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Year in review: Or, a Christmas letter

My mom used to write a page-long Christmas letter to old friends of hers, a lot of them people I never met.

She'd design it in the word processing program on computer and add photos like they were clipart. Once I got into writing, I wrote my own segment of the letter, then eventually wrote the entire letter a couple of years.

But I've never snail-mailed my own Christmas letter, apparently. In a digital age, there's little reason to, as most of my friends like to keep in touch via text message or Facebook.

In lieu of a snail-mail letter (I'll send cards instead, late as usual), here's a digital summary of my life this past year!

Sarah's Christmas Update  God has been incredibly good to me this year. I promise this isn't a humblebrag. Here are the things I get asked about the most.

The most exciting: I bought a house in June! An adorable two-bedroom place with a garage and beautiful hardwood floors. Email me if you'd like to see pictures!

I'm now news…

Don't get addicted to coffee

I do drink coffee... On occasion. By which I mean, once a week, if that. I'm not addicted.

I plan to keep it that way after following a friend of mine's account of his coffee cleanse. The "cleanse," or cold-turkey coffee quittance, began Friday. Nearly all his tweets since then chronicle the trials and tribulations of an addict's sudden abstinence. And they're amusing.

Yea tho I walk thru the aisle of the freshly ground coffee, I will fear no evil #coffeecleanseday1
Who ever thought cheap church coffee could be so tempting? #coffeecleanseday2
Apparently there is a direct connection between drinking coffee and remembering to use deodorant. #coffeecleanseday2
Nerves are short. I got mad at a spatula. A FLIPPIN' SPATULA. #coffeecleanseday3
Can't read my own hand writing. Dialed five variations of the same numbers. Never did reach a real phone. I'm losing it. #coffeecleanseday3
Before you ask, I have no idea if the tweet about the spatula was punny o…

Compendium of Links #49

It's snowing out, and it looks gorgeous, as the first snow often does. I've decided I really like the look of my adorable little house in the snow. It's like Little House on the Prairie, but 1920's city edition.

Wait, somebody still thinks Jesus was white??

The maker's schedule vs. the manager's schedule...
Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.A psychologist explains online dating. (Hey, I read The Atlantic. So what?) And in the psychologist's words: "It can expand the pool of potential partners, making available a whole slew of people who otherwise would have been unavailable. That’s a huge, huge benefit. But, at lea…

Big weekend

It's been a big, busy, exciting weekend.

Saturday was my state's press association's annual awards luncheon, and I got an award.

Not just one, though. Three! All I knew going in was that I was getting something, but I figured it'd be third place in some itty bitty category. But I actually got a little certificate for being... punny. That and the other particular awards I got were completely unexpected. (But the award for being punny was the best. Remember, editors love puns. Especially in headlines.)

And then today, I played piano. In front of people. And without reading music (because my musical-note-literacy is limited to reading one, maybe two, notes at a time). After years of plinking out notes and chords and then broken chords on the black and white keys, sans lessons, it's finally paid off. (Meaning, when church has absolutely nobody else to play the Christmas carols in December, it's not quite the disaster it could've been. :D )

What I learned #8: About composers

I've realized a groundbreaking fact this week.

All the great composers were German!

Bach. Mendelssohn. Handel. Mozart. BEETHOVEN. Wagner. Etc.

Granted, there were also good composers who weren't German. Tchaikovsky, to name one. And Rimsky-Korsakov and Vivaldi. But it simply astounds me how many of the traditional classical composers weren't Russian or Italian or French.

They were German.

Weird, huh?

Life on my own #47: Birthdays

Note: The following was written three minutes before the end of my 24th birthday.

One of the things I hadn't quite figured out was how to celebrate a birthday as an adult. When you're not close enough to your immediate family to just do the whole special homemade-to-order dinner that you've been used to for years, that is.

In college, I usually made it home for some weekend around my birthday and we had my favorite dinner -- crabmeat casserole. When I turned 21 I spent half the day doing some spec work for the editor who would end up hiring me for my first job post-college. Then that first year after college, I volunteered at a church dinner on the day I turned 22 (and, of course, ate more than my full of delicious potluck food). I still lived near my family, but I think they were all working or otherwise inescapably occupied.

