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Reading, Watching, Listening: Volume 1

August 29, 2014

Reading-01

I’ve had my fair share of blog crushes, but right now I have a fierce crush on A Beautiful Mess and the creators Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. Their DIY style and love for vintage looks is right in line with what I envision for our new house. This week they released their book Happy Handmade Home, and I can’t wait to dig in. Not only do I love their blog, I love their go-get-‘em attitude, and that they’re always trying something new and working to make their brand better. If you love bright colors, DIY, and anything vintage, I’d give their blog a visit. Once you fall in love with them, (or before that) grab a copy of their book.

Watching

Thankfully, television is not the only place to find something to watch these days. In fact, I’d venture to say I watch funny YouTube videos as much as actual TV shows these days. Probably because the summer is a TV wasteland. This past Monday the Emmys aired, and despite groan-worthy moments, the highlight for many was Billy on the Street, starring Billy Eichner. The segment on the Emmys was just a taste of the hilarity that is Billy on the Street. Go here to see the whole series. Here is one of my favorites with Amy Poehler:

Listening

One of my favorite podcasts is The Popcast. Listening to Jamie Golden and Know McCoy argue about pop culture never ceases to make me laugh. It also makes me angry. Sometimes because I can’t argue along with them, or interject my opinions. Other times because their opinions are completely wrong and they need to be informed of this. If you enjoy pop culture, and you’re looking for a source to fill you in on current events that won’t make you depressed (most of the time, unless they bring up Miley Cyrus) then check out The Popcast on iTunes (and probably somewhere else, but I don’t know).

I’ll Take Zooey, You can Keep Scarlett

August 28, 2014
This is right before Miss Easy-Going Unlike Your Wife seduces Bradley Cooper.

This is right before Miss Easy-Going Unlike Your Wife seduces Bradley Cooper.

Among women and in the culture at large there exists a belief that women can never get along or be happy for each other. We’re all catty, and just waiting for other women to trip over their stilettos so we can climb the ladder faster to the pinnacle of whatever success we’re pursuing. Whether it’s professional, relational, or just having the most talked-about birthday party for our kid, we want to beat all the other women. Being the best is our game, and Pinterest is our playbook.

The fact is, this is partly true. Are there women I feel competitive toward? Absolutely. But making a broad statement about ALL women being catty and ALL women being unable to get along or show happiness for another’s success is, to put it succinctly, a big, steaming load of crap. It’s quite similar to the notion that all men are bumbling idiots as portrayed in many sitcoms.

After writing all of this, though, I will now admit that there is a group of women that is universally loathed* by their fellow females. A group that causes our hair to curl from the steam emanating from our ears every time we hear someone talk about them or every time they star alongside our favorite actors.

I’m not sure what to call these women, so let’s just call them The Others. A few members of this group include:

  1. Scarlett Johannson

  2. Kate Hudson

  3. Eva Mendes

By looking at this list, you may think “Oh, she just doesn’t like pretty, successful women.” Well you’re wrong. I adore lots of beautiful and successful women, including, but not limited to:

  1. Mindy Kaling

  2. Sandra Bullock

  3. Jennifer Lawrence

  4. Tina Fey

  5. Many women I know in real life

But there is a distinct difference between these two groups of women. I think a great example of The Others, and how “normal” women see them can be found in New Girl. New Girl is about Jessica Day, a twee kindergarten teacher who has three male roommates. Like many comedic characters, Jessica is an extreme personality. She’s cute, emotional, has eyes the size of dinner plates, and believes that most of life’s problems can be made easier by eating baked goods. She randomly bursts into made-up songs, just wants everyone to get along, and probably has birds braid her hair in the morning.

NewGirl01In the first season her roommate starts dating a girl who is the very opposite of Jessica. She is an Other. She finds Jess silly, her perkiness insincere, and she doesn’t even like dessert. Julia spends most of the episode looking down her nose at Jess. At the end, however, Jess gives a speech that sums up what many women are thinking every time the culture tries to tell us that all we boil down to is pumpkin spice lattes and boots worn over skinny jeans.

I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. That’s just weird, and it freaks me out. And I’m sorry I don’t talk like Murphy Brown. And I hate your pantsuit. I wish it had ribbons on it or something to make it just slightly cuter. And that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.

The key point to this, of course, is the last line. Just because someone is a stereotypical female who enjoys chocolate, shopping, and The Notebook, does not mean they’re not also smart, tough and strong.

