9
an office space with uncommon goods

This post is graciously sponsored by Uncommon Goods. Uncommon Goods believes that it is their responsibility to use their business to impact the world in a positive way. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support this little blog.

 

I have a new desk! Of my own!

For the past, oh, forever, I’ve had my laptop firmly planted on the dining room table, unless I took it with me when I firmly planted my butt on the couch or on my bed. We live in a smallish house, around 1600 square feet, so there’s not a lot of extra room personal space. The dining room table, although in the middle of the house, was the only place where I could carve out a little space.

But it was never a perfect solution. The kids are constantly drawing, and we’ve amassed piles and piles of drawings of Ninja Turtles, baby spiders, family portraits, Hello Kitty, and then there are the fun times when Zoe goes on a snowflake-making bender, leaving itty bitty teeny weeny microscopic pieces of paper littering my floor like confetti. I myself have kind of a “paperwork” problem, where I collect any and all papers that I need to read, respond to, fill out, remind me of something, along with my calendar, notebook, and other random, super important crap.

The worlds were going to collide, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. I needed a space of my own.

A few weeks ago Christian got a wild hair to rearrange our bedroom, which allowed space for an old desk we had sitting around collecting dust. Years ago it was my art table, so its black formica was paint splattered and stained. For the past several years, every time the bulk trash people came around, I was tempted to put it on the curb, but it never found its way out there.

Thank goodness, because look at this baby now!

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

Check out the LTYM poster in the left corner. Vintage 2012.

I cannot believe how good it looks, and you would not believe how happy it makes me. For the longest time I’ve wanted a little space to call my own, and if i can’t have my own room, dammit, at least I have my little haven. Before I painted it, the area was so dark and dreary. Our bedroom gets terrible natural light, even with the huge sliding door on one side (pro tip: do NOT buy a house with a sliding door in the bedroom, unless you want to play revolving cats all night, every night). Painting the desk white and stealing the kids’ lamp from the playroom has really brightened up the space.

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

See that mug? I made it in college ceramics. Finally getting some use out of it.

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

Beware the blinding cosmic light!

The great people at Uncommon Goods sent me the beautiful piece of art hanging on the wall. When I first chose it, I wasn’t sure where I would put it. Maybe the girls room? My gallery wall? I wasn’t sure. Christian suggested I hang it above my desk, and so it was. And it was this piece that inspired me to get the ball rolling on refurbishing this terrible ugly desk that is terrible and ugly no more.

Plus, I kinda need this message too.

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

Uncommon Goods has long been one of my favorite places to buy gifty things. It’s one of the few physical catalogs that I hang onto so I can flip through it while the kids eat their after school snack. Uncommon Goods supports and provides a platform for artists and designers. About half of their products are made by hand, many incorporating recycled or upcycled materials. There’s a huge range of unique items for those people in your life that just don’t need another pair of gloves or socks (find great gifts for your wacky aunt here or something unique for your hard-to-shop-for brother here).

 

I love sitting down to work at my desk (which I am doing RIGHT NOW). I love looking at it from the other room. I love how much bigger and cleaner it seems with it’s fresh white coat of paint. I kinda feel like a grownup sitting here.

Then Rachel sat down and pretended to be me. She set up all of her little tchotchkes and got to work drawing some ninja turtle pictures. And apparently this is the face I make when I am working?

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

 

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

 

I really hope she lets me keep these here. Every blogger needs a snake/kitty/ninja/Batgirl team to keep her pumping out kickass content.

diy desk refinish uncommon goods painting

Oh. How sweet. Two seconds after this I caught them drawing on my new white desk. No pictures, because we need to retain the beauty of this moment. And my desk.

Uncommon Goods also sent me a package of these adorable little paper angels (find more Christmas gifts here). I love the different colors and patterns and the simplicity of the design, and I can’t wait to include them in my Christmas decorations this year. This one just might stay here on my pretty new desk with me.

uncommon goods paper angels

 

 

 

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15
how NOT to run with your iPhone

This weekend was overcast and cold – like two pairs of pants cold. Saturday we had soccer and a fire in the fireplace and napping, so Sunday I decided I had better go for a run to get my muscles going and work off some of the Christmas-wrapped Hershey Kisses I downed, cold, misty weather be damned.

