expiration dates

When it comes to “last chances”, I’m likely to either jump at the opportunity to preserve some piece of nostalgia or ignore it altogether. Why bother now and get all attached when it won’t be available to enjoy much longer? Is it worth doing the thing one last time –in this way, with these people, in this place– before things change and this specific thing is no longer an option for me? Or is it better to move on without unnecessarily memorializing a thing that would otherwise just drift on by?

Mark is in Denver on his bachelor party this weekend and I am taking advantage by soaking up every bit of self-indulgent introvert time that I can. This weekend, after two separate bachelorette celebrations of my own, feels like a different “last hurrah” of sorts– a sendoff to my solitude. Of course, this is not my final chance to spend a night or two in my house alone, nor were my bachelorette celebrations the last opportunities to have fun with my friends (nor is Mark’s trip the last chance to spend time with his). I will spend many more evenings (alone and with the people I love) in my house drinking wine, eating popcorn, and dancing around to Robyn songs blasting so loudly that they fill up my tiny living room. There will be plenty of days like this one, where I strategically work my to-do list to feel accomplished enough to go a little rogue and spend a morning sitting alone in a days-from-closing restaurant so I can eat a sandwich before it’s too late. The traditional bachelor/(ette) party espouses this sense of “last hurrah” and, while I know full and well that my days of doing the things that I want to do are nowhere near numbered, it is always fun and lovely to give myself an excuse to indulge. Sometimes I just need an expiration date.

About a month ago, I was leaving breakfast with some friends and caught a glimpse of that week’s Nashville Scene, the cover of which bore a meaty, marinade-soaked, utterly delicious looking Italian sandwich. I leaned down and said, “Oh, hello. I need this.” Picking up the magazine and looking more closely, I realized it was an article about the Sandwich Bracket, a fun competitive piece that they were running in conjunction with March Madness. I believe I was, at that point, one week deep into my path toward a randomly-selected bracket victory in not one but two bracket challenge competitions (both of which I just happened to organize). Naturally, I felt that this copy had been placed in my line of vision for a divine reason.

I learned that the sandwich in the cover photo is from Savarino’s Cucina. From their menu, I am guessing that this sandwich is known as the Ed Pontiere– mortadella, soprassata, cappicolla, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and homemade hot sauce. It’s safe to say that getting to Savarino’s to eat this sandwich jumped immediately to the top of my list. I’d actually been meaning to get there for a while since my friend Christy told me a story about a day when marathon road closures kept her from driving where she needed to go. She passed the time by stopping in and discovering one of the most amazing sandwiches she had ever eaten. Even later, I learned that this place– which for years has been on my “must be a drug front” list of apparently under-patronized establishments with expensive real estate (see also: my treatise on the entire neighborhood of Berry Hill.) has a charming little speakeasy upstairs. It was for these and many other reasons that I was devastated to find just a week after snagging the Sandwich Bracket cover issue of the Scene, that Savarino’s was set to close its doors at the end of this April.

I drove over this morning, arriving at 11:08 or so, not to appear too eager. A man showed me to my choice of tables and gave me a menu. Without looking at it, I asked him what the best sandwich was and I ordered one. The Stevie B arrived at my table about 15 minutes later, fragrant, warm, and breathtaking– just what I imagined. The bread was perfectly toasted–the layers swirled delightfully and arranged so that every jaw-unhinging bite gave me a taste of each bold ingredient– the eggplant asiago, broccoli rabe, chopped romaine and tomatoes. Don’t forget the remarkably present, yet nonabrasive, hot sauce– la bomba caibresse. La bomba, indeed.

This place felt special– I sat there long enough to overhear the man who seated me (who I believe is the owner) talk to every other customer as if they were old friends. I hear him asking a man when the baby is due and sending his well-wishes to the new mother, realizing she probably won’t be in again. I see him pull up a chair at a table of regulars from the Belcourt Theater and hear him telling them of his plans. He’s going on vacation in Italy for a whole month this summer. I was clearly wrong about the drug front hypothesis. (Well, actually – I’m always reluctant to write that off. But this restaurant’s patronage is certainly authentic.) It is obvious why this treasure has been a stronghold on Belcourt Avenue for as long as I can remember. Neighborhood restaurants like this are what make Nashville great. Maybe they’ll re-open somewhere else with less demanding hours and you’ll get another chance to try the Stevie B. But you might not if you don’t hurry.

Unlike the possibility of two people ever having fun again after their wedding, the opportunities to enjoy some things actually are finite. My life wouldn’t have been wrecked if I hadn’t decided to wander into Hillsboro Village for this sandwich today, but I sure am glad I did. Knowing my time was limited gave me a nudge to spend my day in a way I might not otherwise have spent it, eating leftover cheese and (that’s right) more popcorn. And it might not have been my last chance because I might go back again next week before they close their doors. Gather thee Stevie B’s while ye may. Gather thee whatever ye need to gather.

Savarino’s Cucina closes for good on April 29. Nashville folks, do yourselves a favor and don’t miss your last chance to enjoy a sandwich that rivals its atmosphere for richness, character, comfort, and general delight.

just me and taylor

In the last few years, I’ve learned to do a lot of things by myself that I might otherwise always do with a friend, boyfriend, or a large group of folks. Going to the movies is a pretty easy one — I mostly want to be left alone when I do that, anyway. When I used to travel alone for my job, I got used to dining out by myself — sitting at the bar is faster than waiting for a table and I would almost always end up having a fun conversation with someone. It took a bit of gumption to decide on it, but traveling by myself has uncovered some of the deepest joys I’ve yet to know in this life.

Live music was one of the big draws that attracted me to Nashville twelve years ago, and in that time I’ve dragged a number of friends along with me to shows all over town. It’s obviously way more fun when both parties in attendance are equally excited about the concert or share a love for the artist, and that’s been the case a lot of the time, but not always. When I was dating someone for a long time, I got used to having a go-to concert companion. I knew that I could buy two tickets and we would both go and it would be fun, but when I was single again, that changed. Sure, I still had lots of friends I could call up and invite, but for some of the bigger shows I wanted to see, the tickets would go on sale so far in advance that it was hard to make any firm plans.