But not only do The Others not want to be lumped into this group of “normal” women, they look down their down at this group. They have risen above such things as unexplainable bouts of emotion and chocolate cravings. They’d rather hang out with guys because a guy’s feelings don’t get hurt if you don’t text back right away. And more than just about anything, they love to tell you that they hate the color pink.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the things I just mentioned. There is nothing wrong with preferring beer over wine, and blue over pink. More power to you. What irks me, and what I believe irks other women, is the idea that a woman is somehow better or more evolved because of these things. The idea that being emotional, loving the color pink, and eating your feelings are things for which you should be ashamed.

That being said, every time I watch a movie with Scarlett Johansson, I get the distinct feeling that she is the woman you meet you says she has never had a lot of female friends. I’m not entirely convinced her character in “He’s Just Not that Into You” isn’t just Scarlett playing herself.

I think this is why characters like Jessica Day and Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project are so popular. They are, in many ways, a stereotypical female. But their shows don’t make this seem like a silly or shameful thing. Their shows find the humor in it, but also the pride in it.

So I’ll keep Jessica, Mindy and Liz Lemon. You can have Scarlett.

*Universally loathed is probably a strong statement. But what’s the point of having a blog if you aren’t going to make gross overstatements?

I Framed My Pink Slip and Hung it Up in My Office

August 25, 2014

Letter02Tonight I spent a couple of hours unpacking and setting up the office in our new home. I put books on shelves, pens into holders, and set up vignettes of a few of my favorite antique finds. The walls in the office are still bare, save for one framed letter that, five years later, represents a shift in my life that helped bring me to this room.

A little more than a year after I received this letter, I was every Baby Boomer’s nightmare. I was a twenty-something living with my parents, only working part-time, and unable to pay my own bills. By any outsider’s viewing, I was a leech who was living the easy life by letting my parents take care of me. Before that, though, I was a model citizen. I had a good job making decent money, I lived within my means, and never bothered my parents for money.

That changed one morning in May 2009 when my boss called me into his office, and handed me a letter informing me that, because of the current economy, my position had been cut from the budget and I was being terminated immediately. Everything came to a screeching halt and whatever else my boss may have said to me was lost among the panic racing through my mind.

A month or so later I moved in with some friends and worked part-time in retail. Several months after that I moved again to live with different friends, and worked in a different retail store.

Then sixteen months after losing my job, I became the scourge of middle-aged adults everywhere and moved home, without a single prospective job in sight.

I write all of this not to give you a sob story, or to complain about my former employer. I’m writing this to let you know that despite my layoff, and the things I could find to complain about my former employer, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Even immediately after I was laid off, I knew it was inevitable. How many churches have full-time editors on staff? Or a monthly magazine?

Now that it’s been a few years, I’ll be honest and tell you this—I was bored out of my gourd most of my time as an editor. The job had a lot of potential, but among its many frustrations, I was not really allowed to explore this potential. I knew I wasn’t doing what I was called to do anyway, and had started trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. I’d realized that being an editor was not something I wanted to do for 40 hours a week, and graphic design was my real passion.

But safety is alluring, and it’s easy to let the siren song of a steady paycheck drown out your dreams of something more. Even several months after I’d realized I didn’t want to be an editor, I wasn’t making moves toward a new job. If it weren’t for that letter, I probably would have stayed at that job for years.

A couple of weeks ago I was packing up our old house, getting ready to move to the first home Ben and I have owned, and I found the letter informing me of my termination stuck among birthday cards and old photos. I read through it and realized that I would not be sitting where I was, married to my husband, buying a house, or walking a career path I love, if it hadn’t been for that letter and all of its implications. Sure, these things could have still happened without the layoff, but this is the story that’s been written for me, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

So what else could I do, except frame it as a reminder that sometimes life’s biggest disappointments become the first step of our greatest journey? Now this letter of termination hangs in my home office, in my new home. It seemed like the perfect place for a letter that held such good news.

Back in the Habit (and a new house)

August 11, 2014

It’s been a while. I hope you’ve been doing well, and chasing your dreams and/or watching lots of marathons on Netflix. After a short foray into the world of DIY and food blogging, I’ve decided I belong in a world that requires less food photography and more off-the-cuff writing. The biggest news since my last post actually happened today: My husband Ben and I bought a house. Our first house.

