Friday, April 24, 2015

Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful. 

Sometimes, actually, it's kind of shitty.

But then, you wake up one morning, after weeks of being sad, and decide to get breakfast and work on your (woefully incomplete) dissertation chapter.

You decide to forget about the boy who broke your heart, the award you didn't win, the sunburn that you got because you were lazy and didn't want to put sunscreen on.

You get up and go.

And then you sit on a patio and you write your dissertation, and drink grapefruit juice and eat croissants, and you look around and realize that life is not only beautiful, it's also really damn good.

Because that boy who broke your heart? He wasn't worth all the sadness, especially since he had checked out of the relationship months before it finally ended, before you finally demanded an answer. And being alone is far, far better than being with someone who doesn't want to be with you. And you have amazing friends who will never let you be truly alone, and have already been on dates that made you smile more than in the last six months with that boy.

Because that award you didn't win? Well, yeah, that would have been nice, but now you can form friendships and relationships without the caveat of "oh yeah, but I'll be gone for 2 months - hope that's okay!" And, really, you should probably spend more time writing and less time "getting ready to write." But really.

Because that sunburn is your own fault. And you know it. Wear sunscreen.

Because you get to wake up every morning and know that you are exactly enough, but never too much, for the one person in this crazy, mixed-up, hateful, beautiful, exciting, terrifying, hurtful, so funny it hurts your side world that really matters.


(Tart, Memphis)

Monday, April 13, 2015

#30PhotosInBetween: Pops of Pink

I promise this is the last "look at my cute outfit!" post for awhile!


At least a couple of days.



It's finally warm in Memphis, and that means it's time for my favorite colors, my favorite weather, and of my favorite articles of clothing.


Especially pink shorts.

I mean, I'm a Phi Mu. I wear a lot of pink anyway. As Shelby says in "Steel Magnolias" (a movie about a fellow Phi Mu!), "Pink is my signature color." 

Plus, it's just a fun happy color!

These shorts from American Eagle are perfect - dressed down with a tee or dressed up with a blouse, plus they don't wrinkle or stretch out badly.

And, really, who doesn't love a pop of color, especially in the spring?

I have them in khaki (which run a little larger, oddly), black, pink, and white, so they're clearly my faves!

I wear the shortest twill shorts they have (which seem to be available only online right now, but these are similar if you want to try them on in store), "shorties," and they are pretty short. If you like a longer short/are a normal height unlike me, I tend to wear midis in jean shorts from AE, and they have twill ones of those too.

For reference, I'm 5'3" (and very long-legged/short-torsoed) and wear a 12 in AE shorts!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Memphis Life: Flowers at the Dixon (#30PhotosInBetween)

Memphis in the spring is, in a word, gorgeous.

One of the best places to experience the beautiful weather (after it warms up and before it becomes hot hot hot) is the Dixon Gallery & Gardens.

The Dixon was founded in 1976 and contains a large collection of French and American Impressionist paintings, quite a bit of British and German porcelain and silver, and very good and diverse temporary exhibits, all housed in an elegant building on 17 acres of gardens, forest, and lawns, laid out in an English style.

The exhibit right now is "Hail, Britannia!: Six Centuries of British Art from the Berger Collection" and, given the subject matter, it's clearly a great one for me! It's also just a fantastic exhibit, with a little something for everyone.

They have some great programming with the exhibit, and for the Dixon in general, but one of my favorite things is to go, walk around the exhibits, and then wander into the gardens.

Pick up a map at the Gallery entrance, and then set off!

I definitely recommend checking out the exhibits - but the garden is so pretty right now (and photographs much better than paintings!) that's what I'm going to focus on!

The tulips are in bloom right now, and they're gorgeous.

Grape hyacinths are some of my favorite flowers, and they're all over the place at the Dixon.

The lawn behind the museum has benches to sit on, and they have events back there as well. 

One of the best things about the gardens is that they're gorgeous for events, like weddings, but they're also perfect for just sitting and reading a book.

And on April 15th, at noon, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company is having an outdoor performance!

"This brown-bag lecture series features local artists, experts and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens staff sharing their expertise on a variety of topics. Free for members and students with ID.
Starring Rachel Brun and Joey Shaw, Created and Directed by Stephanie Shine, Tennessee Shakespeare Company Bring your picnic blanket or lawn chair for this special outdoor presentation. William Shakespeare coined thousands of words and phrases that have become staples in the English language. In Tennessee Shakespeare Company's lively Shakespeare Said It! theatrical context for Shakespeare’s linguistic inventions is shared, illuminating the genesis for phrases that we use every day.  Imagine we all are quoting Shakespeare, even when we don't know it!"