I looked to my fictional mentor for all things hopelessly romantic, Ted Mosby, for direction. When Ted Mosby receives a wedding invitation, he RSVPs for two, even when he is single— it’s a bold act of hope that by the time the wedding rolls around, he’ll be in love, or at least excited about the possibility of love— maybe even with the mother of his kids. Following suit in pure Mosby fashion, I started buying two tickets to shows without a specific guest in mind —who knows where I’d be several months from now?! Pulling a Mosby felt like a way of breathing life into my hopes and putting those possibilities out into the universe — not that I was so hard up for a boyfriend, but it was nice to think about how much fun it might be to take a really great date to this concert ten months from now. And sure, I’ve ended up selling a lot of single tickets and standing next to a stranger, wondering then if this person might be my soulmate before quickly deciding “no, probably not.”

In the summer of 2013, I was spinning in a delayed whirlwind of Taylor Swift fever. I’ve never been a big fan of country music so I suppose it makes sense that she caught my attention at a point in her career when she was leaning almost fully pop. Like a lot of folks, I had decided Taylor Swift was a whiney girl whose subtlety in breakup anthems left us wanting. I hadn’t ever really listened to her until she dropped the single, “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which I listened to approximately 26 times in a row one afternoon. It wasn’t until that year that I became obsessed with one song at a time until I was fully enamored with her Red album, which I had ripped from a 9 year old’s CD copy while I was working as her nanny. Taylor Swift would be playing three nights at Bridgestone Arena that September and a lot of my friends were going, but the tickets had gone on sale over a year before and all three nights had almost sold out immediately. There was no chance of me jumping in with a group of friends who had been planning on it for so long, but I was wearing that album out and was already experiencing serious anticipatory FOMO. I had to go. In a fit of Taylor-fueled excitement, I grabbed my phone, searched for a single ticket on Ticketmaster, and bought it. 


I hesitated to share my excitement with a lot of people because I knew I’d be met with the dreaded question, “Who are you going with?” At this point, I hadn’t been to any concerts alone. Many of my friends wouldn’t flinch at the news of my going out solo, but this was not my typical genre or taste and there was something inherently creepy about a 27 year old woman going alone to a Taylor Swift concert. With another adult who wears Taylor superfandom with pride? No big deal. With a group of kids squealing with excitement to see their favorite star? Not weird at all. Alone? At this show. A little weird.

But the night arrived and I had shared with a few trusted comrades just how out of my mind excited I was. I put on my red lipstick, chugged a Coors Light in my kitchen, and drove myself downtown. I gave myself a little bit of time so that I could have a drink at the bar at Merchant’s beforehand, so I parked in a garage and took my time walking down Broadway, smelling the cigarettes and spilled whiskey from ten thousand nights before, feeling the anticipation that hung heavy in the dusky downtown air. I ordered a cocktail at Merchants, all the while breathing deeply and reminding myself that there was nothing weird about being alone and doing something I wanted to do, believing that this would be a great night and that I had everything I needed — ticket, red lips, ID… well, almost everything. I sprinted back across Broadway, bargained with the garage attendant to let me out and back in without paying twice, sped home to grab my ID and tried again. I went straight to Bridgestone this time, directly to the beer line, which was delightfully short at this Taylor Swift concert, since her fanbase was still mostly underage.

Ed Sheeran was opening for her on this tour. I didn’t and still don’t care about him, but I have never experienced a surge of positive energy and excitement like the one I felt when I pulled back the curtain to walk into the stadium that night. Red blinking signs filled the seats, girls screamed at Beatles-Ed-Sullivan Show decibels — I’m not remotely ashamed to share that I teared up a little. I couldn’t remember a time when I had been in the presence of such genuine excitement — I’m not sure that I had ever felt the magnanimous joy and enthusiasm that filled Bridgestone that night.

…Until about an hour later.

I don’t know if any of you have ever been to a Taylor Swift concert, or if you have an idea of what to expect from a big stadium show like this, but I was not prepared for the level of sheer, nonstop entertainment and unadulterated fun that would keep me on my feet, dancing and singing for three hours straight that night. Say what you will about Tay, but I love her. She works hard, she shows incredible amounts of kindness to her fans, and during her concerts, she’ll give at least one breathy, impassioned speech about loving yourself and how that, with the love from your friends, is so much stronger than all the mean things that people will say about you when they try to tear you down. Oh, and she moves through the air on a floating pedestal while she does this— to get closer to the nosebleed seats! She’s amazing and seeing her perform live only magnified my admiration for her.

The great thing about being alone at a concert is that, instead of turning to your friend who might not like these songs as much as you, you just look ahead, throwing your fangirl arms in the air and singing as loud as your lungs will let you because this is for you. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. Sharing this with someone equally excited is, perhaps, the ideal situation, but I learned that night that it’s a close second. And it’s followed even more closely by a third option that I doubt I’ll ever find in a more truly joyful form than I did that night. My seat was in the first section off the floor, about halfway back from the stage — to my right was a group of four people about my age, with whom I hoped desperately to blend, and to the left was an eleven year old girl.

She and I had shared some excited glances earlier in the night, but as Taylor moved through the stadium, dazzling us with her best songs, both old and new, our communication of squeals and claps and jumps-in-place cemented our connection. We mirrored one another’s dance moves, including series of dramatic, head shakes to accompany each “trouble, trouble, trouble”. She lost her mind when Ed Sheeran joined Taylor on stage for “Everything Has Changed’ and I lost mine when Taylor sat at her enormous piano and flung her hair back and forth in “All Too Well,” stirring my emotions and undoubtedly racking up a sizable bill with the chiropractor. During a set change, as Taylor spoke about love and loss over vague lead-in music for the next song, I turned to my new friend, leaned down to her level, and shouted, “DO YOU THINK SHE’S ABOUT TO DO LOVE STORY?!?” She did. And I cried at the key change.

