The week in review

February 7, 2016

cookies

snaps

snaps

pens

pennants

This week was packed — I had two shoots and 1.5 days of PTO, which was an unfortunate combination. But! Some of that PTO was for Hamilton, which was a major, major highlight. (I started to write about it here but then realized I have a lot more to say than I thought I did, so I’ll share my thoughts later this week.) I went buckwild at Blick and bought three new pens…and I’m planning to buy two more tomorrow. (What can I say? I like to live on the edge.) I’m now in month two of bullet journaling and I’m LOVING it (like, I-joined-a-private-Facebook-group-for-people-who are-into-it loving it), and I spent a fair amount of time this weekend looking on Pinterest and Instagram for new ideas for it. (Bullet journaling is another topic I will delve into later…I’m actually working on a BF post about it but it’s taking longer than I expected because the thing is actually super simple to use but so damn hard to explain.) And then last night, Beyoncé blessed us all with a new song/video, which hopefully means people will want to talk about that and not the Super Bowl tomorrow! (Maybe? Please?)

Here’s some other good shit from this week…

Writing

10 Life-Changing Things To Try In February

13 Of The Best Things We Bought On Amazon In 2015

Reading

Miki Agrawal’s Panty Raid, New York Magazine. Uh, be sure to read all the comments and then read this. Like…WHAT??? On Friday night, I sent all of this to all my friends and was like “please read this immediately so we can talk about it.”

Is That a Threat? The Slippery Slope From Disagreement to Harassment, Alison Leiby on Medium.

I’m a server, not your sex toy: Some advice to the next dude who wants to comment on my looks, Salon. Both this and the Medium piece are just one punch to the gut after another. Must-reads.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting The Collapse Of Society As We Know It, BuzzFeed. This was so well done and also…terrifying?

For Every ‘Yes’ Man at Work, There’s a ‘No’ Woman, New York Magazine.

Alyce Dixon, nation’s oldest female World War II veteran, dies at 108, The Washington Post. I love everything about this.

I’m Not Broke Anymore, And I’m Terrified, Adequate Man.

Protect Your Womb From the Devil Drink, The Atlantic.

Ted Cruz Doesn’t Know What to Do With His Arms, Jezebel. I laughed out loud through this entire thing.

Bustle and the Industrialization of Confession, Gawker. This is so fascinating.

27 Worst Things About Going To Stock Photo University, BuzzFeed.

Neurologist explains why it’s hard to look at Ted Cruz’s creepy ‘unsettling’ face, Raw Story. Great hed. Also Ted Cruz is the worst, so.

Can Virtual Sex Prevent Pedophiles from Harming Children in Real Life?, Broadly.

A Traffic Cop’s Ticket Bonanza In A Poor Texas Town, BuzzFeed.

Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both?, The New York Times. I am very glad that the NYT finally got some black friends; this piece is great.

We Slay, Part I, New South Negress.

Loving

This cartoon, this Instagram account, this entire feed, and this, um, ~realistic~ eggplant,

The week ahead…

Lots to get done at work with Valentine’s Day and our office move finally happening this weekend (along with my wedding anniversary)! May we all plow through this week like Martha Stewart plowing four miles of snowy roads at her farm.

The week in review

January 31, 2016

ur ok pin

Pin from Sick Girls Official

Hey, y’all! Here’s what I’ve been up to this week…

Writing

22 Things That Will Speak To People Who Love Color

23 Adorable Pins To Give Someone You Love (Goddd I went down SUCH a pin rabbit hole when working on this post. I’ve already bought so many of these, including the “ur OK” one above — they are really the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!)

Oh, and I made this.

Entertained by

Parks & Rec. I’d…never seen this show until this week!! Eric’s been watching so I joined in during Season 3 and (unintentionally!!) fell asleep through a lot of Season 4, so I have a bunch of re-watching and catching up to do. But I’ve been laughing so hard at every episode I’ve watched and I realize that everyone else did this in, like, 2012 but whatever, leave me alone, I’m here now!

Reading

Rare Photos From 1966 Show the NYC Subway in Full Color, Gizmodo.

21 Things Every Guy Should Know About His Black Girlfriend’s Hair, BuzzFeed.

The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner, Narratively.

What if All I Want is A Mediocre Life?, A Life in Progress.

Why Can’t Fitness Magazines Cash In on the Wellness Craze?, Racked.

Habit Shift: Cloth Napkins., Reading My Tea Leaves. I love my cloth napkins! Also, now I really want the$e.

21 Funny Tweets About Dating That Are Guaranteed To Make You Laugh, BuzzFeed.

Ecuador Cops Save Tiny Terrified Sloth In Most Adorable Highway Rescue Ever, Jalopnik.

There Will Be No Divorce, Evan Leah Quinn.

When A Country Without Abortion Tells Women To Not Get Pregnant, Vocativ.

Gabrielle Union Has a Powerful Non-Speaking Role as a Slave in Birth of a Nation, Jezebel.

This Is What Happens When A Blizzard Strikes On Your Wedding Day, BuzzFeed.

Kill Your Succulents, New York Magazine. Ugh, I’m currently unintentionally killing my succulents. :-/

How The Bachelor Comes Up With Its Crazy Contestant Bios, From “Chicken Enthusiast” to “Dog Lover”, Salon.

I Don’t Owe Anyone My Body, BuzzFeed.

Inside The Most Vicious Conflict On The Internet, BuzzFeed. This is fucking crazy.