I also love just walking through the woods on the grounds. And they have a Little Free Library!

The Dixon is an amazing gem in Memphis - and the best part is, it's incredibly affordable to be a member!

An individual membership is $45, a family starts at $60, a Young at Art membership (great for couples!) starts at $100, and so on. They also have an e-Membership, which is what I have, for $20. This gets you free admission to the grounds and gallery, but not discounts in the shop or some other benefits that I wouldn't use much. Great value, especially for students!

So, next time someone says "There's nothing to do in Memphis!" smack them upside the head (or don't - no one wants assault charges) and send them to the Dixon!

(Also, I'm a day off/behind on my monthly blogging challenge - sorry about that! Crawfish Festival, what can I say!?!)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#30PhotosInBetween: Lately Lusting

I'm pretty happy with my life right now, but, like anyone, there are some things that I wouldn't mind having!

The first three aren't really all. They're goals. Big goals. But I'm so ready to accomplish them, it hurts!

1. Finish my dissertation.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my work. 
I do. 
But I still have a lot of blank pages, and writing is going much more slowly than I would like. So I would love to finish. Or at least finish more, now!

2. Find a reliable source of income this summer.

Grad students at Memphis don't get paid during the summer (or at least they don't in my department) so that's May, June, July, and August without a paycheck. I'm going to Utah to work for the AP, and I got a summer class, but I'm looking for something flexible in Memphis over the summer. If anyone hears of anything (tutoring, test prep, maybe waitressing) let me know!

3. Get a job when I'm done with my dissertation.

This one is a ways off, but I'm already crossing my fingers and wishing on stars and praying and thinking good thoughts to the universe!!!

Now for the fun stuff!

Lately Lusting

I'm obviously ready for summer!

I like my FitBit Zip a lot (the one you put on the inside of your bra or waistband) but sometimes I forget it, and would love the sleep monitor part since I haven't been sleeping well!

I basically want every candle from Bath and Body Works. And that coconut scrub. Gimme.

So I want everything from the Lilly Pulitzer collection for Target. But these are my top 4 must haves: this green dress is adorable, I'm in love with the pattern on this shift dress, there is no more "me" item than pineapple flip flops, and OMG IT'S A PINEAPPLE KIMONO!!!

Books. Y'all know I love books. I read an article about the author of The Opposite of Loneliness a few weeks ago, and it broke my heart. The book sounds amazing. And I actually just bought (on the sale rack!) Bring up the Bodies, so I'm really lusting for a time to read it! And to watch "Wolf Hall," because I have very nerdy, very Anglophile taste in TV!

What are you lusting over recently? Big and important things, small but pretty things, or both?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#30PhotosInBetween: Words

I love books. 

Anyone who knows me knows that reading and books are a huge part of my life.

I have 3 dedicated bookshelves at home, as well as books scattered on pretty much every flat surface - people often say "you have so many books!" as soon as they come in. My office at school has a giant bookshelf that is packed full. I always keep a book in my purse, at least one in my car, and there are usually at least 2 or 3 books in my bed at any given time.

I can't think of a time since I remember knowing how to read that I haven't been reading a book. Even if I'm too busy to sit down and read all the time, I have one dog-earred or bookmarked that I'm in the middle of.

I throw quotes from books into everyday conversation.

Some of my best friends are characters from books.

I've cried at the deaths of characters and authors.

Basically, I love books.

I may only have one life. But I've lived thousands, hundreds of thousands, of lives in the 25 or so years I've been able to read.

Part of that love of reading came from circumstance. I am a middle child, but my sister is 14 years older than me, and my brother is 7 years younger, so I was alone, or at least without playmates, most of my childhood. I'm a naturally talkative person, but, at least as a child, I never had much in common with my peers - most of them had lots of siblings, or didn't like to read, or fell victim to the above-average illiteracy rate of my childhood home.

Plus, if y'all think I'm an awkward adult, you should have seen me as a child.

So books were my friends.

And, even today, when I have amazing friends (and yes, my friends all love books as much as I do!), books are still my allies and confidantes, my escape, my dearest friends.

This is in no way a pity party, but the sad truth of the world is that, as much as you love someone, people can hurt you. 

People can wake up one day and decide they don't love you anymore.

But books, books are always going to be there.