I was about to google how many minutes one had to run per Kiss, but then I decided not to depress myself.

By afternoon the annoying misty rain had quit, but it was still pretty cold. I headed out in my Under Armor compression capris (the ones with the hole in them from getting snagged in some Tough Mudder barbed wire 2 years ago), running tee (Kirkland’s Best, y’all!), and my C9 running jacket. And today I carried my phone in my husband’s FlipBelt.

My old iPhone 4s armband has worked just fine for my 6 up until recently. The 6 is bigger, so it’s a tight fit, and I sometimes have to velcro it SO tightly onto my arm – especially if I’m wearing a slippery long-sleeved tech tee – that the phone’s power and volume buttons go haywire. My last few runs have been interrupted by my music getting turned alllll the way down or alllll the way up. Stopping to fix these things takes away precious energy. Not to mention is is just hella annoying to have your favorite song just disappear while you’re mid-jam.

I’ve used the FlipBelt around the house to store my phone while I’m doing housework and listening to podcasts (Serial, y’all. Listen to it. It’s amazing.), but this was the first time I had run with it. It didn’t jostle or ride up or down, like my annoying compression pants do. But about a mile into my run, I felt something tugging on my earbuds, and I looked down to see something dangling from my waistband and OMG IT’S MY IPHONE HANGING BY A PURPLE EARBUD WIRE.

You know, I had a dream the night before – a nightmare really – that I had dropped and shattered my phone. I have never broken a phone to date, and I don’t intend to start now.

So I continued on my run, hip-checking myself every 3 seconds. The 6 is a slippery little fucker, and I was paranoid that it was going to slide out again. This wasn’t supposed to happen with the FlipBelt. It was designed to hold all of my belongings, safe and snug and secure, and so I could zone out and not think about running while I was actually running. But all I could think about was how every step was a step towards death for my poor phone. The constant checking wasted precious physical and mental energy. I’m still so fresh and out of shape after my injury, I have no time to waste with faulty gear.

 

“It’s just that there’s pocket openings all around the belt, so there’s no safe place for my phone!” I said to Christian when I got home and told him about my phone’s near death experience.

“Well, yeah. You put your stuff in the openings, and flip the belt over. So they’re covered.”

“Flip it over?” I said. “Oh…I guess that’s why it’s called a FLIPBelt.”  OH. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

You guys, the patience with which this man deals with me is unprecedented. Bless him.

To be fair, FlipBelt’s own damn logo is on the same side of the belt as the pocket openings. So once it’s flipped, you can’t even see the logo, AND there’s a tag on the non-pocket side, totally making it look like the underside of the belt. AND all of the ridiculously fit and tan people in their photos are wearing the belt with the logo facing out. That’s just confusing for us dumb people, and poor design if you ask me. I know you didn’t, but still.

flipbelt

Left: the pretty outside of the belt that is supposedly supposed to go on the inside. Right: the inside of the belt that is supposed to go on the outside? IDK. I’m confused.

 

So next time will be FlipBelt 2.0, new and improved, and with it’s actual intended purpose. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not it works, but I’m sure it will. Things usually do work when you use them the right way and all.

• • • • •

In running-related news, I’m excited to announce that I’m serving as an ambassador for ZOOMA Texas and the ZOOMA Women’s Race Series! I ran ZOOMA in 2012, where I was also an ambassador, and it was such a good time, and the event that I credit to “making” me a runner. Since then, as you all know, I’ve been suffering from terrible sciatica that stemmed from a herniated disc in my lower back. But I’ve ben deemed well enough to not only run, but start training again. I’m still terrified that the pain will return, but now at least I (and my physical therapist) know how to manage it if it does.

ZOOMA Texas is held on March 28, 2015 at the gorgeous (and hilly!) Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa in Bastrop, TX. Registration is now open for the 5K, 10K, and the half marathon. Save 10% on registration for any of the distances by using the code LEIGHANN15. Find more info about ZOOMA Texas here. Will I see you there?

zooma texas austin

 

 

 

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10
some stuff: I’m cold edition

I have no witty intro because it’s Thursday night and I’m cold and want to go to bed. So.

some links

My friends Poppy and Tammy from the Blogging Betties interviewed me for their kickass podcast. We talked about things like why I don’t stress out about my Facebook reach, and how if it’s between writing a post and going to bed, I will choose bed every single time. Basically I am a lazy blogger. Give it a listen, then poke around their site for a while. It’s full of great blogging resources.

