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I Love Lorde and I Don’t Care That Everyone Else Does Too.

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Over the summer, Max became obsessed with all of the different music streaming services available and spent hours endlessly comparing and analyzing the relative benefits of each. A side effect of comparing the services was actually using them to listen to music, and because we spend a lot of time in the car driving back and forth to Kingston, we’d end up listening to his new discoveries together until I’d make him turn them off. I’m grouchy when it comes to all sorts of things, but music especially, and once I’ve decided I’m not into something, I’m really not into it.

Things were different when Max “found” Lorde last summer, though. I guess she was already doing pretty well on Spotify but had yet to get any radio play, and from the second he started playing The Love Club EP, I was pretty much in love with this girl.

I know it’s kind of completely ridiculous now to sit down and write anything about a now mega-famous, super successful, and broadly loved teenaged pop star, but Lorde is so…different. So much writing—whether it be essays or song lyrics—tries so hard to be “universal” that it ends up just becoming incredibly generic, and I feel like that’s what so much pop music is: generic, vague, disposable, and boring. Lorde doesn’t necessarily sing about what everyone else is singing about, though—her writing is so beautifully specific and personal. She’s not writing about being a 16 year-old girl; she’s writing about how it feels to be living her life as herself at a particular moment in time, and she renders it beautifully. That might seem like the same thing but it really isn’t—whether or not the listener relates to or understands exactly what she’s saying is completely secondary to telling her story in the way that she wants to tell it.

Back in September, my birthday was spent alone in Kingston. Max had to stay in Brooklyn for some reason, the dogs were curled up by themselves somewhere, and I was spending the evening trying to manage all of the construction debris and garbage and clutter that had accumulated in the front parlor room after the destruction of the vestibule wall. By some amazing coincidence, Lorde’s first full-length album Pure Heroine had also come out that day, and I remember listening to it on repeat while I was trying to wrestle sections of vestibule into contractor bags, frequently going back over to my computer to replay certain songs and turn the volume up even higher. I know birthdays are supposed to be exciting, but I always tend to just get really angsty and sad, and matters aren’t exactly helped by being alone and surrounded by trash with the pressure of trying to procure a new roof and a new boiler before winter sets in weighing on you. Something about listening to that album over and over again helped, though, and made me feel OK. Almost 7 months later, it still sounds fresh and new and exciting to put on. It’s kind of a perfect album.

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Max and I went to see Lorde at the first of her three shows at the Roseland Ballroom on Monday night. I loved her performance at the Grammy’s but I don’t think she sounded all that amazing—I’m sure she was nervous—and I was kind of expecting her to be good. Not spectacular, not bad.

WELL. This show? Incredible. We had general admission tickets and we were pretty much right in the middle of the crowd. Normally, this makes me sort of frustrated and anxious—I don’t like being trapped and surrounded by tons of people, and I always feel really short and like I can’t see anything, and the people around me are always pissing me off in one way or another. But there was just a completely different vibe at Lorde’s show. We basically got to know everyone around us between the opener and when Lorde’s set started, and it was fun to feel like we were experiencing the show with all of these people instead of just trying to block them out. We were packed in tight but nobody was pushing or shoving or making enemies. We were on each other’s team.

Digression: the one thing that totally detracted from the show was the broad use and overuse of cellphones to take pictures or record video. I get that people want to capture the moment and I don’t really see anything wrong with taking a few pictures, but when people hold their phones a foot above their heads and record video of entire songs, it’s is just so rude and obnoxious. There’s a whole group of people behind that person whose  view is completely blocked by the dumb phone, just so that they can capture a crappy low-quality piece of footage that they’ll never watch again. It makes me crazy, and I really hope my generation figures out that this is not OK behavior, or conducive to enjoying live performance. Don’t do it, people. 

Digressing from my digression: how does anyone take halfway decent concert photos with an iPhone? I barely even try to take pictures at concerts anymore because my photos are always, without exception, awful—even when I’m standing close to the stage. It’s like my special power.

Aside from the phones, though, the crowd was great. And Lorde was great. She sounded amazing vocally, and the performance was just completely enchanting. There wasn’t anything technically very flashy or interesting about the production (the lighting and her costumes were very well done, though), but that understatement suits her. When she wasn’t singing, she was personal, humble, incredibly charismatic, and just so cool. I do wish she had played a couple more songs off of the EP and done an encore and played for 7 more hours and come to give me a hug and let me take her out for coffee and let me join the tour and allowed me to play with her hair and tell her my secrets and become her BFF, but other than that it was a perfect concert. She’s going to be around for a long, long time, and I’m so glad we got to see her so early in her career. She’s incredible.

