Labor Day weekend is always a little bittersweet. Even without a summer break, it still feels like an end of sorts. I’m too sentimental. But, Fall is by far my favorite season. While mourning the loss of sunshine, flowers, and swimming pools, I’m celebrating the resurrection of bonfires, cozy sweaters, and fresh apple cider.
Let’s enjoy the rest of summer while it lasts. Here are some things to get you through the end of the day. The long weekend is almost here!
Michelle was the reason I started using the term “career badass.” Somewhere at my parent’s house, I have copies of the paper for which she wrote in high school. And here she is now, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, reporter at the Washington Post.
As another summer comes to a close, I’m trying to soak in the last bits of the long days and that warm evening sunshine. One of my favorite pastimes during this first summer of homeownership has been to lounge outside on the porch and read, even if only for ten minutes at a time.
I generally read a lot of magazines and blogs, but nothing beats a tangible paper book. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Not just reading them, but the feeling of flipping through the pages, totally engrossed, letting yourself escape into the words. I can’t help but be nostalgic.
Last week, I finished Tig Notaro’s book, I’m Just a Person. Wow. She’s been through some tough stuff. Her book, while much more serious than her stand-up, was equal parts emotional and humorous.
She fills us in on bits of her childhood while telling the story about the worst couple of months of her life, endured a few years back. First, Tig had a terrible bacterial infection from which she was hospitalized and made her believe she was dying. Soon after she was released from the hospital, still in rough shape, her mother passed away suddenly. And not long after that, the cherry on top, she found out that she had breast cancer. In both breasts. Oh, and somewhere in there, she and her girlfriend broke up too.
Eventually, Tig reveals a little bit about her infamous Largo set, which she performed just after finding out she had cancer in both breasts. She didn’t have a routine and candidly walked out on stage announcing her diagnosis. No one knew how to react, or whether or not she was joking. They quickly realized she wasn’t. She managed to captivate the audience with her raw, brave, and relatable performance. I’d heard that part of the story before, but not from her humbled perspective, which was fascinating.
I’m Just a Person is definitely worth a read if you like Tig Notaro’s stand-up and dry sense of humor. It’s doesn’t require a lot of extra thought. You might shed a tear or two if you’re an emotional sap like me, but brainpower really isn’t necessary. And I mean that in the most positive way. I did hear that a lot of the details in the book are the same as what’s in her documentary, but I haven’t seen it. Even if it is the same, I’m sure I’ll watch it anyway.
Last night, I started Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?I guess I’m on a roll with female comedian memoirs. I was a big fan of MK’s first book (the title alone cracks me up every time), so I have high hopes. If you’ve read it, what did you think? On page one, I was already laughing out loud. That’s always a good sign.
Have you read any good books this summer? I’d love your suggestions while there’s still time to enjoy some outside reading!
This is the quickest recipe ever as far as cook time goes, I promise. Concocted by my boyfriend one night when we didn’t have a dinner idea, but wanted to use up stuff in the house, it’s been a weeknight staple for a while now.
Steve is a much better natural chef than I am. I’m not inventive with my cooking. I can knock a recipe out of the park (with plenty of exceptions, ha), but when it comes to pulling things together out of thin air, I’m no magician.
1 pound raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp (fresh or frozen will do)
Soft taco tortillas (I’m sure hard shells would be great with this recipe too!)
*Adjust for heat. Start with less and add more to taste. This stuff can get spicy REAL quick!
Pat shrimp dry and sprinkle lightly with salt. Mix together marinade and toss shrimp into it. Refrigerate shrimp and let marinade for about an hour.
This is the point when I usually open a Corona. While the shrimp is marinating, mix up your sauce and set it aside. If you want rice in your tacos, cook white rice; top with a little lime juice and cilantro when done. Get your toppings ready; chop lettuce if need be. Once the shrimp starts cooking, dinner is ready in no time!
Once shrimp is done marinating, either cook it right in the marinade on the stove or grill it. We usually cook it on the stove. Cook shrimp on medium heat until pink and opaque. This only takes about 4 minutes or so.
When the shrimp is done cooking, remove from heat. Top tortillas with rice, shrimp, lettuce, salsa, and then add the chipotle cream sauce on top.
This recipe typically makes about 4-6 tacos, depending whether or not you add rice and other fillers. The last time we made it, we added more rice, and I think we were able to even stretch it to 8 tacos.