February is letter writing month!

Loving

This gif, and this tweet, these grooms, and this baby.

The week ahead…

Finally seeing Hamilton!!!!

The week in review

January 24, 2016

Photo by Lauren Zaser for BuzzFeed

Photo by Lauren Zaser from a recent BuzzFeed shoot I produced/co-styled

Hello, hello! I hope your week was safe and cozy. We spent this weekend watching The Man in the High Castle. I actually watched the first two episodes of this show back in the fall and was intrigued by the idea but it just moved way too slow for me. Also it’s REALLY fucking dark, as shows about Nazis are wont to be. Then Eric decided he wanted to watch it, so I re-watched the first two episodes with him…and then he fell asleep during the fourth episode so I watched that one again too. (I mean, I was mostly fucking around on my phone but still…the overall effect is that we’re somehow making a show that moves at a glacial pace go even slower.) He and I both agreed that the show is not as good as it could be for such a great concept/such amazing world-building, but for whatever reason, we just kept slogging through it. We JUST finished and I’m…annoyed. Glad to be done, and also very annoyed. 

Anyway, here are some other highlights from this week!

Writing

Basic Food-Sharing Etiquette For All You Damn Heathens

Reading

The Story Behind The Deadliest Prison Bus Crash In Texas History, BuzzFeed.

Jane The Virgin Wants To Make America Great Again, BuzzFeed.

The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene, ProPublica.

My Year of Watching Only Women on Netflix, Guts.

Can Young House Love Escape the Internet? New York Magazine.

The Neurological Pleasures of Fast Fashion, The Atlantic.

Forget Hollywood: Vimeo Will Just Fund Female Filmmakers Itself, Wired.

What Happens When Women At Historically Black Colleges Report Their Assaults, BuzzFeed.

My Wife and I Are (Both) Pregnant, New York Magazine.

Behind the Scenes: Making a Calligraphy Pen, The Postman’s Knock.

Advice on Picking a Man to Marry, @femme_esq. This. Is. So. GOOD.

Gillian Anderson: I Was Offered Half Duchovny’s Pay for ‘The X-Files’ Revival, The Daily Best. COOL, patriarchy.

Here’s How Much Celebrities Make in the Instagram Product Placement Machine, Jezebel.

The Great Republican Revolt, The Atlantic.

57 Small Things to Do for Yourself This Year, Food52. These are lovely.

The strange life of Q-tips, the most bizarre thing people buy, The Washington Post.

From Pickup Artist to Pariah, New York Magazine. I love how all the women in Asheville were just like “Yeah byeeeeee.”

Inspired by

This dad, who built his daughter a tree in her goddamn bedroom.

This paper flower artist I found today on Instagram; her work is amazing!

The #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram. After I mentioned it a couple weeks ago, ended up figuring out what the hell a bullet journal is and starting mine the next day. (More on that in an upcoming post.) I fell down the rabbit hole of the hashtag on Friday night and stayed up until like 1:00 in the morning looking at the accounts of the most popular “bullet journal junkies.”

The week ahead…

Same old, same old!

The week in review

January 17, 2016

Photo of my plants by Cassandra Monroe

Happy MLK Day Eve! This week included a hike with Eric and lots of lazy hours pinning and watching Jane the Virgin.

Here are some other highlights from this week…

Writing

25 Things Every Grown-Ass Adult Should Have

Re: why I don’t carry a knife for self-defense

This chart.

Reading

St. Teresa and the Single Ladies, The New York Times. This entire essay just gets better and better as it goes on. Also, here’s a good interview with the author.

How to Talk About Your Beliefs, Rookie.

Was I Raped?, Jezebel.

26 YouTube Comments That Will Actually Make You Laugh, BuzzFeed.

Hamilton Week on Vulture.

The Unlikely Appeal of the Dick Video, New York Magazine. Speaking of…This Woman Is Making The Cutest Dick Pics You’ve Ever Seen, BuzzFeed.

Do you do the ironing or do you take out the bins? It may be time to gender-swap your chores, The Guardian.

Also, this week I read The Price of Salt: OR Carol and started The Argonauts.

Entertained by:

These Making a Murderer tweets. And this one.

A nail tutorial inspired by the 2016 #Oscars nominations, Chescaleigh.

The week ahead…

Same old thang!

Re: why I don’t carry a knife for self-defense

January 15, 2016

PROLOGUE

A few weeks ago, I had the kind of subway ride that I’m sure most people who live in cities with mass transit are familiar with: the kind where you’re like, “Huh, is this angry passenger actually gonna kill me or nah??” Later that day, I told a male friend of mine about it in an ongoing email thread we had going about Making a Murderer; the day before I had been saying that I wasn’t sure if I was going to watch it because true crime shows stress me out. This is the email I sent him after the subway ride:

“Speaking of being afraid of murdered, this morning on the train I had a VERY unsettling encounter. I sat down and this man was across the aisle from me, facing me directly, while my left side was to him. He was older, gray hair/beard, shouting unintelligible things REALLY loudly (just like…angry noises), and swinging his arms around sort of wildly, and every 20 seconds or so he’d SLAM his open palm on the seat next to him. At one point he spat, loudly and angrily, on the floor of the train. He was shouting in my general direction, and as the ride went on, it seemed like he was maybe shouting AT me but I couldn’t tell for sure, and then there’s that thing women do where you’re like ‘Surely he’s not shouting at me!’ and try to talk yourself out of the fact that you’re feeling uneasy/afraid. There were no other women very near to him, and the two dudes closest to him — one was about the same distance away from him as I was, the other was a little further away — were keeping an eye on him but were also looking back at me, which made me think he was definitely shouting at me…which made me super stressed out and uncomfortable and I was just like GET ME OFF THIS TRAIN. I was on an express train that was in one of its longest stretches without a stop, and it felt like it was going extra slow. I started calculating the best exit route so that he couldn’t like, stand up at the same time I did and be within grabbing/lunging distance. When the train finally got to the next stop, I got the FUCK out of there and moved to another car. There are plenty of crazy people in NYC, but every so often you get the ones where you’re just like, ‘Huh, is this the one that’s actually going to stab me though??’ Ugggggggh.”

My friend, who, I want to be clear, is a very good friend/person who I have known for eight years and who considers himself to be a responsible gun owner — which I’m inclined, based on what I know about him, to believe — responded with (among other things) this: “Do you carry mace or a small knife on the subway?? I know you’re not a fan of my weapon suggestions, but good lord, with situations like that, what if that creepy guy ended up approaching you closer or following you? Might not be a bad idea to have a ‘break in case of emergency’ device or something in your purse if you’re ever in a bad situation.”

This response was completely predictable (and I mean that with a lot of love) (like “I know you’re not a fan of my weapon suggestions” lol) and he and I exchanged a few more quick emails laughing about just how predictable a reaction it was before I responded that I was at a photo shoot, and that I would respond to the mace/knife question later. That night, I sat down and wrote him a 2500-word email and took a bunch of photos to illustrate my points. Because I spent so much time writing the damn thing, I decided to put a (lightly edited) version of it here — so that other women can reference it in those conversations about violence against women when a smart, well-meaning, and genuinely-trying-to-be-woke white guy suggests we should carry weapons to protect ourselves. Now women will be able to respond to that with “Hahahahahaha… A knife! Oh, you’re cute!” and then send the link to this post.

Enjoy.

THE EMAIL

First, you should know that in general, I try to carry as little as possible every day. My purse holds a wallet, phone, pens, keys, and a couple other small things, but it’s pretty tiny. (Like, 7 inches tall by 7 inches wide, and the opening, as you can see below, is not very big. )

Here’s my purse with my wallet in it:

And without my wallet in it:

Most days, I carry the small purse to work inside a bigger tote bag that holds my laptop and anything else I need on a daily basis, which is usually VERY little. Here’s the regular setup:

It’s a pretty deep/spacious bag but I try to keep it mostly empty because I’m really conscious about women carrying heavy bags (why is why I did a project about this last year and why I am here for the fanny pack). However, because of the photo shoot today, I really wasn’t traveling light at all; I had a coffee mug and a can of Diet Dr. Pepper and a computer mouse and assorted other sundries in my tote. So it actually looked like this:

Along with the purse and the tote bag, I also had the new (SLASH AMAZING!!) bag that I got for all of my nice craft supplies/tools — both for home storage and also to carry that stuff with me to photo shoots. Including this so you can get a sense of like…how full my hands were today.

OK, still with me?

OK, so today it was cold and raining so I was wearing my winter coat; it’s pretty thick and has a big hood and relatively deep outer pockets, no inner pockets. It’s thick enough that wearing anything over it (including my regular tote bag) is kind of bulky…which is why I started downsizing my bags in the first place when I moved to the city.

So when I got on the train, the tote with the laptop, purse, etc. in it was on my left shoulder, and then the tool bag was in my right hand because the straps are on the shorter side and it would have been hard to put it on my shoulder with my bulky coat. Under the coat, I was wearing a sweater and leggings. If it had been summer, I would have likely been wearing jeans with small pockets (it’s well-documented that women’s pockets are fucking tiny) OR wearing a lightweight cotton dress with small pockets OR shorts with small pockets OR an outfit with no pockets at all.

So here’s what today’s setup looked like:

​OK, SO. Let’s say I carried a knife with me and that I had it on me when this happened. (I’m going to go with a knife in this scenario because pepper spray is not legal everywhere — it’s legal in NYC in general, though whether or not it’s allowed on the subway is not totally clear to me — but mostly because people often caution against pepper spray because it’s too easy to spray yourself in the face during a struggle. Technically a knife is 100% NOT ALLOWED on the subway, which is actually a better answer to your question but whatever — I’m in too deep now with this other explanation, so let’s just proceed as though a knife is legal, OR we can accept that it’s illegal but pretend as though I carry one anyway with the hope that I’m light-skinned enough to not get searched by one of the cops I regularly walk by in subway, because then I could be charged with “intent to injure.” Here’s more on what happens when you’re black and carrying a knife and the NYPD stops you. Again, I, personally, may not need to worry about this as much as I would if I hard darker skin or braids in my hair, but a lot of women don’t have that privilege and it’s also NOT THE KIND OF THING I WANT TO RISK.)

So let’s say that I’m in the train car and the guy starts coming at me and it’s clear at that point that he might actually try to hurt me. Where, in the setup I just described, would my knife be, and how would I easily get it out and use it to…what? Tell the guy to back the fuck off or I’ll stab him? Actually stab another human being?? I don’t even know, but that’s beside the point here. First we need to figure out where the knife is in this scene.