The day I turned 23 -- last year -- I had to work. I managed to escape for a lunch date with my two closest cousins at my favorite restaurant (go F…

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. It meant snow, usually. It meant cousins, but without the stress that Christmas brought. It meant people remembering to thank God for what he'd given them.
peanut buttermy familycable Internetmapsstringed instruments of all kindswise editorsphilodendronstire repair centersrepair instruction videosgracecabbage (even when it's mistaken for lettuce)friends nearbyfar-away friendsSkypeAldicousinscommuter trainsvlogs (like Emma Approved and The Autobiography of Jane Eyre)Doctor Whofountain pensthe times my back doesn't hurt from sitting in office chairsmy jobextra patience when I don't think I have any morestreetlightsstarsmy housemy carpeople who inspire me to change for the betterthe Biblesecond-hand shopsblanketshatsthe books of C. S. Lewismovies about superheroestextingwindowsorganized bike rides If I went on, I'd never stop typing.

Thought on Owl City

Owl City. You know, the guy who made it big singing about fireflies.

I really enjoy the Owl City project (several albums) and musician Adam Young's early acoustic project Sky Sailing. I'm intrigued by the sparing commentary he posts on his blog. His unashamed commitment to orthodox Christianity, and Reformed theology, no less!, inspires me. (He tweeted "Ephesians 2:8-10" tonight, for goodness' sake!)

But sometimes I wonder if I'd actually want to be around him in person. I can't decide.

Compendium of Links #48

Today is "The Day of the Doctor" for Whovians like myself -- that is, fans of the British TV show "Doctor Who." However, I must go to work this afternoon, so I shall miss the worldwide premier of the 50th anniversary special episode. Sad, isn't it? Well, not really. Because in the grand scheme of things, a TV show is just a TV show.

A couple of Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicators charts for some laughs! Prayers for each Myers-Briggs type ("Lord help me be less independent, but let me do it my way."), LOTR by personality type and Star Wars in MBTI!

Maps showing the etymology of different words in Europe. Funny: Most people in Europe think a pineapple's proper name is "ananas."

The album for the movie "Inside Llewellyn Davis," a movie by the same guys who did "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," is out! I managed to listen to it via NPR's First Listen post, but apparently the audio is no longer available there. If you …

Life on my own #46: Troubleshooting, part two

As promised! The box came, the part was ripped from its little plastic baggie packaging -- because, what other way is there to unwrap those things? -- and I had before me a thermostat thing, a fuse thing, a couple screws and a couple bendy-things that get stuck onto wires. Oh, and a teeny little wire with the bendy-things already stuck on.

(Hint: Bendy-things are connectors. I'm pretty sure.)

And yesterday, when I  descended once again into the belly of the house -- that is, the basement -- I was armed with a new tool!

It's practically a requirement of every DIYer that new tool equals glorious elation. It's like giving a new fancy pen or a pretty journal to a writer. (Please don't ask how many journals I have waiting for me....)

My tool, you must understand, was something called a "crimping" tool. Number one, the word "crimp" makes me think of crinolines and primping. Therefore, it must be a tool for repositioning the wires in my hoopskirt.

Maybe not…

Life on my own #45: Troubleshooting, part one

I should've become an engineer, not a writer.

My dryer decided one day it didn't want to dry my clothes. I thought at first I'd just overloaded it... with a sheets load plus the leftovers of another load, it could've happened, right? But no, the second try didn't yield any drier fabric.

Oh, and the air coming from the inside of the dryer wasn't actually hot. The things I overlook the first time...

So I decided to try troubleshooting this myself. It's the Age of the Internet. I can do anything with the help of my friends Google and YouTube.

So off I go, browsing around various appliance-repair websites, checking out potential causes of "dryer not heating" and "whirlpool dryer not heating" and "whirlpool dryer troubleshooting" and all sorts of other search terms which kept sending me to the same three websites, two of which were trying to sell me Whirlpool dryers. No thanks, I've already got one.

I stumbled on a great repair …

Debut as a solo artist

I've been hanging out at a few music jams over the last several months, getting to know some of the local talent and sharing mine with them. (Which is a silly way of saying, taking turns playing guitar and singing with them.)

