 days in Amsterdam/Germany/Prague talking about it, but mostly because I love being married to Brandon and I think about that fact, and about our wedding, every single day.

The world - or at least the ESPN-watching world, some Michigan fans, and our friends and family members - already knows our story. (Did I just re-watch the video and cry a little? Maybe.) So instead of retelling that chapter, here instead is the story of our wedding day. All photos are courtesy of the amazingly talented McCartneys.

(But seriously, watch the video. I'm biased, but it's so good.)

Laughing because Kate, my best friend/maid of honor, couldn't even start a toast without crying. Also, those shorts are very short, and in some of the getting-ready photos it looks like I am not wearing pants. #blessed

Laughing because Kate, my best friend/maid of honor, couldn't even start a toast without crying. Also, those shorts are very short, and in some of the getting-ready photos it looks like I am not wearing pants. #blessed

Like this one. Still wearing pants. Promise.

Like this one. Still wearing pants. Promise.

One of my biggest concerns before our wedding day was that Brandon would have too many pre-ceremony beers and get drunk before we got married. Brandon is not a habitual drunk (except for after certain specific Michigan games) nor does he make poor life choices, so I'm really not sure where this fear came from or, actually, why I'm bringing it up now, except that there's beer in these photos and I just want to reassure everyone that he did not, in fact, get sloshed before our vows.

HE WAS THE MOST NERVOUS AND ALSO THE MOST ADORABLE.

One thing that happens on your wedding day if you are the bride is that you can't get dressed by yourself and so you end up having to get kind of naked in front of kind of a lot of people, including a photographer. (My face in the first photo is me coming to this realization.) It's kind of awkward, but then you sort of get over it because there is literally no other way to get into the dress or the shoes or any of it. And I really, really wanted to get into the dress and the shoes and all of it. After that, it's kind of fun. 

My sweet dad found out three months before the wedding that his cancer had come back (he'd been previously diagnosed in 2012, had surgery and radiation, and was fine, until he wasn't). It was treatable, with a high success rate - upwards of 95 percent of people with his type of cancer are still in remission five years after completing treatment - but the doctors told him that he would have to undergo chemo this time. He finished his last treatment a week before I got married.

I did not let him see my dress until he came into the hotel room that morning. It was all very emotional.

The boys went to the church first and then the limo circled back to pick us up. I had not been nervous all day - honestly, most of the morning was a surreal blur of, "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S MY WEDDING DAY" - but when we got in the car I started to feel the butterflies.

The church where we held our ceremony was built in the 1800s and is no longer used for regular services. It's tiny and awesome, but does not have a "holding" room where I could hide from Brandon until things were ready to get started. So when we got there, my bridesmaids went inside, and I stayed in the car with the limo driver until the guys had left the foyer to walk to the altar.

In retrospect it was nice to have a few minutes to sort of get myself together, but at the time I was mildly freaking out. My M.O. when I'm freaking out is to talk it out (at length), but everyone was gone except the limo driver, so he and I had a chat about my nerves. He was exceedingly sweet, and told me to just focus on Brandon once I walked in the church. It would all get better then, he said.

And then my day-of coordinator came and knocked on the window. "It's time," she said.

From the back hallway I could hear the music, but I couldn't see anything. We lined up and one by one my girls left.

And then it was my turn.

My knees were literally shaking; I was legitimately nervous how I would manage the (very small) stairs scattered throughout the aisle. It's the most nervous I've ever been in my entire life. I'm getting nervous just reliving it right now. It had nothing to do with marrying Brandon and was, I think, mostly about reading my vows, which were really personal, in front of a room of more than a hundred people.

But doing that - saying vulnerable, emotional things to the person I love in front of a lot of people - was the perfect way to marry Brandon, because that's what he's done for me. He opened me up and let everything spill out. He taught me that it's OK to be vulnerable, and that people are better than I had learned that they were, and that being honest wouldn't make anyone turn away from me. It wasn't easy for me to learn, and every time I pushed him away or struggled, he was always still there, loving me the exact same way.

I felt better the second I saw him.

Apparently my dad cried a lot. I have yet to get him to confirm this, but photos (and my stepsisters) don't lie.

We had a few readings at our ceremony, but my favorite was a passage from the William Shakespeare adaptation of Star Wars....because obviously. My brother-in-law Ryan read that one for us. He killed it.

