Category Archives: Miscellany

Posts go here when they aren’t related to anything else I’ve posted before. From here, they either 1) get moved to a new category at a later date, or 2) live here forever. For ever-ever.

20Something Blogger Summit

You may have noticed a new badge to the right side of the blog here; this upcoming weekend, August 19 – 21, I will be attending the 20Something Blogger Summit here in Chicago.

This is not only my first 20Something Blogger adventure, this is my first blog summit of any stripe. Via connections on the Twitterverse, I’ve been aware of various summits and conferences in the past, but this is the first time I’ve been brave enough to pluck myself from the fringes and dive in.

Honestly, I’m beyond excited. I feel like a kid on the eve of the first day of kindergarten. My pencils are sharpened, my outfits are planned, my blog business cards have been ordered, and I’m ready to make new friends.

Signing up for this conference was a measured act of self-confidence. First, as we know, I’m on the very tail end of being 20Something. Second, signing up for this conference means that I’m publicly declaring myself to be a “Real Blogger.”

While the conference’s location made signing up an easy decision (no need for airfare or hotel), I stumbled a bit in seeing myself as the ideal attendee. Do I have the readership to call myself a blogger? Have I been at it long enough? I mean, I ordered blog business cards – who do I think I am?

I’m just a girl with a blog. I’ve always loved to write and having a blog gives me a reason to do so often and a platform by which to share it. I’m not looking to change the world, sell a product, or get a book deal.

(Yet, at least.)

I’m just a girl with a blog. This weekend, I’m going to a summit where I’ll be learning new tools, trying out new ideas, and meeting new people. I’ll be handing out cards with my blog address (“Hi. I have a blog. I think you should read it – you might like it.”) and hopefully receiving cards in return.

I’m a girl with a blog. I’m no longer a girl afraid to blog. After this weekend, I hope to be a girl unafraid to call herself a blogger.

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Happiness Resources: Google Docs

The past few days, I’ve been feeling like this.

Not one to wallow in self-pity – for more than 24 hours, at least – I was determined to do something. Enter, Jenny Blake and her lovely blog. While Jenny doesn’t write specifically about getting over your pity-parties, one post in particular has been quite useful (so, of course, I wanted to share). In this post, Jenny shares various resources on Google Docs. Take a gander.

Two of the eight Google Docs have been just what I needed to clear the mind-fog. The Wheel of Life is a tool that forces you to evaluate how you are feeling in various areas of your life and plot out action steps to correct or modify any pieces that need special attention. I don’t know about y’all, but personally, there’s great therapy to be had in writing things out. Abstract thoughts are scary. Concrete plans are reassuring.

For fun, I’m also working on the Life Checklist. It’s great to document your goals – they are far more likely to happen that way, no? Also, thanks to the loveliness that is Google Docs, you can share any of these documents with friends. Will now has access to my life goals (and is now aware that we will someday be travelling to New Zealand).

I hope you find these resources useful! Let me know if you use them!

It’s my Cat-a-versary!

Odie and his Cat-a-versary present. Yes, my cat gets Cat-a-versary presents (Thanks, Will!).

I rang in 2011 sitting on the bathroom floor. To my right, a flute of champagne resting on the cold, travertine tiles; in my lap, a large orange cat doing his best to minimize his fifteen-pound frame. A neighbor had decided to celebrate the New Year by setting off fireworks. The resultant booming had Odie running for the safety of the bathroom, his mama close behind. We spend a lot of time on the bathroom floor, Odie and I. All loud noises or violent storms send him scurrying to find me so I can comfort him in his chosen location. At times like these, I wish I could channel Dr. Doolittle to relay a message to my dear cat: I will never let anything bad happen to you.

Oh, that face!

Odie was a rescue cat; I rescued him from Tree House Humane Society, he rescued me from an Odie-less existence. A year ago today, he came into my life with six years of his already lived out in a manner mostly unknown. He has a few defects of mysterious origin – a wonky tail the vet presumes was once broken and a stiff-legged gait. In short, he’s perfect.

Odie’s overcome some obstacles since his arrival. At the shelter, I was alerted to his skin allergies, serial sneezing, and sporadic coughing fits. His face was covered with dark brown spots and he’d chewed off spots of fur as he tried to scratch his itches. After verifying that the brown spots weren’t a fungus (yes, a fungus – poor Odie), an allergy pill cleared up the skin irritations and sneezing. We are still working on the coughing. It may turn out to be asthma, and yes, I will get him an inhaler. How pumped Odie will be about using said inhaler remains to be seen.

In short, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the comfort and happiness of my beloved Odie. I crush pills into his tuna every night. I’ve collected stool samples. I’ve done research on the ideal litter box. I may not technically be crazy, but I’m definitely crazy about this cat.

