Category Archives: What I’m into

What I’m into: June, 2017

I’ve been missing this space, friends! I have so many posts in my mental “drafts” folder, but most of my writing has been happening for other outlets and longer days of sunshine keep me away from my computer. But my conference flight got cancelled, so here we are! This should probably be like three different posts, but I am breaking blogging “rules” because, whatever.

Reading log

I’ve finished a few books since my last post, and have more on deck.

For book club, I listened to “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid which is a great book to experience in audio form. I had a free trial of scribd, a reading subscription service that gives access to 3 books and 1 audiobook each month for under $10. I typically use the library’s app to read digitally, but there are often wait lists for popular titles. This book is narrated by the author and clocked in at just under five hours. I totally listened while strolling through a greenhouse picking up flowers for our window boxes.

Exit West combines the compelling story of a migrant couple with s futurist plot and elements of magical realism. My favorite passage was about how we’re really all migrants through time. The book captures that feeling of discomfort at change and different-ness that seems to be roiling throughout the world and makes it personal.

Then I breezed through Maria Semple’s “Today Will Be Different” which is a comedy that packs some existential punches, too. It was 100% #whitepeopleproblems but I definitely caught glimpses of myself (yeah, maybe not the best version) in Eleanor, the protagonist.

I just finished “Commonwealth” by Ann Pachett, who is one of my favorite authors.  Reading her books is like knitting with a luxurious, expensive wool that makes you want to pull our your stitches just so you can feel it roll around in your fingers a little longer. Good thing I have not read the whole body of her work yet. I’m definitely going to pack something by her for our next vacation.

Travel log

I got to spend my 32nd birthday weekend in Chicago (32 in the 312!). I had a conference earlier in the week at the (gorgeous!) Loyola Lakefront campus and it felt strange to take the train into the city and then the L to campus like a commuting adult. Then, Joe came out and we got to spend a whole Saturday just the two of us in the city.

Joe and I started our touristy day with cold press Intelligentsia coffee and an architectural boat tour, which has been on my bucket list forever.  My dad was an architect and I’ve always geeked out on design. Our guide for the 90-minute river cruise was engaging and I learned about some of the buildings I’d never even noticed before.

I had wanted to check out the new Nutella cafe, but the line was ridiculous, so we had lunch in Millennium Park before popping into the American Writer’s Museum, which had opened a few weeks prior.

The museum well done but pretty small, so it felt pricey for just an hour or so of browsing. We got to see Karouac’s original “On the Road” draft scroll, and I enjoyed a poetry exhibit that had an immersive audiovisual element.

We had a few hours to kill before our dinner reservation, so we decided to wander around Old Town. (The boat tour and dinner at Geja’s Cafe, a Lincoln Park fondue restaurant, was me cashing in on a few year’s of my brother’s Christmas present generosity.)

The Old Town Art Fair was in full swing, so we popped in and drank sangrias and browsed the art booths, gardens and ogled the homes. It was such a beautiful day and a great vibe! I even found a print that I was able to secretly snag as a Father’s Day present for Joe. (The $10 admission also reminded me how lucky we are that the Des Moines Arts Festival – June 23-25 is free!)

Geja’s is tucked underground and dimly lit, with each booth like a romantic cavern surrounded by wine bottles. Fondue is such a fun date dinner because it’s like an activity in and of itself. We got cheese fondue with appetizers and then a huge platter to cook in oil with probably 10 dipping sauces, and then chocolate fondue for dessert, and split a bubbly Rose. The outing was extra sweet knowing my brother had planned it for me, and was entertaining Emmett at Legoland while we enjoyed day and evening out! Photography is frowned upon but I surreptitiously snapped this one of my lovah and flaming ‘mallows.

We stayed over at my brother’s condo that night and all watched the first ever Star Wars movie, an experience I think my brother wishes he had broadcast on Reddit because I am so unaware of anything to do with that whole franchise. He, on the other hand, has memorized a three-volume set of Star Wars information.

Health log 

After gorging myself on fondue and birthday cake, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf in the healthy living department.