  • Is the knife in my coat pocket? This means I have to like…carry a KNIFE IN MY COAT POCKET (sorry iPhone, gloves, HANDS, etc.)…and then I either take it out of my pocket constantly so I don’t have to carry it around with me when I just step outside to take the dogs out or to get lunch (though in this world, why wouldn’t I just take it in case I need to stab someone while walking the dog or running errands?), or I just keep it in there all the time and lose a ton of the functionality in my pockets. But even when I have my gloves or phone in my pockets, I find myself worrying I’ll accidentally drop them as I take my hands in and out of my pocket. Basically, I’ve learned in this year that while my coat pockets are a very tempting place for me to store things, it’s not really that practical in everyday life. Also, this option isn’t even available to me for more than half the year. ALSO it’s very hard to get into the pockets when I’m sitting down, which I was this morning when all this went down on the train.
  • Is the knife in my purse? This seems reasonable, because even when I don’t have the laptop bag, I have the purse (like if I’m out to dinner or something) so it would minimize needing to move the knife from bag to bag…BUT remember that the purse is tiny and also that it’s at the bottom of my bag. Even when I just need my keys from the purse that’s in the bag, it often takes me a sec to find them, and if the bag is on my left shoulder, I’d have to use my right hand to look for them. And remember, my right hand is holding the tote bag. Also remember that I’m trying not to draw any attention to myself because this dude is stressing me the fuck out and I want to be invisible.
  • Is the knife in my tote bag? This also seems reasonable…though it raises the question of where exactly the knife is in the tote bag if all I have in in the bag is my laptop and my tiny purse. Is it just rolling around at the bottom of the bigger bag? Is that something I want to have happen? And, again, if it’s at the bottom of the bag, it’s still going to take me a second to reach it.

So for the sake of this conversation, let’s say the knife is either in the tote or the purse and I want to access it. To get it out, I’d put the tote that’s in my right hand onto my right wrist/forearm (not comfortable for most of the time, but fine for a second), reach across my body and into the purse or the tote, and locate the knife. Now the knife is in my right hand, but still in the tote — the tote which is hanging on my left shoulder. So now this is my setup:

EXCEPT I’m sitting down, so it actually looks more like this:

BUT in that photo I’m not actually touching the bottom of the bag, where the imaginary knife is. To reach the bottom of the bag, I’d have to twist my upper body considerably, so it would look more like this:

Note: in that photo, my hand is touching the bottom of the bag but it’s still on the right side of the bag. If the knife were any further toward the left side of the bag, it would require even more shifting around and not-at-all-subtle digging to actually find it.

At that point, I’m pretty immobile because of the bulky shoulder bag and then the tote full of stuff that’s now on my right forearm. (Actually, when I was sitting on the train planning my exit, one of the things I was super conscious of was the tote bag on my left shoulder…because I felt like even if I had the room to sidestep him as I exited the train, he might still be able to reach out and grab the bag.) Anyway, I can’t discreetly move a KNIFE from the bag to my pocket. (Which I…guess is where I’d want to put it temporarily? Not that I can easily put something into my pocket while sitting down but whatever.) I don’t have enough room to draw it up into my coat sleeve. So I have to stay in this awkward position, which I GUESS is a fine way to stay if my life depends on it but is also like…kind of at odds with my “don’t call attention to yourself” plan.

OK so let’s say I’m sitting like that, and then the guy comes at me and so I want to pull out the knife with my right hand, but I’m sitting down and I still have the tote bag on my right forearm/elbow area, which makes it kind of hard to actually make a stabbing motion. Sure, I could stand up, drop my right arm and hope the tote slides down my arm/coat and over the knife, and that I still have time to stab him but, like…that…seems unlikely to happen smoothly in a crisis scenario? And to even consider that is to assume a bunch of things:

1. That he doesn’t have a knife.
2. That he doesn’t have a gun.
3. That I have the time to realize that he is, in fact, coming toward me to hurt me, and that I do, in fact, need to use my knife. (He was about four feet away from me when all this started. I’m likely not going to realize he’s actually trying to attack me until he’s inches away, at which point it’s too late to drop the bags and such. I might not even have time to stand up. And, like, how easy would it be to stab someone if you were SITTING DOWN with an armful of grocery bags? Probably…not that easy?)
4. That he doesn’t walk over and just slash me in the face before I realize what the fuck is even happening.
5. That he doesn’t grab me by my hood, bags, etc. while he’s still a little further away put me in a position where I can’t even use the knife (like, say, standing behind me with the knife at my throat/face). What exactly am I going to do with a knife in my right hand and all these bags and this big fucking coat in that position? (Going back to your other suggestion, what am I going to do with pepper spray in that position? Also: pepper spray on a train with other people seems like a bad idea.)
6. That he’ll back off if I threaten him with a knife.
7. That if he doesn’t back off, I’ll be able to stab him in a meaningful way.

Also, one woman I know who was sexually assaulted on the subway was pinned down and her arms were not free to grab any sort of weapon. She was also frozen with SHOCK, which is often a thing that happens to victims.

ALSO, women get called crazy so goddamn much for being afraid of dudes that doubting ourselves becomes a habit — there’s a deeply ingrained need to be absolutely, 100% sure that yes, this man is actually trying to hurt me and there is incontrovertible proof before we do anything defensive or in our own self-interest. I’m now at a point in my life where I no longer debate these things as much (the book The Gift of Fear helped a LOT with that) which is why I got off the train immediately at the next stop…but the entire time I was on the train, I was going between figuring out an exit strategy and trying to decide if I was actually even right to even be worried in the first place. The reality is that sometimes you don’t see it coming, or you talk yourself out of it…but even if you DO see it coming, there often just isn’t time or an actual practical way to protect yourself.