My kids may hate soccer, but I was lucky enough to befriend one of the moms on our team, and she has a hilarious new blog called Dear Mama. It’s “Dear Abby meets DEAR GOD, THAT IS A USED TISSUE: WHY ARE YOU EATING IT?” and it’s completely hilarious. 

Why I never let me kids quit…anything — From Grown and Flown: “Passions are not like dreams for most of us, we don’t wake up one morning and find they have miraculously come to us in the night. Parents often talk about helping kids find their passions. But passions do not always reveal themselves unbidden, as often they are a result of hard work and dedication, the joy that comes of doing something well.”

The Limits of Friendship — From The New Yorker: “‘What Facebook does and why it’s been so successful in so many ways is it allows you to keep track of people who would otherwise effectively disappear,’ he said. But one of the things that keeps face-to-face friendships strong is the nature of shared experience: you laugh together; you dance together; you gape at the hot-dog eaters on Coney Island together. We do have a social-media equivalent—sharing, liking, knowing that all of your friends have looked at the same cat video on YouTube as you did—but it lacks the synchronicity of shared experience. It’s like a comedy that you watch by yourself: you won’t laugh as loudly or as often, even if you’re fully aware that all your friends think it’s hysterical.”

Suck at something? Do it anyway. — on Medium: “When I was growing up, I thought, ‘Nothing is worth doing unless you can do it perfectly.’ This is a stupid bullshit devil thing to think and/or believe. I now say, ‘Nothing is worth doing unless you can do it mostly okay.’” (H/t Corrin from Oh Hey, What’s Up?)

Creepiest thing I’ve ever seen

I completely relate to the introvert parent in this essay.

The BuzzFeed guys have done it again.

 

How could you NOT participate?

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33
David Sedaris drew my butt (and other observations)

I have a crush on David Sedaris. Yes, I know he’s gay, and I’m married, he’s in his 50s, I’m super young and vibrant. It’s not a romantic crush of course. Just that feeling that you want to surround yourself with this person, learn all of their secrets, and maybe absorb some of their talent and greatness just by being in their presence and maybe you just want to rub your face on their blue corduroy blazer.

I wonder what it’s like to be the someone that others always want to learn something from and rub their faces on various clothing items.

Seeing David live was an impulsive decision for me. I found out about it a few days before and contacted my friend Missy, a fellow writer and humor-lover. If she couldn’t go, I contemplated going by myself; that’s how badly I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to see one of my favorite writers in person.

I could tell you all about how great it was to hear David read some of his essays on stage, how truly funny he is, how endearing he was when he spoke casually in between readings, and how, even though I’ve read a lot of his work, his crassness caught me off guard time and time again. I could tell you about the Sasquatch sitting in front of me who kept leaning forward, then back, then side to side, like he had a bad case of hemorrhoids, making it so I was playing peek-a-boo with the stage.

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That damn furry mop. He’s leaning down and I’m holding my camera way up high. Trust me, he was intrusive.

But what really stuck with me throughout the evening getting to see a little about how David ticks as a writer. He didn’t talk a lot about writing itself, but it’s safe to say that for someone like him, writing is a way of life, a saving grace. Most of all, it’s a habit.

David shared some excerpts from his diaries, and afterwards, when he took some questions, someone asked him what he writes in his diary that he wouldn’t want people to read. Maybe they were expecting a juicy horrible secret.

“Well,” he said. “I write a lot of boring stuff, really.”

That’s right. David Sedaris, master satirist, writes everyday, boring entries into his journal, just like you and me. Specifically, when traveling, he gets up every morning and writes a review of his hotel room. You heard it here, folks.

David Sedaris is an observer. Most of the best writers and artists I know are. It’s whether or not we harness that observation and channel it that decides the fate of our creativity.

The thing is, when someone like David is up on stage in front of an audience that has paid good money to hear him read his own words, it’s normal to think that every day they wake up and just fart brilliance. Clearly their writing process consists of sitting down at their computer in a nice, quiet house (in the English countryside, no less), opening up their computer and typing. That’s it! The words just flow. They don’t self edit. They don’t get discouraged, because everything coming from their fingertips is amazing! Funny! A compelling weaving of life and life lesson.