I’ll be honest with you. In the past I was not always the most empathetic person when I’d hear about the stresses of searching for and buying a house. I thought, “What’s the big deal? You get to look inside the houses of strangers (a behavior normally frowned upon) and then you get to sign some paperwork and buy one.”

For my ignorance, I am sorry. It is stressful. Mainly because other people are also looking for a house, and they just might buy your dream house before you do. Then there is the whole mortgage thing. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I was more nervous about having a mortgage than I was about getting married. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I like to think it’s because I trust Ben a lot more than anyone involved in a mortgage.

Thankfully, though, we found a house in a great neighborhood, with a yard full of trees, and tons of potential. Right now it’s quite dated, complete with wood paneling. This is exactly what I was hoping for, because if a house needs to be updated, I’d rather do the updating. I did not want to pay an extra $10,000 because the previous owners added granite countertops that I will probably not like.

Soon, I will be posting my guide to buying a house for people who are as clueless as we were. All the guides I found used words a first-time homebuyer would not know without doing lots of Googling. And nobody has time for that.

Until then, I will be packing and unpacking, and spending copious amounts of time on Pinterest.

P.S. Today is also our second anniversary. Happy anniversary Ben! Celebrations all around!

Cupcakes and Awana

November 5, 2012
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Knowledge you may need to know for this post to make sense: Awana is a Bible club that many churches use for their children’s ministry. It’s like a curriculum to help teach children about the Bible.

I have only one, solitary memory of Awana. For all I know, I could have attended Awana for a full year, every Wednesday taking part in the meetings. But any memories I may have had have been completely shut out, only to leave a memory wrapped entirely in a cupcake. One long-lost cupcake.

I was in K-4 at the time. K-4 is what some private schools have before kindergarten. It was a small school and had only one or two K-4 classes that met in a separate building with its own playground. I have sparse memories of that small building. Memories of someone’s dad taking the class for a ride in his convertible around the parking lot. Or the memory of one of the teachers wearing orthopaedic shoes with really thick soles.

In my class was a red-headed girl we’ll call Summer. I don’t remember much about her, except everyone seemed to think she was weird. I shudder to think that even at four years old, we were already dividing people into the cool and not cool camps. But Summer was placed firmly in the not cool camp. Now that I think about it, though, I could just be remembering her that way because of my Awana experience. And because she threw up in class once.

This private school was part of a church, and on Wednesday nights we’d go to church, and I’d take part in Awana. Or at least I took part once.

On the night in question, someone had brought the class cupcakes. Each child in the class would receive a cupcake to take home with them. There were just enough cupcakes for each child to have one cupcake. One. At the end of class as we waited to be picked up by our parents, Summer grabbed her cupcake and left with her parents and younger brother, while I was still wrapping up my craft and waiting for my parents.

Then it happened.

Summer rushed back into the classroom and grabbed a second cupcake. It was the last cupcake. There were no cupcakes left. The passage of time could be adding a few details to this traumatic experience, but I remember seeing her in the distance, surrounded by dusk, as she gave the cupcake to her brother.

Guys. You’re probably thinking “Tiffany, it was just a cupcake.” Well first of all, just a cupcake? I bet you’re the same kind of person who spoils the surprise ending of a movie and then asks “Oh, you probably wouldn’t have watched it anyway, right?” It’s not just about the cupcake. It’s the principle of the thing.

But it’s mostly about the cupcake, to tell the truth.

This is America, and in America, like all other civilized countries, you don’t just take an extra cupcake without making sure everyone else has gotten theirs. If there aren’t enough to share with your younger brother, you either share your own cupcake, or teach him a life lesson by telling him only the big and strong get ahead and get a cupcake. But you don’t just take someone else’s cupcake.

I’ve thought long and hard about this incident, and I think the reason I have a hard time sharing food can be traced back to Summer and her thieving ways. What if this is the last time I ever get to eat Pizzeria Combos because someone buys all the other ones in the world? What if they decide to stop making pizza, and so this is the last time I get to eat a piece of hand-tossed pizza with pepperoni and green peppers.

HEY. IT COULD HAPPEN.

Or maybe I’m just way too attached to delicious food. Either way, I’m never naming any future daughters Summer. There’s no telling what kind of troublemaker she’d turn out to be.

