messy progress = progmess

So we bought a house in December with plans to live in it someday. As opposed to buying it to rent or just give tours to our relatives and friends. That’s the end goal: to sleep and cook and decorate and sing Ed Sheeran songs in that house.

So naturally, the first thing we did was not move in boxes and paint the walls less-neutral tans. We started with some light demo, followed by heavy plumbing and with a heaping side of mess. If you saw our house the week we bought it and then saw it this week, you would ask why we made it worse.

For example, last weekend we busted the concrete in the basement and dug in the dirt under that to expose our pipes for the plumbers coming this week. Nothing feels as counterproductive as tearing out your basement floor, trust me. We now have what looks like the start of a lazy river (no water, thankfully!) and a huge dirt pile in our basement. Not to mention, all our kitchen cabinets, some random tools and the stained glass window that will be rehung in the kitchen in all her glory.

Josh and I are learning a lot- thanks dad! We took apart the kitchen, reframed part of it, moved some outlets and other odds and ends. A crew is finishing up the removal of a very dusty plaster wall.

These are all things that are easier to do to an empty house. The mess hasn’t touched our furniture. Everyone who’s ever had work done on their home reminds us that it’s best to do it before moving as opposed to living in the filth.

I know, I know.

But still, I can close my eyes and see the place with our stuff. I can picture our Christmas decorations hung up and see us hosting friends for BBQ in the back. In my mind, this house has been done since I walked through it in November.

Since the world doesn’t (yet) move on my timetable, I have to remind myself about nine times a week that unlike HGTV, our house will not be finished in 48 minutes of programming. We are doing as much of it as we can because (a.) $$$$ (b.) learning is fun! (c.) my dad is a wizard. This is going to take time. It has to look worse before it gets better. It will get better.

I sooth myself with to do lists, calendars, design blogs, loose leaf tea (my new thing) and repeating mantras:

Owning a house it fun!

I’m so proud!

Josh, you’re so strong! (He hates that, I think it’s nice)

Imagine all the gallery walls this place can hold!

We will live here someday!

i’m in mourning.

One of my very favorite couples broke up a couple weeks ago and I’ve been lurking on social media looking for clues and hints.

photo from here.

In case you’re wondering, I have a short list of favorite celebrity couples that I casually keep an eye on. I’m rooting for them and checking in like I would on two close friends who are dating. I like each individual, and I like that they have found happiness in each other. Silently I mummer, “Love is real, even for the fake people of Hollywood.”

Lena Dunham and Jack Antonoff dated for five years. I love her writing and her show. She defies the stereotypical body type and glamour of most famous people. Plus, she’s an advocate who messes up. Roughly twice a year she says or does something offensive and gets shamed by the media. Lena shows us how to say sorry all the time. She shows us that she’s learning and growing. I’m sad it’s on such a public stage, but we need to see people who can apologize.

Jack was in Fun. and Bleachers, plus he co-wrote some of my favorite songs by Taylor Swift and Lorde. In interviews he’s a squirrely guy who cares so much about making music. I love that passion.

Together, they seemed content and supportive. It seemed like they figured it out.

Of course, that’s what I was able to put together given exactly what they showed to me on social media and real media. Judging by the fact that they’re no longer together, there was more going on beneath the surface- shockingly, they didn’t tell me!

I’m sad for Lena who seems like a sensitive soul I would spend hours on the phone with and eventually plan a vacation to meet her somewhere warm.

Don’t worry, I’m sad for Jack too. He seems like a fun, good person who doesn’t get any joy from ending something that was important and, one time, great.

I’m worried about Taylor Swift. Her and Lena are friends and ho over bros ALL DAY. Butttttttt, her music with Jack has never been better. She can’t let that go. Can all three of them get along in order to save a friendship and a career?

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. Confession time.

Secretly, I hope both of them funnel this big change into amazing art for me to consume. I want more episodes, more short stories, more think pieces. I hope for another album, better and better songs and longer tours to the city I live in, please.

Is that bad?

Of course, I would have preferred for Lena and Jack to make it. They could have defied the odds and still made great things (for me). But I have to look on the bright side. For them, for us.