A bunch of my close friends were somewhere in the room that night. I could have easily texted them to meet up in the lobby after the show, but I didn’t. There were 19,999 other people with whom I was now permanently bonded by this magical experience—their energy would be impossible to forget and their screams would ring in my ears late into the next morning. I had made a new little friend who I would never see again. Love filled the room and spilled out onto Lower Broadway. But being in that sold-out arena, in that square foot of dance floor in section 104, in my body, with a belly full of expensive beer and a heart full of joy, I was alone. I was alone and I was grateful. I was alone, just like every other person that night who stood up, strong and sure, screaming loud enough so the person with whom she was never ever ever ever getting back together would hear.

I told this story at Tenx9 Nashville on 2.22.16 for the theme “Alone” and, evidently, pointed bossily as I spoke. Wonderful evening with fantastic folks sharing and hearing true stories. Learn more about Tenx9!

on being a pain in my own ass

This Wednesday started like any other morning. I got out of bed, drank some coffee, contemplated “working from home” on account of the dusting of snow that crunched beneath my feet on the front stoop, but couldn’t justify a second day of it. In an effort not to make haste with my decision to journey out into the inches of snow, I sat down and finished a crossword, had a lovely conversation with the dog in which I provided all the dialogue, and packed myself a lunch before getting dressed and ready for work.  I had ventured outside already, so I knew it was cold, but my car is less than 20 feet away from my house and my walk from the car to my office is similarly short, so I often find bundling up for these brief jaunts in the elements to be a waste of time. This morning was no exception. I did put on my winter coat, but no gloves, no scarf, no hat. This is Nashville, after all.

I loaded my arms with the things for the day, slid my phone into my zipper lined pocket, scraping the back of my hand as I compulsively checked to see if I had it, mere seconds after placing it there, turned the lock from the inside door handle, and pulled it shut behind me. As I walked to my car, I looked around and gave thanks for the beauty of a manageable snow and thought, “This must be how northerners feel all winter.” I approached the car, reached for the handle and waited for the beep that would mark the door’s acknowledgement of the key’s proximity, thus unlocking it from my pocket, or so I thought.

I reacted quickly, laying out my options and finding a dry spot on the driveway for my bags while I formulated a plan. Not even bothering to check if I had perhaps failed to lock the door or maybe even the backdoor, I grabbed my phone and began deliberating between getting an Uber or calling a friend. The closest Uber was 14 minutes away. It would take Claire that long to leave work and get to my house as well. Already quite cold and not willing to withstand 14 or even 4 minutes more, I buttoned my coat, stacked my Pyrex dish of leftover chili flat on the top of my computer bag, which freed up a hand that I could now stuff into my zipper-mouthed pocket, and started walking.

I live fairly close to the church where I work and I’ve done a lot of talking about how I could easily and should walk or bike to work sometimes. I’ve only actually done it once, but it was on my day off and I had left my car at work the night before, turning a wise life choice into tomorrow’s workout. The shortest route on foot is two miles and it involves walking on the Richland Creek Greenway that loops a gIMG_6861olf course, one that I have circled countless times myself, though never fully dressed for work or carrying a bag that contained more than my BYOB to a friend’s house for dinner. Today, under my coat, I was fairly prepared for the elements with my sweater and skirt, tights, and boots (Okay, they’re booties. And they’re from the Vince Camuto outlet store, so this isn’t exactly an all-terrain situation.). With a Kate Spade tote bag on one shoulder and a vintage Louis Vuitton knockoff over the other, I wondered what other great wilderness wanderers and survivalists would think of me, should we meet in a strange cross section of shared illusory experience. Alexander Supertramp burned all his cash and social security card before heading into the wild. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes.” Check. The Revenant guy just wore fur from the stuff he killed, probably (haven’t seen it), which is kinda fancy like my bags so maybe I was on the right track after all.

In the stillness of that frigid morning, I was mostly alone. I met one or two other individuals who, based on their proper outerwear, were more intentional about their jaunts than I, but otherwise, the quiet solitude was eery. I’m usually alone on walks or runs but I traverse the worn path in the intentionally distracting company of whoever is speaking or singing to me through my earbuds. This morning, the cold temperatures had frozen my iPhone and my earbuds were in a knot on the TV cabinet, right beside my keys. Without the very fitting Bon Iver soundtrack I would have supplied to enhance the drama of this experience, I shuffled across the snowy bridges and dodged patches of slush that would take me down in a hot second. I noticed, with a white backdrop, how clearly I could see through to the golf course and thanked my body for never having to take one of those emergency mid-run bathroom breaks for which I had scouted out these very patches of bramble cover. I moved along and wiped tears from behind my glasses, in desperate search of significance beyond what was turning out to be a far less extraordinary morning than I had hoped.

I spent the rest of the day thawing out in my office, deeply aware that I had intentionally allowed the morning to be more difficult than it had to be. I could have paced around the driveway to keep myself warm for 14 minutes while someone came to pick me up. I could have knocked on the door of a number of my neighbors’ houses to wait inside. I could have called 100 other people. But I chose discomfort–and not just for a good story, as I admit to having done before. Perhaps, even before remembering it was Ash Wednesday, the penitential nature of the day bubbled beneath my skin, propelling me to act in this way– to deprive myself of something or to feign a rustic existence for 45 minutes. I believe that the Spirit calls us all in different ways, in different voices, to different things and, yesterday, without cognizant intention, I said yes to a call to break routine, to veer from comfort, to pay attention to the world around me and to the hear and listen to the desires within me that cry out in response.

For me, choosing the harder, messier, less comfortable path marks the hunger for experience that nourishes my creativity. My typical days involve a scrolling marquee of ideas upon which I could expound, but don’t; sometimes they earn some initial paragraphs in a now idle Pages document but usually, I condense them to 140 characters and move on to the next one. I quickly and easily talk myself out of doing a thing I love to do, whether it’s because I think it’s not worth the time or no one will read it or it’s never going to be as good as I want it to be. This morning, I invited something to rattle me, to shake me awake and to help me remember who I am.

