Hello Again

We joined our neighbors in putting up cutout hearts in the windows.

You would think that, given our current state of self-quarantine, the hours spent within the four walls of ones home would be the perfect time to sit down and write. 

And yet.

For the past month I haven’t written about any aspect of my life – not the uncomfortable, strange, and terrifying changes brought on by a global pandemic, or the hope-filled, heart-centered changes in my personal and professional life. 

I would like to catch you up on all things. 

Let’s begin where we last left off. Putting down roots. 

A lot has happened between then and now. 

I started my new job and had one day in the office before our entire staff shifted to working remotely due to a certain coronavirus pandemic sweeping our globe. I wish I could write an uplifting post about thriving through self-isolation, but I’m just not there yet. Maybe next week.

The long hours at home with no where to go have been a decent motivator to get things done in the garden and around the house. 

[REDACTED] and I have successfully built and paid out four raised garden beds (I shamelessly admit that he did most, if not all, of the building while I was probably inside stress baking cookies or something.) While it isn’t warm enough to plant much, in fact it snowed just this morning, I have a few small sprouts coming up from the seeds that I started earlier this month. 

Even more monumental – the two of us built a pavilion! It is enormous, and it called for four strong and able bodied humans with three ladders. We accomplished it between the two of us with only two ladders. Our neighbor’s retaining wall gets an honorable mention for the support it lent during the raising of the roof. 

The pavilion, about 90% finished. There were a few structural support pieces left before the end of the day, but the roof was on!

While law school classes are all online via virtual classrooms and meeting spaces, [REDACTED] is taking the transition in stride. We both are. After an emotional rollercoaster full of applications for summer opportunities, I am very proud to say that [REDACTED] will be interning for a federal judge. Legally, I don’t know if I can say anything more. 

I can’t put my finger on what is making it so challenging to write, to read, or to hold down anything resembling a normal schedule at the moment. It feels like it should be so easy to do those things given all of this time at home. 

I have been working and feel immensely lucky for that. Despite getting to know co-workers only through remote meetings, I have a deep sense of rightness with the decision to transition to this new role and organization.

I am doing my best to take each day at a time. Some days I feel ready to tackle a whole to-do list, others I would rather play games on my phone and ignore the outside world as long as possible.

For the extroverts out there, I highly recommend video chats. My mom is an extrovert, and while she enjoys her peace and quite and time alone she really thrives in community and with others. There is nothing wrong with needing people.

For the introverts out there, if you live with another person, I recommend saying your needs out loud and finding time to be alone. Go for a walk if you can, set aside regular time to drink a cup of tea. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be alone.

Wherever you are, friend. I hope you are well. I hope you are taking deep breaths and finding ways to meet your needs. 

Half of the raised garden beds in our backyard (the other two weren’t built at the time I took this photo)
Bonus – puppy in the background!

Putting Down Roots

The snow is now completely gone from the front yard. The backyard has a foot-wide patch of gritty grey-white ice that is holding on by some quirk of nature.

I almost miss the snow, since now the muck and mud that was frozen underneath is revitalized and soggy. 

Getting out of the passenger’s side of our car is like a bizarre obstacle course. We have a make-shift path of bricks – barely big enough to plant your foot on spaced haphazardly across the muddiest patch. 

Unfortunately, when the path was put in place we lacked enough bricks to bridget the gap comfortably so the poor adventurers (us, in this case) are forced to hop from brick to brick and hope that your foot lands solidly on the small rectangle of hard ground.

If you haven’t heard, our “soil” has a good deal of red clay, which makes it thick and sticky. Water sits on top of the ruts and ridges in the ground rather than sinking into it, and if you happen to step in it the stuff clings to everything and is nearly impossible to get off. 

Image: the mucky pup herself, helping to make the bed after getting our sheets muddy.

Our daily walks with the pup have left tiny muddy footprints all over the first floor of the house. (Note to self, we should give the floors a good deep clean this weekend.) Mud is unavoidable.

Frankly, the only thing that makes the muck appealing is the prospect of taming it into a garden for the summer months. And (maybe?) that this muck is our muck.

I have never been a gardener, so this may be a loftier goal than I realize. Nevertheless, I put in an order for an assortment of seeds to grow sunflowers, string beans, tomatoes – all the classics, plus a few out-of-the-ordinary items. (Parsnips? Why not!?)

I’ve had gardening tutorials playing in the background all morning as I answer emails and finalize details around my approaching job transition. 

Before buying a house I enjoyed the idea of gardening but never had the impulse to put much time and effort into the small array of potted plants we’ve had on apartment porches in the past. 

Now that we own land? I want to work it!

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with this house. [REDACTED] and I have agreed – we will try to tackle one home improvement project each year, and the garden is project number one.

Image: seeds I bought on impulse when picking up some groceries after [REDACTED] and I talked about going garden supply shopping over the weekend
(not my best partner moment, but also not the worst?)

[REDACTED] and I are giddy envisioning working sand and compost into our thick reddish brown muck with a tiller (something that [REDACTED] keeps talking about while I nod along agreeably without any understanding of what a “tiller” is.)

Don’t worry, friends – I haven’t quite forgotten the nearly insurmountable task that was our driveway this past fall. I do remember the naive belief that we would be able to lay the groundwork for our gravel driveway by hand only to realize that waterlogged muck is nearly impossible to move quickly or easily with a shovel and ten frozen fingers.