I got my annual results back from my work wellness check and realized I can be as #bodypositive as I want, but I do actually need to make changes to be healthy.

So I have downloaded myfitnesspal app and have been getting friendly with the Yoga with Adriene youtube channel. I want to make some changes that are sustainable, but if I don’t see improvement by the end of summer, I’m going to try Farrell’s, I think!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Travel, What I'm into

What I’m Into: May ’17

There’s nothing to replenish my heart like a weekend in nature and the opportunity to read The New Yorker cover-to-cover.

Road-Tripping 

We went down to Lacey-Keosaqua State Park this weekend (2 hrs. SE of DSM) with the kiddos. It was our second time staying in the cabins there, and they’re a great tent-camping alternative.

It was like living in a tiny house for two nights. Joe strung a hammock and I truly had forgotten the simple joy of lounging in one.

There are lots of trails in the park, and a little beach down a steep flight of stairs that lead to a lake, where Emmett splashed around with the minnows.

The kids were sold on camping because we ate Casey’s donuts for breakfast and roasted marshmallows at night.

We took our bikes up to Fairfield (about 30 minutes north of the park) for a wetlands dedication that Joe’s organization was a part of.  We attempted to do the 16-mile loop in the morning before the dedication, but an hour in had only made it four miles (uphill, mostly!) and so sailed back down from whence we came.

Fairfield is such an interesting town, with it’s traditional square and Vedic City. I love those unexpected pockets of Iowa. Also – you pass by the American Gothic house on the way down, if that’s ever been on your bucket list. And you know I’ve never met a barn quilt I didn’t make Joe pull over for. Obsessed.

We stopped by the farmer’s market and picked up some coffee and insane cheesy red onion rolls that I will dream of forevermore. (This onion cheese bread isn’t the same, but bookmarking for a rainy day.)

Reading 

I am currently sucked into ‘The Round House,’ by Louise Erdrich, about a rape on an American Indian reservation. I rented it on the library’s Overdrive app because I’d loved her memoir “The Blue Jay’s Dance” which was pretty much the only postpartum reading that I deeply related to. Her prose is vivid and poetic and gritty and she’s just a magical storyteller.

As I mentioned, Joe drove both ways and I got to read The May 15 Innovators Issue of The New Yorker cover-to-cover and it was excellent. I’ve been a subscriber for a long time but typically only get to an article of two in each issue. I love how it bounces my brain around! If you have some traveling coming up, I highly recommend it as a light but longform carry-on.

Scrolling

Local artist Christine Hilbert is working on a 100 day project mixing watercolor and vintage jewelry and each time I see one of her pieces on Instagram (@christinehilbert) I am completely delighted.

Sharing 

I have a column in this week’s Lift Iowa that’s basically an extended metaphor between Pilates and civic engagement work. I’ve been trying to find a way to write about volunteerism as professional development and when this popped into my head I was so excited.

Leave a comment

Filed under Iowa adventures, What I'm into

What I’m into: March ’17

It’s March, so here’s a “feeling lucky” edition of What I’m Into:

Reading: Lucky Boy

I’m not sure if the right thing to say about “Lucky Boy,” by Shanthi Sekeran is that I “enjoyed” it, because the book was beautifully written and gripping but it also ripped my mother heart out of my body and stomped on it.The short description is that immigration and infertility join the stories of two women.

The whole time I was reading, I was thinking about all of the immigrant women – all of the people – in detention facilities right now in our country. The book was inspired by a real story and the characters have this visceral quality to them, even as the writing gets into their deepest hopes and dreams.

 

This passage was among my favorites:

“Why did people love children who were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone, and because there was no point running from earthquakes into tornadoes, blizzards, terrorist attacks. Because destruction waited around every corner, and turning one corner would only lead to another. So it made sense to stay put, if put was a place like Berkeley, with its throb of lifeblood, of sun and breeze and heart and anger and misplaced enthusiasm. She’d built her love on a fault line, and the first tremors had begun.” – Shanthi Sekeran, Lucky Boy

My friend Katy picked this selection for our club and it was lovely to just walk down to her house on a snowy night to hang out and discuss it.