And as much as I didn’t want to add to the flood of commentary about Ash Wednesday, but rather compose a silly overdone description of a how I survived the harrowing elements with only my wit and bowl of chili to sustain me, my Lenten reflection found me– mortal and broken and losing a staring contest with myself. I won’t be giving up anything for Lent this year (and will definitely be investing in a Hide-a-Key), but I’m grateful for mornings like this one when my propensity to be difficult opens a door to remember other parts of me. My eyes and ears are open, ready to learn, ready to search, ready to receive what is already before me. Ready to take a different route every  now and then. Ready to do whatever it takes to hear that cry and to listen to it. Ready to trust and to say yes.

another christmas in the trenches*

Every year, my family and I attend the Christmas Eve service at our church. Every year, I fulfill a deeply anticipated cry. It has become an expected stronghold of my yuletide existence, not just to cry through this annual 30 minute episode, but to feel an intense tearfulness throughout the holiday season. I can attribute this to a number of very viable excuses, most of which stem from memories of tearful Christmases past: the year I didn’t come home for Thanksgiving, then worked at Starbucks and was, thus, berated with holiday music that only dug deeper the pit of my insatiable homesickness; that same year that we spent Christmas in the hospital with my dad; the year that I was home from college for the first time and we had just learned that my grandmother had breast cancer and then, at church, this ancient bitch’s stupid mink coat needed the space in the pew that would have otherwise allowed for our family to sit together. Or maybe it’s because every year I can’t stop thinking about people who don’t have families and, without knowing them or having heard their stories, I grieve that their Christmas is not nearly as appropriately Norman Rockwell-esque as mine is sure to be. Maybe I am the one who feels lonely and, despite the enveloping love of my family and our traditions, I look around and mourn my failure to assume my place at this celebration feast, and then I wonder if I’ve lost it for good or if next year will be better. I am wholeheartedly capable of dealing with situational trauma or emotional difficulty during any season, even one that we have to revisit each year with more forced enthusiasm and joy than the last, but there is something inherently sad about Christmas and it finds me every year.

This year, my circumstances are far from somber. I give thanks for many wonderful things and people. Aside from the inevitable memory of times when the joy was less accessible, I should be able to approach this Christmas without the traditional sadness I’ve come to inhabit and exhibit. But even with all the justification, I have mourned the rushed celebration of Advent, the capitalism, the consumerism, the lack of “Christmasy” feeling that others in my life can’t wait to celebrate each year. More than in other years, I’ve felt desperately inadequate to the level of cheer around me, a cheer I attribute to the more secular excitements and traditions of the season. I can’t buy gifts for those I love without taking emboldened notes about the unnecessariness of this act. I don’t feel generous or spontaneous in my sharing of resources. I feel obligated. I will feel grateful when we get to that point of swapping things on which we’ve spent our excessive monies, but, as hard as I try, I cannot connect this to Christmas. I love my family and I am so grateful for the time we spend together but this isn’t a part of the story I’m longing to hear, either. I can try really, really hard to feel holly and jolly about these traditions I’m executing for the sake of the traditions themselves, but I cannot shake the thought that I am missing the point completely and, by participating enthusiastically, I’m keeping others from seeing and remembering and feeling the very real somberness of this season.

Tonight, as I sat in my pew that is as uncomfortably short in seat as it straight in back, I wept and wondered, once again, why this night and this service strikes me so deeply. God found me in this place of despair and I found, in that moment of holy community, a few things to gnaw on and hopefully lay down as a stronger foundation for the next existential holiday crisis. Christmas is only joyful because that joy is flashed upon a very bleak scene. We can only really appreciate the peace that is promised in the Christ child when we understand how desperately we need this sign. In order to feel that desperation, we have to get dark; when we notice the darkness, we realize how long we’ve been wandering around in it. Yes, God does love us enough to keep God’s promises to us. And yes, that means loving us enough to come down to this horrible, bleak place and meet us here and walk with us through the disastrous mess that is human life.

I realized, too, that this worship service — this 30-40 minute block that only comes once a year and is, I believe, exactly the same order of worship that I experienced last Christmas Eve (which is easily marked by the memorable liturgically misplaced Advent and Epiphany carols, a concern which I will certainly express to my parents’ pastor in a friendly “colleagues in ministry” type conversation after worship on Sunday). It is the only time of the year that I can fully devote my attention to the story that gives purpose to this entire thing we are doing and that we are calling “Christmas”. For half an hour, everyone is quiet, still, prepared. It may not last long after we crawl back into the minivan and depart, maybe not long enough even to unpack all my feelings and discoveries over our Christmas Eve dinner, not even two hours later. But we are there, with sniffly noses and aching backs, without presents or money or forced merriment. We sing songs that are somber in their joyfulness and hope. We sit in the darkness as we hear an old man sing in his most beautiful groan, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” and hold our breath as he hits that one note from his defiantly seated stance. We hold our candles as high as our arms and spirits will allow as we claim with hope that all, indeed, is calm and all, indeed, is bright. For a few moments, at the very least, it’s easy to believe those words and to live into the gift that we’re celebrating in this night. Just for a moment (and maybe that’s all we can handle), lend thy light.

*This is okay because we see things in the trenches that are hard to see elsewhere. Also because Kevin McAllister says it once and it’s a tragically underquoted holiday line. My trench Christmas has been lovely and I hope yours has too. 


having it all

I do not know who decided that today is National Sandwich Day, but I do know that I like that person a whole lot more than the person who double-booked November 3 with National Housewife Day.

How did I not know about this? As a person who is quite fond of celebrating the littler special days and one who also happens to be a pretty big fan of these portable culinary marvels, I can’t believe this crept up on me before I was able to arrange a sandwich sharing schedule to maximize opportunities for celebration. To be honest, I was far more aware of today’s significance as an irrelevantly assigned, yet very important, friendiversary on which we will drink wine, wear hats, listen to The Sound of Music, and try to fit into my fireplace (we’re celebrating a day late this year). It’s fun. I was not aware that other gifts of the earth were so especially deserving of my celebration on this day.