And thennnnn...married! You better believe we practiced that kiss. Can't have too much tongue. (Don't want to scandalize the grandparents.)

Brandon does not love that last photo - I think he's mid-blink - but I am including it anyway because this is my general feeling about a) being married, b) my wedding, c) most things, tbh,

We went outside briefly to let the church clear out (again, no holding room), which was mostly just an excuse to be excited and hug everyone.

Then we went back in to sign the marriage license and make it all legal and proper and to make sure that we qualified for the married-people tax break. (We got it. Thanks Obama!)

Then we did a fist bump, and then we decided to do a "flower" bump with my bouquet and Brandon's boutonniere, and then we decided to behave like normal humans and pose with our amazing officiant Joan.

It was drizzly and kind of cold all day, and when we went outside to take pictures our friends - the bridesmaids, specifically - were freezing. I felt none of it. This, I was told, is due to the "bridal adrenaline."

We went to a bar to kill a bit of time before our reception, which was basically the best thing ever. (People are VERY NICE TO YOU when you are in a wedding dress, and they also pay a lot of attention to you, both of which are things that I like. Also, because I was carrying a preposterously tiny and sparkly purse that contained only lip gloss and my phone, I did not pay for any of my own drinks. I am also a fan of this.)

And then we headed to our party. Brandon and I did a ton of decoration stuff ourselves, but we did not set up the room (this is why you hire a day-of coordinator. HIRE A DAY-OF COORDINATOR.), so walking in was the first time we got to see all of our work come to fruition. It was incredible.

Our friends and family had kicked off cocktail hour before we got there.

That's my grandma (on the right) and Brandon's grandma (on the left), and I can tell you with about 98 percent certainty that this photo has captured my grandmother telling his, "You know, none of this would be possible without us: THE GRANDMAS." (I know this because she told me.)

Part of my ~vision~ for the reception included big mylar balloons spelling out "YAY" above the photobooth, but when we went to Party City they didn't have them. So we got this bride and groom instead. My mom was kind of obsessed with them, as were some of Brandon's groomsmen. I REGRET NOTHING.

We sneaked in a side entrance and then our bridal party got introduced. They had no fun with it at all, it was very disappointing.

We smooched a little...

...and creeped on them the best we could (which was not very well)...

...and then it was our turn!

We gave a little toast and then cut our cake immediately, which, guys. Cutting the cake was so hard. I had so many problems with it. No one warned me. Married friends, why didn't you warn me?

You can see my best friend/maid of honor Jess in the background of that last photo looking at me and clearly thinking, "Yeah, I should have warned her." That Brandon did not divorce me immediately after this nonsense is proof that I married the right person, really.

Anyway, the rest of our reception was lovely. People clinked on their glasses so I got to smooch on my husband a lot.

There were ridiculously amazing toasts.

There were first dances. Brandon and I danced to "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz, which I picked back in 2013 after we had been dating for three months and Brandon told me he knew that he would marry me. I panicked - this was, for most of my life, my default reaction to most relationship milestones - and started to cry, and then later when I was driving home from work this song came on the radio and I had, suddenly, a crystal clear picture of myself dancing with him to it at our wedding. I still can't hear it without crying. 

Not that day, though. That day, I mostly just sang to Brandon, except for when I was clinging to him and kissing him, because he is so stinking handsome and I love him so much.

About halfway through he looked at me and whispered, "Your face is very close to my face," which is what he says to Sophie whenever she loves him up-close, which is most of the time.

I liked this.

Then we danced with our parents. I picked "Father and Daughter" by Paul Simon for my dance with my dad, a song he sent to me when I was in college because he said it made him think of me. My dad and I do not dance together, ever, and we did not practice beforehand because the chemo was very hard on him and made him very tired and not a fan of things that were fun. Probably, we should have practiced beforehand.

I would like to tell you that these photographs are documenting lots of deep and meaningful remarks, in which CJ is telling me how much he loves me and how nice I look, but most of our dance was really just him telling me I was stepping on him. Except for the photo where I'm laughing - that one was taken right after he said, "My God, this is a long song." Sigh. CJ.

I don't know what Brandon and his mom talked about while they danced but clearly they held it together better than Team Queram.

Then everyone else danced, and drank, and an hour before the party ended I had the kitchen bring out fried cheese curds, because obviously.

There are no photos of the cheese curds because our photographers had left by then. I just felt you needed to know that they were there, and they were amazing.