Are we really all that insecure about out own abilities that we put someone successful up on a pedestal of unattainable brilliance? I’m not saying that all of us – or any of us, for that matter – will ever be “the next David Sedaris,” but it doesn’t mean we are bad writers. Maybe some of us aren’t practicing our craft enough. Maybe we’re comparing ourselves to someone else. Maybe we’re allowing ourselves to get discouraged before we even try.

On stage David said that when he’s on tour, he likes to promote books of other writers he admires. He brought out Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays about her commitments to writing, family, friends, her husband. “Ugh, she’s the bomb,” Missy whispered under her breath, as he read an excerpt from Patchett’s essay “The Getaway Car,” which David himself described as the best essay for a writer to read.

“You can either spend 4, 6, or 8 years going to school to learn to be a writer,” he said, “Or you can read this essay.”

And then he said, “I just really wish I could write like her.”

To hear someone as revered in the writing world as David Sedaris say that he wishes he could write as beautiful as someone else was not as much a shock as an affirmation. We all do this. And it’s okay. I will never write like David Sedaris, because I am not David Sedaris. But I can let David Sedaris, and others, inspire me with his wit and observations and his mastery of creating a story.

 •  •  •  •  •

After the reading Missy and I stood in line to get our books signed. We were having a riveting conversation with each other about a mutual acquaintance’s yoga pant-clad derriere when we approached the table.

“So what were you guys talking about while you were waiting?” David asked.

“Yoga pants,” I offered up, sadly aware of how typical suburban mom I sounded.

“Butts,” Missy interjected, always the Peppa to my Salt. “Specifically our butts in yoga pants.”

“Oh! And how does your butt look in your yoga pants?” he asked me as I handed him my book.

And as I gave an idiotic explanation of how it depends on whether or not I’m running, (“like not at the moment, but you know, in training HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”) David is drawing this in my book with his arsenal of Sharpies:

David Sedaris autograph

And then he draw this:

David Sedaris autograph

And you know, I can’t even be offended. Because how many other people can honestly say that David Sedaris illustrated his own book with a drawing of their butt?

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14
the one where Zoe is “challenging”

Last Wednesday was a “challenging” day for Zoe at preschool. I believe her teacher said (and I’m totally fine with this) she was “a little toot” that day, which is really her nice way of saying she was a little shit.

I know this Zoe. This is the Zoe who is feeling too big for her britches and too cool for school. I don’t like parenting this Zoe. It’s hard, and to date she’s been my easiest child. Unfortunately it seems like I’ve taken her ease for granted.

Often her attitude is related to her  being tired or hungry. On that day in particular, she fell asleep in the car, 4 minutes into the 10 minute drive home. Kids and car naps: making grownups’ necks hurt by association since forever.

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This new school year has kind of shattered all of Zoe’s expectations from the previous year. She expected to walk into school to a class full of friends and a teacher who doted on her. But her friends were all separated into different classes, and she didn’t understand why she didn’t have the same teacher. Miss M and been Rachel’s teacher, then Zoe’s first teacher. It just made sense: Miss M was THE teacher.

When her new teacher – also Miss M – was going through her roster, everyone sighed wistfully and said, “Oh, Zoe T. She’s a special girl. You’ll love her.”

 

I like Miss M2 a lot. She’s a great teacher, she’s fun, and she’s is doing fantastic work with the kids to get them ready for kindergarten. She’s just different from Miss M1, less doting and more matter-of-fact and tell-it-like-it-is. Some kids respond really well to that. Zoe responds well to feeling like a princess.

The thing is, Zoe needs to feel like she’s special. I can’t think of any other way to say it. I’m not saying she should get special treatment, but she flourishes when she’s given a little more attention. The fate of the younger sibling of identical twin sisters is either make yourself seen or you fade into the background. Zoe prefers to make herself seen with a charming, gregarious personality that hardly anyone can resist, but also hanging back when she senses her sisters are being too overwhelming. She practically got away with murder for way too long, and we had to reign her back in with some discipline after we royally kicked ourselves in the behinds for being so enchanted with her. She’s tricksy, that one.