I’m not normally on board with the fake holidays. While friends shared cute baby pictures of themselves with their brothers and sisters on National Sibling Day last year, I posed with a paused TV screen and claimed soul sisterhood with my girl LL. Hallmark doesn’t make cards for this or for National Cat Day or for any other “national” days that are made up by whoever benefits from everyone using social media at once. Something about ads? Clicks? I don’t know. If you want to show affection for your sibling, do it more than the one day when everyone and her brother are doing it. I think cat owners are already doing enough for the internet without this type of encouragement. And, yes, I suppose every day is National Sandwich Day if you are right with Jesus and eating sammiches on the reg, but because I don’t have siblings or cats, and because this one is important to meeee, I hereby declare this fake holiday the exception.

Because sandwiches are wonderful. Sandwiches bring together a medley of delicious ingredients of varying crunch (put potato chips on it!) and juiciness, inviting seemingly contradictory flavors to meet and mingle between two glorious carbohydrate segments to present me (and you, too, beloved sandwich-eater), with exactly what I want: to have it all. liz teamster sub

This is one of many lessons that Liz Lemon helped to imprint upon my heart. It is tough to juggle all the things. It is easier to drop most of the things and just go with what you can carry and maybe come back and pick up the scraps later if you have time, but you’ll probably be tired and might go to sleep with your feet hanging off the bed and your shoes still on. You wonder how you will make space for all the things so you don’t have to leave anything behind, but it’s tricky. Occasionally you’ll manage an impressive amount at once and you’ll feel very accomplished but later realize these are all the things you wish had fallen on the floor a long time ago. You’ll wonder why it seems like everyone else gets to do it all and look great doing it. You’ll remember that you are enough and you’ll eat a sandwich. The sandwich is beautiful and weird and it will probably come with french fries (or at least very good kettle chips). When you take a bite, especially if you cut it in half like a responsible and intelligent life force, you’ll taste bacon, lettuce, tomato, basil mayo//turkey, apple, brie, cranberry relish, honey mustard//seared scallop, jalapeño tapenade, caramelized onions, crisp lettuce, garlic aioli — all in perfect proportion in one simple life-giving bite. And you realize that you can have it all and that you already do.

like the corners of my mind

I’ve always thought of Facebook a digital scrapbook for the crafting-intolerant. I once had this amazing idea to create a product where you could make a personalized bound book of all your posts, pictures, pages while somehow preserving the layout of Facebook at the time you posted it. The interface hasn’t changed much lately, but these are significant cultural timestamps for my generation. People really lost their shit when The Wall first appeared as a prominent feature. At one point, you could select which six friends you wanted to feature as permanent fixtures on your profile. Every time there was a change in the organization of the News Feed, mine was flooded with posts threatening to deactivate their accounts (“oh no, please don’t,” said no one.). I used to save screenshots of my page at pivotal stages of my college life so that I would always have this culturally relevant image of WHO I WAS/how I chose to present myself at the time. I’m sure I’ve since lost them in one of my hard-drive crashes, which are tragic in nature and number.

Our lives move quickly in the reflections of the screens where these highlights appear — we don’t post all the awful feelings and anxious thoughts (well, I don’t) and I certainly don’t believe anyone really expects our digital lives to be perfect iterations of what is happening IRL. But when I look through my old tweets or Instagram posts that I thought might improve my mood by showcasing all the fun it looked like I was having, I remember writing those words and experiencing a large range of emotions that will not show up in a Facebook memory, but remain and remind still.

All that being said, I like this feature (which is called On This Day– similar to TimeHop), which shows me a photo or post from this day in a previous year. I never share them, but I appreciate that we’re leaning into this utility of a product whose many functions I frequently bemoan. Ultimately, I would like to see a larger percentage of Facebook users approach the colossal amount of time we spend on this website as an effort in preservation, rather than a platform for dispensing nonsense or playing a part or keeping up with the Joneses. We write, we take photos, and (to some extent) we exist on these social media platforms in order to remember.

Today’s memory/photo made me feel sad, but it invited me to feel grateful for life well lived and then I decided to look at others from October 28ths past. And, in doing so, I stumbled upon a truly delightful glimpse of that day I skipped a class in graduate school to go meet Hanson at the Vanderbilt bookstore. I wrote about it on my old blog, at whit’s end, as #24 in an end-of-year countdown where I highlighted my personal top “29 of 2009”. Thank you, Internet, for giving me a space to keep my memories and for helping me to remember the fullness of my big and beautiful life, both on and off screen.

in october, i caught word that hanson was going to be performing a brief acoustic concert in the vanderbilt bookstore, followed by a meet-and-greet. naturally, i had to follow my instincts and plan my entire tuesday around being present at this blessed event. i owed it to 10 year old whitney to be there, screaming and crying, since my love for hanson was a strong contributor to the awkward individuality that stood between me and a social life back in 6th grade (you may be pondering to yourself – 6th grade? let’s see, that was about 1997. yes. the year that “mmmbop” was popular. you are correct. i just jumped on the mmmbandwagon too late and thus, the ostracizing for my delayed obsession).

needless to say, this was an epic event and i was happy to mark something off a former list of life goals: to meet isaac, taylor, and zac. (also, surprise appearances by my loves lauren turner and nina myers made it all the better.) the meet-and-greet was NOT smooth. instead of saying something charming and witty, like “i’ve seen your home video tulsa, tokyo, and the middle of nowhere about 18 times and i think we should get married”, i said “thanks for being here” like i was standing in the receiving line at a funeral.

actually, it went more like this:

me: hi!
taylor hanson: hey! (starts signing my cd)
me: …..
tay: thanks for coming out!
me: thank… YOU for… being…. thanks. (slumps away shamefully)

i guess we’ll never know if our love could have blossomed. plus, i’m pretty sure he’s married. meh. next time i meet a lifelong celebrity crush i’ll try to bring my A-game. look out matthew thiessen.