New Yorkers—if you have any way to get yourself to the third and final night of the show at Roseland Ballroom tonight, DO IT. You can usually scalp tickets around the venue or look on Craigslist. And here’s the list of her upcoming US tour dates! And if you don’t know what I’m talking about at all and need to be initiated, go do yourself a favor and download Pure Heroine.

I Wrote a Thing!

Anthology

Writing is more or less what I studied in college——mainly non-fiction——and what I really love to do. But actually writing? There’s a lot of fear that comes along with that. There’s the invitation for constant rejection and judgment, the small or nonexistent paychecks, the uncertain future, the inherent narcissism of feeling that anybody should care at all about the words you manage to string together. I’ve become far less shy (thanks, in large part, to this blog) about letting people read things that I write, but despite the encouragement of many professors, friends, family, and readers here on this site over the years, I’ve been a real shithead about actively trying to do anything with my writing. I seem to operate on the idea that someday I’ll get around to it, but not today. I feel like I spend a lot of my life these days hustling from one thing to the next and just trying to stay afloat and make it all work, and as a consequence I tend to worry a lot about whether I’m losing sight of my actual goals. I worry that I have no real idea about how one goes from Point A to Point B, and that my life doesn’t reasonably allow for the possibility of figuring it out. I suppose these are pretty common feelings for 20-somethings (or everybody, really) to feel, but still. I can’t escape the constant nagging that I’m doing everything wrong and backwards.

I want to change that. I want to write stuff. So I wrote a thing: the “personal history” essay segment for Anthology Magazine‘s Winter issue. And it felt really good. Working with Anh-Minh Le, the editor, was so great—she gave me loads of creative freedom and feedback and then patiently allowed me to be annoying and picky about details and editing as I reworked and tried to whittle it down to an acceptable length. It was stressful and hard and scary, but I’m happy with my work. It’s just 3 little pages——nothing crazy——but I learned so much in the process.

And now, here it is! Something I wrote, printed in a really pretty magazine, on really nice paper, with illustrations! Anthology is a really beautifully produced publication, and this issue——also featuring my cyber-friends Lisa and Clay, the multi-talented Fabulous Beekman Boys, and lots of other great folks——is no exception. It’s packed full of inspiration and beautiful pictures and good writing and interesting stories, and there I am, wedged into pages 43-45. It’s so cool to be a part of it.

So if you ever wondered what happened to the previous owner of our house or whether our house is haunted or why the Internet is a crazy place or how I feel about it all, I’d appreciate if you’d pick up a copy! Here is a list of stockists who might have the current issue if you’d like to buy it in person, and it’s also carried at Anthropologie stores nationwide and online.

Huge thanks to the team at Anthology for taking the leap on me and to the very talented Christine Rösch for the fabulous illustrations of my piece! I’d be hugely pleased if you read it.

P.S.—the Hygge & West giveaway is still open and accepting entries, so if you haven’t thrown your name in the hat for some beautiful wallpaper, get to it!

Life
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Happy Birthday, Mekko! 4!

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My family always had a lot of pets. Not, like, a creepy amount of pets, but enough pets. There was one dog, and then there were two, and shortly thereafter my siblings and I were each allowed our own private living animal to teach us about responsibility. I got a hamster. My sister had a guinea pig. My brother had a small exotic tree frog indigenous to the South American rainforest, whose talents included changing sexes at will, devouring live crickets, and making loud chirping sounds in the middle of the night. The idea was that we’d each care for our own creature independently, and I suppose we did, insofar as children really can do anything independently. The duty still fell to my mother to take us to the pet store for fresh bedding and hay, or to point out when our rooms were developing that pungent odor that meant it was time to give their various enclosures a good scrub-down. Somehow—at what seems now like the very birth of the Internet—my mother found a place online that allowed her to have a cylindrical container of live crickets for the frog sent through the postal service and delivered straight to our mailbox. The pet store was only a 15 minute drive away and they always had loads of crickets, and at the time I remember feeling like the whole charade was sort of silly—a solution to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place. Where did these crickets even come from? How many people had to be involved with the packaging, handling, and delivery of these crickets? Is this really what Scott, our mailman, signed up for when he took on our route?