 

“I like you,” she said, a few weeks into the school year, “But I don’t like you as much as Miss M1.” She was just being honest. She’s 4. Miss M2 wasn’t offended; this isn’t her first rodeo. She thanked her for her honesty and went on with her day.

She’s acting out…spitefully. Oh, you want me to put this book away? Sure. Right after I take my time flipping through every. single. page. Don’t spin around on the carpet, you say? Fine. I’ll wait until you look away, but then my ass is spinning.

Honestly, I think I’d rather she was having trouble with her “listening ears” as opposed to vengeful disobedience.

 

I can see why she’s having a tough time. She stood out in her first class. Not so much here. So she’s trying to make herself seen, even if it’s with less-than-desireable behaviors. It makes her look like she’s spoiled and maybe she is just a little bit. She’s my baby, and I can’t resist her snuggles and sweet kisses.

But she’s also helpful and funny and wicked smart. These little dips in behavior make up only a small percentage of what we see at home, so it makes me sad that they make up so much of her day at school, that her teachers may not be seeing her potential to be a really fantastic kid when she’s given the right motivation.

 

IMG_0635

Can you even stand it NO YOU CANNOT.

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14
perfectly random thoughts from the weekend

 

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My kids win Halloween. Although the LEGO minifigures we trick or treated with gave stiff competition, even if they could barely walk.

 

This past weekend was a weekend. Like many weekends, I had some thoughts. I share these thoughts with you now.

 

• If a Toothless toy randomly goes missing, will its owner ever miss it? YES. Yes she will. Because she will watch the movie on a Sunday, and all you will hear for the rest of the afternoon will be “Where’s my Toothless? Did you find my Toothless? I guess I’ll have to get another one. Did you find it? Now did you find it? This house is always losing things. I hate this house! Waaaaaahhhhh!!! Did you find it yet? What about now?”  Seriously, this house is not that big, and to make it worse, I actually cleaned this weekend, so, you know, everything in its place and all. Except for that damn dragon.

 

• I’m not going to eat any more Halloween candy. Today. Until after lunch. Okay, I think I can hold off another 5 minutes.

 

• Give me all of the Kit Kats.

 

• Why did I eat so many Kit Kats.

 

• I wonder when it’s going to cool off around here….NOW. NOW is the time it’s going to cool off. My children haven’t worn anything past the knees since April, and now it’s gone from 85 to 55 degrees overnight (like literally, not a euphemism), and we have a 9am soccer game, and they are going to FREEZE their little Texan butts off.

 

• Who knew it was possible to miss practically an entire soccer game taking two 6-year-olds to the bathroom? Well, now I know that. Sorry, Zoe.

 

• NO, I have not found it yet. Stop asking.

 

• Are those planning on doing NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo completely insane? YES. Yes they are.

 

• Honestly, I’m a little jealous of the NaNo and NaBlo people. They’re working towards a goal! I’ll have to remember that long about November 23rd, when they all want their laptops to die a fiery, miserable death.

 

• This time change thing? Not so bad with two 6-year-olds and a 4-year-old (loads better than the sufferings of two years ago). Sunday I did some laundry, went to the grocery store, made lunch, took one of the girls clothes shopping (see above about no pants), whittled a wooden bird, cleaned my desk, did the dishes, completed a 500 piece puzzle, wrote the next Great American Novel, and WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S ONLY 2 O’CLOCK? Good God, this is the longest day of my life.

 

• I’m tired.

 

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24
5 random things about me

One. From 4th grade up to my late teens, I was a dog show kid. My parents bred and showed Miniature Schnauzers as a hobby, so just about every one of my weekends in my formative years was spent traveling to podunk Texas towns for shows. The Christopher Guest movie Best in Show satirized the larger, national events, but most of the shows we went to were held in small towns, at muddy fair and rodeo grounds, where we had to set up our grooming stations in barns. Larger cities like Dallas and San Antonio allowed for more civilized convention centers with actual floors.

Things you should know about dog shows: White dogs are covered in chalk, black dogs are dyed blacker, and the scene is probably more political than Washington. The smell of hairspray mixed with dirt and cigarette smoke is permanently engrained in my memory.

I did a few years of junior showmanship, but I spent most of my time reading, doing homework, wandering around bored out of my everloving mind, and crushing on a fellow dog show boy. And eating lots and lots of concession stand food.

