Monday, August 24, 2020

Take Five!

Wow, Y'all. This got long (but it's bullet points so relatively a quick read?). I think I need some new things to do. But also what are you doing, watching Gilmore Girls for the eighth time? You've got time to read this. I mean, if you want. No pressure. OK here we go!

Five things I'm good at

  • Petting cats (no, really, though. My methods are fine tuned, and even timid felines respond well)
  • Making someone I've only just met feel very safe and welcomed
  • Letting people say something they are scared to say because it's not widely welcomed and not run away screaming
  • Talking to anyone about anything anytime
  • Writing (not always coming up with something interesting to say, but sentence structure and such I have down)

Five things I'm not good at

  • Volleyball (or being competitive/taking an interest in winning in sports)
  • Asking for a raise
  • Telling people that they have hurt my feelings
  • Putting letters I write in the mail within a reasonable amount of time
  • Convincing myself that I will be OK and content and confident one day

Five things that frighten me in general

  • Belly dancers (they are very sexually forward)
  • Peacocks (same reason)
  • Using street drugs
  • Embarking on a new career/job (fear that it will be too hard, I won't like it, etc.)
  • Bungee jumping. No thank you.

Five things that frighten me in current circumstances

  • The nature of communication and relationships in our country
  • The election in November
  • Not having a job
  • Monotony/social isolation
  • Being misunderstood, I guess

Five foods that I love

  • Watermelon (even though I rarely eat it, or any fruit)
  • Kraft macaroni & cheese, the spiral kind, with black pepper on top
  • Pizza -- any kind will do, but pepperoni/pineapple/jalapeno is a personal sweet spot for me
  • Restaurant pancakes, with a tiny hint of saltiness, melted butter and sweet syrup. Never mind that I can only down about four bites of a short stack before I'm totally full. Yasss. 
  • Ridged potato chips with French onion dip

Five items in my closet that I love

  • The color block cardigan sweater from ModCloth
  • My "All I want for Christmas is Celine Dion" sweatshirt
  • The dalmatian belt I found at a thrift shop in Kansas
  • The Hawaiian print maxi dress I got a year ago and still haven't worn but I bet looks even better now since I've lost weight
  • The Sally dress I made for Halloween last year

Five people outside of my family who have seen me cry (or at least listened to me do so over the phone)

  • Alex
  • Michelle
  • Wendy
  • Steph
  • Sam

Five vacations that were especially memorable/hold an extra warm, cozy, happy place in my heart

  • When my family went to various towns and scenic points in Colorado, summer of 1998
  • Chicago, October 2014. First time I met my bestie's husband, surprised Dad who was running the marathon, made soup for old college buds, sleepover and manicures with Michelle, and an "autumnal lunch" together as she described it, my first Rachael Yamagata concert with Nick. I had just adopted Max and would soon start dating Alex, though I didn't know that. I was at a good, happy, independent spot in my life, and I remember that trip as a moment in time, sandwiched between good things just happened and about to happen, oozing with cozy Midwestern gooeyness and people I love to pieces.
  •  Table Rock Lake, summer 2011. I was taking a summer class in grad school, and I drove to meet up with my bestie who had just gotten married, her husband and parents. My favorite day was when we took the boat out to a cove, anchored, wore life jackets as diapers so we could sit and bob in the water, turned on the radio and just sipped beers and talked and laughed. 
  • Centerville, Iowa, summer 1996 (?). I could be overlapping a few trips into one melded memory, but they always involved radishes dipped in salt, games of Uno at the kitchen table, indoor golf putting, trying to stack blocks on uneven carpet, and my grandparents who always smiled and joked and laughed and made us feel good. This particular summer was one of the supercharged, brushed-with-pink-highlighter ones, because COUSINS were there. It was a family reunion year, I believe I was the owner of a bottle cap smiley face necklace, and while the boys were away fishing or something, the aunts and nieces prepared a water fight heist for their return. It was epic and perfect.
  • Spring break, 2001. I was a sophomore in high school, and I chose to spend part of my week off with my grandma, simply because I enjoyed her company. I think maybe my brother drove me there and stayed for a day or two. While Grams had a doctor's appointment I went to the mall and bought a Dido CD and some clothes, she took me out on her gravel country roads and taught me to drive her red Jeep Cherokee, and after she went to bed I stayed up late and watched Gilmore Girls, allowed to eat all the ice cream I wanted. Epic and perfect. 

Five weddings I've attended that I loved

  • My "Uncle" Dan and his wife Pam. At sunset in Missouri, no more than 30 - 40 people in attendance. A three-piece band playing "Play that funky music" and "Mustang Sally" while I cut a rug with the minister (Dad). My mom and I each got a glass of red from the bar and clinked together in a Cheers. Later the best man came over and said he had watched our moment from across the room and found it really special and moving. 
  • Ed & Kailey. I had only briefly met them once before, as evidenced by the fact that the name placard at my place setting said "Alex's Girlfriend," which I thought was hilarious and a once-in-a-lifetime silliness. Many of the attendees were part of the groom's softball team, and there was much raucous chatting and dancing throughout the night. I ignored Alex for much of dinner to talk deeply about all things in life to my brand new gal pal seated next to me. When "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" started playing, a film crew might as well have been present, because there was so much exuberant singing along and dinging a spoon on a plate to the beat happening that we basically created an updated music video. Also I'm pretty sure I made several requests from the DJ and I think he played all of them. 
  • Corie & Cyle. The whole bridal party spent the weekend in a ginormous house with like five beds crammed in each room for full-on camp experience bonding, the wedding was outside by the lake and the reception was on the lake in a cruise boat (dance floor on the roof). My pops helped with the ceremony, so I got to hang with the 'rents, my friend gave me a very fun side pony curly poof updo, we did a little joy ride out on the boat after the nuptials. And at the rehearsal, they had Amber Bock and I put pulled pork on top of a burger and dipped each bite in ranch dressing, get on my culinary genius level, people. Boom. So good.
  • Jason & Laura. The first time I attended a wedding top to bottom, rehearsal through reception. My big bros and I drove up to Michigan in the snow, listening to Nickelback (yes) on the radio and I at least (yes) enjoyed the listening to Nickelback. I had never been to a wedding before to witness all the bridesmaid dresses, the dancing, the clinking of glasses to get them to kiss. It really opened up my imagination to a world of planning my own wedding, even though now I'm fine with a very bare bones (read: cheap and not intense/stressful) affair.
  • Nick & Garrett. A beautiful event, for sure, and I had lots of fun with all the pre-planning and preparation, but mostly it was just a very special day to see someone I love very much live into his true being and go before as an example to me. 