We curled up on her couch and talked about life late into the night. She also showed me these Blank on Blank animated interviews which are pretty cool. The audio is from un-aired interviews of public figures. The Larry King one is pretty funny!

Working: #povertydsm 

My work days have been eclectic lately (last week I facilitated a discussion group in jail!) but that’s how I like it. Today, Des Moines University had the Des Moines Civil & Human Right Commission on campus for their annual poverty summit. The turnout was huge! I feel so lucky to be in a professional position that lets me interact with people in our community who are agents for positive change.

My role was mostly just to make sure our facility resources were available and functioning, and I sneaked away from my station in the afternoon to participate in a simulation of re-entry into life after prison. Whoa. We each got personas that outlined our lives after release, and had to complete tasks and bills and opportunities that aligned with that person’s situation.

It was incredibly difficult to get all of my boxes checked and drove home how challenging navigating “the system” can be for people and how our community could better align resources for people struggling to reenter society. I really want to host it with DMU students in the fall because I think it will be a powerful experience to help them understand what it means for patients who struggle to access care.

Girls Tripping: K.C. Style 

My sisters-in-law Molly, Ellen and I are headed on a mini getaway to Kansas City over St. Patrick’s weekend (our first!) We have a few things planned and a huge list of restaurants to try and NO RESPONSIBILITIES! I feel so fortunate that Joe has such a welcoming family and that I’ve been able to grow close to these women over the past decade. They definitely helped shape Joe into the amazing guy he is and I’m excited to make memories with them.

Image via Bozz Prints

I’ll report back here with details from the weekend!

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Travel, What I'm into

My Writing Elsewhere: The Lovely Bones

I have a piece in the March/April 2017 issue of DSM Magazine that I think turned out nicely. It’s a profile of Lee Emma Running, a Grinnell artist whose latest work would fit in nicely with the Des Moines Art Center’s current “Alchemy” exhibition. (Which is also the theme of this spring’s Big Hair Ball!)

lovelybones

Read “The Lovely Bones” or check it out in the splendid layout (pp. 88-96) here.

I enjoyed interviewing Lee in her Grinnell studio, and I’m grateful the magazine editors endured a little more back-and-forth with me to make sure it the piece had just the right tone. It’s such a privilege to tell the stories of artists like Lee. I even got to see her pieces at Olson-Larsen Gallery, including a kind of walk-in installation. The 2017 Valley Junction spring gallery night is set for April 21, if you’ve never been.

img_0320

The magazine held its unveiling yesterday evening at The Republic on Grand, a new hipster Marriott in the East Village. It was so packed! They have a rooftop heated bar that looks out to Principal Park, which would be a great spot to catch the fireworks on a Friday night in spring. I am always thrilled to see friends featured and Jami Milne shot the stunning cover.

dsm_mar17_cover

The ethereal underwater ballet shot is beyond lovely, but I’m more obsessed with the “Layers” portraits she did of high school students in the RUN DSM slam poetry program. I saw a bunch of the teens perform in a showcase last weekend and I felt like they were total celebs.

jaya

Leave a comment

Filed under movies/art, Side projects

Spread the happy

Sharing a few things that have brightened the past few weeks for me.

Winning the jammie jackpot

First, let me tell you I rarely win things. So I almost convinced myself it was a fake-out when I got a message from the folks at Hanna Andersson letting me know I’d won a $500 (!) gift card through one of their #happyhannas #hannajams contests.

img_1188Granted, it was like two weeks into 2017, but pretty much the best thing that’s happened to me all year.

Since I hit the jammie jackpot, I feel like I should spread the happy!
Comment on this post with something that’s made you HAPPY in 2017 for a chance to win a pair of Hanna Andersson baby jams. They make an amazing shower gift if you don’t have a little of your own. That’s how I got hooked! I’ll pick a winner at random on Feb. 1.

img_0892

If you’ve ever snuggled a kid in these clothes, you know how super soft and durable they are. My mom spoils the kiddos with them when she finds a good sale, and I do not complain. Since the baby jams are footless, they allow a little more room for growth, which I love. I’m going to be a little selfish and get a grown-up outfit, too, with my gift card.