And this week, one of those fellow musicians asked if I wanted to play a set at a local craft fair. There were several other folks there performing before me, and I knew them all -- knew their style, was comfortable with it -- and figured, hey, a small-town craft fair can't be that busy, especially toward the end of it. So I said, sure, I'll play and sing for a half-hour or so after you all are done.

I walked in and realized, there's vendors. and people eating lunch. and more people. Since when did so many people hang out at small-town craft fairs?

Anyway. For me, it's one thing to play guitar and sing in front of people I know, like at church. It's one thing to play guitar as backup for another singer, musician or group. It's somethin…

Shylock = ?

While playing Catchphrase* last night at a staff party, I had to try to get the others to come up with the name of one of Shakespeare's plays.

I told them as fast as I could, it's the Shakespeare play where somebody wants to cut somebody's heart out, and Shylock is in it. I thought, the courtroom scene is one of the most famous in "The Merchant of Venice." Surely somebody will make the connection, though somewhat poorly expressed on my part.

But they looked at me with blank stares. "We went to public school. We don't know this," one of them said.

Given that they've all earned bachelor's degrees and are in no wise idiots, I thought the whole scene was a rather sad anecdote illustrating the state of literary awareness in modern America.

Or am I just being elitist in expecting college-educated people to remember the title and principal characters of one of the most popular plays (in contemporary times) produced by a playwright whose body of wo…

Compendium of Links #47

Man, it's been a busy weekend. I took my Amiguita (the little girl I'm matched with in Big Brothers Big Sisters) to the YMCA pool today for quite a while -- I kid you not, we spent nearly an hour playing frisbee. Later tonight is a staff party at my editor's house. So right now, I'm chilling before I have to go be all social again. :P

Three coders in California built a better health insurance browsing website than the government. Granted, it didn't have to mess with the security and database issues regarding signups, since it simply directs those looking to actually buy something they see to call some phone number -- but still. It's a whole lot more user-friendly.

A rather funny blog on First Things called Dr. Boli publishes esoteric jokes of general interest, plus some that Christians or Catholics will get, because it's a Catholic site. My favorite posts are the "Ask Dr. Boli" ones... because they sound like this:
Dear Dr. Boli: I play circadian rh…

Dance party in middle school

I hosted a dance party for a few middle schoolers from church last night. Besides providing the wood floors to dance crazily on, my task was to select appropriate, upbeat songs for them to dance to.

This is the result: A YouTube playlist. I'd embed it, but apparently Blogger isn't enabled to do so.

I definitely threw a few throwback songs in there for good measure. The W's "The Devil is Bad," N*Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," and the Numa Numa song (properly named "Dragostea Din Tei")... The girls got a kick out of watching me and the other chaperone dancing and singing to these '90s and '00s songs they'd never heard of. (They also squealed with delight for many of the other songs. I felt rather accomplished and in touch with middle school culture, oddly enough.)

Buzzwords that irk me

Community
Awareness
Opportunity
Explore
Bring together
Initiative
Participating
Networking

...of these, "community" takes the cake. What do you even mean when you say "providing the community with this opportunity"? Do you mean you're going to let the 5-year-olds that live in your town have their share of the grant funding? What about the owner of the old barbershop that could use the money, but isn't actually eligible because it's not really open to business entities? Where or who exactly is your "community"?

It's such a broadly used word that it requires further definition - but that definition is rarely, if ever, spelled out. I see this all the time in print journalism, and I'm left wondering what common characteristic or interest is defining the "community" under consideration.

Maybe everybody should just re-read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language.

Evolution of an outfit

I sewed my own reenacting dress again this year -- so now I have two to carry me through a whole weekend.


It started as a roll of beautiful plaid fabric very similar to the Black Watch plaid. I cut out pieces, sewed 'em together, and before long I had the resemblance of a dress. All it needed was hand-sewing and some hand-hemming.

I was extremely pleased with it.



But there was a key ingredient missing... if you know me, you understand this.


But a plain hat was just unacceptable, right?


The black ribbon made all the difference.

I loved the black ribbon so much, I went back the next day and bought two more yards (for a measly $1.20) to tie around my hiked-up waist.


Then following the period-correct fashion counsel from my well-researched cousin, I bought a large silk handkerchief to top it all off.


All that to say... the accessories may have cost as much as the dress itself. But it's all worth it. Or, it will be when I pull off a Jane Austen living history presentation in a coup…

I don't care about cursive.