If you’re looking for a light, refreshing dinner that goes particularly well with a Corona and lime, this is it. Summertime, and the livin’s easy, friends.
The Mansion on Delaware Avenue, where last week’s Creative Mornings was held
Everything got a little out of whack last week after losing Owen. I did a lot of ugly crying and was feeling less than inspired to write. Grief from the loss of a pet sure doesn’t compare to the overwhelming sorrow felt when losing a person you love, but damn, it still hit me hard.
A highlight that helped turn my week around was attending my first Creative Mornings talk on Friday morning. Creative Mornings, as described on their website, is “a breakfast lecture series for the creative community.” I heard about it a couple years ago, but I can’t recall how or where. I must’ve inadvertently signed up for their emails because my inbox was suddenly full of promos telling me all about these intriguing, inspirational talks coming up in cities too far from me, like Brooklyn, DC, and so forth. I unsubscribed from the email list at some point, probably out of jealousy that I couldn’t attend.
Then a few months back, I read that someone here in Buffalo started a local Creative Mornings chapter. Thrilled, I debated attending, but my social anxiety got the best of me, as it often does, and I chickened out of going by myself. Cue meeting Ashley from Morning Glory blog. We met a couple months ago, and she brought up how inspiring the Creative Mornings talks have been. She was going to be photographing the talk this month and reminded me to sign up. I’m so glad she did.
The gorgeous Mansion on Delaware Avenue again
The speaker on Friday was 16-year-old Buffalo entrepreneur Zandra Cunningham. She started her own line of beauty products when she was just 9 years old. When she’s not in class at her high school, she’s working in her studio or touring the country speaking about entrepreneurship. Jokingly, but truthfully, Zandra admitted that if it’s not on Google calendar, it doesn’t happen—including going to the movies with her friends.
Everyone kept marveling at her age, but she was impressive regardless. Zandra’s talk was phenomenal; she nails public speaking. I was impressed with her story, the business she’s built, and how she carries herself. Talk about an inspiring woman!
At the end of the talk, during a Q&A session, someone asked about her next project or next idea. She hesitated, and then casually mentioned that she might want to start a fashion line. Or sell the business. A true entrepreneur.
This month’s theme for Creative Mornings was ‘weird.’ Something Zandra said near the end of her talk really resonated with me, shown below.
Sometimes life is weird. It’s up to us to choose how we’ll handle it. To those I met at Creative Mornings, to Ashley, to Zandra, and especially to everyone who reached out to me last week—thank you for helping me to pick myself back up and embrace the weird.
Well, that wasn’t how I expected my week to start. But, you never really expect to wake up and experience tragedy, do you? Using the word tragic is a bit dramatic, I’ll admit. But on Monday, I lost my best pal, the first pet who was truly mine—my guinea pig, Owen.
In the summer of 2009, I decided I wanted a pet. I was in college, living in a small apartment and realizing that I would likely be apartment bound for several more years. I’m not a cat person, keeping a dog cooped up didn’t seem fair, I’d never kept a fish alive for more than a few months, and I’d had, and hated, gerbils as a teenager. I wanted a pet with personality and a love for human interaction, but that was still low maintenance.
Shortly after I got him. Such a little bebe.
I waltzed into the pet store, checked out a couple of ferrets, and headed over to the guinea pigs. Several were on display, but one stood out. The runt of the crowd, he had a little cowlick on top of his head and was pretty timid compared to the other piggies. I instantly knew he was mine. I didn’t take him home that day, wanting to take a little time to think it through.
When I was three or four years old, my dad brought home our first family pet, a guinea pig. He was friendly, followed my dad around the backyard, and from my knowledgeable toddler perspective, never seemed to require too much of our time and attention. Between that experience and my terror that someone would come and scoop up the cute piggie overnight, I figured a guinea pig was the right pet for me. I had to go back to the pet store the next day.
That was the day Owen came into my life and changed it. It wasn’t just about me anymore. The first thing I did when I woke up every day was feed and play with Owen. The last thing I did before bed was make sure Owen was set for the night. My life revolved around him more than I knew, just like a child. Now that he’s gone, it doesn’t seem right to wake up and pour myself a cup of coffee first thing.