More bright spots:

Refreshing the downstairs bathroom

This is our primary bathroom (we have a 2/3 bath upstairs) because who doesn’t love a clawfoot tub? Joe added on the shower when we moved in, but otherwise it’s just been the same purple hodgepodge since we moved in. Here’s the grody paint-prep before photo:

img_1095

And after:
img_1404

Mostly just a gallon of paint (Hotel St. Francis Spirit Blue which is actually not the paint I intended to go with, but that’s what you get for rushing a trip to the hardware store with a kid in tow), a new IKEA vanity (really a buffet) and bringing in accessories from other areas of the house. I whipped up a little runner for the vanity using fabric from Bonnie Christine’s Succulence line that I bought when Stitch was closing last year.

img_1403

I’d like to make a few tweaks like adding more art and a mounted necklace hanger, but having a vanity area is a game-changer. The art is a Bozz Prints piece that looks like it’s currently unavailable. Despite the color being not what I intended originally, I’m happy with how it turned out!

img_1402

Pairing treadmill time and podcasts
I need to do this more like 3 times a week instead of once every week and a half, because heading to the Wellness Center at work for speed walking on an incline while listening to a podcast is pretty great. I’ve been listening to Fresh Air, but branched out and tried Call Your Girlfriend, where I picked up the cute term “doing life admin” as a description of spending time paying your bills, making appointments, etc.

Hanging at ladies’ book club

img_1401

Being part of a book club (now several years strong) is incredible. It took us an hour and forty-five minutes to before we finally sat down to start discussing the book last night, but that’s part of what makes it so special.

I’m not great at making friend dates and look forward to these pre-planned nights. Honestly, I did not love Swing Time even though I had high hopes. Our next book is Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran.

11 Comments

Filed under At home, Books, What I'm into

We marched together

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to juggle two kids at the Women’s March on Saturday (Joe had to work the bike expo), but we made it out! After all, if my children are a reason I want to stand up for democracy, I can’t make them my excuse not to show up.

16195014_10104653049278900_5798336000761589107_n

We rode down and met up with friends, and it was encouraging to be among so much positive energy.

The highlight of the morning was when one of my friends asked Emmett “What are women’s rights?” And he responded – without prompting – “Human rights!”

16195190_10104653068290800_8151915633566374568_n

I’ve been feeling wary since the election, emotionally exhausted looking out at the uphill climb out of policies, de-funding and secrecy that are counter to what I feel make this country great. I’m scared, and furious.

But am inspired by the activism and calls to responsible citizenship that I’ve seen and I know I am able to act from a place of privilege. There are so many who have had their sleeves rolled up for so long and I hope everyone who marched is able to stay organized. {Thanks to a friend who shared some good posts (vol. 1 & vol. 2) on intersectional feminism!}

16113896_851673128307598_6981179079019003602_n

Last Friday during the inauguration, I was at the YNPN Des Moines NON-CON, hearing presenters including Dr. Glennda Bivens present on topics of diversity, equality and inclusion, which felt like a good antidote to the rhetoric of the incoming president.

There are lots of sites out there with suggestions for “acts of resistance” beyond the march {my friend Norah pulled together a nice roundup} and I already have my legislators saves to speed dial. I don’t think anything will replace the need for deep and meaningful conversations.

marchon

Image via @xo_lp who has a sweet printable you can turn into postcards to send to your representatives

A few weeks ago, I went to act on calling out companies that are advertising on fake news sites. I was surprised and dismayed to see ads for a local company I’ve had great interactions with on Breitbart. But instead of blasting a tweet calling them out, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and sent a private message, which was quickly answered. Turns out it was part of a “remarketing” campaign and their company was just following my cookie trail to any site I visited. They weren’t intentionally marketing there, and were really nice about the interaction. People! Conversations!