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

So books have been my constant companion. I grew up poor, and often alone, with a mother who instilled a love of reading in me very young. Over the years, I've collected quite a few books that mean the world to me.

This is in no way a complete list - just some of the ones that have consumed me, and that I recommend to others!

Jojo Moyes, The Girl You Left Behind
This book is absolutely wonderful. Warning: It will make you cry. The dual setting of modern day and WWI France makes for some great writing.

Stephen King, Joyland
Probably my favorite Stephen King work. Whether or not you like horror, or his stories, the man is a damn fine writer.

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens
One of the funniest books I've ever read. Don't think the apocalypse is funny? You will after reading this.

Nora Roberts, The Witness
I love Nora Roberts, and, while many of her books are kind of predictable, this one is very fresh, very dark, and very good. If you liked Gone Girl, give this one a try.

Anne McCaffrey, The Dragonriders of Pern
This is actually the first 3 books in a very large and expansive series. But once you read these, you won't be able to stop. These introduced me to fantasy, but they also introduced me to some wonderful characters and fantastic worlds. Thanks, Anne.

Edward Rutherfurd, The Princes of Ireland
I like LONG books, and expansive family histories, and this book, like Anne Rice's The Witching Hour (which I only have on ebook sadly) follows a family and loosely connected group of people in one location over centuries. Part history, part fiction, all good writing.

Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches
So, not going to lie, Deborah Harkness is kind of my history crush. Yeah. She's a professional historian of 16th century England and alchemy, AND she writes amazing novels set, partly, in her professional field. She's awesome. Plus these books are addictive.

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
I don't often say that a book changes my life, but this one did. Just read it. You'll be more interested in the golden age of comics and come away feeling like your heart was torn apart by these characters. In a good way. I think.

Norah Lofts, Anne Boleyn
This is non-fiction, but it was the first "grown up" history book I read. Not the newest scholarship, but  great work on a fascinating subject.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I can't say much more about this book than what has already been said, but I read it on the bus everyday in London, which, in all honesty, is probably the best place to read it. :)

Lois Lowery, The Giver
Forget that the recent movie happened. This book is amazing.

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
I've written about my love of Outlander and Diana Gabaldon before, but basically, this book series (8 main books plus a few novels about side characters) is one I can read again and again. The series on Starz is great, and Gabaldon is one of the most innovative, personable, and creative writers out there.

Ayn Rand, Anthem
Okay, I hate Ayn Rand's politics. But this book is great, and has a fantastic twist at the end.

Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
A classic for a reason. I was convinced as a child that Meg Murry and I were the same person. Now if I could just find my Calvin O'Keefe. 

Terry Deary, The Rotten Romans
The book that sparked my love of history. I just got a box set of the entire series, and I can't wait dive in and read them all!

Jean M. Auel, The Clan of the Cave Bear
I read this when I was probably way too young, but I've loved it ever since. True story: On the day the next to last one was released, I showed up at the bookstore in my home town at 5am, thinking there would be a line and it would be chaos (it's a hugely popular series and it was the first new book from her in 12 years!). So I sat outside, with my book and my coffee, at probably 17 years old, alone, until the bookstore opened at 9. I was the only person there. I bought 4 copies. This may be the introduction to my memoirs.

Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca
Best opening line of all time, best use of an unnamed narrator, best twist, best adaptation (despite censorship). This is the book I keep in my car at all times, just in case I get stuck in traffic or have to wait or whatever.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Read this book right now and tell me your rights in this country aren't in peril. Tell me you aren't a feminist. Tell me you think being a second-class citizen is okay.
Then drink some whiskey and go tell the patriarchy to fuck itself.

Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
One of my grandmother's favorite books, I read this as a child and was absolutely devastated by some of the events that take place. Still one of my favorites. Still devastated.

Donna Tartt, The Secret History
I relate WAY too much to Henry in this book. For those of you who've read it, I'll leave it at that. For those of you who haven't, do.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
Want to read about some badass women? Here you go.

Not pictured because it's in my bag at school:
Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
I've read this book at least 100 times. I've never read the same book twice.

And, although I don't read them much anymore, I will forever be attached to this series of books, which my mom scrimped and saved to buy me. Such great stories, and just as fun for grown-ups as kids:

What are YOUR favorite books?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#30PhotosInBetween: My Pets

I know that people get irritated when childless people refer to their pets as their "children."

But, y'all, it's true.

I don't have kids.

I don't want kids.

But by god I am going to be that lady pushing my dog around in a little covered dog stroller when she gets older.

Because, honestly, loving a pet is big deal.