17 things I loved in 2017

In no particular order…

1. Becoming an aunt

At the beginning of 2017, we knew there was a nephew on the way. Oscar joined the party in May and has been nothing but cute and easy-going since. Possibly the most chill baby of all time. Around that time, my sister shared she was expecting. In August, she added a foster baby to our family- our first niece who was a year old. She’s hilarious, loving and reminds us all of the importance of snacks and that family is family- blood or not. On Christmas, my sister gave birth early to another nephew- Duke. He’s our tiny little Christmas baby who decided to come in 2017 instead of 2018.

Before this year both of our families were full on adults. I loved the excitement of waiting for the little people to show up and the pure joy of rolling around on the floor reading kids books.

2. Staring at art I’ve studied IRL in Italy

I’ve always dreamed of Italy and Josh and I went this August. We sweat through our shirts, ate gelato and rode trains through the countryside. The art museums delivered in a big way! Thank you, Josh, for all your patience. When I see a movie or book set in Italy, I’m re-immersed in the magic. The delicious food and rich history are calling me back. Maybe someday.

3. Buying a house

I’m still waiting for someone to say, “No, nope, no. You’re not old enough to own a house. Give back the keys.” Somehow, we are homeowners as of the last week of 2017. It’s perfect and in a neighborhood we’re really excited to join. There’s a lot of work, but we also get to live in the (never) finished product, which seems like a pretty sweet deal. Every time I’m over there I feel like my chest is swelling with nervous excitement- or maybe that’s just all the projects on our to do list? Hard to tell.

4. Wishing Texas goodbye

We relocated to the Show-Me State this fall. Josh came back in September and I followed in November. Living apart and packing and physically moving was not joyful. Our friends who became family while in Dallas made us feel so loved. It was hard to leave our people (and the warmer weather) behind, but I’m so grateful for all that Texas was for us. So many goodbye hugs and lunches that will never be forgotten. Leaving our jobs and our community was bittersweet.

5. Carrying a sign in the women’s march

Courtney, Josh and I marched in Dallas the day after the inauguration to show our support of women and women’s issues in the face of a leader who didn’t make them a priority on the campaign trail (or really since then). Being surrounded by thousands of people who care was emotional and powerful. Did that march accomplish anything? Not directly, but it energized us all to get involved or at least get educated. Staying “woke” in the face of the news has not been a favorite part of 2017, but I’m glad I did it. I also know way more about health care policy than I did in 2016, so that’s handy.

6. Driving through Cuba in a car from the 50s

We went with two other couples for a whirlwind trip to Havana in March. It was fast and full of mojitos. It was incredible to see a country that’s operated as a time capsule from the 1950s. I’m not a car person in the least, but the cars were a highlight. While I wish we would have had more time, we met and learned from a few local people about life in Cuba and how it’s changing.

7. The warmth of female friendships

I hope this makes the list every year for the rest of my life. I spent quality time with some of my favorite ladies. I’m not listing them because it would be an annoying to read, but I loved every group text, late-night conversation, bachelorette party, hike, weekend get away, card, lunch, etc. etc. etc. Seriously, I love/need you.

8. Blogs, podcasts, newsletters, books, Instagram feeds

Should I be proud of all the crap I consume when I should be making things of my own, or at the very least, enjoying the outdoors? Look, I don’t know. Sometimes I listen to podcasts as I run outside. I’ve read and heard some deep thoughts. I like to think I continued learning last year.

9. Sleeping in without an alarm

It’s the ultimate adult luxury and I did it sometimes this past year, though never enough. Considering how unproductive sleep is, I just love it so.

10. Stomping all over London

My parents and I went to London for a week last fall. It was their first time to Europe, so we did it BIG. Honestly, Whitneys are incapable of vacationing any other way. We saw a million sights and walked just as many miles. I always have fun traveling with mom and dad. London is a marvelous city full of history and beer.

11. Singing loudly to Reputation, Melodrama and Hamilton

Josh and I are always listening to something. Taylor Swift’s Reputation was big for me this year, as was Lorde’s Melodrama. We discovered Johnny Swim and cooked often to the Counting Crows and Bleachers. Sometimes Hamilton was the only thing that could make me muster a single patriotic thought. Shout out to Despacito, my song of 2017.