*note: Matthew Thiessen is also now married. I know this because I sat across from him and his wife at dinner while they were celebrating their anniversary. And I didn’t say a damn thing.

i <3 zack morris

One of my earliest TV obsessions that I deemed worthy of countless re-watches (mostly due to incredibly limited channels in my house — my parents upgraded from antenna to satellite dish about ten seconds after I got my driver’s license) was the quintessentially 90s teen comedy Saved by the Bell. In the mornings, I would sit on the edge of my bed in a towel, half-asleep with dripping wet hair, as I predicted punchlines and mouthed them along with the gang at The Max. For years, I thought “preppy” meant blonde and I was terrified that one day I would become so stressed about geometry that I, too, would develop an addiction to caffeine pills. I pined for a high school experience as gnarly and tubular as the one everyone seemed to be having at Bayside High. More than I wanted the dramatic irony of a kooky mixup at a masquerade dance or to save ducks from oil spills, the thing at Bayside that I really wanted was Zack Morris.

zack morris phone


I pulled all three of these pictures from an online dictionary entry for “smarmy”. Zack Morris was incredibly selfish and would do anything or betray any one of his strangely loyal friends to get what he wanted, but OH BOY, is he cute or what?

A couple of years ago, we introduced this cultural phenomenon as charter bus entertainment for the helpless 55 teenagers on the WPC youth ski trip. They pretended to hate it. They begged us to turn it off. They even stole the DVD box set from a chaperone’s bag while we were stopped at Chick Fil A so that they wouldn’t have to watch another second of it. I later serenaded them with an a capella version (including a vocalized guitar solo) of the SBTB theme song over the bus mic. Kids these days groan and yell when they love stuff– isn’t that fun?

As I watched hours of SBTB on the bus that weekend, suggesting pivotal episodes for the queue (which only further confused the kids– “WHY DO THEY ALL RANDOMLY HAVE JOBS AT THE BEACH NOW?” “WHO IS THAT GIRL ON THE MOTORCYCLE?” These are incredibly valid questions.), my lingering affection for the fun nature of the show itself and all the teenage antics to which I once aspired was not as strong as I expected. Maybe, on the other side of high school, I’m sad that I didn’t get the full Bayside experience and that life has passed me by. Maybe I just have a slightly more sophisticated sense of humor than I did from ages 9-17. Maybe I never actually paid attention to the show at all, but was so enamored of Zack Morris that I fell victim to his charm, his wit, and his super cool cellular phone.

That’s not the only time that my affections for Mark-Paul Gosselaar have taken the wheel from my sense of reason. I took the LSAT a second time after becoming enthralled with his role as a NYC public defender on TNT’s Raising the Bar. To be fair, that was the dream long before I ever saw the show, but this definitely pulled it off the back burner. Zack Morris as a PD? Cut to hours and hours in the architectural wonder that is the Seattle Public Library, practicing logic games and listening to Vampire Weekend and envisioning myself working alongside MPG to provide legal counsel to all the accused. My return to the law school plan didn’t stray too far from the first attempt and a career in public defense remains a missing chapter in my story, despite my motivational daydreams.

So, this morning, when I was getting ready for work, I got out of the shower, sat on my bed, wrapped in a towel, and turned on Hulu ONLY TO FIND that there is a new NBC sitcom starring none other than the bodacious MPG.

And it’s not great. I watched the pilot of Truth Be Told and things do not look good. Pilots are tough and I never bail after a single episode (except with Lost, but that’s because it scared me). MPG plays the white guy in a pair of couple-friends and, while the writing seeks to brave difficult ideas about race, I think Mashable’s Hillary Busis really nails it with her review entitled Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s ‘Truth Be Told’ is the edgiest comedy of 1985. I appreciate NBC’s stab at diversity, but the gratuitous emphasis on the struggle of being the white guy in a group of non-white-guys (asking what words he can and can’t say, for instance) doesn’t excite or challenge me. Neither does worrying that if a white man has both a wife and a babysitter who are both of blended Asian ethnicity, that people will think he has “a thing”. I can hear conversations around me that echo this fear of talking about race and understanding one another and maybe seeing adult Zack Morris exemplify a lot of those fears in one thirty-minute block is just disappointing because this is where we are. This is what network TV writers think will resonate with America’s Friday night primetime viewers: laughable insecurity with otherness and a clumsy attempt to express tolerance. I thought we were a little further along than this, and maybe next week’s episode will turn back toward a fun comedy about friends who happen to make up a racially diverse group, rather than a caricature of how hard it is to be white and not subsequently racist.

But yeah, I’m going to keep watching. Unless… is Franklin and Bash on Netflix?

whitney booth’s day off

Yesterday, two of my co-workers left town on separate vacations to destinations of varying degrees of exoticness. Most of the kids with whom we work are also on fall break from school, so this is an easy time to use vacation time without much risk of falling severely behind or missing lots of super fun meetings. Due to my latest stint (can I call it a stint if it’s eternal in both directions?) of big living and what I lovingly refer to as “hemorrhaging money” on #FOMO in any of its charming forms, I opted for the fall break stay-cation. It wasn’t an opting as much as a stumbling into a weekend at home while everyone is away. Why take vacation days when I can very easily go to work? I’d much rather save those up for times when I literally can’t bide my time in the office making playlists or searching for standard poodles who are waiting on me, their perfect forever human mom, to bring them home. Today would be easy. There’s not that much to do because we don’t have any programs this weekend. I could look ahead and do some planning, but I can also just proceed as I normally do: creating a schedule so loose that I don’t even feel comfortable sharing it with anyone, lest someone hold me to it, and then going week-to-week because who has time to plan?  No need for that. Gotta leave room for the Spirit, am I right? 