All of this is to really say that I don’t carry a knife because it would not make me feel safer. I know the reality of how I travel each day and know that in most of the scenarios I can envision, a weapon just wouldn’t be a practical solution. MAYBE if it were legal, MAYBE I’d carry a taser because it requires less motion overall, but, again, the likelihood that it would actually help just seems…silly. So it’s not that I’m against carrying a (legal) weapon, it’s just more like…why even bother? It just seems like having false hope. After 30 years on earth as a woman, I know that my best bet is to be as aware as possible of my surroundings, to always trust my gut when I feel uneasy (even if that means some people might think I’m “overreacting” or “paranoid”), and to do everything I can to be in situations where there are a lot of people around because that seems like your best bet these days — bystanders to discourage, distract, tackle, call for help, etc.

A friend of mine was in a similar situation last year, where a dude just went ape shit on her on a bus in D.C., screaming at her for no reason; she calmly got off the bus at the next stop…and he fucking FOLLOWED HER OFF, still screaming at her…so she went into a Starbucks and he FOLLOWED HER IN THERE TOO. Luckily, he didn’t stay in the Starbucks for too long and when he exited, a barista locked the door behind him. But then he stood outside the door still screaming at my friend until the cops came. So, again, OTHER PEOPLE are often what I’m looking for more than a switchblade, you know?

Also, while we’re on the topic of women and self-defense, I’ll go ahead and mention this: the reason women don’t all carry weapons to protect themselves from rape — which PLENTY of lawmakers and also the gun industry think is a great idea — is not only because of everything I listed above…it’s also the fact that, statistically, we’re more likely to be raped by dudes we know, not strangers in the bushes. So, again…why even bother?

Mmmmkay, now that I’ve explained all of this to you, I expect you to send back an equally long and detailed email explaining:

1. Why, exactly, we as a culture still can’t figure out how to teach men that they are’t entitled to any woman’s attention and
2. Why mental health services in his country are such a goddamn mess.

xx
Rachel

The week in review

January 10, 2016

coffee

Photo by Lauren Zaser from a recent BFL shoot of mine

So, fun announcement: this blog now has a Facebook page!

I decided to start the page because I wanted to be able to share the links I post at the end of the week in real time as I come across them. This is basically what I already do on my personal FB page, but BuzzFeed has asked employees to stop accepting friend requests from randos as a cyber security measure, which is fine. (Don’t worry — all you current randos I’m friends with will be grandfathered in.) Beyond that, there are so many little things I want to share/comment on/discuss throughout the week, and it makes way more sense to put them directly on FB instead of building a whole blog post around them and then trying to drive people here. I don’t run ads here so it’s kind of like… why bother with all that? I’ll still post the weekly round-ups here too, and I suspect that once I get back into a regular writing habit I’ll end up writing more actual blog posts as well… but we’ll just see! I’d like to be in the habit of writing more overall, but I don’t want to be too precious about where it actually happens.

ANYWAY! If you like my link round-ups and you care about smart, feministy, and/or home-related things and are interested in finding new stuff to read and connecting with likeminded people, come hang out on Facebook!

Other news from the week…

Writing

10 Life-Changing Things To Try In 2016 — The Bud Light Lime review is not to be missed!

Wanting

This clear glass tea kettle. Or maybe the teapot? HERE THEY ARE TOGETHER. Like… why are they so beautiful?!

These copper baskets.

This pin.

Listening to

The Uzo Aduba episode of the Glamour podcast What I Wore When. This was SO GOOD. It’s 22 minutes long but I could have listened to her talk for hours.

Reading

So, basically everything I read and liked this week had a very strong grief/trauma theme. This wasn’t intentional but… here we are!

I’m a Previvor by Jean Hannah Edelstein on Catapult.

My Marriage Didn’t End When I Became a Widow, The New York Times. Reading this led me to buy and read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, which I definitely recommend. I’m also now very eager to read When Breath Becomes Air.

Shopping At 7-Eleven Got Me Through Losing My Father, BuzzFeed. “My dad had been my best friend. He was the person I called when anything happened, good or bad, and his reaction, his sympathy or his pride, were what gave those events meaning. When he died, I wanted to die. Not in a way that I would have ever acted on, but in a way that made me want to dissolve into the atmosphere like a spray of dandelion fluff. I wanted to float away, separate, become nothing.” God. Damn.

Trying, The Awl.

And our regular, semi-depressing programming…

Gun Control and White Terror, The New York Times.

5 Moments of Misogyny at the Texas Legislature, Houston Press.

The Year of the Imaginary College Student, The New Yorker.

Led By New York, Cities Tell Supreme Court How Texas Abortion Laws Will Hurt Them Too, Jezebel.

The Funny Thing About Abusive Relationships, New York Magazine.

It’s Nice to See You, Medium. This is SO damn good.

The Economics Behind Grandma’s Tuna Casseroles, Bloomberg View.

How the Internet Picks Its Boyfriends, New York Magazine.

Faux Van Gogh and Pinot Grigio: The Rise of Paint-and-Sip Studios, Jezebel.

The 21 Funniest Body Image Tweets From 2015, BuzzFeed.