Before our wedding, Brandon and I had both heard people say it would be the best day of our lives. Neither of us are very good at superlatives - if you ask us to name a favorite anything, we will instead give you a fluid top-five list - but when we woke up Sunday morning, we totally understood what they meant. Our wedding day was, by far, the best and happiest day of my life. Thinking back on it fills me with so much joy and love; it makes me feel warm and close to all of the people I adore even though most of them are far away. Though he might word it differently, I know Brandon feels the same way.

So a big forever thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate. We love you. We love each other. And we really, really love being married.

I think we'll stick with it.

9.2016

Brandon and I were drinking our coffee yesterday when he looked up and said, thoughtfully, "It's kind of cold this morning."

I did a little happy dance because it WAS kind of cold and I HAD BEEN THINKING THAT TOO and FALL MIGHT ACTUALLY BE HERE FINALLY and CAN YOU EVEN?

Fall is my favorite season and it is one of the things I miss the most about living in the Midwest. We have fall here, but it's not as crisp or as smoky or as colorful, and it doesn't last as long, so when it finally comes on I like to try to soak it up as much as I can.

Which has been kind of hard lately because things are stupid busy. Brandon has been slammed at work for the last two months, and things at the paper have gotten increasingly hectic for me as Election Day gets closer. My full-time job is covering county government, but a few months ago our state reporter left and I've sort of taken over his job while continuing to do my own. That means several things - that I am insanely busy, that I am now covering politics in a battleground state during a presidential election year, and, most of all, THAT I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN.

But it does make the time hard to hold on to, so for posterity, and my own sanity, here is a quick run-down of my September.


We took Maisy back to Lake Brandt. She remains my very favorite pupster.


We went to the National Folk Festival, where I "worked" for a bit by interviewing an amazing Delta blues musician named Super Chikan. He makes his own guitars out of whatever he finds lying around and travels with an all-female backing band called The Fighting Cocks (one of them is his daughter). 


In the tent after the interview. You can't tell from this photo, but he is wearing a very sparkly grill.

In the tent after the interview. You can't tell from this photo, but he is wearing a very sparkly grill.


After, Brandon and I wandered around the festival, then met up with friends and went to the Grandmaster Flash show. It was basically a big frat party. It was basically the best.



I learned last month that the News & Record has season tickets to the Panthers, so Brandon and I took advantage and went to two games. One was just for fun and the other was a work day - it took place the Sunday after the riots in Charlotte, so we drove down so I could interview people for a story about the mood in the city and at the game. (It was really amazing, and you can read about it here.) 

The seats are ridiculous. Also the stadium serves wine. Basically I could really be into the NFL if Greensboro got a team. And housed them in a stadium that serves wine.



I covered a ton of presidential campaign events for work, including a visit from the Mothers of the Movement, a Trump rally, and Hillary Clinton's first event after she returned to the campaign trail after a bout with pneumonia.

After Clinton finished speaking at that event, one of her North Carolina organizers grabbed me and said, "Come with me. Don't say anything." As you may remember I spend these events living in fear of being tased (at the Trump rally I literally asked a Secret Service agent if I would be tased for walking past him), so this was not the most soothing interaction of my life, but I shut up and followed him right behind a blue curtain into a back room where Clinton was holding a small media availability. 

If you are not fluent in Nerdy Reporter, a media availability is basically a small press conference that's open only to a handful of selected journalists. In this case, it was me, a political writer from the Charlotte Observer, and every reporter in Clinton's traveling press corps, including people from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

Look, I know I'm supposed to pretend like this was no big deal - "act like you've been there before," or whatever - but it was a HUGE FREAKIN' DEAL for me. Local reporters rarely if ever get invited to this type of thing; the other media outlets in our market had no idea it was even happening. I was, and will forever remain, so excited about it, and not only because I had a front-row spot that I refused to move from even when a CNN camera man told me to give it up for his reporter (um, no). 

They didn't call on me to ask a question, which I expected. But I got to be there while Clinton talked about Trump and pneumonia and Syria. And my reporter heart was happy.



I met and interviewed Bellamy Young, the actress who plays Mellie Grant on Scandal, when she stopped in Greensboro during a quick four-day tour of North Carolina to campaign for Clinton. She traveled with her little dog Bean, who hung out very calmly in a duffel bag (Maisy would never).