12. Not traveling for the holidays

This was the first time I’ve lived in St. Louis since high school. I highly recommend not going to the airport, not packing a bag and not rushing to see everyone you know in three days. Thanksgiving and Christmas were especially special this year because we had more time in the same city as our people. For the past four years I was stressed about my work schedule and getting a plane ticket around those days. Eliminating that stress brought loads of holiday cheer.

13. My library

And all libraries in general. I borrowed a load of books this year. Shout out to my favorite librarian and our all-business transactions. While I was sad to leave, I’m excited to get reacquainted with the musty smell of old paper here.

14. Hiking to the Sun Gate with my siblings at Machu Picchu

The whole day was crazy, but standing up there fortified a connection with the ancient people who built it, the explorers and pilgrims who came before us and to my family. We laughed that whole week in Peru and I’m so glad all five of us went together. Traveling with adult siblings is way cool.

15. Gmail, Google Drive and Gcal

My life lives online and I realize that’s probably not safe. Hey hackers, there’s nothing good, unless you’re into emails between me and my dad, fiery half-finished think pieces, my personal appointments and newsletters. I made more of an effort to minimize digital clutter this year, and not to brag, but I killed it.

16. My legs when I walked or ran

2017 was full of steps. I hiked, ran and high-tailed in circles around the building with my lunch crew. I’m grateful for my healthy legs (and whole body). Staying active is important to me, and I don’t thank my legs often enough.

17. La Croix

This year I drank a lot of it. They brag about having no chemicals, so I’m not sure what type of witchcraft makes it taste so good. When I was working 6-2:30pm I looked forward to a can of it, poured over ice, of course, as my after school treat. It’s the little things, people. Every other week I’d haul a 12-pack back on my walk home from the grocery store, allowing my habit to double as strength training. I’ve really cut back since moving to St. Louis, but every once in a while, I need a little fizz water. This last year will definitely be marked in my mind as The La Croix Year.

Bring it, 2018.

2017 Reading

I had a great year in the books department. Thanks to lots of long plane ride, too much time in airports and not having a roommate for two months, I turned a lot of pages. According to Goodreads (which I use to track pretty loyally), I finished 15,664 pages across 45 books. My goal was 40, so I’m not mad. For 2018, I’m going to try for 50.

Here’s what I read. The big ones I gave the highest ratings. 

I try to balance a mix of fiction and non-fiction, as well as diverse writers and content. Of my 45 books, 34 were written by women. Three were audio books.

My friend and fellow library-lover Courtney gifted me a three-month membership to Book of the Month. I already finished my December pick- The Chalk Man and highly recommend it! I picked from January’s choices, and the book should be here later this week. What a thoughtful and perfect gift!

Of course we did our Whitney Family Book Swap this Christmas. Here’s what’s on tap for 2018, courtesy of my family:

In order: me, Julie, dad, mom, Will

My goals for 2018:

  • Start my book of the month in the month it arrives
  • Tackle at least five books that are over 100 years old
  • Listen to four audio books
  • Get a library card in the city and get to know the library down the street
  • Reread a childhood favorite (or two)

Josh and I joined a book/movie club with some of our friends and we have a hefty book every other month, so I’ll be busy!

p.s. I keep track of all this on Goodreads and suggest it to anyone who loves to read! Please be my friend 🙂

business of life

(from Austin Kleon)

Lately I’ve been swimming through paperwork and to do lists: making sure we have the right Christmas gifts for the right people, sending out cards, getting financials moved to Missouri, and on and on. Not having access to all my things (including places I’ve traditionally stashed my paperwork), makes it all the more difficult. It also gives me an excuse to make a pile between two other piles and say, I’ll get to that later.

Tis the season for waiting?

We’re waiting for packages, waiting for friends and family to get in town, waiting for snow (please!), waiting for Jesus, waiting for my sister to have a baby. Why not just wait to do some of that other stuff?