BUT! When we watched tutorial videos on installing gravel driveways for that DIY Home Improvement adventure the tutors were speaking from sunny days with dry dirt to work with – that was different. We weren’t fully prepared. 

Now we know what red clay muck is made of. This is a known enemy. And we have mulch!

So. Much. Mulch. 

The mulch was bequeathed to us by the seller when we purchased the house. Between [REDACTED], myself, and our massive amounts of mulch, I believe we can turn our mud puddle of a backyard into a green space. 

That’s the hope, anyways. 

I admit, thinking about planting a garden and watching things grow has me daydreaming into the future. 

I’m imagining little hands and tiny bare feet running between the garden beds followed closely by a watchful pup. I know kids are still a few years off for us. I know there is a massive wash of fear around planning a family and thinking about the future of our world. 

Image: the only thriving plants currently in my life, on the windowsill of my office space
(the office that I will be leaving as of this Friday for my NEW JOB!)

I understand the fear. I understand the danger our planet faces due to climate change. At the same time, it feels like a problem that is too big for me to bear the weight of it solely on my shoulders. For better or for worse it is not a fear I have internalized. 

Planting things in our barren mucky backyard and turning it into a (hopefully) lush and green garden feels like a good way to engage with the earth in a way I haven’t before. It feels like a small protest to the destruction and waste that is occurring elsewhere on the planet. 

It’s hopeful and naive and I don’t know how successful we may or may not be at taming our backyard mud pit, or how we all might combat and slow the destruction of our earth. I choose to remain naive and hopeful either way. It worked for the driveway.

We’ll see how the rest goes. 

Winds of Change

Spring is coming. I can feel it. 

We have finally had the first “nice” day that heralds the warmer months. In the midwest, this is the day when the temperature never really gets above 56 degrees, but everyone embraces it as if it were the height of summer. 

Runners suddenly don shorts instead of their ankle-length insulated leggings. Birds seem to appear out of thin air, and morning walks immediately have a soundtrack of raucous chittering. 

Just this morning, I was out on a walk with our pup and I had the realization that winter is almost over. It’s already March.

This time last year, [REDACTED] and I hadn’t even stepped foot on the law school’s campus. No decision had been made. No offer accepted. 

This time six months ago we had barely moved into the apartment that never felt like home. Just three months later, we would be buying a house and moving in. A house that definitely feels like home.

Part of my whirlwind was a 12-hour volunteer shift at C2E2. I was NOT looking forward to it, but it turned out to be incredibly fun.

This time last week we were preparing for a whirlwind trip back to our old city. It was a trip of 12-hour volunteer shifts, familiar places with new people, and an impromptu party at a bar around the corner from my parent’s house. It was excellent.

The weekend was everything I hoped it would be and more.

On the drive back [REDACTED] turned to me, “I’m looking forward to being home.”

Me too. 

This weekend I have plans to see not one, not two, but four friends. One of them I met through bumble BFF, one I met through a mutual friend, one I met through work, and one I’ve known since college. I think back on our first month after the move and feel an indescribable sense of gratitude and calm knowing that my feelings of lonliness and isolation were not final.

Change is in the air. 

And so, it seems fitting that I am preparing for another change. 

I got a job. A new job that aligns with the work I was doing before the move.

 In trying to describe this feeling, it is like putting together pieces of a broken plate and finding that, although some paint chipped off, the seam is nearly invisible. It is incredibly satisfying. 

Home is where the cat is.

My therapist told me that people are happiest before a vacation – that the planning and daydreaming about the event beings greater pleasure than the experience of it. It felt like a gentle warning not to put all of my happiness on one thing, but friend – I cannot help being excited and I want to relish the feeling for as long as I can. 

In the midst of my excitement, [REDACTED] is facing his own application process. 

Summer, it seems, is a high stakes game when you’re in law school. I have been doing my best to be a supportive, compassionate, and empathetic partner while letting [REDACTED] carry his own anxiety and stress. 

That is not to say that I am not open to hearing his concerns, or that I’m not present and available when he needs someone to vent to over the application process for some internship or another – I am. 

I just let his stress be his and try to keep my stress mine. My therapist calls this sort of thing a boundary, and she assures me it is very healthy. 

Have I mentioned that I really like my therapist?

A small example of nesting.
From left to right, a small basket of writing supplies, a carved elephant from a friend, a distressed wood sign, my bouquet from our wedding, Lovey Bear stuffed animal, and a struggling house plant.

Side Hustles

I don’t know how we got here, but we live in an era of side-hustles. 

While working my 9-5 (which is actually more like an 8:30-5 because, work culture) I am constantly wondering what else I could be doing to add a bit more to my savings, or bump up my contributions towards retirement, or buy a pair of those Rothy’s shoes that everyone keeps talking about. 

I’m pretty damn frugal.

Image Description: A frugal cat sitting in the middle of my frugal Aldi groceries.

I shop second hand for all my clothes (ok, not bras and panties.) I don’t splurge on high-end items or buy new electronics (my “new” phone is refurbished from [BackMarket] and works great!). For groceries, I love Aldi for their prices (but hate the plastic packaging) and occasionally stock up from the bulk bins at our local co-op. I drink the complimentary coffee at work (even though it is well known for being terrible.) I have a reasonable amount of money in savings (although not the 6-month emergency fund I’ve heard is recommended.) 