Real talk: I don't watch Scandal (I'm sorry), but I do watch Jeopardy, and realized in the course of preparing for the interview that I had watched Bellamy rock it one of their celebrity charity games earlier this year. I may have devoted a chunk of my interview time to questions about Alex Trebek. (The signaling device is apparently the key to victory and is also quite tricky to use.) (Bellamy won her game, btw.) (I have no regrets about any of this.) (Also, she was basically the nicest person on the planet, and wouldn't let me or my photographer leave until she hugged both of us.)


The girl in the peachy dress introduced Bellamy and was completely, adorably nervous. I loved her and wanted to ask her many questions, but the regional organizer for the Clinton campaign said I was not allowed to. But look how cute she is! She looks at Bellamy Young like I look at a cheese plate.

The girl in the peachy dress introduced Bellamy and was completely, adorably nervous. I loved her and wanted to ask her many questions, but the regional organizer for the Clinton campaign said I was not allowed to. But look how cute she is! She looks at Bellamy Young like I look at a cheese plate.


I sat down with Martin O'Malley for 20 minutes to talk about Clinton's campaign and various Martin O'Malley things.

O'Malley is the former governor of Maryland, and I have a hyper-awareness of him because he presided over the state when I was a graduate student covering the state legislature in Annapolis. My favorite Martin O'Malley anecdote - which you may have already heard because I tell it ALL THE TIME - is that one time in grad school I was in an elevator with him and I awkwardly introduced myself and then asked if I could call him Marty.

(He said no.)

I reminded him of this when we met last month and he SHOCKINGLY did not remember it. He also (SHOCKINGLY) still doesn't want me to call him Marty. (Yes obviously I asked again, who do you think I am?)

Anyway, my journalism life really came full-circle in that conference room and it was very exciting and happy for me. MY PAL MARTY.


"No but seriously, I don't go by Marty." (Photo via Andrew Krech, News & Record)

"No but seriously, I don't go by Marty." (Photo via Andrew Krech, News & Record)


I spent some time outside with my camera trying to capture the little bits of fall I found.


September was kind of awesome? And there's so much good stuff coming in October too. Fall, y'all. I'm telling you.

on the ride

The first time I was diagnosed with depression was the summer I was 20. I had suffered from it before that but had been good at hiding it or had diffused it in other ways, like running or controlling what I ate or taking long drives in the country to escape and to think and, sometimes, to cry.

my hometown, 2007 (film)

my hometown, 2007 (film)

But that summer I finally couldn't hide it anymore. I was supposed to stay in Michigan until the fall but I couldn't find a job, and I spent most days plodding from place to place either not feeling anything or feeling, fuzzily, that something wasn't quite right. I was anxious and unable to convince myself that anything was real. Finally I called my dad and said, "I'm sick and I think I need to come home."

So he came and got me. I went home and into therapy. I started taking an antidepressant. Slowly my feelings came back, one by one. It felt like waiting for the pins and needles to subside after your arm falls asleep, except instead of my fingers it was my heart, my lungs, my head, myself, and it took months. The moment I knew I would be OK I was on a plane coming back from France and saw on the flight-tracking map that we were over Michigan; I did a little excited dance in my seat without even thinking about it and then, later, realized, OH. I went back to school in the fall feeling like myself and like I could handle things. I have, more or less, handled things since then.

Here is the problem with depression, though: It doesn't go away. Even after you figure out the medication part of it. Even when you learn how to cope and what things will make you feel better when it seems like nothing will ever make you feel better. Even after you learn that it isn't your fault, it's just that your brain, your stupid brain, doesn't work quite right; is fucked up in a very particular sort of way that, cruelly, impossibly, has nothing to do with you at all. Even after you come to understand that you should just ignore the voice in your head that tells you you're worthless and that nothing is ever going to get better and why do you even bother? Dealing with depression is exhausting and a lot of work and the problem, ultimately, is that even after you do all of the work and and all of the dealing, it still never really goes away.

It surfaces for me rarely now. My last bad bout with it was a few years ago when the medication that I had been taking for years abruptly stopped working for me. Everything felt foggy. I made my way through my days and got my work done and I doubt it was noticeable to anyone else, but nothing felt right to me. I switched medication, and the new one worked for awhile until it didn't, and then I was suddenly wading through the darkness - viscous, thick, up to my neck. I couldn't find meaning in anything, I couldn't fathom it would ever get better. I thought about killing myself. This was all hard on Brandon, which I understood logically but couldn't bring myself to care about. Finally I went back to my psychiatrist - this seems simple, I know, but it took weeks of convincing myself to make the appointment; even the idea of the phone call was exhausting - and she switched my medication. Within a week I was me again.