Here’s Why Public Wifi is a Public Health Hazard by Maurits Martijn on Medium.

The Rise, Fall, And Almost Rise Of The Caviar Of Cantaloupe, BuzzFeed.

The Easiest Way to Lose 125 Pounds Is to Gain 175 Pounds by Bill Barnwell on Medium.

13 Charts Every Black Girl Can Relate To, BuzzFeed. #1 and #12 are…my life.

Making a Murderer Is Good, But What Is It Good For?, Gawker.

Girl Engaged Hours After Ordering a Whiskey Neat, Reductress.

That Strangely Emotional Moment When You See Another Lesbian In Public, BuzzFeed. This post is really cute and while I can’t totally relate, it perfectly describes how I feel when I see biracial kids or interracial couples out in public. (Especially the “I’m just so happy for you!” gif.) I sent it to Dallas and she was like “This is how I feel when I see a fat woman slaying it.” So…thumbs up all around.

Good tweets: on sports, on the lawyers from Making a Murderer, and on good hair days.

Finally, this NYT Vows piece generated the most comments on my personal FB that I’ve seen in a LONG time and all of them were hilarious. I can’t even choose a line to hate the most.

The week ahead…

May we all win at this week like this 70-year-old woman dancing to Missy Elliott.

The week in review

January 3, 2016

mint green keyboard

GMA

First photo by Lauren Zaser from a recent shoot I produced/co-styled. Custom color keyboard available here. Teal lace dress from GMA segment here.

On Monday morning, I got up at 3:45 (!!!) to go on Good Morning America with my coworker Christine. (You can watch the segment here.) The whole experience was really wonderful and just super exciting, as being on a national morning show was one of my big professional goals for 2015. I had a shoot on Tuesday, and then an extremely lazy (and somewhat drunk) week followed. I wasn’t going to watch Making a Murderer — true crime stuff tends to stress me out — but a friend talked me into it… now I’m on Episode 7, I’ve had my jaw literally drop several times, and I’m really eager to finish tonight so I can dive into everything that’s been written about it.

Here are some other highlights from this week…

Writing

10 DIY Projects We Totally Failed At In 2015

Reading

What to do when you’re not the hero any more, NewStatesman. OMG, this whole thing is good.

The $500 Million Battle Over Disney’s Princesses, Bloomberg Businessweek.

When Your Fat Pic Goes Viral as a Feminist Cautionary Tale, Jezebel.

No Visible Bruises: Domestic Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury, The New Yorker.

Labor & Leisure, Captain Awkward. Dallas and I have been scream-texting about this question and so many of the stories in the comments (along with this related post and the stories in those comments) for like three days.

I’m an evangelical preacher. You can’t be pro-life and pro-gun., The Washington Post.

Stay Glad, Reading My Tea Leaves.

Ready for Prime Time, The New Yorker.

Warren Buffett’s Predatory Lender Charges Minorities A Lot More, BuzzFeed. Ugggggggh.

A poem about Donald Trump, composed entirely of mean tweets about Donald Trump, Fusion.

When Correctional Officers Carry Shotguns, The Result is Death And Mayhem, The Highline. 

The Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life, The Atlantic.

Did Sean Penn Beat Up Madonna? An Archaeology of Hollywood’s Most Explosive Rumor, Gawker.

In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs, The New York Times. 

This Witness Sketch Actually Helped Catch A Suspect, BuzzFeed.

So Here’s How You Get Those Wild Lashes, xoJane. I really want to try this.

This Raccoon Who Stole A Doughnut In Toronto Is Your Inspiration For 2016, BuzzFeed.

5 Guy Fieri Quotes to Let Him Know You Came, Reductress.

Jess has me really interested in trying a Bullet Journal in 2016, but at first glance I really do not get it. Going to investigate that further this week.

And this tweet and this video made me laugh.

The week ahead…

New year, new me!!!!! JK, same old shit.

Learning in 2015

December 31, 2015

learning in 2015

Every year I choose a verb instead of a resolution; over the years, I’ve found that this really helps me prioritize and focus on my goals throughout the year. My verb for 2015 was learn. My main goal was pretty simple: I just wanted to read more books. Beyond that I wanted to journal more and learn some new skills. Here’s how I did:

Reading

I set a goal of reading 35 books, though I had no idea if that was reasonable or not. Thanks to a few spans when I just wasn’t as focused, I now have 26 books on my reading list for this year. I think I could have definitely done 35 if I’d pushed myself harder during those times, but I really don’t care about the number too much, so it’s whatever.

Mid-way through the year I realized that I hadn’t read any books by straight, white, cisgender men… or any books by men at all. I decided to keep it that way for the rest of the year, a choice I still feel good about.

Of the 26 books I read, some were definitely better than others. Here are my six favorites, in no particular order:

1. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbot. This was the first book I read in 2015 and it’s so good! It’s about four women who were spies during the Civil War and it’s just fascinating. Also: females are strong as hell.

2. In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar. This book was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough. Full review here.

3. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. This book is informative, intense, heartbreaking, and inspiring. It’s non-fiction but it flows like a novel (think Devil in White City), and I recommend to anyone who likes history or who cares about racial justice.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is the last book I read in 2015 and it will haunt me for a long time. It’s beautiful and sad and lovely and magical and I want everyone to read it.

5. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. I picked up this book because I loved the cover, but I ended up really loving the intense and dark story. Full review here.

