Contributions to Elite Daily

I’m a contributor to Elite Daily, the always entertaining, always edgy website for millennials (which I barely am–I’m more Gen Y). But it’s been an awesome experience writing for the young’uns (gosh darn it people in their mid-twenties are so cute!) and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do me on the site.

My articles so far deal with the (often hilarious) trials and tribulations of women in their late 20’s. Lately it’s been a beautiful and exciting time in my life, so I’ll link up to a few of the articles here!

How Learning to Love Myself In My Late Twenties Cured My Fear of Turning 30

It’s A Girl Thing: 5 Things Ladies Do That Only Ladies Understand

Thanks for reading! 🗿⚓️😅💙

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A Productive Snow Day

I feel good. I feel James Brown good, because I just got a ridiculous amount of work done on this snow day. It snowed five inches in the Greater DC area. My first winter as a Regular Person i.e. a non field reporter means that I did not spend the snow day outside. I did not experience the elements. My hands did not freeze.

Sure I missed it. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t miss the responsibility, the sense of purpose, and the message I provided people on TV. But watching the local news reporters up here (many the same age as me), I thought to myself I’ve been there and I’ve done that. Now I’m doing something else, and I’m happy with it. I feel good about it.

I’ve always been creative and a writer. So now I get to do both of those things all day long. I do other things. I teach and I’m learning how to teach better, so I did a bunch of work today associated with that.

It was so ridiculous, the amount of reading and writing I did today, that by the time I figured out it was Mardi Gras, a holiday I usually enjoy with Cajun food and delicious cheap beer, it didn’t even matter.Yeah, it would have been cool to have appropriated some beads.

However, my mind had exposed itself to the world in such lovely ways that I just visualized putting a garland of plastic beads around my mind. I was that productive. And that makes me feel good.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Assault Rifle

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The tributes from cartoonists around the world for the Charlie Hebdo satirists bring tears to my eyes. They are so moving and so essentially true.  No one can take away our rights as free people to express ourselves and point out the absurdity of extremists everywhere.

Satire makes us laugh. It makes us shake our heads and say “you know, that is so true.’ Humor illuminates the realities of life. Humor makes things accessible, no matter how high or low. We relate. No idealistic bent,– be it religion or money or celebrity or whatever, name your sacred thing!– is safe from being laughed at.

Social media is the tool through which we show our solidarity. #NousSommesCharlie on Twitter and Facebook. We are showing the terrorists that an attack on freedom only strengthens our commitment to freedom.

The terrorists targeted men and women using pencils and pens. The most traditional writing utensils we have.

In the age of the internet, they murder cartoonists? In the age of social media, they target a print newspaper with a small circulation?

Terrorists are ridiculous. They are absurd. They are everything the cartoons expose them to be.

I remember that nursery rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Terrorists, you guys need to grow the f* up.

Finding A Silver Lining in Tyson’s Tinsel

Choosing to go to the Tysons Corner shopping mall in northern Virginia on a Saturday afternoon in mid-December is an act of utter hope and optimism. Only the people who listen to Michael Buble’s Christmas on repeat every day can be so obnoxiously glass half full as to even imagine the trip is worth it!

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I don’t listen to Michael Buble on repeat. But I do listen to his songs once a day..sometimes twice an hour..you know, on occasion.

I went into the situation fully aware of the friendly warnings provided by the well-intentioned naysayers.

I knew it was going to take an hour to find a parking space in the parking garage. I knew it might even take an hour to find the parking garage (I’m terrible with GPS).

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I knew that once I actually got inside the mall (after dodging other drivers who wanted my coveted rectangle of parking garage real estate with unabashed desire totally inappropriate for the holiday season) it would be so hot and cramped with people that I would feel nauseous and claustrophobic in my heavy winter coat.

I knew that a quiet seating area in the mall would be as scarce as an ugly sweater in a thrift shop frequented by Macklemore.

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But l still went. With pleasure.

It seems the decision to go to Tysons Corner and be one with the massive crowds embodies the very essence of Christmas itself.

I had no illusions that my experience would be any different than anyone else’s. I anticipated the traffic, and the excruciating wait for a parking space. So, like everyone else who knew what they had signed up for, I turned up the holiday music in my car, sang along to Elvis’s “Blue Christmas”, and drove around in circles waiting for some kind soul with shopping bags to enter his or her car and begin to reverse so I could shout tasteful but effective joyful obscenities to myself (F— yeah! A parking space!) and claim my valuable piece of asphalt turf.

I entered the mall with buoyant spirits. And even as I soon found myself surrounded by swarms of people walking in all directions, I compartmentalized my inner Scrooge, and went my merry way traipsing through the mall. Capitalism at its finest.