Five random classes I've taken in school

  • History of the Middle East
  • Folk guitar
  • Introduction to HR
  • Ballet
  • Games (Yeah, seriously. In seventh grade I took a six-week course where I learned to play chess, backgammon, and some other things that I don't remember how to play now)

Five things I miss doing while we are waiting out Covid

  • Going for long runs/hikes without a mask
  • Putting on makeup, perfume, and cute clothes to go out and meet up with peeps
  • In person interviews for jobs, actually. Felt like the ball was really rollin' when those were happening.
  • Working out with my trainer
  • Visiting KC to eat burnt ends and cheesy corn bake and have Boulevard on draft and squish nephews and have nightly happy hour with Mom and Dad

Five ways in which I've changed since my youth

  • I'm much better at getting up in the morning. I'm not grouchy or unkind with those around me, and I become fully functional very quickly.
  • I am open to dressing and acting and talking in feminine ways.
  • I'm not nearly as willing/committed to going out of my way to make sure that everyone in the room is included and has someone to talk to. I still hate being left out and as a result am very intent on making connections between people and always hoping that my friends will hit it off with each other, but I no longer take it on as my personal responsibility to carry a conversation or babysit people. Also, I'm now super comfortable with silence and don't feel the need to talk to people sitting right next to me; if we're both choosing to simply exist nearby each other without conversation, I don't think we're necessarily being rude or shy or inappropriate in any way. 
  • I will actually interact with dogs now, and that was not always the case, believe me. 
  • I drink alcohol now. I'm not even sure I was ever at a single party in high school where it was present, and I barely drank in college and even then I waited until I was legal. 

Five ways in which I've remained the same

  • I still find cats to be incredible creatures and I still get very excited any time one comes in the room and talk baby talk to it, even and especially if it is the one I have lived with for six years now.
  • I still love bright colors and dress in terms of comfort over style, for sure. 
  • I'm still "one of the guys." I can be surrounded by men and not bat an eye or feel the need to flirt or be cute. I am equally skilled at joining boys in shop talk as I am at ignoring it (as well as their burping, wrestling and toilet humor). Putting on "I have three brothers" blinders makes for a good life, my friends. :)
  • I'm still loud. And hyper. And dramatic (even though I still won't actually admit I am dramatic).
  • I still love the written word, and music. 

Five types of cuisine I love (favorite dishes in parentheses)

  • Thai (Pad Thai, spring rolls in that light dipping sauce, Massaman curry and pineapple fried rice, please. And anything with that peanut butter-y sauce or dressing, duh.)
  • Bar/pub food (shoestring fries w/room temperature ketchup, chicken tenders and honey mustard, tots)
  • Chinese (lo mein, cashew chicken, Beijing beef (at Panda, obvi), crab rangoon with hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce, hot & sour soup)
  • Indian (chicken tikka masala, chicken korma, lots of basmati rice & chai)
  • Italian (pizza, hello. Spaghetti & meatballs, fettucine, ravioli, lasagna, and all the parmesan cheese you can manage. Keep it comin', People). (Ideally this is in a red leather booth with my boo at Pinocchios with cheap glasses of wine, headphones in as we write).

Five things that stress me out when I think about planning a wedding (P.S. Not engaged. No rumors. Ah, whatever, this is quarantine, you're bored. Start rumors, just don't call the tabloids. Unless Bridget Jones is reporting the story, then call the tabloids).

  • Picking bridesmaids and bride's boys. I do not repeat do not want to hurt feelings. Left to my own devices I could easily, truly pick 20 of y'all to come up and represent! as my crew, but realistically I'll have to pare it down to like six and. And, I just can't.
  • Money. I don't have it. Next.
  • Being too in my head reminding myself to enjoy the day that I can't actually enjoy a day in which every single thing in place has been hand selected by moi and, oh yeah, I'm marrying my person.
  • DJ set list? I mean what if I'm being so badgered about flowers that I forget to tell Khalid that "Wannabe" and "That's the Way it is" are MANDATORY? Love has come to she who believed it and therefore we must hear the Queen declare it to us ONCE AGAIN. 
  • The fact that the Queen most likely will not actually be able to provide her in-person entertainment at the event itself

Five things that excite me when I imagine a wedding (still not engaged)

  • Employing my brother and dad to offer their carpentry skills for a theme I have in mind
  • Setting the niechews (nieces and nephews) loose to open the ceremony with their own personal dance moves (Two thousand percent this element is more important to me than having an adult bridal party)
  • Having it be really small, like teeny weeny, and then spending several months afterward inviting our friends in various cities to meet up with us at pubs to have a bunch of mini receptions
  • Getting ready with my girlzzzzzzzzz. And a few of my poor boys who are going to have to put up with our Valley girl fast chatter.
  • Wearing my Grams' dress that Mama wore, too.