By the time I get home it’s cold and dark anyways, might as well put off whatever it was I was going to do. Plus, I just found out I am going to have a decent Christmas break (holla at my new job!), so I will have plenty of time to get to those piles then. Honestly, I’ll probably just hang with my niece and nephew and try to finish a book each day.

In the meantime, I need to find the motivation to at least get my daily business done. And I really need a haircut.

I‎t takes a village

The past two weeks have been some of the craziest in a long time. I feel like a cloud of a person floating around in space, but luckily there are a lot of people pushing me in the right direction as I figure this out.

Emotionally, I’m exhausted. This was my first week in a new job at a new company. I’ve shook a thousand hands and learned a hundred names. Maybe 15 if them have stuck.

I changed my default browser to Google Chrome and figured out which printer is spitting out my documents. My coworkers helped me find the office baker (she allegedly trained at a pastry school in France) and the office pop culture news source (did you hear about that Alabama congressman?!). I’m still lost finding anything in the shared drive, but I have pages of scribbled notes and great people sitting near me. I can do this.

Josh is more settled in St. Louis and at his job. He’s found a rhythm and I showed up just in time to shake it up. Still, we’re having fun during all this transition.

Shout out to all the parents making this shell of a person function too. Last week my parents flew down, helped me pack and clean, then drove 11 hours back to the promise land with me. We unpacked into their basement. Josh’s parents are letting us squat in their basement, and both sets of parents are feeding us on the regular.

We’ll figure out this housing thing sometime. For now, I’m looking for a less trafficy commute home and figuring out the new gig. Thanks for all the love via texts and calls this week. I really needed it.

living room karaoke

This past weekend a bunch of our Dallas friends got together to help me surprise Josh for his 30th (!!) birthday party. Liz and Edgar hosted at their new house, and best of all, they wrangled up a speaker and microphone. We did karaoke in their yet-to-be-decorated-or-furnished living room.

May I recommend doing karaoke on YouTube? You can sing to the actual track, not some janky karaoke rendition. Plus, you have the help of the actual artist and sometimes extra tidbits on screen i.e. RIP Paul Walker. YouTube has everything, not just the karaoke classics.

Josh kicked off with Bob Seger since we were supposed to be at his concert that night. We then took turns passing around the microphone singing our hearts out. We covered everything from Despacito to the Fresh Prince and Arthur themes, with classic rock and just enough Les Mis.

Unlike at a karaoke bar, we didn’t have to wait on people we didn’t know or feel weird about singing badly in front of an audience. It was just our strange friends singing songs in the Mesta’s living room. Just us.

Maybe it was the wood paneling, but it felt really homey. We were surrounded by our people and music- not to mention some excellent brisket.

When my Southwest buddies sang Time of Your Life by Green Day I almost cried. In some sense, it was a graduation party for Josh leaving his 20s, but also my last hurrah in Dallas. Hearing the graduation song was sad, but mostly sweet. This is the end of some thing, some place, some people who were so good to us. While we’re excited to move on, we hope we can keep these friends and their songs in our life. Is that cheesey? I don’t really care.

Pride and Prejudice

I’m so embarrassed that at the ripe age of 28 I read my first Jane Austen. Where have I been? When Erin found out, she told me to get a refund on my all-girls school education. I managed to escape Jane Austen on my summer reading lists (you know I actually did the required reading because that’s who I am). Once school was over, the classics seemed like something I should do– later.

For bigger trips, I’m trying to get in the mood with my literature choices. I read Under the Tuscan Sun on the way to Italy, The Old Man and the Sea for Cuba and Turn Right at Machu Picchu before Peru. Erin recommended I start with Pride and Prejudice. I wanted to read something British on my trip to London and it was perfect.

It’s hard to say exactly why, but I really loved P&P. There’s not a lot of action. Ladies in those days did a lot of gossiping and hanging out with their neighbors. Somehow I was still rooting for Elizabeth and Darcy even though they interacted maybe ten times. I don’t know how Jane Austen built up that kind of tension, but she had me. I read a 200-year old book for a few hours in a row on each flight.