So why this infatuation with the idea of a side hustle? Of cashing in just a few more dollars that may (or may not) be worth the extra time at my computer, brain space to put towards improvement, or creative-outlet turned small business venture?

Is it really worth it?

Well, friend – I don’t know for sure. It probably depends on your personal circumstances, financial goals, your space in time and place, and a million other factors that I can’t speak to.

What I do know is that the two side-hustles I’ve tried so far have been “meh” on the scale of terrible to great. Here they are, and here is why:

I don’t remember how I heard about “Influenster,” but I’m going to assume it was through Pinterest. That deep dark pit of scrolling for creative inspiration with no motivation to actually pursue said project(s). I friggin love Pinterest.

Influenster is, from what I can tell, a place where companies go to buy your thoughts, opinions, experiences, and Instagram pics with their products.

Pros: It’s kind of fun and creative to write product reviews – especially for things like cat treats. Seriously. You could write the review from the perspective of your cat and that would probably be totally fine with the powers that be. 

Another pro? Sometimes they will send you free stuff – sometimes. I received a box a few weeks ago with a shampoo, conditioner, chocolates, and facial moisturizer. The chocolate was definitely the highlight for me, personally. Unfortunately, I ate it before I remembered to take any aesthetically pleasing Insta-worth shots of the in-tact packaging or, for that matter, the nutty caramel-y chocolate bits inside. 

Cons: You usually don’t get anything for your creative juices. I wrote my review of cat treats and you know what, I got shampoo. 

Secret confession time – I don’t use shampoo. I wash my hair with a conditioner. It’s called “co-washing” and it’s great. I love it.

Another con, I’m not very insta-savvy. Sure, I’m a millennial so some social media knowledge just comes naturally through osmosis with my peers, but in general I don’t love the idea of having my instagram out there in the world. (She says, while typing a public blog post that will live “out there in the world.”)

Image Description: my preferred method of organizing, just a simple notebook. This one is almost full, has a dark teal cover and a bright red stickie marking an important page.

All in all, Influenster is fine as a hobby, it is no side-hustle. Unless you want a side-hustle with no guaranteed rewards, and the occasional shipment of free products to try with the expectation that you write about them and don’t eat them immediately. Then, have at it.

My second attempt at the side-hustle was with Rev – a captioning service that hires people to watch videos and caption them. It’s got rigorous standards, and videos can range from one minute to over an hour. I think sometimes they are for full episodes of something, maybe even a movie.

Pros: This shit is legit. They pay you weekly, on Mondays, and clearly state how much you can expect to make from each video that you caption. Their metrics for success are clear, albeit very detailed, and they have reviewers go over your work and give feedback while you learn (a process that can take as long as you are willing to put into it. 

Cons: The pay is shit. At least while you’re learning. Most videos pay $.50-$.60 per minute of video time, which can take much much longer to caption, so you’re not going to be making much until you’ve put in the time to learn the system and get really food at typing incredibly quickly. 

Another con, some videos have terrible sound quality. You don’t realize how wonderful a newscast can sound until you’ve spent half an hour trying to caption the indistinct screaming of two grown adult humans trying to prank their friend in a moving vehicle. It’s not the most fun way to spend a free hour of your life. 

The biggest con that applies to all side hustle gigs is the drain on your free time. 

Sure, if you are being paid to sit around and do nothing for hours on end, get yourself a sweet side-hustle and have at it! But, if you are looking for meaningful work that fills your wallet and your joy-meter, this isn’t it. 

A side hustle won’t make your day job any more fulfilling and it probably won’t pay for that new pair of shoes. Unless you toil away at your side hustle for hours on end for months and months – at which point, can you really call it a “side”-hustle? That’s more of a 50/50 shuffle.

If you do, like some people in this world, have a fire in your belly to create something – whether it pays the bills or not, then friend – do it. 

This blog? Pays nothing! Who cares! I write it because I want to, and I’ve heard from a few people that they enjoy reading it. That is more than enough for me.

Image Description: our dog Caillie looking lovingly up towards someone hot in frame. Having pets is not frugal, but their love is very worth it.

Practicing Happy

Image of a blue sky and some light wispy clouds.

Last week I had my first session with a local therapist.

It was good. I felt prepared. 

It had been months since my last therapy session, back before the move, and I had had plenty of time to reflect on what I was thinking and feeling, and where those feelings were coming from. 

For a first appointment, I was impressed with my own willingness to open up and be vulnerable. 

Then again, I had known for a while that I needed to talk some things over.

My emotional roller coaster had been a particularly rough ride recently, and I was just coming up from a low point on the day of our meeting. 

Since my appointment, I have been repeating one thing in particular that my new therapist imparted. 

“We get better at what we practice.”

Well, of course. It seems obvious. But I had never thought to put it into the context of emotions or thought patterns. 

Emotions, like any physical sensation, tell us something. Hunger means we need to eat. Fatigue means we need sleep. We are trained from a young age to notice when we need to use the bathroom, when we are thirsty and need a glass of water – it takes practice to learn those things and give our body what it needs.

When it comes to emotions, there aren’t always such “simple” fixes. We aren’t trained to ask for quiet, or time to be alone. Asking for those things in a professional environment feels, well, unprofessional. How do we even know we need those things?

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk and felt a pressure rising in my chest. I could feel my breath quicken, my heart beat pounding loudly in my ears, and I felt tears swimming behind my eyes, ready to fall.