Five famous authors who I've never read

  • Austen
  • Twain (And I have been educated in Missouri. I know.)
  • Hemingway
  • Steinbeck (OK, fine, I've started, and, like, his prose is beautiful, but it cannot be sped read, OK? So I've only really scratched the surface and don't consider myself an actual "reader" yet)
  • Tolkien

Five magazines I've had subscriptions to

  • Seventeen
  • YM
  • Essence
  • The New Yorker
  • Smithsonian

Five places I'd like to visit

  • The Wieliczka salt mine in Poland
  • The Smokey Mountains
  • Tuscany
  • Santorini
  • This place I found online once in upstate New York that has like all these brick walls half broken down, half emerging from the ground and it looks like a magical outdoor playland where my brothers would have a FIELD DAY. 
  • Bonus place: House on the Rock. Been there before but I will go back. I must. And there's a quirky hotel nearby where I need to lodge, plus my brothers and I have a very serious shared dream to go to this attraction during Halloween and scare the pants off ourselves. I will wear a diaper in preparation.

Five things I've never told a therapist

  • Ha!
  • As if
  • I'd reveal that
  • here.
  • Move along, Nosey.

Five musical artists whose work I love

  • This has of course been established but: Céline
  • Glen Hansard
  • Agnes Obel (new discovery for me. Incredible and one of a kind)
  • MØ (and that's not just because someone thought I was Danish at her concert, though that certainly skews my affection)
  • Mark Knopfler

Five albums I love

  • Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
  • Chesapeake, Rachael Yamagata
  • Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits
  • By the Way I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile
  • The Way I Am, Jennifer Knapp

Five shows I will likely watch over and over for a long time (favorite character in parentheses)

  • Felicity (Felicity. Close second place Javier. Close second second place Noel)
  • 30 Rock (Tracy, followed by Frank and Angie of course and Grizz and Dotcom and Dr. Spaceman OK this is hard)
  • Friends (Joey)
  • Friday Night Lights (Tami and Landry)
  • Wonderland (Miranda, Harry, Maggie, Rob. And Collette and Dani. I have trouble picking favorites)

Five things that might make me a bad person

  • I once broke up with someone on Christmas Eve
  • I once told someone I would go to a dance with him and then later told him I wouldn't
  • I kind of don't want to vote in November (I more than likely will, but I'm not feelin' real great about it)
  • I don't think most puppies are very cute (and even though I'm obviously enamored with all cats, I greatly prefer the full grown kind over the kitten version)
  • I used to turn in assignments torn straight from my spiral notebooks (and got real annoyed when my teachers made me cut off the edges first)
  • Also I dog ear books. ...Yup....
......anyone still reading or have you all unsubscribed now that you know I'm a monster?

[Even though it doesn't really make someone a monster if they fold over a piece of paper to mark their place. I call that a life tool, not the move of a villain.] 

Might make me a great person/your best friend ever

  • I have edited many college essays pro bono
  • I have been known to send bouquets of flowers when they are least expected
  • Generally speaking, my outfit will usually not match and I will be the one speaking loudest and revealing more personal truths than I should, so if you're with me in a crowd I'm probably going to make you look better/take attention off you if you're not into that.
  • I am always willing to painstakingly break down the tiniest of details within a fictional television show world. So if you need to discuss whether Felicity really made the right choice for her love life in the end and discuss how weird those Todd Mulcahy episodes are, I am here for you. 
  • I am pretty darn generous, with both tangible belongings and my listening ear and commitment to throwing a party for you. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

My birthday party in the year I turned 14


I just showed this picture to Alex over FaceTime and he asked, "Who is that girl sitting right next to you who looks exactly like you?" and also, "Why is she in front of the cake if it's your birthday?"

I then proceeded to tell him about three blonde girls in my past who had at one point or another been mistaken as my sister or straight up twin or straight up me. 

The answer to Alex's first question is: Laura, who was my best friend from church when I was in the eighth grade. This picture is from my 14th birthday party, and I think this was probably the first time that I invited school and church friends to hang out in the same social space, which was pretty revolutionary for me at the time. 

Remember when it was so weird to think about being friends with people outside your grade in school? And how much INSTANTLY cooler a girl was the second she started dating an upperclassman or even got invited by one to a dance? (Now that I think about it, I was actually twice asked to dances by boys one grade ahead of me, but I consider this purely incidental/anecdotal and does not vouch for my coolness or cuteness, I argue). Anyway.

Today I have friends of all ages, including very close friends, who are anywhere for six to 40 years younger or older than me (obviously the 40 years only applies to people older than me, as I do not (yet) have any friends who are negative five years old). I think one of my favorite things about being an adult is that I can completely set aside the notion that I have to be within the same age group of someone in order to have a real connection and relationship with them. So many well outside my decade of high school graduation have provided me with so much enjoyment, camaraderie, safety and comfort. 

Finally to the point of this tangent: I once read in a psychology book that when people start having kids and sending those kids to school, their group of adult friends tend to have less to do with common age between them and more to do with their children's common grades in school. Interesting, eh? I mean, it makes sense, but this is one of those things that I, anyway, wouldn't necessarily think about without a researcher to observe and then tell me about it while I do my summer class homework at a Starbucks after work. 

Ohhhhhhh K. Where were we? Oh yes, Alex's second question: why is Laura sitting in front of the cake and not me? I don't really know, nor did I notice, nor does it really bother me? You know, like in terms of symmetry even? I thought at first maybe it's because my brothers had lit the candles just before the photo was taken, but then I remembered being very interested in my newfound grown up skill of being able and unafraid to light a match at this past point in my life, so it's likely I lit the candles actually, and maybe Laura even helped me. 

So it's an unsolved mystery, People, and one I could care less about but one that caused Alex to ask an immediate question, which just proves once again we are incredibly different people. Seriously I feel like he is the natural journalist given the questions he asks. Not that I ask bad questions when I do reporting, but I definitely ask different ones than he does. Maybe we should team up, travel the world and write for National Geographic.


OK moving on. 