This, I think, is the very problem that some people have with antidepressants, which I understand because sometimes it's scary to me too - that it just took a new prescription to correctly regulate the chemistry in my brain to make me feel fine again. But that's not the right way to look at it. The medication keeps me on the surface, it prevents me from trawling the depths by myself, but it doesn't make me happy and it doesn't change who I am. If someone is drowning you throw her a life preserver, and you don't think twice about it and you don't think she's weak for needing it. Once she's back on the solid deck of the ship, she still has to face the rest of her life. It's like that. 

On the whole, I do not actually think too much about my brain or my depression. I take my pill every morning - one glossy tablet, half butter yellow, half light green - and I go about my life. I do not deal with the throes much anymore, but sometimes they tug at me, and they did, suddenly, on Saturday.

I woke up feeling out of sorts, for no reason I could point to beyond the race I had registered for months ago and did not end up participating in. Brandon got up and made coffee and went to the gym and I stayed home, immobile, trapped in my own self-loathing. He came home with flowers for me, and we ate and I watched football with him until I couldn't anymore.

"I'm going to lie down," I said, and went to the bedroom. I curled on my side and counted the ways in which I felt inadequate and useless.

It was a long list. Eventually I stopped counting.

Brandon came in a while later. He curled himself around me like a comma. He asked if it was his fault, and once I said no, he understood without me really having to explain. He asked if I wanted ice cream, or a mimosa, or to play cards or Monopoly or to go to a movie. He was (is always) so patient and so kind and I cried twice, quickly, silently, because I knew I didn't deserve it. He held me, his breath on my neck. He left for a bit. Then he checked on me. Then he checked on me again.

Later, I remembered that a museum two blocks from our house was setting up a Ferris wheel in the middle of the street as part of its annual fundraiser. I reminded Brandon and then I debated going. It would be neat, and fun, and really easy to get to, but I would have to get dressed, and the tasks of moving and putting on clothes and going out into the world seemed insurmountable. Impossible.

He didn't pressure me, just waited. Finally, after going back and forth, I said, "OK, let's go."

"Really?" he said, excited, proud of me, maybe a little relieved. "Yesss!"

We walked over hand in hand and bought our tickets ($1 each). The line moved slowly so I took pictures of this improbable thing, this lit-up attraction in the middle of the road. I rested my head on Brandon's shoulder. I felt sprinklings of normalcy, of gratitude for this steady and understanding person who didn't need me to explain anything and still wanted to be with me. We rode the wheel, strapped in together, flying through the warm air hundreds of feet above the ground.

We saw our house; we watched the sunset. When we climbed out it felt ludicrous that I had almost missed this chance.

I woke up yesterday and I felt fine. Silly and ridiculous and like me but 18 pounds lighter. I can't explain it other than to say that depression is stupid and dark and it claws at you even when you think it's been vanquished to the very back reaches of your mind. My stupid brain doesn't work quite right and so I feel everything too much sometimes and I blame myself for most of it even when none of it is my fault. And that's OK. Most days, I know that in the same way I know my name, and I don't have to think about or apologize for it. But some days - rarely, these days - I don't.

On the way to the Ferris wheel my husband asked just once if I had been keeping up with my antidepressant. I have, I said. And I will.

But it's there, and I know it is. Most of the time, I kick it in the teeth and go on with my day. It's just that sometimes - rarely, but sometimes still - it wins. 

If you need help or someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK or chat with someone online here. So many of us have been there. You are not alone, and the world is better with you in it.

blues

It's cloudy and too humid. I feel tired and restless.

Someone yesterday asked, "What is it about seasons changing that creates such a strong feeling of sense memory?" It's a handful of things, I think - the shift in the air, the way deep breaths feel differently, the slow churn of the constellations overhead - but whatever the explanation, I feel that way too. I can't walk 10 steps without needing to write something nostalgic. I'll spare you those thoughts. I just wish it were any day other than this gray Tuesday and that I were spending it anywhere but here.

ny ny

Earlier this month I went to New York for a week to take part in a (very intensive) seminar on government fiscal reporting. The glaze that just formed on your eyes was one of the main reasons I was excited to go - literally everything I write about as a county government reporter relates back to the budget, but it's hard to report on that in a way that doesn't make people cancel their subscriptions to the paper.