What I’ve realized in adulthood that I didn’t adequately understand as a child is that having crickets delivered through the mail cut out one small thing for my mother to worry about. That’s a big deal when you spend so much time dealing with the constant issues and minute problems of three small children and five pets. The key to keeping up was efficiency and practicality. I’m aware now that parents these days will often book a doctor’s appointment for their children at the slightest sign of a sniffle, but my mom’s strategy was typically to let time and over-the-counter medications take care of things, unless they began to look somewhat serious. The same was true for the pets. I have a feeling my mom will resent this characterization, so I’d like to point out that we were well cared for and, where pets were concerned, highly indulged. My hamster was, after all, treated to multiple rounds of life-saving antibiotic regimens and her life ultimately ended after several days of overnight care at the vet’s office. But the general philosophy was that serious reactions were reserved for times when chances of extreme misery or death seemed high. Otherwise, a little Tylenol and daytime TV could probably fix it.

It’s a logic that still makes sense to me. If Max had it his way, we’d be at the vet’s office at least a couple times a week, the dogs getting poked and prodded and tested for exotic medical conditions he read about online. He worries constantly and endlessly that they might drop dead at any moment. I think I’m a pretty reasonable, responsible pet owner, but next to him I’m basically a scene from Old Yeller. 

That’s how it was a few weeks ago, when Mekko threw up as Max was getting ready for work. It wasn’t a lot of vomit. Max insisted that I take her directly to the vet, and I told him that she was probably fine (Pit Bulls have notoriously finicky stomachs) but that I’d keep an eye on things, and he told me that if she died it would be all my fault. Noted. Good chat.

As soon as he walked out the door, though, I heard it. That gurgling, weird sound that dogs only make when they’re puking.

The expression on a dog’s face after it’s vomited is the saddest thing in the world. Not only do they feel sick, but they feel really guilty about being sick, and they want nothing more than for you to know how guilty they feel.

We walked a few steps down the hallway back toward the kitchen so I could grab the paper towels and a slice of bread to help settle her stomach a little. Then it happened. She just…stopped. Then she kind of crouched. Our eyes were locked, and hers grew three times in size. She looked like she was about to sit down, but then she stopped halfway. This is the conversation we had, telepathically:

“Come to the kitchen, baby! You’re OK.”
“I can’t. I can’t move from this spot.”
“Mekko, why aren’t you moving?”
“I can’t.”
“Mekko, are you…shitting??”
“I think so. I think I am shitting.”
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Um. I officially don’t know what to do.”
“I don’t either. This is all happening so fast.”
“Oh dear lord, that is just disgusting. Oh Mekko. Oh Honey.”
“OH GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME I’M SO SORRY.”
“Holy fuck, this is foul.”
“WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. WHAT IS COMING OUT OF ME.”
“I’ve never seen this before. I never want to see this again. I literally don’t even know how to clean this up.”

And then it was over. We just stood there, staring at each other, both of us sort of frozen in shock and inaction. Saddest Thing in the World II: perfectly healthy, relatively normal dog momentarily looses complete control of bowels. Then she ran to the couch and hid in shame.

I decided to stay home and monitor her for a few hours, and that was the end of it. Whatever it was had evacuated itself from her system, and by noon she was acting completely normal, if still a bit humble and apologetic.

The severity of the foulness of that day continues to haunt me weeks later, but in a way, I think it brought Mekko and I closer together. That’s kind of how it is when you have a dog. They can take a massive, explosive crap on your floor while staring you directly in the eye, and you’ll still think they’re the most special, endearing thing on the planet.

We’ve had Mekko for 2 years today, which is crazy both because it seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye and because it’s so hard to remember what it was like without her. I realized last night that if I knew me two years ago—less than a year after meeting Max, still a student, and very unsure about so many things—I would have told me that I was crazy to adopt a super energetic 2 year old Pit Bull with a mysterious past from a shelter I knew nothing about after walking her around a city block for five minutes. I would have told me to get a grip, and that when the time was right, I’d find the right dog. Someday, but not today.