The picture above is from my birthday party in the year that I turned 14. It may have been taken on my actual 14th birthday, as it was on a Sunday that year and I have in my memory that this party occurred on a Sunday (also that makes perfect sense, as church (and Laura's home) was 30 minutes from our home, so it's very likely that Laura rode home with us after church and then her parents picked her up later).

OK so what do we know so far? It was my 14th birthday party, Laura was sitting next to me, candles were lit. Possibly a Sunday.

And now that we're, I don't know, 1000 words deep into this post and I've told you very few pieces of information you're probably no longer reading but that's OK I'm going to keep typing. But new information is coming now, I promise.

Other people in the picture: my three bros, and my friends Liz and Emily from school. I knew both Liz and Emily primarily through band. We may have had some classes together, but they were lunch buddies definitely and occasional sleepover and Halloween party buddies as well. I remember one time explaining SOH CAH TOA to Emily over the phone and was super impressed with myself for doing so effectively. I'm still really impressed by that, because, how? Guess I do have a knack for making things clear through words, even when they are mathematical concepts. 

My oldest brother was home from college for the summer. My mom was taking the picture, and my dad was in Missouri finishing his first year of seminary schooling. As you can sort of see through the windows behind us, we lived in a beautiful wooded area in Colorado. We hadn't sold our house yet, but within a couple of months we would, and we would move to be with Dad, to a new region, new schools, new jobs. It was not completely easy or completely terrible, and I do have several good memories of that time and a longstanding affection for the area as well. I would consider living there, with its urban/suburban sophistication and brick homes and generous supply of foliage. 

I'm sure there was sparkling grape juice in the goblets. My cake was a football field, because I was a tomboy like whoa. I was wearing the necklace my small group leader at church gave me as a gift the week before when Laura and I were confirmed. I think it had a sunburst with a cross on it, to represent my confirmation verses. Sadly at some point I lost it, but wore it for a good while first. 

Maybe five years ago, my small group leader was in LA visiting her son, and I went to meet up with them. We had wine before the son's play, then went to a diner afterward. I met his wife that night, and later discovered that both of them know Alex through the acting/sketch comedy world. About two years ago they showed up at a party I was at, and I had no idea they knew the host, so when they walked through the door I freaked out and immediately texted my siblings that our childhood friend was on the same patio as me. 


My 14th birthday party was notably smaller than those of prior and several future years. I don't fully remember why, but if I had to guess I would think that one of the factors driving that choice was because I was going through a season where I felt kind of left out from some things and groups at school, and honestly probably felt like maybe some attention within one group was shifting away from me and more to other people. I'm not proud of this attitude, and I also don't discredit my feelings from the time. It's very hard to remember the details of 20 year old memories, but I remember feeling very sad and hurt and depressed to a degree, probably, because of shifting social dynamics. So I think it's likely that I decided to invite just a few people who I felt safe and happy with at the time, and I'm proud of Past Bailey for honoring her feelings and the needs of her heart. That was probably a very pivotal moment for me to step into such agency and really helped set me up for many good things in my future ahead. 

Other random things I remember from that day: 

I think we played basketball with the hoop in the driveway. We pretended to smoke the birthday candles as if they were cigarettes, which we thought was very funny and original and fun. I think one of my gal pals gave me some silver cake batter lip gloss from Bath & Body Works, and it was very exciting to see it frost my face and smell its yumminess. Metallic lip color was very on brand for the late 90s, even if I was a tomboy and hardly wore makeup beyond watermelon Lip Smackers. 

Hold up, I (obviously) just googled this to see if it's still available for purchase, and you mean to tell me that it's Lip SMACKER, SINGULAR?


Gonna pretend my whole youth has not just been put into question based on this new fact, so that we can wrap up this post. 

Was it ALWAYS Smacker, just the one Smacker not more than one Smacker? (I guess this is promoting monogamy among young people if we're subliminally asking them to land on one partner to plant a smacker on? But even then they should be allowed multiple smackers with the one partner, yes?).

I really cannot with this. I'm gonna need some time. 

Also doesn't seem the gloss is available for sale. Sad. 

OK for real let's wrap this up. 

My parents still have that kitchen table. It lived in storage during our jaunt in St. Louis, but he's still kickin' in KC. 

Laura made the volleyball team that year at school (much cooler and more athletic than I), and her family got a pool table for the basement. We frequently hung out after church at her house, playing SkipBo and watching MTV I think. Her dog was named Cody, I think, and she and I had a joint confirmation party. 

Liz, a tiny person, played a very large tuba and was quite good and made the local honor band more than once I think. One of the rooms in her house had bunkbeds in the closet for storage reasons, I think, but at my request we most definitely slept in them once. 

Emily was a dancer and I called her on a Friday between commercials telling her to quick, turn on ABC and watch 20/20* because they were doing an interview about her topic for our research papers in English. She was full of spunk and kindness and always quick to laugh. 

*The good ol' days, with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters and John Stossel and yes I watched every week after Sabrina and Corey and Topanga.


To sum up, this picture was taken in the last few months of a time that I remember with great fondness overall. For five years my family lived in a gorgeous area, we had a hot tub at our house, loved our church and pastor and youth pastor and small group friends. I was good in school and enjoyed my teachers and assignments. I loved going to middle school dances and usually led the others in dancing without concern for how they looked while doing so. Hopefully they grew to feel good while dancing just however they wanted to dance, because frankly I really just wanted them to have a good time like I was having. And hopefully they still like to dance now, if just around the island in the kitchen while we wait out a pandemic. 

Me at 14

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Analysis of a cluttered room

I have pretty much, basically, always inhabited a cluttered bedroom. A period of exception that I can remember is when my family was selling our house in Colorado and so when we were at school during the day our rooms had to be relatively tidy in case there was a showing to a potential buyer. 