There's a lot of buzz going on in Indiana -- or has been over the past few months, anyway -- about schools possibly doing away with teaching cursive.

In fact, I didn't realize kids still had to learn cursive writing that looks like this:


See, I learned to write in italics:


Sure, I connect my letters, but the letterforms of the print and cursive versions are essentially the same (which can hardly be said of traditional cursive). Learning, and using, handwriting is faster that way and it's still legible. When I learned cursive, I didn't have to start all over. Now that I use it, I can write legibly without having to lift my pen at the end of every letter.


(I took no trouble over that little scrap, but just wrote how I normally would. That's probably obvious on my terminal Hs and Ns -- I'm terrible at writing those properly unless I think about it.)

Cursive is not a script which alone promotes legibility and ease of use; nor is it the only way to write which can b…

Compendium of Links #46

I've just finished a week that felt like it passed me by in a day. That must be what adulthood feels like.

When an adult took a standardized test intended for children... and failed miserably. I'm sorry, but if I'm to judge by the questions offered in the mini-tests that accompany that blog post, this person who's ostensibly an education expert should be required to retake basic grade-school math. Seriously. I may not agree myself that standardized testing is the optimal way to gauge students' learning, but this is not the argument I'd use against it!

17 problems only book lovers will understand. Like: "1. When someone asks you what your favorite book is and expects you to pick just one."

Why David McCullough still types all his books on a typewriter (or, at least, did in 1991):
People say, But with a computer you could go so much faster. Well, I don’t want to go faster. If anything, I should go slower. I don’t think all that fast.'
Can smart econom…

Life on my own #44: Appliances

Some days, I don't think twice about going to the laundromat. I've basically relied one laundromat or another since I was almost 18. Old habits are hard to break.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to do laundry in your pajamas? (For me, laundromats and wearing pajamas are mutually exclusive. Yes, I know the People of Walmart beg to disagree.)

So once I bought my house, I realized, Sarah, it's time for you to grow up and get a clothes washer. I mean, it's the logical next step. (After a mower, of course.)

Thing was, I actually had to find a decent second-hand washer. And a dryer. I hate letting towels drip-dry. They get all scratchy and weird. Anyway, even if I found suitable appliances, I had to figure out how to get them from point A to point B.

Subcompact cars aren't the best for that.



Enter: The Cousin. This Cousin, a construction worker, is quite adept at lifting heavy things. In addition, he owns a Truck.

In a very convenient twist of fate, Cousin abs…

New additions to the personal library

Yes.... I lost myself in Half Price Books again.  :-)

This is how nerdy I am (Word invention edition)

A friend asked his more mathematically or English-inclined friends for suggestions on inventing a word for this circumstance:
I'm writing a paper that frequently references regions on a string, and these regions often intersect. I need to succinctly describe regions that almost completely intersect. That is, say there's a string of numbers....

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

And I say, ok, one section I'll name flippity-bop and that'll cover 2 through 7, and another section I'll name bing-bang-bong and that will cover 3 through 8. Flippity-bop and bing-bang-bong almost completely match up with each other, except they're shifted one number off from each other, as if you were looking at it cross-eyed.

My friend wants an easy way to refer to this circumstance: one word, preferably fairly short and relatively quickly comprehended. If you read the link fully, you'll see he is temporarily using "mislapped" (a variation on overlap) and isn't satisified.

I saw this…

If I start feeling sappy, I'll get a journal.

Lately, a huge chunk of my Facebook news feed has looked something like this:
I love the cute way [Manly] gets hiccups when he's been laughing too much.

My amazingly awesome wife surprised me AND my parents by driving up and fixing us dinner so I could stay here tonight and get a little more needed rest. Blessed to tears!

Love him #concertjunkies Those are three real entries from acquaintances on Facebook... posted within the last two hours. There's more where that came from.

Remind me to get a journal specifically for sappy observations and scrapbooking couples pictures if and when I get a serious boyfriend/husband. Something tells me it will be more meaningful to have things like these written down for a significant-other to read now, and treasure later.*

Or maybe it's just me. But I can't imagine putting stuff like this up for the whole world to see. I'd rather share it with people that mean a lot to me. Family, close friends, you know -- but certainly not the …

On paywalls: A rant.