I’ll be there next to him on the bathroom floor for as long as he needs the company.

An Open Letter

Dear Person Who Found my Blog by Googling “I’m Dorky and I Want to Stop,”

First, congratulations on having one of the most-unique search terms ever to show up in my site statistics. Most people Google sends my way are looking for those damn Anthropologie Cork Balls.

But back to you. Who exactly is calling you dorky? If it’s someone else, rest assured that their opinion doesn’t matter. If it’s you, you need to knock it off. 

Your search probably led you to this post wherein I vow to never again describe myself as a dork for having unique interests. I’ll no longer apologize for being who I am, and I’d encourage you to do the same.

Now, you’ll notice that some people in the comments to that post argued that being a “dork” is not necessarily a bad thing. For the sake of argument, however, we’ll assume that you think it is, as you were looking to stop being it. Joking about being a “dork” is only funny when you have the self confidence to know that it makes you more, not less, interesting and is a part of your personality you should never look to shed.

Are other people fueling this self-doubt? Other people’s opinions of you just don’t matter. Trust me on this. The sooner you fully accept that, the happier I believe you will be.

I don’t know you, obviously, but I imagine you as a Junior High-aged girl unsure of herself and her place among her peers. Basically, me circa 1995. Junior High can be incredibly hard. I’ve been there. I know how it feels to think no one knows how you feel. I remember the frustration at being told to ignore the cruel remarks of my classmates. The very suggestion sounds like something that could only be issued from the mouth of an adult who’d completely lost touch with how overwhelming it is to be thirteen.

But I remember. I remember that being told not to worry about what people thought was like being told not to breathe. Other people’s opinions were omnipresent. I’d sit in dressing rooms in the mall and cry because I was unsure if the clothes I was selecting were “right.” I sat through math class one day unable to take notes because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by getting up to use the pencil sharpener. I wanted – more than anything – to be completely invisible.

Slowly – and over the course of many years – I realized that the only opinions that mattered were my own and those of the people who loved me. The most clear manifestation of this epiphany is that now I’m able to dance in public.

By no means am I implying that I’m now the perfect role model for high self-esteem. I have my hang-ups. The thing that’s changed is my reaction to these hang ups. Now that I’m better able to weed out the noise of other people’s opinions, I feel more empowered to change the things that I don’t like about myself and ignore the things that other people don’t like. In short, I’m so much happier.

As for the name-callers, I don’t have any witty retorts for you because honestly, the greatest comeback is to move forward and be the best possible you – to find hobbies and people who truly interest you and to let go of anyone or anything that holds you down. Are you rolling your eyes at me? That’s fine. I know how eye-rolling that comment sounds. Plus, I was a champion eye-roller back in the day.

Surround yourself with people who love you for being a “dork” and would never see such a label as a bad thing. Try your best to ignore the haters and never let yourself sink to their level. And finally, don’t ever, ever, change yourself for someone else.

Covet: Lipstick

“Most girls your age prefer lip gloss,” the consultant assures me. I smile and continue to shop for lipsticks.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of lip balm; living through Chicago winters requires several tubes. However, when it comes to fun versus functional lip-wear, I want color. I want reds-too-red-for-my-complexion. I want bright pinks, corals, browns, berries.

I’m not looking for a color that will last all day. In fact, I prefer to watch it slowly wear off. I smile when I see the mauve lip-print on my coffee cup every morning. I laugh as I wipe circles of scarlet from my boyfriend’s cheek.

Mostly, I love reapplying. I love retrieving the sleek, black tube from my purse, twisting the base until the color emerges, and running it across my lips. Blot and go. With one small action I can make a big change, if not in my appearance then in my self-perception. Helena-with-bold-lips is confident, coy, and commanding. Self-aware and self-assured.

I’m presently (and always) loving the heck out of Benefit’s Silky Finish Lipstick. I adore all things Benefit – The packaging! The colors! – and am currently rocking the “My Treat” shade (at the recommendation of a very friendly saleslady). I believe it’s a 2010 color, so while you can’t completely copy my recommendation, I stand by all their products, so go explore.

I’m also coveting NARS Pure Matte Lipstick. I’ve always been a “matte” rather than a “shiny” girl. Those years in early high school when glitter nailpolish was all the rage were deeply painful for me. I think NARS read my mind.

Thoughts on lipstick? Any brands you’d recommend?

 {In further news, I think I’m going to start sharing items I love/covet each Thursday. A little series, if you will}

Coins, Canada, and (brief) Confusion

Yesterday morning, I went to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. This is not particularly remarkable except that I paid in cash. As the total was $2.06, I ended up with a handful of coins in return for my bills. Not wanting to hold up the line while I put my change away, I dumped it in my pocket and headed to the office. The coins were then transferred to a pile on my desk to be dealt with later.