 *****

Two. When I was in kindergarten, I tried to change my name to Elizabeth. My own name was full of random letters that made no sense together, and I thought Elizabeth was the most beautiful name in the world. When I asked my mom how to spell it, she wrote it on a pale blue Post-It note for me in her impeccable handwriting – E L I Z A B E T H. I took that Post-It directly to my teacher and informed her I had changed my name.

Unfortunately, since I had given her my cheat sheet, I had no idea how to actually spell ELIZABETH anymore. So I just wrote a jumbled mess of letters at the top of my worksheets: probably an E, maybe an L, and a Z. There was definitely a Z. I should have practiced more! Who changes their name and doesn’t learn how to spell it? A 5-year-old, that’s who.

Later in the day Miss Barrow, my kindergarten teacher, crouched next to me at my table and said, “I’m going to need you to write Leigh Ann on your papers from now on, okay?” And that was the end of my run as Elizabeth. It was good while it lasted. I think. I don’t think I really got any satisfaction from it since I couldn’t even write it.

 *****

Three. As a child and teen (and an athlete), I had kind of a love affair with the emergency room. I made 11 visits for various injuries including (but not limited to):

  • chipping my ankle bone when I slipped off a step (1st of 3 times on crutches)
  • splitting my head open on a diving board while back flipping (1st of 2 times with stitches)
  • Spraining my ankle twice (2nd & 3rd times on crutches)
  • Splitting my head open again in college (staples!). Beer, piggy-back rides, and metal hair clips do NOT mix.
  • Splitting my pinkie finger open (2nd time with stitches). This one’s a story. I used to play fast-pitch softball. Coach gave me the signal to bunt, which as a lefty, I did often. I was thrown out at first base, but as I walked back to the dugout, my finger was throbbing. I blamed it on bat vibrations in the cold November weather, until I looked down and saw that my entire hand was covered in blood. Apparently the ball was inside and hit the bat exactly on my pinkie, causing it to burst open from the pressure of the ball. It didn’t explode or anything, but the more it swelled up, the wider the split became, and there was gross finger insides starting to stick out. Six stitches. I still have a scar.

I used to be able to recall all of them, but my memory fails me now. Best part is I have NEVER broken a bone.

*****

Four. I have never been stung by a wasp or a bee or anything more harmful than a mosquito, and I am TERRIFIED of them. Like “sacrifice the children and run for the hills” terrified. Once as we walked from our front door to the car, a wasp dive bombed me, grazing my neck. I took off down the yard, leaving my poor children standing there on the front walk. MOTY. But that shit hurt!

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my neighbor when a yellow jacket (hornet? YOU BUGS ALL LOOK THE SAME TO ME) landed on my leg. MY LEG. I completely froze, and my neighbor was all, “Um, you have one on your leg.” And all I could muster was, “Getitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoff!” until he flicked it off for me. We’re very close in this neighborhood, flicking bugs off each other’s legs and all.

*****

Five. I went to high school with that guy who was in Argo and Gone Girl. No, not Ben Affleck. This guy.

scoot-mcnairy-mustache-argo

And by “went to high school with him” I mean we he was a year or 2 ahead of me, and we had no interaction whatsoever. I don’t think I ever would have placed him. I only remember seeing his name on the cast listing for Argo, and thinking, Scoot McNairy….Scoot McNairy….where do I know that name from? Then I saw where he was from, and it clicked. Back then he went by Scooter. And now he’s popping up in practically every movie I watch, so I can say, “Hey! I [insert finger quotes] went to high school [end finger quotes] with that guy!”

 

So….who do I want to see write up 5 random facts about themselves? Let’s see…

Corrin from Oh Hey, What’s Up?

Kari from A Grace-Full Life

Andrea from About 100%

Angela from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed

Amy from Banana Wheels

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9
what I’m watching: documentaries & more

As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I share my favorite things to stream online. 

 

Here’s a little known fact about me: I am a huge documentary nerd. HUGE. A well-made learnin’ film is one of my favorite ways to spend some of my coveted free time, and it’s one of the only things that makes folding endless loads of laundry tolerable.