It is a testament to the power of the human spirit that so many people were in good, festive moods at the Tysons Corner mall despite the traffic, the harrowing parking situation, and the rampant crowds.

After all, what would Santa do?

Santa would go to the Tysons Corner mall.

A Wintry Ocean

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In the sweltering humid months of July and August I get an almost sinful delight when my iTunes playlist unexpectedly plays a Christmas carol. How does “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” sound anything like “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister? Well if Apple says so, it must be true.

On Thanksgiving the holiday season blissfully grabs me and doesn’t let me out of its grasp until the day after New Year’s. On January 2nd the holiday season drops me. It’s over just when things are starting to get good.

Sometimes when the holiday season has me in its lovely clutches I wonder what it would be like to go to the beach during the off season. There’s something about walking on the beach in a coat and a scarf that intrigues me. Can you imagine getting sand in your winter boots? Or getting salt spray on your scarf? For a southern landlubber like me, a wintry ocean is pretty exotic.

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Every summer I take photographs of the sand and surf in the Outer Banks. I took the previous photographs on an early morning run. The sight of the sun rising before the day grew hot enough to melt the clouds intrigued me. I took the above photo just as a summer thunderstorm rolled in. Huge raindrops began to fall and I felt one with the ocean.

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This is the beach as I remember it best: calm, inviting, and blue. As the holiday season approaches, I’m imagining snow falling on the shore, a cool embrace of white sparkling on the mirrored surface of a winter sea. IMG_1126

Whenever I find myself lucky enough to be at the beach, I make at least one visit to the Duck’s Cottage bookstore and coffee shop in Duck, North Carolina.

The independent bookstore is open year-round and has an amazing supply of a wide variety of books. They have the usual bestsellers in stock, but they also sell books by local authors and literature that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the front table at Barnes and Noble.

Every summer I pick out a book to read, and often times it is a book recommended by the staff, a book I might never have known to read otherwise. In 2011 I read The Women by T.C. Boyle. In 2012 it was The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. In 2013 it was a book on the History of the Outer Banks.

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This winter, I’m considering a weekend trip to the beach I love. A chance to sip some coffee, read an invigorating book, and shake sand out of my boots.

Musings on the Purpose of Nostalgia

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of nostalgia. Why do we need lists from Buzzfeed asking us if we know we grew up in the ’90s and telling us why 2014 is disappointing…if we grew up in the ’90s?

Is 2014 really that bad, or is it the fact that, due to the internet, we have such easy access to information and artifacts from our pasts that hearkening back to them is just simpler for us than it was for previous generations?

We don’t have to dig through boxes in our attics and storage units to find old Walkmans and Video Cassettes. We can simply Google images of them, feel the rush of memories associated with the objects, and move on with our lives.

I looked up the definition of “nostalgia” in the dictionary. According to Dictionary.com nostalgia is:

noun
1.
a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time:
a nostalgia for his college days.

Implicit in this definition is the assumption that the current time is in some way dissatisfying. I considered this for a while. Is the popularity of nostalgia sites among millennials a sign that we are discontent? We hear all the time about how millennials are strapped with exorbitant student loans. We are the first generation where it’s not only socially acceptable to move in with one’s parents after college, it’s practically expected, at least for a year. Statistically our generation is marrying later, buying a house later, and having kids later.

I don’t think discontent is the reason. I feel “sentimental yearnings” for times and places in my past that weren’t particularly happy for me at the time. Why is that? How can I be nostalgic for those places?

An example of that could be the nostalgia some people feel for the late 1960s. The year 1968 was tumultuous and full of tragedy. Great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The nation found itself locked in war with Vietnam and the way we treated our veterans when they came home from the fight was shameful. Why then are entire documentaries and miniseries dedicated to the year “1968”? Why do so many people look back on the music and culture of the time with such fond memories? I would argue that even though it was an excruciating year, it was a shared cultural experience that shaped the country.

Could it be that we are naturally going to remember the 1968s in our own lives?

I had a miserable time in middle school. It sucked. I was nerdy and played Zelda games. Why on earth would I remember those years with such sentiment? Well, I do. When I look back at them now, I smile because those were my formative years.

I don’t think this explanation explains the current nostalgia phenomenon exemplified by the prevalence of Buzzfeed lists. I think the culture has everything to do with technology and the rapid transformation of the way we interact with people due to social media. Consider this, exactly ten years ago Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook. I don’t think ten years is that long ago, but think about how much has changed so rapidly in ten years. It feels like life before Facebook existed a lifetime ago. If what happened ten years ago feels like 100 years ago thanks to rapid technological changes, we’re going to remember twenty years ago like it was 200.