I also remember at some point during that school year asking my mom if the realtor and house shoppers were looking at the insides of our closets, and she was like, "Yeah," and I was like, "Oh."

I most definitely "cleaned" my room each morning before running to the bus by shoving things into my closet and crushing the doors closed around them, abiding by the logic that no one would never look in there because why would they want to see my troll doll collection and many latch hook kits as a basis for their home purchase decision? 

(Now that I am older I understand full well how appealing a walk in closet is, and in fact it is one of my most desirable items in a future home, so I get it that looking inside a closet is mandatory. My dream closet would allow me to have nearly all of my clothes hanging up on hangers -- yes, even casual t-shirts -- so that I could see everything at once, have a cubby or drawer or something for all my workout clothes, nails on the wall to hold purses and belts and necklaces and hats and scarves. This is the dream and hopefully someday I will see it realized in all its glory. Also a full bathtub, slanted ceilings/walls, a little protruding window nook, built in bookshelves, and a patio/deck/private outdoor space please and thank you.)

Anyway, I told my older brother this, that they were looking in our closets, and he was like, "Whoops," because he, too, had been operating with the shove-and-stuff method of closet "cleaning."

So beyond this period in eighth grade when my bedroom was clean but not really because all my secret messes were in the closet, I have always lived in clutter. 

It is actually a very difficult thing for me to grapple with, as it affects my anxiety and discontent and lowers my self esteem and no I'm not being funny. If I could change a few things about my personality and life, near the top of the list would be having a better adherence to tidiness, because I know it would help me so much. I will say that since Covid began, I have managed to realize that while no matter what I will always very quickly make a mess of a space, I now have the confidence and awareness that in about 30 minutes I can put things in various corners and nooks and take out the trash and voila it looks much better and I can breathe easier. I used to get over over overwhelmed every time I tried to clean, furthering my dismay and dislike for myself nearly every time, but I do think I've had a recent breakthrough in that regard so that's a(n actually enormous) win. 


The point of this conversation so far is to introduce the picture I have posted above that is of a bedroom that is not actually one that I ever lived in long term, but it is one that I stayed in for about a week in 2005. 

I have been flipping through old print photos from all the disposable cameras I used to carry around in my youth, and I don't know the degree to which this will become a trend for me and my writing, but I am considering using various pictures as a jumping off point to write love letters to my past and people and things in it. 

So let me introduce you to the bedroom at a convent in Johannesburg, South Africa and my many various belongings that I can identify and recall with much clarity even though I'm pretty sure I don't own any of these things anymore except maybe the photos and a bible that were inside those bags. 


So, first: the bed. The one in the corner there, with the pillow propped against the brick, that was the one I slept in. My dear friend Samantha rested in the other one, pictured more in the foreground. This bed is, to date, one of the ones that I remember as being the most comfortable of my life. I'm not even sure it was a real mattress, but rather like a big pile of feathers or straw except not pokey? I sunk into that bed and it was awesome. It was like solid but not hard and it was no nonsense and it just cradled my very jet-lagged body and it was a welcome proprieter for my arrival into a big semester of learning and growing. This was the very first spot we stayed in Africa, so by the time I finally hit the pillow I had been awake for, I don't know, maybe 30 hours at least? I slept hard that first night. I also remember one of my final thoughts before drifting off was the wonder at where I was on the globe. I had never been outside the US, and it was so crazy to fully grasp just how far away I was. (My parents told me later that during that semester they were at a museum or Union Station or something and there was a giant photo of sand dunes -- maybe in the Namib desert -- and they said they just held each other looking at that image, knowing I was out there somewhere. God bless them so hard for letting me go on that adventure, when I'm sure they were freaked out about it. And God bless my big bro who honestly really helped convince them to do so.)

OK, second: the company. As I mentioned, my girl Sammy was in this room with me. We already knew each other from our undergrad campus in the States and were already very good friends. We decided to room together at this convent where we were told Desmond Tutu would sometimes holiday, and so we obviously of course told ourselves that we were sleeping in Mr. Bishop's quarters, even though it was likely he was usually put up in the flat above ours that I think actually had its own bathroom as opposed to the hot pot and tea that ours was outfitted with.

Which brings me to, third: the hot pot and tea. Yes, there was an electric hot pot as well as rooibos (red bush) tea bags and I think, too, a tin of biscuits or rusks for us to enjoy at our leisure. Rooibos is a decaffeinated tea and I prefer it with milk. Generally speaking I drink tea without cream or sugar, but rooibos is an exception. There is a British grocer/novelty shop in Santa Monica that sells rooibos and raisin rusks and these tiny mint candies that I like and once in a while I will buy all three and transport back to being 20 in the southern hemisphere.

OK, I realize this is long so I will now move on to the STUFF in the room and try to describe each item quickly. Ready? Here we go:

On the bed: 

The khaki green (fake?) cuorduroy jacket: purchased, I believe, at Macy's during winter break sophomore year on a shopping trip with Mom. It was trim and casual and more trendy than most of my wardrobe and made me feel stylish. I do believe this was the warmest article of clothing I brought with me, as I predicted I would not ever desire a sweatshirt or sweatpants or other various layers during the spring and summer months of my stay. I was wrong.

The Herbal Essences toiletry bag: I think the bag itself was a Christmas gift my freshman year of high school (-ish), maybe from Grams, and it had various small bottles of shampoo, hair spray (which I can still precisely smell in my mind's nose), etc. inside it. I proceeded to use it to hold my toiletries on just about every vacation for several years until I finally tossed it maybe three or four years ago. 

On the floor: 

The Kansas City Chiefs duffle: No doubt a "hand me down" (read: I probably just decided I was allowed to inherit it) from one of my big brothers. This, too, went with me on many vacations, especially those requiring car travel and/or not enough days away from home to require a roll-y bag of luggage. I also used it as my gym bag for a long time (I recently, suddenly remembered that I used to always bring a duffle to the gym, and at some point I just stopped I guess), and got rid of it maybe three years ago? because it was starting to fall apart and had some weird sticky stuff on it that didn't come off in the wash.