The paper I work for recently switched to a "paywall" on its website, which, in case you haven't followed all the hype about media, means you have to pay to access the articles after you've read a certain number per month. It's like the New York Times has instituted.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of people upset that the paper's now charging for something that it previously offered free.

There's even one commenter who's like, "I pay for internet! Why should I pay to read what's on it?" And somebody else compared the newspaper website to Netflix and said Netflix charges less, so ergo the paper is charging way too much.

Here, therefore, is my rant.

To get this out of the way: When you get Internet, you're paying for the conveyance of the information. You're not paying for any of the information itself. Complaining that you already pay for Internet is like complaining that you have to pay for something out of a catalog when y…

Compendium of Links #45

My editor got sick Friday, the very morning I emailed her my spec pieces for that column I mentioned, so I have not heard any response from her. I'll definitely post when I do! In the meantime, entertain and inform yourselves with the following random links...

Only Canada, China, North Korea and the U.S. allow abortion after viability for any reason.

40 maps that will help you make sense of the world... including one showing where 29,000 rubber duckies made landfall after falling off a cargo ship in the middle of the Pacific...


Somebody went looking for a novel about women that's not about love, and thinks they're frustratingly rare. I'm not sure what the big deal is -- it's just as easy to learn from a guy's "going it alone" novel as it would be from a girl's. Unless, of course, you admit that guys and girls have fundamentally different ways of experiencing growing up! I wonder if that's what the author realized she was buying into?

When a Chr…

I might land a column!

We have this page we do at the paper I work at that runs every Friday with a list of interesting things to do over the weekend, a movie review and some piece of outlandish entertainment news (like, Justin Bieber arrested again!). Along the side of this page runs a weekly column, something lighthearted or localized to set the tone for the weekend.

We've been a bit frustrated by this column for various reasons, so I asked my editor a couple of days ago if we could replace it. She asked, what with? And I may or may not have volunteered to write the weekly piece.

So, she said, write me a couple spec pieces -- that's journo lingo for "these are the pieces that will forever convince you of my fantastic writing ability" -- and we'll see.

I wrote the spec pieces tonight (or... this morning?). I present them to her tomorrow. I mean today. If she likes 'em, I'm on the hook for writing something rather amusing each week (kind of in the style of the Life on my Own po…

I should post more, shouldn't I?

My, my, my. I've been so neglectful of this poor little blog over the last few weeks. Not least because I went on vacation!

So today was my second day back at work after my long-awaited, thoroughly enjoyable six days off. It was surprisingly not that stressful (c'mon, I work at a newspaper, it should be really really stressful!). I did have The W's song "The Devil Is Bad" running through my head, of course, in mockery of the new content management system which we've nicknamed SkyDevil. It's the main source of our frustrations these days.

Nevertheless, the pages got done early tonight -- when does that ever happen?? -- so I came home and watched "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." I had seen it once about four years ago, during sophomore year of college I think, but never since. It was surprisingly endearing, and now I pretty much want to watch everything that Joss Whedon ever directed. (That would be Firefly, and the companion movie Serenity, …

Life on my own #43: Dishwashing

I kid you not: One of the best things about my house is its dishwasher.

That dishwasher means I don't have to submerge my hands in HOT water when it's 90 degrees outside. It means I can blissfully read, or write, or watch episodes of Merlin, while my dishes magically clean themselves. It's like the animals cleaning the house in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Except if I found any animals in my dishwasher, I would probably not start singing.

The only trouble comes when something goes wrong with my dishwasher. Then I have to put on my handyman cap and figure out how to fix it.

The other day I discovered a couple inches of water in the bottom of my dishwasher after I ran it. Thinking it would go away if I ran another cycle, I did. No dice.

It wouldn't even go away if I hit the "drain" button on the control panel. (Saying that makes me feel like I'm piloting a KitchenAid spaceship. Captain, the controls are not responding!)