The old Disney logo:

instantly transports me to my childhood which took place 300 years ago.

I’ll put forth one more hypothesis, because this post is already long enough.

When one is very busy, one has no time for sentimental yearnings. I noticed this recently when I finally got several pages into a piece of writing I’m working on. As I got into the zone, I didn’t have the time to think about how much better my writing would be if I wrote with pen and paper rather than computer. And if you have to contact a bunch of people for a story, you don’t yearn for a time before the internet when you had to look up people in a phone book. If you are lost, you don’t yearn for a time before the GPS.

Maybe the cure for nostalgia, if nostalgia needs a cure, is to just get busy. Extremely busy.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

An Unposted Selfie

Since I’ve been posting a lot about writing lately, I thought I might share a short fiction vignette I wrote recently about a woman who gets her phone stolen at the moment she takes a selfie.

O the humanity!

The vignette takes place in Paris.

I hope you enjoy!

“An Unposted Selfie”

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I have one arm outstretched above my head. I position the phone so the dark glass smeared with fingerprints displays a grainy image of my own face peering down at me. My left side is my best side. My left cheekbone is more defined. Clutching the clunky device in my left hand, I turn so I’m standing at a three-quarter turn on the grass, away from my outstretched arm. I raise my free arm to my face and take off my dark sunglasses in a quick swoop, holding them lightly in my free hand, careful not to smudge the lenses.

I look back at the reflection of myself and tilt my head to the left. The skin around the corners of my eyes creases. I’ll always have these wrinkles because I always have. These lines remind me to smile often because I was born to. I think I am fortunate to have large eyes. They are brown on my driver’s license and passport, but I know a rim of dull green surrounds the amber irises.

The nose reflected back at me on my phone looks large and roman even at this three-quarter angle. The bridge of my nose starts narrow under my eyebrows. It rounds out between jutting cheekbones like a slowly sloping hill. I wouldn’t trade this nose though, because it’s mine. I wear a light beige liquid concealer along the sides of my nose where the skin is red. The drugstore makeup blends into the contours of my face, invisible to the phone’s lens.

I turn the corners of my mouth up in a casual, knowing smile. My lips stretch over my teeth. I wear a long, periwinkle blue cashmere scarf wrapped once around my neck and tied at my collarbone. The scarf covers the bottom half of the image the phone reflects back at me.

Just over my right shoulder the Eiffel Tower squats on its four stumpy legs. I prefer to witness the masterpiece’s imposing minimalism–fluid and metallic in the noonday sunshine, as naked as the girders underneath a bridge–through the sterilized reflection my phone’s built-in camera produces. The base of the Eiffel Tower is perched there atop my shoulder like an iron parrot.

Satisfied with the blasé look on my face and the way my shoulder-length chestnut brown hair falls over the dense, coiled nest of the scarf, I press the button on the side of the phone with my thumb several times. I hear no clicking sound.

Before I have a chance to meticulously check the images, the phone vanishes, snatched from my hand. I turn like a top and watch a man in all black, wearing the kind of leather I actually like, running past the grassy open area into a street congested with pedestrians. He doesn’t look back.

I swallow hard, not quite believing what’s happening. My throat is so dry with shock I can’t even scream for help. In broad daylight, my phone is gone. My phone is gone? My phone is…gone? My entire life is on that phone: my contacts, my photos, my texts. Oh Jesus, my texts are on there.

It is like losing an extension of oneself, having one’s smartphone stolen like that. It is like someone stealing a prosthetic leg. Really? You had to take the leg? Take the purse and the wallet, but the leg? The phone? The computer? Really? I feel as exposed as a bare flagpole in winter. But even as I despair, my mind spins, rationalizing the loss. It’s OK, I tell myself. All your contacts and photos are backed up on your computer. They have an AT&T store in Paris now, you’ve been told. Your warranty covers this. You’re alive.

Before I hail a cab I stand there in front of the Eiffel Tower gazing at its iron stumps, iconic in a photograph but rather different in real life.

Running For Clarity

First off,

Thanks so much to everyone who read my last post. It seriously warms my heart the response I got from folks who enjoyed reading my “Writing is…THIS” post. THAT…was awesome.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where writers get their inspiration. Ernest Hemingway said writers should write everyday and stop writing once they know what’s going to come next in the story. Basically, once you are on a roll and know where your story is going next, you should stop writing for the day (or night). Just save and minimize your Word document and step away from your keyboard.

But how do you get on a roll in the first place? Metaphorically speaking of course. Don’t actually attempt to put yourself on a slice of bread in order to write.