The blue and silver running shoes: I want to say Nike, but they may have been New Balance. They were a narrow cut, which made my wide feet look extra hip, despite the fact that they were usually paired with conservative knee-length skirts and wide-strapped sleeveless blouses to be respectful of our many hosts in southern Africa but also to protect my footsies from all the walking we did. Later I discovered that one of my best friends, Corie, had purchased the exact same pair for herself, which we thought was hilarious and awesome because there tend to be a lot of similarities in our very different lives. 

The red backpack: This backpack was purchased when I was 17 at a K-Mart, and I threw it away when I was around 31, replacing it with a purple REI pack that has its facets but is not the same, we all know that without me having to tell you. The red backpack became so faded and torn that I finally had to say buh bye. But before I did it went on many plane rides, train rides, around one high school and across two college campuses. It visited at least two, maybe three countries, and went to many states, hotel rooms, one or two hostels, Hawaii I think yes but Alaska no. It served me well. There was a Canada keychain on one of the zipper pulls that my brother gave me, and I salvaged that at the site of our parting, a dumpster in Encino.

The modern art design photo album inside the red backpack: A Dollar General purchase, I believe. I took with me for this semester two albums of photos featuring at least one shot of basically anyone I knew. Family, grandparents, cats, friends. I think it was suggested to us that we bring photos so that we could show the families who hosted us in their homes, as a conversation starter and to make our time with them more meaningful and intimate and kind, I guess. And/or I wanted to have pictures with me so that I could look at the people I love who were far away (remember, this was 2005. I didn't have a laptop, smart phone, or anything of that nature. I'm pretty sure over the course of four months I talked to my parents on the phone just twice. It was certainly tough at times). Anyway, at my first homestay, in the historic Soweto district of Joburg, the girls I was staying with were so taken with a picture from my senior prom that I let them keep it. Makes me smile to think it might still be buried in a drawer somewhere, in a private home that doubled as a bed and breakfast, or maybe in a big girl flat. Makes me smile even more to think that someone might pull it out and be like, "Who the -- are these random white people in my drawer?". I really hope it brings silly confusion if not a kind memory to whomever has it now. 

The floral print fuschia top that is smushed in the duffle: I think my mom bought this for me at Kohl's before I left on my trip, to help create a base of outfits that would keep me cool and be professional. I would wear that top now, except that it became pilled and I no longer have it. I remember one of the women who cooked for us during that semester said that she liked it and I said thanks but that I didn't think it was me; I was still very much a tomboy in those days. She said something about how the flowers on it were bright, or happy or friendly or something, and that that was me. Her comment forever shifted my perspective and now I love love love floral prints. (Side note: this kind woman and her colleague made us some sort of cold lentil tuna salad that I loved and several loaves of piping hot bread. I would carve off inch-thick slices and slather them in butter and slowly my pants did stop fitting.)

And finally, on Sam's bed:

I think that is a tote with our alma mater's insignia on it. Sammy and I are still friends and in recent months have had two phone conversations that were each four hours in length. This was not difficult for us to do nor were we a part of some kind of world record challenge. We just enjoy each other that much. Our first real conversation was in a field in front of the arts building 17 years ago this very month, and we have never lost our ability to gab. She is one of the funniest people I will ever know, astute and well read, and her self-assuredness shows me that I can live my life in nontraditional ways and it's actually totally, totally OK. 

So, you see, it's obvious why I roomed with her when we arrived in a faraway land just moments after leaving our teenage years. I had my first full beer that year, nursed it for at least an hour and it was warm when I finally drained the glass. A Hansa on draft at The Cardboard Box. If I were to go there now, I would do almost everything differently, with less fear and more conversations with my heart, actually listening to her and following some of her instructions. But ain't that the truth for most things? I was different then, younger, newer to my time on the planet. What it was is fine, and it is best for me to just love that baby Bails, understand her choices, and do things now to offset some of the things I wish I had been brave enough to do then. My past is not a mistake, just something to take notes from, I suppose. Highlight various passages and study for the next exam.

As someone at a dusty desert hostel would say, back from spying warthogs and easing their muscle strain with some freshly poured suds: 

Cheers. To our past, present, and hope. 


Sunday, August 9, 2020

The stripes of a Tiger


Ten years and one day ago today I attended a wedding. The nuptials were held in the chapel on the campus of my undergrad alma mater, a metaphor I've never realized until literally just now, as shortly after the wedding reception I climbed into the backseat of a car, popped some Benadryl to knock me out and slept all the way back to Missouri where I would start graduate school the next morning. It was like a direct hand off of the educational baton, one last visit to my old stomping grounds before meeting my new ones. 

On August 9, 2010, I passed a student on the steps outside of Lee Hills Hall reading a newspaper (he would become a ubiquitous fixture for all of us, just like that with his creased pages) on my way into that lecture hall on the end of the building, with recessed seating and a cozy warmth to it. Y'all know the one. 

My first day of "boot camp," where we spent probably two hours going around the room listing our bachelor's degrees and institutions, sharing why we came to journalism school, and a fun fact about ourselves. My fun fact was that I had just obtained my very first cell phone a week before. I think I started rambling and quickly finished my set with a shouted: "I'm not shy!" and then shut up so the next person could talk. 

After my introduction, a few people down the row one boy said his name, then dipped his head my direction and said, "And I went to Valpo too." Shocked that there was another person here in this space that went to my tiny school of less than 4,000 students, I refrained from totally freaking out publicly (but I'm pretty sure I went straight to him during our next break to compare notes about all the people we both knew). Several weeks later I would orchestrate a game of pick up football in the park, and it was here that this boy and I collided heads HARD. In retrospect, we should have gone to the hospital, but ya know, here we are. 