Several hours later, as I went to pack up and head home, I reached for the pile of change and noticed this:

Given its size, I assumed it was a quarter. In fact, at first glance, I thought it was one of those State Quarters that everyone was collecting circa 2000.* Internal dialogue continued as follows:

“Ooh, a new State Quarter I haven’t seen! Which state is this? … Canada? We made a state quarter for Canada? Man, we are dicks.

Then I flipped the suspect coin over and saw Queen Elizabeth’s smiling face.

The coin was not dickish, just foreign. Mystery solved, Encyclopedia Brown.

In other numismatic news, I got a Sacagawea dollar at the post office – bringing the daily count of useless coins to two.

*Yes, I collected State Quarters. I was hardcore. As every complete collection contained a state quarter for each state from each mint, my beloved uncle in DC and I devised a plan. As I was closer geographically to the Denver mint, I’d collect the “D” quarters that had not yet circulated to the East Coast. I’d then swap them for the Philly (“P”) quarters he’d saved for me. Genius. Alas, the collection suffered a severe setback in 2003 when I left to study abroad (and start collecting Euros).

My Skin: A Dermatological Journey

Currently, my chin is covered in dark, red patches. Psoriasis is particularly unflattering on my already-ruddy, redheaded complexion.

My current remedies: medicated cream from the dermatologist (of course), green-tinted concealer (to counterbalance the red), and a multi-vitamin (can’t hurt).

Battling with my skin is nothing new. I started breaking out in fifth grade and soon had what even the most delicate doctor would call “severe acne”. While most of the Junior High set is dealing with their own pimples and self-esteem issues, my fellow Elementary school students would, with the blunt innocence of children, ask me what was wrong with my face. Did I have chicken pox, perhaps? Too young for make-up, I had to bear the burden bare-faced.

Junior High was awkward, but at least it had the reputation for so being. My skin faced the dual assaults of harsh medical treatments and the drying effect of the chlorine in the pool I swam in daily. Any attempts on my part to best the situation failed. I’d moisturize thirsty skin only to have it break out with renewed vengeance. I’d silently scoff at adults who told me that eventually the acne (and the related teasing) would pass. While there were, of course, things of greater importance happening in the world, my own world didn’t extend much beyond what I saw in the mirror each morning.

As quickly as the acne arrived, it vanished. Stasis was never my thing. I went from astringent to cold cream overnight. Psoriasis – once contained to lower extremities – slowly crept to my face.

As a pale redhead of Nordic extraction, I’m in frequent contact with my dermatologist regardless of cosmetic concerns (PSA: Wear sunscreen!). The most recent visit added rosacea to the list of epidermal insults.

Just like the girl in Junior High who fervently reapplied pressed powder in the girls’ room in between classes, I still find myself drawing a disproportionate amount of my self confidence from my reflection.

However, a few key things have changed. First, I possess far more knowledge and skill in make-up acquisition and application than I did sixteen years ago. More importantly, as with everything, I’m surrounded by people who support me regardless of how badly my skin is misbehaving. The biting comments of “friends” I had in Junior High would no longer be tolerated. My skin may always be persnickety, but I’m slowly starting to see it as a quirk rather than a flaw.

Pretty Preparations

Yesterday, the Twitters led me to this article from the wonderful blog Already Pretty. Quick, go read it!

Ok, I’ll summarize (but then go read it). A reader of the aforementioned blog asked Sally (the blogstress) the secrets to looking “polished.” You know how some women always seem to look like they have it all together? Yeah. What do they know that we don’t?

Sally’s response was spot on. Looking polished takes time and effort (and, in some cases, money). Polished women hone beauty routines, buy quality garments, and make the most of every opportunity to readjust.

Lately, as I move into a new phase in my life both personally and professionally, I’ve become more conscious of my appearance. Nothing drastic, I just want to align how I carry myself with how I perceive myself (and how I want others to perceive me). For instance, the old, ratty fleece I used to keep in the office to ward off over-zealous airconditioning has been replaced with a sleeker wrap. 

Let me be emphatically clear on this point: I would never label myself “polished.” I would, however, call myself “prepared.” It’s simple, really: No one can be perfect. Everyone can be prepared.

There’s a reason wee boys are taught to Be Prepared whilst in scouting. Preparation is the first line of defense against potential catastrophes, large and small. While most Cub Scouts likely aren’t toting spare tubes of chapstick, you can bet I have one in every purse. In fact, I generally am in possession of a small arsenal of items to make my life easier.