After I finished it, I googled around for the symbolism and reading discussion questions. There’s a lot of good stuff on the internet, thank you high school lit teachers. The movie adaptations are now calling to me! I’m experiencing what everyone else was enjoying at 15, why did I wait so long?

hellooooo out there?

I don’t know what I’m doing, as usual. It’s been three months. I didn’t find myself writing here weekly for the first time in years. I’m still writing in my notebook and in my googledocs.  Still reading posts and books and articles from other writers I like.

I read that privacy is the ultimate luxury. Beyonce, right? Wealthy people with high walls around a fortress of a house. Having a blog is not very private, therefore not luxurious, but some of those lifestyle bloggers seem to have it figured out. Then again, luxury has never been my style (plus I love Instagram right now).

It was beginning to feel a bit performative. This page became a cheap way for people to feel like they could keep up with me without actually calling or texting or showing up. That’s my biggest beef with Facebook too. We are not friends because I’ve crept through your photos. We’re friends if I come to your happy hours and text you on your birthday and chat on the phone just because. Even if we don’t see each other often, we ask and listen to each other when we talk about jobs or family or politics or books and TV we love.

This became a place where I posted about all the fun I have on weekends. I love having those memories, but in real time it reminds me of the discontent I sometimes struggle with during the week. It was driving a wedge between fun Shannon and work Shannon when in the perfect world, the two would be getting closer.

Plus politics. That’s all I want to write about, but I’m not sure it belongs here. First, I love the news. Second, I recognize that it’s a privilege that most of the decisions the government makes do not directly affect my lifestyle. It would be easier to tune it out, but that’s not ok with me. I have strong opinions (surprise) that sometimes make people uncomfortable. It makes other people say, “You’ll never get a job if you post about politics.” I don’t know how that makes me feel.

Perhaps I needed a break. I’m not contractually obligated to show up here, so I made some space.

There are a lot of reasons I can point to, but I’m not sure which, if any, are true.

Same goes for this return. I can’t say why, but here goes.

10 year high school reunion

I’m officially old. I’ve been out of high school for ten years. Most of the time it still feels like I’m in college, so high school wasn’t THAT far away, right? Wrong.

If you didn’t go to a tight-knit all-girls school that you actually liked, you probably went to your reunion begrudgingly or skipped it. Our was an all-girls party where you could drink and wander around the school. My close friends were planning to go back, so of course, I signed up.

It was surreal to be back in the building I pretty much lived in for four years. Granted I was back five years ago for my five-year reunion to play flip cup and dance to Celine Dion in the cafeteria. Today it looks mostly the same. They painted over the mermaid mural in the bathroom. The state championship banners, which were made by the teams who won using a bed sheet and iron on letters, have been replaced by official ones printed on tarps. They have paper towels instead of hand dryers. The curtain on the stage is new. There’s a fresh coat of paint on the lockers (finally red) and a bunch of much cooler stuff for sale in the bookstore. There’s a big, beautiful new gym!

Lots of things are exactly how I left them, forever sealed in the vault of high school.

Everyone commented on how the bathrooms smell the exact same. I can’t name it, but it’s a distinct scent of old building and cleaner. We saw most of our names were painted over in the cave, but it looks the same. Some of our teachers were back, they are just as I remembered them. Most of the classrooms looked pretty similar. The little theater was just as little as it was during STUCO meetings.

We tapped into our collective memory wandering around saying things like, “Remember this was our homeroom sophomore year?” “Were you in Ms. Weil’s calc with me in here?” “Remember when this closet was used as the Latin classroom for a year?” “Did you ever have the elevator key?” “Were these windows always stained glass?”

Some of my friends have remained the same. We grew in the same direction. We kept laughing at the same jokes. We made time to see each other whenever we were in town. We share reading recommendations and wedding planning tricks. We dance to Celine Dion, but not in the cafeteria anymore.

But more than that, I’ve changed.

I’m older and hopefully smarter. I’ve seen more and done more. I’ve read more books and asked more questions. I’ve worked, for real, and lived in apartments and houses, not with my parents. I’ve rented cars and written papers.

Still, it’s nice to go back and see what hasn’t changed to remind me that I have. And that’s a good thing. Every ten years or so, we should see some personal progress.