Or do that. Feel free to do whatever you need to do.

A writer needs to harness his or her creativity and tap into the source of inspiration. I think the number one best way to do that is to read. Start a new book, finish something you’ve been reading, and read articles. Another good piece of advice when you’ve got writer’s block is to read over everything you’ve written, step away from the piece, and then go back to it.

For me, stepping away involves physical activity (quite literally!). I tweeted earlier today that I get some of my best ideas while running. The only way I can make running bearable for myself is to listen to music while running.

During the turn of the millennium I used to run with this in my hand:

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No, that’s not a magical portal to an alternate universe. That, my friends, is a Discman, Sony’s precursor to the iPod. This one is state of the art. It is shock proof. That means as the Discman jostles around in your hand during a run, the laser won’t scratch your CD and destroy it. The Discman is heavy. My right bicep surely got a workout carrying this thing in my hand when I ran.

That is dedication to a musically infused run.

Now, I’ll be working on something during the day, and then I’ll think about it before I go to sleep. When I wake up in the morning, if I go for a two or three mile run with my iPhone earbuds in, I have a better likelihood of sorting out the problem. There’s something about the fresh air and the exertion of running that clears my head, and erases the clutter and noise that can cloud one’s perception. If I’m struggling with a plot point in a narrative, or I’m trying to figure out if a piece of dialogue makes sense for a character, what seemed so realistic sitting in my chair at 10:00 pm listening to Sting can suddenly seem pretentious when I’m sweating away on my AM run listening to Big Sean.

This morning, I ran along a hilly country road covered in trees with red and orange leaves that hadn’t yet fallen. There was a crispness in the air, but it wasn’t hand-numbing cold. I wore spandex pants and a sweatshirt, and as I ran up the first hill my limbs warmed up and it seemed my brain warmed up too. This is almost certainly a sign that I’m not running vigorously enough, because if I were really pushing myself of course my mind would be blank except for random thoughts like “eye of the tiger” and “no pain, no pain!” But I’m not training for anything right now, except for finishing my book. When I reached the halfway point of my run, which is a concrete road bridge over a bubbling stream, I leaned over the waist-high guardrail and looked at the running water below me for a while. In the summer ducks swim here. This particular morning the water ran clear and cold and you could hear nothing but the sound of the gurgling stream. No cars were passing. Occasionally a crow cawed out.

I turned around and ran back, my sneakered feet pounding up the hill to the beat of Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” blasting in my earbuds.

(Yes, I bought Taylor Swift’s new album. I contributed to her 1.3 million sales. Despite my earlier rant, I drank the Taylor Kool-Aid. I’m not the only one:

When I’m running, I’m in my own world daydreaming about stories, but it’s this weird uber-focused world where physical exertion equates with mental clarity.

Disclaimer: I do lookout for cars, and I stay on the sidewalk when I run. Don’t get run over. That won’t help your writing.

I recommend running, or walking, or swimming, or tennis-playing, or treadmill walking, or jazzercizing, or whatever form of physical activity you prefer to clear your head, improve your outlook for the day, and help you be the best writer you can be.

However, be wary of falling in the trap of using your inspirational exercise as an excuse to yourself that you are too tired to write. It’s like being the one who always volunteers to go to the grocery store, or pick up things on the way home, etc. to avoid the big W word: writing.

Don’t use exercise to run from writing, use running to excite your writing.
 

Writing is…THIS

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When I write, I build an Indiana Jones-style bridge over an abyss. I put forth one wooden plank at a time. On shaky but sturdy ground I plod forward, placing plank after plank onto the rope foundation until eventually the frayed bridge swaying from crag to crag is complete, and I hopefully cross to the mountain on the other side of the abyss. You never know what stories will cross the abyss and what won’t, destined to never sit on a table in Barnes and Noble, destined to never touch spines with Barefoot Contessa’s latest cookbook or Lena Dunham’s latest overshare.

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Writing is…THIS:

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Writing fiction is a fantastic, crazy love affair. It’s like courting Humphrey Bogart,

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or Christian Bale,

or Elvis Presley,

or Alfie,

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or Alf.

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You just don’t know how the hell it’s going to turn out, or where the hell it is going, until it’s over.

Writing is frickin’ challenging. And it’s also frickin’ FUN.

I’m open to constructive criticism. All writers are. We have to be. When the average writer takes 19 times to get a work published anywhere, we have to be. We’re like amoebas. We learn how to adapt pretty dang quickly.

But if you dare try to cut the cords of the feeble little bridges we construct to cross the abyss,

Writing is THIS:

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The piece of writing we are working on is precious.

I want to know, what do YOU think writing is like?