On instinct, I got up from my desk, made my way to an empty back hall in the building where I work, curled up in a ball, and choked back my sobs until I could slow my breathing, refocus my gaze, and walk to the bathroom to dry my eyes. 

I’m not a trained specialist, but I know how to recognize a panic attack when I feel one.

There was nothing distinctly “off” about that day – no undue stress, or harried schedule. I was well hydrated, had food in my belly, and my first reaction is to think back on that moment in time and wonder what in the world I had to be panicked about. To criticize myself for being so overcome and unable to control my emotions.

That is one of the most frustrating parts of anxiety. There doesn’t always feel like a clear reason behind it. There is not a clear solution, and there is very little anyone who I love or who loves me could have done that would have changed the course of events at that moment. 

But, I can practice for next time.

In the time between my appointments, I have been tasked with reviewing a list of cognitive distortions and comparing them to my own thought patterns and tendencies to notice which ones I gravitate towards. 

For the past week, I have tried to practice approaching each day with optimism, assuming best intentions (of myself, and of others), and trying my best to be aware, but not judgemental, of the filter I am using in a given moment to view myself and those around me. That is often easier said than done, but sorting through negative thoughts and being able to label them as one cognitive distortion or another has helped me calm the (sometimes cruel) chorus inside my head.

I have found the past week surprisingly comforting, and I encourage you to try and practice bringing awareness to your internal filters too. I’ve listed them below, in case you’re curious. 

For anyone who is struggling, or who could use someone to talk things through – there are so many resources to find a therapist who will fit your needs, whether that is in the topic(s) you wish to discuss, your financial constraints, or your geographical location. 

Everyone should be in therapy. Life is a marathon, and nobody just gets up one day able to run the whole of it. A good therapist is like a coach for your emotional ability to handle all the hurdles that life throws your way. 

It’s scary starting out, it can be a daunting task to sift through your most vulnerable, hidden, or hated parts of yourself, but it can be oh so rewarding. 

Some days I leave therapy feeling like I have just discovered a new facet of myself, other days I feel like a lump of coal. It sometimes take a few steps back to gain enough momentum to move forward again. 

Friend, it is worth it. 

Here’s a link to get you started. You might not find exactly what you’re looking for, but the search is also worth it. Knowing it has begun is a good first step. 


(This was just the first link after googling “How do I find a therapist?” But it’s what worked for me!)

Cognitive Distortions (link to full list)

  1. Filtering – A person who takes the negative details and magnifies them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. 
  2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking) – A person who thinks of things as all or nothing. We are either perfect or a complete failure, there is no middle ground. 
  3. Overgeneralization – A person who comes to a conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, it will happen over and over again. 
  4. Jumping to Conclusions – A person who is sure they know what other people are feeling and thinking, and exactly why they act the way they do. 
  5. Catastrophizing – A person who expects disaster to strike no matter what. Often, this type of thinking poses a lot of “what if” questions.
  6. Personalization – A person who assumes that everything others do is some sort of direct, personal reaction to them. Often comparing themselves  to others, trying to determine who is smarter/better/prettier/etc.
  7. Control Fallacies – A person who feels externally controlled (a helpless victim of fate), or that they have internal control (responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around them.)
  8. Fallacy of Fairness – A person who feels resentful because they think they know what is fari, but other people won’t agree with them.
  9. Blaming – A person who holds others responsible for their emotional pain. Alternatively, a person who blames themselves for every problem.
  10. Shoulds – A person with a list of “should” statements that act as ironclad rules. “I should…” or “I shouldn’t…”
  11. Emotional Reasoning – A person who takes their emotion or feeling and believes them to be true. ex- I feel stupid, so I must be stupid.
  12. Fallacy of Change – A person expects that other people will change to suit them if they pressure or cajole enough. 
  13. Global Labeling – A person generalizes one or two qualities into a negative global judgement about themselves or another person.
  14. Always Being Right – A person who continually puts others on trial to prove that their own opinions and actions are the correct ones.
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy – A person who believes that sacrifice and self-denial will eventually pay off, as if a global force is keeping score. 

Everyone – I repeat, EVERYONE, probably thinks in at least a few of these ways at some point in their life. It doesn’t mean you are broken or wrong or bad. It is just something to practice being aware of. 

Being aware of our cognitive distortions can help us manage them and recognize them for what they are, or so I am told. 

For me, recognizing when my thoughts are spiraling and my anxiety is rising is a practice in happiness. Getting better at seeing those things are signals for needing quiet, or space, or a trip to the water fountain and back, it is getting better at holding the things that bring me joy in perspective. 

I am practicing my happiness in the hopes that it becomes easier, more present, and more pervasive than the thoughts that bring me down.


Last weekend was wonderful. 

It was satisfying and relaxing and rejuvenating.

It was everything I could have wanted for my days away from my desk.

But it did not start that way.

Mornings are always better with a hot mug of tea.
Image Description: A mug shot taken from above.

Friday morning, I woke up with a migraine. One of the worst migraines I’ve ever had. 

If you have never had a migraine, I envy you. If you’re wondering “what does a migraine feel like?” I will try to explain. 

Migraines are a little different for each person, but mine always start like this:

6pm – the right side of my head feels a little achy, but it’s nothing I can’t push through. I swallow a few advil and sit down to eat dinner. 

7pm – the pain starts to collect at my right temple, and my thoughts get hard to track. Not much, but enough to where I can tell something is off. I wish I had taken something stronger than an advil. 