But that’s the thing…maybe there are better and worse times to adopt a dog (or do all sorts of things, really), but there’s never really a right time. There’s never really a time that’s just GREAT for the potty training and the added expenses and the unexpected vet visits and the bad behavior and the enormous puddles of shit on your floor first thing in the morning, and all of the many things that come along with being a pet owner. But you make it work.

Mekko is a great dog. I’m so glad we met her, and I’m so glad we brought her home. I can’t imagine my life without her, and I can’t believe she’s already FOUR! Happy birthday, Mekko! Here are some snapshots of the birthday girl from the past year:

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Mekko is a Pit Bull Terrier, one of the world’s most misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized dog breeds. Pit Bulls are incredibly kind, patient, loyal, affectionate, intelligent, and resilient, and I’m so glad that we adopted one. It’s estimated that around 90% of Pit Bulls brought to shelters in the United States are euthanized, and that only 1 in 600 will ever find a forever home—so please, if you are considering getting a dog, please think seriously about adopting a Pit. Further, if you have a dog, please spay/neuter and encourage others to do the same. 

We adopted Mekko from Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, an organization that works tirelessly to rescue animals in need, with a particular focus (though not exclusive) on Pit Bulls. Every year, I make a donation to help them continue the work that saved our dog. If you’d like to donate too, you can do so here. Every little bit helps!

Life
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Thanksgiving + Ferm Winner + Discount!

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Even though Max and I campaigned hard to get everyone to come to Kingston for Thanksgiving this year (which, admittedly, might have been a little crazy given the current state of the house!), that didn’t happen. Instead, we all ended up convening at my parents’ house in northern Virginia, which, come Monday, will belong to someone else.

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When I tell people that my parents just sold the home we grew up in, they tend to get this look of deep sympathy and sadness, as if somebody died. But it isn’t really like that. More than anything, it’s just sort of disorienting seeing the house so undone. It’s weird to walk into empty rooms that I’m used to seeing full of furniture and things. It’s weird to open closets or cabinets that have always been packed with stuff, or to be unable to locate a tube of toothpaste. Not sad, just…odd.

I don’t think I’ll miss this house—the actual bricks and mortar structure of it, that is. Like so many other similar houses in this area, it was built in the 90s in that strangely conservative style that I’ll never totally understand the mass appeal of (I think it was described by the builder as “French Colonial”). As we were the first occupants, the house was a blank canvas when we moved in—nothing to fix or undo. As I slowly understand more and more of the unique challenges that old houses present, I’ll admit that there’s something sort of nice about that——a complete set of double-glazed windows, modern electrical and heating systems, walls that can be simply painted without being entirely reconstructed first, that sort of thing——but I still can’t say it’s something I’d choose for myself.

Still, I’m thankful for this house. There isn’t really anything I can say that’s more cliché than this, but I’m thankful for the memories my family made here. I’m thankful for the bedroom that my parents let me fill with whatever would fit (unless it was a TV). I’m thankful for the backyard where we buried deceased pets, and for the long summers that I spent gardening carefully around their graves. I’m thankful that this was a place where we were encouraged to become the sorts of people we wanted to become, and I’m thankful that this was a place where we could comfortably, safely, and confidently bring home the people we love.

My parents are headed to a cool, super modern new condo right in the heart of Washington, DC, and I’m so excited for them. They’ve lived in this area for about 30 years at this point, but they’ve never actually lived in the city, and I think it’ll be a great change for them. So I’m thankful for that, too. I’m thankful that they have the good sense to move on, downsize, and let somebody else enjoy this place now. It’s time.

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I’m thankful for so much this year that I guess I should just say that I’m thankful that I have too many things to be thankful for to list them here. If you’re reading this post, though, you’re on that list! Thank you for being here, and I hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving (and if you’re not in the States, I hope you just have a great day!).

FERMDISCOUNT

ALSO——judging from the oodles of entries to the giveaway, I guess I’m not alone in loving Ferm Living Shop! Even though there could only be one winner (congratulations, Shauna!), we can all enjoy this handy discount code. Yay!

Life
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Dog Food! Dwell!

So that thing I said on Friday about a kitchen reveal today?

Um. Not happening. Sorry. Even though we could probably artfully photograph it to not include the bits that aren’t quite done, I don’t want to do that! The reality is, reaching the end of a renovation project means tying up a bunch of little tiny loose-end types of projects (this thing needs one more coat of paint, I should really polish the floor, etc. etc.), and it’s SUPER EASY to loose motivation and just move on to the next thing. The kitchen is totally functional and I’m super happy with it, but I know I’ll definitely be happier when there aren’t little details like that looming over my head. I want to shut the door on that space and move on to the next one with a clean conscience!