A little Googling later, I decid…

Life on my own #42: Junk mail

Ya know, before I moved out from my parents’, all I got were credit card offers in the mail.Now that I’m on my own, I don’t get those much anymore (though they still come maybe once a month). Instead, I get offers to buy…Checks. (Already have some, thanks.)$50,000 worth of life insurance. (And I’m going to buy this based off of direct mail… why?)Pizza. (No thanks.)More pizza. (I’ve had pizza about once in the last six months. When are they going to get the idea?)Dish TV and Internet. (Because I have such a history of buying, or watching, TV.)Health and car insurance (Seriously? You’re using direct mail to market insurance?)Wendy’s fast food. (There isn’t even a Wendy’s in town. I don’t remember the last time I ate at a Wendy’s… maybe my mid-teens?)Subscriptions to The Economist and The New Yorker. (Pretty sure they got my address from The Atlantic. The dog- and cat-themed bookmarks from The New Yorker are pretty funny though.)Stuff from Bed, Bath and Beyond. (OK, they probably got my …

What I read: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

If you’re ever wondering what in the world Jesus was talking about in the Beatitudes… or you’re simply recovering from a failed senior capstone course in Christian ethics based on the Sermon on the Mount… pick up Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book of sermons expounding on that Sermon.Reason #1: The introduction really does introduce the Sermon on the Mount – it gives a general overview of when it was given, by whom and for whom, and why it should be studied (“The Lord Jesus Christ died to enable us to live the Sermon on the Mount” and it leads to sanctification and blessing).Reason #2: Lloyd-Jones is committed to the proper reverence for the Sermon on the Mount as part of the Word of God, not something that can be reduced to a formula or exists merely to be studied.Reason #3: He can explain a multileveled, but clear, logical sequence to the Sermon. The. Entire. Sermon. This includes showing how the Beatitudes build upon each other and also reflect a sort of mirror-image quality, considering the…

Compendium of Links #44: Tech edition

I’m following the whole Edward Snowden saga as best as I can, and it’s highly intriguing. The government’s behaviors also remind me somewhat of an old Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can’t Happen Here, which tells a dystopian story of the U.S. falling ever so gently into fascist rule. I feel like I need to re-read it.But anyway. Before my browser gets too full again, here is your weekly serving of interesting stuff, featuring one of my favorite subjects: Technology!On Christians naively expecting the best web offerings from ministries they donate a pittance to (if anything at all): (via Challies)In their mind, every Christian ministry is expected to have every possible resource (study tools, videos, books, audio, articles, apps, etc.) available on every possible platform. And they want it now! Not only do they want it now, that want quality, and they want it for free. A thank you is seldom heard when this is actually achieved, after all, it was online and therefore easy, inexpensive, and qui…

Compendium of Links #43: Fourth of July edition

Welcome to this SPECIAL EDITION of the Compedium! I’m off to work today but I had a little time this morning to clean out some more tabs from my browser… and to cull links from my email, as I’ve started to do a bit more reading on my phone and haven’t figured out a feasible way to save links from there other than by emailing them to myself. (If you have suggestions, especially ones that involve Firefox, I’m all ears.)Of course, none of these links actually have anything to do with Independence Day… but I don’t mind. I hope you don’t.I don’t quite believe this: Indianapolis’s single guys are willing to spend some three times the national average on a first date – and a website claims that the sum amounts to $226. Like, what could you possibly do on a first date that costs that much?? (For this link, I have to thank… my single male living-in-Indy cousin.)Anthony Bradley, a regular contributor (I think) to World Magazine, takes a short hop over to Journey through NYC Religions to plug hi…

Compendium of Links #42

I’m pretty well settled into my new house – have mowed the yard a couple of times and pulled a lot of weeds after the recent rainstorm – and now I’m just waiting to get the internet modem hooked up! In the meantime, I spend a lot of time at the library and actually get my browser cleared of the following tabs….Top 10 reasons I’m actually a man – from a woman, of course. Hilarious.*6.5 SMALL TALK. WHAT EVEN IS THAT. DON’T WE ALL ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE WEATHER IS LIKE (WE LITERALLY JUST WALKED IN OUT OF IT) & IF I REALLY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT BRAND OF MASCARA YOU WERE WEARING – IF, GOD FORBID, I COULD DISTINGUISH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MASCARA BRANDS – DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD ASK YOU. Somehow though, as much as women can generally small-talk me under the table and I abhor it (I tend to take it as a sign that you don’t actually want to know me), I have to believe that a skill that inane must be a societal construct and hardly something I can blame on any particular gender. However! We a…