Owen was with me almost from the beginning of my relationship with Steve; I got him not too long after Steve and I met. He watched me grow up and become an adult. He lived with me in five different apartments, two houses, and three cities. O met my beloved childhood dog, Maggie, my Papa, and my Uncle Jimmy, and is probably partying with all three of them somewhere up there. He stayed with family and friends in both New York and Ohio.
Owen meeting Maggie
One day while Owen was lounging on the couch with me, I discovered his love for watching skiing on TV. In a trance, he didn’t move a muscle until the commercials came on. The Notebook, on the other hand, wasn’t his cup of tea. I wanted him to love it, but he tried to bury his head in a blanket during that one. Typical boy.
Left: Owen and Steve watching football Right: Big booty O
It brings me comfort that for seven years, I was lucky enough to hear his squeals as I walked in the door. He slowed down in his last year or two, but always kept his spirit. Once the shy runt at the pet store, he turned into a show-off in no time; Owen loved any and all attention he could get. Whenever someone would stop by his cage to pet him, he would proudly take them on a tour of his space, running around to all his favorite spots and toys. “Did you see my water bottle yet? How about my igloo? I hope you brought a carrot.” Steve and I often narrated for O, cracking ourselves up. I love to think he understood what we were saying and was making fun of us the whole time.
For most people, pets are more than just animals who happen to live with us; they become important members of our families. That was certainly true of Owen. He ruled this house, and we sure did love him.
On Monday morning, I knew Owen wasn’t doing well. Over the last several months, he lost a lot of mobility and often times couldn’t use his back legs at all. He gave us a few scares, but always seemed to bounce back. I thought Monday would go the same way, but unfortunately, it was his time. I was able to be with him, holding him, as he passed. Although it was traumatic for me, I’m comforted that he wasn’t alone, and that it was me who was able to be there for my little O.
The past two mornings when I woke up, I looked out to the backyard as I always do. A beautiful ray of glowing yellow sun was shining right to the path that leads to the spot where we buried Owen.
Rest in peace, my little sun baby. Thanks for being you. ♥
U.S. Olympic Diving Champ Aileen Riggin, 1922, Library of Congress
Thank you to everyone who stopped by to read my first Run the World post on Wednesday, featuring the phenomenal Laura Metzler. Writing that post was the most fun project I’ve done for tracing paper so far, and I can’t wait to talk to more inspiring women. If there’s a badass career woman who you look up to, send her info my way!
Here are some things I’m loving this week, mostly related to the Olympics, officially underway tonight!
Career day was always one of my favorite days of school growing up. I’m still fascinated to hear about what people do. What motivates them? How did they choose their career paths? How do they spend their days? Whether we like them or not, our professions define us in a lot of ways. After all, most Americans spend about half of their waking hours at work, if not more, according to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I’m particularly inspired by women in the workforce as of late. That may be in part because of the recent historic nomination of the first woman president, or maybe just because women are career badasses in general. I won’t get into the disgrace that is the gender pay gap (it’s 2016!), but I know, or have read about, countless hardworking, intelligent, deserving, and creative women who deserve recognition. I wanted to share some of their inspiring stories with you here.
I’m starting with Laura Metzler, a DC-based photographer who took the gorgeous photos of me for my blog. I never feel beautiful in pictures, and she nailed it.
I met Laura on my first day of classes at RIT. We had the same class schedule, and she declared that day that we’d be best friends. That’s exactly what happened. Since college, we’ve not only maintained our friendship, but we’ve become even closer, despite living about 6 or 7 hours apart. She has been so supportive of me in life and career, and I try to be a support for her as well. And let me tell you, the girl is rocking it. I’m extremely proud of the business she is growing. I don’t even think I’m biased, she’s just killin’ it! (West Elm thinks so too!)
I recently sat down with Laura to ask her some questions about her career and business.
It’s my sister’s bridal shower and bachelorette weekend!! I couldn’t be more excited; this is once-in-a-lifetime. I have one sibling, so I plan to make the most of this experience. We’re throwing her a brunch shower tomorrow, complete with mimosas of course. Then we’ll be headed to Cleveland on a limo bus for her bachelorette party. Once it’s all over, I’ll nap for the rest of the weekend. The party hasn’t even started, and I’m already exhausted from all the cooking, preparation, and planning. But my sister has already expressed her appreciation for all the hard work my mom and I have put into her weekend. It’s all totally worth it. I’m so happy for her.