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SO. ANYWAY. Linus got groomed over the weekend, and he looks so cute. We usually take him to get groomed about every 2 months (sometimes a little bit longer), and it’s always totally amazing and shocking to see him come out afterward looking like a different dog. Linus fully believes that to feel fresh, you have to look fresh, and he never looks fresher than walking out of the salon with his hair all back-combed and his nails freshly ground down.

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Linus’s hair isn’t the only thing that’s changed in his life recently, though! My new friend Carla (the co-owner of one of my favorite stores, Dry Goods) and I were talking about our dogs a few weeks ago, and I mentioned that neither of my dogs have ever been particularly voracious eaters. Mekko has always been really so-so about her food, and Linus would only really eat Mekko’s food. Since he is dentally challenged, he was basically dry-swallowing big hard kibbles formulated for large-breed adult dogs…for about a year. We tried to switch him to a few different types of food made for a dog his size/age, but he’d always ignore it and just eat out of Mekko’s bowl. And since Mekko didn’t particularly care about her food, she was OK with that. Our vet told us that at his age, as long as he was eating and seemed happy doing it, we should just let him eat pretty much whatever kind of dog food he seemed to want, so we gave up and let him do what he wanted.

Carla had only amazing things to say, though, about her dog’s raw diet from Nature’s Variety——she’d noticed that he was much more energetic and alert and seemed happier eating. We tried to put Linus on a dehydrated raw diet way back when we first got him (Honest Kitchen——which is fabulous food, by the way), but he refused to eat it after a while, so I was skeptical of how another brand would appeal to him. Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw is frozen, not dehydrated, though, so I figured we’d give it a shot.

WELL. Not only does he completely love this food (he dances before I give it to him, scarfs is entire meal in about 30 seconds flat, then licks the bowl for a few minutes for good measure), I’ve noticed a huge change in him. He’s been eating it for about 2-3 weeks, and he has so much more energy, he’s more alert, and just seems happier. Linus is about 11 years old, so seeing him do a little reverse-aging is so exciting. He’s still my little old man, but he’s an old man who runs up stairs, and explores the yard, and sometimes drags his bed around with his mouth and tries to hump it. It’s really spectacular.

I worried that the food would be a huge hassle, but it’s really simple. For small dogs, it’s portioned in “medallions,” which are 1-oz little patties. Linus eats two at every meal, so after each meal, we just take the next two out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to defrost. At meal time, we mash them up a little with a fork and serve. That’s it! Each bag costs somewhere around $20 (it goes up or down a little depending on the type of protein——there’s beef, chicken, rabbit, venison, duck, and lamb) and lasts about 12 days, so while it’s a little spendy, I feel OK about paying less than $2 a day to keep Linus happy and healthy and eating food that he loves and is so good for him.

Of course, Mekko quickly noticed that Linus was eating better food than she was, so she went on a hunger strike and refused to eat her old kibble. It would be really expensive to switch her to the same frozen raw diet, but I bought a bag of the Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Kibble. I was surprised that the 25-pound bag was about $10 cheaper than her old kibble, and even more surprised to find out that because Nature’s Variety has such high nutritional density, she has to eat half as much as her old kibble (2 cups a day instead of 4!), so the bag lasts twice as long! And she LOVES it. It’s so weird seeing both of the dogs gobble up all of their food so quickly as soon as we set it down. It feels really good.

I’m not affiliated with Nature’s Variety in any way, by the way. I’m just so happy to have found such a great food, finally!

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Good boy, Linus.

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Also, I keep forgetting to mention, but me and 17 other bloggers from around the world are included in the September issue of Dwell! Subscribers should have gotten it by now, but it should also be on newsstands! As a long-time reader of Dwell, it was so exciting being asked to participate in the piece, and really fun to see how everything turned out. The whole issue is really great, by the way (Orla Keily’s house! Morten Bo Jensen and Kristina May Olsen’s Copenhagen apartment!), and it’s so crazy to be included in it in any small way. Big thanks so Jaime Gillin, Kelsey Keith, and the rest of the Dwell crew for making it happen, and to Agata Marszalek for the portrait!

Life
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