2012 Endorsements: Things That Matter

November 1, 2012
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When I was was studying journalism in high school and college, it was driven hard and fast into our heads that the media is supposed to unbiased. Don’t take sides. In fact, some journalists don’t even vote, much less register with a political party, in order to remain unbiased.

But that doesn’t really matter any more and everyone endorses one thing or another. So that’s what I’m doing today. These are my endorsements for everything that matters in 2012.

Pitch Perfect: Surprisingly funny, with a lot of likable characters, and just enough unlikable characters. The only flaw I’d change is that it took too long for them to start singing “cool a Capella.” If they’d started doing it before the final 20 minutes, it would have been….pitch perfect. Zing!

“Go On”: Oh Matthew Perry, you will always be Chandler first, and every other character you’ve played second. I’m glad that Hollywood didn’t give up on you after “Studio 60″, because I think they’ve finally found a new show for you that is just enough Chandler, without being a carbon copy. This show is quirky (but not too quirky), heartfelt (without being cheesy) and pretty stinking funny.

“Newhart”: Don’t hate! It may be a bit old(ish) and there’s no drama, but this show holds up. Add to that its awesome theme song, and you’ve got the making of a relaxing evening.

Sriracha sauce: Not sure what to do with the chicken in your fridge? Put Sriracha on that thing! Can’t decide if you need to use a sauce on your rice dish? Put Sriracha on that mother! Looking for an excuse to eat Sriracha sauce? Grab the first thing in your fridge, douse it in that red-colored miracle sauce, and fill your face! I endorse Sriracha sauce because that junk is so good it makes my nose run from its spiciness. Win.

First Aid Kit: No, not the thing you keep in your medicine cabinet, but the group. The band. The musician. I’m not sure what kids are calling it these days, but their music is good. Throaty with a bit of twang. I don’t really know how to describe it, it’s just good music.

Anything by Daphne Du Maurier: She’s most well known for Rebecca, which Alfred Hitchcock made into a movie starring Laurence Olivier, but that’s not all she wrote. She also wrote the novella on which Hitchcock based The Birds. But if you only read one of her books, make it Rebecca. The first line alone is worth the cost of the book.

Pinterest: Yes, if we’re going to be a Debbie Downer about it, it’s full of unattainable goals and most of the thing people pin will never get accomplished. But it’s great for inspiration and for posting funny things like this. So, haters gonna hate, but Pinterest is awesome.

What am I missing? What would you endorse in 2012 that doesn’t involve a voting booth or attack ads?

The Absolute, Final and Definitive Reason for Why the NFL is better than College Football

October 29, 2012

I can give you a whole list of reasons why the NFL is better than college football. You may come back at me with false reasonings such as “college kids play for the love of the game!” In reply I will say “Bulllllllshuckyduckyducky.” One word: scholarships. Two more words: The laaaaaadies. Three more words: Free stuff everywhere.

In all honesty, I would probably love college football if I had a favorite team, if I could keep track of the 4,329 teams, or if they had a playoff system. But since they don’t, I like the NFL.

But the real reason. The final reason. The ULTIMATE REASON is this:

In the NFL, you are never subjected to hearing the first twenty seconds of “Carmina Burana” played by a marching band every 10 minutes.

WHAT is their obsession with this song? And why do they always stop before it gets really good? Every time I am subjected to hearing it, I hold a candle of hope in my heart that they’ll keep playing and really get into it. That they’ll blow the doors off the stadium. That candle is quickly distinguished and I’m left with nothing but a disdain for marching bands, and by extension, the entire establishment of college football.*

Instead, they just play 15 seconds and then—I can only assume—sit back and revel in the glory that they feel they deserve for playing a song that every other marching band in the country plays. 

I don’t think I can stress to you the amount of annoyance I have for this moment in college football. It’s not the song itself. It’s the frequency with which they play it, and the fact that THEY NEVER FINISH THE SONG.

Why this song anyway? Is it supposed to be intimidating? Because there is absolutely nothing intimidating about playing the first 15 seconds of any song. That would be like deciding to invade a country, then getting to their shore, seeing the big dunes you’ll have to climb over, and just deciding to have a picnic on the beach instead.

The only thing that could make it worse is if they play it on the vuvuzela. And if that every happens I can guarantee you I’ll need to buy a new television, because mine will be thrown outside on the lawn.

*Calm down, people. I don’t really hate it that much. I just get annoyed. FINISH THE SONG.

(In case you don’t know what song I’m referencing.)

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