8:30 – I decide to go to bed early, maybe I can sleep it off and I’ll feel better in the morning.

4am – The pain wakes me up. I can tell the migraine is getting worse, but I’m tired and don’t want to get out of bed. My limbs feel heavy, and my head is pounding.

5am – I have to get up, I can’t sleep and I left my migraine meds in the kitchen. I grab a big glass of water and take two of the small white capsules. I know it’s too late for them to do much at this point, so I take an ice pack from the freezer, wrap it in a kitchen towel, and put the compress against my temple. It’s freezing cold, but at least it’s a different kind of pain from the internal ache.

6am – I’m back in bed with my ice pack for a pillow and have been drifting in and out of sleep for the past forty-five minutes. The migraine meds have kicked in, which doesn’t take away any of the pain, but does flood my system with several cups of coffee worth of caffeine. The cats are meowing to be fed. Are they always so loud?

6:30 – the cats are fed, and the sun is brightening the windows. The comforting golden hue buzzes with a harsh glimmering aura. I grab my sunglasses and pace the kitchen. The caffeine is making me anxious, but the pain is making me nauseous. I mentally tick down the list of breakfast options and calculate the probability that I can stomach them. 

7am – I settle on celery. It doesn’t have much flavor, has a high water content, and I think the texture might feel good in the bones of my skull. I want to bite down on something—hard.

7:15 – food was a bad idea. My stomach rolls, and I make my way slowly to the bathroom and sit on the cold tile floor. I know I won’t vomit, it just feels like I should. 

7:30 – I crawl back into bed. I mumble to [REDACTED] that I’m fighting a migraine. He murmurs he’s sorry. I dig my knuckle into the side of my head. If I could survive drilling a hole in my skull, I would. Anything to relieve the pressure.

8:00am – I know I can’t go in to work. The sun is still too bright, and staring at a screen for any amount of time would be pure torture. I dictate a quick email to [REDACTED] who notifies my boss. I feel like a child. I feel helpless. A headache took me down—a pain in my head! It feels like a puzzle I should be able to solve. If I just eat the right things in the right order, or take in the right ratio of water to oxygen, I should be able to fix this.

8:20am – [REDACTED] brings me a fresh ice pack, some tums, and water. He kisses me goodbye on his way to a study session. I press the icy block to my forehead and curl into my pillow. The ice numbs my head enough for me to drift into sleep. 

12:00pm – My eyes burst open. The migraine meds have started to work their magic. Fortified by sleep and the dark room, the pills are slowly stifling the throbbing in my head. I can feel the caffeine in them too, jittery in my nerves without any substantial food to weigh it down. I sit up, tentatively. No acrobatics in my belly. I let out a tentative sigh of relief and ease my feet into slippers. 

The rest of the day I shuffle around the house, floating in my return to normalcy. I am almost ecstatic at the lack of excruciating pain in my temple. I attentively tidy and dust our home. I consider vacuuming—the rugs could use it—and decide not to risk it. 

I coddle myself. I take a nap on the couch while my well-fed kitties snooze around me. 

[REDACTED] comes home and we take a walk to the dog park with our pup. I don’t talk much, but I hold his arm and take deep breaths of the crisp cold air.

My brain feels a little fried for a day or two after a migraine. I always have a slightly floaty feeling in my skull, and a deep gratitude that the migraine ended. 

So far, they all have ended. But when they are happening, it’s hard to remember that.

It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re curled around your ice pack pillow wishing the sun would go back to the other side of the earth. 

But, eventually, the pain will subside, and you get to be glad it’s over.

Few things are better than feeling the migraine start to break enough to hike out in the snow with a good pup.


What a week. What. A. Week. 


I was without a working phone for the past week. 

Let me clarify – the device was perfectly functional as a tiny hand-held computer. With access to WiFi, I could do all manner of smart-phone-things – check email, send and receive text messages (but only to or from another iPhone), scroll through facebook, etc.

I just couldn’t use it, you know, as a phone. 

My phone could not receive texts, or calls, google maps was out of the question, anything outdoors was out of service. My phone was out of commision on my birthday, so any phone calls from well-wishers got lost in the ether, never to be found. It sucked.

I tried to think of it as an opportunity to free myself from my device, but instead it was a constant source of anxiety, frustration, and isolation. 

It all started with a blog post I read about MVNOs. MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) are phone plans that take excess data and service from major service providers (think Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.) and resell them at a much lower cost. The most helpful comparison that I have found describes MVNOs at the TjMaxx or Marshall’s of the phone world. 

I love TjMaxx and I love Marshall’s, and my beloved parents have been gently encouraging me to pay my own way in regards to my phone bill. After getting married, moving to a new city, and buying a house it made sense that I should provide for my own phone plan.  It was my last financial tether to my parents

A quick google search pulled up four or five choices for MVNOs. One cost too much for too little data. One cost too much for too little cell service. Finally, I found a good middle option – or so I thought. 

I placed my order for three months of service with Mint Mobile. It would cost just over $20 a month for 8GB of data. Bonus, their mascot is a fox. I fricking love foxes. 

A few days later, a small envelope arrived with a new SIM card. I went to my old cellular provider, cancelled my plan with them, and sat down to install and activate my foxy new cell service. 