Ultimately, yes, I am glad that I went to grad school, but mostly, no, I don't feel proud of my professional accomplishments since crossing that stage wearing a fancy master's hood. I'm still trying to figure out if that really matters. Lately I've been looking at a more comprehensive evaluation of my life and its blessings, potential, idiosyncratic creature comforts. 

I met some people at Mizzou who have stayed in my life ever since. I've been on cruises with them, driven to northern California to see them, or even scarier yet driven to Orange County to see them when they're in town. Their emotional support and silly friendship have been invaluable to my life, and they alone are worth the cost of student fees and giving hours of my life away to grading exams as a teaching assistant...


my eyes are still bloodshot from those nights of combing through essays about media framing and deciding whether each one deserved exactly 16 or 17 points out of 20. (And then later defending my choice of giving only 16 or 17 points during my office hours when students came and contested. Thank God for coffee, is all I'm saying. Sophomores fighting for an A instead of a B are pretty intimidating.)

I rented a dirt cheap apartment, Peeps, a fully furnished basement of a house with a kitchenette, utilities included. Free laundry, no pet rent, private entrance. My walk was shoveled in the winter, smoke detector batteries replaced. Upstairs was my dad's best friend from high school (and still best friend today) and his wife, and one of my biggest regrets during my time there was that I didn't go upstairs to hang out with them during the blizzard in 2011 when our cars were all buried in snow drifts for a week. 


My first reaction to a girl who I now trust my heart to fully was one of jealousy. On our first day of reporting class she was called down to the front as a star student example to talk about the article she had written for the paper the day before. Later she spied me in the newsroom flirting with some guy and thought I was easy. In the spring we were assigned to an editing "triad" together, and that summer when she called me on the way home from a road trip my connection to her really took root. 

I cried a lot during graduate school, which actually isn't saying much because I'm a crybaby anyway. The stress was real, there was always something to be done, a paper to write, articles to read, community events to attend then come back to the news desk and clarify things for an editor before they finally hit Publish and I could go home to the cat and white wine and gummy candy, pilfering Netflix documentaries using my ex's account until I decided maybe I should cut ties and stick to the free cable I was provided. 

I "hated" the town where I lived at the time, but looking back I think that was only because I had no money and limited spare time to enjoy its many charms. If I lived there now I'd utilize the heck out of the bars, local craft brews, cozy downtown, lush trees, balmy nights and confident thunderstorms. I would bring Max my tiger cat to be a real life mascot in the land of university Tigers. I would attend my first football game at Faurot Field once Covid is finally gone for good. (I did tailgate twice, once to write a story about homecoming traditions and another to actually sip suds in the sunshine). 

The coffee at Kaldi's was way too caustic and even though they had the best interior woodwork that made you feel like you were in a loft, goodness it was crowded and noisy and I couldn't concentrate and you had to get a new receipt every two hours to access the WiFi which, seriously. 

The sweet potato chips with horseradish BBQ sauce paired with a gin & tonic at Addison's, however? Primo. I had one of my biggest laughs ever there, hanging in a booth with a random group after we chilled in the hot tub at the awesome indoor grotto on campus. Another time a few of us gossiped there, seated at the bar, about how James Franco had been sighted in town that weekend for the annual documentary festival. 

I remember those two years with reality but also with much fondness. 

I can still taste the donuts I bought from Starbucks every day before class, until my savings sifted out. I hosted a Halloween party and a birthday party when Kansas turned 150. I made lentil tacos for two boys who were roommates and asked one of them to chop the onion because it made me cry. I went to a conference in Michigan and drove to St. Louis to see Anne Lamott on her book tour, then caught up with my friend John. 

On St. Paddy's Day, I think, we played Wiffle ball by the columns and then it started pouring and we relocated for beers and then I cross stitched on the love seat, taking a rare Saturday completely off. One of my best friends got married the summer in between my two years of instruction; I wore a blue sundress and had an awesome side pony updo poof and we danced on the roof of a cruise boat in the Ozarks after sunset. 

Various classmates took turns catsitting for Dibbs, enticed as I offered them full access to my extensive VHS collection while on the clock. And speaking of Dibbs, he met me at the door every night, let me sling him over my shoulder, already purring. He got fat in that apartment and then petite again. 

Michelle would have me over and feed me meatloaf and curl my hair while we watched The OC. 

I experienced some serious anxiety, depression, late night fear of my own brain during those years. I turned the TV on while washing dishes and ironing at times just to have sitcom chatter in my space so I wouldn't think I was going crazy in the silence. 

One night, on the phone with a classmate, I told her I was cutting up an avocado and she said, "Are you a f***ing princess?! Those are like a dollar!" I still laugh at that memory, how we were all broke but always found some loophole excuse to meet up at a watering hole and avoid our scholastic responsibilities.

I'm grateful for that time, for the education, for the laughs, the coziness. The faculty who took a chance on me and believed in me. The boys who flirted with me and made me feel interesting. The friends who I still text and call and wish I could get together with on more frequent occasion. That February clothing swap while it rained and we sipped red wine and told each other how great we all looked in each other's old duds, giddily clutching wads of cotton skirts and jackets as you dashed to your cars! Such a great afternoon. 

One decade later I'm obviously reflective, evaluating where to go in my career, my dreams, my relationship with words on a page. I've spent the last several years being both jealous of my classmates and also knowing that a hard news pursuit was never the one I was after. 

My self esteem has suffered and then suffered some more, but recently my brain doesn't find it too out of line to imagine writing a book, starting at an entry level marketing position, working my way up to be an HR recruiter, moving to Australia, hand sewing a quilt. 

Life seems, so far, to be a wearing journey through confidence and angst and finding sudden, unexplained pure peace in a moment when distant trees somehow tingle my edges and I know that I'm totally, a thousand percent OK. 