I'm fortunate that I have two little furry creatures to love, and who (most of the time) love me back.

So how did I end up with these weirdos?

It all started in 2008.

I was living in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the time, by myself. I had dropped out of law school (really good decision) and moved a few times (really bad decisions) and I was living in a tiny apartment while working at a bank and waitressing at night.

My mom called and told me that her best friend's dad had found a tiny kitten, abandoned, and that his mom and all his siblings were dead. My mom's best friend (who I generally call my aunt, but this is already a confusing story) couldn't keep him because her cat was/is kind of evil (but cute!). So...I was getting him.

I absolutely did not want a cat.

But, I got a cat.


Sometimes other people DO know what's best for you.

So I got this tiny orange furball. He didn't know how to eat real food, or how to use a little box, or really how to be a cat. But he was cute. So I named him Oliver and we settled in.

See the resemblance?

After he stopped chewing on my cords, and after he destroyed my favorite pair of grey silk heels, and after he escaped one night and hid in the neighbor's trash can, Oliver and I got along, for the most part just fine.

He likes beer!

He came with me when I moved to Memphis, and when I moved from my first apartment to my current one (although I was sure he was gone forever because he hid behind the stove for hours - he doesn't deal with change well). 

I've thrown him birthday parties, and he's infuriated me and soothed me, and he'll be 7 this October.

(The woman at Kroger said, "Oh I've always loved Oliver as a boy's name, tell your son happy birthday." Yeah.......)

And he's still a giant weirdo.

Oliver is, absolutely, more than enough pet for me. 

But I'm not really a cat person.

I grew up with dogs. 

With Gypsy, my mom's dog, and Shadow, my first dog, in 1991 or so. 

With Singer, a hound we had when I was young, who was freakishly smart. And protective. And who we're all pretty sure could have driven if she could have reached the pedals.

I love dogs.

I needed a dog.

Plus, my theory was that Oliver would calm down if he had a friend.

So I started looking for a dog.

Just kind of browsing at first, but then, on PetFinder, I happened across one of the weirdest, most awkward, cutest dogs I had ever seen.


She was at a rescue by my parents' house, so while I was home for Christmas in 2012, I scheduled an appointment to come meet her.

It was love at first sight.

I paid the woman her adoption fee, and the next day, I came back to get her.

(The day I adopted her - I'm holding a cheeseburger for her in the picture. Spoiled!)

(By the way, unless you are getting a dog for a specific working purpose - which is a whole different story - PLEASE do not buy from breeders. I get that you want a cute labradoodle or whatever, and those dogs ARE cute, but every time you buy a dog from a breeder, you're perpetuating the system of puppy mills, abusive and overcrowded breeding facilities, and the senseless euthanasia of millions of pets in shelters every year. Adopt, don't shop.)

And that's how I got Petunia.

Petunia, The Wonder Derp.

My mom told me "Let that sweet dog sleep under the covers with you, it's cold" and that's how I lost my bed and why everything I own is covered with basset hound fur.

She's my favorite road trip companion.

We have a lot in common, like our love of naps.

She gives fantastic "what the hell" looks.

She has an impeccable sense of style.

So regal.

(Oliver WILL wear clothes, but he doesn't like it, and it's hard to take pics of him in them!)

She, like Oliver, likes to read.

She and Oliver get along really well.

Maybe too well. 

I feel like this may happen at some point.

I'm serious, both of them really irritate me sometimes (Oliver, why can you not sleep somewhere other than on my feet? Why do you insist on playing in the sink and getting water everywhere? Petunia, why do you expand so far in bed that I end up on about 2 inches of bed? You're not hungry, why are you begging? Why do you smell like corn chips? Why are you making that noise?) but I don't think I really ever understood the kind of love parents talk about until I had these two.

So yeah. They're weird, and gross sometimes, and sometimes I want to shake them both, but I'm weird, and sometimes gross, and often irritating, and definitely one of "those" parents.

It's cheesy, but true.

They rescued me.

Honorable mention has to go to my parents' cat, Tuffy, who was my cat for awhile, but felt like my parents needed some orange cat in their lives. My parents have generally awesome pets (hi Mothra, Tupa, Buddy, Katie, and April!) and have had some really great pets that we've lost in the last few years (Sunflower, the haughtiest cat in the world and Lucy, the most well-behaved dog I've ever met), but Tuffy is...special.

He and Garfield are cut from the same cloth.

THAT is a cat that knows what's up.

Anyone else have ridiculous pets they love, but who also could be secret raptors?