16115007_10104653068670040_4643993972678181222_n

The other piece is putting my money where my mouth is and trying to focus less on acquiring stuff and more on supporting meaningful causes and work. We have digital subscriptions to several news sites, are sustaining IPR members and subscribe to the New Yorker. I’ve made several first-time donations in honor of friends’ kind acts and response to discouraging policies.

Did you march? Looking to do more?

If you’ve never been to a “Day on the Hill” at the Iowa State Capitol, there are opportunities throughout session to support organizations and causes that are meaningful to you. DMU had our day today, and it was so much fun to see our students get excited about advocacy!

P.S. Fox Brewing is hosting Adulting 101: How to talk to your local legislators on March 5 and The Greater Des Moines Partnership is hosting an “Advocacy Essentials” workshop on Feb. 7 in the morning

 

3 Comments

Filed under I love Des Moines, Uncategorized, What I'm into

Books I read in 2016

Reading is my favorite luxury. That feeling of being transported while under a big blanket on your couch. I have this epic ability to tune everything out when I read (a talent which, if you are in my family, you don’t love). I always feel a little lost when I’m between books.

img_0172

I’m so thankful to be part of a ladies book club that meets every 6 weeks or so, a commitment to myself and to my friends to share thoughts and let the wine (and pizza) and conversation flow. I missed our last meeting and it feels like I’m a sailor who passed by a welcoming harbor without stopping.

If you’re looking for a book to pick up, here’s a recap of most of the books I read this year – I’m sure I am forgetting a few!

americanah

I just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi and it was a terrifically “now” (although kind of pre-Trump “now”) take on race in America that also managed to feel like hanging out with a Nigerian-born college best friend and seeing the world from a different lens.

Over Thanksgiving and my grandpa’s funeral, I read “We are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas. It was a story spanning an Irish-American woman’s life from the 1950s through 1990s and it wasn’t uplifting or groundbreaking, but it felt like being witness to a quiet family drama.

In October, I read “Homegoing” by Ya Gyasi, which explores the African slave trade and African American relations in a beautiful voice. I love books that take on multiple perspectives and the connect a whole lineage, and this was a fantastic, personal read that also helps show institutional racism.

Our book club felt the need to rate “The Argonauts” by Maggie Nelson on a different scale, because it felt important and provocative and existed on a more academic plane than most of the other novels we read. If you want to delve into some feminist theory and gender studies type of reading and gain a better understanding of “trans” people and relationships, it’s a book that captures that in personal and current way.

I likened “The Girls” by Emma Cline as eating a sour candy. It’s smoothly composed but has a sour, wicked plot. It’s one of the hot novels of the year and follows a teenager who gets swept into a Manson-like cult.

Devoured “Tuesday Nights in 1980” by Molly Prentiss. It’s bouncing between connected characters and set in New York at the turn of 1980 (at least so far) and big into the art scene at the time.

I loved “How to be a Person in the World,” a collection of Ask Polly advice columns by Heather Havrilesky. I’d press it into the arms of any woman navigating her 20s, who doesn’t mind a lot of eff-bombs.

I picked up Dear Mr. You” by Mary Louise Parker, in Cambridge and remember relishing it and the bliss of a kid-free Boston getaway. The actress presents a memoir in letters, it was one of those books that’s easy to breeze through, but you really want to savor.

I don’t think I got through all of them before my library loan expired, but I was captivated by the short stories in ‘A Manual for Cleaning Women,’ by Lucia Berlin. The NYT calls her stories “careworn, haunted, messily alluring and yet casually droll.” Spot on.

P.S. Lazy girl’s guide to east reading: Download the Overdrive app and you can rent e-books from your library from your bed. I’ll always prefer the real thing, but sometimes you need a quick/free fix. 

swingtime

P.P.S. Next up is “Swingtime” by Zadie Smith. Anyone have a copy I can borrow? I should probably buy it because I loved “White Teeth” and Zadie Smith, in general!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books