Lots of need—turns out—for hours of talking and drinking coffee with my friend on her birthday, employing the autumnal two-hand-mug-grip as the morning light moved through my living room in a way I hadn’t witnessed in quite a while. Lots of need to spend one of my two hours in the office today downstairs celebrating a ridiculous excuse for cake known as Boss’s Day. I interrupted another co-worker who was actually doing things to talk about what’s new. That was important and good. I really need a new door because my basement door broke last week and is not secure and I really needed to take care of that because it is a safety issue and because I am an adult and when things are broken, I am obligated to pay a lot of money so that they can be fixed by someone who knows how to fix things. I couldn’t actually pay for the slab of wood that will eventually replace the broken door because I really needed to leave Home Depot in order to get to my movie that was starting at 4:20. Upon my timely arrival, I needed to get some popcorn and a beer because all I’d eaten that day was a handful of Wheat Thins for breakfast and that slice of Patriarchy Awareness Day carrot cake. And I think it’s really important that I sit here at one of my favorite restaurants sipping another beer and observing the pedestrian traffic passing right beyond my laptop screen while I tap on the keys and remember another time when I sat in this exact spot and wept as I wrote true words that may or may not have been an appropriate response to the assignment. I see myself in the reflection of the window and my hair is wild and I love my new earrings and I found that tube of lip gloss that I thought had been swallowed up by a crevice in my car and I am beautiful and glad to be here– glad to be out in the world and doing things that are grand, and glad that I won’t be reprimanded for seizing a day off from all the things I was being paid to do today.* Really, really glad. 

*Okay, so I’ll probably mark it down as a half day.

it happened.

I remember quite vividly my first excursion to the Limited Too with my mom to buy a back to school outfit for my first day of fifth grade. The goal, of course, was to look as much like Cher Horowitz as possible while still abiding by the Jefferson Elementary School dress code. As I tried on several combinations of bright. bold plaids with stripes that decidedly matched, my mom regaled me with her astonishment that this style that she had worn as a teenager had been resurrected. She, of course, didn’t keep any of her clothes from high school– plus, I’m pretty sure the Limited Too tag in my velour shirt was just as valuable as the look itself. But I remember being so astonished that fashion behaved this way — that clothes could remain unchanged, but morph from radical, to the thing everyone has to have, to so-last-season, to Goodwill piles, and then somehow return to the spotlight decades later. Who calls the shots? Who decides this? And if we know the cycles exist, then why do we ever throw anything away? I racked my brain to imagine which trends I attributed to my own generation would ever make a comeback. I couldn’t even decide which styles were ours — everything seemed recycled all of a sudden. I didn’t mind this, of course, because I had a new royal blue plaid mini skirt and a velour green and blue and black striped shirt and lime green knee socks to wear with my clunky pilgrim-esque Steve Madden shoes and I was on top of the damn world. As if.

My current wardrobe, while expansive due to a mild problem with online flash sales, is not terribly trendy. I lean toward more classic pieces– lots of basics. I do practice a halfhearted routine of getting rid of things I don’t want or the semi-trendy items that have cycled out. I’m not intentionally holding onto iconic 2010s couture  (ha, like I even know what that is) to pass on to my hypothetical child. I do not anticipate the resurrection of anything from my closet.

But it happened. And after a quick google search to confirm what I already suspected due the time at work that I spend with high school girls (and these are high school girls who simply don’t experience the physical awkwardness that I understood to be mandatorily linked to this age), it’s true. Birkenstocks are back. Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.17.24 AM

These bad boys are actually my second pair of this exact style of Birks. I burned through one pair of the Jesus sandals in high school and replaced them, but didn’t wear them much after the first pair wore out. I think I probably moved onto the trendier Rainbow flip flop (currently on pair #3 of those too). Because they were fairly new though, and because shoes are not often part of the purge, I kept them. So this morning, I went to my closet, spotted these long-neglected, patient friends, and slid my feet into them. And I could be totally off about this, and I might look like Joan Baez, but I am gonna rock the hell out of these cork and leather creations today because sometimes things fade out of view and come back around and we’re ready for them and this is one of those times. IMG_6234

the best day

On this day a year ago I was in Cinque Terre, Italia — ten days deep on my seventeen-day solo European adventure. I woke up that morning in Siena, in a room of my own in a hostel that was more like a poorly managed and sparsely populated boarding house. In other words, save the lack of toilet paper in any of the bathrooms on any of the floors at 2 am, it was absolutely delightful. I had been sick the couple of days before arriving in Siena and had struggled through the two previous nights in Florence, much to the dismay of my three German male roommates who listened to  my coughs and discussed in their native tongue (I’m certain) about how crazy I must be to come all the way to Florence and spend so much time sweating in a bunk bed (and how I should have gotten my own room since I was sick). Needless to say, arriving in Siena and remembering that I had reserved a single room made for an amazing and early night of coughing as loud as I wanted to in my own space.

When I awoke the next day, I hurried back through the city and down a very mysterious and, now, confusing series of roughly ten escalators to get back to the train station (which is, it seems at the other end of a very steep hill from the city center). I boarded a train that would take me from Siena to Empoli, and then to La Spezia (the main station for the Cinque Terre area). I don’t remember how long this trip was, but I spent the morning thinking and worrying and writing and chilling and listening to music that fed me the perfect balance of comfort and caffeine.

…I still don’t know what I really want to know because it’s not yet knowable. So, shit.

The same lesson is being taught to me when I don’t understand why my train isn’t listed as going where I’m going or when people won’t get out of my damn way when I’m in a hurry to leave the campo. It’s feeling so tired and being a little sad about feeling lonely. I’m in Europe, for God’s sake– this is what I wanted. To be here on my own and do what I want to do and have an adventure. To connect with myself. And all I can think about is how many nights I have until I can lay down in my own bed and see my friends who can mostly understand the things I say. And if I’m going to have a revelation, bring it on. Let’s do this. I’m tired and I want to feel full of life and energy– and I can’t help it. And I just have to rest and wait for some of that to come back.