But I was also just excited to go back to the city. I lived in New York for two years in my early 20s, during a time of tumult and heartbreak when I was, in retrospect, so very young, so very naive, and so very very fortunate.

I left in 2007 and I have not been back many times since. In the beginning, I stayed away on purpose. I had moved to New York for a boy - a wonderful, smart, kind, funny boy who was very patient with me but ultimately wanted more than I was capable of giving then - and when we broke up I struggled with living in a place where every memory was connected to him. We parted in the stifling back half of summer. My tiny Brooklyn apartment didn't have air-conditioning so I spent most evenings away in Manhattan. I would come home late at night, always expecting to find him waiting at the top of my stairs with his heart in his hands and a sheepish look on his face.

He never showed.

I waded through the next months. I drank vodka. I made and quickly discarded dozens of friends (I can't now remember most of their names or how I met any of them). I made and kept forever a few others. I was very, very, very hard on myself. I cried all the time. I spent hours dissecting the things I should have done better and the ways in which I had failed. I frequently fell asleep on the F train heading home and woke up at the end of the line in Coney Island, where the sound of the waves felt absurd and disorienting. I danced and ran around the city and laughed. I was exhausted and sad and unsure and trying very hard to be happy. Occasionally I succeeded.

I can remember how much all of it hurt. I can also remember so many moments of beauty.

After I left it felt complicated to visit. So many people dream forever about moving to New York; so many others are never able to leave it. I wandered in and wandered back out. I didn't belong. I didn't fit anywhere.

It is very easy in retrospect to dismiss so much of this because, in the end, I was 24 and I knew nothing. But doing that invalidates all those moments and makes little of them, and I refuse to do that, largely because now, several lifetimes later, I have so much empathy for 24-year-old me. I want to knock on her apartment door and sit outside in the tiny backyard and explain that this is all OK and not that uncommon and kind of just part of the beautiful, awful, wonderful, terrible experience that is being an emotional person growing up in the world. That it will work out eventually and nothing is irreparably screwed up. ("You don't even know yet what it is to screw up something irreparably," I would say, but probably actually I wouldn't, because a lot depends on context and anyway we all screw up plenty every day.)

She's not there, of course - she's nowhere and everywhere, she's in me and behind me - but I went back to New York anyway. I rode the same trains and walked the same streets listening to the same songs. I felt lonely and out of place, but instead of trying to escape those feelings I just embraced them. I cut myself some slack. I visited some old haunts, I left others in the past.

On the third day I was walking down 34th Street, headphones on, and I saw the Empire State Building looming in the distance and I felt all this joy bubbling up inside of me. I wanted to spread my arms and twirl around on the sidewalk. I remembered a moment 10 years ago when I felt exactly that way, I was sad and heartbroken and walking by Rockefeller Center - I don't remember where I was going but I know what song was playing in my headphones - and then, suddenly, I just felt light. Still sad, but OK. Like everything would be just fine.

When things sync up like that, I like to think it's future me sending a message to past me. "Look at what you think is such a big deal," future me says fondly, knowingly. "It all turned out just fine, I promise."

In my mind, future me has really good hair and skin and does not spill on herself during meetings, so I've got a ways to go, I guess. But she's not wrong about now. I made a lot of messes getting here, but it's pretty OK. My heart aches for 24-year-old me, but she doesn't really need it. She and me and all of us are doing just fine.

PS - I love you forever, New York. Thanks for having me.

football: the agony and the somewhat less agony maybe (?)

BEHOLD THE END OF SUMMER!

I kid. It's a thousand degrees and it will never not be a thousand degrees, but August is more than halfway over which means, finally, it is time to think about football.

Of course if we're being honest I have been thinking about football since December. This is the burden of being a graduate of the University of Michigan, and being married to a graduate of the University of Michigan, and also of being a person who enjoys self-flagellation and having dreams crushed repeatedly.

Yes, I know they are better now. Yes, I know we have Harbaugh. But I am wary. I am so wary. I am excited for football, but I am also scared - for my liver, for my sanity, for my marriage.