I always head for the Social & Cultural sub-genre in Netflix, and often could spend more time browsing than I would actually watching the thing. But the deal is that I don’t have to commit. If I don’t like what I’m watching (it’s happened!), I can turn it off and look for something else.

happy documentaryHappy

I recently tried to read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, after hearing nothing but good things about it. But I just could not get through that book. I’m sure the ideas are great, but it was a little Type A for me. Having kids has destroyed every shred of Type A I ever had.

So when I admitted to giving it up, a friend recommended Happy, a documentary that “takes viewers on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy.” And I’ll give you a hint: it’s not more money or more things or even a promotion. In the end, Happy didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know, but it did serve as a good reminder that those things? They’re just things.

tiny a story about living smallTiny: A Story About Living Small

Similar to Happy, Tiny: A Story About Living Small explores the ideas behind what truly makes us happy, and in most cases, people find their greatest happiness from meaningful experiences, not more stuff. Tiny takes the story of a couple who decides to build a tiny house and intersperses it with interviews from other tiny house dwellers, exploring the tiny movement and creating a larger conversation about the shift in American values away from “bigger is better.”

Will I never live in a tiny house? Probably not as long as I have children at home. But did it give me pause and make me think more about my own space (our house is about 1600 sq ft) and how I can create a good life here instead of thinking I need something more? Most definitely.

I know that voice documentaryI Know That Voice

One of my favorite things when watching animated movies is trying to figure out which actors are providing the voices for the  characters. I Know That Voice goes deeper into the voice actor community, where you’ll find actors – and they ARE actors – who make their livings solely off the sound of their voice. Sure, you’ll recognize some faces like Hank Azaria, Diedrich Bader, and Seth Greene, and the documentary is produced by John DiMaggio, most famously known as Bender from Futurama. But I was amazed at the range of voices each of the actors portrays. Also seeing that Tara Strong, the woman who voices Twilight Sparkle also voiced Bubbles the Power Puff Girl? Blew my MIND.

 

 Sherlock

The other night I was home and doing some work that was mindless enough that I could watch TV at the same time. I knew there were a ton of great shows on Netflix, but I had no idea what to watch. I get overwhelmed with too many choices, and kind of shut down like a baby. So I posed the question to the GiaB Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 5.07.57 PM

It was a great list in the comments, but the majority of the answers definitely pointed to Sherlock. And while I’m not one to go gaga over Benedict Cumberbach, I do love me some Martin Freeman, so there you go.

 

sherlockFortunately, everyone was right, and Sherlock is awesome. Cumberbach and Freeman are perfect together as Sherlock and

Watson. Unfortunately, I have been a little too distracted by the work I am doing, and haven’t been able to give it my full attention, which is a shame, because it really is a masterful show.

So I guess I’ll be rewatching all of the episodes again so I can really pay attention

 

 

 

 

What are you watching these days?

 

 

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11
becoming a standout blogger

Thanks so much to The Loft Literary Center for sponsoring this post. Don’t forget to enter below for a chance to win a slot in one of the Loft’s online writing courses!

Congrats to Tracy!

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By definition, a blog is an expression of ego. The blogger has carved out a piece of cyberspace to share herself and her opinions, and expects others to come to her and read them. Unlike an editorial in a newspaper or an essay in a literary journal, no third party has vetted the blogger’s commentary. She is self-published. Her words must carry their own authority.

People seem to be reading fewer blogs these days. We’ve all said it.

“I don’t read blogs as much as I used to.”

“I just don’t have time.”

“Comments are way down these days.”

I fall into the same camp. Part of me is too easily distracted by everything else demanding my attention – mainly email and Facebook notifications, as much as I hate to admit it – and the other part of me just isn’t as into it anymore. I feel like I’ve read it all before. Aside from a handful of my very favorites and a handful that I know personally, I’ve struggled to find anything that really grabs me.

When I do find one though, I latch onto it with both eyes.

 

I love blogging. I’ve been at it for 6 years now, and have never thought of quitting or even of taking a break. Granted, I’m not the best, most consistent blogger out there, but I do what I can with the time that I have, and I’m generally happy with my little space on the internet. I hadn’t really thought that there was too much more I could learn about blogging.