Within about an hour, “MINT” was listed as the service provider in the upper left hand corner of my screen. I only had two bars, but the set-up process had recommended that I activate WiFi enabled calling anyways.  I was home (with WiFi), so I wasn’t too worried. 

I sent a few text messages to friends as a test, called my parents, and gave myself a mental pat on the back for being such a frugal and savvy consumer. 

Oh, sweet summer child. You gullible nincompoop. Why did you not heed the minimal bars of service as a harbinger of doom!?

The next morning, I left for work. Waiting at the bus stop, I pulled out my phone and attempted to open a certain social media app that is my go-to for wasting time.

Instead of friend-centered life updates, a grey background and darker grey text appeared: “Unable to load…limited connection.” A little voice in the back of my head whispered “on no…”

I closed the app and tried another app. Nope. 

I tried my email. Nope. 

I checked my bars. Two bars!? Still!? Two bars should count for something!

“It’s ok,” I told myself, “give it a day, or two, maybe it’s just a weird quirk. Maybe the phone has to do some self-regulation thing.”

Maybe if I weren’t such a patient person, or maybe if I weren’t so optimistic about this whole MVNO deal, or maybe if it weren’t for that adorable little fox I would have paid attention to the red flags sooner. 

After about a week I was very done with the terribly unreliable service, the inability to make or receive phone calls, and the lack of access to email (and social media) without a tether to reliable WiFi. The fox was cute, but not that cute.

I emailed their customer service department (I would have called them, but as I mentioned, my phone service was terribly unreliable).

They kindly cancelled my service and refunded me for my trouble. 

Which was great!

But then, I had to find another phone service provider. 

The sweet savings promised by MVNOs was too tempting to give up after just one week, so I figured I would try one more – if this one didn’t work, what was another week without a phone?

I did more research, reminding myself to be wary of adorable woodland creatures, and read some reviews online (I learned from my mistakes!) After a few more hours, I made a month long commitment to Red Pocket. 

Red Pocket uses service from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint – I figured three providers are better than one! I also checked the coverage and read the fine print around what kind of coverage I could expect.

My email confirmation congratulated me on my choice and told me to watch the mail – my new SIM card would arrive in 2-5 business days. 

In the age of “2-Day” and even “next day” delivery, it is easy to ignore how long five days can be. Also, ever the optimist, I was sure it wouldn’t take a full five days to receive one little enveloppe. 

My optimism was not deserved. It did take the full five days. Business days, which did not include the Saturday or Sunday in-between.

I spent my birthday week like Harry Potter in the summer before his second year at Hogwarts. A stubborn, unseen force blocked any communication that came my way. I felt the absence of well-wishes more than I like to admit.

When the new SIM card (finally) arrived, there was another hurdle to jump.

In order to transfer my phone number, I had to “port” it over from my old provider. That meant I had to log in to my MINT account, and that meant that I needed a working phone number to reset the password I conveniently forgot just after cancelling the service. 

I’m glad I don’t live alone. [REDACTED], benevolent, supportive, and loving husband that he is, agreed to let me use his phone to call the Mint Mobile customer service line. 

After a total of 1.5 hours on hold (that is not an exaggeration), I had all the information that I would need to transfer my number. 

I sent my request to Red Pocket to have them finalize the details. 

“It may take 12-24 hours” they said. 

Awesome. I can’t wait. I mean, I can wait.

I went to bed, and when I woke up…


I called [REDACTED] from the kitchen just because I could. Then I called my parents, and texted several friends to be sure the bars were real.

On the bus, I checked my email, scrolled through social media, and texted a few more friends.

My week without a phone did not enlighten me to the wonders of a life lived without technology. Instead, it brought a deep sense of isolation. It felt a little bit like a depression. I wanted to reach out and talk to people, but had no way of doing so. If I left a familiar place I immediately felt lost. I was less capable of keeping up with day to day activities since I had limited access to my calendar. 

It really was horrible. 

I’m embarrassed to think that I could be so deeply impacted by a little box of plastic and wiring, but I absolutely am. 

I am now, more than ever, thankful for the technology I have.

Google maps is amazing! Sending a goofy GIF to a friend – that’s awesome! Knowing that I can call [REDACTED] anytime I want? Priceless.

Wishing for Retrospect

I lie about my age pretty frequently. 

Not on any important documents, but casually. Sometimes in response to a direct ask (I used to say I was 27, now I’ll probably respond “29”), but most often I just don’t correct people if they assume I am older than I am. 

Somewhere along the line, I stopped wanting to stay rooted in childhood and began wishing for the retrospect of age. 

I long to be able to look back on my current insecurities and uncertainty and see the path out of them. This moment in time just seems too rooted in a pervasive feeling of being “too young.”

I’m too young to have bought a house. I’m too young to be married. I’m too young to be settled down. The whispers of doubt are mostly internal, but I hear the thoughts echoed regularly by the people around me. Their eyes widen slightly when I mention the house. Their gaze flickers down to my left ring finger, then back to my face.

My childhood vision of life in my twenties involved travel, backpacking, exploration. And maybe, if I had the financial resources and time, if I wasn’t in a long-term committed relationship, if I didn’t have the responsibility of three pets to care for, I would love to be jet-setting around the world.

But I don’t really want to travel the world without [REDACTED], and I love our little zoo, so instead I just wish I could be done with my “awkward 20s.”

I’m thinking about all of this because this week I turned 27.