This is the other burden of being a graduate of the University of Michigan, or at least one who's been paying attention to the football program for the past decade or so.

Just in case you are not familiar (what is your life like? Is it devoid of sadness and conciliatory binge-drinking?), here is a wee primer on the history of Michigan football.

ERA ONE, from the beginning of time - the beginning of 2007: Things were good, y'all! Michigan was a powerhouse! They didn't win national championships every year PER SE, but they beat up on other teams in the Big Ten, went to the Rose Bowl a lot, and gave students and alumni many reasons to be snobby and entitled about football success, both past and future! Success was a given! It was a given! A nine-win season was a failure! Sucks to be you, Illinois! Sorry 'bout your life, Northwestern!

During this time period I actually said to my father, "We don't rebuild, we reload." I said this to him more than once! I want to punch young me right in the face!

We were basically this:

Coupled with this:

It was a heady time to be alive, y'all. Everyone hated us but who even cared?! We were Michigan! Kiss the ring, peasants!

And then the 2007 season started.

It started like this.

(I trust that video will show enough to convey what happened, because even now, nine years later, I can't watch it.) That, friends, is the no. 5-ranked Wolverines losing, on opening weekend at home, to Appalachian State, a non-ranked FCS football team. In non-football terms, that loss is basically on par with David and Goliath.

It was as incomprehensible and icky as Heidi choosing Spencer over her friendship with LC (wtf, Heidi).

It was the football embodiment of taking a double shot of what you thought was chilled Patron, but turned out to be warm El Toro.

Not room temperature.

Warm.

Look, it was just bad. The team would lose to Oregon the next week and would somewhat salvage the season by winning a bowl game against a Florida team coached by Urban Meyer and led by Tim Tebow, but the damage was done. Lloyd Carr retired, the brain trust at Michigan made the decision to replace him with Rich Rodriguez, and thus began the next era of Wolverine football. It lasted until the end of 2014. I like to call it The Saddening.

My self-preservation skills prevent me from recapping this era for you in detail - I survived it, that's enough - so let's just hit some of the key points. Rich Rodriguez was a terrible fit for Michigan and he probably never had a chance to succeed there due to a number of things that all suck, including the spread offense, a fan base that never warmed to him, administrators who never taught him how to approach said fan base and, potentially, a less-than-gracious reception by Lloyd Carr. The program faltered under his leadership; he was fired after three years. I'm skipping a lot but really, I'm also not, it was a tire fire and in my personal life it just looked a lot like this:

Enter Brady Hoke.

Ah, Hoke. He was a nice guy! He had worked for Bo Schembechler! He loved Michigan and wanted to coach at Michigan and would reassemble all the Michigan-y things that Rich Rodriguez just never understood! He likes hot dogs! Fergodsakes!

But Hoke also became a tire fire. Concussions were had. Coke promotions were offered. MISTAKES WERE MADE. Theories abound as to why - Hoke's a nice guy, but not a good coach; he was in way over his head; he was but a puppet controlled by the evil Dave Brandon - but really who cares. He tanked, and both he and the evil Dave Brandon got the boot at the end of 2014.

And then we got Jim Harbaugh.

And now everything is golden again. 

Or so everyone would have you believe. Michigan heads into the 2016 season ranked in the top 10 in most national polls. Some have us as high as 4. Most people (minus Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich, bless) are comfortable with these rankings, due to the depth on the roster, the number of returning players and, of course, the almighty Harbaugh. But I have played this game before, y'all. And I have lost. Repeatedly. So I listen to the hype with my game face on. My game face, these days, looks mostly like this.

It's not that I'm a downer or a fairweather fan, it's just that I am older now and my liver can only take so much these days. I am cautious. I am nervous. I am confused why a team without a quarterback that won 10 games but didn't really DO much last year is now billed as the second coming of Charles Woodson and Fielding Yost. I have been cheerfully optimistic before, only to be proven oh-so-dreadfully wrong. I am Charlie Brown, and Michigan football is, well, the football.

So I officially have no expectations. I approach the season anticipating nothing. I will take it week by week. I will control my blood pressure. I will yell at the TV, but I will also live in the moment. I will encourage my husband to calm the hell down (he will respond by not calming down even a little). I will hide in the kitchen when I can't take the suspense. And then I will express my special snowflake feelings about all of it on the internet.

And I'll root for Michigan, obviously. 

For better or worse, it's kind of our thing.