At Work: I spend a lot of time in the office, so my workspace is pretty well-appointed. In addition to a small array of sinus medication, my office contains the following:

  • A comb
  • Lip gloss
  • Mascara
  • Lotion
  • Hair balm (for dry, frizzy fly-aways)
  • Tide “To Go” Pen for stains

Perhaps this sounds vain. Perhaps being concerned about one’s appearance rather than one’s aptitude at work seems trivial. For me, though, these are all “self-confidence tools.” Even if the post-lip gloss change is too subtle for most to notice, I’m aware of it and I feel better. Sometimes, that teeny bump of pride is all you need.

To me, Polish = Preparation + Pride

(also key are Poise and Posture… there are a lot of good “P” words, aren’t there?)

Finally, I sincerely believe that we are all our own worst critics. When I point out my perceived flaws to my sister or my friends, they always assure me that said blemishes aren’t nearly as noticable as I think. Perhaps I just have really supportive friends, but I like to think I’m also just a smidge prettier in real life than I am in my head.

The Sick that Wouldn’t Quit

When this whole sore-throat, sneezy, runny-nose mess started three weeks ago, I assumed it was my normal allergies acting up. I had a full-scale allergy test done a few years ago (mostly to prove to my disbelieving parents that I was, in fact, allergic to cats) and it turns out I’m also allergic to many types of tree pollen and dust. Fun times. As soon as things start blooming in the Spring, I’m out.

Currently, however, we are on Week Three of The World’s Most Horrible Sore Throat/Cough/Congestion. I would physically brace myself against the pain whenever I had to swallow. My cough was starting to draw the darting eyes of concerned coworkers in neighboring cubicles. Visions of a plague pandemic with yours truly as Patient Zero are dancing in my head. I’m a hypochondriac in the best of times, but this was starting to veer into the truly terrible. Time to seek professional help.

I will save my ranting about the inaccessibility of the health care system for another day and sum up this morning’s frustration with the following: sometimes, it’s frightfully hard to get a doctor’s appointment. As this was neither super-urgent (e.g, broken arm, head trauma) nor routine (e.g., flu shot, pap smear), wading through my health care provider’s website and trying to match up coverage with doctor availability was not fun.

I decided to check out the “Take Care Clinic” in my local Walgreens. Ever the skeptic, I was a little apprehensive.  Who would see me? (Answer: A Nurse Practitioner). Could they prescribe necessary medicines? (Answer: Yes). Going to the wee clinic inside Walgreens is remarkably similar to going to your regular doctor’s office (minus the hassle of getting an appointment).

Turns out, somewhat to my surprise, that I do not have pneumonia, bronchitis, or bubonic plague. I have a cold. A very persistent cold, but a cold nonetheless. No antibiotics. No fancy treatment. The nurse was able to renew an elapsed prescription from my allergist. Armed with nasal spray and some behind-the-counter Advil Cold & Sinus, I was set forth to try not to infect my coworkers.

In addition to reassurance that I was not quite as near to death as I’d imagined, the nurse confirmed that getting a second opinion on a long-lived cold does not make one pathetic. I mean, some people actually do have bronchitis and pneumonia – I just haven’t joined their ranks quite yet.

Craft Beer Week

For the uninitiated, we are now in the midst of Chicago Craft Beer Week. As new homebrewers and lovers of all things craft beer, Will and I knew we had to attend some of the festivities. Our event of choice: Craft Day Afternoon.

This event was a dream. On arrival, we we were each given a souvenir tasting cup and a menu. Forty-five different beers were set up in stations at the bar, in the beer garden, and upstairs. The serious taster could easily track which selections they’d sampled and plan what to try next.

I was delighted to discover the first beer by Chicago’s new 5 Rabbit Brewery. Their American Blonde Ale was crisp and clean with a smooth, honey aftertaste. Very drinkable – by both craft aficionados and neophytes alike. Bottles will be available in stores on June 1, so I will definitely be enjoying this beer all Summer. As the nation’s first Latin microbrewery, 5 Rabbit has the potential to bring many new flavors to the craft brew scene.  A brewery representative spoke to us about upcoming lines including a white beer flavored with passion fruit for summer and another featuring chilis. You can bet I’ll be drinking both. Plus, they are local (to me at least, but you should try them out wherever you are)!

Another favorite was a tart cherry ale by a local homebrewer. The beer contains two different kinds of cherries and has been aging since 2008. 

Like with any hobby or past-time, it was fun to spend the afternoon with like-minded individuals. (Also, while I never advocate faking an interest in something to get a guy’s attention, I’d like to let all Chicago area beer-loving ladies know that the guy-to-girl ratio at this event was at least 5-to-1.)