Why La La Land would’ve wrecked me if I were still 22

There is a gaggle of girls in this coffee bar spoiling the ending of “La La Land” and I take umbrage. They are loud and sighing and I’m annoyed.

But I should warn you that this post probably contains a spoiler or four, as well.

Like the rest of earth that needed to see what would happen if Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling put on tap shoes and started singing, my beloved and I went to Los Angeles last night for a couple of hours. We also went back to our twenties when we were full of friend-roomies and durrnnk parties and all the ideals our 22 year-old hearts could contain. I would not go back to that time on a permanent basis, though. I needed Jesus and a budget more than I can articulate.

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We loved “La La Land” like the rest of the universe. We were wrecked by it, too. From this vantage, though, Loverpants and I can safely wonder and wander through all the What Ifs and not be completely devastated. We are committed to the happiness and holiness of each other and our children and right now that looks like trading off time to write blog posts and play frisbee in equal measures.

However, if I had seen this film when I was 22 and was fully convinced I needed to move to NYC and get an MFA and find my voice in the basement of moody unnamed coffee bars, I probably would have tore a page out of main characters Mia and Seb’s playbook. They decided they needed the space to pursue their own dreams. Their creative endeavors could not come to fruition if they stayed together in the same geography, looking up at the same stars from the same latitudes and longitudes.

And that’s a lie I so wanted to buy when I was in my early 20s. The lie that one can *only* pursue creative dreams when given the maximum space and resources one can afford. It all seemed easier to clean house to make space for more short story drafts than to have to compromise with another whose time and talents pulled equal rank.

I tried to break up with Loverpants and he with several times. I felt ashamed that I was doing the un-feminist thing by moving to be closer to him after college. Even a month before our wedding, I was still fighting to get into law school until I realized that law school wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted stable professional footing. Even more than than that I wanted a happy, stable marriage. I deferred law school and ultimately never went and have exactly zero regrets.

Throughout our relationship and marriage, we have pursued various degrees, moved to support one another’s professional dreams. I was pregnant and adjusting to life with a baby for much of grad school. Some would say these were not ideal circumstances, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They added a richness and a texture to every pursuit. I worked harder and more efficiently because I had a baby who napped for two hour windows. My degree mattered to me because I wanted to make my daughter proud. Loverpants built a private practice from our kitchen table. I wrote a book while rocking our son to sleep. Time and Fit are the non-negotiable factors in a relationship’s survival, whether starry-eyed millennials or obedient Dave Ramsey-like Baby Boomers.

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Mia and Seb’s relationship is familiar, I’m sure, to many creative dreamers who don’t want to trump one another’s artistic aims. It’s familiar to me but allow me this microphone: It’s not the only narrative that will net a Mostly Happily Ever After. Partnership adds something wonderful to the creative life, whether one’s role is co-author or sideline cheerleader. I’m glad to have been able to play both roles and look forward to wearing a many more hats before the curtain falls.

Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make.

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2016 recap

I like the rhythm of asking myself the same questions over and over again, so here’s the survey I usually do at EOY.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
The two biggest newnesses were:
a.) Starting a new job in marketing at a private school.
b.) Spending Thanksgiving at Tybee.

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Also memorable this past year were:
Surprising my old man upon his reception of the Bellarmine Award.
Watching Loverpants get sworn in as an American citizen
Watching my brother-in-law get remarried in a beautiful garden wedding.
Taking a couple of weeks to see my parents this summer, just the kids and I.
Reconnecting with my cousin Carrie and sharing in the joy of her pregnancy.

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2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I tried so hard to focus on nutrition and staying injury free. I fully embraced cold-pressed juice as part of my lifestyle and I did pretty well to stay injury free. I ran 2 5ks (one in TN, one in GA). I am still overweight but I can’t let myself get too sad about it.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Congrazzles to Carrie on welcoming Murphy Sloane! #birfmurph
Totally enamored of little Nika Joy, too, the daughter of my friend Kessia Reyne.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I’m extra grateful to answer no this year.

5. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Time to write, write, write for pleasure.

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Opening my Etsy shop. It has connected me meaningfully to a craft that I enjoy and to a community that uplifts me + other makers.

7. What was your biggest failure?
My book deal fell apart after a year of working and waiting. I see it as a failure of a small publisher that bit off more than it could chew. I suppose I failed to pursue other avenues but I can’t change what I didn’t know.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Earlier in the year, I spent a lot of time at the acupuncturist for a foot injury. Good times.