Then The Loft Literary Center contacted me about trying out one of their writing courses. Most of the options were geared towards fiction writers, so I chose Becoming a Standout Blogger: How to Create, Write, and Grow a Compelling Blog. I wasn’t sure what I would learn from the class or even what the other students would be looking to learn. Monetization? Page views? Social media? Conversations on blogging are so heavy with those things these days.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.13.26 PM

I’ve always been a believer that having good content is the best thing you can do for your blog. As soon as I received the course overview, I was super excited to see that the topics all revolved around just that. From finding your voice to engaging your readers, all while keeping in mind length and best practices for web writing, Becoming a Standout Blogger is all about writing and creating good content.

Our instructor, Patrick Ross, has set up the course with the following tools:

easy to navigate weekly lessons

3 – 5 links to other articles for students to read that pertain to the lesson

Weekly class forum and discussion questions. Each week I’m pleasantly surprised at how much insight the handout and articles and discussion questions have given me.  For example, one lesson this week was how the essayist could employ the inverted pyramid tactics of the journalists to grab their readers upfront and keep them reading.

Weekly peer review forum

The content that Mr. Ross curates for the class provides a huge wealth of knowledge, but the forums are where the heart of the class really lies. In the weekly forum, students can reflect on and start a conversation about the week’s discussion questions. In the peer review forum, students are encouraged (but not required) to submit a post and have their peers provide feedback. I love both of the forums because they not only introduce me to new-to-me writers, but I’m getting to know more people through their outlooks on blogging itself, without the pressures of social media and page views and clicks.

 

In talking with a friend about blogging and courses and conferences a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I attend more for the community. I go to conferences to be with my people, not to learn anything. “I’ve been doing this for 6 years,” I would say. “I’ve changed platforms, designed my own site, figured out HTML.” I’ve even been through a few uncomfortable blog identity crises. I didn’t see what else I could learn about blogging, really.

I’m glad that this course was able to change my mind. One of the articles used in this week’s lesson encouraged bloggers to make learning a priority. Be a student. Because there’s always something else you can learn.

 

Now for the fun part. Leave a comment here for an entry to win a slot for yourself in one of The Loft’s online classes. So tell me, what have YOU learned about blogging lately? 

Giveaway will end at midnight on Friday, October 31, 2014. Entrants must be over age 18. One entry per person.

To find out more about The Loft Literary Center, visit them at loft.org. Classes usually run 6 weeks and are offered for all ages in topics ranging from fiction basics to self-publishing to memoir. If you love writing and have been looking for something to challenge you and amp up your skills, The Loft is a great place to start.

 

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19
conversations about eboolia

 

When I picked Rachel and Claire up from school on Monday, the first thing out of their mouths was not actually “Oh, Mommy, we missed you so much! You look stunning, by the way.”

It was more like, “MOM. Do you know what BOOLIA is?” Well, hello to you too.

And I was like, “You mean bully? Bullying?” Because a) like most first graders, they have terrible recall on the actual names of things, and b) they had recently watched a cartoon on cyberbullying. A cartoon that had me answering endless questions about “mean emails,” and “Mom, did you ever receive mean emails when you were a kid?” and then the complete inability to fathom that when I was a kid, there was no email.

“No, MOM. EeeeBOOOOLIA! It makes you really really sick and you throw up your HEART!”

Ohhhhhh.

So I said, “Ohhhhhh. You mean ebola?”

“Yeah! Ebola!”

My first thought is that of course they talked about ebola, since we got an email from the school about protocols and precautions, and there is all of one University of Texas student currently being monitored because she was on the plane with the latest patient.

“So did you guys talk about ebola today at school?”

“YES! S______ said that you’ll throw up your HEART! And DIE!”

Ah. Fear mongering playground talk with first graders. My favorite.

“Well, not exactly.” I mean, I’m sure that’s true, that one would, in fact, die if that happened, but I tried to explain that you couldn’t exactly vomit up your heart.

So Claire responded, “But S_______ SAID!”

Well, shit, it must be true then.

And that led to a fun and completely confusing-to-6-year-olds conversation about how one might catch ebola, how the doctors will try to help them, and don’t forget, you will probably throw up your heart and die.

So thanks, S______’s over-reacting parents. Next time I see your kid, I’m telling her about Santa. And the Easter Bunny. And how vomiting up your heart ISN’T EVEN POSSIBLE, YOU NOVICE.

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