I am, and always have been moving too fast, fearing and moving the loss of good times, feeling unsettled in the stillness, looking behind the curtain for affirmation beyond living and believing in the present moment. I have always found this to be a fairly admirable trait– to be moving and never bored or stagnant. To always be looking ahead to what will be next…

And maybe somewhere deep inside, I fear that if and when I slow down and live in one place for more than 1 1/2 years and do the same job and don’t spend all day, every day running around town between multiple jobs, I won’t be happy. I have no way of knowing what that would be like because I literally can’t think of a time when it was like that…. and if I am to slow down and start living my days differently, I will grieve the loss of that part of me. I think she is always going to be there though. A tendency to try and do it all will not likely disappear completely. Surely I can slow down a bit to enjoy my daily experience, not be so tired, spend very genuine good time with the people I love (even if amazing good times and ridiculous stories don’t result from those talks), sit with myself and pay attention to my heart and to what God tells me and shows me. And, in slowing down the daily rush to do more than is humanly possible (usually with success!) I can still say yes to the amazing adventures as I see fit and want to say yes to them. … I am tired of surviving in the chaos and, while I’m certain that the chaos as I have come to know it on a more expansive universal scale is never going to cease– I certainly have a beautiful sense of hope that I can thrive in it. It’s been a long time. Maybe that’s one of those subversive goals I had for myself in my twenties– to be a hot mess and just struggle my way to feeling fabulous — thirty and flirty and thriving. (All of this starts AFTER I just dropped my last Italian throat lozenge on the train seat divider and put it in my mouth anyway, btw.)

And I have to admit, for most of this time, probably since I moved back to Nashville in 2009, it has felt really good to survive. I’ve had a lot of fun, seen a LOT of things and places, done a lot of stupid things and laughed about most of them. I’ve loved deeply and I’ve grown out of the pain of loss. I’ve somehow made it work– all of it. And I’ve done it in a way that produces a hilarious series of stores — being a nomad all summer in 2013 to save rent money while housesitting — good God. And I loved it. And I got really weary of feeling unsettled and I cried a little bit and peered ahead and squinted to see light at the end of the tunnel. And I made it. I survived. And all of that has made a lot of who I am, so I suppose the thought of embracing a simpler, more stable lifestyle will feel like I’m losing a little bit of her. Maybe I will be. But maybe I’ll love the new parts that will grow in those places even more than I love the sweet, hilarious, yes-to-almost-everything (within reason; “no” always wins if I am ever tired or hangry and this is likely never to change), adventurous, efficiently creative and creatively efficient, teller of autobiography, outdoor urinator, frequent forgetter of deodorant, night owl with an early wakeup call, hoarder of leftovers, doer for the story (a lot of the time), cynic of the outwardly ebullient, lover of the long way home. I don’t know which of those things is going and which will stay– maybe I can move some of them with me to a thriving place. Actually, I don’t think I have to let go of any of the things that I love about myself–I can stop to savor those things and choose the sweeter, more hilarious, more peaceful moments and see what things I do and love about myself there. I have yet to disappoint.

And maybe I’ll find that a little settledness doesn’t feel so bad after all. And maybe I’ll find that I have absolutely no choice but to keep growing and changing and that “settled” is actually a myth. Whatever the case may turn out to be, I can find ways to move from trudging to dancing through it all. It has seemed so insane and stressful and survivalist for so long and the little steps I’ve made to help clear things out haven’t had a chance to come alive yet, but God, I pray that this direction will take me dancing. And maybe it takes a very tough and distant and lonely and tired place of running out of steam before we can begin again and move toward the fullness of life.

This is a really beautiful leg of the trip, in more ways than one. Despite the fact that something near my seat smells like someone peed on an old smelly sock that had been wiped on an armpit (I’m not being hyperbolic– I thought about that description for quite a while), it may be my favorite ride so far. Outside the window, I can see Italy morphing into a totally new place. She is littered with more houses on hillsides, more palm trees, more color, more clotheslines. All signs point us to the coast, where we can all wash ourselves clean..

I arrived in La Spezia and waited on the platform for the local train to take me to Riomaggiore, the closest of the five “terre”s. My earbuds were overstaying their welcome, but I had already been so stirred by the music and lyrics that continue to speak to me time and again–it was absolutely worth the soreness to listen to Abbey Road for the rest of the morning’s travels. I danced on the platform at La Spezia Centrale to the strange songs of side 1 — I swayed around to “Something” and mimed lots of “bang bangs” for Maxwell and his Silver Hammer. I snagged a window seat on the train and others crammed on as the doors closed. The oppressive weight of the endless guitar riff in “I Want You” accompanied a few long moments of darkness as our train moved through a natural tunnel. The silence of the song gap struck me as it ended, startling me back into awareness, when the tunnel opened and all my fellow passengers joined me in audibly gasping at the striking sight of the most beautiful blue water I have ever seen.

Here comes the sun.

My eyes filled with the sweetest tears I’ve ever wept. And my face has never made a smile so true and so beautifully joyful in my entire life as it did in that moment.

little darlin’, the smile’s returning to their faces
little darlin’, it seems like years since it’s been here.
here comes the sun.
here comes the sun,
and i say,
it’s alright.

When I hopped off the train in Corniglia, it was 1:38 pm. The rest of my day consisted of climbing 385 of the steepest zig-zag steps in Europe (with all my belongings on my back), chugging two large beers at the top (cheaper than water), eating the better part of a cheese pizza (just for me! felt like Kevin McAllister) and checking into my hostel. I went for a hike that Rick Steves called “moderate” which kicked my ass but balanced out my lunch. I fell down (like, all the way down. my face was on the Italian dirt.) on my hike and broke open a scab on my knee from a previous far-less-interesting, far-more-embarassing fall in the lobby of my hostel in Salzburg when I literally tripped over myself. I hiked on, blood running down my leg, until I stopped to take a photo and realized that my camera (which was actually Claire’s camera) had fallen out when I fell. I hustled back for about ten minutes, miming a point-and-click situation to every person I met, until I found a family who had picked it up. I jumped up and down and made tiny claps with my hands to express gratitude (that seems universal), and continued ahead to Vernazza. I accepted a BandAid from a woman who is from Australia, put my feet in the water, ate some gelato, took some photos, and boarded a short train back to Corniglia, for which I never paid. I showered and walked down the street to eat (ahem, drink) dinner. I met a lovely young American named Dusty from Arizona who was traveling on his own as well. We shared stories from neighboring tables, wandered around, ate more gelato (basil with local olive oil drizzled on top), and sat on the cathedral steps while we listened to an outdoor jazz concert. I went back to the hostel, climbed into my twin bed, and knew that the next day wouldn’t be quite like this one. I’m still not sure any ever will be.IMG_4075