My future is a big old question mark. My present is a lot of tidying, shuffling, hand stitching. Dreaming. My past holds, in part, Mizzou, and I do love that, even if it wasn't perfect. 

May you all find your way. And may I mine. Always with a tiger tabby cat to mascot me through. 

XO. M-I-Z. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Alphabet soup and my new hobbies of cycling and avoidance

Well. Hello there. 

Been a minute, eh? 

I feel like 80 percent of blog posts around the world must start with some explanation or acknowledgment of space between posts. 

Which is boring and annoying to be honest. And yet here I am participating in the tradition.

I'm sitting here in a big ol' chair that could almost be a love seat listening to the Iron & Wine Pandora station. 

An ad just came on, after one song. Ads on music stations -- and YouTube, and Prime -- and those interruptions every time you enter a website to tell you about their cookie policy or to ask for your email address in order to get 10 percent off -- all these things are my new nemeses. 

I'm very cranky these days, in quick bursts or for several hour sprints. It's fun for all involved. 

I'm continually restarting my pluck. Lots of walks around the block, occasional walks away from devices, forcing myself outside, forcing myself on a FaceTime call, reminding myself to be grateful.

Someone needs to take away my Amazon Prime account, for sure. Anyone need some candles, toothpaste, vanilla syrup? I've got it all, Friends. 

I'm applying to jobs, all of them. Every kind, size, flavor. Cycling between feeling like Icanofcoursewhywouldyouevenquestion crush that HR director job even though I have no experience and feeling like I would never be accepted for a baby girl internship for an online 'zine even though I have a master's in journalism and my byline is easily searchable already. 

Life is a lot of cycling these days. Content, grateful, looking forward. Angry, agitated, ready to give up. 

Cycle cycle cycle. Maybe I should order some biker shorts to coordinate my outfit to these fluctuations in my insides. I'm sure Amazon has them available in multiple colors and patterns...

I still only personally know one person who has contracted covid (that we know of). He was hospitalized and is home now, doing much better. I know friends of friends who have been sick or died, and I am still in awe that it hasn't brought grief upon my life yet. 

I think I watched video of the Beirut explosion twice, and that will be it for me. Too upsetting, too big, too much distanced terror to take on. 

I've read more news than I ever did before. Even as a "journalist" I've never been a big media consumer. I really like the Apple news aggregate app on my iPad mini, but there are certain days that I have to say, Nope. Not today. No news today.

More and more and more (and this has been building for several years) I operate my life inside a bubble, in order to enjoy it and not get super upset and overwhelmed and just done with everyone and everything. I do my best to control who I talk to, when, what we talk about. I control what I watch, listen to, read, follow. 

Some people probably don't want to hear this, but in many ways I really hate the world we're living in, and I'm waiting until it's not quite like this anymore. I figure this will take several years to be a reality, so cross stitch and cats and bubble gummy Disney shows here I am. I know that the world has always been a place filled with great violence and pain as well as one filled with great humanity and strength and kindness, and I understand and agree with the arguments that it's always been equally, relatively rough. In my lifetime, however, I've noticed a marked shift in recent years that has really made me sour and made me not want to engage. I have opinions, I have thoughts, I have ideas for solutions, many that I think are measured and fair, educated and reasonable, but as an extroverted person who's made a life of conversation and expressing herself through words both oral and written, Friends, I'm just not interested in adding my voice to the noise. I don't want to be misunderstood, I don't want to give attention to self righteousness. I'm done.

I will always be here to listen, but I may limit my time and degree of engagement, and if you ask for my two cents please know I'm unlikely to offer it. 


Max continues to be ridiculously excellent. I don't know how it's possible that the human brain actually perceives that our pets have gotten cuter every time they enter a room, but Lord help me if I ever have a human child because I'ma just be like SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE all the live long day. 

I crumpled up a tissue earlier and he seemed very curious about it, so I put it between his paws which prompted him to get up, jump off the bed and leave the room. 

Drama Queen. Like mama like baby kitty prince.

As many days as I remember I take fish oil, magnesium/zinc/calcium, vitamins B, C, and D. It's too hot for alphabet soup so I take it in capsule form for now. 

I'm back on Prozac which has me crying way less. My therapist calls me on Fridays at 2. Sometimes he gives me homework, and he graciously lets me treat him as my life coach, walking him through the particulars of how I'm organizing my bedroom these days. He's helpful and kind and I am grateful.

I have been in good hands, taken care of emotionally and nutritionally and financially thanks to the many members of my tribe, the one that I've built and nurtured and polished for years. I am a girl with her dollhouse, moving the baby from her bassinet to the high chair, letting the dog out to go wee, opening the windows, adding a hutch to the great room. I frequently feel that I have fallen behind, bitten off more people to love than I can chew, but I do hope that every random letter, email, text, and TikTok giggle I pass along is helping y'all because y'all help me. I used to be better at my craft of friendship, I assure you; everyone got all the attention all the time. I hope you forgive me for being, well, more human now. 

A friend of mine is sick and I don't know how to help her, given the tight parameters that germs have now put on us. She played a pivotal role in my life, she is always there for me. It's never about her. Now it should be and I feel my hands and heart are tied. 

I am working on a cross stitch pattern that depicts the emotions from Inside Out, using so many colors pleaseth me much. I am reading To Kill a Mockingbird for my first time ever. Ms. Lee was a masterful writer. I would be done with it already but I always crack it too late at night and fall asleep within a few pages. But it's excellent.

And finally I've joined a cross stitch group on Facebook. Don't know what took me so long to be honest. 

All righty, time for a chicken sandwich and some rosé and sticking my face into the bib of fir on Maxy's chest. He's so warm and unassuming and a good good GOOD boy. Baby. 

Max & Max's mommy