Since graduating college, I have felt the question of “what are you going to do with your life” hanging heavily around my neck, on my shoulders, dragging at my feet. Every decision feels momentous. It is part of what made moving, and leaving the job I loved, feel so awful – what if that was what I wanted for the rest of my life? Or what I was “supposed to do.”

My 26th year was one of enormous change. I’m finding myself wary of long-term goal setting, and I am starting to realize that one year is a long time that can go by very fast.

I listen to friends with a few more years of life under their belt with a mixture of admiration and jealousy. I want the distance from our move. I want a few more job transitions under my belt to take away the sting of loss. I want to grow out of these growing pains!

In honor of turning 27, I am making a list of things I am hoping for at this moment in time for the coming year. It’s a bit of a grounding exercise, I guess. Perhaps next year I will re-read this list and feel that all of these things weren’t all that important. In that case, I hope I can at least celebrate my newfound retrospect. 

27 Hopes

  1. Read 10 books (the “reach” goal is 15)
  2. Smile more
  3. Care less about what other people think
  4. Keep singing
  5. Get back on stage
  6. Finish my sashiko quilt
  7. Plant a garden
  8. Find time for reflection
  9. Art more (painting, knitting, drawing,crochet, etc.)
  10. Go on long hikes and walks
  11. Visit friends
  12. Be on time to things
  13. Keep writing
  14. Snuggle all the cats
  15. Explore new skills – maybe take a dance class
  16.  Practice pouring love into everything like my mom always tells me to do
  17. Stay hydrated
  18. Be silly. Just go for it.
  19. Take trips back home
  20. Take a trip that is far from home
  21. Stay frugal
  22. Practice hygge
  23. Keep in touch with friends and loved ones
  24. Use it or lose it (art supplies, clothes, whatever.)
  25. Collaborate on some art with friends
  26. Share meals with friends
  27. Stay present

This list was much more challenging than I anticipated. I got stuck after 12, and then got stuck again at 21. I’m sure there are more things to add to the list, but this is good enough for now.

At first, I started a list of “certainties” – trying to piece together 27 things about myself. That list felt wrong, self-centered, too vulnerable to put out into the world. 

Then I tried looking up “Questions to Ask Yourself” and my search spat back page after page of “if you could do anything…” and “what would your younger self think…” I couldn’t even begin to answer those questions without my eyes filling with tears. 

After being so averse to the move, to leaving my old job, leaving behind friends, I know it will take time to settle in to this new home, new job, and new friends. I want the transition period to be over. For that I need to be older. I need time to pass.

Cause for Celebration

A birthday is sort of like a medical check-up, right?

I’m kidding. Birthdays are celebratory. Check-ups are not – they are terrifying (for me, at least.) 

This week marks two occasions – my husband’s birthday, and the first positive medical experience I’ve had in almost three years.

Let’s start with the birthday – that’s the fun stuff. 

For any gift-giving holiday, I am usually stumped on what to get for [REDACTED]. He is the worst when it comes to gift giving because usually if there is something he wants, or needs, he will do the research, find the best deal, and buy the thing himself.

Image Description: one of the kitties, quite content being held and chewing on the end of a wooden pencil – she is easy to please!

He is also generally a content person. There aren’t many items or experiences (that fit within my budget) that would make a drastic improvement on his everyday life. There were two such things, but I got them for him as christmas presents. If you must know, they are a weighted blanket and a cozy cardigan. 

Lucky for me, a great opportunity to give [REDACTED] a gift that he would love presented itself. In case you haven’t heard, The Office is leaving Netflix. That is a big deal in our household. Checking in on the Dunder Mifflin staff is an almost weekly ritual. We throw on episodes as the background noise to everything from cleaning to decorating to unwinding after a full day.

The gift was obvious; the boxed set of every Office episode. 

While it wasn’t a surprise, since [REDACTED] had dropped a few hints leading up to the big day, it was what he would have gotten for himself – which means he definitely wanted it. Great success!

To celebrate his birthday, [REDACTED] and I discussed going out to dinner and a movie at our favorite spot (it’s one of those movie theaters that serves you dinner and drinks at your seat – ooh la la!)The other option was to stay in, I would make dinner, and we could watch a movie on the couch – or play a board game. Option two was the more “thrifty” alternative to a night out on the town.

Since it was his birthday I gave him final call.

We stayed in. [REDACTED] used his powers of research and got us a dual-player video game, I made a very tasty meal, and we hung out. 

Image Description: A case of butterflies we saw at a local nature center. We went out for a candlelit hike in the snow with some friends – very chilly and very fun.

Since the new semester has started up, [REDACTED]’s class schedule keeps him on campus late a few days a week. I’ve picked up a teaching gig on Saturday mornings (it’s a drama class for 4-5 year !) Not to mention, when we are both at home there is homework and chores and meals to prep and dishes to clean and a dog to walk, the list goes on…

We don’t have many moments to just be together. This moment was excellent – a perfect celebration.

Now for the check-up. 

Ugh. There are so many things I don’t like about medical check-ups. 

I don’t like being naked in front of strangers, I don’t like seeing the number on the scale when I get weighed, and I especially don’t like anything to do with needles. 

I have had every manner of negative reaction to fluids entering exiting my body by way of a needle. I have passed out, vomited, even had a full-on panic attack. The one thing I have discovered can help allay some of these fears is a simple reminder to myself to breathe. 

This generally requires that I be singing. 