Life on my own #41: Mowing the lawn

I’ve always wondered who invented the lawn. Regular wide-open areas are covered in woods and underbrush or two-foot-tall prairie grass – or they were (now it’s mainly suburbs).Then in front of houses, you have two choices: garden or lawn.I’ve often been in favor of having a massive garden on a city lot (my miniscule green thumb notwithstanding). At least they have pretty flowers. A lawn is just a boring unbroken swath of green.Yet here I am, the new homeowner with a medium-small city lot and the lawn that goes with it. It even has a devil’s strip.So I bought a lawnmower. I had thought about getting a gas mower – no cord required (and I get enough of cords vacuuming). There isn’t anywhere to plug an electric mower in on two to three sides of the house, anyway. On the other hand, I’ve rarely had more than a 50% success rate getting my dad’s gas push mower started. Mind you, I’m not talking about starting it on the first try. I’m saying at all. (I usually coaxed my brother into coming ou…

Same title, new duties

A few weeks ago my work schedule changed a bit. I now work an early second-shift type schedule, much like my sister the nurse does, actually, but Tuesday through Saturday as always.The change came about because one position was cut from the newsroom. Now, there’s just the managing editor and me as editors for the six-day-a-week paper, so we’ve split the duties formerly assumed by the associate editor. As a consequence, I’m the one coming in late and staying late to edit copy (stories and stuff) and “put the paper to bed,” as we say. (That just means I read through everything that goes in the paper, tell the designers what to put on which pages, then read through it all again once they design the pages and make more corrections.) I still do reporting as much as I can, which feels like very little.It’s a rather solitary job, far more than reporting has been, anyway. Most of the newspaper staff leaves at 5 p.m. sharp and the reporters, who start a bit later because of the news cycle, are…

What I read: “Quiet Strength” by Susan Cain

A while ago I got the writing bug and had all sorts of grand plans for reinventing this blog. One of them was to write more about the books I read. The writing bug has since been funneled into my work, but I’m still reading – and I still like the idea.Late last week, I finished the book Quiet Strength by Susan Cain, a self-identified introvert who began her career as a lawyer and has since switched to leadership consulting. The book’s subtitled “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking,” a fitting summary of the book’s contents.I appreciated Cain’s recognition of how introversion’s unique characteristics are intrinsically worth exercising – such as introverted people’s tendency to resist getting caught up in positive emotion and hesitancy to go forward with a project without having gathered and processed all the relevant information. One chapter, “Why did Wall Street crash and Warren Buffet prosper?,” goes into that aspect in detail. Overall the book’s written with b…

I’m buying a house.

There, I updated my blog. …..OK, so I’ll do a little more than that. (As my editor constantly quips – don’t say I never gave you anything!)It’s true, I’m buying a house. God pretty much dropped this wonderful little two-bedroom house into my lap. I saw it before it went on the market and the owners were thrilled to get the selling part out of the way before they’d even started looking for their next house. I’ll be sure to post a couple pictures of the inside once I get moved in later this summer!Sometimes, when it hits me again that I’M BUYING A HOUSE, I can’t help smiling and jumping for joy. Or at least bouncing up and down in my seat.Also, I’m now more an editor than a reporter at the paper I work at (though I still do a fair bit of reporting). The newsroom staff lost one position and the managing editor and I ended up having to split the duties of the associate editor, whose position is now lost to oblivion. (Story of the industry.) With that change comes a bit of a schedule chang…

Compendium of Links #41

I’M HOME!!!By that, I mean I’m visiting my folks, and won’t be online much, I suspect. However, my sister right now is in the middle of her morning routine and nobody else is awake or home, so I shall share a few links!Seven skills to develop in your twenties – like, you know, a lengthened attention span, logical thinking and budgeting. (Via Boundless.)What to do about teens dropping out of church after high school graduation? Well, find out why they’re dropping out, or revisit your assumption that they’re dropping out in such high numbers at all. If you read one article, please read the other, too. (First link via Facebook friends; second, via Gene Veith.)The decline of marriage and the rise of unwed mothers: An economics-based answer to why the culture is changing, courtesy of the writers at The Atlantic Wire. Curious, isn’t it?Think of marriage like any other contract or investment. It's most likely to happen when the gains are big. So we should expect marriages among low-incom…