9. What was the best thing you bought?
I purchased a student membership to the Modern Calligraphy Summit. Game changer.

10. What did you get really excited about?
I thought the DNC was a remarkable showcase of the Democratic party’s strength. Loved speeches by my future BFF Michelle Obama, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm.
Also was surprised by “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

11. What was the best book you read this year?

Fiction: Peace Like a River, Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice
Non-Fiction: Loitering: New and Collected Essays, Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted

12. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? I have a lot to be happy about
– thinner or fatter? Fatter
– richer or poorer? Paid down some debt, so…woop!

13. What was your favorite TV program?
This is Us
Stranger Things

14. What was your favorite music from this year?
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The Hamilton Mixtape (Edited)
CAN’T STOP THE FEELING! (Original Song From DreamWorks Animation’s ”Trolls”)

15. What were your favorite films of the year?
Really wasn’t able to catch as many films as we would have liked. I know we saw “Race” in the theater.
I think “13th” on Netflix should be required viewing for every American.
Zootopia was important.

16. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my 36th birthday, I had a great weekend. My hubby got me some wonderful books and took the kids and me to a new favorite for brunch.

17. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
The depths to which people are capable of furthering evil are staggering, but not as great as they are able to achieve reconciliation. And that’s beautiful to me.

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Conquest Cupcake

I read the Yelp reviews and decided after the fourth 5 star rating to pick up my mat and go, find, seize the Salted Cupcake.

I had some unclaimed time at the conference, and who knew when I would make it back to these parts. With the brazen confidence that Siri inspires, I set out with a heavy bag on my journey. The spring sunshine of western Michigan beat down on me as I traversed subdivision after 1960s-era subdivision. This was not quite the Grand Rapids I had expected.  Did an indie cupcake shop not imply that this was to be the cool hipster zone of commerce? Where were the bike couriers with ill-fitting pants? Where was the independent coffee house? Where were the artisanal everythings?

I finally came to the main drag which was like one of those repeating cartoon backgrounds where the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote keep passing the same set of cacti and canyons. Only instead of cacti and canyons, this backdrop was a neverending concourse of plazas. Generic, segmented plazas full of big box chains where you have to drive and park and drive and park and consume. Everything wrong with America.

I walked past an Infiniti dealership for crying out loud. When does one ever walk past an Infiniti dealership?

I was into the second hour of my journey, feeling all kinds of guilt that a pastry had derailed me this far. I came upon the street where I was to find the oft-desired cupcake of all of my sugar-coated dreams, except something was awry. This street was decidedly residential. I neared the location that GPS had confirmed. This was the house that would have made Hansel and Gretel stumble and fall hard.

A sign outside of a little white boutique in the midst of a line of bungalows read:

Salted cupcake

I went in, expecting a cozy cottage with some tables and chairs where a grandmother in a gingham apron would pour me some milk with the famed Salted Cupcake upon which her Midwestern fame rested.

Instead, there was no bakery case. There was a chalkboard wall with displays of individual cupcakes. There was a table but it was covered in the accoutrements of a cupcake caterer working on a huge order on a frantic deadline. There was a cashier who did not know of my unlikely pedestrian-hood and how far I had come for my Salted Cupcake.

“That’ll be $3.50,” she said, boxing up my cupcake.

Salted cupcake

I waited for my Uber which would take me to the decidedly more hipster den of Grand Rapids where I would sit in a public space with homeless people and tourists and happy corporate lunch-eaters and I would devour my cupcake sans fork or napkin. And I would do so with relish. It was easily one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten in my entire life: cake was moist, icing was thick, fluffy, flavorful. Nearly divine.

***

There is no grand metaphor at work here. Maybe Antoine de Saint Exupery would say that it was the time I had wasted for my cupcake that made my cupcake so important. Maybe Bob Goff would say that I should have shared the cupcake with the homeless, maybe Anne Lamott would say that the cupcake was like my spiritual WD-40, loosening up some of the stiffness about schedules and gotta-dos in order to enjoy the serendipity of a sweet confection.

But they didn’t taste this cupcake. Nor did they walk the hour and a half (I hope they didn’t) through suburban wasteland to the cupcake cottage. There was not much joy in my journey nor in the sunburn I earned en route. The destination wasn’t what I expected, but the cupcake exceeded all of them.

Sometimes it’s just about the cupcake, the reward, the trophy, the oversized teddy bear at the fair. Sometimes you just have to carpe the cupcake and have no regrets.

 

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