It isn’t particularly comfortable to sing in front of strangers, especially if they weren’t necessarily expecting you to sing in front of them, but it’s better than the alternatives.

It also definitely requires the cooperation of the medical professional. 

I have a specific order of operations that I request whenever I can’t avoid needles:

1 – I have to know exactly what you are doing, from when you are unwrapping supplies to when I should expect to feel a “pinch.” It does not have to be any more detailed than that.

2 – I will turn away and start to sing, then you can approach me with the needle, but you have to tell me that you are coming towards me. (Once,I was not warned that a flu shot was nearing my arm and I responded by pulling my arm away and effectively ripping the needle out of my skin.)

3 – I will keep singing, and you can tell me when it’s over, and then I will stop singing. 

That’s it. Three very basic rules, most of which are just that I need to be singing and I need to know what the medical professional is doing. It isn’t much, but it has been an ongoing challenge to explain my needs and have my requests taken seriously.

I have been to two different primary care physicians in the past three years for my annual check-up, both times I left the appointment in tears, usually for various surprise-needle related scenarios.

Well, the time of year when I am expected to make an appointment and check that I am a healthy human being rolled around again. As much as I wanted to avoid it, I decided to be a grown-up and make an appointment with a new PCP here in our new city. 

I went onto my insurance company’s website, typed in my parameters, and found a clinic. It sounds easy, but wow – there is a lot of complicated wording and sneaky guidelines to finding an easily accessible medical provider that also meets my insurance’s criteria. 

Cue celebratory fanfare – the appointment went smoothly!

I won’t bore you with the details. Here is a brief summary of the highlights of my appointment:

1 – The nurse had a good sense of humor, and make a note in my file about my phobia of needles (the doctor confirmed, she had seen the note)

2 – The doctor took her time, asked me plenty of questions, and invited me to ask whatever questions I had.

3 – There were no needles. Not even a mention of needles or having my blood drawn. There was clear communication, mutual respect, and even some shared laughter.

While it was much more fun to celebrate [REDACTED]’s birthday, I felt a big weight lifted after finding a doctor that made me feel like I have a voice and a say in my health care.

Sometimes, you just need a little smooth sailing in a sea of uncertainty to right your ship and re-calibrate your compass. 

That Saturday class I mentioned? The one where I get to teach kids drama? My internal compass tells me I want more of that.

Higher Ed.

Working in higher education has brought up a lot of complicated emotions for me. 

I don’t have the fondest memories of my time in undergrad. Those four years were a pressure cooker of sleep deprivation, struggling to keep up with class readings, stress over assignments, and terror that the people around me could tell that I didn’t know what I was doing.

In talking with friends post-grad, it turns out there are plenty of people whose experience did not live up to what they hoped for or expected from their college years.

Before starting undergrad, I heard over and over from family friends and neighbors how much they loved their college experience. Now, working in an administrative position at a university, I hear from my co-workers how their experience in undergrad made them want to pursue a career in higher ed. 

That notion boggles my mind. 

I’m sure some of my peers would be surprised to hear it, but I think my four years of college were some of the worst years of my life. 

Those four years left a pervasive feeling of being lost and stumbling through a maze of classes without a clear path to what I might want to do when it was all over. 

If I could go back and whisper in the ear of my high school self, I would encourage her to take a gap year, or to treat college as less of a “road map” to a career and more of a playground. I would shout “dive in!” to things I was interested in, but that didn’t fulfill a “degree requirement.” And, I would say “take a gap year.”

If I were to happen upon my undergraduate self, I would whisper “everyone else is struggling too,” cross my fingers, and hope that the realization would sink in. 

It’s possible that my memories are clouded, not by the experiences themselves, but by the filters that I now recognize and have a word for: anxiety and depression. 

I look back on the nights when I would huddle against the back of my bedroom door, my knees pressed into my chest, and choke back sobs, and I wish I could tell that frantic, panicked girl that the empty drowning feeling both is and is not normal. 

Depression and anxiety are not uncommon, but they aren’t ubiquitous. Not everyone has the invasive thought “wouldn’t it be easier if I just didn’t exist?” Some people do, but not everyone. 

That feeling of wanting to sleep and only sleep is felt by thousands of people across the world, it isn’t how everyone feels most of the time, but it isn’t a feeling that comes just from “imagining” it. It is real. 

If I could, I would tell her that it isn’t always possible to just not think about those things. It isn’t always possible to clear your head, or meditate, or eat your vegetables and drink enough water to make it go away. Sometimes, you need something stronger than sunshine and vitamin D to strengthen the good days. 

This post isn’t quite what I was planning on writing. 

I expected to write with more spite, more bitterness, and more anger towards educational institutions. I planned paragraphs about the masters degrees I’ve looked into and how terrified I am that I might enter another two or three years of school and feel just as lost and alone and uncertain as I did in undergrad. 

Image Description: Our pup with a ginormous stick. If only I could find something simple that brings me as much joy as sticks bring to a puppy,

An education is designed to facilitate intellectual growth. What I want now is to develop and grow emotionally. To strengthen my internal compass, and learn to cultivate positivity, and to keep my anxiety and depression in check.

Some good things did come from my college years – I met my husband, I made life-long friends, I have some really lovely memories of rehearsals and performances.

If I could whisper in the ear of my college-self, I would say very similar things to what I should probably by whispering to myself these days.

“Focus on what brings you joy. Don’t worry so much about the rest.”