6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. This book genuinely changed the way I look at my home, and it gave me a name/explanation for a lot of the things I was already doing. I know it’s gotten a ton of hype so the backlash is inevitable, but I think it’s worth a read, even if you don’t KonMari your entire house or take every bit of her advice. (I actually haven’t done everything yet.) But my apartment is a really, really pleasant place now, and I can definitely credit this book for some of that! Summary/review here.

Journaling

I did a lot more journaling in 2015, but mostly via the Day One app and not my actual paper journal (though I used that on occasion). I set the app to notify me every night at 9:30, and I’ve added entries pretty regularly, especially in the second half of this year. I also liked being able to add a photo from the day on nights I didn’t feel like writing much.

Classes

When I made this goal, I was thinking I’d take some writing classes… which I looked into, but the writing classes in NYC aren’t cheap, so I started looking at options that were more budget-friendly. I had been wanting to learn more about illustration and lettering, so this summer I started taking a bunch of online classes in that area. These classes were one of the biggest (and unexpected) highlights of my year and helped me develop a new hobby that I’m really excited about. Here are the ones I liked best/recommend:

1. Intro to Calligraphy Video + Kit from Laura Hooper Calligraphy (which, full disclosure, I got for free through work)

2. Intermediate Watercolor from CreativeBug

3. Hand-Lettering Basics from Brit.co

4. Amy-Style Calligraphy Worksheets from The Postman’s Knock

5. Free Brush Calligraphy Worksheets from The Postman’s Knock

6. Calligraphy 201 from Brit.co

Reading on my Kindle (or reading physical books) was really great for unwinding and unplugging at night, but there were some nights when I just didn’t have the mental energy for, say, reading about systemic racism, or simply wasn’t in the mood for the book I was currently reading. Practicing calligraphy was a great alternative because it got me away from a glowing screen and got me making something with my hands, but I learned it can also be a very mindless activity — I could just zone out while doing it when I wanted to. It also forced me to be more patient; the first couple of weeks, I was frustrated working with the nib pen/link, but I ultimately realized that I had to go slowly if I wanted it to work. (That turned out to be the case with brush calligraphy too. Even though most people say it’s easier, I find that it’s still rather fussy.) Laura Hooper suggests three 45-minute practice sessions a week, which sounded like a lot, but didn’t turn out to be all that hard to do. It was often hard to get myself to put down whatever article I was reading on my phone and get started, but the time always flew by; I usually ended up working for 90 minutes or so without even realizing it. A lot of times, I practiced while listening to podcasts, which allowed me to learn new things/be entertained without staring at my phone or laptop. Other times, I’d forget to put on music or a podcast and would just work in silence.

I cannot overstate how incredibly relaxing calligraphy is. Making rows and rows of lowercase “l”s and “e”s was so soothing. Less pressure on the upstroke, heavier pressure on the downstroke, over and over again. Things like the sound the nib makes as it moved across the paper or hitting the turn of an “l” or a “v” just right were so satisfying. 2015 was the year that I left a really comfortable home and lifestyle and had to find my place and my people in a city that is very much Not Texas; calligraphy (and watercolors too) helped me deal with the with the anxiety, uncertainty, and loneliness that were very present this year. Both reading and calligraphy turned out to be very good habits/hobbies to focus on in 2015, and I know both will remain a part of my routine in 2016.

The week in review

December 27, 2015

Merry everything!

Heathens Greetings Christmas card

Thread and ribbons by Lauren Zaser for BuzzFeed Life

knit happens

jingle bell tree

By Alice Mongkongllite for BuzzFeed Life

me vs you

Christmas selfie

Spools, yarn, and jingle bell tree photos by Lauren Zaser from one of the shoots I produced/co-styled in December; illustration by Alice Mongkongllite for BuzzFeed Life.

It was a pretty quiet week around these parts; the 72 degree weather plus rain was a serious Christmas boner killer so I spent most of my time practicing brush calligraphy, listening to podcasts, reading, picking out a new glue gun, making glitter ice cubes, and drinking bourbon. A few brief highlights from this week…

Writing

Hey, Guys, What’s A “Cheese Stick”? Literally cannot believe this poll turned out the way it did; the results are completely at how people responded on Twitter and Facebook.

4 Ways To Easily Remove Stubborn Price Stickers From Gifts. In which I drag T.J. Maxx.

Reading

The main thing I read was Station Eleven. Oh my god, what a sad and beautiful book. I finished it… and then I started re-reading it two days later. And then I started writing out my favorite quotes from it because I just can’t stop thinking about it.

The week ahead…

Set your DVRs because I’ll be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning with one of my coworkers sharing New Year’s Eve party ideas! (Supposedly at 8:30 but that could change slightly.) I’m getting picked up at 4:45 tomorrow morning (!!!) so I’m heading to bed in a few. Then I have a shoot on Tuesday, I’m taking Wednesday off (because apparently I have a floating holiday that expires on 12/31 soooo I might as well use it), and then the office is closed on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be spending my five-day weekend doing more of all of the things mentioned above, and also playing with my new glue guns. (Because yes, I ended up buying two.)

The week in review

December 20, 2015

spray paint christmas lights, mint green, purple + leopard flats

"Mom?"

diamond ornaments

All photos by Lauren Zaser from one of the BuzzFeed shoots I recently produced/co-styled.

Heyoh! This week was BUSY. I finished and mailed my Christmas cards and then spent a lot of time running errands, making gifts, and getting things in order for our Life holiday party! Now it seems like everyone has left the city and I’m excited for the quiet week ahead… I feel like I’ll actually be able to get shit done, heh. (And, yes, to relax too!)

Here are this week’s highlights…

Creating

6 Easy Holiday Gifts You Can Give Everyone In Your Squad

This video + how to make those cute colorful holiday lights.

Entertained by

Flint toxic water tragedy points directly to Michigan Gov. Snyder, The Rachel Maddow Show. I grew up in Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint. This story is nuts. Governor Snyder is trash.

The Best News Bloopers of 2015. Amazing. 

Limetown. This podcast is like… Serial meets The X-Files. I listened to the first two episodes in September and really liked it but then a ton of time passed and they didn’t release any new episodes. Then I saw on Twitter this week that the finale had aired?! So I spent this week catching up.

Another Round. Now that my Christmas cards are done, I’ve moved onto brush calligraphy so I did some worksheets tonight and listened to Episode 31 (“You Gon’ Get This Blackness”), which was really good.

Jessamyn Stanley talking about fat yoga. God, this video is good.

This awesome Christmas card.

This Tweet.

Also the entire #2015Faves hashtag on Twitter; I spent wayyyy too much time on it on Friday night. This one and this one were two of my favorites.

Reading

An Unbelievable Story of Rape, The Marshall Project. An absolutely gripping must-read story.

I’ll Never Be My Wife’s Equal, Hanif Abdurraqib on Medium. “The thing about undertaking any partnership — not just romantic ones, not just hetero-romantic ones — is the entire process of unlearning the selfishness that we’ve all cultivated (potentially) over decades. In my case, I’m with someone who almost certainly would be just as successful without my presence, which accelerates the process of becoming less self-involved. It’s easy to romanticize sacrifice in tandem with love, but it isn’t easy for men who have spent their lives reading the hype of their own existence. What my gym mates didn’t tell me is that the best part of any commitment, explicitly for men who are told that they have to escape, ISN’T looking for a way out. It’s also understanding that hiding from growth puts an inescapable burden on the women we love.” God, this whole thing is SO GOOD.

Men Explain Lolita to Me, LitHub. “But seriously, you know who can’t take a joke? White guys. Not if it implicates them and their universe, and when you see the rage, the pettiness, the meltdowns and fountains of male tears of fury, you’re seeing people who really expected to get their own way and be told they’re wonderful all through the days.”

Every Word Jezebel Used to Describe Donald Trump in 2015, Jezebel. Bless them.

Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss, First Round. This is so great; I immediately sent it to all my fellow managers.

Someone Drew “Hamilton” As A Disney Movie And It’s Amazing, BuzzFeed.

A Texas Abortion Provider Speaks Out Amid Threats, Violence, Texas Observer.

What Ignited Our Burning Desire for Luxury Candles, Racked. I love the images for this. Also, now I really want to know what a $60 candles smells like so I’m gonna get on that ASAP. 

How the Mast Brothers fooled the world into paying $10 a bar for crappy hipster chocolate, QZ.

Why L.L. Bean’s Boots Keep Selling Out, The Atlantic.

What Will Replace the Hipster?, Vice.

Lillian Vernon, Creator of a Bustling Catalog Business, Dies at 88, The New York Times. “Her catalogs always began with a letter describing where she was traveling and what she had found, accompanied by a photograph showing a smiling Ms. Vernon in a Chanel suit with the latest hairstyle. … A middle-class homemaker herself, Ms. Vernon had what she called a “golden gut” for knowing what women wanted — often even before they knew.”

The First Black Trans Model Had Her Face on a Box of Clairol, The Cut.

Should the Internet know how sad I am?, The Daily Dot — and this linked piece, How to pretend to be happy on the Internet.

I Adopted A Snail And It Was Actually The Best, BuzzFeed. I loved this piece and not just because this lil’ snail sits across from me! Alanna and I have a shared enthusiasm for tiny things. (Like, I’ll come back from Michaels with tiny Christmas ornaments — see photo above — or tiny clothespins, or she’ll come back from Flying Tiger with a doll-sized chair, and we’ll announce, “Look at this tiny thing I bought!” and then cheer. Related: there is a great chapter in this book about the history of Christmas about why people love tiny things.)

Meet The Two People Risking Everything To End This Crime Against Women, BuzzFeed.

A Report On Alexander Hamilton Written By A Kid Who Has Only Listened to The Musical, The Toast. THIS IS VERY FUNNY.

The case of serial rapist police officer Daniel Holtzclaw tells us so much about 2015, Lindy West in The Guardian. “In 2016, I hope we will strive to remember the inviolable humanity of others. I hope we will refuse to grant those who terrorise us the satisfaction of our obedience. I hope we will open our doors to refugees, reject xenophobia, defend our Muslim neighbours and friends from fools and monsters, and investigate the bright, complex world beyond Facebook memes. I hope black lives will matter more to white people than they did in 2015. I hope we will trust and believe women when they say they have been raped, or disadvantaged in the workplace, or that they are not ready to be mothers. I hope my country makes a good decision in the presidential election. I hope Holtzclaw cries every day for one year.” Speaking of Lindy West, check out her wedding on APW.

I also bought Station Eleven after several friends recommended it, so I’m excited to start reading that tonight!

The week ahead…

Hopefully just maximum calm and coziness!

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